Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In Memorium, Shohei Imamura: Anthropological And Humanist Filmmaker

... "Mr. Imamura's first four films — "Stolen Desire," "Nishi Ginza Station," "Endless Desire" (all 1958) and "My Second Brother" (1959) — were studio assignments. He considered his first personal film to be "Pigs and Battleships" (1961), a scathing burlesque set in a Japanese port town dominated by American forces and based in part on his own experiences as a black marketeer.

The film contains most of the seeds of Mr. Imamura's mature work: the black-and-white widescreen frames throb with an animalistic vitality, and his protagonists are unabashedly amoral and self-centered, concerned only with personal survival. For Mr. Imamura, these were the positive traits of an island nation of limited resources. "The Insect Woman" (1963) follows Tome (Sachiko Hidari) from childhood through a successful career as a prostitute and madam. "The Pornographers" (1966), subtitled "An Introduction to Anthropology," satirizes tight Japanese families: an impotent maker of stag movies lusts after his teenage stepdaughter.

With "The Profound Desire of the Gods" (1968) Mr. Imamura turned a tiny island populated by an incestuous family into a corrosive metaphor for Japanese isolationism. An expensive film, it proved to be a box office failure, and for the next several years, he concentrated on a film school he had founded, and on documentaries, still following his favorite themes. This period produced "The History of Postwar Japan as Told by a Bar Hostess" (1970) and "The Making of a Prostitute" (1975).

He returned to fiction filmmaking in 1979 with "Vengeance Is Mine," one of the first films to take a serial killer as a hero. "Eijanaika" ("Why Not?," 1981) remains an epic vision of Japan in the 1860's, as the country reluctantly opened to the West.

After "Eijanaika," Mr. Imamura seemed to cool down and scale back his films. "The Ballad of Narayama" (1983), a remake of a famous 1958 heart-tugger, approached academicism with its classical compositions and attention to period detail: Mr. Imamura was rewarded at Cannes with his first Palme d'Or, the top award. He received the Japanese equivalent of the Oscar, the Kinema Junpo Award, for "Black Rain" (1989), a somber study of Hiroshima.

With his final three features, Mr. Imamura [in collaboration with one of his sons who wrote the screenplays] regained his subversive sense of humor, and his sometimes clinical detachment from his characters turned to a warm, if amused, affection. "The Eel" (1997, the winner of his second Palme d'Or), "Dr. Akagi" (1998) and "Warm Water Under a Red Bridge" (2001) were relatively calm and contemplative.

But Mr. Imamura also found time during this period to sponsor the work of Takashi Miike, whose notoriously violent, overtly sadistic films took Mr. Imamura's assumptions about humanity to new extremes. Mr. Imamura's last work was a short contribution to "September 11," an anthology film about the worldwide effects of the attacks." ...

Dave Kehr "Shohei Imamura, 79, Japanese Filmmaker, Is Dead" New York Times, May 31, 2006

Still from Shohei Imamura's 1989 masterpiece "Black Rain", based upon the masterpiece "Kuroi Ame" (1965) by Ibuse Masuji.

"When Black Rain appeared, it was generally thought that Ibuse, the elder statesman in the Japanese literature, was on the verge of retirement. On the publication of the work, Ibuse received the Order of Cultural Merit, Japan's highest honor to a writer, and the Noma Prize. Before his death in Tokyo on December 1993, Ibuse produced still several works, including the autobiographical HANSEIKI (1970). Debate over Black Rain has continued after its publication. Among others the Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo has seen Ibuse's fiction as an attempt to humanize the inhuman. However, Black Rain has become perhaps the world's best known Japanese novel."

Credits: and With thanks.

Post Soviet Union Culture Czar And Artist Zurab Tsereteli’s Works To Be Inflicted On Minsk, Belarus

First CIS personal exhibition of Zurab Tsereteli’s works opens in Minsk

"The first CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] personal exhibition of Zurab Tsereteli’s works has opened in the national art museum in Minsk.

At the press conference president of the Russian Academy of Arts, People’s Artist of Russia, USSR and Georgian SSR, UNESCO Good Will Ambassador Zurab Tsereteli said he was glad to come to Minsk again.

The artist intends to present one of his works to the national art museum of the Republic of Belarus. Moreover, some his works can be presented to a new museum, which is planned to be opened in Minsk.

The exposition includes more than 200 art works. It was organized by the culture ministry and the national art museum of the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Academy of Arts, and the Moscow museum of contemporary art.

The exhibition will be opened till June 9."

Belarusian [Official State] News Agency "First CIS personal exhibition of Zurab Tsereteli’s works opens in Minsk" May 26, 2006

Zurab Tsereteli's statue of Peter the Great in downtown Moscow is one of the world's tallest, alongside Ushiku Amida Buddha in Japan and the Rodina Mat [Mother Motherland] on the Mamayev Kurgan [in Volgograd, Russia; formerly Stalingrad, Russia].

Zurab Tsereteli's 'Tear In Memory Of 9/11' is the artist's gift to the people of the United States of America.

Photo credits: Wikipedia and Фото знаменитостей With thanks.

As Malling Of America Slows, History-Challenged Land Of The Brave Sprouts Dozens Of Gleaming 'Faux Urban Downtowns'

"On a recent Friday night, Bishop Road was hopping. Land Rovers and Lexuses inched down the two-lane street. On the brick sidewalks, a steel band played Bob Marley tunes as couples strolled past boutiques, bars and restaurants, lines spilling out the door.

Until a few years ago, Bishop Road was a grassy field in the midst of a gargantuan office park. Today, it's the main drag of Legacy Town Center, a 75-acre development 20 miles north of Dallas that's home to 4,000 people. The project has been such a hit that developers are building on an additional 75 acres across the street.

Legacy Town Center is one of dozens of faux downtowns popping up across the country, from Kansas City to Washington, D.C., spurred by a demand for urban living scrubbed of the reality of city life. A careful mix of retail, residential and office space built with traditional materials such as stone and brick, Legacy looks like a city but has neither panhandlers nor potholes. Many residents rarely venture even to downtown Dallas, which has been trying to turn itself into place to live for almost a decade.

A view of Bishop Road, part of Legacy Town Center in Plano, Texas.
"There's too much riffraff down there," says Ron Pettit, a 36-year-old contractor, as he snacks on brie and grapes at a table outside Bishop Road's Main Street Bakery and Bistro.

In Flagstaff, Ariz., buyers have snapped up almost all of the 125 residential units on offer at Presidio in the Pines, a town center under construction on 91 acres of forest. North of Charlotte, N.C., on the site of a former dairy farm, is Birkdale Village, which consists of 52 acres intended to recall a New England coastal town. It features 320 apartments, most of which are stacked above shops and restaurants.

Even though these faux downtowns contain tinges of suburbia, they're taking advantage of a growing backlash against the sprawl that rings Dallas and other U.S. cities. The reaction began in the 1980s with the rise of New Urbanism, a movement of architects and planners calling for a return to traditional towns where people work, shop, live and play.

Among the most prominent of those theorists was Andrés Duany, a leading figure behind Seaside, a planned pedestrian community on the Florida Panhandle that was the setting for the 1998 movie, "The Truman Show." Suburban growth, Mr. Duany argued, was unsustainable because it consumes land at a high rate while creating horrendous traffic.

In the 1990s, Americans started venturing back into cities that had emptied out in prior decades. Basking in the glow of falling crime rates and glamorized by television shows such as "Seinfeld" and "Friends," cities themselves began to woo residential and retail development.

For a developer, however, it's much easier to make a fake city than it is to work on real downtowns with their patchwork landholdings and planning restrictions. The developers of Legacy were able to carve up the land pretty much as they pleased. The result: more than 1,500 apartments and town houses, some 80 shops and restaurants, two mid-rise office towers and a Marriott Hotel.

The concept also attracted developers looking for alternatives to malls, a concept rapidly losing favor among shoppers. Only one mall has opened in 2006, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a New York City-based trade group. By contrast, more than 60 so-called lifestyle centers -- outdoor shopping areas with plazas, fountains and pedestrian streets -- are planned to open this year and next." ...

Thaddeus Herrick "City Lite: Fake Towns Rise, Offering Urban Life Without the Grit" Wall Street Journel, May 31, 2006.

The 750 Year Old 'non-faux' downtown of Lviv, Ukraine, Europe.

The center of Lviv, Ukraine is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. L’viv is an outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany. The medieval urban topography has been preserved virtually intact (in particular, there is evidence of the different ethnic communities who lived there), along with many fine Baroque, Neo-Classical, and Style Modern buildings.

Each Spring, tens of thousands of Ukrainian students take advantage of the free train passes offered by the Government of Ukraine to travel by sleeper cars to Lviv and other Ukrainian historic urban centers; where the students stay in hostels, the gymnasiums of local high schools, or campgrounds if weather permits, after full days of exploring their European artistic, architectural, historic, and civic heritage.

UNESCO World Heritage Site list and interactive map:

Photo credit: With thanks.

The West's Concept Of 'Democracy And Freedom' Challenged By Eurasian Civic And Religious Fundamentalists And Neo-Fascist And Neo-Communist Skinheads

MOSCOW (Reuters) - "Moscow's influential mayor said on Tuesday the city banned gay activists from holding a parade because it is morally cleaner than the West, which is caught up in "mad licentiousness".

