Tuesday, January 13, 2015

More Links Between Soviet and South African Apartheid

The Russian-Germans deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan in 1941 were released from special settlement restrictions on 13 December 1955 by a decree of the Presidium  of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.  This decree, however, explicitly barred the ethnic Germans freed from the special settlement restrictions from either recovering property confiscated during the deportations or returning to the areas they had previously inhabited (Auman and Chebatoreva, p. 177). In practice after 1955 the Soviet government continued to confine the vast majority of ethnic Germans in the USSR east of the Urals in Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia. The pardon of 1955 was followed by a partial rehabilitation on 29 August 1964 which formally lifted the charges of treason levelled against the Russian-Germans on 28 August 1941. It did not, however, remove the continuing restrictions on choosing their place of residence. Instead it noted that they had become "rooted" in their new places of settlement (Auman and Chebatoreva, pp. 178-179). Despite the continued ban on Russian-Germans from returning to their previous places of settlement, a number managed to move to other European territories under Soviet rule, most notably Estonia and Latvia. Technically, this was not a violation of the 1955 decree since almost none of the ethnic Germans coming from Kazakhstan and Central Asia to the Baltic had lived there previously. The MVD of the Estonian SSR thus issued a protocol, "It is prohibited to issue residency permits for the republic to people of German ethnicity, coming in from other republics." (Ziben, p. 39). Three days later on 25 March 1972, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Estonia issued a decree prohibiting the issue of residency permits to ethnic Germans (Ziben, p. 40). The Soviet government only restored the formal equal right of ethnic Germans in the USSR to choose their place of residency on 3 November 1972 (Auman and Chebotareva, p. 179). This decree came just a year before the UN passed the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. This convention was passed by the UN General Assembly on 30 November 1973. The resolution was cosponsored by the USSR and Guinea and prohibits among other things imposing restrictions on the right of "racial groups" to choose their place of residence (Tilley et al, pp. 295-300). Under the definition of the International Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965 the restrictions prohibiting ethnic Germans in the USSR from choosing their place of residency constituted racial discrimination. It appears that the blanket legal ban on ethnic Germans choosing their place of residency was repealed at least in part so that the USSR could cosponsor the anti-apartheid convention without facing charges of hypocrisy.


 V.A. Auman and V.G. Chebatoreva, Istoriia rossiiskikh nemtsev v dokumentakh (1763-1992),(Moscow: MIGP, 1993).

Virginia Tilley et al, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law. (Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council, 2009).

V. Ziben, "Nemtsy v Estonii posle vtoroi mirovoi voiny, 1956-1991 gg." in A.A. German (ed.), Nemetskoe naselenie v poststalinskom SSSR, v stranakh SNG i Baltii (1956-2000 gg.) (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi souiz nemetskoi kul'tury, 2003).


Withywindle said...

Given that apartheid has institutional links going back at least to the nineteenth century, and maybe to the seventeenth, depending how you look at it, I would be cautious about arguing Soviet influence, as opposed to parallel evolution. Indeed, there is the Mazower Dark Continent thesis (as I recollect it) that the twentieth century saw Europeans apply to Europe techniques experimented with elsewhere on non-Europeans. I suspect you might find more influence from nineteenth-century imperialist labor policies in Africa (et al) on Soviet policy than vice versa.

J. Otto Pohl said...

I actually didn't say that the Soviets influenced South African apartheid anywhere in the post. What I wrote is that there is a link between the Soviet Union's decree of 3 November 1972 and their cosponsorship the following year of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

BTW: That thesis isn't original with Mazower. Hannah Arendt wrote about it in 1951 in The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Withywindle said...