29 April 2005

Unglamorous Scottish Glamour

Virginia Postrel posts a bit of Scottish etymology:
In his poem "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," Sir Walter Scott introduced the word glamour into English from Scots, where it meant a literal magic spell that kept the subject from seeing things as they really are:
And one short spell therein he read:
It had much of glamour might;
Could make a ladye seem a knight;
The cobwebs on a dungeon wall
Seem tapestry in lordly hall;
A nut-shell seem a gilded barge,
A sheeling [a shepherd's hut] seem a palace large,
And youth seem age, and age seem youth:
All was delusion, nought was truth.
The last bit certainly applies to much of modern syntax, if not grammar more generally.

Language Hat on Barbarian Names

Language Hat quotes an interesting take on name etymologies from O. Maenchen-Helfen's The World of the Huns (University of California Press, 1973). Here's a bit of it:
We must be prepared to meet among the names borne by Huns Germanic, Latin, and (as a result of the long and close contact with the Alans) also Iranian names. Attempts to force all Hunnic names into one linguistic group are a priori doomed to failure.

"Let no one," warned Jordanes, "who is ignorant cavil at the fact that the tribes of men use many names, the Sarmatians from the Germans and the Goths frequently from the Huns." Tutizar was a Goth and Ragnaris a Hun, but Tutizar is not a Gothic name and Ragnaris is Germanic. The Byzantine generals who in 493 fought against the Isaurians were Apsikal, a Goth, and Sigizan and Zolban, commanders of the Hun auxiliaries. Apsikal is not a Gothic but a Hunnic name; Sigizan might be Germanic. Mundius, a man of Attilanic descent, had a son by the name of Mauricius; his grandson Theudimundus bore a Germanic name. Patricius, Ardabur, and Herminiricus were not a Roman, an Alan, and a German as the names would indicate, but brothers, the sons of Aspar and his Gothic wife. There are many such cases in the fifth and sixth centuries. Sometimes a man is known under two names, belonging to two different tongues. Or he has a name compounded of elements of two languages. There are instances of what seem to be double names; actually one is the personal name, the other a title. Among the Hun names, some might well be designations of rank. It is, I believe, generally agreed that the titles of the steppe peoples do not reflect the nationality of their bearers. A kan, kagan, or bagatur may be a Mongol, a Turk, a Bulgar; he may be practically anything....

In addition to the objective difficulties, subjective ones bedevil some scholars. Turkologists are likely to find Turks everywhere; Germanic scholars discover Germans in unlikely places. Convinced that all proto-Bulgarians spoke Turkish, Németh offered an attractive Turkish etymology of Asparuch; other Turkologists explained the name in a different, perhaps less convincing way. Now it has turned out that Asparuch is an Iranian name. Validi Togan, a scholar of profound erudition but sometimes biased by pan-Turkism, derived shogun, Sino-Japanese for chiang chün, "general," from the Qarluq title sagun. Pro-Germanic bias led Schönfeld to maintain, in disregard of all chronology, that the Moors took over Vandalic names.
I particularly like the first comment, from John Emerson:
Boodberg and Wolfram have both argued that steppe peoples are not "peoples" the way that anthropologists think of it. They are armies, together with their families. Voluntarily or otherwise, whole groups of other peoples could be absorbed.

The supposed ethnicity of a group is a function of the ethnicity of its leader and his clan, and also of the language spoken in the leadership councils. So the Huns weren't really Huns, nor the Goths Goths -- not the way we can say that a people that's been living in a certain valley for five generations might have a given ethnicity.
That's somewhat similar to my impression of many peoples along the coast of New Guinea.

27 April 2005

Anne Applebaum on What VE Day Commemorates

Anne Applebaum's latest column in today's Washington Post makes a point worth repeating:
Try, if you can, to picture the scene. A vast crowd in Red Square: Lenin's tomb and Stalin's memorial in the background. Soldiers march in goose step behind rolling tanks, and the air echoes with martial music, occasionally drowned out by the whine of fighter jets. On the reviewing stand, statesmen are gathered: Kim Jong Il, the dictator of North Korea, Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the former dictator of Poland -- and President George W. Bush....

[I]f we are to avoid turning the anniversary of the end of World War II into a celebration of the triumph of Stalinism, more should be done. To begin with, Congress should vote on a resolution proposed this month by Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), which calls on Russia to condemn the Nazi-Soviet pact as well as the illegal annexation of the Baltic states. "The truth is a powerful weapon for healing, forgiving and reconciliation," the resolution states, in a burst of unusual congressional eloquence, "but its absence breeds distrust, fear and hostility."

Bush, too, should show that he understands what really happened in 1945. Every recent U.S. president has visited Auschwitz, and many have visited concentration camps in Germany, too. Perhaps it's time for American presidents to start a new tradition and pay their respects to the victims of Stalin. This is made difficult by the dearth of monuments in Moscow, but it isn't impossible. The president could, for example, lay a wreath at the stone that was brought from the Solovetsky Islands, the Soviet Union's first political prison camp, and placed just across from the Lubyanka itself. Or he could visit one of the mass-execution sites outside of town.

Of course these would be nothing more than purely symbolic gestures. But a war anniversary is a purely symbolic event. Each commemoration helps all of us remember what happened and why it happened, and each commemoration helps us draw relevant lessons for the future. To falsify the record -- to commemorate the triumph of totalitarianism rather than its defeat -- sends the wrong message to new and would-be democracies in Europe, the former Soviet Union and the rest of the world.

Minority Huns in Hungary? Ancient Huns in the Pacific?

The wonderfully whimsical February 30 blog is back in action with a series of new posts, among them a note about putative Huns claiming minority status in the Magyar-majority state of Hungary.
My understanding is that the link between the Huns and the Hungarians is purely accidental. Yes, Attila's Huns set up camp in Pannonia, the land which is now Hungary, and yes, the names sound similar, but this is mere linguistic coincidence. The general consensus is that the term "Hungarian" comes from the Turkic onogur, perhaps meaning "ten peoples". Attila's Huns were active in Pannonia in the mid-fifth century, after which they disintegrated; the Magyars didn't turn up until the year 895, so there's a big gap to fill.

It was Medieval historians who first made the link between the Huns and the Magyars, trying to integrate legends about their ancestral origins into the genealogies found in the Old Testament.
And a followup about ancient Huns in the Pacific:
Being classified as an official minority in Hungary is not as difficult as it might seem. According to a 1993 law, all you have to do is prove your countrymen have resided in Hungary for at least 100 years and have their own pre-existing cultural, religious or linguistic character. And then you have to collect 1,000 signatures within two months.

Certainly the signature part will be no problem. "This would be easy to collect, as we pyramid-building Huns have distant relatives even in Hawaii," Novák said, noting the theory that the Huns sprung from a since-vanished island near Hawaii called Ataisz roughly 5,000 years before the birth of Christ.
Maybe French Frigate Shoals (Kanemiloha‘i) should be renamed Ataisz the Sunken Hun Homeland.

UPDATE: The story only gets weirder. February 30 has uncovered the Arvisura, a sacred history of the Huns.
The Arvisura history begins with the sunken ancient homeland of Ataisz, which land is similar to Plato's written description of Atlantis, but is still not one and the same. According to the saga, or legend ("rege"), it is from here (Ataisz) that the Huns came to be in Ordosz by way of Mesopotamia, where, in 4040, before recorded time, they formed the association of the 24 tribes. The "Palocok Regevilaga" ['legendary bollocks'--tr.] concisely describes the 24 Hun tribes' lives nation by nation, from about 4040 b.c. all the way to King Matthias, including Maria Theresa. This enormous span of masterwork takes into account thousands of years in listing in chronological order all of those events which brought into being today's world that surrounds us, although in a way, or to some extent (nemikepp), from a different foundation than we were able to learn in school.
This map confirms that Ataisz stretched from South Point and Poipu in Hawai‘i to just about the duty free shop at Nadi airport in Fiji.

26 April 2005

Theocrats vs. Democrats in East Timor

Macam-Macam has been blogging up a storm on the less-covered regions of Southeast Asia: conflicts between the Catholic Church and democrats in East Timor, and more atrocities in Myanmar/Burma, and (most important of all) Southeast Asian Barbies.

25 April 2005

Ross Terrill on China's Revisionist Histories

I've avoided weighing in on the heavyweight contenders in the latest round of Apology Oneupmanship. But China expert Ross Terrill's rather sharp but patronizing column in The Australian of 22 April seems an appropriate time to take public notice. Some samples:
Folk in the People's Republic were taught to love the Soviet Union and then to hate it. India was esteemed in the 1950s and vilified in the '60s. Vietnam was "as close as lips and teeth" in the '60s yet invaded by Chinese armies in 1979. When Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka tried to apologise directly to Mao for World War II in 1972, Mao brushed him off, saying the "help" provided by Japan's invasion of China made possible the Communist victory in 1949....

On textbooks, a projection identification occurs. Dynastic regimes in East Asia all viewed history as the province of state orthodoxy. China and Vietnam, putting Leninist dress on the skeleton of traditional autocracy, still do. Japan and Taiwan, as democracies, do not.

No book of any kind attacking the Communist Party's monopoly of power in China has been published in China in the 56 years of the PRC. Some of the most trenchant books anywhere in the world on Japanese war atrocities have been written, published, and widely read in Japan. Beijing seems to think that because its textbooks jump to government policy, Japan's do too. But they do not. In Japan, unlike in China, there are government-sponsored textbooks as well as independent ones....

The main text for middle-school history in China devotes nine chapters to Japan's aggression against China in the 19th and 20th centuries, but does not mention China's invasion of Japan under the Yuan Dynasty. (Vietnam comes off even worse than Japan. Nothing is said of the Han Dynasty's conquest of Vietnam or of China's 1000-year colonisation of the country.)

China has enjoyed a good run in relations with Japan and reaped economic benefit. The very real horror of war is one reason and the skilful political theatre practised by Beijing is another. But the mood in Japan toward China has changed and Beijing may be miscalculating. China will certainly pull back from the brink of a real rupture; it has too much to lose. But it is not certain that Tokyo will lie down and take any more abuse, vandalism, and Chinese distortions of history.
Among bloggers, China-based Andrés Gentry weighed in on 13 April with a long, perceptive, and well-informed (about China) essay. A sample:
It is especially galling for Wen Jiabao (of all people) to talk about the need "to face up to history squarely". Why do you ask? Let's look at this photo [q.v.] and guess when it was taken.

Still trying to place the date? Let me help you: May 19, 1989, the day Zhao Ziyang went down to Tiananmen Square and begged the students to leave because the decision had been made to use the PLA to seize control of the capitol. And who would that be standing behind Zhao? Why, Wen Jiabao of course!

It is risible in the extreme for a man who went down to Tiananmen to beg students to leave, who then spent the next few years rehabilitating himself by essentially renouncing himself, and who thereby achieved one of the top positions in the country, to be talking about "facing up to history squarely". This sort of personal history, shall we say, affects his credibility on the issue.
Unlike The Australian, Andrés allows comments online, and about half his commentators take him to task for letting Japan off too lightly. Here's a bit of one that resonated with me.
As a Taiwanese American who still have family living under the shadow of mainland China, I'd like to agree with you wholeheartedly on your condemnation of the Chinese "communist" government. But in your haste to condemn the Chinese government, you let the Japanese off the hook much too easily....

By the way, I love Japanese culture, language, food and I love my Japanese friends. Taiwanese people are famous for that. The Japanese occupation of Taiwan was relatively gentle, certainly compared to the "white terror" era. I have no desire to hate them. But I will not overlook any attempts to revise history.
It's interesting that China specialists tend to come down harder on China, while Japan specialists tend to come down harder on Japan. One of the best among the latter is K. M. Lawson's Muninn, who offers, among a wealth of other postings: a compilation of Japan's apologies to China, Japan's apologies to Korea, and editorials in the Yomiuri and Asahi newspapers in Japan.

My own feeling is that demands for apologies are driven by nationalist oneupmanship, but that the historical record is not something to be whitewashed, whether by nations, peoples, religions, or secular ideologies. My impression is that every single state has something to apologize for, whether to others or to its own citizens. So here's my multilateral solution.

Let the United Nations General Assembly devote the next 52 weeks to apologies by the governments of every member state that claims any historical antecedents. Week 1 will be devoted to apologies by states with antecedents in the 20th century (the deadliest century in history). From Albania to Zambia, everyone has something to apologize for, even though Andorra and Bhutan may have to think a bit harder than most. Week 2 will be devoted to states with antecedents in the 19th century, week 3 to states with antecedents in the 18th century, and so on. By week 40 or so, the mea culpas would be coming almost exclusively from China, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Korea, and Turkey. Well, you know, civilization is all their fault.

UPDATE: A Chinese lawyer adds more in an op-ed to the New York Times on 28 April (via Simon World).
We Chinese are outraged by Japan's World War II crimes - the forcing of Chinese into sexual slavery as "comfort women," the 1937 massacre of unarmed civilians in Nanking, and the experiments in biological warfare. Our indignation redoubles when the Japanese distort or paper over this record in their museums and their textbooks. But if we look honestly at ourselves - at the massacres and invasions strewn through Chinese history, or just at the suppression of protesters in recent times - and if we compare the behavior of the Japanese military with that of our own soldiers, there is not much to distinguish China from Japan.

This comparison haunts me. When I think of the forced labor in Japanese prison camps, I am reminded of forced labor camps in China, and also of the Chinese miners who lose their lives when forced to re-enter mines that everyone knows are unsafe. Are the rights of China's poor today really so much better protected than those of the wretched "colonized slaves" during the Japanese occupation? There was the Nanking massacre, but was not the murder of unarmed citizens in Beijing 16 years ago also a massacre? Is Japan's clumsy effort to cover up history in its textbooks any worse than the gaping omissions and biased blather in Chinese textbooks?

China's textbooks omit the story of how the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950's was actually the disastrous failure of a harebrained economic scheme by Mao that led to the starvation of 20 million to 50 million rural Chinese. No one really knows the numbers. Nor do we know how many were killed in the campaigns to suppress "counterrevolutionaries" during the 1950's, in the Cultural Revolution during the 1960's, or even in the Beijing massacre of 1989. Yet we hold Japan firmly responsible for 300,000 deaths at Nanking. Does our confidence with numbers depend on who did the killing?

24 April 2005

China's Role in Suppressing the Hungarian Revolt in 1956

For most historians, China’s significant influence in Eastern Europe after Stalin’s death began with its role in solving political crises there in October and November 1956. Briefly speaking, when Moscow decided to put down the Polish workers’ uprising in mid-October 1956 by using force, Beijing opposed the decision on the grounds that the Polish problem was caused mainly by “big-power chauvinism” (referring to Moscow’s arrogance and interference in the domestic affairs of other countries) instead of Western antisocialist conspiracy. [In contrast], when Moscow was wavering between using force and a hands-off policy in face of the Hungarian crisis at the very end of October, Beijing urged Moscow to send its troops into Budapest. According to some Chinese sources made available in the late 1990s, from 19 to 31 October 1965, a time in which the Polish-Hungarian crisis reached its peak, communication and discussion between Moscow and Beijing were unusually constant and intense....

The most critical moments came on 29 and 30 October. On the evening of 29 October, Khrushchev and other Russian leaders met the Chinese in their residence and told them both Poland and Hungary were asking Moscow to withdraw its army from their countries. While insisting Moscow should change its “big-power chauvinism” attitude toward other communist countries, Liu Shaoqi said that under current circumstances it would be better for the Soviet army to remain and combat the antirevolutionaries. During the conversation the Chinese delegation received a call from Mao, whose suggestion was different from Liu’s. Mao said that it was the time for Moscow to withdraw its army from the two countries and let them be independent. Liu accepted Mao’s suggestion and conveyed it to Khrushchev. The next day, however, the Chinese delegation received a situation report from the Soviet leadership. The report was written by Anastas Mikoyan, the Soviet first deputy premier and skillful communicator between Moscow and other communist states, who had been sent to Hungary before the Chinese delegation arrived in Moscow. The report stated that since 29 October, with the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Budapest and dissolution of the Hungarian security force, the Hungarian capital and many other parts of the country had been in chaos, and antirevolutionaries were killing communists. The Chinese delegation was taken by surprise. After a whole day of discussion, they concluded that the nature of the Hungarian development was different from that of the Polish, so the Soviet army needed to reenter the capital and crush the antirevolutionaries. Then in the evening Liu Shaoqi called Mao. Mao changed his earlier stand that the Russians should leave and agreed with the delegation’s conclusion, because, in addition to Liu’s report, he had been receiving daily situation reports from Hungary written by Ho Deqing, the Chinese ambassador, and Hu Jibang, chief correspondent of the People’s Daily in Budapest. But he said it would be better if the Russians would wait a while to let more antirevolutionaries expose themselves--a typical Maoist tactic later on used to smoke out China’s Rightists. After calling Mao, the Chinese requested an emergency meeting with the Russians. In the meeting, Liu Shaoqi, vice chairman of the CCP’s central committee, strongly suggested that Khrushchev not “give up” in Hungary but make more efforts to save the situation, while Deng Xiaoping, the general secretary of the CCP, explicitly urged that the Russian army return to the capital and seize the government. But Khrushchev was hesitant. He told the Chinese that since the situation had changed considerably in Hungary, the return of the Russian army would mean an occupation of the country and the Russians would be regarded as conquerors. Therefore Soviet leadership, Khrushchev told the Chinese, had decided not to send its troops back. Since the Russians had made the decision, the Chinese did not go further to assert their opinions. Instead Liu said to the Russians, jokingly, that yesterday we tried to pursue you to withdraw but you did not agree; today you came and tried to pursue us to agree with your decision to withdraw. All people in the meeting laughed. Then Liu told the Russians that the Chinese delegation would return to Beijing the next evening. But the next evening, 31 October, the Chinese delegation received a call from the Kremlin just before departure for the airport. The Russian leaders asked the Chinese to arrive the airport one hour earlier than scheduled to have an emergency meeting. At the airport, the Chinese met Khrushchev and other Russian leaders. Khrushchev told them the Russian leadership had changed its mind overnight and decided to send troops back to Budapest. Excited, Liu Shaoqi said that the Chinese were glad that now the Russian leadership had taken a stand to defend socialism. In fact, before the airport meeting, the Russian army had already moved back toward the Hungarian capital.

