Speaker: Paul Behringer, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

Massacres are a common occurrence during times of war. Although the reasons vary as to why and the context within which this type of killing transpires, massacres also share certain characteristics across space and time. The greatest atrocity of the Russian Civil War in the Far East occurred in 1920 at Nikolaevsk, a town of 15,000 residents located near the mouth of the Amur River. By examining those who perpetrated the massacre, the types of violence they deployed, the victims who died, and how observers chose to document it, scholars and policymakers can understand what often seems at first glance to be senseless violence.

Led by a twenty-two-year-old anarchist, a partisan brigade captured Nikolaevsk in late February 1920. By June 1, the partisans had executed thousands of the town’s residents, including the entire Japanese population of about 700 people. Then they evacuated the town and burned it to the ground. In addition to reconstructing the incident based on published memoirs and Russian archival documents, this presentation analyzes the violence that erupted in Nikoaevsk in the winter and spring of 1920. Exploring themes of class, gender, and race and ethnicity, the talk explains why the atrocity happened the way it did and how it affected the course the Russian Civil War in the Far East.

Everyone is welcome to join us online via Zoom! Please register in advance for this seminar: https://harvard.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcuce2uqjssGtQlipRsIG2OTS0adywtkgT-

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.