Russians and Germans: Archaeologies of a Kinsite

Introduction. Many disparate things converge here: my own family history, my fieldwork among European reenactors of Native American cultures, the history of Germans in Russia and of Russians in Germany, German influence on Russian academia, the anthropology of kinship in Russia, the contemporary reconstruction and reenactment of the World War II military events (with a mental link to American Civil War reenactment in the U.S. and Western Europe), the culture of “red pathfinders” and “black pathfinders,” the rise of neo-Nazism in Russia, the murder of a St. Petersburg anthropologist Nikolai Girenko, anti-Semitism as a common denominator of Russian and German ultra-nationalism, the Russian gas and oil in Germany, and, finally, heritage archaeology and military archaeology as parts of the burgeoning field of the “archaeology of the contemporary past.” I construct the narrative as a windy pathway through recent political events involving Russian and German cultural identities and position myself as a participant, through personal, familial or ethnic involvement, of these events. The following narrative also functions as the “archaeological survey” for a research project on the Russian-German cultural interface, which is designed to improve on the limitations and artificiality of the “post-Soviet studies” by showing the actual spatial range and historical depth of social forces impinging on the ongoing flow of East European life. I borrow the concept of “frontier” from American historiography to describe the pervasive tensions within the Russo-German “middle ground” (another term introduced into American historiography by Richard White) cultures in the 19-20th centuries regarding the matters of nature, culture, religion, science, education, war and nation. These systemic tensions resulted in many a quirky case of transculturation. Another long-term goal, to which this piece contributes, is the deconstruction of Eurocentric, pseudo-Eurocentric and nation-state-centered mythologies, the unearthing of Europe as an uncharted cultural terrain long-hidden under the confusing label “West,” and the revisiting of European cultures through a set of global lenses.

In this piece, I assign a manifold meaning to the term “archaeology.” First, it purports to describe a variety of psychoanalysis (pace Ian Morris) involving descent into the depths of personal and familial past in search of a new leverage for the comprehension of contemporary phenomena. Unlike classic psychoanalysis, however, I interpret myself and my family not as elements in a cosmo-erotic conspiracy, but as social actors embedded in culture and history. Second, almost as a synonym of phenomenology, archaeology seeks to look behind the sheer veneer of life for hidden facts, logic, and events (Hodder 2001, 190). Third, archaeology is a generic approach to the material world, in which, on the one hand, an “artifact” exists as part of a context and forms a meaningful textual matrix with other artifacts; and on the other, it communicates materiality to otherwise immaterial signs, symbols, images, and metaphors.

The thrust of the term “kinsite” (kinship site) is balancing between the notion of a traditional anthropological “site” and more recent “multi-sited” ethnographies (Marcus 1995) by highlighting the importance of the historical layers of recurrently and organically interconnected times, events, and places. A characteristic signature of my field research methodology is the intense use of the “reliving observation” technique, which is built on the Merleau-Pontyan assumption that any rational reflection is based on a pre-existing experiential knowledge of reality (see Merleau-Ponty 1962). My vision of the future of anthropology is a tighter marriage between literature and science, in which personal experience, egocentricity, and relentless observation will provide a starting point and an essential anchor for discussions of the matters of public interest. This is a radicalization of the currently fashionable discourse on “situated knowledge,” the one that will strengthen it with the strategies of non-random site selection. The politics of situated knowledge successfully relativize master narratives, but they do not resolve the problem identified by Pierre Bourdieu (1977) as deeply entrenched in anthropology, namely the inability of an anthropologist to be part of the social process under description. This page was inspired by my interactions with Ian Hodder and other post-processual archaeologists at the Stanford Archaeology Center as well as by the recently declared imperative to break the silos separating conventional archaeological and anthropological crafts.

Snapshot I. The Coming-Together of the Families. I grew up in St. Petersburg in an ethnically divided family of Russians and Germans. Rather stereotypically, my Russian mother is an opera musician, and my half-German father is a mining surveyor. In Russian, my mother’s profession is called by the German word konzertmeister; and my father’s profession markscheider, which literally means “border maker.” My mother’s mother, Olga Vikulova, came out of Novgorod gentry, and my mother’s father, Nikolai Timofeev, out of northern peasantry. Nikolai was lost in action during the first months of the World War II defending my hometown from Nazi troops. One of my grandmother’s brothers died of starvation during the Leningrad blockade. Olga, a school teacher of Russian language and literature, was left alone to face the severe economic depression in post-war Russia. She moved in with her sister, Maria, who was a geology professor at St. Petersburg State University and also lost her husband in the war, to facilitate fending for their children. Intermittently, the big family hosted my grandmother’s second sister, Zoia, who was an Orthodox nun since her emotionally devastating experience as a “sister of mercy” during the World War I. None of the members of my mother’s large family was ever a member of the Communist party, and none of them ever opposed the Soviet regime.

At a very early age, I absorbed a feeling of rage for Nazi Germans and sadness and pride for the heroism of Soviet people. My grandmother used to weep on the Victory Day (May 9) watching the traditional commemoration ceremonies on the TV. A nearly blind and severely handicapped war veteran used to sit in front of the entrance into my parents’ apartment building. He inspired awe and tenderness in my little soul. My creative writings at the elementary school often revolved around noble Russian soldiers and ignoble “Germans,” “Hitlerites,” “fascists,” “Fritzes,” and “Nazis.” As boys, we used to stage mock battles between “Russians” and “Germans,” and I would take it as an affront if someone offered me to be a “fascist.” These moods, powered by the Soviet industry of war books and movies, were still pervasive in Russia in the 1970s.

As I moved into the next age category, my father introduced me to the gloomy tales of Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827) and told me a story of his own. My paternal great-grandparents, Hermann and Emilia Dziebel, were German communists. On a family photo from 1906 (see below) they are standing on the far right.

Family Photo

Reportedly they personally knew Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and Ernst Tellmann. Hermann and Emilia escaped to Russia in 1921 after the violent suppression of the Spartacist uprising by the Weimar Republic that was followed by the so-called Kapp-Luttwitz putsch. They arrived in Moscow and were soon sent to the Altai Mountains to build communism in a remote town. Hermann worked as a redwood carpenter and Emilia as an attendant at a mountain resort for the Moscow nomenclatura. One of my family pictures shows her with a group of guests among whom is Mikhail Kalinin‘s wife.


My grandfather, Eberhard, was one-year-old when he arrived to Russia. Seventy years later, in 1991, he returned to Germany and now resides in Rostock. He starred in the famous Russian movie “Winter Cherry II” (1990) as the unforgettable German professor. (Click on a link to his filmography.) My father remained in St. Petersburg, plans to retire to his cottage in the close vicinity of a Russian Orthodox pearl, the Nilov Monastery, but often travels to Germany and says he feels at home there. I have no emotional attachment to Germany, but feel nostalgic for Russia and St. Petersburg.

In 1937, Hermann was arrested and executed, as a “penetrated agent of the German General Staff and Gestapo,” during the German operation of the NKVD. Emilia spent a good decade in the GULAG, while Eberhard ended up in the so-called “labor army” (trudarmiia). In 1945, the labor army was officially abolished and Eberhard was allowed to settle in a small mining town of Kopeisk located in the Ural Mountains. He had to regularly report to a local Soviet official. Leaving this special settlement was punishable by up to 20 years of forced labor. In 1956, the family was rehabilitated. Eberhard has never started feeling himself Russian, and has always harbored a grudge against the Soviet system. In 1960, in the midst of Khrushchev’s thaw, Emilia, Eberhard and my father left Kopeisk for a new life in St. Petersburg. In 1964, two months before Khruschev was dismissed from his office, the Soviet government officially nullified the August 1941 deportation order and the “fascist” label given to the Russian Germans. They were allowed to enter the Communist Party again. In 1981, when Emilia died, she received an honorary mention in the leading media organ of the Communist Party, “Pravda” newspaper. In Leningrad, Eberhard found work as an engineer at the St. Petersburg Metro Construction Corporation. Soon thereafter, he met Natalia Vikulov, who was a cousin of my mother’s. Eberhard and Natalia fell in love and got married. Their happiness, however, was short-lived: young Natalia, herself a surgeon, unexpectedly died of a heart failure. My mother and father met each other at her funeral.

I was named after my German great-grandfather, but in Russian we pronounce all foreign words with an initial h– as a hard g (e.g. Heine is Geine, Hoover is Guver, Hitler is Gitler, etc.; even Washington was once transliterated as Wasgington), hence the spelling German. While watching the movie War Party (1988) with a group of Indianist friends, I caught myself identifying the ancestor of the main hero (Billy Wirth), who was killed in the Milk Creek battle between Blackfoot Indians and the U.S. Cavalry, with my own German great-grandfather. The movie is about an innocent reenactment of this battle on a Blackfoot Indian reservation, which suddenly went terrifyingly real and eventually turned into another massacre.

As one can see, I have personal reasons to call “Civil War” what in known in the West as “World War II” and in Russia as the “Great Patriotic War.” My earliest years were shaped by the straightforward black-and-white Soviet propaganda of the war; my teenage years opened the gates for a critical assessment of Soviet history marked by the horrors of the Stalinist regime. The German and Russian histories have been tightly intertwined during the past three hundred years, with a lot of intimate crossovers between royal and common families. The name of St. Petersburg is the best testimony to this network of Russian-German kinship.

Snapshot II. Russian Monarchism, German Nationalism, and Jewish Anti-Semitism. A recent book by Michael Kellogg (2005), with earlier antecedents in Heiden (1934, 36-37) and Laqueur (1965), elucidates the role played by Russian emigres in the wellspring of German Nazism. Defeated by the Red Army during the Civil War of 1918-1920, the White Guard was eager to take revenge by powering the growing nationalist and fascist movement in Germany. The ill-famous “Protocols of the Wizards [This seems to be a more appropriate translation of Russian mudrets, from mudryi ‘wise’, than a more widely-spread translation ‘elders’ or ‘wise men’.] of Zion,” a forged account of a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, was produced in Russia by some members of the ultra-right “Black Hundred” movement shortly before the Russian revolution of 1905. This book was so convincing in explaining the origins of the political crisis in Russia that it became a table read of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra. In Tsarina’s last letters there was mention of the swastika (Lacqueur 1965, 45). Into Germany this fantasy book for adults was introduced by the Russian emigres. It came in handy when Hitler was working on his Mein Kampf (1925-1926), for The Protocols contained a “proof” of the vileness of the Jewish people. Several Russian emigres, including General Vladimir Biskupskii, Nikolai Ye. Markov (aka Markov II), Alfred Rosenberg, Lieutenant Piotr Shabelskii-Bork, Colonel Fedor Vinberg, Colonel Ivan Poltavets-Ostranitsa and First Lieutenant Max von Scheubner-Richter enthusiastically supported Hitler hoping that he will conquer Soviet Russia.

Many of these ultra-right Russian emigres were Baltic Germans who combined Russian imperial mentality with domestic German cultural trappings. Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946), originally hailing from Tallinn (Estonia), became the foremost Nazi ideologue. One of the oldest members of the Nazi party and, incidentally, an admirer of Dostoyevsky, Rosenberg emigrated from Russia in 1918 and became the editor-in-chief of the Nazi newspaper Volkischer Beobachter and was in the lead of the party during Hitler’s imprisonment. The author of Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts (The Myth of the Twentieth Century) (1930) – the book which is ranked next to Mein Kampf in its ideological significance for the Third Reich – Rosenberg is credited with the devising of Nazi race theory. Unilke Hitler and Himmler, who view all Slavs as Untermenschen, Rosenberg held a more specific version of the Aryan Lebensraumpolitik: he believed that the Great Russians should preserve their political sovereignty called by him “Moscovy.” Moscovy would be surrounded by a multitude of nation-states under German suzerainty, such as Greater Finland, Baltica, Ukraine, a Caucasian Federation, a Tatar state in the Volga River Basin, and a Cossack reserve (Von Herwath 1981, 221; Andreyev 1987, 30). During World War II, Hitler used Rosenberg’s first-hand knowledge of Eastern Europe and Russia and appointed him head of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Among the Russian emigres, Vasilii Nemirovich-Danchenko (1844-1927), the chief director of the press of the German-backed governor of the Ukraine, the Hetman Skoropadski, also wrote in Volkischer Beobachter and spoke at Nazi meetings (Heiden 1934, 36). He was the brother of the famous Russian-Soviet theatre director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko (1858-1943).

Russian emigres convinced the Fuhrer that the Soviet Union represents the “Jewish dictatorship” predicted in the Protocols of the Wizards of Zion. A Jew inventing Communism (Karl Marx), a Jew most vocally advocating for a world revolution (Lev Bronstein-Trotzky), a Jew financing the Bolshevik party (Israel Helfand-Parvus) and its coup d’etat, a Jewish head of the Soviet state (or more exactly a Chairman of the All-Russian Executive Committee) (Yakov Sverdlov) ordering a Jew in the lead of a squad of the Bolshevik secret police (Yakov Yurovskii) to murder the Tsar and almost the whole Romanov’s lineage on July 16-17, 1918 in the outskirts of a city to be named during the Soviet times after the same Jew (Sverdlovsk) was symbolic of the Jewish plot coming creepily true. One of the most outspoken anti-Semties among the emigres was Vinberg (1871-1927), who had had an opportunity to organize his ideas while doing time in the Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg for taking part in a conspiracy to overthrow the provisional government (vremennoe pravitel’stvo) in 1918. Vinberg believed that Judaism is an aristocratic religion that has no tolerance for gentile aristocracies. Jews propagate socialist and democratic ideas in order to overthrow aristocratic European orders. They inflicted decay upon the Rome Empire by infecting it with Christian populism. (This idea was independently pronounced by Nietzsche and subsequently taken over by Rosenberg.) Jews themselves are immune to the democratic virus due to their religion and race. The Jews’ ultimate aim is to control the Aryan world. They have already captured most of gold supplies and the press. The Aryan world has to imitate the Jews by rendering the Jews consolidated resistance based on a clear racial ideology. Higher anti-Semitism involves the promulgation of restrictive laws, the confiscation of property and expulsion. Lower anti-Semitism involves the complete extermination of the Jewish race. Higher anti-Semitism is the policy of an autocratic state. Lower anti-Semtism is the anarchic revolt of the masses. Vinberg believed that the last solution, however terrible, is most effective and humane in the long run (Laqueur 1965, 115-117). The theories of a Tsarist officer and a Russian German, Fedor Vinberg, constitute a bridge between the Black Hundred movement in Russia and the Nazi movement in Germany.

Hitler’s creative contribution to the deciphering of the Protocols’ message was a recognition of the workings of a Jewish plan not only in Russian communism, but also in its ostensible antagonist, German liberal capitalism. Jews welcomed the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), which put an end to discrimination and spearheaded the chosen 0.9% of the German population into the ranks of businessmen, professionals, students, and clerks. The assimilation of the Jews into German society had progressed at a steady rate until Hitler convinced the majority of the Germans that their chronic poverty and unhappiness was a result of the Jews’ taking over strategically important social positions and secretly appropriating Germany’s national product. Hitler never openly admitted the short-lived but focused influence of the Russian emigres on the nascent Nazi ideology between the collapse of the Tsarist regime in 1917 and the failed Nazi putsch in 1923. By the time Nazism came to power in 1933, the once-impassioned right-wing Russian emigres had been either dead or deeply offended by Nazi ideas of the superiority of the German race over the Slavs. Although some of them continued to write to Hitler and Rosenberg, they became entirely irrelevant for the Third Reich that now enjoyed vast popular support. Even Rosenberg, albeit a Nazi minister, was too weak a politician to compete with such aggressive and nihilistic Nazis as Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, and Goering.

