Crimea, Great Patriotic War, Russia, USSR

Why does the truth about the war create a conflict between us and the Crimean Tatars? Part 2

Original: Komsomolskaya Pravda
Translated by Alexander Fedotov


The KP [Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda – trans.] commentator Galina Sapozhnikova {GS} went to the Crimea to see why the premiere of the film about Stalin’s deportations turned into a political scandal in Simferopol.

The first part of the publication referred to the premiere of the film “Haytarma” in Simferopol. The film is about the deportation of 1944. The premiere of  it ended in a political scandal. Today’s story is about what Crimean Tatars think about that.

Schindler’s list

“You cannot imagine what it is like to live with the stigma of the nation of traitors”, an elderly woman quietly complained to me before the session. I retold it to the Director-General of the media holding ATR Elzara Islyamova.

“We do not consider themselves as traitors!”, she exclaims: ”Simply a case was needed for evicting the entire nation. Imagine, the Crimean population before the war consisted of 75-80 percent of the Crimean Tatars (in fact, of 20% – GS). And, suddenly, a huge number of not the best variety of people, from exile and prisons, men without a tribe who had nothing to lose, were resettled here. For many years, the ideology that the Tatars were traitors was imposed upon them, that it was good they were evicted and the Crimea was cleared. Our team is multinational. A lot of Russians are working at our company. They told us they were brainwashed from their early childhood. It was inculcated to the entire population of the Soviet Union for more than 50 years”.

(In my opinion, everything was the other way around. I graduated from the most ideological faculty – Journalism. I learnt about the existence of the Crimean Tatars only when they came out to the Red Square in the late eighties…- GS)

02-2“For us it is like the Schindler’s list is for Jews. It is a wound that is not healing. No story in the film is invented. Each one has the archive reference. The woman who gave birth on the train is the grandmother of our producer. His uncle was actually born on 18 May 1944. There is an ocean of such stories. We were all crying while filming. Though it was only a film, it was hard. Now imagine that not a 1,000 of people were evicted like on the set but all 194,000? We had three ambulances on duty on the set. We took 15 people to a hospital”.

“The acute reaction of the Russian Consul to this film was due to the fact that you did not reference the collaboration of Tatars with the Nazis”, I reminded her.

“Why did we have to reference it?”, Elzara was surprised: “We are not going to do it. As far as we are concerned all of them fought on the side of the Red Army”.

I, frankly, swallowed some air in surprise. And I exhaled only a couple of hours later when I came to Alupka to the museum of the awarded twice Hero of the Soviet Union, laureate of the state prize, honoured test pilot of the USSR Amet-khan Sultan.

The museum director Mustafa Mustafayev began to list: “Seven Heroes of the Soviet Union, three full Chevaliers of Order of Glory, the chief of the largest underground organisation, the legendary scout, the commissar of the largest guerrilla unit in southern Crimea. All of them were Crimean Tatars!”

If the history of the Second World War was rewritten here to cater this cliché, then let it be rewritten. It would be terrible, if the people’s hero became someone who wore not a star but a swastika.

White and black

Of all the stories written by me in the Crimea, the story of Mustafa Mustafayev, definitely was the most terrible. At the time of the mass expulsion on 18 May 1944 he was three years old.

“Apparently, my mother was confused. She took with her to the train a mug of melted butter. I remember only one thing – I was terribly thirsty. I got to this mug and drank it instead of water. Can you imagine what happened to me? I know what had happened from my sister. I was almost dead, even my eyes did not move. At every stop soldiers were looking into the wagons to check if there were any dead. So I was thrown out of the train. My mother managed to run up and throw me back into the car. She remained outside and was killed by machine gun fire… We went on without her. Some old woman from a nearby car read a prayer over Koran and poured beads of water into my mouth and I was revived. In 1968, one of my older sisters, whom the Germans drove away to Austria in 1942, came back to the Crimea for the first time. She asked me again and again: “Please recall the place where the mum was left so I can build there a small chapel”. But I was not able to recall. I only remember that it was hot and I was dying of thirst…


It is possible to make another film, as powerful as “Haytarma”, based on the stories of how the deported Tatars went to Uzbekistan, how some of them died on their way there and how they lived there for the next 45 years.

What are we arguing with the Crimean Tatars about if no one can find any contradiction in relation to the most important for them pain? Black is called black while white is called white.

“Maybe you yourselves should condemn the collaborators? We, Russians, did condemn the army of Vlasov”, I optimistically suggested to Rustem Umerov, the father of the head of Bakhchisaray district administration. He was deported when he was 18.

“Why should we blame them?”, he was genuinely surprised: ”Someone still had to work. War is war. Everyone wanted to survive”.

“I agree. A farmer can work under any authority and it is not a crime. The crime is when a person goes to work as a guard or policeman”.

