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The conventional view of nationalism is that it was a product of mass literacy and the modern state, underpinned by schoolbooks and Tombs of the Unknown Soldier. Recent years have seen challenges to this historiographic consensus at both a general level (e.g. Azar Gat’s Nations), and with respect to specific peoples (Robert Tomb’s recent The English and Their History comes to mind).

Our latest translation of Russian conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov is more than just a Russian contribution to this debate. It makes the much more radical argument that not only was Russia not a laggard in the process of nation-building, as European historiography has long claimed, but was at the very forefront of this process for longer than a millennium, from Novgorod’s implicit devotion to the Russian commonweal in the 13th century to Russia’s defense of a “Europe of Fatherlands” against the globalist tide of national annihilation today.


russian-mammoths

Mammoths and Patriots on the Russian Plain

A Brief History of Russian National Sentiment

by Egor Kholmogorov

Translated by Fluctuarius Argenteus

Original: https://um.plus/2016/04/09/rossiya-rodina-mamontov-i-patriotov/

Sometimes I hear that saying “patriotism as a national idea” is akin to saying that water is wet. However, this argument comes from people with a very superficial understanding of how difficult it is to be patriot given that, unlike a comfortable cosmopolitanism, patriotism is the path of struggle. Also, they fail to realize how important the contribution of Russia and Russian culture is to shaping the very phenomenon of a patriotic consciousness in the modern world. The Russians developed patriotism as a national idea far earlier than most European nations. And it is Russia that keeps its faith in a “Europe of Fatherlands” or a “World of Fatherlands” in today’s age of identity erasure.

“Russia is the Motherland of elephants.” This zinger, coined as a mockery of Russian patriotism[1], is, however, entirely true, with a slight correction: Russia is the Motherland of mammoths. It is thanks to the hunt of those majestic beasts that the first humans on the Russian Plain, then half-concealed by the Great Glacier, created a culture highly developed for its time. Nowadays, archaeologists even speak of a “mammoth hunter civilization.”

Indeed, even nowadays the remains of long-term housing built out of mammoth ivory, exhibited at the museum of Kostenki village, Voronezh Oblast, are no less amazing than some stone ruins from Oriental or European antiquity. Overall, it seems that the mammoth joke is on the jokers.

With the same minor correction, one can claim that Russia is the Motherland of patriotism. Of course, patriotism is a word of Latin roots, also hearkening back to Greek. Of course, the cult of pride for one’s country, its history and its heroes, was developed in Greece and Rome, and new European nations learned this art from the ancients (for example, Old Rus’ via Byzantium).

But there are different kinds of patriotism. “The thrust of the Greek notion of freedom was directed at their closest neighbors: being free meant not being dependent on them”, as noted by Robert Wipper (1859 – 1954), one of our foremost Classical scholars. Only two or three times out of the entirety of Hellenic history the Greeks showed a capacity for working together and for a Pan-Hellenic patriotism, but even 300 Spartans, defending a bottleneck that led to the heart of Greece, believed they were fighting for “Laconic law.” The Greeks saw Hellas not as a common home country but as a common space for competing hometowns, peaceful if possible (at the Olympic Games).

Roman patriotism was more similar to ours. It was a not solely urban but also imperial patriotism, that of a city turned superpower. The history of a city that defended its freedom from foreign invaders and domestic tyrants, vanquished all of its neighbors, and transformed into a worldwide Empire formed the archetype of a patriotic myth for future generations.

The Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg houses a sculpture by Vasily Demut-Malinovsky (1776 – 1846) named The Russian Scaevola. A very Classical-looking Russian peasant with an axe is chopping off his arm bearing a brand of the letter N, meaning “Napoleon.” This patriotic legend was born as an imitation of a celebrated Roman historical myth. A young Roman patrician named Gaius Mucius, nicknamed Scaevola (“Left-Handed”), attempted to assassinate Porsenna, the Etruscan king. When he was caught and subjected to torture, he placed his right hand on a brazier and endured the pain until it became completely charred. Porcenna, terrified by the Roman’s defiant fortitude, sued for peace with his city.

However, it was the city that formed the nucleus of Roman patriotism. If Russia truly were “Muscovy”, if Moscow had been seen as a creator of a new world and not as a unifier of Russian lands, then we could have developed a Roman-styled urban patriotism.

But Russian patriotism existed long before the rise of Moscow, and had at its forefront not the City, but the Land. Russian patriotic consciousness is the oldest national consciousness among European peoples. There is no France yet, only a “Western Frankia.” There is no Germany yet, just the Holy Roman Empire, which would only have the “of the Germanic nation” appended to its name in 1512. England, only recently under the rule of Danish kings and separated into territories of Danelaw and Saxon Law, has fallen under the sway of new conquerors, the haughty Normans marked by both Frankish arrogance and Norse ruthlessness. Meanwhile, a Russian chronicler is already penning the title of his work containing the question: “From whence came the Russian Land?”[2]

150 years before that, Russian envoys already come to Constantinople bearing the words, “We are of Russian kindred”, and they come, as the chronicle puts it, “from the great Russian prince, and all other princes, and all people of the Russian land.” The oldest historical document mentioning the Russians, the Annales Bertiniani from the year 838, already contains this “Russian kindred” formula (id est gentem suam, Rhos vocari dicebant). The chronicler still remembers the differences between Polans, Drevlians, and Vyatichi[3], he knows that Russian princes united Varangians and Slavs, but the unity of this society named “Rus’” seems to him indisputable and beyond all doubt. The first Russian chronicler deliberately constructs the image of Russian history as that of a unified people creating a unified country and subject to a unified authority. The same is discussed by Hilarion of Kiev (11th century) in his Sermon on Law and Grace with regards to Prince Vladimir: “For he was the sole ruler of his land, bringing all neighboring countries under his sway, some of them by peace, and the unruly ones by the sword.

Those three elements – Land, People, Empire – are, in their unity, the true formula of Russian patriotism, inherited by Russia from the times when Western European peoples had no patriotic consciousness to speak of. Only in 1214, when French king Philip II Augustus crushed the joint forces of the Holy Roman Empire and England near Bouvines, can we discover a semblance of French national pride. Only three decades later, an anonymous Russian scribes writes the Lay of the Ruin of the Russian Land, a haunting patriotic manifesto lamenting the destruction of Rus’ in the flames of the Mongol invasion.

Due to the vagaries of history, the tale of the destruction per se is not extant[4], yet we can still read the preamble, a veritable hymn to old pre-Mongol Rus’ demonstrating the height of its patriotic sentiment. The Lay is a love-letter to the Russian Land, a paean to its beauty and wealth. In my opinion, the text should be learned by heart as a part of school curriculum.

“Oh Russian Land, bright with brightness and adorned with adornments! Many are thy beauties: thou art adorned by many lakes, rivers and wells famed in thy lands, mountains, steep hills, tall oak woods, clean fields, marvellous beasts, diverse birds, countless great cities, marvellous villages, vineries of monasteries, houses of the Lord and redoubtable princes, honest boyars, noblemen aplenty. The Russian Land is filled with everything, oh true Christian faith!”

But it is not just the beauty of nature of Rus’ that he relishes; it is also its might, its dominion over other nations and the prestige of its rulers:

“From here to Hungarians and Poles and Czechs, from Czechs to Yotvingians[5], from Yotvingians to Lithuanians to Germans, from Germans to Karelians, from Karelians to Ustyug[6], where live the pagan Toymichi[7], and beyond the Breathing Sea[8], from the sea to Bulgars, from Bulgars to Burtasians[9], from Burtasians to Cheremis[10], from Cheremis to Mordva[11] – everything did the Lord bring under the sway of Christian people. The pagan lands submitted to the Grand Prince Vsevolod[12], and his father Yuri, prince of Kiev[13], and his grandfather Vladimir Monomakh[14], with whose name the Polovtsy[15] scared their children in their cradles. And Lithuanians dared not crawl out of their swamps, and Hungarians fortified their stone cities with iron gates so that the great Vladimir would not strike at them, and the Germans rejoiced, living far away beyond the Blue Sea[16]”

This common national memory, the idea of the Russian Land as a unity was the force that kept Russia from disintegration and destruction during the years of the Mongol yoke. Serapion, Bishop of Vladimir (? – 1275), lamented that “our majesty is brought to the ground, our beauty is dead, our wealth profits others, our works inherited by pagans, our land is the legacy of outlanders.” This, by the way, is the best answer of a contemporary of the Mongol invasion to those that today would present this incursion from the East as a time of friendship and cooperation.

“We cannot relish our own bread.” This formula of Serapion’s is a precise description of centuries-long Russian woes that intensified in the years of the Horde: we cannot have the joy of relishing our bread, it is either won with blood and tears, or stolen by foreign invaders, or the harvest fails. A simple Russian dream: to relish our own bread.

Nevertheless, that dream required fighting for. The Russians afforded particular reverence to those that would fight for Rus’, like Saint Alexander Nevsky. For Novgorod, he was both protector and hangman when he forced a rich mercantile city untouched by the Mongol invasion to pay the tribute imposed by the Horde. This was done to relieve the burden of other Russian lands, pillaged and impoverished. He chopped heads off, drowned peolpe, gouged eyes out; he should have been remembered as a tyrant. Yet here are the words of a Novgorod chronicler in the First Novgorod Chronicle (oldest recension) regarding the prince’s passing: “Merciful Lord, reveal Thy Countenance to him in the ages to come, for he labored much for the sake of Novgorod and the whole of Russian Land.”

“For the whole of Russian Land”, words written in Novgorod, a city oftentimes presented today as something of an independent state forcefully subjugated by Muscovy. However, in spite of all trade ties to the West, Novgorodians gave priority to a Pan-Russian patriotic sentiment, even judging the prince that had harshly mistreated them from the viewpoint of an integral Russian cause, and not just that of their city.

That is the ideological foundation of the unified Russian state, the great Russia, which appeared not with a delay compared to Western Europe, but with a lead. Dmitry Likhachov (1906 – 1999) noted in his book Russian Culture of the Period of Russian Nation-State Formation (1946): “The origins of national elements of specific cultures are more or less simultaneous everywhere in Europe, but only in Russia do they receive support in the form of a proper Russian nation-state. That is why the national character of 14-15th century culture of Rus’ is more pronounced than in that of England, France, or Germany of the same period. The unity of the Russian language is much stronger than that of French, English, German, Italian national languages. Russian literature is much more subordinate to the theme of state-building than that of other nations…”

I cannot agree with Lev Gumilyov’s (1912 – 1992) statement claiming that “they came to the Kulikovo Field[17] as men of Moscow, Serpukhov, Rostov, Beloozero, Smolensk, Murom, etc., but returned as Russians.” The desire to frame the great battle as a turning point is understandable, but the warriors came to fight, came as Russians already, not only those from from the Vladimir Principality and its vassals, but also from Lithuanian-held Rus’. They realized quite well that the true Pan-Russian cause was that of Moscow and not Lithuania. Simeon the Proud, the uncle of Dmitry Donskoy, the victor of Kulikovo, already claimed the title “of all Russias”[18], and the Byzantine emperor referred to him in his epistles as riks pasis Rossias, “the king of all Russia.” Therefore, the warriors of Kulikovo were already fighting for Russia and just Moscow.

Thanks to Joan of Arc, the French got the idea that Englishmen have no right to claim La Belle France for themselves. The Hundred Years’ War in general played an enormous part in developing national awareness in European peoples. It would suffice to compare two versions of the same chronicle written by the famous Jean Froissart with a difference of several decades and describing the same events. The first version is steeped in chivalric ideas, the second one is inspired by the concept of nationality. Froissart interprets the same act first as conforming to the concept of honor, then as typical of English or French character.

In spite of this dichotomy, it is hard to imagine a 15th or early 16th-century French or English king justifying his claims to a certain territory with a national principle, not defending his own domain but demanding to cede a different one “because Frenchmen live there.” At the same time, barely freed from the yoke of the Horde, Russia begins an irredentist struggle for Russian lands. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Livonia are seen as thieves of “ancestral lands” inherited by Russian princes from their forefather, Prince Vladimir.

The Papal envoys, while attempting to cajole Vasily III into a war with distant Turkey, got the following reply from the boyars: “The Grand Prince wants his ancestral domain, the Russian Land” (at that particular moment this claim also included Kiev). Those demands were invariably followed by lengthy historical justifications of the rights Russian state that would shock European diplomats.“Russian diplomats skilfully used their historical learning and created a complex theory of Muscovite princely power that elevated the prestige of the Russian monarchy… It was a creative political ideology that directed the politics of the Russian state towards the defence of national interests and culture in the complex milieu of European civilisation”, writes Dmitry Likhachov in National Consciousness of Old Rus’.

At that time Europe was engulfed in wars of religion. The battle of Catholics and Protestants almost succeeded in stamping out the sprouts of nascent national consciousness. Only horror and revulsion at the atrocities inflicted by kin and kith speaking the same language keeps national consciousness alive in spite of religious boundaries. European nations mostly grew out of a rejection of religious schism, and this was a positive and unifying side of European nationalism. But it was also marred by a certain Hellenic particularism, all too often national bigotry was directed at closest neighbors and formed a nation based on this hostility. What are the French without hating Englishmen, Germans, or Spaniards?

Russian national awareness evolved in a different way. It was not directed against a neighbor. Even the attitude towards Poland-Lithuania, in spite of incessant hostilities, never developed into an ethnophobia. If Russophobia is an unfortunate fixture of Polish national awareness, the Russian side of the conflict limited itself to “I’ll have my revenge and then forget.” Russian self-awareness was based on a positive patriotism, on love for one’s own land, people, culture, and ruler. The rejection of others expressed itself not in hatred but in a good-natured gibe similar to the manner in which The Lay of the Ruin describes the neighbors of Rus’.

The “foreign” becomes a threat only if it is injurious and harmful to Russian identity. It is menacing not as an external but as an internal threat, as demonstrated by the Time of Troubles. Russia has no difficulty in repelling invaders but wasted much effort on surpassing internal conflict that almost wrecked the state itself. Ivan Timofeev (ca. 1555 – 1631), one of the most acute observers of the Time of Troubles, saw the root of all evil in an obsession with all things foreign that had engulfed Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov. He chastises the first Russian czar for straying from national identity:

“He slew many nobles of his czardom that were loyal to him, others he exiled into lands of heathen faiths, and instead of them he favored those who had come from foreign lands… That is why we are surprised: even people of moderate reason would have understood that one cannot trust one’s enemies forever. And he, a man of such great wisdom, was laid low by his own weak conscience, willingly putting his head into serpent’s jaws. All enemies that came from other lands would have never defeated him if he hadn’t surrendered himself into their hands. Alas! All of his secrets were in the hands of barbarians, and they did what they pleased with him. I will say nothing more – he was a traitor to himself.”

Timofeev reproaches the common folk as well. “Their tongues grew mute and their mouths were shut with bribery; all of our feelings were weakened by fear” is his description of Boris Godunov’s rise to power, the ascendancy of a man who was seen by many as a criminal and a child-murderer. The same complacence in the face of wickedness at the beginning of the Time of Trouble is lambasted by Avraamy Palitsyn (? – ca. 1625), who speaks of “a mad silence of the entire people.”

The restoration of the country begins with a loud patriotic proclamations: the epistles of Patriarch Hermogenes (ca. 1530 – 1612), calling Russia to resist brigands and invaders; the letters of the Nizhny Novgorod volunteer army[19] calling to “stand united against common enemies and Russian brigands that spill our own blood in the country.” Patriotic rhetoric and patriotic awareness were the remedy that nursed Russia back to health in the moment where its statehood was in tatters. The Chronograph (1617)[20] describes the Council of the Land that elected a new dynasty[21] by painting a picture of national unity: “From the borders to the hinterlands of the Russian land the Orthodox people, men both meek and powerful, rich and poor, old and young, were granted the generous gift of life-giving wisdom and illuminated with the light of virtuously minded concord. Even though they came from different lands, they spoke with one voice, even though they were dissimilar as they lived far apart, they were gathered in one council as equals.”

The Time of Troubles and the heroism of Minin and Pozharsky’s resistance army are a damning argument against the popular myth that denies the existence of the Russian nation in that period. On the contrary, Russia, in the depth of its national and patriotic consciousness, was a step or two ahead of even the most progressive of neighbouring countries, where even a century later collusion with foreigners against one’s own nation was not considered dishonorable and considered a legitimate political instrument.

In Russia this was already unthinkable. There, patriotic consciousness was a hallmark of identity, which enabled the reunification of Ukraine, the patriotic heroism of the Great Northern War that required a mighty collective effort of the entire nation to carve out a space among great European powers, the brilliant achievements of Catherine the Great, the majestic victory over Napoleon in 1812. The last war is particularly remarkable: not only ex post facto, but even during the campaign itself it was seen as, and called, a Patriotic War. All gestures and words of the actors in this patriotic drama were made for the cause of the Fatherland.

The Russian propaganda machine left Napoleon no chance to subjugate the Russian people or entrench his dominance. The narcissistic conqueror was opposed not only by soldiers but by artists of rhetoric, from patriotic admiral Alexander Shishkov (1754 – 1841) who wrote the czar’s manifestos to populist propaganda virtuoso Count Fyodor Rostopchin (1763 – 1826) and his broadsides[22]. Without understanding the cultural and symbolic background we can never understand the most important of historical events, from the Battle of Borodino, fought mainly for political reasons, where every Russian officer saw death or injury as the highest honor, to the epic and terrifying fire of Moscow. Russia opposed Napoleon not only with a superior fighting spirit but also with a superior, elaborate patriotic ideology.

