Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Deportations Didn’t End with Death of Stalin and Plans for Them Didn’t End with Demise of USSR

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – Stalin deported approximately a dozen nations in the years around World War II and that he exiled large segments of others both before and after that time. According to Khrushchev, he also wanted to deport the Ukrainians but had nowhere to put so many. And he was planning to deport the Jews before his death prevented that.

            As the result of the work of Robert Conquest and others, that is widely known; but what is less widely known is that deportations did not end with the death of Stalin. In 1974, in fact, Moscow deported the 15,000 members of the Yagnob people from highland Tajikistan (

            What is even less widely known is that Boris Yeltsin and his government considered deporting the Chechens in 1994 in order to defeat that nation’s drive for independence. But now as Chechens mark the 77th anniversary of the Soviet deportation of the Chechens, some are remembering how close they came to suffering this a crime against humanity again.

            According to Irina Goubernik, a Russian teacher from St. Petersburg who now lives in Germany, “on December 1, 1994, Russian Prime Minister Chernoymyrdin issued secret order 1887-R, the content of which was unambiguous indication of the intention to destroy the Chechen Republic Ichkeria, the Chechen nation and the deportation of the remains of the population to Russian border areas – Astrakhan, Volgograd, Orenburg, Ulyanovsk and Saratov Oblasts” ( reposted at

            To be sure, she continues, “the word ‘deportation’ in this document was replaced by the word ‘evacuation,’ but those ‘evacuated were going to be kept there without the right of return. Plans for deportation, assimilation and the Russification of the Chechen people” were being worked on right up to and even after talks began between Moscow and Grozny.

            Fortunately, these plans developed by Moscow at the start of the first post-Soviet Chechen war were never carried out; but they are a clear indication of a dangerous continuity in the thinking of the rulers of the Russian Federation about what is appropriate and what is not in dealing with its subject populations.

            And they are why people of good will in the West and in Russia itself must continue to denounce not only the specific cases of deportation in Stalin’s and Brezhnev’s times but also the very idea that deporting people is in any way a legitimate way of dealing with those any state considers its own citizens.

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