Category Archives: Russia

Lugansk – a modern Guernica?

poster

With some of the images of death and destruction coming out of the conflict in eastern Ukraine Picasso’s work “Guernica” is starting to take on more meaning for me.

 

Inna Kukuruza – “her eyes spoke to the whole world”

Inna

Iconic photos are often associated with historic event, especially conflicts. The picture of the man stopping a Tank in Beijing during suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 is an obvious one.

For me the photo above will always be connected with Ukraine and the current conflict there. As one blogger put it, Inna Kukuruza’s “eyes spoke to the whole world.”

She was a civilian victim of the recent jet attack on the centre of Lugansk in Eastern Ukraine (see Lugansk war crime). Over the past few days I have watched (or tried to watch) videos of the attack and it’s aftermath. This has been extremely difficult because they are just so graphic. I decided not to include any videos here – although if you have a strong stomach the blog post Inna Kukuruza shall not be forgotten has a brief extract.

The first victim!

It is well established that the first victim in war is truth. Mind you the dispatch of truth usually comes well before the shooting starts.

I have a personal interest in Ukraine and the dispatch of truth occurred for me straight after the February 21st agreement signed by the then President, the opposition leaders and representatives of the European Union. The very next day there was a coup, the opposition leaders came to power and they (together with the EU politicians) immediately abandoned the agreement – before the ink was dry!

A real pity, as they had signed up to consitutional reform involving the whole country before elections later this year. Seems to me consitutional reform is exactly what the country is crying out for. Instead we have had Orwellian doublespeak and cynical geopolitical maneuvering by the major powers, as well as the Ukrainian politicians while the people have been ignored.

Well, not quite ignored because now the acting president has taken to calling protesters “terrorists.” (This is a guy who was put into power by a coup precipitated by violent protesters in Kiev). You can understand the reaction of people to this – if not have a look at this video. Here local people protesting at the Karamtorsk airstrip in eastern Ukraine captured by military units from Kiev argue with Uranian Gen. Vasily Krutov who was attempting to defend the “anti-terrorist” action.

They ask – “Who is the terrorist here?”

via На Краматорском аэродроме высадился десант. “Генерал” дает интервью – YouTube.

Yes, it sounds mad for a president, even just an acting president, to describe his people as terrorists. But there is a cynical logic here. Appa=rently by law the Ukrainian military cannot be used against protestors unless a state of emergency is declared – or protester are redefined as terrorists, I guess.

Mind you – it’s not only the politicians who have dispatched with truth. Seems to me that many of the journalists on the ground are also distorting the situation. Compare these Twitter reports from Ilya Azsar at the airfield with the evidence of the video! This from the Pro-Kiev  The Interpreter.

Screenshot-2014-04-16-11.32

I can understand the anger of people in eastern Ukraine being described this way. However, I myself also feel violated by the misrepresentations that seems to count for news in the midst of such conflicts. I feel I am being denied my right to information and treated like an idiot.

See also: Tensions Boil Over on Camera in Ukraine’s East and West for more on the above incident and also the mob attack on Oleg Tsarov - one of the candidates in the planned presidential elections – who spoke up for the  east Ukrainians.

Scientific cooperation despite political posturing

I find it heartening scientific cooperation continues (so far) despite all the political posturing going on down here over the Ukraine political crisis.

Here we see the arrival of Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson at the  International Space Station (ISS). This brings the ISS to its full capacity of six people. The arriving astronauts were welcomed by three astronauts on board the ISS, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin.

Soyuz docks succesfully, astronauts meet

Graphic information in science

Former-Soviety-States-v2

Click image to enlarge.

No, I am not trying to start a debate on the Ukrainian situation (although it is interesting). Just that I came across this graphic presenting data on the post-Soviet economic development of the former Soviet countries. Ukraine does sort of stand out for its poor economic performance - a possible contributor to their present problems.

But what a great way of present a lot of information? I sometimes come across such good examples of graphic presentation in political and economic reports – but hardly ever in the “hard” sciences. Although I think some biological reports can have pretty good graphics.

Wouldn’t it be great if scientists used this sort of approach to graphic presentation in the papers and reports? Those dry old tables and line, bar and scatter graphs have their limitations.

