Subscribe via Itunes
You Might also like
- By Sean — 10 years ago
As we all well know, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev did the deed and recognized the independence South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A chorus of condemnation, disappointment, and warning immediately followed.
US Secretary Rice: “I want to be very clear, since the United States is a permanent member of the [UN] Security Council, this simply will be dead on arrival.”
US President Bush: “This decision is inconsistent with numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions that Russia has voted for in the past, and is also inconsistent with the French-brokered six-point ceasefire agreement which President Medvedev signed. Russia’s action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations.”
German PM Angela Merkel: “This contradicts the basic principles of territorial integrity and is therefore absolutely unacceptable.”
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili: “This is a test for the entire world and a test for our collective solidarity . . . Today the fate of Europe and the free world is unfortunately being played out in my small country.”
British Foreign Minister David Miliband: “Russia must not learn the wrong lessons from the Georgia crisis. There can be no going back on fundamental principles of territorial integrity, democratic governance and international law.”
It’s open season on Russia as verbal pellets rain on Medvedev’s head. Dima’s response? Bring it on baby.
“Nothing frightens us,” he said in an interview on Russian television. “Including the prospect of a cold war, but we do not want this, and in this situation all depends on the position of our partners”.
Dima talked tough. He held his ground. He threw the ball back in the West’s court and said, “Do something about it.” Nothing is going to sway him. Not a slipping stock market, not investment flight, not a tarnished international image.
But talking tough was only part of the game. Medvedev seemed to be everywhere today in a press junket blitz. An interview with BBC, an editorial in the Financial Times, a talk with Al-Jazeera, with CNN, Russia Today, and France’s TFI Television. I’m wondering if he’ll make it on Oprah or the View. “Hey world! Meet Dimitry Anatolevich Medvedev the President of Russia! Here’s a memo for you. We’re going to do what we want and you can’t do a damn thing about it.” Funny, no one seems to be calling him a “liberal” now.
The crux of Medvedev’s response focuses on quite predictable points: Russia’s duty to protect its citizens, saving Ossetian victims, Western hypocrisy and their flippant disregard for Russia, and, of course, the K-word: Kosovo, Kosovo, Kosovo. Russians said Kosovo was a precedent and everyone dismissed it. Well, here’s what Dima says now:
Ignoring Russia’s warnings, western countries rushed to recognise Kosovo’s illegal declaration of independence from Serbia. We argued consistently that it would be impossible, after that, to tell the Abkhazians and Ossetians (and dozens of other groups around the world) that what was good for the Kosovo Albanians was not good for them. In international relations, you cannot have one rule for some and another rule for others.
Now others are asking: Is Abkhazia and Ossetia like Kosovo or not? Well, there is no doubt in my mind that the situations will be compared, laws will be examined, victims will be counted, treaties, resolutions, and agreements will be consulted. All the diplomats and politicians will posture in the front of the cameras, using all the predictable code words and phrases. The bones of the dead will be exhumed to construct just the right historical parallel. A pillory of pundits, editorials, and “experts” will swoon at questions that make them and their views relevant. Ah, international crisis, it’s just so good for business.
But there is something missing in all of this. There is a silence or should we call it a deafness pervading all the chatter and pontificating. Do you hear it? Can you feel its vibrations amid the declarations and denials of recognition?
What is this sound? It’s the voice of the Abkhaz and Ossetian.
Well, I sure as hell can’t hear it. It seems that amid the geopolitical spit swapping and tit for tat maneuvers, few have bothered to ask the lowly Abkhaz and Ossetian how they feel about being catapulted into the club of nations. Most articles detail the reactions from the the US, Europe, Georgia and Russia.
Sure, sure the Abkhaz and Ossetians don’t have official recognition by laws they didn’t write or politicans they didn’t elect, but still there must be something said for the act of creation that “recognition” brings. After all, three weeks ago Abkhazia and South Ossetia only mattered to those who gave a rat’s ass. Now all eyes are transfixed. They’re suddenly that little corner of the real life Risk board where, in the words of Mikheil Saakashvili in FT, Moscow is unfolding a plan “prepared over years” to “rebuild its empire, seize greater control of Europe’s energy supplies and punish those who believed democracy could flourish on its borders. Europe has reason to worry.” Little South Ossetia and Abkhazia are the pen from which Russia “redraw[ing] the map of Europe.” Who knew that the utterance of “recognition” could spark such discursive fury.
