Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring has come early

Today is the last day of February and it looks like spring is already here. Yesterday it was quite chilly and snow fell all day. But, today it is sunny and warm and almost all of the snow has melted.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This Week in Class

This week we discussed Stalinist deportations in all three of my classes. In Migration and Borders we covered the exile of the Kalmyks to Siberia by Stalin from 1943 to 1957 as a case study of forced migration. In my Politics of Genocide course we discussed the deportation of the Russian-Germans, Karachais and Crimean Tatars as three examples of Soviet genocide during the 1940s. Finally, in my Political History of the USSR class we discussed the mass deportation of farmers branded as "kulaks" to special settlement villages in the Soviet Far North in 1930. In this last class we discussed the relationship between dekulakization, collectivization and industrialization. Between the three classes we covered a pretty good representative sample of Soviet mass deportations during the Stalin regime.

Link to Slate Article on Crimean Tatars

Yesterday Slate published an excellent article on the Crimean Tatars by Joshua Kucera.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Student Reaction to Through the Red Gate

Last week I showed Through the Red Gate to my Political History of the USSR and Migration and Borders classes. The week before that I showed it to my Politics of Genocide class. Overall I got a very positive response to the film from all three classes. Generally, they thought it was a very moving and informative documentary.

To the Thieves at

I am shocked to find that the article I wrote and published on the Chechen and Ingush deportation time stamped 2:45 am, 23 February 2009 was reproduced in its entirety except for the sources and my name on the website. Their time stamp is 15:29, 23 February 2009. I wrote the piece and publishing it without my permission and failing to put my name at the end of it is a crime in most countries. It is also morally theft and prohibited in the Koran. I doubt that the thieves at will apologize to me, but their behavior is unacceptable.

Translation of Two Reports from Beria to Stalin

State Committee of Defense
Comrade Stalin

Reporting on the progress of the operation to exile the Chechens and Ingush as of this morning 24 February, so far taken from population points have been 333 thousand 739 people, of this number were loaded into train echelons 176 thousand 950 people. In the second half of the day of 23 February in almost all districts of Chechno-Ingushetii fell abundant snow, this has created difficulties in the transportation of people, especially in the mountainous districts.

Beria 24 February 1944

State Committee of Defense
Comrade Stalin

The operation to exile the Chechens and Ingush is proceeding normally. Up until the evening of 25 February were loaded into train echelons 342 thousand 647 people. From the loading stations have been dispatched to places of new settlement 86 echelons.

Beria 26 February 1944


N.F. Bugai, ed., “Deportatsiia: Beriia dokladyvaet Stalinu,” Kommunist, no. 1, 1991, pp. 103-104.

Monday, February 23, 2009

65 Years Since the Deportation of the Chechens and Ingush

Sixty five years ago, Stalin and his henchmen celebrated Red Army Day by rounding up and deporting virtually the entire Chechen and Ingush population from the Caucasus to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Codenamed Operation Chechevitsa (Lentil), the forced removal of the Chechens and Ingush required the services of 119,000 members of the NKVD and SMERSh (Bugai doc. 14, p. 106). Many of these men had previously participated in the deportation of the Kalmyks and the Karachais. On the first day of the operation, Beria reported that by 11:00 AM the NKVD had evicted 94,741 people from their homes and loaded 20,023 into train wagons (Bugai, doc. 11, p. 103). In total the operation lasted until 29 February 1944 (it was a leap year) and involved the forced resettlement of 387,229 Chechens and 91,250 Ingush (Bugai, doc. 13, pp. 105-106). In a mere week the Stalin regime ethnically cleansed nearly half a million people from the Caucasus.

The Chechens and Ingush made the long journey to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in unsanitary, unheated and unlit cattle cars. The NKVD had stuffed between 40 and 45 people into each wagon (Bugai, doc. 31, pp. 114-115). These overcrowded conditions in the train cars greatly facilitated the spread of disease. Typhus afflicted many of the deportees enroute. Those that perished had to be left along the rail lines without a proper burial since the NKVD shot any deportees that strayed more than five meters from the train wagons. (Bugai, doc. 16, p. 107).

In exile in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan the Chechens and Ingush lived in extreme poverty in the years following the deportations. They lacked adequate housing, food, clothing and medicine. Large numbers of the deportees perished from malnutrition and diseases such as typhus in the first years of exile. According to the demographer, D.M. Ediev the excess mortality among these two nationalities from the years 1944 to 1952 totaled 125,500 Chechens and 20,300 Ingush. These figures represent 30.76% of the Chechen population before the deportations and 20.3% of the Ingush population (Ediev, table 104, p. 294).

