Mozambique: Truth Knowledge and History Of This South African Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Mozambique

Introduction Almost five centuries as a Portuguese colony came to a close with independence in 1975. Large-scale emigration by whites, economic dependence on South Africa, a severe drought, and a prolonged civil war hindered the country’s development until the mid 1990’s. The ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) party formally abandoned Marxism in 1989, and a new constitution the following year provided for multiparty elections and a free market economy. A UN-negotiated peace agreement between FRELIMO and rebel Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) forces ended the fighting in 1992. In December 2004, Mozambique underwent a delicate transition as Joaquim CHISSANO stepped down after 18 years in office. His elected successor, Armando Emilio GUEBUZA, promised to continue the sound economic policies that have encouraged foreign investment. Mozambique has seen very strong economic growth since the end of the civil war

largely due to post-conflict reconstruction.

History Between the first and fourth centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking people migrated from the west and north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. The Bantu were farmers and ironworkers.

When Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498, Arab commercial and slave trading settlements had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries. From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts became regular ports of call on the new route to the east. Later, traders and prospectors penetrated the interior regions seeking gold and slaves. Although Portuguese influence gradually expanded, its power was limited and exercised through individual settlers and officials who were granted extensive autonomy. As a result, investment lagged while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and the Far East and to the colonisation of Brazil.

By the early 20th century the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of Mozambique to large private companies, like the Mozambique Company, the Zambezi Company and the Niassa Company, controlled and financed mostly by the British, which established railroad lines to neighbouring countries and supplied cheap – often forced – African labor to the mines and plantations of the nearby British colonies and South Africa. Because policies and development plans were primarily designed by the ruling authorities for the benefit of Mozambique’s Portuguese population, little attention was paid to Mozambique’s tribal integration and the development of its native communities. This affected a majority of the indigenous population who suffered both state-sponsored discrimination and enormous social pressure. Many felt they had received too little opportunity or resources to upgrade their skills and improve their economic and social situation to a degree comparable to that of the Europeans.

The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), initiated a guerrilla campaign against Portuguese rule in September 1964. This conflict, along with the two others already initiated in the other Portuguese colonies of Angola and Guinea-Bissau, became part of the so-called Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974).

After 10 years of sporadic warfare and Portugal’s return to democracy through a leftist military coup in Lisbon (the Carnation Revolution of April 1974), FRELIMO took control of the territory. Within a year, almost all Portuguese population had left – some expelled by the government of the newly-independent territory, some fleeing in fear –, and Mozambique became independent from Portugal on June 25, 1975.

Conflict and civil war

The new government, under president Samora Machel, gave shelter and support to South African (ANC) and Zimbabwean (ZANU) liberation movements while the governments of first Rhodesia and later South Africa (at that time still operating the apartheid laws) fostered and financed an armed rebel movement in central Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). Hence, civil war, sabotage from neighbouring white-ruled states such as Rhodesia and the Apartheid regime of South Africa, and economic collapse characterized the first decade of Mozambican independence. Also marking this period were the mass exodus of Portuguese nationals and Mozambicans of Portuguese heritage, a weak infrastructure, and government nationalisation of privately owned industries. During most of the civil war, the government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of which were cut off from the capital. An estimated 1 million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge in neighbouring states, and several million more were internally displaced. On October 19, 1986 Samora Machel was on his way back from an international meeting in Zambia in the presidential Tupolev Tu-134 aircraft when the plane crashed in the Lebombo Mountains, near Mbuzini. There were nine survivors but President Machel and twenty-four others died, including ministers and officials of the Mozambique government. The United Nations’ Soviet delegation issued a minority report contending that their expertise and experience had been undermined by the South Africans. Representatives of the USSR advanced the theory that the plane had been intentionally diverted by a false navigational beacon signal, using a technology provided by military intelligence operatives of the South African government (at that time still operating the laws of apartheid).[1] Machel’s successor, Joaquim Chissano, continued the reforms and began peace talks with RENAMO. The new constitution enacted in 1990 provided for a multi-party political system, market-based economy, and free elections. The civil war ended in October 1992 with the Rome General Peace Accords, brokered by the Community of Sant’Egidio. Under supervision of the ONUMOZ peacekeeping force of the United Nations, peace returned to Mozambique.

By mid-1995 the more than 1.7 million Mozambican refugees who had sought asylum in neighbouring Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa as a result of war and drought had returned, as part of the largest repatriation witnessed in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, a further estimated four million internally displaced persons returned to their areas of origin.

Foreign Relations

While allegiances dating back to the liberation struggle remain relevant, Mozambique’s foreign policy has become increasingly pragmatic. The twin pillars of Mozambique’s foreign policy are maintenance of good relations with its neighbours and maintenance and expansion of ties to development partners.

During the 1970s and the early 1980s, Mozambique’s foreign policy was inextricably linked to the struggles for majority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa as well as superpower competition and the Cold War. Mozambique’s decision to enforce UN sanctions against Rhodesia and deny that country access to the sea led Ian Smith’s government to undertake overt and covert actions to destabilize the country. Although the change of government in Zimbabwe in 1980 removed this threat, the government of South Africa (at that time still operating under the laws of apartheid) continued to finance the destabilization of Mozambique. It also belonged to the Front Line States.

The 1984 Nkomati Accord, while failing in its goal of ending South African support to RENAMO, opened initial diplomatic contacts between the Mozambican and South African governments. This process gained momentum with South Africa’s elimination of apartheid, which culminated in the establishment of full diplomatic relations in October 1993. While relations with neighbouring Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania show occasional strains, Mozambique’s ties to these countries remain strong.

In the years immediately following its independence, Mozambique benefited from considerable assistance from some Western countries, notably the Scandinavians. USSR and its allies, however, became Mozambique’s primary economic, military, and political supporters and its foreign policy reflected this linkage. This began to change in 1983; in 1984 Mozambique joined the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Western aid quickly replaced Soviet support, with the Scandinavians countries of Sweden (EU Member since 1995), Norway, Denmark (EU Member since 1973) and Iceland. Plus Finland (EU Member since 1995) and the Netherlands within the European Union are becoming increasingly important sources of development assistance. Italy also maintains a profile in Mozambique as a result of its key role during the peace process. Relations with Portugal, the former colonial power, continue to play an important role as Portuguese investors play a visible role in Mozambique’s economy.

