Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Partial Deportations from the North Caucasus that Few Remember and Few Address

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 18 – Every year on the anniversary of their wholesale deportation to Central Asia, the Chechens, Ingush, Karachays and Balkars remember their respective tragedies and the efforts admittedly far from complete to address them and restore their positions in their North Caucasus homelands.

            But there are many more North Caucasians who were deported to Central Asia and Siberia in Soviet times who are almost entirely forgotten either because they were dispatched for non-ethnic reasons such as religion or class or because they were deported only in part. And their tragedies have not yet been addressed or overcome. 

            Arsen Malikov of the OnKavkaz portal spoke with two individuals who have special knowledge of these groups in Daghestan, Mukhammed Tsezi, the president of the National Cultural Autonomy of the Dido Nationality, and Zurab Gadzhiyev, a historian of the republic (onkavkaz.com/news/2157-repressirovali-celymi-tuhumami-raionami-i-narodami-kogo-vyseljali-iz-dagestana-do-i-posle-chech.html).

                Gadzhiyev says that in the 1920s and 1930s, the deportations there were “above all socio-economic rather than ethnic.”  But over time, they involved ever more people of particular nationalities.  During World War II, some small groups such as the Didos were deported completely, first to Chechnya and then further; but many others were dispatched only in parts.

            But that didn’t make their fate “any less tragic.” Many died; and when they were finally allowed to return home, their houses had been burned or occupied. And when the larger nations did, they were forced out of places where they had been living to allow the “bigger” nations space.

            Often, Tsezi says, because they were deported only in part, these small peoples resisted with many of their members going into the mountains to resist. Soviet forces were sent after them and many on both sides were killed, but the tradition of resistance lived on, something for which the authorities blamed the people.

             Gadzhiyev lists some of the numerically small but unique peoples who were deported and whose future is thus at risk.  Especially in danger are those who became part of Daghestan when the Chechen-Ingush republic was dismantled and then reassembled. Most of the ethnic and land conflicts in highland Daghestan are the direct result of this change.

Sometimes, those who did not want to be part of the restored Chechnya moved and sought land in the countryside or housing in the villages. In the first case, they often entered into conflict with members of other ethnic groups who were in possession; and in the second, they changed the ethnic balance in the villages.

Unfortunately, both experts say, the authorities prefer not to address the problems of these punished peoples either under the provisions of laws adopted to help those nations deported en masse or under special rules. And as a result, many of these small groups are at the edge of extinction, the direct result of Stalin’s deportation of their ancestors. 

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