Potential Research Topics (1)

Advice: Let us not be afraid of languages. The world is a highly multilingual place, with books and periodicals published regularly in over 800 languages and Wikipedias available in about 300 languages. It is the very reality of globalization. There is no time or chance to master for reading purposes more than 10-20 languages. Life is too short. But Google Translate offers translation services for 103 languages now (2017) and counting. Copy-paste any text you want to consult in one of these languages and voilà, you can read it without even knowing the target language. For better or worse, as a rule of thumb, the best quality of translation is available between English and the other languages. And when a given text is scanned, text recognition software comes in handy to convert such a text into a form that would be downloadable in Google Translate.

NB: About a third of the topics can be researched on the basis of English-language materials; look for the word ‘None’ in the Requirements line.

Interwar Tannu-Tuva

Research question: Did the Soviet Union allow the formal independence of Tannu-Tuva in order to show the Soviet public that the promised export of revolution might (temporarily) fail in Europe but was a success in Asia?

Background: Tannu-Tuva evolved from the de facto autonomous region of China, namely, Tannu Uriankhai. In 1914 Russia made it into its protectorate, known in Russian as Uriankhanskii krai. The Tuvan People’s Republic (as Tannu-Tuva was officially known) was independent between 1922 and 1944. In the terms of area Tannu-Tuva was bigger than today’s Greece and only a bit smaller than present-day Belarus. Nowadays it is an autonomous Republic of Tuva in Russia, with a population roughly equal to that of Malta.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Russian is essential; while an ability to read in Chinese and a Turkic language would help.

NB: Not a single scholarly monograph has been published yet in any language on interwar independent Tannu-Tuva.

 

The Yugoslav Nation After Yugoslavia

Research question: Does a Yugoslav national identity survive after the breakup of Yugoslavia because of the emergence of the wartime Yugoslav diaspora and the rise of the vibrant Yugoslav (Serbo-Croatian) section on the web?

Background: In the 1980s 1.3 million citizens of Yugoslavia saw themselves as ‘ethnic Yugoslavs,’ or members of the Yugoslav nation who speak the ‘Yugoslav’ (Serbo-Croatian) language. 0.3 million more saw themselves ‘simply’ as citizens of Yugoslavia with no nationality; Yugoslav citizenship was enough for them. Nowadays around 1 million people living in North America, western Europe and in post-Yugoslav countries declare themselves to be Yugoslavs and their language as Serbo-Croatian (Yugoslav). The Serbo-Croatian (Yugoslav) Wikipedia is the largest among all the post-Yugoslav Wikipedias, though officially the Serbo-Croatian language does not exist.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Serbo-Croatian.

NB: Not a single scholarly monograph has been published yet in any language on the Yugoslavs after the breakup of Yugoslavia.

 

The Porajmos (Roma/Gypsy Holocaust)

Research question: Is the Porajmos so utterly forgotten (unlike the Holocaust) in historiography and by public opinion, because the Roma did not gain their own nation-state after World War II (unlike the Jews who created Israel)?

Background: During World War II the German (‘Nazi’) government, in line with the policy of ‘racial purity,’ decided to exterminate all Roma (alongside all Jews) in Germany and German-occupied Europe. Around half a million Roma were killed. The story remains practically unknown and seriously under-researched.

Requirements: Knowing English is sufficient, but it would be advisable to have an ability to read in German and other European languages. Last but not least, a knowledge of Romani (Roma language), though not essential, would allow for oral field research among Roma and Romani-speaking communities themselves.

NB: No full-fledge scholarly monographs have been published yet on this question in any language. Only one small monograph on the Porajmos was published in English and an extensive one in Polish (though mostly focused on the issue of remembrance).

 

Austrian or German?

Research question: Why are the post-Austro-Hungarian German-speaking minorities known as ‘Germans’ not ‘Austrians’?

Background: In Austria-Hungary German-speakers tended to identify themselves as ‘Austrians.’ The Allies created Austria after 1918 and recreated it after World War II. German-speaking inhabitants of today’s Austria see themselves as the Austrians, members of the Austrian nation. However, in the neighboring states and regions (of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia or Slovenia), the post-Austro-Hungarian Germnophone minorities as officially known as ‘German,’ not ‘Austrian.’ Why?

Requirements: A reading knowledge of German.

 

The Holocaust: Germans Killing Germans?

Research question (and background): According to the type of ethnolinguistic nationalism prevalent in central Europe, speakers of a language are defined as a nation. During World War II Germany exterminated Yiddish-speaking (Ashkenazim) Jews. Yiddish means ‘Jewish German.’ Most Ashkenazim were bilingual in German. Most Germans (Austrians, Luxembourgers, Germanophone Swiss) speak their local Germanic dialect at home and standard (‘High’) German in official situations. From this perspective Yiddish was just such a dialect of German, and in the view of central Europe’s nationalism Ashkenazim should have been treated as fellow Germans. Was the Holocaust, in light of ethnolinguistic nationalism, completely incongruous, basically Germans killing other Germans over religion, the genocide spuriously justified by ‘scientific racism’?

