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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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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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