Mozambique is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and ranks among the moderate members of the African bloc in the United Nations and other international organisations. Mozambique also belongs to the African Union (formerly the Organisation of African Unity) and the Southern African Development Community. In 1994, the government became a full member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, in part to broaden its base of international support but also to please the country’s sizable Muslim population. Similarly, in early 1996 Mozambique joined its Anglophone neighbours in the Commonwealth. It is the only nation to join the Commonwealth that was never part of the British Empire. In the same year, Mozambique became a founding member and the first President of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), and maintains close ties with other Lusophone states.

Geography Location: Southeastern Africa, bordering the Mozambique Channel, between South Africa and Tanzania
Geographic coordinates: 18 15 S, 35 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 801,590 sq km
land: 784,090 sq km
water: 17,500 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of California
Land boundaries: total: 4,571 km
border countries: Malawi 1,569 km, South Africa 491 km, Swaziland 105 km, Tanzania 756 km, Zambia 419 km, Zimbabwe 1,231 km
Coastline: 2,470 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical to subtropical
Terrain: mostly coastal lowlands, uplands in center, high plateaus in northwest, mountains in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Monte Binga 2,436 m
Natural resources: coal, titanium, natural gas, hydropower, tantalum, graphite
Land use: arable land: 5.43%
permanent crops: 0.29%
other: 94.28% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,180 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 216 cu km (1992)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.63 cu km/yr (11%/2%/87%)
per capita: 32 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: severe droughts; devastating cyclones and floods in central and southern provinces
Environment – current issues: a long civil war and recurrent drought in the hinterlands have resulted in increased migration of the population to urban and coastal areas with adverse environmental consequences; desertification; pollution of surface and coastal waters; elephant poaching for ivory is a problem
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: the Zambezi flows through the north-central and most fertile part of the country
Politics Mozambique is a multi-party democracy under the 1990 constitution. The executive branch comprises a president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. There is a National Assembly and municipal assemblies. The judiciary comprises a Supreme Court and provincial, district, and municipal courts. Suffrage is universal at eighteen.

In the 1994 elections. Joaquim Chissano was elected President with 53% of the vote, and a 250-member National Assembly was voted in with 129 FRELIMO deputies, 112 RENAMO deputies, and nine representatives of three smaller parties that formed the Democratic Union (UD). Since its formation in 1994, the National Assembly has made progress in becoming a body increasingly more independent of the executive. By 1999, more than one-half (53%) of the legislation passed originated in the Assembly.

After some delays, in 1998 the country held its first local elections to provide for local representation and some budgetary authority at the municipal level. The principal opposition party, RENAMO, boycotted the local elections, citing flaws in the registration process. Independent slates contested the elections and won seats in municipal assemblies. Turnout was very low.

In the aftermath of the 1998 local elections, the government resolved to make more accommodations to the opposition’s procedural concerns for the second round of multiparty national elections in 1999. Working through the National Assembly, the electoral law was rewritten and passed by consensus in December 1998. Financed largely by international donors, a very successful voter registration was conducted from July to September 1999, providing voter registration cards to 85% of the potential electorate (more than seven million voters).

The second general elections were held December 3-5, 1999, with high voter turnout. International and domestic observers agreed that the voting process was well organised and went smoothly. Both the opposition and observers subsequently cited flaws in the tabulation process that, had they not occurred, might have changed the outcome. In the end, however, international and domestic observers concluded that the close result of the vote reflected the will of the people.

President Chissano won the presidency with a margin of 4% points over the RENAMO-Electoral Union coalition candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, and began his five-year term in January, 2000. FRELIMO increased its majority in the National Assembly with 133 out of 250 seats. RENAMO-UE coalition won 116 seats, one went independent, and no third parties are represented.

The opposition coalition did not accept the National Election Commission’s results of the presidential vote and filed a formal complaint to the Supreme Court. One month after the voting, the court dismissed the opposition’s challenge and validated the election results. The opposition did not file a complaint about the results of the legislative vote.

The second local elections, involving thirty-three municipalities with some 2.4 million registered voters, took place in November 2003. This was the first time that FRELIMO, RENAMO-UE, and independent parties competed without significant boycotts. The 24% turnout was well above the 15% turnout in the first municipal elections. FRELIMO won twenty-eight mayoral positions and the majority in twenty-nine municipal assemblies, while RENAMO won five mayoral positions and the majority in four municipal assemblies. The voting was conducted in an orderly fashion without violent incidents. However, the period immediately after the elections was marked by objections about voter and candidate registration and vote tabulation, as well as calls for greater transparency.

In May 2004, the government approved a new general elections law that contained innovations based on the experience of the 2003 municipal elections.

Presidential and National Assembly elections took place on December 1-2, 2004. FRELIMO candidate Armando Guebuza won with 64% of the popular vote. His opponent, Afonso Dhlakama of RENAMO, received 32% of the popular vote. FRELIMO won 160 seats in Parliament. A coalition of RENAMO and several small parties won the 90 remaining seats. Armando Guebuza was inaugurated as the President of Mozambique on February 2, 2005. RENAMO and some other opposition parties made claims of election fraud and denounced the result. These claims were supported by international observers (among others by the European Union Election Observation Mission to Mozambique and the Carter Centre) to the elections who criticised the fact that the National Electoral Commission (CNE) did not conduct fair and transparent elections. They listed a whole range of shortcomings by the electoral authorities that benefited the ruling party FRELIMO. However, according to EU observers, the elections shortcomings have probably not affected the final result in the presidential election. On the other hand, the observers have declared that the outcome of the parliamentary election and thus the distribution of seats in the National Assembly does not reflect the will of the Mozambican people and is clearly to the disadvantage of RENAMO.

The Reporters Without Borders’ Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006 ranked Mozambique 45th out of 168 countries.

People Population: 21,284,701
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected; the 1997 Mozambican census reported a population of 16,099,246 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.5% (male 4,762,335/female 4,711,422)
15-64 years: 52.7% (male 5,472,184/female 5,736,154)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 251,026/female 351,580) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 17.4 years
male: 17 years
female: 17.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.792% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 38.21 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 20.29 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 107.84 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 110.67 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 104.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 41.04 years
male: 41.62 years
female: 40.44 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.24 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Turkmenistan: The Truth Knowledge And History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Turkmenistan

Introduction Eastern Turkmenistan for centuries formed part of the Persian province of Khurasan; in medieval times Merv (today known as Mary) was one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road. Annexed by Russia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1924. It achieved independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves could prove a boon to this underdeveloped country if extraction and delivery projects were to be expanded. The Turkmenistan Government is actively seeking to develop alternative petroleum transportation routes to break Russia’s pipeline monopoly. President for Life Saparmurat NYYAZOW died in December 2006, and Turkmenistan held its first multi-candidate presidential electoral process in February 2007. Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW, a vice premier under NYYAZOW, emerged as the country’s new president.
History The territory of Turkmenistan has a long and checkered history, as armies from one empire after another decamped there on their way to more prosperous territories. The region’s written history begins with its conquest by the Achaemenid Empire of ancient Persia, as the region was divided between the satrapies of Margiana, Khwarezm and Parthia.

Alexander the Great conquered the territory in the fourth century BCE on his way to South Asia, around the time that the Silk Road was established as a major trading route between Asia and the Mediterranean Region. One hundred and fifty years later, Persia’s Parthian Kingdom established its capital in Nisa, now in the suburbs of the capital, Ashgabat. In the seventh century CE, Arabs conquered this region, bringing with them Islam and incorporating the Turkmen into Middle Eastern culture. The Turkmenistan region soon came to be known as the capital of Greater Khorasan, when the caliph Al-Ma’mun moved his capital to Merv.

In the middle of the eleventh century, the Turkoman-ruled Seljuk Empire concentrated its strength in the territory of modern Turkmenistan in an attempt to expand into Khorasan (modern Afghanistan). The empire broke down in the second half of the twelfth century, and the Turkmen lost their independence when Genghis Khan took control of the eastern Caspian Sea region on his march west. For the next seven centuries, the Turkmen people lived under various empires and fought constant inter-tribal wars. Little is documented of Turkmen history prior to Russian engagement. However, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, Turkmen formed a distinct ethnolinguistic group. As the Turkmen migrated from the area around the Mangyshlak Peninsula in contemporary Kazakhstan toward the Iranian border region and the Amu Darya basin, tribal Turkmen society further developed cultural traditions that became the foundation of Turkmen national consciousness.

Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, control of Turkmenistan was fought over by Persian Shahs, Khivan Khans, the Emirs of Bukhara and the rulers of Afghanistan. During this period, Turkmen spiritual leader Magtymguly Pyragy reached prominence with his efforts to secure independence and autonomy for his people. At this time, the vast territory of Central Asia including the region of Turkmenistan was largely unmapped and virtually unknown to Europe and the Western world. Rivalry for control of the area between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia was characterized as The Great Game. Throughout their conquest of Central Asia, the Russians were met with the stiffest resistance by the Turkmen. By 1894, however, Russia had gained control of Turkmenistan and incorporated it into its empire. The rivalry officially concluded with the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Slowly, Russian and European cultures were introduced to the area. This was evident in the architecture of the newly-formed city of Ashgabat, which became the capital. The October Revolution of 1917 in Russia and subsequent political unrest led to the declaration of the area as the Turkmen SSR, one of the six republics of the Soviet Union in 1924, assuming the borders of modern Turkmenistan.

The new Turkmen SSR went through a process of further Europeanization. The tribal Turkmen people were encouraged to become secular and adopt European-style clothing. The Turkmen alphabet was changed from the traditional Arabic script to Latin and finally to Cyrillic. However, bringing the Turkmens to abandon their previous nomadic ways in favor of communism was not fully embraced until as late as 1948. Nationalist organizations in the region also existed during the 1920s and the 1930s.

When the Soviet Union began to collapse, Turkmenistan and the rest of the Central Asian states heavily favored maintaining a reformed version of the state, mainly because they needed the economic power and common markets of the Soviet Union to prosper. Turkmenistan declared independence on 27 October 1991, one of the last republics to secede.

In 1991, Turkmenistan became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, an international organization of former Soviet republics. However, Turkmenistan reduced its status in the organization to “associate member” in August 2005. The reason stated by the Turkmen president was the country’s policy of permanent neutrality. It is the only former Soviet state (aside from the Baltic states now in the European Union) without a full membership.

The former Soviet leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, remained in power as Turkmenistan’s leader after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Under his post-Soviet rule, Russian-Turkmeni relations greatly suffered.[citation needed] He styled himself as a promoter of traditional Muslim and Turkmen culture (calling himself “Turkmenbashi”, or “leader of the Turkmen people”), but he became notorious in the West for his dictatorial rule and extravagant cult of personality. The extent of his power greatly increased during the early 1990s, and in 1999 he became President for Life.

Niyazov died unexpectedly on 21 December 2006, leaving no heir apparent and an unclear line of succession. A former deputy prime minister rumored to be the illegitimate son of Niyazov, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, became acting president, although under the constitution the Chairman of the People’s Council, Ovezgeldy Atayev, should have succeeded to the post. However, Atayev was accused of crimes and removed from office.

In an election on 11 February 2007, Berdimuhamedow was elected president with 89% of the vote and 95% turnout, although the election was condemned by outside observers as unfair. He was sworn in on 14 February 2007.

Geography Location: Central Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Kazakhstan
Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 60 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 488,100 sq km
land: 488,100 sq km
water: NEGL
Area – comparative: slightly larger than California
Land boundaries: total: 3,736 km
border countries: Afghanistan 744 km, Iran 992 km, Kazakhstan 379 km, Uzbekistan 1,621 km
Coastline: 0 km; note – Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea (1,768 km)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: subtropical desert
Terrain: flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes rising to mountains in the south; low mountains along border with Iran; borders Caspian Sea in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Vpadina Akchanaya -81 m; note – Sarygamysh Koli is a lake in northern Turkmenistan with a water level that fluctuates above and below the elevation of Vpadina Akchanaya (the lake has dropped as low as -110 m)
highest point: Gora Ayribaba 3,139 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, sulfur, salt
Land use: arable land: 4.51%
permanent crops: 0.14%
other: 95.35% (2005)
Irrigated land: 18,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 60.9 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 24.65 cu km/yr (2%/1%/98%)
per capita: 5,104 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: contamination of soil and groundwater with agricultural chemicals, pesticides; salination, water logging of soil due to poor irrigation methods; Caspian Sea pollution; diversion of a large share of the flow of the Amu Darya into irrigation contributes to that river’s inability to replenish the Aral Sea; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; the western and central low-lying desolate portions of the country make up the great Garagum (Kara-Kum) desert, which occupies over 80% of the country; eastern part is plateau
Politics After 69 years as part of the Soviet Union (including 67 years as a union republic), Turkmenistan declared its independence on 27 October 1991.

President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov, a former bureaucrat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ruled Turkmenistan from 1985, when he became head of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR, until his death in 2006. He retained absolute control over the country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On 28 December 1999, Niyazov was declared President for Life of Turkmenistan by the Mejlis (parliament), which itself had taken office a week earlier in elections that included only candidates hand-picked by President Niyazov. No opposition candidates were allowed.

The politics of Turkmenistan take place in the framework of a presidential republic, with the President both head of state and head of government. Under Niyazov, Turkmenistan had a single-party system; however, in September 2008, the People’s Council unanimously passed a resolution adopting a new Constitution. The latter resulted in the abolition of the Council and a significant increase in the size of Parliament in December 2008. The new Constitution also permits the formation of multiple political parties.

The current President of Turkmenistan is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who took control following Niyazov’s death in December 2006.

The former Communist Party, now known as the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, has been the only one effectively permitted to operate. Political gatherings are illegal unless government sanctioned.

People Population: 5,179,571 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 34.2% (male 902,811/female 868,428)
15-64 years: 61.5% (male 1,577,187/female 1,607,353)
65 years and over: 4.3% (male 97,480/female 126,312) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 22.6 years
male: 22 years
female: 23.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.596% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 25.07 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.11 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 51.81 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 56.01 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 47.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 68.6 years
male: 65.53 years
female: 71.82 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.07 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 100 (2004 est.)
Nationality: noun: Turkmen(s)
adjective: Turkmenistani
Ethnic groups: Turkmen 85%, Uzbek 5%, Russian 4%, other 6% (2003)
Religions: Muslim 89%, Eastern Orthodox 9%, unknown 2%
Languages: Turkmen 72%, Russian 12%, Uzbek 9%, other 7%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.8%
male: 99.3%
female: 98.3% (1999 est.)
Education expenditures: 3.9% of GDP (1991)
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Turkmenistan
local long form: none
local short form: Turkmenistan
former: Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
Capital: name: Ashgabat (Ashkhabad)
geographic coordinates: 37 57 N, 58 23 E
time difference: UTC+5 (10 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 5 provinces (welayatlar, singular – welayat) and 1 independent city*: Ahal Welayaty (Anew), Ashgabat*, Balkan Welayaty (Balkanabat), Dashoguz Welayaty, Lebap Welayaty (Turkmenabat), Mary Welayaty
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
Independence: 27 October 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 27 October (1991)
Constitution: adopted 18 May 1992
Legal system: based on civil law system and Islamic law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 14 February 2007); note – the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 14 February 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held on 11 February 2007 (next to be held in February 2012)
election results: Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW elected president; percent of vote – Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW 89.2%, Amanyaz ATAJYKOW 3.2%, other candidates 7.6%
Legislative branch: unicameral parliament known as the National Assembly (Mejlis) (125 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 14 December 2008 (next to be held December 2013)
election results: 100% of elected officials are members of either the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan or its pseudo-civil society parent organization, the Revival Movement, and are preapproved by the president
note: in autumn 2008, the constitution of Turkmenistan was revised to abolish the 2,507-member legislative body known as the People’s Council and to expand the number of deputies in the National Assembly from 65 to 125; the powers formerly held by the People’s Council were divided up between the President and the National Assembly
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president)
Political parties and leaders: Democratic Party of Turkmenistan or DPT [Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW]
note: formal opposition parties are outlawed; unofficial, small opposition movements exist abroad; the three most prominent opposition groups-in-exile are the National Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan (NDMT), the Republican Party of Turkmenistan, and the Watan (Fatherland) Party; the NDMT was led by former Foreign Minister Boris SHIKHMURADOV until his arrest and imprisonment in the wake of the 25 November 2002 attack on President NYYAZOW’s motorcade
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ADB, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECO, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, SCO (guest), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Meret Bairamovich ORAZOW
chancery: 2207 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 588-1500
FAX: [1] (202) 588-0697
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d’Affaires Richard M. MILES
embassy: No. 9 1984 Street (formerly Pushkin Street), Ashgabat, Turkmenistan 744000
mailing address: 7070 Ashgabat Place, Washington, DC 20521-7070
telephone: [993] (12) 35-00-45
FAX: [993] (12) 39-26-14
Flag description: green field with a vertical red stripe near the hoist side, containing five tribal guls (designs used in producing carpets) stacked above two crossed olive branches; a white crescent moon representing Islam with five white stars representing the regions or welayats of Turkmenistan appear in the upper corner of the field just to the fly side of the red stripe
Culture The Turkmen people have traditionally been nomads and horsemen, and even today after the fall of the USSR attempts to urbanize but the Turkmens have not been very successful. They never really formed a coherent nation or ethnic group until they were forged into one by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. Rather they are divided into clans, and each clan has its own dialect and style of dress. Turkmens are famous for making gillams, mistakenly called Bukhara rugs in the West. These are elaborate and colorful rugs, and these too help indicate the distinction between the various Turkmen clans.

