Date: Fri, 9 Feb 1996 09:39:23 LCL
A dialog from CenAsia list, February 1996
Voice of America statement
By Ed Warner, Voice of America (the U.S. propaganda agency)
Intro: after half a century in exile, the crimean tatars are returning home, an example of a small minority determined to preserve its way of life despite persecution. voa's ed warner reports.
text: when soviet dictator joseph stalin drove the entire tatar population from the crimean peninsula in the black sea to central asia, he thought that ended the matter. it did not. the tatars are now returning home. it is not what it once was, but they are determined to reclaim it.
so far some 250 thousand have returned, with roughly the same number still in central asia. conditions in the crimea are bleak, says fikret yurter, president of the national association of crimean tatars. people he talks to say there is a severe shortage of housing, water, electricity and paved roads. the ukrainian government is sympathetic and wants to help, but lacks the resources.
still, the tatars are making progress, according to edward lazzerini, a professor of history at the university of new orleans who specializes in the history of the tatars and frequently visits the crimea. he says jobs are hard to find, especially for educated professionals, but tatars have been given land and permanent structures have replaced tent cities. above all, the tatars are rebuilding the culture joseph stalin did his best to destroy.
they had no schools, no publishing, no books, no newspapers, nothing in their native tongue that could help in this process. so they were in a kind of limbo, and it has only been since really the return process has been under way to the crimea that they have been able to turn resources to those tasks. for the first time in the last few years, you begin to see, as an example, the publication of school books in crimean tatar, both to teach the language and then to use that language for instruction in other subjects.
the remaining tatars in central asia also want to return, says paul goble, a senior fellow at the potomac foundation who writes extensively on russia and surrounding nations. while the tatars are muslims, their hearts belong to their homeland.
for most purposes, the islamic identity is not the primary identity for these people. indeed, they are more likely to identify themselves, not as muslims, but as turks or tatars. and that is a different unity, and those people certainly did not see themselves as simply part of a great islamic community in central asia.
tatars make up only 12 per cent of the crimean population at present, says paul goble. but that is sure to increase, given the numbers returning and their higher birth rate.
over time, more and more crimean tatars will come back. also over time, more and more ethnic russians in the region will decide that this really is going to be permanently ukrainian and will leave, and that will open some space for crimean tatars. is it going to be perfect? is it going to be smooth? are there going to be no problems? absolutely not. there are likely to be continuing conflicts among the three groups -- the ukrainians, the russians and the crimean tatars. but there are reasons to hope that this integration will work better than many had expected.
paul goble says ukranians will welcome the tatars to help them resist any russian pressures on the crimea. in the past, tatars have performed valuable services as educators and military officers. professor lazzerini says no less should be expected in the future.
the group as a whole has shown a remarkable cohesiveness, in fact. that began probably back in the late '50's and early '60's when as a group, they began to petition the soviet government for redress of grievances that had been accumulating at least since 1944 in affecting their lives in terribly negative ways. they were a vociferous community that was persistent in its efforts to right wrongs, and that effort and some remarkable leadership over the years has generated a rather extraordinary cohesiveness that i think remains in place to this day.
professor lazzerini says the crimean tatars, though a small minority, outlasted the empire that tried to crush them.
Date: Sat, 10 Feb 1996 09:17:38 -0500 From: William Dirks <wdirks@INDIANA.EDU>
The statement that the Crimean Tatars had no publications in their own language seems to be an exaggeration: when I was an exchange student in Tashkent in 1988-89 and when I was there in 1990-91, there were plenty of Crimean Tatar books available in certain bookstores. At present the practice of stocking books in Turkic languages other than Ozbek seems to have been discontinued, however.
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 17:37:54 +0100
I wonder if there is not here a confusion between Tatars and Crimean Tatars; I think that, among others, the languages are different. So, materials in Tatar may be available while materials in Krimtatar may not be available.
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 14:17:41 -0600
In a now rather dated + probably defunct Tashkent Crimean Tatar language newspaper from 1989 (LENIN BAIRAGI), one finds articles concerning both the diaspora Kazan + Crimean Tatar communities of Uzbekistan. The 1994 Tashkent t.v. programs mentioned issues presumably of interest to all Tatars. (I remember a Kazan artist discussing her paintings on one of these programs.) One person on our list commented privately today that the Crimean Tatars allied themselves with such Uzbek opposition groups as Erk, Birlik, etc., and are paying now for (what some would say) was their improvidence. I have only seen Crimean Tatar literature available in a few Tashkent bookstores (as Will Dirks mentioned). How flourishing Tatars of Cen As are today is an interesting question.