Saturday, July 29, 2006

Human Rights Review article finally in print

My article, "Socialist Racism: Ethnic Cleansing and Racial Exclusion in the USSR and Israel" has now been published in Human Rights Review vol. 7, no. 3 (April-June 2006). The article developed out of a conference paper I gave at Lebanese American University in May 2004. I got my author's copy of the journal issue in the mail today. If anybody reading this post has access to a university or other academic library I encourage them to go check it out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

This Week's Modest Progress

This week so far I have managed to plod along and get a little bit done each day. Catherine's Grandchildren is up to 138 pages now. I finished the corrections on my book chapter, "Ethnic Erasure" and sent it by e-mail attachment to Estonia. I got the Conference on International Borders and Migration marked on the Arivaca Community Center's calender for next year. It is penciled in for 10 March 2007. So far I have gotten confirmations from six presenters including three from Europe. Unless something catastrophic happens in the next eight months, the conference looks like it is all set to go. I got everything including my letters of reference sent off to the overseas post-doc. Finally, I picked up an application for a part time job at the local post office.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I got another e-mail from Beirut

I got another e-mail from Beirut. Since the author gives permission to forward it to all interested parties I am posting it here. I have removed the contact information contained in the letter. Other than that I am reproducing it without any alterations.

Dear Friends and Family,

Dima and I were really overwhelmed by all the support and kindness we are literally receiving (by email and phone) from around the world! It does help a bit to take the edge off all the horrible images we are confronted with here daily.

(Just as a point of clarification, my wife Dima is doing OK, I only pointed out the visit to AUH last Monday to illustrate that one only ventures down to Beirut on important business. Please also feel free to forward this mail to anyone you think might be interested.)

Life in the War

It has been a week since I last wrote and things have really gone from very bad to horrible. Not only have almost all bridges in the country been destroyed, but many mobile phone relay stations, TV broadcasting antennas (including the Roman Catholic church's own station), hospitals, refineries, bakeries, dairies, and other food processing plants. Refugee convoys have been targeted from land, sea and air and it has been difficult to transport fuel oil, natural gas canisters and gasoline. For the first time in ten days, the garbage truck came through to pick up the trash. At 1,000 meters we don't smell the burning city, but we do smell the stench of burning trash.

Bhumdoun, and the neighbouring mountain resort town of Aley, are now full of refugees from the south of Lebanon, the southern suburbs of Beirut and the Bekaa valley. Fortunately they haven't destroyed the highway up to Bhumdoun because the there are no bridges between us and Beirut. Lebanon's own "Europabrücke", the "Golden Gate Bridge" of the Middle East, was blown up on the very first day of the war, it's c. 7 kilometres up the hill from us; Dima and I were out for a walk and saw it happen. This was a very sad moment for this proud nation.

Dima and I have run into a lot of our former and current NDU and LAU students (Notre Dame Uni, Lebanese American Uni) up here, exclusively Shi'ias and Sunnis from the South and Dahia (the southern suburbs of Beirut). All of the Dabbous clan who were staying with us the first week have either moved on to Europe and North America, via Syria or Cyprus, or have returned to the wartime "normality" of life in Beirut. We are momentarily down to the regulars, i.e. those who live up in the family mountain house every summer. A lot of déjà vu here!

Our only really close call was the trip back up to Bhumdoun last Monday. We had just gone grocery shopping to stock up for the week and had loaded the car with food, beverages, (not to mention supplies for the cats, Sascha, Heidi and Elvis ;-) and 60 litres of gasoline (in the car's trunk for the mountain house emergency generator), when a huge burning object feel c. 500 metres beside the mall's parking lot. There was some speculation that it was a downed IDF fighter jet, but that proved not to be true.

Taking a Stand

I have received many mails expressing sympathy for us personally, but supporting the necessity of destroying Hizbollah once and for all. Some have even written that the Lebanese people deserve this collective punishment because they refused to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the complete disarmament of all militias, i.e. the 1948 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Hizbollah.

From where I stand, i.e. married to a Ras Beiruti, Sunni-Muslim wife (NB: greater Ras Beirut is the Manhattan of Lebanon), and teaching political science and cultural studies at a Maronite (Lebanese Catholic) university for the last 6 years, the majority of the population views themselves as a third party in a war between two extremist forces, i.e. Islamism vs. Zionism.

As an Austrian-American Mennonite (Taufer or Anabaptist branch for the 16th century Reformation), I have always disagreed vehemently, both with my Hizbollah students and colleagues and with the "just war" and militarist Christians at my uni and amongst my friends. I see this war as a perfect illustration of the necessity and justification of my pacifist stance. This is indeed a war between two forces which, in their present form, are incapable of living in peace with the rest of the region. Tragically, it is only Hizbollah which is being called to task. Israel, which is responsible for at least 90% of the death and destruction during the last two weeks, enjoys the open support of the US, UK and Australian governments and the tacit support of Germany and many other EU member states.

