Friday, December 30, 2016

Summary of 2016

Overall 2016 was a great year. I finally got a decent paying job for the first time in my life. My compensation literally increased an order of magnitude. I got published in a top tier journal for the first time ever. The abstract is available here. I got to spend more time with my family this summer and have been able to video chat with them since then, something I couldn't do from Ghana. On the other hand my increased standard of living has led me to gain unwanted weight.

The Other Mall

Actually there are quite a few malls in Suli. But, I went to the giant new Majidi mall today. It is built like a giant airplane hanger and three floors. I ate a burger at Fatburger and purchased some spicy Iranian ketchup, spicy Filipino banana sauce, and Turkish olive oil at the supermarket in the basement of the mall.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

George Ciccariello-Maher

To clarify the offensive statement by George Ciccariello-Maher is not the one on "white genocide" but this one.
“To clarify: when the whites were massacred during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed.”
He is wrong about the timing of the massacres. The Revolution had already drove all the French military off the island by the time of the 1804 mass rapes and killings of the remaining white civilians. As justifiable as the Revolution was this is the first time I have ever seen anybody claim that the rape and murder of the French men, women, and children still in Haiti after its success was a "good thing." Usually the claim by historians like C.L.R. James is that it was a very bad thing, but not nearly as bad as what the French did to the Haitians. So the Revolution was a good thing despite the atrocities afterwards in 1804. Circcariello-Maher has flipped this on its head and said the Revolution was good because afterwards the Haitian government orchestrated the rape and murder of whites.

Publications During 2016

In 2016 I had two peer reviewed journal articles and a book chapter published.  The first article is "The Persecution of the Ethnic Germans in the USSR during World War II," The Russian Review, vol. 75. no. 2, April 2016. An abstract of the article can be found here. The other article is "The Deportation of the Crimean Tatars in the Context of Settler Colonialism," International Crimes and History, issue no. 16, 2016. A full copy of the article can be found here. The book chapter is "Nkrumah, the Cold War, the "Third World", and the US Role in the 24 February 1966 Coup" in Bea Lundt and Christoph Marx, (eds.), Nkrumah Today (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016). A full copy of the manuscript of the chapter can be found here. So that is two publications on the USSR and one on Africa. Feel free to leave any comments on the articles below.

It Has Now Been 73 Years Since the Deportation of the Kalmyks

On 27 December 1943 the NKVD began the round up and deportation of the Kalmyks from their homeland on the Caspian Sea to Siberia. The Stalin regime falsely accused the entire population of treason despite the fact that far more Kalmyks fought in the Soviet Red Army against the Nazis than served in German organized units. The patch to the right is a Red Army patch for Kalmyks from the 1920s. The swastika is a traditional symbol of many Buddhist peoples such as the Kalmyks. Rather than write a new post on the deportations I am instead linking to an encyclopedia article I wrote on the Kalmyks in 2010. It was published in Jeffrey Cole, ed., Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), pp. 215-218. Please feel free to leave any comments on the article here.

Monday, December 26, 2016


Since I have finished grading and entering final grades for fall 2016 I have read two books on Kurdish history and gotten half way through a third. I then walked to the bazaar to buy three more books.  My goal is to read at least eight books on Kurdish history before February.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas from Suli

I finally finished all my marking two days ago. Now I have a break here in Kurdistan before I have to return to teaching. I hope to catch up on some reading and writing during the break.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Some of my Published Articles on Race in the USSR

The amount of scholarship on racial discrimination in the USSR is extremely limited. This is especially the case in English. The established orthodox position is that there was never any racial discrimination in the USSR under Stalin except anti-semitism. I have, however, written some pieces on the subject. I have listed below some of those that have made it into publication. Feel free to leave any comments on the actual pieces in the comments section to this post.

Is there a Black Eurasia?: Ghanaian and other Diasporic African Populations in the USSR in Comparative Perspective. 

Suffering in a Province of Asia: The Russian-German Diaspora in Kazakhstan.

Soviet Apartheid: Stalin's Ethnic Deportations, Special Settlement Restrictions, and the Labor Army: The Case of the Ethnic Germans in the USSR. 

Friday, December 09, 2016

NPP Victory in Ghana

From 2011 to 2016 I lived in Ghana under the NDC. Until President Mills died in 2012 things were going well. But, after his death JDM proved unable to manage the economy. In 2014 the Cedi collapsed, destroying most of my purchasing power. At the same time the greater Accra area including the University of Ghana had no electricity most of the time. Officially we were on a schedule of 24 hours of black out and then only 12 hours of power. But, sometimes we had less electricity. The Dumsor (Off/On) was mostly dum and not enough sor. I don't know if the NPP can fix Ghana's economic problems which at base are a result of not producing anything value added and relying upon the export of cocao, gold, and oil to pay for imports of everything. But, the NDC certainly showed itself incapable of addressing these problems in the last few years.

Another Semester comes to an End

My first semester of teaching in Kurdistan is almost at an end. It had some significant differences than my teaching in Ghana. The biggest one was that I taught three Civ 101 classes and only one more advanced history class. I am hoping to be able to move permanently to Civ 102 from now on since I am a modern not an ancient historian. But, even so Civ 102 involves teaching first year students and that is a considerably different and more difficult task than teaching third and fourth year yet alone post-graduate students.

Thursday, December 08, 2016


At this point I am pretty sure this blog has no human readers other than my parents. But, just in case I am wrong about this above point I encourage any readers I might have to leave a comment. My thinking is that nobody will comment and that will be confirmation that all of the hits on my site counter are in fact bots and not real human beings. It seems really strange that 99% of my "readers" are robots and not humans.

A Tale of Two Islands

One island is a brutal dictatorship off the coast of the US that has been ruled by the same political party and indeed same family since 1959. The other is a liberal democracy off the coast of China that started out as a dictatorship under one family but, unlike the first island it has become a stable and free society that largely respects human rights. Yet, the fashionable thing among internet pundits seems to be to support the government of the first island and oppose even recognition of the second one. This is one of those things that is so stupid that only intellectuals can support it.

A Picture from Kurdistan

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Still more on Soviet Kurds

Tomorrow I finish up my week on Kurds in the USSR for my History of the Middle East class. Unlike some other diaspora nationalities in the Soviet Union such as the Koreans and Germans the NKVD only deported a minority of the Kurds living in the Caucasus to Kazakhstan and Central Asia in 1937 and 1944. The first wave of deportees from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan effected a little over 3,000 Kurds and the second from Georgia to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan entailed the uprooting of almost 9,000 Kurds. So close to 12,000 Kurds from the Caucasus initally ended up as special settlers out of a population of 76,000 (1939 census figure) in the USSR as a whole. The NKVD deported the Kurds in Georgia along with the Meskhetian (Ahiska) Turks and Hemshins. The three nationalities formed a single contingent on the NKVD rolls listing special settlers. This makes sorting out the exact number of Kurds condemned to be special settlers at any time after the initial deportation difficult. It is certain, however, that in addition to high mortality rates from 1944-1948 that a large number of Kurdish special settlers got reclassified as Turks or Azerbaijanis during the 1940s and 1950s.

