Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Deportation and Return of Vainakh Peoples Continue to Cast a Dark Shadow on the North Caucasus

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 9 – Sixty-two years ago today, Moscow allowed the Chechens and Ingush it had deported to Central Asia 13 years earlier, actions that continue to cast a dark shadow on the two Vainakh nations and their relationship with each other and with Moscow, Mairbek Vachagayev says. 

            Indeed, one cannot understand the passions behind the border dispute between the Ingush and the Chechens and the Chechen aspirations to play a larger role in Daghestan if one is not aware of what happened not only when these peoples were deported to Central Asia during World War II but also when they came back in the late 1950s. 

            The Chechen commentator and activist who earlier served as Ichkeria’s representative in Moscow says that on this anniversary, the Chechens and Ingush are dealing with problems “similar to those which existed in 1957” (

            Beginning in 1954, the Soviet state began to loosen its control over the deported peoples, Vatchagayev says.  By 1956, it has become clear that the authorities were not going to be able to keep the Chechens in Kazakhstan for much longer. “Almost all the entire adult poulationrefused to declare that they would not leave their current place of residence.”

            “Nevertheless, the adoption of the decree about the return of the Chechens, Ingush, Karachays and Balkars (permission for return to former place of residents was not given at that time to Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks) to their historic place of resident dragged on for years.”

            Vatchagayev says that “if in 1957, approximately 140,000 Chechens and Ingush arrived immediately – about a third of the entire number of deportees,” others couldn’t return because their homelands were in Daghestan’s Aukhov district or other restricted zones.  Many were then concerned that “the political situation in the country could change at any time” and thus rushed to take advantage of this window.

            The government wasn’t prepared for the mass return, one that it quickly lost control of. On their return, they discovered that people from Russia and Ukraine were in occupation of their homes and land and were completely unprepared to give way to those whose homes and lands these had been.

            The Soviet authorities told those from Russia and Ukraine not to leave, apparently fearful of a radical shift in the ethnic composition of the population, but the Russians and Ukrainians ignored that restriction and left quickly, thus creating new problems elsewhere when they left, the Chechen analyst says.

                The massive and unexpected arrival of Chechens and Ingush “led to the first social clashes in Chechen-Ingushetia,” Vachabayev says.  “The first public explosion of this kind was an ethnic Russian rising in 1958 in Grozny against the return of the Chechens. Protesters shouted: “Chiechens, Get Out of Grozny!” and “Bring new Russian migrants into Grozny!”

            To suppress this rising, the Soviets had to send in troops. 

            There were similar clashes over many years between Ingush returning to the Prigorodny district of North Ossetia which had been occupied by Ossetians and in Daghestan when Ingush were blocked from going back to their villages by the Soviet authorities. And there were clashes between Chechens and Russian officials in Chechnya because the Russians restricted where the Chechens could live.

            The lack of a resolution of land issues “and also the discriminatory policy of the state toward the deported peoples as far as cadres were concerned and regarding native languages led to a continuing intensification of the socio-political situation in the region,” Vachabayev continues.

            “Many questions have not been resolves even six decades after the decision of the state to restore the rights of deported peoples,” and anniversaries are occasions when memories of these injustices are especially strong.

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