The gay activists tried to hold their protest against homophobia and discrimination at the weekend despite the ban, but were detained by police, abused by militant Christians and attacked by neo-fascists.

They had wanted to lay flowers at the grave of the unknown warrior, a monument to those who died defeating Nazi Germany, but police blocked their path.

Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said such an action would have been a desecration of the sacred monument, and rejected Western criticism of his ban as prejudiced and homophobic.

"Our way of life, our morals and our tradition -- our morals are cleaner in all ways. The West has something to learn from us and should not race along in this mad licentiousness," he told Moscow radio, according to local news agencies.

"We may have a democratic country, but we live in an organised country and an organised city."

The protest on Saturday, which was intended as a Gay Pride solidarity event as have become common in Western capitals, degenerated into a scrum with women hurling eggs and fruit at the activists, while shouting "Moscow is not Sodom".

Riot police detained several dozen neo-fascist skinheads who wanted to break up the protest.

Luzhkov, who has run Russia's capital almost as a private fiefdom since 1992, said his anticipation of such a public reaction to the gays' plans had led him to ban the march to ensure the safety of all." ...

Reuters News Agency "Moscow says [it] banned gays because [it is] "cleaner" than West" May 30, 2006

Neo-fascist and neo-communist skinhead youth protest in Kyiv, Ukraine on May Day 2006. Much of the Eurasian hatred of the West stems from the militaristic activities of NATO.

Most capital cities of the Former Soviet Union and advanced Eurasia are cleaner and better organized, and have substantially lower adult and youth unemployment, than many Western European and North American capital and major cities.

Photo credit: Associated Press. With thanks.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On The Immolation Of Nationalist Heroes: Joan Of Arc And Adolf Hitler

"Joan of Arc (6 January 1412 – 30 May 1431 ) is a national heroine of France and a saint of the Catholic Church. She stated that she had visions, which she believed came from God, and she used these to inspire Charles VII's troops to retake most of his dynasty's former territories which had been under English and Burgundian dominance during the Hundred Years' War.

She had been sent to the siege of Orléans by the then-uncrowned King Charles VII as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the disregard of veteran commanders and ended the siege in only nine days. Several more swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.

Following the coronation the Royal army attempted further campaigns, but with less success. She refused to leave the field when she was wounded during an attempt to recapture Paris that autumn. Hampered by court intrigues, she led only minor companies from then on, and fell prisoner during a skirmish near Compiègne the following spring. A politically motivated trial by the English convicted her of heresy. The English regent, John, Duke of Bedford, had her burnt at the stake in Rouen. She had become the heroine of her faction at the age of seventeen, but died at the age of nineteen. Some twenty-four years later, after the English were driven out, Joan's aged mother, Isabelle, convinced the Inquisitor-General and Pope Callixtus III to reopen Joan's case, resulting in an appeal which overturned the original conviction by the English. Pope Benedict XV canonized her on 16 May 1920.

Joan of Arc has remained an important figure in Western culture. From Napoleon to the present, French politicians of all leanings have invoked her memory. Major writers and composers, including Shakespeare, Voltaire, Schiller, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Twain, Shaw, and Brecht, have created works about her, and depictions of her continue to be prevalent in film, television, and song."


"The [proto-Hitlerian] youth organization of the Monistenbund -- inspired and led by [Ernst] Haeckel himself [the German biologist and philosopher who promoted Charles Darwin's work in Germany] -- sponsored sun-worshiping festivals each summer solstice....

Others wanted a Wagnerian twist to their Volkish neopaganism. They gathered in bearskins and made ritual sacrifices of animals to Wotan, Thor, Baldur, and other Teutonic deities. They studied the symbols of the ancient Norse runes and took visionary journeys to meet with members of the ancient spiritual brotherhood. There were dozens of groups like these, large and small. They convinced themselves that they were chosen, like the grail knights in Wagner's Parsifal, to seek and protect the Holy Grail -- in this case, the spiritual purity of Aryan Blood. The most famous of these was the Tannenberg Foundation of General Erich Ludendorff, war hero and, later, a coconspirator in Adolf Hitler's failed putsch in 1923. The symbol of Ludendorff's organization was the hammer of Thor. Like many in German culture at the turn of the century, Ludendorff wanted to eradicate Christianity and replace it with an Aryan faith. As one commentator on the neopagan movement in Germany revealed, "In line with the Tannenberg program for the restoration of the ancient Germanic religion, General Ludendorff, accompanied by a few young men, would from time to time retire to the forests near Munich, where a bonfire was lighted and a horse sacrificed in honor of Thor, the god of Thunder."

Richard Noll "The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung", pages 116 and 305.


"Examples of Hitler's 'odd beliefs or magical thinking' abound in his 'table talk', the turgid monologues which he inflicted each night on his bored and exhausted entourage. Thus he believed he could read other people's thoughts and exert magical control over them and that he had a sixth sense that protected him from danger. For example, having made a speech at the Party Beer-Cellar in Munich just before the outbreak of the Second World War, something suddenly prompted him to leave, instead of staying on to chat with the Party faithful as was his custom. Within minutes of his departure a bomb exploded, killing eight of the old comrades and injuring scores of others. He seems to have experienced no such premonition in March 1943 when a bomb was placed on the plane in which he flew back to Berlin from the Eastern front, but the bomb failed to detonate. A further attempt to assassinate him at an exhibition a few days later also failed because, once again, he decided on impulse to leave early. 'Who says I am not under the special protection of God?' he exclaimed. An example of his magical thinking is his frequently repeated declaration that he and Germany were mystically merged: 'I know that everything that you are, you are through me, and everything that I am, I am through you alone!'

Of the 'unusual perceptual experiences' reported by Hitler, he acknowledged that he heard voices like those which inspired Joan of Arc: they told him to rescue the Fatherland from the Jews. He also claimed that he had a vision of Wotan, the old German war god, pointing to the East above the heads of the cheering Viennese crowds at the time of Austrian Anschluss.

Anthony Stevens and John Price "Prophets, Cults, and Madness" pages 97-98.


Please see Bob Shingleton's On An Overgrown Path post today on Hitler's court composer Ernst Hanfstaengl.


After fleeing from Hitler after almost 20 years of close 'friendship', German-American bisexual (and partially Jewish) aristocrat Hanfstaegl consulted with Swiss psychological theorist Carl Jung as to the 'demonic' quality of Adolf Hitler's bisexuality, before later consulting for the U.S. government Office of Strategic Services in Washington, D.C.

Also see Chris Nicholson's book "Apotheosis" prepared for the Wagner Society of Queensland, Australia, which contains the following:

"Hitler had nothing but contempt for Americans ‘I feel the deepest hatred and repulsion towards anything American. In its whole outlook America is a half-Jewish, half-Negroid society … The German Reich has 270 opera houses and a richer cultural life than is known there. Basically Americans live like pigs in a well-tiled sty.’"

Joan of Arc, c. 1485. The only known portrait painted from life has not survived, so all depictions of her are based upon artistic license. (Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris, AE II 2490)

Photo credit: With thanks.

The Meaning Of The 'Names' And 'Faces': A National Mall Without Memory And Understanding

This is a repost of something that I assembled on Saturday in recognition of Memorial Day. It disappeared upon publishing.


"This Memorial Day weekend, visitors to Washington will honor those who bravely sacrificed their lives in serving our country. They will pay their respects around the pool of the World War II Memorial and the Wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In visiting these stony precincts, however, they will learn little about the wars commemorated by all the inscriptions and names. Apart from a few small, specialized institutions, the city offers no place to discover more about these world-changing events.

Unlike London, where the Imperial War Museum is a popular tourist spot, or Ottawa, home to the Canadian War Museum, Washington is without a national museum of military history. Surprisingly, the capital lacks a central place to honor our wars, from the American Revolution to the Iraq War, despite their enormous influence on our country.

A national museum could portray those conflicts within a larger historical framework rather than through the narrow perspective of a single military branch or veterans group. It could offer common ground for understanding the causes and consequences of wartime actions through the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike.

Yet, efforts to teach the public about recent wars resemble other recent memorial- and museum building on the Mall, catering to specific constituencies without regard to the bigger picture. New museums now being developed by the Army and Marine Corps, for example, tell only part of the story.

Even more selective is the proposed underground visitors center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on a site next to the Lincoln Memorial. The proposed 25,000-square-foot subterranean structure, approved by Congress in 2003, is meant to be more a museum than a place to buy postcards. It would mostly house space for exhibits aimed at explaining the history of the Vietnam War and the meaning of the memorial's names." ...

Deborah K. Dietsch "Mall sprawl poses issue" Washington Times, May 27, 2006


With thanks to Judy Feldman and The National Coalition To Save Our Mall.

"Faces of the Fallen" Exhibition, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C., 2005.

Photo credit: "Faces of the Fallen" via San Diego Union-Tribune. With thanks.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

In Memorium, Hamza El Din, Renaissance Composer And Musician

"Hamza El Din, an oud player and composer who reinvented the musical culture of Nubia and carried it worldwide, died Monday in Berkeley, Calif. He was 76.

The cause was complications after surgery, said his wife, Nadra, who survives him.

Mr. El Din's austere, hypnotic music was based on his research into the traditions of Nubia, an ancient North African kingdom on the upper Nile, which was a cradle of civilization.

Accompanying his reedy voice with concise, incantatory phrases on the oud, Mr. El Din created a meditative music that sought a timeless purity. He performed dressed in white, with a white turban. But he was also a cosmopolitan musician who taught ethnomusicology and lived in Rome, Tokyo, and California.

