The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

Countries treat persecuted differently

Here and There

When I heard for the first time about Japanese summary internment in the U.S. during World War II under President Roosevelt’s Executive Order that accused the entire ethnic group of treason, my first reaction was stunned surprise: how this might happen in the country that is so proud of its rule of law? 

Then, when I learned more about the circumstances of the issuing of this order, about conditions of internment and, especially, about how the justice toward U.S. citizens of Japanese origin was eventually restored after more than 20 years of their struggle, I felt not just somewhat disappointed about my too idealistic vision of the rule of law in the U.S.. I felt happy to know how this country corrects its own historic mistakes in the way that victims of immense injustice are compensated and the mistake wouldn’t be repeated. 

Being from the former Soviet Union, I compared American Japanese’ fate with almost similar experience of numerous peoples whose native lands are in the USSR territory and, therefore, were unlucky to live under Stalin’s rule. 

I don’t think many De Anza College students know about Stalin’s deportations of the ethnic groups from their homelands (at least, the works of Hoover Institution’s fellows Robert Conquest and John Dunlop, who explored profoundly these horrible crimes of Stalin’s regime, aren’t on students’ lists of recommended literature). 

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During Stalin’s 30-years rule, at least 13 small nations were deported from their homelands entirely; in addition, bigger nations, such as Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Estonians, among others, were deported in their significant part. However, I will compare the Japanese plight with just one example of the “punished peoples” in USSR.

This example is especially relevant right now, since it happened on February 23, which was the Soviet Army Anniversary Day. On that day in 1943, amidst festivities and in the middle of the WWII, detachments of Soviet secret police suddenly started encircling villages of Chechens and Ingush, two related ethnic groups residing for centuries in the North Caucasus, far enough from the front line. 

The two ethnic groups were declared Hitler’s collaborators, despite at least 20,000 people out of the two nations’ population of hardly one million, died fighting in the Red Army. 

Nevertheless, the entire Chechen and Ingush ethnic groups, including babies as well as elderly, were packed in cattle cars and deported in remote deserts of the Soviet Central Asia. Altogether about a million, of which about a half died during this journey that took about a month.  

However, I notice deep differences between, on one hand, Japanese Americans’ internment, and Chechens-Ingush deportation. The whole action in the USSR was much more cruel than in the U.S. Almost all Chechens and Ingush who could not take a journey were burned alive or drown in a lake. In just one village, Khaibakh, about 700 Chechens, mostly very old and/or disabled, were herded to a barn and set on fire. I never heard anything similar to that about Japanese Americans. 

Another difference that strikes me is about the fate of the Japanese Americans, on one hand, and Chechens-Ingush, on the other hand, after the end of the war. While the Japanese were allowed to restore their ruined lives anywhere in the U.S. even before the war officially ended, the Chechens and Ingush were forbidden to return to their native lands until Stalin’s death, when his successor Khrushchev partly liberalized the Soviet regime. Only in 1959 were Chechens and Ingush able to come back to Caucasus. 

Finally, I see yet another striking difference in Japanese’ and Chechens’ fates after their restoration. While the Japanese were, in the end of a long struggle for justice, paid relatively decent compensation, and, what is even more important, American authorities brought official apologies to them, the Chechens received neither compensations nor apologies. On the contrary, in contemporary Russia, the newest textbooks for schoolchildren are restoring ungrounded accusations of the entire Chechen nation of collaboration with Hitler and therefore, justifying the deadly deportation, despite that it was officially recognized in 2004 by the European Parliament as genocide.

So, I’ve learned from Japanese and Chechens’ fates that in the U.S., although authorities committed a horrible unconstitutional act, it was recognized and compensated; in Russia, to the contrast, the historical lesson was cynically rejected.   

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