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In his domestic rhetoric, Lukashenko is blaming forces from Poland, Holland, Ukraine, and various liberal groups from Russia (Open Russia and Navalny were named) for using “Belorussian children as cannon fodder” to carry out a color revolution.

The Belorussian elites remain consolidated for now, but there are now signs that many of them are hedging their bets. For instance, the head of the Central Electoral Commission, Lidia Ermoshina, who rubber stamps Lukashenko’s 80% results, has recently emphasized that she was not present at opposition candidate Tikhanovskaya’s meeting with two senior security officials, where she filmed her call for the protesters to go home and after which she immediately fled to Lithuania. Clearly, trying to build up a case that she disassociated from the regime, in the event it collapses.

Metaculus now giving 52% chance Lukashenko remains President on Dec 31, 2020 (down from 75-80% before August 13). So, not an unreasonable course of action.

However, an important note. We should also not rush to proclaim that Lukashenko has lost control over the security apparatus. Some overly enthusiastic people on Twitter were doing that after videos of OMON “laying down their shields” and protesting girls with flowers embracing them. This doesn’t mean anything. From the Telegram chatter, they simply received a command to behave less aggressively towards what are, in the end, non-violent protesters.

***

The big news has been the handover of the 32 Wagnerites to Russia.

(There were Telegram rumors that there was an under carpet struggle over their fate, with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei – a representative of the pro-Western vector – wanting to hand them over to the Ukraine, while the representative of the siloviks and national security advisor Viktor Lukashenko (relation: Luka’s eldest son) insisted on sending them back to Russia).

So, in the latest stage of Lukashenko’s decades-long “multivector” saga of playing off Russia and the West, he is now in the position of banking on the kremlins bailing him out… though why they should do that just on account of Lukashenko releasing political hostages is up in the air.

In a phone call between Lukashenko and Putin just a couple of hours ago, Russia’s reaction seems non-committal:

Alexander Lukashenko informed Vladimir Putin about the developments following the presidential election in Belarus. Both sides expressed confidence that all existing problems will be settled soon. The main thing is to prevent destructive forces from using these problems to cause damage to mutually beneficial relations of the two countries within the Union State.

In connection with the return to Russia of 32 people who were previously detained in Belarus, a positive assessment was given to close cooperation of the relevant agencies in this regard.

They also agreed on further regular contacts at various levels, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening allied relations, which fully meets the core interests of the fraternal nations of Russia and Belarus.

For now, I see no signs that Russia intends to materially interfere to prop up Lukashenko.

But presumably there are intense quiet discussions about the practicalities, approaches, and advisability of flash executing an Anschluss in the couloirs of the Kremlin.

***

There are reports that the EU will decide on anti-Belarus sanctions on August 27-28 in Berlin and intend to press Minsk for a rerun of the elections.

I do not think that latter demand is realistic. If the elections are rerun, the apparatus will be too demoralized to falsify in favor of Lukashenko, while his real popularity will be even further in the doldrums. 95% chance he will lose.

Lukashenko is also refusing outside intermediation. That is also reasonable. After all, so far as is officially concerned, he is the one and only legitimate President. Accepting intermediation would put that status under question.

***

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Belarus, Color Revolution 
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Now to preface this, I have argued extensively that many factors make it unlikely that Belarus institutes a hard anti-Russian zmagarist regime in the event of a successful color revolution against Lukashenko.

However, there are also some arguments to that effect which are if not outright false then significantly flawed.

Perhaps the biggest one is the argument from economics, which I have seen from a wide variety of people, from RT’s Bryan MacDonald to nationalist pundit Egor Prosvirnin. Basically, it goes that the Russian and Belorussian economies are so intertwined that a serious break in relations with Russia would lead to a collapse in living standards in Belarus – similar to what happened in Ukraine after 2014.

… Well, there you go. It did happen in Ukraine in 2014.

Moreover, the depression there was not permanent, as Ukropessimists like to claim. While severing economic ties might be painful, it is still a one-off shock, and growth eventually resumes – as Ukraine itself showed.

As commenter AP has shown, despite the loss of part of the Donbass, which was richer than the Ukrainian average – & the urban/industrial part of it at that – Ukraine had a higher GDP per capita relative to Russia by 2019, than it did in 2013.

In 2019 Ukraine had 45.7% of Russia’s GDP per capita PPP.
In 2013, before Maidan, Ukraine had 41% of Russia’s GDP per capita PPP.

In 2010 Ukraine had 40.2% of Russia’s GDP per capita PPP.

In 2008 Ukraine had 45% of Russia’s GDP per capita PPP.

But in 2007 Ukraine had 49% of Russia’s GDP per capita PPP.

So actually after Maidan, by 2019 Ukraine had erased about a decade’s worth of decline compared to Russia and was back to its relative position in 2008.

The main effect was in fact to reorient the locus of Ukrainian growth from the more Russified East, which was more dependent on Russia, to the more Occidentophile west of the country, which has seen a modest influx of investment from Central European manufacturing companies even in run-down places like Ternopil, as well as IT offshoring to Kiev and Lvov.

Moreover, while Russia has indeed subsidized Belarus to the tune of tens of billions of dollars over the past decade in oil and gas dotations, it is also important to emphasize that its absolute volume has collapsed since 2016.

This in fact a significant driver of the negative feedback loops that have led us to these developments in the first place: (1) The stagnation of the Belorussian economy; (2) rising public discontent with Lukashenko; (3) worsening Russian-Belorussian relations.

However, what that also means is that some chunk of the pain from a breakdown in the Russian-Belorussian relationship has already been accounted for.

Now yes, there are a bunch of important caveats to this analysis:

(1) The most important one is that Ukraine has always been less “synced” with Russia, and relations were bound to go into a nosedive after Crimea and Russian backing for the Donbass rebellion anyway.

(2) Even in 2013, the Ukraine was almost twice less dependent on trade with Russia (23% of exports – down to 6.5% by 2019) than was Belarus (38%) in 2018.

(3) The state sector remains dominant in Belarus, accounting for 40% of exports, 50% of employment, 60% of gross revenue, and 80% of industrial production. Its preservation shielded Belorussians from the sharp collapses in living standards seen in both Russia and Ukraine during the 1990s. It is likely to be ravaged in the event of a reorientation towards the West – though the severity of this should be mitigated by many of these enterprises actually being internationally competitive.

(4) While one might argue that the improvement in Ukraine’s position relative to Russia was, in significant part, an artifact of the collapse of oil prices, which hit Russia disproportionately, it should be noted that Ukraine is also highly dependent on global commodity prices, and that it had to deal with a debt overhang which necessitated painful cuts to social welfare and associated hits on consumption. Aid from the developed world was always modest.

So, I’m not saying there’ll be no economic pain from a breakdown in Russian-Belorussian economic relations. There will be, and it will probably be worse than in Ukraine (perhaps comparable to what you saw in the Russia-oriented east of Ukraine, in places such as Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk). But a hypothetical determinedly zmagarist regime will be able to pull through. Close economic ties to Russia are not absolutely indispensable for Belarus, especially considering that vicarious “national liberation” sentiments can tide over economic dismay for some period of time. It is dangerous for Russia to base calculations on the optimal course of action in Belarus on materialist determinism – that model having failed so spectacularly in the Ukraine (and, for that matter, as regards the USSR as a whole in the early 1990s).

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Belarus, GDP, Growth, Russia 
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Our powerful host Ron Unz joins a growing roster of UR bloggers and columnists to be interviewed by Robert Stark.

Some of the topics they discussed:

Recap of Ron’s Top Issues in past California U.S. Senate Race
The Unz Review as a big tent of important, interesting, and controversial opinions from both the left and right
The abysmal handling of the public health crisis
The looting of the treasury by politically connected corporations under the CARES ACT bailout and loan guarantees
How America could lose it’s status as the World’s Reserve currency, which would expose how poor Americans have become
The irrationality of our nation’s leaders provoking a conflict with Russia and China
The end of meritocracy and Culture of Corruption in the US
The iconoclastic cultural revolution as a product of our elite universities
The debt crisis and siphoning off of wealth from our economy
The contrast of America’s inefficiency with China’s handling of the pandemic and infrastructure projects
Woke Capital
Why California has avoided the worst of the civil unrest impacting much of the nation
Tech Censorship: how The Unz Review was banned from Facebook and de-ranked from Google
Ron’s thoughts on the motives for tech censorship

You can listen to the full podcast here: https://www.starktruthradio.com/?p=10250

I haven’t listened to it yet, will try to do so shortly, but feel free to drop any observations you feel to be particularly noteworthy.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Podcast, Ron Unz 
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Yesterday, I made my premier appearance at Edward Dutton’s Jolly Heretic podcast show on evopsych, HBD, history, and other taboo topics.

