World History


Sins of the Father: Syrian President Hafez Assad’s Legacy of Chemical Weapons and the Balance of Power in the Middle East

Only three weeks ago the world media was filled with horrific images of Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons and the military response of America and its allies. But we’ve been here before which raises the question: why does this keep happening?

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Readex’s Nuclear Arms and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Global Perspectives, 1945-1996, contains abundant references to the development of Syrian chemical weapons as a readily attainable foil to Israel’s alleged nuclear capability, and as an impediment to American hegemony in the Middle East. In that region, chemical weapons have become the less-developed country’s nuclear arms, with most of the benefits and few of the liabilities of the latter.

The late Syrian President Hafez Assad, father of current President Bashar Assad, said as much in a 1987 interview in the newspaper Al-Qabas, as broadcast on the Damascus Domestic Service, recorded and translated by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), and now found in Nuclear Arms and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Assad spoke of a “taboo” against the use of nuclear weapons that he used to Syria’s advantage:

Sins of the Father: Syrian President Hafez Assad’s Legacy of Chemical Weapons and the Balance of Power in the Middle East

From the Velvet Underground to the Velvet Revolution: Charter 77’s Redemption of Human Rights in Czechoslovakia

Take a day, and walk around.

Watch the Nazis run your town.

Then go home and check yourself.

You think we’re singing about someone else.

— Frank Zappa, “Plastic People”

Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution began not with a bang, but with a band. Specifically, that band was the Plastic People of the Universe, who took their name from a song by American musician Frank Zappa. Their style falls loosely into the Western genre of art rock and was inspired by Zappa’s experimental work with the Mothers of Invention, and by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” multi-media collaboration with artist Andy Warhol in the mid-1960s.

 

In 1976 under the auspices of maintaining social standards in music, the Czechoslovak government broke-up a music festival featuring the Plastic People, confiscated their equipment, and arrested the band’s members and associates. Here’s the official response to the international outcry which accompanied that action from the Communist newspaper Rudé Právo [Red Truth], included in Readex’s World Protest and Reform Movements: Global Perspectives, 1945-1996.

From the Velvet Underground to the Velvet Revolution: Charter 77’s Redemption of Human Rights in Czechoslovakia

Duck and (Dis)cover: Strategic Information Hiding in Plain Sight in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

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Do you remember the “Duck and Cover” drills from the 1950s? The Soviet people practiced similar civil defense maneuvers in case the unthinkable happened. What follows is the entire table of contents (omitting the authors) of Soviet Military Translations, No. 368, 24 January 1967, drawn from Voyennyye Znaniya [Military Skills, Moscow, No. 12, December 1966] and found in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports:

  • Civil-Defense Services must be Perfected
  • The Actions of Civil Defense and the Armed Forces must be Coordinated
  • Efficient Utilization of Machinery in Rescue Work
  • Civil Defense at a Khar’kov Plant
  • The Methods of Civil-Defense Training are very Diverse
  • Methods of Compensating for a Shortage of Shelters
  • Training of Civil-Defense Commanders is Financed Partially by the Enterprises
  • Average Norms for Loading Casualties on Vehicles
  • England’s Reliance on Evacuation of the Population

Civil defense was far from an abstract concept in the Soviet Union. Consider how granular their concern was, extending to the “norms for loading casualties” onto vehicles, with several articles using the imperative mood. Beneath the Cold War saber-rattling about communism “burying” capitalism and the bravado surrounding the U-2 Incident and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it isn’t much of a stretch to see in this list of articles a nation that is terrified of being nuked.

Duck and (Dis)cover: Strategic Information Hiding in Plain Sight in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

Strong Language on Communism: American Journalist Anna Louise Strong Takes the Long View on China

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Readers of Mao Tse-tung’s ubiquitous “Little Red Book” of quotations have to wait until Chapter 6 until they make the acquaintance of Anna Louise Strong, the American journalist who elicited from Chairman Mao one of his most well known statements:

In his talk with the American correspondent Anna Louise Strong 20 years ago, Chairman Mao Tse-tung put forward the brilliant dictum that for the people who dare to make revolution, the imperialists, including the United States and all reactionaries are paper tigers.

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Mao uttered his famous words during an interview with Strong that took place in the Yenan cave where he was living in 1946. Such quarters were necessary as Mao and Strong shared the perils of aerial bombardment from U.S.-sponsored Nationalist Chinese aircraft during the Chinese Civil War. Strong’s dispatch below hints at the respect with which she was treated by her Chinese interpreter, who apologized for jeopardizing the life of this American reporter from bombs that likely came from America.

Strong Language on Communism: American Journalist Anna Louise Strong Takes the Long View on China

From War to Wilderness: Alaska’s Near Islands

The Near Islands’ name seems like a misnomer. At the westernmost point of the Aleutian Islands, they’re not really near much of anything except each other and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. But their place in history is assured as the site of the only land battle during World War II to take place on U.S. soil.

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On June 7, 1942, a Japanese force occupied Attu Island, capturing 45 Aleut natives and two non-indigenous citizens. The prisoners were relocated to Hokkaido, Japan. The Japanese would remain on Attu and nearby Kiska Island for about a year, until they were defeated by U.S. and Allied forces in late May of 1943.

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Despite their remote location, Attu and Kiska were strategic in relation to Pacific shipping lanes and as bases for air attacks against the West Coast of the United States. The battle for Attu was by no means an insignificant engagement, as thousands of soldiers were killed and injured on both sides.

