Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Tomorrow is the first day of 2012. I hope all my readers have a Happy New Year. If you have any requests for the new year let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More on my forthcoming publication

It will be a while before it is published. But, the recent journal article I had accepted for publication a few days ago does two things that one almost never sees in peer reviewed academic journal articles. First, it argues that Soviet policies towards the Russian-Germans and other deported peoples by Stalin constituted acts of racial discrimination. Almost all living US academics associated with the study of Soviet nationality policies vehemently deny that there were ever any racism involved in the deportation of whole peoples defined by their birth. Second, it specifically criticizes the strongest supporters of the idea that there was never any racism in the USSR, Francine Hirsch and Amir Weiner. Hirsch is probably the most publicly praised professor of Soviet history dealing with nationality issues currently alive. So getting a journal article that disagreed with her position through  peer review was not easy. Her opinion, although so obviously wrong that no non-academic would ever accept it, is regarded as Holy Writ by many in the academy. But, I finally did get a dissenting journal article through the gate keepers that control the academic peer review process. I will have more information about the publication when it comes out in print.

Is there anybody more annoying than a Zionist?

For some time I have debated with myself as to whether Internet Stalinists or Internet Zionists were more annoying. I have concluded that the Zionists are more annoying. There seem to be a lot more of them in the English language section of the Internet and they seem to have a disproportionate influence on US media, politics, and academia. Whereas the Stalinists are limited in the political realm largely to the former USSR and only have a significant influence in the US in academia.

The Development of the Concentration Camp

The concentration camp initially developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as way of suppressing resistance to colonial rule. It was used by the Spanish in Cuba, the British in South Africa, the US in the Philippines, and the Germans in Namibia. The conversion of the concentration camp from an instrument of colonial oppression to one of internal repression appears to be a Soviet innovation. Long before Hitler came to power the Soviet government first under Lenin and then Stalin pioneered the use of the concentration camp as an tool of political and social control in the RSFSR and USSR. The internal use of colonial technologies of control by the Soviet government is not as odd as it appears. The Soviet Union inherited not only most of the territory and population of the old Russian Empire, but most of its ethnic and racial prejudices as well. It was only a matter of time before disfavored nationalities such as the Russian-Germans, Russian-Koreans, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Karachais, Balkars, Chechens, Ingush, Meskhetian Turks and others experienced the type of dispossession already imposed upon a number of colonial populations in the previous century.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Publication Coming Soon

Christmas Eve I got an e-mail that the journal article I had been working on had been accepted for publication without any further need for sending it out for peer review again. I will post more about the article later. But, for now I will note that it will be my first peer reviewed publication dealing with an aspect of African history. It explicitly compares the Soviet special settlement regime to South African apartheid.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day everybody. Yesterday I had the hottest Christmas I have ever experienced. It is expected to cool off sometime in March.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everybody!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thoughts on Totalitarianism in Light of Kim Jong Il's Death

It would not surprise me if the majority or even the vast majority of North Koreans really did quite literally worship Kim Jong Il. Stalin died in 1953 and yet the majority of Russians and Central Asians still revere him today despite his denunciation by Khrushchev at the 20th Party Congress. I do not expect a similar denunciation of Kim any time soon. Things that people in the US, Europe, and former European colonies like Ghana value highly such as individual freedom, tolerance, and basic human rights have very little support in Eurasia. Instead in most of the former USSR and North Korea they view racist nationalism, persecution of minorities and dissidents,   and personality cults in a very positive light. I am not sure there is any hope at all even in the very long run for any type of movement towards respect of individual and minority rights in that region of the world.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Marking Update

I have been slowly plodding along grading final exams. So far I have 38 done. I got delayed by having to extensively revise a journal article. But, this morning I got ten exams marked.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A whole slew of obits

Fortunately, I am a complete nobody so I am in good health. But, lots of famous people seem to have died recently. Cesaria Evora, Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel, and Kim Jong Il. In terms of long term positive impact on the world I would rank them in the order of most to least as Evora, Havel, Hitchens, and Kim. Evora's music will still be listened to and provide enjoyment for people for decades and probably centuries. Havel was a very brave individual and helped contribute to the end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. He is also the only Czech politician to ever suggest that the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans was a crime. Hitchens I don't really care about one way or another. He once edited a decent collected work on Palestine with Edward Said, but other than that nothing he did really impressed me. Kim Jong Il was a ruthless despot, but surprisingly unlike his intellectual ancestors: Lenin, Stalin, and Mao he had very little support among American and European intellectuals. For a communist dictator this is a major failing. After all worship from western leftists is the major accomplishment that sets Stalin and Mao apart from failures like Hitler.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why Communism Can Never Come to Ghana

