21 January 2004, 00:23

The Soviet Chechen-Ingushetia

   Soon after the establishment of the Soviet regime in the North Caucasus, Gorsky ASSR was formed within the part of the USSR (November 17, 1920). The autonomous territory comprised principally the former Terek Region and a part of Kuban region (Karachai) with the area of over 73 thousand square kilometers and the population of 786 thousand people (Chechens, Ingushes, Ossets, Cabardians, Balcars, Carachaevs, Russians-Cossacks). The Republic was divided into 6 administrative regions that related to the six mountainous nationalities. Chechnya and Ingushetia formed part of the Gorsky Republic as Chechen and Nazran Regions. The capital of the autonomy became Vladikavkaz.

During the further national-territorial demarcation process in the North Caucasus in 1921-1922 the Cabardine, Karachaev, Chechen and Balcar regions that were transformed into the autonomous regions of the RSFSR, disintegrated from the Gorsky ASSR. In the long run, the Gorsky ASSR itself was abolished by the Decree of the Soviet Government of July 7, 1924. The Autonomous Regions of North Ossetia and Ingushetia, as well as the Sunzhen Region populated by the Cossacks were formed on this territory. Vladikavkaz became an independent administrative unit.

Apart from the present-day territory of Ingushetia, adjacent lands of the modern Republic of North Ossetia formed part of the Autonomous Republic of Ingushetia. At that time the borders of Ingushetia adjoined Vladikavkaz from the east, south and, partly, from the north. As has already been mentioned, Vladikavkaz that was situated on the both banks of the Terek, was a special territorial unit, but the administrative bodies of the both autonomies - Inguish and North Ossetic - were located in this city. To be more exact, the Ingush administration was located on the right (east) bank and the North Ossetic administration was located on the left (western) bank. Industrial enterprises were located in the same order in the city. This provision was preserved till January 15, 1934 when Chechnya and Ingushetia were united into the integral Autonomous Region of Chechen-Ingushetia with Grozny as its capital. After this, Vladikavkaz belonged completely to Ossetia in the administrative sense, but the lands that adjoined it on three sides and Ingushetia formed part of the new autonomous formation - Chechen-Ingushetia that has soon received the status of an autonomous republic.

It should be noted that during the period of the Soviet regime a great contribution was made to the cultural and economic development of Chechen-Ingushetia. Illiteracy among the major part of the population was liquidated during the first two decades of the Soviet regime, effective industry was built, a significant part of lands was returned to the Vainakh villages, a network of scientific educational establishments was created, new cadres of national intelligentsia were trained, literature in the Chechen and Ingush languages came into being, different kinds of science and art were developed. Yet, the Vainakhs experienced all the inhumanity of the Bolshevist regime. From the first years of Sovietization, officials of Cheka (Special Committee) started to methodically exterminate the old intelligentsia and priesthood, and all others who seemed to be unreliable to the government. The party cadres from the Center who knew little about the Caucasus gradually substituted the leaders of the Vainakh communists. Military raids were organized with the purpose of disarmament of the population(1). As a result, the partisan-brigand movement was strengthening and several times grew into the local rebellion. Punitive expeditions of the Red Army against the Chechen mutineers turned into the large-scale military operations carried on using the airplanes and armoured material (1822-1924,1925).

The situation especially aggravated in the 20s when the authorities compelled the peasants join collective farms and when they began to exile several groups of citizens to Siberia with their families. More significant uprisings took place in Goiti, Shali, Benos, Autura. The mutineers captured the administrative buildings, set fire to the state archives, arrested the local authorities, SPA (State Political Administration) chiefs inclusively. The following claims were laid to the Soviet Government on behalf of the folk: to put an end to the forced collectivization, exiles and other unlawful actions, to dismiss the authorities of the local SPA and substitute them by the civilians from the ranks of Chechens(2) with the right to persecute criminal elements only, to restore Shariat Courts, to prevent the Center from interfering into the internal affairs of Chechnya as it was agreed in the status of autonomy.

High-rank commission arrived from Moscow and entered into negotiations with the Chechen mutineers. On behalf of the Soviet Government the mutineers were told that all the blame in the events lay exclusively on the local workers that passed decisions irrespective of the regulations from Moscow. It was promised that they would be punished severely as soon as the mutineers gave up the struggle. The mutineers believed this explanation and agreed to go back to their houses expecting the fulfillment of these promises. However, this turned out to be only a trick of the authorities, the purpose of which was to disorganize the mutineers and to weaken their vigilance.

