Other matters – including the need to complete an article for an academic journal – have kept me from blogging for most of this week. In lieu of a new post, here are links to, and brief comments on, some articles published in the past few days which I found interesting.
- Canada ready to re-engage with Russia, Iran, despite differences, Dion says. Canada’s new foreign minister, Stéphane Dion, gave an interview to the Ottawa Citizen. According to the newspaper, ‘The foreign minister also indicated a new approach to Russia is coming. Dion said [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau is “certainly not happy” with Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and the new government will reiterate that point with Moscow. But he added: “We also need to think about our national interests because Russia is our neighbour in the Arctic.”’ I am not expecting a massive change in policy, but this interview does at least suggest that Canada will finally be willing to talk to the Russians about matters of mutual interest, and that is a step forward.
- Heritage minister promises ‘prompt decision’ on victims of communism memorial. Another new Canadian minister, Mélanie Joly, now in charge of Canadian heritage, met Ottawa’s mayor Jim Watson this week, and discussed the controversial proposal to erect a monument to the victims of communism next to Canada’s Supreme Court building. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the proposal is very unpopular in the capital. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Mme Joly promised Mayor Watson that she would consult further before making a decision and ‘Watson said he and Joly had a “very good discussion” on the victims of communism monument. “I expressed our city’s position that there has to be greater accountability and that the site that was chosen by the previous government is not appropriate and is out of scale”.’ I am mildly optimistic that this project may not now go ahead in its current form.
- The economics of rebellion in Eastern Ukraine. Yuri M. Zhukov, assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan, has analyzed which municipalities in Eastern Ukraine experienced uprisings in the spring of 2014 and compared that information with data concerning language and industrial employment. He concludes that ‘there is little evidence of … a “Russian language effect” on violence’, but that there was a clear correlation between uprisings and large-scale employment in machine-building, metals industries, and mining. In other words, economics were more important than language in determining whether people joined the rebellion. What I found more interesting, though, was what Zhukov left unsaid. For his research rests on an assumption that local factors were the key variables, and his conclusion likewise suggests that local economics were the driving factor in the rebellion. In short, the roots of the rebellion lay in Ukraine, not in Russia.