Deportation of the Crimean Tatars

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Sürgün (Crimean Tatar and Turkish for "exile") refers to the state-organized forcible deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 to Uzbek SSR and other parts of the Soviet Union. A symbol of Sürgün is a steam engine.

The projects of expelling the Crimean Tatars from the Crimea emerged several times in Russian ruling circles long before the Crimea was annexed by Russia in 1783 though never came to implementation.[1] In 1944 under the false pretext [2] of alleged mass collaboration of the Crimean Tatars with the Germans during the National Socialist occupation of the Crimea in 1941-1944. the Soviet government decided the total eviction of the Crimean Tatar people from the Crimea on orders of Joseph Stalin and Lavrentiy Beria.

The deportation began on 18 May 1944 in all Crimean inhabited localities.[3] More than 32,000 NKVD troops participated in this action. The forced deportees were given only 30 minutes to gather personal belongings, after which they were loaded onto cattle trains and moved out of Crimea[4]. 193,865 Crimean Tatars were deported, 151,136 of them to Uzbek SSR, 8,597 to Mari ASSR, 4,286 to Kazakh SSR, the rest 29,846 to the various oblasts of Russian SFSR. At the same moment, most of the Crimean Tatar men who were fighting in the ranks of the Red Army were demobilized and sent into forced labor camps in Siberia and in the Ural mountain region[5].

The deportation was poorly planned and executed, local authorities in the destination areas were not properly informed about the scale of the matter and did not receive enough resources to accommodate the deportees. The lack of accommodation and food, the failure to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases had a heavy demographic impact during the first years of exile[6].

From May to November 10,105 Crimean Tatars died of starvation in Uzbekistan (7% of deported to Uzbek SSR) . Nearly 30,000 (20%) died in exile during the year and a half by the NKVD data. Due to hunger, thirst and disease, around 45% of the total population died in the process of deportation.[7] According to Soviet dissident information, many Crimean Tatars were made to work in the large-scale projects conducted by the Soviet GULAG system.[8] The Crimean Tatar activists tried to evaluate the demographic consequences of the deportation. They carried out a census in all the scattered Tatar communities in the middle of the 1960s. The results of this inquiry show that 109,956 (46.2%) Crimean Tatars of the 238,500 deportees died between July 1, 1944 and January 1, 1947[9].

Crimean activists call for the recognition of the Sürgün as genocide.[10]

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