Turkmenistan (S3.09)

S03E09 – Turkmenistan Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Turkmenistan, formerly known as Turkmenia, an independent nation in Central Asia. Bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north and east, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west, Turkmenistan forms part of the historic Silk Road between East and West.

 

Today, it has a population of around 5.5 million, the lowest of the Central Asian republics. With around 490,000 square km or 190,000 square miles of territory, Turkmenistan is the world’s 52nd-largest country, making it slightly smaller than Spain and somewhat larger than the US state of California.

Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, it later became a part of the USSR, gaining independence again in 1991. Dominated by plains and deserts, temperatures here are extreme to say the least. The height of summer can see highs of 50 degrees celsius (120 fahrenheit) which is the highest temperature ever recorded in the whole former Soviet Union, while in winter, temperatures plunge below freezing in many places. Although it’s a very dry country, Turkmenistan is rich in natural resources- beneath the Kara Kum desert, which dominates the middle of the country, lie massive deposits of oil, natural gss and coal. This is the only place we’ve talked about that has a flag with a carpet on it.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)

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Above is the location of Turkmenistan.

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

  • An extensive resource for early history in this region can be found here at weavingartmuseum.org.
  • The Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great completed his conquest of Darius III’s Persian Empire is extensively explained on Brittanica here.
  • More information on the earthquake that destroyed Nisa can be found here.
  • Joe’s excellent quote from Abu Muslim on the unrighteosness of making war on fellow Muslims was sourced from here.
  • The ruined city of Merv is profiled in this Guardian article, which we quoted in this episode.
  • The ‘blood of the mighty’ quote on the sack of Merv comes from this book.
  • The Russian conquest of this region, the key engagement of which was the Battle of Geok Tepe, is explained in detail by RadioFreeEurope here.
  • Extensive information on the Trans-Caspian railway can be found at Railway Wonders of the World.
  • The Diplomat has an excellent in-depth article on the Panjdeh Incident between the British and Russians that almost led to war in 1885.
  • Further reading on the Central Asian revolt of 1916, also known as the Urkun, can be found here or here.
  • More info on the ‘Malleson Mission’ and the topic of British military involvement in Transcaspia can be found in this Conflict Studies Research Centre report.
  • Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan by Adrienne Lynn Edgar, which was quoted in the episode, can be found online here.
  • Some additional information on the Turkestan Legion, which fought with the Wehrmacht during WWII can be found on Wikipedia.
  • The country profile from the U.S. Library of Congress, which Joe mentioned during this episode, can be found here.
  • TIME magazine has a short section on the devastating and earthquake that hit Ashgabat in 1948 in its ‘Top 10 Deadliest Earthquakes’ article.
  • The Evolution of Authoritarianism in Turkmenistan by Kareem Al-Bassam profiles much of the misdeeds of Saparmurad Niyazov, also known as Turkmenbashi.
  • Below is a short video of the Darvaza gas crater or ‘Gates to Hell’, that has become a strange Turkmenistan tourist attraction.
  • The many varied flags of Turkmenistan throughout history can be seen here and here.
  • Some further reading on the choice of script in modern Turkmenistan is available here.
  • The music from this episode was sourced from here.

Thank you once again to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out our Patreon page. We really appreciate the support and input!

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Lesotho (S3.08)

S03E08 Lesotho Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about the Kingdom of Lesotho, previously the British Crown Colony of Basutoland. This small African country is entirely surrounded by South Africa, making it one of only three nations to be contained entirely within another country’s borders. Lesotho is also one of the highest countries in the world, standing an average of 1500 metres above sea level, making it the fifth highest nation in the world by average elevation. Lesotho has a population of around 2 million, and its capital and largest city is Maseru.

 

 

At around 30,000 square kilometres, the country is roughly the size of Belgium or the US state of Hawaii. Its combination of high altitude and a relatively cool climate results in it being free of tropical diseases. Rainfall is highly variable, farming is difficult and the country has few natural resources. Sesotho is the national language, but English is the language of business, government and education. 

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)

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Above is the location of Lesotho, contained entirely within South Africa.

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

King_Moshoeshoe_of_the_Basotho_with_his_ministers

Some nice  music (and characteristic dancing, in some cases) we found:

Thanks to Seán Lyons for his interview about his time working in Lesotho with Irish NGO Action Lesotho. A massive thanks too to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate the support and input!

New Caledonia (S3.05)

New Caledonia Audio

In this episode we’ll be talking about the New Caledonia, a French unique collectivity in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, about 900 miles (1,500 km) east of Australia. It includes the island of New Caledonia, where the capital, Nouméa, is located; the Loyalty Islands; the Bélep Islands; and the Isle of Pines as well as a number of far-flung uninhabited islets.

The main island is by far the largest and contains about nine-tenths of the population. It is surrounded by a coral reef, which encloses a large number of lagoons. These lagoons, with their diverse reefs and associated ecosystems, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Sighted and named by Captain James Cook in 1774, it was later colonised by the French and turned into a penal colony.

