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[LINK] Three links on Belarus, elections, Svetlana Alexievich, and the future

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Bloomberg View’s Leonid Bershidskiy approves of the granting of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Belarusian Sveltana Alexievich.

Alexievich, the first Russian-speaking winner since Joseph Brodsky in 1987, has long been a favorite for the prize. That said, there’s a clear logic to choosing her now. Born in western Ukraine to a Ukrainian mother and a Belarussian father, she is the closest thing to a strong Ukrainian author the Nobel committee could find, though she considers herself Belarussian. She is also among the purest and fiercest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Her books document the woeful legacy of the Soviet era, which Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko have tried to repaint in the gaudy colors of imperial glory.

Alexievich joins a very small group of nonfiction writers who have won the prize. Another was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose victory told the Communist leadership of the Soviet Union that the world knew the truth, or would like to know it. Alexievich’s selection sends a similar message to Putin’s Kremlin.

She doesn’t see herself as a literary wizard — she has described herself as “an ear, not a pen.” Her works are essentially collections of interviews with hundreds of ordinary people. Reached by the Swedish broadcaster SVT, she said that being honored alongside such great Russian-language writers as Ivan Bunin and Boris Pasternak was “a bit disturbing.” Alexievich’s approach is more journalistic, a style that suits her Belarussian heritage as described in “Chernobyl Prayer,” her stark investigation of the human consequences of the world’s worst nuclear disaster:

We are people of the earth, not of the sky. Our monoculture is potatoes, we dig it, we plant it, and all the time we look down at the earth. Down! And if a person should raise his head, it will be to look no higher than a stork’s nest. Even that is high for him, that is his sky. There is no sky that they call cosmos in our culture. Then we take something from the Russian culture or the Polish one. Now when we get a Tolstoy, a Pushkin, we’ll understand something about ourselves.

Instead, the Belarussians and all the post-Soviet Russian speakers — about 300 million of us — got Alexievich, who finds it hard to lift her eyes from an earth dotted with graves.

Aliaksandr Kudrytski at Bloomberg notes the high stakes in Belarus’ elections.

For an election deemed unnoticeable by international observers, there will be plenty of global attention when Belarus votes for president on Sunday.

Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, 61, is seeking his fifth term against a fractured and weakened opposition, with the country besieged by economic turmoil and an 18-month conflict in neighboring Ukraine. After a campaign international observers called “largely invisible,” a government-sanctioned poll showed Lukashenko’s support at more than 76 percent. The Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies in Lithuania found his backing near 46 percent, short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

Belarus, wedged between Russia and Poland, is at risk of becoming another geopolitical battleground as the Kremlin wrangles with its former Cold War rivals from Ukraine to Syria. Lukashenko, Europe’s longest-serving leader who’s been in power since 1994, campaigned with the goal of “normalizing” ties with the U.S. and Europe and pushed back against plans by President Vladimir Putin — his closest ally — to set up a military air base in Belarus.

“While toppling Lukashenko would be very difficult for Russia, especially without a plausible alternative candidate waiting in the wings, a rapprochement with Brussels may tip the balance in favor of those advocating regime change in Minsk,” said Daragh McDowell, principal analyst covering Russia and the former Soviet Union at Verisk Maplecroft, a Bath, U.K.-based global risk adviser. “‘Losing’ Belarus so soon after Ukraine would deal a crippling blow to Russia’s geopolitical ambitions in Europe.”

Window on Eurasia notes the reaction to Alexievich’s selection as signaling Belarusian national identity.

In a commentary today on Grani.ru, Vitaly Portnikov makes this point clear in a survey of the reaction to Aleksiyevich’s award in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine and in his assessment of what this says about the state of Belarusian literature and even more important of the Belarusian nation (grani.ru/opinion/portnikov/m.244887.html).

In many ways, he suggests, the reactions of people in the three Slavic countries was entirely predictable. In Belarus, the official media treated the event in a very low key manner because Aleksiyevich is an opponent of Alyaksandr Lukashenka even though she is the first Belarusian writer to win this prize.

In Russia, there were some who wanted to claim Aleksiyevich’s prize as “a victory of Russian literature” (echo.msk.ru/blog/minkin/1636924-echo/), as others denounced her for her outspoken opposition to Putin and his authoritarian and imperial rule as “a Solzhenitsyn in skirts” (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2015/10/09/solzhenicyn_v_yubke/).

And in Ukraine, as Portnikov notes, some wanted to claim her as a Ukrainian because she was born in Ivano-Frankivsk. (Although he doesn’t mention it, some Ukrainian commentators at the very least wanted to interpret her award as a slap in the face of Russia: dsnews.ua/society/u-nobelya-antisovetskoe-litso-08102015191000).)

“Beyond any doubt,” Portnikov says, “Svetlana Aleksiyevich is a Belarusian writer. Belarusian to the same degree that Joyce and Yates are Irish writers, Mark Twain and Hemingway are American, Marquez is Columbian and Llosa, Peruvian.”

