Longform’s Picks of the Week

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.    The Dying Russians, by Masha ...

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An elderly woman rides in a trolleybus in central Moscow, on April 16, 2012. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

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. 

 

The Dying Russians, by Masha Gessen, New York Review of Books.

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

 

The Dying Russians, by Masha Gessen, New York Review of Books.

Russia’s mortality crisis. 

Sometime in 1993, after several trips to Russia, I noticed something bizarre and disturbing: people kept dying. I was used to losing friends to AIDS in the United States, but this was different. People in Russia were dying suddenly and violently, and their own friends and colleagues did not find these deaths shocking. Upon arriving in Moscow I called a friend with whom I had become close over the course of a year. “Vadim is no more,” said his father, who picked up the phone. “He drowned.” I showed up for a meeting with a newspaper reporter to have the receptionist say, “But he is dead, don’t you know?” I didn’t. I’d seen the man a week earlier; he was thirty and apparently healthy. The receptionist seemed to think I was being dense. “A helicopter accident,” she finally said, in a tone that seemed to indicate I had no business being surprised.

 

Freedom Fighter, by Alexis Okeowo, New Yorker.

A slaving society and an abolitionist’s crusade.

In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery, while making no provision for punishing slave owners. In 2007, under international pressure, it passed a law that allowed slaveholders to be prosecuted. Yet slavery persists there, even as the government and religious leaders deny it. Although definitive numbers are difficult to find, the Global Slavery Index estimates that at least a hundred and forty thousand people are enslaved in Mauritania, out of a population of 3.8 million. Bruce Hall, a professor of African history at Duke University, said that people endure slavelike conditions in other countries in the region, but that the problem in Mauritania is unusually severe: “Some proximate form of slavery has continued to be a foundation of the social structure and the division of labor within households, so there are many more people who are willing to support it as an institution.” While Abeid was travelling, a well-known imam had given a televised interview. A journalist asked whether slavery existed in Mauritania, and the imam said no. Then why, the journalist asked, had the imam recently given the journalist’s boss a slave girl as a gift? 

Bahrain Drain, by Justin Gengler, Foreign Affairs.

Why the king’s Sunni supporters are moving abroad.

A growing body of evidence suggests that members of Bahrain’s prominent Sunni families have begun moving abroad over the past year. Fueling Bahrain’s ire, most are reported to have resettled in Qatar, a state whose own Sunni tribes share a common lineage with Bahrain’s, and whose robust oil-based economy allows the government to lure newcomers with promises of generous welfare benefits. In 2013, Qatar’s revenues from oil and gas alone amounted to around $428,000 per national; Bahrain’s stood at under $30,000.

Persistent rumors of this stealth migration gained more substance in March, when an elected member of Bahrain’s municipal council in the Sunni-dominated Southern Governorate, Ali al-Muhannadi, announced his resignation and left the country, reportedly after receiving Qatari citizenship. A week later, the daughter of Bahrain’s powerful prime minister publicly criticized the departure of Bahraini families to an unnamed Gulf country as “a big mistake” and called for an investigation. 

 

Why Not Kill Them All? by Keith Gessen, London Review of Books.

A report from Donetsk.

In early August I took the train from Kiev to Donetsk. Kiev was full of refugees from the east. Donetsk’s football team was staying at the Opera Hotel; others were staying with friends or relatives or in hostels and rented flats around town. The people of Kiev were not inhospitable, but they were wary, and they were angry. The ATO had been going on in earnest for two months, and each day brought news of more deaths from the front. The government had announced a ‘partial mobilisation’, calling up people who had once served in the armed forces, and there were also several volunteer battalions: some, like the Azov and Aidar battalions, were based on existing structures (in Azov’s case the Social-National Assembly of Ukraine, i.e. the far right, and in Aidar’s case the self-defence units of Maidan); others had been raised by locals who were willing to fight. In early August, the Maidan encampment was still partly intact, but the energy had vanished. One evening, at the edge of what remained of it, I happened across a group of forty men standing outside a bus and saying goodbye to friends and girlfriends. They looked tired, unshaven and for the most part out of shape. Eventually they lined up, did a roll call, and boarded the bus. They were volunteers for the Aidar battalion, and they were headed for Lugansk.

 

Under New Management, by Maya Kroth, Foreign Policy.

The coast of Honduras could be the site of a radical experiment: one in which foreign investors bankroll a quasi-sovereign city. Backers say it will lift the region out of poverty — but residents are anything but convinced.

Critics worry that evidence to date — the government’s opaque approach, the ZEDEs’ undemocratic features, the cast of characters backing the scheme, and the vulnerabilities of people likely to be affected by development — indicate that charter cities would be little more than predatory, privatized utopias, with far-reaching, negative implications for Honduran sovereignty and the well-being of poor communities. Diminishing confidence further, the recent Supreme Court decision is mired in controversy and allegations of corruption.

In the town-hall meeting, people’s anxiety is palpable. Some want more honest talk from the government about what ZEDEs would mean for them. Others, however, insist they will never allow charter cities in their backyards.

“This is the most dangerous thing I’ve read in my life,” says one woman, holding up a well-worn photocopy of the ZEDEs legislation. “The whole law is a deception.”

Twitter: @s__engler

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