Requirements: A reading knowledge of German; and at best a reading knowledge of Yiddish.

 

The Holocaust: The End of German as a Global Language

Research question: Did the Holocaust end the rise of German as a global language?

Background): Until World War II German had been the language in which the biggest number of scholarly works were published. German was the global lingua franca of scholarship (like English today), and the language of commerce and everyday communication from eastern France to the Volga region in the midst of the Soviet Union, and from Scandinavia in the north to the Balkans and Turkey in the south. Ashkenazim Jews, as much as German minorities (strewn across central and eastern Europe) were responsible for this phenomenon. During World War II Germany exterminated Yiddish-speaking (Ashkenazim) Jews. Yiddish means ‘Jewish German.’ Most Ashkenazim were bilingual in German. Most Germans (Austrians, Luxembourgers, Germanophone Swiss) spoke their local Germanic dialect at home and standard (‘High’) German in official situations. From this perspective Yiddish was just such a dialect of German, and in the view of central Europe’s nationalism Ashkenazim should have been treated as fellow Germans. The Holocaust, alongside wartime and postwar expulsions of ethnic Germans from central and eastern Europe ended the career of German as a global language in Eurasia.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of German; and at best a reading knowledge of Yiddish.

 

Nationalism and the Forgotten Interwar Languages of Czechoslovak, Samnorsk, and Serbocroatoslovenian

Research question: Was the central European type of nationalism the cause of the failure of the proposed languages of Czechoslovak, Samnorsk, and Serbocroatoslovenian and their subsequent erasure from social memory and the respective national master narratives?

Background: In central Europe ethnolinguistic nationalism is the basic ideology of statehood creation, legitimization and maintenance. The nation is defined as all the speakers of a language who should be housed in their own nation-state. In breach of this norm interwar Czechoslovakia, Norway and Yugoslavia had two or more de facto or official national languages. In order to scale this ideological problem, in Norway an attempt was made at melding the two national languages into one, while in Yugoslavia the three national languages were gathered under the roof of a constitutional (nominal) language consisting of two (three) actual variants (standards). In Czechoslovakia both models were tried. Interestingly, though Samnorsk failed, today’s Norwegian is a nominal (pluricentric) languages consisting of two actual standards of equal status.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Norwegian (that is very close to English), Czech, Slovak (very close to Czech) and Serbo-Croatian.

 

Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia, 1918-1946

Research question: (A) Did the Allies press this region into Czechoslovakia’s lap so that Ruthenia would not be seized by Bolshevik Russia? (B) Did Czechoslovakia give the region up to the Soviet Union, because Prague never wanted it in the first place?

Background: Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary within Austria-Hungary. In 1919 the Allies decided to pass it to Czechoslovakia. Ruthenia’s population was composed from the plurality of Slavophone Rusyns (Ruthenians) professing Greek Catholicism, though some adopted Orthodoxy and wanted their region to become part of Russia. They write their Rusyn language in Cyrillic. Although it became (almost) official in Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia, in reality, Prague imposed in a quick succession Czechoslovak (Czech), Russian and Ukrainian as an official language in Ruthenia. After one day long independence, Hungary seized Ruthenia in 1939, renaming it Carpathia and its language as Hungaro-Carpathian. In 1944 the Red Army overran the region, and in 1946 Ruthenia was formally attached to Soviet Ukraine, and renamed Transcarpathia. Ukrainian and Russian became official languages there, as elsewhere in Ukraine.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Czech (Slovak), and ideally some reading knowledge of Rusyn (Ukrainian).

 

The 1960s Ethnic Cleansing of the Mazurs

Research question: Was the Mazurs’ religion (Lutheranism) the main cause of their expulsion from communist Poland?

Background: The Mazurs were a Slavophone ethnic group professing Lutheranism. They lived in Germany’s southern East Prussia, informally known as Mazuria. After 1945 Poland received this region. Germans were expelled, while the Mazurs were retained as Autochthons (‘heritage and potential Poles’), due to their Slavophone character. Their Mazurian language was redefined as a dialect of Polish. However, in reality the Mazurs were treated as ‘crypto-Germans,’ especially due to their religion, because after World War II Poland became almost homogenously Catholic.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of German and Polish.

 

The Postwar Yiddishland in Communist Poland’s Lower Silesia, 1946-1968

Research question: (A) Did the Holocaust completely wipe out Yiddish-speaking communities? (B) Or was it national communism’s anti-Semitism that liquidated resurrected Yiddishophone communities of Holocaust survivors?

