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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .

The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland
Edited by Edward A. Allworth

(London: Duke University Press, 1998)

This second edition is refreshing for its integration of primary sources, perspectives of Crimean Tatar authors, and western scholarship together in a collection that spans across key issues in the complexities of nationality.

Allworth's opening chapter explores the self-identification of Crimean Tatars, describing an identity both challenged by its twentieth century history of hardship under Soviet authorities, and strengthened through the community's memory of hardships overcome. This sets the stage for examining the cultural survival of Crimean Tatars. Fisher surveys Ismail Gaspirali's important contributions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the rejuvenation of Turkic peoples through education. Lazzerini builds on Fisher's piece to explore the implications of Gaspirali's ideology which challenged both Russian imperial power and Islamic cultural hegemony as he attempted to bring Russians and Muslims closer together. Kirimca highlights the importance of the Crimean Tatar cultural leaders of the generation following Gaspirali's, arguing that these poets' patriotic songs contributed to a cultural symbolism that enabled the group's survival through adversarial conditions. Gulum reinforces this argument by detailing the importance of music, folklore, theater and dance as cultural rituals. Finally, Altan concludes the section by highlighting the significance of family, both within Crimean Tartar culture and as an institution for cultural survival.

Seytmuratova begins the section on the exile from Crimea with a moving autobiographical account of her own and other Crimean Tatar movement leaders' activities in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's. Through an analysis of the trials of some of these activists, Allworth places the Soviet Crimean Tatar policies in the context of an overall Soviet nationalities policy. Alexeyeva's biographical sketch of Mustafa Jemiloglu describes his uncovering and building upon a history very different than the one put forward by Soviet authorities. Finally, Reddaway closes the section on responses to exile by comparing the Crimean Tatar repatriation movement with other contemporaneous national movements in the Soviet Union.

Allworth then opens the final section on return to the Crimea with a thoughtful consideration of the meaning of homelands for ethnic groups generally and Crimean Tatars in particular. Wilson presents a detailed account of Crimean Tatar politics since 1989 noting the tensions between a more pragmatic and more radical agenda. Eren completes this survey of Crimean Tatars as he describes the relations between émigré Crimean Tatars in the West and those that have returned from Soviet exile to Crimea. As throughout the volume, relevant documents add primary sources to these arguments.

Susan Allen Nan, ICAR, George Mason University

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