Those who are interested in the history of Crimea cannot ignore the Tatars. They have long played a leading role in the history of the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea.
But that brings us to the first problem. Every historical event has a prehistory. So where to start? In the 14th century, when the Tatars converted to Islam? In the 15th century, when they formed their own Khanate in Crimea and in the northern and eastern steppes with the center in Bakhchayaja in Crimea? Or in the 18th century, when the Russian conquest of Crimea left them more and more behind?
Disasters are piling up
Whatever had happened before, the first half of the last century brought disaster after disaster to the Crimean Tatars. The relationship between the Tatars and Russia has long been strained by numerous wars. This led to a part of the Tatars fighting alongside the revolutions in Russia in 1905 and 1917, in the hope that it would contribute to the disempowerment of Russian nobility and then form its own autonomous state. to be able to. But they did not want to have anything to do with communism that they did not get well after the end of the civil war in Russia. The Bolsheviks subsequently carried out several massacres against the Tatar nationalists. And when in 1921/1922, in total chaos following the 1917 revolution and the ensuing civil war, a months-long drought in southern Russia led to a catastrophic famine, Crimea was particularly hard hit. About half of the Tatar population of Bakhcyssaraj starved to death; In 1923, the Tatars in Crimea made up only about a quarter of the population.
And that’s not all. Stalin, as the British historian Alan Fisher writes in his book “The Crimean Tatars”, killed, deported or expelled about 150,000 Tatars between 1917 and 1933, half of the Tatar population in Crimea. In 1937/38, further massacres were added, especially in the field of Tatar intelligence.
Needless to say, it was not only the Crimean Tatars that were affected in the famine and in the wars. Other ethnic groups also had hard times in this epoch.
World War II
In this historical situation, it was surprising that when the German Wehrmacht invaded Crimea in 1941, various tatars felt compelled to support the invading Germans and Romanians in their struggle in attacking the Soviets. ? Well understood, not because they were particularly close to the fascist ideology, but because, once again, it went against Russia. There were Tatars fighting on the side of the Soviets. But Stalin again did not look very closely at how and what had happened. After the reconquest of Crimea in 1944, he deported virtually the entire Tatar population to closed railway wagons to sparsely populated areas further east and especially to Uzbekistan, leaving them to their fate. Many Tatars did not survive the transport. It was only under Khrushchev, who publicly condemned these inhumane deportations under Stalin as “crimes”, that the first Tatars were granted permission to return to Crimea, after a general permit from Moscow in 1989, thousands of foreign ministers returned. Tatars returned to Crimea.
Crimea not Ukraine
But how did the Crimean Tatars behave in the 2014 referendum, when it came to reuniting with Russia? Refat Derdarov, the mayor of Bakhchissarai, said in 2015: “We Tatars returned to Crimea, which was part of the Soviet Union, in 1989; In 2014, there was indeed a prominent call from the Medschlis, an important Tatar organization, to boycott the referendum. However, it is not known how far the call was followed. According to the estimate of Vasvi Abduraimov, the head of the Crimean Tatar organization Milli Firka, after the referendum that sealed the reunification of Crimea with Russia, only between 3000 and 5000 Tatars actually decided to leave Crimea. There was no exodus.
From whatever point of view the reports of all these mutual atrocities have been written, it can cost you sleep, what has happened in the last century of wars and disasters, and what the Tatars in particular are dealing with disasters. had suffered.
Russia is aware of the Crimean Tatars’ relationship with Russia, which has been strained by many conflicts and wars. Not least Vladimir Putin himself, however, is very interested in the fact that the tense relationship between the Tatars and Russia is finally a thing of the past. There is little point in always reminding us of the old inhumanities, it is time to look forward, he says. And, as you can hear from the Tatar side, he is also personally involved in this matter.
Interesting was the visit of Bakhcyssaraj, the historical center of the Tatars, in the interior of the Crimean peninsula. With your eyes open and your ears, you will hear voices as reunification with Russia arrives.
The young Tatar, who led through the historical buildings of the Khan Palace, which is now largely a museum, put it this way: She studied Arabic studies at the University of Simferopol and was very interested in her field, but was not in the “high politics” particularly well-versed. However, they personally and many other Tatars in the area are very grateful for Russia’s commitment today to the Tatars and especially to Bakhchayai. Putin had visited Bakhchisarai himself and took 40 minutes to see the old Tatar centre himself. And he promised two billion rubles to the restoration of the historic buildings. “40 minutes,” said the guide through the museum, “doesn’t sound like much, but Putin has bigger problems to solve than looking at historic buildings here.”
Other projects in favour of a secure future for the Tatars in Crimea are likely to be much more important financially. On request we had the opportunity to visit the new “School 44” for the Tatars in Simferopol. It was just holiday time and the school at the time we wanted not occupied with children, but the principal came to the school on the agreed date and showed us whatever we wanted to see and explain.
