Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Tomorrow is the first day of 2012. I hope all my readers have a Happy New Year. If you have any requests for the new year let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More on my forthcoming publication

It will be a while before it is published. But, the recent journal article I had accepted for publication a few days ago does two things that one almost never sees in peer reviewed academic journal articles. First, it argues that Soviet policies towards the Russian-Germans and other deported peoples by Stalin constituted acts of racial discrimination. Almost all living US academics associated with the study of Soviet nationality policies vehemently deny that there were ever any racism involved in the deportation of whole peoples defined by their birth. Second, it specifically criticizes the strongest supporters of the idea that there was never any racism in the USSR, Francine Hirsch and Amir Weiner. Hirsch is probably the most publicly praised professor of Soviet history dealing with nationality issues currently alive. So getting a journal article that disagreed with her position through  peer review was not easy. Her opinion, although so obviously wrong that no non-academic would ever accept it, is regarded as Holy Writ by many in the academy. But, I finally did get a dissenting journal article through the gate keepers that control the academic peer review process. I will have more information about the publication when it comes out in print.

Is there anybody more annoying than a Zionist?

For some time I have debated with myself as to whether Internet Stalinists or Internet Zionists were more annoying. I have concluded that the Zionists are more annoying. There seem to be a lot more of them in the English language section of the Internet and they seem to have a disproportionate influence on US media, politics, and academia. Whereas the Stalinists are limited in the political realm largely to the former USSR and only have a significant influence in the US in academia.

The Development of the Concentration Camp

The concentration camp initially developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as way of suppressing resistance to colonial rule. It was used by the Spanish in Cuba, the British in South Africa, the US in the Philippines, and the Germans in Namibia. The conversion of the concentration camp from an instrument of colonial oppression to one of internal repression appears to be a Soviet innovation. Long before Hitler came to power the Soviet government first under Lenin and then Stalin pioneered the use of the concentration camp as an tool of political and social control in the RSFSR and USSR. The internal use of colonial technologies of control by the Soviet government is not as odd as it appears. The Soviet Union inherited not only most of the territory and population of the old Russian Empire, but most of its ethnic and racial prejudices as well. It was only a matter of time before disfavored nationalities such as the Russian-Germans, Russian-Koreans, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Karachais, Balkars, Chechens, Ingush, Meskhetian Turks and others experienced the type of dispossession already imposed upon a number of colonial populations in the previous century.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Publication Coming Soon

Christmas Eve I got an e-mail that the journal article I had been working on had been accepted for publication without any further need for sending it out for peer review again. I will post more about the article later. But, for now I will note that it will be my first peer reviewed publication dealing with an aspect of African history. It explicitly compares the Soviet special settlement regime to South African apartheid.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day everybody. Yesterday I had the hottest Christmas I have ever experienced. It is expected to cool off sometime in March.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everybody!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thoughts on Totalitarianism in Light of Kim Jong Il's Death

It would not surprise me if the majority or even the vast majority of North Koreans really did quite literally worship Kim Jong Il. Stalin died in 1953 and yet the majority of Russians and Central Asians still revere him today despite his denunciation by Khrushchev at the 20th Party Congress. I do not expect a similar denunciation of Kim any time soon. Things that people in the US, Europe, and former European colonies like Ghana value highly such as individual freedom, tolerance, and basic human rights have very little support in Eurasia. Instead in most of the former USSR and North Korea they view racist nationalism, persecution of minorities and dissidents,   and personality cults in a very positive light. I am not sure there is any hope at all even in the very long run for any type of movement towards respect of individual and minority rights in that region of the world.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Marking Update

I have been slowly plodding along grading final exams. So far I have 38 done. I got delayed by having to extensively revise a journal article. But, this morning I got ten exams marked.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A whole slew of obits

Fortunately, I am a complete nobody so I am in good health. But, lots of famous people seem to have died recently. Cesaria Evora, Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel, and Kim Jong Il. In terms of long term positive impact on the world I would rank them in the order of most to least as Evora, Havel, Hitchens, and Kim. Evora's music will still be listened to and provide enjoyment for people for decades and probably centuries. Havel was a very brave individual and helped contribute to the end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. He is also the only Czech politician to ever suggest that the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans was a crime. Hitchens I don't really care about one way or another. He once edited a decent collected work on Palestine with Edward Said, but other than that nothing he did really impressed me. Kim Jong Il was a ruthless despot, but surprisingly unlike his intellectual ancestors: Lenin, Stalin, and Mao he had very little support among American and European intellectuals. For a communist dictator this is a major failing. After all worship from western leftists is the major accomplishment that sets Stalin and Mao apart from failures like Hitler.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why Communism Can Never Come to Ghana

If you go up to a market woman and tell her you are going to nationalize her food stall and take away her bible she will use her panga to cut off your ghoulies and that will be the end of your glorious proletarian revolution. Of course nobody here is stupid enough to try anything like that. But, I just want to assure everybody that socialism is completely incompatible with indigenous African values.

More on Soviet Apartheid

I know almost no US academics and certainly none on the Internet thinks that there were ever any racist policies in the USSR except for antisemitism, but looking at it from a point of view not dedicated to defending Moscow from the charge of racism things appear very different. If one looks at the legal restrictions of the special settlement regime in the USSR and apartheid in South Africa from a comparative point of view they appear very similar. When one notes that the construction of 'race' in South Africa after 1948 was in fact never officially justified along a model of genetically determined biological inferiority like Nazi Germany, but rather along lines of primordial ethnicity defined by anthropologists it looks even more similar. The problem is that some people calling themselves scholars automatically assume that because the Soviet government called the Kalmyks for example a nationality rather than a race that there was no racial component to their repression. They also assume wrongly that the South African system of racial classification was similar to that of Nazi Germany and based upon articulations of genetic inferiority rather than claims of cultural differences. This an instance where the total lack of comparative studies regarding the USSR has produced a lot of idiocy by tenured professors at big name US universities.

So to remedy this lack of comparative history I am presenting a brief summary of my findings on the similarities between Soviet 'racial' policies and South African 'racial' policies.

1. The legal restrictions imposed upon deported peoples in the USSR bear a close similarity to the apartheid laws of South Africa. The special settlement restrictions imposed upon these nationalities closely fits the model of apartheid constructed a few years later in South Africa. In both cases immutable groups of people defined by ethnicity at birth were subject to severe restrictions upon their residency and movement. To enforce these restrictions both regimes created a system of pass laws.

2. The construction of natsional'nost in the USSR bears a close similarity to the construction of 'race' in apartheid South Africa. Both were based upon primordial ethnicity and immutable cultural groups rather than any biological or genetic conception of difference. Both were also forms of racism that relied upon the sciences of anthropology and ethnography rather than biology and genetics.

3. The terms natsional'nost, narodnost, volk, ethnicity, nationality, and culture when used by both regimes were interpreted by the population in racial and indeed racist ways. They supported and validated a vast unofficial racist discourse. In the Soviet case this is evident in the vast array of racist jokes, insults, stereotypes, and even violence that connected directly to the official classifications of natsional'nost or narodnost. People in the USSR viewed these categories in the same way that people in South Africa viewed racial categories.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

There is a Gecko Living in my Office

There are lots of geckos in my house. But, I think there is only one in my office. Right now he is running around the walls. I like geckos. They eat bugs.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Speed Record at the Hospital

Today I got my medical file, got my blood pressure taken at the nurses station, and saw an MD who wrote me a new prescription all in a mere 40 minutes. I have heard that in some places in the US like Fresno that it can take up to nine hours to see a doctor at a hospital. It is amazing how well the national health care system works in Ghana.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Omelet Sandwich

Last night behind Legon Annex I discovered a woman who cooks omelet sandwiches. I saw her after purchasing a can of lychee juice at the nearby chemist shop and was going to walk to the night market to get something to eat. But, after seeing the omelets she was frying I decided to try an egg sandwich instead. She fried me an omelet with sausage, onion, green pepper, and tomato. She then served it to me inside half a loaf of whole wheat bread. It was quite tasty. The sandwich cost me two cedis which is about $1.30. Given the extreme proximity of this vendor to my house I think I will be ordering more omelet sandwiches in the future.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Slightly Different Census Figures

I have gotten conflicting figures on how many people the British actually found in Palestine in 1922. But, this looks pretty official. They found 83,794 Jews, 590,890 Muslims, and 73,034 Christians. The Muslims and Christians would have been Palestinian Arabs. So the total Arab population would have been 663,914 a little bit less than the figure cited below.

New record on posts

I just thought I would note that I made more posts in 2011 than any other year in this blog's existence. The previous record was held by the year 2005. Those are the only two years I managed to make more than 300 posts to this blog.


The figures in my last post come from the source cited on the bottom. But, they appear to be in conflict with the 1922 British census of Mandate Palestine. The census gives a figure of 668,258 Arabs which is close to Jabbour's figure of 700,000. The figure for Jews, however, is listed at 83,790 with no breakdown between native and European Jews. This is a ratio of about eight Arabs for every Jew. I am not sure where Jabbour's figures came from since he does not seem to list a source for them.