Thanks to: Canadian International Council.

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Who were Stalin’s victims?

I hate it when people talk about persecution of their ideological comrades whilst ignoring persecution of other people. Especially when their comrades may be only a small part of the total persecution.

This happens a lot with religious apologists who distort history to claim that repression by dictators like Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot were examples of atheists suppressing believers. Unfortunately, it’s not only the religously motivated who distort history this way. I mentioned an example of this in my review of James Berlinerblau’s book How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom. In this Berlinerbalue wrote of the Stalin Terror as if it was a case of atheists persecuting Christians. I wrote:

“”It is just too simplistic (if ideologically satisfying to many historians) to present the myth of a persecuted and banned religion and Orthodox Church during the period of communist power. After all, the most dangerous organisation to belong to during the Stalin Terror of the 30s was the Communist Party – half its Central Committee disappeared in the space of a few years between two Congresses so imagine what it was like in the ranks. Persecution at that time was widespread so it is wrong to draw general conclusions only from persecution of church members then.”(see Secularism – its internal problems).

So, I was intrigued to find a database prepared by the Russian Memorial Society itemising specific cases of executions in Moscow at the height of the Stalin terror. The database has an associated map function – seen pictorially it does show how bad that period was.

As expected such a database may never be complete – but this one is detailed. The Memorial Group has obviously worked hard to ensure the victims of this repression won’t be forgotten. But because of the detail it’s possible to actually quantify to some extent the claim I made in the above review.

There are 11,170 names in this database. Quite a number. I spent some time searching through the details and identified 28 names of priests. Twenty eight! I tell you they were few and far between. Then I searched for communists – specifically members of the CPSU(B). They were everywhere. I counted about 5450!

I agree – a very amateurish search. After all there will be believers who were not identified as priests. Maybe some of the CPSU members were believers. And there were members of other communist parties – such as the Lithuanian, Latvian and Polish parties. But the figures give some idea.

Frankly, I think it was far more dangerous to be a communist in the Soviet Union during the Stalin Terror than it was to be a Christian.

BBC News – In Moscow, history is everywhere.

Here are the details of a few of the priests:

Vasily Karpov, born. 1901, Mordovia reg., Krasnoslobodski district, p. Spruce, Russian, b / n, the priest. Location: st. Novobasmannaya, 11, Apt. 4. Executed 11/19/1937. Place of burial: Butovo.

Zorin Dmitri Pavlovich, born. 1883, Nizhny Novgorod Province., Lukoyamsky county, p. Kemlya, Russian, w / n, the priest. Location: st. B. Vorobiev, 2. Executed10/12/1937. Place of burial: Butovo.

Kwiatkowski Vasily Yakovlevich, b. 1887, Volyn province., Zaslavsky county seats. Sudilkov Ukrainian, b / n, a priest in the Church of Danilovsky cemetery. Location: st. Don, 1, Apt. 105. Executed 11/28/1937. Place of burial: Kommunarka.

And these three from one residence:

Shekhovtsev Onesiphorus A., b. 1881, Voronezh, Russian, b / p, priest, deacon Sorokasvyatskoy church. Address: Dinamovskaya st., Building 28. Executed 10/12/1937. Place of burial: Butovo.

Tryganov Leont’ev, b. 1882, Vladimir Province., P. Butylitsy ex., Russian, b / n, the priest Dorogomilovsky cemetery. Address: Dinamovskaya st., 28, a church lodge. Executed 10/12/1937. Place of burial: Butovo.

Peter N. Mikhailov, born. 1877, Kuibyshev Region., Ulyanovsk, Russian, b / n, a priest, a deacon. Address: Dinamovskaya st., Building 28, apt. 3. Executed 10/12/1937. Place of burial: Butovo.

And here are a few of the others:

Samulenko Arseny Gerasimov, b. 1905, the Western Region., Pochinok district, etc. Glumaevo, Russian, member of the CPSU (B), Deputy. Chairman of the State Bank. Location: st. Serafimovich, 2 (Government House), app. 34. Executed 07/30/1941. Place of burial: Kommunarka.

Frost Gregory S., b. 1893, Shklov, a Jew, a member of the CPSU (b), the chairman of the Central Committee of Trade Union of Government Commerce. Address: ul.Serafimovicha, 2 (Government House), kv.39. Executed 11/02/1937. Place of burial: Don.

