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Soviet exile of Mustafa Barzani

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Soviet exile of Mustafa Barzani

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Jun 21, 2024 10:30 pm

Soviet exile of Mustafa Barzani

ERBIL (Kurdistan24) - In an article that has been written by two renowned academics from Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, the writers dive deep into the Kurdish History and focus on the legendary Kurdish leader the late Mullah Mustafa Barzani.

Dr. Nodar Z. Mossaki and Dr. Lana M. Ravandi-Falai have published an article titled "Mustafa Barzani’s Soviet Exile: Popular Myths vs. Evidence in Russian Archives (Part 1)".

Below is a review of the article.

Mustafa Barzani, a name synonymous with Kurdish nationalism, has left an indelible mark on the history of the Kurdish people. Revered as the father of modern Kurdish nationalism and the mastermind behind the Kurdish rebellion, Barzani’s life and legacy are the subject of both fascination and myth.

One of the most enigmatic periods of his life is his 11-year exile in the Soviet Union, a time shrouded in mystery and legend.

This article delves into the archives of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI) to uncover the truth about Barzani’s Soviet exile, challenging popular myths with evidence from Russian archives.

The Genesis of Barzani’s Soviet Exile

The story of Barzani’s Soviet exile begins in the aftermath of World War II. In 1947, following a military engagement with the Shah’s forces, Barzani and his armed Kurdish detachments, numbering up to 2,000 fighters and accompanied by their families, crossed into Soviet Azerbaijan. Soviet intelligence officer Pavel Sudoplatov recounts that initially, the Kurds were placed in an internment camp, but soon, Soviet authorities offered Barzani and his people political asylum and temporary resettlement in the agricultural regions of Uzbekistan near Tashkent.

Thus began Barzani’s Soviet exile, a period divided into three distinct phases: a year in Azerbaijan, a prolonged stay in Uzbekistan until Stalin’s death in 1953, and finally, a period in Moscow until October 1958. This article focuses primarily on the latter period, as it is during this time that many persistent myths about Barzani’s Soviet experience originated.

Barzani’s Time in Moscow and the Higher Party School

After Stalin’s death, Barzani moved to Moscow in 1953, where he was enrolled at the Higher Party School (HPS) under the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The HPS was a prestigious institution that trained senior staff members, and Barzani’s enrollment there granted him a certain legal and honorary status. However, contrary to popular myth, Barzani did not graduate from the HPS, nor did he sit for state exams or receive any diploma. His enrollment was more a formality than an educational endeavor.

The personal case file of Mustafa Barzani at (The Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History) RGASPI, containing 296 pages of documents, provides a detailed account of his time at the HPS.

The dossier includes translations of articles from foreign publications, reports by Soviet internal sources, surveillance records, and personal correspondence, offering a comprehensive view of Barzani’s life in Moscow.

These documents reveal that Barzani did not study at a military academy, as some myths suggest, but instead attended the HPS, primarily to gain status rather than education.

The Myth of the Soviet General

One of the most enduring myths about Barzani’s Soviet exile is that he was promoted to the rank of a Soviet general. This myth is not supported by any documents in Barzani’s personal dossier. Although Barzani did purchase a general’s uniform at a military supply shop in Tashkent in 1951 and had his photo taken in it, this photograph was later misinterpreted by various sources, including British intelligence, to suggest that Barzani held a high rank in the Soviet army.

Yevgeny Primakov, a well-informed individual about Barzani and the Kurds, confirms that Barzani never served in the Soviet armed forces. Primakov’s account is corroborated by Barzani’s own statements and by reports in his dossier.

The myth of Barzani as a Soviet general likely originated from Western media and scholars, who often portrayed Barzani as a Soviet agent to discredit him and emphasize Soviet influence in the Middle East.

Conversations and Correspondence

The dossier also contains records of conversations between Barzani and Soviet officials, shedding light on his interactions with the Soviet authorities.

In one notable conversation with F.F. Voloshin, a representative of the ID of the CC CPSU, Barzani expressed his deep discontent with the conditions in Uzbekistan and demanded better prospects for his people. Barzani’s use of diplomatic demands as a bargaining tactic underscores his aspiration and determination to return to Iraq and continue his struggle for Kurdish independence.

Another conversation between Barzani and Voloshin reveals Barzani’s attempt to distance himself from certain Kurdish leaders whom he considered unreliable or anti-Soviet. These conversations illustrate Barzani’s savvy political maneuvering and his unwavering commitment to the Kurdish cause, despite the challenges of exile.

The Role of Soviet Diplomats

The dossier also provides insights into the role of Soviet diplomats in Barzani’s life.

Two key figures, F.F. Voloshin and Grigory N. Nechkin, were involved in managing Barzani’s interactions with the Soviet authorities.

Voloshin, responsible for contact with Barzani, was not, as some sources erroneously suggest, an assistant to Nikita Khrushchev but an employee of the ID of the CC CPSU.

Nechkin, an Arabist and diplomat, had extensive experience in the Arab world and Iraq and played a significant role in Soviet-Kurdish relations.

These diplomats’ reports and interactions with Barzani reflect the complexities of Soviet policy towards the Kurdish leader.

While Barzani was not seen as an ideological ally, the Soviet Union continued to support him, recognizing his value as a symbol of Kurdish nationalism and a potential counterbalance to Western influence in the region.

The Soviet Influence and Kurdish Aspirations

Barzani’s Soviet exile had significant implications for Kurdish aspirations.

During his time in the USSR, Barzani maintained his nationalist goals and worked to strengthen his leadership within the Kurdish movement.

The documents in his dossier reveal his strategic efforts to leverage Soviet support while remaining focused on the ultimate goal of returning to Kurdistan and continuing the struggle for independence.

Barzani’s time in the Soviet Union also highlights the complex interplay between Kurdish nationalism and Soviet foreign policy.

The Soviet Union’s support for Barzani was not driven by ideological alignment but by geopolitical considerations. Barzani’s nationalist goals aligned with Soviet interests in countering Western influence in the Middle East, making him a valuable ally despite ideological differences.

Reassessing the Barzani Legend

The detailed examination of Barzani’s Soviet case file allows for a critical reassessment of the myths surrounding his Soviet exile.

The legend of Barzani as a Soviet general and his purported studies at a military academy are debunked by the evidence in the archives.

Instead, the documents reveal a more nuanced picture of a Kurdish leader navigating the challenges of exile while maintaining his commitment to the Kurdish cause.

Barzani’s interactions with Soviet officials, his strategic use of political maneuvering, and his unwavering nationalist goals underscore his importance as a leader of the Kurdish movement.

The Soviet period of his life, while less studied and more mythologized, emerges as a crucial phase in Barzani’s journey, highlighting his resilience and determination to achieve Kurdish independence.


Mustafa Barzani’s Soviet exile, long shrouded in myth and legend, is illuminated through the archives of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History.

The evidence from these archives challenges popular myths and provides a clearer understanding of Barzani’s time in the USSR.

Barzani’s story is one of resilience, political savvy, and unwavering commitment to the Kurdish cause, underscoring his enduring legacy as a leader of modern Kurdish nationalism.

The reassessment of Barzani’s Soviet exile not only clarifies historical inaccuracies but also enriches our understanding of the complex interplay between Kurdish nationalism and Soviet foreign policy.

As Barzani’s legacy continues to inspire Kurdish aspirations, the evidence from Russian archives offers valuable insights into the life and struggles of this legendary Kurdish leader. ... om-reality
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Soviet exile of Mustafa Barzani



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