Christmas in Turkey

December 25, 2014

Back when I lived in Istanbul in the 1990s, I used to love the anonymity of Christmas in Turkey. Perhaps not surprisingly, few people celebrate the holiday--about 99% of the country is Muslim, while many of the Greeks and Armenians in Turkey observe Christmas in January. In fact, most of the people that I knew in Turkey didn't realize that Christmas was December 25th. They knew that Christmas existed, but thought it was January 1. 

Dreaming in Ottoman

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I was at the Apple Store recently to get the battery on my Mac replaced. Apparently, if you burn the Mac for 18 hours a day for months on end, certain parts begin to wear down. I guess that's something to keep in mind for my advancing old age. 

While I was at the store, I mentioned that I work on Turkey (naturally, I was selling copies of Turks Across Empires out of the back of my car in the parking lot of the mall). It turns out that one of the employees of the Apple Store was a Turkish guy from Istanbul, who was dutifully marched out to meet and converse with me. When I told him I worked on Ottoman history, he jokingly asked me if I was planning on returning to Turkey to work as a language teacher. 

Turks Across Empires: Excerpt

Wednesday, December 3

These have been exciting times up here at the Borderlands Lodge. As I mentioned in my post from the other day, I spent the days before Thanksgiving attending conferences in San Antonio and Washington, DC, and had the good fortune to finally hold my book in my hands! It was a lot of fun, and a day that I wasn't always sure I would manage to see. 

The book is on sale on the website of Oxford University Press and Amazon, and should begin to crop up in other places, too. It's quite expensive right now, as it's a hardcover, but hopefully the hardcovers will sell out and the book will go into paper production, which will end up being cheaper. So---be sure to recommend the book to your local library, for now. Later, you can buy the paperback yourself.

Meyer Mideast Talk in Bozeman

Tuesday, November 11

These are the last days of summer up here at the Borderlands Lodge. Yes, it's true--summer has continued into November in south-central Montana. Not only has there been virtually no snow in town--and only a smattering in the mountains--but also the weather has generally been warm, sunny, and relentlessly beautiful.

I've celebrated in a number of ways. One has been by hiking, with great trips in recent weeks to various spots in Montana and Yellowstone.

It's also been a pretty busy time lately--and getting busier. On Wednesday this week I'm giving a talk at the Emerson cultural center in downtown Bozeman on Wednesday. The talk, called "Tough Times in the Middle East," would be familiar to regular readers of the JMB in that it discusses politics relating to Turkey, various Kurdish forces, and the Islamic state. 5 pm is a pretty early start time, I think, so I have no idea how many people will show. If you've got friends in the County of Gallatin, tell them to stop by. 

Autumn at the Borderlands Lodge...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Well folks, these have been pretty busy and exciting times up here at the Borderlands Lodge. My book, Turks Across Empires, is apparently going into production this week, which is very exciting, and is supposed to begin shipping within the next few weeks. Those of you with academic affiliations: get your library to buy the book! Once the hardcover copies have been sold out, TAE will hopefully go into paperback and presumably be much less expensive.

On coalitions, ISIS, and the Kurds

Monday, Sept. 15, 2014

Like a lot of people, I've been appalled by what's been going on in Iraq. I wonder, however, if Obama and others are over-reacting to horrific videos that have been released in recent weeks. My sense is that ISIS/ISIL/the Islamic State/Sonic Death Monkey, or whatever they're calling themselves this week, will burn themselves out before too long. It's hard to believe that a regime so brutal could survive, particularly when they can't even decide on a name. 

In response to recent events, US Secretary of State John Kerry has come up with not one, but two coalitions to fight the Islamic State.  One of these would be made up (mainly) of NATO countries (and...Australia!), and the other consists of a collection of Muslim majority allies and friends.

