Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Different Look at the Ukrainian Crisis

I have often looked to University of Michigan Middle-Eastern history professor Juan Cole -- and his blog, Informed Comment -- to shed light on conflagrations that have been ignited across the Arab and Persian world, from Tunisia to Iran. He often has a take quite different from mainstream media.

And so it is with the events still unfolding in Ukraine. Read this eye-opening post on how we may not be viewing or correctly identifying what's really taking place. Here's a taste:
The troubles that Ukraine is having (and that Russia and the former Yugoslavia also had) in its post-Soviet politics, with a struggle between authoritarianism and democracy and between a Moscow orientation versus a Brussels one, are very similar to the difficulties that have beset many countries of the Arab world in the past few years.
It is striking to me that we typically don’t speak of these difficulties as those of “Slavs” or of the “Slavic world.” In English we now tend to speak of eastern Europe, using a geographical term. Russians, Ukrainians and Serbs, Bosnians and Croats, all speak “Slavic” languages and in past decades it was in fact not uncommon to speak of them as Slavs. (This is still done in the Russian press to some extent). Robert Vitalis at the University of Pennsylvania argues that racial categories were key, not incidental, to most political science analysis in the US in the first half of the twentieth century.
Many of us lump Iran with the Arab world, for example, when the Iranians aren't Arabs and don't speak Arabic. It's good to have a professor around who knows stuff this. Thanks, Dr. Cole.

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