Operation Lentil (Caucasus)
Operation Lentil was the Soviet expulsion
Population transfer in the Soviet Union
Population transfer in the Soviet Union may be classified into the following broad categories: deportations of "anti-Soviet" categories of population, often classified as "enemies of workers," deportations of entire nationalities, labor force transfer, and organized migrations in opposite...

 of the whole of the native Chechen
Chechen people
Chechens constitute the largest native ethnic group originating in the North Caucasus region. They refer to themselves as Noxçi . Also known as Sadiks , Gargareans, Malkhs...

 and Ingush
Ingush people
The Ingush are a native ethnic group of the North Caucasus, mostly inhabiting the Russian republic of Ingushetia. They refer to themselves as Ghalghai . The Ingush are predominantly Sunni Muslims and speak the Ingush language...

 populations of the North Caucasus
North Caucasus
The North Caucasus is the northern part of the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas and within European Russia. The term is also used as a synonym for the North Caucasus economic region of Russia....

 to Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 and Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan , officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world's six independent Turkic states . Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


The expulsion, preceded by the 1940-1944 Chechnya insurgency, was ordered on 23 February 1944 by Lavrentiy Beria
Lavrentiy Beria
Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria was a Georgian Soviet politician and state security administrator, chief of the Soviet security and secret police apparatus under Joseph Stalin during World War II, and Deputy Premier in the postwar years ....

 after approval by Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

, as a part of Soviet forced settlement program during World War II (see also Population transfer in the Soviet Union
Population transfer in the Soviet Union
Population transfer in the Soviet Union may be classified into the following broad categories: deportations of "anti-Soviet" categories of population, often classified as "enemies of workers," deportations of entire nationalities, labor force transfer, and organized migrations in opposite...

). The deportation encompassed the entire nation, well over 500,000 people. A considerable amount of these having been killed during the trip and still more before it, the latter were not counted. They were not allowed to go back to Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

 until 1957.


During World War II, despite the fact that about 40,000 Chechens and Ingush fought in the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 (50 of them received the highest recognition of the Hero of the Soviet Union
Hero of the Soviet Union
The title Hero of the Soviet Union was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.-Overview:...

), the Soviet government accused them of cooperating with the Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 invaders, who had controlled the western parts of Chechnya-Ingushetia for several months of the 1942/1943 winter. It was claimed that some Chechens were eager to show the Nazis mountain passes leading to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

, whose oil reserves
Oil reserves
The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is...

 were the goal of Operation Blue
Operation Blue
Case Blue , later renamed Operation Braunschweig, was the German Armed Forces name for its plan for a 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and November 1942....


However, that the Chechens actually were allied to the Germans is highly questionable and usually dismissed as false. They did have contact with the Germans. However, there were profound ideological differences between the Chechens and the Nazis (self-determination versus imperialism), neither trusted the other, there was an influential Jewish clan among the Chechens (who were not "Aryan" to begin with according to Hitlerian theory), the German courting of the Cossacks was not pleasing at all to the Chechens (their traditional enemies which with they still had numerous land disputes and other conflicts) and Khasan Israilov
Khasan Israilov
Khasan Israilov was a Chechen nationalist, guerrilla fighter, journalist, and poet who led a Chechen and Ingush rebellion against the Soviet Union from 1940 until his death in 1944....

 certainly had a strong dislike for Hitler. Mairbek Sheripov reportedly gave the Ostministerium a sharp warning that "if the liberation of the Caucasus meant only the exchange of one colonizer for another, the Caucasians would consider this [a theoretical fight pitting Chechens and other Caucasians against Germans] only a new stage in the national liberation war."

In any case, as critics note, there were also many Chechens (17413) in the Red Army (and, coincidentally, also much less than the number of Russians and Cossacks fighting for the Nazis).

On orders from Lavrenty Beria, the head of the NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

, the entire Chechen and Ingush population of the republic were deported by freight trains to Kazakhstan. The operation was called "Chechevitsa" (Operation Lentil), its first two syllables pointing a finger at its intended targets (though while the Chechens were the main targets, they were not the only victims). The operation is referred to by Chechens often as "Aardakh" (the Exodus).

