Is the United States of America Still a Republic?

Benjamin Franklin playing the Glass Armonica

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, the Constitution of the United States having finally been adopted, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic, if you can keep it,” he famously replied.

Have we kept it? Or is it something else now?

I offer here some bare facts and strong assertions. Let the discussion begin…

From republic, to empire, to… what?

According to George Friedman, the USA is now an empire, truly begun in the wake of World War Two. (Source).

Let’s look at the Roman Republic and how it evolved, and then imagine the possible implications in the continuing evolution of the USA.

First there was the Kingdom of Rome, beginning  2,770 years ago. It lasted 244 years, until the kingdom was overthrown by nobles representing the senate. The senate elected consuls for one-year terms to perform the executive functions of state. This arrangement lasted 482 years

The Roman Republic was the era of ancient Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BCE with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome’s control expanded from the city’s immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.  (Source)

The Murder of Julius Caesar

The republic ended upon the murder of Julius Caesar, and the subsequent ascension of Caesar’s nephew, Octavian, to assume the role of the first emperor.

The Roman Empire lasted 503 years, until the end of the reign of Romulus Augustulus 1,541 years ago, in 476 CE, displaced by the Byzantine Empire in centered in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey).

To recap:

The Roman Kingdom lasted 244 years.

The Roman Republic lasted 482 years.

The Roman Empire lasted 503 years.

The Byzantine Empire, which replaced the Roman Empire, lasted 977 years, until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 CE.

The Ottoman Empire lasted for 465 years, until the end of World War One and the 1918 Armistice of Mudros.


How did Rome transform itself from a republic to an Empire?

  1. It exalted the executive function (from consul to emperor) over the senate function.
  2. It exalted the military function over the senate function and, occasionally, over the executive function.

What about the USA?

The USA was part of the British Empire, which began around 1500 CE.

  1. The USA was a republic for 169 years, from its founding in 1776, until the end of World War Two in 1945.
  2. The USA exerts military and economic and, therefore, political hegemony over much of the world, a trend starting with the Spanish-American War.
  3. The United State Senate has ceded more and more authority to the executive branch (president) than is provided for in the Constitution. (Source)
  4. The United States military is the largest and strongest in the world, and has been so since the Second World War. (Source)

How long will the USA last as an empire?

As shown above, the Roman Empire lasted around 500 years. During that time there were seventy-seven emperors. The length of their reigns varied (Source):

21           less than one year (usually assassinated or overthrown)
16           one to three years (often deposed or killed)
14           four to eight years (sometimes killed in battle or killed by elements of the Roman Army)
26           ten to forty years (sometimes died of natural causes)

This history shows us why Washington, D.C. announces so loudly and clearly that, upon the inauguration of each new president, there has been a peaceful transition of power.  Such peacefulness is unusual in the history of such transitions in a mature government.

If such peaceful transitions remain the norm for changes in its government, then the USA can last a very long time, unless a stronger force from without successfully challenges it. So far, the primacy of the civilian executive over the military function has not been challenged by elements of the military or by either house of Congress.

Can the United States ever return to being a republic instead of an empire, given the world contains other large nations with nuclear weapons?

In that prior empires have lasted no more than around one thousand years, shall we have the same expectations for the USA?

React and discuss…

Reading list:

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon

A Study of History (Abridged), by Arnold J. Toynbee

The Decline of the West,  by Oswald Spengler

Russia is not the Soviet Union—what are ‘we’ afraid of?

Over a quarter of a century has passed since the Soviet Union dissolved into its constituent republics, and since its satellite countries in Eastern Europe have declared their independence from Soviet hegemony. Yet many in Europe and the USA are acting as if the Soviet Union still exists.

NATO continues to act as if Russia were the Soviet Union. The European Union continues to challenge Russia’s real and perceived interests in Eastern Europe. Some politicians in the USA are preparing to urge the new president to be ‘tough’ with Russia.

What’s going on? And what are the facts underlying the purported similarity of today’s Russia with the defunct Soviet Union that certain politicians and talking heads are promoting?

How strong was the Soviet Union in 1989 before its dissolution? And how strong is its successor state, Russia?

– In 1989 the Soviet Union was the third most populous country, after China and India, with the USA in fourth place.
– In 2016, Russia was the ninth most populous country, after China, India, the USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, with Japan in tenth place.

– The population of Russia today is about one-half that of the Soviet Union in 1989.

– In 1989, The Soviet Union’s share of World Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 13.5%.
– In 2016, Russia’s share of World GDP was 3.3%

– In 1989, The Soviet Union’s fertility rate (births per woman—all women) was 2.4, comfortably above the population replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. Its population was growing at a rate of 0.8%
– In 2016, Russia’s fertility rate was 1.61, well below population replacement rate. Its population was shrinking at the rate of -0.06%

Here are two charts, one for 1989 and one for 2016, which underly the above statements:

screenhunter_459-jan-02-17-47

I offer questions and ideas for discussion on this and related issues:

1. India seems poised to take the path which China has taken in the last quarter century, in terms of population and economic growth, while the other ‘great powers’ are slowing down in these respects. Why are ‘we’ not afraid of China and India, or at least as much as ‘we’ seem to be afraid of Russia?

2. Is it in the nature of the Russian character and its history as a regional power to expand its influence through the use of raw, i.e., military power?

3. I have seen it asserted that China is not ‘expansionist’ in nature, but rather seeks economic strength, and stability in its relations with other entities.We have not seen India as an expansionist entity, but perhaps Pakistan has a different perspective.

4. All European countries, except France and Iceland, are losing population, even with the recent migration waves from Asia and Africa. Eastern European countries are experiencing the greatest reductions in fertility and population. Perhaps this engenders fearfulness for their respective futures which the peoples project toward more powerful neighbors?

5. All four of these ‘great powers’ possess nuclear weapons. Who should be afraid of whom?

Let’s discuss this…

END

Letter from Poland

I recently visited Kraków, Poland, with nine of my writing colleagues, for a ‘writing retreat’ and some minor tourism.

