It has been awhile since the Caucasus region has made major headlines. But now, with Chechnya and Dagestan being regions where the Boston Bomber suspects are being associated with, the region is back in the news. But it isn't the first time. Russia fought two fairly tough wars in the region awhile back, and a number of my Russian colleagues spent their military service there. Also, there was the war between Georgia and Russia in South Ossetia back in 2008 (a major effort on Russia's part to re-exert its somewhat faded superpower status).
Few Americans realize the history of this area as a major crossroads of history, ancient, medieval and modern.
Interestingly, Chechens are distancing themselves from the Boston Bombers, saying they are from Kyrgyzstan. However, their uncle does say that the family are ethnic Chechens. And it should be noted that from Stalin on there have been policies of majorly relocating ethnic minorities (particularly Chechens) around the Soviet Union then Russia and replacing them with ethnic Russians. So it is quite likely that they are ethnic Chechens from Kyrgyzstan.
But why is this area such a flash point? Some background below... read more »
A recent presentation by someone I respect a great deal discussing community issues: (whole video is 1 hour but very much worth it!)
Awhile back I encountered at a local NYC blog a form of Holocaust Denial that was new to me: the claim that yeah the Holocaust happened and Jews were killed (among other targeted groups, I would add) but there were no gas chambers.
Now you'd expect the Nazi perpetrators to kind of fit in with this denial, but the truth is they don't. In fact they remember family photographs that document the proximity of the gas chambers and they are remembered by their descendants.
Now there are many sources of evidence for the gas chambers. And I have discussed them before.
There are two main sources of evidence in any crime scene, and the gas chambers were, quite simply, massive crime scenes. Those types of evidence are eyewitness testimony and forensics. Good criminal cases are built up using both.
Eyewitness testimony is in itself almost overwhelming. Eyewitness testimony doesn't just come from the perpetrators or inmates so much as liberators who may have misinterpreted what was a crime scene where the perpetrators tried hard to cover their tracks. But there are camps like Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka where the evidence is very strong, where both the number and consistency of eyewitness testimony is overwhelming. You can find eyewitness testimony here in some detail.
Further testimony can be found here:
More confessions by perpetrators can be found here:
And of course an excellent eyewitness testimony by an inmate can be found in Elie Wiesel's Night, where he describes the journey he and his family through the concentration camps.
As the allies closed in on Germany in 1945, there was a concerted effort to destroy evidence. Even before that, in cases where things went wrong the Germans systematically destroyed evidence of their crimes. The prime example of this is the extermination camp at Sobibor which was the scene of one of the very few successful prisoner revolts which led to a mass breakout. To cover up, the Germans dismantled the camp with the stated intent of hiding what had gone on there. This makes it harder to prove by forensics what happened. Archaeological analysis can identify areas that look like they were gas chambers and crematoria and basically give evidence completely consistent with the eyewitness testimony. That alone helps, given the overwhelming and consistent eyewitness testimony from inmates, perpetrators and liberators.
Some of the forensic evidence (documents, film footage, etc) supporting the eyewitness testimony can be found in this article on forensic science used in Holocaust investigation..
Forensics also shows traces of cyanide gas in the very remains that eyewitnesses claim were gas chambers and that archaeology suggests were gas chambers. These chemical data basically prove they were gas chambers. The key study was done by Polish scientists at the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow. The authors are chemists. The first author became Director of the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow.
But there is another bit of evidence that I didn't take into account the last time I wrote about this. The evidence that may not be direct eyewitness testimony but is direct testimony of those who lived in the shadow of and prospered from the extermination camps. BBC News has an article on descendants of Nazi war criminals that directly addresses this issue. From BBC News:
When he was a child Rainer Hoess was shown a family heirloom.
He remembers his mother lifting the heavy lid of the fireproof chest with a large swastika on the lid, revealing bundles of family photos.
They featured his father as a young child playing with his brothers and sisters, in the garden of their grand family home.
The photos show a pool with a slide and a sand pit - an idyllic family setting - but one that was separated from the gas chambers of Auschwitz by just a few yards....
His grandfather Rudolf Hoess (not to be confused with Nazi deputy leader Rudolf Hess), was the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. His father grew up in a villa adjoining the camp, where he and his siblings played with toys built by prisoners.
It was where his grandmother told the children to wash the strawberries they picked because they smelled of ash from the concentration camp ovens.
So family members not only admit to the existence of the gas chambers, but washed their produce because of the ashes that came from the crematoria,,,I mean how much more evidence does anyone need??? Eyewitness testimony from BOTH sides, forensic evidence, AND documentary evidence running through the families descended from the war criminals.
It is rare that you get such clear evidence of a crime!
This is belated...Feb. 12 was my birthday...AND it was Lincoln's Birthday...AND it was Darwin's birthday. Usually I have diaries covering Lincoln and Darwin on that day. I missed it this year. Between submitting a scientific paper around the same time and celebrating my step-daughter's birthday (one day later!) and Valentine's day, my usual diaries for Lincoln and Darwin lapsed.
Bottom line is Lincoln and Darwin (born on the very same day) were the most kick ass and influential folks of the 19th Century.
Right Wingers try to denigrate the both of them but they remain two of the most important people in history and for good reason.
Here I discuss Lincoln and the Civil War. I was born in Arkansas (borderline South) and raised in Southern California (siding with the Confederacy against the North, supported by Northern California). But I cannot understand ANY sympathy ANYONE could have for the slave holding Confederacy right now in the 21st century. The Confederacy was awful, even if the motivation of many of its combatants was noble. Here I present my view on the Civil War and on Lincoln in a historical context. read more »
Margaret was a Culture Kitchen blogger for awhile and, while there, was one of our best bloggers. She moved on long ago, and I always missed her presence at CK. But she went on to what she considered bigger and better things. In her 80's she discovered her public voice and I am proud I was one of the people who encouraged and helped her find that voice.
This comes late because I mainly interacted with Margaret Bassett by email. So if I didn't hear from her, I didn't think much about it. But I knew she was over 80. She was a subscriber to my Progressive Democrat Newsletter from the beginning soon after the 2004 election. She had seen me as something of a hope for the future in messaging, something I think she overrated me on, but I was flattered and tried to live up to.
Today I sent out a message to my subscribers that my writing of the Progressive Democrat Newsletter had clearly been on hold for over a month and I wasn't sure if/when it would come back.
One email bounced. It was the first time Margaret's email bounced in all the time she read my stuff. So it caught my attention immediately. It sent a shiver down my spine. So I did a quick google search and discovered what I feared...Margaret had died, back in August, at the age of 89. I cried. read more »