The deportees also came under the restrictions of the special settlement regime. They had to report at least once a month to a special commandant of the NKVD. They also could not leave the confines of their assigned residence without permission from this commandant. They remained confined to restricted areas of exile (Bugai, doc. 10, p. 231). The NKVD controlled the residency, movement and employment of the special settlers.

The Soviet government did not free the Chechens and Ingush from the special settlement restrictions until after Stalin's death. On 16 July 1956, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet freed the Chechens and Ingush from the special settlement regime, but did not allow them to return home or petition for the return of property lost during the deportations (Bugai, doc. 59, pp. 274-275). The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union decided to restore the national autonomy of the Chechens and Ingush on 24 November 1956. The Supreme Soviet did not recreate the Chechen-Ingush ASSR and restore the legal right of the Chechens and Ingush to live in their historic homeland until 9 January 1957. These decisions became finalized as Soviet law only on 11 February 1957 (Documents reproduced in Aliev, pp. 49-55). Despite this partial rehabilitation there has never been any full public accounting of this crime against humanity.


Ismail Aliev, Reabilitatsii narodov i grazhdan, 1954-1994 gody: Dokumenty (Moscow: RAN, 1994).

N.F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat'": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: "Druzhba narodov", 1992).

D.M. Ediev, Demograficheskie poteri deportirovannykh narodov SSSR (Stavropol': 'Argus', 2003).

See also my post on the subject from two years ago.

Red Army Day

Today is Red Army Day in Kyrgyzstan. The government has renamed it Defenders' Day, but it is still the old Soviet holiday to celebrate the formation of the Red Army by Leon Trotsky in 1918. It has evolved in Kyrgyzstan into a kind of Men's Day to serve as a counterpart to International Women's Day on March Eighth. The women in our department got us pizza for lunch on Friday and gave each of the men in the department a card and a handkerchief as a gift.


On Saturday I went to the circus with my girlfriend and her two kids. It was my first time going to the circus in Bishkek and I was surprised at how expensive it was. It cost 550 som ($13.50) for each ticket including the one for the five year old. The average working class salary here in Bishkek is less than 4000 som ($100) a month. Then the idiot Russian woman working at the cashier window sold us tickets with the wrong date stamped on them. They said 22 February 2009 instead of 21 February 2009. This caused a problem when she sold the same seats with the correct date to another group of people. When even the circus is corrupt and incompetent you know you have a problem. But, since the price of tickets was such that they could only sell about two thirds the seats of the tiny one ring auditorium, we managed to find some empty seats to occupy. The show itself was fairly entertaining. I liked the Russian clowns a lot. They were pretty funny.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oral History of the Karachai Community in Kyrgyzstan: Remembering the Deportations 65 Years Ago

On 2 November 1943, Soviet security forces forcibly resettled almost the entire Karachai population of nearly 70,000 people from their North Caucasian homeland to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Less than 69,000 survived the trip of which over 45,000 arrived in Kazakhstan. The NKVD settled the remaining nearly 23,000 deportees in Frunze Oblast, Kyrgyzstan. The Soviet government then dissolved the Karachai Autonomous Oblast and divided its land among other administrative territories. It also changed many of the geographical place names of within the region. It completed this ethnic cleansing by sending the Karachais living outside their national oblast or serving in the Red Army to join the rest of their kin in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In exile in Central Asia the Karachais came under a series of legal disabilities that separated them from most other Soviet citizens. Classified as “special settlers” the Soviet regime imposed severe restrictions on the residency and movement rights of the Karachais. They also lived in conditions of extreme poverty and thousands died prematurely of malnutrition, disease and exposure. In the years after Stalin’s death there arose a movement by Karachai activists to lobby Moscow for the right to return to their former homeland. The Soviet government allowed the Karachais to return home to the Caucasus only after 1957. They, however, did not restore the borders of the Karachai Autonomous Oblast. Instead the Soviet government created a Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous Oblast by combining most of the former territory of the Karachai Autonomous Oblast with the Cherkess Autonomous Oblast. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the Karachai population in exile in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan opted to return to their ancestral homeland during the next few years. By 1960 over 80% of the Karachai population lived in this new administrative region. For more than a dozen years virtually the entire Karachai population lived as exiles and second class Soviet citizens in Central Asia far from their Caucasian homeland.

