Thursday, April 30, 2009

In Solidarity with William I. Robinson

I do not personally know Dr. Robinson. I am also not familiar with his scholarship. All I know is that he is a tenured professor of sociology at University California of Santa Barbara of Jewish heritage who is being threatened with termination for criticizing Israel's recent atrocities in the Gaza Strip. His crime is drawing parallels between the Israeli policy of starving the Gaza Strip with the Nazi policy of starving the Warsaw Ghetto. Two students complained to the ADL about his comparison and they in turn pressured the University Administration. The Univeristy is now forming a faculty committee to explore whether he should be disciplined before a standing committee. The ADL presumably wants Robinson to be stripped of his tenure and fired. Unfortunately, the administration of the university seems to be heading down this path. This is the most blatant violation of academic freedom in the US I have ever seen. If not even tenure can protect what I would consider a perfectly reasonable criticism of Israeli state terrorism then we Americans really should stop pretending there is any such thing as academic freedom or freedom of speech at American universities. I fully expect the usual suspects, professors who are progressive except Palestine, to either remain silent in the face of this outrage or to actively support the ADL's efforts to eliminate freedom of speech for American scholars.

Hat Tip: Mark Elf and Crew at JSF

Karachai Presentation Results

I think the presentation by my student researchers regarding their oral history project went well. Fewer people showed up than I expected. Evidently a lot of people were giving final exams early and this conflicted with the time of the presentation. This means I have a lot of snack food left over.

First Karachai Presentation Today

Today my three students researching the oral history of the Karachais deported to Kyrgyzstan will give their first formal presentation on the subject. I stopped by Ramstor this morning to buy snacks for the audience. I am very much looking forward to this event.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Noise, Noise, Noise

All day today there was extremely loud music blaring from the parking lot in front of the school as part of the celebration of the founding of Bishkek. Unfortunately, it is not a day off and I had to try and work through the awful racket. During my Politics of Genocide class I had to ask my students to shout their presentations so that they could be heard over the amplified drum music blaring outside. It was almost impossible to teach over the noise. As head of the local union here at AUCA I have inserted Bishkek Day as an additional paid holiday into the draft of our next contract. If we can get the administration to agree to it, my students and I will not be wasting our time a year from now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Last Class of the Semester

Today I gave my last lecture of the semester. It was a brief summary of Soviet history from Brezhnev's replacement of Khrushchev as Secretary General of the CPSU until the collapse of the USSR. Tomorrow and the next day will all be devoted to student presentations. Then classes are over. Final papers are due on May eighth.

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Plagiarist of the Semester

I caught my first plagiarist of the semester. He was extremely blatant and copied numerous whole passages from the Internet without attribution. I am going to be lenient and only give him a zero for the assignment rather than fail him for the class. I knew my plagiarism free streak was too good to be true.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Only One Week of Classes Left

Next week is the last week of classes for the semester. My students in Politics of Genocide and Migration and Borders have to finish up their final oral reports. In Political History of the USSR I have one lecture and one seminar left on the Gorbachev years. After next week we have finals week. I do not give final exams, but all my students have to submit a final research paper by May eighth.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Today I taught two classes, peer reviewed a third and attended a long committee meeting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Grading Papers

Even though I have pretty much solved the plagiarism problem and the overall quality of student writing has improved immensely, I still hate grading papers. I have a big stack of papers from Migration and Borders and Political History of the USSR to finish grading. I am not looking forward to grading almost 70 research papers come May eighth.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Return to Sadovaya

Yesterday, Orthodox Easter, my student research team and I returned to the village of Sadovaya. We went to examine the Muslim cemetery there. There are a number of Karachais buried in the cemetery along with Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Dungans and Chechens. Many of the Karachai graves had elaborate granite headstones with engraved pictures of the deceased, various symbols and writing in both Arabic and Cyrillic scripts. Quite a few of these markers belonged to individuals that had been deported to Kyrgyzstan from the Caucasus in November 1943. It was a beautiful day and the caretaker was extremely helpful. I found the small cemetery to be quite idyllic. Overall it was definitely worth seeing.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The incredible shrinking number of PhDs at AUCA

When I first started working at AUCA in August 2007 there were eight faculty in the International and Comparative Politics Department of which four of us were full time with PhDs. The next semester the total number of faculty in the department increased to nine of which five were full time with PhDs. At the start of my second year this ratio plummetted dramatically. This academic year out of ten faculty members only two of us are full time with Ph.Ds. Other departments have even fewer people with doctorates. This is one of the primary reasons why I doubt AUCA will ever get accreditation in the US. But, now I hear the Ministry of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic is making noise about revoking local accreditation due to the extremely small number of instructors with terminal degrees.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Host

Today with two other faculty members and one student I had lunch at the new Indian restaurant. It was absolutely fantastic. I can not remember when was the last time before today that I had Indian food.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Miss Kuritsa

