Resisting ethnic cleansing : Crimean Tatars, Crimea, and the Soviet Union, 1941-1991




Straw, Andrew Dale

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“Resisting Ethnic Cleansing: Crimean Tatars Against and Within the Soviet Union, 1944-1991,” examines Stalin’s multifaceted ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Peninsula and how the region’s largest ethnic group, Crimean Tatars, created a decades-long protest movement to resist each aspect of Stalin’s policy. First, I argue that Stalin’s deportation and exile of Crimean Tatars amounted to a bureaucratic genocide: a Soviet iteration on state violence that used inefficiency, irresponsibility, confusion, and loyalty to the system to destroy the national and class “enemies” of the Soviet Union. Second, this study emphasizes how ethnic cleansing in Crimea was extraordinary in the way Soviet power transformed Crimea after the deportations. From 1944 to 1954, this transformation created a “new Russian Crimea” through policies of mass settlement, land redistribution, and renaming geographic locations and rewriting history. Third, having revealed the full extent Stalin’s project, I explore how Crimean Tatars created the largest protest movement in the postwar Soviet Union. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Crimean Tatar activists and everyday citizens established contacts with Soviet dissidents and Western human rights activists to create a transnational protest movement. Through this network, a small, repressed nation demanded specific changes from what was one of the world’s most complex state bureaucracies and framed their arguments within the international language of protest and human rights. They accomplished their main goal, and returned to Crimea as the Soviet Union collapsed. Overall, this project highlights how activists can incorporate the ideas and language of post-Nuremburg human rights into practical actions and how ordinary citizens can work simultaneously within and outside of a system to resist a repressive police state.



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