End of Summer Fun at the Borderlands Lodge

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Well folks, it's been pretty busy lately at the Borderlands Lodge. Longtime Borderheads might remember that I've been writing a book this summer, and much of August was spent poring over the final draft. I made an index for the first time in my life. I looked at cover proofs and wrote pithy advertising text. I did stuff I'd never done before. 

Are you a Turk across empires?
Once my work with the book ended (it's still slated for publication next month), I had to get busy with my tenure materials. One nice thing about the digital age is that most of the documents that I needed for my file were already on my computer, but there was still a lot of work to be done.

While I've been really busy with the book and tenure, in my spare time I've been trying to stay away from my computer. I've gone on a number of great hikes this summer, which has been fabulous, in addition to reading a lot (offline, ie on the couch with my feet up and a book on my belly) when I haven't been working on work and career-related stuff. That's not such a hard thing to do when you live someplace beautiful. 

Malaysian jetliner downed over eastern Ukraine: What next?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Up here at the Borderlands Lodge, we've been closely monitoring the big news surrounding the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. People are still trying to figure out the facts, of course, but at this point it looks like separatists in eastern Ukraine likely brought it down. 

Flight path of the doomed jetliner













The Borderlands Lodge rises up from the ashes...

July 9, 2014

Well Borderheads, it's been a pretty wild few weeks, that's for sure. The Borderlands Lodge has been the site of some major brushfires lately, all of which are at least partly of my own making. That's life in the borderlands, I guess. 

The work began immediately after my return from Turkey in the second week of June. I'd had a great month of vacation, and came back to the Bozone feeling pretty refreshed. And then I got the copy-edited version of my manuscript. 

So, my life was pretty much taken up with my book until about one week ago. In fact, it was Independence Day that I sent off my final version. I'll have a look at the proofs later this summer, so I've been told, but all substantial changes have been made. 

I feel good about it. Writing a book is a totally stressful process. It's also been fun, but putting the finishing touches on something that's been part of your life for more than a decade isn't easy. I got interested in the pan-Turkists at the end of my second year at Princeton, back when I was an MA student. I started learning Tatar in the summer of 2002, at Kazan State University. That was also my summer researching in government archives for the first time. I got my feet wet at the NART archive in Kazan, then had an absolutely humiliating experience in St. Petersburg--where the Russian state history archive (known as RGIA) had been transformed into a netherworld dystopia in the months prior to its move from the embankment.

RGIA was a bit intimidating back in 2002














Who's got İhsanoğlu-mania?!?


June 17, 2014
The opposition parties in Turkey have chosen a presidential candidate: it's Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu!

Who? What?  
The first round of the election will be on August 10, and will proceed to a second round if no one wins more than 50% of the vote. While Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has not yet formally declared himself a candidate, pretty much everyone expects him to run--and win. 













Misreading Iraq, reading the world

June 15, 2014
One of the many unpleasant aspects involved with reading about the current crisis in Iraq undoubtedly relates to having to subject myself to American press coverage of the Middle East.

Such was the case with a video appearing in the Washington Post the other day. The video, produced by senior national security correspondent Karen DeYoung, purports to 'explain' the 'Sunni-Shiite divide' in the span of just a couple of minutes.

Predictably, the story it recounts begins a long, long time ago....

Media coverage of non-western countries tends to focus upon the alleged timelessness of contemporary conflict. 

The Iraq Crisis: What it could mean for US, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan

June 13, 2014
On the flight back to the Borderlands Lodge from Istanbul yesterday, I read with great interest about the recent developments taking place in Iraq. To say the very least, it was very disturbing.  
From the accounts I've seen, fighters from ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also sometimes known as ISIL—the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) had overrun Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and an important oil-producing center. And now they are apparently advancing on Baghdad. 













