Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chechnya Conflict Part 2: Lies, False Independence and Genocide

See Part 1 here

The Russian monarchy had conquered Chechnya, yet found that there was still resistance in the form of armed independence movements. The Soviet Union found that in order to keep resistance to low, manageable levels, they had to allow the Chechen people to believe that they were independent when in reality the Soviets were still in control. From this complex lie came a feeling of false independence among the Chechen people, followed swiftly by genocide.

It began with the overthrow of the last remnants of the Russian monarchy, the Romanov family, and the rise of Communist Russia. During this time “the ethnic groups in North Caucasus tended to cooperate with the Bolsheviks” as “Karl Marx was supposedly a great admirer of the struggle of the Caucasian mountaineers.” [2] Initially, Lenin told the North Caucus groups to organize their “’national life freely and without hindrance’” [3] which the Caucus groups took as a sign to organize into formal states and declare their independence from Russia. This led to the creation of the North Caucasian Republic and declaration of independence from Russia in May of 1918. [4] However, this was done only because the “Bolsheviks were learning that they could more easily bring the North Caucasian peoples under Soviet control by dealing with each separately and giving each one its own geopolitical designation.” [5]

In 1929 the Soviets began the collectivization efforts in the Caucus and this led to the “Russification of Chechen culture at its core.” [6] However, the Chechen people “remained impervious to the numerous attempts to Sovietize them” [7] and their clan system stayed strong and governed their social life. The majority of Russian decisions led to revolts and “Chechens met the Soviet authorities with strong opposition when they imposed brutal collectivization tactics” [8] in the 1930s.

When World War 2 came about “huge numbers of Chechens fought side-by-side with their Russian counterparts during the war – 50 of which received Russia’s highest military honor: The Hero of the Revolution.” [9] While there were some who tried to make contact with the Germans and some tribal leaders “viewed Germany’s advance as an opportunity to gain autonomy or even independence,” overall, documents from 1943-1944 “assess the local population’s role in stopping the German advance and resistance to the invaders.” [10]

However, this loyalty to the Soviet state did not stop Joseph Stalin from sending “the Chechens to Siberia and Kazakhstan on suspicion of collaboration with Nazi Germany” [11] after WW2 ended and he took power when Lenin died. Stalin had always been brutal as he “played an important role in the 1921 Red Army invasion of his Georgia homeland in Trans-Caucasus.” [12] To invade his homeland only showed his brutality and fanaticism for the Soviet state.

This purge culminated in the Caucus having no Chechen peoples for quite some time. This deportation was not done haphazardly in the least. During WW2, approximately 120,000 NKVD [The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, predecessor to the Committee for State Security (KGB)] troops participated in forced deportation. [14] The NKVD commandant, Lavrenti Beria, supervised the situation himself and when the NKVD when into Grozny on February 17, 1944, he contacted Stalin and regularly reported to him. Thus this “attests to the highest central authorities’ involvement.” [15]

Just days later, on February 29, 1944, “159 convoys were already under way, and 21 more were ready to leave.” Many deportees were transported in cattle trucks or freight cars and few political and religious figures “traveled in normal carriages because they played an active part, under NKVD pressure, in the deportation.” The convoys stopped in the Central Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, Kazakhstan, or eastern Siberia. “Those who resisted deportation and hid in the Northern Caucasus Mountains were either killed or arrested, and then expelled to Central Asia. Chechens living in other regions were also required to relocate.” [16]

After the forced resettlement, virtually “all the symbolic, historical and material signs of Chechen life were destroyed” and “Russians, Ukrainians and North Caucasians settled in the deportees’ houses.” [17]

While in 1957, a law was passed that allowed the Chechens to return to their homeland, the damage had already been done, as the deportation had killed 50% of those exiled. [18] What was committed by the Soviets not only caused the destruction of the history of the Chechens, but also the 4th Hague Convention of 1907 classifies forced deportation as a form of genocide [19] and what occurred was acknowledged as such in 2004 by the European Parliament. [20]

While the situation was hopeless, the Chechen people eventually found independence when the Soviet Union collapsed, yet this was swiftly crushed when the Russian Federation invaded and two wars broke out over the course of a decade.


3: Ibid

4: Ibid

5: Ibid

8: Ibid

14: Ibid

15: Ibid

16: Ibid

17: Ibid

20: http://www.kavkazcenter.net/eng/content/2004/02/26/2469.shtml

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