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Crimean Tatars (sg. Qırımtatar, pl. Qırımtatarlar) or Crimeans (sg. Qırım, Qırımlı, pl. Qırımlar, Qırımlılar) are a Turkic ethnic group originally residing in Crimeamarker. They speak the Crimean Tatar language. They are not to be confused with the Volga Tatars.

The Crimean Tatars are descendants of a mix of Turkic (Bulgars, Khazars, Petchenegs and Cumans) and non-Turkic (Alans, Slavs, Romanians, Byzantine Greeks, Crimean Goths, Circassians) ethnic groups, as well as some Veneto and Genoa, who lived, settled (colonised) or were even brought as slaves by the Tatars themselves, in the Crimean peninsulamarker and the adjacent areas north of the Black Seamarker (the Pontic-Caspian steppe).

The Crimean Tatars are subdivided into three sub-ethnic groups:
  • the Tats (not to be confused with Tat people, living in Caucasus region) who used to inhabit the mountainous Crimea before 1944 (about 55%),
  • the Yalıboyu who lived on the southern coast of the peninsula (about 30%),
  • the Noğay (no to be confused with Nogai people, living now in Southern Russia) - former inhabitants of the Crimean steppe (about 15%).

The Tats and Yalıboyus have a Caucasoid physical appearance, while the Noğays retain some Mongoloid appearance.

In modern times, in addition to living in Crimeamarker, Ukrainemarker, there is a large diaspora of Crimean Tatars in Turkeymarker, Romaniamarker, Bulgariamarker, Uzbekistanmarker, Western Europe, Middle East and North America, as well as small communities in Finlandmarker, Lithuaniamarker, Russiamarker, Belarusmarker, Polandmarker and Brazilmarker. (See Lipka Tatars and Crimean Tatar diaspora)


Today, more than 250,000 Crimean Tatars live in Crimea and about 150,000 remain in exile in Central Asia, mainly in Uzbekistanmarker. There are 1,000,000 people of Crimean Tatar origin living in Turkey, descendants of those who emigrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries [83470] . In the Dobruja region of Romania and Bulgaria, there are more than 27,000 Crimean Tatars: 24,000 on the Romanian side, and 3,000 on the Bulgarian side.


Crimean Khanate

The Crimean Tatars emerged as a nation at the time of the Crimean Khanate. The Crimean Khanate was a Turkic-speaking Muslim state which was among the strongest powers in Eastern Europe until the beginning of the 18th century. The Crimean Tatars adopted Islam in the 13th century and thereafter Crimea became one of the centers of Islamic civilization. According to Baron Iosif Igelström, in 1783 there were close to 1600 mosques and religious schools in Crimea. In Bakhchisaraymarker, the khan Meñli I Giray built Zıncırlı Medrese (literally "Chain Madrassah"), an Islamic seminary where one has to bow while entering from its door because of the chain hanging over. This symbolized the Crimean society's respect for learning. Meñli I Giray also constructed a large mosque on the model of Hagia Sophiamarker (which was ruined in 1850s). Later, the khans built a greater palace, Hansaraymarker in Bakhchisaraymarker, which survives until today. Sahib I Giray patronized many scholars and artists in this palace. During the reign of Devlet I Giray the architect Sinan built a mosque, Cuma Cami, in Kezlevmarker.

Until the beginning of the 18th century, Crimean Tatars were known for frequent devastating raids into Ukraine and Russia. In 1571, they seized and burned Moscow. For a long time, until the early 18th century, Crimean Khanate maintained massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. One of the most known and important trading ports and slave markets was Kefemarker. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than 3 million people, predominantly Ukrainians but also Russians, Belarusians and Poles, were captured and enslaved during the time of the Crimean Khanate in what was called "the harvest of the steppe." A constant threat from Crimean Tatars supported the appearance of cossackdom.

The Crimean Khanate became a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire in 1475, when the Ottoman general Gedik Ahmed Pasha conquered the southern coast of Crimea. The alliance with the Ottomans became an important factor in the survival of the khanate until the 18th century.

In the Russian Empire

The Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774 resulted with the defeat of the Ottomans, and according to the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774) signed after the war, Crimea became independent and Ottomans renounced their political right to protect the Crimean Khanate. Russia violated the treaty and annexed the Crimean Khanate in 1783. After the annexation, under pressure of Slavic colonization, Crimean Tatars began to abandon their homes and move to the Ottoman Empire in continuing waves of emigration. Particularly, the Crimean War of 1853-1856, the laws of 1860-63 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 caused an exodus of the Crimean Tatars. Of total Tatar population 300,000 of the Tauride Province about 200,000 Crimean Tatars emigrated. Many Crimean Tatars perished in the process of emigration, including those who drowned while crossing the Black Sea. Today the descendants of these Crimeans form the Crimean Tatar diaspora in Bulgariamarker, Romaniamarker and Turkeymarker.

