Monday, December 29, 2014

Today in Legon

Most of the university is deserted now for winter break. Although the vital services and merchants I needed today were still at work. I had to go to the bank to get my new ATM card. On Saturday the machine told me my old one was "invalid." I also needed to buy a new pair of Chinese counterfeit Converse All Stars shoes from the guy under Legon Annex. They cost me a whopping 25 Ghana Cedis. Which is dirt cheap, but unfortunately they only last about two months before I need to again replace them. I also had to go to the Lebanese grocery store to buy more Colombian counterfeit Sriracha sauce. It is interesting that the South Americans are pirating the one item that actually should be manufactured in Asia. While I was there I went to the book store which was having a 20% off sale and purchased a modern history of Korea and a Norwegian mystery novel. I also got some work done on my book chapter manuscript on the role of the US government in overthrowing Nkrumah in 1966. Although I did not get as much written today on the manuscript as I had initially hoped.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Seventy One Years Since the Deportation of the Kalmyks

On 27 December 1943 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued Ukaz 115/144 ordering the deportation of all Kalmyks from the Kalmyk ASSR and the liquidation of the administrative territory. Known as "Operation Ulusy" the NKVD forcibly resettled over 90,000 Kalmyks on 28-29 December 1943 from their home on the shores of the Caspian Sea to Siberia. In less than five years some 17,000 of these deportees had perished from a lack of material goods. They lacked proper food, housing, and clothing. The Soviet government imposed special settlement restrictions upon the deported Kalmyks that severely limited their freedom of movement and residency. In 1948 the Stalin regime declared that the exile of the Kalmyks along with other deported nationalities was to be "forever." After Stalin died on 5 March 1953 things improved gradually for the Kalmyks. On 17 March 1956 the Soviet government released them from the special settlement restrictions and after 1957 they were allowed to return to their ancestral homeland. On 11 February 1957 the Soviet government recreated the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast. They upgraded this territory to the Kalmyk ASSR on 29 July 1958.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Winter Writing Project - The 24 February 1966 Coup

I just got an e-mail from Germany reminding me I have until the end of January to write a book chapter for a project I had completely forgotten about. So I guess I know what my writing project for this winter break will be focused on. In a way it is a good thing. It gives me an opportunity to write about a purely African and indeed Ghanaian topic. The topic is the role of the US government in the 24 February 1966 coup against Nkrumah. Upon receiving the e-mail I went digging through the pile on my desk to find my copy of The Great Deception which has many of the important CIA and State Department Documents on the coup in it. I am firmly in the camp that the US involvement was probably necessary for the coup's success. But, I won't be entering any more new evidence into the debate. Instead I will be framing the coup in the broader context of the Cold War between the US and the USSR and how this led to a shift in Ghanaian policies under Nkrumah that met with disapproval from the US government. A lot of the literature unfortunately focuses too narrowly on the purely Ghanaian factors without taking sufficient heed of the fact that non-alignment was bringing the position of Accra much closer to the USSR than the US on issues like European colonialism and apartheid.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Soviet Arrests from 1936-1938 and Diaspora Nationalities

Nationality    Number arrested from 1936-1938   Under/Over-representation

Russians        657,799                                                 -23.6%
Ukrainians     189,410                                                 -19.4%
Poles              105,485                                             +1850%
Germans           75,331                                              +662.5%                                      
Belorussians     58,702                                              +132.2%
Jews                 30,542                                              +116.7%
Latvians           21,392                                             +1500%
Iranians            14,994                                             +5500%
Estonians         11,002                                               +800%
Finns                10,678                                               +700%
Total            1,420,711                                                 100%

Source: Victor Krieger, Bundesbuerger russlanddeutscher Herkunft: Historische Schluesselerfahrungen und kollektives Gedaechtnis (Lit Verlag; Muenster, 2013), table no. 1, p. 151.

As can be seen from this table Soviet arrests during the Great Terror disproportionately targeted diaspora nationalities in contrast to Russians and Ukrainians. The percentage of arrested that were ethnically Russian was 23.6% less than their proportion of the Soviet population as a whole. Ukrainians were also underrepresented. The largest over representation in terms of percentage was among the small Iranian population of the USSR. They only made up 0.2% of the Soviet population, but a full 1.1% of arrests. The next most overrepresented nationality were Poles followed by Latvians. The only nationality with a full SSR to be overrepresented were Belorussians at 132%.

Azerbaijani Political Prisoner Leyla Yunus is Dying due to Denial of Medical Care

