Could a digital twin of Tuvalu preserve the island nation before it’s lost to the collapsing climate?

With rising seas expected to submerge the nation by 2100, official says ‘we should always be able to remember Tuvalu as it is, before it disappears’

An aerial view of Fongafale island, home to the Tuvaluan capital of Funafuti
Fongafale island, home to the Tuvaluan capital of Funafuti. Rising sea levels caused by global heating are expected to submerge the country within 80 years. Photograph: Sean Gallagher/The Guardian

When Tuvalu vanishes beneath rising seas, its diaspora still want somewhere to call home – and that could be a virtual version of the tiny Pacific nation.

Global heating is threatening to submerge Tuvalu by the end of the century, and its 12,000 inhabitants are considering the future.

Dr Eselealofa Apinelu, Tuvalu’s former attorney general and current high commissioner to Fiji, told the State of the Pacific conference on Thursday that Tuvaluans needed “something they can hold on to”.

“When that finally happens, that Tuvalu has disappeared and all they have is this virtual world … we should always be able to remember Tuvalu as it is, before it disappears,” she told the Australian National University’s department of Pacific affairs conference.

Tuvalu's minister for justice, communication and foreign affairs, Simon Kofe, gives a Cop26 statement while standing in the ocean in Funafuti, Tuvalu.

Tuvalu’s culture and values could be enshrined in a “digital twin”, housed somewhere like the metaverse.

Apinelu said “it needs to be stored somewhere that there was a country called Tuvalu”.

“It’s like the last option,” she said.

“When the unfortunate does happen and Tuvalu seems to really disappear, I think the idea then is to preserve it, conserve it in a state so that generations of Tuvaluans can look into it … that’s the digitised idea.

“[But] we can’t digitise people. It’s easy to speak about the land. We need to involve human beings, that’s something we’re still considering – how to deal with people in that context.”

Apinelu called on countries, including Australia, to allow Tuvaluans easier access in the meantime so they can explore other potential homes before the rising tides force them to migrate.

“We believe our values of shared responsibilities, they are values that can really help a person settle properly and respect the laws of individual countries,” she said.

“But they need to access those countries first to work out where they can make a proper living, find a proper future.


“Australia and New Zealand have been our closest partners, they’ve offered education, job opportunities … but the migration laws are not simple, they’re not easy. If only we had laws that were more friendly to smaller islands.

“They need the support at a level where they can be exposed to other places, so they can visualise their own future, rather than the constant fear of the sea level rise.”

Other speakers at the conference including professor Stephen Howes, from ANU’s development policy centre, said the government’s Pacific Engagement Visa would provide permanent visas to Pacific islanders when it begins next year. But those visas will be offered on a pro rata basis, while priority should be given to smaller nations like Tuvalu and Kiribati that are facing existential climate crisis threats.

Meltwater flows from the ice sheet into the Baffin Bay near Pituffik in northern Greenland.

While many will apply for the visas for economic benefit, for people from smaller islands it is a “lifeline”, ANU PhD candidate and former Kiribati government official Akka Rimon said.

Tuvalu’s foreign minister, Simon Kofe, said last year that his country was looking at legal ways to remain a state even if it disappears.

Apinelu said Tuvaluans were worried about the future, and about future generations, who would have to find somewhere to live.

“If we can slowly allow the people to migrate at their own pace according to the laws of the individual countries they want to migrate to, it’s easier than packing up a whole nation at once and putting it somewhere,” she said.

Art a la Monte Python – Millionaire burns Frida Kahlo drawing to sell it as NFT

The owner of the Mexican artist’s piece is selling 10,000 copies of the original as a non-fungible token

A drawing by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo being burned by the millionaire Martín Mobarak
A drawing by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo being burned by the millionaire Martín MobarakFRIDA.NFT

This past summer, millionaire Martín Mobarak burned an untitled drawing by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. He plans on selling 10,000 copies of the original in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFT) – digital certificates or cryptographic tokens used to record the value of tangible assets. The artwork – in which the words “sinister ghosts” can be read – was valued at $10 million. Mobarak says that his act will transform the world of digital art.

Kahlo’s drawing is one of the items found in her diary, dated between 1944 and 1954. Mobarak – who presents himself as a philanthropist and NFT investor – is the founder of the Frida.NFT initiative. His website states that, by digitizing the destroyed original, Kahlo’s art will be introduced “into the metaverse… [merging] the traditional art world with the digital art world.”

The Mexican millionaire bought the image in 2015 from the Mary-Anne Martin Gallery in New York City. He insists that, with the creation of this NFT, the charities he plans to donate to will get “constant” help. He also admits that his burning of the drawing could be “misunderstood.” However, he still claims that it will lead to the artist’s immortalization.

“Burning the work is going to help create a new group of collectors,” Mobarak explains. He even claims – without any evidence – that, if Frida Kahlo knew the destination of the donations he intends to make, she would have told him to “burn everything.”

Mobarak set the drawing on fire at an event held on July 30 in Miami. Online, the millionaire is now inviting the public to buy into what he considers to be the “most historic NFT in existence.” The sale period will end in November.

The drawing 'Sinister Ghosts' before being set on fire.
The drawing ‘Sinister Ghosts’ before being set on fire.FRIDA.NFT

Both sides of the drawing were digitized. On the back page, it includes the words “Chromophore” and “Auxochrome” – two scientific terms that the Mexican artist adopted as names for herself and her partner, fellow artist Diego Rivera. In other pages of Kahlo’s diary – which is included in the Frida Kahlo Museum collection in the Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacán – the painter describes herself as “Chromophore, the one who receives color” and Rivera as “Auxochrome, the one who captures color.”

Mobarak thinks that the work expresses love and pain. Love is reflected by the terms with which Kahlo referred to herself and her partner; pain is embodied by the “sinister ghosts” that, according to the Mobarak, the artist captured to show fear.

Florida Museums Highlight Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Machu Picchu

Museums in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton present exhibitions of the Mexican artists and of Peruvian ceramics and gold and silver ornaments.

The “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism” exhibition is on view at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., through Feb. 6.
The “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism” exhibition is on view at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., through Feb. 6.Credit…Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera — the tormented lovers and heavyweight Mexican artists — are together again. This time at a museum here in West Palm Beach.

Their paintings, a batch of photographs and a replica of a Rivera mural are part of a pair of Latin American art exhibitions that create an elegant change of pace from the mostly contemporary work at Art Basel Miami Beach this year.

The Frida and Diego show at the Norton Museum of Art captures a segment of the modernist movement in Mexico from the 1920s through the 1950s that the museum director, Ghislain d’Humierès, said added another dimension to the Norton’s permanent collection of American and European modernism.

Down the coast a bit, the Boca Raton Museum of Art is presenting “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru,” a dazzling collection of sculpted gold and silver ornaments, ceramic jugs and bowls, many dating back thousands of years.

