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Central Bucharest, from my Airbnb apartment.

***

Romania: Impressions

Long awaited RO-POAST is finally here!

As many of you know, I was in Romania early this June. Why Romania? It was nowhere near the top of my to-go list. As with Portugal, the adventure fell into my lap – one of my friends was getting married there. Moscow-Bucharest return flight with Aeroflot was $250, and the country itself is very cheap, so why not?

The wedding itself was excellently organized, certainly the best I have ever attended, and I got to meet many interesting people during my stay there.

A considerable part of my observations draw from in-depth discussions with DT, an Alt Righter who is partly based in Romania, as well as MP, a blog reader and investment banker – as well as the scion of a Romanian boyar family who repatriated after Communism.

TLDR:

Romania is a patchwork quilt of Balkan, Slavic, Mediterranean, and Turkish influences – in approximately that order – so exploring it is endlessly fascinating (e.g. did you know that Romanian was written in Cyrillic until 1860?). The people are friendly enough, the economy is doing well, and infrastructure has been massively upgraded in the past decade. On the other hand, the country remains quite dysfunctional in many ways – rather more so than Russia, in my admittedly brief experience.

This is an observation also made by the Alt Right expat Archie Munroe in his article Is Romania Part of the West?, which perhaps overstates the case but doesn’t seem to be implausible to me.

***

The Romanians

***

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Bucharest Metro.

So I assume my readers are familiar with Le 56% Face meme that Europeans mock Americans with?

You realize that this applies to Romania more than the US as soon as you exit Arrivals at Henri Coandă Airport. Romania might well be the most phenotypically diverse nation in Europe (recent immigrants excluded). There is the stocky, brachycephalic Balkanoid type; the paler, higher cheekbone Slavic type; the swarthy, sleek Mediterranean type. There are also the Gypsies, who are furthermore not entirely discrete from the general population, since there has been interbreeding between the two groups. Consequently, you get startling throwbacks to all these ethnic archetypes, making any Romanian street or transport hub a veritable museum of European anthropology.

One amusing consequence is that I was often taken to be Romanian by other Romanians, at least before I opened my mouth. Although one might ascribe that to me being 1/4 quarter kebab, at least one acquaintance I made in our group had exactly the same experience, despite his classically North European visage. Romania: The true postracial society?

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Bucharest Northern Railway Station.

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Bucharest schoolchildren.

***

Gypsies

Although Gypsies officially account for 3.0% of the Romanian population, according to the last census in 2011, almost all Romanians with whom we had this conversation insisted that the real figure was at least 10%.

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It will hardly surprise anyone that Gypsies constitute an underclass in Romania. During my short stay in Ploiesti, I was approached by a couple of Gypsy girl-children while withdrawing cash from the ATM. Although I did not understand Romanian, it was clear they were beseeching me for money… while slowly tiptoeing me and furtively glancing at the wallet in my pocket. I completed the withdrawal and briskly strode away.

The strippers in the night club our stag party visited in Ploesti were exclusively Gypsies. To their credit, they do an honest job.

The Romanians only have bad things to say about the Gypsies; for instance, in Transylvania, the female guide at the bear sanctuary that one of our groups visited said that the local Gypsies only steal, while getting government money and the best places to live in the mountains. (Then again, is it different anywhere else? I was talking with a white American in Romania, one of those BLM-supporting boomer types. I was amused to see that when the conversation drifted from American fascist police shooting innocent blacks to the Gypsy Question he abruptly transformed into a hardcore Nazi.)

As if to confirm her point, that same group later stopped to buy a basket of raspberries from some roadside Gypsies. Honest reward for a hard day’s work? Not really. It turned out the basket was half empty.

***

Economy

***

Living Standards

Romania has done very well for itself in the past two decades, and especially the past couple of years, when GDP growth approached a Chinese-like 7%.

Consequently, it has surged well ahead of Bulgaria, converged with Croatia, and even come close to Hungary – all economies that have conversely done pretty badly in the post-socialist transition.

romania-gdp-per-capita

But to what extent do the statistics stack up to what ordinary Romanians say?

On the way back to the airport, I got to chatting with my Uber driver, as any Fat Tony ought to do.

He told me that he makes 4,000 lei ($1,000) per month. That was a doubling of his previous salary working in a factory, where he got 2,000 lei ($500).He also said that 2,000 lei is about the average Romanian salary. (This anecdote more or less matches the statistics).

He said that typical 2 bedroom rent in Bucharest is around 250 Euros, so you can see that life there would be pretty tough for non-property owners.

He was pretty skeptical about Romania’s prospects, not even so much about the low wages as social attitudes. He felt that the older generations (his generation) were ruined by Communism, having become overly dependent on the state – while treating paying taxes as something purely optional (this is a legitimate observation).

Incidentally, he struck me as a libertarian sort of fellow, as Uber drivers in my experience often are. He even supported the LGBT protest and gay marriage (“why should the state dictate what individuals want to do?”).

The Uber driver’s pessimism is one that I met rather frequently, including from an academic economist who was in our party. He claimed that the government had “destroyed education” and that the country was in a “bubble” that would collapse sooner or later.

Still, n=1 anecdotes aren’t the be all and end all. Most people love to complain, after all.

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The countryside generally struck me as having a sort of quiet prosperity, though it also seemed quite diskempt.

Since people try to avoid taxes, and the shadow economy is huge (32% of GDP according to recent IMF estimates), there is no shortage of decent looking properties in the Transylvanian countryside. These are a testament to the existence of considerable private wealth… surrounded by dirt sidewalks.

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Though I’m quite skeptical that the above property would fetch anywhere close to 150,000 Euros, unless it comes with vast tracts of land. That’s thrice the price of a centrally located studio in Bucharest.

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New church in Transylvania.

There are also plenty of churches, including new ones. I assume that this is mostly various private businessmen and rich people looking out for the long-term good of their soul (as in Russia).

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Râșnov street.

That said, there were certainly scenes of considerable poverty as well, especially in some of the smaller towns we drove through.

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We often saw cows and horses grazing on the country roads, even immediate outside sizable cities such as Ploiesti (population 225,000).

There were plenty of people selling food by the roadside.

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Horse-pulled carts are a popular stereotype about Romania, and a correct one at that (even if much reduced relative to the 1990s). We saw an average of one such cart everyday in our travels.

As is typical of underdeveloped economies, there is a lot of wasteful use of labor.

For instance, the train station at Ploiesti had two WC’s about 200 meters apart, both of them staffed by a couple of middle-aged women who collected 0.5 lei for using the facilities.

I need also emphasize that I only really visited three regions of Romania: The capital Bucharest; Ploiesti, the center of Romania’s former oil industry; and the touristic part of Transylvania, which has a strong German/Hungarian cultural – and economic – legacy.

map-romania-gdp

All of these regions are considerably above the Romanian average.

That said, bearing this in mind, I would make the following assessments about Romanian living standards:

  • They are far below “Western” living standards (duh).
  • Modestly (20%?) below Portuguese.
  • Approximately equal to Russian living standards. That said, Bucharest is not even in the same class as Moscow, while many of Russia’s “millioniki” are also superior.
  • Medium-sized (~100,000 people) Romanian and Russian towns seem to be about equal.
  • The Romanian – well, Transylvanian – countryside seems more prosperous than its Russian equivalent.

romania-224

My impression was that prices were around 50% lower than in the USA/UK, as in Russia (Portugal is in between). This is again confirmed by statistics.

That said, gas prices were much more expensive than in Russia or the US, and almost as high as in the UK.

romania-internet

Romania has a reputation as the country with one of the world’s highest Internet speeds, and based on my admittedly limited experience at my Airbnb residence in Bucharest, that certainly seems plausible.

***

Demographics

Ceausescu fantasized about making Romania a Great Power. But population equals power, and Romanian population growth was beginning to trail off by the 1960s as it entered a sharp fertility transition.

romania-birth-death-rates

The Communists implemented Decree 770 in October 1966, barring abortions in all but a few exceptional cases. This produced a fertility spike, if one that faded away with time; still, population growth remained firmly positive, peaking at 20.1 million by 2011.

Then the fertility rate collapsed, as in the rest of the ex-Communist world.

Decree 770 was repealed in 1989. Despite the Romanians being a religious people, MP noted that religion is “shallow” – as in Russia – and that Romanians as a people are the sort who want to be left alone by the state – so the chances of abortion becoming criminalized again are near zero. This syncs with my own thinking. After all, in Poland, access to abortion was associated with the “godless” Communist regime, and immediately banned upon its overthrow; in Romania, it was precisely the opposite. Still, it’s worth repeating that in modern times, abortion doesn’t seem to have a major effect on demographics – the current TFR of Romania is 1.7 children per woman, vs. 1.5 for Poland (up from 1.3 during 2000-2015).

The Romanian population peaked at 23.2 million in 1990, but had declined to just 20.1 million by 2011, and an estimated 19.7 million today.

Only 1.1 million of that decline can be attributed to natural decrease. The rest accrued to emigration; there are an estimated 3.4 million Romanian emigrants.

I was independently told by several Romanians, without any prompting on my part, that Romania has the world’s second highest numbers of emigrants after Syria.

This obviously means that this particular statistic – which appears to be true – has been getting a lot of play in the Romanian media.

This emigration has disproportionately affected the well-educated. For instance, half of Romania’s doctors (!) left between 2009-2015, primarily to other EU countries.

This is something that I often encountered myself. Here was the pattern amongst the wedding guests, who represented a cross-slice of the more prosperous parts of provincial Romanian society:

  • The elderly were in Romania.
  • Large percentage (well more than half) of the middle-aged were working in the EU, e.g. one of them painted and restored icons in Italy.
  • Almost all the young people worked abroad (a significant part directly for the EU).

The one thing that Romania doesn’t have a problem with is refugees. I was told that 200 Syrians were settled there under an EU directive, but before a few months were out, all but three of them had departed for greener pastures to the west.

This must also explain why Romania has been lackluster about supporting Visegrad in its struggle with the EU on immigration questions. This is simply not a problem that Romania will have for the foreseeable future… though the reasons why are hardly flattering to it.

***

Infrastructure

romania-51

Transylvanian highway.

Around Bucharest, and Transylvania, the roads are quite good, probably thanks in large part to EU funding (Romania has one of the highest rates of EU subsidies as a percentage of GDP).

The quality of the drivers is worse than in the US or Portugal (which in turn are worse than in most of Western Europe), and about equal to Russian ones. However, there are of course regional variations (I heard that both roads and drivers are worse in the relatively impoverished area bordering Moldova).

To my surprise, seatbelt enforcement is not yet universal; a couple of our taxi/Uber drivers did not wear them, whereas this is hardly ever encountered in Russia these days.

During my stay in Bucharest, I saw a sports car holding some youthful yobs blasting loud music speed down the main thoroughfare and physically nudge an old Dacia with a couple of pensioners.

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Preparing to drive from Brașov to Ploiesti.

Although it’s not any sort of automotive powerhouse, Romania does produce its own cars – more than enough to satisfy internal demand, and as many, in per capita terms, as Poland.

Automobile Dacia is its fourth largest company.

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The (newly upgraded) Henri Coandă International Airport is functional but unremarkable. There is still no metro line there, which is inconvenient (though this will soon be remedied); there are also no rail communications to nearby Ploesti.

Admittedly, this is not such a major problem in the age of ubiquitous Uber (which is about as cheap in Romania as Yandex Taxi/Uber are in Russia).

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romania-230

Ploiesti Sud.

The rail infrastructure is old and creaky, but presumably reliable – and extremely cheap. A first-class rail ticket from Ploiesti to Bucharest (60 km) cost me 7.20 lei for first-class (less than $2).

romania-233

The double-decker train.

romania-235

Bucuresti Nord.

That said, the country’s rail arteries leave much to be desired. I was idly thinking of taking a train from Ploiesti to Budapest, but reconsidered after learning that it would take 14 hours.

As in most of the rest of Eastern Europe, there is no such thing as high-speed rail in Romania.

***

Bucharest Metro

romania-410

The Bucharest Metro seems to work well, but it’s a rather modest and uninspiring system.

Trains run about once every 5-8 minutes, at least outside rush hour; the design consists of gray concrete slabs, but without the futuristic-bunker chic of Washington D.C.’s system.

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Metro map.

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***

Politics & Nationalism

The Romanian protests have conveniently been in the news of late (August 2018), so this would be of particular relevance at this time.

I owe my basic understanding of the Romanian political compass to DT (the quotes here are his).

(1) On the one side, you have the Social Democrats (PSD), who got 36% in the last elections – “vaguely conservative/welfarist/popular/welfarist”. They have a strong reputation for corruption, but “know the rhetoric and (legitimate) gibs policies that people like.”

They are also supported by the traditionalist Orthodox church.

(2) On the other side, you the “liberal elites, anti-corruption office (DNA), secret services (illegally/selectively giving evidence to DNA), EU-German-Soros-funded NGOs”.

Although the liberals may have legitimate concerns about corruption, they have also “adopted much of the worst Western snobbishness, social values, and alienation from their people.”

The alliance between the DNA and the secret services is known as “binomiul” (the binomial), which came to play a prominent part in Romanian politics during the last liberal-conservative government before the EU accession.

Here is how one French identitarian writer describes the standoff:

… The theme of a struggle between the democratically elected bodies against the “binomial” (the secret services and anti-corruption floor) – that’s to say, a sort of colonial prefecture instituted by Washington D.C. and Brussels to limit the sovereignty of the Romanian people until it “politically matures” – has also proved to be very strong.

In between these two forces, you have the ethnic Magyar minority party, which always gets into government regardless of who is in power – and gets amply rewarded for it.

Hardcore nationalism is all but dead – the only exception was in 2000, when Vadim Tudor got 33% of the vote in the second round; however, this was an artifact of the traumatic 1990s, and his party collapsed after his death in the late 2000s.

At the present time, nationalist parties are minor league.

However, DT notes that while Romania is not “terribly interesting” from a nationalist perspective, there might be a strong potential for a nationalist party to emerge, and – perhaps in an alliance with PSD – “Visegradize” the country.

That said, while formal nationalist movements are weak, it should be noted that most Romanians are implicitly nationalist.

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Bucharest Metro.

Slogans such as “Basarabia e România” and “Antonescu erou national” can often be found graffitied on walls and sidewalks.

My impression from conversations is that opinion about Antonescu is split about 50/50, which is not bad for a dictator who led them to defeat. But it’s not that surprising. The Italians are cool with Mussolini – Berlusconi and Caesar Salvini have both quoted him. Franco’s tomb sees tens of thousands of pilgrims. It is only the Germans who are the exception to the rule; honoring the Great Leaders of yore is otherwise quite normal.

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At the museum & gift shop in Cetatea Râșnov. Crimea belongs to… Romania?

Although it’s not, of course a topic that normal people go on about, it seemed to be that there is a fairly wide consensus that Moldova is a “fake and gay” country (to use Thorfinnsson’s scientific terminology).

Pretty much everyone is okay with annexing reunifying with Moldova… so long as it doesn’t hurt the economy too much, anyway.

In all fairness, I don’t even see how they’re wrong on Moldova.

Moldova’s color revolution was called the “Twitter Revolution.” Ponder on that for a moment. Then an amount of money equivalent to one eighth of their GDP was stolen by a Jewish businessman, who promptly absconded to Israel.

It is indeed hard to imagine a country that is more fake and gay than Moldova.

Incidentally, Romanian nationalists even have a serious lobby group at Brussels shilling for the cause in the form of the European Centre for Romanian Unity.

Established in December 2017, the European Centre for Romanian Unity brings the reunification project to the heart of EU policy making. A politically independent non-profit organisation, ECRU campaigns for a peaceful and democratic reunification of Romania and the Republic of Moldova based on a shared history, language and culture, strongly anchored in EU values, democratic principles and the rule of law.

From 1947 to 1989, what is today the Republic of Moldova found itself under the illegal occupation of the Soviet Union. The history of Moldova between 1947 and 1989 is one of famine, deportations, russification, human rights breaches and communist oppression.

In Moldova, the collapse of the communist regime in 1989 started with citizens asking the authorities to acknowledge their Romanian identity.

The growing trend of reunification in Romania and Moldova is peaceful in nature and democratic in spirit and method. … ECRU does not associate itself with any extremist, revisionist or ultra-nationalist views.

Sure you don’t, buddies. (Not that there’s anything with that).

These social media savvy nationalists dress smart, hobnob with “respectable” politicians and journalists, and – critically – couch Romanian nationalism in the language of democracy and human rights.

This is a lesson that many nationalists might want to take lessons from.

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World War I monument near Predeal railway station.

World War 1 – the Great War – is central to Romanian national memory. All medium-sized Romanian towns seem to have a prominent memorial to it.

At the Sinaia Monastery near Peleș Castle, the western wall has a scene with Carol I – the first King of independent Romania – leaning against a broken column, symbolizing the “lost” territories of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Bessarabia.

Despite Romania’s trials and tribulations during the Great War, in which it lost 8% of its population – the third highest figure after Serbia and the Ottoman Empire – it ended the war by snapping victory from the jaws of defeat, restoring all three of those columns by seizing Bukovina and Transylvania from the hapless Hungarians after the war in the west came to a formal close – and later pressuring the short-lived Moldavian Democratic Republic into a union with Romania.

(Russia, of course, did the opposite, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory).

I noted that many Romanians wear the national dress. Any Russian who casually wears the kosovorotka would be considered at least slightly weird. Apparently not so much in Romania.

romania-national-state

This is because, unlike the Putlerreich, Romania is a true national state. Looking after the interests and ethnic identity of ethnic Romanians abroad is written into their Constitution.

The Communist period is viewed very negatively. I would estimate that Ceausescu has a 10% approval rating.

That said, they are not that Russophobic.

While Romanians are certainly not Bulgarians or Croats, their opinions on Russia – 47% favorable to 45% unfavorable – are comparable to those of Slovaks, Croats, and Slovenians. They are also better disposed to Russia than the Hungarians, for all the ridiculous talk of Orban as a Putin puppet. (Latvians are false friends; remove ethnic Russians, and their numbers would be comparable to those of Western Europeans. But Western Europeans dislike Russia for things like “persecuting” gays, which Latvians couldn’t care less about).

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One of the latest Eurobarometer polls. Romanians are basically neutral on Russia, unlike most of Western Europe, Poland, Czechia, and the Baltics.

In another poll, some 52% of Romanians said they view “a strong Russia” as being necessary to “balance the influence of the West.” Considering Romanians have very strong pro-NATO views, which are universal across the political spectrum, these are remarkable numbers (only 49% of far more NATO-skeptical Czechs think likewise). 65% of Romanians think Russia has an obligation to protect Orthodox Christians outside its borders (equivalent to Greece), and 74% of Romanians even think it has an obligation to protect ethnic Russians outside its borders (equivalent to Russia itself, and indeed one might say – given the daily shellings of Russians in the Donbass – a shameful indictment of the Russian people themselves).