Anatolian Express XVI: Back in the City of the Sultans

June 11, 2014
My day started very early in Bodrum on Monday, with the night clerk at my hotel calling me at 5:30 am to wake me up. I had a shuttle bus to the airport to catch in forty-five minutes and had barely slept a wink the night before. I blame this condition on a lack of alcohol, as I'd refrained the night before from indulging in the rakı and watermelon fest that had typified the rest of the evenings on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. Figuring I had to get up early, I'd toned things down a bit, but then wasn't really all that tired by the time my head hit the pillow. Serves me right for trying to organize things too much.
It was pretty cool walking through the streets of Bodrum in the early morning. Normally, everywhere is packed with sweaty grim-faced tourists running the gauntlet of Turkish touts shouting out their wares in English. At such an early hour in the morning there were no tourists to be found, though it's not as if the streets were deserted. A number of the shopkeepers were setting up for the day, one that wouldn't end for them until after eleven o'clock at night. 
I got to the airport without issue--other than the fact that our bus pulled over on the side of the highway for ten minutes while we waited for a late traveler to board. I was flying Onur Air, my old fave from the grand old days of the 1990s. The steward's badge indicated that his name was, in fact, Onur, which was vaguely amusing.

Traveling in style with Onur & Friendz








Anatolian Express XV: Bodrum, Gümüşlük & Yalıçiftlik

Sunday, June 8, 2014

I rolled into Bodrum on Friday after a three-hour trip from Marmaris. It was easy traveling on a little (one-buttock seats) but uncrowded bus. The weather was sunny and warm, and we drove through a nice new highway that took us through the mountains. As was the case with most of the trips I've taken during this past month, the ride was considerably shorter than my guidebook, published just seven years ago, indicates. It's testament to the degree to which Turkey's infrastructure has been developing in recent years.

From the bus as we pulled into Bodrum

Anatolian Express XIV: Marmaris and İçmeler

Thursday, June 5, 2014
On Wednesday morning I got up early-ish and had my final breakfast in Fethiye before hitting the road for Marmaris. Fethiye had been fun. I'd like the place where I was staying, especially as they had a nice veranda that had a view of the harbor and the hills beyond. I'd gotten into the habit of drinking rakı and eating watermelon there at night. Of course, people in Turkey would usually include white (feta) cheese as well, but I guess two out of three wasn't so bad in this instance.














The trip to Marmaris ended up taking about three hours on a little bus. We traveled through bright green valleys and attractive mountains not unlike those I'd seen between Antalya and Fethiye. The bus pulled into Marmaris in mid-afternoon, and within an hour or so I was installed at my hotel and ready to check out the town.

Anatolian Express XIII: Fethiye and Karmylassos

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Sunday was a long day. It started off in Gaziantep at four o'clock in the morning with my alarm clock ringing. As fun as my trip through the southeast had been, it was time to get moving. I had a plane to catch in a couple of hours.

When planning this trip, the idea had been mainly to see places I'd never been to before. I therefore ended up seeing some places--like Sivas--that some might consider just a wee bit prosaic, while other destinations during this voyage--such as Urfa and Mardin--are fascinating but off the beaten track, at least as far as Turkey is concerned. After the past few weeks of travel, however, I figured I could use a little time resting and relaxing in the sun. That is what has brought me here to Fethiye.


I think Fethiye is actually a bit farther east than this map indicates, but you get the general idea

Anatolian Express XII: Feeling nutty in Antep

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I'm not much of a 'foodie.' Something about that term has always rubbed me the wrong way. I guess I've just met too many Americans whose only interest in foreign cultures related to eating.

In a place like Antep, however, eating is the thing to do. The place is widely considered to have some of the best food in Turkey.
Antep is also known as "Gaziantep"











The Geziversary: Taksim Square and Turkey one year later

Saturday, May 31, 2014

As many of you know, today marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Gezi Park conflicts. The actual sit-in began earlier in May of last year, but May 31 was the day that the police cleared the park for the first time, setting the stage for the counter-attack by the protesters and three weeks of a cop-free zone in the city-center districts of Taksim and Beyoğlu.

