Bullies, We Got Bullies Here!
Okay, so we got punks, rednecks, and fools with guns, terrorists, serial killers and mass-murders, dictators or evil government regimes, venomous theocracies, really mean governments, and the timid and stupid politicians the world around, yet we also have ...bullies. Yeah, as it's of British origin with many positive attributes which Americans are not accustomed to – the OED records it was ca. 1608-1688 when “bully” began to be used as a ruffian,“a tyrannical coward who makes himself a terror to the weak,” and meanings we now associate with the word. Well, with the Turkish president giving the thumbs up to "Hitler's Germany" and Russia's Putin signing a document declaring the U. S. and NATO are threats, I'm pointing a finger and saying, “Bullies, We got bullies here!” While other descriptions may also apply, I believe “bullies” best sums up Erdoğan and Putin.
The early history of the people today referred to as Turkish is a tad complex, yet well documented by archaeology, historical references, and linguistic and genetic studies. There were several ethnically, linguistically, and genetically related nomadic peoples along the Silk Road (i.e., Azerbaijan, parts of northern Iran, Turkmenistan, northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgystan) mentioned briefly by Herodotus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, and from 6th century CE Chinese sources. These early Turkish peoples, along with the Mongols to the east and the native Hungarians to the west, worshiped a sky-god and earth-mother based pantheon of deities with a touch of animism and shamanism thrown in. The sky-god, Tengri, persisted in the memory of the Turkish people and as such, a form of the name, “Tanri,” is still used today to refer to G*d, that is, the Abrahamic 'god' of the Hebrews, Christians, and by some Turkish Muslims. After the rise if Islam, some of these pagan Turkish people were integrated into Muslim society as slaves and servants, and later used as soldiers.
These 'Turkish' soldiers prospered and grew in strength during the so-called Abbasid Caliphate (ca. 750-1258 CE). The Abbasids are especially renowned for transforming a small Persian-ruled/Iraqi village called Baghdad, into a metropolis which soon became an enlightened city of learning which coincided with the Golden Age of Islam (roughly the same period as the Abbasid Caliphate, though some historians argue the Golden Age of Islam continued through the 15th and 16th centuries CE. I stand with the later and credit the invention of printing ca. 1440; see my “Passing the Texts,” Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers 26: 49-64 and online at: www.flavinscorner.com/passingtexts.htm). During the 9th through 10th centuries CE, as the Abbasids withdrew from their outer provinces and centralized from Baghdad, the Turkish soldiers opportunistically began to independently claim certain regions ruled by their own Turkish military. In 1055 CE, after recently converting to Islam, the Seijuk Turkish people seized of control of parts of Albania, Azerbaijan, and all of Persia/Iran, and conquered Baghdad. They also began to invade eastern Anatolia, and with great strength and confidence, challenged the Byzantine Empire, which ultimately inspired the First Crusade (1096-1099 CE).
It was about this time, the late 11th century CE, Christian Europe began to refer to Anatolia as "Turchia" and "Turkey," that is, "the land of the Turks." The Turks lost Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258 CE and also western Anatolia or 'Turkey', which caused the Turks to move into eastern Anatolia/Turkey. The western Mongol incursions (read: invasions or straight-up war and conquering) had serious consequences for both Europe and the Near East.
The Mongols at their fullest extent of control, ruled from Japan and China to the Near East and Egypt, and pressed into Europe as far as crossing the Danube River (they complained fighting the Germanic people in the deep, dark forests were troublesome), and while Pope Gregory IX and the so-called Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (who actually 'ruled' over 'Germany' at the time) were busy with a war of words, the Mongols took Austria (hence, perhaps, the presence of the 'Mongolian blue spots' on babies until the age of four or five, or so, in the Alps region, though now understood to be a congenital condition found around the globe, though named as such in 1883), however ca. 1241 CE, the Mongols decided NOT to press into western Europe and slowly retreated (read: relinquished) their conquered lands and returned to their Central Asian base, sparing Europe ...an unimaginable conflict. It was this reprieve by the Mongol abandoning certain lands, though taking Baghdad in 1258 CE, which allowed the Turks time to reorganize ethnically, politically, and militarily. Baghdad was taken from the Mongols by a Turko-Mongolian Muslim leader named Timür (aka Timür the Lame or 'Tamerlane' [Yeah, the one Poe wrote a historically fictitious poem about...], ca. 1320-1330 to 1405 CE), in the 1380s or early 1390s. Baghdad would remain under the control of the dynasty of Timür until the 'Ottoman” Turks reclaimed the city in 1534. However, the Ottoman folks (later, Empire) started a bit earlier ...and didn't stop for a really long time.
