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Case Study:

Sürgün: The Crimean Tatars’ deportation and exile

Last modified: 16 June 2008
Aurélie Campana

June 2008

Cite this item

Aurélie Campana, Sürgün: The Crimean Tatars’ deportation and exile, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on 16 June 2008, accessed 19 April 2014, URL : http://www.massviolence.org/Surgun-The-Crimean-Tatars-deportation-and-exile, ISSN 1961-9898

 C. Victims

The number of victims among Crimean Tatars, which is still the subject of heated controversy, is as difficult to verify as in other cases of massive deportation. Official data are numerous but biased and imprecise. In addition to being biased, there are sometimes discrepancies between the documents and they do not concern only the Crimean Tatars. Thus, the documents published by the NKVD often referred to “special settlers from Crimea”, including in the same category all the peoples who were deported from Crimea: Tatars, but also Greeks, Armenians, Italians and Bulgarians from Crimea. Finally the scattering of the deported peoples caused a fragmentation of information. It is more important for those who were deported to Uzbekistan, the Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) where most of the Crimean Tatars were deported.

An official document establishes that 44,887 special settlers from Crimea died in 1944-1945, that is to say 19.6% of the peninsula’s population deported in 1944. In the Republic of Uzbekistan alone, 16,052 of them died in 1944 and 13,183 in 1945 (Bugaj, 1995: 156). These figures do not include the people who passed away during the transfer by train. Rywkin thinks there were 7,900 (1994: 67), an estimate that seems to be rather underestimated. It remains however very difficult to be more precise, failing that only a general census of the victims of the forced deportation can be done. A recent study, based on those same documents of the NKVD and on demographic projections, estimates that 18.01% of the deportees perished between 1944 and 1952, and that demographic deficit rose to 44.7% between those two dates (Ediev, 2004). These conclusions have to be considered cautiously again, because of the very nature of the documents consulted and of the uncertainties around them.

The activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement also tried to evaluate the demographic consequences of the deportation. They carried out a census in all the scattered Tatar communities in the middle of the 1960s. The results of this inquiry show that 109,956 Crimean Tatars of the 238,500 deportees died between July 1, 1944 and January 1, 1947. Thus 46.2 % of the deported Tatar population would have died during the first eighteen months of forced exile. Beyond the discrepancy between the figure of deportees given by the official data and that proposed by the Crimean Tatars, that high percentage forms part of a strategy of victimization followed by the Crimean Tatar movement. Besides, several studies questioned it. Ann Sheehy and Bogdan Nahylo think indeed that the figure of 30% is more likely (1980: 8). Every scientific evaluation is surely uncertain. That’s why there are such great discrepancies between one’s calculations and others’ evaluations. It is nevertheless a fact that the deportation had a very heavy demographic impact on the Tatar population of Crimea. The official figures, albeit one-sided, cannot deny this.

Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence® - ISSN 1961-9898