Hamza El Din was born in 1929 in Egypt, in what had been the territory of ancient Nubia, a crossroads of trade that flourished as early as the fourth millennium B.C. Nubia's former territory is now part of Egypt and the Sudan, and Mr. El Din's hometown, Toshka, was flooded after the building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960's. He studied electrical engineering and worked for the national railroad in Cairo.

But he was drawn to music, first playing the round hand drum called the tar and then taking up the oud, a six-stringed lute. When he learned about the plans to build the Aswan Dam, which flooded much of ancient Nubia, he grew determined to preserve Nubian culture.

He studied Arabic music at Ibrahim Shafiq's Institute of Music and at the King Fouad Institute for Middle Eastern Music. He also traveled through villages in Egypt by donkey, collecting Nubian songs. With a grant from the Italian government, he studied Western music and classical guitar at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome.

He drew on his studies, and on surviving Nubian traditions, to create music that fused rhythms and inflections from Nubia with Arabic classical elements and a virtuosic approach to the oud, an instrument not traditionally played in Nubia. He was reimagining the music of his home.

"One day, I felt the oud had the Nubian accent," he said in a 1996 interview with The San Francisco Chronicle. "I played for people in my village and they were mesmerized."

Mr. El Din performed in 1964 at the Newport Folk Festival and recorded two albums for the folk label Vanguard in 1964 and 1965. He moved to the United States, where he was a mentor to musicians, including the guitarist and oud player Sandy Bull. He settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1971 his album "Escalay (The Water Wheel)" was released on the Nonesuch Explorer label....

Mr. El Din also made albums for Lotus Records and Sounds True. His music was used for movie soundtracks and for dance pieces by the Paris Opera Ballet, Maurice Béjart Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet; and he composed music for a version of the Aeschylus play "The Persians," directed by Peter Sellars at the Salzburg Festival." ...

Jon Pareles "Hamza El Din, 76, Oud Player and Composer, Is Dead" New York Times May 25, 2006 via


"What is art? Art is the expression of a human instinct, an irresistible urge of our deepest sensitivities, a fulfillment of our need for harmony and love of beauty. When the first man drew his hands together and clapped in shock or surprise, or felt joy in the movement of his body, he discovered rhythm and dance. Breathing through the throat or lips easily becomes humming or whistling and mimicking the sounds of nature becomes song. When man began to use these skills to express himself and to communicate he became the artist.

Art is born of a certain sensitivity the artist possesses to himself and his surroundings. The artist is the mouthpiece, the prophet, of certain faculties. The painter is the prophet of color harmony, shapes and space. The musician is the prophet of sound vibration and its harmony, the dancer of body movement, and the singer of the delight of the tongue, throat and vocal cords. All these faculties with which we are endowed demand expression and find their fulfillment in the artist’s creation.

I believe that we are endowed by our Creator with a love of beauty and harmony. The Prophet Muhammad said: “God is beautiful and He loves Beauty.” In my music I find a way of understanding and expressing the beauty and subtlety of our existence. My relation to my art has heightened my spirituality while elevating my general humanity. I am humbled by a creative process that I believe originates in a part of myself that we all share and that transcends the individual ego. I am, as it were, merely a trained medium for the transmission of a beauty and harmony that is a part of our higher nature and common inheritance. In music I express what is common to all of us and what is the best in each of us. I find my soul in losing my self, and in doing so I have found a life filled with the warm and loving acceptance and appreciation of people all over the world, regardless of culture, nationality, ethnicity or religious affiliation."

-- Hamza El Din

Renaissance Musician and Composer Hamza El Din

Text and Photo credit: California Arts Council. State of California. With thanks.

The State Tretyakov Gallery, The National Museum of Russian Fine Art, Moscow, Celebrates Its 150th Anniversary

"The State Tretyakov Gallery is the national treasury of Russian fine art and one of the greatest museums in the world. It is located in one of the oldest directs of Moscow – Zamoskvorechye, not far from the Kremlin. The Gallery's collection consists entirely of Russian art and artists who have made а contribution to the history of Russian art or been closely connected with it. This is how it was conceived by its founder, the Moscow merchant and industrialist Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov (1832-1898) and how it has remained to this day.

The date of its foundation is usually taken to be 1856 when the young Tretyakov first acquired works by Russian artists of his day with the aim of creating а collection, which might later grow into а museum of national art. "For me, а true and ardent lover of painting, there can be no finer wish than to found а universally accessible repository of the fine arts, which will benefit many and give pleasure to all," wrote the collector in 1860, adding "I… should like to leave а national gallery, that is, а gallery with pictures by Russian artists".

The years passed and the young collector's desire was brilliantly put into practice. In 1892 Moscow, and with it the whole of Russia was presented by Tretyakov with а large and already famous gallery containing about 2,000 paintings, draw­ings and sculptures of genuine works of Russian art.

Nowadays, the Gallery's Collection contains more than 130 000 works of painting, sculpture and graphics, created throughout the centuries by successive generations of Russian artists. Two separate buildings at different locations – at Lavrushinskiy Pereulok, and at Krymskiy Val, – house the works selected for display.

Russian art works, ranging in date from the 11th to the early 20th century, are on the show in Gallery's historic building on Lavrushinskiy Pereulok. Here one can see the outstanding collection of Russian Medieval icon painting, works by best-known Russian artists of the 18th – first half of the 19th century, masterpieces of national art dating to second half of the 19th century, collection of art works of the turn of the 19th century.

Gallery's complex located at Lavrushinskiy Pereulok incorporates the Engineering Building, which regularly hosts temporary exhibitions, the “Church of St. Nicholas at Tolmachi” museum, a masterpiece of 17th – 19th century architecture. The latter, contains collection of 15th – 19th century icons, and Russian national palladium – the 12th century icon of “The Virgin of Vladimir”."


"The jubilee exhibition "Russian Museums Congratulate the Tretyakov Gallery" is a gala parade of masterpieces from Russian museums that have participated or intend to participate in the Tretyakov Gallery's multiyear federal project "Golden Map of Russia," which has received the State Prize of the Russian Federation in Literature and the Arts. This unique exhibition will include over 100 works of art, including works that were acquired by the Gallery's founder P.M. Tretyakov and that subsequently entered the collections of Russian regional museums. It will combine in a striking fashion ancient icons from the Vladimir region, Northern painting from Cherepovets and Petrozavodsk, manor portraits from the golden age of gentry culture from Tambov and Rybinsk, poetic paintings by V.L. Borovitsky and A.G. Venetsian and his disciples, Russian master landscapes by A.K. Savrasov, I.I. Levitan, and I.I. Shishkin, portraits by V.A. Tropinin, I.E. Repin, and V.A. Serov, famous and less well-known Russian avant-garde artists, the refined art of the painters of the "Russian Seasons," and the works of prominent painters of the first third of the 20th century."

The exhibition will be on display from May 25 to August 2006.
Krymsky Val (New) Gallery

Andrei Rublev
Old Testament Trinity
Moscow. 1420s
Wood, tempera.
142 x 114 centimeters

Text and image credit: (c) The State Tretyakov Gallery, The National Museum of Russian Fine Art, Moscow, the Russian Federation. With thanks.

Lukashenka Regime Planning Fully To Silence Democratic Opposition In Run Up To 2008 Clash With Russia Over Leadership Of 'Union State'

"Belarusian authorities have warned opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich that he could be jailed for publicly criticizing President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Milinkevich said he was summoned by prosecutors today and warned about "discrediting" Belarus, a charge punishable by up to two years in prison.

Milinkevich says the warning was issued because of interviews he gave recently to the Polish newspaper "Rzeczpospolita" and to the BBC.

Prosecutors allege that in one of the interviews he implicated the Belarusian authorities in the death of a Polish diplomat in Belarus days after the March 19 presidential election, and in the other he spoke of vote-rigging in the poll.

Milinkevich was the main opposition challenger in the vote, in which Lukashenka was reelected to a third term. Both the opposition and Western nations condemned the election as fraudulent, and Milinkevich served 15 days in prison for participating in protests against the election result."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty "Belarusian Opposition Leader Warned Over Criticism" May 22, 2006

Increasingly hounded by the Lukashenka regime, Belarusian Democratic Opposition Leader Alexander Milinkevich is trying to project his democratic message for Belarus both to the European Union nations and to the democratic forces in the increasingly authoritarian Russian Federation.

Photo credit: Agence France Presse via With thanks.

The Clash Of The Messianic Titans: Russian Democrats Warn Of Pre-2008 Russian 'Anschluss' With Belarus

"Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the liberal Yabloko party has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin could stay on for a third term, overcoming the constitutional ban on such a move by what Yavlinsky called an “anschluss” with Belarus.

Speaking at the interview with the readers of the Russian internet daily, Yavlinsky said that Putin might not leave his post in 2008. “An authoritarian system does not know how to change its leader. This is the way it is made, it is not adapted to the change of the leader in general and so systemic problems will arise, I mean it will be hard (for the bureaucrats) to part with their privileges and property, and with their posts, and besides, Putin and his entourage have this Messianic feeling — Russia must be saved and what is there that cannot be done for the sake of that?”

