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Articles in Russia, Ukraine, and Caucasus

Explaining the Rapid Rise of the Xenophobic Right in Contemporary Europe

By James Mayfield | July 22, 2013 | 258 Comments
Copyright James Mayfield

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.

Debt Issues and Russian Investments in Guyana

By Martin W. Lewis | June 5, 2012 | 4 Comments

Stabroek News recently reported that Russia would write-off $50 million in debt to the government of Guyana. Debt write-offs for the impoverished South American country are nothing new. In 1999 alone, Guyana successfully negotiated $256 million in debt forgiveness.

Siberian Genetics, Native Americans, and the Altai Connection

By Martin W. Lewis | May 26, 2012 | 13 Comments

The GeoCurrents series on Siberia concludes by looking first to the future and then into the distant past: the preceding post examined the possible consequences of global warming on the region, while the present one turns to much earlier times, exploring the position of Siberia in human prehistory and especially its crucial role in the peopling of the Americas.
Mainstream anthropological …

Global Warming and Siberia: Blessing or Curse?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 22, 2012 | 15 Comments

GeoCurrents has recently emphasized the forbidding cold of the Siberian winter, stressing the obstacles that such a climate presents for the development of the region. Unmentioned in these posts is the possibility that Siberia’s climate will significantly change over the coming decades due to global warming. If the predicted warming occurs, could the change prove beneficial for Siberia, and Russia …

Sakha (Yakutia) Since the Fall of the Soviet Union

By Martin W. Lewis | May 15, 2012 | 7 Comments

The past several GeoCurrents posts have examined the history of the Russian Republic of Sakha, formerly and informally referred to as Yakutia. We have focused on Sakha due both to the region’s intrinsic interest and to the fact that it is one of the most widely ignored sections of the Earth’s surface. Today’s post concludes this series within a series …

The Yakut Under Soviet Rule

By Martin W. Lewis | May 14, 2012 |

At the time of the Russia Revolution in 1917, the Yakuts (Sakha) were organizing on a national basis and pushing for autonomy and even sovereignty. Yakutia at the time was dominated by the Sakha, with Russians comprising only about ten percent of the population; even Yakutsk was a mainly Yakut town. The Sakha elite were relatively well educated and politically …

The Yakut (Sakha) Under Tsarist Rule: Subordinate Partners in Empire?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 10, 2012 | 9 Comments

As we have seen, the Sakha people—called Yakuts by outsiders—dominated the crucial country of the middle Lena Valley, dotted with islands of fertile grassland, until the 1630s. Russian empire builders, spearheaded by Cossack bands, then pushed down the Lena and built three forts in the Yakut heartland, one of which would become the city of Yakutsk. As was true in …

The Yakut (Sakha) Migration to Central Siberia

By Martin W. Lewis | May 8, 2012 | 7 Comments

As explained in the previous post, the Yakut (Sakha) people have adapted more easily to the demands of the Russian state, and of modernity more generally, than most other indigenous peoples on Siberia. The relative success of the Yakut is best understood historically. Relative newcomers from the south, the Yakut moved into central Siberia with a more advanced technology and …

Yakutia’s Mir Mine: The World’s Largest Hole?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 5, 2012 |

A number of websites provide lists of the “world’s largest holes,” most of which are gargantuan open-pit mines (given the realities of the internet, several of these sites are quasi-pornographic). Although the actual lists differ, several put Russia’s Mir diamond mine, located in Yakutia (Sakha Republic) in the first position. The Wikipedia article on the mine claims that it is …

Recent Initiatives in Russia’s Booming Diamond Business

By Martin W. Lewis | May 4, 2012 |

Rio Tinto, the British-Australian mining giant, recently announced that it would begin investing in Russian diamond extraction, forming a partnership with the Russian firm Alrosa. Alrosa, 90 percent of which is owned by the Russian government, is now the world’s largest diamond miner, having surpassed De Beers in 2011.

Introduction to Yakutia (Sakha)—and Russia’s Grandiose Plans for the Region

By Martin W. Lewis | May 3, 2012 | 25 Comments

Yakutia, officially the Sakha Republic of the Russian Federation, is a land of extremes. To begin with, it is by far the world’s largest “stateoid,” or political unit below the level of the sovereign state, covering 3,103,200 square kilometers (1,198,000 square miles), as opposed to second-place Western Australia’s 2,527,621 square kilometers (975,919 square miles). More than twice the size of …

Sebouh Aslanian’s Remarkable Reconstruction of an Early Modern Trade Network

By Martin W. Lewis | May 2, 2012 | One Comment

In the field of world history, the idea of the “trade diaspora” looms large. Before the development of modern transportation, communication, and finance, long-distance merchants not only had to develop skills in cross-cultural negotiation, but also had to establish the trust with one another that would allow them to move goods and money over vast distances. In the mercantile diaspora …

Pleistocene Re-Wilding: Environmental Restoration or Ecological Heresy?

By Martin W. Lewis | April 14, 2012 | 8 Comments

The Pleistocene Park project envisaged by Sergei Zimov and his colleagues calls for an extraordinary transformation of the tundra and tundra-forest transition zones of Siberia. By restocking the region with large herbivores, an ecosystemic shift would theoretically occur, breaking down the current pattern of vegetation and establishing a new equilibrium. The basic idea is to transform waterlogged landscapes, currently dominated …

Pleistocene Park: The Regeneration of the Mammoth Steppe?

By Martin W. Lewis | April 12, 2012 | 5 Comments

I must admit to having difficulty comprehending winter conditions in central and northern Siberia. From the U.S. perspective, Fairbanks, Alaska seems the epitome of cold, with an average January low temperature of -19 F (-28 C), but Fairbanks is positively balmy compared to Verkhoyansk, Siberia, where the average January high temperature is -44.9 F (-42.7 C). But what really staggers …

Introduction to Siberia

By Martin W. Lewis | March 21, 2012 | 21 Comments

For the next month or so, GeoCurrents will examine Siberia. Siberia is an important yet often overlooked region, and hence merits extended consideration. Few parts of the world are so consistently ignored, at least in the English-language media, which  almost always focuses on the western, or European, parts of Russia, particularly Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the troubled North Caucasus. Thus, …

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