Monday, December 29, 2014

Today in Legon

Most of the university is deserted now for winter break. Although the vital services and merchants I needed today were still at work. I had to go to the bank to get my new ATM card. On Saturday the machine told me my old one was "invalid." I also needed to buy a new pair of Chinese counterfeit Converse All Stars shoes from the guy under Legon Annex. They cost me a whopping 25 Ghana Cedis. Which is dirt cheap, but unfortunately they only last about two months before I need to again replace them. I also had to go to the Lebanese grocery store to buy more Colombian counterfeit Sriracha sauce. It is interesting that the South Americans are pirating the one item that actually should be manufactured in Asia. While I was there I went to the book store which was having a 20% off sale and purchased a modern history of Korea and a Norwegian mystery novel. I also got some work done on my book chapter manuscript on the role of the US government in overthrowing Nkrumah in 1966. Although I did not get as much written today on the manuscript as I had initially hoped.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Seventy One Years Since the Deportation of the Kalmyks

On 27 December 1943 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued Ukaz 115/144 ordering the deportation of all Kalmyks from the Kalmyk ASSR and the liquidation of the administrative territory. Known as "Operation Ulusy" the NKVD forcibly resettled over 90,000 Kalmyks on 28-29 December 1943 from their home on the shores of the Caspian Sea to Siberia. In less than five years some 17,000 of these deportees had perished from a lack of material goods. They lacked proper food, housing, and clothing. The Soviet government imposed special settlement restrictions upon the deported Kalmyks that severely limited their freedom of movement and residency. In 1948 the Stalin regime declared that the exile of the Kalmyks along with other deported nationalities was to be "forever." After Stalin died on 5 March 1953 things improved gradually for the Kalmyks. On 17 March 1956 the Soviet government released them from the special settlement restrictions and after 1957 they were allowed to return to their ancestral homeland. On 11 February 1957 the Soviet government recreated the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast. They upgraded this territory to the Kalmyk ASSR on 29 July 1958.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Winter Writing Project - The 24 February 1966 Coup

I just got an e-mail from Germany reminding me I have until the end of January to write a book chapter for a project I had completely forgotten about. So I guess I know what my writing project for this winter break will be focused on. In a way it is a good thing. It gives me an opportunity to write about a purely African and indeed Ghanaian topic. The topic is the role of the US government in the 24 February 1966 coup against Nkrumah. Upon receiving the e-mail I went digging through the pile on my desk to find my copy of The Great Deception which has many of the important CIA and State Department Documents on the coup in it. I am firmly in the camp that the US involvement was probably necessary for the coup's success. But, I won't be entering any more new evidence into the debate. Instead I will be framing the coup in the broader context of the Cold War between the US and the USSR and how this led to a shift in Ghanaian policies under Nkrumah that met with disapproval from the US government. A lot of the literature unfortunately focuses too narrowly on the purely Ghanaian factors without taking sufficient heed of the fact that non-alignment was bringing the position of Accra much closer to the USSR than the US on issues like European colonialism and apartheid.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Soviet Arrests from 1936-1938 and Diaspora Nationalities

Nationality    Number arrested from 1936-1938   Under/Over-representation

Russians        657,799                                                 -23.6%
Ukrainians     189,410                                                 -19.4%
Poles              105,485                                             +1850%
Germans           75,331                                              +662.5%                                      
Belorussians     58,702                                              +132.2%
Jews                 30,542                                              +116.7%
Latvians           21,392                                             +1500%
Iranians            14,994                                             +5500%
Estonians         11,002                                               +800%
Finns                10,678                                               +700%
Total            1,420,711                                                 100%

Source: Victor Krieger, Bundesbuerger russlanddeutscher Herkunft: Historische Schluesselerfahrungen und kollektives Gedaechtnis (Lit Verlag; Muenster, 2013), table no. 1, p. 151.

As can be seen from this table Soviet arrests during the Great Terror disproportionately targeted diaspora nationalities in contrast to Russians and Ukrainians. The percentage of arrested that were ethnically Russian was 23.6% less than their proportion of the Soviet population as a whole. Ukrainians were also underrepresented. The largest over representation in terms of percentage was among the small Iranian population of the USSR. They only made up 0.2% of the Soviet population, but a full 1.1% of arrests. The next most overrepresented nationality were Poles followed by Latvians. The only nationality with a full SSR to be overrepresented were Belorussians at 132%.