İsmail Gaspıralı (1851-1914) was a renowned Crimean Tatar intellectual, whose efforts laid the foundation for the modernization of Muslim culture and the emergence of the Crimean Tatar national identity. The bilingual Crimean Tatar-Russian newspaper Terciman-Perevodchik he published in 1883-1914, functioned as a school through which a national consciousness and modern thinking emerged among the whole Turkic-speaking population of the Russian Empiremarker. His New Method (Usul-i Cedid) schools, numbered 350 across the Crimean peninsula raised a new Crimean Tatar elite. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 this new elite, which included Noman Çelebicihan and Cafer Seydamet proclaimed the first democratic republic in the Islamic world named the Crimean People's Republicmarker in December 26, 1917. However, this republic was short-lived and destroyed by the Bolsheviks in January 1918.

In the Soviet Union: 1917-1991

Percentage of Crimean Tatars by region in Crimea (according to 1939 Soviet census)

During Stalin's Great Purge, statesmen and intellectuals such as Veli Ibraimov and Bekir Çoban-zade (1893-1937), were imprisoned or executed on various charges.

During World War II, the entire Crimean Tatar population in Crimea fell victim to Soviet policies. Although a great number of Crimean Tatar men served in the Red Army and took part in the partisan movement in Crimea during the war, the existence of the Tatar Legion in the Nazi army and the collaboration of Crimean Tatar religious and political leaders with Hitler during the German occupation of Crimea provided the Soviets with a pretext for accusing the whole Crimean Tatar population of being Nazi collaborators. Modern researchers also point to the fact that a further reason was the geopolitical position of Crimea where Crimean Tatars were perceived as a threat. This belief is based in part on an analogy with numerous other cases of deportations of non-Russians from boundary territories (see, e.g., Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union), as well as the fact that other non-Russian populations, such as Greeks, Armenians and Bulgarians have also been removed from Crimea.

All Crimean Tatars were deported en masse, in a form of collective punishment, on 18 May 1944 as special settlers to Uzbek SSR and other distant parts of the Soviet Unionmarker. The decree "On Crimean Tatars" describes the resettlement as a very humane procedure. The reality described by the victims in their memoirs was different. 46.3% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition. This event is called Sürgün in the Crimean Tatar language. Many of them were re-located to toil as indentured workers in the Soviet GULAG system.

Although a 1967 Soviet decree removed the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement in Crimea and to make reparations for lost lives and confiscated property. Crimean Tatars, differing from other Soviet nations like Ukrainians, having definite tradition of non-communist political dissent, succeeded in creating a truly independent network of activists, values and political experience. Crimean Tatars, led by Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, were not allowed to return to Crimea from exile until the beginning of the Perestroika in the mid 1980s.

After Ukrainian independence

Percentage of Crimean Tatars by region in Crimea (according to 2001 Ukrainian census)
Today, more than 250,000 Crimean Tatars have returned to their homeland, struggling to re-establish their lives and reclaim their national and cultural rights against many social and economic obstacles. In 1991, the Crimean Tatar leadership founded the Qurultay, or Parliament, to act as a representative body for the Crimean Tatars which could address grievances to the Ukrainian central government, the Crimean government, and international bodies. Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is the executive body of the Qurultay.

Since the 1990s, the political leader of the Crimean Tatars and the charmian of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is a former Soviet dissident Mustafa Abdülcemil Qırımoğlu.

See also


  1. Halil İnalcik, 1942
  2. "Hijra and Forced Migration from Nineteenth-Century Russia to the Ottoman Empire", by Bryan Glynn Williams, Cahiers du Monde russe, 41/1, 2000, pp. 79-108.
  3. The Muzhik & the Commissar, TIME Magazine, November 30, 1953
  4. Buttino, Marco (1993). In a Collapsing Empire: Underdevelopment, Ethnic Conflicts and Nationalisms in the Soviet Union, p.68 ISBN 88-07-99048-2
  5. Abdulganiyev, Kurtmolla (2002). Institutional Development of the Crimean Tatar National Movement, ICC. Retrieved on 2008-03-22


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