If you go up to a market woman and tell her you are going to nationalize her food stall and take away her bible she will use her panga to cut off your ghoulies and that will be the end of your glorious proletarian revolution. Of course nobody here is stupid enough to try anything like that. But, I just want to assure everybody that socialism is completely incompatible with indigenous African values.

More on Soviet Apartheid

I know almost no US academics and certainly none on the Internet thinks that there were ever any racist policies in the USSR except for antisemitism, but looking at it from a point of view not dedicated to defending Moscow from the charge of racism things appear very different. If one looks at the legal restrictions of the special settlement regime in the USSR and apartheid in South Africa from a comparative point of view they appear very similar. When one notes that the construction of 'race' in South Africa after 1948 was in fact never officially justified along a model of genetically determined biological inferiority like Nazi Germany, but rather along lines of primordial ethnicity defined by anthropologists it looks even more similar. The problem is that some people calling themselves scholars automatically assume that because the Soviet government called the Kalmyks for example a nationality rather than a race that there was no racial component to their repression. They also assume wrongly that the South African system of racial classification was similar to that of Nazi Germany and based upon articulations of genetic inferiority rather than claims of cultural differences. This an instance where the total lack of comparative studies regarding the USSR has produced a lot of idiocy by tenured professors at big name US universities.

So to remedy this lack of comparative history I am presenting a brief summary of my findings on the similarities between Soviet 'racial' policies and South African 'racial' policies.

1. The legal restrictions imposed upon deported peoples in the USSR bear a close similarity to the apartheid laws of South Africa. The special settlement restrictions imposed upon these nationalities closely fits the model of apartheid constructed a few years later in South Africa. In both cases immutable groups of people defined by ethnicity at birth were subject to severe restrictions upon their residency and movement. To enforce these restrictions both regimes created a system of pass laws.

2. The construction of natsional'nost in the USSR bears a close similarity to the construction of 'race' in apartheid South Africa. Both were based upon primordial ethnicity and immutable cultural groups rather than any biological or genetic conception of difference. Both were also forms of racism that relied upon the sciences of anthropology and ethnography rather than biology and genetics.

3. The terms natsional'nost, narodnost, volk, ethnicity, nationality, and culture when used by both regimes were interpreted by the population in racial and indeed racist ways. They supported and validated a vast unofficial racist discourse. In the Soviet case this is evident in the vast array of racist jokes, insults, stereotypes, and even violence that connected directly to the official classifications of natsional'nost or narodnost. People in the USSR viewed these categories in the same way that people in South Africa viewed racial categories.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

There is a Gecko Living in my Office

There are lots of geckos in my house. But, I think there is only one in my office. Right now he is running around the walls. I like geckos. They eat bugs.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Speed Record at the Hospital

Today I got my medical file, got my blood pressure taken at the nurses station, and saw an MD who wrote me a new prescription all in a mere 40 minutes. I have heard that in some places in the US like Fresno that it can take up to nine hours to see a doctor at a hospital. It is amazing how well the national health care system works in Ghana.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Omelet Sandwich

Last night behind Legon Annex I discovered a woman who cooks omelet sandwiches. I saw her after purchasing a can of lychee juice at the nearby chemist shop and was going to walk to the night market to get something to eat. But, after seeing the omelets she was frying I decided to try an egg sandwich instead. She fried me an omelet with sausage, onion, green pepper, and tomato. She then served it to me inside half a loaf of whole wheat bread. It was quite tasty. The sandwich cost me two cedis which is about $1.30. Given the extreme proximity of this vendor to my house I think I will be ordering more omelet sandwiches in the future.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Slightly Different Census Figures

I have gotten conflicting figures on how many people the British actually found in Palestine in 1922. But, this looks pretty official. They found 83,794 Jews, 590,890 Muslims, and 73,034 Christians. The Muslims and Christians would have been Palestinian Arabs. So the total Arab population would have been 663,914 a little bit less than the figure cited below.

