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.
A series of blasts tore through the building of the de facto "Ministry of State Security" in Tiraspol, capital of Moldova's separatist-controlled enclave of Transnistria, on April 25. Officials said the building was fired on by unknown assailants with grenade launchers. Video footage showed windows and doors blown out, although there were no reports of casualties. (Reuters) Ominously, the attack comes one day after a Russian military commander openly broached extending Moscow's war in Ukraine to neighboring Moldova.
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, Kalmykia, Kamchatka, Tatarstan, Tuva, 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.
Crimean Tatar community leaders on March 29 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. (The Moscow Times, Interfax Ukraine)
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 Haushofer and 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.
A Russian military court on March 22 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. Seidametov and Yalkabov were arrested, with four other Crimean Tatars, in night raids on their homes by Russia's FSB secret police in February 2021, 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 Crimean Tatars for "involvement" in the group. Both men are recognized as political prisoners by the Memorial Human Rights Center, Russia's leading rights organization. (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)
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 imposing 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 the (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.
Exiled leaders of Russia's Itelmen, Kamchadal, Udege, Shor, Saami and Selkup indigenous peoples issued a statement on March 10 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."