Even in Europe, German nationalism was not a predecessor but perhaps a byproduct of Russian patriotic resistance to Napoleon. Russia created a vast network of resistance, inspiring many European minds. Alexander Svechin (1878 – 1938), a prominent military theorist, gives the following description of the German front of Russian propaganda wars:

Russia organized a German Committee under the de facto leadership of Baron Heinrich von und zu Stein, the political head of the German national movement, who consented to leading the Russian propaganda effort. With a brilliant cadre of German patriotic officers that had resigned Prussian service when Prussia had been strongarmed into an alliance with Napoleon, Stein decided to create a German Legion staffed with German deserters and prisoners of war from La Grande Armée. The Legion was intended as a revolutionary challenge to a Germany enslaved by the French and then the core of an armed insurrection within Germany itself.

A fine example of propaganda tracts published in Saint Petersburg in October 1812 at the printers of the Senate, financed by an absolute monarch, is the “Brief Catechism of the German Soldier” written by Ernst Moritz Arndt by special commission. It claimed that German soldiers used to have their own emperor, but then they made a pact with Satan and Hell in the guise of Napoleon. People who were once free became slaves and are being sent to far-flung countries to turn free and happy peoples into slaves just as themselves. A German emperor sends a German soldier to war; must he fight? No, says Arndt; the idea of monarchy is subordinate to that of the nation and Fatherland. If the sovereign forces his soldiers to oppress the innocent and violate their rights, if he conspires against the happiness and freedom of his own subjects, if he colludes with the enemies of his own nation, if he allows his population to be robbed, dishonored, and raped, then following the orders of such a sovereign would be an affront to divine law. German honor commands the German soldier to break the sword that German despots force him to raise for the cause of his nation’s enemies, the French. The soldier must remember that the Fatherland and nation are timeless and deathless, while monarchs and all kinds of superiors will stay in the past with their petty ambitions and disgraceful misdeeds…

The success of propaganda among German regiments that defended Napoleon’s operation lines in 1812 was largely instrumental for the Berezina battle plan, an encirclement of the La Grande Armée core that had delved too deep into Moscow.

This fact seems like a veritable mockery of the popular Western “time zones of nationalism” theory formulated by Ernest Gellner. Allegedly, national consciousness in Europe develops from West to East. The further to the West, the more developed the national sentiment, the stronger its civic nature. Conversely, the further you look to the East, the more tardy and ethnocentric the national sentiment there.

As we can see, this is patently untrue. Russian national sentiment is not younger but older than German, or even the French and English. It is the oldest among the modern peoples of Europe, based on an identity of the Russian Land already pronounced in 10-11th centuries. There is no reason for assigning the Russians a more recent birth date. At the same time, the Russian self-awareness is perhaps not the most but the least ethnocentric, sometimes overly so, causing certain inconveniences for the Russians themselves.

The object of this sentiment is not the place of a particular ethnic group among others but the Fatherland, the Russian Land, its beauty and grandeur among other lands.

The Russians were indeed late in realising the ethnic aspect of nationalism, not due to an alleged backwardness, but because they were late in encountering ethnic nationalism directed against them, mostly in the western borderlands of the Russian Empire. A certain part was played by the German nationalism in the Baltic region; having clashed with it, Yuri Samarin (1819 – 1876) formulated his idea of Russians as a nation that needs equal rights within its own empire in his Letters from Riga (1849)[23].

In spite of the “time zone” theory, German nationalism – in the form of a Pan-German, unifying, state-driven national sentiment – was not a predecessor but a product of Russian patriotism that manifested in the anti-Napoleonic struggle. Russia stimulated German nationalism as an opposition to a Pan-European empire, not imitated it. Russia became a protector of identity and national diversity in Europe in spite of all attempts to forge it into some faceless union.

Nowadays, Russian patriotism preserves the same importance. As justly reminded by Vladimir Putin: “For Russia, for a Russian person […] the patriotic sentiment is very important, the sense of national belonging that is now, to their chagrin, being eroded in certain European countries.” In today’s Europe, the eyes of those who seek to preserve their national identity, those who are patriots and nationalists in the best sense of the word, are fixed upon Moscow. Conversely, those who yell the loudest about a “Russian menace” and a “European unity in the face of Russian aggression” are mostly partisans of a complete erasure of European faces and borders, oriented towards the EU Quarter of Brussels and the White House.

As I have attempted to demonstrate, this is really old news. Russia is still the Motherland of patriotism in Europe, and now, in defiance of an artificial denationalisation imposed by Communism, we are returning to our old mission – keeping the flame of nationality in Europe, preserving it as a Europe of Fatherlands and not a public thoroughfare.


Notes

[1] The origins of this memetic phrase are in the so-called Anti-Cosmopolitan campaign enacted in the final years of Stalinism (1948-53); one of its prominent traits was the “discovery” Russian “firsts” in science, invention, the arts, etc.; many of such “discoveries” were based on dubious or outright falsified data. The “Motherland of elephants” joke was born as a parody of this propaganda blitz.

[2] An allusion to the Primary Chronicle, a.k.a. The Tale of Past Years (ca. 1110), Russia’s oldest surviving historical chronicle traditionally attributed to Nestor (ca. 1056 – 1114), a monk of the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. Its first words, often interpreted as the work’s title, are “These are the tales of past years, of where the Russian Land comes from, of who reigned the first in Kiev, and of how the Russian Land came to be.”

[3] Early East Slavic tribal groups.

[4] The anonymous 13th-century work only survives in fragments and quotations, most of them limited to its poetic preamble.

[5] Baltic tribal group.

[6] Modern-day Velikiy Ustyug, a city in the far Russian North.

[7] An obscure Finno-Ugric tribe.

[8] The White Sea or the Arctic Ocean.

[9] A defunct Volga ethnic group of unknown origin.

[10] An ancient name for the Mari ethnic group, in the modern-day Mariy El Republic of Russia.

[11] A Finno-Ugric ethnic group, in the modern-day Mordovia Republic of Russia.

[12] Vsevolod the Big Nest (1154 – 1212), Grand Prince of Vladimir.

[13] Yuri Dolgorukiy (ca. 1099 – 1157), Grand Prince of Suzdal and Kiev, founder of Moscow.

[14] Vladimir Monomakh (1053 – 1125), Grand Prince of Kiev. Famous, among other things, for organizing successful collective Russians expeditions against steppe nomads.

[15] Russian name for Cumans, nomads of Turkic origin.

[16] The Baltic.

[17] The battle of Kulikovo (1380) was fought by a Muscovy-led coalition of Russian principalities and was the first major Russian victory over Mongols in decades.

[18] This traditional English translation of title is something of a misnomer, a more precise one would be “of the whole of Rus’” or “of the united Rus’.”

[19] A popular resistance force organized in 1611 in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod by the merchant Kuzma Minin and the nobleman Dmitry Pozharsky with the goal of suppressing roving bands of brigands, expelling Polish invaders, and preventing the complete collapse of the Russian state. It was instrumental in defeating the Polish garrison in Moscow in 1612 and restoring an independent Russian monarchy in 1613.

[20] Compendium of Russian and world history from Biblical events to recent times, including the events of the Time of Troubles.

[21] An irregularly convened assembly of delegates from all estates of Russian feudal society (sometimes including peasantry) that discussed and voted on the affairs of the state, active ca. 1549 – ca. 1683. The Council of 1613 was particularly important for electing a new dynasty (the Romanovs) to take the vacant Russian throne.

[22] As governor of Moscow during the Napoleonic invasion, Rostopchin became famous for the mass printing and distribution of colorful broadsides with grotesque caricatures and easy-to-grasp text, written in a deliberately folksy style, that satirized the enemy and called for a mass popular resistance.

[23] In 1846, as a government inspector, Samarin travelled through what now is Latvia, documenting many facts of abusive and arrogant attitude towards Russia and the Russians by privileged Baltic German nobility amid the tacit or open support of Russian government officials. Drawing from those experiences, he published a pamphlet titled Letters from Riga (1849), considered one of the first Slavophile manifestos and a seminal document of modern Russian nationalism. The publication caused a scandal that led to Samarin’s brief imprisonment and exile for “fomenting anti-government dissent.”


Translator’s Notes

  1. Several abridgements were made in accordance with the author’s wishes.
  2. The translator took the liberty of making the text more accesible to readers not possessing an in-depth knowledge of Russian history. All names were rendered in their full form, and mentions of most Russian historical figures come with birth and death years for easier reference.
  3. Only names, events, etc. that cannot be identified with a quick Google or Wikipedia search were annotated. So were several allusions to historical events known to every educated Russian but obscure in the West.
 

Ilya Glazunov, one of Russia’s great painters is dead at the age of 87.

The “official” art of the modern age is an aesthetic desert; a postmodernist joke that celebrates fraudsters and degenerates, and benefits art dealers and billionaires. Yet there are still men of idealism, far from the cameras and the accolades of handshakeworthy critics, who labor on, creating Great Art for this lost age, and ages yet to come.

Ilya Glazunov was undoubtedly such a man, capturing the “spirit” of Russia’s 20th century on canvass with a flair that no-one else has matched. A nationalist of monarchic and Orthodox inclination who was alternatively persecuted by and accomodated for by the Soviet regime, the unloosening of social and political strictures following its collapse – especially in tandem with the dark backdrop of the despair and moral anomie of the 1990s – offerd Glazunov the scope to realize his full potential.

It is unclear who will carry on his legacy. Pavel Ryzhenko, a pupil of his, was the prime candidate, until his untimely death in 2014 from a heart attack at the age of 44 (his life’s work is now tirelessly propounded by his widow, whom I met at an exhibition a few months ago). That said, he headed an academy that churned out dozens of graduates trained in his style of realistic painting every year, so there is a good chance that some of them will rise to deserved prominence.

His website where you can view many of his works: http://glazunov.ru/en

A longer, more comprehensive article about him by Russia Insider’s Ricky Twisdale.

***

glazunov-tsarevitch-dmitry

Tsarevich Dmitry, 1967

glazunov-mystery-of-the-20th-century

Mystery of the 20th Century, 1976. (I ts display in 1988 was one of the first steps towards Solzhenitsyn’s rehabilitation).

glazunov-roads-of-war

The Roads of War, 1985.

glazunov-the-legend-of-kitezh

The Legend of the City of Kitezh, 1986.

glazunov-eternal-russia

Eternal Russia, 1988.

glazunov-in-memory-of-wife

In Memory of Wife, 1994. (His wife committed suicide, a trauma he only managed to artistically address eight years after the event).

glazunov-market-of-democracy

The Market of Our Democracy, 1999.

glazunov-dekulakization

Dekulakization, 2010.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Art, Obituary, Russia 

The USSR played the leading role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, which the majority of Europeans recognized in 1945 even if half a century of Hollywood propaganda successfully displaced it in the public imagination in favor of the USA. But what about within the USSR itself?

Back in January 2015, during his brief nationalist phase after the return of Crimea, Putin declared that Russians played the leading role in the defeat of Nazism and paid the highest sacrifices. That seems like a dream today. Official rhetoric proclaims that “we achieved victory together” played over footage of Ramzan Kadyrov and Tajik workers wearing St. George’s ribbons (in the meantime, Tajikistan has banned the Immortal Regiments march on the grounds that it is un-Islamic).

So who’s right: Putin 2015, or Putin 2017?

I compiled the following two graphs based on the results of the Soviet Census of 1939 and Grigory Krivosheev’s statistics on military deaths by ethnicity in WW2 (table 122).

soviet-military-deaths-ww2-by-ethnicity

Predictably, Russians bore the highest number of absolute losses – some two thirds of the 8.7 million total.

Together with the Ukrainians and Belorussians that figure rises to 85%.

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

Moreover, Russians also bore the highest relative military losses as a percentage of their population, together with the Buryats.

The Ukrainians and Belorussians were somewhat lower, though this is explainable on account of them being occupied for part of the war, and incurring a greater share of civilian deaths as a result. There would have been be a similar dynamic with respect to the Jews, a large percentage of whom unfortunately fell within the Nazi zone of occupation.

I recall reading a history paper (can’t find it at the moment) where it was claimed that the USSR would create ethnic minority units from the Finno-Ugric peoples and intentionally send them to the hottest fronts so as to make them incur heavier casualties and shift the demographic balance in favor of Russins. That is obviously nonsense based on these figures, though that said, they did almost do their fair share.

The Central Asians, especially the Uzbeks and Tajiks, are underrepresented – the latter by a factor of almost three. This is perhaps not that bad a thing, since they had a reputation for technical incompetence; even in the late USSR, conscripts from those regions tended to go into “Class C” rear divisions with simple, obsolete equipment.

Of the major ethnicities, the worst group in terms of its lack of contribution were the restive Muslim provinces of the North Caucasus. Dagestan underdid its fair share by a factor of four, while the Chechens and Ingush as is known pretty much defected to the Germans en masse (hence the deportations).

I didn’t include any figures for the Balts and Moldovans. They were annexed by the USSR after the 1939 Census, so their percentages would be meaningless.

For comparison, the Germans lost approximately 6.1% of their population as military losses in WW2, including: Germany proper: 6.4%; Austria: 3.9%; The German diaspora in Eastern Europe: 7.2%, according to Rüdiger Overmans’s calculations.

***

Nationality Population (1939) WW2 Mil. Deaths % All Mil. Deaths % Deaths Population
Russians 99,591,520 5,756,000 66.40% 5.78%
Ukrainians 28,111,007 1,377,400 15.89% 4.90%
Belorussians 5,275,393 252,900 2.92% 4.79%
Georgians 2,249,636 79,500 0.92% 3.53%
Azeris 2,275,678 58,400 0.67% 2.57%
Armenians 2,152,860 83,700 0.97% 3.89%
Uzbeks 4,845,140 117,900 1.36% 2.43%
Turkmen 812,404 21,300 0.25% 2.62%
Tajiks 1,229,170 22,900 0.26% 1.86%
Kazakhs 3,100,949 125,500 1.45% 4.05%
Kyrgyz 884,615 26,600 0.31% 3.01%
Karelians 252,716 9,500 0.11% 3.76%
Komi 422,317 11,600 0.13% 2.75%
Bashkirs 843,648 31,700 0.37% 3.76%
Udmurts 606,326 23,200 0.27% 3.83%
Tatars 4,313,488 187,700 2.17% 4.35%
Mari 481,587 20,900 0.24% 4.34%
Mordovians 1,456,330 63,300 0.73% 4.35%
Chuvash 1,369,574 63,300 0.73% 4.62%
Kalmyks 134,402 4,000 0.05% 2.98%
Buryats 224,719 13,000 0.15% 5.79%
Jews 3,028,538 142,500 1.64% 4.71%
Kabardians & Balkars 206,870 3,400 0.04% 1.64%
Chechens & Ingush 500,088 2,300 0.03% 0.46%
Ossetians 354,818 10,700 0.12% 3.02%
Dagestanis 857,499 11,100 0.13% 1.29%
Bulgars 113,494 1,100 0.01% 0.97%
Greeks 286,444 2,400 0.03% 0.84%
Chinese 32,023 400 0.00% 1.25%
Poles 630,097 10,100 0.12% 1.60%
Finns 143,437 1,600 0.02% 1.12%
Others 3,770,306 132,500 1.53% 3.51%
TOTAL 170,557,093 8,668,400 100.00% 5.08%
 

About two thirds of the USSR’s 27 million casualties were civilians – that is, almost 10% of its prewar population. Had those percentages been applied to Nazi Germany, it would lost 8 million people – an order of magnitude than the 400,000 civilians it lost due to Allied strategic bombing, and the 600,000 who died during the expulsions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe (the vast majority of which were carried out by local authorities, not the Red Army or the NKVD).

About 3.3 million out of 5.7 million Soviet POWs died in Nazi custody (compared to 15% of German POWs in the half-starved USSR, and low single digit figures for Allied POWs in Nazi Germany). Had the Soviets treated its 4.2 million German POWs as harshly, with a death rate of 60%, the German number of military dead would have risen from 5.3 million to around 7.3 million. That’s not far off the figure of 8.7 million Soviet military deaths (9.2 million taking into account unregistered militia in 1941).

It’s now well known that Nazi long-term plans called for the eventual genocide of about 75% of the Soviet population, and the helotization/expulsion of the rest. If we count probabilities, assuming there was a 50% chance of Nazi victory over the USSR in 1941-42, and a 50% chance of Generalplan Ost being implemented in its full scale, that translates to around 200 million times 25% equals 50 million additional deaths. This means that in the average of all possible timelines, about 75 million Soviet citizens died, or 37.5% of its prewar population. That translates to around 30 million if these percentages are applied to Germany and its East European diaspora.

And yet for some people – for the most part, the most Rusophobic neocons and Cold Warriors, the more Nazi elements of the Alt Right, and deranged Poles and Balts who don’t quite realize what Hitler had in store for them – the Soviet rape of about 2 million women in Eastern Germany at the end of the war is supposed to be a really huge, defining war crime, even something that delegitimizes the overall Soviet victory.*

How many rapes is one death/murder “worth”? My intuition is that murder is quite a lot worse, perhaps by an order of magnitude if I had to quantify it, and I suspect that most people will agree. It just so happens that so do sentencing guidelines. The typical term for murder in the US is 30 years to life (which might functionally translate to an average of 50 years). The average term for rape is 10 years, of which about 5 are served. This is a differential of five. It also happens to be almost exactly the differential between the murder rate in the US (~5 cases / 100,000 anually) and the rate of rape and sexual assault (~30 / 100,000 annually, as per police records and self-victimization surveys). Let us then provisionally estimate that rape is on average 20% as “bad” as murder. (Note: I actually think it’s considerably less, because sentencing for murder is range constricted by biological ageing. And the homicide problem is usually considered to be worse than the sexual violence one, even though there are usually far fewer of them than there are rapes).

Therefore, let’s say 2 million rapes translates to 400,000 deaths. Compare this to 27 million Soviet civilian deaths (of which two thirds were civilians) in a war started by Nazi Germany, or the 75 million or so Soviet deaths across all timelines. Even assuming that the worst estimates of the Red Army rapes are accurate – they were still, at most, equivalent to far less than 1% of the Nazi crimes against Russia.

