Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Post on Racism in the USSR and its Similarities to South Africa

The Soviet government never categorized people by biological categories of race based upon genetics like the Nazis. But, this does not excuse them from the accusation of racial discrimination. The white minority government in South Africa also did not categorize people on the basis of biological categories. It too used the language of culture, ethnicity, and volk (narodnost) rather than biology and genetics. Yet people like Francine Hirsch and Amir Weiner claim that the Stalin regime's deportation of whole nationalities was not racial discrimination because the government categorized the targeted groups in terms of natsional'nost rather than biological race. Using this logic apartheid was not racial discrimination either since the regime in Pretoria defined people to different 'racial' groups according to a concept of cultural essentialism not much different than the official Soviet and post-Soviet understanding of ethnicity. Despite a linkage of South Africa with Nazi Germany in the minds of many Americans, the white minority government was always careful to justify apartheid in terms that sounded very similar to Soviet rhetoric regarding their own nationality policies. The South Africans spoke of culture and levels of material development, much like the Soviets did, not skin color as the criteria that distinguished different groups of people. The sciences behind South African racism were the same ones behind Soviet nationality policy, anthropology and sociology, not biology and genetics as in the case of the Nazis. Yet, the world properly understood that apartheid was a system of racial discrimination. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the dominant scholars of Soviet nationality policies in the US will ever recognize the mass deportations of whole nationalities in the 1930s and 40s and the imposition of severe legal restrictions upon the deportees as acts of racial discrimination.

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