A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘eurasia

[NEWS] Ten Window on Eurasia links

  • What will become of the Azerbaijani language in education in Iran? More here.
  • Is a Russia-Belarus state union feasible? More here.
  • Is Estonia, as some would have it, a viable model for the Finnic Mordvin peoples of the Russian interior? More here.
  • Will Russia be happy with its alliance with China if this makes it a secondary partner, a relatively weaker exporter of resources? More here.
  • How many Muslims are there in Moscow, and what import does the controversy over their numbers carry? More here.
  • Is the Russian fertility rate set to stagnate, leading to long-term sharp decline? More here.
  • If 10% of the Russian working-age population has emigrated, this has serious consequences for the future of Russia. More here.
  • Irredentism in Kazakhstan, inspired by the example of Crimea, is just starting to be a thing. More here.
  • The decline of Russian populations in the north of Kazakhstan, and the growth of Uzbeks, is noteworthy. More here.
  • The different Russian proposals for the future of the Donbas, an analyst notes, are built to keep Ukraine a neutral country. More here.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait reports on Supernova 2018oh in nearby galaxy UGC 4780, a star that demonstrated a most unusual bump in its light curve. Did the explosion engulf a neighbouring star?
  • Centauri Dreams reports on New Horizons as it approaches its next target, the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule.
  • D-Brief notes new observations of a black hole suggesting that gas around them forms not a rigid donut shape but rather a looser fountain.
  • Dead Things notes a new discovery that the icythosaur had blubber like modern cetaceans, demonstrating convergent evolution.
  • Cody Delistraty writes about changing perceptions of painter Egon Schiele.
  • Far Outliers notes how Japanese prisoners of war were often so surprised by good treatment that they reciprocated, by freely sharing information with interrogators.
  • Hornet Stories notes that, at least on Reddit, RuPaul’s Drag Race is the most discussed show currently playing on television.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the Indian police was seeking two American evangelical Christian missionaries for aiding another to breach North Sentinel Island, both having fled the country.
  • JSTOR Daily looks back to a 1963 paper on the effects of automation on society by Leon Megginson, finding that many of his predictions were correct.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that it is a sad day for Hungary that its government was able to drive the Central European University out of Budapest into exile.
  • At Lingua Franca, Roger Shuy takes a look at the dreaded PhD oral exam. (I know that seeing other students taking it was one thing putting me off from academia.)
  • The LRB Blog takes a look at the disastrous state of politics in Honduras, with a corrupt leader deeply compromised by (among other things) a dependency upon the United States.
  • The NYR Daily takes a look at the beautiful Tibetan Buddhist religious art on display in the Ladakh settlement of Alchi.
  • Window on Eurasia notes a conference in Moscow taking a look at a Eurasianism based on a Slavic-Turkic synthesis.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes a look at Santa Barbara in some of her many dimensions.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait notes that new astrometric data from Gaia has confirmed that Albiero, Beta Cygni, is only a visual binary, its two components being separated by perhaps dozens of light-years.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the details of a new study suggesting the stars at the heart of globular cluster Omega Centauri are too closely packed to be able to support possibly life-bearing planets with stable orbits.
  • The Crux examines the question of whether or not astronauts can remain psychologically healthy in deep space.
  • D-Brief notes that the shallow stripes of the atmosphere of Jupiter might be explained by the planet’s strong magnetic field.
  • Cody Delistraty shares an essay of his on V.S. Naipaul and the difficulties many writers face returning home.
  • Hornet Stories notes that some conservative Republicans in Texas would like to deal with same-sex marriage by stripping marriage benefits away from all couples.
  • Language Hat notes some appearances of Eurasianism in Russian linguistics.
  • Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes an Elizabeth Warren plan for corporate reform in the US.
  • The LRB Blog notes a pop-up theatre being maintained by Good Chance Paris for refugees on the fringes of the French capital.
  • The NYR Daily looks at the strength, and possible future attenuation, of anti-Haitian sentiment in the Dominican Republic.
  • Jason Davis at the Planetary Society Blog shares some gorgeous Juno photos of Jupiter.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel considers what happened in the early universe when antimatter was destroyed.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the argument of one Russian journalist that Putin’s maneuvering has made good relations with the West, and the United States, next to impossible for the foreseeable future.

[LINK] “Who is Aleksandr Dugin?”

Crooked Timber’s Ronald Beiner posted an essay about Eurasianism and its chief ideologue Aleksandr Dugin and his issues.

On February 5, 2015, TVO (the Ontario equivalent of PBS) broadcast an episode of “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” featuring Dugin. The show (entitled “Big Minds on the Future of Democracies”) included Francis Fukuyama, a well-known and influential public intellectual, as well as Ivan Krastev, another heavyweight political scientist concerned with the future of democracy. This already conveyed the impression that Dugin is a serious academic on a par with the other two. The show went out of its way to publicize Dugin’s newly published work, Eurasian Mission, giving it equal standing alongside one of Fukuyama’s books. Eurasian Mission is published by Arktos Media, an incontrovertibly “Aryanist” or white supremacist outfit. On its cover, repeatedly displayed on the TV screens of TVO’s viewers, is the Symbol of Chaos —Dugin’s no less malevolent version of the swastika. It is hard to imagine that Paikin or the TVO producers knew what they were doing when they gave the purveyor of this reptilian ideology his platform on public television. But it is not too late to educate ourselves.

In presenting Dugin to their viewers, TVO advertised him as a “Russian philosopher and political activist.” Is Dugin a Russian philosopher? Yes, it seems that he is. Dugin’s book, Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning (published by Radix, a far-right press), offers a competent and at times interesting commentary on the philosophy of Heidegger, one of the major thinkers of the twentieth century. Only a fellow philosopher could pursue that kind of engagement with a philosopher as challenging and as important as Heidegger—although Dugin’s book in no way hides the fact that he’s at least as strongly drawn to Heidegger’s ideological significance as to his philosophical significance. (Dugin is very intensely focused on the Heidegger of 1936-1945, a period throughout which Heidegger was a card-carrying Nazi, however much he may have believed that Hitler’s version of National Socialism was grossly inferior to his own.) Since the Enlightenment, there has been a line of important thinkers for whom life in liberal modernity is felt to be profoundly dehumanizing. Thinkers in this category include Joseph de Maistre, Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Schmitt, and Heidegger. For such thinkers, liberal modernity is so humanly degrading that one ought to (if one could) undo the French Revolution and its egalitarianism, and perhaps cancel out the whole moral legacy of Christianity. For all of them, hierarchy and rootedness is more morally compelling than equality and individual liberty. In his Heidegger book, Dugin helps to bring out why certain intellectuals of the early twentieth century gravitated towards fascism: a grim preoccupation with the perceived soullessness of modernity, and a resolve to embrace any politics, however extreme, that seemed to them to promise “spiritual renewal” (to quote Heidegger). Dugin is now the latest thinker in this line of philosophers of the radical right. But his identity as a philosopher is only one aspect of Dugin’s intellectual personality. He’s also very much captivated by mysticism and occultism, and he’s a determined ideologue who is willing to reach out to allies in the gutter.

The resulting discussion was somewhat depressing, and summed up for me by the final comment, left by one Dominick Bartleme.

Long-time reader and extremely infrequent commenter here. I find many of the comments on this thread to be utterly remarkable. I can see Dugin’s hoped-for coalition of fascists and socialists and other illiberal elements forming before my eyes. The level of disgust of many on the left with the U.S. dominated capitalist world order has rendered them unable to read a simple denunciation of a dangerous fascist ideologue without immediately reacting that he must be 100x better than our evil capitalist overlords. The logical (and short) next step is to make common cause with Dugin and his ilk in our struggle against the liberal order.

Any lover of peace and freedom should stand with the OP against this dangerous ideology and the too-easy rationalization of it by those who do not care for the current global political and economic system. We don’t need to agree on much to agree that this man and his allies are promoting a profoundly evil vision of the future.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 12, 2015 at 10:45 pm

[LINK] “Russia’s Crisis Was Big Fun in Belarus Until the Economic Strife Spread”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek‘s Leonid Ragozin reports on the consequences of the Russian economic crisis for neighbouring and allied Belarus.

