Category Archives: Eh? Sure

It’s gonna steppe on you, etc

Wikipediaphile: Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

Crest of the Volga German ASSRA bit of a call-back to an earlier Wikipediaphile entry, this – ten years ago my interest was piqued by mention of the ‘Jewish Autonomous Oblast’; this time round it’s the ‘Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic’.

The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (RussianАвтономная Советская Социалистическая Республика Немцев ПоволжьяGermanAutonome Sozialistische Sowjetrepublik der Wolgadeutschen), abbreviated as Volga German ASSR (RussianАССР Немцев ПоволжьяGermanASSR der Wolgadeutschen) or VGASSR (RussianАССРНПGermanASSRWD), was an autonomous republic established in Soviet Russia. Its capital was the Volga River port of Engels (known as “Pokrovsk” or “Kosakenstadt” before 1931).

Apparently it all harks bark to Catherine the Great and an eighteenth century Windrush-style plea for immigrants: she “published manifestos in 1762 and 1763 inviting Europeans (except Jews)[3] [plus ça change] to immigrate and become Russian citizens and farm Russian lands while maintaining their language and culture…The settlers came mainly from BavariaBadenHesse, the Palatinate, and the Rhineland, over the years 1763 to 1767. They indeed helped modernize the backward agricultural sector by introducing numerous innovations regarding wheat production and flour milling, tobacco culture, sheep raising, and small-scale manufacturing [and] helped to populate Russia’s South adding a buffer against possible incursions by the Ottoman Empire.”

By the time of the Russian Revolution the Volga German minority was substantial and concentrated around the Volga river; and so it was that they secured in October 1918 first a ‘Volga German Workers’ Commune’, which subsequently earned an upgrade to an ASSR. Fast forward a couple of decades and yer man Jughashvili is in the saddle, Europe is once more ablaze, and before you know it the Schicklgruber fella is giving it large with the Napoleon complex, haring across the steppe Barborossa-style.

Not good news for the Volga Germans, whom His Steelness considered definitely suspect; and so orders were given, the ASSR was dissolved in September 1941 and practically the entire population of more than half a million was sent into ‘internal exile’, with 438,000 sent to Siberia and Kazakhstan.

Taiga, taiga, burning bright: the Lykovs of Siberia

After reading about the Know Nothings on the Smithsonian Magazine website (note: it seems that the bare existence of history offends some Trump supporters), I then saw one about the Lykov family.

The Lykovs were a family of Old Believers – proper old skool Orthodox types – who in the late 1930s fled east into the Siberian wilderness or ‘taiga’ in fear of Soviet purges and suppression of their religion. They forged a life for themselves, just about, living off the bounty of the land (which sometimes isn’t that bountiful, especially when it’s minus forty degrees; the mother, Akulina, died of starvation in 1961).

They completely avoided contact with the outside world, with any strangers from outside their small family group, for forty years, until 1978 when a party of passing geologists spotted them and dropped by to totally freak them out with tales of men on the moon and television and flared trousers. It was enough to kill off the three oldest offspring in 1981, leaving just the ageing patriarch Karp and his youngest daughter Agafia (born 1944). Then old Karp popped his clogs in 1988, on the anniversary of Akulina’s own passing.

Since then Agafia’s been the last Lykov remaining. In 1997 a retired geologist (what is it with these rock-botherers?!) decided to come and live nearby to help her out, but seeing as he was older than her, hadn’t lived his entire life in the taiga, and was, uh, a one-legged amputee, it seems she was doing most of the helping. He died in 2015. In early 2016 Agafia herself was airlifted out for medical treatment. Not sure if she’s returned.

Anyway, there’s some great documentaries about Agafia and her family out there; even the Russian language ones are worth catching for the footage.

(It reminds me a little of the story of Lieutenant Hiroo Shinoda, the ‘last of the holdouts’ (though he wasn’t), who hid out in the countryside of the Philippines for nearly twenty years after the close of the Second World War until rooted out by young hippie explorer Norio Suzuki.)

Wikipediaphile: Force de frappe

The Samson Option by Seymour HershFifteen years ago, I borrowed a book called The Samson Option from a friend called Mike. I’ve finally got round to reading it. It’s written by the My Lai dude, Seymour Hersh, and it’s about Israel’s pursuit (and cover up thereof) of a nuclear weapons programme.

It’s rather interesting, and Hersh does name a few names when it comes to his sources (something that The Observer might like to try). Reading back about the book’s publication I’m reminded of the furore surrounding Robert Maxwell’s connections with the Mossad, and of then-Mirror foreign editor Nicholas Davies’s alleged involvement in dobbing in Mordechai Vanunu. Journalists actively conspiring with spooks? Who’da thunk it?