Moscow’s vacillation, reflected in the Chinese account, in solving the Hungarian crisis may be confirmed by Khrushchev’s own statement: “I don’t know how many times [we changed our minds] about whether to get out of Hungary or ‘crush the mutiny.’” It is difficult to decide exactly to what extent Beijing influenced Moscow in making decisions, but as the above Chinese account shows, the Chinese did play some role in the process and the Russians did take China’s attitude seriously. On 3 November 1956, three days after Russian tanks rumbled into Budapest, China’s People’s Daily was one of the earliest communist papers worldwide to hail the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian revolt. China further endorsed the political change in Hungary by sending Zhou Enlai, its premier, to the still-smoldering Budapest in mid-January 1957, where Zhou’s residence (although he stayed there for only one day) had to be guarded by Soviet tanks.
SOURCE: Yinghong Cheng, "Beyond Moscow-Centric Interpretation: An Examination of the China Connection in Eastern Europe and North Vietnam during the Era of De-Stalinization," Journal of World History 15:487-518 (Project Muse subscription required).

China's Role in Encouraging the Hungarian Revolt in 1956

In order to obtain more autonomy from Moscow [after the death of Stalin], some Eastern European countries turned to Beijing for inspiration under the pretext that China was in the stage of socialist transition (from the “New Democracy” to socialism) similar to that of Eastern Europe, whereas the Soviet Union had entered a much higher stage of socialist construction....

In Hungary, the Chinese influence was reflected in the ideology of emerging Hungarian nationalist communists, particularly in Imre Nagy’s admiration of China’s Five Principles of coexistence [especially nonintervention]. Nagy, who was purged during Stalin’s later years, rehabilitated during the New Course, and appointed as Hungarian premier from late 1953 to 1955, proposed his reformist line that included easing the tempo of industrialization, allowing peasants to leave collective farms, and relaxing police terror. For this he was ousted in March 1955 by Hungarian Stalinists led by Matyas Rakosi....

After the CPSU’s Twentieth Congress, with the discrediting of Stalinist policies coming into air, China became more attractive in Eastern Europe, and China’s activities promoting its influence became more aggressive. Marked by the publication of “Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom, Let One Hundred Schools of Thought Contend,” a policy report made by Lu Dingyi, the head of the propaganda department of the CCP, in May 1956 and published by People’s Daily on 13 June, China initiated an intellectual liberalization aimed at releasing accumulated internal pressures in the short run, with a long-run purpose of allowing some flexibility and criticism within the regime in order to win popular support and detect mistakes. The Double-Hundred policy soon became a new focus of the Chinese attractiveness in Eastern Europe. In September the CCP’s Eighth Congress opened, and all Eastern European communist parties sent delegations to Beijing. The event was used by Beijing at that critical moment to introduce its own road toward socialism and to build up relations with the post-Stalinist generation among Eastern European leaders. For example, Janos Kadar, the head of the Hungarian delegation, who was purged during Stalin’s years but rehabilitated in 1954, was very popular in the Hungarian party for his anti-Stalinist stand. Chinese leaders were very interested in this emerging new leader, and Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, and Zhou Enlai all had long conversations with him. On 1 October Kadar once again represented the Hungarian party at the celebration of China’s National Day in Beijing.

One point that has not received adequate attention on the Double-Hundred policy is that the metaphoric expression (directly from Mao himself and characteristic of his style) created a false impression of tolerating various--if not all--ideological opinions, especially among those who were unfamiliar with the CCP’s ideologically oppressive past, such as the Yenan Rectification in the 1940s and the Thought Reform Campaign in the early 1950s. This was particularly the case when the Double-Hundred policy aroused widespread pro-Chinese sympathy in Eastern Europe, where people were excited by the slogan itself but did not have adequate knowledge about the CCP’s history and had no chance to scrutinize the specific contents of the Chinese materials introducing the new policy. In Hungary the Chinese ambassador took the opportunity to enhance pro-Chinese sentiment by providing more information to Hungarian intellectuals and students, and he even made a special effort to publicize the CCP’s Eighth Congress, which opened in September and confirmed the Double-Hundred policy, by supplying abundant information to Hungarian press and radio. As a result, the CCP’s Eighth Congress was given a great deal of publicity by Hungarian media, which further nourished the pro-Chinese sentiment. Many dissenting Hungarian intellectuals came to believe that the Double-Hundred policy truly reflected the intention of the Chinese communists. In the meantime, with Nagy’s rehabilitation and reappointment as premier, China’s Five Principles of coexistence were used against Soviet “big-power chauvinism”--a term also coined by the Chinese. The Hungarian illusion of China lasted until the last minute, when Irodalmi Ujsag (Literary gazette; the organ of the revolutionary writers) declared on 2 November (two days after China urged Khrushchev to crush the Hungarian revolt) that “The West and the East are on our side. America has proclaimed her faith in our cause as clearly as have powerful nations like China and India.” (emphasis added)
SOURCE: Yinghong Cheng, "Beyond Moscow-Centric Interpretation: An Examination of the China Connection in Eastern Europe and North Vietnam during the Era of De-Stalinization," Journal of World History 15:487-518 (Project Muse subscription required).

23 April 2005

Sixteen Months in the Life of Hava Volovich

Against everything that has been written about the selfishness, the venality of the women who bore children in the camps, stands the story of Hava Volovich. A political arrested in 1937, she was extremely lonely in the camps, and deliberately sought to give birth to a child. Although Hava had no special love for the father, Eleonora was born in 1942, in a camp without special facilities for mothers:
There were three mothers there, and we were given a tiny room to ourselves in the barracks. Bedbugs poured down like sand from the ceiling and walls; we spent the whole night brushing them off the children. During the daytime we had to go out to work and leave the infants with any old woman who we could find who had been excused from work; these women would calmly help themselves to the food we had left for the children....

Every night for a whole year, I stood at my child's cot, picking off the bedbugs and praying. I prayed that God would prolong my torment for a hundred years if it meant that I wouldn't be parted from my daughter. I prayed that I might be released with her, even if only as a beggar or a cripple. I prayed that I might be able to raise her to adulthood, even if I had to grovel at people's feet and beg for alms to do it. But God did not answer my prayer. My baby had barely started walking, I had hardly heard her first words, the wonderful heartwarming word "Mama," when we were dressed in rags despite the winter chill, bundled into a freight car, and transferred to the "mothers' camp." And here my pudgy little angel with the golden curls soon turned into a pale ghost with blue shadows under her eyes and sores all over her lips....

I saw the nurses getting the children up in the mornings. They would force them out of their cold beds with shoves and kicks ... pushing the children with their fists and swearing at them roughly, they took off their nightclothes and washed them in ice-cold water. The babies didn't even dare cry. They made little sniffing noises like old men and let out low hoots.

This awful hooting noise would come from the cots for days at a time. Children already old enough to be sitting up or crawling would lie on their backs, their knees pressed to their stomachs, making these strange noises, like the muffled cooing of pigeons....

The nurse brought a steaming bowl of porridge from the kitchen, and portioned it out into separate dishes. She grabbed the nearest baby, forced its arms back, tied them in place with a towel, and began cramming spoonful after spoonful of hot porridge down its throat, not leaving it enough time to swallow, exactly as if she were feeding a turkey chick....

On some of my visits I found bruises on her little body. I shall never forget how she grabbed my neck with her skinny hands and moaned, "Mama, want home!" She had not forgotten the bug-ridden slum where she first saw the light of day, and where she'd been with her mother all of the time...

Little Eleonora, who was now fifteen months old, soon realized that her pleas for "home" were in vain. She stopped reaching out for me when I visited her; she would turn away in silence. On the last day of her life, when I picked her up (they allowed me to breast-feed her) she stared wide-eyed somewhere off into the distance, then started to beat her weak little fists on my face, clawing at my breast, and biting it. Then she pointed down at her bed.

In the evening, when I came back with my bundle of firewood, her cot was empty. I found her lying naked in the morgue among the corpses of the adult prisoners. She had spent one year and four months in this world, and died on 3 March 1944 ... That is the story of how, in giving birth to my only child, I committed the worst crime there is.
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 319-321

22 April 2005

When Paducah (Kentucky) Goes International

Once a year, Paducah goes international, headlines the 21 April 2005 Paducah Sun (subscribers only):
The quilt show isn't the only reason Pauline Jewell traveled halfway around the world to Paducah this week.

"Even if there was no quilt show, I would come to Paducah," said Jewell of Jakarta, Indonesia, who uses a wheelchair. "I just love the area. I feel it's welcoming and relaxing, and everyone is really helpful, especially being in the wheelchair. People go out of their way in a way I don't find anywhere else in the world."

In past years, Jewell has traveled from her former homes in Shanghai, China, and Hong Kong to Paducah. "I enjoy the atmosphere," she said. "It opens your mind to different ideas. I learn what's new, and there's the shopping. Let's not forget the shopping."

Foreign accents are common in the halls of the Paducah Expo Center as the American Quilter's Society Quilt Show & Contest is becoming an international destination.

International quilters had 137 entries in the show this year, with 89 from Japan, nine from Australia and eight apiece from the United Kingdom, Canada and Turkey.