A copper funerary mask with applications of shell and stone from the “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru” exhibition.
A copper funerary mask with applications of shell and stone from the “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru” exhibition.Credit…Boca Raton Museum of Art
A gold and turquoise nose ornament from the exhibition.
A gold and turquoise nose ornament from the exhibition.Credit…Boca Raton Museum of Art

Andrew James Hamilton, a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, said the 192 works were among the finest examples of pre-Columbian art. “This is the crème de la crème,” he said in an interview. “These are the kinds of works that museums around the world are trying constantly to get on loan.”

The exhibition has been staged like a theatrical production with dramatic lighting, sparkling crystal glass display cases and a virtual reality feature that takes you on a swooping, plunging, magic carpet ride over the roofless ruins of the Inca citadel.

West Palm Beach and Boca Raton are an easy drive from Art Basel headquarters in Miami Beach, and there are lots of things to do in an overnight visit.

The exhibitions are touring shows. The Frida and Diego show was most recently in Denver. The pre-Columbian exhibition, in its first iteration in Boca Raton, is heading for Europe in the spring.

The intensity of the Frida and Diego exhibition strikes you as you enter their wing of the Norton. They gaze out from a giant, floor-to-ceiling blow up of a slightly grainy 1934 black-and-white photograph, almost, but not quite, cheek to cheek, Frida out front, Diego fixed on her with those irresistible eyes.

She admired his swagger and acclaim as a muralist and painter, 20 years her senior. He saw her raw talent. They were on fire, politically charged, seeing a better Mexico in Communism. They told each other marriage would not fence them in.

Frida’s Kahlo’s “Self Portrait with Monkeys” (1943).
Frida’s Kahlo’s “Self Portrait with Monkeys” (1943).Credit…Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

But it was tough going. He slept with her sister. She slept with their friend, Leon Trotsky. They divorced, remarried and clung together until Frida died in 1954 at 47. Three years later, he was gone.

She painted stark portraits, many of herself. She painted him. He painted her. He put her in a mural, handing out rifles. His lighter hand softened the harsh contours of rural life with sprays of calla lilies and sunflowers.

The Norton is showing 29 of their paintings and three of their lithographs, 20 paintings by contemporaries and 90 photos, including two of her by Rivera, five by Nickolas Muray, one of her lovers, and nine by her father, Guillermo Kahlo, a professional photographer. Two photos show her in an open coffin at her funeral in Mexico City.

In a self-portrait called “Diego on my mind,” Kahlo planted a tiny portrait of Rivera on her forehead and framed her face in a tight oval of pleated white lace overlaid with long, thin, angling, undulating nervous lines suggesting, perhaps, a cracked mirror or jangled nerves.

“There’s a lot of energy there,” said Ellen E. Roberts, one of the Norton’s senior curators.

Diego Rivera’s “Calla Lily Vendor” (1943).
Diego Rivera’s “Calla Lily Vendor” (1943).Credit…Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Diego Rivera’s “Calla Lily Vendor” (1943).

The pre-Columbian exhibition in Boca Raton opens with the oldest of the works, a ceramic jug representing the head of a revered shaman. It was excavated, like all of the other pieces, from a burial mound. It is from the Cupisnique culture, 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.

Ushers in bright yellow jerseys start people on their journey through the museum with a four-minute video, giving the historical context. A side curtain rises, and the exhibition unfolds.

Dimmed, colored spotlights create a shadowy feel that focuses attention on the artifacts, set individually and in small clusters in specially built, tall, angular glass cases. The objects glisten in the beams of tiny, pinpoint LED spotlights embedded, out of sight, in the tops of the cases.

Gold ornaments from the “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru” exhibition.
Gold ornaments from the “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru” exhibition.Credit…Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA, via Shutterstock

Continue reading the main story

One stunning set of gold funereal trappings set on a skeletal manikin slams you to a stop: a big, blazing chest covering, a gleaming crown and shimmering round disks for the ears.

“You feel the power of every object,” said Michelle Feuer, a director of a tech start-up from West Palm Beach, after spending part of an afternoon absorbing the pre-Columbian art.

The exhibitions are a natural, one-two combination. Both are going heavy on digital advertising. Nikos Sotirhos, a robotics expert in Fort Lauderdale, got an email promoting the Machu Picchu show as he was working his way through the Frieda and Diego show. On the spot, he and his wife, Alexandra Karava, decided to head for Boca Raton.

At the exhibition in West Palm Beach, Kahlo is by far the big draw. “Diego is part of the story,” said Jay Stollman, a musician from Stuart, just north of West Palm Beach, as he was wrapping up a visit to the show. “But I think Frida is really the headline.”

New York Times-movember 28, 2021

Trotsky (with glasses) pictured next to Frida Kahlo on arriving in Mexico in 1937. Photograph: © Bettmann/Corbis
Here is some very rare footage of the great Mexican painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo paying a visit to exiled Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, in Coyocoán, Mexico, in 1938.
The Trotskys had arrived the year before, after Rivera petitioned the government of President Lázaro Cárdenas to grant the controversial Marxist leader and theorist sanctuary in Mexico. When the Trotskys arrived on a Norwegian oil tanker at the port city of Tampico in January of 1937, Rivera was not well, but Kahlo boarded the ship to welcome the Trotskys and accompanied them on an armored train to Mexico City. She invited the Trotskys to stay at her family home, La Casa Azul (the Blue House) in Coyocoán, now a section of Mexico City. By the time this footage was taken by a visiting American named Ivan Heisler, Trotsky and Kahlo had either had, or were about to have, a brief affair, and the friendship between the two couples would soon fall apart. In early 1939 Trotsky moved to another house in the same neighborhood, where he was assassinated in August of 1940.

September 24, 1991, the day Dr. Seuss died.

In 1991, children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, died at age 87.

The day Dr. Seuss died at 87 following illness in 1991


Sep 23, 2015 at 12:00 pm

American author, artist and publisher Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, dies at the age of 87.
American author, artist and publisher Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, dies at the age of 87. (AP)

He died Tuesday night at his home in La Jolla, Calif., following an illness of several months.

Geisel, who won Oscars, Emmys and a Pulitzer Prize in 1984, wrote and illustrated 47 books, selling more than 100 million copies in 18 languages, including classics such as “The Cat in the Hat” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

He infused his books with his liberal sentiments, sounding the environmental alarm early in the ’70s with “The Lorax” and inveighing against war in “The Butter Battle Book” in 1984. His most recent best seller, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” encouraged children to view life as having unlimited horizons.

A self-described “flaming youth,” he went on to study literature at Oxford, where he met his future wife, Helen Palmer, but dropped out to spend time in Paris with such literary lights as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein.

It was during a 15-year stint as an advertising man in New York that Geisel produced his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street.” It was a best seller, and he wrote three more children’s books before World War II saw Army Capt. Geisel assigned to animation in Hollywood.

