Staunton, July 4 – In August 1937, Stalin ordered the deportation of all the ethnic Koreans from the Russian Far East, the first time he had called for such action against an entire nationality and a model, often forgotten today, for the subsequent deportations of the punished peoples of the Caucasus and the north-western part of the USSR.
Most of the 175,000 Koreans were moved to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and their descendants are now trying to recover their language and national identity despite the obstacles first of Soviet power and then of the post-Soviet governments (beda.media/special/koryo-saram-v-chirchike-istoriya-koreyskoy-diaspory-v-centralnoy-azii).
The Beda news portal spoke with Svetlana Tsay, a Korean activist in the Uzbek city of Chirchik who did not begin learning Korean until she was 36 but now teaches the language to some of her compatriots and promotes the recovery of both the language and the identity of that nation. Dialect
Because of the lack of linguistic contacts with Korea, she says, the Korean language of the first Russian Koreans has changed to the point that it is a dialect, once close to the language spoken in North Korean but now closer to that spoken in the south, although this division, she concedes, follows generational lines.
Between 1937, the time of deportation, and April 1991, when the USSR was collapsing, Korean had no official status in the Soviet Union. After Uzbekistan gained independence, it began to promote “the rehabilitation of the Koreans” and their language. But progress has been slow. The old remember, but many of the young are now leaving to go to South Korea.