More on Gingrich and Palestine

I see Gingrich is going all out to prove he can be the nuttiest Israel firster in the history of the world. This is a difficult challenge, but one he seems well placed to win. The first Zionist colony in Palestine, "Rishon le zion", was only established in 1882. This is the same year that the first Mennonite colonies appeared in the Talas Valley of Kyrgyzstan. Before that time there are no European Jewish colonies in Palestine and only a few thousand mostly native and thus Arabized Jews. By 1920 the total Jewish population of Palestine is only about 5,000 of which less than 2,000 were Ashkenazi settlers from Europe versus almost 700,000 Arabs. That is less than a century ago the territory currently controlled by Israel had 140 Arabs for every Jew.  While both Palestine and Israel are invented concepts just as are all nations, the basis for the invention of Israel in 1948 was historically quite weak. A few decades before that time there were almost no Jews what so ever in Palestine compared to hundreds of thousands of native Palestinian Arabs. This is one reason why the Zionists have had to resort to misinterpreting the Bible. The demographic and social history of Ottoman Palestine clearly favor the Palestinian claims.

Source: George Jabbour, Settler Colonialism in Southern Africa and the Middle East (Khartoum and Beirut: University of Khartoum & PLO Research Center, 1970), p. 49.

Grading update

This morning I graded 16 scripts including my last three obruni exams. I already went and collected my money for grading the foreign students.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Demonstrations in Russia

I see that there are mass demonstrations against Putin in Russia today. I do not think the regime is in any actual danger. But, feel free to disagree with me in the comments.

Marking Time

I now have over 200 final exams to grade. My last final was yesterday (Saturday) morning at 7:30 am. Out of 109 students registered for the class only 105 showed up to take the test. Calculating the final grades for the four missing students will be easy. The final exam counts for 70% of the total grade.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gingrich and Palestine

Newt Gingrich's recent claims about Palestine make me wonder if he ever learned anything about historical processes when he got his PhD. All peoples and nations are invented. This is true most of all of the Israelis whose existence is a lot more recent than the idea of a distinct Palestinian identity. No collective identity has come into existence naturally as a fully formed ethnic or national group, not even the Jews. They are all inventions.

His rehashing of Golda Meyerson's claim that the Palestinians did not exist as a separate people in 1948 ignores the fact that nations and states are two different things. There was no Israeli state before 1948 either. Indeed a much better argument could be made that there was not an Israeli nation before 1948 then the claim that there were not a Palestinian nation. Being under Ottoman rule from 1516 to 1918 does not negate the development of Palestinian nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries during the same time that nationalism developed in most of Europe including Jewish nationalism. One might as well claim there is no such thing as a  Czech nation because they were under Austrian rule until after World War One. 

It is a bit late in the day for Israel's supporters to be attempting to erase the native population of Palestine from popular discourse. There is a collective national entity whose members call themselves Palestinians. They are the people who were living in the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Their continual presence in this territory predates that first Jewish Aliyah from Europe to Palestine by many centuries. As such their moral claims to the land are far stronger than the European colonists that started settling in the territory in the 1880s, much later than the settlement of South Africa, North America or even Australia. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Summary of Suprun and Dudarev Verdict

All right due to my haste in reading and posting I made a number of mistakes earlier which I corrected in short order on the blog posts below. But, here is the corrected summary. Both Suprun and Dudarev were found guilty. They were convicted of violating different articles of the criminal code, however. Suprun received no punishment and Dudarev a suspended sentence and probation. This case establishes that it is illegal to collect and publish "personal and family secrets" from the Russian archives. These secrets apparently being the personal files identifying individual prisoners and special settlers repressed by the Soviet government. The Russian government has clearly sent a message to historians dealing with Stalinism that it does not like the narrative of ethnic Germans being victims of a Russian dominated government during the time of the Great Fatherland War. Indeed I suspect it does not like any narrative that focuses on the victims of the Stalin regime, but especially not ethnic Germans and especially not during World War II. Such things detract from the narrative of a great USSR under the glorious leadership of Stalin triumphing over the ultimate evil of German fascism that has served as the primary source of legitimacy for the Soviet and now the Russian government since 1945.

Russian news round up on Suprun and Dudarev

Walt Richmond sent me a trio of links with Russian news stories on the Suprun and Dudarev verdict. Thank you Walt.  Apparently I keep getting it wrong. Suprun was convicted, but not fined. The prosecution had originally wanted a 150,000 ruble fine (a little less than $5,000). At any rate here are the articles: onetwo, and three.

Suprun and Dudarev update

It appears that my first post was not quite correct. According to this article Suprun received a monetary fine and Dudarev a suspended sentence of one year and probation. So he is actually not being sent to prison, at least not yet. Even so it is now illegal in Russia to publish "private data" from the archives meaning in this case information on the identity of Stalin's victims. The searches, confiscation of materials, trial, and punishment of fines and probation against historians and archivists is still a very bad mark on the Putin regime even though I am glad that Suprun and Dudarev remain at liberty.

Suprun and Dudarev Verdict

It looks like the Arkhangel'sk court has sentenced archivist Aleksandr Dudarev to one year in prison for helping Mikhail Suprun gather the names of Russian-Germans persecuted by the Soviet government during the Stalin era. Suprun himself was released due to an expiration of the statute of limitations. It is now officially illegal in Russia to make public the names of the millions of ordinary people repressed by the Stalin regime. These victims have been condemned to remain nameless and unknown. This blatant act of intimidation against the historical profession in Russia is really an outrage. In Russia today doing history in a way that deviates from the current political line rehabilitating Stalin can get you put in prison.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Another blog reader census

Okay it is time for another one of my completely unscientific attempts to see if I have any readers other than my family and the four people who sometimes comment on this blog. I am becoming very distrustful of my site meter. The numbers and countries it gives seem completely implausible to be real humans. Although they may very well be commercial bots. I know my actual audience has got to be very small. It is undoubtedly small enough that it would be possible for me to know about all of them. My suspicion is that it is one or two more people than those that I know about.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Soviet Math: Two Spies = Security Threat by 366,683 People

After the Nazi invasion of the USSR up until the deportation of the Volga Germans, the NKVD combed through the Volga German ASSR looking for spies and saboteurs. Between 22 June and 10 August 1941 they arrested a total of 145 ethnic Germans deemed to be politically suspect only two of which they accused of being spies. That is they knew that the population posed no security or political threat to the USSR because they had already filtered out the very few remaining people that were politically suspect. Hence the claims that the deportations were merely understandable security measures and had nothing what so ever to do with racial discrimination are impossible to believe. The breakdown of reasons for arrest are below.

People "spreading  defeatist and insurrectionist statements" - 97
Having membership in "anti-soviet and counterrevolutionary groups" - 6
Having "subversive intentions" - 4
Having "terrorist intentions" - 3
Espionage - 2

Despite the fact that they found less than 150 people out of a population of over 366,000 people that were of suspect loyalty they deported the entire population eastward to Siberia and Kazakhstan during September 1941 claiming they were all guilty of treason. In violation of the Soviet constitution they collectively punished the population on the basis of their nationality, confiscated their property, and dissolved their national state formation.

Source: Konstanin Isakov, "1941-Other Germans," New Times, no. 17, 1990, p. 38.

Monday, December 05, 2011

It is getting hotter every day now

It is getting hot now. Every day it gets hotter here. So even though we are just barely in the northern hemisphere we have the weather patterns associated with the southern hemisphere.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Random Sunday Thought

I am pretty sure there is not a single issue on which any American based academic writing the Internet agrees with me. But, that is okay. The world is a big place and the tiny parochial world of American academia is a very strange sub-culture. It is very different from what passes as normal in the rest of the world.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Double Standards

If somebody went around commenting on blogs that it was a morally good thing that the Nazis deported European Jews to the Ghettos because of the atrocities committed by Soviet Jews like Kaganovich then arrest warrants for him would be issued in Germany, Austria, and many other European states should he ever visit them. But, if somebody goes around claiming the moral necessity of deporting all ethnic Germans in the USSR during 1941 to special settlement regions in Siberia and Kazakhstan with similar legal restrictions and mortality rates to the Ghettos created by the Nazis then he gets to be a university professor in New York. There is something seriously messed up here. I thought human rights were supposed to be universal. But, apparently they are only for a few favored and protected or maybe only for one favored and protected group. How did support of genocide become the official line of American academia?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Happy Farmers' Day

Today is Farmers' Day in Ghana. So thank you to all the farmers who grow the cassava and plantain that go into my fufu.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Soviet Racism Continued

I define racism as the ascription of generalized and innate negative traits to cultural groups in which membership is determined by ancestry. That is if you attribute particular behaviors to people based upon their membership in a group which they were born into, they can not leave, and their children will inherit then you are engaged in racial thinking. Race has nothing to do with categories of biological inferiority based upon genetics. It has nothing to do with skin color other than phenotypes are one possible signifier that can be used to identify groups based upon ancestry. But, it is by no means the only one. Ancestral language and religion have also frequently been used. In short I agree that ethnicity is race without the biological pseudoscience if the determination of this category is by birth and it is immutable. If you remove the aspects of voluntary association and ability to assimilate into other groups from ethnicity you have race no matter how much you insist that it is based upon culture rather than biology. I realize that a large number of very prominent academics such as Francine Hirsch and Amir Weiner completely reject this definition when it comes to the USSR. But, I still maintain they are wrong.