You can give it a listen here:

Achievement unlocked: Shilling the dogpill to the bewildered masses.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Human Biodiversity, Podcast 
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General Strike: Ironically, this wouldn’t have happened if Lukashenko had pursued neoliberal reforms. ~90% of the Belarus economy is state-owned.

Prediction Market: The only prediction market I’m aware of on whether Lukashenko remains President of Belarus (as of Jan 31, 2020) is on Metaculus, it is now at 60% (down from an initial 75-80% until August 13).

https://www.metaculus.com/questions/4918/alexander-lukashenko-to-remain-president-of-belarus-on-january-31st-2021/

General Schizophrenia: Belarus state TV has uncovered a “Minsk protest organizer” with a list of objects that every Western spy needs to carry around with him:

  • Ukrainian intelligence agency SBU ID card (complete with card of Stepan Bandera)
  • Hand grenades and masks
  • Books on firearms, assassination methods
  • Polish ID card
  • Miniature NATO flag

But before one speculates at the IQ of the audience this spectacle is aimed for, they also claimed that this agent was in touch with “Moscow politologists.” Making him a Russian agent, as well as a NATO one.

Or, more realistically, flinging anything they can in an effort to make something stick. (While reinforcing the point I have been making that Lukashenko is no friend of Russia’s).

***

Anyhow, while I thought the regime was stabilizing around August 12, it’s clearly on the downslide again now. This doesn’t mean I think Lukashenko is done for. It may well be able to outlast the general strike – the workers need to eat, after all. And the same factors that applied before, continue to apply now, namely the lack of politically influential oligarchs (that can be subject to Western financial pressure), non state-controlled mass media (though the Internet is a major factor), or well-established opposition politicians (Tikhanovskaya, now calling for new elections from Lithuania, is a figurehead for her blogger husband, who is in a jail in Belarus). These factors make the situation incomparable to that in the Ukraine. (And even there, Yanukovych may well have survived had he stuck by his siloviks, instead of stabbing them in the back).

Subsequently, I can’t quite see how a Maidan is to succeed unless the siloviks around Lukashenko themselves defect. But we will see soon enough.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Belarus, Color Revolution 
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Noodle Shop Chiho, Moscow.

I have written all the major things I needed to write about Belarus by now. There’s little more left to do now except track events as they develop.

I will aim to get The Great Bifurcation essay done this weekend.

 
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So apparently 70% of Romanians agree with that powerful slogan.

When I was in Romania, their libs were telling me only marginal freaks supported reunification with Moldova. But evidently, they were wrong. It is more like 70% of the population as that map shows.

I actually think Moldova is pretty interesting as a comparator for Ukraine/Belarus.

While Ukrainians are basically Polonized Russians and Belorussians are Lithuanized Russians, the Moldovans can be thought of as Russified Romanians.

As I understand it, opinion on uniting with Romania vs. Russia usually hovers around 50/50 in Moldova (though generally Romania has the edge). Transnistria is, of course, Crimean-level pro-Russian, even though it’s really a “Soviet” ethnicity that’s comparable parts Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan.

I think that every reasonable person will agree – even Moldovans – that theirs is a fake country that should be done away with, it is my long standing contention that there should be a deal where Russia gets Transnistria and Romania gets historical Bessarabia. (In an ideal world Hungary would also then get Transylvania, but unfortunately the demographics no longer work out).

Another point this illustrates is that the libs are often wrong and have no connection with their own people. For instance, they also told me that only 10% of Romanians approve of Ceausescu. However, my powerful commenters corrected me, pointing out that it is actually more like 50%. This is further evidence for the stereotype that liberal elitists often have hazy ideas about the countries they live in.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Map, Moldova, Opinion Poll, Romania 
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Stunning age differential on Russian view of events in Belarus, according to VCIOM poll.

33% of 60+ y/o’s believe Lukashenko’s 80% result was fully authentic, vs. just 3% of 18-24% y/o’s.

All 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-59 60+
Fully trust results reflect the will of the electorate 22% 3% 20% 17% 21% 33%
There may have been individual cases of fraud, but didn’t change results as a whole 29% 26% 13% 26% 37% 36%
Results of Belarus elections can’t be trusted 27% 47% 40% 32% 21% 13%
Hard to say 22% 24% 27% 25% 21% 18%

General background note: The past couple of years have seen an awning divide in chronological terms. While Putin was actually marginally more popular amongst young people during the 2000s – the Communists were still powerful amongst older people – today, the pattern has reversed, with boomers and silents constituting the bulk of Putin’s support while trickling away amongst millennials and zoomers. This was already perceptible by the 2018 elections, and was very strongly on display during the 2020 Constitutional referendum (see my post on Moscow polls; since confirmed for the country as a whole by a Levada poll, which shows 77% of 55+ y/o’s voting YES while only 33% of 18-24 y/o’s did so).

Back to the poll. The factually correct answer is, of course, “Results of Belarus elections can’t be trusted” regardless of your feelings towards Lukashenko, in the same water that the statement “water is wet” is true. That said, I don’t think Russians are very familiar with the intricacies of Belorussian politics, or the statistics of electoral fraud, so I suspect this poll is mostly just an extension of people’s outlooks on Russian politics, with pro-Putinists also liking Lukashenko and consequently believing his 80% election results reflect the genuine voice of Belorussians, and vice versa. (No matter that Putin and Lukashenko have fraught relations themselves).

All Fair Russia LDPR KPRF United Russia Unofficial parties Don’t vote
Fully trust results reflect the will of the electorate 22% 19% 17% 28% 36% 12% 10%
There may have been individual cases of fraud, but didn’t change results as a whole 29% 30% 31% 30% 32% 26% 24%
Results of Belarus elections can’t be trusted 27% 31% 38% 23% 9% 44% 39%
Hard to say 22% 20% 14% 18% 23% 18% 27%

Unsurprisingly, members of United Russia – who, as above, are now the party of the boomers – are the most trusting of the validity of the Belorussian results at 36%, with the Communists not far behind at 28%.

The party as a whole, being the party of power, has remained neutral, as is the Russian official position. Though its more nationalist wings, e.g. Konstantin Zatulin – who has lobbied for Russian right of return laws – have come out against Lukashenko.

This is not surprising, as the Communists also tilt older, and sovoks tend to like the paternalistic model offered by “Bat’ka” (“Father”) Lukashenko. The Russian Communist elites have come out strongly for Lukashenko, with 28% trusting the result. However, distrust of the results is more than twice higher than for United Russia voters. I suspect this is a function of the KPRF being the most viable opposition party in Russia, hence many anti-Putinists finding a home there independent of their precise views on the USSR/Communism.

In contrast, the nationalist LDPR not only tilts younger, but it has more of a neo-Tsarist as opposed to neo-Soviet vision of Russia’s interests. Consequently, only 17% of them fully trust the Belorussian results, while 38% completely distrust them (vs. 9% for United Russia voters and 23% for KPRF voters). Lukashenko has repeatedly backstabbed that, hence its negative attitude towards him, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s strong anti-Lukashenko remarks (which I posted about).

RT’s Bryan MacDonald reports that the minor party Fair Russia (moderate socialist) has backed the protests. In the poll, their voters are likewise more anti-Lukashenko than either UR or KPRF, though less so than LDPR.

Members of the non-official opposition parties, which also tilt young and are mostly liberal, are unsurprisingly the most anti-Lukashenko. Though obviously not because they are peeved at Lukashenko’s anti-Russian policies (like the nationalists), but because they genuinely believe in Free Belarus, couldn’t care less if it leads to Belarus leaving Russia’s orbit (such as it is), and hope that Russia likewise sees a revolution against Putin.

So, in summary:

  • Commies, like Zyuganov, support Lukashenko’s relict BSSR – hence, pro-Lukashenko and anti-zmagarist (zmagarism being Belarusian nationalism, which is implicitly anti-Russian).
  • Libs support zmagarists (Жыве Беларусь / Long Live Belarus) – hence, anti-Lukashenko and pro-zmagarist..
  • Nationalists, such as Zhirinovsky and Zatulin, support the Minsk Governorate/Belorussian Federal District – hence, anti-Lukashenko, but also anti-zmagarist.

