Saturday, May 28, 2016

Peter I (1682-1725) -short notes

Peter I was the successor of the Muscovy dynasty after Sophia. He was educated in Europe in the hands of French, German and Scot teachers. So, during his reign, he tried to install the idea of Enlightenment and French Revolution into Russia. He moved the capital nearer to the West, where he established St. Petersburg. He brought the idea of liberalism and lifted the censorship restrictions for the people, but later on, he executed it again. He tried to make constitutional reform but failed. Despite his idea on liberalism and democracy, he claimed that serfdom should remain as how it was.

Volga -short notes

Volga is the name of a river located in the Russian territory including some parts of the Eastern Europe today. This river is important for the establishment of the early Russian kingdoms for domestic supply and the course for communication system. For example, the early Bulghar Kingdom was founded on the Lower Volga region but due to forces from Khazar Kingdom, the leader established new Bulghar Kingdom on the Upper region of Volga River.

Uzbek Khan (1313-1341) -short notes

Uzbek Khan was the leader of the Golden Horde and he was the person responsible in making Islam the official state religion. Under his rule, the non-Muslims were not forced to accept Islam. However, he forced the Mongol elites to accept Islam. There was a period of religious tolerance where the Christians were allowed to keep their churches and the local pagans were allowed to practice their own beliefs. The Christians were even allowed to build church in the capital city of Sarai. Their churches were exempted from paying taxes and jizyah and became richest institutions during this time.

Pugachev -short notes

Pugachev was the son of a small landowner Don Cossack. He was the leader of Pugachev rebellion on 1773 until 1774. This rebellion happened at the same time when the Muslims came into confrontation with the Russians. So, Pugachev’s forces mostly consisted of Muslims who wanted to fight against the Russian emperor. However, Pugachev was captured in 1775 and he was sent to Moscow where he was decapitated publicly.

Vladimir I -short notes

Vladimir I was the successor of Kievan Rus after Sviatoslav in 980 to 1015. He was known as the person who was responsible in declaring Christian to be the official state religion in 9888. During his time, Kievan Rus had a good relationship with the Byzantine. Vladimir got married to Basil II’s sister. He got baptized during this marriage, whereas nullified his former marriages. Then, he ordered his sons to govern cities and towns; and each of them was equipped with their own druzhina to help enforcing Christianity onto the people and to ensure the security of Christian priests.

The Major Episodes of the French Invasion of Russia in 1812 and the Factors for Russian Victory

In the 1812, there was a period of the French invasion into the Russian territories. This war is mainly known as the period of French invasion of Russia. The Russian forces was led by Napoleon Bonaparte and they started their march into Russia on 24 June 1812. The first Russian place they have entered is the River Neman, where they planned to go further into Russian territories.

The aim for Napoleon to bring his army into Russia was to force Russia to cut off its business relationship with England as England was the enemy of France. However, it could be that French’s main political intention was to actually seized Poland from Russia. So, because of these reasons, Napoleon came into Russia together with his Grand Army consisting about 680,000 soldiers.

During the early invasion, the Russian army did not really fight the French but they took decision to just keep retreating into deeper Russia, while the French army keep following them. In the meantime, the Russian Cossacks were given orders to destroy all villages and crops in their way to cut the food supply for the French who were following them. In 7 September 1812, French and Russia met at Borodino, a place near Moscow. So, there was a battle between the two forces. This battle was known to be the biggest and bloodiest battle in the history of Napoleonic war, resulted with 70,000 deaths in just one day.

Later, French managed to enter Moscow. However, Moscow was already destroyed and left deserted under the command of the governor Count Fyodor Rostopchin. Napoleon  waited for a month, hoping Tsar Alexander I would come to Moscow for peace negotiation. But his wait was unfruitful. So, Napoleon decided to move forward until Kaluga. As usual, the Russian army keep on retreating into deeper Russian territories. As the French followed them, the weather had changed. Now it came the winter time.

The French army was now exhausted. They did not have enough food supply to equip them for further movements. What more was terrible is that it was winter but they were not equipped with winter clothings. So, Napoleoen decided to pull back his forces to go out of Russia. Thus, with the end of the Russian invasion, it marked the end of the Napoleonic war. French lost about 300,000 men from the war and 100,000 were captured by the Russian, left only about 27,000 who were with Napoleon during their withdrawal.

The reason for the Russian victory was they were well-planned to confront the French army. In the battlefield, the Russian keep on retreating its army into deeper Russia and it might be one of their strategies to exhaust the enemy’s force. By doing so, they have the chance to cut supply of food for the enemy by destroying the villages in their way and they could kill the small groups of the French soldiers who were responsible to go out to search for food.

Besides, the Russians also was well adapted to the Russian lands. It would be easier for them to move from one place to another without so much difficulties as they understand their land. Unlike the French, they were from another place and they might be not well adapted to the Russian geographical characteristics. This factor became one of the help to Russian victory in the war.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ibnu Khaldun's view of sedentary life and why he considered it as an example of civilized life.

