“Genocides: A World History” Featuring Norman Naimark

interview with Norman M. Naimark
via Uncommon Knowledge
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
“Genocides: A World History” featuring Norman Naimark

Recorded on February 14, 2017

Norman Naimark, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and an expert on Eastern Europe and genocides throughout history, brings his considerable expertise to Uncommon Knowledge to discuss the history of genocides from ancient to modern times. Peter Robinson sits down with Naimark to discuss his latest book, Genocide: A World History. Naimark argues that genocides occur throughout history, from biblical to modern times across the world. He considers genocides to be “the crime of crimes, worse than war crimes or crimes against humanity,”

Naimark defines genocide as “intentional killing of a group of people as such,” meaning that the intention is to eliminate that group completely. He stresses the difference of this definition from warfare, as in war two sides are killing each other with the intention of subjugation rather than extermination. He goes into detail about a few incidents that he considers  genocides, including but not limited to Nazi Germany, Stalin’s genocide of the kulaks, the Armenian genocide in the early 1900s, the Carthage genocide in 146 BC, the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, and the Yuki genocide in California in the 1850s.

Naimark argues that as genocides occur in contemporary society, sovereign states have a responsibility to protect their citizens; if they fail to do so the international community has a moral and civic obligation to step in to stop those genocides from occurring. Granted, he argues, that the cost of intervention needs to be assessed before stepping in but that overall each country has a national obligation to prevent the systematic extermination of people.

Interested in buying Norman Naimark’s latest book, Genocide: A World History? You can buy it here.

About the guest

Norman M. Naimark is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is also the Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of East European Studies and a senior fellow of Stanford's Freeman-Spogli Institute. He currently serves as the Sakurako and William Fisher Family Director of the Stanford Global Studies Division.

Naimark is an expert in modern East European and Russian history. His current research focuses on Soviet policies and actions in Europe after World War II and on genocide and ethnic cleansing in the twentieth century.

Naimark is author of the critically acclaimed volumes The Russians in Germany: The History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949 (Harvard, 1995), Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe (Harvard, 2001), and Stalin's Genocides (Princeton, 2010). He is also author of the volumes Terrorists and Social Democrats: The Russian Revolutionary Movement under Alexander III (Harvard, 1983) and The History of the "Proletariat": The Emergence of Marxism in the Kingdom of Poland, 1870–1887 (Columbia, 1979).

Naimark earned a BA (1966), MA (1968), and PhD (1972) in history from Stanford University. Before returning to Stanford in 1988 Naimark was a professor of history at Boston University and a fellow at the Russian Research Center at Harvard. He also held the visiting Kathryn Wasserman Davis Chair of Slavic Studies at Wellesley College.


Peter Robinson: "Acts intended to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, as such." With those words, which passed the General Assembly in 1948, the United Nations defined genocide. Yet, genocide was not only an attribute or feature of the Second World War, as our guest argues today. Genocide represents an attribute throughout human history. With us, today, an expert on this grim, but too human subject, Norman Naimark. Uncommon Knowledge, now. Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I'm Peter Robinson. A native of New York, the historian, Norman Naimark, holds bachelor's, master's, and a doctorate degree from Stanford. Dr. Naimark now serves as the Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of East European Studies at Stanford, and he is also a Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Institute of International Studies, both again at Stanford. Dr. Naimark is the author of a number of books, including Stalin's Genocides, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in the Twentieth Century, and his definitive work, The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945 to 1949. Dr. Naimark's new book, Genocide: A World History. Norman Naimark, welcome.

Norman Naimark: Thank you, Peter, nice to be here.

Peter Robinson: Norman, you and I are friends. You are one of the loveliest and most persistently cheerful men that I know. How did you come to devote such a large part of your career ... Well, I just read the titles of books of yours: Stalin's Genocide, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing, and now this book, Genocide: A World History. How did the most cheerful man I know come to devote himself to the grimmest subject anyone could imagine?

Norman Naimark: Well, I mean, there is a story, and I'll tell you the story.

Peter Robinson: Yes.

Norman Naimark: The story is that in the 1990s, the beginning of the 1990s, a war and then ethnic cleansing broke out in the Balkans. I had spent a couple of years, a couple of summers over a couple of years, in the Balkans among people, actually in southern Herzegovina, Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and others. I was on archeological digs, then, as a graduate student, and this was early on, by the way. To redo the timing, the timing was at the end of the 1960s, beginning of the '70s, I was in the Balkans as a graduate student, and it was a wonderful time. These were genuine, multinational societies that operated on the basis of acceptance and acknowledgment and mutual ... They operated to their mutual benefit.

Peter Robinson: The communism of Tito was optional? It wasn't a deep part of the society?

Norman Naimark: No, it wasn't a deep part of the society by the end of the '70s and the beginning of the ... I mean, by the end of the '60s and beginning of the '70s. Yugoslavia was actually the loosest of all the communist societies.

Peter Robinson: Yes, right, right.

