SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- More than 15,000 Crimean Tatars gathered on May 18 in the center of Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, to mark the 67th anniversary of the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.
The demonstrators carried Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar national flags and banners with slogans such as "The deportation of 1944 should be recognized as genocide against the Crimean Tatars!" "Education in the Crimean Tatar language is the only tool against assimilation!" and "Crimea needs the status of Tatar autonomy within Ukraine!"
On May 18, 1944, on orders from Soviet leader Josef Stalin, the entire Crimean Tatar population was deported to Central Asia and the Siberian region of Russia for alleged collaboration with Nazi Germany.
The Crimean Tatars began returning to Crimea en masse in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and currently constitute 13 percent of the peninsula's 2 million population.
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