Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Sunday in Legon

It is starting to get hot again in Ghana. I am told it will continue to get hotter until March or April. But, over all it is never nearly as hot as Arivaca or Bishkek during the summer. It also never gets cold here. So I am okay with the weather.

Ghana has good food, although I wish there was more variety. I end up eating the same things a couple times a week. On the other hand the music in Ghana is not only good but, seems to have endless variety and is played everywhere. If a place has good food and good music then life is usually pretty good.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Partial Russian-German Labor Army Mortality Figures

The following is an excerpt from one of the few published documents on deaths among "mobilized" Russian-Germans in the labor army during World War II. It both notes that the documentation on the mortality of this group is incomplete and that the fragmentary records that do exist show extremely high death rates. The translation from Russian to English is my own.

According to incomplete figures, in the course of January-July 1942, in only 5 camps with a total listed population as of 1 August of 43,856 mobilized Germans died 5181 people.

Especially high death rates were noted in Solikamstroi, where in seven months died 1687 people, that constituted 17.6% of the listed population as of 1 August., Bogoslovstroi - during this period 1494 people, or 12.6% died, and Sevzheldorlag, where in three months died 677 people, or 13.9% of the listed population as of 1 August.
Source: N.F. Bugai, Mobilizovat' nemtsev v rabochie kolonny...I. Stalin. Moscow, 1998, pp. 138-139.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Publications

During the summer of 2005 I wrote four encyclopedia articles for a project on modern slavery headed by Junius P. Rodriguez. At that time I lived in Arivaca Arizona. Since then I have lived in Kyrgyzstan and now Ghana. I was thus very pleased to find out today through the magic of Google Books that this work has now finally been published. Junius P. Rodreiguez, ed., Slavery in the Modern World: A History of Political, Social, and Economic Oppression  (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011) is now in print. I wrote the entries on Beria, Central Asia, the Gulag, and Ukraine.


Cocoa is historically a very important cash crop for Ghana. Most of it is exported to foreign firms such as Cadbury or Nestle. But, there is some domestic production of chocolate. A lot of chocolate here is consumed in liquid form rather than in solid form. Recently I have taken to drinking cocoa on a regular basis. The powder they sell here unlike in the US is often unsweetened. It is just cocoa and has no added sugar. This is how I have been drinking it. It is supposed to be very good for your health since it is high in iron and manganese.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On Who Does Not Read this Blog, Part I

Trying to figure out who reads this blog is an impossible task. Other than my family and a few friends I think most of the hits on the site meter come from bots. But, I think I know who does not read it. I am positive that no US based university professors read it. Which is to be expected. I have absolutely nothing in common with them.  Their world is radically different than mine. But, perhaps it was meant to be. Looking at their blogs I certainly feel far more at home in Africa than I would in their world.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More on OWS

Despite its support in the blogosphere by leftists I am coming to the conclusion that OWS is not a leftist movement. They seem to have a lot more in common with the populist movements of the 19th Century than the socialist and communist movements of the 20th Century. They have not embraced any communist dictators as idols and recommended that the US be overhauled along the lines of the USSR under Stalin, China under Mao, North Vietnam under Ho, or even Cuba under Castro. They have not made any anti-capitalist demands at all as far as I can see. Indeed the economic policies of the OWS demonstrators appear to be far to the right in terms of free markets than the actually existing economies of many non-socialist countries.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Other Blogs

I am starting to come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people writing on the Internet share a common commitment to taking unreasonable positions regardless of their ideology. I think this accounts for the fact that nobody writing on the Internet agrees with anything I write. It is very odd because in real life people do not generally go around supporting the most radical position they can imagine. But, it appears to be the standard operating procedure of a lot of blogs and their commentators.

Nearing the end of the semester

I have now finished grading all my mid-term exams. I did the last batch for City Campus this morning. We have two more weeks of classes not including this week and then it is revision week followed by final exams. This semester has been less stressful than the last one since I have adjusted better to living in Ghana.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Interdepartmental cooperation between historians

Today I had a rather long, but enjoyable and productive meeting with fellow historians. There were five of us from the History Department of the University of Ghana. Also present was the head of the Ghana Historical Society, an historian from the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, and a visiting PhD student from Ibadan in Nigeria. One thing that we discussed is the lack of  cooperation between historians in the History Department and historians in the Institute of African Studies. We should cooperate a lot more than we do. Yet, many of us in the History Department were unaware of the historical research going on in the Institute of African Studies just down the road until quite recently. Today's meeting was a first step in remedying the current absence of interaction between these two groups of historians at the University of Ghana. I hope that we can make significant progress on this front in the near future.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Suprun and Dudarev on Trial