As for the ruling kremlins… well, it’s complicated. You also need to remember that they are constrained by diplomatic conventions. Officially, they support Lukashenko, but without enthusiasm. They presumably expect the protests to knock him down a notch or three, and would welcome that – at least so long as it doesn’t result in Lukashenko being outright toppled. They are obviously anti-zmagarist, but are willing to put out feelers to those parts of the Belorussian opposition which are not dominated by zmagarists, to cover their bases should they do come to power. But considering that his most oft quoted philosopher is Ivan Ilyin, a White emigre who supported a “Great Russia, One and Undivided”, and that he has often spoken of Belorussians (and Ukrainians) as the same people as Russians, there is good reason to think that Putin’s inner sympathies lie with the nationalist camp on the Belarus Question.

There is a lot of nuance here that escapes superficial treatments in the MSM. I hope this clears up some misconceptions.

 
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Any Russian policy towards Belarus should take into account the following considerations:

  • Lukashenko is not an ally or a friend. This does not describe a person who has accepted $100 billion worth of Russian oil/gas subsidies over the past decade, to end up doing military exercises with the Brits while denying Russian an airbase it requested.
  • The opposition are not allies or friends – and they don’t pretend to be. But while there are extreme Russophobe “zmagar” elements within them, they are not a dominant strain like they were in the runup to the Euromaidan in Ukraine.
  • Considering that by some measures, Belorussians are even more “Russophile” than South-East Ukraine – which would have easily folded into Russia in the absence of the rest of Ukraine in 2014 – the only way in which an anti-Russian oriented Belarus can be maintained long-term is only through another dictatorship.
  • The protests seem to be dying down in intensity, though whether this is permanent or not remains to be seen, considering the ham-fisted and gratuitously cruel conduct of the police. Belarus is no Singapore in the sophistication of its dictatorship. Conversely, sticking one’s neck out defending and rationalizing this tars you by association. Why do it – especially when Lukashenko has never given any cause for loyalty from Russia, anyway?
  • However, the Belorussian elites do not appear to be fracturing, and so long as that remains the case, the Lukashenko regime can be assured of survival (even if in a weakened state). This means that an overt break in relations is even less desirable.

I reduced these considerations to a “decision matrix” of possible Russian actions and Belorussian outcomes on August 10, and see no need to cardinally revise anything here.

Lukashenko wins Opposition wins
Aid Luka +0/10

  • Revolution more easily suppressed, Lukashenko emerges stronger than he would have otherwise.
  • Scant benefit as Luka doesn’t repay favors.
  • Belarusian regime still soft pedals zmagarism, putting them in positions of cultural influence while repressing Russophiles; Belarus drifts farther from the Russian world for every year Lukashenko remains in power.
-10/10

  • Energizes Belorussian society against Russia on the Ukraine model, making zmagarism (Belarusian nationalism that identifies with Lithuanian identity + Euro-Atlantic orientation) more influential.
Hurt Luka -6/10

  • Maidan suppressed, though with greater difficulty & more blood spilled.
  • In “justification”, Luka can paint oneself as standing up for Belarusian identity against Russian imperialism.
  • Only way to assure positive outcome is with military intervention (“go big or go home” principle), but there’s no casus belli.
  • Of more relevance to kremlins in particular: Don’t want to help topple fellow autocrats.
+2/10

  • Unlike Armenia, which remained pro-Russian after its color revolution, Belarus has choices, given that it is not wedged in between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
  • In a freer democracy, Russophiles will have greater freedom to promote their agendas, without being repressed by Lukashenko’s police state.
Do nothing +6/10

  • Maidan suppressed, with difficulty & more blood spilled.
  • Domestic position is further discredited, Belarus under more sanctions exacerbating existing economic problems.
  • Might not have much choice but to agree to Russian integration initiatives if situation hopeless enough & the West sends him packing.
+0/10

  • Mostly same as above, except presumably no gratitude for having helped topple Lukashenko (but it isn’t likely going to be a big factor anyway).

As we see, the “do nothing” option – for the time being – seems like the decidedly superior option to all the others. From the perspective of the Russian would, the best outcome will be a surviving but deeply wounded Lukashenko, internally discredited and externally sanctioned, who will have no choice but to accede to subsequent Russian integration proposals. For this to work smoothly, however, it is also desirable that Belorussians are not alienated by overt Russian profusions of support for their unpopular dictator.

This also seems to be more or less what Official Russia is doing.

On the one hand, the Kremlin recognized Lukashenko’s victory. However, it was not the first to do so (that was China, which has the best relations with Belarus of any major Power). Putin’s message was colder and more curt, emphasizing what Russia now expected of him:

I hope that your state activities will contribute to the further development of mutually beneficial Russian-Belorussian relations in all areas, deepening cooperation within the Union State, building up integration processes through the Eurasian Economic Union and the CIS, as well as military-political ties in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. This undoubtedly meets the fundamental interests of the fraternal peoples of Russia and Belarus.

The Russian Foreign Ministry in its public communications has also taken care to discreetly distance from Lukashenko, choosing to instead emphasize ties between peoples, not leaders:

Sovietistic formulation aside (Russians & Belorussians are not a brotherly people – they are one people), this is the correct approach.

Incidentally, many influential Russians who are unconstrained by the demands of diplomatic courtesy have been more forthright in their reactions. Konstantin Zatulin, one of the few nationalists within United Russia, has dismissed Lukashenko’s 80% result as a fake and called him a “deranged person.” Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the nationalist LDPR party and unconstrained by the demands of diplomatic courtesy, was more forthright, asserting that Lukashenko has “betrayed his people”, that Belorussia has “risen up against him,” and predicting that he will be “forced to flee.” (However, unsurprisingly from a Sovietist, the Communists have supported Lukashenko’s crackdown). A number of Russians who have previously gotten awards of various kinds from Lukashenko have been handing them back in.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Belarus, Geopolitics, Russia 
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Robin Hanson is one of the central people in this entire rationality/effective altruism network, along with Scott Alexander and Eliezer Yudkowsky.

For him to be canceled, by a vote of 6 vs. 1 out of eight at that, for a set of modestly controversial thought experiments – that is, the basis of all philosophy – conclusively relegate EA to yet another boring leftist idpol organization.

It’s interesting to recollect how quickly this worm turned. Back in summer 2016, I openly handed out brochures arguing against open borders on EA grounds citing data on national IQs and even posed in a MAGA hat at their summit in Berkeley, without being accosted.

I was at EA Global 2016 and my impression was that a good 90% of them supported Clinton over Trump; most of the rest were libertarians, neoreactionaries, Thiel’s boys, or some conjunction thereof. I made a temporary alliance with a libertarian proponent of seasteading to defend Trump at Alexander Kustov’s stand devoted to immigration, where we gathered a small throng at the same time curious and bewildered by our political unorthodoxy. The ensuing debate, however, was very civil and pleasant.

But as early as 2017, there were posts on LessWrong recommending charities that explicitly shifted focus from utilitarian considerations to racial justice, in contravention of EA’s entire raison d’être.

As I pointed out at around that time, when Peter Singer was canceled by SJWs at a TED talk on effective altruism:

Whereas EA supports many “social justice” ideals, perhaps naively – as I pointed out, they tend to be avid pronents of open borders, even though its very doubtful that #WelcomeRefugees is ideal even from a strictly utilitarian, anti-national position – at heart they are high IQ liberals who tend to understand nuance and respect freedom of speech, whereas SJWs are average IQ authoritarian leftists who have no time for “freeze peach” or the smallest acts of deviationism.

As such, further collisions – or coalescence – are inevitable.

Indeed, coalescence was the future.

As a friend wrote to me in an email at that time: “I think this is how movements like EA die – not with a bang, or with a whimper, but with a sloshing sound from all the cash and normie status being poured into the feeding trough. Still, it makes for entertaining reading.”

And so we come to 2020.

Look at me I’m the effective altruist now.

