Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Spirit of 1937

In Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal, reflecting on the senseless cruelty of the Khodorkovsky trial and its verdict, Leonid Radzikhovsky writes about the state of virtual national blackmail that exists between the Putin government and the people of Russia, with the government relentlessly plugging the line that it is the "least worst" option, and that the alternatives can only be even darker:
I expected a “guilty” verdict. And nevertheless I am shocked - 9 years, no leniency: "He’ll go to jail, I said!" Poor parents and wife of Khodorkovsky, relatives of Lebedev! I remember there was this film about the Decembrists, "Star of Captivating Fortune", and there, at the end of the first series, the successful symbolic sequence: the enormous fence of the prison, reaching to the sky, as a waggon carrying the convicted Decembrists drives in, and the gates slowly close. "This is our motherland, my son".

Well, it’s all right, the defenders of the unjustly maligned law court will hurry to tell me, these multi-millionaires are no Decembrists, not one bit of it. And really they only have themselves to blame – they’re guilty, all too guilty! Too rich, too conspicuous ("such impudence!"), dizzy with success, what can one say. "If you want to avoid being kidnapped, don’t flaunt your wealth" – is the advice on TV. They flaunted it, but Russia doesn’t forgive that. (Why, for God’s sake, don’t they live in England like the governor of Chukotka, or in France like Federal Council member Pugachev, or in Switzerland like the multi-millionaire from Perm', D. Rybolovlev, and now even the nuclear millionaire Adamov? So they themselves are guilty, just look at where they chose to live - in Russia!)

- - - - - - - - -

This "spirit of 1937" is alive. It is sleeping - because no one wakes it. But just wait - the noble impulses of the soul will emerge, the "purest example of the purest charm". Of course, the government is afraid of that. Yes, in spite of everything, the government, THIS PUTIN GOVERNMENT – is the lesser evil. It is a greater evil for Khodorkovsky. It is an evil for the country - weak, incompetent, cruel to its personal enemies (or those whom it considers enemies), mercenary, etc. One could go on listing for a long time what is already obvious to any normal person. But this government is the lesser evil. Lesser – than what? Lesser than the possible Brown Revolution, lesser than the violent overthrow of this government, lesser than the spontaneous outburst of "national retribution".


Civil Georgia notes that
Parliamentarians from the opposition New Rights and Republican parties expressed concern at the Parliament’s session on May 31 about that part of a joint declaration of Russian and Georgian Foreign Ministers signed in Moscow on Monday, which deals with setting up of anti-terrorist center. Opposition MPs fear that this provision might be used by Russia to transform its military presence in Georgia into presence of secret services.

According to this joint declaration, which sets a timeframe for Russian bases’ withdrawal, part of personnel, equipment and infrastructure currently belonging to Batumi military base will be used for setting up of a joint Russo-Georgian anti-terrorist center. Details about this joint anti-terrorist center will be outlined in a separate agreement.

MP Pikria Chikhradze, one of the leaders of the opposition New Rights party, called on the authorities to be cautious while discussing the issue of setting up a joint Russian-Georgian anti-terrorist center.

“The Georgian government should undertake measures in order not to replace these military bases with the anti-terrorist centers, which might be no less dangerous, than base itself,” MP Pikria Chikhradze, one of the leaders of New Rights Party said.

“I really do not want to see Russian secret services replacing Russian troops in Batumi,” MP Davit Berdzenishvili, the leader of Republican Party said.

(via chechnya-sl)

See also in this blog: Russian Troop Withdrawal

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev Sentenced to 9 Years Each

RFE/RL reports that Khordorkovskii and Lebedev have been sentenced to nine years each:
Moscow's Meshchanskii Raion Court on 31 May sentenced former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii and Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev to nine years' imprisonment each after convicting them of tax evasion and embezzlement, RFE/RL's Russian Service and international media reported.

The sentence came after the court completed the 12-day process of reading the more than 1,000-page verdict.

Fellow defendant and former Volna General Director Andrei Krainov was given a five-year suspended sentence for embezzlement.

When the judge asked Khodorkovskii if he understood the verdict, Khodorkovskii responded: "The verdict is clear. A monument to Basmannyi justice has been erected," RIA-Novosti reported. "Basmannyi justice" is a term that Khodorkovskii's supporters have used to describe the Kremlin's purported manipulation of the courts and refers to Moscow's Basmannyi Raion Court, which is considered the most Kremlin-friendly court in Russia. In response to the same question, Lebedev said: "No normal person could understand this verdict."
Later in the report, Irina Khakamada, leader of Our Choice, is quoted as saying that the verdict is "aggressive and unjust."
"This court decision is intended to frighten everyone and to show who is in charge here," she added. "We have been convinced that defense is useless. A term of 10 years was announced long before the trial began. The authorities have demonstrated that they are sweeping away democratic institutions and do not want to legitimize property."

Khakmada added that the same charges that Khodorkovskii faced could easily be filed against an enormous number of businesspeople and against the "bureaucrats who wrote the laws." She said that Khordorkovskii was persecuted for his independent, uncompromising stance. "Probably he had the chance to sign some sort of document and escape prison, but he did not do that," she said.

Expansion and the EU

Comments on the French "no" vote, by Dutch political analyst Dick Leurdyk:

Leurdyk says the EU's rate of expansion to the east has been too rapid for the French to accept, especially in view of the fact that a host of other countries are lining up for membership, including Ukraine, Moldova, the western Balkan countries, and Turkey.

"One of the big concerns, which has now come to the fore, has been the fact that so many people really are afraid of the speed of the unification process, the fact we now have all of a sudden 10 new members, [the EU has grown] from 15 to 25, that seems to have been one of the main factors for many people [in France] to say no, and this is certainly also the case with the debate we have here in the Netherlands," Leurdyk says.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Degrees of Fear

The Chechen Times has some commentary on the curious reluctance of the Russian authorities - normally so eager to pin the blame for most acts of public violence on "Chechen terrorists" and "Basayev" - to arrive at their usual conclusion in the recent cases of the Moscow power outage and the arson attack on the Stanislavsky Theatre:
The main point of it is that people should not be frightened too much. The degree of fear must be moderate most of the time. Otherwise, citizens may demand putting an end to the war in Chechnya or, what is even more terrible, urge the president to dismiss his appointees from responsible posts. This is dangerous for the authorities, because after numerous replacements of ministers the people might suddenly discover that the system is unable to offer a product of different quality. And then Chechens alone – as a main enemy – won’t be enough to save «managed democracy» itself…

Смысл ее в том, что не стоит слишком сильно пугать народ. Градус страха большую часть времени должен быть достаточно умеренным. В противном случае, граждане могут потребовать остановить войну в Чечне или, что еще ужаснее, призвать президента снять с ответственных постов его же назначенцев. А это опасно для власти, потому что после многократной замены министров, народ вдруг может осенит мысль, что система просто физически не может предложить товар иного качества. И тогда для спасения себя самой «управляемой демократии» одних чеченцев, в качестве главного врага, будет уже недостаточно…

Russian Troop Withdrawal

The BBC reports that Russia has agreed to withdraw its remaining troops from Georgia by 2008.

Update: RFE/RL has more here:
The Georgian foreign minister said that the hardest part in the negotiations had been to persuade the Russians that withdrawal should not be seen as a national humiliation but the beginning of a new partnership with a neighbouring and independent state.

The Russians had originally asked for 11 years to withdraw from Georgia and for hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the troops removal to new facilities in Russia or elsewhere. That they have agreed to far less is a reflection of the growing international pressure on Moscow to stop prevaricating on withdrawal and a dawning appreciation in Moscow of the fact that the issue was forcing the Georgians into ever closer ties with the United States and NATO.

It helped in the end that the Georgians were able to offer the Russians sweeteners. According to today's agreement, Georgia and Russia are to work to set up a joint antiterrorist center in Georgia, although where it will be and what its remit should be are yet to be decided.

Georgia has also offered a verbal commitment not to allow any third country to deploy troops on its territory.

In the end, the agreement came as no surprise. Just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the newspaper "Komsomolskaya Pravda" that while it was regrettable from a political point of view that Georgia wanted the Russians to leave, it was its sovereign right.

And in any case, Putin added, the bases served no useful military purpose. Georgia's only regret will be that it has taken Moscow so long to reach this conclusion.

More Uzbek Arrests

Mass Arrests of Oppositionists Reported in Uzbekistan



Uzbek police detained dozens of opposition activists over the weekend,
an opposition party leader said on Monday.

"Within the last two days, police have detained dozens of our party
members, saying we are hiding terrorists involved in the recent
uprising in the Fergana Valley," Vasilya Inoyatova, the leader of the
outlawed Birlik party, or Unity, was quoted by AP as saying.

She said at least 20 activists who had come from the eastern Fergana
Valley for a party meeting in Tashkent were detained this morning, and
that other Birlik members and her relatives, including her husband and
26-year-old son, had been arrested earlier.

On Sunday, Inoyatova and representatives of three other outlawed
opposition parties met with three US senators - John McCain of
Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and John Sununu of New
Hampshire - who added their voices to Western calls for the Central
Asian nation's leadership to allow an international investigation into
the bloodshed.

A human rights activist, Surat Ikramov, said today police were
preventing him from leaving his home in the capital Tashkent and that
he had received calls from numerous other rights activists who either
had been detained or were forcibly isolated in their homes.

The detentions follow the uprising that erupted in the eastern city of
Andijan on May 13, when militants seized a local prison and government
headquarters and thousands of protesters hit the streets. Uzbek
authorities say 173 people died, but deny they opened fire on unarmed
civilians. Human rights activists claim there were up to 750 people

Update: the BBC has a report here.