Norman Naimark: People could travel there very easily, and people got along well. It was a really ... It wasn't a wealthy place, but it was a place with a lot of good humor, good food, lots to drink.

Peter Robinson: Good place to be a grad student.

Norman Naimark: Yeah, it was a good place, a great place to be a grad student, and I enjoyed that very much. When the '90s came, and the war came, I couldn't believe it. If someone had predicted that Yugoslavia would fall apart, an ethnic killing and ethnic animosities of the sort that happened, families being torn apart. A whole society was torn apart. I was shocked, and I wanted to get to the bottom of that story. I mean, a piece of this story is, actually, one of my professors, too. A man names Wayne Vucinich, who also, in his time, was at Hoover and in the history department, was a Serb from that region, and I had gone with him originally in the late '60s to the Balkans. He loved this whole atmosphere and was part of it, and himself ... considered himself a Yugoslav, not necessarily a Serb or a Croat, that sort of thing. He was torn apart by this. He was already retired. I had taken his place at Stanford, and just that the kind of tragedy of seeing a multi-ethnic society fall apart, just got to me. Then I thought about our own society and some of the strains in it, and could that happen here? Then I thought about some other incidents in history, about which I had read, but didn't study in any depth, for example, in Nazi Germany, where the Jews had been assimilated. I mean, these were now an assimilated people. Many of the people, who actually went to the concentration camp as Jews, didn't even think of themselves as Jews.

Peter Robinson: They thought of themselves as good Germans.

Norman Naimark: As good Germans, and they were. They often-

Peter Robinson: Spoke the language, knew the history, had come up in the German schools.

Norman Naimark: Yes, and they often had converted.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: I mean, they didn't even think of themselves as Jews, necessarily, religiously. Then you thought about other incidences. Well, the Armenian genocide, where Armenians had lived in peace in the Ottoman Empire for a very long time, and at the end of the 19th century, this began to fall apart, and in 1915 there was a horrible genocide. I put all this together, and I said to myself, "What's going on here and how has it happened?" Again, in the back of your mind is we live in a profoundly multi-ethnic society, right? We do pretty damn well with it.

Peter Robinson: Yes, we do.

Norman Naimark: The question is, is that in danger? Can that happen here? Those kinds of questions then motivated me, first of all, then to write this book Fires of Hatred, about ethnic cleansing. Then I kept on this trail, as it were. I didn't feel like I really answered the question. I talked to a lot of my colleagues in Soviet History. I'm a Soviet historian, as well as an East European historian and then more broadly. I started talking to my colleagues in Soviet History, and I said to them, "You know, what Stalin did in the '30s in the Soviet Union, sure looks like genocide to me." They'd say, "No, no, no, that's not genocide. That's something different, and that can't be considered genocide." I kept reading, and I kept thinking, and I kept arguing with them. I thought to myself, "Wait a minute. Something's wrong here."

Peter Robinson: Right, right.

Norman Naimark: I decided, then, to write this book about Stalin's genocides, making the argument that what happened in the '30s, this terrible mass killing, was genocide. That's when I got into issues of the definition of genocide, which you read at the beginning. That definition, as you recall, says nothing about social groups. It says nothing about political groups. It says nothing about other kinds of groups, except for ethnic, religious, racial, and national groups. Those are the four groups identified in the convention.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: I thought to myself, "Well, wait a minute. Why did they just identify those groups and not other groups?" I went back to the history of the Convention, and it turns out the Convention itself is very political and that the Soviets insisted that political and social groups ... There were others, as well, but the Soviets said, "No way. We're going to vote for a convention that can be turned on us." The Americans essentially said, "Okay. We just want a unanimous convention." Nobody was paying much attention to it.

Peter Robinson: In 1948, they were still trying to get along with the Soviets.

Norman Naimark: Oh yeah, well yeah, and in this case, I mean, we're talking about a development, by the way, between '46 and '48; '48 was the culmination.

Peter Robinson: '48 was the convention, right.

Norman Naimark: Everybody just signed on with these four categories, and they are thinking, by the way, they're thinking not about anything else really, but what happened in the Second World War, when Jews were killed, when Poles were killed, when Russians were killed, for their ethnic and national and religious identities. That really convinced me, then, to go after this point, and say, "Well, just because the Soviets got this out of the convention doesn't mean we have to buy the convention just as it is." I think it's a good convention. I think the laws that have come out of it have been very positive, but I think they made a mistake by not including other kinds of groups, like, for example, kulaks, a group of supposedly rich farmers, identified by Stalin and then attacked. He said, "I'm going to wipe them out," and then he wiped them out. After that, I thought, "Well, that's enough of this genocide thing," but then people asked me to talk various places about genocide, and I'd get questions. People would raise their hands, and they'd say, "Well, what about the American Indians?" I'd say, "Well, I'm an historian of Europe and Russia, and I don't know much about the United States or Indians. I can't" ..."Well, what about this? What about that?" I kept saying to myself, after this would happen, "I can't just say"-

Peter Robinson: "Not my job."