Salinder Gammage of Cardiff, Wales, Rosemary Burton of South Yorkshire, England, and her "mum-in-law," Pearl Burton of West Yorkshire, England, traveled to Paducah with a tour group of 45 quilters from England, Scotland and Wales. They visited St. Louis and the Amish in Iowa before coming to the quilt show.

"Everybody assumed we're going to Florida," Rosemary Burton said. "I said, ‘I'm not going to Florida. I'm going to Kentucky.’ Oh, then there was a change of subject."

Gammage said cheaper prices meant they could afford to take home more fabric and souvenirs. "We had to buy extra suitcases," she said.

Helen Van Loon of Forest, Ontario, walked around the exhibits wearing a small Canadian flag stuck in her straw hat. Van Loon and friends from New York and Mississippi, whom she met through an Internet group called "Quilting Around the World," are visiting Paducah together.

"I've been having a ball," she said. "It's been just a riot. Two buses I know about came down to Paducah from my area."

Heinui Hanere, a Tahitian now working as a vendor for Roxanne International of Lathrop, Calif., spoke Japanese to several Japanese quilters who strolled by his booth. "I speak it a little bit," Hanere said. "Every year people come from all over the world — Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and even France."

Christian and Christine DuFrix of Bordeaux, France, are taking photos of quilts for an article Christine is writing about the show for France Patchwork magazine. "I came two years ago, and it was very marvelous," she said. "That's why we came back. But it's very difficult to find a room. We had to stay in Cairo (Ill.)."

Tadako Nagasawa of Nagano, Japan, who has entered a quilt in the contest for five years, brought her husband, Mitsuru, to the show for the first time — literally. She does all the driving. "I cannot drive," said Mitsuru Nagasawa, president of Toyota Technological Institute in Nagoya. "I lived in St. Louis 45 years ago, so I have many friends in St. Louis. They are coming here."

The Nagasawas are going to meet their friends today in front of her quilt, "A Memory of Sicilia," which recalls a trip to the Palace of Palermo.

Japanese quilters who don't speak English received help from translator Seiko Dickson, a Paducah resident who is from Okinawa, Japan.

Dickson, who wore a traditional Japanese kimono made by her mother, also served as a white-glove hostess.

Americans "think I'm the one who made the quilt," she said. "Japanese don't think I'm Japanese. They just think I'm a volunteer. They can understand English a little bit, but they don't speak it. I like to meet them and help them."

Lorraine Downey, a quilt shop owner from Sydney, Australia, is in Paducah this week helping a vendor, Paper Pieces of Sycamore, Ill.

"It took me 24 hours door to door (of traveling time), but it's worth it," Downey said.

"Australian quilters love to come to Paducah. We're amazed at how the town makes you feel so welcome, and we feel safe here. When I go home, I say, ‘Hi, y'all,’ and they know where I've been."
via a Paducah Sun subscriber

21 April 2005

China's Connection to De-Stalinization

THE YEARS 1956 and 1957 marked the first serious crisis in global communism during the Cold War with many significant events. Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in February 1956 revealing Stalin's crimes shocked the communist world and initiated a course of de-Stalinization, which soon led to challenges to the communist system itself, as the revolts in Poland and Hungary in October and November 1956 demonstrated. Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, although violent eruption of political protest was largely absent, inner party debates and intellectual dissent were common, accompanied by sporadic strikes of workers and students. In Asian communist countries, the intellectual dissent and criticism of the party became conspicuous in China, especially in the spring of 1957, during the Double-Hundred movement and the Rectification period, with a few cases of workers' strikes and student protests. In North Vietnam the intellectuals directly challenged the party during the so-called Nhan Van/Giai Pham (the names of two journals critical of the party) period in the fall of 1956, coupled with the peasant rebellion in Nghe-An Province and turbulence in the cities. The Hungarian revolution was suppressed in November 1956, and the entire atmosphere of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe underwent dramatic change. As Chinese intellectuals were still encouraged to criticize the party in the spring of 1957, Vietnamese intellectuals resumed their criticism of the regime as well. In June 1957, however, China launched the anti-Rightist campaign and ended the so-called "liberalization," and so did Vietnam after the new year of 1958. Thus a cross-communist world crisis was overcome....

This article examines the process of de-Stalinization, or liberalization, from a perspective based on the China connection in Eastern Europe and Vietnam, which has been either underestimated or left out in many Moscow-centric narratives. The term "China connection" means either a direct Chinese influence or parallels between these countries and China. The article presents and connects two cases. The first is the Chinese influence in some Eastern European countries, and even the Soviet Union as well, from 1955 to 1958. The second is Vietnamese intellectuals' challenge to the regime and the regime's response, both of which show interesting parallels between the two countries. The China connection in both the Eastern European and the Vietnamese cases clearly indicates a different source contributing to de-Stalinization and even suggests an expanded time frame of such turbulence from as early as 1955 (before Khrushchev's secret report) to as late as 1958 (one year after the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian uprising), thus enriching our understanding of the global communist crisis with broader sources and longer duration.
SOURCE: Yinghong Cheng, "Beyond Moscow-Centric Interpretation: An Examination of the China Connection in Eastern Europe and North Vietnam during the Era of De-Stalinization," Journal of World History 15:487-518 (Project Muse subscription required).

This is the kind of article that just makes you keep slapping your forehead in recognition of suddenly obvious connections among so many things you never tied together before. It's the best kind of historical revisionism and a wonderful illustration of the value of taking a global view of the diffusion of ideas across national boundaries.

Gulag Guards

In recent years, it has become fashionable to point out that, contrary to their postwar protestations, few Germans were ever forced to work in concentration camps or killing squads. One scholar recently claimed that most had done so voluntarily--a view which has caused some controversy. In the case of Russia and the other post-Soviet states, the issue has to be examined differently. Very often, camp employees--like most other Soviet citizens--had few options. A labor committee simply assigned them a place of work, and they had to go there. Lack of choice was built right into the Soviet economic system.

Nevertheless, it is not quite right to describe the NKVD officers and armed guards as "no better off than the prisoners they commanded," or as victims of the same system, as some have tried to do. For although they might have preferred to work elsewhere, once they were inside the system, the employees of the Gulag did have choices, far more than their Nazi counterparts, whose work was more rigidly defined. They could choose to behave brutally, or they could choose to be kind. They could choose to work their prisoners to death, or they could choose to keep as many alive as possible. They could choose to sympathize with the prisoners whose fate they might have once shared, and might share again, or they could choose to take advantage of their temporary stretch of luck, and lord it over their former and future comrades in suffering.

Nothing in their past history necessarily indicated what path they would take, for both Gulag administrators and ordinary camp guards came from as many different ethnic and social backgrounds as did the prisoners. Indeed, when asked to describe the character of their guards, Gulag survivors almost always reply that they varied enormously. I put that question to Galina Smirnova, who remembered that "they were, like everyone, all different." Anna Andreeva told me that "there were sick sadists, and there were completely normal, good people." Andreeva also recalled the day, soon after Stalin's death, when the chief accountant in her camp suddenly rushed into the accounting office where prisoners were working, cheered, hugged them, and shouted, "Take off your numbers, girls, they're giving you back your own clothes!"
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 269-270

20 April 2005

National Minorities in the Gulag

The most fundamental, and ultimately the most powerful, of the political clans [in the Gulag] were those formed around nationality or place of origin. These grew more important during and after the Second World War, when the numbers of foreign prisoners increased dramatically. Their derivation was natural enough. A new prisoner would arrive, and immediately search his barracks for fellow Estonians, fellow Ukrainians, or, in a tiny number of cases, fellow Americans. Walter Warwick, one of the "American Finns" who wound up in the camps in the late 1930s, has described, in a manuscript he wrote for his family, how the Finnish speakers in his camp banded together specifically in order to protect themselves from the thievery and banditry of the professional criminals: "We came to the conclusion that if we wanted to have a little rest from them, we must have a gang. So we organized our own gang to help each other. There were six of us: two American Finns ... two Finnish Finns ... and two Leningrad District Finns" ...

Because of their small numbers, the West Europeans and North Americans who found themselves in the camps also found it difficult to form strong networks. They were hardly in a position to help one another anyway: many were completely disoriented by camp life, did not speak Russian, found the food inedible and the living conditions intolerable....

But the Westerners--a group which included Poles, Czechs, and other East Europeans--had a few advantages too. They were the object of special fascination and interest, which sometimes paid off in contacts, in gifts of food, in kinder treatment. Antoni Ekart, a Pole educated in Switzerland, was given a place in a hospital thanks to an orderly named Ackerman, originally from Bessarabia: "The fact that I came from the West simplified matters": everyone was interested in the Westerner, and had wanted to save him. Flora Leipman, a Scottish woman whose Russian stepfather had talked her family into moving to the Soviet Union, deployed her "Scottishness" to entertain her fellow prisoners:
I pulled up my skirt above the knees to look like a kilt and turned down my stockings to make them look knee high. In Scots fashion my blanket was thrown over my shoulder and I hung my hat in front of me like a sporran. My voice soared with pride, singing "Annie-Laurie," "Ye Banks and Braes o'Bonnie Doon," always finishing up with "God Save the King"--without translation.
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 295-297

A Step at a Time has a related post (via Siberian Light):
TALLINN, April 13 (AFP) - Two Estonians who were held in labour camps as political prisoners during the Soviet occupation of the Baltic state urged world leaders in a letter published Wednesday to boycott events in Moscow on May 9 to mark the end of World War II.
And another about a Pole who's feeling less than celebratory about commemorating his "liberation" from the Nazis by the Soviets.
"If you did something bad in the German camp, a guard would take out a gun and kill you immediately," he recalled. "But in a Soviet camp, they would starve you to death so the death was longer and more painful and then they would shoot you and finish you off with a sickle."

