16 August 2014

Ethnicity in Donbass

War in Ukraine is inter-regional, not inter-ethnic

Since the onset of the war in Donbass in April the western media has been in pains as how to describe the anti-government side. The rebels have sometimes been referred to as "separatist rebels", which is not necessarily accurate, and at other times as "pro-Russian rebels", which is accurate but is not saying much. Lately some commentators have settled on designating the rebels the "ethnic Russian rebels". This designation seems convenient and doubtlessly gives the outsiders a sense of clarity and certainty, but while it is not entirely inaccurate, it can be extraordinarily misleading.

Indeed, looking at the official population census one will found that Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine are home to 2.8 million Russians who constitute 40% of the population of the area. This gives the western observers unable to describe what the conflict is about something to fall back on. The rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk are Russians and they are fighting because they are Russians. The story becomes a familiar one of ethnic differences.

Trouble is Donetsk and Lugansk regions are also home to other 4.2 million people who declare their nationality on official population censuses to be Ukrainian. Despite this the Ukrainian government troops have not found themselves welcome by populaces of towns they have re-captured as it would be expected if this was really a fight of Russian against Ukrainian.

Unlike in some of the other inter-ethnic wars we have witnessed, nobody in Donbass, whether the anti-government rebels, nor the Ukrainian military is going house to house demanding to know if the residents inside are Russian or Ukrainian. It would be pointless to do so, because there is no indication that there is any visible difference in the political attitudes of census Russians and census Ukrainians in Donbass. They are either both equally supportive of the anti-government rebels, or else equally ambivalent about them. Instead, the Ukrainian military is happy to shell towns and cities on its path killing its nominally ethnic Russian and Ukrainian citizens alike, and the rebel militias (like the Ukrainian army itself) is composed of both census Russians and Ukrainians.

The truth of the matter is that while there is a difference between Russian and Ukrainian that furthermore, can be very significant in a given context, this simply is not the case in Donbass. Due to a number of social, geographic and historical reasons Donbass is a region with a character that is at once Russian and Ukrainian and where forcing a choice between just one of the two does not come naturally.

10 August 2014

Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses

A polished version of my attempt at breaking down the Soviet WWII losses is now available. Aside from benefiting from much word editing, it is a tidier package also in the sense that all the constituent sections are now combined in a single PDF file, instead of being broken up into ten separate blog posts.

You may read or download it here: Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses

11 July 2014

Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses: Conclusion

Losses by Gender

Research conducted by Russian demographers Andreev, Darskii and Kharkova suggests the Soviet population 1941 through 1945 lost 13.5 million more males than females.[46]

In the Soviet-German War the USSR suffered up to 11 million military deaths which would have been overwhelmingly of males. 1941-1945 65,000 Soviet citizens were executed by civil authorities and a further 1,020,000 people died in prisons, camps and colonies of the gulag. These deaths too would have been overwhelmingly of males. Also about 500,000 Soviet prisoners or war, or Soviet citizens in German service successfully avoided repatriation to the USSR at the end of World War II. Thus 12.6 million, or the great majority of the male to female deficit in Soviet population is accounted for by military deaths, judicial executions, deaths in the gulag and emigration of collaborators and prisoners of war. This may attest to at least a rough validity of estimates presented in this paper.

The unaccounted difference between 12.6 and 13.5 million may mean that males were, somewhat counter-intuitively, slightly overrepresented among civilian deaths as well. Possibly particularly due to being overrepresented among victims of German anti-partisan reprisals and other killing policies. It may also mean the number of 500,000 is an under-estimation of how many more males than females managed to emigrate. It may also mean that 11 million is an underestimation of Soviet military deaths in the Soviet-German War. Indeed a noted Russian scholar, S.N. Mihkhalev, estimates the USSR lost 10.9 million Red Amy and NKVD regulars on the front, to military tribunals or in captivity. This would push the combined military casualties from the Soviet population to 11.4 million. Naturally, it may be the 0.9 million difference is a combination of any of the three factors mentioned. 

Migration Deficit

The scale of migration deficit is possibly the most uncertain of all causes of Soviet population losses in the Soviet-German War. The 2.7 million estimate from Ellman and Maksudov used here is twenty years old and is based on only a very rough and preliminary calculation.[47] Even as such, however, it remains seemingly the most-well supported of all such estimates (most of whom are considerably lower). This paper then uses the seemingly best available, but still rather uncertain figure. Hopefully historians and demographers will continue to take a look at this question and eventually produce a more certain estimate, so that the question of how much of the Soviet population deficit in the war may be attributed to emigration may be answered more reliably.