I don’t have a hard time believing these numbers. While I certainly don’t want to give away the impression that Romanians are Russophiles – they are certainly not – they’re not really Russophobes either, at least on average. I encountered approximately zero Russophobia during my stay. For comparison, I have encountered plenty of Russophobia during my (thankfully limited) experiences with Latvians, and considerable Russophobia from Poles (though in their case, this was also balanced out by considerable Russophilia).

As I have often argued, Western Russophobia has a strong ideological/religious element to it; they hate Russians not because of Communism, but because they betrayed its “ideals” (or in Double Horseshoe Theory terms: “Stalinism is not true Marxism, and that’s terrible”).

Many Balts (especially Latvians) have what might only be described as a deep racial antipathy to Russians.

Romanian Russophobia is far more… “practical” – they associate Communism with Russian occupation (although this is an association muted by Ceausescu’s independent streak), and for breaking off Moldova.

Russia can’t accommodate the West except by joining up to its GloboHomo religion, nor can Russia accommodate the Balts except by… I don’t know, ceasing to exist?

However, so far as simpler folks such as Romanians are concerned, whose grievances are easy for the Russian mind to understand, powerful deals can be worked out. For instance, more strenuous efforts to disassociate Russia from (Latvian-imposed) Communism – which Russia needs to do for its own sake, anyway; and a partition of the fake and gay country of Moldova – Romania gets historical Bessarabia, Russia gets Transnistria.

That said, although the average Romanian is an implicit nationalist, trends amongst young people – especially the highly educated, geographically mobile types – are rather concerning.

Central Bucharest is a very SWPL/yuppie sort of city, full of hipsters, Priuses, and bike rental stations. Young Romanians also have very good English language knowledge, at any rate for an East European country (probably in large part because they don’t dub foreign films). Now this would all be fine – SWPL culture is a genuinely attractive, civilized culture – if it didn’t also come packed with ideological thermite.

As DT once observed:

My experiences in that country are really very congruent: very diverse phenotypes, as much as half-Turkish, extremely corrupt, low-trust, basic health & safety problems, with all the young émigrés idealizing the West and believing all will be well if only their stupid parents would adopt in their hearts the “Soros-Kalergi agenda.” The nice parts of Romania are those which were built by the Saxons and, to a lesser extent, the Hungarians, in Transylvania. …

The nice thing about Romania’s “backwardness” is that there is no degeneracy. Apolitical people talk about race/gay/Jews like normal, non-brainwashed people do. Very refreshing. All of their celebrated intellectuals – Eminescu, Iorga, Eliade, Cioran, Tutea . . . – were reactionary and/or fascist. The youth are also very Americanized – good and bad, the average educated one thinks it is very cool to watch John Oliver.

As in the rest of Eastern Europe, sentiments that now only predominate in Bucharest’s gay pride parades will steadily be seeping their way into society at large.

***

Intellectual Life

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Whenever I am in a foreign country, I make sure to check out a couple of bookshops – especially their bestseller stacks – to get a finger on what the intelligentsia is thinking.

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Recommended books. Some familiar titles in the second photograph.

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Viktor Suvorov really appears to be in vogue. Not surprising that this conspiracy theory enjoys popularity in Romania.

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Mircea Eliade.

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I bought this history book by Neagu Djuvara, which was recommended to me by the macro-economist.

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Mikhail Zygar’s All the Kremlin’s Men appears to have been translated.

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Ion Pacepa.

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Orlando Figes, Timothy Snyder… Anne Applebaum’s Gulag (which strenuously doesn’t notice who disproportionately ran them) was also featured. Basically, liberalism.txt on Russia.

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Cioran and Tutea.

***

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Cărturești is a landmark bookstore in Bucharest – and for good aesthetic reasons, as you can see below.

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Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life is prominently featured as a bestseller. Somehow I don’t see that happening in a Western bookstore frequented by hipsters and SJWs.

***

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The Martian? Meh. I am more impressed that this relatively obscure book by Brandon Sanderson has been translated!

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Again, I don’t see Yukio Mishima being prominently featured at a bookshop’s front end in any Western capital.

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Or Karl May, for that matter.

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Street book vendor in Bucharest.

***

Society

***

Attitudes & Bureaucracy

In a number of amusing (if inconvenient) ways, Romania reminded me of Russia… approximately a decade ago.

First observation: Romanians still clap when the aircraft lands, which is common in countries where people have only recently started flying. Russians stopped doing that about a decade ago.

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City administration of Ploiesti, a city of 225,000 people. Monumental structures to the bureaucracy seems to be a universal to commie regimes.

Many apparently trivial things require passports. I was required to provide my passport for my Airbnb booking in Bucharest, to buy or sell Romanian lei (with trivial sums involved), and once to even make a small purchase at an electronics hardware store. Russia hardly has anything to write home in this department, but I don’t think you need a passport to acquire rubles, and I certainly haven’t ever had to show my passport to buy anything but alcohol. In fairness, as I have pointed out, the Anglos are pretty much the only people who manage to do bureaucracy right.

People don’t like giving change. I had issues with sellers being unhappy at getting paid with 100 lei ($25) or even 50 lei ($12.50) notes. This sort of thing stopped being an issue in Russia around the mid-2000s. In the provinces, people also don’t like accepting credit cards – and not just for minor purchases. I was told that the inn we stayed at, which required a considerable payment for booking 50 odd people – that’s a few hundreds of dollars in addition to the individual charges – required it in cash. This goes some ways to explaining why Romania has one of the largest shadow economies and one of the lowest revenues as a share of GDP of any EU country.

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Bucharest.

There are a great deal of intrusive advertisements. Not as much as in 1990s Russia, but a lot more than in Russia today. It is rather annoying.

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Entrance to History Department of the University of Bucharest.

Graffiti is everywhere – including on “serious buildings”, such as the the entrance to the History Department of the University of Bucharest. I suspect this is common to all “southern” countries.

Another observation I have to make is that there seems to be quite a bit of incompetence. Speaking of that particular inn, they had assured us that each guest would have their own room, but in the end I had to share it with two other people – thankfully from our own party, but still, not exactly what we had expected. But the €30 price remained the same as if we had paid for single rooms. In terms of comfort, this basically made our room a hostel – and you can get hostel rooms in central New York for cheaper prices. Another example: I booked a car via Cronoscar, Romania’s best known car rental company, in advance via the Internet. When we came to pick it up in Ploiesti, they said they had no record of it and plainly wanted us to shove us off, before I produced the email with my booking via my cell phone. This, at least, forced them to scrounge up a replacement car, although a different (and more expensive) model. But if I hadn’t had that email on my cell phone, I assume our travel plans for that day would have been ruined.

***

Corruption

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Transparency International: Global Corruption Barometer 2016. Bribery rates in Europe as proxied by opinion polls.

MP told me that corruption is not prevalent at lower levels – while people paid bribes to policemen in the 1990s, this is not the case today. He found it hard to imagine someone paying off prosecutors and judges for a more lenient sentence, which is something that is not exactly unheard of in Russia. The higher up politicians do get rich as a matter of course, and illegitimately, but not at the level of the Kremlin elites.

My impression syncs with the results of many opinion polls and other formal data. Romania is much more corrupt than the average EU country, but less so than Russia.

***

Religion

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Biserica Nașterea Maicii Domnului din Suceava in Bucharest. (This version of the church was built in 1850-52)

Opinion polls consistently show that Romanians are some of the most religious Europeans (e.g. only 1% of them identified as atheists in a recent PEW survey, relative to 5% of Bulgars, 7% of Poles, 15% of Russians, and 72% of Czechs). This seems to be backed up church attendance figures. In Russia, only old women regularly attend church; in Romania, I got the impression that so, too, did middle-aged men.

However, as I mentioned above, my interlocutor MP insisted that religion in Romania is shallow, and actually seemed to have the impression that Russia was a more religious country. I certainly do not think that that is the case, but nonetheless, this did cause me to readjust my prior conceptions about Romanian religiosity. It might be very wide, but as in Russia, it is in very large part an expression of national identity, as opposed to being a genuine spiritual phenomenon, as I think is the case in the United States, the Islamic world, and (to an extent) Poland.

***

Language

As with phenotypes, cuisine, and architecture, the Romanian language is also a hybrid. It has a Latinate structure, but with considerable Slavic vocabulary borrowings (ranging from 5% in standard Romanian to 20% in Moldova).

I was amused to note that their word for war is “razboi” (e.g. Primul Război Mondial). In Russian, the term разбой denotes brigandage; bandits are разбойники. I found this linguistic false friend to be endearingly Balkan.

It seems that all the military and quasi-military terms are Slavic (e.g. voivoda, boyar).

Wikipedia has some more interesting information, e.g.:

At the arrival of the Slavs, the Romance-speaking Vlachs were rural cattle breeders… most Romanian vocabulary related to cattle and cattle-breeding is of Latin origin. In contrast, most tools and utensils related to agronomy (as well as urban life) were replaced with Slavic names.

Some last minute commitments before my trip prevented me from spending a few hours learning the Romanian language, as I had done with Portuguese.

Nonetheless, I am not sure it would have been of much use.

Despite its Slavic borrowings, even for me Romanian seems considerably harder than Spanish, Portuguese, and probably Italian (though I can’t say for sure since I haven’t spent any time learning Italian).

Reflecting Romania’s Francophile culture, most older Romanians speak French (not Russian as in most of the rest of the post-Communist bloc). Many young people speak okay English – more so than in Hungary.

***

Weddings

Romanian weddings are LARGE! Not the modest affairs more typical in the traditionally bourgeois West. The typical wedding has dozens, if not hundreds, of guests.

They also have a bride kidnapping tradition as in the Caucasus, which is recreated during weddings.

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Traditional singers.

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Belly dancer.

***

Cuisine

As in most other things, Romanian cuisine is a Med/Slavic hybrid – with a stuffing of Germanic sausage.

Central ingredients include potatoes, polenta, cornmeal, pickles of all sorts, salted cucumbers, sausage, sour cream, and – of course – KEBAB. That said, I do like their habit of presenting hot green peppers as standard sides. I hope that Russia could adopt this great innovation as the climate warms. They are not big on olives; they are all imports. Also no good dry red wines that I can tell. They prefer palinka moonshine that they make themselves.

It’s pretty simple, and you can sample most of the keynote dishes in a day or two. As with Portuguese cuisine, it is filling, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it.

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The classic restaurant in Bucharest is Caru’ cu Bere, which was founded in 1879.

Like many such restaurants, it is perhaps overrated, but people go there for the decor anyway. And at 30 Euros for a three course meal with two beers, it won’t bankrupt you.

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Ciorba Radauteana – sour chicken soup with garlic and cream).

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Viennese sausages with cheese, pickled cabbage, and polenta.

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Papanasi for desert.

***

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The other restaurant I dropped into was the Casa Doina in Bucharest, which was originally intended to be a pavilion for the grand Paris Exhibition of 1890.

Unfortunately, the Romanians didn’t finish it in time, so it became a buffet for Bucharest boyars instead.

I ordered the following modest meal for about 10 Euros.

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The sausages are mititei, which are “grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of beef, lamb and pork with spices.”

The spirit to the left is pălincă, a Visegrad/Romanian plum brandy.

***

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Polenta and cabbage rolls with spicy green pepper at the wedding.

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Mămăligă – cornmeal porridge.

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KEBAB (salad, potatoes, etc).

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This is probably just apple pie but I don’t really remember.

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Kürtőskalács is a Hungarian pastry that is also prevalent in Transylvania.

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Some sort of sweet fruit wine poured out of an elegant 5 litre plastic bottle.

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Vișinată – cherry liqueur.

***

Romania: Ploiesti

***

From the Airport

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Henri Coandă Airport.

Having also recently been in Portugal, my initial impressions of Romania were that it was a blend of Portugal and Russia.

Even many of the roadside houses seemed to be like izbas, but with Mediterranean-style tiles and decorative patterning.

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A new church.

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A Communist era technical college conferring some useless degree.

Many new churches, malls, places with familiar names (e.g. Auchan supermarkets, Lukoil gas stations).

Ploesti

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Typical commieblock in the outskirts.

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There is a well-reviewed clock museum in Ploiesti (unfortunately I didn’t have time for it).

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Nightclub.

***

Maia

This is the ancestral village of one member of our group. Deep Romania.

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The St. Nicholas Church where Barbu Catargiu, Romania’s first Prime Minister, is buried. He was assassinated in June 1862 after less than half a year in power. His assassin was never caught.

Barbu Catargiu was a modernizing conservative, who wanted to build railways and preserve the large boyar estates and run Romania as an aristocratic republic.

The Communist regime was naturally antipathetic to him, and most monuments to him were destroyed. However, the church itself was left alone in benign neglect.

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Local museum.

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Another reason why World War I is so central to Romanian history: Compare the number of names under each conflict.

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Book containing records maintained and updated by each successive church priest for the past two centuries.

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Many interesting icons and old books, most written in Romanian Cyrillic.

The museum’s archives also host a drawing by a Russian POW held during WW2 (they don’t know what eventually happened to him). I suppose he was treated well to be able to engage in such pursuits.

***

Romania: Transylvania

***

Scenes of Transylvania

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Although it’s more associated with dark, foreboding forests in the popular imagination (Count Dracula), in reality it’s more of a “green and pleasant land.”

As one of my acquaintances remarked, the Shire scenes of Lord of the Rings could have been filmed here.

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***

Peleș Castle

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This Neo-Renaissance castle was constructed in 1883 for Carol I, the first King of independent Romania. Reflecting his technophilic priorities, it was the first European palace to be powered with electricity.

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Incidentally, I noted that about at least a quarter of the tourists were Chinese. This is something that one notices in popular tourist attractions in Russia as well.

I suppose that an Eastern European tour is a legitimate (and cheap) solution to Paris Syndrome.

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Carol I was a Germanophile, and technically competent. His personal library was stocked with a wide range of German and English books on modern science and technology

He wanted to enter World War I on the side of the Central Powers; he had signed a secret treaty in 1883 linking Romania to the Triple Alliance, though Romania wasn’t obligated to honor it because it only applied if Russia attacked one of the signatories. However, Romanian public opinion was highly Francophile, and he was voted down at the Crown Council convened on August 3. After that, Carol I fell into decline and died on October 10.

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The Sinaia Monastery (built in 1842-46 build, restored around 1900). It was also the first electrified church in Romania (1906). The equipment was sourced from Vienna.

The western wall has various royalty scenes, including the one with Carol I and the missing columns (Transylvania, Bukovina, Bessarabia). The narthex has two icons, Saint Nicholas and Sergey of Radonezh, gifted by Nicholas II.

***

Cetatea Râșnov

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Although construction dates to Roman times, the fortress as we know was built around 1225 by the Teutonic Knights of Burzenland.

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Did I mentioned the Romanians are obsessed with World War I? The tower hosts a series of posters with a history of the Great War.

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Display on socialist Romania.

After having spent the preceding century as an abandoned ruin, the fortress was renovated in 1955-56 under Communism.

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Gift shop with the Roman soldiers, national maps, etc. (has the map with Crimea as part of Romania).

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***

Peștera Valea Cetății

This cave is located about 3 km from Râșnov. It’s almost 1 km long, though only the first major atrium is accessible to the general public. It was discovered in 1949, and made into a tourist attraction in 2011.

Due to the cave ecosystem’s sensitivity to fluctuations in temperature, tour groups are only allowed to stay there for no more than 20 minutes once every hour.

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***

Râșnov

The Romanians do love to ape that Hollywood sign everywhere. Brașov has the same thing.

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***

Bran Castle

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Although it is known as “Dracula’s castle”, in reality Bran Castle doesn’t have anything to do with either Vlad Țepeș or vampires apart from being the likeliest location of the fortress described in Bram Stoker’s famous novel. A wooden fortress in this location was first built in 1212 by the Teutonic Knights, but it was destroyed by the Mongols. The current stone version was constructed by the local Saxons of Kronstadt (Brașov) in 1377. Vlad Țepeș had no connection to Bran Castle apart from occasionally passing through it. Dracula’s real redoubt would be Poenari Castle, a much more modest and remote fastness. And legend has it that he is buried at Snagov Monastery. I did not visit either location.

The Romanians view Dracula – the late medieval voivoda, not the vampire count – as a popular saint (though I was sorry to discover that he was not actually canonized as a saint, as one Romanian had led me to believe). Still, everyone agrees that he was a swell guy – including the Communists under Ceausescu, whose regime had good reason to play up the legacy of a man who run multiple military victories for Romania, founded Bucharest in 1459, and terrorized the “treasonous” boyars (who may have ended up murdering him).

According to the museum texts, Dracula was a Robin Hood, who was “merciless with the rich”, and a “reliable friend of the poor” – a “national hero” to the peasants of Wallachia.

The wide distribution of the so-called “German narratives” in Europe was meant to libel him and created him a bad reputation. He was described as an antichrist, a wicked criminal and a cannibal.

Indeed, this theme that he was a hero calumniated by foreigners seems to have much in common with patriotic Russian narratives on Ivan IV (the Terrible).

“At that time, in all of feudal Europe, there was a climate of cruelty, and Vlad the Impaler, characterized by his enemies as a sinister person, thirsting for human blood, did not outdo most other monarchs of the 15th and 16th centuries, starting with Louis XI and ending with Ivan the Terrible, or starting with Henry VIII and ending with Matei Corvin. Vlad the Impaler’s significance is his contribution to maintaining the existence of the Wallachian state by fighting off the Turks, let by Mohammed II, conqueror of Constantinople.”

Bran Castle was more expensive than Peleș Castle, and less remarkable, too; the display focuses around the (modern) furniture collection amassed by Queen Marie, the last Romanian queen. It is Romania’s first private museum, having been given back to descendents of the royal family thanks to a law passed by the Romanian parliament on restituting Communist-era expropriations. My impression is that they just collect the rent from its (fictitious) association with Dracula.

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The views are certainly great, the furniture is meh… but don’t come for the “authenticity”.

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***

Transylvania Hike

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We did a one day hike through Piatra Craiului National Park, which is characterized by a long limestone ridge spanning most of the area that is popular with climbers.

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Cabana Curmătura.

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“No we don’t have WiFi. Talk to each other!”

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There are shepherds who maintain herds of cattle and sheep in these mountains.

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***

Brașov

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Brașov (again helpfully denoted by the Hollywood sign) is the historic center of the Transylvanian Saxons, and is now a prosperous 250,000 population city boosted by tourism.

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Catherine’s Gate.

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Black Church (Biserica Neagră).

