Filed under: Communism, Europe, Foreign Policy, Freedom, History, Humor, Russia, The United States, United Kingdom | Tags: A Book of Limericks, And Much More, Renounded Historian, Seven Collections of Poetry
The great historian of Russia has passed away at the age of 98. Robert Conquest spent 28 years at the Hoover Institution where he was a Senior Research Fellow. He has, perhaps, been best known for his landmark work The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties. Thirty-five years after its publication, the book remains one of the most influential studies of Soviet history and has been translated into more than 20 languages. It is a detailed log of Stalin’s assassinations, arrests, tortures, frame-ups, forced confessions, show trials, executions and incarcerations that destroyed millions of lives.
Conquest was the author of twenty-one books on Soviet history, politics, and international affairs, including Harvest of Sorrow, which exposed the terror famine in the Ukraine, Stalin and the Kirov Murder, The Great Terror a Reassessment, Stalin: Breaker of Nations and Reflections on a Ravaged Century and The Dragons of Expectation. The last two are treasured books of mine.
He wrote one science fiction novel, and lots of poetry for which he also received awards.
He had no shortage of awards, the Jefferson Lectureship, the highest honor bestowed by the federal government for achievement in the humanities (1930), the Dan David Prize (2012), Poland’s Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit (2009), Estonia’s Cross of Terra Mariana (2008), and the Ukrainian Order of Yaroslav Mudryi (2005).
Educated at Winchester College and the University of Grenoble, he was an exhibitioner in modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford, receiving his BA and MA in politics, philosophy, and economics and his DLitt in history.
Conquest served in the British infantry in World War II and thereafter in His Majesty’s Diplomatic Service; he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. In 1996 he was named a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
( from the Hoover Institution, and Cynthia Haven)
Filed under: Capitalism, Communism, Cuba, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Latin America | Tags: Free Markets / Free People, No Change in Communism, Raul Castro: "We Won!"
President Raúl Castro, Fidel’s little brother, declared victory for the Cuban Revolution in a televised speech before Parliament and a group of favored guests —including Elián Gonzales (remember him?) — reaffirming that any restored relations with the United States did not mean any change in Communist rule in Cuba. He added “We won the war.”
Obama didn’t check in with any of the Cuban community here or with the Cubans who are fighting for freedom in Cuba. They are pretty unanimous in saying that the way Obama has gone about this is a major mistake. The Ladies in White who march in support of political prisoners each week in a major display of courage, said “betrayal” and didn’t understand why Obama had gone back on his statement that “significant steps toward democracy” must precede any liberalization.
As usual, Obama does not learn from history. Engagement does not necessarily promote freedom — see China, Vietnam, and increasingly less freedom in those countries.
In an official announcement in the state newspaper Gramma. government officials announced a system in which employees of corporations with foreign capital will be paid two Cuban Pesos for every Convertible Cuban Peso (CUP) which are used exclusively for tourists and is the equivalent of an American dollar and 26.5 Cuban Pesos. The 24 Cuban Pesos that workers will NOT receive amount to 92% of their salaries. So 92% of the value of Cubans’ work will go to prop up the Communist state. How that is supposed to be an important entry in the history books for Mr. Obama is not clear.
Cuba’s major benefactors —Russia and Venezuela — are in deep trouble from the declining price of oil. The current price is far below their ‘break-even’ point. Some Conservatives welcome the change in policy, believing that free trade will make great changes in Cuba. Raúl Castro doesn’t think so. “Once they see better goods and services” they say, but at roughly 67¢ a day in income Cubans cannot buy “better goods.” I don’t know what they have to trade. Reportedly, even their cigars aren’t that good any more.
Will Cuba suddenly allow their people to travel to the U.S.? Not likely. Any visitors to the U.S would be likely to seek asylum. The Cuban Adjustment Act says that any Cuban who is granted parole into the U.S. may, after one year apply for adjustment to permanent resident status. In the past every Cuban who made it here got parole and a green card.
I firmly believe in free markets and free people — but the “free” part seems to be completely missing here.
Filed under: Communism, Europe, Foreign Policy, History, Politics, Russia, The United States | Tags: The Berlin Airlift, The Berlin Blockade, The Fall of the Wall
This video included the thrilling moment when the first people spilled across the border, twenty-five years ago. The wall was erected to keep the people in the Russian Sector of a divided Berlin in. And so it did for forty-four years. The Wall stood 13 feet high and was augmented with watchtowers, alarms, trenches, mines, guard dogs and guards with machine guns all to keep the people of East Berlin in. More than 100 people were killed trying to cross the wall.
In Berlin, Christopher and Marc Bauder, light artists, created ten miles of lighted white helium balloons to mark the route of the wall through Berlin, as a reminder of how the city used to be.The 8,000 balloons began at Bornholmer Street border crossing, one of the former checkpoints between East and West Germany, and were released into the night sky as a symbol of liberation.
As former National Review editor John O’Sullivan has noted “Communism had failed to retain enough true believers who would murder on its behalf.”
At the end of the War in Europe, a ruined Berlin was occupied by the three Allied powers: Britain, France and the United States, and the Soviet Union. A discovery of archival photographs in 2010 demonstrates the ruined, starving city and signs of life in the struggle for survival. The devastation of war was nearly complete. Here is the gallery of 20 pictures from der Spiegel. Here is a post from 2009 recounting German Chancellor Angela Merkel who spoke before a joint session of Congress remembering the American and Allied pilots who flew food to a starving Berlin.
Does anyone remember the Berlin Blockade and the answering Berlin Airlift today? It was an incredible accomplishment made possible with courage and split-second timing. On June 24, 1948, Soviet forces blockaded rail, road and water access to the Allied-controlled sector of Berlin. The United States and United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied Airbases in western Germany.
It was a very tense time. The Soviets wanted to drive the Allies out of Germany. Airlifting food and fuel seemed nearly impossible to meet the desperate need. But Allied efficiency saved the day. Gradually the number of aircraft increased, At the height of the campaign one aircraft was landing every 45 seconds at Templehof Airport. Timing was so strict that a plane that was not able to land had to turn back to make way for the next. As the Allies showed that they could maintain the airlift indefinitely, the blockade fell apart. Moscow lifted the blockade on May 11, 1949.
Mikhail Gorbachev spoke in Berlin today, warning of the potential for a new Cold War. It was the ordinary people of Eastern, Soviet controlled Europe who rose up in protest and deserve pride of place. But history records, for different reasons, two major figures: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. John Fund notes the Reagan effect:
Reagan first saw the Wall in 1978, when he told his aide Peter Hannaford: “We’ve got to find a way to knock this thing down.” After he became president, he returned in 1982 and enraged the Soviets by taking a couple of ceremonial steps across a painted borderline. Then, in 1987, he overruled his own State Department by giving a momentous speech in which he implored the Soviet general secretary directly: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Here’s the lighted balloon wall. It must have been very moving to see them drift away, one at a time.
They did tear down the Wall and Berlin was unified only two years later. In the wake of learning that a number of students at Texas Tech have no idea who won the Civil war, a little history seems appropriate. It’s a day and a history worth celebrating.