Population of Newly Annexed Territories

Since the Soviet Union conducted a population census in 1937 and then again in 1939 we have a fairly good idea how large the population of the USSR in its 1939 borders was. The much bigger unknown, however, is how many new citizens were added through Soviet territorial expansion in 1939-40. This means the size of the Soviet population on the eve of the war is not fully certain, which makes estimating its losses all the more difficult. Andreev et al, estimate that through annexations the Soviet population  increased by 20.3 million. On the one hand Ellman and Maksudov reckon this is more likely to be an underestimate than an overestimate. Indeed there are other estimates which go up to 23 million. On the other hand there are rival lower estimates as well. S.N. Mihkhalev reckons newly annexed territories were populated by between 17 and 20 million inhabitants.[48]

16 June 2014

Breaking Down Soviet WWII Losses: Summary

Total demographic loss of the Soviet Union in the Soviet-German War is 28 million people. This includes 26,6 million estimated loss in excess of expected deaths calculated by ADK, the 1,1 million deaths due to war-related causes of people expected to die in the time frame in accidents and of natural causes and 0,3 million expected deaths due to Soviet repression. Of the 28 million loss 2.7 million is migration loss and 25.3 million is actual war dead. Of the second figure 1.5 million deaths are due to Soviet state repression and 23.8 million are due to war and policies of the occupier.

Military Deaths

Of the 25.3 million deaths due to war up to 11 million are what are usually deemed "military deaths". These, however, include 3.1 million deaths of Soviet POWs in German custody (not all of whom were actually military personnel), 20,000 POW deaths in Finnish custody and 135,000 Red Army men executed by Soviet military tribunals, as well as 7.25 million deaths of Red Army men due to combat, accidents and disease, 250,000 deaths of Soviet partisans and militiamen and 250,000 deaths of Soviet citizens who fought as part of non-Soviet forces, mainly in German service.

Not counting prisoners of war and soldiers condemned in courts martial who were the victims of enemy states and of their own state, and fighters who died as part of non-Soviet forces, the proper Soviet military dead adds up to 7.5 million regulars and irregulars, of whom more than 300,000 due to frostbite and disease and 150,000 in accidents.[45]

Civilian Deaths

Of the upwards of 14.3 million civilian deaths 7.5-8 million occurred due to general privation associated with the German invasion and occupation. Just over half of such deaths occurred in the western USSR mainly due to ruthless economic exploitation of the occupation. The remainder occurred in the interior USSR mainly due to the fact the German advance eastwards had cut off the Soviet Union from the majority of its food surplus areas. A further 0.9 million civilian deaths occurred in blockaded Leningrad, and 200,000 among Soviet forced laborers in German-run Europe and children born to them. 1 million perished in the course of the war in the prisons, camps and colonies of the Soviet penal system, and 300,000 during deportations or internal exile, again mostly due to malnutrition, exhaustion and disease.

10 June 2014

Indirect Deaths Due to Privation Induced by the War and the Occupation

Soviet scholar A.A. Shevyakov in 1991 estimated about 8.5 million Soviet civilians perished during the war due to malnutrition and disease induced by the war and occupation. Of the 8.5 million Shevyakov in 1991 reckoned 5.5 million took place in parts of USSR that suffered the Axis occupation and 3 million in parts that did not experience occupation. In 1992 he updated his estimates, now figuring that about 6.5 million Soviet civilians had perished due to war-induced privation.[38] Krivosheev in 2001 estimated there had been 4.1 million excess civilian deaths due to malnutrition and disease in the occupied USSR. He reported findings according to which 1941-45 there had been an estimated 8.5 million deaths of natural causes in the parts of the USSR under occupation, but only 4.4 million were to be expected under pre-war mortality rates. A German historian Hans-Heinrich Nolte estimated of the estimated total 27 million war deaths 7 million were indirect deaths of civilians due to malnutrition and disease. In 1972 a British writer Elliot Gil estimated 7-8 million civilian deaths due to privation.[39]

This paper so far has tallied up to 11 million deaths among Soviet citizens in military service (regular and irregular Soviet forces, POWs and non-Soviet forces), leaving at least 14,3 million non-combatant deaths. Of the latter also 6.3-6.8 million have been tallied between various causes leaving 7.5-8 million undistributed civilian deaths that may be attributed to privation induced by the war and occupation. This is without counting privation deaths of civilians in the Siege of Leingrad (up to 0.9 million), privation deaths of forced laborers in German-run Europe outside the USSR (0.2 million), privation deaths of Soviet citizens repressed in the gulag and internal exile (1 million and 0.3 million respectively), civilian privation deaths in forced evacuations accompanying German retreats, or privation deaths of Soviet civilians imprisoned by the Germans in POW camps as possible or potential soldiers.  

