Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ten White Dominated Countries more Racist than the US

1. Israel
2. Russia
3. Czech Republic
4. Serbia
5. Romania
6. UK
7. France
8. Italy
9. Spain
10. Australia

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Observations on the Geopolitical Neighborhood

Togo is a sliver of tyranny sandwiched in between the two stable democratic states of Ghana and Benin. As such it is part of a shrinking area of authoritarianism in an increasingly democratic region of the world. Looking across their borders the Togolese can easily see there is another and better way to run things.


Apparently the 24 crew members kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Togo from a Greek operated oil tanker are Russian citizens. Normally Russian tolerance for this sort of thing is pretty low. Ironically the ship was attacked while the US Secretary of the Navy was in Lome to discuss joint anti-piracy policies with the Togolese government.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ghanaian Navy on Alert after Pirate Attack

The Ghanaian navy has been put on alert following the attack on a Greek oil tanker by pirates off the coast of Togo. The pirates took 24 crew members hostage. On the Togo mainland things still look unstable as President Faure Gnassingbe refuses to step down. Like Assad in Syria and Kim  Jong Il in North Korea, Gnassingbe inherited the post from his father Gnassingbe Eyadema who was dictator of Togo from 1967 until his death in 2005, a total of thirty eight years. May the people of Togo soon be free of this dictatorial dynasty.

Ghana's unstable neighbors

When I first arrived in Ghana its western neighbor Ivory Coast was involved in a civil war. Now there is civil unrest in its eastern neighbor Togo. Police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. They have also engaged in the mass arrest of demonstrators. Women have called a sex strike and are planning a naked demonstration on Thursday. If all that was not enough pirates have also attacked a Greek ship off the coast of Togo.  I was planning on visiting Togo in a few months. Now I think Burkina Faso is the better option.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Open Thread on the Deportation of the Volga Germans 71 Years Ago

Seventy one years ago on 26 August 1941 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Council of Peoples' Commissariats of the USSR ordered the deportation of the Volga Germans from their homeland to special settlement restrictions in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Two days later the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued Ukaz 21-160 accusing the Volga Germans of harboring "tens of thousands of saboteurs" loyal to Nazi Germany and again ordered their deportation. From 3 to 20 September 1941 the NKVD deported over 400,000 Volga Germans from the Volga German ASSR, Saratov Oblast, and Stalingrad Oblast to desolate eastern regions of the USSR. I have written about this massive crime extensively on this blog in the past, especially on the 70th and 65th anniversaries. I don't have much more to say about it right now. But, consider this an open thread on the deportations and how they are remembered.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Where did everybody go?

For some reason my site meter shows that my blog readership has declined radically in the last few weeks. I guess even the bots and spies have lost interest in coming here, I wonder why? At any rate I have no intention of going anywhere even if my blog readership drops down to only my mother.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weather on the Equator

After weeks of being cloudy and rainy the sun has finally returned to Ghana. The heat has also returned. From now until March or so it will undoubtedly get hotter and hotter.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Internet Outage

The Internet has been out on most of campus since Friday. I finally found a place on campus where the Internet still works. I am starting to think, however, that it may be a very long time before it is available in my office again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Balme Library Canteen

There is a new canteen in the library. It is very clean, fast, and cheap. I went there for lunch today and had jollof rice, chicken, and a salad for 4.50 cedis. The salad even had English style salad cream on it. It was quite good.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Good mail

I got a very nice letter from the Master of Commonwealth Hall today welcoming me as a fellow. I still haven't gotten my Vandal shirt yet, however.

Monday, August 13, 2012

First Day of Classes for the Semester

Tomorrow is the first day of classes of the new semester. I have had a few students ask me if I was going to show up to teach. Of course I am going to show up to lecture.The first day of class is the most important. Students that do not show up will be missing out on vital information that will appear on the final exam.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Article on Russian-Germans in Kazakhstan

This article is a few months old, but I just found it. It is on how the German ambassador to Kazakhstan was shocked to learn the truth about the full extent of Soviet mistreatment of Russian-Germans in the labor army in Karaganda (Karlag). The fact that the German ambassador was not fully aware of this history in 2011 is what really shocks me. It would be the equivalent of an Israeli ambassador to Poland in 2011 not knowing the full extent of what happened at Auschwitz. On the bright side the ambassador has now taken a keen interest in the history of Stalinist repression of ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan including their mobilization as slave laborers in the labor army. It is never too late to learn. But, the fact that it took so long for somebody in his position to learn the details of the labor army is evidence of just how strong the taboo on discussing these issues remains.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Trying to figure out my site meter

My site meter says I am getting a lot of hits from places I am pretty sure I don't know anybody.  Places like Outer Mongolia, France, Holland, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. So I am pretty sure they are not real people. But, rather bots or spies. On the other hand I don't seem to be getting any hits at all from places where I do know lots of people like Ghana and Kyrgyzstan. What is up with that?

