Staunton, February 22 – This week, when most Russians are celebrating a military holiday, the peoples of Chechnya and Ingushetia are marking with sorrow the 77th anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of their nations to Central Asia, an action that cost these two peoples almost a half million lives before the two peoples were able to return to the North Caucasus in 1957.
Scholars and activists are still disputing whether the Soviet deportation of the Chechens and Ingush was a preventative measure intended to block these people from cooperating with the German invaders or a punitive one reflecting the resistance the Chechens and Ingush had already shown long before 1941 (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/02/22/89331-tsar-deportatsiya).
But there is little question about although far too little attention paid to the horrific human costs of this Soviet action. Fortunately, on this anniversary, Chechen research Hasan Bakayev provides an extremely useful perspective on just how large these losses were and why they must never be forgotten (ichkeria.at/?p=16122).
In the years immediately preceding the 1944 deportation, both Soviet officials and émigré scholars agreed that the number of the two Vaynakh peoples, the Chechens and the Ingush, taken together exceeded 700,000. That is the figure to start with in calculating just how many of them died in this process.
According to Soviet officials, Bakayev says, 387,229 Chechens and 91,250 Ingush arrived in Central Asia after being loaded on cattle cars and sent from their homes. That means that a minimum of 223,500 were “lost” on the road as a result of hunger, untreated typhus, and repressions.
Of the 478,479 Vaynakhs who arrived in Central Asia in 1944, 395,479 remained alive twelve years later in 1956. That means that 83,479 of those deported died in exile. But the number of Chechen and Ingush deaths there is higher because between 1945 and 1950, more than 40,000 children were born there to these groups, official figures show.
No data are yet available for births between 1950 and 1956; but if at least as many births appeared each year of that period as did in the much harsher years right after the deportation, that means that at least 150,000 Chechen and Ingush children were born in Central Asia over the entire period.
What that means is that not 83,000 but “no less than 230,000” Chechens and Ingush died in Central Asia exile before being allowed to return; and that the total losses of the two nations from this operation was at least 453,500, an enormous figure not only in the abstract but even more awful relative to the size of these nations before Stalin moved against them.