Anyway, whilst reading through it, I came across a phrase used to describe France’s strategic policy of independent nuclear deterrence: ‘force de frappe‘:

The decision to arm France with nuclear weapons was made in the mid-1950s by the administration of Pierre Mendès-France under the Fourth Republic. Charles de Gaulle, upon his return to power in 1958, solidified the initial vision into the well-defined concept of a fully independent force de frappe capable of protecting France from a Soviet attack independently from NATO, which de Gaulle considered to be dominated by the United States to an unacceptable degree. In particular, France was concerned that, in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, the United States, already bogged down in the Vietnam War and afraid of Soviet retaliation against the United States proper, would not come to the aid of its Western European allies.

The strategic concept behind the force de frappe was the so-called dissuasion du faible au fort (Weak-to-strong deterrence), i.e., the capability of inflicting to a more powerful enemy more damage than the complete destruction of France would represent. The enemy, having more to lose, would therefore refrain from proceeding further (see MAD). The principle was summarized in a statement attributed to De Gaulle himself:

Within ten years, we shall have the means to kill 80 million Russians. I truly believe that one does not light-heartedly attack people who are able to kill 80 million Russians, even if one can kill 800 million French, that is if there were 800 million French.

De Gaulle’s vision of the Force de Frappe featured the same “triad” of air-based, land-based, and sea-based means of deterrence deployed by the United States and the Soviet Union. Work on these components had started in the late 1950s and was vigorously accelerated as soon as De Gaulle became president.

France conducted its first nuclear test in 1960 and operational weapons became available in 1964.

The joy of Sex Bangla

Despite only having – very briefly – mentioned a blog called Sex Bangla a mere three weeks ago, for some reason daily traffic to the BunKRS has pretty much doubled thanks to Bangla sex-seeking surfers.

Nearly 500 visitors got here via the WordPress tag for Sex Bangla; more than 200 via various combinations of the search engine terms ‘sex’ and ‘Bangla’. My short mention of the subject is the second most popular post for October on this blog, and the fifth most popular of all time 😮

Perhaps there’s a shortage of Bangla banging on the net, because at the moment it seems like everyone looking for it is coming via here, and I feel more than a little embarrassed that I don’t have any to share.

Oh, you poor Banglapornophiles, may your grotsearches prove eventually fruitful.

PS What sort of perverts come here in the vain hope of finding Anna Mendelson poetry?

Wikipediaphile: Jewish Autonomous Oblast

I can’t remember how I came to hear of this place, but when I did I became fascinated by it. A ‘Soviet Zion’ in the Russian Far East! I think I should very much like to visit it one day.

Jewish Autonomous Oblast is a federal subject of Russia (autonomous oblast) situated in the Far Eastern federal district, bordering Khabarovsk Krai and Amur Oblast of Russia and Heilongjiang province of China. The region was created in 1934 as the Jewish National District. It was the result of Joseph Stalin’s nationality policy, which allowed for the Jewish population of Russia to receive a territory in which to pursue Yiddish cultural heritage within a socialist framework.

…According to Joseph Stalin’s national policy, each of the national groups that formed the Soviet Union would receive a territory in which to pursue cultural autonomy in a socialist framework. In that sense, it was also a response to two supposed threats to the Soviet state: Judaism, which ran counter to official state policy of atheism; and Zionism, the creation of the modern State of Israel, which countered Soviet views of nationalism. The idea was to create a new “Soviet Zion”, where a proletarian Jewish culture could be developed. Yiddish, rather than Hebrew, would be the national language, and a new socialist literature and arts would replace religion as the primary expression of culture.

Stalin’s theory on the National Question held that a group could only be a nation if they had a territory, and since there was no Jewish territory, per se, the Jews were not a nation and did not have national rights. Jewish Communists argued that the way to solve this ideological dilemma was by creating a Jewish territory, hence the ideological motivation for the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Politically, it was also considered desirable to create a Soviet Jewish homeland as an ideological alternative to Zionism and the theory put forward by Socialist Zionists such as Ber Borochov that the Jewish Question could be resolved by creating a Jewish territory in Palestine. Thus Birobidzhan was important for propaganda purposes as an argument against Zionism which was a rival ideology to Marxism among left-wing Jews.

