Tag: Eurasia

Sorry, No Title

Egon FRIEDELL, a long forgotten German Kulturhistoriker (1878-1938, born Friedmann, suicide in Vienna), once said sinngemäß – I can not cite it correctly, nor can I give the exact location – that rationalism would be an “Irrlicht”, a “ghost light”. The history of the Early Modern Æra (in Europe), the time of enlightenment / Aufklärung is for him only an intermezzo between two irrationalisms, the medieval and the one to come. And since 1989 we see again the rise of religiously motivated irrationalism that wants to eliminate anything and anyone who is not fitting in the pattern. The rotten bastards of the so-called “islamic state” do remind me a lot of the SS, just with beards. I read their letter, their “claim”, it’s dripping from arrogance & pathos, as sickening as their Mumbay-style attack on Paris.
As I see it there is no basis for negotiation or something else of this peace-keeping methods. NATO should declare the “Bündnisfall”, now the situation for what it was established is here – the attack on a partner of the alliance – and, together with Russia, kill them. I only wish those involved will be clear enough in their heads to avoid the American mistake of Iraq – and have a goddamn plan for the situation after the war !

Damn Books

Rummaging through the shelves may lead to interesting discoveries – ha, you once bought that, really ? I came about a volume in plain brown cloth, could not read the title embossed in gold on the spine – low contrast and dim light, I really should take care for a good bulb ! – and found BODINs (Ger., Eng.) (1529-1596) Dæmonomania in FISCHARTs (Ger., Eng.) (1545-1591) translation, Vom ausgelasnen wütigen Teufelsheer ; of course a reprint (Graz 1973), originally published Straßburg 1591. Superstition, witchcraft, the whole program, was all the rage in 1980s seminars. Wonder whether it is time for a new generation to “discover” the area.
BODIN was a very “modern” man in some respects. He wrote about money and economics, clearly understanding the results of the influx of gold & silver from Southern America ; he – as a protestant – always advocated tolerance between the confessions (remember that the “Bartholomäusnacht” (Ger., Eng.) of 1572 was a pogrom that left some thousand protestants dead in Paris and France) ; and – most important – he was a theorist of the state. His ideas were based on the rule of natural (thus : divine) law that stands over all other laws (id est those that origin from confessions or from other social groups), and hence a “state” is obligated to the law, only following this law gives its reign over individuals reason, justification and foundation : The state is bound by law. He was no advocate of the “absolute” state, but that is what later theorists made out of it and what finally came into existence, notably in France. Some writers go so far to call BODIN a “proto-enlightener” (Frühaufklärer).
And then he publishes a book that could easily be written by a narrow-minded Dominican inquisitor of the worst ilk. Some writers of the 19th and even 20th century wanted to understand this work as a kind of satire or persiflage, but it is not. Its bloody serious, BODIN is bloody serious about it. The whole text is an answer to the ideas of WIERUS (Ger., Eng.) (1515-1588) who came to the conclusion that those witches and magicians are ill, people suffering from a mental disability, and thus may not be condemned to death.
Leaving Mr. BODIN behind I came to think about it. Here we have a “proto-enlightener” of the late 16th century following the darkest superstitions. How did it go on ?
The 17th century saw a war of European dimension fought originally about confessions, superstitions wildly growing, stacks nicely burning, and the development of the modern state. The 18th is called the “age of enlightenment” and on the other side the golden age of alchemy and secret societies of any kind. The 19th sees progress in natural sciences and modernisation, inventions like electricity and photography – and what did they photograph, the modern occultists ? Spirits.
The 20th brought us wars of before unknown dimensions, and finally the engineer’s wet dream, atomic power – and Auschwitz, the culmination of irrationalism. At the beginning of the 21st century we have to watch barbarians beheading people who are unlucky enough not to be of the right faith. And the barbarians use of course most modern technology. As the SS did. Even black uniforms are en vogue again. Pereant !

There is no progress. No development to the “better”, only stupidity, shrewdness and greed. Always and everywhere.

The bottle of greed was found and smashed.


