When I first sat down to write about this photo, my efforts were focused on the large number of different ethnic minority groups that made up the population of the Soviet Union. As the caption of the picture above states, just the region where this picture was taken is home to many different ethnic groups. Although I knew about the mass deportations of ethnic groups from the western Soviet Republics and Oblasts, which occurred while Stalin was in power, I had not heard anything about deportations of ethic groups from the southern Soviet Republics. From further research into the matter I discovered that ethnic groups from the Southern Republics, such as the Kazakh, Tajik, and Uzbek Soviet Republics, suffered the same fate as the ethnic groups from the western Soviet Republic. The most interesting information I found was that one of last ethnic groups to be deported in the Soviet Union were from the Tajik Soviet Republic. This group was the Yaghnobi, a Tajik ethnic minority of mountaineers that inhabited the valleys of the Sughd Province of the Tajik Soviet Republic.
Although many ethnic groups were deported from their home territories during the reign of Stalin and the rule of the Soviet Union, the Yaghnobi people are unique in one way: they were deported in the 1970’s almost 20 years after Khrushchev condemned the deportations which took place in the Stalin era. The reason it took so long for these mountain dwellers to be deported was because of their location in the mountains, which was very secluded. The reasoning behind their deportation was due to the Soviet Union’s need of workers to grow and harvest cotton in Zafarabod. After the deportation some of the Yaghnobi people managed to make their way back to their home in the Yaghnobi valley only to be deported again and returned to the cotton fields. As a result of the Yaghnobi’s actions, the Soviet Union essentially attempted to eradicate the Yaghnobi culture by destroying all the villages in the Yaghnobi valley and their religious books.
Due to the harsh environment and poor living conditions the Yaghnobi were exposed to when they were deported, of the three to four thousand Yaghnobi people deported, “between 400 and 700 Yaghnobis died during their first year in Zafarabod” (Yagnobi People, 2007) (Loy, 2005). It was not until 1983 that some of the Yagnobi people began to migrate back to the Yagnobi valley.
Loy, Thomas. 2005. Jaghnob 1970: Erinnerungen an eine Zwangumsiedlung in der Tadschikischen SSR. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag