Olga Tokarczuk's "The Books of Jacob" is my latest literary obsession. It's situated during the societal collapse of the Poland-Lithuanian union and a nice pairing to "Lithuania Ascending", which I'll be adding to my reading list immediately. Plus, the style and tone of Tokarczuk's super-long-form prose reminds me of Chagall's "The Praying Jew", one of my favorite artworks https://www.artic.edu/artworks/23700/the-praying-jew

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"Russia: A Concise History spans the entire 1000-year period from Kievan Rus and Novgorod the Great to the fall of the Soviet Union."

I shall repeat that the Russian Historiography that draws a straight line between the Kievan Rus and the Romanov and Soviet Empires is just plain garbage.

The Russians have trotted out their nonsense historiography of the supposed continuity between the Kievian Rus and Moscow as they gear up to invade Ukraine, one more time.

The weakness of the claim is exposed by:

"The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World Hardcover" by Marie Favereau • April 20, 2021


Who you interviewed earlier in 2021:

"Marie Favereau: the Golden Horde and world history: The light out of heathen Tartary?"


The important point to remember is that the Mongols destroyed the Kievean Rus in a series of battles between 1237 and 1242. At that time Moscow was a village of mud huts. Daniel inherited Moscow from his father the kynaz of Vladimir and became its first kynaz in 1263. At that time Kiev lay in ruins.

Moscow grew up as a vassal of the golden Horde who also ruled the territory of Kiev. In the 14th Century Kiev was seized by the Lithuanians. In the 16th century, Lithuania merged with Poland. It was the middle of the 17th century, 400 years after the Mongol conquest before Moscow took Kiev from Poland-Lithuania.

4 centuries is not continuity.

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please do Greeks

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Feb 4, 2022·edited Feb 4, 2022

I guess this belonged on the previous TWS, but about Eric Kaufmann on religious fertility, he almost but didn't quite say that the key point about religion is insularity.

The question of whether the religious are fertile is different from the question of whether the fertile are religious. Selection works on variation; and insularity is pretty import to cultural variation. A group probably needs to be somewhat insular to be identified at all and its ability to impart culture different from the ambient society requires insularity. So the most and least fertile groups are probably going to be insular for pretty general, abstract reasons.

"Religion" is a murky word and this made me wonder whether the common usage simply means "insular culture." Some metrics of religiosity are much more clearly about adhesion than others, for example frequency of attendance vs frequency of prayer. I think the latter is still predictive of fertility, but I'd guess it's less predictive.

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re: Japan -- there's a slight mischaracterization in Oshitani's op-ed, as there were numerous coercive steps taken to close restaurants, offices, and schools. It's true that the Prime Minister or his Cabinet did not decree any such "lockdown", but it's false to say that reduction in business activity was entirely spontaneous and voluntary. There's also a strange avoidance of testing in practice here in Tokyo. For instance, rapid COVID-19 test kits were approved for sale over the counter at pharmacies at the beginning of the Delta variant waves in 2021, but just try walking into a pharmacy to ask for a kit - even preemptively - and see how that goes ( "no - please leave now" ). It's also been well documented that, in the very beginning in 2020, infected patients would be denied by hospitals and clinics for admission.

Unfortunately, I only have my observations and anecdotes as a rare non-Japanese allowed entry/exit during the pandemic. But my conclusions have settled on: yes, the 3-Cs were sensible and good, but the structure and habits of social relations in Japan, non-legal coercion, near universal masking, and perhaps some unknown prior immunity through SARS-1 exposure, tuberculosis vaccines, low obesity, or some genetic quirk, have helped greatly. In all likelihood, as these things go, it's probably a convolution of many many factors and sheer luck.

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finished david graeber's book. i honestly can't recommend it. history buffs might like it just for the litany of fun facts

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There is an excellent take on the two sleeps in Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle, best novel of 2021. It is the story of a man trying to be middle class in 1960s Harlem and failing. The sleep demarcates his life of crime from his thwarted middle class life.

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I am glad to see you included a discussion of The Northern Crusades. Not only can I not recommend it highly enough, I told me sons, only slightly facetiously, that it changed my life. It did fundamentally change my understanding of how it is that Finland, Estonia, and Latvia in particular came to be a part of the West, socially and culturally, when their geography gave every indication to the contrary. It is impossible to grasp how it is that Finland -- Finland! -- became possibly the most advanced country in the world, or how Latvia and especially Estonia have emerged as strongholds of "Western" values, without exposure to the mechanics of their far-from-totally voluntary incorporation into the Germanic world.

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Razib, Your link to Jerry Coyne goes to his main page. I suspect you wanted to link to, <a href=https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2022/01/19/our-attempt-to-correct-the-record-about-e-o-wilson-a-joint-letter-to-scientific-american-which-of-course-they-rejected/>Our attempt to correct the record about E. O. Wilson: a joint letter to Scientific American—which, of course, they rejected.</a>

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Or perhaps you meant <a href=https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2021/12/30/scientific-american-does-an-asinine-hit-job-on-e-o-wilson-calling-him-a-racist/>Scientific American does an asinine hit job on E. O. Wilson, calling him a racist</a>

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Razib - you should get in touch with YouTuber Kraut. You both cover some similar topics.

https://twitter.com/Der_Parrot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8ZqBLcIvw0&ab_channel=Kraut

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I recently read _Minds Make Societies_ by Pascal Boyer and found it interesting. Also _To the Finland Station_ by Edmund Wilson for background on the development of socialist/communist thought in Europe.

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Have only just started reading your blog (it's great!), but I'm wondering where to start with the prehistory.

> This is before the “great mixing” between eastern and western Near Eastern farmers really occurred.

For instance, I'm totally at a loss on this. Is there an good introductory book for the period from which I can expand outwards?

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I'm also a fan of Riasonovsky and Steinberg's A History of Russia, which is in its 8th or 9th edition at the moment? I can't keep track. Figes was good on Russia when I was doing more in depth reading some years ago, both A People's Tragedy and Revolutionary Russia. I also enjoyed a book on the economic development of the USSR by Roger Munting which made an honest attempt to actually quantify production figures for the various plans.

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