Sunday, October 31, 2004

Basayev - VIII

Some further excerpts from the new Basayev interview:

(my translation)

Q. International public opinion was shocked by the events in Beslan. Do you consider yourself partly to blame for the outcome, or do you blame President Putin for it all?


Praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, who has created us Muslims and has favoured us with Jihad on his Straight Path!

Peace and Blessings to the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his associates and all those who folllow the Straight Path to the Day of Judgement!

And then:

I admit the extent of my responsibility, but do not consider myself to blame for such an outcome. I am responsible for having made Putin show the world his true face. But in its fear the world is trying to pretend that it noticed nothing and today, like the “wise gudgeon”, desires only its own welfare, refusing to understand that in the 21st century everyone is dependent on everyone else.

The Russians have been holding the entire Chechen people hostage for five years, and nothing has happened! Yet we had only to take a thousand people hostage in order to stop the genocide of the Chechen people, and “the whole world is shocked.” If that is not hypocrisy, what is?


Q. Were you hoping in this instance [Beslan] for a repetition of Budyonnovsk, when the Russian leadership asked you for peace?

A. I was really stunned by what happened in Beslan, and never expected such an outcome of events. I considered that if we didn’t leave the Russians a single chance to launch a bloodless assault, they would not go in an murder the children. Especially the children of Ossetia – the principal outpost of their empire in the Caucasus. And especially at this moment, when the leadership of Rusnya has reached a deadlock in the resolution of the “Chechen problem”, when with each day that passes the war is creeping onto the territory of Rusnya itself.

I thought I was doing the Russians a favour by pointing to a way out of the deadlock for them. But Putin is a revanchist who only cares about the strengthening of his own power, and who also suffers from an inferiority complex. Just look at the measures he took right after Beslan – he strengthened his personal power and not a single Russian objected. But what does the appointment of governors have to do with the “war on terror”? One might think that the majority of governors and senators weren’t appointed by him as it is.

Or take his silovik ministers: how is the professionalism and indispensable role of Patrushev, the FSB’s director, manifested? Merely in his personal devotion to Putin. That’s all!

Is it possible in Canada to keep for five years as a minister of security a man who has permitted dozens of acts of sabotage on the territory that has been entrusted to him, carrying off the lives of thousands of people? I think not. But it is possible in Rusnya, and also in gangs where all the members are blood-related.

Q. Don’t the explosions on the metro and the aircraft go beyond the limits of what is permitted in war?

A. Permitted, in what war? After all, in Putin’s own words there is no war, but rather a “counterterrorist operation” in which there are no rules of engagement with the “terrorists”, and anything is permitted. Even an interview is “complicity and terrorist propaganda”. By the way, you too are now an “accomplice” and in Rusnya you have a good chance of disappearing without trace or, if you are lucky, of ending up you’re your pockets empty and your health ruined.

It wasn’t we who broke the rules first, but Russia. In the last war, to take just one example, I alone returned more than 400 Russian soldiers who had been taken prisoner, after taking from them a promise that they would never fight against us again. Now you give me an example from the two wars of where the Russians ever observed international law in relation to even one Chechen who fell into their hands. I repeat: even one Chechen.

If Putin starts observing international law, we will automatically observe it too, but we don’t play “football with one set of goalposts”. I talked about this in January this year, and I say it now. And I also say that if Putin had said he would adhere to international law, and “shocked international public opinion” had demanded that of him, there would have been no Beslan, no explosions on the aircraft and the metro.

As for my attitude to war and its laws, it changed after I pulled two theatre tickets for an evening performance from the pocket of a pilot we had killed. Five minutes earlier, at 15.30, he had carpet-bombed a village where in one cellar alone 17 women and children had perished, and at 19.00 on the same day he was going to the theatre. He had flown from the town of Eysk in the Krasnodar region, hundreds of kilometres away from us.

An interesting war, isn’t it? In the morning you slaughter women and children, and in the evening you go to the theatre with friends.

Q. When you say that you will wage war according to your own laws, are there any limits to such actions? Are there targets you will never attack?

A. In the Holy Koran, Allah says:

“And wage war against them as they wage war against you, but do not transgress. Allah does not love the transgressors.”

That is our law!

The limits to our actions are set by our enemy. And we are free to use the methods and actions that the enemy uses against us first. But can does not mean must, and so we have determined never to attack places of worship and mental hospitals, and not to violate women, children and men, as the Russians do.

I also want to point out that the Russians have used chemical and bacteriological weapons and poisons of various types against us on many occasions, and we are free to use them in retaliation.

We are also free in our actions against those persons who support the Russian occupiers with their property, their bodies, their words, their advice, and so on. In particular, the leaders of other countries must know that in obliging Putin and declaring war on us indiscriminately, they thereby expose their own citizens. Although we are not waging a war of retaliation against such countries and our enemy is the Russian Empire, I assure you that in the broader scheme of things it does not make much difference to us whether we wage war against a hundred million or a billion – on the contrary, it gives us more opportunities. And anyway there isn’t room for more than 500,000 enemy soldiers in Chechnya . When their numbers rise above 350,000 they will start trampling on one another.

We are well aware that even if the whole world unites with the Russians against us, it will not be able to do anything to us that has not been preordained by Allah. We also know for certain that our fate is in our hands, and each of us will answer to God for himself.

After all, Allah the Exalted says in the Koran: “Who goes by the straight path goes for himself, and who errs from it errs into harm to himself. No bearer of burdens can carry another’s burden and We never punish until We have sent a Messenger.”

Basayev - VII

The Chechenpress website has published a very long, previously unpublished interview with Shamil Basayev, in Russian. According to an announcement at the site, the interview was originally requested in late September 2004 in a message to the Kavkaz Center website (now closed) by the journalist Mark MacKinnon of the Canadian daily newspaper The Globe and Mail, who put the newspaper's questions to Basayev. Kavkaz Center replied that they could not contact Basayev directly, but could forward MacKinnon's questions to one of Basayev's aides by email. Basayev's replies were sent as a letter to The Globe and Mail, which forwarded it to MacKinnon's address. 11 days later on 25 October MacKinnon told the editors of Kavkaz Center that before publishing the interview The Globe and Mail wanted some confirmation of its authenticity. The KC editors replied that they had been receiving messages from Basayev through his aide for the past four years, and so the latest message/interview was also authentic. They also said that if the newspaper did not publish the interview within three days, it would lose the exclusive rights to it. Now the Chechenpress site has published the interview, which contains an account of Basayev's injuries, his self-medication and diet. Also of some of his military strategic plans and thinking, his disagreement with Maskhadov, his trip to Afghanistan in 1994, and so on. He claims that Maskhadov lived for three months with a cousin of Kadyrov in Gudermes, on Kadyrov's money, while Kadyrov was searching for him elsewhere.

It's possible that a translation of the interview will appear in the near future, in which case I'll try to reproduce excerpts - if not the whole thing - here.

Update: Marius has provided some translated excerpts from the interview here.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Conquest

Spain was the defender of the Faith and her soldiers were soldiers of Christ. This circumstance did not prevent the Emperor and his successors from carrying on such heated disputes with the Papacy that the Council of Trent could not completely settle them. Spain was still a medieval nation, and many of the institutions she brought to the New World, like many of the men who established them, were also medieval. At the same time, the discovery and conquest of America was a Renaissance undertaking. Therefore Spain also participated in the Renaissance, although it is sometimes thought that her overseas conquests - the result of Renaissance science and technology, even Renaissance dreams and utopias - did not form a part of that historical development.

- Octavio Paz, in The Labyrinth of Solitude

"We Are Ready For Talks, We Are Ready For Peace"

My translation of a recent article and interview with Maskhadov's son, in the Western-oriented Russian daily Novaya Gazeta:

28 October 2004


In order to stop the war there must be talks, even with one’s enemies

Anzor, Aslan Maskhadov’s son, is about 28 years old. He fought in the first Chechen campaign, and was wounded. On becoming president, his father sent him to study in Malaysia.
A few years ago, at his father’s request, Maskhadov Junior moved back “closer to the borders of Russia.”
After the events in Beslan, Abdurashid Saidov, a Moscow doctor who is a native of Dagestan, met and interviewed Anzor Maskhadov.
In Anzor Maskhadov’s replies there are many contradictions. He maintains that the whole of the Chechen resistance obeys his father, Aslan Maskhadov, but says at the same time that many Chechens, who have lost their nearest and dearest as a result of the actions of the Federal forces, carry out terrorist acts independently of Maskhadov, and obtain revenge as best they can. This also applies to Shamil Basayev…
Anzor says that the terrorist acts in the Theatre Centre at Dubrovka and at Beslan have no direct relation to the activity of Aslan Maskhadov. But after all, these terrorist acts were not carried out by lone individuals. They involved the mobilization of several dozens of people. So does this mean either that Aslan Maskhadov really does not control the whole of the Chechen resistance, or that he is playing the role of the more “humane terrorist”, using the actions of the “cruel terrorist” Basayev for his own purposes? It is also very complex and confused. While condemning the actions of the extremists in the face of world public opinion, Maskhadov also awarded them the highest military orders in the state of Ichkeria.
Maskhadov’s latest announcement – that he will hand Basayev over to a Sharia court after the ending of the war with Russia – looks very strange.
Anzor Maskhadov asserts that his father was ready to come to Beslan and free all the hostages. In order to bring this about, Aslan Maskhadov had more than 48 hours at his disposal. What stood in his way? This must be ascertained.
I can believe that Anzor Maskhadov prayed to Allah for the salvation of the children of Beslan. Alas, this proved insufficient to avert the tragedy.
Nonetheless, we consider it necessary to publish this interview. Even if only because all peace begins with talks, attempts to force oneself to listen, even to one’s enemies.

Major Vyacheslav Izmailov, military columnist for Novaya Gazeta.


Soon after the tragedy in the town of Beslan I met with Aslan Maskhadov’s son Anzor.

