Saturday, February 23, 2013
Sixty Nine Years Ago Today - The Deportation of the Chechens and Ingush
Today is generally called Defenders Day in the former Soviet states, but it used to be Red Army Day and commemorated the foundation of the Soviet military by Leon Trotsky. Of course Trotsky himself was airbrushed out of the holiday long before his murder in 1940. But, while most people in Russia and Central Asia celebrate on 23 February each year, the Chechens and Ingush do not. On Red Army Day in 1944, the Stalin regime celebrated the occasion by forcibly deporting virtually the entire indigenous population of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Within less than a week the NKVD forcibly removed close to half a million people from their ancestral homeland. Beria the head of the NKVD kept Stalin informed daily of the operation's progress. This massive act of ethnic cleansing had striking similarities with other instances of genocide such as the US government's forced relocation of the Navajos. The Stalin regime placed the Chechens and Ingush under special settlement restrictions and on 26 November 1948 declared their exile from the Caucasus permanent. In the years after Stalin's death in 1953, however, the Soviet government freed the deported peoples from the special settlement regime and allowed many of them to return home. Only the Russian-Germans, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetian Turks remained permanently exiled. The Chechens and Ingush managed to return in large numbers to a restored Chechen-Ingush ASSR after 1957. Nevertheless the deportation and years in exile had a traumatic and still lingering effect on the Chechens and Ingush.