Operation Lentil (Caucasus)


Operation Lentil (Caucasus)

Operation Lentil (Russian: Чечевица, Chechevitsa; Chechen: Aardax, Ardakh) was the Soviet expulsion of the whole of the native Chechen and Ingush populations of the North Caucasus to Siberia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan during World War II.

The expulsion, preceded by the 1940-1944 Chechnya insurgency, was ordered on 23 February 1944 by Lavrentiy Beria after approval by Joseph Stalin, as a part of Soviet forced settlement program during World War II (see also Population transfer in the Soviet Union). The deportation encompassed the entire nation, well over 500,000 people. A considerable amount of these having been killed during the trip and still more before it, the latter were not counted. They were not allowed to go back to Chechnya until 1957.

Contents

Background

During World War II, despite the fact that about 40,000 Chechens and Ingush fought in the Red Army (50 of them received the highest recognition of the Hero of the Soviet Union), the Soviet government accused them of cooperating with the Nazi invaders, who had controlled the western parts of Chechnya-Ingushetia for several months of the 1942/1943 winter. It was claimed that some Chechens were eager to show the Nazis mountain passes leading to Azerbaijan, whose oil reserves were the goal of Operation Blue.

However, that the Chechens actually were allied to the Germans is highly questionable and usually dismissed as false.[1][2][3] They did have contact with the Germans. However, there were profound ideological differences between the Chechens and the Nazis (self-determination versus imperialism), neither trusted the other, there was an influential Jewish clan among the Chechens (who were not "Aryan" to begin with according to Hitlerian theory), the German courting of the Cossacks was not pleasing at all to the Chechens (their traditional enemies which with they still had numerous land disputes and other conflicts) and Khasan Israilov certainly had a strong dislike for Hitler. Mairbek Sheripov reportedly gave the Ostministerium a sharp warning that "if the liberation of the Caucasus meant only the exchange of one colonizer for another, the Caucasians would consider this [a theoretical fight pitting Chechens and other Caucasians against Germans] only a new stage in the national liberation war." [4]

In any case, as critics note, there were also many Chechens (17413) in the Red Army (and, coincidentally, also much less than the number of Russians and Cossacks fighting for the Nazis).[5][6][7]

On orders from Lavrenty Beria, the head of the NKVD, the entire Chechen and Ingush population of the republic were deported by freight trains to Kazakhstan. The operation was called "Chechevitsa" (Operation Lentil)[8], its first two syllables pointing a finger at its intended targets (though while the Chechens were the main targets, they were not the only victims). The operation is referred to by Chechens often as "Aardakh" (the Exodus).

The forced expulsion of Chechen people was a part of Stalin's program designed for suppression of potential national liberation movements in the Soviet Union. In October 1943, a group of NKVD officers led by Bogdan Kobulov was sent to Chechnya to prepare materials for justification of repressions. In November, they sent a letter to Beria claiming that "there are 38 religious groups in Chechnya with membership of at least 20,000 people, who conduct active anti-Soviet work, help the bandits and German saboteurs, and call for armed resistance to the Soviet power".[9]). Then Beria ordered to prepare the operation.

The Chechen-Ingush republic was never occupied by the German army. Therefore, the repressions were officially justified by "an armed resistance to Soviet power" [10][11] In 1940 another insurgency, led by Khasan Israilov, started in Galanchozh. In February 1942 Musa Sheripov's group rebelled in Shatoi, Khimokhk and tried to take Itum-Kale. They united with Israilov's army to rebel against Soviet domination. The key period of the Chechen guerilla war started in August–September, 1942 when the German troops approached Chechnya and ended in the summer-autumn of 1943 with the Soviet counter-offensive that drove the Wehrmacht from the North Caucasus.[11]

The operation (Aardakh)

It was initiated on October 13, 1943 when about 120,000 men were moved into the Republic of Checheno-Ingushetia, supposedly for mending bridges. On February 23, 1944 (on Red Army day), the entire population was summoned to local party buildings where they were told they were going to be deported as punishment for their alleged collaboration with the Germans.