There are panels recounting the church’s history inside. Constructed in the late 15 century, it got its name after being partially burned during a fire set by advancing Hapsburg forces in 1689.

The main noteworthy thing I found is that the literacy push amongst the local German community started extremely early, just a few years after the coming of Protestantism. The local bishop published an edict demanding that local German communities collect taxes for schools.

Today, it is run by the Evangelical Community of Augustan Confession. They hold Sunday services in German for their 1,000 parishioners.

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***

Romania: Bucharest

***

Arrival in Bucharest

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This studio apartment just a block away from the University of Bucharest, with a sweeping view of the Palace of the National Military Circle, was just 33 Euros a night on Airbnb.

My hosts said that this apartment costs around 45,000 Euros. This is pretty remarkable; a similar apartment would cost no less than 20 million rubles ($300,000) in Moscow. In London, it would be about a million.

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The one unfortunate thing is that the front facade of the National Military Circle was covered with scaffolding, but I suppose that’s going to be temporary.

***

Keto Cafe

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I met up with MP at the Masa Casa, a newly opened ketogenic cafe (as I said above, Bucharest, like many of East Europe’s capitals, has become a strongly SWPL place).

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***

Bucharest Streets I

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Dacia Boulevard.

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Monument to Pilsudski at Ion Voicu park.

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Many of these mansions used to belong to the boyars before the Communists. They are now neglected and available at knockdown prices.

Although it’s possible for some of them to get them restituted under the decommunization laws, in practice it’s an extremely bureaucratic and complex process that’s not worth the trouble in many cases.

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Romanian girl. (Eastern Europe and Latin America are known for such murals).

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One thing you quickly notice walking in Bucharest is not just the variety of architectural styles, but how they are all intermeshed with each other. This is because the 1977 Earthquake leveled a significant part of the city. Apart from killing 1,500 people, it also haphazardly collapsed many buildings across Bucharest. The spaces left over were filled by monolithic commieblocks.

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The British Embassy in Romania.

At this point, a policeman rushed up to me and told me to stop taking photos.

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Did I tell you there’s too many ads?

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The Ateneul Roman.

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Equestrian statue of Carol I.

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The Memorial of Rebirth to denote the victory over Communism in 1989.

Like most other things, it is covered in graffiti. It is in front of a gargantuan palace hosting the Ministries of Justice, Health, and the Interior.

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Was Ilya Varlamov in Bucharest recently?

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Bucharest has a liberal attitude to gambling. Groups of Israeli businessmen, from a country where the laws are much more conservative, take weekend trips to the many casinos here.

***

Bucharest Municipal Museum

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This is a very good, introspective museum about Bucharest’s history.

General flavor of postwar Romanian history that I got from it:

  • 1947-1965: Large increases in economic output (e.g. coal, steel, etc.) and social development, but living standards remain low, rationing is in effect, and class enemies strongly repressed. Khrushchev had agreed to the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1958.
  • 1965-1980: Ceausescu comes to power. Initially more freedoms, development of tourism as Romania veers away from the USSR, and builds up relations with the West (e.g. Ceausescu condemned the crushing of the Prague Spring). There are particularly warm relations with France (where Charles de Gaulle displays a similarly defiant attitude to the US). But growing repression in the 1970s prevents the relationship from blossoming.
  • 1980-1989: Return of rationing and labor repression as Ceausescu decides to opt for a more North Korean model, large parts of Bucharest rebuilt in a monolithic totalitarian style after the 1977 earthquake.

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***

Bucharest Streets II

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***

Palatul Parlamentului

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Unfortunately, I was unable to visit Bucharest’s most famous landmark – the Palace of Parliament, which is the world’s second largest administrative building by area (the Pentagon is first) and the world’s heaviest.

You need to book tours by phone, 24 hours in advance; as befits a Communist-era behemoth, there is no option to do it via Internet. The first lady told me that all tours were booked out for the next week. I tried calling again early the next day, in the hope that places had been opened up and that I could schedule it for tomorrow afternoon. They had indeed opened up, but it emerged that by “24 hours”, they meant the entire next day inclusive – and the day after tomorrow was already the day of my return flight.

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***

Medieval Fair

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I ran into this historical recreation festival at Piața Constituției, not far from the Palace of Parliament. I suspect historic recreation is popular in Romania, as in the rest of Eastern Europe.

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I bought the Vlad Țepeș wood carving for about $30 (it actually cost $40, but I didn’t have enough change and the wood carver was kind enough to offer it at a discount).

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***

SPD Demonstration

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I emerged from Piața Victoriei (the one where the lifts were covered with “Basarabia e România” stickers) into the middle of preparations for a sanctioned protest by the Social Democrats.

See the “Politics & Nationalism” section for a background on Romanian politics.

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The journalists at the scene (who supported the opposition) said that it was a protest of the Social Democrat party “against justice,” claiming that the protesters were paid and bused in

In fairness, there were plenty of buses, and while the event seemed very well organized, I didn’t manage to get clear answers to what they were protesting about from any of the ordinary protesters. Say what you will about them, but at least the ideological “Maidanist” types are more than happy to air their complaints to any who would listen (and many who won’t).

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PSD HQ.

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The event organizers. They, at least, were able to give the most detailed explanation – that they were marching against the opposition’s attempts to “overturn” and “sell off the country”.

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Arcul de Triumf.

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***

Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum

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This is a huge park that doubles as museum devoted to detailed reconstructions of traditional Romanian dwellings.

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It just so happened that Rossotrudnichestvo was hosting a cultural event there at this time.

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***

Parcul Regele Mihai I al României

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Statues to the bureaucrats who made the European Union.

This park was right next to the National Village Museum. It seems like a popular vacation for picnickers.

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Taras Shevchenko.

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Charles de Gaulle statue.

In an amusing expression of Romania’s traditional Francophilia, the country developed warm ties with Charles De Gaulle’s France in the 1960s – a bond made stronger by the fact of both countries expressing an independent streak relative to their respective superpowers during that period.

***

Gay Parade at University Square

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Back from the pro-regime demonstration, onto the gay pride march! This was right in front of the (graffiti-marked) University of Bucharest.

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LGBT + Anticapitalism + Antiracism + Anarchism + Feminism + Antifa = ♥

Queers against Capitalism.

It’s OK to be gay but not hater.

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Based Bucharest Black Woman.

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Fat acceptance movement also weighs in.

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***

Bucharest Streets III

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Stavropoleos Monastery Church.

Originally built in 1724, little of the monastery survived apart from the actual church and a small courtyard in the back. They hold regular Orthodox services.

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“No parking! Garage.”

***

National Museum of Romanian History

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There was a large World War I exhibit when I was there: România în Marele Război.

Interesting facts:

  • On August 1916, on Entente promises of territorial gains (that I don’t recall being mentioned in the exhibit), Romania found itself fighting on two fronts with four states: Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.
  • Romania mobilized 15% of its population.
  • Romania had 44 planes at the outbreak of the war, which is not at all bad considering that the air forces of the principal combatants numbered in the low hundreds in 1914. However, their troops were far worse equipped than the Central Powers.
  • It managed to quickly take most of Transylvania, where it was greeted enthusiastically by Romanians who did not want to fight for the Austria-Hungarian Empire. However, it was soon pushed back, and forced to retreat to Moldova by early 1917 – where it held the line with Russian help for most of the next year.
  • Romania sent its gold reserves to Russia in December 1916 – equivalent to 10 billion lei in gold – where they were, of course, confiscated by the Bolsheviks when they came to power. (The USSR returned some items in 1935, and most of the coins, art, jewelry, and other cultural artificants in 1956).
  • The withdrawal of Russia from the war made the Romanians’ situation untenable, and they were forced to sign the Treaty of Bucharest in April 1918. This resulted in territorial losses to Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary, and they were obligated to give all its surpluses of oil, grains, cattle, and many other products to Germany. All the brass, copper, and even bells were confiscated. I assume this helped prolong the German war effort.
  • The exposition focused a lot on what it saw as the cruelty of the German occupation. There were many cases of looting; Romanians had to guess permission to use train transport; and were forbidden from sending parcels, using the telephone or the telegraph, or selling cattle. One of the panels claimed that the Germans had all the dogs in Bucharest shot, and fined their owners.
  • There were ~145,000 Romanian POWs in Germany (of whom ~45,000 died), ~61,000 in Austria-Hungary (of whom 22,000 died), ~25,000 in Bulgaria (of whom 5,00o died), and ~10,000 in Turkey (of whom ~1,800 died). Romanian prisoners had the highest mortality rate (29%) of all the prisoners in German camps during World War I. (I wonder to what extent this ill treatment was a result of the Germans feeling Romania had “betrayed” them by joining the Entente after having signed a secret alliance with the Triple Alliance in 1883).
  • However, Germany’s defeat did enable Romania to rejoin the war on its very last day and recover its three lost provinces of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Bessarabia – belatedly snapping victory from the jaws of defeat.

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***

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They also had an exhibit on the lost territory of Bessarabia, which was of course occupied by the USSR in 1940. (As I said, some themes crop up over and over again there).

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***

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Stephen III of Moldavia (The Great).

The main hall of the museum is given over to the medieval origins of the Romanian/Moldovan state.

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Document issued by Stephen the Great.

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This book shows the influence of Slavonic styles on Romanian.

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I was amused to see the Ottomans casually getting called pagan. No SJWs in Romania?

***

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Plaster cast of Trajan’s column.

The ancient history part of the museum had a complete plaster cast of Trajan’s Column, which recounts the Roman Emperor’s victory over the Dacians.

There were also various stone steles, with the earliest ones dating to the ancient Greek period.

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Funerary stele of Attalos the gladiator.

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Votive dedication from the 3rd century BC.

***

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This part of the museum hosted Romania’s main valuables collection, which hosts the Romanian Crown Jewels.

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The Hoard from Pietroasele, Buzău country (4-5th century).

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Princely diadem from 14th century.

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Portrait and swords of Carol I.

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George Palade was the only ethnic Romanian winner of the Nobel Prize, who did most of his scientific work in the United States.

***

Bucharest Streets IV

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Statue of Trajan and the She-wolf.

***

Cișmigiu Park

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This is Bucharest’s most central park. Built in 1847, it is full of monuments to various historic figures.

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Monument to the French troops. Did I tell you Romanians are Francophiles?

***

Bucharest Streets V (Night Edition)

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All-In Poker Club.

These poker clubs are quite common in Bucharest. This one runs 24 hours a day, and services free food/non-alcoholic drinks once every few hours.

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Control Club.

***

Departure

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I wrote about my impressions of the Sukhoi Superjet-100 here.

***

 
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* NBC: Trump administration to hit Russia with new sanctions for Skripal poisoning

The Trump administration is hitting Russia with new sanctions punishing President Vladimir Putin’s government for using a chemical weapon against an ex-spy in Britain, U.S. officials told NBC News Wednesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on a determination that Russia violated international law by poisoning the former spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in March, officials said, a decision that was announced Wednesday afternoon by State Department. …

The biggest impact from the initial sanctions is expected to come from a ban on granting licenses to export sensitive national security goods to Russia, which in the past have included items like electronic devices and components, along with test and calibration equipment for avionics. Prior to the sanctions, such exports were allowed on a case-by-case basis. …

A second, more painful round kicks in three months later unless Russia provides “reliable assurances” that it won’t use chemical weapons in the future and agrees to “on-site inspections” by the U.N. — conditions unlikely to be met. The second round of sanctions could include downgrading diplomatic relations, suspending state airline Aeroflot’s ability to fly to the U.S, and cutting off nearly all exports and imports.

The sanctions are directly based on H.R.3409 – Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.

Section 7 covers the sanctions that are to be imposed, which consist of initial sanctions, and further sanctions to be imposed after 90 days if there is no compliance on the country’s part.

Initial sanctions: Ban on foreign assistance, arms sales, denial of US credit, and exporting national security sensitive goods. (Most of this is already functionally in place with respect to Russia).

Further sanctions: Ban on multilateral bank assistance [e.g. IMF, World Bank, the EBRD, etc], ban on US bank loans, a near total export ban (except food and agricultural commodities) and import ban, downgrade or suspension of US diplomatic relations, revocation of landing rights to air carriers controlled by the government of the sanctioned country.

Reuters has a US State Department official saying that the sanctions would not apply to Aeroflot, which some commenters have qualified as backtracking. But I think that the official was merely talking of the initial sanctions.

How does Russia go about removing the sanctions? The President will need to “certify” to Congress that the country in question: (1) Has made “reliable assurances”, and is not making preparations, to use chemical/biological weapons in violation of international law, or against its own citizens; (2) is willing to allow on-site inspections by UN observers to confirm the above; (3) is making restitutions to the victims of its chemical/biological weapons usage.

This would basically require Russia to admit guilt for the Skripal poisoning and subject itself to the inspections regimes that the US typically tries to force on “rogue states.” In other words, it is out of the question.

Moreover, even in the theoretical possibility that this goes through, it’s not like President Trump’s “certification” will be worth anything amidst the Russiagate hysteria.

Another possibility to avoid the near cessation of trade between the US and Russia is to have the President “waiver” the application of individual sanctions, if he can determine and certify to Congress that doing so is necessary for the national security interests of the US; or that there has been “a fundamental change in the leadership and policies” of the sanctioned country. In either case, the President needs to provide a report to Congress explaining his detailed rationale for the waiver, and listing steps the sanctioned country is taking to satisfy the “removal of sanctions” clause.

This isn’t near the end of it, though.

***

* Meduza: Russian newspaper leaks draft text of U.S. Senate’s Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act

The newspaper Kommersant has published a full draft of the proposed “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act,” which demands a U.S. investigation into Vladimir Putin’s personal wealth and whether Russia sponsors terrorism, and would impose a ban on U.S. citizens buying Russian sovereign debt, though the U.S. Treasury publicly opposed this idea in February, warning that it would disrupt the market broadly. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the initiative’s sponsors, says one of the draft legislation’s goals is to impose “crushing sanctions.”

[Sanctions to include:]

* Banning the banks. The draft bill proposes banning Russia’s biggest state banks — Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Rosselkhozbank, Promsvyazbank, or Vnesheconombank — from operating inside the United States, which would effectively prevent these institutions from conducting dollar settlements.

* Oil and gas. In the energy sector, the legislation would impose sanctions on investment in any projects by the Russian government or government-affiliated companies outside Russia worth more than $250 million. Businesses would also incur penalties for any participation (funding or supplying equipment or technology) in new oil projects inside Russia valued above $1 million.

* Lists and research. If the bill is submitted in its current form and adopted, the U.S. president would have 180 days to begin implementing its provisions; within 60 days of adoption, the White House would need to provide a new list of Russian individuals suspected of cyber-attacks against the United States; the Treasury Department would have 180 days to update its “Kremlin list” of Russian state officials and oligarchs; the director of national intelligence would be tasked with completing a “detailed report on the personal net worth and assets” of Vladimir Putin and his family; and the State Department would have 90 days to determine whether Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

* A new Sanctions Office. In order to shore up the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the draft legislation would also create an “Office of Sanctions Coordination” within the State Department to coordinate work with the Treasury.

Here is the original Kommersant article: Комплекс мер по сдерживанию Дональда Трампа

Here is the text of the draft bill: https://www.kommersant.ru/docs/2018/_2018d140-Menendez-Russia-Sanctions-Bill.pdf

It contains many more interesting details.

(1) The bill’s sponsors, which include Lindsey Graham, Robert Menendez, and Ben Cardin, preface their text with a call for President Trump to demand Russia stop interference in US “democratic processes”, return Crimea to the Ukraine, stop supporting the separatists in East Ukraine, as well the “occupation and support of separatists” in the territories of Georgia and Moldova, and support for Bashar Assad, who continues to commit “war crimes.”

(2) They note that the general drift of the document is towards a consolidation of separate anti-Russian sanctions, from the “Ukrainian” to the “cyber” ones, into a “single mechanism.”

(3) Subject to a 2/3 vote in the Senate, the bill also includes a ban on financing “direct or indirect” steps, that have as their goal to support the attempts of “any US government official” to take the country out of NATO. Every 90 days, the US Secretary of State, in coordination with the Defense Minister, would be required to present a report to the relevant committees in Congress about “threats to NATO”, which would include attempts to weaken US commitments to the alliance. Considering Trump’s ambiguous feelings on NATO, this part is primarily aimed at Trump himself.

(4) There are calls to “pressure” Russia from interfering with UN and the OPCW attempts to investigate chemical weapons usage, as well as to “punish” Russia for producing and using chemical weapons. This directly syncs this sanctions bill to the previous one.

The report concludes that it’s not yet clear how to interpret this. In the worse case, it could be a “preliminary application” for a UN campaign to exclude Russia from the Security Council; alternatively, it could just be a “pragmatic” run-up to merely invoking great sanctions, as with Iran in 1983.

***

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I suppose we now also know why Russia has been selling Treasuries for the past three months, which plummeted from their typical level of $100 billion in March to just $15 billion from June (i.e. just enough to guarantee USD-denominated trade).

For comparison, the last time such a drawback happened (but which only lasted three weeks) was in the immediate aftermath of Crimea.

The last time Russia pulled such a large sum out of the U.S. was just after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, when the central bank withdrew about $115 billion from the New York Fed, Reuters reported last year, citing two former Fed officials. Most of that money was returned a few weeks later, after it became clear that the scope of initial U.S. sanctions would be narrower than the Kremlin expected, according to the news service.

But I suppose this drawdown would now be permanent, since it is increasingly evident that Iran-tier sanctions on Russia are now on the horizon.

These sanctions are either going to steadily creep in – or rush in like a tsunami if there is a Blue Wave in 90 days, or if Trump was to be removed.

However, as I have pointed out, the ultimate ability of the US to directly punish Russia is limited; it has twice as many people as Iran, after all, and many times the economic output. Trade between Russia and the US is very limited.

Moreover, as I have pointed out, Russia has plenty of surprising ways to hurt the US as well. For instance, banning Aeroflot from flying to the US has a simple response – banning US air carriers from overflying North Eurasia, period. It can resurrect a bill – first raised this May, since sunken in the legislature – to impose fines and prison time on individuals and entities who support Western sanctions by refusing to do business with Russian citizens or entities on America’s SDN list. It can throw out the American-dominated copyrights regimen out of the window.

Some questions we should now be asking include:

1. Precisely how far is the US prepared to go? Cutting off its own trade with Russia is one thing – penalizing foreign companies that do business with Russia is something else. As Ben Aris notes, the US Treasury Department has been ratcheting back on its sanctions against Oleg Deripaska and Rusal, after the chaos it has caused in the international metals market. The ideological Russiagaters need to balance their PDS/TDS against the pecuniary practicalities of catering to finance and oil & gas interests and their lobbies.

