ENDLESS EXILE AND GENOCIDE
Despite the endless exile and several genocide cases they were subjected to, in the field of International Law where basic human rights are guaranteed, the rights of the Northern Caucasians have not been a case of pursuit yet.
The 1864 exile and genocide recorded by the Ottomans and the British officials at the time is not just an unlucky event that has remained to be forgotten in the dusty archives of history, but a fault the repercussions of which are still being observed in the present day Caucasus.
The results of the plight of the 1864 looks as if it has been inherited by the grandchildren of the victims, moreover new exiles have been added to the destiny of these people and the sorrows which have never ended have been aggravated.
Ethnic cleansing that was started in the Northern Caucasus by the Russians of the Tsar period following their defeat between the years of 1859 and 1864 with a big dislocation has turned out to be a case to be defined as genocide in the realm of international law.
The Tsar's Russia in the 19th century, the USSR in the 20th century, and now the Russian Federation have made it the fate of the north Caucasians to be exiled.
As a result of the settlement policy of the Russians in the North Caucasus, over one million Caucasians have been displaced in 1864.
Thousands have died on their cruise to the Ottoman lands, several ships full of exiled people have sank, thousand have got diseases; and many have become slaves and concubines. The land and other properties they left behind were given to the new settlers brought to their land, who were Russians and Cossacks brought their by the Russian authorities.
There are records that about 30% of the people deported from the ports on the Black Sea such as Taman, Tuapse, Anapa, Tsemez, Sochi, Adler, Sohum, Poti and Batum and destined to reach the Ottoman port cities of Trabzon, Ordu, Samsun, Sinop, Kefken, Varna, Kِstence, Istanbul and the Aegean ports died on their way to these destinations.
For example, the Russia Consulate in Trabzon, one of the destination ports records in May 1864 that, 30, 000 people died of starvation or illnesses, people who got ill on board were dropped into the sea right away... and that one man in Trabzon where 3493, 124 people landed, was told to have taken 30 or 40 concubines. There are records that mass graves were found around these Ottoman shore cities.(1)
At those times the Russian Consulate in Trabzon, writes to the Russian general Katrachev who was in charge of the deportation to state that "70,000 thousand people have arrived in Batum to be sent to Turkey, around 7 die per day. On reaching Trabzon, 19,000 out of 24,700 died. There are 63,900 people there and about 180-250 of them die per day. Out of the 110,000 in Samsun about 200 die every day. I heard that out of those 4650 who were sent to Trabzon, Varna and Istanbul about 40-60 die per day." (2)
To avoid accusations of exile the Russian authorities try to present the case as migration. However, the decree sent to the Western Caucasians in August 1864 by the Tsar's representative in the area Granduke Mitchel why these people have had to face death, it reads: Those who do not leave in a month will be sent and located in several different parts of Russia as war captives." (3)
The dislocated Caucasian people were later settled in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Greece, Macedonia and Kosovo in brief in about 40 different regions in the world.
Russian, European and Ottoman records mention that between 1,2 million to 2 million people exiled during 1859 and 1879 years. About 500,000 people died during their cruise and after arriving to the Ottoman harbours.(4)
Those exiled were never let to go back to their homeland. Very few of their grand children who went to their home after the collapse of the USSR have had no authorities to turn to or any official will to claim their grandparent's heritage.
The Decree of the Eradication of a Nation
Before the people of the North Caucasus had even recovered from 1846 exile, the remaining Caucasian populations were subjected to mass genocide by the orders of Joseph Stalin in 1943-1944. They had on no basis been accused of collaborating with the Germans during World War II. On 22nd February 1944 the Chechen and Ingush people who were invited to join the celebrations of the 26th anniversary of the Red Army found themselves exiled to Siberia.
Similarly, the Karachais on 2nd November 1944 and the Balkars on 8th March 1944 were sent to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Among the exiled people were the Crimean Tatars and the Meskhetian Turks. Soviet Union has carried out the operations in secrecy and the public only read about these events as a little incident mentioned in "Izvetsia" two years later on 26th June 1946.
People were allowed to take only 20 kilos of luggage with them and all their belongings, properties, land, houses and such were confiscated. The biggest disaster took place on the way to their destinations. 20% died because of weather conditions and starvation. Where they were settled they were not any luckier, because of hard work and life conditions many of them died. The estimated number of the loss of the Chechen and Ingush populations is about 38%.