The forced expulsion of Chechen people
Chechen people
Chechens constitute the largest native ethnic group originating in the North Caucasus region. They refer to themselves as Noxçi . Also known as Sadiks , Gargareans, Malkhs...

 was a part of Stalin's program designed for suppression of potential national liberation movements in the Soviet Union. In October 1943, a group of NKVD officers led by Bogdan Kobulov
Bogdan Kobulov
The surname Kobulov may refer to either of the two USSR statesmen and state security officers who are occasionally confused with one another and who were brothers:-Bogdan Kobulov:...

 was sent to Chechnya to prepare materials for justification of repressions. In November, they sent a letter to Beria claiming that "there are 38 religious groups in Chechnya with membership of at least 20,000 people, who conduct active anti-Soviet work, help the bandits and German saboteurs, and call for armed resistance to the Soviet power".). Then Beria ordered to prepare the operation.

The Chechen-Ingush republic
Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
The Chechen–Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, or Chechen–Ingush ASSR ;) was an autonomous republic within the Russian SFSR...

 was never occupied by the German army. Therefore, the repressions were officially justified by "an armed resistance to Soviet power" In 1940 another insurgency, led by Khasan Israilov
Khasan Israilov
Khasan Israilov was a Chechen nationalist, guerrilla fighter, journalist, and poet who led a Chechen and Ingush rebellion against the Soviet Union from 1940 until his death in 1944....

, started in Galanchozh. In February 1942 Musa Sheripov's group rebelled in Shatoi, Khimokhk and tried to take Itum-Kale. They united with Israilov's army to rebel against Soviet domination. The key period of the Chechen guerilla war started in August–September, 1942 when the German troops approached Chechnya and ended in the summer-autumn of 1943 with the Soviet counter-offensive that drove the Wehrmacht from the North Caucasus.

The operation (Aardakh)

It was initiated on October 13, 1943 when about 120,000 men were moved into the Republic of Checheno-Ingushetia, supposedly for mending bridges. On February 23, 1944 (on Red Army day), the entire population was summoned to local party buildings where they were told they were going to be deported as punishment for their alleged collaboration with the Germans.

Some 40% to 50% of the deportees were children. Unheated and uninsulated freight cars
Goods wagon
Goods wagons are railway wagons that are used for the transportation of goods .- Development :At the beginning of the railway era, the vast majority of goods wagons were four-wheeled vehicles of simple construction. These were almost exclusively small covered wagons, open wagons with side-boards,...

 were used. The inhabitants rounded up and imprisoned in Studebaker trucks and sent to Siberia. Many times, resistance was met with slaughter, and in one such instance, in the aul of Khaibakh, about live 700 people were locked in a barn and burned to death by NKVD general Gveshiani, who was praised for this and promised a medal by Beria. Many people from remote villages were executed per Beria's verbal order that any Chechen or Ingush deemed 'untransportable should be liquidated' on the spot. An eyewitness recalled the actions of the Soviet secret police
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....



By the next summer, Checheno-Ingushetia was dissolved; a number of Chechen and Ingush placenames were replaced with Russian ones; mosques and graveyards were destroyed, and a massive campaign of burning numerous historical Chechen texts was near complete (leaving the world depleted of what was more or less the only source of central Caucasian literature and historical texts except for sparse texts about the Chechens, Ingush, etc., not written only by themselves, but by Georgians) Throughout the North Caucasus, about 700.000 (according to Dalkhat Ediev, 72.4297 , of which the majority, 479.478, were Chechens, along with 96.327 Ingush, 104.146 Kalmyks, 39.407 Balkars and 71.869 Karachais). Many died along the trip, and the extremely harsh environment of Siberia (especially considering the amount of exposure) killed many more.

The NKVD, supplying the Russian perspective, gives the statistic of 144.704 people killed in 1944-1948 alone (death rate of 23.5% per all groups), though this is dismissed by many authors such as Tony Wood, John Dunlop, Moshe Gammer and others as a far understatement . Estimates for deaths of the Chechens alone (excluding the NKVD statistic), range from about 170.000 to 200.000 , thus ranging from over a third of the total Chechen population to nearly half being killed in those 4 years alone (rates for other groups for those four years hover around 20%). Although the Council of Europe has recognized it as a "genocidal act", no country except the self-declared, unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is the unrecognized secessionist government of Chechnya. The republic was proclaimed in late 1991 by Dzokhar Dudayev, and fought two devastating wars between separatists and the Russian Federation which denounced secession...

 officially recognizes the act as a genocide.

