Monthly Archives: November 2004

Moldova’s "Negotiable Nationalism"

The Romanians in Bessarabia awoke in the late 1980s, quipped the writer Ion Druta, but they forgot to get out of bed. The disappointment that many intellectuals felt with the outcome of the national movement was part of a long history of disillusionment experienced by generations of nation-builders. At every turn, Moldova has turned out to be something other than what most observers had either hoped or expected. It was one of the most sovietized of the Soviet republics, with high rates of linguistic assimilation to Russian and marriage across ethnic lines. But it also witnessed a divisive and violent conflict between forces supporting independence and those intent on maintaining the unity of the Soviet state. It was a republic that had no clear historical antecedent within the same borders. But it nevertheless produced a strong movement of national renaissance and eventually independence. It was a republic that Western writers frequently criticized as artificial, the result of Stalin’s redrawing of east European borders during the Second World War, and a territory that if given the chance would surely seek to reunite with its former motherland, Romania. But since 1991 public sentiment has been cool on the idea of unification between the two states.

Most unusual of all was the fact that the Soviet project of building a distinct Moldovan nation yielded a rather ambiguous result. Local political leaders in other national republics came to power in the late 1980s by defending an independent historical and cultural identity, but those in Moldova succeeded by denying theirs. An independent Moldovan state emerged with the breakup of the Soviet federation, but the idea of an independent Moldovan nation seemed to fade with Soviet-style communism. Since then, the legacy of Soviet-era nation-building and the contentious question of the “true” national identity of the Moldovans have remained topics at the center of political life.

Making a Moldovan nation should have been a relatively easy enterprise. The eastern Moldovan lands, both before and after the annexation of Bessarabia, were populated largely by illiterate peasants with few ties to the cosmopolitan cities. They had been politically separate from the closest co-ethnic group–the Romanians–for the past two centuries or more, and had been absent from all the historical turning points in the formation of Romanian national consciousness. They had been the subjects of a variety of contradictory cultural policies: russification in the Russian empire, romanization in interwar Romania, fitful moldovanization in the Moldovan autonomous and union republics, and sovietization in the entire Soviet period. Nation-building also accompanied broader processes of urbanization and industrialization, so that the rhetoric of national identity was linked with other powerful themes of enlightenment and modernity. All this took place among a population that, even before the Soviet Union, still called itself “Moldovan” and within an authoritarian political system that put a premium on ethnonational affiliation and often spared no expense in the effort to engineer it. One can think of plenty of modern nations that have been built under far less propitious conditions.

For all this, though, by the 1990s the Moldovans were still a nation divided over their common identity. For some, they were simply Romanians who, because of the treachery of the Soviets, had not been allowed to say so. For others, they were an independent historical nation, related to but distinct from the Romanians to the west. For still others, they were something in between, part of a general Romanian cultural space but existing as a discrete and sovereign people with its own traditions, aspirations, and communal identity. How one imagines the Moldovans has never been a straightforward issue. In most periods, in fact, the various projects for cultivating a sense of nationhood among them have turned out rather differently from how their designers had planned.

SOURCE: The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture, by Charles King (Hoover Press, 2000), pp. 224-225

See also Randy McDonald’s meaty blogpost on Reunifications Deferred: Romania and Moldova. A sample:

If Moldova joined Romania, whether with or without Transdnestr, it would join the Baltic States on the short list of former Soviet territories managing to escape directly to the European Union. Moldovans would be free to migrate (or, at least, as free as their fellow citizens in old Romania) across the European Union; Moldova would qualify for European Union transfer payments.

This isn’t likely, though, simply because the Moldovan state has acquired despite itself an innate inertia of its own, with mass emigration sapping its work force and its energies, the ethnic conflict dominating its conservative post-Communist political elites’ focus, and little incentive for innovation on any front. Moldova, once a prosperous component of the Soviet Union, is now the poorest country in Europe. Moldova’s now of note as a source of sex slaves and organ sellers, which makes the prospect of Romanian and/or European Union expansion all the more difficult.

Romanian reunification might still be possible, if only in the sense that Romanian-identifying Moldovans might mostly emigrate to Romania, leaving their more Moldova-identified friends and relatives at home. At this point, any true reunification–the establishment of a single state, or of a confederation, or of a union-state–seems massively unlikely.

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Origin of the Sumo Championship System

As yokozuna (‘grand champion’) Asashoryu wins his 5th tournament of the year, and ozeki (‘champion’) Kaio falls one win short of his promotion criteria despite besting Asashoryu on the final day, it seems to be an appropriate time to look at the far-from-ancient origins of the championship system in Japanese sumo.

The most interesting and significant aspect of the modernization of sumo is probably the development of the championship system. It has always been obvious, in Japan as elsewhere, that some athletes are better than others. The traditional way to discover who was “the greatest” was for claimants to the title to challenge one another. In chivalric terms, one “threw down the gauntlet.” It was not until the nineteenth century that European and American sports evolved from such more or less impromptu challenges to modernity’s rationalized format of regularly scheduled competitions specifically designed to determine the best athlete or team. Sumo, too, evolved in this way.