Incidentally, that guy is the inventor of the eponymous Basilisk. And yes, he’s been canceled from EA too, along with many of the more interesting and “powerful” personalities.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Effective Altruism, SJWs 
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It’s become glaringly evident that Western societies (unfortunately, Russia “qualifies”) do not have the state capacity or social discipline to contain Corona. Not high IQ enough to solve it through technological silver bullets like ubiquitous testing. Not imaginative enough to do large-scale variolation, as Robin Hanson proposed. Nor do they have the fortitude to “power through” the requisite deaths into herd immunity – which is perhaps just as well, since the news on the long-term effects SARS2 is unremittingly bad, even in asymptomatic cases. So we are stuck in an idiot’s limbo of uncertainty and cycling lockdowns.

So rolling out a vaccine ASAP is a very good idea, unless you want to be subject to lockdowns well into 2021 as well. But most of the same people who rant against lockdowns and masks apparently do want that, because they also tend to be the people ranting about Bill Gates’ plans to microchip everyone and spread the coronavirus through Chinese 5G. (I might have gotten some of the details wrong, no desire to “study” this Q cult’s religion).

Anyhow, today Putin announced that Russia has developed a vaccine against coronavirus.

Gam-COVID-Vac Lyo was supposedly tested on his daughter. Secret rumors have been going around that Russian elites got access to the experimental vaccine as early as April, which aren’t really very secret seeing as they were reported in Bloomberg.

It’s also less impressive than it first sounds. It has one of many dozens of promising vaccine candidates, not is it even the most advanced in developed; Phase III (mass) testing has yet to begin, unlike University of Oxford’s ChAdOx1. Nonetheless, the Gamaleya Institute and Russia in general have a good track record with developing vaccines – the eradication of polio owes a lot to Soviet research – so there’s no reason to think its “vaporware”. Twenty countries have already made a billion orders.

The vaccine has been confirmed to work, months in people are not keeling over dead from it or suffering notable long-term effects (unlike with the coronavirus), so rolling it out in tandem with Phase III testing is a no brainer. (Every month of delay exacts a large human and economic toll on the non-East Asian countries that haven’t contained the coronavirus, which needs to be balanced against bureaucratic regulations on ensuring perfect safety). But Putin Derangement Syndrome is such that it is now Western libs who are turning anti-vaxxer as well, stating that under no circumstance would they take the Putler vaccine.

 
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Is “brutal policewoman” Kamala really a bad pick in the midst of a Black crime epidemic? Can be relied upon to be loyal to the neoliberal order, while ticking all the diversity and woke boxes.

I think the whining is Chapo and Trumpist cope. White lib boomers are going to lap this up.

Anyhow, belated congrats to Audacious Epigone and others.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: United States, US Elections 2020 
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Surprising as it is (but not really), but some of the more zealous/lower IQ Putinists and “Western Russophiles” are actually taking Lukashenko’s official 80.1% result at face value.

I wonder if they stop to reflect what that implies about Putin, who “only” got 76.7% in the 2018 elections, at a time when:

  • His approval rating was ~80%, at the tail end of the post-Crimean honeymoon.
  • There were no protests of any note whatsoever against him.
  • The pensions reform that dropped Putin’s rating by 15%, seemingly for the long-term, was still several months away.

If true, certainly doesn’t seem flattering to their idol…

***

In reality, the 80% was of course plucked out of thin air. Luka seems to have a fondness for the number, having gotten 80.4% in the 2010 elections, and 79.4% in the 2004 referendum that removed Presidential term limits. It also coincides with the 80.6% he got in the (fair) elections of 1994. As one elections blogger speculates, perhaps that is when he got fixated on that number.

That said, I doubt that Lukashenko got just ~16% either, which is the number claimed by an unofficial exit poll (independent sociology is banned in Belarus).

Russian elections analyst Boris Ovchinnikov has (and others) have gathered up leaked photos of elections protocols, and posted their contents to this Google Sheet. As of today, Lukashenko scores 42% there, vs. 47% for his main rival Tikhanovskaya. And even though the districts where these numbers are leaked can be expected to be more oppositionist than average – they are disproportionately from Minsk and Minsk oblast, where Lukashenko is weak – is nonetheless proves that the claimed 80% is a fiction and that there should have at minimum have been a second round.

Moreover, balancing out regional unrepresentativeness – and then some – is the extreme degree of early voting, which was a truly incredible 42% in these elections (and 28% in the leaked protocols). Unsurprising, there’s a r= 0.66 correlation between % early voting and % Lukashenko vote share. Just considering the precincts with somewhat credible early voting shares (say, <20%) shows Lukashenko at perhaps 30% at best. So even with the above factor of Minsk overrepresentation counted in, it’s hard to see how Lukashenko could have possibly gotten more than 35%. Likewise, it is also hard to see how Tikhanovskaya could have gotten less than 50%, making her President without the need for a second round.

Well, minor details like control of the security forces aside, anyway. Which was very unambiguously demonstrated today by Tikhanovskaya’s videotaped groveling forfeiture of the election and exile to Lithuania. But sacrificing (what remains of) your reputation for a kolkhoz dictator who doesn’t actually care for your obsessions (pro-Putin/pro-Russia) doesn’t seem smart.

***

PS. On another note – I suspect that if Putin had not retaken Crimea in 2014, he would have had similar (real) numbers – and a corresponding political crisis – during the 2018 elections. Losing Ukraine + getting kicked out of Crimea + oil price-initiated economic crash that could not have been ascribed to Western sanctions = delegitimization. It was a smart move.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Belarus, Elections, Vote Fraud 
"Listva" Bookshop Opens Up in Russian Capital
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Black Hundreds CEO Dmitry Bastrakov giving the opening speech.

On August 8, 2020 Moscow saw the opening of the bookshop Listva in Moscow. This is their first expansion outside the original Listva bookshop in Saint-Petersburg, where – incidentally – I had been invited to give a lecture on dysgenics last November. There will now be a similar space for lectures and activism on Russian national and historical themes in the capital. If you happen by Moscow and are interested in picking up some rare and “powerful” literature, they are located on ul. Zhukovskogo, 4с1 [VK, Facebook].

Incidentally, this expansion was only possible on account of the coronavirus crisis. The location’s previous occupants were Chitalkafe, which used to be an independent bookshop that maintained good relations with the Black Hundreds and acted as their main distributors within Moscow. During the lockdown, their premises flooded on account of some ruptured plumbing, resulting in massive damage to internal furnishings and inventories. While they might have survived either crisis individually, both at the same time were too much to weather, and they decided to sell off their operations to the Black Hundreds.

The Listva bookshops are part of the “Black Hundreds” publishing house ecosystem, which specializes in publishing lesser known Russian 19th century political and historical literature, as well as modern historical work on topics such as White Guardism and the War in Donbass. Despite the name’s connotations, it is actually meant to refer not the much calumniated Tsarist-era monarchist-nationalist movement, but to the original Black Hundreds – the people’s militia raised by Minin and Pozharsky from amongst the merchants, craftsmen, and laborers of Nizhny Novgorod to drive out the Polish-Lithuanian occupiers during the Time of Troubles. This is probably unironically true, given that it’s founder and CEO Dmitry Bastrakov originally hails from Nizhny Novgorod.

My collection of related books.

Typical sample of books published by the Black Hundreds:

  • Russian comics produced in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1935-45
  • A history of the Russian diaspora from 1920-1970
  • “Honor Codex of the Russian Officer” by Valentin Kulchitsky (reproduced in the original orthography), written during WW1 to rapidly acclimatize incoming new officers into the military culture.
  • 85 Days in Slavyansk” by Alexander Zhuchkovsky on the first decisive battle of the War in Donbass.

The last book in this photo, though not published by the Black Hundreds themselves, is an anthology of philosopher/antebellum proto-Twitter poster Vasily Rozanov’s work called “Listva”, which is also the namesake of its network of bookshops. Incidentally, there is an organization/discussion club called the Rozanov Club in Saint-Petersburg, which makes videos on related topics, and whom I also gave an interview when I was in Saint-Petersburg last November.

In the week before the opening, Russian liberals (both “systemic” & anti-Putin) joined up with Communists and antifa in implicit calls to Russian authorities to shut down the bookshop.

  • “Open Media” ran an article in which Yabloko opposition deputy Boris Vishnevsky, “Presidential human rights council” member Nikolay Svanidze, Sova “anti-extremism” director Alexander Verkhovsky, and Communist deputy Elena Shuvalova expressed their opposition to the bookshop.
  • David Homak, the creator of Russian RationalWiki equivalent Lurkmore.to (who now lives in Israel), proclaimed it will start selling “Black Goatse” merchandise to its audience.
  • Anna Maria – the trans daughter of Mikhail Efremov (a washed up actor currently on trial for manslaughter while drinking & driving) – asked Antifa to inform him if they have any plans to visit nationalist bookshop Listva “with certain intentions” when it opens up in a week’s time.
  • Kristina Potupchik, a former Nashi shill, cryptically suggested that the bookshop “would not be open for long.”