I met Arif Yunusov, an historian from Azerbaijan at a conference on Meskhetian Turks at METU (Middle East Technical University) in Ankara Turkey almost exactly 14 years ago. He was not only a valuable participant in the conference, but he was also an affable person and enjoyable partner for conversation, dinner, and drinking. Both he and his wife, Leyla Yunus, are also among other things long time human rights activists. On 30 July 2014 Leyla Yunus was arrested in Azerbaijan on charges of "high treason" and placed in pre-trial detention. On 5 August 2014 the Azerbaijani authorities also arrested Arif Yunusov on charges of "high treason" and placed him in pre-trial detention. The Azerbaijani security services claim that Arif and Leyla were engaged in espionage on behalf of Armenia.  Of course contacts between Azerbaijani and Armenian human rights and peace activists are not treason and the position of the government in Baku is typical of many authoritarian post-Soviet regimes such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Belarus. Currently Leyla Yunus is being denied needed medical attention and is as a result dying.  This type of barbarism should have ended in Azerbaijan when the USSR collapsed.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Elections in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is still ruled by the same man who was in charge of the Uzbek SSR before the Soviet Union collapsed, Islam Karimov. Since the collapse of the USSR and the creation of an independent Uzbek state he has ruled it in a completely authoritarian manner. This isn't surprising for Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is the only state in the region that has ever had any success with democratic procedures and institutions. But, what strikes me as hilarious is that just as during the Soviet era that the regime in Uzbekistan feels the need to go through the charade of elections that it pretends are democratic. The news is reporting an 88% voter turn out for the its parliamentary elections yesterday. Furthermore the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO) and Commonwealth of Independent States are certifying that the elections were free, fair, and democratic. The SCO consists of such "democratic" states as Kazakhstan, China, and Russia. Right now I can't stop laughing, but when I do I have some Ghanaian bridges to sell to anybody who believes that Uzbekistan really had free, fair, and democratic elections yesterday.

African Lives Matter

As can be seen from this map some parts of Africa such as Ghana are considered free while other parts like Gabon are not. Indeed most of Central Africa is in the not free category. Saturday there were demonstrations against the Gabonese regime with the result that at least one protester was killed by security forces. The current ruler took power in 2009. His father was the previous dictator of Gabon and came to power in 1967. There have been similar demonstrations without any effect in Togo. The current ruler of Togo also inherited his post from his father who like in Gabon originally seized power in 1967. The most recent demonstration in Togo took place on 29 November 2014 and before that 21 November 2014. On the other hand there was a change in rulers in Burkina Faso in response to protests earlier this year. Although it is doubtful that the new government in Burkina Faso will result in any actual policy changes. These mass struggles against corrupt dictators in French speaking Africa get very little press attention even in neighboring states such as Ghana. Of course in the US you will never see any "progressives" opposing the use of violence including lethal violence by the security forces of Togo and Gabon. US Black Lives matter to them, but African Lives do not when the people doing the killing are African governments backed by the "progressive" and "socialist" government of France. It is considered far more important by US "progressives" that France provides free health care to rich white people than it is that France backs brutal and corrupt regimes in Africa that kill people.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Number of Men Mobilized into the Labor Army during Winter 1942

Mobilization of Russian-German men into the labor army according to GKO Order no. 1123 of 10 January 1942 and GKO Order no. 1281 of 14 February 1942.

Sviashsk-Ulianovsk (Railroad Construction) - 17,823
Bakalstroi (Construction of an iron and steel factory complex) - 26,490
Ivdellag (Cutting down trees) - 12,899
Sevuralllag (Cutting down trees) - 8,441
Usollag (Cutting down trees) - 4,940
Viatlag (Cutting down trees) - 6,845
Kraslag (Cutting down trees) - 5,423
Bogoslovlag (Construction of an aluminum factory complex) - 12,311
Sevzheldorstroi (Railroad Construction) -5,653
Solikambumstroi (Construction of a paper and cellulose factory complex) - 2,537
Tavdinlag (Cutting down trees) - 1,918
Tagilstroi (Construction of an iron an steel factory complex) - 3,371
Umlatstroi (Transport construction work) -952
Total - 109,593

Source: Viktor Krieger, Bundesbuerger russlanddeutscher Herkunft: Historische Schluesselerfahrungen und kollektives Gedaechtnis (Muenster: Lit Verlag, 2013), table no. 1, p. 48.

Number of Russian German Deportees in 1941

Number of Russian Germans deported by the NKVD to Siberia and Kazakhstan during fall 1941.

Volga German ASSR -365,764
Saratov Oblast - 46,706
Stalingrad Oblast - 26,245
Rostov Oblast - 38,742
Krasnodar Krai - 37,733
Ordzhonikidze Krai - 99,990
Total for R.S.F.S.R. - 666,818
Zaporozhia Oblast - 31,320
Voroshilovgrad Oblast - 12,488
Stalin Oblast - 35,925
Total for Ukrainian SSR - 82,983
Georgian SSR - 20,423
Azerbaijan SSR - 23,593
Armenian SSR - 212
Total for USSR - 794,069

Source: Viktor Krieger, Bundesbuerger russlanddeutscher Herkunft: Historische Schluesselerfahrungen und kollektives Gedaechtnis (Muenster: Lit Verlag, 2013), table no. 1, p. 30.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco, the Institute of African Studies, and the History Department

Today I went to see the ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco give a donation to the Institute of African Studies for a project that is clearly focused on historical research. This is something that has occurred repeatedly. The Institute of African Studies has regularly gotten huge donations from various donors including corporations like Guinness while the History Department has gotten absolutely nothing, not a single peswa since I have been here. All of the money for history research gets sent to the historians working in the Institute of African Studies and none goes to the historians in the History Department. I am not sure why this extreme imbalance of funding exits. But, if you are interested in historical projects refusing to provide any funds to the History Department and the lecturers that work there does not seem like the most logical strategy. On the other hand success which is only measured in terms of money in today's global capitalist economy attracts more money and monopolizes it. So it appears we are locked into a typical neo-colonial pattern whereby all the donations by foreign governments, corporations, and rich individuals for historical projects all go to the Institute of African Affairs forever and none will ever go to the History Department.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ghanaian Brain Drain