Norman Naimark: "Not my job, not in my portfolio." That's when I started teaching, here, a kind of world history. Then I realized that it's not just contemporary. That's the other thing. We have a kind of hubris about modernity, I think, sometimes; the only things that really happened that are important happened in the modern period, and everything before then is just not important, right? It's not us.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: I did both things. I went back in time, and then I expanded around the world, and I started looking into Australian history and then to American history, having to do with Indians and Native Americans and thinking about genocide in broader terms, and I realized, of course, there are differences over time, and there are differences across time, in the modern period, between various genocides, but that genocide is actually an incredibly-

Peter Robinson: You keep seeing it. You keep seeing it.

Norman Naimark: Yeah, you keep seeing it everywhere, exactly. Even if you hold that bar high, as I think you should, about what genocide is, because everybody, in some senses, wants their genocide ... Even if you hold the bar high, you find it everywhere. Then you discover it out of nowhere, meaning you'll find things that you've never even heard of. All of a sudden, you start reading about a people in Patagonia in the 1880s, the Selk'nam people. There was a piece in the New Yorker, I ran across it, "The Last Selk'nam Speakers," a wonderful piece, about a year ago. It turns out, there were about 400,000 of this native people, actually in Tierra del Fuego, in the southern part of Chile. They lived there in the 1880s. Gold was discovered. Farmers came in, and they said, "We want this land," and there were no more Selk'nam 25 years later. These kinds of episodes happen over and over again, and we just don't know much about them.

Peter Robinson: Norman, let me be a student in your class, and take you through, if I may, just raising my hand and asking questions, some of the structure of the book, in a certain sense. Let's begin with this question of definition. You've just given us the background of the UN's definition of genocide. Distinguish genocide for acts of war. Genocide doesn't just mean people killing other people.

Norman Naimark: Right.

Peter Robinson: Distinguish it for us.

Norman Naimark: Okay. The Convention really does this pretty well, and then there's a subsequent jurisprudence now, which has helped us a lot to understand this. First of all, it's an intentional killing of a group of people, as such. That means, what you're trying to do is eliminate that group.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: The obvious case ... Again, Hitler and the Jews is obvious. Actually, the Young Turks and the Armenians is also obvious. They're after that group.

Peter Robinson: In a certain sense-

Norman Naimark: Stalin and the kulaks, as I mentioned.

Peter Robinson: One-

Norman Naimark: You identify a group and you kill a group. War ... You're killing each other in military combat. The idea is not to eliminate that group. When we go to war with the Nazis, we don't say we're going to kill all Germans.

Peter Robinson: No.

Norman Naimark: We don't intend that, at all. We'd like the war to be over fast.

Peter Robinson: Is it a fair ... As a mental experiment, thought experiment, the test of genocide is, is there anything a member of the identified group can do to escape it? The answer is, I think, no-

Norman Naimark: That's right.

Peter Robinson: Because a Jew ... The Nazis wanted to eliminate the Jews, because they were Jews. A Jew could not say, "Wait a moment. I'll sign up to Mein Kampf. I'll convert to Christianity. I'll become a good German." There was nothing a Jew could do.

Norman Naimark: Right.

Peter Robinson: Okay. Whereas, in war, there is something the other side can do. It can surrender.

Norman Naimark: That's right.

Peter Robinson: Then the fighting stops.

Norman Naimark: That's right. That's right.

Peter Robinson: May I also ask--this is tricky material, I think, tricky territory for a professional historian, but you being you, you will have thought it through--do you want to draw a sharp moral distinction? Genocide is always wrong in and of itself. There is something intrinsically repugnant and evil about it; whereas, there is such a thing as a just war. We can argue about each instance, but there is such a thing as self-defense.

Norman Naimark: I ... that's-

Peter Robinson: You'll go for that?

Norman Naimark: That's exactly right, exactly right. I mean, genocide has been identified in the jurisprudence ... There's some arguments. By the way, there are arguments about everything.

Peter Robinson: Of course.

Norman Naimark: You understand that.

Peter Robinson: Of course.

Norman Naimark: Historians love to argue, and that's why we're in that business, I think, sometimes. Yes, genocide is considered in the jurisprudence, and I think by historians, as well--and there's a kind of meshing of jurisprudence and the historian in me when I do a work like this--as the crime of crimes. It's the worst crime you can commit, worse than crimes against humanity, which can be horrible; worse than war crimes, which can also be horrible; and even numbers can be more in some other kinds of crimes. This business of trying to eliminate the fundamental groups of people as a group of people should have a kind of opprobrium that is beyond the normal crime.

Peter Robinson: Anything else, right.

Norman Naimark: That's why the bar has to be high to prove it.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: I mean, it can't just be random killing or that sort of thing.

Peter Robinson: Now, now, Professor, I'll be the student again. Norman Naimark, writing in Genocide: A World History ... "Genocide has been a part of human history from its very beginnings." Now, let's move quickly here, but genocide in the Hebrew Scriptures, genocide in Homer, and then the Romans in Carthage ... The Old Testament genocide, where do we see genocide?

