The Stalinist Political Culture of the Second Wave of the Russian Diaspora: A Case Study
This article examines the career of Vladimir Vasil’evich Pozdniakov during the Second World War and the early Cold War. A lieutenant colonel in the Red Army who was arrested during the Great Terror, Pozdniakov was captured on the Eastern front in October 1941. He collaborated with the Germans, first serving as the head of camp police in 1942, then becoming a propagandist in the system of POW camps, and finally serving as a high-ranking officer in the short-lived Russian army under General A. A. Vlasov. He escaped repatriation to the USSR after the war and worked as an intelligence agent in the Gehlen Organization and the CIA while also taking part in anti-communist groups in West Germany. Pozdniakov also acted as an amateur historian of the Vlasov movement. Pozdniakov’s career provides a window on the actions of one individual across the upheavals of war, occupation, and Cold War. Pozdniakov’s actions were shaped by the political culture of the Stalinist 1930s. Like other members of the Soviet party-state and military elite, Pozdniakov was opportunistic, suspicious, and dogmatic – all qualities that were crucial for advancement and mere survival in the Stalinist 1930s. The political culture of the 1930s helps to explain his activities during a time of unprecedented chaos and violence: his willingness to collaborate diligently with the Nazis and then with Germany’s Western conquerors, his constant battles within circles of collaborators and the Russian diaspora, and his hagiographic writing of the history of the Vlasov movement while in postwar exile. Pozdnyakov’s example suggests a new approach to the study of the political culture of the second wave of Russian emigration. Due to the historical context of the formation of the second wave – captivity on the Eastern Front, life and sometimes collaboration during the Nazi occupation and flight from repatriation – its members had no other source of public identity other than the continuing devotion to Vlasov’s semi-fictional Russian liberation army.
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