Sunday, August 19, 2018

Ethnic Russian Revolt in Chechnya in August 1958 and Its Demands Recalled

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 19 – Sixty years ago this month, ethnic Russians living in Chechnya revolted against the authorities when Moscow allowed the Chechens who had been deported from there in 1944 to return and take back property and power that had passed from that ethnic community to Russians the authorities had moved in to occupy the territory.

            In 1957, the Russian7 portal notes, Nikita Khrushchev restored the Chechen-Ingush ASSR that had been disbanded at the time of the deportation of those two peoples and allowed the survivors to return home.  “But it turned out that their former homes were occupied and that they had nowhere to live” (

            The absence of housing and jobs for the returnees led the Chechens to turn their anger on the Russians, something that resulted in clashes, attacks “and even murders on an ethnic basis,” the portal continues.  On August 23, two Chechens attacked two Russian workers in Grozny, killing one of them with their knives.

            News of that spread like wildfire through the city. Russian workers demanded that the authorities allow them to have a civil funeral at the workplace of the two Russians. But the local officials, who were now primarily Chechens and Ingush, refused. And when the funeral was held, speakers called for “a collective letter on ‘the Chechen question’ to Moscow.”

            The funeral took place on August 26. Its 800 attendees left the cemetery and marched on the oblast party committee, picking up additional Russians as they went. At 7:30 pm, the crowd stormed the obkom building. They got inside, destroyed property, and remained there, until local police forced them out at midnight, only to be forced out again in turn by the Russians.

            On the morning of August 27, a new crowd, mostly consisting of Russian women assembled at the obkom building. They again occupied the building and distributed “’anti-Chechen’ broadsides” throughout the city. And at 8;00 pm on that day, Georgy Shvayuk arrived from a sovkoz near Gudermes and took charge.

            He brought with him a draft resolution that called for renaming the Chechen-Ingush ASSR “the Grozny Oblast or the Multi-National Soviet Socialist Republic,” allowing no more than ten percent of the population of this region to be Chechens or Ingush, to resettle the surplus, and to “deprive the Chechen-Ingush population of all advantages relative to other nationalities.”

            The Russians at the obkom building supported that idea and marched to the telephone exchange in order to send their document to Moscow. But the local police surrounded that building and shot into the crowd, wounding two Russians, to prevent them from doing so. Shvayuk did an end run around them and sent it from the main post office.

            To underscore their protest, some 300 Russians went to the city railroad station where, Russia7 reports, they blocked the Rostov-Baku train for almost two hours, regaling the passengers with details of what was happening in Grozny and ensuring that the story would get out.

            Finally, Moscow sent in units of the Soviet army, arrested those Russians they identified as ringleaders, and sentenced Shvayuk to ten years in the camps. In addition, criminal charges were filed against 58 others.

            “It is interesting,” Russia7 continues, “that all these repressions involved only Russians. The revolt was simply put down without any solution to the nationality problem. As a result, this led to new disorders in Grozny in January 1973 and to the tragic events of the 1990s.”

            It is also interesting, although the Russian portal doesn’t mention it, that many in the Putin regime today have an interest in doing away with ethnic republics and replacing them with oblasts and krays named for cities that recalls the demands of the suppressed Russian protesters 60 years ago.

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