Serb Volunteers in Novorossiya: Part 3

NR6Russia and Serbia have a historically close relationship. It was a Serb nationalist whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand pulled Russia into what became the First World War. At the other end of the 20th century Russian nationalists joined Serb forces in the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart.

Serbs returned the favour when the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine led to a Moscow-backed secession in the east. A well-informed observer of the situation got in touch to discuss the situation. He prefers to remain anonymous. His opinions are his own.

In the first part of our conversation we discussed Bratislav Zivkovic’s activities in the Crimea and the media storm when he returned home. In part two we looked at the life of Serb sniper Dejan Beric who became a celebrity when his videos of life in the Novorossiya forces appeared on YouTube.

Here is part three.

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Serb Volunteers in Novorossiya: Part 2

Serbian 1The separatist movement in Eastern Ukraine has pulled in foreign volunteers from many countries. Russians rub shoulders with Brazilians, French with Americans. Some come for money; some for politics; some for adventure.

A well-informed observer of the situation got in touch to talk about Serb volunteers who joined the secessionist east. He prefers to remain anonymous. His opinions are his own.

The first part of our conversation covered a small group led by Bratislav Zivkovic which served in the Crimea and returned with stories of battlefield glory. Unhappy ex-members later called the unit’s achievements into question. Despite this, Zivkovic made the separatist cause a major talking point in Serbia. Not long after the group’s return, Serbs became aware of another of their countrymen serving in the east.

Here is part two.

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Serb Volunteers in Novorossiya: Part 1

NR3The fighting in Ukraine continues. Many of the foreigners who joined the Novorossiyan separatists have gone home to face the media or the courts. Others remain.

The situation in Ukraine is complicated and deadly. Foreign volunteers who took part in the fighting were either tough combat veterans, shameless publicity seekers, or naive young men used by forces they didn’t understand. Like most wars.

Someone who knows a lot about the situation got in touch after reading my post on Sasha Karan, a Serb mercenary who died in Syria after previously serving in Eastern Ukraine. I asked some questions about Serbia and Novorossiya. He answered under condition of anonymity. His opinions are his own.

If you have any information that supports, contradicts, or expands what my interviewee says then get in touch. There are as many opinions about the Ukrainian situation as there are bullets flying over the battlefield.

Here is part one of our talk.

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A British Volunteer For Franco

Kelleth 3The Spanish Civil War was a vortex which sucked in foreign volunteers from Europe and beyond, and gave them a chance to fight their own battles on someone else’s soil.

In 1936 General Francisco Franco and his fellow Army officers attempted to overthrow Spain’s left-wing Popular Front government. The Nationalist insurgents believed the country was speeding towards anarchy, atheism, and communism. The government and its supporters saw the rising as a fascist assault on democracy. Foreigners from all sides flocked to join the fighting.

Italian Fascists and exiled Italians Communists came face to face in the grounds of a country house during the battle of Guadalajara. Right-wing Cambridge man Peter Kemp fought against communist fellow countrymen in the 1938 offensive that divided the Republic and took Franco’s forces to the Mediterranean. After the war he asked a survivor what would have happened if he’d been captured.

We’d have shot you,’ came the reply. ‘Sorry‘.

Kemp assured him he would have done the same if the positions had been reversed.

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The Man Who Invented Russian Roulette

SURDEZScattered farm houses with roofs the colour of dark chocolate cling to sloping daffodil meadows at the foot of the Jura mountains. Cows amble through pastures with clanking brass bells around their necks.

Pure picture postcard to outsiders, this tranquil part of Switzerland is home to a town German-speakers know as Biel. Francophones prefer to call it Bienne.

Georges Arthur Surdez was born here in 1900 to a French-speaking middle class family with its fair share of demons.

Surdez shared the family home with an elder brother and three elder sisters. An adult brother and sister were making new lives for themselves in America. They had been gone so long that the smart toys they sent Surdez at Christmas stirred no memories.

His father Eugene was a watchmaker, and mother Marie happy to devote her life to her children. Like many outwardly respectable families, a maggot wriggled inside the apple.

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Franco, Katanga, and Haile Selassie

Reading1Hi friends. This is a round up of stuff about my books and assorted matters i.e. a combination shill/boast. Let’s go.

An article I wrote for the Amberley website about Ethiopia and the Italian invasion is live. Check it out here. It’s a useful overview of the war and mercenary involvement. Also has a very nice photograph of Haile Selassie with book and Great Dane.

The BBC History website commissioned an article on my book, emphasising the role played by foreigners, both as soldiers and journalists. Article is done, checked, and lined up for publication. Should be live this month or the next. Keep an eye out or check back here – I’ll update when it appears.

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Who Wrote Chinese Rocks?

the-heartbreakers-chinese-rocks-track-2Johnny Thunders used to say everyone in New York City claimed they wrote Chinese Rocks at one time or another. Then he took credit for writing it.

Dee Dee Ramone said the punk ode to heroin was all his own work. Richard Hell told people he was responsible for half of it. At different times Jerry Nolan, Sid Vicious, and all four members of The Ramones appeared in the songwriting credits.

Chinese Rock was the street term for heroin out of Vietnam, strong stuff that saturated New York during the punk era. The song named after it captures the sordid reality of scoring dope in the late 70s: the trip to Alphabet City, the dark hallways, money in one hand and a 007 knife in the other, a paper packet of heroin, scrambling home to lock the door and get out the works.

They’re still arguing over who wrote it.

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