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Balkars Commemorate Deportation To Central Asia

NALCHIK, Kabardino-Balkaria -- The Soviet-era deportation of Balkars by Soviet leader Josef Stalin was commemorated today in Nalchik, the capital of Russia's North Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service reports.

Islamic clerics conducted a mourning prayer in the city's central square to begin the ceremony as republican leadership put flowers at a monument to the founder of Balkar literature, Kyazim Mechiev.

On March 8, 1944, more than 37,000 ethnic Balkars were forcibly deported by Soviet authorities to Central Asia. Some 10,000 Balkars died during the trip or during the exile.

They were allowed to return to the North Caucasus in 1957.

Balkars are a Turkic-speaking ethnic group of the North Caucasus.