Articles in Historical Geography
As mentioned in an earlier post, I am now devoting most of my attention to the book on Indo-European origins that Asya Pereltsvaig and I are writing. I am currently working on a chapter that recounts the intellectual history of the Indo-European concept, which is a fascinating and complex topic. Right now, I am perplexed in regard to an issue …
The special role of Moscow and Saint Petersburg is highlighted by a consideration of the space between them. A recent photo diary in The New York Times documented a trip taken by Ellen Barry and Dmitry Kostyukov between the two principal Russian cities. This trip was inspired by an imaginary journey described by liberal-minded bureaucrat Alexander Radishchev in his book A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, written in 1790. In this post we revisit the cities and towns visited by Radishchev.
Archaeology magazine recently published an article entitled “Telling Tales in Proto-Indo-European”, which included a recording of a short text in Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the ancestor of modern languages in Europe and parts of Asia. This recording, made by Dr. Andrew Byrd of the University of Kentucky, a student of UCLA’s Indo-European expert H. Craig Melchert, drew considerable attention in the media. But how can we reconstruct historical pronunciation?
With the growing enmity between Israel and Iran and the Israeli concerns about Iran potentially acquiring a nuclear bomb, it seems unimaginable that just a few decades ago thousands of Israelis lived the dolce vita in Tehran, forging economic and military ties with the Shah’s regime and perhaps even contributing to Iran’s nuclear program.
The Wikipedia map on the left shows the traffic directions used by all countries and the changes that have occurred from 1858 onwards. Red represents countries in which people have always driven on the right (at least as far as formal laws are concerned, as we shall see below), and dark blue indicates those where they have always driven on the left. Orange represents countries that switched from left and right, and purple indicates the reverse. As you can easily notice, there are many more “orange” countries than “purple” ones. Green depicts states that formerly had non-uniform driving orientation rules but now drive on the right.
The last three decades have witnessed a remarkable rise in xenophobic, deeply conservative, and even extreme right-wing parties across much of Europe. Whereas thirty years ago most xenophobic parties failed to even pass the 5% minimum voter threshold that is typically required to enter government, they now constitute as much as ~28% of the parliament in countries like Austria, and arguably have reached the ~70% level in Hungary. Hoping to understand these surprising changes in the European political climate, this post will briefly analyze the characteristics of the xenophobic right as of 2013, underscore the diversity of xenophobic parties, and try to explain some of the patterns encountered when the far-right takes hold, as well as their exceptions.
When I was a college student in Russia, one of my classmates was a Volga German from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. At the time, her identity made no sense to me as Germany, the Volga River, and Uzbekistan are thousands of miles apart. Who are the Volga Germans? How did they come to live in Central Russia, and later in Central Asia? This post examines the twisted history of yet another group victimized by Stalin’s deportations.
An earlier GeoCurrents post mentioned Finns among the nationalities deported by the Soviets before and during World War II. As it turns out, the situation in the Finnish borderlands is rather more complicated than that. The territory between St. Petersburg and Helsinki is home to a number of ethnic groups whose histories range from cultural and linguistic assimilation to population transfer to outright ethnic cleansing.
When it comes to people who speak French at home, California has only the third largest population of all U.S. states. California’s francophone population shrank by about 4% between 2000 and 2005. But historically, the situation was quite different, as French used to be an important and widely spoken tongue in the state.
The Khazarian hypothesis, namely that Ashkenazi Jewry derives from the Khazars, has recently been revived by Eran Elhaik, a geneticist at John Hopkins University. According to the abstract of his recently published article, Elhaik “applied a wide range of population genetic analyses” and found evidence to support the Khazarian hypothesis. But in addition to numerous errors in historical geography, Elhaik also relies on bad linguistics to support his claims.
South Korea is usually considered to be one of the world’s most homogenous countries. Regional differences in dialect are relatively minor, with only that of Jeju island being distinctive enough to merit designation as a separate language by linguistic splitters. A pronounced sense of Korean nationalism, moreover, is found across the country. But despite these commonalities, South Korea is still …
According to a short article by Sindya N. Bhanoo in the New York Times, titled “Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India”, a research article recently published in Current Biology “appears to confirm that the Roma came from a single group that left northwestern India about 1,500 years ago”. In actuality, the article in Current Biology makes no such claims.
In the previous post, we concluded that preposition stranding (that is putting a preposition at the end of the sentence, as in Who did you talk to?) is not a Scandinavian contribution to English, but a natural development of a structure that was already present in Old English. Let’s now consider the more fundamental change from the Object-Verb (OV) to the Verb-Object (VO) pattern that characterized the transition from Old English to Middle English. It too cannot be attributed wholly to the Vikings for several reasons.
Australia is well known for its low population density. With roughly 23 million people living in 2.9 million sq mi (7.7 million sq km) of land, it ranks sixth from bottom in this regard, following Mongolia, Namibia, Iceland, Suriname, and Mauritania. Australia is also known for its high degree of urbanization, although its 89.2 percent official urbanization figure places only …
Maps are ideally supposed to be objective depictions of reality, but they can also be used as an instrument of propaganda, portraying the world not as it is but as it is imagined by the cartographer. A recent post on the Russian historical website Diletant.ru includes a collection of such maps (posted also on the Propaganda History website), referred to as “symbolic maps”.