“Anzor, for several years now you have been observing what is taking place between Chechnya and Russia. What would you say about what has been happening?”

“Before I go on, I would like to say a few words about what happened in Beslan. A large number of children were killed there. I would like, in my own name, in the name of my father, and of the whole Chechen people, to offer my condolences to all who suffered, and to the families of those who were killed. This barbaric, incomprehensible war has been going on for six years – people are dying on both sides. Soldiers, contract soldiers, resistance fighters, peaceful inhabitants. For six years the Chechens alone have been blamed for this war. Russians are being told that President Aslan Maskhadov sent those people to seize the school. That is not true.”

“Then who did?”

“There are forces that are under Maskhadov’s control – they are the Chechen resistance. They all obey the president as their leader, their commander in chief. There exists an opinion that these forces are divided, that they are at odds with one another. This is not so. There are groups that are not under Maskhadov’s control. Someone’s father, mother, sisters, brothers may have been killed – the person was left alone. Who can control him? And people like him gather others who are like him or have sympathy with him and start to act according to their own thinking. And this is a result of a six-year war that is continuing today. Unfortunately, if the methods of normalization in the Caucasus remain unchanged, the numbers of such kamikazes will grow. Yet this is hardly surprising: the people have been brought to such a state. For the sixth year running, the Chechen president is offering to halt the bloodshed. He is not listened to. If the representatives would raise one question: ‘A cease fire. Everything else afterwards and according to the progress of negotiations.’ But no, they don’t do that. “

“Let us return to the question: is a ceasefire on Maskhadov’s orders a realistic possibility? We are talking about the present day and the Chechen side of the conflict.”

“Of course, yes. If the president gives the order for a ceasefire, everyone will obey it. Including the forces that are not under his control. After all, those who came to take part in “Nord-Ost” were precisely those who had left Maskhadov’s control, those who called themselves avengers, shakhids. But they had also come with the demand that the war be stopped! Some of them did not even take their revenge – what was preventing them from blowing that auditorium sky high, together with all the hostages? Yes, there are different opinions, there are different views, methods of combat and resolution of problems in each of the participants in this conflict on the Chechen side. But the question of as ceasefire, the question of the killings, of both Russians and Chechens – on that all are united, and so an order from Maskhadov will be enough.”

“Let us go back to the Beslan tragedy. What was Maskhadov doing during and after the tragedy?”

“Of course, there was the expression of condolences with the Ossetian people, with the president of Ossetia. The statement said that we condemn terror, that what had happened in Beslan had nothing to do with the Chechen resistance movement. In the last three documents there was also an address to the Chechen people.
“I would like to make one further clarification about the events at Beslan. A few minutes before the storming of the school there was an agreement between several highly-placed persons that Maskhadov would come to Beslan and try to free the hostages. We are not talking about 20 or 30 people, but about the freeing of every single one of the hostages. And he could have done this, but the Russian side was unwilling.
“We did not and do not want to wage war, even though the Russian media have made us into bandits, terrorists, bloodthirsty monsters. Everyone shuns us. We are human beings too, just like everyone else on this planet. We want to live in peace, in harmony with everyone. It would be better if our opinion was heeded – after all, we have been offering peace for 6 years.”

“It’s easy to say ‘we want peace’. But for the Russian reader it’s straightforward: Chechnya started the war in August 1999.”

“If you believe the propaganda, yes. But the truth lies somewhere else. Some groups in Dagestan, with other Dagestanis who arrived from Chechnya, led by their Bagaudin, began a revolt. They proposed absurd aims and missions, all the way to the subjection of the entire Caucasus – from the Caspian to the Black Sea. When they came up against a natural and inevitable confrontation with the Russian army, they turned to their equivalents in Chechnya – to Khattab, Basayev. I mean, they didn’t ask Maskhadov for support, did they? At that time I was at my father’s side. I remember how angry he was. He contacted the authorities in Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Northern Ossetia – all the leaders of the North Caucasus republics – and asked them to unite in the struggle against the radicals, and to put an end to sorties of this kind together, by concerted efforts.
“Maskhadov condemned Shamil Basayev’s invasion of the Botlikh region of Dagestan even before Russia had started calling Basayev a terrorist. But those who did not want to hear this did not hear it. Just before the invasion of Dagestan there were several attempts on Maskhadov’s life. At the Chechen public prosecutor’s office there were suspicions that the people responsible for these attempts were the same as those who invaded Dagestan. Could such people obey or subordinate themselves to Maskhadov? The scenario was written, it remained to be acted out. But the most surprising thing then was the fact of Basayev’s return to Chechnya. The people were ready to block his way, the people were ready to dispose of him. He was cursed by all. But by the time he made his return, bombardments of civilian areas of Chechnya, especially urban areas, had already begun, and we realized that another war with Russia was imminent. We had to think about self-defence. I emphasize once again: Maskhadov condemned the actions of those who invaded Dagestan, he contacted the leaders of the neighbouring republics, offered to meet them in Makhachkala, Nalchik, Nazran – anywhere they wanted – in order to discuss the situation that had been created.”

“Anzor, did your father have any direct contact with the president of Russia at that period?”
“Yes, of course. He was able to contact Yeltsin. There were repeated requests concerning the need for a meeting to discuss the issues that affected the Russian national interest. But around Yeltsin there were people who would not allow the president to meet the leader of Chechnya – this started in the Khasavyurt period. They made the situation worse, and blocked Yeltsin. Even before August 1999 there were many undecided questions, and the two leaders had plenty to talk about, including strategic problems for Russia that concerned its security.
“As for Beslan, half an hour after the start of the assault, all the relatives of my father and mother were bundled into helicopters and taken out of the Nadterechny district to Khankala. In the first Chechen war my uncle, my father’s brother, was also seized and forced to make an appeal to Maskhadov to lay down arms and cease resistance. It’s possible that they want to make some kind of ultimatum, as they did with Magomed Khambiev. (From 1994 to 2004 Magomed Khambiev was Aslan Maskhadov’s closest associate. From 1998 to 2004 he fulfilled the duties of Minister of Defence in Maskhadov’s Ichkeria. After Magomed Khambiev’s closest relatives were detained in the spring of this year, he went over to the side of Akhmat-Khadzhi and Ramzan Kadyrov. – A.S.) But only the people in the Kremlin can stop the war. Even the physical removal of the leaders will only put off the problem for decades, it will not bring peace.
“I repeat my father’s words, which he conveyed to me: “We are ready for talks, we are ready for peace.”

Abdurashid Saidov

Farewell, Ukraine

Russian journalist Valery Panyushkin, writing in Moscow News about Russian government interference in the Ukrainian elections which will be held tomorrow, writes that "in my opinion, I, being a citizen of Russia, must apologize to Ukraine for the disgusting conduct of my country. I want to say that not all Russians think that Russia has the right to meddle in the affairs of a neighboring state. I, for one, do not think so. I would rather see Ukraine free, even if a free Ukraine hates me as a former invader."

Panyushkin has something to say about the conduct of Vladimir Pozner, host of the political talk-show Vremena, which goes out on Channel One of the state-owned NTV television company:

He promised that should the First Channel executives attempt to force him, Pozner, to forgo the principles of journalism, he, Pozner, would not forgo those principles, but would leave the channel and leave it with a bang.

I am not a judge of Vladimir Vladimirovich Pozner, perhaps, he had good reason to act the way he did, but in my opinion he deceived me. Last Sunday his Vremena show focused on the elections in Ukraine. So all the sides were represented in his show, Pozner had invited Kiev-based supporters of the Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich and…Moscow-based supporters of the Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich.

Supporters of Viktor Yushchenko, Yanukovich’s rival, who has neither the Kremlin’s nor the outgoing Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma’s backing, did not take part in the show. Of course, I am not judging Vladimir Vladimirovich Pozner, but in my opinion, this was a disgrace.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the president of my country, headed to Ukraine to throw his support behind candidate Yanukovich. He addressed the nation with a speech broadcast by three leading Ukrainian television networks, and attended a military parade.

And here I am, again feeling like an invader. When I lived in the Soviet Union I felt like an invader in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine… I used to go to Vilnius or Tallinn and saw that people there did not welcome me, they did not like me because I represented a nation that robbed them of their national flag and their mother tongue.

The whole of Panyushkin's article (in English) can be read

Friday, October 29, 2004

Bipolar Europe?

In a new article for EDM, Igor Torbakov examines the situation two days before the Ukrainian presidential election and concludes that the Kremlin views Ukraine as a battleground between East and West. Quoting Harvard university professor Roman Szporluk, he says that the election is a crucial one, and will set the course for a nation that acts as a pivot between East and West: "Toward Europe or back to Russia."

Most independent analysts agree that Russian President Vladimir Putin's unprecedented three-day visit to Kyiv this week was meant to demonstrate his personal support for Russia's favorite, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. It also revealed at least three things. First, the Russian leadership believes it is vitally important to help set up in Ukraine what Moscow strategic planners call a "friendly and allied regime." Second, the Kremlin isn't sure of Yanukovych's victory, despite considerable financial and propaganda efforts invested in his win. Third, Putin is prepared to struggle for Yanukovych's election using almost all means -- even risking losing face if his protege eventually fails at the polls.

Some commentators suggested that Russia's backing for Yanukovych, while suiting the Kremlin politically, could paradoxically act against Russian business interests in Ukraine. The argument notes that Yanukovych's main rival, Viktor Yushchenko, while serving as Ukraine's prime minister, opened the doors for Russian business and allowed Russian companies to buy up large enterprises in Ukraine. By contrast, Yanukovych, since his appointment as prime minister in November 2002, has generally blocked Russian businesses from making acquisitions in Ukraine, the experts say. "If Putin wanted to lobby for Russian business groups, he should have backed Yushchenko," notes Anders Aslund, director of the Russian and Eurasian program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In Aslund's opinion, Putin does not completely understand the situation. "It really seems that Putin is lost," he contends.

