Hit the road, Jack: Deportation and Western Xenophobia in Soviet Russia

During World War II and even post-war, the Soviet Union was infamous for its deportation and xenophobic policies. This began in 1943, as the NKVD marched one million ethnic minorities, in particular the Kalmyks, from their homes into what is now Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Many of these groups were charged with treason, under the assumption that they were spies for the Germans. These refugees were transported by cattle cars and even in trucks supplied to the Soviets by the United States. According to this New York Times article, some were even relocated to a site where the Russians did atomic bomb tests.

Lev Brodaty: A Common Language (1942) This cartoon from Krokodil shows the Soviet peoples, including peoples of the Caucasus, united in their opposition to the German invaders. The cartoon by coincidence was published on the eve of the great deportation. (Source: soviethistory.mcalester.edu)

Lev Brodaty: A Common Language (1942)
This cartoon from Krokodil shows the Soviet peoples, including peoples of the Caucasus, united in their opposition to the German invaders. The cartoon by coincidence was published on the eve of the great deportation. (Source: soviethistory.mcalester.edu)

Post-war, the Soviets took this xenophobic behavior even further, as they restricted access to the West in 1947. This meant that Soviet citizens could not even talk to friends and relatives outside of the Soviet Union, no matter how trivial the topic. Much of this was due to the fact that Russia was devastated from war, and Stalin did not want the United States and other allies to discover this. They broadcasted an image of false “military might” to the rest of the world and did everything to keep up this appearance.

Kukryniksy: Clever Invention (1947) The incandescent lamp was invented by comrades Iablochkov and Lodygin.  Yes, but the Americans invented the idea that they invented it! Source: William Nelson, ed.: Out of the Crocodile's Mouth. Washington: Public Affairs Press. 1949.

Kukryniksy: Clever Invention (1947)
The incandescent lamp was invented by comrades Iablochkov and Lodygin.
Yes, but the Americans invented the idea that they invented it!
Source: William Nelson, ed.: Out of the Crocodile’s Mouth. Washington: Public Affairs Press. 1949.

“This entailed denying the West accurate knowledge about the true situation within the Soviet Union by waging a massive counter-intelligence campaign, by prohibiting even the most mundane contacts between Soviet citizens and foreigners, and by severely curtailing the movements and activities of Western diplomats, attachés, journalists and even tourists” (Freeze 399).

Viktor Koretskii: Loose Lips Help the Enemy Source: Electronic Museum of Russian Posters. 2004.

Viktor Koretskii: Loose Lips Help the Enemy
Source: Electronic Museum of Russian Posters. 2004.

On the media and cultural side, this also meant condemning all things non-Russian: Camembert cheese from France was renamed zakusochnyi (“snack cheese”Smilie: ;), aviation was declared a “Russian technology developed with little western help.” Propaganda to deter citizens from sharing information with their neighbors was also imposed on the country.

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Von Geldern, James. “1943: Deportation of Minorities.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oc. 2014.

Von Geldern, James. “1947: Xenophobia.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.

“Kalmyk Deportations of 1943.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

Walz, Jay. “Soviet Deportings Receive Credenge.” New York Times [New York] 18 Oct. 1949: 9. Print.

 

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2 Responses to Hit the road, Jack: Deportation and Western Xenophobia in Soviet Russia

  1. What an important topic! I love the cartoon of the “Common Language,” which implies the opposite of what motivated the deportations — namely the fear that non-Russian groups, especially in and around the Caucasus, would collaborate with the Germans rather than oppose them. The postwar NYT article is also really interesting. I like how you connect the deportations during the war to vulnerability after the war that manifests itself as xenophobia.

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