Two Worlds Have Come Together

Amazing what names of authors pop up while using the research databases such as J-Stor, EBSCOhost, et al. While helping my Ukrainian students with their research papers in Kyiv, Ukriane I ran across some very thorough writing about the Holodomor done by Dr. J. Otto Pohl.  Serendipitously, I met Otto last fall when I went to visit him and talk to his class in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  He teaches history at the very university I taught at 15 years ago, back then it was known as Kyrgyz American University Faculty. The university has gone through several name changes since. 

Now Ken and I are teaching in Almaty while Otto is in Bishkek which is about a three hour drive away (counting the arduous border crossing).  Several days ago Otto wrote the following in his blog which fits with what I’ve been writing about concerning Ron Vossler’s writings.  The two researcher/writers have not met yet but have written and reviewed each other’s work in the past. 

Funny how my two worlds have come together with the people I meet simply because of knowing about the tragic event of the Holodomor. Maybe there are so few of us who really know the impact on millions of peoples lives of such a terrible event that happened 75 years ago. May it never happen again!

Displacement, Diasporas, and Descendants

 

Lately I have been reading and thinking a lot about diasporas. In particular I have noticed that many diasporas are the result of multiple displacements and thus have multiple homelands. The connection to the “original” homeland thus becomes attenuated considerably. The Afro-Caribbean diaspora in the UK is an example of one such multiply displaced group as are the Sephardic Jews expelled from Iberia.

The ancestors of the Russian-Germans now in Germany originally left Hesse, Baden, Wurttemburg and other states in Central Europe to the Russian Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries. In between their initial settlement in the Russian Empire and the migration of their descendants to Germany in the 1990s these families often experienced as many as five or six displacements. For these people homeland has variously referred to not only Germany, but also to areas in the Russian Empire and USSR. These homelands have ranged in size from individual villages to the entire Russian Empire. For most of the Tsarist era the primary geographical identification of most Russian-Germans remained on the local level of the village. But, other larger geographical affiliations also developed and co-existed with this identification. On the largest scale, most Russian-Germans considered themselves loyal subjects of the Russian Empire and later loyal citizens of the USSR.

Exactly how various Russian-Germans have over the course of generations viewed themselves variously as villagers of Norka, Volga Germans, Soviet Germans, and Russian-Germans would be an interesting subject to research. The existence of multiple geographic identifications due to both the displacement and modernization of internal diaspora groups in the USSR would make a fascinating comparative study. How for instance do the Russian-Germans differ from the Russian-Koreans in their emotional connections to specific territories?

3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Otto Pohl said,

    Thanks for the plug. Although to be honest, I am pretty sure I have not written anything on the Holodomor. Almost all my published academic writing is on Stalin’s national deportations. Also while I have taught one history course, all the other courses I have taught in Bishkek have been political science courses.

  2. 2

    kazakhnomad said,

    Thanks for your clarification. I thought one lengthy volume that you wrote helped to buttress one of my students’ papers on the Holodomor but maybe it was on Stalin’s deportation of nationalities to Kazakhstan. Since many Ukrainians were sent down to Kazakhstan, that is perhaps why your name turned up in a keyword search. In the American Library in Kyiv, Ukriane your book exists. As I recall, it is a navy blue hardcover copy and selling for about $85! Yipes, are you getting the royalties on that yet?
    Did I write you taught history, sorry? Of course, political science is a whole different animal, all the more complex with the topics you have concerning Central Asia. But history is just as messy in these parts too.
    Maladetz!

  3. 3

    Otto Pohl said,

    Kristina, no problem about the misunderstanding. I do indeed still get royalties off of the blue book, _Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949_. It deals with the deportation of Germans and Greeks from Ukraine to Kazakhstan, but not ethnic Ukrainians.

    Actually my BA, MA and Ph.D. are all in history. I only became a political scientist a little over a year ago. I actually found my one history course, Political History of the USSR, more difficult to teach than my political science courses. I had real trouble getting students to talk in class.


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