Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Why I Post so Little Here These Days

This blog has been slowly dying for a while. It long ago ceased to get any readers and comments stopped eons before that. But, now I am truly running out of new things to say in the short space of a blog post. I am also coming to the point where I am just going to have to accept that nobody is ever going to agree with me on anything and there isn't anything I can do about it. I never thought I would live to see Stalinism rehabilitated. But, that isn't as surprising as some of the other past horrors such as Dutch colonial atrocities in Indonesia or the Danish slave trade that are now routinely and militantly denied or defended by huge numbers of "progressives." But, there is no convincing these people that their idols whether it is the USSR, Denmark, the Netherlands, or Israel has ever done anything wrong. Unfortunately, these people appear to make up the vast majority of the population posting on the Internet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Short Summary on Racism in the USSR under Stalin

It is impossible to get into the heads of dead dictators and political police chiefs and frankly trying to do so is rather pointless. Intentions and motivations are in the big picture of things rather minor considerations compared to actual actions and their consequences. There is no doubt that the internal Soviet national deportations and imposition of the special settlement regime upon groups such as the Russian Germans, Kalmyks, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars was institutionally racist. The Soviet government singled out these and other groups for differential, unequal, and inferior treatment as collectives based solely on their membership in immutable categories based upon ancestry. It is also obvious that trying to convince people with an ideologically vested interest in seeing the USSR as superior to the US on the issue of race of the above truth is impossible.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reflections on Korea

I was only in Seoul a week so my observations are rather casual. That plus I speak almost no Korean. I purchased a Russian-Korean phrasebook in Bishkek before going. But, it turns out a very large number of Koreans in Seoul, particularly young adults, speak pretty good English. At any rate I found Seoul to be a rather happening place. There is lots of commerce, lots of coffee shops, lots of noodle joints, and overall the place is quite clean and orderly. The freedom and high standard of living I saw in South Korea contrasts sharply with the picture of North Korea I gathered from reading Barbara Demick's, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2009). Demick's collective biography of six North Korean refugees that made it to South Korea by way of China paints an Orwellian society mired in poverty and the type of absurdity that only socialist regimes seem capable of imposing upon their subjects. Reading her account really drives home the radical differences in day to day life that governments can impose upon a single national culture.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quick Update (June trip to Seoul)

Okay, I have been very lax in updating this blog this summer. Mostly, I have been in Bishkek visiting my family. But, I did make a week long trip to Seoul, Republic of Korea, to deliver a paper on the 1937 deportation of the Koryo-Saram (Russian Koreans) at the Association for Asian Studies conference at Korea University. The food in Korea was absolutely fantastic. There is nothing quite like cold buckwheat noodle soup for breakfast served with kimchi, rice with red beans, and dried sea weed. Fortunately, there are lots of cheap and pretty good Korean cafes here in Bishkek. Unfortunately, there are none in Sulaimani.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017


I am currently in Kyrgyzstan visiting family again as I do every summer. I'll be back in Kurdistan in September. In the meantime I don't have a huge amount of stuff that has to be done like last summer. I have to finish a paper for a conference in Korea at the end of this month and that is about it. I got new glasses for the first time in over a decade last week and at $122 they were a great bargain. I can see my beautiful daughter much clearer now.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

On the Tuvel Affair

Regarding the Tuvel controversy there is something that I have not seen brought up. That is the difference between ethnicity and race. Ethnicity is often racialized and the term ethno-racial is a useful one. But, such racialization is dependent upon the prevailing legal and social norms in a particular time and place. To be succinct, an ethnic group is defined by culture and membership is partly voluntary. More importantly it is possible to assimilate in and out of ethnic groups over generations. Race is in contrast defined by ancestry or lineage regardless of culture or individual preference and is imposed from outside either by the state or a larger society. Assimilation into and out of racial groups is generally quite difficult and almost always requires actual genetic mixing. However, a given group can be ethnic in one context and racial in another. To give a simple example, Jews were classified as a racial group in Nazi Germany. They are an ethnic group in the US today. Under this dichotomy it is quite possible for somebody to change ethnicity through acculturation and assimilation. It is certainly possible to bring up your children in an ethnicity other than the one you are born into. It is not generally possible to bring them up as another race. This gets confused by the fact that ethnicity can be racialized or deracialized by the state and society. So "transracialism" except in the case of people "passing" and their descendents being accepted into the new group isn't really possible. But, assimilation into ethnicities that had been previously racialized is possibe. The problem with the one example given by Tuvel is that Black is still a racial and not yet an ethnic category in the US.

Followup on Question

In relation to the last post, Beria's official justification for the deportation of Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins from Georgia in November 1944.
In response to the resolution of the State Committee for Defense, the NKVD undertook to resettle from the border regions of the Georgian SSR, Turks, Kurds and Khemshins. A significant part of the population in the border regions had family relations in Turkey, had been occupied in smuggling, displayed a desire to emigrate and served Turkish intelligence organs as a source for recruiting spies and planting bandit groups.
Telegram to Stalin, Molotov, and Malenkov from Beria on 28 November 1944 reproduced in N.F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat'": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: "Druzhba narodov", 1992), doc. 5, pp. 155-156.


In November 1944 the Soviet government accused nearly 9,000 Kurds from Georgia including women, children, old men, Red Army soldiers, and Communist Party members of essentially being Turkish intelligence agents and deported them to confined internal exile and forced labor in Central Asia for 12 years. Despite this event a surprisingly large number of Kurdish intellectuals remain communists sympathetic to the Soviet experiment even today. Anybody have any explanation for this seeming incongruence?


On Thursday I finished classes for the semester. Now I just have to give and grade finals. In the last two weeks I also sent out three journal articles for consideration. This summer I hope I can be more productive than last year. Moving to Kurdistan and getting extensive dental work done used up all my time and energy last summer. This year I need to get new glasses, but it should overall be easier.