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 World Chechnya Day - 23rd February

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urban rose
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PostSubject: World Chechnya Day - 23rd February   Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:32 pm



World Chechnya Day is intended to commemorate the dignity and resiliance of a people who, against all odds, refused to be erased from existence.

On 23 February 1944, Stalin ordered the deportation of the entire Chechen and Ingush population to Central Asia. More than half of the 500,000 people who were to be forcibly transported died in transit or in massacres committed by Soviet troops. Those who survived the journey were left facing starvation and disease in the harsh winters of Siberia and Central Asia.

Within days an entire people had been erased from the land of their ancestors. Overnight Chechnya and Ingushetia were emptied of their native inhabitants, and every reference to Chechnya was removed from official maps, records and encyclopaedias.

In 2004, sixty years after the event, the European Parliament passed a motion that recognised this catastrophe as Genocide.

23rd February is World Chechnya Day. It is a day that few are aware of and yet none should forget.

http://www.worldchechnyaday.org/page/Home


Last edited by urban_rose on Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:36 pm; edited 2 times in total
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urban rose
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PostSubject: Re: World Chechnya Day - 23rd February   Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:33 pm

Please take the time to read the following....

History
On the 23 February 1944 the Soviet Union set in motion the immediate deportation and exile of the entire Chechen and Ingush peoples to the steppes of Central Asia. In the depths of winter they were subjected to summary massacres and food shortages: it was a solution no less final or brutal than the one being inflicted on Jews in Europe. By conservative estimates half of the population died though the proportion that perished is probably much greater.

In January 1944, tens of thousands of NKVD troops arrived in the tiny mountainous republic and fanned out to almost every settlement in the region. On Red Army Day, February 23, in every town and village the men were summoned to meetings in the local Soviet building. None suspected the calamity that was about to befall them and all came willingly. Instead of celebrations the gathered crowds were read the Decree of the Supreme Soviet which announced the complete deportation of the Chechen and Ingush people for treason and collaboration with the German enemy.

There was no evidence to support the claim of Chechen collaboration with the Nazis which rather was a pretext used by Stalin to dispose of a population that had hitherto refused to submit to Moscow's will. In fact the German advance had never reached Chechen soil, stopping just short of the border. Moreover Chechen soldiers had distinguished themselves in the major actions of the Second World War. Chechen soldiers had been awarded medals and decoration far greater than their numerical proportion in the Soviet army. However in the end even the soldiers were not spared. They were removed from their units and sent directly to the Gulags of Central Asia.

In each town Studebaker trucks (provided by the United States in wartime lend-lease) rolled up to be loaded with Chechen men, women and children at gunpoint. These trucks transported their cargoes to the nearest railway points where the people were crammed into bare cattle-trucks with no food and utterly inadequate clothing. Villagers from the remote mountain settlements were forced to march down to the plains. Stragglers were shot as was anyone who resisted. Pregnant women, elderly people and others deemed to require too much effort to transport were killed. One documented instance is of 700 women, children and old people who were burnt alive in the mountain village of Khaibakh. These massacres occured throughout the republic and the empty Auls (mountain villages) smouldered for weeks after.

Within days, with ruthless efficiency, an entire people had been erased from the land of their ancestors. Overnight Chechnya and Ingushetia were entirely depopulated; cartographers were instructed to expunge all references to them from official maps, records and encyclopaedias.

On February 29 Lavrentii Beria, Chief of the NKVD Secret Police, wrote to Stalin:
"I report the results of the operation of resettling Chechens and Ingushi. The resettlement was begun on February 23rd in the majority of districts, with the exception of the high mountain population points... 478,479 persons were evicted and loaded onto special railway cars, including 91,250 Ingush. One hundred and eighty special trains were loaded, of which 159 were sent to the new designated place."