New record on posts

I just thought I would note that I made more posts in 2011 than any other year in this blog's existence. The previous record was held by the year 2005. Those are the only two years I managed to make more than 300 posts to this blog.


The figures in my last post come from the source cited on the bottom. But, they appear to be in conflict with the 1922 British census of Mandate Palestine. The census gives a figure of 668,258 Arabs which is close to Jabbour's figure of 700,000. The figure for Jews, however, is listed at 83,790 with no breakdown between native and European Jews. This is a ratio of about eight Arabs for every Jew. I am not sure where Jabbour's figures came from since he does not seem to list a source for them.

More on Gingrich and Palestine

I see Gingrich is going all out to prove he can be the nuttiest Israel firster in the history of the world. This is a difficult challenge, but one he seems well placed to win. The first Zionist colony in Palestine, "Rishon le zion", was only established in 1882. This is the same year that the first Mennonite colonies appeared in the Talas Valley of Kyrgyzstan. Before that time there are no European Jewish colonies in Palestine and only a few thousand mostly native and thus Arabized Jews. By 1920 the total Jewish population of Palestine is only about 5,000 of which less than 2,000 were Ashkenazi settlers from Europe versus almost 700,000 Arabs. That is less than a century ago the territory currently controlled by Israel had 140 Arabs for every Jew.  While both Palestine and Israel are invented concepts just as are all nations, the basis for the invention of Israel in 1948 was historically quite weak. A few decades before that time there were almost no Jews what so ever in Palestine compared to hundreds of thousands of native Palestinian Arabs. This is one reason why the Zionists have had to resort to misinterpreting the Bible. The demographic and social history of Ottoman Palestine clearly favor the Palestinian claims.

Source: George Jabbour, Settler Colonialism in Southern Africa and the Middle East (Khartoum and Beirut: University of Khartoum & PLO Research Center, 1970), p. 49.

Grading update

This morning I graded 16 scripts including my last three obruni exams. I already went and collected my money for grading the foreign students.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Demonstrations in Russia

I see that there are mass demonstrations against Putin in Russia today. I do not think the regime is in any actual danger. But, feel free to disagree with me in the comments.

Marking Time

I now have over 200 final exams to grade. My last final was yesterday (Saturday) morning at 7:30 am. Out of 109 students registered for the class only 105 showed up to take the test. Calculating the final grades for the four missing students will be easy. The final exam counts for 70% of the total grade.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gingrich and Palestine

Newt Gingrich's recent claims about Palestine make me wonder if he ever learned anything about historical processes when he got his PhD. All peoples and nations are invented. This is true most of all of the Israelis whose existence is a lot more recent than the idea of a distinct Palestinian identity. No collective identity has come into existence naturally as a fully formed ethnic or national group, not even the Jews. They are all inventions.

His rehashing of Golda Meyerson's claim that the Palestinians did not exist as a separate people in 1948 ignores the fact that nations and states are two different things. There was no Israeli state before 1948 either. Indeed a much better argument could be made that there was not an Israeli nation before 1948 then the claim that there were not a Palestinian nation. Being under Ottoman rule from 1516 to 1918 does not negate the development of Palestinian nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries during the same time that nationalism developed in most of Europe including Jewish nationalism. One might as well claim there is no such thing as a  Czech nation because they were under Austrian rule until after World War One. 

It is a bit late in the day for Israel's supporters to be attempting to erase the native population of Palestine from popular discourse. There is a collective national entity whose members call themselves Palestinians. They are the people who were living in the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Their continual presence in this territory predates that first Jewish Aliyah from Europe to Palestine by many centuries. As such their moral claims to the land are far stronger than the European colonists that started settling in the territory in the 1880s, much later than the settlement of South Africa, North America or even Australia. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Summary of Suprun and Dudarev Verdict

All right due to my haste in reading and posting I made a number of mistakes earlier which I corrected in short order on the blog posts below. But, here is the corrected summary. Both Suprun and Dudarev were found guilty. They were convicted of violating different articles of the criminal code, however. Suprun received no punishment and Dudarev a suspended sentence and probation. This case establishes that it is illegal to collect and publish "personal and family secrets" from the Russian archives. These secrets apparently being the personal files identifying individual prisoners and special settlers repressed by the Soviet government. The Russian government has clearly sent a message to historians dealing with Stalinism that it does not like the narrative of ethnic Germans being victims of a Russian dominated government during the time of the Great Fatherland War. Indeed I suspect it does not like any narrative that focuses on the victims of the Stalin regime, but especially not ethnic Germans and especially not during World War II. Such things detract from the narrative of a great USSR under the glorious leadership of Stalin triumphing over the ultimate evil of German fascism that has served as the primary source of legitimacy for the Soviet and now the Russian government since 1945.

