Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Kalimatov Tries to Satisfy Both Moscow and Ingush and Likely Fully Pleases Neither

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – In the run up to this year’s commemoration of the 77th anniversary of the deportation of the Vaynakh peoples in 1944, both Chechens and Ingush insisted as they have earlier that they don’t want to combine that day of sorrow with the Russian holiday, the Day of the Defender of the Fatherland.

            The latter should be moved to some other date, they have suggested, because the former must be forever marked given the tragic consequences the events of 1944 have had on these two nations in the North Caucasus. But Moscow has insisted, putting its minions in the region in a difficult position.

            (Chechen officials have tried to avoid this problem by shifting the commemoration of the deportation to May 10 so that Grozny can mark the Russian Day of the Defender of the Fatherland without problems. But most Chechens have not accepted this new date as legitimate (

            Perhaps no better bellwether of the way things are going in this regard is the behavior of Ingush head Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov who as so often has done precisely what Moscow wants but nonetheless tires to avoid further offending the Ingush people lest they resume the mass protests which topped his predecessor.

            His government organized events to mark both memorial days, something that likely offended many Ingush who believe that the deportation deserves to take precedence, especially as the last survivors of that crime against humanity are near death and soon won’t be able to tell their stories.

            Moreover, both ordinary Ingush residents and many Ingush leaders openly say that combining the two events is “a symbol of the contradictions” in state policy that must be resolved if the Ingush people are to deal with the past and move toward a better future (

            In his speech on the occasion of the deportation anniversary, Kalimatov said many of the right things; but it is unlikely that most Ingush feel he went far enough to emphasize that the deportation, not the Russian Day of the Defender of the Fatherland must take precedence (

            “As a result of Stalin’s genocide,” the Ingush head said, “more than half of the number of our people perished. During the years of exile, the Ingush people passed through difficult tests … and women, the elderly and children tried to survive while the best sons and daughters of the Ingush people shoulder to shoulder with their compatriots heroically fought” against the fascists.

            Kalimatov continued: “After the deportation, the Stalinist authorities did everything in order to eliminate memory about the Ingush and exclude them from the list of the peoples of the USSR. On March 7, 1944, the Chechen-Ingush ASSR was liquidated.” Later cultural and historical monuments were destroyed, and both books and archives were as well.

            “During the 13 long years in exile,” he says, the Ingush people were animated by “the daily expectation of their return to the land of their fathers and ancestors. But this did not destroy the strong spirit of the Ingush people. With dignity, they overcome this most difficult and bitter period in their fate and history.”

             As a result, the Ingush head said, they “preserved their language, culture, customs and traditions and what is most important, their love for their Motherland.” For Kalimatov, that motherland is the land ruled from Moscow; for the Ingush people, it is increasingly something smaller but dearer. 


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