The Orthodox Church in Germany suffered little harassment on the part of the Hitlerites, and remained ambiguous to the war. Some branches and individuals professed a hope that the Nazis would liberate Holy Russia from the Bolsheviks; others were horrified by the German occupation; still others stayed neutral with respect to the conflict praying for the salvation of Russia from both Hitler and Stalin. The first opinion was publicly expressed by the leader of the so-called Karlovy faction, Archbishop of Berlin and Germany Seraphim: “The punishing sword of divine justice has reached the Soviet power, and its associates and companions. The Christ-loving Chief of the German Nation has called its army for a new struggle for which we have been yearning for a long time… Truly, a new Crusade for the sake of the salvation of peoples from an anti-Christian power has commenced… Be a part of the new battle.” (In the meantime the Orthodox Church in Russia yielded completely to the Soviet war propaganda and called for a “crusade,” and a “holy war” against the “fascist intruders.”) However the radical pro-Nazi stance of some of the Orthodox clerics should not obfuscate the fact that the chief involvement of the Orthodox Church in the war concerned attending to the religious needs of those Russians who by will or by force ended up in Nazi Germany. A serious alliance between Orthodox Russians and Nazi Germans was made impossible by the hostile attitude to Christianity on the part of Nazi ideologues (see Kukushkina 2004).

The organic kinship between the Black Hundred movement in Russia and the Nazi movement in Germany reflected in several cases of transculturation. A Kiev-born Grigorii Bostunich was a life-time student of Judeo-Masonic conspiracy, who in 1923 wrote an anti-Semitic play in which a Jewish chief of Bolshevik secret police (Cheka) crucifies a child, the son of a Tsarist general. Bostunich became a confidant of Himmler, added Schwartz to his last name and started writing in a halting German for one of Rosenberg’s news agency. He worshipped the SS, gained appreciation of Nazi leaders, and was promoted to the rank of Standartenfuhrer (equal to colonel) in 1945. Dressed in Nazi uniform, he had toured Germany with lectures on Jewry and Free Masons until Himmler ordered him to stop. A paranoid type, Schwartz-Bostunich was scared of Masonic intrigues and erected a protective wall against them with his 15,000-volume-strong library on the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy (Laqueur 1965, 122-125).

In 1933, within three weeks of Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, a small group of emigres announced the formation of the Russian Nationalist Socialist Movement (ROND). ROND’s unconditional loyalty to Hitler was expressed by the adoption of Hitler’s toothbrush moustache by its members.

Russian fascists moustache

ROND storm troopers celebrating the May Day.

The placard reads: “The Russian National Socialist Movement”

(Source: Stephan 1978, after p. 134).

A distinctive Russian brand of fascism was developed among the Russian emigres in Manchuria (see Stephan 1978; Mel’nikov 1991; Ablova 1992). In 1926-1927, the Russian Fascist Organization was inaugurated at the Law Department of Kharbin University. In 1931, the Russian Fascist Party (RFP) was formed in Kharbin. It was headed by a charismatic aficionado of Benito Mussolini, Konstantin B. Rodzaevskii. In 1933, the RFP fused with the All-Russian Fascist Organization of America (ARFOA).

Russian Fascist Club

ARFOA branch headquarters

in Mancouli, northwestern Manchuria.

A briliantly lit swastika tauntingly faces

the Soviet frontier, just two miles away

(Source: Stephan 1978, after p. 236)

Among the publications of the Russian fascist movement in the Far East one could mention the journal “Nation” (Natsiia) and F. T. Goriachkin’s The First Russian Fascist: Piotr Arkadievich Stolypin (Goriachkin 1928). Unlike the White Guard radicals in Germany, the Manchurian fascists (most of them were ethnically Russian) professed coherence in ideology and organization, performed concrete anti-Soviet acts (including terrorism against Soviet citizens), sustained close contacts with similar organizations in Germany, the United States and Italy, exerted influence on the media and courts in China, and spawned a variety of subordinate groups, including Russian fascist organizations for children, adolescents, and women (see Lazareva 1994). Originally allies of Japan, the RFP fell in disfavor with the Japanese in the early 1940s, and hence lost much of its importance. It did not enjoy popularity with the majority of Russian emigres in China. Rodzaevskii surrendered to the Soviets and was executed in 1946. Shortly before his death he wrote: “Stalinism is exactly what we mistakenly called “Russian fascism.” It is our Russian fascism cleansed of its extremes, illusions, and errors” (Stephan 1978, 326). As an unwitting reworking of the Marxian dictum “history repeats itself: first as tragedy, second as farce,” this statement reflects the paradox of the synchronic coexistence of tragic but effective and romantic but impotent versions of political movements in the 20th century.

Kellogg (2005) deserves criticism for underplaying the deep historical roots of learned anti-Semitism in Germany (comp. Martin Luther’s treatise Von den Juden und Ihren Lugen from 1543 in which the founder of Protestantism advocated the burning of synagogues, the expulsion of the Jews, and the confiscation of their wealth) and the disparity between Russian and German nationalist ideals, but he does elucidate a material connection between nationalist forces within Russia and within Germany in the 1920-1930s. The critical difference between German and Russian fascism is that the Russian apocalyptic ideal is a rural commune led by a divinely appointed monarch, while the German apocalyptic idea is a genetically-pure nation led by a machine-like Fuhrer. These two nationalist ideas are contrasted with the Judaic model, in which religion overlaps with nationality. The Russian Judaeophilic philosopher, Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900), explained the choseness of the Jewish people as the special attractiveness of the unity of religion and nationality to God (see Moss 1970). Secretly coveting the Judaic model, anti-Semites try to painfully overcome the disparity between Russian religiosity and rurality and German nationality and technological sophistication.

Alternatively East and Central European Jews, most of whom bore Russian- and German-sounding surnames, were hastingly moving away from the God-chosen ideal. As recent scholarship has showed (see Solzhenitsyn 2001; Kellogg 2004, 34; Jews and Russian Revolutions, 2005; Slezkine 2006), Jews were indeed disproportionally present in the Communist movement worldwide, in the first Soviet government, and, most scandalously, in the Soviet repressive apparatus up until mid-1930s. Jews were certainly interested in transforming European political systems, so inhospitable to ethnic and religious Others. One cannot reduce their intense involvement in the world Communist movement (and also in the Italian fascist movement) to the mere resistance to persecution: Jewish participation in Communism was the strongest in Hungary, the country in which Jews were traditionally treated civilly.

A characteristic feature of the Jewish involvement in modernity was the verbally pronounced and practically realized anti-Semitism of Jewish Communists and Capitalists. The anti-Semitism of Karl Marx, whose father descended from a long line of rabbis but converted to Christianity, is now well-documented. In his early work On the Jewish Question (1844) Marx was very explicit in his bashing of Judaism and proverbial Jewish money-worship. He saw a communist revolution as the only way to overcome the age-old confrontation between Judaism and Christianity and to emancipate the Jews from their Jewishness and the world from Judaism. Lev Trotsky (1879-1940), the partisan of the permanent revolution and the expected successor of Lenin in Russia, liked to insist that he was not “a Jew but a revolutionary.” Walther Rathenau (1867-1922), a prominent industrialist and a Foreign Minister of Weimar Germany, was convinced that the assimilation of the Jews into German society will result in the end of anti-Semitism. When he was killed in 1922 by right-wing radicals, it became clear that, contrary to his assumption, Jewish assimilation leads to anti-Semitism precisely because it is anti-Semitic in and of itself. Following upon the exodus of the Jews from their ethnic homeland and the loss of the Hebrew tongue in diaspora, Jewish Communists and Capitalists stripped themselves of the last components of their cultural identity, namely their religion and their community, individualizing themselves in a faceless world of bureaucratic offices or luxurious villas.

The deepest irony of the early 20th century’s Russo-Germano-Jewish triangle is that Russians accused Jews of communism, Germans accused them of capitalism, while Jews were doing both as an ultimate assault on their own Jewishness. If Russian monarchism strived to join forces with German nationalism, Jewish anti-Semitism was looking for an economic basis. Marx was the first thinker who defined the Jews not as national minority but as an economic group. His vision of mobile, transnational and oppressed industrial proletariat coupled with his distaste for peasantry (the Jews have never toiled the soil) had a tinge of Jewish diaspora to it. A Marxist solution to the Jewish question was the destruction of the feudal preconditions for the existence of an intermediary economic group haggling between peasantry and nobility. Jewish Marxists, therefore, raised anti-Semitism to its ultimate pitch: they denied as much as the reality of the Jewish nation as such and patiently worked on the obliteration of the distinctive features of Jewish culture. The resurgence of Jewishness as a symbol of human rights, free market and democracy in the Soviet Union falls on the post-war period, as epitomized by Evgenii Evtushenko’s poem “Babii Yar” (1961), by Dmitrii Shostakovich’s use of this poem as part of his 13th Symphony (1962), by the Jews’ struggle with the Soviet authorities for the right to emigrate to Israel (the so-called “refusenik movement” from 1967 to 1980s), and by Soviet dissident Andrei Siniavskii (1925-1997) writing under the pseudonym Abram Tertz. (The historical Abram Tertz was a Jewish mobster.) In the 1990s, the rise of market economy in Russia was marked by the emergence of a group of filthy-rich financial oligarchs existing next to the radically impoverished average Russians. The fact that most of these millionaires are Jewish (e.g., Berezovskii, Khodorkovskii, Gusinskii) has led to nothing else but the resurgence of Black Hundred anti-Semitism in Russia.

The re-emergence of the Jew as a symbol of totalitarian oppression obfuscated the genocidal aspects of the Soviet treatment of ethnic Germans and the striking parallelism that existed between the late Soviet suppression of the Jews and its suppression of the Germans. The world knows Jewish refuseniks, but has hardly heard of German refuseniks. Meanwhile in 1972 a group of about 40,000 Russian Germans signed a samizdat document which requested from the USSR leadership the right to emigrate to Germany (Sinner 2000, xviii-xix, 87-88). My grandfather Eberhard could not emigrate back to Germany for good ten years. While the miserable fate of the Jews in Russia and in Europe outshined the ordeals of other minorities, it also provided a helpful blueprint for their understanding of their plight (Cohen 1982, 245). A substantial number of devout Russian-German Catholics and Protestants have viewed the 1940s deportations and the whole Soviet experience in a biblical light. They compared themselves to the Jews of the Old Testament and to the Jews in European diaspora, and glamorized Germany as their Promised Land. In the 1972 document, the Russian Germans used the biblical phrase “like a voice crying in the wilderness” to dramatize their plea (The Desperate Struggle…, 1983; Sinner 2000, xviii).

Snapshot III. Stalinism and Nazism – Deadly Friends, Lovely Enemies. The ruthless regimes of Stalin and Hitler created moral confusion among ethnic Russians and Germans. Unlike Tsarist Russia since the times of Peter the Great, Soviet Russia was characterized by the paucity of Germans in governmental service. With varying intensity and at different times, Latvians, Jews, Georgians, Armenians, Poles were represented in the Soviet government, but not the traditional allies of the tsars, Russian Germans. (The famous Marshall Bliukher was born into a Russian peasant family near Yaroslavl; his German surname was given to his family by a landlord in honor of the Prussian Marshall Gebhard von Blucher [1742-1819].) The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was abolished, on Stalin’s orders, on August 28, 1941, and all the Germans were exiled to Kazakhstan. Thus Germans were lumped with other “unreliable” nations such as Chechens, Crimea Tatars, Kalmyks, Ingush, and Balkars and subjected to the same deportation solution. There are reasons to believe that as much as 1.5 million Germans perished as a result of Stalinist repressions (Sinner 2000).

The two totalitarian states were remarkably similar in their expansive ambitions. The famous “secret protocol” of the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1939) was a plan to divide Poland, Romania, Finland, and the Baltic states between Germany and the Soviet Union. The plan was put in effect shortly thereafter. Ribbentrop cabled home from Moscow that he had been given a royal welcome and felt himself “among old party comrades.” Goebbels, in his instructions to the German press, ordered the German-Russian peace to be described as “total and final.” In 1925, he believed that “Russia is our natural ally against the devilish temptations and the corruption of the West” (Laqueur 1965, 21). On the Soviet side, Molotov talked about friendship cemented in blood (Laqueur 1965, 22). Although the German repulsion for the “Judeo-Asiatic” or “Judeo-Masonic” origins of Russian Communism coexisted with and eventually overpowered the feelings of adoration, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact was the consummation of a theory of Russo-German alliance against the corrupt West and the inferior Orient, which was part and parcel of Moeller van den Bruck’s vision of the Dritte Reich and of Oswald Spengler’s theory of the decline of the West.


The usual picture of Hitler being an aggressor and Stalin being a liberator of Europe has recently been put into question by a defected Soviet agent, Viktor Suvorov, in a famous book entitled Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War? (Suvorov 1990). Suvorov brings up circumstantial evidence suggesting that Stalin was planning an attack against Germany in Poland and the Balkans, and that Hitler’s Barbarossa Plan was a preemptive action. Supported by a few Russian scholars, this interpretation is nevertheless rejected in the West and in Israel (see Gorodetsky 1999; Dallin 2002) and remains controversial.

What is known for sure is the fact that Stalin possessed the best intelligence possible (mostly obtained from the Soviet spy in Japan, the German Communist Richard Sorge) regarding Hitler’s plans against Russia. He stubbornly ignored this information partially because he had a pathological trust for Hitler and distrust for Great Britain, and partially because he had created such an atmosphere of suspicion that he stopped believing anything and anybody. Another puzzling fact is that, while in the West the true nature of the Nazi regime was known through several informative books and many articles, the Soviet Union made no effort to publish anything on the Nazi party, its politics, ideology and leaders, SS, or Gestapo (Laqueur 1965, 21). The German side was steeped into similar illusions with regard to Russia. It has been argued (Heiden 1934, 36; Kellogg 2005) that Nazi foreign policy was profoundly shaped by the interests of the ultra-right Russian emigres. Laqueur (1965), however, makes another important point: the grossly simplistic interpretation of the Russian revolution expounded by the emigres made Hitler irrevocably ignorant of its true nature. He became convinced that passive, backward and bucolic Slavic people, suffering from the Jewish pretensions to world dominance, would greet the racially superior Germans as liberators. The severity of the Russian frosts, the vastness of the Russian steppe, the intensity of anti-German struggle, and the tenacity of the Russian “muzhik” near Leningrad, Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk came as a sheer surprise to Nazi planners.

Salisbury (1985), who vividly describes the almost-fatal inertia of the Soviets at the onset of the war, reports that a few months into the war Russian newspapers continued to treat the war as a “provocation.” The disastrous performance of the Soviet troops in the first months of the war was, therefore, the result not only of Hitler’s treacherous violation of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, but also of the fact that Soviet troops were paralyzed by Stalin’s information warfare against his own nation and decapitated in the course of Stalin’s political purges in the 1930s which took the lives of many highly experienced and competent officers. The downright incompetence of the new generation of Soviet commanders can be neatly illustrated by an anecdote from the Russo-Finnish war that took place in the winter of 1939-1940. As a token of Stalin’s love, many field officers were awarded with expensive black sheepskin overcoats. These honorary gifts, however, made them into easy victims of Finnish snipers who could not resist the temptation of shooting a black target on the white snow. Mikhail Veller (1994) tells an apocryphal story of the Soviet commissar Ivan Papanin (1894-1986) who presided over a Soviet polar expedition of 1937-1938. Among his team of scientists was a talented radioman Ernest Krenkel (1903-1971). Papanin was getting on Krenkel’s nerves by trying to illuminate science with Communist ideas, by his vain demeanor and by harassing Krenkel for being German. Finally Krenkel played a trick on Papanin. Papanin had a fetish – a Mauser pistol that he used to undo, dust off, and oil up every day. After years of practice, Papanin could undo and reassemble his pistol blindfolded and with an amazing speed. One day Krenkel caught a moment and added an extra metallic part to the undone pistol. When Papanin tried to put the pistol back together, he ended up with an extra part. He undid the pistol again assuming that he somehow missed an important part, and then reassembled it again. The extra part was again waiting for him on the table. Papanin repeated the process over and over again, but the extra part would not go away. Papanin lost his sleep and appetite racking his brain over the stubborn metal trinket. Krenkel was watching Papanin’s ordeal with delight until finally he felt sorry for the poor commissar and threw the devil’s part away. The Soviets’ self-defeating stupidity contrasted with time-tested German prudence and resourcefulness, as when the Nazis staffed their Gebirgsjaeger divisions dispatched to the Caucasus in 1942 with the rock climbers who used to train there alongside the Russians in the years preceding the war. This episode is reflected in one of Vladimir Vysotskii‘s songs:

Before the war this very slope

A German guy climbed next to you.

