28 October 2014

Best of: Croatia

Guilty Unless Empire's Client in Good Graces. Though the US facilitated Croatia's 1995 Operation Storm the ICTY was free to prosecute Croatian officials seeing the country later on fell out of favor with Washington, but what does it say about US righteousness when even a court that is an instrument of Western interventionism in the region finds fault with the US-backed offensive? 4/2011, 850 words.

Croatia: Popular Sanction EU Style
. The bogus democracy behind Croatia's EU referendum. 1/2012, 600 words. 

Croatia Did Not Vote. Just 29% of the electorate said yes to Croatia's EU membership. 1/2012, 500 words.

Tim Judah out-Nonsenses Himself. Tim Judah is taken to task for patronizing ex-Yugoslavs and using them to try guilting Union Europeans into backing the EU. 10/2012, 1900 words.

21 October 2014

Best of: Culture

Over the years I have tried to bring attention to the peculiar and unflattering way in which the West insists on viewing Eastern Europe and the Balkans and its peoples. This is more a matter of culture rather than policy, but it unfortunately ends up influencing the foreign policy of Western states in the region to make it more bellicose and entitled. The most important of such efforts of mine:

Slavs The Devil's Instrument of Intolerance on Earth
. The West's obsession with imagining the Eastern Europe as a barbarian and retrograde version of itself. 8/2012, 2800 words.

Albright's Hate Crime. Madeline Albright outs herself as an anti-Serbian bigot. 11/2012, 650 words.

The Chauvinists at it Again. The lack of self-consciousness in Western condemnation of Russia culture wars. 8/2013, 1800 words.

20 October 2014

Best of: Russia, Ukraine

The best or most important of my posts dealing with the East Slav world:

Ukraine: Back to Normal. Ukraine which is anti-Russian is Ukraine which is at odds with itself. 2/2010, 1300 words.

Western Press: A False Friend to Russia's People Power. A recount of the Western coverage of the Russian 1993 constitutional crisis when its press favored the president and the military involved in a violent power grab against popular anger. 2/2012, 1100 words.

Thoughts on Ukraine. Overview of the situation in Ukraine as regards the orientation of the public and the government. 12/2013, 1150 words.

EU to Ukraine: I Want You to Want Me
. The EU wants Ukraine to want the EU, but does not particularly want the Ukraine itself. 1/2014, 1300 words.

Ukrainians Are Right to Suspect EU Deal Would Be Harmful. The association agreement the EU is offering to Ukraine brings with it as many downsides as benefits. 1/2014, 500 words.

Ukraine: Pro-Government Civilians Killed, West Blames All Violence on Yanukovich
. Western officials insist Yanukovich is ultimately responsible for the violence of both Ukrainian police and pro-Maidan extremists. 2/2014, 450 words.

The Grating Over The Memory Hole: The Toppling of Viktor Yanukovich. The crucial points to remember about the overthrow of the Ukrainian president. The Kremlin Stooge, 3/2014, 2400 words.

Ethnicity in Donbass
. War in Ukraine is inter-regional, not inter-ethnic. 8/2014, 1200 words.

19 October 2014

Best of: Western Interventionism

The best or most important commentary on Western military adventurism and its culture outside the regions that I write the most about (the former Soviet Union and the Serbo-Croatian speaking space):

The Liberators. Aggressive and criminal "rules of engagement" of troops occupying Iraq breed a culture of depravity. 10/2009, 1350 words.

Enduring Callousness. The criminal "rules of engagement" reveal the true nature of the occupation of Afghanistan. 5/2010, 900 words.

Seeing Through the ‘Humanitarians’. Opinion piece arguing counter ostensibly humanitarian Western military intervention in Libya. Antiwar.com, 3/2011, 1100 words.

Is Humanitarian War the Exception? A general case against ostensibly humanitarian military interventionism. Ludwig von Mises Institute, 4/2011, 1100 words.

A Choice of Scenery. Examining the reasons why the United States opted for military intervention in Somalia in 1992. 7/2011, 1100 words.

Going Home at Last: Say Farewell to Ramadi, Nasiriya and Balad. Debunking the claim of the empire to be withdrawing from Iraq after having won the war and accomplished its war goals. 12/2011, 1200 words.

Massacre in Kandahar or: How Did 'Our Bobby' Become a Serb. Commentary on the Kandahar Massacre. 6/2012, 700 words.

Obama's Delusions. It is precisely the vaunted rejection of realpolitik that makes American and Western military intervention so damaging. 3/2014, 700 words.

18 October 2014

Best Of: Libertarianism

The best of my libertarianism-themed writings:

Least, Sufficient Force: Libertarian Theory of Defense. Presenting a libertarian theory of defense, specifically rejecting proportionalism in favor of the least force necessary for a successful defense. The Voluntaryist Reader. 1/2013, 3100 words.

Jeffrey Tucker’s War against Sin. A polemical piece against Tucker's false dichotomy between libertarian "brutalists" and "humanitarians" and the non sequitur critique of the former. The Libertarian Liquidationist, 4/2014, 1100 words.

17 October 2014

Best Of: History

Sticking with the retrospective occasioned by the five year anniversary of my writing efforts I am making a selection of my best, or most valuable, articles and posts in this period. I am starting with a selection of my history-themed pieces, with selections from other categories of posts to follow in the coming days:

The Germans and The Bolsheviks
. A review of The Germans and The Bolsheviks: A History of a Collaboration by Silvin and Maidi Eiletz. 2/2010, 2200 words.

National Defense in the Great Patriotic War. Examining the reasons for the Soviet military debacle in 1941 and therefore the subsequent immense military and civilian loss of life to the Axis invasion. 7/2011, 1100 words.

Paper Money Famine. A review of Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II by Madhusree Mukerjee. 11/2011, 1700 words.

The Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact. A review of The Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact, from the pen of the Russian diplomatic historian Boris Slavinsky. 9/2012, 1300 words.

Axis or Allied? Underscoring the need for nuance in designating countries as having been Axis or Allied by examining the contributions of Denmark and Bulgaria to both camps of the Second World War. 5/2013, 3300 words.

WWII: Breeding Ground for Collectivism. Western Allies are responsible for more non-combatant deaths 1941-45 than the Stalin's USSR. The Libertarian Liquidationist, 5/2014, 1250 words.

Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses. A paper giving an overview of the sizes of the victim categories making up the roughly 25 million human losses of the Soviet Union during the Soviet-German War of 1941-45 based on the current specialist historiography. 8/2014, 12000 words.

15 October 2014

Bill Maher Has Been a Bigot for a Long Time

Recently the American TV show host, Bill Maher, has finally and deservedly caught substantial flak for the intolerant collectivist attitude he display on his show. I have found a critique and analysis by Murtaza Hussain in this vein particularly enjoyable and useful to read.

It is only now, with his most recent collective condemnation of Muslims that Maher has caused a scandal, but Hussain points out that Maher has been displaying similar bigotry for "several years" now. That is actually an underestimate, however. Long before Maher, who styles himself a "politically incorrect liberal" got into the habit of launching indignant tirades about Muslims, he in 1999 partook in the liberal pleasure of demonizing the Serbs along collectivist lines.

As NATO was attacking targets in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in a three-month-long bombing campaign that expended 22.000 tons of ammunition, targeted civilian infrastructure and killed 2,000 civilians according to Yugoslav sources (500 according to American estimates), Maher ridiculed Serb suffering and addressed the Serbs as "yuppie fascists", who were angry that the bombing was keeping them from "getting to their Tae-Bo class". Maher characterized the Serbs as supporting an "evil dictator hell-bent on eliminating an entire people" and advised the Serbs to do like the yuppies and "get some therapy":
So let me be the first to say I am so sorry that supporting a genocidal regime has turned into such a hassle for you. I'm sorry if our bombing has delayed the delivery of your J. Crew catalog or screwed [laughter] or screwed up your commute. And, by the way, if I were you, I would write a strongly worded letter to the transit authority, because I've seen your bridges, and frankly, they're a mess. [laughter and applause] Believe me, we would never have started bombing them if we realized it was keeping you from getting to Tae-Bo class. So maybe what you yuppie fascists need to do is stop supporting an evil dictator who is hellbent on eliminating an entire people just because their ancestors kicked your ancestors' asses 600 years ago. Let it go. You're yuppies, get some therapy. [laughter] Get your moral clock working. Let me give you a hint. If in your language you have ever used the phrase, "can I get to the mall if I make a left at the death camp" [laughter] you might be a redneck.
Maher's recipe of passing chauvinism for edginess was in full display already in 1999. The difference was that the target of his 2-minute bigotry were the Serbs rather than the Muslim world, and that back then this caused no scandal as only voices from the alternative media called him out for getting a laugh from Serbian civilian hardship.

It is the case the Western world has a problem with both, anti-Muslim as well as, anti-Serbian/anti-Eastern European bigotry. While the former is felt more pointedly it is also the case it comes more from the margins of the society and is more likely to be combated by the establishment and the liberals. The latter prejudice, against the daily savage from Eastern Europe, however, tends to emanate precisely from these circles and as a result will not even be detected as bigotry, much less confronted. The truth is that if Maher had stuck to just bashing Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Latvia and so on he may have still been universally recognized as a liberal.

25 September 2014

All the Links

As per my promise I am showing the way to everything I've had published so far that appears on outlets other than Crappy Town (whether I have linked to it before or not):

24 September 2014

Blog Policy

The plan for the future is that I will write content with the view to have it published on outlets other than Crappy Town. It is a simple issue of math. Writing for your own reasons is fine, but it is doubly nice if someone actually reads and benefits from what you write, and it is the case Crappy Town simply does not have a very extensive reach.

Any exclusive pieces that this blog will publish, will be only in the case that I find something either very intriguing, or feel that something absolutely must be said, but that I can not find a different, bigger outlet for them that would A.) run it and B.) have a readership of the appropriate profile that would actually benefit from them.

In fact, this has more or less been policy for a while now albeit it was left unstated – which is part of the reason why Crappy Town has been receiving fewer updates in recent times than during its heyday. What is new is that I am going to make an effort to always link to everything that I have published elsewhere.

I figure that while this blog has only a small following it is the case everyone keeping an eye on it is almost assured to be interested in the same things I am, and generally finds my arguments worthy of being read. Audiences at other places may be larger, but the one here is strictly mine and is possibly interested in my stuff even when it is not tailor-made for Crappy Town, but a different outlet instead.

5 Years of Crappy Town

It has been roughly five years since I started this blog, which got rolling in earnest in the autumn of 2009. Setting up the blog I had two mayor intentions.

The first one was to use it as a form of therapy. The idea was that committing thoughts on issues that bothered me to paper and offering them up to the world would help my peace of mind. I figured that if I published my thoughts on injustices and delusions that I saw or remembered, I would not have to rerun them in my mind over and over again.

The second was that I would become a better writer. Obviously enough, publishing a blog forces on you a kind of discipline. It may be possible to reach at least as many people via the social media, particularly online forums, as it is with a start-up blog. The difference is that on forums, or Facebook there is no expectation that any effort will be spent on the style and the structure of the argument. For a blog post to be taken seriously, however, it is not enough that it offers a compelling argument. It also has to amount to something in terms of the quality of the writing.

In these terms Crappy Town has been a great success. In the past five years of blogging I have gone a long way in both of my objectives.

I have become a more systematic thinker and a far better writer. I have improved sufficiently that I sometimes cringe a little reading some of my early stuff. Not that my early arguments are without value, or a cause of embarrassment – far from it, but that I at once see how I could have phrased and structured them far better. Here's to hoping that in five years' time that is how I will see the writing that I am able to churn out today!

16 August 2014

Ethnicity in Donbass

War in Ukraine is inter-regional, not inter-ethnic

Since the onset of the war in Donbass in April the western media has been in pains as how to describe the anti-government side. The rebels have sometimes been referred to as "separatist rebels", which is not necessarily accurate, and at other times as "pro-Russian rebels", which is accurate but is not saying much. Lately some commentators have settled on designating the rebels the "ethnic Russian rebels". This designation seems convenient and doubtlessly gives the outsiders a sense of clarity and certainty, but while it is not entirely inaccurate, it can be extraordinarily misleading.

Indeed, looking at the official population census one will found that Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine are home to 2.8 million Russians who constitute 40% of the population of the area. This gives the western observers unable to describe what the conflict is about something to fall back on. The rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk are Russians and they are fighting because they are Russians. The story becomes a familiar one of ethnic differences.

