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The Crimean Tatars in the Republic of Turkey: Summary

The following excerpt is taken from a report written for the US Department of State, “Soviet Muslim Emigres in the Republic of Turkey” by Lowell Bezanis. Dated May 1992, the report covers five groups of people who were forced to relocate to Ottoman Empire and later Turkey in the 19th and 20th centuries: Volga Tatars, Crimean Tatars, Azerbaijanis, North Caucasians and Turkic people from Soviet Central Asia. Mr. Bezanis was in Turkey in 1991 and contacted these different groups to collect information about their communities, political and social activities, and publications. He did not conduct independent research and his report is based mostly on his interviews with community leaders and the publications he examined there. Reprinted here are Appendix 2-A (The Crimean Tatars in the Republic of Turkey: Summary) and Appendix 2-B (Serials), which cover the community, organizations and publications of Crimean Tatars living in Turkey at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Department of State released the report (AD-A251 103) for public distribution in June 1992. Lowell Bezanis later published the entire report in Central Asian Survey 13 (1): 59-180, 1994. The original typescript version in PDF format is available on the Internet:

By Lowell Bezanis


Both prior to and immediately following the 1783 annexation of the Crimea by Russia, Crimean Tatars moved in successive refugee waves to Ottoman lands. Much of this population was settled in Rumelia, mainly the Dobrudja (historically the site of large Tatar community), for defensive purposes. Following the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78, they were forced to re-emigrate to Anatolia. There they remained sometimes in relatively isolated villages.

According to one individual, Turkey accommodated eight thousand Crimean Tatars from German refugee camps after WWII. Allegedly they were settled in Turkey's eastern provinces. Though the veracity of this cannot be ascertained at present, some such movement to Turkey probably did occur as a segment of the US Crimean Tatar community settled briefly in Turkey before emigrating to the Tri-State area.

Activists claim over five million Turks are of Tatar descent. Although time and intermarriage have largely resulted in the assimilation of the Crimean Tatars of Turkey. Tatar villages are still to be found in the provinces of Eskisehir and to a lesser extent, Ankara and Adana.


Interaction between Ottoman and Crimean nationalist intellectuals, and support of the latter by the former occurred in the period of Young Turk rule. At this time Crimean Tatars established the Kirim Talebe Cemiyeti (Crimean Students Association) in Istanbul and the Kirim Hayir Cemiyeti (Crimean Aid Association) in Eskisehir. During 1918 the Istanbul bi-monthly Kırım (Crimea) appeared in support of the German and Ottoman-backed attempt of native nationalists to bring the region under Crimean control.

A separate Tatar emigrant organization or publication does not appear to have surfaced in Turkey during the period 1919-1951, although some renowned Tatar activists were present in the country.

In the Republican period the first association appeared in Istanbul in 1952, known as the Kırım Türk Kültür Derneği (Crimean Turk Culture Association). One of the founders of this ephemeral organization was related to the renowned educational reformer and Crimean Tatar, Ismail Gaspirali.

In 1954 a larger organization, known as the Kırım Türkleri Yardımlaşma Cemiyeti (KTYC-Aid Society of Crimean Turks) was founded in Istanbul. The second group had among its founders several figures connected to the Prometheus movement in Poland and its Constanza, Romania based publication Emel (Aspiration). This group, which continues to dominate Crimean Tatar activities in Turkey today, began to re-issue Emel in 1960.

A handful of "new" emigres in Ankara that rejected the Romanian Tatar leader of the Istanbul KTYC formed a third group which issued Kırım (Crimea) in 1957. Though it reappeared briefly again in 1960, death and re-emigration brought a quick end to the activities of this tiny opposition group.

At present, the central association of Crimean Tatars in Turkey can be found in Ankara. It is headed by a former Minister of Culture who was long connected to the Democratic and Justice Parties. Other associations are operating in Istanbul, Bursa, Eskişehir, Konya and Izmit. The foundation for this organization has offices in Istanbul and Ankara. Ostensibly, it is this foundation which owns the journal Emel.


Emel is the longest running publication of its sort. Published in Ankara every other month, it appears today in a revitalized form with more of a ''Tatar" character than it demonstrated in the past. The circulation of Emel is presently the same as it was in the 1930s--two thousand.

The long history (see Appendix 2-B) of this publication gives it a unique prestige among emigres and Pan-Turkists generally. It staunchly supports the right of return of the Crimean Tatars from Central Asia, although there is no discussion of repatriation, as in the case of some North Caucasians in Turkey.

