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Duke University Press Books
Pub. Date:
Duke University Press Books
The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland / Edition 2

The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland / Edition 2

by Edward A. AllworthEdward A. Allworth
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This new edition of Edward A. Allworth's The Tatars of Crimea has been extensively updated. Five new chapters examine the situation of Crimean Tatars since the breakup of the USSR in 1991 and detail the continuing struggle of the Tatars to find peace and acceptance in a homeland.
Contributors to this volume-almost half of whom are Tatars-discuss the problematic results of the partial Tatar return to Crimea that began in the 1980s. This incomplete migration has left the group geographically split and has complicated their desire for stability as a people, whether in their own homeland or in the Central Asian diaspora. Those who have returned to the region on the Black Sea in Ukrayina (formerly Ukraine) have found themselves engulfed in a hostile political environment dominated by Russian residents attempting to stifle the resurgence of Crimean Tatar life. Specific essays address the current political situation in and around Crimea, recent elections, and promising developments in the culture, leadership, and movement toward unity among Crimean Tatars.
Beyond demonstrating the problems of one nationality caught in a fierce power struggle, The Tatars of Crimea offers an example of the challenges faced by all nationalities of the former Soviet Union who now contend with deteriorating economic and political conditions, flagrant discrimination against ethnic minorities, and the denial of civil and human rights common in many of the newly independent states.

Contributors. Ludmilla Alexeyeva, Edward A. Allworth, Mübeyyin Batu Altan, Nermin Eren, Alan W. Fisher, Riza Gülüm, Seyit Ahmet Kirimca, Edward Lazzerini, Peter Reddaway, Ayshe Seytmuratova, Andrew Wilson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822319948
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 02/12/1998
Series: Central Asia Book Series
Edition description: Second Edition, Revised
Pages: 398
Product dimensions: 6.09(w) x 9.15(h) x 1.15(d)

About the Author

Edward A. Allworth is Professor Emeritus of Turco-Soviet Studies at Columbia University. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Harriman Institute and of the Center for the Study of Central Asia at Columbia University.

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The Tatars of Crimea

Return to the Homeland

By Edward A. Allworth

Duke University Press

Copyright © 1998 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-9869-1


Renewing Self-Awareness


The ill treatment endured by Crimean Tatars during the last half century has tested them severely. When other nationalities might have faltered, these Tatars have persevered. Immersed in a hostile cultural, economic, and social environment created by a Russian oligarchy, they found great strength to carry them through the man-made threats to the survival of their community. What sorts of resources and support have proved indispensable in sustaining the group to this extraordinary degree?

Two reflections of this strength, in particular, attract immediate attention: steadiness in the face of each new danger and a fearless determination to defend themselves, spiritually and culturally, against formidable opponents.

Expressions of Attitudes and Values

Those same traits reveal themselves person by person. The seemingly tenuous networks that tie individuals to a common cause may exist and reveal themselves most of all in the cultural values, moods, and attitudes expressed through words and other symbols. The literature, language, art, and related bearers and creators of signs serve more fundamentally than other factors to shape and support the outlook of Crimean Tatars in the postmodern season of the group's life. These mediums reach beyond bolstering courage and conviction. They convey a necessary appreciation of beauty, joy, and an affirmation of life that can give people the stimulus to act with imagination in hostile surroundings.

The way people express their feelings about their community and their place in this immediate post-Soviet period tells more about their group's viability under contemporary conditions than does news about their political life and institutions. A shattered community's many spokesmen and -women must participate in the process of reidentifying their group with its central nervous system, its significant core. Those talented enough to convey their feelings and ideas memorably in literature, music, and the arts probably exert the strongest influence in restoring and sustaining people's faith in the one community.

Crimean Tatars benefit in this respect from a small but active circle of writers, poets, composers, and other creative artists, men and women who have found that eloquence. Rather than conventionally idealize, they visualize their community and place in phrases and images that reaffirm them aesthetically in the minds and hearts of their audience. Where, under the circumstances, readers, listeners, and viewers might expect anger or hostility, more often than not the poets and artists speak softly, portray gently. A lyrical reengagement with suppressed feelings of longing seems all the more remarkable in view of the most recent history of the group. Decades of enduring an often harsh Central Asian exile have marked Crimean Tatars as surely as other previous, recent experiences. Nevertheless, the poetry and art publicly circulated usually accents a positive vision.