Now to be sure you can argue that not all “murders” are equal, especially in war. Direct genocide, like the gassings of Jews or the massacres of Belorussian villagers, seems to be worse than deaths incurred by incidental effects of war, such as bombings of industrial facilities or famine incurred due to the stresses of the war effort, which in turn are worse than military deaths, since society tends to consider soldiers as pretty much “fair game” (though it is questionable to what extent this can be applied to conscripts on the Eastern Front, who did not even get the theoretical possibility of opting out by applying for a “conscientious objector” status at the cost of their social reputation, as in the less “total” conflict of World War I). But there are many different types of rapes as well. There were traumatic gang rapes, to military brothels relying on considerable degrees of coercion, to women semi-voluntarily hooking up with one particular soldier in return for security, or just trading their bodies for food.

dyukov-what-soviets-fought-for Furthermore, contrary to the myth of the “clean Wehrmacht” spread by retired Nazi generals and their wehraboo admirers after the war, there was plenty of rape amongst German soldiers in the USSR. For instance, here is a quote from historian Alexander Dyukov’s 2007 book “What the Soviet People Fought For”:

Rape continued, and acquired an organized character. From time to time “hunting groups” ventured out of Wehrmacht positions. “We ventured out to the village near Rozhdestvenno near Gatchina,” said Peter Schuber, a private who was at the Seversky airport, “We had orders to bring girls to the officers. We did the operation successfully, surrounding all the houses. We grabbed a truckload of girls. The officers held the girls all night, and gave them to us soldiers in the morning.”

In the large cities, permanent brothels were organized. This was standard Wehrmacht practice. “There were military brothels, called Puff,” recalls SS officer Avenir Benningsen, “They were present on almost all fronts. Girls from all Europe, all nationalities, gathered up from all camps. By the way, the two condoms regularly handed out to men and officers were indispensable posessions.” But whereas in the European countries the Wehrmacht brothels were staffed more or less voluntarily, in the USSR there were no such considerations. Girls and women were forcibly rounded up, in scenes seared into the memories of people undergoing the occupation. In Smolensk, for instance, women were dragged off by the arms, by the hair, dragged along the pavement, into the officers’ brothel in one of the hotels. Those who refused to remain there were shot.

After Red Army soldiers drove the Germans out of Kerch, they encoutered a terrible sight: “In the courtyard of the prison there was a shapeless heap of naked female bodies, horrifically mutilated by the fascists.”

So even if we are to tally sexual crimes completely separately, the rapes of the Wehrmacht carried an organized, long-term character – similar to the Japanese Army’s abuse of Chinese and Korean comfort women – whereas Red Army rapes happened in a concentrated orgy of violence in the last few months of the war. That fury in turn was fueled by a regrettable but very understandable hatred for the death and devastation the Germans had wreaked in the USSR, made all the more inexplicable by the overwhelming prosperity of the Germans relative to the ramshackle poverty of Soviet life.

Incidentally, soon after the war, as the follow-up to his “toast to the Russian people,” Stalin presided over another famine that took 500,000 Russian lives (more than fifty years after the worst famine of late Imperial Russia, in which a similar number died). Why? Because the USSR was exporting grain to support its new Communist client states, including East Germany. (Functionally, Stalin agreed with the Nazis that German lives were worth more than Russian lives). This one event alone is by utilitarian metrics considerably more horrific than all the Red Army rapes in Germany.

The real “Soviet Story“: Stalin mutilates Russia. Hitler mutilates Russia. Stalin mutilates Hitler, then mutilates Russia some more. Russophobe ideologues conclude that Russia is as bad as Hitler (if not worse).

Just people who insist on questioning the lethality of Zyklon B or how many people the shower rooms in Auschwitz could accomodate tend to have motives that are suspect, to put it mildly, so it is a pretty good bet that anyone who consistently gives primacy to the Red Army rapes and looting in Germany when discussing the moral weightings of the USSR vs. Nazi Germany might sooner be looking to replay Hitler’s/Stalin’s joint genocide against Russia.

* I would note that there are questions about whether there actually were that many Red Army rapes in Germany; for instance, there are arguments that they are based on unrealistic extrapolations from a small sample of abortion statistics. I haven’t studied this issue in any depth myself and will assume that the conventional mass rape narrative is broadly correct. If this is not the case and there actually were much fewer rapes, that makes the main argument even stronger.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Rape, Soviet Union, World War II 

I don’t follow many people on YouTube, since it’s not really my format, but EmperorTigerstar is one of the few people I make an exception for.

Not only has he mapped all the classics – WW2, WW1, Napoleonic Wars, history of Europe and the Roman Empire – but also plenty of relatively less well known conflicts such as the Wars of German/Italian Unification, Balkan Wars, Chinese Civil War, and Rise/Fall of Assyria

 
• Category: History • Tags: Map, Ukraine, War in Donbass 

The (excellent) historical journal Arzamas has a quiz, now translated into English, about your political compass location in the context of 1917 Russia.

You can take it here: http://arzamas.academy/materials/1269

My own result, probably unsurprisingly, was Black Hundreds.

political-compass-russia-1917

 
• Category: History • Tags: Russia 

Simon Hix has published graphs showing the percentage share accruing to different ideological families in European elections since 1918.

a-history-of-ideology

The first thing that strikes one is how constant things have been, all things considered. There was a Radical Right spike in the early 1930s, and a longer-term Radical Left resurgence following the war that petered out half a century later, but otherwise preferences have been remarkably steady.

Some might be concerned about the modern day Radical Right surge, especially since it appears to be far more stable than the fleeting one during the Great Depression. However, its worth emphasizing that the Radical Right today are essentialy the Conservatives of yesteryear. For instance, here is what Charles de Gaulle had to say about multiculturalism:

It is very good that there are yellow French, black French, brown French. They show that France is open to all races and has a universal vocation. But [it is good] on condition that they remain a small minority. Otherwise, France would no longer be France. We are still primarily a European people of the white race, Greek and Latin culture, and the Christian religion. Those who advocate integration have the brain of a hummingbird. Arabs are Arabs, the French are French. Do you think the French body politic can absorb ten million Muslims, who tomorrow will be twenty million, after tomorrow forty? If we integrated, if all the Arabs and Berbers of Algeria were considered French, would you prevent them to settle in France, where the standard of living is so much higher? My village would no longer be called Colombey-The-Two-Churches but Colombey-The-Two-Mosques.

Compare and contrast with his ideological successor, Nicolas “Le métissage obligatoire” Sarkozy.

The Left, too, has grown far less hardcore. Nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy and some degree of openness to central planning characterized Social Democracy a half-century ago and earlier. Now they’re just a slightly different shade of the neoliberal center, while most Communists now abandoned the class struggle in favor of various SJW inanities.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Elections, Ideologies 

stalin-the-tajik

Stalin waxing lyrical about the friendship of peoples in April 1941, a famous period of international idyll when there were no other important concerns:

… I want to say a few words about the Tajiks. The Tajiks are a special people. They are not Uzbeks, Kazakhs, or Kyrgiz – they are Tajiks, the most ancient people of Central Asia. The Tajik – that means the one who wears the crown, that is how they were called by the Iranians, and the Tajiks have justified this title.

Out of the all the non-Russian Muslim peoples of the USSR, the Tajiks are the sole non-Turkic ethnicity – they are an Iranian ethnicity. The Tajiks are the people whose intelligentsia produced the great poet Ferdowsi, and it is no surprise that the Tajiks draw their cultural traditions from him. You must have felt the artistic flair of the Tajiks in the past decade, that their ancient culture and unique artistic talent as expressed in music, and song, and dance.

Sometimes our Russian colleagues mix them up: The Tajiks with Uzbeks, the Uzbeks with Turkmen, the Armenians with Georgians. This is, of course, incorrect. The Tajiks are a unique people, with a huge and ancient culture, and under our Soviet conditions they are marked out for a great future. And the entire Soviet Union must help them with that. I want their art to enjoy everyone’s attention.

I propose a toast to the flowering of Tajik art, to the Tajik people, and so that we, Muscovites, are always prepared to help them with everything that is necessary.

This is approximately a bazillion times less well known than Stalin’s toast to the Russian people at the end of World War 2, which is often cited by anti-Russian Cold Warriors (and many deluded Russian nationalists) to equate Stalinism with Russian nationalism.

While I don’t have anything particular against the Tajiks, the above toast does not strike me as something that would be uttered by any Russian nationalist like… ever.

The reality is that Stalin hated and persecuted Russian nationalism as much as any other Bolshevik ideologue, but opportunistically adopted some of its talking points every now and then to shore up his regime. Of course actual Russian nationalists who took him at his word seriously enough to return to the USSR tended to meet sticky ends.

The main thing that distinguished Stalin from his multinational predecessors was that he was more consistent and also went after the other national minority – Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, etc. – nationalisms that the Old Bolsheviks had fostered. Considering the ethnic composition of the most active Cold Warriors and neocons explains a lot about their curiously specific hatred of Stalin and (regrettably, rather successful) efforts to associate him with Russian nationalism in the Western discourse.

 

stalin-worship

It’s hard to view Stalin as any sort of Russian national hero considering the demonstrable idiocy of his apologists’ arguments.

Trying to portray him as such involves descending into a fantasy world in which no country had ever managed to industrialize itself without killing off millions of its most intelligent and productive people or have won a war against a European Great Power without the indispensable strategic wisdom that you could only get from a Georgian dropout who spent his youth robbing banks and sitting in jail with his fellow Bolshevik comrades and sundry ethnic minority activists. A more rabidly Russophobic outlook could scarcely be imagined.

So its pretty sad to see that Russian sentiments towards Stalin generally are (and have been) positive, despite the Kremlin’s half-hearted attempts to disassociate him from the Great Victory cult that is now the primary spiritual glue used to keep Russia together.

russian-sentiments-on-stalin

That said, it is very valid to ask why said apologetics industry for Stalin developed in Russia from the 2000s in the first place. Was it Kremlin propaganda? Nope. Only people whose only exposure to Russia is through the dregs of Western journalism can seriously believe that. Putin’s own statements on Stalin have been consistently ambivalent, and even the infamous “Stalinist” textbook episode of 2009 – just one minor textbook of many dozens, which the Western media portrayed as a state-backed “rehabilitation” of Stalin – contained sentences such as “ruthless exploitation of the population.”

So if this wasn’t due to a Kremlin propaganda campaign, then why the enduring Stalinophilia? My view is that it was Russian society’s response to the wholesale “blackwashing” of Stalin that took place in the 1990s with rhetoric about “muh 72 million victims of Communism” lifted from Cold War scholars in the West who had to speculate in the absence of archival access.

Such extreme positions were uncritically pushed by the Westernizing ideologues who constitute Russian liberalism once society opened up in the late 1980s and 1990s, to the extent that the phenomenon even got its own ironic meme (“billions shot dead personally by Stalin”). Considering some of the truly crazy stuff that was floating about – there were entirely serious articles in the liberal press arguing that Nazi conquest could have been better for Russia than Stalin – this was not too surprising in hindsight.

One would think that given Stalin’s actual record, which was sordid enough, you would not need to “blackwash” him any further, but ideologues will be ideologues, so what happened happened, and next thing you know many people started suspecting that given the false facts and figures being pushed about Stalin – demonstrated so by the newly accessible archival evidence itself – then maybe they were lying about everything else as well, and well maybe Stalin was actually the good guy after all, maligned by his bitter and limp-wristed successors who “sold out” the Glorious Leader.

And thus a huge strand of the Russian “patriotic” opposition to the liberal neocon hegemony of the 1990s, which had decidedly triumphed by the end of Putin’s first term, had in the process also become infested with Stalinophilia – even though it is not really compatible with Russian patriotism, let alone Russian nationalism (which the Communists, including Stalin, ruthlessly persecuted). The tendency of Stalin’s popularity to wax and wane in sync with the state of Russia’s relations with the West – lower when they are good, and higher when they are bad – strongly suggests that the debate over Stalin in Russia has nothing to do with real history. Instead, it is merely one of several tribal identifiers in politics, much like denial of global warming is a tenet of the Red Tribe and blank slatism is a tenet of the Blue Tribe, both of which have everything to do with American-specific politics and nothing to do with science. In Russia’s case, this Stalinist identifier – like the broader patriotic Great Patriotic War ideology onto which it has affixed itself – gets deflated and boosted whenever Russia veers between globalist integrationism and siege mentality, respectively.

This is not critical in the short term. To be sure, it generates negative headlines in the West, but that’s irrelevant because even if Russia were to uneqivocally start condemning Stalin, Western editors would just find something else to latch onto so long as Russia remains a sovereign country. In the longer term, however, these contradictions will have to be resolved.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Iosef Stalin, Russia, Soviet Union 

rosa-luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg in her 1918 book on the Russian Revolution:

Ukrainian nationalism in Russia was something quite different from, let us say, Czechish, Polish or Finnish nationalism in that the former was a mere whim, a folly of a few dozen petty-bourgeois intellectuals without the slightest roots in the economic, political or psychological relationships of the country; it was without any historical tradition, since the Ukraine never formed a nation or government, was without any national culture, except for the reactionary-romantic poems of Shevschenko. It is exactly as if, one fine day, the people living in the Wasserkante should want to found a new Low-German (Plattdeutsche) nation and government! And this ridiculous pose of a few university professors and students was inflated into a political force by Lenin and his comrades through their doctrinaire agitation concerning the “right of self-determination including etc.”

It is actually rather remarkable how much her critiques echoes that of Russian conservative opponents of the Bolsheviks (even if from the opposite side of the ideological spectrum):

The Bolsheviks are in part responsible for the fact that the military defeat was transformed into the collapse and breakdown of Russia. Moreover, the Bolsheviks themselves have, to a great extent, sharpened the objective difficulties of this situation by a slogan which they placed in the foreground of their policies: the so-called right of self-determination of peoples, or – something which was really implicit in this slogan – the disintegration of Russia… One is immediately struck with the obstinacy and rigid consistency with which Lenin and his comrades struck to this slogan, a slogan which is in sharp contradiction to their otherwise outspoken centralism in politics as well as to the attitude they have assumed towards other democratic principles. While they showed a quite cool contempt for the Constituent Assembly, universal suffrage, freedom of press and assemblage, in short, for the whole apparatus of the basic democratic liberties of the people which, taken all together, constituted the “right of self-determination” inside Russia, they treated the right of self-determination of peoples as a jewel of democratic policy for the sake of which all practical considerations of real criticism had to be stilled.

Incidentally, Lenin himself had extensively critiqued Luxemburg on the nationalities question.

Just goes to further show that Ukrainian nationalists should be laying wreaths on the statues of the man who did more than any other to found their state instead of so ungratefully toppling them.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Communism, Ukraine 

When I posted a 2007 map of the share of European children born out of wedlock from Reddit to Twitter, it generated considerably discussion, including a discussion at Razib Kan’s blog.

europe-nonmarital-fertility-2007

There are many rather interesting patterns here:

  • The Nordics, France, The Former GDR, Estonia, Bulgaria all have high rates out of wedlock births. Most but not all of them are socially liberal; all of them, however, are highly secular and irreligious.
  • There does not seem to be a high correlation between out of wedlock births and total fertility rates. “Traditionalist” Italy, West Germany, and Spain all have low TFRs; conservative and strongly religious Poland has one of the very lowest TFRs in all of Europe.
  • On the other hand, ultraconservative and very religious Far West Ukraine has consistently had some of the very highest TFRs in Europe, along with moderately conservative Ireland and very liberal France, Scandinavia, and Iceland.

A query from Charles Murray provoked me into seeking out its source: A 2015 paper by Sebastian Klüsener, “Spatial variation in non-marital fertility across Europe in the 20th-21st centuries.”

That study is basically a statistical survey of the history of nonmarital fertility (NMF) in Europe in the past three centuries.

Here is a map of nonmarital fertility rates in 1910, just before modern nationstates began to break down traditional marriage folkways through laws and regulations:

europe-nonmarital-fertility-1910

As we can see, there are significant but not overwhelming continuities between 1910 and 2007. Klüsener found a Spearman’s rho correlation of 0.29 between regional out of wedlock shares of births.

What determines NMF?

Klüsener lays out several factors:

  • Economic instability – Favors NMF.
  • Preexisting traditions – Some regions like Iceland and parts of Sweden have always had less of an absolute emphasis on marriage.
  • Laws/Customs – Historically, Jews in Austrian Galicia had children almost entirely within wedlock, but they were not officially registered; hence the unexpectedly rather high share of out of wedlock births across the eastern Habsburg domains in the 1910 map are more a statistical artefact than a reality. Today, similar factors apply to Kosovan Muslims.
  • Agricultural inheritance systems
  • Secularization levels – Favors NMF.
  • Female autonomy and economic participation – Favors NMF.

In Temporal Terms

Initially very low before the early 18th century, NMF became a significant phenomenon in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. He doesn’t mention a cause, but the obvious suspect would be the wellknown secularization of European society after the religious wars of the 17th century.

NMF decreased significantly during the postwar miracle economy years, ushering in the “Golden Age of Marriage.” After 1960, however, this model began breaking down.

europe-nonmarital-fertility-history It began in Northern Europe, and then spread to Western and Central Europe by the 1980s; Southern and Eastern Europe followed in the 1990s, albeit the latter reversed direction from the mid-2000s, presumably due to some combination of economic stabilization and post-Soviet desecularization (indeed, Eastern Europe went from being the region with the highest share of out of wedlock births in the 1950s and 1960s, to the lowest share as of today). NMF in Northern Europe seems to have reached a plateau at around 50%, but continues rising steadily in Western Europe, having reached 64% in France.

The author links this with legislative actions providing greater autonomy for women, which is supported by institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights and the EU. Its worth noting that French laws on marriage and paternity are (in)famously favorable to women, prohibiting paternity testing without both partners’ consent and obligating men to look after “their” children even if they discover they are not theirs. In substantial part, ergo for Sweden. In such a legal environment, coupled with the high secularism rates and expansive welfare states, it is hardly surprising that many men appear to be “striking” against marriage.