Another important goal of the Birobidzhan project was to increase settlement in the remote Soviet Far East, especially along the vulnerable border with China. In 1928, there was virtually no settlement in the area, while Jews had deep roots in the western half of the Soviet Union, in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia proper. In fact, there had initially been proposals to create a Jewish Soviet Republic in the Crimea or in part of Ukraine but these were rejected because of fears of antagonizing non-Jews in those regions.

Sugaring Spicer: the sensitive side of a professional gun

Tim Spicer <3 blue shirts and big shiny guns

Tim Spicer ❤ blue shirts and big shiny guns

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray is being threatened by lawyers representing the globetrotting mercenary Tim Spicer.

The full text of the letter to Murray’s publishers Mainstream from Spicer’s solicitors Schillings (as taken from the PDF of the letter as hosted on Craig Murray’s blog) is as follows:

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Limited
7 Albany Street
Edinburgh
Scotland
EHl 3UG

BY POST AND FAX: 0131 556 8720

Our Ref: SMS/JXR/ww/A131/3

ON THE RECORD
NOT FOR PUBLICATION

08 July 2008

Dear Sirs

The Road to Samarkand – Craig Murray

We represent Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Spicer OBE, C.E.O. of Aegis Defence Services Limited (“Aegis”).

We are instructed to write to you with regard to ‘THE ROAD TO SAMARKAND- INTRIGUE, CORRUPTION AND DIRTY DIPLOMACY’ (“the Book”) written by Craig Murray and due to be published in September 2009 by you
(http://www.rbooks.co.uk/search results.aspx) to be sold in England and Wales by Random House Sales Department.

We have reason to believe that the Book may contain serious, untrue and damaging defamatory allegations about our client.

Please confirm by return whether the Book is due to be published in England and Wales in September 2008 and if so, the exact date. please also confirm whether the Book is due to be published in any other jurisdiction, setting out each jurisdiction, together with the publication date and publisher concerned in each case.

lmportantly, we require you to confirm by return whether or not the Book contains any reference to our client, and if so, we require you to set out in full each and every reference to our client in its entirety to give our client the opportunity to take legal advice and to respond to any allegations in good time prior to publication.

Any widespread publication of the Book containing defamatory allegations concerning our client would be deeply damaging to our client’s personal and professional reputations and would cause him profound distress and anxiety. We remind you that you would be responsible for that damage and any subsequent republication of the allegations. We also put you on notice that you will be liable for any special damage or loss suffered by our client as a result of the Book and we reserve all our client’s rights in this regard.

We note from your website http://www.mainstreampublishing.com/news_current.html that Mr Murray is due to speak about the Book at a ‘Mainstream author event at the Edinburgh lnternational Book Festival’ entitled ‘Lived Lives’ on 12th August 2008 at 4.30pm in the RBS Main Theatre, Edinburgh. We hereby put both you and Mr Murray on notice that all our client’s rights are reserved in relation to any defamatory comments or publications made by you or Mr Murray in relation to that event.

Please immediately take into your possession all drafts of the Book pre-publication, all notes, emails, correspondence, memos, images and oiher documents relevant to the publication of this Book, and preserve them safely pending the outcome of this dispute. They will need to be disclosed in due course if litigation has to be commenced. Also, you will need to disclose the financial arrangements for the sale and licence of the Book to other publications.

In the circumstances, we require that you confirm immediately that you agree to undertake on behalf of Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Limited not to publish any libels regarding our client in any editions of the Book or at all.

We require the above undertaking by 4pm on Friday 11th July 2008, failing which we will have no option but to advise our client with regard to making applications to the High court for an injunction to restrain publication and/or for pre-action disclosure. You are on notice that we will seek to recover the costs of any necessary applications from you.

We await your response by return. In the meantime all our client’s rights are reserved, including the right to issue proceedings against you without further notice.

Yours faithfully

SCHILLINGS

cc. Craig Murray Esq.

Not bad, eh? Psychic libel lawyers who can predict what might be in an as-yet unpublished book!

Murray’s response to the threat is unequivocal:

Schillings are a firm of libel lawyers dedicated to prevent the truth from being known about some deeply unlovely people. They managed temporarily to close down this blog (and several others) to keep information quiet about the criminal record of Alisher Usmanov. Now they are attempting to block the publication of my new book in the interests of mercenary commander Tim Spicer, one of those who has made a fortune from the Iraq War. It is sad but perhaps predictable that private profits from the illegal Iraq war, in which hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died, are providing the funding to try to silence my book.

