Source: TRT World
By Salahuddin Mazhary
Lack of or belated official recognition marked Muslim contribution to the Soviet war effort, even though it was an ethnic Kazakh soldier, Rakhimzhan Qoshkarbaev who was the first to raise former USSR’s flag at the German parliament building.
The 9th of May is a holiday that marks the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. Celebrations are held across Russia, Central Asia, satellite states such as Transnistria and the Soviet empire’s former dominions. It’s well-known that the USSR paid a heavy price for defeating the Nazis, the loss of over 26 million of its citizens and troops.
What is less known is the large Muslim contribution to the Soviet Union’s victory. It’s estimated over 3.5 million Muslims from Central Asia and the Caucasus fought on the frontlines of the Red Army against the Nazis, this was an increase from World War I, where 500,000 Muslims had served in the Russian imperial forces.
One would think the Soviet authorities were grateful for this vital manpower, far from it. Up to the outbreak of the war, Stalin was brutally persecuting Muslim populations across the vast empire’s territories. Over 1.5 million individuals, including Muslim peoples such as Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Karachai and Crimean Tatars were deported and forcibly resettled in Central Asia and Siberia. Stalin’s pretext for the deportations was that these people collaborated with the Nazis. Ironically, 50, 000 Chechens and Ingush were fighting on the frontlines against the Germans as the USSR cynically and mercilessly deported their families. Salman Dudayev to his and his Ukrainian commander’s shock was removed from the trenches of Stalingrad and told he was being exiled on (false) charges he was collaborating with the Nazi army. In another cruel irony, one of the five Chechen recipients of the ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ award, returned to find his entire family had been deported. Despite Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev de-Stalinization campaign allowing people to return to their native lands, many could not till the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991.