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Crooked Timber's Ronald Beiner posted an essay about Eurasianism and its chief ideologue Aleksandr Dugin and his issues.

On February 5, 2015, TVO (the Ontario equivalent of PBS) broadcast an episode of “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” featuring Dugin. The show (entitled “Big Minds on the Future of Democracies”) included Francis Fukuyama, a well-known and influential public intellectual, as well as Ivan Krastev, another heavyweight political scientist concerned with the future of democracy. This already conveyed the impression that Dugin is a serious academic on a par with the other two. The show went out of its way to publicize Dugin’s newly published work, Eurasian Mission, giving it equal standing alongside one of Fukuyama’s books. Eurasian Mission is published by Arktos Media, an incontrovertibly “Aryanist” or white supremacist outfit. On its cover, repeatedly displayed on the TV screens of TVO’s viewers, is the Symbol of Chaos —Dugin’s no less malevolent version of the swastika. It is hard to imagine that Paikin or the TVO producers knew what they were doing when they gave the purveyor of this reptilian ideology his platform on public television. But it is not too late to educate ourselves.

In presenting Dugin to their viewers, TVO advertised him as a “Russian philosopher and political activist.” Is Dugin a Russian philosopher? Yes, it seems that he is. Dugin’s book, Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning (published by Radix, a far-right press), offers a competent and at times interesting commentary on the philosophy of Heidegger, one of the major thinkers of the twentieth century. Only a fellow philosopher could pursue that kind of engagement with a philosopher as challenging and as important as Heidegger—although Dugin’s book in no way hides the fact that he’s at least as strongly drawn to Heidegger’s ideological significance as to his philosophical significance. (Dugin is very intensely focused on the Heidegger of 1936-1945, a period throughout which Heidegger was a card-carrying Nazi, however much he may have believed that Hitler’s version of National Socialism was grossly inferior to his own.) Since the Enlightenment, there has been a line of important thinkers for whom life in liberal modernity is felt to be profoundly dehumanizing. Thinkers in this category include Joseph de Maistre, Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Schmitt, and Heidegger. For such thinkers, liberal modernity is so humanly degrading that one ought to (if one could) undo the French Revolution and its egalitarianism, and perhaps cancel out the whole moral legacy of Christianity. For all of them, hierarchy and rootedness is more morally compelling than equality and individual liberty. In his Heidegger book, Dugin helps to bring out why certain intellectuals of the early twentieth century gravitated towards fascism: a grim preoccupation with the perceived soullessness of modernity, and a resolve to embrace any politics, however extreme, that seemed to them to promise “spiritual renewal” (to quote Heidegger). Dugin is now the latest thinker in this line of philosophers of the radical right. But his identity as a philosopher is only one aspect of Dugin’s intellectual personality. He’s also very much captivated by mysticism and occultism, and he’s a determined ideologue who is willing to reach out to allies in the gutter.

The resulting discussion was somewhat depressing, and summed up for me by the final comment, left by one Dominick Bartleme.

Long-time reader and extremely infrequent commenter here. I find many of the comments on this thread to be utterly remarkable. I can see Dugin’s hoped-for coalition of fascists and socialists and other illiberal elements forming before my eyes. The level of disgust of many on the left with the U.S. dominated capitalist world order has rendered them unable to read a simple denunciation of a dangerous fascist ideologue without immediately reacting that he must be 100x better than our evil capitalist overlords. The logical (and short) next step is to make common cause with Dugin and his ilk in our struggle against the liberal order.

Any lover of peace and freedom should stand with the OP against this dangerous ideology and the too-easy rationalization of it by those who do not care for the current global political and economic system. We don’t need to agree on much to agree that this man and his allies are promoting a profoundly evil vision of the future.
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Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Leonid Ragozin reports on the consequences of the Russian economic crisis for neighbouring and allied Belarus.

As the Russian ruble plunged 45 percent against the dollar last month, Andrey Kabanov made two forays from Belarus into Moscow. The entertainment entrepreneur is now the owner of two secondhand BMWs bought for about two-thirds the market price in his native Minsk. Not that he needed the cars for everyday use. “A friend is now driving one of them, and the other is just sitting in the garage," Kabanov says. "But it is an asset that I can always sell at a profit." Thousands of Belarusians such as Kabanov flocked into Russian cities before the New Year, taking advantage of the cheap ruble and the absence of border control between two countries united in a trade association known as the Eurasian Union.