Saakashvili’s editorial is interesting on another level. It is a veritable denial of Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s actual existence. His words are an act of discursive erasure. This is already clear in his statement “This war was never about South Ossetia or Georgia.” He goes farther than this. “Over the past five years [Russia] cynically laid the groundwork for this pretense,” he writes, “by illegally distributing passports in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, “manufacturing” Russian citizens to protect” [Emphasis mine]. The Ossetians are essential phantasmagorias concocted in some Moscow OVIR office.
Real people? Nah . . . unless . . . Unless they are positioned as perpetrators. But even here, the Ossetians silence in favor of the Russians. Saak writes,
Since Russia’s invasion, its forces have been “cleansing” Georgian villages in both regions – including outside the conflict zone – using arson, rape and execution. Human rights groups have documented these actions.
But Mikheil, it was the Ossetian militias extracting some revenge that did these acts. Why deny them the little agency anyone is willing to afford them?
It is only through the agency of violence, retribution, and revenge that the Ossetian is now able to speak. Even from the Russian side the Ossetians are relegated to a passive position of “victims.” The Ossetian as the figure of the perpetrator or victim is his only existence. The Abkhaz too only speak the language of perpetrator. Saakashvili tells us,
Moscow also counts on historical amnesia. It hopes the west will forget ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia drove out more than three-quarters of the local population – ethnic Georgians, Greeks, Jews and others – leaving the minority Abkhaz in control. Russia also wants us to forget that South Ossetia was run not by its residents (almost half were Georgian before this month’s ethnic cleansing) but by Russian officials. When the war started, South Ossetia’s de facto prime minister, defence minister and security minister were ethnic Russians with no ties to the region.
This paragraph is quite revealing. The Abkhaz exist only as ethnic cleansers and the Ossetians, well they don’t even govern themselves. Their cause is merely a plot by “ethnic Russians with no ties to the region.”
Surely the Ossetian and Abkhaz reaction amounts to something? After all, they are fighting and dying, right?
As much as Saakashvili and others try to argue that Russia has “manufactured” the Ossetians or that this crisis is all part of Russia’s larger designs, someone must account for the fact that the Ossetians and Abkhazians are celebrating. Sure the laws, politicos, nations, and others needed for “legitimate” independence are silent, but there is something to be said the act of creation recognition brings.
- By Sean — 7 years ago
Current competition: FY 2011. Cancelled.
CANCELLATION NOTICE: On September 17, 2010 a notice was published in the Federal Register inviting applications for new awards under the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Program for FY 2011. The notice announced “an estimated $5,800,000 for awards under this competition. The actual level of funding, if any, depends on final Congressional action. However, we are inviting applications to allow enough time to complete the grant process if Congress appropriates funds for this program.
Congressional action on the FY 2011 budget substantially reduced funds available for grants from the Title VI Programs, including new grants under the DDRA Program. Therefore, no new awards will be made under the DDRA Program in FY 2011.
This is the sad news from the US Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays website. Founded in 1946 by US Senator J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright-Hays provides vital funding for academics to conduct research in 155 countries throughout the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In the words of Senator Fulbright, “The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship” and “Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations.”
Today such statements, let alone from a US Senator, sound like from an alien world. What worked for the Cold War no longer applies in a world where neoliberalism is hegemonic. Like so many sensible measures by the US Government, knowledge, reason, and compassion have gone out the window. Replacing them are idiocy, insanity, and misanthropy. Myopia dominates, not only in the realm of economics, but flowing from that, also in the commitment to maintain a foundation for culture and knowledge. To get a sense of how the Fulbright-Hays program promoted the latter, all one need is to look at what the grant’s alumni: Forty-three Nobel Prizes and seventy-eight Pulitzers, more than any other granting program. It has also helped produce countless works of scholarship, academics, both from the US and abroad, facilitated foreign language acquisition, and has given hundreds of thousands of students the opportunity to gain life altering experience in a foreign country. Most of these benefits are vital intangibles to the overall benefit of American society.