Norman Naimark: Okay, so the Old Testament ... I mean, we have to be careful here, because the Old Testament is not necessarily true, right?

Peter Robinson: Yes, yes, yes.

Norman Naimark: It's not necessarily…I mean, we don't know that things went on, but what was described in the Old Testament, I must say, was a shock to me. I mean, I was not much of a biblical student, as a young man, and went I went back, I mean, I was truly shocked. Even take something like Joshua taking Jericho. Now, we all sing that spiritual.

Peter Robinson: Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, yes, right, sure.

Norman Naimark: "And the walls came tumbling down," bah, bah, bah, but it doesn't say Joshua then killed every man, woman, and child in that city and destroyed the city, so that nobody would come back. Now, we don't know. I mean, the important thing to say is we don't know that that really happened. Archeologists ... It turns out there working on Jericho, trying to figure out what happened. Did the walls really come tumbling? All that kind of stuff, we don't know that this happened, but that repeatedly in the Old Testament ... There's the story of Saul and Samuel, you may remember, where Samuel's the prophet. God tells him, "Talk to Saul. Kill these people." Saul goes off, and he kills all these people, and then he comes back, and it turns out he spared the king. God is very angry and tells Samuel, "That's it for Saul." You have to kill-

Peter Robinson: No loopholes.

Norman Naimark: Yeah, in other words, you've got to kill them all.

Peter Robinson: "Thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them. You shall destroy their altars and break down their images." Altars and images?

Norman Naimark: Well, see that's ... I don't want to ... what fits so perfectly is this notion, this combination of what you could call cultural genocide, which is the destruction of a people's culture, so that they, themselves, even the few survivors can never ... The culture will be gone. You see this in genocide from then to the present. In other words, you don't just ... Take ISIS. I mean, you don't just destroy the people. You destroy their churches. You destroy their books. You destroy their encyclopedias.

Peter Robinson: The historical monuments.

Norman Naimark: You destroy their monuments. This has happened all the way through. You, in these days, blow up their churches. In Bosnia, you blow up the mosques. Why do you do that? Well, you're trying to destroy the entire people, and its integrity as a people, so that they won't exist anymore. It begins with the Bible.

Peter Robinson: Troy ... the episode of the conquering of Troy that we read about in Homer.

Norman Naimark: Okay, so this is in the third ... That's not in Homer, but that doesn't matter.

Peter Robinson: I'm sorry.

Norman Naimark: This is in the Third Punic War, and basically, what the-

Peter Robinson: Carthage is the Punic-

Norman Naimark: Carthage, right-

Peter Robinson: But Troy, I'm sorry-

Norman Naimark: Oh, you're talking about Troy.

Peter Robinson: Yes, yes, I want to get to—

Norman Naimark: Oh, okay, well then we'll talk about Troy. Okay, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Peter Robinson: Because there's a kind of triad in here in the ancient world.

Norman Naimark: Okay, right, right, right, right.

Peter Robinson: Hebrew Scriptures, and then we go to the Greeks.

Norman Naimark: Right, right, right, okay, okay. The situation in Troy is very, very similar, where the Achaeans come and catch Troy. There's all this mythology about Helen and all this kind of stuff, which is very nice and very lovely, and that's what you learn, but what you don't learn is that when they destroy Troy, they kill everyone.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: They kill everyone, and they talk to each other about killing everyone, and if you don't kill everyone, then you're less than doing your duty and doing your honor. It's the totality of the destruction of Troy, and indeed Troy was destroyed totally.

Peter Robinson: That archeologists have-

Norman Naimark: That they've said they-

Peter Robinson: That's actually been demonstrated.

Norman Naimark: Right, right.

Peter Robinson: Now, Carthage. We have three Punic Wars, Carthage and Rome, lasts about a century, and it ends how?

Norman Naimark: Well, the Romans come. In some fashion, they hate Carthage and not because ... They're not a rival. They're not a serious rival in the Mediterranean. I mean, by that time, Rome really controls all of the Mediterranean, except for these pieces of North Africa.

Peter Robinson: A small bit of North Africa is all that's left.

Norman Naimark: Right, where Carthage is. I think it's Fernand Braudel, the great historian of the Mediterranean, says that Rome just couldn't stomach another power on the Mediterranean, and so this hatred was built up in the Senate, and then they attack, and they not just attack and subjugate. Again, this goes back to your question of war versus genocide. You can attack and subjugate without massacring everyone in the town. Well, as you know, they not only massacre everyone in the town, but they then destroy Carthage, blow up its walls, all of the cultural monuments. Then, the mythology is they salt it, but apparently there's not any real evidence for the salting., but-

Peter Robinson: They would have if they could.

Norman Naimark: They would have if they could, and the image, "Nothing will grow here again," right?

Peter Robinson: That fits.

Norman Naimark: So these people can't exist fits, and it's ... These episodes--the biblical, the Greek, the Roman--make their way. I mean, the interesting part of this is not that they're just discreet episodes located a thousand years ago, or more than a thousand years ago, 2000 years ago or 3000 years ago. They reside in our culture. They reside in our mentality.