Libel law in the UK is a remarkable thing – Schillings can go for an injunction when I haven’t published anything about Spicer yet and they haven’t seen what I intend to publish. People might conclude that Spicer has something to hide. You will see that they also are attempting to censor not only the book, but what I say at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 12 August. I can assure you that they will find it impossible to affect what I say about Spicer at that event.

Nor will they prevent me from publishing the truth about Spicer, one way or another.

In a subsequent blog post, he adds:

Among the incidents I cover in my new book are the murder of Peter McBride, the Aegis Trophy Video, the Papua New Guinea coup, the Equatorial Guinea plot, Executive Outcomes’ muder of civilians in Angola and the Arms to Africa affair. I do hope that other bloggers will generate another Streisand effect through blogging on these subjects.

Lest we forget, Spicer – currently running extensive private military operations in Iraq and elsewhere with his company Aegis – has a history of working as a gun-for-hire in places like Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone, and via connections at mercenary outfits like Executive Outcomes and Sandline has long been a colleague of fellow former Scots Guard the recently convicted coup plotter Simon Mann.

Definitely one to keep your eye on, this’un…

China: Inure your Han (from uncomfortable displays of public discontent)

After all the hullabaloo in London, Paris, Frisco and the rest, it seems the Olympic flame finally sucked on the breath of discontent on home territory, being extinguished by a pair of Chinese labourers at a parade in the Shenzhen industrial zone:

In a stunning blow to China’s prestige, two local protesters shocked hundreds of cheering bystanders when they unexpectedly extinguished the Olympic Torch today near the Window of the World, a theme park in the Shenzhen industrial zone near Hong Kong.

The protesters’ motives were unknown. As the unsuspecting crowd cheered Beijing’s Olympic success, an eyewitness heard one of the two men, both of them Chinese, say “mission accomplished” after the torch was put out. Chinese television, which was filming the progress of the torch, hurriedly cut away. Television presenters said the transmission was having technical problems. However, the eyewitness was able to film the disturbance and made it available to Asia Sentinel. The film is being prepared for publication and was to be put on the site later today.

It is unknown what happened to the two protesters, who appeared to be common laborers. Some of the bystanders ended up with blood on their faces, the eyewitness said. It took about an hour of confusion, with the torchbearer being escorted to a military van, before it could be relit and start the procession again.

The Chinese could be excused for thinking with a sigh of relief that they were home free. The torch, traveling across the world to open the Olympic Games in July, has become a lightning rod both to enthusiastic Chinese citizens and to protesters who have attempted to pull it away from runners in cities from Paris to Seoul. Many in Asia itself have come to regard the torch processions as a manifestation of Chinese triumphalism rather than a symbol of the international brotherhood of sport. A rising tide of Chinese nationalism has become increasingly apparent as angry crowds of Chinese showed outrage at the treatment of the runners. Local television has been inundated with pictures of the runners, appearing to cheering crowds as they went. Pictures of demonstrators by and large have not been publicized.

None of the protesters was able to get to the torchbearers in any of the cities that it has been carried through, although large security details have been necessary to protect it in many and numerous scuffles have broken out. Wheelchair-bound Chinese paralympian fencer Jin Jing was attacked by a Tibet independence protestor as she carried the Olympic torch in Paris. Her successful defence of the “sacred flame,” as the Chinese state media refers to the torch, made her an instant icon in China.

Large and unruly demonstrations associated with protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet and other causes greeted the runners in London and Paris, for instance. In India, one of the country’s largest ever security operations had to be mounted to protect the torch and even then the route had to be shortened. In San Francisco, the route had to be changed at the last minute to throw demonstrators off the trail.

In South Korea, thousands of Chinese students attacked Koreans demonstrating against the Tibetan oppression and China’s forced repatriation of North Korean refugees. There were also clashes in Japan between Chinese students and local protesters and elsewhere in Asia there was little celebration. Thailand delivered massive police protection and threats of deportation should Tibetan exiles cause trouble. Indonesia kept the whole torch ceremony private.

It wasn’t until the torch got to North Korea to see a truly trouble-free passage. With authorities undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief that the torch was on home soil, the Shenzhen leg of the trip actually had to be delayed from early morning to noon as Chinese mountaineers carried it to the top of Mount Everest, known as Qomololongma to the Chinese, earlier in the day No changes were were made or contemplated in the Shenzhen route although the distance run by each torchbearer was shortened from 200 meters to 100 because of the Qomololongma delay.

From Asia Sentinel (massive tip o’ the titfer to Blood & Treasure, an excellent blog pulling together many fascinating stories from across Cathay, especially on Chinese civil society and protests, which are rarely – if ever – reported in the mainstream western press).