The Code of Civilization might at first seem to be another in the line of books which includes Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and Samuel P Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations that attempt an overarching view of world history with an aim to model the present and predict the future. This time, however, the author—Vyacheslav Nikonov—is Russian.
The Blakiston’s fish owl is the world’s largest living species of owl, with larger females of the species weighing as much as ten pounds. It lives in the Russian Far East and Northern Japan. It is also endangered: global populations are estimated to be around 1500 owls in total.
Works of literature that feature the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian taiga are extremely rare; the only ones that immediately come to mind are The Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian, about Evenki along the Heilongjiang-Russian border, and the (true) story of Dersu Uzala, a Nanai introduced to the world in Vladimir K Arsenyev’s now century-old Across the Ussuri Kray: Travels in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains.
In Russia’s far east, meeting a person alone in the wilderness is usually a bad thing. Some recluses in this remote region might be criminals of one kind or another: those hiding from law enforcement or those hiding from other criminals. But when conservationist Jonathan C Slaght ran into a man with “a crazy look in his eyes” and one missing finger living alone in an abandoned World War II hydroelectric station, rather than make a quick exit, he took the hermit up on his offer to spend the night.
There can be a fun-house mirror quality to the history of Japan’s relations with Russia: the events are recognizable, but come with unexpected bulges and pinches.
The Sino-Russian relationship is often seen by the West (for which, read the USA) as a sort of counterpoint to Sino-American relations with Russia ready to step in when the US takes a step back. Sören Ubansky’s recent book is one of the periodic but salutary reminders that China and Russia’s mutual dealings are not just centuries old but have also for the most part had little to do with third parties.
Umm-El-Banine Assadoulaeff was born in 1905 into one of Baku’s wealthiest families: her peasant-born great-grandfather had discovered oil on his land. She left in 1923, after the Revolution, for Istanbul and then Paris, whence she never returned. Days in the Caucasus, originally published in Paris in 1945, is her memoir of those years.