Thursday, March 31, 2005
Sitting in a car on a frosty morning only a Finn, as the cold
slams from the padding of the seat into his kidneys,
is able to ask the gods of pistons, liquids
and spark plugs to have mercy on him.
The trunks of the pines were the colour of asphalt
as I drove. The sea screams here on the island like an endless bullet train,
the voice of the south-westerly wind looks blue behind the strait.
If there were snow,
in the yard one would see the tracks of elk, hare and the neighbour’s dog.
But now on the move are only the ghosts risen from the boghole,
which leave no trace. Someone fades the dusk to darkness
If among the trees now priests were running,
their robes would not be visible,
but the bands would flutter like white bats.
In the electric warmth of the cottage I fry an egg and am not afraid
of the darkness that is outside. If the TV were working,
I would get pleasure even from that.
I would watch a random show which would of course be the Business News.
Knowledge expands, love builds, but only the capitalist
is able to be anxious while idle, Paul forgot that.
Stocks were falling, but in the Northern Atlantic
an area of high pressure should give us hope as it filled.
Putin is almost a whore in French. O. bin Laden
looks like a moss-covered mushroom
as he talks on a grainy video about God
and mass murder in turns.
Now the feelings come. A screaming present
without the armour of alcohol, how I really hate them.
The spheres behind the frontal lobe, in which a substance heavier
than the soul is pumped until the head splits
and the heart splashes from its moist ark
to gargle a birch-branch stripped of bark.
The water has risen to the shed, the rowing boat seems to be moving there.
A thump carries through the dark air as it beats its nose against the wall.
Freedom in a carefully measured space. I tried to think
about alcoholism, but only that kind of thought came.
Without memory one could live happy as a green pea on a plate.
Then in spring the patches open in the melted snow and in them flower the intentions.
I had come here now and looked everywhere to see
that the doors were closed against the winter, the walls vertical
and the floor horizontal, like a sleepy sharp-shooter I had
thought I saw something moving. The night went in such a way
that the children’s inheritance was not much increased,
only one thing remained on my mind, whether a thought or a dream:
love and alcohol, that two-headed sorcerer’s serpent,
around my neck like a tightly knotted scarf. And quite hard to take off.
As soon as there was a bit of light in the morning,
for one cannot really talk of sunrise at this time of year,
the cloud cover on the horizon opens just a crack
and there it was all aurora as morning broke
I drove to the southern tip to take off that too-tightly-knotted scarf.
The young birches suddenly stripped raised their hands to their ears
in pure shame. They are sad and pathetic
as if on the way to a concentration camp. The juniper on the other hand
grows straight from the rock and boasts
that Hier gibt’s kein warum. In the inlets already ice-anglers
like black sticks on a grey background,
like a giant bird of prey would suddenly have flown over
and lightened its being swollen with a blueberry-containing meal
precisely at that place.
But I go further out,
throw the narrow spoon straight towards Tallinn.
Before Easter I will sail across the Atlantic. I have heard
that between Bermuda and the Azores there are no reefs,
love or alcohol, and surely that is reason enough
to prepare oneself for the journey. Are there also those
who simply open the doors of the floodgates,
let life slip into a book,
if they are writers, and if they are something else,
then into something else.
I just always have the feeling that I I have to go and look.
That much I am in debt to things. It may chill or warm,
but the sea smokes, it eats its furthest islets
one after the other in its white maw,
with increasing speed it drinks itself metre by metre
in some terrible thirst the size of the Gulf of Finland.
I understand you, sea. I do not fear you, too much.
How much fairer it would be if love were more like smoke.
So that its gushing could be touched.
So one could see it.
How it disperses.
April 1948(tr. Justin O' Brien)
Early morning on the coast of Scotland. Edinburgh: swans on the canals. The city around a false acropolis, mysterious and fogbound. The Athens of the North has no north. Chinese and Malays in Princess [sic] Street. It's a port town.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
The reason why I feel I must 'speak my mind' on this subject - as the StAnza programme puts it - is that as a poetry editor with 30 years' experience in the field, and as a publisher with a close understanding of poetry publishing, distribution and readership, I see at first hand the damage being inflicted by the poetry police as well as by others in the poetry establishment. I travel the country talking to all kinds of readers at festivals and regular poetry venues. I have access to publishing and bookselling statistics. I know what bookshops are selling, what readers and buying and what kinds of poetry people want to read.
And I don't blame bookshops for not stocking those books which very few people actually want to read. When Robert Potts laments in the Guardian (6 December 2003) that 'sadly, major bookshops are not stocking poetry in adequate quantities', he seems to me to be blaming booksellers for a situation which he and his fellow elitists have helped bring about. What does 'adequate quantities' mean for the bookseller? Presumably filling the shelves with books recommended by Potts, many of which, in my opinion, most poetry readers won't want to buy (or won't be able to afford). The poets and their publishers have been outraged by the recent reductions made by the bookshops to their poetry stocks: their high art was being spurned by the philistines. But in effect the people doing the spurning were not the bookshops - they were just the middle men - it was the readers who had lost interest. The only way to reverse that process is to promote many different kinds of poetry to as wide a readership as possible.
What I try to do as an editor and publisher is to be responsive both to writers and to readers, and then work with my colleagues to try to help bookshops serve the poetry readership. Unlike the poetry police, I don't shoot my mouth off with a partial or non-existent knowledge of the facts; I don't distort the facts to fit my opinions; and I don't make statements which are outright lies.
You can read the whole lecture here
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
[Bukovsky] was specifically asked to go to Downing Street in order to brief Prime Minister Tony Blair's private secretary on the case of the fallen oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the now-imprisoned former boss of the Yukos oil empire.
Khodorkovsky, like many of the oligarchs, is Jewish, a fact which Bukovsky sees as yet one more reason for the nomenklatura to attack them and whip up popular domestic opinion against them.
"The case is political. There's no doubt about it. And it's outrageous. At the beginning of the '90s, the Russian government identified certain offshore zones as tax-deductible areas, and gave them benefit status. They were economically deprived areas, and Yukos was one of the companies which took advantage of the tax benefits. But when Putin came to power, the government announced that these tax benefits were cancelled and that those who had benefitted in the past would be obliged to pay the money back. It was done solely to punish successful businessmen for their independence. It was vengeance, pure and simple, and political opportunism."
But besides briefing Downing Street about Khodorkovsky, Bukovsky drew attention to more general issues in the former Soviet Union. He paints a bleak picture: "deterioration of human rights, a deliberate whipping-up of spy-mania, xenophobia, the persecution of foreigners -- and anti-Semitism. A regime which is oppressive internally usually becomes aggressive externally. It's clear that the objective is to try to restore the old Soviet Union as far as is physically possible."
He is both weary and cynical about the lack of protest from the international community: "There is a need for an alternative source of oil and gas and, because of the instability in the Middle East, the West turned to Russia. And, second, Bush announced his global war on terror and the Russians were smart enough to jump on the bandwagon and made themselves indispensable. I doubt that Russia is important to the so-called anti-terrorist coalition. They have their own agenda."
Friday, March 25, 2005
By Andrew McGregor
Few conflicts in modern times have been so poorly known or understood as the Russo-Chechen war. And as the struggle over Chechnya is propelled to the forefront of the War on Terrorism, further obscuring the war's causes and effects, new works of scholarship are desperately needed to move the debate over the fate of this tiny republic beyond the realm of myth. Unfortunately, The Wolves of Islam, a new book by Paul Murphy ("a former U.S. senior counter-terrorism official" and "U.S. congressional advisor on Russia in 2002"), does little to increase our understanding of the complexities of this conflict.
The book's dust-jacket gives some hint of the approach of the rest of the work; just above the subtitle "Faces of Chechen Terrorism" is a large image of the late Amir al-Khattab, a Saudi-born Arab who led foreign volunteers in Chechnya. In his opening, the author remarks that in telling the story of the "Chechen Wolves", "…misinformation and disinformation have to be carefully filtered out." What follows, however, is a casual mix of facts, factoids and fantasies seemingly designed to discredit the Chechen struggle as another front in the war against al-Qaeda.
The sensational tone of the book is set in the opening pages, which warn that "graphic descriptions of terror, acts of torture, and human cruelty in this book will disturb the reader." Indeed, much of the first half of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of various atrocities allegedly committed by Chechens. The author devotes some space to a gruesome account of the crucifixion and mutilation of a Russian soldier during the 1994 battle for Grozny. The "crucifixion of the innocent soldier" is a recurring propaganda motif that dates back to the Belgian front in the First World War (where the victim is usually described as a Canadian soldier victimized by Germans). But the author insists on the authenticity of his account, citing a scene from a novel (though Murphy does not describe it as such) by Vyacheslav Mironov and a similar scene from the 1997 movie Purgatory (Chistilishche), made by Russian nationalist and Duma deputy Aleksandr Nevzorov. By this point the reader may begin to suspect that the author's "misinformation and disinformation" filters are seriously defective.
