Best Question

The best question from today’s talk was, “do Ukrainians, Latvians, etc perceive themselves as being a separate country from Russia?”

I always get this question, so I had a map of Europe with countries marked on it all ready to go. But yeah, it’s kind of sad.

11 thoughts on “Best Question

  1. “I always get this question: Do Ukrainians, Latvians, etc perceive themselves as being a separate country from Russia?”

    I don’t know much about the mindset of most Eastern Europeans, but this seems like a dumb question for non-Eastern Europeans to ask. Ukraine and the Baltic nations have been independent nations for THIRTY years now (since 1991), and the median age in Ukraine is only about 42 years old, so why would the current members of any of those countries consider themselves a part of Russia?

    Technically, they were never a part of Russia per se — they were captive nations of the USSR until it dissolved as an empire.

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      1. That really doesn’t surprise me much. What I’ve noticed is that there is a disconnect for a lot of the boomer age and older Americans. It is like they have a cold-war viewpoint that is locked in place; that Eastern European history and Russian history doesn’t exist before the end of WWII, and nothing happened after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. As in they still have a mind set, that all those previously annexed countries are still part of the USSR, despite the fact they regained their freedom and cultures.

        As for my group the Millennials and the younger folk, frankly after the way history has been basically butchered in school I would be highly surprised if any could tell me where Russia is located, much less what countries border it.

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        1. Gosh, the teaching of history in high school is ridiculous. Students come to college and they don’t know about the Vietnam War! They only have the vaguest knowledge of the Cold War. WWI? Nothing. They are blank slates in what concerns actual knowledge.

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          1. When I was in public school sixty years ago, there were two required history classes along the way: a detailed, thorough history of my home state (Tennessee) with a very sympathetic view of the Confederacy, and a superficial “World History” class taught by the high school football coach.

            In my college premed courses at the University of Tennessee, all freshmen were required to take a world history class that did an excellent job of covering Western civilization from ancient Greece through the then-current Cold War. It said very little about Africa or the Orient that wasn’t directly relevant to the spread of colonial conquest, but those details weren’t relevant.

            So some of your readers know their history well enough.

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          2. They are getting very little history exposure in elementary and middle school. What they do get is fragmented, incoherent, and filled with critical theory. Then in high school they have 2 years of global history and one of US (in some states). In global, I kid you not, there are 1-2 pages on Christianity and 12 on Islam.

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  2. I’m Baltic German by descent, my family lived in what is now Estonia for 600 years before WW2. I once worked with a Russian Latvian, his parents moved to Latvia as part of the Russian colonisation effort to wipe out the natives. He had a very different view, felt himself Russian and wanted Latvia to come back under Russia’s control.

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  3. “Students come to college and they don’t know about the Vietnam War!”

    I didn’t learn a thing about history in high school. I wasn’t interested. That could be because my history teachers were boring or because I was boring. My parents never cultivated an interest in history–even though my grandfather taught history for his entire career.

    Now, I love history! And I study it for fun. My dad was drafted for the Viet Nam war so I know some about it. I love to study WW2 history and I was teaching my son about WW1 yesterday. The good news about life is one never gets too old to learn something new!

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    1. I learned absolutely nothing in history class about the VN war– it was barely mentioned. But my Dad was there in the military (as a radio message translator: so… spook-lite), so I heard a lot about it from him, and we have some family friends who came over as refugees. And now I find it very difficult to discuss in any coherent way, because the version of that story that I received in no way resembles the version that everyone else, apparently, got in history class. It is like we are talking about two completely different wars.

      In the popular version, we were losing miserably, and finally pulled out in defeat from a miserable conflict we had no hope of winning, and that was not supported by popular opinion in either the US or VN. After that… who cares, right?

      In Dad’s version, we were winning, all the VC radio communications were putting out orders to retreat, and then Congress got involved with a bunch of waffling and we just… gave up. In the aftermath, the French did the honorable thing, and claimed all its military members’ bastard children and gave them and their mothers free passage to France and citizenship. The US shamefully left theirs behind to become spat-upon beggars in the streets. The communists moved in and rounded up Catholics, Buddhists, Cao Dai, and former SVA, sending them to camps and killing many, and making nasty reprisals on areas where US bases had been, such as Khanh Hoa. They collectivized the farms, with predictable results– those were the starving years: late 70s, early 80s. Thousands of Viets escaped– or tried to– in boats (which is why FL and LA have so many Viet shrimpers now). A family friend (as a teenager) climbed the rigging of a cargo ship with her cousins and stowed away to the Philippines. She watched a younger cousin get crushed between the boat and the dock.

      After a couple decades, things settled into milder institutional religious discrimination (Catholics, Buddhists, etc cannot hold govt. jobs, loudspeakers blare propaganda outside the churches during mass, and they can’t get into prestigious university programs), as bureaucrats found they liked having Viet Kieu send money back home to the family… that they could skim off of. Also, they de-collectivized the farms so they could have enough rice to feed everyone. And loosened up the clamp on businesses because they needed money in order to not be taken over by China. When we have a Republican president, they tend to loosen up on the human rights front in order to maintain trade relationships and keep the $$ flowing, and when we get Dem presidents… it kind of goes to hell again because the trade deals falter. And that’s kind of where they are now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love this history. Thank you for sharing. My oldest son is a US Marine and they have a very different take on the Viet Nam war. They could have plowed in and liberated North Viet Nam and won the war but the government officials made them stand down. All of that history is in the Marine Museum in San Diego. I walked through it after his graduation ceremony.

        One thing that resonate through this post is how much US politics affects the rest of the world. I wonder why we have such a big impact? Is it because we are a free nation (for now)?

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        1. IMO it’s because we’ve had money, mostly. Enough that we can dictate the terms of trade deals. This is really destructive in many cases, but does some good in some places. VN is one such place. I don’t think it will continue much longer, as it looks like we’re headed for a currency collapse.

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