NAZRAN, Russia -- Residents of Ingushetia are remembering the victims of the Soviet Union's 1944 deportation of Chechens and Ingush from the North Caucasus.
Commemoration ceremonies and public prayers were being held in Ingushetia's mosques and cemeteries on February 23.
From February 23 to March 9, 1944, Soviet authorities deported almost all Chechens and Ingush -- an estimated 650,000 people -- to Central Asia, claiming they were collaborating with Nazi Germany.
As many as half of the deportees died either on the journey or due to the harsh conditions in which they were forced to live.
In 1957, the survivors were allowed to return to the North Caucasus.
In Chechnya, Moscow-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov in 2012 moved the Day of Grief and Remembrance from February 23 to May 10, the anniversary of the burial of his father, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was killed by a bomb in 2004.
In a statement on Facebook on February 23, Kadyrov condemned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his Interior Minister Lavrenty Beria for the deportation.