Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Historian Trapped in the Body of a Political Scientist

Today I gave my last lecture of the semester. Now I just have to grade papers. This semester I taught my first history course. Despite being an historian by training I found this course a bit frustrating. I had a difficult time getting students to talk in the class. It almost seemed to me that they lacked passion over the events because they took place several generations ago. I would be curious if any other history professors have encountered this problem and what can be done to remedy it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Winding up the semester

Last week I finished my last lecture for my Migration and Borders class. I have two more for my Political History of the USSR class. This means that soon I will have a pile of research papers that need to be graded. After which I will take a short break from things related to teaching before designing the syllabi for next semester's classes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Academic Patches

Evidently research teams working on black budget defense projects get to wear really cool patches. See here for some examples. I think my department should have patches as well. I am thinking of having an AK-47 superimposed upon a globe resting on an open book for our emblem. Our location would be marked on the globe with a red star. Below the picture could be emblazoned the motto "Knowledge is Power."

Crazy Weather

Well today spring is finally back. But, it was still cold this morning and yesterday afternoon it snowed. I hope it does not snow again before November. I have had enough of winter for now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What Happened to Spring?

Today it has been cold, windy and wet since early morning. During the walk to work it was both raining and hailing. I have never seen hail and rain come down at the same time before. Right now Bishkek's weather is like a really bad winter day in northern California. I hope spring comes back here soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Can See Again

Yesterday I got new lenses for my glasses. My old ones were so scratched up that I could almost see better without them. There is only one lab that I found in Bishkek that can grind lenses for people with astigmatism. But, they did it only two hours and it only cost 500 som. The world looks much clearer now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Book on Northwest Caucasus Coming Soon

My good friend Walter Richmond has a new book coming out soon. The Northwest Caucasus: Past, Present, Future is now scheduled to be published by Routledge in July 2008. Up until now there has not been a comprehensive book on the history and politics of this region of the world. So I would strongly urge anybody interested in the Caucasus to go buy a copy of the book. He also cites my second book, Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949 a number of times. Including Walt's book my citation number is now up to 93. I am getting very close to my goal of 100.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Factors of Emigration Movements in the USSR

This week I covered the Jewish emigration movement in the USSR during the 1970s and 1980s in my Migration and Borders class. Next week I will be covering the German emigration movement in the USSR during the same period of time. It occurred to me today that the reason the Jewish and German emigration movements in the USSR came about and were successful to some degree in the 1970s is that they shared three common characteristics.

First, they had a history of persecution that provided a push factor out of the USSR. The memory of this trauma served to unify and mobilize these groups during the 1970s. In the case of the Germans this persecution took place mainly at the hands of the Soviet government under Stalin. In particular the mass deportation to Siberia and Kazakhstan and the subsequent mobilization into forced labor battalions in the labor army created a strong historical grievance among the Germans. For the Jews the Nazi extermination of their communities in Ukraine, Belorussia and the Baltic states had a very similar effect. This memory combined with resentment against various forms of continuing discrimination, forced acculturation and defamation in the years after Stalin's death served as a powerful motive to emigrate.

Second, they had no national administrative territory in the USSR. The Jews had never had a viable national territory in the USSR. The Birobidzhan Jewish Autonomous Oblast never contained more than a small portion of the Soviet Jewish population. The Germans had received a number of national territories in the 1920s and 1930s, but Stalin liquidated them all. Already before World War II, the Soviet government had eliminated the German national districts in Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Kuban and Siberia. In 1941 shortly after the mass deportation of the Volga Germans, the Stalin regime dissolved the Volga German ASSR. This marginalized the Jews and Germans as ethno-national groups within the Soviet state structure which was a union of 15 national republics with a number of smaller nationalities having lower ranked political divisions. Thus unlike most other nationalities in the USSR Germans and Jews did not have an administrative territory of their own within the USSR. They thus had a marginalized national existence compared to other groups in the Soviet Union. This marginalization created an additional push factor in favor of emigration. Diaspora nationalities simply did not have a place in the Soviet state structure of nationalities. Had the attempt to restore the Volga German ASSR in the mid-1960s been successful the German emigration movement of the early 1970s probably would not have emerged. The lack of a national territory in the USSR meant that issues of national discrimination and acculturation could not be solved within its borders. Hence they sought a solution outside of the USSR's borders.