From the middle of the eighteenth century, four regularly scheduled tournaments per year, each lasting approximately ten days, were staged in the three cities of Edo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Before the nineteenth century, spectators attending these tournaments apparently had little interest in comparing one wrestler’s past performance with another’s. It was not until the Meiji period that spectators began to evince interest in a wrestler’s performance over the course of an entire tournament. In fact, the word “tournament,” used here to translate the Japanese term basho, should not be taken to mean a series of matches climaxing in a final bout to determine a single winner. In a sumo tournament, wrestlers do not advance through rounds in the manner of tennis players at Wimbledon nor do they wrestle against all the other contestants in round-robin style. Each wrestler has only one match per day and the tournament champion is the winner of the topmost division, the makuuchi.

It is difficult now to imagine sumo without this championship system. Which of the previously most successful wrestlers will win the next tournament is the focus of fan and media interest. Most sumo enthusiasts are surprised, therefore, when they learn that the concept of a tournament championship is a relatively recent innovation. In fact, it did not exist at all until well into the modern period. The long, complicated, and little known development of the championship system is a fascinating case study in the modernization of sumo.

In the Tokugawa period, the focus was still on individual matches. After a particularly thrilling match, excited fans often threw money or articles of clothing into the ring. The winning wrestler kept the cash and sold or pawned the clothes. In the Meiji period, new forms of appreciation and reward appeared, forerunners of today’s championship system. Like the athletes of Europe and North America, wrestlers began to receive trophies and other prizes awarded for their performance over the course of an entire tournament rather than for victory in a single match. These awards were donated by private groups, which makes the precise origins of the practice difficult to document. Newspapers, which regularly sponsored baseball and other modem sports, were often the donors.

At first, there was ambiguity about exactly what it was that the wrestler had done to deserve his reward. Initially, trophies were presented to wrestlers who were undefeated, but undefeated records were not necessarily identical because there were two different kinds of draws and absences were not recorded as losses. It was not uncommon for more than one wrestler to finish a tournament without a defeat, in which case each received a trophy. For example, after a tournament in January 1889, Konishiki [‘little brocade’] (a small fellow not to be confused with his huge twentieth-century namesake) was awarded a trophy by the Tokyo newspaper Jiji shinpo despite the fact that he had not won all of his matches. He had seven victories, a draw, and a match for which the decision had been deferred. Two undefeated lower-division contestants were also awarded trophies after they wrestled to a draw on the last day of the tournament. According to the newspaper, if no wrestler went undefeated, no trophy was awarded.

A shift in the criteria for awarding trophies occurred in 1900, producing the kind of tournament champion that we now take for granted. In January of that year, Osaka’s Mainichi Shimbun offered to award a keshomawashi (ornamental apron) to an undefeated wrestler of the makuuchi division. If no wrestler survived the tournament undefeated, the apron was to be awarded to the wrestler with the fewest losses. If two or more men tied for the fewest losses, then the prize was to be given to the man who defeated the greatest number of higher-ranked opponents. These new criteria provided for a single champion.

SOURCE: Japanese Sports: A History, by Allen Guttmann and Lee Thompson (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2001), pp. 109-111

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Tarik Amar at John Quiggin on Ukraine

John Quiggin hosts a richly detailed account by Tarik Amar of recent developments in Ukraine. Quiggin’s introduction follows.

Following up the post from Tom Oates last week, reader Dan Hardie sends another (long) piece, by Tarik Amar, who, Dan says, is doing a PhD on Soviet history and speaks Ukranian, German and Russian, among other languages, and knows the place very well. Lacking any of these qualifications, I can only pass his analysis on to you with the observation that it’s well worth reading, and gives lots of detail on the machinations of the incumbent president.

From what I’ve read, including Tarik’s piece, this all seems very similar to Marcos in the Phillipines and Milosevic in Serbia, and hopefully will be resolved in a similar fashion.

Set aside some time to read the whole thing.

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The Myth of Ethnic Warfare

Charles King reviews Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War, by Stuart J. Kaufman (Cornell U. Press, 2001) in the November/December 2001 issue of Foreign Affairs.

The deadly clashes that erupted between Russians and ethnic Tatars in the early 1990s were utterly predictable. Having invaded the Russian steppes alongside the Mongols in the thirteenth century, the Tatars were seen by medieval Russian chroniclers as the epitome of Oriental barbarism. Although the power of the Tatars eventually waned, the Russians did not forget their misery at the hands of these Muslim invaders. In the sixteenth century, Ivan the Terrible razed the Tatar capital. Two centuries later, Tatar nomads were brutally driven as far as China. And during the Second World War, Stalin deported thousands of Tatar families to Central Asia. Once the Soviet Union began to falter, Tatars in several regions began to call for greater rights and eventual independence. Those demands set off a spiral of fear and loathing that drew fuel from the memory of bloodshed on both sides.