Afterward, he stayed on to produce documentaries and cartoons, winning three Academy Awards, one in 1951 for the creation of the animated character “Gerald McBoing-Boing.” But tired of studio interference, he moved to La Jolla, where he went back to writing children’s books.

In 1954, when Life magazine published a controversial article criticizing the reading-by-rote textbooks of the time, author John Hersey suggested Dr. Seuss write for beginning readers. He produced “The Cat in the Hat” in 1957 using a mere 220 words and revolutionizing the standard approach to teaching children how to read.

“That is what I am proudest

of – that I had something do with getting rid of Dick and Jane,” Geisel said in 1962.

Geisel, following the death of his first wife in 1967 after 40 years of marriage, married his neighbor, Audrey Stone Diamond.

One picture and the videos have been added.

In the ocean’s twilight zone, a fish that could feed the world – or destroy it

A lanternfish displays bioluminescent photophores.
Lanternfish, so-called because of their bioluminescent photophores, perform a vital role by helping transfer carbon from the sea’s surface to the deep. Photograph: Morgan Trimble/Alamy

Lanternfish, the Earth’s most abundant vertebrates, may be the ultimate food source. But will catching them ruin the climate?

In 1789, the explorers Alessandro Malaspina and José de Bustamante set sail from Cádiz on Spain’s first scientific expedition around the world. For five years, Malaspina and Bustamante studied and collected animals and plants across the Spanish empire, which stretched along the North, Central and South American Pacific coasts, and westwards to the Philippines.

In 2010, another Spanish expedition set off from Cádiz, tracing much of the original route and studying what the oceans are like today.

The team measured pollutants, plastics and chemicals that were not there in Malaspina and Bustamante’s time. They collected samples of seawater and plankton. And all the way through the 31,000-mile voyage, the ship’s sonar was switched on, listening for echoes from below. Their chief targets? Small silver fish that look like sardines or anchovies – only with bigger eyes and rows of spots that glow in the dark.

A school of lanternfish.
A school of lanternfish. Photograph: Oar/National Undersea Research Program

They are lanternfish: there are about 250 species and they are not only the most common fish in the oceans’ twilight zone but the most abundant vertebrates on the planet. Huge numbers were first noticed during the second world war, when naval sonar operators saw echoes from what appeared to be a solid seabed, one that rose to the surface at night and fell back down at daybreak. In fact, the pulses of sound were echoing off the swim bladders – the internal gas-filled bubbles – of billions of lanternfish, as they congregated in dense layers hiding in the deep, then at sunset swam up thousands of metres to feed at the surface. Every night, along with other animals, such as the squid that prey on them, lanternfish undergo the greatest animal migration on the planet.

Before the 2010 Malaspina expedition, studies based on trawl surveys estimated that the twilight zone contains about a gigatonne (1bn tonnes) of fish. But this was most likely an underestimate, it turns out, because lanternfish avoid being caught by swimming away from the open nets. The Malaspina acoustic survey did not rely on nets, and in 2014 its research led to new estimates of the abundance of twilight-zone fish, ranging between 10 and 20 gigatonnes.

One study estimated that deep-dwelling fish capture and store the equivalent of 1m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year

The prospect of such a colossal harvest raised an old question: could fish from the twilight zone help to feed a growing human population?

Too tempting to ignore

Lanternfish are unlikely to appear directly on anybody’s plate – they are far too oily and full of bones. However, their high oil content means they could be mashed down for animal feed, mostly for fish farms. After the Malaspina discovery, it has been suggested that if just half of the lower estimated mass of twilight-zone fish were caught – still a massive 5 gigatonnes – it could theoretically be turned into enough fishmeal to yield 1.25 gigatonnes of farmed seafood, which is considerably more than the current annual 0.1 gigatonne catch of wild fish.

However, even if harvesting lanternfish were to begin, and setting aside other environmental impacts of many types of fish farming, such as pollution from pharmaceuticals and waste, many question whether it would achieve the virtuous goal of securing food for everyone to eat.

Varieties of lanternfish.
Lanternfish come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all of which have bioluminescent organs. Photograph: Paul Caiger/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A lot of fishmeal gets fed to salmon and prawns for food-rich, developed countries, and a growing volume is increasingly being sold as a supplement in pet food. Moreover, previous attempts to establish lanternfish fisheries, including by Russian and Icelandic fleets, have been a commercial failure. Fishing these deep waters has so far proven too expensive, and fishmeal too cheap.

More recently, however, prompted in part by the high estimates of lanternfish populations, plans are under way to investigate how to make twilight-zone fisheries profitable. The EU has funded a five-year research project to investigate such opportunities. In 2017, Norway issued 46 exploratory fishing licences for the twilight zone. These fisheries will probably seek to become profitable, not by producing low-cost fishmeal, but by supplying the more lucrative “nutraceuticals” industry supplying products such as omega-3 supplements and the fish-oil pills more people are taking despite little evidence of their benefits.

These and other initiatives to develop a “twilight fishery” reflect an overwhelming imperative to hunt for wild fish. Amid talk of sustainability – and of the need to “feed the world” – is the counter-assumption that to leave those fish unfished would somehow be a waste. The term “underexploited” is often used, as if the only purpose of those animals is for human benefit. The idea of a thousand trillion shining fish cascading through the twilight zone is too tempting for many to ignore.

A viperfish attacking a Lanternfish, which has light organs on tail to confuse predators.
A lanternfish, which has light organs on its tail to confuse predators, is pursued by a viperfish in the deep ocean. Photograph: Minden Pictures/Alam

To catch enough lanternfish and make it worth the effort, these fisheries will probably need to use huge midwater trawl nets and target the fish during the day, as they cluster together in large shoals that are easy to find with sonar. The nets will not touch the bottom or smash through 1,000-year-old corals, but as they sieve and strain the open water, they will catch other animals – sharks, dolphins, turtles – that already have troubles enough.

Climate consequences

In contrast to extremely slow-growing deep-sea species such as orange roughy, lanternfish are more likely to withstand substantial hunting pressure; they are much faster growing, and their lives are measured in months, some living for less than two years. Nevertheless, fishing in the twilight zone could trigger a different kind of catastrophe by disrupting the way lanternfish and similar species help regulate the climate.

Their daily routine of swimming up and down forms vital connections between the surface and the deep by boosting the “particle injection pumps”. This is the process of little fish feeding in the shallows, then plunging downwards, where they are eaten by bigger fish that remain in the deep, thereby “pumping” carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the deep ocean where it can be stored. If particles sink below 1,000 metres their carbon can be stored for up to 1,000 years before returning to the surface. A study of the continental slope off western Ireland estimated that deep-dwelling fish capture and store the equivalent of 1m tonnes of CO2 a year.

A hula skirt siphonophore.
A hula skirt siphonophore, common in the deep ocean, has reflective, gas-filled bubbles inside its body. Photograph: imageBroker/Alamy

No one can be sure how quickly or critically this biological carbon pump might weaken if twilight-zone fisheries were to damage that link between the surface and the deep. But there is a risk that lanternfish are a part of the global climate system that needs to be left alone.

