Sunday, 30 May 2010

String Quartet No.2 (On Kabardinian Themes), by Sergei Prokofiev

Sergey Prokofiev String Quartet no 2 from Musica Viva Online Video Talks.

String Quartet No. 2 in F Major Op. 92 (On Kabardinian Themes) (1942)

Chamber music played a relatively small role in Prokofiev’s musical output. His fame rests on his orchestral music - the symphonies, concerti, ballets, film scores and piano music. However, his few chamber music works, the two string quartets, the Overture on Hebrew Themes (performed by the Sierra Chamber Society in the 1988 season) and the two sonatas for violin and piano remain popular and are often performed.

The String Quartet No. 2 was composed in about five weeks in the autumn of 1942 in the little town of Nalchik, in the Kabardino-Balkaria Autonomous Republic, located in the foothills of the northern Caucasus mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas. During the summer of 1942, following the demise of the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin, as the German Army was overrunning Russia, the Soviet government evacuated a group of its then favored musicians, actors, artists and professors from Moscow to the safety of this little known region.

It was under these circumstances that Prokofiev came to know of the folk music of this area. His fascination with the music led him to write this Quartet, the aim of which was to achieve, "a combination of virtually untouched folk material and the most classical of classical forms, the string quartet."

Each of the three movements of the work contains actual folk songs and dances. Prokofiev took care not to prettify the music. He strove to keep the often harsh harmonies and "barbaric" rhythms of the originals, as had Stravinsky, Bartok and Skzymanowski in their use of folk materials of Russia, Hungary and Poland. In his faithfulness to his sources, Prokofiev came under adverse criticism from the official critics who also praised him for his use of folk music. Despite the carping of the critics, the work was an immediate success. The work was premiered by the reknowned Beethoven Quartet in Moscow on September 5, 1942 but the start of the performance had to be delayed due to a German air raid.

The first movement (Allegro sostenuto) is based on the dance, Udzh Starikov, heard at the beginning and on the song Sosruko, in which three players create an accordion-like accompaniment to the song, sung by the violin.

The second movement (Adagio) is based on a Kabardian love song, Synilyaklik Zhir, given to the cello to sing in a high voice. The middle section utilizes a folk dance, Islamei, which seeks to imitate the sound of the kemange (Shikhepishina), a variety of spike fiddle originating in Persia and in use in various forms throughout the Middle East. It is a long necked fiddle with typically 3 strings. It is held vertically, with the spike resting on the player’s knee and bowed. The movement ends with a brief return of the opening song.

The third movement (Allegro) is based on a mountain dance known as Getegezhev Ogurbi alternating with two lyrical themes and a reminiscence of the first movement.

A counterproductive approach to Abkhazia

Letters to the Editor

Washington Post, Sunday, May 30, 2010

Although one could raise many points of dispute with Kurt Volker's May 25 op-ed, "Avoiding an Olympic mess," on policy prescriptions toward the disputed territory of Abkhazia, I would like to focus on one. Mr. Volker recommended that the United States and European Union assume a position of diplomatic nonrecognition and economic isolation of Abkhazia.

This proposal suggests nothing more than a continuation of the same isolationist policies that have failed since 1994, during which time the United States and the international community have driven the people of Abkhazia into a position whereby the only support they are able to accept comes from Russia. Criminalizing business activity and investments in the region and revoking travel possibilities for those living in Abkhazia, as Mr. Volker proposed, would only further ensure that Abkhazia's future lies with its northern neighbor.

The best way to guarantee security in this region is to finally open the avenues for practical relationships to be built between Abkhazia, its neighbors, and the West.

Patrik Shirak, Washington

Friday, 28 May 2010

The Kremlin's Chechen Dragon, by Amy Knight

Chechen President Ramzan A. Kadyrov, with a portrait of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, February, 2009

The New York Review of Books

In the summer of 2004, two years and four months before she was gunned down in the entrance to her Moscow apartment, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya made a bold visit to Chechnya to interview 27-year-old Ramzan Kadyrov, who had recently become (with the Kremlin’s blessing) the republic’s de-facto leader. It proved to be a harrowing experience. When they met face to face, Kadyrov could not contain his rage at Politkovskaya for reporting on his brutal rise to power, even threatening to have her shot. Politkovskaya concluded later that “a little dragon has been raised by the Kremlin. Now they need to feed it. Otherwise it will spit fire.”