But Aslund and other like-minded analysts simply misinterpret the thinking behind the Kremlin policies. In fact, Putin is not "lost" -- he just thinks that the Ukrainian election is about geopolitics, not economics. According to the influential political analyst and journalist Vitaly Tretyakov, there are "far more important issues" than the opportunity for Russian business to freely buy up Ukrainian assets. Tretyakov's commentary, as well as some recent policy papers penned by Russia's leading political scientists, reveal the Kremlin's true concerns regarding the Ukrainian election.


Needless to say, the pro-Western Ukrainian policymakers eye the emerging European divide with alarm. As Borys Tarasyuk, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament's Committee on European Integration, noted, "Ukrainians sense there is a rising threat of a new bipolar Europe, with centers in Brussels and Moscow, and with competing sets of values."

Read the whole article

Oil Power

In the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza Zbigniew Siemiątkowski, former head of Polish intelligence, has been warning about Russian oil imperialism.

Some excerpts:

Siemiątkowski warns about Russia

... In a very tough speech to the parliamentary commission investigating the Orlen case [PKN ORLEN is Poland's and Central Europe's largest refiner of crude oil and marketer of world-class petroleum and related products. It operates a network of approximately 1,900 petrol stations in Poland and around 500 outlets in Germany - M.L.], he pointed to threats which according to him bring Poland within the range of Russia’s economic expansion.

Restoration of empire

”What I am saying is not a result of some anti-Russian phobia , but is the knowledge I have acquired as the chief of the State Security Office. I am afraid that a restoration of Russian empire has been taking place. Russia has been coming to the fuel market of Eastern Europe, buying out those western companies which had participated in the privatization of the fuel-energy sector. We would have been under the same threat, if we had sold the Gdansk Refinery to Rotch Energy,behind which stood the Russian company LUKoil” he explained.

”Yesterday it was tanks, today it's crude oil. Today the commissars have been replaced by politicians and businessmen,” he said, referring to the times of Russian domination in Poland.

He acknowledged that Poland is 95% dependent on Russian deliveries: “We, the special services, had been saying that in order to be independent in some degree from the deliveries from Russia, a merger with serious partners in Eastern Central Europe needs to be pursued, but we faced counter-actions on the part of Russian companies, which have been actively entering the Eastern Central European market."

(tr. by Marius - with some editing)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Nuclear Power

Lionel Martin at the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor has a look at how the Russian government is seeking to keep the Iranian nuclear program off the UN's agenda:

Iran's nuclear program, especially its recent launch of a uranium enrichment process, could trigger a massive international crisis. Tehran has hitherto ignored European, Israeli, and American pressure to desist enrichment activities and terminate its program, fanning concern that it seeks a nuclear weapon that would threaten, Israel, Europe, American interests in the region, and all of Iran's neighbors. From the inception of its nuclear program, Iran has enjoyed Russia's support despite foreign opposition and pressure, and Moscow's stonewalling against foreign pressure has certainly helped Tehran defy it as well. But while Moscow supports Iran's right to enrich uranium, it also is increasingly nervous that the IAEA might bring the issue to the UN Security Council, where it would be forced to take a stand between Washington, Europe, and Tehran.

Read the rest of the article

In The Labyrinth

I've started to re-read Octavio Paz's The Labyrinth Of Solitude, both in English and in the original Spanish, partly for relaxation and partly in preparation for a trip to Mexico I'm making next month. Even the book's early pages contain some remarkable reflections on differences between Mexico and the United States, those two countries that lie so close together yet are so different in cultural, geographical, spiritual and psychological terms. I'm particularly struck by this characterization of contrasts, which corresponds to what I've observed myself:

The history of Mexico is the history of a man seeking his parentage, his origins. He has been influenced at one time or another by France, Spain, the United States and the militant indigenists of his own country, and he crosses history like a jade comet, now and then giving off flashes of lightning. What is he pursuing in his eccentric course? He wants to go back beyond the catastrophe he suffered: he wants to be a sun again, to return to the center of that life from which he was separated one day. (Was that day the Conquest? Independence?) Our solitude has the same roots as religious feelings. It is a form of orphanhood, an obscure awareness that we have been torn from the All, and an ardent search: a flight and a return, an effort to re-establish the bonds that unite us with the universe.

Nothing could be further from this feeling than the solitude of the North American. In the United States man does not feel that he has been torn from the center of creation and suspended between hostile forces. He has built his own world and it is built in his own image: it his mirror. But now he cannot recognize himself in his inhuman objects, nor in his fellows. His creations, like those of an inept sorcerer, no longer obey him. He is alone among his works, lost - to use the phrase by José Gorostiza - in a "wilderness of mirrors".

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Devil's Advocate

"Dostoevsky—advocatus diaboli.

"Dostoevsky, like Nietzsche, disliked Protestantism, and tried every means of degrading it in the eyes of the world. As normally he was not over scrupulous, it is probable he never took the trouble to acquaint himself with Luther's teaching. His flair did not deceive him: the Protestant religion and morality was most unsuitable to him and his kind. But does this mean that it was to be calumniated, and judged, as Dostoevsky judged it, merely by the etymological meaning of a word? Protestant—a protester, one who only protests and has no positive content. A child's text-book of history will show the absurdity of the definition. Protestantism is, on the whole, the most positive, assertive creed of all the Christian religions. It certainly protested against Catholicism, but against the destructive tendencies in the latter, and in the name of positive ideals. Catholicism relied too much on its power and its spell, and most of all on the infallibility of its dogmas to which it offered millions of victims. To maim and mutilate a man ad majorem gloriam Dei was considered a perfectly proper thing in the Middle Ages, the period of bloom for Catholicism. At the risk of appearing paradoxical, I venture to assert that ideas have been invented only for the purpose of giving the right to mutilate people. The Middle Ages nourished a mysterious, incomprehensible hatred for everything normal, self-satisfied, complete. A young, healthy, handsome man, at peace with himself, aroused suspicion and hostility in a believing Catholic. His very appearance offended religion and confuted dogma. It was not necessary to examine him. Even though he went to church, and gave no sign of doubt, either in deed or word, yet he must be a heretic, to be converted at all cost. And we know the Catholic cost: privation, asceticism, mortification of the flesh. The most normal person, kept on a monastic rйgime, will lose his spiritual balance, and all those virtues which belong to a healthy spirit and a healthy body.

"This was all Catholicism needed. It tried to obtain from people the extreme endeavour of their whole being. Ordinary, natural love, which found its satisfaction—this was sinful. Monks and priests were condemned to celibacy—hence monstrous and abnormal passions developed. Poverty was preached, and the most unheard-of greed appeared in the world, the more secret the stronger it became. Humility was essential—and out of bare-footed monks sprang despots who had no limits to their ambitions. Luther was the last man to understand the meaning and value of the tasks which Catholicism had set itself. What he saw in Rome was not the accidental outcome of this or the other historical circumstance, but a result of the age-long effort of generations that had striven to attribute to life as alarming and dangerous a nature as possible. The sincere, direct, rustic German monk was too simple-minded to make out what was going on in Rome. He thought there existed one truth, and that the essence of Catholicism lay in what seemed to him an exemplary, virtuous life. He went direct to his aim? What meaning can monasticism have? Why deprive a priest of family happiness? How accept the licentiousness of the pope's capital? The common sense of the normal German revolted against the absurdity of such a state of things—and Luther neither could nor would see any good where common sense was utterly forgotten. The violent oscillation of life resulting from the continuous quick passage from asceticism and blind faith to unbelief and freedom of the passions aroused a mystic horror in the honest monk and released the enormous powers in him necessary to start the great struggle.

"How could he help protesting? And who was the denier, Luther, or the Rome which passed on from the keeping of the Divine Word to the arbitrary ordaining of all the mysteries of life? Luther might have forgiven the monks had they confined themselves to sophistries. But mediaeval monks had nothing in common with our philosophers. They did not look for world-conceptions in books, and logical tournaments amused them only moderately. They threw themselves into the deeps of life, they experimented on themselves and their neighbours. They passed from mortification to licentious bacchanalia. They feared nothing, spared nothing. In a word, the Rome against which Luther arose had undertaken to build Babylon again, not with stones, but with human souls. Luther, horrified, withdrew, and with him half Europe was withdrawn. That is his positive merit. And Dostoevsky attacked Lutheranism, and pitied the old catholicism and the breathless heights to which its "spiritual" children had risen. Wholesome morality and its support is not enough for Dostoevsky. All this is not "positive," it is only "protest." Whether I am believed or not, I will repeat that Vladimir Soloviov, who held that Dostoevsky was a prophet, is wrong, and that N. K. Mikhailovsky, who calls him a cruel talent and a grubber after buried treasure, is right. Dostoevsky grubs after buried treasure no doubt about that. And, therefore, it would be more becoming in the younger generation that still marches under the flag of pious idealism if, instead of choosing him as a spiritual leader, they avoided the old sorcerer, in whom only those gifted with great shortsightedness or lack of experience in life could fail to see the dangerous man."

- Lev Shestov

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Business As Usual

Jason Bennetto, crime correspondent of the Independent newspaper, writes about a resurgence of spying by Russia in the UK.

via chechnya-sl

Song With Orange

The Mingus Big Band, is performing all this week at Ronnie Scott's in Soho. Last night's opening set was electrifying - the band seemed if anything even more cohesive and telepathic than it did last year, and there were excellent solos by Frank Lacy, Wayne Escoffery, Conrad Herwig, Jaleel Shaw, David Kikoski... the list goes on and on. Highlights of the set were a bluer-than-usual "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" featuring Escoffery, a new arrangement by bassist Boris Kozlov of a previously unheard Mingus work, "Tensions", and the well-known "Song With Orange", which was the closing number. Frank Lacy also outdid himself on vocals during the evening. The band, which has been together since 1991 when it was founded by Sue Mingus (who introduced last night's sets), is now one of the most powerfully creative and inventive ensembles on the jazz scene today, while still working strictly within the principles and praxis of its original remit: to play, perform and develop the enormous and varied legacy of compositions left by Charles Mingus at his death in 1979.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Star Of Captivating Joy

Yevgenia Albats, writing in the Moscow Times about Saturday's demonstration in Moscow:

There were few, if any, cameras from the Russian networks, and none of the leaders of the current liberal parties and groups were present at the demonstration -- just old-time human rights activists and a few journalists. Yet they managed to hold the crowd's attention for as long as two hours. It is a bitter irony that the liberals who lost in the State Duma elections last year didn't even bother to come to speak to the people who, despite the misery of their lives, have continued to cherish democratic hopes.

