February, 23 is the tragic date for Chechen and Ingush people. This year they mark 75th anniversary since the beginning of overall deportations of these ethnic groups to Central Asia by the Stalinist regime. In 1944, almost half a million people were exiled from the land of their birth, a lot of them found themselves in the barren (at that time) steppes of Qazaqstan. As a result, about four thousand Chechen and Ingush people by now live Qazaqstan. Forced migrants and their descendants consider Qazaqstan their homeland.
At different periods of time, the territory of Qazaqstan became home for different ethnic groups: the Decembrists were exiled here at the beginning of the 19th century, furthermore so-called ‘traitors’ were tortured and killed in the local torture chambers during the era of Stalinist repression.
In the course of the Second World War, Qazaqstan became a place, where people from all corners of the Soviet Union were evacuated or deported. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, a large number of Soviet scholars and artistic creators had been evacuated to Qazaqstan. They had good living conditions. For the needs of the evacuated theater artists the musical theaters were rebuilt into an academic one. A situation with people that were deported to Qazaqstan was far worse.
The Soviet authorities blamed Chechen and Ingush people for collaboration with the German fascist invaders. As a punitive measure the Chechens and the Ingushes were deported to Qazaqstan. Today, the version remains under sharp dispute.
At the same time there were other ideas, explaining deportations of Chechen and Ingush people. Thus, military experts believed that in the eyes of the Soviet political elite, the Chechens did not inspire confidence because of their non-Slavic origin and religious beliefs. Turkish researchers believed that Stalin was guided by the policy of pressure on Turkey, whose actions during the war, the Soviet Union perceived as ‘hostile neutrality’. According to the researcher Dalkhat Ediyev, the forced deportation of the Chechens and the Ingushes was caused by a hidden confrontation between the army and the NKVD. Chekists, according to Ediyev, used deportation mechanisms to raise their rating.
On March 7, 1944, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a decree according to which the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was to be liquidated, and the inhabitants of the republic became ‘special settlers’. Under a term ‘special settlers’ in the soviet times understood a certain group of people forcible removed from their place of birth or native settlement for religious, economic purpose, and divest of any constitutional or any other rights.
Shortly before the publication of the decree in the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, three opinions were expressed regarding the deportation of Chechen and Ingush ethnic groups. So, Molotov, Zhdanov, Voznesensky and Andreev set forward a proposal to resettle people immediately and to abolish the autonomous republic. Stalin, Khrushchev, Kalinin, Beria, Kaganovich and Voroshilov, in turn, had no objection regarding the deportation of the people, however they considered that that scenario might come true only after the liberation of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR from the German fascist occupiers.
It is believed that the leadership of the USSR was preparing for the forced deportations of Chechen people in the spring of 1942. The Chechens being strong Muslim believers did not eat pork, but pork was the main source of nourishment in the Red Army of that period. This fact made impossible to recruit them, it slowly led to stop their mobilization.
In October-November 1943, the deputy commissar of the NKVD Kobulov visited the republic. He wrote in a note addressed to Lavrentiy Beria on November 9, 1943, that the country was being torn apart by an endless cycle of gang violence.
On January 29, 1944, Commissar of Internal Affairs Lavrentiy Beria approved the ‘Instruction about an order of deportation of the Chechens and Ingushes”.
The last cattle train with the deported people (by the way, the party leadership and religious leaders were the last to leave their Motherland) arrived in Qazaqstan on March 9, 1944. In total, during the deportation 180 cattle trains with 493,269 migrants were involved. On the way, 56 people were born, and 1,272 people died. The Soviet leadership explained this by the old age of the deportees, as well as by the high percentage of chronically sick and physically weak citizens.
In the midst of war, the military personnel, who at that time served in the Red Army, was also deported. The military personnel was ordered to go to Qazaqstan and be available shortly for the special settlement departments of the NKVD of the Qazaq SSR.
It is an interesting fact, that the Ingush and Chechen women who married representatives of other nationalities were not deported. However, representatives of other nationalities who married the Chechens and the Ingushes were harassed. They had the right to avoid deportations only by divorcing, but this fact did not save their children.
In order to save space in the car, designed for 28-32 people, in fact there were placed 45 people. But these kind of cars were considered to be comfortable: later, in a hurry, some cars were filled up to 150 people per car.
By April 1, 1944, 4,800 Chechen and Ingush people had fallen ill with typhoid fever, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases of poverty.
Lack of food during the trip exacerbated the problem. According to the documents of the NKVD, ‘special settlers’ had to be provided with food from personal resources. After arriving in Qazaqstan, the ‘special settlers’ were distributed among local regions. The Karaganda region received most of the deportees (43,925 people), and the West Qazaqstan region got the least (only 4 people). The authorities tried to somehow ease the lives of the immigrants: they provided them with meat and dairy cattle, bread grain, raw materials for the manufacture of fur clothing and children's shoes, and timber for housing. However, local authorities were not able to respond positively to all requests for aid. The shortage of living space and food, the epidemic of diseases and the ongoing war had left their imprint on the process of adaptation of the new comers.
Among people deported to Qazaqstan there were a number of representatives of the the Chechen and the Ingush, who later took an important place in the history of their ethnic groups and left us a rich heritage.
A famous People's Artist of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR Vakha Tataev from the beginning of his arrival in Qazaqstan worked as a Director of the Jambul Regional Theater, from 1945 to 1948 he acted as a Deputy Director of Alma-Ata Theater for Children and Youth. Later, he acted as a Deputy Director of the Qazaq State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet named Abay and a Deputy Director of the Philharmonic Theatre named after Jambul Jabayev.
It is worth to note the classics of the Chechen literature. They are Abuzar Aydamirov and Arbi Mamakayev, poets Raisa Akhmatova, Musa Geshayev, Shima Okuev, Ilman Yusupov and Umar Yarychev, journalists Adiz Kusayev, Elbrus Minkailov and Khamzat Sarakaev, writers Shaikhi Arsunkaev, Musa Beksultanov.
Qazaq people also remember such remarkable theater actresses of the last century as Tamara Aliyeva and Khava Khakisheva.
It is important to mention scientists of the Chechen origin, that were deported to Qazaqstan. A prominent political and public figure, Abdulhakim Salamov, was at the camps at the time of the beginning of the deportation. After serving his sentence he moved to Almaty. There he started publication of the first after the death of Stalin Chechen newspaper ‘Kinhiegaman Bayrakh’.
Forcible displacement of the Chechens and the Ingushes took long thirteen years. After the death of Joseph Stalin and the shooting of Lavrentiy Beria in 1953, the deported peoples had hope of returning to their Motherland. The most prominent figures of the Chechen diaspora in Qazaqstan pleaded the Soviet authorities for a permission to get back home. The rehabilitation process was delayed for years.
On November 14, 1956, the Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution, on the basis of which Chechnya and Ingushetia were re-established as autonomous republics. This document allowed all deportees to get back home. But when the Chechens returned, only 73,000 were able to live in their own home. The others could not even reclaim their property, because they were occupied by Russians or other neighboring ethnic groups.