For Belarusians, at least at first, their neighbor's economic crisis and worsening relations with the West brought a variety of benefits. When Moscow retaliated for EU sanctions by banning imports of cheese, apples, and salmon, some Belarusian businesses took to repackaging European products so they appear to have been made in Belarus. Two entrepreneurs involved in the repackaging business explained how the scheme works: EU-produced fruit and vegetables are swapped for their Belarusian-produced equivalents of inferior quality. The latter would be sold in the guise of EU produce in Belarus, while EU-made products would proceed to the much more lucrative Russian market. (Neither person involved in the repackaging would agree to be identified.)

Another scheme involved sending trucks full of EU produce from Belarus to Kazakhstan, also a member of the Eurasian Union. The cargo would never reach its destination, vanishing somewhere along the long route that cuts through Russia. Alterations to products exported from Europe also allowed a change in their nationality. Norwegian salmon salted in Belarus would become Belarusian, for instance, even if the entire process amounted to sprinkling a heap of fish with a handful of salt.

Many people are now opting out of the repackaging business, in part as a reflection of increasing legal risks and the waning appeal of the Russian market. The cross-border shopping bonanza has also ended now that the Belarusian ruble has fallen 30 percent against Western currencies this month, reflecting the country's overwhelming economic dependence on Russia.

When it comes to order, security, and relatively low corruption, Belarus looks something like a post-Soviet Singapore. But its economic policies are decidedly backward, smacking of the late USSR. "While the devaluation in Russia was conducted in a transparent way without imposing any restrictions on the circulation of hard currency, the Belarusian government opted for the most confusing and convoluted way possible," says economist Yaroslav Romanchuk. The explanation is simple: President Alexander Lukashenko had publicly pledged there would be no devaluation and no price hike, Romanchuk says, so when that outcome became inevitable, the devaluation was conducted in a way that allowed officials to avoid ever using the dreaded word.
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  • blogTO notes the five longest TTC routes in Toronto.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes evidence that objects detected by Kepler are gravitationally bound to their parent stars.

  • The Dragon's Tales tracks the migrations of raccoons and their kind from North to South America, and notes that Pacific Island nations are hoping to find places they can evacuate their populations to.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the computer of the anti-gay papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic has been found to be filled with child porn, and observes apparent success in treating Ebola with HIV medications.

  • Language Log looks at gendered pronoun usage on Facebook.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes depression.

  • Marginal Revolution links to an article examining the lives of lightning survivors.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at Russian-Ukrainian energy wars and isn't hopeful for Ukraine.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes war-related mortality patterns in Iraq.

  • Savage Minds notes that anthropologists at the University of Chicago have played a leading role in getting that university to disengage from its Confucius Institute.

  • Torontoist notes how 1971 thinkers thought Toronto could be made more pleasant.

  • Towleroad considers if Britney Spears is a proper gay icon.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests the death of civic nationalism in Russia, notes the refugees in Ukraine displaced from the Donbas, suggests that there is sympathy in Tatarstan from Crimean Tatars, looks at Russian official support for the far right worldwide, and suggests that Eurasianism and Dugin are of falling importance.

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  • blogTO notes an interesting play being put on at Buddies in Bad Times about a same-sex couple's divorce.

  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post from Andrew Lepage examining habitable exomoons.

  • Crooked Timber notes the exceptionally high voter turn-out in Scotland.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes China's attempts to construct a new security architecture in Asia.

  • Eastern Approaches notes that Poland's Radek Sikorski is now foreign minister.

  • A Fistful of Euros' Edward Hugh notes that the Eurozone is set to become Japan-like economically.

  • Far Outliers has a whole slew of posts on Romanian history, noting early Romanian history, the autonomy of the Danubian principalities from Ottoman rule, and the complex relationships in Transylvania and with central Europe.

  • Geocurrents notes that one Islamic State map was made from a computer game.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the final segment of New York City's High Line park is complete.

  • Language Hat notes the Scots dialect of Yiddish.

  • Marginal Revolution looks forward to the complexities of Catalonian separatism.

  • Registan notes Kazakhstan's concerns with Russia.

  • The Search examines methodologies for preserving E-mails.

  • Towleroad notes that a Grindr poll in Scotland accurately predicted the outcome of the Scottish referendum and also notes Grindr's concern with Egyptian police use of the app.

  • Understanding Society considers the idea of turning points in history. Do they exist, or not?

