Friday, July 08, 2005

Russian-German Historiography (first in a series)

Well, I have been trying to make the most of my short time with the LOC. I was there 12 hours today reading up on the mass of Russian language literature that has come out in the last five years on the Russian-Germans. I was pretty well set on the 1940s due to my dissertation. But, the stuff on the 1920s is just humungous. I have been trying to plow through it, but man there is alot. Not much of the information is in English either. There seems be a natural split in the scholarly literature. Stuff based upon archives in the former Soviet states is almost all in Russian. A lot of its boring academic stuff, but alot of it is also pretty fired up about the injustice of Stalinism. Some of its written by Russian-Germans, some is written by Russians. But an increasing amount is written by Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs and other natives of areas where Germans once lived. These works are fascinating in that they provide a viewpoint that most people do not even consider exists. Although historical analogies are sometimes slippery imagine a history of American slavery told by Indians. That is kind of what the Kazakh scholarship is like. The Germans play the Blacks, the Kazakhs the Indians and the Russians the Whites. Of course some Indians did own slaves and some Kazakhs mistreated Germans, more so now that they have independence. This point is totally ignored by Kazakh scholars, but everybody has their biases.

The German language stuff is based mainly on interviews of settlers from Kazakhstan and Siberia. Most of it deals with integrating them into German society. But, a fair chunk is an attempt to get the stories from those who survived the Stalin era before they perish from old age. But, very little on the 20s or 30s. However, I suspect that the older German tendency towards sociology will become dominant. So most new exciting historical scholarship on the group will be in Russian and much of it will be by people who are neither German or Russian in any sense.

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