Saturday, December 23, 2017

Finally the semester is over

Finally, I have gotten through the semester. Which is good. Because I am supposed to be resting.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Last Day Before Finals

Today I had to come to campus to pick up my final exams from the printer for tomorrow. But, it gave me a chance to check my email since the wifi is currently down at my flat.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Finally a Free Day

Finally, I now have a two day break before final exams begin. I had hoped to get done with everything else by Thursday. But, I had to work an entire day on Sunday, followed by eight hours of  work related social events on Monday, and finally a Senate Faculty meeting on Tuesday. Today, I got up late. Then I walked to the mall to change money. After that I walked to a cafe to eat a pizza and fresh squeezed orange juice for lunch. I then grabbed a cab to the bazaar and hiked to the book store that carries English language titles. There I purchased a book and then walked back out of the bazaar to the taxi stand and took a cab home.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Final Day of Classes

Today is the final day of classes. Exactly zero students showed up to my 8:00 am class. I have three more classes to teach today. I have cancelled my office hour. I can't wait for this day to finish.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Still closer to the end

It turns out that today is not the last day of classes. Evidently I have to teach a full day Sunday as well. I am not sure what is the point of having one day of classes between a weekend and a four day reading week. But, I'll come in and lecture for four hours to whatever students make it to class that day.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Closer to the End

Today is the penultimate day of classes. The final day of lectures is Thursday. After that there is a reading week during which I am going to try and get some article revisions done. For next semester I want to spend a lot more time and energy on research and writing. I am not sure if there are any more Kurdish topics I can research here without first developing an ability to read Sorani. But, I still have enough Soviet related projects to keep me busy next semester.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Winding up the semester

There are only two days of teaching left, then reading week, and then final exams. Next semester I will have fewer classes to teach and I am hiring a TA so things should be easier to manage.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Today I slept in until 7 am and then went to the bank. Afterward I took a cab to work and took care of some email correspondence. I then puttered around doing nothing productive. Tomorrow is the start of a three day weekend.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Musings of a Hopeless Reactionary

The smart phone is one of those things like tattoos or driver's licenses that I have never owned and will never own. I am convinced that a great deal of the ignorance of young people can be directly traced to their smart phone addictions. It was a far better world in many ways when people read books instead of playing on their smart phones all the time.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

To any American readers I might have, Happy Thanksgiving. I had to work a full day today. But, I do get Friday off. On Saturday I have to do a big pile of grading.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


I just survived a 7.3 earthquake with an epicenter near Halabja about 32 kilometers away. I had just come home from dinner and was laying on the couch when I felt it start jumping up and down. Then the whole room started shaking. I am okay and nothing in my apartment was damaged. But, I hear that the student dormitories were damaged by the quake.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

One More Day

Today I took a taxi to work at about 10:15 am. I had to man the Social Science exhibition table in the cafeteria from 11:00 am to 11:30 this morning. After that I had a sandwich and then went to my office to grade quizzes and write a recommendation for a student.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Just another day 100 years after the disaster

Today I took the 7:30 am bus to work, grabbed a cup of tea, and proceeded to cover the history of the world from 1919-1939 for my first class. Then I dropped off my text book and went to eat a breakfast of brown bread, lentil soup, some sort of scrambled egg dish with sweet peppers and tomatoes, and ayran. After that I realized that today is the 100 year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and that I probably should post something since I have read that most American millennials now think that the Stalinist state is the preferred model of political-economy. But, nobody from that demographic will ever read my blog and I don't have the time or energy to write anything new right now. So I will just post the link to the piece I wrote four years ago on the subject.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


Today is the first day of November. I don't teach classes on Mondays and Wednesdays so I can do other stuff. I got up early this morning and had a video chat with my wife and daughter before going back to bed. After waking up for the second time I took a taxi to work and ate a meal of burghul, borek, and eggplant salad washed down with lemonade followed by ayran. Then I went into the office and graded a bunch of quizzes while listening to Ulyatau.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

More on Kurdish Cuisine and Sheep's Organs

Last night I had sheep's stomach stuffed with rice. The rice was seasoned with raisins and almonds. I also had sheep's feet in soup. It was good. But, it was not as good as the sheep's brain and tongue I ate a few days earlier.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sheep's Brain and Tongue is very Yummy

Last night I had the best meal I have ever eaten in Kurdistan. I ate boiled sheep's head including the brain and tongue. It came in a soup broth formed from cooking it all day. Like many Ghanaian dishes this beloved Kurdish dish is eaten with one's hand. It was a little bit pricey. But, it was definitely worth it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


The last couple of days have been quite calm here in Sulaimani. I have largely been preoccupied with teaching four classes with three preps. But, it hasn't been overwhelming. Next semester I'll go down to three classes with two preps and be finished before noon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Half way through

The semester is now half way done. Today I had four classes and a never ending stream of students during my office hours. AUIS still remains a bubble inside a bubble here in Sulaimani.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Life in Sulaimani

Despite living in Kurdistan my ability to get any reliable information about the recent events here does not appear to be much greater than anybody else in the world with an Internet connection. I hear a lot of rumors and often those rumors are proven false within hours. The city of Sulaimani itself is quite calm and I haven't noticed any changes that effect my daily life.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

End of the Week

The work week ends on Thursdays here. So I don't have to work on Fridays. The trade off is I have to work Sundays. But, I am glad this week is finally coming to an end. The recent events in Kirkuk and other areas now occupied by the Iraqi military and Popular Mobilization Forces have put a lot of stress on many of my students and colleagues.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The middle of the week

Today I did not have classes. So I was a bit slow moving this morning and did not make the final bus to campus before noon at 9:00 am. Instead I took a taxi to work. Then I got breakfast. As always breakfast consisted of lentil soup and brown bread. It was made more interesting by conversation with a colleague from another department about the recent events here in Kurdistan. Afterward we both adjourned to get big paper cups of tea.