Background: After the Holocaust Jewish survivors suffered numerous pogroms and rampant anti-Semitic violence in postwar Poland, all their property already repossessed among ethnically Polish neighbors. The only solution was to recreate their communities in the former German lands (emptied of Germans expelled west of the Oder-Neisse line) that the Allies passed to Poland at Potsdam. Jews rebuilt their Yiddish-speaking communities in lower Silesia, in the spirit of communist internationalism and Polish patriotism. But the Polish ethnic nationalism, resurgent since 1956, did not accept any other language but Polish and any other religion but Catholicism as the badges of the ‘true Pole.’

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Polish and Yiddish (very close to German).

 

The 1952-1993 Protracted Ethnic Cleansing of Silesians

Research question: Was the Silesians’ bilingualism (biculturalism) and their own language of Silesian the main causes of their expulsion from communist Poland?

Background: The Silesians were a bilingual Slavophone (Silesian-speaking) and German-speaking ethnic group professing Catholicism. They lived in Germany’s second largest industrial basin in Upper Silesia. Poland received this region in a piecemeal fashion after both world wars. After 1945 Germans were expelled, while the Silesians were retained as Autochthons (‘heritage and potential Poles’), due to their Slavophone character. Their Silesian language was redefined as a dialect of Polish. However, in reality the Silesians were treated as ‘crypto-Germans,’ especially due to their bilingualism and the fact that they had relatives in West Germany. The Polish authorities rapidly changing policies of repression and accommodation toward the Silesians intermittently sent waves of expellees and refugees to (West) Germany. Between 1952 and 1993 around 1 million Silesians were expelled or felt compelled to leave.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of German and Polish.

NB: Our University Library has an extensive book collection on modern Upper Silesia.

 

Helsinki and Crimea

Research Question: Did the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 end the Postwar (Helsinki) Political Order in Europe?

Background: The Helsinki Final Act of 1975 constituted the foundation of the reconciliation between the West and the Soviet bloc, resulting in the period of détente. The Soviet 1979 intervention in Afghanistan ended détente but not the Helsinki principles, and neither did the fall of communism or the breakup of the Soviet Union. However, the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 was a blatant breach of these principles.

Requirements: English is sufficient, though a knowledge of Ukrainian and Russian would be helpful.

 

The Interwar Soviet Union: Communism in One Country

Research question: The widespread, though wrong, belief repeated in a multitude of monographs and textbooks is that the Soviet Union was the sole communist state during the interwar period. Was this belief caused by Moscow’s propaganda slogan of ‘building communism in one country’?

Background: Between 1919 and 1921 Bolshevik Russia attempted to spread (‘export’) communist revolution westward to central and western Europe; without any success. However, such ideological export worked much better in Asia, where the SU helped establishing communist regimes in interwar Mongolia and Tannu-Tuva. Thus, in the interwar period there were three communist states. But ideologically, this Asian success was in an unseemly conflict with Marxism-Leninism, which claimed that communism revolution would, at first, erupt and flourish in the most industrialized part of the world, namely, western Europe.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Russian, a reading knowledge of German would be helpful.

 

The Cambodian Genocide

Research question: Was this extermination a genocide in light of the 1948 genocide Convention?

Background: The Genocide Convention defines genocide as an act of mass killing with ‘an intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.’ Between 1975 and 1979 the communist government killed a quarter (c. 2 million) of Cambodia’s population. Those targeted were seen as political and ideological opponents, but from the ethnic and religious vantage were the same as the genocidaires. So it was a genocide of a political or social group. Such groups, on the Soviet Union’s insistence, were excluded from the definition of genocide as adopted in the Genocide Convention.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of French, a reading knowledge of Khmer would be of help.

 

Communist Bulgaria’s Turks and Soviet Azerbaijan

Research question: Was the recreation of the Turkish minority education system in postwar Bulgaria, on the insistence of the Soviet Union, a ‘punishment’ for the fact that Sofia was an ally of Germany during World War II?

Background: The Turkish minority education system was recreated in postwar Bulgaria in 1946 and functioned through 1968. By that time Bulgaria had become the most trusted member of the Soviet bloc and even applied for membership in the Soviet Union. So in 1968/70 the Turkish minority education system was liquidated. This system was created with the help of Azeri specialists, because the Azeri (Azerbaijani) language, apart from some small differences, is very similar to Turkish.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Bulgarian and Russian, a reading knowledge of Turkish/Azeri would be of help.

 

A Genocide in Chechnya?

Research question: Did the killing of 50,000 to 200,000 Chechen civilians by Russian troops during the two Russo-Chechen amount to a genocide?

Background: Upon the declaration of the independence of Chechnya, Russia waged two wars (1996-1996, 1999-2001) against this country, complete with a repressive system of concentration (‘filtering’) camps and revenge attacks on civilian population. This happened at the height of the US ‘war on terror,’ in which Russia was an ally. Hence, Washington chose not to take note of what the Kremlin described as an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ in Chechnya.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Russian, a reading knowledge of Arabic and Chechen would be of help.

