The head of the colony ordered me not to tell anyone about my nationality – Zevri Kurtbedinov.
Zevri Kurtbedinov was born and raised far from his native Crimea. He lived, studied, and worked as a professional geophysicist in the states of Central Asia. On the eve of the 78th anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, Zevri-ağa shared his thoughts about the fate of his people.
QIRIM.News: Zevri-ağa, a lot has been written and told about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars. You were born in deportation, but you must know how it was with your family, right?
Zevri Kurtbedinov: It happened almost like with all Crimean Tatars: my mother was deported, while my father was at the front... At 4 o'clock in the morning, they kicked us out of our own houses, brazenly loaded us into cattle cars, and took everyone in different unknown directions. All fascists start their dirty deeds at 4 in the morning. The carriages were cramped and stuffy. Summer was already coming, Asia was hot, everyone was sick, dying along the way, and there was even no one to bury dead ones and it was impossible. There was no drink, no food either. There are a lot of stories on this topic, the cruelty of this system knew no bounds. My family ended up in Mirzachul, a place in the steppe part of Uzbekistan; shortly, a desert. Then they moved to Kansai. Then to a more permanent place, to Chapaiev, where they lived in a shelter. Mother was surprised that I, being so small at that time, remembered all the details. Then I went to the factory, where my father worked as a worker after he returned. People were dying, my four ancestors died in the first year. There was no one to bury them. My uncle, now deceased, was thirteen years old then, he told how he buried alone. He was getting tired very much, was falling asleep, jackals raked and gnawed the dead bodies... It was difficult to tell... As well as to listen...
QIRIM.News: How did your family life during the deportation?
Zevri Kurtbedinov: My parents had seven children. Every child was raised almost from scratch. Our young generation should learn about demographics from the older ones. To have a child, now they first need a house, a car... This nonsense must be thrown out of our heads if we want to prevent this fascism that we have now face – the Russian fascism. Arriving at the place, people began to settle down. Everywhere we were accepted differently. But in general, the attitude was not good. Local residents were set up as if we were some kind of animals, savages, and we came to kill them. Then, of course, they saw that we are Muslims, we read the Koran. Then their attitude began to improve, but life was still very difficult. When I started to study in a school, dad brought some boots of the 37th size from the factory, in the winter I wore them.
QIRIM.News: How and when did you realize that the position of the Crimean Tatars is wrong and abnormal?
Zevri Kurtbedinov: As a child, I began to notice that something was wrong with our people. There was some difference between us and the rest. At school, I felt more about our position and condition. They called us traitors. I had to prove that we were not. As a child, what kind of arguments there could be besides fight... When I moved from elementary school to secondary school, I understood that this would not work, I had to find a new way. I started searching for information but could find nothing. I listened to the conversations of the elders and tried to be closer to them. Adults protected us, but I began to understand, who I am going to be and what I am going to do. There was some naivete, I believed in some kind of bright future, I believed that there are individual villains, and they must be fought. But everything turned out to be completely different.
After graduating from school, I entered the institute, they didn’t accept me, they gave me low points at the exams on purpose, and they lost my documents after passing the exams. But then I found the documents, restored them, and began to study. During the years of my studies, I began to look for students, on Thursdays we gathered in different places because we were persecuted. And we were talking, discussing, and arguing about how we can return our people to our homeland and how we can regenerate our nation.
QIRIM.News: How did the Crimean Tatars struggle to return to their homeland in the post-war period?
Zevri Kurtbedinov: As a student, I participated in various rallies and meetings. We wrote letters to various authorities, starting with the Central Committee of the CPSU and the entire leadership of the party-state and ending with the capitals of all republics. Letters and appeals were sent… In fact, all the republics should know the history of the Crimean Tatars, but they pretended not to be aware of things that happened. The setting was to forget them. They even wrote not “Crimean Tatars”, but just “Tatars”. They did not want to see our nationality, they had secret codes, by which they could understand who we are. I remember when I was imprisoned in 1984 for "spreading deliberately false fabrications" in Siberia, in a colony, the head of the colony brazenly told me not to tell anyone my nationality, not to tell that I was a Crimean Tatar. I had to tell that I am a "Tatar". I advised him to tell on the internal radio, that he ordered the convicted Kurtbedinov not to say his nationality if he is asked. The rest was my business.
