Friday, August 28, 2015

A Recent Picture of Me

74 years since the deportation of the Volga Germans

Today marks the official commemoration of the deportation of the Volga Germans and later other communities of Russian-Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan. On 28 August 1941, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued Ukaz 21-160 providing the legal basis for the decision to deport the ethnic Germans of the Volga German ASSR, Saratov Oblast, and Stalingrad Oblast made by the Council of People's Commissars and Central Committee of the Communist Party two days earlier. Nevertheless, the legal cover of the decree by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and other decrees pertaining to the deportation of the Volga Germans and the liquidation of the Volga German ASSR clearly violated the 1936 Soviet and 1937 RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) constitutions not to mention the constitution of the Volga German ASSR itself. This forcible dispersal of the Volga Germans across the eastern regions of the Soviet Union ended over 150 years of continuous settlement by ethnic Germans in the region. The Soviet government sought to permanently erase their former presence from the region. Lack of proper clothing, housing, food, and medical care led to mass mortality among the deportees. Subsequently the Soviet government mobilized most able bodied adults among the Russian-Germans for forced labor in the labor army.  The Stalin regime placed the remaining deported Volga and other Russian-Germans under special settlement restrictions resembling the later apartheid laws of South Africa. These discriminatory restrictions on their mobility and residency were initially supposed to be permanent, but were finally repealed at the end of 1955. The deportees and their descendants, however, were never allowed to return in large numbers to their former places of residence in the Volga and elsewhere and the vast majority of the Russian-German population remained confined to Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Siberia until they emigrated to Germany after 1987.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Second Week of the Semester

This week is the second week of the semester. So far I have taught one class and had one departmental meeting. The class is at 7:30 in the morning, but a significant number of students still showed up. The powers that be also for some reason switched my TA for that class. The second lecture went well. Although it is difficult to compress World War One, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Russian Civil War all into one two hour lecture. But, I have taught the course five times now so I managed to hit all the high points for the years 1914-1924 from the start of World War One to the death of V.I. Lenin.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Today I had my second day of classes of the semester. I got up at 4 am to go teach my 7:50 am class at City Campus. I then waited in a class room with my TA for over an hour while no students showed up. I then inquired with the records office if there were any students registered for the class. They told me they couldn't tell me today, but that I should call them next Wednesday and they would tell me. After getting back to Legon from Accra I had a quick lunch of jollof rice, beans, plantains, pasta salad, and cocoyam leaves. Then I had to teach another class. There were a total of six students including two from Europe in that class which is a huge improvement from the zero students I had this morning.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Start of the Semester

Today is the first day of work of the semester and our strike over the book and research allowance is currently suspended until 30 September 2015. I printed out my syllabi, but can not copy them because the photocopy machine is again broken. I also printed out all of last semester's grades to submit in hard copy to the proper archival authorities on campus. I already submitted them online in May. Finally, I went to the library to get some books. Tomorrow, I have my first class of the semester. I found the room it is supposed to be in. For some reason it was locked, but I am hoping that I can get somebody to unlock it tomorrow morning before my class starts at 7:30 am. Otherwise we might be having class under a tree, although not a cocoa tree like in the photograph to the right.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

UTAG Suspends Strike after Government Agrees to Pay Last Year's Allowance at a Fake Exchange Rate

Blogging has been slow due to family visitation. I have been back in Ghana since 7 July 2015. The UTAG strike has now been suspended so starting next week I need to return to work. If the book and research allowance is not paid by 30 September 2015 then the union will resume the strike. Although the government agreed to pay last year's allowance they are doing so at an artificial exchange rate of 3.5 cedis to the dollar when the cedi is really worth only 24 cents. That means instead of the $1,500 they owe us from last year (we don't get any interest on this loan to the government either) we will only get $1,300. There is no mention what so ever of this year's allowance which was due 31 July 2015. That will take at least another year to get again with no interest.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Robert Conquest R.I.P.

Robert Conquest, one of the greatest historians of the USSR, finally died this week on 3 August 2015 at age 98. Conquest was one of the few scholars in the English speaking world during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s willing to deal critically with the Soviet Union under Stalin and not sugar coat the regime for ideological reasons. While his quantitative estimates of various categories of victims of Stalinism have turned out to be too high, his basic qualitative judgment of the nature of the Soviet regime during the 1930s and 1940s turned out to be right. So did his assessment of western lackeys of Moscow who attempted to defend the regime. In particular his work in the 1960s and 1970s on the deportation of whole peoples during the 1940s still holds up remarkably well as does his work in the 1980s on the Ukrainian Holodomor. Certainly his work along with the writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn were some of the earliest works I encountered that spurred the direction of my own historical research.

Friday, August 07, 2015

University of Ghana Faculty again on Strike over Book and Research Allowance

UTAG (University Teachers' Association of Ghana) declared another strike two days ago. This is the fifth strike I have been involved in since coming here almost five years ago. Again it is over the government's non-payment of the book and research allowance for last year. We still have not received the $1500 book allowance and 500 GH research allowance for academic year 2014/2015 even though this should have been paid over a year ago. There is no hint about our 2015/2016 allowance which was due on 1 August 2015. The government claims it took the first step to initiate payment of last year's allowance with the Ministry of Finance only in the middle of July 2015 and therefore we should not strike. The allowance is, however, already over a year late. The year before that the allowance was 18 months late and paid at an artificial exchange rate much lower than the real rate. The book and research allowance is the only money paid to university lecturers by the government calculated in dollars rather than cedis so it has become increasingly a greater percentage of our overall pay. Currently it represents almost 175% of the net (after taxes) monthly salary of a starting lecturer.