Basic Geography for Politicians


The Three Baltic States


The Balkans

Le Monde reported last week (here’s an English report) that when Baltic leaders Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia and Raimonds Vējonis of Latvia met at the White House with Donald Trump on April 3rd of this year, the president chastised the leaders “for starting wars in the 1990s that lead to the break-up of Yugoslavia.”

It’s not unreasonable for lay people to confuse the Baltics and Balkans. Both regions are made up of small countries at the periphery of Europe. But one might hope that the American president had been briefed (forget about his reading on his own) a little more closely. Especially since one of his potential briefers, his wife, was born in Yugoslavia.

Maps from Wikimedia Commons.

Quotes: FYROM, Ho Hum

Much anticipated, even apocalyptic to extremists in both nationalist camps, today’s referendum in Macedonia sort of just meandered around and then wandered on back home:

“The referendum results for the change of the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia went as expected, with 90 percent of voters saying “Yes” to North Macedonia, but only 34.76 percent of them went to the polls.

In order for the referendum results to be valid, at least 50 percent plus one of registered voters needed to participate. Out of the nearly 1.8 million registered voters, only about 630,000 casted a ballot.”

Recommended Reading: Where the West Ends

WherethewestendscoverFun new book from Michael J. Totten. Fun, that is, if your idea of thrills is a drive from Turkey into Iraq for lunch.


Where the West Ends expands on Mr. Totten's Dispatches blog for World Affairs Journal. There are sections roughly grouped as the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Black Sea.

Many authors seem to believe they won't be taken seriously unless their work is laden with ponderous history. When well written, like in some of my suggestions below, that's  worthwhile. When it's not, it's the reason tons of books are returned to the shelf half-finished.

In Where the West Ends, Mr. Totten mostly allows a cursory sketch of the past to suffice. I suspect that satisfies armchair travelers. Then he gets on with the travel writing I like best, what it feels like to get up from that chair and actually go to a place, and what it's like, personally, to be there.

Should Mr. Totten's book pique your interest, here are some suggestions for deeper reading:


Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War by Thomas de Waal


Azerbaijan Diary by Thomas Goltz


Georgia Diary by Thomas Goltz


Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya by Wojciech Jagielski


Bread and Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia by Tony Anderson


Rebel Land: Unravelling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town by Christopher de Bellaigue


In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue


Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup by Christopher de Bellaigue


Black Sea by Neil Ascherson


The Black Sea: A History by Charles King


Republicofgeorgia

Along the Georgia Military Highway, Republic of Georgia

And here, in five installments, are excerpts from Common Sense and Whiskey, the book,  about our trip through the southern Caucasus:

1: Getting to Armenia
2: Yerevan to Tbilisi
3: Tbilisi and the Georgian Military Highway
4: The High Caucasus & the Russian Border
5: Baku

Order the entire book for $9.99 at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or the Kindle version (just $4.99).

See many more photos of the South Caucasus in the Armenia,
Georgia
and Azerbaijan
Galleries at EarthPhotos.com.