As the Russian ruble plunged 45 percent against the dollar last month, Andrey Kabanov made two forays from Belarus into Moscow. The entertainment entrepreneur is now the owner of two secondhand BMWs bought for about two-thirds the market price in his native Minsk. Not that he needed the cars for everyday use. “A friend is now driving one of them, and the other is just sitting in the garage,” Kabanov says. “But it is an asset that I can always sell at a profit.” Thousands of Belarusians such as Kabanov flocked into Russian cities before the New Year, taking advantage of the cheap ruble and the absence of border control between two countries united in a trade association known as the Eurasian Union.

For Belarusians, at least at first, their neighbor’s economic crisis and worsening relations with the West brought a variety of benefits. When Moscow retaliated for EU sanctions by banning imports of cheese, apples, and salmon, some Belarusian businesses took to repackaging European products so they appear to have been made in Belarus. Two entrepreneurs involved in the repackaging business explained how the scheme works: EU-produced fruit and vegetables are swapped for their Belarusian-produced equivalents of inferior quality. The latter would be sold in the guise of EU produce in Belarus, while EU-made products would proceed to the much more lucrative Russian market. (Neither person involved in the repackaging would agree to be identified.)

Another scheme involved sending trucks full of EU produce from Belarus to Kazakhstan, also a member of the Eurasian Union. The cargo would never reach its destination, vanishing somewhere along the long route that cuts through Russia. Alterations to products exported from Europe also allowed a change in their nationality. Norwegian salmon salted in Belarus would become Belarusian, for instance, even if the entire process amounted to sprinkling a heap of fish with a handful of salt.

Many people are now opting out of the repackaging business, in part as a reflection of increasing legal risks and the waning appeal of the Russian market. The cross-border shopping bonanza has also ended now that the Belarusian ruble has fallen 30 percent against Western currencies this month, reflecting the country’s overwhelming economic dependence on Russia.

When it comes to order, security, and relatively low corruption, Belarus looks something like a post-Soviet Singapore. But its economic policies are decidedly backward, smacking of the late USSR. “While the devaluation in Russia was conducted in a transparent way without imposing any restrictions on the circulation of hard currency, the Belarusian government opted for the most confusing and convoluted way possible,” says economist Yaroslav Romanchuk. The explanation is simple: President Alexander Lukashenko had publicly pledged there would be no devaluation and no price hike, Romanchuk says, so when that outcome became inevitable, the devaluation was conducted in a way that allowed officials to avoid ever using the dreaded word.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 22, 2015 at 11:39 pm

[NEWS] Some Monday links

  • Al Jazeera warns about the militarization of the Ukrainian state, notes the alienation of Turkish Kurds from their goverment and wonders if northern Syria will become a Turkish protectorate, wishes Arab authors could travel to the United States more readily, wonders about the impact of immigrants on Catalonian separatism, and notes Wheaton College’s issue with new federal healthcare regulations.
  • Bloomberg observes the shrinkage of the American labour force, the success of the coffee crop in Vietnam, the emigration from ethnic Czechs from Ukraine to the Czech Republic, the successful retention of industry in Singapore, observes the debilitating toll of illegal fisheries off of the West African coast, and notes the call for an investigation into the treatment of the United States’ first Ebola victim.
  • Bloomberg View notes that Uber can succeed only in the context of a struggling labour market, looks at the economic issues of European petrostates, notes how political concerns override fears for the Russian economy, argues British cities also need autonomy, and via Faroese fish exports notes that sanctions may not have that much effort.
  • CBC notes Tanya Tagaq’s stalking by a sexually aggressive man in Winnipeg, and notes that Windsor is using cayenne peppers to deter squirrels from attacking the city’s tulips. (That last should work.)
  • The Inter Press Service notes the scale of Samoan emigration, observes the negative consequences of climate change for livestock farmers in the Caribbean, looks at the drought besetting Sao Paulo, looks at an economically questionable train line in Sri Lanka, considers how the Karabakh issue makes Armenian entry into the Eurasian Union problematic, and u>observes anti-Palestinian discrimination in housing in the Jerusalem area.
  • IWPR reports on growing Ukraine-related ethnic tensions in Kazakhstan and observes Georgia’s clampdown on immigration.
  • Open Democracy recommends a consistent policy of European Union opening to the western Balkans, notes the plight of Copts in Egypt, looks at ethnic tensions in North Ossetia between Ossetians and Ingush, examines Basque and Corsican separatisms, fears for the future of secularism in Mali and Senegal, and considers the dire demographics of Ukraine.

