Yuri Andropov: A Missed Opportunity For Reform Of The Soviet Union?

One of the forgotten names of recent history is Yuri Andropov, the fourth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the successor to Leonid Brezhnev.  In the West at least, his name seems to have become buried among the pile of relics that accumulated in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.  As far as I can determine, there is still no comprehensive English language biography of him currently in print; what studies do exist were written years ago and do not incorporate the latest research.  This is unfortunate.  His career spanned an important period of Soviet history, and his policies have proven to be more influential than is generally believed.  The student of modern Russian history owes it to himself to examine his life and career diligently.

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The Wisdom Of Ibn Al-Sammak

The biographical encyclopedia of Ibn Khallikan–that deep well of collective anecdotal wisdom–has an interesting entry for one Abu Al-Abbas Muhammad Ibn Sabih.  His surname was Al Mazkur, but like many famous figures it is his nickname that posterity recalls best.  This nickname is Ibn Al-Sammak, which literally means “son of a fish-monger” in Arabic (the word for fish is samak, سمك).  It is not clear where this name came from; perhaps he had a fish-merchant as an ancestor.

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Steven L. Myers’s “The New Tsar: The Rise And Reign Of Vladimir Putin” (Book Review)

For many years in the West there has been a lack of understanding of Vladimir Putin and his policies.  His personality, motivations, and objectives have been clouded in obscurity by the Western press, which almost always reverts to its simplistic “black and white” view of the world.  Not all of the fault for this lies with the West, of course.  The Russian president’s own media apparatus has little interest in encouraging critical analysis or speculation that falls outside the range of permissible opinion.  But leadership is as much about perception as anything else, and every leader in the modern age must take care to cultivate his image.  In this regard, Russia is no different from the United States, France, or England.  In the media age, it cannot be otherwise.

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Some Wise Sayings Of The Philosopher Al-Turtushi

Abu Bakr Al Turtushi (ابو بكر محمد بن الوليد الطرطوشي‎‎‎) was a political philosopher and doctor of the Malikite sect.  He was but one of that avalanche of philosophers, poets, writers, scientists, and theologians produced by the energy and brilliance of Andalusian Spain in the medieval period.  Many–probably most–of these Andalusian writers are completely unknown today in the West, a fact that I have made efforts to change in previous articles here.

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Revealing Anecdotes On The Character Of Abraham Lincoln

We have earlier stated that anecdotes often reveal more about a man’s thinking and character than might a long recounting of his deeds.  About Abraham Lincoln many stories have been told, some no doubt apocryphal, others not.  I will present here a few true anecdotes that most readers are not likely to be familiar with; they shed revelatory light on Lincoln’s character, and how his leadership gifts were powerful in their own understated way.

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The Wisdom Of Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (1149–1210) was a Persian theologian and philosopher whose fecundity was only surpassed by his depth of understanding of various disciplines.  He is credited with over one hundred works, although it is likely that this number was considerably higher.  Learned in astronomy, philosophy, theology, chemistry, and a variety of other subjects, he was also said to have been a man of great humanity and understanding.  His inclinations were rationalist and scientific; for this reason he found more to his liking in the natural sciences than in airy theological speculations.

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Scott Joplin: A Musical Visionary

Those who have seen the classic movie The Sting (1974) may be aware that the film’s ragtime score set off a revival of interest in the music of Scott Joplin.  Despite the incongruity with the setting of the movie (The Sting is set in the Depression of the 1930s, while ragtime is music of the 1890s), ragtime works brilliantly as a score to the film.  Its free-wheeling, optimistic, and tightly calibrated sound fits perfectly with the themes and tone of the film.  Joplin himself was a fascinating figure, a brilliant visionary who does not fit neatly into any standard classification system.

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