отрывки из статьи Гучиновой "Нация и Дискурс Вины"
excerpts from Guchinova's article "Nation and the Discourse of Guilt"
Nation and the discourse of guilt:
Reconciliation with the past in the political memory of Kalmyk people
In the Soviet period, history of Kalmyks for a long time consisted of two stories, both undesirable for public discussion and excluded from the official narrative of the past, however, present in the collective awareness. These are – the history of Kalmyk Cavalry Corps (here and after KSC) – military collaborative unit, and deportation of Kalmyk nation in 1943-1956. As known, charges with collaboration became the grounds for the total deportation of Kalmyks. Deportation as a result of which Kalmyks of all ages were forcibly relocated to the East of the country began on December 28, 1943. In the next few months Kalmyks of Rostov and Stalingrad obslasts’ were deported, and soldiers and officers were called back from the front line. Disenfranchised life in inhuman conditions, high death rate from hunger, cold and diseases were regarded as punishment to Kalmyks, first of all, for the actions of the Kalmyk Corps. Thirteen-year long status of outcasts, severe human losses and later public trials of KSC officers in the late 1960s-1970s entrenched the sense of “collective guilt” in the public minds. History of KSC, main institute of collaborationism, which, in fact, Kalmyks bore their guilt for, has been ousted from the official narrative of the past, but continued to live in the “mythical” memory.
There are several versions of the past that have shaped Kalmyk cultural memory about colloborationism. One of them, the official version was formulated in 1943 by the decree of the Presidium of USSR’s Supreme Soviet "About the liquidation o of Kalmyk ASSR..." and has been completed by the rhetoric of officers’ trials. It is opposes by the Anti-Soviet version of this historical period formed by the remaining abroad leaders of collaborationism. Apart from these mutually exclusive options of the past, represented by the successive narrations, there are "native" and "local" version transmitted within the family, friends, or co-workers.
With the collapse of the USSR and the weakening of ideological control of the Communist Party, different interpretation of Kalmykia’s past spread outwards and became available. This open confrontation of different versions of the past has taken place with the background crystallization of the post-Soviet national histories, search for new forms of the story of the past, at the centre of which is the nation. The goal of this article is to show how feeling of guilt for the actions of Corps reflected on the political memory of Kalmyk society’s, in which national history and its formation depends directly on how society will be able to "come to terms" with its past.
Former KSC’s Chief of Staff D. Arbakov escaped repatriation, joined Kalmyks of the first wave of emigration, and after several years of living in a camp for displaced people moved to the United States. When I interviewed him in 1998, he was 85 years old. Arbakov’s memory struck me. He clearly remembered all names, positions, titles, dates and places. His logically fitted speech with the necessary historical information, in my view, was not only the result of much thinking, but also the consequence of repeated replication. As a narrative memory Arbakov presented, so to say, the official legend: the beginning of the annihilation of the Kalmyk people was the initiative shown by the general Oka Gorodovikov - then Arbakov conveyed data on the composition and size of Kalmyk units thrown against Germans, and drew attention to the weak ammunition and military training, to the futility of resistance in such conditions, and the terror Soviet authorities:
At that time, we were having defensive battles against heavily armed SS Division: 20 thousand soldiers, 500 tanks and more than 100 aircraft. Humans were against steel. We were condemned to death. Our rear was guarded by NKVD army, you couldn’t make a step back. Those who dared were killed by NKVD. Division lost 1,000 killed, 300 captured, 1,000 soldiers fled home, in spite of NKVD as it was reported from home that the families are starving from hunger and dying.
According to Arbakov memories, while Kalmyk units fought against the Nazis, Soviet authorities were implementing anti-Kalmyk policies:
Kalmyk obkom and SNK with the order from Moscow issued a decree to drive the livestock away, to the east of the Volga River, and to evacuate cereal-based foods. People were starving, swelling, and were writing to their sons and husbands about child death from hunger, asking them to return home. This was in July. I think that the decree to deport Kalmyks to Siberia was prepared by Beria as early as June.
