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.