Politkovskaya was all too right. Since becoming president of Chechnya in 2007, Kadyrov has made the republic into his own fiefdom, which he rules by violence and terror. He has also, apparently, had his gunmen carry out a series of brazen killings of his perceived enemies in Moscow, Dubai, Istanbul and the North Caucasus.

Until recently, the Kremlin, which has provided military and economic support to Kadyrov’s regime, consistently brushed off the murder allegations against him. Since April, prosecutors in two separate cases—a murder in Vienna and a murder attempt in Moscow—have for the first time implicated Kadyrov directly. And in the weeks since those revelations, the Kremlin leadership appears to be showing misgivings about its unconditional support for Kadyrov. How these cases play out could have profound effects on the future of Moscow’s Chechen policy.

It has long been known that Moscow has allowed Kadyrov to run the Chechen Republic with ruthless force, facilitating his extensive cult of personality and funding his lavish lifestyle while ignoring the alarmingly frequent kidnappings, disappearances, and torture of those suspected of opposing his rule. But Kadyrov’s bloody vendettas have not been limited to rival Chechen clans. Indeed, it now appears that he has been going after anyone who draws attention to the shocking human rights abuses in Chechnya committed under his auspices—and that Politkovskaya herself may have been one of his first targets.

The list of likely victims is chilling: In January 2009, there was the Moscow shooting of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov (together with a journalist friend) who had pursued legal cases against Kadyrov. That same month Umar Israilov, a former member of Kadyrov’s security team who was granted asylum in Austria and subsequently made shocking allegations of human rights abuses against Kadyrov, was killed by Chechen gunmen in Vienna. And in July 2009 came the murder of Politkovskaya’s close colleague, Natalia Estemirova, who had been documenting the widespread abductions and extra-judicial executions by Kadyrov’s counter-insurgency forces for Novaya gazeta, Human Rights Watch, and Memorial. Estemirova was kidnapped by four men in broad daylight as she left her Grozny apartment. Hours later, her body, riddled with bullets, was found in a ditch in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia.

After the Politkovskaya killing, then-Russian President Vladimir Putin went out of his way to point out that the murder hurt Kadyrov “much more than any newspaper article [i.e. those written by Politkovskaya] could do.” Last summer, when Estemirova’s family, friends, and colleagues gathered in Grozny to mourn her on the 40th day of her death (a Russian orthodox tradition), Putin flew to the Chechen capitol to attend a state ceremony with Kadyrov by his side. Significantly, Kadyrov was allowed to take personal control of the investigation into Estemirova’s murder and there have been no arrests.

Moscow has also rejected demands by the Dubai government for the extradition of Kadyrov’s cousin Adam Delimkhanov, a member of the Russian parliament and Putin’s United Russia Party, who they accuse of having organized the March 2009 murder of yet another Kadyrov opponent, Sulim Yamadayev, who was a member of a rival Chechen clan. (On April 12, a Dubai court sentenced two men of Central Asian origin to life imprisonment for the killing.)

But how long can Moscow ignore the mounting evidence against its Chechen puppet? In April the counter-terrorism department of the Vienna police handed over a confidential 214-page report to Austrian prosecutors in which they named Kadyrov and his top aide, Shaa Turlayev, as the “principal offenders” in the January 2009 murder of Israilov, the former member of Kadyrov’s security guard. According to Israilov’s widow, Turlayev appeared in Vienna shortly before the murder and tried unsuccessfully to meet with her husband. In addition, the man charged with organizing the killing locally, a Chechen refugee who now calls himself Otto Kaltenbrunner, placed a call to Turlayev immediately after the murder. Moreover, a copy of Turlayev’s passport was found in the getaway car, along with an electronic airline ticket that he used to travel to Austria. As a representative of Human Rights Watch puts it: “the conclusions reached by the Austrian Prosecutor’s Office about Ramzan Kadyrov…should prompt the Russian government to finally take the necessary steps to restore the rule of law in Chechnya.”

Meanwhile, Kadyrov’s Kremlin backers have also been facing pressure from a Moscow investigation into an attempted murder in June 2009. The victim of the failed attempt was Isa Yamadayev, the brother of Salim Yamadayev, the murder victim in Dubai, and of Ruslan Yamadayev, a State Duma Deputy who was killed in Moscow in 2008. In April of this year the Moscow District Court began holding secret hearings about the case. Incredibly, a transcript and video of the interrogation of the accused would-be killer ended up in the hands of the intended victim, Yamadayev, who leaked it to a major Russian paper, Moskovskii Komsomolets. During his questioning, the accused, Khavash Yusupov, confessed to the crime and claimed that he was hired by none other than Shaa Turlayev. Yusupov said that Turlayev took him for a meeting with Kadyrov, who ordered the killing.