 

Italian Color Television: Yugoslavia and Monaco

Research question: Did Italian-speaking color entertainment TV stations from Yugoslavia and Monaco cause the emergence of color entertainment television in Italy in 1977?

Background: Yugoslavia’s Italian-language color TV Capodistria began broadcasting in 1971. Monaco’s Télé Monte-Carlo was the first private TV station in Europe. It broadcast in Monégasque (close to Italian) and French, and switched to color in 1973. Both TV stations are located on the very border with Italy and many Italian viewers tuned in for color entertainment television, at that time not available in Italy itself.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Italian, a reading knowledge of Serbo-Croatian and French would be of help.

 

The Troubles or an Ethnic Civil War?

Research question: Did London insist on using the euphemistic designation ‘The Troubles’ for the civil war in Northern Ireland because during the Cold war it was ideologically unacceptable to admit that an ethnically driven civil war was possible in a ‘developed democracy’ like Britain?

Background: During the two decades of the Northern Ireland conflict (1968-1998), 3,500 people died, which fulfills any definition of a low-intensity war, thought along the ethnic lines of language and a memory of religion, employed as a badge of nationality (that is, the fact of belonging to this or that nation). But London and Dublin conceded it was ‘just the Troubles,’ and that this conflict was of a sectarian (religious) character, despite the fact that the majority of combatants rarely attended the mass. A similar conflict in Bosnia (1992-1995), where a memory of religion was employed to the same effect is referred to as an ethnic (civil) war. But scholars are reluctant to make this comparison, prevented by the British normative belief that ethnic conflicts and civil wars are an impossibility in a ‘genuine democracy.’

Requirements: None, though a reading knowledge of a European language (French, German, Russian etc) would be of help.

 

The Compulsory School Subject of Arabic in Malta, 1974-1986

Research Question: Is the suppression of the memory of Arabic as a compulsory school subject in Malta caused by the Maltese’s strong normative belief that this language is non-European, and that the Maltese language has nothing in common with Arabic?

Background: From the linguistic perspective Maltese is an Arabic dialect, mutually comprehensible with the Moroccan and Libyan dialects of Arabic. In the wake of decolonization, the Labor government hoped that making Arabic a compulsory school subject would cement the Maltese-Libyan alliance (of course, it was about cheap oil) and give Maltese entrepreneurs a privileged access to markets across the Arabophone states. A generalized social backlash against this policy was swift and relentless, the main argument being that Arabic is non-European and symbolic of Islam, while Malta should be a European country that preserves its Catholic identity of the Christian world’s bulwark against Islam.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Arabic and Maltese

 

Europe and the Idea of Jewish State

Research question: Was it continuing anti-Semitism that prevented the establishment of a Jewish state in Europe after World War II?

Background: Thodor Herzel’s essay The Jewish State was published in 1896. He called for a Jewish state but did not prescribe where it should be founded. At that time the majority of the world’s Jews lived in Europe. After both world wars the victorious Allies proposed a multitude of projects for how Germany (and Austria) should be partitioned. The 1917 Balfour declaration promised a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but the majority of Europe’s Jews had no intention to move to the Middle East. Due to the post-1945 partition, Germany lost a third of the territory of its 1937 borders, 15 million ethnic Germans were expelled from central Europe west of the Oder-Neisse line, and the remaining Germany was split into East Germany and West Germany. But in this scheme no place was found for a Jewish state for Holocaust survivors. These European Jews were pitied but on the other hand pressed to found ‘their home in Palestine, or a British colony outside Europe. It appears that the Allies, even if they did not realize that, displayed an anti-Semitic attitude in not treating Holocaust survivors as Europeans who should be accommodated on the continent, like Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, French, or Soviets, even if that meant depriving Germany of another piece of territory. It was the Jews (and Roma) who were targeted in the Holocaust perpetrated by Germans (and Austrians), not the other Europeans.

Requirements: None, though a reading knowledge of Yiddish, Ivrit, Arabic and Russian would be of help.

 

Israel: Central Europe in the Middle East

Research question: Is the Jewish nation-state of Israel a case of the transplantation of Central Europe’s model of ethnolinguistically defined national statehood to the Middle East?

Background: The building of the Jewish nation in Palestine, and then of the Jewish nation-state of Israel was mainly based on the renewed Hebrew language (Ivrit). Israel’s Jewish nation is equated with the Ivrit speech community. In this way, Jewish nationalism (zionism) tightly follows the central European model of the ethnolinguistic nation-state. Jewish nationalists (zionists) mostly came from central Europe and borrowed this model, as adopted by the region’s nationalisms and national projects, to the exclusion of Jews.

Requirements: None, though a reading knowledge of Ivrit and Yiddish would be of help.

 

Slave Labor and Communist China’s Capitalism

Research question: Has the Laogai system of concentration camps been the basis for kick-starting communist China’s capitalism at the turn of the 1990s?

