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Dissertation Abstract

Jonathan Otto Pohl completed his Ph.D. Dissertation at the Department of History, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in November 2004. The dissertation, titled "Shallow Roots: The Exile Experiences of Russian-Germans, Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks in Comparative Perspective," is a comparative study of three ethnic groups in the former Soviet Union who were deported by Stalin's government in 1941 and 1944. Dr. Pohl is the author of two books, and his earlier articles on Crimean Tatars can be viewed at this Web site: The Deportation and Fate of the Crimean Tatars and "And this Must be Remembered!" Stalin's Ethnic Cleansing of the Crimean Tatars. See also the Timeline that he prepared for the 60th anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars. — Ed.


During World War II, the Soviet government forcibly deported eight small nationalities in their entirety from western areas of the USSR to the Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. The regime confined the Russian-Germans, Karachais, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks to involuntary areas of settlement in these regions. The Karachais, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush and Balkars returned to their native lands during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The Soviet government, however, refused to allow the Russian-Germans, Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks to return to their homelands. They all suffered from prolonged involuntary exile, lack of institutions in their native languages, discrimination and defamation. Yet, despite this common mistreatment they responded very differently. The Russian-Germans lost most of their German culture and adopted the language and way of life of the larger Russian population. They also remained politically passive compared to the Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks. The Crimean Tatars in contrast maintained a strong sense of national identification rooted in a connection to the land of Crimea despite the loss of native language skills and other cultural signifiers. This national consciousness fuelled a strong grass-roots movement for the right of return that lasted for decades. The Meskhetian Turks preserved their native language and culture the best of the three groups. This retention in the face of pressure to acculturate led to the development of a national consciousness among them.

The greatest factor contributing to these differences was the different levels of national consolidation and consciousness among the groups before the deportations. The development of these peoples during the 1920s and 1930s in particular dictated in large part how they responded to their subsequent deportation and exile. None of the three groups, however, put down deep roots in Kazakhstan, Central Asia and other areas of exile.

Posted: May 2005

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