Debunking Tamil Homeland myth with 5 questions

OPEN FOR DEBATE Divide & Rule was key component of colonial rule. Illegally taking over lands and territories, planting fictitious history, and infesting minds with hate and violence is part of a legacy that continues unabated. Sadly, historians have failed


Conflict, Migration, and Demography in Russia and Its Border Regions


Despite the absence of a clear definition of “ethnic group,” the term generally refers to people with a common history, culture, and ancestry. Russians are widely considered the largest ethnic group in Europe, and historically they have lived in a multiethnic state where they formed a majority of the population. Within the country’s vast territory, imperial Russia and later Soviet authorities often encouraged internal migration to help populate barren regions for economic exploitation, typically resulting in cooperation and assimilation between ethnic and social groups.

But cultural fusion has not always been possible nor desired, and conflicts and forced population transfers have occurred both internally and in Russia’s border regions for centuries. Since the Soviet collapse, the Kremlin has attempted to enforce a sense of patriotism among its diverse citizenry by synthesizing Russia’s ethnic and national identities, while weakening the links between the two in other post-Soviet states.

Early Russia to Tsardom

The Russian identity begins with the Slavs, a diverse collection of tribal societies with common linguistic, religious, and other cultural ties who settled across Eastern and southeast Europe in the 5th Century AD. The first Slavic-majority state was the Kievan Rus, declared in 882 and centered around Kyiv. Its Viking and Finnic minorities steadily Slavicized through intermarriage and cultural assimilation, and the Rus adopted Orthodox Christianity from the neighboring Byzantine Empire in 988. But the Slavic-majority state soon became weakened by internal political divisions and in 1240 was destroyed by the expanding Mongol Empire. This left Moscow, a small city on the Rus’ periphery, subservient to the Mongol yoke.

After the Grand Duchy of Moscow, or Muscovy, was established in 1263, the young Russian state, defined largely by its Eastern Slavic and Orthodox heritage, expanded across its sparsely populated territories in the west and north over the next two and a half centuries. It steadily absorbed other Slavic and Orthodox communities, as well as several others, into the developing Russian identity.

By the 15th century, expansion into what is now southern Russia and Ukraine brought the Duchy into significant contact with Cossacks. Typically a mix of runaway serfs, hunters, bandits, mercenaries, and fugitives from Eastern Europe, Cossacks lived in militarized yet lightly organized settlements across border regions in Russia’s south and east. Their diverse ethnic origins and semi-nomadic societies prevented Cossack groups from developing a strong national identity. Many, however, belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church and spoke “in dialects of Russian.”

Following the establishment of the Tsardom of Russia under Ivan the Terrible in 1533, Cossack groups became essential to wider Russian military campaigns against regional Tatar groupsWhile Tatar origins are often debated, they have generally been portrayed as descendants of Turkic nomadic tribes who invaded Eurasia with the Mongol Empire and remained there after the empire dissolved in 1368.

The Russian state also sought to reunify what it saw as “Russian lands,” namely the Orthodox and Eastern Slavic populations in modern-day Belarus and Ukraine, including the Cossacks living in these lands. In 1654, Russia signed the Pereiaslav Agreement, facilitating the absorption of parts of eastern Ukraine, and in 1686 it gained additional former territories of the Kievan Rus. Education, intermarriage, and government service also instigated the “Russification” of Ukrainian nobility. However, there was significant tension between the relatively autonomous Cossacks and the organized states that sought their assistance and incorporation, including Russia. Cossack groups launched several rebellions against Russia in the 1600s and 1700s, which often spurred Russian serfs and other minority groups to join. Cossack military campaigns against Russia, sometimes in coordination with other states, were also common.

But Russian authorities could offer Cossacks something other states could not—an open frontier. In return for military service, Cossacks enjoyed vastly reduced taxes, freedom of movement, and significant autonomy. Cossack groups steadily helped conquer smaller, often warring Finnic, Turkic, Ugric, and Tatar tribes across Siberia and into Alaska, establishing many settlements that later became major cities. Russian expansion was often brutal, but agreements with local elites permitted conquered communities to retain elements of their culture and assimilate into the empire by accepting Tsarist rule. Russians and Cossacks would also adapt to local cultures, and intermarriage between groups was common.

Russian Empire

Following the establishment of the Russian Empire in 1721, Cossack groups steadily became integrated into Russian military command and proved integral to Russian campaigns to expel local Muslim populations to Russia’s south and west. Between 1784 and 1790, 300,000 Crimean Tatars (out of a population of roughly 1 million) left or were forced to leave the peninsula. Hundreds of thousands of Circassians also left or were forced to leave the mountainous Caucasus region in the 1800s.

In both instances, most displaced Muslims settled in the nearby Ottoman Empire, paving the way for Russian settlers to move in. Yet population transfers in primarily Muslim lands were not universally carried out. In the Caucasus, Russian authorities created alliances with some local communities between the 16th and 18th centuries, who were wary of Ottoman and Persian influences in the region. Russian authorities also sought to use the empire’s Muslim minorities to expand into other Muslim regions. Tatar communities who accepted Tsarist rule, for example, were used as cultural emissaries in Central Asia, building relationships with the local populations as the Russian Empire spread further into this region in the 1700s and 1800s. Additionally, many “noble Russian families were of Tatar descent and there was frequent intermarriage between the Russians and Tatars.”

Lacking the population to hold territory as Russia’s empire continued to expand, Catherine the Great’s second manifesto in 1763 invited European settlers to Russia. Without requiring citizenship and enticed by tax breaks, loans, land grants, and religious freedom, hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Germany, the Balkans, and other parts of Europe moved to the sprawling empire and its new territories over the next few decades, often maintaining their distinct cultures.

However, the rise of nationalism in Europe in the 1800s began to threaten the loose national identity that Russian authorities had nurtured for centuries. Following the emancipation of Russian serfs in 1861, integration problems also arose as the Russian government began giving land only to citizens and began to more forcefully promote Russification. This included introducing conscription and other obligations for non-Russians, expanding the use of the Russian language among ethnic groups, and identifying “potential Russians” in the European part of the empire. Violence against the Jewish population meant that roughly 2 million Jews also left the empire between 1881 and 1914. But because the Russian Empire required a larger population to sustain industrialization and its enormous territory, a net migration of 4.5 million people arrived in Russia from 1860 to 1917. Immigration and territorial expansion meanwhile meant that ethnic Russians went from roughly 77 percent of the population at the time of the establishment of the Russian Empire to roughly 44 percent at the time of the 1897 census.

In addition, Russification policies caused tension with some minority communities and were one of the major causes of the Russian Revolution in 1905. Ethnic violence among minority groups also broke out across the empire, such as the Armenian-Tatar massacres from 1905 to 1907.

World Wars and the Soviet Union

Ethnic tensions persisted even after Russia became embroiled in World War I in 1914. Disputes between Russian authorities and local populations in Central Asia, including over the unfair distribution of land to Russians and Ukrainians, conscription in the Russian army, and other issues, resulted in the 1916 Central Asian Revolt. Thousands of Slavic settlers were killed, while reprisal attacks, famine, and disease saw 100,000 to 270,000 deaths of mostly Kazakhs and Kyrgyz afterward. Ethnic tensions persisted throughout the empire, and many countries and ethnic groups declared their independence from Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917. The ensuing Russian civil war saw the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union, in 1922. Though Soviet forces were able to recapture much of the Russian Empire’s territories by the early 1920s, Finland, the Baltic states, and Poland gained their independence, while resistance to Soviet rule continued throughout the 1920s in Central Asia.

After consolidating power, Soviet authorities kickstarted a more calculated and ruthless management of the country’s sprawling, multiethnic society. Smaller clan and region-based identities were homogenized in accordance with Soviet nation-building policies, and “by the end of the 1920s people who had not really thought in national terms before the World War [I] found that they now had a national language, a national culture, national histories and national political structures—in short, they had become members of a nation.” Internal borders were established based on ethnic identity under a policy known as national delimitation, followed by Korenizatsiya, or “indigenization,” where minority nations and populations were given significant autonomy as well as power in the national government.

Eventually, 15 major Soviet republics emerged. The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), the largest, was further divided into autonomous ethnic minority territories. Both inside the RSFSR and the Soviet Union, Russian cultural dominance was reduced considerably. However, in the 1930s, Soviet political leader Joseph Stalin reversed much of this process to harness Russian nationalism and consolidate power against separatist-inclined republics and regions. While the specter of “Great Russian chauvinism” was carefully repressed in the Soviet Union until its collapse, power began to be recentralized in Moscow and the “petty bourgeois nationalism” of smaller ethnic groups was also curtailed.

Beginning in the 1930s, Stalin also began large-scale forced population transfers of entire ethnic groups, which continued during World War II. Mass rail transit systems allowed Soviet authorities to deport more than 3 million people between 1936 and 1952 belonging to 20 social and ethnic groups. Several were largely removed from their “ancestral homelands,” including the Volga Germans, Kalmyks, Karachai, Balkars, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetians. And whether true or not, many minority groups—among them Chechens, Ingush, and Cossacks—were accused of working with Nazi Germany during the war. Like others, they were sent to Siberia and Central Asia to labor camps or “special settlements,” where hundreds of thousands perished.

Slavic migration to Central Asia also increased during WWII, as populations sought to avoid the encroaching German army. Additionally, the redistribution of industrial capacity to Central Asia during WWII, as well as urbanization, further changed the ethnic layout of the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s death in 1953 largely ended massive, forced population transfers, and most groups were able to return to their ancestral homelands over the next few years. But Soviet authorities maintained the Stalin-era borders to divide and weaken ethnic groups. By avoiding the creation of homogenous republics, they could more easily suppress separatism and compel ethnic groups to require the assistance of the Kremlin to manage their territorial disputes. Soviet authorities also sought to continue redistributing the labor force, and in the years following WWII until the mid-1970s, 2.7 million Russians left the RSFSR to Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states, and Central Asia. However, by the 1970s this trend reversed, and 2.5 million Soviet citizens flocked to the RSFSR from 1975 to 1991.

While Russians (and their culture) enjoyed a privileged position of “first among equals” in the Soviet Union, overt Russification policies were mostly abandoned in favor of “Sovietization,” which instead promoted a non-ethnic national identity. By the 1960s, Soviet sociologists advocated for the existence of a Soviet people “with a shared identity based on common territory, state, economic system, culture, and the goal of building communism.” Yet despite a rise in interethnic marriages, traditional ethnic and cultural ties, as well as grievances, proved difficult to dislodge. Tied by a common east Slavic and Orthodox heritage, Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians dominated the Soviet Union’s political structures. Ethnic solidarity could also affect foreign policy—Central Asian soldiers, for example, were initially used during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, but due to fraternization with local Afghans, were largely replaced by Slavic troops in 1980.

