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ESKENDER FAZIL (1934-2003): A Voice of the Crimean Tatars

Mubeyyin B. Altan

The Crimean Tatars lost one of their talented and determined poet and writer on February 27, 2003. Author of several collections of poems and short stories [1], Eskender Fazil, like many Crimean Tatar intellectuals, had dedicated himself to the national movement of his people at a very young age. As Bilal Mambet [2] wrote in his introduction of Eskender Aga's last book Secde [Prostration], he traveled to Crimea at the age of 14 in 1948, at the height of the Crimean Tatar persecution, to bring some water from a spring in his hometown Tavbadrak, near Bahcesaray. He returned with two bottles of spring water and presented to his ill father and then watched his father die a happy man after drinking the hometown water.

Eskender Fazil

Eskender Fazil, 1991

Eskender Fazil was born in Tavbadrak, Crimea on December 6, 1934. He and his family were deported, like all Crimean Tatars, to Uzbekistan when he was nine years old. After graduating from Cinaz middle school, young Eskender applied to the Nizami Teachers Institute, but his application was rejected because of his father's infamous trip to Moscow in 1947 to ask authorities for the reason of their deportation. Young Eskender was forced to attend the same institute in its "Distant Education" program by using a Greek last name. He graduated from that institute with high honors in 1960 and became a Russian literature teacher. At the same time, he wanted to learn his native language, Crimean Tatar, which until then was neither officially recognized nor encouraged. He established a close friendship with Crimean Tatar poets and writers to improve his Crimean Tatar. He also continued his activities on behalf of the Crimean Tatar National Movement, which he joined in 1955. During the most crucial years of the Movement in Uzbekistan, he and his friends went from door to door informing their compatriots on the progress of their national struggle. It was the determination and hard work of political activists such as Eskender Fazil, Resat Cemilev, Sabriye Seitova, Rolan Kadiev, Fuat Ablamitov and many others that made the Crimean Tatar National Movement one of the most successful human rights movements in the history of the Soviet Union.

Watching the early video tapes of the Movement one sees Eskender Fazil delivering a speech to predominantly Russian audience, and then again addressing his people to inform them about the status of the Crimean Tatar National Movement on many occasions. He was always ready to be the voice of his people, which he was. I personally met Eskender Fazil when he and Mustafa Cemilev visited Harvard University in 1990 and had a long heated conversation with Eskender and Mustafa Cemilev about the status of the Crimean Tatars, which is one of my most memorable encounters. Eskender Aga stayed in New York City for about three months and was honored by the Crimean Tatar Community for all he had done for his people. Like many of the veterans of Crimean Tatar National Movement, he was an educated, talented and strongly dedicated son of Crimea. Eskender Fazil was indeed a true veteran of the Crimean Tatar National Movement, a true hero of the Crimean Tatar people who will always be remembered. Eskender Fazil passed away on February 27, 2003, in his beloved Crimea, still longing for a united Crimean Tatar nation. Allah Rahmet Eylesin! May Allah's blessings be upon him!


Secde [Prostration] is Eskender Fazil's last collection of poems, published in 1999 by Tavriya Publications in Akmescit (Simferopol), Crimea. It is a collection of poems written in different years and in different locations. Eskender Fazil expresses his philosophy in life as well as his anger and frustration about the struggle of his people. In "Mayis 18 de" [On May 18], for example, he expresses how angry he feels towards the Soviet authorities and says:

You dragged my innocent childhood years,
On tip of your bayonets!
On May 18 (1944) without fear of God,
You plowed my blooming orchards, you did![3]

He dedicated some of his poems to well known Crimean Tatars such as Ismail Bey Gaspirali and Musa Mamut. In his poem "Birlik" [Unity], dedicated to Ismail Bey Gasprali, father of Crimean Tatar intellectuals, Eskender Aga states:

It is pitch dark in Russia. Tatar cries,
To escape from oppression, he tries.
Ignorance and helplessness limp on,
The Language and Ideas they club on.

Born in nineteen hundred and fifty one, in Avcikoy [4]
To darkness this youngster did not bow.
Like a sun over the peninsula,
He rose to enlighten his people, to glow.[5]

Along with all the passionately written poems, Secde also includes an epic poem "Vay Vay Anam! Kayasi" [The rock of Oh! Mother Oh!]. This twenty-five page long epic poem about a Crimean Tatar legend [6], is Eskender Fazil's longest poem in the aformentioned collection. It is quite unfortunate that we no longer have the opportunity to hear Eskender Fazil, a talented son of Crimea, recite his eloquent poems. But we have the opportunity to read this nicely written collection. The entire book is an eloquent example of Crimean Tatar poetry which should be read by our Crimean Tatar-speaking members, friends and others.

The following selected poems are from Fazil's last collection of poems, Secde, written in Crimean Tatar and translated by Mubeyyin B. Altan:


You are a small nationality, your rich history
Grew pale because of distress, grief and torment.
Your heavy and troubled destiny,
Blackened by slander and tragedy.

By depriving you, your rights and justice,
They mixed blood in your tears.
By enslaving you without hesitation,
They deported you from your homeland so dear.