Arbakov thinks that “the Soviet state showed Imperial chauvinism aimed at the annihilation of the nation and seizure of the territory for the neighboring areas, which need pastures. Therefore, the people sent to the front." What Arbakov remembered forms a version, according to which Soviet government put Kalmyks in the conditions when they simply had to join the Germans:
For seven hard days of military action, 51st Army of the Southern Front did not assist to OKKD with any tanks or planes. We were doomed to perish. In addition, stolen from the Republic cattle, famine of the parents did not set soldiers to wage a heroic struggle. Thousand of fighters returned to the Republic. In July-August the cattle from Stavropol, Krasnodarsky region, Rostov region was already driven away from Volga. Up to a hundred of different groups of 15 to 20 people, who were taking away cattle from neighboring areas and feeding people, appeared here and there. Soviets called them bandits. By the time Germans arrived there already existed a Corps – the saviors of the people.
Thus, the Kalmyk Corps appears to be an avant-guard liberation struggle against the Soviet Empire that planned destruction of the Kalmyk nation. The Soviet authority is responsible for the emergence of Kalmyk parts that fought on the side of Hitler's Germany: it was not the Germans who created the so-called Kalmyk Corps, but the Soviet system logically created the Corps.
So the version of the second-emigration Kalmyks is logically completed by the narration, which tells how Anti-Kalmyk Soviet policy led to the creation of the KSC, not as a collaborative but rather as and Anti-Soviet and national unit.
Who were those on whose behalf Arbakov “remembered” in the late 1980s? Was not their "collaborationism" a forced response to the actions of the military leadership, Order No. 260 dated August 17, 1941 denying the troops the right to life by not ratifying the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, that resulted in a 5.7 million dead Soviet prisoners of war in captivity, 3.3 of which died due to hunger and disease? Many of Kalmyk collaborates ware recruited in the “Ostlegionen", the camps for POWs.
The success of such recruitment, in the words of P. Polyana, “depended only upon one factor, the level of hell in a camp”. The most likely alternative to collaborative Soviet POW was death. Facts of cannibalism repeatedly spoke out about how brutal conditions were in the camps for prisoners of war.
Let us return to the other versions of the memory of the Kalmyk unit. In 1963, when it seemed like the war, deportation and camps were in the past; the Soviet press begun an active denounce campaign act against Kalmyk Corps. Processes had to contain increased from Ottepel expectations of Kalmyk people: having their statehood back, watching federal investment in the Republican science, education, theatre, print, Kalmyks expected full territorial rehabilitation, the return of the two economically powerful regions remaining in the Astrakhan region, and the rebuilding of Kalmyk area in the Rostov region. Thus, the Soviet state attempted to prevent territorial claims by recalling Kalmyks on their own to the State. Plus, it would be a good lesson for the other "guilty" nations.
The discussion tone and the presence of children who had to renounce their fathers publicly were very similar to the political processes of 1930’s. It is enough to look at the letter to the newspaper, which is hardly written with good will by a person who is facing family tragedy:
Khadzhigorov who is now in the bench, only formally is my father and I am his daughter. He has never been a father and a decent man. No only has he killed civilians and innocent people, but he also has ruined the live of my mother, a woman who has given birth to his four children. I am the eldest in the family and, therefore, and indeed have, along with my mother all her grief and the shame of the so-called father. I have been betrayed by this father. The father to our family has been the Soviet Power, and we are proud of that. Our beloved mother spared no health, her life and youth to make real Soviet People from us. It was only Soviet power, the Soviet people, who helped her, but not Khadzhigorov. I call on my own behalf, on behalf of my family, sister, her family, on behalf of hundreds of massacred innocent people who died at the hands of the torturer, on behalf of the entire Kalmyk people to announce a fair verdict, the death penalty, to the betrayer Khadzhigorov.
