Thursday, December 28, 2006

63 Years Since "Operation Ulusy"

Sixty-three years ago the Stalin regime deported the vast majority of the Kalmyk population from their historic homeland to Siberia. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued Ukaz no. 115/144 on 27 December 1943. This decree bore the ominous title, “On the Liquidation of the Kalmyk ASSR and the Formation of the Astrakhan Oblast as a Part of the RSFSR.” This decree ordered that “1. All Kalmyks living in the territory of the Kalmyk ASSR are to be resettled to other regions of the USSR and the Kalmyk ASSR liquidated.” The next day the Council of Peoples Commissariats issued Resolution no. 1432-425ss calling for “all Kalmyks, living in the Kalmyk ASSR to be banished to Altai and Krasnoyarsk krais and Omsk and Novosibirsk oblasts.” On the same day the NKVD began the systematic round up and deportation of the titular population of the Kalmyk ASSR to Siberia. During 28-29 December 1943, the NKVD and NKGB forcibly removed over 90,000 Kalmyks from their homeland leaving virtually none remaining in the territory of the former ASSR named after them. Code-named “Operation Ulusy” this ruthless ethnic purge followed in the tradition of the earlier deportations of the Volga Germans in September 1941 and the Karachais on 2 November 1943. The Kalmyks found themselves swept far from their homeland on the Caspian Sea and deposited in the freezing climate of Siberia.

The Soviet security forces loaded the Kalmyks into train wagons giving them only a couple of hours to gather a few possessions to take with them into exile. They lacked warm clothes, shoes, adequate supplies of food and medicine. The trek eastward by rail in the dead of winter killed thousands of the deportees. They perished from exposure, acute typhus, tuberculosis, dysentery and other diseases related to poor sanitation. Upon arrival in Siberia this extreme deprivation and excessive mortality continued to afflict the Kalmyks.

The Stalin regime placed the Kalmyks under special settlement restrictions and employed them in agriculture, timber harvesting, construction projects, fishing and industry. Initially the majority of Kalmyks assigned to collective farms received no food. The NKVD housed many of the Kalmyks in barns and huts incapable of providing sufficient shelter. They lacked linen, clothes and shoes. In Novosibirsk Oblast only half of nearly 15,000 Kalmyk special settlers had proper clothes and shoes as late as 1945. These conditions all contributed to the high mortality of the deportees. The filth, cold and hunger they suffered from left them both more vulnerable to catching and perishing from communicable diseases. The Kalmyks proved especially susceptible to tuberculosis. In less than two years exposure, malnutrition and most of all epidemics had reduced the civilian Kalmyk population by nearly twenty percent. Live births only overtook deaths among the Kalmyks in 1949, more than five years after being banished from their homeland. For half a decade the material deprivation imposed upon the Kalmyks by the Stalin regime steadily reduced their population.

The Soviet government only allowed the Kalmyks to return from Siberia in 1957. For over 13 years they suffered in exile under the supervision of special commandants of the NKVD. No Soviet officials ever stood trial for this crime. Instead the USSR has retained a large number of apologists in the US and other countries.


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