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...


President Vladimir Putin gave his annual New Year's Eve speech. Channeling his inner Tommy Shanks, the Russian leader emphasized "unity" in the face of difficult times. 

The president, who wore a black coat over a white shirt with a red tie, added that many medical workers would be "on duty this festive night" and called on everyone else "not to retreat in the face of difficulties, to preserve our unity."



The longtime Russian leader said in his 17th New Year's address he was convinced that together Russians could "overcome everything" and "restore normal life."

Whenever I've been in Russia on December 31 I've enjoyed watching Putin's speeches. After putting up with someone like Yeltsin, I can see why people like Putin: he's sober, for one thing, but also a genuinely intelligent and sensible-sounding speaker. That doesn't make Putin a democrat, but he does certainly come across as competent. 


In Moscow, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Russia, 25,000 people have been vaccinated at the beginning of the week out of the mayor's eventual target of 6 to 7 million. Right now anybody in Moscow can get vaccinated who's aged 18 to 60, without chronic illnesses and working in a wide range of professions from health care and education to retail and manufacturing. The list includes people who work in Moscow's renowned cultural institutions. But that doesn't impress actor Yevgeny Stavinsky (ph), who's rushing, coffee in hand, to his theater.

What could go wrong?





YEVGENY STAVINSKY: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: The 45-year-old says he doesn't know anything about Sputnik V and that he doesn't plan to get it even though his employer offered to vaccinate him for free.

STAVINSKY: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: Stavinsky says he knows a lot of people who got sick and even died. And he suspects he was down with COVID for a few days, though he never tested positive for it. If the coronavirus has come to stay, he says, then what's the point in being scared?

This reminds me a little bit of attitudes in my home state of Montana. In fact, our new governor is so confident of our ability to ride this out that he's going to reverse our mask mandate

Don't worry about us: we're in some pretty select company. Montana will become just the second state in the US to do away with this mandate--alongside Mississippi! 

Culture Corner

I saw an interesting article this week on the Prokudin-Gorskii collection of photographs from late imperial Russia. 

The online collection--featuring color photographs from the first two decades of the 20th century--is pretty impressive. I use it with my Russia to 1917 class. Particularly impressive is the "ethnic diversity" section, which has a wide array of really beautiful photographs. It's worth checking out if you've never had the chance to look at these photographs before. The "transportation" related photographs are also pretty cool.  


There was a lot of Turkmenistan-related news this week. 
  • Nevertheless, measures are clearly being taken in Turkmenistan with Covid in mind. More here on the mood in Turkmenistan. 



According to the Turkish Daily Tattler

Over 260 suspects were detained across Turkey in a crackdown to avert possible terrorattacks on New Year’s Eve, the Interior Ministry said on Jan. 2.  




A statement said 267 individuals suspected of “supporting terrorist organizations abusing religion” were held in operations in 33 provinces between Dec. 20 and Dec. 31.

The suspects include 106 Turkish citizens and 161 foreign nationals, according to the ministry.

Turks Across the NBA

A new NBA season is upon us, so what can we make of the Turkish talent this year? 

Who's playing? As far as I can tell, there are only three Turkish players in the NBA this year: 

1) Enes Kanter is playing for Portland. 

2) Furkan Korkmaz is on the 76ers again. 

3) Cedi Osman is still with Cleveland. 

Who will win the Mehmet Okur Award this year? Will the enigmatic Ersan İlyasova find a new team? Stay tuned...


Parting shots:
  • I wasn't one of the historians consulted in the panel discussion on whether or not 2020 was the worst year ever, but I will say this: it depends. In every major event, there are winners and losers, and this year has been no different. For all the early talk about how the virus was an "equal-opportunity destroyer," we know now that this isn't the case. People with money ended up with even more this year. Those without it had their lives blown apart. 
  • I wonder how many lives would have been saved if the Senate had just done its job and convicted DJT in the first week of February during his impeachment trial. 
  • I hope 2021 will be better, I'm sure we all do. Part of me wonders, however, if the pandemic will be but the first of a series of crises. Once the immediacy of the health crisis has passed, will another shoe drop in the form of an even more wide-ranging economic crisis, or an international one? 
  • 2020 has exposed the inadequacies of many of our leaders--and not just the ones in Washington. I think back to the end of WWI: once everyone was able to finally lift their heads up from the shit-storm that had been raining down on them, they turned on those who had claimed to be leaders.  
  • No travel for me in 2020--for the first time since 1982, I didn't cross an international border. Might not cross one this year, either. 
  • In the last nine months, I've had one meal that I didn't prepare with my own hands. 
  • From mid-March until baseball came back in late July, the only sports I watched was the lady who lives across the courtyard from me playing badminton with her son.
  • Last semester I taught a new class called "Memoir & Biography in History." It's basically an opportunity for me to teach books that I love relating to individuals in the parts of the world I work on. Several of the books we read related to countries--like the USSR or Yugoslavia--which no longer exist. The people whose life stories we were reading had all been obliged, at some point, to start over. An important lesson from these works is that nothing lasts forever. 
  • But something else that these life stories tell us is that people can and do find ways of surviving conditions that are much more difficult than anything that most of us are experiencing right now. This too will pass and soon enough, inşallah.
Bear News

Wildlife-related news items in the greater Bozeman area this week included: 
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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