Thursday, February 27, 2014

Putin and Ukraine’s Ultranationalist Russians Light the Fuse: Second Crimean War Begins

In 1991, when ethnic Russians stranded in a newly independent Moldova (formerly Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic) declared independence as Transnistria—a Kremlin-funded pseudo-state which survives to this day—that was just warming up.  Later, in the early 1990s, when an uprising by Cossacks around Ust’-Kamengorsk, in newly independent Kazakhstan, seemed almost surely encouraged by Russia’s government, that was just testing the waters.  In 1999, when Boris Yeltsin signed a treaty with the formerly-Soviet Republic of Belarus to create a “Union State” with Russia—without consulting any of the country’s citizens—that was mere practice.  When, in 2008, the Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia (formerly part of Czechoslovakia) declared an independent republic for its ethnic Russians and “Rusyns” (Ruthenians), Kiev called it a Kremlin plot; if it was, that was Vladimir Putin just sharpening his sword.  And when, also in 2008, Putin responded to the Republic of Georgia’s attempts to retake two rebel provinces with a Russian invasion and the “liberation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “independent” Russian puppet states, that was a full-dress rehearsal.  But right now, as you are reading this, in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, this is the Main Event.  The second Crimean War has begun.

How things went in the 2010 election.  Crimea, in dark Yanukovych blue, is at the bottom.
Reports out of Ukraine this morning are sketchy, but it seems as if armed men have taken over the pro-Kremlin “soviet” (yes, its parliament calls itself that) of the ethnic-Russian-dominated Autonomous Region of Crimea in southern Ukraine.  Two people have been killed in related street battles.  The Russian flag is flying out front, and other government buildings in Simferopol, the Crimean capital, are also reportedly occupied by armed Russian-speaking men.  Two days ago, Putin ordered the Russian Federation’s armed forces into a state of readiness in the areas around Ukraine, and by now this includes ground exercises on the Crimean peninsula itself.  Already, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet—in a special deal made after Crimea’s Russians tried to declare independence the first time, in 1992—is permanently housed on the Crimean Peninsula.  There hardly even needs to be an invasion if the Russian military is already an honored guest.

The Black Sea fleet
A week ago ago, with the Winter Olympics in the nearby Russian city of Sochi still in full swing, the crisis in Ukraine was still a months-old, long, grinding street-politics uprising, the “Euro-Maidan” movement—escalating in violence but still a standoff between the corrupt authoritarian pro-Klemin president, Viktor Yanukovych, who squeaked into power mostly with the votes of his fellow ethnic Russians, and a vast “people politics” movement led by Ukrainian nationalists and others furious with Yanukovych for reorienting his country’s foreign relations away from the European Union (E.U.) and toward Russia.  The movement had escalated into a revolt against Yanukovych’s corruption and Putin-type authoritarianism in general.  Then, a wave of fatalities in a desperate violent government crackdown on the street protesters raised the stakes, and only steeled the resolve of those calling for Yanukovych’s resignation.  Despite what at first looked like a calming deal to hold elections this year, on February 22nd Yanukovych’s own parliament impeached him, and released from prison Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been jailed on possibly-trumped-up corruption charges after narrowly losing to Yanukovych in the 2010 election.  Two days later, the freshly installed interior minister, a member of the old opposition, issued a warrant for Yanukovych’s arrest, sending the toppled leader on a mysterious meandering flight, from Kiev to Kharkov (former capital of the old Bolshevik Ukrainian republic in the days of the Russian civil war, when ethnic Ukrainians had their own Menshevik republic in the west) to Donetsk, in Yanukovych’s home region known also as “Little Russia,” where Ukrainians are in a minority, and finally to Crimea, where it is believed he may be right now.  Maybe he is even directing some of these new events.  Other reports say he is already in Moscow; Putin has offered him protection and regards him as still the president.

