Monthly Archives: April 2005

Unglamorous Scottish Glamour

Virginia Postrel posts a bit of Scottish etymology:

In his poem “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” Sir Walter Scott introduced the word glamour into English from Scots, where it meant a literal magic spell that kept the subject from seeing things as they really are:

And one short spell therein he read:
It had much of glamour might;
Could make a ladye seem a knight;
The cobwebs on a dungeon wall
Seem tapestry in lordly hall;
A nut-shell seem a gilded barge,
A sheeling [a shepherd’s hut] seem a palace large,
And youth seem age, and age seem youth:
All was delusion, nought was truth.

The last bit certainly applies to much of modern syntax, if not grammar more generally.

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Language Hat on Barbarian Names

Language Hat quotes an interesting take on name etymologies from O. Maenchen-Helfen’s The World of the Huns (University of California Press, 1973). Here’s a bit of it:

We must be prepared to meet among the names borne by Huns Germanic, Latin, and (as a result of the long and close contact with the Alans) also Iranian names. Attempts to force all Hunnic names into one linguistic group are a priori doomed to failure.

“Let no one,” warned Jordanes, “who is ignorant cavil at the fact that the tribes of men use many names, the Sarmatians from the Germans and the Goths frequently from the Huns.” Tutizar was a Goth and Ragnaris a Hun, but Tutizar is not a Gothic name and Ragnaris is Germanic. The Byzantine generals who in 493 fought against the Isaurians were Apsikal, a Goth, and Sigizan and Zolban, commanders of the Hun auxiliaries. Apsikal is not a Gothic but a Hunnic name; Sigizan might be Germanic. Mundius, a man of Attilanic descent, had a son by the name of Mauricius; his grandson Theudimundus bore a Germanic name. Patricius, Ardabur, and Herminiricus were not a Roman, an Alan, and a German as the names would indicate, but brothers, the sons of Aspar and his Gothic wife. There are many such cases in the fifth and sixth centuries. Sometimes a man is known under two names, belonging to two different tongues. Or he has a name compounded of elements of two languages. There are instances of what seem to be double names; actually one is the personal name, the other a title. Among the Hun names, some might well be designations of rank. It is, I believe, generally agreed that the titles of the steppe peoples do not reflect the nationality of their bearers. A kan, kagan, or bagatur may be a Mongol, a Turk, a Bulgar; he may be practically anything….

In addition to the objective difficulties, subjective ones bedevil some scholars. Turkologists are likely to find Turks everywhere; Germanic scholars discover Germans in unlikely places. Convinced that all proto-Bulgarians spoke Turkish, Németh offered an attractive Turkish etymology of Asparuch; other Turkologists explained the name in a different, perhaps less convincing way. Now it has turned out that Asparuch is an Iranian name. Validi Togan, a scholar of profound erudition but sometimes biased by pan-Turkism, derived shogun, Sino-Japanese for chiang chün, “general,” from the Qarluq title sagun. Pro-Germanic bias led Schönfeld to maintain, in disregard of all chronology, that the Moors took over Vandalic names.

I particularly like the first comment, from John Emerson:

Boodberg and Wolfram have both argued that steppe peoples are not “peoples” the way that anthropologists think of it. They are armies, together with their families. Voluntarily or otherwise, whole groups of other peoples could be absorbed.

The supposed ethnicity of a group is a function of the ethnicity of its leader and his clan, and also of the language spoken in the leadership councils. So the Huns weren’t really Huns, nor the Goths Goths — not the way we can say that a people that’s been living in a certain valley for five generations might have a given ethnicity.

That’s somewhat similar to my impression of many peoples along the coast of New Guinea.

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Anne Applebaum on What VE Day Commemorates

Anne Applebaum’s latest column in today’s Washington Post makes a point worth repeating:

Try, if you can, to picture the scene. A vast crowd in Red Square: Lenin’s tomb and Stalin’s memorial in the background. Soldiers march in goose step behind rolling tanks, and the air echoes with martial music, occasionally drowned out by the whine of fighter jets. On the reviewing stand, statesmen are gathered: Kim Jong Il, the dictator of North Korea, Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the former dictator of Poland — and President George W. Bush….