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From War to Wilderness: Alaska’s Near Islands

A Unique Primary Source News Archive Covering Contemporary World History

Known as Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports, 1941-1996, this digital archive of global news media offers crucial insight for students and scholars of geopolitics, political science and world history. It provides unique coverage of 20th-century events as they occurred—collected, transcribed and translated into English by a branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. Among the major regions covered are Africa, Asia (Soviet Union, China, etc.), Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

Learn more about this online resource in this new 1-Minute Video:

 

Glenda Pearson, Distinguished Librarian, University of Washington, writes:

FBIS brings to the mind’s eye what on-the-spot video does now: it makes the events of the last half of the 20th century come alive, as well as guarantee that firsthand descriptions will survive to tell the tale even after events have been deconstructed, re-assembled and interpreted according to the prevailing political and historical theories of the day.


For more information about Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports, 1941-1996, please contact Readex Marketing.

A Unique Primary Source News Archive Covering Contemporary World History

Out of Africa: Ota Benga’s Journey from the Congo to a Cage at the Bronx Zoo

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LECTURED BY THE HEATHEN—Is American hospitality inferior to that of barbarians? Are our manners below the standard of heathendom? These questions are suggested by certain comments of the Batwa pygmies, who are on exhibition at St. Louis. These pygmies come from Central Africa and represent about the lowest type of the human race. They were brought to this country by a missionary, and apparently imagined that they would be received as guests and hospitably entertained. It is a shock to learn that the impression which the Batwa visitors have received is not altogether favorable.

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It was just a passing notice in the press, a minor commentary on the spectacle that was the 1904 World’s Fair, held in St. Louis and also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Compared with the general trend of the newspaper coverage of indigenous people displayed at the fair, this article was marked by the charitable tone of the correspondent. Despite the implicit racism of “heathen” being placed “on exhibition” and judged as less highly evolved, the writer here was at least sympathetic to the Africans’ claims.

Out of Africa: Ota Benga’s Journey from the Congo to a Cage at the Bronx Zoo

Distilling the Essence of Communism: Retrospective Highlights from Readex’s Final Release of Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1994

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Here’s a question to ponder as Readex completes its digitization of JPRS Reports: what have we learned about socialism from the totality of this collection? What can we characterize as the grief and promise of Marx’s and Mao’s and Lenin’s legacy based upon the material that the U.S. government has painstakingly gathered through open-source intelligence over almost forty years?

If Lenin’s own deathbed wishes had been heeded for Trotsky’s ascension to power over the headstrong Stalin, things would have turned out far differently for the Soviet Union, and so as well for the rest of us. The Soviet people demonstrated epic bravery and resolve during the Great Patriotic War, only to squander their achievement through an insistence on literally iron-clad borders in Europe and the Soviet republics. When Yeltsin and Gorbachev dragged the Politburo screaming and kicking back to reality, the empire was finally undone in true Hegelian fashion by the negation of negation, which is to say, glasnost [openness].

And what of China? The Chinese chose a different path to power, hardly less authoritarian but more pragmatic, certainly more measured and flexible. China holds much of the sovereign debt of the United States today, and is America’s rival for superpower status. China began to diverge from the Soviet model back in the 1960s. China’s dictatorship of the proletariat was more modest in scope, more willing to adjust to external circumstances, and their success is plain to see.

There’s certainly more to JPRS Reports than China and the Soviet Union, of course. But in saying that, one has to recognize that everything the United States collected was colored through the prism of the Cold War; Red is the most visible wavelength of that era.

Distilling the Essence of Communism: Retrospective Highlights from Readex’s Final Release of Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1994

Black and White Shot Through with Red: Poet Claude McKay Brings the Harlem Renaissance to the Soviet Union

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At the confluence of the period of racial violence known as Red Summer (1919) and the first Red Scare (1917-1920), Jamaica-born poet and journalist Claude McKay merged black anger with radical politics in his most well-known poem, “If We Must Die.”

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McKay’s sonnet initially appeared in the July 1919 issue of The Liberator, a radical socialist magazine published in New York City from 1918-24 by Max and Crystal Eastman. The fame and impact of “If We Must Die” was such that it was soon reprinted as a rallying cry in other progressive magazines such as the September 1919 issue of The Messenger, available in African American Periodicals, 1825-1995.

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Black and White Shot Through with Red: Poet Claude McKay Brings the Harlem Renaissance to the Soviet Union

Announcing New Readex Collections for Spring 2018

Readex is pleased to announce the forthcoming release of these new digital resources:


Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953

Territorial Papers Image for Blog.JPGMore than half of America’s states began as territories. From the 1760s to the 1950s the United States of America expanded southward and westward, acquiring territories that spanned from Florida to California to Alaska. Before they evolved into twenty-seven American states, these territories were managed by the U.S. State and Interior departments. The official history of their formative territorial years is recorded in the “Territorial Papers of the United States”—a collection of Native American negotiations and treaties, official correspondence with the federal government, military records, judicial proceedings, population data, financial statistics, land records, and more. For the first time, the Territorial Papers are available in a digital online collection, offering unparalleled research opportunities for anyone interested in the creation of modern-day America.



Twentieth-Century Global Perspectives

Announcing Five New Modules

Announcing New Readex Collections for Spring 2018

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