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. 
It was kind of a surprise. Back in 2016 I was visiting my parents back in Michigan prior to heading off to Moscow for a 2016-17 sabbatical. I checked my bank statement and saw that a deposit--somewhat more substantial than the modest royalty checks I usually receive--had been made by Oxford University Press. The explanation was that the Turkish translation rights had been sold. But that was all the information I was given. 

Operators are standing by
to take your order
Years passed and I forgot about this until last week, when I received a message telling me the book was about to come out. So, I had no role in the translation and haven't even seen the book yet in physical form (I wonder how they translated "Borderlands Lodge" in the acknowledgements). Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, which produced the Turkish edition, is a fine publisher, so I'm hopeful that they did a good job.   

Are you an imparatorluklar arası Türk? If so, I recommend that you scrape together 21 Turkish Liras and pick yourself up a copy. 

What's happening elsewhere in the Eurasian Borderlands these days? Well, I'm glad you asked...


Here's a news story that caught my eye: Turkey's religious authority denounced 'evil-eye' charms

According to Aljazeera: 

The state-run religious authority has caused alarm by proclaiming the use of talismans to ward off “the evil eye” prohibited under Islam.

The proliferation of the eye-shaped blue glass amulets in Turkey is widespread, as is the belief in their ability to ward off malevolent or jealous intentions. 

In a recently published fatwa – a legal or general decree by a religious authority or court – the Diyanet, which governs all matters relating to Islam in Turkey, denounced the use of the ornaments, known locally as nazarlik or nazar boncugu, as forbidden.

The Aljazeera piece is a bit misleading, I think. A fatwa is not a "decree," but rather an opinion produced by a scholar of the Islamic legal tradition. In a secular country like Turkey--yes, it's still secular, even after 20 years of AKP rule--the Diyanet does not have the authority to forbid these things. 

But it's another example of a ruling class in Turkey that is out of touch with much of the rest of the country. Two decades ago, there was a lot excitement surrounding the AK Party because they seemed different from the Kemalist political elites who themselves had fallen quite out of touch 

Turkey's next presidential elections don't have to take place until 2023, and there's been plenty of speculation that President Erdoğan might call them earlier than that--perhaps even this year. There's obviously some symbolic interest in having the elections as scheduled in 2023--it's the centennial anniversary of the Turkish Republic's establishment--but anything is possible. 


According to the Moscow News, "thousands" of protesters are marching in Moscow and 85 other cities in Russia today against the detention of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny. 

Russians nationwide are taking to the streets of at least 85 cities in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was jailed this week upon his defiant return to Russia.

Navalny, who had been recovering in Germany from what Western scientists determined to be poisoning by the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, asked his supporters to protest against his jailing — and against Russia's ruling elite as a whole. Saturday's events are set to test the strength of his support at home after his poisoning sparked Western sanctions and condemnation against Moscow.

Russian authorities sent out strong warnings against attending the protests, which have not received required government authorization. Several of Navalny's allies were jailed or fined ahead of Saturday's events, while Russia's state media watchdog ordered social media posts promoting the rallies to be taken down.

At least 2,250 people have been detained in 107 cities nationwide, with 855 detentions in Moscow alone, according to independent police monitor OVD-Info.

In a message that underscores the personal stakes that are involved with this detention, Navalny made a point of telling his supporters that he has no plans to commit suicide in prison, writing: “Just in case: I don’t plan to either hang myself on the window or cut my veins or throat open with a sharpened spoon...I use the staircase very carefully [and] they take my pressure every day so a sudden heart attack is ruled out […] I’m in a stable psychological and emotional state.” 

I'm sure that, to many people's eyes, Russia looks like it has one of the most stable governments in the world. After all, Putin has been the main political figure there for more than twenty years. But there are precedents for very stable-looking governments in Russia crashing quite quickly and unexpectedly. At the end of the 19th century, the Russian Empire appeared to be doing everything right: investing in infrastructure, attracting foreign investment, creating a better-educated workforce--and the whole thing almost came crashing down in the Revolution of 1905 (a major destabilizing event that played a large role in paving the way for 1917). Just five years before the USSR collapsed in 1991, meanwhile, the USSR seemed like it was a permanent feature of the world landscape. 

The answer, as always, is: nothing lasts forever (even cold November rain). 

I'm not saying that this weekend's protests are the harbinger of revolution--these kinds of protests have taken place before in recent years. But given the fact that there isn't really a straightforward means of removing the country's leaders from office via elections, when change does come it's likely to be sudden and unpredictable.  



And in the US? Yes, some things have been going on here, too. Many people are hopeful that the Biden administration will be more globally-minded than the preceding one. I don't think they'll  be disappointed. Already, we've seen executive orders bringing the US  back into the Paris climate accords, and I'm sure that vis-a-vis NATO and other international institutions the current US President will display a profoundly different set of priorities. I'm guessing, for one thing, that we won't be hearing stories about the president holding up aid to countries until they can dig up dirt on his political opponents. Call it a hunch. 

But it does seem clear that Americans have lost the stomach for world leadership--otherwise we wouldn't have elected a buffoon like DJT to the presidency in the first place. Think about it: Americans have put corrupt idiots into the Oval Office more than once over the course of our country's history. During the Cold War, however, almost without exception both parties nominated generally stable, mainstream, establishment-type figures. The one exception would be the GOP choice in 1964 of Barry Goldwater, who lost in a landslide to LBJ. 

But I think the "endless wars" created by the GW Bush administration in the first decade of this century have soured Americans on the idea of world leadership--as if the only kind of leadership available to us comes in the form of invading and occupying other countries. I've said it before: maybe without W, we wouldn't have had a DJT. It seems worth noting in this respect that nearly 20% of the individuals who have thus far been charged in the Capitol attack are military veterans

Thanks to these wars we've created a lost generation of veterans, many of whom have been haunted by suicide, divorce, and myriad other difficulties since ending their service. Maybe it's time we added political extremism to this list of consequences. 

And for US society more generally, I think that relatively little distinction is made between reckless uses of American power--such as the invasion of Iraq--and the more responsible (in my view) employment of the military, such as through Washington's work with NATO. I think that, for some people, DJT's genuine wariness about getting involved in Middle Eastern conflicts (one of his few consistent policy views) probably appealed to at least some of his voters in 2016--at least when compared to the more hawkish Hillary. 

Who knows? Maybe I'm wrong. But if I'm right, even just a little bit, it shows the damage to the US that the W. administration and the invasion of Iraq continue to visit upon this country and the world. 


Bear News

With ursine winter hibernation in full swing, there isn't a lot of bear news to report this week. However, there were some other wildlife-related stories floating across the Borderwire in the past few days. 

  • For the first time, a wolverine has been captured on video at Yellowstone Park. Park authorities believe that there are only seven wolverines total in the park--among just 300 which are estimated to be living in the contiguous 48 states. 
  • Montana lawmakers are looking to create more ways for people to kill wolves. 
  • Another bill would expand the ways in which people could legally kill grizzly bears in Montana. 
  • According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's rapports policiers, someone shot a bunch of rabbits outside of town. 
  • A personal wildlife story: I was cross-country skiing yesterday when, rounding a corner, I heard a sudden swooping sound--like a mini-helicopter--above my head. I looked up to see a bald eagle alighting from a tree branch.  

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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