I was patient, while he, from the height of his 87 years, was wise: “There was a camp at an open place nearby. People from Sevastopol were driven there and offered to become volunteers so they would live. If not, they would die of hunger. So it happened. So what, was the one who died a hero or not?

Life or death? Stomach or betrayal? Not that it is strange but the fact that discussing the aftermath of the war, for some reason, everyone has completely forgotten about its causes. The fact that, if there have been no war, no one would have been forced to make such a hellish choice. No one would have starved, no one would have forced anyone to serve in the police, no one would been deported. And almost 70 years after no one would be seeking answers to the question: “Why?”.

Fact for a fact, death for a death

A version that Stalin by the deportation avenged the Crimean Tatars for their collaboration during the Second World War has long been considered the main one. Everything is relative. Numbers of, for example, Ukrainians, as well as Balts, Belarussians and Georgians, who fought on Hitler’s side, were several times higher. But moving them all somewhere to Siberia was unrealistic. The demonstrative expulsion of a small nation was easier to arrange. Though what was the point if this topic was carefully silenced in the Soviet press for 45 years? Some people believe that Stalin did not forgive their ingratitude, considering the Soviet government even gave an autonomy to the Crimean Tatars! Others suggest that he only continued the work of Catherine II and was arranging a platform for further expansion. The Greeks, for example, generally had nothing to do with any collaborationism. Most of them were partisans, but they were evicted too. Another group of people claimed that Stalin had thus saved the Crimean Tatars from lynching because they did a lot of bad things during the war…

“The explanation must be sought in the very nature of the Soviet regime”, the first deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov kindly guided me in the right direction: “The last thing I’m willing to see as a culprit is the NKVD officer that came into my mother’s house. Though I can recall by name those who deported the Crimean Tatars in Sudak region. They are listed for each village. You want to know if there was collaborationism in the Crimea, don’t you? Of course, there was. What was the reason for it? It was caused by the severe famine of 1921 -1923, by the fight against bourgeois nationalism of 1927 – 1928, by repressions of 1937. When the elite of a small ethnic group is cleansed several times during one generation, it’s a disaster. I think we still have to study the phenomenon of why did the vast majority of people stand up to defend the Soviet power?”.

I’m afraid that by following this route Refat Chubarov may make some unpleasant discoveries. Because the other side also knows everything: who of his relatives received his wages from the Germans, when, how much and for what exactly. Just this delicate subject was kept in the “friendly family of Soviet people” as “not to be stirred”. As it has turned out, this tactic was wrong.

02-4Protested love

It seems I’ve lived for quite a long time, but not long enough to listen to and relive some of the stories for the second time. Sometimes I’m forced to. None of the Crimean Tatars I met plainly told me: “My grandfather or father worked for the Germans”.

It’s good. That means the process of glorification of collaborators has not started here yet. In Estonia, I remember, where more than twenty years ago I, with tears in my eyes, recorded similar stories, it was the same at first. When asked “What was the reason your family was repressed?” the same answer was given: “For no reason!”.

…Now I regularly meet my past interviewees at conventions of former SS. They have nothing to be ashamed of anymore. Over the years, they have been given powerful exculpatory pills. It transpired that by giving an oath to Hitler their fathers in fact “fought against Bolshevism”. It is an honour now. Crimean Tatars are yet to learn it.

It’ll come soon. Over the Tallinn events of the furious spring of 2007 and the insulting transfer of the Bronze Soldier, we have lost sight of one remarkable fact: the solemn reburial in Bakhchisaray of the famous Crimean Tatar collaborator Edige Kyrymal, whose remains were brought from Munich.

“This man was defending our people from repressions”, nodding at the headstone the deputy chairman of Bakhchisaray administration Zamir Haybullaev explained without certainty: ”He could conduct some negotiations…”.

For reference. Edige Kyrymal was the only one officially recognized by Nazi Germany as the chairman of the Crimean Tatar centre. He was sent to the Crimea in 1942 for organising among other things an archaeological expedition to prove the historical affiliation of the Crimea… to Germany. He was not an executioner himself. But an illusory enthusiasm of Crimean Tatars that Hitler would certainly allow them to create a national state, was without exception on his conscience. The conscience which is quietly napping now at Bakhchissaray cemetery.

Protested love. That’s what distinguishes a teenager from an adult and a young state from mature.

Who won? Who was defeated?

“That is what is called in the collective human psychology as victimisation”, the Crimean political analyst Andrei Malgin, Director General of the Central Museum of Tauris, made his diagnosis in my interview with him. And he explained: “Any nation, especially a new one, must unearth the crime that was committed against it. The crime that would be able to unite its people. It has been a common direction since the XIX century for Hungarians, Poles, Jews… The old nations like the French and the British did not suffer it. It is unusual for Russians as well, while for the majority of nations that is a normal type of historical behaviour.”

“Does it not seem strange that the society is being rocked by scandals related to the historical memory? Why have the events of 70 years ago become for all of us an open wound?”

