Aug. 14th, 2006

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Megan Lardner's article "Spain and Cuba; A 500-year-old Affair", part of the Cubans 2001 project of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, surveys the depth of Spain's reengagement with Cuba, from the early 1990s on. Cuba once was a major destination for ambitious migrants from a considerably poorer Spain; now, after Spain's successful modernization and Cuba's relative decline, the balance of power in the relationship has reversed.

[T]oday's Spaniards are arriving by airplane - not ocean vessel - and importing cash, new ideas, and high hopes of becoming Cuba's most trusted business partner. It wasn't always this way. In colonial days, Spaniards who emigrated to Cuba had little to offer. María del Carmen Molina, the Cuban granddaughter of Spanish immigrants, shakes with laughter remembering a television show she watched as a child during the early days of Cuba's Revolution. The program poked fun at those early Spanish immigrants who - fleeing Spain's economic depression - arrived in Cuba penniless and had to prove themselves. But time has turned the tables and today all that is Spanish is the ticket to success. "Now everyone wants to be Spanish," Molina laughs.
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In his Open Democracy article "Russia and the middle east: post-Soviet flux", Zygmunt Dzieciolowski takes a look at how Russian-Israeli relations are starting to be transformed at the popular level by post-Soviet immigration and the threat of terrorism.

Divisions over how Russians view the war mirror divisions in Russian society. While "official" Moscow has talked about the urgent need to stop the gunfire and blamed Israel for its disproportionate response to Hizbollah’s initial operation on 12 July, "unofficial" anti-Kremlin Russia has a far more nuanced response to the fighting. It sees events through the tint of history, and with Soviet-Israeli relations as their backdrop.

Thus, the Kremlin-controlled television channels have concentrated in the past month on bloody scenes from Lebanese towns and villages; but unofficial Russia has called for a show of solidarity with the 1-million-plus Jews who emigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union (they included Anatole [later Natan] Sharansky, the legendary dissident who went on to form Yisra'el Ba'aliya [a political party representing Russians in Israel] and becoming a government minister and author of The Case for Democracy).

When the foreign and emergency-situations ministries in Moscow were busy in the early stages of the war arranging a rescue operation for 1,407 citizens of Russia and neighbouring countries trapped in Lebanon, unofficial Russia was more concerned about the safety of more than 250,000 Russian citizens living in Israel.

Volodia Dolin, a journalist at the Moscow news station City Radio, says that 5-6 million Russians have relatives or friends in Israel. They believe, he says, that Russia should side with Israel and the United States, fighting terrorists and defending democracy.

This concern is easy to understand. Direct flights now connect Israel with a number of provincial Russian towns. Artists from Moscow and St Petersburg are keen to perform in Israel to Russian-speaking audiences. Russian-born Israeli businessmen are investing in their old motherland.
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