Alarmingly, not everyone agrees with the new elevated figure for the numbers of twilight-zone fish. Even the 2010 Malaspina study states its uncertainty and the limitations of the methods used. But the headline – that the twilight zone contains at least 10 times the amount of fish as previously thought – grabbed people’s attention.

Subsequent studies have looked more critically at those figures and the assumptions that underpin them. Crucially, the Malaspina study assumed that the acoustic “backscatter” – the measure of sound reflected from the deep and received by the sonar – came entirely from fish. But they are not the only animals in the twilight zone with reflective, gas-filled bubbles inside their bodies. They are also found in many siphonophores– intricate jellies that the 19th-century German naturalist Ernst Haeckel identified and illustrated. And some twilight-zone fish lack swim bladders, so are not detected by sonar.

A 2019 study reinterpreted the acoustic data from the Malaspina expedition, taking these uncertainties into account. The resulting estimates of twilight-zone fish ranged from 1.8 to 16 gigatonnes. It is too soon to say where on this scale the true value lies, which means it is surely too soon to start catching lanternfish based on the risky premise that there might be 20 gigatonnes out there.

Recent history tells us that when industrial fisheries sweep into new regions to catch new species there are always devastating environmental effects. Can the same mistake be avoided in the twilight zone?

All is well that might end well.

Ukraine applies for Nato membership after Russia annexes territory

Volodymyr Zelenskiy dismisses Moscow ceremony as a farce and rules out negotiations with Putin

Volodymyr Zelenskiy holds up a copy of a request for fast-track membership of Nato, accompanied by Ruslan Stefanchuk (lef) and Denys Shmyhal, in Kyiv.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy holds up a copy of a request for fast-track membership of Nato, accompanied by Ruslan Stefanchuk (lef) and Denys Shmyhal, in Kyiv. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

A defiant Volodymyr Zelenskiy has announced that Ukraine is officially applying for membership of Nato, hours after Vladimir Putin said in a Kremlin ceremony that he was annexing four Ukrainian provinces.

In a speech filmed outside his presidential office in Kyiv, Zelenskiy said he was taking this “decisive step” in order to protect “the entire community” of Ukrainians. He promised the application would happen in an “expedited manner”.

“De facto, we have already made our way to Nato. De facto, we have already proven compatibility with alliance standards. They are real for Ukraine – real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction,” he said. “We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other. This is the alliance. De facto. Today, Ukraine is applying to make it de jure.”

The president signed the application form, as did the speaker of parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, and the prime minister, Denys Shmyhal.

The alliance is unlikely to accept Ukraine’s imminent Nato entry while it is in a state of war. As a Nato member, fellow members would be compelled to actively defend it against Russia – a commitment that goes well beyond the supply of weapons.

Zelenskiy acknowledged this soon after Russia’s full-scale invasion. “It is clear that Ukraine is not a member of Nato, we understand this,” he said in March. “For years we heard about the apparently open door, but have already also heard that we will not enter there, and these are truths and must be acknowledged.”

In his address on Friday, shared on Telegram, Zelenskiy dismissed the ceremony in Moscow as a meaningless “farce”. He said no peace talks with Russia would be possible while Putin was president. “Putin doesn’t know what dignity and honesty is. We are ready for dialogue with Russia but only with a different Russian president,” he said.

Zelenskiy promised that Ukraine’s armed forces would continue to free territory from Russian occupation, regardless of Putin’s insinuation that Moscow might use nuclear weapons to defend land it has seized. “The whole of Ukraine will be liberated from this enemy,” he said. Moscow was against “life, the law, humanity and truth,” he added.

The president’s office let it be known that they did not watch Putin’s speech. Instead, Zelenskiy convened his national security council and met the commander in chief of his armed forces, Gen Valeriy Zaluzhnyi. He said they discussed progress on the battlefield and weapons deliveries. Zelenskiy added: “Everything will be Ukraine.”

Zelenskiy said Putin’s willingness to kill and torture in order to expand his “zone of control” was madness. Ukrainian commentators agreed. They dismissed Russia’s president as delusional and said his new “treaty” incorporating four regions of Ukraine into Russia would make no difference to the situation on the ground, where Ukrainian troops are on the brink of securing a major victory.

The Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Honcharenko described Putin as an “insane, inadequate person” and said Russia under his two-decade leadership had become a “constant danger to the world”. The ceremony inside the Kremlin’s St George’s hall was full of “strange people” who “look absolutely awful”, he said.

Speaking to the BBC, he pointed out that the four supposed leaders of the provinces formally annexed by Russia – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – had no democratic mandate. “Who elected these people? Who are they?” he said, describing them as puppets.

The prominent defence correspondent for the Kyiv Independent newspaper, Illia Ponomarenko, called Putin “absolutely mad”. He said the speech was the “most imperialistic” since Adolf Hitler. The Kyiv Post tweeted a question of the day asking: “On scale from 1,000 to 1,001, how mentally deranged is he?”

Zelenskiy has made clear that annexation means negotiations with the Kremlin are at an end. His senior aides pointed to the fact that as Putin was speaking, thousands of his troops faced annihilation in the city of Lyman, in the Donetsk region – an area Moscow says is Russia’s “for ever”.

Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, tweeted a picture of a cauldron, a reference to the fact Russian soldiers were apparently trapped in Lyman. Another senior aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Moscow would have to ask Kyiv for their safe exit. He added: “If, of course, those in Kremlin are concerned with their soldiers.”

The Russian army is facing embarrassing military defeat and the possible collapse of its northern front in the Donetsk and Luhansk region. Unconfirmed video suggested Ukrainian forces had entered the outskirts of Lyman. It showed destroyed Russian vehicles and dead soldiers by the side of the road.

The city, which is a strategic railway junction, had been under Moscow’s control since May. About 5,000 Russian fighters were reportedly trapped in the city. They included troops from Russia’s 20th Combined Arms Army, as well as fighters from the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic.

A Ukrainian journalist, Yuriy Butusov, posted drone footage that appeared to show a Russian military column and stolen civilian vehicles trying to break out in the village of Zarichne. They were attempting to escape before darkness set in, he wrote on Facebook, and the route out was completely closed off.

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s armed forces launched a surprise counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region, liberating an area half the size of Wales. They have since consolidated their positions around the city of Kupiansk and have crossed over to the east bank of the Oskil River.

In recent days, Ukrainian battalions have pushed forward north of Lyman, while at the same time advancing from the south-east towards Yampil. Ukraine’s armed forces said on Friday they had liberated the town. They are now able to fire on a highway connecting Lyman with the village of Torskoye – with a wipeout of fleeing Russians possible.

