The Crimean Tatar diaspora
dates back to the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 1783,
after which Crimean Tatars were
forced to emigrate in a series of waves
spanning the period from 1783 to 1917.
was largely the result of the destruction
of their social and economic life as a consequence of Russian
Union brought about the final dispersal of Crimean Tatars
in 1944, in the midst of the World War
II, when it deported all Tatars remaining in the Crimea to
This population is considered an exiled
community rather than a diaspora.
Experiences in exile within the Ottoman Empire
There have been continuously members of Tatar nobility in the
, due to close
relations between the two states. There was a Giray
vassal state in the Ottoman province of Bucak
(Bessarabia). It was centered on the towns of Bender and Çatal Osman, and considered semi-independent
(only controlled by Ottoman Pasha in Rusçuk.) In the
14th and 15th centuries, Ottomans colonized Dobruja with Crimean Tatars from Bucak.
Between 1593 and 1595, Crimean Tatars were also settled to Dobruja.
(Frederick de Jong)
However, the first Crimean Tatar emigration took place after the
Russian annexation of
. Crimean Tatar ruling class (mirzas) and mullahs sought
asylum within the North Caucasian people, fearing persecution.
Their number were around 8,000. Their relations to Crimea continued
from their Caucasian safe havens.
Hopes that a Giray from
the Caucasus would return to liberate Crimea continued until the
very conquest of North Caucasus by the Russians in 1859. The
Crimean Tatars in the North Caucasus were exiled to Anatolia in
1877-1878 together with Circassians
by the Russian Empire. The exiled
Muslims from the North Caucasus were around one million.
annexation, 4,000 Tatars also escaped to westward direction to the
Ottoman fortress of Ozu (Ochakov), and from
there to the Ottoman province of Bucak(Bessarabia)
where a vassal Giray dynasty existed. With the conquest of
Bucak by the
Russians in 1812, all Tatars here migrated
to southwards, to the Dobruja
Crimean Tatars immigrated to the Ottoman Empire, where they were
welcomed as fellow Muslims and as the populace of the formerly
protected Crimean Khanate
Ottoman territory was called "aqtopraq" ("white soil" or more
probably "soil of justice") by the Crimean Tatar immigrants, as
they conceived of their migration as a "hijra" similar to the prophet's temporary
retreat to Medina under the
pressure from enemies of Islam.
outflow of the Crimean Tatars turned into an exodus after the
(1854-1856), as the Russian
government began to treat the Crimean Tatars as internal threats to
its security because of their historical relations with the Ottoman
majority of the Crimean Tatar immigrants were settled in the
Dobruja region of the Balkans by the Ottoman authorities, but some were
directed to various parts of Anatolia, where
significant numbers of Crimean Tatars perished due to changes in
environmental and climate conditions.
Although there were Crimean Tatars who emigrated from the
mountainous, coastal, and urban parts of the Crimea among them, the
majority of the emigrants were from the steppes of Crimea and its
surroundings, who lived largely in closed peasant communities.
According to ancient Crimean Tatar traditions, marriage between
relatives (e.g. cousins), even very distant ones, has always been
strictly prohibited, unlike the local population of Anatolia. The
ones who lived in a concentrated manner in adjacent villages, such
as the ones around Eskişehir region, were able to maintain their
ethnic identity and language
intact almost up until the 1970s. The Crimean Tatar diaspora
identity emerged over this period in the form of predominantly oral
cultural traditions in stories, songs, poems, myths, and legends
about the loss of the "homeland" and the miseries of
An excerpt from Crimean
Tatar Exile Literature
is as follows:
- The angry and wild Black Sea roared,
- Rushed to extinguish my burning motherland.
- The old Çatırdağ, distressed and worried,
- "Where are the Tatars going?" she cried.