[BLOG] Some Monday linls

  • blogTO notes the five longest TTC routes in Toronto.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes evidence that objects detected by Kepler are gravitationally bound to their parent stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales tracks the migrations of raccoons and their kind from North to South America, and notes that Pacific Island nations are hoping to find places they can evacuate their populations to.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the computer of the anti-gay papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic has been found to be filled with child porn, and observes apparent success in treating Ebola with HIV medications.
  • Language Log looks at gendered pronoun usage on Facebook.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes depression.
  • Marginal Revolution links to an article examining the lives of lightning survivors.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at Russian-Ukrainian energy wars and isn’t hopeful for Ukraine.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes war-related mortality patterns in Iraq.
  • Savage Minds notes that anthropologists at the University of Chicago have played a leading role in getting that university to disengage from its Confucius Institute.
  • Torontoist notes how 1971 thinkers thought Toronto could be made more pleasant.
  • Towleroad considers if Britney Spears is a proper gay icon.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests the death of civic nationalism in Russia, notes the refugees in Ukraine displaced from the Donbas, suggests that there is sympathy in Tatarstan from Crimean Tatars, looks at Russian official support for the far right worldwide, and suggests that Eurasianism and Dugin are of falling importance.

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • blogTO notes an interesting play being put on at Buddies in Bad Times about a same-sex couple’s divorce.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post from Andrew Lepage examining habitable exomoons.
  • Crooked Timber notes the exceptionally high voter turn-out in Scotland.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes China’s attempts to construct a new security architecture in Asia.
  • Eastern Approaches notes that Poland’s Radek Sikorski is now foreign minister.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh notes that the Eurozone is set to become Japan-like economically.
  • Far Outliers has a whole slew of posts on Romanian history, noting early Romanian history, the autonomy of the Danubian principalities from Ottoman rule, and the complex relationships in Transylvania and with central Europe.
  • Geocurrents notes that one Islamic State map was made from a computer game.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the final segment of New York City’s High Line park is complete.
  • Language Hat notes the Scots dialect of Yiddish.
  • Marginal Revolution looks forward to the complexities of Catalonian separatism.
  • Registan notes Kazakhstan’s concerns with Russia.
  • The Search examines methodologies for preserving E-mails.
  • Towleroad notes that a Grindr poll in Scotland accurately predicted the outcome of the Scottish referendum and also notes Grindr’s concern with Egyptian police use of the app.
  • Understanding Society considers the idea of turning points in history. Do they exist, or not?
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Ilya Somin comes out in favour of allowing informed teenagers–16 years and older–to vote.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russification in the Gagauz leadership and observes Russophilia among Ukrainian evangelical Protestants.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell imagines likely issues with devolution in the near future in the United Kingdom.

[LINK] “Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans”

The Dragon’s Tales linked to a study in Nature analyzing ancient DNA.

We sequenced the genomes of a ~7,000-year-old farmer from Germany and eight ~8,000-year-old hunter-gatherers from Luxembourg and Sweden. We analysed these and other ancient genomes with 2,345 contemporary humans to show that most present-day Europeans derive from at least three highly differentiated populations: west European hunter-gatherers, who contributed ancestry to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners; ancient north Eurasians related to Upper Palaeolithic Siberians, who contributed to both Europeans and Near Easterners; and early European farmers, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harboured west European hunter-gatherer related ancestry. We model these populations’ deep relationships and show that early European farmers had ~44% ancestry from a ‘basal Eurasian’ population that split before the diversification of other non-African lineages.

The study is not available in full at the link.

The Guardian provides more analysis.

The findings suggest that the arrival of modern humans into Europe more than 40,000 years ago was followed by an influx of farmers some 8,000 years ago, with a third wave of migrants coming from north Eurasia perhaps 5,000 years ago. Others from the same population of north Eurasians took off towards the Americas and gave rise to Native Americans.