Peter Robinson: Every educated culture ... Every educated westerner knows the Old Testament, knows Homer, knows Rome.

Norman Naimark: Right, right, right.

Peter Robinson: Norman, in all three of those instances, the people who engaged in genocide thought they were doing right, portrayed it as their duty.

Norman Naimark: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Where do you locate ... We have to be very careful, I guess. I'll put this in the ... This is my thinking things through, as I'm making notes in the margins of your book. There's always the danger that we moderns will look down on the ancients and consider ourselves morally superior. Is there a legitimate question to be asked along the following lines: that in the ancient world, that was the nature of warfare, not genocide, as we now understand it? If you wanted to defeat ... There were three Punic Wars, after all, the Carthaginians wouldn't let it go, and in the end it was the Romans who wouldn't let it go.

Norman Naimark: Right, right, right, right.

Peter Robinson: You had to wipe people out in those days. Otherwise, you were just storing up trouble for your children and grandchildren. A generation later, they'd come back. Is there an argument for that, or not?

Norman Naimark: I think there is an argument for that. Again, all history is about argument, and I think that is-

Peter Robinson: And you love a good one.

Norman Naimark: And that is an argument that can be made, but I think the counterargument's more powerful, and the counterargument is--and you see this is Thucydides in the Peloponnesian Wars; you see this even in some of the Roman statesmen, who were against this kind of destruction--there are those who propound winning a war and making a peace and incorporating territory into your own, and there are those who propound destruction. This goes all the way up to the present. You're always going to have people say, "No, this is counterproductive. This is a bad thing, to destroy people who are ready to live productive and reasonable lives." I don't privilege the ancient world in that way, or the modern world. I mean—

Peter Robinson: There were alternatives even then, and they knew it.

Norman Naimark: Yes, yes, and they weren't taken.

Peter Robinson: They knew it. We can see ... right.

Norman Naimark: Their business is with ... There are questions about Caesar and Gaul. There was a lot of destruction in Gaul, a lot of destruction in Gaul. If you would sit down and ask the question, as I tried to do ... I couldn't do everything in this, right? If you would ask yourself the question, is that genocide, what he did in Gaul, the occupation policy, some of the killing that went on, massacres of which there were a great number? My answer was no, because it was pacification-

Peter Robinson: For the same-

Norman Naimark: Of the sort that you were saying.

Peter Robinson: For the same reason that Sherman's March to the Sea in the Civil War is an act of warfare.

Norman Naimark: Right, a nasty one, maybe even a war crime. Maybe what Caesar committed in Gaul was a war crime, but it wasn't genocide.

Peter Robinson: Right, all right.

Norman Naimark: There are differences.

Peter Robinson: Genocide in the 20th century ... The Holocaust is such a classic case. This feels odd to say it, because it can never be forgotten, but in some way, you and I don't need to dwell on it, the Nazis destroyed something like six million Jews on their way to eliminating all Jews in territories they controlled, for the reason that they were Jews.

Norman Naimark: Right.

Peter Robinson: All right, Stalin ... You said that your colleagues in Soviet History pushed back. They're not so-

Norman Naimark: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: Describe the events, and then tell us why you consider what Stalin did in the '30s a genocide, and then I'd like to come to Mao, as well.

Norman Naimark: Okay, so, as you know, there's a little book called Stalin's Genocides, and if I could summarize that.

Peter Robinson: By Norman Naimark, yes.

Norman Naimark: Yeah, by me. I'm not sure I can summarize that very easily, but let's just accept my definition of genocide, which includes social and political groups. Stalin, in the beginning of the 1930s, is a product of the first five-year plan and forced collectivization, knew that he was, in some senses, in deep trouble. That is to say, neither of these things worked very well. He was the kind of leader, who insisted on control, but also on eliminating any potential enemies. His notion of what a potential enemy was, was blown way out of proportion, so he-

Peter Robinson: Paranoia.

Norman Naimark: Paranoia, I mean, I agree. Robert Tucker once said, "He suffered from a paranoid delusional syndrome." I can define that for you, if you want, but I agree with that basic idea. In other words, you're not just out to get me, but these cameramen and the people behind ... They're all out to get me, too. Those whole groups are out to get you, not just individuals.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: He creates groups, right? I mean, that's an important part of my story, because he's creating these groups out of social and political enemies that he puts in a group and gives them an identity. Now, let me again use the kulaks as an example, because it's the purist example of a non- ... They're not an ethnic group, right? They're not a religious group. They're not racial. It's a social group.

Peter Robinson: It's social and economic standing. They're rich peasants, well-to-do peasants.

Norman Naimark: Supposedly.

Peter Robinson: All right, okay.

