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.

Nick Mayhew: Russia’s Queer History (LGBT History Month Miniseries 2018)

In the first episode of The Provocateur‘s miniseries for LGBT History Month 2018, we travel to Russia to explore the country’s hidden history of sexuality. In contemporary Russia, the church and state have conspired to suggest that LGBT identities are not part of Russia’s supposedly ‘traditional’ culture. At best, they are seen as subversive and non-traditional; at worst, they are perceived as damaging Western imports, where progressive views on homosexuality are a form of moral neo-imperialism. These attitudes are most clearly expressed in the 2014 law forbidding the promotion of ‘gay propaganda’. However, new research is challenging the ‘otherness’ of Russian homosexuality, arguing that an undercurrent of same-sex desire has long been embedded in Russian culture.

To discuss the history of sexuality in medieval Russia, I’m joined today by Nick Mayhew, who has just finished his PhD in Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge. We open by talking about Nick’s initial interest in the subject, before moving on to discuss the kinds of same-sex relationships and identities that existed in pre-modern Russia and the medieval period in particular. We also touch on the difficulties Nick has faced in doing this kind of research in a society rife with state-sponsored homophobia.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Elisabeth Schimpfössl: The Super-Rich of Russia

Following on from last week’s discussion of global povertyThe Provocateur turns its attention to the other end of the social scale: the super-rich, who have often been neglected in sociological studies of inequality. In Russia as in other post-Communist countries, capitalism is a relatively new phenomenon, creating in some cases a backlash from older Soviet-born generations against the burgeoning rise of mass consumption. Philanthropy is also becoming trendy among Russian multi-millionaires and billionaires, apparently in response to major disparities in income and wealth.

In this installment of The Provocateur I talk to Elisabeth Schimpfössl, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL, about her intriguing work researching the lives of Russia’s 0.1%. We discuss the historical context of Russian inequality in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, before zooming in on the super-rich themselves. We investigate the gendered dynamics of Russian elites, their attitudes to the current regime and their motivations for charitable giving. Towards the end of the episode we also explore the future of Russian politics and the viability of comparisons with another highly oil-dependent country, Venezuela.

You can listen to the podcast here: