An exploration of the disturbing modern trend of displacing minority populations, by Stanford historian Naimark (The Russians in Germany, not reviewed).
The 20th century saw some remarkable episodes of state brutality, and the author attempts to find some explanations for this by examining five European cases: the removal of the Armenians and Greeks by the Turks during and after WWI; the German attempt to annihilate the European Jewish population during WWII; the Soviet relocation of the Chechen-Ingush and Crimean Tartar populations during WWII; the post-WWII deportation of Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia; and the Yugoslavian civil wars of the 1990s. Naimark defines ethnic cleansing as “remov[ing] a people . . . from a concrete territory” while genocide has the more final intent of “killing off a part or all of an ethnic, religious, or national group.” While both might result in similar ends, the difference lies in the intention of the offending party. Mass murder is not uncommon in recorded history, of course, but the author finds the contemporary difference to be the role of the modern state in all of these cases: the state’s ability to mobilize resources and exercise its official authority lends a cold brutality to the resolution of ancient differences so prevalent in Europe. The evidence is sketchy, but the first two instances are classified as genocides based on the perpetrators’ official and unofficial statements of intent to kill the offending minority populations, while in the latter three cases the deaths, though not unintentional, were incidental to the states’ goals of simply removing populations from designated geographic areas.
Little truly new material, but, still, a useful, albeit pedantic, discussion of the distinction between various types of modern state-sponsored cruelty.