The Turkmens are Sunni Muslims but they, like most of the region’s nomads, adhere to Islam rather loosely and combine Islam with pre-Islamic animist spirituality. The Turkmens do indeed tend to be spiritual but are by no means militantly religious.

A Turkmen can be identified anywhere by the traditional “telpek” hats, which are large black sheepskin hats that resemble afros. The national dress: men wear high, shaggy sheepskin hats and red robes over white shirts. Women wear long sack-dresses over narrow trousers (the pants are trimmed with a band of embroidery at the ankle). Female headdresses usually consist of silver jewellery. Bracelets and brooches are set with semi-precious stones…

In language, Turkmens speak Turkmen, related most closely to Turkish and Azerbaijani. Virtually everyone, however, even in the remote desert regions, speaks Russian.

Two significant figures in Turkmen literature are the poets Feragi Makhtumkuli and Mametveli Kemine.

Economy Economy – overview: Turkmenistan is largely a desert country with intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and sizeable gas and oil resources. One-half of its irrigated land is planted in cotton; formerly it was the world’s 10th-largest producer. Poor harvests in recent years have led to an almost 50% decline in cotton exports. With an authoritarian ex-Communist regime in power and a tribally based social structure, Turkmenistan has taken a cautious approach to economic reform, hoping to use gas and cotton sales to sustain its inefficient economy. Privatization goals remain limited. From 1998-2005, Turkmenistan suffered from the continued lack of adequate export routes for natural gas and from obligations on extensive short-term external debt. At the same time, however, total exports rose by an average of roughly 15% per year from 2003-08, largely because of higher international oil and gas prices. A new pipeline to China, set to come online in late 2009 or early 2010, will give Turkmenistan an additional export route for its gas. Overall prospects in the near future are discouraging because of widespread internal poverty, a poor educational system, government misuse of oil and gas revenues, and Ashgabat’s reluctance to adopt market-oriented reforms. In the past, Turkmenistan’s economic statistics were state secrets. The new government has established a State Agency for Statistics, but GDP numbers and other figures are subject to wide margins of error. In particular, the rate of GDP growth is uncertain. Since his election, President BERDIMUHAMEDOW has sought to improve the health and education systems, unified the country’s dual currency exchange rate, ordered the redenomination of the manat, reduced state subsidies for gasoline, increased internet access both in schools and internet cafes, ordered an independent audit of Turkmenistan’s gas resources, and created a special tourism zone on the Caspian Sea. Although foreign investment is encouraged, numerous bureaucratic obstacles from the NYYZOW-era remain.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $30.19 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $28.82 billion (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 7.5% (IMF estimate)
note: official government statistics are widely regarded as unreliable (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $5,800 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 10.7%
industry: 38.8%
services: 50.4% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 2.089 million (2004 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 48.2%
industry: 14%
services: 37.8% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate: 60% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line: 30% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.6%
highest 10%: 31.7% (1998)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 40.8 (1998)
Investment (gross fixed): 11.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.393 billion
expenditures: $1.42 billion (2008 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 18% (2008 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Agriculture – products: cotton, grain; livestock
Industries: natural gas, oil, petroleum products, textiles, food processing
Electricity – production: 12.83 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 9.584 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 1.34 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 99.9%
hydro: 0.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: NA
Oil – consumption: 107,400 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 40,000 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – imports: 5,283 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 600 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas – production: 68.88 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 19.48 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 49.4 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 2.832 trillion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance: $2.897 billion (2008 est.)
Exports: $9.887 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports – commodities: gas, crude oil, petrochemicals, textiles, cotton fiber
Exports – partners: Ukraine 51.3%, Iran 18.5%, Turkey 5% (2007)
Imports: $5.291 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs
Imports – partners: UAE 14.3%, Russia 11.6%, Turkey 10.3%, China 9.1%, Ukraine 8.7%, Iran 7%, Germany 6.5%, US 5.6% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $28.25 million from the US (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $5.501 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt – external: $1.4 billion to $5 billion (2004 est.)
Currency (code): Turkmen manat (TMM)
Currency code: TMM
Exchange rates: Turkmen manat (TMM) per US dollar – 14,250 (as of 1 May 2008 est.)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 457,900 (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 810,000 (2008)
Telephone system: general assessment: telecommunications network remains underdeveloped and progress toward improvement is slow; strict government control and censorship inhibits liberalization and modernization
domestic: Turkmentelekom, in cooperation with foreign partners, has installed high speed fiber-optic lines and has upgraded most of the country’s telephone exchanges and switching centers with new digital technology; mobile telephone usage is expanding with Russia’s Mobile Telesystems (MTS) the primary service provider
international: country code – 993; linked by fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay to other CIS republics and to other countries by leased connections to the Moscow international gateway switch; an exchange in Ashgabat switches international traffic through Turkey via Intelsat; satellite earth stations – 1 Orbita and 1 Intelsat (2008)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 16, FM 8, shortwave 2 (1998)
Radios: 1.225 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 4 (government-owned and programmed) (2004)
Televisions: 820,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .tm
Internet hosts: 640 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1
Internet users: 70,000 (2007)
Transportation Airports: 28 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 22
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 11
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
under 914 m: 4 (2007)
Heliports: 1 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 6,441 km; oil 1,361 km (2007)
Railways: total: 2,440 km
broad gauge: 2,440 km 1.520-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 58,592 km
paved: 47,577 km
unpaved: 11,015 km (2002)
Waterways: 1,300 km (Amu Darya and Kara Kum canal are important inland waterways) (2008)
Merchant marine: total: 7
by type: cargo 4, petroleum tanker 2, refrigerated cargo 1 (2008)
Ports and terminals: Turkmenbasy
Military Military branches: Ground Forces, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18-30 years of age for compulsory military service; 2-year conscript service obligation (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 1,316,698
females age 16-49: 1,331,005 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 1,064,965
females age 16-49: 1,136,553 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 57,615
female: 55,426 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 3.4% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: cotton monoculture in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan creates water-sharing difficulties for Amu Darya river states; field demarcation of the boundaries with Kazakhstan commenced in 2005, but Caspian seabed delimitation remains stalled with Azerbaijan, Iran, and Kazakhstan due to Turkmenistan’s indecision over how to allocate the sea’s waters and seabed
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 11,173 (Tajikistan); less than 1,000 (Afghanistan) (2007)
Illicit drugs: transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russian and Western European markets; transit point for heroin precursor chemicals bound for Afghanistan

Romania WWII: The White Squadron

(FROM GOOGLE+: MEMORIES OF LIGHT)

The White Squadron

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26 November 2014

In the pages prefacing Daniel Focşa’s writing, “The White Squadron”, Neagu Djuvara praises the author’s idea to reinstate, in historical order, the heroic deeds from the time of the war, “obscured or twisted until yesterday, so that, most of the times, the new generations completely ignore them”.

