Staunton, January 28 – A statement by the head of the Khakass Republic parliament that Stalin was fully justified in deporting the Kalmyks because so many of the latter had fought on the side of the Germans, a statement that has triggered anger in Kalmykia and forced Vladimir Stygashev to back down, is one of the dangerous consequences of Moscow’s current whitewashing of Stalin’s crimes.
That is because Stygashev said no more than the supporters of Stalin have in the past on the deportation of the Kalmyks and the other punished peoples. But such statements now in the age of the Internet and heightened ethnic sensitivities are increasingly dangerous, provoking demands for legal action or worse (doshdu.com/glava-parlamenta-hakasii-odobril-deportaciju-kalmykov-vo-vremja-velikoj-otechestvennoj-vojny/, kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/345309/, mbk-news.appspot.com/region/glava-xakasskogo-parlamenta/nazaccent.ru/content/32104-spiker-parlamenta-hakasii-opravdal-deportaciyu-kalmykov.html).
It is one thing not to talk about the past at all and quite another to try to get everyone to speak about it in exactly the same way. But unless all are prepared to – or can be compelled to do so – discussions about the past have a way of shattering the public peace of the present. Brezhnev shut down Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization effort because he found that out.
Now, an apparently obscure case involving the Turkic Khakass and the Buddhist Kalmyks and a long ago deportation may be teaching the leaders of the Putin regime that they would be well advised to do the same thing, if in fact that is possible at the present time in a country as diverse and still as relatively open as the Russian Federation now is.