Month: December 2007

Cats

You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me
And other people whom we find
Possessed of various types of mind.
For some are sane and some are mad
And some are good and some are bad
And some are better, some are worse –
But all may be described in verse.

T.S. Eliot

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A Christmas Poem

THE OXEN

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen.
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few believe
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder comb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Thomas Hardy (1915)

The Future of Ingushetia – Video Available

The Jamestown Foundation has made available a 2-part video recording of the “Future of Ingushetia” conference it held late last month. Participants who can be watched and listened to as they deliver their papers and analyses include human rights worker Fatima Tlisova, Dr. Mairbek Vatchagaev, journalist Valery Dzutsev and Dr. Paul Goble. There are also screenings of documentary film footage, including the very moving Memorial/Witness co-production on disappearances in the North Caucasus, “Missing Lives”.

The streaming videos of the conference proceedings and accompanying film material can be watched here and here.

Escape from Russia

The BBC writes about the case of Andrei Sidelnikov, a Russian dissident and opposition activist who recently managed to escape from Russia, and has applied for political asylum in Britain:

Andrei Sidelnikov is the leader of “Pora”, an opposition youth movement which advocates an Orange-style revolution to overthrow the government of Vladimir Putin. He said he feared for his life if he remained in Moscow.

“I am very afraid about my life in Russia. When I saw the letter from the FSB, I thought that it was the end of my story in Russia.”

The Russian embassy in London told the BBC they were aware of Mr Sidelnikov’s arrival in the UK, but had no specific information about his case.

A spokesman said his decision to apply for political asylum was a matter for the British authorities. The Home Office said they do not discuss the details of individual applications.

Behind the Scenes

The BBC, in a slightly disingenuous report on the latest deterioration in Russo-British relations:

The exhibition [now under threat from the Russian government], which includes works from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and Moscow’s Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, is currently in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Some of the art was taken from private collections after the 1917 revolution, leading to fears of seizure.

Gordon Brown and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to attend the show’s opening.

‘Academy nervous’

Former shadow arts minister Hugo Swire, who used to work for the National Gallery, told the BBC it was difficult to see what was behind the situation.

The Conservative MP, who organised an exhibition of Russian art in London during the Gorbachev era, said issues such as the Litvinenko row or the closure of British Council offices in Russia could be to blame.

“I think this is a situation that certainly the Royal Academy were nervous might happen,” he said.

“I had a discussion with the then director about this very situation, and the government I don’t think have been very quick to come forward to address the potential of something like this happening.”

Kosovo Dreams

George Friedman takes a look at the issue of Russia and Kosovo’s independence, and suggests a few – mostly scary – scenarios, such as a “light military” option:

…Putin would send a battalion or two of troops by air to Belgrade, load them onto trucks and send them toward Pristina, claiming this as Russia’s right under agreements made in 1999. Assume a squadron of Russian aircraft would be sent to Belgrade as well. A Russian naval squadron, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, already is headed to the Mediterranean. Obviously, this is not a force that could impose anything on NATO. But would the Germans, for example, be prepared to open fire on these troops?

However, as Valery Dzutsev points out in the comments, for several well-founded reasons these projected scenarios are the least likely ones to arise, and Friedman ignores a much more possible outcome, though even it can’t yet really be tagged as “probable”.

European Cultural Institutes Support Britain Against Moscow

Reuters notes that

European cultural institutes have sent a letter to the Russian government expressing deep concern over moves against the British government’s cultural arm, which is caught up in a diplomatic row between London and Moscow.

Signed by bodies such as the Goethe and Cervantes institutes, the letter said an order to the British Council to halt operations in two cities outside Moscow from January 1 amounted to “discriminatory action”.