Friday, November 25, 2011

...and When They Shall Ask

I just finished watching a film on Mennonites in the Russian Empire and the USSR called ...and When They Shall Ask. Henry Epp in Canada was kind enough to send me the film on DVD. I believe this film has great pedagogical potential. I have had very good luck with showing Through the Red Gate, another film dealing with the Mennonite experience in the USSR, to students. I think these films do a very good job in dealing with the type of historical issues I like to address. They provide a number of first person perspectives on things like migration, diaspora, industrialization, and historical memory. I have noticed a disturbing trend by many "intellectuals" in the US to completely dismiss the oral documentation of the first hand experiences of people like the Russian Mennonites as merely "Cold War propaganda" rather than as valuable primary sources. But, I would note that the oral history of these refugees is far more valuable for understanding what really happened in the USSR than the government and party archives that Soviet authorities collected. Unfortunately, the established academic authorities believe that only official archives constitute legitimate primary sources for the study of national minorities in the USSR and completely discount oral history.


Cossack said...

Very good post Otto.... I too have selected the alternative route to historical accuracy. Much of what continues to spread is the bolshevik sympathizers view of what history should record for all time, however those that died under this ideology could certainly argue against what historians have provided world student's with. In my own work I have been awakened to the fact that most published works can be attributed to former bolshevik sympathizers and their financiers. Approaching this from a Political Science stand point and political science psychology it can be argued that we are witnessing the re-emergence of Bolshevism in the USA through the use of education as advised by Maxim Gorky to Stalin. With out this knowledge education can do its dirty work and turn good Christian believers into atheists. To look further into atheism it is necessary to look into Dialectical Materialism to understand motive. When it isn't confronted then the deceptivism of a new social society emerges out of this ideology and into the process of evolution as organisms without souls. This can be seen today as more and more people reject their faiths in religion. It is by these first hand records that credibility in historical records can be compared and then rejected or confirmed. This is what I have done as I approach the RG record and where it needs to advance. Thanks for posting this and I hope others will take the time to consider these thoughts and comment as well.

J. Otto Pohl said...

I don't think it is so much an alternative route as just using the techniques historians of other regions of the world use. One of the problems with government archives is they only collect information on things the regime thinks is important. So lots of material never, ever gets recorded to make it into government archives. Non-regime material including oral sources are particularly important to consider when dealing with authoritarian and ideologically based regimes like the Soviet Union.