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Project Update on No Other Home: The Crimean Tatars

Exhibition - No Other Home: The Crimean Tatar Repatriates
A Photographic and Sonic Exploration
The Ukrainian Museum, 222 East Sixth Street, New York, New York 10003
May 16, 2010 – September 26, 2010

Exhibition - No Other Home: The Crimean Tatar Repatriates

Photography by Alison Cartwright & Sound Installation by Maria Sonevytsky

Note:  The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation is a sponsor of this project.

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International Committee for Crimea
P.O. Box 15078
Washington, DC 20003

PRESS RELEASE
Contact: Inci Bowman
Phone: 202-390-4110
Date: 22 May 2009 

65th Anniversary of Deportations from Crimea, Ukraine

Washington, DC – On May 18, a wreath-laying ceremony was held on the grounds of the Victims of Communism Memorial to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars and other nationalities from Crimea, Ukraine, in 1944. The event was organized by the International Committee for Crimea and Ukraina Citizens International Association, with the support of the US-Ukraine Foundation.

Crimean Tatars and USUF

In her opening remarks, Dr. Inci Bowman of International Committee for Crimea described how the entire population of Crimean Tatars was rounded up at gun point in the early hours of May 18 and taken to train stations. It took three days to clear Crimea of its Tatar population, about 200,000 people, who ended up in the Urals and Central Asia, mostly Uzbekistan. Most of the Crimean Gypsies were deported with Crimean Tatars because many of them had Muslim names. The next group of Crimeans to be deported, Greeks, Bulgarians and Armenians, did not leave Crimea until the last week in June. This group also included individuals with foreign passports, citizens of Turkey, Greece and Iran. Altogether there were about 39,000 people.

Olexandr Aleksandrovych, Minister-Counselor from the Embassy of Ukraine, who spoke next, said what was done to Crimean Tatars, “deportation, exile, starvation and execution -- was yet another horrible crime of the inhuman Communist regime.” It was, therefore, very symbolic and appropriate that the wreath-laying ceremony was taking place at the Victims of Communism Memorial. He laid an elegant basket of flowers from the Embassy of Ukraine, next to the wreath presented by the event organizers, at the pedestal of the Monument. The government of Ukraine has taken various measures to enable the Crimean Tatars to settle in their historic homeland, Mr. Aleksandrovych noted, and has been supportive of the development of their language and culture. In fact, the 65th anniversary of the deportations is an official commemorative day to be honored throughout Ukraine. 

The letter received from the Mustafa Jemilev, Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis in Simferopol, was read by Mykhajlo Datsenko of Ukraina Citizens International Association. Also a member of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine, the Honorable Jemilev thanked the members of the Ukrainian community and the Embassy of Ukraine for remembering the Crimean Tatars on the anniversary of their tragic Surgun (Deportation) and expressed hope for a lasting friendship between Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian People.

Dr. Lee Edwards, Chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, announced that the Foundation would be launching the online Global Museum on Communism in June, coinciding with the 2nd anniversary of the opening the Memorial. He drew attention to the inscriptions on the stone pedestal of the Monument: To the more than one hundred million victims of communism and those who love liberty. Since the unveiling of the Monument, representatives of various nations and ethnic groups visited the Memorial to honor the memory of those victimized by Communist regimes.

The next speaker was Dr. Greta Uehling, an anthropologist, who lived with Crimean Tatars in Uzbekistan and Crimea while conducting research for her award winning dissertation at the University of Michigan.  Author of a book, Beyond Memory: Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return (2004), Dr. Uehling noted that Crimean Tatars’ yearning for and “memory” of their homeland sustained them during a 50 year movement for repatriation and described their recent efforts to reestablish their lives in Crimea.  

A member of the Parliament of Ukraine, the Honorable Yurii Miroshnychenko, who happened to be visiting in Washington, was also in the audience. He wanted to participate in the ceremony and spoke briefly. The Ukrainians had also suffered under the Soviet regime. The Famine of 1932-33, which claimed the lives of millions of people, he stated, was a crime of genocide committed against the Ukrainian people. The ceremony ended with a moment of silence, led by Inci Bowman, who summarized what the date May 18 or Black Day means to Crimean Tatars.