The only problem with this story is that there were no such deadly clashes in the 1990s. Russia devolved sovereignty to Tatarstan, one of the federation’s constituent republics, without any violence. So successful was the process, in fact, that the “Tatar model” is now touted as a template for how Russia’s relations with its other ethnic minorities should work.

Had modern Tatar autonomy not come about so painlessly, it would have been easy to read the bloodshed as yet another case of the inevitable clash of civilizations. Just such an impulse explains why Russia’s ongoing war against Chechnya still sends observers scrambling for their Lermontov and Tolstoy: to search for historical allusions to Moscow’s long-standing entanglement in the same zone. But as Stuart J. Kaufman shows in his ambitious new book, Modern Hatreds, explaining contemporary wars with reference to ancient troubles is not only a terrible cliche — it is also fundamentally wrong.

The Seeds of Conflict

In years to come, what looks today like a disconnected string of small, brutish wars across southeastern Europe and Eurasia — five in the former Yugoslavia and six in the former Soviet Union — is more likely to be considered by historians to be part of one process: the wars of communist succession. Most of these battles pitted newly independent governments against territorial separatists, but all sprang from a range of disparate causes: the collapse of federations, the end of authoritarianism, the reemergence of old quarrels, the meddling of outside powers, political demagoguery, and — a major catalyst of organized violence everywhere — plain old thuggery….

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.N. have spent the better part of a decade “mediating” these various disputes, and the organizations’ main strategy has been to address precisely those beliefs and insecurities that Kaufman identifies. That approach has led nowhere, however, and for one simple reason: Ethnic myths and fears have become largely irrelevant to most of the actors in these dramas. In fact, the current status quo — no fighting but no final peace accord, either — suits most folks just fine. The separatists get a de facto country. Corrupt officials in the central governments get a transit route for illegal commerce. Foreign governments get relative peace and, therefore, no Christiane Amanpour on the scene to raise concerns at home. International organizations get multiple rounds of “negotiations” and willing recipients for their good offices.

In the long run, however, everyone ends up a loser. The unresolved disputes have had cancerous effects on the regions where they occurred, feeding corruption, weakening governance, and gnawing away at what little democracy exists in Georgia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan. They have created havens for international criminals and conduits for the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Europe and beyond. None of that, incidentally, has much to do with ethnicity.

The Way to War

What does all of this mean for policy? Kaufman rightly calls on outside powers to pay greater attention to potential conflict areas before war erupts. Some of his recommendations are supremely reasonable …. Others … cannot possibly be meant seriously. And no form of outside intervention, however early, can guarantee success. After all, it would be difficult to find a more concerted recent effort at peace-building than occurred in Macedonia, a case that Kaufman cites approvingly. (The book was published too early to take full account of the recent violence there between the government and Albanian guerrillas.) Long before the shooting started, school curricula were reformed under the eyes of the U.N. and major nongovernmental organizations. Internationally mediated talks were held. There was even a Macedonian version of Sesame Street, created and funded by foreigners, that featured cast members from all of Macedonia’s ethnic groups living in harmony. The show became wildly popular with local children. But as for the results, consult CNN.

The real lesson to be learned from the postcommunist conflicts, including the latest one in Macedonia, is probably different from the one Kaufman intended. Myths, fears, and opportunities might be a good recipe for a pogrom, but they rarely lead to large-scale, sustained violence. For that, you need the same kinds of forces that sustain any war, whether “ethnic” or otherwise: entrepreneurs who benefit from the violence, arms supplied by foreign powers, charismatic leadership, and plenty of bored young men. And these are the same factors that external governments and international organizations are most useful at counteracting — that is, in the rare instances when they have both the will and the wherewithal to get involved. Outsiders can, as Kaufman recommends, try to ban books, shut down radio transmissions, rewrite school curricula, and enforce an internationally acceptable standard of ethnic correctness on historians and teachers. But silencing every bigot in the world would require a monumental effort — one for which afflicted states do not have the cash, nor Western governments the fortitude.

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Transnistria: Moldova’s "Black Hole"

In 1992 Moldova experienced a brief but bloody conflict over the territory lying east of the Dnestr River, the region known to Romanian-speakers as Transnistria and to Russian-speakers as Pridnestrov’ia. The thin strip of land, less than 30 kilometers wide and only 4,118 square kilometers in area, had once been part of the Moldovan autonomous republic in the interwar period but was joined with Bessarabia to form the M[oldovan]SSR after the Soviet annexation in 1940. The separatist conflict that erupted there in the late 1980s, and sizzled until the outbreak of large-scale violence in the first half of 1992, left over 1,000 dead or wounded and produced 130,000 internally displaced persons and refugees who flooded into Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of Moldova. For the government in Chisinau, it remained the state’s foremost security problem, since the area along the Dnestr functioned as a de facto separate state, the Dnestr Moldovan Republic (DMR). It was also the first post-Soviet conflict in which the Russian military actively intervened with the ostensible goal of stopping the violence, and a conflict that launched the career of Alexander Lebed’, who as commander of the Russian Fourteenth Army stationed in Transnistria repeatedly affirmed the need to protect local Russians against the “genocidal” policies of the Moldovan government.

