The Demographic Engineering in Crimea: Soviet Ethnic Cleansing in Russia 1945-1953

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Historically, Ukraine has been one of the most important countries in the maintenance of stability throughout Eurasia and the Caucasus region. Similarly, Crimea has also been important both for its strategic position as well as its multi-ethnic and multi-faith arrangement. Beginning in 1475, for three hundred years the Ottoman Empire controlled the Black Sea coast. The withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire occurred after Catherine the Great annexed the Crimean peninsula following a major Russian military victory over the Ottoman army in 1783. The Russian annexation of Crimea had a significant impact on the Ottoman Turks. They lost the Tatar military component and its secure northern frontier against Russia’s offensive expansion.  The population mix of the new Turkish state was rooted in the differing backgrounds of its regions. The first serious wave of migration from the Crimea occurred in the aftermath of the Crimean War (1853–56). The second wave dramatically increased after the new Ottoman army lost the war against Russia in 1877-1878. This situation created a crisis of confidence in Sublime Porte leading to a reshuffling of the Ottoman state’s population in the 19th century wherein Russian Muslims numbered nearly 20 million whilst Ottoman Muslims numbered 14.1 million in 1897. 


With Russian control over the Crimean peninsula, Stalin launched a systematic ethnic cleansing program against the Crimean Tatars (Kibchak Turks) which dramatically changed the demographic structure of the peninsula between 1945 and 1953. The aim of this paper is to revise the understanding of Bolsheviks’ Korenzatsiia (nativisation) politics and its impact on contemporary politics.


The nativisation program was aimed at integrating Turkic groups into the Soviet system. The deportation program resulted in a demographic disaster for the Kalmyks, Karachay, Chechen-Ingush, Balkars, Crimeans, Germans, Finns and the Korean during the WWII. As with the Ottoman state there remains a strong ethnic and cultural connection between modern Turkey and these nations. This policy paper does not include accounts of the Kalmyks, Koreans, Germans, Greeks and Finns, but includes the Meskhetian Turks, Kurds, Khemshils, Chechens Ingush Crimean Tatars, Balkars, and Karachays who endured massive deportations and ethnic cleansing during WWII. In fact, the Kremlin aimed to destroy Turkey’s ‘frontline security zones’ in the Caucasus with the author of ‘Long Walk’, Otto Pohl claiming that the politics of Stalin’s regime must be regarded as a campaign of genocide against the Caucasian people.

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