Although composing verse in Uzbekistan exile before the rise of glasnost as public policy in the Soviet Union after the mid-1980s, Eskender Fazi'l guardedly conveyed his thoughts in notably terse lines that skirted strong feelings. Under the heavy censorship then especially limiting the literary efforts of Crimean Tatars in Central Asia, the young writer's collections of poetry—The Violet (Melevshe) had appeared in 1970 and The Old Beechtree (Qart emen) in 1976—enjoyed the select company of only twelve companion titles by various authors created and issued in the Crimean Tatar language. But, because the Communist Party then continued to deny the crucial attributive Crimean to these Tatars, the colophon toGesture of Respect (Temenna, 1982) specifies only that this poetry appears in "the Tatar language." The experienced writer Cherkez Ali, one of whose verses this chapter cites, below, functioned as editor of the booklet, and Aidar Osmanov, once editor of the Crimean Tatar literary journal Yïldïz, wrote brief comments for Temenna, giving the younger poet strong backing in those difficult times.

Yet in that booklet's opening poem, ostensibly intended for young readers and devoted "To Mothers of the World" ("Dyun'ya analarïna"), poet and teacher Eskender Fazïl examines the human condition in the Soviet Union and beyond. In this eighty-six-page booklet circulated in only two thousand copies for the hundreds of thousands of potential readers, he searches for an understanding of the origins of the cruel as well as the merciful individuals in his society and others and, by implication, the institutions among which he and his people live:

White, (Beyaz,
Black colored,
Qara renkli,
Tenderhearted mothers— Merametli analar—
Bear children.
Doghuralar balalar.
Or hard-hearted,
Ya tash yurekli,
Black blooded
Qara qanlï
Who bore the merciless one? Djellyatnï kim doghurghan?
The liar,
The troublemaker
What sort of "mother" bore? Angi "ana" doghurghan?)

The tone and rhetoric of literature, such as this poetry composed in the period of exile under severe restrictions, naturally remained more guarded, more circumspect, than most writings toward the end of and following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

In a later, lyrical turn, one of the personal voices heard frequently toward the end of the 1980s and 1990s sounds in the poetry of Lilia Budzhurova. She revels in beautiful perceptions of Crimea, usually tinged with a nuance of sadness. Budzhurova's short verse (in Russian) "What Is the Homeland's Scent?" (1989) exemplifies this sensual evocation:

Of what does the homeland smell?
Of a dry blade of grass,
Caught in a child's hair,
Of a pine branch, of bitter wormwood,
Or, of separation, buried in the heart?
Or, of lamb's wool, of aromatic coffee,
Tinkling as it pours into thin little cups,
Of mountain tea, of almonds, fragrant with mint,
Of today's reality, of yesterday's dream?
Or, of the searing cry of a lone seagull?
Or, of the snowy peak of Chatïr-dagh?
Of distant music from an ancient song?
Oh no, my homeland smells of hope.

Because this short lyric expressed such strong feeling about the Crimean homeland, Soviet censors in Central Asia would not accept it for publication. In her personal notes (see document 3, chapter 16), the poet mentions that such verses circulated in manuscript form. The first samizdat edition of it came out as a kind of underground pamphlet issued somewhere in the Baltics. This contrasts strikingly with the intellectuality of a later, topical poem dedicated to the delegates to the Second Qurultay, "We Returned Today" (June 1991), again in Russian:

Our happiness comes from being together,
In spite of the awful calamity [bespredely],
We gathered in the old place, in order
Once more to make our history

If literature and the representational arts supply much of the glue that holds in place the thinking and values of a nationality, the symbolism offered in the familiar, ever-present names of places and terrain features presents a second, potent source of identity for the group.

The Resonance of Names

Self-names supply most important symbols signaling the collective identity that unifies a community of people. Reliable linkage between name and people, and often place, ordinarily forges strong bonds, securing group identity. The Crimean Tatar poet Rustem Ah speaks to this central theme for his people. In the expression of loyalty cited below, taken from the short poem "Crimea" ("Qïrïm," 1992), he affirms that, in spite of long-enforced separation, Crimean Tatars have neither neglected nor forsaken their true name or the memory of a place that nourishes them as a maternal presence with its verdancy symbolic of renewing life. This passionate expression concerning the name and the place often characterizes late twentieth-century Crimean Tatar written literature, some of it lyrical, much of it melancholy:

(Qïrïm, Qïrïm, Qïrïm Ana, Crimea, Crimea, Mother Crimea,
Unutmadik adimizni. We did not forget our name.
Dengishmedik, Qïrïm Ana, We did not, Mother Crimea,
Bashqasïna adamïznï. Exchange our isle for another's.)

Crimean Tatars sometimes refer to Crimea as their "green island," or, as in this instance, merely as "our island," because it is connected to the mainland only by a very thin neck at the northern extreme of the peninsula. A prominent anti-Soviet Russian author, Vassily Aksyonov, has written a novel, The Island Crimea (1981), based partly on this premise.