Norman Naimark: I mean, they're not really. I mean, he's creating this group, because if you're opposed to the collectivization, no matter who you are, you're a kulak. Sometimes priests are kulaks, and your kids are kulaks, who don't know the first thing about what collectivization's all about. Your wife is a kulak. Your grandpa is a kulak. He's creating a group. He's, in some ways, ethnicizing the group, meaning he's giving them certain kinds of characteristics that are common. He's stereotyping them, and then he's attacking them, as a group. That attack occurs in 1931, '32, '33. They're attacked. Many are just shot. The rest are sent off into gulag, or many are sent. Millions are sent off into the gulag, where they die in special camps, a lot of them, and that sort of thing. They carried this appellation, kulak, with them. It's not as if you go into the gulag and you're not a kulak anymore. No, it's stamped in your stuff. You are a kulak. If you go fight the war later on, World War II, they will sometimes let you off, but you're a kulak for life. In other words, a group is created.

Peter Robinson: That-

Norman Naimark: Peter, you said we can talk as friends, so let's talk as friends. An ethnic group, again, is a construction, in many ways. It's a construction. What that means, basically--you know a lot of the social science--you're creating an ethnic group. Some people may be members of it, and some not. Again, think about even the Jews in Germany. Some of them didn't think of themselves as part of that group at all, and those within the group didn't think of them as part of the group. Yet, the Nazis make the ethnic group, right? They're creating the group. You're not creating it. Similarly, Stalin's creating these groups, and he creates other groups of asocials, meaning alleged alcoholics, alleged prostitutes, alleged gamblers, alleged street people, all these people. He puts them into a group called asocials, and he arrests them as asocials, and he shoots about half of them and deports the rest of them. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of people, right? This is another group that he kills off. Then there are attacks on other groups. There are attacks, actually, in this case, on ethnic groups: on Poles and on Germans. I mean, there was a whole Polish action, which I include in my analysis. I say you can think about it as genocide, but maybe not. In other words, there are ways ... Again, this is all about an argument. Then he creates political groups. I mean, the three big purge trials in '38, where groups of people, who had identities, their relatives were arrested. Their friends were arrested. They were all part of these groups. They were attacked as groups. Again, when I look at the purge trials and the killing and the deportations and the suffering that went on, it's hard to make a really clear case, black and white case, for genocide, but I think you can make the argument that this is a kind of political genocide.

Peter Robinson: So-

Norman Naimark: I put all this together and call it Stalin's Genocides.

Peter Robinson: The test that we agreed on a few moments ago, was there anything-

Norman Naimark: They couldn't escape.

Peter Robinson: A member of the victim group could do? Once Stalin had identified me as a kulak, once that got stamped in my papers, I couldn't say, "No, no, Comrade. I've memorized Marx. I've memorized Lenin."

Norman Naimark: Yeah, no.

Peter Robinson: There's no way out. Once you're identified as a member of the group, he just keeps coming after you.

Norman Naimark: No. I mean, there are always exceptions. By the way, Peter, let me just say, even with the Jews there were exceptions. There were Jews who survived the war in Wehrmacht.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: I mean, there are always exceptions. There are Armenians who survived, women who converted and went into Kurdish or Turkish harems. There are always exceptions to genocide. The exception doesn't prove the rule, but, on the whole, kulaks tried to escape their fate by going to work in the city in a factory, but they came to get them. In 1937-38, they came to get them. They wouldn't let them escape.

Peter Robinson: Mao ... Give me just a sentence or two on Mao. I know we're compressing worlds into bouillon cubes here, but give me a sentence or two on Mao.

Norman Naimark: Okay, especially the Great Leap Forward.

Peter Robinson: Which is-

Norman Naimark: 1958.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: I think should be considered a genocidal action. I mean, basically what Mao did is tried to move all of the peasantry into these gigantic communes, and, in doing so, it was an absolute catastrophe, which he would not recognize. In '58 and '59 ... We don't know exactly how many people died. I mean, Frank Dikotter, who comes to Hoover every once in a while, has the number 45 million people.

Peter Robinson: That's just staggering.

Norman Naimark: I mean, Andy Walder, who is here at Stanford, has a somewhat lower number, in the 30 million number. What you see there is a different kind of campaign, but nevertheless one where the government is attacking a group of people, the peasantry, and forcing them into a mold and ready to see them die. In other words, we have all kinds of quotations from Mao, where he says it doesn't matter. What's a few millions of people? We've got plenty more. He says things like that. What if they don't have anything to eat? "You have enough to eat," he suggests to the party people. "That's all you need to worry about." You see that kind of ... It's not just indifference to suffering and to death. It's a kind of purposeful--and that's very important to the definition of genocide--it's a very purposeful set of policies that kills large numbers of people. I've included that in what I think is genocide.

Peter Robinson: The United States-

Norman Naimark: That more than two sentences, but I'm sorry.