Despite the active involvement of the international community, primarily via the presence of the long-term mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Chisinau, the dispute remained unresolved throughout the 1990s. There was no serious outbreak of violence after 1992, but the standoff between the two sides settled into what seemed an uneasy acceptance of the permanent division of the Moldovan state. Transnistria became another of the many “black holes” throughout the former Soviet Union, regions such as Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Abkhazia where no long-term settlement had been reached but where the writ of central governments no longer ran. By the late 1990s, the Transnistrians still maintained a large force of men under arms, a force far better equipped than Moldova’s own tiny army. A multinational peacekeeping contingent remained deployed to keep the two sides apart.

The sources of the violence and the reasons for the long stalemate are not simple. Transnistria was often portrayed in both Russia and the West as an ethnic war between nationalists in Chisinau bent on union with Romania and ethnic Russians in Transnistria fearful of being swept up in an enlarged Romanian state. Things on the ground, however, were never that straightforward. It is the multifaceted origins of the Transnistrian conundrum, as well as the political and economic interests spawned by the war itself, that have made the dispute so difficult to resolve.

SOURCE: The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture, by Charles King (Hoover Press, 2000), pp. 178-179

The Head Heeb has more on Moldova’s “Black Hole” and human trafficking in Moldova itself. Jonathan also points to an article by Charles King in NYU School of Law’s Fall 2001 issue of East European Constitutional Review about Eurasia’s Nonstate States:

Since the end of the fighting, Russian policy has been schizophrenic. There has, in fact, been a set of policies, rather than a single policy, in each of the disputes, depending on which portion of the Russian establishment one is considering. The Russian presidents, both Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly affirmed that Russia respects the territorial integrity of its neighbors. At the same time, the State Duma has passed resolutions calling for Russia to support the interests of the separatist elites and their populations against what is perceived as the march of nationalism in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova….

The Russian factor is indisputable, and officials in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova frequently point to Russia as the key source of support for the unrecognized states. But Russia has not been the most serious obstacle to resolution. Today, the most vexing reasons for the disputes’ intractability have very little to do with what happens outside the states afflicted by territorial separatism and a great deal to do with the interests within them–in two crucial senses.

First, there is a political economy to Eurasia’s unrecognized states that benefits almost all sides. Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova are extraordinarily weak states, with state revenues too low even to ensure many of the most basic state functions. In the lives of average citizens, the state is often conspicuous by its absence. Where it does intrude, it is usually in the form of a corrupt police officer soliciting a “fine” for an obscure traffic violation. That very weakness, though, is of untold benefit both to the unrecognized regimes as well as to the legitimate state institutions that are supposed to be looking out for the states’ interests. Exports can be channeled abroad through the separatist regions, thereby avoiding state tax inspectors. Imports can be brought in through the regions and distributed on the wider national market. Untaxed agriculture and industry–hazelnuts in Abkhazia, steel in Transnistria–can likewise be sources of profit, both for the unrecognized governments as well as for their collaborators in central institutions. Smuggling of illicit goods, from Afghan heroin to Russian vodka to prostitutes and illegal migrants from as far afield as Southeast Asia, have also become sources of profit.

Second, the process of informal state building has gone on for so long that distinct societies have begun to emerge in the rebel areas. Children who were not born when the conflicts began are now almost teenagers, and thanks to the creation of educational systems separate from those run by the legitimate governments, they have been schooled in the idea that their homeland is a place called Pridnestrove or Artsakh–not Moldova or Azerbaijan. The same may be said of other members of the cultural elite, such as the writers, artists, and poets who have spent the last ten years creating panegyrics to the real but unappreciated statehood achieved through the sacrifice of the best sons of the fatherland. What looks to the outside world and the central governments like a separatist conflict looks to many inside the conflict zones like a heroic war of independence, a war that has, moreover, become mythologized in the consciousness of the average citizen.

It seems to me that international social work alone is not sufficient to deal with these issues. Better international police work–in fact, remedial state-building–is also needed in order to reduce corruption as well as violence. The UN bureaucracy is simply not capable of quelling either corruption or violence. Quite the reverse, it seems. Nor can any single great military power act as the world’s policeman–not Russia, not China, not even the U.S. So, who is to do what must be done?

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Pakistan: An Army with a Country

Pervez Hoodbhoy reviews The Idea of Pakistan by Stephen Philip Cohen (Brookings Institution Press, 2004) in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs. Here’s an excerpt about the role of the all-important army.