Not all the Karachais, however, returned to the Caucasus. A significant number remained in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Relatively little has been written specifically about the experience of the Karachai special settlers in Kyrgyzstan and their relationship to the local authorities and population. Thus we have formed a group consisting of three students and one faculty advisor to study the following question regarding the Karachai special settlers in Kyrgyzstan from the Caucasus during the years 1943 to 1961. How did the legal structures of the special settlement regime implemented by the authorities in the Kyrgyz SSR affect the day to day life of these deportees in relationship to the surrounding population? We are particularly interested in issues of economic integration, social capital, physical segregation, ethnic discrimination and political mobilization. This study will focus on the life experiences of the deported Karachais and will make extensive use of interviews with survivors. Published archival material, memoirs and scholarly literature on the deportation will supplement the information gathered by the group in the course of interviewing survivors of the deportation. We have already made preliminary contact with five interview subjects. This study will result in a scholarly journal article on the exile experiences of the Karachais in Kyrgyzstan. The group will also present its findings at a round table discussion at American University of Central Asia and at the student conference on migration sponsored by the Social Research Center. Further publication based upon this project may also result if substantial new material is unearthed.

Good News

The student research project I am supervising, Oral History of the Karachai Community in Kyrgyzstan: Remembering the Deportations 65 Years Ago, received a grant of $450 today. This money will allow us to conduct interviews of the survivors of Stalin's ethnic cleansing of their Caucasian homeland on 2 November 1943. I am hoping we can fill in some of the gaps in the historical record that are not addressed in the archival documentation.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Union Work

Today I met with the national head of the Union of Educators and Scholars of the Kyrgyz Republic. It went well. Right now we are trying to get a meeting with the head of the Board of Trustees of AUCA. Finally, on a very positive note, I got a preview of a forthcoming article on the union in the student newspaper. It is extremely favorable to our position.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Interviewing Survivors of Stalin's Deportations

Currently I am supervising a student research project on the history of the Karachais deported to Kyrgyzstan by Stalin in winter 1943-1944. Today, I went with the three students involved in the project to the Assembly of Peoples of Kyrgyzstan to get make contact with the Karachai community here. It was our good fortune that they were holding a meeting at the same time that we arrived. We met with five survivors of the deportation and got their contact details. We will be arranging a more formal meeting and meal with them soon. They were very friendly and helpful. My students are very excited about this project.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hampshire College

Hampshire College in Amherst has now become the first US institution of higher education to divest from Israel. The school is famous for a couple of reasons, but one of them is that it hosts the National Yiddish Book Center. The conflict between certain elements of the Jewish Diaspora and Zionism is not new. But, the presence of such a symbolic institution of the cultural history of the Jewish Diaspora at Hampshire certainly highlights this conflict. In the larger scheme of things it looks like the movement for Palestinian human rights is finally starting to get some support in the US.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Translation of NKVD Report on Labor Army Conscripts in Kyrgyzstan

NKVD USSR, Moscow -
Chief of Section on Special Settlements
Colonel Comrade Kuznetsov

11 January 1946

In the matter of providing information on the number and movement of mobilized German men and women, working on the construction of hydroelectric stations and industries in Frunze Oblast of the Kyrgyz SSR as of 1 January 1946.

We report, that in the fourth quarter of 1945 on the construction site of the Voroshilov hydroelectric station left 20 people, of this number demobilized due to age were two people and deserted 18 people, arrived 17 people (transferred from the construction site of the Alamedin hydroelectric station).

During this time on the construction site of the Alamedin hydroelectric station left 61 people, from them: demobilized due to age - 23 people, deserted 41 people, arrived - 4 people (returned deserters).

All deserters from the construction sites of Voroshilov and Alamedin hydroelectric stations until their mobilization lived in sovkhozes and kolkhozes in Frunze Oblast, in connection with unsatisfactory material-living conditions on the construction sites - lack of necessary shoes and clothes for work in winter time, finally, naturally, they left the construction sites for places, where their relatives lived. In connection with this significant flight the chief of the UNKVD of Frunze Oblast lieutenant-colonel comrade Martynenko pointed out that there was a lack of a security regime at the places of work of mobilized German men and women and proposed the return of all fugitives to the construction sites.