Trouble is Donetsk and Lugansk regions are also home to other 4.2 million people who declare their nationality on official population censuses to be Ukrainian. Despite this the Ukrainian government troops have not found themselves welcome by populaces of towns they have re-captured as it would be expected if this was really a fight of Russian against Ukrainian.

Unlike in some of the other inter-ethnic wars we have witnessed, nobody in Donbass, whether the anti-government rebels, nor the Ukrainian military is going house to house demanding to know if the residents inside are Russian or Ukrainian. It would be pointless to do so, because there is no indication that there is any visible difference in the political attitudes of census Russians and census Ukrainians in Donbass. They are either both equally supportive of the anti-government rebels, or else equally ambivalent about them. Instead, the Ukrainian military is happy to shell towns and cities on its path killing its nominally ethnic Russian and Ukrainian citizens alike, and the rebel militias (like the Ukrainian army itself) is composed of both census Russians and Ukrainians.

The truth of the matter is that while there is a difference between Russian and Ukrainian that furthermore, can be very significant in a given context, this simply is not the case in Donbass. Due to a number of social, geographic and historical reasons Donbass is a region with a character that is at once Russian and Ukrainian and where forcing a choice between just one of the two does not come naturally.

10 August 2014

Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses

A polished version of my attempt at breaking down the Soviet WWII losses is now available. Aside from benefiting from much word editing, it is a tidier package also in the sense that all the constituent sections are now combined in a single PDF file, instead of being broken up into ten separate blog posts.

You may read or download it here: Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses.

11 July 2014

Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses: Conclusion

Losses by Gender

Research conducted by Russian demographers Andreev, Darskii and Kharkova suggests the Soviet population 1941 through 1945 lost 13.5 million more males than females.[46]

In the Soviet-German War the USSR suffered up to 11 million military deaths which would have been overwhelmingly of males. 1941-1945 65,000 Soviet citizens were executed by civil authorities and a further 1,020,000 people died in prisons, camps and colonies of the gulag. These deaths too would have been overwhelmingly of males. Also about 500,000 Soviet prisoners or war, or Soviet citizens in German service successfully avoided repatriation to the USSR at the end of World War II. Thus 12.6 million, or the great majority of the male to female deficit in Soviet population is accounted for by military deaths, judicial executions, deaths in the gulag and emigration of collaborators and prisoners of war. This may attest to at least a rough validity of estimates presented in this paper.

The unaccounted difference between 12.6 and 13.5 million may mean that males were, somewhat counter-intuitively, slightly overrepresented among civilian deaths as well. Possibly particularly due to being overrepresented among victims of German anti-partisan reprisals and other killing policies. It may also mean the number of 500,000 is an under-estimation of how many more males than females managed to emigrate. It may also mean that 11 million is an underestimation of Soviet military deaths in the Soviet-German War. Indeed a noted Russian scholar, S.N. Mihkhalev, estimates the USSR lost 10.9 million Red Amy and NKVD regulars on the front, to military tribunals or in captivity. This would push the combined military casualties from the Soviet population to 11.4 million. Naturally, it may be the 0.9 million difference is a combination of any of the three factors mentioned. 

Migration Deficit

The scale of migration deficit is possibly the most uncertain of all causes of Soviet population losses in the Soviet-German War. The 2.7 million estimate from Ellman and Maksudov used here is twenty years old and is based on only a very rough and preliminary calculation.[47] Even as such, however, it remains seemingly the most-well supported of all such estimates (most of whom are considerably lower). This paper then uses the seemingly best available, but still rather uncertain figure. Hopefully historians and demographers will continue to take a look at this question and eventually produce a more certain estimate, so that the question of how much of the Soviet population deficit in the war may be attributed to emigration may be answered more reliably.

Population of Newly Annexed Territories

Since the Soviet Union conducted a population census in 1937 and then again in 1939 we have a fairly good idea how large the population of the USSR in its 1939 borders was. The much bigger unknown, however, is how many new citizens were added through Soviet territorial expansion in 1939-40. This means the size of the Soviet population on the eve of the war is not fully certain, which makes estimating its losses all the more difficult. Andreev et al, estimate that through annexations the Soviet population  increased by 20.3 million. On the one hand Ellman and Maksudov reckon this is more likely to be an underestimate than an overestimate. Indeed there are other estimates which go up to 23 million. On the other hand there are rival lower estimates as well. S.N. Mihkhalev reckons newly annexed territories were populated by between 17 and 20 million inhabitants.[48]

16 June 2014

Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses: Summary

Total demographic loss of the Soviet Union in the Soviet-German War is 28 million people. This includes 26,6 million estimated loss in excess of expected deaths calculated by ADK, the 1,1 million deaths due to war-related causes of people expected to die in the time frame in accidents and of natural causes and 0,3 million expected deaths due to Soviet repression. Of the 28 million loss 2.7 million is migration loss and 25.3 million is actual war dead. Of the second figure 1.5 million deaths are due to Soviet state repression and 23.8 million are due to war and policies of the occupier.

Military Deaths

Of the 25.3 million deaths due to war up to 11 million are what are usually deemed "military deaths". These, however, include 3.1 million deaths of Soviet POWs in German custody (not all of whom were actually military personnel), 20,000 POW deaths in Finnish custody and 135,000 Red Army men executed by Soviet military tribunals, as well as 7.25 million deaths of Red Army men due to combat, accidents and disease, 250,000 deaths of Soviet partisans and militiamen and 250,000 deaths of Soviet citizens who fought as part of non-Soviet forces, mainly in German service.

Not counting prisoners of war and soldiers condemned in courts martial who were the victims of enemy states and of their own state, and fighters who died as part of non-Soviet forces, the proper Soviet military dead adds up to 7.5 million regulars and irregulars, of whom more than 300,000 due to frostbite and disease and 150,000 in accidents.[45]

Civilian Deaths

Of the upwards of 14.3 million civilian deaths 7.5-8 million occurred due to general privation associated with the German invasion and occupation. Just over half of such deaths occurred in the western USSR mainly due to ruthless economic exploitation of the occupation. The remainder occurred in the interior USSR mainly due to the fact the German advance eastwards had cut off the Soviet Union from the majority of its food surplus areas. A further 0.9 million civilian deaths occurred in blockaded Leningrad, and 200,000 among Soviet forced laborers in German-run Europe and children born to them. 1 million perished in the course of the war in the prisons, camps and colonies of the Soviet penal system, and 300,000 during deportations or internal exile, again mostly due to malnutrition, exhaustion and disease.

