Monday, September 01, 2014

On Kazakh Statehood

Of course there were forms of statehood in Kazakhstan run by the indigenous population before the territory finally became completely absorbed into the Russian Empire in the 19th century. But, the modern Kazakh state is a direct successor of the Kazakh SSR formalized in 1936. The actual borders of the Kazakh SSR had already been finalized in 1932 when it was still the Kazakh ASSR (formed in 1924) and the Karakalpak Autonomous Oblast was detached from Kazakhstan and made part of the RSFSR. Four years later in 1936 the Karakalpak ASSR was transferred from the RSFSR to the Uzbek SSR. The creation of Kazakhstan as a modern nation state starts in 1920 with the creation of the Kirgizstan ASSR in its territory. At that time the Soviet government like the earlier Tsarist regime still wrongly referred to the Kazakhs as Kirgiz and the Kyrgyz as Kara-Kirgiz. This first republic did not encompass much of the southern and eastern territory of modern day Kazakhstan including the area around Almaty. These territories only became part of Kazakhstan with the formation of the Kazakh ASSR in 1924. These national territories, the Kirgizstan ASSR, Kazakh ASSR, and most of all the Kazakh SSR had many of the trappings of the modern nation state, although they lacked the key attribute of political independence. The Kazakh SSR had national borders, national symbols, a national history, and a national cadre of leaders. By 1991 the only thing it lacked to make it a functioning state was political independence. The state structures inherited by the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1991 were all entirely constructed during the Soviet era and drew almost no influence at all from earlier forms of Kazakh statehood. The creation of the current Kazakh state and indeed the transformation of the Kazakh people into a modern nation along European lines only occurred in the 20th century. So while one can clearly point to earlier Kazakh state formations perhaps as early as the 16th century, these forms of statehood were very different from the modern nation state that is the model for present day Kazakhstan. They were not models or influences for the later development of Kazakh statehood under Soviet rule. Kazakh statehood as it stands today is a project that the Soviet government embarked on starting in 1920 and as such is relatively new.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thoughts on Gaza

Insurgencies have an advantage over their opponents in that they do not have to actually militarily defeat them in order to win their political objectives. They just have to not completely lose long enough and they will eventually win. They can in fact militarily lose every single battle and still win the war as happened with the communist victory against the US in Vietnam. Insurgencies can not be defeated by purely military means unless one wishes to commit complete genocide and kill nearly every last single member of the population in revolt. But, this rarely happens, especially in the 20th and 21st  centuries. Even the French in Algeria and the British in Kenya could not go this far. So if there is no political solution acceptable to the colonized population then counter-insurgency can not succeed. A situation develops where the occupier will face sustained guerrilla and terrorist resistance until they give up and go home. Military solutions short of near total annihilation of the occupied population can at best delay such an inevitable defeat. Even total ethnic cleansing like the Soviet deportation of the Chechens can not ultimately succeed if most of the population physically survives as the revival of Chechen armed resistance in the 1990s demonstrates. The Israelis, however, seem to have copied every stupid mistake the French made in Algeria from 1954 to 1959 with even greater incompetence than the original model. So rather than buying time as the Soviet and later Russian actions have done in Chechnya, the Israelis have merely brought themselves closer to ceasing to exist as a state. Even at their most oafish not even the apartheid government in South Africa was as stupid as the current Israeli leadership. Until a few years ago I believed that it was possible for the Israelis to still reach a South African style solution with the Palestinians. The possibility of a two state solution permanently ceased almost two decades ago. But, now after the latest Israeli assault on Gaza which is a clear political victory for the Palestinians, I believe we have entered a phase where the end outcome will look a lot more like Algeria's "the suitcase or the coffin" than South Africa's "one man, one vote." It will still be many years before there is a Free Palestine from the River to the Sea, but I now believe it will happen in my lifetime.

Another Salaita Petition Update

I have sent another 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.  

67.  Eric Schuster, Loyola University Chicago
68. David Ludden, New York University
69. David Stein, Queens College
70. Rececca E. Karl, New York University
71. Isaac Curtis University of Pittsburgh
72. Manu Goswami, New York University
73. Daniel J. Walkowitz, New York University
74. Ruth Mostern, University of California, Merced
75. Yanni Kotsonis, Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia
76. Karen Graubart, University of Norte Dame
77. Ada Ferrer, New York University
78. David Prochaska, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
79. Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, New York University
80. Alan Bachers, Neurofeedback Foundation
81. Jefferey Wasserstrom, University of California Irvine
82. Heather Vrana, Southern Connecticut State University
83. Zach Sell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
84. Elizabeth Bishop, Texas State University
85. Matthew Countryman, University of Michigan
86. Gregory Kaster, Gustavus Adolphus College
87. Daniel Wickberg, University of Texas at Dallas
88. Jason Fossell, Harris-Stowe State University
89. Roxanne Dunbar-Oritz, California State University East Bay
90. Gabriel Winant, Yale University
91. Raymond Haberski, IUPUI
92. Eric Caplan, Independent Scholar
93. Erik Loomis, University of Rhode Island

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.