The greatest resource Ghana has is educated people. It is also the one that they consistently lose to foreign countries. Despite the recent events in Ferguson, NYC, and other places the US is still the number one choice of countries for Ghanaians to live in. Almost every Ghanaian I have ever talked to has said they would prefer to live in the US than Africa. The main reason all 26 million people have not left Ghana to live in the US is that the US embassy here denies the vast majority of applicants visas. But, among the highly educated minority of Ghanaians with PhDs or MDs a very large number of them have emigrated to either the US, Canada, or Europe. The US being their preferred destination over places like Norway or Canada by a very large margin. The average assistant professor at a prestigious university in the US makes about $100,000 a year versus about $15,000 a year for lecturers at Ghana's flagship university. Given this difference in compensation any Ghanaian who can get a job in the US teaching at a university is going to permanently emigrate rather than stay and teach in Ghana. This difference of $85,000 a year makes up for an unlimited amount of cold weather, lack of fufu, and even lethal racism. An even greater discrepancy exists regarding the salaries of doctors. Of course the Ghanaian government has only itself to blame for this exodus. It is the one paying extremely low salaries to public employees compared to even other African states such as Nigeria or South Africa.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Palestinian Christians

The reason the Israelis deny the Palestinians their civil, national, and human rights is simply because they are not Jewish. This includes the Christian minority of Palestinians as well as the Muslim majority. Of course it is extremely politically incorrect among the people who dominate US discourse to talk about Jews persecuting Christians. It is something that is said to never have ever existed. Indeed there is a double negation of Palestinian Christians by US "progressives" both as Palestinians and as Christians. They are deemed by "progressives" to be a reactionary, patriarchal, and homophobic people both because of their Arabness and their Christianity. While US radicals supported every type of revolutionary guerrilla movement in Vietnam, Central America, and Southern Africa they did not support the PFLP under George Habbash, a Palestinian Christian. In this case they unconditionally supported Israel, something that can still be seen in the extremist anti-Palestinian position of people like the current mayor New York City and Senator Elizabeth Warren, neither who even have the excuse of being Jewish. The radical US "progressive" position of supporting the ongoing destruction of the indigenous Muslim and Christian society of Palestine as represented by people like Senator Warren is not likely to change any time soon. But, many of us on the  right have supported the struggle of the Palestinians since 1948 in opposition to the "progressive" position represented by people like de Blasio and Warren.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Trying to do Comparative History

I am admittedly not trained in African history. Nonetheless, I have been trying to write some comparative Soviet and African history pieces. In particular I see some strong parallels between South African apartheid and the special settlement regime imposed upon deported nationalities by Stalin. I have managed to get one journal article published on this subject. My article, "Soviet Apartheid: Stalin's Ethnic Deportations, Special Settlement Restrictions, and the Labor Army," Human Rights Review, vol. 13, no. 2 (2012) can be found here.  I have a second one I have been working on. It faces a couple of problems. Some of these are my own fault. One is that I know an awful lot more about Soviet history and the special settlement regime than I know about South African history. But, there is also the fact that a lot US academics seem to think that nothing Stalin did including the deportation of whole nationalities to deadly areas of the USSR and putting them under severe movement and residency restrictions can be compared to South Africa . They either reject the idea that racism could ever exist in the USSR or insist that Stalin's treatment of people like the Volga Germans and Crimean Tatars was far more benign than Pretoria's treatment of its Black population. For all its faults the apartheid regime in South Africa was far less murderous than the Stalin regime and to hold up Pretoria as infinitely morally worse than Stalin seems to me to be extremely problematic. But, of course my extreme minority ideas like this are what got me exiled to Africa in the first place.

Monday, December 08, 2014

"Three Worlds"

I like this map to the right dividing the world into the "First World", "Second World", and "Third World." Primarily, because it does so mainly on a political and not an economic basis. The "First World" here is depicted as the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Rhodesia. The "Second World" is the USSR, Eastern Europe, Cuba, China, Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The "Third World" is the rest of the world including all of Latin America outside of Cuba, all of Africa minus South Africa and Rhodesia, the Middle East, and the parts of Asia not already listed as parts of the "First" and "Second" worlds. I am guessing this maps is supposed to represent the world sometime around the late 1970s since it has all of Indochina listed as part of the "Second World" while Rhodesia is still in the "First World." Despite being a better map than most it still has some problems. If "Second World" is to include all socialist states regardless of economic development then Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique should be colored as "Second World" and not "Third World" states. Likewise if "First World" means US ally then Turkey, South Korea, the Philippines, and other Middle Eastern and Asian states with close military alliances with the US during the Cold War should be colored as "First World" states and not as part of the "Third World." The actual states of the "Third World" were those genuinely non-aligned states such as India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Algeria, and Zambia.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Crimean Tatars and Palestinians

