Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Was Departure of Roma from Chemodanovka ‘Voluntary,’ ‘Forced,’ or ‘a Deportation’?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 18 – In the wake of this weekend’s violence, all 900 Roma from there have now left Chemodanovka for locations beyond the border of Penza oblast. But there is now a debate as to how “voluntary” their departure was or whether as a result of official pressure, it rose to the level at which it could be described as “a deportation.”

            Roma leader Artur Gorbatov said the Roma had moved on their own volition, desirous of avoiding further conflicts (rusmonitor.com/vsjo-cyganskoe-naselenie-pokinulo-chemodanovku-28-cygan-arestovano.html). But the Russias Newsru agency said their departure was “forced-voluntary” because officials made it clear they wanted them to leave and helped them to go by provi   ding buses (newsru.com/russia/18jun2019/gypsy_penz.html).

            The After Empire portal, based abroad, however, described what has happened as the return to Russia of “ethnic deportations” (afterempire.info/2019/06/18/deportacija/).  It cited the words of Sergey Fadeyev, a leader of a rural soviet, that all the Roma had been compelled to go and that they will not be returning anytime soon.

            The Roma were supplied with buses and all Roma were put on them to go tot Volgograd Oblast where the local Roma diaspora agreed to receive them, Fadeyev said. He continued that they were “forced” to get on the buses, although apparently some went of their own volition out of fear of further violence. 

            Fadeyev then told journalists that the property the Roma had left behind would be disposed of once officials figured out who really owned it, implying that it probably doesn’t belong to them at least any longer.

            “How does this differ from the total deportations in Stalin’s time of the Chechens, Kalmyks, Meskhetian Turks, Crimean Tatars and others, when the entire ethnic community is held responsible for the actions of some of its members?” the editors of After Empire ask. The only difference is tin these “more humane times,” they are carried off in buses, not cattle cars.

            Very shortly after Fadyev made his statement to the media, his immediate boss, Vyacheslav Fomichyov, the head of the Bessonovsky district, declared that there had been no deportation. Indeed, according to him, there had been no buses at all. Fadeyev for his part quickly backpedaled taking back everything he had said earlier.

            The only question, one the answer to which is likely to emerge in the coming days, is when he was telling the truth: before Fomichyov intervened or afterwards?

            In fact, the deportation of ethnic groups did not end with the death of Stalin as many imagine.  In March 1970, 17 years after Stalin’s death, the Soviet regime deported the entire Yagnob people, more than 10,000 in all, from their homeland in highland Daghestan to the lowlands to ensure better control of the border.

            They were moved by helicopter but just as those before and after them, they were compelled to leave and many who left suffered and even died as a result (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/10/yagnobs-last-nation-soviets-deported.html). It now appears that post-Soviet Russia has continued this horrific tradition with the Roma. 

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