Bildt Blog

Carl Bildt, the Swedish politician who was Sweden's prime minister between 1991 and 1994, and whose government signed the 1995 accession of Sweden to the European Union, undertook far-reaching liberalization and structural reforms to improve Sweden's economic competitiveness, and modernized its old-style welfare system, has a blog.

Bildt's comments on the French referendum result and its consequences are worth reading. IUn particular, he points out that what has happened represents, among other things, the revolt of the rural against the urban.

Baltic Backlash

In a recent article on Russia's relations with the Baltic States, published in Helsingin Sanomat on May 17, Finnish analyst Olli Kivinen commented:
The Baltic States have every reason to be pleased that Russia continued to snarl at them even during the celebrations of Victory Day. The Balts got more positive publicity from different parts of the world than at any previous time, including the period of the restoration of their independence in the early 1990s. At that time many dramatic turns of events were taking place in Europe, which partly overshadowed the events in the Baltic States.

Little is known around the world about the history or reality of the Baltic States, or of Finland. Now the situation is better from their point of view; membership in NATO and the EU combined with the flurry of publicity sparked by Moscow have efficiently spread information about the position of the Baltic States.
Kivinen followed this up with some perceptive remarks about the significance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and its continuing relevance to East European politics - and, indeed, European politics in general - today:
Denying the reality of the past inflicts the greatest damage on the countries that do so.

The contradictory messages clearly make Russia’s position more difficult. Talk of building democracy and belonging to the European family on the one hand, and falsifying the past on the other, show a sharp contradiction, which is deepened by the incessantly brutal nature of the war in Chechnya.

The relationship with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is a concrete source of suspicion and fear.

During the time of Mikhail Gorbachov the Soviet Union condemned the treaty, but Russia has not done the same. On the contrary, President Vladimir Putin recently downplayed the pact and its consequences, saying that it was an action with which Russia sought to secure its interests and security on its western borders.

Russia’s Ambassador to Finland, Vladimir Grinin wrote on the op-ed page of Helsingin Sanomat (May 9th, 2005) that the Soviet Union was "forced" to sign its agreement with Germany. At the same time he tried to completely circumvent the Soviet attack on Finland, and the Winter War.

It is difficult to see how Russia’s actions toward the Baltic States and the reactions they have caused would help the Russian minorities in those countries, which Russia is constantly concerned about. One might rather say that the policies of the Baltic countries are understood around the world much better than before, and Russia’s actions are followed much more closely and with more suspicion.

Lashing out at the Baltics has also weakened Russia’s relations with the United States and the EU. The important visit to Latvia of President George Bush and his strong support for the Baltic countries took place because Russia’s statements had placed domestic pressure on Bush and forced him to clear the road to Moscow by giving strong support to the Balts.

Enlargement and the "No" Vote

Commenting on likely implications of a predominantly "No" vote in the French referendum on the European constitutional treaty before yesterday's result became known, Michael Emerson, a senior analyst at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, noted in an interview for RFE/RL that "countries such as Ukraine and Georgia will have to abandon their membership hopes for the foreseeable future":

"This means that the leaders of Ukraine and Georgia are making great speeches about their ambitions to join the European Union, they are going to find the setting rather an uncomfortable one to carry on making those speeches. That leads absolutely to the question of whether the motivating influence of Europeanization of these states is going to be damaged."

Worryingly for membership hopefuls, enthusiasm for further enlargement is fast losing ground in the one EU institution that has traditionally led the drive -- the European Parliament.

Marianne Mikko is an Estonian deputy who chairs the European Parliament's delegation for Moldova. She told RFE/RL that although there has been a perceptible shift of mood in the parliament against enlargement.

"When we look at Ukraine and Moldova, then with the exception of one European Parliament resolution, there has been talk or promises of membership," she said. "On the other hand, the Action Plans remain in force and integration [with the EU] will continue. I would not overdramatize the situation. I can say, however, that over the past month when it comes specifically to Moldova, I've noticed that in the corridors of the parliament the talk is clearly about the action plans and not whether Moldova could perhaps join the EU in 10-15 years' time."

This, Mikko says, reflects a shared desire on both the left and right of the political spectrum to avoid any damage to the "yes" campaign in France.

One source told RFE/RL the loss of enthusiasm is so palpable that Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin could be denied the opportunity to address the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee when he visits its seat in Strasbourg early next month. An appearance before the plenary session is apparently completely out of the question.

Emerson traces the recent developments in France and Germany to broader factors that suggest the shift in the public mood against enlargement will not be a short-term phenomenon.

"The broad tendencies behind all of that are two quite different things. One, it's the anti-Muslim sentiment and the Christian identity club on the one hand. The second is all those who want to keep a relatively compact and controlled European Union, a governable European Union."

Emerson says the first casualty of a French "no" and a likely right-of-center victory in Germany's September elections will be Turkey. Ankara has been given the green light to begin accession talks in October. Emerson says the talks may yet begin, but with a "cloud hanging over them." He adds that the Turkish membership application has "no chances of succeeding" until the end of the "political cycle," likely to be introduced by a French "no" vote in this weekend's referendum, a victory for the Germany's Christian Democrats (CDU), and a possible victory for the right-of-center French politician Nicolas Sarkozy in the country's presidential elections in 2007.

Emerson says the western Balkan states could also be vulnerable and see their accession hopes thwarted for the foreseeable future. He says Bulgaria and Romania have a "chance of just getting through before the door is shut."

The European Commission today was forced to admit that although both states have already signed their accession treaties, their entry could still be blocked if the treaties are not ratified. CDU officials in Germany suggested this week neither country is ready to join the EU in 2007 as planned.

Germany also leads a group of EU countries attempting to roll back proposed budget increases for the bloc for the years 2007 to 2013. The commission has said that, as a result, funding for its external relations activities could decrease by nearly 20 percent.

However, Emerson says things could yet turn out better for those countries that have no EU membership aspirations -- such as those in Central Asia or the Arab world. He says the rollback of enlargement ambitions of some countries means the EU can tackle the others with greater clarity.

"I think possibly [the EU foreign policy] would become more proactive. They will be forced to take the neighborhood policy all the more seriously because it becomes the only game. If the enlargement game is not there then it is the neighborhood game and the question is how to play it."

Emerson says that enlargement has so far been treated in the EU as internal policy, whereas relations with countries in the European neighborhood have been classified as external policy. Emerson says that what he describes as a "fuzzy overlap" between the two until now is likely to disappear in the coming years. This means, he says that once the EU is no longer inhibited by fears of provoking further membership requests, it might run "quite a robust foreign policy."

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Shift in Terror Policy?

In today's Washington Post, Susan B. Glasser writes that
the Bush administration has launched a high-level internal review of its efforts to battle international terrorism, aimed at moving away from a policy that has stressed efforts to capture and kill al Qaeda leaders since Sept. 11, 2001, and toward what a senior official called a broader "strategy against violent extremism."
(via global-geopolitics)

Basayev and the Stanislavsky Theatre

Shamil Basayev is now claiming that one of the groups under his command carried out Thursday's arson attack on Moscow's Stanislavsky Theatre:

On Saturday evening the Kavkaz Center agency received an additional brief communication from. Military Amir Abdallah Shamil Abu-Idris (Shamil Basayev). In the communication Chechen commander writes:

"Today we received a report from one more of our saboteur groups, which are charged with the task of destroying economic, political, administrative and cultural- propagandistic centres in the cities of Rusnya, and especially in Moscow, or of inflicting maximum damage on them. On the night of May 26- 27 May the group conducted a successful special operation, of arson against the Stanislavsky theatre in the capital of Rusnya.

As we promised after the base murder of the Ex- President of ChRI Of Yandarbiyev in 2004, we intend henceforth, as far as possible, to bomb, to blown up, to hunt, to ignite, to cause consumer gas explosions and fires in the entire territory of Rusnya.

Today, by the favor of Allah, our numbers include Moslems of the most varied nationalities, including Russians, who embarked on the path of jihad, and also numerous assistants from the sympathizing Moslems, and therefore every day our possibilities grow, Inshallah. Allahu Akbar!."

We remind readers that this communication reached the editorial staff of Kavkaz Center on the evening of May 28.
2005-05-28 21:24:28

Басаев: «Театр Станиславского уничтожен нашей диверсионной группой»

В субботу вечером агентство «Кавказ-Центр» получило еще одно краткое сообщение от Военного Амира Абдаллаха Шамиля Абу-Идриса (Шамиля Басаева). В сообщении чеченский командир пишет:

«Сегодня получен доклад еще от одной из наших диверсионных групп, перед которыми поставлены задачи по уничтожению экономических, политических, административных и культурно-пропагандистских центров в городах Русни и особенно в Москве, или нанесение им максимального ущерба. В ночь с 26 на 27 мая группа провела успешную спецоперацию, осуществив поджог театра Станиславского в столице Русни.

Как нами и было обещано после подлого убийства экс-президента ЧРИ Яндарбиева в 2004 году, мы намерены и впредь, по мере возможности, бомбить, взрывать, травить, поджигать, устраивать взрывы бытового газа и пожары на всей территории Русни.

Сегодня в наших рядах, милостью Аллаха, мусульмане самых разных национальностей, в том числе и русских, ставших на путь Джихада, а так же немало помощников из числа сочувствующих немусульман, и поэтому наши возможности день ото дня растут, инша Аллах. Аллаху Акбар!».

Напомним, что это сообщение пришло в редакцию «Кавказ-Центра» вечером 28 мая.
2005-05-28 21:24:28

From the Kommersant report:

Fire ruins applause

[passage omitted]

Since 2003 through 2005 the theatre has been restored after the first fire - and the reconstruction of the main building had been carried out, refitting of the stage was being completed. Builders intended to bring the theatre back into operation on City Day, the first day off in September. However, yesterday's fire cancelled all their efforts. In the opinion of representatives "Mospromstroy" the reconstruction of theater may now take at least another six months.

