Full episode on Patreon: Bill and Rachel discuss the Red Ark (or Soviet Ark) deportations of Russian-born American anarchists in 1919. (Don’t miss our two part series from 2019 on American anarchist history!)
Description: US-Soviet Relations and Communist Party USA activities under FDR and Henry Wallace. Discussion by Bill, Nate, and Greg.
Links and notes for episode 9 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Lend-Lease-Episode-9-Links-and-Notes-US-Soviet-Relations-Under-FDR.pdf
Music by friend of the show Stunt Bird.
Description: Interventions, Interference, and Invasions: Nate and Bill lead a world tour of the post-WWII history of countries entering other countries’ civil wars and uprisings, for good or ill, and what it means for the future. (We talk about Cuba, Angola, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Indonesia, Guatemala, Libya, Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, and many others.) People: Bill, Nate. Originally produced: October 20th, 2014. Re-edited and abridged: April 19, 2017.
– Kissinger’s plan to bomb Cuba and what the future of the embargo is
– CIA history: Why arming rebels has often failed and what it means for US plans in Syria now
– What does the future hold for international and unilateral military interventions in armed conflicts and crises? Is the UN still relevant?
Episode 104-Abridged (54 min)
– AFD: Confusion in Libya as Egyptian jets bomb Benghazi
– AFD: US suddenly surprised to find Mideast states acting unilaterally
– AFD: Is the US-led Syria operation vs ISIS legal under international law?
– AFD: France announces indefinite Sahel deployment
– AFD: France: Back to Africa?
And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.
Modern Iran traces its roots to ancient Persia and Persians remain a majority in the country. However, the country is home to many languages and ethnicities. Indeed, the share of non-Persians among Iran’s population, which totals 82 million people, is at least 39%, according to The World Factbook. Given that ethnicity can be a fluid concept, Iran’s non-Persian population might actually be closer to 50%. One indication is that only 53% of Iranians speak Persian. There are at least seven other languages spoken by a significant number of citizens.
All that being said, although Iran is thus a country of astounding ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity, Persians continue to dominate the country’s central government.
This brief report, produced by Arsenal For Democracy and The Globalist Research Center, covers three major ethnic minorities in western Iran today, examining their modern history and how their presence has affected post-Revolution relations between Iran and its neighbors. (Major western Iran minority ethno-linguistic groups not covered: Lurs, Gilaks, Mazanderanis.)
Arabs are a small ethnic minority in Iran. They account for only about 2% of Iran’s population. Some 1.5 million Arabs live along the Iraqi border in southwest Iran. Arabs have lived there since the Islamic conquest of Iran 12 centuries ago.
Much of the Arab-dominated border area is within the country’s oil-rich Khuzestan Province, the center of the brutal Iran-Iraq War. Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied it in 1980. He did so, mistakenly believing Arab-Iranians would rally to him after protests and riots there during the 1979 revolution. Instead, they fled the area until the new Iranian revolutionary military could regroup and counterattack by 1982.
Khuzestan remains poor and was never fully rebuilt after the war. Deadly clashes between Arab-Iranians and security forces break out on a regular basis, including several in 2015. Separatists also sometimes stage terrorist attacks.
Iran’s four million Kurds predominantly populate a mountainous northwestern region of the country. Accounting for about 10% of Iran’s population, they have long harbored separatist tendencies.
In 1946, the Soviet Union tried to establish puppet buffer states in northwest Iran, including a Kurdish state. It had occupied the area in 1941 to block Germany from capturing Iran’s oilfields. However, unlike in the case of Eastern Europe, this early Cold War partition proved short-lived, after the Red Army decided to withdraw, pursuant to the UN Security Council’s second and third resolutions ever.
There are also separatist Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. In Iraq, some six million Kurds comprise roughly 15-20% of the population. In Turkey, 14.3 million Kurds make up 18% of the population. In war-torn Syria, the Kurdish population is probably between one and two million and accounts for a much smaller share. Syria’s government has sometimes supported Kurdish militants as a counterweight against enemies or rivals, including Turkey. The four major Kurdish populations, totaling at least 25 million people, live largely contiguous to each other across national borders. While this proximity sometimes encourages cooperation between separatist groups, they have also often been rivals for influence within the Kurdish nationalist movement.
The leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979 viewed Kurdish ethnic separatism as a serious threat to their ideology of unity through religion. Kurdish separatists, who had helped overthrow the Shah earlier that year, saw the revolution as the moment for independence and began seizing control of their communities. However, Iran’s revolutionary armed forces focused on crushing this major Kurdish rebellion as early as 1980, even in the face of Saddam Hussein’s invasion into the Khuzestan province. Violence between the state and Kurdish separatists continues intermittently, 36 years later. The Kurds’ integration into Iranian society has also been limited.
Iran is also home to at least 12 million Azeris, a Turkic-descended ethnicity comprising 16% of the country’s total population. They mainly live in the Iran’s northwest border provinces, next to the former Soviet republic Azerbaijan. That country has nearly nine million ethnic Azeris among its citizens, who account for about 92% of its 9.8 million people.
While concentrated in the northwest, Azeris live throughout Iran in conditions closely resembling those of the Persian majority. Despite sporadic problems, Azeris are comfortably integrated into Iranian society and hold positions of power in the government and military.
The revolutionary government, while opposed to Azeri nationalist activity in Iran, has defended Azeri-Iranians from persecution, in contrast with its own actions against Arabs or Kurds. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2006 said, “Azeris have always bravely defended the Islamic revolution and the sovereignty of this country.”
Ethnic Azeris have been divided between Iran and Azerbaijan (formerly part of Russia and then the USSR) since 1828, when Iran was pushed out of the Caucusus by a peace treaty with the growing Russian Empire.
