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.