In 2014 two events happened that demonstrated the continuing historical parallels between the Palestinians and the Crimean Tatars. These were the renewed Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip and the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea followed by a new wave of persecution by the Russian occupation authorities against the indigenous Crimean Tatars. In the 20th Century the history of the Crimean Tatars and Palestinians had followed similar paths of dispossession and political mobilization organized around the principle of returning to their ancestral homelands.  The ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 and the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 both followed familiar strategies of forcibly removing indigenous populations from designated territories. In both cases the victimized group was forcibly rounded up and transported against their will to alien lands ill prepared to receive them and permanently lost most of their property including their homes, farms, cemeteries, and mosques. In the process the perpetrators used a great deal of violence including massacres such as what happened at Deir Yassin in Palestine and the Arabat Strip in Crimea. Finally, strict measures were undertaken by both the Israelis and Soviets to prevent the return of the deported populations to their places of origin. The similarities are not entirely coincidental since the Soviet deportation of whole nationalities including the Crimean Tatars was an admitted source of inspiration for the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.  Conversely the situation of the Palestinians and Soviet support for their position became known and was used as a rhetorical tool against the Soviet government in the 1970s by the Crimean Tatars. The very active, but completely peaceful, Crimean Tatar national movement in the USSR compared the plight of the Crimean Tatars living in exile in Uzbekistan to that of the Palestinians and pointed out the hypocrisy of the Soviet government in this matter. While the comparison between the Palestinians and the Crimean Tatars has been made in passing in a large amount of scholarly literature, more in depth examinations of the parallels between the two nationalities has remained extremely limited. My short  article "Socialist Racism: Ethnic Cleansing and Racial Exclusion in the USSR and Israel," Human Rights Review, April-June 2006 remains the only published academic journal article focusing on the similarities and differences between the two cases. I have toyed with the idea of writing another article on the subject in light of more recent events. But, I really don't have anything new to say despite the passage of over eight years. It would be nice though if somebody with more access to the relevant sources than myself, however, did write an extended and updated comparison of the two situations.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Nearing the end of the Semester Again

The semester is coming to an end. As far as teaching goes I think this semester was pretty successful. It certainly seems like these were the best and brightest students I have ever taught. But, maybe I am just so tired from waking up at 4 am to teach them that I can't tell.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Random Happenings

This is the fourth Thanksgiving I have spent in Africa. Like every other Thanksgiving here I had fufu, groundnut soup, and goat to eat. This week I will finish up my classes. All they will have left is to take the exam. This semester's students were probably the best collective group of students I have ever taught. I am not exactly sure why, but this semester's classes were also much smaller than previous year. Other than that I have been trying to write and send off to big name journals as many articles as possible. I don't expect any of the big name journals to actually accept any of the articles. But, I am hoping that the peer review reports will prove to be useful. So far this year I haven't had any editors refuse to send my articles out for peer review. It has, however, happened in the past and it is very annoying.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reader Survey 2014

It has been a while since I have done a reader survey. It has also been a long time since anybody has commented on this blog. I am not sure if that is because I have no human readers left other than my parents or if people have just given up arguing with me. Granted my ideas are so far outside the  mainstream it may just be that people figure that there is no place to even start to disagree.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Terror in Crimea Today

Since the Russian annexation of Crimea a total of 15 Crimean Tatars have been killed or disappeared. I want to say I was wrong, but I did predict that this would happen. The first victim in this new round of terror was Reshat Ametov whose tortured body was found on 16 March 2014. Since him another 14 have met similar fates. The renewed use of this type of terror against the indigenous population of the Crimean peninsula was completely predictable. The continued peaceful struggle by the Crimean Tatars in the face of such repression is thus all the more admirable. Mustafa Dzhemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement really should finally win the Noble Peace Prize after all these decades.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

70 Years Since the Deportation of the Meskhetian Turks

On the morning of 15 November 1944 the NKVD began the systematic deportation of the Meskhetian Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins from the area of Georgia near the Turkish border. By 6 pm that day the NKVD had loaded a total of 26,591 people on to train echelons bound for Kazakhstan and Central Asia (Pobol and Polian, doc. 3.175, p. 533). Between 15 to 18 November 1944 the NKVD cleared Meskhetia-Javakhetia of Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins. On 25 to 26 November 1944, they forcibly removed these nationalities from Adzharia. In total the NKVD deported a reported 91,095 Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins from Georgia and sent them on their way to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan by 28 November 1944.Their houses and lands were to be settled by some 7,000 Georgian households  (Pobol and Polian, doc. 3.176, p. 534). By December the NKVD had revised the number of deported Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins up to 92,374 people. Adult men made up only 18,923 of the deportees while the rest consisted of 27,399 adult women and 45,985 children under 16. A total of 53,163 were shipped to Uzbekistan, 28,598 to Kazakhstan, and 10,546 to Kyrgyzstan. The Soviet government settled 84,596 of them on kolkhozes, 6,316 on sovkhozes, and only 1,395 in industrial enterprises (Bugai, doc. 7, p. 157). A report from Beria to Molotov on 13 January 1945 noted that in the process of the deportations that the Soviet government had confiscated 8,525 tons of grain, 3,948 tons of potatoes, 453 tons of vegetables, 312 tons of fruit, 60,007 head of long horned cattle, and 80,049 head of small cattle from the Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins. In exchange they received an advance of only 1,480 tons of flour and 371 tons of cereal between 15 January and 15 March 1945, a ration of 16 kg of flour and 4 kg of cereal per person, while waiting for their vouchers for the rest of their property to be redeemed (Pobol and Polian, doc. 3.178, pp. 535-536). On 5 March 1945, the SNK ordered that the Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins deported from Georgia to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan be provided with 3,158.4 tons of potatoes, 453.7 tons of vegetables, and 312.4 tons of fruit. But, missing from this order was any mention of any livestock despite the loss of over 140,000 head of cattle by the deportees or the 8,525 tons of grain (Pobol and Polian, doc. 3.179, p. 536). By 11 March 1946, they still had only received 518 tons of grain and 4,659 kilograms of wool, cattle, and sheep (Bugai, doc. 19, p. 165). This meant that during the intial months and years in exile, food, especially meat was in quite short supply. This led to increased morbidity and mortality due to malnutrition. By June 1948, 11.8% of those deported in 1944 had perished (Pobol and Polian, p. 524).  Like other nationalities deported from the Caucasus the Mekshetian Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins were placed under special settlement restrictions until 1956. Unlike the Karachais, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, and Kalmyks they were not allowed to return in significant numbers to their homeland after 1957.