After breakfast I worked a little bit on a journal article due next month. Then I continued to reformat the references on another article. There is nothing more boring. I wish all publications would just go to Chicago style footnotes so I didn't have do so much grunt work to resubmit an article to a different journal after rejection. Finally, I got tired of retyping up references and went to lunch.

For lunch I had Kurdish rice and okra stew. I put ketchup on the rice to make it more edible. I ate with two senior students. They too had much to say about the recent events in Kirkuk.

After lunch I went and graded 46 quizzes for Civ 102.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Kirkuk fell in only 15 hours. This was not something that I had expected. But, I probably should have predicted it if I had been thinking along historical lines rather than hoping history would stop repeating itself. The reasons for the loss of Kirkuk are obvious to anybody that wants to look into the matter so I won't go into it here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

This Morning in Kurdistan

This morning I was really tired when I woke up. The fatigue was probably due to giving three tests yesterday and being on feet the whole day. So I went back to sleep for a couple of hours and caught the noon bus into work. I was supposed to have a meeting this afternoon but it got cancelled.

The big news in Kurdistan today is that this morning Iraqi forces attacked Kirkuk. It is very unlikely that this conflict will have any effect on my day to day life in the near future. But, yesterday in preparation the Iranians closed the border with Kurdistan at the request of Baghdad. That could have a rather negative effect on food prices in the not too distant future. In the mean time I hope that there is a ceasefire in Kirkuk very soon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

New Publication

My article, "Kurds in the USSR, 1917-1956" will be appearing in vol 5, no. 2 (October 2017) of Kurdish Studies. Below I have reproduced the abstract of the article.


Soviet policy towards its Kurds fluctuated and remained fragmented, ambivalent, and inconsistent throughout the existence of the USSR. On one hand the Soviet government provided for the material and cultural development of Kurds in Armenia and Azerbaijan during the 1920s and 1930s. On the other hand in 1937 it deported a number of Kurds from Azerbaijan and in 1944 an even larger number from Georgia to Kazakhstan and Central Asia as special settlers. The Soviet government freed Kurdish special settlers from the legal restrictions limiting their movement and other rights only in April 1956. Former Kurdish special settlers, however, could not return to the Caucasus. The Kurds remained a diaspora group in the USSR without any national territory and only limited cultural institutions. Only in the late 1980s did this situation change.  

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Recent Events In Kurdistan

The recent news in Kurdistan is that flights in and out of Erbil and Suli to destinations outside of Iraq now have to be routed through Baghdad. Getting out is fine since the government of Iraq has waived the visa requirement for foreigners in Kurdistan leaving through Baghdad. Getting back in, however, is now going to require an Iraqi visa if one wishes to fly rather than go overland from Turkey.

The other big news here is that Jalal Talabani, the most important founder and leader of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) political party as well as the first Kurd to have been president of Iraq has died.  Suli was always the center of support for the PUK and Talabani within Kurdistan. There were a lot of students dressed in black with pictures of Talabani pinned to their shirts in mourning on campus yesterday.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Another day in Kurdistan

Today was a bit hectic because I had to finish grading and recording some quizzes, write a test, and finally give two tests. The result is that I missed breakfast and did not consume any solid food until lunch which consisted of rice, beans, kofte, and eggplant and tomato salad. This week I have a lot of non-academic stuff that needs to get done. But, I am hoping that next week I can make some more progress on writing. Things in Sulaimani haven't changed much since the referendum despite a lot of panic in the US media about the situation in Kurdistan.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reader Survey

It looks like my blog has gotten a few readers in the last few weeks. I am not sure if it is actually reviving or not. But, it appears I may again be up to a half a dozen readers. So maybe it is time to do another reader survey. I haven't done one since I was in Ghana, a country I left well over a year ago. So if you ever read this blog leave a comment about what you would like me to write more about.

An extended answer to Rex Gildo on Ethnic Germans in the Red Army

This is a fuller answer to Rex Gildo regarding ethnic Germans from the Volga and other regions of the USSR in the Red Army at the start of the World War II than I gave in the comments. First, of course during the first months after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Soviet citizens of German heritage fought bravely in the Red Army. They were particularly prominent in the defense of Brest on 22-29 June 1941.German soldiers in the Red Army included not only Volga Germans, but ethnic Germans from as far away as Kyrgyzstan. The Soviet government began to remove them from the ranks in July and ordered all of them removed on 8 September 1941. The Stalin regime then conscripted them into the labor army and sent them to places like Bogoslavlag. In total about 30,000 ethnic Germans fought in the Red Army between 21 June and 8 September 1941 before being expelled from the ranks and sent to labor camps as members of the labor army. I go into considerably more detail about the labor army including the mobilization of German Red Army soldiers for forced labor here.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Life in Post-Referendum Kurdistan