Yesterday when I came home from work I noticed a small cardboard menu stuck in my apartment door. It was from an outfit called Miss Kuritsa which specializes in fried chicken. The menu has fried chicken with sauce, fried chicken without sauce, hamburgers and corn dogs. They also deliver to your door free of charge. The girlfriend was quite impressed by the idea of delivered food. We ordered one big order of fried chicken with sauce, two small orders of fried chicken without sauce and three corn dogs. It came to 550 som or about $13.25. It tasted pretty good and we still had a lot left over after dinner. I hope she and the boy do not eat all of the leftovers before I get home from work.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Sun is Shining

It looks like the sun has finally returned to Bishkek.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


For the last two days it has been raining almost nonstop. I feel like I am back in England. I hope the sunny weather returns to Bishkek soon.

Monday, April 06, 2009

More on Volga Germans in Turkmenistan

The descendants of the Volga Germans that settled in the Sarakhs region (Krestov) near Ashgabat in Turkmenistan managed to avoid deportation in 1941 due to already being located in a remote area of Soviet Central Asia. However, like many Russian-German communities in Central Asia they experienced severe repression later in the 1940s. In the case of the Russian-Germans living in Sarakhs raion, Ashgabat Oblast, Turkmen SSR this repression came at the end of 1948. In December of that year, the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) of the Turkmen SSR requested that 64 Russian-German families be deported from this district. In response the central Soviet government mobilized all those capable of physical labor from these families for construction work on the Chelyabinsk metallurgy complex in the Urals. The Stalin regime forcibly resettled the remaining 310 ethnic Germans from Sarakhs, those judged to be incapable of physical labor due to illness, disability or age, to Tomsk Oblast in Siberia.

Source: N.F. Bugai, L. Beria -I. Stalinu: "Soglasno vashemu ukazaniiu..."(Moscow: "AIRO XX," 1995), p. 46.

Another Turkmen Dinner

Last night my girlfriend, her son and I had dinner at the apartment of some students of mine from Turkmenistan. The food was very good and both my girlfriend and the boy had a good time. As long as they are happy I am happy.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

New Teaching Techniques that Work

Last year I was a bit frustrated by my inability to motivate really good class discussions in my Political History of the USSR class. Since history is my field I felt particularly perplexed at my failure to instill a passion for the subject in my students. This year I have been much more successful in sparking interesting and insightful discussions in the class. One technique that has been especially helpful is passing out short primary source materials and asking students to comment on them. On Thursday I passed out the following two documents*:

Council of Peoples' Commissariats of the Union of SSRs Resolution No. 35 of 8 January 1945 "On the Legal Status of Special Settlers" signed by Molotov and Chadaev

Ukaz of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 26 November 1948 "On the Criminal Penalties 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" signed by Shvernik and Gorkin.

I then asked the students how these acts which clearly discriminate against whole groups of people defined by their nationality could be reconciled with the 1936 Soviet constitution which prohibited both collective punishment and discrimination on the basis of race or nationality. What ensued was one of the best class discussions I have ever seen. I basically just conducted an hour long group dialogue on issues of political legitimacy, propaganda, the various motivations for people fighting in the Red Army, the political uses of memory and history, and of course national repression and Soviet state building. The best thing about teaching at AUCA has been watching the very tangible improvement in critical thinking skills exhibited by my students. I have seen remarkable academic growth in many students that have taken multiple classes from me.

*The copies of the documents I passed out were in the original Russian. I have translated the identifying information in the documents into English for purposes of this blog post.

Creating Good Labor - Management Relations

Last week the leadership of the local faculty union here at AUCA had two productive and friendly meetings with the administration. The establishment of an ongoing dialogue between the union and the administration is a very positive development. As chairman of the local union organization I feel that we have been able to successfully articulate our concerns to the administration. Considering that we did not even exist as an organization in October, this is a significant accomplishment.

Next Semester's Classes

This week we had registration for classes. I will be teaching a total of four classes next semester. Three of these are in International and Comparative Politics and one is in American Studies. The course names are listed below.

Political Violence and Terrorism in Central Asia

Conflicts in the Caucasus

Russian Politics

American Presidency

Friday, April 03, 2009

Why Palestine is a Conservative Cause

I will return to this topic later in more detail. But, I am finally going to put down my main ideas as to why I think Palestine is a conservative cause. The reasons are fairly straightforward and I believe much more coherent than the reasons given by former Marxists and leftist "neoconservatives" in support of Zionism.

The Palestinian population in 1947 consisted overwhelmingly of traditional agrarian communities composed of practicing Muslims and Christians. They had strong family values and traditions rooted in their religious beliefs. They also had deep roots in the land and long established local communities. Their daily way of life and world outlook thus fit the definition of conservative perfectly.

