Monthly Archives: May 2018

History’s Sinkhole

This sinkhole has swallowed its own history. All we know is that the drilling rig and equipment used by Soviet engineers collapsed as this giant sinkhole emerged in around 1971 or perhaps even as early as the 1950s. It is also unclear whether the engineers set the natural gas crater on fire intentionally, hoping that would exhaust all the natural gas in a few weeks, or that the fire started mysteriously in later years. In any case, this crater has been on fire for almost half of a century. Nicknamed the Door to Hell, the burning crater in Darvaza, Turkmenistan actually looks extraterrestrial at night. Depending on the season, hundreds of birds may sing and dance around the crater before dawn, waiting for their turn to “dive.” These little “angels of history” will not be able to redeem the irreversible destruction that we have inflicted on the planet, but it is surely a heavenly scene in an otherwise hellish landscape.

 

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Postsocialism without Shores

The May 9 Victory Day parades in the former Soviet republics are strong reminders that many aspects of WWII have been overlooked in Western historiography. In Kazakhstan alone, for example, nearly 2 millions of Kazakhs participated in the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, defending Moscow and resisting Nazi Germany and its allies. And over 600,000 Kazakhs lost their lives in the process. Yet, those spontaneously organized parades taking place along with the official ones across Kazakhstan seem to point to an even more complex phenomena that demands some attention. Started only a few years ago, this growing popular movement is not so much about anti-fascism or just commemorating the loss. Rather, there is a strong sense of nostalgia that seems to respond to the unease caused by neoliberalism, globalization, corruption, and the failure of democracy. Among other things, these powerful scenes of people holding photos of their ancestors who died in the war seem to reveal a desire for some stable historical references at a moment of profound anxiety and uncertainty. Therefore, in some basic ways at least, isn’t this emerging phenomena not connected to the rise of similar discontents in many liberal democracies today? It remains to be seen how this politics of unease will unfold in the coming years.

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