N.F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat'": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: "Druzhba narodov", 1992).

N. L. Pobol and P.M. Polian, (eds.), Stalinskie deportatsii 1928-1953: Dokumenty, (Moscow: MFD, Materik, 2005).

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Human Cost of Communism

Today is the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, the first stage of the International Left's global experiment in restructuring existing societies along socialist lines. This experiment was a colossal failure which resulted in mass repression and human misery. Although exactly quantifying the human losses caused by the Soviet government is still not possible, it is certain that the numbers ran into the millions under Lenin and Stalin. Just the tabulated and confirmed numbers so far are astronomical. The recorded number of death sentences issued by the Cheka-GPU-OGPU-NKVD-MVD  in the USSR from 1921 to 1953 comes to 799,455. A figure that does not include death sentences issued by the normal court system or the hasty executions committed by the NKVD in 1940 and 1941 in the areas occupied as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Among the executions clearly missing from the figure are the 21,257 Polish prisoners executed as a result of a 5 March 1940 decree issued by Beria. To these deaths must be added the number of inmates to die in Soviet labor camps and colonies due to poor treatment. The official recorded number of deaths in GULag ITLs (Corrective Labor Camps) and ITKs (Corrective Labor Colonies) from 1934-1956 is 1,606,748. These numbers are incomplete as they do not include deaths in transit or those who died shortly after their release from incarceration. It was under Stalin an official Soviet policy to release prisoners and labor army conscripts that were near death. The mass dekulakization campaign undertaken to collectivize agriculture led to the recorded death of 389,521 exiled kulaks in special settlement villages from 1932-1940. The very large number of people branded as kulaks and deported who perished in 1930 and 1931 is missing from this figure since no comprehensive figures on these fatalities have been found in the Soviet archives yet. Tabulating the deaths resulting from the man made famines of the 1930s is still an incomplete task. But, in Kazakhstan alone the number of indigenous Kazakhs declined by 1,321,000 (36.7%) people between the 1926 and 1939 censuses. The total number of famine related deaths in Ukraine due the Holodmor was considerably higher, although a smaller percentage of Ukrainians perished than did Kazakhs. During the 1940s the deported nationalities suffered huge levels of excess mortality as a direct result of the poor material conditions imposed upon them by the Soviet government. The official NKVD and MVD cumulative tabulation shows 309,100 deaths among special settlers from 1941 to 1948. But, these figures are incomplete and do not include deaths during the initial round ups and deportation. When the reports on figures for deaths among individual nationalities are examined they reach incredibly high levels.  For instance between May 1944 and January 1946 the Soviet government recorded 26,775 deaths among Crimean Tatar special settlers, a full 17.8% of their total population. Among the 316,000 Russian-German men and women mobilized to work in the labor army the Soviet government recorded 31,012 (9.8%) dying from 1942-1944. An almost equal number were recorded as being discharged as invalids and dying shortly after their release. It is quite clear from the small amount of information cited above that socialism in the USSR was an humanitarian disaster on a vast scale that brought about the premature death, often by extremely agonizing means, of millions of innocent men, women, and children.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Yusup Abdrakhmanov executed 76 years ago

Seventy six years ago yesterday the Stalin regime executed Yusup Abdrakhmanov, the man most responsible for the creation of the borders of the modern Kyrgyz state. He was falsely accused of being a member of Alash Orda and shot on 5 November 1938 at age 34. Khrushchev rehabilitated him in 1958. Officially one of the main streets in Bishkek, Sovetskaya, was renamed Abdrakhmanov in his honor following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite his extreme importance in creating the current borders of the Kyrgyz Republic and fighting for its upgrade from an autonomous oblast in 1922 to an ASSR in 1925 few people in Kyrgyzstan born after the fall of the Soviet Union have ever heard of him or know what he did. In 1936 Kyrgyzstan would become a full fledged Soviet Republic along with Kazakhstan.  However, Stalin had already removed Abdrakhmanov from Kyrgyzstan and sent him to Samara in 1933.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Burkina Faso

It does not look the recent revolution in Burkina Faso will progress along the lines of the one led by Thomas Sankara from 1983 to 1987. Indeed the result is shaping up to look nothing like Sankara's revolution. Instead a provisional military government has replaced Campaore. The international community including the existing governments in Africa all seem to be hoping for a transition in a few weeks to put a new civilian government in power and then sometime later elections. Such a government will have the legitimacy of democratic elections and the support of France, the US, ECOWAS, and the AU. It will also probably as a result of the influence of these outside powers continue the same neo-liberal economic and social policies of the Campaore regime and repudiation of the policies of Sankara. The main difference will be that the government instituting these identical policies will have been elected rather than imposed by military force. This difference in the procedure of how governments are formed has been fetishized in recent decades at the expense of the actual policies pursued by these governments. Elections have replaced human, social, and economic rights as the highest value supported by the international community in places like Africa.

