Roots of the Fergana Tragedy

V. Ardaev, Fergana. Finding the Roots of the Tragedy. June 17, 1989


Original Source: Izvestiia, 17 June 1989, p. 3.

Fergana and Tashkent… Today, probably no one doubts that the events in Fergana Province began by no means because of an argument over a dish of strawberries-they had been planned long ago, carefully and skillfully. The flexibly changing tactics, which in certain cases were adjusted, the clearly established communications and notification–one can say that they (the actions of a turbulent crowd that, seemingly, had formed spontaneously) had the nature of planned acts. It Is known that among the thugs are staff members of internal affairs agencies who In former years sullied their uniforms with bribe taking, abuses and other crimes. Is there any need to say that they are thoroughly familiar with the work methods of the police? Incidentally (and this has now been confirmed by documents), it was not only former employees of internal affairs agencies who took part in organizing the malicious violence-in certain cases, it was with the help of the police that the addresses of Meskhetian Turk families were pinpointed, families whose homes then went up in flames one after the other.

Various provocative rumors and spurious photographs that caused a feeling of hatred for the Meskhetian Turks among the Uzbek population were vigorously disseminated ahead of time. And fear and retaliatory aggression were encouraged among the Meskhetian Turks. Sh. Iuldashev, First Secretary of the Fergana Province Party Committee (who has been working in this post for only a few months) reported that several old Bolsheviks from the city of Margilan, which later turned out to be at the epicenter of the events, had reported as early as last year (orally and in writing) that some strangers bad come to their city from Andizhan to gather like-minded individuals for an uprising planned simultaneously for Andizhan, Namangan and Margilan. The province prosecutor’s office, the internal affairs administration and the Uzbek Republic State Security Committee were Immediately informed of this. A few days later, it was reported from there: “The appropriate measures have been taken.” Now it Is clear that In fact no measures were taken, or if they were, they were far from exhaustive.

So, it was not a spontaneous outburst of hooliganism, an action based on enmity between nationalities that went beyond all bounds, as it had seemed at first (and as the initial attempt to portray the Fergana events would have had it), but a large-scale action involving not dozens or hundreds but thousands of people.

The further development of events only confirmed this: the rallies with extremist slogans, the green banners that people carried on their way to commit malicious violence and arson, the leaflets with religious symbols signed by the previously unknown organization “Holy Uzbeks”, the attempts at physical reprisals against Party and Soviet officials–everything Indicates that far-reaching goals were involved. As Lt. Gen. V. Pankin, Director of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Chief Administration of Criminal Investigation, said in an interview with a TASS correspondent, there is information to the effect that the young people who participated in the malicious violence had been given money: 50, 100 or more rubles each. On their way to commit arson and plundering, a large number of extremists used narcotics and alcohol, and that too costs quite a bit. Before beginning their action, V. Pankin asserts, the organizers of the malicious violence conducted reconnaissance of the locality, determined the specific targets of their actions-the homes of Meskhetian Turks-thoroughly studied the paths of approach and retreat from them, and got their hands on a large number of motor vehicles. There are reports that dump trucks provided the rioters with a continuous supply of stones, and firebombs prepared ahead of time were delivered. Doesn’t the fact that to date about 8,000 metal weapons and firearms have been confiscated in the province indicate the seriousness with which preparations for violent actions were made here?

No, the “crowd” was by no means a faceless “gray mass.” In its ranks were quite a few directors of enterprises, organizations and schools. Among the most active participants were, alas, a good many representatives of the intelligentsia.

Of course, quite a few factors contributed to what happened. One of the main factors was this: Under slogans of an upsurge in national self-awareness, an attempt was made to stir up nationalism, playing on the real difficulties that are being experienced by the republic, which is on the brink of a social and economic crisis. The reasons for this lie In the disproportions in the development of the raw-material and processing branches, mass unemployment, which for some reason is still shamefully called “surplus labor resources,” and the extreme backwardness of the social sphere. And all this is against the background of a rising birthrate. In the past decade the population of Uzbekistan has Increased by 7 million people, and today one of every four families–and in the countryside one of every three has five or more children younger than 18. Dependents account for 40% of the republic’s total population.

Yes, the situation in the republic remains very complex. Many Meskhetian Turks, especially those from Tashkent Province, are leaving for neighboring republics, fearing reprisals. The alarm is ringing like a tautly stretched string.

The main thing now is to normalize the situation. This is being facilitated by the work of more than 200 investigators who have come to Fergana Province and who, for the first time on such a scale, have at their disposal the latest video and computer equipment.

According to reports from the refugee camp outside Fergana, about 13,000 uprooted people have been sent from there to central regions of the Russian Federation. The first 48 Meskhetians have been taken in by a state farm in North Ossetia, where several more groups are expected to arrive. The total number of people to be resettled exceeded 15,000. There are virtually no refugees left in the camp.

Source: Current Digest of the Soviet Press. Vol. XLI, No. 24, p. 7 (1989)


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