For almost half a million Chechen and Ingush people on their black odyssey across the frozen tundra, an ordeal of monumental suffering had just begun. The sealed trucks were crowded with families - men, women and children of all ages - in freezing, cramped conditions with no toilet or washing facilities. Typhoid epidemics swept through the crammed cattle-trucks, killing many in scenes that must have resembled those of Buchenwald and Auschwitz. Little food was provided; the weak and ill were finished off by hunger and cold. Along the way they were treated to contempt and abuse by local populations who had been told that the people in the trucks were being punished for collaboration with the enemy.

At one of the railroad stations Dimitri Gulia, the prominent Abkhazian educator, witnessed a scene of surreal despair:
"... an unbelievable sight: an extremely long train... jammed full of people who looked like Caucasian Mountaineers. They were being sent off somewhere east, women, children, old people, all. They looked terribly sad and woebegone... These are the Chechen and Ingush and they were not travelling of their own free will. They were being deported. They had committed 'very serious crimes against the Motherland'... "

The trucks were frequently searched for corpses which were simply thrown from the train to the side of the rail tracks. To avoid this fate for their kin, the Chechens tried desperately to disguise or hide the corpses in the hope of giving them an Islamic burial at their journey's end.

After several weeks of travel the Chechens were scattered in remote locations across present-day Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Little or no provision was made for food or shelter for the hundreds of thousands of deportees who were mostly left to fend for themselves.

As a historian at Moscow State University wrote two decades later:
"... The most fearful and irremediable blow to the Chechen-Ingush people was struck in the first two or three years, when starvation and the most dreadful diseases obliged them to bury tens of thousands of their fellow tribespeople in the steppes of Central Asia."

In the years that followed thousands were to die of pneumonia and hunger in exile. It was a catastrophic episode in the already tumultuous history of the Chechen people. Within living memory they had already suffered a long war against the full military might of the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century, followed by large-scale enforced emigration. Many families were scattered and never able to reunite.

The settlements of the deportees were in effect large penal colonies. The most trivial infringements of the rules punished by imprisonment or hard labour. Yet as the Russian writer and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn described in The Gulag Archipelago, the Chechens' will to survive endured.

"There was one nation which would not give in, would not acquire the mental habits of submission -- and not just individual rebels among them, but the whole nation to a man. These were the Chechens... I would say that of all the special settlers, the Chechens alone showed themselves unbroken in spirit. They had been treacherously snatched from their home, and from that day they believed in nothing... The Chechens never sought to please, to ingratiate themselves with the bosses; their attitude was always haughty and indeed openly hostile... And here is the extraordinary thing: everyone was afraid of them. No one could stop them from living as they did. The regime which had ruled the land for thirty years could not force them to respect its laws."

Conditions for the Chechens remained severe until after the death of Stalin in 1953. Soon afterward Chechens were making official representations in Moscow for permission to return to their homeland. Indeed a trickle of Chechens had already started to illegaly return to their homes. In 1956 at the 20th Party Congress, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev acknowledged the wrongs that had been done the Chechens and the other exiled peoples. The trickle of returnees had by this time become a flood and despite the authorities best efforts to prevent the Chechens returning - often bringing with them the bones of their kindred in order to bury them in their ancestral graveyards.

But their lives could never really return to what they had been before 1944. Many of the ancient mountain Auls were in ruins and uninhabitable, forcing most of the Chechen people to live in the plains for the first time in their history, and irrevocably altering their mountain ways. The massive loss of life among the elderly inflicting grave damage on Chechen culture and disrupted a rich oral tradition that had stretched back many centuries.

The evil of the deportations lived on in memories, poverty, ill-health, and the bitterness spawned by these sufferings. Returning Chechens also found that their homes had been given to Russian and Dagestani settlers from whom they had to be purchased back and few were able to do so.

The deportations represented a personal and collective catastrophe for each of the Chechen nation.

The trauma and disruption inflicted by the genocide and the Chechens' subsequent ordeals cannot be overestimated, and the memories and grief are keenly felt by the Chechen people to this day...
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