71 Years since the Deportation of the Karachais

This is two days late. But, 2 November 1943 marked the mass deportation of the Karachais from their Caucasian homeland to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. On that single day the NKVD forcibly deported nearly all 70,000 Karachais to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and placed them under special settlement restrictions. Those Karachai men fighting at the front against Nazi Germany were later removed from the Red Army on 3 March 1944 and joined their families in exile in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Nearly a fifth of the population perished from the harsh physical conditions they met in Central Asia.  Cotton plantations such as Pakhta Aral in Kazakhstan and kolkhozes such as Sadovaya in Kyrgyzstan saw many Karachais die from malnutrition, typhus, and other poverty related causes during this time. On 26 November 1948, the Stalin regime declared the exile of the Karachais and other deported peoples to be permanent. However, Stalin's death on 5 March 1953 led to the Karachais release from special settlement restrictions on 16 July 1956. In 1957 they were allowed to return to a newly created Karachai-Cherkess ASSR in the Caucasus that had replaced the Karachai Autonomous Oblast. By 1960, over 80% of the Karachais had returned from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to their ancestral homelands. The trauma of the 2 November 1943 deportations and the harsh material and legal deprivations the Karachais suffered as special settlers, however, is still remembered by the survivors and their descendants. Like in the case of the other deported peoples in the USSR it remains the single most important event in their recent history in shaping their national self consciousness.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween from Africa

I don't remember Halloween being any type of big deal here in Ghana in the last three years. So I am pretty sure nothing will happen tomorrow either. But, I did find this picture of a pumpkin with the shape of Africa carved into it, so I felt compelled to post it. I have been saving the photograph waiting for an opportune time to post it for many months now. Since tomorrow is Halloween I figured now was the time.

Legon City

On Monday I attended a presentation on the Legon City project. Basically this is a project by the university being spearheaded by the Vice Chancellor to raise money for the university by renting out land to create a business/technology park. The complex which will be 120 acres has all been planned out on computer and all the necessary government and professional organizations have signed on to it. Now the land just needs to be cleared of the squatters currently living on it and investors willing to put up the money need to come forward. The first part will be easy to accomplish. The second part will probably be harder. But, what was most shocking is finding out that the project is being pushed because the Ghanaian government plans in the not too distant future to cut off all funding to the University of Ghana. So the University of Ghana has to find alternative means of funding itself. The renting of land in public (university) - private (providers of capital) partnerships being the most favored way currently. Have any countries completely done away with government funding of public universities before and if they have what was the result? Was it successful? Did they manage to make up all the lost revenue through renting out land to build business centres and technology parks? Any thoughts from anybody?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Three things that happened this week.

1. My tro tro driver was arrested again. This seems to be a frequent occurrence.

2. I gave four mid term exams. In one class 32 people showed up. I had never seen 20 of them before.

3. The president of Ghana announced that there would be no more power outages. Two days later I woke up again with no electricity.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jokers - Jokers Theme

Iranian rock from 1972 in Tehran.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Any suggestions on what to read about caste in India?

It seems to me on the basis of a very small amount of reading that there are some significant between racial discrimination and caste discrimination. But, I don't know enough about the history of India to really be able to make a well informed argument yet. It could also be that my initial impression is wrong. However, what I have read so far is intriguing. Does anybody have any suggestions for reading on the topic of caste in India?

The Mighty Jesus Supermarket

Around the corner from my flat is the Mighty Jesus Supermarket. It even has its own bags with its name printed on them. The Mighty Jesus Supermarket is really a small warehouse stuffed with canned, boxed, and bottled goods. It is a good place to get things like boxes of fruit juice, tins of meat, packages of ramen noodles, and other things of that nature. It doesn't have much room for people to move in between the aisles of imported goods. But, it is very convenient being literally just around the corner from me in the middle of the Adenta SSNIT flats. I really don't like carrying groceries on the tro tro if I can help it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

African Electrical Outlets and Pan-Africanism

Last night I realized that my kitchen is a hybrid of Ghanaian and South African electric outlets. Earlier this week my kettle died after three years. I purchased a new one, but it had a South African plug and not a Ghanaian one. So I also purchased an adaptor. The adaptor died in less than three days. Then I noticed that one of the outlets in the kitchen was South African and not Ghanaian. But, it died after a day of use. Then I realized that there were brand new good South African outlets for the refrigerator and microwave both of which have South African and not Ghanaian plugs. Since I rarely use the microwave I have commandeered that outlet for the kettle. But, the first step of Pan-Africanism should be for the entire continent to have a single uniform plug for electric appliances.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Morning Classes

On Thursdays I have to get up at 4:00 am in order to get to my 7:50 am city campus class. So by noon I have already been up and moving for eight hours. This is exhausting. But, it doesn't end because I have to get up at 5:00 am on Fridays to get to my 7:30 am main campus class. Then on Saturdays I have to be up at 6:00 am to get ready for the cleaning woman who comes at 7:00 am. I am told the average Ghanaian get up by 4:00 am everyday and I have encountered cases of them waking up to start work as early as 1:00 or 2:00 am. But, next semester I really want to free of all classes that start before 9:30 am. I have only had one semester out of the nine I have taught here where I did not have a 7:30 am class. I am told such things don't even exist in the US.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Comparison of Ghana and Kyrgyzstan

