The Massacre of Khaibakh-Aul! (Video)
On February 11, 1943, the Politburo, the Communist Party’s ruling executive committee (Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), discussed the idea of “liquidating” the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic and expelling the entire Chechen-Ingush nation based on the accusation of “collaboration with the Germans”. Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s chief of secret police and the “engineer” of the deportation, and Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor, supported deportation rather than expulsion and the Soviets started planning to deport 425,000 Chechens and 93,000 Ingush in one night, an operation that cost nearly 150 million Rubles (3,9 million Euro).
On the eve of February 23, 1944 all citizens of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic were to celebrate Red Army Day in the public squares of every town and village. The people gathered and were in a festive mood. Security forces surrounded each public square and the military Commander read the citizens of each town the Decree of the Supreme Soviet stating their intent to deport the entire nation of Chechen and Ingush people to Central Asia and Western Siberia. They also ordered them to report to specific deportation centers.
On the night of February 27, 1944, troops from the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) burned more than seven hundred civilians alive in the small mountain village of Khaibakh-Aul.
On this horrible night, snow fell in the mountains making passage to highland villages difficult for the troops carrying out a “special task” for the Soviet government. In the mountains, which the Russians could not reach with the Studebaker trucks that the US delivered to them during the war, people lived in ancient stone huts and knew nothing about events on the plain. How could they be dealt with? Send new troops? It would be extremely difficult. In addition, the troops already reported to their superiors on the successful completion of the operation. Some healthy people were sent down to the plain to join the others. The remaining people who could not go down alone – sick persons, children, the elderly – were to be burnt alive by the Russians.
Soviet forces gathered the remaining residents from all farms of Nashkhoyev County in the village of Khaibakh, under the pretext of forming a convoy to further transportation to the plain. Sinking to their knees in snow, lines of people under military escort were slowly moved to the stables of a kolkhoz named after Lavrentiy Beria. The stables were previously prepared and filled with hay and straw, so that “people waiting for carts with horses do not get cold”.
The sick, children, and old men were accompanied by healthy adults who did not want to leave their beloved ones alone. When they all gathered in the stables (more than 700 people), the gates were locked. The chief of the Far East regional management of the NKVD, Colonel Mikhail Gvishiani, who was headed to the massacre, ordered the troops to start the massacre.
The stable laid with straw on all sides immediately caught fire. When it was enveloped in flames, the huge gates collapsed under the pressure of the people and the frenzied crowd poured out. Terrible cries of children could be heard, as well as groans, and the horror on the faces of those who had already managed to jump out from the ashes, burning alive people with cracking and peeling skin. Gvishiani coolly commanded: “Fire!” Bursts of automatic fire came from hundreds of barrels. People fell under a hail of bullets, blocking the exit with their bodies. A few seconds later a mountain of corpses formed, which prevented anyone from leaving. No one could escape.
M. Gvishiani was awarded for his job by L.Beria and promoted. He became a general. Stalin praised all of the participants of the operation on the mountain “for a successful completion of important government tasks in the North Caucasus”.