He slipped down but was saved,

But now he may be preparing

To use his automatic gun against you.

Naturally enough, the Germans troops managed to decorate the highest point of Europe, Mt. Elbrus, with a Nazi flag (see Lucas 1980).

Many of the “islands” of the GULAG archipelago were located on the territory speedily encroached on by the Nazis in 1941. Although the official policy was to evacuate the prisoners, many of them were shot dead along the entire line of Soviet retreat to save trouble. Vast numbers of deaths administered by the NKVD were often postdated to wartime – a statistical device used to blur the difference between Stalin repressions and World War II casualties (Mandelstam 1970, 389). This was the case with the death date of the Soviet writer of Volga German origin, Boris Pilniak (Wogau), who was reported dead on September 9, 1941, while his actual execution took place in 1937 (Reck 1975, 1-2).

The “cooperation” between Stalin and Hitler continued well into the war itself, for as the great Leningrad-St. Petersburg composer, Dmitry Shostakovich, reportedly told musicologist Solomon Volkov, “[My Seventh Leningrad symphony] is not about Leningrad under siege, it is about Leningrad that Stalin destroyed and that Hitler merely finished off” (Volkov 1979, 156). Shostakovich’s “as-told-to” autobiography entitled Testimony raises many questions of authenticity. Originally Shostakovich claimed to have composed the symphony at a very fast pace during the siege of Leningrad, while being a member of a fire brigade, and devoted it to “my contemporaries who spared neither strength, nor life in the name of Victory Over the Enemy” (Fay 1980, 489-490). In Volkov’s book, however, Shostakovich confesses that the symphony “had been planned before the war and consequently it cannot be seen as reaction to Hitler’s attack. The ‘invasion theme’ has nothing to do with the attack. I was thinking about other enemies of humanity when I composed the theme. Naturally, fascism is repugnant to me, but not only German fascism, any form of it is repugnant. Nowadays people like to recall the prewar period as an idyllic time, saying that everything was fine until Hitler bothered us. Hitler is a criminal, that’s clear, but so is Stalin. I feel eternal pain for those who were killed by Hitler, but I feel no less pain for those killed on Stalin’s orders. I suffer for everyone who was tortured, shot, or starved to death. There were millions of them in our country before the war with Hitler began” (Volkov 1979, 155). It is unclear whether those were the surreptitious thoughts of composer Shostakovich or the wishful thinking of dissident Volkov, whose hatred for Stalin needed an orchestral amplification. Without taking sides in the unceasing debate between the traditional and the new vision of Shostakovich’s personality, it is important to realize that the Soviet system did capitalize on the scapegoating of Nazism, replacing the true landscape of horror and glory of war and peace with its distorted map. The Seventh’s Symphony instantly acquired an urgent political message, which usually spares the great works of art, and became emblematic of Russia’s deadly standoff against Nazi Germany. It was smuggled to the West and premiered on American radio by Arturo Toscanini on July 19, 1942.


Next day, TIME‘s front page featured Shostakovich in a fire fighter’s helmet making him a double icon, first of the beauty of the Russian musical genius and then of the tenacity of the Russian defense spirit. Ironically, the Bismarckesque helmet combined with his thin features and pale complexion made Shostakovich look quintessentially modernist, technogenic, and non-Russian. In Russia, firefighting helmets, ranks and technical terminology (e.g. Brandmajor, Brandmauer, Brandmeister) were borrowed from Germany in the late 19th century. In Germany, and everywhere else, the firefighting uniform and organization had been modeled on military uniform. Seen against the backdrop of the profound transformation that the Communist regime forced upon Russia, Shostakovich appeared before the Western gaze as a bizarre relic of 19th century’s German-Russian cultural exchange. In addition, Shostakovich was of Polish background (his grandfather Boleslav participated in the Polish uprising of 1863 against the Tsar). Sandwiched between imperial Russia and imperial Germanic states for 200 years, Poland’s status in East-Central Europe was decisively that of a victim and a whipping boy. A German-looking Pole, who was a musical heir to Beethoven, Chopin and Mussorgsky, a sassy toy in Stalin’s imperial hands, and a token of Russia’s resistance to Germany climbing the front page of TIME was a truly bizarre union reminiscent of the best products of medieval alchemy. This Shostakovich was almost a Dalian vision of Time itself.

Snapshot IV. Against Stalin and Hitler: The Russian Liberation Army and the Cossacks. World War I and World War II contributed to the gallery of Russian-German cultural exchanges many a hybrid identity. These identities can be arranged along a spectrum from heroic to stigmatized. The unquestionable heroic image was carried by partisan fighters, who comprised civilians and prison camp escapees. They were followed by spies (German spies in Russia and Russian spies in Germany). On the opposite end of the scale there were those who the Soviets indiscriminately classified as “traitors,” “defectors” and “turncoats.” These individuals collaborated with Hitler out of sincere hatred for the Bolsheviks or simply out of fear. At the onset of the war, the Nazis advanced into the depths of the Soviet territory so fast that local Russian men were not even given a chance to be drafted into the Soviet Army; alternatively in the final stages of the war the need in men was so burning that even former collaborators with Hitler would be drafted into the Soviet army (see Kormina & Shtyrkov 2005). There was an earlier generation of the enemies of Bolshevism that included Russian emigres who sided with Hitler hoping that he would liberate Russia from Stalin. Over a million men with ancestral roots in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union fought together with the German armed forces against the Stalinist regime (Newland 1991, 1).

In many regions of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belorussia and Russia, the German troops was greeted as liberators, and volunteers were blessed by the church. In some areas, such as the Pskov province, German occupants were interpreted by local Russians as rather harmless, awkward and even humorous characters who like eggs and milk, suffer from cold, ride motorcycles, and court girls (see Kormina & Shtyrkov 2005). Sometimes the German intruders treated Russians with amazing humanity. For instance, in southern Russia in 1941 there was an incident where Wehrmacht soldiers rebuilt an abandoned Orthodox church and attended a mass. But immediately thereafter the Nazi party bitterly attacked them and instructed the Wehrmacht personnel not to attend Orthodox churches (Newland 1991, 191, n. 41).

Church blessing II

May 1943. Undisclosed location.

Volonteers entering German service.

The poster in the foreground proclaims “Hitler the Liberator”

(Source: Newland 1991, 31).

At times German civility contrasted sharply with the brutality of their willful allies among the ethnic minorities enraged with the Soviet rule, e.g. Estonian “white sleeves” (belorukavniki) (see Kormina & Shtyrkov 2005). Taking into account the oppressive nature of Stalin’s regime, it is possible that the Soviet citizens’ collaboration with the Germans would have been even more pervasive, but the humane treatment of peaceful citizens on the part of the Nazis was rather an exception than a rule. Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians and the peoples of the Baltic region were soon to realize that the Germans were no more civilized than the Bolsheviks and capable of no milder atrocities.

An ambiguous category of wartime identities encompasses Russian and German POWs, who were conceived as both victims and perpetrators. Contemporary statistics places the number of Soviet POWs at a bewildering 5.7 million. Between 2.7 and 3.3 million died in German camps (Krivosheev 1997). After liberation, thousands of former POWs were transported to the GULAG under a suspicion of now being German, British or American spies. More than 3 million German soldiers were taken prisoner on the Eastern front, and some 474,000 of them died in captivity (Krivosheev 1997). (Some of the nice looking two-storied houses in St. Petersburg were built by captive Germans.) Soviet parents in the first years after the war used captive Germans, who could easily be seen on the streets, as bugbears for their children. Many children daydreamed about being partisan fighters and leading German captives into the woods and killing them there. One of those children was to become a serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo. His father was a partisan and a POW. After the war, he was sent to Stalin’s camps on the suspicion of being a German spy. As a child, Chikatilo experienced bombings, and after the war he became a voracious reader of partisan novels and a memorizer of names of heroes of Revolution and World War II. He developed a fantasy that he and his father have always been fighting against the Germans and for the triumph of Communism (see Krivich & Ol’gin 1983).

Baltic Germans who became Nazi interrogators and interpreters comprise another interesting group of border-crossers. One should also mention German soldiers buried in Russia and Russian soldiers buried in Germany. Finally, the brutal war left behind many descendants of German soldiers in Russia and of Russian soldiers in Germany. Many of these pregnancies were forced and resulted in abortions, but had the babies survived, they would likely be unaware of or reticent about the ethnic origins of their fathers.

Any discussion of these mixed, broken, potential and unrealized identities must mention General Andrei Vlasov (1900-1946) (see Andreyev 1987). The thirteenth son of a Nizhny Novgorod peasant and a grandson of a serf, Vlasov had attended a seminary, but after the Bolshevik Revolution joined the Red Army believing that the Bolsheviks would give land and freedom to the peasants. He steadily ascended the military ladder, but became a Communist Party member only in 1930. In 1938-1938, when Vlasov was a colonel, he was sent to China as a military advisor to Chiang Kai-Shek and was awarded the Golden Order of the Dragon for his excellent service. He went out of the era of Stalin purges unharmed, a fact that testifies to his trustworthiness. Vlasov’s tardy acquisition of party membership coupled with his easy survival through the purges can be explained as the general’s rustic background, wholesale immersion in the minutiae of his military craft, his loyalty to the army rather than a party, and the consequent disinterest in political matters (comp.: Andreyev 1987, 38-39).

According to all accounts, Vlasov was an intelligent man, a brilliant strategist, a disciplined careerist, and a brave soldier loyal more to his troops than to the headquarters. He fought successfully defending Kiev, but was ordered to retreat. Later, his skills played a crucial role in the defense of the capital of the Soviet Union, and the troops even spoke of him as the “savior of Moscow.” After Leningrad had been circled by the Nazi troops, Vlasov was sent as a commander of the Second Shock Army to accomplish a major breakthrough near Miasnoi Bor. The operation failed. Vlasov refused to evacuate on a governmental airplane, and chose to stay with the remainder of his troops. He was captured by the Germans in July 1942 and sent to a concentration camp for higher officers near Vinnitsa. He was interrogated by a Baltic German by the name of Wilfried Strik-Strikfeldt, whose memoirs are one of the two major primary sources of information on Vlasov available in either the West or the East (see Strik-Strikfeldt 1970). Next to this book, there was another one written by a Baltic German, Sven Steenberg, who served as a Nazi interpreter on the Eastern front (Steenberg 1970). In the camp, although not mistreated, Vlasov decided to defect, but to defect with a mission. He petitioned to Hitler regarding the creation of the Russian Liberation Army (RLA). The purpose of the army was to fight on the side of the Nazis against Stalin and his Bolshevik clique for the restoration of a just social system in Russia. Vlasov did not hide his lack of enthusiasm for Nazism but emphasized his hatred for the Bolsheviks. In an open letter to Soviet people, Vlasov stressed his peasant origins, his diligent ascent from simple soldier to general, his populist attitude towards his troops, and his unceasing first-hand knowledge of a peasant’s lot. He denounced the institute of commissars, the purges of the talented military commanders, and the pervasive surveillance in the country. He attributed the horrendous losses of the Red Army in the first months of the war to the incompetence, callousness and cowardice of the party bureaucrats.


Generals Vlasov and von Dellingshausen

look almost indistinguishable.

The only difference is that the Russian general

never tried on a Nazi uniform

(Source: Strik-Strikfeldt 1970).

Hitler was suspicious of Vlasov: even if he was not a Soviet spy, he was too dangerous as a contender in the business of reorganizing Russia after Germany succeeds in bringing Stalin to capitulation. RLA was officially instituted only in 1944 (although as a propagandistic tool to entice the Russian prisoners-of-war to join Wehrmacht the word had come into use even earlier). It numbered some 50,000 troops, Vlasov became its chief commander, and his officers were recruited from among the Soviet POW’s. In November 1944, Vlasov announces a manifest of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia, in which he calls for the overthrow of the Bolshevik regime, the return to the achievements of the revolution of 1917, the establishment of a “national-labor social system,” international cooperation, the dissolution of the GULAG, the abolition of the kolkhozes, and the freedom of creativity for the intelligentsia. This straightforward agenda was as sincere and as naive as the agendas behind the spontaneous peasant uprisings of the 16-18th centuries. (Notably, in the same way as the peasants believed in a good Tsar corrupted by a vicious clique of noblemen, Vlasov tended not to blame Stalin.) Although RLA was involved in small battles with the Red Army, Vlasov soon became a quasi-independent warlord. In May 1945, RLA supported the Prague uprising against the Nazis, thus saving the city from complete destruction. In May 1945, RLA found itself squeezed between the Soviet and the American armies in Czechia and Vlasov had to surrender to the Americans. Vlasov and his officers were handed over to the Soviets and executed in 1946. This post-war trial over traitors and enemies of the people was a tardy return of the savage purges against the military elite in the 1930s. Unlike Marshalls Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Vasilii Bliukher and other innocent victims of Stalin’s pre-war terror, Vlasov and his comrades were nominally guilty of the crime of treason and they were indeed “enemies of the people.” However their deaths demonstrated not the righteousness and far-sightedness of the Stalin regime, but the righteousness and feasibility of military opposition to it.

The official Soviet position (not rescinded until now) is that Vlasov was a traitor. He had the option of a heroic death, like Lieutenant General D. M. Karbyshev hosed to death with ice-cold water in the Malthausen concentration camp in Austria (Maslov 2001, 38). For the Russian emigre community in the West, Vlasov is a hero. He chose life in order to rise up against the criminal Bolshevik regime that had hijacked and eviscerated Russia. An anti-Bolshevik, but not anti-Russian, stance of General Vlasov is well supported by the available evidence. Alternatively what was “Russia” in his mind remains unclear. He was a Red Army volunteer during the Civil War, and the desire of the Russian emigres to portray the RLA as the simple continuation of “White” resistance papers over the complexity of the political situation in the 1910-1920s.