On 9 January 1957 the Politburo (The executive body of the Russian Communist Party) permitted the exiled Chechens and Ingush people to return to their homeland. The paper Groznenskiy Rabochiy wrote the number of people returning home as 200,000.(5) However, according to the records of four years before that in the newly founded Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Republic the population was 488,000, and after the exile according to 1959 records the whole population of the Chechen-Ingush was 311,200. (6)
While all the villages in Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Republic were subjected to exile, the areas where it was difficult to evacuate people became victims of genocides. Haybah Genocide is an example of such a case. Ex-assistant minister of Justice of Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Republic has witnessed and stated the following: "the Chechens and the Ingush in other parts of the country were being evacuated and exiled, but it was impossible to carry the people here in this area. People gathered from nearby villages were made to start walking. They were told that the elderly, the ill and the weak ones left in the villages were going to be carried by helicopters later. Some young girls, women and children stayed with them. The number was about 650 - 700. On 27th February 1944 at 9:00, they were brought together in a large cowshed, were locked in and the place was set fire to. When some attempt to escape Gvishini ordered: Fire!! And those who tried to escape were shot to death. The others were killed burning. (7)
At the 20th congress of the Communist Party, Khrushchev confessed that the Karachai, Balkar and Kalmik people were subjected to torture. The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Republic was decided to be re-established on 24th November 1956 by the Communist Party Central Committee. The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Republic was abolished and its land was divided between Georgia, Dagestan and North Ossetia on 7th March 1944. When the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Republic was established again the border areas between them and the above mentioned counties were not given back to them but Kargalin, Naur and Shelkov were connected to this new republic.
Crimean and Meskhetian Turks Exile
Another people subjected to exile were the Crimean Tatars. The Exile rampage that started on 18th May 1944 ended in removing 220,000 Crimeans from their land. The NKVD, intelligence service of the Soviets at the time before the KGB, explained that the number of the exiled people were 191,044. 425 of the people packed onto wagons to be sent to Far East in Mid Asia died of starvation, hard conditions and ill treatment. The exile life was longer for the Crimeans than the Chechens. They had to wait until 1980s to be allowed to come back home. When they were back they faced another tragic scene. All their properties, homes, and work places even their worship places were given to Russians and Ukrainians, some mosques were converted into stables, cowsheds or warehouses. As all the operations of the Great Soviet Supreme in 1944 were declared "illegal and criminal" in November 1989, some 250,000 Crimean Tatars managed to return home, but those who could not have new obstructions set up in front of them.
The biggest sorrow the Meskhetians people had to live was their inability to return to their motherland. Presently, the grand children of these people live in Krasnodar Kray (Russian Federation), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Ukraine, Germany, France and Italy. Those living in Uzbekistan, following the provoked events of Fergana in 1989 noted now in history as "Fergana Events" were again set off. Those who left Uzbekistan were given temporary accommodation in Krasnodar and Ukraine. Their main problem is not having the citizenship of any state. Recently, in Turkey with a new law those living in Turkey were granted Turkish citizenship. The exile ethnicity that was never able to return to their home was the Meskhetians.
While being accepted to the Council of Europe, Georgia had promised to give these people's being returned to their motherland but has not fulfilled that pledge yet.
On 2nd November 1943 the Karachai Autonomous Region was evacuated by Russian NKVD soldiers with two hours' time. Those who resisted were killed and houses were set fire to. Early in the morning just as it had happened to the Chechens 63,333 people 32,929 of whom were children were put into livestock wagons to be sent to the desert areas of Kazakstan, Uzbekstan and Kyrgyzstan. That is, a nation was sentenced to death. The Karachai and the Balkar people had to face the same fate on 8th March 1944.