The new school 44 in Simferopol, one of twelve schools in Crimea for the Tatars. A few weeks after our visit in May, this newly established school has now also been given a new name: Alime Abdenanova. In 1944, at the age of just 20, Tatar Alime Abdenanova fought in the Kerch area on the side of the Red Army as an agent of the intelligence service against the German Wehrmacht. On February 25, 1944, she was caught, tortured and finally shot by the Nazis on April 5, 1944, while procuring new batteries for her secret radio station.
The school is housed in a new building in Simferopol and can teach students up to about 1,200 7 to 15 year olds. The basic language is Tatar, the native language of the Tatars, which is one of the three official languages for the first time since the reunification of Crimea with Russia, alongside Russian and Ukrainian, in contrast to the time when Crimea still belonged to Ukraine. But students can also learn English here.
The anteroom to the English classroom is colourfully painted with various London attractions. However, the pupils and their parents are not allowed to visit London, as the West refuses to allow the inhabitants of Crimea with a Russian passport any entry, even for visiting purposes. This is the Western notion of the value of freedom. Will the Krimeer develop more sympathy for the West?
The school is well equipped, for example also has a specially equipped classroom, where the children can learn the chess game. The classroom with dozens of PCs is very impressive, where students learn to navigate the digital world. The craftsmanship is also represented: traditionally equipped with sewing machines for the girls and with sawing and drilling machines for the boys. Various gymnasiums and sports fields are also available. Because of the sometimes long school routes, the children stay in the schoolhouse over noon and are fed there, children from families with many children even free of charge.
The school’s principal, Gulnara Murtazajeva, knows all the numerous and largely cruel conflicts between the Tatars and the Russians, and later the Soviets, of course. But she has a clear attitude: “By virtue of my education, I can work at a university as a scientist. But now I consciously take the opportunity to do something for a better future for the Tatars.”
Visit to the Tatar TV and radio station in Sinferopol
Today, the Tatars in Crimea have not only a new school where they can cultivate their language and culture, but also a Tatar radio and television station.
Almost all of them were young people. Ervin Musaev, the director was only 30 years old than already 40 years old, and he led us not without pride, but always attentively giving information to our questions, through the company. The programs that are produced are all half in Tatar and half in Russian. And all the effort only for Crimea? Of course not, the programmes will also be transmitted by satellite to those countries where thousands of Tatars still live: Turkey and as far as Uzbekistan.
The obviously quite old lift to the fourth floor of the older building did not technically work on a contemporary basis. In the newsroom and in all the other offices, not only was everything clinically clean.
The Tatar Media Center in Simferopol also includes a radio studio. Even the Tatars drive cars and want to listen to music or the latest news.
Also invited to the meeting room of the Millet Media Center were the editorial officers of “Crimean Magazine”, a glossy publication published in Russian and also in English. A special edition in English on the subject of “Mass Media in Crimea” had just been published: “Crimean media: the inside view”. A lot of information is offered on 132 professionally designed pages. However, the media specialists must be a little sceptical about the fact that in addition to the sections News, Opinion, National and others there are also 14 pages under the heading title Truth. If you simply inform openly and honestly, you do not need to write Truth, Pravda or even Truth about it. Who on this globe knows the truth? The English edition is available on the Russian embassies around the world of Crimea interested parties.
A grandiose mosque is being built in Sinferopol
Most Tatars are Sunni Muslims. So I wanted to visit a mosque. The proposal from the Tatar side was to look at the new mosque under construction in Simferopol. A glance at the Internet revealed that the largest mosque in Eastern Europe is being built there.
The structure actually has a gigantic dimensions. The dome is 30 meters high, the minarets 50 meters, it will offer space for 3000 believers in the future. The shell is already largely standing. However, the interior walls are still raw and without paintings or mosaics. But the very forms of construction reveal: it will not only become a gigantic mosque, it will certainly also be a magnificent work.
We were led by a member of the construction management. Equipped with a safety helmet, we were able to view everything we wanted and take pictures everywhere, with the need to install all the IT systems in the future. The mosque is located on a four-hectare site. At the same time, a second building will be built, which, as the technician said, would house administrative offices and conference halls. This building is also multi-storey and large and from the current scaffolding at the level of the top floor offers a good view of the mosque for photography. The technician, responsible for safety during construction, showed us here with the metal parts that only the best quality, namely material from Turkey, is used; the parts all bear a corresponding trademark.
And who drew up the plans for the mosque? Are there architects who can do this? My question was quickly answered: a mosque from the time of the Ottoman Empire was chosen and the style and the mass was taken over by it. We were also allowed to visit the building plans in the barracks of the construction management.
The technician could not answer only one question: Who is actually financing this gigantic building? It was a foundation, the man said, and he could not say more. Foundations, however, are also capable of concealing sources of money and cash flows.
The Crimean Tatars are looking forward to the opening of this fantastic mosque – probably in 2020. It is to be hoped that, despite support from other states, they will then refuse to be drawn into Turkey’s geopolitical power-poker between NATO and Russia. They have too often been drawn into political infighting – not to say politically abused. They have hardly ever benefited from it – but they have experienced a great deal of terrible things and suffered a great deal.