Monday, November 28, 2016

More on Soviet Kurds

The other day I gave a lecture on Kurds in the USSR to my History of the Middle East class. Tomorrow we will return to the subject. The Kurds in the Caucasus and Central Asia during the Soviet era make an interesting case study in Soviet nationalities policies. Soviet polices ranged from favorable ones such as creating a "Red Kurdistan" territory in Azerbaijan and various Kurdish language institutions to negative ones such as the mass deportations from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in 1937 and from Georgia in 1944 to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.The swing from granting Kurds in the Caucasus the benefits of korenizatsiia to deporting a substantial number of them to Kazakhstan and Central Asia as special settlers is typical of the range of Soviet policies towards many smaller nationalities in the USSR during the reign of Stalin. But, their position as a diaspora of a large concentrated population in the Middle East makes the interaction of Soviet internal and external policies towards the Kurds particularly interesting. Even more so than Soviet policy towards Jews the overall pattern of the Soviet position towards the Kurds as a whole was ambiguous, fragmented, and contradictory over time. At the same time Kurds deported from Azerbaijan and Georgia suffered horrible material conditions and strict legal restrictions as special settlers in Kazakhstan and Central Asia the Soviet government helped the short lived Kurdish Mahabad Republic in Iran and granted sanctuary to Mustafa Barzani and 500 of his armed followers. Ultimately, however, the USSR never played a major role after the collapse of the Mahabad Republic in supporting any of the Kurdish nationalist movements including the Marxist-Leninist PKK fighting against Turkey, a member of NATO. Instead the PKK's major state sponsor was Syria.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

To anybody from the US that might stumble across this blog I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

My articles dealing with Africa

I did not write and publish as much related to Africa as I wanted to during my five and a half years living and working in Ghana. But, I do have four published or soon to be published pieces dealing with Africa at least in part. The first article is "Soviet Apartheid: Stalin's Ethnic Deportations, Special Settlement Restrictions, and the Labor Army: The Case of the Ethnic Germans in the USSR." The next piece,  "The Relative Failure of German Togoland as Model Cotton Colony" I wrote with Felix Longi. The next piece I published was "Is there a Black Eurasia? Ghanaian and other African Diasporic Populations in the USSR in Comparative Perspective."  The final piece is "Nkrumah, the Cold War, 'The Third World', and the US Role in the 24 February 1966 Coup." It is true that my scholarly output dealing with Africa is very modest. But, I arrived in Africa in January 2011 knowing only that I knew almost nothing about the continent and taught myself at the school of hard knocks.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Non-election related reading

If anybody is looking for something to read not related to the elections I have put up the text of the book chapter I co-authored with Felix Longi on Cotton in German Togoland. J. Otto Pohl and Felix Y.T. Longi, "The Relative Failure of German Togoland as a Model Cotton Colony" in Wazi Apoh and Bea Lundt (eds.) Germany and its West African Colonies: "Excavations" of German Colonialism in Post-Colonial Times, (Munster: Lit Verlag, 2013) is now up on my page. Feel free to leave any comments on the article here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


It turns out that the title of the Lundt and Marx book on Nkrumah that will have my chapter on the 24 February 1966 coup has been changed to Kwame Nkrumah: A Controversial African Visionary.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Another day at the Bazaar

Today I went to the bazaar again. Other than walk around, eat some kabobs, and drink tea I didn't actually do anything there. But, it is an interesting place to wander around. I found some books this time. They were all in Kurdish. However, I did recognize Mao's Little Red Book even in Kurdish.

Paper on the overthrow of Nkrumah

I have a new paper up on the Internet. Nkrumah, the Cold War, the Third World", and the US Role in the 24 February 1966 Coup is supposed to appear in Bea Lundt and Christoph Marx, (eds.), Nkrumah Today (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016). But, I haven't heard anything from the publisher in a while. At any rate I have put up a draft of the chapter on my site for anybody that wants to read it. You can read and download the paper here.

A trip to the store

Yesterday I went shopping and purchased 30,000 IQD worth of food and beverages which is a huge amount for me. I got so used to being poor that spending over $20 on food for myself in a single trip is something strange for me. I purchased some doogh, mint, honey, pomegranate lokum, halva, dolmas, mortadella, garlic sauce, hot sauce, Cheetos, Coca Cola, bread, and of course Indomie ramen noodles.

Friday, October 21, 2016


It is strange that you can never see why God sent you to a place until after you leave it. It is only just now that I am starting to understand why he sent me to Ghana. I can only vaguely guess at this point why he sent me to Kurdistan. But, I have some idea now why he sent me to Arivaca and Kyrgyzstan so the Lord's mysterious ways become less mysterious as time goes on.

Monday, October 17, 2016

New Profile up at AUIS website

Here is my new profile up at the AUIS website.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Defining the Middle East

The Middle East is of course a construction just as more defined geographic units like Europe, Asia, and even Africa are constructions. Thus its borders are contested. In my History of the Middle East class I have treated Armenia and Azerbaijan as part of the Middle East. There are after all twice as many Azeris in Iran as in former Soviet Azerbaijan and nobody argues Iran is not part of the Middle East.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Today I went to the bazaar and got a winter coat and a new smaller bag to carry my wallet and keys. I also got half a kilo of apricot flavored lokum. There is a lot of stuff to buy at the bazaar. But, most of it is stuff I really have no interest in acquiring. My favorite parts of the day were eating kebabs for lunch and later drinking Kurdish tea.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Soviet Kurds and Assimilation

In 1926 the Soviet census counted 242,000 Kurds. A little over two generations later in 1989 the Soviet census only counted 153,000 Kurds even though the total Soviet population had almost tripled. So in 63 years the Kurdish population declined by almost 100,000 when it should have increased to at least 700,000. This massive decrease in population was due mostly to assimilation into other ethnic groups such as Azeris or Meskhetian Turks by many Kurds. Officially assmilation did not exist in the USSR since nat'sionalnost' was a permanent, immutable, and transgenerational category similar to race in South Africa. Nonetheless, the Soviet census figures provide solid evidence of massive assimilation out of the Kurdish nationality in the USSR between the middle of the 1920s and the late 1980s.


The secondary source I used initially for this post, N.F. Bugai, T.M Broev, and P.M. Broev, Sovetskie Kurdy: Vremia Peremen (Moscow: "Kap'", 1993), p. 45 was incorrect. The 1926 Soviet census does not count 242,000 Kurds, but only 69,184. There was still a lot of assimilation, however, the numbers are not so stark. I'll leave up the original mistaken post to show the dangers of using secondary sources even for blog posts rather than primary ones.