Background: Laogai, or ‘reform through labor,’ emulated the Soviet Gulag system, thus providing China with both, an effective instrument of repression and source of de facto unlimited slave labor. At the turn of the 1990s Lagoai was seamlessly incorporated into communist China’s nascent capitalist economy, enabling Beijing to offer unprecedentedly discounted prices on a wide variety of products in order to corner numerous markets across the globe. Nowadays around 2 million inmates work for free in the Laogai camps, each connected to a production company with no information on slave labor in its logo.

Requirements: None, but a reading knowledge of Chinese would be of help.

 

The Slovenian War of Independence: A War or a Counter-Insurgency Operation?

Question: Was the Slovenian War of Independence a war or an unsuccessful counter-insurgency operation?

Background: In this conflict, otherwise known as the ten Days’ War, 44 soldiers of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) died, alongside 17 Slovenian soldiers/insurgents. The make-shift Territorial Defense of Slovenia was no match for the full-fledged and well-trained JNA. If the army had really engaged in warfare against Slovenian insurgents/soldiers, rather than in the suppression of sedition/insurgency, the Slovenians would have suffered a much steeper loss of life than this army.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian.

 

Independent Bulgaria’s Russian-Style Anti-Ottoman Modernization

Question: Was the swift destruction of mosques and other distinctively Ottoman buildings in freshly independent Bulgaria an implementation of the Russian model of anti-Ottoman (anti-Muslim) colonial modernization?

Background: When Russia gained the northern Black Sea littoral and the northwestern Caucasus (Kuban) from the Ottoman Empire and the Circassians between the 1780s and the 1860s, the Ottoman/Muslim architecture of the cities (especially mosques) were levelled and Muslims were expelled. Towns and cities were rebuilt in the Russian style of colonial classicism, complete with ubiquitous Orthodox churches, and the expellees replaced with Orthodox/Christian settlers of a variety of ethnicities. Upon the Russian conquest of Bulgaria 60-80 per cent of Muslims (Turks) were expelled and, for instance, 41 out of Sofia’s mosques were levelled.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Bulgarian and Osmanlıca/Turkish, a reading knowledge of Russian would be helpful.

 

The Second Circassian Ethnic Cleansing (Genocide) in 1877-1878

Research question: When independent Bulgaria was founded in the wake of the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-1878, the western great powers compelled Russia and Bulgaria to accept back any Ottoman and Muslim expellees and refugees who wanted to return. However, Circassians were excluded from all the treaty obligations contracted by Bulgaria. Did this decision amount to a repeated act of ethnic cleansing (genocide)?

Background: Russia massacred and expelled to the Ottoman Empire almost the entire Circassian population of the northwestern Caucasus (Kuban) in 1864. The refugees, expellees and survivors mostly settled in the eastern Balkans, or the area which was molded into the Bulgarian nation-state in 1878. Afterward the Bulgarian and Russian authorities expelled or massacred Circassians anew, as they possessed too much hands-on knowledge on Russian colonial techniques of ‘population managements.’ Hence, if left in place, Circassians could frustrate the Russian and Bulgarian efforts to ‘de-Islamize’ / ‘Bulgarianize’ / ‘re-Christianize’ Bulgaria.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Bulgarian and Osmanlıca/Turkish, a reading knowledge of Russian would be helpful.

 

 

The Technique of Statistical Disappearing of Unwanted Minorities

Research question: Was statistics the best instrument of the official ‘disappearing’ of unwanted minorities without the need of exterminating them?

Background: It continues to be a commonly held belief that statistics is a ‘science’ and that it produces ‘hard’ (objective) data. Between the interwar period and the early 2010s, the existence of the Kurds and their Kurdish language was denied in Turkey. In statistics they were labelled as ‘Mountainous Turks’ and their Indo-European language as a dialect of Turkish. In communist Bulgaria’s last census of 1985 it was declared that no ethnolinguistic minorities were remaining in this country. Turks and Muslims of other ethnicities were labelled as ‘Muslim Bulgarians,’ and the use of their languages (Turkish, Tatar, Romani, Pomakian) banned. In communist Poland, after the wrapping up of the expulsion of ethnic Germans in the early 1950s, it was officially maintained until 1990, that no German minority existed in this country. In statistics Germans were labelled as ‘Autochthons’ (or ‘Poles not fully aware of their primordial Polishness’), and the use of their languages (German, Silesian or Mazurian) was banned. In 1945-1948 a population exchange was conducted between Hungary and Czechoslovakia’s Slovakia. It was stopped half-way, and Hungarians remaining in Slovakia were officially re-Slovakized. They dared to become Hungarians again, only gradually between 1948 and 1960.

Requirements: Relevant languages appropriate for cases to be tackled.