The synchronization of Russian cultural identity with that of the Soviet one meant Soviet culture steadily lost its appeal among the non-Russian population, while many Russians also grew disenfranchised by the 1980s. And by 1989, the ethnic Russian majority of the Soviet Union had fallen to roughly 51 percent. Growing avenues for ethnic nationalism among minority groups as a result of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, as well as ethnic Russian frustration with these policies, played an essential role in the Soviet collapse in 1991.

Russian Federation

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, the 15 republics became independent countries. Millions of ethnic Russians returned to the Russian Federation in the 1990s from across the former Soviet Union, in addition to non-Russians who sought to live and work in Russia. Initially from European former Soviet states, migrant groups have increasingly arrived from former Soviet states in the Caucasus region and Central Asia in recent years.

Government authority was decentralized away from Moscow to Russia’s other regions throughout the 1990s. And like other post-Soviet states, Russia was afflicted by demands for greater autonomy from ethnic and social groups, as well as outright secession movements. In Chechnya, Russian troops were forced to secede from the region in 1996 following their defeat in the first Chechen war.

Upon his rise to power in 1999 as acting President Vladimir Putin began reestablishing centralized, top-down rule over Russia. His path to the presidency coincided with the launch of the second Chechen war that brought the region back under Russian control in the 2000s. And while Cossack groups were permitted to reemerge as distinct cultural entities in the 1990s, Putin took more formal steps to reintegrate them into national military command, including using them in Chechen counterinsurgency operations.

Russian officials also became increasingly critical of Western-style multiculturalism. Though cultural and political rights were afforded to non-Russians and Putin warned against promoting Russian ethno-nationalism, the Kremlin has supported the need to build a patriotic identity within Russia through a civic identity of common values and traditions—notably the widespread adoption of the Russian language. Non-Russians would be welcomed in the Russian Federation, but it was ethnic Russians that would “cement this civilization.” The ethnic Russian population has declined slightly since 1989, the year of the last Soviet census. Ethnic Russians composed roughly 81.5 percent of Russia’s population in 1989, 79.8 percent in 2002, and 77.7 percent in 2010. The 2021 census showed a remarkable drop to 71.7 percent, though this can largely be explained by “the declining importance of ethnicity as an identifier in ethnically homogeneous areas, such as the predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts of central Russia”, and the rising number of ethnic Russians declining to declare their nationality.

To complement the country’s political and cultural restructuring, the Kremlin merged several territories in the 2000s, and with the addition of Crimea in 2014, Russia boasted 85 federal subjects. Forty-six are ethnic-Russian dominated oblasts, with 22 republics that are home to an ethnic minority. Additionally, there are four autonomous okrugs or districts (with significant ethnic minority populations), nine krais (similar to oblasts), three federal cities, and one Jewish autonomous oblast.

Ethnicity and 21st Century Post-Soviet Conflicts

Russia’s relatively successful efforts to foment patriotism among its multiethnic population and reforge a powerful, centralized state since 2000 contrasts to some other post-Soviet states. Ethnic rivalries within them have been exploited by the Kremlin to challenge their stability and sovereignty. Alongside using ethnic Russians living outside Russia to achieve these aims, Russia’s own ethnic and social minorities have been primary participants in various conflicts and disputes abroad.

From 1989 to the early 1990s, for example, two Georgian separatist territories populated by ethnic minorities, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, waged wars against Georgian forces. Russia provided Abkhazians and South Ossetians with considerable military and economic aid, which increased after Georgia began drifting toward the West following the 2003 Rose Revolution. As Abkhazia and South Ossetia gained increasing autonomy from Georgia, tensions culminated in the 2008 Russo-Georgia War. In addition to aiding the ethnic separatists, the Russian military employed Cossack and Chechen militant groups against the Georgian armed forces in 2008. In the aftermath, the remaining ethnic Georgian populations were largely expelled from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Both Cossacks and Chechens were also utilized by Russia during the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the launch of the proxy war in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine. Russian-speaking Ukrainians (including Ukrainian Cossacks), ethnic Russians in the south and east Ukraine, as well as those from across the former Soviet Union and beyond, filled the ranks of the pro-Russian separatist groups. These militants maintained a proxy conflict for Russia in Donetsk and Luhansk until the official Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, and continue to take part in Russia’s ongoing “special military operation.” Additionally, Russia has used non-ethnic Russian minorities within Russia to fight at the frontline of the conflict, and they are reportedly dying at higher rates in Ukraine than their Slavic counterparts.

After reigniting conflicts in Georgia and launching one in Ukraine, Russia has also taken steps to annex their separatist territories. In the years before Russia’s 2008 campaign in Georgia, the Kremlin steadily gave Russian passports to Abkhazians and South Ossetians, a tactic now known as passportization. The need to protect Russian citizens helped Russia justify the war and allowed it to more easily absorb these territories by granting them freedom of movement to Russia. Days after the war had concluded, the Kremlin recognized Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence in August 2008, and in 2022, South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov declared the region’s intention to join Russia, its “historical homeland.”

And following Ukraine’s lurch to the West in 2014, significant passportization took place in Ukraine. Days before the February 24, 2022, Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, likely in anticipation of future calls to join Russia. These two regions were annexed by Russia in September 2022, joining Russia as republics, while two oblasts (Kherson and Zaporozhye) were also annexed from Ukraine by Russia. Russian forces, however, have been unable to establish complete control over all of the claimed territories.

But the Kremlin also sees the Ukrainian war as an opportunity to “integrate” the country’s population with its own amid Russia’s declining population. For centuries, Russian strategists have believed that Ukrainians, viewed as a subcategory of the Russian ethnic identity, could help Russify parts of the country where ethnic Russians do not form a dominant majority. In 2014, more than 1 million Ukrainians fled the country’s southeast to Russia, mostly just across the border. However, in keeping with the Kremlin’s desire to populate other regions, Ukrainian refugees began moving to the Volga Basin, the Ural Mountains, the Far East, and other areas. Since the outbreak of full conflict in 2022, millions of Ukrainians have fled to Russia or been forcibly removed, and have been resettled across the country. Thus, while the war in Ukraine is central to Putin’s foreign policy ambitions, encouraging Ukrainian immigration to Russia is also an important domestic imperative.

Other regions across the former Soviet Union remain vulnerable to Russian attempts to use ethnicity to destabilize them. Since a 1992 ceasefire, Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, populated largely by Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, has been under the control of separatist authorities. Additionally, the Soviet 14th Army, which was stationed in Transnistria, was inherited by Russia after the Soviet collapse. Today, its remnants form Russia’s part of the trilateral peacekeeping force (with Moldovan and Transnistrian soldiers) and the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF), which guards old Soviet arms depots in the separatist region. Cultivating pro-Russian sentiment among Transnistria’s Slavic majority, could quickly reignite the conflict. Russian military figures stated in April 2022 that the “second phase” of Russia’s military campaign would annex enough of Ukraine to connect it to Transnistria, though this appears unfeasible for the foreseeable future.

After annexing Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin’s declaration that it would protect ethnic Russians everywhere resonated with many of the millions of Russians scattered mostly in former Soviet states. In Central Asia and the Baltic states, where they are most numerous, ethnic Russians have faced restrictions on the use of the Russian language and other forms of cultural expression since the Soviet collapse, making exploitation easier. Kazakhstan’s roughly 3.5 million Russians make up roughly 18 percent of the total population. Most ethnic Russians migrated primarily to northern Kazakhstan beginning in the 19th century and during the Soviet period, and have significant economic and political power. In Estonia and Latvia, ethnic Russians largely migrated during the Soviet period, and today form roughly 25 percent of the populations in both these countries. In addition to higher rates of unemploymenthundreds of thousands of Russians remain stateless persons in the Baltic states, as their citizenship (and those of their descendants) was denied after the Soviet collapse. Russia has leveraged these realities to help inflame social unrest, such as Estonia’s 2007 Bronze Night incident, as well as wield indirect political representation through Estonia’s Center party and Latvia’s Harmony partySignificant passportization among Russians in the Baltic states has also taken place in the last few years.

Millions of ethnic Russians living in former Soviet states left for Russia in the 1990s and 2000s, reducing the Kremlin’s influence over these countries. However, the Baltic states have seen more Russians immigrate than emigrate in recent years, while more than 200,000 Russians avoiding conscription during the ongoing war fled to Kazakhstan in September 2022. How the Kremlin exploits these changing circumstances remains to be seen. And as in Transnistria, Ukrainian and Belarusian communities in these countries also look to Russia for protection, particularly, in defending the use of the Russian language in their societies.


Russia’s ability to use ethnicity for domestic stability and as a foreign policy tool is not without risk. Nurturing ethnic Russian nationalism is unnerving to minority groups and has occasionally led to the eruption of ethnic violence, such as in the city of Kondopoga in 2006 and in Stavropol in 2007. Historical persecution has led to significant emigration even in modern times, which occurred among Russian Germans and Russian Jews in the 1990s. Giving minority groups greater rights could meanwhile instigate secession attempts, while failed attempts to merge additional federal subjects in 2020 demonstrate the limits of Russia’s federal authority.

Russia’s birth rate has rebounded from a record low of 1.25 children per woman in 2000 and was expected to reach 1.8 children per woman by 2020. But it is still below replacement level and there has been a significant population decline in Russia for years. While the population grew slightly during the 2010s, it is again shrinking. Minority groups often have higher birthrates than ethnic Russians, and though no ethnic minority groups equate to greater than 5 percent of Russia’s total population, its various Muslim minorities amount to 10 to 15 percent of the population. Radical Islam came to partly define the Chechen independence movement in the 1990s, and many volunteer Muslim-Russians from across the country arrived to fight against Russian forces. The Kremlin is fearful of a similar situation in the future with its growing Muslim population.

The Kremlin will also have to contend with managing the delicate alliances it has with its minority groups. Clashes were reported in Ukraine between Chechen soldiers and those belonging to the Buryat minority group in 2022, while tension between Cossack groups and Russian nationalists has been evident since 2014. Russia will also inherit ethnic disputes as it seeks to expand its territory. More than 260,000 Crimean Tatars returned to Crimea after the Soviet collapse, reviving historical animosity between them and local Cossack communities. Russia’s war in Ukraine also risks solidifying anti-Russian sentiment in much of Ukraine’s population.

Regardless of these threats, the Kremlin continues to push ahead with its vision to remake Russian society and disrupt its border regions. Russian officials increasingly define Russianness in cultural terms, inviting minority groups to be absorbed more effectively. Highlighting the importance of revered “Russian” leaders, such as Joseph Stalin (Georgian) and Catherine the Great (German) showcase the important leadership roles that non-Slavs have played in Russian history. Russia has also shown initiative in using other elements of minority cultures to expand its influence abroad. Russia has been an observer state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Countries (OIC) since 2005, and Putin has promoted the idea of the “similarity of the Russian and ‘Islamic’ approaches to many international issues.” Chechen military personnel have been used in Russia’s military campaign in Syria, while Tatar minorities are often responsible for Russian diplomatic and cultural outreach to Central Asia.

