Thursday, July 10, 2014

Stalinist Terror in Kyrgyzstan

According to the official history text book used here in Kyrgyzstan, Stalinist repression during the 1930s was quite severe. The most readily available and easily accessible version of this text goes by the title of Istoriia Kyrgyzstana (s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei) 100 ekzamenatsionnykh otvetov: Ekspress-spravochik (Bishkek: Mezgil, 2014). But, the author, O. Dzh. Osmonov has produced a number of different versions of the text. This particular version of the text has four pages (205-209) devoted to massive repression in the 1930s including dekulakization in 1931-1933 and the Great Terror of 1937-1938. This particular version of the text has absolutely nothing on the mass deportation of Karachais, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, and Meskhetian Turks to Kyrgyzstan in 1943-1944. But, I have seen another version of this textbook that does have a small section on the special settlers deported to the republic during the war. Osmonov puts the number of people forcibly deported from Kyrgyzstan to Ukraine and the North Caucasus as kulaks and bais during August to September 1931 at 6,000 families. He notes that a further 2,113 households were repressed within Kyrgyzstan in 1933. Finally, he states "A significant part of the innocent rural population suffered from mass repression." (p. 207). During 1937-1938 he notes that 40,000 people were repressed including 13,000 executions in the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic out of a total population of 1.4 million people. (p. 209). This means that including those deported and otherwise dispossessed during dekulakization that nearly 6% of the population of republic suffered from some form of state repression at the hands of the OGPU and NKVD during the 1930s. In proportional terms this would be the equivalent of 18 million people in the US today. The 13,000 people executed which included such important Kyrgyz leaders as Yusup Abdrakhmanov and notables such as the father of Chingiz Aitmatov who was buried at Chon Tash would proportionally be the equivalent of over 2.75 million people in the US today. Yet none of this is part of the popular collective memory of the Soviet era here in Kyrgyzstan, in Russia which is the legal successor state to the USSR, or among the vast majority of western scholars studying the region today. For most of these people David Satter's description "It was a long time ago, and it never happened anyways" seems to sum up the prevailing attitude.

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