Fresh Prince of Belgrade

Monday, June 21, 2021

Back in the waning months of quarantine, I read Gone With the Wind for the first time. To be honest, I was mainly interested in the book due to the connections I assumed I would find with War and Peace, which is one of my favorites. However, it was Anna Karenina that Margaret Mitchell's book would end up reminding me of the most. 

The common denominator is land. Most people are familiar with Gerald O'Hara's admonition that "land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it's the only thing that lasts." In Anna Karenina, meanwhile, Levin throws himself into working on his estate in response to a world that has disappointed him. 

Other than revealing a predilection for reading unfashionable literature, what does any of this have to do with me? Well, as I mentioned in a post a couple of months ago, I have recently purchased some land of my own in Belgrade, MT, the little mountain town with a Balkan flavor. 

Biden's Meeting with Erdoğan in Brussels

Saturday, June 19, 2021  

If Joe Biden's meeting with Putin doesn't quite qualify as a summit in my books, the US president's meeting with Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan was even shorter, as part of a broader meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels. 

All smiles for now...
The meeting was important, though. US relations with Turkey have been at various stages of rocky for years, with the months following the July, 2016 coup attempt (or coup attempt-like events) in Turkey constituting a real low point. It was at this time, in 2017, that Moscow offered to sell its S-400 missile defense system. In response to Ankara's purchase of the system, the US put sanctions on Turkey and will not sell it weaponry for now. 

Kumbaya and Crimea: the Biden-Putin Meeting in Geneva

Friday, June 18, 2021

Up here at the Borderlands Lodge, summer is quietly approaching. The freezing nights of winter have receded, and now we're having nice temperatures in the 70s and low 80s in the daytime. I've been spending a lot of my time on the house and buying novel items--who knew that a string trimmer is not for trimming strings?

Lava Lake, encore une fois
Moving house took up a lot of my time and energy in March-April, so I hadn't gotten outside so much--it didn't help that my bike was a shell of its former itself. But now my bike is in beautiful working order again I've been able to shake off a bit of the rust. 

With the arrival of warmer temperatures, there have also been some chances to get outside. Despite the mountains to the north, historic downtown Belgrade is a pretty flat area, good for bike riding. On the other hand, the bikeable area of Belgrade is smaller than what I had in Bozeman, so I tend to cover a lot of the same ground repeatedly. But there are lots of nice places to go outside in this part of Montana.

NATO's Other Purpose

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Greetings from historic downtown Belgrade (MT), to which the Borderlands Lodge has recently transferred its operations. 

There's been a lot going on lately. I've learned that buying a house is a 3-step process: purchasing the new place, moving out of the old one, and setting up the new one. All three steps can involve a lot of work. I finished the first of them in March, the second one in early May, and the third...I'm slowly realizing that the third step will go on for as long as I live in this house. 

Even in the Bel-zone we get the papers, and this week I've been reading about the meeting of NATO leaders this past Monday in Brussels

Other People's Genocides

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

One of the big stories this week, at least in terms of US foreign policy, was Joe Biden's characterization of the Ottoman massacres of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide in comments he made last Saturday. The genocide is considered to have begun on April 24, 1915. 

“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.

This is considered a big deal because the Turkish government rejects this characterization, preferring instead to emphasize the degree to which the events of 1915 resemble a "civil war" rather than a genocide. Unsurprisingly, Ankara has sharply criticized Biden's comments, saying they have opened a "deep wound" in US-Turkish relations. 

The problem with discussions about genocide is that everybody seems to be operating from their own, seat-of-the-pants definition of the concept.

From Bozeman to Belgrade: Moving the Borderlands Lodge N & P

Saturday, April 10, 2021

A lot has been going on over the past couple of months. For me personally, the biggest project has been moving. Yes, after twelve years in its present location, the Borderlands Lodge is headed to Belgrade: Belgrade, MT, that is--the little Montana town with a Balkan flavor. 








I've lived in a lot of apartments over the years. There were four in Montreal when I was in college, and then another four in Istanbul when I lived there in the 90s. I won't even try to count how many places I rented when I was a graduate student/post-doc researching in Istanbul, Baku, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Ufa, Moscow, Simferopol, Batumi, and Tbilisi, not to mention Princeton, Providence, and NYC. 

When I got my job at Montana State in 2009, I was living again in Istanbul, having flown out to Turkey--for the second time in my life--on a one-way ticket and no concrete plan for return. I'd finished my PhD and was feeling somewhat invisible after two long years looking for tenure-track work in the USA as a professor. I was riding out a post-doctoral research grant I'd received and, other than applying for various jobs, no real idea of what was going to happen next. 