So there was some expectation that there’d be attempts to disrupt the opening. As it happens, there were no sightings of Antifa and their deformed physiognomies. Attendance was strong at ~300 people, most of them educated-looking millennial/zoomer hipster types (aesthetically, Russian nationalism c.2020 is far removed from that of just a decade ago, when it was dominated by leather-clad skinheads and Soviet boomers unraveling the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy). If anything, the Black Hundreds owe thanks to the liberals for giving them so much free and enthusiastic advertising.

The AK at Listva.

Russian cider stand.

Even dogs are embracing nationalism.

Journalist Oleg Kashin sends regards from London.

Israeli journalist (LOL) interviews Black Hundreds CEO Dmitry Bastrakov.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Books, Moscow, Nationalism, Russia, The AK 
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I have said most of what I wanted to say about Belarus in two recent threads, which have since been enriched by many informative comments:

Hopefully this constitutes a useful background what looks to a pretty dramatic turn in Belorussian politics, as voters head to the polls on August 9 amidst the largest protests against Lukashenko’s rule since he came to power in 1994.

The elections themselves are a mere exercise in formalities. They have long since ceased to have any relation to what people actually vote for (this makes them distinct from elections in Russia, which are heavily falsified in many regions, but nonetheless still correlate with underlying public sentiments). Although Lukashenko would have likely won all of his previous elections had there been impartial counts, this is almost certainly not the case today, when his approval rating hovers at perhaps 30%. (Though there’s no good way to check, independent sociology having been abolished in 2016).

The only question of interest in respect to the elections themselves are what precise numbers Lukashenko is going to have the Central Electoral Commission draw for himself. An alleged leak of teachers at a Minsk school “practicing” the results suggest the following pre-arranged results at their precinct:

  • Lukashenko – 952/1413 = 57%
  • Tikhanovskaya – 102/1413 = 7.2%
  • Dmitriev – 64/1413 = 4.5%
  • Cherechen – 18/1413 = 1.3%
  • Konopatskaya – 16/1413 = 1.1%
  • Against all – 237/1413 = 16.8%

Bearing in mind that almost half the votes in Minsk have already come in from early voting, and Lukashenko’s comments to Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon that 21-22% of the population is regularly against him, and we’re probably looking at something around 75% (modestly down from 84% in 2015). The “minority” who won’t vote for Lukashenko presumably includes his own son, who is a fan of the opposition and in fact (according to Luka himself), as a fan of Gordon, is the main reason why Luka agreed to an interview with him.

Anyhow, the really interesting things are going to happen soon afterwards.

I don’t foresee a successful Maidan in the near future. Color revolution always need elite defections. Lukashenko has firm control of the country and has replaced the technocrats of dubious loyalty who had ran the economy with siloviks in just the past few months. Belarus is also much less oligarchic than the Ukraine (or Russia), so the West has less leeway to weaponize them against him.

However, I do not exclude a harsh crackdown with potentially dozens of deaths, which will surely provoke intensified Western sanctions that will further force the economy in between a rock and a hard place.

And who knows, that perhaps could eventually lead to an actually successful Maidan, or perhaps a security service coup. Unless Lukashenko again secures Russian economic support – but that will now come with strings attached (reintegration).

This scenario is probably the best of the most obvious ones right now so far as Russian interests are concerned. It certainly seems preferable to a Belarus ruled by a West-sympathetic opposition or by a strong Lukashenko increasingly channeling nativist zmagarist energies ala the late Ceausescu.

But it still remains to be seen how Lukashenko intends to play the Russia card. At the start of this month, following the arrest of the Wagnerites, he threatened to deport most of the Wagnerites to Ukraine to face terrorism charges, and said, “You will not put lapti [a kind of Russian footwear] on us or drive us under your whip… You are too late by a quarter century.” Good ROI for $100 billion worth of oil and gas subsidies to the potato dictator over the past decade. /s But a few days ago, he changed his tune; in tandem with the Russian media, the Wagner arrests were now blamed on a Ukrainian intelligence operation, with Lukashenko proclaiming that Belorussians and Russians “are the same people”, that Putin is his “elder brother”, and imploring him to stop “choking us”. The one thing that remains true is that Lukashenko remains superlative at playing hard to get with Russia.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Belarus, Color Revolution, Elections, Russia 
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Night in Novogrudok, Belarus (2017) by Pavel Gamburg.

Even though we tend to take it as a given, it isn’t exactly obvious why Belarus should be so much more “Russophile” than the Ukraine. The lands of White Russia were “regathered” into the Russian Empire well more than a century after Left-Bank Ukraine (the lands east of the River Dnieper, including Kiev). Both Ukrainians and Belorussians were subjected to korenizatsiya policies in the early USSR, in which their local, rustic identities were promoted as distinct to the Russian “chauvinist” culture which had held them in bondage (“prison of nations”) and which the Old Bolsheviks viewed as one of their prime enemies. Although solid majorities in both Ukraine (70%) and Belarus (83) voted for the preservation of the Soviet Union in the 1991 referendum, both countries elected nationalists upon attaining independence.

But their post-Soviet paths have sharply diverged. The Belarusian nationalist soon lost to Alexander Lukashenko, who promised to restore Soviet-era welfare guarantees and economic integration with Russia. In a 1995 referendum, 87% of Belorussians voted to make Russian an official language. Meanwhile, attempts to give the Russian language a similar status in the Ukraine were ideologically divisive and eventually helped kick off the Euromaidan. Opinion in the Ukraine on joining the EU vs. the Eurasian Union was usually at fifty-fifty even before the Euromaidan (e.g. 45% vs. 40% in 2013), while Belorussians have consistently favored integration with Russia by a large margin (e.g. 65% to 14% in 2017). (Since the Euromaidan, Ukrainian support for pursuing integration with Russia has – unsurprisingly – cratered). Furthermore, this is all despite the fact that there are twice as many ethnic Russians [russkie] in the Ukraine (17% in 2002) as in Belarus (8% in 2009).

Donetsk Lugansk BELARUS Kharkov S.E. UKR. Odessa Nikol. Dnepr. Zapor. Khers.
Armed resistance 11.9% 10.7% 14.2% 19.6% 20.9% 24.9% 31.0% 26.0% 25.9% 36.9%
Welcome them 12.6% 11.7% 16.5% 8.4% 7.0% 4.9% 4.7% 2.2% 2.5% 1.2%
Join the Russian Army 3.5% 2.5% 3.5% 2.1% 2.0% 0.0% 1.2% 0.7% 0.5%
Don’t interfere 55.4% 43.2% 47.7% 49.8% 46.9% 39.5% 36.2% 44.1% 48.6% 47.8%
Hard to say 15.6% 26.1% 21.6% 17.1% 20.5% 23.7% 26.3% 24.8% 19.0% 12.9%
Refuse to answer 1.0% 6.0% 1.7% 2.5% 4.9% 1.7% 1.7% 3.2% 0.7%
RATIO: Pro/anti-RUS 1.35 1.33 1.16 0.61 0.44 0.28 0.15 0.13 0.12 0.05

However, perhaps the best indication of these divergent attitudes can be illustrated by the answers to a poll question – posed to the denizens of South-East Ukraine and Belarus in April and June 2014, respectively – on what they would do if Russia was to send troops into their region. Even within the historical region of Novorossiya that Russian irredentists were dreaming about in 2014, the share of respondents who answered that they would respond with “armed resistance” was more than twice as high as those saying they’d welcome the Russian troops (or join them). The only two regions where more people were ready to support Russian troops than oppose them were Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts. Hard to imagine that it’s a coincidence that the People’s Republics successfully formed precisely in those two territories, while the attempted coups in Kharkov and Odessa – where anti-Russians were twice as numerous as pro-Russians – failed. As we can see from the above chart, Belarus neatly fits the profile of the Donbass – and that’s the country as a whole, from near totally Russified Gomel or Vitebsk, to the semi-Polonized north-west region designed as a buntive “Veyshnoria” during the Zapad-2017 war games with Russia. Consequently, it’s hard to imagine there being much in the way of popular Belorussian resistance to “little green men” in the event of a major crisis.