I was also thinking about all those analysts in the West who choose to believe that Russians do not want freedom.

I wish that they would talk to people like those at the demonstration for a change, and compare their views to what they get fed at glamorous gatherings -- along with plentiful sturgeon and caviar -- by politicians in their Brioni suits, arguing that Russia needs a "strong hand."

Sure, the people who came to the antiwar demonstration on Saturday may have no clue about democratization theory and the advantages of autocratic rule over popular democracy in periods of transition. I would guess all they have are the Pushkin poems that, for many Russians over the decades, were a substitute for prayer:

"Comrade, believe: It will arise,
The star of captivating joy,
Russia will start from her sleep,
And on the ruins of autocracy
Our names will be inscribed!"

A Dark August

In PressPatrol's "Politruk", an article from early last month by the commentator Mavra Kosichkina:

The month of August in Russia has confirmed its ominous reputation yet again. Following last week's simultaneous crashes of two passenger jets that took off from Domodedovo Airport, the press is once again confronting the question of why terrorist attacks that claim many lives happen in late summer and early autumn.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta began its count from September 1999, when apartment building explosions killed 233 people in Moscow and 18 people in Volgodonsk.

A year later, in August 2000, a bombing in a pedestrian underpass on Pushkin Square claimed 13 lives.

The Moscow theater hostage-taking happened in October 2002, with 130 people losing their lives in the operation aimed at freeing the hostages.

In August 2003 there were several terrorist attacks: the truck-bombing of a hospital in Mozdok (50 deaths), the bomb on the Kislovodsk-Mineralnye Vody commuter train (six deaths), a series of bombings at bus stops in Krasnodar (five deaths); hundreds of people were injured.

As everyone knows, the terrorist attacks on America happened on September 11, 2001.

Read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


"To escape from the grasp of contemporary ruling ideas, one should study history. The lives of other men in other lands in other ages teach us to realise that our "eternal laws" and infallible ideas are just abortions. Take a step further, imagine mankind living elsewhere than on this earth, and all our terrestrial eternalities lose their charm."

- Lev Shestov, in Apofeoz bespochvennosti (All Things Are Possible)

Novodvorskaya on Chechnya

In September New Times published an article by the former Soviet dissident Valeria Novodvorskaya entitled "Revenge Before The Day Of Judgement". It began:

The problem of Chechnya can have no resolution in the existing reality. The Chechens had the bad luck to emerge in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, as a matter of fact, nobody needed that small piece of rock and drop of oil.

Old Russia was on the way to rich and fertile Transcaucasia, and for 200 years burned, shot, humiliated and destroyed that strategic patch of geopolitics in its path.

Soviet Russia took revenge on the local population for not kowtowing and for their self-esteem.

Yeltsin's Russia took revenge on that tiny dissident speck for having lost forever the large and fat pieces of the empire which were gone without compensation and with impunity.

At the expense of that graveyard and ruins, Putin's Russia has been resolving its problem of consolidating the majority by resorting to common hatred and the blood bonds of the common imperial inferiority complex.

The rest of the article can be read here.

Moscow Rally Update

Some more photos from Saturday's rally against the war in Chechnya:

According to officials of the Moscow Central Administrative District (TsAO), the number of participants in the rally exceeded the quota of those officially registered to take part by three times, as the law-enforcement agencies estimated the attendance at nearly 2,000. The TsAO was naturally unhappy about this, but it shows that the rally drew more support than such gatherings in Moscow usually do.

The former Soviet dissident Valeria Novodvorskaya, a prominent opponent of President Putin's Chechnya policy, is in the second photo from the top. The TsAO was also displeased about her participation in the rally, and considered that she went too far in some of the remarks in her address.

The organizers of the rally plan to repeat it in a month's time.

(via Marius)

Saturday, October 23, 2004


One of the banners at this afternoon's demonstration on Moscow's Pushkin Square, protesting against the war in Chechnya. The small placard says: "It's not that power corrupts people, but that the people who get to power corrupt it."

The Non-Gogol Greatcoat

In the newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda, Russian political commentator Andrey Piontkovksky writes about the choices facing the people of Ukraine in the upcoming presidential election:

In Ukrainian

In Russian


10 September 2004

The Fate of an Agent Provocateur

Just as there is no such thing as a former KGB officer, there is no such thing as a former provocateur. The well-known political image maker Gleb Pavlovskiy seethed with noble tyrant-fighting pathos at a meeting of the Open Forum, which was held a few days after the arrest of [Russian oil company Yukos CEO Mikhail] Khodorkovskiy.

Shaking papers with the last speech of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a speech by the Stalin-era people's commissar [for Internal Affairs of the USSR, Nikolay] Yezhov, which was read in 1937, he was trying to convince the audience of the continuity of KGB methods and traditions.

And there really was a stunning coincidence in the logic of thought of the two prominent state figures, who were raised in one and the same non-Gogol greatcoat [allusion to 19th century Russian writer Nikolay Gogol and his story The Greatcoat], and somehow being similar even by outward appearance.

"Our lauded agencies cannot make a mistake. But even if they do make a mistake, they will be corrected by our Soviet courts," one of them said.

"Our Russian prosecutor general's office does not make mistakes. But even if it does make a mistake, it will be corrected by our Russian courts," the second repeated.

"We are an echo, we are an echo, we are an eternal echo of each other" [reference to a Russian song], a choir of little KGB officers [children willing to become KGB officers] could sing after the Dance of the Swans [from Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Swans Lake ballet] at the ceremonial jubilee evening on 20 December.

However, not even managing to run to the Kremlin, the tyrant fighter called and demanded his sensational words be cancelled from the verbatim record of the forum.

And he spent a long time walking from television studio to television studio, proving, with all of the same pathos, how the modern secret services had unmasked Khodorkovskiy, who, as it turned out according to Pavlovskiy, had "promised Condoleeza Rice to ruin the nuclear shield of the fatherland."

None of the authorities' apologists had ever gone to such idiocy, in any case publicly, if only for fastidious considerations.

In contrast to the 1980s, mini-Faustian deals with the authorities guarantee not only freedom and position, but also wads of cash.

Among other playgrounds, Pavlovskiy has a little stump of a backwater in Ukraine. During their elections there, Pavlovskiy, together with a few people who are always ready for anything are selling their stale services to the local party of power.

Not simply for big money, but for very big money [are they selling their services]. So the backwater duly pants, the Odessa con-artists use two simple tricks. In Kiev they puff their cheeks importantly, making themselves out to be Secret Agents of the Ruler who are implementing the will of the Kremlin in the post-Soviet landscape.

In Moscow they instil in the political beau mond and in the same Kremlin, that the higher geopolitical interests of Russia, nay, the very survival of Russia as an independent state, demands that the clients of Pavlovskiy and Company find themselves in power in the neighboring country.

They present the presidential election in Ukraine as an Armageddon, the last fight between Good and Evil, "the pro-Russian Yanukovych" and "the pro-American Yushchenko."

It is not difficult to fool the Russian political class. It is happy itself to be fooled. Post-empire, messiah complexes have always been characteristic of the Russian political class. But if in the first decade of post-Soviet life our [Russian] diplomats, with exceedingly great pomp, waged their phantom wars "against the enlargement of NATO" and "for traditional Russian interests in the Balkans" and so forth, now its operational geography is narrowing down to post-Soviet areas, where it intends to have a "last and decisive fight."

We are stubbornly trying to force a choice on our neighbors -- either Russia or the West.

And maybe some socially close brothers in mind could be found on the post-Soviet landscape if the simmering-from-hate-for-the-West Russian elite offered them a consistent Big Anti-West Ideological Project.

But what does the modern model of Russian capitalism look like, if not a caricature and parody of the modern West -- a predatory and ruthless model of bureaucratic primary accumulation [of capital] which is historically pointless in the 21st century.

So what can the Russian elite offer its former neighbors in the communal apartment? Nothing except pompous talk of its greatness, its historical mission, the messianic imperial foreordination of the Russian ethnos and so on.

No, of course, there is the distribution of electricity at internal rates. Now that is much more interesting. Now for that, and not for free, you will always find politicians ready to position themselves for a time as "pro-Russian."

Belarussian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has achieved virtuosity as a partner in the business of "oil in exchange for greatness."

Every year, the most pro-Russian Great Slav [Lukashenka] travels to Moscow, signs yet another meaningless piece of paper on an even deeper and final joining to Russia, dashes a glass of vodka on the floor in the Kremlin and leaves with a packet of economic preferences worth billions of dollars.

Like most of the poorly-educated dictators of the 20th century, big and small, Lukashenka was born a genius psychologist. He most excellently understands all the complexes and fantasies of the Russian political elite, elegantly and predatorily exploits them, but never for a second thinks he will become a mere governor of Minsk Region or secretary of a regional committee.

Sooner or later, sweet imperialist illusions pass and sooner or later we label each new leader of any country in the CIS as pro-American or "even more pro-American," not noticing that in doing so we sentence our own policies.

Where are the "pro-Russians" for whom we wait building sand castles in our empire. Look how pro-Russian the new president of Moldova and Russian communist [Mikhail] Voronin appeared to be. Now he too is pro-Western and pro-American.

But maybe something is wrong with us and our policy while presidents are simply pro-Ukrainian, pro-Georgian, pro-Moldovan or, to put it more simply, for their own loved ones.