We arrived 10 November, the day before an important national holiday, National Independence Day…

… a national day in Poland celebrated on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, after 123 years of partition by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Empire. (Wikipedia)

img_0697

One of the celebrations early on November 11, image taken from our hotel room

In pursuing the tourism, I went to the English language Massolit Bookstore. The fellow at the cashier and cafe desk is interested in the Beat Poets, as I am. He and I struck up a conversation and I promised to send him a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

After returning home, I sent him the poem, along with some personal comments and links to my writing. I received from him a most unexpected response. Here it is:
___

I am happy to read that you enjoyed your stay in Kraków. It is my favourite Polish city and I am happy to have moved here for good. You found it much settled in history and past. The city was lucky, very lucky not to be destroyed much by any war. Even the Communist  regime didn’t crush its beauty and spirit. And seriously, to me Kraków is an escapist city.

In any other Polish city I always feel some destruction. Warsaw was paved to the ground and awfully rebuilt after 1945. Lublin, which I came from is a God-forgotten place suffering from the consequences of a too rapid switch from communism to capitalism. Wrocław, which I lived in is a German town made Polish fifty years ago and still struggling to reinvent it’s identity, a continuing process. Only in Kraków do I feel at home, without all the damage that has been done to this country.

poland-map

I am writing this at age thirty-four, in the generation that grew up seeing the old being replaced by the new Poland after 1989. I was eight when it all happened. My parents would tell me “how it’s been” and why the Regime should “never repeat”. They raised me with this warning. Their parents raised them with the warnings against war. I am happy to notice twenty-year-olds not influenced with this kind of perspective.

My grandfather lost all his family during the war. He never came back to Lviv (today’s Ukraine, yesterday’s Poland). My mother tried to look for our relatives, didn’t meet anyone when she came there. I don’t feel like going there at all. Let past be the past.

This might sound cruel, but… I am sick and tired of war literature, especially the Holocaust kind of literature still being “mass produced” by yet another Jewish person coming to Auschwitz as a part of their “identity trip”. With masterpieces like Ellie Wiesel’s “Night” we don’t need any more Shoah books to understand the trauma.

I spent one year volunteering in Israel, which was a great lesson on complexity and diversity of life in all kinds of meaning. I walked a mile in someone else’s shoes and it was the most precious experience so far.

I came back to Poland and got close to Judaism again. I acted in Jewish theatre groups. I think that if there is any space in which we can work out the demons of all kinds it is art. Only in art and only on the non-personal but emotional and spiritual level of metaphorical language we can “speak with the ghosts.”

Some people now say: “If they chose Trump it means that humankind didn’t learn anything”. Well, a bit overstatement I would say, but I find an answer in Walter Benjamin’s “The Angel of History” essay. He said that all the answers have been given a long time ago and that if there is something like the Messianic times it IS the time of now, and if we can recognise ourselves and recognise our calling in the calling that has been left to us by the late generations to be accomplished, then it means we are doing right at life.

But why am I writing all this actually? Well, I believe life is a journey and I am trying to learn from all the passengers I happen to be travelling with. Sometimes I feel like explaining myself. Maybe that was one of these moments. We, Poles, have an idea of “The Polish complex,” which is an old fear of not being appreciated or never being understood by outsiders. Maybe this is also my complex that keeps me trying to tell this story again and again, come back to past, tell the identity and keep on checking if I have really told “the whole” story…

jakub-wydrzynski

— Jakub Wydrzynski

The Star-Spangled Banner has been our national anthem for eighty-five years; it’s time to change it.

When I was in kindergarten and grammar school, in the early 1940s, we often sang other patriotic songs as well; “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” I especially liked the latter, and still do. Here’s the first stanza:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Even as five- and six-year-olds we could sing these words from memory. I felt I could actually see the land “from sea to shining sea.” Sometimes we had the printed lyrics and could read and sing other three stanzas, which can be seen here

I have lived fourteen years in Sweden. During this time I haven’t participated in an event where the Star-Spangled Banner has been sung, until I recently attended the high school graduation ceremony of my granddaughter Sydney, in San Jose, California. Something didn’t feel right: “And the rocket’s red glare/the bombs bursting in air” were difficult to utter, although “the land of the free and the home of the brave” still brought tears to my eyes, remembering stories of our founding patriots who pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor“; and, in having known warriors and veterans, some wounded, since World War Two.

ScreenHunter_16 Jun. 11 15.03

Dr. Kevin W. Cosby, Senior Pastor, St. Stephen Church; President, Simmons College of Kentucky

I’ve lived with this dissatisfaction for many decades, but upon watching and hearing Dr. Kevin Cosby speak, on live TV, at the memorial service of Muhammad Ali yesterday, I decided to make public my dissatisfaction and propose a new official anthem for the United States of America.

Dr. Cosby is head of Simmons College and senior pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He delivered an oration and eulogy which was spell-binding. One of its many elements was a reference to a portion of the third stanza of the “Star-Spangled Banner”:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

This reference, as Rev. Cosby points out, shows how slavery was an accepted social and legal fact at the time of its writing, contributing to the “nobody-ness” of the former Africans who were now in America but recognized as having only three-fifths the personhood of other Americans, as set forth in the original Constitution of the United States. The abolition of involuntary servitude and the granting of full rights under the Constitution for former slaves were not assured until the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, all finally ratified by the states by 1870. (Source)

The words of what was to become, one hundred seventeen years later, our national anthem are from “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, a poem written on September 13, 1814 by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort during the American victory. (Source).

In addition to the anachronisms in the third stanza and throughout our anthem, it is notoriously hard to sing. Professional and amateur singers have been known to forget the words, which is one reason the song is sometimes pre-recorded and lip-synced. Other times the issue is avoided by having the performer(s) play the anthem instrumentally instead of singing it. The pre-recording of the anthem has become standard practice at some ballparks, such as Boston’s Fenway Park. (Source).

