The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
Topics/Categories Filter?
Blogging China Core Article Corruption Crime Democracy Demography Economics Economy Elections Foreign Policy Futurism Geopolitics Georgia History Human Biodiversity Human Rights Humor Ideology International Comparisons International Relations IQ Liberal Opposition Military Miscellaneous Moscow Open Thread Opinion Poll Politics Psychometrics Putin Race/Ethnicity Russia Russian Media Russophobes Science Society Soviet Union Translations UK Ukraine United States USA Western Hypocrisy Western Media 2008-south-ossetia-war 2010 Census 2012 US Elections 2016 Election 9/11 Abortion Academia Admin Administration AdminRR Aesthetics Affirmative Action Afghanistan Africa Age Of Malthusian Industrialism Aging Agriculture AGW Denial Ahmadinejad AIDS Airborne Laser Aircraft Carriers Airports Al Gore Al Jazeera Al-Qaeda Alcohol Alcoholism Alexander Hamilton Alexander Mercouris Alexei Kudrin Alexei Navalny Alpha Males Alt Left Alt Right Altruism Amazon American Media Anarchism Anatoly Karlin Ancestral Health Ancestry Ancient Near East Andrei Korotayev Anglo-Saxons Animal IQ Anthropology Anti-Semitism Antifa Apocalypse Apollo's Ascent Arab Spring Arabs ARCS Of Progress Arctic Arctic Civilization Arctic Methane Release Arctic Resources Arctic Sea Ice Melting Argentina Armenia Army Arseny Yatsenyuk Art Arthur H. Smith Arthur Jensen Artificial Intelligence Asabiya Asian Americans Assad Assange Assassinations Aubrey De Grey Australia Austria authoritarianism Automation Azerbaijan Bahrain Balkans Baltics Bangladeshis Barbarians Bashar Al-Assad Beer Belarus Belgium Berezovsky Berkeley Beta Males Big History BigPost Billionaires Black Crime Blacks Bolivarian Revolution Bolshevik Revolution Books Boris Berezovsky Boris Nemtsov Brahmans Brazil Brexit Brezhnev BRICs Brighter Brains Britain British Politics Business California Calisthenics Cambodia Campus Rape Canada Capitalism Cars Cartoon Catalonia Caucasus CCTV CEC Cell Phones Censorship Central Asia Charles Murray Charlie Hebdo Charlottesville Checheniest Chechen Of Them All Chechens Chechnya Chess china-russia-relations Chinese Communist Party Chinese Economy Chinese History Chinese IQ Chinese Language Chinese People Christian Fundamentalism Christianity Christmas Chuck Schumer CIA Civil Liberties Civil War Civilization Clannishness Clans Class Class Warfare Climate Climate Change Cliodynamics CNN CO2 Emissions Coal Cognitive Elitism Cold War collapse Collapse Party Colmar Von Der Goltz Colombia Colonialism Color Revolution Communism Confucianism Marriage Consanguinity Consciousness Conservatism Conspiracy Theories Constantinople Convergence Copenhagen Summit Corruption Perceptions Index Cousin Marriage Crimea Crimean Tatars Crisis Crispr Cuba Cuckoldry Cultural Marxism Culture Cyprus Czech Republic Dark Ages Dark Lord Of The Kremlin David Frum David Moser Davide Piffer Death Death Penalty Demographic Transition Demographics Demoscope Development Diabetes Dick Cheney Digital Philosophy discussion Dissent Dmitry Medvedev Domestication Donald Trump Dostoevsky Drones Drought Drugs Dubai Dysgenic Dzhokhar Tsarnaev E-books Earth Day East Asian Exception East Asians Eastern Europe Economic History Economic Sanctions Economic Theory Economist Democracy Index Ecuador Education Edward Snowden Effective Altruism Egor Kholmogorov Egor Prosvirnin Egypt Elites Emigration Emmanuel Macron EMP Weapons Enemy Belligerent Act Of 2010 Energy Entertainment Environment EROEI Espionage Ester Boserup Estonia Ethiopia EU Eugenics Eurabia Eurasia Europe European History European Right European Union Eurovision Evolution Existential Risks Face Recognition Facebook Fake News False Flag Attack falsifiable-predictions Family Family Systems Fantasy Far Abroad Fascism fat-diets FBI FEL Weapons FEMEN Feminism Fertility fertility-rate Fertility Rates Film Finance Financial Crisis Financial Times Finland Fluctuarius Argenteus Flynn Effect Food Football Forecasts Foreign Policy Fossil Fuels France Francis Fukuyama Freakonomics Free Speech Free Trade Freedom Of Speech Freedom Friedrich List Fundamentalists Gail The Actuary Game Game Of Thrones Game Theory Gay Marriage Gaza Flotilla Raid Gender Relations General Intelligence Genetic Engineering Genetic Load Genetics Genocide Genomics Geoengineering Geography George Bush George Friedman George Kennan George Soros George Will Gérard Depardieu Germans Germany Glenn Greenwald Global Warming Globalization GMD Gold Goldman Sachs Google Graham Turner grains Graphs Great Depression Great Powers Greece Greeks Green Green Party USA Greenland Gregory Clark Guantanamo Guardian Guardian Censorship Guest Guns Hacking Haiti Half Sigma Hank Pellissier Hanzi Happiness Hashemi Rafsanjani Hate Speech HBDchick Health Health And Medicine Healthcare Hezbollah Hillary Clinton Himachal Pradesh Hindu Caste System Hispanics Hist kai History Of Science Hitler Holidays Holocaust Homicide Homicide Rate homicides Homosexuality Hong Kong Horses Housing HplusNRx Hubbert's Peak Huey Long Human Achievement human-capital Hungary Hypocrisy I.Q. Genomics Ibn Khaldun ICBMs Ice Age Iceland Ideologies Idiocracy Igor Strelkov Illegal Immigration IMF immigrants Immigration Imperialism Inbreeding incarceration-rate India Indian Economy Indian IQ Indians Indonesia industrialization Inequality Inequality Inflation Infrastructure inosmi Intellectual Property Intelligence Internet interview Interviews Invade The World Invite The World Iosef Stalin Iosif Stalin IPCC Iq And Wealth Iran Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program Iraq Ireland ISIS Islam Islam Islamic State Islamism Islamist-liberal Alliance Islamophobia Israel Israel Lobby IT Italy Ivan Bloch James Cameron James Kunstler James Lovelock James Watson Japan Jared Diamond Jeb Bush Jennifer Rubin Jews Jezebel Jim O'neill Joe Biden Joe Lieberman John Derbyshire John Durant John Kerry John McCain John Michael Greer John Yoo Jorge Luis Borges Joseph Tainter Journalism Julia Ioffe Julian Assange Junta Kant Karlinism Kazakhstan Kenneth Pomeranz Khamenei khodorkovsky Kindle Kompromat konstantin-von-eggert Korean Cuisine Koreans Kremlin Clans kremlinology Ksenia Sobchak Kyrgyzstan la-russophobe Lactose Intolerance Laissez-faire Language Languages Latin America Latvia Law Law Lazy Glossophiliac Learning Lee Kuan Yew Leisure Lenin levada Levada Center LGBT Liberalism Liberia Libertarianism Libya Life life-expectancy Limits To Growth limp-wristed-liberals Linguistics Literacy Literature Lithuania Living Standards LNG Lobbying london Longevity luke-harding Mali Malnutrition Malthus Malthusian Loop Malthusianism Manufacturing Maoism Map maps Margaret Thatcher Marine Le Pen mark-adomanis Markets Marxism Masculinity Massive Ordnance Penetrator Mathematics Matriarchy Matt Forney Max Weber May Day me Meat Media Medicine Medvedev Meme Mercenaries Mexico MH 17 Michael Weiss Middle Ages Middle East Migration Milan Kundera Militarization Military Analysis Military History Military Porn Military Spending Military Technology Millionaires Minorities Mistral Mitt Romney Moldova Moltke The Elder Monarchy Money Mormonism Morocco Mortality Moscow Mayoral Election 2013 Muammar Gaddafi Music Muslims Myanmar NAMs Nationalism NATO Natural Gas navalny Navalny Affair Nazism NCVS Neandertals Near Abroad Neo-Nazis Neocons Neoreaction Netherlands Neuroscience New Cold War New York New York Times news-2008 ngos Niall Ferguson Nick Bostrom Nick Eberstadt Nigeria Nirvana Nobel Prize Norman Finkelstein North Korea Norway Novorossiya Novorossiya Sitrep Nuclear Nuclear Energy Nuclear Power Nuclear War Nuclear Weapons Nutrition NYT Obama Obesity Obituary Occupy Occupy Wall Street Odessa Oil oligarchs Open Access open-discussion Opposition Orban orientalism Orinoco Belt Orissa Orthodoxy Osama Bin Laden Pakistan Diet Paleolithic Palestine Panama Papers Panhandling Paper Review Paris Attacks Pastoralism Pat Buchanan Patriot Missiles Patriotism Paul Chefurka Paul Krugman Pavel Grudinin Pax Americana PDVSA Peak Oil Pedophilia People's Liberation Army Peru Peter Turchin Philosophy Philosophy Pigs PIRLS PISA PLAN Podcast Poetry Poland Polar Regions Police Political Correctness Political Economy Poll Polls Polygamy Population Growth Population Replacement Poroshenko Portugal Poverty Power Prediction Privacy Productivity Programming Projects Propaganda Protectionism protest Protestantism protests Psychology Public Health pussy-riot Putin Derangement Syndrome Putinsliv Qatar Quantitative Genetics Race And Crime Race/IQ race-realism Racism Rape Rationality Ray Kurzweil Razib Khan R&D Reading Real Estate RealWorld Regions Religion Republicans Review Revolutions RFERL RIA Novosti Richard Lynn rise-of-the-rest Robert Ayres Robert Kagan Robert Lindsay Robert Stark Roman Empire Romance Romanticism Ron Paul Ron Unz RossPress RT International RTS Stock Market Russia Debate Russia-Germany Relations Russiagate russian-cuisine Russian Demography Russian Economy Russian Elections 2018 Russian Far East Russian History Russian Jews Russian Military Russian Nationalism Russian Occupation Government Russian Orthodox Church Russian Politics Russian Reaction Russian Society Russians RussPol Saakashvili Saint-Petersburg San Francisco Sarah Palin Saudi Arabia Scandinavia Schlieffen Plan schools Schopenhauer Sci-Fi Science Fiction Scotland Secession Senegal Serbia Sergey Brin sergey-magnitsky Sergey Nefedov sergey-zhuravlev Sex Sex Differences Sex Ratio Shanghai Siberia Silicon Valley Singapore Singularity Sisyphean Loop SJWs Slavery Slavery Reparations Slavoj Zizek SLBMs Sleep SM-3 sobornost Social Evolution Social Media Socialism Sociobiology Sociology Solzhenitsyn Songun South Africa South Korea Debt Soviet History Space space-based-solar-power Space Exploration Spain Speech SPLC Sport stalin Statistics Stephen Wolfram Stereotypes Steve Bannon Steve Sailer Steven Pinker Strait Of Hormuz String Of Pearls Sublime Oblivion Suicide Supercomputers Superintelligence Surveillance Survivalism Svidomy Sweden Switzerland Syria Syrian Civil War systems-modeling Taiwan Tajikistan Tamerlan Tsarnaev Tamil Nadu Tar Sands Taxes Technology Terrorism THAAD Thailand The AK The Bell Curve The Bible The Economist The Guardian The Lancet The Matrix The Oil Drum The Russian Spectrum The Saker The Sublime Thermoeconomics Tibet Tim Ferriss TIMSS War Trade Transhumanism Translation transparency-international Travel Trayvon Martin Treason Triggering Trolling Trump Trump Derangement Syndrome Trust Tsarist Russia Turkey Twitter UAE UAVs UC Berkeley Ugo Bardi UKIP Ukrainian Crisis Politics UN Unemployment United Kingdom Universal Basic Income Universities Urbanization US Blacks US Civil War II US Elections 2016 US Foreign Policy US Navy US Politics US-Russia.org Expert Discussion Panel us-russia-relations Uzbekistan vegetarianism Vekhi Velayat-e Faqih Venezuela Video Video Games Vietnam Viktor Yushchenko Vladimir Putin Vladimir Zhirinovsky Vote Fraud Wall Street War War In Donbass wealth-creation Welfare White Americans Whites Wikileaks Willem Buiter william-burns William Catton Winston Churchill Women Womyn's Studies WORDSUM World Health Organization World Values Survey World War I World War II World War III Writing WSJ WTF Xi Jinping Yale Yemen yulia-latynina Zimbabwe Zombies Zoology
Nothing found
 TeasersRussian Reaction Blog

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

portugal-trip-222

In late March/early April of this year, I visited Portugal. Now I have finally to come round to writing about it, as I have been promising to.

First obvious question: Why Portugal? No reason in particular. Well, apart from it being cheap and convenient – as it happened, I only had to pay for the air tickets. I wouldn’t have gone otherwise – there are a few dozen other countries and regions higher up on my to-go list both globally (e.g. China, India), and even in the Mediterranean (e.g. Italy, Greece, Israel). But obviously I was not going to say no to this, so off I flew to Lusitania.

This post is split into two parts.

The first part recounts my general impressions of Portugal. There are quite a few of them, but this Tweet I wrote on my first day there can still serve as a tldr:

The second part has more details and photos about the specific places I visited. These were unfortunately limited to just the Algarve and Lisbon. We did not visit Portugal’s second city Porto (famous for its port and vinho verde), nor Portugal’s ancient capital of Evora. Still, Lisbon and the Algarve account for approximately half the demographic weight of the country, so it’s a decent enough survey.

Now might also be a good time to mention that I will be going to Romania on June 1-11 for a friend’s wedding (two days in Ploiesti, three days in Brasov/Transylvania, and the rest of the time in Bucharest). Posting will be light during that period – hope nothing major happens in the world during that time. I will of course have an HBD-aware account of the Romania trip up in time as well.

***

Portugal: Impressions

***

Demographics

The skin hues of the native Portuguese range from almost as dark as you would find in India, to as light as any in Europe (although the eyes are almost always dark).

portugal-trip-185

Lisbon Metro.

On my flight from Moscow to Lisbon, we were accompanied by a children’s football team. I noticed they all tended towards the darker end of the spectrum. My admittedly very tangential impression was that darker skin was correlated with more blue-collar occupations.

The numbers of non-European foreigners in Lisbon and the Algarve (primarily Negroes and Indians) was approximately similar to what you see in Moscow (Central Asians and Caucasians), though far less than in London.

My understanding is that many of the Negroes were (1) displaced post-colonial elites, or (2) Angolans whose oil wealth has enabled them to snap up large chunks of the Portuguese economy. I gather that they are higher quality immigrants than is usual from Africa, and do not constitute much of a criminal factor.

One little known fact about Portugal is that there are many Indians – you see them almost as often as you do in Britain. The colony of Goa, which used to be Portuguese, was annexed by India in a two day war in 1961. Salazar cut off diplomatic relations with India, and allowed any Goans who wanted to emigrate to Portugal to do so – consequently, many Portuguese-Indians and Catholic Indians did just that, and today there are about 70,000 Luso-Indians in Portugal. They have integrated very well; I suspect they might be richer than the average Portuguese.

