Thursday, January 31, 2013

New article on Labor army now available

My article, "Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water: The Russian Germans in the Labour Army" is now available in The Eurasia Studies Society Journal , vol. 2, no. 1 2013. Go check it out and feel free to leave  any comments you have about it here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

US Establishes Drone Base in Niger

The US is now establishing a base in Niger from which to launch drones into Mali. If you had told me when I was a young man that the US would be fighting a war around Timbuktu in the Sahara against a small group of Islamist guerrillas I would have thought you mad. On the other hand I realized upon reading this news that I know very little about Niger. It is one of the African countries I still have not found any English language histories on. So if anybody has any suggestions for readings on the history of Niger please put them in the comments. If there is anything good in French it might serve as an inspiration start improving my embryonic ability to read French.

Source: Reuters

Monday, January 28, 2013

Publications on things African, German, and Soviet

Today was the first day of class and not many students showed up. But, today was hectic getting syllabi copied, dealing with a never ending stream of students, having to resubmit two different manuscripts due to technical problems, and I still have to finish grading. On the bright side it looks like my book chapter on cotton in German Togoland I co-wrote with Felix Longi will be out soon. I also have a journal article that will be published online next week I hope. The title of the article is "Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water: The Russian-Germans in the Labour Army" and it should appear in the journal of the The Eurasia Studies Society of Great Britain and Europe, vol. 2, no. 1, February 2013. Finally, my chapter on Blacks in the USSR will probably appear in print this summer. I will keep everybody updated on when and where my publications appear. I am hoping to have enough publications under my belt in the next couple of years to apply for promotion.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More on why foreign aid is bad for Africa

I am now also reading David Sogge, Give & Take: What's the Matter with Foreign Aid? (London: Zed Books, 2002). I will have a more complete analysis on this after I finish reading Sogge and Glennie. But, one thing that is apparent is that donor countries give aid to help interests in the donor countries not so much to help anybody in the recipient countries. This is particularly true of government provided assistance. There really is no such thing as international government charity. In addition to serving greater geo-political and economic interests a lot of foreign aid ends up directly in the pockets of American and European corporations. For instance food assistance is not only meant to provide help to hungry people in the underdeveloped world. It is also meant to provide assistance to farmers in the US and EU by having the donor government buy their products. In fact a lot foreign aid, not just food assistance,  has been an indirect way of providing government subsidies to US and European corporations. This has been especially true regarding military assistance. Arms sent to foreign countries means money for weapons manufacturers. This does not even delve into the economic and political dependency such aid can cause among recipient countries. But, it does serve to show that the US and Europe do not provide aid to Africa for altruistic reasons. There are always ulterior motives. What is good for politically powerful interests in the US and Europe is not always good for the people of Africa.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Africa should just say, "No".

I am reading Jonathan Glennie, The Trouble with Aid: Why Less could Mean More for Africa (London: Zed Books, 2008) now. He makes a good argument that African countries would be a lot better off rejecting foreign aid and loans and the conditions attached to them than accepting them. Often the loss of revenue from eliminating tariffs or privatizing state industries is far greater than the aid money which more often than not is a loan that has to be repaid with interest rather than a grant. The loss of tariff barriers and the privatization of state industries has led to a lot of indigenous African products being driven out of their own domestic markets by cheaper and heavily subsidized foreign products. Why is it that the Netherlands is allowed to dump subsidized chickens in Ghana, but Ghana is prohibited by the IMF and the powers standing behind it from raising tariffs on these chickens? (Glennie, p. 54). Using tax payer subsidies for the export of agricultural goods to foreign countries which is standard practice by the US and EU is not consistent with  free trade. These subsidies are a far greater interference in the world market due their large size and negative effects than any tariff or nationalization by African countries. If the political will could be found Africans would be better off rejecting most aid and its conditions and  instead crafting policies designed to boost the production of indigenous goods.

