Saturday, February 23, 2019

For Deported Peoples, Stalin Remains ‘Enemy Number One,’ Ingushetia’s Yevkurov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – This weekend is the 75th anniversary of the deportation of the two Vainakh peoples, the Chechens and the Ingush, from the North Caucasus to the wilds of Central Asia, a genocidal event that continues to define how these two peoples see the world and especially their relations with Moscow.

            The Russian government has tried to play down this event in recent years given Vladimir Putin’s increasingly positive view of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator behind the deportation, and took two steps toward that end: playing up its own holiday of defenders of the country and rejecting calls by Ingush and Chechen activists that it be moved.

            Chechnya, whose government is more deferential to Moscow on such symbolic issues, has not made the commemoration nearly as important as has Ingushetia, whose leader, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, already in trouble because of the border accord with Kadyrov, could not afford to further alienate the people of his republic.

             In a television address that deserves to be highlighted, Yevkurov made statements that will win him sympathy from the Ingush, may make the deferential Chechen approach less sustainable in that republic, and quite possibly create problems for Yevkurov with Moscow given the direction it is going (

                “We, the deported peoples, including I, your humble servant, consider Stalin to be enemy number one for our people …. [Even though he worked through many agents like Beria and Kobulov,] Stalin personally took the decision. And therefore we consider him an enemy of the people,” Yevkurov said.

            “But we must take into consideration those Russians who do not consider him the enemy of the people.” That is the starting point, but we must be honest in our assessments. “As a military man, I do not agree with the interpretation that Stalin led the people to victory. If there had not been the mass repressions of the higher officer corps in 1937, the German Blitzkrieg might not have happened.”

            In that event, there wouldn’t have been taken prisoner in a matter of days 1.5 million of our soldiers and officers” or the even broader tragedy the peoples of the USSR suffered.

            Perhaps most daringly, Yevkurov continued by arguing that the commemoration of the deportation at the same time as the celebration of military glory has not been “an exception or an accident. This was a shameful plan” intended to hide the one behind the other, something for which there is no justification.

            “Deportation is a betrayal of our people, Archive documents confirm that all the representatives of our religious leaders declared a holy war against the Hitlerites.” The approximately 100,000 Ingush managed to sent 21,560 people to the front. “No people had a higher percentage of the adult population” take part in the fighting.

            “When we look at photographs about the deportation of our people in 1944,” Yevkurov continued, we see that most of those pictured are “children, the elderly and women because all the men were at the front.”  And when the Germans approached, the Ingush organized to resist them.

            All of that was ignored by Stalin when he decided to deport the Ingush. “February 23rd is the 15th anniversary of the deportation of the Ingush and Chechen peoples,” the Ingush head said. “They like other people accused falsely of ‘betraying the Motherland’ were exiled from their historic lands.”

            “More than 3.5 million people and the representatives of more than 60 nationalities became victims of totalitarianism,” Yevkurov continued. “In 1957, the repressed peoples, including the Ingush were rehabilitated.” And this weekend, he said, we mark this tragedy with commemorations “in all the districts and cities” of the republic.

            A speech like that might have been commonplace in the 1990s, a simple recitation of the facts. A speech like Yevkurov’s now by an official appointed by Putin, however, is a remarkable act of civic courage that will put him at odds with the Kremlin even as it will attract the support of the Ingush people who continue to be marked by the deportation and its aftermath. 

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