Berlin photo essay

Saturday, November 24, 2012 
I've been in Berlin for the past week. I came here to give a talk at Humboldt University as part of a small conference entitled "Figurations of Mobility." I may not know a whole lot about figurations, but I am a big fan of mobility, especially when it means traveling to a great city like Berlin.

Anyway, here are some shots:

Turkey-Syria Conflict

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is Turkey preparing to join the war in Syria?

This is the question people are asking in the wake of recent events, in which Syrian shells rained down on the Turkish border village of Akçakale, killing five in Turkey last week. Turkey retaliated almost immediately, shelling locations within Syria for five straight days in response. Over the weekend, more Syrian shells landed in Turkey, this time in Turkey’s Hatay province, which just happened to be a part of Syria until 1938 and which has long constituted a bone of contention between the two countries.

And the details are indeed interesting. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked for and received permission to respond from the Turkish parliament, which has authorized the government to take military action against Syria, including the deployment of Turkish forces if necessary. According to Turkish media reports, seven Syrian soldiers were killed in the Turkish shelling from last week, and this week the news reports continue to be grim

The events from last week hardly constitute Turkey’s first involvement in the ongoing conflict in Syria. In June of this year, Syria shot down a Turkish jet, claiming it had violated Syrian airspace. The incident, which resulted in the death of the two Turkish pilots flying the plane, led to a round of recriminations between Ankara and Damascus, as well as between Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party and the opposition Republican People’s Party, which has sharply criticized Erdogan’s handling of the crisis that has been unfolding to the south of Turkey’s border over the past eighteen months. Garnering fewer headlines, meanwhile, has been Turkey’s support for Syria’s opposition. Since fighting broke out in Syria last year, Istanbul has emerged as a hub for Syrian opposition figures as well as for British and American officials funneling aid to them.

Shelling games: Turkey and Syria

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I'm sure many of you were too busy watching the presidential debate last night to notice, but some interesting drama has been going down in Turkey.

Specifically, a small town on the Turkish border was shelled yesterday by Syria. Five Turkish civilians were killed in the little town of Akçakale, where the sound of shelling has already been a feature of life for some time.

Chaos in Akçakale


Twenty years in the Turkic world N & P

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Up here at the Borderlands Lodge we're celebrating 20 years of life in the Turkic World. It was twenty years ago this weekend that I flew out to Turkey to begin what I thought would be just a year or two before I found something better to do. Twenty years later, Turkey and the Turkic World are still a huge part of my life. Go figure.

How did it all begin? Well, if you've read by bio you probably know most of the details. I had been traveling around southeastern Europe in the Spring of 1992, fresh out of college and trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. The plan, to the extent that I had one, was to find a job teaching English somewhere. Turkey was far from my mind, though. Instead, I was hoping to find work in some of the newly opened-up parts of Eastern Europe, someplace like Prague or Budapest. Istanbul was supposed to just be a quick stop between Greece and Bulgaria.

It didn't quite work out that way. Traveling in to Istanbul I met a Turkish kid who would end up helping out a group of foreigners from the train I'd taken, myself included. One thing led to another, and I ended up getting a job at Marmara University. I tell the story here, if you're interested.

The carefree days of 1992


Ne zaman? Bo-zaman! Photos from Bozeman

Monday, June 4, 2012

Up here at the Borderlands Lodge, the weather is still gorgeous. This is the latest I've stayed in Bozeman during the summer. It's a damn shame I haven't spent more of the warm-weather part of the year here because I live in an incredibly gorgeous part of the world. But it's not always ideal for someone working on the Russian-Turkic borderlands to get away in the winter--especially if you want to work someplace like Georgia or the Crimea, where it's not only cold but also very dark in the archives and everywhere else.

Erdogan and abortion, part deux

Friday, June 1, 2012

Regarding my post from a couple of days ago, another point regarding this issue that I wish I'd made above: Erdogan is also speaking out against caesarean births. This strikes me as an attempt to discuss a cultural/class issue, rather than a strictly religious one.
Caesarean births also seem quite common in Turkey. The attitude among the middle class people I knew--men and women--struck me as interesting when I first started living in Istanbul. Having a c-section, whether it was medically necessary or not, appeared to be a lot more accepted and normal-seeming than it was in the US. That's the way it seemed, at any rate, based on the attitudes of the people I knew. I taught private lessons to practically an entire (and entirely male) test-tube baby team at the German Hospital back in the 1990s, and it was interesting hearing their attitudes regarding c-sections. As was the case with the moms and single women I knew, the doctors talked about scheduling c-sections in terms of their predictability. In a city with Istanbul's traffic, people tell me, it would be too dangerous to leave things to chance. What if you got caught in rush hour traffic?

