This month we would like to recognize Dr. Refat Appazov, a prominent and yet not widely known scientist of Crimean Tatar origin who advanced the Soviet Rocket Program and actively advocated for the rights of displaced Crimean Tatars in the former USSR.
Refat Appazov was born on September 8, 1920 in Simferopol, Crimea in a family of Crimean Tatars. After school he entered the Bauman University of Physics and Technology in Moscow that during the Second World War was evacuated to Izhevsk, Russia. Being away from home during the deportation of Crimean Tatars, a crime committed by the Soviet government at the end of WWII, saved Refat from the forcible exile. After his graduation from the university in 1946, Refat was sent to Kaliningrad (now Korolyov) near Moscow to work at the Scientific and Research Institute for Rocket Technology where he met Serhiy Korolyov. It was due to Serhiy Korolov’s strong personal support and petitions to the top levels of the governments that Refat Appazov was kept in the program despite the enormous pressure from the Soviet authorities against him as a Crimean Tatar. He was able to work under Korolyov’s leadership on the space program of the USSR for about 20 years. In 1961-1988, Dr. Apazov headed the Ballistics Department participating in the development of the R-1 ballistic missile, the first Soviet nuclear missile, the first artificial Earth satellite, and the first intercontinental missile. He was engaged in the preparation of the first manned flight into space, the first communication satellites, developing flights to the Moon, Venus and Mars, manned and transport ships, Energia-Buran program. In 1959-1993, professor Appazov taught students at the Moscow Aviation Institute.
In mid-1980s Dr. Apparov actively joined the reviving Crimean Tatar national movement. In early 1990s he worked on the State Commission on Crimean Tatars (working on their repatriation), was a delegate to the Kurultay (the Supreme Council) of the Crimean Tatar people and later a member of the Presidium of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people.
He died in Korolyov in 2008 and in keeping with his will was buried in the Crimea.
Besides his scientific works, Dr. Appazov wrote articles and publications about the rights of Crimean Tatars advocating for their return to the Crimea from places of displacement.
Here are some quotes from his book Traces In the Heart and Memory that unfortunately reappear relevant again now, 20-30 year after they were written, as Crimean people continue to suffer, now from the Russian encroachments.
“There is no doubt that the Crimean land, the Crimean air, the Crimean nature yearn for our [national folk] songs as much as I do; without them Crimea has become impoverished, tarnished … Our Crimea - if you take away not even the whole people, but if only its melodies, - will begin to collapse, disintegrate, it will cease to bear that unique culture that has grown ripe here for centuries. The people cannot be torn away, separated from their native land, just as the land cannot be left without its people that make it fertile by watering it with their noble labor sweat. Undoubtedly, there are unbreakable bonds between the people and their native land.”
“In accordance with the principles of equality and self-determination of peoples, each state is obliged to refrain from any violent actions that deprive peoples of their right to self-determination and freedom. These peoples seeking to exercise their right to self-determination have the right to turn to and receive support in accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We have to state regretfully that state of the rights of peoples proclaimed by high international agreements if compared with the real situation on keeping these rights would be as close as comparing a doll to a living person or idealistic dreams to the reality. The reason for such a disproportion is extreme indecisiveness and inconsistency of the UNO in using the means that are at its disposal to influence its members that violate human rights.”
“The Crimean Tatar people, having gone through all torments of hell, continues to show unprecedented patience respectfully treating all the peoples with whom they have been in close contact for centuries of their history. In hoping for mutual understanding, Crimean Tatars would like to draw closer attention of the international community to its situation counting on support in the struggle for its rights."
U.S.-Ukraine Foundation thanks Mr. Mubeyyin Batu Altan of the American Association of Crimean Tatars for sharing information about Dr. Appazov and drawing attention to this prominent scientist and human rights activist.