The surrender of Russia’s garrison in Lyman would be a humiliation for the Kremlin. Officials in Kyiv believe Putin’s hasty moves to annex Ukrainian land, including territory under Ukrainian government control, is a sign of desperation and weakness. On the battlefield, Russian troops appear to be going backwards.

Ukraine’s army released video of what appeared to be Russian soldiers fleeing across a wood in the Lyman region. In ironic tones, it said they were involved in a “tactical regrouping” – the phrase used by the general staff in Moscow to describe the Russian army’s chaotic abandonment of Kharkiv oblast.

It now seems likely that Ukrainian units will be able to make further territorial gains in the north of Luhansk province. The next obvious target is the city of Svatove, captured by Russian forces in March, soon after Putin began his “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Get off the hamster wheel! How to quiet quit absolutely everything

illo of a hamster next to a wheel with a hat on and holding a pint of lager
 Illustration: Justin Metz/The Guardian

Sure, you can strive less in the workplace. But what happens when you dial down bigger things, like parenting, relationships and even showering?

Coined in 2009, the phrase “quiet quitting” means simply, go to work for your contracted hours, do what you’re asked to do, and nothing more. It has come into its own in the past few years, since lockdown, colliding with the Chinese movement tang ping (“lying flat”) to become a global phenomenon: go to work, sure, but don’t be striving the whole damn time.

Now, after many viral videos on TikTok, with young people discovering what trade unions have known for more than a century, it is spreading like wildfire. A Gallup poll found that nearly half the US workforce would describe themselves as “quiet quitters”.

I reject the concept, from a workplace perspective: it merely means doing what you’re contractually required to do. This I would call “work”. Anything more than this is “hustle”.

The love-your-work culture has become so dominant that “going above and beyond” is now often in the job description (recently abbreviated to “passionate”), which is ridiculous. If you said that in a relationship – “I want you to meet my stated needs, but also guess at other, potentially limitless, needs and meet those too” – you’d be called controlling and abusive, or at the very least, a bit of a handful.

But is there some wisdom in the idea of quiet quitting, applied to other parts of life?

Can you quiet quit your relationship?

Figure out what a marital work-to-rule would actually look like. Essentially, it would be redrawing the boundaries of your union to include more time for yourself and less absorption of your spouse’s emotional baggage. This could include reworking the map of the domestic terrain, but that would be unlikely to pose a threat to your relationship.

If, however, you suddenly want to go to the gym every night, or spend all weekend with your mates, having previously been spending that time together, the outcome is unlikely to be positive. Claire Seeber is a Gestalt therapist, “which is about looking at patterns that we get into, what we call ‘fixed gestalt’ – rigid patterns of behaviour”. She says: “If you spend all your time with your partner, and you suddenly realise it’s quite suffocating, you don’t just announce that.” Look into what has changed: is it you? Is it the relationship? “Are you talking about the end of the honeymoon period, or are you talking about 15 years of marriage and you’re bored?”

illo of hamster in sunglasses listening to music and holding an android phone
 Illustration: Justin Metz/The Guardian

Always communicate your thinking, which sounds like the opposite of quiet quitting, but doesn’t have to be. If you suddenly change your behaviour without communication, that’s not quiet, that’s stealth. Saying “I would prefer to go to the cinema on my own than spend one more evening discussing your problematic parents” is too absolute to be interpreted any other way than uncaring. Don’t say “I need” when you mean “I want”.

Having said that, don’t be afraid of “I want”. “In therapy, I always come back to ‘What’s the risk if you do something, versus the risk if you don’t?’,” Seeber says. “If the cost of constantly subjugating your own desires is that you’re constantly pissed off, then that’s not a small cost.”

Can you quiet quit a friendship?

Friendship is a classic candidate, since you often don’t want an abrupt confrontation, you just want to dial it down. Instead of seeing each other once a fortnight, you’d be up for something more like a dental schedule: once every six months, infinitely postponable. You don’t want to ghost them, since that almost invites confrontation, but you’d like to radically reduce their expectations of you.

The problem is, it’s not really fair. What Annie Duke, author of Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away, says of the workplace – “you have to have the conversation about how your job isn’t aligning with your values, so that your employer can address that” – is also true of intimate relationships. “You have to be brave.” Try to do the kindest thing – this means communicating, not ghosting.

I write this after a coffee with someone who quiet-quit me 25 years ago. I don’t hold it against her, I was a jerk back then

I write this straight after a coffee with someone who quiet quit me 25 years ago. I’m not even kidding. I don’t hold it against her at all, I was a jerk back then, and now we’re fine. Or maybe we’re not, maybe it was just one coffee before she quiet quits me again. But bravery is better in absolute terms.

Can you quiet quit members of your family?

The beauty of familial relationships is also their curse: you didn’t choose them. So you won’t necessarily be as attuned to the needs of family members as you are to those of your friends, and you will find areas of radical difference – in values, in views, in dress sense – that just wouldn’t survive in the rufty-tufty world of people you associate with by choice.

At the same time, this makes these relationships extremely durable, and you can ebb and flow in the amount of emotional energy you’re willing to put in. Maybe you’ll sometimes land in quite a distant relationship, but find later on that the distance has made it more interesting, and now you want to quiet-reapply-for-the-job.

Of course, we all have the odd rogue relative we would genuinely prefer not to have in our life, and here the management method described by Duke applies: “When you get to the point that you’re thinking about quitting, you should have already quit. We tend to walk away too late. There are all sorts of pain points that come in about leaving things, that have to do with having wasted the time and energy that we put into them.”

For example, with horrible in-laws, all we can see at first is how difficult it would be to withdraw from the relationship – how much pressure it would put on your immediate family, how much emotional effort you’ve already wasted. Though if you get to the point where you think, “I’m quietly done with this person”, that has probably been true for some time, you just haven’t admitted it.

But – and Duke wouldn’t agree with me here, since, like Seeber, she believes in bravery – I think quiet quitting is better than loud quitting in this scenario. Because, realistically, you’re going to see them at funerals and whatnot, and you don’t want their last memory of you to be you shouting “I quit”.

Can you quiet quit parenting?

It’s probably when your kids are small that looking after them feels most like work, in the sense that it’s relentlessly hard physical, emotional and mental toil, and you can’t completely believe you’re doing all that without getting paid.

One parent often quiet quits every now and then: perhaps in a sibling fight they’ll enforce French rugby rules, which is to say, whoever’s fault it was last time, it’s the other one’s fault this time. Or perhaps they’ll dress up their own sloth as a bid to foster independence in the child, as in: “This three-year-old is old enough to get their own apple juice.”

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In such a dynamic – and I cannot stress this enough – all that happens is that the other parent picks up the extra work. Duke says: “Quitting has to be an act that you do publicly. It would only be private if it doesn’t have an effect on anyone else around you. If they’re having to pick up the slack from your quiet quitting, they haven’t chosen that.”

illo of a hamster lying on a wheel with a glass of wine
 Illustration: Justin Metz/The Guardian

However, time marches on and soon they are teenagers, and now it’s also like work, except you’re on constant performance review. This morning, I said something, and the 14-year-old said, “I wish this was a Zoom, because everything you say makes me want to hit ‘End meeting for all’”, and I said, “Huh, rude”, and the 13-year-old said, “Don’t just commentate, do something”, and I said, “What am I going to do? It’s not like I’m going to punch him in the face”, and the 13-year-old said, “You can’t think of a single act in between ‘nothing’ and ‘punching him in the face’?”, and the 14-year-old said, “She’s not a consequences person”. This was all before 8am. Surely I can quiet quit now?

Still, no, I’m afraid. There will be a time, Seeber says, “when teenagers only want you for food and money, but still expect you to be there at the drop of a hat when they need something”, and that’s what we call unconditional love, which is what you should be modelling. But it’s also important to model realistic expectation, so you can certainly zone them out or take up pottery. You wouldn’t be preparing them very well for adulthood if you were completely perfect.

Can you quiet quit social media?

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that this would be the easiest of all the quits: nobody on Twitter is relying on your hot take. No one on Instagram will mourn the loss of pictures of your knees on a beach. Why is it, then, that people never do go gently into that good night of social oblivion? Why are there endless announcements: “Followers, I’m taking August off”; “Disciples, this is the last Facebook post you’ll see from me, owing to my new disapproval of Mark Zuckerberg”?

Nobody on Twitter is relying on your hot take. No one on Instagram will mourn the loss of pictures of your knees on a beach

It’s because we all have a deep-seated fear of our absence going unnoticed. What does that mean for our IRL interactions? Could we spin off into the abyss and nobody would notice that, either?

This is impossible, in other words, but noisy-quitting social media is fine too.

Can you quiet quit superfluous grooming?

This is a dumb question, because since lockdown we all know the answer: after the active government prevention of professional haircuts, pedicures, never mind more niche undertakings like depilation, it turned out we could do a lot of this stuff ourselves, and what we couldn’t do didn’t matter.

It falls on us now to define “superfluous”. Is it absolutely necessary to shower every day? “Quiet” isn’t really the adjective for all this, however: the more important question is, can you quit this stuff without people being able to smell you?

Man with his feet on a desk taking it easy

Can you quiet-quit highbrow culture?

You can quit highbrow culture no problem, it will merely behove you to stay quiet while other people are talking about it. Since you will strongly suspect that half of them have also quit intellectualism and are just winging it, you may find this a little frustrating.

The more important question is, what are you going to do instead? If you just fill the acres of time left by not reading Don DeLillo with mindless TV and airport pap, you’ve got yourself a different problem. That marshmallow texture of undemanding culture may be easier to digest but it also leaves you heavy and nauseous. Don’t swap Molière for mush, in other words. Give up reading altogether, and take up tai chi.

No hamsters were harmed in these illustrations

Attention economy — in defense of adult coloring books

Mindfulness merchandise might be cringeworthy, but in the attention economy its offerings are invaluable, says DW’s Kate Ferguson.

What sense do coloring books for adults make? Read on to find out!

There’s a delightful shop in my neighborhood that sells gifts and textiles from Nepal. The woman who runs it is so charming that I once bought an unflattering dress just to show my appreciation for the complementary cup of herbal tea she offered me. Peppered on the walls of her store are dozens of lotus flowers.

They are printed on plain cards, which are given to customers on the condition that they color them in at home and bring them back.

I accepted one of these cards alongside an early purchase of a candle stick, safe in the knowledge that I would never actually complete the task. What adult has time for coloring anyway, I asked myself as I scrolled through Britney Spears’ Instagram feed. But it was a nice thought, and I used the card as a bookmark.

The lotus flower must have stuck with me subconsciously though, because one day I found myself buying coloring pencils. I used them very occasionally to highlight important items on my to-do lists. The feel of their pointy nibs cracking ever so slightly on the scrap paper brought back indistinct memories of being a child. But I still didn’t color the lotus flower.

In his final column for The Guardian in September 2020, the author Oliver Burkeman urged readers to lean into the practices that in his own words “strike you as intolerably cheesy or self-indulgent.”

The examples he cited included gratitude journals, mindfulness meditation and seeing a therapist. The more they make you cringe, the more worthwhile they might be, he argued.

For me, adult coloring books are a veritable source of cringe. I roll my eyes as I pass the mindfulness section of a bookshop, advancing smugly to the counter with the latest Elizabeth Strout instead of some remedial artbook for adults. And yet, as I pass the stand, the image of a nice cup of tea and some coloring pencils pops into my head. I quash the thought immediately.

Split personality?

The reason for my contempt naturally lies in my refusal to acknowledge the vast chasm between who I am and who I want to be. Ideally, I would be a person with an attention span long enough not to need a coloring book to refocus my mind. Deep down, I know this to be untrue.

The shame that accompanies our inability to focus reminds us that attention is a commodity with a moral as well as monetary value. This distinguishes it from other resources which tend to have logistical, geographical or political explanations for scarcity.

The late Nobel laureate economist Herbert Simon is credited with coining the term “attention economy.” Key to understanding the term, he believed was the acknowledgement of the inverse relationship between information and attention. The more of the former we have, the less of the latter we employ.

This has implications in all kinds of domains. Populist politicians have always relied on people’s reluctance to spend too much cognitive energy analyzing the credibility of a punchy sound bite. This is especially poignant in an age where much of the world resists the opportunity to consult the abundance of credible sources of information at their fingertips.

The phenomenon is equally unnerving in the media. News stories that don’t immediately hook the attention are relegated in favor of those that provide an immediate dopamine kick. Algorithms reinforce the trend and at some point we all find ourselves scrolling through Britney Spears’ Instagram feed.

Coloring books can help you refocus your mind, the author insists

Identifying the mindful

Except of course for the mindful among us. You can identify them relatively easily by their penchant for buying newspapers, shunning social media and pausing before they speak.

These rare diamonds of the attention economy offer a glimpse of what life could be if only we could focus. Populist politicians would be eliminated at the ballot boxes. Science would triumph. Our climate would have some chance of being saved.

Half-baked thoughts of this kind surfaced recently when I discovered the lotus flower card inside a book I had not finished reading. If not now, when, I wondered. If not me, who?

I took out my coloring pencils, turned my phone to flight mode and began. It was harder than I remembered to stay inside the lines. And don’t get me started on the intricate details on the petals. But those challenges notwithstanding, for 10 glorious minutes I was calm. 

In the meantime, the energy crisis intensified, Sterling continued its rollercoaster ride and central bankers talked some more about interest rate rises. I didn’t emerge enlightened on any of these issues but I did feel more equipped to tackle a long read than I would have if I had been watching Britney Spears dancing on the beach. Baby steps.

