Ukraine marks 73rd anniversary of Crimean Tatars deportation

Ukraine marks 73rd anniversary of Crimean Tatars deportationIn 1944 Crimean Tatars were deported from the Crimean Peninsula as a result of the state-organized and forcible action, ordered by then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

More than 230,000 people were deported, mostly to Uzbekistan. This includes the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population, at the time numbering about a fifth of the total population of the Crimean Peninsula, as well as a smaller number of ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians. The lack of accommodation facilities and food, failure to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases had a heavy demographic impact during the first years of Crimean Tatars' exile. According to 1960s surveys conducted by Crimean Tatar activists, more than 109,956 (46.2%) Crimean Tatars of the 238,500 deportees died between July 1, 1944, and January 1, 1947, because of starvation and disease. From May to November 1944 10,105 Crimean Tatars died of starvation in Uzbekistan (9% of those deported to the Uzbek SSR). Nearly 30,000 (20%) died in exile during the first year and a half according to the Soviet secret police data. As Soviet dissident information attests, many Crimean Tatars were forced to work in large-scale projects implemented by the Soviet GULAG system.

Although in 1967 a Soviet decree withdrew the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement to Crimea and to make reparations for the lost lives and confiscated property. Crimean Tatars, led by Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, were not allowed to return to Crimea from exile until the beginning of Perestroika in the mid-1980s. Return of Crimean Tatars to Crimea became possible in 1987 and since then has been large scale. In the early 90s, the Crimean Tatars were the third-largest ethnic group in Crimea.

Since Ukraine's independence, the Government of Ukraine assumed responsibility for ensuring rights and freedoms of all Ukrainians, including those returning to Ukraine after deportation. Declaration of Rights of Nationalities of Ukraine, Laws "On Minorities in Ukraine", "On Restoration of Rights of Persons Deported on Ethnic Grounds" are key Ukrainian legal acts on protecting the rights of deported people. Government of Ukraine adopted following programs on social adaptation of Crimean Tatars: "Programme on promotion social adaptation of Crimean Tatar youth in 2002-2005" (2002), "Programme on resettlement of deported Crimean Tatars and other nationalities, who returned to Ukraine for residence, their adaptation and integration into Ukrainian society for the period until 2010" (2006, extended until 2015).

In February-March, 2014 Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula leads to significant violations of international law and human rights. Crimean Tatars suffered harassment and persecution by Russian occupation authorities and their proxies. As of today, 21 representatives of Crimean Tatars were kidnapped, three of them found dead, more than 130 criminal cases against Crimean Tatars were opened.

As a result of Russia's occupation policy, more than 10,000 of Crimean Tatars had to leave Crimea and settle mostly in other parts of continental Ukraine. Many Crimean Tatars activists are banned from entering Crimea.
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