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin comes out in favour of allowing informed teenagers--16 years and older--to vote.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Russification in the Gagauz leadership and observes Russophilia among Ukrainian evangelical Protestants.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell imagines likely issues with devolution in the near future in the United Kingdom.

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The Dragon's Tales linked to a study in Nature analyzing ancient DNA.

We sequenced the genomes of a ~7,000-year-old farmer from Germany and eight ~8,000-year-old hunter-gatherers from Luxembourg and Sweden. We analysed these and other ancient genomes with 2,345 contemporary humans to show that most present-day Europeans derive from at least three highly differentiated populations: west European hunter-gatherers, who contributed ancestry to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners; ancient north Eurasians related to Upper Palaeolithic Siberians, who contributed to both Europeans and Near Easterners; and early European farmers, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harboured west European hunter-gatherer related ancestry. We model these populations’ deep relationships and show that early European farmers had ~44% ancestry from a ‘basal Eurasian’ population that split before the diversification of other non-African lineages.

The study is not available in full at the link.

The Guardian provides more analysis.

The findings suggest that the arrival of modern humans into Europe more than 40,000 years ago was followed by an influx of farmers some 8,000 years ago, with a third wave of migrants coming from north Eurasia perhaps 5,000 years ago. Others from the same population of north Eurasians took off towards the Americas and gave rise to Native Americans.

Modern Europeans are various mixes of the three populations. Sardinians are more than 80% early European farmer, with less than 1% of their genetic makeup coming from the ancient north Eurasians. In the Baltic states such as Estonia, some modern people are 50% hunter-gatherer and around a third early European farmer.

The modern English inherited around 50% of their genes from early European farmers, 36% from western European hunter-gatherers, and 14% from the ancient north Eurasians. According to the study, published in Nature, modern Scots can trace 40% of their DNA to the early European farmers and 43% to hunter-gatherers, though David Reich, a senior author on the study at Harvard University, said the differences were not significant.
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While thinking earlier today about the situation of Russia and Ukraine, my thoughts turned to North American history. It seems to be generally true that Russian public opinion, and Russian policymakers, find it difficult to imagine a Ukraine that might exist independently of Russia, a Ukraine that might make its own decisions and join alliances without Russia. This, in turn, is connected to Russian skepticism that a separate Ukrainian ethnicity actually exists. Talk of said, whether in Ukraine never mind inside Russia, seems to be one of the many things that Russian official language would define as "fascist". Putin said in 2007 that Ukraine was not a real country, after all.

Was this really so different from the situation between the United States and the future Canada? After the War of American Independence, many Americans confidently imagined that the British North American colonies would soon be part of the American union. The British North American colonies' series was an American desire during the War of 1812, and throughout the 19th century many Americans seem to have believed that the poorer, more conservative British North American colonies would inevitable fall into the American orbit. (To be fair, a not-inconsiderable number of British North Americans, not only of American descent, agreed with this.) Prominent public support for the annexation of Canada could be voiced as late as the early 20th century, when statements in favour of annexing Canada ended up determining the outcome of the 1911 Canadian election.

The Democratic Speaker of the American House of Representatives Champ Clark declared on the floor of the House that: "I look forward to the time when the American flag will fly over every square foot of British North America up to the North Pole. The people of Canada are of our blood and language". Clark went on to suggest in his speech that reciprocity agreement was the first step towards the end of Canada, a speech that was greeted with "prolonged applause" according to the Congressional Record. The Washington Post reported that: "Evidently, then, the Democrats generally approved of Mr. Clark's annexation sentiments and voted for the reciprocity bill because, among other things, it improves the prospect of annexation". The Chicago Tribunal in an editorial condemned Clark, warned that Clark's speech might had fatally damaged the reciprocity agreement in Canada and stated: "He lets his imagination run wild like a Missouri mule on a rampage. Remarks about the absorption of one country by another grate harshly on the ears of the smaller".