At midnight an army of Cheka members attacked the house of the leader of Shali mutineers, Shita Istamulov, but they were met with a rebuff. Shita and his brother Khasan defended themselves till dawn; by this time the mutineers came to their aid, the armed Chechens surrounded the members of Cheka and defeated them all. Shita Istamulov who managed to break free from the battle, called Chechens for the "Sacred War", restoration of Imamate and exile of the infidels from the Caucasus (1929).

Well-trained military alignment of the Red Army consisting of several infantry divisions and artillery was sent to Chechnya. Besides that two regiments of the mountain riflemen from the frontier guards that were transferred from the Caucasus and SPA troops were involved in the operation. The military alignment was headed by I.Belov, Commander of the North Caucasus Military District.

As a result of fierce, bloody battles in April 1930 Belov took over the principal centers of the mutiny-Goiti, Shali, Benoi. Both parties suffered heavy losses, but the Chechen mutineers still did not drop guns. They retreated to the mountainous overgrown places that were difficult to be accessed. They were getting ready for the long-lasting partisan war.

Again the Bolsheviks changed their tactics. Parliamentarians were sent to the mutineers to offer them an honorable peace. They promised to amnesty all those who would drop guns including the mutiny chiefs. The Chechens answered that they would turn back to peaceful life only on condition that Moscow will recall Belov's troops. Besides, by the special decree of the CC (Central Committee) the left-winger "deviators" from collective-farm movement were found guilty and condemned. In some national districts the collective farms were abolished. The leadership of the Chechen AR (autonomous region) was abolished, too.

The mutineers believed the Soviet Government once again and went back to their auls, but were deceived again. The members of Cheka killed Shita Istamulov when in autumn of 1931 he came voluntarily to the regional administration of SPA to receive the certificate - an amnesty document that was promised to him by Moscow. After this his brother Khasan Istamulov organized a new rebel group which functioned till 1935.

After Shita was murdered, a large-scale repression raged against the "Kulak-counterrevolution elements and Mullah-nationalistic ideologists". Thousands of people were shot or thrown into prisons. Mass repression gave rise to the new mutinies in the Nojai-Urta and Shali regions. Punitive operations against the Chechen mutineers that were joined by the troops of the North Caucasus Military District recurred in 1932, 1933-1934, 1937-1939.

Besides the Istamulov brothers, among the leaders of the Chechen Opposition were Akhmet Mula, Kuriev, Iarocha, Khodjasa, Makala Gazgireev, Saadul Magamaev, Imama Saaduev, Ibragim Geldegenov and others.

The struggle of the Ingushes with the Soviet order was noteworthy, too. At the end of the 20s the repression in Ingushetia increased considerably. Muslim priesthood and the followers of Kunta-Khadji movement were hunted down. The resistance of the Ingushes was fierce, too. They killed Chernoglaz, Secretary of Ingushetia Regional Committee of all Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks and Ivanov, Chief of the Nazran regional SPA (State Political Administration). Each terrorist action against the high-rank representatives of the authorities was followed by a new repression against the terrorists and other persons who were listed by SPA as "vicious elements". In these lists there were also the names of not only former but also of future banditti.

In order to gain favour with the Government, the members of Cheka (Special Committee) organized imaginary conspiracies of Chechens and Ingushes: they sent provocateurs to them in order to urge the ingenuous mountain peasants on unlawful actions. Then, after making away with the sworn enemies of the Soviet Union they reported to Moscow about the defeat of the next "counterrevolutionary nationalistic Center" or organization of spies. The well-known Chechen politologist and historian Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov describes the fact of discovery of the anti-Soviet conspiracy in Ingushetia.

