Friday, November 30, 2012

Sudeten Germans and Palestinians

The only European country to vote against recognition of Palestinian statehood was the Czech Republic. I wonder how much this has to do with the common and persistent refusal of both the Czechs and the  Israelis to come to terms with the brutal expulsions and atrocities they both carried out in the 1940s? The Czech Republic like Israel is a state whose modern incarnation is founded upon massive ethnic cleansing. Near the end of WWII the Czechs violently expelled the vast majority of ethnic Germans and Hungarians living in Czechoslovakia. The forced expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia involved a number of massacres perpetrated against civilians as well as sexual assaults against women. It thus closely paralleled the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians just a few years later.

How many Russian-Germans served in the Labor Army?

Waves of Conscription of Russian-Germans into the Labor Army

August 1941-January 1942 - 20,800
January 1942 - June 1942 - 138,400
October 1942 - August 1943 - 153,500
Total - 312,700

Note these numbers are incomplete. The total number of Russian-Germans conscripted into the labor army from August 1941 until the end of January 1946 exceeds 316,000. Of which 182,000 served in NKVD camps (ITLs) and 133,000 served in civilian commissariats (the numbers are rounded and thus only total 315,000). Other figures are higher. GULag Chief Nasedkin in one document placed the number of Germans, Finns, Romanians, and others mobilized into the labor army from 1942-1944 at 400,000 of which 220,000 worked in NKVD camps and 180,000 in civilian commissariats. Determining the exact national breakdown of the men and women in the labor army is difficult. But, the lowest percentage of Germans among the labor army contingent at any of the camps where the data has been examined is 87% at Bakalstroi (Cheliabmetallurgstroi). Thus it is possible that the number of Russian-Germans to serve in the labor army might have been as many as 350,000.

Source: V.M. Kirillov and N.V. Matveeva, "Trudmobilizovannye nemtsy na Urale: sostoianie i novye aspekty issledovaniia problemy," in A.A. German (ed.), Nachal'nyi period Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny i deportatsiia rossiiskikh nemtsev: vzgliady i otsenki cherez 70 let (Moscow: MSNK-press, 2011), pp. 627-655.

Congratulations Palestine

Yesterday the UN upgraded Palestine to non member state, a status which will allow them to bring Israeli officials before the International Criminal Court. All the "progressives" in the US government including UN Ambassador Susan Rice, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York are strongly protesting the decision. It has been a long standing "progressive" policy of the US Democratic Party to support Israeli apartheid. One more reason why I am not a "progressive." I support equal rights and national self determination for the Palestinian people.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Sound Bite on Rice

The more I read about Susan Rice's wretched record on Africa where she has quite literally facilitated and tried to cover up the mass robbery, rape, and murder of people in the Congo by the armies and proxies of Rwanda and Uganda the more I am convinced she is morally unfit to be Secretary of State.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rwanda as Africa's Israel

I have been trying to read up and understand the recent history of Congo. It is pretty complex, so I still do not completely understand it. One thing that is clear is that the history is intimately tied up with the history of Rwanda and to a lesser extent Uganda, both of which with US and UK support have consistently intervened in Congo since 1996. Their aggression which has included widespread pillaging and rape as well as killings has a number of causes. But, it does appear that the frequently made comparisons to Rwanda and Israel do have some merit. Both are states where a minority subjected to genocide, Jews in Israel and Tutsis in Rwanda, control the state. They are also both demographic minorities in those states if you include the territories occupied and controlled by Israel and displaced refugees. In both cases the state draws much of its international legitimacy from representing a group victimized by genocide and in both cases these states have parlayed this moral capital into massive and unconditional support from the US. In particular the US Democratic Party has been supportive of both Israel and Rwanda in every crime they have committed. The first military intervention in Congo by Rwanda took place in 1996 and the second in 1998 both with the support of the Clinton administration. The International Rescue Committee estimates that this second war cost 1.7 million lives by 2000 including 200,000 direct deaths from violence. Now Rwanda is again intervening in Congo and destabilizing the country to the detriment of the indigenous population through its support of the M23 militia. Like Israel, Rwanda has basically gotten anything it wants from the US. The Obama administration has continued the Clinton policy of facilitating Rwandan aggression against Congo. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice who is currently being touted as the next secretary of state has been one of the key figures in the US efforts to provide cover for the aggressive behavior towards Congo by the Rwandan regime. I realize that all US "progressives" support Obama in everything he does and that all US "progressives" support the nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State. But, US "progressives" have been notoriously bad for the people of Africa. Yet one more reason I am not a "progressive."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review of Millions Cried...No One Listened

