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Returning Tatars face Crimean woes
Al Jazeera finds that little is being done to help Tatars who return to Ukraine.
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2007 12:53 GMT

Haidar was deported under the orders
of Soviet leader Josef Stalin
After decades of exile across central Asia, the ethnic Tatars of Crimea in Ukraine are facing new problems as they continue to return home.

Nearly half a million were deported at the end of the second world war, and 200,000 died on their horrific journey into exile.

Haidar was 16 when he was deported under the orders of Josef Stalin, the Soviet leader, and like other Muslim Tatars in Crimea he was accused of being a Nazi sympathiser.

He was the only member of his family to survive exile and when he came back in 1990, aged 62, he found his family's houses had all been destroyed, or in one case, full of Russian families who had taken it over.

The town Haidar knew as a boy was long gone.

"The Russians aren't to blame. It was the fault of the authorities and the state. We were taken to central Asia, they were brought here from Russia and Ukraine," he said.

Homes occupied

In the town of Bakchiserai, the former capital of Tatar Crimea, the twin identities of Russian orthodoxy and Tatar Islam live side by side but the continuing return of Tatars is beginning to cause new divisions.

It's easy to find Tatar families still coming back, building homes because someone else is living in theirs.

Coming home has become a journey full of bitterness and broken hopes - and no help from the authorities.

Many returning Tatars were denied planning permission to build new homes, with some living in outbuildings such as garages.

On woman, Fatima, told Al Jazeera: "We don't have anything to share with the Russians. We just live day to day. We only hope for some help, and peace, but we don't get it. If you don't feed yourself no-one will."

Discrimination claims 

And now there are warnings from some about the Tatars importing radical Islam from countries like Uzbekistan, and trying to create a new Chechnya, or Kosovo.

Vasily Parkhomenko of the Communist Party said: "We know who the organisations are and they don't even try to hide it. They get financial support and they even train abroad. We don't want a repeat of Chechnya in Crimea."

The Tatar leadership say this sounds like an attempt to whip up ethnic hatred.

"For many years we have demanded autonomy for the Crimean Tatars," says Akhtem Cheigoz, a Tatar community leader.

"But the authorities say we are in the minority, here in our native land. They say there is no solution, but for us this is the most important issue. We face discrimination every day."

The return of the Crimean Tatars remains a work in progress.

Whether the next generation will be any luckier than their ancestors may depend on the decisions of their Slavic neighbours.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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