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.

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