Peter Robinson: No, no, no. Last large topic here, the United States and genocide. First our own history ... Let me quote you here, Genocide: A World History. "The removal of the Cherokees"--you talk about the Native Americans, the American Indians. "The removal of the Cherokees from Georgia in 1838, and their forced march on the Trail of Tears to a reservation in Arkansas" ... These people are marched 800 miles to Arkansas. A fifth of them die on the way. That "cannot be considered genocide. Here the term 'ethnic cleansing' can most fruitfully be applied." You recognize that horrible things happened in the settlement of this country, but our own history is, by and large ... Of course, you have soldiers, figures on the frontier, who say, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian," but fundamentally, what the settlers wanted was the land, not the extirpation of a people.

Norman Naimark: Right.

Peter Robinson: Fair?

Norman Naimark: In the case of the Cherokees, in the case of the Cherokees.

Peter Robinson: Broadly, no?

Norman Naimark: No, in the book I also talk about the Yuki Indians.

Peter Robinson: Right, here in California.

Norman Naimark: Up in California, in Mendocino County. There, I consider that a genocide. The way I decided to deal ... I think it's not useful to think either of the killing off or the killing of Native Americans or, by the way, of aborigines in Australia, as genocide as a general description of what happened. I think you have to look at specific sets of incidences. Since the Indians themselves thought of themselves as different--I mean, the Cherokee, they don't think of themselves as Yuki, and the Yuki don't think of themselves as Cherokee or Navajo, for that matter--I think you need to look at what happens to each of the tribes separately.

Peter Robinson: I see. I see. I see.

Norman Naimark: When you look at what happens with the Cherokee, they really did want the land, and the Cherokee fought like hell. They actually had lawyers. They fought in the courts. They did the best they could with Andrew Jackson, but Jackson, no, was going to say, "No, you're going."

Peter Robinson:                  “Off you go”.

Norman Naimark: Even the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee, that they should be able to stay, but, no, they had to go. As they went, many died, in a horrible set of events, which I consider a horrible set of events, but I don't think of as genocide, because they didn't want to wipe out the Cherokee. In the case of Yuki, and other cases in California ... By the way, there's a very good new book by a man named Benjamin Madley, from UCLA, very recently, called The California Genocide, I think. It's just out maybe a few months ago, and I read it. It talks about more of California Indians and what happened to our California Indians, and it's an incredible story. I just looked at the Yuki and came to the conclusion there that the people who wanted that land and who were supported by the California government and the governor-

Peter Robinson: This is late 19th century or-

Norman Naimark: Right, this is the 1860s, 1860s, so it's after Gold Rush and after statehood, which comes in 1848 and '49.

Peter Robinson: The national government is not paying attention, because it's fighting a Civil War.

Norman Naimark: Yeah, they're way too far away. Besides, they wouldn't pay attention. They don't pay attention to anything anyway.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Norman Naimark: This is all local government stuff. The first governor of California had to deal with the Yuki set of issues. The purpose there was to eliminate the Yuki-

Peter Robinson: Unambiguously.

Norman Naimark: Not to drive them out, not to send them to a reservation up in Oregon or Washington or a different part of California. The purpose was to eliminate them. You can see, by the group called the Eel River Rangers. It was a group of people commanded by a guy named Jarboe, who looked at his job as to murder Indians.

Peter Robinson: Got it, all right. I'm still going to console myself that it wasn't national policy.

Norman Naimark: No, no, I don't think it was.

Peter Robinson: All right, okay.

Norman Naimark: I think that's ... Well, the states had much more control over what happened.

Peter Robinson: Yes, yes. All right, so there are ... We've got genocide to deal with inside the United States, in our own history. Let me come back to what we began with, which is the Balkans. Actually, I want to ... Actually, I don't know how you're going to answer this. Two events in the mid 1990s, and one is genocide begins taking place in the Balkans, as the Serbs place pressure on the Muslims in the Balkans, and also in Rwanda we have two different tribal groups in a kind of spasm. It's just an amazing event of violence in a very brief period. One group, largely using machetes, hacks to death 800,000 of the other group. In the Balkans, the United States intervened. We bombed the Serbs. We got them to back off. We stopped it. It was sloppy. You could argue ... I don't know what you would argue. We haven't ever discussed this, whether too slow, waited for the Germans too long, but, in any event, we went in. In Rwanda, there were discussions, we know, in the Clinton White House, about whether we should intervene in Rwanda, and we didn't. Were we right in the Balkans and wrong in Rwanda, right in both instances? What is the duty of the United States, when it sees a genocide taking place?

