Excerpts from Chapter 4, Red Star over the Black Sea: Nâzım Hikmet and his Generation

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The first time I visited Batumi, Georgia, I couldn't believe my eyes. Rather than the drab, post-Soviet settlement that I expected to find, I'd come across a subtropical-looking place filled with flowers, weird-looking insects, and pastel-colored buildings. That was back in 2009, when I undertook the first of two research trips (the second was in 2013) on behalf of what would become my first book, Turks Across Empires.  

During the course of writing my second book, Red Star over the Black Sea, I didn't go back to Batumi. I did, however, feel transported there somewhat by the writing in Vâlâ Nureddin's later account of his travels through Anatolia and the USSR with Nâzım Hikmet. Vâlâ's description of their first days in Georgia, which had recently come under Bolshevik control, brought me back to the rocky beaches and very cool vibe that I associated with Batumi in particular. 

Below you'll find a few of the sections from Chapter 4 of Red Star, which went on sale in the UK a couple of months ago. The book is set to go on sale in the US at the beginning of June. The photos are from a travelogue that I was keeping on this blog in 2009

The Turkish Elections & the Origins of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Friday, May 19, 2023

Well, the results of the first round of balloting are in, and it's not looking good for the opposition. 

I can't say I'm surprised. While the economy in Turkey has been terrible, this election was largely a referendum on President Tayyip Erdoğan. In a country that is broadly divided regarding their opinions of Erdoğan, people aren't going to turn their backs on him just for the hell of it. They needed a good reason to vote differently this time. 

Four-time electoral loser Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu 
once again faces off against 21-year 
incumbent Tayyip Erdoğan

What they got instead was Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, a decent man who in the first round of the campaign made real efforts to appeal to people's better instincts, as opposed to exploiting their resentments in the style of his opponent. 

But the resentments that many in Turkey have long held against the Republican People's Party (CHP) are real enough that, 100 years after the founding of the Turkish Republic, roughly half the country cannot bring itself to vote for Atatürk's party.