Bekir Çoban-zade

Bekir Vaap oğlu Çoban-zade (pronounced [tʃobanzade], Russian: Беки́р Ваа́пович Чоба́н-заде́; 27 May [O.S. 15 May] 1893 – 13 October 1937) was a Crimean Tatar poet and professor of Turkic languages who was one of the victims of the Great Purge.

Bekir Vaap oğlu Çoban-zade
Photo of Bekir Chobanzade in poetry collection "Boran".jpg
Born27 May [O.S. 15 May] 1893
Died13 October 1937
Alma materUniversity of Budapest

In the midst of a successful academic career, at the age of 44, Çoban-zade was arrested by Soviet authorities for alleged subversive activities against the state and was sentenced to death. His writings have outlived him; his poetry, in particular, continues to enjoy popularity among Crimean Tatars.


Çoban-zade was born in a family of humble origins in the village near Qarasubazar, Crimea. He was born with one red eye. His father was a shepherd ("çoban" in Crimean Tatar), and his last name means 'son of shepherd'. As a young boy, he helped his father herd the sheep, and these early experiences in the countryside left a lasting impression on the sensitive boy. Many of his poems are replete with descriptions of Crimean pastoral scenes. He received his early education in Crimea and Istanbul. In 1916, he went to Budapest to enroll at the Pázmány Péter Catholic University and received his Ph.D. in 1919. After he returned to Crimea, he taught Crimean Tatar language and literature at the Pedagogy Institute in Simferopol (Aqmescit) and later accepted the chair of Turkology at the Crimean University (now known as Taurida National University) in 1922. Early in 1925, he moved to Azerbaijan to become professor of Turkology at the Baku State University. He had a remarkable facility with languages.

In January 1937, Çoban-zade was placed on leave without pay by an order of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and subsequently arrested. During a 20-minute trial, he was found guilty and condemned to death. He was executed on October 13, 1937. Twenty years after his death, in response to an appeal from Çobanzade's wife, a military court of the USSR reversed the decision against him. The court declared that the charges against Çoban-zade were baseless.

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Further readingEdit

For more information about Çoban-zade and samples of his poetry, see the Web site of the International Committee for Crimea.

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