Then Republican Congressman William Bennett of New York, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee introduced a resolution asking the Taft administration to begin talks with Britain on how the United States might best annex Canada. Taft rejected the proposal, and asked the committee to take a vote on the resolution (which only Bennett voted for), but the Conservatives now had more ammunition. Since Bennett, a strong protectionist, had been an opponent of the reciprocity agreement, the Canadian historian Chantal Allen suggested that Bennett had introduced his resolution with the aim of inflaming Canadian opinion against the reciprocity agreement. Clark's speech that provoked massive outrage in Canada, and was taken by many Canadians as confirming the Conservative charge that the reciprocity agreement would result in American annexation of Canada. The Washington Post noted that the effect of Clark's speech and Bennett's resolution in Canada had "roused the opponents of reciprocity in and out of Parliament to the highest pitch of excitement they have yet reached". The Montreal Daily Star, English Canada's most widely read newspaper which until then had supported the Liberals and reciprocity now did a volte-face and turned against the reciprocity agreement. In an editorial, the Star wrote: "None of us realized the inward meaning of the shrewdly framed offer of the long headed American government when we first saw it. It was as cunning a trap as ever laid. The master bargainers of Washington have not lost their skill."

The pro-integration Liberals lost that election.

The point of this analogy is that, eventually, Americans stopped caring so much about Canada being part of their country. I think I'm correct in suspecting Americans wouldn't mind, but that they just don't see the pressing need. What of Russia? I only hope it won't take more than a century for recognition of Ukrainian distinctiveness and rightful statehood to become accepted.

Thoughts, criticisms?
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  • Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait notes that claims Arctic ice cover is recovering are ill-founded.

  • blogTO shares some of the most notable catastrophes from Rob Ford's days coaching high school football.

  • Centauri Dreams shares a new map of Triton, Neptune's moon.

  • The Cranky Sociologists map the distribution of different religions and the unaffiliated around the world.

  • Crooked Timber has at the old canard about Silent Spring's DDT ban killing millions with malaria.

  • Discover's Crux notes how GPS location services owe their existence to relativity.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining how rocky asteroids can be detected around white dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales note that tuberculosis was in the Americas before Columbus.

  • Eastern Approaches notes an appeal by Polish intellectuals to support Ukraine.

  • The Frailest Thing's Michael Sacasas wonders what if, instead of imagining worst-case scenarios for new technologies, we imagine positive things.

  • Language Hat comments on a new book on Russia in the Napoleonic Wars that mentions how Latvian was used as a code.

  • Language Log notes that technology is not dehumanizing us.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that the biggest split in Ukraine is between supporters of European and Eurasian integration, and notes that Putin's Russia has kickstarted a new era of global politics.

  • James Nicoll reviews Heinlein's juveniles.

  • Otto Pohl notes that modern Kazakhstan can trace its history directly only to the Soviet era, not to earlier states.

  • Registan looks at the Chinese geopolitical concept of continentalism.

  • Towleroad looks at a controversial gay club poster featuring two notable male writers kissing.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy reminds readers of the Crimean annexation and doesn't think eastern Ukraine has a compelling moral case at all for secession.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the economic costs to Tatarstan of remaining Russian, reports that Russian neo-Nazis are fighting in Ukraine, looks at how past actions are being seen in a more biased light, and quotes Vladimir Lukin to the effect that Russia wants Donbas to stay in Ukraine so as to prevent the country from looking to NATO.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly comments on her search for belonging.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that estimates the number of flares among brown dwarfs based on observation of red dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a Foreign Affairs article arguing that Eurasian integration has been hurt by Ukraine.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the Pet Shop Boys have called for a mass pardon of Britons convicted of violating past laws banning gay sex.

  • Language Log's Victor Mair notes the widely variant translations of different Chinese languages and registers by online translators.

  • The New APPS Blog notes that Switzerland would be a good model for the democratic European Union.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that Mexico is on the rise.

  • Understanding Society's Daniel Little studies the public opinions towards welfare states and the role of the market in the United States and Nordic countries.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the limit of the treaty powers of the American federal government. Could the US sign over Alaska to Russia?

  • Window on Eurasia notes that the Ukrainian crisis has reenergized NATO and links to a Russian writer who argues that Russia is set to become a civilizational empire, not a nation-state.

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Of note in Joanna Lillis' Eurasianet article describing the outcome of a recent summit meeting in Moscow of the heads of government of the different countries signed up to the Eurasia Union project is that the smaller member-states are becoming more skeptical of this. Opposition in Kazakhstan, particularly, seems to be growing. (I suspect that the presence in northern Kazakhstan of a large Russian minority, one that is a majority in a couple of provinces and that--like Ukraine's Russians and Russophones--has been a target of Russian irredentism in the past, goes a long way towards explaining this.)