I have now watched five of the six disks in Millions Cried...No One Listened which is a documentary series produced by Ann Morrison on the mistreatment and expulsion of ethnic Germans in East Central Europe in the immediate years after World War II. Most of the series consists of interviews of Donauschwaben survivors from the Banat and Batschka in what was Yugoslavia. There are also some interviews with Donauschwaben from Hungary as well as ethnic Germans from Zipser and the Sudetenland in what was Czechoslovakia, and some representatives from East Prussia and other areas. On the whole, however, the series is largely titled towards the story of the Donauschwaben in Yugoslavia and to a lesser extent the ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. I personally would have liked to have seen more on Germans from Pomerania, Upper Silesia, Siebenburgen, and of course the various regions of the USSR. But, it is of course impossible to cover the persecution and expulsion of all the ethnic German communities in the region in a little over six hours.

The  interviews represent very good primary sources dealing with the plight of the ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. I have become increasingly more cognizant of the importance of oral sources and the severe limitations of government archives in recent years. Certainly in terms of explaining the experiences of individuals subjected to ethnic cleansing and internment in concentration camps, oral sources are generally superior to archival records in expressing the truth. The accord reached at Potsdam by the US, UK, and USSR for instance describes the mass expulsion of 14 million ethnic Germans from their homes during this time as an "orderly and humane" transfer. The reality of the expulsions were neither orderly or humane something that comes through clearly in the interviews.

The structure and organization of the documentary, however, suffers from an attempt to cover all the expulsions in one grand narrative divided by chronology rather then breaking them up into chapters based upon the fate of Germans in each individual territory. A lot of the documentary is repetitive and the organization of these interviews into a single coherent narrative is marred by trying to cover multiple areas at once. In particular the switching back and forth between survivors from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and other areas is somewhat confusing. Since the series has six disks it would have better in my opinion to separate the stories of the various German communities by country. That is devote one disk to Yugoslavia, one disk to Czechoslovakia, and one disk to Hungary. The eastern areas of Germany itself, Poland, Romania, and especially the USSR are distinctly underrepresented particularly in comparison with the very large number of interviews of Donauschwaben from the Yugoslav Batschka and Banat. I suspect this has to do largely with the source base available to the film maker.

This, however, in no way detracts from the excellent nature of the interviews themselves as an invaluable source of information. The story of the ethnic Germans from Yugoslavia and their brutal mistreatment by Tito's government in the years immediately after World War II has received little coverage and is an important component of the modern history of the Balkans. This documentary lets the survivors themselves tell that story.

If there are to be more films in this series made I would strongly recommend that the very large Russian-German communities that have arrived in Germany in the last couple of decades from Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Central Asia be interviewed about their experiences in the USSR. There is one interview with a Volga German on the first disk. But, in the subsequent disks the fate of one and half million Russian Germans including the over 200,000 forcibly repatriated back to the USSR during 1945 and 1946 is almost completely neglected. Obviously not everything can be covered in a single project and the fate of ethnic Germans in East Central Europe and the USSR is a huge topic. Nevertheless, the documentary series itself makes claims to covering a much grander narrative than just the persecution of the Donauschwaben.

Despite these minor structural criticisms, Ann Morrison is to be highly commended for the hard work she did in conducting these interviews and making them all available in an easy to view format. While many German communities such as those in the USSR, Romania, and Poland are largely lacking from this first collection, it does do an excellent job of covering Yugoslavia. Hungary and Czechoslovakia are covered less thoroughly.  I definitely recommend the film as an excellent collection of oral primary source material on the history of ethnic Germans in East Central Europe. There is nothing comparable out there in terms of the breadth and depth of the interviews, particularly for the Donauschwaben from Yugoslavia.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Knowledge on Midwives and Family Planning in Ghana has Increased from Zero

I just finished copy editing an MPhil thesis on midwives and birth control in Ghana. I now know a lot more about midwifery, family planning, and female reproductive health in Ghana than I did this morning. Which is to say I know a tiny bit as opposed to absolutely nothing. For some reason, not only am I getting a lot of the honors thesis and graduate work on ethnicity to supervise and edit, but now I am getting a big chunk of those dealing with gender issues. Fortunately, I just had to copy edit the dissertation I went over today because my knowledge about the content of the work was basically zero this morning and it has only increased due to reading the particular work I was editing. But, I understand the history of midwives is a hot topic in the US.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Current Reading on Congo

