Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Fyodor Okhlopkov - one of the greatest Soviet snipers

Fyodor Matveyevitch Okhlopkov was born 1908 in the remote village of Krest-Khaldzhay of what is now Tomponskiy Ulus of the Sakha Republic. He worked at a Kolkhoz farm, as a machine-operator, hunter and gold miner. In 1941, when the war against Fascist Germany broke out, Okhlopkov and his brother joined the army, and his brother was soon killed. Okhlopkov was at first a machine-gunner, then commander of a sub-machine gun company, and in October 1942 he became a sniper.

Okhlopkov is officially credited with 429 kills. For comparison, the far more famous Vasily Zaitsev is estimated to have killed "about 400" people (242 of them verified), Ivan Sidorenko "about 500", and Lyudmila Pavlichenko is credited with 309 kills. Okhlopkov is regarded as the #7 greatest sniper of all WWII (#1 is Finnish Simo "Белая Смерть" Häyhä with 542 confirmed kills).
Of course, it's difficult to compare snipers like this, since their main interest was not to keep tally of exactly how many enemy soldiers they killed, and it would have been suicidal to go check each fallen body to see if they had really died. So sniper tallies are more of a propaganda thing.

In any case, Okhlopkov was regarded as one of the greatest snipers in the Soviet army. The army newspaper Defender of the Fatherland wrote about him during the war: "He has the keen eye of a hunter, the hard hand of a miner, and a big, warm heart."
However, commanders didn't pay much attention to the contributions of indigenous people from remote republics. After the war, Okhlopkov quietly went back to Yakutia to work at a Sovkhos.

But a veterans group petitioned the government, and in 1965 Okhlopkov was finally made Hero of the Soviet Union and awarded an Order of Lenin, on the 20th anniversary of the end of the war.

Only two years later, Okhlopkov died at the age of 59 years. He had been weakened by the many injuries he had sustained in the war.

An article about Fyodor Okhlopkov by Carter W Park, who travelled to Sakha in business, discovered Okhlopkov at a local military museum, and tried to find out more about him through reluctant relatives.
The top photo is from gazetayakutia.ru.
The bottom photo, where the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of Yakut ASSR, A.Y. Ovchinnikova, hands Okhlopkov the Star of the Hero in 1965, is from the archives of the Sakha administration, found on sakha.gov.ru.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Siberian Life

Evenk reindeer herder in Kusur, Yakutia.

Sergei, Yakut horse herder. (If you think he looks cute, wait till you see the kind of horses he is herding...)

Misha Moldanov, Khanty of Siberia. The above photo was taken by Scott S. Warren, who has written several articles about everyday life among the Khanty people. For more quality photos see: Report From Siberia: Life In A Khanty Reindeer Camp and Report From Siberia: Making A Living. Moldanov is quite a popular photo model: here's a colour shot at Brian & Cherry Alexander Photography. The latter website has many interesting galleries of various native peoples of the Arctic region, from Inuit and Saami to Nenets, Yakut and Cree. Especially the people's interaction with their dogs is interesting - they are dependent on them for survival and treat them as companions, yet not pets. You can see how many of the dogs enjoy being with their human families, even though their life is hard.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

In South Ossetia

A ceasefire is in place between the Russian and Georgian armed forces, but it is apparently very fragile. There is a lot of distrust between the parties, and the situation is very unstable. Estimates say that about 100,000 people are displaced, and up to 2,000 people - soldiers and civilians - have been killed so far (though the latter number is thought to be exaggerated, and anyone can only guess, because there is no information).

The conflict in South Ossetia is as much about media, and it is very difficult to trust any reports.
But a news report that most certainly cannot be disputed is that there are many handsome men involved in the conflict on all sides ...

A Georgian tank soldier in Gori on Saturday. From AP by George Abdaladze via daylife.

Chechen special forces soldiers from the Vostok (East) army unit sit atop of an APC as they move toward Tskhinvali on Saturday. From Reuters via daylife.

Georgian soldiers returning from Tskhinvali on Sunday. From AP via Der Spiegel.

A Russian peacekeeper sits at the checkpoint near Tskhinvali on Sunday. From Reuters via daylife.