“The project will be pushed with even more fervor and current and potential Customs Union members will be faced with stark choices,” said Nargis Kassenova, director of the Central Asian Studies Center at Almaty’s KIMEP University. “The Cold-War logic of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ is winning the day, and Russian policy is becoming less nuanced.”

Observers generally believe that the Crimea crisis significantly complicates Putin’s Eurasian integration push, making it more difficult for the Kremlin to win hearts and minds elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.

Kazakhstan traditionally has been a staunch Russian ally, and President Nazarbayev has served as a cheerleader for integration, although even he has previously voiced concerns about Russian domination of the Customs Union. Yet early indicators show the Ukraine crisis has galvanized opposition in Kazakhstan to integration with Russia. Putin’s power play has fanned fears of Russian economic domination. Many also believe EAU membership would entail a loss of sovereignty.

“Russia, instead of trying to assure post-Soviet states that it does not have any imperial intentions … showed that it does not consider these states fully sovereign, and its interests override the international law principle of territorial integrity,” Kassenova told EurasiaNet.org. The issue of territorial integrity remains sensitive in Kazakhstan, given that some northern regions of the country are home to a large Russian minority.

Zhanbolat Mamay, an activist in Kazakhstan involved in a campaign opposing the country’s membership in the EAU, offered an even blunter assessment. “[The Eurasian Economic Union] is a revival of the Soviet Union in a new format – a Putin format,” he told a news conference on March 4.

Statements coming out of Moscow about Crimea, such as the denial that the Kremlin has deployed troops on Ukrainian territory but reserves the right to do so, is fueling suspicion in Kazakhstan. “We can’t be in a union with an occupying state,” economist Oraz Dzhandosov told the Ratel.su website.

A commentary published by the Delovaya Nedelya broadsheet said “the current crisis is perhaps the last chance for Astana to put the brakes on the Eurasian tango.” In a possible nod to the vocal opposition in Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev’s March 5 statement noted that the governments of member states should do more to explain the benefits of integration, which is being carried out for the “good of our peoples.”
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  • 'Aqoul suggests that Maghrebin immigrants in western Europe, especially in Spain, are going to shrink as the economic contraction hits.

  • Centauri Dreams suggests that the astronomical state of the art is advancing to the point where telescopes might detect massive moons orbiting some of the extrasolar planets discovered over the past decade and a half.

  • Crooked Timber's Henry Farrell notes that Ireland is set to experience a crushing recession, worse even than the one experienced by Finland in the early 1990s.

  • Daniel Drezner critiques New York Times columnist David Brooks about one man's thoughts on global governance, while being skeptical about the chances of a Republican Party revival.

  • A Fistful of Euros' Alex Harrowell lets us know that Russia's radar system--you know, the one used to detect incoming missiles?--is holey and needs to be helped, immediately.

  • Language Hat points readers towards a Silk Road-centric view of Eurasian history and looks at the dynamics of Indo-European language evolution.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen wonders whether Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic Party might actually weaken his hand and that of the party.

  • [livejournal.com profile] pauldrye examines the origins of the phrase "Yellow Peril" in the late 19th/early 20th unseemly competition for territory and power by various imperialists in China.

  • The Pagan Prattle lets us know that some anti-Semites believe that the Starbucks logo is an iconic representative of Jewish world domination, or something.

  • Slap Upside the Head points out that a British Columbia politician who wrote an E-mail a dozen years ago comparing homosexuality to pedophilia wrote it to a fellow teacher in opposition to an anti-bullying initiative.

  • Spacing Toronto examines the travails of poor neglected beat-down Jarvis Street and its improvement plans, tours the Shops at Don Mills, Toronto's latest anti-mall, and examines the zonards, people in the mid-19th century who lived on the fringes of Paris.

  • Torontoist reports on the threatened gentrification of the famously eclectic Kensington Market neighbourhood and links to a panorama of Toronto as seen from the top of the CN Tower.

  • Window on Eurasia reports that Russians tend to prefer the term "post-Soviet space" as opposed to "near abroad" to define the other fourteen Soviet successor states.

  • Finally, the Yorkshire Ranter points out that Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who engineered the 2003 invasion, has come out and admitted the lies. Surprise.