German, Austrian, and Sudeten German Communists in the USSR

The total number of foreign German communists in the USSR in 1942 that had survived arrest in 1937-1938 was rather small. The Comintern had a list of registered members for foreign communists in the USSR in 1942 which included 131 members from Germany, 74 from the Austrian party, and 44 Sudeten Germans with membership in the Czechoslovak party. Other communists from countries at war with the USSR included seven from Finland, 76 from Hungary, and 57 from Romania. The Comintern officially asked the NKVD on 20 November 1942 that these party members be excluded from service in the labor army even though some had already been mobilized by this time (Krieger, fn. 66, p. 162). A number of communists from Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland spent years in the labor army in various NKVD camps (Krieger, p. 151).  The existence and persecution of Sudeten German communists in the USSR is particularly interesting. If nothing else their existence proves that the Czech claim that all Sudeten Germans were Nazi sympathizers was simply not true. Their opposition to Naziism, however, did not spare them from persecution at the hands of Benes's Soviet ally.

Source: Viktor Krieger, "Patriots or Traitors? - The Soviet Government and the 'German Russians' After the attack on the USSR by National Socialist Germany", in Karl Schlogel (ed.), Russian-German Special Relations in the Twentieth Century: A Closed Chapter? (Berg Publishers: New York, 2006), pp. 133-163.

More German Communists in Soviet Camps

This post is a continuation on the theme of Russian-German communists in labor army contingents in NKVD camps I started yesterday. In Viatlag on 1 January 1942 the number of CPSU members numbered 122 among the ethnic Germans in the labor army with another 113 candidate members. The influx of conscripts in January 1942 under GKO order 1123ss an additional 228 members and 110 candidates arrived in the camp. By 1 October 1945, deaths, expulsions, and transfers had reduced the number of Russian-German communists to 118 CPSU members and 31 candidates. In addition there were 182 Komsomol members among the Russiang-Germans in the labor army in the camp organized into four all German Komsomol organizations (Berdinskikh, p. 426). These communists continued to hold party meetings in the camps during WWII despite their otherwise severely restricted civil rights as members of the labor army.

A number of  German communists at Viatlag were not members of the CPSU. Rather they were members of the KPD (Berdinskikh, p. 430). This was particularly true among those serving sentences as convicted prisoners rather than those conscripted into the labor army. Among the communists born in Germany and members of the KPD at Viatlag were Franz Berger, Walther Bechter, Heinrich Born, Erich Bonsak, Gustav Brun, and Georg Kern. They had earlier immigrated to the USSR sometime before 1937. All of these men were arrested and convicted of "Counter-Revolutionary" crimes during the German Operation of 1937-1938. None of these men survived their sentences to be released. All of them  were sentenced to death in the camp on 28 November 1941. By summer 1942 all of them were dead (Berdkinskikh,  pp. 439-444). The revolution truly did devour its own children.

Source: Viktor Berdinskikh, Spetsposelentsy: Politicheskaia ssylka narodov Sovetskoi Rossii (Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2005).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Loyal Communists among the Russian-Germans in the Labor Army at Labor Camps in the Urals

The Stalin regime persecuted ethnic Germans because they were racially German not because of any political or security reasons. Thus loyal members of the Communist Party and Komsomol found themselves deported to Kazakhstan or Siberia or forcibly ejected from the Soviet military and then conscripted into the labor army and sent to corrective labor camps in the Urals. The following data below represents their numbers as labor army conscripts in three such camps.

Bogoslovlag had 356 members of the CPSU among the 20,711 ethnic Germans working at the camp in the labor army. This works out to 1.72% of the contingent. In addition to CPSU members there were also 96 candidate members, 786 Komsomol members, and four members of foreign communist parties among the "mobilized Germans" working in the camp. In Tagillag there were 132 CPSU members among this contingent out of 6,704 labor army conscripts or 1.97% of the total. This camp also had 39 candidate members of the party, 273 Komsomol members, and nine members of foreign communist parties among its Russian-German labor army conscripts. Finally, Bakalstroi (ChMS) had 188 CPSU members out of 11,353 ethnic Germans in the labor army at this camp, 1.66%. The numbers for candidate members reached 44, the Komsomol 520, and ethnic Germans in foreign communist parties three. All together the number of communists among ethnic Germans inducted into the labor army to work at these three labor camps totaled, 2,450 people. These were people who were part of the ruling Soviet party apparatus and thus politically dedicated to the regime. Had the real reason for anti-German actions actually been political or security related rather than racial persecution then there would have been no need to condemn loyal communists to hard labor in concentration camps without any charge or trial on the basis of their ancestral ethnicity.