Russian Publishing Trends (2012)

Kyrgyzstan still remains within the Russian sphere of influence when it comes to media. I saw more than my fair share of really bad Russian sitcoms this summer. In particular most books available in Bishkek are imported from Russia. Scholarly books are rarely found in the book shops in Kyrgyzstan, but this summer I found a whole bunch of stuff from Aleksandr Dyukov's "Historical Memory" outfit on the book shelves. These books like the Nazi revisionists at the Institute of Historical Review look scholarly on the surface in that they have foot notes and other academic features. But, their work as a whole is obviously geared to supporting the current Russian effort to rewrite the history of WWII. Among other things the organization which is supported by the Russian government denies the Holodomor and claims that the Baltic deportations including those on 14 June 1941 targeted mainly Nazi collaborators. It overall seeks to justify the Soviet colonization of the Baltic States by portraying Latvians and Estonians as being primordially rabid anti-Slav racists dedicated to the extermination of Russians and Belorussians. You can go see their publications for yourself at their website.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Tomorrow is a Holiday

Tomorrow is a National Holiday here in Ghana. They will be burying the late President Mills. The funeral procession is forecast to be huge.

Last week of summer

Classes start next week and a number of students are filtering back on campus. A number of my 300 level students from last year have been asking which 400 level class I am teaching this semester so they can register for it. I am teaching Aspects of World History, 1914-1945. Cruising the Internet I continue to be amazed at the very stark contrasts between academic culture in Africa and the US. The profession seems to attract the absolute worst  people in the US. They are the same type of people that used to join the Cheka in Russia or the Red Guards in China. Thankfully there are no such people in the History Department here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

I am now a Vandal

Today I got a notice from the Registrar that I have been assigned as a Fellow to Commonwealth Hall since the first of February 2012. So now it is official, I am a Vandal. I hope I get my cool red Vandal shirt soon.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

When did a B+ become the new F?

I have had a number of students complain I gave them bad grades. When I ask them what grade they got many of them say a B+. I have tried to explain to students that a C is average and that a B+ is a very good grade. But, they all think that they should get As and that anything less including an A- is a poor mark. Has anybody else ever encountered this problem?

Monday, August 06, 2012

New faculty in the department

This semester we are scheduled to have eight full time faculty teaching. Six of us are old timers including myself and two are new people. I met one of the new people today.

Is there still a Third World? Was there ever one?

The term Third World originally signified those states that were neither part of the Soviet led socialist bloc or the US led alliance of NATO and Japan. It was meant to categorize the political position of states such as Ghana, India, Indonesia, Egypt, and Yugoslavia that led the Nonaligned Movement. Later on this became quite fuzzy as Soviet allies such as Cuba and Vietnam joined the Nonaligned Movement. The term Third World itself came to mean any country with a lower level of economic development than the US or USSR regardless of its political orientation in the Cold War. Thus countries as radically different as Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Angola, Pakistan, and Indonesia all became classified as Third World.

From 1989 through 1991 the Second World collapsed and ceased to exist. Making the term Third World even more of an anachronism. Presumably the richer European states of the former Second World like the Czech Republic and Hungary became First World and the poorer Asian ones such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan became Third World. Although this reclassification hardly seems satisfactory. Is Russia really a First World country at the same level of development as Belgium? The tripartite division which was really only useful for a brief time as a political not an economic classification during the 1950s and 1960s appears to have outlived all of its usefulness. Yet, Third World still remains the favorite term by US commentators to describe the entire planet outside of Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Colonialism and Post-Colonialism in the Soviet Union

To my mind a colony is an ethnically distinct territory ruled by a state dominated by a different ethnicity and economically exploited by that state against the will of the indigenous population of the politically subordinated entity. The classic examples of such territories are the former European ruled countries in Africa and Asia. The Gold Coast from 1874 to 1957 for instance meets all the criteria listed above for being a colony and nobody disputes its former colonial and present post-colonial status.

