A diaspora in formation: Kalmyk DPs in interwar Europe

Authors: Edward Holland*, University of Arkansas, Elvira Churyumova, University of Arkansas
Topics: Eurasia, Population Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: Kalmykia, Russa, Europe, Historical Geography, Historical GIS, Refugees
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drawing on data from the International Tracing Service archive, this paper recreates two sets of historical pathways and experiences for ethnic Kalmyks (N = ~500) who became refugees either in the interwar period or during World War II. The first narrative draws from the T/USA forms and recounts the history of exile and refugeedom in the wake of the Russian Civil War and the evacuation of Crimea by White forces in 1920. Interestingly, many of these stories have changed a few years later, with some Kalmyks acknowledging that they stayed on in the USSR for some of the war, only to leave—either of their own will or by force—as the Nazis retreated after Stalingrad. The paper makes two significant contributions to the discipline of geography. First, we summarize the experience of persons displaced as a result of the Second World War. The paper provides a detailed narrative of histories that were previously lost yet remain important to understanding the resonances of the conflict. Moreover, the detailed study of how individuals explained their movement and experiences before, during, and after the war lends depth to the literature on Soviet DPs and their desire not to be repatriated. Second, we consider the value added through techniques of historical geographical information systems (GIS) to understanding the spatiality of movement through the camp system in postwar Europe. This paper, in turn, will build on recent work on the geographies of genocide in Europe that rely on GIS as a platform for spatial analysis.

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