To the Tashkent Station
Evacuation and Survival in the Soviet Union at War
Cornell University Press 2009
New Books in HistoryNew Books in Jewish StudiesNew Books in Military HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network November 20, 2009 Marshall Poe
By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Bolshevik Party had already amassed a considerable amount of expertise in moving masses of people around. Large population transfers (to put it mildly) were part and parcel of building socialism. Certain “elements” needed to be sent for re-education (the Kulaks), others to build new socialist cities (Magnitogorsk), and still others back to where–ethnically speaking–they “belonged” (Baltic Germans). Thus when the Germans attacked, the Bolsheviks were ready to move their “assets” out of the way.
Sort of. In To the Tashkent Station. Evacuation and Survival in the Soviet Union at War (Cornell UP, 2009), Rebecca Manley does a fine job of telling the tale of how they evacuated millions of people as the Germans advanced in 1941 and 1942. Though the Party had plans (the Bolsheviks were great planners…), everything did not, as the Russians say, go po planu. As the enemy advance, threatened people did what threatened people always do–they ran off (or, as the Soviet authorities said, “self-evacuated.”). The Party was not really in a position to control this mass exodus as many members of the Party itself had hit the road. Of course some Soviet citizens stayed put, comforting themselves with the (false) hope that the Nazis were really only after the Jews and Communists. But most didn’t, particularly if they had sufficient blat (“pull”) to get a train ticket to a place like Tashkent. Under Communism, everyone is equal. In the real world, everyone isn’t, as many Soviet citizens found out. Some were allowed to leave, others weren’t. Some were given shelter, others weren’t. Some were fed, others weren’t. In this time of crisis, all of the dirty secrets of Communism were revealed. This is not to say, of course, that it wasn’t a heroic effort. It was, and a largely successful one. The Party managed to save much of its human and physical capital, and this fact contributed mightily to its eventual triumph in the war. Moreover, it saved millions of Jews from certain death, a fact that deserves to be acknowledged more often than it is. There are, then, many reasons to be thankful the Soviets bugged out as fast as they did. And there are also many reasons to be thankful Rebecca Manley has told us the story of how they did it.
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