In regards to the USSR I think it is clear that some of the territories ruled by Moscow such as the Baltic States clearly constituted colonies in the classic sense described above. They were completely politically subordinated to a Russian dominated state, provided far more resources to that state than they received, and the indigenous Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians strongly resisted Soviet rule. In the case of Central Asia, Michael Voslensky's term semi-colonies appears more appropriate. There was complete political control over these republics by Moscow and very few Central Asians represented in the central apparatus of the Soviet state. So they meet the first part of my definition of colonies. But, they do not meet the next two criteria. The central Soviet government invested considerably more resources into Central Asia than they extracted, the exact opposite of its policy in the Baltic states. There was also very little opposition to Soviet rule by the indigenous Central Asian population. For the most part most Central Asians had favorable opinions about being citizens of the Soviet Union. This was due in large part to the economic benefits provided by the Soviet government to the inhabitants of Central Asia. I would categorize the USSR as a colonial empire that had both colonies such as Latvia and Estonia and semi-colonies such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

This brings up the question of whether the former Soviet states are post-colonial. Or as David Chioni Moore put it, "Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post in Post-Soviet?." I would argue that the post is indeed the same, but that a semi-colony only conforms to the political and not the economic forms of a classic colony. In both cases the "post" is also the same as in post-polio in that there are long term negative consequences to both colonialism and Soviet rule that can be crippling.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Russian-German Heroes of the Soviet Union

Over 33,500 Russian-Germans, most of them from the Volga region, served in the Soviet military fighting against Nazi Germany during World War II. Almost all of them were removed from the ranks of the Soviet armed forces before the end of 1941 and mobilized into forced labor detachments during 1942. Despite this prohibition on military service a large number of Russian-Germans managed to earn prestigious medals and orders from the Soviet government for their role in defending the USSR against Nazi Germany. Ethnic Germans in the Red Army bravely fought against the Nazis during the first months of the war before their almost complete purge from the military. A total of eight Russian-Germans received the award Hero of the Soviet Union. I have listed their names below.

A. Bohrmann
W. Wentzel
S. Wolkenstein
A. Hermann
N. Gastello
I. Garwahrt
R. Klein
N. Okhmann


A.A. German, 2011, "Rossiskie nemtsy v gody Velikoi Otechestsvennoi Voiny: Vklad v Pobedy", in A.A. German (ed.), Grazhdanskaia identichnost' i vnuternnii mir rossiskikh nemtsev v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny i v istoricheskoi pamiati potomkov, Moscow: MSNK-Press, p. 14, fn. 6.

I.I. Shulga, 2011, "Massovye geroism rossiskikh nemtsev na fronte i v tylu protivnika kak proiavlenie patriotizma i grazhdanskoi identichnosti", in A.A. German (ed), Grazhdanskia identichnost' i vnuternii mir rossiskikh nemtsev v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny i v istoricheskoi pamiati potomkov, Moscow: MSNK-Press, pp. 22-25.

A Funeral in Ghana

Today I went to my first Ghanaian funeral ever. The mother of one of my colleagues died while I was in Kyrgyzstan. There was a lot more music than in most US funerals.

Friday, August 03, 2012

New Office

They are remodeling the History Department. While I was away my office got converted into a temporary storage room. So now I have been moved upstairs to a smaller, but much more modern office.

Russian-Germans Buried at Chon Tash

At Chon Tash in Kyrgyzstan there is a mass grave of 137 people murdered by the Stalin regime in 1938. A disproportionate number of these victims were ethnic Germans. Despite making up less than one percent of the population of the Kyrgyz SSR at this time they constituted a full dozen, over eight percent, of the people shot by the NKVD and buried at Chon Tash. I have listed their names below.

Fedor Egorovich Bengard
Petr Yulisovich Bergmann
Wilhelm Davidovich Wall
Friedrich Gottfriedovich Deitz
Vladimir Augustovich Litzenmeyer
Egor Emelianovich Lofink
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Luft
Konstantin Aleksandrovich Luft
Josef Ivanovich Meldenburger
Teodor Teodorovich Miller
Mikhail Eduardovich Richter
Heinrich Heinrichovich Janzen

Source: A. Shtraus and S. Pankrats. 1997. Svidetel'stva prestuplenii. Bishkek: Ilim.  pp. 103-104.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


While Kyrgyzstan is hotter than Ghana in early August it is not nearly as humid. I have found myself sweating a lot more today than I was a few days ago. I have been drinking lots of beverages to offset this including a green coconut and the spicy light soup that accompanied my fufu and goat.

Back in Ghana

I arrived back in Ghana last night after almost two months in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Despite being on the equator the temperature is a lot cooler here than in Kyrgyzstan.

New Publication on Soviet Apartheid Now in Print

My article, "Soviet Apartheid: Stalin's Ethnic Deportations, Special Settlement Restrictions, and the Labor Army: The Case of the Ethnic Germans in the USSR" is now in print in volume 13,  no. 2 (2012) of Human Rights Review, pp. 205-224.