As I earlier said, I now live in Sweden. I occasionally hear my new country’s anthem sung (literal translation):

Thou ancient, Thou free, Thou mountainous north
Thou quiet, Thou joyful [and] fair!
I greet thee, loveliest land upon earth,
/:Thy sun, Thy sky, Thy climes green.:/

Thou thronest on memories of great olden days,
When honoured Thy name flew across the earth,
I know that Thou art and wilt remain what thou werest,
/:Yes, I want to live, I want to die in the North.:/
(Source)

(Note: I remain an American citizen).

The first verse reminds me of “America the Beautiful” where the physical vastness and beauty of the land is recognized first. It will be no surprise, therefore, that I now recommend we change our national anthem to “America the Beautiful…  and I already have an endorsement from Ray Charles.

ScreenHunter_14 Jun. 11 14.58

 

French Philosopher René Descartes Dead in Stockholm: An Ignominious End

René Descartes is famous for his assertion Cogito ergo sum (“I am thinking, therefore I exist”), or more popularly and pithily translated from the Latin, “I think, therefore I am”.

René Descartes

René Descartes

Descartes was enticed to Sweden at age fifty-three by the young Queen Christina, through their mutual friend, the French Ambassador to Sweden, Pierre Hector Chanut.  In 1646 Chanut corresponded with Descartes, asking him for a copy of his Meditations to give to the Queen. Christina started correspondence with Descartes about hate and love, and eventually invited him to Sweden. Descartes arrived on 4 October 1649. He resided with Chanut, but had to wait till 18 December until he could start giving private lessons to the queen. Accustomed to working in bed until noon, and being of delicate health since a young age, he probably suffered from Christina’s study regime which began early in the morning at 5 a.m. The premises of the nearby royal castle were icy, and on 1 February 1650 Descartes fell ill with pneumonia and died ten days later. (Source)

The Thirty Years’ War between Catholic and Lutheran states and factions in Europe had recently ended. As a Catholic in a Lutheran nation, Descartes was interred in a graveyard at St. Olof’s Chapel, a wooden structure used mainly for unbaptized infants, well outside the center of the city. In 1666, Descartes’ body was disinterred and returned to the building where he died and where the French Ambassador to Sweden lived, as had his predecessor Chanut: 68 Västerlånggatan (Western Long Street) in what is now “Old Town”. (More about the building further below).

Västerlånggatan 68, currently

Västerlånggatan 68, currently

Hughues de Terlon, the French ambassador, was officially in charge of the secretive exhumation and transport of Descartes’ remains to France for proper ceremonial interment. The flesh had decomposed, so all that was left were the bones. This allowed the Ambassador to put the remains in a much smaller box, thus not having to transport a coffin which would bring unwelcome attention, en route, to this enterprise.

The bones were properly blessed by local Catholic officials before being placed in the box, but de Terlon requested the authorities that he might himself be allowed, “religiously”, to take possession of Descartes’ right index finger, the bone “which had served as an instrument in the immortal writings of the deceased”. They granted him this request.

The box was guarded by Swedish military men, at least one of whom removed the skull of Decartes before the box was transported to France. The Swedish family that became the proud owners of Descartes’ skull — how, it is not clear — had it lovingly inscribed with Latin verses celebrating its significance as a souvenir of the beginnings of rationality. Successive owners added their own signatures and inscriptions testifying to their own ‘faith’ in the relic.

(The story of the box of bones and the skull is wonderfully told in the book Descartes Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason, by Russell Shorto, from which parts of the previous two paragraphs are taken.)

Ultimately, after centuries, all the bones except the index finger were reunited in the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris.

In 1774, a new church was erected on the site of St. Olof’s Chapel where Descartes’s remains had lain for sixteen years—Adolf Fredriks Kyrka.  Royal Prince Gustav (who, shortly after, was crowned King Gustav III) of Sweden wanted to honor the philosopher with a monument in the newly built church. The sculpture, rendered in lead, hangs on a pillar to the right of the altar in the church. The cherub unveiling the globe of Truth bears the likeness of Gustav III, the “Enlightenment King”. (Source).

Rene_Descartes_monument_in_the_Adolf_Fredriks_Kyrka_Stockholm_2

The full text on the monument is:

Gustavas Pr. Haer. R. S. (Gustavus Hereditary Prince)
Renato Cartesio (Italian form of René Descartes)
Nat. in Gallia MDXCVI (Born in France 1596)
Mort. in Svecia MDCL (Died in Sweden 1650)
Monumentum erexit (A monument has been erected)
_____________
MDCCLXX (1770)

Gustav III (1746 –1792) was King of Sweden from 1771 until his death. He was the eldest son of King Adolph Frederick and Queen Louise Ulrika, who was a sister of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. (Source)

The house in which Descartes briefly lived still stands in Gamla Stan (Old Town), Stockholm (pictured above). Here is a close up I took of some of the decoration at the entrance:

Facade, Västerlånggatan 68, Old Town, Stockholm

Facade, Västerlånggatan 68, Old Town, Stockholm

This is a red four-story building in Baroque style, called von der Lindeska house, named after the merchant Erik von der Linde, who had built it in 1630. In 1646 the house was sold to Queen Christina , who in 1648 donated the house to her half brother, Gustaf Gustafsson af Vasaborg . The building has a façade in the Dutch Renaissance style. The entry is adorned with the heads of two gods, Mercury and Neptune . On the wall are two cartouches with texts in German, in translation: Everything depends on God’s grace (An Gottes Segen ist alles gelegen); Put your hope in God alone (Auf Gott allein setze die Hoffnung Dein) (Source)

I wonder about the lessons to be learned from the sad ending to this illustrious man and his valuable work. He was only 53, but he had already given the world a way of seeing things which still reverberates between those who prefer faith to reason, and vice versa. A reading of his biography may give an answer to this. Here’s a place to start: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Descartes.

“North Dakota is still the least visited state in the nation”

The quote is from an article in The Writer’s Almanac, published daily on the Internet by americanpublicmedia.org.