Azerbaijani Political Prisoner Leyla Yunus is Dying due to Denial of Medical Care

I met Arif Yunusov, an historian from Azerbaijan at a conference on Meskhetian Turks at METU (Middle East Technical University) in Ankara Turkey almost exactly 14 years ago. He was not only a valuable participant in the conference, but he was also an affable person and enjoyable partner for conversation, dinner, and drinking. Both he and his wife, Leyla Yunus, are also among other things long time human rights activists. On 30 July 2014 Leyla Yunus was arrested in Azerbaijan on charges of "high treason" and placed in pre-trial detention. On 5 August 2014 the Azerbaijani authorities also arrested Arif Yunusov on charges of "high treason" and placed him in pre-trial detention. The Azerbaijani security services claim that Arif and Leyla were engaged in espionage on behalf of Armenia.  Of course contacts between Azerbaijani and Armenian human rights and peace activists are not treason and the position of the government in Baku is typical of many authoritarian post-Soviet regimes such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Belarus. Currently Leyla Yunus is being denied needed medical attention and is as a result dying.  This type of barbarism should have ended in Azerbaijan when the USSR collapsed.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Elections in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is still ruled by the same man who was in charge of the Uzbek SSR before the Soviet Union collapsed, Islam Karimov. Since the collapse of the USSR and the creation of an independent Uzbek state he has ruled it in a completely authoritarian manner. This isn't surprising for Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is the only state in the region that has ever had any success with democratic procedures and institutions. But, what strikes me as hilarious is that just as during the Soviet era that the regime in Uzbekistan feels the need to go through the charade of elections that it pretends are democratic. The news is reporting an 88% voter turn out for the its parliamentary elections yesterday. Furthermore the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO) and Commonwealth of Independent States are certifying that the elections were free, fair, and democratic. The SCO consists of such "democratic" states as Kazakhstan, China, and Russia. Right now I can't stop laughing, but when I do I have some Ghanaian bridges to sell to anybody who believes that Uzbekistan really had free, fair, and democratic elections yesterday.

African Lives Matter

As can be seen from this map some parts of Africa such as Ghana are considered free while other parts like Gabon are not. Indeed most of Central Africa is in the not free category. Saturday there were demonstrations against the Gabonese regime with the result that at least one protester was killed by security forces. The current ruler took power in 2009. His father was the previous dictator of Gabon and came to power in 1967. There have been similar demonstrations without any effect in Togo. The current ruler of Togo also inherited his post from his father who like in Gabon originally seized power in 1967. The most recent demonstration in Togo took place on 29 November 2014 and before that 21 November 2014. On the other hand there was a change in rulers in Burkina Faso in response to protests earlier this year. Although it is doubtful that the new government in Burkina Faso will result in any actual policy changes. These mass struggles against corrupt dictators in French speaking Africa get very little press attention even in neighboring states such as Ghana. Of course in the US you will never see any "progressives" opposing the use of violence including lethal violence by the security forces of Togo and Gabon. US Black Lives matter to them, but African Lives do not when the people doing the killing are African governments backed by the "progressive" and "socialist" government of France. It is considered far more important by US "progressives" that France provides free health care to rich white people than it is that France backs brutal and corrupt regimes in Africa that kill people.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Number of Men Mobilized into the Labor Army during Winter 1942

Mobilization of Russian-German men into the labor army according to GKO Order no. 1123 of 10 January 1942 and GKO Order no. 1281 of 14 February 1942.

Sviashsk-Ulianovsk (Railroad Construction) - 17,823
Bakalstroi (Construction of an iron and steel factory complex) - 26,490
Ivdellag (Cutting down trees) - 12,899
Sevuralllag (Cutting down trees) - 8,441
Usollag (Cutting down trees) - 4,940
Viatlag (Cutting down trees) - 6,845
Kraslag (Cutting down trees) - 5,423
Bogoslovlag (Construction of an aluminum factory complex) - 12,311
Sevzheldorstroi (Railroad Construction) -5,653
Solikambumstroi (Construction of a paper and cellulose factory complex) - 2,537
Tavdinlag (Cutting down trees) - 1,918
Tagilstroi (Construction of an iron an steel factory complex) - 3,371
Umlatstroi (Transport construction work) -952
Total - 109,593

Source: Viktor Krieger, Bundesbuerger russlanddeutscher Herkunft: Historische Schluesselerfahrungen und kollektives Gedaechtnis (Muenster: Lit Verlag, 2013), table no. 1, p. 48.