The weekend in Kurdistan is backwards from what I am used to in Ghana. Here we get Friday and Saturday off. But, everything is closed on Friday morning similar to Sunday mornings in Ghana. So if you want to do anything that involves using money it has to be done on Saturday the day before you return to work on Sunday. This may take some getting used to.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Life in Kurdistan

The weather in Kurdistan has now cooled down considerably from when I first moved here. Most of my time is spent prepping and teaching CIV 101. I have three sections on Mondays and Wednesdays lasting a total of four and a half hours each of those days. We are up to the chapters dealing with 500 BCE to 500 CE. My other class is the History of the Middle East and we are up to the end of World War One and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. I teach that on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. I am hoping next semester I can teach something closer to my area of specialization.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

It is a Beautiful Day in Kurdistan

It is a beautiful day today in Kurdistan. The temperature has really cooled off from when I first got here a month ago. Today I am scheduled to go eat lunch in the big fancy hotel in the center of the city that looks like a space ship that flew here from Dubai. I am told to get into the hotel you have to cross a bridge across a moat.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Kurdistan and Coloniality

Iraqi Kurdistan is in a strange transition stage between internal colonialism and post-colonialism. Arguably other areas of Kurdistan are still internal colonies. Like Central Asia, however, there are two separate eras of coloniality. The first is the Ottoman Empire and the second is Iraq before the formation of the KRG, but particularly under Saddam Hussein. The Ottoman historical legacy isn't discussed publicly much here as far as I can see. However, it seems crucial to me for understanding the current situation. The Ottoman legacy is undoubtedly much more important than that of the ancient Medes regarding the recent political history of Kurdistan even if all the public discourse focuses on the latter to the exclusion of the former. The submerged influence of Ottoman rule is of course overlaid with a much more public confrontation of the history of the Kurds under the Baath Party. Here the negative and long lasting impact on Kurdish society seems comparable to a number of post-colonial and post-socialist societies in Africa and Eurasia.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism are pretty much dead ideologies at this point. But, Pan-Kurdism seems to still have a fair amount of support at least in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tunisia and Lebanon are never going to be part of the same state. Neither are Ghana and Mozambique. But, it is conceivable that sometime in the future that the Kurdish parts of Iraq and Syria could be joined in some sort of political union.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Importance of History

One very evident problem of Kurdistan's division across multiple states and its historic failure to develop its own state is that there is not a single generally agreed upon historical narrative of the Kurdish people actually controlled by the Kurdish people. It is also one of the primary reasons for this continued division and lack of independent statehood. Solving this problem is far more important than training more oil engineers.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Another Epiphany

Yesterday, I had another epiphany. It was in response to a statement by a friend of mine that every American here has something odd about him and that is why he is here. My epiphany is that my teaching means a lot more in places like Kurdistan, Ghana, and Kyrgyzstan than it would at someplace in the US. God in his infinite wisdom has thus sent me to these places. He wasn't punishing me. He was rewarding me.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Food in Kurdistan

I like Kurdish food a lot. But, there are other options here. Last night I had Chinese food and this afternoon a hamburger. Although to be honest a hamburger isn't all that different from a Kurdish kabob put on a bun with some vegetables. Then of course there are neighboring cuisines like Turkish and Arabic. I haven't found any Persian places to eat at yet, but the grocery store has a lot of Iranian products. In particular I have found a lot of dairy products from Iran. I have taken to drinking a lot of doogh. I like it better than ayran due to the mint flavor.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

More on Kurdish History

At one time I thought the history of the Caucasus was complicated. Then I encountered the history of northern Ghana. Now, I am trying to sort out the recent history of Kurdistan. It is not as ethnically complex as the Caucasus let alone Ghana. But, it is politically much more complex. The fact that the territory is divided across four major states is a major contributing factor to this complexity. This has tied support for various Kurdish factions by outside powers to the political alliances of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. To just give one example the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) in Iraq has since the 1940s been variously supported by the USSR, US, Iran, and Israel. It has also had its assistance from all those states completely cut off at various times. In the mid-1940s the Soviets saw support of the Kurds as a way to further their interests in Iran. During the 1960s and early 1970s the US, Iran, and Israel saw support of the Kurds as a way to weaken Iraq. In the 1980s Syria saw support of the Kurds as a way to counter pressure from Turkey. The shifting support of various Kurdish factions during the Cold War is difficult enough to follow. After the collapse of the USSR and the removal of the Baath Party from power in Iraq the situation become much more fragmented. The current war in Syria has further greatly complicated matters. So at this point since I am a 20th century historian I am going to try and figure out the basic narrative from 1914 to 1991.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Eid Break

I finished my first week of teaching in Kurdistan today. I spent today covering the Ottoman Empire before the Tanzimat reforms. Now we have a week off for Eid.

First Classes

Yesterday I finished up the first week of Civ 101 classes. I had three 1.5 hour sections of it to teach on Monday and then again on Wednesday. So now we have actually got up to the start of civilization. Next week we have off for the Eid holiday.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Kurdish Fast Food

There is a fast food joint across the street that has really good and extremely cheap food. The 1000 Dinar falafel roll might be the best deal in town. The chicken kabobs for 3000 Dinars are not bad either.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

First Class in the Middle East

Today I taught my first class in the Middle East. Appropriately enough the class was on the history of the Middle East.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

"Is there a Black Eurasia?"

I put my chapter, "Is there a Black Eurasia?: Ghanaian and other Diasporic African Populations in the USSR in Comparative Perspective" up on a little while ago. But, did not have time to announce it here on the blog until now. It is from the book Replenishing History. The cover is pictured over on the right. It was one of a couple of pieces that I wrote while in Ghana that attempted to incorporate African themes in a comparative manner. Now that I am in Kurdistan I am going to try and write some pieces that deal with Kurds. The material in English on Kurds in the USSR seems to be greatly underdeveloped.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Kurds in the USSR

In addition to teaching CIV 101 this semester I have one more advanced class on the History of the Middle East. Since I am in Kurdistan I have some stuff on Kurds on the syllabus including a week on Kurds in the USSR which is the segment of the population I know the most about. I am not sure if it will get approved, but I figured I would at least try.


I live quite close to a modern mall with a big grocery store in the basement and a food court on the second floor. The mall has the simple name of City Center. It unfortunately has no book store. At orientation we were told that Kurdistan was a predominantly oral culture and that reading books is not an activity many people here do for fun. That means finding books in Kurdish or Arabic is difficult, not to mention English. The only books I have seen here so far have been at the university. I was also under the initial impression that everybody here could read. But, I have been told that many people, especially older people in rural areas are in fact illiterate. This is very different from former Soviet states like Kyrgyzstan where Moscow made sure that everybody could read in both their native language and Russian.

Another Semester Begins. This Time in another Country.

I have now finished typing up my syllabi for this semester. My first class is this Sunday afternoon. In putting together my syllabus for Middle Eastern History I seem to have acquired a free book on the Armenian genocide. It will take a while to make it here to Kurdistan, but given the paucity of physical books in English here any additions are most welcome. So now I have the rest of Friday and Saturday free. I would have finished the syllabi earlier, but orientation on Wednesday and Thursday wiped me out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Thought for Today

Happy Independence Day to Kyrgyzstan

Today is Kyrgyzstan's independence day. Kyrgyzstan has been an independent state now for 25 years. So Happy Independence Day to all my friends and family in Kyrgyzstan. Eat a lot of borsook and have a good time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What now for Uzbekistan?

