Crimean Tartars: The Past Still Haunts
Despite a 40 year-old decree ending official discrimination, many Crimean Tartars believe they have yet to achieve equal status.
Below is an article by Volodymyr Prytula for Radio Free Europe/Radio
In the main mosque of Crimea's capital,
His father, Jelal Efendi, was not so fortunate. Soviet authorities did not permit him to resettle in Crimea -- now part of
The Efendis' story is all too common. In May 1944, Soviet authorities rounded up Crimea's 190,000 Tatars and loaded them onto freight trains bound for Central Asia, mainly for
This collective punishment was ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who accused the entire Crimean Tatar population of collaborating with Nazi Germany in World War II.
The 1944 deportation remains a painful chapter in the history of Crimean Tatars. Almost half of the deportees are estimated to have died during the journey or shortly afterward.
On September 5, 1967, Soviet authorities issued a decree exonerating Crimean Tatars from alleged wrongdoing.
The decree allowed thousands of Tatars deported to seek repatriation to
Refat Chubarov is the deputy head of the Mejlis, the legislative body created after the Soviet collapse to represent Crimean Tatars.
Soviet authorities, he says, never had any genuine intention of giving redress to Crimean Tatars.
"The growth of the Crimean Tatar movement in the 1960s, external aspects of Soviet foreign policy of that time, the impending 50th anniversary of the October revolution, but above all the pressure exerted by Crimean Tatars, forced Soviet authorities to pretend they were solving the Crimean Tatar problem," he says.
Following the 1967 decree, the government did nothing to facilitate the resettlement of Crimean Tatars on the peninsula.
On the contrary, authorities adopted legislation tightening rules for returnees seeking to obtain a passport and housing in
"They understood that the problem of their return depended on the mass character of the Crimean Tatar national movement and the unity of their movement," he says. "I think that was the main result of that decree for Crimean Tatars."
It wasn't until perestroika in the late 1980s that
But like Crimean political analyst Mykola Semena, many accuse
"International problems should be settled by countries who are connected with these problems," Semena says. "In this case, the Crimean Tatar issue should be settled by
The Ukrainian government over the past decade has been allocating some $10 million annually to help Tatars resettle in
But Crimean Tatars say they are still struggling to find their place in Ukrainian society.
Many of them say they continue to face discrimination and higher unemployment than
This is why the September 5, 1967 decree has gone largely unnoticed, and uncelebrated, in