Most of the international community agrees that Hizbollah must be disarmed. However, Israel, which has again displayed its total disrespect for the international norms governing military conflicts, human rights, respect for the Red Cross and especially for the protection of non-combatants, must be judged by the same yard stick.

The radical change that both the US, EU, UN etc, on the one hand, and the democratically elected Lebanese government, on the other, have called for, must include the total disarming of Hizbollah and the Palestinians, as well as an international tribunal to judge and punish the perpetrators of war crimes and human rights violations on both sides, i.e. also the Israelis!

What is to be Done?

Anybody reading this from outside the region can do two things.

1) Israel must be aware that the world is watching. NGOs and civil society in general should prepare to put pressure on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the relevant human rights bodies to try both Hizbollah and the State of Israel for the crimes they have committed over the last few weeks.

2) Lebanon will be receiving huge amounts of international aid to rebuild the country. Following the 16 year Lebanese Civil War, between 1/3 and 50% of the aid received from abroad for reconstruction went into the coffers of corrupt war lords, corporate bosses and religious fanatics. Thus, foreign funding helped lay the foundation in the 1990s for the crisis we now have.

The EU, UN, US, KSA and other international donors should set up a monitoring body, to control and sanction every step taken by the Lebanese government during the reconstruction phase. This body should be a combination of the ERP (Marshall Plan) authorities, in place in Europe after World War II, and the European Union's accession monitors, which are now forcing Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria to clean up their respective acts.

Step one will help introduce respect for international rule of law, both in Lebanon and Israel. Step two will force rule of law onto the Lebanese political system and help foster good corporate governance.

The Coming Days

Dima and I are down in Beirut because she, as director of the Women's Studies Institute at LAU (IWSAW), has to take care of business, even during the war. We will be heading back up to Bhumdoun – InShallah – this afternoon and hope to be able to start teaching again ASAP.

Thank you very much for your best wishes, support, prayers, and thoughts.

[I have deleted his phone number here]

Best, Eugene

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Big Idea Chugging Along

More people initially expressed interest in the Big Idea than I thought would. Right now I am trying to get these people to make a commitment to my proposed date of 10 March 2007. I figure if I can get six presenters to actually show up I can run a very good conference. So far I have gotten four people including one woman in Europe to give me a definite yes on the date. Another two people, both overseas, have said they would try and make it. I certainly understand the difficulty of international travel regarding conferences. The fact that so many people overseas responded positively to my initial call really amazes me. At anyrate it looks like I should be able to get at least six presenters out here without too much problem.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Another Publication Next Month

Yesterday I got the copyedited version of a book review I wrote for The Journal of Interdisciplinary History. I approved the corrections and mailed it off to the editor by Priority Mail this morning. The review should be published in their next issue in early August. The book I reviewed is Greta Uehling's Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars' Deportation and Return (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). Overall I thought it was an excellent book. I encourage anybody interested in the Crimean Tatars to go and read it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Right now I am busy with several projects. The Conference on International Borders and Migration that I am organizing is the most exciting. I am also still working on Catherine's Grandchildren. The manuscript is now up to 133 pages and should be finished by the end of summer. I still need volunteer readers for it if anybody is interested. I also have to make some minor changes to my article "Ethnic Erasure" (see the post "New Publication Due in October" below) which will come out this fall. Finally, I am now looking over an article for a friend before he submits the final version for publication.

Big Idea is Rolling Along

Last week I talked to the woman in charge of renting out the community center. It looks like it will be no problem to book it for the Conference on International Borders and Migration. I have set a provisional date of 10 March 2007 for the event. I have already e-mailed all those who have expressed an interest in presenting a paper at the conference asking them if this date is okay. One person has already written me back. She had no problem with the date. I should be able to get everything organized for the conference before the end of summer.

New Publication Due in October

Today I got my corrected proofs for my article “Ethnic Erasure: The Role of Border Changes in Soviet Ethnic Cleansing and Return Migration.” It will be appearing in Eero Medijainen and Olaf Mertelsmann, eds., Border Changes in 20th Century Europe, vol. 1 Tartu Studies in Contemporary History (Hamburg, Germany: Lit-Verlag, 2006). The book should see publication this October.