After the baffling successes of the Red Army at Stalingrad and Kursk the situation on the Eastern Front acquired features reminiscent of the Civil War and the Entente Intervention of 1918-1921, in which the unified Red Army confronted several disconnected armies of the “Whites” supported by British and French troops. In addition to the RLA, some of those “Whites” who fought against the Bolsheviks in 1921 sent their sons to fight them again in 1941. The fearsome Cossacks used to provide a safe haven for oppressed peasants, to defend the borders of the Russian Empire, but also to terrorize Poles and Jews under the Tsar’s orders. A children’s game “Cossacks and Rascals” (comp. Indians and Cowboys) has been known in Russia since the 19th century. Hitler was charmed by Cossacks’ military virtues. Proud and semi-independent (like American Indian reservations nowadays, the Cossack settlements were exempt from taxation), the Cossacks would not forgive the brutalities of Lenin and Stalin’s anti-Cossack campaigns (razkazachivanie, lit. “de-Cossackization”). In 1919 and 1920 the Bolsheviks killed or deported some 300,000-500,000 Cossacks out of the total population of 3 million (Kort 2001, 133). Don and Terek Cossack territories encompassed fertile lands. Many Cossacks were rich peasants (kulaks) and as such were subjected by the Bolsheviks to additional repression known as de-Kulakization (raskulachivanie). The Bolsheviks managed to recruit poorer Cossacks into the Red Army, including the commander Semion Budennyi (1883-1973). Budennyi became a Red Army marshal in 1935 and a token of popular support of the Russian revolution. Stalin entrusted Budennyi with the Finnish operation of 1940-1941, with the South and Southwestern fronts in June-September 1941 and with the North Caucasus front and the Soviet Cavalry in 1942-1943. A hero of the Civil War, Budennyi turned out to be an utter failure in all his later assignments. He could not comprehend the nature of modern warfare, and his leadership in the Battle of Uman and the Battle of Kiev resulted in the routing of 1.5 million of Soviet soldiers. Cossack detachments were on the service of the Red Army until the end of World War II when they were dismissed as obsolete.

Many Cossacks fled to Europe with the retreating White armies. Therein they continued their traditional careers in the military schools of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and France. Their interest in World War II was two-fold: keeping military traditions alive and fighting Communism in their homeland. The remainder of the Cossacks suffered from the terrible draught of 1933 that hit the fertile lands of Don, Kuban and Ukraine. The famine was utilized by the Stalin regime to extinguish the last traces of dissent among potentially rich peasants. Among some Cossacks, hatred for Stalin was suppressed but never dispelled.

A characteristic example is furnished by Ivan Kononov. His father, a cavalry captain in World War I, and mother were shot by the Bolsheviks. In order to save himself from repressions, 18-year-old Ivan enrolled into Budennyi’s First Cavalry Army. A capable soldier, Kononov speedily progressed in rank, graduated from the Frunze Military Academy in 1935, and was assigned to command the 436th Infantry Regiment. Due to his bravery and leadership in the Russo-Finnish war he was awarded the order of the Red Star. But in August 1941, in the midst of his successul counterattack against the Germans, Kononov informed the enemy that he and his whole regiment are willing to defect and become a nucleus of a Russian liberation army. He was warmly welcomed by the Germans and became actively involved in recruiting Soviet POWs (Newland 1991, 92-94).

Kononov and Pannwitz

Kononov reporting to General von Pannwitz

(Source: Kern 1963, 16).

Another notable example is provided by Ataman Nikolai Kulikov, who became a living legend among the Terek Cossacks. By the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, he held the rank of captain. During the Civil War, Kulikov fought against the Red Army in the Caucasus and was badly wounded in both legs by grenade fragments. By the time he reached the hospital, his legs were frost-bitten and had to be amputated. His wife was hiding him from the Bolshevik secret police in the cellar under their house claiming that he died of wounds. For 20 years Kulakov lived in hiding under his house. He carved a set of wooden legs and waited for a good time to literally come back from the dead. In 1942, when the Germans overran the Don, Kuban and Terek regions, Kulakov emerged from his hideout and began driving from village to village encouraging his fellow Cossacks to rise up against the Red Army.

Cassocks dancing

Cossacks dancing traditional dances

in Nazi uniforms in 1943

(Source: Newland 1991, 108).

“Unsere Kosaken,” as the German press called the Cossacks in service of the Third Reich, became fully institutionalized within Wehrmacht in 1943 when General von Kleist ordered all Cossacks to assemble in the city of Kherson. General Helmuth von Pannwitz (1898-1947), himself of Prussian nobility, was assigned to be the Cossacks’ commander-in-chief. Von Pannwitz had little problems securing the support of people like Kulakov and Kononov (Newland 1991, 105, 106, 116). As the head of the 45th Reconnaissance Battalion, von Pannwitz had been among the first Germans to cross the Soviet border on June 22, 1941. In September 1941, he was awarded a Knight’s Cross. In 1942, von Pannwitz succeeded in establishing the 15th Cossack Cavalry Corp of the S.S. Volonteers from the Soviet territories occupied by the Germans comprised some 80% of the Corp. 20% of the Corp was made of Russian emigres who were not Soviet citizens. Von Pannwitz is described as having “a genuine love for Slavic people and an understanding of their languages, cultures and beliefs” (Newland 1991, 104). He allegedly opposed the Nazi doctrine of Untermenschen and believed that Slavic peoples had genuine reasons to terminate Stalin’s regime and were therefore natural allies of the Germans. He developed this understanding while fighting as a lieutenant against the Cossacks in World War I in the Carpathian mountains. His infatuation with Russia was strengthened due to friendship with a famous emigre and a Cossack general Andrei Shkuro (1887-1947).

Shkuro and Pannwitz

In March 1945, an Assembly of Cossack Military Units bestowed upon von Pannwitz their traditional title “ataman.” The soldiers affectionately called him bat’ko, i.e. “little father.” Von Pannwitz adopted Cossack outfit, changed his name from Helmuth Wilhelm to the Russian-sounding Gelmut Vilgel’movich, and refused to desert his troops when they were handed over by the British army to Soviet prosecution in 1945. In this regard, his behavior was remarkably similar to that of General Vlasov. Von Pannwitz was executed by the Martial Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR in 1947 on the accusation of spying and terrorism.


The Nazis attempted to redefine the Cossacks as belonging not to the Slavic racial stock but to the spurious “Gothic-Cherkessian” one (Newland 1991, 86). (A similar pseudo-scientific strategy was applied to the Ustashe Croatians, whose hatred for Orthodox Serbs deserved cooptation into the “Aryan” stock.) Goths were an ancient Germanic tribe from the Crimea peninsula, who left the earliest testament of a Germanic language (Wulfila’s Bible). The Cherkes is one of the mountain peoples of the Caucasus, who had no connection to the Goths whatsoever. This theory was concocted in 1942 by the Wannsee Institute, a secret research institute of the S.S. security service (SD). The institute released a study entitled Das Kasakentum, which was instrumental in removing the ban on the recruitment of Slavic people from the Cossacks. Some Russian POWs who were not Cossacks took the hint, identified themselves as Cossacks and left German concentration camps for the German army (Von Herwath 1981, 221; Newland 1991, 104). While the vast majority of the Cossacks were East Slavic by origin and devout Orthodox by faith, they possessed a strong regional identity that was conducive to cultural symbiosis and shared political interests with neighboring non-Slavic peoples. For instance, the token Cossack outfit, in which von Pannwitz posed, was borrowed the Cossacks from the Chechens. Alternatively, their strong regional identity produced an acute sensation of anarchic Russianness. Fighting and intermarrying with the mountain peoples of the Caucasus for good 200 years, the Terek Cossacks later shared the lot of murdered, tortured and deported Chechens and Balkars. The Nazis were aware of the strong anti-Tsarist and anti-Soviet attitudes among the mountaineers of the Caucasus. The German intelligence agency Abwehr named one of its operations in the Caucasus “Shamil” after a ferocious Chechen revolter against the Tsar in the 19th century. The German occupational policy in the Caucasus was built in contradistinction to Stalin’s “iron hand” measures and was supportive of local autonomies and cultural revival. (Rosenberg’s idea of creating a Russia-free “Caucasian federation” resonates with the ongoing Chechen anti-Russian project.) Although only 1-2% of the population of the Caucasus were involved in insurgencies against Moscow and/or in collaboration with the Nazis, the number of deserters from the Red Army was overwhelming (Statiev 2005). While the Nazi ethnic theories were bogus, their ideas about the deep cultural exchange and common grudge held by both Cossacks and Chechens against the Soviets were well justified.

But even after the ban had been lifted, Cossacks and emigres were rarely sent by Hitler to fight on the Eastern front. Unlike Marshall Budennyi, whose incompetence in the matters of modern warfare would make them use cavalry against tanks, von Pannwitz wisely exploited traditional Cossack military skills. Cossack units were pitted against the Polish, Italian and, finally, Serbian guerillas led by the future head of the Yugoslavian Communist state, Josip Broz Tito. Reportedly the Serbs, who remembered the support they invariably received from the Russians in their struggle against the Turks, refused to consider these Kosaken Russians. Instead, they called them “Cherkes.” The officers of the Russian Corp are photographed below wearing Nazi uniforms (From Russkii Korpus, edited by D. P. Vertepov. New York, 1963.)

Russkii Corpus Officers

Curiously enough, the nickname of one of the detachments of the Russian Corp was “Indians” as if it was a way to reconcile their ambiguous status as people fighting on the side of an enemy for the sake of liberating their homeland from another enemy. Here the Russian “Indians” are seen lined up near Loznitsa. (From Russkii Korpus, edited by D. P. Vertepov. New York, 1963.)

Russian Corpus Indians

The Russian Corp possessed its own Orthodox church founded by Metropolitan Anastasii, and its own military ministers.

According to the Yalta convention of 1943, the Allied forces agreed to exchange their citizens who were found imprisoned in Nazi camps or fighting on the side of the Nazis. The forced repatriation of Soviet POWs by the Western allies of the Soviet Union continues to be a controversial issue of World War II history. Many POWs did not want to return to the Soviet Union, for the Stalin regime was notoriously hostile to those Russians who were exposed to the Western world. As Strik-Skrikfeldt (1970, 25) described the paradox, “the Soviet authorities considered good German treatment of Russian prisoners as a threat to the Soviet regime.” In addition to RLA officers and troopers, who were nominally Soviet citizens, the Americans presented Stalin with many Russian emigres, including Cossack generals Krasnov and Shkuro who were not even Soviet citizens. These repatriates were either executed (as was the case with Vlasov, Krasnov and Shkuro) or thrown into the GULAG (see Tolstoy 1978). The violent conflict between state and society in the Soviet Union made captivity look more like liberation, and repatriation more like deportation. If the deliberate procrastination of the Allies with the opening of a Western front, dictated by their desire to weaken the two Eastern beasts, allowed the extermination of millions of Jews in the German concentration camps, the alliance of Western powers with the Soviet Union resulted in their participation in Stalin’s crimes against his own citizens.

Snapshot V. Agents of Intelligence: Nikolai Timofeev-Ressovsky, Hans Hellman, Nikolaus Riehl and Werner Heisenberg. The comparative destinies of these four outstanding men, three of whom were born in the first year of the 20th century, provide a necessary insight into the intersections of politics and science in the Russo-German borderlands.

Anytime during World War II one could run in Berlin into a truly amazing personality. A great Russian geneticist, Nikolai V. Timofeev-Ressovsky (1901-1981), lived in Germany between 1925 and 1945. A student of Nikolai Kol’tsov (1872-1940) and Sergei Chetverikov (1880-1959) at Moscow State University, Timofeev-Ressovsky developed Chetverikov’s theory of hidden genetic variability and its relation to Darwinian evolution, and first made it available abroad. Ahead of British and American geneticists by 15-20 years, the Russian school of biology made two crucial contributions to the neo-Darwinian synthesis. The first input came from embriology and evolutionary morphology as represented by Alexei Severtsov (1866-1936) and his student Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen (1884-1963). Schmalhausen, of German descent, was a son of one of the founders of Russian paleobotany, Ivan (Johannes) Fedorovich Schmalhausen (1849-1894), who quoted Mendel’s foundational works on genetics as early as 1879 (see Schmalhausen, J. 1879). Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen’s landmark volume Factors of Evolution: The Theory of Stabilizing Selection (1946) synthesized embriology, morphology, genetics and ecology (see Adams 1980; Gilbert 1994, 2002; Levit, Hossfeld & Olsson 2006). It was translated into English in 1949 and edited by a Russian emigre geneticist, Theodosius Dobzhansky. The forte of Russian geneticists was the entomological study of wild populations of Drosophila. In the West, the approach to population genetics was more mathematically oriented. Timofeev-Ressovsky was originally invited by Oskar Vogt (1870-1959), the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut fur Hirnforschung) and anti-fascist, to organize a department of experimental genetics. By Chetverikov, Timofeev-Ressovsky was instructed to sample and analyze the German population of Drosophila melanogaster. Vogt, in turn, went to Moscow to establish an institute for brain research there. He was among the neurologists who studied Vladimir Lenin’s brain in search of a biological source of his genius.

Ironically, the Nazi regime, until recently presented solely as a bunch of deadly charlatans and perverts, not only carried out the most aggressive campaign against cancer (Proctor 1999a, 1999b); not only introduced the first ecological legislation in continental Europe, promoted vegetarianism, supported indigenous people, and banned animal torture (Ferry 1995), but also contributed to the survival of Russian genetics, which was severely persecuted during Stalin’s times for its association with eugenics. The ties between Russian eugenics and German eugenics were especially strong (see Graham 1977). Truth be told, Timofeev-Ressovsky belonged to a narrow circle of German scientists who were not members of the Nazi party. He was not a citizen of Germany and openly boasted the strength of the Red Army. His eldest son, Dmitrii, was a member of resistance. Dmitrii was arrested and, despite his father’s efforts to save him, he died in Malthausen in 1944. Timofeev-Ressovsky is known to have helped Jewish scientists to escape Germany, and prisoners and Ostarbeiter to find work at his department.


Timofeev-Ressovsky (photographed above during his residence in Germany) was movingly portrayed by the Russian writer Daniil Granin in Bison (Zubr). When it just came out in 1987, my mother, fascinated with Timofeev-Ressovsky largely due to the famous scholar having the same first and last name as her father, insisted that I should read this novel. I was indeed profoundly impressed by Timofeev-Ressovsky’s genius and moral integrity, and immediately after turning the last page of the book ran to St. Petersburg State University to enter its pre-college school of biology. Only my superior interest in American Indians eventually made me overcome my nascent passion for microbiology and brought me to St.PSU’s Department of Anthropology.

Alternatively Timofeev-Ressovsky stayed in Germany voluntarily, and declined an invitation to move to the Cold Spring Harbor, NY. The Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute being a “war-related” (kriegwichtig) institution, Timofeev-Ressovsky’s decision to stay was tantamount to collaborating with the Nazis. He took advantage of the Nazis’ lenience towards scientists (lenience that Stalin would never allow), published in Nazi journals Der Erbartz and Ziel und Weg consulted SS medical doctors regarding mutations, and used to sign official correspondence “Heil Hitler.” His research into the genetics of radiation financed by Walter Gerlach contributed to the Nazi nuclear project, although the Russian scholar was not involved in the construction of the weapons per se. With Timofeev-Ressovsky’s consent, his teamworkers injected human subjects with radioactive thorium X (now known as radium 202) to find out how long it would remain in the body (see Paul & Krimbas 1992; Hossfeld & Walker 2001).

Upon return to the USSR, Timofeev-Ressovsky was sentenced to 10 years of prison and sent to the GULAG. On the way to the camp, he met another prisoner, future dissident Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, who mentioned the geneticist in his famous book Archipelago GULAG. Timofeev-Ressovsky did time in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, in one of the worst prison camps in the country. He almost died of hunger, developed dystrophy and pellagra and almost lost his central vision. He was released from prison only after a Noble Prize winner, French physicist, Frederick Jolio-Curie, appealed to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Lavrentii Beria. Timofeev-Ressovsky was assigned to a secret laboratory, in which outstanding Russian scholars and former GULAG inmates, worked on the Soviet nuclear project (Ratner 2001, 936). In 1988, the Soviet government denied his surviving son Alexei’s application for his rehabilitation on the grounds that his research enhanced Nazi military power. But on October 16, 1991, the Prosecutor General asserted that the original charged of treason issued against Timofeev-Ressovsky in 1946 had no legal basis. Timofeev-Ressovsky has a cultic significance for Russian geneticists, being lionized as a Galileo of Russian science (Berg 1990). Under Stalin, such luminaries as Chetverikov and Nikolai Vavilov were imprisoned, and the Russian school of genetics was replaced by a thoroughly bastardized science of selection known as Lysenkoism, which dominated Russian academia up until mid-1960s (see Iaroshevskii 1991; Soyfer 1994).