I am currently reading Thomas Turner, The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth & Reality (London: Zed Books, 2007). A couple of things that stand out in the first couple of chapters. First, the author is rightfully critical of Marxist scholars for ignoring or at least seriously downplaying the role of ethnicity, race, and nationalism in favor of class. I would say that this criticism applies to everything and not just Congo. But, it is good to see a confirmation of my own observations. Second, the role of foreign powers is greatly highlighted and the author avoids the usual leftist cliche of placing all the blame on the US or the even more usual leftist cliche of placing all the blame on Republicans in the US. There seems to have been a complete rehabilitation of LBJ recently by American liberals based solely on his membership in the Democratic Party. But, it should be remembered that it was his administration that helped put Mobutu in power in 1965. The Belgian paratroopers that landed at Kisangani were dropped from US planes (Turner, p. 34). The Canadians and even more so the Belgians up to the present day have also been major factors in the neo-colonial exploitation of Congo (on the role of Canadian companies see Turner, pp. 39 and 47). How such a small state as Belgium has been able to consistently cause so much damage to a large and distant state like Congo is somewhat of a mystery to me. But, given that the Belgians murdered more Congolese than Hitler killed Jews, the relative dearth of denunciations of Belgium versus Germany in scholarship and popular culture does point to a persistent structural racism among left wing intellectuals in the West. Other powers that have been involved in Congo include Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia. I was not previously aware of the role of Angola or Namibia. Turner consistently reinforces the point that the conflict in Congo is intimately tied up with the history of Rwanda. I will have a more thorough review of the book when I have finished reading it. But, so far it has been quite informative.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Good News on the Cedi

It looks like the cedi is finally gaining rather than losing value. Between now and January the cedi may actually increase in value relative to the US dollar by as much as 3%.  This appears to largely be due to intervention by the central bank to prop up the value of cedi. In the first half of the year the cedi lost a lot of value, about 20%. It has since August been making a comeback. The total loss of value for the cedi for 2012 versus 2011 in comparison to the US dollar will be about 11-12%. If the current increase in value can continue into 2013 I should be in good shape.

The tendency for the cedi to lose value against the US dollar is a long standing problem in Ghana. It is a result of the need to import a huge amount of goods that need to be paid for in US dollars thereby depressing the price of the cedi as there is a much higher demand to exchange cedis for dollars than dollars for cedis. Attempts to remedy this problem by import substitution in the 1960s and 70s largely failed. Although Ghana does produce very high quality and inexpensive goods such as pharmaceuticals, it does not produce enough of them to meet 100% of domestic demand. The alternative strategy which worked well in East Asia would be to gear the economy towards the export of manufactured goods to generate the hard currency needed to finance Ghana's current imports. While the current monetary interventions to increase the value of the cedi are absolutely necessary, in the long run the currency's stability can only be maintained by fixing the imbalance between imports and exports. Ghana needs to move beyond merely the export of raw materials such as cocoa, oil, and gold. It needs to engage in value added manufacturing for export which can generate more hard currency than than it spends on imports.

Source: Reuters

Friday, November 23, 2012

Soviet ethnos theory, international law, and why Francine Hirsch is wrong

Before I had my big meeting I was reading up on Soviet ethnos theory. In particular I was reading the work of Sergei Sokolovski. But, Valery Tishkov and Peter Skalnik also arrive at the same conclusion. Soviet ethnic theory has always been primordialist. That means that in western terms natsionalnost in the USSR has always been identical to the concept of race.Virginia Tilley et at in describing the concept of racial discrimination in international law notes that what is important is not that it be based upon genetics as people like Hirsch wrongly insist, but that the discriminated against category be primordial. A requirement that would definitely include all discrimination in the USSR based upon natsionalnost.

The ICTR [International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda] observed that, for all these identities, the protected group should be 'stable and permanent': membership is normally acquired by birth and is continuous, immutable, and not usually challengeable by its members. This seemingly 'primordial' quality  - that is, the identity is perceived to be passed down through generations and therefore to be mostly immutable in group members - is thus the common denominator of identities based on race, colour, descent, and national and ethnic origin: that is , the groups cited by ICERD [International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination] as being targets of racial discrimination (Tilley et. al, p. 156)..