So even though the Russian (Great Russian) component in Belarus is lower than in Ukraine, the Belorussian identity as a whole is “in sync” with an All-Russian one to a much greater extent than is the Ukrainian one. Here, I will try to answer why.

***

French ethnographic map of European Russia, 1898.

Etymology

I suspect the most banal factor in “zmagarism” being less developed than Ukrainian svidomism being less developed is them simply being called White Russians. Hard to deny some degree of Russian identity when it’s literally in your name.

This may have been a similarly “pro-Russian” factor had the Ukrainians remained “Little Russians”, but the struggle between those two identities was conclusively resolved in favor of the former during the 1920s. Now sure, the Ukraine does literally translate to “borderlands”, and has in the past intermittently applied to various Russian regions, including Great Russian ones, which fit the description (the West European equivalent would be a “march”). But as has been pointed out since Ibn Khaldun, borderlanders often develop their own, strong local identities.

***

Map of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after the Union of Lublin, 1569.

Deep History

During the 14th century, while their eastern brethren struggled to free themselves from the “Tatar yoke”, the territories of Belarus and the Ukraine came under Lithuanian rule. After the Union of Lublin in 1569 between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, many of the Belorussian lands remained within Lithuania, while the Ukrainian ones were annexed by the Poles. As such, if one can view Ukraine as a Russian-Polish metis culture, then Belarus would be a Russian-Lithuanian one (and Moldova would be a Romanian-Russian one, to extend the comparison). Though ironically, unlike Ukraine, today’s Belarus retains a significant Polish minority because they didn’t ethnically cleanse them like the Ukrainians did during World War II.

But why did Lithuania leave a “lighter” cultural imprint? I suspect there are two reasons for that. The obvious one is demographics: Belorussians were significantly more numerous than Lithuanians, whereas it was the opposite case for Ukrainians and Poles. Second, it just so happens that whereas Poland was during the 17-18th centuries the most intellectually advanced of the East European states, as proxied by numeracy (i.e. what percentage of people knew precisely how old they were, as registered from graveyards, church records, etc.), Lithuania was the most backwards – even below the Belorussian lands. (Incidentally, the roots of Lithuanian backwardness may go very deep back in history, seeing as it was the last major European state to abandon paganism). It is thus plausible that Lithuania actually retarded Belorussian cultural development, whereas Poland enhanced Ukraine’s.

Another factor may have been that the center of Ukrainian nationalism during the period of the Russian Empire was in Lvov, where it was aggressively promoted by the Austro-Hungarian authorities in the decades before World War I. This coincided with the achievement of mass literacy, which Galicia reached one to two decades before the Russian heartlands. There is some interesting literature arguing that national identities tend to become “fixed” at precisely the point when mass literacy amongst school children is reached (e.g. see Keith Darden’s “Lessons from a Natural Experiment in Carpathian Ukraine“). Moreover, the center of Belorussian national-activism was Vilnius, where the opportunities for pushing an anti-Russian narrative was constrained by the fact of it being within the Russian Empire.*

***

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918). Even the Germans did not seriously challenge Russian suzerainty over much of modern-day Belarus during Russia’s greatest moment of weakness, but what they failed at – the Bolsheviks would subsequently “fix.”

Russian Identity

One general trend that can be observed over centuries is that Belorussians seem to have been more comfortable in adopting a Russian identity – in terms of politics, culture, language, and even geopolitical loyalty – than Ukrainians.

In the Ukraine, it seems that for every Khmelnitsky, there was a Vyhovsky, for every Skoropadsky, a Mazepa. There have never been serious insurrections within Belorussia. During the Russian Civil War, there were a number of independent states in regions with a strong Little Russian presence, including even those that are today part of the Russian Federation (the Kuban, the Don Republic, and “Green Ukraine” in the Far East) and – if anything – more “patriotic” than the average. There were no such statelets in Belorussia apart from the very weak and short-lived Belarusian People’s Republic.

Between 1917 and 1947, the Russian World suffered an unprecedented demographic-humanitarian disaster thanks to the joint effects of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler. During this period, its population remained broadly stagnant, despite fertility rates of around 6 children per woman at the start of this period; under demographic normality, it would have increased by at least 50%. Between the October Revolution and the end of World War II, the population of Russia within its current borders increased from about 92M to 97M, the population of Belarus increased from 7.0M to 7.5M, and the population of Ukraine fell from 35M to 33M.

However, the precise factors behind these disasters in each region were subtly different. Unlike the Ukraine – or, for that matter, parts of Russia, such as the Kuban and the Volga region – there was no collectivization famine in Belorussia during the 1930s. But Belarus would make up the difference during World War II, during which it lost 25% of its population – in large part due to German collective reprisals against villages suspected of harboring partisans. Children were kidnapped from Belorussian parents and used as disposable blood banks for German soldiers across 17 “donor concentration camps”. However, the very fact that there was a large-scale partisan movement in Belarus, which extended seamlessly into Russia proper, is also telling by itself. Meanwhile, after World War II, the USSR faced an insurgency in Galicia an order of magnitude bloodier than what the “forest brothers” in the Baltics managed.

This is therefore another distinction between the “lived experiences” of Belorussians and Ukrainians as pertains to Russia, reinforcing pre-existing trends. It was primarily outsiders – Germans, Westerners, of a sort – who inflicted the greatest amount of “trauma” on the former. But for Ukrainians, the Holodomor (~3M excess deaths) was broadly comparable in the scale of death to the results of the Nazi occupation (~5M civilian deaths). And in modern opinion polls, most Ukrainians consider the Holodomor to have been a genocide against them – though opinions differ on whether it was Soviets, Russians, or Jews who were most responsible. This is a questionable interpretation, since (Great) Russian areas suffered a similar number of excess deaths in absolute terms. Moreover, one may point out that neither Jugashvili, nor Kaganovich are Russian names. Even so, there are too many Russians, including in positions of influence, who are overly eager to trivialize or deny these tragedies – claiming that they didn’t happen; claiming that they happened on account of natural causes; even claiming that the US also experienced a famine with millions of excess deaths during the 1930s, which is something one encounters on the more “powerful” Stalinist blogs. Ukrainians are not incorrect to resent that and want to distance themselves from those elements. However, this is not an issue for Belorussians, who did not particularly suffer from the Soviet regime – and who are perhaps more “sovok” than the Russian average.

From left to right: Map of Russian Empire elections to the Second Duma (1907), Third Duma (1907), and Fourth Duma (1912). Black regions represent right-wing, moderate right, and nationalist forces across all three maps; the liberal right-wing Octobrists are included in the Black region for the first map, but are Blue in the second and third; Social Democrats and Social Revolutionaries are Red; Yellow regions represent Kadets and liberal forces; Orange regions represent national groups.

During the short-lived dawn of Russian electoral politics between the 1905 Revolution and the Bolshevik coup, the Belorussian territories consistently voted in line with Central Russia. Out of the 37 deputies elected to the Third Duma from the five Belorussian governorates (Vilna, Vitebsk, Grodno, Minsk, Mogilev), some 24 of them were representatives of nationalist and right-wing parties; this number rose to 27 during the Fourth Duma.

Russian Constituent Assembly election, 1917: Brown = Social Revolutionaries; Red = Bolsheviks; Green = Regional SR’s; Yellow = Local parties.

In the Constituent Assembly elections of 1917, a strong plurality of Belorussians voted for the Bolsheviks (though they only got an absolute majority in the Baltic provinces). This result was however in line with voting across much of Central Russia. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians – though not the Novorossiyans – voted for regional Social Revolutionary parties. In the Minsk governorate, the Belarusian Socialist Assembly – the first, and for a long time only, organization of Belarusian nationalists – got a mere 0.3% of the vote.

Unlike with Ukrainians, there was were no calls for autonomy (during the Provisional Government), nor subsequent demands for independence (after the October Revolution). The Third Assembly of Peasant Deputies of the Minsk and Vilna governorates issued a resolution declaring that “Belarus is an indivisible whole with the great revolutionary Russia.” The pronounced lack of “national” consciousness amongst the Belorussian peasantry was noted and lamented by local nationalists: “It got to the point that at the Peasant’s Assembly, the peasants renounced themselves, their language, and everything Belarusian in front of the whole world. “We don’t need Belarusians, down with Belarusians!” shouted the peasants and teachers, clenching their fists…” This obviously does not imply that Belorussians hated themselves, but that a political Belarusian identity had simply not made inroads amongst the popular masses.

