Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Russian-Germans in the Central State Archives of the Kyrgyz Republic

The staff at the Central State Archives of the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek are very nice and helpful. It has a nice reading room that is quite accessible to foreign scholars. Unfortunately, most of what I was looking for has apparently been reclassified as secret, a total of eight registries (opisi) that I requested. I was told there was no possible way for me to access them. Ironically a number of works published before I first arrived in Bishkek in the summer of 2007 cite these secret document and some were even reproduced verbatim in 2000. Another five registries with material dealing with Russian-Germans have been moved to the archives in Talas. So I got to look at four files from four different fonds that had a little over 50 individual documents that were of some interest. Among these was a greeting from the Executive Committee of the Volga German ASSR to the Germans in Leninfeld from 1924 written in German and a protocol of a 1926 meeting of 28 Germans in Gruenfeld outside Tokmak on the issue of redistricting the Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast. But, as I suspected I did not find anything earth shattering.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I am not sure where the idea that the US relationship with every developing country in the world was the exact same phenomenon as the British, French, and Portuguese colonization of Africa came from. But, calling everything the US does abroad imperialism and referring to America's projection of power abroad an empire as if it was the same thing as British rule over India or the Gold Coast is not very helpful. To my mind there has to be some sort of political control over the foreign territory involved, economic exploitation of the ruled population, and a subjective feeling of being colonized by the inhabitants of the peripheral region for a relationship to be imperial. All three of these things for instance exist in Israel's rule over the West Bank. But, it is hard to find a single place where all three exist with regards to the US to any similar degree.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mushroom salad

Last night I had a fried mushroom and tomato salad with onions and mayonnaise for dinner. It was quite good. I do not remember ever eating fried fresh mushrooms prepared as a salad before. Unfortunately, tonight's dinner will be pelmeni, edible, but not anything new and exciting.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Things to remember about Archives

First, things get reclassified. Stuff that was freely available fifteen years ago and even published verbatim twelve years ago can again be marked as secret and top secret and locked away for decades. This apparently can happen to whole fonds, not to mention opisi. The archives available today may be a very sanitized version of the official history as one comes across numerous pages simply marked "Secret" or finds lots of little s marks on one's requests for documents.

Two, things get moved. Archives that were at one time in a central location may be moved to outlaying provincial or regional archives. Unlike in the case above they are theoretically still accessible if one can get another letter of introduction from a local university director and can travel several hundred miles to the new location.

Three, some stuff just gets lost. That is they can not find the file and there is no record of it being ever classified as secret or top secret or moved to another archive. 

Four, a lot of stuff before the 1940s is not typed. Instead it is written out by hand and is extremely difficult to read. Even though typewriters existed in the 1920s they evidently were not in widespread use in many parts of the world. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Recently I have been spending some time in the State Archives of the Kyrgyz Republic. I have not found any earth shattering revelations. Nor do I expect to find any. But, it is always interesting to see how institutions organize their records. So far what I have not found and what is missing from the available records has been far more intriguing than what I have actually seen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

It stays light a lot longer here

I have gotten used to it being dark every night before 7:00 living in equatorial Africa. I had forgotten how long it stays light during the summer in Central Asia. Although, I have not forgotten how cold and short the days in the winter are here and I don't miss that at all.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I do not have anything of great importance to report. Very little seems to have happened in Bishkek since I was last here about a year ago. It is nice not to have any papers to grade.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Back in Bishkek

I made it to Bishkek where I am spending most of the summer. I won't be posting a lot until I get back to Ghana. But, in case anybody wondered where I had gone I thought I should post that I had gone to Kyrgyzstan. I will be back in Legon in early August.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Slow Blogging Ahead

I have to go tomorrow and take care of some stuff. Blogging will be  light if at all for the next two months. If anybody wants to know what I am up to during this time send me an e-mail. Otherwise the next semester at the University of Ghana starts in August. I will be back here then.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Cotton Paper Sent Off

Today my co-author and I went over the final corrections to our paper comparing colonial cotton cultivation in German Togoland, Russian Turkestan, British India, and the Northern Territories of what is now Ghana in the early 20th Century. Our argument is that the Germans failed in achieving their goal of replacing cotton from the US and British colonies and protectorates with cotton from its own colonies. In contrast the Russians managed to largely replace US cotton with Central Asian cotton in the years immediately before World War One. The British also managed to replace imported US cotton with cotton from their colony in India. The German textile industry never got more than one half of one percent of its cotton from German colonies and protectorates. The vast majority was imported from the US or the British Empire.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

In Between

The time between finishing grading and starting vacation is always a strange one. Fortunately, it only has a few more days. Next semester I am going to aim to finish my grading faster than I did this one. If I can avoid unexpected delays I should be able to cut a few days off. But, right now the campus is pretty quiet and I am spending my evenings reading mystery novels rather than grading final exams.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

A trip to the Market

Today I took a tro tro down to Makola Market. It has been a while since I have been there and I had almost forgotten just what chaos feels like. But, I did enjoy the walk from Nkrumah Circle down Nkrumah Avenue to the market. In some ways Accra reminds me of Los Angeles without the crime and graffiti. Although LA is a bit more diverse due to Asian and Latino influences.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Finished Cotton Paper Revisions

I have now finished revising my book chapter on cotton in German Togoland. As soon as my co-author gives me his assent I will send it back to the editor. Then I can get back to mundane things like getting laundry done and buying blood pressure medicine.

More Work

Just when I thought I was finished. I now have to revise my cotton in German Togoland chapter. I am going to try and finish it tonight. It will be second publication dealing with an aspect of African history. While there are a lot of corrections to be made. A total of 62. They are all relatively minor. So I should be able to get it done quickly.