This blog covered the arrest of Suprun and Dudarev by the FSB for researching Stalinist repression against Russian-Germans pretty extensively in 2009. They were compiling a memory book of Russian-Germans for the Arkhangelsk region. Now evidently they are being tried in camera by the Russian government. Radio Liberty has an article on the trial.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Preserving History

Today I showed Through the Red Gate to my Aspects of World History Class 1914-1945 at City Campus in Accra. Despite a lot of technical difficulties regarding the sound, it took three room changes before we got this problem fixed, I think the students liked the documentary. My TA borrowed the disk to watch again. One thing that they noted was that the main interview subject died just four months after the interview. In Kyrgyzstan I had two Russian-Germans I planned to interview die before I could talk to them. My TA had one of his interview subjects for his M. Phil. die as well just a few days before the scheduled interview. The death of sources before they can be interviewed is a serious hazard for any type of oral history dealing with events over fifty years old. It also results in the irretrievable loss of information. As I noted earlier some stories are lost forever. Fortunately, the stories told in Through the Red Gate have been recorded for posterity.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Evolution of the American Left towards a more moral stand

I do not know if the Occupy Wall Street movement is properly called a leftist movement. But, I do know that looking around the Internet that a lot of self described leftists support it. However, what I find interesting is that unlike left wing movements in the US during the 1930s and 1960s there does not appear to be any worship of foreign dictators like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, or Fidel Castro among the current activists. This is a huge change and a very positive one from the early leftist movements. I hope the lack of support for tyranny by the Occupation movement continues.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Does anybody know of any good African crime novels?

I am a big fan of your basic hard boiled detective novel. One of the best things about mysteries is their attention to local detail. This can be a region, a city, or an ethnicity. Burke's descriptions of Louisiana, Parker's Boston, Hillerman's Navajo Nation, Tamar Meyer's Mennonites, Randy White's Florida, and others all come to mind. But, the genre seems to be American centered. Sure there are a few exceptions such as Gorky Park which takes place in the USSR. Even the few exceptions, I know about, however do not cover Africa south of the Sahara. Now Africa seems to be a ripe continent for the genre. There is crime in big cities like Johannesburg, Lagos, and Nairobi. There is also political intrigue and under handed dealings. But, most of all there is a lot of interesting cultural background that could support such stories. So does anybody know of any good African crime novels?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Usol'lag Memory Book

I just found a list of 3,508 Russian-Germans conscripted into the labor army who died in Usol'lag between 1942 and 1947. Usol'lag was a labor camp in the Urals dedicated to logging.

The Goat on top of the Faculty of the Arts Bus

Today I saw something that is unusual in Legon. But, perhaps it is not so unusual in most of the world. It was a very nice new bus with Legon Faculty of the Arts painted on the side. Inside the bus were nice seats and curtains for the window. On top of the bus, however, was a goat. Who in the Faculty of the Arts felt the need to transport their goat with them in the nice new bus to the main campus of one of the largest universities in West Africa?  Modern buses carrying educated people through institutions of higher learning usually do not carry goats on their roofs. Or at least not in Legon. Perhaps things will get desperate enough in the US that adjuncts will have to bring their goats to campus to forage, but Ghana is considerably more advanced than that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Small data base of Volga German victims of repression

Every so often people ask if I can track down what happened to their Russian-German relatives in the USSR. Normally, I can not. But, I just found a list of a little over 1000 deportees from the Volga German ASSR in 1941 and a  list of several hundred labor army conscripts in the Urals. So I now have access to a small data base of actual names of people subject to this repression.

Yesterday in Ghana nothing bad happened. :-)

The weather is great in Ghana. The country is stable. There are no mass protests in the streets like in a number of other countries in the world. We have plenty of food. In short things are good.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Jobs (No not Steve), Debt Relief, and Health Care

I realized a while ago that there was no hope of me getting a decent job in the US. It now appears that this is true for a lot of other people as well. Fortunately, I liquidated all my debt over a decade ago and never had any student loans. I have also secured a good job complete with medical coverage in a country with a rapidly growing economy. Nevertheless it is very sad to see my homeland descend into the type of economic misery that gripped Ghana in the 1970s. Jobs, debt relief, and health care appear to have become for at least a substanial minority of young people in the US today what peace, land, and bread were to the Russian Empire in 1917.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Is it really that bad in the US now?