According to a popular but rather humorless Pakistani joke, “all countries have armies, but here, an army has a country.” Indeed, even when civilian governments have nominally been in charge in Pakistan, there has never been much doubt about who actually makes decisions there. In addition to holding political power, the Pakistani army controls vast commercial and industrial interests and owns massive rural and urban properties. As Cohen remarks, “regardless of what may be desirable, the army will continue to set the limits on what is possible in Pakistan.

“General Pervez Musharraf, the country’s current chief executive, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, and there have since been several attempts on his life. After each, the media has warned of a nuclear state careening out of control, with radical Islamists fighting to get into the driver’s seat. Cohen rightly dismisses this view as alarmist. If the general were killed, the army establishment would quickly replace Musharraf with another senior officer, and various measures-the installation of former Citibank executive Shaukat Aziz as prime minister, most notably-have recently been undertaken to protect against a leadership crisis. Cohen also breaks with Musharraf’s staunchest international backers, who “see him as a wise and modern leader, a secular man who is not afraid to support the West or to offer peace to India, and a man who can hold back the onrush of demagogues and Islamic extremists.” Cohen notes that “no serious Pakistani analyst sees Musharraf in these terms. … If he resembles any past Pakistani leader, it is General Yahya Khan-also a well-intentioned general who did the United States a great favor.”

The question of why the warrior class was never tamed by civilian rule points back to the founding of the Pakistani state. As the respected Pakistani scholar Eqbal Ahmad has emphasized, the civilian system of power was never regarded by Pakistan’s citizens as just, appropriate, or authoritative. And despite Jinnah’s declarations, the idea of Pakistan was unclear from the start. Lacking any clear basis for legitimacy or direction, the state quickly aligned with the powerful landed class: the army leadership and the economic elite joined forces to claim authority in a nation without definition or cohesion. In subsequent years, the government maintained the feudal structure of society and entered into a manifestly exploitative relationship with Pakistan’s poor eastern wing (which became Bangladesh in 1971 after a short but bloody war). Even now, bonded labor is common, and many peasants live in conditions close to slavery. Politicians, with the exception of the mercurial demagogue Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, have made no attempt at reform, ignoring the hearts and minds of the masses in favor of cultivating elite favor and pursuing quick financial gain.

The result has been ideological confusion, civilian helplessness, and an environment eminently hospitable to putsches. Indeed, no elected government has completed its term in Pakistan’s 57-year history. Pakistani generals express contempt for the civilian order and steadfastly hold that “what is good for the army is good for Pakistan,” and Pakistani society is thoroughly militarized. Bumper stickers read, “The Finest Men Join the Pakistan Army”; tanks parade on the streets of Islamabad while jet aircraft screech overhead; discarded naval guns, artillery pieces, and fighter aircraft adorn public plazas. It is even a criminal offense to “criticize the armed forces of Pakistan or to bring them into disaffection.”

The military is only one (albeit the most important) component of the wider “establishment” that runs Pakistan. Cohen calls this establishment a “moderate oligarchy” and defines it as “an informal political system that [ties] together the senior ranks of the military, the civil service, key members of the judiciary, and other elites.” Membership in this oligarchy, Cohen contends, requires adherence to a common set of beliefs: that India must be countered at every turn; that nuclear weapons have endowed Pakistan with security and status; that the fight for Kashmir is unfinished business from the time of partition; that large-scale social reforms such as land redistribution are unacceptable; that the uneducated and illiterate masses deserve only contempt; that vociferous Muslim nationalism is desirable but true Islamism is not; and that Washington is to be despised but fully taken advantage of. Underlying these “core principles,” one might add, is a willingness to serve power at any cost.

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Kashmir at Partition, 1947

In August 1947, Kashmir’s autocratic ruler, His Highness Maharaja Sir Hari Singh Indar Mahindar Bahadur Sir Hari Singh, was faced with a momentous decision. The imperial government in London had always allowed some major landholders on the subcontinent a degree of autonomy and, technically, Kashmir had never been part of British India. The maharaja’s antecedents had secured the right to govern some of their own affairs by recognising the paramountcy of the British Crown. The compact between the British and the maharaja’s family was symbolised by the payment of a tribute: each year Hari Singh had to provide the British government with a horse, twelve goats and six of Kashmir’s famous shawls or pashminas.

When the British left, the maharaja had three options: Kashmir could become independent or join either India or Pakistan. The rulers of over 550 Princely State rulers faced the same decision but in the case of Kashmir the issue was especially sensitive. Its large population and proximity to both China and Russia gave the state considerable strategic importance. The matter was further complicated by religion: Kashmir was one of a handful of Princely States in which the ruler did not practise the same religion as most of his people. While the maharaja was a Hindu, over three-quarters of his subjects were Muslims. The fact that Kashmir was not only predominantly Muslim but also congruous with Pakistan convinced Mohammed Ali Jinnah that the maharaja’s decision would go in his favour. ‘Kashmir’, he said at the time of partition, ‘will fall into our lap like a ripe fruit.’ It was a naive misjudgement of Himalayan proportions.

