- Coined by the dissident historian Aleksandr Nekrich in his Punished Peoples: The Deportation and Fate of Soviet Minorities at the End of the Second World War (1978), the term refers to those ethnic minorities that were deported en masse during World War II. At the behest of Joseph Stalin, himself ethnically Georgian and Ossetian, Chechens, Ingush, Kalmyks, Balkars, Karachay, Meskhetian Turks, Crimean Tatars, and Volga Germans were packed onto cattle cars and relocated to Siberia and Central Asia; the rigors of the journey resulted in a 30–40 percent mortality rate. Under Nikita Khrushchev, these ethnic minorities were politically “rehabilitated,” but only the Chechens, Ingush, Kalmyks, Balkars, and Karachay were allowed to return to their ethnic homelands. Economic dislocation and memories of the trauma continued to plague these communities after their return to the North Caucasus and Kalmykiya; both would figure in the Ossetian-Ingush Conflict and the first Chechen War. With the coming of glasnost, more information about the deportations came to light and the Crimean Tatars, in particular, began to push for the right of return to Crimea, now in Ukraine.Ethnic violence between Uzbeks and the Meskhetian Turks in 1989 created a unionwide fear of general ethnic struggle, coinciding as it did with the Nagorno-Karabakh War and other incidents. Throughout the 1990s, ethnic Germans employed Germany’s law of return based on ethnicity to relocate to Europe. The term is sometimes extended to include minorities that are not indigenous to Russia, but which suffered the same fate, including Koreans, Greeks, Bulgarians, Poles, and the peoples of the Baltic States.See also Gorbachev, Mikhail; Uzbekistan.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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