 There is no doubt in my mind that Soviet ethnic theory and practice dating back to its origins under Shirokogorov (the same man frequently cited by Afrikaner volkekundiges to justify apartheid) is essentially a racial theory. It posits that ethnoses are primordial in the sense described by Tilley et al above and this does not differ in any substantial way from the way in which 'race' functioned in apartheid South Africa. The claim by Hirsch that racial discrimination only exists if the categories targeted are biologically based rather than ethnic based has been rejected by scholars of ethnicity and race not dealing with the USSR for decades.   As Tilley et al notes in clear contrast to Hirsch,

Third, no absolute, measurable, and consistent criteria exist for distinguishing one of these identities [the previous sentence identifies them as 'race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin'] from another, as the labels are frequently interchangeable and their use may be politicized." (Tilley et al, p. 157).

That is just because the Soviets call 'race' natsionalnost does not make it something other than race. There is no clear and hard line separating ethnicity and race the way Hirsch falsely claims. Primordial ethnicity is essentially one of the definitions of 'race' and discrimination on this basis is legally under International Law considered to be 'racial discrimination.'

Source: Virginia Tilley et al, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law. (Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council, 2009).

UG Publishing Project

Today I had a seven hour meeting about the University of Ghana publishing project. This project involves each department putting out a collection of essays by its faculty. I have already submitted a draft of an article on Blacks in the USSR under the title, "Is there a Black Eurasia?: Ghanaian and other Diasporic African Populations in the USSR in Comparative Perspective." It still needs a little bit of editing before the final submission, but it is basically done. My conclusion is that there was no Black Diaspora in the USSR only Black people since they lacked some of the key elements needed to constitute a diaspora. Most notably they did not have any real connection to Africa.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fufu and Goat

Today for Thanksgiving Dinner I had fufu with goat in ground nut soup. It was pretty good. But, there was nothing out of the ordinary about it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three Reasons Why I call myself a Right Winger and not a "Progressive"

1. I do not support Israeli apartheid and colonialism.
2. I do not believe that Soviet, Czech, and Polish crimes against ethnic German men, women, and children and others were morally justified by the Nazi crimes against Jews.
3. I do not worship Barack Obama.

An Answer to Stalinist Revisionists

Apparently the new Stalinist line is that ethnic Russians suffered just as much during WWII as the Russian-Germans and therefore Stalin did nothing wrong by deporting the population to special settlement restrictions in Siberia and Kazakhstan and then mobilizing them into the labor army. First of all it is simply not true that the losses are comparable. This has a quantitative element. The percentage of ethnic Germans and others to die due to deliberate policies of the Soviet government of sending them to areas with poor climatic conditions, using them for inhumane labor, and refusing to provide them with adequate material goods was higher than the overall death rate of the USSR during the war by a significant margin. As Viktor Krieger notes the demographic losses of the Russian-Germans from 1941-1945 were between 316,000 and 350,000 people or 22-25% (Krieger, p. 150). Ediev estimates that a full 228,000 of this loss consisted of excess deaths or 19.17% of the Russian-German population. For other deported nationalities such as the Chechens the number was considerably greater. The deportations and poor conditions in special settlements killed over 125,000 or 30.76% of the Chechen population (Ediev, table 104, p. 294). In comparison only 14% of the total Soviet population died during the war and this figure includes over three million people who like the Russian-Germans and Chechens died as a direct result of Soviet repression not the war with Germany.

Second and more importantly is the qualitative element. The Stalinist line that the Russian-Germans did not suffer any more than ethnic Russians is literally the moral equivalent of noting that six million Germans died during WWII so their suffering was equal to that of the Jews. It completely ignores the fact that war deaths and the death of civilians due to deportation and forced labor are not at all comparable. The Soviet government not the German government was wholly and 100% responsible for every single death that occurred in its camps and areas of internal exile. Trying to say otherwise is no different from those Holocaust deniers who blame the death of Jews from typhus in Nazi camps on the Allies. The special settlers and labor army conscripts were wards of the NKVD and the Soviet state had an obligation to provide for their material needs. The death of special settlers, labor army conscripts, and GULag prisoners in the USSR was morally no different from the almost identical deaths from malnutrition, disease, and exhaustion in Nazi ghettos and camps.


