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THREE ANSWERS TO THE SOVIET DECREE #5859ss

I find the "Decree No. 5859ss" to be an interesting document as it describes the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars as a totally humane event. It describes the Soviet government's version as to why, how and where the Crimean Tatars were to be deported. Besides falsely accusing the entire Crimean Tatar population for collaborating with the Nazi occupation forces, it states that each family is allowed to take 500 kg. of food, clothing and other belongings. It also states that each wagon will have a physician, two nurses and all sorts of medicines to ensure a safe "journey". The Uzbek authorities are carefully instructed to make sure the new settlers are given proper land, housing and employment. What happened to the Crimean Tatars in reality was completely different. The entire population of Crimean Tatars were deported under the most barbaric conditions, and when they arrived in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tadjikistan and other areas, they were totally mistreated due to misinformation sent by the Soviet authorities to these areas before the deportees' arrival. I feel obligated to provide the internet users with the following documents in order to set the record straight.

First, part of an "Open Letter from the Russian friends of Crimean Tatars" and a brief statement from one of the survivors of the mass deportation; second, a part of one of multiple petitions sent by the Crimean Tatars to Communist Party Congress; and finally the decree promulgated by the Soviet authorities which partially exonerates the Crimean Tatar people. The last document is also an interesting one because it refuses to address Crimean Tatars with their proper name, and intentionally calls them " citizens of Tatar nationality formerly resident in the Crimea".

I hope these examples will help clarify how the Crimean Tatar people were really treated by the Soviet government.


Document # 1

Part of " Open Letter from the Russian friends of the Crimean Tatars" and a brief statement from one of the survivors of the mass deportation:

" ... It was a journey of lingering death in cattle trucks, crammed with people, like mobile gas chambers. The journey lasted three to four weeks and took them across the scorching summer steppes of Kazakhstan. They took the Red partisans of the Crimea, the fighters of the Bolshevik underground, and the Soviet and Party activists. Also invalids and old men. The remaining men were fighting at the front, but deportation awaited them at the end of the war. And in the meantime they crammed their women and children into trucks, where they constituted the vast majority. Death mowed down the old, the young and the weak. They died of thirst, suffocation and the stench.. . On the long stages the corpses decomposed in the huddle of the trucks, and at the short halts, where water and food were handed out, the people were not allowed to bury their dead and had to leave them besides the railway trucks"

From The Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans and Meshketians (1971) by Ann Sheehy, p.10.

"At 3.00 am (May 18,1944) two soldiers knocked on the door. I was the oldest daughter. I had four younger sisters. The soldiers told us: you've got 15 minutes and then we are going to take you away. Our father reminded us about the Germans, and how they had gone around collecting the Jews and then shooting them. He was convinced that the soldiers were going to do the same to all of us. So he told us not to bother taking anything with us- that we were all going to be shot. So we left with only the clothes on our backs. It was only that night that they put the people of our village into trucks and took us to the railroad. When we arrived in Uzbekistan it was 110 degrees Fahrenheit- unimaginable heat. I was the only one to survive. My father, mother and sisters all perished from the ordeal."

From "Crimean Tatars: Repatriation and Conflict Prevention" by Open Society Institute, p.13.


Document # 2

Petition sent to the 23rd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1966:

"...Let us do some summing up...Everything was done in order:

  1. to destroy the statehood of the Crimean Tatars;
  2. to destroy as many as possible of the Crimean Tatars themselves;
  3. first blacken our people and thus to justify an anti_Leninist act of tyranny, and never to mention the Crimean Tatars, so that the peoples of the Soviet Union and the whole world should forget about the existence of such people;
  4. to destroy the culture, art and literature of the Crimean Tatars;
  5. to destroy the history of this people;
  6. to destroy their language;
  7. to destroy their customs;
  8. to do all possible to make every Crimean Tatar feel ashamed to call himself a Crimean Tatar:
  9. to prove to every representative of this nation that neither he, nor his children, nor his descendants as yet unborn, has any future.

And when it was decided that all this had been accomplished, they announced that the Crimean Tatars were a non-existent nation. They struck us off the list of peoples of the USSR, combining us with the Kazan Tatars and Ufa Tatars, but to be on the safe side they left in every Crimean Tatar's internal passport a little mark by which the police can tell that you are not in fact from Kazan and so won't register you in the Crimea..."

(From the Chronicle of Current Events-#s 28-31/pp. 141-142).


Document # 3

Decree of September 5, 1967:

Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on citizens of Tatar nationality formerly resident in the Crimea

After the liberation of the Crimea from Fascist occupation in 1944, accusation of active collaboration of a section of the Tatars resident in the Crimea with the German usurpers were groundlessly levelled at the whole Tatar population of the Crimea. These indiscriminate accusations in respect of all the citizens of Tatar nationality who lived in the Crimea must be withdrawn, the more so since a new generation of people has entered on its working and political life.

The Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet decrees to:

  1. Annul the section of the relevant decisions of State organs which contains indiscriminate accusations with respect to citizens of Tatar nationality who lived in the Crimea.
  2. Note that Tatars formerly living in the Crimea have taken root in the territory of the Uzbek and other Union Republics, they enjoy all the rights of Soviet citizens, take part in public and political life, are elected deputies of the Supreme Soviets and local soviets of deputies of working people, work in responsible posts in Soviet, economic and Party organs, radio broadcasts are made for them, a newspaper in their national language is published and other cultural measures are undertaken with the aim of further developing areas Tatar population, the Council Ministers of Union Republics are instructed to continue rendering help and assistance to citizens of Tatar nationality in economic and cultural construction, taking account of their interests and peculiarities.

Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, N. Podgorny
Secretary of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, M. Georgadze

Moscow, the Kremlin, 5 September 1967.

From: The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities (1970) by Robert Conquest, pp. 186-187.


Despite all the promises the Soviet authorities failed to totally rehabilitate the Crimean Tatars. Those who returned to their ancestral homeland, after they were supposedly exonerated, were once again severely punished and redeported. Most importantly, the mass deportation of May 18,1944 has not ended and majority of the Crimean Tatars still remain in exile awaiting for a government sponsored return, another words awaiting for justice to prevail. How long will the Crimean Tatars continue to be punished for a crime they have not committed? And how long will the civilized world remain silent and continue to ignore one of the most blatant violation of human rights?

Mubeyyin Batu Altan
Member of the Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization
and Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies
Harvard University
December 1994

 


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