Murphy's failure to cite references or to include any form of bibliography leaves the reader beholden to the author's accuracy in quoting various individuals. The reviewer was therefore not encouraged to see a lengthy quote from the late Khunkarpasha Israpilov attributed to Aslan Maskhadov on page 75.  In another incident involving Israpilov, the author offers an account of the 1996 Salman Raduev raidon Kizlyar. Raduev is described as deciding to seize a hospital in emulation of Basaev's earlier hospital seizure in Budennovsk and later killing a police hostage. In fact, the inexperienced Raduev was compelled to turn over command of the operation temporarily to Israpilov when things began to go wrong. It was Israpilov who decided to seize the hospital (he was a veteran of Budennovsk) and who later shot the policeman. 
Wolves or Humans?
In Murphy's description of the Chechens, soldiers, terrorists, criminals, politicians, foreign volunteers, women and children, all Chechens are gathered under the single appellative of "Wolves" – a dangerous and evidently sub-human species that poses a dire threat to the rest of mankind. The substitution of the term "Wolves" for Chechens throughout the text is a simplistic means of dehumanization, usually found in crude propaganda. Chechens, we are told, travel in "packs", Shamil Basaev leads a "pack of Wolves", and in the conclusion we are told "Wolves have taken to the skies". This affectation makes it difficult to tell whom the author is even talking about most of the time, as "Wolves" seems to include Chechens, Arabs, Ingush and possibly others. When Murphy says that "Wolves" paid two individuals to place a bomb, one wonders where they got the money.
There is almost no discussion of Chechnya's complex social structure (essential in any work attempting to describe the command structure of the Chechen resistance) or the region's history of devastation at the hands of Russian forces. The omission of a context for the author's account aids in the depiction of Chechens as inexplicably
single-minded in their hatred of Russia, the West, Christianity, Judaism, the United States, etc. The 1944 deportation of the entire Chechen nation to Central Asia (an event that defines modern Chechen attitudes towards Russia) is described in a mere two sentences – one of which manages to repeat Stalin's false accusation of Chechen collaboration with the German army (which never set foot in Chechnya). The author fails to mention that most of Chechnya's men of fighting age were busy at the time offering stiff resistance to the Nazi invasion of Russia.
In his treatment of the late Aslan Maskhadov, the author adopts the paradox displayed in the Kremlin accounts he is so fond of citing; Chechnya's late president is a powerless figurehead who "controls no-one", while at the same time bearing personal responsibility for the planning and management of every major act of terrorism. Maskhadov and most other Chechen leaders are eagerly linked to al-Qaeda whenever possible. Murphy uncritically repeats every allegation in what might now be termed the mythology of the "Chechen International" – Chechen expeditionary forces campaigning for al-Qaeda against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Though more serious analysts have exposed the falseness of all these claims in detail, Murphy's own research does not appear to have penetrated deeper than the tabloid headlines.
The Khattab/Bin Laden connection Murphy creates is unconvincing. On page 91, we are told "Khattab likely attended Osama bin Laden's worldwide Islamic League emergency session in Kandahar, Afghanistan, at which he must have laid out the idea of reuniting Chechnya and Dagestan by force…Osama bin Laden surely liked the idea…" (Italics inserted by the reviewer). On page 153 we find a Chechen delegation to bin Laden was "almost certainly led by Khattab." Later we find that bin Laden "almost certainly discussed and approved" financing for Khattab (page 215). In general the book follows the ever-popular, but not very useful, "Bin Laden controls everything" model. For those who question the extent of the alleged Chechen/Bin Laden links, the author offers that "President Putin confirmed in February 2003 that Osama bin Laden is still funding Wolves in Chechnya." Case closed.
Nuclear Threat or Atomic Scam?
The author appears especially eager to promote the Chechens as a source of "nuclear terrorism". He cites Yoseff Bodansky's old and unsubstantiated claim that Chechens supplied Bin Laden with suitcase nukes in the mid-90s. We are warned repeatedly of the threat posed by Chechen access to Osmium 187, a platinum-group substance. Osmium 187 is a non-fissile, non-radioactive substance of no use in constructing a "dirty-bomb" or any other weapon. Despite this, the author assures us that "Osmium isotopes are one of the required components for making mini-nukes because osmium increases the destructive power of the explosion" (page 177). This is precisely the sales-pitch con-artists have used to make a killing by peddling this expensive material to Russia's many consumers of bomb-making technology. Osmium 187 is not regulated by any U.S. or international agency and is easily available from legitimate dealers over the internet. The scam is well-aided by media sources and politicians who insist on repeating the bogus claims of its danger.
Meanwhile, the infamous bombings of Russian apartment buildings in 1999 (blamed on Chechens by the Kremlin) might be expected to fill at least a chapter in a work like this, but Murphy deals with this complex event in just two pages. Despite the absence of an inquiry, the demolition of the crime scenes without investigation, and the apprehension of several FSB agents caught in the act of placing explosives in the basement of a Ryazan apartment building, Murphy declares that "the evidence that Khattab was responsible for the apartment building bombings in Moscow is clear" (page 106). Anyone familiar with Russia knows that this is far from the case, but dissenting opinions and evidence are dismissed as part of "the now well-known story told by (Russian billionaire Boris) Berezovsky" (page 106). The description of fugitive Achimez Gochiyaev, the self-described "patsy" in the bombings, as a terrorist "mastermind" is simply excessive.
There are numerous small annoyances in the book, such as dubious mathematics (the Chechen population was "decimated by half") and inconsistencies in the spelling of names. The description of the regional drug trade might have more credibility if there were fewer references to "heroine" production. At times, the author betrays his weak grasp of technical issues by making ludicrously simplistic statements such as "it is easy to make different kinds of primitive biological weapons in the field." And, while discussing the "Black Widow" phenomenon, the author dismisses claims that Chechen women have been mistreated by Russian soldiers ("these accusations are difficult to prove" – page 210), preferring to ascribe their motivation to "forbidden love".
Murphy's book wastes little time on describing the torture of Chechen civilians by Russian forces, the looting, the disappearances, the trade in bodies, the mass graves. The concept of "state terrorism", however, is never approached – though some of Basaev's quotes would make a good launching point for such a discussion. The author mentions "war terrorism" several times without explanation, though the term
seems to refer to what is commonly known as "guerrilla warfare". The book's treatment of Islam in Chechnya is extremely weak. There is no explanation of what a "Wahhabi" is exactly, though the term is liberally applied to the "Wolves". Of the Naqshbandi and Qadiri Sufi orders we are told only that they are "mystical". On the Russian side, there is no discussion of the deep involvement of rival Russian intelligence agencies in the conflict. In Murphy's view the FSB (former KGB) and the GRU (military intelligence) are as blameless as a London Bobby.
What is the author's solution to this conflict, now in its third century? Maskhadov and Basaev must be killed and their financial networks destroyed in order to avoid chemical, biological and nuclear terrorist attacks. That's it. By the author's reckoning we should now be 50% closer to peace in the Caucasus. But anyone hoping for an accurate and thoughtful examination of the Russo-Chechen conflict will find The Wolves of Islam a most unsatisfactory work.
Dr. McGregor is the director of Aberfoyle International Security
Analysis in Toronto, Canada.
1. Charles W Blandy, "Chechnya: A Beleaguered President". no. OB 61, Conflict Studies Research Center, Aug. 1998, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1998/ob61.htm.
2. Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal, Chechnya: Calamity in the
Caucasus, New York University
from Jamestown Foundation's Chechnya Weekly
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Today security officers have once again been caught sheltering war criminals from Serbia on their territory. Earlier security officers hid those who were guilty of mass execution of Polish officers in Katyn, whose murder was recognized as genocide at the Nuremberg trials. World-known terrorists such as Karlos Ilyich Ramiros, nicknamed "The Jackal", who has committed so many acts of terrorism that it would take more than one page just to list them, Vaid Haddad, the head of the terrorist groups of the PLO, the brother of the former prime minister of Pakistan Bhutto, who, following Andropov's personal instructions,hijacked airliners of the international airlines; those who blew up the Baku underground – they have all found a reliable shelter for themselves and their accomplices within the walls of the Lubyanka.
For this reason I would like to remind Mr Ignachenko, as the foam at his mouth washes the FSB clean of terrorist activity, of something that happened to me while I still was a member of that organization.
Since 1996 I held the post of the chief of the division engaged in the search for persons identified in the international search for terrorist activity. At that time documents from the Republic of Georgia obliging all member countries of Interpol were dispatched worldwide to assist the Georgian law enforcement bodies in the search for and detention of Igor Georgadze, who had organized an attempt on the life of the President of Georgia, Shevardnadze. Through operative sources I found out the exact location of this international terrorist, and immediately reported it to the chief of the operative-investigative directorate of the FSB, Lieutenant-General I.K. Mironov, offering to detain Georgadze for his subsequent extradition.