The Stalin regime accused whole nationalities whose membership was defined at birth on the basis of parentage of treason. That is the government claimed that each and every member of these groups which numbered over two million people in total were traitors by virtue of their ethnic heritage and ancestry. This accusation is clearly false as well as racist. Most of the deportees were women, children, the elderly, and the infirm, people who were physically incapable of militarily collaborating with the Nazis. Thousands more were loyal members of the Communist Party and tens of thousands had actively fought against the Nazis defending the USSR while serving in the Red Army. Yet, there were almost no exceptions made for loyal members of the Communist Party, Komsomolists, or Red Army soldiers. They too fell under the false charges of treason and suffered in exile or labor camps along with their ethnic kin.  Even those awarded orders and medals for their service to the Soviet Union found themselves and their families accused of treason and punished. The only criteria for the Soviet accusation of treason and punishment through mass deportation of the entire population to remote areas of the USSR and imposition of severe legal restrictions on their civil rights was their natsional'nost. In this case the word natsional' nost in Russian like the word volk in Afrikaans is indistinguishable from the word race in its political and legal functions.

The claim that this repression was not racist, but rather merely political because of the accusations of treason, the presence of the war, and Soviet security concerns is laughable. Political concerns, justifications couched in the language of security, and false claims of treachery by ethnic minorities are not in any way incompatible with racial discrimination. In fact they almost always accompany it to a greater or lesser degree. Does anybody honestly believe that the US relocation of Japanese Americans was not an act of racial discrimination because Japan attacked Pearl Harbor thus creating real security concerns for the US in the Pacific states? Yet the number of people who claim that the deportation of the Russian-Germans to Kazakhstan and Siberia was not racial discrimination, but merely political or a understandable security measure because Germany attacked the USSR is quite large. Why the double standard? Why are there so many defenders of Stalin on this particular issue? The ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union had been in the Russian Empire and USSR for nearly six generations compared to only two for the Japanese Americans. There was not even a unified German state when their ancestors arrived along the shores of the Volga and Black Sea. Ascribing a political connection between this large and diverse population and Nazi Germany based solely upon their descent from immigrants who geographically lived in areas that became Germany in 1871 was clearly racist. But, in many cases the connection was even weaker. It was based on the fact that their ancestors spoke a dialect of what the Soviet government considered to be the German language. So the descendants of immigrants from Switzerland, Holland, and other other countries also suffered deportation on the basis of being labelled "German" by the Soviet regime.  In my mind the Soviet deportations were just as racist as the US policies at the same time towards Japanese Americans.

I realize that my position is an extreme minority among academics. That people who claim that there was never any racial discrimination involved in the official treatment of groups like the Russian-Germans and Crimean Tatars by Stalin dominate the field. But, all the arguments I have seen that the deportations and special settlement restrictions were not acts of racial discrimination similar to the internment of Japanese Americans or South African apartheid fail to convince me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Post on Racism in the USSR and its Similarities to South Africa

The Soviet government never categorized people by biological categories of race based upon genetics like the Nazis. But, this does not excuse them from the accusation of racial discrimination. The white minority government in South Africa also did not categorize people on the basis of biological categories. It too used the language of culture, ethnicity, and volk (narodnost) rather than biology and genetics. Yet people like Francine Hirsch and Amir Weiner claim that the Stalin regime's deportation of whole nationalities was not racial discrimination because the government categorized the targeted groups in terms of natsional'nost rather than biological race. Using this logic apartheid was not racial discrimination either since the regime in Pretoria defined people to different 'racial' groups according to a concept of cultural essentialism not much different than the official Soviet and post-Soviet understanding of ethnicity. Despite a linkage of South Africa with Nazi Germany in the minds of many Americans, the white minority government was always careful to justify apartheid in terms that sounded very similar to Soviet rhetoric regarding their own nationality policies. The South Africans spoke of culture and levels of material development, much like the Soviets did, not skin color as the criteria that distinguished different groups of people. The sciences behind South African racism were the same ones behind Soviet nationality policy, anthropology and sociology, not biology and genetics as in the case of the Nazis. Yet, the world properly understood that apartheid was a system of racial discrimination. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the dominant scholars of Soviet nationality policies in the US will ever recognize the mass deportations of whole nationalities in the 1930s and 40s and the imposition of severe legal restrictions upon the deportees as acts of racial discrimination.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Report on Winneba Conference Published on Web

A report on the conference I attended in Winneba earlier this semester has now been published. Jan-Bart Gewald of the African Studies Centre in Leiden, Netherlands wrote the report on the conference on German Colonialism in West Africa: Implications for German-West African Partnership in Development that can be found here. Given that this was my first ever paper on an African subject I thought his write up on my own work was very encouraging.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Work Stuff

Today was a very warm Sunday in Legon. I had to go get my first set of exams printed up for tomorrow this morning, but it only took five minutes. I spent most of the rest of the day walking, eating, sleeping, and reading. I have started reading about the Ewe unification movement. It turns out that the British policy of partition had bad effects in West Africa as well as in Palestine, Ireland, and India. Now that classes are over I just have to administer and grade final exams and finish revising a journal article with a due date in mid-December. Then I will be free of any work obligations until the start of next semester at the beginning of February.

Giving up Obruni Foods

I have decided until I return to Obrunistan, and who knows when that will be, I am not going to eat any more White People foods. They are on the order of seven to eight times more expensive than African foods here. They are also not nearly as good. So I have been trying to eat a greater variety of Ghanaian foods and not just the red red and chicken, banku and tilapia, kenkey and fried fish, wakeye and chicken, fufu and goat, and jollof rice, chicken, and coleslaw that has made up most of my diet here for the last year. Last night I had tuo zaafi for the first time. Apparently it is porridge made out of some type of grain, either millet or sorghum I think. They served it with a brown soup with leaves in it and a red palm oil based broth and salmon. To be honest it was not my favorite, although the salmon in spicy palm oil part was pretty good. The next experiment went better. Today for lunch I finally had omo tuo or rice balls. They came in a combination of soups, one of which was quite spicy just like I like it, and with a piece of chicken. It was very good. I probably won't order the tuo zaafi a whole lot in the future. But, I will definitely be eating more omo tuo, especially since five rice balls only cost one cedi.

Friday, November 25, 2011

...and When They Shall Ask

I just finished watching a film on Mennonites in the Russian Empire and the USSR called ...and When They Shall Ask. Henry Epp in Canada was kind enough to send me the film on DVD. I believe this film has great pedagogical potential. I have had very good luck with showing Through the Red Gate, another film dealing with the Mennonite experience in the USSR, to students. I think these films do a very good job in dealing with the type of historical issues I like to address. They provide a number of first person perspectives on things like migration, diaspora, industrialization, and historical memory. I have noticed a disturbing trend by many "intellectuals" in the US to completely dismiss the oral documentation of the first hand experiences of people like the Russian Mennonites as merely "Cold War propaganda" rather than as valuable primary sources. But, I would note that the oral history of these refugees is far more valuable for understanding what really happened in the USSR than the government and party archives that Soviet authorities collected. Unfortunately, the established academic authorities believe that only official archives constitute legitimate primary sources for the study of national minorities in the USSR and completely discount oral history.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks to Mother Africa

Today I am very thankful that I am able to provide for my family and that my daughter is healthy and growing. I am thankful to Mother Africa for providing me with a job that allows me to send them enough money to pay for necessities. Africa has given me an academic career and respect as a human being, teacher, and scholar that I have not been able to find elsewhere. Here I am accepted as an equal not an inferior. I know that a lot of negative stereotypes still exist in the US and elsewhere about Africa. But, Africa is where human kind first developed. When Richard Pryor found this out he vowed never to use the "N" word again. Thus in a metaphorical sense Africa is the homeland of all men. It is now my home in a real sense. For that I give thanks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Quotation of the Day

I agree with Solzhenitsyn that without repentance, we cannot change ourselves or our society. We must feel responsibility for our history. Who was it who made Stalin's terror? It was we - our  fathers - and we must now pay for our fathers. But this is repulsive to most people. They want to blame others. They accuse Jews or someone else. They do not want to accept responsibility.

Andrei Smirnov, Film Director, March 1990
Quoted in Hedrick Smith, The New Russians (New York: Avon Books, 1991), p. 121.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A cultural difference between academia in Africa and California

At the University of Ghana we use hot peppers to season food. At the University of California Davis they evidently spray it in peoples' eyes. I will leave it to my readers to judge which of the two places is more civilized.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Writing for the world's smallest audience

I am starting to get the feeling that nobody takes anything I write seriously. It is true that the ideas I express on this blog are completely outside the mainstream of US academia. But, things like the continued denial that Soviet policy under Stalin towards groups such as the Russian-Germans, Russian-Koreans, Kalmyks, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars constituted racial discrimination and genocide seem completely untenable. I guess the whole point of having an Ivory Tower is to completely isolate yourself from dissenting ideas.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More on Racism in the USSR

Despite the Soviet claims to the contrary racism always existed in the Soviet Union and not just in an unofficial underground fashion. The broad social racism expressed against certain groups drew its inspiration from official institutionalized discrimination endorsed from the top down. The Soviets and many Western apologists have tried to skirt this issue by claiming that the victimized groups were not "races", but "nationalities." Nobody brought this trick when the South Africans tried it, although most American liberals buy it when the Israelis pull it. This defense appears to be based completely upon the official terminology used by the regime itself uses rather than any empirical analysis of the actual function of the category and the practice of the regime. I can only assume that the people making this argument are well aware of how weak it is in reality and making it for reasons that have nothing to do with attachment to the truth.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Black Russians