It looks like Islam Karimov the dictator of Uzbekistan since it gained independence a quarter of a century ago has died. Before the collapse of the USSR he was head of the CPSU in Uzbekistan. The only Central Asian leader still alive that came to power during Soviet times is now Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan. Given that Uzbekistan hasn't known any other leadership other than the iron fist of Karimov for so long the political future of the country is up for speculation. Feel free to engage in such speculation in the comments.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Change in Direction from Africa to the Middle East

For obvious reasons this blog has changed directions recently. There is far more on Kurdistan both in terms of my everyday life and historical pieces and much less on Africa now. I am still putting up some stuff on ethnic Germans in the USSR as can be seen on my recent pieces regarding the 75th anniversary of the deportation of the Volga Germans. Based on the comments this blog receives I still only have about a half dozen readers and that seems to be something that is beyond my power to change.

Google Scholar Profile

Now that I have a university e-mail again I have established a Google Scholar Profile. I am not exactly sure exactly how it helps me. But, I figure it can not hurt me. If nothing else it allows me to better track the few citations made by other people to my published work. However, I am thinking it must have some other uses. I just do not know what they are. If anybody knows of any neat tricks I can do with it please let me know in the comments below.

It is a Beautiful Day in Sulaimani

It is a beautiful day in Sulaimani today. Sulaimani is a very calm and peaceful city. The fighting in Syria and the problems in Baghdad seem to be much further away geographically than they actually are. Sulaimani has some of the ambiance of a mid sized town in northern California. It doesn't feel like a place surrounded by chaos and violence.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

75 Years Since the Deportation of the Volga Germans

This year marks the 75th anniversay of the deportation of the Volga Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan where they faced extremely difficult legal and material conditions. The official day of rememberance of this crime against humanity is 28th of August. I have written a lot on this blog and elsewhere about these events. Most of those posts deal with the basic narrative and facts surrounding the deportations, special settlement restrictions, and mobilization into the labor army. For this post I want to do something different. I want to examine why it has  taken so long for this anniversary to be regularly commemorated even by those of us of Russian German heritage and more importantly why it is still almost completely unknown and ignored by everybody else. The standard claim that these crimes were somehow hidden doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The information available since the early 1990s is much greater than that published before the collapse of the USSR. But, the basic narrative has been known since September 1941. Rather there have been other factors at work. First, the Russian Germans have largely been deemed unworthy victims by the intellectual elites of the US and other major powers due to a continued false conflation of all ethnic Germans including loyal Soviet citizens with Naziism. One can understand the use of this lie in the Russian dominated USSR to prevent any return of the land and other collective property forcibly confiscated from the ethnic Germans. Its popularity and in many cases official backing by large numbers of the academic and cultural elite in the US is another matter altogether. Fortunately, this narrative has lost much of the dominance it had as recently as 20 years ago. Deniers and minimizers of the Soviet crimes against ethnic Germans like Deborah Lipstadt and Charles Maier have lost much of the power they had in the 1990s. Most people in the US are no longer content to silently accept the claim that ethnic German children from the Volga deserved to die in Siberia in 1941 because of the Holocaust. This is a huge step forward. But, there can be no doubt that it was largely as a result of genocide deniers like Lipstadt that popular awareness of the deportation of the Volga Germans as an ethnically targeted crime against humanity remained retarded for so long.

Kurds and the Rest of the World in the 20th Century

I am not an expert on Kurds. Although I know more about their history than I did about Africa when I arrived in Ghana in 2011. So most of this post should be viewed as provisional thoughts by somebody from outside the field. Please feel free to leave any constructive criticism in the comments. The one element of Kurdish history I know a little bit about is the origins of their diasporas in Central Asia. Part of my PhD dissertation dealt with the nearly 9,000 Kurds deported by the NKVD from Georgia to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan in  November 1944. Currently, I am slowly working on an article on Kurds and the USSR. It deals both with Soviet citizens of Kurdish natsional'nost' and Soviet assistance to Kurdish movements in Iran and Iraq during the Stalin era. The Kurdish diasporas in the USSR seems like a good place for me to start doing research related to the region.

Another topic I am interested in related to the Kurds is their role in the greater Afro-Asian project from 1958-1991. Obviously Kurds lived in a number of states active in the project including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan in the USSR, and Iraq, and Syria outside it. Turkey and to a lesser extent Iran under the Shah were US allies and hence outside Afro-Asia as a political unit. The fragmentation of Kurdistan between the rule of Ankara, Baghdad, Damascus, and Tehran presented an interesting problem. Kurds in Turkey were repressed by a regime clearly integrated into the US and European political bloc through its membership in the NATO military alliance. In contrast those in Syria and Iraq were repressed by regimes clearly part of the Afro-Asian project. These regimes espoused Arab Socialism, Pan-Arabism, and support for Palestinian national liberation movements. This led to a bifurcation of the treatment of Kurdish national movements by Afro-Asian states and the international Left.

Kurds in Turkey formed the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party) a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla organization that got support from various Afro-Asian states and movements as well as European Leftists. In particular the PKK received support from the government of Syria and the PLO. They established a training camp in the Bekka Valley of Lebanon with the help of Damascus and the Palestinians. In this sense the PKK resembled other national liberation movements in Afro-Asia.

In Iraq the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) had initially been founded in Iran in 1946 with the support of the USSR. Until the early 1960s the KDP had good relations with the Iraqi Communist Party. But, that changed after 1961 as the KDP revolted against Baghdad and sought aid from the US and UK. Later after the Ba'ath coup in 1963 the KDP looked to Iran, the same regime that had crushed the Soviet backed Mahabad Republic where the party was formed. From this point on the Kurdish struggle in Iraq backed at times by Iran, the US, and Israel received very little attention from Leftist intellectuals and Afro-Asian states. In 1972 Baghdad signed a Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Friendship with the Soviet Union. From this point on the USSR and its allies supported the Ba'ath regime against the Kurds despite the 1978 repression against the ICP (Iraqi Communist Party) and a complete break between the Communists and Ba'athists in 1979. In 1986 the KDP, PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan), KSP (Kurdish Socialist Party), and ICP formed an alliance  against Baghdad. The collapse of the USSR and the establishment of defacto Kurdish autonomy in Iraq both occurred in 1991. In contrast to the PKK fighting in Turkey neither the KDP or PUK received any significant support or notice from any Afro-Asian states or Leftist organizations in Europe or the Middle East.

