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Fevzi Altug (1878-1934) and His Writings

Fevzi Altug, a Crimean Tatar nationalist and educator, was born near Gözleve (Evpatoria) and educated in Istanbul. While he lived most of his life in Turkey, he spent several years in Crimea on two different occasions. In 1905, he moved to Bahçesaray, where he worked for Ismail Bey Gaspirali (1851-1914), and taught school for two years. Back in Istanbul in 1908, he got involved in the activities of the Union and Progress Party and continued to teach school. When he decided in 1918, following the Bolshevik Revolution, to return to Crimea to work for the independence of Crimean Tatars, he was the headmaster of a middle school in Istanbul and had a wife and four children.

Fevzi Altug in Sudak, Crimea

Fevzi Altug in Sudak, Crimea

Shortly after he arrived in Gözleve with his family, where he was to serve as head of the Rustiye (middle school), the occupying German forces began to withdraw from Crimea. During the ensuing Russian Civil War, the Altug family was subjected to extreme hardships. His last position in Crimea was in Sudak, as Director of Education in the new Soviet Socialist Republic of Crimea. Early in 1922, he and his family left Crimea, the land of terror, famine and epidemics, and never returned. Altug continued to teach in Istanbul and died on July 24, 1934.

Fevzi Altug published short articles and poems relating to his experiences in Crimea in the diaspora journal Kirim Mecmuasi (Istanbul), and Milli Yul and Yana Milli Yul (Berlin), issued by the Volga Tatar nationalist and author Ayaz Ishaki. While these writings remained buried in obscure publications, they were nevertheless important sources relating to Crimean Tatar history. Altug’s memoirs and articles are part of the native literature and provide different perspective than official documents and statements. In the last decade, Altug’s writings have been compiled and published in Turkish and in English translation by Inci Bowman.

Dikenli Ilişkiler: Kırımlı Bir Oğretmenin Anıları ve Şiirleri (Istanbul, 2005) is a compilation of Altug’s writings, (articles, memoirs and poems), written in Turkish but in the early 20th century literary style and published in Arabic letters. The book includes an introduction as well as a biography of Altug, written by the editor of the volume, Inci A. Bowman. Altug’s writings appear in their original Turkish/Tatar in Latin alphabet, along with their transliteration in modern Turkish.

Thornbush: Memoirs of a Crimean Tatar Nationalist and Educator Relating to the Russian Civil War and the Famine of 1921-1922 (Istanbul, 2004) includes only Fevzi Altug’s memoirs relating to the family’s stay in Crimea between the years 1918-1922. Thornbush is the first set of Crimean Tatar memoirs to be translated into English. Altug's memoirs contribute new information and insight into the Crimean history. They describe the interactions between the native population and the Russian authorities (Tsarist and Soviet), and the sorrowful conditions of the man-made Famine in Crimea, which took the lives of 100,000 people.

For additional information on Fevzi Altug’s writings, see the review of Dikenli Ilişkiler by Ertugrul Karas: http://www.fikirdebirlik.org/yazi.asp?yazi=200802005

Further information on Thornbush: http://www.iccrimea.org/historical/thornbush.html

Inci Bowman

Posted: 22 July 2014


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