- Andrei Salnikov

Kommersant also says that since 2003 there have been 8 smaller and larger fires in Russian theatres.

The latest was of course at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, but not long ago there was also a fire at the Russian Army Theatre.

(via chechnya-sl)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Basayev: Official Reaction

Official Russian government reaction to Basayev's claim, as reported by AP (May 27):

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, declined comment on the claim, and telephone calls to the Industry and Energy Ministry were not answered.

But Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko was quoted earlier in the day as rejecting speculation that a terrorist act was responsible for Wednesday's blackout.

"I think that this is not a terrorist act. We are just using old equipment, from 1958, which needs to be replaced," Khristenko told the RIA-Novosti news agency, the Gazeta.ru news Web site reported.

The conflicting claims recalled the aftermath of the blackout in eight U.S. states and Canada in August 2003. Although a shadowy group calling itself the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades claimed responsibility, investigators quickly ruled out any sabotage.

Basayev is Russia's most wanted man, and is seen as the driving force behind the decade-old insurgency in the breakaway republic of Chechnya since Russian security forces killed guerrilla leader Aslan Maskhadov on March 8.

Basayev has claimed responsibility for many of Russia's most grisly terrorist attacks, including the 2002 Moscow theater hostage-taking and last September's school siege in southern Russia, in which more than 330 people died — half of them children.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Basayev on Moscow Blackout

As many Russian experts assumed, the reason of so-called “technogenic catastrophe” in Moscow and in the Moscow district, were actions of the Chechen Mujahideen. It is said in the message which Kavkaz Center received today.

Kavkaz Center agency has received via e-mail a brief statement of Military Amir Abdallah Shamil Abu-Idris (AKA Shamil Basayev) that on 24-25 May, sabotage groups of Mujahideen have conducted a successful special operation in territory of Moscow and the Moscow district, having put out of action a power supply system of the Central region of Russia.

«Our sabotage groups have delivered a sensitive blow on one of the most important systems of ability to live of the Russian empire. The result of the special operation has surpassed our expectations. At the present, we’re gaining information on consequences of our strike across the Central Russia. While I can tell only one – the Russian authorities impudently lie, hiding the true reason of “technogenic catastrophe” try to hide very serious consequences of the special action conducted by us.

While I shall be limited to this brief statement, by not opening the important details of special operation as the serious analytical estimation is at present carrying out, both our actions and actions of the enemy.

Let's remind that this statement has been received by Kavkaz Center via email on May 27, in second half of day.

Kavkaz Center


Tymoshenko and Yushchenko - Harmony

UKRAINIAN PREMIER VOWS TO WORK IN HARMONY WITH PRESIDENT. Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko told journalists in Kyiv on 26 May that she has agreed to work together with President Viktor Yushchenko in order to harmonize relations in the state-power system, Interfax reported. "I've had a wonderful talk with the president and I think that 99 percent of [issues] have been settled," Tymoshenko said. "Nothing will stop us from doing our business, even meteorites falling from the sky." Asked to comment on Yushchenko's proposal last week that she resign, Tymoshenko responded, "It [was] necessary to frighten Russian oil traders." Yushchenko reportedly made this proposal during a government meeting with Russian oil traders on 18 May (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 26 May 2005). JM

(from today's RFE/RL Newsline - 27.05.2005)

Internet Registration Order Suspended

UKRAINIAN MINISTER SUSPENDS ORDER ON REGISTRATION OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA. Transport and Communications Minister Yevhen Chervonenko on 26 May suspended for 10 days his instruction of 27 April whereby he ordered all electronic media, including Internet sites, to apply for registration with his ministry, Ukrainian media reported. Chervonenko told journalists that he wants to organize a roundtable in the ministry with all interested sides to discuss the instruction. "Nobody from the [President Viktor] Yushchenko team will force anybody to register," he added. The instruction has provoked a flood of indignant reactions and protests in Ukraine, particularly among Internet users. "This step could damage freedom of expression on the Internet. We will be watching closely to see that this registration procedure does not become obligatory for private websites," the Reporters Without Borders media watchdog said in a recent statement.JM

(from today's RFE/RL Newsline - 27.05.2005)

New Leaf

In the JC (subscription required), Alex Brummer reflects on the new and apparently reformed incarnation of Britain's Independent newspaper:
For several years now, the Independent has been cast into the outer darkness among readers sympathetic to Israel. Despite a Jewish editor in the shape of Simon Kelner and the contributions of veteran Middle East writer Eric Silver, of this parish, it has been viewed as being among the least sympathetic of our national newspapers to the Israeli cause.

The dominant voice on the Middle East at the paper has been Robert Fisk — and the paper’s use of an outrageous cartoon, showing Ariel Sharon eating Palestinian babies would have been enough to put off Jewish readers for life.

That would be a great pity. Because, in its new compact shape, the Independent has become a campaigning newspaper, using modern design and is easier to read than its dense, Blairite rival, the Times.

But, most significantly, in Donald Macintyre, the paper’s former political editor who is now comfortably settled in Jerusalem, it has found a new voice.

Here is a reporter less interested in the daily tit-for-tat headlines and instant analysis — which is the pattern for reporting from the region — and more interested in the sinews of the conflict and in understanding the mosaic of opinion and ethnicity which makes the politics and diplomacy of Israel/Palestine so complex.

The most commonly held complaint I hear from Israeli sympathisers about our national press is its failure to write beyond the conflict and seek to understand Palestinian and Israeli society.

In a recent series of articles — when the focus has been off the immediate conflict — Macintyre has done just that. The past two weeks have seen an insightful interview with the writer A. B. Yehoshua, described by Macintyre as a “moral touchstone for Israelis;” a feature on Macintyre’s visit to Nazareth to speak to the museum owner who has set up the first exhibition aimed at an Arab audience which seeks to understand Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis.

Macintyre has also taken the temperature of the Israeli town of Nitz-anim, which is preparing for the relocation of settlers from Gaza just down the coast. And he has produced an investigative report on Patriarch Irineos, the Greek Orthodox priest who, it is alleged, sold out his Palestinian flock for Israeli gold.

Each of these reports makes for fascinating reading. The Yehoshua profile/interview looks at both the author’s literary output — including his new novel, “The Mission of the Human-Resource Man” — and the novelist’s place in the debate about the future of the Middle East.

Information block

Volodymyr Campaign has a link to a Reuters AlertNet report that the Uzbek government is trying to block information about the hundreds of killings of civilians at Andijan on May 13.

The Paradox of Chile

Social Change In Contemporary Latin America looks at Chile, and finds some paradoxes in its story of success and stability, contrasting it with Mexico - "an empty shell that is about to collapse." Above all, the blog suggests, such success and stability are in no small measure due to "long-standing agreements among the country's elites that go all the way back to the 19th century. Such agreements explain, as an example, their ability to defeat Peru and Bolivia in the wars that they have fought against each other but also in their ability to manipulate in their favor the relation they had in the 19th century with Britain."

Now, when conflict ravages all the region, Chile stands not only as the less “democratic” of all the countries in the region (see the Electoral Democracy Index built by the United Nations Development Programme) but also as the only one that has been able to effectively reduce poverty and to develop a truly progressive tax regime.

At the core of such paradoxical success, it is possible to find political elites willing and able to reach compromises. The most important of such compromises, however, has hot been with other groups or parties, but above all with the country’s conflicting authoritarian legacy. Even the socialist President Ricardo Lagos, a political refugee during Pinochet's refine, has been willing to preserve, untouched, the market reforms carried by Pinochet.

Such ability puts the Chilean politicians well beyond their peers from other countries

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Cuba: The Real Situation

In The American Thinker, Sardinian blogger Stefania Lapenna has published a first-rate account and analysis of the open air conference of oppositionists that took place in Havana, Cuba, on May 20 and 21.

(via Babalú Blog)

AUT Boycott Overturned

The AUT boycott has been overturned by two thirds to one. From the JP report:
Upon exiting the meeting, Scott Styles, an AUT member from the Aberdeen local branch, remarked: "It was a passionate but measured debate." He said that in the first AUT meeting, when it was chosen to pass boycott motion, there was no proper debate, which upset many members."

Styles thought that the first meeting's lack of discussion is what motivated members to vote against the boycott on Thursday.

Paul Anderson, from City University branch of the AUT and part of the department of journalism told The Jerusalem Post that "on all of the substantive motions, the boycott was overturned. It's good news."

Anderson also mentioned "the meeting was quite passionate at some points."

Luciana Berger, a spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students, was elated at the outcome. "This is fantastic news," she said, pleased with the "good results today."

Berger categorized the results as just. "The feeling here is not one of being triumphant, but that the right decision was made. I'm disappointed we even had to be here in the first place."

UJS's sectary Andr Oboler also felt "relieved," but he was not willing to view the overturned decision as a victory. "This is the start of an ongoing problem," he warned.

Right before the boycott, there was a vigil of about 150 Jewish students standing outside the conference center. The group was addressed by a number of speakers, including MPs. The vigil ended with a singing of the Israeli national anthem, "Hatikva."

Deferring to Dictators

Subscribers to Time Magazine now have instant Internet access to the entire Time archive dating back to 1923.

Commenting on the pre-World War II articles on Russia and the Baltic States, Mari-Ann Kelam says "What I find shocking about these articles is that so much of what was happening, what the Soviets were doing then was known and in the media AND STILL IT WAS ALLOWED TO HAPPEN."