New Caledonia has a land area of around 18,000 km2 (or 7,000 sq mi), making it just slightly smaller than Israel or the US state of New Jersey. Its population of around 270,000 consists mostly of a mix of Kanak people (the original inhabitants of New Caledonia), other Melanisians and people of European descent.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly in Hong Kong (@thelukejkelly), Joe Byrne in Bern, Switzerland (@anbeirneach), Mark Boyle in Surrey in the UK (@markboyle86) and our guest John Killeen (@johnkilleen90), who visited New Caledonia last year. Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle (@thatthomasfella)

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Map of New Caledonia

Here are a few handy links for learning more about New Caledonia;

  • You can learn more about the New Caledonian upcoming independence referendum here on Wikipedia. The referendum is due to take place on November 4th, 2018, although according to a recent report by Radio New Zealand, support for independence is waning.
  • There’s a handy map of Captain Cook’s voyages around the world on Encyclopedia Britannica. He’s a man worth knowing about!
  • Here’s an image of the weird forked flagpole we described in this episode.
  • More info on the delicious-sounding New Caledonian dish Bougna can be found here.
  • The US government film used in this episode is entitled ‘Our Troops in New Caledonia’ and can be found on Archive.org
  • Find more on the ridiculously easy to hunt Kagu bird here.
  • You can view the photos that are described in this episode (courtesy of our friend John Killeen) below. None of John in the bath just yet, unfortunately.

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The music you heard in this episode was from the following sources;

A massive thanks to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate every penny!

Wyoming (S3.03)

Wyoming audio

In this episode we’ll be talking about the US state of Wyoming, also known as “the equality state” and “the cowboy state.”
Admitted to the US as the 44th state in 1890, Wyoming has always been among the least populous states in the nation. Roughly rectangular in shape and located in the western part of the country, straddling the continental divide, Wyoming is the 10th largest state by area, and its current day population is just over 585,000, making it the second-least densely populated state after Alaska. The climate here is semi-arid and continental, drier and windier than the rest of the U.S., with greater temperature extremes.
The state is famous as the home of the first US National Park, Yellowstone and the first US national monument, Devil’s Tower. Historically important industries include coal, cattle and tourism.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)

wyoming-flag

WY-county

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

  • To get a good overview of the geography of this place, PBS has a great film that takes you all over the state. You can find it on YouTube.
  • The images of Yellowstone National Park that were promised are in the gallery below.
  • Jim Bridger, the famous ‘mountain man’ who plays a small role in The Revenant is profiled by Brittanica here.
  • The Union Pacific featured prominently in this episode. It’s still going today, and you can learn more about its chequered history over at Wikipedia.
  • Crowheart Butte, the site of the epic battle between two Native American chiefs, is profiled by Wyoming Tales and Trails here.
  • We spoke at length in this episode about the shady story behind women winning the right to vote in Wyoming. You can dive deeper into that whole story thanks to WyoHistory. The site also has tons of deep dives into other elements of the state’s history, many of which were mentioned in this episode.
  • ‘Fantastic Yellowstone’, the archival film that’s featured in this episode, traces the history of the national park and is available here on the Internet Archive.
  • This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The music you heard in this episode was from the following sources;

A massive thanks to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate every penny!

Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (S2.10)

Birobidzhan Audio Link

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be discussing the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO), a somewhat independent region in the Russian Far East wedged between Siberia and Northern China. Its capital is the city of Birobidzhan, and with 75,000 inhabitants it is by far the most populated part of the region. For that reason, the name Birobidzhan is often used to refer to the whole area.

Officially founded in 1934 as an attempt to create a Jewish state within Russian borders, the territory was the world’s first attempt at a Jewish national homeland in modern times, and today is Russia’s only autonomous oblast. Aside from Israel, it is the world’s only officially Jewish territory. As of the 2010 Census, JAO’s population was 176,558 people, or 0.1% of the total population of Russia. Judaism is practiced by only 0.2% of the population of the JAO.

Биробиджан,_вокзальная_площадь

This special episode was commissioned by one our very generous Kickstarter backers, Ian Prince from New York (who does terrible things with food on Instagram). Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

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The somewhat familiar-looking flag of Birobidzhan

karte02-Birobidschan-u-transsibirische-eisenbahn

Some sources and further reading for this episode;

  • Masha Gessen’s Where The Jews Aren’t was the basis for this commissioned episode, you can find it on Amazon here, or listen to the author talk about it on NPR’s Fresh Air here
  • We also relied heavily on this excellent multimedia gallery from Swarthmore College, entitled Stalin’s Forgotten Zion.
  • An interview from People’s World with Masha Gessen provides some solid background on the region.
  • We mentioned the RT profile of Birobidzhan in this episode, you can find that here on YouTube.
  • The New York Times profiled Birobidzhan back in 2012. It’s worth a read.
  • The book Jews and Jewish Life in Russia and the Soviet Union by Yaacov Ro’i has some interesting info on the JAO and wider context surrounding Jewish communities in Russia.
  • If you’re interesting in learning more about Stalin in particular, you can check out our episode from earlier this season on Georgia, birthplace of “Joe Steel”.
  • Michigan State University has a good article on the history of the region, as well as some visual essays here.

Thanks to Louise Ireson, John Killeen, Simon Greene for your support on Kickstarter. Thanks too to Rabbi Eliyahu Riss in Birobidzhan for interviewing with us.

We also need to thank our sponsor for the season Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

This will be the final episode for this season, but never fear, we’ll be back with more obscure goodness soon. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who’s supported us over the past year and a bit of podcasting, and if you want to hear more stay subscribed to the feed and keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We’ll see you soon!