Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Renovations and Links

I am doing some slight renovations on this blog. One of the things that is being redone are the links. Evidently upgrading the template resulted in most of the original links being lost. I now have to redo them individually. If you have a blog that is linked to mine and you would like me to link to you please let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Finally finished for the semester

It looks like I have finally finished all my work for the spring 2009 semester. Last week I had to grade state exams. Now I have to prepare for next semester.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Website and Book on Kyrgyz History

My colleague and friend Sam Tranum in the Journalism Department of American University of Central Asia recently edited a book and website dedicated to the history of Krygyzstan under Soviet rule. The project consists of 35 interviews conducted by 17 AUCA students with various people in Kyrgyzstan about what life was like in the Kyrgyz SSR. The website is called Preserving Kyrgyzstan's History and can be searched by keyword. The printed book version of this work is called Life at the Edge of the Empire: Oral Histories of Soviet Kyrgyzstan. University libraries may obtain a copy of the print edition by contacting Sam Tranum at samtranum [the at sign] gmail [the dot] com. I am in the acknowledgements and footnotes. I urge all my readers to go check it out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Some of my Student Evaluation Comments

Dr. Pohl rocks!

Great teacher

In Dr. Pohl's classes I feel myself a real university student!!!!

Seems to me that we finally have a UNIVERSITY LEVEL Professor in AUCA

He is the best teacher

One of the best teachers at this university

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sixty Five Years Since the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars

On 18 May 1944, the Soviet NKVD began the systematic round up and deportation of nearly the entire Crimean Tatar population from their ancestral homeland to Uzbekistan and the Urals. Early in the morning armed troops of the NKVD started knocking on the doors of Crimean Tatar houses and informing the inhabitants that they were to be deported. The official explanation given for this mass uprooting of women, children, elderly, Red Army veterans and even members of the Communist Party was the false claim that the Crimean Tatar nationality had collectively betrayed the Soviet Union and collaborated with the Nazi occupiers. The Soviet government did not repeal the last legal vestiges of this false charge until 7 March 1991 (Bugai, pp. 16-18). The authorities gave the deportees only a short period of time to pack. They had to abandon the vast majority of their movable as well as immovable property. Even more importantly they lost access to the natural and cultural resources of their national homeland.

On the first day of the operation, the Soviet security organs took 90,000 people to train stations of which 48,400 began their journey eastward (Bugai, doc. 11, p. 138). The following day the number of Crimean Tatars transported to rail stations increased to 165,515 of which 136,412 had been loaded onto train echelons bound for Uzbekistan (Bugai, doc. 12, p. 138). Finally on 20 May 1944, the NKVD completed the operation. They reported loading a total of 180,014 Crimean Tatars into 67 train echelons of which 63 with 173,287 deportees were already on their way to their new destinations (Bugai, doc. 13, pp. 138-139). On the same day the NKVD also reported mobilizing 11,000 Crimean Tatar men for forced labor, bringing the total number of Crimean Tatars removed from Crimea to 191,014 (Ibid.). A total of 23,000 soldiers and officers of the internal troops of the NKVD and 9,000 operative workers of the NKVD-NKGB participated in this operation (Bugai, doc. 21, p. 144). The NKVD succeeded in ethnically cleansing Crimea of its indigenous population in a mere three days.

The NKVD transported the Crimean Tatars in overcrowded and filthy train wagons to desolate areas of Uzbekistan and the Urals. They lacked sufficient food, water, medicine and hygiene to maintain their health. Many fell ill and thousands perished on the journey. By 4 July 1944, a total of 151,604 Crimean Tatars had arrived in Uzbekistan and 31,551 in the Urals (Bugai, doc. 20, p. 144 and doc. 16, p. 140). In these new locations they lived and worked under special settlement restrictions. Due to a lack of sufficient food, housing and medical care in the face of a severe malaria epidemic thousands died shortly after arriving in Uzbekistan. In the first eight months of exile in Uzbekistan a recorded total of 13,592 Crimean Tatars or 9.1% of the total population perished (Ibragimov, doc. 26, p. 68). The following year another 13,183 Crimean Tatar special settlers died in Uzbekistan bringing the death toll for the first twenty months up to 26,775 people or 17.8% of the population initially deported to Central Asia (Ibid.). This catastrophic loss of life occurred as a direct result of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars to regions which the Soviet government knew were suffering from a malaria epidemic and had insufficient extra housing, food and most importantly anti-malarial drugs to prevent mass deaths among the deportees.

Stalin's ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Tatars 65 years ago represents one of the worst violations of national and human rights during the 20th century. The Soviet regime deprived an entire nation of its homeland and reduced them to a caste of helot laborers under extremely punitive conditions. Indeed the material conditions of the Crimean Tatar special settlers proved to be lethal and decimated the population in Uzbekistan in less than a year. Please join with me and others for a moment of silence at noon, 18 May 2009 where ever you are to remember the victims of this crime against humanity.


Bugai, N.F., ed., Iosif Stalin – Lavrentiiu Berii. “Ikh nado deportirovat’,” Dokumenty, fakty kommentarii (Moscow: Druzhba narodov, 1992).

Ibragimov, Ayder, ed., Krimskii studii: Informatsiini biuletin, no. 5-6, September-November 2000.

For more information on the deportation of the Crimean Tatars see the following posts from 2006 and 2007.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grades for the semester finished

Today I finished calculating and posting grades. I had three classes with a total of 68 students and each of them had to submit a final paper. It took me all weekend to read through them all.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Victory Day

Tomorrow is Victory Day. This holiday marks the defeat of Nazi Germany 64 years ago. Here in Bishkek there are lots of billboards up with Soviet iconography and praise to the Red Army and the surviving veterans of World War II. Most of the veterans pictured on the posters seemed to have served in tank units.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Update on Under Jakob's Ladder

I just got this comment on a post I did almost a year ago.

Hello. I am actor Peter Iasillo and I play the part of Vovik, one of the detainees/prisoners in this film. Mann and Robert Munoz (aka The Moon Brothers) are doing an outstanding job of producing and directing this film. Jeff Stewart (BBC's "The Bill") as Jakob is very convincing and a joy to work. I am very grateful to the brothers for casting me and giving me the opportunity to break out of my horror movie mold.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Research Opportunities

It dawned on me yesterday that there is a lot more opportunity in Kyrgyzstan than in the Russian Federation to study the deportation of nationalities under Stalin. This is for two main reasons. First, relatively little has been written about the experience of deportees in Central Asia compared to the central policy of forced removal formulated in Moscow. In particular, Kyrgyzstan as a location of research on the life of special settlers has been neglected in favor of Siberia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This means the history of special settlers in Kyrgyzstan remains a largely unexplored area of research. Second, the political climate in Kyrgyzstan is much more favorable for the conduct of such research than in the Russian Federation. My student research team and I have not encountered any political obstacles in the course of our project on the Karachai deportation. In contrast the Memorial offices in St. Petersburg were raided by the police on 4 December 2008. They confiscated eleven hard drives containing a large amount of scanned documentary evidence of Stalinist crimes. These included a number of letters written by special settlers, interview transcripts of victims of Stalinist repression and other material .

Friday, May 01, 2009

May Day

Today is officially International Workers' Day, one of the many Soviet holidays still celebrated in Kyrgyzstan. Walking down Chui Prospekt this morning I noticed a small communist rally complete with flags of the Kyrgyz SSR, red banners and photographs of Lenin and Stalin. They also had a band playing loud music.