Seth Bernstein: Across the Iron Curtain: The Repatriation of Soviet Citizens After WWII

Though World War II looms large in both the North American and European popular imaginations, the complex history of the post-WWII settlement has largely been erased from public memory. Indeed, for millions of people the end of the war was only the beginning of an uncertain future. A refugee crisis was brewing on the Eastern Front, which became a key factor in the birth of modern-day international humanitarian law. Moreover, many of those who had been caught up in the horrors of Nazi control in Eastern Europe now faced the prospect of being sent back across the Iron Curtain. The task of repatriating Soviet citizens grew into an enormous challenge for the Allies in the aftermath of the war.

This week on The Provocateur I am joined by Seth Bernstein, assistant professor of history at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow), to discuss the repatriation of Soviet citizens after WWII. We begin by talking about the Cold War perception of repatriation among Soviet writers, before zooming in on the experience of Soviet people in German-occupied Europe and the refugee crisis that followed the war. We also look at the role of the Allied war dead in the story and how the Soviets allowed them to be removed from Soviet Germany in exchange for the Allies permitting Soviet repatriation missions to enter the Allied side of Germany. Towards the end of the programme, we talk about the legacies of repatriation in the later 20th century up to the present moment and the continuing need to rectify the injustices of the past.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Bernstein, S. (2017) ‘Burying the Alliance: Interment, Repatriation and the Politics of the Sacred in Occupied Germany’, Journal of Contemporary History 52(3), pp. 710-730.

Laura Madokoro: The History of Humanitarianism in Canada (Canada 150 Miniseries)

This episode of The Provocateur kicks off a special month-long miniseries to coincide with Canada 150: a series of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. While it is frequently derided as the backyard of the United States, Canada possesses a rich, complex and colourful history; today it is rightly celebrated as an outward-looking and multicultural nation. Yet its spirit of progressive pluralism belies the stinging legacies of both indigenous dispossession and the oppression of racial and ethnic minorities. Some of the darkest episodes of Canada’s recent past can be found in the Chinese Exclusion Act, as well as Japanese internment during WWII. Though Canada sought to establish itself as a humanitarian power in the postwar period, it continues to be haunted by the injustices of history.

To discuss the history of humanitarianism and immigration in Canada, The Provocateur is joined today by Laura Madokoro, who is assistant professor in the department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University. We explore the history of anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese sentiment in nineteenth and early twentieth century Canada, the relationship between humanitarianism and settler colonialism, the significance of the Indochinese refugee crisis for Canadian foreign policy and the amazing story of the first official refugees from China to Canada in 1962. Finally we bring our discussion up to the contemporary moment, with the provocative question of whether Islamophobia is the new yellow peril.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Correction: The episode is mentioned as being the second in the Canada 150 miniseries, as it was still scheduled as such at the time of recording. However due to unforeseen circumstances, it will now be broadcast as the first episode. Apologies for the oversight.

Further Reading:

Gatrell, P. (2013) The Making of the Modern Refugee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Madokoro, L., F. McKenzie and D. Meren (eds.) (2017) Dominion of Race: Rethinking Canada’s International History. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Mar, L. (2010) Brokering Belonging: Chinese in Canada’s Exclusion Era, 1885-1945. New York: Oxford University Press.

Roy, P. (2010) The Triumph of Citizenship: The Japanese and Chinese in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Yu, H. (2015) ‘Conceptualizing a Pacific Canada Within and Without Nations’, in Dubinsky, K. et al. (eds.) Within and Without the Nation: Canada’s History as Transnational History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.