D. Ediev, Demograficheskie poteri deportirovannykh narodov SSSR (Stavropol': ARGUS, 2003).

V. Krieger, Rein, Volga, Irtysh: Iz istorii nemtsev Tsentral'noi Azii (Almaty: DAIK-Press, 2006).

Thank You Mother Africa

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US. Here in Ghana it is just another work day. Like last year I give thanks to Mother Africa for giving me a job and a career as an historian. Far too few people appreciate what Africa has done for the world. But, I know what she has done for me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Thoughts on Gaza

In the long run, meaning the next couple of decades, I do not see anyway that Israel can ensure its permanent survival. It can only delay the inevitable day when there is no longer a Jewish state in Palestine like there used to be a White state in South Africa. The Israelis and their supporters have guaranteed that there can be no long term territorial compromise between such an entity and the indigenous Arab population of the Levant. This of course puts Israel where South Africa was in 1961. A year when it was just starting to become clear that most of the world was not going to tolerate the continued existence of the RSA as an apartheid state forever. Outside the US most of the world's population particularly in Europe and the Muslim countries is no longer willing to abide the existence of Israel as an openly racist state oppressing millions of Palestinian Arabs. Creating a series of Palestinian Bantustans, which can then be bombed at will like Gaza, is no longer an acceptable solution to the conflict for people outside the US and Israel. Eventually even in the US Israel's support will be diminished as most Americans come to the realization that supporting Israel does serious damage to America's reputation abroad. Unfortunately, in the meantime the Israelis have proven themselves both able and willing to inflict incredible human suffering upon the Palestinians.

Russian-German Mortality Calculations

In 1949 the NKVD did a recount of special settlers. It listed the numbers initially deported and then the number present in 1949. In total the Soviet government claimed there were 3,332,589 people under special settlement restrictions from 1941-1948. In 1949 there were 2,275,900 people still living under special settlement restrictions. The difference was accounted for mainly by the high death rates among deportees from the North Caucasus (144,704) and Crimea (44,125) and the release of 810,614 former kulaks during this time. It lists the number of Russian Germans initially deported as 1,024,072 and the number recounted as 1,069,041. For many of the contingents listed there is also the number of recorded deaths between the initial deportation and 1 July 1948. For the Germans instead there is a note saying that an additional 210,600 repatriated Germans had been added to the special settler rolls in 1945. This means that the actual number of Russian-Germans classified as special settlers from 1941-1945 in the USSR totaled 1,235,322 not the 1,024,072 listed as initially deported. The difference between this total and the number of Russian-Germans counted as special settlers in 1949 is 166,281 people or 13.5% of those deported and repatriated (doc. 40, p. 108). Most of these missing undoubtedly died, although some were released for various reasons. An NKVD report from October 1948 lists the number of recorded Russian-German releases at 37,784 and deaths at 45,275 although this latter figure is grossly incomplete. It also lists 25,792 births which would further increase the gap between the number of Russian-Germans condemned to special settlement restrictions and those alive in 1949 (doc. 35, p. 101). Incorporating these figures into the calculation leaves a total of missing and dead for the Russian Germans of 154,289 people or 12.5%. This figure is low because it does not take into account the two contingents formed from ethnic Germans already living in Siberia and Kazakhstan before 1941. The addition of Russian Germans classified as "local" and "mobilized", which for some reason are not mentioned in the document tabulating the 1949 recount,  substantially increases the number placed under special settlement restrictions. In 1953 "local" Germans numbered 111,234  and "mobilized" Germans 48,582 special settlers (doc. 52, pp. 118-119).  Thus the number of missing and dead Russian Germans between 1941 and 1949 is over 300,000 or about a quarter of the population. A figure that fits in well with the estimates of excess deaths within the group during this time at between 150,000-250,000 people.

Source: N.F. Bugai and A.N. Kotsonis, (eds)., "Obiazat' NKVD SSSR...Vyselit' grekov" (Moscow: INSAN, 1999).

Saturday, November 17, 2012


I know that none of the "hip" and "radical" academics that dominate the US will ever demand that any action ever be taken against Israel for her crimes. Right now as Israel bombs Gaza and kills innocent children liberal and leftist blogs like CT are completely silent. The AAUP and people like Claire Potter, "the Tenured Radical" still oppose BDS claiming it is a violation of "academic freedom." Potter in fact spreads the deliberate lie about BDS that it requires the boycott of individual scholars rather than institutions and is therefore different than the academic boycott of South Africa. It is not any different and Potter knows that she is lying. The liberal left establishment that controls the US Democratic Party, media, and academia has long given unconditional support to Israel.  The blood of Palestinian children is on their hands and they have no shame.