In autumn of 1930 a certain mysterious stranger arrived in Chechnya. He passed himself off as a representative of Japan. He visited auls, made contacts with the authoritative people, and held illegal meetings with them. The headquarters of the visitor were located in Dolakov village, in the house of the former tsarist officer R.Evloev who was a non-Soviet person and enjoyed confidence among the Ingush people. In the long run, the "Japanese" gathered his new acquaintances in Evloev 's house and having taken a vow from them to keep all in secret, he set forth the crux of the matter. He said that Japan and other great powers would soon make war with the Soviet Union. In this future war against the Bolsheviks the peoples oppressed by them including those of the Caucasus, will rise against the Bolsheviks. He said he was authorized by his government to provide the mutineers with money and guns. The visitor spoke for quite a long time, and there was a great logic in his speech. His Mongoloid features testified to the truthfulness of his words. The Ingushes believed him and promised to stir up a rebellion at the start of the war. After that "the Japanese" appointed each of those present as "chiefs of hundred people" and distributed several guns and shoulder straps of Japanese pattern as a mark of distinction. As he promised, money would be supplied in the course of the "military-underground work". The "Japanese representative" who, in reality, turned out to be a member of Central Asian SPA left feeling very glad with the achieved success. The Ingushes buried weapons and shoulder straps in the ground and waited for the war to start. But the war did not start and Ingushetia was inundated with SPA troops. Mass arrests in all large auls were held on one and the same day. The whole "Japanese headquarters" of conspirators were arrested and their "material evidence"- the Japanese weapons and shoulder straps were easily discovered. Only the assistant of the "Japanese representative", Evloev, was not arrested. This typical provocation cost the Ingushes 21 executed and 400 exiled people. Instead, the authoritative membership of the Vladikavkaz Department of SPA received rewards for the fulfillment of the special task of the Soviet Government. One of the Ingush SPA agents was among the rewarded.

Since the end of 1935 to 1937 Chechnya-Ingushetia was comparatively at peace, there was no large provocation from Cheka and, consequently, there were no uprisings. Even the partisan movement in the mountains considerably abated. But general repression of 1937 did not fail to rain down on the Vainakh autonomy, too. For half a year Chechnya-Ingushetia was, in fact, beheaded: almost all the local authorities, ranging from the workers of Republican scale to the chairmen of agricultural councils, workers of collective farms and ordinary party functionaries were arrested. The newcomers who did not know the language, history and culture of this nation substituted the liquidated workers. According to A.Avtorkhanov: "The extermination of intelligentsia in Chechen-Ingushetia was followed by the destruction of the ties that had existed between the people and the authorities".

During the repression of the 1937-1938, a major part of the USSR citizens ruled out all ideas of opposing the communist regime. Yet, the Vainakhs behaved in a different way. The partisan rebel movement in Chechen-Ingushetia grew stronger. Hundreds of people joined the brigands.

During 20 years the Vainakh resistance against the Soviet regime was headed by the religious authorities (mullahs, sheikhs) and mountain peasants, but at the end of the 30s and 40s representatives of intelligentsia became the leaders of the partisan movement (writer Khatsan Israilov, lawyer Miorbek Sheripov). This, however, did not have a great effect on the methods and tactics of the struggle.

Israilov (1910-1942) was born in Nashkh where, according to the tales, "pure-blooded" Chechen taipes come from. He was a member of Komsomol and of all Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks (RCPB), but he did not take part in the active political life. He wrote poems and plays. Israilov contributed to one of Moscow newspapers by publishing articles in which he sharply criticized the authorities of Chechnya for the abuse and oppression of the working people. He was arrested twice and spent some years in prison where he wrote several literary works.

Feeling completely disappointed in the Soviet regime, K.Israilov, after his release from prison in 1939, refused to join the Communist Party again and went over to the Opposition camp. Thinking that the Soviet-Finnish War was a suitable period for anticommunist revolt that would be joined by other peoples of the Caucasus too, he stirred up a rebellion in South Chechnya at the beginning of 1940 and proclaimed the establishment of the Provisional National-Revolution Government of Chechen-Ingushetia.

The Soviet leadership sent troops to Chechnya and defeated the mutineers. Yet, they could manage to hold their positions.

The intrusion of German troops to the USSR in 1941 gave rise to the rebel movement in Chechen-Ingushetia. Israilov's detachment was joined by the former prosecutor Mireback Sheripov (d.in 1942), the brother of the above-mentioned Nazarbek and Aslanbek Sheripovs. The unified military headquarters were formed and the Rebel Government was reorganized. The Vainakh mutineers who fought in the mountains in small groups could not be captured by the punitive troops. In June 1942 they addressed the Chechen and Ingush people saying that Caucasian peoples are awaiting the Germans as guests and they will offer them hospitality on condition that the Germans recognize the complete independence of the Caucasus. The Soviet leadership was unable to suppress the rebel movement and struck air bombs on the mountain population.

