Tuesday, July 07, 2020

A tale of two civilizations, or why there is hope

Last month, after the coronavirus-delayed Victory Parade in Moscow marking the 75th anniversary of the triumph over Nazi Germany, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to nearby Rzhev to unveil a new monument.

The 25-meter memorial pays homage to uncounted Soviet soldiers who perished in the Rzhev salient between 1941 and 1943, in bitter fighting described as a "meat grinder." The monument was reportedly entirely crowdfunded, designed by young architects, and depicts a soldier turning into a flock of cranes.

Cranes have a powerful symbolism in Soviet and Russian memory of WW2. A 1957 film about the suffering of civilians is named "The cranes are flying," and the flock of birds seen in the sky bookends the plot. A decade later, Dagestani poet Rasul Gamzatov will write "Cranes," a heart-rending poem about fallen soldiers turning into white cranes. It was set to music in 1969, and recorded by actor and singer Mark Bernes shortly before he died of cancer. Hence the cranes, you see.

Shortly before the Rzhev monument opened, Putin also unveiled the grand cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, at the heart of a new WW2 museum outside Moscow.
Meanwhile, the "greatest country in the world" that is fond of deriding Russia as a "gas station with missiles" is undergoing a Cultural Revolution-style purge of monuments, revision of history and destruction of memory. 

It may have started with century-dead Confederate generals, but quickly escalated to Union generals, Catholic saints, Christopher Columbus, and even the founding fathers of the American republic. Absolutely nothing is sacred, and everything must be torn down in the name of intersectional social justice or something. 

The irony is that, insofar as the monument-toppling revolutionaries have an articulated agenda beyond destruction, it's race-based Communism. Russia went through that starting a century ago, and though it took a while, it has obviously recovered rather well, as physical evidence shows. So, there is hope. Nothing is inevitable. One just has to be willing to learn from the mistakes of others, lest they be repeated. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

On 'historical grievances,' or how to ask the wrong questions

My latest commentary piece for RT (I have my own page there now, you should check it out) tries to explain why the rift between Poland and Russia over recent history is insurmountable. It's not about the history itself, but how the two countries approach it - from two completely different perspectives that are mutually exclusive.
I'd like to add some context to what I said there, not because it's necessary for the argument I made - because it stands just fine on its own - but because I know it will reflexively be denounced as "Russian propaganda" because of where it was published.

My own people, the Serbs, have grappled with both sides of this discussion. For instance, the argument how "May 1945 wasn't liberation but the beginning of Communist occupation" has been persuasively made by many a Serb. I explored the reasoning behind it here, back in 2012. But there are important distinctions to be made here.

First of all, the only people in Eastern Europe who can plausibly make the claim that they did not deserve "Communist occupation" are those who did not join the Axis or contribute volunteers to the SS - so basically, Czechs, Poles and Serbs. That said, those three may want to reassess to which extent their plight resulted from trusting Britain, and maybe readjust their blame scale accordingly.

Even the rabidly anti-Communist Serbs don't have the kind of visceral hostility towards Russia displayed today in Czechia or Poland, because they understand that a) Russia is not the Soviet Union, b) ethnic Russians were among the most numerous victims of Communism and c) the USSR had at best a marginal role in bringing Communists to power in Yugoslavia. That last point is obviously not applicable to Czechs and Poles, but it matters.

Much is being made of Soviet "brutality" during the Cold War. Tell me, however, did the Czechs or Poles end up converting the script in which they write, or butchering their languages? Were they partitioned into new and hostile nations, with cultures and values intrinsically opposite to their own? Because that's literally what happened to the Serbs. Did the Soviets cover up the Nazi atrocities against Poles or Czechs, the way Tito minimized the Croatian genocide of Serbs? Even Katyn, the mass execution of captured Polish officers by Stalin's secret police, is nowhere close to the absolute or relative numbers of Serbs killed in the process of imposing Communism on them.

As I hope I've made clear, we'd have a quite a bit of "victim points" in the metaphorical bank. But the postmodern Western narrative in which being a victim is the fountainhead of virtue is alien to us, so we haven't rewritten our history around it.

Meanwhile, the Czechs and Poles were so eager for "freedom" that they rushed into the arms of the EU and NATO. That's not freedom or independence, that's just switching masters. The great irony is that the EU and NATO actually practice nation-destroying cultural, societal and linguistic engineering, the scale and scope of which would make the Soviets blush.