Developments among other groups active in Turkey can be reconstructed to some degree using Emel as it appeared over an extended period of time and was traditionally a shared forum. This quality has diminished with time however.

Since perestroika, the activists involved with Emel, the Ankara association and its vak#&305;f [foundation] have established strong ties with Tatars in the USSR. It is not uncommon to learn that a large delegation of Crimean Tatars from Uzbekistan is being feted in Ankara. Members of the Association are traveling to the Crimea and Central Asia as well. With this connection and a longstanding commitment to the cause of a "free Crimea for Crimeans" Emel warrants monitoring.

Inquiries regarding Emel may be directed to:

8 Cad. 77 Sok. 17/1
06510 Emek-Ankara
Tel. 222-4880

NOTE: Romanian and Polish Tatars were quite involved in the national movement of Crimean Tatars in emigration. Any attempt to understand the movement's history without reference to the interaction between Tatars in Romania, Poland and Turkey during the period 1918-40 would be virtually impossible.

SERIALS (Appendix 2-B)

KIRIM (The Crimea, 1918)

According to emigre sources, this journal was published in Istanbul by the Crimean emigrant and book-dealer, Süleyman Sudi on a bi-monthly basis in old script Turkish beginning in May of 1918. When it was suspended in 1918 is presently unknown. Kirim is said to have supported the idea of free Crimea and was probably connected to the activists involved in the Crimean Students Association (Kırım Talebe Cemiyeti) which was founded in Istanbul in 1908.

Contributors to <Kırım included Fahrettin Tonguç, Mehmet Niyazi, Ömer Seyfettin, Yusuf Vezirov, O. K. Hatif, Şevki Bektöre and others. It featured articles such as: Who is dividing greater Turkdom?, information about Crimean youth, Cafer Seyitahmet [Seydahmet], Çelebi Cihan, and the Tatar people, the importance of popular literature, the constitution approved by the Kurultay, Tatars of the Danube, the right of Crimean Turks to independence, Muslims of Dobrudja, etc. Apparently it appeared with numerous photographs and a substantial amount of nationalist poetry. Considered very important and rare in emigre circles. Unavailable.

KIRIM (The Crimea, 1957-58 + 1960)

Appearing under Gaspirali's slogan 'Unity in Language, Thought and Action,’ this short-lived thirty-two page monthly published in Ankara was the product of Mehmet Sevdiyar, Cafer Ortalan, Mustafa Çorbacı and Sermet Arısoy. Financed by Ortalan, the principal pen behind this publication was Sevdiyar, formerly a writer for Azat Kırım, a Tatar nationalist organ appearing in the Crimea during the German occupation of the region. One thousand copies of each issue were published and there were sixty two subscribers. According to Sevdiyar himself, it was neither popular nor influential.

The principals behind KIRIM were more committed to Tatarism than (Pan) Turkism although they employed the term Crimean Turks, reportedly following a direct warning on this subject by a member of Turkey's security service (MIT). The content of the publication was not significant, tending toward the hagiographic and featuring short essays about Crimean Turk literature, history, poetry and some recollections of the homeland.

As far as emigre policies are concerned Kırım is of some interest, however. The Kırım group recognized the leadership of C. S. Kırımer [Cafer Seydahmet] but rejected his successor, Müstecib Ülküsal. Instead, they touted Şevki Bektöre, who arrived in Turkey in 1957 following some twenty five years of imprisonment in the USSR. It was the reappearance of Emel, edited by Ulküsal in 1960 that prompted Kırım's brief reappearance that same year. Due to death and reemigration on the part of those issuing Kırım, it disappeared in July 1961. Unavailable.

EMEL (Aspiration, 1930-40 + 1960-Present)

Under the editorial direction of M. Haci Fazil (Müstecib Üllküsal), Emel initally began to appear in Pazardjik, Romania on January 1, 1930 in old script Turkish. Shortly thereafter its offices were transferred to Konstanza.

In its first two years Emel appeared as sixteen page bi-monthly. Thereafter, each copy ran forty pages in length and beginning January 1939 (no. 140) Emel was published in Turkish with Latin script. By this time Emel's masthead indicated that it was a ‘monthly literary, social, economic and political magazine.’ Before its suspension in October 1940, reportedly due to Germany's influence in Romania and the Nazi-Soviet pact, one hundred and fifty four numbers had appeared. According to some sources the type-set used to publish was later transferred to the Crimea in order to publish Azat Kirim.