The different treatment of the PKK in Turkey and KDP and PUK in Iraq by Afro-Asian states and European Leftists is notable. The cause of Kurdish national liberation in Iraq took a back seat to ideological considerations. The Arab center of Afro-Asia supported various strains of Pan-Arabism for most of the 1960s and 1970s. The Ba'ath strain in Iraq and Syria had no role for Kurdish national self determination. This exclusion of the Kurds of Iraq and Syria from support by Afro-Asian states and European Leftists is historically a major moral blind spot in these movements.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Bit of Kurdish History

Kurdistan is a nation, but not yet an independent state. The territory of Kurdistan is shown on the map to the right. After the end of World War One the Kurds went from being split between the Ottoman Empire and Persia to being split between Turkey, Persia, the French mandate of Syria, and the British mandate of Mesopotamia. Both Syria and Mesopotamia (Iraq) became independent Arab ruled states that eventually came under the control of political parties calling themselves the Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'ath) Party. The Kurds became marginalized minorities in these states. The degree of repression experienced by the Kurds in these states has varied. But, none of them treated the Kurds well. The worst repression came at the hands of the Ba'ath Party in Iraq under Saddam Hussein between 1986 and 1989. The Anfal campaign included the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi military against Kurdish civilians and killed nearly 200,000 people. The memory of this genocide has become an important part of Kurdish national identity.

After the First Gulf War the Kurds in northern Iraq came under the protection of a US enforced no fly zone. This allowed the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) that had been fighting against Baghdad to establish control over much of Iraqi Kurdistan. Since then the territory has become an autonomous territory in federation with the Arab part of Iraq as a result of the 2005 constitution. The Kurdistan Regional Government is the ruling political authority of this territory.

Works Dealing with the Deportation of the Volga Germans on 28 August 1941.

This year is the 75th Anniversary of the deportation of the Volga Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The day of commemoration is the 28th of August. This blog post is basically an annotated series of links to articles and book chapters I have written dealing with various aspects of the deportation and the subsequent exile and forced labor of ethnic Germans in the USSR. "In our Hearts we Felt the Sentence of Death": Ethnic German Recollections of Mass Violence in the USSR, 1928-1948" coauthored with Eric Schmaltz and Ron Vossler deals with the 1941 deportations in the context of increasing Soviet violence against its ethnic German citizens after 1928. It looks at this violence from central and peripheral perspectives using both regime sources and letters from the German victims. "The Loss, Retention, and Reacquisition of Social Capital by Special Settlers in the USSR, 1941-1960" deals with the relative failure of the ethnic German deportees to recover from the damage done by their dispersal in comparison to other deported groups. Their lack of social capital was a key factor in this failure. "Ethnic Erasure: The Role of Border Changes in Soviet Ethnic Cleansing and Return Migration: compares the Volga Germans and Crimean Tatars with regards to the importance of their autonomous territories in their respective national movements after their deportation. "A Caste of Helot Labourers: Special Settlers and the Cultivation of Cotton in Soviet Central Asia: 1944-1956" looks at the ethnic Germans sent to Tajikistan after 1944 to work on cotton kolkhozes as part of the larger use of national deportees in growing cotton in the USSR. "Suffering in a Province of Asia: The Russian-German Diaspora in Kazakhstan" deals with the deportation and subsequent life of ethnic Germans sent to Kazakhstan as special settlers in 1941. "Colonialism in One Country: The Deported Peoples of the USSR as an Example of Internal Colonialism"  views the deportation of the Volga Germans and other repressed peoples through the theoretical framework of internal colonialism. "Soviet Apartheid: Stalin's Ethnic Deportations, Special Settlement Restrictions, and the Labor Army: The Case of the Ethnic Germans in the USSR" compares the legal situation of the German special settlers deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia in 1941 to the apartheid laws enacted in South Africa in the late 1940s and early 1950s. "Volk auf dem Weg: Transnational Migration of the Russian-Germans from 1763 to the Present Day" is a history of the various migrations of ethnic Germans to the Russian Empire within the Russian Empire and USSR and out of the Russian Empire and USSR. It has a substantial section on the 1941 deportations and their aftermath. "Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water: The Russian-Germans in the Labour Army:" focuses on the mobilization of ethnic Germans in 1941-1943 into the labor army and their use by the Stalin regime as a slave labor force until 1957. Feel free to leave any comments on any of these works in the comments below.

Random Observations of Kurdistan

I haven't been in Kurdistan a week yet so my observations are still quite preliminary. First, people here are very nice and polite. But, at the same time security is very tight. There are armed guards everywhere and going into one of the many modern malls involves being patted down and an inspection of all bags. Fortunately, they are very fast and professional. The city including the huge bazaar is very clean. It is also very hot. It is not unusual to reach 47 or 48 degrees Celsius. Food and taxis here are incredibly cheap and you don't need to haggle to set a price before getting in the taxi to avoid being seriously ripped off. The food has a lot more similarities to Turkish cuisine than Arab food in my opinion. But, obviously there are also Kurdish peculiarities that distinguish it from both of them. Kebabs, rice, tomato and cucumber salad, beans, and okra all seem quite common. I have also seen a number of places around the city selling pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken, and other American style foods. The Kurds drink a lot of tea. I mean a lot of tea and I say this as a tea addict who has lived in the UK and Central Asia. Other than tea and water, popular beverages include ayran and various fruit juices. Yesterday I had a pureed melon drink that was fantastic. The Kurdish flag is displayed everywhere, sometimes imposed upon a map of Greater Kurdistan incorporating the Kurdish territories not only of Iraq, but of Syria, Iran, and Turkey as well. One such map colored with the Kurdish flag has been drawn on the sides of the mountains visible from the university. Next to the map and flag combination it says Slemani. Over all my impression so far has been extremely positive. So come on over and visit me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I have arrived in Kurdistan

I arrived in Kurdistan two days ago. The people here are extremely nice and polite. My flat is giant. It is much larger than two people need. But, I am not going to complain. The university is extremely impressive. I also have had the best kebabs in my life and I haven't even started my hunt for the best kebabs in Kurdistan.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Kurdish Victories

I fly to Kurdistan in less than a week. So I am very happy to see that the Peshmerga are systematically defeating Daesh in both Syria and Iraq as they move towards liberating Mosul. I don't have a lot of analysis to add on the recent Kurdish military victories other than to hope they continue. I have a feeling I am about to enter one of the most interesting phases of my life yet.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The USSR as part of Afro-Asia

I have been doing some research on the Afro-Asian Writers' Association (AAWA) and its journal Lotus recently. A group of people at American University of Beirut have been doing some good work on the history of the organization and journal in the last few years. The AAWA was founded in Tashkent in 1958. Its journal Lotus ran from 1968 to 1993. One thing that is apparent is that the line between the Second (Soviet bloc) and Third (post-colonial Africa and Asia) worlds was fuzzy at best. The AAWA like AAPSO (Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization) included the USSR as a member from its very beginning. The founding conference of the AAWA took place in the USSR in 1958 as did its 1973 conference and the vast majority of funding for Lotus came from the Soviet Union and East Germany. Part of this merger of the Second and Third Worlds was geographic. The Central Asian republics made the USSR an Asian state in many ways and thus AAWA conferences were held in Uzbekistan (1958) and Kazakhstan (1973). A perhaps larger part was political. The geopolitical issues that gripped African and Asian writers in the 1960s and 1970s were US military intervention in Indochina, Portuguese colonialism in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau, white rule in Rhodesia, apartheid in South Africa, South Africa's occupation of Namibia, and the issue of Zionism and Palestine. On all of these issues the Second and Third worlds were united in support of national liberation and opposition to imperialism, colonialism, and racism.

