Annexed souls: Crimean Tatars’ past, present and future

Crimea has a prominent place in every Turkish heart, regardless of political background. It was the ancestors of Turkic people who conquered and Turkified the Crimean Peninsula in the late 13th century. Two-hundred years after the Golden Horde, the Ottomans began ruling the peninsula for the next 300 years from 1475 onward. This is how Crimea became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, giving the Ottomans authority to appoint the Crimean khan. However, Ottoman supremacy came to an end with the defeat of the Ottoman navy during the Turco-Russian war (1768-1774), which lead the way for Russia to enter the Crimean Peninsula.

This also marks the never-ending misfortunes of one of the leading people in history. This ushered in the beginning of ill-treatment, deportations and regular Russification of Crimea, whose majority population were Muslim and Turkic.In the 19th century, after the suffering of Crimean Tatars, hundreds of thousands of Tatars were forced to flee their homeland and came to the Ottoman Empire. They abandoned the peninsula, leaving behind their souls and a piece of their identity. This, unfortunately, culminated in significant losses for Crimea in terms of its Muslim Tatar majority, which was then systematically replaced by Russian-speaking Slavic people. Additionally, Crimean Tatar’s distress did not end with the crumbling of the Russian Empire. Although the ideological transformation from imperialism to communism handed power over to the Bolsheviks, this did not alter the anti-Tatar policies of Russian policymakers. Particularly, it was Josef Stalin, who in the 1930s began the systematic deportation of thousands of Tatars.

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