Almost all of 1.3 million excess deaths among children born after 22.6.1941, as well as the great majority of 1.1 million war-related deaths of people who would have died in the 1941-45 timeframe anyway but at a later date, probably occurred due to malnutrition and disease. This means some 2 million of the 7.5-8 million privation deaths in the Soviet Union during the Soviet-German War are fairly invisible to statistics. In at least one quarter of cases malnutrition and disease induced by the war and occupation took the lives of either children not yet born when the war begun, or else of the elderly who were not expected to live past 1945 even had there not been a war.

Given Krivosheev's estimate it seems likely that of 7.5-8 million privation deaths among civilians just over one half occurred in the occupied western Soviet Union and just under one half occurred in the unoccupied interior of the country. The parts of USSR that fell under German occupation were home to 77.5 million people before the war. 16.5 million of these fled or were evacuated by the authorities leaving just over 60 million in areas under German control with 130 million original inhabitants and refugees from the west in the interior Soviet Union.[40] In other words Soviet citizens under German occupation were at least twice as likely to perish due to war-related malnutrition and disease than were civilians from the interior, unoccupied Soviet Union.

25 May 2014

Other War-Related Violent Deaths

Civilian Deaths in Ukrainian-Polish Conflict in Volhynia and East Galicia

Somewhat in excess of 50,000 non-combatants were killed in the Ukrainian-Polish Conflict in Volhynia and East Galicia. Most of these were Poles massacred in summer and spring of 1943 by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army — about 40,000. Another 5,000-10,000 Poles were killed in a similar campaign in Galicia in the summer and spring of 1944. There was also a smaller number of Ukrainian victims of counter-killings by the Polish Home Army.[33]

Deaths due to Soviet Partisan Reprisals

The Soviet partisans routinely carried out reprisals against civilians whom they saw as collaborators with the occupiers, such as officials of the civil administration under the Germans. The number of people killed in reprisals carried out by the Soviet partisans may be estimated at about 60,000.

Soviet Partisan formations in Belarus reported killing 17,431 people as collaborators by January 1st 1944.[34] This was six months before Belarus would be liberated in mid-1944 and the partisan units in Belarus dissolved. Additionally the deaths of some victims of reprisals may have gone unreported, for example if they were killed for reasons other than perceived collaboration. All things considered the number of people killed in partisan reprisals in Belarus probably falls in the range of 20,000-30,000.

Deaths connected to partisan warfare in Belarus may constitute anywhere between 0.3 to 0.55 of the total for the entire Soviet Union. This gives a wide range of possibilities for the total figure of people killed in partisan reprisals in USSR, from a low of 40,000 to a high of 100,000. Still the variant where Belarus amounts for just over 0.4 of the total violence connected to partisan warfare in the USSR had been deemed most likely elsewhere in this paper. This would net an estimate of 60,000 people killed in Soviet partisan reprisals against perceived collaborators, class enemies and criminals.

25 April 2014

The Holocaust, Anti-Partisan Reprisals and the Siege of Leningrad

The Holocaust

Compared to the other categories of Soviet civilian losses of World War II there are now relatively precise and reliable calculations for the number of Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Israeli historian Yitzhak Arad calculates there were between 2,509,000 and 2,624,500 civilian Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust, which makes for a mid-point estimate of 2.55 million.[29]

This estimate includes only direct victims of the Holocaust, and leaves out Soviet Jewish deaths in unoccupied USSR, for example among Jewish refugees from western USSR and in the Siege of Leningrad. It leaves out 120,000 deaths of Jewish Red Army men killed in combat, Jewish civilians killed in the course of battles such as the Siege of Odessa, as well as of the 80,000 Jewish Red Army soldiers who were killed in German captivity as Soviet POWs.