Source: S.L. Razinkov, "Sotsial'nyi portret trudarmeitsev, mobilizovannykh v lageria NKVD na Urale v 1941-1946 gg.", in A.A. German (ed.), Nachal'nyi period Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny i deportatsiia rossiiskikh nemtsev: vzgliady i otsenki cherez 70 let (Moscow: MSNK Press, 2011), table 6, p. 677.

Reports of Atrocities by Malian Army

There have now been reports that the Malian military has been engaged in mass summary executions as it advances with French and other African forces to reclaim the north from Islamists. They are allegedly targeting Tuaregs and Arabs claiming that they betrayed Mali and supported the Islamists. Earlier in Libya the US backed forces also rounded up and killed Black Africans under the pretext that they were mercenaries for the former regime. Although no irrefutable proof has yet been offered regarding these reports, I find the allegations of atrocities by the Malian military to be credible and not at all surprising. I would prefer that the reports of these killings not be true. But, I am guessing that further investigation results in these allegations being verified.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Institutional Racism

I am definitely of the opinion that institutional definitions of racism are more useful for scholarship than ones reducing it to an irrational and pathological hatred. However, the claim I see by certain people in the US who are more interested in activism than scholarship that only non-whites can be victims of institutional racism is ridiculous. Fortunately, I live in Africa where people have a much better understanding of racism. It is not about skin color. If nothing else the long history of European anti-semitism demonstrates that it is quite possible for white groups to be racialized as well. Institutional racism can deny equal rights and opportunities to any group perceived to be inherently different by virtue of ancestry or descent from the dominant group or groups in any given society. Hence there has existed institutional racism against white groups by other white groups as well as in some cases even institutional racism by Asians against white groups. Ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet states have experienced both institutional racism from other whites, mostly Russians, and Asians, mostly Kazakhs. The racialization of groups does not have to occur along a white/non-white axis. It can occur along a number of different axes such as Aryans/Jews in Nazi Germany, Soviet People/Enemy Nationalities in the USSR, Jew/Arab in Israel, Kazakh/non-Kazakh in Kazakhstan, etc. The important similarity in all these cases is that the different groups are viewed as primordial, immutable, and based upon ancestry. It should be noted that in all these cases the victimized group includes white people. Jews, Germans, Arabs, and Russians are all white.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Germany Dissents

I see that the German government has instructed its military personnel at the joint European military air base in Eindhoven  not to allow any French arms or ammunition to be shipped to the forces fighting in Mali using German planes.

Source: ABC News

Monday, January 21, 2013

Not a good prioritization of resources

I just read that the Ghanaian government is going to send soldiers as part of the ECOWAS force fighting with the French against the Islamists in northern Mali. Can you imagine Nkrumah fighting side by side with the French in Africa? No of course not, the idea of truly independent African states providing men to support military actions in Africa by former colonial powers is ridiculous. But, real independence in Africa today is much further away than it was in 1966 before Nkrumah was overthrown in a military coup backed by the "liberal" LBJ. So instead of taking care of problems in Ghana like the fact that half the population can not read, the government is going to send Ghanaian soldiers to go join the French in a counter-insurgency war in the Sahara.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Nothing New Under The Sun

From 1959 to 1979 France intervened militarily in ten Sub-Saharan African countries of which nine were former French colonies and one a former Belgian colony. Below is a list of these countries and the years of French military operations. Due to the limitations of JSTOR with regards to finding up to date material I have not yet found a list of French military interventions in Africa during the last thirty years. With the exception of Zaire where France had to share influence with Belgium and the US all of the countries below could be described as French neo-colonial states for most of the post-colonial era.

Cameroon - 1959-1964
Senegal - 1959-1960 and 1962
Congo (French) - 1960 and 1962
Gabon - 1960, 1962, and 1964
Chad - 1960-1963, 1968-1975, 1977-1980
Mauritania - 1961 and 1977-1978
Niger - 1973
Djibouti - 1976-1977
Zaire - 1977 and 1978
Central African Republic - 1979

Source: Robin Luckham, "French Militarism in Africa," Review of African Political Economy (May-Aug. 1982), table 2, p. 61.