At first glance Kyrgyzstan and Ghana appear to have very little in common except for the fact that they are both geographically rather small countries with large lakes. A second glance will show that overall that most people living in both Kyrgyzstan and Ghana are quite poor in comparison to most countries in the world. In 2013 out of 187 independent states the IMF ranked Kyrgyzstan as number 146 in terms of PPP and Ghana as number 138. Other similarities, however, are not immediately apparent. Ghana is clearly a post-colonial country that was one of the early leaders of the various Pan-African and  Afro-Asian solidarity movements and later the Non-Aligned Movement that defined the Third World. Kyrgyzstan in contrast was part of the USSR and hence clearly a Second World country at least until independence was forced upon it. The relative poverty of Kyrgyzstan is thus quite new. During the 1960s not only was Kyrgyzstan richer than Ghana it was also richer than Iran (ranked 78 in 2013) and Turkey (ranked 67 in 2013).[1] Its development along socialist lines further meant that it had a much more equal distribution of wealth than Ghana as well as a much higher literacy rate. The building of infrastructure, industry, schools, and hospitals as well as the provision of salaries, wages, services, and benefits in Kyrgyzstan was heavily subsidized from other regions of the USSR prior to 1991.[2] Ghana on the other hand both before and after independence was unable to access the level of capital provided to the Kyrgyz SSR by Moscow. Its economy followed a rather typical colonial and post-colonial model of dependency and poverty despite efforts by its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, to break this cycle from 1957 to 1966.

A closer look, however, reveals that the state formation of both Ghana under colonial rule and Kyrgyzstan as part of the USSR has far more in common than appears at first. In both cases the boundaries of the states were  largely created by a single outside power out of territory conquered from the indigenous populations in stages. The state of Ghana granted independence on 6 March 1957 consisted of four separate territories. These were the original Gold Coast Colony along the coast, Asante around Kumasi, the Northern Territory, and finally British Togoland. The territory that became Kyrgyzstan in contrast was annexed by the Russian Empire in two stages. The northern half between 1855 and 1868 and the southern half by 1876. Pishpek was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1863 and the Ala-Too Cinema on Chui Prospekt was built in 1963 to commemorate the centenary of this event. The creation of borders by outside powers has led to a number of problems for both states following their independence. In particular their small size has led to economic difficulties once severed from the greater markets of the British Empire and USSR respectively. These imposed borders, however, enclosed two very different types of state formations in the cases of Ghana and Kyrgyzstan. In Ghana a multi-ethnic state emerged while the Soviets purposely created Kyrgyzstan like all other national-territorial formations in the union as the homeland of a single essentialized ethnic group.

Another similarity between Kyrgyzstan and Ghana that is not readily apparent without some historical digging is that despite all of its claims to be granting the Kyrgyz and other non-Russian nationalities national self-determination,  the Soviet policy of korenizatsiia (indigenization) looks to be nothing more than the logical conclusion of the policy of indirect rule imposed upon the Gold Coast and other West African colonies by Lord Lugard.  Whether Soviet rule over Kyrgyzstan constituted colonialism is a contentious issue that revolves around whether one considers the core of colonial rule to be economic or political. In a political sense Kyrgyzstan was just as much subordinated to a Russian dominated Moscow as the Gold Coast colony was to an English dominated London. The local elite in Kyrgyzstan executed political and economic policies formulated in Moscow and had no real autonomy in these spheres.  Where Soviet policy towards Kyrgyzstan appeared radically different from British policy towards its colonies has already been described above. There was a net flow from the center to periphery in the case of the USSR with the richer European areas heavily subsidizing the poorer Asian ones. The economic exploitation of  the periphery by the metropolis that characterized classic colonialism was missing in the case of Soviet rule of Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian republics.  Instead you had politically subordinated areas ruled by indigenous representatives of the metropolitan power that benefited heavily from a net flow of economic resources from the center to the periphery. Thus Soviet rule over these territories resembled colonial rule in political terms, but not economic ones. Voselensky has described this situation as semi-colonial.[3]  In terms of political self rule the non-Russian republics of the USSR had no more real autonomy from Moscow than most European colonies in Africa. Central Asia, however, was free from the economic exploitation that marked the European colonies. Instead of suffering from a net extraction of resources from their political masters, the Central Asians, especially the Kyrgyz benefited from receiving a net influx of capital from other regions of the USSR.

Despite this key economic difference,  there were significant similarities between Soviet rule over Kyrgyzstan and the British policy of indirect rule in the Gold Coast in the political and cultural spheres. This is hardly surprising considering that ultimately every colonial venture required some degree of indigenous collaboration to work. What is unusual about the Soviet case is that Central Asia like Algeria had a very large settler population at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. That the Soviets prudently opted for a strategy that stressed indirect rule through indigenous cadres over direct rule by Russian settlers shows they had a much greater understanding of how to maintain political rule over their non-European territories  than did the British or the French in similar situations.