Relations between Portugal and India were only restored in 1974 after the end of the Estado Novo in the face of fierce conservative opposition.

***

Language

One popular joke is that Portuguese is like Spanish but with a Russian accent.

I can see how the stereotype came about. On walking the streets in the glaring midday Sun, I often got a faint sense of deja vu – a feeling that I was in some sort of Mediterranean Russia, a presentiment that Tropical Hyperborea had immanentized while I was in the air over Mitteleuropa.

portugal-trip-49

The dog of Faro.

Although Portuguese is considered to be one of the harder Western Romance languages, I found the basics of it very easy to pick up and to transition to very simple conversations (ordering tickets, ordering food, asking for directions, etc). I have some experience with Romance language, namely French and Latin, so picking up vocabulary was trivial; meanwhile, the zh’s and sch’s that tack on to the end of Portuguese words, while a formidable challenge to R1b subhumans, is of no relevance to people used to Slavonic languages.

Few Portuguese over the age of 50 understand English. Almost all Portuguese under the age of 30 do. Between 30 and 50, some do and some don’t.

***

Economy

portugal-trip-2

Lisbon street.

From the time I flew in, I was getting strong California vibes – the sultry atmosphere, the surfeit of concrete and asphalt, the new buildings that look like large white boxes, the range of modest to luxurious villas that dot the inner Algarve.

portugal-trip-15

Gare do Oriente central train station in Lisbon.

Thanks to EU convergence funds, infrastructure was, if anything, even more modern than in California.

portugal-trip-107

Rubbish collection in Sines.

Garbage is thrown into labelled metallic bins, which would electronically move aside on the days when the garbage men would come round to collect them. Very SWPL.

Still, perceptions could be deceiving – in reality, Portugal is, of course, much poorer than almost anywhere in the US or Western Europe. The cars on the road were very old on average (as confirmed by statistics). Wages were low, as indicated by very low Uber fares, and as also confirmed by statistics – the average wage in Portugal is around €900, which is similar to Greece and twice lower than in Spain.

portugal-trip-61

Fishing in the Algarve.

In the Algarve, fishermen still ply their ancient trade on simple wooden boats with just a motor attached and no modern navigation or fishing equipment that I could see.

My impression is that the material living standards of the Portuguese are lower than that of the average Muscovite, though modestly higher than that of the average Russian.

portugal-trip-38

Portugal is also very good for white fish, but salmon is more expensive than in the UK.

The prices of most products was lower than in the advanced world – on average, prices are around 75% of those in the US or the UK (for comparison, Russia is about 50% cheaper). Some products were much cheaper – for instance, a pint of Sagres or Super Bock (their equivalent of Bud Light/Zhigulevskoe) was €1-€1.50 at most bars, and a litre flask of green wine (vinho verde) can be bought even in decent restaurants for €5. In contrast, it is very difficult to find any beer for cheaper than $3 in Moscow and cheaper than $1.50 in the provinces, to say nothing of London. It’s a safe bet that I would become a wine alcoholic if I were to live in Portugal.

portugal-trip-53

2 bedroom apartment in a bucolic setting (see the horse?) in between Alvor and Portimão.

portugal-trip-126

View from our central Lisbon apartment.

Housing prices are quite substantial – about 3-4x cheaper than in California, which of course still makes them rather stratospheric. My impression was that a modest villa in the Algarve or a reasonably central one room apartment in Lisbon (or one of the premiere tourist cities) goes for no less than $250k, which is about equivalent to Moscow, and more than in Brussels. Two of the apartments we stayed at via Airbnb – a 2 bedroom one in between Alvor and Portimão, and a small one bedroom one in central Lisbon just half a block away from the Russian Embassy – both cost around $250k according to their owners.

This is generally confirmed by statistics. I was told by an Uber cabbie that Lisbon has seen inflated interest from the global celebrity class in the past few years, so Portugal’s old draw as a quieter and less expensive retirement location for British pensioners has become outdated.

***

Society

From my limited interactions with them, the Portuguese were kind and helpful, possibly to a greater extent than you would typically find in the UK (if not the US). But society was a bit more… haphazard.

As in much of the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, there are plenty of aggressive drivers. This is backed up by the statistics – the level of road fatalities is similar to Hungary and Romania, and twice as high as in Spain. They park haphazardly, as in Eastern Europe. When we arrived at Sintra, the formally designated parking areas quickly filled up – no problem, the resourceful Portuguese continued to blithely park in all sorts of unlikely nooks and crannies, and there were no parking wardens to punish them for it.

portugal-trip-199

Near central Lisbon.

While Spanish balconies are festooned with the national flag, they become replaced by drying laundry on crossing the Portuguese border. This reflects common stereotypes about the Spanish being more nationalistic and arrogant than the humbler Portuguese.

portugal-trip-96

Urban art in Lagos .

There is graffiti everywhere, more so than in any other country I have been to (to be fair, I haven’t been in too many countries yet). Though there is also a lot of good street art of the sort that Fred Reed describes in Mexico.

Health & Safety inspectors and litigation lawyers of the sort that tyrannize the Anglosphere have evidently been told to BTFO. Portugal wisely avoids challenging Darwin, with the result that you can stride freely along Portuguese castle walls, a 10 meter drop onto sheer rock buttresses on either side and with just the original crenellations for company, without eyesores in the form of warning signs, guardrails, and other physical barriers breaking up the immersion. It is very Eastern Europe in this regard.

portugal-trip-3

Typical street in Lisbon – many ads for Communist parties such as the PCP and PCTP/MRPP with their hammer and sickle logos.

portugal-trip-51

Modern art in Portimão.

portugal-trip-7

The Portuguese don’t much like their Salazar.

As in Spain, the Left has won in Portugal. Almost all the parties of note that actually win votes are Left or Center-Left.

The primary cause, I assume, is that the conservative authoritarianism that ruled over them mid-century provoked a counter-reaction that lingers to this day, just as the Communist experience was instrumental in the electoral triumph of conservatism in most of Eastern Europe. However, this reaction seems to have somewhat more muted in Portugal than in Spain, maybe because Salazar was less overtly repressive than Franco.

Portugal remains more socially conservative than Spain, and is one of the more race realistic countries of Europe. On the other hand, I assume that Jose Ricon’s observation that political correctness is less prevalent in Spain than in the Anglosphere likewise applies to Portugal.

The Portuguese love their roundabouts – they may be even more frequent there than in England. Though as a Portuguese Twitter user pointed out to me, their popularity is sooner due to their low cost of construction, which allows municipal heads and contractors to pocket EU funds designated for road improvements.

Vague Speculations on Corruption

On paper, corruption in Portugal is very low – lower than in Italy, and certainly lower than in Greece or the Balkans, to say nothing of the ex-USSR. Still, even ten days there was enough to see that the country isn’t quite Hajnal tier.

On our first day in Lisbon, we encountered a scammer in the Lisbon Metro, a shifty looking ethnic Portuguese fellow who wanted to “explain” to us how to buy a day pass (in reality: Just enough for one or two rides, with him pocketing the rest). Being well aware of such scams, we declined his services. Still, in Western Europe, such hustlers will invariably be Arabs or Negroes, not natives, as in this case. Portuguese – doing the jobs that immigrants do in other countries.

Another thing we noticed is that some restaurants have a habit of advertising cheap meal deals. However, when customers order said dish from the menu, it will be slightly different from the advertised product – and cost twice as much. In one case, we insisted on ordering just the advertised meal deal, without even opening the menu. I got the impression that the waiter taking our order looked a bit glum when we did that. We were slightly puzzled by the reaction, but a visit to the reviews section on TripAdvisor quickly revealed the reason why.

General impression – probably low levels of elite or “official” corruption, still many more “tricks” and petty scams relative to Core Europe, even though the latter is fast becoming much more “vibrant” in these matters.

***

Cuisine

portugal-trip-11

From what I gather, this is one of the most typical Portuguese lunches (Lisbon, as I recall – around €6).

Incidentally, the English institution of fish and chips was really a Belgian-Portuguese fusion that was first marketed by a Sephardic Jew immigrant from Portugal living in London.

portugal-trip-39

Grilled sardines.

Never before appreciated that sardines could actually be made to taste good.

portugal-trip-42

Ketogenic is easy with all the beef around.

portugal-trip-127

Cataplana, an item of kitchenware that is is used to make seafood stews.

These are typically random oceanic critters – fish, crabs, mussels, shrimp – that are boiled in a tomato soup. Strongly reminded me of the Californian dish cioppino, which was developed by Italian fishermen who “chipped in” with their leftover catch into a communal stew at the end of the day. I assume the Portuguese variant has similarly humble origins, though since transformed into a respectable and more expensive dish.

portugal-trip-224

Canned sardine shop in Lisbon Airport.

Did I mention you can’t separate the Portuguese from their sardines?

portugal-trip-207

One of the highest rated but inexpensive restaurants in Lisbon is Cafe Mili, which is best known for its grilled sardines. Unfortunately, they weren’t in season, so I settled for the chicken curry. It came with $5 pitchers of vinho verde, and the Indian chef even threw in three sample glasses of port wine and some Portuguese liquors for free.

With all that said, at the end we were mainly going to Indian restaurants, of which there are many very good ones thanks to the diaspora. Portuguese cuisine was good to try out for a few days – but sardines and potatoes get old quick.

portugal-trip-41

portugal-trip-73

portugal-trip-105

Just how Portuguese is this?

I did greatly enjoy the green wine (vinho verde), a slightly fizzy drink made from unripened grapes (so very cheap, even by cheap Portuguese alcohol standards). It is a genuine pity that it is only available in Portugal.

They have some specific soft cheeses, such as the queijo curado. It was not all that appetizing to me, though I am not any sort of cheese aficionado like Masha Gessen.

The Molotov Cake is apparently a Portuguese dessert.

Beirao was a liquor that is not worth writing home about.

Ergo for Mateus, though it appears to have been very hip a few decades ago – the debonair, pot-smoking English professor in National Lampoon’s Animal House had a bottle of it on his table.

Olive oil suffused with chilli, called piri-piri, is a popular condiment in Portugal. Really good for giving salads a kick; I am thinking of recreating it (needless to say, it isn’t sold in Russia).

***

Portugal: Places

***

Faro

portugal-trip-22

View from the top of the Cathedral of Faro.

Faro is a scenic, touristy town with a population of 60,000. It is a popular weekend beach destination for Lisabonners, with cheap rail, bus, and air routes connecting the two cities.

portugal-trip-21

Cathedral of Faro.

While Core Europe was economically and technologically progressing, Portugal after its early sprint under Henry the Navigator was in stasis, even though its culture continued to generate things of beauty.

portugal-trip-26

portugal-trip-24

Regional Museum of the Algarve.

Come the late 19th century, things finally started moving forwards. At the turn of the century, the main industry in Faro was creating soda pop bottles.

Incidentally, even small Portuguese towns reliably have regional museums, which reminds me of a similar Russian institution (kraevedcheskie muzei).

portugal-trip-18

Loja dos Objetos Inúteis.

portugal-trip-17

Igreja do Carmo.

portugal-trip-32

“They suffer no more.”

The church contains one of Portugal’s many bone chapels. Contrary to popular myths that the bones belonged to tramps, vagrants, and other undesirables, in reality you needed to furnish a considerable payment to have your remains interred in a chapel of bones. Consequently, this “honor” was mainly reserved for local notables.

portugal-trip-33

portugal-trip-31

portugal-trip-35

The school or kindergarten with playing children just across from the chapel of bones provided an amusing contrast to the somber mood inside.

Quinta do Francês Winery

portugal-trip-46

portugal-trip-47

portugal-trip-48

Quinta do Francês Winery.

Although it has a lot of specific alcoholic beverages, Portugal is pretty weak on standard red and white wines (though they do have a few interesting grape varies such as Trincadeira).

Case in point, the Quinta do Francês Winery – one of the most prominent in the region – was started up by Portuguese-French pair who retired to the Algarve to produce wine as a part-hobby, part business, and have only been selling in bulk for the past decade.

The heart of vinho verde country is in the north, around Porto.

The Algarve Coast

portugal-trip-56

Fort of São João do Arade in Portimão.

This 16th century fort was constructed to protect the southern coast of Henry the Navigator’s realm. Unlike most historical monuments, it was leased out to a Portuguese multi-millionaire for his own use up until 2050 or so.

portugal-trip-58

Carvoeiro Beach.

Really cool location. The buildings – including a discotheque – extend all the way up onto the sand.

portugal-trip-60

Benagil Caves.

portugal-trip-100

And now from the other side (on a different day).

portugal-trip-97

Deep Blue Sea.

portugal-trip-104

Typical small coastal town in the Algarve.

portugal-trip-62

This 5 star hotel looks like a luxury cruise liner stuck between the cliff faces.

Portimão

portugal-trip-63

Back to Portimão.

Portimão itself is a modest town of 50,000 that was once a center of the sardine canning industry. This history is reflected in its main museum, which was also once the town’s major factory producing canned sardines.

portugal-trip-65

Film showing how the sardines were caught, cleaned, processed, and canned.

portugal-trip-68

Sardine genocide.

So yes, sardines… and Manuel Teixeira Gomes, Portimão’s most famous son, whose major claim to fame was serving a fleeting term as President under the Second Republic. Not much else.

portugal-trip-72

The views around the beach are gorgeous, though.

Sagres & World’s End

portugal-trip-75

portugal-trip-74

Sagres Fortress.

This fortress was originally constructed under Henry the Navigator to secure Portugal’s south from piracy and to shield the naval expeditions leaving and entering Lagos.

portugal-trip-77

Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente.

The original lighthouse was destroyed by Francis Drake in 1587, with the current version being constructed almost four centuries later by Queen D. Maria II in 1846.

There is a modernist but nice-looking monument to the construction workers.

portugal-trip-80

portugal-trip-82

portugal-trip-83

Fortaleza do Beliche.

This fortress was built in the 16th century, and reconstructed in the 17th. I imagine the scenic path to the sea was used to resupplying the fastness.

Lagos

portugal-trip-87

Lagos.

One way that Portugal differs from many Mediterranean countries is that its churches tend to be tucked away behind a few buildings on central plazas, as opposed to occupying a prominent position in front of them.

portugal-trip-88

Forte da Ponta da Bandeira.

portugal-trip-90

Porta de São Gonçalo.

portugal-trip-91

Statue of Henry the Navigator.

Many of the naval expeditions under Henry the Navigator departed from Lagos harbor.

portugal-trip-92

Slave Market.

Unfortunately, contrary to what I was told, there were no slaves on sale.

portugal-trip-95

Lagos street.

Sines

portugal-trip-109

portugal-trip-112

portugal-trip-114

Castelo de Sines.

This most town of 20,000 people is best known as the birthplace of Vasco de Gama. It has not a particularly touristy place. The central fortress is run down, and the town’s main source of income probably derives from the industrial harbor and the coal power plant.

portugal-trip-110

Statue of Vasco de Gama.

