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We are pleased to reprint an article published in the English newspaper The Observer (30 March 1969) relating to Crimean Tatar confrontations with Soviet security forces. The article, "Exiled Tatars in struggle with Kremlin," appeared on the front page of the newspaper under an anonymous byline but was written by Peter Reddaway. It also included a significant document written by Crimean Tatar representatives in Moscow (Bulletin 82). The two photographs accompanying the article are described in the headline as: EXCLUSIVE: FIRST PICTURES OF CLASHES IN RUSSIA. The printed pictures, smuggled out of the Soviet Union, are not too clear. The caption, however, makes it clear: "These first photographs of a civil clash within the Soviet Union to reach the West for many years show Soviet militiamen breaking up a Tartar festival at Chirchik, near Tashkent. Left: the police charge while young Tartars scramble to safety through a park. Right: police drench the crowds with the hose of a water-cannon."

Peter Reddaway also published a follow-up article in The Observer (27 July 1969), "Crimes against Tatars being hushed up, " under the name "Special Correspondent." His second article about the trials of Crimean Tatars in Taskhent (Uzbekistan) and the arrest of General Petro Grigorenko is reprinted here separately.

We are grateful to Professor Reddaway for bringing the Observer articles to our attention and reporting on the struggles of Crimean Tatars against the Soviet authorities for the first time in a major Western newspaper more than four decades ago. — Editor.

Exiled Tartars in struggle with Kremlin

By our Diplomatic Staff

A DOCUMENT that has just reached the West reveals the sharpening struggle of the Crimean Tartars for their rights inside the Soviet Union.

A major political trial of Tartars is about to begin in Tashkent.

The cause of the Tartars, who were deported en masse to Central Asia in World War II for alleged collaboration with the invading Germans, is now becoming one the main planks on which Moscow's rebellious intellectuals are fighting for liberty under the Soviet Constitution.

The document, written by Tartar leaders in Moscow, shows that the patience of this small people is fast running out. The Tartars describe the ferocious police repression against their peaceful demonstration in the town of Chirchik, near Tashkent, and the arrest and deportation of the big Tartar delegation which went to plead their case in Moscow last year.

photographs showing confrontation with Soviet forces

Front page of The Observer, 30 March 1969

An ancient and cultured Turkic people of nearly half a million, the Crimean Tartars are the survivors of the last great Asiatic onslaught upon Europe in the Middle Ages, the 'Golden Horde.' They retained the Muslim religion and Asiatic customs. But in 1944 they were deported in toto from the Crimea to Central Asia, large numbers of them dying in the process. In 1957 their exile status was removed, and they began their national campaign for both political rehabilitation and the right to return to their homeland (the Crimea is now part of the Ukraine).

Political rehabilitation was granted in a decree of 1967, but return to their homeland was refused. By 1968 their various petitions and protests carried a total of three million signatures, every adult Crimean Tartar therefore having signed an average of 10 such documents.

Since 1964, they have been sending representative to Moscow to act as a permanent lobby with the authorities, and these people have dispatched regular bulletins to their electors in Central Asia. Several of these have reached the West, the latest being No. 82 of 1 January 1969, reproduced below. Another, No. 65 of March 1968, confirmed that although the lobby had achieved nothing with the authorities, it had successfully enlisted the backing of Moscow radicals such as Pavel Litvinov, Larissa Daniel and General Grigorenko. The bulletin was mainly devoted to Grigorenko's long and fiery speech to the members of the lobby in their support.

More recently Grigorenko has been threatened with instant arrest should he try to fly to Tashkent to attend the imminent trial - the latest in a series which has put more than 200 Crimean Tartars in jail for long terms over the last decade. Among those recently sentenced are 17 out of the 12,000 people who returned to the Crimea after the 1967 decree only to be unceremoniously expelled.

"The decree was issued not for you but for the Press, and for the foreign press at that," the deputy-chief of the Crimean police, Lt-Col. Kosyakov, is reported to have said. At which his colleague, Lt.-Col. Pazin, added: "If tomorrow the order comes to shoot, then we'll shoot you." In view of the violent break-up of the Chirchik gathering on 21 April 1968, mentioned below and described in detail in another document, this may prove to be no idle threat.

Those about to stand trial in Tashkent are reported to include Rolan Kadyev, aged 29, a theoretical physicist; Izet Khairov, aged 31, another physicist; Risa Ulifov, aged 49, a building worker; Ayder Bariev, aged 26, a mechanic; Svetlana Ametova and Munire Khalilova, two nurses aged 26 and 23 respectively; Reshat Bairamov, aged 28, and Ridvan Gafarov, aged 54, two electricians; and Ismail Yazidzhiev, a tacher. Gomer Bayev, arrested not in Central Asia like the others, but in Novrossisk on the Black Sea, is to be tried separately in Simferopol.