[I]f we are to avoid turning the anniversary of the end of World War II into a celebration of the triumph of Stalinism, more should be done. To begin with, Congress should vote on a resolution proposed this month by Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), which calls on Russia to condemn the Nazi-Soviet pact as well as the illegal annexation of the Baltic states. “The truth is a powerful weapon for healing, forgiving and reconciliation,” the resolution states, in a burst of unusual congressional eloquence, “but its absence breeds distrust, fear and hostility.”

Bush, too, should show that he understands what really happened in 1945. Every recent U.S. president has visited Auschwitz, and many have visited concentration camps in Germany, too. Perhaps it’s time for American presidents to start a new tradition and pay their respects to the victims of Stalin. This is made difficult by the dearth of monuments in Moscow, but it isn’t impossible. The president could, for example, lay a wreath at the stone that was brought from the Solovetsky Islands, the Soviet Union’s first political prison camp, and placed just across from the Lubyanka itself. Or he could visit one of the mass-execution sites outside of town.

Of course these would be nothing more than purely symbolic gestures. But a war anniversary is a purely symbolic event. Each commemoration helps all of us remember what happened and why it happened, and each commemoration helps us draw relevant lessons for the future. To falsify the record — to commemorate the triumph of totalitarianism rather than its defeat — sends the wrong message to new and would-be democracies in Europe, the former Soviet Union and the rest of the world.

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Minority Huns in Hungary? Ancient Huns in the Pacific?

The wonderfully whimsical February 30 blog is back in action with a series of new posts, among them a note about putative Huns claiming minority status in the Magyar-majority state of Hungary.

My understanding is that the link between the Huns and the Hungarians is purely accidental. Yes, Attila’s Huns set up camp in Pannonia, the land which is now Hungary, and yes, the names sound similar, but this is mere linguistic coincidence. The general consensus is that the term “Hungarian” comes from the Turkic onogur, perhaps meaning “ten peoples”. Attila’s Huns were active in Pannonia in the mid-fifth century, after which they disintegrated; the Magyars didn’t turn up until the year 895, so there’s a big gap to fill.

It was Medieval historians who first made the link between the Huns and the Magyars, trying to integrate legends about their ancestral origins into the genealogies found in the Old Testament.

And a followup about ancient Huns in the Pacific:

Being classified as an official minority in Hungary is not as difficult as it might seem. According to a 1993 law, all you have to do is prove your countrymen have resided in Hungary for at least 100 years and have their own pre-existing cultural, religious or linguistic character. And then you have to collect 1,000 signatures within two months.

Certainly the signature part will be no problem. “This would be easy to collect, as we pyramid-building Huns have distant relatives even in Hawaii,” Novák said, noting the theory that the Huns sprung from a since-vanished island near Hawaii called Ataisz roughly 5,000 years before the birth of Christ.

Maybe French Frigate Shoals (Kanemiloha‘i) should be renamed Ataisz the Sunken Hun Homeland.

UPDATE: The story only gets weirder. February 30 has uncovered the Arvisura, a sacred history of the Huns.

The Arvisura history begins with the sunken ancient homeland of Ataisz, which land is similar to Plato’s written description of Atlantis, but is still not one and the same. According to the saga, or legend (“rege”), it is from here (Ataisz) that the Huns came to be in Ordosz by way of Mesopotamia, where, in 4040, before recorded time, they formed the association of the 24 tribes. The “Palocok Regevilaga” [‘legendary bollocks’–tr.] concisely describes the 24 Hun tribes’ lives nation by nation, from about 4040 b.c. all the way to King Matthias, including Maria Theresa. This enormous span of masterwork takes into account thousands of years in listing in chronological order all of those events which brought into being today’s world that surrounds us, although in a way, or to some extent (nemikepp), from a different foundation than we were able to learn in school.

