Lecture of Zakayev in Brussels on February 23
On February 22, an international conference was held in Brussels, Belgium due to the 70th anniversary of deportation of the entire Chechen-Ingush nation by the Soviet regime on February 23, 1944. Akhmed Zakayev, Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, made the following speech about the tragic incident.
Here it is:
On February 23, 1944, at the height of the Second World War, the Soviet government decided to deport the entire Waynakh people (Chechens and Ingushes) to Central Asia. The deportation was carried out by means of the most barbaric methods, which meant by the end of that monstrous operation hundreds of thousands of innocent people had died of hunger, cold, diseases and executioners’ bullets. Every Waynakh still considers those events as his or her own personal tragedy for there is not a single family left in Chechnya and Ingushetia that didn’t lose one of their members at the time. The pain and the tragic loss experienced by the Waynakh people would never be constitute abstract history for the Chechens and Ingushes. Nothing and no-one can erase this disaster from the people’s collective memory. Two more bitter wars the Chechens have had to live through in recent years and the ongoing guerilla struggle and the resulting terror by the Russian punitive agencies have woven the past and the present into a single tragic knot.
In the Russian history teaching the deportation of the North Caucasus nations is usually called “Stalin’s deportation“. The victims themselves do not question the meaning of this expression and use it to denote that act of genocide. But behind this definition lies and attempt to instill the idea of Stalin’s personal responsibility in the minds of people globally as well as in the minds of the genocide victims, rather than the full blame for this crime at the feet of the Russian state.
Yet if you study historical documents, they clearly show that the policy of genocide in relation to the Chechen nation has been constant of the Russian state, carried out under every socio-political regime. The democratic constitution project drafted by one of the leaders and chief ideologists of the Russian Decembrists Pavel Pestel, and approved by his associates in 1823 clearly demonstrates that the idea of the Caucasus nations’ deportation was one of the doctrines of the Russian national policy back at the beginning of the 19th century. This was what the liberal-thinking Decemberists proposed in their draft constitution vis-a-vis the peoples of the Caucasus, including Chechens:
“To divide all the peoples of the Caucasus into two categories: peaceful and violent. The former should remain in their dwellings and should be introduced to the Russian system of organization and government, whereas the latter should be forcefully resettled deep in Russia’s interior, having first been split into small groups across all Russian regions. Russian settlements should be set up across the Caucasus, and their Russian residents should be given the land confiscated from the former violent types. This would be the way to eradicate from the Caucasus even the mere trace of its former inhabitants and to turn this region into a secure and well appointed Russian province“.
As can be seen from this extract the real author of the deportation project involving various nations of the Caucasus was not the bloody dictator, Joseph Stalin, but a liberal and a democrat, Pavel Pestel. It must be said the Russian Emperor Nikolai I who hanged Pavel Pestel, together with the other four ringleaders of the failed Decembrist uprising, had a very similar attitude to the Caucasus and its peoples to that of the executed Decemberist.
This can be easily seen from the famous rescript, sent by Nikolai I to his governor in the Caucasus, General Paskevich:
“Having thus accomplished one noble deed (the Russo-Turkish war) you are about to embark upon another, in my opinion, no less glorious, and from the point of view of direct benefit, and even more important one. I am talking about the ultimate subjugation of the mountain peoples or the extermination of the rebellious ones“.
In the course of the sixty years of the War in the Caucasus in the 19th century that maxim of the Russian Emperor was implemented almost to the letter: over half of the entire Chechen population died in the war, followed by tens of thousands of Waynakhs forced to flee and resettle in the Middle East. The word “almost” is particularly appropriate here because the conquerors had failed to achieve their main object in the Caucasus – the ultimate subjugation of the mountain peoples; one after another there followed violent large scale insurgencies against the Russian colonial masters.
By declaring the Communist regime and Stalin’s tyranny a crime in 1991 Russia demonstrated its commitment to democratic values and human rights, including the rights of nations to self-determination. However, the very first war unleashed by the new democratic Russia in 1994 was once again waged against the Chechen people and aimed at undermining their national liberation aspirations. Apart from the direct annihilation of hundreds of thousands as a result of bombings, rocket and artillery fire and punitive operations, the Russian government once again unearthed the idea of deportation of the Chechens from their historical motherland. This is borne out by the secret order, issued by the Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, who presided over the group of ministries involved in establishing “constitutional order” in Chechnya in December 1994. His order is a vivid reminder of the consistency in the Russian national policy vis-a-vis the Chechen nation:
“For the attention of comrades Yegorov N.D., Yerin V.F. and Stepashin S.V. Following the secret decree by the President of the Russian Federation ‘On Measures to restore constitutional law and order over the territory of the Chechen Republic’, preparation is being made to introduce one Division of the Interior Ministry of the Interior troops and two Divisions of the Ministry of Defense into the Chechen Republic. In view of the anticipated mass, but unorganized, resistance it has been decided to use this event in order to execute a MASS DEPORTATION of local residents, under guise of their organized withdrawal from the theatre of war to other regions of the Russian Federation, to be determined separately…
Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation,
Head of Group,
General P.S. Grachev“
Russia has seen different tsars, general secretaries of the Communist Party and presidents; it has seen different political regimes: monarchy, superceded by Bolshevism, which in turn gave way to democrat etc. One thing that never changed has been its agenda vis-a-vis the Chechens – to “subjgate or exterminate“. The protracted War of the Caucasus in the 18-19th centuries had resulted in the deathc of over the half of the entire Chechen nation. The communists hatred of the rebellious Chechens has cost our people a heavy price – according to different estimates, up to 70% died from repressions, hunger and cold during their transportation in unheated railway carriages, used for transporting cattle, during the severe February frosts of 1944.Recent was have resulted in the physical annihilation of up to a quarter of a million Chechens, including 40 thousand children under 12 year old. Over three hundred thousand Chechens have scattered all over the world, trying to save their families from total destruction. “To subjugate or to exterminate” – there is not a single generation of Chechens which has not experienced the fruits of this unwavering Russian national policy over the past three hundred years.
Yet the world does change. In February 2004, on the 60th anniversary of the deportation of Waynakhs, the European Parliament declared this crime as an act of genocide. Today, 70 years after that event, we have to remind ourselves and other around the world about that tragedy so that those who embroil countries and nations in bloody calamities realise that their crimes shall not be forgotten or forgiven.
Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria