A Russian film depicting the mass deportation of the Chechen and Ingush inhabitants of the North Caucasus in 1944 has been banned by the Ministry of Culture. The film’s screenwriter and producer, Kazakhstan-born Ruslan Kokanayev, has spoken out against the ministry’s decision, writing on his Facebook page: “The decision has already been taken, with only an official announcement left to be made. The decision was sent to my address. The official reason for the ban is that ‘the movie incites ethnic hatred’. Well, there we are then.” Ordered to Forget follows the lives of Chechens from a village in the Caucasus, providing a stark depiction of the violent treatment of the Caucasus’ native inhabitants by Russian soldiers during Stalin’s purges.
Refuting the claim that the film dredges up ethnic tensions, Kokanayev said: “I think that this film, in contrast to the popular view, will actually help to rehabilitate Russians, as it shows them what actually happened back then. The main idea that runs throughout the entire film is that man is the greatest creation on the earth, and he was born free. During those years … human rights and freedom were violated. The film has no similarities with today’s powers.”
Between 1943 and 1944, enraged at alleged collaboration with invading German forces, Stalin ordered mass deportations of the native peoples of the Caucasus. Over 700,000 people were forced from their homes to Central Asia and Siberia — a crude and vicious punishment which many have described as ethnic cleansing. It is reported that more than a quarter of the deportees died on the journey into exile. The ban of Ordered to Forget comes in the wake of a number of bills put forward in recent weeks to ensure that Russian history is “properly” remembered. In March, a member of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party put forward a bill criminalising the distortion of Russian history in books, films and video games, while Fair Russia’s Oleg Mikheyev gave backing to legislation that fosters patriotism in schools.