In Regional Terms

In the 1910 map, the big cities in the more backward and traditionalist countries – Madrid in Spain, Rome in Italy, Saint Petersburg and Moscow in Russia – stand out, having West European like NMF rates in a sea of near universal traditional marriage patterns.

central-europe-nonmarital-fertilityA century ago and earlier, Germany used to have a general east/west division, in which Bavaria belonged to the high NMF region (this is also mentioned by Emmanuel Todd in The Explanation of Ideology). But while Austria, which also had historically high NMF, remains an NMF hotspot to this day, Bavaria has converged with the rest of Western Germany; the author links this to its adoption of the unified German civil code in 1900, which stated that children born outside marriage were not related to the father and invalidated Bavarian regional legal norms giving out of wedlock children substantial rights.

Switzerland has traditionally had the lowest NMF rates of any Germanic region. Is in any way connected to the fact it was the last major European country to give women the vote?

intermarium-nonmarital-fertility This traditional east German propensity for high NMF (present well before the GDR), even continues to be reflected on the map of Poland today, where the parts previous under German rule continue to have somewhat higher NMF rates than the otherwise very low Polish average (just like the famous map of Polish voting patterns). Poland has traditionally had the lowest NMF rates in East-Central Europe, but since 1990 and especially since 2000 they have started going up sharply. In this case at least, Estonia can into Nordic.

east-europe-nonmarital-fertility In the future, Klüsener suggests increasing convergence between the Protestant and Catholic regions of Europe, as secularization in the latter drives up their NMF rates further. However, the Orthodox regions of Europe may be an exception to the general European pattern due to their “reactionary trend” of rising religiosity and rejection of a “wide range of family formation behaviors that are not in line with traditional norms.” As for the Muslim regions of Europe, their NMF rates remain stable at a very low level.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Demographics, Fertility 

Here’s a map from the May 16, 1941 edition of the St. Petersburg Times showing the results of a Gallup poll on support for declaring war against Germany:

map-war-sentiment-usa-1941

And here is a map of percentage German ancestry from the 1890 Census:

map-german-ancestry-usa-1890

 

Lingering cultural ties to Germany? Ethnic genetic interests? Something related to the American nations? And/or just the old banal North/South division of US politics?

 
• Category: History • Tags: United States, World War II 

The cultural and scientific achievements of Ancient Greece are so manifold that it is barely worth recounting them. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle laid the foundations of Western philosophy. Pythogoras, Euclid, and Archimedes launched mathematics as a disciple grounded on logic and proof, a break from the approximative techniques that had held sway in other civilizations (and would largely continue to do so). To this day many medical schools have their students swear an oath under the name of Hippocrates. Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides – the originators of, and still giants in, the Western literary canon. Herodotus and Thucydides, the founders of a historiography that was something more than just a court chronicle.

Ancient Greek IQ = 125 (Galton)

Bearing in mind the very small population from which these intellectual giants were drawn – at its height, Ancient Athens had no more than 50,000 male citizens – it is little wonder that many thinkers and historians have posited a very high average IQ to the ancient Greeks, including most recently evolutionary psychologist Gregory Cochran. But the argument was perhaps best stated by the Victorian polymath and inventor of psychometrics Francis Galton, in the (not very politically correctly titled) “Comparative Worth of Different Races” chapter of his book Hereditary Genius:

The ablest race of whom history bears record is unquestionably the ancient Greek, partly because their master-pieces in the principal departments of intellectual activity are still unsurpassed, and in many respects unequalled, and partly because the population that gave birth to the creators of those master-pieces was very small. Of the various Greek sub-races, that of Attica was the ablest, and she was no doubt largely indebted to the following cause, for her superiority. Athens opened her arms to immigrants, but not indiscriminately, for her social life was such that none but very able men could take any pleasure in it; on the other hand, she offered attractions such as men of the highest ability and culture could find in no other city. Thus, by a system of partly unconscious selection, she built up a magnificent breed of human animals, which, in the space of one century—viz. between 530 and 430 B.C.—produced the following illustrious persons, fourteen in number:—

Statesmen and Commanders.—Themistocles (mother an alien), Miltiades, Aristeides, Cimon (son of Miltiades), Pericles (son of Xanthippus, the victor at Mycalc).
Literary and Scientific Men.—Thucydides, Socrates, Xenophon, Plato.
Poets.— Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes.
Sculptor.—Phidias.

We are able to make a closely-approximate estimate of the population that produced these men, because the number of the inhabitants of Attica has been a matter of frequent inquiry, and critics appear at length to be quite agreed in the general results. It seems that the little district of Attica contained, during its most flourishing period (Smith’s Class. Geog. Dict.), less than 90,000 native free-born persons, 40,000 resident aliens, and a labouring and artisan population of 400,000 slaves. The first item is the only one that concerns us here, namely, the 90,000 free-born persons. Again, the common estimate that population renews itself three times in a century is very close to the truth, and may be accepted in the present case. Consequently, we have to deal with a total population of 270,000 free-born persons, or 135,000 males, born in the century I have named. Of these, about one-half, or 67.500, would survive the age of 26, and one-third, or 45,000, would survive that of 50. As 14 Athenians became illustrious, the selection is only as I to 4,822 in respect to the former limitation, and as I to 3, 214 in respect to the latter. Referring to the table in page 34, it will be seen that this degree of selection corresponds very fairly to the classes F (1 in 4, 300) and above, of the Athenian race. Again, as G is one-sixteenth or one-seventeenth as numerous as F, it would be reasonable to expect to find one of class G among the fourteen; we might, however, by accident, meet with two, three, or even four of that class— say Pericles, Socrates, Plato, and Phidias.

Now let us attempt to compare the Athenian standard of ability with that of our own race and time. We have no men to put by the side of Socrates and Phidias, because the millions of all Europe, breeding as they have done for the subsequent 2,000 years, have never produced their equals. They are, therefore, two or three grades above our G—they might rank as I or J. But, supposing we do not count them at all, saying that some freak of nature acting at that time, may have produced them, what must we say about the rest? Pericles and Plato would rank, I suppose, the one among the greatest of philosophical statesmen, and the other as at least the equal of Lord Bacon. They would, therefore, stand somewhere among our unclassed X, one or two grades above G—let us call them between H and I. All the remainder—the F of the Athenian race— would rank above our G, and equal to or close upon our H. It follows from all this, that the average ability of the Athenian race is, on the lowest possible estimate, very nearly two grades higher than our own—that is, about as much as our race is above that of the African negro. This estimate, which may seem prodigious to some, is confirmed by the quick intelligence and high culture of the Athenian commonalty, before whom literary works were recited, and works of art exhibited, of a far more severe character than could possibly be appreciated by the average of our race, the calibre of whose intellect is easily gauged by a glance at the contents of a railway book-stall.

Francis Galton was writing before the invention of the standard deviation, but in his methodology a “grade” was equivalent to 10.44 IQ points (under an S.D. of 15), so in practice the Athenians had an IQ of perhaps 120 relative to a Victorian British mean of 100. (And presumably, therefore, about 110 relative to the modern Greenwich mean, which is considerably higher than a century ago due to the Flynn Effect).

There are however a few problems with this.

Ancient Greek IQ = 90 (Apollo’s Ascent)

First off, there is no particularly obvious explanation for why this part of the Mediterranean world evolved such a high average IQ – a standard deviation higher than everyone else – in the first place. One would then likewise have to explain why they then lost it so thoroughly that modern Greeks now consistently place lower in European IQ assessments than all but a few Balkan backwaters.

However, it turns out that using the Apollo’s Ascent method of computing aggregate mindpower – with adjustment for the intellectual discovery threshold – as a function of population size, literacy rate, and average IQ can explain the record of Greek achievement just as succinctly without requiring positing superhumanly high average IQ levels which are so dubious from an evolutionary perspective.

Let us treat each of these factors in turn:

Ancient Greek Demography

It is often forgotten that when we are speaking of ancient Greek accomplishment it is more than just a story of Athens, a city that drew the cognitive elites of the entire oikoumene to itself (much as major metropolises like New York, London, Paris, etc. do so today).

To be sure, Athens might have had 50,000 male citizens, and a total population of 250,000-300,000 [CORRECTION: Actually refers to the entire Athenian city-state. Population of just the city was probably about twice less]. But the population of Greece proper was probably at least five times larger, because the total urbanization rate never went much above 20% in any preindustrial country that we know of. Moreover, Greeks were scattered all across the Mediterranean world, in Ionia and Sicily and the shorelines of Egypt, the Italian “boot,” France, Spain, and the Pontic steppe.

map-of-ancient-greek-world

Greece: More than just Greece. Source.

According to recent calculations, the total population of Greeks in the 4th century BC was at least 7.5 million, and probably more like 8-10 million (Mogens Herman Hansen in An Update on the Shotgun Method). For perspective, at the time, this represented just under 5% of the world’s population (i.e. remarkably similar to the US today). These figures might still be modest, but they are essentially comparable in magnitude to those of even the biggest preindustrial civilizations (source: Several, but mainly Angus Maddison):

  • Egypt: A consistent 5 million in both Roman and Islamic times
  • Persia: Likewise, around 5 million
  • Roman Empire: 50-60 million (of which 20 million were in the Greek East)
  • Qin China: 22 million in ~210BC (only 2x more than Greek world!)
  • Han China around 1AD: 60 million
  • Byzantine Empire: 10-12 million when it was at its geographical peak
  • Abbasid Caliphate: 30 million
  • Medieval China: 100 million
  • Medieval France: 20 million (most populated W. European country; peak)
  • Renaissance Italy: 10.5 million in 1500

To be sure, many ancient Greeks were slaves and women who were more or less excluded from participating in intellectual endevours. But in that respect they were no different from any other preindustrial civilization that we know of.

Ancient Greek Literacy

In William V. Harris’ Ancient Literacy, he estimates that the literacy rate of late Classical Greece was 5-10%, rising to 10% in the Hellenistic period, and 10-15% in Roman Italy (but considerably lower in the peripheries like Gaul). This might seem very low and it is. But in that period, it was low everywhere; in reality, the literacy rates attained in the classical Mediterranean world were far higher than had been previously seen anywhere else. Because Classical Greece was pretty much the first society in the world (only much smaller Phoenicia could have been even a remote contender) to attain what he calls “craftsman literacy” i.e. around 10%. All previous societies had been limited to the 1-2% rates that he calls “priestly literacy.”

Although he doesn’t spell it out explicitly, the key factor that must have enabled this in my view was the development of the alphabet, which occured first amongst the Phoenicians (who were also respectably creative for their numbers).

It is speculated that the alphabet might have arisen as a result of the intense trading culture of the Phoenicians, which made simplification of the writing system highly adaptive. Due to Greek and Roman influence, Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs were displaced. In contrast, perhaps by the time trade had reached similarly intensive levels in China – perhaps after the construction of the Grand Canal in the 7th century AD – the characters system was already too embedded in the bureaucracy and was kept on due to a QWERTY effect. However, there might also be an HBD angle. Peter Frost has suggested the spread of the ASPM gene from Middle Eastern origins – large lacking in East Asians, and associated with continuous text processing – could have tipped the scales in favor of the adoption of alphabetic systems in the Near East and the Mediterranean in a way that could not have happened in East Asia. (Note that Korea’s Sejong the Great introduced an alphabetic system in the 15th century, for the express reason of increasing literacy amongst the commonfolk, but it took until the 20th century for it to truly catch on).

Whatever the case, it is a simple fact that learning literacy is incredibly easier with alphabet based systems than character based systems. Learn the 50 or fewer symbols of your typical alphabet and their vocalizations and you are pretty much set; everything else is style and detail. In contrast, you need to know 1,000-1,500 characters just to be considered literate in Chinese (and you would still struggle a great deal even with newspaper texts). An average Chinese college graduate is expected to recognize around 5,000 characters and even they frequently have trouble with some remarkably “straightforward” characters. Here is an anecdote that represents this really well from David Moser’s classic essay Why Chinese is So Damn Hard:

I happened to have a cold that day, and was trying to write a brief note to a friend canceling an appointment that day. I found that I couldn’t remember how to write the character 嚔, as in da penti 打喷嚔 “to sneeze”. I asked my three friends how to write the character, and to my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one of them could correctly produce the character. Now, Peking University is usually considered the “Harvard of China”. Can you imagine three Ph.D. students in English at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word “sneeze”?? Yet this state of affairs is by no means uncommon in China.

By medieval times, China had by far the world’s most sophisticated infrastructure for increasing human capital, such as movable type (invented 400 years in advance of Gutenberg), cheap mass produced paper (in contrast, the Mediterranean world had to rely on expensive Egyptian papyru, which put a further limit on mass literacy), the system of meritocratic exams for entry into the Confucian bureaucracy, and a vast network of writing tutors, including free ones (the founder of the Ming dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang was an impoverished orphan who was taught literacy in a Buddhist monastery). Even so, held back by its writing systems, medieval China’s literacy rate was no higher than 10% at best (that was the rate at the close of the Qing dynasty and that came after the beginning of education reforms).

There are some scholars like Evelyn Rawski who argue China’s historical literacy rates were far higher. I addressed them in my Introduction to Apollo’s Ascent article (Ctrl-F for “fish literacy”).

Of course at the time of the Ancient Greeks none of this existed yet in China, so the literacy rate then was probably around 1-2% as was typical of societies with “priestly literacy.” Ergo for the great civilizations of the Middle East before the classical era.

This is common sense, but the point needs to be made regardless: Without literacy, no matter how intelligent you are, you can almost never meaningfully contribute to scientific or cultural progress.

With a literacy rate 5 or even 10 times as high as that of other contemporary civilizations (barring the Romans), their modest demographic preponderance over Greece is put into necessary perspective. To be sure, a literacy rate of 10% might not functionally translate into 5 times as much aggregate mindpower (all else equal) as a 2% literacy rate, because presumably, it is the brightest people who tend to become literate in the first place. On the other hand, however, this was a world of hereditary caste and class, of Plato’s Golds, Silvers, and Bronzes. The advanced cognitive sorting that developed in the US in the second part of the 20th century, as described in detail in Charles Murray’s Bell Curve, was totally unimaginable then. Furthermore, there might be a network effect from having a relatively dense concentration of literate people. I would imagine these two factors substantially or wholly cancel out the effect of diminishing returns to higher literacy in terms of human accomplishment. (If you have any ideas as to how this could be quantified, please feel free to mention it in the comments).

Ancient Greek IQ

As I wrote in Introduction to Apollo’s Ascent, there are a number of factors which have been shown to strongly influence IQ, making it just about feasible to guesstimate them historically.

Some of the most important ones as they pertain to Ancient Greece vs. everyone else are:

  • Nutrition
  • Inbreeding/consanguineous marriage
  • Parasitic Load

It just so happens that so far as all of these are concerned the Greeks hit the jackpot.

Nutrition: The Ancient Greeks were remarkable effective at escaping the Malthusian trap for a preindustrial society. (I am not sure why that was the case. Slavery? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments).

According to a 2005 paper by Geoffrey Kron, citing Lawrence Angel, the average heights for Classical Greece males are 170.5cm, rising to 171.5cm for Hellenistic Greek males, which is similar to the levels attained by Britain and Germany in the early 20th century, and furthermore, compares very well with the average heights of Greek conscripts in the mid-20th century. The n=927 Roman average from 500BC to 500AD was 168.3cm, and the figures for the Byzantine Empire (at least in Crete) appear to have been similar. Here are some figures for other times and places for comparison from Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms:

historical-heights

In other words, the Ancient Greeks were about as tall as the Georgian British, some of the tallest Europeans at that time, who were on the cusp of permanently escaping the Malthusian trap and were likewise undergoing a remarkable cultural and scientific explosion.

This must have been enabled by a remarkable level of personal prosperity, as expressed in how much grain the average laborer could buy with a day’s wage. Again via Gregory Clark:

laborers-wages-in-wheat

The Odyssey is full of people sacrificing ridiculous numbers of bulls. While presumably not to be taken literally, it does probably illustrate that there were no major shortages of animal proteins. (The same certainly could not be said for China, India, or Japan, where diets have always been almost fully dominated by carbohydrates). To be sure the Odyssey takes place in the 8th century BC, but cattle shares in the Mediterranean remained high through the period of Classical Greece and only plunged as Greece transitioned into the Hellenistic period, according to an exhaustive paper by Nikola Koepke:

history-of-european-cattle

Additionally, as a seafaring culture, fish and sea products must have played a substantial part in the Greek diet. This would have helped them avoid the iodine deficiency that tends to depress IQ and lead to cretinism in more inland and mountainous areas. Even the very poor who could not afford fish would have used garum, the fish sauce popularized by the Romans but invented by Greeks, to flavor their staples.

Inbreeding: Inbreeding/cousin marriage, especially of the FBD type, directly lowers IQ and to a very large extent. But as prominent blogger hdbchick noticed, the Greeks had begun to outbreed extensively in the Archaic Age:

well, from mitterauer again we have [pg. 69]:

“Greek was the first European language to eliminate the terminological distinction between the father’s and mother’s side, a transition that began as early as between the fifth and third century BC.35

so that’s just at the transition point between archaic greece and classical greece. but starting at least in the early part of the archaic period and lasting throughout to the classical period the archaic greeks were outbreeding! at least the upper class ones were — difficult/impossible to know about the lower classes. from Women in Ancient Greece [pg. 67]:

“Marriages were arranged by the prospective groom and the prospective bride’s guardian, and the wife usually (although not always) went to live with her husband’s family. In the early Archaic Age [800 BC – 480 BC], to judge from the evidence of Homer’s poems (e.g. ‘Odyssey’ 4.5), male members of the upper classes generally married women who were not related to them, and who came from different areas. This upper-class habit of exogamy — marrying outside the community — was related to the political importance which marriage possessed in these circles. Marriage exchanges were one of the means by which noble families created political alliances with groups living in other areas, and in this way they made a considerable contribution to the aristocracy’s stranglehold on power. This practice survived to the end of the Archaic Age. However, with the emergence of the *polis*, exogamy began to give way in some places to endogamy — to marriage within the community. For the upper classes, this meant marriage within a tight circle of aristocratic families living in the same *polis*.”

so there was outbreeding in archaic greece for a few hundred years (at least amongst the upper classes), and, then, eventually — after about 400 years or so — there was a linguistic shift to more general kinship terms which reflected that outbreeding.

Moreover, of Emmanuel Todd’s four main European family systems – nuclear, egalitarian, authoritarian/stem, and communitarian (see Craig Willy’s post for a detailed explanation) – the Ancient Greeks practiced the authoritarian type, in which the eldest son stays with the parents while his siblings leave and inherits most or all of his family’s property.

The authoritarian family system, also seen in regions such as Germany, Sweden, Scotland, the Jews, Korea, and Japan (after ~1500), and substantially in 18th century Britain, seems to be highly eugenic in terms of selection for IQ and longterm planning. This stands to reason. Families with a lot of land/property can breed a lot of children and disperse them into the general population, and when they die, the eldest son who inherits everything can himself repeat the process. Those families who mismanage their affairs and lose land no longer have the resources to produce so many children (surviving ones, at any rate) and thus their contribution to the overall genepool peters out.

This is the opposite of the dynamics involved in communitarian family systems, in which property is divided equally amongst the sons. But all of the major Middle Eastern civilizations, as well as the Etruscan Roman heartlands, were characterized by communitarian family systems (albeit with varying rates of cousin marriage: Low in the Roman world, much higher in the Middle East and especially Egypt, where even brother/sister marriages appear to have been been quite widespread under both the Pharaohs and the Greco-Romans).

In communitarian family systems the eugenic factor is much weaker. Family ties play a big role with associated nepotism and (especially in the most endogamous societies) clannishness. Reproductive success is tied not so much on one’s own capability to use intelligence and planning to create surpluses as on support from the extended family and clan. hbdchick calls this “clannish dysgenics,” though considering that communitarian family systems are the “default” for most of human histor, I would argue it might be more apt to talk of “nuclear/stem family eugenics.” Be as it may, aggregate selection for increased IQ is much weaker.

The ancient Greeks also practiced direct eugenics, exposing physically deformed babies. The Spartans in particular are (in)famous for it. However, this seems to have been more or less universally prevalent in preindustrial history, so I doubt this could have been much of a factor.

Parasitic Load: The Mediterranean climatic and agricultural system made for a (relatively) very salubrious environment, in stark contrast to subtropical environments with their humidity and endemic diseases (e.g. India, South China) and to inland agricultural systems heavily dependent on irrigation, in which large bodies of still water are breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty parasites (most major civilizations outside Europe).

In particular, as noted in Mark Elvin’s The Pattern of the Chinese Past, aggregate parasitic load steadily INCREASED in China over the past two millennia, as its demographic center of gravity shifted inexorably south, which was characterized by irrigated rice growing and high humidity.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Ancient Greeks and other Mediterraneans also had one of the most potent counters to parastitic load in the form of their advanced viniculture. Due to their relative wealth (see above), they could afford a lot of wine, and back then it was usually stronger too.

Aggregate Mindpower in Ancient Greece

And now we can put together the final tally for Ancient Greece:

  • Could draw on a population of ~10 million Greeks (Romans: 50 million; Han Chinese: 60 million; Renaissance Italy: 10 million)
  • Had a literacy rate of 10%. Romans – Also 10%; Chinese – ~2%; Renaissance Italy – about 20% (see Van Zanden et al., 2009).

Some back of the envelope calculations for IQ:

  • Greeks are Caucasoids so let’s take the modern Greenwich mean of 100 as first default approximation, and slightly higher for Mongoloids (Romans: 100; Chinese: 105; Italy: 100)
  • Nutrition (subtract from optimal): Greeks – minus 5; Romans – minus 8; Chinese – minus 10 (would increase later); Italy – minus 5 (was very well fed in the depopulated years after the Black Death).
  • Inbreeding/Family Systems: Greeks – minus o (positive advantage of stem family type cancels out relatively modest incidence of cousin marriage); Romans – minus 2 (exagamous communitarian); Chinese – minus 5 (exagamous communitarian but more cousin marriage than amongst Romans); Italy – minus 0 (egalitarian family system with little cousin marriage thanks to Catholic Church regulations)
  • Parasitic Load: Greeks – minus 5 (let’s say that’s best possible in preindustrial age); Romans – minus 7 (did have more irrigation); Chinese – minus 10; Italy – minus 7
  • Guesstimated IQ: Greeks – 90; Romans – 83; Han Chinese – 80; Renaissance Italy – 88. Incidentally, this would give the Greeks enough of an edge to give substance to ancient stereotypes about their intelligence and craftiness but without having to evoke superhuman IQ levels.

Let us recall some definitions:

Assume that the intellectual output of an average IQ (=100, S.D.=15) young adult Briton in the year 2000 – as good an encapsulation of the “Greenwich mean” of intelligence as any – is equivalent to one nous (1 ν).

This can be used to calculate the aggregate mindpower (M) in a country.

and…

Technological growth c * M(>threshold IQ for new discovery) * literacy rate

Here are some rough calculations:

ancient-greece-and-aggregate-mindpower

Reminders:

  • c is information tech multipliers, i.e. things that make scientific/cultural progress easier. A modern example would be the Internet. I gave Renaissance Italy a bonus because of its invention of eyeglasses, which essentially doubled the creative lifespans of skilled artisans (and at the peak of their powers), and the spread of the printing press from the mid-15th century.
  • M is total aggregate mindpower. It does not have much meaning for Malthusian societies, but in the modern world it would generally correlate with total GDP.
  • The other Ms refer to the aggregate mindpower that is above the Greenwich mean to one, two, and three standard deviations respectively. Recall that not even a trillion homo erectus will come up with the calculus; you need to be above a certain threshold to make any progress. Recall also that the discovery threshold is generally 2 S.D. above the mastery threshold.
  • Recall also the assumption that (beyond the threshold) more intelligent people are exponentially more effective at solving problems that duller people; but of course the absolute numbers of those highly intelligent people taper off dramatically due to bell curve dynamics.

To understand the Pythagoras Theorem you need an IQ of around 100, implying that to discover it, the threshold is around 130. The Odyssey might be a great classic, but it has a simple, linear storyline with no particularly deep moral themes or conundrums (reminder: The putative heroes end up hanging all the female household servants who had allegedly slept with the suitors and no time is lost on further introspection). I suspect the threshold for writing it is also around 130.

map-7th-century-BC

Source: Classwell.com

This implies that around that period – the 8th-6th centuries BC in the Mediterranean – you needed a 130 IQ to move the intellectual boundaries outwards. As we can see, Ancient Greece was overshadowed by both the Roman Empire and Renaissance Italy at ΔT(+2.0), except that… conveniently, neither of the latter two existed. Its competitors at the time, civilizations like the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians, lagged substantially in IQ and literacy, and did not compensate demographically; Phoenicia might have matched Greek literacy, but was probably behind in IQ, and had far fewer people. Remarkably, it was vastly ahead of China even 500 years later.

Literacy increased during this period, and the population rose steadily to its plateau of ~10 million as Greeks colonized the Mediterranean rim, and so during this time, intellectually they were the only game in town.

During the two centuries of Classical Greece’s flowering from the 5th-4th centuries BC, the Ancient Greeks almost singlehandedly pushed the discovery threshold up by almost a standard deviation. In the process, tons of discoveries and advancements were made. To really appreciate Euclid, you probably need an IQ closer to 115. Archimedes was perhaps the most quantitatively brilliant Greek of them all, coming tantalizingly close to uncovering the calculus. Understanding classical Greek philosophy (and for that matter, the later works of the Neoplatonists and Gnostics) likewise becomes far more demanding but is not beyond the capabilities of a committed 110 or 115 IQ person. Even so, they have nothing on the likes of 20th century philosophers like Ludwig Wittgenstein or Martin Heidegger. Even very intelligent people have to commit years of dedicated effort in order to master their ideas. The complexity of the Antikythera mechanism (Hellenistic times) has been compared to late medieval European mechanical clocks. To really master them, I suspect the minimal IQ is likewise around 110-115, hence innovating it might require a threshold IQ of around 140-145.

By Hellenistic times, progress became much harder, not because Greeks had become (much) dumber or had become culturally Orientalized, but because the low hanging fruit had already been picked. Naturally, the same went for the Romans.

ΔT(+2.0) i.e. at the 130 discovery threshold for Ancient Greece as of ~500 BC was 43,000 (plus/minus a very large percentage error). ΔT(+3.0) i.e. at the 145 discovery threshold for the Romans as of ~0AD was 2,500 – and there were far more discoveries to be made. Naturally, progress slowed down drastically.

ΔT(+3.0) i.e. at the 145 discovery threshold of Renaissance Italy just by itself more than twice as dynamic as the entire Roman Empire. And the figures for Europe as a whole would have been vastly bigger still. Hence the (real) perception that by the Renaissance, the boundaries were once again being pushed outwards at a face rate, which would become a positive explosion from the 17th century on, when the first incipient mass literacy programs were launched and demographic mass also started soaring.

 
• Category: History, Science • Tags: Ancient Near East, Apollo's Ascent, BigPost 
HBD, Hive Minds, and H+

Today is the publication date of Hive Mind, a book by economist Garett Jones on the intimate relationship between average national IQs and national success, first and foremost in the field of economics.

I do intend to read and review it ASAP, but first some preliminary comments.

This is a topic I have been writing about since I started blogging in 2008 (and indeed well before I came across Steve Sailer or even HBD) and as it so happens, I have long been intending to write a similar sort of book myself – tentatively titled Apollo’s Ascent – but one that focuses more on the historical aspect of the relationship between psychometrics and development:

My basic thesis is that the rate of technological progress, as well as its geographical pattern, is highly dependent on the absolute numbers of literate high IQ people.

To make use of the intense interest that will inevitably flare up around these topics in the next few days – not to mention that rather more self-interested reason of confirming originality on the off chance that any of Garett Jones’ ideas happen to substantively overlap with mine – I have decided to informally lay out the theoretical basis for Apollo’s Ascent right now.

1. Nous

Assume that the intellectual output of an average IQ (=100, S.D.=15) young adult Briton in the year 2000 – as good an encapsulation of the “Greenwich mean” of intelligence as any – is equivalent to one nous (1 ν).

This can be used to calculate the aggregate mindpower (M) in a country.

Since sufficiently differing degrees of intelligence can translate into qualitative differences – for instance, no amount of 55 IQ people will be able to solve a calculus problem – we also need to be able to denote mindpower that is above some threshold of intelligence. So in this post, the aggregate mindpower of a country that is above 130 will be written as M(+2.0), i.e. that aggregate mindpower that is two standard deviations above the Greenwich mean.

2. Intelligence and Industrial Economies

There is a wealth of evidence implying an exponential relationship between average IQ and income and wealth in the United States.

human-capital-and-gdp-per-capita-world

Click to enlarge.

There is likewise a wealth of evidence – from Lynn, Rindermann, La Griffe du Lion, your humble servant, etc. – that shows an exponential relationship between levels of average national IQ and GDP per capita (PPP adjusted). When you throw out countries with a legacy of Communism and the ruinous central planning they practiced (China, the Ex-USSR and Eastern Europe, etc), and countries benefitting disproportionately from a resource windfall (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc), there is an amazing R2=0.84 correlation between performance in the PISA international standardized student tests and GDP (PPP) per capita. (In sociology, anything about R2=0.3 is a good result).

The reasons for this might be the case are quite intuitive. At the most basic level, intelligent people can get things done better and more quickly. In sufficiently dull societies, certain things can’t get done at all. To loosely borrow an example from Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, assume a relatively simple widget that requires ten manufacturing steps that have to be done just right to make it commercially viable. Say an 85 IQ laborer has a failure rate of 5% for any one step, while a 100 IQ laborer has a failure rate of 1%. This does not sound like that big or cardinal of a difference. But repeated ten times, some 40% of the duller worker’s production ends up being a dud, compared to only 10% of the brighter worker’s. Consequently, one is competitive on the global markets, whereas the other is not (if labor costs are equal; hence, of course, they are not).

Now imagine said widget is an automobile, with hundreds of thousands of components. Or an aircraft carrier, or a spaceship. Or a complex surgery operation.

More technical way of looking at this: Consider the GDP equation, Y = A * K^α * L^(1-α), in which K is capital, L is labour, α is a constant that usually equals about 0.3, and A is total factor productivity. It follows that the only way to grow per capita output in the longterm is to raise productivity. Productivity in turn is a function of technology and how effectively it is utilized and that in turn depends critically on things like human capital. Without an adequate IQ base, you cannot accumulate much in the way of human capital.

There are at least two further ways in which brighter societies improve their relative fortunes over and above what might merely be implied by their mere productivity advantage at any technological level.

robot-density

Source: Swiss Miss.

First, capital gets drawn to more productive countries, until the point at which its marginal productivity equalizes with that of less productive countries, with their MUCH LOWER levels of capital intensity. First World economies like Germany, Japan, and the US are extremely capital intensive. It is probably not an accident that Japan, Korea, and Taiwan – some of the very brightest countries on international IQ comparisons – also have by far the world’s highest concentrations of industrial robots per worker (and China is fast catching up). Since economic output is a function not only of pure productivity but also of capital (though subject to diminishing returns) this provides a big further boost to rich countries above the levels implied by their raw productivity. And as the age of automation approaches, these trends will only intensify.

Second, countries with higher IQs also tend to be better governed, and to effectively provide social amenities such as adequate nutrition and education to their populations. Not only does it further raise their national IQs, but it also means that it is easier to make longterm investments there and to use their existing human capital to its full potential.

All this implies that different levels of intelligence have varying economic values on the global market. At this stage I am not so much interested in establishing it with exactitude as illustrating the general pattern, which goes something like this:

  • Average IQ = 70 – Per capita GDP of ~$4,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, such as Ghana (note however that many countries in this class are not yet fully done with their Malthusian transitions, which will depress their per capita output somewhat – see below).
  • Average IQ = 85 – Per capita GDP of ~$16,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, such as Brazil.
  • Average IQ = 100 Per capita GDP of ~45,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, or approximately the level of core EU/US/Japan.
  • Average IQ = 107 – Per capita GDP of potentially $80,000, as in Singapore (and it doesn’t seem to have even finished growing rapidly yet). Similar figures for elite/financial EU cities (e.g. Frankfurt, Milan) and US cities (e.g. San Francisco, Seattle, Boston).
  • Average IQ = 115 – Largely a theoretical construct, but that might be the sort of average IQ you’d get in, say, Inner London – the center of the global investment banking industry. The GDP per capita there is a cool $152,000.

Countries with bigger than normal “smart fractions” (the US, India, Israel) tend to have a bigger GDP per capita than what could be assumed from just from their average national IQ. This stands to reason because a group of people equally split between 85 IQers and 115 IQers will have higher cognitive potential than a room composed of an equivalent number of 100 IQers. Countries with high average IQs but smaller than normal S.D.’s, such as Finland, have a slightly smaller GDP per capita that what you might expect just from average national IQs.

These numbers add up, so a reasonable relationship equilibrium GDP (assuming no big shocks, good policies, etc) and the structure and size of national IQ would be:

Equilibrium GDP of a country exponent (IQ) * the IQ distribution (usually a bell curve shaped Gaussian) * population size * the technological level

Which can be simplified to:

Y ≈ c*M*T

… where M is aggregate mindpower (see above), T is the technology level, and c is a constant denoting the general regulatory/business climate (close to 1 in many well run capitalist states, <0.5 under central planning, etc).

To what extent if any would this model apply to pre-industrial economies?

3. Intelligence and Malthusian Economies

sfd

Source: A Farewell to Alms

Very little. The problem with Malthusian economies is that, as per the old man himself, population increases geometrically while crop yields increase linearly; before long, the increasing population eats up all the surpluses and reaches a sordid equilibrium in which births equal deaths (since there were a lot of births, that means a lot of deaths).

Under such conditions, even though technology might grow slowly from century to century, it is generally expressed not in increasing per capita consumption, but in rising population densities. And over centennial timescales, the effects of this (meager) technological growth can be easily swamped by changes in social structure, biome productivity, and climatic fluctuations (e.g. 17th C France = pre Black Death France in terms of population, because it was Little Ice Age vs. Medieval Warm Period), or unexpected improvements in agricultural productivity e.g. from the importation of new crops (e.g. the coming of sweet potatoes to China which enabled it to double its population over the previous record even though it was in outright social regress for a substantial fraction of this time).

All this makes tallying the rate of technological advance based on population density highly problematic. Therefore it has to be measured primarily in terms of eminent figures, inventions, and great works.

sdfds

Distribution of significant figures across time and place. Source: Human Accomplishment.

The social scientist Charles Murray in Human Accomplishment has suggested a plausible and objective way of doing it, based on tallying the eminence of historical figures in culture and the sciences as measured by their prevalence in big reference works. Societies that are at any one time intensively pushing the technological frontiers outwards are likely to be generating plenty of “Great People,” to borrow a term from the Civilization strategy games.

To what extent does the model used for economic success apply to technology?

4. Intelligence and Technology Before 1800

A narrow intellectual elite is responsible for 99%+ of new scientific discoveries. This implies that unlike the case with an economy at large, where peasants and truck drivers make real contributions, you need to have a certain (high) threshold level of IQ to materially contribute to technological and scientific progress today.

The Anne Roe study of very eminent scientists in 1952 – almost Nobel worthy, but not quite – found that they averaged a verbal IQ of 166, a spatial IQ of 137, and a math IQ of 154. Adjusted modestly down – because the Flynn Effect has only had a very modest impact on non-rule dependent domains like verbal IQ – and you get an average verbal IQ of maybe 160 (in Greenwich terms). These were the sorts of elite people pushing progress in science 50 years ago.