“Heil Putin!”  Yanukovych in happier times.
It is not surprising that it has all come down to Crimea.  It was here, in the 1850s, that the Russian Empire was defeated by the British and French, as a way of beating the Czar back and keeping him from filling the political vacuum created by the weakening Ottoman Empire.  But Russia held onto the Crimea in the treaty that ended the war and later regrouped for a series of brutal wars pushing Czarist influence farther south in the Black Sea and Caucasus regions.  Crimea itself was Muslim, populated by Turkish-speaking Tatar people.  After the Second World War, Josef Stalin deported Tatars to Siberia and Central Asia, as punishment for supposed collaboration with the Nazis.  Crimean Tatars shared this fate with other Muslim groups like Meskhetian Turks, Kumyks, and Chechens.  But then when Nikita Khrushchev allowed many of the hundreds of thousand of deportees to return in the 1950s, the Tatars were not on the list.  By now, you see, Crimea was full of ethnic-Russians, even though on a whim, and supposedly while drunk, Khrushchev had with a stroke of the pen transferred the Crimean oblast from the Russian republic to the Ukrainian one in 1954.

Sergei Shuvainikov, a Crimean parliamentary deputy, feels more Russian than Ukrainian.
He is not alone.
Tatars have trickled back home in the post-Communist era but still make up only 12% of the population.  Russians are 58%, Ukrainians less than a quarter—and Russian nationalists with warm feelings toward Putin and Yanukovych dominate the regional parliament, which even said recently that it reserved the right to secede if Yanukovych was toppled.  And make no mistake, Russia and Russians regard what happened in Kiev on the 22nd as an unconstitutional coup d’état—which, very arguably, of course, it was, even if a majority of Ukrainian residents seem to back it.  The embattled Tatars, in their own toothless mini-parliament, are siding with the Euro-Maidan movement and the E.U.

Crimean Tatars, a minority in their own homeland, feel European, not Russian.
Russians in their hearts have never accepted the loss of Ukraine, which they see as part of Russia.  Kiev, after all, was the capital of Kievan Rus’, the medieval state which both Ukrainians and Russians regard as their ancestral polity.  And Putin, far more than his mostly pro-autonomy predecessor, Yeltsin, has itched to re-expand the old Russian Empire.

Vlad the Impaler plots from the sidelines.
And, in a sense, who can blame him?  He really does think that Crimea is a Russian territory which has been under foreign occupation—and this week suddenly unelected foreign occupation—since 1991.  For Putin, the main point is that Yanukovych, the elected leader, wanted Ukraine to join Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia in a new “Eurasian Union” trading bloc to rival the E.U.  And Putin really believes that that would be better for Ukraine as well as for Russia.  (Ukraine is the most prosperous Soviet successor state, and it is across its territory that Russia delivers oil to western European consumers.)  Putin believes that, if the Crimean parliament declares an independent Crimea (as, in one way or another, it surely will), a Russian invasion will be a way to defend democracy; it wouldn’t even be “separatism” in his mind, only “repatriation,” the righting of an old wrong.  And the Russian electorate really does want ultranationalist “strong leaders” even if they are authoritarian and brutal; old habits die hard.

Pretty much the current scene outside the Crimean parliament.  Lots of Russian flags (center), some Crimean ones (the similar blue-white-red tricolor in back), and a smaller number of (blue and yellow) Ukrainian ones.
And, most importantly, Putin knows that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is terrified of the possibility, which has never yet occurred, of its troops facing Russian (or Soviet) troops on the battlefield.  For decades, that was thought to be the kind of thing that would lead to World War III, an exchange of nuclear missiles, and the end of civilization or even of all life on Earth.  Thus, when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008—Georgia, a strong ally of the United States and NATO but not in the alliance’s mutual-defense pact—Western leaders fretted, wagged their fingers in mock scorn, and shook their heads in disappointment, but lifted not a finger to intervene and save lives or defend their ally.  In Putin’s view, the dress rehearsal had gone very well.

Russian tanks rolling into Georgia in 2008.
In the case of Crimea, Russian tanks are already there.
Talking heads this week keep pointing out how better it will be for everyone if Ukraine tilts west—this is mostly true—and conclude that Putin must realize this also and in the long run will not light a fuse in Crimea.  But Putin’s reasoning is his own, and it exists in the tiny ultranationalist echo chamber inside his pointy little head.  Perhaps he has already decided that he will invade Crimea and it is merely a question of when, or perhaps he has not made his mind up.  But with a thousand paramilitary Cossacks out of a job in the greater region now that the Olympics are over—with armed ethnic Russians in Crimea believing that they are agents of Russian national will—and with ordinary Ukrainians, nationalist Ukrainians, and ultra-nationalist Ukrainians—some of these last confirming Russian prejudices by waving red-and-black fascist flags from the Second World War era—armed too and ready to defend their country, all it takes is a spark.

The Second Crimean War seems to have arrived.  Whether it will spread and become a new east–west war in Europe at large remains to be seen.