Not far away is the house where he was born.

portugal-trip-119

portugal-trip-117

portugal-trip-118

Centro Histórico de Sines.

Despite this town’s relative delipidation, the local museum was surprisingly comprehensive and modern; its exposition ranged from Roman artifacts to records of its 20th century industrial development under Salazar.

portugal-trip-121

portugal-trip-122

Much more graffiti even than in Lisbon and the other touristy downs, and evidently much less upkeep, with housing prices to match. Can easily get a two bedroom apartment there for $100k. But would you want to?

portugal-trip-123

Elevador dos Penedos Da Índia.

Presumably a failed attempt to create a landmark and attract tourists. But the views were good.

Lisbon

portugal-trip-124

Lisbon!

With almost three million people, it contains about 25%-30% of the Portuguese population (Porto has about as many). Perfectly amenable city, good transport links, nice architecture – it reminded me of Paris.

In retrospect, I wish we had spent an extra day in Lisbon, and one less in the Algarve; we did not have time to cover the section of the city containing the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower, and the Naval Museum of Lisbon.

portugal-trip-125

Russian Embassy in Lisbon.

Our apartment in Lisbon was just half a block from the Russian Embassy, which at the time was adorned with flowers and messages of commissaration (this was immediately after the Kemerovo fire).

Portugal has relatively good relations with Russia for an EU country. It was one of the very few EU countries not to expel any Russian diplomats in March 2018 to signal support for Britain’s stance on the Skripal Affair.

Random fact: Zhirinovsky considers Lisbon his favorite city.

portugal-trip-186

Lisbon Metro.

The metro’s scale is perfectly commensurate with a city of Lisbon’s size. It is functional, has an intuitive color scheme, and the trains seem to run reliably.

portugal-trip-6

Centro Vasco de Gama shopping center, near the Gare do Oriente central railway station.

portugal-trip-8

The eastern part of Lisbon is a newer, modernist area, with a cheap cable car connecting the waterfront.

portugal-trip-10

The Water Gardens.

portugal-trip-13

Pavilhão do Conhecimento.

portugal-trip-14

Cable car.

While I don’t much like modernist architecture anywhere, in my opinion it goes especially badly in warm regions, since the heat makes the large, open spaces all the more oppressive.

To combat the heat, most of the buildings are painted bland white, robbing the scene of any vibrancy.

portugal-trip-187

Central Lisbon.

The historic part of Lisbon is much denser and more colorful, and more pleasant to walk in, with the inclines providing good exercise.

portugal-trip-189

portugal-trip-191

portugal-trip-196

portugal-trip-193

portugal-trip-190

portugal-trip-193

portugal-trip-196

Panteão Nacional.

This used to be the 17th century Church of Santa Engrácia, which was converted into the National Pantheon in 1916 after the overthrow of the monarchy.

You can see the statue of Christ the King, a smaller version of the famous Christ the Redeemer monument in Rio, in the last photo.

portugal-trip-198

portugal-trip-202

Typical Lisbon alleyways.

portugal-trip-197

Igreja da Sao Vicente de Fora.

We took the opportunity to light some votive candles there, or more precisely, to throw in some coins that lighted up a bulb on a wooden electronic board thing.

These electronic candles are standard throughout Portuguese churches. I am not too happy with this innovation. In my view, it robs this intimate ritual of some of its essentialism.

portugal-trip-200

portugal-trip-203

portugal-trip-204

portugal-trip-205

More scenes of Lisbon.

portugal-trip-210

Santa Justa Lift.

portugal-trip-211

portugal-trip-212

Livraria Bertrand.

Lisbon hosts the world’s oldest bookshop, which was founded in 1732.

I was genuinely surprised by this, since Iberia was always a relative intellectual backwater relative to Italy and the Low Countries. By the second half of the 18th century, per capita book consumption in Spain – which even then was more developed than Portugal – had declined in relative terms to almost the level of Poland, and was an order of magnitude lower than in Great Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

portugal-trip-213

portugal-trip-214

The bookstore offers to stamp your books with its logo certifying you bought them from the world’s oldest bookshop.

portugal-trip-219

portugal-trip-221

portugal-trip-222

Belvedere of Our Lady of the Hill.

This is considered to be the best vantage point in Lisbon. I recommend taking an Uber there an hour or so before sunset.

Estoril & Cascais

portugal-trip-182

Casino Estoril.

This fabled gambling den is where the deposed royalty and emigres of Europe frittered their savings away.

Doesn’t look too impressive in RL.

Can’t comment on the poker games because I was not allowed inside, since I was wearing sandals and it is against their dress code. First time I ever encountered this, and I have visited most of the upscale casinos in Las Vegas. None of them had this BS, but this dump does.

portugal-trip-183

Cascais.

As I gather, this is something like Portugal’s Malibu – very nice area, little graffiti, this is presumably where the notables who gambled at Estoril lived (the even richer ones would have had chateaus in nearby Sintra).

portugal-trip-184

Boca do Inferno.

Wiki: “The cave was the first to be depicted in moving pictures, in the 1896 British film A Sea Cave Near Lisbon, which shows waves breaking at the mouth of the cave.”

Sintra: Castle of the Moors

portugal-trip-129

Castle of the Moors.

This castle was constructed by the Moors in the 8-9th centuries during their conquest of Portugal. Despite its formidable defenses, it was abandoned without a fight when the Portuguese liberated Lisbon in 1147.

The entire area, which also encompasses a monastery and several other palaces and chateaus, was acquired by Ferdinand II in 1838.

It is a vast area, and full of interesting monuments and places. It can either be explored by foot, or by an electric car or even horse that you can rent.

portugal-trip-133

portugal-trip-134

portugal-trip-136

portugal-trip-139

portugal-trip-141

portugal-trip-145

portugal-trip-144

portugal-trip-146

Views of and from the Castle of the Moors.

Sintra: Pena Palace

portugal-trip-176

Pena Palace.

This fairytale construction was erected during the mid-19th century during the height of Europe’s infatuation with Romanticism.

After the overthrow of the Portuguese monarchy in 1910, the palace became a state museum.

portugal-trip-155

portugal-trip-178

portugal-trip-166

portugal-trip-179

portugal-trip-160

More views of and from Pena Palace.

portugal-trip-171

portugal-trip-173

portugal-trip-168

Interiors of Pena palace.

Quite luxurious, as is usually the case, though nothing particular stood out – my impression is that after you’ve seen a few European palaces, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

portugal-trip-170

Even though the views at Pena are far more striking than those from Versailles or the Peterhof!

 
🔊 Listen RSS

Commenter Betlo alerts us to an interesting development in Sweden.

  • In a recent school election, the Sweden Democrats got 57% of the vote, in the largest secondary school of Kristianstad Municipality.
  • The neoliberal but moderately anti-immigration Moderate Party came second, with 19%.
  • “Peer pressure” is cited as one explanation, though according to one pupil, a teacher threatened them with lower grades if they didn’t vote the right way.
  • The pupils’ demand for a debate about gender equality and refugee policy was denied.

It would be funny if Sweden was to go straight from Sweden Yes to Sweden Über Alles.

I wonder to what extent Generation Zyklon is a widespread phenomenon beyond just the US. Since the political correctness ideology is pretty universal to the Western world, and American and European teens alike listen to the same racist gamers and tussle together on /pol/, it stands to reason that the demographics of the rebellion will be analogous.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alt Right, Demographics, Sweden 
🔊 Listen RSS

contrasts

So Tommy Robinson is getting sent to prison for 13 months for standing outside a courtroom where a grooming case trial is proceeding and talking about said grooming case. Or, more specifically, breaking the conditions of a suspended sentence, which he had in turn gotten for reporting on another grooming case, which barred him from reporting on any further grooming cases until the conclusion of the original case.

Supercharging this impressive recursion is a ban on reporting Tommy Robinson’s reporting bans, to which end many articles have been scrubbed of the affair:

cernovich-video

It would have been cool for, say, RT to violate the ban and dare the Britbongs into shutting it down. But RT is full of cowards (Error 404). In fairness, Breitbart was no better.

What I find amusing is that in principle Tommy Robinson is a moderate with views that mostly align with Western and British establishment interests. He likes free speech and invites trannies to sing at his rallies (ok, they’re not so cool on the former, rhetoric aside). He’s a staunch supporter of Israel. He counter-signals against ethno-nationalists. As he wrote in his book Enemy of the State, he considers Putin to be a dictator. Ultimately, his only problem is that he doesn’t share the elite’s Islamophilia, but that is more than enough for those vengeful ideological maximalists, which is why he is getting sent down to prison where he has a bounty on his head.

PS. Good Twitter thread on the UK’s abuse of reporting restrictions:

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Censorship, United Kingdom, Western Hypocrisy 
🔊 Listen RSS

This has apparently been getting harder (h/t Betlo):

The panel also noted that it is now more difficult to recruit intelligence sources inside Russia than it was during the Soviet era. During the Soviet era, the CIA relied upon “volunteers” who would approach American intelligence officers, Bearden said, but the pool of Russians willing to betray their government largely has dried up. It is not entirely clear why this is the case, but Bearden suggested that given previous Soviet and Russian penetration of American intelligence services, it is possible that the fear of compromise has driven away many potential sources.

Clement suggested that Russian perceptions of the United States have deteriorated so badly that even educated Russian liberals take a dim view of Washington—making the recruitment of spies extremely difficult. Moreover, many Russians who might have betrayed their government in previous eras no longer feel compelled to risk imprisonment or death by working for the CIA. Instead, those dissidents can simply leave Russia for the West—which was not an option during the Soviet era.

Beebe, however, suggested that in the information age—where biometrics and social media are prevalent—the age of recruiting traditional human intelligence sources is over. “Biometric data means essentially that you can’t put someone under cover here in Washington and then have them travel around the world, pose under diplomatic cover and recruit people,” Beebe said. “Doesn’t work. Who they are, their identity is instantly known to governments that want to know who they are.”

Other reasons:

1. The Russian Federation is 85% Russian, not 50% like the USSR. The guy who revealed the Soviet biological weapons program to the US was called Kanatzhan Alibekov.

2. Internal Russophobia is on the decline. This can even be seen amongst the liberals, where the most odious of that lot have been utterly marginalized, and are demographically dying off (e.g. Novodvorskaya) and/or have moved abroad (e.g. Kasparov).

When the Soviet system existed, there were plenty of people with a strong ideological opposition to the regime, such as Vasily Mitrokhin, who secreted away huge chunks of the KGB archives and later transferred them to the UK. When it collapsed, and in the absence of any other positive (nationalist) values – indeed, bearing in mind their suppression under the old regime – it was replaced by pure materialism, so you had a vast upsurge in treason during the late 1980s and 1990s.

3. This materialism factor was accentuated by the sheer material poverty Russia fell into during the 1990s. Selling secrets for a nice suburban house in California makes much more sense when you are an impoverished civil servant who lives in a khrushchevka and hasn’t been paid for months than when you are getting a PPP-adjusted salary of $2,000, live in a nice modern apartment, and possess a car and can travel to Turkey or Crimea a couple of times a year.

4. Conversely, whereas anti-Soviet dissidents could plausibly imagine that they were betraying an ideology, not their own people, this has become more and more implausible as the gradient of Western ethno-Russophobia veers ever upwards.

5. Another factor could be declining competence amongst Western spooks focusing on Russia. The intelligence services have never attracted the very best – far from the James Bond stereotype of them being suave, well-informed mystery men, in reality they tend to be mediocre, and idiotic conspiracy theories run rife amongst among them – and this should be even more true today, when the best talent is sucked up by Big Finance and Big Tech to an extent unparalleled during the Cold War. Russia Studies have also been neglected and underfinanced since the end of the Cold War until recently, with bigger and bigger jokers taking the limelight with every passing year (from Edward Lucas to Molly McNew). Combine the two trends, and this too would explain a collapse in Russia recruitment.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Espionage, Russia, United States 
🔊 Listen RSS

cyberpunk-moscow

Moscow 2018.

Can’t believe it has been almost a month since the last Open Thread.

Quick updates:

  • Was in the UK for a couple of weeks (as you presumably gathered). Apart from the march in London, I also took the opportunity to tick off Canterbury and the Tank Museum in Bovington.
  • Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the London Conference on Intelligence in Aarhus, Denmark, as I had originally planned to. Fortunately, we have James Thompson here to tell us all about it anyway.
  • I am going to be in Romania from June 1-June 11: Couple of days in Ploiesti, three in Transylvania, the rest in Bucharest. Why Romania? Friend’s wedding, otherwise it’s about 50th on my travel list.

ROGPR news – Kirill Nesterov’s latest video was so hardcore that YouTube banned it. Here it is (in Russian ofc):

We are also going to be launching a new website any day now.

***

Featured News

* Alexander Mercouris: Netanyahu in Moscow for Victory Day: why did Putin invite him? MUST READ, especially for those who have been complaining about Putin bending over before Israel and calling me a “ziocuck” or whatever.

* Alexander Mercouris is blackpilled on Iran:

Note that Bershidsky disagrees… but then again, he has always had inflated expectations of the EU. Even so he points out how the EU, Russia, and China can keep trade and investment with Iran running.

* I was pessimistic about M5S/Lega Nord – in particular, European leftists, including ostensibly Russophile ones, have a habit of disappointing (see Syriza). But perhaps they really will be the first major exception. I also find their economic program, combining bold ideas such as a 15%/20% flat income tax and universal basic income, to be very interesting and potentially very revitalizing for an Italy that is widely regarded as being stifled by bureaucracy.

* Two months ago, I opined that the Alt Right is dead. I can now confirm that with high confidence, specifically with regards to its Spencerite wing, which originated the Alt Right as we know it, and which was most recently active under the banner of AltRight.com [now down for more than a month]. FWIW, my source also told me that Milo was more of a 14/88 Röhm type of fellow than the anti-SJW “dangerous faggot” he posed as in public a few months before Joseph Bernstein broke the story for Buzzfeed, so I pretty much trust him/her on this. But even if you don’t, the signs are all there anyway, e.g. (1) the brain drain from AltRight.com in its final months and (2) their blatantly disinterested attitude towards keeping the website up [say of them what you will, but the Daily Stormer experienced far worse harassment, and they were always back up within 48 hours]. I would henceforth advise nationalists not to get involved in that cluster.

As far as I’m concerned, BAP is now the Supreme Leader of the Alt Right. On to Tropical Hyperborea!

* Scott Alexander: Can Things Be Both Popular and Silenced? One of the best essays on this topic.

***

Russia

* Nicolai Petro – Are We Reading Russia Right? [24 page PDF]. Summary via Paul Robinson. Good statistical, reality-checking manual on the real Russia vs. the one in the Western media.

Incidentally, my very first (non-intro) blog post was titled Reading Russia Right.

* Michael Kofman – The Collapsing Russian Defense Budget and Other Fairy Tales. Confirmation that reports a few weeks ago that it was going down by 20% were very much exaggerated.

* NBF on Russia’s new hypersonic glide weapons.

