Deportation of Chechens and Ingush in 1944.

The former Soviet Union was a state consumed by suspicion and paranoia, where government officials relentlessly hunted for supposed “enemies of the people” and “Nazi accomplices”. This resulted in frequent and often constant forced resettlement of those deemed undesirable. In one of the most notorious cases, over 400,000 Chechens were forcibly removed from their homes by NKVD officers in just eight days in February 1944. Today, the successor state of the USSR, Russia, is using the Chechen population to bolster its war efforts against Ukraine. This imperialistic attitude serves to reinforce the notion that both the USSR and Russia are colonizers who exploit the people and resources of the territories they occupy. This article delves into the reasons behind the Soviet Union’s swift and brutal deportation of the Chechens.

Prerequisites for deportation

During the German-Soviet war from 1942-1944, the Nazis only managed to take control of a small area in the extreme northwest of Chechen-Ingushetia, a region that was then part of the USSR. However, after the Soviet army drove the Nazis out of the Caucasus, the Soviet leadership accused the Chechens of collaborating with the enemy. Chechen political scientist Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov sheds light on the reasons behind these accusations in his book “Genocide in the USSR: The Murder of the Chechen People.”

According to Avtorkhanov, the Chechens’ constant struggle for national independence and their refusal to recognize the Soviet regime made them an uncomfortable presence for the Soviet Union’s leadership, leading to oppression. Furthermore, Moscow viewed the Caucasus as a rear base in future clashes with the West and anticipated an inevitable internal Caucasian national front against the Soviet metropolis. This resulted in a policy of population cleansing, aimed at leaving only those who were considered “reliable” and incapable of rebellion. Finally, the mass deportation of Chechens in 1944 was part of a larger plan to transform the Caucasus into a reliable launchpad for the future growth and advancement of Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and India, which required the removal of the population [1,69].

The accusation of the Chechens collaborating with the Nazis by the Soviet leadership during their mass deportation was merely a smokescreen to conceal the real imperialistic motives behind the move. The plan was to use the occupied territory for strategic reasons and then forcibly remove its population, using fabricated justifications.

This notion is supported by Pavel Polyan, a renowned historian of deportations to the USSR, who affirms that the allegations of collaboration with the Germans were baseless. He argues that: «There could be no talk of collaboration, because the territory of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was not occupied. The only exception is the part of the city of Malgobek, which is now in Ingushetia. That is, the situation when some territory was occupied and one or another degree of readiness or joy for cooperation with the occupation authorities, criminal, German, aggressive, simply could not be revealed. There was no occupation» [2].

Operation «Chechevitsa»

Operation «Chechevitsa»
Deportation of Chechens and Ingush
Map author: Tahirgeran Umar


Deportation of Chechens and Ingush

Starting on February 23, 1944 at 5:00 am, the forced displacement of the Caucasus population began, except for those residing in alpine settlements. The deportation involved a total of 493,269 migrants, transported in 180 echelons [9]. According to an archival report from March 18, 1944, the deportation of Chechens, Ingush, and Balkars was expected to be implemented with 194 echelons and 521,247 individuals [15]. Joseph Stalin personally monitored the progress of the deportation of Chechens and Ingush, with Lavrentiy Beria, head of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), sending secret telegrams to his name. On March 1, 1944, Beria reported to Stalin the successful completion of the deportation of over 400,000 people.

The transit of deportees to their destinations saw the birth of 56 babies and the death of 1,272 individuals.