My immediate reaction was to visit North Dakota but I quickly, and practically, let that impulse fade. This created a disappointment in me which I decided to assuage by discovering more about North Dakota, and to perform a virtual visit. Here it begins:

  • Formation of the land within the boundaries we now name as North Dakota
  • Native peoples before immigrants appeared
  • Explorers, pioneers, immigrants, and the formation of the state
  • Troubles between the native peoples and the newcomers
  • Current status and items of Interest

As a coda to this virtual tour, I present a famous fictional account of emigrants from Sweden to the Minnesota territory.

[In addition to links under words in the following text, there is a list of linked sources at the end]

Formation of the land

Inland Sea

Until around 70 million years ago, the interior of North America was flooded by an immense ocean that connected the present day Gulf of Mexico with the Arctic Ocean. As North America drifted farther west from its prior attachment to Europe and Africa, it encountered a oceanic plate on its western edge that caused the crust beneath this seaway to buckle up. This was the start of the Rocky Mountains as we know them today.

The Rocky Mountains, stretching from Canada through central New Mexico, began rising 70 Million years ago and continued, rapidly as geologists see things, for a period of 30 million years. They stopped growing 40 million years ago and erosion began to wear them down. Clay, sand, and silt were washed down the mountains by rains, creating The Great Plains and the North Dakota Badlands. At this time the climate of western North Dakota was subtropical and crocodiles were present in the lakes and rivers.

Then the ice came.

The current ice age started around 2.6 million years ago, centering in huge ice sheets over North America and Eurasia. Glaciers, advancing and retreating several times generally from the north, scoured the land, creating river valleys and other north-south features, such as “coteaus”—hilly uplands between the valleys, e.g., the Turtle Mountains in the north and the Missouri Coteau running diagonally across the center of the state from the northwest.

The box approximates the boundaries of North Dakota

The major rivers of North Dakota are The Red River of the North, which forms the boundary with Minnesota to the East, and the Missouri River which roughly encompasses the southwest quadrant of the state.

Rugby, located in the north-central part of the state, is the geographic center of North America.

Native Peoples

In the years between 1100 and 1300 AD, tribes migrated from the east, including the Hidatsa and Mandan. They built extensive villages, developed agriculture and hunted and traded over a large area. By the 1600s, the Cheyenne had become temporary residents of the area, following the great herds of bison. They, along with the Lakota Sioux and Assiniboine, profited immensely by domesticating wild horses of Spanish origin.

At the time of the Europeans’ incursions into the region in the early 1800s, major native groups included the following: the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara along the Missouri River; the Ntonai Sioux in present-day southeastern North Dakota; the Lakota, the most numerous and powerful of the tribes, in the southwest; the Ojibwa in the northeast and the Assiniboine in the northwest. (Source).

“Mandan Men”, Aquatint by Karl Bodmer from the book “Maximilian, Prince of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, during the years 1832–1834″

Explorers, Pioneers, Immigrants, and The Formation of the State

In searching for a hypothetical “River of the West” connecting Hudson Bay to the Pacific, The French Canadian Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye located the Missouri River in Mandan country, probably near the modern New Town, North Dakota about 70 miles east of the Montana border (October 1738).

In 1762, near the close of the French and Indian War, France granted Spain the area known as Louisiana. The major European influence at the turn of the century was Canadian, primarily through the activities of the North West Company. David Thompson of the Company explored north central North Dakota in 1797 and drew maps of his findings.

The region was ceded back to France in 1800. The rapid territorial exchange was completed in 1803, when France sold the area to the fledgling United States in what is known as the Louisiana Purchase. This acquisition provided about two-thirds of the territory that today is North Dakota; the remaining portion was obtain from Britain in the Convention of 1818. (Source).

By the 1840s, two major changes were occurring. First, the number of fur-bearing animals was being exhausted, reducing a major source of income for many of the tribes. Second, surrounding areas were developing rapidly; Iowa achieved statehood in 1846 and Minnesota gained separate territorial status in 1849. Spillover from these areas increased the non-native population of the Dakota regions, which aggravated a number of the Indian tribes that resented incursions onto their homelands.

During the 1850s, land companies enticed settlers. Sioux Falls was founded in 1856 and over the next few years Yankton, Bon Homme and Vermillion followed. The increased population led to the establishment of the Dakota Territory immediately before Abraham Lincoln took office in March 1861.

The new jurisdiction included present-day North and South Dakota, plus portions of Montana and Wyoming. Montana was separated in 1864 and Wyoming in 1868. The non-native population in the Dakotas, however, grew very slowly, due in part to the challenging climate and the remote location. Also inhibiting growth was the widely held perception that the northern Great Plains area was devoid of anything of value. Maps and atlases of the day labeled the region “The Great American Desert.”

Most settlers came to North Dakota for free or inexpensive land and the chance to farm. Between 1879 and 1886 over 100,000 immigrants entered northern Dakota territory. The second massive movement into the state was between 1898 and 1915 when more than 250,000 persons arrived. While some of the earliest settlers came by ox-drawn wagons, stagecoaches, or steamboats, the vast majority came on the railroad. Both the Northern Pacific and Great Northern railroads advertised Dakota in Europe, promoting people to take the railroad to North Dakota and farm the rich land there.

Most new settlers grew wheat, but did not have large farms. They either bought their land from the railroad or they homesteaded federal land. Homesteading involved living on and improving 160 acres of land for a number of years, after which the settlers got the land for free. They could receive an additional 160 acres of land by planting and maintaining trees on the prairie.

Large-scale farming occurred in eastern North Dakota from about 1875 to 1890, when investors from the eastern United States purchased huge tracts of rich Red River Valley land. Much of it was acquired from the Northern Pacific Railway and operated as large farms growing “No. 1 Hard” wheat. These farms ranged in size from 3,000 to 65,000 acres. The farms earned such tremendous profits that they became known across the United States as bonanza farms.

German-Russian Immigrants

Thousands of Germans emigrated to a newly expanded Russia beginning in the mid-1700s and extending into the 1880s. Disenchantment developed within the numerous German colonies beginning in the 1870s when the Russian government revoked many privileges and subjected the males to conscription, the children to the Russian language in schools, and all colonies to Russian rule. They were also upset by a shortage of new land for sons. Coincidentally free land was available in the United States and heavy German-Russian emigration began in the 1880s.