* China projects an increase in trade with Russia from around $100 billion last year to $200 billion next year. Much needed diversification. As I point out, Russia can live without China, and it can even live without the West, but it can’t live without either of them.

* Commenter Mitleser on Chinese media guidelines for writing about Russia: Use “USSR,” never “former USSR”; don’t call the people’s armed forces in Eastern Ukraine “separatists” or “pro-Russian forces.”

* Crimea has 5x fewer cars per capita than the Russian average. Results of two and a half decades of Ukrainian occupation.

* The Russian anti-sanctions laws which will penalize businesses for respecting American sanctions are on hold while the relevant Duma committees “consult” with representatives of the Russian business community. If they end up making exceptions for the big ones, which some Russian observers fear, then these laws might as well not exist and will probably become just another enabler of corporate raiding.

* Remember the police raid on Egor Prosvirnin in 2015, the chief editor of Sputnik & Pogrom? It now emerges that the organs originally wanted to charge him under Article 282 for… get this… for offending the Ukrainian people. In 2016.

In the end, the case was dropped at an early point. There are limits to absurdity, even in the Putlerreich.

* The Guardian: Russia analyst [Mark Sleboda] interviewed by ABC a ‘blatantly pro-Kremlin apologist’

I know that the Guardian is basically a meme newspaper these days, but still, the title is one of the most egregious in that it combines both a lie and a sordid assumption. The lie is that Sleboda is a pro-Kremlin apologist – to the contrary, he is more often its hawkish critic. The sordid assumption is that having blatantly pro-Kremlin apologists on is unacceptable for some reason. What’s the alternative – an echo chamber of kneejerk Russophobes? Come to think of it, that’s actually the correct assessment.

* Max Seddon: Fak off as Sberbank fires analyst for provocation too far.

Incidentally, this follows a similar report on Rosneft, where criticism of Sechin was suppressed. This shows that market research of the kind that is standard in the West is basically impossible in Russia, at least so far as it concerns the state corporations run by Putin’s cronies. This is another Russia blackpill, but I have come to the conclusion that the “blackpilled” view that Gazprom and Rosneft are run for political insider contractors, not for shareholders nor even for Russia’s geopolitical interests, is basically correct.

* Head of state-owned VTB bank Andrey Kostin whines that US sanctions prevent him from enjoying skiing vacations in Colorado and his beloved city of New York. This must be all the more painful for him, since he had lobbies US Congressmen hard to avoid sanctioning him, citing the fact that VTB was “investing in the Ukraine and raising that country’s economy.”

It’s hilarious, really. Begging representatives of a foreign, hostile power not to sanction him because the state-owned bank he was in charge of was helping another hostile country… whining when the American masters turned a deaf year to him. But such is the quality of Russia’s governing cadres and “effective managers” in Year 18 of Putinism.

***

World

* At last, a serious debate on the JQ.

I have only skimmed through both articles. One reason is that the JQ just doesn’t interest me that much (I meant it when I said I hope not to have to write any more about it after this one mega-post). Another reason is that even skimming it, it was sufficient to see that even Cofnas critique is still far more qualitative than quantitative, with the result that the two interlocutors mostly seem to be talking past each other.

I am of the position that Emil Kirkegaard still has the single best roadmap for a resolution to the JQ.

* Bryan MacDonald: Facebook & Atlantic Council unite: Now social media giant serves NATO’s agenda

* Lance Welton: “This Will Not Stand”: Academic Establishment Suppresses Italian Anthropologist’s Proof That Race IQ Differences Are Genetic—For Now

* John Derbyshire: Fertility Collapse—Minorities Hardest Hit! Electing A New People Delayed? That said, as Cicerone points out, this stopped being true around 2016:

Using the same method as for the states, here are my TFR estimates [for 2017, with 2016 in brackets]:
Whites 1.67 (1.72)
Blacks 1.83 (1.83)
Asians 1.68 (1.75)
Hispanics 2.03 (2.09)
All dropping ex. Blacks, Hispanics now below replacement

* Next round of EU funding is going to revolve more around nebulous things such as adherence to “European values” as opposed to GDP per capita gaps. Commenter Polish Perspective has made many good comments about this.

* Audacious Epigone:

* Estonia is making all its public transport free. This might actually work well in a low-diversity, high IQ country.

* I have no strong opinions on Israel vs. Palestine nor any desire to shill for one of them over the other, but I found this RAMZPAUL take funny and relevant:

* Interesting point from Jose Luis Ricon. Spain might be very pro-gay, but it’s not very gay about it.

***

Science & Culture

* Yinon M. Bar-On, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo (2018) – The biomass distribution on Earth

* Gwern: Nootropic effectiveness via SSC survey results. I was never deep into nootropics, but Modafinil seems accurate, even if inferior to plain ol’ Adderall (never tried that). Always thought aniracetam was overrated, but surprised that it was basically neutral (at best).

nootropic-effectiveness

* Peter Turchin – History Is Now a Quantitative Science. Rome’s “secular cycles” [see my intro to cliodynamics] have been tied to historical intensity of lead production.

rome-secular-cycles-lead

* Scandal in IQ research – many instances of self-plagiarism from Robert Sternberg. Not a crisis by any means, he was neither a particularly notable nor a controversial researcher.

* Gwern’s April newsletter.

* Version 1.3 of David Becker’s world IQ database is coming out soon. James Thompson got a preview peek at the LCI 2018, who also has an update on sex IQ differences and the neurobiology of intelligence.

* Robin Hanson on how to maximize the chances of future people actually reviving you from cryonics sleep.

* Steve Sailer on a recent Pinker paper on the optimal age to learn a new language. Stereotypes are correct – the younger, the better.

* Commenter Thorfinnsson on how US Civil War II could break out.

* NBF: Every 3-5 years SpaceX is adding a decade lead on competitors

* IQ researcher Stuart Ritchie threw away a job application from someone who cited their own IQ on the CV. But is that a good idea in academia?

* Commenter Daniel Chieh: Hanzi as an implicit barrier against the Poz?

It is my opinion that the language does indeed gradually shape thought. For example, something “logical” such as the word for “good” is 好 is of course 女(woman, thus breasts in symbol) and 子(child, or son: oversized head to body of an infant). And its a “good” that a woman is with her child, symbolically a “family” and “family” is therefore good.

Not only do the words then imply certain normative standards(and implicitly rejects postmodern construction), but it is also the form of recognition creates what Nisbett calls a “dialectic” form of reading which constantly monitors for context. I know a few friends who grew up in Asia or spent a lot of time there; eventually they basically acquire this form of thinking and become averse with the more normal context-less Western grasp of language and the world.

I also feel, as I said, that this is often “pre-modern” and is probably not conducive to innovative thought specifically due to the normative values implicit. Nonetheless, in this age of hyperreality and postmodernism with a lot of its attendant ugliness, its interesting to see how this appears to serve as a weak, below-the-horizon Chesterson Fence.

* Carl Zha Twitter thread on the history of the qipao. Hilariously, given the SJW outrage over its “appropriation”, it’s more Western than Chinese!

***

Powerful Takes

* The most powerful take yet?

flores-latin-america-junta-scene

Incidentally, Joaquin Flores is one of the head honchos at the grandiloquently named Center for Syncretic Studies, a Duginist outfit.

So this is what Duginism boils down to. They pay a Mexican Marxist weirdo larping as a Russian agent in Serbia to talk about the Saker’s involvement with the “Latin American junta scene”

* From SPLC-certified anti-Semite to Jew-loving neocon cockroach. :(

glossy-neocon-cockroach

See also Double Horseshoe Theory in action (this is “B) Stalinism is not true Marxism, and that’s awesome.” PS. Khodorkovsky is likely D. I am C.)

horseshoe-theory-in-action

* I run the most multicultural blog:

vibrant-blog

* Ioffe vs. Karlin:

ioffe-vs-karlin

* Greasy had some very strong opinions on this topic:

greasy-strong-opinions

* Everybody let’s welcome James Thompson to the RationalWiki club!

rationalwiki-james-thompson

* Is Charles Bausman actually serving the Jew masters?

russia-insider-serving-the-jew-masters

* Pumpkin Person: The most pro-Jewish President of all time? (unironically good take)

* Washington Times: Sarah Palin praises WikiLeak’s Julian Assange; ‘He’s all about freedom’. I have always rather liked her.

* This is what MAGA is all about now:

* Fuck Russia:

fuck-russia

PS. Just how neoliberal do you have to be to work yourself up into a lather about Bernie Sanders of all people?

* Eric Garland forgetting to take his meds again:

* Analytic vs. Continental Philosophy:

continental-philosophy

* Another reason to be aggressively pro-gun. The alternative is unrestrained Poz.

homosexualization

***

 
🔊 Listen RSS

Broke: Russians downed MH17 so Russia must pay reparations, withdraw from the Ukraine, Putler must go to the Hague.

Woke: Muh Ukrainian false flag. *scribbles 5,000 words on obscure alt media webzine that no-one will read*

Bespoke: Russians downed MH17 and Russia must face up to it like a civilized, Western country (i.e. no apologies, no acknowledgement of responsibility, award a medal to whoever’s responsible).

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: MH 17, Netherlands, Russia, War in Donbass 
🔊 Listen RSS

I recently had a look at the polling for the Ukrainian Presidential elections in March 2019.

They don’t look good for him, to put it mildly.

While austerity, stymied reforms and continuing corruption, and the lack of a resolution to the War in Donbass have been dragging at Poroshenko’s ratings for several years now, since the start of this year he has not even generally been getting assured of taking second place in the first round and going through to the second round.

For instance, here are the results of the latest KIIS poll:

8% – Yulia Tymoshenko
6,3% – Anatoly Gritsenko
6,1% – Oleg Lyashko
6% – Petro Poroshenko
5,4% – Volodymyr Zelensky
4,8% – Svyatoslav Vakarchuk
4,4% – Vadim Rabinovich
4,3% – Yury Boyko

He also loses all of the realistic second round runoffs:

poll-ukraine-elections-2019

Poroshenko is losing against Boyko, the head of the Opposition Bloc (reformatted Party of Regions), though this should not be mistaken for a pro-Russian victory because the party, apart from losing most of its support, is no longer even remotely as pro-Russian.

He is even projected to be beaten by Lyashko, probably the biggest lolcow in Ukrainian politics (and that’s saying something).

To be sure, there is still just under a year to those elections, and a lot can change between now and then. The economy will probably continue to recover at a modest pace. And Poroshenko has access to the “administrative resource.” I suspect he’ll still eke out a place in the second round. But there he’ll very likely be beaten by Yulia Tymoshenko (who is polling almost twice as much as him in a direct runoff), or perhaps one of the newer faces in politics, such as Vakarchuk, a young West Ukrainian rock musician who performed before the Maidan crowds and has a degree in theoretical physics – and is projected to get almost three times as many votes as Poroshenko.

(Speaking of young, pro-Maidan rock musicians. There is a small but not entirely negligible chance that the runoff will come down to two of them: Vakarchuk vs. Zelensky – they both have the highest net approval rating of any Ukrainian politician, and they dominate the youth vote).

It’s really hard to tell. Even ten months is an eternity in politics, and once campaigning begins, the current, strange electoral map – in which the eight leading politicians are all within a few points of each other – distillates into clearer leaders and laggards. However, the common theme is that Poroshenko has shockingly low figures, despite having the biggest name recognition of all the candidates along with Tymoshenko.

Incidentally, this is why if the Ukraine is to attempt Operation Storm, now is probably the best time for it.

1. If Russia intervenes = Poroshenko will lose in 2019, but as things stand, he is likely to lose anyway.

Meanwhile, Russia experiences a last minute collapse of the FIFA World Cup, and there is an annulation of the rifts (however real or fictive) that have been growing between the EU and the US.

2. If Russia doesn’t intervene = The LDNR is conquered, which as AP points out will propel Boyko to the second round, against whom Poroshenko has the best chances. Resolving the Donbass issue will also greatly boost Poroshenko’s popularity and almost certainly assure him victory.

Meanwhile, Russia suffers a humiliation that is highly unlikely to even lead to the reversal of Donbass-related sanctions. Russian nationalists move from an on average ambiguous position towards Putin, towards outright hostility; the Communists too will likely become far less happy with him.

That said, on balance I stick by my predictions at the start of the year that there will be no large-scale resumption of the Donbass War, because Poroshenko is a risk-averse politician. However, if it does happen this year, it will happen very soon.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Politics, Poroshenko, Ukraine 
🔊 Listen RSS

I have long been pointing out that one of the clearest electoral patterns in Russia is the inexorable collapse of the KPRF as you go down the age pyramid.

This decline is reflected in a FOM poll published on May 5, the 200 year anniversary of Marx’s birthday.

Whereas there are no major differences between sex, education, income (!), or urban/rural habitation, younger people are far less enamored of Marx than older people:

60+ year olds: 31% positive, 5% negative
46-60 year olds: 24% positive, 7% negative
31-45 olds: 10% positive, 5% negative
18-30 olds: 5% positive, 3% negative

This is a good, wholesome trend, though it would be nice if there were more people who were negatively-inclined. Perhaps there should be more efforts to let Russians know what Marx thought about Slavs.

Zhirinovsky delivering on that.

Still, at least positive sentiment is collapsing. As a party still firmly committed to Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, the KPRF is going down with him.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Marxism, Russia 
🔊 Listen RSS

To IQ research (h/t whyvert):

sweden-no-to-iq

Strictly speaking, this isn’t exactly accurate – Lynn and Vanhanen peg Somali IQ at around 72 – but it’s certainly closer to the mark than the politically correct European 100.

Anyhow, while I realize that Sweden is basically a meme country at this point, this is still an incredible development.

In previous years, the Swedish media had merely hounded doctors who made factually correct statements about IQ.

mensa-sweden-cucks

Now we are at the stage where the criminal justice system of a country that scores 100/100 on Freedom House’s freedom rating is being used to effectively ban IQ research, following in the footsteps of noted SJW Stalin in the 1930s.

I think we all suspected this would happen eventually. Sweden is the canary in the coalmine so far as general trends in the West are concerned. If this case sets a precedent, we could see a gradual stifling of this research in Europe, Britain, and eventually the US (ironically, at about the same time as race differences in IQ are definitively confirmed by advances in genomics).

Anyhow, hopefully someone will keep an eye on this case. Perhaps IQ researchers in the area could volunteer their services to try to make this into a Scopes Monkey Trial.

If not, well, too bad for Western civilization. But China has no time for baizuo idiocy and will continue to plow ahead.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Censorship, Hate Speech, SJWs, Sweden 
🔊 Listen RSS

Either Iran fulfills the following, or it gets the “strongest sanctions in history”:

us-iran-demands

Since this is two more demands than the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia in 1914, and they are in principle unfulfillable anyway, why not go the full hog and make some further additions:

  • Convert to Evangelical Christianity
  • Host a gay pride parade in Tehran
  • Accept Eritrean refugees from Israel

In other news, things have again been heating up in the Donbass, with an important bridge that lies on the main non-frontline road between Lugansk and Donetsk getting blown up by what were presumably Ukrainian special forces. At the start of this year, I said that if the Ukraine is to try for its version of Operation Storm, it would be best to do it on the eve of FIFA World Cup 2018.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Economic Sanctions, Iran, United States 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

The blogger Audacious Epigone has done yeoman’s work over the past couple of years documenting the surprising “basedness” of Generation Z(yklon).