The same labels could soon have been earned by the "pro-Russian" [Ukrainian Prime Minister and candidate for president Viktor] Yanukovych. But he will never earn it. Because he will never become president of Ukraine.

Despite the "patriotic" frenzy of the Russian mass media, the Kremlin has wisely paused for quite a while in regard to its preferences in the Ukrainian election.

The irony of fate is that Pavlovskiy and Company finally managed to convince the Kremlin to unconditionally support Yanukovych at the very moment when it became clear to all qualified experts, including themselves, that Yanukovych will lose.

But they wanted very much to make money. And Putin's word is worth a lot in Kiev price lists.

Yanukovych will lose for two fundamental reasons. First, the "cohesion" of the party of power around its candidate is rather formal and conditional.

The "Dnipropetrovsk" and "Kiev" [business clans] fear the uncontrolled strength of the "Donetsk" [clan] far more than the election of the non-clan [opposition leader and presidential frontrunner Viktor] Yushchenko and they will trip up the official heir with pleasure.

But this is not even the most important thing. The basic strategy of the outside political image makers, which is aimed mostly at the Russian population of Ukraine, to portray Yushchenko as a Russophobe and Ukrainian nationalist and to provoke an ethnic split in the Ukrainian society has failed to materialize.

For this, the Russian image makers spared no means from their old Russian arsenal - demonstrations of "Nazis for Yushchenko" on [Kiev's main street] Khreshchatyk as a remake of "Gays for [Russian politician Grigoriy] Yavlinskiy" and explosions at the market [in Kiev] (nice that it wasn't houses). All this lame stink from the foremost purveyors of the Russian orthodox idea brought only the opposite effect.

Not long ago I was in the biggest Russian-speaking region of Ukraine - in Crimea. Many Russians there plan to vote for Yushchenko and they explain themselves quite simply. Since Soviet times, they, like Ukrainians, are tired of nomenclature mugs with clear signs of former or future court convictions on their faces.

For them, the choice between Yanukovych and Yushchenko is not a choice between Russia and the West but a choice between the past and the future, between a Soviet Ukraine and a European Ukraine. The choice which sooner or later Russia will also make.

Yushchenko's victory will make Russian-Ukrainian relations much healthier, freeing them from that never-ending fraudulence under which some dream of "dominating" and the others are ready, of course not for free, to pretend they like it.

They will gladly kick Pavlovskiy in the butt and out of the Kremlin. It has been said that "you should not bite the hand that feeds you". And one who has bitten once and, moreover, has bitten in someone else's land and, moreover, has fooled the master, will sin again many, many times.

(via Marius)

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Roof of No. 39

Further to my earlier posting How The School Was Stormed, an update:

Novaya Gazeta, No. 78, October 21, 2004

(translation: M.L. and D.M.)

What was on the roof of house No. 39?

The fact that the stories of the Beslan hostages and the evidence of eyewitnesses do not coincide with the official picture of the assault was discussed in issue No. 74 of Novaya Gazeta on October 7. Also, Russian TV asserted that the Spetsnaz used "Bumblebee" rocket-propelled flame-throwers. Recently State Duma deputy Arkady Baskayev, a member of the commission investigating the circumstances of the terrorist act, said on the BBC that in addition to heavy weapons, both rocket propelled grenades and flame-throwers were used in the assault on the school. The most important questions remain to be answered. 1) At what stage of the assault - when the hostages were still in the school or when only the fighters remained - was this weaponry used, in particular the incendiary one (whose use is forbidden under the Geneva convention "in any circumstances, against any object near a concentration of civilian inhabitants"). And 2): will this information be officially confirmed or refuted?
The press was not admitted to the proceedings of the commission. It expressed its desire to work under conditions of secrecy. A member of the North Ossetian President’s administration, Ruslan Kastuyev, did his best to head off inconvenient questions:
- Ruslan, is it true that flame-throwers were used during the assault?
- At present the commission doesn’t know yet. That's why it has come here: in order to clarify matters.
- But deputy Baskayev has said that they were indeed used, and after all he is also a member of this commission.
- Baskayev may know, but the rest of us don’t yet.
Meanwhile, local residents have already known for a long time what the parliamentary commission is unable to dig out. During the assault on Beslan school the Spetsnaz used flame-throwers of the “Bumblebee” type.


The five-storey apartment houses on Shkolnyi Pereulok are closest to the school. They stand transversely facing it. In the first hours after the seizure of the hostages all the residents were asked to leave the building. People with flamethrowers took up positions on the roofs. The apartments on the upper floors of the entrances at the far end were occupied by snipers and grenade-throwers. These apartments are at present uninhabited. They have been almost completely burnt out. When the shooting started, the curtains and wallpaper caught fire. The apartments on the lower floors also suffered considerably – they were flooded during the extinguishing of the fire on the upper floors. The house administration is carrying out standard basic repairs, and buying new furniture for the residents.
Georgiy Beroyev’s apartment does not face the school. The Spetsnaz did not enter it. Georgiy remained in it during the assault, he did not go out.
“They occupied the apartments on September 1,” Georgiy says. ‘At first they just sat there, but when our rulers said that no one was going to release the children, they began the assault. They fired at the school. What was going on? They fired so hard that I thought the walls would collapse.
I asked what weapons were used in the firing. Were they flamethrowers?
“No, the people with the flamethrowers were up on the roof.”
It is easy to get on to the roof of house no. 39 through the loft. There, on the roof, some rags have been thrown behind the small caretaker’s booth. There is a large quantity of opened tin cans without labels and a whole mountain of sugar in disposable packages. The metal brackets of the TV antennae stain you with soot if you touch them. They were singed by the rocket jet from a flamethrower, says Elbrus Tedtov, former tank crew member and leader of a special militia company. Under the rubberoid you can find cartridge cases. But it seems that someone managed to tidy up. A new-looking broom is lying here.
People in uniform summon the residents of the surrounding houses one at a time and ask them not say much about the event. Militiaman Aleksandr P. says that after the assault he was quite simply subjected to an interrogation:
“They said to me: “There were TV people in your house. Where’s the videotape? I told them they should ask the TV people. But they still demanded the videotape… “

Olga Bobrova, our special correspondent in Beslan

At first hand

Our military correspondent Vyacheslav Izmailov got in touch with Colonel-General Arkady Baskayev, who is a member of the State Duma Security Committee and who works on the staff of the commission which is studying the activity of the law-enforcement agencies and special services during the period of the seizure and the release of the hostages from School No. 1.
- Arkady Georgiyevich, in one of the radio interviews you gave several days ago you said that heavy artillery was used on the terrorists in Beslan.
- That is not quite so. A statement about the use of heavy guns was made by the
commander of the 58th army, whose command and headquarters are located in Vladikavkaz, and sub-units of which were mobilized during the release of the hostages, and also during the school’s de-mining.
- Were heavy guns used when the hostages were still in the school?
- No. At present we are working in Beslan to explain, minute by minute and in the smallest details, how the officials, the HQ for the freeing of the hostages, the law-enforcement agencies, the servicemen – all who were mobilized in this operation – worked.
- Will the results of the work of your commission's be made public?
- They will be fully made public. Here there can be no secrets. Excluding, perhaps, the descriptions of some of the technical resources which may possibly be used in future and about which terrorists must not know. Also, the names of the officers of the special sub-units that were mobilized in the destruction of the terrorists cannot be made public.


Thursday, October 21, 2004


I hadn't really come across Pentti Linkola or eco-fascism until the editor of an English-language magazine about Finnish literature sent me one of Linkola's articles to translate. In the end I decided to turn the assignment down, not so much because of the views expressed in the piece - though I find most of them abhorrent - as because of the attitude towards language that's visible in it. Linkola is the Finnish fisherman and philosopher who supports compulsory sterilization and abortion, dedicated one of his books to the Baader-Meinhof terrorist group, and considers that "the US symbolizes the worst ideologies in the world: growth and freedom."

The article starts off innocuously enough, with a set of zoological reflections reminiscent of the manner of a Konrad Lorenz:

Man is not a rational creature, not in the slightest. A better name than the one he has given his own species – homo sapiens, the intelligent primate – might be homo insipiens, the crazy primate. Every zoologist and even animal lover knows and sees and observes how indescribably more efficiently and wisely the animals order their lives than does man, who is now preparing to live a new millennium of his strange chronology. He will get there narrowly, in the midst of his immense chaos and destructive horror – but not much longer.

Man is mad, not sapiens. But homo, the primate - that he is indeed, that is true. He is a genius with his hands, and with his technical genius he has, for a short while, become the bully who lords it over all living things. If only there were some other species of animal as good with its hands and also at least somewhat sensible in the way it lived the rest of its life. In the contest it would have wiped out thousands of years of the history of the human species and cast it into shame and oblivion.

But soon there begins an all-out attack on the principle of democracy, which Linkola calls "the seal of destruction". The problem is that human beings in Western society labour under the illusion "that they know what is good for them":

From this absurd assumption has developed the suicidal form of government that was born amidst the social tyrannies that are the countries of the West - parliamentary democracy.

And from there on, the author proceeds to berate most of humanity - and especially Finns, whom he calls "world champions of wastage", destroyers of their own forests - in the name of an environmental creed that bears a distinct resemblance not so much to a religion as to an ideology:

What is "the end of the world"? In human consciousness the end of the world does not mean the end of the world as a whole, not even the end of our own solar system or our own planet. The globe will continue to spin. And some sort of life will probably remain after man has gone, in the depths of the oceans at least, whose creatures take their energy from the earth's warmth, and not from the sun. "The end of the world" is understood to mean the extinction of our own species, of the last human being. In the century that has past and in the century that is to come there are several millions of such ends of the world. The mammoth's end of the world is the death of the last mammoth, the four-footed butterfly's end of the world is the death of the last four-footed butterfly.

Those who talk about the end of man's world as looming in the very near future, the people in their despair try to call disparagingly "prophets of the end of the world". But prophetic gifts are not required. All that is needed is the ability to distinguish empty optimism from a sense of reality. The end of the world is a mathematical axiom...

