London to New York City by car? It could happen if the head of Russian Railways has his way.
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
London to New York City by car? It could happen if the head of Russian Railways has his way.
As Asya Pereltsvaig, the author of Languages of the World, wrote: "That's what happens when Russia's main problems, fools and roads (дураки и дороги), are combined..." It's the opposite idea of the summer road trip that is designed to hit all the major tourist sites.
Questions to Ponder: What are the pros and cons of this project? What would it take to actually happen? This map is a Mercator Projection--would a different map change your perspective on the feasibility of the project?
Stratfor conducted extensive scenario planning when considering Russia's offensive military options toward Ukraine. In this video some of the broader themes and deduction will be examined.
One year after Russia seized Crimea, many eyes are on Russia's intent in Eastern Ukraine. The first 5:30 of the video above is an introduction to computerized scenario modeling in geopolitics. The second half of the video shows the actual analysis of the military options available to Russia as well as as the risks that each option presents. This isn't forecasting what Russia will do, but highlights its geopolitical options if it does gamble more of its military forces in war with Ukraine. Here is a transcript of the last half of the video.
The clip which starts at 0:25 (speaking at 0:50) is an audiovisually rich cultural collage. Folk cultures are often described as regionally based, nearly homogenous, rural cultures. These societies are typically dominated by the older generation, traditional, family-based and slow to change. Folk cultures typically rural, religious, agricultural, family-based and in a word: traditional. This classic movie's opening is a good primer for markers of folk cultures and struggles that folk cultures have to maintain there vitality in a globalizing world. If you continue on in the movie, the actual song Tradition is also rich in explaining how the society maintains itself.
"Workers at an ailing paper mill in Siberia are clinging to their jobs in the face of financial pressure and criticism from environmentalists.
Related Article: http://nyti.ms/gSvOkM"
The environment, industry and politics play key roles in this story of an old style Soviet mono-town on Lake Baikal. Monotowns had planned economies that revolved around one industry and today many of these are struggling in the post-Soviet era. While the particulars of the political situation are a bit dated, the overall issue is still quite relevant to understanding Russia today.
"No one has found out how to help Denmark's falling birth rate. Until now. Spies Travels announces a competition where you have to make a baby to win."
Not all countries are concerned about overpopulation; Countries like Japan are in steep decline in terms of their population. Denmark is a country that is seeking to to encourage higher fertility rates (and this travel company is using this salacious ad to promote the it and themselves, but there is some actual demographic analysis in there). Singapore's National Night was another innovative campaign to boost fertility rates (warning: the video is provocative). Russia is also trying to boost fertility rates with a similar idea, but another major part of their strategy is to reaffirm traditional sexual norms in society.
Tag: declining populations.
"President Obama came into office promising a 'reset' in U.S.-Russia relations. Six years later, the reset, for all intents and purposes, is dead."
A more informed, globally aware citizenry helps to strengthen U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic efforts; we need citizens with a spatial framework within which to organize political, environmental, cultural and economic information. This interview with political science professor Michael McFaul is a great introduction to understanding Russia, Putin and today's most pressing geopolitical issue.
There have been a number of warnings from Kiev and Washington about the possibility of a direct and open Russian military intervention in Ukraine. But what could that look like?
"A state commission working on a much-discussed report titled 'Foundations of State Cultural Politics' will release their findings in two weeks, presidential advisor Vladimir Tolstoi announced last week, adding that the basic formula of the report could be summarized as 'Russia is not Europe.'"
At times Russia has sought to be perceived as a part of Europe only to be excluded in the minds (and institutions) of Western Europe. Now, in a discursive way to protect itself, it is reaffirming and building a cultural buffer zone between Europe and Russia. What are the borders of Europe as you think of it? Can world regions change over time? Any examples of regions having their borders redrawn?
"Photographer Christopher Herwig has covered more than 30,000 km by car, bike, bus and taxi in 13 countries discovering and documenting these unexpected treasures of modern art. From the shores of the Black Sea to the endless Kazakh steppe, the bus stops show the range of public art from the Soviet era and give a rare glimpse into the creative minds of the time."
This is a delightful glimpse into a time gone by, and what makes it even more surprising is that few would expect such creative architecture to dot the cultural landscape of the old Soviet Union. I was recently looking at a photo gallery of old Russian Orthodox churches and just like these Soviet bus stops, they are perfect subjects for classic cultural landscape studies. Geography students can analyze and interpret the cultural, political and economic material landscape as this photographer has. What do these elements of the landscape mean? How does it make us re-evaluate the society that created them?
10 places that would welcome a Putin landgrab, and 10 parts of Russia that want the hell out.
One of the ideological weaknesses in the idea that Russia should annex Crimea because of the large number of ethnic Russians that want to join the Russian Federation, is that there are many places within the Russian Federation without a majority of ethnic Russians that would want out of the Russian Federation. This list from Foreign Policy is pretty intriguing and they provide insight about the geographic context for each place on the list.
Top 10 looking for a way into Russia (abbreviated)
Top 10 look for a way out of Russia:
Russian media says exit polls show 93 percent of voters elected to join Russia, in a move the West deems illegal.
The vote wasn't a surprise, but it now means there are more questions than answers about the political future of Crimea, both regionally and internationally (this is the U.S. State Dept's rejection of the referendum). Also is interest is how this impacts Turkey, which feels kinship with the Crimean Tatar population. Historically they've been Black Sea rivals and Turkey was a key NATO ally during the Cold War. However since the fall of the the Soviet Union they've improved diplomatic relations and Turkey is reluctant to damage relations with Russia. We all know by now that the majority of Crimean residents speak Russian as their native language, but what's the linguistic geography of Crimea look like at a at a different scale?