I got an e-mail from Beirut

I got an e-mail yesterday from one of my friends in Beirut. I am very glad to hear that he and his wife are unharmed. But, the description of what the Israelis are doing to Lebanon is very ugly.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

All Quiet in Arivaca

Today walking into town I did not see any National Guardsmen. The three humvees and the National Guardsmen they carried that had been parked near La Gitana were gone when I left the library for the second time on Saturday afternoon. I think maybe the National Guardsmen just wanted to see a little bit of beautiful downtown Arivaca.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The National Guard and the Border

The National Guard presence is much more obvious today than yesterday. This morning at the coffee shop (Gadsden Coffee/Aribac Cafe owned by Tom Shook) there were two National Guardsmen, one woman and one man. Both were from upstate New York. The woman had never been to Arizona before. She had, however, been to Iraq a place with a similar climate. There was also an Israeli photo journalist there working for the Independent in London. He was trying to negotiate getting photographs of the National Guard in action. The woman National Guardsman kept asking him questions about the current situation in Israel and he was very evasive. At anyrate it appears that the National Guard has been here about a week. They said, they will be here for a few more weeks until the Border Patrol has trained enough new people to take care of the border themselves. Right now there are alot more National Guardsmen in town than Border Patrol officers.

On my way from the coffee shop to the library I was passed by ten military humvees transporting National Guardsmen and one military truck. When I walked from the library to the post-office I noticed that three humvees complete with National Guardsmen sporting automatic rifles had taken up a permanent position a few feet west of La Gitana. I am not sure what they are guarding against in that location. Maybe they decided to stop there because it has some shade trees.

Worried for People in Beirut

In May 2004 I attended a conference in Beirut at Lebanese American University. Overall it was a very good conference and I really liked the other participants. Many of the people I met at the conference of course lived permanently in the city. Some were native Lebanese and others were Americans. I hope that they are all safe. My prayers go out to them.

More Life on the Border

The National Guard has arrived now. At about 11:15 am this morning I saw six military humvees with guys in camo drive by me. I think they were on their way to Sasabe. I estimate there were about 40 men in uniform in the vehicles.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Life in Arivaca

Today it was really hot. It was 108 degrees. The five mile hike into town over unpaved roads was a bit harder today than yesterday.

In the last couple of days I have been applying to an overseas post-doc. I met one of the people in charge of it about four years ago and he remembered me when I e-mailed him recently. I take that as a good omen. Overall I think I have a good shot at this position.

If Chris O'Byrne is reading this he should know the hookah arrived yesterday. I took it out for a test smoke and it works very well. It came with two packs of top grade tobacco which I am saving for when he gets down here. I have double apple and mint flavors of the good stuff. It should be a very pleasant smoking experience.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Life on the Border and More on Mennonites

Before I left to visit California the Border Patrol had a strong presence here in Arivaca. The RV Park on Universal Road had become a semi-permanent base camp with lots of Border Patrol trailers. At the corner of Arivaca Road and Universal Road the Border Patrol deposited hundreds of detained illegal aliens every hour and loaded them into big DHS busses for deportation back across the border. When I came back to Arivaca all that was gone. The other day a bored Border Patrol officer stopped his vehicle twice to talk to me. He was new here so he did not remember the presence at the RV park. But, he did say that they had closed this area off to most illegal immigration. According to the Border Patrol officer the estimated number of illegal immigrants crossing through Arivaca had dropped from over 1000 a day to less than 100 a day. That is a decline of over 90%. So at least in Arivaca the recent high profile of the Border Patrol has had a positive result.

In other news I have finished covering the ditch by the house. I got up early the last two days and worked from 7am to 8am on it. After that it starts to get hot. Today it is 106. Even so I managed to walk to town without too much strain.

I have also been working on Catherine's Grandchildren. Today I only got a page written, but yesterday I got three written. I have been writing about the Mennonites in the 1920s. In particular today I wrote about the famine relief provided to Mennonites in Ukraine and Crimea by American Mennonite Relief in 1922. Yesterday I wrote about the two official associations the Bolsheviks allowed the Mennonites to operate for their economic, social and cultural advancement. In the Ukraine they had the Association of Citizens of Dutch Origin (VBHH) and in Russia the All-Russian Mennonite Agricultural Association (AMLV). The VBHH received official approval on 25 April 1922 and the AMLV on 16 May 1923. These associations were democratically controlled by the Mennonite communities themselves and had wide ranging powers to promote the well being of their constituents. They could even contract to receive credit from abroad. No other minority had such organizations. The fact that the Mennonites, an ethno-confessional group whose values were the opposite of the Bolsheviks on almost every point, managed to secure such rights is truly amazing. They did it by being persistant activists with very good organizational skills. Before the end of the decade, the Soviet government dissolved both of these associations. The organizational abilities of the Mennonites, however, remained one of their great strengths throughout the Soviet period.

