Spring 2006 (14.1)
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
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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