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The Crimean Tatars in Moscow organized a birthday party for Aleksei Kosterin (1896-1968), a Soviet writer and dissident who supported the Tatar appeals to repatriate to Crimea. Kosterin was seriously ill and asked ex-Major General Petro Grigorenko (1907-1987) to attend the party instead. A native of Ukraine, Grigorenko had been arrested and sent to a mental hospital in 1964 for criticizing the Soviet government for deviating from the Leninist principles and for his unyielding stand against the party bureaucracy and oppressive policies. This 1968 speech is considered to be an important event in linking the Crimean Tatars to the dissident movement in the Soviet Union. Grigorenko told the group that Crimean Tatars need to take a more aggressive stand, it is their legal right to demand to repatriate, and the crimes committed by the Soviet government against their people amount to 'genocide' under international laws. In 1969, he was arrested the second time in Tashkent, where he was to attend the trials of Crimean Tatar activists, and spent five years in psychiatric confinement. In 1977 he was allowed to leave for New York, where he died in 1987. Ed.
Speech of Petro Grigorenko to Crimean Tatars, 1968
Now let me express the views of Kostyorin [Kosterin] and myself on the immediate problems of your movement, it will soon be twenty-five years since your people were cast out of their homes, were expelled from the land of their forefathers, and were exiled onto reservations where such dreadful conditions reigned that the annihilation of the entire Crimean Tatar people appeared inevitable. But the hardy and hard working Crimean Tatar people survived to spite their enemies.
After having lost forty-six percent of their numbers in the forced exile disaster, they began to gather strength and to enter into battle for their own national and human rights. This struggle led to certain successes: the status of exiled deportees was lifted and a political rehabilitation of the people was achieved. True, this rehabilitation was carried out quietly ... which in significant degree rendered it valueless. The majority of the Soviet people, who previously had been widely informed that the Crimean Tatars had sold the Crimea, never did learn that this ’sale’ was transparent fabrication. But worst of all, the decree on political rehabilitation... legalized the liquidation of the Crimean Tatar nationality. Now, it appears, there are no Crimean Tatars, there are just Tatars who formerly lived in Crimea.
This fact alone serves as the most convincing proof that your struggle not only did not achieve its goal but has led to a backward movement. You were subjected to repressions as Crimean Tatars, but now, after your ’political rehabilitation,’ there is no such nationality in the world.
A nationality has disappeared. But discrimination has remained. You did not commit the crimes for which you were expelled from the Crimea, but you are not permitted to return there now.
Why have your people been so discriminated against? Section 123 of the Soviet Constitution reads: ’Any direct or indirect limitation on rights... of citizens because of their racial or national membership... is punishable by law.’
Thus the law is on your side. [Stormy applause]
But still your rights are being flouted. Why?
We believe that the main reason behind this is the fact that you underestimate your enemy. You think that you are dealing with honest people. But this is not so! What has been done to your people was not done by Stalin alone. And his accomplices are not only alivebut they occupy responsible positions. You are appealing to the leadership of the party and the state with conciliatory written requests. But that which belongs to you by right should not be asked for but demanded. [Stormy applause and cries of agreement]
So begin to demand. And demand not just parts, pieces, but all that was taken from you unlawfullydemand the reestablishment of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic! [Stormy applause and cries of "Hail the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic"]
Don't limit your actions to the writing of petitions. Fortify them with all of those means which the Constitution provides youthe freedom of speech and of the press, of meetings, assemblies, of street marches and demonstrations.
A newspaper is published for you in Moscow. But the people behind that newspaper do not support your movement. Take the newspaper away from them. Elect your own editorial board. And if people hinder you in doing this, boycott that newspaper and create another oneyour own! A movement cannot develop normally without its own press.
And in your struggle do not shut yourselves in a narrow nationalist shell. Establish contacts with all the progressive people of other nationalities of the Soviet Union. Do not consider your cause to be solely an internal Soviet matter. Appeal for help to the world progressive public and to international organizations. What was done to you in 1944 has a name. It was genocide.
The agreement adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948, referred to genocide as follows: '...actions carried out with the intent of destroying fully or in part some national, ethnic, racial or religious group...' by various means and in particular by intentional establishment 'for them of conditions of life which have as their purpose its complete or partial physical extermination' [of the group]. Such actions, that is, genocide, 'from the point of view of international law are a crime which is to be condemned by the civilized world and for committing which the principal persons guilty and their accomplices are subject to punishment.' As you can see, international law is also on your side. [Stormy applause]
And if you fail to solve this question inside the country you have the right to appeal to the U. N. and to the International Court.
Stop asking! Get back that which belongs to you by right but was unlawfully taken from you! [Stormy applause. People jumped up and cried: "The Crimean ASSR! The Crimean ASSR!]
And remember: In this just and noble struggle you must not allow the enemy to seize with impunity the warriors who are marching in the first ranks of your movement.
In Central Asia there has already been a whole series of trials at which fighters for the national equality of the Crimean Tatars have been illegally convicted of false charges. Right now in Tashkent a trial of the same stature is being prepared against Enver Mametov, Yuri and Sabri Osmanov, and others. Do not permit them to be judicially repressed. Demand that the trial be public in accordance with the law. Demand and get a public trial, go to it en masse, and do not permit the courtroom to be packed with a specially chosen audience. Courtroom representatives of the Crimean Tatar people must be seated in the courtroom.
To the brave and unbending fighters for national equality, to Alexei Kostyorin, to the successes of the Crimean Tatar people, and to a reunion in the Crimea, in the reestablished Crimean Autonomous Republic!
An excerpt from: Petro G. Grigorenko, Memoirs, translated by Thomas P. Whitney. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982), pages 352-353. The entire text of "Speech at a Banquet to Celebrate the Seventy-Second Birthday of A.E. Kosterin" is included in The Grigorenko Papers: Writings by General P.G. Grigorenko and Documents on his Case. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1976, pp. 58-63.
Post Script, October 2007:
Crimean Tatars continue to remember Petro Grigorenko, their friend and staunch defender, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, 16 October 1907.
A leading Soviet dissident and former major general of the Soviet army, Grigorenko embarked on his military career in 1931 when he entered the Military Engineering Academy in Moscow. He served as a military engineer in the Soviet army and taught at the Frunze Military Academy from 1945 to 1961. After the death of Stalin, Grigorenko increasingly became critical of the Soviet regime, which he believed to have deviated from true Leninism. In 1964, he was imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital, stripped of military rank and expelled from the Party. His first formal contact with the Crimean Tatars was in 1968, when he gave his famous speech at a banquet organized by Crimean Tatar representatives in Moscow. In May 1969, he was arrested once again in Tashkent, where he was to attend the trials of Crimean Tatar activists. He was subsequently held in psychiatric confinement until 1974. In 1977, while he was in the United States, his Soviet citizenship was revoked. He died in New York in February 1987.
For further information on Grigorenko, see: