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Dissertation Review

Greta Uehling. Having a Homeland: Recalling the Deportation, Exile, and Repatriation of the Crimean Tatars to their Historic Homeland. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Michigan, 2000.

Reviewed by David Rothenberg, Michigan Society of Fellows*

Why would a people give up everything they have, risking danger and grave uncertainty, to repatriate in their historic homeland? Dr. Greta Lynn Uehling's dissertation addresses this complex question through a careful ethnographic analysis of the significance of recollection, ideas, and beliefs about homeland (vatan) among Crimean Tatars. Uehling shows how a sense of homeland is central to understanding the mass repatriation of over 275, 000 Crimean Tatars in the post-Soviet era from distant places where they had been forcibly exiled.

This dissertation is superbly organized, clear, and persuasive, displaying a profound grasp of the region, the historical context and key issues of emerging research on collective memory. In addition, Uehling conveys a deep concern for the people she has worked with and a refreshing approach to the complex tensions of their struggles regarding homeland and identity.

Uehling's dissertation is based on a series of extensive, multi-site interviews and oral testimony coupled with the analysis of various archival sources. Her work is well written, rigorously researched and provides some of the first ethnographic accounts of the Tatars' deportation and subsequent repatriation.

In this way, Uehling's work represents an important contribution to complex issues of global significance, both as regards post-Soviet social reality and attempts to understand the political impact of ethnic identity as influenced by the experience of trauma and dislocation. Uehling's work is a fascinating and compelling analysis of how a particular group of people— the Crimean Tatars— construct, interpret, and act upon ideas of history, identity, and collective memory.


* Reproduced from "Distinguished Dissertation Awards of 2000," a brochure issued by the University of Michigan Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 26, 2001. The dissertation was selected from over 650 dissertations at the University of Michigan for a Distinguished Dissertation Award.

Ordering Information: Soft or hard bound copies may be purchased from the University of Michigan Dissertation Service (UMI), a Bell and Howell Company, by calling 1-800-521-0600. E-mail: info@umi.com.

See also the online article published in Michigan Today, Winter 2001: "Greta Uehling--How do you account for the homing drive of the Crimean Tatars?"


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