This map confirms that Ataisz stretched from South Point and Poipu in Hawai‘i to just about the duty free shop at Nadi airport in Fiji.

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Theocrats vs. Democrats in East Timor

Macam-Macam has been blogging up a storm on the less-covered regions of Southeast Asia: conflicts between the Catholic Church and democrats in East Timor, and more atrocities in Myanmar/Burma, and (most important of all) Southeast Asian Barbies.

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Ross Terrill on China’s Revisionist Histories

I’ve avoided weighing in on the heavyweight contenders in the latest round of Apology Oneupmanship. But China expert Ross Terrill’s rather sharp but patronizing column in The Australian of 22 April seems an appropriate time to take public notice. Some samples:

Folk in the People’s Republic were taught to love the Soviet Union and then to hate it. India was esteemed in the 1950s and vilified in the ’60s. Vietnam was “as close as lips and teeth” in the ’60s yet invaded by Chinese armies in 1979. When Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka tried to apologise directly to Mao for World War II in 1972, Mao brushed him off, saying the “help” provided by Japan’s invasion of China made possible the Communist victory in 1949….

On textbooks, a projection identification occurs. Dynastic regimes in East Asia all viewed history as the province of state orthodoxy. China and Vietnam, putting Leninist dress on the skeleton of traditional autocracy, still do. Japan and Taiwan, as democracies, do not.

No book of any kind attacking the Communist Party’s monopoly of power in China has been published in China in the 56 years of the PRC. Some of the most trenchant books anywhere in the world on Japanese war atrocities have been written, published, and widely read in Japan. Beijing seems to think that because its textbooks jump to government policy, Japan’s do too. But they do not. In Japan, unlike in China, there are government-sponsored textbooks as well as independent ones….

The main text for middle-school history in China devotes nine chapters to Japan’s aggression against China in the 19th and 20th centuries, but does not mention China’s invasion of Japan under the Yuan Dynasty. (Vietnam comes off even worse than Japan. Nothing is said of the Han Dynasty’s conquest of Vietnam or of China’s 1000-year colonisation of the country.)

China has enjoyed a good run in relations with Japan and reaped economic benefit. The very real horror of war is one reason and the skilful political theatre practised by Beijing is another. But the mood in Japan toward China has changed and Beijing may be miscalculating. China will certainly pull back from the brink of a real rupture; it has too much to lose. But it is not certain that Tokyo will lie down and take any more abuse, vandalism, and Chinese distortions of history.

Among bloggers, China-based Andrés Gentry weighed in on 13 April with a long, perceptive, and well-informed (about China) essay. A sample:

It is especially galling for Wen Jiabao (of all people) to talk about the need “to face up to history squarely”. Why do you ask? Let’s look at this photo [q.v.] and guess when it was taken.

Still trying to place the date? Let me help you: May 19, 1989, the day Zhao Ziyang went down to Tiananmen Square and begged the students to leave because the decision had been made to use the PLA to seize control of the capitol. And who would that be standing behind Zhao? Why, Wen Jiabao of course!

It is risible in the extreme for a man who went down to Tiananmen to beg students to leave, who then spent the next few years rehabilitating himself by essentially renouncing himself, and who thereby achieved one of the top positions in the country, to be talking about “facing up to history squarely”. This sort of personal history, shall we say, affects his credibility on the issue.

Unlike The Australian, Andrés allows comments online, and about half his commentators take him to task for letting Japan off too lightly. Here’s a bit of one that resonated with me.

As a Taiwanese American who still have family living under the shadow of mainland China, I’d like to agree with you wholeheartedly on your condemnation of the Chinese “communist” government. But in your haste to condemn the Chinese government, you let the Japanese off the hook much too easily….

By the way, I love Japanese culture, language, food and I love my Japanese friends. Taiwanese people are famous for that. The Japanese occupation of Taiwan was relatively gentle, certainly compared to the “white terror” era. I have no desire to hate them. But I will not overlook any attempts to revise history.

