Vladivostok, Ancestral Manchu Territory: Home to Russia’s Pacific Fleet — For Now

In Vladivostok Lures Chinese Tourists (Many Think It’s Theirs), the NYT’s Andrew Higgins reminds us that the city was ceded by the Qing Dynasty to Russia in 1860 in one of those infamous “unequal treaties”:

Cui Rongwei, a businessman from northeastern China, could not afford a trip to Paris, so he settled for an exotic taste of Europe right on China’s doorstep. He liked Vladivostok so much that he has made three trips there to savor a city so strikingly different from his own hometown just a few score miles away.

Yet, like nearly all Chinese who visit a city whose Russian name means “master of the East,” Mr. Cui is absolutely certain about one thing: The place should really be called Haishenwai [海參崴], the name it had back when China was master in these parts.

A native of the Chinese province of Jilin in Manchuria, Mr. Cui said it was a “historical fact” that the home of Russia’s Pacific Fleet and the showcase of President Vladimir V. Putin’s ambitions to project his country as an Asian power is in reality Chinese territory.

Or at least it was, until the Treaty of Beijing, signed in 1860 after China’s defeat by Britain in the Second Opium War, placed Vladivostok and other territory to the northeast of what is now North Korea firmly in Russian hands.

Sakharov Prize for Uyghur Intellectual Ilham Tohti?

In an open letter entitled Donnons le prix Sakharov à un intellectuel ouïghour published in the French newspaper Libération on July 14, 2016, three prominent French citizens propose awarding the Sakharov Prize to Ilham Tohti:

Il est temps que l’opinion publique francophone s’empare de son cas : à force d’évoquer les méfaits de Daech, d’Isis ou de Boko Haram, on en vient à oublier que certains citoyens de religion musulmane pourraient faire la différence et ramener la paix dans un monde déchiré par la haine et le rejet de l’autre. Ilham Tohti fait certainement partie de ceux-là. Sa place n’est pas dans le Centre de détention numéro 1 d’Urumqi au Xinjiang, et le prix Sakharov serait à la fois un hommage et un message d’espoir envoyé à une victime innocente de la dictature implacable du président chinois Xi Jinping. Aux députés européens de se mobiliser en sa faveur ! 

Full text in English: Give the Sakharov Prize to an Uighur Intellectual.

Elif Şafak on Writing in Today’s Turkey

[Hürriyet Daily News] Would it have been difficult for you to write this book if you were living permanently in Turkey?

[Elif Şafak] Words are heavy in Turkey. Every journalist, every writer, every poet, every academic knows this. Because of words we can be sued overnight, put on trial, demonized in newspapers, attacked on social media. It’s becoming more and more difficult to write and speak critically in Turkey. There is a climate of intimidation and paranoia. Whoever says anything critical is instantly labelled a “betrayer” or “a pawn of Western powers.” There is also widespread self-censorship, which is a difficult subject. How many people among the literati would acknowledge self-censorship? But of course it exists. 

Turkey’s Elif Şafak speaking about her new novel, Haava’nın Üç Kızı. See Elif Şafak takes a swing at Turkish bourgeoisie for the full interview.

Bruce Humes: New Focus on Altaic Storytelling Traditions

 

New bilingual blog title

Altaic Storytelling:

From the Bosphorus to Lake Baikal  

阿尔泰古今讲故事:

萨满、䢟唱诗人、作家

See here for details

May 2017: Altaic Storytelling Newsbriefs

走进中国少数民族丛书·蒙古族  (lit., Up Close with the Mongols) the latest volume in a series of 走进中国少数民族丛书·蒙古族Chinese-language books that will eventually profile each of China’s 55 officially designated minority ethnicities, has been launched. It is published by Liaoning Ethnic Publishing House. To date, 8 books featuring peoples of northeast China are out: Daur, Evenki, Hezhen, Korean (Chaoxian), Manchu, Mongols, Oroqen, and Xibe.

An exhibition showcasing the lifestyle of the Oroqen (鄂伦春) has opened at the new Huma Museum (呼玛博物馆) in Heilongjiang’s Greater Khingan Mountains (大兴安岭). The Oroqen are a Tungusic-speaking people closely related to the reindeer-herding Evenki (鄂温克) who figure in Chi Zijian’s Last Quarter of the Moon. Displays feature the Oroqen’s mobile housing, known to the Han as 撮罗子 (similar to teepee of native North Americans), hunting, dancing and Shamanism.

1944, a ballad sung by Jamala evoking the deportation of Crimean Tatars by Josef Stalin, has won the 2016 Eurovision song contest for Ukraine (Politically Charged). Inevitably, the song’s lyrics are interpreted as a criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 via Putin’s “Little Green Men.” The Crimean Tatars emerged as a nation at the time of the Crimean Khanate, an Ottoman vassal state, during the 15th to 18th centuries. Tatar is a Turkic language, classified as a member of the West Kipchak branch.

Madonna in a Fur Coat (Kürk Mantolu Madonna) by the 20th-century Turkish author Sabahattin Ali has just been published in English by Penguin. Translated by Maureen Freely, the novel centers on a post-World War I love affair between Turkish student Raif Efendi and a German singer, Maria Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.35.02Puder, in Berlin. The Turkish edition has sold 750,000 copies “in the last three years alone,” according to one article (Glorious Comeback). It appears that the Chinese edition (I think this is the same novel) appeared way before Penguin got around to it, however, as 穿皮大衣的玛利亚 was out back in 1984. At any rate, the Turkish have a curious way of showing appreciation for their authors — the article also notes that the “left-wing poet, writer and journalist was a fierce critic of the government during the early years of the Turkish Republic. He was imprisoned at least twice and was killed in 1948 by an unknown assailant in a murder widely attributed to Turkey’s secret service.”

Altaic Storytelling: What We’re Reading Now (2016.4.12)

Following Xinjiang's Kazakh herders during their winter migration

Following Xinjiang’s Kazakh herders during their winter migration

Just started 冬牧场 (lit, winter pasture) by Li Juan. In 2010, she was commissioned to live with a Kazakh family as they herded their camels, sheep and horses deep into the desert of southern Altay where they traditionally graze during the bitterly cold winter. Her job: To document the little known, semi-nomadic lifestyle of Xinjiang’s Kazakh that features seasonal migrations.

Li Juan (李娟) is a young female Han writer born in Xinjiang. She spent most of her childhood in Sichuan before returning, and by her own admission, speaks only a smattering of Kazakh. See here for an introduction to her writing — all of which revolves around Xinjiang — including links to translations of some of her shorter pieces. To date, within China her best known titles are probably two collections of essays entitled 我的阿勒泰 (lit, my Altay) and 阿勒泰的角落 (lit, corners of Altay).

Promotional copy on douban reads as follows:

2010年冬天,李娟跟随一家哈萨克牧民深入阿勒泰南部的冬季牧场、沙漠,度过了一段鲜为人知的荒野生活。作为第一位描写哈萨克民族冬牧生活的汉族作家,她以饱含深情、灵气飞扬又不失节制的文字,呈现出阿尔泰最后一批 “荒野主人” 冬季转场时的独特生存景观,令人叹为观止。