I returned to the Nepalese shop and made a point of admiring the colored-in lotus flowers on the wall. Before, possibly because of my attention deficit, it had not occurred to me to wonder why so many customers answered the call to color their cards. Perhaps my neighborhood was far more populated with mindful people than I had imagined? 

“You get 15 % off your next purchase if you bring it back,” the owner told me, her raised eyebrows implying this was knowledge I should already have. The smug feeling you get as you return the card is complementary.

Pro-Russian ‘referendums’ lock Putin into war


Faced with the Kremlin’s inevitable push to defend its new ‘territories,’ Ukraine’s allies have more reason than ever to support Kyiv.

As urgency is of the essence, Vladimir Putin has spared himself a challenge: that of masking the unilateral annexation of Ukrainian territories conquered by force with an air of legitimacy. The organization of what Russia presented as “referendums” in these territories located in the east and south of the country at a snail’s pace has produced a pitiful spectacle of ballots sometimes collected during door-to-door operations from inhabitants who were not driven away by the fighting.

This spectacle has resulted in shoddy results that would be laughable if they did not open the way to a potentially dangerous escalation. It is more than likely that only the rogue nations will dare to recognize the results, given the absolute disregard for norms. Ukraine’s Western allies should respond by adopting new sanctions.

This Russian show of force demonstrates first of all the esteem that the head of the Kremlin has for the inhabitants of these regions, which represent about one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory. It is low enough to turn them into extras in this masquerade. It was foreseeable, in fact, that they would be subjected to this downward spiral in democratic rule that has been in place in Russia for a good decade. These “referendums” are the confirmation of the reality of Russian domination, which has become their daily routine.

Mr. Putin can also once again flaunt his perfect disdain for the international standards trampled on in Ukraine since 2014. Once the Kremlin has decreed the annexation of its conquests to Russia, it will most likely rediscover the principle of the intangibility of borders for those it has drawn through machine guns and shelling. And it will proclaim its intention to defend them by opposing all perfectly legitimate Ukrainian counter-offensives.

This is precisely where the risk of a spiral fueled by this poor staging lies. It should plunge everyone who accepted the 2014 annexation of Crimea after a first controversial referendum into a painful introspection. That annexation was no more recognized then by the United Nations than these recent referendums.

The knock-on effect of these referendums locks Russia more than ever into a logic of war. The conflict is fraught with serious blunders, of which the sabotage of gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, which no one has claimed responsibility for, is the latest manifestation. Faced with this escalating situation, Ukraine’s allies have even less reason to let up on an effort that is producing results on the ground because of the exceptional fighting spirit of Kyiv’s troops.

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Under their pressure, Mr. Putin was forced to rush the timing of these votes, which became all the more grotesque. He was also forced into a partial mobilization to which Russians of fighting age often responded by dodging or fleeing abroad.

It is significant that these Russian operations in Ukraine coincide with the organization in Hungary, an illiberal state if ever there was one, of a “consultation” of public opinion on the relevance of the sanctions adopted against Russia, which Viktor Orbán has never tried to hide his negative feelings about. The Hungarian prime minister is accustomed to these maneuvers masquerading as democratic exercises, which only successfully deceive either the naive or the foolish.

Le Monde

Les « référendums » prorusses enferment Vladimir Poutine dans la guerre


Le Monde

Editorial du « Monde ». Une fois décrété l’annexion, vendredi, le Kremlin va sans doute redécouvrir le principe d’intangibilité des frontières et clamer son intention de les défendre. Les alliés de l’Ukraine ont plus de raisons que jamais de soutenir Kiev.

    Urgence faisant loi, Vladimir Poutine s’est épargné une gageure : celle de recouvrir l’annexion unilatérale de territoires ukrainiens conquis par la force d’une apparence de légalité. L’organisation au pas de charge, dans ces territoires situés à l’est et au sud du pays, de ce que la Russie a présenté comme des « référendums » a produit un spectacle lamentable de bulletins de vote récoltés parfois au cours d’opérations de porte-à-porte auprès des habitants que les combats n’ont pas fait fuir.

    Ce spectacle s’est traduit par des résultats de pacotille qui donneraient à rire s’ils n’ouvraient la voie à une escalade potentiellement dangereuse. Il est plus que probable que seuls les Etats voyous oseront les reconnaître, compte tenu du mépris absolu témoigné aux formes. Les alliés occidentaux de l’Ukraine devraient y répondre par l’adoption de nouvelles sanctions.Lire aussi : Guerre en Ukraine, en direct : Vladimir Poutine officialisera, lors d’une cérémonie à Moscou, l’annexion de territoires occupés

    Ce passage en force russe dit tout d’abord l’estime dans laquelle le maître du Kremlin tient les habitants de ces régions, qui représentent environ un cinquième du territoire de l’Ukraine. Elle est assez faible pour les transformer en figurants de cette mascarade. Il était prévisible, en vérité, que ces derniers soient soumis à cet ajustement par le bas des règles de la démocrature en place en Russie depuis une bonne décennie. Ces « référendums » sont la confirmation de la réalité du joug russe, qui est devenu leur quotidien.

    Ce faisant, Vladimir Poutine peut également afficher une nouvelle fois son parfait dédain des normes internationales piétinées en Ukraine depuis 2014. Une fois décrété le rattachement de ses conquêtes à la Russie, le Kremlin va très probablement redécouvrir le principe d’intangibilité des frontières pour celles qu’il a tracées par la mitraille et le pilonnage. Et clamer son intention de les défendre en opposant tous les moyens à des contre-offensives ukrainiennes parfaitement légitimes.

    C’est précisément là que réside le risque d’engrenage alimenté par cette piètre mise en scène. Elle devrait plonger dans une douloureuse introspection tous ceux qui ont accepté en 2014 l’annexion de la Crimée après un premier référendum controversé, pas plus reconnu alors par les Nations unies que ceux de ces derniers jours.

    L’effet cliquet de ces plébiscites enferme plus que jamais la Russie dans une logique de guerre. Cette dernière est grosse de dérapages dramatiques, dont le sabotage de gazoducs en mer Baltique, que personne n’a revendiqué, constitue la dernière manifestation. Face à cette fuite en avant, les alliés de l’Ukraine ont encore moins de raisons de relâcher un effort qui produit des résultats sur le terrain du fait de la combativité exceptionnelle des troupes de Kiev.Lire aussi : Article réservé à nos abonnésFuites sur les gazoducs Nord Stream 1 et 2 : le risque d’une « bombe climatique »

    Sous leur pression, Vladimir Poutine a été contraint de précipiter le calendrier de ces votes, devenus d’autant plus grotesques. Il a été également acculé à une mobilisation partielle à laquelle les Russes en âge de combattre ont souvent répondu par l’esquive ou la fuite à l’étranger.