Next to Timofeev-Ressovsky, one finds his mirror image, a German chemist, Hans Hellman (1903-1938). A professor at the Gottingen Technical Institute, Hellman was married to a Jewish woman. In 1933, he was ostracized by the students and faculty and made a decision to leave Germany. He received two academic invitations: one from Albert Einstein at Princeton, the other from academician Frumkin at the Moscow Physico-Chemical Institute. The Moscow option suited Hellman better due to his socialist leanings and the fact that the Physico-Chemical Institute was the main center of theoretical chemistry in the world. He moved to Moscow and became known as Gans Gustavovich Gel’man. During the few years at the Physico-Chemical Institute he authored a textbook Quantum Chemistry, which laid a foundation for quantum chemistry in Russia, and some 20 articles published in the flagship Soviet journal “Acta Physicochimica USSR.” In 1937, The NKVD forced him to assume Soviet citizenship, and then already as a Soviet citizen and a German spy he was arrested and sent to a prison camp. He died there in 1938. Two of his colleagues from the Physico-Chemical Institute, Yuri Rumer and Nikolai Fuchs, were persecuted too (Iaroshevskii 1991, 395-407). Exactly like my grandfather Eberhard, Hellman’s son, Hans, was permitted to return to Germany only in 1991.

A different reception was given by the Soviets to another German physicist, Nikolaus Riehl (1901-1990) (Riehl & Seitz 1996). Riehl was born in St. Petersburg of a Russian mother and a German father. He and his family moved to Germany in 1918 after a peace between Russia and Germany had been concluded. During World War II Riehl was Director of Research of Auer-Gesellschaft and thus headed a Nazi team of scientists working towards the production of uranium essential for the creation of an atomic bomb. Riehl became a Russian captive, and between 1945 and 1955 he worked for the Soviet nuclear program. Overall some 3000 German scientists worked in the Soviet Union after the war in aircraft and rocket research, in chemistry and in the nuclear program (Riehl & Seitz 1996, 33). Upon returning to Germany, Riehl published his memoirs entitled Zehn Jahre im Goldenen Kafig (Ten Years in a Godlen Cage), in which he detailed on the luxuries of his “captivity” and the Soviet nuclear effort. Like Timofeev-Ressovsky, Riehl was unsympathetic towards the Nazi regime but nevertheless chose to remain in Germany instead of emigrating to the U.S. or Great Britain. He blamed Hitler for ruining the growing constructive interaction between Soviet Russia and Weimar Republic, but underestimated the dictatorial nature of Stalin’s regime. As the examples of Max Volmer and Heinz Barwich (later a CIA agent), German scientists who went to the Soviet Union voluntarily, demonstrate, direct exposure to Stalinism dissipated all the illusions people might have harbored toward Communism.

Timofeev-Ressovsky’s overtly pro-Russian stance and inadvertent support of the Nazis brought to him years of Soviet political prison. Hellman left Nazi Germany only to be incarcerated by the Bolsheviks. Riehl, being tacitly anti-Hitler and nominally a Russian captive, received a warm welcome in the Soviet nuclear program. Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976), the head of Nazi nuclear program, came out of World War II the least affected by its lethal politics and moral dilemmas. He remained a German patriot, promptly returned from British captivity to Germany, reinvented himself as a partisan of peace, and set out to reconstruct German science.

Heisenberg studied under Niels Bohr at the University of Gottingen and received a Noble Prize in 1932 for the discovery of the allotropic forms of hydrogen. For his support of Einstein’s theories, Heisenberg was stigmatized as a “White Jew” by Phillipp Lenard and Johannes Stark, one of the champions of reactionary Deutsche Physik. Heisenberg initiated a character investigation, and Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler (Heisenberg’s old schoolmate) cleared all the charges against him. Heisenberg believed in the Goethe-inspired view of nature as containing “the one, the good and the true” (Heisenberg 1990, 141), in the epochal clash of the Russo-German and Anglo-Saxon civilizations (Rose 1998, 285), in the German military might, and in the triumph of German science. As a refined and squeamish intellectual, he harbored no sympathies for Hitler, and considered him no worse or better than other politicians of the time such as Stalin, Roosevelt or Churchill (Rose 1998, 286). After the war, he was captured by the British among the group of ten Nazi physicists, but refused to collaborate and was sent back to Germany in 1946, where he reorganized the Institute of Physics in Gottingen (presently, the Max Planck Institute for Physics). Heisenberg tried to present himself as the one who purposefully derailed the Nazi nuclear program (see Jungk 1958), but there is no secure evidence to prove it. Originally appreciative of Einstein, Heisenberg later believed that it is Einstein’s participation of the U.S. nuclear program that ultimately led to the creation of the atomic bomb and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In an obituary to Einstein he expressed his skepticism regarding Einstein’s pacifism and pointed to a tragic irony of his life: “Einstein, to whom war was hateful, should have been moved by the infamies practiced under Nazism to write a letter to President Roosevelt in 1939 urging that the United States vigorously set about the making of atomic bombs, and that the first of these bombs should have killed many thousands of women and children who were just as guiltless as those for whom Einstein was anxious to intercede” (Heisenberg 1990, 6). Originally impervious to anti-Semitism, he eventually consummated the charges directed against Einstein by Lenard and Stark. The destructive aspects of “Jewish science” and of the pacifism and cosmopolitanism of the Jews received a factual proof that was missing in the 1930s. Never repentant for his association with Nazism, Heisenberg believed that the Nazi phenomenon was just part of broader modernist violence that leads to a higher aim of human redemption (Rose 1998, 285).

By and large, in the same way as National Socialism preached aggressive biological detereminism, Communist ideology introduced into any preexisting scientific theory rampant socioeconomic determinism. In the 1920-1940s, Soviet linguistics was dominated by the gaudy theories of Nikolai Marr (1865-1934), who treated the history of human languages in terms of the evolution of socioeconomic relations (Thomas 1957). From the Marrian perspective (nominally it is not incorrect), traditional general and Indo-European linguistics treated languages as natural entities subjected to their specific phonological, morphological and syntactic forces. In a totalitarian state, this “independence” from society was inconceivable. Although a Marxist framework constituted the basic tenet of Marr’s views on language, he also advanced a theory which agreed in its structure (but differed in its content) with the Nazi Aryan myth. The so-called “Japhetic” theory (from Japhet, the biblical brother of Shem) postulated genetic relationship between Caucasian, Semitic and Basque languages. Indigenous to Europe, these nations were marginalized as a result of the Indo-European conquest. Combining Marr’s ideas with the Aryan myth would produce a coherent (but hopelessly wrong) picture of prehistoric Europe as a battleground of “Nordic” with “Australic” races. Georgians, Jews, Basques and other “southern” nations, originally defeated by the Aryans, now seek legitimate revenge and retribution. Like Stalin, Marr was a native of Georgia, and in accordance with “Teeter’s law,” he provided his mother-tongue with a uniquely deep historical pedigree. Marr’s theories had remained unchallenged in Soviet linguistics until 1950, when Stalin himself felt compelled to refute them in a famous article entitled Marxism and the Problems of Linguistics.

In some cases, Soviet sociological determinism gained Western acceptance. This can safely be ascertained regarding psychology, in which the interactive theories of child development advanced by the Soviet scholars Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), Alexander Luria (1902-1977), Alexei Leontiev (1903-1979) and others are now widely read in the West. Vygotsky’s legacy was introduced to the English-speaking world by American psychologist Jerome Bruner who first wrote an authoritative introduction to the selections from Vygotsky’s writings on thought and language (Vygotsky 1962) and then a prologue to the collected works of the Soviet psychologist (Vygotsky 1987). Vygotsky’s social constructivism is favorably compared to the Piagetian focus on the child as a solitary thinker and mechanistic problem-solver. Meanwhile, the voluminous writings of Vygotsky’s teacher, Gustav Shpet (1879-1937), are barely known in the West. A student of Edmund Husserl (who called the Russian citizen of noble Polish origin “von Shpett”) and a translator of Hegel into Russian, Shpet was firmly embedded in the German philosophical, anthropological, and linguistic tradition. He redefined Husserlian phenomenology towards Schleiermacher’s hermeneutics, married Hegelian philosophy with Humboldtian linguistics, and brought Wundt’s anthropology to bear on the problem of “ethnic psychology.” From the Shpetian perspective, objective “social environments” and abstract “social interactions” can never fully explain the unique system of relations generated by a child towards his peers, mates, adults, fellow citizens or class enemies. Every individual psychology is ethnic in its origin. Shpet was persecuted as an “idealist” and executed as “an enemy of the people.”

The Soviet regime imposed on biology a straightjacket which was very similar to the one found in linguistics and psychology. Lysenkoism was a 20th century version of Lamarckism that promulgates the environmental construction of heritable traits. Lamarckism found itself at home with the Communist ideology because Communism, exactly like its “enemy,” capitalism (especially libertarian capitalism), is built on the assumption of the superiority of human reason over nature and, consequently, the destruction of nature for the sake of a triumphant culture is permissible under both social systems. The founders of the Soviet science of selection, Trofim Lysenko and Ivan Michurin, preached that nature, biology and heredity as an independent force do not exist, for social relations, environmental factors and ideology determine the biological makeup and behavior of a biological organism. A natural organism, be it a plant or a human being, passes down to its offspring only those traits that it has acquired during its life time. According to Lysenkoism, conservative ideologies invariably prefer nature over nurture; hence, a liberatory biological theory should adumbrate an opposite causality. Meanwhile, even if history of science is seen as class struggle, Lysenkoism can be construed as a reactionary ideology itself, for it would deny peasants a right to govern because they have been under social oppression for millennia. Alternatively, a theory that imparts nature with a degree of sovereignty can easily generate an emancipatory ideology, for genetically peasants and nobles are hardly different from each other.

Under Communism the declared social construction of nature realizes itself in practice as the physical destruction of nature, be it Cossacks, kulaks, nobility, or military, scientific or artistic intelligentsia. This naturecide is then compensated by the creation of a science of the natural in which nature is supposed to perform in a thoroughly acculturated way. Hence, the proliferation under Communism of spectacularly bogus, but politically correct, teachings such as Lysenkoism and Marrism. The anti-cybernetics campaign in mathematics and outright martial idiotism during the Russo-Finnish war and the first months of the World War II stem from the very same tendency. Darwinism, with its transparent imposition of capitalist values on the natural kingdom, shows the same basic pattern. German Nazism, sensing a hidden agreement between Communism and capitalism, was opposed to both and contributed to the promotion of the values of authenticity, nativity, tradition, and naturalness, which Communism and capitalism dismiss. While the charges suggesting Timofeev-Ressovsky’s collaboration with the Nazis are ill-founded, his example does testify that Stalinism and Hitlerism, totalitarian as they were, were based on particular ontologies that existed in complementary distribution to each other and one could potentially provide a safe haven for the victims of the other.

Snapshot VI. Intelligence Agents: Lev Knipper, Olga Chekhova, Richard Sorge and Max Otto von Stirlitz. Among the members of the Russian emigre community in Germany were two highly spectacular personalities. Lev Knipper and his sister Olga Chekhova, two Soviet intelligence agents of Russo-German origin, operated in Germany in the 1920-1940s (see Beevor 2004). Lev was a composer, and Olga an actress. Lev had a German-specific penchant for mountains and rock-climbing (comp. Kracauer 2004). Olga was a niece-in-law of the great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov who had married into a solid bourgeois family of the Knippers. Once a member of the Moscow bohemian elite and a White Guard officer, Lev Knipper, was forced into collaboration with the Soviet secret police after the collapse of the anti-Bolshevik resistance in 1919. Knipper’s job as an agent was to spy on Russian Germans in Moscow and identify those Russian emigres in Germany (especially intellectuals) who were nostalgic for Russia and to persuade them to return home and help the Soviets build Soviet culture. He soon appreciated all the advantages of being a Soviet spy in Germany. His big family rented a fifteen-room apartment in the Tiergarten district of Berlin, and was granted easy travel between Moscow and Berlin. If to Anton Chekhov the Knipper family looked quintessentially German, in Berlin they were growing increasingly Russian. The Russian emigre community in Berlin was large, well-circumscribed geographically, possessed its own high school, 200 periodicals, a number of publishing houses, and social clubs, and was a home to such luminaries as Vladimir Nabokov, Ilya Ehrenburg and Boris Pasternak. Although the Russian community in Berlin collapsed during the economic crisis of the 1920s, the composer still enjoyed the marvels of German musical culture and the climbers’ paradise of Schwarzwald, while preserving ties with his Russian motherland. After Germany’s attack on Poland, Lev was summoned back to Moscow.

Olga Chekhova

Olga remained in Germany and had a romance with a Luftwaffe pilot. Evidence for her role as an agent is inconclusive, but she was destined to strike up a giddy career in Germany becoming a prima donna of the Nazi film industry and one of the favorite actresses of Adolf Hitler (see photo above). Olga’s relationship with Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, was more tense after she had dared to doubt Germany’s success in a war with Russia, but this audacity only barred her from a few private parties. A cinema fanatic, Hitler worshipped Olga’s German beauty to the point of forgiving her Russian accent. After Russian troops stormed Berlin in the spring of 1945, Olga Chekhova and her relatives were escorted back to Moscow. Stalin was eager to know more about his magical rival, Adolf Hitler. Although Lutheran by faith and German by blood, Olga left instructions that she was to be buried according to Russian Orthodox rites.

A Russian intelligence idyll in Nazi Germany was enacted in a famous Soviet spy thriller “Seventeen Moments of a Spring.” In it, a Russian spy Colonel Isaev, under the name of Max Otto von Stirlitz, skillfully maneuvers around the top officials of the German Wehrmacht in the final months of the World War II.


Soviet actor Tikhonov

as Standartenfuhrer Stirlitz

(Source: Sovetskoe kino 70-e gody, 68)

He is accompanied by an undercover Soviet radiowoman Katya, who betrays her Russianness by screaming “Mama” when laboring to give birth to a child in a German hospital. Stirlitz risks his cover and the whole network of Soviet intelligence in Germany to save her from the Nazis. All the roles in this series were taken by nationally acclaimed Russian actors who could not help but offset the morbid Nazi uniforms with their homey charm. “Seventeen Moments of a Spring” was also one of the rare Soviet movies that showed Nazi Germans as possessing a minimum of intelligence. Conventional depictions of German atrocities were also absent from the scene. The action was set against the background of the advancing Red Army, and the group of top Nazis had the air of a dying race. Finally the lead actor, handsome, lonely and suave Vyacheslav Tikhonov, became symbolic of a happy marriage between the esoteric Russian soul and unswerving German comfort, taking place in a serene setting of posh villas and top-of-the-line automobiles. Colonel Isaev was definitely enjoying his precarious existence in Berlin and Berne.

