Monday, February 11, 2019

New Book Traces Remarkable History of the Ingush National Movement Since 1956

Paul Goble
            Staunton, February 11 – A new book, The National Movement of Ingushetia, 1956-1973 (in Russian, Magas) by Ingush historian Nurdin Kodzoyev, shifts Ingushetia out of the shadow of its fellow Vaynakh people, the Chechens, and shows that in many ways, the Ingush were pioneers in the creation of an effective national movement in the last decades of Soviet power. 

            Released two weeks ago, it has generated a large number of video discussions (e.g., and is now the subject of a review by Ekho Kavkaza’s Timur Akiyev ( What follows is based on those two sources rather than on the book itself. 

            Kodzoyev was urged to write this book by Serazhdin Sultygov, a member of the Popular Assembly of Ingushetia. According to Sultygov, the Ingush national movement passed through three stages after the return from Central Asian exile.  The first, from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, as dominated by efforts to get the Soviet authorities to allow other Ingush to return home and to restore the Chechen-Ingush ASSR Stalin had disbanded.

            The second stage, in 1972-1973, involved demands by the Ingush for the return of the Prigorodny district which was illegally transferred to North Ossetia at the time of their deportation. And the third, from 1988 to 1992 was when the Ingush restored their statehood within the USSR and then the Russian Federation.

            All these stages, Sultygov says, are reflected in the book.  But the new publication devotes particular attention to the national meeting which took place in January 1973, an event important “not only in the history of the Ingush people but in the history of the Soviet Union as a whole.” Under totalitarian conditions, people went into the streets to demand their rights.

            Despite its historic significance, Kodzoyev, the author of the book says, “practically nothing has been written about those events.” He thus took it upon himself to gather all the documents he could and to interview as many survivors from those times as he could find. His book and its illustrations are in large measure a reflection of those efforts.

            The history of the 1972-1973 events says a great deal about the nature of the Soviet political system and also about the Ingush approach to promoting the rights of that people. As the book shows, Akiyev says, “everything began with the letter of a group of communists sent to the CPSU Central Committee in the spring of 1972.”

            The letter detailed the ways the party leadership in the Chechen-Ingush ASSR were violating the rights of the Ingush and both the letter and spirit of Leninist nationality policy.  Moscow reacted by sending a commission which expelled some of the authors of the letter from the party but did not go further.

            That action failed to curb the enthusiasm of the Ingush for pushing their agenda. The authors then sent a second letter to the CPSU Central Committee which was if anything far sharper than the first, denouncing the leadership of the North Ossetian and Chechen-Ingush oblast party committees for their “anti-Ingush activities.”

            Further, the second letter called for the return to the Ingush of all their territories, the creation of an autonomous and separate Ingush Republic “not excluding the possible variant of establishing and Ossetian-Ingush ASSR” rather than the existing Chechen-Ingush one. This letter was hand delivered on a second attempt, the book documents.

            The CPSU Central Committee told the authors of the letters that they did not represent the views of the Ingush people. To show them how wrong they were, the authors assembled in Grozny hundreds of Ingush, despite concerted efforts by the republic authorities to block the arrival of Ingush from outside the city.

            The demonstrators remained in the city square for three days, but during this period, there were no illegal actions by the demonstrators, “no anti-Soviet statements.  On the contrary, people held portraits of Lenin and carried slogans praising the internationalist policy of the communist party,” a policy they said the republic officials were violating.

            Finally, officials decided to disperse the crowds not by police action but by offering buses to take people home. Some left, but many did not – and they were subject to the kind of repressive measures typical of Moscow’s approach to demonstrators and the non-Russian nations to this day.

            The appearance of this book deserves to be widely marked because it shows two important things. On the one hand, the Ingush will work within the system to promote their goals as long as the system gives them an opportunity. And on the other, they are sufficiently committed to their national agenda that they will go “extra-systemic” if the system forces them.

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