10 June 2014

Indirect Deaths Due to Privation Induced by the War and the Occupation

Soviet scholar A.A. Shevyakov in 1991 estimated about 8.5 million Soviet civilians perished during the war due to malnutrition and disease induced by the war and occupation. Of the 8.5 million Shevyakov in 1991 reckoned 5.5 million took place in parts of USSR that suffered the Axis occupation and 3 million in parts that did not experience occupation. In 1992 he updated his estimates, now figuring that about 6.5 million Soviet civilians had perished due to war-induced privation.[38] Krivosheev in 2001 estimated there had been 4.1 million excess civilian deaths due to malnutrition and disease in the occupied USSR. He reported findings according to which 1941-45 there had been an estimated 8.5 million deaths of natural causes in the parts of the USSR under occupation, but only 4.4 million were to be expected under pre-war mortality rates. A German historian Hans-Heinrich Nolte estimated of the estimated total 27 million war deaths 7 million were indirect deaths of civilians due to malnutrition and disease. In 1972 a British writer Elliot Gil estimated 7-8 million civilian deaths due to privation.[39]

This paper so far has tallied up to 11 million deaths among Soviet citizens in military service (regular and irregular Soviet forces, POWs and non-Soviet forces), leaving at least 14,3 million non-combatant deaths. Of the latter also 6.3-6.8 million have been tallied between various causes leaving 7.5-8 million undistributed civilian deaths that may be attributed to privation induced by the war and occupation. This is without counting privation deaths of civilians in the Siege of Leingrad (up to 0.9 million), privation deaths of forced laborers in German-run Europe outside the USSR (0.2 million), privation deaths of Soviet citizens repressed in the gulag and internal exile (1 million and 0.3 million respectively), civilian privation deaths in forced evacuations accompanying German retreats, or privation deaths of Soviet civilians imprisoned by the Germans in POW camps as possible or potential soldiers.  

Almost all of 1.3 million excess deaths among children born after 22.6.1941, as well as the great majority of 1.1 million war-related deaths of people who would have died in the 1941-45 timeframe anyway but at a later date, probably occurred due to malnutrition and disease. This means some 2 million of the 7.5-8 million privation deaths in the Soviet Union during the Soviet-German War are fairly invisible to statistics. In at least one quarter of cases malnutrition and disease induced by the war and occupation took the lives of either children not yet born when the war begun, or else of the elderly who were not expected to live past 1945 even had there not been a war.

Given Krivosheev's estimate it seems likely that of 7.5-8 million privation deaths among civilians just over one half occurred in the occupied western Soviet Union and just under one half occurred in the unoccupied interior of the country. The parts of USSR that fell under German occupation were home to 77.5 million people before the war. 16.5 million of these fled or were evacuated by the authorities leaving just over 60 million in areas under German control with 130 million original inhabitants and refugees from the west in the interior Soviet Union.[40] In other words Soviet citizens under German occupation were at least twice as likely to perish due to war-related malnutrition and disease than were civilians from the interior, unoccupied Soviet Union.

25 May 2014

Other War-Related Violent Deaths

Civilian Deaths in Ukrainian-Polish Conflict in Volhynia and East Galicia

Somewhat in excess of 50,000 non-combatants were killed in the Ukrainian-Polish Conflict in Volhynia and East Galicia. Most of these were Poles massacred in summer and spring of 1943 by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army — about 40,000. Another 5,000-10,000 Poles were killed in a similar campaign in Galicia in the summer and spring of 1944. There was also a smaller number of Ukrainian victims of counter-killings by the Polish Home Army.[33]

Deaths due to Soviet Partisan Reprisals

The Soviet partisans routinely carried out reprisals against civilians whom they saw as collaborators with the occupiers, such as officials of the civil administration under the Germans. The number of people killed in reprisals carried out by the Soviet partisans may be estimated at about 60,000.

Soviet Partisan formations in Belarus reported killing 17,431 people as collaborators by January 1st 1944.[34] This was six months before Belarus would be liberated in mid-1944 and the partisan units in Belarus dissolved. Additionally the deaths of some victims of reprisals may have gone unreported, for example if they were killed for reasons other than perceived collaboration. All things considered the number of people killed in partisan reprisals in Belarus probably falls in the range of 20,000-30,000.

Deaths connected to partisan warfare in Belarus may constitute anywhere between 0.3 to 0.55 of the total for the entire Soviet Union. This gives a wide range of possibilities for the total figure of people killed in partisan reprisals in USSR, from a low of 40,000 to a high of 100,000. Still the variant where Belarus amounts for just over 0.4 of the total violence connected to partisan warfare in the USSR had been deemed most likely elsewhere in this paper. This would net an estimate of 60,000 people killed in Soviet partisan reprisals against perceived collaborators, class enemies and criminals.

25 April 2014

The Holocaust, Anti-Partisan Reprisals and the Siege of Leningrad

The Holocaust

Compared to the other categories of Soviet civilian losses of World War II there are now relatively precise and reliable calculations for the number of Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Israeli historian Yitzhak Arad calculates there were between 2,509,000 and 2,624,500 civilian Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust, which makes for a mid-point estimate of 2.55 million.[29]

This estimate includes only direct victims of the Holocaust, and leaves out Soviet Jewish deaths in unoccupied USSR, for example among Jewish refugees from western USSR and in the Siege of Leningrad. It leaves out 120,000 deaths of Jewish Red Army men killed in combat, Jewish civilians killed in the course of battles such as the Siege of Odessa, as well as of the 80,000 Jewish Red Army soldiers who were killed in German captivity as Soviet POWs.

Naturally the 2.55 million figure is given for the Soviet Union within its expanded borders. It covers all losses from all areas part of the Soviet Union in 1941 that were retained after 1945. Sometimes far smaller figures of about 1 million Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust may be encountered, but this is because such estimates cover only the victims from territories part of the Soviet Union in its 1939 borders.

