Daily Archives: 12 April 2006

Targeting Russian Émigrés, 1920s

This period [the early 1920s] was one of intense secret operations abroad mounted by INO (Inostrannyi Otdel), the Foreign Intelligence Department of the OGPU. Even after the destruction of the White armies, Lenin was determined to pursue counter-revolution abroad. In December 1920, Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka, had begun to organize operations against émigré groups in France and Germany. Berlin alone contained 200,000 White Russian refugees.

Relatives of prominent émigrés were seized as hostages at home and agents were rapidly recruited for operations abroad to infiltrate émigré organizations and arrange the kidnapping of their leaders. A sophisticated development was to create fake White Guard organizations within Russia to trap the regime’s enemies. These activities were given the highest priority. For the first dozen years of its life, INO’s ‘main foreign target remained the White Guard movement’.

The White Guard movement was directed from Paris by the Russian combined Services Union (ROVS), led by General Kutepov, who was kidnapped in Paris by OGPU agents in January 1930. A successor, General Miller, was also kidnapped in December 1936. He was taken back to the Soviet Union drugged inside a trunk, interrogated, tortured and then shot. The émigré world of White Russians in the early 1920s was a political demi-monde of agents and double agents, mostly working for the OGPU. Homesick White Russians in Paris and Berlin, many of them well-born officers working at night as taxi drivers, were prepared to betray their closest friends for the chance of what they thought was a guarantee of safe conduct home….

The Russian émigré community in Berlin was more like a colony, largely because it was so concentrated on the western centre of the city. Berliners jokingly called the Kurfürstendamm the Nöpski Prospekt’, and Charlottenburg was known as ‘Charlottengrad’. Writers including Vladimir Nabokov, Ilya Ehrenburg and Boris Pasternak treated the cafés of the area, such as the Prager Diele, in the same way as French existentialists later used the cafés of Saint-Germain. There were around 200 Russian-language newspapers, magazines and journals in Berlin, a number of publishing houses and even a Russian high school. But this already precarious community was to be devastated and scattered within a decade by the economic crisis and unemployment triggered by the Wall Street Crash.

SOURCE: The Mystery of Olga Chekhova: The true story of a family torn apart by revolution and war, by Antony Beevor (Penguin, 2005), pp. 95-97

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Shinto: Practices vs. Doctrines

From ancient times, the Japanese (indeed East Asians generally) had not missed the point that many of what we call “religious traditions” of East Asia were alike in some fundamental way. In general, the Japanese grouped together the Asian spiritual traditions by giving them names (usually borrowed from Chinese) sharing one of two suffixes: kyō ([教] broadly meaning “teachings”) or ([道] broadly meaning “path,” “way,” or “course”). The convention was to precede this suffix with the name of the spiritual inspiration behind the tradition. Thus jukyō indicated Confucianism ([儒教] “Confucian scholar” plus kyō), butsudō or (later) bukkyō indicated Buddhism ([仏道/仏教] Buddha” plus or kyō), and dōkyō indicated Daoism ([道教] “dao” plus kyō). The name “Shinto” itself consists of the character for kami ([神] in such compounds pronounced shin) and dō ([道] in this case mutated into ). In referring to Christianity today in Japan, the common term is kirisutokyō ([キリスト教] “Christ” plus kyō).

As we see in the two terms for Buddhism (butsudō and bukkyō), the suffixes and kyō may be interchangeable. There is, however, a difference in their etymologies: has the nuance of praxis and kyō of doctrines. Hence the Japanese arts as well as religions may have the suffix dō: budō ([武道] “way of the warrior” or martial arts), chadō ([茶道] “way of tea” or tea ceremony), shodō ([書道] “way of writing” or calligraphy). In self-consciously creating a word to translate the Western term “religion,” this difference in nuance between kyō and is relevant. The use kyō in shukyō suggests a Japanese impression that the concept of “religion” is more about doctrine or creed than practice.

What about the first part of the word, the shū of shūkyō [宗教]? The term shū suggests a discrete religious community with common practices and teachings. In fact, the term shūkyō was not truly a neologism. There was a rather arcane Buddhist use of the term to mean specifically the doctrines of any particular Buddhist sect or school. Given this etymological context, to inquire in Japanese whether someone is “religious” (shūkyōteki) may seem a little like asking them if they are “sectarian” or “dogmatic.” In choosing such a word to designate “religion,” the scholars who created the neologism might have been thinking of the evangelical and exclusivist aspects of the Western religions they had encountered (especially through Christian missionaries). This exclusivity in Japanese Christianity continues today, incidentally: the large majority of the 1 percent of Japanese who designate “Christian” as their religious affiliation do not, unlike many of their Buddhist or Shinto compatriots, also select another tradition.

SOURCE: Shinto: The Way Home, by Thomas P. Kasulis (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2004), pp. 30-31

NOTE: Some quotes around italics eliminated. Kanji characters added.

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Hiroshima Carp’s Manager Marty Brown

Last night, I was watching the only Pro Baseball game in Japan that wasn’t rained out. My old underdog favorite Hiroshima Carp lost to the newly revitalized Yomiuri Giants and their superb, three-hit shutout pitching of Jeremy Powell. I was shocked to see that the super-traditional Carp had a foreign manager, former Carp player Marty Brown. The funniest part of the game for me was watching Brown’s translator while Brown was flashing signs to his outfield after the Giants broke the game open with a series of hits in the 7th inning. Brown’s translator was repeating, sign for sign, what his manager was signing. That surely must be the easiest translation task one could ask for.

It sounds like Brown has a much harder job, judging from a recent report by Jim Allen in the Daily Yomiuri.

Marty Brown is a firm believer in tradition, and traditionally no team has exerted more energy in practice than the Hiroshima Carp. Yet after finishing fifth or worse for four straight seasons, the fish lured their former outfielder back to Hiroshima Citizens Stadium to turn that energy into results….

The club’s spring training camp was like going to a living history museum, an homage to pro baseball’s past. Other clubs go through pre-programmed drills in small groups until noon when individuals go off to work on specific skills, but Hiroshima’s habit was old-school regimentation–working in groups from morning to late afternoon.

“Something had to be changed and I think it took a lot of guts to hire me to do this job, this being Hiroshima and [me] a foreign manager,” Brown said. “I respect that. I think it is good that I played in Hiroshima and I know the city and I still have a lot of friends there….

Brown has instructed all the players to plan their own skill workouts–instead of simply following programs planned out by coaches–and to have a focus and rationale for their work.

“Until now, the Carp have had very tough workouts. Just amazing,” said Arai. “But Marty has said we’ll finish group workouts earlier … [and] with the time remaining, players should … work individually on their weak points.”

This is nothing new in Japan.

The Chunichi Dragons won the CL in 2002 after rookie manager Hiromitsu Ochiai told veteran players to plan their own spring routines. But for the tradition-bound Carp this was a radical departure.

“Up to now, camp had the feeling of, ‘Do this.’ Now it is, ‘Let’s go.’ That’s really a significant difference,” Arai said.

Asked if players could confidently do their own thing after years of conformity, Arai insisted it was no problem.

“Essentially, action must originate with a player. When coaches are telling you ‘do it, do it,’ it is about their expectations,” Arai said. “But every action depends on the ability of the player, himself.

“Marty said, ‘You are professionals and I expect you to take responsibility.’ To take responsibility and think for yourself, and turn that into action, that is part of being a professional ball player.”

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