Monday, September 28, 2009

Survey Reports that the Majority of Central Asian Youth are Pro-Stalin

Vechernii Bishkek had an interesting article this Friday. It seems that a group called "Evraziiskii Monitor" did a survey of 20 to 35 year old respondents throughout the former Soviet Union and the Baltic States on their opinions of various historical figures. A full 61% of the youth in Kyrgyzstan had a favorable opinion of Stalin versus only 35% in Russia. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan fell in between Kyrgyzstan and Russia with 53% of young people having a positive view of Stalin. In contrast to the young peoples' enthusiastic support of Stalin only 27% of the youth in Kyrgyzstan had a favorable opinion of Andrei Sakharov. So much for inculcating a democratic political culture in Kyrgyzstan.


Vechernii Bishkek 25 September 2009, p. 15.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Genocide and Intent

The issue of genocide is one that has suffered from a severe narrowing of Raphael Lemkin’s original conceptions and constricted interpretations of the already watered down and politically deformed Genocide Treaty. At the heart of the matter is the claim that instances where deliberate state actions which directly lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of people belonging to racialized ethnic groups are not genocide because the element of “intent” is missing. In the case of the USSR this has led to Arseny Roginsky one of the founders of Memorial in Moscow to remark with regards to Stalinist terror that there are only victims and no crimes. The mass deaths caused by Stalin's deportation of whole nationalities are thus portrayed as purely accidental with no moral or legal responsibility accruing to the Soviet government for causing what were the inevitable consequences of their deliberate actions. Of course intent in such cases is always interpreted in an extremely narrow manner which makes it a synonym for motive or goal. That is the primary purpose of an action must be the extermination of a targeted group and that actions which inevitably have the effect of killing off large portions of specific nationalities undertaken for other reasons thus do not constitute genocide. This interpretation of the word intent is very different from the meaning of the word in Anglo-American common law. Under this definition it is not necessary for death to be the sole object of an action for it to be intentional. Rather it is only necessary for death to be the foreseeable consequence of a voluntary action for it to legally count as intentional. It is quite obvious that moving an entire national population numbering hundreds of thousands of people and consisting mostly of children, the elderly and the disabled in the middle of war time to desolate deserts and frozen taiga will result in a large percentage of them dying. This is exactly what happened during World War Two with the various nationalities deported by Stalin.

The defense that the deportation orders called for the local Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Siberian and Uzbek authorities to provide food, housing and other necessities for the deportees does not morally or legally absolve the Stalin regime of these deaths. The regime knew on the basis of previous deportations that the local authorities in Siberia and Central Asia did not have sufficient resources to provide enough housing, food, clothing and medicine to the deportees to prevent a large minority of them from dying. Rather these provisions appear to have been put in the deportation orders as a way of deflecting responsibility for any problems arising due to the deportations such as the spread of contagious diseases, housing shortages, and unemployment from the central government in Moscow to the regional authorities. Indeed in every single case the local authorities repeatedly reported a severe lack of food, housing, clothing, shoes, soap and medicine and consequently mass deaths due to malnutrition and disease among the deportees shortly after the first trainloads arrived.

FLG also has a post on his blog to which I have posted a comment. If anybody else picks up this discussion and links to me please let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Publication in Journal of Genocide Research

The new special topic issue (Volume 11 issue 2 and 3) of the Journal of Genocide Research dealing with New Perspectives on Soviet Mass Violence is now out. It includes the article I co-wrote with Eric J. Schmaltz and Ronald J. Vossler, "'In our hearts we felt the sentence of death': Ethnic German recollections of mass violence in the USSR, 1928-1948," pp. 323-354. The abstract of the article is reproduced below.


This article seeks to examine the mass violence unleashed by Joseph Stalin and his regime against the USSR's ethnic Germans. It endeavors to comprehend how Soviet policies of repression progressed and intensified to the extreme detriment of this nationality group. It covers the tumultuous period between 1928 and 1948, when Soviet policies overall coarsened considerably, from the implementation of Stalin's First Five-Year Plan to the government decree banishing several Soviet peoples in their virtual entirety, including the ethnic Germans, to “eternal” exile east of the Urals. This process shifted from class-based reasons to ethnic ones as the 1930s progressed. The increasingly racialized nature of Soviet mass violence targeted the ethnic Germans as a large diaspora community ethnically linked to Nazi Germany, a country perceived as an ideological and military threat. During Stalin's war against the Soviet countryside in the early 1930s, ethnic German villagers at times felt compelled to conduct mass protests and even revolts against the authorities. Meanwhile, both an emerging ethnic German elite and ordinary German farmers and workers wrote about worsening conditions under Stalin. Besides petitioning the Soviet government, they delivered letters and various writings to friends and relatives by way of a vast underground network at home and abroad, and their relatives sometimes answered in return. A growing body of Soviet archival records and academic literature treating the Stalinist period has generally validated and expanded upon what the ethnic group as early as the 1920s and 1930s had exposed about mass terror under Stalin's regime.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Very Cool Movie Credits

If you want to see something supremely cool go to the credits of Under Jakob's Ladder and scroll down until you reach the position of Historical Consultants. Then scroll down to the part where it says, "The Producers Gratefully Acknowledge..." I am listed not once, but twice in the credits of a movie that is sure to become a cult classic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Trailer for Under Jakob's Ladder

The Moon Brothers have just finished their new trailer for their soon to be released movie Under Jakob's Ladder. For those who have not been paying attention it is a movie that revolves around the religious persecution of ethnic Germans in Ukraine during the Stalin era. This is a topic Hollywood has steadfastly avoided. So I urge everybody to spread the word about this new film.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dying really revived Michael Jackson's Career

Since Michael Jackson's untimely death I have heard his music play all over Bishkek including on my girlfriend's radio. Before he died I never heard his music played here. It is a good thing Madonna is still in good health.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fall is here

Well it has finally cooled down somewhat in Bishkek. I hope with the colder weather that the insects that have devoured my hands and arms go someplace other than my apartment. I count eight insect bites on my right hand alone.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Well, I did not see anything resembling a Graffiti Festival this weekend. I did see lots of police, but I managed to avoid them. I also saw lots of weddings about town, but nobody invited me to any of them. But, mostly like every other weekend I prepared for class and did other work related activities.