Watching the Shadows
khazaria

Podcast: whither Khazaria?

In Episode 123 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the history of Khazaria, the medieval Turko-Jewish empire in what is now southern Russia and eastern Ukraine. While the fate of the mysterious Khazars has won much attention from scholars—and controversy—because of what it may reveal about the origin of the Jews of Eastern Europe, this question also touches on the origins of the Ukrainian people and state. Whatever the validity of the “Khazar Thesis” about the ethnogenesis of the Ashkenazim, it is the Ukrainian Jews—such as President Volodymyr Zelensky—who are the most likely to trace a lineage of the Khazars. In 2021, Zelenksy and the Ukrainian parliament passed a law recognizing the cultural and autonomous rights of three indigenous peoples of the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula: the Muslim Tatars and the Jewish Krymchaks and Karaites. Of any Jews on Earth, it is these last two groups that have the best claim to the Khazar inheritance—and are now a part of the struggle for a free and multicultural Ukraine, in repudiation of the Russian neo-imperialist project. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Fanciful rendering of Khazaria flag via AlternateHistory.com)

Europe
druzbha

Transnistria blasts signal spread of Ukraine war

A series of blasts tore through the building of the de facto “Ministry of State Security” in Tiraspol, capital of Moldova’s Russian-backed separatist enclave of Transnistria. Officials said the building was fired on by unknown assailants with grenade launchers. Ominously, the attack came one day after a Russian military commander openly broached extending Moscow’s war in Ukraine to neighboring Moldova, to “give the Russian army access to Transnistria.” The blasts also came on the same day as large explosions in Bryansk, a Russian town near the Ukrainian border which is serving as a key staging area for the invasion. Bryansk is a hub on the Druzhba oil pipeline, and the flames engulfed a petroleum depot. Russian officials are speculating that Kyiv’s forces were behind the blasts, while Ukrainian officials speculate they were Russian “false flag” operations. (Photo of Druzhba blasts: Anonymous Operations)

Central Asia
russia

Podcast: the looming breakup of Russia

In Episode 118 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the possibility that Putin’s criminal adventure in Ukraine could backfire horribly, actually portending the implosion of the Russian Federation into its constituent entities, the “autonomous” republics, oblasts and krais. Troops from Russia’s Far East were apparently involved in the horrific massacre at the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. But indigenous leaders from Siberia and the Russian Arctic are breaking with Moscow over the Ukraine war. Rumblings of separatist sentiment are now heard from Yakutia (Sakha), Khabarovsk, KalmykiaKamchatka, TatarstanTuva, the Altai Republic, and the entirety of Siberia. China, which controlled much of what is now the Russian Far East until the 1850s, has its own expansionist designs on the region. Frederick Engels called for the “destruction forever” of Russia during the Crimean War, but it may collapse due to its own internal contradictions rather than Western aggression. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: PCL)

Europe
Crimea

Tatars demand return of Crimea to Ukraine

Crimean Tatar community leaders issued a demand that return of the Crimean Peninsula, unilaterally annexed by Russia in 2014, be a condition imposed by Kyiv in its talks with Moscow to end the war in Ukraine. The decision to adopt this demand was taken in a virtual meeting of the Mejlis—the traditional assembly of the Crimean Tatars, which has now been suppressed within Crimea by the Russian occupation forces. “The re-establishment of the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, including the republic of autonomous Crimea and Sevastopol, should be an obligatory condition for official negotiations between Ukrainian representatives and the aggressor state,” said the chief of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov. The online meeting of the Mejlis took place ahead of a new round of talks between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
Crimean war

Podcast: Ukraine & ‘the Russian menace to Europe’

In Episode 116 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of geostrategic and political thinking on the criticality of Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine, from the Crimean War to the contemporary catastrophe. Despite contemporary misconceptions, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels shared the perception of a “Russian menace to Europe” with theorists of Western imperialism such as Halford John Mackinder, Lord Curzon, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Nicholas J. Spykman, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Arch-reactionary or openly fascist conceptions of “Eurasianism” were taken up by the German Karl Haushoferand the Russians Mikhail Katkov and Ivan Ilyin—the latter a formative influence on Alexander Dugin, the intellectual mastermind of Vladimir Putin’s revanchist imperial project. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map of Crimean War theaters via Wikimedia)

Europe
tatars

Russia imprisons more Crimean Tatars

A Russian military court sentenced two Crimean Tatar men to long prison terms for peaceful activities. Timur Yalkabov received 17 years and Lenur Seidametov received 13. Both were active in the Crimean Solidarity movement, formed to advocate for Tatar rights after the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia in 2014. They were charged with membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a transnational Muslim civic organization that is legal in Ukraine. They were arrested in night raids on their homes by Russia’s FSB secret police, in which “prohibited” literature was supposedly found. Seidametov’s wife has said that the FSB agents planted the literature. Russia’s Supreme Court declared Hizb ut-Tahrir a “terrorist” organization in 2003, a ruling that has been widely used to prosecute Tatars for “involvement” in the organization. Both men are recognized as political prisoners by the Memorial Human Rights Center, Russia’s leading rights organization. (Photo via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. Shirts read: “Faith is not terrorism” and “Deportation continues”)