Every Stan has a capital: Astana (Ger., Eng.) (Almatay until 1997), Ashgabat (Ger., Eng.), Bishkek (Ger., Eng.), Dushanbe (Ger., Eng.), Kabul (Ger., Eng.), and Tashkent (Ger., Eng.) (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, overview).
Since the end of the SU and given the richness of natural resources in the area, the Stans are back on the political map of the world. In 2003 the BBC showed  a documentation about traveling in the region, Meet the Stans (scroll down and see all four episodes). About Tashkent an interesting book is published in 2010 by Paul STRONSKI*.
STRONSKI’s book is a pioneer work in the field of urbanisation in Central Asia. Since its conquer 1865 onwards Tashkent became the object of an ongoing Europeanisation, what showed itself in the building of orthodox churches and representational administration buildings under the Czar, factories and power plants under the Bolshewiki. From the Thirties to the Sixties Uzbekistan was transformed from an agricultural country to an industrial one, at least according to the Soviet propaganda. The big earthquake of 1966 put an end to the coexistence of traditional, colonialist and modernist buildings – the planners pragmatically eliminated the last islamic rests and built anew: While in the Western parts of the SU the capitalist residue was to be overcome, in the eastern parts old oriental remains were to be vanquished.
Tashkent from the 1930s onwards was earmarked to become a socialist Musterstadt, a model city, based on the principles of the 1935 general-plan for Moscow : There were other grand plans and layouts for capitals around this time, for Greater London and Groß-Berlin for example. I would like to find a comparison of these projects somewhere in the literature. The second world war brought a mighty boom for Tashkent and the whole region, because people and production were translocated within the SU from the West towards the East, out of the reach of the German invaders. STRONSKI puts the emphasis in his description on this time and on urbanisation as a whole, he wants urbanisation in its entirety be understood as one line of tradition of Soviet history. His book focuses on the local development, based on Russian and Uzbek archive materials, and can be seen as  cultural science based dichte Beschreibung, “thick description” (Ger., Eng.).
It is surely worth a read.

Tashkent. Forging a Soviet City, 1930-1966, Pittsburgh 2010; German recension by Thomas BOHN here, who himself wrote about Minsk (Ger., Eng.), the capital of White Russia in 2008: Minsk – Musterstadt des Sozialismus. Stadtplanung und Urbanisierung in der Sowjetunion nach 1945, Köln 2008. I follow BOHN’s recension of STRONSKI’s book.

Still Untitled

The 24th of December. In the coming night, as tradition wants it, Jesus Christ is said to be born, the 25th being his birthday. Lets hope that Mary has not to suffer, any mother giving birth should not. Maybe there lies a secret of  faith, in the repetition, in the understanding that a divine act happened once and is always repeated, by any man to come, by any woman who brings another Erlöser on this world. Maybe this is what theologians mean when they speak about the presence of the ransom. On the other hand, Wolfdietrich SCHNURRE (1920-1989) (Ger., Eng.) once said that redemption is a promise not honoured (ein Versprechen, das nicht eingelöst wird)*.
I came back from my trip through the War, visited places I never had heard of, and finally met my fate in the form of a Russian hand grenade on the banks of the river Düna (Ger., Eng.). Must be a very nice scenery, at least according to the pictures I found on the web. I wish I had time and money to travel, the Baltic states, and the region from the Ostsee to the Black Sea would be one of my favourite areas, roughly the East End of Europe. I would especially like to visit the Krim (Ger., Eng.) and Charkow (Ger., Eng.).
Today pictures of the letters must be taken – I tried and failed this afternoon, and do not know why. I am used to photograph originals out of churchbooks under challenging circumstances, but I have no idea why it did not work today, in a heated room with natural light. I was tense and knotted, sweating heavily, as if I’d do heavy labour. After a first glance at the pictures I thought that only some “Ausreißer”, some runaways, had gone wrong. But there were too much of them, and the pictures are deleted now. Tomorrow a professional will take care of this. My only job left is to carefully put the original letters into archival maps (“Archivmappen”) and write the correct date on them. Put it carefully in an archival box and burn a CD with the transcriptions, a register and a kind of explaining text or history.
I love my profession, and I did this job  with dedication, but I am glad that it is over.

I wish You All a happy Christmas, or a happy Holiday Season, whatever you prefer. I am not in a festive mood, I am just glad that this year is over. I am happily looking forward to the week zwischen den Jahren – I don’t know whether there is an English equivalent or translation for this. It means just the normally quiet week between Christmas an New Year. Today I found an Aldi leaflet in my letter box offering fireworks, something called “Vienna”, “Lisbon”, “Bristol” etc. … oh yeah, just bomb it, honey … Nowadays they do not just offer some rockets on a stick, but up to three crates of explosives mounted on one base – nur einmal Anzünden.  Maybe this is world economy at its finest: People somewhere in the world produce explosives, that are shipped around the world only to be sold to and blown up by other people. Absolutely useless. Well, at least it’s meant to do no harm. But basically it remains nonsensical.
Anyway, bomb or don’t, I don’t care.
Here’s some festive music.
I prefer Bells over bombs. By William BYRD (ca. 1543-1623) (Ger., Eng.). Performed by Michael Maxwell STEER.
Hope you enjoy it.

Happy Christmas. Peace, love, and understanding.



* Der Schattenfotograf, 1978. Recommended.