Written by Randy McDonald

October 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO looks at atypically-named TTC subway stations, the ones named not after streets.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the protoplanetary disk of AU Microscopii.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at China’s nuclear submarine issues.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examines the intersections between game theory and water shortages.
  • Far Outliers notes the travails of Buddhism in Buryatia and the decline of Russia’s Old Believers.
  • Geocurrents looks at rural-urban–potentially ethnic–divides in Catalonia.
  • Savage Minds examines controversies over tantra in contemporary Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Torontoist notes that the TCHC is only now investing in energy-saving repairs.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests contemporary Syria could have been Ukraine had Yanukovich been stronger, notes Belarusian opposition to a Russian military base, and notes discontent among Russia’s largely Sunni Muslims with the alliance with Iran and Syria.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • James Bow links to some things he wrote over the past summer.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly argues journalists are just trying to do their jobs.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at some unusual orbits suited for space missions.
  • Crooked Timber suggests Bitcoin is literally a waste of energy.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze talks about using machine learning to discover exoplanets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares pictures of Neanderthal art, talks about Elon Musk’s plan for terraforming Mars, notes Lukashenko does not want a Russian base in Belarus, and reports on the stabilization of the front line in Donbas.
  • Language Hat notes false etymologies of some Russian words as indigenous.
  • Languages of the World suggests there is a close link between genetics and language.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the extent to which Jamaica has suffered because of colonialism, and examines the relationship of domestic work with slavery.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that women in Japan have surpassed women in the United States re: workforce participation.
  • Otto Pohl links to online publications on Russian Germans, and on Crimean Tatars.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at nostalgia in Belarus for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • Transit Toronto notes that the TTC is installing bike repair stations at some of its stations.
  • Savage Minds considers reasons anthropologists should be concerned with the security of their fieldwork and other data.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Ukraine could split back into Russia’s sphere of influence if it is not careful, notes the possible strength of autonomist sentiment in Tatarstan, looks at opposition in Belarus to a new Russian base while suggesting Putin is building Belarusian nationalism.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO notes that Toronto’s old City Hall may yet become a shopping mall once the courts move out.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that worlds without plate tectonics are doomed to stop being habitable, and looks at different kinds of cosmic ray environments.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the Iranian buildup in Syria.
  • A Fistful of Euros has a reading list for Jeremy Corbyn.
  • Otto Pohl talks about the historic role of German minorities in Africa and Asia.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map of the Middle East’s Kurdish populations.
  • Spacing Toronto looks at campus safety in the age of threatening tweets.
  • Towleroad notes Michael Sam stating he could have had a better NFL career had he not come out.
  • Transit Toronto notes the TTC has taken its tenth new streetcar into service.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy looks at intersections between assisted suicide and religious liberty.
  • Window on Eurasia notes controversy in Belarus over a Russian military base and looks at Circassians in Syria.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO looks at Queen and Bay in the 1960s and examines the PATH in the 1970s.
  • Centauri Dreams suggests that beamed power might be detectable by SETI.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at ancient salmon fishing in Alaska and notes the state of the Ukrainian war.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers the extent to which crime can warp societies.
  • Far Outliers notes the heckling women protesters of Kyrgyzstan.
  • Language Log shares a bad translation of into English from Chinese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how Indonesian drilling triggered a mud volcano.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at cap and trade in China and wonders why deflation has returned to Japan.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog maps abortion in Europe.
  • Savage Minds shares a list that is also an ethnography.
  • Towleroad notes the appearance of PrEP on American television.
  • Window on Eurasia criticizes Putin’s diplomatic strategies, notes that there are three million Muslims in Moscow, looks at the controversy surrounding Syrian Circassian refugees, notes some Russian tourists are now saying they are Belarusian, and notes the challenges of Belarus.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes a proposal to make the Gardiner Expressway an equivalent of New York City’s High Line park and observes the dropping of charges against Toronto rooftopping photographers.
  • Crooked Timber notes that Trump is a consummate populist.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze maps the WASP-33 system and suggests Uranus was formed by a planetary collision.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes progress has been made on synthetic telepathy.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines the myth of the failure of public housing in the United States and notes the perverted minds of anti-sex conservatives.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to scenarios for Jewish population growth.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at the vulnerability of Belarus and notes anti-German sentiment in Kaliningrad.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO notes the report that the CBC might sell its holdings.
  • Centauri Dreams observes another search for a Kardashev III civilization that ended in failure.
  • Crooked Timber is fed up with Rod Dreher.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze and Centauri Dreams report on new orbital parameters for Beta Pictoris b.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports the Permian extinction lasted sixty thousand years.</li
  • Marginal Revolution looks at the dynamics of British inequality.
  • pollotenchegg maps Russification in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes reports of a brain drain from Russia.
  • Spacing Toronto looks at the iconography of city signage.
  • Torontoist reports on a documentary regarding Toronto’s gun culture.
  • Window on Eurasia warns of a crackdown on Crimean Tatar institutions, notes the opening of a new mosque in Moscow, reports on inter-Muslim violence in Russia, and suggests Belarus now is in the position of the Baltic States in 1940.

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