Olizarowicz's "crime" was serving in Poland's Home Army, the clandestine force that fought the Nazis, and which the Soviets feared would remain a rallying point for resistance. Convicted in 1947 of "anti-Soviet activity," he was among nearly 800,000 Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians shipped to labor camps.

Japanese in the Gulag

Life was not much better for the Koreans, usually Soviet citizens of Korean extraction, or the Japanese, a staggering 600,000 of whom arrived in the Gulag and the prisoner-of-war camp system at the end of the war. The Japanese suffered in particular from the food, which seemed not only scarce but strange and virtually inedible. As a result, they would hunt and eat things that seemed to their fellow prisoners equally inedible: wild herbs, insects, beetles, snakes, and mushrooms that even Russians would not touch. Occasionally, these forays ended badly: there are records of Japanese prisoners dying from eating poisonous grasses or wild herbs. A hint at how isolated the Japanese felt in the camps comes from the memoirs of a Russian prisoner who once, in a camp library, found a brochure--a speech by the Bolshevik Zhdanov--written in Japanese. He brought it to a Japanese acquaintance, a war prisoner: "I saw him genuinely happy for the first time. Later he told me that he read it every day, just to have contact with his native language."
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 299-300

19 April 2005

Gulag Criminals, Politicals, and Most Everybody Else

With their special slang, distinctive clothing, and rigid culture, the professional criminals were easy to identify, and are easy to describe. It is far harder to make generalizations about the rest of the prisoners, the people who formed the raw material of the Gulag's workforce, since they came from every strata of Soviet society. Indeed, for too long, our understanding of who exactly the majority of the camps' inmates were has been skewed by our forced reliance on memoirs, particularly memoirs published outside the Soviet Union. Their authors were usually intellectuals, often foreigners, and almost universally political prisoners.

Since Gorbachev's glasnost in 1989, however, a wider variety of memoir material has become available, along with some archival data. According to the latter, which must be treated with a great deal of caution, it now appears that the vast majority of prisoners were not intellectuals at all--not people, that is, from Russia's technical and academic intelligentsia, which was effectively a separate social class--but workers and peasants. Some figures for the 1930s, the years when the bulk of the Gulag's inmates were kulaks, are particularly revealing. In 1934, only 0.7 percent of the camp population had higher education, while 39.1 percent were classified as having only primary education. At the same time, 42.6 percent were described as "semiliterate," and 12 percent were completely illiterate. Even in 1938, the year the Great Terror raged among Moscow and Leningrad intellectuals, those with higher education in the camps still numbered only 1.1 percent while over half had primary education and a third were semiliterate.

Comparable figures on the social origins of prisoners do not seem to be available, but it is worth noting that in 1948, less than one quarter of prisoners were politicals--those sentenced, according to Article 58 of the Criminal Code, for "counter-revolutionary" crimes. This follows an earlier pattern. Politicals accounted for a mere 12 and 18 percent of prisoners in the terror years of 1937 and 1938; hovered around 30 to 40 percent during the war; rose in 1946 to nearly 60 percent, as a result of the amnesty given to criminal prisoners in the wake of victory; and then remained steady, accounting for between a quarter and a third of all prisoners, throughout the rest of Stalin's reign. Given the higher turnover of nonpolitical prisoners--they often had shorter sentences and were more likely to meet requirements for early release--it is safe to say that the vast majority of the inmates who passed through the Gulag system in both the 1930s and 1940s were people with criminal sentences, and therefore more likely to be workers and peasants....

Nevertheless, of the hundreds of thousands of people referred to in the camps as political prisoners, the vast majority were not dissidents, or priests saying mass in secret, or even Party bigwigs. They were ordinary people, swept up in mass arrests, who did not necessarily have strong political views of any kind. Olga Adamova-Sliozberg, once an employee of one of the industrial ministries in Moscow, wrote, "Before my arrest, I led a very ordinary life, typical of a professional Soviet woman who didn't belong to the Party. I worked hard but took no particular part in politics or public affairs. My real interests lay with home and family."

If the politicals were not necessarily political, the vast majority of criminal prisoners were not necessarily criminals either. While there were some professional criminals and, during the war years, some genuine war criminals and Nazi collaborators in the camps, most of the others had been convicted of so-called "ordinary" or nonpolitical crimes that in other societies would not be considered crimes at all. The father of Alexander Lebed, the Russian general and politician, was twice ten minutes late to work for his factory job, for which he received a five-year camp sentence. At the largely criminal Polyansky camp near Krasnoyarsk-26, home of one of the Soviet Union's nuclear reactors, archives record one "criminal" prisoner with a six-year sentence for stealing a single rubber boot in a bazaar, another with ten years for stealing ten loaves of bread, and another--a truck driver raising two children alone--with seven years for stealing three bottles of the wine he was delivering. Yet another got five years for "speculation," meaning he had bought cigarettes in one place and sold them in another. Antoni Ekart tells the story of a woman who was arrested because she took a pencil from the office where she worked. It was for her son, who had been unable to do his schoolwork for lack of something to write with. In the upside-down world of the Gulag, criminal prisoners were no more likely to be real criminals than political prisoners were likely to be active opponents of the regime.
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 291-294

18 April 2005

Living Off the Fat of the Sea in Kiribati

It was common rumour in the Gilbert Islands that certain local clans had the power of porpoise-calling; but it was rather like the Indian rope-trick; you never met anyone who had actually witnessed the thing. If I had been a reasonably plump young man, I might never have come to see what I did see on the beach of Butaritari lagoon. But I was skinny. it was out of sheer pity for my poor thin frame that old Kitiona set his family porpoise-caller working. We were sitting together one evening in his canoe-shed by the beach, and he was delivering a kind of discourse on the beauty of human fatness.

"A chief of chiefs," he said, "is recognized by his shape. He is fleshy from head to foot. But his greatest flesh is his middle; when he sits, he is based like a mountain upon his sitting place; when he stands, he swells out in the midst, before and behind, like a porpoise." it seemed that in order to maintain that noble bulge a high chief simply must have a regular diet of porpoise-meat; if he didn't, he would soon become lean and bony like a commoner or a white man. The white man was doubtless of chiefly race, thought Kitiona, but his figure could hardly be called beautiful. "And you," he added, looking me up and down with affectionate realism, "are in truth the skinniest white man ever seen in these islands. You sit upon approximately no base at all."

I laughed (heartily, I hope) and asked what he thought could be done about that. "You should eat porpoise-flesh," he said simply, "then you too would swell in the proper places." That led me to inquire how I might come by a regular supply of the rare meat. The long and the short of his reply was that his own kinsmen in Kuma village, seventeen miles up-lagoon, were the hereditary porpoise-callers of the High Chiefs of Butaritari and Makin-Meang. His first cousin was a leading expert at the game; he could put himself into the right kind of dream on demand. His spirit went out of his body in such a dream; it sought out the porpoise-folk in their home under the western horizon and invited them to a dance, with feasting, in Kuma village. If he spoke the words of the invitation aright (and very few had the secret of them) the porpoise would follow him with cries of joy to the surface.
SOURCE: The Calling of the Porpoise, from Chapter 6, "Strange Interlude" of A Pattern of Islands, by Sir Arthur Grimble (John Murray, 1952).

So, do they come when they're called? Does the skinny white man eat them or not? The rest of the excerpt is online at the wonderful and wide-ranging EclectiCity.

Prompted by Doug Muir of Halfway Down the Danube

17 April 2005

Steal Anything Except Our Daily Bread

In the end, not everybody [in the Gulag] starved. For even if most food products disappeared before they made it into the soup, one staple food was usually available: bread. Like soup, the bread of the Gulag has been described many times. Sometimes it is remembered as badly baked: one prisoner remembered it being so hard it "resembled a brick," and so small it could be eaten "in two bites." Another wrote that it was "literally 'black' bread because the bran left in it colored the bread black and made the texture coarse." He also noted that it was baked with a great deal of water, so that it was "wet and weighed heavy, so that in actual fact we received less than our allotted 700 grams."

Others recalled that prisoners fought over the drier, less watery ends of the loaves. In Varlam Shalamov's short story "Cherry Brandy," a fictive description of the death of Osip Mandelstam, the poet's approaching death is signaled by his loss of interest in such matters: "He no longer watched for the heel of the loaf or cried when he didn't get it. He didn't stuff the bread into his mouth with trembling fingers."