I have been busy with work. I have four classes to teach on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays along with office hours on those days. This last week I had meetings as well on Tuesday and Thursday. Which meant I worked ten to eleven hour days from 7:00 am to evening. On Wednesday, however, I just had a short meeting with an honors student. So I slept in late,went to the bank, and then to the bazaar where I got some books. I also finished revising the first set of proofs of a journal article that day. So I can get a lot done if I don't have to teach any classes. That is a huge argument in favor of course release. Life on the ground here in Kurdistan isn't any different for me now than it was before the referendum.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Happenings in Kurdistan (Independence Referendum)

Yesterday was the independence referendum here. The day was rather uneventful in Sulaimani. Although I am worried that prices will go up if the Iranians and Turks close the borders and stop the export of goods to Kurdistan for any length of time. In particular I am wary about the cost of food increasing dramatically as a result of shortages created due to the borders being closed. But, so far there hasn't been any run on food stocks at the local stores yet.

The Persecution of Ethnic Germans in the USSR during World War II

I have now put up a pre-publication version of my article, "The Persecution of Ethnic Germans in the USSR during World War II" on my site. The article was published in The Russian Review, vol. 75, issue 2 (April 2016), pp. 284-303.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Three Days and Counting

The big news here is the independence referendum scheduled for Monday, three days from now. My prediction is that the referendum votes overwhelmingly for independence. What happens after that is anybody's guess. But, I am not worried.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Miracle ;-)

This blog almost never gets any comments because almost nobody ever reads it. But, my post on the Bruce Gilley article in Third World Quarterly got five comments. Of course this wasn't an accident. I deliberately manipulated the result by posting the link to my post at a half a dozen far more popular and more influential blogs. I am sure nobody found it any other way. Also I am positive that with one exception that none of the people that commented or read that post will comment or read any future posts by me on this blog. But, the experiment does show that there isn't yet a total boycott by North American based academics on reading anything I write. That is a step up from my initial hypothesis.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Over half way done with the work week

This week I gave three tests and submitted two journal articles. Last week I only submitted one journal article. This semester I have fewer 102 classes, two instead of three, but I have more students overall. I have a total of 117 students in my four classes. Tomorrow I don't have to teach any classes. However, I fear that most of the day will be used up marking exams instead of writing.

Friday, September 15, 2017

First Thoughts on the Bruce Gilley Controversy

I will probably write something more substantial on my blog about Bruce Gilley's recent article, "The Case for Colonialism" published in Third World Quarterly. But, just a few preliminary thoughts. First, it appears that the editors published it despite the fact that three peer review reports recommended against publication. Second, while a case could be made for reevaluating colonialism he doesn't make it. His examples of places he claims were better under European rule are just about the worst ones possible. He uses Guinea-Bissau which he claims was worse after independence than under the Portuguese and blames it on Amilcar Cabral the leader of the independence movement. Except, Cabral was murdered before Guinea-Bissau achieved independence. So it is hard to see how any failures of the independent state are his fault. Another example he uses is Belgian Congo. Now, most of Congo's time as a modern independent state was under the horrible misrule of Mobutu installed in 1965 with the help of the former colonial rulers and US. But, as bad as he was it is hard to consider it worse than Belgian rule over the Congo where excess premature deaths due to forced labor and other forms of colonial oppression ran into the millions. Another example he uses is Kenya where he explicitly praised the British crushing of the Mau Mau (not Mau as he states in the article) uprising in the 1950s. The suppression of this revolt involved the mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of not just rebels but Kikuyu civilians in concentration camps. Another million plus were confined to enclosed villages. Arbitrary killings and torture of detainees was routine and qualitatively didn't differ from some of the worst abuses in Nazi and Stalinist camps. Again, independent Kenya hasn't had a perfect human rights record. But, it never put hundreds of thousands of people in concentration camps like the British did not long after they had helped hang former German officials for the exact same crimes against Europeans following the defeat of the Nazis. Finally, this isn't a left vs. right debate. It is hard to classify the Mau Mau for instance as any type of leftist movement. Rather, any evaluation of colonialism including the brutal Soviet version in places like Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia needs to come to terms with the actual history of colonial rule.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Update for the week

I have been busy with teaching four classes and using my two free days to take care of administrative work and get some real writing done. Last night there was a faculty get together at Pine House for appetizers. The night before that there was a presentation on US, Turkish, and Iraqi policy towards the upcoming independence referendum here in Kurdistan. The upshot was that nobody other than the Kurds and I guess now the Israelis supports Kurdish independence. I don't think this should matter really. If the Kurds really want an independent state then they should just declare it and start building it regardless of what the US, Russia, Turkey, Iran or anybody else says.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

First Day of Classes Fall 2017

Today I had my first day of classes. In the morning I have two 100 level classes and in the afternoon I have two 300 level classes. So I have four hours of lecturing in total between 8 am and 3:15 pm on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Interestingly enough a number of students have me for both my back to back 300 level classes. I am not sure as an undergrad that I would have wanted two classes by the same professor in the same semester yet alone having them one right after the other.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Mountain

Yesterday after I got back from the bazaar I got a call from a friend to come meet him at a cafe. Once there he asked me if I wanted to go up to see the mountain.  I said, yes. So another guy came and picked us up and drove us to the top of the mountains surrounding the city. There is an open air eatery there where they grill fresh food for you. I had the fish. From the mountain top you can see the whole city of Sulaimani lit up.