To really understand 1950s era math and physics, I guesstimate that you would need an IQ of ~130+, i.e. your typical STEM grad student or Ivy League undergrad. This suggests that there is a 2 S.D. difference between the typical intellectual level needed to master something as opposed to making fundamental new discoveries in it.

Moreover, progress becomes steadily harder over time; disciplines splinter (see the disappearance of polymath “Renaissance men”), and eventually, discoveries become increasingly unattainable to sole individuals (see the steady growth in numbers of paper coauthors and shared Nobel Prizes in the 20th century). In other words, these IQ discovery thresholds are themselves a function of the technological level. To make progress up the tech tree, you need to first climb up there.

An extreme example today would be the work 0f Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki. At least Grigory Perelman’s proof of the Poincare Conjecture was eventually confirmed by other mathematicians after a lag of several years. But Mochizuki is so far ahead of everyone else in his particular field of Inter-universal Teichmüller theory that nobody any longer quite knows whether he is a universal genius or a lunatic.

In math, I would guesstimate roughly the following set of thresholds:

Mastery Discovery
Intuit Pythagoras Theorem (Ancient Egypt) 90 120
Prove Pythagoras Theorem (Early Ancient Greece) 100 130
Renaissance Math (~1550) 110 140
Differential Calculus (~1650+) 120 150
Mid-20th Century Math (1950s) 130 160
Prove Poincare Conjecture (2003) 140 170
Inter-universal Teichmüller theory (?) 150 180

This all suggests that countries which attain new records in aggregate elite mindpower relative to their predecessors can very quickly generate vast reams of new scientific discoveries and technological achievements.

Moreover, this elite mindpower has to be literate. Because a human brain can only store so much information, societies without literacy are unable to move forwards much beyond Neolithic levels, their IQ levels regardless.

As such, a tentative equation for estimating a historical society’s capacity to generate scientific and technological growth would look something like this:

Technological growth c * M(>threshold IQ for new discovery) * literacy rate

or:

ΔT c * M(>discovery-threshold) * l

in which only that part of the aggregate mindpower that is above the threshold is considered; c is a constant that illustrates a society’s propensity for generating technological growth in the first place and can encompass social and cultural factors, such as no big wars, no totalitarian regimes, creativity, etc. as well as technological increases that can have a (generally marginal) effect on scientific productivity, like reading glasses in Renaissance Italy (well covered by David Landes), and the Internet in recent decades; and the literacy rate l is an estimate of the percentage of the cognitive elites that are literate (it can be expected to generally be a function of the overall literacy rate and to always be much higher).

Is it possible to estimate historical M and literacy with any degree of rigor?

dfgdf

Source: Gregory Clark.

I think so. In regards to literacy, this is an extensive area of research, with some good estimates for Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire (see Ancient Literacy by William Harris) and much better estimates for Europe after 1500 based on techniques like age heaping and book production records.

One critical consideration is that not all writing systems are equally suited for the spread of functional literacy. For instance, China was historically one of the most schooled societies, but its literacy tended to be domain specific, the classic example being “fish literacy” – a fishmonger’s son who knew the characters for different fish, but had no hope of adeptly employing his very limited literacy for making scientific advances, or even reading “self-help” pamphlets on how to be more effective in his profession (such as were becoming prevalent in England as early as the 17th century). The Chinese writing system, whether it arose from QWERTY reasons or even genetic reasons – and which became prevalent throughout East Asia – surely hampered the creative potential of East Asians.

Estimating average national IQs historically – from which M can be derived in conjunction with historical population sizes, of which we now generally have fairly good ideas about – is far more tricky and speculative, but not totally hopeless, because nowadays we know the main factors behind national differences in IQ.

Some of the most important ones include:

  • Cold Winters Theory – Northern peoples developed higher IQs (see Lynn, Rushton).
  • Agriculture – Societies that developed agriculture got a huge boost to their IQs (as well as higher S.D.s).
  • Inbreeding – Can be estimated from rates of consanguineous marriage, runs of homozygosity, and predominant family types (nuclear? communitarian?), which in turn can be established from cultural and literary evidence.
  • Eugenics – In advanced agricultural societies, where social relations come to be dominated by markets. See Greg Clark on England, and Ron Unz on China.
  • Nutrition – Obviously plays a HUGE role in the Flynn Effect. Can be proxied by body measurements, and fortunately there is a whole field of study devoted to precisely this: Auxology. Burials, conscription records, etc. all provide a wealth of evidence.
  • Parasite Load – Most severe in low-lying, swampy areas like West Africa and the Ganges Delta.
byzantine-empire-intellectual-capacity

This old comment of mine to a post by Sailer is a demonstration of the sort of reasoning I tend to employ in Apollo’s Ascent.

All this means that educated guesses at the historic IQs of various societies are now perfectly feasible, if subject to a high degree of uncertainty. In fact, I have already done many such estimates while planning out Apollo’s Ascent. I will not release these figures at this time because they are highly preliminary, and lacking space to further elucidate my methods, I do not want discussions in the comments to latch on to some one figure or another and make a big deal out of it. Let us save this for later.

But in broad terms – and very happily for my thesis – these relations DO tend to hold historically.

Classical Greece was almost certainly the first society to attain something resembling craftsman level literacy rates (~10%). Ancient Greeks were also unusually tall (indicating good nutrition, for a preindustrial society), lived in stem/authoritarian family systems, and actively bred out during their period of greatness. They produced the greatest scientific and cultural explosion up to that date anywhere in the world, but evidently didn’t have quite the demographic weight – there were no more than 10 million Greeks scattered across the Mediterranean at peak – to sustain it.

In 15th century Europe, literacy once again begun soaring in Italy, to beyond Roman levels, and – surely helped by the good nutrition levels following the Black Death – helped usher in the Renaissance. In the 17th century, the center of gravity shifted towards Anglo-Germanic Europe in the wake of the Reformation with its obsession with literacy, and would stay there ever after.

As regards other civilizations…

The Islamic Golden Age was eventually cut short more by the increasing inbreeding than by the severe but ultimately temporary shock from the Mongol invasions. India was too depressed by the caste system and by parasitic load to ever be a first rate intellectual power, although the caste system also ensured a stream of occasional geniuses, especially in the more abstract areas like math and philosophy. China and Japan might have had an innate IQ advantage over Europeans – albeit one that was quite modest in the most critical area, verbal IQ – but they were too severely hampered by labour-heavy agricultural systems and a very ineffective writing system.

In contrast, The Europeans, fed on meat and mead, had some of the best nutrition and lowest parasitic load indicators amongst any advanced civilization, and even as rising population pressure began to impinge on those advantages by the 17th-18th centuries, they had already burst far ahead in literacy, and intellectual predominance was now theirs to lose.

5. Intelligence and Technology under Industrialism

After 1800, the world globalized intellectually. This was totally unprecedented. There had certainly been preludes to it, e.g. in the Jesuit missions to Qing China. But these were very much exceptional cases. Even in the 18th century, for instance, European and Japanese mathematicians worked on (and solved) many of the same problems independently.

sdfsd

Source: Human Accomplishment.

But in the following two centuries, this picture of independent intellectual traditions – shining most brightly in Europe by at least an order of magnitude, to be sure, but still diverse on the global level – was to be homogenized. European science became the only science that mattered, as laggard civilizations throughout the rest of the world were to soon discover to their sorrow in the form of percussion rifles and ironclad warships. And by “Europe,” that mostly meant the “Hajnal” core of the continent: France, Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and Northern Italy.

And what had previously been but a big gap became an awning chasm.

(1) In the 19th century, the populations of European countries grew, and the advanced ones attained universal literacy or as good as made no difference. Aggregate mindpower (M) exploded, and kept well ahead of the advancing threshold IQ needed to make new discoveries.

(2) From 1890-1970, there was a second revolution, in nutrition and epidemiology – average heights increased by 10cm+, and the prevalence of debilitating infectitious diseases was reduced to almost zero – that raised IQ by as much as a standard deviation across the industrialized world. The chasm widened further.

(3) During this period, the straggling civilizations – far from making any novel contributions of their own – devoted most of their meager intellectual resources to merely coming to grips with Western developments.

This was as true – and consequential – in culture and social sciences as it was in science and technology; the Russian philosopher Nikolay Trubetzkoy described this traumatic process very eloquently in The Struggle Between Europe and Mankind. What was true even for “semi-peripheral” Russia was doubly true for China.

In science and technology, once the rest of the world had come to terms with Western dominance and the new era of the nation-state, the focus was on catchup, not innovation.This is because for developing countries, it is much more useful in terms of marginal returns to invest their cognitive energies into copying, stealing, and/or adapting existing technology to catch up to the West than to develop unique technology of their own. Arguments about, say, China’s supposed lack of ability to innovate are completely besides the point. At this stage of its development, even now, copying is much easier than creating!

This means that at this stage of global history, a country’s contribution to technological growth isn’t only a matter of the size of its smart fractions above the technological discovery IQ threshold. (This remains unchanged: E.g., note that a country like Germany remains MUCH more innovative per capita than, say, Greece, even though their aveage national IQs differ by a mere 5 points or so. Why? Because since we’re looking only at the far right tails of the bell curve, even minor differences in averages translate to big differences in innovation-generating smart fractions).

It also relates closely to its level of development. Countries that are far away from the technological frontier today are better served by using their research dollars and cognitive elites to catch up as opposed to inventing new stuff. This is confirmed by real life evidence: A very big percentage of world spending on fundamental research since WW2 has been carried out in the US. It was low in the USSR, and negligible in countries like Japan until recently. Or in China today.

Bearing this in mind, the technological growth equation today (and since 1800, more or less) – now due to its global character better described as innovation potential – would be better approximated by something like this:

Innovation potential ≈ c * M(>threshold IQ for new discovery) * literacy rate * (GDP/GDP[potential])^x

or:

I c * M(>discovery-threshold) * l * (Y/Y[P])^x

in which the first three terms are as before (though literacy = 100% virtually everywhere now), and potential GDP is the GDP this country would obtain were its technological endowment to be increased to the maximum level possible as dictated by its cognitive profile. The “x” is a further constant that is bigger than 1 to reflect the idea that catchup only ceases to be the most useful strategy once a country has come very close to convergence or has completely converged.

Japan has won a third of all its Nobel Prizes before 2000; another third in the 2000s; and the last third in the 2010s. Its scientific achievements, in other words, are finally beginning to catch up with its famously high IQ levels. Why did it take so long?

Somebody like JayMan would say its because the Japanese are clannish or something like that. Other psychometrists like Kenya Kura would notice that perhaps they are far less creative than Westerners (this I think has a measure of truth to it). But the main “purely IQ” reasons are pretty much good enough by themselves:

  • The Nobel Prize is typically recognized with a ~25-30 year lag nowadays.
  • It is taking ever longer amounts of time to work up to a Nobel Prize because ever greater amounts of information and methods have to be mastered before original creative work can begin. (This is one consequence of the rising threshold discovery IQ frontier).
  • Critically, Japan in the 1950s was still something of a Third World country, with the attended insults upon average IQ. It is entirely possible that elderly Japanese are duller than their American counterparts, and perhaps even many Europeans of that age, meaning smaller smart fractions from the Nobel Prize winning age groups.

Japan only became an unambiguously developed country in the 1970s.

And it just so happens that precisely 40 years after this did it begin to see a big and still accelerating increase in the numbers of Nobel Prizes accruing to it!

Extending this to South Korea and Taiwan, both of which lagged around 20 years behind Japan, we can only expect to see an explosion in Nobel Prizes for them from the 2020s, regardless of how wildly their teenagers currently top out the PISA rankings.

Extending this to China, which lags around 20 years behind South Korea, and we can expect to see it start gobbling up Nobel Prizes by 2040, or maybe 2050, considering the ongoing widening of the time gap between discovery and recognition. However, due to its massive population – ten times as large as Japan’s – once China does emerge as a major scientific leader, it will do so in a very big way that will rival or even displace the US from its current position of absolute primacy.

As of 2014, China already publishes almost as many scientific papers per year as does the US, and has an outright lead in major STEM fields such as Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science. (Though to be sure, their quality is much lower, and a significant fraction of them are outright “catching up” or “adaption” style papers with no new findings).

If we assume that x=1, and that c is equal for both China and the US, then it implies that both countries currently have broadly equal innovation potential. But of course c is not quite equal between them – it is lower for China, because its system is obviously less conductive to scientific research than the American – and x is higher than 1, so in practice China’s innovation potential is still considerably lower than that of the US (maybe a quarter or a third). Nonetheless, as China continues to convege, c is going to trend towards the US level, and the GDP gap is going to narrow; plus it may also be able to eke out some further increases in its national average IQ from the current ~103 (as proxied by PISA in 2009) to South Korea’s level of ~107 as it becomes a truly First World country.

And by mid-century it will likely translate into a strong challenge to American scientific preeminence.

6. Future Consequences

The entry of China onto the world intellectual stage (if the model above is more or less correct) will be portentuous, but ultimately it will in its effects on aggregate mindpower be nowhere near the magnitude in global terms of the expansion in the numbers of literate, mostly European high IQ people from 1450 to 1900, nor the vast rise in First World IQ levels from 1890-1970 due to the Flynn Effect.

Moreover, even this may be counteracted by the dysgenic effects already making themselves felt in the US and Western Europe due to Idiocracy-resembling breeding patterns and 80 IQ Third World immigration.

And no need for pesky implants!

Radically raise IQ. And no need for pesky neural implants!

A lot of the techno-optimistic rhetoric you encounter around transhumanist circles is founded on the idea that observed exponential trends in technology – most concisely encapsulated by Moore’s Law – are somehow self-sustaining, though the precise reasons why never seem to be clearly explained. But non-IT technological growth peaked in the 1950s-70s, and has declined since; and as a matter of fact, Moore’s Law has also ground to a halt in the past 2 years. Will we be rescued by a new paradigm? Maybe. But new paradigms take mindpower to generate, and the rate of increase in global mindpower has almost certainly peaked. This is not a good omen.

Speaking of the technological singularity, it is entirely possible that the mindpower discovery threshold for constructing a superintelligence is in fact far higher than we currently have or are likely to ever have short of a global eugenics program (and so Nick Bostrom can sleep in peace).

On the other hand, there are two technologies that combined may decisively tip the balance: CRISPR-Cas9, and the discovery of the genes for general intelligence. Their maturation and potential mating may become feasible as early as 2025.

While there are very good reasons – e.g., on the basis of animal breeding experiments – for doubting Steve Hsu’s claims that genetically corrected designer babies will have IQs beyond that of any living human today, increases on the order of 4-5 S.D.’s are entirely possible. If even a small fraction of a major country like China adopts it – say, 10% of the population – then that will in two decades start to produce an explosion in aggregate global elite mindpower that will soon come to rival or even eclipse the Renaissance or the Enlightenment in the size and scope of their effects on the world.

The global balance of power would be shifted beyond recognition, and truly transformational – indeed, transhuman – possibilities will genuinely open up.

 

hitler-reading-book One interesting approach that has nothing to do with Pumpkin Person’s z factors: People tend to associate most closely with people of similar IQs.

Fortunately, uniquely for the elites of a major state, we have some detailed data on the IQs of the Nazi leadership (with the exception of a few important guys like Goebbels, Himmler, Bormann, and the Fuhrer himself) thanks to the US psychometrists attached to Nuremberg.

1 Hjalmar Schacht 143
2 Arthur Seyss-Inquart 141
3 Hermann Goering 138
4 Karl Doenitz 138
5 Franz von Papen 134
6 Eric Raeder 134
7 Dr. Hans Frank 130
8 Hans Fritsche 130
9 Baldur von Schirach 130
10 Joachim von Ribbentrop 129
11 Wilhelm Keitel 129
12 Albert Speer 128
13 Alfred Jodl 127
14 Alfred Rosenberg 127
15 Constantin von Neurath 125
16 Walther Funk 124
17 Wilhelm Frick 124
18 Rudolf Hess 120
19 Fritz Sauckel 118
20 Ernst Kaltenbrunner 113
21 Julius Streicher 106

As I recall from what I’ve read on Hitler and internal Nazi politics, of the above list, particularly “close associates” of Hitler would include: Goering; Ribbentrop; Speer; and until his “betrayal,” Hess. Their average IQ is 129.

While there was never much love lost between Hitler and the German military establishment, the closest military connection to Hitler from that list would be Keitel, who was infamous for his toadying behavior towards the Fuhrer. His IQ also happened to be precisely 129.

(Incidentally, while Jodl is regarded as far more competent than Keitel – he is the guy who actually made OKW command structure run – it’s interesting to note his IQ was actually lower than that of his boss, if marginally so).

In practice, Goering’s IQ during his time as Nazi bigwig might have actually been lower, due to his morphine addiction. On the other hand, there are suspicions that Speer was in fact considerably cleverer than his test scores indicated, because he was playing the “dumb dreamer architect” type so as to pretend ignorance of the death camps and avoid execution (if so he was successful). So these two factors might cancel out.

Adjusting for the Flynn effect – but only modestly, since the most useful (not rules-dependent) forms of intelligence haven’t improved all that radically, and we have an IQ of around 125 for Hitler normed to today’s Greenwich standards.

I think this is essentially accurate. He was a high school dropout and failed to get into the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts. He was a brilliant orator, but oratory skills have low g loadings.

Hitler did write a famous book. But Mein Kampf is a very badly written book, even ideology outside. Here is one particularly egregious example that I still recall reading a dozen years later by virtue of just how bad it was:

THE EXTENT of the fall of a body is always measured by the distance between its momentary position and the one it originally occupied. The same is true of nations and states. A decisive significance must be ascribed to their previous position or rather elevation. Only what is accustomed to rise above the common limit can fall and crash to a manifest low This is what makes the collapse of the Reich so hard and terrible for every thinking and feeling man, since it brought a crash from heights which today, in view of the depths of our present degradation, are scarcely conceivable.

And this was after Hess – with an IQ of 120 – had labored on Mein Kampf long and hard to make it at least minimally suitable for publication.