“All of a sudden it turned out that we, the Russians, in reality have nothing we could be proud of. We cannot be proud of the progress of the economy. The same goes for our past. The greatest country in the world was presented to the world as a prison of nations. The only thing that remained was the victory over fascism into which the Soviet Union made the most significant contribution. If that last remaining core broken down, there would no longer be any foundation for the existence of the Russian and Soviet identities. And that is why we are so painfully reacting to any attempts to revise the results of the World War II and its very essence.”

“Is the film “Haytarma”, which provoked the scandal in the Crimea today, an attempt by Tatars to rehabilitate themselves or to attack our positions? Who defends and who is on the offensive?”

“The Crimean Tatars are now experiencing a period of historical optimism since they returned home. The Russians are having another psychological background, which was formed by the loss of a great country. It looks like the Crimean Tatars are full of hope for the future while the Slavic population does not have a lot of hope. That is why it may seem to us that they are attacking us while they feel they are just restoring the historical justice. In the past it was a march of thousands of people shouting “Allah Akbar!”. There were recoilless guns in the building of the Council of Ministers and the detachments of armed policemen with shields. Today it is a film. That means the conflict goes into the aesthetic sphere.”

Instead of an epilogue

I cannot understand why the further we are from the war the more we are drowning in it. What have we not expressed fully? What have we not found out that we have to raise these issues again and again? Why, without saying a word, did we get on the defensive? Nobody, for example, from my family fought on the front in the Great Patriotic War. There were thousands of such families in the Urals rear. However, when in the centre of Tallinn the Bronze Soldier was torn off the pedestal, I became furious like I had never been in my life. I literally was not able to breathe. I would have forever stopped respecting myself, if I did not write what was then written.

Why was my office neighbour Ulyana Skoybeda wound up when the blogger Michael Berg from America wished through a victory to Hitler and Leonid Gozman, echoing him, compared SS with SMERSH?

What did happen to the Russian Consul Andreev as he lost his temper and uttered on the camera everything he was thinking about?

The answer is on the surface: both Russia and the Russians were bullied for so many years. We were told one nasty thing after another about the war. We are running out of strength to withstand all of it. We are on defensive, each one and all together. We are not giving up, but the effect of the metal fatigue is in progress. There were twenty-five years of incessant attacks, lies, vulgarity, pouring excrement on what was holy to your parents and grandparents. It seems sometimes that it was easier on the front. At least it was clear who was ours and who was the enemy. Now everyone is supposedly speaking the same language. However, take a look inside them and you’ll see an abyss.

There are only two roles in the present universal stage play. One is of the victim and another is of the executioner. For whatever reasons only the latter is always given to Russia and Russians… The French historian Joseph Ernest Renan once said a wise thing: “The community may exist if it is able not only to remember but also to forget”. The first part of this formula, we have learned well. We now have to learn the second part. All of us with no exceptions…

The movie can be watched here (in Russian): Художественный фильм “Хайтарма”



3 thoughts on “Why does the truth about the war create a conflict between us and the Crimean Tatars? Part 2

  1. The problems faced by Russia with a re-write of its history, in this case to stir up ethnic division and hatred, are a tactic used all over the world. In my home country of New Zealand, we were seen as a model of racial harmony and tolerance until an unofficial US takeover in the 50’s. (something taught about in University courses, but never mentioned by our media or schools) Our history too has been re-written to stir up strife and hatred where there should be none. The re-writing of history to paint those in charge and who formed the nation as “oppressors” and “villains” is a tool to simply steal all that a people have. The lies and hatred poured out on my people in New Zealand beggars belief, and its organised by our government. The one thing you may have going for you in Crimea, is that presumably the Russian Federation wants people to know the truth, and presumably you have a government who will fight to maintain order, rather than try to wipe out the Russian majority. I hope that is the case. I have also believed that people from Eastern Europe and Russia are very much more skeptical of what they are told by “authorities”. I think if people understand the process of re-writing history to undermine a people’s moral authority and ownership of all that their ancestors have left them, then they can be made immune to the lies.

    Thank you for this series of articles, it strikes a deep chord here in the west as we see our countries being taken from us and given to those who hate us. Propaganda like that movie needs a proportionate response from the state, it is in fact an act of war.


    Posted by nzgov (@nzgov) | Jun 9, 2016, 22:37


  1. Pingback: Why does the truth about the war create a conflict between us and the Crimean Tatars? Part 2 | Protestation - May 22, 2016

  2. Pingback: Why does the truth about the war create a conflict between us and the Crimean Tatars? Part 2 | | asidewrite - May 22, 2016

Latest map of hostilities (25/01)

Our Partners:

Archived Briefings

A Record of Our Times

May 2016
Follow on

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 22,239 other subscribers.

Latest Briefings

Blog Stats

  • 1,739,684 hits
%d bloggers like this: