In Memoirs of the Chechen Deportation: The Genocide Continues
By Abdullah Khan
The 23rd of last February marked the 58th anniversary of Stalin's deportation of the Chechen nation to Northern Kazakhestan and Siberia in 1944. The deportation was one of the most brutal episodes in the three-centuries-old conflict between Russia, whether Tsarist, Soviet, or "Yeltsinist" and Chechnya, a Muslim nation that celebrated when its population reached one million in 1991.
On February 11th 1943 the Politburo, the Communist Party's ruling executive committee, discussed the idea of "liquidating" Chechen-Ingushetia (today the Republic of Chechnya and its western neighbor, the Republic of Ingushia) and expelling the whole Chechen-Ingush nation on the accusation of "collaborating with the Germans". Lavrenty Beria, Stalin's chief of secret police and the "engineer" of the deportation, and Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin's successor, supported deportation rather than expulsion and the Soviets started planning to deport 425,000 Chechen and 93,000 Ingush in one night, an operation that nearly cost 150 million rubles. That was a phenomenal amount of money which could, at the height of the [Second World] War, have bought the Soviet government 700 new T-34 Tanks. On February 23rd 1944, the people of the Chechen-Ingushetia Autonomous Republic were to celebrate the Red Army Day in the public squares of every town. To their shock, the Red Army Forces had surrounded these public squares and each Russian military commander started reading the decree of the Supreme Soviet which ordered the deportation of the whole Chechen people to North Kazkhestan and Siberia. The Chechens had gathered to celebrate a "Red" holiday and they were told that they have been banished from their homeland forever! Kindly, the Soviets had allowed each member of the family to carry 20 kilos of baggage, and that was not the whole story.
The deportation was carried under the direct command of General Mikhail Gvishiani who ordered old folks, sick, pregnant women and young children to spend the night of 26th February 1944 in a stable-block in the village of Khaibakh after being deported from their home-villages. Gvishiani had told them that he would send cars or horses to carry them to the deportation centers in the morning. However, Gvishiani had other plans. He had stuffed the windows of the stables with straw and had the whole building doused with kerosene. When the rest of the "deported" people had left the village leaving their elders and weak behind to be carried by cars or horses as Gvishiani promised, Gvishiani ordered his men to set the building, stuffed with 600 people, on fire!
Later in 1957, Khrushchev set up a commission to investigate the "Khaibakh" massacre and the massacre was confirmed by Tikunov, the head of the commission who also assured that the "Chechen mass-treason" was nothing but a flimsy. That commission contributed to Khrushchev decision which permitted the Chechens to go back to their homeland (to find it, however, occupied by Russian and Cossack settlers and this added to their grievances even more). As for the "mass-treason" issue, Soviet army records showed that 30,000 Chechen and Ingush had served at the front during the war with the Germans (the so-called "Patriotic War") and many of them were made "Heroes of the Soviet Union".
Even if some Chechens had asked help from the Germans (just a mere assumption), then what was the crime committed by babies or women or elders burned at Khaibakh? Or what was the crime of the 30,000 (many of whom had died and were wounded) who defended the USSR against Germany? The Libyans called for and were supported by Germans against the Italian occupation during World War I, and many of the Egyptian patriots were based in France during their struggle against the English occupation of Egypt. It is rational for a small weak nation to call for help from a stronger one which is an enemy of the occupier of the small nation, especially when these occupiers had murdered, during their invasion process, 60% of the population of the weak nation, like what Tsarist Russia did in Chechnya. "Chechnya is not Russia. Chechnya was and is no more an integral part of Russia than Algeria was an integral part of France" says Sergei Arutiunov, a senior fellow in the institute of ethnic studies in the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The deportation process had yielded, during the first 5 years, 144,704 fatalities. That meant more the 25% of the Chechen nation at that time had died or were murdered during the process, plus the deportation of 425,000 Chechen. During the 1994-96 "Yeltsinist" war, the Chechens had lost more than 70,000 fatalities and 200,000 deportees. During today's six-month-old war, 30,000 Chechens were killed and 250,000 were deported, but this time not by train-cars and in peace as Stalin did, but on foot, passing mine fields and under massive shelling, that is the difference between 1944 and year 2000 in the eyes of many Chechens… and the genocide continues…
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