Being one of the infantrymen who walked their boots through hundreds of miles of dust or mud all the way to Odessa, Neagu Djuvara pays tribute to aviators, which he considers super humans not daring to compare himself to: “And when it comes to women aviators, my admiration is even higher”. Although regarded with wonderment or even disbelief, “there were a few extraordinary characters, like in the novels”, says the well-known Romanian historian, diplomat, philosopher, journalist and novelist, inciting us to marvel at the proverbial scenes, at the risks these heroines took, at the challenges and physical suffering they went through all the way to Kuban or above the hell of Stalingrad and read this book as a novel.

We open, therefore, a serial-story columns through which we try to pull out from the old chest-of-drawers true stories about the history of aviation, unique and savory details coming straight from the source, which come from the very ladies who wrote the legend of the White Squadron, hoping that these testimonies will inspire younger generations…

In 1938, the political atmosphere in Europe was increasingly tense – the armies of the Third Reich were marching, USSR threats, simultaneous and combined with those of Germany’s, resulted in frequent incidents caused by Soviet Russia at the border, pushing the Romanian Army to take important measures. Among other things, at the military maneuvers which took place in the fall of that year, in Galaţi, five aviatrixes (Mariana Drăgescu, Virginia Duțescu, Nadia Russo, Marina Știrbey and Irina Burnaia) had been invited to participate, for the first time, to be put to test and see how they would manage under war. It was about simulating dogfights, liaison missions against the clock, night flights – a sort of playing in the air, would say some; but it was one as serious as possible. And the fact that these women managed admirably the two weeks of exercises determined the headquarters to declare them fit for mobilization.

At the end of these maneuvers, Marina Ştirbei, daughter of Prince George Ştirbei and cousin of the more famous aviator Constantin Cantacuzino, revealed to her flying comrades her intention of setting up a squadron of sanitary planes with female pilots only. By that time, she had won a certain number of aviation competitions in the country and had even put her talent to the test, covering over two thousand miles in a raid that took her all the way to the Scandinavian countries. She would keep her word and, as the war became a certainty, Marina Ştirbei submitted a memorandum for the creation of this squadron to the Ministry of Air. It was approved on June 25, 1940, and so, the highest rated female pilots took a step forward, joining the army as lieutenants and getting access to Polish manufactured RWD-13 airplanes.

The squadron was registered in the Romanian Army documents under the “Sanitary Squadron” title and its purpose on the Eastern Front was to transport seriously wounded soldiers, who needed immediate surgery. In April 1942, the squadron will be renamed “Easy Transport Squadron 108”, but entered public consciousness as “The White Squadron”, a nickname disputed by several authors, which, in fact, belongs to the Italian journalist Curzio Malaparte, the author of the book “Coup d’état: the technique of revolution”. While he was researching on the Romanian front, he was inspired by the color of the Polish aircraft, originally painted white, with the red cross on the fuselage and the wings, which is why soon enough they have earned the reputation of air ambulances. Because the Soviets did not respect that these were sanitary planes and bombarded them, the small RWD-13 were painted in camouflage colors later on.

During World War II, Romania was the only country in the world that had sanitary airplanes piloted by women, although Marina Ştirbei’s idea had started from Finnish paramilitary Lotta Svärd group, made up exclusively of women, auxiliary to the army.

The “White Squadron” aviators were not exactly fighters, but their missions in hostile airspace were as dangerous as possible, always being stalked by antiaircraft artillery, by the isolated shooters and, especially, by the sharks of the air which had, however, much better equipped devices than theirs. They made quite an impression at the time and even became, in 1944, subject and inspiration source for the Romanian-Italian artistic movie “Squadriglia Bianca”, directed by Ion Sava, starring Claudio Gora, Lucia Sturdza-Bulandra and Mariella Lotti, former King Michael’s girlfriend. With or without this movie, there was still not enough done to reveal the true value of this adventure called “The White Squadron”. Moreover, after the communist regime was installed, the fate was so unfair to these daring girls, so famous during the war that not only they entered complete anonymity, but they even ended up in prison, or in the best case they were removed from aviation and marginalized.

It seems, therefore, natural to dig in the past and bring their admirable front experience to the light. The first page of our serial is dedicated to Mariana Drăgescu, so make sure you do not miss it in our next edition.

Translated by Ancuţa Gălice

China’s 2018 Moon Mission Is To Go A ‘Step Beyond’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’ NEWS)

 

This time next year, there may be a new world leader in lunar exploration. If all goes according to plan, China will have done something no other space-faring superpower has been able to do: land on the far side of the moon. China is rocketing ahead with its plans for lunar exploration. In 2018, they will launch a pair of missions known collectively as Chang’e 4. It is the fourth mission in a series named after the Chinese moon goddess.

The first component of Chang’e 4 is scheduled to lift off in June. It will be a relay satellite stationed some 60,000km behind the moon and will provide a communications link between Earth and the lunar far side. Once this link is established, it will allow China to send the second part of the mission: a lander to the far side’s surface.

Landing on the far side of the moon is something no one has tried before. “The Chinese are pushing back the frontier with such a technically challenging mission,” says Brian Harvey, space analyst and author of China in Space: The Great Leap Forward.

China’s lunar exploration programme started in 2007 with Chang’e 1, a simple lunar orbiter. In 2010, Chang’e 2 also went into lunar orbit before setting off for a trek across the solar system that culminated in a flyby of asteroid Toutatis in 2012.