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From Anatole Kaletsky's editorial in The Times, on what seems to be a breakdown in Western-Russian relations, "It’s the West that’s starting this new Cold War":

Casting Russia as the enemy suits everyone at this year’s summit. It distracts attention from President Bush’s contempt for Europeans on climate change and his geopolitical blunders. It helps Angela Merkel and Tony Blair to disguise the failure of their Atlanticist diplomacy while allowing Nicolas Sarkozy to sound tough, without being antiAmerican. It gives all the European leaders at the summit a chance to “show solidarity” with the EU’s newly admitted Eastern members without making any concessions on the discriminatory economic and labour policies that will keep these countries firmly in their place for decades ahead. And best of all, from every nation’s standpoint, the starring role of villain is one that President Putin himself craves.

Mr Putin faces a difficult transition from his present position as a wildly popular czarist-style absolute ruler to some kind of power behind the throne – a kingmaker or political puppeteer possibly modelled on Deng Xiaoping, of China, or Lee Kuan Yew, of Singapore, but with no real parallel in Russian history. In managing this unprecedented transition, nothing is more useful to Mr Putin than his image as the first national leader since Stalin who could stand up for Russia’s interests against an inherently hostile world. This is why all the EU’s complaints about neo-imperialist bullying of Poland and Estonia, all the lectures from President Bush about democracy and all the admonitions about human rights from Mrs Merkel are water off a duck’s back to President Putin.

[. . .]

While Westerners see Russian resentment about these territorial losses [of most of the western and southern tiers of the ex-USSR] as a throwback to 19th-century imperialist thinking, consider how the process might look when viewed from the Russian side. What Russians see is a powerful and wealthy empire expanding steadily on their Western border and swallowing all the intervening countries, first into the EU’s economic and political arrangements and then into the Nato military structure. Consider from the Russian standpoint the EU’s explicit vocation to keep growing until it embraces every European country with the sole exception of Russia itself, and the almost automatic Nato membership now granted to EU countries. Is it so very unreasonable to view this EU-Nato juggernaut as the world’s last remaining expansionist empire, or even the natural successor to previous German and French expansions that were considerably less benign?

Thoughts, if any?
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[livejournal.com profile] czalex's recent post on how Russophones in Russia continue to define the norms of the Russian language, going so far as to deny regional variants of Russian spoken outside of Russia's boundaries--in Belarus, for instance--recognition as legitimate to the point of regulating the names of the speakers' countries. This reminded of many of the issues that I noted in my March post on la francophonie, particularly on the divide between speakers of French in France and speakers of French outside of France. People don't like it when they're told that the language that they speak is an unacceptable deviation from the standard language that must be corrected, especially when the language difference relates directly to emotionally-charged political relationships.

The French language, at least, is an emergent pluricentric language, one with multiple standards (major standards, as Wikipedia indicates, with Canadian and French variants, minor variants in Belgium and Switzerland and Acadia, emergent variants in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific). The fact that these standards exist has at least as much to do with the political fragmentation of the Francophone world as it does with the fact that that a slim but growing majority of speakers of French live outside of metropolitan France. (Some of) the French might still resist the influence of other Francophone cultures, but theirs is a losing battle.

Insofar as it's possible to make comparisons, the Russian language now is where the French language was in the 1960s. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian language's speakers are still widely distributed across Eurasia; more, unlike French in 1962, Russia in 1992 started out with tens of millions of people living outside the frontiers of the Federation who spoke Russian as a first language. Unlike French in 1962, though, the Russian language was placed in direct competition with other languages already well-established as standards and was indeed often unpopular because of its prior associations, while many of the Russian first-language speakers who found themselves outside of Russia's frontiers have emigrated to Russia. As Russophone populations contract through natural decrease, as Central Asia and the Caucasus become more nationally homogeneous, as the Baltic States continue their effective monolingualism, and--most critically--as Russia's western neighbours promote their languages (Ukrainian, Moldovan/Romanian, perhaps soon Belarusian) ahead of Russian, the influence of the Russian language will inevitably decrease.

The Russian language is now facing a critical period. Russian may well manage to hold its own, experiencing only limited decline, if Russian economic growth continues and the Federation's cultural and political weight grows. Even now, measured on a variety of metrics (population, GDP, land area) Russian is as important a Western language as French or Portuguese. Allowing the growth of regional variants of the Russian language--in the Baltic States, in Ukraine, in Central Asia--will, if anything, make the Russian language more attractive. Harassing non-Russian speakers of Russian to the point of denying them the right to name their own countries is exactly the sort of hegemonic behaviour that will make other languages seem more attractive, relatively easily as second languages and perhaps even as first languages. People don't like to be told what to say.

UPDATE (8:24 AM, 27 June) : HTML corrected.


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