“It will be very dangerous if this is done through an anschluss with Belarus. For everyone. But this option should not be excluded,” Yavlinsky said." "Anschluss With Belarus Could Mean 3rd Term for Putin — Yavlinsky" May 25, 2006


"Certain foreign newspapers have said that we fell on Austria with brutal methods. I can only say; even in death they cannot stop lying. I have in the course of my political struggle won much love from my people, but when I crossed the former frontier [into Austria] there met me such a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators."

Adolf Hitler, speech at Koenigsberg, East Prussia, Germany [now Kaliningrad, the Russian Federation] March 25, 1938


"By their remarkable achievements, the talented youth of Belarus glorifies this country, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said today in a meeting with the talented representatives of the younger generation.

Following the special tradition, such a meeting is held in spring when the nature blossoms and peoples’ hearts are filled with positive feelings, optimism and creative energy, the president said.

Belarusian students have been steadily showing high results at international Olympiads in various subjects over the recent years, Alexander Lukashenko noted. About 20 thousand young Belarusian have become prize-winners of these tough intellectual contests.

Young Belarusian musicians and artists please with their outstanding achievements, the head of state said. Last year, over 120 representatives of Belarus became laureates of nation-wide and international festivals and contests. Belarus won the first prize at the international Delphic Games in Kiev. “It was in the course of just one year that our young countrywoman Ksenia Sitnik managed to reach two creative highs having won first prizes at the arts festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk and Eurovision”, Alexander Lukashenko said."

Belarusian [Official State] Telegraph Agency "Alexander Lukashenko: by their achievements, talented young men of Belarus glorify the country" May 25, 2006


Dear Friends,

We have a pleasure to invite your theatre company, no matter classical or avantegardic it is, to take part into the III International Student Theatre Art Festival "Teatralny Koufar-2006", in Minsk, Belarus October the 1st - October the 8th, 2006.

By following the links you will find the Festival regulations and application form.

For any further information, please, do not hesitate to contact us.

We hope to see you among our participants!

Ever yours,

Organizing Committee. foto2005en.html [home page]

Photo credit: Belarusian State University, Minsk, Belarus Theater Festival. With thanks.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

European Industrialists, Fearing Second Cold War, Seek Greater Economic Cooperation Between the European Union And The Russian Federation

"While US-Russia relations are deteriorating as a result of President Putin's geopolitical ambitions as an energy superpower, European industrial leaders are looking forward to even more cooperation as indicated by a new report of the 47 influential CEOs making up the "European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT)".

The report "Seizing the opportunity. Taking the EU-Russia relationship to the next level" was published ahead of the upcoming EU-Russia summit taking place in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on 25 May (see also EurActiv 24 May 2006).

The ERT contribution focuses on the need to improve the cooperation with Russia in the "Common Economic Space" (CES), one of the four spaces defined under the 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Russia.

Underlining Russia's potential to become one of the world's economic "powerhouses", the report recommends the following measures:

improving the investment climate;

enforcing intellectual, industrial and commercial property rights;

boosting bilateral trade and investment;

intensive policy dialogues;

better accounting and auditing rules.

The report does not mention recent EU-Russia tensions over energy nor worries about Russia's treatment of NGOs or human rights. Since the January interruptions of gas supplies to the Ukraine, the EU has started thinking about reducing its dependency on Russia energy. This, in turn, caused Russian leaders to threaten "looking eastward" to sell their gas and oil." ... "European industry bosses push for closer EU-Russia cooperation" May 24, 2006


"On the site where border guards used to keep watch on the western outpost of the Soviet Union, Baltic European Union newcomer Estonia is erecting a wind farm to generate clean electricity. The wind-swept Pakri peninsula, which juts into the Baltic Sea 60 kilometres (36 miles) west of the capital Tallinn, once hosted a training center for Soviet border guards. The nearby town of Paldiski was a key Soviet nuclear submarine training ground.

Today, sleek silver arms of the state-of-art wind power turbines dot the site which was off-limits to civilians throughout the five decades of Soviet occupation from 1940 to 1991.

The first three windmills of the Pakri Wind Farm have just been put into operation, with five others to follow before the end of the month. When the farm is fully up and running, it is expected to supply one percent of Estonia's energy needs, and a some 10,000 Estonian households are expected to get electricity from the farm.
"Paldiski has been associated with the Soviet border guards and military pollution," said Hannu Lamp, managing director of the Tuulepargid company which is developing the wind farm.

"From now on, it will have a new side to it, as a clean energy place."
Tuulepargid is the Estonian subsidiary of Danish-based Global Green Energy.
The streamlined wind turbines with a hub height of 80 meters (yards) and rotor diameter of 90 metres, sit on top of the ragged limestone cliffs that soar from the sea. In one corner of the site, some ruins of the Soviet border guard barracks have been preserved as a tourist attraction, AFP reported.

Nearby, a 19th century lighthouse and some more ruins of the Soviet military installations dot the landscape. The town of Paldiski, originally established as a naval stronghold by Peter the Great in the early 18th century, is pleased that the wind farm is taking shape in the wasteland between the town and the breathtakingly beautiful tip of the peninsula. "We are very positive about the wind farm," says Regina Ress, spokeswoman for the town. "It's the complete opposite to what we had in the Soviet time: green energy versus the nuclear submarine training center and other military installations."

Up to 16,000 Soviet soldiers were stationed in Paldiski. The last of them left in 1994, when the nuclear submarine centre was decommissioned. Since then, the austere town of 3,800 residents has struggled with its Soviet military legacy.

In addition to changing the face of Paldiski, the Parki Wind Farm is setting a precedent in the region in the carbon pollution quota market. Under the Kyoto Protocol's implementation project, 0.5 million tons of reduced greenhouse gas emissions will be sold to Finland. "It's among the very first wind power projects anywhere where the economic feasibility is achieved through the sale of CO2 reductions under the joint implementation scheme of the Kyoto Protocol," Lamp says.

On January 1, the EU opened a market for trading in carbon dioxide and other gases which are the main culprits for global warming. The total investment cost of the Pakri project is 24 million euros. The wind farm owner, Pakri Tuulepark, is a subsidiary of Norway's Vardar energy group. Most of Estonia's energy is generated using oil-shale fueled power plants, which are big pollutants. With an expected annual production of 56 GWh (GigaWatt hours), the Pakri wind farm will meet about one per cent of Estonia's net electricity consumption, and thus contribute to achieving Estonia's target of providing 5.1 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2010.

Developers have already made plans for building more wind farms on other former Soviet military installations in Estonia."

Iran Daily "Estonian Wind Farm at Russian Nuke Base" January 18, 2005. 1383/2193/html/energy.htm

The first of several planned Estonian Wind Farms at former Soviet/Russian Nuclear Weapons Bases.

Photo credit: Iran Daily. With thanks. 1383/2193/html/energy.htm

British Musicologist, Educator and Composer Named Artistic Advisor Of The Renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra

"British musicologist, educator and composer Gerard McBurney has been named to the newly created position of artistic programming adviser at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, effective Sept. 1.

McBurney, the presence behind the CSO's successful "Beyond the Score" concerts, will continue as creative director of that series, which will enter its second season in 2006-07. His new duties as a member of the orchestra's artistic team will include creating special programmatic themes and artistic initiatives, and leading educational activities, panel discussions, symposiums and other projects."

John von Rhein "Composer joins CSO artistic team" The Chicago Tribune May 24, 2006


The Noise of Time

Conceived & Directed by Simon McBurney

Creative Collaborator Gerard McBurney
Design Joanna Parker
Sound Christopher Shutt with Gareth Fry
Lighting Paul Anderson
Projections Jan Hartley
Costume Christina Cunningham
Based on an idea by Philip Setzer
The Emerson String Quartet Philip Setzer, violin, Eugene Drucker, violin, Lawrence Dutton, viola David Finckel, cello

Performers Liam Steel, Tam Ward

Originally commissioned by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc., the Abe Fortas Memorial Fund of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Berliner Festpiele, Barbican Centre (BITE), the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, MIFA / the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts and UCLA Performing Arts.


Complicite is an international touring theatre based in London, led by Simon McBurney. The Company last performed in Moscow in 1993 with The Street of Crocodiles.

Complicite is funded by Arts Council England and supported by The British Council.

Britain’s Complicite teams up with America’s renowned Emerson String Quartet in this devastatingly beautiful work contemplating the haunted life of the great composer Shostakovich. Seamlessly finding theatrical equivalents for apparently non-theatrical material, The Noise of Time canters on the poignant sounds of the troubled composer’s final String Quartet No.15 in E flat minor

Noise of Time is a multi-facetted theatrical piece where darkness and light, visual and musical images alternate like in human memory. The director Simon McBurney speaks about his idea: “Noise of Time is an attempt to move the music of Shostakovich’s Quartet No.15 into the context of dramatic action. This action is not a play and not a concert, but it creates the sensation of the composer’s presence and enables us to hear his voice. It is a dramatic meditation which aspires to tune the ear and the eye so that they can hear the heart beat in this extremely intimate musical opus, in this exclusively personal work”.

It is not by chance that the creators of the production quote in one of the programmes Sofia Gubaidulina’s words about Dmitri Shostakovich’s music: “Pain personified, the epitome of the tragedy and terror or our times”.

Text credit:

Photo credit: With thanks.

Kyiv, Ukraine Based Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development Set To Rival Minsk, Belarus Based Commonwealth Of Independent States

"ONE of the last vestiges of the Soviet Union appeared to be crumbling yesterday, when four former republics signalled they would be pulling out of the organisation established to keep the Kremlin connected with its lost empire. At a meeting in Kiev [Ukraine], the leaders of the pro-Western states of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine pledged to form their own association to promote democratic values.