In 2013 Chang’e 3, deploying the Jade Rabbit rover, made headlines for the first soft landing on the moon since 1976. So far, so impressive, but all China had done was catch up with the achievements of the US and USSR. Chang’e 4, however, will be a space first.

China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e I, lifts off from its launch pad in Xichang, Sichuan province, in 2007
Pinterest
 China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e I, lifts off from its launch pad in Xichang, Sichuan province, in 2007. Photograph: Getty Images

Nobody has landed on the far side of the moon, mainly because of the communications difficulty. Yet the scientific payoff is huge. Being in the shadow of the moon allows stray radio signals from Earth to be blocked so the view of the radio universe is unparalleled.

Heino Falcke, Radboud University, Nijmegen, is hoping to take full advantage of this by supplying a radio telescope to the Chinese mission. His aim is to test how easy it will be to pick up signals from the early universe before there were any stars.

Astronomers call this the dark ages because nothing was emitting light. But hydrogen atoms were giving out radio waves, which Falcke hopes to catch. He designed the instrument for a lunar mission that the European Space Agency(ESA) considered building about five years ago. When that spacecraft was put on hold, it looked as if his plans were scuppered. But when the king of Holland visited China as part of a trade delegation, the idea was revived.

“China has always made a big play about wanting to do international collaboration,” says Harvey. “I think there may be an element of wanting to do it to show the US that they have an international reach, despite the America effort to stop them.”

Working with the Chinese has not proved to be seamless, however. “China is not the giant bloc it looks like from outside. Knowing who are the right people to talk to isn’t always clear,” says Falcke.

As a result, his instrument is still not guaranteed to make it on to the spacecraft in time for the proposed summer launch, yet he remains optimistic. “I think we built up a lot of good relations in China and there is goodwill on both sides to make this happen,” says Falcke.

It is not just the Chinese that have a programme of lunar exploration. The ESA is contributing two significant instruments to a Russia-led lunar lander, planned for 2022. The ESA are also supplying the primary power and population system for Nasa’s Orion space capsule that is planned to orbit the moon uncrewed in 2019. Finally, they are involved in exploratory talks with the Chinese National SpaceAdministration to identify potential opportunities for future collaboration on robotic exploration missions.

ESA’s collaborative approach is perhaps exemplified by their Moon Village concept, which was put forward by director general Jan Woerner, shortly after taking office in 2015. The Moon Village is envisioned as an open-ended endeavour for a sustainable permanent surface presence on the moon, both robotic and human. “The concept entails ESA acting in a non-traditional role as “honest broker”, facilitator and catalyst towards interested parties globally,” says Piero Messina of ESA’s strategy department.

But it is safe to say that China’s plans are the most advanced. After Chang’e 4, they are on course for a series of other robotic lunar missions that will build towards an attempted human landing in about 15 years. The key to this is the Long March 9 rocket, which is in development and due to fly in 2028-2030. It’s a behemoth that will be able to land something bigger than the Apollo lunar module, which carried pairs of astronauts to the moon and back in the 1960s and 70s.

“It is reasonable to presume that China will have its own people on the surface early in the 2030s,” says Harvey. And this puts them well in the lead over Nasa, which has no firm plans for landing people at present.

The ultimate question is whether the Chinese spirit of international collaboration could extend all the way through to the human landings, with their rockets carrying other nationalities? Maybe.

This summer, ESA astronauts trained with their Chinese counterparts for the first time. It was a survival exercise unrelated to lunar exploration, but it signalled an openness on both sides. “The reception was warm. We truly felt the spirit of belonging to one universal astronaut family, sharing the same values, goals and vision,” said ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer at the time. Clearly, the moon is where humankind is going next. The surprise is that the Chinese are now poised to have such a leading role in the endeavour.

That may prove a bitter pill for the US to swallow as Nasa are prohibited from working with the Chinese. In spring 2013, the US Congress passed a further law effectively banning Chinese nationals from even setting foot inside a Nasa facility.

Given the pace of Chinese progress, this could prove to be an own goal. On 11 December, the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 lunar landing (the last time people walked on the moon), President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, which directs Nasa to take astronauts to the moon with the help of US commercial space industry.

Yet there is little detail about how and when this might happen and how much the White House is prepared to spend. “Trump’s directive was very vague,” says Harvey. “We’re still no more definite about when the Americans will set foot back on the moon.”

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Read TIME’s Original Report on the Sputnik 1 Launch 60 Yrs Ago Today

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM SCIENCE)

 

Read TIME’s Original Report on the Sputnik 1 Launch

Oct 03, 2017

The Soviets called it sputnik, meaning simply “satellite” or “fellow traveler.” But to American space-watchers of 60 years ago, the satellite that launched on Oct. 4, 1957 had many meanings: defeat and discovery, but also the promise of the space race that was to come.

The launch — the anniversary of which coincides with the beginning of World Space Week — came as a surprise to scientists and officials in the U.S., though they quickly downplayed their shock that the USSR had the ability to get a heavy satellite into orbit, a feat the U.S. had not yet accomplished. The following week’s issue of TIME explained how the news broke:

Hurtling unseen, hundreds of miles from the earth, a polished metal sphere the size of a beach ball passed over the world’s continents and oceans one day last week. As it circled the globe for the first time, traveling at 18.000 m.p.h., the U.S. was blissfully unaware that a new era in history had begun, opening a bright new chapter in mankind’s conquest of the natural environment and a grim new chapter in the cold war.

The news came in a broadcast by Moscow radio, and it got to Washington in an ironic way. At the Soviet embassy on 16th Street that evening, some 50 scientists of 13 nations, members of the International Geophysical Year rocket and satellite conference, were gathered at a cocktail party. After the vodka, Scotch and bourbon started to flow, New York Times Reporter Walter Sullivan got an urgent phone call from his paper, hurried back to whisper in the ear of a U.S. scientist. A moment later Physicist Lloyd Berkner rapped on the hors d’oeuvre table until the hubbub quieted. “I wish to make an announcement,” he said. “I am informed by the New York Times that a satellite is in orbit at an elevation of 900 kilometers [559 miles]. I wish to congratulate our Soviet colleagues on their achievement.”