But the fact that the benefits of Fulbright-Hays are intangible is exactly the problem. In a society that fetishizes quick profit, there is just less and less place, let alone patience, for the slow process of knowledge. You can see this in so many places in American life, particularly in education. The cancellation of this year’s Fulbright-Hays program is merely a symptom of a larger disease corroding the societal innards of the United States. Given the increasing number of Sinophobes in American society, one would think programs like Fulbright-Hays would be sacred cows. Unfortunately, many of those same jingoists are also taking buzz-saws to the very programs that make the United States a global competitor in scholarship.
I was a Fulbright-Hays recipient. So was my wife. And so were many of my friends and colleagues. Until this news, many more would have been Fulbrighters. So the cancellation of this year’s grant has had a very personal affect. All I can think about are the many people who were prepared to spend a year abroad only to have their academic future yanked from them.
Fulbright-Hays has had a direct impact on my life and I would like to think, as a result, have impacted the lives of others. In fact, this blog is a direct product of the grant. I started this blog in 2005 because I was given the opportunity to research in Russia for a year. The blog’s original mission was to share my thoughts and experiences in a country that I made a career studying. Because of the financial backing of Fulbright I was inspired to make a modest contribution to the deeper understanding of Russian history, politics, society and culture.
Now come the platitudes. Granted, Fulbright can’t be saved for 2011, but the fight must go on. Write your representatives here, or better yet confront them to their face when they meet with their constituents. Write to journalists and encourage them to report on Fulbright and its importance. Disseminate the importance of Fulbright-Hays via social networks. If you’re an alumnus, share the impact the grant had on your life, education, and career. If you belong to an organization where Fulbright is important, mobilize it and its members.
Remember this isn’t just about Fulbright. Cuts in Title VI adversely impact numerous research and study centers and programs. They not only damage the ability of people like myself to carry out quality academic work, but prevent countless numbers of individuals from directly or indirectly benefiting from its funding.
The bleeding must stop.
- By Sean — 10 years ago
When the St. Petersburg office of Memorial was raided in December last year, the international media was aghast. Article after article saw the confiscation of Memorial’s database of archival materials and interviews of life under Stalin as proof that Stalinism was back in full force. Why else would police bother to raid the human rights organization, they reasoned, if not to silence their voices of anti-Stalinism?
The exact reasons why Memorial was put through this ordeal remain murky. The official explanation is that the organization was somehow affiliated with Novyi Peterburg, which was under investigation for extremism. Others opined that the raid was connected to Memorial’s screening of Rebellion: the Livinenko Case. Still others maintain that the raid was part of a larger battle over Russia’s past, in particular the memory of the Stalin period.
While much ink was spilled on speculating why Memorial was raided, and its implications in regard to the memory of Stalinism, the English language press has been virtually silent in pointing out that the human rights organization won two cases in court that rebuffed investigators” search. The fist ruling came in January, when the Dzerzhinsky court ruled that investigators’ raid was illegal because they didn’t allow Memorial’s lawyer to be present. The police, however, appealed and the case went back to court.
But then last week, the Dzerzhinsky court again ruled in Memorial’s favor. As for the return of the hard disks and archival materials, the organization received a letter from St. Petersburg’s human rights ombudsman saying that their materials have already been removed from the investigators office and will soon be returned.
One would think that this victory would be a perfect David and Goliath story. A tale where the good guys won against the evil Stalinists, who despite their enormous powers and nefarious plots were defeated in the court of law. One might even point out that in this case, the courts worked. They upheld Memorial’s right to have a lawyer present during a search and seizure. One would also think that given Memorial’s stature in the West as a defender of human rights, their victory would have been hoisted up as a great triumph. But apparently, this good news is not fit enough for the English media to print.