According to Ibnu Khaldun, a sedentary life is a condition  of life that is opposite to the nomadic way of life. In fact, he contrasted his idea between the two lifestyles and expressed that he somehow preferred the nomadic lifestyle rather than the sedentary one. He preferred the nomadic life because from his point of view, the nomads were living a healthier lifestyle by doing all the chores for living like taking care of the cattles, do the farming, hunting and all other chores. Besides, he said that the nomads who were not living in luxury, they could cope better with hard situations then those living in a sedentary lifestyle. They are considered as stronger than the people from sedentary lifestyle with the help of outside forces from living with raw substances for diets, and are exposed to constant physical exercises in their daily routine unlike the sedentary people who eat highly processed foods and partake of very little physical activity.

Ibnu Khaldun also compared the two lifestyles according to the amount of pleasure that the people would receive by living in any of them. For those in the nomadic lifestyle, they would receive less entertainment and pleasure that would make their life easier. As such, their life would mostly circulating around surviving and providing food for the family. It is undeniable that the people in the nomadic lifestyle did receive some pleasure, but it was not like those in sedentary life. The people in sedentary life received more pleasure and sometimes exceeding their needs. They have great supply of food, money and other luxuries that would distract them from living an exemplary lifestyle.

To assume the living state as a Muslim, the sedentary people might be having more tendency to be astray and get away from the right path of the religion. According to Ibnu Khaldun's view, these kind of people who live in luxury would be less religious it would be quite hard for them to live in a divine worship life to be compared to those of the nomads. Based on the living condition also, Ibnu Khaldun pointed out that the sedentary people are lacking in the ability of thinking and generally, he referred them as being stupid for never facing a real hardship situation in life to cope with.

Moreover, the sedentary people are also considered as being dependent. They could not survive by their own self. They need other people in duty to protect them and to help them survived; a situation contradicting to the independent nomads. In relation to his previous view concerning the lack of thinking ability of the sedentary people, they are also not equipped with proper knowledge and skills to survive. That was why they need others with skills to help them survive. The experience living in the hot desert, and the way of living by their own family, the nomads, are well equipped with every skill to trust themselves and this would make them survive the hard life ahead of them. For Ibnu Khaldun, the nomads always value independent life and freedom so that they could move around freely.

As from the normal description of the nomads, they are living in the deserts. In the vast area of the desert, these nomads would constantly moving from one place to another in order to make sure they always have enough food and water supply. Furthermore, Ibnu Khaldun mentioned that the nomads might be the first tribal form of the Arab tribal culture since before the coming of the farming age. It was the moment when the nomads realized that they could just settled down while growing their own sources for survival. By doing this, they could provide enough living supply for their family with less risks from going outside from their community.

These nomads who have settled down would then change their lifestyles. They are now living in towns and cities. They are now modern and living in sedentary lifestyle. In this new lifestyle, they have more free time to spend and they have less hard works to do. However, these people have problems to face due to their past experience living in the desert. Why? It is because when they were living in the desert, they did not get proper education and training to live in a sedentary lifestyle. As a result, the society could not expand their tribal societies in order to survive in the new life condition. For some reasons, these once nomadic people are now considered as the people who are used to laziness and pleasure. They are no longer nomads that go out hunting and tough.

So, the question is how did Ibnu Khaldun considered sedentary life as an example of civilized life? According to his work, he subscribed to the cyclical theory of civilization; which refers to the rise and fall of civilizations.Yes, in this theory we can conclude that somehow a sedentary life means a civilized lifestyle or has something to do with the formation of a civilization.However, he expressed that a sedentary lifestyle is actually the last stage of the cyclical civilization stage. It is a civilization's period of decaying and the turning point into failures. In this view, when a society turns to be sedentary, they will lose their own unique identity just like the nomads. They are influenced by those condition around them and they started to extinct from their own civilization. Just like the nomads who lose their own identity as being 'nomads' by living in a sedentary lifestyle.

Besides, by living in this civilized life, family ties becomes not that important anymore. They could simply lose their own societal structure and culture to give in to the new one. In this new lifestyle, the issue of lineage purity is not that important anymore. They could marry and associate with people from different tribes, and sometimes they could associate with even the non-Arabs people. They have this opportunity because they are no longer living as nomads, so there is no reason for the people to resist them for what they are now. However, all this matters is actually highlighting that the former nomads are actually losing their own family unity to the new sedentary life they are living.

Another problem came when the nomads are living in a sedentary life. They could not adapt well with the situation for example in the matter of providing the family with enough wages. Those who are already living in sedentary life since they were born might engage themselves in some arts and commerce. But, those who came from the nomadic family were actually living far worse than their original state. They could not expand their lifestyle as they were not really educated into it and some of them just continue to make rugs, pillows and other handcrafts products to sell them while they are living in a sedentary life.

Ibnu Khaldun is actually referring this situation based on his theory of asabiyyah or the group sentiment among the nomads. While the nomads are trying to adapt with their new culture and the change of societal hierarchy, their own sense of identity will slowly began to disappear through time. Moreover, when the sense of identity disappear, the value of the group sentiment will also perished. The people will start to disintegrate and will no longer willing to live in tribal traditions. In the end, when the feeling of asabiyyah comes to extinction, so thus the civilization, which will follow later.

1. The Good Life, by Yi-Fu Tuan.
2. The Islamic Quarterly, vol32, by Islamic Cultural Centre.
3. Ibn Khaldun: The Mediterranean in the 14th Century: Rise and Fall of Empires, by Abdesselam Cheddadi

Keith Syakil, IIUM'16