The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation

The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation

The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation

The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation

Synopsis

Taking as its starting point the ethnogenesis of this ethnic group during the Mongol period (13th century), this volume traces their history through Islam, the Ottoman and the Russian Empires (15th and 17th century). The author discusses how Islam, Russian colonial policies and indigenous national movements shaped the collective identity of this victimized ethnic group. Part two deals with the role of forced migration during the Russian colonial period, Soviet nation-building policies and ethnic cleansing in shaping this peoples modern national identity. This work therefore also has wider applications for those dealing with the construction of diasporic identities. Taking a comparative approach, it traces the formation of Crimean Tatar diasporas in the Ottoman Balkans, Republican Turkey, and Soviet Central Asia (from 1944). A theme which emerges through the work is the gradual construction of the Crimea as a national homeland by its indigenous Tatar population. It ends with a discussion of the post-Soviet repatriation of the Crimean Tatars to their Russified homeland and the social and identity problems involved.

Excerpt

In the fall of 1991 the Nuri and Lilya Shevkiev and their son Emir and daughter Elmaz, a Crimean Tatar family living in Samarkand, Uzbekistan surprised their neighbors by selling their family house and most of their possessions and tendering their resignations from lucrative jobs. They then prepared to leave a land that had been their people's home for almost half a century. Throughout Uzbekistan the Crimean Tatars' stunned Central Asian neighbors watched as tens of thousands of their friends and colleagues of Crimean Tatar origin, who had long lived in their midst, joined the Shevkievs and migrated as families, agricultural communes, or whole villages in a westward direction towards the distant shores of the Black Sea. As the Shevkievs drove west with other Crimean Tatar families in a protective convoy over the deserts of post-Soviet Central Asia and across the valleys of the turbulent north Caucasian flank, their level of anticipation rose for they were approaching the cherished Crimean homeland which had been denied to their people since World War II.

Brutally deported en masse from their homeland on the fringes of Eastern Europe to the deserts of the USSR's Central Asian republics during World War II by Josef Stalin, whole generations of Crimean Tatars had grown up in the depths of Soviet Asia far from their peninsular home on the Black Sea. With the collapse of Soviet central authority from 1989-1991 the Shevkievs and thousands like them were partaking in a return migration to their once-forbidden homeland. This migration of a quarter of a million Crimean Tatars was part of a mass, uncontrollable movement that had all the drama of the Jews' return to the lost lands of Zion.

Although the tragic story of the Crimean Tatar exile and subsequent repatriation was largely eclipsed by more noteworthy events related to the devolution of Communist power in Eurasia (such as the outbreak of bloody conflicts in the Balkans and Caucasus), the experience of the Shevkievs and tens of thousands of other exiled Crimean Tatars who have returned to their once forbidden home-

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