Saturday, August 09, 2008

History lessons?

Sod the sore hand, this needs to be typed.

Autumn 1956. While the world watches the Suez Crisis, the Hungarians rise up against the Soviets and declare they want freedom. The Russians hold fire until they're sure everyone else is looking at Egypt, which they are. Then they send in the tanks, declaring that they are going to help their allies in government restore peace to the streets of Budapest. The city is devastated and the buildings bear the scars to this day. The West does nothing. They're busy with Suez, they hadn't really noticed what was going on until it was too late, and in any case the Russians say they're only trying to help. Several thousand people are killed. A democratic election is finally held there in 1990.

Summer 2008. The Olympic Games open in Beijing to an estimated global audience of 4bn. Nobody is looking at South Ossetia, where someone fired first. About a thousand people have been killed in one day. The Russians say the Georgians attacked their peacekeepers. The Georgians say that actually it was the other way round. Here in Britain, we seem more concerned about whether the UK might win an actual medal, if only bronze, in the Olympic judo. The media swallow Russian mouthing-off about how the South Ossetians are loyal to Russia and not Georgia, though the Georgian ambassador explained on the news yesterday that actually nobody could know this because the South Ossetian people had not been asked. Besides, it makes no sense: you ever heard of a majority of people in any European country being primarily loyal to the EU? Would any small country really attack a Kraken like Russia against which it knows it doesn't stand a chance? Is Russia really 'protecting its citizens'?

Of course South Ossetia isn't precisely identical to Hungary 52 years ago...but after all that Hungarian homework, some aspects of this development look unbelievably familiar. But here nobody learns much about that bit of history unless they have to, most people are off on holiday, and anyway they'd rather watch sport in, er, China.

Wake up!

Reports from:
The Independent
The Guardian
The Times