The Russian flag flying outside the occupied Crimean parliament building is not even the standard national flag:
it says “Russia” on it and features a Czarist heraldic device.  Not a good omen.
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it some time in 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

Members of the Ukrainian feminist political collective Femen give their opinion of Yanukovych.
Related articles from this blog:
“Minuscule Gagauzia Votes 99% to Declare Independence If Moldova Attempts Romanian Reunification” (Feb. 2014)
“Partition Lines in Ukraine Sharpen as Crimean Russians Call for Separate ‘Malorossiya’” (Jan. 2014)
“Will Ukraine Crisis Become Second Crimean War? Tatars and Russian Nationalists Take Sides” (Jan. 2014)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Florida Con Man Busted in New Guinea Ferrying “Funny Money” to Self-Styled Bougainville “King”

South Pacific “funny money” is in the news again.  A couple weeks ago in this blog, we reported on a French police raid on an armed monarchist encampent in Tahiti to arrest a self-styled Polynesian king and his followers for circulating the currency of their proclaimed “Pakumotu Republic.”  And now, at the other, western end of Oceania, a United States citizen was arrested in Papua New Guinea (P.N.G.) for possession of the “illegal” currency of the Bougainville separatist movement

On February 15th, Barry Keith Webb arrived in Port Moresby, the P.N.G. capital, on an Air Niugini flight from Manila, in the Philippines.  He was en route to Buka, the current interim capital of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.  But he was arrested after customs officer found his briefcase contained a million and a half crisp, new Bougainville kina.  Webb produced a letter to corroborate his claim that he was an officer of the International Organisation of Economic Development (I.O.E.D.) formally invited to Tonu, a town on Bougainville Island.  The letter, signed by “King David Peii II,” was to award him the position of Minister of International Monetary Relations, a post with the so-called Central Bank of Bougainville.  But the problem is that Bougainville is not an independent state.

Barry Webb, King David Peii’s royal money-launderer
Bougainville is one of the largest islands in P.N.G., which won independence from Australia in 1975.  Geographically and culturally, it is part of the Solomon Islands, which was a separate administration in the days of British colonial rule.  At independence in 1975, Bougainvilleans tried to establish a separate Republic of North Solomons, which aimed eventually to unite with the not-yet-independent British Solomon Islands Protectorate to its east.  But the British Solomon Islanders were not interested, and after six months Bougainville agreed to be part of P.N.G. on condition of enhanced autonomy.  Separatism reemerged in the 1980s, however, and in 1990 the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG) declared independence, igniting a civil war that lasted until 1997, killing over 20,000 people.  The last holdouts from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (B.R.A.) did not surrender and formed a tiny encampment around the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville where the rebellion had begun.  This last separatist redoubt did not end until Francis Ona, a B.R.A. founder, who had crowned himself “King of Me’ekamui,” died in 2005.  Bougainvillean sovereigntists claim that Me’ekamui and Paapala are the two kingdoms that traditionally rule the island; others claim they are smaller traditional polities for the area around Tonu.

Bougainvilleans celebrate independence day
The apparent author of Webb’s job-offer letter, King David Peii II, is in fact, Noah Musingku, who was a self-styled monarch of Paapala alongside his ally Ona during the 1990-97 war.  In the late 1990s, Musingku launched an elaborate investment scheme called U-Vistract, established first as part of a Christian mission in Australia.  But Australian authorities arrested Musingku for running what they called a Ponzi scheme.  Musingku now runs an operation in Tonu which is half investment scam and half Pentecostal mission, staffed by mercenaries from Fiji.

King David Peii II
P.N.G.’s own official central bank is not amused; their currency is also called the kina.   The bank’s governor, Loi Bakani, said, “The money is illegal.  If you look at the 100 Bougainville kina note, it has the kina name on it but different features and pictures, therefore it is illegal.  Also the legal tender is in Papua New Guinea kina and the change of the design also has its own penalties.”

Their currency looks pretty slick and professional.
But the same cannot be said of all of Bougainville’s trappings of state.
Webb—whose Google+ page identifies him as a Duquesne University graduate living in Clearwater, Florida—has been in touch with the U.S. consulate in P.N.G.  Webb’s rap sheet in Florida includes criminal charges for running real-estate and personal-loan schemes.  It is not clear whether there is much Washington can do for him.

