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Remembering Armistice Day 1914: Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel “Quiet Don” as document of First World War and Cossack life

Although the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, liked to see himself as a man of peace, he favoured an expanded Russian Empire and considered Germany to be the main threat to its territory.

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Authored by Olivia Kroth:


A hundred years have gone by since the end of World War I, from November 1918 to November 2018. With the celebration of Armistice Day, on the 11th of November 2018, the right moment has come to look back on those troubled times from a Russian Cossack writer’s perspective.

On the 1st of August 1914, the German Empire declared war on the Russian Empire, an action of far-reaching consequences. On the 11th of November 1918, this atrocious war officially ended. When the armistice with Germany was signed in Compiègne, France, at 11 a.m. local time —”the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”— a ceasefire came into effect that ended World War I, in which most of the major political powers of that era had been involved.

Although the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, liked to see himself as a man of peace, he favoured an expanded Russian Empire and considered Germany to be the main threat to its territory, even though Germany was ruled by the Tsar’s cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II. Nicholas II was urged by his council not to enter a war with Germany because it would be mutually dangerous to both countries, no matter who won. However, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevitch said that Russia, if it did not mobilize, would “face the greatest dangers and a peace bought with cowardice would unleash revolution at home.”

The eastern front during World War I was much longer than that in the west. It ran from the Baltic Sea in the northwest of the Russian Empire to the Black Sea in the South, a distance of more than 1,600 kilometres. Because of its length, the line was easy to break. Once broken, the communication networks did not function any more, making it difficult for Russian troops to mount rapid counteroffensives and seal off any breakthrough of the German forces.

Millions of Russian peasants were conscripted into the Tsar’s armies but supplies of rifles and ammunition remained inadequate. It is estimated that one third of Russia’s able-bodied men were serving in the army. The conscripted peasants were unable to work on the farms producing the usual amount of food. By November 1916, food prices were four times as high as before the war. As a result strikes for higher wages became common in Russia’s cities.

Cossacks supplied a disproportionately high number of soldiers for the war. Women left behind struggled to feed their families. During the overthrow of the monarchy, many war-weary and impoverished Cossacks sided with workers and ordinary soldiers against the tsarist regime. Traditionally, the Cossacks of the Russian Empire had always been warriors who provided the tsars with mounted troops in return for land. During the First World War, the Cossack communitiees were weakened and some even destroyed. Yet the war also helped to forge and solidify Cossack identity which has survived until today.

As supreme commander of the Russian Army, Tsar Nicholas II was held responsible for the country’s miltary failures during the First World War. During 1917, there was a strong decline of his support in Russia. On the 1st of March 1917, he was forced to abdicate. On the 25th of October 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power and Vladimir Lenin, the new leader of the Russian government, announced an armistice. He sent Leon Trotsky, the people’s commissar for foreign affairs, as head of the Russian delegation to Brest-Litovsk to negotiate a peace deal with Germany and Austria.

The novel “Quiet Don” deals with the Don Cossacks’ fate during World War I and the October Revolution 1917. Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov (1905 – 1984) created a broad, multi-faceted panorama of Cossack life at the beginning of the 20th century in southern Russia. For his outstanding work the author was awarded the Stalin Prize, Lenin Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature.

In this novel, the beginning of World War I and the invasion of German troops in Russia is told from a Cossack point of view:”The Cossacks rode at a smart trot. Now they saw the German Dragoons’ blue uniforms. ‘Start firing’, Astrakhan shouted, jumping from his saddle. Upright, both reins wound around his hands, he fired the first volley. Ivankhov’s horse reared up, throwing its rider to the ground. While falling, Ivankhov saw how one of the Germans died.”  This was one of the first German casualties in Russia. Many more would follow.

In his masterpiece Mikhail Sholokhov not only depicted the bad times for Don Cossacks during World War I but also the end of the tsarist regime as a consequence of the war. Many of the tsarist Cossack regiments changed sides. After 1918, they followed the Bolsheviks, giving them military support. Later, during World War II, called the Great Patriotic War in Russia, some Cossack regiments joined the Red Army and fought for the Soviet Union against Nazi invaders.