In the 1930s and 1940s the Stalin regime sought to dissolve the Mennonites as an organized confession. But, they always organized and sought to preserve their religious communities through non-violent means. Even in the Gulag camps, Mennonites organized prayer meetings. The Mennonites continued to operate clandestine congregations even after their partial legalization in 1967. Pacifism does not mean surrender it means forswearing the use of violence. The Mennonites throughout their history in the Russian Empire and USSR frequently proved this point. In the end despite decades of persecution it was the Soviet Union that collapsed not Mennonitism.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

P (ost) h (ole). D (igging). again

I am now back in Arivaca, AZ. For the past two days I have been toiling on the ranch. Yesterday, I put in some new fence posts to tighten the barbed wire around the perimeter. While I was gone in California some cows wandered onto my uncle's property. They have free range grazing for cattle in Arivaca. Today, I worked on refilling with dirt a ditch next to the house that resulted in the guest room flooding last year. In the next few weeks I will have alot of physical labor to perform before we get hit with the monsoon rains. We already had one big rainstorm yesterday.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Volga Germans and Mennonites

Today I am flying back to Arizona via Las Vegas again. That means it will take me all day to complete a two hour flight. It is almost faster to drive. Of course I don't have a car or know how to drive so I can't travel in that manner.

When I get back to Arizona I am going to try and organize my life a bit. First, however, I am going to get back to writing everyday on Catherine's Grandchildren. I think I have enough new material including a bunch of primary documents from the period 1917 to 1926 that I picked up in California that I can finish those sections of the manuscript. In particular I have alot on the revolutionary events in the Volga during 1917 and 1918 between the overthrow of the Tsar and the establishment of the Volga German Workers' Commune. Most of the Volga Germans favored cultural autonomy, particularly in education and land reform. Their positions on most issues came close to those of the SRs.

I also found alot on the organized emigration of Mennonites out of Ukraine and Russia from 1923-1926. This movement used the diplomatic pouch of the German legation in Kharkhov as its mail service. The correspondence that passed through this exchange uncensored is a great source of information on the conditions of the Mennonites in Ukraine during the early 1920s. It also allowed the movement to organize the emigration of some 20,000 Mennonites from Ukraine and Russia to the western hemisphere. It became very clear early on under the Bolsheviks that maintaining the traditional Mennonite ways would be nearly impossible. The Mennonites are the most politically incorrect people in the world. They are Christians, capitalists, patriarchal and pacifists. In contrast the Bolsheviks were atheists, socialists and militarists. Issues like land reform, universal secular education and military service directly threatened the continued existence of the Mennonite communities in Ukraine and Russia. In the wake of civil war, famine and a typhus epidemic many concluded that emigration was their only real option.

I will have some more to write about the Mennonites and other Russian-Germans when I get back to Arivaca. One of the issues which has great importance regarding their relation to the Tsarist and Soviet governments is whether the Mennonites were indeed German by nationality. A good case can be made that they are in fact Dutch. An even better case can be made that they are a distinct ethno-confessional group descended of both German and Dutch immigrants to the Russian Empire. I will put up an essay on this later.


I was so overwhelmed the other day at discovering I had a reader not related to me by blood that I made alot of mistakes in my post linking to her. Agnes of the Islands does indeed write in Swedish, but she is currently living in Berlin. I actually did know this and wrote that she was in Sweden anyways due to some sort of brain malfunction. Okay so I have a new reader living in Berlin not Sweden who has linked to me. I think the fact that I have link from an English language blog based in Sweden already predisposed me to this error. Or maybe I just have the Baltic Sea on my mind. Sorry, for the confusion on this issue.

"Smashing a Perfectly Good Hookah"

Just before I left Arizona to come to California, my uncle dropped my hookah pipe and shattered the glass vase. It was a pretty cheap Egyptian model and I had gotten alot of smoking out of it in the 10 months I owned it. I had definitely gotten my $45.00 worth out of it. I thought about just replacing the base, but the hose was really worn and held together with duct tape. The bowl also had seen quite some wear and had a few chips. Finally, the grommets had been almost completely shot. I had long ago replaced the one joining the shaft to the bowl with aluminum foil. Yes, it worked fine and the held together with duct tape and aluminum foil look gave it a stunning visual authenticity. But, I figured I would take this opportunity to get a better crafted pipe, especially since Chris is comming to visit Serenity Ranch soon. So I ordered a new hookah today. It is a Syrian made model and comes with a chiller, carrying case, an extra hose, extra grommets, some premimum tobacco and many other goodies that my last narghile lacked. Most importantly it has a protective base covering so that it will not meet the fate of my last hookah. Including the cost of shipping it out to the ranch the whole thing cost $111.00. Soon we are going to be Smoking!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day

To all of my American readers both at home and abroad I wish you a happy Independence Day. The US is now officially 230 years old. That is over three times as long as the Soviet experiment embraced by many American academics lasted.