The Russian audience did not leave the inherent ambiguities of the movie unnoticed, and responded with a host of short but explosive Stirlitz jokes such as this one. Stirlitz received a dispatch from the “Center” that said “Congratulations, Colonel Isaev, your wife gave birth to a boy.” Tears of affection began streaming down Stirlitz’s stern face: he has not been home for almost ten years. In July 2006, a St. Petersburg avangard artist, Vasilii Florenskii, canonized the “Seventeen Moments of a Spring” imagery in the personal exhibit entitled “Men in Black” (a parody on the famous Hollywood production). He projected selected shots from the movie onto the canvas, and created a gallery of Soviet actors dressed as Nazis.


The message of the exhibit is patriotic: the Germans are no more enemies of the Russian people but rather part of the latter’s popular culture. Rich in homegrown spectacles, it can withstand spurious Hollywood images (Samkova 2006; thanks to Boris Rodin-Maslov who brought this article to my attention).

Snapshot VII. Nazi-Loving Grandsons of Nazi-Fighting Grandfathers. In June 2004, the intellectual circles of St. Petersburg were shocked by the news of the grisly murder of 64-year-old Nikolai Girenko, Ph.D., a member of the Department of Africa of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology “Kunstkamera,” and the Head of the Minority Rights Commission at the St. Petersburg Scientific Union.


A famous human rights defender, he was a consultant to 15 high-profile court cases concerning allegedly racially motivated attacks administered by Russian neo-fascist and skinhead groups. Nominally pro-Russian, they nevertheless are fascinated with Nazi Germany. One of the most notorious cases involved the head of one of such groups, “Schultz-88,” Dmitrii Bobrov. The group’s name is a combination of German surname Schultz, the nickname of its all-Russian leader, and an anagram referring to the numerical order of the two Latin letters HH standing for “Heil Hitler.” Schultz-88 organized in 2001 is believed to be responsible for the murders and savage beatings of people from Africa and the Caucasus. In an obituary written by Girenko’s colleague and friend, Sevir B. Chernetsov, his death was described in the classical style of World War II Soviet anti-Hitlerite propaganda: “On the morning of June 19, 2004, a fascist bullet killed Nikolai Mikhailovich Girenko” (Chernetsov 2004, 375). One would instantly recall Yuri B. Levitan’s epochal Informbureau broadcast: “Today, on June 21, 1941, at 4 am, fascist Germany treacherously invaded our Motherland.”

Girenko’s job was to give an expert assessment of whether a murder had a “racist” motivation or whether a newspaper/website incited “racial hatred.” Girenko’s objective analysis played a decisive role in issuing prison sentences to a number of aggressive nationalists all of whom were ethnically Russian. On one morning, he was shot dead through the door of his apartment on Podkovyrova Street. The website of the Russian nationalistic group “The Russian Republic” called Girenko “Russian Jew” (i.e. a Russian who acts like a Jew or supports a Jewish cause, not an ethnically Jewish person who was born in Russia) and posted an order for his execution signed by the “president” of this “republic” Vladimir Yu. Popov. He was “sentenced” to death by “firing squad” for the crime of sending several “true Russian patriots” to jail. Soon after the murder, Popov victoriously posed in front of Kunstkamera. But he almost certainly had nothing to do with Girenko’s murder, and only used this event as a publicity stunt. The real criminals are still unknown.

Popov Kunstkamera

The ideology of the Russian Republic and similar organizations is built on the nominally correct observation that the Russian Federation does not have a Russian administrative unit. Consequently, unlike other members of the federation, Russians have no flag of their own, no government, no academy of sciences, no ethnic schools. Russian is a default nationality, and the quality of Russianness is defined by the centralized state apparatus. There is a tendency to terminologically isolate Russian ethnicity (russkii) from Russian citizenship (rossiianin), but one such authoritative attempt (see Tishkov 1997) was met with suspicion, for it threatens to treat ethnicities as self-contained “boxes.” There is a pervasive double standard, so that the president of Tatarstan or Adyghea must be ethnically Tatar or Adygh, even if Russians constitute a sizable minority (or even a majority) in that republic. The President of the Russian Federation, at least nominally, can be of any nationality. Germans or Jews can legally have their ethnic schools (I taught English in one of those schools in St. Petersburg called Peterschule). Nobody else but ethnic Germans or Jews are admitted there. But Russians cannot have a Russian ethnic school. Popov and other ultra-right nationalists believe that the faceless state has hijacked Russia, and they attempt to rectify this usurpation by declaring independence. They go as far as issuing their own passports, printing their own currency, and appealing to Putin for admitting their “Russian Republic” into the Russian Federation. Ridiculous as their claims for national sovereignty may appear, it is hardly coincidental that the Iroquois Indians carry their own passports (never recognized by the U.S.), Russian Indianists declared themselves a “nation” in 1999, and the rebellious Republic of Ichkeria is no less an invented political entity (the very word Ichkeria is a Turkic name for a small area in south-east Chechnya popularized by 19th century writers) than the Russian Republic. The Russian Republic defies common sense by claiming indigeneity in the lands long believed to have been nationalized by an imperial state. In the absence of any land base or kinship-like continuity with traditional Russia, Russian neo-fascists indulge in physical violence against “people of color.” In this regard, they are rather different from other nationalities within the Russian Federation or the former USSR that, in the course of recent national awakening, subjected to organized physical violence either the organs of the state or other ethnic minorities, but rarely, if ever, local Russian populations.

As it was the case with nascent Indianists inspired by movies about noble Indians or with the rebirth of Ku Klux Klan in response to the release of D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), in some quarters neo-Nazism started innocently as a reenactment of the famous Russian thriller entitled “Seventeen Moments of a Spring.”


A photo from the front page of “Kstati” (April 6-12, 2006),

a Russian-language newspaper in California.

The caption captures well one of contemporary

Russian kinship paradoxes:

“Grandsons of those who defeated fascism.”

The unfortunate rise of neo-Nazism in contemporary Russia is not as bizarre as it appears at the first glance. Extrapolating from an argument made by the students of American Civil War reenactment (Horwitz 1999), Russian neo-Nazism stems from the unresolved ambiguities of 20th century Russian history. Just two points are worth making here. The political upheavals of the first forty years of the 20th century virtually erased the whole diversity of “traditional” Russian ranks, statuses, religious communities, and economic adaptations and replaced it with a simple opposition of exploiting bureaucrats and exploited proletarians. The Soviet state destroyed Russia in a very real sense. The state became overextended, while society lost all local self-organization. Pockets of pre-Communist traditions and, consequently, of resistance to the Soviet rule survived on the periphery, and mostly outside of Russia itself. Alternatively, the Nazi state capitalized on German local diversity. The colonization of Russia by the Bolsheviks caused the massive emigration of Russian nobility and intellectuals. The emigration from Nazi Germany mostly involved non-German ethnicities. Stalin’s betrayal of many a loyal Communist and the massive purges of innocent citizens contrasted sharply with the monolithic cohesiveness of German state and German society under Hitler. To Russian neo-fascists, Nazi Germany appears to be the closest example of the triumph of that very societal force that Russia has effectively depleted.

Snapshot VIII. The Echoes of World War II in Contemporary Politics: From a Monument to Von Pannwitz to a Pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Two major events of recent European history came in tandem: the dissolution of the Soviet Union (December 8, 1991) and the unification of Germany (October 3, 1990) (see Stent 1998). Taken at face value, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the heir to the Russian Empire, and the formation of a multitude of independent states around Moscow, meant the fulfillment of Nazi plans, as formulated by Alfred Rosenberg. The unification of Germany, second in history after the Bismarckian one of January 18, 1871, was also consistent with the nationalist aspirations of the Third Reich. But the weakening of Russia and the strengthening of Germany resulted in the rejuvenation of Russo-German economic and political rapprochement and the return of the “sandwich” anxieties of intermediary East-Central European states. This paradox stems from the presence of another phenomenological level of the Russo-German histories. Hidden behind the veneer of official discourse is another process, namely the unification of Russia and the ethnoracial diversification of Germany. Perceived as located at the crossroads of the Orient and the Occident since the time of Peter the Great (and especially strongly since the establishment of Hegelian historical consciousness), Russia has shaken off its Asian illusions, recognized itself firmly as belonging to a new Europe, and made Siberia, at least as far as its mineral resources are concerned, part of the European continent. Alternatively, the percentage of German citizens with immigrant background now reaches its highest point ever, 20 %. (The national German soccer team is even more diverse: Polish, African and Turkish players comprise 25% of the team.) These developments were not foreseen by the Nazis, and they completely overturn their Untermensch theories.

By taking the Leningrad shosse in Moscow, a wide roadway that dumps caravans of vehicles onto a freeway connecting Moscow and St.Petersburg, a traveler can arrive at a curious piece of rock. In 1994, the Temple of All Saints in Moscow erected a monument to “the chiefs of the White Movement and Cossack Atamans,” in which the name of von Pannwitz is listed next to those of Shkuro, Krasnov, Kutepov, Miller, Klych Girei, and others. This accomplishment was blessed by the Moscow Patriarchy and assisted by “a group of German veterans of World War II and Russian White emigres.” Every June, the church holds a mass near the monument in commemoration of “Orthodox Cossack ministers, Cossack atamans and all the Cossacks of the 40,000-strong Cossack host and their family members from a Cossack camp near Lientz (Austria) forcibly handed over by the British for extermination to the theoclastic regime in the USSR” (Shurygin 2005).

Monument to Cossacks

The bizarre juxtaposition of German “von” and Russian “bat’ka,” of Nazism and Russian Orthodox piety, and of heroic Moscow and a staunch Hitlerite has drawn criticism from many journalists and public figures in Russia, who believe that Nazis’ and their collaborators’ crimes are unpardonable regardless of the complexity of Russian history (see, e.g., Shurygin 2005; Vasiunin 2005). An initiative group led by jurist Ilya Kramnik demanded the monument to be deposed, since it commemorates a military unit that was a regular part of Wehrmacht. The monument ignited the old war between the “Reds” and “the Whites,” now conducted in the media, in parks, and during private gatherings.

On April 22, 1996 (around the anniversaries of both Hitler and Lenin), at the petition from his granddaughter, Vanessa Bassewitz, General von Pannwitz was rehabilitated by the Chief State Martial Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation. The rehabilitation was based on the law “On the rehabilitation of the victims of political repressions” passed on October 18, 1991. The reasons for rehabilitation were the following: von Pannwitz was a German citizen who performed his military duty and no evidence was presented regarding his maltreatment of peaceful Soviet citizens.

At that time, President Boris Yeltsin was actively seeking friendship with German Chencellor Helmuth Kohl. The upcoming presidential elections threatened to restore Communists in power. Yeltsin met with Kohl in February 2001, warning him about the dangers of Communist restoration in Russia. Once again, history repeated itself: Russia was seeking alliance with Germany against the world Communist movement. On July 3, 1996, Yeltsin was re-elected as President of the Russian Federation. The puzzling rehabilitation of a Nazi general on a par with other “political” victims of the Stalinist regime was accomplished on the eve of Yeltsin’s visit to Germany in September 1996 (Ulitvinov 2001).

In 1999, Yeltsin was succeeded by Vladimir Putin. The bruderschaft of Yeltsin and Kohl was replaced with the camaraderie of Putin and Gerhard Schroder.

Schroder and Putin

As a KGB agent, Putin had been stationed in East Germany between 1985 and 1990. He speaks fluent German, his wife is a teacher of German, and in his memoirs First Person (2000) he confesses that Stirlitz has always been his icon. Under Putin, on June 28, 2001, the Martial Prosecutor’s Office reverted its own decision regarding von Pannwitz. Evidence was presented proving von Pannwitz’s crimes against peaceful citizens in Russia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia. The case has gone through several appeals, but the present decision remains unchanged.

Putin compensates the sacrifice of von Pannwitz with the recent (September 2005) signing of a 4-billion-euro (5-billion-dollar) contract between Germany and Russia regarding the building of a pipeline on the bottom of the Baltic Sea to pump Siberian gas and oil into Europe. Western Europe depends for one-fourth of its oil-and-gas supplies on Russia; Germany, with its largest economy and poorest resources in Europe, for one-third. The 1,2000-km-long pipeline will connect Wyborg directly with Greifswald in northeast Germany.


Russia’s oil giant Gazprom will own 51% of the pipeline, with Germany’s E.ON and BASF taking 24.5% each. While solidifying Russo-German economic kinship, the pipeline makes the Baltic states, the Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia and Poland, who almost exclusively depend on the Russian oil, slaves to Russian imperial whims. It also deprives these countries of a juicy cut that they presently claim of the overland pipelines between Russia and Germany. According to Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, the building of an underwater, rather than a surface pipeline violates Poland’s economic interests, tips the balance of security in the region and is, in fact, a punishment for Poland’s support of the pro-American Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas complained that Germany and Russia did not ask anyone’s opinion on this issue and concluded the deal behind the backs of East European countries. Georgia’s new pro-American President Mikheil Saakashvili also expressed his worries about the political undertones of the pipeline, but later approached Moscow with a proposal to build another pipeline through Georgia. The German-Russian pipeline contract is likened to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact that divided the Baltic states, the Ukraine and Poland between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union.

For Russian nationalists, one way to reconcile German and Russian “patriotism” is by resorting to the Aryan myth (Germans and Slavs share a common Indo-European, Vedic or some other “heritage”), virulent anti-Semitism, and the memory of Generals Vlasov and von Pannwitz. Another is to to recognize the workings of divine providence in the Russo-German pipeline contract. For them, the alliance between Germany and Russia is a long-awaited unity aimed to counteract the “corrupt West.” In the first half of the 20th century this unity was thwarted by the U.S.- and Great-Britain-based “Judeo-Masonic” plot. The plot instigated the World War I and World War II, the two epochal German-Russian standoffs, which took away millions of German and Russian lives. (A myth of the conniving Jew setting Germans against Russians in the World War II has been around for quite a while, for I heard it from a Moscow Indianist with links to Russian nationalists in 1990.) The official story delivered by Schroder and Putin is that the pipeline deal is politically neutral and will benefit the whole Europe.

One final stroke can be added to this story. The pipeline causes concern on the part of environmentalists as well. They bring attention to the fact that the Baltic seabed is peppered with mines, submarines and naval equipment left from the World War II as well as with chemical explosives sank by Russia and Germany after World War I. The building of a pipeline may cause their detonation, for oceanographers have not yet completed their mapping. The location and the number of submerged dangerous objects in the Baltic Sea are utterly unknown. A potentially explosive World War underwater relic serves as an apt metaphor for the negative political potential of the Schroder-Putin deal. Unresolved political, economic, and cultural problems inherited by Europeans from the past continue to haunt the region, pouring new wine into old bottles. It also engages underwater archaeology in a new, unforethought way, shifting importance from romantic searches for a lost Atlantis or a coastal route to the Americas to the morbid memories of the World War II.

Snapshot IX. Reenactment, Repatriation and Paramilitary Archaeology: Pathfinder meets Chingachgook. During my field research in St. Petersburg I met an Indianist who was at the same time a “black pathfinder.” The term definitely resonated with James F. Cooper‘s “Pathfinder,” once a favorite read of many future Indianists. Further alliterations can be seen in this fellow’s “Indian” name, Foot Catcher, which he earned for catching a fish in a shallow creek by simply stepping on it; and in his “tribal” affiliation, the Blackfoot. In fact I have known Foot Catcher since 1988, when he walked into our “Indian” club with his neighborhood buddy, Sheriff. Soon they became my friends and fellow tribesmen.

Foot Catcher divided time between his job as a policeman, Indian camps and teams of “white” boys roving in the woods in search of wartime military ammunition and German medals. Upon finding something interesting, they would sell it on the Russian black market or directly to Germany (provided that the German steel did not disintegrate in Russian swamps). This has been a controversial pursuit, both on moral and on legal grounds, and Indianists vocally disapproved the involvement of one of their brethren with the black pathfinders.