The Kremlin has, however, suppressed minority languages in Russia. This policy forms part of its efforts to promote Russian movies, television, social media, literature, and other media forms to Russify other countries. In 1939, for example, more than 80 percent of all Belarus inhabitants spoke Belarusian at home. By 1989, that had fallen to 65 percent, and by 2009, almost 70 percent of Belarusians spoke Russian at home. In 2017, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed open alarm over this linguistic evolution, declaring that “[i]f we lose our ability to speak Belarusian, we will cease to be a nation.” But Lukashenko’s need to defeat the widespread protests against him after the 2020 election only deepened his reliance on Russia. The use of Belarusian territory to assist in the invasion of Ukraine and Lukashenko’s cooperation with Putin will now completely isolate Belarus from the West, increasing its dependence on Russia further. The potential for even greater political, economic, and military integration between Russia and Belarus, formalized through the Union State, will only be further augmented by Belarus’ steady adoption of the Russian language.

But the Kremlin’s campaign in Ukraine will remain its most pressing imperative, and it has focused on efforts to alter and weaken Ukraine’s demographics. For example, the war has prompted millions of Ukrainian citizens to leave the country, and the longer they are away, the less likely they are to return. Reports on the forced transfer of Ukrainian minors from Ukraine to Russia have also been apparent since the beginning of the war, and roughly 20,000 Ukrainian children are estimated to have been sent to Russia, according to Ukrainian authorities. In March 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for both Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children’s rights, in connection with the affair. It is unlikely that either of them will ever be prosecuted, while Russia has stated that the population transfers are part of a humanitarian response to young Ukrainians made orphans by the war. Reducing Ukraine’s population by creating refugees and bolstering Russia’s by transferring orphans further demonstrate the demographic aspect to the conflict.

With centuries of experience in using ethnicity and conflict to redraw borders, the Kremlin has aimed to reconceptualize Ukrainian statehood. Reinforcing the notion that Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians are “one people” may help Russia expand its territory through conflict, and reverse its declining population by assimilating millions of potential Russians into the country. Whether this will be worth the consequences of sanctions and isolation from the West for the Kremlin will remain up for debate for the foreseeable future. A clear Russian defeat, however, would have disastrous implications for Russia’s territorial integrity, and would likely inspire greater calls for separatism in Russia not only from ethnic minorities, but also ethnic Russian communities dissatisfied with living under Moscow’s thumb. Thus, like Ukraine, Russia’s fate will depend on the outcome of the war and its ability to consolidate its diverse population once hostilities decline.

Source: Globetrotter

The Ancient Patterns of Migration


We live in an era of mass migration. According to the United Nations’ World Migration Report 2022, there were 281 million international migrants in 2020, equaling 3.6 percent of the global population. That’s well over twice the number in 1990 and over three times the estimated number in 1970. In countries that receive them, migrants are often blamed, rightly or wrongly, for everything from higher crime to declining wages to social and cultural disruption.

But the frictions provoked by migration are not new problems; they are deeply embedded in human history and even prehistory. Taking a long-term, cultural-historical perspective on human population movements can help us reach a better understanding of the forces that have governed them over time, and that continue to do so. By anchoring our understanding in data from the archeological record, we can uncover the hidden trends in human migration patterns and discern (or at least form more robust hypotheses about) our species’ present condition—and, perhaps, formulate useful future scenarios.

Globalization in the modern context, including large-scale migrations and the modern notion of the “state,” traces back to Eurasia in the period when humans first organized themselves into spatially delimited clusters united by imaginary cultural boundaries. The archeological record shows that after the last glacial period—ending about 11,700 years ago—intensified trade sharpened the concept of borders even further. This facilitated the control and manipulation of ever-larger social units by intensifying the power of symbolic constructions of identity and the self.

Then as now, cultural consensus created and reinforced notions of territorial unity by excluding “others” who lived in different areas and displayed different behavioral patterns. Each nation elaborated its own story with its own perceived succession of historical events. These stories were often modified to favor some members of the social unit and justify exclusionist policies toward peoples classified as others. Often, as they grew more elaborate, these stories left prehistory by the wayside, conveniently negating the common origins of the human family. The triggers that may first have prompted human populations to migrate into new territories were probably biological and subject to changing climatic conditions. Later, and especially after the emergence of our own species, Homo sapiens, the impulse to migrate assumed new facets linked to culture.

From Nomadism to Migration

The oldest migrations by hominins—the group consisting of humans, extinct human species, and all our immediate ancestors—took place after the emergence of our genus, Homo, in Africa some 2.8 million years ago and coincided roughly with the appearance of the first recognizably “human” technologies: systematically modified stones. Interestingly, these early “Oldowan” tool kits (after the Olduvai Gorge site in Tanzania) were probably made not only by our genus but also by other hominins, including Paranthropus and Australopithecines.

What role did stone tools play in these early steps along our evolutionary path? Archeology tells us that ancient humans increasingly invested in toolmaking as an adaptive strategy that provided them with some advantages for survival. We see this in the noticeable increase in the geographical distribution of archeological sites beginning about 2 million years ago. This coincided with rising populations and also with the first significant hominin migrations out of Africa and into Eurasia.

Toolmaking in Oldowan technocomplexes—distinct cultures that use specific technologies—shows the systematic repetition of very specific chains of operations applied to stone. This suggests that the techniques must have been learned and then incorporated into the sociobehavioral norms of the hominin groups that practiced them. In fact, there are similarities between the first Eurasian stone tool kits and those produced at the same time in Africa. Technological know-how was being learned and transmitted—and that implies that hominins were entering into a whole new realm of culture.

While the archeological record dating to this period is still fragmentary, there is evidence of a hominin presence in widely separated parts of Eurasia—China and Georgia—from as early as 2 million to 1.8 million years ago; we know that hominins were also present in the Near East and Western Europe by around 1.6 million to 1.4 million years ago. While there is no evidence suggesting that they had mastered fire making, their ability to thrive in a variety of landscapes—even in regions quite different from their original African savannah home—demonstrates their impressive adaptive flexibility. I believe that we can attribute this capacity largely to toolmaking and socialization.

How can we envision these first phases of human migrations?

We know that there were different species of Homo (Homo georgicusHomo antecessor) and that these pioneering groups were free-ranging. Population density was low, implying that different groups rarely encountered each other in the same landscape. While they certainly competed for resources with other large carnivores, this was probably manageable thanks to a profusion of natural resources and the hominins’ technological competence.

From around 1.75 million years ago in Africa and 1 million years ago in Eurasia, these hominins and their related descendants created new types of stone tool kits, referred to as “Acheulian” (after the Saint-Acheul site in France). These are remarkable for their intricacy, the standardization of their design, and the dexterity with which they were fashioned. While the Acheulian tool kits contained a fixed assortment of tool types, some tools for the first time displayed regionally specific designs that prehistorians have identified with specific cultural groups. As early as 1 million years ago, they had also learned to make fire.

Acheulian-producing peoples—principally of the Homo erectus group—were a fast-growing population, and evidence of their presence appears in a wide variety of locations that sometimes yield high densities of archeological finds. While nomadic, Acheulian hominins came to occupy a wide geographical landscape. By the final Acheulian phase, beginning around 500,000 years ago, higher population density would have increased the likelihood of encounters between groups that we know were ranging within more strictly defined geographical radiuses. Home base-type habitats emerged, indicating that these hominin groups returned cyclically to the same areas, which can be identified by characteristic differences in their tool kits.

After the Oldowan, the Acheulean was the longest cultural phase in human history, lasting some 1.4 million years; toward its end, our genus had reached a sufficiently complex stage of cultural and behavioral development to promulgate a profoundly new kind of cognitive awareness: the awareness of self, accompanied by a sense of belonging within a definable cultural unit. This consciousness of culturally based differences eventually favored the separation of groups living in diverse areas based on geographically defined behavioral and technological norms. This was a hugely significant event in human evolution, implying the first inklings of “identity” as a concept founded on symbolically manufactured differences: that is, on ways of doing or making things.

At the same time, the evidence suggests that networking between these increasingly distinct populations intensified, favoring all sorts of interchange: exchange of mates to improve gene pool variability, for example, and sharing of technological know-how to accelerate and improve adaptive processes. We can only speculate about other kinds of relations that might have developed—trading of stories, beliefs, customs, or even culinary or medicinal customs—since “advanced” symbolic communicative networking, emblematic of both Neandertals and humans, has so far only been recognized from the Middle Paleolithic period, from 350,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Importantly, no evidence from the vast chronological periods we have outlined so far suggests that these multilayered encounters involved significant inter- or intraspecies violence.

That remained the case moving into the Middle Paleolithic, as the human family expanded to include other species of Homo over a wide territorial range: Neandertals, Denisovans, Homo floresiensisHomo luzonensisHomo naledi, Nesher Ramla Homo, and even the first Homo sapiens. Thanks to advances in the application of genetic studies to the paleoanthropological record, we now know that interbreeding took place between several of the species known to have coexisted in Eurasia: humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans. Once again, the fossil evidence thus far does not support the hypotheses that these encounters involved warfare or other forms of violence. By around 150,000 years ago, at least six different species of Homo occupied much of Eurasia, from the Siberian steppes to the tropical Southeast Asian islands, and still no fossil evidence appears of large-scale interpopulational violence.

Some 100,000 years later, however, other varieties appear to have died away, and Homo sapiens became the only Homo species still occupying the planet. And occupy it they did: By some time between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, most of the Earth’s islands and continents document human presence. Now expert in migrating into new lands, human populations flourished in constantly growing numbers, overexploiting other animal species as their dominion steadily enlarged.

Without written records, it’s impossible to know with any certainty what kinds of relationships or hierarchies might have existed during the final phases of the Paleolithic. Archeologists can only infer from the patchy remains of material culture that patterns of symbolic complexity were intensifying exponentially. Art, body decoration, and incredibly advanced tool kits all bear witness to socially complex behaviors that probably also involved the cementing of hierarchical relationships within sharply distinct social units.

By the end of the last glacial period and into the Neolithic and, especially, protohistoric times—when sedentarism and, eventually, urbanism, began but before written records appear—peoples were defining themselves through distinct patterns and standards of manufacturing culture, divided by invented geographic frontiers within which they united to protect and defend the amassed goods and lands that they claimed as their own property. Obtaining more land became a decisive goal for groups of culturally distinct peoples, newly united into large clusters, striving to enrich themselves by increasing their possessions. As they conquered new lands, the peoples they defeated were absorbed or, if they refused to relinquish their culture, became the have-nots of a newly established order.

