In the Chechen capital, Chechens staged a demonstration at the Memorial Complex in central Grozny to commemorate the tragedy, according to the World Chechnya Day Web site. Men and women held photos of their relatives missing during the last decade. The demonstrators used the occasion to draw attention to relatives who disappeared during over ten years of fighting between Chechen separatists and Russian forces. Chechens and Ingush, who were also victims of the deportations to the barren steppes of then-Soviet Central Asia, marked the anniversary with visits to mosques and cemeteries.
On February 23, 1944, former Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the deportation of the entire Chechen and Ingush population to Central Asia. More than half of the 500,000 people who were to be forcibly transported died in transit or in massacres committed by Soviet troops. People who survived the forced deportation were left out in Siberia and Central Asia, facing starvation and diseases in the harsh cold weather.
Within days an entire people had been erased from the land of their ancestors. Overnight Chechnya and Ingushetia were emptied of their native inhabitants, and every reference to Chechnya was removed from official maps, records and encyclopedias. The tragedy was recognized by the European Parliament in 2004 as a genocide.
In Britain, the Save Chechnya Campaign UK also planned a series of events to commemorated the World Chechnya Day. "Given the polarization of views over the current Chechen conflict, by commemorating such a Day we hope it will be a means of bringing Chechnya related organizations and individuals around the world as well as those concerned with promoting peace and tolerance amongst peoples together by doing events on a single day," said Hajira Qureshi, secretary of the Save Chechnya Campaign.
"It also hopes to provide a strong basis of inviting and introducing the local establishments to the Chechen cause and raising awareness of the long running struggle against Russian hegemony and oppression."
The group encouraged people and organizations all around the UK to organize film showings and talks locally, to sell and wear the World Chechnya Day wristbands and, generally, to raise awareness of the Day and the issues concerned. Similar events were scheduled to be hosted by College of Cape Town, South Africa. A book exhibition on the 1944 deportation and current situation in Russia and Chechnya will be held in the central international bookstore, Stauffacher, in Bern, Switzerland, from 23rd February onwards.
Since 1994, the small mountainous Caucasus republic has been ravaged, with just three years of relative peace after the first Russian invasion of the region ended in August 1996 and the second began in October 1999.
On December 11, 1994, former Russian president Boris Yeltsin ordered Russian troops into Chechnya to subdue an increasingly powerful separatist movement. After two years of horrific fighting, Russian troops pulled out in 1996.
In 1999, then-prime minister Vladimir Putin pushed some 80,000 Russian troops into Chechnya in what Moscow called a lightning-strike "anti-terror operation" but which has since degenerated into a grinding war with Chechen fighters.
At least 100,000 Chechen civilians and 10,000 Russian troops are estimated to have been killed in both invasions, but human rights groups have said the real numbers could be much higher.
Thousands of refugees from war-torn Chechnya live in battered tent camps in neighboring Ingushetia and refuse to return home because of continuing insecurity.
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