Is this what you want to see on the résumé
for a candidate for Minister of International Monetary Relations?
Separatist sentiment is high in Bougainville, but it is not clear how much faith the general population there has in King David Peii II.  A binding referendum on independence has been promised by the P.N.G. government for some time before 2021.  It will probably pass.  But the fledgling nation will do well to clean up its act a bit when it comes to financial dealings if they want to have a viable state.

Not ready for prime time: King David inspecting his troops

[You can read more about Bougainville and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The KGB Olympics: Russians Arrest 2 Pussy Rioters, Circassian Leader; Terrorist “Emir” Killed in Dagestan

FSB Arrest, Interrogate 2 Pussy Rioters in Sochi
In the latest dispatch from Sochi, Russia, site of the Winter Olympics, two members of the persecuted punk-rock protest band Pussy Riot were arrested today (February 18th) in downtown Sochi on supposed suspicion of theft at their hotel.  (Pussy Riot was listed in this blog as no. 6 among “10 Political Causes Sure to Disrupt the Sochi Games.”)  News of the arrest came first via Twitter from Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.  She was arrested along with her bandmate Maria Alyokhina and six others, including Semyon Simonov of the group Memorial, which provides legal aid to immigrant workers on Olympic construction projects.  Tolokonnikova later told media that she and Alyokhina had been arrested the previous day as well as the day before.  On those occasions they had been detained by the F.S.B., the dreaded successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B. secret police force, and interrogated for many hours.  As Tolokonnikova tweeted, “We are in Sochi to hold a Pussy Riot action.  The song is called ‘Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland””—and was meant to call attention to abuses that include last week’s arbitrary arrest of an environmental critic named Yevgeny Vitishko.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina with Madonna at an Amnesty International
event in New York last week
I.O.C. Turns Blind Eye to Environmentalist’s Labor-Camp Sentence

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) has responded to requests to look into Vitishko’s arrest (as reported earlier in this blog).  The I.O.C. has decided that the labor-camp term for Yevgeny Vitishko, a critic of the Sochi games’ environmental impact, “is, and we think remains, a non-Olympic case,” in the words of the I.O.C.’s spokesman, Mark Adams.  Makes sense: he was arrested for protesting the environmental impacts of Olympic construction; what could that possibly have to do with the Olympics?  Oh, no, wait, he was technically arrested for “public profanity.”  Well, that gives the I.O.C. an out; now they don’t have to offend their gracious hosts.  Vitishko has been sentenced to three years in a labor camp.

Police look on as a protestor in Moscow demands
freedom for Yevgeny Vitishko.
Italian Transgender Politician Arrested at Sochi Park
But it’s not just Pussy Riot.  On February 16th, police in Sochi arrested Vladimir Luxuria, a 48-year-old transgender television host and former member of Italy’s parliament, for unveiling a banner in a park reading, “Gay is okay,” in Russian.  After being held overnight, she was released and then again arrested the next day entering the Olympic hockey arena wearing the gay-pride rainbow colors.  Olympic officials denied the arrest.  Luxuria was in Sochi to work on a television documentary on gay life in Russia.  (The gay-rights issue in Russia was listed in this blog as no. 3 among “10 Political Causes Sure to Disrupt the Sochi Games.”)

Vladimir Luxuria tweets from Sochi.
Russian Cops Nab Circassian Activist for “Hooliganism”

Arrests motivated by the more familiar ethnic politics of the North Caucasus and Black Sea region continue apace as well.  A leading Circassian activist was arrested on the evening of February 14th in a move that is already being criticized internationally.  The activist, Asker Sokht, who is considered a moderate, was last reported to be still in detention.  He was arrested in Krasnodar Krai, the province which includes Sochi.  His activities involved helping Circassian families fleeing Syria’s civil war resettle in Russia.  He has been sentenced to eight days in jail for “hooliganism and disobeying police.”

Asker Sokht with the Circassian flag
Circassians lived for centuries in the Black Sea coastal area around Sochi until the mid 19th century, when the Russian Empire massacred and scattered most of them in what many call a genocide.  Not quite a million Circassians remain in the Russian Federation today, while more live in a diaspora in Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere.  For the most part, Circassian activists are non-violent, unlike radical Islamists such as the Caucasus Emirate movement, who often invoke the Circassians’ plight.  Sokht is often seen, even, as a Kremlin ally.  (The Circassians were listed in this blog as no. 2 among “10 Political Causes Sure to Disrupt the Sochi Games.”)