In the novel the figure of Bunchuk is a Bolshevik Cossack. He shoots a tsarist officer into his open mouth as this one is holding a speech to win the Bolshevik Cossacks back for the tsar’s cause. Then he explains the motives for this deed to a comrade: “It is either them or us. There is no middle way. People like him must be killed like vipers”. Many “vipers” are killed at the end of the novel, when Bolshevik Cossacks saber captured counter-revolutionaries.

Two Bolshevik Don Cossacks are talking about Vladimir Lenin in the course of the novel. Chikhamasov says, “He is a Cossack from the stanitsa Veliky Koknyeskaya. He served in the artillery. By the way, you can tell from his physiognomy that he is a Cossack from the lower Don river: the high cheekbones, the slanted eyes. He is a true Cossack but he will not say so now. He is going to overthrow many more, not only the tsar. No, Mitrich, do not argue! Lenin is a Cossack.”

Mikhail Sholokhov, of Cossack origin himself, was born in the stanitsa Veshenskaya, on the 24th of May 1905. He joined the Bolsheviks, in 1918. In 1923, he moved to Moscow where he worked as author and journalist. After publishing his cycle of “Stories about the Don” (1926) he began writing the epic novel “Quiet Don”. The work of 2.000 pages took him 14 years to complete (1926-1940). It appeared in four volumes of 500 pages each.

For “Quiet Don” the author was awarded the Stalin Prize (1941), the Order of Lenin (1955), the Lenin Prize (1960) and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1965). The Nobel Prize Committee gave the following explanation for its choice: “The Nobel Prize for Literature 1965 goes to Mikhail Sholokhov due to the artistic force and integrity with which he created the epic novel ‘Quiet Don’, showing a historic phase in the life of the Russian people.”

Mikhail Sholokhov became famous in the Soviet Union and worldwide. He was a member of the USSR Supreme Soviet and Vice President of the Union of Soviet Writers. Mikhail Sholokhov was twice awarded the title “Hero of Socialist Labour”. The asteroid 2448 Sholokhov has also immortalized his name. In Moscow, the Sholokhov State University for Humanities was named after the author. This pegagogical institute was founded in 1951. In 2005, it ranked among the best 14 pedagogical universities of the Russian Federation.

The novel “Quiet Don” follows the tradition of Russian history and society novels. It can be compared to Lev Tolstoi’s “War and Peace”. Mikhail Sholokhov’s work deals with the life of Don Cossacks at the beginning of the 20th century, between 1912 and 1922. The Don Cossacks enjoyed greater liberties than other subjects of Imperial Russia. They did not have to pay taxes and were not serfs but free citizens. They lived as farmers, breeding horses and cattle. Don Cossacks were and still are great riding artists. They also knew well how to handle the lance, saber, rifle and pistol.

The Don Cossacks were a military society, constantly engaged in warfare, as an old Cossack song explains: “It is not the plough that is cultivating this glorious earth. / Our earth is churned by the hooves of horses. / Our earth is covered with Cossacks’ heads. / Our peaceful Don is adorned with young widows. / Our father, the Don, has many orphans. / The tears of fathers and mothers are rolling in the waves of the peace-loving Don.”

Many passages of the novel are lyrical, flowing as quietly as the river itself, whose surface changes from day to night and during the four seasons: “In the evening the sky turned cherry-red in the west. Behind the great poplar the moon was rising, shedding a cold white light over the Don. At night the murmur of the water mingled with the voices of countless ducks swarming southwards.”

Unfortunately, this marvellous novel has almost been forgotten nowadays. It is worth reading, not only because of the rich information about World War I in southern Russia, but also as a document of Cossack life on the Don river. Could this book be an adequate Christmas gift? The following Don Cossack Christmas carol sounds inviting: “Frost and cold, ice at Christmas, bad ice / You have frozen the wolf / You have also brought love into the house.”


Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow.
Her blog: https://olivia2010kroth.wordpress.com

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Hi! Please I would like you to follow my blog.

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Donna

“And Quiet Flows the Don”

Merlin
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For those who may not find the time or fortitude to read this immense novel, there is the amazing movie by the same name. It is long for a movie (over 4 hours!) but worth every minute.

Olivia Kroth, author and journalist
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And Quiet Flows the Don – “Tikhiy Don” 1957 – part 01 of 03— http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051082/
After the novel “And Quiet Flows the Don” by Nobel Prize in Literature winner – Mikhail Sholokhov.

Olivia Kroth, author and journalist
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Olivia Kroth, author and journalist
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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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