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Balkars Mark 67th Anniversary Of Deportation To Central Asia

NALCHIK, Russia -- Balkars in the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria have been marking the 67th anniversary of their mass deportation to Central Asia by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Religious clerics prayed in the republic's mosques and Kabardino-Balkaria's leaders laid flowers at the grave of the founder of Balkar literature, Kyazim Mechiev, who died in exile in Central Asia.

A gathering was also held in which several prominent people spoke, although President Arsen Kanokov did not appear.

Balkars are a small, Turkic-speaking Muslim group in the volatile North Caucasus.

On March 8, 1944, all Balkars -- approximately 38,000 people and mainly women and children -- were deported to Central Asia by the Soviet regime for alleged collaboration with Nazi Germans.

Those who survived the deportation were able to return back to the North Caucasus in 1957, after the Soviet Union's Supreme Council restored the Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Russian Federation.

Read more in Russian here