In 1299 CE, Osman Ghazi ben Ertuğrul (1258-1326 CE; whose name was transliterated as 'Ottoman' from the Greek version of the name) established a strong, militaristic dynasty in eastern Anatolia/Turkey. Some may regard their expansion as slow (though they attacked Vienna, Austria twice in 1529 and 1683), and captured and transformed Baghdad in 1534. The Ottoman Empire (1299 to 1922, shortly after World War I), was tyrannical and oppressive as you will, yet did persist for over several centuries (623 years has been mentioned), a feat not necessarily to be admired, but recognized by historians as fact. And, we are brought to founding of the modern Republic of Turkey and the end of the Ottoman Empire.
With the actual foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, followed a year later by a (second, and endorsed) constitution, modern Turkey began to transform itself and separate itself from its Ottoman past. New laws, penal codes, a government ordered discontinuation of the Arabic script and the introduction of a Turkish alphabet (an adaptation of the Latin alphabet with a couple of somewhat original vowels), and the most odd and societal revolutionary granting of full political rights and the privilege to not only vote, but to hold office, to women. Oh, and they even outlawed the wearing of the 'fez', which didn't faze the British, Canadian, but mainly American fraternal orders of the Elks and Moose(s). Some folks love their goofy hats... Turkey continued to present itself in a 'modern' light, though they wanted war with Russia in the early 1940s and only declared war on Germany and Japan in February of 1945, a last-minute move which allowed Turkey to become one of the founding members of the United Nations in October of 1945. We often use the idiom, “Don't judge a book by its cover,” as such, Turkey appeared one way to the outside world, and another to its own people. There were many coups, both by the military and powerful civilian movements, throughout the '50s and '60s, until the most recent, in 2002, which 'elected' Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the hyper-conservative Justice and Development Party as its prime minister and eventually, and currently, its president.
Besides its continued attempted genocide of the Kurds of western Turkey (recalling the genocide of the Armenians by the Ottomans from 1914 to 1918), periods of martial law, the uncalled for arrest of many foreign journalists, and strong-arming its own people, Turkey continues to 'smile' for the cameras... Yet, truth will out, and at a recent press conference when asked if modern Turkey could maintain its unitary state of “democracy,” Pres. Erdoğan replied “Yes. There is nothing to say that you can’t have a presidential system in a unitary state. ...There are already some examples in the world today, and also some from the past,” continuing, “You see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany. Later you see the example again in various other countries.” Comparing one's political and government agenda to what Hitler did is ...dumb, stupid, wrong, ugly, and something a 'bully' might say. I hold Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to be a bully, and a sly and cruel one at that.
Okay, as I wrote above, I regard Vladimir Vladimirovich “Vlad” Putin as a 'bully', and that's being extremely generous. His recent signing of some useless document, which puffed, “The buildup of the military potential of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and vesting it with global functions implemented in violations of norms of international law, boosting military activity of the bloc’s countries, further expansion of the alliance, the approach of its military infrastructure to Russian borders create a threat to the national security.” Which was followed by, “Russia’s strengthening is taking part on the background of new threats to national security that have a complicated and interlinked character. The independent domestic and foreign policy conducted by Russia triggers counteraction from the U.S. and their allies seeking to keep up their domination in global affairs.” Mmmm... So, Putin 'officially' has designated the U.S. and NATO as threats to Mother Russia. Before I go into Putin's background, I've got to force myself to stop laughing. Please, allow me a moment...
Now, as to a short and sour background on Russia's Putin the bully... As is true with most the world's 'bad' people, and those so-called 'good' folk who just haven't got caught yet, much of Pres. Putin's past is ...unavailable beyond a picture of his grandparents and claims to have grown up in a communal apartment shared with several families. What is known and somewhat established, is that Vlad Putin was born and raised during the so-called 'Cold War' between the Soviet Union and the U.S. He studied the German language as a youth, played sports and began to practice the martial art, judo, and joined the International Division of the Law Department at Leningrad State University in 1970 at the age of 27, graduated in 1975, the same year he officially joined the Communist Party. His undergraduate thesis (the equivalent of our Bachelor's, though some have argued it should be termed a Master's degree), "The Most Favored Nation Trading Principle in International Law," is a pro-Communist and anti-nonsocialist screed against the world's economy and Soviet perception based on the antiquated ideas of Marx and Lenin. And, as these things go, Putin would later submit a doctoral dissertation in 1997 at the St. Petersburg Mining Institute, entitled, "The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations," which many scholars have proven was largely plagiarized from the management book, Strategic Planning and Policy, by University of Pittsburgh professors William R. King and David I. Cleland (1978, New York: Van Nostrand-Reinhold). He probably bribed someone for his 'black belt' degree, as well...