For the two decades between 1958 and 1978 the Soviet state and its Eastern European allies stood on the same side of these issues as most of the prominent writers and political figures of Asia and Africa. By the mid 1970s a number of these issues had been resolved in their view. In 1975 the Portuguese Empire collapsed and Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau gained independence. In the same year the North Vietnamese Army rolled into Saigon and liquidated the Republic of Vietnam. Only Rhodesia, Namibia, South Africa, and Palestine remained as unresolved issues. By 1994 all of the unsolved issues of colonialism, apartheid, and white minority rule in Southern Africa had been resolved leaving only Palestine as the last unresolved issue common to Africa and Asia. Before 1994, however, both the Third World and later the Second World had ceased to exist as political blocs.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Open Thread on the Deportation of the Volga Germans 28 August 1941

This month is the 75th anniversary of the deportation of the Volga Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The deportation is commemorated on the 28th of August each year. Here are posts I have made in previous years to remember the victims. Consider this an open thread on the topic.

74th Anniversary

73rd Anniversary

71st Anniversary

70th Anniversary

65th Anniversary

64th Anniversary

For those looking for longer and more substantial pieces covering the deportation see the articles listed here.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tashkent Conference (1958)

I found this rare clip of the first Afro-Asian Writers Association conference in Tashkent in 1958. The sound is basically non-existent. But, you do get a sense of the importance of India in the movement with its large and prominent delegation to the conference.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Turkmenistan Bans all Tobacco Sales

The government of Turkmenistan has outlawed the sale of all tobacco products. Stores caught selling cigarettes face a fine of over $1,500. Black market cigarettes now sell for $10.50 a pack in Turkmenistan. That is about what they sell for in the highest priced legal markets in the world in places such as London. I had a lot of Turkmen students when I taught at AUCA and all of the men smoked. Given the high prices of black market cigarettes in Turkmenistan and its relatively low wages there is a lot of financial pressure now for Turkmen smokers to quit. It will be interesting to see how successful this experiment turns out to be.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ghanaian Radio Talk Show Hosts Imprisoned and Fined by Supreme Court

This map to the right is now outdated. The recent sentencing of three radio talk show hosts to four months imprisonment as well as fines for them and the radio station totalling 90,000 cedis means that Ghana is no longer among those countries with a completely free press. Ironically, the talk show hosts sentenced to jail are supporters of the current ruling party and president even if they are strong critics of some members of the Ghanaian Supreme Court. The same Supreme Court has now sentenced them to jail.  This sentencing has sparked demonstrations by members of the NDC (National Democratic Congress) against their own president.The online Ghanaian media is awash with articles on this story. The incarceration and imposition of severe fines upon radio personalities is a throw back to the repressive practices that characterized the darkest days of military rule. During the more than five years I lived in Ghana it had a very free if not very competent press. Now it appears that the Ghanaian Supreme Court wishes to change that and not for the better.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Origins of the Modern Kyrgyz State

Present day Kyrgyzstan is a direct successor state of the Kyrgyz SSR which started out as the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast after the initial delimitation of the borders of Soviet Central Asia in October 1924. The Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast was nearly 172,000 square versts and consisted of the Pishkek, Karakol-Naryn, Osh, and Jalal-Abad okrugs. It was further divided among 75 volosts. In total it had six cities, 721 villages, 727 auls, and five khutors. Its population numbered 737,000 people of which 63.5% were Kyrgyz, 16.8% Russian, 15.4% Uzbek, and 4.3% other nationalities. In 1926 the Soviet government upgraded the territory to the Krygyz ASSR. Ten years later they upgraded it again to a full Soviet republic.

Source: Sait Omurzakov, Istoriia Kyrgyzov i Kyrgyzstana (Bishkek: Ministry of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic, Kyrgyz State Juridical Academy, 2012), 151-152.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What will happen to International Ataturk Alatoo University?

The Turkish government is going all out to persuade foreign governments to shut down schools and other institutions related to the Gulen movement. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation had earlier shut down or taken over all such entities in their states before the coup attempt. Now Ankara has called upon Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Pakistan to do likewise. Here in Bishkek there are two major Turkish universities. The first one, Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University, is affiliated with the Turkish government. The second one, International Ataturk Alatoo University, is affiliated with the Gulen movement. It will be interesting to see what happens now that the Turkish government has called upon the Kyrgyz government to close Gulenist institutions.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Suggested Readings on Kurdish History?

Since I will be living and working in Kurdistan come the end of August I have been trying to educate myself on the region and its people. So far this has largely consisted of keeping up with news stories on the region, watching a few documentaries and interviews on Youtube, and listening to a lot of Kurdish music on Youtube. Granted these are rather superficial sources. But, one has to start somewhere. So I am asking for suggested readings on Kurdish history here. Currently I am in Kyrgyzstan so unfortunately I do not have access to JSTOR and other academic databases right now. Please bear that in mind regarding accessibility.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Sunny Saturday in Bishkek

It is a beautiful sunny Saturday in Bishkek today. The temperature is 27 C (80 F) with only 38% humidity. In previous summers, especially 2012, Bishkek has been really hot so this mild weather is a really welcome change. I think the greater than normal rainfall is responsible for it being considerably cooler this year.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bishkek in July

This summer Bishkek has had an usually large number of rainy and cool days. Usually it is hot all the time. But, this summer has been anything other than usual.

I have been having extensive dental work done here prompted by the need for an emergency root canal. Since dental work here is very cheap and relatively good in quality I suppose it is a good thing in the long run. But, I really don't like people sticking sharp instruments in my mouth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Next Month is the 75th Anniversary of the Deportation of the Volga Germans

Next month will mark the 75th anniversary of the deportation of the Volga Germans followed by the remainder of the Russian German population west of the Urals to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The official date of the commemoration is 28th August in accordance with the Ukaz issued by the Supreme Soviet even though the CC of the CPSU and SNK (Council of People's Commissariats) had already passed a decree ordering the deportation two days earlier. Of the nearly 800,000 ethnic Germans deported in 1941 from European areas of the USSR eastward about half came from the Volga region including Saratov and Stalingrad oblasts as well as the Volga German ASSR. The other half came from eastern Ukraine, the Caucasus, Crimea, and various areas of Russia outside the Volga region including Moscow. I have written quite a bit on this blog and elsewhere about the deportation and subsequent life of the Russian Germans under special settlement restrictions and in the labor army. You can find those pieces by searching this blog. But, this August marks the 75th anniversary and I think perhaps something more is called for to honor the memory of the victims of this crime against humanity. So if you have any suggestions leave them in the comments below.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


