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This interview with Gulnara Bekirova, author of a book on Crimean Tatars, was conducted by a reporter from Avdet, a newspaper published in Simferopol, Crimea. The text of the original interview in Russian is available at the Moscow-based Crimea and Crimean Tatars Web site. We are grateful to Kemal Seitveliev for translating the interview into English. Ed.
A Book That Reflects the Tragic Episodes in the History of Our Nation
An Interview with Gulnara Bekirova
Recently, the Odjak publishers printed a book by Gulnara Bekirova, The Crimean Tatar Problem in the USSR (1944-1991). In the foreword, Refat Chubarov, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and first deputy chairman of Crimean Tatar Mejlis, called the book "a convincing evidence for the professionalism of the new generation of Crimean Tatar historians."
Gulnara Bekirova is a member of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a member of the "Institute of Inakomisliye in the USSR" of the Memorial Center (Moscow), as well as the founder and editor of the "Crimea and Crimean Tatars" Web site [in Russian].
During a recent trip to Crimea, Gulnara Bekirova visited the office of Avdet for a brief talk about her new book:
A: Is it true that it took you 14 years to write this book?
A.: In your book, you have used sources which are published for the first time....
G.B.: What distinguishes my archival research is that the documents were concentrated in the archives of the top Soviet authorities, which are preserved in the Moscow state archives. In that sense, I was in a somewhat advantageous position as an author – I understand that historians in Crimea may not have such an opportunity. I was able to spent three years in the archives. As a result, about 250 documents were included in the book, even though in total there were more than 1200 of them. Those were the documents from the Moscow and Ukrainian archives, documents from the "Memorial" archive, and of course the documents from the State Archives of the Crimean Autonomous Republic relating to the deportation. Besides, the book uses materials from the dissident movement, documents from the Crimean Tatar samizdat and verbal testimonies.
A. Are there still a lot of documents that remain classified in the archives of Russia?
G.B. I write about this issue in the book. Still classified are many documents from the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation, where materials from the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and those of the Central Committee are. Still classified are the decrees of the Central Committee of the CPSU, including the classic decree from 17 August 1967, which preceded the famous Ukaz of 1967. Still secret are the records in other archives as well. For example, the files of the Department of Special Settlements of NKVD-MVD in the State Archive of the Russian Federation are declassified by one third only. A registry is preserved, which shows that it contains very interesting documents. Some of them are classified because of the ‘privacy’ issues, meaning there was someone who was cooperating with the authorities, but because of the ‘privacy’ issue we cannot read what happened to him, even though it is entirely possible that such episodes are the most interesting ones. Unfortunately, the declassification process in Russia came to an end as fast as it started.
A.: By the way, on the cover of the book there is a picture of a secret dossier....
G.B. This is the photo of the authentic cover of the "Special dossier of Stalin". By the way, only a part of the documents that prepared the deportation of the Crimean Tatars was declassified, including the famous Decree about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.
A.: What goal did you set for yourself when you were writing the book?
G.B.: My goal was to highlight as much as possible the history of the Crimean Tatar problem after the Second World War, based on the documentary sources. This period was relatively little researched, even though there were several well-known works on it. And then, I am a Crimean Tatar, and I could never understand why Crimean Tatars are denied entry to Crimea, and on the basis of what legal documents my family could not move to Crimea for good, even though living in Melitopol, we went for holidays to Crimea every year. My father, whenever he would bring this subject up, was always told – "You are a Crimean Tatar – what is so surprising that you cannot move to Crimea?"
A.: Do you continue your research on the Crimean Tatar problem?
G.B.: During the 18th of May meeting, I met some of the people I talk about in my book. And now I want to set up meetings with them, write down their stories. In case there is a second edition of this book, I am thinking about expanding some of the themes there, the theme of the political persecution. The heroes of my book deserve further treatment; more can be written about them.
A.: Your book covers the period from 1944 to 1991. How would you assess the current status of the Crimean Tatar problem?
G.B. I think that the situation in Crimea is pretty tough, if not critical. This could be related to the increased activity of certain forces, or, possibly to the still unresolved land, housing and other problems. I am not talking as an expert here – just as an observer. Unfortunately the Crimean Tatar problem is still not resolved. First and foremost, the land problem must be solved because the situation is threatening to pass the threshold of no return. This is why my book is for the politicians, who should understand that there is a limit to the patience of even such peaceful nation as Crimean Tatars.
The interview was conducted by Elmas Sedvaapova and published in Avdet (Simferopol), No.9-10 (338-339), 31 May 2004, p.6.
The Crimean Tatar Problem in The USSR (1944-1991)
Table of Contents
Section I. "All that was left behind..."
Section II. De-Stalinization and the opposition of the Crimean Tatars (1953-the first half of the 1960s)
Section III. The long-expected decrees of the authorities: declarations and the realities (mid 1960s and the 1970s)
Section IV. Political moves seeking the resolution of the Crimean Tatar problem in the 1970s-first half of the 1980s
Section V. Return home... (1985-1991)
List of documents
List of abbreviations
List of names
Translated into English by Kemal Seitveliev.
Posted: 1 March 2005