With the collapse of the Alt Right and Trump turning out to be a damp squib, it might well be that Gen Z is the last best hope for America to remain a somewhat American country.

Not great that we’re essentially down to wagering on demographics, given that the usual narratives portend things such as a Blue Texas by the 2020s, but there you go.

Here is a selection of Anepigone’s classic articles on Gen Z:

Collection of the more interesting graphs:

Assuming that Generation Zyklon shitlords will be able to withstand SJW brainwashing in the modern college madrassas, this would overturn the conventional wisdom and and ensure Republican hegemony for a few more decades, at least until the population goes majority non-White by mid-century.

In the meantime, this would give future President Thorfinnsson time to engineer permanent white supremacy into the Constitution.

What do you think?

Does Generation Z have potential to rejuvenate America and atomically blast spaceships into space, or is this just a desert mirage imagined by citizens of a doomed civilization?

PS. Why Generation Zyklon?

Zyklon* is intentionally provocative, but it’s also intentionally ambiguous. In a way, it’s perfectly suitable for Gen Z. Zyklon was originally used as a pesticide beginning in the 1880s. It wasn’t modified for use as a weapon against humans until WWI, and then most infamously by Germany in WWII.

Gen Z may lead the way to an occidental renaissance, or it may be the generation that sees the West finally burned to the ground in a civilizational bloodletting that puts the wars of the 20th century to shame. The Derb and Brimelow respectively gesture towards each potential extreme.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alt Right, Demographics, United States 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

world-IQ-map-becker-2018

Mankind’s IQ is 84-88. Becker May 2018 update.

Belorussia has long been a blank spot on the world IQ maps (and when it was not so, its results were based on the average of Ukraine, Russia, and Lithuania’s scores).

However, in David Becker’s latest world IQ update, there finally appeared a concrete estimate of Belorussian IQ:

  • Lynn, R., Gospodarik, E., Salahodjaev, R. & Omanbayev, B. A Standardization of Raven’s SPM+ in Belarus. Mankind Quarterly

I don’t think it has been published yet – at least, it’s not in the MQ archives – but a friend kindly provided me a preprint.

In the case of Belarus, a provisional IQ of 95.1 was estimated as the average of the measured IQs of Russia (96.5) to the north-east, Lithuania (94.6) to the west and Ukraine (94.3) to the south (Lynn and Vanhanen, 2012, pp 19-30). … The Standard Progressive Matrices Plus (SPM+) was administered in early 2017 to a sample of 397 13 to 15-year-olds (203 boys and 175 girls) with a mean age of 14.0 years. … The mean score of the boys was 33.6 (SD = 5.8) and mean score of the girls was 33.9 (SD = 5.7). This difference is not statistically significant. The average of the boys and girls is 33.75 and this represents a British IQ of 97.5 on the the British standardization norms for those aged 14.0 given in Raven (2008).

I am personally quite happy with this development, because I have long maintained that Belorussians are about as bright, if not slightly brighter, than Great Russians, and considerably brighter than Ukrainians.

This is accompanied by the footnote that some Great Russians are very bright (e.g. Yaroslavl, leaving aside the Moscow/SPB cognitive clusters) while other Great Russians are quite dull (Irkutsk/Zabaykal, the Kuban).

My reasons for believing this:

  • Has had more post-Soviet economic success than Russia, let alone the Ukraine, despite having no significant natural resources apart from gas pipeline rents.
  • Has accomplished this while preserving widespread state ownership. Even so, it does well on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, suggesting intelligent, technocratic policy-making (Lukashenko’s escapades regardless).
  • Belorussia is more socially liberal than Russia or the Ukraine (the latter despite intensive State Department propaganda).
  • Belorussia also has has higher trust than Russia or the Ukraine.
  • The BSSR was the only Soviet republic apart from the RSFSR that was a net donor to the Soviet budget.
  • Belorussia has had a reputation for producing high quality manufactured products since at least the era of the late USSR, including optical sights and furniture.

Here’s what I wrote about the Belorussians in my comprehensive survey of Russian IQ for Sputnik & Pogrom:

Nobody has yet directly measured Belorussian IQ, nor did they participate in PISA or TIMSS/PIRLS. But we can assume they are comparable to the results from Central Russia. Despite the huge role of the state in the economy and European sanctions, their GDP per capita (PPP) is more than twice as high as that of the Ukrainians. Strangely enough, Belorussians are more “European” in their views than both Russians and Ukrainians: More trusting, less religious, and even more approving of gay marriage, despite the purely ritualistic gay pride parades through the streets of Kiev. Leaving aside any moral judgments, all these positions are associated with higher IQ.

Fortunately, Ukraine and Belarus have finally decided to participate in the next round of PISA, so after December 2019 we will finally have concrete data.

Now n=397 isn’t of course the best sample, but it’s better than nothing, and suggests that my intuitions on this matter were trending in the right direction. But we’ll see come 2019.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Belarus, IQ, Psychometrics 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

666D Checkers, Clever Plan Overclock, Mnogokhodovka Immanentized, etc.

ollie-richardson

mnogokhodovka-definition

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Russia, WTF 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

On May 6, there was a big free speech march through Central London jointly organized by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance and Veterans Against Terrorism.

Many of the big names in the British Alt Lite were attending, so I decided to show up myself. (I appear in the sidelines a few times in this video of the march).

The march began at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, a traditional meeting point for dissidents, preachers, and assorted ranting weirdos, went through central London, and culminated at the entrance to Downing Street.

I estimate turnout at 1,000-2,000 initially, swelling to 5,000 at the end. There were at least a couple of hundred police officers watching over the event. What I found interesting was that all of the “enforcement” was done by the event organizers. For instance, the police didn’t want the marchers to occupy the pavement, and so the event organizers would bark at rally participants to keep on the main thoroughfare whenever they strayed off. This is a huge contrast with Russian protest marchers, whose liberal organizers tend to be unremittingly hostile to and dismissive of the police.

Demographics:

  • Main component were white men, muscular-fat, tattooed prole types, the sort you associate with football hooligans;
  • Some lankier, muscular men with fashy haircuts;
  • The women were almost all prole whites – tend to lean on the pudgy side, lots of tattoos, fake tans;
  • Smattering of Based Black Guys (no women);
  • Foreigners: Americans in MAGA hats, tons of Poles, Mediterraneans, a few Israelis;
  • No Muslims.

Towards the end of the march, a number of people gave short speeches about Islam and freedom of speech.

First guy referred to a Belfast preacher who was charged with hate crimes for criticizing Islam, and then he quoted him directly, e.g. “Islam is a Satanic religion!”, and eliciting massive cheers. Clever way of avoiding hate charges yourself. Just quote other people.

Second guy was some comedian, who condemned Islam because… erm, Kuwaiti women aren’t allowed to get their tits out. (sic). Also “what about all the gay Muslims?”

Third guy was Gerard Batten, current head of UKIP. Boring, don’t recall what he said.

Fourth gal was Anne Marie Waters, head of For Britain. She had the best speech IMO, she’s a great rabble-rouser.

Fifth and last up the stage was Tommy Robinson, who was very much forgettable.

Well, apart from the finale, when he welcomed a drag queen to sing up the stage to prove that New Labour are the real transphobes.

Overall, it’s hard to remain optimistic about the prospects for British nationalism. They managed to bring out a total of about 5,000 people in the capital city on a sunny Sunday, and not even in the name of nationalism as such, but in the name of free speech – or more specifically, the right to make fun of Muslims without going to jail or getting kicked off Twitter. Which is also a laudable goal, but it isn’t quite the same thing.

Compare and contrast with the march of 100,000 nationalists in Warsaw, Poland earlier this year which didn’t end in them collectively cucking to a tranny.

***

london-march-1

Police began to gather early.

london-march-20

There were some antifa, but they didn’t try to disrupt the rally, probably because of the heavy police presence.

london-march-19

Facebook and Twitter censorship against Alt Right voices were a big issue. Note Based Black Guy on the left.

london-march-18

The Chad Preacher: “The Bible guarantees free speech, not the Koran.”

london-march-17

Vegans.

london-march-16

Random based britbong: “Not a commie maggot in sight.”

london-march-15

Based Thot.

london-march-14

Based Black Guy.

london-march-13

Literal AngloZionists. :)

london-march-12

Leaving Hyde Park.

london-march-11

Unironically based Brit.

london-march-10

Britbong biker gang… quaint if underwhelming.

london-march-9

Shepherding deplorables off the sidewalks.

london-march-8

london-march-7

There were probably around 5,000 people in attendance, which is around the size of your average Navalny rally. But unlike the latter, nationalist protests are never going to make top of /r/worldnews.

london-march-6

Speeches in front of Downing Street.

london-march-5

Based Fedora Guy.

london-march-4

March no further.

london-march-3

Anne Marie Waters.

london-march-2

The end.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alt Right, Free Speech, The AK, Travel, United Kingdom 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

The key problem isn’t Washington DC’s direct sanctions – Russia’s trade with the US is small, any restrictions can be easily substituted for or retaliated against, while harsher measures would require an unrealistic degree of international cooperation to be effective.

As I have written, the main problem is American secondary sanctions:

1. The US market is an order of magnitude larger than Russia’s, so it is not only US corporations that will defer to Uncle Sam. This will also hold true for European corporations (most of Russia’s trade is still with Europe), for Chinese corporations (unless the CPC expressly orders them to flout US restrictions), and even for other Russian corporations (e.g. Russian state banking giant Sberbank still doesn’t have any branches in Crimea in what is probably a futile effort to avoid US sanctions).

2. The fact that the US continues to introduce even more severe sanctions against Russian companies – and we haven’t even gotten to the fallout over the Douma alleged chemical weapons attack – will make foreigners even warier of doing business in Russia than they already are, and raise the cost of business across the board.

It appears that Russia is going to legislatively call America’s bluff in the following days. The proposed new laws, which enjoy support from the government and all the main political parties, will:

  1. Impose fines (~$10,000)/prison time (up to 4 years) on individuals and entities who support Western sanctions by refusing to do business with Russian citizens or entities on America’s SDN list.
  2. Impose fines (~$8,000)/prison time (up to 3 years) bans Russian citizens from directly promoting Western sanctions, such as “providing recommendations and sharing information.”

We are currently living in a strange, limbo-like situation where questioning the Crimea’s status as a part of Russia can be qualified as “separatism”, with several people getting prosecuted for doing so, while Sberbank – Russia’s largest, majority state-owned bank – refuses to open branches in the peninsula. With this legislation, Herman Gref’s lawyers – who say they cannot think of a scheme that will enable Sberbank to operate in Crimea without incurring sanctions – will now have to think harder.

As Egor Kholmogorov writes, Russia will now essentially be telling its “offshore patriots” to make a choice between Russia or the Washington Obkom.

Henceforth, there will be real costs associated with enforcing Uncle Sam’s Diktat on sovereign Russian territory.

I would also note perhaps an even more important element of the law is that it will soon force the US to clarify its intentions. If masses of Russian and even some heavily Russia-invested foreign companies start ignoring its secondary sanctions en masse, it will have to decide between turning a blind eye to them, or start serious moves to economically isolate it.

In the former case, the credibility of US secondary sanctions will start collapsing, in addition annulling much of the costs of the risk-related costs of doing business in Russia. This will even have some spillover effects to other countries sanctioned by the US (you’re welcome, Iranians).

In the latter case, the US will have made Russia’s impending choice between capitulation and autarky for it, which would be politically more tolerable.

The timing also could not have been better, what with Washington DC’s secondary sanctions against Iran exciting unusually forthwith protests from Germany and France. Like Alexander Mercouris, I do expect the Europeans to fold, because the United States remains a much more important economic partner than Iran, and in any case the Baltics and Poland can be relied upon to scuttle any EU-wide initiative. Nonetheless, a line has to be drawn in the sand sooner rather than later, and now is as good a time to do it as any.

The second part of the law banning Russian citizens from promoting Western sanctions has elicited squeals of protest from the Russian opposition. These are entirely self-interested. They couldn’t care less when Russians go to jail on the flimsiest “hate” charges – indeed, the “nationalist” Navalny himself was instrumental in getting Tesak locked up under Article 282, and many liberals such as Ksenia Sobchak want to extend anti-free speech laws to also cover pro-Stalinist sentiment.

But boy do they fall into an apoplectic fit when one of their favorite activities – submitting lists of their domestic political enemies to the Washington Obkom for sanctioning – is on the verge of getting criminalized.

Navalny helped the EU compile sanctions on the people who made Crimea’s return to Russia possible in 2014. A year later, he submitted a list of Russian bureaucrats he believed should be sanctioned to the FT, many of whom were indeed later sanctioned by the West. Also in 2015, professional oppositionists Mikhail Kasyanov and Vladimir Kara-Murza traveled to the US to lobby Congress into putting Russian journalists – “propagandists” – on a no entry list for insufficiently fawning coverage of Boris Nemtsov, a famous but politically irrelevant opposition politician who had been recently murdered in Moscow.

Now all these people will face criminal liability for such activities.

The best part is that there are already good precedents for that in the “city on the hill” that the liberals look up to and worship. There is a bipartisan consensus in the US to effectively do away with the First Amendment in order to… criminalize not just participation in, but the mere advocacy of BDS with respect to Israel. This even extends to illegalizing speech that promotes boycotts on goods and services produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Speaking for myself, I condemn all attempts to stifle free speech.

However, if some speech absolutely has to be stifled, it seems to me that Americans doing so for the benefit of Israel is sadder than Russians doing it for the benefit of Russia.

PS. One more confirmation (if any are still needed) that Russia isn’t planning on folding is that the rumors spread by someone that the former liberal Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin was going to be appointed to a senior post in the Russian government have been completely discredited. He has instead been appointed to be head of the National Audit Office, which is perhaps more humiliating than ignoring him entirely.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Economic Sanctions, Russia, United States 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

Map of the biggest airports in Russia and the ex-USSR by 2017 passenger traffic including transit flights.

map-russia-airports-2017

Source: Seva Bashirov

Moscow is clearly a central node, accounting for 89 million passengers in 2017 – up from just 19 million in 2001, near the trough of the post-Soviet collapse.

airports-london-moscow Incidentally, this makes Moscow the world’s 13th biggest city airport system (London is first, with 171 million), having risen up from obscurity in the 1990s (see comparison right).

Growth continues to be vigorous into 2018 – as of this month, there are double-digit percentage increases in passenger traffic relative to the same period last year. [you can follow the stats here, in Russian]

Regional cities remain small fry – a function of their much smaller size (Moscow is 10x as big as any other Russian city other than SPB), less economic potential, and lower transit percentage (in Moscow its at 37%, and accounts for a large percentage of China-Europe flights; indeed, Chinese appears as often as English on signs at Sheremetyevo). However, they are now showing even more vigorous growth than Moscow.