An Imagined World

After millions of years of physical evolution, growing expertise, and geographic expansion, our singular species had created an imagined world in which differences with no grounding in biological or natural configurations coalesced into multilayered social paradigms defined by inequality in individual worth—a concept measured by the quality and quantity of possessions. Access to resources—rapidly transforming into property—formed a fundamental part of this progression, as did the capacity to create ever-more efficient technological systems by which humans obtained, processed, and exploited those resources.

Since then, peoples of shared inheritance have established strict protocols for assuring their sense of membership in one or another national context. Documents proving birthright guarantee that “outsiders” are kept at a distance and enable strict control by a few chosen authorities, maintaining a stronghold against any possible breach of the system. Members of each social unit are indoctrinated through an elaborate preestablished apprenticeship, institutionally reinforced throughout every facet of life: religious, educational, family, and workplace.

Peoples belonging to “alien” constructed realities have no place within the social unit’s tightly knit hierarchy, on the assumption that they pose a threat by virtue of their perceived difference. For any person outside of a context characterized by a relative abundance of resources, access to the required documents is generally denied; for people from low-income countries seeking to better their lives by migrating, access to documents is either extremely difficult or impossible, guarded by sentinels charged with determining identitarian “belonging.” In the contemporary world, migration has become one of the most strictly regulated and problematic of human activities.

It should be no surprise, then, that we are also experiencing a resurgence of nationalistic sentiment worldwide, even as we face the realities of global climate deregulation; nations now regard the race to achieve exclusive access to critical resources as absolutely urgent. The protectionist response of the world’s privileged, high-income nations includes reinforcing conjectured identities to stoke fear and sometimes even hatred of peoples designated as others who wish to enter “our” territories as active and rightful citizens.

Thanks to the very ancient creation of these conceptual barriers, the “rightful” members of privileged social units—the haves—can feel justified in defending and validating their exclusion of others—the have-nots—and comfortably deny them access to rights and resources through consensus, despite the denigrating and horrific experiences these others might have undergone to ameliorate their condition.

Incredibly, it was only some 500 years ago that an unwieldy medieval Europe, already overpopulated and subject to a corrupt and unjust social system, (re)discovered half of the planet, finding in the Americas a distinct world inhabited by many thousands of peoples, established there since the final phases of the Upper Pleistocene, perhaps as early as 60,000 years ago. Neither did the peoples living there, who had organized themselves into a variety of social units ranging from sprawling cities to seminomadic open-air habitations, expect this incredible event to occur. The resource-hungry Europeans nevertheless claimed these lands as their own, decimating the original inhabitants and destroying the delicate natural balance of their world. The conquerors justified the genocide of the Indigenous inhabitants in the same way we reject asylum seekers today: on the grounds that they lacked the necessary shared symbolic referents.

As we step into a newly recognized epoch of our own creation—the Anthropocene, in which the human imprint has become visible even in the geo-atmospheric strata of our planet—humans can be expected to continue creating new referents to justify the exclusion of a new kind of migrant: the climate refugee. What referents of exclusion will we invoke to justify the refusal of basic needs and access to resources to peoples migrating from inundated coastal cities, submerged islands, or lands rendered lifeless and non-arable by pollutants?

Rwanda to digitize genocide memorial sites


Rwanda is set to digitize selected genocide memorial sites in the country as part of efforts to preserve the history of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi and ease visitors’ access to memorials, an official has said.

Jean Damascene Bizimana, minister of national unity and civic engagement, made the remarks during an event Friday to unveil a 10-year funding package for the project in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

“Digitization will preserve the history and provide visitors with electronic access to all information through videos and audio. It will enable people to visit these memorials without the need for a guide,” said Bizimana.

The move will start with three memorial sites, including Nyange and Murambi in western Rwanda, and Ntarama in the east, but with a target of covering other memorials across the country, according to the minister.

Bizimana said necessary data, including survivors’ testimonies, pictures, information about trials, and other relevant information, has been collected to ensure the successful implementation of the project.

The latest official figures show that there are more than 170 genocide memorial sites in the country. Efforts are ongoing to merge some genocide remains from smaller sites to new standard sites with enough space to preserve genocide history and create a memorial garden in order to ensure their proper preservation.

Bangladesh: ‘There are daggers in men’s smiles…’


Our glorious Liberation war of 1971 to found Bangladesh is our plume. Our national flag is our preen. Our national anthem is our pride. We achieved Bangladesh at the blood-bath of 3 million of our people by the lunatic Pakistani military regime in league with the US and Chinese governments and their local brutish cohorts, majorly the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) sub-humans. To attain Bangladesh, three hundred thousand of our mothers and sisters lost their chastity at the hands of those malefactors. We saw their baleful everlasting annihilation of the freedom-loving people of all classes and of all religions in the country.

These perps forced out one million of our people from their homes with unspeakable sufferings, made them shelter-less and forced them to take refuge inside India. All these men-made disasters were played out throughout a 9-month war in 1971. We finally gave them a crushing defeat on 16 December1971, scalawag Pakistani Army’s 93,000 soldiers surrendered to our feet and our beloved Bangladesh came into being as an independent and sovereign state in the world map. We are proud of the secular spirit that we earned through our glorious Liberation War in 1971.

That was a shameful defeat for them for which they can’t forget this abasement. In each and every moment, they have been looking for a dent to inflict heartrending damage upon the political party now in power under whose leadership Bangladesh attained independence in 1971 and hurt massively the underlying structure of the country – Bangladesh.

The pearls do not fall from the sweet smiles of the U.S. Ambassador for Bangladesh Peter Haas, Uncle Sam’s 20 vassal states and their local old and new paisanos though they show-up the Lapp language to make us believe them, with the intent to deceive us in other respects or ways.

There have been daggers unremittingly in their smiles or in their malefic actions since long against Bangladesh and the pro-Bangladesh government. These daggers are very large and sharpened and they are now combat-ready to stab us from behind the scene and from the frontline. Their audacity should not go unbridled, unpunished under any considerations!

“There’s daggers in men’s smiles. The near in blood, the nearer bloody.” – William Shakespeare’s Macbeth narrates the tale of a Scottish general, who driven by greed and avarice murders his King in order to take the throne. The verse quoted at the beginning of the paragraph is spoken by Donalbain, son of the murdered King in conversation with his brother Malcolm. The term “daggers” used in the quote signifies the dangers of trusting an individual or group to such an extent, that one is blinded by the possibility of their exploitation and the other party’s harmful intentions. “Smiles” was skillfully utilised to signify insincere emotions and attitudes that one may deceptively display solely for their selfish gains. Shakespeare informs the reader that no matter how genuine a smile may seem, there is always the probability of that smile concealing deceit.

If we delve in the drawer, we find that the men who smile at us are actually concealing daggers, wanting our blood. Of all these men are our vitriolic foes counting on the forthcoming national polls and the living digital security act 2018!

It is also essential to bring up the point that the bacilli of the local defeated forces of 1971 could not be destroyed after Bangladesh’s Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s killing intentionally and with premeditation on 15 August in 1975 by Khondokar Mushtaque Ahmed and his camarilla and because of skullduggeries of depraved military rulers – Gen. Zia, Gen. Ershad and their compadre – Begum Zia for two decades or so. Unfortunately, they have infected, among so many other people, especially the vast majority of younger generation, in the country.

BNP and JP are unlawful machinates, were born in the military bivouac on 1 September 1978 and January 1, 1986 respectively by profaned military dictators Gen Zia and Gen Ershad using government spy agencies and millions of monies from the government exchequer and they were self-proclaimed Presidents of Bangladesh.

Deviating from what is considered moral, right, proper or good, these reprobate personas, power-hungry men in nature purposely reinstated the anti-liberation forces, especially Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), small factions of Muslim League and their ill chums in every sphere of circuits on the soil of Bangladesh. So, BNP, JP and JeI are unquestionably anti-liberation forces in the country and they embody the defeated forces of our 1971 war to establish Bangladesh.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) is well-known and long-familiar both at home and abroad as a killing outfit of our millions of people in 1971 in league with Pakistan’s military junta and Uncle Sam as well as in support of China. It is also well-known for its worst war criminality in the annals of history. Even if we also hark-back the years of 2013 and 2014, we can clearly see the vivid pictures of the real violent world of BNP and JeI and how these two political outfits brought about terrible excruciations to our people in the country. We cannot and shall never forget the Talibani or ISIS style of brutalities they did thrust out to our innocent people during those times.

Furthermore, the newfangled veteran freedom fighters – ASM Abdur Rob, Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Comrade Saiful Hoque, Maj Gen (retd.) Syed Mohammed Ibrahim and the likes of them have surrendered to the blood-stained mitts of the anti-liberation forces, Pakistan’s ISI, CIA of America and their quislings to give them more leverage at free-will to do more impairment to Bangladesh and its people. All these sounds megascopic perfidiousness to the souls of millions of our people who consecrated their lives to attain Bangladesh in 1971. Their ill action mechanisms also bear witness to their utter assaultive-ness to the core gems or pearls on which Bangladesh was founded in 1971……

The U.S. Ambassador for Bangladesh Peter Haas and his overseas white skinned mango-twigs have come to the fore in the field of Bangladesh in mooring with all ferine anti-Bangladesh liberation forces as Prime Minister Hasina’s corpus rival in the country in the upcoming general polls.

The defeated forces of 1971 also want to rewrite history to slur over Bangladesh’s glorious Liberation War. It also suggests a willingness for them to reinterpret even the most sacred chapters of Bangladesh’s history.

The obnoxious nexus of anti-Bangladesh liberation forces and their foreign perps should keep in mind that in the centre of a Russian inner sanctuary, the white-domed Hall of Glory, an enormous statue of a Soviet soldier stands with a sword at his feet; its sheath bears this inscription: “He who comes to us wielding a sword shall die by the sword” and our people echoed the same words to Uncle Sam and their newfangled sidekicks, both local and foreign, giving them a crushing defeat in the forthcoming 12th national voting fight.

Still then, this neo-face of defeated force (Uncle Sam and their old and new perps) and their cronies are active to tweak with several fingernails to the bottle green national flag of Bangladesh with the red circle symbolising the rising sun and the sacrifice of lives in our freedom fight in 1971.

As long as crimes of Uncle Sam, anti-Bangladesh liberation forces – both old and some new freedom fighters and their local and foreign mango-twigs and their dishonouring of our glorious spirit that we attained in 1971 are seen to be related solely to those outside one’s inner circle, the mechanisms of denial and silencing create complicity. Their loyalty is thus built on lies only, bald-faced lies only.

