Become an OC Media Member

Support independent journalism in the Caucasus: Join today

Become a member

Balkar community representatives criticise concert on Memorial Day

6 March 2020
Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria. Photo: fond-adygi.ru

Community representatives and social media users in Kabardino-Balkaria criticized an International Women’s concert held in the Republic on 8 March, as the day is also the Memorial Day for the victims of the Stalinist deportation of the Balkars. 

The discussion arose on 29 February after Marziyat Baysiyeva, a local journalist, wrote on Facebook, ‘Why are there no clear decrees on the inadmissibility of entertainment events on 8 March in [Kabardino–Balkaria]?’

Baysiyeva was referencing a poster advertising a privately organised concert on 8 March in Nalchik by famous ethnically Kabardian local singer Cherim Nakhushev, dedicated to International Women's Day. 

Kabardino-Balkaria has officially marked the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Deportation of the Balkar People on 8 March since 1991. 

[Read on OC Media: Kabardino-Balkaria commemorates 73rd anniversary of Stalin’s deportations]

According to Baysiyeva, it is even more insulting to the memory of the victims of the deportation that the House of Culture of Trade Unions, which has the poster up at the entrance, adjoins a square named after the Balkarian poet Kaisyn Kuliyev, who survived the deportation.

Kaisyn Kuliyev statue next to House of Culture of Trade Unions. Photo by: Marziyat Baysiyeva.

‘Turn to the policy of repression’

Baysiyeva told OC Media that such ‘overlays’ don’t only occur in Kabardino-Balkaria.

‘Defender of the Fatherland Day [23 February], which is an official public holiday throughout Russia, in Chechnya, and Ingushetia coincides with the mourning date for the deportation of the indigenous peoples of these republics, and this year, according to media reports, only Defender of the Fatherland Day was officially celebrated there’, she said.

[Read on OC Media: After 73 years, the memory of Stalin’s deportation of Chechens and Ingush still haunts the survivors]

In her opinion, federal authorities are very reluctant to make a full confession of guilt to the deported peoples, and today public organizations in Kabardino-Balkaria do not deal with these problems.

‘Does this attitude to the historical memory of the small peoples of Russia mean a turn to the policy of repression, especially in the context of the recent statements made by Constitutional Court judge Konstantin Aranovskiy that Russia is not the legal successor of the USSR?’ she asked.

[Read on OC Media: No support and no understanding for victims of Stalin’s repressions in Kabardino-Balkaria]

‘The day of remembrance of the innocent’

‘I myself was born in exile. I left my sister there, many peers died. For me, 8 March is the day of remembrance of the innocent, Khakim Kuchmezov, chairman of the Kabardino-Balkarian branch of the Yabloko party told OC Media.

‘During the mourning dedicated to the expulsion of the Adyghe [Circassians] (21 May), I tell my grandchildren the history of those bloody times, I take them to the events of mourning’, he added.

[Read more: ‘The Great Day of Unity’ vs ‘the tragedy of the genocide’: Kabardino-Balkaria’s contradictory public holidays]

According to Kuchmezov, on 8 March he usually congratulates close relatives on International Women's Day, but does not participate in official celebrations dedicated to this holiday.

‘I would like other peoples living in Kabardino-Balkaria to respect the memory of the Balkar victims of Stalin's deportation’, he said.

Ismail Sabanchiyev, head of the Council of Elders of the Balkarian People, a Nalchik-based public organization, told OC Media that he believes that holding celebrations and concerts in Kabardino-Balkaria on 8 March is unethical.

‘In the North Caucasus, there are practically no people who would not be subjected to some degree of repression by the central government, whether it was the Russian Empire or the Stalinist Soviet Union. We must protect good relations and respect the grief of our neighbors’, he said.

Marks Shakhmurzov, chair of the Kabardino-Balkarian branch of the All-Russian Association of Victims of Political Repression, told OC Media that when he saw the concert poster, he was outraged.

‘You can’t treat the mourning of a neighbor like that!’ he said. ‘I experienced what deportation is like when our entire family, including me, a 4-year-old child, my 90-year-old grandmother, as well as my mother and father were expelled [...] and my grandfather was shot.’

‘I believe that on days like 8 March or 23 February [the mourning date for the deportation of Chechen and Ingush people], if we are talking about Chechnya and Ingushetia, not only concerts, but also family celebrations are unacceptable’, he added. ‘For Kabardians, this has always been considered the height of disrespect and indecency!’

‘A vague idea of deportation’

Marat Anayev, director of the Nalchik branch of the Elbrusoid Foundation for Assistance to the Development of Karachay-Balkarian Youth, told OC Media that he sees several reasons why ‘concerts and other events dedicated to International Women's Day are being held on Memorial Day’.

‘The real history of the peoples of Kabardino-Balkaria is given very little attention in the educational institutions of the republic. The modern student youth has a very vague idea of ​​deportation’, he said. ‘On this day, singers and artists have the opportunity to make good money and, choosing between a fee and traditions, some prefer a fee.’

According to Anayev, situations when days of mourning and holidays overlap also occur because the rules for their implementation are not spelled out in legislation.

Anayev says that he considers it necessary ‘to transfer holiday events of the republican level to “neighboring” dates’.

A spokesperson of the reception of the Ministry of Culture of Kabardino-Balkaria told OC Media that according to the plan of activities of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic, on 8 March, there are no entertainment events in public places.