In the past five years, by far the largest increase occurred in Simferopol, Crimea’s main airport, which saw 5.1 million passengers in 2017, versus 1.2 million in 2013. What mainly happened is that the prior Ukrainian tourists coming in by road were replaced by higher-spending Russians flying in.

The picture outside Russia is bleaker. Kiev gets 3x fewer passengers per capita than Moscow; Ukraine’s millionik cities (Kharkov, Kiev, Odessa, Lvov) get 3-5 times fewer passengers per capita than similarly sized regional Russian cities. For obvious reasons, Donetsk Airport is inoperative. However, this also implies room for rapid growth. While passenger traffic in Russia is currently increasing at around 10% per annum, in the Ukraine it’s more like 30% per annum.

The higher than expected figures for Riga and Kishinev are probably on account of them being popular transit nodes, especially for lowcosters such as Air Baltic and Air Moldova, respectively.

russia-air-passengers

Source: burckina-new.livejournal.com/

Here is how the numbers looks like for Russia as a whole (blue – millions of passengers; red – billions of passenger kilometers).

Russia as of 2017, with 105 million passengers carried (86 million in 2016), has increased fivefold since the trough at 22 million passengers in 1998-2000, and exceeded the RSFSR peak of 94 million passengers in 1990 (and overtook it in terms of passenger miles in the early 2010s due to the greater weight of longer international routes).

Relative to international statistics as of 2016, Russia is now comparable to India (120 million), Japan (118 million), and Brazil (94 million), though very far behind the US (823 million) and China (488 million).

sheremetyevo-airport

Sheremetyevo Airport.

These improvements, at least in Russia, have been accompanied by a vigorous airport construction and expansion program. For instance, Sheremetyevo has overgrown its old, classic Soviet carapace (Terminal F) with new, wavy steel-and-glass buildings, and an underground railway will soon be constructed to connect its north and south parts. Domodedovo was thoroughly modernized even earlier, during the 2000s, when it briefly overtook Sheremetyevo to become Russia’s busiest airport. Incidentally, Domodedovo even has one of Moscow’s better Indian restaurants.

However, these improvements are by now means limited to Moscow. Gleaming new constructions have sprung up throughout Russia, including in the most remote and unlikely places.

I would venture to guess that airports constituted Russia’s biggest infrastructure improvements under Putin.

russia-aircraft-construction

Source: Sputnik & Pogrom: What’s happening in Russia’s aviation industry?

russia-aircraft-construction-2

Source: Ruxpert

This ensures a solid domestic market for Russian aircraft construction, which collapsed in the 1990s due to a mixture of uncompetitiveness as well as the political elites’ disinterestedness in maintaining Russian industry, and has only recently started to recover.

The few dozens of civilian liners produced per year in Russia – mostly the Sukhoi Superjet 100, which seats 80-100 passengers – pale in comparison to just the hundreds of Boeing 737s produced in their Everett factory in Washington every year.

Moreover, up until 2014, a large percentage of the SSJ-100′s more complex components, including the engine and avionics, were produced in the West.

However, since the onset of Western sanctions, the share of domestic components has been increased to 75% by 2017, and the numbers are similar for the Irkut MC-21, a larger, newer craft seating 150-210 passengers, which is on the cusp of entering serial production.

Moreover, the MC-21 (design began in 2006) was designed from the very outset to have a much higher share of Russian components than the SSJ-100 (design began in 2000).

ssj100-components

SSJ-100 components by nation of origin.

mc21-components

MC-21 components by nation of origin.

A widebody aircraft seating 300 passengers called the CRAIC CR929 is being mutually developed with China and should be ready in another decade, challenging the Boeing/Airbus duopoly at all ranges.

Consequently, Russian aircraft production should increase in coming years, driven by both domestic demand and political factors (e.g. state airliner Aeroflot will eventually need to renew its Boeing/Airbus fleet, and Iran may be a major potential customer).

With MC-21 production projected at 20 per year around 2020 and 70 per year in 2024, Russia should be producing around 150-200 civilian aircraft each year by the mid-2020s, which will return it to RSFSR levels.

PS. Seva Bashirov also reposts statistics gathered by the blogger harding1989 about USSR city statistics for 1965, 1970, 1975, and 1980. The top 12 cities are reproduced.

City 1965 1970 1975 1980
Поток % Поток % Поток % Поток %
Moscow 4218 36 7957 32 11690 30 14199 34
Leningrad 1132 11 2215 10 2875 10 3314 10
Tashkent 1070 32 1748 25 2731 23 3235 23
Kiev 985 20 1952 20 2668 15 2746 12
Novosibirsk 698 39 1311 41 2024 36 2099 32
Sverdlovsk 666 30 1208 31 1747 23 2085 18
Krasnoyarsk 607 17 1119 21 1701 19 2023 22
Minvody 605 15 1191 13 1855 10 2002 8
Khabarovsk 571 45 1025 43 1718 50 1961 50
Sochi 820 3 1212 3 1649 2 1920 2
Simferopol 781 4 1200 4 1672 3 1880 2
Alma-Ata 485 18 854 14 1311 10 1594 11

PS. Thanks to Jon Hellevig for some of the links and observations.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Airports, Living Standards, Manufacturing, Russia 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

There are some pretty strange ideas floating around that Russia is obligated to help Syria/Iran in their decades-long squabbles with Israel, and that Putin is “betraying his people” by not doing so.

Well, last time I checked, Putin is President of Russians, not Syrians/Iranians. Indeed, the term “сирийские братушки” (“Syrian brothers”) has long been an ironic meme on Runet to denote the absurdity of such appeals. I don’t even disagree with the assertion that Putin betrayed his people. It’s just that it happened in 2014, not on any of the dozen occasions when he failed to wage a nuclear war with Israel to indulge some Westerners’ peculiar ideological fantasies about Russia as the antipode to the Zionist menace.

In any case, Putin never even reacted to the outright American murders of Russian mercenaries in Syria, so it would if anything be absurd – not to mention supremely insulting (to Russians) – if he was to do more for Iranian ones.

Alexander Mercouris spelled out why Russia has no rational incentives to take a side in Arab/Israeli squabbles back in 2017:

It is not just that the Western media can be relied up never to criticise any action Israel takes however wrong or outrageous it might be. The dismal truth is that none of the world’s major governments do so either. Not only does the US invariably support Israel whatever it does and however outrageous its actions might be, but the days when Israeli actions would come in for strong criticism from the governments of Russia and China are long gone.

The Russians and the Chinese have their hardheaded practical reasons for this change of stance. Since the Arabs are incapable of taking a united stand against Israel, there is little sense in them doing so. Besides the Russians were badly burnt during the period from roughly 1967 to 1985, when they took a strong stand against Israel only to be blamed by the Arabs for their own failures, and when they found that Arab Jihadis were far keener to fight them in Afghanistan than to fight the Israelis. Needless to say after that experience the Russians have no intention of sticking their necks out for the Arabs again.

And more recently:

When following the 1967 Six Days War the Russians did commit themselves wholeheartedly to one side in the Arab-Israeli conflict – backing the Arabs diplomatically, arming the Arabs intensively, sending a strong military force to defend Egypt in 1970 from Israeli air attacks, and breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel – the result for Moscow was a catastrophe.

The USSR’s large Jewish community became alienated, the USSR found that by making an enemy of Israel it had further poisoned its relations with the Western powers at precisely the time when it was seeking detente with them, and the USSR quickly discovered that its Arab ‘allies’ in whom it had invested so much were both ungrateful and treacherous, so that by 1980 the USSR’s entire position in the Middle East had completely collapsed.

The final straw came after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, when volunteers from across the Arab world rushed to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, in a way that they had never shown the slightest indication of wanting to do against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Not surprisingly, the Russians have therefore since the mid-1980s been determined never to become directly involved in any part of the Arab-Israel conflict again.

Thus whilst Russia maintains good relations with the Arab states, and whilst Russia continues to voice support for the Palestinians, Russia has always striven to maintain good relations with Israel as well, and has forged significant economic links with Israel.

One additional point I would make it is that many of these fervent opponents of the AngloZionists were also some of the most active at propagating the meme about how intervening in the Ukraine in 2014 was an AngloZionist trap to draw Russia into WW3 and praising the 666D chess brilliance of the Minsk Accords, while shouting down its critics as hysterical panickers, if not outright sixth columnists.

So sorry to break it to them that Russia is not going to fight a war with Israel, or even cut economic ties, for the sake of the desert training arena. Actually not very sorry at all. The rise in oil prices is to be looked forwards to.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Russia, Syrian Civil War 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

The idea that the pomp and pageantry around the annual festivities commemorating Victory in the Great Patriotic War constitute a sort of foundational myth of the Russian state is a popular one.

There are any number of articles on the Internet making this argument, mostly from the last few years, though come to think of it, I was writing very similar things back in 2010:

The Kremlin is faced with a dilemma in reconciling Stalin with Victory. Promoting the Victory isn’t only feelgood propaganda. It is very useful. It stokes the social cohesion that Russia needs to consolidate itself, and to actualize her shift towards sobornost’ (the catch-all term for a deep sense of internal peace and unity between races, religions, sexes, etc, within a society). It also creates powerful bonds with other peoples of the erstwhile USSR, buttressing the Kremlin’s drive to (re)gather the Russian lands. For this reason, under Putin, Russia has devoted lavish attention to the public spectacle of Victory. The Victory parades in Moscow become ever more impressive, – indeed, imperial – with every passing year. Under the initiative of Kremlin-affiliated youth movements, the Ribbon of Saint George was popularized as a symbol of Victory since 2005. This harkens back to the Medal For the Victory Over Germany, which was awarded after the war to all the soldiers, officers and partisans who directly participated in live combat actions against the European Axis. A medal dominated by Stalin’s visage.

Since then, the trend has, if anything, accelerated, with the grassroots emergence of the Immortal Regiments marches, a much more humane and introspective ritual that emphasizes the human costs of the war to ordinary Russians.

But this was in 2010. The current year is 2018, and a lot of things have become much clearer since then, often in a depressing direction. It’s time for a reconsideration.

1. The Soviets themselves didn’t make a big deal of it.

The main holiday under the Marxist-Leninist regime was always May 1, the internationalist labor holiday. This is hardly surprising – the Soviets thought they were boldly marching to the victory of the global proletarian revolution, and considering Victory Day as the apex of their history would have seemed insane to them. It’s worth stressing that May 9 only became a public holiday in 1965, which also marked the second ever Victory parade in Moscow. The third was in 1985.

1985. Only the third ever Victory Day parade in Moscow.

It was only when the Soviet order started disintegrating that Victory Day started becoming sacralized. The next one appeared in 1990, on the eve of the USSR’s collapse. And they became yearly event in 1995, at the absolute nadir of Russia’s decline. Essentially, the post-sovok elites created it as a palliative to draw attention away from the fact that everything else had been lost – and their own looting. Consequently, it is worth noting that the vast majority of the veterans of the Great Patriotic War lived most of their lives without Victory Day being an annual religious event.

Now one might rejoinder that the non-Communist Russian patriot might rejoinder that Victory Day is by far not the worst Schelling point around which to base modern Russian identity – after all, it has connotations of patriotism, unity, self-sacrifice. The following points will address this.

2. You cannot sanitize Victory from Communists.

You can certainly try, and the Kremlin certainly does, but ultimately Stalin is as canonical a figure as Churchill in Britain, or F.D. Roosevelt in the US. Dissociating it from Communism is hardly feasible when the current denizens of the Kremlin watch over the Victory parade from a cheap cardboard pedestal, while the soldiers and war machines drive past the imposing granite monolith that is the tomb of the malevolent founder of the Soviet state, with his name prominently inscribed upon it. The former seems fleeting, insecure; the latter powerful, eternal. At least in their current form, Victory Day celebrations are a permanently running, lowkey legitimization of the multinational mafia that took Russia hostage and killed millions of Russians along with Hitler.

3. It is a celebration of idiocy.

The entire ruinous war would have been averted if not for the decades of Bolshevik treason, extremism, and stupidity that had preceded it and helped lead to it.

Russia was slated to be on the winning side of World War I. The Bolsheviks, and especially Lenin, need to take the credit from grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. Conversely, Germany’s defeat would have been all the more comprehensive, making its future resurgence – with pro-Russian kingdoms installed in Bohemia and Poland – all the more improbable.

Without the memory of the Red Terror and the reality of Stalin’s tyranny, there would have been no bourgeois reaction against Leftism and “weak” democracies in Europe; the Nazi coup was an incredibly close-run thing as it was. Even a relative “moderate” at the Soviet helm, such as Nikolay Bukharin, who was open to cooperating with Social Democrats, would have been sufficient to forestall that timeline.

Even all that aside, a Russia that avoided a decade of lost industrial development due to the Civil War, around 15 million deaths due to the Civil War and recurring famines, a sullen peasantry that was initially willing to welcome the Germans before their depredations became known, the Red Army purges, and the persecutions of Tsarist technical specialists would have been much better positioned to counter a German invasion, without the vast sacrifices (27 million Soviet dead) that they actually entailed.

map-schulte-1915-ww1

French post-war plans in 1915.

The USSR in 1945 merely acquired the territories that the Russian Empire would have otherwise acquired or vassalized after WW1 (minus Finland, Tsargrad, and Greater Armenia). Not that Russians ever benefited from it – in 1947, “victorious” Russia experienced another major famine with 1.5 million deaths (that’s thrice more than the worst famine under late Tsarism, but hardly anyone knows about it), because grain was requisitioned to feed the “defeated” Germans in order to politically solidify the GDR. It then fostered hate against itself by locking the countries it had occupied, along with itself, into four decades of economic idiocy – before proceeding to give it all away in exchange for empty promises.

This is what “Victory” amounted to. Pure, distilled idiocy. SO WHAT ARE WE EVEN CELEBRATING?

4. It fosters the spread of idiotic attitudes and values.

Intelligent people, such as Americans, don’t want to die for their country – they want foreign bastards to die for theirs. Soviet cretins celebrate Russians dying for the “victory of the Soviet people against fascism.”

This leads to an entire complex of harmful and self-defeating attitudes.

First, it contributes to the sentiment that the guys in epaulettes – most personified by the Georgian mustachioed one – know best and cannot be questioned. This implicitly encourages subservience to power, even in the face of the most self-evident incompetence, corruption, and betrayal of national interests. Do you think that Mutko, Russia’s Sports Minister, who has overseen the discreding of Russia in international sports and has become a byword for incompetence and venality, isn’t qualified to manage a food stall let alone be promoted to the Deputy Prime Ministership in charge of housing? Do you think the pot-bellied 90 IQ cockroaches at Roskomnadzor should not have the divine right to determine what you can and cannot read? Too bad. You need to suck it up, because blind sacrifice for the glory of the country is the right thing to do.

Second, it deludes Russians into thinking that they died to “protect the world against fascism” or something similarly silly. In reality, they died – due to Communist incompetence, in far greater numbers than was necessary – to prevent themselves from being exterminated by Germans. After all, Stalin’s USSR was far more dangerous to Russians, even Communist ones, than Mussolini’s Italy, the birthplace of fascism, which over the two decades of its existence executed just nine people (most of them terrorists). This prevents Russians from clearly understanding the deep undercurrent of racial hatred that animates European Russophobia and fosters harmful delusions to this day, such as the absurd preoccupation with the German relationship.