Friday, September 08, 2017

This morning's walk

This morning I walked to the bazaar. It took me about 80 minutes. By the time I got to City Star I was pretty thirsty and purchased two liters of water, half of which I drank immediately. At the park in front of the gate to the bazaar I had some tea, some spicy Nepalese noodles, and read about the Kurdish armed struggle against the Baath regime during the 1970s and 1980s. Then I walked to the center of the bazaar and had some more tea. Finally, I walked back to the gate and took a cab home.

Thursday, September 07, 2017


Today I got up early and took the first bus to work at 7 am. Then I wrote 680 words for an article due in mid-November. From 9am to noon  I sat through my first meeting of the semester. I thought I was going to have two meetings today. But, the second one got canceled to be rescheduled later. So I left campus and walked to the mall at about 3pm to try the new fried fish sandwich at B to B. It was really good, especially after I squeezed a whole lemon over the fish.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Getting back in the groove

Yesterday, I went back to the office and started working again. Today, I finished everything I need to get done before Saturday, most notably the creation and revision of this semester's syllabi. So the work front is proceeding forward.

After I decided to stop working yesterday afternoon and started walking home I got a call from a friend to meet him at a cafe near the bazaar. The highlight of the meeting was dinner at an eatery specializing in grilled chicken. The chicken was very moist, tender, and flavorful. It was served with delicious crimson tomatoes.

Monday, September 04, 2017

B to B

Today I walked down to Majidi Mall to the new B to B where some of my friends now work. They used to work at the old B to B at City Center. The new B to B is a lot nicer looking inside than the old one.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Back in Suli

This morning I arrived back in Suli safely. It isn't as hot as I expected it to be. The electricity and wifi are working in my flat. I also managed to for I think the first time ever successfully change the chip in my phone.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Very Pleasant Surprise

It is impossible to tell short of people telling me in the comments or otherwise how many people ever read anything I write here. The site counter does not differentiate between real people and bots. But, I think a few real people actually did read my post to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the deportation of the Volga Germans. That along with the amount of coverage the anniversary got in German and especially Russian language media greatly surprised me. It wasn't that long ago that the event got almost no coverage at all. In the 1990s people like Deborah Lipstadt claimed that to even bring up the issue of ethnic German civilians victimized by Allied powers such as the USSR during World War II was Holocaust denial. Now people like Lipstadt have much less power to silence dissidents.

Monday, August 28, 2017

New Publication coming out in October

I have a journal article with the title "Kurds in the USSR, 1917-1956" scheduled for publication in the October 2017 issue of Kurdish Studies. As the title notes the article is on the history of the Kurdish population in the Soviet Union from the time of the Bolshevik Revolution until the start of Khrushchev's de-Stalinization campaign.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

76 Years Since the Deportation of the Volga Germans

Tomorrow marks the 76th anniversary of the Supreme Soviet decree to deport the ethnic Germans living in the Volga German ASSR, Saratov Oblast, and Stalingrad Oblast to Siberia and Kazakhstan as special settlers. They were dispersed across the vast and freezing expanses of Soviet Asia by a regime whose core identity was “Anti-Fascism.” This regime considered everybody even remotely associated or connected to anything German as a Fascist deserving of the most brutal punishments imaginable without even the pretense of legal process. I have already written the details of the deportation, special settlement regime, and mobilization into the labor army here and at other places. So I want to continue in the vein of considering why so many people consider this crime so unworthy of note whereas similar crimes committed against other people are publicly commemorated in the US on an almost daily basis.

The idea that only certain people are “worthy victims” by virtue of being of the correct ancestry and others such as Germans in the 1940s deserved no human or civil rights has been widespread for around three quarters of a century now. Part of this is that the idea of universal human rights is a political facade with no real content. Instead it is largely an intellectual cover for supporting certain unrelated real politic or ideological positions and often reflects considerable ethno-racial bias. Another part is that the perpetrators of this particular and many other crimes still retains a very strong international ideological credibility among intellectuals due to its “Anti-Fascist” identity. In particular the rhetorical commitment of the Soviet government to “anti-racism” has shielded it from charges of racial discrimination and repression by Western scholars. The only notable exceptions to this defense of the USSR from the claim that it engaged in racial discrimination has been in the cases where such discrimination was against Jews. But, the much greater repression on an ethno-racial basis of ethnic Germans by the Soviet government has been largely ignored or in some cases militantly denied by US based scholars. Volga German children deported in 1941 to die in Siberia are still not considered “worthy victims” by most US intellectuals because they shared distant ethnic ties with the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Korean food in Bishkek

Yesterday, I tried a new Korean place called Seoul Ramen off of Kievskaya. I had the ramen, kimchi, kimbab, a half liter of coke, and a half liter of bottled water for 225 som (about $3.50). The ramen was nice and spicy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Walk through Bishkek