Unsurprisingly, when the Bolsheviks launched their korenizatsiya policies during the 1920s, there was active discontent amongst its putative Belorussian beneficiaries, who harshly but not incorrectly viewed it as a useless peasant language that would constrain their opportunities for cultural advancement. In one famous letter from 1926, addressed to the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, representatives of the Polotsk intelligentsia wrote: “When for the first time the Belarusian language was introduced into the schools and institutions by decree, without any plebiscite, the population reacted to this reform so negatively that such voices began to be heard in the villages: “First, the Germans came to us, then the Poles, and now the Belarusians are attacking us…” That is, the population began to consider the Belarusifiers as their enemies.” These sentiments were sufficiently widespread to generate a steady stream of annoyed letters to the editors of Belarusian papers throughout the 1920s requesting that they switch to Russian instead of the broken Belarusian that they were forced to use. But Stalin, the guy then responsible for nationalities policy, was resolutely opposed, remarking at the 10th Bolshevik party Congress in 1921: “Here I see that allegations that we, Communists, are artificially foisting a Belorussian identity. This is incorrect, because there is a Belorussian nationality, which has its own language, distinct from Russian. As such, it’s only possible to raise the culture of the Belorussian people in their own people.

Although radical Belarusization was reversed from the mid-1930s, the epistemological foundations for long-term separateness had been successfully laid. Even the postwar concept of the “three Slavic brotherly peoples” affirmed the sundering of the Russian [russkie] people, which now came to refer exclusively to what had previously been Great Russians [velikorosy] as opposed to an identity that both Belorussians [belorosy] and Little Russians [malorosy] could belong to without contradiction.

Even so, unlike the case with many Ukrainians, the vast majority of Belorussians do still hold to the Soviet ideal of Slavic brotherhood, with large majorities supporting both the official status of the Russian language, and economic integration with Russia (though this sentiment stops short of wishing to fully merge into Russia, which only enjoys ~15% support). Russian language usage is near universal, including in rural areas – despite some limited Belarusization efforts since 2014. In the Ukraine, the Russian language is only dominant in the cities of Eastern and Central Ukraine. As of September 2020, all Ukrainian schools will transition to Ukrainian by decree, with the Russian language receding to the status of an elective foreign language, setting a symbolic capstone to 30 years of post-Soviet Ukrainization.

***

Zmagarism

Ukrainian nationalists can, at least in theory, dream of themselves as a Great European Power. On the collapse of the Soviet Union, their population of 52 million was comparable to that of the UK, France, and Italy – and their GDP per capita was higher than Poland’s. In 1991, President Leonid Kravchuk promised that within a decade, Ukraine would become a “Second France”. It didn’t quite work out. Ukraine’s population fell to 35-37 million, and it is now the second poorest country in Europe after Moldova. Even so, convergence to at least Poland’s level is still not entirely implausible.

More germane so far as nation-builders are concerned is that the Ukrainians can also look back to a history of independent statehood in the Hetmanate. Furthermore, their more “svidomy” elements can appropriate the history of “Kievan Rus”… although the term is a purely historiographic one coined by 19th century Russian historians, and its denizens called themselves Rus and had never even heard of “Ukraine”, there are but minor quibbles for committed svidomists who enjoy support at the highest official levels (recall Poroshenko’s remarks on Kiev building churches while Moscow was a swamp).

However, zmagarism – the Belarusian analogue of svidomism – is even more innately absurd. While the svidomy can at least pretend to be their own autochthonous civilization, occasionally embellished by medieval Cossack armadas (no, not kidding) by the most “powerful” amongst them, Belarusian zmagars can only larp as the “real” descendants of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (even though for much of that period, many of their own intellectual elites viewed themselves as part of the Russian World, e.g. the early 17th century Barkulab Chronicle treats the Muscovite princes with more sympathy their their own Lithuanian rulers).

Тhe most “powerful” zmagars find inspiration in the Principality of Polotsk in medieval Rus. In 2017, one such “historian” Olga Levko dated the foundation of Belarusian statehood to the 9th century, an endeavor in which she was supported by Lukashenko. However, the Polotsk larpers do at least have a cooler origin story than Litvin “we wuz Sarmatians” larpers. The Principality of Polotsk did produce one of the more colorful characters in Rus history – a guy called Vseslav the Sorcerer, who was rumored to be a werewolf. In 1068, he was color revolutioned from imprisonment into princeship in Kiev. (Some things never change). Though he only lasted in the position for seven months, before the old prince returned with a Polish army and kicked him out. After some further adventures, he returned to ruling over Polotsk in 1071, settled down, and built a bunch of churches.

***

In terms of its compatibility with a Russian identity, Belorussia isn’t even so much Novorossiya – which may well have “tipped over” into Russia in 2014, in the absence of committed nationalists from Western Ukraine – as Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts, even if its “Russophilia Quotient” falls short of outright Russian-majority Crimea and the territories that came to constitute the LDNR. This is undergirded both by deep history, and by a slower pace of de-Russification since 1991. Nonetheless, it is happening, and Lukashenko – his early promises of reintegrating with Russia aside – has been a central player in this, quietly repressing Russophiles while seeding positions of cultural influence to zmagars. Their larps might be ridiculous, but ultimately all nations begin as larps – the Aeneid is basically “we wuz Trojans” – and any larp, sustained for a sufficiently long period of time, will eventually become real. At which point they also become a great deal less ridiculous.

Consequently, the Belorussian Question remains very much an open one.

***

* I would like to thank the commenter AP for many of the arguments in this paragraph, and for bringing Darden’s work to my attention.

 
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Not many good recent photos, so reaching back to winter in my archives. Anyhow, the Museum of the Russian Diaspora is very good – strong recommend.

***

I talked to Robert Stark on Scott Alexander’s idea of the “Gray Tribe” and other topics on his podcast:

Anatoly’s article No Country for Gray Tribesmen
Gray Tribe themes in Andrew Yang’s The War on Normal People
Scott Alexander’s original article on the Gray Tribe
Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media
Hypothetical profile of a Gray Tribesman (against woke culture, rejects blank slatism, corona-virus hawk, but accepts climate science)
Unique environment that allowed the Coffee Salons of Western Europe to emerge
Coffee Salon Demographics
CEOs: the Bamboo Ceiling vs. the Madras Floor
Why White Centrists have the highest in-group bias
The Double Horseshoe Theory of Class Politics
California Isn’t the SJWtopia of Right-Wing Fantasies
Enclaves for the intelligent but poor
Woke Austerity: Chevron diversity ratio to improve as layoffs progress
Is Woke Left outliving usefulness to economic elite?
Mask Compliance as IQ/Personality Test
Chances of an effective corona-virus vaccine by next year

You can listen to the podcast here.

***

Nationalist bookshop “Listva” is opening a branch in Moscow today, on 08/08/20 (nice date). I plan to attend. Antifa isn’t happy so there might be some fun.

They are expanding from Saint-Petersburg, which is where their mother bookstore is located. I gave a lecture on IQ and dysgenics there in November 2019, which was well received. It is a good focal point for intellectual nationalism.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Moscow, Open Thread, Rationality, The AK 
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Along with Sputnik and some others. Which is fair enough, except that the following don’t also get the same treatment:

  • BBC
  • Voice of America
  • RFERL
  • France 24
  • Deutsche Welle
  • Al Jazeera (!)
  • Al Arabiya
  • TRT

The @Russia account is labeled, but not the @Ukraine one.

However, it does include a bunch of Chinese media outlets:

  • CCTV
  • Xinhua
  • Global Times

Amusing, though, it seems limited to ostracizing Russian/Chinese media only. PressTV is not on the list, perhaps because the progressives who run Twitter have a soft spot for Iran on account of Trump being against them.

Anyhow, this is further confirmation that Twitter is itself a “state-affiliated media” organization (though this is hardly a novel development, three years ago they banned a bunch of Venezuelan state accounts. As such, any self-respecting country that is not a US vassal would logically make Twitter and other US state-affiliated social media companies subject to the same sanctions and regulations that govern such bodies.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Twitter, Western Hypocrisy 
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Blavatskyy, Pavlo. 2020. “Obesity of Politicians and Corruption in post‐Soviet Countries.Economics of Transition and Institutional Change 9 (July): 81.

Obesity => corruption QED.

“Correlation doesn’t equal causation” is for nitpicking losers. Ringing endorsement of powerful Bronze Age Pervert proposal to filter aspiring politicians by physical prowess and physique.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Corruption, Eastern Europe, Humor, Obesity 
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Protest meeting in Minsk on July 30.

The images of massive protests coming in from Belarus on the eve of their Presidential elections on August 9, in which Alexander Lukashenko is widely expected to rubber stamp himself another term, have provoked talk of a new color revolution/Maidan. The original social contract offered by Lukashenko since he came to power in 1994 – authoritarian rule coupled with retro-Soviet economic guarantees and rising prosperity – has derailed in the past decade, as the Russian oil and gas subsidies that sustained them have sharply contracted. Whereas more Russians migrated into Belarus than Belorussians into Russia through most of the 2000s, that flow has since reversed, and Belorussian provincial towns are now noticeably poorer than their Russian counterparts. Meanwhile, Poland has in recent years started attracting significant numbers of Belorussian Gastarbeiters – nowhere near on the scale of the Ukraine, but enough to exert cultural influence and stimulate more Belorussians into dreaming of a “European Choice.”

The problem, from Russia’s perspective, is that this “European Choice” often goes hand in hand with cultural Russophobia, such as restrictions on the Russian language, as well as the abrogation of Eurasian integration initiatives and a reversal of geopolitical orientation towards the West. In the Ukraine, the historical narrative taught in schools shifted to one of colonial oppression by Russians, who – it is claimed – are Finno-Mongol interlopers, who had actually stolen Russian culture from Ukrainians who had created it (such, at least, is the schizophrenic basis of the “Ukraina-Rus” concept). Consequently, it is not surprising that Western discussions on the events in Belarus revolve around the standard binary of American-sponsored colored revolution vs. Bel arusians finally standing up to their unpopular Russian stooge dictator.

There are elements of truth to this narrative. That the West would want to topple “Europe’s last dictator”, and that a multitude of NGOs are working towards that goal, is hardly a big secret. Elections in Belarus are completely falsified, having long ceased to have any correlation to actual vote tallies (in Russia, most electoral fraud consists of adding pro-regime votes to the total, not inventing the result out of thin air; that only generally happens in some ethnic minority republics). Lukashenko’s approval rating had fallen to 30% by summer 2016, after which independent polling was banned. Considering the economic situation hasn’t gotten any better in the past four years, and Lukashenko’s dismissal of the coronavirus crisis as a “psychosis”, it is highly unlikely that his rating will be any better today. (For comparison, Putin – though at a relatively low ebb – is currently at ~60%, according to both state-owned and independent pollsters). There are unambiguous political prisoners – the current protests were, in significant part, spurred by the imprisonment of Presidential candidates Viktor Babiriko and Sergey Tikhanovsky, both of whom would have been strong contenders under a free and fair contest. The third, Valery Tsepkalo, fled to Russia with his children before the KGB could its hands on him.

… Wait, something doesn’t sound right there. Fleeing the KGB… to Russia!? This is where this narrative breaks down: the Belorussian opposition is just not all that anti-Russian. Tikhanovsky has made several social media posts portraying Putin in a positive context, visited Crimea in 2018 to meet up with some pro-Russian Orthodox activists, and even made a video in which he claims that the “Russian world” is much larger than what is contained within Russia’s borders, and that Belarus was part of it. This has not gone unnoticed by the Ukrainian authorities, who have put him on the “Peacekeeper” no-entry list of Ukraine’s enemies. Since Tikhanovskaya has been disqualified, his place was taken by his wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who until recently refused to commit to a position on Crimea (though she did, a couple of days ago, came out with “de jure Ukrainian, and de facto Russian”).

Anti-Lukashenko protests features the BSSR flag, the original independence flag, and the Russian flag. Certainly not a sight one would have seen during the Euromaidan in Ukraine with its UPA flags and Bandera iconography.

Meanwhile, it is mistaken to view Lukashenko as an unambiguously pro-Russian politician. To be sure, at the beginning of his career, he pursued a pro-Russian line – including pushing the idea of the Union State. During the late 1990s, when Yeltsin’s popularity was in the doldrums, the idea of Lukashenko becoming President of a 155 million population Union State of Russia and Belarus was not entirely far-fetched. Since then, his cachet in Russia has eroded, so it is no longer so much the Presidency of a quasi-superpower he has to look forwards to as some executive position within the Belorussian Federal District. That is obviously much less appetizing, hence his increasing penchant to make overtures to Belarusian nationalists (“zmagars”) and dalliances with the West – arrests of pro-Russian journalists and activists, the promotion of the “Litvinist” ideology that portrays Belarus as a spiritual successor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian, joint exercises with the British military while refusing to host proposed Russian air bases, undermining the Russian food sanctions regime against the EU, and the steady replacement of Russian language signs by Belarusian (if with Chinese translations – Xi Jinping being a third prospective sugar daddy).

A few days ago, almost three dozen Russian mercenaries passing through Belarus en route to Sudan were arrested in a provocation that Lukashenko portrayed as a Russian plot against him. Unfortunately for him, nobody found that convincing, and latest signs point to him starting to backpedal.

The kremlins are not entirely blind to these developments, and this has resulted in them distancing from Lukashenko in recent years – after all, if he is not interested in deepening the Union State, why should Russia massively subsidize the Belarusian economy, allowing it to rake in the equivalent of ~10% of its GDP from re-exporting oil and gas sold at domestic Russian prices? This has created a vicious spiral, in which Lukashenko retaliates by further concessions to cultural zmagarists and Western outreach in order to shore up his legitimacy, which is crumbling in tandem with Belarus’ stagnant economy. Even so, the kremlins are hard-bitten realists who also recognize that, for all his faults, Lukashenko as the “last dictator in Europe” can, at least, be relied upon to not outright drift into the West’s orbit. Doing so would mean the near certain end of his regime.

One may summarize these positions in the following “Belarus Horseshoe” (as inspired by Fluctuarius Argenteus):

  • “Lukashenko is a Russian stooge & that’s bad” – the Western MSM & the more zealous zmagars.
  • “Lukashenko is a Russian stooge & that’s good” – Western Russophiles.
  • “Lukashenko isn’t a Russian stooge & that’s bad” – Russian nationalists and the Kremlin.
  • “Lukashenko isn’t a Russian stooge – but the opposition are!” – Lukashenko himself.

***

In the next two posts before the Belarusian elections, I will discuss in more detail why Belarus is not Ukraine in terms of anti-Russian sentiment, and will follow it up with a brief look at future prospects for the Lukashenko regime and Russian-Belorussian relations.

But before we go, I want to clarify that I am not saying that the a successful Maidan couldn’t potentially turn out very badly for Russia – while Lukashenko may not be a Russian stooge, certainly neither are the opposition. Tsepkalo seems to be a classic Westernizing technocrat, who has just moved on from Russia to Kiev. Babiriko, despite his position as chairman of a bank owned by Gazprom, has consistently been an open supporter of Western integration and distancing from Russia; as one of Belarus’ richest men, he is also perhaps best placed to fill a post-Lukashenko power vacuum. And despite her husband’s crypto-Russophilia, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has said that she would seek Belarus’ withdrawal from the Union State. That said, it remains an open question to what extent this reflects true sentiments, as opposed to the practical exigencies of keeping together a diverse coalition of Soviet nostalgics, pro-Western liberals, and even a few Russophiles/Russian nationalists.

Besides, expressions of political sentiment before coming to power should be treated with a grain of salt. Few remember this, but Saakashvili also made positive noises about Russia prior to the Rose Revolution. Poroshenko was one of the co-founders of the Party of Regions, and was photographed at BBQs with hardline Russian TV presenter Dmitry Kiselev (he of the turning the US into radioactive ash fame) and Russian nationalist Chalenko. Zelensky’s involvement in Russian showbiz has not stopped the Ukraine from ensuring that all Ukrainian schools without exception will eliminate teaching in the Russian language by September 2020. To the contrary, despite some limited anti-Russian rhetoric, the color revolution in Armenia hasn’t resulted in that country turning against its one critical ally. Geopolitics and strategic culture trump personal ideology and that is always well worth keeping in mind.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Belarus, Color Revolution, Geopolitics, Russia 
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.