2. To what extent will the EU join in, passively acquiesce to, or resist the US sanctions against Russia? The answer to this question will to a large extent determine precisely how deeply Russia falls into China’s orbit in the next couple of decades.

 
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W.L. Chen et al. (2006): Effects of Cobalt-60 Exposure on Health of Taiwan Residents Suggest New Approach Needed in Radiation Protection

The conventional approach for radiation protection is based on the ICRP’s linear, no threshold (LNT) model of radiation carcinogenesis, which implies that ionizing radiation is always harmful, no matter how small the dose. But a different approach can be derived from the observed health effects of the serendipitous contamination of 1700 apartments in Taiwan with cobalt-60 (T1/2 = 5.3 y). This experience indicates that chronic exposure of the whole body to low-dose-rate radiation, even accumulated to a high annual dose, may be beneficial to human health. Approximately 10,000 people occupied these buildings and received an average radiation dose of 0.4 Sv, unknowingly, during a 9–20 year period. They did not suffer a higher incidence of cancer mortality, as the LNT theory would predict. On the contrary, the incidence of cancer deaths in this population was greatly reduced—to about 3 per cent of the incidence of spontaneous cancer death in the general Taiwan public. In addition, the incidence of congenital malformations was also reduced—to about 7 per cent of the incidence in the general public.

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Observed health effects: “Cancer mortality of the general public and of the irradiated people.

These observations appear to be compatible with the radiation hormesis model. Information about this Taiwan experience should be communicated to the public worldwide to help allay its fear of radiation and create a positive impression about important radiation applications. Expenditures of many billions of dollars in nuclear reactor operation could be saved and expansion of nuclear electricity generation could be facilitated. In addition, this knowledge would encourage further investigation and implementation of very important applications of total-body, low-dose irradiation to treat and cure many illnesses, including cancer. The findings of this study are such a departure from expectations, based on ICRP criteria, that we believe that they ought to be carefully reviewed by other, independent organizations and that population data not available to the authors be provided, so that a fully qualified epidemiologically-valid analysis can be made. Many of the confounding factors that limit other studies used to date, such as the A-bomb survivors, the Mayak workers and the Chernobyl evacuees, are not present in this population exposure. It should be one of the most important events on which to base radiation protection standards.

GLORY TO ATOM!

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The conservative, strongly atomophile society portrayed in prewar America in the Fallout world is the gold standard of civilization that we must all unironically strive to attain.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Nuclear Power, Taiwan 
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Today is the ten year anniversary of the South Ossetian War of 2008, in which the Georgian hothead President Mikheil Saakashvili – acting on muddled signals from the US Embassy – attacked the breakaway province, killing a dozen Russian peacekeepers in the process.

Here in turn are some of my muddled recollections about that distant time.

1. At the time, Russia’s soft power instruments were still in their infancy. Many of them seemed to take a break in the decisive first hours and even days of the conflict, even as the BBC churned out propaganda showing “Russians” (actually Georgians) attacking the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with Grad missiles.

Interesting enough, this meant that much of the pro-Russian response in the English-language came from marginal blogs such as Patrick Armstrong (see his excellent analysis on its timing), Sharon Tennyson and Co’s Russia: Other Points of View, Charles Ganske’s and Yury Mamchur’s Russia Blog, and for that matter, me at “Da Russophile” (I had started blogging in January 2008).

Incidentally, as Egor Kholmogorov points out, there was a delayed reaction even the Russian domestic information front. The Georgians having attacked on Friday night, the journalists were all going off work – leaving the field to the Moscow opposition “intelligentsia” larping as Georgians.

For instance, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin’s performance was brilliant:

But it was Kholmogorov, who at the time ran a minor website, who provided its first transcript – not any of the Russian media giants.

The internal Russian propaganda machine is a lot more streamlined for this to happen today. And Russia’s English-language info ecosystem is now too well developed to allow a repeat of that travesty.

2. I had been increasingly aware that the Western media was run by dissimulating drones, at least on Russia but probably on many other topics too, since becoming politically aware in the mid-2000s.

Still, its behavior during that period marked new lows of deception and disassembly. It was “fake news” before there was fake news.

But I documented many other examples less than a couple of days after the conflict broke out. The Western media also made no effort to fact check Saakashvili’s bizarre counterfactual assertions.

Putin himself put it very succinctly: “The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing — the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims.

3. Although the Russian military performed adequately, they did reveal many problems in the Russian Armed Forces (see CAST’s Tanks of August) and provoked a major round of reforms and funding upgrades.

For his part, Saakashvili seems to have taken the “rusting tanks” rhetoric about Russia’s atrophied military capabilities a bit too literally, thinking that his lavish funding of the Army and US training could make up for the fact that Georgia remained a military pygmy relative to Russia whatever he did.

He also seemed to genuinely believe that the US would come to his aid, having contributed the third largest contingent of troops to Iraq after the US and Britain (Georgia’s population as of their last Census: 3.7 million).

To be fair, it seems to have been a more common view in the US as well.

There were serious speculations about Americans blowing up the Roki Tunnel into South Ossetia, or even intervening in the conflict outright. But six years later, despite continued deterioration in West-Russia relations, there were no serious discussions about physically helping out the Ukraine. My impression is that despite Russia’s mediocre military performance, it was still vastly better than what many of the American neocon types had deluded themselves into thinking, and consequently restored Russian military credibility after Chechnya had shattered it in 1994-96.

The Russian Army that took Crimea, helped destroy the Ukrainian formations at the Battle of Ilovaysk, and intervened in Syria was a qualitatively different force.

Moreover, Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia demonstrated that Putin’s Munich speech was not just talk, and that it would not be forever tied down by the questionable Belavezha Accords.

The post-Soviet taboo about the inviolability of Stalin’s and Khrushchev’s borders was at least in this minor way now broken.

4. That downturn in relations, unlike in 2014, was only temporary. Unfortunately, the Russian elites do not seem to have drawn the correct lessons back then.

Consequently, the events of 2013-14 still came as a rude shock to many of them, despite a further minor warning in the form of the Libyan attack. They did not prepare as they should have.

Western cargo cultism dies hard.

5. Realistically speaking, I have to commend Georgia for its performance in the consequent decade.

* It has dropped the goal of recovering territories drawn up under Stalin whose inhabitants do not want them for a more opportune day, should it come (e.g. another Russian collapse).

* In the meantime, it has re-established okay relations with Russia, and Georgia is now a favored tourist destination of Moscow hipsters. Overpriced saperavi wine is sold in every Russian supermarket. Russians have had a net positive view of Georgia since 2012.

* It might have dropped loud pretensions to NATO membership as unrealistic and needlessly provocative. However, it has acquired what Bershidsky calls a “NATO of the mind.” Its firm public and political bipartisan stance in support of NATO limits Russian influence within Georgia proper as well as the real thing.

* The Georgian Paradox: Although it is poor and subject to massive brain drain, and its human capital is nothing to write home about, it managed to develop well-functioning institutions for its region. It has also offloaded most of its organized criminals onto Russia.

* It also seems to be one of the few White Christian countries to have recovered above replacement level fertility rates.

EDIT: Couple of corrections based on the comments.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Georgia, Russia-Georgia War, Western Media 
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Buzzfeed recently had an article in which they reveal how Henry Kissinger has been lobbying Trump and Jared Kushner about cooperating with Russia to box in China.

The idea is to pull of the reverse of what Nixon accomplished in the 1970s, patching up relations with Red China to exert more pressure on the more powerful USSR.

Certainly a practical businessman such as Trump, who has no truck with ideologizing foreign policy, would be able to see the sense in this from the point of view of American national interests, and I suspect this may forms part of the calculus for his chummy relations with Putin. Ostensibly chummy, anyway. After all, this is what he had to say about Gorbachev in a 1990 interview with Playboy:

I predict he will be overthrown, because he has shown extraordinary weakness. Suddenly, for the first time ever, there are coal-miner strikes and brush fires everywhere–which will all ultimately lead to a violent revolution. Yet Gorbachev is getting credit for being a wonderful leader–and we should continue giving him credit, because he’s destroying the Soviet Union.

But although this is certainly a good approach from the American perspective, there are several intractable problems that make these dreams stillborn from the set-go.

First, the time to do that was in 1998, when Russians were still Americanophiles. Perhaps 2008 at the very latest. But Russians have had a deeply negative view of the US (and vice versa) since 2014. Public opinion might not count for much in Russia, especially as pertains foreign policy, but it’s not an entirely negligible consideration.

Second, it might have a chance if they were dealing with Russian liberals, who are slavishly pro-Western and willing to make unilateral concessions to improve relations, even (or especially) if it comes at Russia’s expense. It also helps that most Russian liberals are Sinophobes, which is a startling similarity they have with the siloviks. The siloviks, inured from business and technological trends, parochial, largely Internet illiterate, still live in the world of the 1970s where China is a Third World dump and unworthy of serious attention – as of 2013, there was a grand total of one analyst working on the Chinese military in the GRU – and quite a few of them are closet Westernists who resent Putin for banning from from foreign travel and making it more difficult for them to maintain villas and bank accounts in the West.

But Putin and the people around him at least don’t think in those terms – to their credit, they are at least “patriotic corruptionists,” not “comprador corruptionists.”

They realize that Russians would be stupid to hitch their wagons to the US, which is agreement-incapable and traditionally hostile to Russia, and is getting overtaken by China on metric after metric every single year anyway.

Almost all of the threats that China does pose to Russia are either complete myths or at least very much exaggerated, as I have often pointed out.

As I wrote back in 2009, China does not pose a demographic threat to the Russian Far East. The vast majority of Chinese in Russia are shuttle traders; virtually zero of them are going to be settling a foreign wilderness as part of some bizarre conspiracy redolent of late 19th century Yellow Peril propaganda to demographically steal Siberia from under the noses of the Russians. This is all the more true today, when urban Chinese salaries are now higher than Russian ones.

Nor is China going to try to militarily seize Siberian Lebensraum, least of all in the nuclear age. It is cute how so many alamists seem to forget about MAD when it comes to Russia-Chinese relations. I suppose the urge to see the two main threats to Western hegemony destroy each other is too much. In any case, China’s vector of advance is maritime and points to the south and east (Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca). Russia is its strategic rear. This is America’s problem (even if mostly because it chooses to make this it’s problem), not Russia’s problem. I.e. something that the brighter and more cynical neocons realize, as I suppose John Bolton must have recently done.

China does economically overshadow Russia in Central Asia, but given geography and relative economic size, this has always been inevitable (hopefully it can also eventually start taking more Central Asian Gastarbeiters). As I have pointed out, Russia has little except access to its labor market and its weird Victory cult to offer the Central Asians, anyway – whereas the US has its cultural influence, Turkey has an ethnic draw, the Islamic ummah has a spiritual draw, and China has offer more economic incentives. Consequently, the diminution of Russian influence in Central Asia is in any case inevitable.

Otherwise, the draw of China to Russia itself has increased greatly, due to its increasing financial firepower (its nominal GDP is due to overtake the Eurozone this year) and rapidly increasing technological sophistication (even as Russia itself continues to stagnate). These are important considerations in the post-2014 reality in which relations with the West are strained, and the main hope of improvement lies either in Russia’s capitulation, or the coming of right-wing populist movements to power in the West.

In reality, it is quite possible a Russia that swallows Kissinger’s bait will be one that can be bullied by the United States with even more impunity.

Finally, it is on some level fortunate that the Blue Checkmark crazies and Russiagate truthers themselves in any case make any such gambit politically impossible for the United States (and so removing even the temptation of at least having to consider it). They genuinely believe that symbolic concessions such as inviting Putin back to the G8 or dropping some minor sanctions are a “giveaway” to Putin and adequate reward for Russia torpedoing its relations with China for the sake of American interests… hopefully they continue with their delusions.

 
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Dishing out so many red pills you just know the Illuminati (aka ZOG) had to shut him down.

Anyhow, Deus Ex was right about everything:

The collective CNN/FOX/Buzzfeed filtered through Google and Facebook => Picus News.

Infowars => Lazarus.

Unz Review => Samizdat.

/pol/ = Silhouette.

meme-war

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Censorship, Conspiracy Theories, Video Games 
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How about this. Russia should have been nuked in Operation Unthinkable, because this would have prevented them from attacking the 2016 American election, which was another Pearl Harbor and Annuda Shoah.

I realize this is sarcasm, but let’s entertain this seriously anyway.

general-ripperGeneral Ripper (LeMay, McArthur), Dr. Strangelove (Edward Teller, John von Neumann), etc. – they all sort of had a defensive point in terms of utilitarian ethics.

Here is the choice they’d have faced in the late 1940′s-mid 1950′s, when America’s nuclear stockpile soared into hundreds and then thousands of warheads, while the USSR was still racing just to attain a credible deterrent.

Nuclear war now

Perhaps 20 million guaranteed Soviet deaths in the atomic democide, versus maybe 2 million Western deaths (almost all military).

USSR is destroyed, risk of future nuclear war fades out as the US become a global singleton.

Nuclear war later

Possibility of tens of millions of both Soviet and Western deaths – say 50 million each – in a nuclear exchange during the later Cold War.

Assume these Strangelove people viewed the percentage likelihood as 50% (e.g. von Neumann viewed it as almost inevitable).

Then you have 50%*50 million –> 25 million Soviet deaths and 25 million Western deaths. Slightly discounted for them being future deaths, that’s almost exactly comparable to the “nuclear war now” scenario with respect to Soviet deaths, and much less favorable with respect to Western deaths.

Overall, you have 22 million deaths in the first scenario, and 50 million deaths in the second scenario. “Tragic but distinguishable postwar states.”

Moreover, it is perfectly human and understandable to (a) attach more value to your people’s continued existence, and (b) most Westerners at the time viewed Russians as being sort of subhuman anyway (just to give you an idea of how utterly foreign that world was to modern sensibilities… pacifist philosopher Bertrand Russell opposed Russia – because he believed it promoted race mixing).

Consequently, it would have been understandable for them to attach much more weight to the impact on the West. From their point of view, 2 million Western deaths (mostly military) now – and who cares about the Soviets? – is clearly and unambiguously preferable to 25 million Western deaths (mostly civilian) in the medium-term future.

Even if the probability of future nuclear war that they used was 10% rather than 50% (informed with retrospect, this is the most typically cited probability of the Cold War going nuclear), 10%*50 million = 5 million Western deaths (mostly civilian) in the medium-term future is still worse than 2 million Western deaths (mostly military) now.

Of course, modern Effective Altruism is supposed to leave parochial concerns such as national identity behind, so the value of Soviet lives would be equated to Western lives in modern ethical analyses. Moreover, it also has the benefit of hindsight, so the probability of nuclear war can be set at 10%. In this case, 20 million Soviet plus 2 million Western = 22 million total deaths in the late 1940s-mid 1950s would be an inferior outcome to 5 million Soviet plus 5 million Western = 10 million total deaths at some point in time during the rest of the Cold War.

So from an observer neutral point of view, and with the benefit of hindsight, it’s probably quite good that the US didn’t nuke the USSR in the late 1940s-early 1950s.

Or is it? An especially mischievous thinker – a heterodox effective altruist, let’s say – would also raise other questions to achieve a fuller analysis.

(1) How many lives were prematurely ended by the continued existence of a powerful Communist state in the form of the USSR above what things would have otherwise been throughout the world?

(2) To what extent are Western (or Soviet) lives more valuable in terms of the lives saved by the innovations produced by those parts of their population that were at risk of getting destroyed by nuclear democide?

This would greatly complicate the analysis. Probably beyond the point of the results having much validity. After all, even the estimates of potential nuclear deaths and probability of the Cold War turning nuclear are highly uncertain.

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Cold War, Effective Altruism, Ethics, Nuclear War 
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hiroshima

The nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is honestly one of the single most effectively altruistic actions in all of human history.

By helping persuade the Japanese to surrender (they were open to doing that with preconditions, but that was hilariously at odds with the military balance by mid-1945), the Americans helped make the world a much better place.

(1) Military death estimates for the invasion of Japan ran into the hundreds of thousands, which would have been equivalent to America’s military deaths for the entirety of World War II. The US was under no obligation to sacrifice masses of its troops to spare citizens of a country that had underhandedly initiated war against them.

People who are against nuking the Japanese hate Americans.

(2) The USSR would have lost tens of thousands of soldiers occupying Hokkaido and perhaps northern Honshu (only to lose said Hokkaido People’s Republic in c.1991 anyway).

People who are against nuking the Japanese hate Russians.

(3) Japanese troops were still occupying Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and large parts of China. Japanese occupation was not nice. A timely Japanese surrender saved many Allied troops and third country civilians.

People who are against nuking the Japanese hate Chinese and other East Asians.

(4) Previous fire bombings killed more Japanese than the two atomic bombs.

So what even makes nukes so revolting to many people? They’re just more efficient at their job.

(5) An Allied invasion of the home islands would have killed millions of Japanese civilians, or an order of magnitude more than were killed by the atomic bombs.

People who are against nuking the Japanese hate the Japanese.

(6) Showboating American nuclear capabilities to Stalin made the Soviet dictator warier of taking more liberties with the Western Allies in Europe. Since the postwar USSR was a depopulated wreck, while the much wealthier and reinvigorated US was accumulating dozens of nukes per year (thousands from the late 1940s), this must have reduced the risks of a Russian atomic genocide, which quite a few American generals were calling for.

People are who against nuking the Japanese really, really hate Russians.

Moreover, all of this truly psychopathic hatred comes wrapped up in supercilious moralization.

But I for one would like to take a moment of my day to thank the brave American aviators who nuked the Japanese. Glory to Atom!

PS. It is now commonly accepted that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria – or more precisely, the Japanese losing any hopes of the USSR intermediating a more favorable peace with the Americans – played no less a significant role in prompting the Japanese to accept unconditional surrender. However, the nuclear bombing did help things along – Japan’s civilian leaders were truly demoralized by it – and in any case, the American perspective that nukes could force the Japanese to peace was a perfect reasonable one.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Effective Altruism, Japan, Nuclear War, United States 
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This is essentially a short history of the 20th century from the point of view of HBD realism and the maxim that “population is power.”

This century turned out to be an “American Century.”

But it wasn’t obvious that it was going to be that way – while the United States was almost predestined to play a primary role, several other countries – primarily, Germany and Russia – had the potential to emerge as true peer competitors. And China took a surprisingly long time to emerge out of its slumber.

Why did things turn out the way they did?