These first two factors allowed for the creation of large and active emigration movements among the Germans and Jews. This domestic pressure was a necessary, but insufficient factor in the Soviet government's decision to allow emigration. Foreign pressure also played important role.

Finally, both the Jews and Germans had external homelands that encouraged them to immigrate. Other diaspora nationalities with a history of persecution such as the Koreans or Meskhetian Turks did not launch successful emigration movements because their ancestral homelands did not encourage immigration from the USSR. The Meskhetian Turks attempted to launch an emigration movement to Turkey during the early 1970s, but it failed to achieve any success due to the Turkish government's unwillingness to support it. In contrast West Germany and Israel both encouraged immigration from the USSR. The US later also became a destination for Soviet Jewish emigration due to its willingness to accept such immigrants. The US also put considerable pressure on the USSR to allow Jewish emigration and West Germany made German emigration an issue in its relationship with Moscow. Hence there were real diplomatic and economic incentives for the Soviet leadership to allow a limited amount of emigration by members of these two nationalities.

The convergence of all three factors are what account for the emergence and success of the Jewish and German emigration movements. Lots of Soviet nationalities suffered extreme persecution during the 1930s and 1940s, but most had their own administrative territories in the USSR after 1957. Others such as the Crimean Tatars considered themselves native to regions within the USSR even though they now lacked an autonomous territory. Finally, the support of a state both encouraging immigration and able to put pressure on the USSR to allow emigration was necessary for the success of the Jewish and German emigration movements. Hence diaspora groups in the Soviet Union such as Koreans, Poles and Greeks were unable to launch successful emigration movements.

Sixty Years Since Deir Yassin

On 9 April 1948, armed Zionists from the Irgun and LEHI massacred over 100 Palestinians at Deir Yassin outside of Jerusalem. There is a very good piece on this atrocity by one of the leading Jewish anti-apartheid activists and current Minister of Intelligence in South Africa, Ronnie Kasrils. There really is no moral difference between creating a Jewish state in Palestine and creating a White state in South Africa.

hat tip:

Mark Elf at Jews sans frontieres

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A scholastic citation in a 2008 article

I just discovered another citation of my first book, The Stalinist Penal System. The book is now over ten years old and yet it is still being cited in 2008. The citation appears in Golfo Alexopoulos, "Stalin and the Politics of Kinship: Practices of Collective Punishment 1920s-1940s," Comparative Studies in Society and History (2008), 50: 91-117. I am rapidly closing in on a hundred academic citations.

Inflation is still out of control here

It seems like every time I go to the store prices have gone up. Items that I used to buy regularly are now increasing in price almost daily. The only thing that seems to have remained stagnant is the cost of labor. Wages are not increasing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Migration, Homeland, and Belonging in Eurasia

Cynthia J. Buckley and Blair A. Ruble, eds., Migration, Homeland and Belonging in Eurasia (Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2008) is finally nearing completion. It should be out by fall. I wrote chapter seven, "The Loss, Retention, and Reacquisition of Social Capital by Special Settlers in the USSR, 1941-1960." The title pretty much describes the content of the piece.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

State Museum of Fine Art

Today I went to the State Museum of Fine Art here in Bishkek for the first time. My knowledge of fine art is pretty minimal, but I found the paintings from the Soviet era to be quite interesting. The current exhibit of weird stuff from Germany was also well worth seeing.

Technical Problems With Comments

Recently I have been having some technical problems with comments. If you have tried to comment on a blog post of mine recently and the comment has not shown up please try to post it again. I am not sure why the comments are not showing up, but it is not because I am deleting them. Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

1941: Volga Germans sent to Siberia and other Russian-Germans to Kazakhstan

Yesterday, I gave a lecture on the 1941 deportation of the Russian-Germans to Kazakhstan and Siberia and their subsequent mobilization into the labor army starting in 1942. One interesting thing I noticed is that the Stalin regime deported most of the Volga Germans to Siberia and most of the Russian-German deportees to Siberia came from the Volga region. The Volga Germans constituted over half of the Russian-Germans deported in 1941 and three quarters of them were sent to Siberia versus a quarter to Kazakhstan. In total Siberia received about half the Russian-Germans deported in 1941 and the other half arrived in Kazakhstan. Most of the Russian-Germans deported to Kazakhstan came from the North Caucasus, Ukraine, Crimea, the Kuban, the Moscow region, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Likewise most Russian-German deportees from these regions in 1941 found themselves sent initially to Kazakhstan rather than Siberia. I had not really noticed this geographical division before.