Emel was Pan-Turkist in orientation rather than Tatarist. Nevertheless, it described itself as the organ of the Crimean national independence movement and aimed at bringing the Crimea under the rule of Crimean Turks. It was committed to the struggle of all non-Russian peoples for their independence, as articulated in various Promethean publications of which Emel was one. Emel’s readership extended beyond Romania to Turkey, at least until 1934 when this and other emigrant publications were prohibited from circulating there. After that date it circulated semi-clandestinely in Turkey it would appear.

The most important contributor to Emel was Cafer Seyitahmet (Kırımer), formerly defense and foreign minister for the Crimean Directorate. Emel contains important source material for historians on events in the Crimea in the years 1917 - 40, the national liberation movement of Crimean Tatars, essays about the history and culture of the region, along with the memoires of Kırımer. Various books of poetry, treatments of Tatar traditions, or matters of historical interest were issued as seperate 'Emel' publications, both in Romania and subsequently in Turkey.

After a twenty year hiatus, Emel began to reappear in Istanbul in November of 1960 as ‘a cultural magazine appearing every two months.’ The journal was owned by the accountant Ismail Otar, brother of Ibrahim Otar, a member of Kırımer's Warsaw-based entourage. Emel's editorials were written by Müstecib Ülküsal. These frequently focused on some international conference, or contemporary political development, and was interpreted in light of the 'captive nations' of the USSR, and China, or the cause of the Crimean Turks. Proudly nationalistic and staunchly anti-communist, such essays lambasted the Soviets in no uncertain terms, proclaiming the need for democracy and human rights in the USSR, freedom of conscience etc. Prominent contributors to Emel included N. Ağat, A. Soysal, E. Kirimal, S. Taygan and I. Otar. As Emel constituted a shared forum, numerous activists from the Idil-Ural, Turkistani, and Azerbaijani emigre circles contributed to Emel as well.

The quality of the new Emel was not equal to its predecessor probably due to political conditions in Turkey, the difficulty of emigre life, the movement's eclipse after WW II and the loss of Kırımer (d. 1960). While Emel remained Turkist in orientation, it explicity stated that it favored cultural Pan-Turkish, as opposed to any more utopian plans of a greater Turkish state including the Crimea. Emel again featured the memoires of Kırımer (no. 2-38 passim), historical essays about the Khans of the Crimea, remembrances of Gaspirali, eyewitness reports concerning the first Bolshevik occupation of the Crimea, the secret minutes of the First All-Russian Muslim Congress, all about the year 1917 in the Crimea, the government of Sulkevich, Ottoman-Crimean relations, numerous articles about the Karaims and Romanian Turks, German foreign policy in 1918, along with poetry, drama, folk songs, necrologies and news of the community and its organization. Hagiography, a common feature of emigre serials in Turkey, was also a staple feature of Emel. Finally, articles from the Turkish or Western press about the Crimean Tatars were noted and often reproduced, as were books by foreign or emigre specialists.

By the late 1970s Emel's news section was considerably expanded. News of life among Crimean Turks in their Central Asian exile, their effort to return to the Crimea, activities, speeches, petitions of Mustafa Cemilev and others, were all treated and applauded. The fate of returnees and the response of Soviet authorities to Crimean Tatar demands were carefully monitored and reported. Islamic themes, per se, were largely absent from Emel although the Muslim aspect of Turkishness was of course, a given. In the late 1970s and early 1980s a bit more attention to questions of faith began to appear, though it did not signal an important change in Emel's orientation.

At this juncture the term Turko-Tatar began to surface in Emel, along with the more standard emigre self-designation Crimean Turk. Since then this trend has continued. As this development is encouraged by Crimean Tatars exiled in Central Asia it is likely that more Tatarism will be seen in Emel than in the past.

Emel continues to report on events, personalities and problems of Crimean Tatars in the former Soviet Union, new publications of Tatars in Romania, etc. As it is indexed it is more accessible than other emigre serials issued in Turkey. Although its circulation of 2000 is small, Emel is a historically unique organ that remains of contemporary interest. The early years of Emel (Istanbul) can be found at the Research Library of UCLA. Reportedly, the University of Wisconsin, Madison is now in possession of a complete run of this serial.

Posted to ICC site: 29 January 2017

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