***

Hopes of the Great War

Germany in 1914 was the single strongest Great Power in Europe – had Great Britain or Russia not entered the war, it would have almost certainly crushed France “by Christmas”. Germany had more than 150% of the population of France (65 million to 40 million), more than twice as many men of conscription age (Germany’s TFR was at 5 children per woman during the 1890s, while France’s hovered at 3 children per woman), and to top it all off, its troops consistently had 25% more combat effectiveness than the French and British. France wouldn’t have stood a chance.

map-ww1-germany-annexation-plans

Germany’s war aims involved annexing large chunks of France, levying massive indemnities on the losers, annexing or controlling Belgium, converting the western parts of the Russian Empire into German vassal states, and making a continental economic association dominated by Germany. This would be the EU on steroids, under German political suzerainty. It would consequently speak on equal terms with Britain on naval and colonial matters.

Probability: Benefit of hindsight and all that, but had the Schlieffen Plan been carried out as originally intended, without weakening its outermost wing, and if German divisions hadn’t been panickedly redirected towards the Eastern Front, there’s a good possibility that France might have been knocked out in 1914. And had France lost, then Germany would have almost certainly crushed Russia in 1915. As it was, the French held, and for the next two years, no side in particular could be said to have been winning, though the situation on the home front in the Central Powers was deteriorating at a faster pace due to the British naval blockade. The critical turning point came in early 1917, when unrestricted submarine warfare and Zimmermann’s extraordinary blunder helped coax the United States into the war. After that, the odds shifted sharply against Germany, Russia’s revolutionary troubles and the French mutinities after the Nivelle Offensive regardless. The collapse of Russia gave Germany a reprieve, and a second chance to seal the deal before American reinforcements made themselves felt. But after the Second Battle of the Marne it was all over; a bloodied, strangled, and mutinying Germany could not hope to resist the more than 100,000 new American troops pouring into the European theater every month.

Consequences: A victorious Germany would have been a strong challenger to the United States, but its position would have been fragile nonetheless – the major loser states of Europe (France, Italy, Russia) would have been resentful, with France and Russia in particular coveting their lost territories; Britain would be deeply hostile, its natural reaction to any continental hegemon, and doing its utmost to foment new coalitions against Germany; and Russia in particular, despite being shorn of much of its territory, would still be developing much more quickly and healthily had it not been hobbled by Communism. Germany’s geostrategic position would remain precarious.

map-ww1-france-annexation-plans

Had France won on its own terms, Germany would have been basically finished as an independent Great Power: Alsace-Lorraine and the Saar would have been re-annexed, the West Rhineland would have been demilitarized for the next 30 years at best if not occupied for the indefinite future, and there were ideas about breaking up Germany into its constituent states altogether.

However, France itself obviously would not had the demographic weight or momentum to dominate the 20th century. Moreover, Britain was not going to be much more supportive of French and Russian territorial expansionism than they would have been of German.

map-russia-plans-ww1

The country that would have prematurely emerged as a superpower – in the late 1910s, as opposed to 1945 – would have been the Russian Empire.

Probability:

Scenario #1:
Russia was neither winning nor losing in WW1. Geographically, it was winning strongly against Turkey and Austria-Hungary, but only holding the line against Germany. Despite initial difficulties with shell production, the Russian Army by 1916 was a well-supplied and well-fed force capable of successful large-scale offensives. The Russians, for their part, did not consider themselves to be losing; the Budenovka had been designed and mass produced for the victory parade in Berlin and Constantinople.

Scenario #2:
The February Revolution, which only occurred by a fluke of weather and miscommunication, portended massive problems for the war effort. Even so, though much is made of desertions in 1917, it’s worth pointing out that Russia was unique in having issued edicts abolishing the death penalty in the military, allowing soldiers’ soviets, and allowing Bolshevik agitators free reign to demoralize the Russian armies. Most of these radical and insane measures were getting revoked after the first half-year of the Provisional Government’s rule, with accompanying improvements in morale and offensive capability. Certainly holding out for another year – probably even less, since the Germans would not have had access to Western Russia’s resources and would have not have been able to release troops for their final western offensives – would have been perfectly feasible. But as it was, a further series of incredible mistakes and flukes led to the Bolshevik coup and the collapse of the Russian as the Bolsheviks unilaterally demobilized Russia’s 7 million man military.

Consequences:

Scenario #1:
Romanovs, not Hohenzollerns, would have headed the kingdoms of Poland and Bohemia (which was highly Russophile at that time); Romania and Serbia would also be allies; needless to say, the Ukraine would remain in the Russian Empire. The only country that could be expected to be unhappy with this arrangement is Poland. Germany itself could be expected to be resentful at its territorial losses, but these would sooner (conveniently) be directed towards Poland. Finally, the Turks would have been bottled up within internal Anatolia, with Constantinople (Tsargrad) going to Russia and Western Armenia forming a land bridge all the way to the Holy Land. With control of the Bosphorus, the Mediterranean gradually becomes a Russian lake as the Great Naval Program is resumed post-1918. In this scenario, it is plausible that a Cold War would develop between France/Great Britain and Russia.

Scenario #2:
Much of this became moot in 1917. The Provisional Government denounced annexations, and in any case, the United States’ entry into the war meant its rhetoric about national self-determination would also need to be honored to some extent. Russia’s territorial gains after this point would have likely been limited to just Galicia, but then again, it hardly needed more territory. This may well have been the most stable postwar configuration. There would be no cause for a Cold War between Russia and the West. Germany would remain resentful – if not as much had the more maximalist territorial ambitions of France/Russia been met – but Russia would have had no cause to cooperate with it as the outcast USSR had to, and Nazis would not have come to power in Germany without the Bolshevik menace.

***

Russia Shoots Itself in the Foot

It’s no exaggeration to say that the Bolsheviks lost Russia its century, and in all likelihood its future for all time. This is a point made all the more painful by the fact that it was largely self-inflicted, whereas Germans could at least reconcile themselves with the thought that they made two “honest” attempts to achieve world supremacy.

Demographics: No Bolshevism means no Russian Civil War, no famine, no collectivization, no Great Famine, no Great Terror, no World War II because they left the job unfinished in the first one, no post-war famine to mark Stalin’s “gratitude” to the Russian people, no alcoholization epidemic. It would not have had a population of 600 million, as Dmitry Mendeleev (yes, that one) projected for the end of the century. But it would be vastly higher than today.

russia-demographics-no-ussr

One massive study headed by Russian demographer Anatoly Vishnevsky calculated that without the demographic catastrophes of the 20th century, the population just within Russia’s borders would have constituted 282 million by 2000 – that’s almost exactly twice its actual figure.

Not to get into an extended debate about the Ukraine Question, but it also seems obvious that a Russia whose brand was pumped up by victory in the Great War (or at least not tainted by defeat), which was not forcibly identified with Bolshevism and divided up into ethnic republics with artificial borders, and which didn’t create man-made famines in the Ukraine in the 1930s would have remained quite solidly unified. Since the Ukraine and Belorussia had even higher demographic losses than Russia due to Soviet tyranny and WW2 German depredations, respectively, their end of century populations can also be safely doubled. Adding in Russian settlers in Southern Siberian (northern Kazakhstan), you would have a population of 400 million 100 IQ Slavs.

The question of whether Finland, the Caucasian states, southern Central Asia, and the Baltic states would remain is more questionable. If so, that would be another 100 million.

Economics. With primary enrollment above 80% by 1914, and projected by the Education Ministry to reach 100% by 1925 – in the event, the Civil War postponed that to 1930 – full literacy was “locked in.” A Russian economy that didn’t lose out on more than a decade of economic development, only to be consequently burdened and distorted by central planning, would have converged to broadly West European living standards, like East-Central Europe was doing prior to the Soviet occupation, and as the Mediterranean states progressively managed to do after WW2.

Culture/Science. It is equally obvious that a country with Europe’s second largest number of university students in 1914 after Germany, which was spared “philosophers’ ships,” the abolition of university entrance exams in the 1920s, Lysenkoism, Stalin’s mass murders, sharashkas, and subsequent decades of ideological orthodoxy would have generated much more science, culture, and soft power.

What could have been: A half-billion population continental superpower with a GDP comparable to that of the United States producing vast amounts of science and culture.

What the Bolsheviks created: A 145 million population rump empire with a GDP comparable to that of Germany (if measured on a PPP-basis; otherwise, Spain) producing as much science as the University of Cambridge; in the long-term, probably destined to be a mere resource appendage of China, with little more than the sight of Germany “doing away with itself” and an America turning into Greater Mexico to console itself with.

De Tocqueville had forecast a bipolar world dominated by the United States and Russia. While American military planners were writing of them being the last two superpowers before WW2 had even ended, by dint of “geographical position and extent, as well as vast munitioning potential,” as Paul Kennedy points out in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, “of the two, the American “superpower” was vastly superior.” In 1945, the US accounted for half the world’s manufacturing output; the USSR was a military giant with feet of clay. While it slowly gained on the US up until the 1970s, the legacy of its demographic bloodletting and economic inefficiency precluded true parity from ever being achieved – up until the point its own historyless elites sold it down the river.

***

Germany’s Missed Opportunity

map-ww2-germany-fatherland-1964

Germany’s plans for WW2 victory are relatively well-known: Apart from the total extermination of Jews within Europe, it would also gobble up Lebensraum in Eastern Europe. Generalplan Ost called for the genocide of most of the European Slavic populations through a threefold approach: Outright extermination; helotization; and selective assimilation of the more Aryan-looking Slavs into the German race. Moscow and Leningrad would be wiped off the surface of the Earth. Some Russians would be expelled into a rump USSR behind the Urals. In Robert Harris’ Fatherland, the post-war Nazi regime wages an unpopular Vietnam-style campaign against Soviet partisans around the Urals in order to build character and patriotism amongst its conscript soldiers.

Probability: I think the objective chances of German victory in 1941-42 were high. They made three critical meta-mistakes:

(1) Declaring war on the United States.
In that case, there be no American Lend-Lease, which was critical for making up deficiencies in Soviet production (e.g. copper wire, aviation gasoline). There would also be no “second front” in the form of the bombing campaign, which put a crimp on German production when they did start to ramp it up. The Soviets would have never enjoyed air superiority, and the resources invested into AA defense would have gone into more tanks and artillery.

(2) Treating the peoples of the occupied territories and POWs extremely harshly.
They could have always just promised them everything, then drawn out the daggers once the USSR was definitively defeated. I guess it doesn’t pay to be prematurely nasty.

(3) Waiting too long to go into full economic mobilization.
German military production peaked in 1944, when the air campaign was at its peak and the Allied armies were already closing in.

Consequences: With France and the European USSR occupied, Germany would dominate the entirety of the North European Plain, making it truly strategically secure. Germany was behind in the nuclear program, but massively ahead on missile technology; a rapid victory over the USSR would have also allowed it to reassign production points into air defense and a heavy bomber force. It would also embark on a bigger buildup of its U-Boat fleet, which might enable it to force Britain to sue for peace.

The idea of a Nazi German superpower is the topic of countless alternative histories from The Man in the High Castle to Wolfenstein. Their economic system wasn’t the best, but it was still far more efficient than central planning. German population perhaps at around 150-200 million today, comparable to the White population of the United States, and of similar quality. It would also form an economic association with 200 million other Europeans, with itself at the center. There would be resentment against its hegemony, but Nazi Germany would also be far more ruthless in crushing it than its Wilhelmine Germany. In this scenario, I would sooner bet against the United States.

The results for Europe’s non-German nations would be pretty glum, ranging from various degrees of extermination to mere subjugation. In all fairness, there were many power centers in Germany (what some historians call “polycratic chaos”), with different ideas about what to do with the occupied territories. Perhaps there would have been no extermination of the Slavs, but merely their breakup into small, German-dependent entities such as the Lokot Autonomy, with mentions of Russia rigorously suppressed/replaced with terms such as the “Muscovite state” (funnily enough, this sort of historiography live on amongst Ukrainian nationalists). The Germans allowed prostitution and abortion to flourish in France while suppressing it in Germany, in the belief that they would accelerate France’s “race degeneration” into demographic irrelevance; on the other hand, Himmler once suggested killing 80% of the French population. It’s hard to tell what would have happened. One might also point out that Hitler was in ill health by 1944, and unlikely to live past 1950. The successor would have played a large role in determining what would later happen, e.g. a hardcore ideologue such as Himmler, the more practical German military, or the hedonistic and corrupt, but not very ideological Goering.

***

The American Singleton

The US unambiguously won the war – it accounted for something like 50% of world manufacturing production by 1945. It dominated all the markets. From the late 1940s, it effected a blisteringly rapid buildup of nuclear arms. The USSR, in contrast, had been economically hollowed out by the war. Some 40% of its military-aged male population was gone, and a good part of the rest was incapacitated. Its nuclear deterrent would not become credible until 1955 or so.

nuclear-megatonnage-usa-ussr

In the late 1940s-early 1950s, if it had really wanted to, the United States could in theory have conquered the entire world and/or instituted a one world government.

In this scenario, the USSR/Russia would probably have been ended as a world power forever. A good percentage of its top cities would have been nuked, resulting in the deaths of perhaps 10-20 million further Russians. Its non-Russian territories would have been detached, and it would have been occupied and vassalized by the US as surely as was Western Germany. Its population today might be around 120 million, though having transitioned back to capitalism much earlier, it would be quite a lot richer.

There were several groups of people calling for preemptive nuclear war on the USSR. The first group were some more hardline American generals, such as Patton and MacArthur. Another surprising proponent was John von Neumann. The common thinking was that nuclear war was inevitable, so the US might as well launch it now, while it still had vast preponderance and the capacity to emerge largely unscathed. In all fairness, they had a point from a purely rational perspective, especially one that privileged their own countrymen’s (future) lives over Russians.

However, in the event they were all overruled, so an American singleton didn’t come to pass.

***

Another interesting scenario suggested by commenter Thorfinnsson is what would have happened if the USSR had signed a separate peace treaty with Nazi Germany in 1943.

I don’t think this was really politically realistic, even for a totalitarian regime like the USSR. And it was perfectly understandable for Stalin to think that he might as well finish the job and seize the eastern half of Europe, now that half of the job was done.

With the Wehrmacht having its hands untied in the East, D-Day would no longer be feasible. However, the Manhattan Project would not be going away, with the result that a campaign of democidal atomic attrition against the German population would begin from 1945.

The Nazis are not limp-wristed like the Kaiser or even Hindenburg/Ludendorff and will hold onto power as German city after city gets wiped off the Earth.

At some point, Germany will be sufficiently weak for an Allied invasion to be possible, especially considering that there would have been years to prepare for it. Obviously, at this point, the USSR could use the opportunity to scavenge. Even the East Europeans will be less of a problem at this point, having been subjected to 2-3x the degree of democide by the Nazis as they were historically. There would be fewer of them, and they’d hate the Germans even more.

The USSR could have used the armistice with Germany to refocus on science spending and turbocharge the nuclear program, developing it earlier and having a credible deterrent by 1950 instead of 1955 – so no Operation Unthinkable in principle. On the other hand, spying might have become much more difficult, since the Western Allies would be highly hostile to the USSR had it unilaterally quit.

Once the Western Allies finished atomically deconstructing Germany, having reduced its population by perhaps 10 million and subsequently occupied it, they would have turned their attention to the USSR. Hopefully it had used its 5 year window wisely.

***

The Maoist Swamp

China during the first half of the 20th century was too disunited, too illiterate, and too agrarian to entertain any superpower pretensions.

That said, it could have emerged into the limelight a lot sooner if not for the economic idiocy of Maoism, which even made Soviet central planning seem rational.

Here is a typical series of anecdotes from a textbook on the Chinese economy:

The government assumed direct control over all urban hiring: From the early 1960s onward, the government assigned 95% of high school or college graduates to work and took the authority to hire and fire away from individual enterprises (Bian 1994). Voluntary job mobility within urban areas disappeared, while workers gained protection from being fired. By 1978 voluntary quits and fires had become virtually nonexistent: in that year 37,000 workers in all of urban China quit or were fired, about one-twentieth of one percent of all permanent workers. A worker was 10 times more likely to retire and four times more likely to die on the job than to quit or be fired. The state decided your job, and a job was for life. This complete absence of labor markets was an extraordinary feature of the Chinese command economy. In the Soviet Union, workers were rarely fired but they were free to quit. In fact, in 1978, in the Russian Republic, 16% of all industrial manual workers quit their jobs during the year (Granick 1987, 109).

China in 1950 was perhaps 10 years behind Taiwan, and level pegging with the Koreas. By 1990, it was 20 years behind South Korea.

Had China maintained pace with Korea, its economy would have overtaken the US around 1985 in PPP terms (IRL: ~2012) and around 1995 in nominal terms (IRL: ~2022).

Today, Korea is close to Japan’s level in per capita terms, or around two thirds of the US level. So a capitalist China would now be perhaps three times the size of the US economy.

Today, China produces half the world’s elite level science (up from 25% five years ago). But a China at Korea’s or Japan’s per capita level would already be at about 150% of the American level (where it would level off because Mongoloids seem to be consistently less scientifically productive than Europeans, despite higher IQs).

Still, the one good thing about the Maoist legacy is that it did not destroy China’s demographic potential, like the USSR destroyed Russia’s through democide and promotion of national autonomies. The populations of both South Korea and Taiwan increased by a factor of 2.5x from the early 1950s to today; China’s increased by almost the same number. The Great Leap Forwards famine was canceled out by a lagging fertility transition.

And of course the Maoists didn’t try to set up Fujianese Soviet Republics, enshrine their right to leave the PRC in the Constitution, and promote non-Standard Mandarin languages.

A high-IQ, fully literate country with the world’s largest population was always bound for great things. The Chinese Communists didn’t screw things up too much, apart from delaying its emergence by a generation.

***

 
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moscow-deus-ex

Pursuant to the discussions at the last big thread, I am making a quick post with my assessments of how realistic various “transhumanist” spheres of technology are.

***

Automation

Has been, is, and will continue to happen – and will affect lower-IQ occupations sooner. Since it takes IQ to design and maintain the robots, this will further privilege cognitively gifted nations (see Our Biorealistic Future). Inequality will also soar. Eventually, some kind of universal basic income will be probably be necessary to avoid a cyberpunk dystopia. Well, we are sort of drifting there anyway, but at least a dystopia without the widespread poverty.

***

bostrom-iq-gainRadical IQ Augmentation

This involves several methods:

  • Embryo selection for IQ: Razib Khan/Charles Murray estimate: 3-5 years (in 2016). Of course regulatory requirements will probably take a long-ass time to get sorted out (e.g., the infamous FDA), so add another 5-10 years. Though this will probably be much quicker in “offshore” style areas with fewer regulations. Calculations of possible IQ gains from a 2014 paper by Carl Shulman and Nick Bostrom (current practice is to select from 10 embryos). See gwern on practical costs/benefits for individuals.
  • Embryo editing for IQ (e.g. via GWAS/CRISPR): For instance, this Twitter user (a prominent psychometrician IRL) points out the method is unreliable and produces a lot of errors – big problem since there’s hundreds of genes affecting intelligence! OTOH, CRISPR is improving fast. Mike Johnson, who has studied the trends although doesn’t work in the field, in 2015 predicted that a “dedicated billionaire with scant regard for legalistic regulations could start genetically “spellchecking” their offspring within 5-7 years.”