On the other hand, Hitler was always near the top of his class academically, which puts a lower limit of about 120 on his IQ. Here is is a quote from a book b y a childhood friend of Hitler’s via Pumpkin Person:

From school sources there is abundant authentic material describing his school performance. In primary school he was always near the top of the class. He learned quickly and made good progress without much effort.

He was also a good but not brilliant artist. On the basis of this, Pumpkin Person estimates his Performance IQ at 133 (Flynn-adjusted).

Hitler has some major geopolitical successes early on, but these were probably more a result of aggression and blind luck than intelligence (had France decisively reacted anytime at Munich or beforehand, the Nazis would have been finished. Not even necessarily due to the allies. The generals were interminably planning a coup throughout the 1930s, to be put into action should Hitler’s plans have blown up).

These geopolitical victories were in any case completely reversed later on – thanks in significant part to Hitler refusing to listen to and heed the advice of his generals (in contrast, Stalin realized he was hopeless on military matters after 1941, and with a few costly exceptions like the Third Battle of Kharkov, largely left the technical details to his generals thereafter).

Against that, it should be admitted that the Nazi leadership was more or less uniformly of the opinion that Hitler had a very high intellect, and was possibly a genius. Apparently, this included Hjalmar Schacht, the brightest of them all:

He read an enormous amount and acquired a wide knowledge. He juggled with that knowledge in a masterly manner in all debates, discussions and speeches. He was undoubtedly a man of genius in certain respects. He had sudden ideas of which nobody else had thought and which were at times useful in solving great difficulties, sometimes with astounding simplicity, sometimes, however, with equally astounding brutality. He was a mass psychologist of really diabolical genius…

However, there are two potential confounds here. First of all, Hitler was a brilliant orator, which expressed itself not only in his speeches but his casual “table talk.” Even very intelligent people can easily mistake this for genius, especially if they are lacking in the rhetorical/charismatic department themselves. Second, the Nazis at Nuremburg had a vested interest in presenting Hitler as a “diabolical genius” type of character in order to diminish their own share of responsibility for war crimes (and their risk of being hanged).

My (very rough) impressions/recollections from reading Nazi histories is that Hitler was certainly a step above the likes of feckless-schoolboy type Hess or the infamously callous Kaltenbrunner, but decidedly below Franz von Papen, Doenitz, and Schacht. To the contrary, his intellectual ability seems to fit right in besides that of Speer and Ribbentrop (also personal friends), and of Rosenberg (the Nazi “philosopher”).

Finally, the 125 estimate for Hitler’s IQ broadly tallies with Pumpkin Person’s estimates of a verbal IQ of 120 and a Performance IQ of 133. Hence, I think it is credible.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Germany, Hitler, Intelligence 

alexievich-likes-iron-felix One of the consequences of selecting a literary nobody for the world’s most prestigious intellectual prize is that people will begin digging into their biographies. And find some very, very interesting things.

This is what has been happening in regards to 2015 Nobel Literature Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, whose main distinguishing feature seems to be neither eminence nor literary quality but dogged opposition to everything and everyone that the Western elites dislike – first and foremost, the genetically aggressive and barbarous Russian people and their current President, Putin.

Russia blogger Igor Petrov recently discovered some of her writings for a Soviet literary journal from 1977. Intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Polish founder of the Soviet secret police, it is entitled “The Sword and Flame of the Revolution” – and is every bit the breathless panegyric you might expect from something like that.

I have collected Petrov’s scans of her article into a PDF which you can download here (in Russian, of course).

Here are some choice quotes:

I always catch myself thinking that I want to quote Dzerzhinsky himself. His diaries. His letters. And I don’t do this out of any desire to easen my journalistic tasks, but out of adoration for his personality, for the words that he spoke, and the thoughts he must have felt. I know that Dzerzhinsky loved children very much… Thousands of street orphans owe him their new lives…

I wonder if the words she quoted from Dzerzhinsky ever included the following: “We represent in ourselves organized terror – this must be said very clearly,” or this: “[The Red Terror involves] the terrorization, arrests and extermination of enemies of the revolution on the basis of their class affiliation or of their pre-revolutionary roles.”

The whole thing goes on and on in a similar vein, recounting anecdotes about Dzerzhinsky modest and selfless character. He refused the gift of a new suiter because so many other people were living in poverty. He ordered the Turkmen comrades to reverse their decision to name a railway after him. He worked and lived in his office, only venturing to sleep once every few days. On and on it goes. In short, it is a good illustration of why most Soviet literary journals went unread, and for that matter why most Russians were unaware of the existence of “stars” like Alexievich before a few guys in Sweden decided to boost her prominence.

alexievich-adores-iron-felix Still, the ending, in which she remarks on her impressions of a museum dedicated to Dzerzhinsky, takes the cake for shamelessness:

When my son grows up, we will certainly both come to this place to bow before the immortal spirit of him, who carried the name Felix Dzerzhinsky – the “sword and flame” of the proletarian revolution.

This is cringeworthy stuff even by Brezhnevite Soviet standards. This is far too ardent – in order words, she is trying way too hard – for this to be explainable as merely a way of paying the bills.

Instead, the image that emerges instead is of Svetlana Alexievich as a standard pen for hire spouting the politically correct drivel of the day. This changed decade to decade. In the 1970s, that involved writing paeans to the blood-drenched spiritual ancestor of the KGB. In the late 1980s – humanistic criticism of Chernobyl and Afghanistan. In the 1990s – the denigration of the regime she had once eulogized. Come the mid-2000s, the Obkom – the one based in Washington D.C., this time round – emphasized a new set of guideposts for its admirers in the Russosphere, centered around demonization of Putin and the delegitimization of Russian statehood and the opinions of ordinary Russians in general. Fervent support for the Maidan and the so-called Revolution of Dignity is merely the latest expression of this.

In short, she is the mirror opposite of someone like Solzhenitsyn, who whether you agree with him or not, stayed constant to his ideals throughout his life, even as the West went from praising to vilifying him as soon as he was perceived to have outlived his usefulness.

And, lest it be forgotten, anybody who didn’t take the new party line fast enough is – according to Alexievich herself – to be firmly punished and removed. All in the best traditions of her enduring idol, Iron Felix himself.

Of course Russian TV corrupts you. What the Russian media says today – they simply have to be prosecuted for it. For what they say about Europe, about Donbass, about Ukrainians… But this isn’t all. The problem is that people actually want to hear this. We can talk today about a collective Putin, because there is a Putin sitting in all Russians. The Red Empire has vanished, but its people have remained.

What can we take away from this? To be sure, one presumes that the Nobel Prize Committee never got the chance to be acquainted with Alexievich’s pre-perestroika writings.

But insofar as uncritical loyalty and dedication towards the latest politically correct dogma of the day is now standard practice in the West as it was in the Soviet Union – and in this respect, Sweden Yes! is a leader, not a follower – the Nobel Prize Committee’s decision in light of these revelations can be considered even more “correct” than was the case beforehand.

 

In the latest news from the ongoing comedy skit that is Ukrainian politics, we learn that Mikheil Saakashvili has been appointed governor of Odessa oblast.

Who is Saakashvili?

The son of Soviet apparatchiks with ties to the diplomatic service, which was dominated by Georgians in the late USSR, this onetime university dropout enjoyed a great deal of success in the 1990s, picking up various fellowships, grants, stipends, awards, etc. from respectable European and American institutions. Invited back into Georgia by his friend Zurab Zhvania, he soon went into opposition to Gorby’s Foreign Minister turned Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Eventually, this culminated in Shevardnadze’s overthrow in the Rose Revolution of 2003. From then on, it was a familiar story.

Saakashvili was, back then, one of the beacons of pro-Western liberalism and reform in the former Soviet world, the object of regular paeons in the MSM. Some of the lustre has since come off, following his idiotic attack on Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia that resulted in military defeat in 2008, and his own ignominious political end in Georgia itself following revelations of mass abuse in the prison system – under his Presidency, the incarceration rate tripled to become Europe’s highest per capita – relevations that were carefully coordinated by his political opponents. He is now wanted in his native land, which he fled even before his Presidential term came to a formal end, on an array of charges related to corruption as well as possible involvement in various suspicious deaths (including that of Zhvania kek) and murders. Nonetheless, for all his democratic and human rights failings, which all but the most hardcore neocons by now acknowledge, there is still a very widespread impression that he is at least someone who can get the job done – that is, improve living standards, strengthen the country, and root out corruption. After all, did he not liquidate the everyday bribery that is a depressing feature common to the entire post-Soviet world? Did he not make Georgia one of the world’s most attractive places for business? Did he not lay the foundations of, in his own word s, “a future Georgian Switzerland, the future Georgian Singapore, the future Georgian Dubai, the Georgian Hong Kong, and of the greatest Georgia of all times”? And would not Odessa benefit from his impeccable credentials and expertise?

The only problem is that his legend is lies, lurid and false; a con for the ages.

The Economy

The economy did grow under Saakashvili. And across a range of institutional indices like the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and various economic freedom indices it did radically improve its position.

georgia-gdp-history

The only problem was that it was doing so from an exceedingly low base, and even today, total GDP per capita (in constant dollars) is still considerably lower than it was in 1990. That’s 25 years and counting! Moreover, the growth rate was virtually the same under the “reformist” Saakashvili as it was under the “Soviet fossil” Shevardnadze. Nor was it any better than that of Georgia’s neighbors. To the contrary, it was far worse than in Azerbaijan, which yes you could ascribe to oil, but was also far worse than in neighboring Armenia and in Belarus. Both Armenia and Belarus are located in geopolitical straits just as trying as Georgia’s – Armenia is blockaded on two sides by Turkey and Azerbaijan, while Belarus is known as “Europe’s last dictatorship” and is under longstanding Western sanctions. Georgia’s performance, including under Saakashvili, only looks adequate in comparison to the total disaster zones that are Ukraine and Moldova. Productivity in the agricultural sector – where around half the Georgian population still works – has remained completely static since the early 1990s, whereas it more than trebled in neighboring Armenia.

Amazing as it might sound, but fanatically-pursued libertarian reforms, US military aid, and a couple of hotels erected by Trump to service gushing Westerners seeking photo-ops with Saakashvili on G.W. Bush Boulevard do not a strong economy make.

Corruption

One of the things that virtually everyone agrees on, even his critics, is that under Saakashvili, Georgia “solved” its corruption problem. If so, this would make it a somewhat unique achievement for the ex-Soviet world, bar only Estonia, and worthy of praise.

Now what does the data say? Certainly Georgia greatly improved its positions on surveys that elites pay a lot of attention to, such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, where Georgia increased its rating from an abysmal 18/100 in 2003 to a respectable, Baltic-level 49/100 by 2013. But according to ratings that measure corruption realities as opposed to the perceptions of anonymous “experts” who can be unduly influenced by PR agencies – the likes of Aspect Consulting, Orion Strategies, Public Strategies, and the Glover Park Group, which received millions of dollars under Saakashvili to burnish his reformist image – the improvement on the ground was far more modest. 6% of Georgians reported paying a bribe in the past year in 2004, the first year of Saakashvili’s Presidency, and before his reforms could reasonably be expected to have taken effect; in 2013, the last year of his President, it was 4%. An improvement, sure, but not a particularly radical one. Actual opinion polls by Transparency International suggest that lowlevel corruption was not a big problem in Georgia pre-Saakashvili, and its reduction under him could just as easily have been a simple matter of the general withering away of the state’s regulatory agencies under his libertarian reforms. For instance, the near wholesale removal of university tuition subsidies – essential for democratic access to higher education in a country as poor as Georgia – led to a plunge in tertiary enrollment by almost a third relative to the early-to-mid-2000s. Fewer students automatically translates to fewer bribes for grades. These examples can be extended indefinitely: Less contact with the state automatically leads to “lower” corruption. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “good” in all cases.

open-budget-index-georgia-russia

What about institutions? According to the Open Budget Index, an organization that asseses the transparency of state accounts according to objective criteria (as opposed to perceptions), Georgia did improve, but has always lagged Putin’s “mafia state.” Now, true, a low score in the OBI doesn’t necessarily imply institutions are more corrupt; they could be both secretive and honest. But in the virtual absence of objective, quantitative measures of institutional quality – of which corruption perceptions by a bunch of anonymous and unaccountable “experts” are most definitely not – it’s the best we have, at least as a rough proxy of states’ eagerness to tackle corruption and willingness to be forthright with their citizens.

Then, in addition to lowlevel and institutional corruption, we also have highlevel corruption. This is the hardest to gauge of them all, even just by definition (how many American bank bailouts are equivalent to how many Chinese or Russian offshore accounts?). That said, this is the one aspect of corruption in Georgia that many people acknowledge is unlikely to have improved and might have even become worse relative to Shevardnadze’s period. To the contrary, all accounts indicate that Saakashvili merely centralized highlevel corruption around his own figure – allegations that have now been given form by concrete criminal charges against him in Georgia.

Added all up, we likely see real but modest improvements in lowlevel and institutional corruption under Saakashvili, which is of course “good” but doesn’t come anywhere near to justifying the panegyrics addressed towards him by Western elites and their lackeys in Ukraine when we consider that these improvements were seen in most of the rest of the ex-Soviet world in the 2000s as well, including in the dark lands themselves, Putin’s Russia. As for highlevel corruption all that happened was that the pig put on lipstick.

Demography

Surely the ultimate litmus test of a political leader’s performance is in whether people want to live in his realm or not. For a long time, for all his foreign policy failings and overblown economic and institutional achievements, it appeared that in this at least Saakashvili had succeeded, with Georgia’s demographic decline stabilizing at around four and half million people after 2002 due to declining emigration and a rebound in the fertility rate from 1.4 children per woman in the early 2000s to 1.8 today.

Then came the 2014 Census, and it emerged that Georgia’s population decline had if anything accelerated under Saakashvili, with the population hitting 3.7 million relative to 4.4 million in 2002 and 4.9 million in 1989 (all figures are minus Abkhazia and South Ossetia).

georgia-population-trends-1959-2014

Where did all the Georgians go? Most went to Russia: Of the $1.26 billion Georgia received in remittances in 2011 (almost 10% of Georgia’s GDP), more than half – $655 million – came from Russia. Surely quite an embarassment that the economy of “Switzerland in the Caucasus” and “oldest Colchis Europe, the most ancient civilization” was essentially held afloat by Georgian Gasterbaiters in a “barbarian” country with “mongoloid brutality and ideology,” as Saakashvili himself put it.

But even as Saakashvili ranted and raved about Russia’s Asiatic barbarity, using vocabulary that had disappeared off respectable European tongues since 1968, it appears that Georgians continued to vote with their feet and emigrate to Russia in ridiculously large numbers. For comparison, Georgia’s population loss over the past decade is equivalent to what saw in Latvia or Lithuania after their accession to the EU. I imagine it is considerably easier for a Balt to move to Ireland than it is for a Georgian to move to Moscow.

Mishiko in Odessa

Now that the myth has been swept away, we have just the man before us, whose essence boils down to an idiosyncratic combination of iconoclasm, vindictive incompetence, and Western cargo cultism.

Perhaps the best real life metaphor for this was the demolition of a Soviet-era monument to victory in the Great Patriotic War in Kutaisi, in which 200,000 Georgians died. Not a monument to Stalin, or anything like that – though it should be noted that Georgians are far more partial towards Stalin than are Russians – but just a simple victory monument. But they couldn’t even get that right. When it was blown up, two people – a mother and her eight year old daughter – were killed by the flying concrete, and four others were seriously injured. This was noticed, even in the West. As a Western cargo cultist in a position of power you really have to fuck up pretty good to even get American state media like RFERL to criticize you.

It takes true skillz to make all three of these people laugh at you.

It takes true skillz to make all three of these people laugh at you.

On getting appointed to head Odessa oblast, despite having at most just ever visited it as a tourist, Saakashvili smarmily proclaimed “I ❤ Odessa.” A whole range of other people were not that happy. Kolomoysky, the oligarch-lord of Dnepropetrovsk, whose protege Igor Palitsa had previously ruled Odessa and who is locked in a simmering conflict with Poroshenko, said that Saakashvili would betray Odessa to the Russians at the first opportunity: “By the way, how many citizenships does Saakashvili have? Would probably beat even me. American, Georgian, Dutch, and now Ukrainian” (Kolomoysky, for the record, has three. When a journalist told him that double citizenship is illegal in Ukraine, Kolomoysky remarked that while that is true, there’s nothing illegal about triple citizenship on the lawbooks. A bona fide Odessan retort if there ever was one). Lyashko, a caricature of a nationalist politician who is also widely regarded as a faggot amongst all Ukrainians, including even his supporters (much more so for his hystrionic grandstanding and violent denials than for the actual details of his sexual orientation), and is also deeply at odds with Kolomoysky, was also against the appointment: “Of all Ukraine’s 45 million citizens, not a single one could be found to head Odessa oblast? … [Poroshenko] admitted before the whole world that Ukrainians are unable to govern themselves. Maybe we should get a President from abroad too?” Sure… why not. Finally, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s PM and President at the time of the South Ossetian War, undiplomatically remarked: “The comedy show continues. Unhappy Ukraine…”

When you have someone who simultaneously infuriates and/or amuses such an amazingly wide and conflicting range of political forces, you know that the whole thing is a pathetic farce.

Both Western and Russian analysts have linked Saakashvili’s appointment to the mounting blockade of Transnistria, the breakaway Russo-Ukrainian population Moldovan province. With Ukraine now on board as well as Moldova, its position has become very precarious. Short of Russia establishing an air corridor, the garrison within Transnistria is no longer able to resupply. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is now an additional potential flashpoint to an outbreak of overt hostilities between Russia and Ukraine. In this sense, bearing in mind Odessa’s position right next to Transnistria, Saakashvili’s resume is exceptional.

