Monday, November 03, 2008
65 Years Since the Deportation of the Karachais
On 2 November 1943, Soviet security forces forcibly resettled almost the entire Karachai population of nearly 70,000 people from their North Caucasian homeland to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The Soviet government then dissolved the Karachai Autonomous Oblast and divided its land among other administrative territories. It also changed many of the geographical place names of within the region. It completed this ethnic cleansing by sending the Karachais living outside their national oblast or serving in the Red Army to join the rest of their kin in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In exile in Central Asia the Karachais came under a series of legal disabilities that separated them from most other Soviet citizens. Classified as “special settlers” the Soviet regime imposed severe restrictions on the residency and movement rights of the Karachais. They also lived in conditions of extreme poverty and thousands died prematurely of malnutrition, disease and exposure. In the years after Stalin’s death there arose a movement by Karachai activists to lobby Moscow for the right to return to their former homeland. The Soviet government allowed the Karachais to return home to the Caucasus only after 1957. They, however, did not restore the borders of the Karachai Autonomous Oblast. Instead the Soviet government created a Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous Oblast by combining most of the former territory of the Karachai Autonomous Oblast with the Cherkess Autonomous Oblast. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the Karachai population in exile in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan opted to return to their ancestral homeland during the next few years. By 1960 over 80% of the Karachai population lived in this new administrative region. For more than a dozen years virtually the entire Karachai population lived as exiles and second class Soviet citizens in Central Asia far from their Caucasian homeland.