Having listened to my report, the general authoritatively declared that terrorist Georgadze was “ours" and that there was no need “to touch him". This was how I learned that there were “our” terrorists in the FSB and "another's". After all this we need to ask Putin and Co: Messrs security officers, please explain to the dull taxpayers: the leader of Al-Qaeda Bin Laden, who is he for you: “your” terrorist or "another's"? And are you sheltering him in the Lubyanka among other international terrorists and gangsters who are wanted worldwide.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Last October Justin's Piano Concerto had its first performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under David Porcelijn, with Nicolas Hodges as soloist.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Monday, March 21, 2005
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Press reports and official statements concerning the circumstances of Aslan Maskhadov's death, far from clearing things up, made them even murkier. In his May 8, Ilya Shabalkin, spokesman for the federal forces in the North Caucasus, said the rebel leader had been killed when security forces used explosives to penetrate the bunker beneath a house in the village of Tolstoi-Yurt in which Maskhadov was hiding with three associates. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, meanwhile, claimed that Maskhadov was killed when a bodyguard who was next to him in the cramped bunker "carelessly handled his gun." Kadyrov also claimed that those who took part in the operation against Maskhadov had planned to take him prisoner, not to kill him. The following day, however, Kommersant quoted Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov as saying that Maskahdov was killed when commandos tossed grenades into the bunker after Maskhadov refused to surrender. On March 10, Izvestia quoted Kadyrov as saying that he had been "joking" when he said that Maskhadov was accidentally shot and killed by his own bodyguard. Kadyrov, however, refused to discuss exactly how Maskhadov was killed. Meanwhile, the Rossia state television on March 13 broadcast an interview with a Federal Security Service (FSB) commando who participated in the operation against Maskhadov, who said that commandos did not negotiate with the rebel leader before blowing up his bunker because he was wearing a suicide bomber's belt and they assumed he would not surrender.
In an article published in Moskovsky komsomlets on March 15, Vadim Rechkalov and Irina Kuksenkova speculated that Maskhadov may have been killed by Ramzan Kadyrov's people after cutting a deal with Kadyrov, under the terms of which Maskhadov would publicly renounce his post as president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, and he and his family would be allowed to leave Chechnya unmolested and move abroad. The journalists speculated that Maskhadov was captured and shot to death just before leaving the country, after which his body was taken to Tolstoi-Yurt and "a special operation was staged." Rechkalov and Kuksenkova, who visited the house in Tolstoi-Yurt where Maskhadov's body was found, noted that the bunker in which Maskhadov and three associates had ostensibly lived since October had no ventilation. They quoted Yakha Yusupova, the wife of the house's owner, who denied that Maskhadov had been there, as saying that "you start to suffocate very quickly" in the bunker. In addition, the two reporters noted that the Yusopovs' house was "absolutely not adapted" for use as a safe house because it had no escape exits in the event of a zachistka, or mopping up raid by security forces. "This contradicts the tactics that the militants have developed," they wrote.
It should be noted that Ingushetiya.ru reported on March 8, the day the Russian military announced Maskhadov had been killed, that the rebel leader and several of his bodyguards had in fact been killed two days earlier – on March 6 – by gunmen loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov after a Nozhai-Yurt district resident gave away the rebel leader's hiding place for a "tidy sum of money." According to the independent website, Kadyrov asked the federal authorities to attribute Maskhadov's death to other agencies (see Chechnya Weekly, March 9).
The likelihood that more clues concerning how Maskhadov died might be found was reduced greatly on March 14, when Russian authorities announced that they had blown up the house in Tolstoi-Yurt where Maskhadov allegedly hid because they feared booby traps. The Associated Press quoted Col. General Arkady Yedelev, chief of the federal headquarters for the military campaign in Chechnya, as saying that demolition experts inspecting the bunker had discovered and detonated a box that contained documents and was ridden with explosives. "The team of investigators decided to blow up the entire house to avoid such surprises in the future," Yedelev said in a statement. Novaya gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya told the AP that the destruction of the house apparently was intended to destroy any evidence that could cast doubt on official accounts of the killing. "There is nothing left now to question the official version of events," she said. Aleksandr Petrov of Human Rights Watch's Moscow office told the news agency that federal authorities in the past had blown up houses in Chechnya that belonged to militants who participated in terror attacks and that the practice has drawn strong criticism from international rights groups. "If the authorities blew up the house to punish the house owners, it's a bad move," Petrov said.
Meanwhile, the FSB said in a statement released on March 15 that it had paid a promised $10 million for information that led to the discovery and killing of Maskhadov to citizens who had "helped to pinpoint Maskhadov's exact whereabouts and to carry out the special operation," RIA Novosti reported. "These citizens were paid the financial recompense in full," the FSB said. "If need be these citizens will be provided with help in moving to a different region of Russia or to a Muslim country." The head of the FSB's public relations department, Colonel Sergei Ignatchenko, told the news agency that the FSB would pay $10 million to those providing information on the whereabouts of Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev. The FSB offered bounties of $10 million each for Maskhadov and Basaev following the September 2004 Beslan school massacre. Maskhadov denied involvement in that attack, while Basaev claimed responsibility for it.
Umar Khanbiev, the Chechen rebel government's general representative abroad, called the idea that Chechens had revealed Maskhadov's whereabouts for the reward money "complete nonsense," Kommersant reported on March 16. "Yes, the president [Maskhadov] had enemies, including [some] among [the] local inhabitants," he told the newspaper. "They could shoot him, but sell him out – never." According to Kommersant, Khanbiev said that Chechens would not involve themselves in such a deal with the special services because they did not want the eternal shame that such "treachery" would bring on themselves, their families and clans. He said the theory that Maskhadov was killed elsewhere and then taken to Tolstoi-Yurt originated with Tolstoi-Yurt residents who "wanted to deflect the disgrace of the president of Ichkeria having been killed in their village."
The list of works whose authors misrepresented and misperceived the realities of the Soviet state and the Cold War is quite a long one. In Chapter XIV (“A Gaggle of Misleaders”), Conquest examines some of those misleading works, and gives attention to the question of why they were often well received in the West: “We have avoided,” he states at the outset, “the products of a total ignorance, however pretentiously presented – as with the Webbs. And we have stuck to examples with, in each case, heavy intellectual claims to acceptance. It is a vivid haul of misunderstanding and misdirection, at various levels of IQ and influence.”
The examples considered by Conquest include the English writer C.P. Snow. Snow, the essay suggests, “is a stunning example of a deep emotional attachment to bureaucracy, to state supremacy, to quasi-Marxist – and to pro-Soviet – delusions.” Snow’s work shows evidence of a thirst for power. A quotation from one of Snow’s own novels sums up his character: “He longed for all the trappings, titles, ornaments, and show of power… He wanted the grandeur of the Lodge, he wanted to be styled among the Heads of Houses.”
Snow is perhaps best known now for the “two cultures” controversy with the literary critic F.R. Leavis, in the course of which Snow cited the British physicist J.D. Bernal, who in his book The World Without War stated that “scientists have the future in their bones”, against the vision of the future presented in Orwell’s 1984. As Conquest notes, Bernal had urged “an ever-closer understanding between Britain and the USSR”, and his politics were almost totally Stalinist. While Snow, on the other hand, was a “democratic sort of socialist”, he had no qualms at all about visiting, and being put up by, Yuri Zhdanov, the former notorious head of the Soviet Communist Party’s Culture Department, who was now head of a Russian university. Snow also visited and frequented those Soviet writers who toed the Party line, and in 1966 published an anthology of Soviet short stories, in the preface of which :
he argued that we should not look at Soviet literature with any political considerations in mind, accepting as fact such things as that “frontline soldiers in dugouts sang the war poems of Surkov [Stalinist hack]).”
The phrase “cold war” occurred frequently in this preface. It meant drawing attention to any facts or expressing any opinions unpalatable to the Soviet leadership. Snow assured us that it was wicked to look at Soviet literature with any political considerations in mind, since we would not do so with the literature of other cultures. This really is fantastic! Soviet literature, as we were told day in and day out by Soviet politicians, cultural bureaucrats, and orthodox writers themselves, was (or should be) “a weapon for Communism.”
Snow, Conquest suggests, quite consciously aligned himself “not only with the British establishment, which is bad enough, but also with the worst foreign one he could turn up.” Snow’s habit of mind is typical of a certain stratum of British intellectual society, and it is one that still persists today.