An example:

Foreign News
Moscow's Week

Monday, Oct. 09, 1939

The velvet glove of diplomacy is empty unless a firm fist can be felt beneath it. Last week J. Stalin showed Russia's fist as well as her finesse. For several days Moscow was the undisputed diplomatic capital of Europe. It was a Mecca to which diplomats either made pilgrimages or salaamed. The Foreign Ministers of Germany, Turkey and Estonia all trotted to the Kremlin. Great Britain discussed whether she ought to send David Lloyd George there, and Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria were all on the point of dispatching top flight statesmen eastward. In Sofia, Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria, than whom no crowned head is more anti-Bolshevik, wrapped up three large packages of his gold-crested cigarets with his own hands and addressed them as gifts respectively to Communist Party Secretary General Joseph Stalin, Soviet Premier Viacheslav Molotov and Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov. The Tsar's peace offering was flown to Moscow by Colonel Vasil Boydev, chief of the Bulgarian Air Force who came to see about starting a commercial air line between the U.S.S.R. and the Kingdom of the Bulgars.

Bluff and Bombers. Meanwhile, Dictator Stalin suddenly brought down Russia's fist upon Estonia. This prosperous little Baltic state flanks the sea approach to Leningrad, where the Red Navy is frozen up tight at least three months of each year, and its capital, Tallinn, is an ice-free port. On the pretext that the Estonian Government recently "allowed" an interned Polish submarine to chug out of Tallinn and become a commerce raider-actually it shot its way out, fired upon by harbor batteries (TIME, Oct. 2)-the Moscow press and radio have been violently attacking Estonia as "hostile" to Russia. These attacks redoubled in fury last week as Soviet stations screamed that the pint-size Russian freighter Metallist had been "torpedoed in Estonian waters" with a loss of five proletarian lives by a "mysterious submarine."

Next thing Estonians knew, warships of the Red Navy appeared off their ports. Soviet bombers, some of whom the Estonians thought came from a Russian aircraft carrier, began a threatening patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside. What all this meant, the Estonian Government soon learned from their Foreign Minister Karl Selter. He had flown to Moscow the week before to "boost trade," now flew back to Tallinn with word that the Russians bluntly asked Estonia to reduce herself to the status of a protectorate of the Soviet Union in return for trade favors. J. Stalin suggested that an Estonian delegation empowered to sign a treaty along these lines be at once brought to Moscow by Foreign Minister Selter. Some 48 hours later Mr. Selter emplaned with an imposing array of Estonian bigwigs.

"Higher and Higher!" It was no fun for A. Hitler to watch the "Berchtesgaden technique" of bluff & bludgeon being successfully used on Estonia last week by Russia. Germans have always hoped to dominate the Baltic. As long as 20 years ago German General Staff officers had perfected a fine set of plans for invading Russia with a thrust through Estonia to seize Leningrad. The Führer may or may not have realized before what his chumming up with the Bolsheviks might cost him in the Baltic sphere, as well as in the Balkans, but he saw every reason to inject trusted Nazi negotiators into the Moscow picture before the Estonian delegation arrived. Up and away from Berlin streaked three powerful German transport planes carrying Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and an entourage of 35, including No. 1 Danzig Nazi Albert Forster.

In the Soviet capital a much larger guard of honor was sent to the airdrome to greet Herr von Ribbentrop than when he came to sign the Communazi Pact which emboldened Germany to plunge into World War II (TIME, Aug. 28). There was even a Red Army band (there had been none before), but Germany and Russia were not yet good enough friends for it to burst into either the Horst Wessel song or the Internationale. As the German Foreign Minister alighted, as he shook hands with the Soviet greeting committee and paced stiffly along inspecting his honor guard, the band merely tootled a Red Air Force ditty, Higher and Higher, which no Nazi was likely to recognize. As the Germans swept away in limousines at 6 p. m. the honor guard and band withdrew. Neither was left to greet the Estonian delegation of enforced capitulators who alighted a few minutes later at the same Moscow air field.

Baltic Pact. J. Stalin received A. Hitler's envoy at the Kremlin just five hours after he reached Moscow. Herr von Ribbentrop left a ballet performance of Swan Lake to go to the Dictator at 11 p. m. and they talked until 4 130 a. m. Seemingly this German intervention made no difference in the terms meted out to Estonia and signed two days later by Foreign Minister Selter's delegation.

The new Baltic Pact, running for ten years, provides: 1) Estonia grants Russia the right to maintain naval bases and airdromes protected by Red Army troops on the strategic islands dominating Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Riga; 2) Russia agrees to increase her annual trade turnover with Estonia and to give Estonia facilities in case the Baltic is closed to her goods (i. e. by Germany) for trading with the outside world via Soviet ports on the Black Sea and White Sea; 3) Russia and Estonia undertake to defend each other from "aggression arising on the part of any great European power" (i. e. Germany); 4) the Pact "should not affect" the "economic systems and state organizations" of Russia and Estonia.

This last clause, which carefully does not bind Russia to abstain from spreading Communist propaganda in Estonia, seemed to mean that the country will be spared for a time such outright Bolshevization as the Russians are putting through in their part of Poland. Military experts said that the Pact definitely transforms Estonia from a country capable of fighting for its independence into one completely at the mercy of the Soviet ships, planes and troops which are now to be based on her soil.

"Permanent Boundary." According to the covertly disgruntled Germans, Herr von Ribbentrop was in Moscow not out of Baltic anxiety but to negotiate the final partition of Poland, cement the new Russo-German ties still more firmly and secure J. Stalin's good offices in bringing pressure upon Great Britain and France to back out of World War II.

On all this Nazi Ribbentrop clicked with his Soviet hosts. Working long after midnight in the Kremlin two nights running, Premier Molotov and the German Foreign Minister, with J. Stalin sitting in, again redrew the map of Poland (see map). They moved last fortnight's provisional "Military Division" far eastward from the Vistula River to the Bug. Racially the population on the swastika side is almost purely Polish, on the hammer & sickle side it is nearly all of Ukrainian or White Russian blood. Thus the new "Permanent Boundary" is drawn on broad ethnographic lines. It was
embodied in a mealy-mouthed Protocol of Friendship signed by von Ribbentrop and Molotov in which they said that the purpose of Germany and Russia is "to restore in this region [Poland] law and order and to insure nationals living there an existence corresponding to their national character." The Protocol defied Great Britain & France by binding Germany and Russia to "decline interference of any kind by a third power with this settlement'' and described itself as laying "a foundation for progressing development of friendly relations between [the German & Russian] peoples." In outward token of chumminess, Herr von Ribbentrop, whose German aides on the occasion of his first visit said they were sure his Russian hosts were too tactful to ask him to meet a Jew, banqueted in the Kremlin cheek by jowl with two Jewish Soviet Cabinet Commissars.

Peace and Barter. In a joint statement attached to the Protocol and also signed by von Ribbentrop and Molotov, they declared that Germany and Russia have now laid "a safe foundation for lasting peace in Eastern Europe" and "will direct their joint efforts toward searching ... as soon as possible ... an end to the war existing between Germany on the one hand and England and France on the other." Should their efforts fail "then the fact would be established that England and France are responsible for continuation of the war and in case of continuation of the war the Governments of Germany and Soviet Russia will consult each other regarding the necessary measures."

Moscow correspondents reported that this clause gravely alarmed most of their Russian friends, for the same reason that it set most Germans beaming with elation: it implied that J. Stalin in the ultimate pinch might put the Red Army into World War II on the side of A. Hitler.

On the other hand, there was no denying that the Soviet-Estonian Treaty and the way the map of Poland is now drawn, amount to Russia's having blocked Germany out of both the North Baltic and the East Balkans. The only apparent advantage Nazi von Ribbentrop obtained in Moscow last week was a pledge signed by Premier Molotov that Russia will "supply Germany with [raw] materials for which Germany will compensate her by industrial supplies [finished products] over a long time." But. each side being as cagey as it is, there was a long way between promise and delivery.

Turkish Angle. The big diplomatic finesse which the Soviet Dictator was quietly developing in Moscow last week concerned the question of the Dardanelles. If the Turks should permit a British and French fleet to slip into the Black Sea through this narrow waterway, the Allies could then firmly bolster up Rumania and go far toward bluffing the Balkans into halting their supplies of raw materials now going regularly to Germany, notably Rumanian oil up the Danube.

In Moscow was Turkish Foreign Minister Shroku Saracoglu who said he was only going to stay "three days," but changed his mind and settled down as rumors spread that the Kremlin contemplated trying to make a "Balkan Pact," partial purpose of which would be to freeze the Allies out of the Dardanelles while extending Soviet influence in the Balkan sphere. This, plus fear that A. Hitler might be about to give J. Stalin a free hand to take Bessarabia from Rumania, created such a sensation that both Rumanian Foreign Minister Grigore Gafencu and Bulgarian Premier George Kiosseivanov announced they were smarting on the morrow for Moscow, then abruptly canceled their visits and let it be known they would confer with the Turkish Foreign Minister as he passes through the Balkans on his way back to Ankara.

This week, when Premier Molotov received Mr. Saracoglu for a four-hour conference in the Kremlin, it had become fairly clear that Russia and Turkey, who have been close friends and allies for more than a decade, were leaving it up to Britain and France to bid, and bid high, in competition with Germany on the issue of whether the Dardanelles are to be kept open to them or closed.

To see what the Allies have to say a Turkish mission headed by General Kiazim Orbay left for London, reputedly to demand that if Britain and France want Turkey to stand with them they must furnish her at once with large supplies of tanks, planes and artillery and must agree to support the Turkish currency-a clear case of Oriental blackmail.

Fist Over Latvia. So pleased was J. Stalin with his Estonian success that the Dictator told that country's luckless Foreign Minister to stop at Riga on his way home and "invite" the Latvian Government to yield to Russia in return for trade favors, a naval base at Libau.

