“We don’t know who might come up this road,” says the 30-year-old, gesturing to a steep dirt pathway leading to the tiny pop-up village of Ana-Yurt. His eyes are dark with heavy bags, and he paces nervously, glancing at the horizon unremittingly while he speaks. He prefers when it rains, making it next to impossible for vehicles to ascend the hillside.
“We used to get a lot of sleep. It was very quiet until some weeks ago. Now it is very intense, and not safe for us,” he says.
Here, beyond a maze of serpentine dirt and gravel roads, atop a grassy bluff Ziyatdinov calls “the mountain” some 20 kilometers from the autonomous republic’s capital city, 200 families of Crimean Tatars, a predominately Muslim people whose roots can be traced back to Turkic and Mongol tribes, are building a new life for themselves after decades of living in exile in far-flung corners of the Soviet Union.