Accounts from witnesses who experienced these tragic events have been documented and preserved. Maryam Musaeva, who was expelled from the village of Starye Atagi of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, recalls: «In Starye Atagi they announced that the Chechens were evicted by order of Stalin. All gathered, began to be taken out of the village. Three soldiers came to us and asked if there were adults. I said that I was waiting for my mother and brother, they work in Grozny at a military plant. The military said that they should not wait, they would not come, and began to help me collect something, they advised me to take food and warm clothes with me. Of the products turned out to be corn flour, of warm things — mother’s coat and old father’s fufayka. I insisted and took the Singer sewing machine… We arrived at the entrance to Grozny. I was so hoping to meet my mother and my brother there. 10-15 families were put in a freight car, and each Chechen family had 6-7 children… It took a whole month to get where they were deported to. They did not stop at stations, only in open areas – to give out the dead. Where they were buried, we do not know. If they stopped, they stopped only in remote places… They fed us porridge: one bucket for everyone. My grandfather was with us in the car, he was 95 years old. He took great care of us, children, tried to calm us down, told us that a fertile land awaits us, where corn grows higher than human growth, cows give milk more than a bucket. The old man could not stand it, he died on the way. The car door opened, a young soldier rose, he was trembling with cold, his eyes were full of tears. I felt so sorry for him that I offered him my father’s sweatshirt. Further along the road, at bus stops, the soldier brought along a bucket of porridge and a loaf of bread, hiding it in his bosom. The road was terrible: hunger, cold, disease, but even in these conditions there were people who sympathized, sympathized, understood injustice with their hearts» [3, 241].


Chechen family in the Karaganda region, Kazakh SSR.

Chechen family in the Karaganda region, Kazakh SSR.
Photo source: https://vainahkrg.kz/


Mazieva Ashat Ilyasovna, who was among those 400,000 deported Chechens, recalls: «We were resettled by the whole family, but we have not seen our father since that time. He was taken somewhere on February 23, pulled out of the house half-dressed; After a while we were informed that he had been shot. We lived in the village of Ekazhevo, Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. At the end of 1943, representatives of the NKVD began to gather in our village, soldiers went. A rumor passed through the village that the process of deportation of the Ingush was prepared. Although everyone knew perfectly well that in 1943 the Karachai people were deported, they still believed in the best and thought that this fate would not befall our people. Nevertheless, here came February 23, 1944. We were told to gather, given 24 hours. We started crying. Mom asked where we were going. She was very rudely answered, pushed… We started packing in a hurry. My parents picked up a bag of corn, flour, potatoes, I don’t remember anything else. They put more things on themselves. The older sister helped mother, collected the younger ones, they all poked. No one resisted: everyone was afraid of being killed… We saw how one woman wanted to run away, a man in uniform hit her right in the face, she fell to the ground. At the time of resettlement, there were 7 people in the family. Mom, her name was Zulfia, we had 6 children in the family. The oldest was Elina’s sister in 1930, after her I followed, then my brother in 1933, Gaziz, after the brother of his sister Khadiz in 1937 and the youngest brother was only 3 months old, he was in 1943, his name was Gasar, he died on the way, from hunger. I remember my mother crying. Mom did not eat anything on the road, her milk disappeared. And the baby died… We were treated like animals. It is shameful for our people not to bury the bodies of the dead, but circumstances forced» [3, 243].


Ingush Gazdiev family near the body of the deceased daughter.

Ingush Gazdiev family near the body of the deceased daughter.
Kazakhstan, 1944.
Photo source: https://arzamas.academy/mag/934-deportation




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    Consequences of deportation

    Following the deportation, the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic underwent a drastic administrative and territorial restructuring. On March 7, 1944, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a decree that abolished the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and created the Grozny Region. The decree merged all industrial and several agricultural regions of Chechen-Ingushetia, as well as six districts of the Stavropol Territory and the city of Kizlyar, which were not part of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, into the new region. The remaining territory of the CHI ASSR was divided among the Soviet Union republics of Georgia, North Ossetia, and Dagestan.

    After the expulsion of the Chechens and Ingush, only 35% of the former inhabitants remained in the territory of the former Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, mainly ethnic Russians. To address the demographic situation, the Soviet authorities issued Decree No. 255-74 ss on the settlement and development of the areas of the former Chechen-Ingushetia on May 9, 1944. The state aimed to populate the newly created Grozny region primarily with immigrants from the central regions of Russia as part of a strategy to strengthen the “Russian” element along the borders of the state and to meet the economic development needs of the region. Most immigrants to the Grozny region came from the Stavropol Territory and other regions of the North Caucasus.