I have decided to once again to try and use this blog as a personal journal. Especially, since I am planning on seriously reducing the time I waste on Face Book. Today, I went for a long walk. I noticed that they had renamed at least part of Manas which used to be Prospekt Mira after Chingiz Aitmatov. They are also building yet another mall on the street. This one is being called Asia Mall. It isn't completed yet. I also went to the other new mall, GUM over on Chui. It is quite nice and modern. But, the only store there that interests me is the book store and even that not very much. The history selection is very small and consists almost entirely of recent popular books from Russia. I am just not a 21st century man geared to constant consumption of new smart phones. I have a dumb Nokia from 2013. Looking at how other people are dependent upon their smart phones I have no intention of ever getting one. I think Mark Fisher was correct in his evaluation of the damage done to society by this particular piece of technology.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Why I Post so Little Here These Days

This blog has been slowly dying for a while. It long ago ceased to get any readers and comments stopped eons before that. But, now I am truly running out of new things to say in the short space of a blog post. I am also coming to the point where I am just going to have to accept that nobody is ever going to agree with me on anything and there isn't anything I can do about it. I never thought I would live to see Stalinism rehabilitated. But, that isn't as surprising as some of the other past horrors such as Dutch colonial atrocities in Indonesia or the Danish slave trade that are now routinely and militantly denied or defended by huge numbers of "progressives." But, there is no convincing these people that their idols whether it is the USSR, Denmark, the Netherlands, or Israel has ever done anything wrong. Unfortunately, these people appear to make up the vast majority of the population posting on the Internet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Short Summary on Racism in the USSR under Stalin

It is impossible to get into the heads of dead dictators and political police chiefs and frankly trying to do so is rather pointless. Intentions and motivations are in the big picture of things rather minor considerations compared to actual actions and their consequences. There is no doubt that the internal Soviet national deportations and imposition of the special settlement regime upon groups such as the Russian Germans, Kalmyks, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars was institutionally racist. The Soviet government singled out these and other groups for differential, unequal, and inferior treatment as collectives based solely on their membership in immutable categories based upon ancestry. It is also obvious that trying to convince people with an ideologically vested interest in seeing the USSR as superior to the US on the issue of race of the above truth is impossible.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reflections on Korea

I was only in Seoul a week so my observations are rather casual. That plus I speak almost no Korean. I purchased a Russian-Korean phrasebook in Bishkek before going. But, it turns out a very large number of Koreans in Seoul, particularly young adults, speak pretty good English. At any rate I found Seoul to be a rather happening place. There is lots of commerce, lots of coffee shops, lots of noodle joints, and overall the place is quite clean and orderly. The freedom and high standard of living I saw in South Korea contrasts sharply with the picture of North Korea I gathered from reading Barbara Demick's, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2009). Demick's collective biography of six North Korean refugees that made it to South Korea by way of China paints an Orwellian society mired in poverty and the type of absurdity that only socialist regimes seem capable of imposing upon their subjects. Reading her account really drives home the radical differences in day to day life that governments can impose upon a single national culture.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quick Update (June trip to Seoul)

Okay, I have been very lax in updating this blog this summer. Mostly, I have been in Bishkek visiting my family. But, I did make a week long trip to Seoul, Republic of Korea, to deliver a paper on the 1937 deportation of the Koryo-Saram (Russian Koreans) at the Association for Asian Studies conference at Korea University. The food in Korea was absolutely fantastic. There is nothing quite like cold buckwheat noodle soup for breakfast served with kimchi, rice with red beans, and dried sea weed. Fortunately, there are lots of cheap and pretty good Korean cafes here in Bishkek. Unfortunately, there are none in Sulaimani.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017


I am currently in Kyrgyzstan visiting family again as I do every summer. I'll be back in Kurdistan in September. In the meantime I don't have a huge amount of stuff that has to be done like last summer. I have to finish a paper for a conference in Korea at the end of this month and that is about it. I got new glasses for the first time in over a decade last week and at $122 they were a great bargain. I can see my beautiful daughter much clearer now.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

On the Tuvel Affair

Regarding the Tuvel controversy there is something that I have not seen brought up. That is the difference between ethnicity and race. Ethnicity is often racialized and the term ethno-racial is a useful one. But, such racialization is dependent upon the prevailing legal and social norms in a particular time and place. To be succinct, an ethnic group is defined by culture and membership is partly voluntary. More importantly it is possible to assimilate in and out of ethnic groups over generations. Race is in contrast defined by ancestry or lineage regardless of culture or individual preference and is imposed from outside either by the state or a larger society. Assimilation into and out of racial groups is generally quite difficult and almost always requires actual genetic mixing. However, a given group can be ethnic in one context and racial in another. To give a simple example, Jews were classified as a racial group in Nazi Germany. They are an ethnic group in the US today. Under this dichotomy it is quite possible for somebody to change ethnicity through acculturation and assimilation. It is certainly possible to bring up your children in an ethnicity other than the one you are born into. It is not generally possible to bring them up as another race. This gets confused by the fact that ethnicity can be racialized or deracialized by the state and society. So "transracialism" except in the case of people "passing" and their descendents being accepted into the new group isn't really possible. But, assimilation into ethnicities that had been previously racialized is possibe. The problem with the one example given by Tuvel is that Black is still a racial and not yet an ethnic category in the US.

Followup on Question

In relation to the last post, Beria's official justification for the deportation of Turks, Kurds, and Hemshins from Georgia in November 1944.
In response to the resolution of the State Committee for Defense, the NKVD undertook to resettle from the border regions of the Georgian SSR, Turks, Kurds and Khemshins. A significant part of the population in the border regions had family relations in Turkey, had been occupied in smuggling, displayed a desire to emigrate and served Turkish intelligence organs as a source for recruiting spies and planting bandit groups.
Telegram to Stalin, Molotov, and Malenkov from Beria on 28 November 1944 reproduced in N.F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat'": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: "Druzhba narodov", 1992), doc. 5, pp. 155-156.