Approximately 120,000 German-Russian immigrants entered the United States to settle in various parts of the Great Plains before World War I. Most of these were Protestants, but a smaller number of Catholics, mainly from the Black Sea area, also emigrated. These largely settled in North Dakota where large expanses of unimproved land were available for homesteading in the counties immediately to the east of the Missouri River and west of the river on the Missouri Plateau.

The Dickinson, North Dakota area was primarily settled by German-Russian Catholics from Beresina in Bessarabia in the 1890s. Many of those arriving in the early 1900s settled south of Dickinson in the vicinity of Schoenfeld, later called Schefield. German-Russian homesteading continued to World War I when they comprised the largest immigrant population in western North Dakota.

Norwegian-American Settlements

The first Norwegians arrived in the Dakotas as early as 1859, shortly after the treaty with the Yankton Sioux was signed July 10, 1859. It took another ten years before the greater influx of Norwegians took place.

The Norwegian immigrants began arriving in North Dakota in the 1870s. They settled mainly in the eastern and northern parts of the state, but today they’re found everywhere in the state. Because of the lack of farmland in Norway, the Norwegian immigrants sought the wonderful fertile farmland of North Dakota.

Some of the immigrants had spent a few years in other states before they finally arrived in North Dakota. In 1880 the census recorded 8,814 Norwegians in North Dakota, and by 1900 there were 73,744.

The towns of Columbus and Larson is approximately 100% Norwegian, founded by Columbus Larsson in 1906 and 1907. It had 672 inhabitants in 1960, while it’s just 133 in 2010. Although these towns have a strong Norwegian heritage, none of the inhabitants speak Norwegian. Like the trend for the rest of North Dakotans, Norwegians are moving out of the rural areas.

Settlers from Telemark, Norway found their way to most of the major settlements in North Dakota in the late 1870s and early 1880s. In 1880, a band of people from Telemark, settled in the area of what is now Bue (named for the settlers’ Norwegian home in Bø, Telemark) in Nelson County. Their main cash crop was wheat, and they soon found that raising cattle was also quite lucrative. The main markets were in Valley City and Grand Forks.

Troubles Between the Natives and the Newcomers

Chief Sitting Bull was born in what is now North Dakota. During the Civil War he orchestrated raids on settlers who had encroached on the traditional territories of the Sioux Nation. His refusal to return to the reservation in 1876 led to the campaign know as “Custer’s Last Stand” in which General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry were wiped out at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Relations between the Indians and the occasional explorers and settlers were generally peaceful in the early decades of the 19th century. The fur trade changed native life, bringing guns, metal implements and cloth. Contact with the outsoders also introduced disease. The Mandan and Hidatsa in particular were hit hard by smallpox in 1837.

But as the settlers increased pressure on the lands, problems arose between the natives and newcomers. Indian “problems” dissuaded many settlers from considering the Dakotas as a possible home. In 1862, the Santee Dakota in Minnesota had staged an uprising and then fled into the Dakota Territory. They were pursued by the U.S. Army, which began to construct a series of forts across the territory to provide protection for settlers and travelers. The presence of the army also served to stir up tensions among the resident tribes, the Sioux in particular.

Some stability was brought by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 in which the U.S. pledged to keep settlers out of specified areas. In return, some of the Sioux, but not all, agreed to remain on reservations west of the Missouri River. The coming of the railroads and the discovery of gold, however, would again ignite warfare in the region.

After signing treaties with the United States government from the 1850s to the 1870s, North Dakota Native Americans were placed on several reservations. Many tribal members remain on these reservations still today.

There are five reservations in North Dakota, two of which occupy land in both South and North Dakota.

  • The Spirit Lake Nation (Devils Lake Sioux) is located at Devils Lake, in east central North Dakota.
  • The Fort Berthold Reservation is home to the Three Affiliated Tribes (Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan), and lies in the west-central part of the state along the Missouri River.
  • The Standing Rock Reservation (Standing Rock Sioux) straddles both North and South Dakota and is about forty miles south of Bismarck, North Dakota.
  • The Turtle Mountain Reservation (Chippewa and Metis) is the northernmost reservation, just below Canada in north central North Dakota.
  • The Sisseton Reservation (Sioux) is predominantly in South Dakota, with just the northernmost edge in southeastern North Dakota.

Tribal Nations of North Dakota

Ending the Tour: Current Status and Items of Interest

Ethnicities

As of 2000, about 92.4% of the state’s population was classified as white. The American Indian population was 31,329, or about 4.9% of the total. Among Americans of European origin, the leading groups were Germans, who made up 44% of the total population, and Norwegians, who made up 30%. Only about 1.9% of the state’s population (12,114) was foreign born as of 2000, predominantly from neighboring Canada. (Source). Click on the image immediately below to see common family names:

Most common last names from gravestones, in twelve cities and towns containing 42% of ND Population (in descending frequency, top to bottom, left to right)

Bakken Formation

Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated mean undiscovered volumes of 3.65 billion barrels of oil, 1.85 trillion cubic feet of associated/dissolved natural gas, and 148 million barrels of natural gas liquids in the Bakken Shale Formation of the Williston Basin Province, Montana and North Dakota. (Source).

Bakken Formation

U.S. Public Land Survey Method

Modern land survey is based largely on proposals developed by Thomas Jefferson in 1784.  It is based on a series of rectangular surveys, adjusted for the curvature of the Earth.

Soon after a territory was ceded to the federal government by American Indian representatives, the land needed to be surveyed before it could be sold.   The homesteading and timber rush in the 1800s overwhelmed the government’s General Land Offices (GLO) to the point that offices sometimes had to be closed for days or weeks at a time just to catch up on the paperwork.  Some survey contractors were very meticulous, others were less so, and a few were downright fraudulent.  Overall, the GLO survey was remarkably accurate, especially in light of the technology and wildness of the land at the time. (Source)

County Borders in North Dakota

The Badlands of North Dakota

The badlands are a hilly landscape, but on approaching them, you look down on the hills from above, not up at them. From the rim of the “breaks,” as the descent into the badlands is called, you see a strip of sparsely wooded ridges, bluffs, buttes, and pinnacles. Behind, a rolling plain, broken only by an occasional butte, stretches away to the horizon.

