Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Independence Day USA

For the three people living in the US that read this blog, Happy Independence Day. For the other three of you, it is still Saturday so it is still pretty good.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Food in Kyrgyzstan

I haven't done a Kyrgyz food post this summer yet, so here it is. My wife is a fantastic cook. I am not sure I can remember everything she has prepared this summer so far, but I am going to try and list all the dishes. They are a mix of Central Asian, mostly Kyrgyz and Russian dishes although some of what is designated as Russian here is actually Ukrainian in origin, most notably borscht. I like the food a lot, but I am not sure it is good for my high cholesterol. So in no particular order here is some of what I have eaten this summer so far.


Green borscht

Beet salad

Herring under a fur coat



Tomato and cucumber salad


Fried vereniki

Yugoslav Rock

While American based blogs seem completely obsessed with demonizing the CSA as more evil than Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Hitler combined, those based in other countries have recently posted more interesting material. In particular the latest post from the British based music blog The Day After the Sabbath on rock bands from Yugoslavia during the 1970s is absolutely fantastic. I have found a treasure trove of great bands from Belgrade during that decade thanks to that post. Rich always does fantastic work, but this post was particularly awesome. Sometimes I toy with converting this blog into a music blog. But, I could never put together the type of superbly researched posts on the subject that Rich does at The Day After the Sabbath.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

South African Literature

I have been listening to the audio version of Deon Meyer's Devil's Peak on YouTube for the last couple of days. Meyer is a popular South African detective novel writer. Devil's Peak is definitely worth listening to. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but Meyer does a fantastic job of developing his characters. The novel revolves around three main characters and Meyer manages to balance the intertwining narratives quite skillfully which is not something that is easy to do. It also deals with the problems of crime and justice in post-apartheid South Africa in a nuanced and sophisticated manner.

Citation in an interesting publication

I came across this recent and rather interesting article on the GULag  looking for citations of my publications.  It is the introduction to a special topic issue on the GULag. This particular article cites my article "Colonialism in One Country: The Deported Peoples of the USSR as an Example of Internal Colonialism"  published in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion last year. Feel free to comment on anything linked above here.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Abstract of Paper for Association of Asian Studies in Africa Conference


Ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan 1882-1992

Asian Studies in Africa: Challenges and Prospects of a New Axis of Intellectual Interactions

Association of Asian Studies in Africa Inaugural Conference

University of Ghana, Legon 24-26 September 2015


J. Otto Pohl

History Department

University of Ghana, Legon

The first ethnic Germans to settle in Kyrgyzstan were Mennonites in 1882 from colonies further west in the Russian Empire in Tavrida along the Black Sea Coast and Samara in the Volga region. Further settlement of Mennonites in Kyrgyzstan from other areas of the Russian Empire took place in 1907-1909. By 1912 their population had increased to almost 1,600. The German speaking population of the territory became both larger and more diverse as Lutherans arrived from the Volga and Kazakhstan during the Soviet era.  The 1926 Soviet census showed 4,291 Germans in Kyrgyzstan. By 1939 the population had increased to 11,741. During the 1940s the Soviet government subjected part of this population, about 3,300 people to forced labor. After the end of the Second World War in 1945 until the end of 1955, the Soviet government imposed a special regime upon the population subjecting them to severe restrictions on their freedom of movement and placing them under police surveillance. Even after the removal of these legal restrictions in December 1955, ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan and other regions of the USSR continued to suffer from various forms of discrimination, particularly with regards to admission to institutions of higher education. During the next couple of decades migration from Kazakhstan and Siberia greatly increased the ethnic German population of Kyrgyzstan. The 1979 Soviet census counted 101,057 ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan or 2.9% of the total population up from 39,915 in 1959.  After the collapse of the USSR, the vast majority of ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan emigrated to Germany. This paper will examine the historical change in the status of the ethnic Germans in Kyrgystan under Soviet rule from one of several diaspora nationalities with guaranteed equal rights to second class citizens with restricted civil rights and finally their subsequent partial rehabilitation. It will make use of archives both from Moscow and Bishkek as well as interviews conducted with ethnic Germans and their family members in Kant and Ivanovka, Kyrgyzstan. 

Asian Studies in Africa Conference

On September 24-26 I will be attending the inaugural conference of the Association of Asian Studies in Africa which will take place at the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) on the campus of the University of Ghana. LECIAD is just a short walk from my office at the History Department. The conference has scheduled over 80 panels and round tables on various aspects of Asian and African history and their intersection. I organized a panel on Ethnic Germans in Central Asia, Kazakhstan, and Siberia. I will be giving a paper on ethnic Germans in Kyrgyzstan from 1882 when they first settled the region until 1992 when massive emigration started to seriously reduce their numerical presence in the wake of the break up of the USSR.  The other two presenters on the panel are Eric Schmaltz and Brent Mai from the US. Eric Schmaltz of Northwestern Oklahoma State University will be giving a paper on the aborted attempt to create a German autonomous oblast in Kazakhstan in the late 1970s. Brent Mai from Concordia University in Portland Oregon will present a paper on Volga German settlements in Siberia. The panel will be chaired by my colleague Nana Yaw B. Sapong. The study of Asia including Central Asia is a growing scholarly field in Africa and this is the first large conference in Africa to deal with the subject. I will have more to report on the conference later.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Minor Victory

At the end of last month I finally got an article accepted for publication in a very prestigious journal on the condition I make some minor revisions.  The revisions took me a lot longer than I thought they would, but I have now completed them. Among other things one of the peer reviewers said I needed to cite the previous research on the subject by Otto Pohl. This is not the only time that has happened to me. I suppose that shows that the peer review actually was blind in this case. At any rate the article should be published sometime next summer. Or about two years after I started writing it. Part of this is the usual backlog. But in this particular case the journal found it very difficult to first find any peer reviewers and then to get one of them to actually submit their report to the journal. I am not sure why that was in this particular case. I suspect it has to do with the subject matter, however, I have no way of verifying this.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bill to Outlaw Gay Propaganda Passes in Kyrgyzstan 90 to 2

It still has to be voted on one more time. But, the Kyrgyz proposal to ban gay propaganda along the lines of the 2013 Russian law just got a step closer to passing today. The Jorgorku Kenesh passed the bill today 90 to 2 in the second reading. The first was in October when it passed 79 to 7. If passed into law the bill would ban any type of advocacy or support of homosexuality. Violators of the law could receive as much as a year in prison.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Flag Post

I am getting tired of reading about the "Confederate" (really the Army of Northern Virginia) flag and how it supposedly represents an evil far worse than anything Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot ever did. So I am posting a picture of a flag I like. The flag on the right represents the Kyrgyz Republic where I am right now visiting family and in-laws.  From a design point of view the Kyrgyz flag is very well done. At the time it was adopted the use of a red background was controversial due to its association with the Soviet past and communism. None of the other former Soviet republics went with an all red background. The closest was Belarus which just took the sickle and hammer off of the flag of the BSSR which was about two thirds red and one third green. The Kyrgyz flag adopted in 1992 in contrast looks very different from the older Soviet flags despite having the same color scheme. The central symbol of a tunduk (the top of yurt) inside a sun with forty rays hearkens back to Kyrgyzstan's pre-Soviet past. The forty rays being representative of the 40 Kyrgyz tribes that united in the national epic Manas.