Recently I have been reading about the small Afro-Russian population in the USSR. They are generally referred to as part of the Black Diaspora. But, unlike Blacks elsewhere outside of Africa, the Afro-Russians during the Soviet period seemed to have largely lacked some of the key components of being a diaspora. They did not seem to have any real connections with Africa, not even sentimental ties. Instead they seemed to be completely acculturated into Russian society on the surface including being legally classified as Russians in many cases on line five of their identification documents. They were of course subject to unofficial racial discrimination based upon their skin color and a presumption that they did not belong to the USSR. This outsider status was shared with a host of other groups in the USSR, most of which were also subject to varying degrees of official racialized discrimination as well as a broader social exclusion by Soviet society. This marginalization of course created an identification of being different by virtue of being Black, but there was no sense of a larger Afro-Russian community. There were a few villages in Abkhazia of people descended of African slaves that had become completely acculturated into the Abkhaz. But, most other Black Soviet citizens did not belong to any larger Afro-Russian community. They lived as dispersed individuals throughout the USSR in mixed race families with a White mother. They experienced racism thus entirely as individuals rather than as members of distinct communities. There is not an alternative word in the literature to replace diaspora when referring to Black Russians, however, I think the amorphous nature of this population makes them distinct from other Soviet diaspora groups such the Germans, Jews, Koreans, and Greeks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What it is ain't exactly clear

It looks like the civil unrest in the US has finally been put down by law enforcement, apparently with some degree of violence.  I don't recall such problems in the US during the three decades I lived there. It seems that there have been substantial changes in the US while I have been out of the country. But, to be honest I find them difficult to comprehend. Maybe somebody could explain to me what has happened in America while I have been gone?

Where and What to Eat on Campus Part II

Legon Hall was the first residency hall built at the University of Ghana. It is also the one closest to my office. Its dining hall is pretty good. Senior members have their own section with waiters. Legon has good red red, wakeye, kenkey with fish and pepper, and fufu and goat in groundnut soup each for five cedis are less. In particular the dining hall has the best kenkey and wakeye on campus. They seem to be known for their kenkey. Like everywhere else in Ghana the portions are quite large. So I have taken to telling them to only give me one kenkey with my fish and pepper rather than the two they normally serve.

The Basement is a restaurant on the ground floor not in the basement of the old Central Cafeteria building which is now used mostly for lectures and religious services. They have the best red red on campus. They put sardines and those little green chilies in the beans. Their jollof rice and chicken is not bad, but I have found the soups they serve with their fufu to be noticeably less tasty than other places on campus. Their prices are around 4.50 cedis per a meal. But, adding a beverage moves the total cost up close to six cedis.

Akuafo Hall has an inexpensive dining hall and their chicken, jollof rice, fried rice, and red red are all decent. You can get a full meal for for about 3.50 cedis. You get your food from the counter rather than from a waiter so its also fast. But, overall the food is not as good as at Legon.


I just got assigned as an additional supervisor to two PhD students who are in the middle of writing up their dissertations. They each now have five supervisors. Both of the dissertations deal with ethnic conflict in north eastern Ghana.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Arkhangelsk and the Labor Army

One of the topics that Suprun was doing research on that upset the Russian authorities enough to arrest him and put him on trial was the fate of Russian-German prisoners and labor army conscripts in Arkhangelsk. There was a corrective labor camp in Arkhangelsk during World War II devoted to the construction of a cellulose-paper complex. The camp was open from October 1940 until November 1944 except for a brief period from February to December 1942. The Soviet government employed a number of Russian-German labor army conscripts, almost all of them women, in the construction of the cellulose-paper combine as well as in other work such as lumber preparation. The first column is the total number of prisoners at the camp. The second column is the number of Russian-German women conscripted into the labor army and sent to the region to work.

Date                     Number of Prisoners  Labor Army Conscripts
January 1943        2,282                                       ----
July 1943              unknown                                  744
January 1944        1,649                                       722
November 1944    1,902                                      711
January 1945        ------                                        372

Source: A.A. German, "Sovetskie nemtsy v lageriakh NKVD v gody Velikoi Otchestvennoi: Vklad v pobedy," Voenno-istoricheskie issledovaniia v Povolzh'e, Sb. Nauch. (Saratov: Izd-Vo: "Nauchnaia kniga," 2006), Issue no. 7, p. 293.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another Labor Army Document

Here is another document on the mobilization of Russian-Germans into the labor army. The translation from Russian to English is my own.

To Deputy Chief of the Special Settlement Section of the NKVD USSR Captain of State Security com.[rade] Konradov
April 1942   
 Mobilized according to the resolution of the State Committee for Defense No. 1123ss from 10 January 1942 into work columns Germans were moved to the following construction sites and camps of the NKVD:

  1.  Bakalstroi - 11,772 men
  2.  Ivdellag    -  12,899
  3. Sevurrallag -    8441
  4. Usol'lag      -    4940
  5. Viatlag       -     6800
  6. Kraslag      -     5084
  7. Bogoslovstroi - 6900
  8. Solikamstroi  -  2396
  9. Tavdinlag      -  1918
  10.  (point ten is missing from document)
  11. Taglistroi       - 2870

    Total   -    67,961
     During the course of March were mobilized according to resolution of the GKO 1281ss from 14 February 1942 mobilized into work columns Germans moved to:
  1. Construction of the railroad Sviazhsk-Ul'ianovsk - 17,823 men
  2. Bakalstroi  -  14,752
  3. Bogoslovstroi   -    5,411
  4. Umal'stroi  -    952
  5. Tagilstroi  -     501
  6. Sevzheldorlag  -  900
  7. Kraslag -   339
  8. Solikamstroi  -  141 
  9. Viatlag  -        45

               Total                         - 40,864

      Of this number on 9th April arrived at their place 7400 men. Found in transit 22,000 men. The remainder will also be dispatched in a day or two as arranged. 
Chief 2nd section GULAG NKVD USSR Captain of State Security Granovskii

Source: N.F. Bugai, ed., "Mobilizovat' nemtsev v rabochie kolonny...I. Stalin" Sbornik dokumentov (1940-e gody). (Moscow: Gotika, 1998), doc. 47, pp. 70-71.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

End of Year Wrap Up

I have now finished teaching classes for the semester. Next week is revision week followed by exams. I have some revision deadlines of my own to meet during the next month. I have a revise and resubmit for a journal article as well as a book chapter that needs to be revised. I will start in earnest on these projects on Monday.

This semester went fairly well. I think the students learned something. I seem to be able to transfer knowledge from my head to their heads without too much difficulty. I am still not sure why everybody before 2007 said I was incapable of ever teaching because I had not taught before.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Where and What to Eat on Campus Part I

The cheapest place to eat hands down is the Bush Canteens. I am not sure if it is technically on campus, but it is at least adjacent to it. For a mere two cedis you can get a large fufu, a piece of meat (chicken, fish, goat, or beef) and light soup or groundnut soup. The only drawback is it is a bit of a walk away from my house and office.

Also cheap and a little closer and also near the grocery store and bank is the night market. You can get a couple scoops of jollof rice, a piece of chicken, salad, sauce, and pepper for between two and four cedis here. So far I have avoided buying a rice cooker because cooked and seasoned rice is still quite cheap here.

Wiltex is the closest place to eat from the history department. The most expensive thing on the menu is tilapia with pepper at four and a half cedis. If you throw in a ball of banku and a beverage it goes up to six. The cheapest thing is the fufu. You can get two fufus and a piece of goat in light soup for two and a half cedis. Finally, you can get a big plate of jolloff rice, fried rice, sausage in gravy, sauce, spaghetti, chicken, and steamed cabbage for less than five cedis. Their pineapple juice goes well with everything.

Response to an Old Friend

I thought it better to respond here than in the comments since it was such a long comment. Also I have not heard from Ben for a long time. So I think its only fair to give his statement a considered response. After all I still consider him a good friend even if it has been many years since I last saw him in person. The problem is not that he is wrong. He is actually right about most things. But, I still ended up wasting a big chunk of my life before I got here because I believed the lie propagated by academia that the only thing that counts is publications and that teaching is not considered important by universities. That turned out not to be true. You can argue I have nobody to blame but, myself for what happened. However, that just makes it worse because then I feel like an idiot for wasting so much time and effort.

OK, my friend Ben has a point that I do not think the people who control academia in the US gave me a fair shake. They did not. But, it is in the past even if nothing is forgotten and nothing will be forgotten. I think he is wrong about ideology playing no role what so ever. I have gotten a number of peer review reports claiming flat out that there was never any racial discrimination in the USSR under Stalin. This is different from people saying Stalin was a good guy. But, there is a very strong resistance led by people like Francine Hirsch to admitting that racism was ever an official practice against any group in the USSR other than Jews. However, all things considered it is probably only a minor factor as to why I failed to even get an interview in the US from 2004 to 2007.

The lack of teaching experience is directly tied with having a British degree. I am not sure why taking a long time to finish a PhD is considered a virtue. But, the problem is that a US citizen with a British PhD can't work in the UK or Canada very easily because they have laws giving preference to EU citizens and Canadian citizens before they even consider US citizens. At the same time since there is no teaching component to a UK degree you are effectively banned forever from working at a US university. This I did not know at the time because there is a barrage of propaganda claiming that publications are what are considered important not teaching. Nobody told me at the time that Africa was a possibility. Although to be honest part of this last failure is my own lack of imagination.