Another Circassian activist, Adam Bogus, said from Maykop, capital of the Adyghe (i.e. Circassian Republic), a sliver of land surrounded by Krasnodar Krai where Circassians are a minority, “This is deeply sad for Circassians,” adding, “ This has led a great number of people to conclude that anybody who deals with the Circassian question—even the most loyal—will now be under pressure.”  Sokht criticized last week’s Olympic opening ceremonies for not including any references to Circassians in the wide-ranging, pageant-like depiction of Russian history and culture.  An open letter to Sokht’s captors from a Circassian activist group states, “It is clear that behind the alleged hooliganism or disobeying charge against him are his critical statements about the Olympics in Sochi.”  On the day of the Sochi opening ceremonies, 37 Circassian demonstrators were arrested in Nalchik, capital of another nominally Circassian republic, the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, to the east (as reported at the time in this blog).

Twin solitudes: Olympic and Circassian emblems on display in Sochi
Russians Kill Chechen “Emir” at Dagestan Rail Station
Meanwhile, to the east in the Republic of Dagestan in the predominantly-Muslim eastern North Caucasus, a rebel fighter who called himself the “Emir of Gudermes,” was shot and killed in a shootout with police at a railway station in Sobachy, in the Khasavyurt district, it was reported on February 13th.  Authorities described him as Sheykhakhmed Baysuyev, a 41-year-old originally from Chechnya also nicknamed “Foton” who was a member of the Aukhovskaya or the Khasavyurtovskaya rebel group.  He has been on a Russian wanted list since 2005.  Gudermes is a town in central Chechnya.  It was not immediately clear if his use of an Ottoman-style title indicated that he was a member of the Caucasus Emirate movement. A previous “Emir of Gudermes,” Salman Temirbulatov, was a close associate of Aslan Maskhadov, who was rebel president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria during its period of de facto independence in the late 1990s, and later in exile.  A later “Emir of Gudermes,” Said-Emin Hezriev, was killed in a shootout with police in Grozny, the Chechen capital, in 2009.  That emir was associated with the Caucasus Emirate, as was another, Aslambek Vadalov.  (The Caucasus Emirate was listed in this blog as no. 1 among “10 Political Causes Sure to Disrupt the Sochi Games.”)

This is how Islamists view the area that includes Sochi.
Also over the weekend, according to the Caucasus Emirate’s own (often unreliable) Kavkaz Center website, fighting near Bamut, Yandi, and Sunzha in western Chechnya killed five members of the insurgent “Sever/North” gang and injured another 15, while two Russian soldiers were killed and a Russian military helicopter damaged.

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

Related articles from this blog:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Yemeni Interim Government’s 6-Region Federation Plan Is Too Little, Too Late for Southern, Houthi, and al-Qaeda Separatists

A six-way split is popular not only among Silicon Valley dreamers who (as discussed yesterday in this blog) would like to partition their state.  It is also the magic number that the government of Yemen is banking on as it decides how to allocate power to the regions in a way that will mollify those who want to split the country up for good.

Yemen’s president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Hm, this doesn’t look quite like a rally for an interim president.
On February 9th, the caretaker interim president of the Republic of Yemen, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, announced a plan to divide the formerly partitioned Arab country into six autonomous regions—two making up what used to be the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (a.k.a. South Yemen) and four making up the smaller, more mountainous Arab Republic of Yemen.  The country will, under the new Constitution if implemented, be called the Federal Republic of Yemen.  The two were pawns of opposite sides in the Cold War until the abrupt end of Soviet communism in 1990 brought about reunification.  But the old border mapped tribal and sectarian loyalties as well, and since then there has been an insurgency seeking to revive an independent South Yemen.  Things had calmed down somewhat after a failed Southern secessionist revolt in 1994, but the Arab Spring revolutions which started in 2011 turfed Yemen’s autocratic ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, out of office the following year, and since then the Southern Separatist Movement, also called al-Hirak, has been fighting tooth and nail to split away.

The partition until 1990
Like much else in the Arab Spring, the violence is often sectarian in basis, with Shiites more dominant in the old North Yemen and Sunnis more dominant in the South.  This has given the northern-dominated government the opportunity to cast Southern secessionism as Wahhabist and Islamist in origin, and indeed Ansar al-Shari’a, also known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (A.Q.A.P.) operates mostly in Yemen, and mostly in the south (but increasingly in the north).  But al-Hirak are hardly radical Islamists; they command wide and deep loyalty in the former South Yemen.