The Sioux Indians, one of the tribes that inhabited the area when European settlers arrived, referred to the badlands as “makosika” (“land bad”). Early French explorers translated this and added to it, referring to “les mauvais terrers a’ traverser” (“bad land to travel across”).

Layers of sedimentary rock are found near Dickinson, where badlands are carved from the Oligocene Brule and Chadron Formations. These beds are notable for their abundant mammal fossils. Other areas of badlands topography include exposures of the Eocene Golden Valley Formation, also near Dickinson, and exposures of the Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation.

Coda

The Emigrants, by Vilhem Moberg

The Emigrants and its sequels,  Unto a Good LandThe Settlers and The Last Letter Home, is the epic story of peasant farmers in Sweden who found they could not make progress and would continue to live on the cusp of total poverty. As with so many others from the Scandinavian countries, they gather family and friends to take the monumental step of making a fresh start by emigrating to the United States of America. The books depict their lives in Sweden, the motives for the huge decision they each made, and their tough sea voyage across the Atlantic, and generally their hardship and struggle. Vilhelm Moberg did considerable research into the subject and the result sheds important light on the exodus from Scandinavia in general and Sweden in particular.

The saga was made into a movie starring  Max von Sydow, and Liv Ullmann.

Sources

Aber, James S., “Regional Glaciation of Northern Great Plains”
Carlson, Alvar W. “German-Russian Houses in Western North Dakota.” Pioneer America 13, no. 2, 1981
City-Data.com: North Dakota
Geology.com: North Dakota Map Collection
Library of Congress
North Dakota Historical Overview: “Native Americans”
Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920: “Settlement”
MHA Nation
National Park Service, Navajo National Monument Geologic History
North Dakota Studies: “Geology, Geography, and Climate”
North Dakota Studies
North Dakota State University: “Geology of North Dakota”
Online Highways LLC: United States History; North Dakota
Native Languages of the Americas
Arikara Indian Fact Sheet
Assiniboine Indian Fact Sheet
Cheyenne Indian Fact Sheet
Cree Indian Fact Sheet
Dakota Indian Fact Sheet
Hidatsa Indian Fact Sheet
Mandan Indian Fact Sheet
Ojibway Indian Fact Sheet
Peakbagger.com, “Rocky Mountains”
Spirit Lake Tribe
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
US Geological Survey (USGS) of the Federal Department of the Interior: “Rocky Mountain System”
US Route 89 Appreciation Society: “Quick Guide to US Route 89 in the Rocky Mountains”
Website of the Sota Iya Ye Yapi: Lake Traverse Reservation
Wikipedia
Last glacial period
Missouri River
Norwegian Dakotan
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye
Red River of the North
Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation
World Oil, Vol.232 No.1, January 2011: “Drilling Technology”

The Republic of Turkey: Her Role in the World’s Geopolitical Balance

Summary

Turkey emerged as a secular republic, in 1923, from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire which was partitioned into several countries by the allied victors of the First World War. Turkey has since become a important strategic partner with the USA and the European Union. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to US President Jimmy Carter, sees Turkey as a vital part of a newly-defined “West” in creating and maintaining a healthy balance of power between the world’s eastern and western spheres of influence. I use Mr. Brzezinski’s book Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power as one major source for this discussion.

Flag of The Republic of Turkey

In addition, Turkey has embarked on a mission to help resolve the many dangerous and economically debilitating conflicts in the region of the Caucasus—areas adjacent to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Turkey also is encouraging political amity and economic cooperation among the now-independent republics of the former Soviet Union in Central Asia. To support this discussion I use the comments of Ambassador Fatih Ceylan who presented his paper “Protracted Conflicts in the South Caucasus and Central Asia” at a June 15 lecture at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Stockholm, which I attended.

There are currently many forces in play which may alter these plans and hopes, however, and I will present a few major developments based on recent news articles and opinions.

Background

From Islamic Empire to Secular State

The geographic boundaries of the Republic of Turkey encompass the heart of the former Ottoman Empire which ruled a significant part of Europe and most of the Near East or Middle East (definitions vary) for hundreds of years until the end of World War I in 1918. The Empire’s Asian lands were taken by nations on the winning side—primarily Great Britain and France—governed for a while, then partitioned and allocated, over a number of years, to new political entities: Lebanon, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Palestine, Syria, Transjordan, and lands that became the Republic of Turkey. Other lands were ceded to Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Soon after partition, Turkish nationalists waged a War of Independence against the Allied Powers, during which Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his colleagues formed a Turkish Grand National Assembly. In July 1923, after the end of the Turkish-Armenian, Franco-Turkish, and Greco-Turkish wars, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed and the Republic of Turkey was established in October of the same year.

(Please click on all images  for greater clarity)

Ottoman Empire, 1672 (metmuseum.org)

The first president of the Republic was Atatürk who embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms. The new government adapted the institutions of Western states such as France, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland to the needs and characteristics of the Turkish nation. Atatürk capitalized on his reputation as an efficient military leader, and spent the years until his death in 1938 transforming Turkish society from perceiving itself as a Muslim part of a vast Empire into a modern, democratic, and secular nation-state. (Source).

The Role of the Military

In the new Turkish republic, serving military officers who were elected to parliament were obliged by law to resign from the army. The aim of Kemel Atatürk was twofold: to prevent the military from exercising direct political influence, and to protect the military from the everyday struggles of the political arena. However, he also saw the role of army as the guardian of the secular republic. As a result, the army has felt, until very recently, a responsibility for the protection of the Kemalist principles of the republic. This principle was written into the Turkish Armed Services Internal Service Code, which states that “the duty of the armed forces is to protect and safeguard Turkish territory and the Turkish Republic as stipulated by the Constitution.” Three interventions by the military against the government have been justified on this legal basis, in the years 1960, 1971, and 1980. (Source).

