This week in 1944, Stalin’s Soviet Union deported about 200,000 Crimean Tatars from their historical homeland to distant regions of the USSR, primarily in Central Asia. The motives of the dictator, who was born in Georgia, were typical of his mindset. Because around 10,000 Crimean Tatars had fought alongside occupying German Nazi forces, he considered the entire ethnic group tainted by association with the enemy and enforced collective punishment. Of course, many Tatars had also served in the Red Army but Stalin wasn’t interested in balanced reason.
Stalin ordered the NKVD, controlled by his compatriot Lavrentiy Beria, to implement the scheme. The forced deportees were given less than an hour to gather their personal possessions, after which they were loaded onto trains and moved out of Crimea. The vast majority ended up in today’s Uzbekistan. Conditions were appalling en route and close to 8,000 people died during the journey.