Archives

2016

No 2405 (2016): Contesting The Malyn Massacre: The Legacy Of Inter-Ethnic Violence And The Second World War In Eastern Europe

On the morning of July 13, 1943, a German anti-partisan formation surrounded the small village of Malyn and its Czech and Ukrainian inhabitants. The soldiers gathered the entire village population in the town square and, after a document check, proceeded to lock them inside the town church, school and their homes. The soldiers then set fire to these buildings and shot them with machine guns. By the end of the day, Malyn ceased to exist. On the surface, the Malyn Massacre appears as just another ghastly crime committed by a brutal occupying force. Yet, a closer look at archival sources, popular discourse, and scholarly literature on Malyn reveals a much different picture – and a murkier one. In total, there are over fifteen different versions of what happened in Malyn that day. The ethnic identities of the units that accompanied the Germans vary from account to account, as do the details of the crime, the justification for the reprisal, and even the ethnicity of the victims. In analyzing materials from over ten archives in six countries and four historiographical-linguistic narratives, in addition to field research in Ukraine and the Czech Republic, this article explains why so many disparate claims about the Malyn massacre exist. I specify four discursive landscapes about Malyn (Soviet, Ukrainian, Polish, and Czech) and detail how and why each of these has come to construct their own version(s) of Malyn in relation to larger grand narratives about the war in the East. This microhistory also underscores how the trauma and legacy of wartime inter-ethnic violence casts a long shadow over the current understanding of the war and highlights the daunting task scholars face writing the history of this region and time period.

No 2404 (2016): Personal and Political: A Micro-history of the “Red Column” Collective Farm, 1935-36

This article investigates the confluence of personal interests and official policy on collective farms in the mid-1930s, a period that has received far less scholarly attention than the collectivization drive.  The current historiography on collective farmers’ relationship with the state is one-sided, presenting peasants either as passive victims of or idealized resistors to state policies.  Both views minimize the complex realities that governed the everyday lives of collective farmers for whom state policies often were secondary to local concerns. This paper, which draws upon rich archival materials in Kirov Krai, employs a micro-historical approach to study the struggle to remove the chairman of the “Red Column” collective farm in Kirov Krai in 193536.  It demonstrates that local and personal issues (family ties, grudges, and personality traits) had more influence on how collective farmers reacted to state campaigns and investigations than did official state policy and rhetoric. The chairman’s rude and arrogant behavior, mistreatment of the collective farmers, and flaunting of material goods led to his downfall.  But to strengthen their arguments, his opponents accused him of associating with kulaks and white guardists. The chairman and his supporters struck back, alleging that his detractors were themselves white guardists and kulaks, who sought revenge for having been expelled from the collective farm.

Such a micro-historical approach reveals the importance of popular opinion, attitudes, and behavior on collective farms and the level of control that collective farmers had over shaping the implementation of state policies. This paper enables one to appreciate that peasants knew well how to manipulate official labels, such as kulak or class enemy, as weapons to achieve goals of local and personal importance.  It enriches the historiography by offering a different way to appreciate peasant attitudes and behavior, and collective farm life in the mid-1930s.



2014

No 2303 (2014): Profiles in Exhaustion and Pomposity: The Everyday Life of Komsomol Cadres in the 1920s

This essay examines the daily lives of Young Communist League (Komsomol) cadres in the 1920s and argues that their ability to establish local authority through consent was often undermined by their everyday conditions. The article addresses the emergence of the Komsomol’s nomenklatura and cadre appointment system after the Russian civil war, cadre workload, working conditions, health, attitudes, and the Komsomol leadership’s efforts to subordinate cadre malfeasance and corruption through public scandal. The article demonstrates that without a sturdy material base upon which to generate consent, local Komsomol cadres often relied on domination to exert their authority over their rank-and-file members and to some extent the local population. This reliance ultimately perpetuated itself. The more cadres employed coercion, the more the means of consent atrophied, which led them to turn time and again to domination. The use of domination over consent had grave implications on the nature of Bolshevik rule. Often Komsomol cadres were the only representative of the Soviet state in rural localities, and their methods of garnering authority were representative of prevailing trends of Bolshevik governance throughout the 1920s.



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