A physician treats an injured man in a hospital in Dzhava, South Ossetia, on Sunday. From AP by Musa Sadulayev, via daylife.

A South Ossetian soldier secures an area next to a destroyed Russian armoured personnel carrier in Tskhinvali on Sunday. From Reuters via daylife.

A Russian soldier takes cover as a tank convoy enters Tskhinvali on Monday. From AP by Mikhail Metzel, via daylife.

A protester carries a Georgian flag and shouts anti-Russian slogans outside the Russian embassy in Beijing on Monday. From Reuters via daylife.

Russian soldiers drink water in Tskhinvali on Monday. From AFP/Getty Images via daylife.

A Georgian soldier smokes as Georgian forces head towards Tbilisi on Monday, just outside Gori. From Getty Images via daylife.

Soldiers, part of a Russian military convoy, travel on their way on a main road leading to the Georgian city of Zugdidi today, Wednesday. From Reuters via daylife.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Chirayliq Olympics

Some photos from Spiegel.de...

Zhang Xiangxiang - Gold!

Park Kyung-Mo & team - Gold!

Kosuke Kitajima - Gold! Cho-kimochii!

Just to show off how extremely cute Kosuke-san is... as if that's not enough, his website is called "Frogtown"!

Elnur Mammadli beats Wang Ki-chun with an ippon in 13 seconds! Gold - first one ever to Azerbaijan in judo!

Tatars in Japan

"History of Turks-Tatars in Japan Episode 04", uploaded by kizilmaske87 (who has lots of other nice clips on YouTube of Chirayliq interest).
Let's practise our Turkish and Tatar (for non-Turanians, the subtitled bits are in Tatar). I especially like the slideshow of 1920's photos towards the end of the clip. Because it is a Turkish production, the narrator speaks about "Turk-Tatars". ^_^
Episode 4 tells the story of the first large immigration wave in the 1920's. First, many Volga (Idel-Ural) Tatars arrived after the revolution to Manchukuo. Until 1930, the center for Tatars in the Far East was Harbin, then it moved to Japan. Tatars settled in Yokohama, Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe. In the beginning, most of them were single men doing trade. Then they started to bring their families, or get married. They settled close to other Muslim families. Some did business for the Muslim community as butchers or grocers. But most of them were in the textile business, selling clothes all over Japan.
Exactly like the Tatars in Finland!

Episode 5: Kurban Ali, translator at Manchuria Railways, organized the Tatars (he looks almost like Ymär Abdrahim, a Helsinki businessman in the 1920's-1930's!) in Shibuya. There were 3000 Tatars in Japan, 400 in Tokyo and 600 in Kobe. In 1927 they got permission from the Japanese government to open a madrasa (school) in a rented space in Shin-okubo (Tokyo). The same building was used also as a prayer and meeting room. Here is it in March 2007, photographed by Ainur, who has been inside it and had some tea, too!

Episode 7: Now it gets really interesting...
In 1933 two famous intellectuals, Ayaz Ishaki and Abdurreshit Ibrahim (of course there's a research project about him at Freie Universität Berlin), came to Japan. Ibrahim became a community leader. He had previously been in Japan and had contact with important political personalities. Among these was Mitsuru Toyama, a leading thinker of Japanese nationalism and Asianism. In 1909 he established Ajia Gikai (Asian Parlament) together with some Japanese and Turkic leaders. It is claimed that many high level Japanese converted to Islam and joined this association to help liberation movements of Muslim nations in Asia. Ibrahim died in Tokyo in 1944. Ayaz Ishaki, a writer and journalist, had been a member of the Muslim Turko-Tatar parliament established in Ufa 1918-20. He was an advocate of Idel-Ural unity. He opened branches of the Idel-Ural Turk-Tatar Culture society in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe and Kumamoto. However, Ishaki and Kurban became rivals...
Yes, there were Japanese Muslims:

From SELÇUK ESENBEL - Japan's Global Claim to Asia and the World of Islam: Transnational Nationalism and World Power, 1900–1945
PS. The story of how the Tatars of Japan became Turks is quite interesting. Turkish soldiers were among the Allied forces in the Korean war. The Tatar community helped wounded Turkish soldiers in Japanese hospitals with such zeal that a Turkish general asked them how Turkey could reply to their kindness. The Tatars (who probably like the Finnish Tatars were stateless for a long time) requested Turkish citizenship, and received it in 1953. After this, Tatars started to emigrate. There are only 70 of the original population left.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

In The News

I feel like a sad person for posting here two hours after midnight, but Russian military has launched an offensive into separatist South Ossetia after Georgian troops invaded the region.

