Saturday, July 21, 2018

Three-Quarters of All Nazi Collaborators during World War II were Soviet Citizens, Crimean Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – Three of every four non-Germans who collaborated with the Nazis – approximately 1.5 million – were Soviet citizens, an issue few in Russia want to face, according to Oleg Romanko, a historian in occupied Crimea (

            There have been collaborators in other wars, the specialist on that subject says; but never so many. Why that was so, he continues, has not been completely established because the issue is so sensitive and because of a tendency of people on all sides of the issue to politicize the question or simplify it to the point of absurdity.  

            One misconception that gets in the way of an adequate understanding of this issue is the insistence by most on all sides of the debate that “betrayal of the motherland,” a legal and moral term, is equivalent to “collaborationism,” which is first and foremost “an historical phenomenon, Romanko continues. In fact, they are very different phenomena.

            “In Soviet historical literature, all who cooperated with the military-political structures of Nazi Germany were treated only in a negative way and at the same time in an extremely simplified way,” the historian says. “In reality, this phenomenon was much more complicated … and depended on a large number of factors which influenced it.”

            At the other extreme, he suggests, is Western historiography which “tries to put Soviet collaborationism in one category with similar phenomena that occurred in Nazi-occupied Europe.” While they were similar in some ways, they were also very different, a reflection of the very different experiences of Europe, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union, on the other.

            “Soviet collaborationism was essentially a continuation of the events of the civil war of 1918-1920, and its immediate preconditions were the special features of the socio-political development of the pre-war USSR … [including] repression, collectivization and religious persecution.”

            These experiences meant, Romanenko says, that by the early 1940s, many people living in the Soviet Union were prepared to protest or even rise against the regime in any way that was possible. In addition to these “internal” anti-communist causes, external ones played a role as well such as the location of the front and the attitudes of the occupation forces.

            When the Germans were doing well, more people were prepared to cooperate with them; when they began to lose, fewer did so.  At the same time, the Germans did not have clear ideas about what they wanted in the occupied territories – and depending on who was making decisions, German policy toward particular regions like Crimea was in flux.

            On the peninsula, some Germans wants to make it part of a subjugated Ukraine; others want it to become a German enclave like Gibralter; and still others wanted to make it “a German Riviera” having expelled all the native residents to make that possible. At different times, these various positions dominated.

            In practice that meant, Romanko says, that “even the occupation administration was not here organized” in a consistent way.  The multi-national composition of the Crimean population also played a role. The Crimean Tatars via the Muslim committees were able to achieve more than others, but other minorities were not similarly successful in representing their interests.

            The Germans did not allow the Russians to form such committees or represent themselves as a community until later in the war when the Vlasov movement became involved. Then the Russians quickly gained more influence on the occupation forces than the others, with the number of Russians involved rising rapidly.

            As to the numbers of people involved in collaboration, there is little agreement; but as to the number of Crimean residents who took part in German-organized military units, there is common recognition that “approximately 50,000 people of various nationalities” were involved, a significant figure given that fewer than 14,000 residents ever joined the partisans there.

            That meant, Romenko says, that “by the spring of 1942, as a result of their activities, the partisan and underground movement was in fact destroyed. And this was in Crime where Soviet power had existed already for a good 20 years. What then can one say about the Baltics and Western Ukraine where the Soviet partisan movement did not acquire such a mass character?”

Friday, July 20, 2018

Putin Disbands Three Presidential Councils He Created to Promote Innovation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – In yet another indication that Vladimir Putin is retreating from his brief flirtation with modernization in 2012, the Kremlin leader yesterday disbanded three presidential councils – for economic modernization and innovative development, for the development of the financial market and for monitoring socio-economic development.

            These councils have little real power, but they do bring into the orbit of the Presidential Administration people and ideas from the academic world who might otherwise find it difficult if not impossible to reach Putin. Killing them is thus a step backwards from any commitment to real modernization (

            That is all the more so now when Putin and his government have been sending out signals that they really are prepared to try to move forward by identifying innovative ideas and ensuring that the center really knows which ones work and which don’t by a careful and continuing monitoring of the Russian population.

Pamir Kyrgyz Returning from Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – In the last century, some among the nationalities have moved from one country to another in response to changing political conditions. One of the longest odysseys was by a group of Kyrgyz who fled the Soviets in the 1920s and 1930s into China only to leave that country when communism came there.

            These people then moved on to the Pamir region of Afghanistan where they lived until communism came there as well. They wanted to come to Alaska but objections by residents of that state made that impossible, and almost all of them agreed to be resettled in Turkey around
Lake Van.

            But one small group of this nation, perhaps as many as 2,000 people in all, did not leave the Pamirs. Post-communist Afghan governments were glad to have them as defenders of an area difficult to reach but bordered by four foreign states. Kabul did little for them, but it did little to encourage them to live.

            The Pamir Kyrgyz continued to live much as their ancestors had for centuries, living in yurts and herding sheep and having none of even limited advantages Kabul extends to some of the other groups in that country’s population. They might have stayed that way except for the political needs of one set of leaders in their people’s original homeland, Kyrgyzstan.

             In 2016, to demonstrate their interest in Kyrgyz abroad, Bishkek politicians decided to extend assistance to the Pamir Kyrgyz and subsequently they offered to resettle the members of that community who wanted to come in mountainous portions of Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately, that effort hasn’t worked out; and the Pamir Kyrgyz are now returning to Afghanistan.

            On the Fergana news poral, Ulugbek Babakulov describes what happened and why the Pamir Kyrgyz are now on their latest and perhaps exodus, again leaving a homeland their ancestors had abandoned and going to a place that they and their families remarkably have made their own (

            Of the nearly 100 Pamir Kyrgyz who came believing that they would get support much as their co-ethnics had in Turkey 40 years ago, almost all have moved back or plan to because after using them for political devices several years ago, the leaders of the republic have largely ignored them and their special needs in adapting to a much more modernized society.

            One Kyrgyz journalist observed that the Kyrgyz were surprised: the Pamir Kyrgyz spoke the same language as the titular nationality of Kyrgyzstan; but it turned out that “they were even more foreigners than other guests from present-day foreign countries.” And it was hard for the Kyrgyz of Kyrgyzstan to deal with them because the Pamir Kyrgyz were “poor but proud.”

            When the Pamir Kyrgyz do return home, Babakulov says, they likely will tell the others of their community that they do not have a homeland elsewhere but only where they are now.