Europe
Kremlin

Podcast: against Putin’s Big Lie

In Episode 115 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues to dissect Vladimir Putin’s ultra-cynical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Putin presides over Nuremberg-type mass rallies celebrating war and conquest, spews overtly genocidal rhetoric, and prepares concentration camps for the Crimean Tatars. Alexander Dugin, “Putin’s Rasputin” and the intellectual mastermind of his revanchist imperial project, has openly called for “genocide” of the Ukrainians. In areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia, a forced mass deportation of the populace is reported. Putin is clearly approaching a genocidal threshold in Ukraine—while imposting a totalizing police state within Russia. Yet, with unimaginable perversity, all this is done in the name of a campaign to “denazify” Ukraine. The painting of Ukraine as a “Nazi” state on dubious basis of a few ugly right-wing paramilitaries on the Ukrainian side is vigorously repudiated by the leadership of Ukraine’s Jewish community. Yet this “Big Lie” is credulously (or cynically) echoed by elements of the “left” as well as far right in the United States—who arrogantly refuse to listen to Ukrainians. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Central Asia
Itelmeni

Russian indigenous leaders protest Putin’s war

Exiled leaders of Russia’s Itelmen, Kamchadal, Udege, Shor, Saami and Selkup indigenous peoples issued a statement declaring that they are “outraged by the war President Putin has unleashed against Ukraine. At the moment, the entire population of Ukraine is in grave danger. Old people, women and children are dying. Cities and towns of an independent country are being destroyed because their inhabitants did not want to obey the will of a dictator and a tyrant.” The statement adds: “As representatives of Indigenous peoples, we express solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their struggle for freedom and are extremely concerned about ensuring the rights of Indigenous peoples during the war on Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean Peninsula that remains illegally occupied by Russia.” (Photo of Itelmen people in the Kamchatka Peninsula via Wikipedia)

Europe
tatars

Crimean Tatars take up arms for Ukraine

The Tatar people, whose homeland on the Crimean Peninsula was illegally annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, are now mobilizing across their diaspora to resist the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian heartland. The World Congress of Crimean Tatars released a statement calling the invasion “banditry,” and calling on Tatars everywhere to “fight against this immoral attack of Russia.” Crimean Tatars have also organized a volunteer battalion to resist the Russian invasion. In a video statement, battalion commander Isa Akayev taunted that “there is enough land in Ukraine to bury all invaders—and don’t forget to put seeds in the pocket so sunflowers grow.” This is a reference to the viral video in which a Ukrainian woman confronted a Russian soldier, saying: “Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.” (Image via Twitter)

Europe
Crimea

EU sanctions over Russian elections in annexed Crimea

The European Union imposed new sanctions on five Russians over their role in elections in the Crimean peninsula. The EU sanctions framework was instated in March 2014, when Russian forces invaded and annexed the peninsula from Ukraine. At the time, the EU declared the move a “clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces.” The new sanctions target five individuals involved in election of members to represent the annexed peninsula in the Russian Duma. Three are newly elected Duma representatives for the city of Sevastopol. The other two are head and deputy head of the Sevastopol electoral commission. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
kurils

Submarine incident in flashpoint Kuril Islands

Amid quickly escalating tensions over Ukraine, Russia lodged a diplomatic protest with the US embassy in Moscow, claiming that a US nuclear submarine penetrated Russian territorial waters near the Kuril Islands. According to Moscow’s Defense Ministry, a Virginia-class US Navy submarine was detected off Urup Island, where Russia’s Pacific Fleet was conducting exercises. The Defense Ministry said the submarine was chased off by Russian vessels, and retreated at “maximum speed.” The statement accused the US of a “violation of Russia’s state border.” Media accounts did not emphasize that whether this purported incident indeed took place in Russian waters is questionable, as the Kurils are in part claimed by Japan—a dispute which has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from entering a treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities. Russia over the past weeks has conducted naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and northeast Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Pacific and Sea of Okhotsk, where the Kurils are located.  (Map: International Kuril Island Project)

Europe
Crimea protest

Putin rejects Ukraine law on indigenous rights

A Law on Indigenous Peoples passed last month by Ukraine’s parliament is aimed at protecting the culture, language and autonomy of the Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea. Putin in an interview after passage of the law asserted that the present leaders of Ukraine are clearly hostile to Russia. “Otherwise, how can you explain a law where Russians are a non-indigenous people? What will this lead to? Some people will simply leave.” He then compared these imagined “consequences” with the effects of a “weapon of mass destruction.” In another interview, he said that the bill “reminded” him of Nazi Germany, as it divides people into “indigenous, first-class and second-class people and so forth.” (Image: One of the last demonstrations in Crimea in March 2014, before the Russian occupiers crushed almost all protest. Via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)