In the hungrier camps, in the hungrier years, bread took on an almost sacred status, and a special etiquette grew up around its consumption. While camp thieves stole almost everything else with impunity, for example, the theft of bread was considered particularly heinous and unforgivable. Vladimir Petrov found on his long train journey to Kolyma that "thieving was permitted and could be applied to anything within the thiefs capacity and luck, but there was one exception--bread. Bread was sacred and inviolable, regardless of any distinctions in the population of the car." Petrov had in fact been chosen as the starosta [leader] of the car, and in that capacity was charged with beating up a petty thief who had stolen bread. He duly did so. Thomas Sgovio [an American] also wrote that the unwritten law of the camp criminals in Kolyma was: "Steal anything--excepting the holy bread portion." He too had "seen more than one prisoner beaten to death for violating the sacred tradition." Similarly, Kazimierz Zarod remembered that
If a prisoner stole clothes, tobacco, or almost anything else and was discovered, he could expect a beating from his fellow prisoners, but the unwrit- ten law of the camp--and I have heard from men from other camps that it was the same everywhere-was that a prisoner caught stealing another's bread earned a death sentence.
In his memoirs, Dmitri Panin, a close friend of Solzhenitsyn's, described exactly how such a death sentence might be carried out: "An offender caught in the act of stealing bread would be tossed in the air by other prisoners and allowed to crash to the ground; this was repeated several times, damaging his kidneys. Then they would heave him out of the barracks like so much carrion."
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 213-214

UPDATE: See also the story of Nicholas Nagy-Talavera, who survived both Auschwitz and the Gulag.

Florida Church Excommunicates Schiavo Judge

The latest issue of The Christian Century reports that a Florida judge was asked to leave his Southern Baptist church over the Schiavo case.
Judge George Greer, a Florida county judge in the spotlight three times for ordering Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube removed, was advised by his Southern Baptist pastor to leave the congregation—despite the judge’s reputation as a conservative Republican and conservative Christian.

Greer, 63, a Pinellas County circuit judge based in Clearwater, also rejected an attempt by the U.S. House to subpoena the brain-damaged woman as a means to force reinsertion of her tube....

Calvary is regarded as one of the Florida (Southern) Baptist Convention’s most prominent conservative churches. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Greer became inactive in the congregation because of its free distribution to members of the Florida Baptist Witness, one of the denomination’s most conservative publications....

Mary Repper, a longtime friend of Greer, told AP that while Greer took comfort in being upheld by higher courts, he was upset by the church’s stance. “The people in that church should be ashamed of themselves, to demonize George and to ask him to leave for doing his job, for upholding the law,” she said. “To me, that was the most offensive thing that has happened so far.”
via my brother Ken, another ex-Southern Baptist, but he at least remains a Christian

14 April 2005

Russian Prison Tapping Code

Perhaps the most elaborate form of forbidden communication [in Russian prisons] was the prisoners' Morse code, tapped on the walls of cells, or on the prison plumbing. The code had been devised in the Czarist era--Varlam Shalamov attributes it to one of the Decembrists. Elinor Olitskaya had learned it from her Social Revolutionary colleagues long before she was imprisoned in 1924. In fact, the Russian revolutionary Vera Figner had described the code in her memoirs, which is where Evgeniya Ginzburg had read about it. While under investigation, she remembered enough of the code to use it to communicate with a neighboring cell. The code was relatively straightforward: letters of the Russian alphabet were laid out in five rows of six letters:
Each letter was then designated by a pair of taps, the first signifying the row, the second the position in the row:
1,1 1,2 1,3 1,4 1,5 1,6
2,1 2,2 2,3 2,4 2,5 2,6
3,1 3,2 3,3 3,4 3,5 3,6
4,1 4,2 4,3 4,4 4,5 4,6
5,1 5,2 5,3 5,4 5,5 5,6
Even those who had not read about the code or learned it from others sometimes figured it out, as there were standard methods of teaching it. Those who knew it would sometimes tap out the alphabet, over and over again, together with one or two simple questions, in the hope that the unseen person on the other side of the wall would catch on. That was how Alexander Dolgun learned the code in Lefortovo, memorizing it with the help of matches. When he was finally able to "talk" to the man in the next cell, and understood that the man was asking him "Who are you?" he felt "a rush of pure love for a man who has been asking me for three months who I am."
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 155-156

13 April 2005

The Old Gulag Arbeitslager and Its New Korean Workforce

Work was the central function of most Soviet camps. It was the main occupation of prisoners, and the main preoccupation of the administration. Daily life was organized around work, and the prisoners' well-being depended upon how successfully they worked. Nevertheless, it is difficult to generalize about what camp work was like: the image of the prisoner in the snowstorm, digging gold or coal with a pickax, is only a stereotype. There were many such prisoners--millions, as the figures for the camps of Kolyma and Vorkuta make clear--but there were also, we now know, camps in central Moscow where prisoners designed airplanes, camps in central Russia where prisoners built and ran nuclear power plants, fishing camps on the Pacific coast, collective farm camps in southern Uzbekistan. The archives of the Gulag in Moscow are chock-full of photographs of prisoners with their camels.

Without a doubt, the range of economic activity within the Gulag was as wide as the range of economic activity within the USSR itself. A glance through the Guide to the System of Corrective-Labor Camps in the USSR, the most comprehensive listing of camps to date, reveals the existence of camps organized around gold mines, coal mines, nickel mines; highway and railway construction; arms factories, chemical factories, metal-processing plants, electricity plants; the building of airports, apartment blocks, sewage systems; the digging of peat, the cutting of trees, and the canning of fish. The Gulag administrators themselves preserved a photo album solely dedicated to the goods that inmates produced. Among other things, there are pictures of mines, missiles, and other army equipment; car parts, door locks, buttons; logs floating down rivers; wooden furniture, including chairs, cabinets, telephone boxes, and barrels; shoes, baskets, and textiles (with samples attached); rugs, leather, fur hats, sheepskin coats; glass cups, lamps, and jars; soap and candles; even toys--wooden tanks, tiny windmills, and mechanical rabbits playing drums.

Work varied within individual camps as well as between them. True, many prisoners in forestry camps did nothing but fell trees. Prisoners with sentences of three years or less worked in "corrective-labor colonies," light-regime camps which were usually organized around a single factory or occupation. Larger Gulag camps, by contrast, might contain a number of industries: mines, a brick factory, and a power plant, as well as housing or road construction sites. In such camps, prisoners unloaded the daily goods trains, drove trucks, picked vegetables, worked in kitchens, hospitals, and children's nurseries. Unofficially, prisoners also worked as servants, nannies, and tailors for the camp commanders, guards, and their wives.

Prisoners with long sentences often held down a wide variety of jobs, changing work frequently as their luck rose and fell. In her nearly two-decade camp career, Evgeniya Ginzburg worked cutting trees, digging ditches, cleaning the camp guest house, washing dishes, tending chickens, doing laundry for camp commanders' wives, and caring for prisoners' children. Finally, she became a nurse. During the eleven years he spent in camps, another political prisoner, Leonid Sitko, worked as a welder, as a stonemason in a quarry, as a construction worker on a building brigade, as a porter in a railway depot, as a miner in a coal mine, and as a carpenter in a furniture factory, making tables and bookshelves.
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 217-218

NKZone's Andrei Lankov picks up the story of the Siberian Gulag after the death of Stalin.
For the last few decades a visitor to Eastern Siberia can sometimes come across unusual logging camps: fenced off with barbed wire, they spo[r]t the telltale portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. These are North Korean camps: from the late 1960s, the North Korean loggers have been working in Russia’s Far East.

In the 1960s, the timber shortage was felt both in North Korea and the USSR, but the reasons for this shortage were different. The Russians had plenty of forest, but lacked labour. When gulags were emptied after Stalin’s death, few people were willing to go to fell trees in remote corners of Siberia at their own will. The North Koreans had an abundance of cheap labour but almost no good timber. Thus, the idea of cooperation came naturally. In March 1967, when the relations between the two countries began to recover after a serious chill, a logging agreement was signed.

According to the agreement, the North Korean loggers were allowed to work at designated areas of the Russian Far East. They were housed in special labour camps, run by the North Korean administration. The produced timber was divided between the two sides: the Russians get 60 percent [property rights!] and Koreans 40 percent [labour!] of the total.

At their peak in the mid-1980s, the Far East joint logging projects employed over 20,000 North Korean workers. This means that some 0.5 percent of all North Korean able-bodied men laboured there.
This recalls one of the hoariest of Soviet-era jokes: "Under capitalism, man exploits man, while under socialism, it's the other way round."

12 April 2005

K. R. Howe on Democracy and "Tradition"

When the new Pacific island nation-states gained their constitutional independence, mainly in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a heady optimism. Independence had come peacefully and cooperatively. There had been no revolutions, no bloody wars of national liberation. Independence was given, sometimes virtually imposed, rather than taken. Power shifted readily from colonial administrators to existing indigenous political elites. The independence constitutions of the new nation-states were largely informed by Western democratic institutions and values.

But in more recent times, the optimism has diminished. Along with growing economic problems for most Pacific nation-states, there are now very considerable tensions between notions of Western liberal constitutional democracy and some indigenous political values and traditions. The Fiji coups of 1987 were a major wake-up call for historians and others who still viewed the Pacific islands as pleasant, romantic, peaceful locations. These coups, in the name of protecting the rights of indigenous Fijians, caused great consternation to those commentators deeply committed to the commonly held dual ideals of democracy and indigenous rights. In this case, they could not hold both at once.

