Book review of Murderers in Mausoleums. Riding the back roads of empire between Moscow and Beijing. Jeffrey Tayler. 2009.
This was a very timely book to read while the crisis is unfolding now in the Ukraine.
One of the reasons this area is a powder keg are the natural resources.
“..energy resources and their conveyance to markets dominate the new Great Game unfolding in Central Asia. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan recently announced plans to build a gas pipeline connecting with Russia’s network, for subsequent re-export to Europe, thwarting a U.S. project for a pipeline that would bypass Russia; in fact, Russia now controls all of Central Asia’s westward-flowing gas exports. Gazprom will soon be able to exert powerful political pressure over countries such as Ukraine… Central Asian oil will also strengthen Russia’s hand” especialy Kazakhstan which has the world’s largest oil field discovered in the past 30 years, and where 40% of the people are slavic and mostly Russian.
Tayler suggests that China and Russia are natural allies: “China needs energy land and water, all of which Russia has in surplus. Might the two countries form an alliance?” He concludes that “One has to ask, Why shouldn’t Russia, China, and the countries in between form an anti-American alliance? What has the west offered them, besides criticism of their deficient human rights records, the expansion of a military alliance around their borders, and the prospect of facing ever-more-sophisticated weapons systems? Why shouldn’t Russia sell its fuel to China or use it to intimidate its rivals? What else does it have?” This is one of the many themes in the book.
Just as America has Mexicans and other immigrants doing the dirty work, Russia has millions of immigrant laborers, many from Central Asia, a “pervasive, mostly illegal underclass that Russians do not want to see yet without which no yard stays clean, few food markets can function, and little trade accomplished….These days public opinion is not tolerant. Central Asians are viewed as uncivilized Muslims, beggars, melon vendors, petty crooks, and fafiozy. Facing daily threats of extrotion and even assault from the police during spot document checks, they lay low, making the enws only when attacked by growing numbers of skinhead gangs whose slogan is “Russia for the Russians”. It is predicted that by the end of the century, the migrants will become a majority and turn Russia into a mainly Muslim country.
We ignore the central asian countries these migrants come from, these downtrodden people between Moscow and Beijing. The only country that can threaten the USA militarily is Russia (nuclear arsenal), the only economic power that could sing the USA is Ghina. But we ignore the impoverished, mostly Muslim hinterlands on whose stability will affect Russia and China, if these nations can unite, they present the biggest threat to American and Western global dominance.
Tayler travels across many countries and discovers a lot of ethnic hatred — this is a potential powder keg of hate, that seems vulnerable to endless civil wars and genocides if instability were to ever gain the upper hand.
Other items of interest
description of Russians: “Social engineering, now almost 2 decades discontinued, produced a New Soviet Human possessing traits favoring survival under direst duress: ingrained distrust of the government and the media; disbelief in justice as embodied in laws 9written of course to serve the elite), and consequently, a willingness to flout the law to get ahead; cynicism toward government officials (regarded as ever on the take); the spurning of piety, probity, and honesty as the attributes of naifs; and finally, the exaltatoin of deceit, the lionization of crooks, for only through cleverness could one succeed. The Soviet system, in sum, created a populace of survivors who would excel in stealth and criminality and yet be unwilling to confront their governments and demand what is owed them”.
“Russia’s Hobbesian human jungles hone ruthless talents of survival, and its poverty anneals the masses to discomfort; whereas Westerners are spoiled, fragile, and spineless. A predatory government forces Russians to develop tactics of evasion and subterfuge, while Westerners indulge their fancies in law-bound societies that permit frivolous pursuits and childish dissent. these are gross generalizations, but in some ways they hold up; Russia is much stronger than it looks. Certainly the Nazis had underestimated Russia (weakened by Stalin beyond the point of no return they thought) and met their end here as a result”.
A conversation with a Russian on a train:
“She returned to her seat and upended her wine cup. “I hear Condoleezza talking about democracy and that retard Bush telling us how to live, and I say, ‘America, shove your democracy up your ass and stop lecturing us!’ You meddle in other countries and f**k them up and then scold us about human rights. Shove it! I once thought Americans were a great people. But what kind of great people elects a f**king retard twice as president? You can tell by the look on his face that he’s a moron, a brainless cretin, but you elect him anyway! Bush rigged the votes, so what? I know all that. But you didn’t protest, you didn’t fight back. Look, I’ll tell yo one thing and you’d better listen. Russia is getting stronger, Russia is rising, and you’re just going to have to get used to it. we’ve got thousands of clever people in this country, brilliant people, scientists and schemers, and make no mistake about it: they’re out-and-out bastards. We live like sh*t, sure, but we don’t give a damn. Like it or not, we’re getting stronger, and we’re no f**kng pansies. The Yeltsin days are over. We’re not taking any more orders from Bush or anyone else.”
Tayler comments on this with: “Many now express views like hers, and not only in Russia. But in Russia, where strength and cleverness are revered above all else, they mattered. Disdain for an America perceived as weak and stuipid would embolden Putin in his confrontation with the West.
This is also a travel book that will take you places you’re very unlikely to go to. I used google images as I read the book to get a better picture of places which I highly recommend.