K. Bosolli. Tatars traveling in the steppe (mid-nineteenth century.)
K. Bosolli. Tatars traveling in the steppe (mid-nineteenth century.)

The first wave of emigration of Crimean Tatars


The population of the peninsula was multinational. At the time of Crimea’s accession to the empire, the largest ethnic group was the Crimean Tatars. Cities located on the coast were inhabited mainly by Greeks, Jews and Armenians; mountainous areas – Karaites, steppes near Perekop – Nogai. The steppe part of the Crimea permanent population in the eighteenth century. almost small.

The last Crimean khan Shagin-Girey
The last Crimean khan Shagin-Girey

It was after this that the Crimean Tatars began to leave the peninsula en masse. In this they were actively encouraged by the new government. Thus, G. Potemkin ordered Baron Igelstrom: “ Everyone should be released from Belbek, Kachi, Suvashi, Sudak, Uskut, Stary Krym and from the mountains. … Murz to release anyone who wants to .In conditions of devastation, famine, plague, brutal military dictatorship established by the imperial authorities in the Crimea, the Tatar emigration spontaneously arose. The forced deportation of Christians from the peninsula and the mass flight of Tatars to the Ottoman Empire reduced the population by 75%. In January 1787, by order of Potemkin, the entire Tatar administration that remained there was expelled from the Crimea. The last Khan Shagin-Girey, who believed the sweet promises of Russian diplomats “about independence”, was offered to live “at choice” in the Russian cities of Kaluga, Voronezh or Orel. However, when Shagin-Girey settled in Voronezh, Catherine II changed her mind and ordered him to leave the territory of the Russian Empire and go to Turkey.

Crimea is depopulated. The lack of local population put the army in a difficult position: there was nowhere to get food and fodder. The Empress, trying to reassure her European neighbors and convince them that Crimea was “annexed to her possessions” only for the purpose of “civilizing the local wild population,” invited senior government officials to see for themselves such a policy. A serious territorial redemption was made between Prussia and Austria on the Polish question. G. Potemkin was ordered to urgently begin the development of southern Ukraine and Crimea.

Due to the intention of Catherine II to visit the Crimea, Potemkin had to settle it with new inhabitants, for which the treasury provided money.
In order to save money, G. Potemkin used a hoax: he built along the roads, where high crowned persons were to pass, more or less decent houses, and then – cardboard mirages of villages. This is how the phrase “Potemkin villages” went down in history. Here is how Count O. Langeron, who later became the ruler of the southern regions, wrote about it: “It should be noted that they (“villages” – author) were created by tyranny and fear and ruin of several provinces. From the inhabited provinces of Little Russia and the cities through which the Empress traveled, the whole population was driven into this desert; Thousands of villages had been evicted by this time, and all their inhabitants with all their herds had been transferred to various settlements. They were forced to hastily put artificial villages on the nearby banks of the Dnieper and tree facades at a distance. When the Empress passed, all these unfortunates were driven back, as a result of which many of them died as a result of this resettlement. “After becoming the governor of these provinces 30 years later, I was able to see for myself the veracity of these details, which at first seemed to me quite incredible .”

Stefano Torelli. "Allegory of the victory of Catherine II over the Turks and Tatars", 1772
Stefano Torelli. “Allegory of the victory of Catherine II over the Turks and Tatars”, 1772

The government provided significant benefits to foreign colonists. They could not pay taxes for 10 years, were exempted from military service and military posts, received money to travel to the place of their new residence, were given land for 30 dec. per capita (according to the decree of 1802), and then – 60 dec. per family (by decree of 1804).As you can see, Ukrainian peasants were not left here, but driven back. The settlement of the south and Crimea by Ukrainians was not part of the Russian government’s plans. Everything was done in order to fill the peninsula mainly with Russians. But due to the reluctance of the Russians to go to the development of unsuitable lands, this plan failed. And then the tsarist government agreed to relocate to the Crimea “Little Russians” of the Right Bank, ie territories under Polish control, rather than those bordering the former Khanate and had strong cultural and economic ties with the Crimea. At the same time, G. Potemkin actively urged foreigners to move to the Crimea for permanent residence. Foreigners did not hesitate to accept the offer of the Russian government. Between 1784 and 1787, about 160 colonists moved to the Crimea from Corsica, Livorno, Pisa, Genoa, and various German cities.

To provide the colonists with land, local owners were expelled from it. Indigenous people of the region began to leave the peninsula. During the 60-70’s of the eighteenth century. population on the peninsula has halved – from 300 to 151.7 thousand people. According to official data, by 1796 (that is, only during the 13 years of Crimea’s membership in the Russian Empire), 288,000 acres of land had been confiscated from the locals and handed over to Russian nobles. By seizing land, the government began to extend serfdom to local peasants.

By order of Catherine II in early 1779, it was decided to evict the main part of the Christian population outside the peninsula. Crimean Greeks and Armenians fell under this definition. This was done in a matter of days with great brutality by Russian troops under the command of Lieutenant General O. Suvorov. Suvorov evicted from the Crimea about 30 thousand Alans, Greeks, Armenians and more. They were located in the Mariupol district of the Ekaterinoslav governorate.