Granted my knowledge of current events in my home country is limited and seems to be getting smaller every day. But, the little pieces of information I do get lead me to believe that things in the US keep getting worse not better. We have been fighting in Afghanistan for ten years now and I am seeing projections that the US will continue active combat missions there for at least another decade. The economy appears to be in the worst shape it has been since the 1930s. Now evidently there are mass protests erupting throughout the US. Honestly the US is starting to look like the Soviet Union during its last days. An endless war in Afghanistan, an economy that has so many structural problems that successful reform looks impossible, massive and open discontent by the population, and a weak leader unable to effectively deal with these problems. I am not sure how accurate this impression is of the situation in the US. But, it is certainly the image that I am getting from the bits and pieces of news I do receive.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Cult of Personality

I do not have anything against Steve Jobs. But, I have also never owned any Apple products. I did not know, however, that he had such a strong cult of personality in the US. Looking at the Internet it seems that many Americans consider him infallible and view him the way many people in the former USSR view Stalin. I find this odd because while he was alive and I was in the US I never sensed that this cult existed.

Request for sources

Does anybody know any good sources on the Ga State in the early 17th Century? A good introduction to the political history of the Ga during this time would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance to anybody who lists any relevant sources in the comments.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

More on Working in Africa

I have accepted the fact that I may be living and teaching in Ghana for a very long time. It is very unlikely that I will ever get an academic job in the US no matter what I do. But, given what I see on the Internet about American academia, being exiled to Ghana may be a far better fate than working at a US university.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Wow I actually got three comments in two hours!

This is a very rare occasion. Normally, I rarely get any comments. Sometimes this blog goes for weeks without any comments. But, in the few hours I went to Accra to teach I got three. It says four, but one of them is a duplicate. On the downside I suspect those three comments represent at least half of my total readership.

What's Happening in the US?

Africa is a long way away from the US and trying to follow the news on the Internet is not easy. But, I keep seeing references to some sort of mass protest movement developing in the US. The center point of the demonstrations appears to be in NYC. But, other than that I have been able to learn very little about this movement. If anybody knows anything about it please leave a note in the comments. Thank you very much for your time and effort in this matter. Not that I believe anybody will leave a comment, but one should never give up hope.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Winneba Conference Part II

I am still a bit tired from my three day trip down the coast to Winneba, Elmira, and Cape Coast. I learned a lot at the conference. Of course I was starting at a pretty low level of knowledge about the subject, so a lot of basic information on German colonial rule in Togoland and Kamerun was new to me. In particular I was not aware of the fact that almost all violent ethnic conflict in Ghana during the last couple of decades can trace its roots back to the changes made in the appointment of chiefs by first the Germans and then the British in the area that used to be part of German Togoland. Like in South Asia, Ireland, and Palestine partition has also had long term negative effects in West Africa.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Slave Castles

Yesterday, I saw two slave castles here on the coast of Ghana. The first one was Elmina, the oldest one in the country, established by the Portuguese and later captured by the Dutch and then finally taken over by the British. The second one was the much larger and more recent Cape Coast Castle. This castle was originally built by the Swedes, then came briefly under Danish rule, and finally ended up in the hands of the British. The experience of actually seeing the slave dungeons was well worth the trip out west. May those who died there rest in peace.

Winneba Conference Part I

The conference on German colonialism in West Africa at Winneba went fairly well. My first paper on an African topic was not a disaster as I feared it might be. Instead it appears I got all the basics right although the paper still needs a lot of revision to flesh it out before publication. I approached my presentation in the spirit of somebody new to the field and was quite open about the fact that my knowledge of African history was considerably less than the other participants in the conference. Everybody has to start at the bottom. Some people just start later than others. The African scholars did not hold any of this against me and were quite accepting and helpful. I seriously doubt that I would have gotten anything other than a very hostile reception in the US. Africa has given me the academic career I have wanted for a long time. A very large number of people spent a lot of time and effort to deny me that career elsewhere, especially in the US. I have been amazed at just how open and accepting people in Ghana have been. The contrast between my treatment in Africa and my treatment elsewhere is extremely stark. Here I am respected as a fellow scholar and human being. In other places I have been treated very poorly. In terms of moral development Ghana is far ahead of the US.