Israel Kleiner M., b. 1893, in Chisinau, a Jew, a member of the CPSU (b), (former anarchist), chairman of the Committee for the procurement of agricultural products at SNK. Address: ul.Serafimovicha, 2 (Government House), kv.46. Executed26/11/1937. Place of burial: Don.

Krejci Fritz R., b. 1897, Budapest, Hungary, a member of the German CP, political editor Glavlit. Location: st. Kalyaevskaya, 5 Blvd. 9. Executed 16/06/1938. Place of burial: Kommunarka.

Vintser-Vaytsner Martsellish-Joseph-Samuel Genrikhovich 1886, Poland, Petroc, a Jew, a member of the CPSU (b) authorized USSR Trade Representation in Spain. Location: st. Kalyaevskaya, 5 Blvd. 16. Executed 08/28/1938. Place of burial: Kommunarka.

Fishzon Abraham G., b. 1893, Rostov-on-Don, a Jew, a member of the CPSU (B), head of Gosplan. Location: st. Kalyaevskaya, 5 Blvd. 21. Executed 01/08/1938. Place of burial: Kommunarka.

Reinhold David Aaronovitch, b. 1900, s.Znamenka Irkutsk Province. Jew, b / n, head of the transport department in the office “Mospodsobstroy” in 1932-1937. Head of Sector in V / O “Sovmongtuvtorg.” Address: ul.Kalyaevskaya, 5, kv.22. Executed 31/07/1939. Place of burial: Don.
kv.23

Fritz Sauer Adolfovich, b. 1904, Germany, was Cheperfeld, a German member of the German CP 1927-1931, member of the CPSU (b) 1931-1933, Training industrial “Mosoblozet”: working. Address: B. Athanasian per., 17 a / 7, apt. 32. Executed 28/05/1938. Place of burial: Butovo.

Lewites Natalia L., b. 1903, Voronezh, Russian, b / n, a typist in the Moscow office of the newspaper “Leningradskaya Pravda”. Location: Greater Athanasian per., 22, Apt. 11. Executed 14/06/1938. Place of burial: Kommunarka.

Lukichev Alexander, b. 01.02.1906, Moscow, Russian, b / n, a professor at the Moscow Institute of Electrical Engineering of energy. Address: ul.Zhukovskogo, 5, kv.21. Executed 07/02/1937. Place of burial: Don.

Baron Mikhail B., b. 1884, Tobolsk, a Jew, a former Menshevik, a member of the VKP (b) in 1919, the chief of the locomotive department st.Moskva-sorting Lenin railway Location: st. Zhukovsky, 7, Apt. 4. Executed 09/20/1938. Place of burial: Kommunarka.

Sheyhyants Vladimir G., b. 1912, Turkey city of Kars, Armenian, b / p, Deputy. Chap. engineer of the Capital Construction Stalinogorsk nitrogen fertilizer plant. Location: st. Zhukovsky, 7, Apt. 13. Executed 09/16/1938. Place of burial: Kommunarka.

Thanks to Daniel Sandford, BBC, In Moscow, history is everywhere

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Politics and economics of Arctic ice loss

The unprecedented loss of sea ice in the Arctic this northern summer has made the news lately. The images below from the Guardian article Arctic sea ice shrinks to smallest extent ever recorded show the problem.

But this second figure brings it home to me. What we are seeing is the possibility of future commercial sea navigation through the Arctic circle – initially seasonal but eventually throughout the year. And increased exploitation of natural resources. Already major powers are lining up to take advantage of improved access and international political conflicts are emerging.

The article says:

“The shrinking of the ice cap was interpreted by environment groups as a signal of long-term global warming caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. A study published in July in the journal Environmental Research Letters, that compared model projections with observations, estimated that the radical decline in Arctic sea ice has been between 70-95% due to human activities.”

It looks like the first major political and economic effects directly attributable to human caused climate change will probably emerge around the Arctic. And in the not too distant future.

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Seven Minutes of Terror

Although recent US probes to Mars have been very successful there have certainly been a lot of failures in both US and Russian attempts in the past.

