“It is better to die here than leave again”

With the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea on Saturday, villagers anxiously considered the prospect of a return of Russian rule, recalling Stalin’s forced deportation of the Muslim Tatars five decades ago. Like most residents, Mr. Murat returned to Crimea from exile in Central Asia in the early 1990s, and Crimean Tatars have lived in relative peace among their ethnic Russian and Ukrainian neighbors since then.

“Our people are peaceful, but if they threaten us, our men will defend the community,” Mr. Murat said. “It is better to die here than leave again.”…

As they braced themselves to protect their homes, many Tatars said they could not fathom why the Ukrainian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, abandoned his post. Mr. Murat’s weather-worn face was etched with new worries as he pondered how Ukraine ended up in such a precarious position.