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PUSHKIN CLUB - Donald Rayfield on the Crimean Tatars

The Crimea has never been just a Russian province, nor were the Crimean Tatars just a local minority. For most of its 3,000 years of history the Crimea has been an extraordinary refuge where very different peoples — Greeks, Jews, Goths, Huns, Khazars, Kypchak and Ottoman Turks, Italians —and different religions — Orthodox and Catholic Christian, Jewish, Sunni, Shia and Sufi Islam — lived with minimal conflict.

Russia ruled the Crimea for some 170 years (1786-1954); the Crimean Khanate, under descendants of Genghis Khan ruled it for the previous three centuries.  Portrayed by Russian historians as 'savages on horseback', the Tatar population has been oppressed to the point of genocide, its culture destroyed, and its rulers maligned as tools of Russia's enemies, even by historians with access to the documentation. This talk is aimed at redressing the balance. The Crimea may not have been a paradise, nor the Tatars angels, but this was a civilisation and a political power that deserves respect.


Born 1942, educated at Dulwich College and the University of Cambridge, Donald Rayfield has been most of his life a lecturer and then Professor of Russian. In 1973 he first visited Georgia and has since then written ahistory of Georgian literature, edited A Comprehensive Georgian-English Dictionary and recently published a history of Georgia (Edge of Empires), which will soon be published in a Russian edition. He is also the author of a biography of Anton Chekhov and a study Stalin and his Hangmen, both of which have been translated into other languages, including Russian. He has translated a number of Russian and Georgian poets, playwrights and prose writers and written on various topics in comparative literature. He is now working on a study of the Crimean Tatars.

This is a Pushkin Club event and all are welcome.