The allegiance of South Ossetia is disputed. Officially, it belongs to Georgia. There is a strong separatist tendency and the region split de facto from Georgia after a civil war 1990-1992. Most of the inhabitants are Russian citizens. Russia supports South Ossetia financially and has maintained a military force there, as a part of a mixed "peace corps". NATO supports Georgia and its territorial claims. International law does not sanction the two referendums in South Ossetia that supported separation in 1992 and 2006. Georgia accuses Russia of trying to annex both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russian leaders who demanded self-determination for South Ossetia had a different standard for Chechnya. The USA has been treating Georgia as a loyal ally - there are Georgian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and American military advisors in Tbilisi. The UN security council cannot agree on a consistent policy.

Da haben wir den Salat.

Neither Russian nor Georgian top politicians have been any poster children for democracy lately. Saakashvili has been cracking down on political opposition. Putin shows class by demanding revenge for dead soldiers rather than namby-pamby justice. The American presidential candidates are trying to trump each other in their reactions against Russian aggression and ask Russia to respect Georgian territory (when history jokes, she is not exactly subtle isn't she?).

What is really horrible is the plight of the ordinary people.

Some headlines translated from Der Spiegel, my main German news source after Titanic Magazin (which is currently focused on lampooning the Olympics, China and the West):

Photos: Thousands are fleeing the battles in South Ossetia
Analysis: Conflict of South Ossetia - Proxy War About Power and Resources
Portrait: President Saakashvili - Superman in Crisis
Europe Caught By Caucasian War On The Hop: Nobody listens to the EU as usual - not that the EU leaders have anything more sensible to say. Even NATO seems to have been startled by the sudden outbreak of violence.

And a headline from Helsingin Sanomat, Finland's largest newspaper:
Saakashvili: "We are like the Finns in the Winter War" (the real treat of the article is the flaming comments section, where readers debate if this is a valid comparison, political propaganda or an insult against Finland's national honour)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

"Komeat keskiaasialaiset miehet (heteroille)"?

Chirayliqin henkeen kuuluu rajankäynti idän ja lännen välillä. Monet artikkeleistamme käsittelevät mielikuvia idästä ja lännestä, ja miten keskiaasialaiset, vaikka nimensä mukaan elävät Aasian keskellä, usein olemuksellaan tai elämänteoillaan kyseenalaistavat kuvitteellista rajaa. Siksi Chirayliq on myös avoin keskiaasialaisten naapureille.

Suomalaiset miehet pääsevät joskus kunnia-chirayliqeiksi jos heidän ulkonäkönsä sopii aiheeseen ja/tai he pelaavat jääkiekkoa. Meillä käy myös suomalaisia vierailijoita. Keskustelunaiheena Fighter Magazinen (julkaisu Tinetin mieleen?...) foorumilla esiintyy artikkelimme Suomen tataareista. Etenkin nuoren Teuvo Tulion (synt. Theodor Tugai) muotokuva karvareuhkassa saa ansaittua huomiota.