However, the last such intervention in 1997 resulted, later in April 2012, in the arrest and pending trial of nine military officers.  A major importance of this action against the actors in the coup is that it helps Turkey in its ongoing attempts to meet certain requirements in its application to become a member of the European Union (EU).

The Republic of Turkey and Adjacent Countries in The Caucasus and Black Sea Areas (libcom.org)


Turkey’s Pending Membership in the European Union

The prospect of Turkey becoming a member of EU is a critical factor, according to Brzezinsski, in the strategic balance of power between eastern and western spheres of influence.

… (B)road geopolitical trans-European stability… will require US engagement in shaping a more vital and larger West while helping to balance the emerging rivalry in the rising and restless East. This undertaking needs a sustained effort over the next several decades to connect, through institutions like the EU and NATO, both Russia and Turkey with a West that already embraces the EU and the United States.” (P. 131, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power).

Turkey… has been modeled from its start on Europe. In 1921, Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal), the leader of “the young Turks” movement, began to transform the dismembered Ottoman Empire into a modern European-type secular nation-state… In more recent times it… evolved into democratization, a process to a significant degree driven by Turkey’s interest in becoming… a part of the unifying Europe. This aspiration was encouraged by Europeans, and it resulted in Turkey’s official application for membership (in the European Union) in 1987. The EU started formal negotiations in 2005. (P. 128, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power).

EU Member Countries, Candidate Countries, and Potential Candidate Countries (ec.europa.eu)

Membership has been slow in coming, and it is still not certain. In 2011, Chase Cavanaugh wrote an article for the Washington Review of Turkish and Eurasian Affairs discussing the difficulties in EU’s acceptance of Turkey’s application for membership:

… (T)here are several reasons that Turkey is finding it difficult to enter the European Union (including) a series of obligations that new member nations must satisfy, known as the “Copenhagen Criteria”. The first criterion states that candidate countries must have achieved “stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities.”  Turkey already has difficulties with several parts of this criterion, beginning with stability.

In Turkish politics, the army has a privileged place in the state power structure, seen as heritors and defenders of the secular “Kemalist” state… Historically, they have launched several coups against the government when they felt that it has been threatened by parties that were either too Islamist, or did not adequately conform to Ataturk’s ideology…

Kemal Atatürk (yaymicro.com)

Though there has been no major coup since 1980, the army has forced an Islamist coalition in 1997 led by Necmettin Erbakan to resign, as they felt he was leading the country toward “increasingly religious rule”… The constant threat of coups by the military is not conducive to a stable democratic regime and hurts Turkey’s image as a stable democracy… (Source)

However, since Mr. Cavanaugh’s article was published, Article 35 of the Turkish Armed Services (TSK) Internal Service Code is slated to be emended by parliament to limit the duty of the TSK “to protect the Turkish motherland from external threats.”

Current Status of Turkey’s Application for Membership in the EU

Despite Turkey’s application for membership in the EU was in 1987, twenty-five years ago as of this writing, there seems no probable date by which this application will succeed. The Journal Insight Turkey reported this, earlier in 2012:

… (N)either the negotiation process, nor the so-called political dialogue between the EU and Turkey on a variety of issues from Syria or Eastern Balkans to NATO-EU cooperation, is proceeding. The primary reason for this state of affairs is the lack of a clear European perspective for Turkey.

Nonetheless,  Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis expresses optimism:

Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator

ISTANBUL, 27 June 2012 (Reuters) – Turkey expects France to unblock talks that are essential if it is ever to join the European Union, now that Socialist President Francois Hollande has replaced Nicolas Sarkozy… “We are entering a new period in relations with France after Hollande’s election”…

Hollande has backed away from Sarkozy’s stark opposition to Turkey entering the EU but any shift in position from Paris will have more symbolic resonance than practical effect. Turkey… has only completed one of the 35 policy “chapters” that every candidate must conclude to join the EU…

While Hollande has stopped short of endorsing Turkey’s EU candidacy, he has said it should be judged on political and economic criteria – a contrast to Sarkozy’s position that Turkey did not form part of Europe…

Despite the slow progress, Turkey still expects to join the EU before 2023…

The stated goal of achieving membership by 2023 indicates Turkey’s continued desire, and patience, for this outcome. To keep up-to-date on the progress and current status of Turkey’s application for membership in the EU, go to these two websites:

Meanwhile…

The Republic of Turkey is not putting its ambitions on hold while awaiting the final outcome of its application for EU membership. I now turn to the remarks of Ambassador Fatih Ceylan who presented his paper “Protracted Conflicts in the South Caucasus and Central Asia” at a June 15 lecture at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Stockholm.

Main Points Addressed in Ambassador Ceylan’s Presentation

  1. The protracted conflicts in the areas of interest to the Organization for Security and Co-Operation (OSCE):
    a. Nagorno-Karabakh (NK)
    b. Abkhazia
    c. South Ossetia
    d. Transnistria
  2. The “normalization” process between Armenia and Turkey
  3. “Normalization” in the South Caucasus
  4. “Innovative approaches designed for the future of the South Caucasus”
  5. The Central Asian Republics (formerly “Socialist Republics” within the USSR), and Turkey’s relations with them

(Please click on the image for clarity)

LEFT: Transnistria CENTER: Abkhazia and South Ossetia RIGHT: Nagorno-Kharabakh


In foreign relations Turkey is guided by the principle established by its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: “Peace at home and peace in the world”.

The primary objective of Turkish foreign policy is to create a peaceful, prosperous, stable, and cooperative environment in our close vicinity which is essential for sustainable social, ecenomic, cultural, and political development of our region…

Turkey’s foreign policy places special emphasis on the region of the South Caucasus and the Black Sea basin.

The region is located at the intersection of major energy and transport projects of global importance such as the ‘contract of the century’ and the first great engineering project of the 21st Century, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum Gas Pipeline, and the key component of the “Iron Silk Road”, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway.