 

The History of the Concept of ‘a Language’ (Einzeslprache)

Research question: Is what we nowadays unreflectively recognize as ‘a language’ (Einzelsprache) a product of changing views on the linguistic in Graeco-Roman Antiquity and the Middle Ages?

Background: In Greek and Roman sources, between the 2nd c BCE and the 2nd c CE written texts became identified as ‘languages,’ and widely varying oral idioms across the Roman Empire as ‘vernaculars.’ In the Middle Ages this dichotomy was expressed in the terms of written ‘language’ and oral ‘dialect.’ The rapid multiplication of languages brought about the printing press, alongside Protestantism and the Counter-Reformation, also led to a steep rise on the number of dialects. In the early modern period a new norm emerged that dialects have to belong a language. This development, when coupled with the rise of nationalism in the modern period, yielded, in central Europe, the model of territorialized national language that is equated with a specific nation, housed in its own nation-state, unshared with any other nations and their languages. Ergo, any linguistic differences remaining in the territory of an ethnolinguistic nation state must be deemed as ‘dialects’ belonging to the national language, or ‘foreign intrusions’ that must be liquidated.

Requirements: Classical Greek, Classical and Medieval Latin.

 

The Holocaust and the Unique Case of Albania

Research question: Albania was the sole country During World War II in German-occupied Europe that the number of Jew grew, and for that matter tenfold, from about 200 to almost 2,000. Was the safe haven given to Jews by Albanians a function of the latter’s traditional rules of hospitality (Besa) and legacies of Ottoman tolerance, as cultivated through the institution of millet (non-territorial autonomy for ethnoreligious groups)?

Background: During the war Albanian families gave Jews safe haven. Instead of hiding them in attics or cellars, Albanians gave Jews Albanian clothing and names, and treated them as family members.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Albanian.

 

Wartime Albania as a Safe Haven for Italian Soldiers after 1943

Research question & background: After Italy’s 1943 switch of the sides during World War II, Germany occupied Italy’s Albania and began hunting down and massacring Italian soldiers. Albanians saved almost 20,000 of these soldiers. Was the safe haven given to Italian soldiers by Albanians a function of the latter’s traditional rules of hospitality (Besa) and the Ottoman tolerance, as cultivated through the institution of millet (non-territorial autonomy for ethnoreligious groups)?

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Italian and Albanian

 

The Paraguayan Genocide

Research question: Did the loss of about half of Paraguay’s population in the course of the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870) amount to a genocide or gendercide?

Background: The alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay crushed Paraguay, using techniques of total war, usually associated with the two world wars in Europe. The loss of the population was largely limited to the arm-bearing teenagers and males, aged 11 to 60. The normal 50/50 gender distribution was regained in Paraguay in a generation’s time (some 30 years).

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese.

 

Trokhimbrod / Trochenbrod / Zofjówka / Sofievka: The First Kibbutz?

Research question: Was Trochenbrod an inspiration and early model for self-sufficient kibbutzes?

Background: Trochenbrod was the only 100%-Jewish town in central Europe, a unique town where Yiddish was the dominant language. Until the Holocaust, Jews filled up all the social ranks of this town’s community, from farmers to teachers and administration. The main complaint of gentiles and Jews themselves in prewar central Europe was that Jews engaged only in commerce, not in farming, which in the region’s national rhetoric was seen as the ‘proof’ of a nation’s right to the land on which it resided. Trochenbrod was an example contrary to this widespread stereotype.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of Polish and Russian, a reading knowledge of Yiddish would be of help.

 

Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev and the Muslim Nation of Pakistan

Research question: Did Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev’s idea of a (communist) Muslim nation from the early 1920s influence the concept of the Muslim nation of Pakistan as proposed by India’s Muslim League in the early 1940s?

Background: Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev, as supported by Lenin, joined the Bolshevik Revolution with a plan of turning the Soviet Union’s Muslims into a communist nation. When Stalin took power, Sultan-Galiev was sidelined, and the SU’s Muslims divided along ethnic lines, because in demographic terms a Muslim nation of this kind would be on a par with the Russian. The SU gave much support to anticolonial activists and movements in British India. The National Congress wanted a degree of autonomy for ethnolinguistic groups, not for ethnoreligious ones. The Muslim League disagreed and fashioned India’s Muslims into a separate nation for whom a separate nation-state of Pakistan was won in 1947. This success amounted to an embodiment of Sultan-Galiev’s idea of a Muslim nation.

Requirements: None, but a reading knowledge of Russian and Urdu/Hindi would of help.

 

 

Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev and Bangladesh

Research question: Did the creation of Bangladesh in 1972 confirm Stalin’s diagnosis that Sultan-Galiev’s idea of a Muslim nation was antithetical to modernization?