As the science section added, that achievement was quite remarkable: sputnik was heavier than expected — more than eight times heavier than the satellite the comparable U.S. project had been looking at — which meant that Soviet rocket capabilities were impressive. The satellite also flew higher than the American scientists had thought possible.

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Scientists turned on their gear to track sputnik as radio stations and amateur astronomers alike sought the telltale sound it emitted — a sound TIME called “those chilling beeps,” acknowledging that the remarkable scientific achievement was also hard proof of Communist success in a Cold War world in which scientific advancement was seen as a proxy for military might.

However, as TIME noted, at least some people saw sputnik as a good sign for the U.S., realizing that it was just the kick the nation needed to commit seriously to space exploration. The reason for the Soviet success was not superior thinking, they felt, but rather that the U.S. had not yet decided to commit to the cause. As the space race got into gear, those people could hardly have known just how right they were.

New Oliver Stone documentary blames U.S. for Ukrainian revolutions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE RBTH.COM MOSCOW RUSSIAN NEWS)

New Oliver Stone documentary blames U.S. for Ukrainian revolutions

November 23, 2016 YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA, RBTH
Russian television has broadcast Oliver Stone’s controversial documentary film “Ukraine on Fire,” in which he argues that Ukraine’s “Maidan” uprisings of 2004 and 2014 were the result of political maneuvering by the United States.
Anti-government protesters
Anti-government protesters gather at a barricade at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev. Source: Reuters
A controversial new documentary produced by U.S. director Oliver Stone and broadcast on Russian television presents the Ukrainian revolutions of 2004 and 2014 as organized uprisings instigated from outside and planned with U.S. participation.Posted on YouTube and screened by nationwide Russian TV channel REN TV on Nov. 21, the film, titled Ukraine on Fire, features Ukraine’s ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Vitaly Zakharchenko, who served as Ukrainian interior minister under Yanukovych, discussing the events leading up to and following the “Maidan” revolution of 2014.

Trailer for Oliver Stone’s documentary Ukraine on Fire. Source: YouTube / Fred Johs

Stone, an award-winning director who is a staunch critic of Washington’s foreign policy, is no stranger to controversy and has a long history of making political films. He also directed 2015’s Snowden, a biopic of the fugitive former NSA agent turned whistleblower.

Directed by Ukrainian American Igor Lopatenyuk, the film has been criticized for its one-sided portrayal of events in Kiev, with a Ukrainian citizen named Andrei Nezvany posting an online petition two days before the film’s online premiere asking for the picture to be banned because it “falsifies facts” and could “provoke mass protests in Ukraine.”

Ukraine on Fire was made by the Los Angeles company Another Way Productions though the source of the project’s financing is not clear.

CIA protected Ukrainian nationalists in the USSR

The film reports that the CIA closely collaborated with Ukrainian nationalistic organizations against the USSR as far back as 1946, using them as counterintelligence sources. Recently declassified CIA documents apparently bear witness to this.

According to the film, “by the end of 1941 alone the nationalists killed between 150,000 and 200,000 Jews on German-occupied territory in Ukraine,” and the following “strong alliance” allowed them to escape after WWII to Europe, where the CIA helped them hide.For example, the film says that Mykola Lebed, a Ukrainian nationalist and activist who was responsible for mass killings of Poles in Ukraine’s Volyn region under Nazi occupation in WWII, was transferred to the U.S., where he died in 1998 without ever facing trial for his war crimes.

But American collaboration with the Ukrainian nationalists did not end there, claims the film.

U.S. was behind 2004 Orange Revolution

In 2004 Ukraine became a battlefield between Russia and the West. The pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential election, though the process was tainted by widespread allegations of intimidation and massive vote-rigging, as well as the poisoning of the pro-Western candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.

In the end, Yushchenko, whose wife had been an employee of the U.S. State Department during the Reagan administration, obtained) the presidency thanks to a peaceful protest that the film claims was inspired from outside the country, resulting in a revote.

Subsequently, the off-screen voice narrates, the Yushchenko government failed to carry out the promised reforms and the “democracy” project, and mired itself in dishonest activities.

Russia did not want to pay for Ukraine’s pro-Europe choice

Viktor Yanukovych became the next Ukrainian president, but his talks with the EU did not go well.

“We had been counting on the International Monetary Fund [IMF]… But for a whole year we were offered unacceptable options… Russia was the last resort. Russia told us: ‘We are ready to work with you as partners, if you take our interests into consideration,'” says Yanukovych in the film.

Commenting on Russia’s introduction of restrictions to trade with Ukraine, Vladimir Putin says that the Kremlin did so only because in the event of integration with the EU “the European Union would basically be entering our territory with all its goods without any negotiations.”

“We said, sure, if Ukraine has decided to do this, this is its choice and we will respect it, but we are not going to pay for this choice,” says Putin in the film.

2014 uprising also financed by U.S., says film

In the film, Zakharchenko tells Stone that the Ukrainian authorities knew that protests were being prepared for 2015. But the sudden halt to integration with the EU (after Russia made Ukraine a counter-offer shortly before Yanukovych was due to sign the agreement at an EU Eastern Partnership summit in Lithuania in late November 2013) accelerated the process. Public organizations financed by NED, journalists receiving U.S. grants and the TV channels created on the eve of the Maidan uprising played an important role, argues the film.

The order to drive away the protesters with force was given by head of the presidential administration Serhiy Lyovochkin, under the pretext of putting a Christmas tree on the square.

“It is an amazing coincidence but Mr. Lyovochkin is a friend of many American politicians,” the documentary reports, showing a photo of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.When Stone asks Yanukovych if “he felt America’s hand” in the uprising, the former president says that many delegations came to Ukraine but took sides with the protesters, something that only exacerbated the conflict.

“When protesters seize government buildings, is this acceptable? Would it be acceptable if the Ukrainian ambassador had come to the protestors in Ferguson and handed out cookies or accused American policemen? Why was Ukraine treated in this manner?”