It remains to be seen whether Austria will indict Kadyrov when it issues formal charges in the Vienna murder in a few weeks, and what the Moscow Court will decide to do about Kadyrov. But the fact that, in the Moscow case, highly damaging testimony about the Chechen president and his top advisor was allowed to appear in the Russian media suggests that some members of the Kremlin elite may have decided that Kadyrov needs to be reined in. Could Russian President Dmitry Medvedev be among them? In contrast to Putin, Medvedev has expressed strong concerns about the unsolved murders and the problem of human rights abuses in the Caucasus. Responding to the Estemirova case last summer, Medvedev said it was “obvious” that she was killed because of her human rights work and expressed his personal condolences to her family and friends.

In January, Medvedev appointed a presidential envoy, Alexander Khloponin, to a newly formed North Caucasus Federal District, which some observers interpreted as an effort to exert Moscow’s control over the region, especially Chechnya. More recently, on May 19, Medvedev invited human rights activists to a two and a half –hour meeting in Moscow, in which Estemirova’s murder was discussed. It was not the first time the Kremlin has met with human rights advocates. But it was a departure for Medvedev because the meeting was devoted entirely to the situation in the troubled North Caucasus. With Khloponin at his side, Medvedev listened to grim details of the abuses attributed to Kadyrov’s counter-insurgency forces in Chechnya and to the concerns that surround unsolved murders like Estemirova’s.

“If you think I don’t know some of the facts,” Medvedev told the participants in the meeting, “well, that’s not the case. I know more than anyone else here because it is my job to know. Have no doubt. I know some very sad things.” In what seemed to be a reference to Kadyrov, who routinely ridicules the efforts of human rights workers, Medvedev also said that political leaders in the Caucasus who do not engage in a dialogue with non-governmental organizations in the region “must ultimately leave.”

However sincere Medvedev might be (and there are many skeptics), at the moment he is not in a position to topple Kadyrov without the concurrence of Putin and members of his powerful Federal Security Service, who installed Kadyrov as the leader of Chechnya. And it appears that the Putin has been unwilling to rein in Kadyrov in part because he fears that doing so would create even more instability in the North Caucasus region (and possibly more terrorist bombings in places like Moscow).

As Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, observed: “The impunity and omnipotence of Ramzan Kadyrov depends on the support of…Putin. As long as Putin supports him nobody will touch a hair on Kadyrov’s head, even if he kills us all.” Perhaps the recent revelations about Kadyrov will finally convince Putin and his colleagues that it is time for Kadyrov to go.

May 27, 2010 2:15 p.m.

Circassian Tribal Council rebuffs calls to boycott elections

AMMONNEWS - (Exclusive), May 27 -- The Circassian Tribal Council decided on Wednesday to form a committee to discuss the new electoral law and the calls of a group of Circassians to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections because the government did not allocate a Circassian parliamentary seat for the Third District in Amman.

During a meeting at the Circassian Association between the Circassian Tribal Council and a group of Circassians calling for boycotting the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Council listened to the opinions of those calling for a boycott and justifications for their demands. The Council decided to form the committee to discuss the issue and conduct the appropriate communications with government entities to look into government’s decision not to re-instate Circassian representation to the Third District.

The group calling for the boycott justified their demands noting the symbolic and historic Circassian presence in the area.

The Council decided to reconvene on Friday and hold a wider meeting with Circassian civil society organization to look into the appropriate steps in this regard.

Sources inside the Council doubted that the community would resort to boycotting the elections as a solution, noting that it would not allow any entity to take advantage of such circumstances to pass personal agendas and objectives that may cause divisions among the Circassian Jordanian community.

A member of the group calling for the boycott said that the matter "stops here," referring to the fact that the group laid the matter in the hands of the community elders, and noting that the message has been received by the community decision makers.

Participants in the meeting stressed the need to resort to democratic means and called for constructive dialogue to expose their voices and demands, stressing also on the need to maintain the “unique and respected image of the Circassian community in Jordan, well known for its commitment and loyalty to Jordan and the Hashemite leadership.”

The Circassian Tribal Council also met with a government official on Wednesday, a meeting that lasted well until mid night.

