Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Kremlin’s Increasingly Positive Image of Stalin Leading to Whitewashing of Deportations, Specialists on the North Caucasus Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 15 – Moscow’s promotion of the Great Victory in World War II, the basis of the current regime’s legitimacy, has contributed to an increasingly positive image of Stalin; and that in turn, experts on the North Caucasus say, has led to a serious reduction of attention to the mass deportations and the whitewashing of this crime against humanity.

            On the one hand, they say, this shift means that ever fewer people in the region know about the horrific events surrounding deportation and its impact on many things to this day. But on the other, the failure to talk about this issue has not made it go away but rather driven it underground and contributed to radicalization of opinion.

            Those are just some of the comments academic experts and activists made during an online discussion organized by the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency on “The Deportation of the Peoples of the North Caucasus in Historical Memory and Politics Now.” Naima Neflyasheva provides a selection of their remarks (kavkaz-uzel.eu/blogs/1927/posts/40918).

            Among the most interesting are the following:

·         Viktor Shnirelman of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology says that “today, deportations during the period of the Great Fatherland War have been shifted to the periphery of historical memory so that they will not cast a shadow on the beautiful heroic picture” of that conflict the Kremlin wants to project. Many textbooks have dropped even the mention of the deportations, and those that do seldom provide a moral assessment of deportation, instead presenting it as a wartime necessity.

·         Akhmet Yarlykapov of Moscow’s MGIMO points out that “alongside the ‘officially’ deported peoples, entire groups of the population were also in fact deported” – and sometimes twice, being moved into areas from which others had been moved and then moved out when the latter returned.

·         Murat Shogenov, a psychologist at Kabardino-Balkar State University says that the one-sided approach the authorities now give to deportation is viewed by those who suffered as repressive. That may make memories of the deportation more marginal, but there are “risks” that what remain will become the basis of new conflicts.

·         Valentina Tanaylova of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology stresses that the situation varies from republic to republic with some republic leaders actively promoting the memorialization of the deportations while others have been trying to prevent that.

·         Madina Ramazayeva, a Grozny psychologist, says that her interviews with members of various generations show that there is in Chechnya almost a taboo among older people about discussing deportations.   

·         Anzhela Matieyva, an Ingush historian, says that in her republic “there are no problems with regard to the preservation of historical memory about the deportation. But Akhmet Kostoyev, an Ingush lawyer, says this is because everyone remembers given the continuing impact of deportations rather than because of any positive actions by the authorities. 

·         Tanzila Dzaurova, a specialist at the Ingush State Museum, says that unfortunately, there have been attempts recently to “justify the deportations,” adding that such efforts will “only make this problem more difficult and lead inter-ethnic relations into a dead end.” 

·         Kostoyev and Shnirelman offer some concluding remarks: Kostoyev says that any effort to “deny the criminality of the deportations” resembles attempt to “justify the Holocaust or other crimes against humanity.”  They must be countered. And Shnirelman adds that one of best ways is to integrate deportations into the more general issue of all who suffered from Stalinism throughout the USSR.

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