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Stalin's Order to Deport Crimean Tatars Was Based on False Reports

On the 66th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars (18 May 1944), the International Committee for Crimea is pleased to publish an important paper by J. Otto Pohl, "The False Charges of Treason against the Crimean Tatars." An Associate Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, Otto Pohl shows that the charges of mass treason brought against the Tatars were based on erroneous reports by Beria and his associates. The Soviet authorities had already decided to deport the indigenous population of Crimea and used the standard justification of collective treason, similar to those accusations leveled against other ethnic groups who were deported during World War II.

Based on the published Soviet documents, Professor Pohl's article includes a number of revealing points:

  • On 22 April 1944, Beria's deputies Serov and Kobulov sent a message to Beria, claiming that 20,000 Crimean Tatars had deserted from the Soviet Army in 1941. In fact, this figure (20,000) was the total number of Crimean Tatars serving in the military at that time. The actual desertions from the Crimean ASSR by all nationalities during the years 1941-1944 was only 479. (pp. 1-2)
  • On 10 May 1944, Beria sent a letter to Stalin, not only accusing the Crimean Tatars of desertion but adding that these 20,000 men had joined the German forces and fought against the Soviet Army. (p.2) The German records show that 9,225 Crimean Tatars served in the Nazi battalions, revealing a figure less than 1% of about 1.3 million Soviet citizens who served with the Germans. The majority of Nazi collaborators were Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian. (p.1)
  • During April and May 1944, the NKVD arrested nearly 6,000 Crimean Tatars for anti-Soviet activities, amounting to about 3% of the Crimean Tatars then living on the peninsula. Yet, the entire population was deported without being charged with any crime. Of the 151,000 people deported to Uzbekistan, 80% were women and children. The percentage of women and children deported to the Urals was even higher. (p. 3)

For additional details as well as a discussion on the role of the Soviet partisan movement, as related to the charges brought against the Crimean Tatars, please see Otto Pohl's article. It is available here in PDF format: The False Charges of Treason against the Crimean Tatars. (460 KB). The Soviet document, dated 11 May 1944, ordering the deportation of Crimean Tatars, is also accessible here: State Defense Committee Decree No. 5859ss.

We extend our appreciation to Otto Pohl for exploring the reasons for the deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944, an event that resulted in the loss of thousands of human lives and endless suffering, with heart-breaking repercussions still felt today. Clearly, the Soviet decision to deport the indigenous people of Crimea was a crime against humanity.

Inci A. Bowman
Washington, DC

Posted: 17 May 2010

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