Modern Europeans are various mixes of the three populations. Sardinians are more than 80% early European farmer, with less than 1% of their genetic makeup coming from the ancient north Eurasians. In the Baltic states such as Estonia, some modern people are 50% hunter-gatherer and around a third early European farmer.

The modern English inherited around 50% of their genes from early European farmers, 36% from western European hunter-gatherers, and 14% from the ancient north Eurasians. According to the study, published in Nature, modern Scots can trace 40% of their DNA to the early European farmers and 43% to hunter-gatherers, though David Reich, a senior author on the study at Harvard University, said the differences were not significant.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 19, 2014 at 12:47 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On how the past American-Canadian relationship may reflect on Russia and Ukraine

While thinking earlier today about the situation of Russia and Ukraine, my thoughts turned to North American history. It seems to be generally true that Russian public opinion, and Russian policymakers, find it difficult to imagine a Ukraine that might exist independently of Russia, a Ukraine that might make its own decisions and join alliances without Russia. This, in turn, is connected to Russian skepticism that a separate Ukrainian ethnicity actually exists. Talk of said, whether in Ukraine never mind inside Russia, seems to be one of the many things that Russian official language would define as “fascist”. Putin said in 2007 that Ukraine was not a real country, after all.

Was this really so different from the situation between the United States and the future Canada? After the War of American Independence, many Americans confidently imagined that the British North American colonies would soon be part of the American union. The British North American colonies’ series was an American desire during the War of 1812, and throughout the 19th century many Americans seem to have believed that the poorer, more conservative British North American colonies would inevitable fall into the American orbit. (To be fair, a not-inconsiderable number of British North Americans, not only of American descent, agreed with this.) Prominent public support for the annexation of Canada could be voiced as late as the early 20th century, when statements in favour of annexing Canada ended up determining the outcome of the 1911 Canadian election.

The Democratic Speaker of the American House of Representatives Champ Clark declared on the floor of the House that: “I look forward to the time when the American flag will fly over every square foot of British North America up to the North Pole. The people of Canada are of our blood and language”. Clark went on to suggest in his speech that reciprocity agreement was the first step towards the end of Canada, a speech that was greeted with “prolonged applause” according to the Congressional Record. The Washington Post reported that: “Evidently, then, the Democrats generally approved of Mr. Clark’s annexation sentiments and voted for the reciprocity bill because, among other things, it improves the prospect of annexation”. The Chicago Tribunal in an editorial condemned Clark, warned that Clark’s speech might had fatally damaged the reciprocity agreement in Canada and stated: “He lets his imagination run wild like a Missouri mule on a rampage. Remarks about the absorption of one country by another grate harshly on the ears of the smaller”.

Then Republican Congressman William Bennett of New York, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee introduced a resolution asking the Taft administration to begin talks with Britain on how the United States might best annex Canada. Taft rejected the proposal, and asked the committee to take a vote on the resolution (which only Bennett voted for), but the Conservatives now had more ammunition. Since Bennett, a strong protectionist, had been an opponent of the reciprocity agreement, the Canadian historian Chantal Allen suggested that Bennett had introduced his resolution with the aim of inflaming Canadian opinion against the reciprocity agreement. Clark’s speech that provoked massive outrage in Canada, and was taken by many Canadians as confirming the Conservative charge that the reciprocity agreement would result in American annexation of Canada. The Washington Post noted that the effect of Clark’s speech and Bennett’s resolution in Canada had “roused the opponents of reciprocity in and out of Parliament to the highest pitch of excitement they have yet reached”. The Montreal Daily Star, English Canada’s most widely read newspaper which until then had supported the Liberals and reciprocity now did a volte-face and turned against the reciprocity agreement. In an editorial, the Star wrote: “None of us realized the inward meaning of the shrewdly framed offer of the long headed American government when we first saw it. It was as cunning a trap as ever laid. The master bargainers of Washington have not lost their skill.”

The pro-integration Liberals lost that election.

The point of this analogy is that, eventually, Americans stopped caring so much about Canada being part of their country. I think I’m correct in suspecting Americans wouldn’t mind, but that they just don’t see the pressing need. What of Russia? I only hope it won’t take more than a century for recognition of Ukrainian distinctiveness and rightful statehood to become accepted.

Thoughts, criticisms?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 5, 2014 at 3:59 am