It is noted that a group of young Circassians had distributed a statement in the past several days calling for boycotting the upcoming parliamentary elections, in response to the government's lack of response to Circassian demands to re-instate Circassian parliamentary representation to the Third District in Amman.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Diasporas: A new sort of togetherness

Circassians in Turkey: lonely no longer

A new sort of togetherness

With new technology and new concerns, émigrés reinvent themselves

The Economist, May 20, 2010

AT A Hindu temple in Chicago, hundreds of people of Indian descent, professing many faiths, turned up from across Illinois and farther afield to hear a speaker from back home. But the meeting on May 15th was not the usual style of diaspora politics, in which a nation’s far-flung children are urged to cheer for the homeland.

The man they came to see was Jayaprakash Narayan, head of a movement called Lok Satta which opposes corruption and wants electoral reform. And the aim of his month-long American tour, which includes venues like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Google headquarters in California, is to get support from Indian-Americans for a drive to correct some of India’s failings. That sounds a lot better than passing round the hat for hardline Hindu nationalist causes, something else that occurs in the diaspora.

Bad, sleazy government, Mr Narayan says, is holding India back, crippling the country in its race with China. Having voted with their feet by leaving the country, he adds, Indians abroad should now help make their homeland worth staying in. Independent India’s early rulers had picked up statist ideas when studying in Britain; a new cohort of Indians, having thrived in economies like America’s, are nudging the country towards a freer market. This transmission of ideas, he notes, is easier in an electronic age.

All this is a long way from ethnic lobbying of the old school, in which people from country A are persuaded to use their votes to tilt their new homeland’s policies and make them less favourable to country (or regime) B, their ancient bugbear. Or else they are urged to fight old causes in an even more direct way—by sending money to extremist groups. In almost every democracy that has received migrants from troubled places, the influence (or at least, perceived influence) of groups committed to particular national causes has been a feature of political life, and of foreign-policy debates.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former American national security adviser, has controversially described the Cuban-Americans, the Armenian-Americans and the supporters of Israel as the three most effective groups in Washington, DC—while agreeing that the lobby of his native Poland “was at one time influential”. A landmark in the efforts of ethnic groups to affect American foreign policy was the arms embargo placed on Turkey in the 1970s, under the sway of Greek-Americans angry over the Turkish takeover of northern Cyprus.

Until recently at least, it seemed that the influence of ethnic constituencies was doomed to fade. For one thing, the communities on which they were based are blurring into wider societies. Gone are the days when Irish-Americans looked mainly to fellow Hibernians to socialise with; today’s Lebanese-Australian teenager is as likely to hang out with youngsters from Vietnam as with other Levantines. In America, meanwhile, support for Israel is no longer an especially Jewish cause; the largest body of pro-Israel hawks are evangelical Christians, while many Jews are critical of Israeli policies,

True, groups can hold together as long as there is one big woe to be redressed. For Armenians, the big cause is recognition that the mass killings of 1915 were genocide. Yet the power of a single issue cuts both ways: once the great cause is achieved (as with Baltic independence in 1991) or lost (as with Sri Lanka’s Tamils), the reason for hanging together can fade away.

Life in the old dog
Despite all this, the latest signs are that diasporas have life in them yet. As Mr Narayan shows, they are interacting with their homelands in more creative ways. The American Ireland Fund has raised over $250m, mainly from rich Irish-Americans, to promote charitable causes, and above all inter-community relations; a lot better than giving money for guns. A new breed of wealthy Greek-Americans is doing more interesting things than counting congressional votes: funding libraries, scholarships and university chairs in Hellenic studies in the United States, for example. And this week George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, met successful businessmen of Hellenic origin from five countries (such as Andrew Liveris, chief executive of America’s Dow Chemical company), in the hope that they could lend their struggling homeland some badly needed pizzazz.

But perhaps the main reason why diasporas are perking up is simply the new ease of communications. With the internet and social networks, people with a common origin or concern can stay in touch and pool their efforts—with a flexibility and spontaneity that would amaze old-time lobbyists, reliant on faxes, phones and foreign-ministry briefings.

Take a diaspora as obscure as the Indians are visible. The Circassians descend from a Caucasus nation obliterated by Russia’s tsar in the mid-19th century, losing around half its 2m population. Nine out of ten Circassians now live in diaspora: survivors fled to all corners of the Ottoman empire and beyond. Only 20 years ago, they were dwindling, with moribund diaspora bodies under Soviet tutelage. The internet is rekindling the cause. Facebook and Twitter link thousands of Circassians, helping them raise the national profile. Facebook groups and Twitter feeds enabled Circassians to co-ordinate the protests held on May 21st in Berlin, Istanbul, New York, The Hague and Washington, DC, to mark the 146th anniversary of what they term a genocide. They plan to make their feelings known at Sochi—the site of the killings—during the 2014 Olympics.