    Il est instructif que ces opérations russes en Ukraine coïncident avec l’organisation en Hongrie, Etat illibéral s’il en est, d’une « consultation » de l’opinion sur la pertinence des sanctions adoptées contre la Russie, dont Viktor Orban ne se prive pas de dire tout le mal qu’elles lui inspirent. Le premier ministre hongrois est coutumier de ces manœuvres maquillées en exercices démocratiques, qui n’abusent que les naïfs, ou les sots.

    Le Monde

    ‘After my generation, no one will speak Ladino’

    Ivo Molinas, director of the Turkish Sephardic weekly ‘Salom’, which publishes two newspapers in Judeo-Spanish, warns that the language is facing extinction

    Ivo Molina, the director of the weekly newspaper Salom, in front of a stand displaying copies of his publication.
    Ivo Molina, the director of the weekly newspaper Salom, in front of a stand displaying copies of his publication.LUIS MAZARRASA

    Although the last publications in Ladino – or Judeo-Spanish – have been surviving in Turkey against all odds, this Romance language is about to disappear.

    “We are the last generation of Sephardic Jews who speak Ladino… even my children barely understand it,” warns Ivo Molinas, 60, director of the weekly Salom and the monthly El Amaneser. Both papers – founded 75 years ago – are published entirely in the language used by the Sephardic community in Turkey.

    Molinas notes that he directs the only press in the world that has published uninterruptedly in Ladino. The reasons he gives for the decline in the language – which is in real danger of extinction – are both demographic and cultural. The Turkish Sephardic community has decreased over the last few decades from about 50,000 to only 16,000 members, with the vast majority concentrated in Istanbul. Meanwhile, the new generation prefers to speak Turkish, English… and now Spanish, since Spain granted Spanish nationality to the descendants of Jews expelled in 1492 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. It makes more sense to use some of the world’s major languages, rather than learning a minor one that’s on life support.

    “In fact, while 40% of the community understands it, we no longer speak Ladino like our parents did,” Molinas explains. However, he believes that the use of the old language will survive through the newspapers: more than 3,000 copies of Salom are sold weekly, with even more readers checking out the online version. He thinks that there will always be someone to take care of these publications – even if it’s just out of love.

    Newspapers written entirely in Ladino were very popular in Turkey in the past. Since 1492 – when Jews were expelled from Spain – the language laid down roots in the area. In Izmir – where there was once a large Sephardic community – three newspapers with many readers were published at the end of the 19th century: La Buena EsperanzaEl Novelista and El Meseret. In the first years of the 20th century, El PregoneroLa Boz de Izmir, La Boz del Pueblo and El Comercial joined the list, according to Dina Damon, professor of Judaic Studies at Binghamton University in New York.

    The director of Salom points out that Spain does not show much interest in the preservation of Ladino… although he recognizes that the real problem is the disinterest of his own community. In fact, the Cervantes Institute in Istanbul had to cancel some free Judeo-Spanish courses last year due to a lack of students. The Sephardic Jews who come to the Institute are more interested in learning Spanish.

    The inside of a 1769 edition of Cantar de los Cantares in both Hebrew and Ladino – one of the canonical books of the Jewish Scriptures
    The inside of a 1769 edition of Cantar de los Cantares in both Hebrew and Ladino – one of the canonical books of the Jewish ScripturesYAEL MACÍAS

    Gonzalo Manglano, director of the Cervantes Institute in Istanbul, argues that Spain does everything possible so that Ladino does not disappear: “Together, with the Saramago Foundation of Portugal and the Jewish community of Turkey, the Cervantes Institute has requested a tender within the EU Horizon Program for a €3-million project aimed at rescuing languages in danger of extinction.”

    If the funds for this project are obtained, the Cervantes Institute will lead the project, in coordination with the Casa Sefarad of Madrid and the Turkish Ministry of Culture. This initiative plans to renovate the Selaniko synagogue in Istanbul, which will host a cultural center that promotes – using modern technology – the preservation of Ladino… a language that any Spanish-speaker can understand.

    Language of the Sephardim Honored on a Postage Stamp

    On the first day cover is a photograph of the front cover of the ‘Meam Loez‘, Genesis volume Rabbi Yakoub Hulli, Constantinople, 1730. The photograph is by courtesy of Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem. The words ‘Language of Spain’ appear on the first day cover. The illustration on the stamp is based on decorations inspired by ancient Spanish writings. The word ‘Ladino’, written in Rashi script, is in the center of the illustration.

    Ladino (Judeo -Spanish) is the language of the descendants of the Jewish people who were exiled from Spain (1492) and were dispersed throughout the Ottoman Empire, Central and Southern Europe and Northern Morocco. In Morocco the language was called “Hakitia”. They preserved the language, which was based on classical ancient Spanish, for more than five hundred years. The language absorbed Arabic, Turkish and Balkan elements and, from the 19th Century, was also influenced by French. Ladino was always written in Hebrew characters. The breaking away from Spanish and the effect of different language influences created a distinct Jewish language- Ladino.

    Apart from the rich folklore that surrounds Ladino (ballads, love songs, poetic festivities, stories and sayings) works of 13 major importance were written in this language. “Meam Loez”, a multi volume essay on the Bible, is a major religious work written in Ladino. The leading scholar, Rabbi Yakoub Hulli, originated this work and wrote the first two volumes. “Meam Loez” is a kind of comprehensive encyclopedia on biblical interpretations, midrash, ethics, halacha and customs printed next to reports on experiences of the world, nature and the universe, The contents are taken from hundreds of sources in Hebrew literature. The first volume on Genesis appeared in Constantinople in 1730.

    The era of Enlightenment began in the Ottoman Empire during the middle of the 19th Century. One of the expressions of Enlightenment was the appearance of journals in Ladino. The first journal “Puertas del Oriente” was published in Izmir in 1845/6. This was the beginning of 150 years of Ladino journalism during which more than 300 periodicals were published. The journals brought with them translated and original novels. Hundreds of them were printed in the printing centers of Ladino (among them- Constantiople. Izmir. Salonica, Jerusalem and Vienna) and gave pleasure to thousands of readers. Theater also flourished at this time. It is known that since the last quarter of the 18th century, more than 200 Ladino plays we-restaged for the Sephardic (Jews of Spanish descent) communities.

    The Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jews suffered the terrible Holocaust like their Yiddish speaking Ashkenazi (Jews of Central or Eastern European descent) brothers, The ancient communities such as Salonica and other Greek communities, Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia, were wiped out. The majority of the Sephardi Jewish community in Europe was annihilated. It was thought that after the devastating Holocaust, Ladino would not be revived. However, recent years have seen an awakening towards all that is connected to language and heritage. There are poetry books and folklore and research is being carried out.

    The language is studied in universities and other institutions. The highlight is the National Authority for Ladino Culture Bill, for the development and preservation of the language, passed in 1996 by the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) and the establishment of the National Authority for Ladino Culture headed by Yitzhak Navon, Israel’s fifth President.

    Avner Perez Ben Gurion
    University of the Negev, Beer Sheva