Tuesday, August 23, 2005

How the Kalmyks became white

A small number of Kalmyks ended up in displaced persons (DP) camps at the end of World War II. The survivors of the German sponsored Kalmyk Cavalry Corps and their families retreated west with the Wehrmacht. Other Kalmyks in Germany included Soviet POWs that managed to avoid forced repatriation. The Kalmyks in DP camps had no desire to join the fate of their kin in Siberia. Instead they organized to get admission to the US and bring international attention to their people's plight.

The Kalmyks like other Mongol nationalities have East Asian phenotypes. This marked them as being racially Asian rather than European. The immigration laws of the US and a number of other western countries (Australia's whites only immigration policy for instance) discriminated against Asians and would not allow the settlement of Kalmyk DPs. They thus had a much more difficult time leaving the DP camps for third countries than did White European refugees such as Latvians, Ukrainians and Lithuanians. The Kalmyks, however, found a clever way to get around this ban on Asian immigrants. They had themselves reclassified as Europeans on the basis of their geographical origin in contrast to their racial features.

In 1950 and 1951 a "Special Committee on Kalmyk Immigration Affairs" actively lobbied the US Congress to redesignate Kalmyks as Europeans rather than Asians and hence allow them to immigrate. The World Church Service, Tolstoy Foundation, International Help and the Unitarian Church all contributed to this effort. On 31 August 1951 their efforts paid off and Congress officially classified the Kalmyks as Europeans for immigration purposes.

11 comments:

Peter Z Andreyev said...

I am a one of the first generation of kalmyks born in the USA. We live in New Jersey and my family emigrated to the USA in 1951. I have not heard this story told in quite some time. My grandparents, and parents have told me over and over about their journey to the USA.The one thing that they have never said was if any of my family was apart of the german calvary. I knew that some of them fought for the german army but never was told specifically who. You should know that more kalmyks from Russia are emigrating from Russia everday and are settling among the people that have been here for over 50 years. I am curious where you learned about our people as most people in North America know about our people and culture? Your article on us was very accurate, and I look forward to reading more about us on your website.
Thanks Peter Andreyev

AcresGuy said...

Just ran across this post and was struck how inaccurate this particular piece of information is. The suggestion that a hapless band of refugees, desperately trying to avoid the cluthes of "Operation Keelhaul," had the wherewithal to "lobby" Congress for passage of special legislation exempting them from the exclusionary provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act then in effect borders on the preposterous. The real story is that the process was strictly judicial. Kalmyk petitioners were able to successfully argue before special immigration tribunals, in the DP Camps as well as before the Board of Immigration Appeals, that because of their long-standing inhabitation of European Russia, they should be considered "Europeans." Therefore, as Europeans they should not come under the terms of the ACT that applied to "Asians." The hearing officers as well as the BIA agreed with this argument over the objections of the Immigration Service (plus ca change, etc.,)and finally the Acting Attorney General of the USA affirmed the hearing officers' and BIA's findings on July 31, 1951 thus allowing the Kalmyks to begin emigrating to the US at the end of 1951 and beginning of 1952. This is not some esoteric piece of trivia but was at the time reported in the NY Times. A quick search of the Times archives will lead to the article regarding the Attorney General's affirmation and the consequences for the Kalmyks then in their seventh year in the Camps. (sp. Kalmucks in NYT) I would hope that your other musings regarding Kalmyks, if any, are based on sound research and less on urban legend.

J. Otto Pohl said...

My account is based on Dzhab Naminov Burkhinov's small book *The Struggle for Civil Rights of the Kalmyk People/Bor'ba za grazhdanskie prava Kalmytskogo naroda* (Moscow and Elitsa: Russian Academy of Sciences: Society of Russian Mongolianists and Kalmyk State University, 1997). The author was one of the refugees involved in the lobbying effort. I do not see how the earlier judicial findings contradict anything I have written about the legislative act. Are you saying there was no law passed on 31 Aug. 1951 by Congress reclassifying Kalmyks as Europeans? This appears to be your claim. Also are you claiming that there was no lobbying effort not by Kalmyks, but by White Americans on their behalf? Most notably the World Church Service, the Tolstoy Foundation and Congressman Francis Walter. This appears to be another of your claims. If these are not your claims then nothing you have written conflicts in any way with what I have written. You need to read more carefully, sir before casting out claims of inaccuracy. Also I have extreme problems taking crap from anybody who does not post their real name and credentials. What are you hiding from?

AcresGuy said...

I think you just have problems taking crap from anyone who points out your shoddy research habits and reliance on a single source whose life work has been an exercise in tooting his own horn. I rely, as stated previously, on the records of the Board of Immigration Appeals (Volume IV at about page 258 in a case called In Re: Matter of S.R.) as well as the NY Times of August 3, 1951. Yes, there was no law passed on August 31, 1951 reclassifying the Kalmyks. Know your sources Dr. Pohl.

AcresGuy said...

Errata:
Volume IV at page 275, In Re: Matter of R.

AcresGuy said...

Hey Dr. Pohl:
What, no retort? Busy combing the Congressional Record for 1951 desperately hoping to recover from your "shoot from the lips" faux pas? My advice, dont rely on your source any more, because then you might even get the name of the Church World Services correct, let alone the specifics of the Kalmyks' entry into the US. Who knows, maybe it'll help your job search if you actually got something right.

erich said...

I am not Kalmyk, but I saw a Russian movie called, 'You, I love'. One of the characters was supposed to be Kalmyk, although later, I found out the actor was half Chinese/half Russian. Regardless, I had never heard of such a race, and I wanted to do some research on it. I was fascinated by some of the things I learned. This idle fighting of words is absurd. Especially since it seems to me that your people have endured enough.

sopka said...

another orginization that helped the Kalmyks enter the the USA is the Pearl S. Buck Foundation and some where recruited by the US government to serve in the the military as my some of my relatives where. Quakers also sponsored many of my people when it became legal for them to emigrate to the USA. This is what I heard in stories of the DP camps. AS my mother was Russian and had to wait nearly five years for my father her fiancee to come to the USA. He finally choose to be sponsored by the Us government and was sent to Korea three months after entering the US and marrying my mother.

SanjAltan said...

Thank you for posting your blogs on the Kalmyks. Their deportation at the hands f Stalin is a story little known in the west, and represents one of the most egregious violations of human and civil rights carried out by any imperialist power. No one can deny that Djab Burchinow was active in bringing the world's attention to the plight of the Kalmyks, and despite any human failings he might have, achieved his objectives. Even up until a few years ago, he continued to promote the human and civil rights of Mongol peoples everywhere. Most recently pointing out the situation in Southern (Inner) Mongolia, as the government of China continues to wage a slow campaign of cultural, environmental and ethnic destruction of the Mongol nomadic community. Do we see parallels in the russification of the Kalmyks and the sinicization of the Mongols of Southern Mongolia? I believe the Kalmyks will be able to retain their ethnic identity longer, even though their population is much smaller. But I believe the southern Mongols will retain their cultural identity longer. Thanks again, Otto, you've written about a subject which deserves serious attention. We should not be distracted by those who would seek to divert (or do I mean subvert) the discussions into not so thinly veiled personal attacks.

Nikolai Burlakoff said...

Djab Burshinov is the creator of a number of historical inaccuracies, one is the so-called "Act of Congress," the other is the ascription of the term "Kalmyk" to the exodus of Kalmyks in 1771. Glad to be able to hunt down the "Act of Congress" legend to its source. Thanks.

Brenda Cucukov said...

Whomever you are
You are indeed rude, AcresGuy