Linkola's use of language, the scenario he paints with a verbal style that is rhythmic, hypnotic and rhetorical (wasn't there a twentieth-century political leader who used similar devices in the composition of his speeches?), are so devoid of human feeling that when, at the end of the article, he asks: "is there anything good about man?" his answer, involving the praise of "individuals who are still doing their work of mercy with all their hearts", and those who work "in circles and associations" for the protection of the natural environment, begins to sound cynical. So much so, indeed, that when he reaches the final sentence - "At the dawning of the new century the greatest miracle is that there are still those who protect nature, that in them faith, hope and love still burn" - it's hard to overcome a sense of revulsion.

This, in a verbal context, is what the new fascism looks like. In some ways I was reminded of Heidegger - the solitariness, the fascination with nature, with destruction, with the void. But it also has a curiously Finnish edge - a Lutheran, Nordic, yet almost musical and poetic resonance that makes it even more sinister. There is also the same sense one has when reading Heidegger that what one is really reading is an over-compensation for the disillusion wrought by an ideology that has failed - in Heidegger's case, Hegelian doctrine, and in Linkola's - Marxist radicalism.

It's a sobering thought that figures like Linkola are taken seriously in academic and environmentalist circles, not only in Europe, but also in Canada and the United States. And now in scientific circles, books on "the end of the world" are published by eminent figures echoing in a more or less elaborate form the "hard" attitudes and sentiments Linkola expresses so directly and graphically. Fascism is re-emerging in the form of popular science.

But at any rate, I'm grateful to my editor colleague for sending me the article. At least I know something about Pentti Linkola now. And I don't want to translate him.

Basayev - VI

The BBC's Monitoring Service has a report on a Chechen Times interview with President Maskhadov's envoy Umar Khanbiyev, in which he expresses his support for the idea put forward by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for a round table to discuss the conflict in Chechnya. For an annotated version of this interview, go here. Some excerpts:

Incidents in Ingushetia, Groznyy and Beslan

[Chelysheva] Could the attack on Ingushetia on 21 June, the attack on Groznyy and the terrorist act in Beslan be links in the same chain, the idea being to enflame inter-ethnic conflicts in the North Caucasus?

[Khanbiyev] I know all about the two combat operations in Ingushetia and Groznyy. Our president has also given his appraisal of these events. We have nothing to hide: the president has a specific attitude to this operation, and I see no grounds for suspecting that the purpose of this operation was an interethnic conflict. If they were aimed at inciting interethnic discord, then I think it would be logical to come out on behalf of the Chechens, but there were Ingush there, led by Ingush commanders. They all said that they would exact revenge for those people who have disappeared without trace in Ingushetia. They called this operation "Retribution". As far as I know, the object of this operation was to punish those who were directly involved in the abductions, and those who attacked knew what their objectives were beforehand. The operation was planned; it was not spontaneous.

During the operation in Groznyy three districts were captured. This was a show of force. It was a combat operation in a town chockfull of checkpoints every hundred metres. The main strike was inflicted on an area near Khankala where the main military base was. It was a demonstration of the armed forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. These two operations cannot be linked together with what happened in Beslan. Here both the president and we still have important questions.

Let us ask ourselves this: who benefited from this and to what degree? Our side has not resolved any problems. On the contrary, this [operation] was directed against the Chechens, against Maskhadov's side and we can see the results now. Our president proposed a way out of this situation: "If the terrorists' demands concern Chechnya and this means talks, I am prepared today without any preconditions to come and do
everything in order to rescue the children." He did not just say this, this was his decision. But, unfortunately, no provision was made for his participation. That is precisely why a kind of spontaneous storm began. But listen to the military analysts who decided that everything started with the blowing up of the outer wall. Perhaps this was an unprepared, indiscriminate attack.

That's what it looked like. Perhaps there was a lack of coordination on the part of those who carried out the orders and those who gave them. That's possible. But the fact that all the actions were agreed with the Russian government - of that there is no doubt at all. If you take into consideration that among the dead bodies of those who captured the school were some who have been in prison for long periods and have been convicted, one has to ask why were they not in prison but in Beslan? And who brought them there? We have no specific answers to these questions. And even the fact that [Chechen rebel commander Shamil] Basayev took responsibility for it does not provide an exact answer. Even if one allows for Shamil's participation in this terrorist act, he only had a supporting role, as it were. It is perfectly possible that the idea was put to him, as the Russian side usually does, via the FSB and those Chechens who work for the FSB. The future chain of events is already in the hands of the FSB.

Basayev's involvement in Beslan

[Chelysheva] Then how do you assess Basayev's possible participation and even more his declaration that he takes responsibility for Beslan?

[Khanbiyev] What I'm saying is that he could have been indirectly involved in this. We accept this possibility. We have discussed this question but we still do not know the exact answer to it. But we do accept that someone from among his "trusted" people suggested to Basayev the idea which, in its turn, came from other players. Here is where the game of two sides began. When we come to this conclusion it becomes quite dreadful. Unfortunately, today we cannot be any more precise about this or have any more details, so we simply cannot find any other explanation.

[Chelysheva] Starting from 1999, hardly anything Basayev has done has brought any benefit to the Chechen people.

[Khanbiyev] That's right. Terrorist acts against innocent people cannot bring any benefit. We realize that perfectly well. And our president is always speaking out against this. He talked to Basayev about this. He says that his disagreements with Basayev are that Basayev believes he has a moral right to do what the Russians are doing to the Chechens, and it comes back like a boomerang. And Maskhadov says that we are the side which should be turning towards the world community. We cannot permit such actions and then they won't do them to us. We must not violate the Geneva conventions although we, being an unrecognised state, have not signed them. But that is what Maskhadov is striving towards. Therefore in relation to the fighters he has always maintained that they should not behave as the invaders are behaving. In a recent statement he made after Basayev had claimed responsibility, Maskhadov found a solution to this problem. One cannot accuse the Chechens for having Basayev among them, because such "Basayevs" can also be found on the Russian side. There are any number of them. For example, [Russian comm ander of western group of forces Gen] Shamanov is no different from him. Maskhadov says: "Let's do this. Let's set up an international tribunal, and I promise you that all those, including Basayev, who are guilty of crimes against humanity will be brought to trial." But the Russian side must do the same. Basayev could not have emerged by himself. If we want to close the question of terrorism, then we must combat it in the way Maskhadov proposes. We must set up an international tribunal. So long as people who organize terrorist acts and generals, too, have no sense of responsibility and feel that they can defend criminal regimes, it will be difficult to end the wave of violence. The threat of an international trial could restrain someone from cruelty in conditions of war, and especially terrorism.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Two poems by the Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva (1892-1941), in my translation:

Much like me

Much like me, you make your way forward,
Walking with downturned eyes.
Well, I too kept mine lowered.
Passer-by, stop here, please.

Read, when you've picked your nosegay
Of henbane and poppy flowers,
That I was once called Marina,
And discover how old I was.

Don't think that there's any grave here,
Or that I'll come and throw you out ...
I myself was too much given
To laughing when one ought not.

The blood hurtled to my complexion,
My curls wound in flourishes ...
I was, passer-by, I existed!
Passer-by, stop here, please.

And take, pluck a stem of wildness,
The fruit that comes with its fall --
It's true that graveyard strawberries
Are the biggest and sweetest of all.

All I care is that you don't stand there,
Dolefully hanging your head.
Easily about me remember,
Easily about me forget.

How rays of pure light suffuse you!
A golden dust wraps you round ...
And don't let it confuse you,
My voice from under the ground.

Koktebel, 3 May 1913

Grey Hairs

These are ashes of treasures:
Of hurt and loss.
These are ashes in face of which
Granite is dross.
Dove, naked and brilliant,
It has no mate.
Solomon's ashes
Over vanity that's great.
Time's menacing chalkmark,
Not to be overthrown.
Means God knocks at the door
-- Once the house has burned down!
Not choked yet by refuse,
Days' and dreams' conqueror.
Like a thunderbolt -- Spirit
Of early grey hair.
It's not you who've betrayed me
On the home front, years.
This grey is the triumph
Of immortal powers.

27 September 1922

For more on Tsvetayeva, visit this site.

Say No To The War In Chechnya


Dear fellow citizens, guests and residents of Moscow!

The war with Chechnya, which was begun 10 years ago, has come to Russia. There is no front line here, no street battles or rocket fire. We are perishing in blown-up apartment houses and aircraft, we and our children are being taken as hostages in theatres and schools. <…>

Our society is sinking into an atmosphere of fear and despair. The government and the president demonstrate their total inability to resolve the Russian-Chechen conflict and their complete lack of interest in the security of ordinary Russian citizens. <…>

Under the pretext of the fight against international terrorism, the liquidation of freedom of speech, people’s power and federalism is proceeding at a rapid pace, and the destruction of the democratic foundations of the constitutional order is in full swing.

The times require that our society show decisiveness to the authorities and present clear demands to them.

We say NO to the policy of President Putin, who cannot or will not seek a peaceful path of political settlement of the conflict in the Chechen Republic, cannot or will not strengthen the democratic institutions and defend the conditions for political freedom. <…>

We call on you to attend a meeting on Pushkin Square in Moscow at 16.00 on 23 October, in order to say a decisive “No to the war in Chechnya! No to the policy of President Putin!’


“Novaya gazeta” No. 77

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Open Letter

I tidigare brev nämnde jag det öppna brev om utvecklingen i Ryssland som undertecknats av 115 personligheter i Europa och USA, och som när det publicerades fick en mycket betydande uppmärksamhet. Den diskussion det brevet utlöstes har fortsatt under de veckor som gått.

Jag har blivit förvånad över det positiva gensvar brevet fått i vida kretsar i Ryssland. Jag har mött både regimen relativt närstående personer, liberala demokrater och affärsmän som tackat och sagt att detta var vad som behövdes för att rikta strålkastarna på en utveckling som just nu mycket tydligt är på väg åt fel håll.

