It is three o’clock at night. Your front door is being knocked on heavily. Not completely awake, you come closer to the door. When you open it, the soldier who breaks in tells you to get prepared to leave the house in 15 minutes. You are not aware that these are your last minutes in the house which you have been living in for years…
The entire Crimean Tatar population, an ethnic Turkic nation living in Crimea for centuries, were exiled from their own land on May the 18th , 1944 by Joseph Stalin on charges of collaborating with the Germans in WW2. After a very secret and planned preparation, soldiers carried out the order of Stalin to clear all Crimea from Crimean Tatars in one night.
Nearly half of the population, (approximately 125000 of 250000 consisting only women, kids and elderlies since the men had been fighting for Red Army,) starved or died of various illnesses due to the inhumanly conditions in livestock wagons which were carrying them to the deserts of Middle Asia and Ural Mountains.
All Crimean Tatar houses were given to Russian or Ukrainian settlers and village names were changed into Russian in one night. Books, cemeteries, anything related to Crimean Tatar existence were destroyed brutally by Soviets.
Crimean Tatars in exile were forced to work in Kolhozes, were prohibited from leaving their location, speaking their native Crimean Tatar language even mentioning their ethnic identity and their dreadful exile experience by strict rules, disobedience against which resulted in death or imprisonment in labour camps not less than 10 years.
After Stalin’s death, all nations who were exiled by Soviets, were allowed to return to their homeland except Crimean Tatars. Only after a long and painful struggle Crimean Tatars gained the right to rejoin their beloved homeland in 90’s.
Starting a new life in their own homeland was not easy as they were exposed to intense suppression from Russians and Ukrainians who captured their land and houses half a century ago.
After 72 years, Crimean Peninsula still remains its exclusive statue which can not be shared by Ukraine and Russia as Crimean Tatars, the indigenous inhabitants of Crimea, are too few in number to claim their independence in the land of their own ancestors.
Letter by Emre Seven