Some 40% to 50% of the deportees were children.[12] Unheated and uninsulated freight cars were used. The inhabitants rounded up and imprisoned in Studebaker trucks and sent to Siberia.[13][14] Many times, resistance was met with slaughter, and in one such instance, in the aul of Khaibakh, about live 700 people were locked in a barn and burned to death by NKVD general Gveshiani, who was praised for this and promised a medal by Beria. Many people from remote villages were executed per Beria's verbal order that any Chechen or Ingush deemed 'untransportable should be liquidated' on the spot.[15] An eyewitness recalled the actions of the Soviet secret police soldiers:[16]

they combed the huts to make sure there was no one left behind... The soldier who came into the house did not want to bend down.He raked the hut with a burst from his tommy gun. Blood trickled out from under the bench where a child was hiding. The mother screamed and hurled herself at the soldier. He shot her too. There was not enough rolling stock. Those left behind were shot. The bodies were covered with earth and sand, carelessly. The shooting had also been careless, and people started wriggling out of the sand like worms. The NKVD men spent the whole night shooting them all over again.

.

By the next summer, Checheno-Ingushetia was dissolved; a number of Chechen and Ingush placenames were replaced with Russian ones; mosques and graveyards were destroyed, and a massive campaign of burning numerous historical Chechen texts was near complete (leaving the world depleted of what was more or less the only source of central Caucasian literature and historical texts except for sparse texts about the Chechens, Ingush, etc., not written only by themselves, but by Georgians) [17][18] Throughout the North Caucasus, about 700.000 (according to Dalkhat Ediev, 72.4297 [19], of which the majority, 479.478, were Chechens, along with 96.327 Ingush, 104.146 Kalmyks, 39.407 Balkars and 71.869 Karachais). Many died along the trip, and the extremely harsh environment of Siberia (especially considering the amount of exposure) killed many more.

The NKVD, supplying the Russian perspective, gives the statistic of 144.704 people killed in 1944-1948 alone (death rate of 23.5% per all groups), though this is dismissed by many authors such as Tony Wood, John Dunlop, Moshe Gammer and others as a far understatement [20]. Estimates for deaths of the Chechens alone (excluding the NKVD statistic), range from about 170.000 to 200.000 [21][22][23][24], thus ranging from over a third of the total Chechen population to nearly half being killed in those 4 years alone (rates for other groups for those four years hover around 20%). Although the Council of Europe has recognized it as a "genocidal act", no country except the self-declared, unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria officially recognizes the act as a genocide.

Attempts to erase nominal existence of the Vainakh nation

During the repression period (1944–1957), deported nations were not allowed to change places without special permit taken from local authority. Names of repressed nations were totally erased from all books and encyclopedias. Chechen-language libraries were destroyed, many Chechen books and manuscripts were burned.[15] Many families were divided and not allowed to travel to each other even if they found out where their relatives were.[25]

Chechnya after the deportation

The Checheno-Ingush ASSR was transformed into Grozny Oblast, which included also the Kizlyar District and Naursky raion from Stavropol Kray, and parts of it were given to North Ossetia (part of Prigorodny District), Georgian SSR and Dagestan ASSR. Most of the empty housing was given to refugees from war-raged Western Soviet Union[25]. Abandoned houses were settled by newcomers, only Jews[26] and Meskhetian Turks refused to settle in foreign houses, both of which groups had previously lived in the area, are treated with respect for the grief repression that saved them from the wrath of the owners returning. There are still settlements produced to representatives of these peoples. In 1949 Soviet authorities erected a statue of 19th century Russian general Aleksey Yermolov in Grozny. The inscription read, "There is no people under the sun more vile and deceitful than this one."[27]

Some of Chechen settlements were totally deleted from, maps and encyclopedia. Many gravestones were destroyed (along with pretty much the whole library of Chechen medieval writing (in Arabic and Georgian script) about the land of Chechnya, its people, etc., leaving the modern Chechens and modern historians with a destroyed and no longer existent historical treasury of writings [28][29]) in places that were renamed to be given Russian names. Tombstones of Chechens with a history of hundreds of years have been used by soviets for the construction of pedestrian footpasses, foundations of houses, pig pens, etc.[30].

Rediscovery of the Khaibakh massacre by Soviet historians later on

The aul of Khaibakh was rediscovered, through archaeological finds in the Ukraine. Archaeologists have found the bodies of Caucasian scouts who died doing operations in the rear of the Nazis. In his pockets were found letters inscribing the name of the aul Khaibakh. When the scientists decided to inform the families of soldiers that have found their relatives, they learned that such a settlement in Chechnya no longer exists. Continuing their investigation, they discovered that while soldiers from Chechnya, died on the front, the relatives of theirs were burned alive in their homes by Soviet soldiers.[25]

Act of genocide

Forced deportation constitutes an act of genocide according to the IV Hague Convention of 1907 and the Convention on the prevention and repression of the crime of genocide of the UN General Assembly (adopted in 1948) and in this case this was acknowledged by the European Parliament as an act of genocide in 2004.[31]

The separatist government of Chechnya (or Ichkeria) also recognizes it as genocide, and made a memorial to it in the center of Grozny (see section below); as do Ingush nationalists. Kadyrov's government usually does not comment on the matter, though they dismantled Dudayev's memorial to the events of 1944-57 (see section below).

