Politics

Turkiye marks anniversary of Crimean Tatars, Circassians’ exile

Crimean Tatars, Circassians expelled from their homeland under inhumane circumstances in May 1944, says Foreign Ministry

Ali Murat Alhas   | 18.05.2022
Turkiye marks anniversary of Crimean Tatars, Circassians’ exile

ANKARA

Turkiye on Wednesday marked the anniversary of the exile of Crimean Tatar and Circassian people from their homeland in May 1944.

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Tanju Bilgic said Crimean Tatars were indigenous people of the region and they were deported under inhumane circumstances on May 18, 1944.

Turkiye will continue to stand by Crimean Tatars to preserve their identity and ensure their prosperity and serenity, Bilgic said, adding that the majority of 250,000 deported people lost their lives in the destinations they were exiled to.

He further said May 21 would mark the 158th anniversary of the Circassians' exile when the people of the Caucasian region suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties in the 19th century following the invasion by the Russian forces.

The survivors abandoned their homeland and took refuge in the Anatolia region, which is known as the “Circassian Exile,” and the consequent pain persists to this day, said the spokesperson.

On May 18, 1944, tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars were deported to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime, which accused them of collaborating with occupying Nazi forces.

The Crimean Tatars were deported to various regions within the Soviet territories, in particular Siberia and Uzbekistan. Almost half of the exiles, who endured long months of dire living conditions, are thought to have died of starvation and disease.

The Circassians, a predominantly Muslim people, suffered greatly under the Russians and were subjected to ethnic cleansing.

A war in 1864 near the Black Sea port city of Sochi resulted in defeat for the Circassians and saw the Russian Empire invade all of Caucasia, a region extending east from the eastern Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.

In a plight similar to that of the Crimean Tatars, nearly 1.5 million Circassians were expelled from the region to the east of the Black Sea when it was overrun by Russia in 1864. Some 400,000-500,000 are believed to have died.

Most of the Circassian exiles were absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, settling as far away as present-day Jordan.

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