WiP: Benjamin Tromly on the Recruitment of Vlasovite Russian Collaborators in WWII

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are pleased to announce the 12th talk of the Spring/Summer 2023 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

The talk will take place in hybrid format in-person at CRRC Georgia and online through Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/…/tZYkdO6gqzIrEtQjhVmC20WPZP…

“Becoming a Vlasovite: Prisoner of War Camps and the Recruitment of Russian Collaborators during World War Two”

Benjamin Tromly, University of Puget Sound

Date: 21 June 2023, at 18:30

During World War Two, considerable numbers of Soviet prisoners of war were recruited into the “Russian Liberation Army” (ROA) of General A. A. Vlasov, taking up service in the Wehrmacht (the ROA remained little more than a propaganda construct until the final months of the war). This paper draws on first-hand accounts of prisoners of war and other sources to explain why and how POWs became “Vlasovites,” and challenges the existing and highly polarized scholarly accounts that explain the recruitment of Vlasovites as a matter of anti-communist ideology or the disastrous material conditions in the camps. Instead, one must look more closely at the specific conditions and structures that prevailed in the POW camps to explain military collaboration. In particular, the paper focuses on such topics as POW survival strategies during the mass starvation in the camps in 1941-1942, POW perceptions of the impossibility of return to the USSR after the war, the ethnic separation of Soviet peoples in the camps, and the experience of genocide, namely the widespread execution of Jews, political workers and communists. Examination of these different aspects of life and death in the POW camps suggests that joining the ROA was a carefully considered and deliberate act for some prisoners of war, even though most POWs and other displaced Soviet citizens steered clear of the ROA.

Benjamin Tromly is professor of History at University of Puget Sound. He is the author of Cold War Exiles and the CIA: Plotting to Free Russia (Oxford University Press, 2019) and Making the Soviet Intelligentsia: Universities and Intellectual Life under Stalin and Khrushchev (Cambridge University Press, 2014). He is currently writing a study of the Vlasov Movement in history and memory.

Works-in-Progress is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1 and online. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.

In observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule, the talks will not be recorded, and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing recordings as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.