Thursday, August 28, 2014

The 73rd Anniversary of the Deportation of the Volga Germans

It has been 73 years since the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued Ukaz 21-160 ordering the deportation of the Volga Germans. This decree put an official stamp of approval on the decision by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the Council of Peoples's Commissars (SNK) to deport all of the ethnic Germans from the Volga German ASSR, Saratov Oblast, and Stalingrad Oblast. The earliest evidence for the origins of this initial decree is a letter dated 25 August 1941 from Beria to the Central Committee of the CPSU referring to a draft of the decree issued by the CPSU and SNK on 26 August 1941. The sudden decision to deport them thus took the Volga Germans by surprise. Despite the claims by the Soviet government that the Volga Germans were harboring "tens of thousands of diversionists and spies", the NKVD had only managed to find two spies among the entire population in the months between the Nazi invasion of the USSR and 10 August 1941. Ukaz 21-160 was published in both German and Russian on 30 August 1941. The deportation of the Volga Germans and the subsequent liquidation of the Volga German ASSR on 7 September 1941 clearly violated the 1936 USSR, 1937 RSFSR, and of course the 1937 Volga German ASSR constitutions. The actual deportation of the Volga Germans took place between 3 September 1941 and 20 September 1941 and was extremely brutal. It was followed up by the subsequent deportation of ethnic German communities throughout western regions of the USSR to Kazakhstan and Siberia. The 28th of August is observed throughout the world by people of Russian German heritage as the day to commemorate the deportations and later repressions inflicted upon them by the Stalin regime during World War II.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Po Po Arrested My Tro Tro Driver

Today on the way to work the police arrested my tro tro driver. That meant everybody had to get off the tro tro and find an alternate means of getting to their destinations. I wasn't too far from work, about an extra twenty minute walk, so I decided to make the rest of the trip on foot. Most other people seemed to have decided to catch another tro tro going towards Accra. But, I didn't want to pay the extra money to get another ride when walking was an option. This is the first time I have ever been on public transportation and the driver of the vehicle has actually been arrested by the police. Usually they let them off with a "fine."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Partial Victory

It looks like we will at least get our book and research allowance for last year, 2013-2014 before October. This is a good start. But, that is money they have owed us for a full year now and they are not paying interest and penalties as they should be required to do. They also owe us this year's book and research allowance and their contractual obligation is to pay it before the start of the academic year not months after it has finished as they have been doing. Between overseeing the destruction of the cedi and systematically refusing to pay its contractual obligations to public employees I will be surprised if the NDC can hold on to power after the next elections in 2016. Of course stranger things have happened and people routinely vote against their own economic interests in Ghana and elsewhere.

Monday, August 25, 2014

UTAG Update

The strike has still not ended. Currently, I am not sure if I will be teaching classes again on Friday or not. But, it is not looking likely. The university may reopen on Wednesday. However, that in itself will not effect the strike by UTAG. That will only end when the issue of our outstanding book and research allowance payment has been resolved. The government is still refusing to pay our book and research allowance. UTAG has now taken the government to court over the issue. The linked story has the most recent statement by the UTAG leadership over the strike and the continued nonpayment of our book and research allowance by the government. Since the book and research allowance is calculated in US dollars rather than the rapidly plummeting cedi, it is the only part of our compensation that will be worth anything at all soon. This is probably the main reason why the government wants to take it away from us.

Signatures for the Salaita Statement

I keep getting a couple of new signatures each day, but not a lot. So as long as they keep coming I will send them off to Chancellor Wise every Friday.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Snakes Alive, Snakes Alive, 1974, Australia, Jazz / Rock, ...





A musical interlude.

75 Years Since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Seventy five years ago the USSR and Nazi Germany carved up Europe into spheres of influence. Ultimately, the two dictatorships apportioned Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Moldova, and eastern Poland to the USSR and western Poland to Berlin. This pact directly led to the Nazi invasion of western Poland on 1 September 1939 and the later Soviet occupations of eastern Poland, the Baltic states, Moldova, and eastern Finland. The total human costs from the initial Soviet occupation of these regions from 17 September 1939 when the USSR invaded eastern Poland until the Nazi attack on the USSR on 22 June 1941 is still unknown, but I did this partial calculation five years ago. It shows a mortality rate of 50% by 1 October 1945 for deportees from the Baltic States and Moldova during 1940 and 1941.

Here is the post I put up last year on this date.

Life in a time of Cholera

Although Ghana has managed to avoid Ebola for the most part so far, Accra has been suffering from a cholera epidemic since June. So far more than 5000 people have gotten sick and 67 have died. I have been trying to avoid eating food off the street since I got back. Although I have eaten a few roasted plantains straight off the charcoal, I figured they were safe. This has led to a change in my diet. Instead of buying jollof or waakeye from street vendors I have been eating dinner at home. Sometimes I have Afromie. But, a lot of times I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat since they are cheap and easy to make. I also eat them for breakfast. For lunch I usually eat at the dining hall at Akuafo and have jollof, plantains, salad, beans, sauce, and spaghetti. I can still get a big vegetarian lunch there for under 4 GH. I figure Akuafo is a lot safer than the vendors on the street. Last night I purchased a pepperoni pizza at a place down the block from me for 19 GH. It was pretty good. I ate three fourths of it last night for dinner and the remaining quarter I put in my fridge and ate cold for breakfast this morning.

Friday, August 22, 2014

At least the weather is nice here

Even though the economy of Ghana is rapidly disintegrating, it is still a beautiful day today. No matter what happens they can't take my African sun away from me. On the other hand I am not a plant and can not eat solar radiation. Like other members of the animal kingdom I require a different form of nourishment. One that is getting increasingly expensive to acquire as the Ghanaian Cedi continues to lose value.

Salaita Petition Update

I have sent a supplemental list of signatures attached to the original statement to Chancellor Wise. I have reproduced it below.

Dear Chancellor Wise: 

As members of history departments from around the world we are deeply concerned by the recent decision to prevent Steven Salaita from assuming his appointment to the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. We believe that the university's revocation of an already accepted offer due to the tone and content of political statements on social media about recent events in Gaza is a violation of academic freedom and sets a very negative precedent for intellectual diversity in academia. Until such time as the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign decides to allow Dr. Salaita to take the position he was offered and accepted we refuse to participate in any events on its campus including academic conferences. Listed institutions are for identification purposes. The individual scholars signing this petition represent only their own personal views and not those of their employers.  

Sincerely, 
56. James Gustafon, Indiana State University
57. Andrew Needham, New York University
58. Grey Anderson, Yale University
59. Mark Lause, University of Cincinnati
60. Mathew Payne, Emory University
61. Nabil Al-Tikriti, University of Mary Washington
62. Steve Tamari, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
63. Elizabeth Irwin, Columbia University
64. Pamela Voekel, University of Georgia
65. Andrew Feffer, Union College
66. Christopher Ebert, Brooklyn College of CUNY

Will Ghana go the full Zimbabwe?

The rapid immolation of the value of the cedi this year is now starting to inflict significant pain upon the population of Ghana. In Kumasi a number of businesses report that sales have slumped by over 50% as a result. Even here in Accra children that once had enough to eat are now going hungry as a result of the loss of purchasing power due to the collapse of the cedi. There is a real possibility that the cedi which has plunged from 2.2 to the dollar in December 2013 to 3.9 to the dollar today may go to 10 cedis to the dollar before the end of the year.  After that it is possible that the cedi will go the full Zimbabwe and become replaced by other currencies due to the force of the market rather than a more gentle switch to a more stable currency as happened in Ecuador.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Finally it is being discussed (Getting rid of the Cedi and going to the Dollar)

The long term solution to Ghana's economic problems are to create a manufacturing base. This article has an excellent analysis of the long term economic problems faced by Ghana as a result of exporting only cheap raw materials and importing expensive manufactured goods in a continuation of economic patterns established during colonial rule. But, in the short to medium term the Cedi is collapsing much faster than any possible industrialization or even agricultural import substitution can possibly be implemented. One possible solution I have advocated on the basis of its success in Ecuador has been to get rid of the Cedi and adopt the US Dollar as the national currency of Ghana. Now, an economist at Yale University has also started supporting this position. While there is opposition to this position among the elite in Ghana, such a change would be overall positive for the economic situation of the country as a whole.

I got this comment on an older blog post yesterday

Otto,
I am glad to see that an accomplished academic is still giving light to the Soviet deportation of minority groups. Too little is known about Stalinist atrocities in the west. I have gathered as much information about the Kalmyk deportations as I could that was published in English. 
I am a Kalmyk born in Germany from the refugees of the revolution that escaped into Eastern Europe and emigrated to the US in 1951 at the age of six.
The true stories of our travels and travails are few as many of the elders hid their roles during WWII to be able to emigrate to the US and have since died off.
Please keep up your blog and publications. Your course syllabi and notes have been very useful to me. 
Thank You,Basan Nembirkow