Staunton, July 14 – Unlike in the Russian Federation, no on in Kazakhstan is putting up statues to Stalin, Anuar Galiyev says; but Astana isn’t doing enough to fight the recrudescence of support for the Soviet dictator among people too young to have experienced the horrors he inflicted on Kazakhs and other people.
It is far behind Kyrgyzstan and many other former Soviet republics, the prominent Kazakh historian says; and one step it should take immediately is the opening of a Museum on the Kazakh Famine, which was artificially created by Stalin and killed millions of Kazakhs ().
“In Kyrgyzstan,” Galiyev points out, “there wasn’t such a massive famine as in Kazakhstan, there weren’t as many GULAG camps – in our republic, their area exceeded the size of several European states, and there weren’t as many repressed people.” But it has a memorial where many of Stalin’s victims, including Chingiz Aitmatov’s father, are buried.
But Kazakhstan needs not only a Museum of the Famine, the historian says; it needs a Museum of the History of Deportations because so many peoples – the Koreans, the Germans, the Poles, the Greeks, the Meskhetian Turks, the Chechens and the Ingush, among them – were dispatched to Kazakhstan by Stalin and his system.
“It is necessary to return to people their history even if it is tragic,” the historian says. As German researcher Aleida Assman points out, “as long as a trauma is not overcome, it is not cured; and the only means of overcoming it is to talk about it.”
Galiyev also addresses the problem of Russian-Kazakh relations in Soviet times. “One should not consider Russia a metropolitan center in the classical sense of this word because it was just as much a colony of the Center in the form of the all-powerful communist party as were the other republics.”
“One can, of course, speak about the fact that in the national borderlands, the Center operated on the Slavic population, protecting it with the help of vairoius preferences, but this is certainly the subject of another conversation.” In the current context, one must stress that “the Slavic peoples suffered from Stalinism no less than we did.”
Fortunately in Kazakhstan, there is virtually no disagreement that Stalin was guilty of enormous crimes, even if some people have a kind of misplaced nostalgia about his times. But the real challenge now, Galiyev says, is fighting against indifference to the past because indifference can open the way to a new version of what must ever be allowed back.
But there is yet another reason for combatting Stalinism by keeping the memory of what it did to Kazakhstan, he argues. “Present-day Kazakh society has been formed by the descendants of nomads and peoples deported into our land. Now, the process of forming the Kazakhstan nation in a political sense is continuing.”
And that requires an honest assessment of the past, both its triumphs and its tragedies. “In this nation are included not only Kazakhs and Russians who remember about the hunger and repressions, not only the Uyghurs who have begun now to speak openly about Atu, the mass destruction by the Bolsheviks of Uyghur villages, but also Germans, Koreans, Vainakhs, and Greeks deported by Stalin to Kazakhstan.”
“This common wound and this common past unites us,” Galiyev says, “and therefore no one must ever forget about Stalinism and its victims.”