Anti-partisan Reprisals

In response to partisan activity in a given area in their rear the Germans in the Soviet Union carried out what were essentially clearance operations targeting primarily the civilian population of the area rather than any local partisan formations. Areas deemed to be infested by partisans or „bandits“ were descended upon by security units and its population subject to mass killings and deportations. When the population of a given place was deemed to have been "infested" by partisan influence it was wiped out. It was the policy of eliminating civilian support for partisans by eliminating civilians.

The number of Soviet civilians killed in anti-partisan reprisals is highly uncertain. The German historian Christian Hartmann mentions a figure of 500 thousand, whereas the British historian Richard Overy mentions the figure in excess of 1 million victims. American historian Timothy Snyder talks of 700 thousand dead but that is for Poland and the Soviet Union combined.[30]

02 April 2014

Wartime Losses in Light of Expected and Actual Mortality Due to Soviet Repression

The all-present figure of 26.6 million demographic losses of the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War is based on a calculation that on the basis of mortality figures for 1940 posits that without the war there would have been 25.3 million fewer losses among those born before July 22nd 1941, and 1.3 million fewer losses among those born after 22.6.1941.[23]

Such a calculation would, in the case that in 1940 the number of Soviet repression deaths was negligible, produce an estimate of total Soviet losses in the war, ie the total of losses due to the war and due to Soviet wartime repression. However, the number of Soviet repression deaths in 1940 is not necessarily so small as to be insignificant for this calculation.

In the case that Soviet repression during the war caused no more deaths per year than in 1940, such a calculation would produce an estimate of Soviet losses directly due to the war, ie without losses due to Soviet wartime repression. However, the war actually brought about a great increase in the scale and the lethality of Soviet state repression.

This means the 26.6 million figure is neither an estimate of total Soviet losses in the war, nor an estimate of losses due to the war. It captures some, but not all wartime deaths due to Soviet repression. It captures wartime Soviet repression deaths in excess of the expected level of Soviet repression deaths based on the 1940 levels, but does not capture the part of Soviet losses due to Soviet state repression not in excess of the 1940 levels.

How many people perished in 1940 due to Soviet state repression? We know that 47 thousand people died in the labor camps of the gulag, 7 thousand in the labor colonies of the gulag and 6 thousand in prisons. 2,044 people were executed for criminal offenses and 1,649 for political offenses. Additionally there would have been excess deaths among internal exiles.[24]

31 March 2014

Obama's Delusions

In denouncing the Russian seizure of Crimea in Brussels last week Obama contrasted the Russian invasion of the peninsula with the United States' own invasion of Iraq:
"Russia has pointed to America's decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq war was a subject of vigorous debate, not just around the world but in the United States, as well. I participated in that debate, and I opposed our military intervention there."

"But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future."
Other commentators have pointed out the absurdity of claiming the American invasion was supposedly more defensible of the two given the differences in bloodshed they entailed. The Iraq War resulted in approximately 500,000 deaths whereas the Russian seizure of Crimea resulted in the deaths of one Ukrainian serviceman and one Crimean militiaman.

There is another aspect in which Obama's statement is perversely ridicilous. He highlights as the redeming property of the Iraq invasion precisely the notion that makes US imperialism today so aggressive and unpredictable. That is its rejection of realpolitik and an addiction to pointless and unprofitable war. When Obama says: "We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain," what he is communicating is that unlike the Russians the Americans did not wage a self-interested war. By invading Iraq the US was not seeking to advance own national interest.

But this is exactly what makes US militarism such a scourge. Whereas a traditional power may only wage war that will serve its real political ends the contemporary United States, which is detached from this thinking, may wage war under any number of completely arbitrary and bizarre rationales. US military action ends up being called for for reasons as sacandalous as to "be seen to be doing something", to "send a message", or simply because "[the Serbs] needed some bombing".

30 March 2014

Libertarians, Crimea

I have a guest post on the correct libertarian position on the Russian seizure of Crimea over at The Libertarian Liquidationist. I make the point it is simultaneusly laudable and objectionable. This way to read it.

21 March 2014

Wartime Deaths Due to Soviet Repression

The Soviet Union under Stalin was a highly repressive state that engaged in repression of its citizens on a vast scale. Its repression was deadly and resulted in numerous deaths, even when the state had not explicitly set out to make repression lethal and to cause the death of those repressed. What is more, the four years of the Great Patriotic War were characterized by a sharp increase in the scale repression and the occurrence of deaths due to repression relative to most peacetime years under Stalin, including the immediate pre-war time.

The Gulag

Archival data shows the gulag administration in the years 1941 through 1945 presided over the deaths of 1.02 million inmates of whom 622 thousand prisoners in labor camps of the gulag, 312 thousand in labor colonies of the gulag and 85 thousand in prisons. The total number of deaths the gulag was responsible for in this time frame may be even higher on the account of deaths among former inmates who died after their release but as a consequence of the conditions they had been subjected to during their imprisonment.[18]

During the war mortality among the inmates of the gulag increased sharply so that one half of those who perished in the gulag did so in the war years, particularly between 1941 and 1943 and mainly of malnutrition related causes. German invasion of the USSR caused food shortages everywhere in the Soviet Union, however, malnutrition and the consequent mortality in the gulag was much more severe than among free Soviet citizens in the unoccupied USSR.

The most proximate cause of the crisis for the inmates of the gulag was that they were being kept imprisoned, mostly unjustly, with little aces to food, not that the Germans had invaded the Soviet Union and caused a general shortage of food. Had the regime released the inmates it was unable to feed they would have stood a far better chance of surviving than they did in the camps. This would have only benefited the war effort as a gulag inmate was only half as productive as a free laborer.

Internal Exile and the Labor Army

Another major category of Soviet citizens who suffered lethal repression at the hands of the Soviet regime during the war were deportees in internal exile. Deportees were usually stripped of their civic freedoms, lost most of their property and were often dumped in some of the most inhospitable parts of the Soviet Union condemned to live in "special settlements" that often did not yet exist and they would first have to build themselves. Besides performing labor in their colonies the exiles were routinely lent out to industries as unfree labor, or else, during the war, conscripted into the Labor Army . The exile groups experienced a far higher rate of mortality compared to the rest of the Soviet population, particularly in the first several years of their exile, after which their circumstances normally gradually improved.