While the Fiji coups were rather extreme examples in the Pacific context, the underlying tensions between constructs of indigenous "tradition" and "the West," and the politics of Pacific culture, are lively and serious issues in modern scholarship.

"Tradition" is constantly reinvented in all human societies. In Oceania, indigenous tradition has long been constructed by Westerners. It is also constructed from within island societies, often as a necessary anticolonial response and as a basis for an assertion of identity. This identity tends to be expressed more in cultural terms--a cultural nationalism--since political nationalism is often a problematic concept in islands where nation-state boundaries have been arbitrarily imposed, where even concepts of a political nation might have no indigenous precedents, and where so many citizens live outside their state.

Sometimes this process of asserting cultural identity is also used for particular internal purposes that might be regarded as less than noble, such as by some current political elites to maintain their own positions in the face of growing demands by some of their citizens for a more democratic sharing of influence and resources. Traditional indigenous values of status and even "class"--for example, differences between "commoners" and "nobles"--are not always compatible with notions of democracy.

Historians dealing with these matters often feel the need to tread very warily and not give offense. Criticism can so readily lead to accusations of racism. For historians there is the temptation to suspend the critical facility and to appeal to cultural relativism, a situation ethics based on notions of what is loosely referred to as "the Pacific way." Thus, for example, certain practices involving matters of ethnicity, class, or gender or of social, government, and business policy that would be condemned elsewhere in the world are sometimes quietly condoned. As an example, the near-absolute monarchy in Tonga seldom receives the condemnation from crusading democrats that such monarchy might receive if it were elsewhere in the world. In the case of Tonga, it is more likely to be regarded as a "quaint" and beneficent system. Meanwhile, the reification of indigenous tradition, by both insiders and outsiders, has contributed to post-colonial stereotyping. As Stephanie Lawson comments:
The construction of the dichotomy between "traditional" and "Western" that has been so roundly condemned in anticolonial literature has now been inverted in a form which pervades the rhetoric of those who denounced it in the first place. This unquestioningly produces the same false essentialism which has seduced past generations of scholars into believing that there are determinate characteristics of Western and non-Western "minds."
And the dichotomy is so obviously simplistic anyway. Some of the most "Western" of notions have become thoroughly entrenched within and often central to "tradition," most obviously Christianity. A fundamental problem with academic discussions about Pacific cultural politics is that moral judgments can too readily belie the enormous complexity of issues. The idea of authorative history is no longer acceptable, yet to offer the opposite, the idea of history as an infinitely relative "multivocality," may in the long run be equally unhelpful. Both strategies are just as inclined to create cardboard cut-outs of their respective selves and others.

SOURCE: Nature, Culture, and History: The "Knowing" of Oceania, by K. R. Howe (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2000), pp. 72-74

11 April 2005

K. R. Howe on Culture as History

For reasons that were thought perfectly appropriate and correct at the time, imperial Pacific history depicted indigenous societies as fundamentally weak, flawed, and degenerate. In postcolonial history, indigenous societies are more likely to be strong, resilient, adaptable, and vibrant. The underlying reason for the contrast is the fundamental shift in explanatory paradigm from nature to culture and the associated reevaluation of the relative merits of Western and non-Western cultures. The result is that imperial values have been inverted. Today's Pacific historians operate in an ideological environment that tends to privilege the idea of indigenous societies. Notions of indigenous culture and custom have been reified.

Chapter 1 argued the case for a twentieth-century reconceptualizing of Pacific nature in the form of the ideal tropical island. Something similar has happened to the idea of Pacific culture. Both the generality and the specificity of indigenous Pacific culture have commonly been re-ennobled. At its extreme level, perhaps more in the realms of journalism and political rhetoric than academic history, is the claim that Pacific islanders, and indigenous peoples elsewhere, have culture, whereas many Westerners, especially in "newer" countries such as Australia and New Zealand, do not. More commonly, islanders are attributed characteristics commonly thought to be lacking in Western society. They are spiritual rather than materialistic; holistic rather than analytical; sharing, caring, communal, and inherently democratic rather than individualistic and self-interested. They are deemed to embody pre-industrial ideals such as honesty and self-sufficiency, as opposed to corrupting values of urban modernity, and they have a closer affinity with nature. There exists a late-twentieth-century version of the noble savage.

Of course such idealizing and privileging of indigenous societies have been recurrent themes in Western thought over the past thousand or more years. The current postcolonial version is a natural and necessary reaction to now outmoded imperial views and colonial practices. Just as imperial history attempted to disempower islanders, postcolonial history is an attempt to reverse that process. It positively supports attempts to improve identity and life for peoples who have been colonized and marginalized. But it does create an environment in which historians sometimes have difficulty depicting multidimensional aspects of indigenous culture in colonial/postcolonial encounter. Criticism or what might be construed as negative comment about island societies tends to be avoided. The idea that island societies, like societies everywhere, may be riven with internal conflicts and contradictions and engage in reprehensible practices is not commonly expressed, by either insiders or outsiders. If such critical comment is made, it is more often than not explained as a consequence of colonialism.
SOURCE: Nature, Culture, and History: The "Knowing" of Oceania, by K. R. Howe (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2000), pp. 70-71

10 April 2005

Deaths in the Family

All the news coverage surrounding the drawn-out deaths of more famous people back around the Kalends of April this year cast a macabre shadow over the much quieter deaths of two of my kinfolk, my second oldest surviving uncle and my youngest aunt.

As their deaths began to sink in, I found myself reduced to a kind of catatonic state: staring off into the distance rather than burying my nose in a book as I usually do while waiting for the bus to work; tolerating sappier shows on TV than I would normally have the patience for; damping down my verbal input and output while silently recycling old memories through my head—all subtle mourning behaviors for someone who is fairly quiet to begin with.

Although he had a Hebrew middle name like half his brothers (whose monikers included Jeptha, Joel, and Jahue), Uncle Bernard Elijah was not a recent Jewish immigrant. His (and my) ancestors arrived from England on the Atlantic shores of Virginia back in the mid 1600s, but they didn’t get very far past the Great Dismal Swamp until the mid 1900s. Most were either Baptists or Quakers, the latter being especially fond of Hebrew names, it seems.

As the middle kid of seven who survived childhood on tenant farms in Southampton County, Va., Bernard was my father’s next older brother. Although not very religious himself, he looked after his missionary kid brother’s family in Japan. We always enjoyed the Virginia ham he would send every Christmas, and looked forward to visiting him and his family every furlough.

He had retired after 33 years as a produce buyer for Colonial Stores, and had been married to my Aunt Marie for 63 years. He was a tough old bird. He was riddled with cancer, was in constant pain, and had been given six months left to live for about eight years before he finally gave up the fight. He was 84.

Aunt Becky was not blood-kin. She was married to my father’s youngest brother, whom he called Junior, so that we kids referred to him as Uncle Junior, just as we used to talk about Dad’s sister as Aunt Sister.

But Becky proved to be just the kind of kin I needed when I landed on her doorstep in tiny Ivor, Va., disoriented by rural America after a childhood in urban Japan, disillusioned with my religious heritage, and disinterested in continuing my formal education.

Uncle Junior offered me work therapy at the filling station and tire shop he managed for Becky’s Dad, who owned an oil distributorship, a couple of service stations, a furniture store, a plumbing business—a fair portion of what few commercial opportunities were available in a town of not much more than 300 souls. Work therapy was just what I needed. There’s nothing like repairing a flat tire on a mud-encrusted logging truck to bring one’s airy philosophizing back down to earth.

Meanwhile, Aunt Becky offered me talk therapy: a sympathetic ear and a genuine curiosity about the wider world. Only ten years older than me, she was as much an elder sister as an aunt and foster mother.

Being from a relatively prosperous family, she had been away to college, but she never seemed able to find a healthy compromise between her roots planted deep in the local soil and her longing to soar far beyond. She seemed to keep sacrificing one for the other. But maybe I’m just projecting my own sense of the same everlasting tensions.

With their encouragement, and financial support from a secret local benefactor, I went off to college, but dropped out in my sophomore year and had to join the Army. Becky and I eventually lost touch after she and my uncle divorced. By then, I had settled far away.

A few years ago, out of the blue, I got an email message from her. We were back in touch. I was able to pay her a visit when I went to D.C. for a meeting. Last Christmas, she sent us a Virginia ham. Last year, during my daughter’s spring break, I dragged her around to see a bunch of my Virginia uncles and aunts and cousins, and also to see the Quaker cemetery where her paternal great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, and other assorted kinfolk are buried. City kid Rachel (another Hebrew name!) thought it odd to be so attached to a patch of soil. It was a curious spring break for a Yalie. I suppose she should have been skiing in Switzerland.

It was during this year’s spring break that we first got word from a cousin by email that Aunt Becky was in Portsmouth Naval Hospital. Not just in hospital, but on life support. She had gone in because her legs were giving out on her. It turned out her kidneys were failing. And then everything seemed to give out at once. Dialysis and artificial blood hormones had to take over the work of her stalled kidneys. A respirator did the work of her emphysema-damaged lungs. An external filtering machine had to screen out a deadly organism in her blood. And heavy sedation was needed to prevent the panic attacks that made her blood pressure spike and plunge.

