The Breakup of Russia?

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Putin's air of invincibility is shrinking by the day. But what would happen if he were somehow removed from power?

In my previous post, I speculated on the possibilities of sudden collapse in Russia. My argument was that, as was the case with respect to the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, there's a possibility of a similarly unexpected downfall in today's Russia as well. While Vladimir Putin by all accounts appears to be quite secure with respect to his ability to maintain his position in power, there is certainly precedent in Russia for seemingly stable regimes falling unexpectedly. 

As I noted on Monday, Putin's legitimacy rests largely upon his ability to deliver. He has no dynastic claim. There is no all-powerful party in the manner that there was in Soviet times. Nor is there any real ideology associated with Putin's rule. Instead, Putin's competence has been his primary tool of legitimacy in Russia. And, no matter how much Russian authorities endeavor to hide the truth from their citizens, the fiasco that is the war in Ukraine is becoming increasingly difficult to explain away. So, when your claim to legitimacy is based mainly upon your competence, that legitimacy evaporates once you've been exposed as incompetent. 

And that can be very bad news if you happen to be the incompetent one in power.  

Thinking beyond Putin

Monday, April 10, 2023

Lately I've been thinking about the possibilities of collapse. No, not my own--but rather that which could take place inside Russia. 

When Nicholas II of Russia was, in 1905, pushed to the brink of overthrow, the world was incredulous. After all, the Russian government had, it seemed, been making all of the right moves for decades. The liberalization of the economy that had followed Russia's abolition of serfdom had led to an astonishing level of development. In the 1890s, Russia had the second fastest-growing economy in the world, after the USA. Foreign investment in the Russian economy increased nine-fold between 1880 and 1900. 

Red Star over the Black Sea: Excerpts from Chapter 5

Saturday, April 8, 2023

For the past week or so I've been posting excerpts from my new book, Red Star over the Black Sea: Nâzım Hikmet and his Generation. You can find the book's prologue here, a few sections from the introduction here, and selections from Chapter 2 here

A few points to keep in mind: 

1) These are just excerpts, not entire sections. So, for example, the offerings on this post represent only a small part of Chapter 5. 

2) These sections do not necessarily appear contiguously in the book. In some places, I've cut intervening sections out while preparing the digital excerpts. 

3) There are no footnotes in the excerpts, but there are in the book (more than 1600 of them, as a matter of fact). So, if you're wondering where the information comes from, check the notes in the book. 

Something else that you'll notice when reading the excerpts: the book is about a lot more than Nâzım Hikmet. While the poet-communist is at the center of the story, you'll see that the book also details the lives of other, less well-known figures. Mainly, what I was interested in doing with this book was placing Nâzım within a particular context, then using the stories of this generation's lives to say something bigger about the times in which these people lived. 

I hope you like it. 

Red Star over the Black Sea: Excerpts from Chapter 2

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Over the past few days I've posted excerpts from the prologue and introduction of my new book, Red Star over the Black Sea: Nâzım Hikmet and his Generation. The book, which is published by Oxford University Press, is now on sale in the UK. It will be available for purchase in the United States starting in the first week of June. 

Below you'll find some excerpts from the book's second chapter. 

Red Star over the Black Sea: Excerpts from the Introduction

Saturday, April 1, 2023

After seven and a half years of working on my biography of Nâzım Hikmet, at times it's difficult to believe that the work is finally over. With the exception of teaching days and other times I was momentarily busy with something else, I woke up almost every morning between August of 2014 and February of this year thinking about this book. 

Not only did I wake up thinking about the book, but almost without exception I felt excited and very positive about the project. I hardly ever felt stuck or unsure of what I wanted to do with it. In this respect, Red Star over the Black was a lot of fun to write. 

So now what to do? It's hard. I think a lot of people feel a mild touch of postpartum depression after a project they've spent years on has come to an end. I can't say that I feel depressed about the book ending per se, it's just difficult to know what to think about now. I find myself flipping through the book, reading sections of it out loud, then wandering off distractedly to change the record that's playing or write some notes about a new project I'm interested in. 

Or posting excerpts from the book to my blog. 

Anyway, below you'll find some of the fruits of these labors, excerpts from the book's introduction. It's not the whole intro, but it should give you a good taste of what's there.