The advancement of the German army in the North Caucasus in 1942 was stopped by the Soviet troops near the north-western borders of Chechen-Ingushetia. Next year the Germans were completely driven away from the Caucasus. At that time the Vainakhs struggled bravely against the Hitler troops in the fronts of the Soviet-German war. Nevertheless, the Soviet Government accused all Chechens and Inguishes of treason and in February 1944 organized a mass deportation of Chechens and Inguishes to Central Asia (mostly to Kazakhstan and Kirghizia, partly to Uzbekistan and Altai). 500 thousand people were exiled all in all (more than 400,000 Chechens and 90,000 Ingushes). Among the deported were not only "vicious elements" and ordinary citizens, but also the workers of the party and Soviet machinery, former Red Army partisans, honoured front-line soldiers and members of their families. The deportation order concerned everybody who was Chechen or Ingush by nationality(3).

The operation of evicting the Vainakhs, known under the code name "Mountains" took three days only and was performed as follows: Troops were transferred to the Republic supposedly with the purpose of mountain maneuvers and they were located around the Chechen-Ingushetia villages. On February 23, 1944 all the inhabitants were unexpectedly arrested. Those who put up resistance were killed on the spot. People were driven into the lorries and taken to the railway station where they were forced into the trains ready for departure. Each family was allowed to have only 20 kg of luggage. The barbarian terms of transportation (the deportees were transported in the cattle wagons for several days without any food or drink) caused death of thousands of people, especially of old people and children. Many thousands of people died of hunger and poverty in the places of exile. They were thrown into the steppes without any lodgings or food. The inhabitants of villages, who could not be exiled from Chechen-Ingushetia for a number of reasons, were exterminated. So, on February 27, 1944, 147 inhabitants of the mountainous Chechen village of Khaibakh were burned alive. It is noteworthy that there were no battle-worthy men in the village. The killed were disabled people, women and children. The oldest of them was 110 years old, the youngest-less than 1 day old. The tragic fate of Khabaikh was shared by the Chechen villages of Magzar and Matskhar, the Ingush villages of Targim, Guli and Tsori.

In the exile "the special settlers" (an official name of the deported people, this word, being known that from the viewpoint of the authorities, equalled to bandit in meaning) were in the conditions of barrack regime. Free movement was allowed only within the region in the distance of 3 km. A special permission was required for longer trips. The armed posts of NCIA (National Committee of Internal Affairs) were located between the inhabited areas, barriers were installed in this region. Personal file was kept for each special settler. The adults were obliged to register in the Commandant's Office once a month.

On March 7, 1944 the Supreme Council of the USSR passed a Decree on the abolition of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR and about the administrative arrangement of the territory. So, by exiling the Vainakhs to Central Asia the Soviet Government tried to wipe Chechen-Ingushetia off the Caucasus map as such. The territory of the country was divided into four unequal parts. Almost all Ingushetia was handed over to North-Ossetian ASSR, the lands of Eastern Chechnya formed part of the Daghestan ASSR, the southern mountain region formed part of the Georgian SSR, the northern and central regions of the former autonomy (the Grozny Region) were included in the Stavropol Territory of RSFSR. The Vainakh names of inhabited localities were quickly changed, monuments of material culture were destroyed. Much was done to bury the Chechens and Ingushes in oblivion.



However, even the members of Stalin Cheka (Special Committee) were unable to wipe the country of Vainakhs from its inhabitants. The mutineers and those who managed to join them (about 2000 people) stayed in their motherland and took cover in the woods. They waged unequal struggle against their enemy, attacked the administrative representatives and colonists from their positions in the mountains.

Several divisions of NCIA (National Committee of Internal Affairs) were sent to Chechen-Ingushetia with the purpose of liquidating the partisan-brigand movement. Moscow tried to involve the representatives of the North Caucasian peoples - Georgians, Ossetians, Daghestans - into the struggle, too, but they could only use the assistance of military forces in the neighbouring republics(4). As for ordinary people, they sympathized for Vainakhs. For example, there were some cases when Georgian herdsmen gave shelter to the fugitives.

In the midst of the 50s the main partisan groups in the territory of Chechen-Ingushetia were destroyed. But there came other times already. By the Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council in January 1917 the Chechen-Ingush ASSR was restored and the Vainakhs started to go back to their motherland(5). The brigands still concealed themselves in the woods. They did not trust the Soviet authorities and continued to revenge the members of Cheka (Special Committee). They were gradually killed. The last famous brigand, Khasukha Magamadov, a mutineer of 1939, was killed in 1976 when, old and ill, he came to the village cemetery to bid farewell with the graves of his kin.