The maharaja had most of the foibles associated with India’s decadent aristocracy. He was a hedonist and a reactionary whose main interests were food, hunting, sex and, above all else, horse racing. As his own son put it: ‘Quite clearly, my father was much happier racing than administering the State …’ On one occasion, he had been tricked by a prostitute in London’s Savoy Hotel who proceeded to blackmail him. He showed a similar lack of judgement in matters of state. In July 1947, with the transfer of power just weeks away, he took the view that ‘the British are never really going to leave India’!

The maharaja’s ancestors had been blessed with greater political acumen. The State of Jammu and Kashmir had been established in the first half of the nineteenth century by a relatively minor Jammu chieftain, Gulab Singh. A combination of adept military conquests and astute financial deals enabled him to create one of the largest Princely States on the subcontinent. By 1850 he had moved on from Jammu (with its Hindu majority population) and had added Ladakh (Buddhist majority), Baltistan (Muslim majority) and the Kashmir Valley (Muslim majority). In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Gulab Singh’s successors extended their control to another Muslim majority area, Gilgit.

SOURCE: Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, 2nd ed., by Owen Bennett Jones (Yale Nota Bene, 2002), pp. 56-57

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Hyderabad and Junagadh at Partition, 1947

Once again, however, Jinnah failed to explore all the options open to him. One possibility was to make compromises over another Princely State, Hyderabad. The Muslim ruler or nizam of Hyderabad faced the same dilemma as Maharaja Hari Singh. He wanted independence but was far from sure he could achieve it. Jinnah understood that it was never realistic to expect the nizam to accede to Pakistan: Hyderabad was entirely surrounded by Indian territory. But he always hoped that the nizam could pull off independence. He considered Hyderabad to be the ‘oldest Muslim dynasty in India’ and hoped that its continued existence as an independent state right in the heart of India would provide a sense of security for those Muslims who didn’t move to Pakistan. Once again, however, Jinnah was thinking in terms of legally possible options rather than political realities. In the long term the independence of Hyderabad, while constitutionally proper, was never going to happen. The new Indian leadership saw the issue clearly enough and when the nizam tried to strike a deal which would allow him to hang on to some degree of autonomy, Delhi flatly refused to consider the idea.

In retrospect most Pakistanis would agree that it would have been worth abandoning the aspiration for an independent Hyderabad if it had meant securing Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Furthermore, Jinnah had good reason to believe that such a deal could have been struck. In late November 1947 Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan met to discuss the situation in Kashmir. To understand their conversation it is first necessary to consider briefly what had happened in yet another Princely State, Junagadh.

The Muslim nawab of Junagadh ruled over a million people, 80 per cent of them Hindus. Junagadh was located in western India and, even though it was not strictly contiguous with Pakistan, its coastline offered the possibility of sea links to the Muslim state that was just 200 miles away. The nawab of Junagadh, guided by his pro-Pakistani chief minister Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto (the father of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto), decided to ignore the feelings of his Hindu population and acceded to Pakistan. It was the mirror image of the situation in Kashmir. The Indian government did not accept the decision, blockaded Junagadh and then invaded it. Delhi then imposed a plebiscite and secured the result it desired: Junagadh became part of India.

When Liaquat Ali Khan met Nehru at the end of November he exposed the illogicality of India’s position. If Junagadh, despite its Muslim rulers’ accession to Pakistan, belonged to India because of its Hindu majority, then Kashmir surely belonged to Pakistan. When Liaquat Ali Kahn made this incontrovertible point his Indian interlocutor, Sardar Patel, could not contain himself and burst out: ‘Why do you compare Junagadh with Kashmir? Talk of Hyderabad and Kashmir and we could reach agreement.’ Patel was not alone in this view. On 29 October 1947 officials at the American embassy in Delhi had told the US State Department: ‘the obvious solution is for the government leaders in Pakistan and India to agree … [to the] accession of Kashmir to Pakistan and the accession of Hyderabad and Junagadh to India’. British officials in London concurred.

SOURCE: Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, 2nd ed., by Owen Bennett Jones (Yale Nota Bene, 2002), pp. 68-69


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Russian Perspectives on Ukraine

All About Latvia, who fervently supports democracy but is not keen on either Yanukovich or Yushchenko, offers an interesting roundup of Russian views on the Ukrainian elections, including a translation of a cynical op-ed in Komsomolskaya Pravda.

The gloomiest predictions are about to be proven true. Ukraine once again is divided in half. The president of all-Western and Central Ukraine–Victor Yushchenko and the president of all-Eastern and Southern Ukraine–Victor Yanukovich both demand coronation.

Apart from Russia, the list of firm Yanukovich supporters is not very impressive.

Lenta reports that Belorussian president Lukashenko congratulated Victor Yanukovich with his presidential victory. So, officially or not, three leaders expresed their support for Yanukovich: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko and the leader of the Trans-Dienstr breakaway Moldovan Republic Igor Smirnov.

