Tim Nunan is a scholar of international and global history. His work focuses on the history of Russia and Eurasia–Central Asia, Iran, and Afghanistan–in an international context. He is the Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and author of Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan.
Ramones, “Teenage Lobotomy,” Anthology, 1999.
Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal,” Prairie Home Invasion, 1994.
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.Post Views: 415
By Sean — 9 years ago
The plastic Reset button snafu has perhaps gotten far too much press than it deserves, and admittedly I’ve played my part in promoting the story. If anything Americans can add peregruzka and perezagruzka to their Russian lexicon of tovarishch, borscht, vodka, glasnost, perestroika, da, and nyet. But amid all the cracks at Clinton for the goof, few have asked who is responsible for the mistake. And since American discourse is so obsessed with “accountability,” one would imagine that the culprit would have stood up by now and engaged in a bit of samokritika. Don’t hold your breath. The only words coming out of the State Department is the frank admission that they screwed up, which I guess is refreshing since the last Administration was so reluctant to admit mistakes. Nevertheless, the question of who dunnit? is intriguing foreign policy nerd gossip even if wholly unimportant in a world-historical sense. So who is to blame, or as the Russians say, “Kto vinovat?” Here’s what the Cable uncovered:
U.S. government officials were hesitant to point fingers, at least publicly. A State Department spokesman told The Cable he had no idea and had not heard anyone else ask the question, hinting perhaps that it was a story hardly worthy of pursuit.
Other State Department sources insisted that Foggy Bottom’s area specialists and premier Russian speakers — among them Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns, who was in Moscow last month, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, and his deputy Ian Kelly, were not the culprits.
Pressed, State Department sources suggested it might have been a communications staffer in the secretary’s office. “But [Clinton] was amused and not annoyed,” one source stressed.
One former senior official said he questioned whether the gag gift, even had it been properly translated, was appropriate. “It’s a pretty important relationship. This risked having it become an attention grabber. They might have been more serious about it.”
But others said to lighten up.
“Not sure where the translation came from, but the fact is we screwed up in not catching it before meeting,” said one senior U.S. government official. “I guess that’s one of perils of gag gifts. Anyway — we made a mistake, no excuses.”
So it wasn’t the State Department careerists and Clinton wasn’t (publicly) annoyed. Still that poor anonymous staffer must be shitting bricks. I guess we’ll only know the gravity of the mistake if there’s a sudden job opening in Clinton’s staff. I can see the ad now:
Wanted: Reliable and well organized person interested in international affairs. Must like travel and hobnobbing with potentates. College degree needed. No experience necessary. Russian language skills a must.Post Views: 271
By Sean — 11 years ago
Part one of “A small piece of brown colored mass” can be read here.
Presidential Archive of the Russian Federation, f. 3, op. 3, d. 65, l. 29-31.
To the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs SSR Cde. Yagoda.
On 16 October a letter from another town addressed “Kremlin to Cde. Stalin” was received by the Special Department of the TsK VKP(b). The letter was dropped in a mailbox outside of Moscow on 13 October.
Cde. Sentaretskaya, a Party member and an employee in the 5th section of the special department of the VKP(b), who is charged with opening the mail and in particular opening this letter, found a substance wrapped in paper in the envelope, which she ascertained upon a closer look to be excrement. Since this substance emitted the smell of cloves, she showed it to the supervisor of the 5th section, Cde. Selitskii and his boss Kabashkin. Both of them looked at the substance, and smelled the scent of cloves, and Cde. Kabashkin ordered Sentaretskaya to throw the substance in the toilet. Sentaretskaya, returning from the toilet where she went to threw out the substance, went back to work, but after a few minutes said that she felt bad, attempted to get up from her chair, but fainted, hitting her head on the floor. When first aid returned Sentaretskaya to consciousness, she began to complain about blurry vision, and after that, of blindness.
Sentaretskaya was quickly sent to the Kremlin hospital, where she was given the necessary medical help and where she was subject to a thorough examination. Professor M. O. Averbakh, Privatdozent M. Iu. Rappoport, Deputy Head of the Kremlin Hospital B. E. Kogen and Doctor of Neuropathology E. V. Tepper conducted the examination and concluded that the sudden blindness was caused by hysterical episode and that there were no symptoms whatsoever of inborn illness of the ocular system and optic nerve [that could be given] as an explanation for the sudden development of blindness.
The Scientific Research Institute of Sanitation and the 13th Department of the Communist Hospital of the RKKA (Workers’ Peasants’ Red Army), where we went for confirmation of this conclusion, confirmed it and established that the sudden blindness could not have been the cause of an unknown chemical substance.
At the present moment, Sentaretskaya’s sight has gradually returned and is already close to normal.
Because the paper that the substance was wrapped in was thrown in the toilet, we only subjected the remaining envelope to a complete examination. The examination was conducted by Cde. Udris, the Captain of the 1st Department of the Scientific Research Chemical Institute of the RKKA, who spotted on the envelope the trace of some kind of poisonous substance.
Further investigation, which the Special Department will conduct, will be difficult because the postal stamp [showing] the point of origin is erased and it is difficult to establish from which town it originated.
Deputy Captain Operations of the GUGB NKVD (Main Department of State Security, People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs.)
27 October 1935
This document was published in Istochnik, 3, 1993.Post Views: 929