Friday, November 16, 2012


The semester is almost over now. I had a four hour meeting this morning and now all I have left to do is give final exams. Part of the meeting was our end of the semester departmental meeting. It will not be the last one, but before I came here the department was close to death due to a lack of faculty. Since then our department head has literally rebuilt the History Department here and recently won an award from the university for this achievement. When I first came here as the first new faculty member in this resurrection there were only two full time permanent history lecturers. Now there are seven. The difference the extra four faculty make in the department is incredible. Through great effort the head of our department quite literally resurrected the history department from near death. I am proud to have been part of that process and maybe somewhere in a footnote to a work of history in the future it will be noted that I was the first new faculty member to arrive at Legon in this resurrection, a small, but important step in the development of Africa.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Book Store

Across the street from the university they are putting together a new mall. The anchor is the Max Mart on the ground floor. But, on the second floor up there is a huge book store with an incredible selection. The prices are also reasonable. Fiction costs 12 cedis and non-fiction 10 cedis. I purchased five books there yesterday. Spending 54 cedis was a bit of splurge for me, but the more I think about it the more I think it was worth it. I am used to paying 2.50 cedis for used books at the University book store, but the supply is drying up. Currently I am reading Paul French's North Korea: The Paranoid Peninsula - A Modern History (London: Zed, 2004). For 10 cedis (five dollars) I got a pretty good deal. I see that Amazon UK is selling the book for 57 pounds or the equivalent of 230 cedis ($115). I never understood how prices could be so high in the UK. For these type of prices to make sense the average starting lecturer in the UK would have to make 200,000 pounds a year.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Classes are finally over

Today I taught my last class of the semester. It was historiography, a 200 level class that other lecturers in the past have found frustrating to teach. I think I did a fairly good job of restructuring the class to be thematic rather than author based and to be more Afrocentric and less Eurocentric than it has been in the past. Unfortunately, the students were not very familiar with Pan-African authors either. Nobody in the class had read Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa or Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth for instance. But, at least by using more African examples I think I was able to connect better with the students.In the future this class will be moved up to 300 and hopefully by that time the students will have a better basic knowledge of some of the more notable works dealing with African history.

Palestinian Statehood

The Palestinian Authority is now applying to be recognized by the UN as a nonmember observer state. The recognition of Palestine as a state by the UN would allow them to take cases against Israel in the International Criminal Court. Israel is for instance currently in violation of the 1973 UN convention outlawing the practice of apartheid. I seriously doubt that Obama in his second term will do anything to support human rights and national self determination in Palestine. But, if he wanted to do something that would be remembered internationally as having some positive historical significance he could break with AIPAC and support the Palestinian move to be recognized as a state and bring criminal charges against Israeli officials before the ICC. There have been a lot of crimes committed since 1948.

Source: AP and Mondoweiss

The continuing existence of kings under a republican form of government

Today I read through an MPhil dissertation on an Asante chieftaincy dispute. The parallel structure of traditional leadership which is monarchical in nature with a national republican government and the coexistence of customary law and legislated law creates an odd dualism. Ghana is a republic and yet it has a lot of kings, queen mothers, and other royal figures. Normally if a country is a republic it has no kings or royal figures.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

More on Camps in the Urals

Most of the Russian-German men mobilized into the labor army worked in Corrective Labor Camps (ITL) rather than for civilian commissariats. While there were labor army contingents at labor camps in Siberia, Kazakhstan, and other places, the largest number worked in the Urals. The Russian-Germans in the labor army formed a very large contingent of the forced laborers in some of these camps ranging from 9% to 86.8% of the work force. Unlike the prisoners that made up most of the remainder of the labor force at these camps the labor army conscripts were never charged or tried for any crimes. Instead they were sentenced to indefinite terms of forced labor under conditions nearly identical to those of prisoners solely on the basis of their German ancestry. Below is a list of the main camps in the Urals with Russian-German labor army contingents in the spring and summer of 1942. I have noted the number of Russian-German labor army men in each camp and the percentage of the total work force they constituted.

