Azerbaijan International

Spring 2006 (14.1)
Page 13

Reader's Forum
Stalin's Repressions Still With Us Today

Thank you for your issue "Remembering Stalin", AI 13.4 (Winter 2005). Everyone my age (early 30s) and older in Azerbaijan personally knows someone who suffered under the repressions of Stalin and Mir Jafar Baghirov. My own great grandfather had to escape to Iran to avoid being exiled to the hard labor prison camps of the Gulag. His crime? Merely having been born into nobility. His name was Aziz; he was a Khan in the Zakatala region of northwestern Azerbaijan. He was married with five daughters.

Even when Russians took control of Azerbaijan in the 1920s, my great grandfather was still untouched since he was a prominent citizen and directed the only bank in the region. He turned over all the money to the new director and thought that the government wouldn't touch him. But in the early 1930s, he received a warning from the local head of police, who happened to be related to him, that if he wanted his young daughters (including my grandma) to carry on with their lives in their usual way, he had to better leave and go into hiding, or the authorities would come after him.

Since he had a few relatives in Iran, it seemed like the best option for a while. He went, but the borders between these two countries soon closed permanently and there was no way for him to return. Up until the day my grandma died, she always regretted never knowing where her father's grave was.

And there's another story - an absolutely absurd situation. My grandaunt lost her husband in early 1937 when he was exiled to Siberia. His four-year-old son was playing soccer in the courtyard when his ball flew through the window of a neighbor and broke the glass portrait of Lenin hanging on the wall. The tenant immediately called the authorities, and since there was no way to punish the child, they insisted that the boy's father had probably instilled the child with hatred, causing him to commit such a horrendous act of breaking the glass frame. My poor grand aunt's husband was given a 10-year sentence and sent away to Siberian camp. He died there a few years later of typhoid.

Stories of this type abound in Azerbaijan. I wonder how many generations will pass before we will be free of these wounds that bring such deep pains.

Jana Suleymanli, Hong Kong

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