Staunton, May 7 – “Ever more Russians secretly dream about a new Stalin” who will carry out “Stalin-style repressions in the Caucasus,” according to Ingush writer Akhmed Yevloyev, who points to a recent article in a St. Petersburg newspaper bearing the title “The Ingush Must Be Grateful to Stalin for Their Deportation and Put Up Monuments to Him.”
That article, in Petersburgskaya gazeta four days ago, has already led Ingush officials to demand its author, Andrey Apalin, be investigated for extremism (interfax.ru/russia/561348); but Yevloyev argues North Caucasians are now “powerless to defend themselves” against such ideas (onkavkaz.com/news/1674-o-novom-staline-dlja-kavkaza-vtaine-mechtaet-vse-bolshe-rossijan-i-kavkaz-bessilen-zaschitit-se.html).
The rapidly growing popularity of Stalin in Russian society, a popularity promoted by the Kremlin, has “already born sad fruit” in the North Caucasus, Yevloyev says, with “the number of people in Russia who assert that Stalin’s repressions against the Caucasus peoples were completely justified growing” emerging from the margins and becoming mainstream.
That carries with it not only the certainty that Russians will view North Caucasians ever more negatively but also the likelihood some will back new “Stalinist” measures against them. Yevloyev asked Bagaudin Khautiyev, head of the Coordination Council of Youth Organizations of Ingushetia, and Rasul Kubanov, a lawyer from Karachayevo-Cherkessia, for comment.
The two agreed that bringing charges against those who defend Stalin’s deportations is difficult if not impossible. There is no specific Russian law against such arguments, although both think there should be. And writers who make that argument can cite the positions of officials and thus escape any chance of punishment.
Efforts by the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus and the Ingushetia legislature to change this and to introduce criminal punishments for any justification of Stalin’s crimes are useful in calling attention to the problem, but they have little chance of success given current attitudes in Russia in general and the Russian government in particular, the two say.
For the peoples of the North Caucasus, Stalin’s deportations have left deep physical and psychological wounds. Half of those deported died from hunger, cold or illness, and the false charge that they had collaborated with the Germans – the ostensible reason for Stalin’s actions – continues to inform Russian attitudes, despite new laws in the 1990s intended to change that.
Now, the pendulum is swinging back to a situation even worse than the one that existed before that time, with the survivors of the deportations mostly but not entirely back in their homelands but with ever more Russians convinced that what Stalin did was right – and that the North Caucasians should be “grateful” that they weren’t simply executed for treason.