The Zionist movement in contrast was led by self described atheists and socialists such as David Ben-Gurion who were intent on radically transforming the demographics, landscape and economy of Palestine along revolutionary lines. The Labour Zionists were heavily influenced by the model of the USSR under Stalin and openly cited the NKVD's violent deportation of the Volga Germans and Crimean Tatars as models for removing the native Arab population of Palestine. In this endeavour they initially received the support of the USSR and socialist bloc which recognized the ideological similarities between Labour Zionism and Soviet socialism under Stalin. This assistance included heavy arms in violation of a UN arms embargo, military training and diplomatic support in the UN. The resemblance between Stalin's uprooting of the traditional communities of the Volga Germans, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars and the Zionist expulsion of the Palestinians is thus not coincidental. They share common ideological roots and the Zionists borrowed many of the techniques of ethnic cleansing from the Soviet Union. Thus the Zionist movement was in contrast to Palestinian society the antithesis of conservative. It was radical, socialist and atheist rather than traditional and religious like Palestinian society.

It is thus not surprising given the radical socialist roots of Israel that most of its supporters have traditionally been Marxists and other self described leftists. Indeed one often sees the term "progressive except for Palestine" on the Internet. This term is used to describe leftists, usually Americans, who support Israel's ongoing repression of the Palestinians. But, Palestine has only become a "progressive cause" fairly recently. In the US most critics of Israel such as Patrick J. Buchanan have been traditional conservatives. Looking at modern Israel's origins in 1947 and 1948 this makes perfect sense.

Statement of Purpose

This blog generally does not deal too much with the meta issues of blogging itself. After all I am not a philosopher. Instead I have a degree in history and work in a political science department. Nonetheless, I have given some thought as to the purpose of this blog recently.

First, it is a public journal of sorts. That is it records some of the events of my life including my teaching and research. In the past when I have tried to keep a written journal that was not public I always quit after a couple of months. This blog is almost five years old. Being public it also provides information to my family and friends. For a long time I think my parents were my only readers. I think I may have one or two more regular readers now.

Second, it is a place that allows me to develop short written pieces on topics that interest me. Thus it serves to further distill and condense my thoughts on various subjects. The ability to provide brief summaries is one of the skills I try to impart to my students as well.

Finally, it provides a place for me to post important documents such as syllabi, article abstracts and research proposals. Viewers can get a general idea of the type of professional teaching and publishing I have done by reading through the archives of this blog. I do not have another web site.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Happy in Bishkek

These pictures are a bit old. They are from a dinner party in Bishkek last semester. I am the guy in the sweater with glasses. I have since cut my hair and lost some weight. The woman in the black dress is my girlfriend, Oksana.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Returning Refugees and Deportees

On JSF there has been some recent discussion in one of the comment threads about the mass return of nationalities deported by Stalin to their historic homelands in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a precedent for the return of the Palestinian refugees. The question of scale has been raised. I believe there are about 4 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants living outside of historic Palestine. This is certainly greater than the total number of deportees in the USSR that returned to the Caucasus, Kalmykia and other regions during the Khrushchev years. But, the numbers involved were still quite sizable.

Between 1941-1948, the Stalin regime forcibly deported 3,266,340 people from their homelands to eastern regions of the USSR (Bugai, doc. 48, pp. 264-265). A total of 2,303,279 of these exiles came from the eight nationalities deported in their entirety (Ediev, table 109, p. 302). That is the Russian-Germans, Karachais, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks. By 1 January 1954, the total number of special settlers had declined to 2,760,471 (Bugai, doc. 62, pp. 277-278). The largest group of deportees, the Russian-Germans were never allowed to return to the Volga, Ukraine and other European areas of the Soviet Union in large numbers. The Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks also remained banned from returning to their homelands during most of the Soviet period.

The Chechens and Ingush were the largest group to return home from exile in the eastern regions of the USSR. Between 1957 and 1961, a total of 384,000 Chechens and 84,000 Ingush returned to the North Caucasus leaving only 34,000 Chechens and 22,000 Ingush in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The vast majority of these returnees, 432,000, returned to the Chechen and Ingush ASSR. This increased the territory's population to 892,400. The remaining 36,000 returned to their ancestral villages in Daghestan and North Ossetia (Bugai, doc. 66, pp. 281-282). Thus nearly 90% of the Chechen and Ingush population had returned from exile in Central Asia to the North Caucasus in less than five years.

So I do not have an example of millions of refugees or deportees returning home. But, there is an example of hundreds of thousands of internal exiles in the USSR returning home during Khrushchev's reign. Of course one major difference between Israel and the USSR is that the return of the Chechens and Ingush to a restored Chechen-Ingush ASSR did not threaten the existence of the USSR as a socialist state. The return of an equal percentage of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homeland would undoubtedly doom Israel as a Zionist project.


N.F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat'": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: "Druzhba narodov, 1992).

D.M. Ediev, Demograficheskie poteri deportirovannykh narodov SSSR (Stavropol': "Argus", 2003).