Staunton, January 11 – Two days ago, on the anniversary of the day in 1957 when Moscow restored the Chechen-Ingush ASSR, Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov said “Russia has apologized for the deportation of the Chechen people,” an action in which more than 500,000 people were forcibly exiled and 125,000 died (doshdu.com/ramzan-kadyrov-rossija-izvinilas-za-deportaciju-chechenskogo-naroda/).
Kadyrov’s words and especially their timing are certain to offend many Chechens. After all, they fit into the Russian narrative that the deported peoples should celebrate their return to their homelands rather than mark the day on which Moscow deported them to Siberia and Central Asia.
The Chechens and Ingush were deported on February 23, 1944, a date both peoples hold sacred but that for the first ten years of his rule, Ramzan Kadyrov ignored, shifting it to May 10th to mollify Moscow which marks that day as Defender of the Fatherland Day and to play down the anniversary by linking it to the anniversary of his father’s death.
Whether he will do so again in 2020 remains uncertain. Kadyrov’s actions last year may have been response to Yunus-Bek Yevkurov’s decision to defer to the opinions of the Ingush people (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/02/for-deported-peoples-stalin-remains.html), or Kadyrov may have wanted to send a protest to Moscow over the corruption arrests in the region.
Moreover, the Chechen leader may have decided on this step to show his anger at Russian military types who have become increasingly angry at and even alarmed by Kadyrov’s independent stance. Or he may have been affected by the increasingly powerful Chechen sector of the Internet which very much wants the commemoration to be on February 23.
But one Chechen university instructor provides what could be the real reason: Kadyrov has declared 2019 to be the Year of the Galanchozh District. It was there that one of the most horrific events of the deportation occurred when dozens of men, women and children were rounded up in buildings and then burnt to death.
Not marking the anniversary last year could very well have triggered the kind of violent protest in that mountainous region that Kadyrov, ever mindful of his own reputation as the man who pacified Chechnya and keeps it under control, certainly doesn’t want or need at the present time.
Earlier, Kadyrov has shown himself ready to follow the Kremlin as far as these anniversaries are concerned. In 2008, for example he announced plans to move the deportation monument that had been erected in 1992 from the center of Grozny to its outskirts and erected a high fence around it. In February 2014, he began its complete demolishment in advance of the Sochi Olympics (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/02/window-on-eurasia-tragic-anniversary.html).
Not surprisingly, most Chechens were furious, especially since the memorial featured a listing of the villages Stalin’s forces destroyed and a call “never to forget” the tragedy (wordyou.ru/v-rossii/pamyat-ne-slyshit-prikazy-sverxu.html, islamrf.ru/news/russia/rusnews/31212/, nazaccent.ru/content/10696-memorial-zhertvam-stalinskoj-deportaciii-chastichno-perenesli.html and islamrf.ru/news/russia/rusnews/31228/).
Many Chechens say Ramzan Kadyrov has wanted to destroy the monument because it was designed and built by Dzhokhar Dudayev, the first president of Chechnya-Ichkeria, and because in the minds of many, the monument is also to the Chechen resistance against the Russian invasion of the early 1990s.
His words this week are of a piece of that approach in effect ignoring the suffering of the Chechens and other punished peoples and excusing Moscow’s actions because its leaders have apologized.