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Commemoration Of Chechen, Ingush Deportation Victims Returns To Day Tragedy Started

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov had moved the Day of Grief and Remembrance from February to May.

For the first time in eight years, Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya has publicly commemorated the victims of the 1944 deportation on the actual day when the tragedy started.

Hundreds of people, including top Chechen officials and religious clerics, gathered in the center of the capital, Grozny, on February 23 to honor the thousands of victims of the deportation.

In 2012, Moscow-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov 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 in a bomb attack in Grozny in 2004.

However, many Chechens continued unofficial commemorations of the deportation victims.

Commemoration ceremonies and public prayers were also held in mosques and cemeteries in the neighboring region of Ingushetia on the same day.

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, four years after Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's death, the survivors were allowed to return to the North Caucasus.