Russian news round up on Suprun and Dudarev

Walt Richmond sent me a trio of links with Russian news stories on the Suprun and Dudarev verdict. Thank you Walt.  Apparently I keep getting it wrong. Suprun was convicted, but not fined. The prosecution had originally wanted a 150,000 ruble fine (a little less than $5,000). At any rate here are the articles: onetwo, and three.

Suprun and Dudarev update

It appears that my first post was not quite correct. According to this article Suprun received a monetary fine and Dudarev a suspended sentence of one year and probation. So he is actually not being sent to prison, at least not yet. Even so it is now illegal in Russia to publish "private data" from the archives meaning in this case information on the identity of Stalin's victims. The searches, confiscation of materials, trial, and punishment of fines and probation against historians and archivists is still a very bad mark on the Putin regime even though I am glad that Suprun and Dudarev remain at liberty.

Suprun and Dudarev Verdict

It looks like the Arkhangel'sk court has sentenced archivist Aleksandr Dudarev to one year in prison for helping Mikhail Suprun gather the names of Russian-Germans persecuted by the Soviet government during the Stalin era. Suprun himself was released due to an expiration of the statute of limitations. It is now officially illegal in Russia to make public the names of the millions of ordinary people repressed by the Stalin regime. These victims have been condemned to remain nameless and unknown. This blatant act of intimidation against the historical profession in Russia is really an outrage. In Russia today doing history in a way that deviates from the current political line rehabilitating Stalin can get you put in prison.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Another blog reader census

Okay it is time for another one of my completely unscientific attempts to see if I have any readers other than my family and the four people who sometimes comment on this blog. I am becoming very distrustful of my site meter. The numbers and countries it gives seem completely implausible to be real humans. Although they may very well be commercial bots. I know my actual audience has got to be very small. It is undoubtedly small enough that it would be possible for me to know about all of them. My suspicion is that it is one or two more people than those that I know about.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Soviet Math: Two Spies = Security Threat by 366,683 People

After the Nazi invasion of the USSR up until the deportation of the Volga Germans, the NKVD combed through the Volga German ASSR looking for spies and saboteurs. Between 22 June and 10 August 1941 they arrested a total of 145 ethnic Germans deemed to be politically suspect only two of which they accused of being spies. That is they knew that the population posed no security or political threat to the USSR because they had already filtered out the very few remaining people that were politically suspect. Hence the claims that the deportations were merely understandable security measures and had nothing what so ever to do with racial discrimination are impossible to believe. The breakdown of reasons for arrest are below.

People "spreading  defeatist and insurrectionist statements" - 97
Having membership in "anti-soviet and counterrevolutionary groups" - 6
Having "subversive intentions" - 4
Having "terrorist intentions" - 3
Espionage - 2

Despite the fact that they found less than 150 people out of a population of over 366,000 people that were of suspect loyalty they deported the entire population eastward to Siberia and Kazakhstan during September 1941 claiming they were all guilty of treason. In violation of the Soviet constitution they collectively punished the population on the basis of their nationality, confiscated their property, and dissolved their national state formation.

Source: Konstanin Isakov, "1941-Other Germans," New Times, no. 17, 1990, p. 38.

Monday, December 05, 2011

It is getting hotter every day now

It is getting hot now. Every day it gets hotter here. So even though we are just barely in the northern hemisphere we have the weather patterns associated with the southern hemisphere.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Random Sunday Thought

I am pretty sure there is not a single issue on which any American based academic writing the Internet agrees with me. But, that is okay. The world is a big place and the tiny parochial world of American academia is a very strange sub-culture. It is very different from what passes as normal in the rest of the world.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Double Standards

