Sunday, December 30, 2018

Stalin’s NKVD Burned Alive 705 Chechens It Couldn’t Easily Deport

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 30 – Thirty-five years ago, the late Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov told the author of these lines that the Soviets had done far worse things that the drowning of the residents of four Crimean Tatar villages that the NKVD had missed in its initial sweep (

            I had asked him during his visit to the US State Department about a case, disputed by many but later confirmed by Russian historians, that NKVD officers fearing they would suffer themselves if they reported that they had failed to round up all the Crimean Tatars when Stalin ordered their deportation.

            The Chechen historian’s response almost certainly refers to a case in Chechnya documented by the Podvig Center in 1990 in which Stalin’s officers rounded up 705 residents – men, women and children – in a stables in the village of Khaybek in the mountains and then burned them alive.

             This heinous crime against humanity first came to broader attention when Stepan Kashurko, a journalist during World War II wanted to track down the relatives of a Chechen soldier who had died a hero in the fighting against the Germans.  The Chechen carried letters showing he was from Khaybek (

            Kashurko visited Grozny and was told that Khaybek had existed before the war but existed no more. Because everything was secret, officials could not or would not tell him anything more.  Doku  Zavgayev, the first secretary of the Grozny obkom, however, did say, “that ‘they burned people during the deportation.’” 

            The journalist says he returned to Moscow and sought archival documents in Gorbachev’s time. The Soviet president gave him permission to investigate further and so Kashurko returned to Chechnya and ultimately visited were Khaybek had once been to seek witnesses. There he was asked to head a special commission on the Khaybek genocide.

            He found two witnesses who described what the Soviets had done and how Beria had taken part in a celebratory dinner in Grozny while the people were being burned to death in Khaybek.  At 11:00 pm, Beria even telephoned Stalin: “the expulsions are taking place normally, There is nothing requiring your attention.”

            Appropriately, the stables where the 705 Khaybek residents were murdered was named for Beria.  Later in 1990, local officials opened a criminal case against the NKVD commanders. But they weren’t able to move the case forward.  There was too much Russian resistance, and then there was the Russian invasion of Chechnya.

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