Note that the pipelines bend around a gray area on the map which is the unidentified country of Armenia

Ambassador Ceylan noted that the situation in the South Caucasus is “volatile and fragile”. The so-called “frozen conflicts” of the South Caucasus are not, in fact, frozen and can translate into open conflicts on Europe’s outskirts in a short time.  Ceylan pointed to the five-day war between Georgia and Russia, in 2008, as an example.

There are multi-governmental commissions and other official groups attempting to reach resolution of these conflicts:

While these groups and other less visible diplomatic efforts continue to struggle with the protracted and sometimes volatile conflicts mentioned above, Turkey is attempting to create a positive incentive for cooperation in a sphere that is rooted neither in territorial history, politics, religion, or ethnicity—namely, economic opportunities thorugh collaboration. Ambassador Ceylan elucidated:

We have suggested the establishment of a Regional Development Agency serving as an umbrella institution to implement regional projects, including the reconstruction and development of the energy and transport infrastructure and telecommunication networks. We believe that transportation may be a major component of long-term sustainable cooperation in the South Caucasus. The Regional development Agency could give priority (first) to integrated regional transport corridor projects, including railways and highways, covering Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation, (then) countries beyond the region…

From a political perspective, the project we are proposing would present opportunities to ll stakeholders to leave behind their counterproductive rhetoric and urge them to adopt a more result-oriented approach in the negotiation process.

In 1989 Nagorno-Karabakh was an ethnic Armenian autonomy within the Azerbaijan SSR of the Soviet Union. The territory is now internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

The major sticking point in “normalizing” relations in the region, especially between Turkey and Armenia, is the issue of Nagorno-Kharabak. As Ambassador Ceylan stated. “A significant part of the Azerbaijani territory is still occupied by Armenia as a result of a gross violation of international law and in breach of United Nations Security Council resolutions”. He went on to emphasize that Turkey is committed to the normalization process with Armenia and that disputes be resolved through dialog and conciliatory approaches by the parties.

We are determined to promote our relations on the basis of mutual confidence and respect and to create a “belt of prosperity” in the South Caucasus…

The Turkic Connection in Central Asia

Ambassador Ceylan marked the 20th anniversary of the independence, from the USSR, of the republics of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

After presenting a detailed analysis of the security and other risks confronting these new republics which lie between the two great powers of Russia and China, and are adjacent to the troubled nation of Afghanistan, he stated that “the region definitely does not want to be strangulated in yet another struggle for hegemony.”

The Republics of The Southern Caucasus and Central Asia which were formerly part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

While recounting some of the difficulties these newly independent republics have had and continue to have in creating stable and more democratic polities, he also pointed out what progress has been made. He counseled patience to interested parties in the West and in the region, and recited Turkey’s resolve to support their progress toward “integration with the Euro-Atlantic structures.”

Turkey played a leading role in contributing to the adoption of free market rules by the Central Asian countries. A network of Turkish businessmen is actively engaged with the Central Asian Republics. There are more then two thousand registered Turkish companies and several thousand joint ventures with local partners in the region. Turkey is also a prominent trade partner of these countries…

There are two Turkish universities in Central Asia and many private and state schools run by the Turks throughout the region…

During the last twenty years we have also have accomplished to deepen solidarity and mutual support with the Turkic speaking countries on international and regional issues. With this understanding, in 2010 we established with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States.

By virtue of the commonality of language, ethnicity, and culture in the states of the region, Turkey is a key player, along with Russia and China, in maintaining stability in the region.

Source. turkishgrammar.net

Other Issues

This ends my summary and comment of the two presentations mentioned at the head of this article. Now to mention briefly and illustrate other issues not developed by either speaker, which are relevant to the security of the region surrounding Turkey:

  • Ferment in Islamic states in the region
  • The issue of “Kurdistan”

Ferment in Islamic states in the region

Here is a map of countries in the region where a significant proportion of the population are of the Islamic Faith, with the percent of the Shia denomination shown (please click on the image):

Percent Shia Muslims in Countries of North Africa and Western Asia

Although people of the Shia and Sunni denominations live together harmoniously in most areas, there are regions where their differences arise to armed conflict. There are other sources of conflict, as well, such as has arisen in Syria, at the southern border of Turkey. And, there is uncertainty regarding Iran’s growing belligerence in the region, another country bordering Turkey.

The issue of “Kurdistan”

There has never been a formal nation of Kurdistan, but there are many references to such an entity by virtue of so many Kurdish people having resided for centuries in contiguous regions of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Kurdish holds official status in Iraq as a national language alongside Arabic, and is recognized in Iran as a regional language.

Contemporary use of Kurdistan refers to parts of eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and northern Syria inhabited mainly by Kurds. Iraqi Kurdistan first gained autonomous status in 1970 agreement with the Iraqi government and its status was re-confirmed as an autonomous entity within the federal Iraqi republic in 2005. There is also a province by the name Kurdistan in Iran, although it does not enjoy self-rule. Kurds fighting in the Syrian Civil War were able to take control of large sections of Northeast Syria as forces loyal to al-Assad withdrew to fight elsewhere. Having established their own government some Kurds called for autonomy in a democratic Syria, others hoped to establish an independent Kurdistan. Some Kurdish nationalist organizations seek to create an independent nation state of Kurdistan, consisting of some or all of the areas with Kurdish majority, while others campaign for greater Kurdish autonomy within the existing national boundaries. (Source).

An Imagined “Kurdistan”

Turkey says (it) won’t allow PKK to benefit from authority vacuum in Syria: Turkey’s top security council has threatened the presence of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Syria, vowing that Turkey will not allow the terrorist organization to benefit from the authority vacuum in the war-torn country (News Article Source, 29 August 2012).

Conclusion

The Republic of Turkey is in a position, by virtue of her history, economic strength, political stability and geographic location, to play a key geopolitical role in its region and beyond. The hopes of Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the dreams of The Republic of Turkey, as expressed by Ambassador Fatih Ceylan, may well play out as they envision, but there are known and unknown impediments to these, some revealing themselves and playing out at this moment.