It’s interesting that China specialists tend to come down harder on China, while Japan specialists tend to come down harder on Japan. One of the best among the latter is K. M. Lawson’s Muninn, who offers, among a wealth of other postings: a compilation of Japan’s apologies to China, Japan’s apologies to Korea, and editorials in the Yomiuri and Asahi newspapers in Japan.

My own feeling is that demands for apologies are driven by nationalist oneupmanship, but that the historical record is not something to be whitewashed, whether by nations, peoples, religions, or secular ideologies. My impression is that every single state has something to apologize for, whether to others or to its own citizens. So here’s my multilateral solution.

Let the United Nations General Assembly devote the next 52 weeks to apologies by the governments of every member state that claims any historical antecedents. Week 1 will be devoted to apologies by states with antecedents in the 20th century (the deadliest century in history). From Albania to Zambia, everyone has something to apologize for, even though Andorra and Bhutan may have to think a bit harder than most. Week 2 will be devoted to states with antecedents in the 19th century, week 3 to states with antecedents in the 18th century, and so on. By week 40 or so, the mea culpas would be coming almost exclusively from China, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Korea, and Turkey. Well, you know, civilization is all their fault.

UPDATE: A Chinese lawyer adds more in an op-ed to the New York Times on 28 April (via Simon World).

We Chinese are outraged by Japan’s World War II crimes – the forcing of Chinese into sexual slavery as “comfort women,” the 1937 massacre of unarmed civilians in Nanking, and the experiments in biological warfare. Our indignation redoubles when the Japanese distort or paper over this record in their museums and their textbooks. But if we look honestly at ourselves – at the massacres and invasions strewn through Chinese history, or just at the suppression of protesters in recent times – and if we compare the behavior of the Japanese military with that of our own soldiers, there is not much to distinguish China from Japan.

This comparison haunts me. When I think of the forced labor in Japanese prison camps, I am reminded of forced labor camps in China, and also of the Chinese miners who lose their lives when forced to re-enter mines that everyone knows are unsafe. Are the rights of China’s poor today really so much better protected than those of the wretched “colonized slaves” during the Japanese occupation? There was the Nanking massacre, but was not the murder of unarmed citizens in Beijing 16 years ago also a massacre? Is Japan’s clumsy effort to cover up history in its textbooks any worse than the gaping omissions and biased blather in Chinese textbooks?

China’s textbooks omit the story of how the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950’s was actually the disastrous failure of a harebrained economic scheme by Mao that led to the starvation of 20 million to 50 million rural Chinese. No one really knows the numbers. Nor do we know how many were killed in the campaigns to suppress “counterrevolutionaries” during the 1950’s, in the Cultural Revolution during the 1960’s, or even in the Beijing massacre of 1989. Yet we hold Japan firmly responsible for 300,000 deaths at Nanking. Does our confidence with numbers depend on who did the killing?

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China’s Role in Suppressing the Hungarian Revolt in 1956

For most historians, China’s significant influence in Eastern Europe after Stalin’s death began with its role in solving political crises there in October and November 1956. Briefly speaking, when Moscow decided to put down the Polish workers’ uprising in mid-October 1956 by using force, Beijing opposed the decision on the grounds that the Polish problem was caused mainly by “big-power chauvinism” (referring to Moscow’s arrogance and interference in the domestic affairs of other countries) instead of Western antisocialist conspiracy. [In contrast], when Moscow was wavering between using force and a hands-off policy in face of the Hungarian crisis at the very end of October, Beijing urged Moscow to send its troops into Budapest. According to some Chinese sources made available in the late 1990s, from 19 to 31 October 1965, a time in which the Polish-Hungarian crisis reached its peak, communication and discussion between Moscow and Beijing were unusually constant and intense….