European Russia having been a site of the most intense warfare in recent human history, its lakes, swamps and soils are a treasure house of weaponry and ammunition and a mass grave of unknown German and Russian soldiers. In addition, woods around St. Petersburg were a site of a short and poorly known but bloody Russo-Finnish war of 1939-1940. It is customary for a regular Russian mushroom-picker to stumble upon a barbed wire, an old trench, or a deserted military emplacement. As a child, I remember visiting our friends’ summer-house in the Syniavino area and getting engaged in digging for bullets and empty shells with local boys. I personally found a rusty bayonet. These and other actual artifacts were often used in children’s war games. Alternatively at the end of the war military plants used to refurbish faulty weaponry and make them into toys for children in order to retrieve some of the spendings (Dmitry Morozov-Nikiforovskii, born in 1939, Saratovskaia province, pers. comm.). In this case, a boy would become a happy owner of a toy machine gun with a real wooden butt.

Soviet people were raised with the awareness that, first, each and every Soviet family lost at least one member during the war; and second, the war is not over until the last fighter is given a proper burial. Since the end of the war, groups of mostly Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian youngsters have been engaged in the organized recovery of weapons and machinery, including tanks and airplanes, and human remains. The original initiative came from a Communist Party newspaper for younger boys and girls entitled “Lenin’s Sparks.” It was instantly supported by a newspaper for older schoolchildren called “The Pioneer Truth.” The project stands beyond political differences, for the Russian Orthodox Church gave it its own blessing.

Church blessing

Those youngsters who were on a mission from secondary schools, boarding schools, pioneer camps, sanatoria, and district Komsomol organizations reported their findings to the authorities, submitted the newly-found weaponry to the police, reburied the bodies with military honors, interviewed war veterans, contributed to the local museums of “military glory,” and returned medals, photos, and military IDs to the descendants of the dead soldiers.

Mass Grave reburied

They have recovered the names of many a Russian soldier and provided spiritual healing to many a Russian family. These noble fellows are known as “red pathfinders.” Like Indianism, the way of a red pathfinder was a unique combination of pedagogy, romantic entertainment, and ethical commitment. I hope that red pathfinders will eventually find something related to my grandfather’s death.

Next to the red pathfinders, almost as their silent shadows, exist a host of young people, mostly from less successful families, who dig for military weapons, regalia, and sometimes skulls for personal collection or for profit. Although the division is not entirely rigid, it is fair to say that the red pathfinders were mostly focused on Soviet artifacts and bodies, while the black pathfinders were mostly interested in recovering things belonging to the Nazis. Russian newspapers are peppered with news of a new black pathfinder disclosed by the police, his house containing massive supplies of guns, bombs and Nazi accoutrements. Black pathfinders are accused of providing illegal weaponry to criminal gangs and Chechen terrorists. It is quite possible that one of those excavated guns killed Nikolai Girenko.

Although the pathfinder movement took its roots during Soviet times, it was not officially recognized until the early 1990s. In August 1991, dispersed school-based circles and clubs formed the Association of Pathfinder Organizations of the Union of Independent States named “People’s Union for the Preservation of the Memory of Dead Defenders of the Fatherland,” with branches in Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, and Kazakhstan. In 1993, the Duma of the Russian Federation passed a legislation entitled “Regarding the Perpetuation of the Memory of Dead Defenders of the Fatherland,” which placed pathfinder organization under federal financial jurisdiction. In 1996, President Yeltsin signed an order entitled “Regarding the Means of State Support of Non-Profit Organizations Involved in the Military-Patriotic Education of the Youth.” State control over pathfinder activities ensures a more balanced recovery of both Soviet and Nazi remains.

Red pathfinders (and some of the former black pathfinders) organize societies for military archaeology, which are devoted to the reenactment of important World War II battles and the reconstruction of the daily life of an “average” Soviet or Nazi soldier. Although oftentimes dressed as Nazis or carrying bits of Nazi regalia, these military archaeologists claim no affiliation with neo-Nazis. Their interest is purely historical. A glimpse of Nazi reenactment (actually coming from Czech Republic) made it into one of the Russian web forums.

Czech reenactors

Reenactors look down upon neo-Nazis, whio are believed to possess inauthentic Nazi regalia, engage in deplorable street violence, and entertain bizarre political ideas. However neo-Nazis would certainly value something like an authentic Hitlerjugend dagger, with a mesmerizing swastika on the handle. The adoration for authentic Nazi artifacts is shown in the widely-acclaimed Australian movie Romper Stomper (1992), in which one of the heroes, a neo-Nazi of German heritage purchases a rusty Nazi dagger from a sailor. The Russian movie Brother II (2000) by Alexei Balabanov also features a cache of antique weapons run by a Russian neo-Nazi in Moscow. The main hero, an icon of the Russian nationalism of the 1990s, purchases the necessary weaponry from a skinny Hitler aficionado but mildly chastises the latter saying “My grandfather died in the war.”

Some of the sites covering a range from red pathfinders to Nazi reenactors can be accessed here:

The Military Archaeology Group “Seeker” (Moscow)

“The Treasure Seeker of St. Petersburg”


A metal detector is the pathfinder’s favorite tool.

Mine Detector

Having no professional training in archaeology or physical anthropology, these enthusiasts are self-taught in the arts of site-mapping and sexual and racial attribution of human remains.


The role of material objects in military archaeology is hard to overestimate. Pathfinders attempt to carefully reconstruct all the aspects of a military encounter. They can estimate the number of fighters by the number of recovered spoons, for each soldier carried a personal spoon in his boot. The severity of a battle can be appreciated by looking at an empty rifle. A wallet with a handful of tobacco and several bits of newspaper for rolling cigarettes can give one a glimpse into a soldier’s daily routine. An unsent letter to a girlfriend is a glimpse into a soldier’s emotional life. Upon encountering such a letter, the pathfinders try to locate the addressee, and although the letter turns out to be rather tardy and the girlfriend is herself may be long dead, it is appreciated by her descendants as much as a letter from a member of their family.

Foot Catcher combines two approaches to a material object. On the one hand, Foot Catcher, like all other Indianists, reproduces traditional Native American cultures by making replicas of Indian tipis, warbonnets, knives, scabbards, backrests, leggings, leather shirts, etc. as seen in books and museum showcases. This craft requires the translation of an English-language original into the Russian, the digestion of information, and the re-visualization of the final product. On the other hand, Foot Catcher excavates, collects, and repairs World War II artifacts buried in his native soil. This requires the knowledge of the terrain and of the actual behavior of an old piece of metal. The two practices are strictly symmetrical: the reenactment of Native American cultures involves the deconstruction of a pictorial image or an ethnographic description towards its creative materalization; the reenactment of World War II events is the reconstruction of an actual object from the debris. Imagine a team of schoolboys bringing an old machine-gun into their mock battles between “Russians” and “Germans,” and the same team manufacturing bows and arrows for a game of “Cowboys” and “Indians.” Both kinds of games and both approaches to the material object coexist in the former Soviet Union. They illuminate each other, highlight the copresence of the global next to the local, of an image next to a thing, and of the narrowly local meaning of a social action next to the global possibilities of interpretation.

Contemporary Native American communities, energized by the famous Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), actively repatriate their skulls and museum objects. However Native Americans are rarely aware of the fact that the images of their cultural objects have spawned a myriad of useable replicas as far east as Russia. In one known case, the Zuni Indians repatriated the replicas of their sacred objects manufactured by the so-called Koshare scouts in New Mexico (Gendron 1958). Native American elders specify that the images and descriptions of their tribal relics are equally subject to repatriation (see, e.g. Green 1992-1993). However the fate of the numerous replicas existing outside of tribes, museums, and private collectors is not specified by the NAGPRA. Then who owns this Native American past? Native American communities who inspired European Indianists, or European Indianists who produce Indianesque artifacts with their own hands and brains and bring traditional Native American cultures to serve their own needs?

Also, it has not been noticed that non-indigenous nations like Russians have their own version of NAGPRA, i.e. the aforementioned Perpetuation of the Memory of Dead Defenders of the Fatherland Act. Hence, the very notion of indigeneity, usually not applied to Russia and other industrial nations, may need rethinking. An indigenous consciousness is the one that connects an individual not to the place of his birth, but to the place of his ancestor’s death. Alternatively a dominant attitude to the Russian-German military clashes in the 20th century adopts a narrow nation-state-centered interpretation of the event, the one that sharply opposes Germans and Russians as citizens of different political entities. Citizenship, however, reduces individual identities to the matters of birth leaving the death factor blank. The fact that the two nations have been united for centuries by a dense network of border-crossings, intermarriages, mutual fascination, common stereotypes and crimes, conjoined mineral resources, and, finally, mass graves has been put under the carpet. The reenactment of the American Civil War bears uncanny resemblance to the reenactment of the World War II bringing us back to the point I extracted earlier from the circumstances of my own family history. Was the World War II a Great Patriotic or a Civil War? What are the hidden possibilities of the social process in Europe to be unearthed from under the unreflexive state-sponsored and state-controled ideologies? The horrors of the 20th century history are convincing in indicating that we have no secure comprehension of the social forces operating in Europe. Neither do we have a clear idea of the nature of the global forces that increasingly impinge on and transform the popular and official cultures of the continent.

Snapshot X. Frontiers of Romanticism: The Russo-German School of Historical, Kinship and Folklore Sciences? The bonds of mutual bloodshed that connected Russia and Germany in the 20th century contrasted sharply with the intense cultural exchange between these two nations in the 18-19th centuries. As Richard von Weizsacker put it, “With some of their neighbors the Germans have closer ties than with the Russians but with none of them the ties are deeper” (Kopelev 1994, 6). Enligtenment laid the foundation for Russo-German friendship. The establishment of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (Academia Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae) took root in the correspondence between Tsar Peter the Great and the great German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. For instance, in a letter from 1716, Leibniz outline the structure of Western education in Russia that included schools, universities, and academias. German professors dominated Russian academia in the 18th-early 19th centuries. Among the very first members of the Academy were such luminaries as mathematicians Leonhard Euler, Daniel and Nicolaus Bernoulli, Christian Goldbach, physicist Georg Wolgand Kraft, historian Gerhard Friedrich Muller, anatomist Johann Duvernoy, embryologist Caspar Wolff, and zoologist/botanist Peter Simon Pallas. The early years of the St. Petersburg Academy were marked by incessant conflicts between top-rank German faculty and low-rank Russian faculty. In turn, German universities attracted young Russians with their philosophical freedom, mystique and richness as captured in Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (1823-1831) (trans. by Charles Johnston):

Vladimir Lensky, whose creator

was Gottingen, his alma mater,

good-looking, in the flower of age,

a poet and a Kantian sage.

He’d brought back all the fruits of learning

from German realms of mist and steam,

freedom’s enthusiastic dream,

a spirit strange, a spirit burning,

an eloquence of fevered strength,

and raven curls of shoulder-length.

German domination was also tangible in Russian political and military institutions, as illustrated by an anecdote of General Yermolaev in the early 19th century, whose ultimate request to Tsar Alexander I was to be promoted to the rank of a “German” (Laqueur 1965, 16). In some West European quarters, Russia began to be called, half-jokingly, a “German colony.” The preponderance of ethnic Germans in Russian bureaucratic circles as well as the continuing infiltration of philosophical and political ideas from Germany caused a backlash on the part of the emerging group of pro-Russian intellectual elite. By the mid-19th century, the Russian intellectual arena was polarized between the Slavophiles (slavofily) and the Westernizers (zapadniki). The former defended the inherent capacity of Russia for sovereign development, while the latter argued that Russia should shake off the burden of “Oriental” manners and join the Western model of political and cultural development.

Slavophiles and Westernizers had the same philosophical source lying outside of Russia, namely Georg Hegel‘s philosophy of history (see Chizhevskii 1939; Walicki 1975; Siljak 2001). 19th century Russian intellectuals were deeply enamored with German philosophy, and Schelling, Fichte, Herder and Hegel were their favorites (see Kovalevskii 1915). Hegel, however, was the one who single-handedly brainstormed a major split in Russian self-reflection. The all-around fascination of Russian intellectuals with Hegel is recorded in several memoirs. Sergei Soloviev (1915, 60) admitted that “time was spent not so much on the study of facts as on thinking about them, for a philosophical trend prevailed among us. Hegel was spinning the minds of everyone.” Alexander Herzen wrote: “[T]here was not a paragraph in all three parts of the “Logic,” in the two of the “Aesthetic,” in the “Encyclopedia,” etc., which would not have been the subject of desperate disputes for several nights in a row. People who loved each other parted ways for whole weeks at a time because they disagreed about the definition of ‘all-embracing spirit’ or had taken as an insult an opinion on the ‘absolute personality and its existence in itself.’ Every significant pamphlet… in which there was a mere mention of Hegel was ordered and read until it was tattered, smudged, and fell apart in a few days” (cited in Siljak 2001, 338). Many Russians equated the importance of Hegelian philosophy with the importance of the discovery of America (Chizhevskii 1939, 36, 50). In the Russian mind, this worship of German spirit was strangely coupled with the disgust for German people, both inside Russia and in Germany.

Alexander Herzen (1812-1870) occupies a critical position in the Hegelian trajectory in Russia. The illegitimate son of a Russian nobleman, Ivan Iakovlev, and a German woman, Henriette Haag, he was given his last name by his mother, who thought that the German word Hertz ‘heart’ will communicate to the child the essential Protestant quality. By irony of history, Herzen’s mother came from Stuttgart, the home town of Hegel. Hegel is sometimes referred to as “the father of Russian socialism.” In Lenin’s version of the history of the Russian revolutionary movement, “the Decembrists had woken up Herzen, who then unfolded revolutionary propaganda.”


Westernizers (most notably, Sergei Soloviev, Alexander Herzen and Vissarion Belinskii) accepted Hegel’s glamorization of Europe as the pinnacle of human spirit and were convinced that Russia, due to its embracement of Christianity, was caught in the net of Civilization. According to Hegel, the dawn of human civilization was in the East. In a sun-like manner, the human spirit gradually shifted westward. Christianity effectuated the fundamental transformation in the course of human history. It proclaimed the equality and unequivocal worth of every individual, established a connection between the human and the divine worlds, and brought divine grace onto the human world in the form of a state. From the Palestine, the human spirit moved to Western Europe and took an ecclesiastical form: the Catholic Church was the pinnacle of human evolution in the Middle Ages. With the advent of German Protestantism, the Spirit migrated over to Germany and took the secular form of the Prussian state. Hegel remained ambiguous regarding the Spirit’s next stop, and Russian Westernizers assumed that it could have been Russia on the basis of the following excerpt from Hegel’s letter to one of his students, Estonian Baron von Yxkull: “Russia…carries within its depths enormous possibilities for the development of its intense nature” (cited in Chizhevskii 1939, 13). But on other occasions, Hegel would not hesitate discarding Russia from the pathway of the Spirit on the grounds of its typical Oriental vices such as corruption, backwardness, and passivity. Alternatively, the Slavophiles contended that it is the Orient that has preserved the original human purity, happiness, unity, and freedom, and that Russia is blessed by being part of this ancient tradition. Europe has lost its touch with the primordial source of divine wisdom and degraded into ethical, political and religious formalism. The terms of the debate, nevertheless, were equally Hegelian.

