Entries tagged with: Soviet Union

The Balkars of Southern Russia and Their Deportation (1944-57)

By: Karen Baker

Indelible events are often stamped into the consciousness of a nation. These events shape individuals, and often entire socities, in the way they view social, cultural, political, ethical, and especially spiritual realities. The deportation of entire ethnic groups of the North Caucasus region of southern Russia was an immense operation of the Soviet government during World War II. The Balkarians, or Balkars, were forcibly taken from their native homelands and deported to distant lands within the Soviet Union. They remained in exile for thirteen years. The third generation of Balkars since that horrible experience continues to live in the shadow of the atrocities committed against their people. This book applies comprehensive research to the facts of the deportation. More importantly, it examines lingering resentments and current sentiments of the Balkarians through extensive personal interviews with those who experienced the deportation.

In Karen’s many interviews woven throughout the book, we learn of several Balkarians who come to faith because of the Deportation, such as Ibrahim Gelastanov. Ibrahim recounts his memories about the deportation years. He cried as he recalled the details of his mother’s death within twenty-four hours of arriving in a special settlement where she died of starvation. Ibrahim tells of the horrors of his capture, the fifteen-day train ride, the forty-eight-hour boat ride, the twenty-four-hour walk to an unknown destination, and the starvation and indignities that he suffered. But Ibrahim always attributes his deportation as the means to his salvation into God’s family. He was the first Balkarian Christian, and he remained the lone Balkar Christian for thirty-six years.

The tiny region of Balkaria is tucked into the largest mountain range of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains, in southern Russia. The Balkarians live in the shadow of unthinkable cruelty by the Stalin regime, the deportation of their entire people group. The deportation was concealed until the late twentieth century due to the secrecy of communism. It was also hidden behind the terrors that occurred in Europe during World War II. The Balkars have suffered greatly in the last century, and they desperately need the peace of God in their hearts. This book will bring awareness to the Caucasus peoples and bring more involvement in promoting the work of the Gospel in this unstable area to the unreached peoples.