Upon his completion of Putin's undergraduate work, he did what any loyal Soviet citizen would, he went to work for the Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (Eng. “Committee for State Security”) or more commonly referred to by its acronym, the KGB, the Soviet spy and intelligence agency. After a year of training, receiving an appraisal by his superiors as, “"flawed" and with a "lowered sense of danger," he was assigned a couple of minor positions in Leningrad. It was there he met and married in 1983, a former stewardess who was then an undergraduate student in philology at Leningrad State University. The couple's first daughter was born in Leningrad in 1985.
Shortly thereafter, Putin was transferred to Dresden in East
Germany to work as a recruiter and intelligence gatherer with a cover
or fictitious name and past. Quasi-spy stuff many Westerners are
familiar with from watching movies about the Soviet KGB. In 1986,
Putin's wife gave birth in Dresden to a second daughter, with many
reports of a third and illegitimate daughter born from one of Putin's
many affairs. He seems to have done his job adequately with one
somewhat significant success – Putin convinced a U.S. Army Sergeant
to sell an unclassified manual for 800 marks (about $1600 American
dollars, at the time).
After the “Fall of the Wall” in 1989 and the collapse of the East German communist government in 1990, Putin was recalled to Moscow where in 1991 he was assigned a very minor position at his previous alma mater, Leningrad State University, to spy on and possibly recruit students. In 1991, with the days of the Soviet Union and Russian communism about to end, Putin resigned from the KGB with the rank of Podpolkovnik or Lieutenant Colonel.
Even before his resignation from the KGB, in 1990 he tested the waters of politics by becoming an adviser to the mayor of St. Peters burg. A year later, he was promoted to the head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's Office. And, as truth will out, the following year Putin was investigated for understating the value of of the export prices of certain metals worth about $93 million dollars. Many historians regard this as the beginning of Putin's corruption and exploitation for financial gain. Mixing politics with bribes, deceptive, and straight-forward theft or “confiscation,” came naturally to Vladimir Vladimirovich “Vlad” Putin, and with time such became better or worse, depending on one's moral and legal position.
During the new 'Russian Federation', Putin held various minor positions in St. Petersburg, until 1996 when he was transferred to Moscow as Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Department, responsible for the foreign property of the state and organized transfer of the former assets of the Soviet Union and Communist Party to the Russian Federation. Talk about allowing a fox in a hen-house – Putin held on to this position (making good buddies all the while, I'm sure), until good ol' jolly (and drunk) Pres. Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin deputy chief of the Presidential Staff. Recognizing Putin's economic and political acumen (read: corrupt SOB who gets things done and makes a few bucks on the side), Yeltsin promoted Putin to higher positions and even let it be publicly known he wished for Putin to succeed him. In the morning of August 9th of 1999, he was appointed one of three First Deputy Prime Ministers, and in the afternoon was appointed acting Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation by Yeltsin. While it may be said in Soviet Russia a fly does not land on the wall, but rather the wall lands on the fly, Putin's use of the Russian Federation seemed like merely a continuation of his past. And, as it goes, on December 31st, 1999, Yeltsin resigned and, according to the Constitution of Russia, Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation. I have neither the time nor inclination to recount Putin's political career, his divorce, the amassing of a private fortune in Swiss bank accounts, or many of the tyrannical boots he used on the Russian people or citizens of former states or countries of the now-defunct Soviet Union. Such details are too sad and sick, would take more space than I can use in this column, and I leave it up to the reader to choose whether or not to read or research Putin the bully's sordid past from 1999 to the present day.
He's messed with Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state), openly lied about having Russian troops taking of Crimea, and also grew a Pinocchio's nose about his involvement, along with Russian troops and weapons, in the recent 'war' in eastern Ukraine. The man is a self-made bully and with the power of the Russian Federation and its significant military behind him, he chooses to support Donald Trump as the next American president. And, naturally, Trump doesn't have a problem with this and (like the clown-ish butt-wipe he is) has nothing but good things to say about Putin. Bullies, we got bullies here! Okay, with Trump, we have a clown as well.
Hoping someone kicks some sand at the bad guys,