Russian President Dmitrii Medvedev just signed into law a change in the list of Russian military holidays. June 29 is now the “Day of Partisans and Underground Resistance.”
First a linguistic note: the word in the Russian text for “underground resistance” is “podpol’shchikov,” which could just as easily refer to Bolshevik party members on the run from the tsarist police as to heroic resistance against the Nazis. It’s the same word.
Still, the context makes it pretty clear this is NOT what those who introduced the bill had in mind. This change in the list of holidays originated from Briansk (close to the western border) and the specific day commemorated marks the 29 June 1941 Central Committee / Council of People’s Commissars decree calling on party and state organizations in occupied zones to take up the partisan struggle against the invaders. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track a copy of that document online, but I’d welcome anyone who has a link. Ken Slepyan’s Stalin’s Guerrilashas a nice discussion of the context on pp. 24-25.
Much as I’d like to be able to draw some broader political significance out of this, I think it’s actually a sign of the normalization of the State Duma’s function–that its legislators are spending time on pointless commemorations of various good things.
Over the last couple of years, there have been two jobs come open for endowed chairs in American military history at major research universities: the Mason Chair at Ohio State and the Ambrose-Hesseltine Chair at Wisconsin. Ohio State’s failed the first time around, and Wisconsin’s travails made the popular press; both went outside of traditional academia to draw on military officer-academics when they finally succeeded in making a hire. Ohio State brought in Peter Mansoor after a brief stint in Baghdad; Wisconsin has just hired John Hall, a major who’s taught at West Point.
Is there a pattern here? Given what we so often hear about academia’s supposed hostility to things military, why did these two plum jobs go to men with long military careers? After all, while Ohio State has been friendly to military history for many years, Wisconsin’s history department gave its name to, a certain brand of populist, anti-imperial critique of American policy.
For one, this suggests that the supposed hostility to the military might not be so intense, after all.
For two, military officers might indeed have an advantage on the academic job market. Measured in terms of scholarly output, Peter Mansoor is on par with an associate professor (one monograph and a memoir) and John Hall with a newly-minted Ph.D (one book in press). But they come with an entire previous career’s worth of gravitas that most nervous applicants could only wish to possess, and significant undergraduate teaching experience.
Military history in the Soviet Union was an exclusively military preserve for decades, with pernicious effects on the quality and independence of scholarship. The dialogue between military and civilian practitioners in the West is a much preferable state of affairs. Civilian Ph.Ds have long taken positions in military educational and research institutions; movement in the other direction is only natural.
But are young Ph.D candidates in American military history discouraged by this? I honestly don’t know, but would welcome enlightenment.
My program at Kansas State has a lot of serving military officers going through masters and Ph.D programs. At least to judge by what they tell me, they get a lot out of the history and political science courses we give them. And in this time of tight budgets everywhere, it’s worth pointing out that we work cheap.
Still, every once in a while it’s nice to get some independent evidence of the importance of good education on the complexities of the outside world–like not opening yourself up to the snarky comments of foreign media.
To wit, I give you a bit from a recent Johnson’s Russia List:
Russian TV pokes fun at top US general struggling with Georgian names
March 31, 2009
The state-owned Russian news channel Vesti TV has ridiculed a senior US general’s inability to pronounce the names of the Georgian capital and the country’s president during his visit to Georgia.
Throughout the afternoon of 31 March, Vesti repeatedly showed a clip of Gen James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressing a joint news conference in Tbilisi with President Mikheil Saakashvili. The general could be heard saying in English: “The beauty of Tbili- of Tiblisi is world renowned. President Shaskakhvili and I had a very productive-”. The Russian translation then kicked in: “The beauty of the city of Tibl- Tiblisi is world renowned. President Shashkashvili and I had a productive meeting.”
The presenter commented: “US General James Cartwright has vowed to help Georgian defence. Among his top priorities is memorizing how to pronounce the name of the Georgian capital and president’s surname.”