In November 1944 the Soviet government accused nearly 9,000 Kurds from Georgia including women, children, old men, Red Army soldiers, and Communist Party members of essentially being Turkish intelligence agents and deported them to confined internal exile and forced labor in Central Asia for 12 years. Despite this event a surprisingly large number of Kurdish intellectuals remain communists sympathetic to the Soviet experiment even today. Anybody have any explanation for this seeming incongruence?


On Thursday I finished classes for the semester. Now I just have to give and grade finals. In the last two weeks I also sent out three journal articles for consideration. This summer I hope I can be more productive than last year. Moving to Kurdistan and getting extensive dental work done used up all my time and energy last summer. This year I need to get new glasses, but it should overall be easier.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Amna Suraka

Today I went to the Amna Suraka prison and museum. The political prison designed by the East Germans specialized in the torture of Kurds accused of having contact with the Peshmerga during the later years of the Baathist dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. The tour takes you through the various prison cells and torture rooms. The blood has been washed off the walls and floors. But, they have preserved the charcoal writings by prisoners on the cell walls. There are also halls devoted to the victims of the Anfal genocide in 1988 and the mass exodus to the Turkish border in 1991. May all the victims rest in peace.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


Today I got up at 5:00 am. But, fortunately I went to bed at 9:00 pm so I got enough sleep. I took the 7:00 am bus to work and ate a breakfast of lentil soup, ayran, and scrambled eggs. Then I helped another faculty member proctor a test. That was immediately followed by proctoring my own test with the help of two upper class men. Then I had a lecture on the failure of socialism in Africa. Now I am on lunch break. After lunch I have to proctor another two tests. Then I can go home.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Still Here

At this point I am sure this blog has no readers other than my parents left. But, I feel compelled to keep the thing alive just out of sheer stubborness.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Recent Reading

I thought Stalin's construction of socialism causing the premature and excess death of over 15 million people was near the top of inhumanity by Marxist regimes. But, I just finished reading Frank Dikotter's Mao's Great Famine (2010) and he puts a credible estimate of 45 million premature excess deaths in China due to the GLF alone from 1958-1962. A lot of the book goes into detailed descriptions of how these people died and how others managed to survive. Overall a very depressing book.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Day Off

Today I took a taxi to the bank and then strolled to the bazaar. At the bazaar I had a falafel roll and ayran for lunch. Then I walked to a money exchange, a tea vendor, and the book store that carries English language titles. After buying a book I went to two more tea vendors before taking a cab back home.

73 Years since the Deportation of the Balkars

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the deportation of the Balkars by the NKVD to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. I don't have a lot new to add so here are some posts from previous years.

71st anniversary

70th anniversary

65th anniversary

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Happy International Women's Day

March 8th is International Women's Day. I have the day off for other reasons. But, after living in Kyrgyzstan I am always shocked at how little attention this holiday gets outside of the former Soviet bloc. In Africa and the Middle East it doesn't seem to register any more than in the US.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Nepali Food

Today I took a cab to the bazaar to get something to eat from one of the Nepali stands outside the park that set up on Fridays. I had two large vegetable samosas smothered in spicy red sauce. It cost me a total of 1000 IQD.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Chinese Food

Yesterday I ate at the new Chinese place everybody here is raving about. It was pretty good. I had spring rolls, fried rice, pepper beef, kung pao chicken, and some sort of cabbage dish. I had the left overs for breakfast this morning.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming

I am quite sure that most of my regular readers (ie my parents) prefer my posts about life and work in Sulaimani to those linking to my work on the Soviet deportation of the Chechens and Ingush or the CIA's role in removing Nkrumah from power in Ghana. So I am returning to my posts on the mundane experience of my personal life. This week went well. I covered the Atlantic slave trade in Civ 102 and incorporated my personal visits to the slave castles of Elmina and Cape Coast in Ghana into my lectures. I try and do this as much as possible because I have found that it helps the students relate to the topic much more if they are able to link my first hand accounts with the text. It might be my best pedagogical trick.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fifty One Years Since the Overthrow of Nkrumah

On 24 February 1966 the Ghanaian army and police overthrew the Convention People's Party government of Kwame Nkrumah. This coup was one of a series of military seizures of power in Africa and other Non-Aligned states such as Indonesia in 1965 to take place in the 1960s. My book chapter, "Nkrumah, the Cold War, the 'Third World', and the US Role in the 24 February 1966 Coup" from Bea Lundt and Christoph Marx, eds., Kwame Nkrumah: A Controversial African Visionary (Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016) provides a summary based upon declassified US State Department and CIA documents. A draft manuscript of the chapter can be found at here. Feel free to leave any comments about the chapter or the coup in general below this post.

