Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Walk through Bishkek

I have decided to once again to try and use this blog as a personal journal. Especially, since I am planning on seriously reducing the time I waste on Face Book. Today, I went for a long walk. I noticed that they had renamed at least part of Manas which used to be Prospekt Mira after Chingiz Aitmatov. They are also building yet another mall on the street. This one is being called Asia Mall. It isn't completed yet. I also went to the other new mall, GUM over on Chui. It is quite nice and modern. But, the only store there that interests me is the book store and even that not very much. The history selection is very small and consists almost entirely of recent popular books from Russia. I am just not a 21st century man geared to constant consumption of new smart phones. I have a dumb Nokia from 2013. Looking at how other people are dependent upon their smart phones I have no intention of ever getting one. I think Mark Fisher was correct in his evaluation of the damage done to society by this particular piece of technology.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Why I Post so Little Here These Days

This blog has been slowly dying for a while. It long ago ceased to get any readers and comments stopped eons before that. But, now I am truly running out of new things to say in the short space of a blog post. I am also coming to the point where I am just going to have to accept that nobody is ever going to agree with me on anything and there isn't anything I can do about it. I never thought I would live to see Stalinism rehabilitated. But, that isn't as surprising as some of the other past horrors such as Dutch colonial atrocities in Indonesia or the Danish slave trade that are now routinely and militantly denied or defended by huge numbers of "progressives." But, there is no convincing these people that their idols whether it is the USSR, Denmark, the Netherlands, or Israel has ever done anything wrong. Unfortunately, these people appear to make up the vast majority of the population posting on the Internet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Short Summary on Racism in the USSR under Stalin

It is impossible to get into the heads of dead dictators and political police chiefs and frankly trying to do so is rather pointless. Intentions and motivations are in the big picture of things rather minor considerations compared to actual actions and their consequences. There is no doubt that the internal Soviet national deportations and imposition of the special settlement regime upon groups such as the Russian Germans, Kalmyks, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars was institutionally racist. The Soviet government singled out these and other groups for differential, unequal, and inferior treatment as collectives based solely on their membership in immutable categories based upon ancestry. It is also obvious that trying to convince people with an ideologically vested interest in seeing the USSR as superior to the US on the issue of race of the above truth is impossible.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reflections on Korea

I was only in Seoul a week so my observations are rather casual. That plus I speak almost no Korean. I purchased a Russian-Korean phrasebook in Bishkek before going. But, it turns out a very large number of Koreans in Seoul, particularly young adults, speak pretty good English. At any rate I found Seoul to be a rather happening place. There is lots of commerce, lots of coffee shops, lots of noodle joints, and overall the place is quite clean and orderly. The freedom and high standard of living I saw in South Korea contrasts sharply with the picture of North Korea I gathered from reading Barbara Demick's, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2009). Demick's collective biography of six North Korean refugees that made it to South Korea by way of China paints an Orwellian society mired in poverty and the type of absurdity that only socialist regimes seem capable of imposing upon their subjects. Reading her account really drives home the radical differences in day to day life that governments can impose upon a single national culture.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Quick Update (June trip to Seoul)

Okay, I have been very lax in updating this blog this summer. Mostly, I have been in Bishkek visiting my family. But, I did make a week long trip to Seoul, Republic of Korea, to deliver a paper on the 1937 deportation of the Koryo-Saram (Russian Koreans) at the Association for Asian Studies conference at Korea University. The food in Korea was absolutely fantastic. There is nothing quite like cold buckwheat noodle soup for breakfast served with kimchi, rice with red beans, and dried sea weed. Fortunately, there are lots of cheap and pretty good Korean cafes here in Bishkek. Unfortunately, there are none in Sulaimani.


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Summer

I am currently in Kyrgyzstan visiting family again as I do every summer. I'll be back in Kurdistan in September. In the meantime I don't have a huge amount of stuff that has to be done like last summer. I have to finish a paper for a conference in Korea at the end of this month and that is about it. I got new glasses for the first time in over a decade last week and at $122 they were a great bargain. I can see my beautiful daughter much clearer now.