There was nothing else for Latvian Foreign Minister Vilhelms Munters to do but hustle to Moscow this week with a delegation empowered to sign. This obviously cut two ways: on the one hand Russia has taken efficient measures to exclude the Germans from Estonia and Latvia; on the other hand the Soviet Union has obtained the use of fine, ice-free Estonian and Latvian harbors through which Russian supplies could be routed to Germany after Leningrad freezes up late this month.

This week the Soviet Dictator, giving the panicky North Baltic not an instant's respite, set the Moscow radio to suggesting that Finland and Lithuania too "lease" bases to Russia in return for "trade." A German correspondent in Kaunas, the capital of Lithuania, flashed reports that its Foreign Minister Juozas Urbsys would shortly speed to Moscow.

These articles, which give an overwhelming impression of passive observation and the sense that "it's not our business", give added emphasis to the content of President Bush's speech at Riga on May 7 2005, when he said:
As we mark a victory of six days ago -- six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wingspread Conference

From May 24-26, 30 of the jazz industry's most passionate supporters & leaders will gather at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, WI. Join them there for real-time posts from the event. This promises to be a defining moment for jazz. The blog will be continually updated through Friday, May 27.

Russia In Denial

Also in EDM today, a thorough analysis by Taras Kuzio of the consequences of Russia's continuing unwillingness to acknowledge that Viktor Yushchenko is now Ukraine's president:
On May 20, the State Duma overwhelming voted to instruct the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to call upon PACE to condemn, "negative tendencies in the internal processes of Ukraine which infringe OSCE principles" (Ukrayinska pravda, May 20). The Russian State Duma is, according to the statement, "deeply concerned at the numerous facts of repression of representatives of the political opposition in Ukraine by the new Ukrainian authorities."

That one country should take such a deep interest in alleged "political repression" in a neighboring country is unusual in international affairs. However, Moscow refuses to regard Ukraine as a truly foreign country. Russia's massive involvement in last year's presidential election, although condemned by the United States, has therefore never been seen as "interference" by Moscow. To do so would be to acknowledge that Ukraine is part of the "Far Abroad." While Yushchenko wants Ukraine to be distanced from Russia, Moscow has difficulty even accepting that Ukraine is part of the "Near Abroad."

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry (MZS) issued a strongly worded rebuttal that reflects the newly assertive Ukrainian foreign policy under Yushchenko (mfa.gov.ua/information). The MZS classified the State Duma statement as an "unfriendly act" that calls into question Russia's sincerity in supporting democratization, institutionalizing the rule of law, and upholding human rights in Ukrainian society.

The MZS then turned the State Duma statement around by reminding that many of its members until recently ignored the "massive falsification" of election results by the regime of former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma. Worse still, "They actively stood on the side of those in Ukraine who adopted anti-democratic practices as a norm in social life, but who today describe themselves as the ‘opposition.' The State Duma statement twists the facts and demonstratively supports these same political forces."

The Russian statement also condemned the alleged attempt in Ukraine at "establishing political and ideological control over the mass media" and "pressure against journalists who criticize representatives of the authorities." This allegation clearly reveals Russia's double standards. Media freedom in Russia is far worse now than under Yeltsin, whereas in Ukraine it has greatly expanded since Yushchenko's election.

Even hollower are Russia's complaints about alleged attempts to impose "ideological control over the mass media" in Ukraine. Russian political technologist Sergei Markov has admitted that, during the Kuchma era, Russia was directly involved in preparing secret instructions (temnyky) that the Ukrainian presidential administration, then headed by Viktor Medvedchuk, would send to media outlets. Ukraine's 1+1television channel has revealed that the presidential administration threatened to shut them down if they did not follow these guidelines.

Yet Medvedchuk has now warned the OSCE that Yushchenko is turning Ukraine into an "authoritarian state" (Ukrayinska pravda, May 24). He also advised the OSCE that Yushchenko's new party of power, People's Union-Our Ukraine, would abuse its access to state-administrative resources in next year's parliamentary elections. This is quite rich coming from the man who was directly involved in the worst abuses of state-administrative resources in the 2004 elections.

The Ministry also expressed its surprise that the State Duma would appeal to PACE, which has often declared its dissatisfaction with the state of democracy in Russia. Since Yushchenko's election, Kyiv has distanced itself from the Kuchma regime's statements backing Russian criticism of the OSCE.

Ukraine, like Georgia and Moldova, has pulled out of the CIS Election Observation Mission (CIS EOM) because it was established to provide an alternative to the OSCE monitors by whitewashing election fraud in the CIS. The CIS observers did not see any election fraud in round two of Ukraine's 2004 election, a conclusion sharply at odds with the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the United States.

Putin has defended his support for Yanukovych by stating that it was Russia's policy to only deal with the authorities. Evidently, this policy did not carry over to the Yushchenko government. Russia has become the defender of the opposition while refusing to condemn the corruption and election fraud that these ousted leaders have committed. This selective memory was on view in January when Putin met Yanukovych in Moscow before Yushchenko's inauguration (Ukrayinska pravda, January 24). During his chat with Yanukovych, Putin agreed to support the opposition in Ukraine in the 2006 parliamentary elections.

Moscow's allegations of "political repression" are linked to Yushchenko's forthright statements that some 16,000-17,000 Ukrainian officials have been released because they supported the previous regime and were involved in corruption and election fraud. He has promised to continue this housecleaning by replacing the head of every rayon administration. Ukraine's political opposition has failed to convince the Western media and international organizations that this replacement of officials and the launching of criminal charges against some of them are tantamount to "political repression." Only Russia is convinced of this claim.

During a recent conference in Kyiv, the president of the European Court of Human Rights, Luzius Wildhaber, did not observe any human rights abuses in Ukraine. He stated, "Some areas need to change quickly, some require legislative changes, and one needs to give the authorities time if you really seriously want to see change" (Ukrayinska pravda, May 10).


In EDM, Vladimir Socor discusses the passage of resolutions in the U.S. Senate and the European Parliament condemning the occupation of the Baltic states and other Soviet crimes not acknowledged by Russia:
On May 21, the United States Senate passed a concurrent resolution, urging, "The government of the Russian Federation should issue a clear and unambiguous statement, admitting to and condemning the illegal occupation and annexation" until 1991 of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Implicitly but clearly refuting Moscow's official version as restated during the anniversary celebrations, the Senate resolution notes that the Soviet Union's incorporation of the Baltic states was "an act of aggression carried out against the will of sovereign nations" and that it "brought boundless suffering to the Baltic peoples through terror, killings, and deportations to Siberia."

The resolution calls on Russia, in its capacity as the Soviet Union's successor state, to repudiate the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact "which provided the Soviet Union with the opportunity to annex Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania," and to make a "declaration of acknowledgment of the illegal occupation." Such steps by Russia "would form the basis to improved relations" between Russia and the Baltic states. The companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to come to a vote soon (BNS, May 21).

The European Parliament passed on May 12 a resolution on the end of the Second World War, in an attempt at restoring balance to West European perspectives on recent history: "For some nations, the end of the war meant renewed tyranny," such as "forced incorporation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union, and mass killings and deportations of their citizens." While VE-Day meant liberation in Western Europe, the resolution notes, that day only arrived in Central and Eastern Europe "after many decades under Soviet domination or occupation." A communist group in the European Parliament, along with Latvia's Russian militant Tatyana Zhdanoka, opposed the resolution and assailed the Baltic states in the process (BNS, May 12, 13).

One of the resolution's authors, Toomas Ilves of Estonia, noted after the passage, "An understanding of what the end of the war brought for Eastern Europe is only taking shape in Western Europe." His Estonian colleague Tunne Kelam, in turn, observed that the treatment of Europe's post-war history within the European Union is not yet balanced, as victims of communist rule are still being consigned to a second category, and a comprehensive condemnation of communist regimes is overdue. Lithuania's Vytautas Landsbergis, a resolution coauthor, noted that the passage gained added importance in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin's assertion that the Soviet Union's collapse was the century's greatest disaster. The resolution's passage was a first step; the next must be for the EU to call on Russia's authorities to overcome that understanding of history, which is "damaging to ordinary Russians and to international cooperation" (BNS, ELTA, May 12, 13).
See also in this blog: Russian Apology Resolution

Fallaci Trial

With regard to the advice of an Italian preliminary judge that Oriana Fallaci should stand trial in her native Italy on charges that she defamed Islam in her book La Forza della Ragione, it needs to be noted that there is a difference of opinion between the Italian judiciary and the Italian Ministry of Justice:
Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, who has a prickly relationship with the Italian judiciary, said the ruling represented an attack on freedom of expression.

"In Europe we are seeing the birth of a movement that is looking to silence those who don't follow a single mindset, within which it is forbidden to speak ill of Islam, of homosexuals or of the children of homosexuals," Castelli was quoted as saying in an interview with Radio Padania.

"In Fallaci's book there is very strong criticism but not defamation," Italian news agency ANSA quoted him as saying. (Reuters)

The Drift to Bad Times

Poet and translator George Szirtes has written a powerful and eloquent piece for Engage on the subject of the AUT boycott. There is also a poem by him.

From the essay:
We are drifting towards some pretty bad times, drifting, that is, with a little help. Meanings drift or, rather, are being shifted, from what were once reasonably secure positions (no meaning is ever completely secure). So the state that in 1972 was pointed out to me by a mild anarchist tutor as a left-stage societal model has, since 1973 and the petrol crisis that put Europe under pressure, found itself being shifted into the wings of the unspeakable right, and is now regarded by some as genocidal, fascistic, racist, not simply now, but from its very origins; not just in its actions but in its very being.