Number of Russian German Deportees in 1941

Number of Russian Germans deported by the NKVD to Siberia and Kazakhstan during fall 1941.

Volga German ASSR -365,764
Saratov Oblast - 46,706
Stalingrad Oblast - 26,245
Rostov Oblast - 38,742
Krasnodar Krai - 37,733
Ordzhonikidze Krai - 99,990
Total for R.S.F.S.R. - 666,818
Zaporozhia Oblast - 31,320
Voroshilovgrad Oblast - 12,488
Stalin Oblast - 35,925
Total for Ukrainian SSR - 82,983
Georgian SSR - 20,423
Azerbaijan SSR - 23,593
Armenian SSR - 212
Total for USSR - 794,069

Source: Viktor Krieger, Bundesbuerger russlanddeutscher Herkunft: Historische Schluesselerfahrungen und kollektives Gedaechtnis (Muenster: Lit Verlag, 2013), table no. 1, p. 30.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco, the Institute of African Studies, and the History Department

Today I went to see the ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco give a donation to the Institute of African Studies for a project that is clearly focused on historical research. This is something that has occurred repeatedly. The Institute of African Studies has regularly gotten huge donations from various donors including corporations like Guinness while the History Department has gotten absolutely nothing, not a single peswa since I have been here. All of the money for history research gets sent to the historians working in the Institute of African Studies and none goes to the historians in the History Department. I am not sure why this extreme imbalance of funding exits. But, if you are interested in historical projects refusing to provide any funds to the History Department and the lecturers that work there does not seem like the most logical strategy. On the other hand success which is only measured in terms of money in today's global capitalist economy attracts more money and monopolizes it. So it appears we are locked into a typical neo-colonial pattern whereby all the donations by foreign governments, corporations, and rich individuals for historical projects all go to the Institute of African Affairs forever and none will ever go to the History Department.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ghanaian Brain Drain

The greatest resource Ghana has is educated people. It is also the one that they consistently lose to foreign countries. Despite the recent events in Ferguson, NYC, and other places the US is still the number one choice of countries for Ghanaians to live in. Almost every Ghanaian I have ever talked to has said they would prefer to live in the US than Africa. The main reason all 26 million people have not left Ghana to live in the US is that the US embassy here denies the vast majority of applicants visas. But, among the highly educated minority of Ghanaians with PhDs or MDs a very large number of them have emigrated to either the US, Canada, or Europe. The US being their preferred destination over places like Norway or Canada by a very large margin. The average assistant professor at a prestigious university in the US makes about $100,000 a year versus about $15,000 a year for lecturers at Ghana's flagship university. Given this difference in compensation any Ghanaian who can get a job in the US teaching at a university is going to permanently emigrate rather than stay and teach in Ghana. This difference of $85,000 a year makes up for an unlimited amount of cold weather, lack of fufu, and even lethal racism. An even greater discrepancy exists regarding the salaries of doctors. Of course the Ghanaian government has only itself to blame for this exodus. It is the one paying extremely low salaries to public employees compared to even other African states such as Nigeria or South Africa.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Palestinian Christians

The reason the Israelis deny the Palestinians their civil, national, and human rights is simply because they are not Jewish. This includes the Christian minority of Palestinians as well as the Muslim majority. Of course it is extremely politically incorrect among the people who dominate US discourse to talk about Jews persecuting Christians. It is something that is said to never have ever existed. Indeed there is a double negation of Palestinian Christians by US "progressives" both as Palestinians and as Christians. They are deemed by "progressives" to be a reactionary, patriarchal, and homophobic people both because of their Arabness and their Christianity. While US radicals supported every type of revolutionary guerrilla movement in Vietnam, Central America, and Southern Africa they did not support the PFLP under George Habbash, a Palestinian Christian. In this case they unconditionally supported Israel, something that can still be seen in the extremist anti-Palestinian position of people like the current mayor New York City and Senator Elizabeth Warren, neither who even have the excuse of being Jewish. The radical US "progressive" position of supporting the ongoing destruction of the indigenous Muslim and Christian society of Palestine as represented by people like Senator Warren is not likely to change any time soon. But, many of us on the  right have supported the struggle of the Palestinians since 1948 in opposition to the "progressive" position represented by people like de Blasio and Warren.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Trying to do Comparative History