When something interrupts or breaks that connection between group and name, both self-awareness and unity can suffer. The name adopted long ago by Crimean Tatars has experienced no simple or direct history. Invaders, conquerors, and internal opponents over several centuries leading up to the 1990s have repeatedly misunderstood, erased, or tried to change the self-name of Crimean Tatars.

Reviewing the nationality's stormy life, the matter of historical onomastic right becomes less than clear. Attempts to explain exactly how and when the present name originated and replaced the ancient Chersonesus Taurica (Tauric Chersonese) have yet to satisfy everyone. Reputable European historians in the nineteenth century surmised that Crimea derived from the name of the Cimmerian people driven from their habitat in the peninsula by Scythians as early as the eighth century B.C., but centuries had elapsed; moreover, the Cimmerian center lay in the eastern extreme of the peninsula, on the site of today's Kerch.

In the late nineteenth century, some scholars hypothesized from the peninsula's peculiar geography—the aforementioned narrowness of the northern isthmus making it almost an island—that Tatars and Turks at the end of the thirteenth century regarded the place as a highly defensible fortress and named it Qrïm (Russian Krym). Etymologists reasoned that the word crimea originally meant "stronghold" "because this word, by Forster's explanation, means krepost' [Russian for fortress], and can be connected with the Mongol word kerm [meaning] 'wall.'" A seventeenth-century Mongolian royal document shows the place name as Qaram, a form phonetically incompatible with kerm/kerem and therefore deriving from another original term.

Russian lexicographers had developed a somewhat similar etymology for Krym more than a century earlier, shortly after the imperial acquisition of the peninsula, although the eighteenth-century version asserted that Krym meant "fortress" in Tatar. Mongol hegemony over Crimea in the thirteenth century made that sort of etymology seem plausible. It did not explain whether the use of the term Tatar in this context referred to the Turkic language of Crimea's Tatars or to the Mongolian of Chinggis Khan and his commanders and descendants, whom Russians commonly called Tatars.

Much earlier, Qipchaq Turkic horsemen roaming the strip of territory just north of the Black Sea at the edge of the huge Desht-i Qipchaq had ridden down across the narrow isthmus to penetrate into the peninsula known as Tauric Chersonese in the ancient and early medieval world. Later, as the main force of troops under Chinggis Khan's commanders, those horsemen in 1223 did drive all the way to Sudaq, on the southeast coast of the peninsula, and withdrew in the same year.

Of the many cruelties connected with Crimea and its naming, an episode in the brutal rivalries among Mongol rulers seems to have prompted the earliest recorded use of the toponym Crimea for the peninsula. It appeared in the final part of a chronicle entitled A Short History of Mankind (al-Mukhtasar fi akhbar al-bashar) by the Arab writer and statesman Isma'il Ibn'Ali Abu-l'Fida in the year H. 700/A.D. 1300-1301. He records details concerning the war between Mongol princes of the Golden Horde, Jöge and his opponent, Toqta. To gain favor with Toqta, a ruler of Trnovo in north-central Bulgaria betrayed Jöge, who had fled to him for refuge. He confined Jöge in his citadel, executed him, and "sent his head to Crimea, and the kingdom of Noqai passed to Toqta."

Additional evidence indicates that the medieval town of Solkhat/Solhat received the name Qrïm/Eski Qrïm after the place already served as an administrative and cultural center of the peninsula for the Genoese, for Armenians, and, in the second half of the thirteenth century, for Qipchaq plainsmen. That renaming of Solkhat apparently occurred before the rise of the Muslim Giray dynasty to mastery over Crimea during the 1420s, when their center remained still outside Crimea, up the Itil (Volga) River at Berke's Saray, near the site of the modern Volgograd.

A more lasting presence seemingly made itself known in the application of names to places. A learned etymology offered by a modern European scholar attributes the name of the town Eski Qrïm and that of the peninsula to the language of the Crimean Tatars and the Turks. He cites as the root for Crimea (Qïrïm) the term qurum, "defense," from qurimaq, "to defend, protect," which he says the Qalmyq language absorbed from Turkic as kharm. The postmodern Crimean Tatar lexicon conserves the meaning "defending" for qoruma, from the verb qorumaq, "to guard, defend."

Thus, it appears that the early version of Crimea appeared first as a practical term for a defensive position at the neck of the peninsula, then as the toponym or a descriptive attribute for an administrative center (Solkhat becoming Qurum and its derivative, Qrïm and then Eski Qrïm, i.e., "Old Crimea"). Subsequently, that Qrïm nomenclature extended to the surrounding territory. Very likely, after the first decades of their establishment on the peninsula, Crimean Tatars themselves consistently referred to their land as Crimea. From this point, the term may have passed into usage as part of the distinctive name for Tatars who lived there and some decades later initiated their rule over the area in governments under the Giray dynasty. Its tenure as an official designation, with the area sometimes overseen by foreign powers such as the Ottoman Empire up to 1774, lasted until imperial Russian troops occupied Crimea and the governors changed its name.