"In an earlier newsletter I mentioned the open letter about the development in Russia which was signed by 115 prominent individuals in Europe and the US, and which when it was published received very considerable attention. The discussion the letter sparked off has continued duriing the past weeks.

"I have been surprised at the positive response the letter has had in wide circles inside Russia. I have met people ranging from those relatively close to the regime, through liberal democrats to businessmen, who have said thank you, this was just what was needed in order to turn the spotlight on a development which right now very clearly is going in the wrong direction."

Carl Bildt - excerpt from today's newsletter (Baltimore,18.10.2004)

One Man Alone

In Novaya Gazeta, the commentator Dmitry Muratov examines the role played by Ingushetia's former president, Ruslan Aushev, in the Beslan siege, following the news that Aushev is to be brought before the Beslan Parliamentary Commission:

1. Aushev flew to Beslan at the request of the FSB and Sergei Shoigu.
2. He flew in an airplane belonging to the special services.
3. He alone went into the school. He turned right, and walked in.
4. He refused to comply with the terrorists’ demand that he put on a face-mask (he wanted people to recognize him. He wanted to reassure them.)
5. He persuaded the terrorists to release the women “with infants in arms”.
6. There were 15 such women.
7. Lists of those who were rescued have been published.
8. Aushev conveyed the terrorists’ demands to the Russian operational headquarters, as well as a videocassette showing the hostages in the gymnasium.

The result: he received the gratitude of the leadership of the special ervices, the curses of Russian officials, a massive propagandistic lie, and the reproach that his life was spared.

Indeed, dozens of people responsible for keeping order in the country hought he should have been shot. My version is: why do they want to destroy the reputation of R.S. Aushev, who is a Hero of the Soviet Union? He brought out a videocassette which was supposed to be delivered to the President. On the tape one could see hundreds and hundreds of people who were still alive. And not “200-300 people”. Russian state television announced that the tape was blank.

From the school he brought out a list of demands: withdraw the troops from Chechnya, bring in international observers, let Chechnya remain part of the CIS.

The official announcement said that the bandists were demanding the release of bandits from prison.

Aushev told the operational headquarters that there were “well over 1,000 people” in the gym.

Russian state television cut the size of the tragedy by four. This infuriated the bandits to a point where they completely lost control.

And Muratov has some sobering words for the Russian officials, all the way to the very top:

… Let them summon Aushev, in this degrading, loathsome way, with public suspicions of collaboration with terrorists, before a commission which has already declared that “there are so many secrets that we shall not reveal them.” Let them summon him.

The simple fact is that there is another Commission. Higher than the highest “vertical”. Which cannot be appointed. Cannot be dissolved. Which does not even obey the Kremlin’s telephone. That Commission also summons people. At different times – but it summons everyone.

And there some also go to the right, and others – to the left.

(Hat tip: Marius)

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Brainwashing Will Begin

The brainwashing will begin, to persuade us that this "enemy court" is a waste of time because those who are pure have nothing to fear and those making all the noise must be impure. In every town and village of Russia there are those with whom scores remain to be settled among the police, the FSB secret police, the mayors and governors sliding down the greasy pole of power. Time to get rid of enemies at that level, too.

The authorities are so afraid of us. Every age has its own characteristics. Russia in Brezhnev's time was cynically demented. Yeltsin's reign was a time for casting your net wide and seeing how much you could catch. Now it is the Age of Putin, an era of cowardice, and the more afraid he becomes, the more he tightens the screws. Cowards cannot counter terrorism. That is something only the resolute and the intelligent can do.

Anna Politkovskaya, writing in the Sunday Times.

The Vysotka

In the Moscow Times, a discussion of a uniquely Soviet institution - the vysotka, or residential skyscraper, of which Stalin built seven in Moscow:

That Anne Nivat, a French journalist with the left-wing paper Liberation, uses the vysotka as a prism for viewing Russia is an intriguing continuation of her earlier work. In her award-winning "Chienne de Guerre," from 2001, she transmitted an account of six months in Chechnya through conversations with women caught up in the conflict. This time, Nivat stays closer to home, as the main characters are her own neighbors. Like quite a few Moscow expatriates, she herself lived in the Taganka vysotka.

Nivat's approach is disarmingly simple: Knock on your neighbors' doors, ask them to tell you their life story and turn the tape on. The resulting first-person interviews -- at times verbatim and often overlong -- form the meat of the book, an English translation from Nivat's original French-language edition.

Despite the distortions that inevitably come with playing Chinese whispers from Russian to French to English, the result makes for compelling reading from a variety of perspectives. While some of Nivat's neighbors have lived in the vysotka since its completion in 1953, others -- such as former juggler and acrobat Felix Dzerzhinsky, great-grandnephew of the founder of Vladimir Lenin's secret police -- inherited apartments from their relatives.

The KGB was a constant presence in Soviet times, and Galya Yevtushenko, the poet's second wife, recalls how agents listened in on her 22nd-floor apartment from the basement. But her most scathing contempt is reserved for the neighbors: "Some of the residents of this monster are monsters themselves."

Chief "cockroach" on both Yevtushenkos' lists is well-known composer Nikolai Bogoslovsky, who, the poet's wife maintains, held the rank of KGB lieutenant colonel. He later provided evidence against her in the couple's messy divorce case, she says acidly. Bogoslovsky also merits special mention in Yevtushenko's poem, "The Cockroaches": "The composer Bogoslovsky / Strikes a chord / And onto the keyboard hops / A slippery little reddish devil."

Sixteen floors down, Nivat meets the man himself -- now in his 60s -- and his wife, Alla, 44 years his junior. But while Bogoslovsky, jovial in a jogging shellsuit, is happy to chew over his musical career and famous neighbors, inquiries about whether he ever sent anyone to the gulag draw a blank. "He tells a joke or a story to distract me from the subject," Nivat writes, leaving it to the reader to decide whether to believe the composer's tale. Against her better judgment, she admits, she hands over $70 to the Bogoslovskys for the interview -- the only time she pays for her neighbors' recollections.

Some of the fear that Galya Yevtushenko associates with the vysotka comes out through moments of black humor, as when Nivat describes U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy and his wife trying to shake their KGB tail after paying a visit to poet Andrei Voznesensky on the 8th floor. When the KGB agent jumps into the elevator with them as they leave the apartment, causing it to stall, Joan Kennedy turns to her hosts and pointedly says, "I think there is one too many of us." Without a word, the KGB man steps out of the elevator, catching up with the Americans in the lobby after racing down the stairs.

In another revealing anecdote, KGB "mourners" arrive uninvited year after year at memorial wakes for poet Konstantin Paustovsky. After seven years have gone by, relatives find an elegant solution -- setting up a table for their unwelcome guests in a separate room, then shutting the door on them.

Yet the darkest chapter in the vysotka's history comes at its very start, with the construction of the building by the slaves of Stalin's gulag. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, surviving residents have little to say on the subject, even though those who remember the prisoners working behind the barbed wire in the building's courtyard say it was no secret. Andrei Bulichyov, who moved into the vysotka in
1953, recalls how local shop workers sympathized with the prisoners. "The men sometimes threw love letters in bottles weighted with stones to the young shop girls who dared approach them," he tells Nivat.

Like many of Stalin's pet projects, the vysotki grew out of Soviet pride. "What will happen if [foreign visitors] walk around Moscow and find no skyscrapers?" Stalin is quoted as saying. "They will make unfavorable comparisons with capitalist cities."

(Via Marius)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

St Petersburg

A poem (in my translation) by the Finland-Swedish poet Martin Enckell (b. 1954):

St Petersburg

in the city of the sphinxes, and the mothers,
in the city where death’s sphinx
rests in double majesty, and where the mothers
bear the bread home, out to the infinities of kneeling concrete,
where the children, the children increasingly often refuse to find their way home,
in this city of the mothers, and the sphinxes,
life writes its shadow script, as in fever,
as if an enormous tubercular angel had lain down to die
over the Neva’s delta, over the mirage of stone and the marsh river’s dark reflections,
over golden pinnacles and cupolas, over feverish gold, over façades doomed to beauty,
over palaces and portals where raw cold mist drifted in, over the trampled jewel
and the suburbs that mock, over the weighed-down marshes, and over weighed-down fates,
dizzying fates, and harrowed, that were scattered,
and are still scattered, into nothingness – in the city of the sphinxes, and the mothers.


she is old and bent, she begs, begs her way in
behind your eyes, by one of the passages down to the underworld,
and you implore her, implore her not to look like your mother,

night after night her youth rolls in over you,
night after night you approach requiems she will never write,
night after night she freezes into pictures you have no access to


in a white dress, by the window, in that light cool room,
she stands listening to the lingering echo
from a gate that has slammed shut, watching as through veils
the retinue of phantoms from the Marinsky, sylphides and future doomed
who silently stride across the Neva’s frail dark ice


dawn after dawn death stands
and polishes, caresses, caresses her doorknob,
dusk after dusk she locks you
in her gaze, a gaze that has swept over a whole century


and in a black decolleté dress, in the icy palace,
she dances then, all night long, her bridal waltz
with ghost after ghost, until she dances with the dawn
in whose eyes red spiders gleam, and she hears the iron gates
slam shut about the rooms, the rooms where the taiga and the tundra begin


night after night she freezes into the memories where death constantly divides,
night after night she approaches those she loved, over the Styx,
night after night she rolls a waxworks of torments over you,

she is one of the many, one of the dumb, she is all and each,
who stood and waited, for months and years, who stood and queued
and waited, outside Kresty, the martyrdom, the prison that sanctified the word.


life writes its corroding shadow-script over the most beautiful of cities,
as though an angel, an enormous tubercular angel, were trying to bless all that is doomed,
by letting itself be blessed down in the slowly sinking foundations of beauty,
while death, indifferent, apparently indifferent, watches death, in double majesty,
out of frozen stone, above the river, above the Styx – in the city of the mothers, in Saint Petersburg.