Attempts to erase nominal existence of the Vainakh nation

During the repression period (1944–1957), deported nations were not allowed to change places without special permit taken from local authority. Names of repressed nations were totally erased from all books and encyclopedias. Chechen-language libraries were destroyed, many Chechen books and manuscripts were burned. Many families were divided and not allowed to travel to each other even if they found out where their relatives were.

Chechnya after the deportation

The Checheno-Ingush ASSR was transformed into Grozny Oblast
Grozny Oblast
Grozny Oblast was an administrative entity of the Russian SFSR that was established as Grozny Okrug on March 7, 1944 and abolished on January 9, 1957.-Formation:...

, which included also the Kizlyar District and Naursky raion from Stavropol Kray, and parts of it were given to North Ossetia (part of Prigorodny District
Prigorodny District, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania
Prigorodny District is an administrative and municipal district , one of the eight in the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania, Russia. Its administrative center is the rural locality of Oktyabrskoye...

), Georgian SSR and Dagestan
The Republic of Dagestan is a federal subject of Russia, located in the North Caucasus region. Its capital and the largest city is Makhachkala, located at the center of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea...

 ASSR. Most of the empty housing was given to refugees from war-raged Western Soviet Union. Abandoned houses were settled by newcomers, only Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 and Meskhetian Turks refused to settle in foreign houses, both of which groups had previously lived in the area, are treated with respect for the grief repression that saved them from the wrath of the owners returning. There are still settlements produced to representatives of these peoples. In 1949 Soviet authorities erected a statue of 19th century Russian general Aleksey Yermolov
Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov
Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov , or Ermolov , was a Russian Imperial general of the 19th century who commanded Russian troops in the Caucasus War.-Early life:...

 in Grozny
Grozny is the capital city of the Chechen Republic, Russia. The city lies on the Sunzha River. According to the preliminary results of the 2010 Census, the city had a population of 271,596; up from 210,720 recorded in the 2002 Census. but still only about two-thirds of 399,688 recorded in the 1989...

. The inscription read, "There is no people under the sun more vile and deceitful than this one."

Some of Chechen settlements were totally deleted from, maps and encyclopedia. Many gravestones were destroyed (along with pretty much the whole library of Chechen medieval writing (in Arabic and Georgian script) about the land of Chechnya, its people, etc., leaving the modern Chechens and modern historians with a destroyed and no longer existent historical treasury of writings ) in places that were renamed to be given Russian names. Tombstones of Chechens with a history of hundreds of years have been used by soviets for the construction of pedestrian footpasses, foundations of houses, pig pens, etc..

Rediscovery of the Khaibakh massacre by Soviet historians later on

The aul of Khaibakh was rediscovered, through archaeological finds in the Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Archaeologists have found the bodies of Caucasian scouts who died doing operations in the rear of the Nazis. In his pockets were found letters inscribing the name of the aul Khaibakh. When the scientists decided to inform the families of soldiers that have found their relatives, they learned that such a settlement in Chechnya no longer exists. Continuing their investigation, they discovered that while soldiers from Chechnya, died on the front, the relatives of theirs were burned alive in their homes by Soviet soldiers.

Act of genocide

Forced deportation constitutes an act of genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 according to the IV Hague Convention of 1907
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

 and the Convention on the prevention and repression of the crime of genocide of the UN General Assembly (adopted in 1948) and in this case this was acknowledged by the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

as an act of genocide in 2004.

The separatist government of Chechnya (or Ichkeria) also recognizes it as genocide, and made a memorial to it in the center of Grozny (see section below); as do Ingush nationalists. Kadyrov's government usually does not comment on the matter, though they dismantled Dudayev's memorial to the events of 1944-57 (see section below).


In 1991, Dzhokkar Dudayev made political capital by, in a symbolic move, sending out officials to gather these lost gravestones (gravestones which had been used by the Soviets for pavement and other uses), many of which had lost their original inscriptions, and construct out of them a wall. This wall was made to symbolize both Chechen remorse for the past as well as the desire to, in the name of the dead ancestors, fashion the best possible Chechen Republic out of their land and work hard towards the future. It bears an engravement, reading: "We will not break, we will not weep; we will never forget"; tablets bore pictures of the sites of massacres, such as Khaibakh.

It has now been moved and dismantled by the Kadyrov government, sparking much controversy.

External links

  • World Chechnya Day.org- Website (run by diaspora Chechens and others) promoting observance of February 23 as the anniversary of the genocide against the Vaynakh people. It also has a wealth of information (in the History section) about the conditions of the deportation, with numerous quotes.
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