Of Nightmares and Putin

A few days ago, I translated Bjorn Engesland’s “Dreams of Empire and Other Nightmares,” which appeared in Aftenposten, Norway’s leading newspaper. Today a friend and former Swedish military officer posted a link to Fredrik Antonsson’s blog on Estonia’s choice to celebrate its 97th birthday with a military parade as close as possible to Russia, its threatening neighbor. The US 2nd Cavalry as well as troops from Latvia, Lithuania, Holland, Spain, and Britain marched with Estonian troops to honor the day. Entitled “A Provocative National Day Celebration?” Antonsson’s blog, which I have posted in English, connects nightmares to Russian imperialism as it addresses the fears of a small nation that can not actually claim 97 years of independence.

Daniel Staberg, the aforementioned friend provides some context for the article, which mentions that Narva’s population is 96% ethnic Russian. Staberg explains that Narva, the town where the celebration was held, had been cleansed of its Estonian residents.

“The main reason for the lack of Estonians was the heavy fighting during the battle of Narva in 1944 during which the inhabitants were either evacuated by the Germans or fled on their own. Post war the Estonians were not allowed to return home as the Soviets planned to build a uranium processing plant there. Narva was declared a “closed town” and the few remaining Estonians removed.

In the end the plant was located in nearby Sillamäe and Narva returned to a more normal status but by then large numbers of Russians had been moved into Narva to get industrial developments started and this ‘ethnic’ transfer still effects demographics today.

Then there were the deportations which had an effect on the whole of Estonia including Narva.”

The independent Estonia has a strong connection to Sweden, even marching “in Swedish uniforms with Estonian national ensignia sewn on” in the early parades after they gained independence from the Soviet Union. Sweden also “donated huge amounts of equipment that belonged to brigades that were disbanded due to the end of the cold war.” Swedish officers, Staberg among them, trained Estonian and Latvian troops with this equipment.

Surprised that I had heard none of this in today’s news, nor anything on the military parade, I thought it important to provide an English version of Fredrik Antonson’s “A Provocative National Day Celebration?”

The Estonian national song is translated from the Swedish rather than from the Estonian. The original Estonian and English versions of it can be found online in much more poetic translations than I had time to produce. It might be interesting to compare it to English translations from the original Estonian. Wikipedia is not in favor I realize, but it suffices for our purposes of comparison if interested.

Link to the blog post in English: https://www.academia.edu/11061061/Antonssons_A_Provocative_National_Day_Celebration_

Link to the blog post in Swedish: http://www.6mannen.se/ett-provocerande-fodelsedagskalas/


The Gallatin! A Self-Indulgent Piece on Wilderness.

Voices from the Prairie, the regional literary anthology I co-edited with Kristi Rendahl, is in the hands of the printer. I am hopelessly impatient, so to cope with this minor problem, I have posted my contribution to the volume, The Gallatin!, to Academia.edu.

The Gallatin! takes its name from the section in my mother’s photo album that provides a visual foray into my family’s summer in the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park. As the youngest child, I am convinced they did most of the cool stuff before I came along on purpose, and the Gallatin was no exception.

I have never been overly fond of the wilderness, though my family drags me into it year after year, but I am interested in the concept of wilderness. In fact, I find it fascinating.

The premise of this piece comes from Roderick Frazier Nash’s Wilderness and the American Mind. Nash argues “that civilization created wilderness. For nomadic hunters and gatherers, who represented our species for most of its existence, ‘wilderness’ had no meaning. Everything natural was simply habitat…” (xi of the 4th edition)

Nash explains that as people began to control – or attempt to control – nature, “Wilderness became the unknown, the disordered, the dangerous.” (xii) After the so-called closing of the frontier in 1890 (See Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis.), “Americans were becoming civilized enough to appreciate wilderness” (xiv) As they came to appreciate it, they developed a myth about it – that it was virgin land, unpeopled.

This virgin view emerged after Yellowstone had been a National Park for a few decades, and the new view reshaped how the Park sold itself. Rather than as a playground or giant zoo of sorts, it became a preserve, a sanctuary where nature could be untroubled by human interference. (For the challenges of non-intervention, see the last chapter of Chris Magoc’s Yellowstone: The Creation and Selling of an American Landscape, 1870-1903.) Ranger Stations were dismantled and camp sites were removed, among them the Gallatin Station. The aim was to return to an untouched wilderness.