The official status of the Russian-supported Transnistrian portion of the former Moldovan SSR is still unresolved.

Beyond the control of any strong national government, the region has become an international transit center for smuggled goods. A Russian-sponsored peace plan for the region was rejected by Moldova in Nov., 2003, after Moldovan demonstrations against it; the deal would have permitted Russian troops to remain until 2020.

UPDATE: The Head Heeb has an interesting take on the reactions of Ukrainian Jews, in general cautiously favoring ‘the devil you know’. Zackary Sholem Berger elaborates further. Also see the Head Heeb’s earlier post, which opens with a segue I feel sure has never, ever been uttered before:

As most of you are no doubt already aware, French Polynesia is no longer the only country with two presidents.

UPDATE: Now China, Kazakhstan, and Armenia are reported to have joined the list of countries recognizing Yanukovich as president. And has an update that concludes on a cautionary note.

International pressure may also have a significant effect on the outcome. As well as the pressure from America and the EU, a key determining factor will be the attitude of Mr Putin. The crisis in Ukraine is bound to overshadow his summit with EU leaders this week (see article [with map!]) and he risks serious difficulties in his relations with both Europe and America if he backs Mr Yanukovich in repressing the protests. Towards the climax of the Georgian revolution last year, Mr Putin seemed to lose patience with Mr Shevardnadze, perhaps contributing to his downfall. Does the Russian leader’s even-handed call for both candidates in Ukraine’s conflict to obey the law suggest he has already begun to hedge his bets?

All along, both Russia and the West have been taking a close interest in Ukraine’s election, not just because it is one of eastern Europe’s largest countries, with 49m people, but because the outcome could have important consequences for the whole region. Mr Yushchenko presented himself as a pro-western, free-market reformer who would clean up corruption and enforce the rule of law. Mr Yanukovich, in contrast, stood for deepening Ukraine’s close links with Russia. If Mr Yushchenko had gained the presidency and led Ukraine towards becoming a westernised democracy with European-style prosperity, voters in Russia and elsewhere in eastern Europe might have begun to demand the same. Thus a win by Mr Yushchenko would have been a huge blow to Mr Putin, whose attempts to exert control over former Soviet states would be greatly diminished.

Though Mr Yushchenko is now hoping for a Georgian-style bloodless revolution to deliver him the presidency, there are also some less promising precedents among the former Soviet states: only two months ago, Belarus’s president, Alexander Lukashenka, “won” a rigged referendum to allow him to run for re-election. The EU decided this week to tighten its sanctions against those in his government it blames for the “fraudulent” ballot. But so far there is no sign that Mr Lukashenka will be dislodged from power. Azerbaijan and Armenia also held flawed elections last year: in Azerbaijan, there were riots after the son of the incumbent president won amid widespread intimidation and bribery, but these were violently put down; and in Armenia, voters reacted with quiet despair at the re-election of their president amid reports of ballot-stuffing. If Ukraine follows these precedents, hopes for change there, and in other parts of the former Soviet Union, may be dashed.

Siberian Light asks Why is Russia afraid of democracy? In his answer he acknowledges:

Russia has plenty of legitimate interests in Ukraine. It has a massive naval base in the Crimea, there is a large ethnic Russian population, and a big chunk of Russia’s oil and gas exports go through Ukraine.

Time and again Russia meddles in the affairs of its neighbours. It almost never supports democratic opposition groups, preferring to prop-up regimes, good or bad (mostly bad). It seems pretty clear that Russia has made the decision that its interests are best served by opposing the spread of democracy through the Former Soviet Union.

And of course this rarely causes even a ripple of protest in the West.

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Some Backgrounders on Ukraine

Ukraine-based Le Sabot Post-Moderne explains how the system works there:

You have to understand the situation in Ukraine. The country is run by a series of oligarchic clans that actually found their beginnings in the Soviet Union, and then grew fabulously rich during the early days of “privatization”.

Compare the situation to Russia, where an authoritarian Putin faced off against corrupt oligarchs. In Ukraine, authoritarianism and oligarchy are fused. Yanukovych isn’t just another unscrupulous candidate, he’s the main man of Akhmetov — the duke of Donetsk and the richest man in Ukraine. The current president, Kuchma, is the head of a different clan, Dnepropetrovsk. The presidential administrator is Medvedchuk, who happens to run the Kiev-based Medvedchuk-Surkis clan. He also owns the two biggest Ukrainian TV stations, which is awfully convenient.

While there is jockeying for control among these clans, the overall effect is for them to sustain one another in power. They all depend on the same system for survival, and actively collaborate to keep it in place.

A good example of the clan system in action was the recent privatization of the Kryvorizhstal factory. Western firms offered 2.1 billion dollars. It was sold to the presidents son-in-law for 800 million. His son-in-law is Pinchuk, the head of the Pinchuk-Derkach clan.

Do you start to see how life works here? This isn’t about a few stolen votes. It’s about an entire system of fine control over the political, social and economic life of the people. Economics and politics are incestuously fused here in a way that is difficult to imagine for those in the West.