The essay continues with a look at some more “misleaders”: there is Simone de Beauvoir, with her abject acceptance of Maoist propaganda: in her book The Long March, she continually justified Communist atrocities “on the grounds that there were abuses in the West, too (on the principles Orwell defined, in The Lion and the Unicorn, as ‘two blacks make a white, half a loaf is the same as no bread’), and pointing to the undoubted faults of the old regime.” There is John Kenneth Galbraith – another, like Snow, from high establishment circles,
accepted, or listened to, because he presents his themes in a way persuasive to such a public, which is not so common among (let alone respected among) the professional economists. To take a pundit seriously on these grounds is (as in a different way in Hobsbawm’s and Snow’s cases) like saying, “This is a beautifully printed and finely bound railway timetable.” Yes, but its train times are wrong.Conquest also devotes considerable and justified space to an investigation of the CNN documentary Cold War: An Illustrated History, 1945-1991 by Jeremy Isaacs and Taylor Downing, attacking in particular its “assessment of a benign Lenin”, and “its simplification of motive beyond the complexities and contradictions inherent in human character.” Conquest also attacks the documentary’s view of the Soviet spies Burgess, Maclean, and Philby: the documentary tells us that “they acted from political conviction. They believed what they were doing was right.” As Conquest notes, the same could be said of agents of Nazism like John Amery, but goes beyond this rather simplistic argument to quote the poet Stephen Spender, who knew the three spies and so some extent sympathized with them. Spender wrote in his diary:
.. what they all had was the arrogance of manipulators… Perhaps this was in part because they had voluntarily put themselves at the service of their Russian manipulators.. their faith in a creed whose mixture of sanctity, bloodiness and snobbery gave them a sense of great personal superiority.”A consideration of the documentary’s view of Ronald Reagan (it sees him at hostile caricature level, as a simpleton) is followed by an examination of its treatment of the Rosenberg case (we are told by the CNN work that they were part of “a network of spies who felt uncomfortable that the United States was the sole owner of they key to atomic warfare”), and this, Conquest asserts, “gives an arguably acceptable motive for their espionage activity, though since they never confessed and thus never advanced such a motive, its is one constructed for them by sympathizers.” There is an extensive discussion of the documentary’s handling of the subject of McCarthyism and the workings of the CPUSA. Conquest suggests that there is a glaring and vital omission in the reasons for the Cold War that are given by the documentary and the book: it is
the conception that the Marxist-Leninist creed saw the world as a scene of essential antagonisms and insisted that the conflict must be pursued until the overthrow of the non-Communist order the world over. As we have said, this motivation has been confirmed by former Politburo members, post-Soviet foreign ministers, and others, and was only abandoned by the last Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, in 1990.
See also: Dragons and Democracy
Dragons and Democracy - II
Dragons and Democracy - III
Dragons and Democracy - IV
Dragons and Democracy - V
Dragons and Democracy - VI
Dragons and Democracy - VII
Dragons and Democracy - VIII
Dragons and Democracy - IX
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Tartu, March 15 - Russian writers are using images and motifs found in Nazi anti-Semitic writings to demonize and dehumanize the Chechens today, according to an American professor who has examined their production.
In an article published in the current issue of Moscow's "Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye," Anna Brodsky, who teaches at Washington and Lee University in the United States, argues that anti-Semitic imagery is an important source for Russians who are engaged in anti-Chechen propaganda (http://magazines.russ.ru/nlo/2005/70/br22-pr.html).
According to Brodsky, "the characteristics which the Nazis ascribed to the Jews" are now finding their way into the writings of an increasing number of Russians about the Chechens who are presented as being the incarnation of absolute evil --just as the Nazis treated the Jews more than a half century ago.
"Possibly the chief anti-Semitic stereotype used by the authors of such books [about the Chechens] is the myth of the economic domination of an immeasurably rich national minority," she writes. This paranoid vision of the Jews, which was outlined in the notorious forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," is now being used to denounce the Chechens.
In a 1997 novel, for example, Lev Puchkov wrote that the Chechens are now attacking Russians because before the war they were used to stealing from them as the North Caucasians built up their illegal wealth. And in a 2001 novel, Dmitriy Cherkasov made a similar point, saying that the Chechens have always had economic power over the Russians.
Brodsky notes that Russian writers - novelists, memoirists and journalists - do not limit themselves to the application of this anti-Semitic slander from the past to the Chechens of today. They also portray the Chechens as cruel, pitiless, and obsessively interested in non-Chechen women, charges that anti-Semites historically have employed as well.
Russian writers like Puchkov, Viktor Dotsenko and Andrei Voronin, Brodsky notes, fill their books and articles with stories about the extreme sexuality of the Chechens and their dissolute behaviour not only among themselves but with others - again themes that often animated Nazi anti-Semitic writings as well.
And Russian writers also portray the Chechens as traitorous to the core, as people who are superficially hospitable but who inevitably betray anyone who is foolish enough to accept it. Indeed, at least one Russian writer on this theme explicitly calls the Chechens who do so Judases, yet another frequent anti-Semitic theme.
But perhaps the most disturbing parallel between anti-Semitic writings of the past and anti-Chechen writings of the present is the reappearance of the idea of the "blood libel," the notion that Jews and now Chechens practice ritual murder of outsiders as part of their national traditions.
This absurd medieval myth tragically had a more recent manifestation, Brodsky points out. Just before World War I, the Russian government infamously indicted Mendel Beilis on charges of ritual murder. Beilis was acquited, but anti-Semites continue to question his innocence - among them the Russian writer Igor Shafarevich as recently as 2002.
Now, at least one Russian writer has suggested that the Chechens are guilty of the same thing. In a pair of novels, "Walking into the Night" and "The Chechen Blues" (both published in 2002), Aleksandr Prokhanov suggested that the Chechens ritually murder captured Russian soldiers who refuse to convert to Islam in order to get their blood.
Like other scholars (see http://www.polit.ru/country/2002/12/07/479426.html) Brodsky acknowledges that Russian anti-Chechen propaganda has other sources as well - including not unimportantly Stalinist actions like the "dekulakization" of the peasantry and the forced exile of entire peoples including of course the Chechens themselves.
In memoirs about the Chechen war, some Russian soldiers, Brodsky points out, talk about "dekulakizing" the rich Chechens, and others who come in contact with the Chechens openly express regret that Stalin did not kill enough of them when he sent them into Central Asian exile at the end of World War II.
But as Brodsky makes clear, it is the anti-Semitic sources of the anti-Chechen writings that are the most disturbing for two important reasons.
On the one hand, this sourcing calls attention to just how far some Russians and others have already gone to demonize and dehumanize the Chechens, two steps typically taken by those who want to justify the destruction of an entire community or to excuse those who want to take that step.
And on the other, this sourcing highlights the ease with which hatred for one group can be displaced onto another and perhaps back again. The imagery that promoted attacks on Jews yesterday is now being used to justify attacks on Chechens. In the future, as Brodsky suggests, it could all too easily be exploited to power attacks on Jews and other groups as well.
Maskhadov was not a terrorist. As a career army officer, he did not believe in terrorism as an effective weapon. Artillery Colonel Maskhadov left the Russian Army in 1992 to become the rebels' chief of staff because he was a nationalist, not because he was an Islamist. Maskhadov was ready to surrender to Moscow a large portion of future Chechen sovereignty in exchange for a formal declaration of independence and an international guarantee that the Russian military would never again invade Chechnya.
Why did the Kremlin assassinate him then? Why was Maskhadov denied dignity in death and his relatives denied timely access to his body? Chechen separatist sympathizers among the local population will surely hate Russia all the more for this affront. By disgracing Maskhadov, the Kremlin also dishonors its own military, which the deceased leader often defeated in battle. Most Russian generals that fought Maskhadov or negotiated with him held the late Chechen president in high esteem.
In being denied a proper burial, Maskhadov resembles many of his fellow Chechens, the men, women and children who were kidnapped, tortured and massacred by the Russians and their local Chechen henchmen. Under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, occupied Chechnya has many unmarked mass graves.
This, apparently, is the main reason the Kremlin wanted Maskhadov dead and refused to negotiate an end to the war. Even a partial troop withdrawal from Chechnya and the arrival of international missions could document the true level of atrocities, perhaps comparable to those of the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Kosovo. While Putin rules, there will be no peace. The Kremlin rulers do not want to go the way of Milosevic.
In the same issue, writing from a much more Kremlin-friendly perspective, U.S. academic Robert Bruce Ware expresses the belief that
whatever Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov may have been in 1995 or 1997, he was a terrorist on the day he died. As compared to a monster like Chechen commander Shamil Basayev, Maskhadov might have been described as a "moderate" up to 1998. In January 1997, he became the first and last legitimately elected president of Chechnya. However, his incapacity to cope with pressures endemic to Chechen society led to his drift toward radicalism beginning in the latter part of that year.Ware considers that
because of his iconic status, Maskhadov's death was necessary for the stabilization of the North Caucasus, but it is far from sufficient. In all but his iconic status, Maskhadov will be quickly replaced, as Basayev would be. In order to begin stabilizing the North Caucasus, the Kremlin first must support human rights and genuine democratic procedures throughout the region, beginning with the upcoming Chechen parliamentary elections. Instead of consolidating corruption, the Kremlin, secondly, must strive to reduce it. Finally, Russian officials must stimulate dramatic and widespread economic development. Otherwise, poverty, unemployment, corruption and despair will continue to nourish radicalism, alienation and instability in the region. Westerners who claim to care about the peoples of the North Caucasus should put their money where their mouths are by offering tangible assistance to stimulate economic development in this region.
