Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I have arrived in Kurdistan

I arrived in Kurdistan two days ago. The people here are extremely nice and polite. My flat is giant. It is much larger than two people need. But, I am not going to complain. The university is extremely impressive. I also have had the best kebabs in my life and I haven't even started my hunt for the best kebabs in Kurdistan.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Kurdish Victories

I fly to Kurdistan in less than a week. So I am very happy to see that the Peshmerga are systematically defeating Daesh in both Syria and Iraq as they move towards liberating Mosul. I don't have a lot of analysis to add on the recent Kurdish military victories other than to hope they continue. I have a feeling I am about to enter one of the most interesting phases of my life yet.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The USSR as part of Afro-Asia

I have been doing some research on the Afro-Asian Writers' Association (AAWA) and its journal Lotus recently. A group of people at American University of Beirut have been doing some good work on the history of the organization and journal in the last few years. The AAWA was founded in Tashkent in 1958. Its journal Lotus ran from 1968 to 1993. One thing that is apparent is that the line between the Second (Soviet bloc) and Third (post-colonial Africa and Asia) worlds was fuzzy at best. The AAWA like AAPSO (Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization) included the USSR as a member from its very beginning. The founding conference of the AAWA took place in the USSR in 1958 as did its 1973 conference and the vast majority of funding for Lotus came from the Soviet Union and East Germany. Part of this merger of the Second and Third Worlds was geographic. The Central Asian republics made the USSR an Asian state in many ways and thus AAWA conferences were held in Uzbekistan (1958) and Kazakhstan (1973). A perhaps larger part was political. The geopolitical issues that gripped African and Asian writers in the 1960s and 1970s were US military intervention in Indochina, Portuguese colonialism in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau, white rule in Rhodesia, apartheid in South Africa, South Africa's occupation of Namibia, and the issue of Zionism and Palestine. On all of these issues the Second and Third worlds were united in support of national liberation and opposition to imperialism, colonialism, and racism.

For the two decades between 1958 and 1978 the Soviet state and its Eastern European allies stood on the same side of these issues as most of the prominent writers and political figures of Asia and Africa. By the mid 1970s a number of these issues had been resolved in their view. In 1975 the Portuguese Empire collapsed and Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau gained independence. In the same year the North Vietnamese Army rolled into Saigon and liquidated the Republic of Vietnam. Only Rhodesia, Namibia, South Africa, and Palestine remained as unresolved issues. By 1994 all of the unsolved issues of colonialism, apartheid, and white minority rule in Southern Africa had been resolved leaving only Palestine as the last unresolved issue common to Africa and Asia. Before 1994, however, both the Third World and later the Second World had ceased to exist as political blocs.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Open Thread on the Deportation of the Volga Germans 28 August 1941

This month is the 75th anniversary of the deportation of the Volga Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The deportation is commemorated on the 28th of August each year. Here are posts I have made in previous years to remember the victims. Consider this an open thread on the topic.

74th Anniversary

73rd Anniversary

71st Anniversary

70th Anniversary

65th Anniversary

64th Anniversary

For those looking for longer and more substantial pieces covering the deportation see the articles listed here.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tashkent Conference (1958)

I found this rare clip of the first Afro-Asian Writers Association conference in Tashkent in 1958. The sound is basically non-existent. But, you do get a sense of the importance of India in the movement with its large and prominent delegation to the conference.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Turkmenistan Bans all Tobacco Sales

The government of Turkmenistan has outlawed the sale of all tobacco products. Stores caught selling cigarettes face a fine of over $1,500. Black market cigarettes now sell for $10.50 a pack in Turkmenistan. That is about what they sell for in the highest priced legal markets in the world in places such as London. I had a lot of Turkmen students when I taught at AUCA and all of the men smoked. Given the high prices of black market cigarettes in Turkmenistan and its relatively low wages there is a lot of financial pressure now for Turkmen smokers to quit. It will be interesting to see how successful this experiment turns out to be.