It is a Big Joyful Smile on their unbeautiful faces! This means that wicked men smile not out of kindness, but to hide their wicked intentions. In fact, their anticipations are bound to smackdown in the forthcoming national elections in Bangladesh, because some ‘Rogues supplant justice.’

Role of Psychological Warfare in Bangladesh’s Liberation War – Part 3


American Joan Baez – sang her heart out for Bangladesh

Highly reputable American musician Joan Baez wrote and performed the song “The Story of Bangladesh” at the Concert for Bangladesh, Madison Square Garden in 1971. This song was based on the Pakistan Army crackdown on unarmed sleeping Bengali students at Dhaka University on 25 March 1971, which ignited the nine-month Bangladesh Liberation War. The song was later entitled “The Song of Bangladesh” and released in the chart-topping ‘Come From the Shadows’ album on May 1972 which is as follows:

“Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh.

The story of Bangladesh

Is an ancient once again made fresh

By blind men who carry out commands

Which flow out of the laws upon which nation stands

Which is to sacrifice a people for a land.

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh.

Once again, we stand aside

And watch the families crucified

See a teenage mother’s vacant eyes

As she watches her feeble baby try

To fight the monsoon rains and the cholera flies.

And the students at the university

Asleep at night quite peacefully

The soldiers came and shot them in their beds

And terror took the dorm awakening shrieks of dread

And silent frozen forms and pillows drenched in red.

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh.

Did you read about the army officer’s plea

For donor’s blood? It was given willingly

By boys who took the needles in their veins

And from their bodies every drop of blood was drained

No time to comprehend and there was little pain.

And so, the story of Bangladesh

Is an ancient once again made fresh

By all who carry out commands

Which flow out of the laws upon which nations stand

Which say to sacrifice a people for a land.

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh.”

The song’s message was loud and clear. This powerful message further highlighted the Bangladesh cause to the international masses. It was a great feat to have a renowned star like Joan Baez stood right beside the people of Bangladesh to uphold our constitutional right and seek justice for an oppressed nation. The song was a source of inspiration and strength to the 75 million people in those dark days of turmoil, uncertainty, pain, courage and innumerable deaths that brought independent Bangladesh.

In 2011, the Government of Bangladesh came up with a list of over 500 foreign friends who have made immense contribution during the Muktijuddho and the initial years of Bangladesh. Each one of them would receive honourary award from the government in recognition of their contribution. The awards would be given in two categories – “Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sammanana” (Bangladesh Liberation War Honour) and “Muktijuddho Moitri Sammanana” (Friends of Liberation War Honour).

This list included as many as 24 international organisations, including Red Cross, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Indian radio broadcaster Akash Bani, Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, World Health Organisation, and International Labour Organisation.

The late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the first ‘foreign friend’ to be conferred with the honourary award. She was awarded ‘Bangladesh Freedom Honour’ posthumously in July 2011. Her daughter-in-law and ruling Congress president Sonia Gandhi received the honour on her behalf at a special ceremony in the Bangabhaban (President’s House) in Dhaka.

Allen Ginsberg

Famous British poet Allen Ginsberg visited the refugee camp in India during the liberation war in 1971. He wrote several poems, especially ‘September on Jessore Road’ which supported and gained fame in favour of the liberation war of Bangladesh.

Formation of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (‘Free Bengal Radio Centre’)

It was the radio broadcasting centre of Bengali nationalist forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. This station played a vital role in liberation struggle, broadcasting the Declaration of Independence and increasing mental state of Bangladeshis during the war. In 1971, radio was the only media reaching to the far ends of Bangladesh. It ran a propaganda campaign throughout the war.

The end of British rule in India in August 1947, accompanied by the Partition of India, gave birth to a new country named Pakistan which constituted Muslim-majority areas in the far east and far west of the Indian subcontinent. The Western zone was popularly (and for a period of time, also officially) termed West Pakistan and the Eastern zone (modern-day Bangladesh) was initially termed East Bengal and later, East Pakistan. The two zones were separated by over thousand miles of Indian territory in the middle, and had vastly different culture. It was the fact that the west zone dominated the country, leading to the effective marginalization of the east zone. Growing disenchantment among the people of East Pakistan finally led to civil disobedience followed by Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

During the period of Liberation War of Bangladesh, media supported mass sentiments. They aired patriotic songs and talk shows. In the process of achieving our independence by trouncing the atrocities of the Pakistani military forces, the war-time broadcasting station ” Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra” played a vital role in increasing the mental state of the whole Bangali nation by informing us how well we are advancing towards the victory. Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra reached its pinnacle during the liberation war being acclaimed as the stool pigeon of war news updates through ‘Chorom Potro’. In those days when radio was the only media reaching to the far ends of Bangladesh, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra eventually turned as the orator of the Bangladesh government in exile. It ran the nationalist campaign throughout the war in gearing up our freedom fighters’ moral and also mobilizing world opinion in favour of Bangladesh.

Thus, during the whole period of Liberation War, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra successfully carried out its intellectual war like an organized front and aired patriotic songs which greatly inspired the freedom fighters in their relentless fight against the Pakistan-led occupation forces, war news and talk shows to boost up people’s spirits.

Regular Features of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra

Chorompotro’ was the most popular program hosted by M. R. Akhtar Mukul. Here, he used to describe the uncomfortable position of Pak army in a funny voice and made his dialogues in Old Dhaka dialect. Chorompotro was planned by Abdul Mannan. Another popular program “Jallader Darbar” was run by Kalyan Mitra where approaches of Yahya Khan, known in the programme as “Kella Fateh Khan” were described in a funny manner. “Bojro Kontho” was the programme where speeches of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were presented.

A group of young singers used to sing inspiring songs. Many poems and songs were written for this broadcasting. One of those songs Joy Bangla Banglar Joy (Victory of Bengal) was the signature tune of the radio. Many songs of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra like Purbo Digante Surjo Uthechhe, Ekti Phoolke Bachabo Bole, Salam Salam Hajar Salam of Gobinda Haldar, became immensely popular. Singers of the station raised funds singing their songs in different parts of West Bengal.

News broadcasts were made in Bengali, English and Urdu.  Secretary of the Swadhin Bangla Betar Convener Committee Kamal Lohani recalled, “For us at the radio, it was a psychological warfare so we could say things to boost up people’s morale…”

Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (‘Free Bengal Radio Centre’) was the radio broadcasting centre of Bengali nationalist forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. This station played a vital role in liberation struggle, broadcasting the Declaration of Independence and increasing mental state of Bangladeshis during the war. In 1971, radio was the only media reaching to the far ends of Bangladesh. It ran a propaganda campaign throughout the war.

Shadheen Bangla Betar Kendra reached its pinnacle during the liberation war being acclaimed as the stool pigeon of war news updates through ‘Chorom Potro’. In those days when radio was the only media reaching to the far ends of Bangladesh, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra eventually turned as the orator of the Bangladesh government in exile. It ran the nationalist campaign throughout the war in gearing up our freedom fighters’ moral and also mobilizing world opinion in favour of Bangladesh.


Fifty Years After Chile’s Coup, the First Year of Popular Unity


Ten days after the 1973 coup against the Popular Unity (UP) government of President Salvador Allende, the military opened the Río Chico concentration camp on Dawson Island, located in the Strait of Magellan, near the southern tip of Chile. The island had served as an extermination camp by a Catholic order between 1891 and 1911 to confine the Selk’nam and Kawésqar peoples, who died due to overcrowding, the spread of disease, and the cold.

The coup regime sent 38 officials of the UP government to the Compañía de Ingenieros del Cuerpo de Infantería Marina (COMPINGIM) naval base and then to the Río Chico camp. It also sent hundreds of political prisoners to Punta Arenas, near Dawson Island. The officials were interrogated, tortured, and forced to work on the island’s infrastructure. The Río Chico camp was dismantled in 1974.

One of the prisoners at the camp was Miguel Lawner, an architect who led the government’s Urban Improvement Corporation (CORMU). During his imprisonment, Lawner walked around the prison to calculate the size of his room, the buildings at the camp, and the camp itself. He drew the layout for the camp but then destroyed it for fear of discovery by the guards. When he was in exile in Denmark in 1976, Lawner redrew the plans from memory. “The function creates the organ,” he said. “I developed an organ: the drawing, capable of fulfilling the function of leaving testimony of our captivity.”

During his imprisonment, Lawner told me, he worried that the military might accuse him of corruption for his leadership of CORMU. “I was trying to calculate how many millions of dollars had been [spent] in my name,” he recalled. “I calculated it to be between $150 million and $180 million. Later, I learned that the military spent six months investigating me and came to the conclusion that they owed me a per diem!”

The UP government (1970-1973) felt that the ministries of Housing and Public Works should be the engine of the economy, as “the two easiest institutions to mobilize,” Lawner said. Other areas, such as industrialization, “required more prolonged prior studies.” “In housing,” Lawner told me, “if you have a vacant lot, the next day you can be building.” In addition, there was a huge need for housing. The CORMU management decided to speed up the bureaucratic procedures and authorize the immediate disbursement of funds through an official, who was Lawner. “Our first year of government was a year of marvelous irresponsibility,” Lawner told me with a smile on his face.

Never Deviate From the Fundamentals

During the 1970 campaign for the presidency, Lawner accompanied Allende to a camp on the banks of the Mapocho River, where the people lived “outside the walls of society.” As they left the camp, Allende said to Lawner, “Even if things go badly for us, to get these comrades out of the mud—for that, it would be worthwhile for them to elect me president.” One year into the government, Lawner said, “We delivered the first houses of Villa San Luis. In April ’72 we had this project completely delivered: a thousand houses, the great majority of which corresponded to these two camps, el encanto and el ejemplo, which sat on the banks of the Mapocho River.” The main task of the UP government, he said, was “to resolve the fundamental demands of the sectors that had always been dispossessed.”

Under Lawner’s leadership, the CORMU officials—not all of them part of the UP project—postponed vacations and worked without overtime pay. “We gave all these officials the conviction that they were operating for the benefit of the common good and not, obviously, for the enrichment of a private company or the banks. In other words, they knew that they were working so that people could live better.” Also, he said, the objective of “making things beautiful” was imposed, arguing “that in social housing, beauty does not have to be the birthright only of the rich.”

The Explosion of the Countryside

Lawner recalled his great pride at the UP government’s nationalization of copper, its delivery of houses, and its role in the “explosion of the agrarian world.” The agrarian reform and the law for peasant unionization were passed in 1962, before the UP government. However, agrarian workers “continued to exist like serfs from feudal times,” Lawner noted. A week into his presidency, Allende was invited by the peasants of Araucanía to a meeting to which he brought his minister of agriculture, Jacques Chonchol. When an Indigenous leader spoke, Allende leaned over to Chonchol and said, “Listen, minister, I think you should remain here.” The minister, who “had to send for even his toothbrush,” remained there for three months, beginning his term installed in the countryside. Half a million hectares were transferred to the landless in the first year of the government.