They also hinted they would leave the Commonwealth of Independent States, which was created 15 years ago as a group representing most of the former Soviet republics.

While the CIS never fulfilled any great economic or political function, its very existence was supposed to reflect Moscow's continued influence from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus and on to Central Asia.

But ties between the Kremlin and some of its former client states have deteriorated with a wave of democratic movements that swept pro-Western leaders into power in Georgia and Ukraine and encouraged anti-Russian sentiment in Azerbaijan and Moldova.

The new group, to be called the Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development, will be based in Kiev [Kyiv].

It will rival the CIS, which is based in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it is headed by Vladimir Rushailo, a tough former Russian interior minister.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said: "Our citizens are giving us a mandate to develop strong, democratic and successful states."" ...

Richard Beeston "Former Soviet republics break free" The Times of London via The Australian May 25, 2006,20867,19248185-2703,00.html

Paging 21st Century Architects...

The 18th century Russian Czarist Mariinsky Palace (right) was a center for Russian colonial rule of Ukraine at the time of Prussian-born Russian Czarina Catherine the Great. In this photograph, it is dwarfed by the mid-20th century former Soviet Union Palace of Ministers (left), and now the present home of the democratic Congress (Rada) of Ukraine. Behind this Administrative Quarter are the floodlights of Kyiv's Dynamos Soccer Stadium, pleasantly nestled into the long urban park escarpment above the Dnipr River.

Photo credit: Taras Shevchenko University, Kyiv, Ukraine. With thanks. kyiv (Photo gallery)

The Russian Orthodox Church Seeks Cooperation With The Roman Catholic Vatican To Preserve Pan-Europe's Christian Culture

"Metropolitan Kiril of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who is the head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, said on May 22 that the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches need to work together to preserve Christian culture in Europe, ITAR-TASS reported. "Time is ripe for our two churches to cooperate for the sake of preserving Christian values in the life of modern Europe," Kiril said. "At a time when Europe has been trying to break away from its Christian roots, Christians in the East and in the West must work together to campaign for Christian values," he added. Kiril also acknowledged that "there remain theological problems dating back to the Middle Ages," and that "these themes must be studied and the theological dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox churches resumed." Kiril met with [the German] Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican on May 18, but did not discuss a possible papal visit to Moscow."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline May 24, 2006

Cathedral of the Assumption, Smolensk, Russia. The Holy 'Slavonic' Nationalities of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia defeated the Holy 'Christian' European Emperor Napolean at the Battle of Smolensk in 1812. Russian Nationalist composer Peter I. Tchaikovsky later commemorated this victory in a famous piece of classical music featuring live cannon fire.

Photo credit: The Moscow School. International Writing Exchange. With thanks. faculty/alc/IWE/Smolensk/


Prussian Kings' Palace in Kaliningrad, the Russian Federation. The North European Prussian tribes were some of the last native European peoples to be converted to Christianity, and their relationship to Christianity remained problematic into the 20th century. Until the 19th century, Kaliningrad (Königsberg, East Prussia) was a more extensive and elegant North European city than its sister Prussian city, Berlin, Brandenberg. Berlin (Brandenberg) was marred in the 19th century by industrialization which left it less a 'North European Athens', than a 'European Chicago'. Like [Saint] Petersburg, Russia, Königsberg, East Prussia was a city loved for its extensive system of urban waterways and bridges.

Photo credit: ~sergei/kaliningrad.html With thanks.

Belarus Dictator Lukashenka Uses Trimmed Down State Of The Nation Format To Insist That Their Are No Grounds For Social Contradictions In Belarus

"On May 23, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko delivered State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly. This annual event was attended by deputies and senators, supreme state officials, members of the Government, heads of state-run organizations, leaders of the major industrial companies, the nation-wide mass media, representatives of the diplomatic corps and international organizations.

This year`s Address of the Head of State had a new format: in his statement Alexander Lukashenko did not review all the spheres of life of the country in detail nor did he outline any global objectives. Strategic plans and priorities for the next five-year period were extensively discussed over the recent several months both by the public and at the top level. In March, the Third All-Belarus People`s Assembly, which produced huge public response, adopted the Program of Socio-Economic Development of Belarus until 2011. The recently-formed composition of the Government was set clear-cut tasks concerning the implementation of the Program. Thereupon, in his speech the President focused his attention on the solving of concrete problems in line with the priority avenues of the development of the country. As the Belarusian leader said, the title of the Address highlights an approach consisting of two indissolubly united parts: "The State for the people and the individual for the benefit of his Fatherland".

According to the President, the Belarusian economy is reporting enormous growth. The country is pursuing a progressive social policy which meets the needs of the individual; this is why there is no ground for social contradictions and conflicts. "The most important thing is the highest degree of confidence which the people have placed in the authority and the course it is pursuing. This is an indispensable and priceless resource which is a foundation for constructing a strong and developed Belarus", Alexander Lukashenko said."

The Fraudulently Elected President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka

"Being the President, I sometimes have to take unpopular decisions. I know that I will not be liked because of that. But my objective is to urge everybody to love the country where we live and respect the authorities which have never abandoned the people in grief. One cannot but agree that whatever happened there was immediate response from the authorities. To protect people is my main job. It is to serve this purpose that I've been hired by the nation."

Photo credit:

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pier Francesco Cavalli And Giovan Busenello's 1641 La Didone To Be Performed Honoring The 350th Anniversary Of The Printing Of Busenello's Libretti

As a centerpiece of the 2006 Washington Early Music Fesitval this June, the Ignoti Dei Opera, America's leading young opera company dedicated to informed and challenging productions of early opera, will present the New World première of Pier Francesco Cavalli and Giovan Busenello's 1641 "La Didone" in honor the 350th anniversary of the printing of Busenello's libretti and in conjunction with the National Gallery of Arts exhibit Bellini, Giorogione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. [This opera premiered one year before Busenello and Monteverdi's more famous "L'Incoronazione di Poppea".]

This will be a rare opportunity for American audiences to experience this neglected operatic masterpiece that tells the story of the fall of Troy and the love of Dido and Aeneas. For its Washington première, Ignoti Dei Opera brings together a cast and orchestra of America's finest early musicians. The cast is led by eminent soprano Rosa Lamoreaux and Tragicomedia veteran tenor Aaron Sheehan. The orchestra will be led by America's foremost Baroque violinist Robert Mealy, and will include an expanded continuo section of organ, harpsichord, theorbos, guitars, gambas, and lirone. Noted for his vivid and striking stage pictures, acclaimed director Timothy Nelson has designed an innovative and powerful production of stylized gesture, stark setting, arresting images.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 16 to 19, 2006.


2006 Washington Early Music Festival
June 2 to 25, 2006

Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting June 18 to September 17, 2006

The Poetry of Light: Venetian Drawings from the National Gallery of Art April 30 to October 1, 2006

Gian Francesco Busenello

Gian Francesco Busenello. Libertine lawyer and the first librettist in history. Patron Saint to today's serious librettists world-wide.

Image credit: busenello.htm. With thanks.

100 Slavonic Orthodox Activists Protest 'The Da Vinci Code' At Pushkin Square In Central Moscow, The Russian Federation

"Around 100 protesters representing a Russian Orthodox movement burned a poster advertising the The Da Vinci Code at Pushkin Square in central Moscow, on the day of the controversial film’s premier, RIA Novosti news agency reports. Protesters at the meeting, organized by the Union of Orthodox Citizens, held icons, crosses and banners, one of which read: “The Da Vinci Code: you buy a ticket — you sell Jesus.”

Leonid Simonovich-Nikshych, the chairman of an Orthodox organization represented at the protest, said: “Every heresy against the Church will burn in this way.” He urged for “blasphemous acts against Christians” to be stopped.

Moscow police did not stop the protest. Officers had been briefed by their supervisors not to intervene in these “religious things, unless there’s an open physical fight”, Discovery Institute website reports.

On Tuesday the Moscow Patriarchy condemned the release in Russia of the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s controversial bestseller, The Da Vinci Code. Many Russian Muslims are also outraged by the film, because Jesus is esteemed as a prophet in the Koran. They view The Da Vinci Code’s claim that Jesus slept with Mary Magdalene as an attack on their religion as well as Christianity." ... "Da Vinci Code Poster Burnt in Moscow by Orthodox Activists" May 23, 2006

Russian Orthodox activists holding icons in Moscow, Russia on May 23, 2006, the day "The Da Vinci Code" film opened in Moscow. Russian Muslims were also reported to be offended by the artwork.

Photo credit: Evgeny Razdobarin, via With thanks.

Belarus Dictator Lukashenka Predicts Collapse Of Global Economy; States Willingness To Talk To Democratic Opposition For Belarus's Future Good

"Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko forecasted on Tuesday the downfall of the global economy. “If the prices of energy sources continue to grow on global markets, this may lead to the collapse of global economy,” Lukashenko said in his annual address to the Belarusian parliament.

He went on to say that the world is very unstable at the moment.

“Situation in the world is even more unstable that it used to be five-ten years ago,” Lukashenko said, quoted by RIA Novosti.

The new centers of power are arising in the world, said the Belarusian President.

