I Said Slav, Dammit, Not "Slaw"


In case you needed reminding about the murderous combination of authoritarianism and ethnic-purity fantasia—and really, who doesn't?—here's a chilling passage I just came across from Neal Ascherson's highly recommended history Black Sea:

From the early 1930s to the late 1950s, the Party officials in charge of Soviet archaeology designed and reared up a skyscraper of chauvinist imbecility. This was the assertion that the whole area of modern Russia, Ukraine, eastern and even central Europe had been inhabited by proto-Slav populations since the middle Iron Age: say, 900 BC. Stalin fired his revolver in the air and the entire past of the Black Sea steppes, which had been a history of ceaseless migrancy and ethnic mingling, froze terrified in its tracks and turned into a history of static social development.

And the shots were not only metaphorical. Mikhail Miller, a Russian archaeologist who took refuge in the West after the Second World War, recorded in his Archaeology in the USSR the fate of his colleagues when the new line was enforced between 1930 and 1934. Some 85 per cent of the profession fell victim to the purge. Most of them were deported to Siberian or Asian labour camps or exile. Some were shot or committed suicide when the NKVD came to arrest them. But most—including Miller's brilliant brother Alexander—died in the Gulag.

NEXT: When Addition Equals Subtraction

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  1. That’s just insane. The Black Sea steppes – as in, the areas near the Greek settlements? The ones that appear under the “P” in “Parthian Empire” on every map of imperial Rome I’ve ever seen?

    The Nationalist Party in India is into these archaeological shannannigans, too.

  2. Not surprising. China is doing the same thing now, finding “archeological evidence” that Tibet and Manchuria were always part of China. Which leads to a question: if Tibetans and Manchurians were always Chinese, what was the point of a Great Wall in the *middle* of China?

  3. And of course, there’s the Palestinian Authority’s belief that there is no evidence of Jewish presence in Jerusalem before the 20th century. A nice response to the Zionists’ “Arabs? What Arabs?” line of argument.

  4. Not to mention that some of the major population centers of Russia were founded by Swedish Vikings. 🙂

  5. Goths, Vandals, I’ll tell you why the Roman Empire fell – those damn kids!

  6. The Clinton administration and the US gov was involved too, in a minor way: ever hear of Kennewick Man?

  7. The U.S. gov is still involved – in the form of a sneaky little bill (now on the senate floor, iianm), sponsored by John McCain, which will amend the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act such that all ancient remains and artifacts will be classified as “Native American”, regardless of evidence of affiliation. As you may recall, the courts decided in favor of the scientist plaintiffs in the Kennewick Man case based on there being no evidence that K-man was ancestral to any contemporary group. The amended bill will obviously privilege the religious beliefs about the past of one group (creationism by any other name) over the interests and beliefs of other citizens, but nobody seems too bothered about this. (Drop on by my place if you want more info.)

  8. Thanks for the info, Moira – I can’t believe we’re still going through this BS. Apparently Senator McCain is trying to prove that he is just as scientifically irresponsible and politically expedient as his Democratic counterparts – “let’s pander to the Native Americans and see if we can score a few more votes for the GOP.” Before we smugly condemn the Soviets for the willful distortion of prehistory, we’d better take a long, hard look at our own recent practices.

  9. I happen to have done reserch that proves that there were no Democrat liberals in Massachusetts before the year 1723.

    Bunch of friggin interlopers.

  10. Goths rule!

    Disintegration was the best album ever!

  11. (Drop on by my place if you want more info.

    Moira Breen, where be your place?

    Mark B.,

    I suspect McCain is doing his usual McCain supporting. He can’t switch to “D”, he’d be just one more moderate Democrat, after the initial fuss died down. But he can act “D” while keeping the “R”, and remain a media darling.

  12. Goths rules!

    Disintegration was the best album ever!

  13. Mark B. – you’re welcome!

    Don – oops – link hidden in signature. Here ya go. I’ve been obsessing about this for years – so I have a page o’ links to Kennewick-related posts, too.

  14. I added your links to my faverites, to browse later. Thanks.

    Any interest in the Iceman from the Alps?

  15. I suspect McCain is doing his usual McCain supporting. He can’t switch to “D”, he’d be just one more moderate Democrat

    McCain actually has a rather conservative overall voting record, in the same way that Lieberman has a liberal overall voting record. Zell Miller, on the other hand– his voting record was more Republican than most Republicans’. In fact, keep in mind that except for Zell, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate has a more liberal voting record than the most liberal Republican. Don’t let the media image of these various politicians fool you. “Stabbing your own party in the back” for the cameras is something you see Chafee and Lieberman do all the time, but when push comes to shove, they vote their party line when we’re not looking.

    I suspect, when it comes to this absurd bill, that McCain simply had an interest group that wanted him to pass the bill in exchange for their support in the next election cycle.

  16. McCain vs. Hillary Clinton in 2008. Not looking forward to that race at all.

  17. McCain vs. Hillary Clinton in 2008. Not looking forward to that race at all.

    Well, McCain has about as much chance of getting the GOP nomination as joe, but Billary – are you kidding? I’ve already endorsed her on H&R before but I can’t say it enough: There is simply nobody with even a remotely realistic chance of winning the election in ’08 that I would rather see as President than Hillary. I’ve already got my bumper stickers printed. My only regret is that I have but one vote to give!

  18. Madog: You can’t believe eveything the *Primary Chronicles* tell you.

    Though I do like the account of why Vladimir rejected Islam:

    “Vladimir was visited by Bulgars of Muslim faith, who said, ‘Though you are a wise and prudent prince, you have no religion. Adopt our faith and revere Mahomet.’ Vladimir inquired about the nature of their religion. They replied that they believed in God, and that Mahomet instructed them to practice circumcision, to eat no pork, to drink no wine and, after death, promised them complete fulfillment of their carnal desires. ‘Mahomet,’ they claimed, “will give each man seventy fair women. He may choose one fair one, and upon that woman Mahomet will confer the charms of them all, and she shall be his wife. Mahomet then promises that one may then satisfy every desire, but whoever is poor in this world will be no different in the next.’ They also spoke other false things which out of modesty may not be written down. Vladimir listened to them, for he was fond of women and indulgence, regarding what he heard with pleasure, but circumcision and abstinence from pork and wine were disagreeable to him. ‘Drinking,’ he said, ‘is the joy of the Rus. We cannot exist without that pleasure.'”

  19. Thanks, Don. Nothing like an obsessive’s link list for enlivening one’s leisure. (I know nothing more about Ice Man than I’ve seen on Discovery Channel.)


    I suspect, when it comes to this absurd bill, that McCain simply had an interest group that wanted him to pass the bill in exchange for their support in the next election cycle.

    Yeah – fwiw, McCain was #20 on the top 20 list of Indian gaming recipients for 2004. Cantwell, another supporter on the committee, was #1 in 2002. Make of it what you will.

  20. The Iceman is fascinating; implications of accupuncture, blood from multiple people on his weapons and cloths, shot in the back with a war arrow some 48 hrs before death, etc. Amazing story . . .

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