Using widespread embryo selection for intelligence, a nation where this is widely implemented can go from the level of West Virginia to Massachusetts, or Southern Italy to Northern Italy, within 1-2 generations – nice, but not immediately transformational. This is not the case with CRISPR/GWAS-enabled IQ augmentation; if this starts around 2030, we can have the first augmented generations growing up by 2050, and beginning to transform society from 2060. Due to the “smart fraction” effect, this will have a substantial impact even if 1-2% of the population reproduces does this. Obviously, barring other game-changing scenarios such as superintelligence, the first countries to implement this will gain an ultra-competitive advantage.

Even though this isn’t often discussed in transhumanist circles, this is the topic that personally excites me the most, because it is the one technological sphere that is both already visible on the horizon, and will have transformational ramifications.

Incidentally, the commenter Alexander Turok has recently finished (and advertised on the comments to this blog) a book that looks at the ramifications of genetic selection for IQ along the lines of Hanson’s Age of Em.

***

Superintelligence

According to a paper by Sandberg, median estimate time for the emergence of ems (emulated minds) is 2059; the age of ems will very likely lead to superintelligence within a couple of years anyway. Median prediction for the emergence of “high level machine intelligence” according to various groups of AI experts clusters around 2040-50. This remains in line with Ray Kurzweil’s classic 2045 prediction in The Singularity Is Near.

It is quite impossible to definitively judge the validity of these forecasts, though FWIW I am skeptical about hard take takeoff scenarios (see 1, 2, 3).

With respect to ems, my main concern is that of the “unconscious zombie”. The planetary (and possibly galactic) extinction of consciousness would appear to represent an epochal loss in value – indeed, one indistinguishable from full-scale extinction. I would second Mike Johnson in his belief that it would be very much advisable to solve the consciousness problem before allowing mind uploads to go ahead.

The dangers of superintelligence are well-known. Once we start to approach those technological milestones, it may be prudent to create a UNATCO-style global organization for AI control until, to borrow from Trump, we “can figure out what the hell is going on.”

***

picus-network-deus-ex

Biomechatronics

So basically Deus Ex-style neural augments. I (or rather, Bostrom) explained why meaningful brain-machine interfaces will be very hard to implement.

However, if it was to be decided by a global singleton that machine superintelligence is too risky (or if the problem proves too hard in general), then one can certainly see these technologies getting developed in coming centuries, perhaps during the Age of Malthusian Industrialism.

***

Radical Life Extension

I think this will be a lot harder than Radical IQ Augmentation for a very simple reason.

The natural “range” of human intelligence spans about 7 standard deviations to either side of the Greenwich mean of 100 that prevails in the developed world, of which perhaps 5 can be realized via GWAS plus gene editing. Even today, differences of a few points in average IQ between various regions and countries can already have striking effects on socio-economic development; now imagine that some regions start converging to mean IQs of 175, and you already have a transformation deeper than anything since the Industrial Revolution, if not the appearance of agriculture.

In contrast, the oldest humans only live to 125 years or so. A society where the average person lives to 110 will not be radically different from a society where he or she lives to 85 (the longest-lived societies today). Much deeper, perhaps trans-species genetic tinkering (e.g. drawing from whales or naked mole rats) will be required, and/or a much deeper understanding of ageing pathways or at least how to keep them repaired, as in Aubrey de Grey’s SENS program. Aubrey believes we will achieve mouse rejuvenation by the early-mid 2020s, but as he himself pointed out in his book Ending Aging, mouse models are not obviously extensible to human ones.

life-extension-mice

In a 2017 Reddit AMA, breaking a long tradition of not giving any quantitative predictions, Aubrey de Grey estimated that a 25 year old man has an 80% chance of reaching “longevity escape velocity.” So perhaps call this around 2050?

***

doom-2016-11Space Colonies

I don’t see this panning out for economic reasons; maintaining a base on the open ocean or Antarctica is trivial relative to a Mars base or a Venusian cloud city, to say nothing of the stupendous challenges involved in interstellar exploration.

If we really want to make self-sustaining space colonies at least theoretically feasible – that is, to satisfy Musk’s vision of a second home away from home to increase the chances of humanity’s survival if some unprecedented disaster was to wipe out life on Earth – then we need radical measures. First, we need to send the atomophobes to concentration camps, as Thorfinnsson energetically recommends. Then we need to start work on nuclear pulse propulsion – the only feasible method of sending huge masses of material into space with technology that has been available since the 1960s.

But I don’t see this happening, and frankly I don’t see anything really exciting happening in space on timescales shorter than centuries. The only potentially profitable business enterprise seems to be in mining asteroids for minerals that are extremely rare on our own planet.

***

Other Techs

Seasteading – sorry to disappoint the libertarians, but I don’t see the economics of this ever working out.

Artificial Wombs should be feasible in a decade. Probably not going to be widely implemented for social/legal reasons.

Cryptocurrency will continue growing in prominence, but I do not see them ever having transformational effects. Reasons why.

Nuclear Fusion is always 20-50 years away. I assume this will remain the case.

Nanotechnology, in Drexler’s sense of self-assembling nanites, remains a pipe dream so far as I know (happily, same goes for the “grey goo” extinction scenario).

***

Concluding Thoughts

I support virtually all of these initiatives, though with some strong reservations on ems/superintelligence.

First, because they’re really cool.

Second, because if they can happen, they will happen anyway, and national obscurantists (typically leftists or religious fundamentalists) dragging back progress will only doom their own countries to irrelevancy.

And it is then the ultra-competitive countries that did follow through on them that will set the rules anyway: “Victory needs no explanation, defeat allows none.

Third, because if there is are no great breakthroughs, the Frito Effect will carry the world into a dysgenic miasma of technological stagnation that will last for many centuries, until the new Malthusian conditions recreate elite intelligences. There will be a lot of suffering for no discernible gain.

PS. Before the usual sovoks come crawling out of the woodwork telling me to crawl back to Silicon Valley, I would like to point out that transhumanism was of course invented in the Russian Empire.

 
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Temperatures in the European Arctic have soared above 32C this past week:

august-2018-europe-temperature

Immediate benefits: Russians can go swimming and sunning in the Baltics or even the White Sea. A couple more degrees, and it might become competitive with southern resorts during summer.

august-2018-temperature-anomaly

Climate Reanalyzer: Temperature anomalies on August 1, 2018.

In 2010, the Baltica became the first high-tonnage tanker to sail with petroleum products by the Northern Sea Route, steaming from Murmansk to China. In 2017, almost 10 million tons of goods were shipped across the Northern Sea Route. This only represents about 1% of the traffic through the Suez Canal (and 0.1% of total global shipping), but it did come out of nowhere, and is projected to increase to at least 70 million tons by 2030.

In reality, I think the increase will be even steeper, because the loss of Arctic sea ice is proceeding far faster than even the most “pessimistic” climate models projected. The IPCC forecast ice-free Arctic summers in the late 21st century under a high emissions scenario, but linear projections of the past decade’s trends suggest that could be achieved as early as 2020. The Northern Sea Route is 35% shorter than the southern route, you don’t have to pay a toll at Suez, nor brave pirates off the Somali coast. It will be ultra-competitive once the ice is gone. Even non-summer shipping will be increasingly viable thanks to Russia’s growing nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet.

This is just the start. As the century progresses there will hopefully be intensive agricultural development, demographic settling, exploitation of the methane reserves in the permafrost and oceanic floor clathrates. This will hopefully accelerate warming further in a virtuous cycle. More warming means more carbon dioxide, more crops due to the carbonization effect, higher humidity leading to more rain (historically, it was colder periods of the Earth’s history that were associated with droughts/civilization collapses).

 
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The Russian Empire, like most European countries, had very liberal gun laws, with no significant restrictions on sales, possession, or open carry.

chelyabinsk-gun-shop

Chelyabinsk gun shop around 1900.

After 1905, you needed the permission of the local head of police to buy pistols and revolvers, but this was a very quick affair and granted as a matter of course. Considering the context of the time – (thousands of assassinations of government officials during this period), this was not an unreasonable precaution. There were no laws on hunting rifles at all until 1917.

russia-gunshop-poster

Russian Gun Shop Poster (1917)

The Soviets began confiscating private weaponry from 1918. Pistols and revolvers were restricted to Communist Party members, as befits the nomenklatura caste society, and would only be allowed for narrow classes of people thereafter. Hunting rifles and shotguns were only available to registered hunters, and acquiring them involves a lengthy and bureaucratic process to this day. As of 2014, Russia scored 3.1/10 on the Gun Rights Index, far behind the US (8.0) and Czechia (6.4), if for now ahead of the United Kingdom (1.5). Incidentally, as of 2016, the Czech homicide rate was twice (!) lower than the UK’s.

In 1935, even some types of knives were forbidden: “Prohibit the manufacture, storage, sale and wearing of daggers, Finnish knives and the like of cold weapons without the permission of the NKVD in the established manner” (Article 182). That’s right: BASED Stalin had the same attitude to knives as Sadiq Khan and Mr. Plod. This provision was later relaxed.

There are a few sovok trolls in the comments who tell me to go back to Texas because apparently gun rights constitute “transplant Protestant individualism” and “Western craziness.” Both of those things of course being the very definition of the Russian Empire, while the mustachioed Caucasian BDSM master represented the true Orthodox Russia. Another thing they claim is that gun rights would cause Russians to immediately shoot each other up en masse “like Americans do.” But given American criminological statistics, we must also conclude that sovoks believe Russians are behaviorally equivalent to American Negroes. But of course it’s me who’s the Russophobe.

PS. Much longer, comprehensive article on Imperial Russian gun culture (Империя и оружие. В царской России “стволов” в продаже не боялись). Doesn’t seem like a topic that has been written much about in English, for obvious reasons.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Guns, Russia, Tsarist Russia 
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maria-butina

Sign the petition here: Drop or dismiss all charges against Russian human rights activist Maria Butina.

Don’t Let Maria Butina Go To Prison For Supporting American 2nd Amendment Values!

Right to Bear Arms, Russia’s premier gun rights organization, wishes to express its grave concern at what we see as the politically-motivated prosecution of our founder, Maria Butina, and calls on the relevant authorities in the United States to immediately drop or dismiss all charges against her.

Right to Bear Arms has played an active role in Russian civil society under Maria Butina’s leadership. Since our founding in 2011, we have lobbied for a Russian equivalent of the Second Amendment, organized public educational seminars, promoted “castle doctrine” laws such as the ones that exist in many US states, and provided free legal defense for people facing criminal charges for self-defense. Like most civil society organizations, in Russia or elsewhere, we have encountered both support and opposition on the part of our government.

Maria Butina has never made a secret of her conservative and patriotic pro-Russian political views. This is not the behavior of a spy or an agent of influence trying to worm her way into American political organizations. Although not everyone might agree with them, in Russia as in the United States, she has a right both to her opinions (freedom of speech), and to network with people who share said opinions (freedom of association) in both countries. We express particular concern over the timing of Maria Butina’s arrest, which occurred just hours after the Helsinki Summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald J. Trump, as well as the prosecution’s request to withhold evidence from the public. This raises questions about the fairness of the trial and its freedom from political influence.

Right to Bear Arms broadly agrees with Maria Butina’s goals of improving relations between Russia and the United States, and all of us (by definition) support expanded gun rights. However, you don’t exactly have to be a “gun nut” to be concerned about the implications of this case for free speech in the United States, as well as the potential impact on public diplomacy between Russia and the United States – public diplomacy that is arguably needed more than ever, given the current state of relations between the two nuclear superpowers. But given this precedent, how can we reasonably expect ordinary citizens to practice public diplomacy – to learn, network, and exchange ideas with each other – when Russians face the real risk of arrest and imprisonment in the United States for having had associated with officials from both countries?

We reiterate our belief that this case only serves to raise mutual suspicions and constrict civil rights to the detriment of both Russians or Americans.

We repeat our call to the relevant American authorities to immediately drop or dismiss all charges against Maria Butina!

Completely ridiculous if you ask me.

By this precedent, any Russian who has had contacts with both Russian and American officials can go to prison in the US, just so that Democrats can continue to indulge their Trump Derangement Syndrome. Unacceptable!

 

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Guns, Human Rights, Maria Butina, Russia 
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Global Times: China may reward families with more children next year: demographers.

China may reward families with a second child or more next year to arrest its dropping fertility rate, and the family planning policy will undergo fundamental changes, Chinese demographers said.

Their remarks came after reports that China’s National Health Commission (NHC) is studying the possibility of rewarding families with more children. …

Although not immediately confirmed by the NHC as of press time, demographers interviewed by the Global Times on Thursday said that they believe China may introduce incentives to families the next year, if not sooner, considering the drop in new births.

Demographer He Yafu told the Global Times that the NHC’s study was said to only target families having a second child and not those with three or more children, and it’s very likely that China will officially introduce the policy next year.

It’s funny to see China going from a rigid One Child Policy to Russian/Hungarian-style pro-natalism within the space of no more than four years.

However, such turnarounds aren’t exactly unprecedented in the history of Communist regimes. Mao was a pro-natalist. The One Child Policy was adopted in 1979, three years after the death of the Great Helmsman. (Still, even that reversal was quite tame by the standards of, say, Ceausescu’s Romania).

Anyhow, there’s considerable confusion even over the current level of Chinese TFR.

1. The Ministry of Health and Family Planning claims that it is around 1.5-1.6 children per woman, and has been so since the mid-1990s. This is the figure that is most often quoted in the media.

2. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) presents much more pessimistic figures stretching back to at least the turn of the millennium: 1.24 in 2017, 1.29 in 2016, 1.05 in 2015, 1.18 in 2010, 1.33 in 2005, and 1.22 in 2000.

This is a rather huge discrepancy, especially for such a major and central country. (I admit to being amazed that isn’t that much data on this topic, though one would might think it’s far more important than 98% of what the Blue Checkmark pundits blather on about).

FWIW, my personal assessment is that it is the latter, more pessimistic figures that are correct.

Three separate lines of evidence for that:

1. Census data

Guang-zhou, Wang & Chong-hui (2010): New fertility changes and characteristics from the sixth population census in China:

However, does such a low fertility rate present the true picture of the situation in China? In fact, debates regarding China’s fertility level have existed for a long time, especially after the 2000 census, because serious inconsistencies were found between the results of the National Population and Family Planning Commission and the survey results of the National Bureau of Statistics. Specifically, the total fertility rate of the 2000 census was 1.22; however, the National Population and Family Planning Commission as well as the Study of National Population Development Strategy believed the total fertility rate to be about 1.8. The total fertility rates from the surveys of the National Bureau of Statistics and the National Population and Family Planning Commission were between 1.4 and 1.6 thereafter; however, a gap remained between the level of TFR recognized by the National Population and Family Planning Commission and the actual survey results. The 2006 survey results of the National Population and Family Planning Commission was the only exception: This survey found the total fertility rate to be 1.87, which was close to the level consistently recognized by the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

Previous studies have found that the fertility level of rural childbearing-age women is consistently higher than that of their urban counterparts due to the dual urban-rural structure of China’s family planning policy and regional differences in the process of fertility transition. The fertility level of childbearing-age women with primary (or below) education levels are higher than that of those with middle school (or higher) education levels. The 2000 census data showed that the total fertility rate of rural childbearing-age women was 1.43, and the total fertility rate of these women with primary (or below) education level was 1.49. Given that the proportion of urban citizens was greater than 45%, we can infer that the total fertility rate of childbearing-age women should be less than 1.43 from the 2000 national census. Furthermore, it was virtually impossible to have a total fertility rate higher than that of rural childbearing-age women (1.49) with primary (or below) education level. In addition, the 2010 census revealed that the total fertility rate of rural childbearing-age women was 1.44; based on these data, we conclude that the fertility rate of childbearing-age women in 2010 should be less than 1.44. Moreover, it was virtually impossible to have a total fertility rate higher than that of rural Chinese childbearing-age women with primary (or below) education levels (1.64 in 2010). In addition, the 2010 census data regarding age structure can be used to indirectly estimate the history of changes in the fertility level of childbearing-age women from 2000-2010. This estimation shows that the fertility rates in 2000, 2005, and 2010 were approximately 1.34, 1.43, and 1.29, respectively. In short, a conservative estimate based on the available data showed that the total fertility rate in 2010 should be less than 1.44, and the chance of it being higher than 1.64 is minimal.

2. Studies consistently show that China has very low desired fertility even by developed world standards.

Basten, Stuart & Quanbao Jiang (2015) – Fertility in China: An uncertain future

As Hou et al. (2014) report, the mean desired number of children in 63 studies of urban fertility preferences in the period 2000–10 was just 1.50 (SD 0.25). The mean in 52 studies in rural areas over the same period was 1.82 (SD 0.36). While a number of caveats should be made about equivalence across studies in these meta-reviews, and about respondent bias (see Basten and Gu 2013, pp. 29–31), these findings appear to be robust. They are consonant with the results of other qualitative studies (e.g., Nie and Wyman 2005) and with data from nationally representative surveys.

Assuming a 50/50 urban-rural split, China’s desired fertility rate would be equal to Germany’s, which is the least breeder-ish country in the EU, along with Austria.

europe-desired-fertility

Alber, Jens, Fahey, & Saraceno (2007) – Handbook of Quality of Life in Enlargement Europe. For comparison, current figure for both Russian and American women is around 2.2-2.5 children.

In post-traditionalist societies, there is usually at least a 0.5 child shortfall between actual fertility, and desired fertility. This suggests that we should expect China to have a TFR of around 1.25.

3. Comparison with countries with not too dissimilar demographic profiles.

The Chinese population pyramid should be somewhat similar to Iran: Both countries saw strong demographic expansion prior to the 1980s, then a massive slowdown as the effect of family planning policies kicked in (e.g. Iran was projected to have a population of 122 million in 2025 by the UN in the 1980s; its current population is just 80 million, and is highly unlikely to exceed 100 million during this century).

Current TFR of Iran is around 1.7 children per woman, at a birth rate of 19/100,000. China’s birth rate has been 12/100,000 since the early 2000s. This again makes it consistent with a TFR that is 0.5 children lower than the oft quoted figures.

If this is all true, then China should have really moved from One Child Policy to pro-natalism at least a decade ago, if not two.

I wonder if the reason it didn’t could have had anything to do with the leadership not getting clear signals that Chinese fertility had already fallen into the doldrums by the turn of the millennium.

