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Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit



Tuesday 15 October 2019

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Edward Holland & Elvira Churyumova

University of Arkansas, Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College,University of Cambridge & MIASU, University of Cambridge

Kalmyk refugees and the narration of displacement in post-World War II Europe

Abstract: The October Revolution and Second World War led to the displacement of Kalmyks from Russia to Europe. The first wave of emigrants left Russia at the conclusion of the civil war; the second wave followed on the heels of the retreating German army in 1943. The experiences that resulted are documented in the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS), which collected information on those displaced by World War II. Included in the ITS record are questionnaires from displaced persons camps, including by the UNRRA (T/USA forms, 1946) and the International Refugee Organization (1948-1951). Using the ITS archive as the primary source, this paper interrogates the manner in which Kalmyks narrated their lived experiences prior to and during the Second World War, identifying consistencies and inconsistencies in these narrations. We foreground the concept of legibility in discussing the various strategies used by Kalmyks to negotiate the international regime for managing displacement that emerged after the war. For the Kalmyks, this sense of displacement would continue through the early 1950s, when the group was given permission to settle in the United States as refugees. The narrative that emerged in the DP camps served as the basis for defining the Kalmyks abroad, providing a unified and sanctified origin story for the community in diaspora.


Tuesday, 15 October, 2019 - 16:30 to 18:00
Event location: 
Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF