Soviet Russians between Hitler and Stalin

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I’m unusually happy to announce that my first book just came out. It’s published by Cambridge University Press and entitled Soviet Russians under Nazi Occupation: Fragile Loyalties in World War II. We academics don’t get to see tangible fruits of our work that often. Having spent years collecting, systematizing, reading, and making sense of a pretty huge amount of archival material, oral testimonies, memoirs, and diaries, and then distilling everything into a coherent narrative, it feels great to behold the final product in its physical format.

For the time being, the book is only available in a very expensive hardback version (and a less expensive eBook version). If someone wants to read it but can’t afford the price, a paperback version will be out in a year or so.

In the meantime, or for the short version, you can head over to War on the Rocks and read my piece Fragile Loyalties: Soviet Russians between Hitler and Stalin.

Breivik, tolerance, and the West’s decline: a Russian view

A recent piece in Rossiiskaia Gazeta, the Russian government’s official newspaper and one of Russia’s largest, portrays Norway as a country that, while nice in many ways, is unfortunately about to be capsized by a wave of multicultural tolerance set in motion by Breivik, the right-wing terrorist. This rather ludicrous charge is not new, but echoes previous and similarly bizarre commentary about the Breivik attacks in the mainstream Russian press.

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Russian volunteers in Ukraine and defensive mobilization

Since Russia annexed Crimea and sent troops to bolster the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republics” (the DNR and LNR) in Eastern Ukraine, thousands of Russian volunteers have traveled to the Donbass to take part in the fighting. While a few of them have teamed up with the Ukrainian side, the vast majority joined the irregular DNR/LNR forces. A recent Russian study asks what made these volunteers tick. The core motivation, the study claims, was a desire to defend one’s own people. As one would expect given the current domestic climate, the findings certainly suit the official story about the conflict. But that doesn’t mean they are wrong.

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According to Ukrainian authorities, the bulk of the DNR/LNR forces was made up by an estimated 36,300 irregulars as well as 2,900 Russian regular troops by July 2017. A substantial proportion of the irregulars have consisted of incoming volunteers from Russia. Source: Ukraine Crisis Media Center

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Short note on the 100th anniversary of Russia’s Constituent Assembly

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Peaceful demonstration in defense of the Constituent Assembly. Petrograd, January 1918. Forces loyal to the Bolsheviks later opened fire on the demonstrators. Source: Moscow House of Photography

On 18 January 1918, a hundred years ago today, Russia’s first democratic experiment was strangled at birth by Lenin and the Bolsheviks as they forcibly shut down the democratically elected Constituent Assembly and opened fire on unarmed protesters.

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The strange decline of antisemitism in Russia

It will surprise no one that attacks on Jews occur in Russia. After all, this is the country that gave us the word pogrom. Yet it might surprise you to hear that the level of antisemitic violence in Russia, by all accounts, is quite low compared to Western Europe. Given the political climate in later years, shouldn’t we expect otherwise? Patriotic rallying, attacks against “foreign agents” and internal “fifth columnists”, rampant and officially sanctioned homophobia, a fortress mentality in which one in four say the country is “surrounded by enemies on all sides” — isn’t this fertile soil for a reinvigorated antisemitism?

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Dancing for the white race in St. Petersburg



As jihadism scholar Thomas Hegghammer and a selection of other fine scholars show in the book Jihadi Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2016), jihadis don’t just fight, kill, and die for their cause. In their spare time they also read poetry, interpret dreams, listen to music, pray, weep, and embroider. Such activities are ways to generate meaning, which, of course, is a very human endeavor, and jihadis are human too. So are right-wing militants. Just look at these dancing Nazis in St Petersburg.

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