Erdogan: abortion is murder

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

According to the Turkish Daily Bugle, Prime Minister Erdogan has made some strong statements against abortion. Here is a small excerpt: 

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday he considered abortion as "murder." "I am a prime minister who is against Caesarean births. I consider abortion as murder," Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

Erdogan further stated that "every abortion is Uludere", referring to the botched air raid that had claimed 34 lives.
"Nobody should have the right to allow this. You either kill a baby in mother's womb or you kill it after birth. There's no difference." In Turkey, abortion is legal during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. The woman's consent is required but if the woman is married, the husband's consent is also required.
The New York Times also covered this story, going into some more detail:
Calling abortion an act of murder and an insidious plan to reduce the Turkish population, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Tuesday for legislation to restrict women’s access to the procedure.

Since 1983, abortion has been legal in Turkey for up to 10 weeks after conception, with emergency abortions allowed for medical reasons after that.Mr. Erdogan proposed outlawing all abortions that are not medically necessary, and limiting medically necessary abortions to the first eight weeks after conception, according to NTV, a private television news network.
“There is no difference in killing the fetus in a mother’s womb or killing a person after birth,” Mr. Erdogan said Tuesday, echoing comments he made Friday at the opening of a hospital in Istanbul and on Saturday to a group of female politicians in Ankara, the capital.

Coups, Constitutions and the 27th of May

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's May 27, and Spring has arrived at the Borderlands Lodge!

Okay, maybe not. I even had to shovel snow off of the Bordermobile in order to go buy some eggs this morning. I was wearing shorts and flip-flops, though, so at least it felt somewhat Spring-like.

It's the day before Memorial Day in the USA but in Turkey they're marking a different kind of memory. On this date in 1960, Turkey would experience the first of a series of military interventions, when Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was overthrown in a coup. 

Remember Ergenekon?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I saw something about Ergenekon in the Turkish Daily Tattler yesterday. It seemed so quaint: so people are still talking about Ergenekon!

The piece involved an interview with Yaprak Gürsoy from Istanbul's Bilgi University. Here are some of the things she had to say:

TDT: Give us a summary of your findings.
Gürsoy: The Ergenekon investigation and trials are a double-edge sword for Turkish democracy. They are good in a sense that it’s possible to observe that with these trials, public attitudes toward the military have began to change. People have less confidence in the Turkish military. But it is also possible to observe that they are leading to polarization in Turkish politics, especially between supporters of political parties, and that’s not good for Turkish democratic consolidation.
TDT: Your study also suggests that there is also a negative consequence of Ergenekon case.Gürsoy: It leads to polarization. When you investigate which groups believe the Ergenekon terrorist organization exists, you can see a sharp difference between political party supporters. Those who voted for the AKP [Justice and Development Party] in the 2011 elections overwhelmingly think that the Ergenekon terror organization exists. Most of those who voted CHP [Republican People’s Party] think that Ergenekon does not exist and that the case rests on fabricated evidence. There is a sharp polarization between CHP and AKP supporters.
Read the whole interview for context, but I found it interesting that the "negative" potential of Ergenekon was that it leads to "polarization!"

Menderes thesis: still around today

Monday, April 16, 2012 

Back before I began lurking in the shadows of the Russian-Turkic borderlands, I was an MA student at Princeton's department of Near Eastern Studies. And though I've tried my hardest to repress those years, they continue to come back to me on occasion, blasting my hard drive with the occasional memory or sensation.

Speaking of hard drives getting blasted, that is exactly what happened to me one evening back in Azerbaijan in 2004. On my computer that night were a number of files--including my Princeton MA Thesis--which were never completely recovered, despite the best efforts of the crack team of computer forensics experts I assembled over there.

Fast-forward to a snowy morning in Bozeman, Montana not too long ago. The hard copy of my thesis is unearthed from storage while I'm looking for something else. It sits around on the bed in my guest bedroom for a few weeks before I decide to take it into the office, where I scanned it onto a pdf file. 

The thesis is about the political rehabilitation of Adnan Menderes in the 1980s. Menderes had been Prime Minister of Turkey from 1950 to 1960, before he was removed in a coup on May 27th, 1960. He was executed a year later, following a brief imprisonment and trial on İmralı Island, in the Marmara Sea.

