Sorry – I haven’t yet mentioned that some posts may be all or partly in Russian, but I’ll ensure there is always an English translation. In addition, as the blog develops I’m hoping to get a range of colleagues contributing and it may be that some people feel more comfortable writing in Russian.
But the quote in today’s title couldn’t really be in anything other than Russian. If you’re not from the former Soviet Union – or, like me, an avid watcher of all things (post-)Soviet – the title is the first line of the 1977 version of the Soviet national anthem.
It translates as ‘An unbreakable union of free republics’ and is a reflection of the force and imposed alliance that emanated from the Russian capital of the Soviet Union. (Just talk to anyone in Tajikistan who knows someone working as a migrant labourer in Russia and they will be quick to tell you that the ‘friendship of the people’ is long gone, if indeed it ever existed as more than a construct. But perhaps more on that another time).
The reason for the eyebrows-raised use of the anthem is in response to a story in today’s Moscow Times about everyone’s favourite quasi-President, Vladimir Putin. ‘Putin Calls for New “Euroasian Union” of Former Soviet Countries’ describes a Russian vision for a new (but most definitely not Soviet, we are assured) union involving Russia’s friends Belarus and Kazakhstan but also some of the Central Asian countries.
It’s certainly an interesting idea, but the article doesn’t talk about how the union would interact with pre-existing unions and networks, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (which also involves China) or the customs union between the aforementioned triangle of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Likewise, no opinion on the union from the proposed member countries is given. That said, I’d hazard a guess that Tajik President Emomali Rahmon would say yes (if they bothered to ask him) – the country is falling over itself to accept financial assistance from Russia, although it’s carefully packaged as strategic cooperation.
So what’s the aim of the union and why now? The offical line is that the union would be a ‘bridge’ between countries in Europe and Asia-Pacific, with a focus on Commonwealth of Independent States. That sounds like a way of Russia focussing on countries that it has former connections with where it might not be too hard to impose influence again.
Why now? Well, the Moscow Times points out that there’s a presidential election next year, so Putin may have one eye on some easy wins in his likely presidential campaign. But to be honest, Putin is as Putin does, so this may have come up simply because he felt like it. Just wait for the accompanying photoshoot…
By the way, the full glorious words to the Soviet national anthem are here – a wonderful journey into possibility and propaganda.
An interesting story from the Washington Post, reprinted here in the Seattle Times, focussing on the lifestyle of Tajik and Uzbek migrants working in Moscow.
Hello, and welcome to my blog!
All the advice I’ve read about starting a blog says you should focus on one area you’re particularly interested in. Well, I’ve got a lot of quite different interests so I’ve chosen to focus on two areas, which do sometimes overlap:
1. Central Asia and the post-Soviet world
One of the categories I’ve created for this blog is ‘bureaucratic madness’, which should give you a flavour of the way I see a lot of the post-Soviet world. Having personally experienced plenty of volokita (Russian for ‘red tape’) over the years, I now enjoy admiring the craziness from the comparatively genteel bureaucracy of the UK, where I currently live.
As well as observing inane laws and practices, I have a more serious interest in the development of the post-Soviet space, particularly in Central Asia, so I’ll plan to report on more sobering news and stories too.
2. Higher education
I’ve worked in this field for over a decade and completed an MBA in Higher Education Management in 2011, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that I take a keen interest in policy and developments in higher education.
I plan to post stories and comments on the things that get me most excited/worked up. I expect that this will be mainly UK-based but I also follow international systems, particularly in developing countries.
My main geographic focus internationally is, yes, you guessed it, Central Asian higher education. There is almost nothing written about this field so one of my aims in life (with my academic hat on) is to research this area and get more people around the world thinking about it.
I’ve already got a few stories to post about, so I’ll end the intro post here and move on. Enjoy the blog and do please let me know if you have suggestions or ideas for future posts or themes.