“This is connected with rise in prices of energy source. China, India, Persian Gulf countries and Latin America are all standing on their feet. The main thing is that Russia is rising too,” he said.

In Lukashenko’s opinion these new centers of power demand more and more rights for themselves. “The struggle between these states is escalating and we wouldn’t want this to lead to a confrontation or a military conflict,” he said.

The President of Belarus demanded that the country’s Defense Ministry increases its vigilance. “Our defense agency has to proceed from the fact that the world is restless,” Lukashenko said. “We have to have a realistic view of things.” ... "Belarusian President Lukashenko Forecasts Collapse of Global Economy" May 23, 2006



Belarus president ready to talk to opposition with nation’s good in mind


Alexander Lukashenko: state to render all-round support to large families


President: Belarus intends to partake in development of northern and western regions of China"

Belarusian [Official State] Telegraph Agency News Headlines May 23, 2006

Belarus Dictator Alexander Lukashenka chairing a meeting of the Minsk, Belarus based Commonwealth of Independent States -- comprised of the Former Republics of the Soviet Union.

Lame duck Lukashenka is rushing for the completion of the Russian - Belarusian Union State in preparation for his candidacy as the President of the Union State after Vladimir Putin leaves office in 2008. His popularity is reported to be rising in the Russian Federation. He subsequently hopes to expand the Russian - Belarusian Union State to also include -- at a minimum -- Ukraine, oil-rich Kazakhstan, and the Republic of Transnistria (presently part of the Republic of Moldova).

Photo credit: Belarusian Telegraph Agency

Monday, May 22, 2006

In Memorium, Modern Dancer, Choreographer, Writer, Human Rights Activist, And Humanist Katherine Dunham

"Katherine Dunham, a pioneering dancer and choreographer, author and civil rights activist who left Broadway to teach culture in one of America's poorest cities, has died. She was 96. ...

Government cuts and a lack of private funding forced her to scale back her programs in the 1980s. Despite a constant battle to pay bills, Dunham continued to operate a children's dance workshop and a museum.

Plagued by arthritis and poverty in the latter part of her life, Dunham made headlines in 1992 when she went on a 47-day hunger strike to protest U.S. policy that repatriated Haitian refugees.

''It's embarrassing to be an American,'' Dunham said at the time.

Dunham's New York studio attracted illustrious students like Marlon Brando and James Dean who came to learn the ''Dunham Technique,'' which Dunham herself explained as ''more than just dance or bodily executions. It is about movement, forms, love, hate, death, life, all human emotions.''

In her later years, she depended on grants and the kindness of celebrities, artists and former students to pay for her day-to-day expenses. Will Smith and Harry Belafonte were among those who helped her catch up on bills...

''She didn't end up on the street though she was one step from it,'' [Charlotte] Ottley said. ''She has been on the edge and survived it all with dignity and grace.''"

Associated Press "Katherine Dunham, Dance Pioneer, Dies at 96" May 22, 2006 via


Katherine Dunham

Not all great American artists die rich and adored; especially not the outspoken.

Photo credit: Mike van Sleen from Jacobs Pillow Dance 2003 "A Landmark Season" Exhibition. With thanks.

Ivan Hewett's 'Why The Japanese Are Hooked On Classical Music' And 'The Sound Of Strangeness Could Be The Saviour Of Tradition'

"Where is the nerve centre of classical music in the early 21st century? Answering that question depends on your criteria. If it's to do with possessing a venerable tradition, you might choose Vienna. If it's the location of the best orchestras and opera houses, you might choose Berlin. If it's finding exuberantly creative ways to reinvent the tradition, London or New York seem strong contenders. But if the true measure is a passionate devotion amounting almost to idolatry, Tokyo would win the palm.

It's revealed in a thousand ways, not least in the sweetly earnest way people talk about the art form. The president of the Japan Arts Corporation wrote in his company's concert brochure that "music has the power to foster a richer greater experience for the human soul." Audiences listen in a silence that one can only describe as fervent. At one concert in Tokyo, my neighbour sat perfectly still, eyes closed, for the entire three hours of Bach's St Matthew Passion, with only a tiny rhythmic movement of his little finger to show that he was still alive.

Even more striking is the way the Japanese put their money where their mouths are. Tokyo has eight orchestras, which is one more than Berlin, a city normally seen as the acme of orchestral lavishness. On any night you find at least as many concerts in as many genres as you can in London. And these concerts take place in venues of a quality that puts London's halls to shame. Often they're buried inside vast gleaming complexes of shops and hotels, such as the well-known Suntory Hall. Even more exquisite in sound and sight is the main hall at Tokyo Opera City. Everything that meets your eye is made of wood. Music in here rings out beautifully, as if the hall is vibrating like a giant violin.

This profusion isn't just a feature of Tokyo. Even quite modest provincial towns have lavish arts centres, thanks in large part to the so-called "bubble" economy of the '80s and early '90s. One of them, the Mito Art Tower, has one of the world's great chamber orchestras in residence, whose chief conductor is Seiji Ozawa. The chief executive, Yazawa Takaki, is clearly proud of the centre, and is keen to show me the theatre, modelled on Shakespeare's Globe. But, once inside the concert hall, he reveals an anxiety about the arts in Japan. "You hear the silence in this hall? That is what music really needs, but we have so little silence in our lives. I really wonder whether the younger generation will be able to hear music at all."

It was a surprise to hear Yazawa unwittingly express the ancient Japanese idea of ma. This guiding concept behind much traditional music performance says that music lives only in constant dialogue with silence. It was a reminder that many factors come together in the Japanese love affair with classical music, some ancient, some new. The most obvious factor is fairly recent - Japan's decision in 1868 to end centuries of isolation and open itself to the West. One of the first imports was Western music. By 1872 Western music had supplanted traditional music in the Japanese school system, and in 1884 the philosopher Shoichi Toyama actually suggested that Christianity should be adopted because it would help the new music to take root." ...

Ivan Hewett "Why they are hooked on classical" The Telegraph U.K. May 20, 2006


"In the global marketplace of "world music", Japanese traditional music holds itself aloof. There are no travelling stars of the ancient music of the Imperial Court known as gagaku, no sell-out albums by players of the sighing bamboo flute called the shakuhachi. The music doesn't lend itself to "fusion"; you couldn't really imagine the deep meditative twanging of the koto or zither put against a Latin beat.

And this is only natural, because the music's sounds embody a way of looking at the world which is deeply strange, and deeply fascinating. Robin Thompson, an expert in Japanese music and performer on the sho (a kind of Japanese mouth organ) is one of many Western musicians who have felt the impact of Japanese music like a thunderbolt.

"I was playing in an improvising group with Stockhausen in the '70s," he says, "and we visited Japan where I heard a player on the koto. For the first time, I heard something where every note seemed exactly right and necessary. It had to be this sound at this moment, and no other." ...

Inevitably, such a refined and aristocratic tradition is under threat, even though in Japan it's tended as carefully as a hot-house flower. The traditions are subsidised as "intangible cultural assets", and the leading players given the title "national cultural treasure". The ancient guild system means that a small number of aged masters lead rival styles on each instrument. Each master has his eager acolytes, who have to pay for the privilege of performing in the guild's annual showcase concert. But audiences are dwindling. Record producer So Fujimoto says he sells only a tenth the number of traditional music albums he sold 20 years ago.

The strangeness and unpopularity of Japanese music may, however, turn out to be its saviour. In a world full of globalised aural soup, something inviolate and "other" is starting to seem attractive....

Another development which is bringing new life to an old tradition is music for mixed ensembles of Western and Japanese instruments. One of them, Okeanos, is giving a concert at the Spitalfields Festival in London next month. The interesting thing about this group is that the shamisen and sho are not simply added like spots of exotic colour to a fundamentally Western texture, as so often happens in these cross-cultural fusions. It's the Japanese instruments that set the tone of rapt meditativeness, which the Western instruments have to defer to."

Ivan Hewett "Sound of strangeness could be the saviour of tradition" The Telegraph U.K. May 20, 2006

The Isamu Noguchi Museum and Garden, Long Island City [Queens], New York City, United States.

"The recently renovated Noguchi Museum is one of the most peaceful, beautiful, spiritual, and moving places in New York. Master sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed the space himself; it previously was a photo-engraving plant. Make your way slowly through the different rooms, some of which are open to the sky, and save the remarkable garden for last. Take your time breathing in the essence of each individual piece, walking around it to feel the full force of Noguchi’s expert craftsmanship. Notice the difference between the smooth and rough sides of "Shiva Pentagonal" (area 1). You can almost hear the soothing flows of "Waterfall" (area 3). Area 14 houses the circular red marble "Sun at Noon," "Downward Pulling" on the ground, and "Ding Dong Bat" hovering near the center. Two versions of "Walking Void" begin area 6, in which you’ll also find "Magic Ring" on the floor — check out the rough edges where you can see Noguchi’s chisel marks. In a room virtually unto itself resides "Memorial to the Dead of Hiroshima.""

Caption and photo credit: This Week in New York: The Insiders Guide to the City since 2001. With thanks.

Old European Cultural Capital Berlin Braces For Heightened Racist and Anti-Semitic Violence As Unemployment Stays At 20 Per Cent In Eastern Germany

BERLIN, May 22 -- "German authorities are growing concerned that neo-Nazis and other racist groups could disrupt soccer's World Cup next month and are struggling to contain a surge in violent attacks on dark-skinned victims, including a Turkish-born lawmaker who was assaulted over the weekend in the capital.