Background: Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev, as supported by Lenin, joined the Bolshevik Revolution with a plan of turning the Soviet Union’s Muslims into a communist nation. When Stalin took power, Sultan-Galiev was sidelined, and the SU’s Muslims divided along ethnic lines, because in demographic terms a Muslim nation of this kind would be on a par with the Russian. The SU gave much support to anticolonial activists and movements in British India. The National Congress wanted a degree of autonomy for ethnolinguistic groups, not for ethnoreligious ones. The Muslim League disagreed and fashioned India’s Muslims into a separate nation for whom a separate nation-state of Pakistan was won in 1947. However, the geographical and ethnolinguistic separation of this country into dominating West Pakistan and subaltern East Pakistan (Bangladesh) led to war and genocide in 1971, leading to the founding of the ethnolinguistic nation-state of Bangladesh for Bengali-speaking Muslims.

Requirements: None, but a reading knowledge of Russian and Bengali (Urdu) would of help.

 

Modern Japan and Central European Nationalism

Research question: Was the Central European model of ethnolinguistic nation-state adopted wholesale for the creation (‘modernization’) of Japan in the Meiji Era?

Background: In the early 1870s the Japanese government toured the western world to find an appropriate model of Modernization for Japan. They were most impressed by what they saw in the German Empire, including the German nationalism. This ideology equated language with nation, entailing the suppression and assimilation of minorities who spoke languages other than the national (state) language. This model of ethnolinguistically defined and legitimized national statehood was accepted across central Europe and in Japan, as well.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of German and Japanese

 

Modern Laos: Between Siam (Thailand), France and Central Europe

Research question: Did the French use the model of Central European nationalism to encourage the creation of the Lao nation and language?

Background: In the late 19th century France extended influence over eastern Siamese lands (Laos) and in 1898 annexed them to France’s Indochina. In order to prevent Chinese influence over Indochina, the French switched from the Chinese script to the Latin alphabet for writing Vietnamese. Later, to prevent a Siamese (Thai) influence in the colony’s Lao lands, in the late 1930s the French developed a syllabary different from the Siamese (Thai) one for writing the Lao language. The colonial administration also financed the translation of the Buddhist canon (Tripitaka) into such a new written Lao, making it into a brand new national language, around which Lao nationalism coalesced. It appears that the French, in order to pursue the old-age imperial policy of ‘divide and rule’ in Indochina, adopted the Central European model of nation-state for this purpose, adding script to this ideological equation, namely, script = language = nation = state.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of French, a reading knowledge of Lao would be of help.

 

The French and Central Europe in Southeast Asia

Research question: Did the French invent the southeast Asian model of nationalism by transplanting there the central European model of ethnolinguistic nationalism and adding to it the politicized element of script?

Background: In today’s southeast Asia, the region’s nationalism is starkly similar to that in central Europe, which equates language with nation and state. However, in southeast Asia this equation is broadened by the politicized element of script, namely, script = language = nation = state. In order to prevent Chinese influence over Indochina, the French switched from the Chinese script to the Latin alphabet for writing Vietnamese. However, they kept the distinctive Khmer script for writing Cambodia’s Khmer language in order to make sure that French would become the sole lingua franca of Indochina. Later, for the same imperial end of ‘dividing and ruling,’ the French developed a syllabary different from the Siamese (Thai) one for writing the Lao language. The colonial administration also financed the (re-)translations of the Buddhist canon (Tripitaka) into Indochina’s languages in order to ‘modernize’ the region’s languages as vehicles of separate national cultures. As a result, when a need would come to communicate across a linguistic-scriptural divide, willy-nilly, speakers of Indochina’s languages would have to use French. In this manner French political domination over Indochina would become also cultural in its character.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of French, a reading knowledge of a southeast Asian language(s) would be of help.

 

Capitalism and Concentration Camps

Research question: Does the existence of vast systems of concentration (forced, slave labor) camps in some modern capitalist economies prove that slavery is not at variance with capitalism?

Background: Although slavery existed in the West’s early modern capitalist economies, it was subsequently condemned and banned as ‘un-Christian,’ ‘immoral’ and at odds with capitalism and democracy. In practice capitalist profit was extracted through slave labor in the West’s colonies until the 1960s. During World War II and at the height of the Cold War concentration camps became associated exclusively with the totalitarian regimes of nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union. Hence, it was believed that the concentration camp and slave labor were contradictory with capitalism and democracy. But after the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the remaining communist states in Asia, as led by China, successfully adopted capitalist economy, merging with it their vast repressive systems of concentration camps. Slave labor is part and parcel of the subsequent economic success of these communist states with capitalist-style economies. The West does not protest the use of slave labor there, while at present China has become the shining beacon of the future of capitalism.

Requirements: None, though a reading knowledge of some western languages, Russian, or Chinese would be of help.

 

Capitalism and Democracy

Research question: Does the successful Chinese model of capitalism economy prove that capitalism can flourish without democracy?