The Slavophiles and the Westernizers were not as diametrically opposed to each other as they were willing to present. All of them were voracious readers of Hegel; all of them considered him the foremost European philosopher’ and all of them attended German universities and heard Hegel or his students speaking live. Prominent Slavophiles such as Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) preferred to reside in Western Europe, while Westernizers tended to appeal to the West without leaving their Mother Russia. Slavophile Ivan Kirievskii started off as a Westernizer, while Westernizer Sergei Soloviev, the son of an Orthodox minister, had his early sympathies with the Salvophiles (Dukes 1988, 188). Kirievskii studied metaphysics in Germany in 1830 and then opened the journal “Evropeets” (European) in Moscow. Slavophile Fedor Dostoyevsky (1983) considered Germany, the home of a “proud and special people,” as lying on the Russian side of the European divide and “protesting” against the “West” since the times of Arminius. (Later, during the World War II, Dolstoevsky would become a favorite read of German soldiers on the Eastern front.) Slavophiles and Westernizers were also bound by “fictive” kinship, as in the case of Sergei Soloviev’s being the godfather of Aksakov’s son.

If the Westernizers took Hegel at face value, sequestered him from Western Europe and appropriated him for their vision of a proximate enlightening “West,” the Slavophiles would turn Hegel philosophy against Hegel himself, blend him with corrupt Western Europe and imply thereby that the Spirit was indeed bearing toward Russia. Every time the Slavophiles challenged Hegel, they identified with his German critics and alternatives, such as Schelling, Feuerbach or Herder. Every time the Westernizers endorsed Hegel, they cut open a spiritual void to be filled up with an authentic Slavic experience. The kinship of the Slavophiles and Westernizers was so unmistakable that they could easily become bitter enemies as well as intimate friends. The best way to interpret the debate between the Slavophiles and the Westernizers involves, therefore, treating them as a split within a single Romantic tradition. This internally-dichotomous Romanticism was infused with an unusual tension, an acute perception of a frontier, a border, and a warring front. The inner frontier, always ready to disrupt the romantic unity, communicated to it a peculiar ascetic, ostensibly formalist touch. But it was not formalism, but rather frontalism, the romantic self-description of a spirit standing off against nature.

The entangled relationship between Russian and German academic identities gave rise to the Russian school of kinship studies. It was initiated by the German historian, Chair of History, Statistics, and Geography of the Russian state (later part of the Law Faculty and a Rector) at the University of Dorpat (now Tartu in Estonia), Gustav von Ewers (1781-1830). Von Ewers was an integral part of the tectonic shift from natural to historical jurisprudence initiated by Friedrich C. von Savigny (1779-1861), a favorite of Wilhelm von Humboldt, the chair of Roman law at the University of Berlin and one of the founders of Zeitschrift für geschichtliche Rechtswissenschaft. In a book entitled “The Ancient Law of the Russians in Its Historical Development” (Das Älteste Recht der Russen in seiner Geschichtlichen Entwickelung) originally published in German (Ewers 1826, 1-18) but shortly thereafter translated into the Russian (Ewers 1835, 19-28), von Ewers advanced a thesis that succession among the ancient Russian princes (kniazja) followed the kinship principle. In the development of kinship studies in Russia, traditional Russian society, as recorded in the earliest chronicles, played the same role as Iroquois (or wider American Indian) society played in the original researches of Lewis H. Morgan. If early American scholars (including Morgan) pondered over the origin of American Indians as a biological population, German scholars were preoccupied with the origins of the Russian state. The focus on the state as the driving force of Russian history is already evident in Nikolai Karamzin’s 11-volume History of the Russian State (1818-1824). The “Normanist theory” that attributed the first emergence of rule and order in Novgorod Russia to a Northern Germanic (Scandinavian) conquest was advanced by German historians, especially Muller, in the mid-18th century. It is still credited as a scientific theory, but it has been challenged by a number of subsequent historians. It is sometimes seen as a reactionary ideology aimed at stressing Russia’s inherent backwardness vis-a-vis the West.

The careful elaboration of the idea of primordial Russian consanguinity von Ewers left to the rising star of Russian historiography, Sergei Soloviev, the father of the philosopher Vladimir Soloviev. In Soloviev’s writings, the study of kinship was part of a general theory of Russian history, which became known as the State School (gosudarstvennaia shkola) and which was profoundly shaped by Hegelian philosophy (see Medushevskii 1988). On the basis of kin term usages practiced among Russian princes and preserved in the earliest chronicles, Soloviev built a theory of kinship rule (rodovoi byt). According to this theory, ties of consanguinity (and especially common descent from a male ancestor) were essential for the development of the earliest Russian state, but later they were severed, thus paving the way to civil society. One of the proponents of the Juridico-Historical School, an admirer of Hegel, a student of Leopold von Ranke and von Savigny in Berlin and a teacher of Soloviev in Moscow, Timofei Granovskii (1855), presented Germanic evidence suggestive of ancient patriarchate. A German historian, Heinrich von Sybel preempted Granovskii by a decade and traced German kingship to ancient kinship structures in 1844 (Sybel 1844). The Westernizers’ agenda expressed itself in the supposition that Russian history exhibits a logic of evolution from consanguinity to state and that this evolution is progressive and irreversible. By the early 20th century, Hegelian philosophy, the State School of Russian history, and its theory of kinship rule were on the wane. The legacy of another Hegelian, Karl Marx, and of the American scholar of kinship, Lewis H. Morgan, became the party line in the Soviet theory of world history, kinship evolution, and the structure of primitive society. Incoming theories of Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski, Levi-Strauss, Needham, and others were carefully integrated into a grand schema of the evolution of the “primitive formation.”

Von Ewers-Soloviev’s theory of kinship rule was attacked by the Slavophiles, most prominently Konstantin Aksakov (1817-1860), who accused von Ewers, Soloviev, Pogodin and others of what is today known as the exoticization, reification, and orientalization of ancient Russia. In Aksakov’s opinion, traditional Russian culture always revolved around nuclear family and local community, and not around the ties of consanguinity. Slavophiles did not deny the primacy of a stage of consanguinity in the evolution of human society, but they insisted that in the Russian society of the end of the first millennium A.D. consanguineal ties had already outlived themselves. This argument brought Slavophiles the final victory. Ironically they won due to the cultural influence from the West on Russian academia. The evolutionary model of Lewis H. Morgan placed American “savages” at the base of the human evolutionary ladder, and removed the spell of consanguinity from early Russian society.

In the late 20th century, kinship studies were mostly conducted as part of the so-called Leningrad School of Africanistics that flourished in the 1970s-1980s under the guiding hand of its patriarch, Dmitry A. Olderogge (1903-1988), himself a Baltic German from a Holstein lineage (see Osnitskaia 2002).


Olderogge’s father, Alexei Olderogge, an adjutant to the commander of the II Manchurian Army during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, escaped from Soviet Russia across the Finnish border in 1918 and died in Paris some time in the 1940s. Olderogge’s father’s brother, Vladimir, chose the opposite venue: a General Major of the Tsarist Army, he offered his services to the Bolshevik state and became Head of Headquarters of the Eastern front. He was in charge of the defeat of the White Guard General Kolchak in Siberia in 1919. A hero of the revolution, Vladimir Olderogge was executed on Stalin’s orders in 1931 (rehabilitated in 1974) (Osnitskaia 2003, 18-20).

His controversial heritage notwithstanding, Dmitry Olderogge was one of the few Soviet Africanists who had an opportunity to do research in Africa (in Ethiopia, Nubia, Egypt, and West Africa) and in major West European centers of African studies. In 1927-1928, Olderogge was dispatched to Germany to study African languages and museum collections under the famous missionary, Diedrich Westermann. He became the first professional Africanist in Russia and taught Swahili, Hausa and Zulu languages in St. Petersburg. In 1928, Olderogge became a member of the International African Institute (Osnitskaia 2002, 22). Of international renown, Olderogge literally reigned among St. Petersburg’s students of Africa for good 40 years holding a joint appointment as Chair of the Department of African Languages at St. Petersburg State University and as Chair of the Department of Africa in Kunstkamera. At the time when research travel outside of the Soviet Union was next to impossible, a Russian German, Dmitry Ol’derogge, was the living avatar of advanced scientific “West” in Soviet African studies. “His authority was absolute, the breadth of knowledge astonishing, and scientific intuitiion unique” (Popov 2002, 51). Olderogge’s most lasting theoretical contribution to kinship studies is the concept of “epigamy” (i.e. exogamy and endogamy thought of as a single social institution), which gave the title to a volume of his collected works (Ol’derogge 1983).

Olderogge imposed a rigid research agenda on St. Petersburg Africanists that rested on three pillars: the study of textual sources, the study of languages, and the study of traditional social and political systems (Popov 1988). The latter venue brought together such scholars as Viacheslav Misiugin (1924-1998), Nikolai Girenko, and Vladimir A. Popov. In an ingenious application of comparative method, Misiugin re-established connection with the 19th century Russian school of kinship studies by trying to demonstrate that Swahili systems of inheritance can shed light on the obscure logic behind succession within royal families as recorded in ancient Russian and Western European chronicles (Misiugin 1980; Misiugin 1983).

The Slavophile-Westernizer symbiosis, as a special case of Russo-German symbiosis, produced the phenomenon of Vladimir Propp (1895-1970).


Vladimir Propp gone native.

Born in St. Petersburg, Propp, whose eyes bear an uncanny resemblance to my own father’s eyes, was a son of German Lutheran settlers from the Russian “Mideast” (Saratovskaia guberniia). Propp’s father supported the Germans in the World War I, and Propp himself, although nominally loyal to Russia, considered the Germans to be the righteous party in the imperial brawl (Ivanov 2005). In 1913, he entered St. Petersburg State University with an intention to study German literature (Propp continued to write poems in German until the end of his life.) But “the infatuation with Russia, partially derived from my distaste for the surrounding German parochialism and rudeness, started to break through more and more” (Bovkalo 1995, 174). At the beginning of the war, when his home town was renamed from German St. Petersburg to Russian Petrograd, Propp switched to the Department of Russo-Slavic Literature. He avoided the military service on the Western front, and instead attended to the wounded at a military hospital. There he met a Russian sister-of-mercy and soon married her. Propp captured well some of the recurrent features of the 20th century Russo-German warfare: “Everyone said one thing, but thought another. Everyone was saying that we will beat the Germans, and everyone was convinced that the Germans will beat us. Everyone was talking about German atrocities, and everyone knew well that there were none. And reading in the reports that the troops retreated to the predesigned positions, everyone knew that there were no predesigned positions; the enemy simply kicked us out. The war was enveloped into an impenetrable armor of lies” (Propp 2002, 115). The horrors of war and an identity conflict (“my origins. The lack of Russian roots” [Bovkalo 1995, 174]) brought him into Orthodox Christianity and the Petrograd Theological Institute.

Propp is now widely recognized as one of the founders of modern semiotics and narratology, as reflected in his groundbreaking works Morphology of the Folktale (1928), The Historical Roots of the Wondertale (1946) and Russian Agrarian Festivals (1963). Prefacing every chapter with epigraphs from Goethe’s Morphologie, he analyzed the folktale as an oral genre, whose whole variety can be telescoped to a permanent set of 31 “functions” and 7 character types. This structure formed historically and reflected early magico-religious beliefs, initiation and funerary rituals. Propp adored the natural beauty of his discovery, and indeed his system of narrative functions was strikingly analogous to Mendel’s laws of heredity and Mendeleev’s periodical system of chemical elements, the two marvels of 19th century science arisen from the Slavo-Germanic part of the world. In the 1930s-1940s, he was ostracized by the Communist literary “experts” for bourgeois reductionism, while the authorities took his German descent into consideration and forbade his return to St. Petersburg after World War II. Only the interference of academician Voznesenskii restored Propp in his own town. Embracing both the Humboldtian-Herderian-Grimmian tradition of blending linguistics, folklore and social psychology and the corresponding Russian tradition of Fedor Buslaev, Alexander Veselovskii, Orest and Vsevolod Millers, and Alexander Potebnia, Propp preempted Levi-Straussian structuralism and forced Levi-Strauss to resort to misguided and snide remarks regarding his “formalism” (Levi-Strauss 1960). In response, Propp denied association with formalism (Humboldtian/Potebnian’s ‘inner form’, i.e. our ‘frontier’, was more akin to his morphological analysis) wrote: “I am by far stronger than this famous Frenchman, Claude Levi-Strauss, who writes about me so dismissively” (Propp 2002, 298), thus reasserting the superiority of Russo-German romanticism over Western structuralism.

Essentially Propp’s “functions” formed an archaic relational system replicating itself through a myriad of actual texts. Propp treated folklore not like literature (Humboldt’s ergon), but like language, namely as a collective, authorless, unconscious activity (Humboldt’s energeia) in which social reality in inavoidably reflected. This general approach brings folklore studies in close contact with kinship studies, and a Westernizer could easily launch against Propp the same critique to which kinship rule theory had been subjected a century earlier. The Russian commonfolk were not backward and have always had true “modern” authors in their midst. In contrast to von Ewers and Soloviev, who formulated kinship rule theory on the basis of official Russian historical chronicles, Propp unearthed his ancient Russian (and by implication German and Indo-European) cognitive pattern from common people’s folktales. A more specific resemblance of folklore studies to kinship studies can be seen in the following parameters of Propp’s theory. In actual tales, all his characters were encoded by relational nouns, such as ‘tsar’, ‘mother’, ‘stepdaughter’, ‘bride’, ‘wife’, ‘father’, etc. His own terminology carried the same relationality – “donor,” “villain,” “antagonist,” etc. These functions and characters were stripped of all consanguineal connotations, but the whole systems was likened by Propp to something biological, a skeleton or a botanical classification. It was argued that Propp artificially divorced functions from characters, and priviledged the former over the latter (Liberman 1984, xxxii). Consequently, he never directed his major works towards kinship studies, although in a minor article entitled Oedipus in Light of Folklore (Propp 1944), again prefiguring Levi-Strauss, he placed folklore evidence against the Morganian periodization of the history of human kinship and marriage. If philosopher Levi-Strauss, defeated in 1949 by the “elementary structures of kinship,” fled from kinship into the world of myth, searching for pure structures, scientist Propp wisely left kinship to anthropologists.

If in the “West” the romantic conflict between beautiful illusion and horrible reality was resolved in the direction of sacrificing Don Quixote’s individual delusion (see Girard 1965) and beefing up the pragmatic world of the Everyman, Sancho Panza, the Russo-German frontier has preserved the original dialogic unity at the expense of reciprocal violence and mutual adoration. As his Russian friend, Gleb, featured in Propp’s autobiographical novel “The Tree of Life” said, leaving for the front, “Humanity is the most cruel part of life… You know what Goethe said: the romantic has a secret love for the executioner. And it is not accidental at all that the nation that has created the most profound philosophy, the most heavenly, the most unearthly music, also astonished the world with its soldierie. But our [Russian-Orthodox] Church is more profound than Kant, don’t you think? And our chants are worthy of Beethoven’s sonatas? Can you feel that? So, here is what I am telling you: the Holy Russia, with its “women’s tears,” saints’ relics, “beloved father,” and tender diminutives will smack so hard, will stir such cruelty that after it the Spanish Inquisition will look an idyll to you” (Propp 2002, 151). In the Far West, the original European romantic frontier was reconstituted between whites and Indians, which resulted in the resurrection of the Don Quixote-Sancho Panza archetype in the form of Pathfinder and Chingachgook (James F. Cooper), Old Shatterhand and Winnetou (Karl May), Lewis H. Morgan and Ely S. Parker, John Neihardt and Black Elk, Lone Ranger and Tonto, and, most recently, Randall McMurphy and Chief Bromden (Ken Kesey). In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), Kesey most successfully resurrects the Quixotian delusional theme, now in the light of clinical insanity. He has to take out the rowdy Irish freedommonger in order to restore the original freedom of the Indian.


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