Reading List for Graduate Seminar on the History of Ethnicity and Race

I have finally finished the syllabus for my graduate course on the history of ethnicity and race. Below I have reproduced the reading list. The sources are listed in the order we will be covering them in the seminar.

John Hutchinson and Anthony Smith, eds., Oxford Readers: Ethnicity (Oxford University Press, 1996).

Walker Connor, Ethnonationalism: The Quest for Understanding (Princeton University Press, 1994).

Kennan Malik, The Meaning of Race: Race, History and Culture in Western Society (Houndsmills UK: Palgrave, 1996).

John Rex, Race and Ethnicity (Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 1986).

Eitenne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (London: Verso, 1991).

George Fredrickson, The Comparative Imagination: On the History of Racism, Nationalism and Social Movements (Berkely, CA: University of California Press, 1997).

Peter Blitstein, "Cultural Diversity and the Interwar Conjuncture: Soviet Nationality Policy in its Comparative Contest," Slavic Review, vol. 65, no. 2 (summer 2006), pp. 273-293.

Daniel Chirot and Anthony Reid, eds., Essential Outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the Modern Transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe (London: University of Washington Press, 1997).

James Clifford, "Diasporas," Cultural Anthropology, vol. 9, no. 3 (August 1994), pp. 302-338.

Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (London: University of Cornell Press, 2001).

Norman Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth Century Europe (London: Harvard University Press, 2001).

Stefan Prauser and Arfon Rees, eds., The Expulsion of the 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the End of the Second World War (San Domenico, Itay: European University Institute, 2004).

Ann Morrison's film documentary Millions Cried...No one Listened.

Robert Gellately and Ben Kirnan, eds., The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective  (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Tilman Dedering, "The German-Herero War of 1904: Revisionism of Genocide or Imaginary Historiography?," Journal of Southern African Studies, vol. 19, no. 1 (March 1993), pp. 80-88.

Virginia Tilley et al., Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid: A re-assessment of Israel's Practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law (Cape Town: HRSC, 2009).

Oren Yiftachel, "'Ethnocracy' and its Discontents: Minorities, Protests, and the Israeli Polity," Critical Inquiry, vol. 26, no. 4 (2000), pp. 725-756.

Rasma Karklins, Ethnic Relations in the USSR: The Perspective from Below (London: Allen & Unwin, 1986). 

Valery Tishkov, The Mind Aflame: Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict in and after the Soviet Union (London: Sage Publications, 1997).

Eric Weitz, "Racial Politics without the Concept of Race: Reevaluating Soviet Ethnic and National Purges," Slavic Review, vol. 61, no. 1 (spring 2002), pp. 1-29.

Francine Hirsch, "Race without the Practice of Racial Politics," Slavic Review, vol. 61, no. 1 (spring 2002), pp. 30-43.

Amir Weiner, "Nothing but Certainty," Slavic Review, vol. 61, no. 1 (spring 2002), pp. 44-53/

Alaina Lemon, "Without a 'Concept'? Race as Discursive Practice," Slavic Review, vol. 61, no. 1 (spring 2002), pp. 54-61.

Eric Weitz, "On Certainties and Ambivalences: Reply to my Critics," Slavic Review, vol. 61, no. 1 (spring 2002), pp. 62-65.

J. Otto Pohl, "Soviet Apartheid: Stalin's Ethnic Deportations, Special Settlement Restrictions, and the Labor Army: The case of the Ethnic Germans in the USSR," Human Rights Review, vol. 13, no. 2 (June 2012), pp. 205-224.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Both under Belgian colonial rule and since independence Congo has suffered greatly. It did not have to be that way. For one brief shining moment there was hope for Congo under the leadership of Patrice Lumumba. Then fifty two years ago today the US CIA and the Belgians successfully murdered Patrice Lumumba.


Well I see that all of the "hip" and "progressive" blogs are now only writing about the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz. None of them have anything to say about the war in Mali. Nor do they have anything else to say about Africa. It is interesting that the death of one white guy in the US is considered more important to "progressives" than the entire continent of Africa.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Another difference between Africa and Obrunistan

This morning I talked to two very prominent and famous people in the field of African history. Both of these historians are now emeritus, but it occurred to me today at lunch that no US scholar of their stature would ever deign to even say hello to me yet alone treat me as an equal. They just would not think it was worth their time or effort to acknowledge my existence. The longer I stay in Ghana and the more I read the more I have become aware that while there are a few exceptions that there is a very real difference in the way US and African academics think. Despite being of Obruni origin and living the first three decades of my life in Obrunistan I find the US academics to be far more alien to my own way of thinking than the Africans.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The War in Mali (I already told you this was a bad idea.)