Long-time readers of the Borderlands will remember that I was in Istanbul at this time last year, and wrote quite a bit about the protests and police riots that took place in the ensuing weeks. Even as the protests were taking place last year, I had mixed feelings about what happened. A year later, my attitude towards the events is still pretty ambiguous.

On the one hand, this blog has often been critical of the policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Indeed, one of the reasons I started posting here in earnest was due to my frustration with what seemed to be the fundamentally incompetent treatment of Erdoğan's administration by most of the US and European-based journalists, bloggers and experts writing on Turkey at the time.

Anatolian Express XI: Amazing Mardin

Friday, May 30, 2014

Yesterday was one of the best days so far on this trip. I traveled the furthest east and south that I'll go during these travels, and also felt like I'd come the closest to accomplishing what I'd set out to do in embarking on this trip--putting the past couple of years behind me and beginning the process of thinking about what I'd like to do next with my life. I also saw some beautiful sites and met nice people. What more could you ask for in a daylong excursion to Mardin? 















Anatolian Express X: The Haunting Euphrates

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The last couple of days have been really busy. On Tuesday I visited Göbeklitepe and Harran, and today I went to Halfeti. All of these places are within a couple of hours of Urfa.

Göbeklitepe is an apparently revolutionary archeological find. It's thought to be a temple of some sort dating back more than eleven thousand years. This is what a National Geographic article from a few years ago had to say about it:

Known as Göbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh), the site is vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge, except that Göbekli Tepe was built much earlier and is made not from roughly hewn blocks but from cleanly carved limestone pillars splashed with bas-reliefs of animals—a cavalcade of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and ferocious wild boars. The assemblage was built some 11,600 years ago, seven millennia before the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains the oldest known temple. Indeed, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world.

Anatolian Express IX: Urfa

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My day started early, at 5.45, with a call from the front desk at my hotel in Malatya. It was time to start getting ready to head to the bus station.

For some reason, it's difficult finding transportation between Malatya and Urfa--a first, frankly, for me in Turkey, where it seems like it's almost always possible to find transportation at the ready between any two points. Yet I'd been having trouble, in my one night in the Apricot City, finding a bus leaving at a decent hour. The closest I'd managed was a small (one-buttock seats) bus to Adıyaman with an outfit called 'Petrol Turizm,' with the assumption that I could eventually find another small bus taking me the rest of the way to Urfa. In the end, I opted for the big bus leaving at 6:30 am. At least I'd end up having more time in Urfa, I figured.







Post-election Ukraine: Staying focused on Kyiv

Monday, May 26, 2014

Now that the presidential election has been held in Ukraine and the so-called 'Chocolate King' has apparently won in a cakewalk, the news regarding Ukraine seems--at first glance--to be getting somewhat better. After all, it appears that Russian President Vladimir Putin has pulled back forces from the Ukrainian border. Has Russia indeed 'lost' in eastern Ukraine?

That seems to be the conclusion of some observers. In a recent article in Forbes, one Paul Roderick Gregory writes glowingly on this topic, and even seems to be encouraging the Ukrainian government to try to re-take Crimea. Gregory writes that 'there is growing consensus that Vladimir Putin has abandoned his campaign to take control of east Ukraine." 
All not sweet for the 'Chocolate King'











Anatolian Express VIII: A taste of Malatya

Sunday, May 25, 2014

It's been a long day, one that started early in Sivas. I ran out of my hotel, grabbed a couple of poğaças and a newspaper, then ran back and had breakfast before my taxi came. I was on my way to Malatya. 








 

Anatolian Express VII: Sivas and Divriği

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I had three great days in Kapadokya, but it was time to move on. As awesome a place as Kapadokya is, I also wanted to spend some time in some real places in Turkey--actual cities where normal people live, rather than just tourist enclaves. While Kapadokya is an amazing place that I totally recommend seeing, it wasn't the only sort of place I was looking to spend time in this summer.

I got up at seven in the morning on Friday and had one last breakfast at the Paradise Hotel, watching the hot air balloons float over the fairy chimneys. I then packed up my stuff, walked to the bus station and headed to Kayseri. We were in a little minibus, and I sat up next to the driver. He was a wrinkled white-haired dude named Vahdet who had retired two years ago from a career as an Army officer. As we chatted, he asked me the usual questions--where am I from, am I married, how old am I, etc. It turns out he was one year younger than me.
After an hour on the road, we arrived at the Kayseri bus station, where Vahdet dropped me off. I bought a ticket forward to Sivas for a bus leaving about forty-five minutes later. Within a few hours of driving through austere terrain, we arrived in Sivas. 

  










Anatolian Express VI: Encomia for Kapadokya

Thursday, May 22, 2014 

I woke up early on Tuesday morning in Ankara, freezing cold in my room. Ankara was nice, but damp and chilly. May 19th—a national holiday—had been a fun time to be in the capital, but I was ready to leave. Kapadokya was calling.








Anatolian Express IV: Thinking Beyond Erdoğan

Monday, May 19, 2014

Well, it's certainly been an interesting first several days in Turkey this year. As was the case last year, when my arrival in Turkey coincided with the explosion of a peaceful sit-in at Gezi Park into a nationwide series of protests, my visit this year has been met by yet another instance in which the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, appears to be coming apart at the seams.

So much drama, so much unnecessary strife. Now, not only has an aide of Erdoğan been photographed kicking a protester in Soma just days after the mine disaster there, but the good Prime Minister himself has also been accused of punching a protester in, of all places, Soma.

Anatolian Express V: Ankara Getaway

Monday, May 19, 2014 
It's been a fun first week back in Turkey, with the first four days spent in Istanbul. But as great as Istanbul is, I also needed to get away from there. One thing I really wanted to do this summer was travel, rather than just hang out in one place the way I usually do when I'm researching. After the last eighteen months or so, I'm interested in catching my breath and spending a bit of time by myself thinking about what to do next. So, after passing a bit of time in the City by the Bos, I decided to head east, to Ankara.

Ankara? Really?

Yes, really.


Greetings from Sunny Ankara!
     













Anatolian Express III: Istanbul Shotz

Sunday, May 18, 2014

This is the first time since 1997 that I've actually paid my own plane fare across the Atlantic. Everything else over the years that have passed has been covered courtesy of whatever university I was affiliated with at the time, or else by organizations like Fulbright, ARIT, IREX, NCEEER and other institutions whose funding has been slashed in recent years and no longer give out money the way that they used to.

I'd actually applied for some grants earlier this year, and have still yet to hear from a couple. But I couldn't wait any longer. I had about a month between sending off my manuscript and getting it back from my copyeditor. I really felt that I needed a holiday, but wasn't sure about where I should go. It seemed kind of silly, at first, coming to Turkey for a vacation. After all, I come here every year. Wouldn't it make more sense to go someplace like Vietnam or Costa Rica?

Anatolian Express II: Soma and Toma

Saturday, May 17, 2014 
It's been a busy few days in Istanbul since I arrived on Wednesday afternoon. I haven't been doing anything particularly touristic, at least with respect to sightseeing. Basically, I've been seeing my friends, people I've known, in some instances, for over twenty years. Others are folks I've met along the way during the course of all the trips I've taken back to Turkey since returning to live in the US in 1999--I think I've come to Turkey every year since then. Some people, meanwhile, are new friends, as it seems like every time I come here I meet someone new that I end up keeping in touch with.

Almost all of my friends--and particularly the ones I've been hanging out with this week--despise the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan. Like many other people in Turkey and elsewhere, they're appalled by Erdogan's reaction to the Soma mining disaster.

Anatolian Express: Back in Istanbul

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I arrived in Istanbul yesterday after a long flight from Bozeman, with stops in Chicago and Frankfurt en route. It was a good trip, and it's great to be back in the TC.