Background: The democratic states of west, as led by Britain and the United States, won World War II and the Cold War. Their ideological and military opponents (nazi Germany, the communist Soviet Union) were totalitarian and anti-capitalist (that is, they practiced etatist or centrally-planned economy). Hence, the west’s ideological dogma that totalitarianism was antithetical to democracy and capitalism. But after the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the remaining communist states in Asia, as led by China, successfully adopted capitalist economy, but without adopting democracy. At present the totalitarian state of communist China has become the shining beacon of the future of capitalism. The west’s Cold War dogma was forgotten, while China and other Asian communist states that embraced capitalism became an inalienable part of the global-wide capitalist economy.

Requirements: None, though a reading knowledge of some western languages, Russian, or Chinese would be of help.

 

The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the Chinese Model

Research question: Did the collapse of the reformist Soviet Union lead to the coalescence of the Chinese model of totalitarian state with capitalist economy?

Background: In the latter half of the 1980s the Soviet Union was beset by insurmountable economic problems across the entire Soviet bloc, due to the inefficiency of centrally-planned economy, western sanctions brought about by the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and martial law in communist Poland. Beginning in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev decided to break the deadlock by attempting a dual reform of the political system (glasnost) and economy (perestroika). The subsequent collapse of the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union was interpreted by China’s communist leadership as the result of Gorbachev’s dual reform. According to the Chinese politburo Gorbachev should have reformed economy alone. This intuition led to the abandonment of centrally-planned economy for capitalism in communist China that does remain a totalitarian state. The economic and political success of communist China led to the spread of this ‘Chinese model’ to other Asian communist states, while numerous post-Soviet states (including, Russia itself) work toward adopting this model.

Requirements: None, though a reading knowledge of some western languages, Russian, or Chinese would be of help.

 

From Population Transfer to Ethnic Cleansing

Research question: Did the post-Yugoslav wars contribute to the reformulation of the legal instrument of ‘population transfer’ to ‘ethnic cleansing,’ understood as a crime against humanity?

Background: After World War I expulsions and exchanges of ‘incorrect’ populations became a norm in Europe for the sake of establishing congruence between political frontiers and ethnonationally homogenous populations. This norm was inscribed into international law, making population transfer into a legal instrument for furthering human rights, despite tragedies involved. In the course of the wars of Yugoslav succession this instrument was employed time and again. But the west unilaterally changed the rules of the game and criminalized population transfer, since 1993 known as ethnic cleansing. Since then it has been a crime against humanity, as defined in today’s international law.

Requirements: None, but some western languages, Serbo-Croatian, or Russian could be of help.

 

Neoliberalism and Public Good: With Somalia in the Background

Research question: Does privatization provide the most efficient and best possible level of public services?

Background: In the 1970s and 1980s, a neoliberal economic dogma coalesced that private ownership is the best solution for providing high quality public services. This dogma was a reflection of the Cold War ideological struggle against the Soviet bloc, where increasingly inefficient state-owned economy was the norm. But logically speaking, the capitalist interest of squeezing out as much profit as possible from assets and operations is at odds with the concept of public good. Ergo, privatized public services must falter. It is enough to compare Britain’s privatized railways to its state-owned counterparts in Germany or France. The transportation infrastructure is necessary for the existence of the modern state and its economy. Even if it is not profitable in itself, this ensures the ease of operation for entire society. If privatization would be the only answer, by now the road network (pavements and bridges included) would have been privatized, alongside the educational system of primary and secondary schools. The only polity where public good was fully erased by privatization of all services was the failed state of Somalia between 1991 and 2009. Somehow no proponents of neoliberalism flock there.

Requirements: None, a knowledge of other western languages would be of help.

 

Apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Bloc: Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) Petrol Production

Research question: Was the emigration of chemists from communist central Europe a decisive impetus for the development of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) Petrol Production in apartheid South Africa?

Background: After the founding of the apartheid system in 1948, South Africa was increasingly isolated on the international arena. Finally, at the height of the Cold War, in 1986 the EC (today’s EU), the United States and Japan had no choice but to impose economic sanctions on their faithful ally in the struggle against communism. South Africa’s main existential problem was access to oil. In prediction of this dilemma, the country’s oil-producing company SASOL, established in 1950, invested the Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) technology, first developed and used on the industrial scale in wartime Germany. Some German chemists and engineers knowledgeable of this technology, especially if deeply involved in nazism, sought refuge in South Africa. After 1945, Germany’s most important CTL refinery in Blechhammer (Blachownia) found itself in communist Poland, where it became the basis for the development of chemical industry. Many Polish chemists and engineers working there left for the west in the wake of the political upheavals of 1968, 1970, 1970 and especially of 1980-1981. South Africa offered them the best immigration and employment opportunities. They also began working on the production of oil from natural gas, the process becoming industrially viable only at the turn of the 21st century, that is, after the fall of the apartheid system in 1994.

Requirements: A reading knowledge of German and Polish.

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