The UP’s first year, Lawner recalled, was a “year of unbridled aspirations.” “For a person like me who was never a public official, the feeling of power is infinite, and the conviction that you are capable of doing anything is equally infinite… we promised more than we were capable of doing [having done three or four times more than the most that had ever been done in the history of the housing ministry], but everything we could do was done because of what is now lacking: the commitment of the officials. You have to have good leadership, it is true, but if you don’t have the commitment of the base, there is nothing you can do.”

Generations Contaminated by the Model

When we talked about the differences between the experiences at the end of the first year of the UP and the first year of Chile’s current President Gabriel Boric’s progressive government, Lawner pointed out that, in Chile “we have effectively been fed for 50 years the neoliberal doctrine of a formation contradictory to what you require in a progressive government. Imperceptibly, generations were formed that are, in my opinion, corrupted by the model. It is incomprehensible to them any other way.”

The current president of Chile’s Senate is Juan Antonio Coloma, a man of the extreme right. “When the 50th anniversary of the coup comes this September,” Lawner told me, “Coloma will be the country’s second most important political official.” Fascism’s rise, he said, is a global phenomenon, not only taking place in Chile. But Lawner does not despair. “You cannot determine when there is a spark that lights the fire again, but there is no doubt that it is going to happen.”

Credit Line: This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Role of Psychological Warfare in Bangladesh’s Liberation War — Part 2

Anthony Mascarenhas

Initially, as per their plan, the Pakistani army decided it would be a good idea to invite some Pakistani reporters to the region to show them how they had successfully dealt with the “freedom fighters.”

Foreign journalists had already been expelled, and Pakistan was also keen to deliberately publicise deceptive, untrue atrocities committed by the other side.  Eight journalists, including Mascarenhas, were given a 10-day tour of the province. When they returned home, seven of them duly wrote what they were told to.

But one of them refused. Yvonne Mascarenhas remembers him coming back distraught: “I’d never seen my husband looking in such a state. He was absolutely shocked, stressed, upset and terribly emotional,” she says, speaking from her home in west London. “He told me that if he couldn’t write the story of what he’d seen he’d never be able to write another word again.”

Clearly it would not be possible to do so in Pakistan. All newspaper articles were checked by the military censor, and Mascarenhas told his wife he was certain he would be shot if he tried. Pretending he was visiting his sick sister, Mascarenhas then travelled to London, where he headed straight to the Sunday Times and the editor’s office.

Mukti Bahini fighters on their way to the front line in the-then East Pakistan during the 1971 fight against the savage Pakistani Army and their local brutal mango-twigs to attain Bangladesh.

Indians and Bengali guerrillas fought in support of attaining Bangladesh. Evans remembers him in that meeting as having “the bearing of a military man, square-set and moustache, but appealing, almost soulful eyes and an air of profound melancholy”.

“He maintained that what the army was doing was altogether worse and on a grander scale,” Evans wrote. Mascarenhas told him he had been an eyewitness to a huge, systematic killing spree, and had heard army officers describe the killings as a “final solution”. Evans promised to run the story, but first Yvonne and the children had to escape Karachi.

They had agreed that the signal for them to start preparing for this was a telegram from Mascarenhas saying that “Ann’s operation was successful.” Yvonne remembers receiving the message at three the next morning. “I heard the telegram man bang at my window and I woke up my sons and I was: ‘Oh my gosh, we have to go to London.’ It was terrifying. I had to leave everything behind.

“We could only take one suitcase each. We were crying so much it was like a funeral,” she says. To avoid suspicion, Mascarenhas had to return to Pakistan before his family could leave. But as Pakistanis were only allowed one foreign flight a year, he then had to sneak out of the country by himself, crossing by land into Afghanistan.

The day after the family was reunited in their new home in London, the Sunday Times published his article, under the headline “Genocide.”

It is such a powerful piece of reporting because Mascarenhas was clearly so well trusted by the Pakistani officers he spent time with. I have witnessed the brutality of ‘kill and burn missions’ as the army units, after clearing out the rebels, pursued the pogrom in the towns and villages. I have seen whole villages devastated by ‘punitive action’.

And in the officer’s mess at night, I have listened incredulously as otherwise brave and honourable men proudly chewed over the day’s kill.

‘How many did you get?’ The answers are seared in my memory. His article was – from Pakistan’s point of view – a huge betrayal and he was accused of being an enemy agent. It still denies its forces were behind such atrocities as those described by Mascarenhas, and blames Indian propaganda. It seems as if rogues supplant justice.

In Bangladesh, of course, he is remembered more fondly, and his article is still displayed in the country’s Liberation War Museum. “This was one of the most significant articles written on the war. It came out when our country was cut off, and helped inform the world of what was going on here,” says Mofidul Huq, a trustee of the museum.

His family, meanwhile, settled into life in a new and colder country. “People were so serious in London and nobody ever talked to us,” Yvonne Mascarenhas remembers. “We were used to happy, smiley faces, it was all a bit of a change for us after Karachi. But we never regretted it.”

Indian Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akber Khan & British George Harrison – the world’s first aid event and the concert for Bangladesh

On 1 August 1971, Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and ex-Beatle George Harrison organised two benefit concerts in Madison Square Garden in New York City, USA, entitled ‘Concert for Bangla Desh’ (as ‘Bangladesh’ was spelt then) to bring awareness and aid to the plight of the Bengalis.

Many worlds famous and leading musicians participated in the Concert for Bangla Desh, including Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russel and the band Badfinger.

The concert for Bangladesh is a result of a joint afford of Pandit Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. Together they made plan for three months to finalize the concert. The concert was attended by Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Don Preston, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Alla Rakha. George Harrison composed and sang the song entitled ‘Bangladesh’ in the Concert for Bangladesh, which was staged at NewYork’s Madison Square Garden in 1st August 1971 in front of 40,000 people. The concert raised close to US$250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF.

Argentine Victoria Ocampo

In 1971, Victoria Ocampo even though aged 90 waged a campaign in her country Argentina seeking justice and freedom for the people of Bangladesh, and an end to the oppression carried out by the Pakistani government. What made her stance even more remarkable was that she was 90 years old. Tender, frail, and barely able to look after her own self, Victoria Ocampo used her high status to focus world’s attention to the Bangladesh tragedy and led a passionate campaign to help the Bengalis.

American Joan Baez – sang her heart out for Bangladesh

Joan (Chandos) Baez, American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and a prominent activist in the fields of human rights, peace, and environmental justice. Has a distinctive vocal style, with a strong vibrato.

(To be continued…)

Role of Psychological Warfare in Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971 – Part 1



Sun Tzu’s famous quote is pertinent here, “To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Psychological warfare, also called psywar, the use of propaganda against an enemy, supported by such military, economic, or political measures as may be required.

Since the recorded history of warfare, a wide variety of psychological, propaganda, deception, subversion methods and tools have been used to gain a position of advantage against an adversary with the aim to ultimately win, with or without the use of kinetic force. Therefore, the primary aim of psywar is to target the cognitive domains so as to inform, influence, persuade and shape the perception of the targeted population, leaders as well as rank and file of security forces.

Psychological warfare

In 1971, apart from Indian psychological warfare, Bangladesh government in exile also launched an all-out psychological warfare on block-buster level against Pakistani Army and their local buddies in the-then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Declaration of Independence

In his last message, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called upon the people to resist the occupation forces. Mujib was arrested on the night of 25–26 March 1971 at about 1:30 am (as per Radio Pakistan’s news on 29 March 1971).

The world press reports from late March 1971 also make clear that Bangladesh’s declaration of independence by Bangabandhu was widely reported throughout the world.

What was the role of media in Bangladesh

In this war the media, mainly the Radio, played an important role in inspiring the freedom fighters to go forward with brevity. Besides, in 1971, World Media also played a greater role in the war of independence of Bangladesh publishing the reports on war in world level.

What was India’s role in the Bangladesh War

The 1971 war against Pakistan was not a war won by India alone. It was a war jointly won by India and the people of the-then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). India’s great role has always been lauded in Bangladesh for attaining our own homeland in 1971.

How is the war of 1971 remembered in Bangladesh?

Fifty-two years after the 1971 war, which led to the independence of Bangladesh, each country involved in the battle institutionalised a distinct memory of the events of that year. In Bangladesh, the war is remembered as the Bengali people’s struggle against an oppressive Pakistan army and its local brutish.

The Role of International Media & Artists

The War of Liberation of 1971 was fought not only by the brave Mukti Bahinis (Freedom Fighters). The creation of Bangladesh also supported through the coverage it received in the international media and artists. Journalists brought home to the people of the world the story of the trials and sacrifices of the heroic people of Bangladesh, and the tribulations they were facing under the insensitive and brutal military administration of the occupying armed forces of Pakistan and their local mango-twigs.

Simon Dring, The Daily Telegraph, London

The first major expose of what had happened in the early hours of 26 March was done by Simon Dring, the young ‘Daily Telegraph’ reporter from London. He had flown into Dhaka on 6 March to cover the growing political tension and then eluded Pakistani search parties (that were entrusted with the task of expelling foreign correspondents). He managed to stay on and presented to the outside world his first-hand account of the fighting that had broken out in the stricken state. He left Dhaka on the weekend after 26 March and filed a special report on the sudden mass crackdown in Dhaka. He was the first to point out on 30 March 1971 that more than 7,000 Bengalis had been slaughtered in Dhaka over 48 hours. It was also clear from his article that the army had struck without warning, under the cover of darkness and that these factors were responsible for enormous casualties.

Anthony Mascarenhas

Bangladesh war: The article that changed history ‘Genocide’ in Sunday Times on 13 June, 1971.

On that day, an article in the UK’s Sunday Times exposed the brutality of Pakistan’s suppression of the Bangladesh’s people’s uprising. It forced the reporter’s family into hiding and changed history.

Abdul Bari had run out of luck. Like thousands of other people in the-then East Pakistan, he had made the mistake the fatal mistake of running within sight of a Pakistani patrol. He was 24 years old, a slight man surrounded by soldiers. He was trembling because he was about to be shot. So, started one of the most influential pieces of South Asian journalism of the past half century.

Written by Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani reporter, and printed in the UK’s Sunday Times, it exposed for the first time the scale of the Pakistan army’s brutal campaign to suppress its breakaway eastern province in 1971. Three million people were brutally murdered by Pakistani Army and their local mango-twigs, especially Jamaat-e-Islami mass-murderers.

Mascarenhas’ reportage played its part and it helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and encouraged India to play a decisive role.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told the-then editor of the Sunday Times, Harold Evans, that the article had shocked her so deeply it had set her “on a campaign of personal diplomacy in the European capitals and Moscow to prepare the ground for India’s armed intervention,” he recalled.

