Monday, February 02, 2015

“Ethnic Erasure: The Role of Border Changes in Soviet Ethnic Cleansing and Return Migration”

I have now put up an electronic version  of "Ethnic Erasure: The Role of Border Changes in Soviet Ethnic Cleansing and Return Migration." The print version appeared in Eero Medijainen and Olaf Mertelsmann, eds., Border Changes in 20th Century Europe, vol. 1 Tartu Studies in Contemporary History (Hamburg, Germany: Lit-Verlag, 2010). The chapter deals with the elimination of the national-territorial units of the deported peoples and their restoration for the North Caucasians and Kalmyks versus the unsuccessful struggles by the Crimean Tatars and Volga Germans to restore their Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics.


derRach said...

Dear Otto,

Can you provide a list of the number and names of national territories, oblasts, rayons, etc. within the former Russian Empire and Soviet Union where the German speaking populations had settled? I understood that they settled from the western border with Poland and the Baltic to the Crimea, the Kuban, Caucasus, Central Asia territories, etc., but am unaware of a complete listing.

For example, I have learned from your writings that some had settled in Kazakhstan pre-1900 and 50,000 were deported from the Crimea, of which I was previously unaware.

Wolhynien, die verlorene Heimat!

Best regards,


J. Otto Pohl said...

Try looking here for starters.

vive said...

Hi, Google brought me to your blog. I'm a British MA student at Charles university in Prague. I'm considering writing my thesis on black American communist writers' impact on communist Europe.

It's very early days, but this is my logic. A significant number of communist black writers from the Harlem Rennaissance onwards, right? A lot of them went to Africa as a kind of personal processing of their diaspora experience. Living here in Prague now, I found that the vast majority of the older generation of black people here came here from Africa on scholarships offered specifically to various African countries by the communist regime. I need to look into this more, I'm still hazy on the details, but it seems possible and plausible that a narrative of literary influence could be traced from African American communist writers to communist Europe, possibly via Africa. And I'd be really interested to see what that influence looks like.

From your blog it seems like you might have some insight on this, even just background information. This is honestly my first day of research - I have just started considering a short proposal, today - so all I have right now are vague questions. Can you help me out with some leads?!

Like what you're writing, btw!

J. Otto Pohl said...


Leave me an e-mail and I will get back to you in more detail. But, most of the African students to go to the USSR and Warsaw Pact states went there in the 1960s-1980s. Before that most of the Blacks going to the USSR were from the US or West Indies, mostly communists.

The only significant Harlem Renaissance writer to go to the USSR in the 1930s I can think of right now was Langston Hughes, but he was not a Communist. His memoir, I Wonder as I Wander, has a very good description of his time in the USSR in the 1930s. He spent quite a bit of time in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. He travelled with Arthur Koestler through Central Asia.

However, I would note that the connections are not US to Africa to USSR. In the 1930s most of Africa was under colonial rule so few Black Americans went anyplace other than Liberia. Black US and West Indians did go to the USSR in limited numbers. Some were communists, others industrial workers, and others like Hughes went for other reasons.

In the 1950s and 1960s a number of Black Americans went to Ghana. However, most of the prominent visitors here were not communists. The major exception was DuBois who came here near the end of his life.

At the same time a lot of Ghanaians and other Africans went to the USSR for university education. Many of them were medical students. Again most were not communists. Ghana under Nkrumah and other non-aligned governments wanted practical education from the USSR not students loyal to a foreign government.

vive said...

Fascinating info Otto, thank you! My email is arwen dot bird at gma il dooo ot cooo om. I wonder if that's enough scrambling to confuse the bots. Please do send me any further information you have, it's very interesting.

Do you know anything about Africans coming to former Czechoslovakia and Poland?

I'll definitely get that memoir. DuBois's trip seems promising too. Your final paragraph seems to contain the suggestion that NOT being communist was a kind of selection criteria for scholarship students being sent. Interesting! Do you know what the logic on the USSR's side was - were they aiming for indoctrination?

I know at least some of them stayed; in CR when communism fell, the scholarship students who hadn't completed had to stop their studies, and many of them stayed on. At least, this is my source, which focuses on CR and mentions Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Ethiopia in particular:
What do you think?
Thanks again for your reply.

J. Otto Pohl said...


I will send you an e-mail. Angola and Ethiopia in the 70s and 80s as communist states were considerably different than non-aligned states like Ghana in the 1960s. The Soviet logic was to make the states and people involved favorably disposed towards the USSR. But, the Soviet government wasn't under the illusion that Ghana was going to become another Cuba.