Meanwhile, it's reported that the house in which Maskhadov was killed has been demolished by Russian special forces, and speculation about the details of the assassination continues, with a suggestion, based on eyewitness accounts and off-the-cuff statements by Ramzan Kadyrov, that Maskhadov was actually shot in an execution-style murder, with a subsequent attempt by special forces to make his death seem the result of a "battle" which never actually took place.
(via BH, ML)
Russia's secret services are shielding Bosnian Serbs wanted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague for atrocities committed during the Bosnian war, including the massacre at Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered.
Gojko Jankovic, a Bosnian Serb who gave himself up to the tribunal yesterday to face accusations of torture and multiple rape, was one of a group of fugitive alleged war criminals living in Russia under official protection.
According to sources at The Hague and other intelligence sources, those still on the run and enjoying protection from the Russian secret services are Vinko Pandurevic and Vujadin Popovic, two senior Bosnian Serb military figures accused of genocide over the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995.
Mr Jankovic was flown to The Hague yesterday having given himself up in the Bosnian Serb capital of Banja Luka, after four years in Moscow.
There was no conclusive explanation last night as to why Mr Jankovic had turned himself in. A senior diplomat said: "Jankovic suddenly phoned from Moscow saying he wanted to come in."
His wife, Milica, suggested personal reasons: a phone call to their son, Boban, in Belgrade, and the belief that he may be able to serve a prison term in Bosnia. Mrs Jankovic wanted to convince her husband to "surrender ... for the family".
Sources at The Hague pointed to pressure from the Bosnian Serb republic, Republika Srpska, "who are beginning to realise that this is not going to go away".
The FSB, Russia's secret service, told the Guardian last night: "We know nothing about this, and we have no comment on it."
There is acute frustration in diplomatic circles with Russia's attitude, not least because it is a signatory to the Dayton accord, which ended the Bosnian war in December 1995.
"Why they are doing it is not clear. What is clear is that the Russians are helping these people, which is holding the process to ransom," one senior diplomat said.
Monday, March 14, 2005
At chechnya-sl, Marius has translated part of a new lenta.ru article about a report in Russian Newsweek on the killing of Aslan Maskhadov:
(my quick tr) Russian Newsweek: Liquidation of Maskhadov was a stage act.
Elimination of Aslan Maskhadov by the FSB Spetsnaz in the settlement of Tolstoy-Yurt was possibly a stage act (enactment) [instsenirovka]. Russian Newsweek correspondents were at the place of the alleged[http://www.runewsweek.ru/rubrics/?rubric=country&rid=103] killing of the leader of Chechen separatists and talked to the eyewitnesses of this special operation.
Thus, according to Yakha Yusupova, the wife of the owner of the house where Maskadov was allegedly killed, only his bodyguard Ilyas Iliskhanov stayed with them, an he is actually their distant relative.She notes that in no way four adult men could stay in the basement. Officially it was reported that three more people were located together with Maskhadov.
The majority of the inhabitants of the settlement of Tolstoy-Yurt are also convinced that Maskadov's body was "tossed up -brought in"-the periodical writes. According to them, they always have been inopposition to the authority in Grozny - during Dudayev andMaskadov's lifetime. Half of the inhabitants of this village - arerelatives of Ruslan Khasbulatov. Umar Avturkhanov, the initiator of march on Grozny in November 1994, from which began the first Chechencampaign, was born there.
Meanwhile one of the employees of the republic's MVD described to the correspondents of the periodical, that the whole thing that occurred in the village was staged. According to him, Maskhadov died on 5March, as his kidneys failed, damaged because of his staying in mountains in winte. According to this theory, the people from Maskhadov's entourage were moving his body into his native settlement of Zebir-Yurt, which is located on other shore of the Terek from Tolstoy-Yurt.
Then on Sunday, a group headed by Kadyrov went to capture Maskhadov. In the course of a brief battle they killed the leader of the separatists and several of his guards. However, after conducting the operation, Kadyrov decided not to take the killing of Maskhadov on himself and reported its results to the federals.Since Maskhadov's murder can bring on a Chechen an "eternal disgrace", the vice- premier of the government of Chechnya asked federal special services to take the responsibility for the operation and its results.
One of the agents of the Chechen special services confirmed this version to the correspondents of Russian Newsweek. In his opinion, the federal forces specially took the operation on themselves in order to take blood vengeance away from Ramzan Kadyrov.
The thing that lights up the world and makes it bearable is the customary feeling we have of our connections with it -- and more particularly of what links us to human beings. Relations with other people always help us to carry on because they always suppose developments, a future - and also because we live as if our only purpose were to have relations with human beings. But the days when we become aware that this is not our only purpose, when we realize that our will alone keeps those human beings attached to us (stop writing or speaking, isolate yourself, and you will see them melt around you), that in reality most of them have their backs turned (not through malice, but through indifference) and that the remainder always have the possibility of becoming interested in something else, when we imagine in this way the element of contingency, of play of circumstances, that enters into what is called a love or a friendship, then the world returns to its night and we to that great cold whence human affection drew us for a moment.
- Albert Camus
Hi, all --
Not only is Regina Carter a phenomenal musician, she is an incredible person who is dearly loved by a number of musicians in this forum. As one of the many who hold Regina in high regard, I was deeply offended by Matvei Sigalov's comments. I realize they were not meant for public view, however, I feel compelled to answer what's been said. I agree that we should move on in a positive manner.
Regina and Kenny Barron have performed together on many, many, many, many occasions. Darol Anger hit the mark when he mentioned the nature of the music business. It's a business that doesn't deal kindly with musicians, even jazz greats. I prefer to believe that Kenny Barron recognized a rising star when he saw one, and was smart enough to include Regina on his front line! By the way, the association hasn't hurt his reputation or marketability.
There are at least two lessons here. When I first started working, someone told me to "always hire musicians who are at least as good as you." Years later, a prominent jazz bassist told me that people didn't call him because they thought he was too busy, or maybe the money wasn't good enough. He was sitting at home when he'd rather have been out playing! It goes without saying that Regina is a smart business woman. When she got some work, she offered it to Kenny Barron -- and he took the gig! But going back to my first point, it's very clear that they respect each other's musicianship.
I want to point to some of the factors that distinguish Regina Carter from most of the violinists in this forum. First, she made her name by stepping out in front of the real heavy-hitters of jazz. Regina paid her dues in a way few string players can match. John Blake did it before her -- Grover Washington, Jr. and McCoy Tyner put John out in front of their bands. Unfortunately, the industry was not smart enough to give John's work the support it deserved. Regina came along at the right time, and had all of the ingredients for success.
Regina is a proven artist who has delivered, time and time again, on stages around the world. She has broad appeal -- her style, musicianship, and approach to the violin are already influencing a generation of violinists. I played her "Paganini: After A Dream" concert at Lincoln Center. She is a musical powerhouse. There wasn't an empty seat in the hall. Less than a handful of violinists get that kind of receiption.
I also had the pleasure of serving as an objective ear for Regina last year when she was preparing to play a newly composed classical violin concerto with a major symphony orchestra. WE did about three sessions. She is one of the most disciplined musicians I know, and has a formidable technique. She is also relentless. Didn't stop for refreshments, small talk, anything -- I was exhilarated by the quality of her work.
Further, Regina is an innovator. Yes, she "internalized the jazz vocabulary," using it as a launch pad for her personal voice, but Regina doesn't just use the vocabulary. She speaks the mother tongue, the language of the blues, and rhythmically she is deep in the pocket. Regina "walks the walk, and talks the talk."
I recognize that the jazz vocabulary yields itself rather elegantly to some who don't speak the mother tongue. Clearly, it is possible to develop a unique and powerful voice in jazz without it. I was on a rehearsal break at NYC's old Carroll Studios many years ago, when I heard a distinctive violin voice emanating from one of the rooms. I peeked in, and sure enough, it was Stephane Grappelli. (He stopped to chat, even invited me to his performance that night.) It could not have been anyone else. You heard him and you said, "yes, that's Grappelli." His was not New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago, Philly, NYC or any other American blues, but he was a force of nature, and his "gypsy blues" style resonated.
I sincerely believe that the mother tongue and the rhythm are what make the music "jazz." If it doesn't at least resonate like the blues, and the rhythm is not in the pocket, you definitely need to call it "Alternative" or something else. Regina is a jazz musician.
By the way, some years later I was "on the same stage" with Grappelli when I played some shows in Monte Carlo, Monaco. I've also been on the same stage with Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Woody Shaw, Max Roach, and a host of others. Did I "deserve" to be on the stage with them? Eat your heart out, people -- I was the one who got the call.
