In 1945 Europe was a vast graveyard. The diaspora of the dead was perhaps most prominent in Germany, where the fallen of the four occupying forces, as well as other nationals, were spread across the country. As the allies worked through the postwar settlement with Germany and its allies, they considered another pressing question: How to treat the dead? This presentation explores how the dead became a point of contact, conflict and contrast in Germany that provide a window into the dynamics of power sharing between the occupiers. The politics of the sacred demanded that each of the four allies enter into uneasy interactions and compromises, even as the lines in the Cold War hardened.
From 1941 to 1945 thousands of British and American sailors came to the northern Soviet ports of Arkhangel’sk and Molotovsk with Lend-Lease convoys. On the shore they made many casual contacts with local residents, in particular with Soviet women. These contacts came under close scrutiny of the Soviet authorities who tried to limit the alleged subversive influence of foreign nationals on Soviet citizens. Local women who dated Allied personnel faced harassment and repression that ranged from administrative exile to imprisonment in the Gulag. Resentments against women who had intimate relationships with foreigners during the war were widespread throughout the European theater, and not limited to the USSR. Still the Soviet authorities’ treatment of Arkhangel’sk women who dated nationals of ‘friendly’ countries was particularly harsh. They faced not just moral condemnation, but legal prosecution and long prison terms. The severity of their repression is comparable to how the Soviet side treated civilian Nazi collaborators. Ultimately, Soviet reactions to such wartime contacts with Allied nationals shed light on the broader social history of the Soviet home front, inter-Allied relationships on a grassroots level, and Soviet wartime and postwar justice that was arbitrary in nature and largely defined by local initiatives.
Seth Bernstein has produced a valuable institutional history of the Soviet youth organization, the Komsomol. By tracing the Komsomol from its origin after the October Revolution, through the years of high Stalinism in the 1930s and World War II, and into the immediate post-war period, Bernstein argues that the group went from being an iconoclastic (and, from the state’s point of view, unwieldy) collection of politically active youth, to a structured organization designed for ‘disciplining youth for socialism.’ (p. 222) Moreover, in drawing upon an impressive range of archival sources, Bernstein is able to create a full picture of the Komsomol, including both the debates over its political role at the top of its hierarchy, and the repercussions of those policies on ordinary members and would-be members. This presentation is particularly useful for scholars interested in gender history, as Bernstein regularly addresses the ways that men and women navigated the changing dynamics of Komsomol politics.
In South Africa the Russian Revolution was admired by socialists and nationalists alike. The National Party soon stopped praising the Bolsheviks, but the effect of the Revolution on the nascent Communist Party was important and lasting. South African communists closely watched developments in Soviet Russia and established relations with the Communist International (Comintern) even before the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was born. The Party’s ideology and policy were shaped by the Comintern’s ideas and instructions.
In the 1920s and 1930s the struggle around the the Comintern-imposed slogan of the independent native republic and the Comintern’s campaigns for ‘bolshevisation’ nearly brought the party to its demise. But it survived, and its leadership took the Comintern’s ideals and ideas into the post-war era. The Comintern’s theoretical legacy, particularly its idea of a two-stage (national and socialist) revolution proved long-lasting. This idea became entrenched in the programs of the African National Congress, the party of national liberation and since 1994, the party of government. Even today a significant proportion of South Africa’s black population cherishes the vision of a radical revolution and demands its implementation.