I am happy to be working in Africa. I am very happy to have fathered a child with a wonderful woman while in Kyrgyzstan. I hope to bring them here as soon as possible. Had I arrived where I am at now without being constantly mistreated, ignored, and disrespected I would have no complaints. But, even though I am in a very good position now I got here through a rather rocky road. If I was a better man I would have sucked it up and taken it. But, we all have our weaknesses. Currently, I plan to stay in Africa for a very long time. I have no real desire to go work in the US right now.  I don't see this changing in the foreseeable future. Like many other Americans to come to Ghana I feel alienated from mainstream American society. In particular I feel alienated from American academic society and culture. Ghanaian academia has been much more accepting of me than they could ever be.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

New Syllabi

We are currently revising the curriculum. I will be designing syllabi for the history of the USSR, the history of Central Asia under Russian and Soviet rule, and a history of migration course. We have two Americanists and several Africanists, but I am the only Orientalist. If anybody has any suggestions of other courses I could offer please let me know in the comments.

More databases on Russian-German Labor Army Conscripts

I have found two more databases that list names of Russian-Germans conscripted into the labor army during World War II. The first is a list of 7,353 names from Tagilag. The second is a list of 20,711 names from Bogoslovlag. You have to enter the information of the person you are looking to find and the sites are in Russian. Earlier I posted a database for Usol'lag. I still have not found a database for Solikamlag.

hat tip: Ted Gerk

Monday, November 07, 2011

Come to Africa (A Response to Tony Grafton): Part I

Something very unusual has happened. I have been tagged by Historiann to write a piece on the failures of higher education. In particular in response to the recent article written by Tony Grafton. Almost everything written on this subject deals with either the US or to a lesser extent the UK. These are two countries I have never taught in. Although I do have my PhD from the UK which is one of the reasons I am for all practical purposes banned from ever teaching at a US university.  Instead all of my teaching experience has been in Asia and Africa.

I do not like writing long blog posts. That is what writing books is about. So I am going to do my contribution as a series of shorter posts. This will give me time to think about what I am writing and more importantly give my few readers time to absorb my random thoughts.

For a long time African PhDs left the continent to go work in the US, Canada, the UK, or Europe. Now that brain drain is starting to reverse. While history departments are shrinking in much of the English speaking world, one place it has been growing is at the University of Ghana. This year the department has hired six new people. Of these six I am the only one with a PhD not from the US. Other departments such as philosophy have also recently hired scholars from North America as well. So now there exists the first trickles of a brain drain of people with doctorates in the humanities from the US to Africa.

When I first got my PhD from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) and returned to the US, I applied to over 300 universities in the US and did not get a single interview despite having two books and a number of peer reviewed journal articles published. What I learned is that publications do not count for anything in the hiring process. The only things that count are personal connections and ideological viewpoints. If you believe like I do for instance that racial discrimination was an official policy of the Stalin regime towards groups such as the Russian-Koreans and Russian-Germans you will find it nearly impossible to find a job at a US university. There are ideological gatekeepers. If I had been smart I would not have bothered to apply to any US institutions. It was merely a waste of time, effort, and postage. I should have been applying to schools in Africa.

So while I was the first to arrive here in January 2011, I am not the last.  I suspect that a lot of other qualified historians and others will find Africa an attractive place to work. Here I do not have to worry about ideological litmus tests. Here my publications actually count for something. Here I only have to teach two preps and four sections a semester. But, I get paid extra for the two sections I teach at City Campus. I know the University of Ghana does not yet have the international prestige of most large US universities. However, unlike many US universities, the University of Ghana like Ghana as a whole is on the way up. In contrast it looks like higher education as a whole in the US is in decline.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Another Publication in Print

Another encyclopedia article I wrote years ago has finally seen print this year. I wrote an entry on deported peoples in the USSR for The Encyclopedia of Migration and Minorities in Europe from the 17th Century to the Present Day published by Cambridge University Press this year. That makes six encyclopedia articles published this semester. I wonder if anybody other than the editors will ever read any of them?

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Vandals Elect a New Chief

Today apparently the Vandals initiated a new chief. This involved the typical Vandal behavior of parading around singing in Twi. It also involved two naked guys covering themselves with soap lather and running around. One of the naked guys frequently would stop to stand on his head. If anybody has a deeper knowledge of Vandal culture than me and can explain the ritual that went on today please leave your remarks in the comments. The other residency halls do not seem to engage in any comparable bizarre rituals.

Books I checked out yesterday

Seymour Becker, Russia's Protectorates in Central Asia: Bukhara and Khiva, 1865-1924 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968).

George Jabbour, Settler Colonialism in Southern Africa and the Middle East, (Khartoum, Sudan and Beirut, Lebanon: University of Khartoum and Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center, 1970).

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Labor Camps with the Largest Contingents of Russian-Germans Mobilized into the Labor Army

The camps are list alphabetically according to the Cyrillic alphabet. Only the dozen largest by population of mobilized Russian-Germans are included below.

Bakalstroi (Chelyabinsk Oblast), industrial construction, 28,134 in January 1942

Bogoslov (Sverdlovsk Oblast), industrial construction, 12,758 in January 1942

Volzhlag (Ul'ianovsk Oblast), railroad construction, 16,712 in January 1942

Vorkuta (Arkhangelsk Oblast), coal mining, 6,873 in January 1944

Vosturallag (Sverdlovsk Oblast), lumber preparation, 5,252 in January 1942

Viatlag (Kirov oblast), mining and lumber prepartation, 5,444 in January 1942

 Ivdellag (Sverdlovsk Oblast), lumber preparation, 12,347 in January 1942

Kraslag (Krasnoiarsk Krai), lumber preparation, 5,313 in January 1942

Sevzheldorlag (Komi ASSR), railroad construction, 5,727 in April 1942

Sevurallag (Sverdlovsk Oblast), forest preparation, 4,262 in April 1942

Solikamsk (Molotov Oblast), industrial construction, 9,126 in January 1942

Usol'lag (Molotov Oblast), lumber preparation, 6,004 in January 1942

Source: A.A. German and A.N. Kurochkin, Nemtsy SSSR v "Trudovoi armii" . Moscow, 1998, pp. 163-169.

The War Against Plagiarism Opens a New Front

I was hoping against all odds that plagiarism would not be a problem here. But, I have just found eight repeat offenders. So I am going to have to bring down the hammer here. Fortunately, it is only a problem during mid-terms since finals are properly proctored.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Textbook Assignments

This semester I assigned Robert Gellately's Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (London: Vintage Books, 2008) as the main text for my Aspects of World History 1914-1945. I am teaching the class next semester and debating whether I should continue with the Gellately or assign Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. Even though it is a 400 level class I am not sure if I could get a way with assigning them both to read. Right now the reading burden is about 75 pages a week which is a lot more than most other lecturers here assign. If I assigned both texts then the total amount of reading would be around 125 pages a week. This includes four journal articles in addition to the two books. Does anybody have any suggestions? Should I stick with Gellately, switch to Snyder, or try and get students to read them both?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Who Does Not Read this Blog Part II

I am pretty sure that nobody writing for any of the popular blogs on the Internet has ever read this blog.

More on Solikamstroi

Solikamstroi also known as Solikambumstroi or Solikamlag was a corrective labor camp devoted primarily to industrial construction. Located in Molotov (Perm) Oblast the camp centered around the building of a cellulose-paper combine and operated from January 1939 until the summer of 1946. The camp employed both convicted prisoners and Russian-Germans mobilized into labor army detachments. The population for each group confined at the camp is listed below for each January. After discharging them from the labor army in 1946, the NKVD assigned the Russian-Germans in the camp to continue working  in the enterprises formerly part of the Solikamsk ITL and placed them under special settlement restrictions.

1942 10,531 prisoners and 9,126 mobilized Germans
1943   5,986 prisoners and 9,089 mobilized Germans
1944   2,343 prisoners and 6,027 mobilized Germans
1945   9,123 prisoners and 5,980 mobilized German
1946  1,556 prisoners and  an unknown number of mobilized Germans

Source: A.A. German, "Sovetskie nemtsy v lageriakh NKVD v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny: Vklad v pobedy ," Voenno-istoricheskie issledovania v Povolzh'e, Sb. Nauch. (Saratov: Izd-vo: "Nauchnaia kniga," 2006), Issue no. 7, pp. 301-302.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Sunday in Legon

It is starting to get hot again in Ghana. I am told it will continue to get hotter until March or April. But, over all it is never nearly as hot as Arivaca or Bishkek during the summer. It also never gets cold here. So I am okay with the weather.

Ghana has good food, although I wish there was more variety. I end up eating the same things a couple times a week. On the other hand the music in Ghana is not only good but, seems to have endless variety and is played everywhere. If a place has good food and good music then life is usually pretty good.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Partial Russian-German Labor Army Mortality Figures

The following is an excerpt from one of the few published documents on deaths among "mobilized" Russian-Germans in the labor army during World War II. It both notes that the documentation on the mortality of this group is incomplete and that the fragmentary records that do exist show extremely high death rates. The translation from Russian to English is my own.

According to incomplete figures, in the course of January-July 1942, in only 5 camps with a total listed population as of 1 August of 43,856 mobilized Germans died 5181 people.