Let's not even get into the sheer hypocrisy of joining NATO in March 1999, even as it had the Luftwaffe launch its first bombing raids since WW2. You really don't want to have that discussion with me.

As for the Russians, I keep hearing from them the same kind of talk that has bedeviled the Serbs for decades, which can be best summed up as "What do we need to do for Them to stop hating us?" To which I try to explain that there is no right answer to what amounts to being the wrong question.

Even if it were somehow conceivable for a self-respecting Russian state to renounces the Soviet heroes of WW2 - which it absolutely should not - it will gain nothing by doing so. The "West" has a problem not with Communism or the Soviet Union, but with Russia itself.

Oh sure, Washington and Brussels talk about democracy, rule of law, freedom of the press, human rights, etc. But one, they don't actually practice any of that at home (and that's an argument I'd enjoy explaining in detail), and two, none of those existed in Russia of the 1990s, when President Boris Yeltsin literally sent tanks to bomb the parliament. Yet Yeltsin was beloved in the West, as was the weak, lawless, subservient Russia of his time. If that doesn't tell you something, I'll just be wasting time drawing you a picture. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Kosovo is Serbia

March 24 will mark the 21st anniversary of NATO’s occupation of Serbia’s Kosovo province, and so we reaffirm: Kosovo is Serbia. Serbia does not and will not ever recognize Kosovo’s claims of sovereignty. We call on NATO to end its occupation of Kosovo.

NATO’s occupation of Kosovo and its increasing militarization of the province is a threat to the world’s common security. Albanian occupation authorities continue their assault on human rights and fundamental freedoms, brutally silencing critics in civil society and the media, and curtailing religious freedom. Hundreds of individuals from Kosovo, including members of the Serb community, have been imprisoned by NATO-backed ethnic Albanian authorities – and some subjected to torture – for peaceful opposition to the occupation.

Members of the Serb community continue to experience unjustified raids on their homes and churches, surveillance and intimidation by occupation authorities, restrictions on cultural events, and the criminalization of their representatives. Occupation authorities severely limit religious freedom, target religious believers with bogus terrorism charges, and destroy Orthodox Church shrines. Serbia calls on the United States to free all Serbs wrongfully imprisoned in Kosovo in retaliation for their peaceful dissent and to end Albanian abuses of fundamental freedoms in Kosovo.

Twenty one years on, the US and NATO continue to rely on lies and disinformation in their failed attempt to legitimize the illegitimate. Their efforts are doomed to failure. The world will never forget NATO’s unprovoked invasion of Serbia. We condemn NATO’s illegal actions in Kosovo and its continued aggressive actions against Serbia, and will maintain sanctions against the US until NATO returns control of Kosovo to Serbia and fully implements its commitments under UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

(Inspired by this. Only the names were changed. See if you can spot the raging hypocrisy.)

Friday, January 03, 2020

Killing Soleimani

If you thought 2019 was suffering from a time-compression effect, where every day seemed like a month and every month a year, it looks like 2020 is going to be more of the same.

Last night, US helicopters or drones attacked a convoy outside the Baghdad airport in Iraq. The convoy was transporting several several leaders of the Iraqi Shia militia that Washington blamed for Tuesday's siege of the US embassy in Baghdad, but also Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran. Later that evening, US President Donald Trump confirmed Soleimani was the target of the operation. Seems like several high-ranking militia leaders were just a bonus objective, so to speak.

I won't get into whether Soleimani was a terrorist - as the American Empire claims - or not. There is ample evidence that his forces contributed massively to the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, however, and among the people celebrating his death are some of the vilest neocon warmongers known to humanity, including the crew responsible for the 2003 invasion of Iraq that was a prima facie crime against peace.

There is no doubt, however, that the hit was a quintessentially imperial act. What else do you call assassinating someone who is traveling openly with diplomatic papers, in a country where the US is not at war and its troops only have a tenuous legal pretext for being present? States care about sovereignty, legality and legitimacy; empires do not.

What's especially ironic is that, while he acts like the God-Emperor of memes abroad, Trump is the polar opposite at home, either powerless or unwilling to do anything - aside from tweeting - about the media-Democrat-Deep State complex that is relentlessly persecuting his supporters, or anyone who dares step out of the ever-shifting line they keep redrawing.

One would think the domestic "Resistance" would be a lot more circumspect with an Emperor that is willing to be this ruthless abroad, but they're not. That should tell you a thing or three about the real character of the Empire, and the extent of Trump's actual power.