A Year Ago Today


One year ago today, founder and manager of the Latgale Research Center, Dr. Leonard Latkovski – professor, mentor, and, most of all, a best friend to many – died at the age of 72. 

A day doesn’t go by where I am not grateful for all that Dr. Latkovski taught me. His expertise in Latvian and Russian history inspired me – not just on an educational level, but on a level to become who I am today. It goes without saying that he inspired all of his students. 

And he will continue to inspire for years and lifetimes to come. 

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A Note and Update

Readers,

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted anything for about a month. Don’t worry, I’m alive!

About a month ago, I have begun another position as a historian and researcher which has taken up my time from here.

As for an update, the article I wrote in conjunction with the International Conference last March is currently in the peer-review process. It’s unknown how long that’ll take. I’ll certainly update as that progresses.

Scott Mauer

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In the News: From “The Czech Republic” to “Czechia”

The Czech Republic is currently undergoing a name change. In a way, at least.

As France is officially known as The French Republic, or Slovakia is officially known as The900px-flag_of_the_czech_republic-svg Slovak Republic, so the Czech Republic wants to officially shorten its name to Czechia.

The name has the support of many politicians in the country, but still needs to be approved and registered to the United Nation. It is primarily for unofficial documents, and would be practically easier to brand (such as putting on sports jerseys) than “The Czech Republic.”

“Czechia,” according to The Washington Post, comes from Latin, and was first recorded in English in 1841. Certainly it is not a brand new word, and has gained a lot of support in the past years. However, some Czech politicians do not agree with the decision: some for the connotations of excluding other regions in the country, others say it just sounds ugly.

Either way, whether the name becomes official and whether it gains global support, this news signifies a trend for the Eastern European country to become more accessible to the world.

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Chernobyl’s Wildlife

If you’re expecting two-headed cows or glowing deer, sorry, that’s not what’s here.

National Geographic’s John Wendle has an article on the resurgence of wildlife in the Chernobyl area, following the evacuation of all people since the 1986 nuclear disaster that left the immediate area uninhabitable. It’ll be 30 years since the disaster this Tuesday, the 26th.

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Essentially, as the article notes, “Radiation … is not holding back Chernobyl wildlife populations.” Among the animals seen in the area are bison, boars, moose, deer, badgers, gray wolves, red foxes, and more.

The exclusion zone in Ukraine, in which permission must be obtained before entering, and has virtually no human resident population (with few exceptions), covers about a 1,000 square mile area, making it the largest wildlife areas in Europe unimpeded by human contact.

Check out the link at National Geographic for more information, including pictures and videos. It offers a unique environmental study – not only with a large area unaffected by humans for three decades, but also in a highly radioactive zone.

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Wanted by Police for Visiting a Library

No, this isn’t Fahrenheit 451. This is modern-day Russia.

Police are looking for visitors – as far as 18 years ago – of a Ukrainian library in Moscow. This comes in a crackdown of supposed anti-Russian sentiment, with Ukrainian sympathy being seen as falling well in that category.

They have demanded the officials of the Moscow Library of Ukrainian Literature release personal information such as home address of several individuals who have visited and checked out books on Ukrainian history and, specifically, the Holodomor, a man-made famine under the Soviet Union that killed up to 8 million people. They specifically ask, as seen below, for information on the following people:

  • Ментальність орди (Horde Mentality), taken out on May 15, 2008
  • Україна або смерть (Ukraine or Death), taken out July 10, 1998
  • Голос в Украіні (The Voice in Ukraine), taken out February 1, 2010
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Document demanding information of visitors

This is not the first time the library has been investigated by the police or the government. The director of the library, Natalia Sharina, was arrested in late October, 2015, on account that some of the material may “incite hatred” and were “extremist” against the Russian people. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, a charge and penalty that Human Rights Watch have said are “not only an assault on personal liberty, but on every person who cares about ideas and learning and education.”

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Volodymyr Hroisman – Ukraine’s New Prime Minister

As an update to the news earlier this week here, the Ukrainian Parliament has approved the appointment of Volodymyr Hroisman (also spelled Groysman) as the new Prime Minister of Ukraine. He is the 16th Prime Minister since it’s establishment in 1990.

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He was approved by an overwhelming majority (250 for; 50 against). In his acceptance speech, he said,  “Together we will make Ukraine successful.” As the BBC reports, this is not an easy task, as the war-torn country has a weak economy, a weak government, and overwhelming foreign powers from many sides.

Hopefully he will be more successful than the now-resigned Yatsenyuk. Critics, however, are doubtful, as they see Hroisman as nothing more than a “yes man” to President Poroshenko’s policies – something that they see as a problem for the nation.

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Gorbachev’s Latest Memoirs Now in English

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Russian-language edition

For those who want to look at late-Soviet leadership and politics, look no further than Mikhail Gorbachev’s own works. As the last Soviet leader, he oversaw the gradual liberalizing of freedoms (such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press) during the late 1980s, and eventually saw the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He has published multiple memoirs in the past, which I highly recommend, but his latest book, После Кремля (Poslye Kremlya, “After the Kremlin”) is now available in English, published by British publisher Polity Press, under the title “The New Russia.”

This book, among other things, will offer the former Soviet leader’s thoughts on modern-day Russia. Quite tellingly, Gorbachev has criticized Putin, saying that the current President “thinks he is second only to God.”

 

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