18 March 2014

The Toppling of Viktor Yanukovich: Guest Post at the Kremlin Stooge

I have a lengthy guest post on the last month's overthrow of Yanukovich over at the excellent The Kremlin Stooge blog. Hop on over to read the piece and the lively introduction by the host.

01 March 2014

Deaths of Soviet POWs and Forced Laborers

Soviet Prisoners of War in German Custody

G.F. Krivosheyev reports that official records list 3.4 million Red Army personnel as missing. He himself calculates an additional 1.16 million missing personnel from units that were encircled and could not send out reports to the center. This nets a total of 4.56 million missing, but Krivosheyev estimates 500,000 of these never entered into captivity, but were killed beforehand. On the other hand he supposes that 500 reservists who were called up were captured by the enemy before they could be integrated into their units. This he allows for 4.56 million Soviet prisoners of war.

German estimates of Soviet prisoners taken, however, run up to 5.7 million. The huge discrepancy may be partially explained by German double counting and partially by the fact the Germans took captive thousands of militiamen and police not counted on Red Army rolls, and even more crucially — rounded up numerous civilians on the presumption some could be encircled Soviet troops attempting to avoid capture by shedding their uniforms, or else mobilized conscripts on their way to their units. For example, in the Kiev encirclement the Germans reported capturing 665 thousand prisoners of war. However, the entire Southwestern Front defending Kiev had only 627 thousand men on its rolls, of whom tens of thousands had successfully slipped out of the cauldron and therefore avoided capture, as well as another 150 thousand who had never been encircled by the German pincers in the first place. The 5.7 million figure of Soviet POWs is without a doubt an overestimate of actual captured Soviet soldiers and almost certainly still an overestimate of Soviet citizens captured by the German armed forces and treated as POWs.

In any case, the number of Soviet citizens who the Germans considered to be captured combatants (by no means had all actually been combatants, nor were they actually afforded the protections of a POW status) and who perished in German custody is most often given as 3.3 million. The figure stems from a German historian Christian Streit who arrived at the figure by taking the estimated 5.7 million captured as his starting point and then subtracted from it the number of those who were known to be still alive in German custody in January 1945 (930,000) and those who may have been released (1 million) or liberated (0.5 million).[13]

Streit's figure is problematic because he uses the inflated 5.7 million figure as his starting point. Starting instead with a different contemporary German estimate of 5.2 million total captives his method could result in a much smaller estimate of 2.8 million deaths of Soviet POWs in German custody. However, in the same way that Streit inputs an overestimate of total captives he could be using too high figures for those released and those liberated. Indeed he states that "at most" 1 million were released implying the number is easily smaller. Additionally the estimate of those liberated or escaped is from the Army High Command, which is the same body that produced the inflated 5.7 million estimate of the total. Using 5.2 million as a starting point and lowering the release and liberated figures by 20% Streit's method would result in a point estimate of some 3.1 million deaths among Soviet POWs in German hands, which is easier to defend.  

19 February 2014

Ukraine: Pro-Government Civilians Killed, West Blames All Violence on Yanukovich

It has been reported that 26 people have been killed in the recent outbreak of violence in Ukraine. 10 of those killed so far have been policemen. Majority of these have been riot police killed in violent clashes with the protesters, but at least two of these deaths occurred when a traffic police unit, which was not involved in suppressing the protests, was attacked by assailants.
"The Ukrainian Interior Ministry reported that seven police officers died of gunshot wounds during the clashes. Two additional officers were later killed and another was critically injured as a traffic police unit was attacked in Kiev. The police officers died while in pursuit of the offenders."
The majority of non-police deaths are presumably of protesters killed in the violent clashes with the police. However, at least two civilian deaths were of non-protesters. A journalist of a Russian-language daily was beaten with iron rods, then shot by masked assailants:
"A Ukrainian reporter has died of a gunshot wound after masked men attacked him on the way home in central Kiev. His colleagues suspect the attack was not accidental.

The journalist, Vyacheslav Veremyi, of the local “Vremya” (“Time”) pro-government newspaper died early on Wednesday morning of a gunshot to the chest while doctors were trying to save him."
Additionally, an office worker perished in a fire when the protesters stormed and set fire to the building of the Party of the Regions in Kyiv:
"Protesters also attacked the headquarters of President Yanukovych's Party of the Regions, temporarily smashing their way in and setting it on fire before being forced out by police. One person - believed to be an employee - was found dead inside."
Meanwhile the Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has reacted to the violence by stating:
"We must be clear: Ultimate responsibility for deaths and violence is with president Yanukovich. He has blood on his hands."
American Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt sung from the same song sheet:
"From this moment on, the USA holds Yanukovich responsible for everything that happens in Ukraine."
It is enormously curious the West would choose to blame all the violence on the government of Ukraine. Even though the most radical elements of the protest movement in Ukraine have taken to torching office workers, attacking traffic police, and possibly murdering journalists this is all ultimately the fault of Yanukovich.

What is being communicated by the Western officials is that the Ukrainians squaring off against the current government may do no wrong even when they are engaged in the killing of defenseless civilians. That means that if more journalists or office workers are murdered by extremists, it is the Western officialdom not the Ukrainian government that will be in large measure responsible for their deaths.

Non-Repression Deaths of Combatants

Soviet Regulars

G.F. Krivosheyev established Soviet records indicate the "deadweight" losses of the Soviet military in the Soviet-German war amount to 8.69 million dead. It would be erroneous, however, to take the figures indicated by these incomplete records at face value, as synonymous with actual deaths among Soviet military personnel.

To highlight just one problem. Krivosheyev suggests the Germans took 4.06 million Soviet military personnel prisoner of whom 2.96 million survived their ordeal, while the other 1.1 million perished in German custody. In fact, we know that more than 3 million Soviet citizens the Germans had designated prisoners of war died. Even allowing for the fact many of them were not military personnel, but instead civilians and partisans, the number of Soviet Red Army men who perished after they fell into German hands must have been far greater than 1.1 million.