Norman Naimark: Well, I think both cases are terrible tragedies. Whether we learn from those tragedies or not is a really interesting question, and I'd like to pose it to Samantha Power, who wrote about this and is our previous representative to the United Nations. Both are tragedies. Both showed the failure of American policy. The Balkans intervention came late, too late. In other words, we were pushed and pushed and pushed. It's true. We had a very clever opponent in Slobodan Milosevic, and we were charmed by him a little bit, sort of like you're charmed by a snake. I mean, it does happen in international politics. We let him get away with far too much. The Clinton White House did not want to intervene in the Balkans. Under no circumstances did they want to intervene. We know this from all kinds of writing about this in retrospect. They simply didn't want any part of this, if they could avoid it. The problem was the Serbs kept pushing our nose into it. They'd let up and make some kind of deal, and then they'd push our nose into it again and again and again. The last time they pushed our nose in it was July of 1995, when they did commit genocide at Srebrenica. What happened at Srebrenica, you probably recall. About 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were taken out and shot and killed and executed and buried in mass graves. Madeleine Albright went to the UN and waved pictures, aerial photographs, of these mass graves, which we had, and we realized what had happened. At that point ... I mean, we had been there. We'd been pushing. There were some French troops there. Americans had been trying to negotiate, but there was no real intervention until really ... I mean, I want to try to describe this in the most analytical and less judgmental terms I can. I would say, until it was demonstrated beyond any measure of a doubt that we had to intervene or the Clinton White House would have been in big trouble with the American public and with the world. We intervened, you may remember, in the fall, and we bombed the Bosnian Serbs for the first time, serious bombing, which we and the British carried out together. They said "uncle." They gave up, and that's led to Dayton.

Peter Robinson: Right, the Agreement at Dayton, Ohio.

Norman Naimark: In the fall. That's Bosnia. Bosnia is a terrible tragedy. Kosovo was something different, where we moved more quickly, but Bosnia, I think, remains a dark spot on American policy, and I think anybody who had anything to do with it feels a lot of guilt about being so late to get involved.

Peter Robinson: Rwanda?

Norman Naimark: Rwanda is just a dark spot, right? In other words, Rwanda was a case where there was this UN General Dallaire, a Canadian general, who had a small group of troops, and he was commanding some UN troops in Rwanda, and he said, "Something's coming here. They're going to kill," meaning the-

Peter Robinson: He saw it.

Norman Naimark: The Hutu were going to go after the Tutsi. "Help me. Send us something, and I can take care of it." I mean, they don't have to send very much, but you do need to take action. The U.S. and the UN needed to take action, and in neither case did they do so. We, I think, were burned by Somalia, which happened earlier.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: The country was just not ready to get involved in foreign affairs like that.

Peter Robinson: Last question.

Norman Naimark: Both are bad news.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so last question. We have now a new President of the United States, who says, "America first," and who campaigned pretty clearly. Foreign policy is complicated, and parsing this President's foreign policy statements is also complicated, but it seems very clear--I think this is very clear--that he believed the invasion into Iraq was a terrible mistake and that this notion of nation ... the notion that the United States ought to do good in the world, no more. We only intervene in the world when our direct interests are at stake. I think that's a fair characterization of what seems to be the Trump foreign policy, the foreign policy test. We go only if we have a direct interest. Now, you mentioned a moment ago, we have ISIS cutting off the heads of Christians. There's a form of genocide taking place in the territory controlled by ISIS, and you say what to President Trump. You say we have a duty to stop that kind of stuff, because why? Because at some level, simply doing the decent thing is an American interest? How do you construct the argument?

Norman Naimark: I would put it in exactly those terms. I’m a patriot, you know, I like this country, and I owe it a lot, and so do all of us. In some fashion, that doesn't bother me, but it does not mean that the rest of the world is to be ignored or that serious crises, where we can do some good, should be avoided on all costs, and that when genocidal situations come up, it seems to me, we have the obligation, the moral and the ethical obligation, which is part of what national interest is about. I mean, national interest is not just about oil and money and prosperity. It's about-

Peter Robinson: It's about being able to look at ourselves in the mirror.

Norman Naimark: Exactly.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Norman Naimark: You put that exactly right, being able to look yourselves in the mirror, and, not only that, look at other people around the world in the mirror, not in the mirror, but look them in their eye and say, "We did everything we could to help," within reason, and within the judgment of good people who are in this administration, and there are some who can decide whether this will be successful or not. We've signed on, and the UN has signed on, to a doctrine called Responsibility to Protect. That Responsibility to Protect says clearly that sovereign countries, countries around the world cannot engage in destructive actions against their own people or the rest of the world has to act. We have to act. We have to be part of an entire world. My sense of this is ... I can't tell you, Peter, what I would have done in Syria at specific times along the way. It's very difficult. It's a difficult situation. It's a hard situation. You have to try to figure in how many boys you're going to lose, and girls, men and women of the Armed Services. What are the costs of intervention? You have to figure that in, and that's part of thinking about our interests, but it doesn't mean that you ignore these horrible genocidal situations. Right before I came on your program--just a little footnote--I looked up online contemporary genocidal situations, and people listed 10 of them around the world, and I-

Peter Robinson: Taking place right now?

Norman Naimark: Right now, right now. The main one being in Syria. I think that's at the top, and the Yazidi and Christians, the Yazidi Kurds, who were already cut to pieces and could be cut to pieces more, and Christians. It's not the same as genocide itself, but it is a situation, which one has to pay attention to and think about and try to help those folks, who are threatened with elimination, as a group of human beings. Individuals you want to help, too, but this is a whole group. The Yazidi Kurds are a part of all of us.

Peter Robinson: Norman Naimark, author of Genocide: a World History, thank you.

Norman Naimark: Thank you.