Bakallag - 26,480 (86.8%)
Ivdel'lag- 12,899 (40.4%)
Sevurallag - 8,441 (46.3%)
Bogoslovlag - 12,311 (42.9%)
Solikamlag - 2,537 (56%)
Tagillag- 3,371 (9%)
Tavdinlag - 1,918 (46.7%)

Source: N.V. Mateeva "Vliianie uslovii truda i zhizni  na vnuternnii mir rossiiskikh nemtsev-trudarmeitsev v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny," in A.A. German (ed.)., Grazhdanskaia identichnost' i vnuterenii mir rossiiskikh nemtsev v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny i v istoricheskoi pamiati potomkov (Moscow: MSNK Press, 2011),  pp. 145-154.

Last Week of Classes for the Semester

This is the last week of teaching before final exams. I have one last lecture here at Legon on Friday afternoon. I finished up at City Campus yesterday. The drive in the middle of the afternoon the last couple of weeks was making me car sick due to the intensity of the sun so I am glad I do not have to make the trip again for a while now. Honestly the sun on the equator is a lot more brutal than it is in more temperate climates like Europe or the US.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Estonian Forced Laborers in Arkhangelsk Oblast

During the first Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940-1941, the RKKA (Workers' and Peasants' Red Army) forcibly conscripted some 40,000 Estonian men in clear violation of international law. These men were then formed into work columns and sent to various areas of the USSR for forced labor. The Soviet government employed them on the construction of air fields and roads and the felling of trees as well as other work. Memento has compiled a list of 4,586 Estonians sent to work in forced labor columns in Arkhangelsk during this time. It is estimated that a total of 9,000 Estonians worked in forced labor detachments in the region in the fall of 1941. By February 1942, a total of 7,135 Estonians worked in the Port of Arkhangelsk. Another 4,000 Estonians worked in Kotlas in the lumber industry at this time. Material conditions for these men were very poor. They lacked proper winter clothing and food. Hunger and dysentery were both common among the labor columns. In total over 17,000 Estonians worked in Arkhangelsk Oblast at some point during WWII before being moved to the front, being demobilized, or dying. The lack of winter clothing and proper food constituted the main reasons for demobilization as invalids and death among the mobilized Estonians.

Source: T.F. Mel'nik, "Arkhangel'skaia oblast v 1940-e gody, kak region po ispol'zovaniiu prinuditel'nogo truda poliakov, estontsev, karelo-finnov, nemtsev," in A.A. German, (ed.), Nachal'nyi period Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny i deportatsiia rossiiskikh nemtsev : vzgliady i otsenki cherez 70 let (Moscow: MSNK-Press, 2011),  pp. 562-582.

Election Predictions (Ghana)

Ghana will hold elections next month for president. I am predicting that the incumbent president, John Mahama of the NDC will win reelection. His main opponent is Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP. It is possible that Papa Kwesi Nduom of the PPP could force a run off by depriving either the NDC or NPP of a full 51% of the vote. There are a total of eight candidates running for the office.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Recent Happenings

Yesterday and today the office again had no electricity for part of the day. Having a black out every single Monday and Tuesday is starting to get annoying. It is bad enough I have no Internet or printer in my office, I would at least like light and air. But, they restored our power faster this week than last week.

Today I saw a presentation on one of the ethnic conflicts in northern Ghana. There seems to be a long standing pattern of more organized and centralized groups lording it over less well organized groups. Actually I think this is true for all ethnic conflicts. In cases where formally repressed groups are able to sufficiently organize to throw out their oppressors the conflict generally ends.

I have been informed that the conference paper I gave at Winneba will be in print as part of a book on German colonialism in West Africa due out before the end of the year. The book is currently in press in Germany. It will be my second publication dealing with Africa.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Blog as a Private Journal Once Again

This blog has never had more than a dozen readers. So I can not really say that anything I put here has ever gone out to a larger audience. It has not. Instead it has remained material that for the most part that has only been of interest to myself.  My parents and maybe ten other people at most see what I post here and the rest of the world ignores it. I have realized that what I write here is for my own benefit, a private journal or notebook in cyberspace and not any actual transfer of information to other people. If I try and justify posting on this blog as anything other than writing for myself then it is just not worth it. The audience is far too small and I can communicate with most of them better by phoning them.