Naturally the 2.55 million figure is given for the Soviet Union within its expanded borders. It covers all losses from all areas part of the Soviet Union in 1941 that were retained after 1945. Sometimes far smaller figures of about 1 million Soviet Jewish victims of the Holocaust may be encountered, but this is because such estimates cover only the victims from territories part of the Soviet Union in its 1939 borders.

Anti-partisan Reprisals

In response to partisan activity in a given area in their rear the Germans in the Soviet Union carried out what were essentially clearance operations targeting primarily the civilian population of the area rather than any local partisan formations. Areas deemed to be infested by partisans or „bandits“ were descended upon by security units and its population subject to mass killings and deportations. When the population of a given place was deemed to have been "infested" by partisan influence it was wiped out. It was the policy of eliminating civilian support for partisans by eliminating civilians.

The number of Soviet civilians killed in anti-partisan reprisals is highly uncertain. The German historian Christian Hartmann mentions a figure of 500 thousand, whereas the British historian Richard Overy mentions the figure in excess of 1 million victims. American historian Timothy Snyder talks of 700 thousand dead but that is for Poland and the Soviet Union combined.[30]

02 April 2014

Wartime Losses in Light of Expected and Actual Mortality Due to Soviet Repression

The all-present figure of 26.6 million demographic losses of the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War is based on a calculation that on the basis of mortality figures for 1940 posits that without the war there would have been 25.3 million fewer losses among those born before July 22nd 1941, and 1.3 million fewer losses among those born after 22.6.1941.[23]

Such a calculation would, in the case that in 1940 the number of Soviet repression deaths was negligible, produce an estimate of total Soviet losses in the war, ie the total of losses due to the war and due to Soviet wartime repression. However, the number of Soviet repression deaths in 1940 is not necessarily so small as to be insignificant for this calculation.

In the case that Soviet repression during the war caused no more deaths per year than in 1940, such a calculation would produce an estimate of Soviet losses directly due to the war, ie without losses due to Soviet wartime repression. However, the war actually brought about a great increase in the scale and the lethality of Soviet state repression.

This means the 26.6 million figure is neither an estimate of total Soviet losses in the war, nor an estimate of losses due to the war. It captures some, but not all wartime deaths due to Soviet repression. It captures wartime Soviet repression deaths in excess of the expected level of Soviet repression deaths based on the 1940 levels, but does not capture the part of Soviet losses due to Soviet state repression not in excess of the 1940 levels.

How many people perished in 1940 due to Soviet state repression? We know that 47 thousand people died in the labor camps of the gulag, 7 thousand in the labor colonies of the gulag and 6 thousand in prisons. 2,044 people were executed for criminal offenses and 1,649 for political offenses. Additionally there would have been excess deaths among internal exiles.[24]

31 March 2014

Obama's Delusions

In denouncing the Russian seizure of Crimea in Brussels last week Obama contrasted the Russian invasion of the peninsula with the United States' own invasion of Iraq:
"Russia has pointed to America's decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq war was a subject of vigorous debate, not just around the world but in the United States, as well. I participated in that debate, and I opposed our military intervention there."

"But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future."
Other commentators have pointed out the absurdity of claiming the American invasion was supposedly more defensible of the two given the differences in bloodshed they entailed. The Iraq War resulted in approximately 500,000 deaths whereas the Russian seizure of Crimea resulted in the deaths of one Ukrainian serviceman and one Crimean militiaman.

There is another aspect in which Obama's statement is perversely ridicilous. He highlights as the redeming property of the Iraq invasion precisely the notion that makes US imperialism today so aggressive and unpredictable. That is its rejection of realpolitik and an addiction to pointless and unprofitable war. When Obama says: "We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain," what he is communicating is that unlike the Russians the Americans did not wage a self-interested war. By invading Iraq the US was not seeking to advance own national interest.

But this is exactly what makes US militarism such a scourge. Whereas a traditional power may only wage war that will serve its real political ends the contemporary United States, which is detached from this thinking, may wage war under any number of completely arbitrary and bizarre rationales. US military action ends up being called for for reasons as sacandalous as to "be seen to be doing something", to "send a message", or simply because "[the Serbs] needed some bombing".

30 March 2014

Libertarians, Crimea

I have a guest post on the correct libertarian position on the Russian seizure of Crimea over at The Libertarian Liquidationist. I make the point it is simultaneusly laudable and objectionable. This way to read it.