This is a blog for use in both of my HIS 241 and HIS 242 Russian history survey courses at Northern Virginia Community College.

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17 October 2007

The Caspian Lake, Sea or Pond: A New Near Eastern Conflict Zone?

The recently concluded summit in Tehran, involving the shoreline countries of the Caspian (Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), provided another opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to throw Russia's economic weight (natural resources) onto the world stage. Disputes over who should control the oil and natural gas fields of the Caspian (the fish are already dead or dying) between the bordering countries of the water body--there is disagreement over whether it is a "sea" or a "lake"--could get very unpleasant in the near future (unless Putin gets his way).
ps. Technically, the Caspian is not part of the Near East, but what could happen there could very much be of the same model as the discords plaguing the Near East.

14 October 2007

Georgian Wine

One of my former students sent me an announcement of a recent cultural event that featured dancers from Georgia. The events was to be followed by a Georgian wine tasting session, and that reminded me of my stay in Russia (still the Soviet Union at that time) when you could still freely, and quite easily, get Georgian wines. We had a lot of Tsinandali, a dry white wine, to drink then. In recent years, Russian authorities have tried to bring economic pressure to bear on Georgia by prohibiting the import of Georgian wines into Russia. Since wines are one of the main currency-producing exports from Georgia, this has considerably hurt the Georgian economy. Fortunately for us in the United States, and especially those who live near DC, with a little looking around, you can buy them here. I found myself a bottle of Tsinandali!

05 October 2007

Khrushchev and the Space race

On Tuesday night, we had an interesting session with Professor Sergei Khrushchev--Nikita's son-- who related some first-hand knowledge about the background of the Soviet space program. What was surprising occurred when the floor opened for questions from the audience; there was a high level of hostility apparent in the number of questions about the evilness of communism and the relationship between the US and USSR during the Cold War.