The process was questionable, however. It was reported that when a witness asked at the trial in Krivoy Rog : “Do you recognize the killers?”, the people of Ukraine confidently said “Yes” and pointed out to a group of Kalmyk judges and prosecutors, which were approximately the same age as the defendants during the war years. In this comical story narrated by lawyers the authenticity of all the evidence was questioned. If for Ukrainians, all Kalmyks looked the same, the events of twenty years could have garbled in memory as well.
People were afraid that the process of the charged would become a trial of the Kalmyk people. In the air hung the question “Back to Siberia?” The Kalmyks received additional impetus not to remember any history of Corps or trials. Many speakers for the 1968 broadcast live on the radio. Residents of the republic have come to be associated with the Kalmyk military collaborationism.The last process took place in 1983, when charged the member of the Corps Litvinov, who was Belgian citizen at that time arrived to the Soviet Union with as a tourist visa. After 40 years, at the courthouse, in Elista the witness of war crimes from Ukraine identified him. Military Tribunal of Caucasian Military District sentenced the 79-year old defendant to death by firing squad.
Due to the absence of accurate information on the people in the Corps the other “soft” version occurred. It was supposed that he was only called a Kalmyk, though, in fact, genetically he had no more than 20% of Kalmyk genes. Thus, the people suffered for nothing, for the sins of others.
As I was told by the former KGB officer, in the 1979s by the order of the state, the title of the heroine of the socialist labor had to be given to a Kalmyk woman. There had been three candidates, but one after another they was rejected due to the fact that some of the relatives of each female had been linked to the Corps or was in the occupation. It was finally decided to give the title to a woman of Slavic origin, which, as it was said, "did not need to be verified”.
The prosecution of the entire people backed by thundering trials left the unforgiven “stain” on the reputation of the Kalmyks.
It is no coincidence that these "facts" were recalled by the grandchildren of the war generation. They have become a response to a question on rightful Kalmyk areas of the Astrakhan region.
The renounce Corps publications written in the same style, appeared in the national press at a time when Ordinance on the Rehabilitation of Repressed Peoples, as well as benefits and compensation, which could be made public in connection with the decree were discussed .
We, Kalmyks, are told in a dry official language to be aware of allegedly shameful past, somewhere questioning holy to the Kalmyks Law on Repressed People.
These debates reflect the "policy of guilt" and the "policy of memory" in modern Russia as a whole, and in Kalmyk society, in particular. The Collaborationism of Soviet people R. Konkwest regarded as a plebiscite. However, according to a fair comment of P. Polyana, the results of the plebiscite always depend on the specific circumstances of the investigation. The most pressing issue of the Corps is its manpower: who were the participants and how many of them were there? The Corps includes detachments of “self-defense”, i.e. deserters hiding in the rush, led some to call all members of corps “rushers” (Russian “kamyshatniki”). One of the Soviet official Archives maintains a list of the Corps personnel, which consisted of 3254 people, who served with guns. In addition, the Corps there was the so-called civilian group of 800. These people were responsible for cooking, washing up, sewing clothes and footwear, and taking care of animals.
The connection between the Corps and the deportation of 1943 is even more significant. The interpretation of the second tragedy as a consequence of the first is still dominant in the public mind of people.
What counter-discourse of guilt was available to Kalmyks in Soviet times? As noted above, in order to counter the discourse of “crime and punishment”, the Kalmyk historians, many of which were soldiers of the Red Army and all of which were evicted, turned to the theme of Kalmyk participation in the Great Patriotic War, especially to the history of 110th OKKD . They stressed that if the Corps were no more than five thousand fighters, in the 1941-1943 it was estimates that the Red Army mobilized all Kalmyk men of military age, who could perform military service. According to the B. Ubushaev’s estimations 30,000 Kalmyks served in the army; and in the enemy’s rear on the occupied territories there fought 20 guerrilla groups.
The Corps History has become a “fixed idea of the past”, the Kalmyk version of the “Vichy Syndrome”. Modern Kalmyk mnemo-project is necessary for the re-formation of a national identity. It hould be open and oriented towards non-ideological professional look at the "inconvenient past", which will include it in the historical narrative of Kalmyk people.
Translated by Danara Dourdoussova