In This Review

White Russians, Red Peril: A Cold War History of Migration to Australia
White Russians, Red Peril: A Cold War History of Migration to Australia
By Sheila Fitzpatrick
Routledge, 2021, 384 pp
Purchase

Fitzpatrick, one of the most prominent historians of the Soviet Union, traces the travails of the waves of Russian and Soviet refugees who arrived in her native Australia in the late 1940s and 1950s. Her enthralling historical narrative is interspersed with dozens of individual stories of people uprooted by wars and revolutions. One wave consisted of prisoners of war and others the Nazis had deported from the territories they occupied in Poland and the Soviet Union to use as forced laborers in Germany. As the Cold War set in, Western organizations were eager to help those who sought to escape repatriation to the Soviet Union and increasingly regarded them as victims of communism rather than of Nazism. This meant looking the other way at false statements or forged identities, which often concealed histories of collaboration with the Germans. The other wave of immigrants were the White Russians who had settled in China after their defeat by the Reds in the Russian Civil War and who were forced to flee again in the late 1940s after the communist takeover of China. Australian authorities showed little kindness to Russian immigrants. They selected those who were young and healthy, separated men from women (making no exceptions for married couples), and required them to do hard manual labor for two years before starting on their own in their new country.