The most critical moments came on 29 and 30 October. On the evening of 29 October, Khrushchev and other Russian leaders met the Chinese in their residence and told them both Poland and Hungary were asking Moscow to withdraw its army from their countries. While insisting Moscow should change its “big-power chauvinism” attitude toward other communist countries, Liu Shaoqi said that under current circumstances it would be better for the Soviet army to remain and combat the antirevolutionaries. During the conversation the Chinese delegation received a call from Mao, whose suggestion was different from Liu’s. Mao said that it was the time for Moscow to withdraw its army from the two countries and let them be independent. Liu accepted Mao’s suggestion and conveyed it to Khrushchev. The next day, however, the Chinese delegation received a situation report from the Soviet leadership. The report was written by Anastas Mikoyan, the Soviet first deputy premier and skillful communicator between Moscow and other communist states, who had been sent to Hungary before the Chinese delegation arrived in Moscow. The report stated that since 29 October, with the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Budapest and dissolution of the Hungarian security force, the Hungarian capital and many other parts of the country had been in chaos, and antirevolutionaries were killing communists. The Chinese delegation was taken by surprise. After a whole day of discussion, they concluded that the nature of the Hungarian development was different from that of the Polish, so the Soviet army needed to reenter the capital and crush the antirevolutionaries. Then in the evening Liu Shaoqi called Mao. Mao changed his earlier stand that the Russians should leave and agreed with the delegation’s conclusion, because, in addition to Liu’s report, he had been receiving daily situation reports from Hungary written by Ho Deqing, the Chinese ambassador, and Hu Jibang, chief correspondent of the People’s Daily in Budapest. But he said it would be better if the Russians would wait a while to let more antirevolutionaries expose themselves–a typical Maoist tactic later on used to smoke out China’s Rightists. After calling Mao, the Chinese requested an emergency meeting with the Russians. In the meeting, Liu Shaoqi, vice chairman of the CCP’s central committee, strongly suggested that Khrushchev not “give up” in Hungary but make more efforts to save the situation, while Deng Xiaoping, the general secretary of the CCP, explicitly urged that the Russian army return to the capital and seize the government. But Khrushchev was hesitant. He told the Chinese that since the situation had changed considerably in Hungary, the return of the Russian army would mean an occupation of the country and the Russians would be regarded as conquerors. Therefore Soviet leadership, Khrushchev told the Chinese, had decided not to send its troops back. Since the Russians had made the decision, the Chinese did not go further to assert their opinions. Instead Liu said to the Russians, jokingly, that yesterday we tried to pursue you to withdraw but you did not agree; today you came and tried to pursue us to agree with your decision to withdraw. All people in the meeting laughed. Then Liu told the Russians that the Chinese delegation would return to Beijing the next evening. But the next evening, 31 October, the Chinese delegation received a call from the Kremlin just before departure for the airport. The Russian leaders asked the Chinese to arrive the airport one hour earlier than scheduled to have an emergency meeting. At the airport, the Chinese met Khrushchev and other Russian leaders. Khrushchev told them the Russian leadership had changed its mind overnight and decided to send troops back to Budapest. Excited, Liu Shaoqi said that the Chinese were glad that now the Russian leadership had taken a stand to defend socialism. In fact, before the airport meeting, the Russian army had already moved back toward the Hungarian capital.

Moscow’s vacillation, reflected in the Chinese account, in solving the Hungarian crisis may be confirmed by Khrushchev’s own statement: “I don’t know how many times [we changed our minds] about whether to get out of Hungary or ‘crush the mutiny.’” It is difficult to decide exactly to what extent Beijing influenced Moscow in making decisions, but as the above Chinese account shows, the Chinese did play some role in the process and the Russians did take China’s attitude seriously. On 3 November 1956, three days after Russian tanks rumbled into Budapest, China’s People’s Daily was one of the earliest communist papers worldwide to hail the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian revolt. China further endorsed the political change in Hungary by sending Zhou Enlai, its premier, to the still-smoldering Budapest in mid-January 1957, where Zhou’s residence (although he stayed there for only one day) had to be guarded by Soviet tanks.

SOURCE: Yinghong Cheng, “Beyond Moscow-Centric Interpretation: An Examination of the China Connection in Eastern Europe and North Vietnam during the Era of De-Stalinization,” Journal of World History 15:487-518 (Project Muse subscription required).

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