The Labor Army and Three Camps in the Urals

The first number next to the name of each camp is the total number of Russian-Germans mobilized into the labor army during WWII and sent to that camp. The second number is the total number of deaths among Russian-Germans in the labor army at that camp that have to date been verified. The actual total number may be greater. Also the number does not include the huge number of Russian-Germans released from the camps who died shortly afterwards from emaciation, disease, and other causes related directly to their stay in the camps. In the case of both Bakallag and Bogoslov the number of Russian-Germans discharged from the camp as invalids exceeded 30%. Most of these people died in addition to the recorded numbers below. The final number is the percentage of Russian-Germans in the labor army to die at each camp. The percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole digit. Bear in mind that the age distribution for those mobilized in the camps is from 15-55 for men and 16-45 for women so the number of deaths from old age should be zero. The overwhelming majority of all these deaths are excess deaths caused directly by conditions in the camps.

Bakallag  - 42,902 / 6,288 / 15%
Bogoslov - 20,711 / 3,734 / 18%
Tagilllag   -   6,511 /630/ 10%

Source: V.M. Kirillov and N.V. Matveeva, "Trudmobilizovannye nemtsy na Urale: sostoianie i novye aspekty issledovanniia problemy," in A.A. German (ed.), Nachal'nyi period Velikoi Otechesvennoi voiny i deportatsiia rossiiskikh nemtsev : vzgliady i otsenki cherez 70 let, (Moscow: MSNK-Press, 2011),   pp. 627-655.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Current Reading (Ethnic Conflict in Ghana)

I am currently reading up on the history of the various ethnic groups that make up modern Ghana. In particular I have been reading about the Ewe and Konkomba. The Ewe live in the southern Volta region and are split between Ghana, Togo, and Benin and had a long lived, but ultimately failed movement for unification in the last century. The Konkomba live in the north and  have had violent conflicts in the last several decades with the Nanumba, Gonja, and Dagomba. I am almost positive nobody will leave any comments, but just in case please consider this an open thread on ethnic conflict in Ghana.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Current Writing Project

Okay I did not get very many suggestions on my blog post asking for ideas on a new article project. So Friday I went back to working on the article comparing South African apartheid and the Soviet special settlement regime for deported nationalities under Stalin. I had an article published on this topic this year in Human Rights Review, but the topic is big enough that I think it can support a few more. The problem of course is that the official orthodox line is that there was never any institutional or official racism in the USSR because people like Francine Hirsch believe we should only judge the Soviet Union by the regime's own definitions. Of course if we did that with apartheid South Africa we would also conclude that "separate development" was not racist, but merely a political policy justified by security concerns just like Hirsch and Weiner portray Stalin's policies towards people like the Volga Germans and Crimean Tatars. Unfortunately while the works of people like George Fredrickson and John Rex are considered mainstream for analyzing the history of racial discrimination in places like South Africa or the US they are completely rejected by the US clique that dominates the study of Soviet nationalities policy. Instead people like Hirsch and Weiner favor a definition of race that most scholars discarded before 1965 and the formulation of the ICERD. So getting the second article published will be just as difficult as the first one was. It took me over two years to get it into print.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

North Korean Labor Camp no. 22

According to the Washington Post the North Korean government has shut down camp no. 22. It is speculated that the reason is because the mines in the camp were running out of coal. North Korea has closed labor camps before including camps no. 11 an no. 13. Camp no. 22 was the largest labor camp in North Korea. It is estimated that camp no. 22 held 50,000 prisoners of which 30,000 worked in coal mining. The total camp population of North Korea is estimated by Amnesty International at 200,000 or more than 8 per a thousand people in the entire population. Camp no. 22 thus held about a quarter of North Korea's prison population. Getting information on North Korea's labor camp system is not easy. It is an even more closed society than was the USSR and most of what we know is from defectors and refugees. But, I am struck by the casual use of lots of large round numbers in the article. There really is no way to verify the number of prisoners in even individual camps yet alone in the entire system. The number is undoubtedly very large, but eyewitness accounts while very important for providing information not available in archives are not a good source for estimates of large populations. In fact population and statistical data is one of the areas where archival sources tend to be better than oral sources. In the case of the USSR the actual size of the Gulag system turned out to be considerably smaller than had been originally estimated using the same type of sources now used with regards to North Korea. This is not to suggest that the North Korean labor camp population is likely to be significantly smaller than 200,000. But, rather to note that the real population could be either much greater or much smaller than our current estimates. The magnitude of the prison population in North Korea is still an historical black hole.