The borders of Chechen-Ingush ASSR were changed after restoration. The Ingush territory around Vladikavkaz (the so-called Suburban Region) and the region in the West of Malgobek formed part of North Ossetya. Instead, the Republic regained part of the Terek-Kuma Lowland on the left bank of the Terek with its stanitsas.

The epoch of the so-called stagnation was, on the whole, the most peaceful in the history of Chechen-Ingushetia notwithstanding the abatement of the brigand movement, demolition of the monument to Ermolov in Grozny and periodical strikes of Ingushes for the restoration of autonomy and Suburban Regions. Still, Moscow treated the Vainakhs with distrust. As a rule, they were not appointed as first persons of nomenclature in the Autonomous Republic (First Secretary of Chechen-Ingushetia CPSS). This post was principally occupied by ethnical Russian. Only during the period of "Perestroika", in 1989, the first Chechen was appointed on this post. It was Zavgaev. During the Russian-Chechen war in 1994-1996 he headed the pro-Russian administration in the Republic. There were few Vainakhs among the leaders of municipal and regional administrations as well as of the industrial enterprises.

The policy of Russification acquired a new impulse in this period. Mosques and national schools were closed down; the activity of Chechen and Ingush cultural establishments was sharply decreased. Right up to the second half of the 80s the ideologists of the Regional Committee of CPSS in Chechen-Ingushetia tried hard to inculcate the conception of free-will integration of Chechen-Ingushetia with Russia. The contradictory point of view was viewed by the authorities as "anti-Soviet" and "undermining".


(1)  The Chechen political scientist L.Usmanov indicates at the archives document entitled "The Instruction on Disarmament of the Chechen Autonomous Region" dated March 1925, where the following recommendations are given: At the meetings of aul inhabitants a demand was made about dropping guns, for which a special term was appointed... "If the inhabitants of auls do not obey , then gun-fire will be shot at the city or, in case of the shortage of artillery , machine-gun will be fired at the city within 10 minutes".

(2)  The Vainakhs constituted only a small part of the staff of state security services in Chechen-Ingushetia.

(3)  The violent eviction of some peoples of the Soviet Union (Chechens, Ingushes, Karachaevs, Balcars, Kalmiks, Crimean Tatars, Soviet Germans, "Meskhis" and others) during the years of World War II was one of the most ominous crimes of Stalin period. In order to justify this evil deed, the Kremlin authorities accused the deportees of treason, banditism and evasion from productive labour without adducing any proof. So, the decree of the Supreme Council of the USSR of March 7, 1944 says that "many Chechens and Ingushes betrayed their motherland by going over to fascist occupants, they joined armies of saboteurs and scouts that were sent by the Germans to the rears of the Red Army, they formed armed bands to fight against the Soviet regime, many Chechens and Ingushes took part in rebels against the Soviet order, they maid raids upon the collective farms of adjacent regions, they rob and kill Soviet people..." But, in reality, the major part of Vainakh fighters did their duty well, the Republic supplied food products and its oil producing industry worked much in order to make provisions to the front. True, there were some people among the Chechens and Ingushes who, for one reason or another, went over to the enemy's camp, but there were such people among other peoples of the Soviet Union, too. The whole army of Russians headed by General Vlasov joined the Germans. There were also armies of Ukraine, Baltic people and others. As for the Vainakh uprisings of the 20s-30s concerned, they were caused by the antinational and provocative policy of the Soviet administration and punitive organs.

(4)  e.g. in 1955 members of Georgian Cheka arrested famous abrek Akhmed Khuchabarov who fought against the Soviet Union since 1929.

(5)   It should be noted that even after the partial exposure of crimes during the period of Stalinism on XX conference of CPSS (February 1956), and in the process of rehabilitation of the repressed peoples, there was a talk in the higher echelons about the expediency of sending the Vainakhs back to the Caucasus and forming a new "motherland" for them in the places of exile. Here is an extract from a certificate issued on June 1956 by Didurov, Minister of Internal Affairs of SSR : "Chechens and Ingushes are settled principally in the Kazakh SSR (335 thousand people) and in the Kirghiz SSR (76 986 people). Their former territory is populated. The restoration of autonomy for the Chechens and Ingushes within the former territory is a difficult and hardly realizable matter, as the return of the Chechens and Ingushes to their former motherland will have unpleasant subsequences. So the matter of forming a new regional autonomy for the Chechens and Ingushes in the Kazakh and Kirghiz SSR could be reviewed".

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