Monday, July 29, 2013

Soviet Heroes: Kyrgyz, Russian, and German

One of the places I visited in Talas Oblast was the Cholponbai Tuleberdiev memorial complex. This complex is dedicated to Kyrgyz heroes military and otherwise although unfortunately it has nothing on heroes from Kyrgyzstan belonging to other ethnic groups. Kyrgyzstan was and still is to a much lesser extent a poly-ethnic state. As such many of the contributions to the construction of the Kyrgyz SSR as well as accomplishments benefiting the USSR as a whole came from ethnic minorities in the republic. This was especially true during the Second World War. In addition to ethnically Kyrgyz hereos like Cholponbai Tuleberdiev from Talas Oblast there were Russians such as Ivan Panifilov, Ukrainians, Tatars and others. Some of these heroes such as Cholponbai Tuleberdiev are well remembered even today. The Kyrgyz SSR and today the Kyrgyz Republic, however,  has not remembered all heroes equally. There is a definite emphasis today on ethnic Kyrgyz heroes and a subsequent marginalization of the role of ethnic minorities. During Soviet times there was a greater emphasis on the international composition of the military during World War II, although Russians were given far more attention and credit than they deserved in comparison to other nationalities. One nationality that had already during the war been written out of the official Soviet narrative were the ethnic Germans. I have written about the contribution of ethnic Germans to Soviet victory over Naziism in both the Red Army and in partisan units elsewhere on this blog. A large number of ethnic Germans from Kyrgyzstan were among those Soviet soldiers that fought against Nazi Germany. In February 1942, the Soviet government awarded Afanasii Kluger from the German settlement of Luxemburg near the city of Kant just outside the capital of Frunze (today Bishkek) the order of the Red Star for his earlier participation in the defense of Moscow (Krongardt, p. 235). The role of ethnic Germans from Kyrgyzstan and other areas of Central Asia in the Soviet military during World War II remains a seriously under researched topic.

Sources cited:

G.K. Krongardt, Nemtsy v Kyrgyzstane: 1880-1990 gg. Bishkek, "Ilim" 1997.

This is a statue of Cholponbai Tuleberdiev who was posthumously awarded the medal Hero of the Soviet Union after sacrificing his life in a battle on 6 August 1942  in order to save the other men fighting besides him. He was only 20 years old.

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