Despite heavy bombing by the French since Friday the Islamists in Mali are actually gaining territory. A whole lot of innocent people are going to get killed so that all of Mali can go back to being a French neo-colony at best. It may end up completely controlled by the Islamists. I personally don't see anything good that can come out of the French led war in Mali. In fact I would feel a whole lot better if the French just completely stopped their habit of bombing African countries. While they are at it they could allow their former colonies to actually gain real independence rather than continuing to support a system of neo-colonial states that do not put the interests of their own citizens above that of French capital. Consider this an open thread on the war in Mali since no other blogs are apparently discussing it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Another North American Academic Praising the Soviet Union

Despite what my good friend Walt Richmond says about the rarity of pro-Soviet academics at US universities I keep finding them published by scholarly presses in droves. Valentine Moghadam is an associate professor of sociology at Illinois State University. She is also director of their women's studies program there. In a recent collection of essays on revolution I purchased she states, "To me the downfall of Communism in the Soviet Union represented a tragedy of world historical proportions precisely because the US became the sole hegemonic power." (p. 127). First, the US is not the sole hegemonic power in the world. Russia has far more influence than the US in Central Asia, France continues to dominate much of West and Central Africa in a blatantly neo-colonial manner, and I suspect China prevents the US from being the "sole hegemonic power" in parts of East and South East Asia. There is also of course the fact that the collapse of the USSR represented the liberation of millions of people from police state tyranny. The end of Soviet colonial rule just in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia was a very real advancement for human freedom in the world. To this of course one must add the end of pro-Soviet dictatorships in Poland, East Germany, Hungary and other regions of Central Europe. Imagine if somebody wrote "To me the downfall of colonialism in Africa represented a tragedy of world historical proportions precisely because the US and USSR became the sole hegemonic powers." Such a statement even given the post-colonial history of dictatorship in much of Africa would be rightly condemned as a racist and insensitive remark failing to take into consideration the lives of Africans themselves. Yet, here we have a tenured academic at a major US state university making the exact same type of statement regarding Soviet colonial rule.

Source: "First Thematic Discussion: The Political Economy and Geopolitics of Globalization: What Has Changed? What does it Mean for the Future of Revolutions? 25 January 2001," in John Foran, editor, The Future of Revolutions: Rethinking Radical Change in the Age of Globalization (London: Zed Books, 2003).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

France bombs another African country

I see the French are now bombing Mali. Since I have been in Africa the French have bombed Ivory Coast, Libya, and now Mali all in two years. I had to check my calender just to make sure we really are living in the year 2013. Which I think is about fifty years after the French were supposed to leave the continent and go home.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Mother Is Always Right

I have come to the conclusion that my wiser elders including my mother are indeed right. It is time this year to finally let all the bitterness of my past go. I am much happier working in Africa than I would have been in the US and if I had not gone to Kyrgyzstan I would never have met Oksana and started a family. In fact maybe I should thank God for unanswered prayers regarding getting an academic job in the US. There is a whole world outside the US and there are billions of people living happy fulfilling lives in that world. I really should concentrate of succeeding in that world and let the past go. I am taking the first steps now.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Any Suggestions for Readings on Modern Ethiopia?

All right this is a serious post, but it is short. Are there any good histories of Ethiopia under Mengistu written in English? I would like to find a political history on the regime written using archival and oral sources. But, I am not sure where to look. Did the government that succeeded Mengistu even open up the archives? What about Eritrea, have they allowed access to archives regarding the reign of Mengistu? I know all these questions sound really basic. But, it occurred to me that Ethiopia under Mengistu was the one African state that sought to emulate the USSR under Stalin. Yet, I know very little about the actual details of the regime. Most of what I do know comes from material written during the 1980s when Mengistu was still in power and access to the archives an obvious impossibility.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Blogging Here is Currently Slow