5. It twists historical facts to impose a politically correct multinational ideology.

victory-placard

Walking through the Ekaterininsky Park in Moscow, near the Central Military Museum, one gets the distinct impression that it was Caucasians and Central Asians who won the war while Vanya drank vodka in the rear.

Reality was of course quite different.

soviet-military-deaths-ww2-by-percentage-of-ethnicity

The contributions of Central Asians were minor relative to their populations, and their presence often lowered rather than raised combat effectiveness (even in the late USSR, they were disproportionately assigned to the lowest-quality Class C rearguard divisions). Meanwhile, mobilization in the Muslim North Caucasus, especially Chechnya, failed entirely; collaboration was so extensive that deportation of their entire people to Kazakhstan was more humane than the “legalistic” alternative, which was the execution of most of their menfolk.

Still, history has always been used to service present-day political priorities, and as this constitutes multi-nationalism in the Russian Federation, everything else follows.

6. Even so, it is not even effective at that.

The Near Abroad is drifting away from Russia regardless, because few young Uzbeks are interested in “celebrating with tears in their eyes” what is to them the conclusion of a foreign country’s military campaign three generations ago.

In 2016, Kazakhstan canceled its Victory Day march even as it accelerated the transition to the Latin alphabet. The Immortal Regiments marches, perhaps the one genuinely grassroots Russian expression of Victory, have been getting banned in Tajikistan (a quarter of its GDP generated by remittances from Russia) and now Belorussia (which enjoys cheaper gas from Russia than Russians themselves).

Nor can Victory in WW2 be used as a vector of soft power – not when the vast majority of Westerners know of the USSR’s contributions though German generals’ war memoirs and believe that it was the Americans who were responsible for the defeat of Nazi Germany:

poll-ussr-usa-contributed-allied-victory-ww2

The East Europeans, and after the Maidan even official Ukraine (which now marks only the Western May 8 Victory Day, using the remembrance poppy it pilfered from Britain as its symbol), consider the Russian version of Victory Day as a disgusting celebration of Russian chauvinism and imperialism. At some level, these attitudes are of course understandable – the Communists robbed their national futures, just as they did Russia’s. But mention the Germans’ plans for them, and most will consider you a troll.

And it’s likely that, over time, Central Asia, Armenia, and Belorussia will follow in the same footsteps. All the signs are there.

Thanks to Russia’s loser status, its continued association with loser ideologies, and its catastrophic lack of any soft power (RT and Sputnik exist just to troll Westerners), things can hardly be otherwise.

7. People stuck in the past have no future.

Going back to the first point, recall that even the Soviets – blasting the first man into space and dreaming of world proletarian revolution – would have thought it insane to make Victory in WW2 the lynchpin of their history.

This is doubly insane for Russian civilization, which should not be confused with the entity presently calling itself the Russian Federation, which has always had trouble justifying its own existence.

In the past decade, the only addition to the national myth has been the reincorporation of Crimea, which was entirely right and proper, but it’s lame and gay to make what is ultimately just a marginal adjustment to Russia’s 17th century borders a cornerstone of the national ideology. Relative to the dreams and ambitions briefly unleashed by the Russian Spring in 2014, the blatantly politicized celebrations over Crimea – up to and including making its anniversary coincide with the date of Putin’s elections – sooner make a mockery of the entire affair.

Here are a few real national ideas worthy of Russian civilization:

  • The regathering of the Russian lands
  • Genetic IQ augmentation
  • Atomically blasting Imperial Russian Navy battleships off into space

These are all cool, WINNER ideas that self-respecting Russians can get behind.

Participating in this lame Soviet LOSER ritual, designed in its present form under Yeltsin to mask the fundamental hollowness of the Russian Federation – thanks but no thanks.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Russia, World War II 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

putin-inauguration-2018

So Putin has just entered his fourth and almost certainly last term.

Where to now?

Putin has a vast, legitimate mandate to leave his final imprint on Russia, but what precisely that involves is still just a black box – as I repeatedly noted during my Russia elections coverage, Putin did not even bother with a campaign as such, (correctly) betting that riding on the Crimean tailwinds would be more than sufficient to ensure him a dominating victory.

For now, the main indication is that there will be less military spending – even if the real size of the decline is exaggerated by a pure accounting issue – with the money saved from that, as well as proceeds from a new sales tax, financing considerably increasing spending on infrastructure, healthcare, and education. Russia certainly could do with the former two, even if the benefits of more education spending (as opposed to elite science research) are dubious. However, we can hardly expect him to challenge the prevailing global orthodoxy.

Personnel is key, so we will need to wait for the Ministerial appointments before we can seriously speculate about foreign policy course in an period during which Russia’s options are increasingly narrowing down to capitulation vs. increased autarky.

It is pretty clear that Medvedev will stay on as PM. There have been rumors spread by someone in The Financial Times that Kudrin is being considered for a high position – maybe even a newly created Vice Presidential one, according to John Helmer. As the latter argues, this would in effect translate to the capitulation option, i.e. “a policy of withdrawal from the Ukraine and Syrian fronts on the terms demanded by Washington.” I don’t buy this. While I have certainly made it clear that I don’t consider the kremlins to be geniuses, I don’t think they’re that stupid either. Moreover, the personal relationship between Medvedev and Kudrin is toxic, so it’s hard to see both of them on the same team let alone coordinating such a scheme.

It is also near certain that longtime warhorse Sergey Lavrov is leaving his post as Foreign Minister. He is not in Putin’s “inner circle” and this should be viewed as a conventional retirement of a bureaucrat. There are rumors in the Russian press that he is slated to be replaced by Anton Vaino, the little-known Chief of State of the Presidential Administration. Since Vaino is even less qualified to lead the Foreign Ministry than he is for his current position, hopefully this will not be the case.

The main challenge, apart from foreign policy and mounting Western sanctions, is the political transition after Putin. In particular, it’s worth seeing if Dyumin – the eternal “dark horse” successor candidate to Putin – gets promoted from his Tula governorship, because the window for building him up as the successor will otherwise start closing. Putin might be greatly popular now, but Crimea is going to start wearing off sooner rather later – I have observed it has already been doing so amongst the cognitive elites (e.g. the forums of MIPT alumni), and it’s only a matter of time before it spreads to the rest of society. So quietly sitting on his laurels, as Putin has been doing for most of the past year and counting, is not a viable option.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Russia, Vladimir Putin 
🔊 Listen RSS
 

us-soviet-flag

Translator’s Foreword (Fluctuarius Argenteus)

The doubtless success of the “primer” for Kholmogorov’s Solzhenitsyn treatise has compelled both the author and the translator to publish another “juicy bit” from the sprawling work. This part of the article analyzes Solzhenitsyn’s rejection of the Enlightenment that led him to lambast Andrey Sakharov’s project of a gradual “convergence” between Communism and Capitalism, causing a split within the dissident movement. It serves as a useful and engaging glimpse into Solzhenitsyn’s anti-Enlightenment, anti-Globalist, outspokenly nationalist philosophy that has reacquired relevance in recent years.

Most of the footnotes and tangents of the original text have been truncated, paraphrased, or incorporated into the body of the article proper. Several insignificant abridgements have been made, with the author’s consent.

***

The Enlightenment of Our Discontent

Solzhenitsyn was 20th century’s most consistent and paradoxical opponent of the Enlightenment. The paradox lied in the fact that he did not challenge Enlightenment secular humanism from the standpoint of a reactionary anti-humanism. Solzhenitsyn’s criticism came from a humane viewpoint, consistent and empathetic towards both the nation and the individual. This paradox was something that didn’t escape André Glucksman’s attention during his discussion with Solzhenitsyn on French TV: “For me, this man directly belongs and adheres to a group of writers who dedicated their talent to the cause of struggle for justice. However, some of those writers, such as Tolstoy, Zola, or Hugo, completely accepted and completely corresponded to the Enlightenment ideology. But Solzhenitsyn is now critical of this ideology, hence the paradox.” (Le Bouillon de culture talk show , broadcast on 17 September 1993 )

Solzhenitsyn resisted the Enlightenment by employing the language of suffering and acting as the voice of pain endured by those martyred for the cause of “Enlightenment ideals” during two Enlightenment-inspired revolutions: that of the French Jacobins and that of the Russian Bolsheviks. From this viewpoint, he definitely belongs to the “naturalistic” strain of Conservatism. However, he explicitly spurns Rousseauist naturalism and rejects its “noble savage” and his society-dependent “nobility”: “I am most unlike Rousseau in my views. Claiming that humans are good by nature but corrupted by their environment and circumstances was a grave error. I have always said, many times, that the line between good and evil is not drawn between governments, parties, or nations, but through every human heart. A human being is naturally inclined to both good and evil.” (Die Zeit interview, 1993)

Transferring the burden of responsibility for a moral choice between good and evil is the main sin against humanity committed, according to Solzhenitsyn, by the Enlightenment philosophy: “When religion started to wane in the 18th century (the 19th in certain areas), this faith was transposed onto the social system alone. After the loss of religious sentiment, the route of individual self-perfection, the way of individual education started to weaken, and the center of gravity shifted to this: once we change society, we’ll fix all of our problems.” Attempts at transforming humanity via a social transformation of the society were paid with the bloody toll of the guillotine and the Gulag.

That is why “Enlightenment” is one of the most negatively charged notions in Solzhenitsyn’s lexicon. “If the Earth is finite, then its spaces and resources are finite, and it is unfit for the sort of endless, limitless progress that was hammered into our heads by Enlightenment fantasists”, he wrote in his 1973 Letter to the Leaders of the Soviet Union.

A quarter of the century later, and the Limits to Growth myth-making of the Club of Rome, so influential in Solzhenitsyn’s early writings, is nowhere to be seen. Instead of a technological and environmental crisis, the West is faced with its own imperial Globalism. This was the subject of one of Solzhenitsyn’s last notable discourses, Degeneration of Humanism, read in December 2000 at the award ceremony for the Grand Prix of the French Académie des sciences morales et politiques. Once more, Solzhenitsyn drives an onslaught against the Enlightenment and its usual companion, secular humanism, as the main culprits of the modern crisis:

“Humanism was captivated by the seductive idea of taking from Christianity all of its noblest ideas, its goodness, its compassion towards the oppressed and the wretched, its acceptance of free will… while somehow doing without the Creator of the Universe.”

From time to time, humanism did succeed at assuaging cruelties. Nevertheless, over the course of the 20th century, the world was wrecked with two terrible wars, and in their wake, trying to preserve its zealous idealism, humanism morphed into a “humanism of promises”. Promises of establishing a rational worldwide order, giving equal rights to the entire population of the globe, creating a world government…

And, in its turn, this round of promises ended in falsehood.

“The term “progress for everyone” started to lapse from common usage. If some concessions are to be made by someone, somewhere, why should it be us, the most effective and developed nations, the Golden Billion?.. The gap between the most and least advanced countries keeps growing instead of shrinking. There is a hard rule: you fall behind once, you are to doomed to falling behind forever… If someone on this planet must dampen their industries, why not do it at the expense of the Third World? There are powerful financial and economic tools for that: world banks, transnational corporations… Is such a change completely unexpected for Humanism? Let’s recall that, during its development, there was a period, after d’Holbach, Helvétius, and Diderot, when a theory of “rational egotism” was proclaimed and gained significant traction… And now the current Russian press writes about an “enlightened egotistical interest.” Egotistical, but still enlightened , you see…”

As the zeitgeist changed, so did intellectual movements that influenced Solzhenitsyn. From a partisan of the Limits to Growth theory, he turned into a caustic anti-Globalist, pulling the mask off the same anti-industrialism that used to enthrall him, revealing it as an ideology of saving resources at the expense of the weak. There is one constant, however: Solzhenitsyn traces the evils of the modern world to the Enlightenment paradigm. “From the Age of the Enlightenment”, he argues, “grow the roots of Liberalism, Socialism, and Communism alike.”

This Enlightenment humanism led to making it “possible – with only the most humane of goals in mind! – to carry out a three-month long bombing of a European country populated by millions, robbing large cities and entire regions of electricity, so vital in our day and age, and destroying without hesitation marvelous European bridges over the Danube. Is it in the name of saving one part of the populace from deportation – and dooming the other part to the same fate? Is it in the name of healing a country branded a “sick man” – or is it in the name of stripping it of a lucrative province?” The 1999 Kosovo War, a watershed of Russian consciousness in its relations with the West, was, for Solzhenitsyn, the latest fruit of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment of Solzhenitsyn’s writings is a composite image, if you will, a general metaphor of the evils of modernity that he was opposed to. The two millstones that his grain has been caught between – those of Communism and Western Liberalism – are, essentially, parts of the same Enlightenment windmill. Two roads to the same abyss, to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn’s ally Igor Shafarevich, were laid by the same motor grader, with Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau pulling its levers.

Feud with Sakharov

The entire period of Solzhenitsyn activity as a publicist, thinker, intellectual, and political prophet is a constant and fierce duel with the Enlightenment. And it begins with a resistance to the menace of convergence, that is, a rapprochement and a fusion of the two versions of the Enlightenment project: Soviet Communism and Western Liberalism.

To properly understand what the concept means, we should turn to the reality of late 1960s – early 1970s. For an analyst at that time, it seemed beyond any doubt that “convergence” was the keyword of the decade. A democratic West and a Communist East were drawn together, heading towards a complete merger.

In the West, the Left reaches the apex of its power. Leftist parties, and Leftist ideas even more so, influence the policy-making of most Western countries. In the US, Lyndon Johnson ushers in his Great Society programs and rapidly does away with racial segregation. In the UK, the Labour are almost always in power (and when they aren’t, Tory policies aren’t that different). In France, General de Gaulle not only pursues friendship with the Soviet Union but also strongarms entrepreneurs into a system of sharing their revenue with their workers. In Germany, Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik ends an acrimonious confrontation between its West and East. The youth revolution of 1968, despite its defeat, changes the paradigm of social consciousness.

The USSR and its satellites, dubbed as “the East”, undergo a different revolution, social and psychological in character. While the official Soviet Union is engaged in a confrontation, and sometimes even a war, with the West, the average Soviet citizen craves nothing else than becoming Western in all respects – in fashion, music, books, ideas, living standards and lifestyle. Consumerism becomes the foundation of life choices. The main grievance with the Soviet regime has nothing to do with its suppression of freedom, persecution of religion, stifling of free thought, exploitation or expropriation. The main discontent is that it fails to provide living standards commensurate with the consumption standards of the West (or their imitation, such as a Lada instead of a Fiat). The Prague Spring of 1968 is a suppressed revolution just like the Paris Spring, but it is also seen as a major paradigm shift – a complete loss of faith in Soviet Communism by pretty much everyone.