Brutality in the Middle of Europe
The 1943- 1944 event in Caucasus has a counterpart in Europe which has been ignored. Britain and the USA have big responsibilities in this event whish should have been recorded as the Drau Tragedy in history. The Caucasians who left their land with the Germans voluntarily to flee the conditions there or were taken as war captives were decided to be returned to Caucasus. These people were going to be delivered to the hands of Russia when the great disaster took place. Those people were settled in Italy in Paluzza high mountainous areas. A few days before the end of the war, they were drawn towards Austria, Carinthia, Ober Drauburg region, in the valley of the Drau River. At Yalta, Russia, Britain and America had agreed that the area, which was accepted, as the British invasion land would be evacuated and these people would be handed to the Russians. This meant another disaster for the people who had fled the oppression of death shedding Stalin. They begged to be given a permission at least to go to the Ottoman lands and that time a door was opened to do this, however, this demand was totally ignored. The order sent from London 0n 28th May 1945 said the refugees would be "delivered to the Soviet authorities". They were first disarmed and then tricked to be left in the hands on the Russians. Those who did not want to get on the trucks were run over by British army tanks. Most of the people here were women, children and old people. Some jumped into the river with their children in their arms rather than being given to the Russians. As a result of the efforts of European Society of Islam a monument was erected in the village Irschen in 1960 in the memory of these people. There inscribed in German reads "Here on 28 May 1945, 7000 North Caucasians were handed in to the Russians and made victims of their faith in Islam and the ideal of the freedom of their country". (8)
The Continuing Effects of the Exile
Exile and genocide that was made to be the destiny of the Caucasians recurred in 1994 - 1995 in Chechnya.
The people of the Caucasus who were settled in other countries claim that their rights be defined according to basic human rights criteria and interpreted according to the rules of international law. It grabs attention that the Caucasian Exile, one of the biggest tragedies of the world history remains beyond the definitions and boundaries of basic human rights definitions and applications.
International institutions watching and granting human rights have not been in action in specifying the culprits and claiming justification about the victims' rights in the case of the Caucasians.
The 1999 events and the displacement of 500,000 Chechens reveal once again that the destiny of the Caucasian people is recurring. Unless Russia, who resists being part of the international law systems, arrives on its imperialistic policies in the region, this destiny seems to be impossible to eradicate.
Russia's imperialistic interests are not confined to their vicinity only. The Russian Federation, together with a legacy of 100 years, has displayed imperialistic aims in connection with the other Caucasian Republic that are part of its land area but have never posed any kind of threat to the unity of the Russian Federation even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the contrary the oppression exhibited in the area does not allow the people here to be able to forget the agonies of 1864. In the area as if it doubts its sovereignty, Russia is exercising oppression.
Without having the chance and time to recover from the 1944 exile, the Caucasians have had to face new phases of exile. As a result of the exile and being away from their homeland the Caucasians in the Diaspora are losing their language and culture. Is there any possibility that the definition of "the basic rights and freedoms" of human being can be used as a reference to stop the loss. Unless the rights of the people whose ancestors were dislocated, are covered by this definition, there in no way the present political systems will grant them their rights.
The events that had taken place before the fundamental rights were defined and were guaranteed by international laws still need to be defined in these terms as the descendants of such people are still suffering from the results of these events, and there is need for newly defined international human rights concepts concerning such cases, and a powerful system to put these definitions into action.
1) "Papers Respecting the Settlement of Circassian Emigrants in Turkey", London Printed by Harrison and Sons.
3) Berkok, General Ismail, Caucasus in History (1958), Istanbul Press, p. 526
4) Kemal Karpat, "The Status of the Muslim under European Rule: the Eviction and Settlement of the Cerkes", Journal of the Institute Minority Affairs, Vol.1, No:2.
5) Kutlu, Tark Cemal, Total Exile of Chechens and the Ingush to Siberian Inland, (in Turkish) http://www.kafkas.org.tr/TARIH/cecen_inguslarin_butunuyle_sibirya_iclerine_surgunu_.html
6) RGIA F.571 Narrated by Kabuzan V.M, Naseleniye Severnogo Kavkaza v XIX - XX vekah St. Petersburg 1996. Page 145
7) Uciyev (Utsiyev), Abu. "Xhaybax, Xatn' sanna..."Daymoxk gazete, Grozny 30 Avgust 1991; فsmailov ,Abu. "Vayna diclurdac Xhaybaxan qhiemat de", Daymoxk, Grozny 22 fevral 1992. Narrated by Tark Cemal Kutlu, Another example of the Jenoside: Xhaybax (Massagre -February 1944), (in Turkish) http://www.kafkas.org.tr/TARIH/genosidin_bir_baska_ornegi_.html
8) Sources about the Drau Tragedy: Ramazan Musa, the Memories of a Migrant and Aslanbeg Mahmut, the Disaster of the Karachai Turks. Also R. Musa was one of the witnesses of this tragedy at that time.
CAUCASUS FOUNDATION REPORTS-4
ENDLESS GENOCIDE AT CAUCASUS AND CHECHEN TRAGEDY
Written by: Fehim Tatekin - Mustafa ضzkaya