Ellman suggests there are other factors Krivosheyev's figures do not take into account. One is the fact that given peacetime mortality rates among the age groups making up the Red Army personnel there would have been 400,000 deaths among their number even in peacetime. Another that there would have been Soviet soldiers captured by the Germans who were subsequently released or escaped, but who were not reinstated into the Soviet military due to their disability, avoidance of conscription, or age. He estimates their number may have been 300,000.

The first of these points by Ellman is less valuable than the second, particularly as it pertains to the projected 100,000 "natural deaths" among Soviet POWs. If we know the life expectancy of a Soviet prisoner of war taken by the Germans was usually extremely low (in 1941-42 when most were taken it was only a few months) it is the case they simply would not have had the time to die a natural death in captivity, before they died of other causes. It is irrelevant if thousands of Soviet soldiers taken POW would have died anyway in 1941-1945 of other causes, if their life was cut short when they were left to starve in Wehrmacht's POW camps in 1941/42. Ellman's other point is pertinent. The number of POWs who survived captivity must be greater than the sum of POWs who were reinstated into the Red Army before the end of the war, of those who were returned to the Soviet Union at the end of the war, and of those who emigrated.

Krivosheyev figures, however, are nonetheless the best starting point in determining the extent of non-repression deaths among Soviet regulars — that is excluding deaths of Red Army men in German POW camps and at the hands of Soviet military tribunals. According to their records the Red Army and the NKVD sustained 5.23 million killed in action, 1.1 million died of wounds, 270 thousand died of disease, 290 thousand died of remaining causes such as accidents, suicides or were executed after a court martial. Additionally there were 500 thousand Soviet soldiers who went missing, but who Krivosheyev suggests were killed in fighting. Altogether this gives a figure of 7.39 million Red Army and NKDV non-POW dead.

17 February 2014

Croatian Skier on Sochi: Great Nation, Friendly People, Successful Games

Croatian alpine skier Ivica Kostelić, who has captured a medal on each of the last three Winter Olympics, in talk with USA today on his impression of Russia and the games in Sochi:
"Since I am Slavic, I understand parts of Russian language and maybe this whole culture is a little closer to me. Maybe this sounds crazy, but Russia is a great nation. I know there is a lot of criticism over some stuff. But sometimes we shouldn't compare the western way of thinking and the Russian way of thinking. Besides that, these Olympic Games are very good. We heard a lot about security is going to be very tough. But actually I hardly notice that it is tougher than Vancouver or Torino. The people are very friendly, and I think these Games so far have been good, a success."
Another in a line of participants of the Olympics who feels they games and the host nation are alright and the "Sochi haters" (or is it Russia haters?) don't have a leg to stand on.

11 February 2014

Mark Adomanis Doesn't Understand Property Rights

The Cathedral Church of Episcopalians in Washington ("The National Cathedral")

Mark Adomanis, the popular Russia blogger over at Forbes writes:
"I personally think that Pussy Riot should have gotten off  without any punishment whatsoever because their actions didn’t harm anyone and because there is no “right” for religious observers not to be offended. The idea that churches should somehow be excluded from free speech protections seems to be a very dangerous one, and so Pussy Riot should have faced the same “consequences” they would have had they given their performance on a street corner (i.e. nothing)."
Adomanis gives this in a post commentating on the "hilarity" that ensued when Samantha Power, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, misunderstood the challenge of her Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin and tweeted she would be proud to go on tour with Pussy Riot, presumably taking her from the National Cathedral in Washington, to St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem as suggested by Churkin. Indeed it is hilarious what an airhead Power revealed herself to be in totally missing Churkin's point.

At the same time, however, Adomanis reveals himself to lack a comprehension of something very basic himself, namely of property rights. Independent of any right for religious observers not to be offended, there exists a basic right of property. A church is not un-owned public space. A church (the building) is property that belongs to its church (the organisation) and its congregationn and is made open to the public for certain purposes. Eg, anyone who wants to offer a prayer or admire the architecture is usually welcome by the owners to come in and do so. However, if one enters instead with the intent to steal, or to hurl insult at the religious sentiment of its congregation then such a visitor is an unwelcome intruder a trespasser knowingly trampling upon the property rights of its victim.

There is in fact a world of difference between shouting obscenities on a street corner and in a church. To guarantee the "right" to insult religious observers from within a church, there would have to exist an intuitively indefensible situation where the law enforcement would actually have to attack the right of religious organizations to manage access to their property including being able to revoke welcome. Taken to its logical conclusions it leads to justification of utterly bizarre scenarios, such as of armor-clad riot police clearing a path through lines of religious observers at a church, so as to enable fringe professional provocateurs access to the altar, so that they may exercise their "right" to better make themselves offensive to believers by purposefully insulting religious sentiment from within the house of god.

29 January 2014

The Total Population Losses of the Soviet Union in WWII

The most widely used figure of Soviet losses in the Soviet-Geman war is 26.6 million. This number actually stems from the report of an expert commission set up under Gorbachev which found that 26-27 million was the most accurate estimate of Soviet wartime losses, with 26.6 million being a good possible point estimate.[1]

The figure has its detractors, including those who posit the actual number of losses is significantly greater, as well as those who assert the real figure is lower. Perhaps the most well known personality to posit higher figures is Boris Sokolov who asserts that a more sensational figure of 43.4 million dead is the true cost of the war for the Soviet Union.[2] Perhaps the most noteable critic of the semi-official 26.6 million figure is Viktor Zemskov who comes on the other side of the debate, and maintains the lower, pre-Gorbachev figure of 20 million dead is the most accurate estimate to date.[3]

Even so, the 26-27 million figure is cited extensively, ad verbatim, or with minor reservations and adjustments both in the former Soviet space and in the West. A similar estimate is even accepted by western scholars, such as Norman Davies and Steven Rosefielde, who are known for contesting the output of non-sensationalist Russian historians on most other topics related to the Soviet Union. It is then mostly accepted that Gorbachev's commission had done a conscientious and generally capable job in establishing the 26.6 million figure as the best estimate of Soviet wartime losses.