Eskender Fazıl, from his poem Stand Up
(Çatırdağ is a
mountain in Crimea
The end of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of modern
With the shrinking of the Ottoman Empire in the last quarter of the
19th century, once again the majority of the Crimean Tatars in
Dobrudja migrated to Anatolia, and sometimes re-migrated several
times more within Anatolia. This pattern of immigration contributed
to the severing of kinship ties, and hence ties to the homeland,
amalgamating the previously more segregated sub-groups of Crimean
The Crimean Tatars participated in the building of the new Turkish
Republic, as well as the formation of the core Turkish
identity. People of Crimean
Tatar descent in Turkey number
around 1 million.
number of Crimean Tatar refugees from the USSR joined the
diaspora in Turkey after the World War II, and a small number
migrated from Romania and Bulgaria to Turkey after the decline of communism.
The Crimean Tatar diaspora in Turkey established several ethnic
Exile within the Soviet Union
On May 18, 1944, the Soviet government deported the Crimean Tatars
who were left in Crimea to Central Asia. After 1989, nearly 300,000
Tatars were able to return to Crimea from their places of
deportation. Their return was met the strong opposition of the rest
population of Crimea. Another roughly 270,000 Crimean Tatars
remain in Uzbekistan and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
This population is best considered as an exiled community rather
than a diaspora, although they might develop into a diaspora if
their exile is prolonged.
Diaspora within the Eastern Bloc and elsewhere
Tatar diaspora community in Romania
, today numbering 24,000
(Romanian Census, 2002
been a very vibrant one until the beginning of the communist era in
Romania. It has also recently experienced an ethnic revival and
renewal of links with the homeland, as well as with other diaspora
communities, particularly the one in Turkey.
The Crimean Tatar diaspora
community in Bulgaria
number only in the thousands, but they
also recently began to link themselves with their co-ethnics
abroad, and especially with the repatriated Crimean Tatars. The
Crimean Tatars in the US are number the Western hemisphere are
composed of refugees from Crimea, Romania, and Bulgaria.
The main challenges to the Crimean Tatar diaspora in the 1990s were
the erosion of ethnic identity as a result of swift modernization
of communities and the consequent difficulties in mobilization of
resources among the apathetic
members (especially in Turkey) in order to support the repatriation
of co-ethnics. As in other diasporas, diaspora political activity
is mostly conducted by elites
As in other diasporas, Crimean Tatars also suffered from problems
stemming from the differentiation of their identities over time due
to their acculturation into various host-societies. In the last
decade, the various diaspora communities, as well as the homeland
community, have been ardently negotiating what it means to be a
"Crimean Tatar", seeking an agreement on a common sense of
There are also differences among Crimean Tatars as to what the
goals of the diaspora and the national movement should be and how
to reach those goals, leading to a lively internal politics, as in
other flourishing diasporas of the 1990s. However, the Crimean
Tatar diaspora in general seems to be unified in recognizing the
legitimacy of Crimean
Tatar National Assembly
Crimea, and recognizes its head, Mustafa
as their leader in taking the major
decisions concerning the fate of the nation. The diaspora is also
in agreement with the leadership of Cemiloğlu with respect to
non-violent political struggle for the restitution of the rights of
the deported Tatars within the framework of respect for the
territorial integrity of Ukraine.
For the diaspora, the restitution of
Crimean Tatar sovereignty seems to be replaced by a contemporary
agenda related to how to mobilize political and economic resources
for the return of the remaining Crimean Tatars from their places of
deportation to homeland and for the recognition of Crimean Tatar
political rights by the Ukrainian and Crimean authorities. The
pressing concern for the diaspora as well as the Crimean Tatars in
homeland is the restoration of historical justice in relation to
the crime perpetrated against their ethnic community.
This is viewed by Crimean Tatar diaspora as the last link in the
chain of historical injustices perpetrated by Russia since the
illegitimate annexation of its homeland by the violation of the
Treaty of Küçük
(1774), and therefore entitled to return. However, the
collective return of the Crimean Tatars from the diaspora does not
seem to be likely for the near future, although it always remains
as an option, especially within the more romantic circles of
diaspora. As of today, however, the most plausible prospect for the
diaspora seems be the establishment of certain political rights for
the members of diaspora, such as political representation,
property-owning, and dual citizenship.