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.


Anonymous said...

Here is an excerpt of Ismail Baichorov's reminiscences, which I quoted in my article on the deportation of the Karachais, that shows the sick absurdity of the whole affair:

"From 1940 through June 1943 I served in the ranks of the Red Army as a first lieutenant. I was the commander of a reconnaissance platoon during part of my service and the commander of a rifle company. I was seriously wounded on two different occasions. For excellence in battle I was awarded both the First and Second Class Orders of the Patriotic War, and a series of combat medals.
After I was demobilized due to injuries I worked as military instructor in the school in my home town, Verkhnyaya Tebarda.
On 2 November, 1943, an officer of the NKVD burst into my home and announced that according to Order No. 00415, issued by the Supreme Commander in Chief Comrade Stalin, all Karachays were to be moved to a new location. He gave us 30 minutes to pack. I, a Soviet officer in full uniform, and my entire family, were sent to Kyrgyzstan within half an hour."

(I. Baichorov, "Za Polnuiu Pravdu," S. Alieva, ed. Tak eto bylo: Natsional'nye Repressii v SSSR 1919-1952 gody, Volume One. Moscow: Rossiiskii Mezhdunarodnyi Fond Kul'tury, 1993, p. 312.

J. Otto Pohl said...

Walt, thanks for the contribution. The Alieva collection has a lot of very good material in it. The section on Karachais is particularly excellent, but the parts on other groups are also valuable. I think it does a good job on the Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks as well. The Alieva collection still stands out as one of the better collections on the deported peoples 15 years after its publication. Its use of memoir material such as the piece you cite is one of its strong points.