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An Interview with Mustafa Jemilev
The following interview Mustafa Jemilev was conducted by Dr. Idil Izmirli in 2008 in Simferopol, Crimea. The interview conducted in Russian, was translated into English by Zamira Seyfulla and Inci Bowman. In her article, “The Crimean Tatars,” Dr. Greta Uehling frequently quotes passages from this interview. We regret the delay in publishing this important interview with Mr. Jemilev. – Ed.
Question: To the extent were the Crimean Tatars victimized by the Communist government of the Soviet Union?
The Soviet authorities, the Communist regime began committing crimes against Crimean Tatars from the time they got control of Crimea. The elimination of the best of our intelligentsia and the defeat of the elected body of Crimean Tatars (Kurultay) in the 1920s and later in the 1930s the systematic killing of our intelligentsia. According to our sources, about 10,000 best people of Crimean Tatars were killed during the years of repression. In terms of the population of the Soviet Union, this number may not seem large, but for the Crimean Tatars, with a population of half a million, this number is very significant. During the Famine of 1921-1923, for example, about 150,000 people died on the territory of Crimea. At the time, Crimean Tatars constituted only about 25% of the population of Crimea. Yet, 70% of those who died were Crimean Tatars. Here we can see the destruction of people according to ethnicity.
During the collectivization or the establishment of collective farms, about 50,000 Tatar families were deported from their homeland to Siberia. They had to face famine and death. Of course, the most terrible crime was committed on May 18, 1944. The whole of population of Crimean Tatars were deported even those men in armed forces, who were fighting for this regime. Not a single government in the world exhibited such betrayal by deporting and killing those who defended their country.Question: Do you consider the policy of the Soviet authorities toward Crimean Tatars to be ethnic cleansing?
There is no doubt that it was ethnic cleansing. For example, in 1944 while the authorities were deporting the Crimean Tatars, partners in mixed marriages (Slavic wives or husbands) were allowed to file for divorce in order to stay in Crimea. We can clearly trace the policy of ethnic cleansing in the deportation of Crimean Tatars.
There is another example of this policy. Beria had reported to Stalin that all the Crimean Tatars had been deported. Later they found out that about 300 Tatar families were left on the Arabat spit. In order cover up their error, they loaded these people on barges and drowned them in the sea.
Furthermore, our people were eliminated at the places of deportation. They were afraid of going to the hospital even with a minor illness because there was a strong suspicion that they would not come out alive. In order to be certain of systematic liquidation at hospitals, one should investigate such cases and exhume bodies. Of course, no one has attempted to do this. But the truth is that Crimean Tatars were determined to stay at home out of the fear that they might not survive in the hospital.
The conditions under which Crimean Tatars were forced to live in exile aimed at eliminating our nation, through hunger and hard labor. Within two years after deportation, more than 46% of the population died, and this provides clear evidence for the genocide of Crimea Tatars.
Posted: 10 January 2015