The Internet is a great equalizer. Anyone can put together some recordings and self-promote. Lest we forget, some people are big fish in small ponds, some are in their pool in the backyard, and others, like Regina, are taking long strokes across the ocean.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Chechnya continues to be the single largest human rights crisis in Europe and the only place on the continent where civilians are killed and "disappeared" on a daily basis as a result of an armed conflict.- from a recent Human Rights Watch report.
Sheikh Abdul-Halim: Abdul-Halim Abu-Salamovich Sadulayev, a Chechen, b.1967. Born and raised in the city of Argun (12 km away from Chechen capital Jokhar). Belongs to Chechen clan of Ustradoi (Ustargardoi is considered as an independent branch of the Belgatoi Clan). Ancestors of Ustradoi Clan are considered to be founders of the city of Argun (Ustradoila, Ustargardoi-Evla).
He was taught by prominent Chechen theologians. Active participant of Islamic revival in Chechnya. He became a teacher by teaching Islam to the youth. Abdul-Halim was studying at the Chechen University, Department of Philology, but he had no time to graduate because the war started. He speaks Chechen, Arabic and Russian fluently.
President Abdul-Halim is a veteran of the first Russian-Chechen war. During the period between the first war and the second war he was delivering Islamic sermons on Chechen TV. He was also heading Islamic Jamaat (Military Council) of the city of Argun. Sheikh Abdul-Halim was also delivering Islamic lectures in various regions of Chechnya. For some time he used to be an imam of the Argun Mosque.
In 1999 on the order of President Maskhadov he was appointed as a member of State Commission of Constitutional Shariah Reform.
When the second Russian-Chechen war started he headed armed units of Argun People’s Militia, which joined CRI Armed Forces.
In 2002 during the broad session of State Defence Council of CRI (the supreme governing body of CRI during the period of war) Abdul-Halim was appointed as Chairman of the Shariah Committee of SDC and the Head of the Shariah Court of CRI.
Since the moment of death of President of CRI Aslan Maskhadov, Abdul-Halim became the legitimate leader of the Chechen State – President of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Commander of CRI State Defence Council and Commander-In-Chief of CRI Armed Forces -- in accordance with his position that he held.
And here are some more clarifications. During the broad session of SDC of CRI in July-August 2002 (which lasted 24 days), with the participation of members of SDC, the Parliament, the Government, heads of Administrations and Military Command of CRI Armed Forces, a number of important and crucial decisions were adopted.
-Several amendments and additions were made to the acting Constitution of CRI, while considering the proposals prepared as far back as 1999 by the State Commission of Shariah Reform. (By the way, Ahmad Kadyrov was one of the heads of that commission back then);
-Decision was adopted about the mechanism of legitimate succession of power in accordance with the CRI Constitution in case of death of the head of the Chechen State or in case the head of the state gets captured by the enemy.
-“Bayat” had been taken: the Islamic Oath of loyalty of military and political leaders of all levels (Commanding Officers, Commanders, Ministers, etc.) to the head of the state for as long as the head of the state complies with the Shariah Law and upholds it.
On the order of President Maskhadov, Sheikh Abdul-Halim was decorated with two medals of the Chechen State: the supreme decoration founded by First Chechen President Jokhar Dudayev, Koman Sii (“Honour of the Nation”) and Medal of Valour “Koman Turpal” (“Hero of the Nation”).
In 2003 the invader’s Spetznaz (Russian special forces) took the wife of Sheikh Abdul-Halim hostage. She was brutally murdered by Russian FSB agents after sadistic tortures when they were trying to find out where her husband was.
According to the information that Kavkaz Center has, Sheikh Abdul-Halim has never left the Chechen soil except for one trip to Mecca on Hajj.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Woe to those who suddenly discover historical time unprepared, as an illiterate would discover chemistry. But woe also to those who deceive themselves by their obedience to an unchanging moral claim, because for them historical time, which demands of us constant renewal, is but fog and delusion. Even their art will be inert, for it has not been toughened in the purgatorial fires – and man’s unavoidable contradictions are his purgatory.
- Czeslaw Milosz
Friday, March 11, 2005
Russia is unlikely to sign the treaties with Estonia and Latvia in the near future, and this situation will strain relations between Moscow and Brussels, since the European Union insists on the speedy conclusion of the treaties between Russia and the two Baltic countries. As the attached political declarations are purely a Russian initiative, European policymakers will likely blame Moscow for stalling the process of final accommodation with the Balts (Politcom.ru, March 9).
Moscow's stiff position has two explanations. First, by pushing documents totally unacceptable to the Baltic governments, the Kremlin seeks to portray them as a bunch of intransigent crypto-fascists and thus discredit them in the eyes of their European Union partners. Symptomatically, in comments devoted to the release of the book History of Latvia: The 20th Century, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Latvians of harboring "sentiments of the historic revanche" that are being supported "at the highest state level" (mid.ru, February 2). Kremlin spin doctors believe Estonia and Lithuania's decision to stay home provides a powerful propaganda trump card. Some Russian commentators have already pointed out that the Baltic leaders' "demonstrative no-show" at the commemoration festivities will be a larger scandal than their "banal Russophobia" (Rossiiskaya gazeta, January 27).
Moscow seeks to discredit the Baltic leaders as a way to express its utter unhappiness about the role these new EU entrants play within the powerful bloc. The overwhelming majority of Russian political pundits view the Baltic countries as the "anti-Russian force within the EU" that poisons relations between Moscow and Brussels. Moscow is wary of the perceived ambitions of the Baltic states to act as Europe's chief experts on Russia and the post-Soviet space. Especially worrisome, in the eyes of the Kremlin strategists, is the Baltic political elites' active participation in the overall EU policy aimed at tearing certain CIS countries away from the Russia-led integration bloc and reorienting them toward the EU and NATO. According to one analyst at Russia's Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, there is even a peculiar "division of labor" between the new EU members, whereby Poland and Lithuania are "responsible" for Ukraine and Estonia and Latvia for Georgia (Russky kuryer, December 30, 2004).
The second reason behind Russia's behavior directly pertains to its current political identity, which is dubious at best and potentially dangerous at its worst. Almost 15 years after the collapse of communism, Russian society still has not unambiguously distanced itself from Stalinism; nor has the Russian elite fully repudiated the pernicious Stalinist legacy in its geostrategic thinking. On the contrary, voices are increasingly being heard in Moscow claiming that the Stalin era constitutes one of the most glorious pages of Russia's modern history. More alarmingly, one recent poll showed that 42% of respondents would like to see a "new Stalin" in the Kremlin (Novye izvestiya, March 5).
But there is a serious danger in the unwillingness to see one's history critically. The disastrous social practices that were not properly analyzed and condemned may well reproduce themselves. Such an alarming prospect cannot fail to disturb both the Baltic nations -- the undisputable victims of Stalinist foreign policy -- and their partners in the European Union.
Meanwhile,Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is the latest defector from the Moscow guest-list:
Russo-Japanese relations appear to have digressed back to the zero-sum, tit-for-tat, tenor that defined the relationship throughout the Cold War. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced on Thursday, March 10, that he would not attend the VE- Day celebrations to be held in Moscow this May. The announcement emerged as it became clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be visiting Japan this spring for a summit meeting with Koizumi. The all-too-well known point of contention in the bilateral relationship is the "Northern Territories," the four southernmost Kuril Islands.
- A worthy man cannot be without friends.
- A friend who lives far away is like a frontier outpost.
- A new coat and an old friend are the best.
- A united family of cats has defeated disunited wolves.
- When grief-stricken, hold your head high. Bow your head before other people's grief.
- An understanding friend is considered a brother.
- Sow seeds in the sunshine, and you'll sit in the shadow when the plants have grown big.
- The potter attaches a handle to a pot wherever he wants it to be.
- He who lives by the river knows where the ford is.
- Matchmakers are told even a dog's bowl is made of copper.
- Even if you have just had a good meal, make sure you have something to eat before starting on a journey , and don't leave your sheepskin cape at home even if the sun is shining brightly.
- Asked what was good, the hare said: "It is good to see a dog before it sees you."
- He who is too lazy to harvest his own wheat, shall have to cut rock for other people.
- The cat who has failed to get pork fat says it is Lent time.
- One summer day provides food for a month of winter.
- He who has been lying idle in summer, shall be running around in winter.
- Work as if you were to live forever, and be kind to people as if you were to die tomorrow.