Especially high death rates were noted in Solikamstroi, where in seven months died 1687 people, that constituted 17.6% of the listed population as of 1 August., Bogoslovstroi - during this period 1494 people, or 12.6% died, and Sevzheldorlag, where in three months died 677 people, or 13.9% of the listed population as of 1 August.
Source: N.F. Bugai, Mobilizovat' nemtsev v rabochie kolonny...I. Stalin. Moscow, 1998, pp. 138-139.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Publications

During the summer of 2005 I wrote four encyclopedia articles for a project on modern slavery headed by Junius P. Rodriguez. At that time I lived in Arivaca Arizona. Since then I have lived in Kyrgyzstan and now Ghana. I was thus very pleased to find out today through the magic of Google Books that this work has now finally been published. Junius P. Rodreiguez, ed., Slavery in the Modern World: A History of Political, Social, and Economic Oppression  (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011) is now in print. I wrote the entries on Beria, Central Asia, the Gulag, and Ukraine.


Cocoa is historically a very important cash crop for Ghana. Most of it is exported to foreign firms such as Cadbury or Nestle. But, there is some domestic production of chocolate. A lot of chocolate here is consumed in liquid form rather than in solid form. Recently I have taken to drinking cocoa on a regular basis. The powder they sell here unlike in the US is often unsweetened. It is just cocoa and has no added sugar. This is how I have been drinking it. It is supposed to be very good for your health since it is high in iron and manganese.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On Who Does Not Read this Blog, Part I

Trying to figure out who reads this blog is an impossible task. Other than my family and a few friends I think most of the hits on the site meter come from bots. But, I think I know who does not read it. I am positive that no US based university professors read it. Which is to be expected. I have absolutely nothing in common with them.  Their world is radically different than mine. But, perhaps it was meant to be. Looking at their blogs I certainly feel far more at home in Africa than I would in their world.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More on OWS

Despite its support in the blogosphere by leftists I am coming to the conclusion that OWS is not a leftist movement. They seem to have a lot more in common with the populist movements of the 19th Century than the socialist and communist movements of the 20th Century. They have not embraced any communist dictators as idols and recommended that the US be overhauled along the lines of the USSR under Stalin, China under Mao, North Vietnam under Ho, or even Cuba under Castro. They have not made any anti-capitalist demands at all as far as I can see. Indeed the economic policies of the OWS demonstrators appear to be far to the right in terms of free markets than the actually existing economies of many non-socialist countries.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Other Blogs

I am starting to come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people writing on the Internet share a common commitment to taking unreasonable positions regardless of their ideology. I think this accounts for the fact that nobody writing on the Internet agrees with anything I write. It is very odd because in real life people do not generally go around supporting the most radical position they can imagine. But, it appears to be the standard operating procedure of a lot of blogs and their commentators.

Nearing the end of the semester

I have now finished grading all my mid-term exams. I did the last batch for City Campus this morning. We have two more weeks of classes not including this week and then it is revision week followed by final exams. This semester has been less stressful than the last one since I have adjusted better to living in Ghana.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Interdepartmental cooperation between historians

Today I had a rather long, but enjoyable and productive meeting with fellow historians. There were five of us from the History Department of the University of Ghana. Also present was the head of the Ghana Historical Society, an historian from the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, and a visiting PhD student from Ibadan in Nigeria. One thing that we discussed is the lack of  cooperation between historians in the History Department and historians in the Institute of African Studies. We should cooperate a lot more than we do. Yet, many of us in the History Department were unaware of the historical research going on in the Institute of African Studies just down the road until quite recently. Today's meeting was a first step in remedying the current absence of interaction between these two groups of historians at the University of Ghana. I hope that we can make significant progress on this front in the near future.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Suprun and Dudarev on Trial

This blog covered the arrest of Suprun and Dudarev by the FSB for researching Stalinist repression against Russian-Germans pretty extensively in 2009. They were compiling a memory book of Russian-Germans for the Arkhangelsk region. Now evidently they are being tried in camera by the Russian government. Radio Liberty has an article on the trial.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Preserving History

Today I showed Through the Red Gate to my Aspects of World History Class 1914-1945 at City Campus in Accra. Despite a lot of technical difficulties regarding the sound, it took three room changes before we got this problem fixed, I think the students liked the documentary. My TA borrowed the disk to watch again. One thing that they noted was that the main interview subject died just four months after the interview. In Kyrgyzstan I had two Russian-Germans I planned to interview die before I could talk to them. My TA had one of his interview subjects for his M. Phil. die as well just a few days before the scheduled interview. The death of sources before they can be interviewed is a serious hazard for any type of oral history dealing with events over fifty years old. It also results in the irretrievable loss of information. As I noted earlier some stories are lost forever. Fortunately, the stories told in Through the Red Gate have been recorded for posterity.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Evolution of the American Left towards a more moral stand

I do not know if the Occupy Wall Street movement is properly called a leftist movement. But, I do know that looking around the Internet that a lot of self described leftists support it. However, what I find interesting is that unlike left wing movements in the US during the 1930s and 1960s there does not appear to be any worship of foreign dictators like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, or Fidel Castro among the current activists. This is a huge change and a very positive one from the early leftist movements. I hope the lack of support for tyranny by the Occupation movement continues.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Does anybody know of any good African crime novels?

I am a big fan of your basic hard boiled detective novel. One of the best things about mysteries is their attention to local detail. This can be a region, a city, or an ethnicity. Burke's descriptions of Louisiana, Parker's Boston, Hillerman's Navajo Nation, Tamar Meyer's Mennonites, Randy White's Florida, and others all come to mind. But, the genre seems to be American centered. Sure there are a few exceptions such as Gorky Park which takes place in the USSR. Even the few exceptions, I know about, however do not cover Africa south of the Sahara. Now Africa seems to be a ripe continent for the genre. There is crime in big cities like Johannesburg, Lagos, and Nairobi. There is also political intrigue and under handed dealings. But, most of all there is a lot of interesting cultural background that could support such stories. So does anybody know of any good African crime novels?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Usol'lag Memory Book

I just found a list of 3,508 Russian-Germans conscripted into the labor army who died in Usol'lag between 1942 and 1947. Usol'lag was a labor camp in the Urals dedicated to logging.

The Goat on top of the Faculty of the Arts Bus

Today I saw something that is unusual in Legon. But, perhaps it is not so unusual in most of the world. It was a very nice new bus with Legon Faculty of the Arts painted on the side. Inside the bus were nice seats and curtains for the window. On top of the bus, however, was a goat. Who in the Faculty of the Arts felt the need to transport their goat with them in the nice new bus to the main campus of one of the largest universities in West Africa?  Modern buses carrying educated people through institutions of higher learning usually do not carry goats on their roofs. Or at least not in Legon. Perhaps things will get desperate enough in the US that adjuncts will have to bring their goats to campus to forage, but Ghana is considerably more advanced than that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Small data base of Volga German victims of repression

Every so often people ask if I can track down what happened to their Russian-German relatives in the USSR. Normally, I can not. But, I just found a list of a little over 1000 deportees from the Volga German ASSR in 1941 and a  list of several hundred labor army conscripts in the Urals. So I now have access to a small data base of actual names of people subject to this repression.

Yesterday in Ghana nothing bad happened. :-)

The weather is great in Ghana. The country is stable. There are no mass protests in the streets like in a number of other countries in the world. We have plenty of food. In short things are good.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Jobs (No not Steve), Debt Relief, and Health Care

I realized a while ago that there was no hope of me getting a decent job in the US. It now appears that this is true for a lot of other people as well. Fortunately, I liquidated all my debt over a decade ago and never had any student loans. I have also secured a good job complete with medical coverage in a country with a rapidly growing economy. Nevertheless it is very sad to see my homeland descend into the type of economic misery that gripped Ghana in the 1970s. Jobs, debt relief, and health care appear to have become for at least a substanial minority of young people in the US today what peace, land, and bread were to the Russian Empire in 1917.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Is it really that bad in the US now?

Granted my knowledge of current events in my home country is limited and seems to be getting smaller every day. But, the little pieces of information I do get lead me to believe that things in the US keep getting worse not better. We have been fighting in Afghanistan for ten years now and I am seeing projections that the US will continue active combat missions there for at least another decade. The economy appears to be in the worst shape it has been since the 1930s. Now evidently there are mass protests erupting throughout the US. Honestly the US is starting to look like the Soviet Union during its last days. An endless war in Afghanistan, an economy that has so many structural problems that successful reform looks impossible, massive and open discontent by the population, and a weak leader unable to effectively deal with these problems. I am not sure how accurate this impression is of the situation in the US. But, it is certainly the image that I am getting from the bits and pieces of news I do receive.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Cult of Personality

I do not have anything against Steve Jobs. But, I have also never owned any Apple products. I did not know, however, that he had such a strong cult of personality in the US. Looking at the Internet it seems that many Americans consider him infallible and view him the way many people in the former USSR view Stalin. I find this odd because while he was alive and I was in the US I never sensed that this cult existed.

Request for sources

Does anybody know any good sources on the Ga State in the early 17th Century? A good introduction to the political history of the Ga during this time would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance to anybody who lists any relevant sources in the comments.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

More on Working in Africa

I have accepted the fact that I may be living and teaching in Ghana for a very long time. It is very unlikely that I will ever get an academic job in the US no matter what I do. But, given what I see on the Internet about American academia, being exiled to Ghana may be a far better fate than working at a US university.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Wow I actually got three comments in two hours!

This is a very rare occasion. Normally, I rarely get any comments. Sometimes this blog goes for weeks without any comments. But, in the few hours I went to Accra to teach I got three. It says four, but one of them is a duplicate. On the downside I suspect those three comments represent at least half of my total readership.

What's Happening in the US?