The trouble is that they were returning to something that never was. Patricia Limerick and others have argued that this recent notion of wilderness as pristine and untouched is a myth. William Cronin discusses this in Changes in the Land as well as in The Trouble with Wilderness – or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.

A brief piece, The Gallatin! is something of a family story set in the supposedly unpeopled wilderness of the northeastern corner of Yellowstone.


Actually listening to “Religious Nones”

This conversation is so important. We can all learn from each other. One of the things I so enjoy about the ELCA (Lutheran Church) is that it is not only ok to disagree and to doubt, but that you are welcome, and you can even discuss these things!


Some of the comments from the panel:


*A perception that Church is an unsafe space for doubt and questioning. The panelists spoke of their high comfort level with not having “all the answers.”


*A deep desire for authenticity. This commitment to authenticity may mean rejecting a singular religious label because it don’t adequately capture the multiple spiritual traditions someone finds meaningful. They named a fear of “being put in a box.”


*Panelists also spoke of thinking it odd to dress up for Church. As one put it “why should I get up early on a Sunday, get all dressed up, to watch people in weird robes?” This panelist found an easier point of entry with a smaller, Saturday evening service.


*A number of the panelists, though not all, had some religious background. For these people, late teens and early twenties was a turning point in questioning and ultimately, leaving religion.


*A deep, dare I say faithful, commitment to big ideas and values. The panelists had thought a lot about how they wanted to move through the world, how they wanted to live ethically, how they wanted to change their community. They just didn’t feel the need to do it within the bounds of a religious community.


*A fullness to their own life and spirituality. As one panelist said, “I bristle at someone saying ‘I’ve got this thing you are missing.’ as if I’m lacking.”


I really, truly heard it for the first time: “I’m not missing something,” she said. “I don’t want you to see me as lacking. I’m perfectly fine without religion.” For some reason, I finally heard this loud and clear at a panel discussion last Friday night at the New England Synod of the ELCA (video forthcoming: http://www.nesynod.org Mad props for attempting to live stream it!)

The professional religious world has been talking a TON about “Religious nones” since the Pew study came out in October 2012 that documented one in five Americans has no religious affiliation and one in three under 30. We’ve been talking a ton. I’m not sure we’ve been listening to “religious nones” as much as we’ve been talking about “religious nones.”

I attend Church meetings professionally. It’s an occupational hazard. Church annual meetings are mostly insider baseball: committee reports, resolutions, budgets. Church annual meetings are a space…

View original post 615 more words


Next Live Stream – Matthew Hammond on The People of Medieval Scotland Database

Great Scot! There is a “database of all known people of Scotland between 1093 and 1314 mentioned in over 8600 contemporary documents.” And there is a live stream digital history seminar about it on May 14th!

History SPOT

The next IHR live stream will take place at 5.15pm on 14 May 2013 with the Digital History seminar.  Details below:

Digital History seminar
Matthew Hammond
The People of Medieval Scotland database: structure, prosopography and network visualisation

This is a seminar about a prosopographical database, ‘The People of Medieval Scotland, 1093-1314’, which has been in production since 2007, and which has been freely available online since the summer of 2010. Since the relaunch of the database last year, we have had over 40,000 unique visitors from across the globe. Now nearing completion, the database contains records on over 20,000 individuals, drawn from over 8500 medieval, mostly Latin documents. The paper will examine some of the PoMS project’s technical innovations as well as the new directions we hope to take in the coming years.

The seminar will take you behind the scenes of the public website to see how…

View original post 281 more words


Candles to Mark the End of Nazi Occupation in Denmark

Candles in the Window Jyllands-Posten
Candles in the Window

For decades, Danes have been lighting candles in their windows on the night of May 4th to mark the end of 5 years of German occupation. Sadly, the tradition is dying out. 

A candle in the window marks so many things. When we moved to NC, there were candles guiding soldiers home, so to speak. Some did it as a holdover from the Civil War. When we moved to Rugby, and my husband was in Iraq, we had candles in the window for him.