Nonetheless there is one important issue connected not to the figure itself, but to its interpretation. The figure is taken to answer the question how many Soviet citizens perished in World War II, when actually it explicitly includes, not only excess deaths, but also population losses incurred due to Soviet citizens who left the territory of the Soviet Union during the war and did not return after its end. The figure of 26.6 million taken as an estimate of excess deaths is an overestimation. It is actually an estimate of total population loss, including due to emigration.[4]

Breaking down Soviet WWII Losses

To my knowledge no historian, amateur enthusiast or professional, has ever attempted to meaningfully break down the number of Soviet wartime deaths in WWII by their causes. Interested in the subject last year I had decided to look for myself, which has so far resulted in a half-done report collecting dust on my hard drive for many months now. Rather than risk never finishing the research and the write up, I will share what I have learned from the works examined in thematic parts as I polish them up.

This post will serve as the table of content, providing access to all the individual parts from one point and linking them all together as they are added.

Breaking down Soviet WWII Losses:

1. The Total Population Losses of the Soviet Union in WWII
2. Non-Repression Deaths of Combatants
3. Deaths of Soviet POWs and Forced Laborers
4. Wartime Deaths Due to Soviet Repression
5. Wartime Losses in Light of Expected and Actual Mortality Due to Soviet Repression
6. The Holocaust, Anti-Partisan Reprisals and the Siege of Leningrad
7. Other War-Related Violent Deaths

8. Indirect Deaths Due to Privation Induced by the War and the Occupation
9. Summary
10. Conclusion

24 January 2014

Ukrainians Are Right to Suspect EU Deal Would Be Harmful

Research of public opinion in Ukraine
suggests a plurality of 39% of Ukrainians believes signing the EU Association Agreement would have a net negative impact on Ukraine. Only 30% of Ukrainians believe it would be beneficial to sign it. The Ukrainian public is right to doubt the usefulness of the deal.

The nine hundred pages long deal envisions a near-complete, mutual elimination of tariffs, This dramatic relaxation of trade between the Ukraine and the EU, however, is only to take place once Ukraine copies a variety of EU regulations. In other words, albeit free-flowing trade between EU and the Ukraine would just by itself be beneficial to both, it is Ukraine alone that must pay for it with a committal to "approximate EU legislation, norms and standards". Ukrainian goods can have free access to the EU market but only once Kyiv introduces more regulation that will make production costlier and products more expensive, and therefore less likely to actually benefit from the theoretical access to the EU markets.

Ukrainian goods will be cheaper for the EU customer on the account of not being subject to a customs duty, but more expensive on the account of Ukrainian producers having to comply with EU regulation. It is anyone's guess if the former positive effect would make up for the latter negative one. What is more, since the deal introduces the concept of "dynamic approximation" Ukraine would actually commit to copying, not just existing EU regulations, but any EU regulations full stop, including those the EU shall pass in the future.

Economic "regulations" (actually restrictions) have the effect of suppressing productivity from where it would otherwise be. Highly advanced economies like Germany can "afford" placing restrictions on economic activity at the cost of a large cut in the, still high, standard of living. But for Ukraine, with its out-of-date industries, to commit to forever labor under the weight of the same economic restrictions that highly modern Germany can endure somewhat painlessly, could mean putting the breaks on its ability to ever catch up with the West and sentencing itself to a permanent state of poverty vis-a-vis Western Europe.

Moreover hand in hand with signing the EU Association Agreement Kyiv would have to seek loan from the IMF. The supposedly "neo-liberal" IMF, however, had demanded Kyiv commits to gradually raising import tariffs so as to increase government revenue and assure the IMF of repayment. In other words the result of Kyiv opting for the EU-IMF route would be a decrease to barriers to trade with the European Economic Area in the long term, under the condition that Ukraine copies EU economic regulations, but an actual increase to barriers to trade with the entire world in the short term to please the IMF.

The EU-IMF route combines gains to trade that are quite uncertain and very much in the future with losses that would be immediate and assured. The Brussels deal is not an appealing bargain and would not actually boost trade.

03 January 2014

EU to Ukraine: I Want You to Want Me

The EU wants Ukraine to want the EU, but does not particularly want the Ukraine itself

The eruption of pro-EU, anti-government demonstrations in Kyiv has seen an interesting phenomena — a variety of acting Western officials have rushed to take part in one way or another. Carl Bildt, Guido Westerwelle, John Baird and Catherine Ashton, the chief foreign policy makers of Sweden, German, Canada and the EU respectively, as well as the American assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, and American senators John McCain and Chris Murphy have all touched ground in Kyiv and met with the Ukrainian opposition and the demonstrators, and in some instances even took the stage to address the participants of mass rallies. In unprecedented breach of diplomatic convention they largely traveled to Ukraine without meeting with representatives of the government. Additionally the media in the West has been heavily invested in covering the events in Ukraine, and rooting for its favored side — the demonstrators and the opposition.

It is easy to see what has got the Western elites so animated about the Ukraine. In a deep moral and economic crisis, which particularly the Europeans are finding themselves in domestically, they are finding it heartening and soothing to see huge crowds taking to the streets to try to move closer to their club. In the wake of the post-2008 economic crisis 'the European project' might have turned sour for the Greeks, Italians, Spaniards and others, but at least deep in the Eastern European wilderness there are masses clamoring to come under the benevolent grip of the Brussels.

The parade of European officials in Kyiv has been so long and so well covered, because it represent a relief for the Western elites from the dreary and terrifying proposal of dealing with the crisis of economic growth across the EU. It also offers up the comfort and the validation of knowing that with all its gargantuan problems their system still represents a model to aspire to for others — if only just for the extremely downtrodden Ukrainians and then only at a 46% plurality.

The truth that most everyone is aware of, however, is that if immersing themselves with enthusiastic crowds waving EU flags in downtown Kyiv can represent an escape from the reality of the EU crisis, footing the bill for Ukraine's actual EU integration would only deepen its cause. Actually if the EU had really wanted the Ukraine it could have had it. Yanukovich had clearly favored a deal with Brussels and had invested significant effort as well as political capital in it. The stumbling blocks to concluding such a deal proved to be the EU's insistence on retracting the sentence against his political rival Timoshenko and the refusal to cough up the cash the Ukraine would need to begin the transition.

Yanukovich had asked for a similar loan that he has since got from Moscow from the EU, but the latter would not lend the money, suggesting instead that Kyiv looks to the IMF. The IMF was willing to provide the loan, but characteristically demanded the government in Kyiv committed to introducing a series of unpopular economic policies as a precondition.