Politics is just one part of the diaspora’s e-revival. Reassembling fragmented cultures is another. Circassians can find their long-lost music and dance on YouTube. Information about history and culture that was once obscure or falsified is now a click away. Online Circassian dictionaries and language courses are emerging. Internet forums can facilitate the search for a spouse.

For some diasporas, any alternative to politics is welcome. In Ukraine the diaspora is the biggest donor for the Ukrainian Catholic University, the country’s main independent provider of higher learning. Rigorous education is less glamorous than getting Ukraine into NATO or keeping the Russian bear at bay. But the gains are palpable, in contrast to the chaos and corruption of Kiev politics which faze many émigrés.

Such stories mark a big turnaround for diasporas, which over the last century have often had to wage an uphill struggle against time and geography. “One by one, all remaining links to our old life are vanishing […] Our Baghdad, my Baghdad is gone for ever.” So concludes “Memories of Eden”, Violette Shamash’s reflections on Jewish life in that city. A community which a century ago made up almost 40% of the city’s population now lives chiefly in fading memories. But the people to whom memories are dear (if only because of things heard from grandparents) can now cultivate and share them more easily.

E-communications provide some hope of keeping at bay all the forces which threaten the existence of diasporas, especially small ones: assimilation (seen in the decline of once-mighty tongues like Yiddish and Latino) and the danger of irrelevance as the world moves on. But that will only work if the will to keep old languages and cultures alive really exists. In the easy-come, easy-go ethos of the electronic age, virtual communities die as well as live.

Reflections on the Caucasus: 21 May 1864-2010

I had a dream last night. I can’t tell it to you, because it was in Ubykh,” said the last speaker of the Ubykh language, Tevfik Esenç. When he passed away in 1992, the unique language of the the Ubykh people, the indigenous people of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympic Games will be held, also died. This was one of the consequences of the fall of the Caucasus, which was celebrated by the Russian armies with triumphalism and a procession in the Valley of Kbaada, now called Krasnaya Polyana on May 21, 1864.

What the 21st May brings to the mind of the Adyghes (Circassians), the Abkhazians, and the Ubykhs, who have been scattered all over the world and struggling to preserve their cultures and languages today, must be exile and genocide... But what do experts have to say about 21 May, about the Adyghes, Abkhazians and Ubykhs? And what are their thoughts?

This project is the outcome of a desire of, which has always tried to publicize academic works from the very day of its inception, to provide a platform for academics, researchers, politicians, journalists, and executives of NGOs from various countries to express their opinions about the 21st May, the North Caucasus, and its peoples.

I would like wholeheartedly to thank all of the following people who have contributed to this project proferring their valuable thoughts for inclusion on this site.

Metin Sönmez, &

The authors were given complete freedom regarding the content of their texts whose maximum length was specified as around one page. Their views in this project do not necessarily reflect the views of the CW website. The texts have been listed alphabetically according to the names of the authors.

Annsi Kullberg, Antero Leitzinger, Ayhan Kaya, Cem Özdemir, Charles King, Daniel Müller, Eiji Miyazawa, Erol Taymaz, Fethi Açıkel, George Anchabadze, Georgi Derluguian, Georgy Chochiev, Hakan Kırımlı, Irma Kreiten, John Colarusso, Karlos Zurutuza, Kemal Karpat, Khasan Kasumov, Laurent Vinatier, Liana Kvarchelia, Mark Levene, Max Sher, Michael Khodarkovsky, Mohydeen Quandour, Moshe Gammer, Muhittin Özsağlam, Murat Papşu, Musa Shanibov, Naima Neflyasheva, Neal Ascherson, Oliver Bullough, Patrick Armstrong, Paul Henze, Paula Garb, Radosław Żurawski vel Grajewski, Rieks Smeets, Seteney Shami, Sibel Siber, Stephen Shenfield, Sufian Zhemukhov, Thomas De Waal, Walter Richmond, Yakov Gordin. Read All Articles...

Friday, 14 May 2010

Circassians in bid to save language

Al Jazeera English, May 14 - Unesco has warned that half of all the languages spoken on the planet will are likely to disappear by the end of the century, and some say we all stand to lose once they are gone.

There are more than 7,000 languages currently spoken in the world - many aren't recorded and don't have a written form.

Their loss could limit our knowledge about history, culture and nature.

Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports on the Circassian diaspora in Jordan.

Source: Al Jazeraa English