More Chechen proverbs can be found here.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
is not to say that America, or the West, or its allies were angels facing demons. They were more like human beings facing monsters, with the human capacity for error and sin. It seems best to get that out of the way. And to note that to describe Hitler’s war on Poland in 1939 by selecting a few successful Polish counterattacks, ignoring all other data, and thus proving Polish aggression, is more or less what is done vis-à-vis the West and Moscow on the Cold War.Where Soviet motivations are concerned, the essential point to grasp, Conquest argues, is that right up to the eve of its collapse, the Soviet Union was committed to “the concept of an unappeasable conflict with the Western world”, and to the notion that this conflict could only be resolved by world revolution. It has been rather usual for Western academic observers and historians to play down this crucial aspect of Soviet policy, under the pretence that such Soviet phantasmagoria as “socialism in one country”, and later “peaceful co-existence” somehow negated it. Yet it was clearly formulated and stated as late as 1975 by Andrei Gromyko in his book The Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union, which spoke in unambiguous terms of “further developing and deepening the world revolutionary process.” Basing his arguments on recently discovered letters written by Stalin to Molotov in 1945-46, Conquest shows how even the hard-line stance of Molotov (or “Stone-Bottom” as he was known in diplomatic circles) was not hard enough for Stalin: when Molotov allowed Pravda to publish a speech of Churchill’s praising the Soviet war effort and Stalin personally, the leader accused him of “servility towards foreigners” – for which he received a formal reprimand from a commission of the Politburo. In fact, Conquest notes, so much power was concentrated in the leader’s hands, that Stalin had the personal ability to make the post-war world uninhabitable if he so wished - and he very nearly did.
Conquest shows that the rhetoric and heated language of postwar Soviet propaganda was much more than mere linguistic posturing: its extreme and fanatical dogmatism – as George Orwell noted, “even mild Western expressions of distaste for Communist actions were almost always called ‘rabid’ – in fact, a useful marker word” – was designed to create an alternative international reality, in which “frenzied” “Anglo-American imperialists” were constantly on the point of launching a new world war. The democracies of the West were “Fascist gangs”, and their leaders “warmongers” and “lackeys of imperialism”. The violence of the language used, and the repetition by dint of which it was to permeate human consciousness, carried the authentic hall-marks of totalitarian conceptual "mind-bending".
In Western left-wing political circles, those who questioned Soviet motivations were accused of harbouring a “Cold War mentality”. In fact, however, the left-wing view of the post-war world looked something like this:
In the late 1940s… we see a Russia with a free press, the open advancing of pro-American views, a multiparty system; in America, a rigid dictatorship. The governments of Western Europe are run by members of the American Fascist-Capitalist Party, though after a few years many of its British, French, and Italian leaders are accused of being agents of Russia and executed after torture. In 1952, America’s leading Jews are tortured, then executed without publicity. In 1953, demonstrations in favour of Russia are put down by American troops in Paris. In 1956, a socialist rebellion in Belgium is similarly suppressed. In 1968, the Capitalist Party in Italy, hitherto loyal to Washington, moves to a more humane capitalism; troops from the United States and its European satellites intervene. In Germany, the American foothold in Berlin is surrounded by a wall, to prevent people escaping to the liberal East German Republic… and so on and so on.Remnants of such inverted vision and historical perspective still linger on in Western left and liberal circles even today. The charge of “Cold War thinking” levelled at those who attempt to deconstruct the Soviet Union and show it for what it was, constitutes only one of those remnants – there are also the charges of “demonization”, of “subjectivity” and “judgmentalism”. One of the most recent accusations is that of “triumphalism”:
This strange term is used to deplore any sign of being glad that the Soviet Union failed and that the Western world “triumphed”… It seems to imply, above all, that such an attitude is in bad taste. The poor, unfortunate totalitarian anti-Western regimes collapsed, but one shouldn’t crow.While one may agree that it us more important to reform the methods of those who were wrong than to rebuke them, Conquest asks: “how can it be done without some public analysis of their errors, which, after all, had a very deleterious effect on part of the Western mind? Let’s not be smug; but let’s be rigorous."
See also: Dragons and Democracy
Dragons and Democracy - II
Dragons and Democracy - III
Dragons and Democracy - IV
Dragons and Democracy - V
Dragons and Democracy - VI
Dragons and Democracy - VII
Dragons and Democracy - VIII
Robert Conquest's The Dragons of Expectation - Reality and Delusion in the Course of History is published by Norton, and can be purchased from amazon.com.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 4:41 PM
Subject: Press release
PRESS RELEASE Tallinn, 9 March 2005
For immediate release
ESTONIAN INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
phone +372 630 7477
fax +372 631 1239
JEWISH COMMUNITY SUPPORTING
THE OPPRESSED MARI MINORITY IN RUSSIA
The Jewish Community of Estonia (JCE) issued the following statement in support of the oppressed Mari minority in Russia:
The Jewish Community of Estonia expresses its support to the Maris’ effort to preserve their language, culture and ethnic identity.
We find the forced assimilation and violation of the principles of democracy by Russia against the Maris impermissible.
Chair, Jewish Community of Estonia
The Maris are a 600 thousand strong people living in Russia, just some 500 miles to the east from Moscow. They have their autonomous republic named Mari El. Due to constant russification, the share of Maris in their republic is only 43,5% today. Opposition in Mari El is brutally suppressed. During the last years, many brilliant journalists, opposition leaders and public figures of Mari origin were murdered or brutally beaten with the silent approval of local authorities who are supposedly behind these attacks.
This February, the Mari El Association in Moscow appealed to the world community for help, pointing at the “climax of political terror” in the republic. The responce came from a group of American, British, Swedish, Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian scientists and public figures, including prominent politicians, European MPs and ex-presidents of Nordic and Baltic countries. They addressed the Russian government with a joint appeal calling Moscow to put an end to attacks on members of the democratic opposition in the Republic of Mari El. This appeal is open on the website
http://www.ugri.info/mari for everyone to sign.
Please find additional information about endangered Uralic peoples on the
Member of the Board
See also in this blog: Mari Demonstration
With Maskhadov’s death a new phase of the conflict in Chechnya is beginning, one that will be characterized by great cruelty on both sides. In a pseudo-victorious push, the Russian special forces are trying to finish off the resistance. The guerrillas, on the other hand, will most probably halt their operations for a while.
Everything depends on who will be chosen as leader of the State Committee of Defence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which was headed by Maskhadov. This structure was created especially for war, and it controls the coordination of military operations.
The situation may now alter for the worse. Writing in one of the Russian journals about a month ago, the Russian philosopher Grigory Pomerants wrote literally as follows:
“As long as the Chechens are fighting, they may collaborate with anyone they like, including Al-Qaeda. But they don’t need Al-Qaeda as a guiding force, because they can guide themselves… The best defence against Al-Qaeda in Chechnya is provided by Maskhadov and Basayev. If they are removed, the Chechens will be left without leaders of their own. And it’s then that Al-Qaeda will have a hance of taking Chechnya into its hands. We ought to be praying for the health of Maskhadov and Basayev, not putting prices on their heads.”
This is also word-for-word the opinion of most of Chechnya’s peaceful inhabitants. People are really crushed and depressed by the news of their President’s death.
“I’m proud that he left in a way that was fitting for a real warrior and a man of honour. It would have been worse if he’d been caught and humiliated like Saddam Hussein. I didn’t have that courage and I had to surrender and take amnesty,” was how Salavdi, one of the amnestied guerrillas, who is at present living in Ingushetia, commented on the President’s death.
66-year-old pensioner Maret Nikayeva is also very upset by Maskhadov’s killing: “What did he ever do to the Russians, for them to kill him? Why don’t they kill Basayev, who has done far more harm to Russia? He’s working with them, that’s why they don’t kill him. But Maskhadov wanted negotiations, and that’s why they killed him. They (the Russians) always kill the innocent ones, who don’t want war.”
A young woman named Zina, who lives in Chechnya, thinks that Maskhadov’s death is a great tragedy for the Chechen people. When asked why, she replies:
“Well, I voted for him. He was Chechnya’s legitimate President. And that’s also how many of my friends, relatives and neighbours feel. It’s a great loss for me and my people. Many people in Chechnya will stay at home as a sign of mourning, to express their solidarity with those who are fighting the Russian troops.”
The reaction of ordinary people to Maskhadov’s death is unambiguous. Almost everyone I spoke to expressed regret. The expression on the faces of many was one of grief. At the moment when one of the Russian TV channels showed the body of the slain Maskhadov, the women wept, and tears came to the eyes of several of the men.
Indeed, Maskhadov’s fate is very similar to the fate of his people. Unlike Basayev and Dudayev, Maskhadov had no wish to fight to the end, until victory. Although he was a regular soldier, he always considered that it was impossible to solve the problem by war. Even with the passage of so many years and all his wanderings, Maskhadov never lost his human face, and always talked about the need for negotiations.
“I doubt if Putin will feel much rejoicing in Maskhadov’s liquidation. At least, I didn’t see it in his face. I think he understands the whole danger of the situation, which may get out of control,” said a resident of Chechnya named Beslan.
“Even if they capture and kill Basayev and the other commanders, there are others, young and uncompromising, who will take their place: I know what I’m talking about, and I know how others of my age feel,” the 24-year-old Beslan notes.