As I understand it, the One Child Policy was itself inspired by the neo-Malthusian gloom of those times, adjusted for Western intellectual trends coming a decade late to the Communist world; Paul R. Ehrlich had published his famous(ly wrong) book Population Bomb a decade earlier, in 1968. The CPC may also have been concerned about industrial gains getting eaten by population growth. A more human capital-centered/biorealistic viewpoint on the economy might have helped them escape this trap, and China today might have 1.6 billion people instead of 1.3 billion, and a younger population.

***

EDIT: Commenter Cicerone has a very good argument why the Ministry of Health and Family Planning figures (TFR = 1.6) are the more accurate ones after all.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: China, Demographics, Fertility 
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How do you talk about dysgenic trends in intelligence without coming off as bespectacled old geezer in a tweed suit with a pipe in one hand and a leatherbound copy of The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy in the other*?

We need something hip, cool.

Everyone knows about the FLynn Effect. I suggest an alliterative counterpart: The Frito Effect, in honor of the hero’s moronic sidekick in the 2006 movie Idiocracy.

I will be using The Frito Effect to describe the awkward mouthful that is “dysgenic trends in intelligence” in all consequent posts. Let’s see if it catches on.

PS. Since I use quite a terms that are rather specific in my writing (e.g. handshakeworthiness, ROG, svidomy, mnogokhodovka, zrada), I have decided to compile a glossary at my main site (http://akarlin.com/). I plan to gradually fill in a few definitions a week, so hopefully I can link to the finished version in a month or two.

* Not that there’s anything wrong with that whatsoever.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Dysgenic 
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Vladimir Voinovich (1986) - Moscow 2042
Rating: 2/5
TLDR: Good perspective on sovok-liberal Russophobia.

book-moscow-2042Vladimir Voinovich died the other day. In the Anglosphere, this only seems to have been noticed by RFERL, where this Serb/Jewish literary dissident worked during his exile from the USSR in the 1980s.

Like Solzhenitsyn, Voinovich opposed the Soviet regime – but that was approximately where the similarities ended. Solzhenitsyn viewed the USSR as a perversion of the traditional Russia, a carapace that needed to be thrown away for the Russian people to flourish; Voinovich viewed it as a continuation of the traditional Russia, which needed to be deconstructed entirely and replaced by a Western (or what sovoks imagined to be Western) facsimile*. This, incidentally, is the reason that Voinovich was employed by RFERL, while Solzhenitsyn became progressively unhandshakeworthy in Western circles once he revealed that he was not just another Russophobe (see his 1982 letter to Reagan).

Voinovich’s most famous work is Moscow 2042, published in Russian in 1986 and translated into English in 1987. The hero is Vitaly Kartsev, wan emigre dissident who lives in Munich, and who was patently based on Voinovich himself. Kartsev books a time travel holiday to the year 2042 at a travel agent’s, though not before Sim Simych Karnavalov – a fellow dissident writer who is just as patently based on Solzhenitsyn – hands him 36 of his lugubrious tomes (“glybs”) in defense of monarchism and reaction on a computer disk, which he imperiously commands him to propagandize in the future Moscow.

The future USSR has abandoned the idea of world revolution and Socialism in One Country for “Communism in One City.” The head of state is the Genialissimo (a portmanteau of Generalissimus and genius), though in truth he rules in name only, having been confined to a gilded prison on a spaceship. Meanwhile, real power belongs to the gerontocratic bureaucrats and generals of the CPGB (the Communist Party of State Security, i.e. what resulted from the formal merger of the Communist Party and the KGB).

The Moscow Communist Republic is walled off from the outside world by a six-meter barbed wire fence guarded by machine gun outposts. Outside, it is surrounded by three “circles of hostility”: The rest of the USSR, which has since retreated into a subsistence, neo-feudal existence; the rest of the socialist bloc; and the capitalist world. In the world’s first Communist state, everyone lives according to their needs, though some needs are naturally more equal than others – Moscow is itself subdivided into three “circles of Communism” (shortened to “kaki”, which is also slang for “shit”), corresponding to areas of “extra needs,” “ordinary needs,” and “self-sustaining needs.”

Living conditions are extremely bad. Food consists of “primary products” (e.g. ersatz rutabaga, fishmeal), which are given out at “points of Communist distribution by location of work” (shortened to “pukomrasy,” with “puk” meaning “fart” in Russian). Food is distributed in exchange for talons, which can only be obtained in return for handing in “secondary product” – nightsoil, which is now the USSR’s main export, after oil and gas had run out. Yes, there is no shortage of scatological “humor” in this book.

The pathologies of the late Soviet era are maximized for absurdity. Problems are blamed on “cultists, voluntarists, corruptionists, and reformists”. Nomenklatura privileges have been preserved and expanded. There is overweening bureaucracy and censorship. Transport has broken down, and now takes place exclusively via armored personnel carriers. The cult of the Genialissimo is endemic – all of Moscow’s statues have been beheaded and replaced with cheap plastic portraits of the Genialissimo, and people are only allowed to read his manuscripts, speeches, and memoirs.

The Church has been given back all of its privileges in return for replacing God with the Genialissimo. The official ideology is now a “Pentarchy” of “nationality, party, religiosity, vigilance, and state security”, and the sign of the cross has been replaced with the sign of the pentagram. Marx, Engels, Lenin are now saints along with Jesus Christ (who is the world’s first Communist) and the Genialissimo.

But this decrepit totalitarianism hides seething popular resentment. Kartsev’s time traveling visit coincides with a revolution, as adepts of Sim Simych seize power in Moscow – helped along by a turncoat secret police general, Dzerzhin Gavrilovich (who now starts calling himself Druzhina Gavrilovich, and becomes the new regime’s security chief – he explains that people like him are always needed by any regime). Sim himself rides into Moscow on a white horse, and institutes “simoderzhavie” (from samoderzhavie – autocracy). The old “Communite” leaders are executed by crucifixion, or lynched by enraged and primitive mobs. Russia is proclaimed an Empire, “united and undivided” (after the White slogan).

The following edicts are proclaimed by Sim, now named Serafim the First, Emperor and Autocrat of All The Russias:

  • The CPGB is declared illegal, and Russia is proclaimed an absolute monarchy.
  • Communist propaganda is criminalized.
  • The republics are annulled and replaced with gubernias. Territorially it includes the USSR, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania.
  • The people are called on to identify the cursed Communists and pluralists, and called on to be alert to any resurgence in the false and evil doctrines of Communism.
  • Commission to investigate Communist crimes.
  • Foreign debts are repudiated.
  • Obligatory Orthodoxy.
  • Renaming all cities and landmarks that carry Communist names.
  • All land and factories go over to the Emperor, who will proceed to give them out to people capable of productivity labor.
  • Passports and other documents given out by the Godless regime are declared null and void, and are replaced by a single residency card.
  • Steam and electric means of transports are to be replaced with animal horsepower.
  • Science is annulled and replaced with three obligatory subjects: God’s Law; Dal’s Dictionary; and His Majesty’s own works, such as “The Big Zone.”
  • Corporal punishment.
  • Mandatory beards for men over forty. Modest dress codes for men and women. Women are forbidden from riding bicycles.
  • The letter ѣ is reintroduced into the Russian alphabet.

So, in other words, this is basically the sovok shitlib’s fever dream – a projection of their own demented delusions and coprophilic complexes on Imperial Russia and Solzhenitsyn. Let’s just leave it at the fact that the Holy Russian Empire bans aircraft, whereas the actual Russian Empire had Europe’s biggest air fleet at the outbreak of World War I.

Unfortunately, this fever dream – promoted by the sovoks themselves – was shared by a sufficiently large number of people when the USSR collapsed, and this led directly to the catastrophes of the 1990s. Any alternatives to the neoliberal orthodoxy and Western cargo cultism could be answered with the refrain, “Well, what do you want, then? A Sim Simych?” And Voinovich played his small part in that self-destruction.

It should therefore come as no surprise that after returning to Russia in 1990, Voinovich has been a consistent champion of anti-Russian causes. He has opposed the Second Chechen War and supported Chechen self-determination, but didn’t have the consistency to also support Russian self-determination in Crimea and the Donbass. He has supported expressions of Western poz such as Pussy Riot (amusingly, his character Kartsev, back in 1982, asks one of Sim’s lackeys in 1982 whether he is a pedo in response to his homosexual-like behavior – it’s amusing to imagine him getting metaphorically crucified for it by SJWs, had he lived in the US). He has been strongly opposed to Putin and expressed a desire that Putin “answer for his crimes.”

* Or in the terminology of Fluctuarius Argenteus’ Double Horseshoe Theory, Solzhenitsyn was in Category C, while Voinovich was Category D. Naturally, Solzhenitsyn was never going to get hired by RFERL.

 
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soviet-agents-on-facebook

(h/t Hannah Gais)

This is gonna be a black author…

*checks*

Yep, it’s a black author alright. It’s always a black author.

Haldeman: “Not intellectual enough. Not smart enough… not smart enough to be spies.”

There were still conservative boomer doofuses casually interchanging Soviet/Russian as late as the Iraq War, but I think that finally wound to an end by around 2010. Nowadays, it’s only black affirmative action journalists – the only people dumber than conservative pundits – who still do this.

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Affirmative Action, Russophobes 
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yaroslavl-1911

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1911): General view of the Church of St. John Chrysostom in Korovniki (from the mill) from the west.

It is a curious thing that one of the most important stories of the Russian Civil War doesn’t even have an English language entry in Wikipedia. Google results either lead to fleeting mentions in obscure history books, or to general interest articles about the history or tourist attractions of Yaroslavl, a 600,000-population city some 250 km northeast of Moscow, in the heart of the “Golden Ring” cluster of medieval Russian towns.

Which is all pretty strange, because this story has pretty much all the key components of a Hollywood blockbuster: A diverse cast of occasionally bickering but broadly sympathetic characters, who are united in their struggle against a dystopian regime; a people’s uprising against said regime that achieves success against all the odds, thanks in part to a femme fatale who distracts the baddies at the perfect moment; subsequent feelings of elevation soon turning into consternation, as storm clouds gather on the horizon; hope turning to grim despair, as the doomed heroes mount a last stand against the mustering forces of xenos darkness; and the final great betrayal, in which the moral heroism of the defeated transcends into spiritual victory, while the ostensible victors are condemned to pay their mite to cosmic justice.

This is the story of how, one century ago this month, the first of the great Russian uprisings against Bolshevik tyranny was crushed under a barrage of shells and waves of Latvian Riflemen. This is the story of Yaroslavl’s 16 Days of Freedom.

***

Part I: Revolt Amongst the Ruins

It was July 1918, and the once mighty Russian Empire lay in ruins. The economy had cratered, as the Bolsheviks criminalized private trade and confiscated everything from banks and factories to ordinary people’s windmills, workshops, apartments, and private savings. The first food brigades were being marshalled and sent out to requisition grain from a recalcitrant peasantry at gunpoint. Less than a year ago, there were Russian troops in Austria-Hungarian and Turkish territory, which had come within a hair’s breadth of knocking out two of Russia’s principal enemies out of the Great War; since then, the Bolshevik coup and unilateral demobilization of the Imperial Russian Army had collapsed the Russian front, and resulted in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed between the Bolsheviks and their German sponsors, which deprived Russia of 44% of its population and more than half of its industrial potential. The Japanese had occupied Vladivostok, and even the Chinese had sent more than a thousand troops into Siberia. Sean McMeekin in The Russian Revolution points out that even as Russia’s urban population began to collapse from hunger and cholera, Lenin’s government sat safe in the Moscow Kremlin, guarded by 35,000 Latvian Riflemen, whose salaries were directly paid by the German Embassy.

Unsurprisingly, discontent with the Bolsheviks, who had won less than 25% in the Constituent Assembly elections – the last free elections in Russia for more than 70 years – was at a fever pitch. Trotsky’s request to the Congress of Soviets to have opponents of German occupiers who resisted arrest “shot on the spot” was one of the last straws. On July 6, the Left SR’s mounted a revolt against the Bolsheviks in Moscow, yelling “Down with the Mirbach dictatorship!” and killing the hapless German ambassador. They were quickly put down by General Vatsétis’ Latvian Riflemen, the only Imperial Army unit that the Bolsheviks had not ordered demobilized.

That same day also saw the outbreak of rebellion in the simmering Volga basin north-east of Moscow. Soviet historiography has traditionally labeled it the Yaroslavl Mutiny (мятеж). In reality, as Russian publicist Egor Kholmogorov points out, it was nothing of the sort. A “mutiny”, especially in the Russian language, presupposes that the act of rebellion occurs in relation to a legitimate authority. However, this was a regime which had emerged as the result of the overthrow of the Tsar, an armed coup against the Provisional Government, the rejection of free election results in which they gotten less than a quarter of the vote, the forcible dispersal of the Constituent Assembly, and a treasonous treaty with an enemy Power. Such a regime could not be considered legitimate in any world. Consequently, it can only be known as the Yaroslavl Rebellion (восстание), and this was indeed how it was known during the 1920s, by both Whites and Reds. It was only during the 1930s, when the USSR transitioned into its totalitarian phase and the Communists established an absolute equivalence between themselves and the state, that the Rebellion was downgraded to a “mutiny.”

***

Part II: The People’s Front

Why Yaroslavl? One factor must have been just random luck. The Moscow and Kazan branches of the conspiracy had been uncovered and purged in May 1918. The persistent failure of White conspiracies was unsurprising in light of the fact that the officers who formed the core of the clandestine cells set up to oppose Bolshevik rule came from a society that had, at least until recently, been based on rule of law, not the rule of secret policemen. They were unaccustomed to the ruthless discipline and dissimulation needed to bring conspiracies to fruition.

russia-peasant-savings-accounts-by-region-1913

Mikhail Davydov (2016): Twenty Years to the Great War. Russian regions by share of peasant households with passbooks (needed for savings accounts).

However, the socioeconomic and cultural particularities of Yaroslavl may have also played a certain role. Yaroslavl gubernia traditionally had the highest literacy rate of any ethnic Russian region apart from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg: 36% vs. 23% for European Russia in the 1897 Census, and 61% vs. 44% for the European part of the RSFSR and BSSR in the 1926 Census. Even today, intellectual ability tests show Yaroslavl oblast to have average IQ scores equal to the two capitals, and higher than any other Russian region. This early development of human capital also made it a decidedly bourgeois region by the time of the Revolution: As of 1913, fully two thirds of peasant families in Yaroslavl gubernia had a passbook (needed to open savings accounts), relative to 10.3% in the Russian Empire as a whole. Finally, in the Constituent Assembly elections of 1917, Yaroslavl voted 38% for the Bolsheviks (versus 43% for the Social Revolutionaries). This was higher than the all-Russian average of 24%, but was still one of the lowest figures in Central Russia – the most pro-Bolshevik region after the Baltics.

This perhaps explains why it wasn’t only the officers, students, and intelligentsia who went over to the rebellion in Yaroslavl, but also “blue collar” classes such as policemen, local peasants, and even the railway workers, 140 of whom joined the Rebellion as soldiers, and fitted out an armored train for the cause. Consequently, the Yaroslavl Rebellion was a true “popular front”, in which the entire city, from merchants and Black Hundreds, to Mensheviks and workers, came together as one against the Bolshevik regime.

This ideological diversity was reflected in the Rebellion’s leadership, which was headed by the Social Revolutionary and former terrorist Boris Savinkov, the head of the Union for the Defense of the Motherland and Freedom (UDMF). After the Civil War, Savinkov would claim the USSR to be a continuation of the Tsarist monarchy in his 1923 book The Black Horseman of the Apocalypse:

I do not care who rules the country – the Lubyanka or the Okhrana, for he who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind… what, exactly, has changed? Only the words… They betrayed Russia on the front, with cigars in their teeth. They defile it now. They defile life, they defile the language, they defile the very name of Russia.

They boast that they remember not their ancestors. For them, the Motherland – is a prejudice. In the name of their own miserable welfare, they sell our inheritance to foreigners – not theirs, but ours. And these bastards rule from Moscow…

These are hardly the words of a hardcore reactionary (though you don’t exactly have to be one to question the equivalence between the Okhrana, which had less than 10,000 agents in the entire Russian Empire in 1900, and the Cheka, which employed 280,000 black leather jacket-clad thugs by the end of 1920). That said, it cannot be denied that Savinkov – like the Social Revolutionaries who refused Fritz Platten’s suggestion to accompany Lenin in his “sealed train” to Russia – was a genuine Russian patriot and lover of liberty.

Boris Savinkov’s political vision was augmented by the military talent of Colonel Alexander Perkhurov, a monarchist, who headed what would become the Yaroslavl Detachment of the Northern Volunteer Army.

He was supported in his role by the following locals in the Rebellion HQ:

  • Ivan Savinov, a Menshevik railway employee, answered for the civic functioning of the city;
  • The Mayor was V. Lopatin, a Cadet engineer;
  • The city board included the merchant Kayukov, the Cadets Sobolev and Gorelov, and the Menshevik Meshkovsky;
  • The Social Revolutionary Mamyrin visited outlying villages to drum up peasant support for the Rebellion;
  • The former governor of the region under the Provisional Government, V. Dyushen, also supported the Rebellion.

Despite this class and ideological heterogeneity amongst the key protagonists of the Rebellion, they shared the fundamental goals of the UDMF, which boiled down to the following major three points:

  • The overthrow of Soviet power;
  • Restoration of lost freedoms, including rule of law and property rights, cancelation of restrictions on movement and trade, and reinstatement of private capital;
  • Denunciation of Brest-Litovsk, and continuation of the war with the German occupiers.

All of these goals were fulfilled, however briefly, in what Russian writer Kirill Kaminets calls Yaroslavl’s “sixteen days of freedom.”

As we shall soon see, even the fact that the Rebellion formally considered itself to be at war with Germany would end up playing an ironic and tragic role.

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It would go amiss not to mention the symbols under which the soldiers of the Rebellion fought. Here is what Perkhurov formally prescribed for military units:

Distinctive signs for military units answering to the Union for the Defense of the Motherland and Freedom: Stripes on the left sleeve in the form of a corner from a narrow St. George’s ribbon (chevron).

The same color scheme to be used for flags and banners. They can be adorned with saints specific to the unit in question.

Yes, that’s the very same St. George’s Ribbon that was “rehabilitated” during the Great Patriotic War, and would later come to be synonymous with Victory.

More recently, it also came to be associated with the revolts against the Ukrainian authorities during the “Russian Spring” in 2014, and with Novorossiya supporters in the subsequent War in the Donbass.

Incidentally, Latvia tried to ban St. George’s Ribbon in 2015 – a most supreme irony, considering who crushed Yaroslavl’s dreams and secured Bolshevik power in the precarious early months of its power.