Ukraine's interim prime minister says the country is "on the brink of disaster."
World defense spending is expected to go up for the first time in five years, thanks to China and Russia.
The top 3 shouldn't come as any big surprises, but there might be a few farther on down the list though that might raise some eyebrows. There are specific geopolitical, historic, economic and cultural rationales for each of these countries that explain why they are on this list, and discussing those reasons is a conversation would having.
Czar Alexander II may have freed the serfs, but his war against the stateless people of the Caucasus cannot be ignored
The czar’s approval of this rapid expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Circassians to the Ottoman Empire resulted in an ethnic cleansing through disease and drowning as overcrowded ferries crossed the Black Sea. The Ottomans were unprepared for the influx of refugees, and the absence of adequate shelter caused even more deaths from exposure. Those Circassians who attempted to remain in the Russian Empire and fight for their land were massacred. Sochi’s “Red Hill,” where the skiing and snowboarding events will take place during these Olympic Games, was the site of the Circassian last stand, where the Imperial Russian armies celebrated their “victory” over the local defenders.
I mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. As the international spotlight in on Sochi, our students interest in the region is also heightened. This makes it the perfect time to shine a light on parts of history that many have conveniently tried to brush aside.
Why would Vladimir Putin want to host the Olympics in an underdeveloped place where terrorists lurk nearby? The answer is not as complicated as it may seem.
This article is an excellent explanation of the geopolitical significance of holding the Olympic Games in Sochi. Geographer Carole McGranahan writes critically about the location of the Olympics given Putin's policies in the Caucasus Mountains (especially in regard to the 2008 invasion of Georgia to protect Russian interests in South Ossetia). Additionally, here is a link from Stratfor discussing the shifting foreign policy concerns of the United States towards Russia.
ESPN Video: Jeremy Schaap details the threats to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
It's not everyday that ESPN will use terms like insurgency, region, state, suicide bombs, attacks, threats, heightened security, terrorists and black widows during a video clip, but when they do it's worth paying attention to the geographic context of their story. Here is an additional NY Times interactive, also on the geopolitical context of Sochi.
Ukrainians have been protesting since Nov. 21, when President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a deal for closer integration with the European Union, instead drawing the country closer to Russia. They are still in the streets in huge numbers and have seized regional government buildings in several parts of the country. In Kiev, the capital, clashes between protesters and security forces have become violent, killing several people. On Tuesday, the prime minister resigned. No one is quite sure what will happen next.
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
Strategically, Ukraine matters much more to Russia than it doesn't the EU, which is why Russia is flexing there muscles. Russia's major market for their natural gas are linked through these key pipelines.
"An earlier GeoCurrents post on Chechnya mentioned that the Chechens were deported from their homeland in the North Caucasus to Central Asia in February 1944. However, the Chechen nation was not the only one to suffer such a fate under Stalin’s regime."
"Dust blows from what was once the Aral Sea floor. Tragic mismanagement of a natural resource."
The collapse of the Aral Sea ecosystem is (arguably) the worst man-made environmental disaster of the 20th century and 21st century has seen the continuation of the desertification set in motion. Soviet mismanagement, water-intensive cotton production and population growth have all contributed the overtaxing of water resources in the Aral Sea basin, which has resulted in a the shrinking of the Aral Sea--it has lost more of the sea to an expanding desert than the territories of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined. The health problems arising from this issues are large for the entire Aral Sea basin, which encompasses 5 Central Asian countries and it has profoundly changed (for the worse) the local climates. Compare the differences with some historical images of the Aral Sea on Google Earth or on ArcGIS Online (also see this article from GeoCurrents)
"Every so often, if you ride Moscow's crowded subways, you may notice that the commuters around you include a dog - a stray dog, on its own, just using the handy underground Metro to beat the traffic and get from A to B. Yes, some of Moscow's stray dogs have figured out how to use the city's immense and complex subway system, getting on and off at their regular stops."
Even if only a small fraction of strays have figured out how to navigate the subway system, it represents another example of how animals have adapted to the urban ecosystem in a way that human did not intend. The dogs get on the subway in the morning and go downtown searching for food and return to the suburbs to sleep. This has been circulating on social media sites, and I find it endlessly fascinating.
The Caucasus region, dominated by the imposing Great Caucasus mountain range and stretching between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, has long been known as one of the world’s ethnically and linguistically most diverse areas.
After this weekend it has become glaringly obvious that many are painfully ignorant of the geography of Chechnya and the surrounding Caucasus Mountain region. This article from GeoCurrents discusses the linguistic diversity of the region and this Geography in the News article outlines the contentious geopolitical situation of Chechnya within the Russian Federation. Also, the Washington Post published an article entitled, 9 questions about Chechnya and Dagestan you were too embarassed to ask.
I do not post these materials to lay blame to an entire ethnic group, religion or region for the terrorists acts of two individuals. On the contrary, I post these articles because I find this to be a teaching moment where we as educators can clarify the geographic context of an unknown part of the world to our students. As we teach this context, quick labels and lazy narratives become harder to maintain and our students can become less prejudiced and critically think about the situation with greater depth and clarity.
MOUNT GERIZIM, West Bank (AP) — The Samaritans, a rapidly dwindling sect dating to biblical times, have opened their insular community to brides imported from eastern Europe in a desperate quest to preserve their ancient culture.
Some folk cultures, such as the Samaritans, have historically intermarried and have been plagued by genetic diseases. Recently, they have turned to global solutions to their local demographic woes. "Five young women from Russia and Ukraine have moved to this hilltop village in recent years to marry local men, breathing new life into the community."