Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Eric Lohr's "Russian Citizenship"

Eric Lohr is Susan E. Lehrman Chair of Russian History and Culture at American University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Russian Citizenship: From Empire to Soviet Union, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls in the middle of my chapter on emigration and denaturalization, a chapter that begins with the sentence “Few countries have had such a deep tradition of opposition to emigration or denaturalization as Russia.” The first section of the chapter explains historically-grounded reasons for that tradition. Page 99 discusses a 1909 proposal to “legalize” emigration and delves into the human costs of the continuing sanctions on emigrants. To leave the country, they had to pay emigrant smuggling rings exorbitant fees. Once abroad, they were often left at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. Page 99 gives a few examples. A group of 10,000 Russian workers ended up stranded on Hawaiian plantations, suffering from tropical illnesses, but were not released from obligations to work for subsistence level wages. The Russian workers spooked the local authorities with their socialist agitation, but still were held in bondage to their unfair contracts. Another group of Russian workers arrived in Germany appalled to find they had been hired as scabs to replace German workers on strike. German employers in this and other cases held Russian workers in the country by seizing their passports and holding them until the end of the work season. But, as later pages detail, despite an overwhelmingly reasonable case to join the rest of the world and legalize emigration, the proposals failed to pass due to fears that the precarious ethnic balance in many parts of the empire could be upset if Russian peasants were suddenly free to leave.
Learn more about Russian Citizenship at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue