Longform’s Picks of the Week
The best stories from around the world.
Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.
“Inside the Kremlin’s Hall of Mirrors” by Peter Pomerantsev, the Guardian.
Fake news stories. Doctored photographs. Staged TV clips. Armies of paid trolls. Has Putin’s Russia developed a new kind of information warfare – fought in the ‘psychosphere’ rather than on the battlefield? Or is it all just a giant bluff?
“Since Soviet times, every year on 9 May, which is known as Victory in World War Two Day, Russian nationalists and war veterans living in Estonia had long gathered to celebrate in the centre of Tallinn, at a statue known as the Bronze Soldier – a large Aryan-looking hunk who commemorated Soviet victory over the Nazis. Around a third of Estonians are Russian, or at least primarily Russophone; the vast majority of these are descendents of Russians who were relocated from the Soviet Union after the second world war, while thousands of Estonians were being deported to the gulag and scattered across the USSR. Between 1945 and 1991, the number of Russians in Estonia rose from 23,000 to 475,000. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, new citizenship laws required Russians who had arrived after 1945, and their descendents born in Soviet Estonia, to pass Estonian language tests to gain citizenship. Tensions began to grow. Many of the Russians do not see themselves, or their parents, as colonizers: according to the official Kremlin line, Estonia “voluntarily” renounced its independence in 1941. Some felt like second class citizens in the new Estonia: why weren’t prescriptions available in Russian? Why couldn’t Russophone towns have street signs in Russian?”
“These are the Families Left to Reclaim Garissa’s Dead” by Jina Moore, Buzzfeed.
Where terrorism succeeds, parents have a hard time recognizing their own children.
“It would have been easy to know Emily Namaemba when she was alive. She’d be the one on the soccer pitch, running circles around the other competitors, or surrounded by friends. She had so, so many friends, George remembers. But probably if she wasn’t studying, she’d be singing gospel songs with her praise group. Edward Wafula was the one who liked sharing, and liked giving advice. He’d offer friends a portion of whatever it was he happened to have, they remember, and he’d end quarrels between roommates or counsel friends so gently they didn’t even notice what he was doing.
Kennedy Ouma Echesa would’ve been the one with a book. He loved reading, loved history, loved the theory of things. He’d never need Edward’s counsel, because he’d never be the one arguing. ‘He is a boy who never knew what a quarrel was,’ his father remembers. Kennedy wanted to be a professor. None of these intimacies made it easier for their families to find them.”
“Escape or Die” by James Verini, the New Yorker.
When pirates captured a cargo ship, its crew faced one desperate choice after another.
“As an ordinary seaman, Aman Kumar—tall and a bit pudgy, with watchful, dolorous eyes—was the lowest-ranking crewman on board. He was also the youngest, at eighteen. Until the previous year, when he left his home in rural India to enroll in a maritime academy in Kolkata, he had never seen a body of water larger than the lake near his family’s farm. After graduation, a shipping agent told him that he could earn two hundred and fifty dollars a month on the Albedo. Kumar assumed this was a lie—he had never seen so much money. His trip to Dubai, where the Albedo was docked, was his first on an airplane. ‘I was afraid for everything,’ he said later.”
“Why Are You Still Here?” by James Meek, the London Review of Books.
People tell you in Grimsby there was only one power: that fish was king, and that it didn’t abdicate, it was overthrown by foreigners.
“The crews were dogged by superstitious prohibitions; no woman was let on board, and the colour green was taboo, as was any mention or depiction of pigs, or rabbits. The taboos were commensurate with the danger. Hardie’s other grandfather died in a U-boat attack in 1939. In 1998 Hardie lost a boat in a freak sea, though he and his crew were rescued. Off Iceland one winter he saw a ship, top-heavy with frozen seawater, capsize with twenty men on board. Only one man survived, his life raft driven into a fjord where, by extraordinary luck, he stumbled across a sheep shed. The warmth of the animals kept him alive until he was rescued.
In the mid-1970s Hardie was one of the last Grimsby trawler skippers to defy Iceland’s declaration of exclusive fishing rights over an area two hundred miles from its coast, in what had previously been international waters. Icelandic gunboats towing net cutters would slice through the steel cables British trawlers used to drag their nets behind them, while Royal Navy frigates tried to keep the gunboats away. Hardie was fishing with a group of twenty trawlers one afternoon, dragging his nets at the standard three and a half knots, when a gunboat bore down on them, twice as big as their boat and going at six times the speed. There was no way to manoeuvre, and hauling in the nets took half an hour. All Hardie could do when he realised the gunboat had picked out his vessel was yell at his crew to clear the deck in case the severed cable whiplashed back. The gunboat swept past tight across their stern, the cable went slack, and their net and all the fish it contained sank to the bottom of the Atlantic.”
‘Genocide Under Our Watch’ by Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy.
Newly declassified White House documents place Richard Clarke and Susan Rice at the forefront of U.S. efforts to limit a robust U.N. peacekeeping operation before and during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
“But the recently declassified documents — which include more than 200 pages of internal memos and handwritten notes from Rice and other key White House players — provide a far more granular account of how the White House sought to limit U.N. action. They fill a major gap in the historical record, providing the most detailed chronicle to date of policy instructions and actions taken by White House staffers, particularly Clarke and Rice, who appear to have exercised greater influence over U.S. policy on Rwanda than the White House’s Africa hands.
The National Security Archive and the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide obtained the documents during a two-and-a-half-year effort to amass long-secret records of internal deliberations by the United States, the U.N., and other foreign governments. They add to a collection of some 20,000 declassified documents from Britain, France, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, and the United States. They were made available exclusively in advance to Foreign Policy before their public release Thursday, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day.”
PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images; MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images; TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images; ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images; Christopher Furlong/Getty Images; ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images