Memorial

In 1991, Dzhokkar Dudayev made political capital by, in a symbolic move, sending out officials to gather these lost gravestones (gravestones which had been used by the Soviets for pavement and other uses), many of which had lost their original inscriptions, and construct out of them a wall. This wall was made to symbolize both Chechen remorse for the past as well as the desire to, in the name of the dead ancestors, fashion the best possible Chechen Republic out of their land and work hard towards the future. It bears an engravement, reading: "We will not break, we will not weep; we will never forget"; tablets bore pictures of the sites of massacres, such as Khaibakh.[32][33]

It has now been moved and dismantled by the Kadyrov government, sparking much controversy.[32][34]

See also

External links

  • World Chechnya Day.org- Website (run by diaspora Chechens and others) promoting observance of February 23 as the anniversary of the genocide against the Vaynakh people. It also has a wealth of information (in the History section) about the conditions of the deportation, with numerous quotes.

References

  1. ^ Avtorkhanov. Chechens and Ingush. p183
  2. ^ Wood, Tony.Chechnya: The Case for Independence.p36
  3. ^ Gammer. Lone Wolf and Bear.Pages 161-165
  4. ^ Avtorkhanov. Chechens and Ingush. Page 183.
  5. ^ Dunlop, John. Russia Confronts Chechnya. Page 60
  6. ^ Wood, Tony. Chechnya. Page 36
  7. ^ Nekrich, Aleksander. Punished Peoples. Pages 36-38
  8. ^ Wood, Tony. Chechnya:The Case for Independence. Pages 32-39
  9. ^ Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev Time of darkness, Moscow, 2003, ISBN 5-85646-097-9, pages 205-206 (Russian: Яковлев А. Сумерки. Москва: Материк 2003 г.
  10. ^ Execute everyone who can not be transported (Russian) Novaya gazeta
  11. ^ a b "The Soviet War against ‘Fifth Columnists’: The Case of Chechnya, 1942–4" by Jeffrey Burds, p.16, 26
  12. ^ Dunlop, John B. (1998). Russia confronts Chechnya: roots of a separatist conflict. Cambridge University Press. pp. 67. ISBN 9780521636193. 
  13. ^ Dunlop,Russia confronts Chechnya, p65
  14. ^ Gammer, The Lone Wolf and the Bear, p170
  15. ^ a b "The Soviet War against ‘Fifth Columnists’: The Case of Chechnya, 1942–4" by Jeffrey Burds, p.39
  16. ^ Edvard Radzinsky Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives, Anchor, (1997) ISBN 0-385-47954-9, page 503
  17. ^ Gammer, The Lone Wolf and the Bear, p182
  18. ^ Jaimoukha. Chechens. p212
  19. ^ Ediev, Dalkhat. Demograficheskie poteri deportirovannykh narodov SSSR, Stavropol 2003, Table 109, p302
  20. ^ Wood, Tony. Chechnya: the Case for Independence. page 37-38
  21. ^ Nekrich, Punished Peoples
  22. ^ Dunlop.Russia Confronts Chechnya, pp 62-70
  23. ^ Gammer.Lone Wolf and the Bear, pp166-171
  24. ^ Soviet Transit, Camp, and Deportation Death Rates
  25. ^ a b c Дешериев Ю. Жизнь во мгле и борьбе: О трагедии репрессированных народов. ISBN 5-86020-238-5
  26. ^ Rouslan Isacov, Kavkaz Center 01.02.2005
  27. ^ Chechnya: the empire strikes back
  28. ^ Jaimoukha. Chechens. Page 212
  29. ^ Gammer, Moshe. Lone Wolf and Bear. Page 170
  30. ^ Dzhokhar Dudayev, opening of the memorial to victims of genocide on YouTube In Chechen and Russian
  31. ^ (Russian) Европарламент: депортация вайнахов - геноцид
  32. ^ a b CanWest MediaWorks Publications. Relocation of Chechen 'genocide' memorial opens wounds. June 4th, 2008
  33. ^ Lieven, Anatol.Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian power. Published 1998. Page 321
  34. ^ Russia's Chechnya moves memorial, citizens complain, Reuters, June 3, 2008

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