However, we all have our fingers crossed for the Curiosity probe which will attempt the landing of a rover on Mars in early August. But the landing itself will be very stressful. There are just so many problems to overcome – not the least  the 15 minutes radio messages take to get from Mars to Earth – one way.

I don’t know what odds to bookies place on a successful landing – but after watching this video I don’t think it can be very high.

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror – YouTube.

Still, a lot of people are hoping for success and no doubt we will be able to share the tension, excitement and (hopefully) joys of the NASA engineers involved in real-time on the internet and via Twitter.

Selling the family silver!

Vostok-1 recovery capsule

Bloody hell – this was a shock. Sotheby’s has auctioned  Vostok: Earth’s First Spaceship!

I got this in a tweet from fellow SciBlogger Aimee. But would the Russians be selling of Yuri Gagarin’s space capsule? And on the 50th anniversary of his historic flight?

Possibly. Anyone familiar with the Rogernomics period in New Zealand knows we have done such things. And the ACT Party would willingly do that again. But the Russians selling of such a historic trophy? Sure they have had their economic problems but even so.

These sort of treasures shoulkd not be in private hads. They should be available to the public.

I know that the capsule was still in Moscow in the 1980s – I saw it at the Cosmos Pavilion in the Economic Achievements Exhibition. (It was well-padded but very pokey. And burned on the outside).

After checking that it wasn’t April 1 I read some of the information supplied in the Sotheby’s catalogue. And information on the item itself  THE VOSTOK 3KA-2 SPACESHIP.

Well it did sell – for 2,882,500 USD. And the sales information had quite an interesting history of the spacecraft and Gagarin’s lauch. However, it was only after I had read through a bit before I got to the relevant information:

“The Vostok spaceship flown with the cosmonaut-mannequin Ivan Ivanovich, 25 March 1961, as the final fail-safe and test mission prior to Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight just eighteen days later.

Vostok 3KA-2 is not a prototype but an exact twin of Gagarin’s Vostok 3KA-3 capsule, which was later designated Vostok 1.

Vostok 3KA-2 was a critical linchpin of the world’s first manned space program, not only providing the “green light” for the first manned space flight, but afterwards serving for training at the Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City, and later providing the design model for Zenit and other spy satellites manufactured at the Central Specialized Design Bureau in Kuybyshev.

This is the only Vostok spaceship outside of Russia and the only one in private hands; all other surviving Vostok capsules are in permanent Russian museum collections.”

So – that’s a relief! It was Vostok 3KA-2 that was auctioned – not Gagarin’s Vostok 3KA-3 capsule – later renamed Vostok-1.

Yuri Gagarin with daughters

Vostok 3KA-2 was launched about 3 weeks before Gagarin’s flight as a test run. It carried a mannequin Ivan Ivanovich. And there is a bit of a story about the local peasants’ who came on the scene as it was being recovered.

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A space nerd’s Easter

Easter was a great time for space nerds.

I certainly enjoyed myself. Got to see several passes of the International Space Station (ISS). Once you know the times it’s easy to find. These days it is so bright – and of course it’s moving. Have a look at Heavens Above. Register and enter your location. It’s easy to check at any time when the most favourable passes will be.

It is moving to think that humans are on board the moving speck of light.  Last week there were 3, now there are 13. Four of them women. This is the largest number of women in orbit at any one time.

Last Friday two Russian Cosmonauts and and a US astronaut were launched from Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz Capsule. On Monday seven astronauts were launched from Florida in a shuttle. These launches are always impressive. The video coverage of the shuttle launch included shots of an overflight of the ISS 20 minutes before the launch. Soichi Noguchi, one of the astronaughts on baord the ISS had taken this photo of the launch site several hours previously.

Soichi Noguchi is a keen twitterer (Astro_Soichi) and photographer. He regularly sends photos of cities and locations the ISS passes over. Have a look at some of his photos on Twitpic. Here’s a recent time exposure he took of an aurora.

There will only be three more shuttle launches before the fleet is retired. Pity, I would really have loved to see a launch in person. Everyone who has can’t stop raving about it, they are so impressive. Guess I will just have to make do with the video streaming. NASA broadcasts these, as well as the Soyuz launches in real time (see NASA TV).

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