The trip was exhausting, of course, but even on the final leg I was chatting away a mile a minute with Alp, a dude I met on the plane to Istanbul. I had meant to sleep, but frankly was too excited.

It's exhilarating to be here on vacation, rather than having to work. This is the first trans-Atlantic plane ticket I've actually had to pay for myself since 1997, and I'd forgotten how liberating it can feel to actually pay your own way once in a while. Not that I'm against receiving free airfare for research, mind you.

Getting Ready to Roll

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lately, the Borderlands Lounge has been a hotbed of activity. Now that most of the work related to my book has been finished and the semester is over, I've been able to turn to other things.

For one thing, I've managed to spruce up the Borderlands a little bit. During my earlier years at MSU, and especially over the past year and a half or so, it's been hard for me to write much. Unless there was something more pressing going on, I felt like I couldn't really justify writing stuff online when I had a book to write.

That was an unfortunate decision, I think, because it's good to have hobbies, and this is something I like doing. Nevertheless, I found it hard to justify spending a lot of time in the Borderlands, so I mainly just pounded away at the book. I think that's probably one reason behind the recent blast of activity that's been coming from these parts.

Referenda Day

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Today, separatists in eastern Ukraine are holding referenda in a number of cities asking about something...

Do you support the People’s Republic of Donetsk?

You mean financially? Are you asking for money?

It seems pretty understandable that people would be confused.
 










The Big V-D

Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 9 is Victory Day, people, exciting times in former Soviet Space! 

The chatter today is about the rebels in eastern Ukraine, who are apparently defying Russian President Vladimir Putin's public suggestion that the separatists call off Sunday's planned referendum on autonomy.
Some have already raised the idea that this might all be a ploy, specially designed to take the heat off Putin. After all, if he claims that he has no control over the separatists, then he can't be blamed for their actions, right? 

 











Putin's Gambit

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The big news today is that Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on separatists in eastern Ukraine to hold off on their referendum, scheduled for May 11. Putin also reportedly said that the expected presidential voting in Ukraine, set for May 25, was a 'step in the right direction.' This is interesting because he had previously been opposed to the voting.

Naturally, people are excited. Here's the Washington Post's take on the developments:

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to take conciliatory steps Wednesday to ease tensions in Ukraine, calling for pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country to postpone a planned Sunday referendum that could exacerbate violence and saying that a May 25 presidential election whose legitimacy the Kremlin had previously questioned was now “a movement in the right direction.” The remarks marked a significant shift in tone from the hard line that Putin and other top Russian officials had taken for weeks toward the acting government in Kiev, which took power after pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych fled in February in the face of popular protests.

Local and Global N & P

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Well folks, there's a lot going on these days, both at the Borderlands Lodge and in the world more generally.

Locally, there's a flurry of activity taking place in anticipation of upcoming travels. Globally, meanwhile, things are going to hell as usual.

Whether you like it local or global, here is your N & P!

***

Some news from Montana: the horrid killing of a Turkish-German youth named Diren Dede. Diren was an exchange student at a high school in Missoula, a city about four hours west of Bozeman and home to the University of Montana. He was shot by a man who had set up a video feed to catch burglars, who'd apparently been breaking into the garage recently.

Next stop, Kyiv?

Friday, May 2, 2014

I listened to an interesting interview on NPR today with Alexander Vershbow, the deputy secretary-general of NATO. Vesrhbow mentioned that Russia is now an 'adversary' of the United States, and delivered a measured discussion of current events, I thought. One point that Vershbow seemed to be implying was that the Kremlin's goal is Ukraine, not just eastern Ukraine.

If that's what he was saying, I agree. My guess is that, if Putin could have any result he wanted at this point, it would be to bring to power a pro-Russian government in Kyiv.