Both Iran and Azerbaijan are Shia-majority Muslim nations, of which there are only four in the world; the others are Iraq and Bahrain. However, Azerbaijan is largely secular in practice, in contrast with the public religiosity of Iran’s Islamic Republic.
During the post-Soviet war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the early 1990s, Iran economically aided Armenia after Azerbaijan’s president suggested a desire to unify “Greater Azerbaijan.” This threatened Iranian sovereignty, since a majority of all Azeris live in Iran.
Iran’s regional rivals Turkey and Israel also formed lasting military and economic ties with Azerbaijan during the war.
Despite some continued bilateral tension, an unofficial strategic understanding has been reached: Iran will not try to spread Islamic Revolution to Azerbaijan, while Azerbaijan will not foster ethnic separatism inside Iran. Neither country’s Azeri population seems to be interested in pursuing such an option anyway.
A great new article to read (and see beautiful maps): Inside the Secret World of Russia’s Cold War Mapmakers | WIRED
The Soviet military mapped the whole world in incredible detail, not just for possible battlefields if another world war broke out, but also as a means of storing as much data as possible in a readily accessible and elegantly displayed format for intelligence and economic analysts in the pre-computer era. In the 1990s, after the Soviet Union had ended and the maps got out, the U.S. government and telecommunications companies used the maps of the developing world to supplement their own knowledge bases. The maps have also proven critical in guiding resolution of disputed borders because the Soviet cartographers had carefully examined and recorded all relevant historic details and documents that might influence them.
The tiny ex-Soviet country of Tajikistan, located in Central Asia, has almost as many residents as New York City, at 8.2 million. It doesn’t have much to draw attention to its economy except for one thing: it is currently, by a wide margin for all countries where data is available, the national economy most dependent on remittance money transfers from its citizens abroad.
In 2013, 48.8% – or nearly half! – of Tajikistan’s 2013 GDP came from remittances from Tajikistani workers in other countries, who sent home $4.2 billion to their families, according to the World Bank.
Most of these workers are in Russia, the source for three-quarters of all remittances flowing to Tajikistan, which is very typical of the other ex-Soviet states in the region. Russia is, in fact, one of the top five destinations in the world for migrant workers.
For Central Asia’s economies, in some ways, the Soviet Union never really ended. Four of the top Tajikistani remittance sources are other former Soviet countries and neighboring Afghanistan – the Soviet invasion target that became the Union’s military undoing – is a fifth.
Neighboring Kyrgyzstan holds the title of second-most dependent on remittances with 32% of its 2013 GDP coming from them and nearly 80% of that coming from Russia.
Tajikistan’s domestic economy has remained severely hampered by geopolitical chaos since the formal dissolution of the USSR in 1991. A brutal 5-year civil war broke out almost immediately between the Communists, ethnic opposition and Islamists, as part of the continued fallout of the disastrous Afghan invasion.
I’ve mentioned this war in passing previously because it was particularly noteworthy among the post-Soviet wars of the Russian Near Abroad:
[In the months following the USSR’s collapse, newly “Russian” troops] were often ordered by Moscow to remain in place as outside “peacekeepers” (between the fighting populations of countries that had last seen self-rule around the time of the Franco-Prussian War) even though the Soviet Union had opposed peacekeeping as “anti-Leninist” and had thus had provided its troops and officers with zero training on how to conduct peacekeeping operations. In the most extreme case, ex-Soviet Russian troops hunkered down in defensive positions on Tajikistani military bases as a brutal civil war between Communists, democrats, and Tajik/Afghan mujahideen raged all around the bases and any heavy military equipment outside was stolen for use in the conflict.
Then, as its own civil war wound down, Tajikistan participated in the Afghan Civil War (between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban), which ended only with the U.S. invasion in 2001.
The country finally grew rapidly beginning around 2000, on the strength of aluminum and cotton, but this growth was beginning from a very small base. Therefore, Russia has continued to be an attractive source of employment for many Tajikistanis.
Unfortunately, this means the recent instability in Russia’s economy – from sanctions and falling oil prices – puts Tajikistan (and its neighbors) at risk. Migrants in Russia are losing their jobs and the value of their remittances is evaporating as Russia’s currency loses value.
While Tajikistan might not seem ripe for collapse and a return to war (and I certainly hope that is not on the horizon), its proximity to northern Afghanistan (where things are heating up again recently) means it is always in danger of a new flare-up. And the violently genocidal spiral Kyrgyzstan entered very suddenly in 2010 (full archive coverage➚) proved that the right spark at the wrong time can plunge these smaller Central Asian ex-Soviet republics back into chaos in the blink of an eye.
Estonia has — quite vindictively — done an extremely poor job integrating the older generations of its large Russian-speaking population, which has unfortunately left them closely oriented toward Russia.
For example, Estonia could have provided extensive homegrown Russian-language television programming and instead limited it to 15 minutes per day, which left Russian state television across the border to fill the void, enthusiastically, with anti-Estonian propaganda. Younger Russian Estonians, born shortly before or some time after the Soviet breakup, are somewhat better integrated but only by virtue of cultural assimilation out of necessity, which fosters its own kind of resentments.
These failures, not small military strengths, is what has left the Baltic States vulnerable to Russian intimidation and threats.
— Al Jazeera America (@ajam) April 11, 2015
In related news (pictured above and below), about two weeks ago, the United States rolled a large military convoy with great deliberation 1,100 miles across Poland and 5 other countries, in a show of support to NATO members or a show of force against Russia. NYT:
By the time it is finished, Operation Dragoon Ride, which began a week ago in the Baltics and is due to conclude later this week, will be the longest such movement the United States Army has made across Europe since Gen. George S. Patton diverted his Third Army to relieve Bastogne, Belgium, in 1944.