The development of this situation, it seemed, could follow but a single scenario: a Détente and a gradual waning of hostilities and erasure of borders between West and East, with a well-fed European demi-Socialism at one end of the bridge and a famished Soviet demi-bourgeoisie at the other. Both sides would, of course, stamp out the “radicals”: the “Stalinists”, hell-bent on continuing class struggle until the bitter end, and the Right, made of out reactionaries, nationalists, and Christians rejecting Communism specifically because of its radical secularism and lack of nationality.

In the long run, it would lead to a fusion of the Soviet Union with the West as its demi-periphery with a sizeable geopolitical autonomy, a consolidation of all versions of the Enlightenment historical project, and the coming of a Euro-Communist, Socialist, and Liberal Reformist “end of history”. This would be exactly the future envisioned by one of the heroes of the age, Academician Andrei Sakharov, in his Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom (1968):

Stage 1: […] A growing struggle of ideas between Stalinists and Maoists on one side and realistically minded left-wing Leninists and “Occidentalists” on the other leads to […] chartering the course to a deeper peaceful coexistence, a stronger democracy, and wider economic reforms (1968 to 1980).

Stage 2: In the USA and other Capitalist countries, the assertive demands of real life […] lead to the victory of the left, reform-conscious wing of the bourgeoisie. In their actions, they adopt a program of a rapprochement, or “convergence”, with Socialism… This program envisions a stronger role for the intelligentsia in the struggle against racism and militarism (1972 to 1985).

Stage 3: The Soviet Union and the USA, leaving their differences behind, solve the problem of rescuing the “poorer” half of the globe… They construct enormous chemical fertilizer factories and nuclear-powered irrigation systems… At the same time, disarmament is well underway (1972 to 1990)

Stage 4: A Socialist Convergence leads to weakening the contradictions of social structures… to a world government and a mollifying of national antagonism (1968 to 2002)”

The picture of a consolidated Communo-Liberal world, built on a common Enlightenment foundation and unfit for nations and national uniqueness, where Red atheists continue to lord over the destiny of the Russian people (who will also be subject to, in Sakharov’s term, a “very cultured world management” – all of this was so repugnant to Solzhenitsyn that he wasted no time in rushing into battle.

By the point of Solzhenitsyn’s transformation into a public civic thinker, his views solidified around an unwavering opposition to the entirety of the post-Medieval “orbital route” of humanity, starting with the Renaissance and the Reformation. For Solzhenitsyn, the only difference between Soviet Communism and Western Liberalism is the intensity and the degree of violence in their imposing of godlessness. In the Letter to the Leaders, he emphasized that “atheism was the main emotional center of inspiration for Marxism, and the remainder of its doctrine was tacked onto this.”

Solzhenitsyn equally rejects a Western ingrowth into Communism, leading to lenience towards totalitarian Soviet repression, and an ingrowth of the USSR into the Western system through its acceptance of consumerist behavior patterns. One of the final chapters of Cancer Ward is a peculiar manifestation of these anti-consumerist views, shown through Kostoglodov’s confusion and irritation at a Tashkent department store during his attempts at buying a “lightweight smoothing-iron”. The extremely meager range of goods on sale is portrayed as an unnecessary and obscene opulence, as a meaningless clutter of useless objects, and an overheard snippet of a conversation about a “size 50 shirt with a size 39 collar” nearly drives the protagonist into a frenzy.

The main spiritual foe of Solzhenitsyn’s is not Communism by itself and not the liberal West but what they have in common: a project of improving human life without God, the general preference given to the material over the spiritual. The greatest danger for him is a threat of consolidation of the two Enlightenment projects on a single platform. Such a consolidation would lead to an unstoppable reinforcement of the Enlightenment world order and a doubling of the negatives of the two Enlightenment “schools of thought”.

It was entirely logical that Solzhenitsyn’s first attempt at political debate, the As Breathing And Consciousness Return article opening the seminal dissident anthology From Under the Rubble published in Paris in 1974, would be a dispute with Sakharov’s Convergence project.

Solzhenitsyn argues that a conflict between Stalinism and Leninism is impossible because Stalinism is Leninism put to practice. Socialism, as a revolutionary ideology, is incompatible with any sort of ethics or nonviolence and thus cannot lead to a peaceful coexistence.

As a counterweight to Sakharov’s globalism, Solzhenitsyn consistently emphasizes nationalism:

“Against the current of Marxism, the 20th century gave us the limitless strength and vitality of national sentiment, which impels us to ponder more thoroughly over this conundrum: Why is humanity so clearly quantified in terms of nations, no less so than in terms of individuals? Is this national faceting not one of the greatest riches of humankind? Should it be erased? Can it?”

In the text of his Nobel lecture (1970), the Russian writer is even more assertive in formulating his nationalist and anti-Globalist manifesto:

“Lately, it has become fashionable to speak of an erasure of nations, of peoples vanishing in a melting pot of modern civilization. I disagree… the disappearance of nations would make us even poorer than making all humans alike, having the same character, the same face… Nations are humanity’s treasure and its collective personalities; the smallest of them has its own colors and conceals within itself a special facet of God’s design…”

Finally, Solzhenitsyn lands a powerful blow against his main unspoken enemy – the Convergence theory.

“For solving the ethical problems of humankind, the prospect of a convergence is a rather dreary one: two flawed societies with their own vices, slowly coming together and turning one into the other, what can they produce? A society that is doubly immoral.”

A convergence does not produce a mutual transfer of advantages, just a duplication of vices typical of either type of society. Those vices are rooted in their common foundation – the Enlightenment, and, consequently, atheism.

Solzhenitsyn is very well aware of Sakharov’s true intentions behind his statement that a Globalist convergence would produce a planetary government best described as a “very cultured world management”. This program of transit from a “Socialist democracy” and plain old “democracy” towards an authoritarian rule of Enlightenment “holy orders” forces Solzhenitsyn to lay out a completely opposite plan: an exodus from Communism via a nationalist authoritarianism heaving closer to earth, to the soil, to the breath of historical tradition.

Continuing his debate with Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn grinds his axe particularly against the “democratic” utopia of Occidentalist dissidents.

“An external freedom, freedom by itself, can it be the ultimate goal of sentient creatures? Or is it but a form for accomplishing other, loftier tasks?”

“In a persistent search for political freedom… it would be useful to understand what to do with it. We achieved this freedom in 1917 (and it kept expanding month by month) – and how did we use it? Grab your rifle and go wherever your fancy takes you. Cut off the wire from a telegraph pole for your own personal use…”

To debate democratic utopianism, Solzhenitsyn employs a principle of historical duration. The bulk of human history unfolded under an Ancien Régime, but people still could live, and their lives weren’t particularly bad.

“…In the long course of human history, there have been rather few democratic republics, but people kept living for centuries, and not always in a bad way. They even felt this much-vaunted happiness, which is sometimes called pastoral or patriarchal and wasn’t simply invented by literature. And they managed to preserve the physical health of the nation (it is apparent because nations haven’t lapsed into degeneracy). They also preserved a spiritual health reflected, for example, in folklore and proverbs, a health much greater than the one expressed nowadays in ape-like radio melodies, musical hits, and bothersome commercials. Can a radio audience from outer space guess that this planet once had – and then left behind – Bach, Rembrandt, and Dante

Among those forms of government, there were many authoritarian ones, that is, based on a submission to an authority of a widely divergent source and quality… For many centuries, Russia endured many forms of authoritarianism but preserved herself and her health, and avoided the self-destructions that would happen in the 20th century. Millions of our rural forefathers who had existed over ten centuries did not feel at their deathbeds that they had lived overly intolerable lives…”

This argument, of course, could only be thought of by an anti-progressive, by someone not enthralled by the achievements of the industrial age, with its automobiles, TV sets, a developed medicine and supermarkets round every corner. Solzhenitsyn rejects an implied postulate of the progressive model: the relative growth of historical weight depending on the century, where the 19th century is infinitely more “weighty” than the 13th, and the 20th more so than the 19th. After enduring the main horrors of the 20th century, Solzhenitsyn is thoroughly skeptical of this thesis, and deliberately paints in the first chapters of August 1914 a near-pastoral picture of an Old Regime annihilated by the revolution.

Within the historical optics where the 20th century is not more important or relevant than the 10th, millennia of authoritarian, patriarchal regimes definitely have more weight than the short span of “democratic republics”, which has yet to demonstrate its stability and long-term effectiveness. Solzhenitsyn is more perturbed not by the autocracy of the past but by the “autocracies”, or rather totalitarian dictatorships, of the present (in the form of Communist partocracies) or the future (in the form of Liberal technocracies run by “very cultured people”).

“What is truly terrible is not authoritarianism by itself but regimes that bear no responsibility to anyone or anything. The autocrats of bygone religious ages, invested with a seemingly limitless power, felt their responsibility before God and their own conscience. Modern-day autocrats are more dangerous because it’s hard to find higher values that are binding for them…” As Solzhenitsyn’s main value is not progress, not consumerist plenty, not external freedom but a possibility to direct one’s soul to God, his rejection of Communism is logically followed not by an embracement of Occidentalist democracy but by a system more conducive to “render unto God the things that are God’s”.

“If Russia had been accustomed to living under authoritarians system for centuries, and a democratic system brought her to unraveling in the course of just eight months of 1917, then – I do not claim it, I merely ask – perhaps one should accept that an evolutionary development of our country from one type of authoritarianism to another would be more natural, smooth, and painless?” Without this polemics against Sakharov’s Convergence one cannot comprehend other principal ideas posited by Solzhenitsyn in his articles published in From Under the Rubble and his Letter to the Leaders.

Introspective Anti-Globalism

The principle of self-restraint and the plan of Russia’s introspection, the inward turn towards its own North-East, were markedly anti-Globalist. When two globalizations, that of Soviet Communism and that of American Liberalism, intertwined in a bizarre antagonism/symbiosis known as the Cold War, their entanglement threatened to become a fusion. And the Russian writer proposes Russia to take a unilateral psychological and geopolitical leap out of globalization.

The Enlightenment doctrine had two essential foundations. It could be the Lockean principle of mutual limitation of individuals and limitless freedom where no such limitation existed, which led to the Liberal strain of the Enlightenment and the concept of human rights. It could be the Rousseauist principle of a fusion of individuals into a super-subject, an unrestricted collective sovereign; this paved the way for Enlightenment radicalism and Jacobin/Bolshevik practices.

Solzhenitsyn spurns this idea in favor of self-restraint, a personal limitation from within as a basis for true liberation. After quoting an Old Believer journal (“No true human freedom except in self-restraint”), he adds: “After a Western ideal of boundless freedom, after the Marxist notion of freedom as a deliberate and inescapable yoke comes the truly Christian definition of freedom: freedom is SELF-RESTRAINT! In the name of others!”

Once again, here we can discover a remarkable polar opposite to Sakharov’s famous formula “The meaning of life is in expansion”. For Solzhenitsyn, the meaning of life is in a rejection of expansion and a voluntary introspection, the development of what one already owns.

Hence both Solzhenitsyn’s anti-industrialism of this period and his geopolitical program championing a settlement of the Russian North-East. He attempts to get rid of the globalizing factors that kept drawing the USSR (and, consequently, Russia) into a closer entanglement with the West, hastening the dreaded Convergence. In From Under the Rubble and Letter to the Leaders, Solzhenitsyn seeks to convince both the Russian society and the Soviet regime to reject a competition with the West that draws them to a merger and turn inward, to improving their own homeland, the economic and geopolitical foundations of their civilization.

It is hard not to notice how directly opposed is Solzhenitsyn’s program of developing the Russian North-East as a home to Sakharov’s Globalist project of involving the USSR and the USA in solving Third World problems, as if the Russians really had nothing to do at their own home.

“We are tired of these global tasks, so useless to us! We must walk away from this heated global competition, from this much-advertised space race that we don’t need. Why should we plan building villages on the Moon while our own Russian villages are decaying and growing unfit for living? In an insane industrial race, we have herded immense human masses into unnatural cities with hasty and shoddy buildings, where we poison, overstrain, and debase ourselves starting with our youngest age. An exploitation of women instead of their equality, a dereliction of family education, alcoholism, loss of interest in work, the decline of schooling, the decline of our language – such are the spiritual wastelands that keep scouring our livelihood… And still, flaunting our “advancedness”, we have slavishly imitated the Western technological progress, only to thoughtlessly run with it into the impasse of a crisis that threatens the existence of humanity itself…”

A “convergent” globalization drains Russian natural resources and draws Russia into a pan-Western technological crisis, intensifying Russian de-nationalization. Most importantly, a US-Soviet cooperation/rivalry consolidates their materialist Enlightenment platform. Solzhenitsyn craves a change of direction: “We should stop running out into the street to pick each and every fight; we should humbly withdraw into out own home while we are in this state of disarray and confusion.” Instead of a globalizing Soviet outward expansion, Russia should turn to internal empty spaces, the key to Russian spiritual reintegration.

«The North-East is our vector, chartered long ago for Russia’s natural progress and development…

The North-East is a reminder that we, Russia, are the North-East of the planet! Our ocean is the Artic, not the Indian one, we are not the Mediterranean, we are not Africa, and we have no business there! Our hands, our sacrifice, our labor, our love is needed by these limitless spaces, recklessly abandoned to freeze in neglect for four centuries…

The North-East is the key to solving many allegedly unsolvable Russian problems… Its spaces give us a way out of the global technological crisis… Its cold, mostly frozen spaces are yet unready for agriculture and would require an immense investment of energy – but the very depths of the North-East conceal this energy, which we haven’t yet put to waste…

The North-East is larger than its name and deeper than its geography. The North-East would mean that Russia has eagerly taken the route of SELF-RESTRAINT, a choice of depth and not surface, an inward, not an outward choice. It would mean directing all of the citizens’ development – national, social, educational, family, and personal – toward an internal, not external prosperity.”

It was a brazen attempt to play at an “anti-Sakharov” field by pitching to the Soviets, instead of the globalizing Convergence of the Détente, a “divergence”, a planned de-globalization of the USSR in the name of Russian interests. “I write this under an ASSUMPTION that you have mostly the same concerns, that you do not shy away from your origins, your fathers, grandfathers, ancestors, and the nature you grew up with, that you are not devoid of nationality…” Solzhenitsyn addressed the Soviet leadership. He was mistaken: a clear national identity and national consciousness were something that his addressees sorely lacked. A telltale sign of this nihilism was Solzhenitsyn’s emphatic deportation from the USSR soon after he had sent the letter.

However, if the “ideological” part of Solzhenitsyn’s proposals was completely unacceptable for the Soviet establishment, some of his proposed routes of national development were either appropriated by the Soviets or masterfully predicted by Solzhenitsyn himself. Let’s check the timetable:

September 1973. The Letter is written and sent.

February 1974. Solzhenitsyn expelled from the USSR.

March 1974. The first of CPSU Central Committee plenary sessions devoted to the “Non-Chernozem Zone”. The Zone (essentially, the core of Russian territory) is in the center of Soviet government policies and sees real investment.

April 1974. The Baikal-Amur Railway is declared a construction project of national importance, both pursuing an anti-Chinese policy and developing the North-East. Peter Stolypin’s project of an Amur railway from nearly 70 years before had been explicitly mentioned in Solzhenitsyn’s Letter.

 
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.