When administrators of the czarist Russian state annexed the peninsula that gave a home to Crimean Tatars in 1783, for a place name they returned to the classical toponym and immediately designated it the Taurida district (Tavricheskaia oblast') of their realm. The fact that the Ottoman Turks had called that peninsula Crimea since they held sway over it beginning in the late fifteenth century may have motivated the Russian choice of a different (Greek) name. As late as 1914, Russia's rulers continued to use the name Tavrida, rather than Crimea, for that oblast'.

Readers of the main writings of the great Crimean Tatar reformist Ismail Bey Gaspirali (to whose contributions chaps. 2 and 3 of this volume directly pertain) do not encounter in them calls for the ethnic self-determination of his people. Rather, Gaspirali writes constantly of the Muslims of Russia, including his own people, as part of that community. In matters of language, Gaspirali emphatically promotes the use of an ethnically neutral all-Turkic tongue and literary medium more or less based on Ottoman Turkish, again avoiding any partiality for the distinctive linguistic identity of Crimean Tatars. In his collection of articles Russian Islam (Russkoe musul'-manstvo, 1881), he writes of "Tatar-Muslim traits" but, significantly, does not choose the form Crimean Tatars. Later, he specifically attacks the narrow kind of nationalism put forward by Russians and other Europeans. In an article entitled "Turkism" ("Turkchilik," 1907), he writes: "Let the cosmopolitans and others of the old persuasion speak of nationalism. This is their affair, but we have a different understanding." Gaspirali defined his nation as the Muslim community of which he and the populations of coreligionists in the Russian Empire were a part.

He mentions Tatars of Kazan or Tatars of Crimea in such important tracts as his "Russian-Oriental Relations" (Russkoe vostochnoe soglashenie, 1896), but not "Crimean Tatars." (A full English translation of this pamphlet is provided in chap. 7 of this volume.) In the modern cultural history of the Crimean Tatar nationality, Gaspirali has surely played a key part. His importance lies especially in the contributions he made to educational innovation and to a new, universalist perspective for his and other Muslim Turkic people and, in retrospect, in the tremendous amount he accomplished in renewing Crimean Tatar culture. In no sense a nationalist, only indirectly did he strengthen the singularity of his kinsmen's ethnic attachment through their reverence for his prominence and purity of motives for enlightenment of the Muslims in the Russian-wide empire. Not long after Gaspirali passed from the scene, in 1914, many other influential persons and events further clouded the definition of group identity and confused the naming of Crimea's Tatars and like groups.


Excerpted from The Tatars of Crimea by Edward A. Allworth. Copyright © 1998 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents

Central Asia Book Series vii

Preface xi

1. Renewing Self-Awareness / Edward A. Allworth 1

I. Forming a Modern Identity 27

2. A Model Leader for Asia, Ismail Gaspirali / Alan W. Fisher 29

3. Ismail Bey Gasprinskii (Gaspirali): The Discourse of Modernism and the Russians / Edward J. Lazzerini 48

4. Symbols: The National Anthem and Patriotic Songs by Three Poets / Seyit Ahmet Kirimca 71

5. Rituals: Artistic, Cultural, and Social Activity / Riza Gülüm 84

6. Structures: The Importance of Family—a Personal Memoir / Mübeyyin Batu Altan 99

7. Documents about Forming a Modern Identity 110

II. The Ordeal of Forced Exile 153

8. The Elders of the New National Movement: Recollections / Ayshe Seythmuratova 155

9. Mass Exile, Ethnocide, Group Derogation: Anomaly or Norm in Soviet Nationality Policies? / Edward A. Allworth 180

10. Mustafa Jemiloglu, His Character and Convictions / Ludmilla Alexeyeva 206

11. The Crimean Tatar Drive for Repatriation: Some Comparisons with Other Movements of Dissent in the Soviet Union / Peter Reddaway 226

12. Documents about the Ordeal of Forced Exile 237

III. Returning to Crimea 249

13. The Elusive Homeland / Edward A. Allworth 251

14. Politics in and around Crimea: A Difficult Homecoming / Andrew Wilson 281

15. Crimean Tatar Communities Abroad / Nirmin Eren 323

16. Documents about Returning to Crimea 352

Bibliography of Recent Publications in English about Crimea 361

Notes on the Authors 371

Index 375

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