If somebody went around commenting on blogs that it was a morally good thing that the Nazis deported European Jews to the Ghettos because of the atrocities committed by Soviet Jews like Kaganovich then arrest warrants for him would be issued in Germany, Austria, and many other European states should he ever visit them. But, if somebody goes around claiming the moral necessity of deporting all ethnic Germans in the USSR during 1941 to special settlement regions in Siberia and Kazakhstan with similar legal restrictions and mortality rates to the Ghettos created by the Nazis then he gets to be a university professor in New York. There is something seriously messed up here. I thought human rights were supposed to be universal. But, apparently they are only for a few favored and protected or maybe only for one favored and protected group. How did support of genocide become the official line of American academia?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Happy Farmers' Day

Today is Farmers' Day in Ghana. So thank you to all the farmers who grow the cassava and plantain that go into my fufu.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Soviet Racism Continued

I define racism as the ascription of generalized and innate negative traits to cultural groups in which membership is determined by ancestry. That is if you attribute particular behaviors to people based upon their membership in a group which they were born into, they can not leave, and their children will inherit then you are engaged in racial thinking. Race has nothing to do with categories of biological inferiority based upon genetics. It has nothing to do with skin color other than phenotypes are one possible signifier that can be used to identify groups based upon ancestry. But, it is by no means the only one. Ancestral language and religion have also frequently been used. In short I agree that ethnicity is race without the biological pseudoscience if the determination of this category is by birth and it is immutable. If you remove the aspects of voluntary association and ability to assimilate into other groups from ethnicity you have race no matter how much you insist that it is based upon culture rather than biology. I realize that a large number of very prominent academics such as Francine Hirsch and Amir Weiner completely reject this definition when it comes to the USSR. But, I still maintain they are wrong.

The Stalin regime accused whole nationalities whose membership was defined at birth on the basis of parentage of treason. That is the government claimed that each and every member of these groups which numbered over two million people in total were traitors by virtue of their ethnic heritage and ancestry. This accusation is clearly false as well as racist. Most of the deportees were women, children, the elderly, and the infirm, people who were physically incapable of militarily collaborating with the Nazis. Thousands more were loyal members of the Communist Party and tens of thousands had actively fought against the Nazis defending the USSR while serving in the Red Army. Yet, there were almost no exceptions made for loyal members of the Communist Party, Komsomolists, or Red Army soldiers. They too fell under the false charges of treason and suffered in exile or labor camps along with their ethnic kin.  Even those awarded orders and medals for their service to the Soviet Union found themselves and their families accused of treason and punished. The only criteria for the Soviet accusation of treason and punishment through mass deportation of the entire population to remote areas of the USSR and imposition of severe legal restrictions on their civil rights was their natsional'nost. In this case the word natsional' nost in Russian like the word volk in Afrikaans is indistinguishable from the word race in its political and legal functions.

The claim that this repression was not racist, but rather merely political because of the accusations of treason, the presence of the war, and Soviet security concerns is laughable. Political concerns, justifications couched in the language of security, and false claims of treachery by ethnic minorities are not in any way incompatible with racial discrimination. In fact they almost always accompany it to a greater or lesser degree. Does anybody honestly believe that the US relocation of Japanese Americans was not an act of racial discrimination because Japan attacked Pearl Harbor thus creating real security concerns for the US in the Pacific states? Yet the number of people who claim that the deportation of the Russian-Germans to Kazakhstan and Siberia was not racial discrimination, but merely political or a understandable security measure because Germany attacked the USSR is quite large. Why the double standard? Why are there so many defenders of Stalin on this particular issue? The ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union had been in the Russian Empire and USSR for nearly six generations compared to only two for the Japanese Americans. There was not even a unified German state when their ancestors arrived along the shores of the Volga and Black Sea. Ascribing a political connection between this large and diverse population and Nazi Germany based solely upon their descent from immigrants who geographically lived in areas that became Germany in 1871 was clearly racist. But, in many cases the connection was even weaker. It was based on the fact that their ancestors spoke a dialect of what the Soviet government considered to be the German language. So the descendants of immigrants from Switzerland, Holland, and other other countries also suffered deportation on the basis of being labelled "German" by the Soviet regime.  In my mind the Soviet deportations were just as racist as the US policies at the same time towards Japanese Americans.

I realize that my position is an extreme minority among academics. That people who claim that there was never any racial discrimination involved in the official treatment of groups like the Russian-Germans and Crimean Tatars by Stalin dominate the field. But, all the arguments I have seen that the deportations and special settlement restrictions were not acts of racial discrimination similar to the internment of Japanese Americans or South African apartheid fail to convince me.