I did not consider myself guilty while being in prison, in a zone, and at the trial. And I tried to emphasize this everywhere. The system was ferocious, cruel on the one hand, and wretched and hypocritical on the other. So, we witnessed the collapse of the Union as a result.
QIRIM.News: What were the main problems of the Crimean Tatars in deportation, after returning to Crimea, and after the Russian occupation of Crimea?
Zevri Kurtbedinov: In the deportation, the biggest problem was poverty, lack of money, the absence of part of the able-bodied population, and many died. There was also a bad attitude of the locals, toward the commandant regime. It was impossible to get a higher education before 1957. There were certain restrictions on some professions. There were not enough doctors, and a lot of diseases were progressing. People were dying in droves. A veteran of our national movement, Dzhebbar ağa Akimov, told how in the hospital in Bekabad, where he worked, Crimean Tatar patients and women in childbirth, were especially killed. It was real fascism, which no one talks about. What is more, families were separated. Also, supervision did not allow people to fulfill their religious duties and study it, there was no freedom.
In Crimea, after returning, the commandant regime was essentially preserved. There were restrictions. People were not registered, they were expelled from their homes, and there were still restrictions for certain professions. The hatred of the authorities for the Crimean Tatars, the very fact that they did not want to recognize us as Crimean Tatars, speaks for itself. Besides, the destruction of monuments, and the change of geographical names. The people, nevertheless, made their way.
After the re-emergence of the new Soviet – rashist government – Putinism, they began to persecute the Crimean Tatars, who freely expressed their thoughts even tougher. However, collaborators are treated in a more kind way. The rest, who demand equal conditions for themselves, who say that they are Crimean Tatars, are persecuted. Huge sentences are given to honest people. This is not just outrageous, it is nonsense, it speaks of the degeneration of this system, this state, this rashist system. I don't think the situation is any better now than it was in Soviet times. The impending well-being is a deceit, a desire to show the Crimean Tatars in the popular version. In fact, there is no freedom, no will, and people are depressed. Suppressed by the authorities. But the spirit of our people, praise be to Allah, is unshakable. I think that it will remain so until our complete victory.
Despite the fact that some state acts of various levels have been adopted for the benefit or in support of the Crimean Tatars, this is all ostentatious. They did not want the Crimean Tatars, they did not want our statehood to restore, and so it still remained. Unfortunately, this system, the Russian-Soviet-Chekist system, must be liquidated, as they destroyed others. Otherwise, nothing will work. Almost all post-Soviet time in Ukraine was subordinated to this system. At one time I even called the SBU a branch of the KGB-FSB. The implementation was so deep, and even now it is, that nothing will happen without a serious shake-up. It will be impossible to forget it, until the repentance of the state in front of the Crimean Tatars, and compensation for damage. Just as now Russia is in front of Ukraine for the unleashed war, the killed people, destroyed houses, enterprises – capitulation, apologies, and full restitution are awaiting. This is what we should strive for. If they still have these concepts, then the Russian nation still has a chance to be saved. If not, then they will simply be liquidated. Even more, they will destroy themselves.
QIRIM.News: Is the attitude of the Ukrainian authorities towards the Crimean Tatars changing, according to your observations? If so, how is it changing?
Zevri Kurtbedinov: In general, the attitude towards the Crimean Tatars has not changed much. There is hope that something will change under the current victorious president. I'm 60-70 percent sure of this. What can we talk about, if I still cannot receive my pension, which is accumulated in the “bank” account?!... Ten thousand dollars have been accumulated there. I haven't been able to get them since 2014. At first, it was a private bank, then a state-owned one, now they don’t even want to hear about it. Yes, and I don’t have any desire to have any more business with them... I messaged a lot, explained... Not because I feel sorry for these ten thousand (although this is an important amount of money for me) but because the state should not tolerate such meanness.
The second case. I decided to enroll in a queue for an apartment TSNAP (Center for Administrative Services). There I lost (housing) because everything collapsed, I can’t go back anywhere because of the Interpol wanted list. I talked, and they replied politely and told me to come later. When my wife and I arrived, they took our passports, and when they saw our Crimean Tatar surname and names, we were forced to explain that there was a queue for housing dating back to 1976. They said: contact us, if something is solved, we will let you know. But how can it be so, there is a corresponding decree... They say that there is a resolution, but no funds. I know well these bureaucratic tricks. It is important not to be limited to entertainment, but to really arrange our lives. This state, unfortunately, is not configured positively in relation to the Crimean Tatars. This article was originally published on our partner site - qirim.news