On creating the necessary living conditions at the construction sites of the hydroelectric stations for mobilized Germans we refer the question to the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) and Council of Peoples Commissars of the Kyrgyz SSR.

Chief of the Section on Special Settlements of the NKVD of the Kyrgyz SSR


Chief of the 4th Section of the Section on Special Settlements

Major Kuz'min

Source: N.F. Bugai, ed., "Mobilizovat' nemtsev v rabochie kolonny...I. Stalin": Sbornik dokumentov (1940-e gody) (Moscow: Gotika, 1998), doc. no. 238, pp. 307-308.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Looking for Forced Labor Projects from the Stalin Era in the Chui Oblast of the Kyrgyz Republic

Today I came across a reproduction of an NKVD report dated 11 January 1946 about two hydroelectric stations in Frunze Oblast built by Russian-Germans mobilized into the labor army. What follows is a quick English language summary. I will post a verbatium translation of the document tomorrow. I do not have time right now.

The report notes that 59 Russian-Germans working on the Voroshilov and Alamedin hydroelectric stations deserted their construction sites and went to live with relatives during the last quarter of 1945. These forced laborers had all lived in sovkhozes and kolkhozes in Frunze Oblast prior to their conscription into the labor army. The report claims that poor living conditions, especially a lack of shoes and clothes for winter conditions, motivated their flight. The report then notes the response of the chief of the UNKVD of Frunze Oblast, Martynenko. He pointed out the lax security regime at places where Russian-German men and women mobilized into the labor army worked. He also proposed that all the fugitives be returned to their places of work. The report concludes by noting that the question of living conditions for labor army workers at the construction sites had been referred to the party and state authorities of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic.

Source: N.F. Bugai, ed., "Mobilizovat' nemtsev v rabochie kolonny...I. Stalin": Sbornik dokumentov (1940-e gody) (Moscow: Gotika, 1998), doc. no. 238, pp. 307-308.

Frunze Oblast is now Chui Oblast. It is the oblast that surrounds Bishkek. That means that the Voroshilov and Alamedin hydroelectric stations must be fairly close to me. If anybody knows exactly where these structures are located could you please let me know? You can either e-mail me or leave a comment on this blog.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Electric Shock Baton Update

Evidently the girlfriend got to try out the electric shock baton on some drunk guy Saturday night. She did not give me any more details about the use of the weapon.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Electric Shock Baton

Normally, after I get paid each month, I buy my girlfriend a piece of jewelry. Yesterday, I had the following conversation with her.

GF: I don't want a pendant.

GF: I don't want a bracelet.

GF: I want an electric shock baton.

Me: What for?

GF: Work. (she is a security guard) It's dangerous at night.

Me: How much does it cost?

GF: 5000 som ($125)

Me: No problem.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Closing Time

The big news here in Bishkek is President Bakiyev's recent announcement that the US must leave Manas air base. Far less reported, but more important to my girlfriend and her kids, is the fact that Panfilov Park has been closed for reconstruction since October. It is scheduled to reopen in spring.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Reading List for the Holodomor

The USSR in the 1930s

Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor)

Politics of Genocide

Michael Ellman, “Discussion Article: Stalin and the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933 Revisited.” Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 59, No. 4 (June 2007), pp. 663-693.

Michael Ellman, “The Role of Leadership Perceptions and of Intent in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1934.” Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 57, No. 6 (September 2005), pp. 823-841.

Jacques Vallin; France Mesle; Serguei Adamets; Serhii Pyrozhkov, “A New Estimate of Ukrainian Population Losses during the Crises of the 1930s and 1940s.” Population Studies, Vol. 56, No. 3 (November 2002), pp. 249-264.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Genocide Class

So far this semester my genocide course has been my favorite. The intellectual level of the discussions have been quite high. Among other topics these discussions have addressed issues of international law, the intellectual infrastructure of racism, historiographical disputes and the problems of reconciliation and justice. So far we have covered Native Americans, Australian Aboriginals, the 1904 massacre of the Hereros in Namibia, and the Armenian Genocide. Next week we will be covering the 1932-1933 Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Strange Weather Again

For the last few days it has been unseasonably warm in Bishkek. In fact the weather has been springlike. This morning it was quite warm. All this changed this afternoon. For the last few hours there has been heavy snowfall.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Union Work

Last semester I got elected head of the newly formed AUCA local of the Union of Educators and Scholars of the Kyrgyz Republic. Today I had my first formal meeting with the administration. Tomorrow we will have our first general membership meeting.