Thursday, October 08, 2009

The False Charges of Treason Against the Deported Peoples Part I

Most scholars as opposed to Stalinist hacks have long maintained that the decision to deport the Kalmyks, Karachais, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars and Crimean Tatars had very little to do with the official Soviet claim that these people were guilty of mass treason and collaboration with the Nazis. Even the exaggerated and unsubstantiated charges made by Beria only accused 10% of the Crimean Tatars of serving in German units. A report from Kobulov and Serov to Beria on 22 April 1944 claims that 20,000 Crimean Tatars deserted from the 51st army in 1941. A direct translation of their message reads, "20 thousand Crimean Tatars deserted in 1941 from the 51st army as it retreated from Crimea." (Bugai 1992, doc. 2, p. 131). This claim was made despite the fact that the NKVD's own Section for the Struggle Against Banditism had only verified 479 cases of desertion and shirking of military service from the Red Army in Crimea for all nationalities versus 1,666,891 for the Soviet Union as whole for the years 1941 to 1944. (Bugai 1992, p. 286). Beria then repeated the claims of Kobulov and Serov in a message to Stalin with some alterations on 10 May 1944. His report states, "From sections of the Red Army in 1944 deserted more than 20 thousand Tatars who betrayed the Motherland, and went over to serve the Germans with arms in their hands and fought against the Red Army..." (Bugai 1991, p. 107). It is probable that Beria meant 1941 rather than 1944 since the information appears to have come directly from the earlier communication by Kobulov and Serov. The source for the 20,000 figure is unknown, but is probably an exaggeration. Soviet intelligence reported a total of 15,000 Crimean Tatars serving in eight German organized battalions in April 1942. (Bugai 2002, doc. 30, p. 62) In contrast the German enlistment records for these battalions show only 9,255 Crimean Tatars serving in them. (T.S. Kulbaev and A. Iu. Khegai, pp. 206-207). A number of these men died during the war and and others retreated to Germany with the Wehrmacht and avoided forced repatriation to the USSR. Which means that over 90% of the Crimean Tatars deported by the NKVD on 18-20 May 1944 were completely innocent. Since the vast majority of the deportees, more than 80% were women and children, this is not surprising. (Williams, p. 336) The condemnation of nearly 150,000 innocent women and children to eternal exile in Uzbekistan and the Urals as special settlers for the alleged crimes of 20,000 men represents one of the most disproportionate collective punishments ever carried out. Despite its immense brutality this crime still has a great many defenders among Russians and others seeking to rehabilitate the Stalin regime today.


N.F. Bugai, ed., "Deportatsiia: Beriia dokladyvaet Stalinu..," Kommunist, no. 1, 1991.

N.F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat'": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii. Moscow: "Druzhba narodov", 1992).

N.F. Bugai, ed., Deportatsiia narodov kryma: Dokumenty, fakty kommentarii (Moscow, Insan, 2002).

T.S. Kulbaev and A. Iu. Khegai, Deportatsiia (Almaty: Deneker, 2000).

Alexander Statiev, "The Nature of Anti-Soviet Armed Resistance, 1942-1944: The North Caucasus, the Kalmyk Autonomous Republic, and Crimea," Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, vol. 6, no. 2, Spring 2005.

Brian Glyn Williams, "The Hidden Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims in the Soviet Union: The Exile and Repatriation of the Crimean Tatars," Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 37, no. 3 (July 2002).


WR said...

There was also a lot of disinformation concerning the Balkars' deportation. From the original draft of my book, which unfortunately I had to significantly edit:

It had long been assumed that the notion of deporting the Balkars was first proposed in January 1944. Additionally, in his memoirs Z. Kumekhov, First Party Secretary of Kabardino-Balkaria, asserted that he vehemently opposed the deportation, which he only learned of on 25 February. However, Balkar historian Khadzhi-Murat Sabanchiev has recently illuminated the process through which the decision to deport the Balkars was made. On 20 February NKVD Chief Lavrenty Beria arrived in Grozny to supervise the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush. At the same time two documents were prepared in Nalchik. The first described the location and numbers of the Balkar population. The second stated that despite the all the efforts made by the Communist Party to help the Balkars a portion remained hostile to Soviet power, and that agents had informed the Party of a counter-revolutionary movement among Balkar nationalists. Therefore, the note concluded, it was necessary to deport the entire Balkar nation. The notes were signed by Kumekhov, local NKVD Chief K. P. Bziava and local NKGB chief S. I. Filatov. Beria signed the second note on 24 February, and on the same day reported to Stalin that during the occupation “the Balkars were negotiating with the Karachays about the unification of Balkaria and Karachay,” 1227 “bandits” had been arrested, and that “362 people fled from Balkaria with the Germans.” It should be remembered first that 1227 represented three percent of the 1939 population of Balkaria (assuming all the arrestees were Balkars) and 362 was less than two percent of the entire number of people who fled the North Caucasus with the Nazis. It seems that Beria had already decided to have the Balkars deported and was merely looking for “a suitable cause,” as Stalin had phrased it a quarter century earlier prior to the deportation of the Cossacks. These three “facts” apparently suited Beria as sufficient, for in the same telegram he recommended the deportation of the Balkar nation as soon as the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush was completed. Stalin replied affirmatively the next day. On 26 February Beria issued Prikaz (Order) 00186 entitled “On Measures to Resettle the Balkar Population from the Kabardino-Balkar ASSR.” In the order he recommended transferring one raion to North Ossetia instead of Kabarda. This proposal was rejected; Elbrus and Prielbrus raions were transferred to Georgia and the remainder to Kabarda, which was renamed the Kabardin ASSR.


Bugai, Nikolai. "Deportatsiia: Beriia dokladivayut Stalinu," Kommunist 3 (1991), pp. 101-12.

Pohl, J. Otto. Ethnic Cleansing in The USSR, 1937-1949. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Sabanchiev, Khadzhi-Murat. “Vyselenie Balkarskogo Naroda v Gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny: Prichiny i Posledstviia,” Murad Esenov, ed. Tsentral’naia Asiia i Kavkaz. Online. Available HTTP: (Accessed 10 April 2006).

J. Otto Pohl said...


Thanks for the comment. I am going to give it a post of its own because it is quite long and important. Also I was reading Ediev's book the other night and he has pretty convincing proof that the decision to deport the Balkars came before the accusations of treason. That is they decided to deport the Balkars and then came up with the false charges of treason to justify the deportation later.

pearl said...

Dear Otto,
I sent my response to Crimea-L. Thank you for pointing out the errors in these reports relating to the deportation of Crimean Tatars (Part I). I assume you will report on other ethnic groups deported from the Caucasus as well.
Inci Bowman
ICC, Washington, DC