I just got back from two days in Almaty Kazakhstan. Due to the collapse of oil prices Kazakhstan is now cheaper than Kyrgyzstan despite the fact that Almaty has a level of development comparable to most European cities. Indeed going from Bishkek to Almaty is a lot like going from Mexico to the US in terms of architectural modernity. The cityscape of Almaty thus is in many ways much closer to that of cities in the EU and North America than it is to Bishkek. Even the old Soviet apartment blocks in Almaty look a lot newer and better maintained than those in Bishkek. The huge Megacenter mall has a lot of US franchises that I have not seen in many years including Burger King, Costas, Gloria Jean's, and Hardees. In addition to Central Asian food it has restaurants serving Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Georgian, Italian, and Croatian dishes among others. The tiny Ramstor at Vefa Center left Bishkek after 2010. But, the Megacenter has a huge and fully stocked Ramstor. Besides the Megacenter we also took the cable car ride above the city. It is like a ski lift but you take it down from the mountain and back. You get up the mountain in the first place on a minibus. I am not sure of all the reasons for the much greater development in Almaty than Bishkek. One clear reason is of course Kazakhstan's natural resources most notably oil and gas and the recent long run of high prices for these commodities. Another is undoubtedly political stability. Kazakhstan has been under the rule of the same man for its entire existence as an independent state. He was head of the Kazakh SSR for two years before that. In contrast Kyrgyzstan has had two major revolutions in recent years. They had one in 2005 and another in 2010. These two factors are undoubtedly major contributors to the much higher foreign investment Kazakhstan has received compared to Kyrgyzstan in the last decade. Finally, Almaty is a welcome relief from Bishkek and Accra in being free of NGO parasites from the EU and North America. For instance there is no Peace Corp in Kazakhstan. The absence of such organizations and their extremely corrupting influence on society undoubtedly has also played a significant role in Kazakhstan's recent social and economic development.

Monday, July 11, 2016

On the Move Again (Kurdistan)

In September I will be starting work teaching in the Social Sciences Department of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. The university and surrounding city are located in Iraqi Kurdistan. The flag to the right is the Kurdish flag. I am very excited about this opportunity although I am sad to leave Ghana. But, for a variety of reasons it is time for me to move on. Interestingly enough my PhD and MA are from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) which specializes in the study of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. I have taught in Central Asia and West Africa, and now I will be working in the Middle East. I have heard a lot of very good things about Kurdistan in general and Sulaimani in particular and I look forward to arriving there in person soon.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Happy Independence Day to all my American Readers

Happy Independence Day to all my American readers both in the US and abroad.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Another Walk

I went back to the Afghan War memorial in Ata-Turk Park today and noticed that there were another ten slabs with the names of dead soldiers from the Kyrgyz SSR on them on the other side of the statue. So that would bring the number of names up to about 265. The actual number of dead must be greater, however.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Ramadan in Kyrgyzstan

In many ways Bishkek in the summer seems like a city frozen in time. Sure everybody has a smart phone and there are other technological and consumer items now that did not exist during Soviet times here. But, in many ways the city still seems very Soviet. The way of life of people, the functioning of the state, and the people in control of the state haven't changed nearly as much as for instance in Estonia and other countries that had been under socialist rule. The single biggest change in fact seems not to be the introduction of consumer capitalism which resembles Soviet state socialism in a number of important ways. Rather the single biggest change and it is a fairly recent one is the revival of Islam as an actually practiced religion rather than just an assertion as part of an ethnic identity. Kyrgyzstan is still fairly secular but people even in Bishkek now actually attend Mosque, celebrate Ramadan, and have otherwise started actually acting as Muslims. Many Americans tend to freak out about any increase in Islamic piety in the world. But, given the actual existing record of radical secularism in both its Soviet and capitalist forms I don't see why this should be the case, especially in Kyrgyzstan and other parts of Central Asia.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


I fly fairly frequently through Istanbul. For the last five years I have flown through Ataturk International Airport from Ghana to Kyrgyzstan and back. Most recently I was in the airport for the entire day of June 8th. I am scheduled to go back through the airport on August 4th.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mission Accomplished

This morning I went to the US embassy to pick up my daughter's new passport. I have now accomplished my most important task of the summer. It was much easier to renew the passport than to get the first one.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Cityscape of Bishkek

It is strange that the socialist part of the urban landscape of Bishkek remains constant as the capitalist part constantly change. Some businesses have some staying power. Coca-Cola has been here for 20 years and Kyrgyz Concept (a travel agency) has been in existence since 1990 even before independence. But, a lot of the cafes and stores here seem to last only one or two years before being replaced by new ventures. So there are two layers to Bishkek. An older Soviet layer of largely empty or re-purposed buildings and then newer and constantly changing businesses. It is more striking here than other places because very few of the visible symbols of Soviet rule were ever dismantled. The statue of Lenin is still standing behind the History Museum. During Soviet times it stood in front of the museum but other than that it is unchanged. The statue of Marx and Engels that Khrushchev replaced the statue of Stalin with is still just a very short walk away from the Lenin statue. Almost all the sickles and hammers on Soviet built buildings including the old Supreme Soviet which was the campus of AUCA for many years are still up. The 1963 Soviet mosaic on the Ala-Too Cinema is still the same despite showing a never ending parade of Disney movies. In short there has been almost no architectural de-Sovietization in Bishkek unlike other cities in the former USSR. On top of this is all of the new capitalist construction of the last quarter of a century.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Toktogul Statue

Bishkek is a very walkable city and the various old Soviet era buildings and statues make interesting sights while strolling. Today among other things I saw the statue to the bard Toktogul near the Opera House. Due to his cultural and historical importance during the Tsarist era including his participation in the Andijan Uprising in 1898 (at age 34) it is easy to forget that he in fact lived until 1933, well into the Soviet era. The existing literature, however, largely ignores him after 1917. The English language, A History of Kyrgyzstan (from the Stone Age to the Present) by Oskon Osmonov and Cholpon Turdalieva which came out in 2015 for instance only deals with his life during the Tsarist era and does not say anything about the last 16 years before he died.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Walking is never time wasted

Yesterday I walked through Ataturk Park and saw the Afghan War memorial. In addition to a statue it also lists the soldiers from the Kyrgyz SSR that died in the war from 1979 to 1989. At rough approximation there were 130 names on the slabs that I saw. But, I think this total must be incomplete. In many ways Afghanistan was the Soviet Union's Vietnam.

Today I walked down the Kievskaya side of Ala Too Square rather than the Chui side. Just after the statue of Chingiz Aitmatov I ran into a former student of mine. He is doing quite well. It is kind of strange to think that I have taught hundreds of Kyrgyz, thousands of Ghanaians, and only a half a dozen Americans. At this point I am sure my impact will be much greater in Africa and Asia than it will ever be in my home country.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Another Random Thought

Maybe I should convert this blog into just a listing of various foods and drinks since that seems to elicit the most comments by a huge margin. However, I have already run out of consumables to list for Kyrgyzstan. I suppose I could do a similar list for Ghana when I get back to Africa. Instead, I am just going to keep muddling on in a very random fashion as I always have for lack of any better plan. I wish some of my more academic posts got comments. But, I am pretty sure nobody other than myself reads any of those posts. So there is in fact nobody to comment on them. They exist only as notes to myself in cyberspace.

