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Greenland --> Naalakkersuisut - And Inuit cinema and music

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 9, 2009 10:22pm | Post a Comment
Greenlanders

Though Greenland has been home-ruled since 1979, on June 21, 2009, the Danish government made steps toward granting Greenland full independence. In a 2008 referendum, 76% of the 58,000 residents of the sparsely populated island voted for self-rule and the Danish government has been handing over control of services to the local government and making symbolic changes, like changing the official language to Kalaallisut (the Inuit language of most Greenlanders) and renaming the country Naalakkersuisut.

Satellite image of North America

Every schoolchild has at least a vague awareness of Greenland, that conspicuously white island (decidedly not green) near the top of most globes. According to Eiríks saga rauða (the saga of Eric the Red) and Íslendingabók (the book of Icelanders), the name was chosen to attract settlement by promoting Greenland as an attractive place to live.


Although part of the North American Tectonic plate, Eurocentric models of North American discovery either credit Columbus or Bjarni Herjólfsson with discovering the New World when they sighted the Caribbean and Canada, respectively. As Wikipedia's entry on the Norwegian explorer states, "Bjarni is believed to be the first European to see North America," which he did in the summer of 986 on the way to visit his parents in Greenland, and island which is itself part of North America. So Europeans (including Herjólfsson’s parents) had already "discovered" Greenland, although many before have quite reasonably questioned one's ability to discover something already known for thousands of years to many people.

Obscure & Unrecognized Republics of Eastern Europe

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 19, 2009 08:55pm | Post a Comment
Romanians shoveling

So as not to offend anyone, films set in Eastern Europe commonly take place in imaginary countries like Trouble for Two's Karovia, The Terminal's Krakozhia or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's Vulgaria. In reality, there are several little-known, obscure republics which enjoy various amounts of autonomy that would fit the bill. As portions of their citizenry actively campaign for self-rule, I thought I'd shine a light on the unrecognized peoples of eastern Europe. It turns out there's more to the region than ruthless spies, fortunetellers and stout babushkas.

The Caucasian nations and the trans-continental Bashkortostan are dealt with elsewhere.

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(If interested, there are similar entries about Caucasia, North Asia and South Asia)

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Flag of Chuvashia        Chuvash people

Scimitars and Sand Dunes - Rethinking the Middle East, Arabs and Islam

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 6, 2009 10:41pm | Post a Comment
With President Obama's recent address at the University of Cairo, there has been a veritable sandstorm of media discussion about the Middle East, the Arab world and the Islamic world; three concepts lazily interchanged in the American mainstream media (including the supposedly smarter public radio). Despite some overlap, the indiscriminate use of the terms, both out of ignorance and deliberately,  minimizes substantial heterogeneity and differences -- to the detriment of our understanding of reality, and as a result contributing to the undermining and hindering of attempts at peace in the region. While I did find the president's speech fairly nuanced, intelligent and inspirational, until substantial actions reflect those attractive words, they offer nothing more than hope.


"Neighbour to the Moon," the legendary Christian Lebanese singer, فيروز.

Today Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners remain some of the last people in the west for whom racism is not only extremely common but also widely accepted, even governmentally endorsed. Merely advocating equality and human rights for Arabs and Muslims is often met with charges of racism and embracing hatred, probably the only people likely to ellicit that response besides Germans. Given this reality, centuries of negative stereotypes and repeated military and political actions that reflect undeniable double standards, it's no wonder that many view the frequent proclamations that "Islam is a beautiful religion" and hands extended in friendship with widespread suspicion at best.

ProtestationTartare

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 20, 2009 09:14pm | Post a Comment

Today an estimated 15,000 Crimean Tatars gathered in Simferopol, Ukraine to mark the 65th anniversary of their forced deportation at the hands of Soviet authorities under Stalin. In 1944, approximately 200,000 Crimean Tatars were loaded onto trains and sent to Siberia, with roughly half dying along the way.


Since the collapse of the USSR, many have returned to their ancestral homelands, joining the 280,000 who currently live there. Around 150,000 have expressed their intention to return.


Many of the protesters held aloft their national flag and voiced their demands, which include calls for national recognition, autonomy and Crimean Tatar schools.

  

Without a doubt, the most famous Tatar in American popular culture of Tatar ancestry is actor Charles Bronson. They also gave us steak Tartare.


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Russia to pull out of Chechnya

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 16, 2009 04:57pm | Post a Comment


Cessation of operations

Russia has announced the end of its ten year “counter-terrorism” campaign in The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (aka Noxçiyn Respublika Noxçiyçö and Нохчийн Республика Нохчийчоь). Although Chechnya has been fairly peaceful for some time now, many allege that it is due to the ironfisted rule of Russian-approved-and-installed Chechen leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, who along with his private militia, Kadyrovtsy, faces widespread suspicion of kidnapping, torturing and murdering advocates of self rule.


Eliza Betirova
Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, having vowed to make rule of law the cornerstone of his government, may in fact be attempting to distance itself from the monster many say Moscow created by installing and giving free-rein to a scandal-plagued former rebel who some have compared to a cult leader who has described Chechnya as a “zoo filled with animals” and bragged, “I will be killing as long as I live."

 
Ali Dimayev

Russia’s involvement with Chechnya
Chechnya declared its independence in 1991, alongside many of its fellow Soviet republics. In what’s become an almost comically transparent double standard, Russia recognized the independence of former Soviet republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (since they’re within Georgia), and Georgia, which denied recognition to its breakaway republics, was one of two nations to recognize Chechnya’s independence (although the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is a member of the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization), the other being Afghanistan.
Timur Mucuraev
Yeltsin, then president, was upfront about Russia’s unwillingness to let Chechnya secede, due, in large part, to its considerable oil reserves. Russia first invaded the newly-independent republic in 1994, sending in 40,000 troops. The war ended in the humiliating defeat of the Russians two years later.

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