Thursday, March 12, 2020

As Time Passes, Balkars Focus on Moscow’s Failure to Live Up to Its Promises Afterwards and on What They Share with Other Punished Peoples

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 7 – This week marks the 67th anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of 40,000 Balkars from their North Caucasus homeland. Forty percent of those sent to Central Asia never returned, and most of those who did have passed from the scene. As a result, the commemoration of this crime against humanity has begun to shift.

            Instead of focusing exclusively on the experiences of those deported, although those are not being forgotten, their descendants are devoting ever more attention to the failure of the Soviet and Russian governments to live up to their promises to redress what took place in 1944 and they are recognizing their ties to other punished peoples.

            This generational change has occurred among all those deported by Stalin, but it has been particularly in evidence with the Balkars this year perhaps because those remembering the past also want to call attention to the ways in which it has affected them in the KBR where they are a minority in that bi-national republic (

            But it also appears to be taking place and may be accelerated on these anniversaries by the growing awareness the current generation that its members face a recrudescence of Stalinism in the Russian Federation and that they have a fight on their hands, one that they can only hope to win if they avoid falling victim as they have in the past to a divide-and-rule approach by Moscow.

            That possibility is suggested by Ingush rights activist Magomed Mutsolgov in a blog post on the anniversary of the deportation of the Balkars. “It is greatly t be regretted,” he writes, “that in our country the ideas of Stalinism are still cultivated and that his followers still … back his methods of force and terror toward other peoples” (

            “But I am certain,” the Ingush writer says, “the time is coming when everything will change. Instead of force and terror will come peace and well-being. We only need to pursue that … The Ingush know what you have had to suffer; and on this day, we together with you share your pain.”

            And this should serve notice to those who have assumed that with the passing of the last immediate victims of the deportations, these memorial days will become less important. Instead, there is every possibility that they will become more so, especially if they lead to greater unity among the descendants of the first victims.

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