The products of drifting are loss of focus, blurring, the creation of a haze in which to point at one part of the blur is to point at the whole. So blur becomes smear. So a senior academic last year showing me a batch of poems, including a satire of sorts against Israel, could confide in me: ‘That’s one in the eye for the Jews.’ For Israel is indeed a Jewish state and people naturally grow tired of trying to make fine distinctions between a religion and a state comprised primarily of people of that religion. When I hear Sue Blackwell talk of the ‘centuries of oppression’ of Palestinians, I can see the shifting on a larger scale. I see heavy and monstrous tags being dragged across various fine distinctions, until the distinctions no longer matter.

I don’t think I need to refer to the circumstances of the creation of the state of Israel. That history is better discussed by others. What I know, and know deep in my nerves, is that Jews always are, always have been and are likely to continue to be an endangered species: endangered in Europe above all. Israel is not in Europe. It is however a small country surrounded by hostile others that would wish to be rid of it and its people. That has been the case since its founding and is the case now.


A new report released by the Independent Monitoring Commission concludes that the Irish Republican Army covered up a Belfast killing, is smuggling in new armaments and continues to recruit and train members how to use firearms and make bombs. In addition, the report states that
Paramilitary groups continue to be active in violent and other crime and none have materially wound down their capability to commit violent or other crime. It continues to be the case that dissident republican groups are the most committed to continuing terrorism.
From a recent AP wire:
The report shed new light on a central issue bedeviling Northern Ireland's 12-year-old peace process - whether the outlawed IRA will disarm and disband in support of the province's 1998 peace accord.

It found that the IRA and a half-dozen other paramilitary groups remained highly active from September 2004 to March. While the other groups have no significant political support, the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party represents most of Northern Ireland's Catholic minority, making continued IRA activity a huge political obstacle.

The commissioners, among them a former CIA deputy director, cited evidence that the IRA was smuggling in new weaponry in defiance of the 1998 accord's disarmament goals. The IRA was supposed to have scrapped all its armaments by mid-2000 but didn't
start the process until late 2001 and halted it some two years later.

The report said police in September discovered 10,000 rounds of assault rifle ammunition in an IRA arms dump "of a type not previously found in Northern Ireland and manufactured since the Belfast agreement." These bullets, it said, "may have been only part of a larger consignment."

The IRA "continues to seek to maintain its medium-term effectiveness. It recruits and trains new members, including in the use of firearms and explosives. It continues to gather intelligence," the report said.

It said the IRA committed at least five shootings and six assaults since September and runs a range of criminal rackets such as smuggling fuel and cigarettes and bank robberies - including the world-record theft in December of about $50 million from a Belfast bank. The IRA has denied involvement in the bank robbery.

The commissioners added their take to the IRA's admission that its members stabbed to death a Catholic civilian, Robert McCartney, outside a Belfast bar on Jan. 30.

They accused the IRA of putting "the organization and its members ahead of justice." They said IRA members attacked McCartney "at the direction" of a senior IRA figure in Belfast and afterward cleaned up forensic evidence and intimidated potential witnesses.

The IRA - which initially denied involvement - later expelled three members and offered to shoot two of them as the group faced intense pressure from a public campaign by McCartney's sisters. Sinn Fein also suspended or expelled about a dozen members who were involved in or witnessed the killing.

The commissioners said three groups rooted in hard-line Protestant areas - the Loyalist Volunteer Force, Ulster Defense Association and Ulster Volunteer Force - were responsible for more violence and crime than the IRA and three smaller anti-British gangs. They said, on average, the IRA and these other underground groups combined to shoot or assault four people each week.
(via global-geopolitics)

Pipeline Politics

In the Christian Science Monitor, Yigal Schleifer takes a look at "pipeline politics [that] give Turkey the edge." Writing about the new Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, a $4 billion, 1,093-mile project that will bring Caspian Sea oil to Turkey's Mediterranean coast, Schleifer notes that "the pipeline - built by a consortium of 11 companies, including British Petroleum, the American firm Unocal, and Turkey's national oil corporation - is designed to bring a non-Middle Eastern source of oil to the West. This would loosen Russia's and Iran's grip on the transport of Caspian and Central Asian oil by creating a new route that is friendlier to the United States and Europe."

It can be no coincidence that in the very week when the pipeline opens (the opening takes place on Wednesday), Baku has been shaken by street protests, during which demonstrators were brutally beaten and arrested. While some commentators, including Schleifer, tend to put the blame on President Bush, for "encouraging" political dissent in the region during his recent visit to Georgia, it's perhaps also appropriate to ask once again, as in the case of Uzbekistan, about the timing of the unrest.

In Andijan, the violence was ostensibly caused by "Islamists" - with President Karimov doing his utmost, with Moscow's backing, to capitalize on the "allies in the War on Terror" theme so prominently on display at the May 9 Moscow commemorations, while also causing maximum embarrassment to his "ally" the U.S. government. In Baku, the violence also embarrasses the United States, which supports the pipeline project so disliked by Moscow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ghost Train

Exercise with ghost train

by Catharina Gripenberg (b. 1977, Jakobstad, Finland) [my tr.]

The ideal goodbye is the ghost train journey. One person
takes a seat in the carriage. The other waits on the small wooden platform.
For letters there’s no time. And getting away there is none. There are
no spontaneous stations. Only a very single ticket. Whoever
travels away along the rails will not escape.
If you stand on the platform you can look up at the trees and close your eyes
for a little. Eat a cone with something in it. A short time passes, and
then the departee pops up again. The platform: is just the same.
The carriage, likewise. But the face? Wide open? So say:
Imagine if it had been real. Don’t go leaving again.

If the carriage is empty upon its return, ask yourself the question:
Is the amusement park director a coward?
If he’s not a coward, he’ll take a midnight stroll along the ghost train track
and find the lost one at the foot of a stuffed bear:
The traveller had thrown himself from the carriage in the dark
intending to reappear on the small platform in a few years’ time,
with a cloud and a piece of the latitude on his backside.

The ghost train’s crucial point: Before setting off one doesn’t say
goodbye to anyone. One doesn’t grieve. One doesn’t turn
one’s head and wave. One doesn’t turn one’s head.

from Ödemjuka belles lettres från en till en (Humble belles lettres from one to one), Schildts, 2002.

Ineptitude and Violence

Rodolfo at México desde fuera considers the wave of drug cartel-related violence that is currently sweeping Northern Mexico:

No sé necesita ser un genio para observar que en el país nada avanza, que las vías del diálogo y la negociación sensata y productiva se han cerrado y que los pleitos de las élites políticas han ganado una prominencia sin precedentes en la historia reciente del país.

No sólo eso, nos acostumbramos a pensar que el narcotráfico era un problema de Estados Unidos y que en México nunca nos íbamos a ver afectados por el consumo. Finalmente, la hipocresía del gobierno de Estados Unidos que insiste en tratar de tapar el sol con un dedo, desconociendo los altísimos índices de consumo de estupefacientes en su sociedad.

Todo ello se ha combinado para generar las condiciones ideales para la ola de violencia que vive el país. Tanto así que The New York Times ya tomó noticia de la situación y una foto de los casquillos de balas regados en las calles de Nuevo Laredo "adornó" la primera plana del diario este martes.

The blog sees the root of the problem not only in U.S. hypocrisy, but also in the political ineptitude of President Fox, and his inability to steer his country on a straight and consistent course, and to strike political alliances where necessary:

Más allá del dislate, lo que deja ver es una realidad que han aprovechado las bandas de criminales organizados para hacer de las suyas: es cierto, el congreso ha bloqueado muchas de las propuestas formuladas por el presidente de la República, pero también es cierto que Fox no ha logrado entender que en política, como en muchas otras cosas en la vida, necesita uno ser capaz de establecer compromisos, alianzas.

There is much more to read and think about here. Sometimes, in reading about contemporary political and social developments in Mexico, I'm reminded of what used to be written in the 1990s about Yeltsin's Russia, both within Russia and beyond its borders. It's very much to be hoped that after the forthcoming elections Mexico doesn't follow a path similar to the one taken by the present Russian leadership in the wake of Yeltsin's demise.

Uzbek Arrests

RFE/RL reports that human rights workers in Uzbekistan are expressing concern about recent arrests there. In addition to the already widely discussed case of Saidjahon Zainabitdinov, there are also fears for the safety of two members of the human rights group Ezgulik (Goodness), who were reportedly beaten as they were on their way to interview witnesses of the 13 May violence. Other cases of intimidation and arrest are currently under scrutiny.

The Schoenberg Jukebox

Bob Shingleton at On An Overgrown Path has made the discovery of the Online Arnold Schoenberg Jukebox - an amazing audio compilation of the composer's complete works (well, almost).

Andijan - the Regional Impact

In today's issue of EDM, Roger N. McDermott writes that "heightened security and increased concerns among Uzbekistan's immediate neighbors mark the uneasy atmosphere produced by Tashkent's crackdown in Andijan on May 13. Kyrgyzstan's security agencies are particularly anxious to avoid any spillover of political violence across the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. Tension is high on the border itself, while the impact on the region's security as a whole is beginning to emerge. Moscow has stepped up its security measures in the region by advancing its military basing policy in Kyrgyzstan. Though the situation within Uzbekistan itself has improved since the crisis erupted, denoted by the smother operation to regain control over the border town of Karasuu, once again the attention of both regional and external powers is focused on the future stability of this strategically vital area."

In considering the effect the events in Andijan have had for the security of the region as a whole, McDermott believes that
China and Russia, keen to advance their own economic and geopolitical interests in Central Asia, and to thwart American foreign policy goals in the region, appear ready to support Karimov's regime and those like his in Central Asia. Moscow and, to a lesser extent, China fear a possible "green" or Islamic revolution within Central Asia, and their political and security countermeasures will offer little comfort to those forces seeking to stimulate the development of democracy and respect for human rights in the region. In practical terms, Russian security thinking may be restricted to increasing the size of its own military footprint in Kyrgyzstan and providing more fluid and reliable intelligence to Bishkek.

