In Episode 132 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that deputy Duma speaker Pyotr Tolstoy, one of the most bellicose supporters of Putin's Ukraine war, is a direct descendent of Leo Tolstoy—and recently invoked his great-great-grandfather's "slaughter" of British and French troops during the Crimean War as a warning to the West. This is, of course, an utterly perverse irony given that the literary giant's anarcho-pacifist beliefs were antithetical to everything that his descendant Pyotr stands for. Indeed, it was Leo Tolstoy's experiences in the Crimean War that turned him into a committed pacifist. His final novel, Hadji Murat, vivdly depicts the brutality of Russia's counterinsurgency campaign in Chechnya in the 1850s—a history that repeated itself in Chechnya in the 1990s. This is bitterly recalled by the Chechen volunteers fighting for Ukraine, where this history is now repeating itself yet again. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament on July 6 threatened to "claim back" Alaska if the United States freezes or seizes Russian assets in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. "Let America always remember: there's a piece of territory, Alaska," Vyacheslav Volodin said at the last session of the State Duma before summer break. "When they try to manage our resources abroad, let them think before they act that we, too, have something to take back," Volodin said. He noted that deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy had recently proposed holding a referendum in Alaska on joining Russia. The day after Volodin's comments, billboards proclaiming "Alaska Is Ours!" appeared in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, apparently placed by a local "patriot."
A court in Russia has sentenced another group of Crimean Tatars to lengthy prison terms on charges of belonging to a banned political organization. The Southern District Military court in the southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don on May 12 sentenced Bilyal Adilov to 14 years, while Izzet Abdullaev, Tofik Abdulgaziev, Vladlen Abdulkadyrov and Mejit Abdurakhmanov each received 12-year sentences. The men are accused of being members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization that advocates for the peaceful restoration of an Islamic Caliphate. It operates freely in Ukraine but is banned in Russia as an "extremist" organization. The men, arrested in March 2019 in a sweep along with more than a dozen other Tatars, were also members of the group Crimean Solidarity, formed to oppose the illegal Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Since the annexation, over 30 Crimean Tatars have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, more than half this year alone. (Al Jazeera, RFE/RL)
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 to 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.