A new article: "The Economics of Muslim Cultural Reform"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Well folks, I've got a new article out. It's a chapter in an edited volume put together by the folks at the Slavic Research Center in Hokkaido. The volume is entitled Asiatic Russia: Imperial Power in Regional and International Contexts and my piece is called "The Economics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Money, Power, and Muslim Communities in Late Imperial Russia."  

The article is about the issue of Muslim educational reform in late imperial Russia, a topic that is generally treated within the realm of ideas. Rather than look at 'debates' or 'arguments' about reforms, I zero in on a subject close to the heart of all teachers: cold hard cash. 

Borderland ski report

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Well folks, up here at the Borderlands Lodge we've had, of course, very little snow this winter. That sucks, from a skiing standpoint, even if that has made it easier for me to continue tooling around town by bike. 
Finally, though, we had a good dumping of snow on Monday and Tuesday. I was itching to hit the slopes. Unfortunately, time would be tight. I had a meeting in the morning and would be participating on a panel in the evening.
Nevertheless, I managed a quick drive up to Bridger. I skied Alpine, the easiest slope, which is still sunny in the early afternoon (parts of Bridger get dark a bit early).

True confession: I'd always considered skiing a bit decadent. A bit like golf. Yes, you're in the great outdoors but you're getting in a car and driving in order to go down a hill they've developed. Expensive gear is important. I get it.

But I'd skied as a kid, and have fond memories of ending a day at Boyne Mountain in northern Michigan, following my Dad down an empty tree-lined trail back to the hotel. I think this is one reason why I like skiing the Alpine lift at Bridger.

Losing the liberal autocrat

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I read an interesting set of editorials in the NYT today about Russia, Putin, and the latest elections. Interesting stuff, but maybe I'm just saying that because I'm still a Russia geek, even after all these years.

One point that I was looking to see brought up was what might transpire if Putin were to be driven out of power at some point. My sense is that most people in the US think that this would be a good thing. 

Without question, Putin is an autocrat. But while his background is that of the KGB, it's also that of St. Petersburg and late-era Soviet liberalism. While Putin is hardly cuddly and nice, he was by no means the most odious political figure to emerge in Russia in the 1990s.

Is Putin a liberal? Not really, under most people's definition of the term. But he's an institutional man, a complete non-populist. He's like David Stern today or Mintemir Shaimiev circa 2000, someone who's been around so long that he's mostly interested in preserving the status quo at this point. Staying in power. Increasingly predictable.

In other words: Putin might not care much about little Central Asian girls getting beaten up in St. Petersburg, but he's no fascist. No radical.

But that old guard is slipping away. First Rakhimov. Then Shaimiev. And then? 

Where have you gone, Mintemir?

Borderlands week in review: low ski N & P

Sunday, January 22, 2012 

These have been some pretty busy times up at the Borderlands Lodge. The new semester started a couple of weeks ago, and the two classes I've been teaching--"The Making of Modern Turkey" and "Eurasian Borderlands"--have gotten off to a fast start. Writing, too, has kept me pretty busy.

One thing I haven't been spending much time lately has been skiing. You heard me right, Borderlanders. The skiing has been really pitiful this year, it's been really frustrating. Loyal readers will remember that I took a couple of trips up to the mountaintop in late December, but since that time it's been nothing going on. First, I was researching in Istanbul, and ever since my return there hasn't been much snow at all.

Actually, we had a really nice dump of snow last Sunday night. On MLK day I briefly entertained the idea of heading up the mountain, but I figured who needs it? I was still recovering from my Freezing Delta Flight-inspired flu, the ski hill was going to be mobbed with people who only get to ski on weekends and holidays, and in any case the weather report said not to worry, Borderlanders, we've got you covered, it will snow every day this week.

What happened instead was on Tuesday we had wild winds--40 mph--which literally blew all of the snow off the ground. There were a couple of dustings later in the week, but then the weather turned warmed. Yesterday, my friends, third week of January, up here at the Borderlands Lodge we had...rain.

That rain turned to snow overnight, but it's still pretty paltry. I'm losing my patience--pretty soon I think I'll just hit the slopes regardless of what's beneath me. 


Back from Sultan City N & P

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you folks, but I had a pretty great New Year’s break...and I think that means it's time for some New Year's N & P!

Mutlu Yıllar, my friends!