The Crimean Tatars are one of the oldest groups of people of Islamic faith in Europe with a long and sometimes painful history of deportations, oppression and genocide. The annexation of their homeland by the Russian Federation in 2014 left a profound impact on the cultural memory and social reality of the Crimean Tatars: During and after the annexation, there were arrests, house searches by the occupying power, and thousands of Crimean Tatars were again exiled from the Crimean peninsula.
This makes projects such as the fairy-tale film “Hıdır Dede”, which shows how artists from Crimea and free mainland Ukraine are fighting together to preserve their national identity and cultural heritage, all the more important. ” Hıdır Dede” is thus far more than just a full-length first fairytale film in Crimean Tatar language.
In our Hidir Dede workshop, we actually wanted to watch the film together with Crimean Tatar film-makers, talk to them about their work and present the fairy tale film in Magdeburg and Halle, in the Altmark and in Leipzig with Crimean Tatar music and Crimean Tatar food. . . But here, too, we had to reschedule our program because of the Corona pandemic: many Skype meetings, online fairy tale lessons, small group research meetings, tandem text workshops were necessary to keep in touch with the artists on Crimea and they too with each other.
We discussed the historical background of the name Hıdır Dede, we watched videos from many other countries on this subject , translated, discussed costumes, fashion, music, geography and climate of Crimea. . . So we did everything that we can do from home.
The Story of Saint Hıdır
Khidr or al-Khidr (Arabic: ٱلْخَضِر al-Khaḍir), also transcribed as al-Khadir, Khader, Khizr, Khazer, Khadr, Khedher, Khizir, Khizar, is a figure described but not mentioned by name in the Quran, as a righteous servant of God possessing great wisdom or mystic knowledge. In various Islamic and non-Islamic traditions, Khidr is described as a messenger, prophet, wali, slave or angel, who guards the sea, teaches secret knowledge and aids those in distress. Some Muslims also regard him as a prophet. According to popular belief, al-Khidr (Hıdır) lives in secrecy and becomes visible only occasionally to individual people, although he can take on different forms. One of the most important bases for the Islamic devotion to Hidr is the Qur’an account of the pious servant of God who puts Moses to the test (Sure 18:65-82). On the basis of a hadith, a verse in this sura, Al-Khidr was recognized or equated as such a believer. Sufis and Dervish regarded him as one of their important role models because of this narrative. In a particularly close relationship, he also becomes the prophet Elijah from the Bible (or the righteous prophet Ilyas from the Qur’an). According to a popular belief, the earth is divided between al-Khidr and Elijah, both of whom are to meet once a year.
In Anatolia and among various Muslim communities in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, this meeting is celebrated on the 6th of May with the Hıdrellez festival. The Crimean Tatars in Germany also celebrate this festival, which has been listed as an intangible UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2016. Since the 18th century, Hıdır (Al-Khidr) is a popular figure in the Western and Central Europe literature as a spiritual guide for poets and people who follow a mystical path.
Hıdır Dede and the Corona pandemic
We would have liked to spend sunny fairytale days together with our youth groups and film-makers from Ukraine, but it was not even possible to come together in small groups at the “leak” time of the complete lock down. We were all the more interested in the fate of children, young people and artists in Crimea and Ukraine. As we learned in Skype talks, tens of thousands of tourists came to Crimea due to the disappearance of other attractions as Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus: they came from the so-called close foreign countries, the former Soviet Union, from Armenia, Central Asia and from the entire Russian Federation. Shifted to China and Central and Western Europe, the Corona virus spread all the more rapidly. Many people could no longer be admitted to regular hospitals, even birthplaces and sanatoriums were converted into corona stations.
In view of this situation, we were of course unable to implement our face-to-face plan, but we were working on translating the fairy-tale film from Crimean Tatar to German (under the guidance of Dzhemile Umerova), learned a lot about subtitling, film production and financing and would like to experience beautiful fairy-tale film screenings after the Corona period in Germany and Ukraine as well as organising discussions and film festivals!