Attending the ceremony were Ms. Nadia McConnell, President of the US-Ukraine Foundation; Michael Sawkiw, President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America; members of the Ukrainian-American community and representatives from the Assembly of Turkish American Associations. The media representatives included reporters/cameramen from the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) and the Voice of America.

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Crimean Tatars Multi-Media Project

Washington, July 31, 2008 - The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation is sponsoring the documentary, multi-media project, No Other Home: The Crimean Tatars, co-directed by Maria Sonevytsky, an ethnomusicology Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University who is currently in Crimea conducting dissertation fieldwork among Crimean Tatars, and Alison Cartwright, an award-winning New York based photographer.

Crimean Tatars Project

Maria Sonevytsky with John A. Kun, Vice President, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation

Directors Sonevytsky and Cartwright are assisted by a small team of student research assistants from Crimea.   The team has been seeking out diverse places that Crimean Tatars call home in contemporary Crimea - urban and rural, affluent and impoverished, established and temporary – and documenting their life through recorded interviews, photographs, and video footage since May 2008.

The entire population of Crimean Tatars - estimated at about 200,000 - were ordered onto cattle cars and shipped to Central Asia and the Urals by the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, on May 18, 1944. 

Accused of being traitors against the Soviet regime for conspiring with Nazi forces during the occupation of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars were deported and banned from returning to Crimea. In their absence, the Soviet regime aspired to cleanse all traces of Crimean Tatar culture in Crimea - homes were resettled by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, place names were changed, mosques were converted into Museums of Atheism, libraries were burned.  In exile - or siirgun - Crimean Tatars were encouraged to assimilate to their Central Asian Turkic-speaking host country's culture and forget their ethnic identity.

Amidst the erratic directives of Soviet nationalities politics, the group known as "Crimean Tatar" was purged from the history books. Yet, after decades of protest, Crimean Tatars were given the legal right of return to Crimea, and have since ensued on a long and often arduous process of re-staking a claim in their ancestral homeland.

This documentary multi-media project hinges on the construction of the idea of "home" among repatriated Crimean Tatars in the weeks leading up to the annual Day of Deportation.  The project will combine photography, ethnographic field recordings, video, and the written word to display the multitude of ways that Crimean Tatars imagine and defend their idea of "home."

The contested and often misunderstood status of the Crimean Tatar community in contemporary and historical Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia lies at the very heart of this project: by emphasizing the complex ways in which this ethnic group's tragic history and continuing struggles have impacted autonomous Crimea in independent Ukraine, the project directors aspire to give voice to a variety of perspectives on Crimean Tatar repatriation.  By educating audiences through this engaging, accessible, and stimulating exhibition, the project seeks to promote local ways of understanding difference in contemporary Ukrainian Crimea.

The broader goal of the project is to contribute to the global discourse on the rights of minority or indigenous populations in disputed territories such as Crimea.

Drawing keen attention to the Crimean Tatar campaign to be recognized as an indigenous people on the territory of contemporary Ukraine, the project questions how national and international discourses of indigenousness connect to local ideologies of "home."

The project assesses how the Crimean Tatar political community's support for the growth of a democratic and stable civil society in Ukraine has been a vital force in neutralizing the secession movement in the Russian- dominated territory of post-Soviet Crimea while, on the contrary, also stoking some of the inter- ethnic hostilities that are fodder for conflict and misunderstanding today.

Plans are for the exhibit to be shown in Simferopol, in L'viv, and in Kyiv, as well as in New York City and Washington, DC.  In the future, the exhibit will continue to travel, especially to other cities in eastern and southern Ukraine and Germany.

For more information, contact the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, 1701 K Street NW – Suite 903, Washington, DC 20006, telephone:  (202) 223-2228 or email:  info@usukraine.org.  

Your support of this project, No Other Home: The Crimean Tatars, is encouraged. 
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