Africa is a long way away from the US and trying to follow the news on the Internet is not easy. But, I keep seeing references to some sort of mass protest movement developing in the US. The center point of the demonstrations appears to be in NYC. But, other than that I have been able to learn very little about this movement. If anybody knows anything about it please leave a note in the comments. Thank you very much for your time and effort in this matter. Not that I believe anybody will leave a comment, but one should never give up hope.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Winneba Conference Part II

I am still a bit tired from my three day trip down the coast to Winneba, Elmira, and Cape Coast. I learned a lot at the conference. Of course I was starting at a pretty low level of knowledge about the subject, so a lot of basic information on German colonial rule in Togoland and Kamerun was new to me. In particular I was not aware of the fact that almost all violent ethnic conflict in Ghana during the last couple of decades can trace its roots back to the changes made in the appointment of chiefs by first the Germans and then the British in the area that used to be part of German Togoland. Like in South Asia, Ireland, and Palestine partition has also had long term negative effects in West Africa.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Slave Castles

Yesterday, I saw two slave castles here on the coast of Ghana. The first one was Elmina, the oldest one in the country, established by the Portuguese and later captured by the Dutch and then finally taken over by the British. The second one was the much larger and more recent Cape Coast Castle. This castle was originally built by the Swedes, then came briefly under Danish rule, and finally ended up in the hands of the British. The experience of actually seeing the slave dungeons was well worth the trip out west. May those who died there rest in peace.

Winneba Conference Part I

The conference on German colonialism in West Africa at Winneba went fairly well. My first paper on an African topic was not a disaster as I feared it might be. Instead it appears I got all the basics right although the paper still needs a lot of revision to flesh it out before publication. I approached my presentation in the spirit of somebody new to the field and was quite open about the fact that my knowledge of African history was considerably less than the other participants in the conference. Everybody has to start at the bottom. Some people just start later than others. The African scholars did not hold any of this against me and were quite accepting and helpful. I seriously doubt that I would have gotten anything other than a very hostile reception in the US. Africa has given me the academic career I have wanted for a long time. A very large number of people spent a lot of time and effort to deny me that career elsewhere, especially in the US. I have been amazed at just how open and accepting people in Ghana have been. The contrast between my treatment in Africa and my treatment elsewhere is extremely stark. Here I am respected as a fellow scholar and human being. In other places I have been treated very poorly. In terms of moral development Ghana is far ahead of the US.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Politically Correct Racism

While most US academics strongly deny that racial discrimination against anybody other than Jews ever existed as an official policy in the USSR it is hard to reconcile that opinion with empirical data. During the Great Terror the Communist Party Secretary of Krasnoyarsk Kray, Sobolev had the following eloquent words to say about people who really were victims of racial discrimination in the USSR.

Stop playing internationalism, all these Poles, Koreans, Latvians, Germans, etc. should be beaten, these are all mercenary nations, subject to termination...all nationals should be caught, forced to their knees, and exterminated like mad dogs. (1)

Claiming that Poles, Koreans, Latvians, and Germans are not racialized groups in this context is pure sophistry. American academics would never accept similar excuses for the persecution of minorities in the US or Germany. So why does the USSR under Stalin still get a free pass in the US today?

(1) Marc Jansen and Nikita Petrov, Stalin's Loyal Executioner: People's Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 1895-1940 (Stanford, CA, 2002) , 60.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Today's events

This morning the power went out a little after 8 am. This gave me about five minutes to check my e-mail. The power did not come back on until about 6:30 pm. In the meantime I discovered that I had about 1000 more US dollars in my bank account then I thought I did. That is always nice. I also finished grading the last 20 midterms for Aspects of World History 1914-1945. I couldn't get much else work related done without electricity. But, I did finally buy a flashlight right before the power came back on. So the next time the power is out after dark I will be ready.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I have now graded 46 midterm exams for my Aspects of World History 1914-1945 class. I have 20 left to grade. I am going to go home soon and then find some dinner.


I have a whole bunch of midterms to grade right now. I also have to make the final revisions before the conference on my cotton paper. The conference is this Thursday.

The Running of the Vandals

This morning as I left to go to work I witnessed a large and noisy parade of Vandals go down the street. Vandals is the popular name of residents of Commonwealth Hall, the University of Ghana's only all male dormitory. Half of them were wearing the traditional red colors of the Vandals and the other half had no shirts on. They were chanting, singing, banging on drums, and lighting off cherry bombs. They also waved a number of flags, one of which had a rather large phallic symbol drawn on it. I am told they do this every Saturday. But, I must have already been at work during the previous weeks. I will have to make sure to stay at home until around 8:00 am on Saturdays from now on so I can watch the parade.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is anything good happening in the US?

The news I am getting from the homeland on the Internet has not been real good recently. It looks like things in the US are just getting worse everyday. But, I have to account for the fact that negative news always gets priority over positive news. This is the primary reason most Americans think Africa is a land of nothing but famine, civil war, and corruption. None of the good things about Africa ever make it to American television screens. So if you know of any good news from the US please note it in the comments below, thank you. Although realistically I expect I will get exactly zero comments.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

For their freedom and ours

Yesterday, Ghana celebrated Founders' Day. At the departmental party there were a couple of things done to mark the event. One was to replay Nkrumah's speech on 6 March 1957. Another was to have us foreign guests reenact the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 and the carving up of Africa. But, it is clear that Ghana today is a free country. Palestine is still not free from colonialism and looking at the recent speeches by Obama and Perry it appears the US is no longer independent as well. The complete surrender by almost all US politicians to the most extreme elements of the Zionist movement is almost enough to make me lose my fufu.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ghanaian Thanksgiving

Evidently Founders' Day is the Ghanaian equivalent of Thanksgiving. You eat until it hurts in order to give thanks to Kwame Nkrumah for making Ghana free forever. I also learned that Ghanaians find the spectacle of white people eating fufu to be a celebratory event in itself. No sooner had I dipped my hand in the palm nut soup to start eating the fufu then a half a dozen people broke out their cameras to photograph me.

Happy Founders' Day

Today is a new holiday in the Republic of Ghana. It is Founders' Day. I am not sure exactly what it entails, but the history department is going out to lunch to celebrate. Any free lunch is a good lunch.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review of The Russian Conquest of Bashkiria 1552-1740

I just finished reading Alton S. Donnelly, The Russian Conquest of Bashkiria 1552-1740: A Case Study in Imperialism (New Haven: CT, Yale University Press, 1968). It is a pretty good and concise history of the Russian subjugation of the Bashkirs during the 16th to the 18th centuries. At parts it is a bit difficult to follow as there are lots of personal and place names thrown out as part of the description of various military actions. I wish he had taken more time to make these parts clearer to people without an extensive knowledge of the history of inner Asia before the 19th century. His conclusion has some interesting parallels with colonial expansion in North America and the book would have definitely benefited from a greater exploration of these similarities and differences. He notes that the Russians conquered Bashkiria primarily by co-opting natives into their military forces, something that the British and Americans largely failed to do in North America. I did like the fact that he did not pull in any punches in describing the Russian annexation of Bashkiria as an act of conquest and colonialism. The book also notes that the violence entailed in this expansion led to the deaths of about 30,000 Bashkirs out of a total population of around 100,000. Too many books written by American academics on Russian history tend to take an openly pro-Russian line excusing Russian colonialism and genocide.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When statistical information is worthless

I still can not figure out why I get so few comments on this blog compared to the number of people my site meter says visit here. I know that the vast majority of people active on blogs strongly disagree with just about everything I write on here. But, I do not even get trolls. I am starting to think that the number of people that actually read my blog is much, much smaller than the numbers indicated by the site meter. I am guessing I have maybe six regular readers that are real people. I am not sure about the composition of all the remaining hits. Some are undoubtedly from various intelligence agencies doing key word searches. Others are probably commercial bots doing the same thing to collect marketing data. I have no idea how to account for the remaining visits.


Yesterday was my busy day. I teach a class at Legon and then have to go to Accra to teach the same class again. If I am lucky I can get home before 9:30 pm. On the bright side I do not have to teach any classes on Fridays.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cotton paper finished

It is a couple days later than I initially planned but, I finally finished a draft of my paper on cotton in German Togoland. I also got the official program for the conference today. I am looking forward to going to Winneba, Cape Coast, and Elmina. I have not been outside the greater Accra area and it is time I saw some more of Ghana.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I wish Nkrumah had built a subway

I had to teach in Accra today. The class went well, but traffic as always was awful. There is not a day that goes by that I do not wish that Nkrumah had built a subway. Maybe if the clowns in the military had not overthrown him in 1966 he would have gotten around to building one. Then Ghana would be pretty close to a utopia.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thoughts on Palestine

The  Palestinians have an inalienable right to resist military occupation, colonialism, and apartheid. They have the right to use violent armed struggle against the agents enforcing this oppression. The lives of Israeli soldiers, Shin Bet torturers, and the armed thugs that have illegally settled in the West Bank are not sacrosanct. I know this opinion is only held by a very small number of Americans and that the vast majority of politicians, academics, and journalists in the US support Israel in everything it does. But, Israel's war against the civilian population of Palestine is not my war. I don't care if I am the only person with US citizenship with this opinion. I do not care if people think I am an anti-Semite because I oppose Israeli racism and brutality. It has become a meaningless term. I do care that I can say to myself that I am not a hypocrite supporting human rights for some groups of people and opposing it for others because their oppressors consider themselves to be "The Chosen People."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Year On

I have spent most of the ten years since 11 September 2001 living outside the US. Much of the time I did live in the US since this time I was literally on the most extreme geographical edge of the US. I was just a few miles north of the Mexican border in the small town of Arivaca, AZ. So my first hand knowledge of the US during the last decade is more limited than most other American citizens. However, what I have surmised is that life today in America is not better than it was ten years ago. I wish I could say that the terrorist attack on this day ten years ago ultimately resulted in a recovery to make the US a better place to live for the vast majority of Americans for the foreseeable future. But, I can not say that the US economy, culture, or political climate are better today than they were on 10 September 2001. My impression is that they are all significantly worse. I do not know went wrong, how it went wrong, or why it went wrong. I do know that life for a very large number of Americans is worse today than it was ten years ago and it should have gotten better for them.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My week

The week went pretty well. I taught two classes in Legon and the same two classes again in Accra. I made a little bit of progress on my Cotton in German Togoland paper. I hope to have rough draft finished by Monday. Finally, I got to reconnect with some people I have not communicated with in a long time.