73 Years Since the Deportation of the Chechens and Ingush

Yesterday was the 73rd anniversary of the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush from their Caucasian homeland to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. I have put up a draft on of an article I wrote for the Forum of EthnoGeoPolitics a couple years ago dealing with the subject. The title of the article is "Scourging the Caucasus: The Soviet Deportation of the Karachais, Chechens, Ingush, and Balkars in 1943-1944." The final version of the article appears in the Forum of EthnoGeoPolitics, vol. 3, no. 1, Spring 2015, pp. 51-72. A slightly different draft of the article by itself  without the surrounding articles can be found at the following  link. Feel free to leave any comments regarding the article here

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Last night at a little before ten the electricity cut out. Then I heard a very loud knocking on my door. It turned out that a flat on the floor above me was on fire and I needed to evacuate the building. So I spent the better part of an hour in the cold rain with no coat until they cleared the lower floors and I could wait in the dean's living room. I am told the building caught on fire last year as well.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The week so far

Yesterday I taught four classes. Today I had no classes. Instead I had to go to the bank to take care of something. Getting there involved some traffic. But, getting from the bank to the university was like moving through molasses the traffic was so bad. I think the rain may have contributed to the traffic.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Today I actually got a couple of concrete accomplishments done. I called my mother. I did laundry. Finally, I ventured out to Majidi Mall to purchase the local equivalent of Draino to fix a slow sink in the bathroom. Before purchasing the corrosive I had a burger and then a glass of tea. Of course it is impossible to avoid students if you don't leave the city. So sure enough one stopped me in front of the tea stand and asked me some questions. My answer to all of them was to read the syllabus. At home I carefully followed the instructions on the corrosive and successfully unclogged the sink without damaging anything.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Double Feature

Yesterday I took the 8:00 am bus to work. I then ate breakfast and taught two classes. For lunch I had rice and shish tavuk, Then I taught another two classes followed by a departmental meeting. I took a taxi back home stuffed with four of us from the department. Then I went over to B to B and had a Hot and Spicy Pizza, lemon and mint drink, and finally apple narghile while reading James Lee Burke's Light of the World.

This morning I had a video chat with my wife and daughter. Then I took a taxi to work. There was an 11:30 am faculty meeting being held by the new dean of faculty. After the meeting I had Greek mousakka for lunch and then retreated to my office to read 92 pages for tomorrow's classes. I took the 4:30 bus home and ended up going to City Centre to get Texas Chicken (Church's) for dinner.

Monday, February 06, 2017


I don't have any classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Today I took the noon bus into work, dropped off my coat in my office, and then ate lunch. Yes, lunch consisted of rice, chicken, cabbage, and soup again. The president didn't join me today, but he did say hello as I was finishing up eating. I then went back to my office and sent an email, read some for tomorrow's classes, and then took the 5:30 pm bus home.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

First Day of Classes in 2017

This morning the power cut out while I was in the shower leaving me in total darkness. It still had not returned when I got on the 7:30 am bus to go to work. As usual I had lentil soup, bread, and eggs for breakfast. I then went to my office and checked my email. After that I taught my first two classes of the day. I then ate lunch. Again I had rice, chicken, beans, and cabbage. After lunch I returned to my office to hold my daily office hour. No students showed up. I spent the hour browsing Google Scholar looking for something interesting that might help me in future writing projects. I did not find anything useful. I then went and taught my remaining two classes. After class I wandered around for an hour talking to students and had an order of fries before taking the 5:30 pm bus home.

Saturday, February 04, 2017


This morning the entire building had no power. That meant no electricity and no running water. Finally, after two there was about 20 minutes of electrical generation, enough to get sufficient water to use the toilet and take a shower. Sustained electric supply only returned after 3:30.

Friday, February 03, 2017


The weekend here is Friday and Saturday so I didn't have work today. In fact the campus is closed on Fridays. So today I went to Majidi Mall and had a burger at Bees. They have the best burger I have found in Suli and at 3500 IQD, one of the cheapest. They toast the bun, have grilled onions, and thousand island sauce and tomatoes on them. Then I walked around the mall for a while. Eventually, I went to the supermarket in the basement and purchased some chocolate. Then I walked some more before having a big glass of tea and taking a cab home.


Yesterday I took the 9 am bus to work. Then I had a typical Kurdish breakfast of lentil soup and bread. Then I drank some strong Kurdish tea and checked at the printing office if my syllabi for Sunday were ready. They were not. But, I was diplomatic and asked, "Is it possible that the syllabi I ordered printed yesterday for my Sunday morning class will be ready this afternoon?" They said, yes and in point of fact they were. So that worked out very well. Then I checked my email and did some reading until lunch time. For lunch I had Kurdish rice, cabbage salad, and Kurdish meatballs in gravy. Again, I was joined by the university president. He is quite a likeable guy. After lunch we had a departmental meeting and then I showed my office mate the new library on Kurdish history I started over break. I took the 3:30 pm bus home, changed my shoes, and took a cab to Majidi Mall to change money. After I had exchanged dollars for Iraqi Dinar I ran into the Dean of Faculty. He invited me to join him and his family at Pizza Hut for dinner. After dinner I took a short nap and then went to B to B to watch Ghana lose to Cameroon 2 to 0.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Another short work day

Today I took the noon bus into work. Then I had lunch at the cafeteria and the president of the university joined me. This is the third time this has happened here and it is a radical difference from the last two universities where I worked before. There the idea of the head of the university having a casual lunch with me was inconceivable. As always it was a pleasure to talk to the current president of AUIS. After I finished my shish tavuk and borek I went to my office and finished editing syllabi. I then went upstairs to get a mug of tea and talked to a couple of colleagues before finally taking the 2:30 pm bus home.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


I am going to revive the idea of this blog as a personal journal even though that interests very few people, simply because those are the posts that I enjoy rereading. An audience of one is of course infinitely greater than an audience of zero. My life is pretty boring, however, it is nice to be able to see what I have been doing in past years. So starting today I am going to try and again redirect this blog in the direction of being an electronic diary.