But in reality things are probably somewhat simpler. Odessa is the most unstable province in terms of separatist sentiment along with Kharkov, due to both demographics and memories of the massacre of anti-junta activists in May 2, 2014. Poroshenko needs someone who is able to crack heads if need be, someone who is unrelated to Kolomoysky, his prime rival in Ukraine’s game of thrones, and preferably also someone who as an outsider would be unable to establish his own independent powerbase. Finally, it is a solid “fuck you” to Russia, and fuck what Georgia – one of Ukraine’s putative allies – makes of that. This might not sound very rational to Western ears, but reason and moderation has always been foreign to the Maidan ideologues. That is why they have unleashed a civil war in place of dialog in the first place. That is why they have claimed the not inconsiderable achievement of alienating major figures in the Polish security establishment – traditionally, and understandably, highly anti-Russian – by their maniac worship of Stepan Bandera and his murderous goons.

So in this sense Saakashvili’s appointment is perfectly understandable.

On another level, however, it is also rather sad, and not just in the way it blithely ignores Odessan opinions and lays bare the failure of Ukrainian statecraft. Saakashvili might have been a cargo cultist, obsessed with making the correct gestures – G.W. Bush Boulevards, being the third largest contributor in terms of troop quantity in the occupation of Iraq – to get cargo from the West and even half-succeeding at it – Trump Towers in Tblisi, a few five star hotels in Batumi, copious US military aid, etc. None of that cargo made a difference when Saakashvili’s forces murdered Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia in the expectation that the US would openly intervene on his side, only to face complete military defeat and the permanent reversal of the Stalinist-era borders that gave ethnically distinct Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgia in the first place.

But at least, in his defense, so far as cargo cults go, Saakashvili was the real deal. How much more pathetic is it that Poroshenko’s Ukraine is making a cargo cult of a cargo cultist?

 

A few months ago, I wrote the following:

This is a series of polls that took place in France in 1945, 1994, and 2004, respectively, asking which nation was most responsible for the defeat of Germany. Right after France’s liberation, with American and British soldiers walking the streets, a solid majority of 57% nonetheless believed that it had been the Soviet Union. But by 2004, the situation had cardinally reversed itself, with 58% now crediting the Americans and only 20% – the Soviet Union. This even constituted a decline relative to 1994, despite the intervening decade having been one of the best ever for West-Russia relations. The fact that great bulk of German divisions and airpower were destroyed on the Eastern Front pales into insignificance besides the power of Cold War and just plain anti-Russian propaganda acting on the human biomasses over the course of two generations. …

I haven’t seen any similar polls from the US or Britain, but I very much doubt they would be substantially different.

Well, now we do have such polls, not only for the US and Britain but also for some other countries of interest like Germany and Finland, all thanks to two big recent polls by YouGov and ICM Research.

Updated with an additional IFOP poll for France, and some VCIOM polls on the topic that I dug up for Russia, I believe I have assembled what may be the most comprehensive graph on changing Western attitudes towards the Soviet victory in World War 2 anywhere on the Internet.

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

Differences between the polls from different organizations shouldn’t be overstressed. For instance, the wording differs quite a bit poll to poll. But the general picture is clear and depressing.

As we can see, the percentage of Frenchmen who believe that the Soviet Union made the greatest contribution to Allied victory in World War Two has declined continuously from 1945, reaching an asymptote around 20%-25% from the 1990s on. Germany and the UK aren’t quite as historically illiterate/brainwashed as France on this issue, but the gap isn’t anything to write home about. Well, okay, at least the UK is understandable on some level; they are voting patriotically. Otherwise, they are actually the only modern Western nation to rate the Soviet contribution at a marginally higher level than the American one. But the German responses are completely inexplicable, considering that 75%-80% of Axis manpower and aircraft losses accrued to the Soviets.

But I suppose that so far as modern Germans concerned, just like Westerners in general, the Eastern Front is a place of zerg rushes and Russian rapine, while the real course of the war was decided in North Africa, the Atlantic, and the beaches of Normandy.

The retired Wehrmacht generals and Hollywood did their jobs well.

Date Table/Sources

USSR USA Great Britain Other/Don’t Know
UK 2015 (ICM) 13% 16% 46% 25%
Germany 2015 (ICM) 17% 52% 4% 27%
France 2015 (ICM) 8% 61% 9% 22%
USA 2015 (YouGov) 11% 55% 7% 27%
UK 2015 (YouGov) 15% 14% 50% 21%
Sweden 2015 (YouGov) 16% 33% 22% 29%
Germany 2015 (YouGov) 27% 37% 7% 29%
France 2015 (YouGov) 15% 47% 14% 24%
Finland 2015 (YouGov) 24% 32% 13% 31%
France 2015 (IFOP) 23% 54% 18% 5%
France 2014 (IFOP) 23% 49% 18% 10%
Russia 2010 (VCIOM) 91% 3% 1% 5%
Russian 2009 (VCIOM) 87% 4% 2% 7%
France 2004 (IFOP) 20% 58% 16% 6%
Russian 2002 (VCIOM) 92% 2% 1% 5%
France 1994 (IFOP) 25% 49% 16% 10%
France 1945 (IFOP) 57% 20% 12% 11%

PS. The YouGov poll also included data for Denmark and Norway. I did not bother to include them because they have limited influence on international affairs and their results are similar to Sweden’s anyway.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Opinion Poll, Propaganda, World War II 

xi-jinping-and-patriarch

Xi Jinping (pictured right, meeting the Patriarch Kirill) penned an op-ed in a Russian newspaper on May 6th in which, in stark contrast to the typical Western bile and hostility, he acknowledges the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazism and warns off against attempts to revise that outcome, be it on paper or in real life.

I am translating it in full for two reasons.

First, it constitutes a first-hand glance at official relations between China and Russia, which – much to the consternation of neocons, Russophobes, Sinophobes, and Western imperialists – are instead of fighting each other for make benefit of the US are instead building strong relations and continuing to ink dozens of deals whose total value now probably stands at close to a trillion dollars.

Second, to explicitly give the lie to Western propaganda that Russia is somehow “isolated” by the fact that none of Washington’s European stooges turned up at the Victory Day parade in Moscow this May 9th. Who cares? Not many Russians, at any rate. China, India, and dozens of other countries did turn up. That’s the world’s second superpower and the representatives of half of humanity. As for Obama, Merkel, Hollande, and Dave – quite frankly, the air is cleaner for their absence.

*Soundtrack – Russians and Chinese are Brothers Forever*

To Remember History, To Open the Future

by Xi Jinping

On May 9th, Victory Day in the world war against fascism, at the invitation of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, I will visit Russia and take part in the celebrations in Moscow devoted to the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. This sacred day I will celebrate together with the Russian people and the entire world.

Everyone remembers that the aggressive wars begun by the fascists and militarists inflicted unprecedented damage and suffering on the peoples of China, Russia, and the countries of Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. The relentless struggle between justice and evil, light and darkness, freedom and slavery, was joined by the peoples of China, Russia, and more than 50 other countries, as well as by all the other peace-loving peoples of the world, who stood up as one and formed a broad international anti-fascist and anti-militarist front. All these nations fought in bloody battles against the enemy, and in so doing defeated the most evil and brutal aggressors, bringing peace to the world.

I remember, in March 2013, when I first visited Russia on a state visit, I laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin walls. There was a depiction of a soldier’s helmet and a red banner on the tomb, and there burned an eternal fire, symbolizing the unbroken life and unwavering fearlessness of our fallen heroes. “Your name is unknown, your deeds are immortal.” They will never be forgotten by the Russian people, the Chinese people, or anyone else.

China was the main theater of military operations in Asia during the Second World War. The Chinese people stood up before anyone else in the struggle against the Japanese militarists, waged the longest war, fought in the hardest conditions, and, like Russia, suffered the most enormous losses. The Chinese army and people fought stoically and persistently, locking down and destroying numerous contingents of the Japanese aggressors. At the cost of a huge national sacrifice – the lives of more than 35 million people – a great victory was finally won and an enormous contribution was made to victory in the world struggle against fascism. The exploits of the Chinese people in the war against the militarists, just like the exploits of the Russian people, will be immortalized forever in history and will never die.

The Chinese and Russian peoples supported each other, helped each other, they were comrades in arms in the war against fascism and militarism, and built a friendship with each other forged with blood and life. In the most difficult times of the Great Patriotic War, many of the best sons and daughters of the Chinese people decisively joined in the battle against German fascism. Mao Anying – the eldest son of Chairman Mao Zedong – fought on many battles as a political officer of a tank company of the 1st Belorussian Front, up to the storming of Berlin. The Chinese fighter pilot Tang Duo, as deputy commander of a fighter company of the Soviet Army, distinguished himself in air battles against the fascist forces. Children of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and descendants of the fallen heroes of the Chinese Revolution, when studying at the Ivanovo international boarding school, despite that they were still only children, nonetheless went off to dig trenches, prepared Molotov cocktails, prepared food and clothes for the fighters, chopped trees, dug out potatoes, and looked after the wounded in hospitals. Apart from that, many of them regularly donated blood – 430 millilitres once per month for the soldiers at the front. The Chinese female journalist Hu Jibang, small and weak, underwent the entire war from the first day to the last, through bullets and fire, writing about the resilience and courage of the Soviet people, the barbarous cruelty of the fascist hordes, and the joy of the Russian soldiers and people in their times of triumph. It emboldened the armies and peoples of both countries, raising their will to fight to the end, to the final victory. Alongside the above heroes there are many other representatives of the Chinese people who contributed to the Great Patriotic War while remaining unknown soldiers.

The Russian people gave the Chinese people valuable political and moral support in their war against Japanese invaders. This included large convoys of arms and war material. More than 2,000 Soviet fighter pilots joined the Chinese air force and helped in the air battles over China. More than 200 of them died in battles over Chinese soil. In the closing phase of the war, Red Army soldiers of the Soviet Union were sent to north-east China. Together with the Chinese army and people they fought against the Japanese militarists, which helped China tremendously in achieving final victory. The Chinese people will always remember the Russians, both soldiers and civilians, who gave their lives for the independence and liberation of the Chinese nation.

xi-jinping-70-anniversary-ww2

The famous Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky said, that, having forgotten history, our soul can get lost in the darkness. To forget history is to commit treason. The Chinese and Russian peoples stand ready, together with all peace-loving countries and peoples, and with the automost determination and decisiveness, to oppose any actions or attempts to deny, distort, and rewrite the history of the Second World War.

This year, China and Russia will hold a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Second World War. There will also be many other events conducted by the UN and other international and regional organizations. The purpose of these events and celebrations is to demonstrate our determination to defend the results of the Second World War, to protect international equality and justice, and to remind out contemporaries that it is necessary to preserve and guard the peace that was won for humanity at too high a price.

The hard lessons of the Second World War tell people, that humanity’s coexistence is not subject to the laws of the jungle; that world politics is diametrically contradictory to belligerent and hegemonic power politics; and that the path of human development is not founded on the principle of “winner takes all” or in games with zero-sum outcomes. Peace – yes, war – no, cooperation – yes, confrontation – no, mutual gains are honored, while zero-sum results – are not: This is what constitutes the unchanging core and essence of peace, progress, and the development of human society.

Today, mankind has unprecedentedly good opportunities for the realization of our goal – peace, development, and the formation of a system of international relations that is ever more strongly based on the spirit of cooperation and mutual benefits. “Unity – is strength, while self-isolation – is weakness.” Cooperation and the win-win principle should be adopted as the basic orientation of all countries in international affairs. We have to unite our own interests with the common interests of all countries, find and expand on the common points of interests of different parties, develop and establish a new conception of multilateral win-win, to always be ready to extend a helping hand to each other at difficult times, to partake together of rights, interests, and responsibilities, and to collectively collaborate to solve growing global problems such as climate change, energy security, cybersecurity, national disasters, and so on. In short, we are in it together on our planet Earth – the homeland of all humanity.

The Chinese people and the Russian people – they are both great peoples. In the years of grief and misery, our indestructible camaraderie was cemented in place with blood. Today the peoples of China and Russian will hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder defend peace, promote development, and make their contributions to lasting world peace and human progress.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Russia, Translation, World War II, Xi Jinping 

There are some massacres that are clearly genocides, such as the Holocaust, and there are some massacres that are clearly not, such as Katyn, but in between there is a vast, gristly spectrum that in the absence of any strict and universally accepted definition of the term is dominated by quacks and cranks driven more by politics, competing ideologies, and petty ethnic grievances than by anything that approaches an altruistic commitment to humanism and historical memory.

This becomes very evident when you look at a map of global recognition of what are perhaps the two single most contentious “genocide debates” today: The Medz Yeghern (“Great Crime”) against the Armenians and other minorities in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which is seeing its centenary this April, and the Holodomor (“Death by Hunger”) against Ukrainians – and quite a few Russians, too – in the early 1930s USSR.

World Holodomor vs Armenian Genocide Recognition

Now I don’t want to wade into a debate about whether or not the Armenian Massacres and the Holomodor were specifically genocides or not. It’s been overdone, and frankly the whole thing is rather banal. Instead, through this map I compiled, I want to demonstrate just how politicized these things really are, just how closely recognitions and non-recognitions of genocide hew to geopolitical faultlines.

One could, more or less validly, argue that both the Armenian Massacres and the Holodomor were genocides. One could also – with some difficulty – argue that neither were genocides. And one could also very legitimately argue that the Armenian Massacres were genocide, but the Holodomor was not. But the one thing that you cannot do with any degree of intellectual consistency is argue that the Holodomor was a genocide while the Armenian Massacres were not. By the end of the Armenian Massacres, there were practically no Armenians left in what had once been been Western Armenia. 75% of the Armenian population in Turkey was destroyed under conditions that arguably pretty clearly fell under Article 2 (c) of the UN’s Genocide Convention. The factual argument that the Holomor was a genocide against Ukrainians is mainly underpinned by harsher regulations on internal migration in the region, but set against that, excess famine mortality in several ethnically Russian regions was also very high and weren’t far from Ukrainian levels*. And after Stalin’s death, Ukraine was larger and more coherent as a nation than it had ever been as the region of Malorossiya in the Russian Empire.

Nonetheless, it should be accepted that under a sufficiently loose definition of genocide – one that would presumably qualify the Irish Famine as such – that the Holomor could indeed be described as a genocide. The assumption I am making in this post doesn’t hinge on whether the Holodomor was a genocide or not, but on a much more minimal argument: That the Armenian Massacres were pretty unambiguously more genocidal in nature than the Holodomor. Recognizing the latter but not the former is illogical and inconsistent at best.

In reality, though, plenty of countries have recognized the Holodomor as a genocide while refraining from the doing the same with the Armenian genocide – and most of them aren’t exactly surprising: East European nations with historically hostile relations with Russia (Estonia, Latvia, Hungary); the GUAM group (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova – though it should be stressed that Ukraine only pushes the Holodomor as a genocide against Ukrainians line when it is under anti-Russian Orange regimes); and Western countries with large Ukrainian diasporas, such as Australia, Spain, and the United States. But diasporas by themselves can’t account for everything. The Armenian Lobby is a lot more influential in the US than the Ukrainian Lobby, but Obama nonetheless weaseled out of using the G-word so as not to upset Turkey too much. Turkey is of course for all the ups and downs in the relationship still a major US ally, while American relations with Russia are… quite another matter. Really, the only two puzzling features here are the tendency of Latin American countries to only recognize the Holodomor as a genocide – in particular that of Brazil and Ecuador, both socialist-lite countries who can’t be described as close friends of the US – and Romania’s failure to do so.

Still, even though the positions of the above countries are by far the more hypocritical, I don’t wish to give off the impression that most of those countries which do recognize the Armenian Massacres do it out of the goodness of their hearts. Russia’s own position on this is 90% dictated by geopolitics, 10% by its own domestic Armenian Lobby, and 0% by any humanist concerns. Likewise, geopolitics underlies Armenia’s friendliness with Russia in the first place; it has two hostile powers to the west and east, Turkey and Azerbaijan, both of which are quite friendly with the US and Israel (and the Jewish Lobby) to boot**. And it would probably surprise no-one that the recognition of the Armenian genocide by Greece, Cyprus (which recognized the Armenian genocide a year after its northern part was occupied by Turkey), Bulgaria, Lebanon, and Syria is more of a “fuck you” towards Turkey than a result of any commitment to humanism and historical memory. Likewise it is too much to hope for that Venezuela’s and Bolivia’s recognition of the Armenian genocide is about something other than asserting their ideological independence from the United States.

This is why I have some understanding towards Turkey’s essentially tu quoque response to Russia’s recognition of the Armenian genocide, and its wider strategy of whataboutism in response to accusations of genocide. After all, if the Armenian Massacres were a genocide (in which ~75% of the targeted Armenians died), then it’s not entirely obvious why the ethnic cleansing of the Circassians under the Russian Empire is not (in which ~50% of the Circassians died); and by the same chain, it is then not obvious why the Trail of Tears is not a genocide (in which ~25% of the Cherokee died). Russia strenuously denies the Circassian ethnic cleansing was a genocide, after all, and the US immortalized Andrew Jackson on its $20 bill. What’s the magic number at which ethnic cleansing becomes hardcore genocide? Did Poland commit genocide against its Germans after the end of World War Two (in which ~10% of them died)? Do the Serbs count – of whom ~0.5% died – who were cleansed from Krajina after Operation Storm with the enthusiastic connivance of the West?

So this, ultimately, is why all this international rhetoric about whether this massacre or that massacre is a genocide or not are so utterly banal, pointless, and ultimately nauseating. It has very little to do with any detailed and dispassionate statistical and comparative analysis of the historical facts. Instead, it’s all about my genocide being so much bigger than yours, it can walk right through the door.

It’s enough to make one a misanthrope.

* If you really wanted to find the closest candidate for a proper genocide – as opposed to democide – in Russian history, it would probably be the ethnic cleansing of the Circassians in the late 19th century, which were ironically not that dissimilar from the Armenian Massacres.

** It should be noted that during Soviet days, Armenia was actually a relatively restive province, with nationalist terrorists going so far as bombing the Moscow Metro in the 1970s.

 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Armenia, Genocide, Ukraine 
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.


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