Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ruthenia? Where’s that then? Well, it’s not in North Cornwall, but apparently TASS insists the persecuted locals would very much like it to be a part of Mother Russia. Closer to home, the Daily Express has another savvy piece of health advice and how we might still save ourselves from diabetes

The clocks have gone back, the evenings are drawing out and so it is back to my Sunday evening routine of going to the Scarsdale for a drink and a smoke. It’s not warm, it never really gets particularly warm in Britain, especially not now at the beginning of April. But it’s warm enough for my fingers not to lock up with frostbite while I type. And I thought I might add yet another entry to this blog.

As usual when I start an entry, I take a look at the ‘stats’ which tell me which posts have recently been read and who is reading them. And that has brought up something quite curious: this week, my blog has had 131 visitors from the United States and 60 from the United Kingdom. Fair enough, but what is puzzling is that it has also had 65 visitors from Russia (I was about to write the USSR – I wonder why?) and 33 from Ukrained (which I am now careful not to call The Ukraine as I understand it is something of an insult).

What, I ask myself, can interest any Russian or Ukrainian reading this blog? Admittedly, I have written several entries about Putin, Peter Pomerantsov’s book, Ukraine, Crimea and related topics, but I am the first to record that I have absolutely nothing original to report or write about, and that what I do write about is more or less stuff I have read elsewhere and reproduced, perhaps adding my not to informed observations. But they keep coming. Why. Do the folk coming here do the rounds of many blogs? Surely they must, and there are a great deal to choose from. And as I am interested, I would very much appreciate any Russian or Ukrainian visitor to email me and tell me what brought them here (and perhaps add a little about themselves).

. . .

Coincidentally, I came across a report in The Economist which piqued my interest. It is about the ‘Ruthenes’ in Transcarpathia. And, yes, I did have to consulte a map to find out where the hell Transcarpathia. Sorry, but perhaps you have to do the same when I mention North Cornwall. Nor had I before heard of the Ruthenes, but it seems they are an established ethnic Slavic group which has lived in Transcarpathia – mainly in Ukraine, but also in Poland and Slovakia.

That area of Ukaine is also home to a few hundred thousands ethnic Hungarians, and it was about a report by the Russian news agency TASS the The Economist was writing. It said that TASS had publicised supposed Ruthenian ethnic tensions, and so far, so unsurprising. What was surprising is that, according to The Economist, TASS’s report is complete fiction, that whatever problems the region does has, ethinic tensions is not one of them. So why did TASS make them up (if, as I am obliged to do, you believe The Economist rather than TASS)?

Well, given Ukraine’s past and present troubles, the answer might not be that difficult to suggest. When Russia made its grab for Crimea, it also cited tensions between Russians and Ukrainians as a reason to move in. In fact, according to Russia it didn’t actually move in at all: ethnic Russians made the first move, but the upshot is that Crimea is now once again a part of Russia. Something similar happened in Eastern Ukraine where some folk – I stress some – felt they wanted to be part of Russia than Ukraine and started shooting to make their point.

The obvious question, one which undoubtedly The Economist is posing is: are the Russians not trying to do the same in Transcarpathia? The second strand to the TASS report was that local ethnic

No, that isn’t North Cornwall, but
apparently TASS would like it to be

Hungarians, though with Ukrainian nationality, ‘are also unhappy’, and that Hungary’s, in my view very unsavoury Viktor Orban (my judgment is based on the many unsavoury things he has done and said – he is, for example, stressingly anti-semitic) of the ruling Fiedesz party, who seems never to miss a trick when it comes to misechief-making - is doing the same. (The Economist piece adds that Orban is one of the few friends Vlad the Lad Putin has in among the EU members, which to my mind figures.)

In fact Orban is said to have called for autonomy for Hungarian Ukrainians. Worse, Hungary’s Jobbik party, by far to the right of Orban’s gang, has called a resolution of ‘the situation of the Transcarpathian Hungarians’. It isn’t looking good. I suppose the first question to ask is why did TASS publicise its report in the first place? Answers, please, from anyone with an idea, but not on the ususal postcard but as an email to me.

PS It doesn’t, of course, help that Ruthenia, as the area is known, sounds horribly like Ruritania to my cloth ears. 

. . .

The thing about the Scarsdale here in leafy Kensington is that were a foreigner to sit here and eavesdrop on the clientele in the hope of improving their English, they would be very disappointed. I’ve been sitting here for almost 90 minutes and only one other group out here in the ‘smoking area’ is speaking English. French, yes, German, yes, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, certainly, but no English. What would they think of it all at The Old Inn in St Breward (where I live) and where a great many folk are well on their way to speaking quite good English?

. . .

I commented in a recent post on the unnerving drive our press in Britain have for ensuring everything, but everything, they print is true. Doubters would be astounded at the lengths Fleet Street (the old collective name for our national papers) goes to in order to ensure that every fact is checked, checked and checked again before it is allowed in its pages.

There’s the story (perhaps apocryphal, but it certainly has the ring of truth, knowing as I do the sheer bloodyminded dedication of generations of hacks and hackesses to print the truth, all of the truth and nothing but the truth) that a well-known writer commissioned to write an Easter homily was told he could not refer to ‘God’ in his piece as there was no way the paper could establish whether God actually existed. Sounds daft, of course, but that is what real professionalism is.

And speaking of professionalism, here is the front page splash of last Thursday’s Daily Express with the lowdown on that awful, awful disease diabetes and one of the ways we can try to avoid developing it. I understand that when they got wind of it, Sky TV, the BBC, Channel Four, ITV and CBeebies even resorted to the High Court and applied for an injunction to stop publication, but to no avail: in the tradition which makes me so proud to be just one more who follows our calling the Express invoked the time-honoured principle of ‘Publish and be damned’.

Here is that front page.

You have been warned. Turn it off!

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