What Putin desires even more than the factories of eastern Ukraine are friendly satellites. He’d like to install a stooge government in Kyiv, and make sure as many of the non-NATO countries are as friendly as possible. I don’t think the goal is necessarily to conquer and incorporate, but rather to develop a coterie of like-minded authoritarian allies. Belarus has, for the most part, had that relationship with Russia for all of Putin’s time in politics. As Vershbow points out, Central Asia is also a possibility. This expanded influence in the available (ie, non-NATO) territories of the former USSR, I think, is more valuable to Russia than eastern Ukraine.

May Day Mayhem in Turkey

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Unsurprisingly, this year's May 1 is proving to be a contested one in Turkey. As I'd speculated elsewhere, the government of Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan appeared to be viewing May 1 as a litmus test of sorts for this year's protest season. Given last year's May 1 conflict in Turkey, and the fact that Turkish police spent most of the summer fighting protesters with tear gas and water cannon, my sense was that the people in charge of the security services in Turkey were hoping for a relatively quiet day.

After all, the protest season is still only in spring training.










Erdoğan's interview with Charlie Rose

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan had an hour-long interview on Charlie Rose the other night. I found it pretty riveting.

Then again, my taste in entertainment isn't always so great.

A lot of the questions that Charlie asked him were pretty classic. The Kurds. The Armenians. A sleepy-looking Rose (did the slip him something beforehand?) perked up for a brief moment when he actually thought he might get Erdoğan to issue a sort of apology for the Armenian genocide on live TV. It didn't happen, but I was nevertheless surprised to see the Prime Minister indicate, after providing a series of qualifications, that he might be open to doing something like that in the future. 

Turks Across Empires

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Up here at the Borderlands Lodge, it's been a pretty busy year--one reason why I wasn't able to post very regularly. Mainly, my time has been spent working on a book.

It's been crazy. As I've mentioned elsewhere, writing a book has been the most humbling and humiliating process I've ever been through. Part of the problem was, once I'd finished my dissertation, there were basically three directions that I thought I could take the book. As of February of last year, I'd cycled through two of those options, and had received nothing but rejections from the publishers I'd contacted.

I really felt like I was down to my last strike, so (to continue with the sports analogies) I swung for the seats. I ended up writing on a topic that I'd earlier dismissed, one that I thought was too hackneyed or silly to write about. Wouldn't you know it? Of course, that was the very idea that people ended up finding interesting.

It might sound strange to hear that I had three basic ideas for the book, but 85% of each of these projects was based upon the same material. The difference occurred mainly in the big-picture elements.

The Great Game: The US and Russia in Post-Soviet Space

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lots of people have been asking lately if the recent developments in Ukraine signify a return to a Cold War between the United States and Russia. I would say no. This is why:

The Cold War was fought on ideological grounds. This is not the case with the US and Russia today, who battle mainly over commercial interests and political influence. In this respect, American-Russian relations over the past two decades remind me much more of Russian-British relations during the late nineteenth century. The 'Great Game,' as people call it, led to a series of proxy battles between the two empires across the Balkans, Middle East and Eurasia.
So great they named a game after it












Ukraine Deal: Unrealistic Expectations

Sunday, April 20, 2014
On Thursday in Geneva, representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU worked out an agreement to bring separatists and authorities back from the brink of war in eastern Ukraine. Here's a summary of the deal:
The US, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have reached agreement on a series of immediate steps aimed at pulling eastern Ukraine back from the brink of war.
The deal, clinched after a dramatic extended meeting in Geneva, calls for the disarming of all illegal groups. In the next few days they would have to vacate all the government buildings and public spaces they have occupied over the course of the crisis.

Turkey: On to the next crusade

Saturday, April 19, 2014

It was an arresting headline: "Turkey mulls leaving World Wide Web." No, it wasn't from the Onion. Apparently, the article was real:

During an informal meeting with journalists in the Parliament on April 19, Elvan argued that not only Turkey, but also several European Union countries mull to establish "their own national Internet protocols."