Today after I woke up I had a brief video chat with my wife and daughter in Kyrgyzstan. Then I took a taxi to work. There I had a typical Kurdish lunch of rice, beans (black eyed peas) in tomato sauce, and chicken. Anwar, who is both the head cook and frequently the server has taken to only speaking to me in Kurdish. I think Steve told him to do this last semester. In fact I think Steve told a lot of people this. At any rate the meal was adequate, but nothing unusual.

After lunch I wandered over to the academic building. I stopped to talk to Alan for a bit before heading up to my office. In my office I finished most of the editing on my syllabi for this semester which starts on Sunday. I will put the final touches on them and get them printed tomorrow. I then took the bus back home.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Recent Doings

The last couple of days I have been going into work on the 9:00 am bus and coming back on the 4:30 pm one. I haven't been super productive. But, I have gotten some revision done on my World History since 1945 syllabus. I have also made some progress on my article on Kurds in the USSR. Although it is still coming along slowly. But, 200 to 500 words a day is a lot faster than zero words a day. I also established a small library on Kurdish history in my office with a sign and everything. Granted it only has six books in it now. I aim to more than double that after I finish reading the other Kurdish history books I have at my flat.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Trying to Follow Kurdish Political History

The political history of Kurdistan starts to get complicated in 1975 after the PUK splits from the KDP. It starts to get really complicated after the 1991 Gulf War. From 1992 on trying to follow all the factions in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria and their various international alliances gets progressively more difficult. The entire decade of the 1990s was one of shifting relations between the KDP, PUK, IMK, PKK, KDPI, Baghdad, Ankara, Tehran, Damascus, Paris, and Washington DC.

Blogging in 2017

Based on the number of comments this blog gets and some other information this blog has exactly three human readers of which two are my parents. I suspect this is because the topics I blog about are of no interest to anybody else other than us four. I know all writing aims at niche markets, but three people is the type of audience private letters rather than public blogs garner. There is no helping it, however. It has been this way for years and nothing can be done to change it.

Friday, January 06, 2017

A Partial English Language Bibliography on Kurds

Aziz, Mahir A., The Kurds of Iraq: Nationalism and Identity in Iraqi Kurdistan (London: I.B. Tauris, 2015).

Bengio, Ofra, The Kurds of Iraq: Building  a State Within a State (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2012).

Bulloch, John and Morris, Harvey, No Friends But the Mountains: The Tragic History of the Kurds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Edmonds, C.J., Kurds, Turks and Arabs: Politics, Travel and Research in North-Eastern Iraq: 1919-1925 (London: Oxford University Press, 1957).

Jabar, Felah A. and Dawod, Hosham, eds., The Kurds: Nationalism and Politics (London: SAQI, 2006).

Jwaideh, Wadie, The Kurdish Ntional Movement: Its Origins and Development (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2006).

McDowall, David, A Modern History of the Kurds, Third Revised Edition, (London, I.B. Tauris, 2007).

Natali, Denise, The Kurds and the State: Evolving Identity in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005).

Phillips, David L., The Kurdish Spring: A New Map of the Middle East (London: Transaction Publishers, 2015).

Randal, Jonathan C., After such Knowledge. What Forgiveness?: My Enounters with Kurdistan (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997).

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

A Brief Note on Kurds in Comparative Context in the Last Century

The Kurds are unusual among people struggling for self determination during the late 20th Century in a couple of aspects. First, they ended up divided among five different states instead of concentrated in only one. Second, after 1946 they ceased to be under the rule of any of the European colonial powers. Instead they came under the rule of independent states engaging in nationalizing rather than imperial projects of state building. Projects that had the tacit support of an international community that strongly opposed changing the political boundaries of existing post-colonial states, especially by armed force. Thus the Kurds had two distinct disadvantages that national liberation movements in places like Algeria, Kenya, and Angola did not.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Easing Back Into Work

Today I returned to the office for the first time since before Christmas. I did not get a huge amount of work done. But, I did get some done. First, I downloaded a bunch of files I had on my laptop at home on to a pen drive and then uploaded them onto my work laptop. Then I wrote up a peer review for a journal article that I had been putting off. I then actually wrote 500 words on the article dealing with Kurds in the USSR I have been making slow progress on since August. It is currently up to 3000 words. Now that I don't have classes for a while I hope to be able to finish it. Finally, I tried out my new "I Love Slemani" tea mug I bought especially for work. At home I use one that has a Kurdish flag on it and says "I Love Kurdistan."

Kurds in the Red Army and Partisans during WWII

I am not sure if it is pure coincidence or some expression of a deeply rooted cultural trait. But, Kurds in the USSR during World War II seemed to have the same two military specializations that they later demonstrated in Iraq so well. The first is marksmanship. A lot of Kurds in the Red Army served as snipers. The second is the ability to organize guerrilla organizations. Kurds organized and led a number of partisan detachments that fought against the Nazis during World War II not only in the USSR but, even one outside Paris.