Fiery Summer?

In the new issue of Chechen Society Newspaper, Ruslan Zhadayev speculates on the "Fiery Summer" of Shamil Basayev:
Renewal of military activities not only in Chechnya, but in the North Caucasus and Russia as a whole predicted by both Russian and Chechen militants.

Vladimir Kravchenko, Procurator of Chechnya, announced the news in early April of this year. According to him, Chechen militants are preparing to carry out a series of large-scale terrorist acts.

"The militants plan to advertise themselves," declared Kravchenko, - "and earn the monetary assistance which unfortunately they continue to receive. They have named the period 'Fiery Summer'." Almost immediately afterwards, the Federals announced that they won't permit a deterioration of the situation in Chechen Republic (which they hold under complete control).

Alu Alkhanov, Chechnya's head, likewise expressed faith that the militants won't be able to make the situation in the Republic worse this summer. "The militants have endured a heavy blow this year, their centralized system of command has been destroyed and famous field commanders killed."

Representatives of the other side reacted to the news about their preparation for the large-scale operation "Fiery Summer" a little later. In the beginning of May in an interview with "Radio Liberty",famous Chechen field commander Doku Umarov announced the fighters' intentions "to carry out military activities on the territory of the opponent."

According to him, only by Aslan Maskhadov's demand did they thus far restrict military operations to the territory of Chechnya. Now however "when the murder and kidnapping of peaceful Chechen citizens has attained not only a full-scale but demonstrative character," the decision was made to introduce broad-scale military operations on the territory of Russia.

Thus the separatist websites have posted several new orders of Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev - Aslan Maskhadov's successor to the post of President of Ichkeria.

According to site gazeta.ru, one of the orders announced the creation of a united "Caucasus Front" of the Ichkerian Military Force. The stated document claims that Ossetian, Ingush, Kabardino-Balkarian, Stavropolian, Karachaevo-Cherkessian, Adigean and Krasnodar 'sectors' of the Western Front of the the Ichkerian Military Force are included in the "Caucasus Front" along with commanding fronts within Chechnya proper.

What the leaders of the "Caucasus Front" specifically plan to do - that which would seize practically all of the Northern Caucasus Republics – remains as of yet unknown.
Nevertheless, there are enough factors to predict that if they don't spread their presence deep into Russia, they will at least do so throughout the Northern Caucasus.

Sadulayev directly declared that whilst Europe doesn't help them to start political discussions with Moscow, their plan will remain, "forcing the Kremlin to peace", and that blows will be dealt to the "Achilles Heel of the Kremlin inhabitants and their helpers." This is according to gazeta.ru with a link to separatist websites. What will come of these threats is left for time to tell.

Both the Russian military and the separatists have recently been disseminating information about their great achievements. They are both putting forward ciphers concerning the scale of losses and damage to the enemy which convey a sense of imminent victory.

It is true that in March and April the Russian soldiers and local "powers" carried out a whole row of successful "Special Operations." As a result Aslan Maskhadov was killed as well as several mid-echelon separatist commanders / "emirs". Practically all skirmishes in which "Djamaat Emirs" are destroyed have occurred in or around
Grozny. This in some measure affirms information about the concentration of militants earlier and possible large-scale actions on their part.

The past 2-3 weeks have been especially rich in victorious announcements from the side of the Russian military and local power structures. Announcements about the liquidation of militants are released almost every day. The "hand" of the Special Services overtakes them everywhere: in private homes, apartments, in the mountains, on the plains, in the forests and fields. "Are neutralized" the former VP of Ichkeria Vakha Arsanov ,dangerous international terrorist Danilbek Eskiyev, and the emirs of Shelkovsky, Gudermes and other regions and populated points. Several assumed suicide-terrorists.

However, even believing the reports of the Regional Operational Headquarters about almost daily liquidation of “a long time not engaging by businesses” Vakhi Arsanov or several "Djamaat emirs" - this can hardly signify a real victory for the Federals. After all, for the carrying out of diversionary-terroristic acts, the militants have no deep need of a "centralized command system" - the one which the soldiers and special operatives have been trying to destroy for all these years. The tactics of partisan warfare specifically differ from those of classical because various formations and groups act autonomously, striking at convenient times in
strategic places, proceeding from reasons of expediency in each concrete occasion and without seeking approval for their activities from "high command".

As the Federals, the militants did sharply increase their level of activation with the arrival of the spring-summer season - especially in the mountainous areas of the Republic. In the past 2-3 weeks active military clashes and skirmishes have occurred in Nozhai-Yurt, Shatoi, Achkhoi-Martanovsky and a series of other regions in Chechnya.

It's possible that this activation is linked to the promised "Fiery Summer" of Shamil Basayev, but one must not exclude the fact that this happens practically every year as soon as the leaves turn green. Many observers calculate that if Basayev did indeed intend to carry out a series of large-scale terrorist acts on the territory of Russia, then he will use all possible and impossible means in order to accomplish the feat.

As confirmation of this one may recall the year 2003. In spring of that year Shamil Basayev declared the commencement of an "operation of punishment" under the name "Boomerang". Afterwards a whole wave of terroristic acts swept across Chechnya and Russia.

On 12 May 2003 the load of an explosives-rigged "KAMAZ" blew up an administrative building in the village of Znamenskoe (59 killed, nearly 200 wounded). Three days later female suicide-bombers detonated themselves in a crowd which had gathered for holiday in the settlement of Iliskhan-Yurt (26 killed, nearly 150 wounded). In June, suicide-bombers blew up an autobus full of aviation-technical workers at the military hanger near Mozdok (16 killed, 20 wounded). Then there was the trolley explosion in Essentuki, and terror acts in Moscow - in Tushino and near the hotel "National".

At any rate, summer in Chechnya and maybe throughout the entire Northern Caucasus is expected to be if not "fiery" then at least pretty "hot". According to several sources, just in the past few weeks a few hundred young people left various regions of the Republic and went into the mountains.

Translated by Sarah SLY.

Season of Death

Marc Cooper describes the new "season of death" on the U.S.-Mexican border:

Virtually ignored by the national media, the new “season of death” on the U.S.-Mexican border got off to a grim start this past weekend as temperatures in southern Arizona suddenly spiked into triple digits. The resulting toll: a dozen dead from heat exposure and more than 75 rescues just between last Friday and this past Monday.

Border Patrol agents admitted that this past weekend was, indeed, the busiest three days on record when it came to trying to save the lives of stranded crossers.

Bodies of border crossers were found scattered throughout the state, though a majority were found in the desolate western half toward Yuma.

He contrasts the current media silence about this with the attention given to the issue, though from a different angle, in April:
Thousands of fawning stories were showered on last month’s fringe Minuteman Project (which I dissected here and here). But this weekend’s macabre death toll along the same patch of border has elicited only anemic interest among the major media. It’s beyond the border of hypocrisy.

Ears of a Dead Donkey

Two reports that point to an obvious contradiction in the foreign policy of the current Russian leadership. From Mosnews, a clear indication that The Baltics Will Receive Nothing of [their] Territorial Claims:
“They will receive not Pytalovo (the territory of Pskov region close to the Latvian border), but ears of a dead donkey (ot mertvogo osla ushi, a Russian set expression meaning 'nothing'),” RIA-Novosti quoted Putin as saying.
At the same time, however, a report in Kommersant points out that last Friday the State Duma ratified a supplemental agreement between Russia and China on the border. At that moment, a part of Russian territory, including half of the island of Bolshoy Ussuriisky, officially became part of China.

It seems that for President Putin and the Russian State Duma some borders are more negotiable (and dispensable) than others.

(via Marius)

Monday, May 23, 2005

False Charges

At JBooks.com, Alan Dershowitz dissects the McCarthyite - some would say Stalinist - mode of attack chosen by the "triumvirate" of Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Alexander Cockburn in order to discredit him and his book The Case for Israel.
They first claimed—as they had with Peters—that I did not “write this book,” that I did not even “read it,” and that I “had no idea what was in the book.” Recently Finkelstein claimed that I don’t write any of my books: “[Dershowitz] has come to the point where he’s had so many people write so many of his books.… [I]t’s sort of like a Hallmark line for Nazis… [T]hey churn them out so fast that he has now reached a point where he doesn’t even read them.”[34]

The implication was that some Israeli intelligence agency or propaganda unit wrote it and had me sign it—as they claimed was the situation with Peters’ book. The problem for them is that I don’t type or use a computer, so that every word of the text was handwritten by me in my own handwriting—and I still have the manuscript. Even after I publicly offered to make the manuscript available for anyone to examine, Finkelstein repeated the false charge on a C-SPAN television broadcast.[35]

Well, if I did actually write it in my own hand, I must have copied it or plagiarized it. That was the next charge. And guess who I plagiarized it from? Joan Peters, according to Finkelstein, Chomsky, and Cockburn. The problem with their charge is that Peters’ book was entirely demographic and historical, whereas more than 90 percent of my book deals with contemporary events that took place after the publication of Peters’ book. The other, even more serious problem for them is that they could not come up with a single sentence, phrase or idea in my book that came from another source and was used without quotation marks, attribution, and citation. Indeed, I explicitly cited Peters’ book numerous times while disclaiming reliance on its conclusions because I disagreed with some of them. That, of course, means there was no plagiarism. But Finkelstein knew from his previous experience that the charge of plagiarism, if leveled, would be more likely to garner media attention than simple criticism of my conclusions.

Read it all.