But it is not just Southerners who want to split away.  The Houthi minority in the mountainous north of the country, along the border with Saudi Arabia, also have militias and also control territory.  The Houthis are the group that ruled North Yemen when it was the Mutawakelite Kingdom of Yemen, an Arab Revolt successor to the Ottoman Empire.  The Mutawakelites were turfed out of power in an Egyptian-led coup d’état in 1962 in a wave of movements that brought Nasserists, Ba’athists and other Arab nationalists to power in the wake of the Suez Canal crisis.

Apparently some Yemenis wouldn’t mind too much if the South seceded.
To look at the new map of territories unveiled this week (see map at the top of this article), the Yemeni regime seems more worried about the Houthi insurgency, which is closer to the capital, Sana’a, than the Southern one.  The four current Yemeni provinces where Houthis have the strongest presence—’Amran, al-Jawf, Hajjah, and their heartland, Sa’ada—are allocated among three different regions in the new plan: Tahman, Azal, and Sheba.  The former South Yemen, on the other hand, would become two large regions, Aden, around their eponymous former capital, and Hadramaut.

The situation in Yemen early on in the Arab Spring, when the current conflict began ...
Indeed, Houthis have made great gains recently.  It was reported recently that scores were killed in fighting in the northern mountains as Houthis have been disloding rival tribes from their lands.  Houthis now the core territory of the Hashid tribe, in Amran province.  The deposed dictator, Saleh, was a Hashid.

... and the state of play a little later on.
(Both maps are from the excellent and worthwhile Political Geography Now website.)
In some ways, the plan seems to be an attempt to hand a large degree of united autonomy to the South, mainly to try to bring the major Southern secessionist players back to the negotiating table.  Most Southern leaders withdrew from the negotiations for the new Constitution late last year.  The United States has been working quietly behind the scenes to help ensure the South does not split away, though the semi-secret American drone-aircraft war on A.Q.A.P. has not so far been extended to al-Hirak.  As far as the West is concerned, two Yemens would mean double the chance that one of them—most likely the South—would fall under the sway of al-Qaeda.  We have already seen the disastrous effects of al-Qaeda-linked groups piggybacking their cause onto separatist movements in northern Mali and southern Somalia.  Northern Nigeria’s Islamist insurgency could be put in this category as well.  Al-Qaeda also takes advantage of power vacuums in secessionist regions like eastern Libya and Syria’s Kurdistan region.  And, indeed, in 2011 and 2012, Ansar al-Shari’a established two towns, Jaar and Zinjibar, as sovereign Islamist enclaves (Jaar was the “Emirate of Waqar”); those were shut down by the Yemeni military (as reported at the time in this blog), but al-Qaeda will try again if they can.  After all, makeshift city-states is the new al-Qaeda strategy in both Syria (Azaz) and Iraq (Fallujah).

The Emirate of Waqar was short-lived.
President Hadi is now in the unenviable position of proposing a plan to end the violence which does not even have the backing of the major insurgent group in the country.  (At least the Houthis were at the table, but al-Qaeda certainly isn’t—and Houthi rebels naturally reject the six-region proposal.)  Part of the new plan is that after five years the borders and divisions can be reexamined and, possibly, renegotiated.  But that is not necessarily welcome news to Southerners who want independence now.  If nothing else, this means the Southern insurgency will not end any time soon, and may even intensify.

Southern separatists with their flag

[You can read more about South Yemen and other separatist movements, from the well known to the bizarre and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Study Finds Silicon Valley’s 6-Way California Split Is Doable

In December, when the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper suggested splitting California into six separate states, it seemed like a pie-in-the-sky side show to the more serious movement gaining steam in the state’s far north, to create a separate State of Jefferson.  But Draper’s “Six Californias” idea has just got a sort of thumbs-up—from Sacramento, no less.  A 16-page report drafted for the California legislature concludes that splitting the Golden State into pieces is “clearly legal and doable.”