Government leaders have reassured foreign guests that they will be secure during the month long World Cup, which starts June 9. But such promises have been undercut by two recent high-profile attacks and plans by neo-Nazi groups to hold demonstrations during the tournament.

On Monday, the mood darkened further when the government released a report by its domestic intelligence service showing that the number of violent acts committed by right-wing extremists increased by 24 percent last year. Membership in neo-Nazi groups also rose, from an estimated 3,800 to 4,100, according to the report.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the country's top security official, acknowledged the problem but repeated promises that the government would ensure a safe tournament.

"We will do everything in our power to prevent the World Cup from being used by extremist organizations to spread their abhorrent thoughts," he told reporters Monday.

On June 21, neo-Nazi sympathizers are scheduled to hold a rally in Leipzig before a match between Iran and Angola to show support for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has recently made statements calling for the destruction of Israel and denying the Holocaust. Iranian officials have indicated that Ahmadinejad may attend the match, although German diplomats are trying to find a way to persuade him to stay home.

The rally sponsors, the fringe National Democratic Party, caused controversy this spring by publishing a glossy tournament schedule with a photo of a German soccer player and the headline, "White -- Not Only a Color for Jersey!" Critics called it a thinly veiled insult to foreign-born players on Germany's national team.

Last week, a former federal government spokesman who now heads a civil-rights group caused a stir by warning World Cup fans from abroad "and anyone with a different skin color" to avoid visiting towns and villages outside Berlin and other rural parts of eastern Germany. "They may not leave with their lives," said Uwe-Karsten Heye, who had served as chief spokesman under former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Current government officials pressed Heye to retract his remarks and said he was unfairly stigmatizing the formerly communist half of the country. But his warning was underscored a few days later when a Turkish-born lawmaker was assaulted in his East Berlin district by two men who called him "a dirty foreigner" and struck him in the head with a bottle, police said.

Racial tensions in the district were highlighted in a brochure published earlier this month by the Africa Council, a coalition of African community groups in Germany that has compiled a list of "No-Go" areas that are unsafe for foreigners during the World Cup.

Wolfgang Bosbach, a Christian Democrat member of parliament, said lawmakers needed to do more to crack down on skinheads and neo-Nazis ahead of the World Cup. He said the government should ban the planned demonstration in Leipzig and other such rallies during the tournament....

More than 1 million visitors are expected to come to Germany during the World Cup, which features teams from 32 nations.

Anetta Kahane, chairman of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a civil-rights watchdog group in Berlin, said many government leaders and ordinary Germans are reluctant to confront the problem. She said racism and anti-Semitism have been allowed to fester in the former East German states in particular, a legacy of communist times when German responsibility for the Holocaust was not emphasized as strongly as it was in the west.

In small towns in the east, where jobless rates approach 20 percent, "you find this atmosphere of aggression against people who are not blond-haired or blue-eyed," Kahane said. "In Germany, many people don't want to hear about it, and that's part of the problem.""

Craig Whitlock "Violence in Germany Surges Ahead of World Cup" May 22, 2006

Modernism and State Violence: The Berlin Reichssportfeld Olympiastadion, 1936. Is or is not seventy years a long time?

Photo credits: U.S. National Archives courtesy of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives.

New European Capital Cities Chisinau, Republic of Moldova And Kyiv, Ukraine Host Pan-Slavonic And Pan-European Cultural Festivals And Concerts

CHISINAU, May 22 (Itar-Tass) - - "Traditional Days of Slavonic Written Language and Culture have begun in Moldova on Monday with ceremonial church liturgies in memory of Saint Apostles Kirill and Mifody.

As journalists learnt at the press service of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations of the Republic, this festival, which was organized jointly with Slavonic ethnocultural organizations of the country, is being held in the Republic for the seventeenth time.

“The holding of Days of Slavonic Written Language and Culture promotes strengthening of the interethnic world, accord, and tolerance in Moldova,” director of the bureau Olga Goncharova said.

Flower-laying ceremonies to monuments of outstanding figures of Slavonic culture were also held in Chisinau and other cities of the Republic on Monday.

Professional and amateur creative collectives from Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova will take part in the festival which will last until May 28.

Festivals, concerts, literary meetings, meetings with writers, book and art exhibitions will be held in cities and villages of the Republic."

ITAR-TASS News Agency "Days of Slavonic Written Language and Culture begin in Moldova" May 22, 2006


KIEV, May 20 (Itar-Tass) - "The Day of Europe is being held in the centre of the Ukrainian capital on Saturday. The Kreshchatik, the central street of Kiev, has been turned into a sort of “European city” providing both entertainment and information.

Every country, integrated in the European Union, opened its pavilion in the Kreshchatik Street, where Kiev residents and guests are given propaganda booklets, journals and souvenirs. Reports are made in the pavilion of the European Commission about the advantages of Ukraine’s cooperation with the European Union in various spheres. EU representatives, diplomats, deputies to the Supreme Rada (Ukrainian parliament), major businessmen and writers are doing the explanatory work. The “school of European languages,” the “European food section” and the “European music section” were opened.

The festive mood of enthusiasts of European integration was spoiled by a protest action of some 100 workers of pipe-making plants. They are sitting right on the ground in the Maidan (Independence Square), pounding their helmets on the asphalt. The workers are protesting against the EU anti-dumping duties on the Ukrainian pipe deliveries....

A concert with the participation of popular Ukrainian and European singers will take place in the central part of Kiev at night."

ITAR-TASS News Agency "Day of Europe held in Ukrainian capital" May 20, 2006

All Saints Orthodox Church in Chisinau, the Capital of the Republic of Moldova. With a population of about 750,000, Chisinau is approximately the same size as the Eastern European Cultural Capitals of Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; and Riga, Latvia.

Photo credit: Tan Wee Cheng. Singapore. With thanks.


UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Struve Geodetic Arc [2005]

The Struve Arc is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through ten countries [Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Sweden, and Ukraine] and over 2,820km. These are points of a survey, carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve, which represented the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. This helped establish the exact size and shape of our planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping. It is an extraordinary example of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries, and of collaboration between monarchs for a scientific cause.


"Formerly part of Romania, Moldova was incorporated into the Soviet Union at the close of World War II. Although independent from the USSR since 1991, Russian forces have remained on Moldovan territory east of the Dniester River supporting the Slavic majority population, mostly Ukrainians and Russians, who have proclaimed a "Transnistria" republic. The poorest nation in Europe, Moldova became the first former Soviet state to elect a Communist as its president in 2001.

[U.S.] Central Intelligence Agency "The World Factbook"

Friday, May 19, 2006

In Memorium, Charles Ives: A Father Of Us All In The Modern And Contemporary Music Communities

Charles Edward Ives, ca. July 1950, outside his summer home in West Redding, Connecticut.

Mr Ives died on May 19, 1954.

Two days later, funeral services for Charles Ives took place at he and his wife's West Redding home; with the Rev. Joseph Hooker Twichell (his brother-in-law) presiding and his neighbor, and organist, Luemily Ryder playing Eventide ("Abide with me") on Ives’s upright piano. Mr Ives's burial was in Wooster Cemetery, Danbury, Connecticut.


Please see the Charles Ives Society's exceptionally insightful "Programming Guide" to Charles Ives music (and life) indexed for every day and season of the year; and which is based upon the official "A Descriptive Catalogue of the Music of Charle Ives" by James B. Sinclair (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999).


With thanks to Bob Shingleton at On An Overgrown Path for reminding the music world of this anniversary.

Photo credit: (c) Yale University Library via the Charles Ives Society.

Orpheus Raising Hell: Memories Of The Late Aleksander Kulisiewicz By Peter Wortsman

"The late Aleksander Kulisiewicz (Alex to his friends) lived in a world turned topsy turvy. While others did backward somersaults of denial to compensate for the rude disruption to their everyday lives, turning a blind eye to the unsightly reality, thereby deflecting attention from themselves and feigning normalcy, Alex had the effrontery (foolish or courageous—take your pick) to stand upright and look the lies and liars in the eye. Neither Jew nor Gypsy, Communist, homosexual, Jehovah's Witness, high profile Polish intellectual or other likely candidate for the Nazi roster of undesirables, he could, like most of his contemporaries, have kept his mouth shut and bit his tongue to still the hunger and disgust, but Alex stuck out his tongue. "Genug Hitler, Heil Butter!" (Enough Hitler, Heil Butter!) he wrote in an anonymous jibe entitled "Homemade Hitlerisms" in a student newspaper subsequently traced by the Gestapo back to its author. He was arrested in 1939, at the age of 22, and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the grim finishing school, where he spent the next five years (or more precisely, 66 months in Hell) and found his true calling as a modern day Orpheus, a troubadour of the unutterable. In 54 of his own songs composed and first performed surreptitiously during his incarceration, Alex snubbed his nose at the German authorities to amuse and boost the morale of his fellow inmates. He also committed to memory hundreds of other songs and poems gathered from those who suspected that their own end was near. Following an informant's denunciation and the subsequent brutal interrogation, he was injected with diphtheria bacilli to shut him up for good ... "

Opening lines to the essay
Orpheus Raising Hell: Memories of the late Aleksander Kulisiewicz
By Peter Wortsman

The full essay is available on the Web-site of the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum, at this page (one must click the
link to the Wortsman essay near the bottom of the opening page):


"Aleksander Kulisiewicz (1918–1982) was a law student in German-occupied Poland when, in October 1939, he was denounced for antifascist writings, arrested by the Gestapo, and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near Berlin. An amateur singer and songwriter, Kulisiewicz composed 54 songs during nearly six years of imprisonment at Sachsenhausen. After liberation he remembered his songs, as well as those learned from fellow prisoners, dictating hundreds of pages of text to his attending nurse at a Polish infirmary.

