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Russia

Russia, Turkey And The Isolationist Trap

The increasingly authoritative stances of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan are only isolating them inside their own countries and on the global stage.

Putin and Erdogan, the "last czar" and the "last sultan."
Putin and Erdogan, the "last czar" and the "last sultan."
Dominique Moïsi

-OpEd-

PARIS — Have Russia and Turkey become the two sick men on Europe's outskirts? For centuries, the Russian Empire's territorial expansion came at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, famously described in the 19th century as the "sick man of Europe." Today, these two former empires seem to be going through a similar and negative evolution, which can be explained with two names: Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The root of this "evil" hitting Russia and Turkey seems simple enough and indeed derives from the authoritarian drift and the excessive concentration of power around these two men.

The rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara is not diplomatic in nature, even though there are murmurs that it could be headed that way. Turkey is still NATO's southern cornerstone. Russia, meanwhile, is angered by Ukraine's move towards NATO. Economically too, the two countries couldn't be more different. With a booming demography, the Turkish economy's dynamic is a stark contrast to the accelerated decline of Russia, the energy giant with the feet of clay. Western sanctions and the fall of oil and gas prices are mere indicators and aggravating factors of the Russian economy's structural weaknesses.

As a matter of fact, the rapprochement is political and institutional. In their increasingly centralized administrations, in their desire to control everything and not tolerate the slightest criticism, Putin and Erdogan seem eager to deliver each other a certificate of good political management, saying "the rest of the world is annoying us with their criticism. We don't need anybody telling us what to do!"

They both seem driven by a common instinct — if not urge. Their own version of nationalism includes a willingness to control all spheres of power and leads to them alternating between being prime ministers and presidents. The two seem to betray their personal ambition, which is mixed with a certain feeling of nostalgia for a time that has ceased to exist and to which they cannot go back.

They can picture themselves as the "last czar" or the "last sultan." All they want is to restore the Great Russia or to rebuild a neo-Ottoman Empire, but neither of them actually has the means to turn their dreams into reality.

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Ideas

García Márquez And Truth: How Journalism Fed The Novelist's Fantasy

In his early journalistic writings, the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez showed he had an eye for factual details, in which he found the absurdity and 'magic' that would in time be the stuff and style of his fiction.

Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez reads his book

J. D. Torres Duarte

BOGOTÁ — In short stories written in the 1940s and early 50s and later compiled in Eyes of a Blue Dog, the late Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia's Nobel Prize-winning novelist, shows he is as yet a young writer, with a style and subjects that can be atypical.

Stylistically, García Márquez came into his own in the celebrated One Hundred Years of Solitude. Until then both his style and substance took an erratic course: touching the brevity of film scripts in Nobody Writes to the Colonel, technical experimentation in Leaf Storm, the anecdotal short novel in In Evil Hour or exploring politics in Big Mama's Funeral. Throughout, the skills he displayed were rather of a precocious juggler.

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