This would probably not be the flag of the State of Silicon Valley,
but it’s a nice try.
Draper may be best known to the general public as Principal Schmoke on the teen situation comedy The Naked Brothers Band, but in tech circles he is heir to a high-profile venture-capital dynasty.  Silicon Valley’s discontent with California’s corporate regulations and its redistribution of tax revenue from the wealthiest areas to the poorer, more remote ones has been discussed in this blog recently—notably with the San Francisco genetics entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan planning the Valley’s “ultimate exit” from the state by some means or other, as well as organizations like the Seasteading Institute which want to set up floating free-market cities off the California coast outside United States jurisdiction.  But Draper’s solution is more old-fashioned, following a state-secession trend going back to Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, who sliced a new state, Vermont, out of New York’s western flank in the colonial period.

Creating new states through secession has occasionally worked in the past.
Draper’s “Six Californias” plan includes a State of Silicon Valley, which would include the San Francisco Bay area and points south; a State of North California running in a thick band from Napa Valley to Lake Tahoe; a State of Jefferson composed of the state’s 14 northernmost counties; a primarily agricultural State of Central California centered on Fresno; a State of West California, stretching from San Luis Obispo to Long Beach, including liberal Los Angeles; and a State of South California composed of some of the inland, conservative, desert states that a Riverside County politician (as reported in this blog) is already trying to form, with a coastal toehold at San Diego and the Republican Party stronghold of Orange County.

A sketch by Draper shows which counties would be in which of six new states:
Jefferson (top), North California (just below it), Silicon Valley, Central California (the largest),
West California (including L.A.), and, at the bottom, South California.
The current state of California, the most populous in the U.S. and the most diverse in terms of ethnicity, landscape, and local economy, is, according to Draper, “ungovernable.”  There is already a movement to gather the necessary 1 million signatures which will put the proposal on the ballot in November.  The report, which was prepared by a legislative expert, Mac Taylor, and a financial specialist, Michael Cohen, notes that the states of Silicon Valley and North California would each have a higher per capita income than California’s current $46,477.  In fact, Silicon Valley would surpass Connecticut and become the state with the highest average income.

Tim Draper—guru of the state-partition movement
Draper says the highest interest in the “Six Californias” proposal is in the areas that would be Central California and the State of Jefferson.  The problem is that which counties want to be in Jefferson (listed in this blog as one of “10 Separatist Movements to Watch in 2014”) is being sorted out right now at the grass-roots level, without waiting for a top-down partition by any city-slicker millionaire technocrat.  To date, the boards of supervisors in Siskiyou and Modoc counties have voted in favor of secession, and Siskiyou and Tehama will put the question before voters in June.  Other counties are considering it, and in Siskiyou there is even going to be an alternate ballot initiative to create a sort of sovereign “Republic of Jefferson” within Siskiyou County’s territory.

But ultimately, the problem is that Draper is approaching the alleged problem of California’s ungovernability like a businessman, not a politician, and it will be politics that will decide, all on its own, whether to partition the state.  Just for the sake of argument, even if the U.S. Congress did agree to a subdivision of California that, let’s say, maintained the same balance between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, that still doesn’t tell us why California Democrats, who already control the largest state in the U.S., would settle for a smaller place to run.

Related articles from this blog:
“Glenn County Becomes 4th California Jurisdiction to Opt to Join ‘State of Jefferson’” (Jan. 2014)
“Northern Californian Voters Torn between ‘State’ or ‘Republic’ of Jefferson” (Jan. 2014)
“10 Separatist Movements to Watch in 2014” (Dec. 2013)
“State of Jefferson Idea Won’t Go Away: Activists across Northern California Push for Statehood” (Nov. 2013)
“Silicon Valley Technocrats Plan to Flee U.S. for Libertarian Floating Cities” (Nov. 2013)
“Modoc County Joins Siskiyou in Seeking to Split from California as State of Jefferson” (Sept. 2013)
“Other California & Oregon Counties May Be Jumping on ‘State of Jefferson’ Bandwagon” (Sept. 2013)
“Siskiyou County, California, Takes the Plunge, Votes to Secede as Kernel of New ‘State of Jefferson’” (Sept. 2013)
“Colorado’s Secession Wildfire Spreads to Northern California: Siskiyouans Raise “State of Jefferson” Flag” (Aug. 2013)
“Let a Thousand Secession Petitions Bloom: The U.S. Balkanized, but Perhaps Only on the White House Website, Nowhere Else—but Most Importantly: What Does All This Have to Do with Topless Car Washes and the State of Jefferson?” (Nov. 2012)
“‘South California’ Statehood Movement Reignites in Election Year” (Sept. 2012)

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

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