Tervetuloa vain! On hauska nähdä että vaarikin (siis Abbas alias Esko, ei Theodor alias Teuvo... voi assimilaation painetta!) saa vanhoilla päivillään foorumiphamea.
Muutama huomionarvoinen seikka: Väite että Teuvo Tulio polveutuisi Tshingis Khanista ei ole meiltä peräisin. (Onkohan vierailijoiden omaa vilkasta mielikuvitusta?) Suomen mishääritataarit, vaikka heidän joukossaan on ollut monta urheaa soturia, eivät todennäköisesti ole sen lähempää sukua mongolihallitsijalle kuin muinaiset naapurinsa mordvalaiset ja maritkaan. Teuvo Tulio oli isänsä puolelta todennäköisesti Baltian tataari (lue lisää Tulio-tutkimuksistani). Vaikka jotkut näistä polveutuivat Kultaisen Ordan sotureista joita Liettuan ruhtinaat värväsivät armeijoihinsa, ja vaikka heistä vuorostaan polveutui Charles Bronson, eivät hekään olleet kovin läheisissä suhteissa maailmanvalloittajaan... ainakaan Tokhtamyshin tuhon jälkeen.

Otsikosta vielä sen verran että "komeat keskiaasialaiset miehet" eivät todellakaan ole vain heteroille tarkoitettuja...

PS: Kiitokset vinkistä äidille, jonka haukansilmiltä ei välty internetissäkään.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


How can I match the previous awesome posts by Tinet?
I browsed desperately through Flickr for ideas. There was plenty of the stuff that Chirayliq are made of, including cute and mischievous Jews and cuddly grumpy Arabs (doesn't he look a bit like Adriano Celentano?) and their slightly insane admirers.*)

*) Yes, those are all devoted fans of the young prince of Dubai whom Sweden's crown princess Victoria visited a few months ago. I guess I am a bit insane too. I blame Tintin comics, they always had lots of cute swarthy Arabs running about in flowing robes. The stereotype totally backfired. Just look at this guy... mashallah!

But what really took the cake was this video found through the always entertaining desi blog Sepia Mutiny (!). Giju John (33) was born i Thiruvananthapuram, India, and is now an engineer in Silicon Valley. He also dances a mean salsa - Hindi style.

Watch out for the cute East Asian couple's acrobatic routine right before the end!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner

From one movie with full frontal male nudity to another ...

Our reader Netania suggested we briefly stray from the Eurasian continent over to Canada. After all, the indigenous populations of Arctic Russia and Arctic North America are not all that far from each other.

Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner (2001) is a film based on a legend from Igloolik, a community located on a small island in the north Baffin region of the Canadian Arctic.

This is Canada's first feature-length fiction film written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit. In the movie, the hero Atanarjuat has to battle natural and supernatural bullies ("the inter-generational fallout from bad stuff by one badass shaman in polar-bear leggings", as Netania put it) in order to win his beloved and restore peace in the tribe.

Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq) and his brother Amaqjuaq (Pakak Innukshuk).

Atanarjuat is the hero, and he gets the full frontal nudity scene - while running for his life from his rival Oki's murderous intent across the spring sea ice (!) - but of course the "bad guy" Oki actually seems more interesting ...

Atanarjuat and Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq) face off in a head punch contest over Oki's promised wife-to-be, Atuat.

After he has murdered his father Sauri, Oki dons the walrus tooth necklace for the first time.


Finally, director Zacharias Kunuk:

Check out the galleries section of the official website for more screenshots (including nude scenes) and other photos.

Honorary Russian: Viggo Mortensen

Okay, here comes a less serious post ...

I recently watched Eastern Promises (2007), a slightly orientalist drama movie directed by David Cronenberg, which is about a midwife in London who gets dangerously involved with the Russian old-school mafia when she tries to find out something about a patient of hers who died while giving birth.
The gangsters in this film are supposed to be trüe Воры в законе, a form of organisation that dates back to the late 20's to early 30's. While they still exist today, they should not be confused with a considerable part of the modern Russian mafia, who don't follow the same strict codes.

Almost none of the Russians in the film are real Russians, and most of them are not all that convincing, but Viggo Mortensen (half Danish, half US American) alone is a reason to watch this film over and over again. He plays the truly badass Nikolai, a coldblooded gangster, the hardest of the hard, who has a slight obsessive-compulsive disorder and a sick sense of humour. As well as an almost authentic Russian flavour.

Apparently Viggo prepared for his role by travelling by himself to Siberia (where Nikolai is from originally), hanging out with random Russians, some of them criminals, and watching them and copying their behaviour. The way he moves and the facial expressions he wears as Nikolai are really spot-on.
While his Russian could be even better (some of the "hard" consonants, not least ф, б and ш, as well as the vowel ы, can be very difficult), his accent holds a rarely high standard for any non-Russian actor pretending to be Russian.