I am busy working on a journal article on the labor army and I just finished editing a report for the UNDP so I have not had much time to blog. After I finish the journal article I have to finish my syllabi for next semester and grading from last semester. So I probably will not be able to put any serious blog posts up until February or so. On the other hand I may put up some shorter and less serious pieces before then.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Merry Christmas Again

For those of my readers that belong to the Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Never Ending Struggle

I have noticed a disturbing trend of "liberal" bloggers to dismiss the crimes of communism as something we should get over now that the Cold War has come to an end. Of course none of these people would suggest that we get over the crimes of Naziism now that World War II is over. At the same time as they completely ignore the millions killed by Stalin they stress the fact that the communists supported the civil rights movement in the US and  other "progressive" causes and therefore communism was overall a good thing. This is morally retarded. It is the equivalent of praising Naziism for its role in opposing British colonialism in India and totally ignoring the Holocaust. It is also racist. Nobody would ever say we should get over the crimes of Naziism because they realize that it would be insensitive to the victims of the Holocaust. But, Stalin's victims were politically incorrect people like Volga Germans, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars so the American left has no problem dismissing their suffering in a patently offensive manner. There has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people to bring to light the history of communist crimes against humanity over the decades. However, when it comes to many "liberal" American academics it apparently has all been wasted. It is a never ending struggle to keep fighting against the perpetually reoccurring amnesia regarding the crimes of Stalin and other communist dictators.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Gilbert Rist and Why "Development" Did Not Work

I have just finished reading Gilbert Rist, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith 3rd Edition, (London: Zed Books, 2008). Rist rejects the idea of "development" which he traces back to colonial policies and likens to a secular religion. Not only does he reject "development" and of course "development economics", but he rejects economics itself as currently constituted as having very little ability to explain anything.

Economic 'science' has nothing scientific. It is no more than a battle of opinions, which fluctuates according to the conjuncture in ways that enable the strongest to impose their will. It disregards the numerous practices in North and South that do not fit its constructed models. It lacks the means to factor in our dependence on finite resources. It sanctifies the 'law' of the market without imagining that economic exchange might follow different rules. It exhausts itself in a project that puts into equations ever larger areas of social reality, one that 'claims to speak of (almost) everything with the help of a method which, if taken literally, would not allow it to speak of (almost) anything.' The enterprise is one of 'mental colonization', then, from which we need to be released as quickly as possible.  (pp. 261-262).

In other words economics has even less explanatory and predictive power, not to mention prescriptive ability to improve things especially in places like Africa or Central Asia than do other quasi-religious pseudo-sciences such as juju or witchcraft some of  which at least have the advantage of being culturally rooted in the societies in which they operate. Rist makes a very compelling argument in his book that "development" has not worked because "development economics" is worthless and "development economics" is rubbish because the entire academic discipline of economics is completely irrelevant to the reality of how people actually live in most of the world.

Friday, January 04, 2013


Okay it looks like the people that care enough to comment here want me to maintain the African posts. My only claim to any expertise in Africa is that I have now lived and worked in Ghana for two years and in that time I have tried to read as much about the history of the continent as possible. I have a couple of academic publications either in print or forthcoming that deal with African themes comparatively. One of these is a comparison of Soviet policy towards ethnic Germans under Stalin and South African apartheid. Another one is a comparison of cotton cultivation in German Togoland and Russian Turkestan I co-wrote with Felix Longi that should come out any day now. Finally, I have written a piece on Blacks in the USSR and how they fit into Soviet nationality policy. This is not bad for a guy who knew almost nothing about Africa two years ago. But, unlike most Americans I had the advantage of only knowing nothing. If you watch US television coverage of Africa you will know less than nothing. You will instead acquire a lot of wrong information and distorted stereotypes that are a serious obstacle to understanding anything about Africa.

Very recently I have taken an interest in French neo-colonialism. However, if I want to pursue this interest very far I am going to definitely have to improve my ability to read French. It is at a very rudimentary level right now. It just strikes me as incredible that for decades after the whole idea of colonialism had been completely discredited that countries like Togo, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, and others remain in essence colonies of extraction beholden and dependent upon France. Rather than being independent states they function as neo-colonial states ruled by local dictatorships, sometimes dynastic as in the case of Togo and Gabon today, that have exploited their natural wealth for the benefit of the French and the local elite. Currently we are seeing the effects of French neo-colonialism in the Central African Republic where a French imposed leader is about to fall now that the French are no longer willing to support him. It has been over 55 years since Ghana became the first Black African country to gain its independence from colonial rule. It is high time that Africa achieved real independence and got rid of rulers like Bongo and Deby.