Mascarenhas was, Evans wrote in his memoirs, “just a very good reporter doing an honest job.”

He was also very brave. Pakistan, at the time, was run by the military, and he knew that he would have to get himself and his family out of the country before the story could be published – not an easy task in those days.

“His mother always told him to stand up and speak the truth and be counted,” Mascarenhas’s widow, Yvonne, recalled (he died in 1986). “He used to tell me, put a mountain before me and I’ll climb it. He was never daunted.”

When the war in what was the-then East Pakistan broke out in March 1971, Mascarenhas was a respected journalist in Karachi, the main city in the country’s dominant western wing, on good terms with the country’s ruling elite. He was a member of the city’s small community of Goan Christians, and he and Yvonne had five children.

The conflict was sparked by elections, which were won by an East Pakistan party, the Awami League under the able and dynamic leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which wanted greater autonomy for the region.

While the political parties and the military argued over the formation of a new government, many Bengalis became convinced that West Pakistan was deliberately blocking their cherished desire.

The situation started to become flog with or as if with an inflexible rod. The Awami League launched a campaign of civil disobedience, and the army flew in thousands of reinforcements.

On the evening of 25 March, it launched a pre-emptive strike against the Awami League, and other perceived opponents, including members of the intelligentsia and the Hindu community, who at that time made up about 20% of the province’s 75 million people.

In the first of many notorious war crimes, soldiers attacked Dhaka University, lining up and executing students and professors. Their campaign of terror then moved into the countryside, where they battled local troops who had mutinied.

(To be continued…)

Intrigue and Espionage: The Tense Relationship between Spy Agencies and Journalists


Back in 1978, I was sitting at the bar of the Commodore Hotel in Beirut, the storied safe haven for journalists and diplomats during the Lebanese civil war,  when a low-level Palestinian official named Anis sidled up to me and asked if I was “from Israel.”

At the time, I was the Middle East correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, based in Jerusalem.  

“I’m not ‘from’ Israel,” I told Anis. “I’m an American reporter based there, but I cover the entire Middle East.”

Anis lifted his chin and clucked his tongue in the Levantine gesture of disbelief.

“That’s what you say,” he replied. “I think you are Mossad, pretending to be a journalist.” A cold chill washed over me. In war-battered, trigger-happy Beirut, even a suspicion, not to mention an accusation, of being an Israeli spy could get me killed. So I immediately went to the front desk and called Mahmoud Labadi, the spokesman for Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. I had a decent working relationship with Labadi, who knew I was based in Jerusalem but didn’t confuse that with being an Israeli. I told him that Anis had just labeled me a Mossad spy and urged him to get Anis on the line right away and vouch for me. 

“If you don’t, this could end very badly,” I said.

Labadi agreed. A few minutes later, the hotel operator summoned Anis to a phone call at the front desk. I could hear Labadi shouting at him through the phone. A chastened Anis hung up the receiver and turned to me. 

Ana asif,” he said in Arabic, touching his heart. “I apologize.” But he quickly added plaintively: “How can you  know who is Mossad, who is CIA, and who is a real journalist?”

Good question. The truth is, thanks to the world’s spy agencies, one can’t. And the result can be bone-chilling moments like my run-in with Anis, or far worse. Because when spy agencies use journalism as a cover for their clandestine officers, it casts a cloud of suspicion on all journalists, no matter who their employer is or where they’re from.  

I’m recounting this story because of a recent piece in The New York Times about a former Mossad agent named Sylvia Rafael, who carried out spy missions across the Arab world in the 1960s and 1970s while posing as a news photographer for a French photo agency.

Rafael used a reporting assignment in Lebanon to mail letter bombs to Beirut-based Palestinian leaders. In Jordan, PLO officials allowed her to photograph a secret military training camp, whose location Rafael passed on to her Israeli handlers. As a spy in journalist’s clothing , Rafael also gathered intelligence for the Mossad on social conditions in Yemen, Djibouti and Egypt. Her journalist cover even enabled her to shoot close-up portraits of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, his successor Anwar Sadat, and Algerian leader Houari Boumediene.

Although she was unmasked in a Mossad-authorized biography nine years ago, Israel’s spymasters are so proud of her feats that they’ve just released her long classified photos for a show in Tel Aviv.

The Times story angered me and several colleagues because it focused on Rafael’s apparent talent as a photographer but never mentioned the suspicion and danger that real foreign correspondents face overseas as a result of intelligence agencies’ using journalism as a cover identity for their clandestine operatives.

“The story says, without comment, that Mossad concealed its agent’s identity as a press photographer—something that, then or now,  potentially endangers all other press photographers,”  former Time magazine foreign correspondent Adam Zagorin commented in an email. “Yet the NYT never mentions that as an issue, or looks at whether this Mossad policy remains in force, raising the possibility that other photographers and even reporters have been, or still are, Mossad plants or agents. This is a significant issue for the press in general, which the NYT has previously recognised and addressed. But not this time.”

The Price of Suspicion

Over the past decade, numerous journalists around the world have been arrested and imprisoned on charges of espionage. As of Dec. 1 last year, a total of 363 journalists were imprisoned around the world, according data compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists, but the organization does not break down how many of those have been charged with espionage.

Last March, Polish authorities arrested and imprisoned Spanish freelance reporter Pablo Gonzales near the border with Ukraine, accusing him of spying for Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.  

Since then, Polish officials have not publicly disclosed any evidence to support their accusation. Meanwhile, Gonzales, who denies the charge, has remained in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. He has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, seeking release alleging the terms of his imprisonment violate his constitutional rights. In letters from prison, Gonzalez has said Polish security agents advised him to “eat flies or insects” if he wanted to maintain his protein levels.

It’s no surprise that the Russia-Ukraine conflict would put journalists in jeopardy. On March 10, Moscow’s FSB security service in Russian-occupied Crimea arrested Vladislav Yesypenko, a journalist for the U.S.-government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Eight days later, according to Reporters Without Borders, Yesypenko, “visibly pale” and speaking with “difficulty,” confessed on a local Russian television station to spying for Ukraine’s Security Services. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which promotes press freedom, said Yesypenko’s confession was “almost certainly obtained under duress.”

“Forcing an imprisoned journalist to declare himself guilty and broadcasting his ‘confession’ in a serious violation of journalistic ethics,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk, who called for his immediate release. “Such practices are also prohibited by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Russia and Ukraine.”

Last October, Iranian intelligence officials arrested and imprisoned journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, labeling them CIA agents after they broke the news of the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for not wearing her hijab head scarf properly. The news sparked nationwide protests that have rocked the country’s clerical leadership.

“More than 40 [Iranian] journalists have been detained since the protests erupted on streets across the country,” many accused of acting as American or Israeli agents, according to The Guardian newspaper.

In July 2014, Iranian officials arrested Washington Post foreign correspondent Jason Rezaian in Tehran on charges of espionage and “collaborating with hostile governments.” Held at Iran’s infamous Evin Prison, he was convicted after a closed-door trial in October 2015 and sentenced a month later to a term of undisclosed duration. After 544 days behind bars, he was released along with three other Americans in exchange for seven Iranian prisoners being held in the United States plus Washington’s release of $1.7 billion in frozen Iranian funds. 

Asked if the Mossad continues to use journalism as a cover for its operatives, a former high-ranking Israeli official told me the spy agency doesn’t discuss its sources and methods. 

The Mossad is not alone in having used journalism as cover for intelligence collection.

Cold War Collusion

During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union employed journalists or used their respective news organizations as cover for their intelligence gathering. In 1976, a Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA abuses during the 1950s and 1960s found that 50 U.S. journalists had secret official relationships with the CIA during that period. 

The committee report didn’t mention any names, but a year later, legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein published a lengthy exposé in Rolling Stone that said the Church committee had bowed to White House pressure and minimized the number of journalists working with the spy agency . 

Bernstein alleged that more than 400 American journalists had secretly performed assignments for the CIA over the preceding 25 years. Citing documents on file at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and interviews with CIA officials, Bernstein outed some of the biggest names in American journalism as willing assets who either carried out tasks for the CIA or enabled their editors and reports to do so. They included Newsweek columnist Stewart Alsop, New York Times Publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger and his columnist C.L. Sulzberger, Time magazine founder Henry Luce and CBS President William Paley, among many others.

“Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries,” Bernstein wrote. “Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad.” 

Bernstein explained why foreign correspondents proved so valuable to the agency’s clandestine operations.

“The peculiar nature of the job of the foreign correspondent is ideal for such work,” he wrote. “He is accorded unusual access by his host country, permitted to travel in areas often off‑limits to other Americans, spends much of his time cultivating sources in governments, academic institutions, the military establishment and the scientific communities. He has the opportunity to form long‑term personal relationships with sources and—perhaps more than any other category of American operative—is in a position to make correct judgments about the susceptibility and availability of foreign nationals for recruitment as spies.” 

Limited Impact of Revelations

The CIA’s secret deployment of its agents as spies did not go down well with Loch Johnson, who was staff director of the Senate select subcommittee headed by Idaho Sen. Frank Church that was created in 1976 to look into CIA abuses. 

“It’s outrageous,” said Johnson, a leading authority on intelligence issues and Regents Professor Emeritus of Public and International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. “In a democracy, one should not have spies pretending to be journalists,” Johnson told SpyTalk. “After all, one of the backbones of a democracy is a free press, and this practice corrupts that whole relationship.”

After the Church committee’s reports on the CIA, the agency adopted regulations that barred the use of American journalists or the names of U.S. news organizations as cover for the CIA’s clandestine officers, according to Johnson. The agency is still permitted to recruit foreign journalists.

Johnson said that the regulations included a waiver that had allowed two exceptions to the prohibition, one under CIA director Stansfield Turner (1977-1981) and the other during the agency’s directorship of John Deutsch (1995-1996). Deutch later said he reserved the right to make exceptions under “genuinely extraordinary” circumstances, according to The Washington Post. But he added that during his tenure, “I have not encountered any set of circumstances that would lead me to consider such a possibility.”

In both cases in which the waiver was used, however, Johnson told SpyTalk, Turner and Deutsch failed to inform the Senate and House intelligence committees, as required by the agency’s own regulations.

The CIA didn’t respond to SpyTalk queries asking if the 1976 prohibition remained in force, and whether there had been additional exceptions since 1996.

But Johnson added that the regulations apply only to accredited full-time American journalists, leaving the CIA free to employ or impersonate American stringers for U.S. news organizations and freelancers, as well as foreign reporters.

Today, I wonder if other American journalists are having close calls with hostile forces who accuse them of being spies, as I was back in Beirut decades ago. I hope not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

My story, thankfully, had a happy ending.