I am admittedly not trained in African history. Nonetheless, I have been trying to write some comparative Soviet and African history pieces. In particular I see some strong parallels between South African apartheid and the special settlement regime imposed upon deported nationalities by Stalin. I have managed to get one journal article published on this subject. My article, "Soviet Apartheid: Stalin's Ethnic Deportations, Special Settlement Restrictions, and the Labor Army," Human Rights Review, vol. 13, no. 2 (2012) can be found here.  I have a second one I have been working on. It faces a couple of problems. Some of these are my own fault. One is that I know an awful lot more about Soviet history and the special settlement regime than I know about South African history. But, there is also the fact that a lot US academics seem to think that nothing Stalin did including the deportation of whole nationalities to deadly areas of the USSR and putting them under severe movement and residency restrictions can be compared to South Africa . They either reject the idea that racism could ever exist in the USSR or insist that Stalin's treatment of people like the Volga Germans and Crimean Tatars was far more benign than Pretoria's treatment of its Black population. For all its faults the apartheid regime in South Africa was far less murderous than the Stalin regime and to hold up Pretoria as infinitely morally worse than Stalin seems to me to be extremely problematic. But, of course my extreme minority ideas like this are what got me exiled to Africa in the first place.

Monday, December 08, 2014

"Three Worlds"

I like this map to the right dividing the world into the "First World", "Second World", and "Third World." Primarily, because it does so mainly on a political and not an economic basis. The "First World" here is depicted as the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Rhodesia. The "Second World" is the USSR, Eastern Europe, Cuba, China, Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The "Third World" is the rest of the world including all of Latin America outside of Cuba, all of Africa minus South Africa and Rhodesia, the Middle East, and the parts of Asia not already listed as parts of the "First" and "Second" worlds. I am guessing this maps is supposed to represent the world sometime around the late 1970s since it has all of Indochina listed as part of the "Second World" while Rhodesia is still in the "First World." Despite being a better map than most it still has some problems. If "Second World" is to include all socialist states regardless of economic development then Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique should be colored as "Second World" and not "Third World" states. Likewise if "First World" means US ally then Turkey, South Korea, the Philippines, and other Middle Eastern and Asian states with close military alliances with the US during the Cold War should be colored as "First World" states and not as part of the "Third World." The actual states of the "Third World" were those genuinely non-aligned states such as India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Algeria, and Zambia.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Crimean Tatars and Palestinians

In 2014 two events happened that demonstrated the continuing historical parallels between the Palestinians and the Crimean Tatars. These were the renewed Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip and the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea followed by a new wave of persecution by the Russian occupation authorities against the indigenous Crimean Tatars. In the 20th Century the history of the Crimean Tatars and Palestinians had followed similar paths of dispossession and political mobilization organized around the principle of returning to their ancestral homelands.  The ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 and the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 both followed familiar strategies of forcibly removing indigenous populations from designated territories. In both cases the victimized group was forcibly rounded up and transported against their will to alien lands ill prepared to receive them and permanently lost most of their property including their homes, farms, cemeteries, and mosques. In the process the perpetrators used a great deal of violence including massacres such as what happened at Deir Yassin in Palestine and the Arabat Strip in Crimea. Finally, strict measures were undertaken by both the Israelis and Soviets to prevent the return of the deported populations to their places of origin. The similarities are not entirely coincidental since the Soviet deportation of whole nationalities including the Crimean Tatars was an admitted source of inspiration for the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.  Conversely the situation of the Palestinians and Soviet support for their position became known and was used as a rhetorical tool against the Soviet government in the 1970s by the Crimean Tatars. The very active, but completely peaceful, Crimean Tatar national movement in the USSR compared the plight of the Crimean Tatars living in exile in Uzbekistan to that of the Palestinians and pointed out the hypocrisy of the Soviet government in this matter. While the comparison between the Palestinians and the Crimean Tatars has been made in passing in a large amount of scholarly literature, more in depth examinations of the parallels between the two nationalities has remained extremely limited. My short  article "Socialist Racism: Ethnic Cleansing and Racial Exclusion in the USSR and Israel," Human Rights Review, April-June 2006 remains the only published academic journal article focusing on the similarities and differences between the two cases. I have toyed with the idea of writing another article on the subject in light of more recent events. But, I really don't have anything new to say despite the passage of over eight years. It would be nice though if somebody with more access to the relevant sources than myself, however, did write an extended and updated comparison of the two situations.