(first published in Ny Tid / Kontur 4/98)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Politkovskaya on Chechnya

From an interview with Anna Politkovskaya, published in today's Guardian newspaper:

She has harsh words for what she sees as the west's kid-glove treatment of Putin and Russia. "Most of the time they forget the word Chechnya. They only remember it when there's a terrorist act. And then it's, 'Oh!' And they start their full coverage up again. But virtually nobody reports on what is really going on in that zone, in Chechnya, and the growth of terrorism. The truth is that the methods employed in Putin's anti-terrorist operation are generating a wave of terrorism the like of which we have never experienced."

The Bush-Blair "war on terror" has been of enormous help to Putin, Politkovskaya says. Many people in Russia gained perverse comfort from the pictures of US abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. "I've heard it many times. In Russia you hear people talking about it with pride: that, 'We treated the blacks like this before the Americans did, and we were right, because they are international terrorists.'

"Putin's begun to try to prove on the world stage that he's also fighting international terrorists, that he's just a part of this fashionable war. And he's been successful. He was Blair's best friend for a while. When, after Beslan, he began to state that we were seeing virtually the hand of Bin Laden, it was appalling. What's Bin Laden got to do with it? The Russian government created these beasts, brought them up, and they came to Beslan and behaved like beasts."


A result of the preparatory work done by the actor Bruno Ganz for his role as Hitler in the new film Downfall, a Finnish tape-recording of 18 minutes of a conversation between Hitler and Finland's General Carl Gustaf Mannerheim at Mannerheim's birthday party, made by YLE sound engineer Thor Damen in 1942, has received new publicity. Lasse Vihonen of YLE's sound archives has been filling in some of the details:

Unbeknownst to both the Finnish marshal and Hitler, Damen continued to tape their private conversation after the official part of the program was over, Vihonen said.

"When the German security officers found out, it really became a scene, with them threatening to kill Damen and ordering him to destroy the tape," he said.

"YLE was however allowed to keep the reel after promising to keep it in a sealed container," Vihonen added, pointing to a cardboard box with the remains of several red wax seals on it.

The recording, which lasts for 18 minutes, ends abruptly in mid-sentence as Hitler explains why it had been difficult to help Finland more in their common war against Stalin.

"We didn't know ourselves just how monstrous this powerful beast was," Hitler says.

"Had I known, I would have been more reluctant, but I had already made the decision then, and there would be no other possibility," he added.

The recording is to be broadcast for the first time by YLE on Sunday, October 17.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Mission For Poland?

From the Polish daily newspaper Zycie Warszawy, a view of the conflict in Iraq, the "war on terror", and Poland's place in both, that shows points of similarity to West European deliberations on the rights and wrongs of what has happened in the world since Setember 11 2001, yet at the same time offers a different slant and emphasis from the usual Western perspectives on the matter. My own view of the author's arguments is that wbile I agree with many of the points he raises in the first part of his essay, some of the arguments presented in its second part are all too familiar from Western anti-war comment, and let his analysis down somewhat.

The article's author, Janusz Zablocki, begins by observing that the Iraq war is just as unpopular in Poland as in the rest of Europe, and points to some special reasons why this is so:

The changes we are observing in Poles' mood stem from several causes. The first is undoubtedly the blurred clarity with which the aims of this war are perceived, something all of world opinion is now experiencing. We realized that this war was of a preventative nature, and -- contrary to the whole tradition of international law to date, and without regard for UN sanctions -- it assumed that the United States has a unilateral right to attack a country considered to be potentially threatening to it, and thus constitutes a new, dangerous precedent in today's world. Despite this, we joined this war alongside the Americans as their allies, in the conviction that this was necessary to defend the peace and security of nations against terrorism, which had shown its menacing and ugly countenance to humanity in the attack on Manhattan on 11 September. These arguments met with comprehension in our country. For Poland, we expected a wider economic and political presence in the Middle East after the fall of Saddam.

But when Saddam's regime collapsed, it turned out that there were no weapons in Iraq threatening the world, nor was any evidence found of ties between Iraqi authorities and al-Qa'ida or the 11 September attacks. And so, questions began to appear concerning the credibility of the US President's statements, and of the information supplied to him by US intelligence. As Poles, we have a vital interest in the position of the United States; our overarching state interests demand that the United States should effectively provide leadership in the world. Meanwhile, what happened undermined world confidence in such leadership.

"Poland's overarching state interests," Zablocki continues, "under the current balance of forces in the world, demand for Poland to be in an alliance with the United States. They also demand for the United States, and no other power aspiring to this, should provide leadership in the world. Also in our national interests is a lasting US military presence in Europe, and a presence -- symbolic at least -- in Poland."

In criticizing features and elements of United States policy, Poland does not wish to disengage itself from an alliance with the U.S., the country which did the most to help the pro-democracy movement in Poland during the Cold War, and which has perhaps also done most to safeguard Poland's national security in the post-Soviet period. In fact, Zablocki argues, the time has come for Poland to present its own vision "not only of policy in Iraq, but also of a global solution to the problem of terrorism and relations with the world of Islam."

The "war on terrorism", Zablocki believes, is unwinnable

because the definition of terrorism that has so far been adopted is erroneous and meager, boiling terrorism down to merely a certain fighting technique, without comprehension of the psychological, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions from which it stems. There is no such thing as "world terrorism" -- this is a conceptual phrase that mixes up highly varied phenomena. It is not sufficient to believe that terrorists are simply morally bad people, because this blots out the truth that aside from "pathological terrorism," this phenomenon frequently manifests -- admittedly in improper and condemnable form -- the desperate resistance of weaker groups to extant injustice, to their deprival of elementary rights, to the violation of human rights and the rights of small nations, given the lack of a reaction to this from world opinion.

In reading these lines, one must bear in mind that this is a Polish commentator writing, from a Polish political persepctive, and with a deep consciousness of Poland's own history of resistance to some of the worst acts of terror - both from Nazi Germany and from Soviet Russia - that have been recorded in human history. While one may disagree with Zablocki on points of emphasis, it is hard to counter his characterization of some of the political violence in the modern world as being the result of what he terms "the despair of the tormented":

This is why the conceptual phrase "war on terrorism" is being willingly adopted today by regimes violating human rights; this is why assistance for the US President is being eagerly pledged by rulers who find in it absolution for their own actions, sometimes downright genocidal, against the freedom aspirations of oppressed nations: Chechens, Palestinians, Kurds, Tibetans, Uighurs. And in the future -- of anyone who at any time does not want to yield to the violence of imperialist powers. Vladimir Putin, in becoming President Bush's most valued ally, not only gained a free hand to crack down on Chechnya, but also -- after the Beslan tragedy -- quiet consent to declare his right to make preventative strikes against terrorists throughout the world. Up to now, the United States reserved this right exclusively for itself. Today Chinese President Hu Jintao, joining the world war against terrorism, at the same time expands it to include jointly fighting "separatism." The threat in this is that given such premises, the war on terrorism will take on traits of a new "Holy Covenant." We would not like to end up in the same ranks with such allies.

All of this makes quite a lot of sense - except perhaps for the inclusion of "Palestinians" among those who have been radicalized into violent opposition. For the radicalization of Palestinians surely stems largely from the ideological influence of the Moscow-trained Arafat - the radicalization of Chechens has proceeded rather from the brutal treatment they have received for decades by the authorities in Moscow. And it's a mistake to conflate these two areas of conflict, even though they may on the surface appear to be similar.

Zablocki also points to the ways in which the terrorists can achieve their goals by inflicting blows at the very heart of the democratic processes through which the West has evolved its freedoms:

Already now, the "Patriot Act" antiterrorist law opens up to the US Administration practically unlimited access to all the personal data of citizens, enables the police to listen in on their conversations, to search their apartments without their knowledge, and to check their bank accounts. Preventative actions demand that the oasis of freedom, prosperity, and security that the Euro-Atlantic West has so far constituted, and to which it owed its prestige and attractiveness in the world, would have to be transformed into a fortress fenced off from the rest of the world. This is a price that democratic Western societies will not want to pay, not just because they are ardent lovers of what they have already achieved, but also because they will depart in this fashion from their own system of values and will lose their moral title to act in the role of missionaries of freedom.

In such an unwinnable war, Zablocki believes, the best course may be to abandon the concept of all-out confrontation, and to seek the middle road of compromise and negotiation. Seeking contact, for example, with moderate Islamic opinion, not taking the extreme path adopted by figures like Putin, who refuse all negotiation, and who classify all dissent, whether moderate or not, as "terrorist banditry", and looking for ways in which the problems of oppressed minorities can be addressed, not by violence, but by influence and discussion.

It's only when, towards the end of the article, Zablocki states that tis "multilateral" approach to the problem demands, with relation to the Middle East, "a departure from identification with the policy of Israel" that one detects a depressingly familiar note in his argument, and begins to see substantial weaknesses in it - for why should Israel not receive support and backing from the U.S., just as Poland has received it?

Above all, Zablocki sees a historical role for Poland:

Poland's mission could prove to be tilting the balance in the debate, in favor of just such a path. Today, now more than ever, we have to take a deeper look at the recommendations given to us by Pope John Paul II. He was from the outset opposed to launching war against Iraq, and appealed for peaceful solutions to be sought. Due to the nature of the Vatican's mission and thanks to the dialog with Islam initiated by recent popes, it is predestined to play the role of a great mediator between the two worlds. Such mediation could make a valuable contribution to extinguishing the war between them, to bolstering the forces of moderation and reconciliation on both sides, to seeking peaceful solutions, and to increasing mutual comprehension and confidence.

The fullest support for such a direction of action should be provided by Poland, which as a result of its location and history of experience in contacting the Muslim East, which fought wars against it, but also set an example in its lands of the peaceful and concordant coexistence of Christians with Muslims settling here, bears all the traits to take the initiative on this issue. This is perhaps the most crucial element of the mission we have to perform in this new millennium.

Via Marius at Chechnya-SL