The Beirut incident became something of a private joke between me and Anis, my erstwhile Palestinian accuser.  Whenever I returned to Lebanon and ran into him at the Commodore, Anis would greet me with a broad smile and say, “How’s my Mossad friend today?” And we’d have a laugh—but to me, it was no joking matter.

Source: SpyTalk

Eight Contradictions of the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order’


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has now moved the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has been to the symbolic time of the annihilation of humanity and the Earth since 1947. This is alarming, which is why leaders in the Global South have been making the case to halt the warmongering over Ukraine and against China. As Namibia’s Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said, ‘We are promoting a peaceful resolution of that conflict so that the entire world and all the resources of the world can be focused on improving the conditions of people around the world instead of being spent on acquiring weapons, killing people, and actually creating hostilities’.

In line with the alarm from the Doomsday Clock and assertions from people such as Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, the rest of this newsletter features a new text called Eight Contradictions in the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order’ (which you can download as a PDF here). It was drafted by Kyeretwie Opoku (the convenor of the Socialist Movement of Ghana), Manuel Bertoldi (Patria Grande /Federación Rural para la producción y el arraigo), Deby Veneziale (senior fellow, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research), and me, with inputs from senior political leaders and intellectuals from across the world. We are offering this text as an invitation to a dialogue. We hope that you will read, circulate, and discuss it.

We are now entering a qualitatively new phase of world history. Significant global changes have emerged in the years since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. This can be seen in a new phase of imperialism and changes in the particularities of eight contradictions.

1. The contradiction between moribund imperialism and an emerging successful socialism led by China.

This contradiction has intensified because of the peaceful rise of socialism with Chinese characteristics. For the first time in 500 years, the Atlantic imperialist powers are confronted by a large, non-white economic power that can compete with them. This became clear in 2013 when China’s GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP) overtook that of the United States. China accomplished this in a much shorter period than the West, with a significantly larger population and without colonies, enslaving others, or military conquest. Whilst China stands for peaceful relations, the US has become increasingly bellicose.

The US has led the imperialist camp since World War II. Post-Angela Merkel and with the advent of the Ukraine military operation, the US strategically subordinated dominant sections of the European and Japanese bourgeoisie. This has resulted in weakening intra-imperialist contradictions. The US first permitted and then demanded that both Japan (the third-largest economy in the world) and Germany (the fourth-largest economy) – two fascist powers during World War II – greatly increase their military expenditure. The result has been the ending of Europe’s economic relationship with Russia, damage to the European economy, and economic and political benefits for the US. Despite the capitulation of most of Europe’s political elite to full US subordination, some large sections of German capital are heavily dependent on trade with China, much more than on their US counterparts. The US, however, is now pressuring Europe to downgrade its ties to China.

More importantly, China and the socialist camp now face an even more dangerous entity: the consolidated structure of the Triad (the United States, Europe, and Japan). The US’s growing internal social decay should not mask the near absolute unity of its political elite on foreign policy. We are witnessing the bourgeoisie placing its political and military interests over its short-term economic interests.

The centre of the world economy is shifting, with Russia and the Global South (including China) now accounting for 65% of the world’s GDP (measured in PPP). From 1950 until the present, the US share of the global GDP (in PPP) has fallen from 27% to 15%. The growth of the US’s GDP has also been declining for more than five decades and has now fallen to only around 2% per year. It has no large new markets in which to expand. The West suffers from an ongoing general crisis of capitalism as well as the consequences of the long-term tendency of the rate of profit to decline. 

2. The contradiction between the ruling classes of the narrow band of imperialist G7 countries and the political and economic elite of capitalist countries in the Global South.

This relationship has undergone a major change from the heydays of the 1990s and the height of US unilateral power and arrogance. Today, there are growing cracks in the alliance between the G7 and Global South power elites. Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, India’s largest billionaires, need oil and coal from Russia. The far-right Modi-led government represents India’s monopoly bourgeoisie. Thus, the Indian foreign minister now makes occasional statements against US hegemony in finance, sanctions, and other areas. The West does not have the economic and political ability to always provide what power elites in India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey need. This contradiction, however, has not sharpened to the degree that it can be a focal point of other contradictions, unlike the contradiction between socialist China and the US-led G7 bloc.

3. The contradiction between the broad urban and rural working class and sections of the lower petty bourgeoisie (collectively known as the popular classes) of the Global South versus the US-led imperial power elite.

This contradiction is slowly becoming sharper. The West has a great soft power advantage in the Global South amongst all classes. Yet, for the first time in decades, young Africans have come out to support the expulsion of French troops in Mali and Burkina Faso in West Africa. For the first time, the popular classes in Colombia were able to elect a new government that rejected the country’s status as a vassal outpost of US military and intelligence forces. Working-class women are at the forefront of many critical battles of both the working class and society at large. Young people are rising up against the environmental crimes of capitalism. Growing numbers of the working class are identifying their struggles for peace, development, and justice as explicitly anti-imperialist. They are now able to see through the lies of US ‘human rights’ ideology, the destruction of the environment by Western energy and mining companies, and the violence of US hybrid war and sanctions. 

4. The contradiction between advanced rent-seeking finance capital versus the needs of the popular classes, and even some sections of capital in non-socialist countries, regarding the organisation of societies’ requirements for investment in industry, environmentally sustainable agriculture, employment, and development.

This contradiction is a result of the decline in the rate of profit and the difficulty of capital to increase the rate of exploitation of the working class to a sufficient level able to finance increasing investment requirements and remain competitive. Outside of the socialist camp, in almost all of the advanced capitalist countries and in most of the Global South – with some exceptions, especially in Asia – there is an investment crisis. New types of firms have arisen that include hedge funds such as Bridgewater Associates and private equity firms such as BlackRock. ‘Private markets’ controlled $9.8 trillion worth of assets in 2022. Derivatives, a form of fictitious and speculative capital, are now worth $18.3 trillion in ‘market’ value but have a $632 trillion notional value – a value more than five times higher than the world’s total actual GDP.

A new class of information technology-based network-effect monopolies, including Google, Facebook/Meta, and Amazon – all under full US control – have emerged to attract monopoly rents. US digital monopolies, under the direct supervision of US intelligence agencies, control the information architecture of the whole world, outside of a few socialist and nationalist countries. These monopolies are the basis for the rapid expansion of US soft power in the last 20 years. The military-industrial complex, the merchants of death, also attract growing investments.

This intensified speculative and monopoly rentier accumulation phase of capital is deepening a strike by capital against necessary social investments. South Africa and Brazil have seen dramatic levels of deindustrialisation under neoliberalism. Even advanced imperialist countries have ignored their own infrastructure, such as the electricity grid, bridges, and the railway. The global elite has engineered a tax strike by providing huge reductions in tax rates and taxes as well as legal tax havens for both individual capitalists and their corporations to increase their share of surplus value.

Tax evasion by capital and the privatisation of large swathes of the public sector have decimated the availability of basic public goods like education, healthcare, and transportation for billions of people. It has contributed to Western capital’s ability to manipulate and gain high interest income from the ‘manufactured’ debt crisis facing the Global South. At its highest level, hedge fund profiteers like George Soros speculate and destroy the finance of entire countries.

The impact on the working class is severe, as their work has become increasingly precarious and permanent unemployment is destroying large sections of the world’s youth. A growing section of the population is superfluous under capitalism. Social inequality, misery, and desperation are abundant. 

5. The contradiction between the popular classes of the Global South and their domestic political and economic power elites.

This manifests quite differently by country and region. In socialist and progressive countries, contradictions amongst the people are resolved in peaceful and varied ways. However, in several countries in the Global South where the capitalist elite has been fully in bed with Western capital, wealth is held by a small percentage of the population. There is widespread misery amongst the poorest people, and the capitalist development model is failing to serve the interests of the majority. Due to the history of neocolonialism and Western soft power, there is a decidedly pro-West middle-class consensus in most of the large Global South countries. This class hegemony of the local bourgeoisie and the upper stratum of the petty bourgeoisie is used to block the popular classes (who make up most of the population) from accessing power and influence.

6. The contradiction between US-led imperialism versus nations strongly defending national sovereignty.

These nations fall into four main categories: socialist countries, progressive countries, other countries rejecting US control, and the special case of Russia. The US has created this antagonistic contradiction through hybrid warfare methods such as assassinations, invasions, NATO-led military aggression, sanctions, lawfare, trade war, and a now incessant propaganda war based on outright lies. Russia is in a special category, as it suffered more than 25 million deaths at the hands of European fascist invaders when it was a socialist country. Today, Russia – which notably has immense natural resources – is once again a target for complete annihilation as a state by NATO. Some elements of its socialist past are still present in the country, and there remains a high degree of patriotism. The US’s goal is to finish off what it started in 1992: at a minimum, to permanently destroy Russia’s nuclear military capacity and install a puppet regime in Moscow in order to dismember Russia in the long term and replace it with many smaller, permanently weakened vassal states of the West. 

7. The contradiction between the millions of discarded working-class poor in the Global North versus the bourgeoisie who dominate these countries.

These workers are showing some signs of rebellion against their economic and social conditions. However, the imperialist bourgeoisie is playing the white supremacist card to prevent a larger unity of working people in these countries. At this moment, workers are not consistently able to avoid falling prey to racist war propaganda. The number of people present at public events against imperialism has diminished precipitously over the last thirty years.

8. The contradiction between Western capitalism versus the planet and human life.

The inexorable path of this system is to destroy the planet and human life, threaten nuclear annihilation, and work against the needs of humanity to collectively reclaim the planet’s air, water, and land and stop the nuclear military madness of the United States. Capitalism rejects planning and peace. The Global South (including China) can help the world build and expand a ‘zone of peace’ and commit to living in harmony with nature.

With these changes in the political landscape, we are witnessing the rise of an informal front against the US-dominated imperialist system. This front is constituted by the convergence of:

  • Popular sentiment that this violent system is the main enemy of the people of the world.
  • Popular desires for a more just, peaceful, and egalitarian world.
  • The struggle of socialist or nationalist governments and political forces for their sovereignty.
  • The desires of other Global South countries to reduce their dependence on this system.

The main forces against the US-dominated imperialist system are the peoples of the world and the socialist and nationalist governments. However, there must be space provided for integrating governments that wish to reduce their dependency on the imperialist system.

The world currently stands at the beginning of a new era in which we will witness the end of the US global empire. The neoliberal system is deteriorating under the weight of numerous internal contradictions, historical injustices, and economic unviability. Without a better alternative, the world will descend into even greater chaos. Our movements have revived hope that something other than this social torment is possible. 

We hope that Eight Contradictions in the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order’ will stimulate debate and discussion and assist us in our broader Battle of Ideas against toxic social philosophies that seek to suffocate rational thought about our world.

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