Politzeki.ru is a new website devoted to former and current political prisoners of the USSR and present-day Russia. It's a joint project of Grani.ru and the press center of the team of lawyers of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, but there is also brief information about Chechen student Zara Murtazaliyeva. In Russian.

(via Prague Watchdog)

Belarus Extradites Suspected Chechen Guerrilla

From RFE/RL Newsline May 23 2005:

BELARUS EXTRADITES SUSPECTED CHECHEN HOSTAGE TAKER. Belarus extradited Nurmagomed Khatuyev, a suspected Chechen hostage taker, to Russia on 20 May, Belapan reported, quoting the Prosecutor-General's Office. Khatuyev is reportedly wanted by Russia in connection with the taking of hostages in Budennovsk in 1995 and in a Moscow theater in 2002. JM

Update: Itar-Tass has more:

Belarus extradites Chechen militant to Russia


MOSCOW, May 23 (Itar-Tass) - Belarussian authorities have extradited to Russian law enforcers Nurmagomed Khatuyev, who took part in the assault by a band led by Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev of town of Budyonnovsk in southern Russia in June 1995.

The chief of the Southern regional branch of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, Nikolai Khazikov, told Itar-Tass on Monday that Khatueyev, who hails from the Chechen village of Goity, had been formally charged with banditry and hostage taking.

He said Khatyuev was "another bandit who will stand trial for the participation in the attack of Budyonnovsk".

Twenty gunmen involved in the hostage-talking raid of a Budyonnovsk hospital had been earlier arrested and convicted, Khazikov said.

He said 30 other bandits who attacked Budyonnovsk with the Basayev-led band had been spotted and killed as they resisted arrest.

"They included such odious figures as Movsayev and field commanders known by their nicknames as Big Aslambek and Little Aslambek. None of the bandits who took part in the attack of the Stavropol territory's town will escape responsibility," Khazikov said.

Khatuyev was detained at the Belarussian capital's Minsk's airport where he arrived from Istanbul.

He showed to border guards a false passport, but his identity was established by a close look.

The Belarussian mass media said Russian security agencies also suspect Khatuyev of involvement in a hostage-taking raid of a Moscow theatre.

Basayev's band took 1,800 people hostage in Budyonnovsk in June 1995. The assaults left 126 local residents, including policemen, dead and 18 others died in hospital later.

In early 2005, Belarus extradited to Russia Valid Agayev and Kazbek Dukuzov, who are suspected of involvement in the murder of Paul Khlebnikov, an editor of the Russian version of the magazine Forbes.

Blowing Up Madrid

There is growing evidence that the March 11, 2004, terrorist attacks in Madrid’s train station were an inside job involving elements in Spain's police force. In NRO, Frank Gaffney presents an analysis of the evidence so far available:
The far-reaching geostrategic repercussions of that incident — which vaporized the ruling conservative party’s electoral lead just days before the polling — gave those seeking similar results elsewhere every incentive to engage in violence against other democracies’ electoral processes.

But what if the perpetrators were neither Islamofacists, as the winning socialists immediately asserted, nor the Basque terrorist organization known as ETA, as the government of José Maria Aznar initially (and fatally) assumed?

On May 16, the Madrid daily El Mundo published a remarkable editorial that draws upon the paper’s ongoing investigation and contains information potentially as explosive as the 3/11 attacks themselves: El Mundo suggests that, almost immediately after the 12 bombs went off in one of the city’s busiest train stations, some in the Spanish police force fabricated evidence, then swiftly hyped it to the domestic and international press. The object seems to have been to support the oppositions’ claims that Islamists angry over the government’s support for the war in Iraq were responsible for the attacks.

At worst, the information uncovered by El Mundo could mean that the deadly bombing was actually perpetrated with the complicity of the same Spanish police bomb squad, Tedax, that was subsequently charged with investigating the crime.
There are clear echoes here of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Moscow apartment bombings of 1999.

War Criminals in Moscow - II

Sources in Belgrade believe that Serb war criminals may be hiding out in Russia.

(via Winds of Change)

See also in this blog: War Criminals in Moscow

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Mending Fences

Mexico's President Fox is making fresh efforts to ease the tensions caused by his recent remarks on Mexican immigration to the United States.

Local Rebel

The BBC's Tim Whewell gives a fascinating portrait of Uzbek local rebel Bakhtior Rakhimov, one of the so-called "Islamists" currently being imprisoned and tortured by the Uzbek government:

He took me on a tour of the farm. He fondled his prize calves.

He jokingly lifted me over a ditch showing off the strength he has built up as a keen wrestler.

Afterwards I drank green tea under the plum tree and he puffed away on a spliff of green weed - a natural and Islamic alternative, he told me, to the devils of tobacco and alcohol.

He stood once, he said, in an election for parliament but had been heavily defeated because people were afraid to vote for him.

He denied belonging to any organised political or religious group.

He said that if President Karimov sent his troops back into the town, he would stand and fight, with his ceremonial dagger or with a gun.

But all that I could tell was just bravado, just as it was bravado when he said his supporters had gone around persuading liquor stores to close.

I found no difficulty at all locating vodka or brandy in Korasuv.

This week in newspapers all over the world, you can read that Mr Rakhimov proclaimed an independent Islamic state.

The truth, of course, is more subtle and confusing.

As far as I can see, Mr Rakhimov did not proclaim anything and I met few people prepared to agree openly with his ideas.

He was simply the head of an important local family, a big man in a very small town. A town terrified of the consequences of its moment of defiance.

But the Uzbek government does not trade in subtlety, any more than headline writers do. And when a few hours after I left it re-took Korasuv - as everyone knew in their bones it would - Mr Rakhimov was seized by the troops and taken away.

I do not know what has happened to that brave and weirdly quixotic man, but I am afraid the intensity of the Uzbek government's punishments fully matches the intensity of Bakhtior Rakhimov's dreams.

War and Identity

The Eurozine article by Lev Gudkov I mentioned in the previous post certainly makes interesting reading. In it the sociologist discusses how the Second World War (or rather the "Great Patriotic War") provides Russia with its identity, and serves to block out the need for national self-analysis and self-reflection:
Victory Day has not become a day of mournful commemoration of the dead, the human suffering, and the material destruction. It is literally a day of victory, of the Soviet army's triumph over Hitler's Germany. Russians address the intentional meaning of victory exclusively to themselves; it only has a meaning within the structures of Russian self-determination. Today there are hardly any people left who feel hatred for the former enemy countries: Germany and, less surprisingly, Italy, Japan, or Romania. Until recently, such feelings had remained intact among the older generations and on the periphery of society. Today anti-American feeling is much more pronounced than anti-German moods, which are characteristic only of 8-10 per cent of the population (mostly old people). Half of all Russians would not even object to putting up a monument to the fallen soldiers on both sides of World War II (although this readiness has also declined during Putin's reign, from 57 per cent to 50 per cent, while resistance to this idea has increased from 26 per cent in 1991 to 35 per cent in 2003).

Russians are not willing to share their triumph with anyone else in the world. Sixty-seven per cent of those surveyed (in 2003) believe that the USSR could have won the war even without the help of the allies. Moreover, as Russian nationalism is intensifying and the war is receding further into the past, it has gradually begun to be integrated into the traditional idea of the Russian "mission" and "rivalry with the West". Parallels between the events of contemporary and medieval history ("By smashing fascism, the USSR protected the peoples of Europe from annihilation", just as "By smashing the Tatar-Mongol hordes, Rus' shielded Europe") have become commonplace both in late Soviet nationalist rhetoric and generally in the post-Soviet period. This view is reinforced by the idea that the Russians defeated an enemy whom none of the most developed, richest, most successful, and "civilized" peoples of Europe were able to withstand.

At the same time, a number of unpleasant facts have been repressed from mass consciousness: the aggressive nature of the Soviet regime, Communist militarism, and expansionism, which were the reason for the USSR's expulsion from the League of Nations after its attack on Finland; the fact that World War II began with a joint attack on Poland by two partners and (then) allies -- Hitler's Germany and the Soviet Union; the human, social, economic, and metaphysical cost of war; and the responsibility of the country's leadership for the beginning and course of the war, and the consequences of the war for other countries.
The article's conclusion is not very optimistic:
In the eyes of Russian society, the war and its victims sacralized not only the army as one of the central, fundamental social institutions, the carcass of the entire Soviet and post-Soviet regime, but also the very principle of a "vertical" construction of society, a mobilizational, command-hierarchical model of social order that does not bestow any autonomy or value upon a private existence or group interests that are independent of the "whole". Russian society has left behind a period of critical re-evaluation of its past, including the war. The debates about the "cost" of the war as well as the pre-war and postwar policies are over. Today the memory of the war and victory is "switched on" mainly by mechanisms of the conservation of the social whole that prevent society from becoming more complex and functionally differentiated. Memories of the war are required above all to legitimate a centralized and repressive social order; they are built into a general post-totalitarian traditionalization of culture in a society that has not been able to cope with budding social change. This is why the Russian authorities constantly have to return to those traumatic circumstances of its past that reproduce key moments of national mobilization. The repression of the war keeps spawning state-sponsored aggression -- the Chechen war and the restoration of a repressive regime.

In conclusion, we may say that a "memory" of the war as a whole era, a focal point for a multitude of private or collective events, is preserved in today's Russia only through the activities of state institutions or social groups linked to the authorities and laying claim to a social or political role or acting as ideologists or executors of state orders. Russian society did not take the sumptuous state-sponsored celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of Victory as an occasion for a rational analysis of its past and present. The declared programme of solemn events turned into a sequence of routine demonstrations of allegiance to the symbols of past state power that are rapidly losing their force and significance. To put it more precisely, this was a coercive imitation of collective solidarity with the authorities, based on nothing but police-state patriotism and political cynicism.