Deportation of the Crimean Tatars

The deportation of the Crimean Tatars (Crimean Tatar: Qırımtatar halqınıñ sürgünligi, Cyrillic: Къырымтатар халкъынынъ сюргюнлиги) or the Sürgünlik ("exile") was the ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide[c 1] of at least 191,044[c 2] Crimean Tatars in 18–20 May 1944 carried out by the Soviet government, ordered by Lavrentiy Beria, head of the Soviet state security and secret police, acting on behalf of Joseph Stalin.[11][12][13][14] Within three days, the NKVD used cattle trains to deport mostly women, children, the elderly, even Communists and members of the Red Army, to mostly the Uzbek SSR, several thousand kilometres away. They were one of the several ethnicities who were encompassed by Stalin's policy of population transfer in the Soviet Union.

Deportation of the Crimean Tatars
Part of Forced population transfer in the Soviet Union and World War II
Left to right, top to bottom: Memorial to the deportation in Eupatoria; candle-lighting ceremony in Kyiv; memorial rally in Taras Shevchenko park; cattlecar similar to the type used in the deportation; maps comparing the demographics of Crimea in 1939 and 2001.
LocationCrimean Peninsula
Date18–20 May 1944
TargetCrimean Tatars
Attack type
forced population transfer, ethnic cleansing, genocide[1]
DeathsSeveral estimates
a) 34,000[2]
b) 40,000–44,000[3]
c) 42,000[4]
d) 45,000[5]
e) 109,956[6]
(between 18 and 46 percent of their total population[7])
PerpetratorsNKVD, the Soviet secret police

The deportation officially was intended as collective punishment [15] for the perceived collaboration of some Crimean Tatars with Nazi Germany; modern sources theorize that the deportation was part of the Soviet plan to gain access to the Dardanelles and acquire territory in Turkey where the Tatars had Turkic ethnic kin.

Nearly 8,000 Crimean Tatars died during the deportation, while tens of thousands perished subsequently due to the harsh exile conditions.[4] The Crimean Tatar exile resulted in the abandonment of 80,000 households and 360,000 acres of land. An intense campaign of detatarization to erase remaining traces of Crimean Tatar existence followed. In 1956, the new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, condemned Stalin's policies, including the deportation of various ethnic groups, but did not lift the directive forbidding the return of the Crimean Tatars, despite allowing the right of return for most other deported peoples. They remained in Central Asia for several more decades until the Perestroika era in the late 1980s when 260,000 Crimean Tatars returned to Crimea. Their exile lasted 45 years. The ban on their return was officially declared null and void, and the Supreme Council of Crimea declared on 14 November 1989 that the deportations had been a crime.

By 2004, sufficient numbers of Crimean Tatars had returned to Crimea that they comprised 12 percent of the peninsula's population. Soviet authorities neither assisted their return nor compensated them for the land they lost. The Russian Federation, the successor state of the USSR, did not provide reparations, compensate those deported for lost property, or file legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the forced resettlement. The deportation and subsequent assimilation efforts in Asia was a crucial event in the history of the Crimean Tatars. Several countries recognize the exile as a genocide, although some Russian nationalist groups continue to condone, celebrate, and glorify the deportation.