[1] Alec Nove and J.A. Newth, The Soviet Middle East: A Model for Development (London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1967), 105-112.
[2] Nove and Newth, 40-104.
[3] Michael Voslensky, Nomenklatura: The Soviet Ruling Class: An Insider's Report (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), 284-285.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014

Communism in the Gold Coast in the 1920s and 1930s

Communism was an international movement and the Soviet government made an effort to support revolutionaries in the colonial world. Although, the limited nature of Soviet material assistance and the effectiveness of colonial repression severely hampered these efforts, they did have some success, particularly in Asia. The greater distance, lower level of aid, and more effective repression of communist movements by the European powers in Africa meant that by the time most African countries received independence that there were very few major communist movements on the continent. The one large communist party in Africa in the 1950s and 1960s was the Sudanese Communist Party.[1] It owed its strength to the fact that it was the only political party in the country that crossed racial and religious boundaries to have strong representation from both the north and the south of Sudan.[2] But, in 1970 the Sudanese government thoroughly crushed the Communist Party and executed its leaders.[3] In contrast by 1954 communist governments had been established in Mongolia, North Korea, China, and North Vietnam. Large and powerful communist movements also developed in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaya. Nonetheless, Africa was not completely devoid of communists during the colonial era. The Sudanese Communist Party founded in 1944 has already been mentioned.[4] There was also an organized, although predominantly white communist party in the Union of South Africa. Other regions of Africa, however, were also not immune from communist agitation. There were individual communists active in British West Africa including the Gold Coast despite harsh colonial repression. The history of the international communist movement in the Gold Coast, however, still remains largely unwritten. This article is a first attempt at rectifying this lacuna and integrating West Africa into the history of the world communist movement during the 20th century.

The 1930s saw the embryonic development of a communist movement in the Gold Coast. It centered around Isaac Wallace-Johnson and Bankole Awooner Renner. The first of these two men was from Sierra Leone and he worked in the Gold Coast only briefly from 1933-1936 following his deportation from Nigeria until he left to go back to his home country. Both Wallace-Johnson and Renner had been students of KUTV(Communist University for Toilers of the East) in Moscow and in 1935 they founded the Marxist West African Youth League in the Gold Coast. Wallace-Johnson had been active along with George Padmore in the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW), a communist trade union for Blacks around the world established by the Profitern in Hamburg Germany in 1930. The ITUCNW published a newspaper by the name of the Negro Worker which circulated in the British West African colonies.[5] At this time there was no Gold Coast Communist Party separate from the British Communist Party.

The KUTV was founded in 1921 and played an important role in providing ideological training for African communists. Initially the university only received students from Asia and the Middle East, but starting in 1923 a few Africans began attending the institution as well. One of the first Africans to enroll in KUTV was Bankole Awooner Renner from the Gold Coast. Renner had become a communist while studying in the US and went to continue his studies at KUTV in November 1925. While at KUTV Renner raised the issue of Soviet policy towards sub-Saharan Africa both in person and in writing with Zinoviev, but was never able to get any type of substantial answer.[6] The Soviet government's policies towards Africa remained in an undeveloped state throughout the 1930s and 40s.

After attending KUTV it appears that Wallace-Johnson and Renner had some contact with each other in the League Against Imperialism (LAI). Founded in 1927 in Brussels this Soviet front group sought to support communist movements in the colonial world, particularly in India. It seems that Wallace-Johnson was operating under the name of A.E. Richards at the time and was secretary of the LAI for West Africa. But, overall the LAI's influence in British West Africa was quite limited. It had far more success in French West Africa.[7] The ITCUNW proved to be a more effective instrument of communist agitation in the Gold Coast than the LAI.

In response to the formation of the LAI and activities of the Comintern the British colonial authorities in the Gold Coast passed the Sedition Bill in 1934.  This bill was to ban the entry into the colony of people deemed subversive. Among those fitting this description were people associated with the Communist Party, ITUCNW, LAI, and the Profitern. The Inspector General of the police named four men he considered to be especially dangerous subversives. These men were Essuman Gwira Kobina Sekyi, Benjamn Wuta-Ofei, Alfred John Ocansey, and Emmanuel K. Caeser. Among Sekyi's contacts in the above mentioned subversive organizations was Wallace-Johnson. Both Renner and Wallace-Johnson were prominent in the Gold Coast press and political organizations such as the West African Youth League and Friends of Ashanti Freedom Society.[8] Wallace-Johnson's journalistic criticism of the colonial regime in the Gold Coast especially upset the authorities. On 1 June 1936, he was arrested for violating the Sedition Act.[9] Although convicted, Wallace-Johnson only received a 50 pound fine. In March 1937 Wallace-Johnson left the Gold Coast and did not return until after Ghana had received its independence.[10] However, communism as a movement lost out to the Pan-Africanist aspirations of Nkrumah and the Convention Peoples Party during most of the first decade of independence. The 1930s in fact like in many other places represented a high point for the communist movement in West Africa.

[1] Vijay Prashad,  The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World (NY: The New Press, 2007), 158-159.
[2] Prashad, 160-161.
[3] Prashad, 161.
[4] Prashad, 160.
[5] Hakim Adi, “The Communist Movement in West Africa,” Science and Society, 61, no. 1 (Spring 1997): 94-96.
[6] Woodford McClellen, “Africans and Black Americans in the Comintern Schools,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 26, no. 2 (1993):  373-374.
[7] John D. Hargreaves, “The Comintern and Anti-Colonialism: New Research Opportunities,” African Affairs, 92, no. 367 (Apr., 1993): 258-261.
[8] Stanley Shaloff, “Press Controls and Sedition Proceedings in the Gold Coast, 1933-1939,” African Affairs, 71, no. 284 (July 1972)
[9] Shaloff, 257.
[10] Shaloff, 259-260.