Thursday, April 12, 2012

More similarities between the Soviet special settlement regime and South African apartheid

The more I read about South African history the more I find their policies of apartheid towards Blacks to be very similar to Soviet policies towards the deported nationalities such as the Germans, Chechens, Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars and others during the Stalin regime. In both cases the stigmatized groups were essentially racial castes in which membership was determined by the state at birth and could not be escaped through assimilation. Only in the case of mixed parentage did the child acquire a different legal category than that of both his parents. In both cases the oppressed groups could not serve in the military, serve in most government posts, and most importantly had to live in designated areas assigned to them by the regime on the basis of their ancestry. Travel even for short distances and times was in both cases regulated by set of strictly enforced pass laws. Yet for all these similarities literally nobody in the field of Soviet history is willing to even admit that the official policies towards these groups were racist acts and that the institution of the special settlement regime was a racist institution. Certainly nobody in the US other than myself has stated that the special settlement regime was a system of apartheid.  Instead we are treated to Hirsch's claims about "sociohistorical groups" not being "racial biological groups." A claim echoed by people like Amir Weiner and others.  A claim that looks particularly weak when one notes that the South African concept of race during the apartheid era is almost always defined in terms of "sociohistorical groups" rather than biological ones.

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