By holding these celebrations in the Red Square, and thus highlighting the Soviet victory, today's Russia is also celebrating its gains in that war. One of those gains was my country, Lithuania, whose incorporation into Josef Stalin's empire was accompanied by countless tragedies. Unlike Germany, Russia has never recognized its responsibility for the war and the mass graves of the innocent.Vytautas Landsbergis, writing in the Taipei Times
Thus, a former captive nation is now being invited to celebrate its captivity. This is why almost all Lithuanians -- indeed, most residents of the Baltic countries -- feel queasy at the prospect of their leaders marking this anniversary in Moscow. But Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanian.s are not the only Europeans who should feel this way.
When Stalin offered Hitler his friendship in the spring of 1939 -- formally concluded that summer in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact -- Nazi aggression was assured of not being knifed in the back from the East and so was left with free hands to do as Hitler pleased in the West.
The pact came after the pogroms of "Kristallnacht" in Germany, so its Soviet initiators knew pretty well to what destiny they were consigning the Jews of Poland and Lithuania, which, in accord with the first secret protocol signed by Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop on Aug. 23, 1939, were to go to Hitler. A month later, in equal secrecy, Hitler sold Lithuania to Stalin.
The other countries situated between Germany and the USSR were similarly sentenced to disappear as nations -- sooner or later. Their peoples were treated practically as though they did not exist; the aggressors' only concern was territory. The death sentences and torturing that were then imposed on almost entire nations and millions of people are, it now appears, to be silently accepted and noisily celebrated on May 9 in Moscow. Some Russian officials want to unveil a monument of Stalin to crown the festivities.
When Hitler's Wehrmacht struck westward, the USSR duly supported Germany in its war against Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway and the UK. As a result, cities in those countries were flattened and people killed not only by the Nazis, but also by their Soviet ally, which invaded Poland and supplied the Wehrmacht with the material it needed for its war against the West. In return, Stalin's USSR was given a free hand to attack Finland and to occupy Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as a part of Romania.
Demonstration at noon today, March 9,
in front of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, Pikk street!
NB: Mostly the media fails to report that MASKHADOV WAS THE ELECTED PRESIDENT OF CHECHNYA - IN ELECTIONS MONITORED BY THE OSCE. This is a major part of the Chechen tragedy - most of the media do not bother to get the story right, they just pick up and repeat Russian allegations and accusations. PLEASE see the two articles at the end of the News, also. The report from the DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA and Mr. Zakayev's article from the IHT. (I wonder if the EU members even read what their own offices/delegations produce.) It is really tragic, that the cease-fire Maskhadov called for (see IHT article below) was in effect when he was killed - maybe that was why Russia rushed to eliminate him. To understand the reality AND horrific potential of Putin's Russia, just look at the barbarity being carried out for years behind closed doors in Chechnya. MAK
Moscow, 25 February 2005
DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO RUSSIA
Democracy & Human Rights in Russia
Newsletter No. 56: 18 - 25 February 2005
European Court of Human Rights finds Russia responsible for killings in Chechnya
The European Court of Human Rights delivered yesterday three judgments in the first cases brought against Russia arising out of the situation in Chechnya. In each case, the Court has found Russia responsible for killing the applicants' relatives, in violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the authorities failed to carry out an adequate investigation into the deaths. The Court found that Article 13 had been violated because of the failure to provide any effective remedy before the Russian courts. The cases of Khashiyev and Akayeva concern the deaths of five of the applicants' relatives in Grozny at the end of January 2000. The mutilated bodies of the applicants' relatives were found with numerous stab and gunshot wounds in the Staropromyslovskii district of Grozny. The European Court found that their relatives were killed by Russian soldiers. The cases of Isayeva, Yusupova and Bazayeva arose from the Russian military's aerial bombing of a convoy of civilian cars. As a result of the bombing, the first of the applicant was wounded and her two children and daughter-in-law were killed. The panel of judges, among them one Russian, were unanimous in condemning Russia for breaching the European Convention of Human Rights article on the right to life. The Court awarded financial compensation to the applicants in all six cases. The applicants are represented by lawyers from the London-based European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), together with the Russian human rights organisation, Memorial. The EHRAC has been established at London Metropolitan University to assist individuals, lawyers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) within the Russian Federation to take human rights cases to the European Court of Human Rights. The centre is core-funded by the European Commission, with a grant under the EIDHR programme. For details on the judgments see the Court's website. For further information please contact the EHRAC (CoE, Reuters, EHRAC).
Reactions to European Court of Human Rights ruling
Russia's special envoy to the European Human Rights Court Pavel Laptev said Russia does not exclude the possibility of an appeal. Russia can request the case be referred to the court's grand chamber for a final judgement within the next three months. Philip Leach, Director of EHRAC and one of the applicants' legal representatives, said that "these landmark judgments highlight the use of grossly disproportionate force by the Russian military in Chechnya, with utter disregard for the risk to civilian life. In view of the lack of international oversight in the region, it is extremely important that the European Court has called Russia to account, and that it will continue to do so". On a press release following the Court's announcement, Amnesty International said that the ruling "shows Russia's consistent failure not only to protect human rights in the course of the armed conflict, but also to ensure justice for victims of human rights through effective investigations and prosecutions of those responsible". According to AI, many people who have submitted cases to the European Court of Human Rights have been subjected to reprisals, and some have been even killed or "disappeared". Among other things, Amnesty International calls on the government of the Russian Federation to implement the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights without delay; to investigate all allegations of human rights violations and bring those responsible to justice in a court of law; to take effective measures to prevent any further reprisals against
any person who seeks a remedy before the European Court of Human Rights; and to ensure that all allegations of such reprisals are investigated promptly.
(AI, EHRAC, Mosnews).
Feb 16, 2005 International Herald Tribune
Stop APPEASING Putin in Chechnya
When George W. Bush sits down with Vladimir Putin this month in Bratislava, the
war in Chechnya will be one of the issues to discuss. As they prepare to meet, time is running out in the Caucasus.
Three years ago, the U.S. president gave Putin the green light for his plan of Chechen pacification, which consisted of draconian measures against the civilian population, the installation of a puppet government and a propaganda campaign in the West that portrayed the Chechen independence movement as Islamic terrorists. It is clear now that the strategy did not work: The armed resistance was not subdued, the population did not embrace the Quisling government and courts in Britain and the United States cleared Chechen political figures, such as myself, of Russian accusations of terrorism. The only outcome of "pacification" was the emboldening of radicals at the expense of the moderate Chechen leadership, leading to the outrage of Beslan and the spread of militant ideology throughout the Caucasus. Meanwhile, opposition to the war has been growing in Russian society. Last November, the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers, the largest and most respected Russian NGO, called for peace talks in defiance of Putin's rejectionist stand. The appeal won the support of a majority of Russians and caught the Kremlin by surprise. But Russia managed to block a meeting between Soldiers' Mothers and representatives of the Chechen resistance at the European Parliament. That the Belgian government chose to side with the Kremlin and deny entry visas to the Russian peace activists was widely reported in the region and contributed to the sense among Chechens that they have been abandoned to Putin's troops.
Militant radicals appeared to be their only defenders.
Terrorist groups that no one is able to control are springing up in Dagestan, ngushetia, Karachaevo-Cherkesia and in Russia proper. The notoriously corrupt
Russian security services, as well as puppet-government officials, are eager to sell them arms and free passage. The stockpiles of Russian weapons of mass destruction are not properly guarded. It is only a matter of time before the situation explodes in the faces of the architects of the policy of appeasing Putin.
The only way to prevent catastrophic deterioration in the Caucasus is to press Russia for a political settlement with the responsible and moderate leadership of the Chechen Republic. In a last ditch effort to persuade the world of that, Aslan Maskhadov, Chechnya's ousted elected president, recently issued a unilateral cease-fire, which will last for one month. This gesture is a response to the call of the Soldiers' Mothers, who we know are speaking for the Russian people: Yes we heard you, we are ready for peace, we want to stop fighting and talk, with all options open. It is significant that the radical wing of the fighters, which is controlled by Shamil Basayev, accepted the cease-fire. Basayev had taken responsibility for many terrorist attacks, including the horrific raids on the school in Beslan and the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow. We do not control Basayev; we condemned his methods,
but we were powerlesss to stop him. Yet we know why he decided to silence his guns and hold his suicide squads - because he knows that the Chechen people want to give peace a chance. This may be the last chance. But as long as the cease-fire holds,
it demonstrates that Maskhadov can deliver peace, even though he does not control the militants in war.
This is a unique opportunity, perhaps the last, to break the vicious circle of hatred, death and destruction. If it is lost, the responsibility for the escalation of the conflict, further radicalization of the Caucasus and the inevitable increase of terrorism will go to those who persist in the failed policy of appeasing Putin. Bush should realize that his hands-off policy on Chechnya does not increase security but only breeds terror.
(Akhmed Zakayev is special envoy to Aslan Maskhadov, the separatist leader and former [sic] president of Chechnya.)