Moving from Istanbul to Bozeman in the summer of 2009 was an adventure. I didn't have a lot of stuff, so I shipped out what little I had stored at my parents' place in Ann Arbor, then used the remainder of the moving expenses MSU had given me to rent a car and drive out to Montana from Michigan. It was a great trip, and gave me a feel for the enormity of the distance and the land extending between my childhood home and my new adult one. 

N & P: Suburban Outdoorsman Edition

Saturday, January 30, 2021

On top of everything else these last few months, we've had relatively little snow this year in the Bozone. This is bad news for a number of reasons--we need a good snow pack, for one thing, to mitigate summer dryness and forest fires. The lack of snow, moreover, has bitten into the ski season, with Bridger Bowl, our local ski hill, starting its (socially-distanced) services quite late into the season. 

When I first moved up here twelve years ago, I did a lot of downhill skiing. I bought a Bridger ski pass and remember a number of occasions when I skied in the morning and taught in the afternoon--even teaching in my ski pants on one occasion when I didn't have enough time to go home and change. In recent years, however, I've gotten more into cross-country skiing, especially since buying my own gear 4-5 years ago. I like the fact that I can go and cross-country somewhere for an hour or two in the afternoon and then get home to do something else--it doesn't take up the whole day the way a trip to Bridger does. 

There are a bunch of places to cross-country around Bozeman, but I just usually go to the golf course up the street from me. The more remote trails are definitely more interesting, but frankly I shy away from wandering off too deeply into the woods on my own. So, in a time of social distancing, suburban outdoorsmanship rules the day. 

The snow has been pretty crunchy on the golf course these past few days--and not only when you inadvertently ski over deer droppings. This morning, however, we got a nice dumping of snow. Nothing clears the mind of screen-time like an hour or so gliding through snow. 

Now that we've covered the Bozeman ski report, what's going on in the Eurasian Borderlands? Well, I'm glad that you asked...

N & P: İmparatorluklar Arası Türkler Edition

 Saturday, January 23, 2021

This has been a pretty busy week up here at the Borderlands Lodge. School started last week, so there has been plenty to do. Still, things are slowing down a little bit. Whereas I fielded probably 20-25 email messages from students last week, this week was a bit calmer, but still there were a lot of questions. It's always like that in the spring, which is when I teach a big 100-level class.

One kind of cool thing that happened was receiving notice that my first book, Turks Across Empires, has been translated into Turkish. 

The Birthdays of Nâzım Hikmet

Saturday, January 16, 2021

These are busy times up at the Borderlands Lodge. The spring semester began this week, so starting up with classes again has been taking up a lot of my time. As hectic as the first week of the semester can be, it's really nice to see the students again. 

Yesterday marked the birthday of Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet. Well, at least the 15th of January is the widely-accepted date for his birthday. At the same time, however, there is some disagreement regarding when exactly Turkey's best-known poet was born.  

According to Memet Fuat, the son of Nâzım's third wife Piraye and Nâzım's stepson, Nâzım was not born on January 15, 1902, but rather in late 1901. In his book Nâzım Hikmet: Yaşamı, Ruhsal Yapısı, Davaları, Tartışmaları, Dünya Görüşü, Şiirinin Gelişmeleri, Memet Fuat writes that Nâzım was born on November 20, 1901, but that "in order for him to not appear one year older for the sake of 40 days" (i.e., from Nov. 20 until the end of the calendar year), his parents chose to make his birthday January 15. Meanwhile, in one of the letters Nâzım's fourth wife Münevver wrote to him in the late 1950s, she notes that she had always thought his birthday was January 2. Nâzım, for his part, alternated between writing his year of birth as "1901" and "1902" in documentation that he completed at Moscow's Communist University of the East in the early 1920s. 

Putsch American-Style

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Well, this has been an interesting week. I don't think I've watched CNN this much since the Gulf War. 

I had just taken a virtual house tour with a real estate agent when I heard about what was going on. I tuned into CNN because--live on TV--they seemed to be updating more frequently than the newspapers that I read online. 

News & Propaganda: Brand New Year Edition

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Well, 2020 has come to an end, and many are no doubt celebrating. Not me. I'm happy to have time on this earth no matter what, pretty much, so you won't find me wishing for a year to be over prematurely. 

I wonder what would have happened if, one year ago, we had all been told ahead of time about what 2020 would be like. How would we have responded? I think a lot of us would have freaked out, myself included. But once you're actually in the middle of a situation, you find ways of managing. 

Not that my situation has been especially difficult. I've been alone, which for some people would be torture, but I happen to mostly enjoy my own company. I'm also still able to work. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how destructive this past year has been to the lives of others, so I don't feel particularly put out by my own rather trifling inconveniences. Mostly, I've been reading a lot and trying to finish the book I've been writing on Nazım Hikmet. Actually, the book is pretty finished-looking at this point. What I need now is a publisher.   

And what about in the Turkic-Russian borderlands, what's going on over there? Well, let's take a look...