From the dates of arrest, which are known, we learn that almost all the defendants have been in prison under investigation for over six months. The charges are thought likely to involve 'anti-Soviet slander,' the Crimean Tartars having claimed that 46 per cent of their people died as a result of the deportations, while the official figures reckon it was 'only 22 per cent.'

The text of Bulletin No. 82 reads:

Dear compatriots,

The year 1968, designated by the United Nations General Assembly as International Human Rights Year, has passed. The Crimean Tartar people had hoped that the Government, even if only for reasons of its own prestige, would at last take some steps towards the resolution of their national question. But our hopes were unfounded.

Our national question has not merely not been resolved; the situation has been further aggravated by severe repressive measures taken by the authorities against Crimean Tartars. More very courageous and principled fighters for the people's interests have been thrown into the torture chambers of the KGB - Ridvan Gafarov, Izet Khairov, Rolan Kadyev, Gomer Bayev, Ayder Bariev and many others.

On the eve of the International Conference on Human Rights in Teheran, the authorities of the Uzbek Republic carried out a cruel pogrom against the peaceful citizens of Crimean Tartar nationality in the town of Chirchik. Detachments of the militia, soldiers of the internal security forces and small units of firemen, with senior commanders at their head, demonstrated their strength and dexterity on peaceful citizens - mostly women and children who had gathered to celebrate our national spring holiday.

This was an attempt by the authorities to instill into the Crimean Tartars the realization that any expression by them of their distinct national identity, any demonstration of affection for the customs and traditions of their homeland, the Crimea, would be severely suppressed. In vain Crimean Tartar representatives in Moscow cabled the Central Committee of the CPSU and other supreme organs demanding the immediate establishment of a government commission to investigate this crime.

The CPSU leaders ignored the voice of the people's representatives. Not only were the organizers of the mass terror not punished, but through farcical trials the responsibility for all these events was transferred to 10 victims of this tyranny, who were condemned for organizing mass disorders, resisting the authorities and propagating anti-Soviet slander, and sentenced to imprisonment for varying lengths of time.

These and many other acts of flagrant illegality against the Crimean Tartars did not prevent the Soviet delegation in Teheran from declaring that the Soviet Union firmly guarantees the defense of the civic, political and cultural rights of its citizens, and from subsequently attacking with "righteous anger" the "ruling juntas" of certain States for carrying out a policy of racial and national discrimination.

The Soviet delegation had not yet returned from Teheran, where it had signed a declaration on the need of strengthen the fight against racial discrimination, and where it had even proposed a resolution containing a demand that all those guilty of conducting a policy of terror and mass repression should be brought to justice, when, on 16-18 May in Moscow, about 800 representatives of our people were detained, beaten forcibly dispatched to places of compulsory settlement.

Every day the Soviet Press reports persecution and judicial punishment of democrats and participants in the national liberation struggles of other countries; in the name of whole Soviet public it protests against the arrests of Communists in Indonesia, and tirelessly hymns the "happy family life of the nations enjoying equal rights in the USSR." But at the same time hoodlum "guardians of the peace" in the Crimea were mercilessly beating defenseless families of Crimean Tatars, solely because they had defied the will of chauvinistic obscurantists, left their place of exile and returned to their homeland; in Uzbekistan most active participants in Crimean Tartar movement for equal rights were being tried on a false charge of anti-Soviet activity; and peaceful celebrations and the religious gatherings of Crimean Tartars were being dispersed with the help of armed force; while in the capital of the USSR, in front of the Central Committee building itself, punitive bodies led by their highest ranks were rounding up the legitimate representatives of the people.

But the past year is not characterized by these dark episodes alone. In 1968, the civic consciousness of our whole people rose even higher. Mass repressions have not frightened the Crimean Tartar people. The people have answered every illegal act with mass protests and a multitude of meetings and demonstrations. It is precisely this cohesion and strength of will that arouses the open fury of those who would like to preserve the system of the dark times of Stalin, when a handful of ignorant careerists and officials, headed by an infinitely inflated idol, could dictate their criminal will to a Soviet people paralyzed with fear, and could, at their own discretion, dispose of the property, sovereign territory and freedom of whole nations and peoples.

Current world events serve as a sharp reminder that even the most powerful force cannot crush a people, however small in numbers, provided that it is united in its thoughts and actions.

The new year, 1969, must be a year of even greater political activation and unity of action for our people. The time is not far off when our people, with the help of all progressive forces, will be able to break the back of Great-Power, chauvinism and a resurrected nation will breathe freely on its native soil. Happy New Year, dear compatriots! ! !

New Year greetings and best wishes for the New Year have been sent to the Crimean Tartar people by representatives of democratic public opinion in the USSR - S.P. Pisaryev, P. Grigorenko, P. Yakir, V. Krasin and many others….

Your representatives in Moscow

Originally published in The Observer, 30 March 1969.

Posted: 1 July 2013


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