The doctors worked to stabilize her for weeks, but couldn’t seem to rescue one organ without endangering the others. Meanwhile, her three children made sure she always had a familiar face and voice at her bedside. At noon on 30 March 2005, she was disconnected from all the various means of artificial life support. Before sunset, she had slipped away forever.

09 April 2005

Surrender Negotiations, 7-9 April 1865

Today marks the 140th anniversary of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. My ancestors who fought for the Confederacy were already POWs by then--one was among the 1600 men left in Wharton's two brigades who surrendered to Gen. Sheridan at Waynesborough on 2 March 1865 at the end of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign; the other was wounded and captured at of Five Forks on 1 April 1865, where Gen. Sheridan's troops broke Confederate Gen. Lee's supply line and forced him to flee toward the west, evacuating Richmond and Petersburg.

On 7 April 1865, Gen. Grant initiated a poignant exchange of letters with Gen. Lee.
"General R.E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.:
5 P.M., April 7th, 1865.
The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General"

"April 7th, 1865.
General: I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.
R.E. Lee, General."

"April 8th, 1865.
General R.E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.:
Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon,--namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General"

"April 8th, 1865.
General: I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but, as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia; but as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A.M. to-morrow on the old state road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.
R.E. Lee, General."

"April 9th, 1865.
General: Your note of yesterday is received. I have not authority to treat on the subject of peace. The meeting proposed for 10 A.M. to-day could lead to no good. I will state, however, that I am equally desirous for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their arms, they would hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed. Seriously hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, etc.,
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General"

"April 9th, 1865.
General: I received your note of this morning on the picket-line, whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now ask an interview, in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday, for that purpose.
R.E. Lee, General."

"April 9th, 1865.
General R. E. Lee Commanding C. S. Army:
Your note of this date is but this moment (11:50 A.M.) received, in consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg road to the Farmville and Lynchburg road. I am at this writing about four miles west of Walker's Church, and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me.
U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General."
They finally met face-to-face at the home of Wilmer McLean.
General Grant began the conversation by saying 'I met you once before, General Lee, while we were serving in Mexico, when you came over from General Scott's headquarters to visit Garland's brigade, to which I then belonged. I have always remembered your appearance, and I think I should have recognized you anywhere.'

'Yes,' replied General Lee, 'I know I met you on that occasion, and I have often thought of it and tried to recollect how you looked, but I have never been able to recall a single feature.'"

... Within a month of Lee's surrender, the remainder of the Confederate forces give up the fight.
SOURCE: "Surrender at Appomattox, 1865," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (1997).

And North-South reconciliation has continued--in fits, starts, and turnarounds--for 140 years.

05 April 2005

Saul Bellow's Passing and The Dean's December

The death of Saul Bellow--and two recent deaths in the family--spur me to turn a bit more inward and start a series of memoir posts about our year in Romania during 1983-84, during which we read Bellow's (1982) The Dean's December and also reread Orwell's 1984. Those two novels, along with Hedrick Smith's The Russians, seemed remarkably perceptive about the alien world into which we had naively ventured.

The Saul Bellow Society's website describes an intellectual challenge facing Bellow's protagonist in Romania.
For Dean Albert Corde, it is a matter of penetrating what he calls the “fantasmo imperium”—a state where facts cannot be perceived and provoke only feelings of suffocation. Starting with hibernation in [his wife] Minna’s room, Corde meditates on the symbolic and actual iron curtains behind which millions have been sealed off. He concludes that scientific minds have only succeeded in producing “blockaded zones” and “zones of incomprehension” about the larger issues of human existence. Irresponsible media people, scientists, university administrators, and totalitarian politicians he believes have perpetuated a gigantic fraud.

02 April 2005

NKVD Busts Largest Polish Spy Ring Ever, 1937-38

In 1937, the Soviet NKVD began an investigation into the "most powerful and probably the most important diversionist-espionage networks of Polish intelligence in the USSR."
The operation began with NKVD Order 00485, an order that set the pattern for later mass arrests. Operational Order 00485 clearly listed the sort of person who was to be arrested: all remaining Polish war prisoners from the 1920-21 Polish-Bolshevik war; all Polish refugees and emigrants to the Soviet Union; anyone who had been a member of a Polish political party; and all "anti-Soviet activists" from Polish-speaking regions of the Soviet Union. In practice, anyone of Polish background living in the Soviet Union--and there were many, particularly in the Ukrainian and Belorussian border regions--was under suspicion. The operation was so thorough that the Polish Consul in Kiev compiled a secret report describing what was happening, noting that in some villages "anyone of Polish background and even anyone with a Polish-sounding name" had been arrested, whether a factory manager or a peasant.

But the arrests were only the beginning. Since there was nothing to incriminate someone guilty of having a Polish surname, Order 00485 went on to urge regional NKVD chiefs to "begin investigations simultaneously with arrests. The basic aim of investigation should be the complete unmasking of the organizers and leaders of the diversionist group, with the goal of revealing the diversionist network ..."

In practice, this meant--as it would in so many other cases--that the arrestees themselves would be forced to provide the evidence from which the case against them would be constructed. The system was simple. Polish arrestees were first questioned about their membership in the espionage ring. Then, when they claimed to know nothing about it, they were beaten or otherwise tortured until they "remembered." Because Yezhov was personally interested in the success of this particular case, he was even present at some of these torture sessions. If the prisoners lodged official complaints about their treatment, he ordered his men to ignore them and to "continue in the same spirit." Having confessed, the prisoners were then required to name others, their "co-conspirators." Then the cycle would begin again, as a result of which the "spy network" grew and grew.

Within two years of its launch, the so-called "Polish line of investigation" had resulted in the arrests of more than 140,000 people, by some accounts nearly 10 percent of all of those repressed in the Great Terror. But the Polish operation also became so notorious for the indiscriminate use of torture and false confessions that in 1939, during the brief backlash against mass arrests, the NKVD itself launched an investigation into the "mistakes" that had been made while it was being carried out. One officer involved remembered that "it wasn't necessary to be delicate--no special permission was needed in order to beat people in the face, to beat without limitation." Those with qualms, and apparently there were some, had explicitly been told that it was Stalin and the Politburo's decision to "beat the Poles for all you are worth."
SOURCE: Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum (Anchor Books, 2003), pp. 137-139

At least one young Pole, Karol Wojtyla--preoccupied in 1938 with his confirmation, his high school graduation, and his enrollment in university--outlasted not just the NKVD, but the Soviet Union itself. He got, if not the last laugh, at least the last beatific smile. May he rest in peace.

01 April 2005

The Old Betelnut Trick

In Tondo [a district of Manila in the Philippines], quite a few people raising fighting chicken, and it is their habit in the evening to take their fighting rooster out and gather around the street under the light where they talk and exchange experience how to raise fighting chicken. Sometimes a few of them would let their rooster fight, just like sparring (practice) and we kids use to gather around and watch the rooster fight.

One evening as usual this people are gather around sitting in circle petting their rooster while we kids, about six or seven of us, is standing outside the circle watching. Among the group there was an old man, oh, he's about 70 years old and toothless, sitting among the group in the circle. This old man always chew nganga (bitternut [= betelnut] leaves with lime mix together). Well, he cannot chew it as it come, so he got a bamboo pipe about 12 inches long and about 1 and ½ inches wide, and he got a long chisel knife very sharp at the end. He would put the nut and leaves inside the pipe, and would crush it with the chisel knife, and when it is crushed, he would tap the pipe on his palm, put it in his mouth and chew it.

Well, this evening as usual, he was very talkative telling which rooster is good, which rooster should be a winner. Well, two of the rooster owner decide to let their rooster practice, let them fight without knife, so they step in the middle of the circle and let their rooster loose. One was white and the other was red in color. While the rooster were circling around poised to fight, this old man with the bamboo pipe pulled the chisel out of the pipe, point it to one of the rooster, and shouted, "Sa pula ako, sa pula, sa pula," meaning, "I am for the red, for the red, for the red," at the same time he was holding his pipe high by his side. One of the kid who was standing behind the old man, I notice he drop something inside the bamboo pipe. I was not far from this kid, so I saw it but the old man didn't notice it. He was too busy watching the fighting chicken and keep shouting and cheering the red rooster. After a few moment the fellows pick up their rooster and the practice is over. So the old man resume his business, put his chisel in the bamboo pipe, and start crushing the nut and leaves while talking and laughing with the groups. While he was talking he tap his bamboo pipe in his palm, while he was saying, "I tell you that red is very good, I'll bet on that red any time, that red is good," and at the same time he put his nganga in his mouth and he says, "That red ... phew, phew," he says, "sa lintic sa lintic" (meaning, "The hell, the hell ...") and he start spitting his chew out. The fellows were surprise, and ask, "What happened man, what's wrong?" "Sa lintic," he says, "Sa lintic. Some body put lot chile pepper in my nganga. Sa lintic." By that time we were already away from the old man. We were afraid he might start swinging with that sharp chisel and, instead, he stood up and start walking for home still mumbling, "Sa lintic, phew, sa lintic," and when he is gone the fellows start laughing, some rolling on the ground, laughing like mad.
SOURCE: Tomorrow's Memories: A Diary, 1924-1928, by Angeles Monrayo (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2003), pp. 208-209