Finally, I am personally beholden to Africa in a way very few White Americans are. Africa is the home of humanity. They say home is where they have to take you in when you have no place else to go. It was Africa that took me in and gave me a career as an academic after years of searching. Here my degree from SOAS is recognized as valuable and respected whereas it is not in the US. I never thought I would end up in Africa, but God works in mysterious ways.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Reader Feedback Wanted

It has been suggested to me that my African posts do not garner much interest compared to my posts on Russian-Germans and other deported peoples. My site counter tends to back this up. On average my recent posts on Russian-Germans have gotten twice as many hits as my posts on Africa. Nevertheless I am reluctant to cease posting  about Africa and only post on Russian-Germans, racism in the USSR, and other similar topics. However, for those of you who actually read this blog please feel free to give your input in the comments below on what topics you would like to see me write on this year.

Fulfillment of GKO Order 1123ss of 10 January 1942

GKO Order 1123ss of 10 January 1942 originally called for the mobilization of 120,000 deported Russian-German men from Kazakhstan and Siberia into the labor army to work at eight NKVD labor camps and seven NKPS rail construction projects. The eight labor camps were to receive 80,000 conscripts. However, the Soviet government only initially managed to  induct 67,691 men to work at these camps. Below are listed the eight camps as well as four camps not in the original plans. The first number is the number planned for induction and the second is the actual number initially inducted.

Sevurallag - 12,000 / 8,441 logging camp (Urals)
Ivdel'lag - 12,000 / 12,899 logging camp (Urals)
Usol'lag - 5,000 / 4,940  logging camp (Urals)
Ust'vymlag - 4,000 / 0 logging camp (Far North)
Viatlag - 7,000 / 6,800 logging camp (Urals)
Kraslag - 5,000 / 5,084 logging camp (Siberia)
Bakalstroi - 30,000 / 11,722 industrial construction (Urals)
Bogoslovstroi - 5,000 / 6,900 industrial construction (Urals)
Solikamstroi - 0 /2,396 industrial construction (Urals)
Tavdinlag - 0/1981 logging camp (Urals)
Tagilstroi - 0/2,870 industrial construction (Urals)
Sevzheldorstroi - 0/4,753 railway construction (Far North)
Total: 67,691


N.F. Bugai, (ed.),  "Mobilizovat' nemtsev v rabochie kolonny... I. Stalin": Sbornik dokumentov (1940-e gody) (Moscow: Gotika, 1998), doc. 18, pp. 39-40, doc. 35, pp. 58-59. doc. 36, pp. 59-60, and doc. 47, pp. 70-71.

Viktor Krieger, "Einsatz in Zwangsarbeitslager" in Alfred Eisfeld, ed., Von der Autonomiegrundung zur Verbannung und Entrechtung . Die Jahre 1918 und 1941 bis 1948 in der Geschichte der Deutschen in Russland (Stuttgart: Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland, 2008), table 1, p. 141.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

French neo-colonialism in Africa

I have started reading about French neo-colonialism and so far the love affair of American "progressives" with the European Union looks like an affair conducted at the expense of Africans. A dominant power in the European Union, France is one of those "social democratic" states that American "progressives" hold up as a model for the US. But, whatever merits French domestic policy may have regarding things like health care, the French state has consistently been more imperialist than the US. This is particularly true in Africa. American and other white "progressives" in places like Australia systematically condemn almost every single asymmetrical power relationship between the US and countries in the post-colonial world as being examples of imperialism. But, they almost never condemn French neo-colonialism. It is completely ignored. In Africa French colonial rule never really ended. The French just put puppet governments in power and granted formal and nominal independence to most of their colonies. The only real exceptions to this pattern were Guinea in 1958 and to a lesser extent Mali in 1960. Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Gabon, and other former French colonies received independence on paper, but not in substance. The French supported dictators in Africa have as a general rule amassed a very poor record on human rights and have used the natural resources of their countries to enrich themselves and the French rather than the general population. Yet because France is considered a "progressive" and "social democratic" state and thus a model of what US domestic and foreign policy should look like by many left liberals, there is almost no criticism of French neo-colonialism on blogs and other media of public discourse. Instead we are treated to a never ending litany of the evils of the US  Republican Party's policies without any recognition that conservative white Republicans are not in fact the source of all evil.

