In his memoir about two years in Turkey in the early 1920s, the Soviet ambassador S. I. Aralov recounted a visit to a village near Kocagöl on the Kuş Lake, where Russian Cossacks had been living in exile since the 18th century. According to Aralov's report, the villagers were eager to "return" to mother Russia, and that wish was eventually granted: "The Soviet government allowed the Cossacks to settle in Kuban. Only a small fraction – the richest peasants – remained in Turkey."
Other chronicles tell this story differently. The Soviet agitators were relentless. They urged the villagers to repatriate and lured them with promises of a good life: autonomy, religious freedom, economic prosperity and respect for Cossack traditions. In 1924, the first group of returnees sailed to Soviet Batumi. Most of them, however, found the agricultural conditions unbearable, so they ran back to Turkey and rejoined their brethren. There still are Russian Cossacks living in the Turkish province.
The courageous (and nostalgic) ex-Turkey Cossacks who stayed in the USSR (and underwent collectivization in 1930) recalled: "On the Kuş Lake we had a good life. We had our fields, we harvested our bread, and we caught our fish. But our souls longed for the ancestral land. Here we live in poverty. We lack bread, and our cows have been expropriated. There is no freedom and you cannot go anywhere without a permit."
[See the excerpt from the memoir in Russian...]
Image: Alexey Makeev.