Monday, September 24, 2012

Coming Back--English video on Crimean Tartar deportation and return

On June 5th, the well-known Arabic news service Al Jazeera aired Coming Back, an in depth program on the deportation and subsequent return of the Crimean Tatars to Crimea. Produced by Turkish filmmaker Ahmet Seven, this 45-minute program relies on personal interviews to tell the story of the devastating deportation of the Crimean Tatars on May 18, 1944, and the conditions they faced on their return to the peninsula fifty years later.

A special feature of the film is the little known story of the village of Arabat on the Asov Sea in northeastern Crimea. Two hundred Crimean Tatars lived in this village at the time of deportation, mostly women, children, and old people, as, like in all Crimean Tatar communities, the men were away serving in the Soviet army. A bureaucratic oversight resulted in the villagers being bypassed in the massive deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar population that took place on May 18th. The story goes that several weeks later when Stalin was arranging a ceremony to mark the successful execution of the deportation plan, the Soviet Army officer in charge of the deportation heard of the Crimean Tatar villagers still remaining in Arabat. Wanting to show a 100% percent successful campaign, he ordered the villagers to be herded onto barges, and the barges taken out to sea and sunk. There were no survivors.

Though there is no actual proof of this horrendous crime, it is widely accepted as true across Crimea. In the Coming Back video, the filmmaker tells this story and documents the attempts to find evidence to authenticate it. 

Coming Back is narrated in English, and all interviews are subtitled in English. It is, as far as I know, the only English language documentary about the tragic story of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars and their return to their homeland.  Though I was disappointed to see that the film only painted a bleak picture of current Crimean Tatar life in Crimea and overlooked the many vibrant aspects of Crimean Tatar society, I do think it is a very important attempt at educating the broader world of a  little known piece of history.

You can find a link to the video on the sidebar. Please take a few minutes to watch this story of the Crimean Tatar people.

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