Kyrgyz Beverages

Since my food post got a comment which almost never happens I have decided to add a beverage post. So here is a list of Kyrgyz beverages I have had since I got here. Many of them I purchased from vendors off the street.

Shalap Shoro

Maksim Shoro







Annual Kyrgyz Food Edition

The last couple of summers I have done a Kyrgyz food list. That is a list of dishes my wife has prepared for us during my stay. So far I have had the following this trip. Although some of these I had at cafes or as take out.








Fried liver and potatoes


Korean salad

Crab salad

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hot Sauce Hunt

Most Kyrgyz people don't like spicy food. But, my family is an exception. So having devoured the jar of Vietnamese chili sauce I purchased last week at Beta Stores I went on a hunt for hot sauce this morning with the boy. In addition to getting a new jar of the stuff from Vietnam we also scored and almost completely finished in one sitting of manti a bottle of sweet chili sauce from Russia.

Doings in Bishkek

Yesterday I submitted the necessary documentation to the embassy to renew my daughter's passport. I also had coffee with a Portuguese colleague. It was the first time I had actually met him in person. He asked that I send him copy of my PhD dissertation which I did later that evening in pdf form. It has been raining here the last couple of days. But, rain in Central Asia is very light compared to the precipitation in West Africa.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Break

Like past summers I am currently in Kyrgyzstan visiting family. Today I went to renew my daughter's passport. That was my number one goal to accomplish while I am here. I also finished peer reviewing an article manuscript that had been languishing on my desk for a long time in Ghana. Now I can devote myself to some more serious writing projects.

Monday, June 06, 2016

New Project Idea

I have been kicking around a project in my head for a while about re-evaluating the relationship of the USSR to the Third World during the 1960s and 1970s particularly with regards to the role played by Central Asia in granting the USSR membership in certain Afro-Asian organizations such as the Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization and Afro-Asian Writers' Association. I discussed the idea with Professor Joe on Saturday morning and on Sunday afternoon I wrote 2700 words of a really rough draft. I think there is something there and it is completely different from the other writing I have been doing on Stalinist deportations. It seems to me that nobody has really explored how Central Asia made the USSR an Asian state both politically and culturally in relationship to the rest of the world and in particular with regards to Africa and Asia. But, it seems to me here there are a lot of historical connections and parallels between Central Asia and the rest of Afro-Asia from the late 1950s to the 1980s that have largely been forgotten. The entire Soviet bloc is often excluded from consideration when looking at the Afro-Asian solidarity movements of this era. However, the USSR by virtue of the inclusion of Central Asia in its union was a member and participant in many of the Afro-Asian solidarity organizations and events. Treating Central Asia as part of East Central Europe rather than Asia seems wrong not only geographically but politically and culturally as well. So I want to see if by looking at the involvement of the USSR and particularly its citizens of Central Asian nationalities and its use of cities like Tashkent and Alma-Ata to host Afro-Asian events if I can reincorporate the region into the larger Afro-Asian world. Please feel free to leave any constructive criticism in the comments down below.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


This weekend I again went to the mall on Saturday and had coffee followed by a Philly cheese steak. But, I did not see Rawlings this time. I had a bigger cheese steak with more cheese and hot stuff this time, however. Today I got to church on time due to getting a ride with a fellow worshipper. I then went to the office. For lunch I walked down to the night market to get some spicy chicken wings and plantains from Meluvs. Then it started to rain so I walked as fast as I could. I still got a little bit wet, but not soaked. I did not think there could be much water left in the air since last night it poured heavily for hours on end. As it was it did not rain very long or very hard by Ghanaian standards this afternoon.

Friday, May 20, 2016

List of my articles dealing with Crimean Tatars on the Internet

"The Deportation of the Crimean Tatars in the Context of Settler Colonialism," International Crimes and History, 2016, Issue: 16.

"Soviet Ethnic Cleansing of the Crimean Tatars," International Crimes and History, 2015, Issue: 15.

“Colonialism in one Country: The Deported Peoples of theUSSR as an Example of Internal Colonialism,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion , vol. 5,  no. 7, May 2014.

“Ethnic Erasure: The Role of Border Changes in Soviet EthnicCleansing and Return Migration” in Eero Medijainen and Olaf Mertelsmann, eds., Border Changes in 20th Century Europe, vol. 1 Tartu Studies in Contemporary History (Berlin, Germany: Lit-Verlag, 2010).

“Loss, Retention, and Reacquisition of Social Capital bySpecial Settlers in the USSR,1941-1961” in Cynthia Buckley, Blair Ruble, and Erin Trouth Hofmann, eds., Migration, Homeland and Belonging in Eurasia (Washington DCWoodrow Wilson Center and BaltimoreMDJohn Hopkins University Press, 2008).

“A Caste of Helot Labourers: Special Settlers and theCultivation of Cotton in Soviet Central Asia: 1944-1956” in Deniz Kandiyoti, ed., The Cotton Sector in Central Asia: Economic Policy and Development Challenges, (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2007).

“Socialist Racism: Ethnic Cleansing and Racial Exclusion inthe USSR and Israel,” Human Rights Review, vol. 7, no. 3, April-June 2006. 

“The Deportation and Fate of the Crimean Tatars,” presented at the 5th Annual Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, Columbia University, NY, 13-15 April 2000.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Today (18-05-16)

Today I gave my last exam of the semester at 7:30 am. That meant I had to be at the university at 7:00 am. Which meant that I had to leave my flat at 6:00 am. To do that I had to get up at 5:00 am. Fortunately, I don't have to do that again at least for a couple of months. But, of course all day today I have been feeling like a zombie because I only got six hours of sleep insteard of the eight I usually get on week nights. My brain is certainly not up to doing any marking of final exams today. Tomorrow I will try and plow through as many of the 52 scripts as possible.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


18 May 1944

Tomorrow is the 72nd anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars from their ancestral homeland to Uzbekistan and the Urals. This year the 18th of May comes just a few short days after Jamala's victory for Ukraine in the Eurovision song contest with her song 1944 about the event. In many ways the Soviet treatment of the Crimean Tatars and the Crimean peninsula resembled better known cases of settler colonialism in the Americas, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. You can find my article, "The Deportation of the Crimean Tatars in the Context of Settler Colonialism," International Crimes and History, 2015, Issue: 16, here. Feel free to leave any comments about the article here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Saturday at the mall (Rawlings sighting)

This weekend I was at the Accra Mall. I wanted to try the new Pizza Hut but the line was too long. I did try the new coffee shop and the new Philly cheese steak place, however. In between drinking a huge mug of Sumatran coffee and eating a cheese steak I saw J.J. Rawlings. Or at least somebody who looked almost identical to him. I was outside the mall and had just finished talking to my mother on the phone when I saw him leave the mall. He did not have any visible entourage which I found interesting. At any rate I have never been physically closer to such an historically important figure in my life. Assuming that is of course it actually was Rawlings and not a look a like.