Listen to Nikolai "the undertaker" explain what he is about to do. Guess what the sound at the end of the clip is.

Getting the pliers out and that silk tie out of the way.

Kirill and Nikolai dump a body. Listen to Nikolai explain the location ...

Anna the midwife has a nice Soviet motorbike inherited from her Russian father (she is half Russian, but doesn't speak any Russian and is totally assimilated into British society; one of the reasons why she can't keep her fingers from this case might actually be curiosity about her own Russian roots).
At one point, the bike's engine gets wet and it won't start. Nikolai sees her struggle with it, and his Russian Male Pride at first suggests that she can't start the bike because she as a woman is not strong enough to kick it properly.

But he, albeit being a strong and badass Russian Man, can't start the bike, either ...

- Have you ever met a girl called Tatyana?
- I met lot of girls called Tatyana.
- She was pregnant.
- Ah. In that case - no, I never heard of her. Heh.
- ...

Threatening Russian gesture.

(Click to enlarge.) The importance of tattoos is perhaps a little bit overdramatized in the film, but Viggo by himself conducted extensive research to ensure that the tattoos of his character were exactly like what he would have if he were a real, existing person.
The tattoos of Russian criminals often mark the tattooed person's criminal history and prison experiences, so Nikolai's tattoos should reflect his history - the crimes he had commited, his prison sentences and special punishments like solitary confinement.

In fact, in an interview in the DVD extras he tells about how he one day went to a pub straight from the set, without washing off his fake tattoos or changing his hairstyle. There was a Russian couple at the pub, and Viggo listened to them talking and tried to see if he could learn something or recognise some words. Then all of a sudden they fell quiet, and he looked over to them and saw that they were staring at the tattoos on his hands, looking quite horrified. Viggo felt bad about scaring them, but he was also happy that he was able to look so convincing.

(Click to enlarge.) The guy who plays the tattoo artist (one of the few native Russian-speakers in the film) is aware of the dangers in this movie popularizing Russian criminal tattoos. So, in an interview he explains that if a Вор would see a фраер (non-criminal, "normal citizen", a potential victim) with these stars tattooed on them, he would get someone - or do it himself - and cut the pieces of flesh with the tattoos off that person, because he has not earned them.

(Click to enlarge.)

The church with the three towers on Nikolai's back symbolizes the three prison sentences that he has served. (Click to enlarge.)

There is also an incredibly intense fight scene where Nikolai fights naked against two other gangsters, but though I made a lot of screencaps of it I don't think they are quite suitable for a family website like Chirayliq. Watch the movie. You won't regret it. (Indeed, Viggo had nothing really to be ashamed of.)

Friday, 1 August 2008

Takiji Kobayashi

"1920s proletarian novel strikes chord with young underemployed" - The Japan Times, Friday, July 18, 2008

I first read about Takiji Kobayashi (小林 多喜二 1903-1933) in the Finnish socialist literary magazine Kirjallisuuslehti (1934, p. 290). He was a politically conscious writer and dissident in imperial Japan, tortured to death by the police. His rediscovered novel, Kanikosen ("Crab-Canning Boat", 1929), deals with the difficult working conditions and labourers' collective struggle 80 years ago, and the modern-day part-time proletariat has discovered its relevance.
Shinchosha Publishing Co. said that in a normal year around 5,000 copies of the book would be reprinted. But this year, it has already printed nearly 380,000 copies.
The Japanarchy blog has a big post on Kobayashi, including many images of the manga based on Kanikosen. The comments include valuable discussions, too (how often do you see that?!). A must-read if you are interested in radical labour activism and Japan in the 1920's and 30's. Warning: The post includes some difficult photos of the deceased Kobayashi.
Here is a 10-minute clip from the 1953 movie by Sô Yamamura.

And here's an article by a guy who worked at fish-processing ships himself, and what he felt when he read the manga versions.

(Crossposted at 1920 A.D.)