Staunton, January 17 – Forty-eight years ago, Ingush activists demonstrated for three days in Grozny, then the capital of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR, to demand the return of the Prigorodny district from North Ossetia. Moscow dispatched soldiers and firemen to disperse them who did so with clubs and water cannon.
The Prigorodny district had been part of the binational republic before it was disbanded when those Vaynakh peoples were exiled to Central Asia but never restored to them after the Chechens and Ingush were allowed to return. Because its population was predominantly Ingush, the Ingush took the lead in seeking its return, even fighting and losing a war over it in 1992.
On this anniversary of the 1973 protests, Ingush are recalling that this was not the only example of discrimination they continued to suffer after returning from their deportation. The republic was not allowed to develop economically in order to force young Ingush to leave to find work (fortanga.org/2021/01/miting-ingushej-v-1973-m-kak-proekcziya-na-protesty-v-2019-m/).
Frequently, communist officials and the intelligentsia in Ingushetia raised these issue=s, “but no one paid any attention. Then in 1972, 27 Ingush communists sent an appeal to the CPSU Central Committee.” Moscow’s response was to expel the communists from the party and fire them and the intellectuals who signed the appeal from their positions.
Subsequent efforts to appeal to Moscow brought similar responses. As a result, the Ingush people took to the streets on January 16, 1973 and remained there for three days. They behaved in an “absolutely correct” manner – they even carried pictures of Brezhnev -- and only demanded that the Prigorodny district be returned or combined with Ingush regions in an Ingush ASSR.
But on the evening of the third day of the protest, the authorities struck back, using water cannot to douse the crowd in freezing weather and forcing it to disperse. Those who took part lost their jobs and those who were party members were expelled from the CPSU after being subject to denunciations by their former comrades.
The issue didn’t go away, however. Six years later, North Ossetians engaged in anti-Ingush pogroms, which lasted into 1981 because the KGB did not move to stop them as it had moved against the Ingush.
In a commentary on this anniversary, the Fortanga portal notes that “in 2018-2019, history repeated itself. From October 2018 to March 2019, Ingush again took part in peaceful meetings and also tried to defend their rights.” But on March 27, the powers staged a provocation, arresting more than 200 and bringing criminal charges against 40.
The subsequent crackdown in Ingusheta has been so severe, the portal says, that “the activity of civil society of Ingushetia has been practically paralyzed. The powers react negatively to any manifestation of activism, harshly blocking it, subjecting NGOs to repression, and arresting the leaders of civil society.”
“As we see,” Fortanga concludes, “the USSR of 1970s was more human and law abiding.” At that time, public actions were banned, but people who disagreed with the state were not kept in jail for “years” – unlike “unfortunately what is happening in large numbers in the so-called ‘Russian Federation.’”