Crimean Tatars in Turkey Remember Their Homeland, Stories of the Soviet Deportation
The largest diaspora of Crimean Tatars lives in Turkey. How do they preserve the traditions of their people?
Oia Deniz Chongar Shakhin is serving tea for us and her husband — by the Crimean Tatar tradition. In Turkey, her family and those alike are called emigrants. 75 years ago, their ancestors had to flee from the Stalinist regime. The Soviet dictator ordered to deport their relatives to the East, Central Asia, and the Urals.
“The 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars is one of the most disastrous genocides of the 20th century. This is definitely one of the most grievous crime of Stalinism,” historian Khakan Kyrymly said.
In the Soviet Union, this forced deportation was concealed. Crimean Tatars learned about what was happening in their homeland only from letters. For passing these messages abroad, people had to avoid Soviet intelligence checks.
“Our family received a letter only in the 1950s. It was from my great-grandmother, who was deported to Samarkand, and her children to Fergana. On the deportation day, my great-grandmother was visiting her relatives in a nearby village, and her children were at home. That is why, being in different villages, they were deported to different places,” representative of the Crimean Tatar community in Turkey, Oia Deniz Chongar Shakhin, said.
Crimean Tatars themselves spread the stories about their deportation and life outside the homeland. They published magazines on their own and distributed them around the world.
“Dad did not let us forget Crimea. My father was very religious, he organized a prayer service in our house every month. He used to bring together all our family and prayed. At the end of the prayer, he called all our relatives by name. For us, it was like history lessons,” representative of the Crimean Tatar community in Turkey, Mukremin Shakhin, said.
“The “Zvezda” (“Star”) magazine and the “Lenin’s Flag” newspaper were sent to us from Uzbekistan. We selected their articles and then rewrote them from Cyrillic into Latin script and printed them in “Yemel” magazine published in Turkey,” Shakhin said.
Turkey became a safe heaven for Crimean Tatars. Now, about 2 million of them live in this country. After the Soviet Union collapsed and Crimea became part of Ukraine, people started to regain contact with their families. Many even traveled to their homeland.
“Our roots are very strong. Our people keep fighting. When we started to rise on our own land, open national schools, develop our media, believe in reviving our culture and history, unfortunately, we again faced Russia’s occupation,” Shakhin said.
After the illegal annexation of Crimea, they again cannot get home. Aiming to preserve the memory of their people, about its origin and modern traditions, friends of this family send them symbolic gifts from Crimea just like this embroidered picture.