In May 1944 more than 400,000 Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported from Crimea, half of the deportees died, one third were children. According to some historians, the real reason for the deportation was that the USSR sought to seize part of turkey and establish control over the Bosphorus Strait. To do this Moscow ethnically cleansed Crimea and the Caucasus, Turks were evicted from the Caucasus, Crimean Tatars were deported from Crimea.

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Russian propaganda however continues to pedal Stalin’s narrative of treason, Red Army desertions and cooperation with the Nazis as the reason for the deportations.

A pro-Kremlin Russian language Baltic site article lists all sorts of fakes that have been making the rounds since the days of the USSR – about allegedly existing “eyewitness accounts” of how Crimean Tatars convinced Russian fighters to leave their combat positions, promising to “hide them in their villages”. Some Russian media claim that allegedly “the fact of mass collaboration is difficult to challenge”, and that “the leadership of the USSR had legitimate reasons to act as it did.”

On May 11, 1944 the USSR State Defense Committee passed a resolution ordering the expulsion “of all Tatars from the territory of Crimea and their permanent settlement as special settlers in the Uzbekistan”.

Charges of betraying the motherland and deserting the Red Army are untrue as some 17,000 Crimean Tatars actually served in the Red Army and most of them did so throughout the entire war. After the Soviet 51st Army was defeated in Crimea, conscripts of many different nationalities fled, including Crimean Tatars.

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Radio Liberty’s Crimean Realities program quotes 51st army soldier who described how short of weapons they were in 1941: “18 rifles were distributed. The remaining 700 soldiers in the battalion faced the Germans with shovels and pickaxes. Mortars and machine guns were broken and unusable” he said.

Accusation the Crimean Tatars of treason and total collaboration is also untrue and wrong. Historians note that in the Soviet territories occupied by the Germans, there are not a single people who could not be accused of collaborating with the Nazis.

According to historian Serhiy Hromenko, the Tatar battalions who fought on the side of the Germans consisted of only 15-16,000 people, some 6.5-7% of the entire population. Most of these people were killed during the war or at the end of the war ended up in the gulags. Most of the local population who cooperated with the Nazis did so in order to protect their villages from Soviet partisans who persecuted them because of their nationality.

At the same time about 15% of the Crimean Tatar male population fought on the side of the Red Army. 

Demographic figures for Crimea are the most telling, says Hromenko, and they completely challenge and question Moscow’s traditional myths about Crimean Tatars.

  • There was a total of 232,000 Crimean Tatars in Crimea at the start of WWII. 
  • 18,000 were killed, died or went missing.
  • Of those 11-12,000 were on the side of the USSR
  • 6-7,000 were on the side of Germany
  • Total arrested for collaboration 9.500
  • Total deported from Crimea 194,000
  • 9,000 demobilized
  • 1,500 emigrated
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The resettlement of Crimean Tatars to Uzbekistan and other areas had disastrous consequences. From 15-6% died of hunger and disease during the winter of 1944-1945. Crimea was stripped of its autonomy and turned into a Russian province that was systematically Russified, over the next two years more than 80% of all Crimean Tatar place names were changed to standard Soviet names.