The majority of Kulisiewicz’s songs are darkly humorous ballads concerning the sadistic treatment of prisoners. Performed at secret gatherings, imbued with biting wit and subversive attitude, these songs helped inmates cope with their hunger and despair, raised morale, and offered hope of survival. Beyond this spiritual and psychological purport, Kulisiewicz also considered the camp song to be a form of documentation. “In the camp,” he wrote, “I tried under all circumstances to create verses that would serve as direct poetical reportage. I used my memory as a living archive. Friends came to me and dictated their songs.”

In the 1950s, Kulisiewicz began amassing a private collection of music, poetry, and artwork created by camp prisoners, gathering this material through correspondence and hundreds of hours of recorded interviews. In the 1960s, he inaugurated a series of public recitals of his repertoire of camp songs, and issued several recordings. Kulisiewicz's major project, a monumental study of the cultural life of the camps and the vital role music played as a means of survival for many prisoners, remained unpublished at the time of his death. His archive—the largest extant collection of music composed in the camps—is now a part of the USHMM Archives."

Aleksander Kulisiewicz, standing in front of his collection, ca. 1970. From Konrad Strzelewicz, Zapis: Opowiesc Aleksandra Kulisiewicza (Krakow, 1984). All rights reserved.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum link also includes a photograph of Aleksander Kulisiewicz playing the guitar and singing in Krakow, Poland, ca. 1980.

Photo credit: Konrad Strzelewicz, Krakow, Poland. All rights reserved. [Via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.] With thanks.


[With special thanks to PW.]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

'Eurasian Union Of Youth' Disrupts Russia-NATO Photo Exhibition Held At Moscow's Foreign Literature Library

"A group of protesters tried to disrupt the opening of a Russia-NATO photo exhibition in Moscow Thursday by attempting to seize microphones from officials attending the ceremony and shouting anti-NATO slogans, the RIA Novosti news agency reports. Calling themselves representatives of a Eurasian Union of Youth, young people shouted “NATO is worse than the Gestapo!” “NATO is Russia’s enemy!” and “Kill NATO. NATO is Death!”

The protesters demanded that the Hague Tribunal condemn NATO’s “aggression against 21 countries.” The director of the Foreign Literature Library, which is hosting the exhibition, said the protesters were insane.

“These are insane people who prevent us from joining hands,” Yekaterina Geniyeva said. “Today we had a vivid lesson of the threats we face in this world. One of them is the ever-growing hatred, fascism and xenophobia.”

Earlier this month several anti-NATO rallies, prompted by promotional campaign “NATO-Russia Rally 2006: What Binds Us Together” have been held in several big cities across Russia. On May 11, dozens staged protest against NATO enlargement in the far eastern city of Vladivostok. Wednesday, an unsanctioned rally was held in Volgograd.

The Russian government has worked with NATO for more than a decade, but polls show that many Russians continue to question the alliance’s motives in accepting new member states that were once part of or allied to the Soviet Union."...

MosNews "Anti-NATO Protesters Seek to Disrupt Russia-NATO Photo Exhibition" May 18, 2006

Eurasian hatred of NATO dates back to 1999 when NATO jets bombed Novi Sad and Belgrad, Serbia; following the massive expulsions by Serbs of ethnic Albanians living in the autonomous republic of Kosovo. After the NATO bombing campaign, NATO and Russian peacekeepers where stationed in Kosovo, the Former Yugoslavia. The hatred was gravely compounded following the Anglo-American led invasion of Iraq, in 2003, which has led to the loss of scores of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilian lives. Pacifism is more deeply ingrained in the consciousnesses of citizens of the Former Soviet Union (which lost 26 million citizens in World War II), China, India, and Japan, than it is in parts of America, Canada, England, and Western Europe.

Photo credit: Roma Sud-ovest social forum [Rome South-west Social Forum] With thanks.

Lukashenka Regime And HATO (NATO) Launch Propaganda Wars For Hearts And Minds Of Weary And Economically And Spiritually Dislocated Russian Citizens

"Loss of Belarus, the abandoning of the idea to build the Union State can be a tragedy for Russia, member of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament Alexander Tyagunov told a roundtable sitting dedicated to pressing issues of the Belarusian-Russian integration in Moscow on May 18.

“Belarus is more important for Europe than Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states,” believes the Russian MP. “The West will momentarily find an application for Belarus.”

Alexander Tyagunov stated, the attention of the Russian State Duma towards the Belarusian-Russian integration had been slack recently. He believes, measures would be in order to hold elections to the Union parliament soon. With a single parliament, Belarus and Russia will have a common power branch, stressed the parliamentarian.

Alexander Tyagunov noted, the strongest part of the Belarusian-Russian relations is the economic ties, which are being vigorously developed, including development at the regional level. The spiritual link between the two nations is no less strong. “Belarusian issues find understanding with every stratum of the Russian population,” said the Russian MP."

Belarusian [Official State] Telegraph Agency "Russian MP: loss of Union State can be tragedy for Russia" May 18, 2006


"NATO may accept more ex-Soviet states as members in the future but the alliance also wants closer ties with Russia and its expansion is not directed against Moscow, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a seminar here May 18.

Speaking via teleconference from Brussels to students and academics in Moscow, de Hoop Scheffer said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) wanted to boost its image in Russia, its former Cold War enemy.

Asked to comment on aspirations voiced by Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbors Ukraine and Georgia to join the Atlantic alliance, de Hoop Scheffer said they should be free to do so if their populations supported the move but cautioned they would have to meet NATO military standards to join.

”Could I see Georgia and Ukraine as members of NATO? I say yes... but I add that this is performance-based.

”Let them be free to say what they say and let them be free to do what they do. Let the people decide. That’s called democracy,” de Hoop Scheffer said, adding: “NATO enlargement is never anti-Russia. It should take place and it will take place in complete transparency and openness.”

The video linkup was part of a promotional campaign, dubbed “NATO-Russia Rally 2006: What binds us together”, consisting of a series of public events between May 11 and May 26 across Russia aimed at raising the alliance’s profile in the country.

De Hoop Scheffer said it became clear to him on his last visit to Moscow that NATO had a major image problem in Russia, the bloc’s Cold War adversary where most people still view the alliance with suspicion or contempt.

”Building a bridge of trust and cooperation across Europe between Russia and NATO is a strategic goal we all share,” he said, adding: “That bridge is now being built.” The likely deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the troubled Darfur region in western Sudan would give NATO and Russian troops a chance to work together closely, de Hoop Scheffer said.

Russia and the countries of NATO “don’t see fully eye to eye” on all issues — he specifically pointed to Russian support for the government in the ex-Soviet republic of Belarus — but the two sides could overcome disagreements.

Although relations between NATO and Russia have improved considerably since the creation of a formal cooperation structure at a 2002 summit in Rome, tensions remain over the military alliance’s eastern expansion."

"NATO Chief Soothes Russia on Expansion" AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, MOSCOW May 18, 2006 via


"Two regional security organizations comprising post-Soviet nations and China are planning joint military exercises, the chief of Russia’s general staff said Thursday, the RIA Novosti news agency reports.

“We are currently discussing a joint exercise under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” Yury Baluyevsky said, adding that the date of the exercise, which would also involve troops from Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) nations, had yet to be decided.

Baluyevsky said the exercises would practice joint counteraction against terrorist threats.

The chiefs of the CSTO nations’ general staffs held a meeting in Moscow Thursday to discuss ways to make the collective security system more effective, including by improving control of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force, which currently numbers 1,500 military personnel deployed in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which comprises the former Soviet republics in Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan — as well as Russia and China, was created in 2001 to deal with security issues, including border conflicts, and terrorism.

These countries, without China, also form the CSTO, which also includes Belarus and Armenia. The CSTO is seen by some experts as a counterbalance to NATO’s eastward expansion. CSTO was created in the framework of Commonwealth of Independent States in 1994. The treaty affirmed the desire of all participating states to abstain from the use or threat of force against each other and obliged signatories not to join other military alliances or other groups of states, while an aggression against one signatory would be perceived as an aggression against all." ...

"Russia, China to Hold Joint Military Exercises Under SCO Aegis" May 18, 2006


"Belarus will host a meeting of the Integration Committee of the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC, member states are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) and a session of the EAEC Interstate Council at the level of the heads of government on 18-19 May, the Belarusian news agency Belapan reported on 17 May, quoting the first deputy foreign minister of Belarus,...

Belarus will also host summits of the EAEC and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) at the level of heads of state on 23-24 June, Belapan said ..."

"Belarus to Host Meetings of CIS Eurasian Bloc, CIS Security Body in May, June" Belaplan News Agency (Minsk), May 17, 2006 via Armenian News Network /Groong

The loss of human life, and humanity, in a 21st century once again driven by ideologies and geo-politics.

Universal Studios has bought the rights to an article about the 2004 rebel raid on a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan, near the border with Chechnya, which left more than 300 people dead, most of them children.

Photo credit: With thanks.