N & P: Annual Conference Edition

Friday, November 13, 2020

Things have been pretty busy up here at the Borderlands Lodge these past few weeks. I've been writing a lot. The semester is coming to an end, and many other projects are coming due. 

One of the scholarly organizations that I'm a part of [ASEEES] held the first half of its annual conference last weekend. It was a nice experience. Way back in January, I had organized a panel called "Communist Internationals: the Lives and Networks of Foreign Communists in the USSR." My talk was called "Grumpy Old Communists: The Ageing Rivalries of Turkish Communist Party Leaders in the Late Cold War East Bloc." The talk related to some of the elderly Turkish communists--especially the enigmatic "Marat"--who were still living in the USSR in the 1970s and 80s, and is based upon material from the epilogue of the book I'm writing on Nâzım Hikmet. Interestingly, there was a great turnout, despite the early hour--perhaps a consequence of the online format? I was also a discussant on another panel about the South Caucasus, which was likewise really fun.

İsmail Bilen (a.k.a. "Marat") and Zeki 
Baştımar were both featured in my talk
My first panel started at 6 am,     Mountain Time. Since the conference was virtual, we were recommended to meet up fifteen minutes ahead of time to make sure the Zooms would work. Because I live in an apartment building and felt uncomfortable about the prospect of delivering a 15-minute paper in my loud Zoom voice at that early hour, I opted to walk to my office on campus and do the first panel from there. 

I'd only been back a couple of times since March, each time very briefly. It was weird to be hanging out there, doing my panel, but also kind of a great experience. It reminded me of some of the things that I miss most these days: going to school and seeing my colleagues and students on campus. 

Anyway, the conference was a good experience, and I look forward to attending more of it this weekend--because when a conference is virtual, it turns out that you don't have to put it on four days in a row. All in all, the organization has been really impressive, all things considered. 

And in the rest of the world? Well, that's been a bit more hit or miss...

Nagorno-Karabakh Agreement

The big story these days is the agreement, signed by the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, to stop the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The agreement is a victory for Moscow. Prior to Azerbaijan's attempt to re-take this territory, Russia was on good terms with both Yerevan and Baku. Moscow just wants to keep NATO and the EU out of the region, so any means of stopping the fighting were welcome. There will now be Russian peacekeeping troops installed in the region. 

For the government of Azerbaijan, here is now a chance to highlight their victories: some, but not all, of the disputed territory that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Not all of the agreement has been spelled out yet. 

We'll see what happens, but I wonder if there might be further reverberations, within Azerbaijan in particular, regarding this conclusion. Already in Armenia there have been protests against the agreement.  Sure, Azerbaijan is the supposed victor here. But it seems like a Pyrrhic victory of sorts. My sense is that the government in Baku was freaked out by demonstrations taking place in July, and therefore sought to externalize people's frustrations by starting a quick, successful little war. But how long can a secular, national, violently authoritarian state like Azerbaijan stay afloat when this sort of regime has been the template for attracting revolution in the region ever since the beginning of the "Arab Spring" in 2011. Any kind of instability, even when it apparently brings "good" news like this to the country, can lead to unexpected consequences.  

By the way, I wonder if the timing of this agreement is simply coincidental. I do think that there is a legitimate sense in Ankara and Moscow that a Biden administration--like a Hillary Clinton administration before it would have been--will be much more critical of these two countries' governments, and much more involved in their affairs, than the current DJT machine has been. As I mentioned in a previous post, there might have been an effort here to take care of business before a new administration is sworn in. 

Speaking of which, should we expect to see any other moves take place over the next nine weeks? Maybe Narva? If I were a world leader eager to take care of outstanding business before a more globally-oriented (and less distracted) administration came into power in the US, I'd probably do something about it over the next couple of months. 

Moldova elections: In case anyone had forgotten, Moldova is holding its run-off election campaign this SundayComme toujours, it features a pro-Russian candidate facing off against a pro-EU one. 

И т. д. 

Russia: New Victor Tsoi biopic coming out. 

Belarus: Lukashenko: still angry, still insisting he won. Can't imagine what it must be like to have someone like that running your country.

Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan's "overlooked" protests from earlier this summer have yielded results: new presidential elections on January 10

Turkey: The prospective vaccine that Pfizer announced this past week was developed, in large part, by a Turkish couple.  

Then again, having a vaccine is no guarantee against cases still spiking, as they're finding out in Russia

Bear News


There's been a lot of bear-related news in Montana over the past few weeks, including: 
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Are you a Turk across empires? Order a copy today, then get another one for your library.

More commentary, photos, and links can be found in the Borderlands Lounge. 

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