A London-based writer, broadcaster and journalist, Stefan Simanowitz writes for publications in the UK and around the world including the: Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Washington Times, Global Post, Huffington Post, New Statesman, In These Times, New Internationalist, Prospect, Lancet, Salon.com, Contemporary Review, Mail & Guardian.
He has a background in policy, political strategy and international human rights law and has worked for the European Commission, Liberty and the ANC during South Africa’s first democratic election campaign. He has reported from mass graves in Somaliland and Indonesia, prisons in Cameroon and South Africa, refugee camps in the Sahara desert and he writes on all aspects of global politics. He also has an interest in culture and travel, writing reviews on music, literature, film and theatre and taking photographs to accompany his reviews and reportage.
The Other Afrik - Russia - United Kingdom - United States - Politics - Governance
“The Forsaken - from the Great Depression to the Gulags: Hope and Betrayal in Stalin’s Russia”
A review of Tim Tzouliadis “The Forsaken - from the Great Depression to the Gulags: Hope and Betrayal in Stalin’s Russia”
This remarkable book unearths the untold story of thousands of American citizens who travelled to the Soviet Union at the height of the Great Depression only find themselves victims of Stalin’s Terror.
The number who made the one-way journey to Russia is unknown, but in the first eight months of 1931 alone, Amtorg - the Soviet trade agency based in New York - received more than 100,000 applications for emigration to the USSR, and some 10,000 of these applicants were hired.
Initially feted, the Americans soon found themselves objects of suspicion as Stalin’s paranoia became increasing pathological. With their passports confiscated there was little opportunity for the new immigrants to leave and any attempt to do so would land them in the Gulags.
In 1933, just as the Great Terror was unleashed, the US officially recognised the USSR and opened an embassy in Moscow. The importance of Russia as trading partner and bulwark against rising fascism meant a blind eye was turned to Stalin’s murderous regime and the US ambassador and his diplomats did not lift a finger to help the ’captive Americans’.
The book is a riveting read, feeling at times more like a novel by Philip Roth than a piece of intricately researched social history. Whilst it never strays from its historical context, The Forsaken contains striking parallels for the modern reader.
The way in which the US government ignored the torture and disappearance of US citizen’s who they regarded as radicals or communist sympathisers, on the grounds that they were now naturalised Russian citizens has echoes of the way in which the UK government accepted the classification of British nationals as ’enemy combatants’ and remained silent about their rendition and torture.
Another disturbingly familiar parallel is how journalists, among them the notorious Walter Durranty, practiced self-censorship so as not to incur the disapprobation of the Soviet state and their newspaper editors. Political and economic expediency took precedence over journalistic integrity and objectivity. Then as now, governments and journalists averted their gaze and then as now, "evil will prevail when good men do nothing."
Each year the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards honour those battling censorship, or those bringing to light stories that would otherwise be forgotten. Last year Stefan Simanowitz had the privilege to be on the reviewing panel for the Awards.
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