Ukraine-based TulipGirl quotes an essay by Ukrainian novelist Oksana Zabuzhko in Monday’s print edition of the Wall Street Journal.

Never before — even 13 years ago, on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union — has Ukraine witnessed such a massive upsurge of national solidarity. People who’ve always remained politically indifferent and had missed voting in all previous elections, were disseminating self-printed leaflets from the Internet (samizdat is back — any piece of information was voraciously devoured on the spot!) in public places, and volunteering to monitor the elections on behalf of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. At a peasant food market a merchant first asked who you’re voting for — the right answer (with which you could count on a generous discount) was “Yushchenko,” while incumbent Prime Minister’s Viktor Yanukovych’s supporters were more than likely simply refused service. In the playgrounds children were playing a game called “Yushchenko beats Yanukovych.” To quote my seven-year-old neighbor, “in our class Irka alone stands for Yanukovych, and no one wants to play with her.” The slogan chanted by protesting students at demonstrations reads in English as “We’re together! We’re many! We won’t fall!” And just how may of “us” there are, one can easily see in the streets. These days Kiev, as well as other major Ukrainian cities, is defiantly demonstrating its political sympathies by wearing orange, the campaign color of opposition candidate Yushchenko.

A special term has come into use — “The Orange Revolution.” It looks like people have dragged all shades of orange, from yellow to vermilion, out of their wardrobes and adorned themselves with them simultaneously — vests and sweaters, scarves and purses, coats and umbrellas. Orange ribbons flutter everywhere — on trees, fences, lanterns, and cabs. Drivers joyfully beep to each other, and pedestrians (traffic police included!) salute them with smiles and raised fists. It feels like the capital of three million has been transformed into a sea of brotherly love! The windows of shops are lavishly decorated with things orange. Among my favorites is the stunt of my neighborhood coffee shop — its windows glow with pyramids of oranges! …

Here I have to clarify one important point. A widespread cliche used by many Western journalists to describe the major collision of our dramatic elections is that the establishment candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, is “pro-Russian,” and that opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, is “pro-Western.” This version has as little to do with the feelings of an average Ukrainian voter as with those of the belligerents of the Trojan war. Mr. Yanukovych is perceived not so much as being “pro-Russian,” but as, first and foremost, being “pro-criminal” — a Ukrainian Al Capone, who has under his belt two prison sentences for robbery and assault, and publicly uses criminal argot compared to which even the boorish tongue of retiring President Leonid Kuchma sounds as innocuous as a school textbook. A former governor of Donetsk, Mr. Yanukovych in power represents the so-called “Donetsk fellas” — a business clan with a notorious criminal background. That the latter have close ties with similar mafia clans in Russia seems to be the most immediate explanation for the pre-election outburst of a passionate love between Russian and Ukrainian leaders, an affair of which Yanukovych-as-president had been designed as a mutually satisfying offspring.

Chicago-based international relations professor Dan Drezner is more pessimistic:

A few years ago there were sizeable protests in Kiev because of “Kuchmagate,” in which tapes came to light suggesting that President Leonid Kuchma played a role in the disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze in September 2000. There was tangible evidence that Kuchma personally ordered Gongadze — who was investigating corruption in Kuchma’s administration — to disappear. Despite months of protests, however, Kuchma stayed in office (click here for an exhaustive World Bank study [PDF] on this case).

Not to put a damper on what’s going on right now in Ukraine, but that example should be kept in mind when speculating whether the protests at the rigged election results in Ukraine will actually cause a change in government a la the Rose Revolution in Georgia [Quickly: opposition leader/reformer/nationalist Viktor Yushchenko led by double digits in Western-run exit polls over Kuchma stalwart/Russophile Viktor Yanukovich. However, the preliminary election results had Yanukovich winning by three percentage points. Outside observers are pretty much unanimous in their belief that there was massive vote fraud].

The two most salient facts in assessing what will happen are that:

a) Leonid Kuchma wants Yanukovich to win;

b) Vladimir Putin really wants Yanukovich to win.

I would love to be wrong about this, but it doesn’t look good for Yushchenko.

Canada-based Randy McDonald weighs in on Ukraine’s Underestimated Strength.

I’m skeptical, in short, that Ukraine is at real risk of splitting apart along ethnolinguistic-cum-political lines. And yet, I can’t help but remember Andrew Wilson’s The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation, which suggested that the most likely and the most stable course for Ukraine would be a broadly centrist position, relying on slow Ukrainianization and a Ukrainian balancing act between the European Union and Russia. Going to one extreme (a strongly Ukrainianizing regime intent on immediate European integration) or another (a strongly Russophile regime intent on Eurasian integration) could, Wilson suggested, disturb the equilibrium. Mass secessions wouldn’t be the result so much as growing alienation, the formation of more coherent ethnic groups with stricter frontiers. This would be a problem for Ukraine, needless to say.

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