Deportation of Crimean Tatars – the “Secret of Arabat”

Tamilla Ibrahimova

Tamilla18th of May 2018 was the 74th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars. The tragedy caused resettlement from their motherland and death of approximately 8.000 people. On 17th of May 1944, Soviet Socialist Autonomous Republic of Crimea was eliminated and the USSR State Defense Committee on behalf of the Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin ordered the removal of all Crimean Tatar population from the Crimean Peninsula. On 18th of May tens of thousands, Crimean Tatars were forced to leave their homes and deported to Central Asia and less populated regions of the Russian SFSR.

The deportation started in the morning on 18th of May and continued for two days. 32.000 personnel from the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) were involved to exercise the process. In total, 183.155 Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported from their motherland and nearly 8.000 Crimean Tatars died during deportation because of hunger, diseases and lack of normal living standards.

After resettlement, 911 localities in Crimea with Crimean Tatar titles were changed and named differently. Education in the Tatar language was eliminated from the education system as a whole.

In June 1945, it was revealed that officials from NKVD forgot to deport Tatars from one of the villages in Arabat Spit. Officers, fearing dissatisfaction of the high ranked government representatives, gathered all village inhabitants to the barge and sealed to the Sea of Azov. When the barge reached in the middle of the sea, it was submerged with all the people inside. There were no official reports regarding this issue for decades. The first time the “Secret of Arabat” was revealed in the middle of 1990’s when one witness veteran wrote a letter to the newspaper. Also, Crimean Tatars were trying to find their relatives who used to live in Arabat Spit before deportation, but finally none of them was found.

It is worth mentioning that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 and it encompasses a right to life, prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, prohibition of arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, freedom of movement and residence and so on… Nevertheless, unlike some nations who had a chance to move back to their homes at the end of 1950’s, Crimean Tatars were deprived of this right until 1990’s, almost half of a century.

Nowadays, after the voluntary return of some of the deported to Crimea, they comprised 12% of the peninsula’s population. To my knowledge, during their return to their motherland, the local authorities did not compensate these people for the land and property they lost, nor assisted them in their return, provide reparations or file legal proceedings against perpetrators of the forced deportation.

This resettlement is known as a symbol of the oppression of smaller ethnic groups by the Government of the Soviet Union in the middle of 20th century.

In 1989 the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union condemned the removal of Crimean Tatars from their motherland as inhumane and lawless. They are one of the groups and ethnicities who was encompassed by Stalin’s policy of population transfer.

Every year on 18th of May, in memory of this tragedy, Crimean Tatars climb to one of the highest mountains in the peninsula – Chatyr Dag. It symbolizes unforgettable history and memory of the nation.


Edited by Mariann Rikka 

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