This is the type of thing I am talking about

Okay I got a message today asking who these academics were that supported ethnic cleansing of Germans. Well this guy teaches at some university in New York. If somebody wrote something similar about Jews they would be banned from teaching at any university in the US forever. They would probably be banned from working anywhere at all including McDonald's or Starbucks.

Friday, September 09, 2011

"Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, Gott helfe mir, Amen."

Appropriately enough I covered Martin Luther in class yesterday. Because evidently my conviction that ethnic cleansing is morally wrong is not shared by a very large number of American academics. In fact it appears that supporting ethnic cleansing against ethnic Germans might be a requirement to get hired at many US universities. Those arguing that these victims deserved their fate appear to be the overwhelming majority of American academics active on blogs. Of course it is hard to know for sure since most of them hide under pseudonyms.  Still I am not wavering from my position which Luther expressed so well with the words, "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, Gott helfe mir, Amen." It is far better to have a clear conscience in Africa than to be an apologist for murder, rape, and theft in America.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

She had it coming

The continued justification and support of the brutal ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans from Central Europe by people who would never condone such crimes against other white people such as Jews is just unbelievable. Their claim is that most Germans supported Hitler therefore all ethnic Germans in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic including anti-Nazis, women, children, the infirm without exception deserved to be forcibly expelled from their ancestral homelands and die of material deprivation. I know that I am an extremely small minority in thinking that the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Central Europe after World War II had no moral justification what so ever and that collective punishment is always wrong. I am well aware that most American academics in the blogosphere think that caring about the human rights of ethnic Germans in 1945 is "perverse." But, I still maintain that human rights should be for everyone regardless of ethnicity, race or religion and that includes stigmatized groups such as Germans, Arabs, and Muslims not just groups that have powerful political lobbies in the US.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Another Reason I am Happy to Work in Africa

The constant refrain by American Academics that some victims of ethnic cleansing such as the Germans expelled from Central Europe in 1945 or the Palestinians in 1948 deserved their fate is really irritating. Imagine if they applied the same logic to other ethnic groups such as Jews or Hispanics? No you can not imagine it because it is an inconceivable idea. But, certain forms of bigotry are still perfectly acceptable in the US academy.


I think I am going to try and update my wardrobe soon. I think I need some Ghana themed t-shirts. I am thinking of getting one with a portrait of Kwame Nkrumah on it and if I can find them one of the "MAKE FUFU NOT WAR" shirts. Two shirts should be enough.

City Campus

Yesterday I finally got everything straightened out to teach at City campus in Accra. I think I can make up for the lost time by condensing the information in the first couple of lectures. The fact that they provide me with a car and driver is a great benefit. Otherwise I do not think I could make it into Accra twice a week to teach. On the way to the campus we passed a huge mural that was an Indomie ramen noodle advertisement. It had the various nutrients depicted as superheros.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Random scenes from the life of an Obruni in Ghana

Obruni is the Twi word for White man, but it is sometimes applied to African Americans as well. At any rate it is the standard greeting you will receive in the market place if you have white skin. Unlike most racially specific terms it does not seem to have any derogatory connotations.

Today Wiltex finally had tilapia. So I had tilapia, banku, and pepper for lunch. I figure I need the calories because later today I have to go to Accra to teach at the City campus. I also now have a TA for each of my classes. So I will no longer fret about any technical problems.

Yesterday's experience with technology

I got the projector to work. Or rather I found somebody with the technical skills to make the projector work. I do not do well with technology. Young people here in Legon on the other hand are very adept with modern electronics. But, the acoustics of the rooms in JQB are very bad. To make matters worse, about a half an hour into the film, a huge crowd of loud students gathered outside my class room for about forty minutes, making it very difficult to hear anything. I think it went okay, however. The film only took up part of the class and I used the rest for lecture and questions.

Monday, September 05, 2011


I am going to try and show Through the Red Gate to my class this afternoon. But, I am worried about the technical aspects of getting all the equipment to work. Last semester I had a TA take care of all of this for me. This time it looks like I am going to have to find a student to assist me with this task. I have enough to talk about if I can not get the movie to work. But, it never looks good to fail in front of an audience.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A controversial observation

I have noticed that a lot of American pundits, politicians, and academics who spend a lot of time denouncing Palestinian "terrorism" which they define as any and all resistance to the Israelis are fervent supporters of the earlier terrorism of the Irgun and Stern Gang. Which further reinforces my belief that these people actually have no principles what so ever. It is purely a matter of identity politics.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Teaching or Transfering Knowledge to Young Minds

The semester is now underway and I am enjoying teaching classes. The students here in Ghana are very good. They are much better than American students if the information posted on academic blogs is to be believed.  Next week I am having the students in my Aspects of World History 1914-1945 class read the article I co-wrote with Eric Schmaltz and Ron Vossler, "'In Our Hearts We Felt the Sentence of Death': Ethnic German Recollections of Mass Violence in the USSR, 1928-1948," Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 11, nos. 2-3 (June-September 2009), pp. 323-354. This is the first time I have assigned my own work to students at the University of Ghana. I am hoping that it works out well.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Lost Relatives?

I noticed that Memorial's list of Victims of Political Terror in the USSR has 75 people listed with the surname of Pohl. Since the Pohl side of my family came from Ukraine I am wondering if any of them are related to me. My now deceased grandmother used to work on genealogy , but she had very little on the Pohls that remained in Ukraine, especially after 1917. To be honest it would not surprise me if some on the list were indeed related to me.

New publication on Kalmyks

It is not a very big publication. But, I wrote the entry on Kalmyks for Jeffrey E. Cole, ed., Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2011). Go check it out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

After the Deportation: The Labor Army

Below is a translation of the first part of the decree ordering the first mass mobilization of Russian-Germans into the forced labor detachments of the labor army during World War II.

Resolution GKO USSR No. 1123 ss

10 January 1942

On the Orderly Use of German-Resettlers Between the Ages of 17 and 50

1. All Germans - Men the ages 17 to 50, capable of physical labor, exiled to Novosibirsk and Omsk oblasts, Krasnoiarsk and Altai Krais and the Kazakh SSR, are to be mobilized in the amount of up to 120 thousand into work columns for the entire time of the war and handed over in the following numbers:

a) NKVD USSR - For lumber preparation 45000 people. NKVD USSR - For construction of Bakal and Bogoslov factories 35,000 men;

b) NKPS USSR - For construction of the rail roads Stalinsk - Abakan, Stalinsk - Barnaul, Akmolinsk - Kartaly, Akmolinsk - Pavlodar, Sos'va - Alapaevsk, Orsk - Kandagach, Magnitogorsk - Sara 40,000 men.

The carrying out of the mobilization is to be entrusted to the NKO (c. Shchadenko), together with the NKVD and NKPS.

The mobilization is to commence immediately and finish 30 January 1942.
Document reproduced in A.A. German, T.S. Ilarinova, I.R., Pleve, Istoriia nemtsev Rossii: Khrestomatiia (Moscow: "MSNK - press", 2005), p. 272. Translated from Russian to English by J. Otto Pohl.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Exiled Forever



On the criminal responsibilities for flight from places of obligatory and decreed settlement of people exiled to distant regions of the Soviet Union in the period of the Fatherland War.

With the goal of strengthening the regime of settlement for those exiled by Supreme organs of the USSR in the period of the Fatherland War Chechens, Karachais, Ingush, Balkars, Kalmyks, Germans, Crimean Tatars and others, that at the time of their resettlement there was not a specified length of their exile, establishes that those resettled to distant regions of the Soviet Union by decrees of people in the high leadership are exiled forever, without the right to return to their previous places of residence.

For the voluntary leaving (flight) from places of obligatory settlement those exiles that are guilty will be subject to being prosecuted for criminal acts. It is determined that the punishment for this crime is 20 years of hard labor.

Cases related to the flight of exiles will be reviewed by Special Boards of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR.

People, guilty of harboring exiles, fleeing from places of obligatory settlement, or assisting their flight, giving permission for exiles to return to their places of previous residence, and rendering them help in accommodations in their places of previous residence, are subject to criminal penalties. It is determined that the sentence for this crime is deprivation of freedom for a period of five years

Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR


Secretary of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR

A. Gorkin

Moscow, Kremlin

26 November 1948

Document reproduced in V.N. Zemskov, Spetsposelentsy v SSSR: 1930-1960, Moscow: Nauka, 2005, p. 160. Translated from Russian into English by J. Otto Pohl.