***

Part III: 16 Days of Freedom

In early July, almost 300 officers were concentrated in Yaroslavl – 200 locals, and 100 guests from Moscow, Kaluga, and Kostroma. On the night of July 6, Perkhurov gathered 105 officers in the Leontiev Cemetery; armed with just twelve revolvers, they proceeded to storm the main weapons dump in the city, which was half a kilometer away. A 30 man police detachment sent to investigate the disturbances defected to the Rebellion, and they were soon followed by the city police (this included its head, Falaleev, who would command a squad in the ensuing battles and die on the front).

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The Leontiev Cemetery

Soon after, the insurgents – now numbering in the many hundreds – seized the telegraph, postal office, radio station, and treasury, as well as the local Bolshevik HQ. Although the latter was guarded by 200 Red Guards, most of them were locals who crossed over to the Rebellion. One reason for this smooth takeover was that the local Bolshevik bigwigs were distracted, having been invited to a party in the city center organized by the actress Valentina Barkovskaya, a local celebrity who sympathized with the rebels. Another reason was that ordinary citizens welcomed the rebellion, and the Bolsheviks – who had already managed to make themselves widely hated – were too demoralized to offer up more than token resistance.

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Former Yaroslavl governor’s residence, where the Bolsheviks had made their HQ.

The military commissar of the Yaroslavl region, Semyon Nakhimson, and the chairman of the local ispolkom, David Zakheim – were summarily lynched, in the two confirmed cases of execution without trial or jury on the part of the Rebellion. However, it should be pointed out that this lynching, though standard practice for the Reds, was unequivocally condemned by Perkhurov: “We must remember that we are fighting these rapists for the principles of rule of law, for freedom, and for the inviolability of the person.”

The city was under the Rebellion’s control by midday. They published a public proclamation, which began with the following words:

CITIZENS! Bolshevik power in Yaroslavl gubernia has been overthrown. Those who several months ago seized power by means of deceit, and kept control of the genuine will of the people through unheard of violence and mockeries, those who brought the people to starvation and unemployment, who set brother against brother, who divided the contents of the people’s treasury amongst their own pockets – they now sit in prison, and await their retribution.

The prison in question was what Soviet historiography would later term a “death barge”. For a long time, the Soviets claimed that the rebels imprisoned 200 Communists on a barge in the middle of the Volga. Half of them starved to death, while 109 managed to escape when a stray shell cut the barge’s anchor line. However, documents uncovered after the Soviet collapse tell a rather different story. First, only 82 surnames are mentioned. Second, it was Red artillery from the opposite shore that made resupplying the famine-stricken barge an unfeasible endeavour. Perkhurov even ordered a volunteer officer to deliver food to the barge, but his boat was hit by a shell and capsized, and the officer himself was severely wounded. The only accurate part of this Soviet story was that an artillery shell did eventually sever the anchor line, freeing the barge to drift downstream to the Red forces.

In the first heady days of the Rebellion, the town was festooned with an enormous banner, which proclaimed, “Long live free Russia! Down with the Bolsheviks! Long live the Constituent Assembly!” People were called upon to save “our Motherland and our people from shame, slavery, and hunger” in leaflets distributed by the Yaroslavl authorities. On July 8, local self-government was returned, and the laws of the Provisional Government were restored. July 13 saw the formal annulment of all Soviet institutions and Bolshevik decrees.

map-yaroslavl-rebellion

Source: SelfSimilar/Sputnik & Pogrom. Map of the Yaroslavl Rebellion.

Perkhurov immediately declared a mobilization, though one that was only mandatory for the officers. Despite the lack of mandatory conscription, some 6,000 men would join the Rebellion’s military forces in Yaroslavl, a city of 135,000 people. Around 1,000-2,000 of these troops would be at the front at any one time. They included a battalion of five Garford-Putilov cars, which were armed with 76.2 mm cannons and a couple of 7.62 mm machine guns.

But the celebrations had hardly died down before storm clouds started appearing on the horizon.

The UDMF had planned a series of uprisings throughout Central Russia in early July. These were to form a concentric circle around Moscow, with Yaroslavl serving as a central lynchpin, its railway hub connecting the Urals and Siberia with the Russian North. With many of the Bolsheviks’ crack Latvian Rifle troops having been diverted south to put down the rebellion in the Kuban, the plan was to sap Bolshevik energies and hold out until reinforcements arrived. The French had promised Savinkov and Perkhurov that they would send down an expeditionary force from Arkhangelsk, while the Whites forces then consolidating control over Siberia and the Urals would advance from the east.

But one by one, the planned uprisings flickered out. The cells in Moscow and Kazan had been uncovered and liquidated back in May. The cells in Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov, and Ivanovo-Voznesensk failed to ignite. The most successful uprisings outside Yaroslavl, the ones in Rybinsk (July 8) and Murom (July 8-10), were suppressed within a couple of days, though the defenders of Yaroslavl were late to learn about it because the Bolsheviks managed to intercept the messengers. Meanwhile, it became increasingly clear that aid was not to be forthcoming. The Allies would only disembark in Arkhangelsk in August, while the People’s Army in the east would only capture Kazan in August – far too late to synchronize with the Rebellion in both cases.

lencmanis-and-perkhurov

Jānis Lencmanis vs. Alexander Perkhurov.

In the meantime, the Reds – having awoken to the seriousness of the crisis – were mustering their forces with a panicked urgency. An Extraordinary HQ for the Liquidation of the Mutiny, headed by Jānis Lencmanis, was formed on July 9. The military operation was to be directed by Anatoly Gekker and Yury Guzarsky. The 7,000 troops that were gathered up to storm the defiant city every bit as “diverse” as their commanders: The 3rd Hungarian International Regiment, the 8th Latvian Rifle Regiment, the 1st Warsaw Revolutionary Regiment (which included a Chinese-Korean brigade), the 2nd Riga Latvian Rifle Brigade, and units of the 1st Riga Latvian Rifle Regiment.

Moreover, the failure of the Murom Rebellion left its massive artillery stockpiles, which the UDMF had counted on capturing, in the hands of the Reds. Controlling the heights above Yaroslavl, no less than ten artillery batteries and three armored trains unleashed their fury on the Rebellion’s lines. Around 80% of Yaroslavl’s buildings were destroyed and untold damage done to the cultural and architectural legacy of this thousand year old Russian city. Even so, the civil authorities continued functioning throughout the revolt, allocating shelter for people whose homes were destroyed and disposing of bodies in the local church cemeteries.

Source: Yaroslavl After a Century. Photos of the city after the Rebellion, compared to today.

Yaroslavl: Scenes of ruin and devastation in 1918 (part 1, 2).

Yaroslavl gained the “honor” of becoming the world’s first ever city to be subjected to a sustained bombardment from airplanes, which dropped 250 kg worth of explosives on the city (superseding Guernica by almost twenty years).

On July 16, the Red commander Yury Guzarsky telegraphed Moscow with an ominous request:

We urgently need 10,000 shells… as well as 500 incendiary shells and 500 chemical shells. I suppose that we will have to raze the city to its foundations.

In the event, only the strong winds and heavy rains that marked the last days of the Rebellion saved Yaroslavl from acquiring another dubious mark of global primacy: The first major city to be subjected to a chemical weapons bombardment.

malygin-battle-yaroslavl-1918

A. I. Malygin (1930-35): Battle in the Center of Yaroslavl, 1918.

malygin-battle-yaroslavl-1918-suburb

A. I. Malygin (1930-35): Battle in the Outskirts of Yaroslavl, 1918.

Facing an increasingly hopeless situation, the Rebellion decided to split forces. A detachment of 50 men commanded by Perkhurov would attempt to break out, which they accomplished by ferry on the night of July 15-16. Meanwhile, the locals elected to fight on under General Pyotr Karpov, hoping against hope that the revolts in the other cities had succeeded, and that the French would come after all.

But by July 20, the surviving fighters realized that there would be no dawn. Their ammunition was running out, and the end was only days away, at best.

On July 21, the defenders of Yaroslavl surrendered to their enemies: The Germans.

***

Part IV: Genesis of the Russian Genocide

It just so happened that Yaroslavl was hosting the so-called “German Commission of POWs #4″ under Lieutenant Balk. They had been interned at the Theater of Fyodor Volkov for the duration of the Rebellion. This was a reasonable precautionary measure, since the Germans were functionally allied with the Bolsheviks. Consequently, the surviving Whites offered to surrender to the Germans, subsequent to Balk’s promise not to hand them over to the Reds – who were no longer at war with Germany after Brest-Litovsk, and thus had no authority to demand they surrender their prisoners.

yaroslavl-theater

Theater of Fyodor Volkov, Yaroslavl.

Balk did not keep his promise. After getting repeatedly harangued by the pugilistic Guzarsky, he gave in after a day and handed over his Russian POWs to the tender mercies of the Bolsheviks.

As the Chairman of the All-Russian Bureau of Military Commissars Konstantin Yurenev had promised a few days earlier:

The White Guard rebellion in Yaroslavl must be ruthlessly suppressed. Shoot the prisoners; nothing can stop or slow down the terrible punishment of the people against the enslavers. Terror against the local bourgeoisie and its lackeys, who yearn for the coming of the French imperialists, must be merciless.

At least in this case, the Bolsheviks were true to their word. The following days saw the first large-scale massacres of the Russian Civil War.

600 White soldiers had died to give Yaroslavl its 16 days of freedom. Soon afterwards, a further 428 were summarily shot, without trial or jury. The victims consisted of local officers, students, and Cadets, as well as the entire 57 person membership of the Rebellion HQ. In total, at least 5,004 people were recorded executed in Yaroslavl gubernia by the Bolsheviks from March-November. This does not include the hundreds of people killed “off the books” in the hours following the city’s capture, nor the hundreds of peasants shot during and after the Rebellion for provisioning aid to the rebels. The population of Yaroslavl fell from 135,000 in 1917 to just 75,000 by autumn 1918. It would take a decade to recover those numbers.

yaroslavl-defenders

Defensive lines of rebel-held Yaroslavl.

In the larger picture, the Yaroslavl Rebellion failed to achieve its strategic goals: To cement the logistical lynchpin north-east of Moscow that would allow the Entente from the north and the People’s Army from the east to link up. However, by focusing Bolshevik attention closer to home, they did manage to smooth the way for the Whites to capture Ekaterinburg, Simbirsk, and Kazan (the defenders of the latter city, the 5th Zemgale Latvian Rifle Regiment, became the first ever Red unit to be awarded with the Honorable Order of the Red Banner).

These advances alarmed the Bolsheviks, who felt that the tide was going against them in July 1918. It is quite possible that the Yaroslavl Rebellion, occurring as it did in the Russian heartlands, is the critical event that spurred them on to order the murder of the Romanov family on July 16, 1918. In retrospect, this removed one of the last lingering psychological bulwarks against Red Terror. If the Bolsheviks could extrajudicially kill the Tsar, even a former one – now demoted to “simple citizen” Nikolay Romanov – then they could, in principle, kill any citizen. And they increasingly did just that.

In the event, the People’s Army’s gains turned to be fleeting. Kazan was recaptured as early as September 1918, and the Whites in the east would never again advance as far. The Bolsheviks occupied Russia’s demographic core, controlled its industrial center and central communications nodes, and had captured the great bulk of the collapsed empire’s gold, weapons, and ammunition reserves. In the future, there would be further, much larger-scale revolts, such as the Tambov Rebellion, which would be crushed by the Bolsheviks with even greater ruthlessness. But the Bolsheviks would be dealing with them from a position of strength. With Central Russia subsequently secure, and facing no more than symbolic opposition from the Entente – not enough to materially help the Whites, but just enough to smear them as Anglo-French imperialist lackeys – the Bolsheviks’ final victory must have become highly probable even before the final fall of Yaroslavl.

alexander-perkhurov

Alexander Perkhurov at his trial in 1922.

The Rebellion’s leaders paid the ultimate price along with their followers. Pyotr Karpov was shot on September 13. Lopatin was shot on September 26. Savinov was shot sometime in 1918. Perkhurov and his fifty good men broke through to the People’s Army in the east, where he fought for the Whites until he was captured by Soviet forces in the frozen taiga of Siberia in 1920. Confined to a concentration camp, he was freed in January 1921 and forced to work as a Red military specialist. It took them five more months to figure out his real identity as the leader of the Yaroslavl Rebellion, after which he was promptly re-imprisoned. After a show trial at the Cheka HQ of Yaroslavl, Perkhurov was shot in July 19, 1922. His remains may well be buried where it all began, at the Leontiev Cemetery.

Boris Savinkov left for Poland in 1920. In October 1921, the Poles expelled him, wishing to restore relations with Moscow after the end of the Polish-Soviet War. He settled in Great Britain, where he wrote his closing thoughts on the Yaroslavl Rebellion in his book The Struggle against the Bolsheviks:

[The Yaroslavl Rebellion] cannot be said to have been successful, but nor was it useless. For the first time ever, not on the Don nor in the Kuban, but in the Russian heartlands, not far from Moscow, the Russian people – without any help from anyone – rose up against the Bolsheviks, and proved that they there were neither prepared to tolerate the disgrace of Brest-Litovsk, nor acquiesce quietly to Bolshevik terror. Our honor was saved.

In the end, Savinkov did not manage to save his own honor. He was lured back to the USSR in August 1924 in a Soviet secret police operation, where he was sentenced to death. But this was later commuted to 10 years in jail, where he enjoyed hotel-level service. During this time, he wrote letters to the leaders of the White emigration, urging them to cease their struggle against the Soviet Union. It is not unreasonable to speculate that there may have been a causal relationship between these two developments. Savinkov committed suicide on May 7, 1925 after jumping out of his hotel window. Although there are suspicions that he was murdered by the secret police, it is perhaps likelier that he was filled with despair at serving a regime that he surely continued to secretly loathe.

The leaders of the Coalition of the Fringes that had broken Yaroslavl and sealed Russia’s 20th century fate also eventually paid their mite to karmic justice. Yury Guzarsky was shot on Trotsky’s orders in 1919 for disobedience. Anatoly Gekker was shot in 1937. Konstantin Yurenev was shot in 1938. Jānis Lencmanis was arrested in 1937 as a member of a “Latvian fascist-terrorist spy organization”, and shot in 1939. The Baltics were occupied by the USSR in 1940.

***

Part V: The Soviet Story vs. The Western Story

yaroslavl-monument-victims-of-white-terror

Source: Yury Uryukov. Monument to the Victims of the White Guard mutiny (1958).

For the next 70 years the Soviets only told their “politically correct” side of the story, replete with imperialist lackeys, death barges, and a “White reign of terror” that was only brought to an end by “workers’ detachments.” After the Soviet Union collapsed, this “Soviet Story” lost its ideological monopoly and institutional backing. Consequently, as in many other areas, more and more articles on the Yaroslavl Rebellion have been appearing from a non-Soviet perspective – that is, one where foreign mass murderers are not considered to be morally superior to ordinary Russians doing their best to organize a normal, humane society amidst a maelstrom of chaos and horror. One notable example is The Yaroslavl Rebellion: 16 Days of Freedom by Kirill Kaminets for Sputnik & Pogrom, whose title I borrowed with his permission. There has been a particularly good uptick in publications to mark its centenary this month. A list of some good Russian language articles about the Yaroslavl Rebellion, many of which I drew upon here, is appended at the end.

Nonetheless, much remains to be done. There is still no epic patriotic film about the Yaroslavl Rebellion, even though it has all the elements needed for a blockbuster. In the future Russian National State, many exhibits will be devoted to it in the yet to be built Museum of the Russian Genocide. Still, the path to reconciliation begins with small steps. While Yaroslavl hosts streets named after Chekist “martyrs” such as Nakhimson and Zakheim, it has no streets named in honor of Perkhurov or Falaleev; there has been a monument to the “victims of the White Guard mutiny” since 1958, but almost three decades after the collapse of the USSR, there is still no corresponding monument to the victims of the Red Terror in Yaroslavl, of whom there were three orders of magnitude more.

This “Soviet Story” has its mirror image in the “Western Story,” whose take on the Yaroslavl Rebellion is one of studied silence. As already mentioned, there isn’t even an English language article on Wikipedia, and Google results mainly lead to brief mentions in obscure history books or general interest articles about the city. But this isn’t too surprising, since the Western narrative is grounded on the conception that the USSR was but a continuation of the Russian Empire, based on Great Russian supremacism/chauvinism over the “prison of nations”/”Captive Nations” (plus ça change…). The spectacle of “European” commissars brutally crushing an ethnic Russian uprising of merchants, workers, and nobles in support of freedom and capitalism would automatically lead to all sorts of other, highly inconvenient questions. So of course there are almost zero trends in that direction, and considering the poisonous state of relations between Russia and the West, there is no good reason to expect that to change anytime soon.

In the meantime, we get to observe the incredible spectacle of the people who overwhelmingly voted for the Bolsheviks in the 1917 elections (72% in Latvia vs. 24% in the Russian Empire as a whole), and who then did more than anyone else to secure Communist tyranny in Russia during the first precarious months of its existence, now whining for three decades and counting about getting “occupied” by their own creatures and demanding reparations.

There can be no resolution to this idiot’s limbo until both the Soviet Story and the West Story, both equally fake and pathologically hostile to Russia and Russians, are replaced with the Russian Story – the story of Yaroslavl’s 16 Days of Freedom.

***

yaroslavl-16-days-of-freedom

Sputnik & Pogrom: 16 Days of Freedom by Kirill Kaminets (2014).

Sources

Since there are almost no good English language sources on the Yaroslavl Rebellion, this essay is essentially a condensed summary of some the following Russian language articles:

***

 
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One persistent thing I have noticed in this recent saga is the refusal to believe that there is any civil society in Russia that is even marginally independent of Putler and ROG.

Clarification: While there are genuine pro-”democracy” (pro-LGBT, pro-Ukrainian, etc.) organizations in Russia, which are of course viciously repressed, there are certainly no such movements in support of non-neoliberalism.txt approved causes.

First, because Putler is a fascist, and gun rights are fascist, so of course Russian gun rights activists can’t have any problem with any aspect of the Putlerreich whatsoever.

Second, in Russia “guns are absolutely forbidden,” so there is no way that Putler would tolerate gun rights organizations anyway.

The fact that the two above points are absolutely contradictory is of no apparent concern to this subset of ROG worshippers. The idea that there might be some Russians who might agree with and support Putin on some things, disagree on others, while wanting Russia to raise its score on the Gun Rights Index from the current, relatively restrictive 3.1 to something like Czechia’s 6.4 or America’s 8.0 is completely absurd and can only be advanced by a Putler bot or shill.

***

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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.