Mass deportations by Joseph Stalin have left an indelible mark on Soviet and post-Soviet history. The Karachay people from the Caucasus were among the victims of the tragedy and they're still living with the consequences.
Azamat Suyunchev is very proud of his ancestors. He says his grandfather served the Russian Tsar. He is 85 now, but the man clearly remembers 1943, when he and everyone in his village, were deported to Kazakhstan.
“People who used to reside in their own, decent homes, as Europeans, were placed there in cow-sheds. They were exiled without any rights,” he said.
The Karachay people, together with other ethnic groups from the Caucasus, such as Abkhazians, Ingush and Chechens, were forcefully relocated by Stalin's decree to distant areas of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Their towns were given Georgian names and thousands of ethnic Georgians were ordered to occupy the empty villages.
Soviet leaders said it was necessary because there were traitors in these ethnic groups, who were helping the Nazis. But historians believe there is more to the story. They say Stalin, who was born in Georgia, wanted to clear new territories for his homeland.
The timing seemed right for Stalinists. With 15,000 Karachay men fighting against Nazi Germany, there was no one at home to protect their families. Women, children and old people were the ones to suffer the most. More than 22,000 children did not survive the harsh living conditions in the desert. Almost every Karachay family lost loved ones.
Only after Stalin's death did Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev allow the Karachay people to return.
Stalin’s plans to create a Greater Georgia by redesigning the maps were unsuccessful. Now, the Karachay people say they regret that modern Georgian leaders are once again trying to solve territorial disputes by force.
By posting your comment, you agree to abide by our Posting rules