The angry and wild Black Sea roared,
Rushed to extinguish my burning motherland.
The old Catirdag [7], distressed and worried,
"Where are the Tatars going?" she cried.

Yes, they ordered: "Let no Crimean Tatar trace remain!"
But you were able to survive (as a nation) just the same.
Years passed, in distress and pain,
Through a brave struggle, your honor you were able to retain!

Despite your burial grounds are filled with martyrs,
Your determination to fight never died.
Everyone knew and understood,
Your tragedy, no one could ever hide.

Stand up! Lift your bowed head!
Live with great pride in motherland.
Enough! Wipe your tears off!
You deserve all the fame and fortune in your name!

Stand up! Motherland is calling you to return!
The extinct hearths wait for you.
Place your roots near the grand Catirdag!
Motherland, with praise and cheers, will embrace you!

Moscow, 1987


Our destiny is written on dark pages:
Tatar people scattered around everywhere!
But Look! Tatars have not lost
Their tradition and their way of life, anywhere!

Deported from their motherland and tormented,
With death they struggled, and they starved.
But look, Tatars righteously,
Their objectives they reached and their goal they obtained!

They endured thousands of obstacles,
In cauldron of tortures they boiled.
But look, even during the harshest time,
To "Xaytarma" [8] they still danced.

In many different lands they were forced to settle,
They made adjustments to different foods.
But look, even then Tatars were able to feast,
On Kalakay [9] and Ciborek [10] at their homes.

Strong enough to squeeze water out of stone,
They turned dust into gold.
But really look, when they speak their native tongue,
The coldest heart even softened and melted away.

(Crimean) Tatars, of course, will always be Tatars,
They just have to feel it in their bones.
But look, how wonderful it will be,
When Crimean Tatars can reside in their Crimea, their homes.

New York, 1990


I was deported, but crying you remained
My heart is not peaceful, like an ocean it overflows.
We are apart from each other, fully distressed,
Progressively we are getting worse.

Forgive me! I bow down to my past,
I was not able to protect you on time.
Slander, what lethal power it was,
On a rainy morning, it separated us.

The wound of longing is always throbbing,
You and only you are the remedy for my pain.
My dear, I am loyal to you like an old slave,
Recalling your name repeatedly, I live on, I remain.

You come alive before my eyes,
I converse with you and then you I embrace.
The pain of ardent desire always laments deep in my heart,
A pain, that can only be cured when we unite (in our place).

How curious, how interesting, the foreign tongues,
Continue to gossip relentlessly.
Let me confess absolutely,
With good fortune and love, to you we'll return.

Moscow, 1965

End Notes

[1] Melevse [Violet],1970; Kart Emin [Old Man Emin],1976; Temenna [(My) Wish], 1982; and Secde [Prostration],1999, are his collections of poems. He also published a collection of short stories in 1988 titled Kollarindan Opeyim [Let Me Kiss Your Hands].

[2] Bilal Mambet's introduction in Secde.

[3] Sen menim gunahsiz balalik cagimni
Sunguler ucunda suruklep yurdin.
Mayis 18 de gonceli bagimni,
Alladan korkmayip, sabannen surdun.

[4] Ismail Gaspirali's birthplace.

[5] Rusiye - dim karanlikta. Tatar aglay,
Zulumlukten kurtulmakcun care aray.
Caillik ve nacar ayat ep topallay,
Dillerni ve fikirlerni hep sopalay.

Bin sekiz yuz elli birde, Avcikoyde,
Doggan yigit karanlikka bas egmedi.
Kunes kibi yarimada uzerinde,
Xalkka ziya bermek icun koterildi.

[6] According to this legend, as explained by M. S. Soy in a brief article in Kirim, (Vol.1, No. 1 January, 1957, pp. 25-26), Topal bey, a mean spirited land owner kidnaps the wife and a beautiful daughter of a man named Kemal who happened to be away fighting in Khan's army. Despite all his attempts, Topal Bey fails to seduce these two women. He gets so frustrated and angry that he decides to bury them alive by carving graves in two separate rocks. Then the local population begins hearing voices coming from these rocks near the village of Mustafa Bey on the banks of Kaci River. The ghosts in the shape of a beautiful woman said to appear in the area. The mean Topal Bey then orders his men to destroy these two rocks, but they can not. Topal Bey's men, while trying to destroy these rocks, hear a voice crying "Vay Vay Anam!" [Oh, mother oh!]. Therefore it is named "Vay Vay Anam! Rock," and the mother's voice is heard as she answers her daughter: "Korkma Balam!" [Don't be afraid, my dear!] And it is named "Don't Be Afraid, Dear! Rock." After his attempt to destroy these rocks fail, Topal Bey and all his men turn to stones, therefore, no longer able to harm the innocent villagers. So goes the legend.

[7] The legendary mountain in southern Crimea.

[8] "Xaytarma" is the national dance of the Crimean Tatars.

[9] "Kalakay" is a special bread made of dough.

[10] "Çibörek" is a deep-fried Crimean Tatar national meat pie.

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