The Right of Return is Good

It looks like the Egyptians are seriously considering allowing Jews and their descendants expelled from Egypt by Nasser to return to Egypt and reclaim their lost property. Morally and strategically regarding the position of the Arab world versus Israel this is the right thing to do. The Zionists have long argued that the expulsion of Jews from Egypt and other Arab countries cancelled out the dispossession of the Palestinians. It obviously does not. Egyptian Jews should be able to return to Egypt and recover their property not take Palestinian property. Likewise the Palestinians have an inalienable right to return to their homeland and reclaim their property which the Israelis have been denying them since 1948. Now that the Egyptians are seriously contemplating solving the grievances of the Arab Jews it seriously undermines the Israeli claim that they confiscated Palestinian property to compensate Jews from Egypt and other Arab states. The Egyptians will compensate the Egyptian Jews in Egypt and it is likewise necessary for the Israelis to compensate the Palestinians in Palestine which properly defined stretches from the River to the Sea.

hat tip: JSF

Geographical Distribution of Labor Army 1 October 1945

On 1 October 1945 there were 113,946 Russian-Germans working in the labor army in the USSR in 27 different republics, autonomous republics, oblasts, and krais. The territory with the most labor army conscripts was Kemerovo Oblast in western Siberia with 16,412 such forced laborers. Siberia as a whole had a recorded 25,778  Russian-German labor army conscripts versus 12,917 for Kazakhstan, 2,045 for the rest of Central Asia, and 47,572 in the Urals. The remainder were spread out over other areas of Russia including 1,731 in Arkhangel'sk Oblast and 1,061 in the Komi ASSR.

Breakdown for Central Asia

Kazakhstan - 12,917
Kyrgyzstan - 220
Turkmenistan - 1,616
Uzbekistan - 209

Breakdown for Siberia

Kemerovo Oblast - 16,412
Novosibirsk Oblast - 4,224
Altai Krai - 2,492
Khabarovsk Krai - 1,714
Omsk Oblast - 936

Source: N.F. Bugai, Oni srazhalis' za rodinu: Predstaviteli repressirovannykh narodov SSSR na frontakh Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny (Moscow: Novyi Khrongraf, 2005), p. 225.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Any suggestions for books on French neo-colonialism in West Africa?

I am looking for some good suggestions for books and articles on French neo-colonialism in West Africa. I am particularly interested in such policies regarding Togo and Burkina Faso, the eastern and northern neighbors of Ghana. If anybody has knows of any works in English that provide a good introduction to the subject I would greatly appreciate them listing the publishing details in the comments below.

Anybody ever used Howell and Prevenier?

Next semester I am teaching Historical Methods. It is a 200 level class and the follow on to the Historiography class I taught last semester. I intend to assign two texts. For the first half of the class which will concentrate on written documents I am assigning Martha Howell and Walter Prevenier, Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods (London: Cornell University Press, 2001). The second half of the class will concentrate on oral history and use Paul Thompson, The Voice of the Past: Oral History Third Edition, (Oxford University Press, 2000). Has anybody had any success using these texts in an historical methods class? If so could they tell me the results in the comments below? I am a bit wary about the Howell and Prevenier even though it is short because it is very Eurocentric. None of its examples come from Africa, although it does have a number from the US, Middle East, and Russia. On the other hand, there really is nothing on historical methodology for undergraduates that uses mostly African examples. I may have to write my own undergraduate textbook on historiography and historical methods for African undergraduates.

Central African Republic

Africa is a big continent. It is too big to pay attention to the whole thing all the time even when you live here. As a result I often do not catch big stories until long after they get underway if at all. At any rate it is only in the last couple of days that I have become aware of the ongoing events in the Central African Republic. Apparently for the last three weeks rebels have been rapidly advancing towards the capital. If anybody has anything not reported by AP or Reuters to add please put it in the comments.