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Ukraine’s Crimean Tatars mark 62nd anniversary of WWII deportation 30 mai 2006

Posted by Acturca in Central Asia / Asie Centrale, History / Histoire, Russia / Russie, Turkey / Turquie.
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Associated Press Worldstream, May 18, 2006

By Natasha Lisova, Kiev Ukraine

Crimean Tatars marked the 62nd anniversary Thursday of the ethnic group’s deportation from the Black Sea peninsula under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, a forced exile that lasted almost half a century.

« On this day, we remember those who died in foreign lands and those who struggled to return to their homeland, » Mustafa Djamiliev, head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or Assembly, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The anniversary was being marked in solemn flower-laying ceremonies in Kiev and on the Black Sea peninsula.

The Crimean Tatars, a Muslim Turkic group, had inhabited Crimea for more than seven centuries. In 1944, Stalin accused them of collaborating with the Nazis and ordered the deportation of some 200,000 about 70 percent of Crimea’s population at the time.

They were exiled to the Central Asian steppes, where many died of famine and diseases. They were not allowed to return to their homeland until around the time of the Soviet collapse of 1991. More than 250,000 have returned to Crimea, where they now make up 13 percent of the population. Djamiliev said that about 100,000 still live abroad and have faced difficulties in returning.

The deportation « was a catastrophe … and its consequences are not yet solved, » said Refat Chubarov, deputy head of the Mejlis. Unemployment is high among the Crimean Tatars today, and many live in grim conditions in villages that lack basics such as water, natural gas and roads. Djamiliev complained that Tatars are still not officially recognized as a nation that was deported. They also lack land and schools where they can teach their children in their native language, he said.

Ukrainian authorities under President Viktor Yushchenko have pledged to restore Tatars’ rights. But Tatars complain the promises remain unfulfilled and in recent years they have encountered difficulties in obtaining citizenship,
finding jobs and getting back their land. Additionally, they said, there is no regular dialogue between their assembly and the president.

« We have heard a lot of statements but have not seen any concrete actions, » said Chubarov. Yushchenko was scheduled to participate in a ceremony in Kiev at a memorial to victims of Stalin’s regime.

Crimea remains a potential ethnic flash point for Ukraine. Low-level ethnic violence is frequent between Crimean Tatars and ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, who refuse to relinquish land they were given after the Tatars’ deportation. Last week, hundreds of Tatars blocked traffic in Crimea, causing a 7-kilometer (4-mile) traffic jam as they tried to enter the coastal village of Partenit, which they consider theirs historically. Residents blocked a side road to prevent them from entering the village. Talks ended the blockade, but tension persists.


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