The Amazon company of Balaklava Greeks formed by Potemkin met Catherine II
The Amazon company of Balaklava Greeks formed by Potemkin met Catherine II

This relocation led not only to the ruin and decline of the “Christian population”, but also to personal tragedies. Muslim-Christian family ties were quite common in the Crimea. Now they were ruthlessly torn. Many Muslims who were relatives of Christians deported outside the Crimea begged the new government to relocate them along with other members of their own families, not stopping even before agreeing to convert to Christianity. However, such pleas were ignored. A. Markevich noted: ” Many of them come to the commanders of the troops, declaring their own desire, but they respond in silence .”From the end of the XVIII century. colonization of the steppe part of the Crimea unfolded. The tsarist government began to relocate to this territory state peasants and persons of other classes from the central provinces of the country. Along with Russian immigrants, Germans, Czechs, Poles, Greeks, Armenians (who came from Russia), Bulgarians, and others came to the Crimea in large numbers. At the same time, the mass emigration of Crimean Tatars to the Ottoman Empire was stimulated.

The first deportation was followed by others. The purpose of this policy of the Russian government was clear. The government began giving land to retired soldiers, as well as forcibly relocating women assigned to them as wives to the Crimea. In 1787, a circular was issued, according to which the governors-general were allowed to give permission to all economic and state peasants who wished to do so, to move to the south of Ukraine.

The most consistent of the new colonizers tried to implement by personal example the thesis of the need to deport the indigenous population – the Crimean Tatars. Thus, the governor of Tavrida, A. Borozdin, relocated a thousand Russian serfs to his own village of Salby, and refused to rent land to the Tatars, as a result of which the latter were forced to leave their homes.

Fragment of the map "Crimean Peninsula with border lands", 1768-1774. Source - http://www.istpravda.com.ua
Fragment of the map “Crimean Peninsula with border lands”, 1768-1774. Source – http://www.istpravda.com.ua

As a rule, land was transferred to new owners free of charge or for a nominal fee: 1 ruble. for 6 tithes. P. Sumarokov, a contemporary of those events, later openly stated: “ Prince Potemkin made a considerable mistake in providing land. Instead of small plots of land for useful settlers, it was intended for thousands of tithes of boyars who left it unattended, or for unknown newcomers who had no idea exactly how to cultivate it . “Immediately after the capture of the Crimea, a large number of the best lands belonging to the khan’s family were confiscated. The lands of those inhabitants of the peninsula who hastily left them during the arrival of Russian troops went to the state treasury. All these lands were declared “empty” and “vacant”. At the same time, the interests of the peasants who lived on these lands were not taken into account at all, because the majority of the population did not have any documents on them. The following fact is known: in the summer of 1799, 12 large villages of the Baidar Valley were suddenly surrounded by tsarist soldiers and gendarmes. Arriving in the village, they ordered the residents to leave their homes immediately, because this area now belonged to a new owner – Count Mordvinov. In 1802in Feodosia district, the trial between the landowner Gramatikov and the Tatar community ended with the decision to evict 124 Tatar families from their own villages.

The new rulers of Crimea, who knew little about the peculiarities of southern agriculture, destroyed the region’s economy in a few decades, causing emigration among the Crimean Tatars on such a staggering scale that even some Russian officials sounded the alarm. Thus, in 1800, the military governor-general of Novorossiysk I. Michelson wrote about the growing number of Tatars and the danger of unrest among them, believing that “the reason for this may be their landlessness and brutality of exploitation of the peasantry .” He wrote that before the Tatars ” from time immemorial were free, never belonged to anyone “, and the tribute was in the form of a voluntary agreement on the land and was not subject to or meant citizenship and did not make the Tatars employees of the landlords». However, the government ignored Michelson’s appeal. Probably more attractive for St. Petersburg was the opinion of M. Mordvinov, who said: ” When Crimea belongs to Russia, then, in my opinion, it is not necessary to make Russian land Tatar land .” It should be noted that more openly expressed, another influential man – Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire O. Obreskov ” Russia won the Tatars and having rights under the military authority over them might even do them all at will, destroy them lead to take them into eternal and heavy captivity, to resettle them on earth in their great possessions or in their own lands, holding them as slaves . ”

One of the consequences of the capture of Crimea was the uprising among the Crimean Tatars. However, they were local in nature and the government’s response was immediate. B. Wolfson wrote: “ Those suspected of agitation or sympathy for Turkey were punished without mercy. The pacification of the region took place only after the complete extermination of a large part of the Tatars . ”

K. Bosolli. Tatars traveling in the steppe (mid-nineteenth century.)
K. Bosolli. Tatars traveling in the steppe (mid-nineteenth century.)

The plundering of the Crimean peninsula by the empire accelerated the mass emigration of Crimean Tatars. Greeks and Armenians followed them from the peninsula. The resettlement was suspended only in 1804 by Duke A. de Richelieu. He did not want to lose skilled land users who knew exactly how to cultivate the specific land of the peninsula. It is estimated that during the first wave of emigration from Russia to the Ottoman Empire left from 80 to 300 thousand people.The internal life of the peninsula was now ruled by Russian officials, who did not want to get acquainted with all the diversity of local Crimean life. Instead, they worked to eradicate everything local. According to the famous Soviet historian S. Bakhrushin, the victors ” devastated the country, cut down trees, broke homes, destroyed the sanctuaries and public buildings of the natives, destroyed water mains, robbed residents, mocked the Tatar service, threw from the graves the tombs of their ancestors and their ancestors.” for pigs, destroyed the monuments of antiquity .

Even after the authorities stopped the first mass wave of Tatar emigration, the current annual emigration outside Crimea continued. Throughout the nineteenth century. the flow of migrants from the Crimea was not interrupted.

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The project was implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation

Tetiana Bikova

Candidate of Historical Sciences, Scientist of the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

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