    To erase any memory of the Chechens and Ingush, the Grozny regional committee of the party decided on June 19, 1944, to rename most of the districts and district centers of the region. Names resembling Chechen ones were replaced by Russian ones. For instance, Achkhoy-Martanovsky district became Novoselsky, Urus-Martanovsky turned into Red-Army, and Shalinsky became Mezhdurechensky.

    In 1948, the Council of Ministers of the USSR issued Order N 4367-1726ss, which mandated the permanent eviction of deportees from their homes and imposed criminal liability for any attempt to return or escape. The order was aimed at strengthening the regime of settlement of settlers from various ethnic groups including Chechens, Karachaevites, Ingush, Balkars, Kalmyks, Germans, Crimean Tatars, among others. The Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks approved the order which stated that resettlement to remote areas of the Soviet Union of these ethnic groups would be permanent and without the right to return to their former places of residence. Unauthorized departure or escape from the places of compulsory settlement would result in prosecution, with punishment for this crime set at 20 years of hard labor [7, 163].

    The majority of the Vainakh immigrants, including 239,768 Chechens and 78,470 Ingush, were sent to Kazakhstan, while 70,097 Chechens and 2,278 Ingush were sent to Kyrgyzstan. Chechens were mainly concentrated in Akmola, Pavlodar, North Kazakhstan, Karaganda, East Kazakhstan, Semipalatinsk, and Alma-Ata regions of Kazakhstan, and in Frunze and Osh in Kyrgyzstan. Furthermore, hundreds of special settlers who worked at home in the oil industry were sent to deposits in the Guryev region [11].

    Reaction to the deportation of Chechens and Ingush

    It is quite peculiar that the deportation of Chechens and Ingushes was widely publicized among the Chechen diaspora abroad. In the latter half of 1944, news of the eviction reached the Chechen community in Turkey. The local government, known for its suppression of national minorities, turned a blind eye to the Chechens organizing religious rites and seeking help from fellow tribesmen in the face of this tragedy. In Turkey, word spread that the Soviet army had shot many in the mountains and expelled the Chechens from their homeland [8].

    Radio Liberty emerged as a powerful tool of pressure against the USSR. On its airwaves, Abdurahman Avtorkhanov and Magomed Abdulkerimov constantly spoke about the heinous repression carried out by the Soviet government against subjugated peoples.

    In 1952, Avtorkhanov authored the book “The Murder of the Chechen-Ingush People,” which for years served as a primary reference material in the West about the Soviet government’s crimes against the USSR’s peoples. This book was the first to provide the world with a complete picture of this horrific tragedy, prompting other historians in the West to write about the deported peoples’ tragedy [8].

    The European Parliament’s plenary assembly adopted the Second Amendment on February 26, 2004, which stated that, based on the IV Hague Convention of 1907 and the Convention for the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, the deportation of the entire Chechen people was an act of genocide [12].

    In summary, the systematic destruction of an entire people by the Soviet authorities is evident. The Chechen people suffered primarily for their freedom-loving and independent spirit, which did not conform to the communist authorities’ dictatorial pacification model of peoples. This was not only prevalent in the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, but in all the occupied territories, with forced collectivization, sweeping accusations of entire peoples supporting the Nazis during the Second World War, and attempts to artificially develop these regions by sending party leadership from the central regions of Russia.

    Despite the losses, the Chechen people were able to return to their native lands and, after decades, resume their armed struggle for independence against Russian invaders. This struggle continues to this day.


    Chechnya – Memorial to the Great Terror and Deportations

    Chechnya – Memorial to the Great Terror and Deportations
    Chechens and Ingush at the end of World War II, Grozny, 2007 [10]


    Report on the progress of the deportation of Chechens and Ingush.

    Report on the progress of the deportation of Chechens and Ingush. March 21, 1944. [13].

    Information on the allocation of a special contingent from the NKVD-NKGB employees for the operation «Chechevitsa» for the deportation of Chechens and Ingush.

    Information on the allocation of a special contingent from the NKVD-NKGB employees for the operation «Chechevitsa» for the deportation of Chechens and Ingush. [13].


    Decree on the liquidation of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of March 7, 1944. Photo: Electronic library of historical documents

    Decree on the liquidation of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of March 7, 1944. Photo: Electronic library of historical documents [14].


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