Chechens Await Compensation For Stalin’s Deportation

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 24

One point on which both unionist and secessionist Chechens are agreed is that the federal government should pay financial compensation to their countrymen who were victims of persecution under Stalin. The pro-Moscow administration’s State Council has issued a statement complaining that among all the ethnic groups in the North Caucasus forcibly deported to Central Asia and Siberia during World War II, only the Chechens have not received financial reparations during the post-Soviet era.

In 1993 and 1994, the neighboring ethnic groups in the region that suffered deportation—the Karachayevs, Kalmyks, Ingush, and Balkars—were granted compensation of 8,000 rubles for each person who had been deported, or who was born during the deportation period which ended in the mid-1950s after Stalin’s death. The authorities estimate that by those criteria, some 54,000 current residents of Chechnya would be eligible for compensation.

In addition to the ethnic Chechens now living within Chechnya itself, there is also a large Chechen diaspora elsewhere in the Russian Federation. Thus the figure of 54,000 is probably a significant underestimate—but of course the State Council in Grozny is primarily interested in its political constituency within the Chechen republic. Another difficulty is that the 1993-94 payments were authorized at a time when anti-Soviet sentiment was at a peak in Russia, in contrast to the current national mood of nostalgia for the Soviet superpower. On top of that, of course, the two Chechen wars and associated acts of terrorism, both real and alleged, have put ethnic Chechens in a class by themselves as targets of Russian ethnic bigotry. It is difficult to imagine today’s Russian political elite, which is increasingly nationalistic and increasingly reluctant to face the moral reality of Soviet

totalitarianism, providing any significant compensation for Chechens.

Even if such payments could somehow be authorized, there would remain the practical question of getting them to their legitimate recipients via Moscow’s and Grozny’s infamously corrupt bureaucracies. The current experience of compensation payments for Chechen homes destroyed by military action is far from encouraging: Only a few families have actually received payments, and among those few, stories of extorted kickbacks to bureaucrats are rampant.

Nevertheless, the State Council in Grozny declared that “our fellow citizens who were driven out of their historic motherland can expect from the authorities in the second half of this year some tangible results in compensation for their suffering.” Once again, the pro-Moscow authorities may be raising expectations which are bound to be shattered in practice.