Saturday, 28 November 2015

Scary precedent - Abdul the Bulbul Ameer

Russia  and Turkey have been at odds for a long, long time. Tho' this is no time for levity, we should remember Abdul the Bulbul Ameer, The song was written in 1877, during the Russo-Turkish war, a struggle between the Ottoman and Tsarist empires. In some ways this led to the turmoil in the Balkans which exploded with the 1914-1918 war. Later the long-standing alliance between Turkey and Germany was a means of counterbalancing Russia. Oil comes into it, too. So be very, very scared about Putin's war on Syria.

Although the song employs national stereoypes, it's not racist because it's surprisingly even-handed, particularly for something written in the high noon of western imperialism.  Caricature yes, satire yes, but the outcome isn't one sided.  In the famous cartoon below (made 75 years ago) Abdul and Ivan Petrovsky Skavar both get shot into outer space and end up frozen, and dead.  It also satirizes the media, (the Marx Brothers, comedians)  who whip up attention for a good show. Incidentally the words "Shah" and \Tsar" come from the same root in the Indo-Eurpean language sytem. Another irony.  Thanks to the friend who reminded me of this. When we were kids, this was funny. Now I'm not so sure.

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