"Instead of www, a ttt system can be formed. Turkey and other countries can establish their own domains. Such a move would detach the Internet systems from each other. This is a controversial issue," Elvan said.

Elvan also called for an "international convention" to cope with the "the lack of control over social media." 
Those of you who follow the news in Turkey have no doubt heard about recent efforts in that country to block YouTube and Twitter, while rumors had been running wild earlier this year about the imminent closure of Facebook.

Bad Idea Jeans: Ukraine Edition

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I read an editorial in the Washington Post the other day that called for sending American soldiers to Ukraine. The piece, written by former (Obama-era) US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, advocates a strong stance vis-a-vis Putin by sending American troops to the region (emphasis is my own):

Despite much diplomatic effort, the situation in Ukraine worsens. A coordinated Russian campaign, including an invasion threat, special operations destabilization in eastern Ukraine patterned on the Crimea model, and warnings of gas cutoffs document ever more clearly Vladi­mir Putin’s aim to cripple the Ukrainian government and control much or even all of this strategically vital European country.
The West’s reaction has been weak. The sanctions imposed and contemplated are not dramatic, regardless of immediate Russian losses in volatile stock and currency exchange markets. Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, and affinity for Russian investments, were apparent last week when the German foreign minister feted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov for trade talks, even as NATO photos of Russian military equipment stockpiled near Ukraine emerged. While European foot-dragging is the biggest obstacle to an effective response, some of Washington’s initial comments and actions suggested unwillingness to face the reality of Putin’s actions. The Obama administration also bears the burden of its Middle Eastern policy of avoiding military conflicts. NATO member states in Eastern Europe are asking the same question many in the Middle East have: Can we rely on Washington to make hard military decisions?
The best way to send Putin a tough message and possibly deflect a Russian campaign against more vulnerable NATO states is to back up our commitment to the sanctity of NATO territory with ground troops, the only military deployment that can make such commitments unequivocal.

Will he or won't he? Putin and eastern Ukraine

Saturday, April 12, 2014
That's the big question this weekend, isn't it? Will Russia attack eastern Ukraine, splitting off still more territory from that country?

For the Putin of ten years ago, I'd say no way. That Putin was much too smart to do something like this. For Putin 2014, however, I can't say I'm sure. As Angela Merkel seemed to imply in her account of her telephone discussion with Putin the weekend of the Crimea takeover, the Russian president may well be living in an alternate reality. Bill Simmons, meanwhile, would probably say that Putin is just having his "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment.

"I'm Keith Hernandez, I can invade any country I want"

 

Busy times in the Bozone/Ron LeFlore

Saturday, April 5, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, I received a Ron LeFlore Montreal Expos jersey in the mail. I'd ordered it on the spur of the moment a week earlier, but had long been considering the move. 
Why Ron LeFlore? Good question. LeFlore played for the Detroit Tigers in the second half of the 1970s, when I was a kid. He made the All-Star team in 1976. In 1980, LeFlore was traded to the Montreal Expos (Ron Lafleur!) in exchange for pitcher Dan Schatzeder. Altogether, he played nine years in the major leagues.










Crimea and eastern Ukraine: Things can always get worse


Thursday, March 6, 2014

While things in the Crimea are bad, it could always get worse. Conflict between ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine would make the events taking place in the Crimea look relatively simple by comparison.
While there are ethnic Russians in both the Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the situations in the two regions are different. The Crimea, unlike eastern Ukraine, is a republic. It is in fact a ‘mini-republic,’ one of the smaller entities within the fifteen Soviet Socialist Republics that became independent during the time that the USSR was breaking up in 1991.

I’ve written a lot about ‘mini-republics,’ a term I’ve used to describe the smaller entities that were within the Fab 15 republics of the USSR. The Fab 15 all became independent during the time that the USSR was breaking up in 1991. Since then, most of the major confrontations taking place in post-Soviet space have resulted from disputes over the borders of these mini-republics. Such has been the case with Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, and now the Crimea as well.