Last week it was all about doing vocabulary exercises. During the course, I have agonized over the fact that I have not found an interesting enough exercise for vocabulary. Either the tasks have been too easy, or else they have been numbing to complete. Sometimes I’ve felt like there aren’t enough vocabulary exercises on the Internet, at least not for free. But everything changed when I found Vocabulary.com site. And no, this isn’t a free ad, even if it might seem like it. I don’t think my course blog would be a big enough attraction for that page.
Vocabulary the site is the best I’ve found so far for grammar exercises. The tasks are sufficiently diverse and multidimensional. In the site’s exercises, the vocabulary is applied for a variety of purposes. By this I mean that one word does not always necessarily mean just one thing but can be understood in many ways. For example, the word rasp, which can mean a very low-pitched speech sound at the same time as a tool for handling wood known from primary school woodwork hours. There are numerous words like this on the site. The site is cleverly built and has tasks for every requirement level.
For myself, I made a list of words that caused me difficulties. Some of them I would have guessed after a little reasoning and effort, while the others were completely new words to me.
Figment, keksitty juttu, mielikuvitusta
Vex, harmittaa, ärsyttää
Chime in, heittää keskustelun väliin jokin huomio
Rasp, matala puheenääni, kähistä
Jeer, tehdä pilkkaa
Drawl, venyttää puhetta
Bleat, määkiä, mäkättää
Drones on, jatkaa puhumista (viittaus tylsyyteen), myös heinäsirkan sirinää
Meager/Scanty, niukka, ei riittävä osa jostakin
Reminiscence, muistella menneitä
Titter, nauraa hermostuneesti
In addition to this, I finally completed my own essay on the role of the Polish Solidarity Movement as part of civil society. The essay refers very closely to my own bachelor’s thesis. Therefore, it was a good supporter of my writing process in general. The essay may not be very meaningful to read to the unfamiliar person, as it is written mainly for myself. As I was writing the text, it was a pleasure to see how easy it is to write about a topic that makes sense to yourself. Although grammar may not be perfect at every point, writing was very enjoyable anyway. Of course, I have noticed this before, and I may have mentioned it in connection with this course. I like writing and I think it’s funny, especially when the subject is meaningful.
In total, I spent about five hours writing with the search for background information and about four hours on vocabulary exercises. So, overall, this is going to be another 9 hours of my self-study.
Above all, the Solidarity movement must be seen as a social movement that was able to operate in a completely exceptional way. For the first time, any communist state was opposed by an opposition that was able to oppose the state in a coordinated and legal manner. The opposition was non-violent, uniform and beyond all, it was spread all over Poland. As I see it, the social movement did act strongly in the area of the contentious politics, a concept created by of Charles Tilly. I believe that enabling a policy of denial plays a key role in the background to the disintegration of communism and the social change that has been brought about. In order to understand the social movement and the politics of denial, I believe that it is worth going through the theoretical basis of both.
According to Tilly, the policy of denial is an organized and coordinated action formed by opposition, in which the state is targeted or visible as a third party. The policy of denial consists of three factors. Firstly, denial, that is, disagreements between separate groups. These groups can be basically anything, but they must stand in the level of a citizen. Secondly, collective action, that is, an organized and coordinated grouping. Strikes, riots, or any kind of organized social movements can be counted within these. And lastly, the action must be political, thus entangling the state in this.
Contentious politics a concept is relatively young. In fact, it only came about in the 19th century, in the context of the concept of democracy and publicity, which are central to the development of modern civil society. In order to become a reality, the policy of denial needs public space, because without publicity there is no free space for civil society to organize itself. According to Tilly a concept of democracy is as much needed as well. In an authoritarian state, there is the most modest possibility of operating within a free public space, because the state has a constant monopoly on violence to protect itself. On the other hand, in history, many authoritarian regimes have been explicitly destroyed when public space has been opened for debate and contentious politics to evolve.
What was central to the Solidarity movement is how it was able to reproliferate create coordinated demonstrations, targeting the disputes caused by state action. The first wave in the early 1980s was an indication of the potential of activism. At the end of the 1980s, the demonstrations were again a concrete reality, which were born because of the beginning of the decade. In reality, since the Second World War, Poland has always been able to coordinate concerted demonstrations against its own regime from time to time. At no time did the authoritarian Communist regime succeed in gaining the necessary foothold in the country.
In this respect, opposition and demands were directed at the state. It was not the first time communist countries have faced criticism of the state, such as the Prague spring or the Hungarian uprising in 1956. What was now central and important was Solidarity’s ability to act against the legitimate monopoly of violence in the state. In general, the state has the ability to use its absolute power, either by means of legislation or, ultimately, by violence, to stifle the functioning of civil society movements. The rapidly spreading and networked movement momentarily paralyzed the state, preventing a rapid crackdown on the movement. Poland’s deep social and economic crisis opened room for resistance. Amid millions in debt and severe food shortages, the government had no choice but to negotiate and hope for the best. In reality, when the Soviet Union lost interest in Europe, the Polish regime was quite alone against the Solidarity movement of more than ten million members.
How, in turn, do social movements come about? The key is to understand the impact of the conditions that occur. According to Tilly, the movements arise as reactions to social and economic changes, the actions of which are perceived as weak in the collective grouping or threatened by their position. In addition, social movements strongly include a relative deprivation sense. By this I mean the recurrent frustration with a society that the bloc feels are limiting this objective. These factors form organized groups seeking systematic change. Prior to Solidarity, communist countries had not formed a similar longer-term social movement, which was allowed to act against the state’s own interests, achieving legal status. For the first time in the Prague spring, there was an opportunity to do so. Brezhnev’s doctrine and Warsaw pact tanks made sure this didn’t happen.
It’s time for the weekly recap again. This week’s writing is going to be quite short, as my English studies have been quite one-sided. My studies have mainly focused on grammar exercises, which I have done both at Moodle, and on the internet links found in Moodle. My studies have not had such an exact theme, but I have tried to do my studies quite diversely.
I’m glad to see that I’m quite familiar with grammar. Individual errors come from time to time, but I’m sure there will always be. In the event of errors, I have tried to return to Moodle’s instructions and find an explanation for my mistakes. I think this has been an effective way to learn.
In total, I have spent six hours during the week on grammar exercises. I try to include pdf files of my studies as an attachment to the blog, as well as links to the websites I visit.
The documentary series is about the traditional English football club Sunderland, their owners, and the whole football culture around the club. In short, the series is a prime example of what football really means in England. It is more than just a sport, the club is almost a larger-than-life issue for many supporters.
The second season of the documentary series deals with a phase in which Sunderland have fallen down the league ladder again. For years, the club has been run substandard from a financial point of view, and now the new CEO has stepped into the club’s management positions. The first episode largely deals with the change in the club’s fresh look, right down to the stadium’s music choices. The first episode itself is already a good example of how big a whole sport management is. Running a club is not just a sporting success, it must consider players, coaches, and supporters alike.
The episodes of the series largely reflect the film’s spiritual arc of drama, where some episodes end happily and others in negative moods. The happy ending of the first episode to the winning goal in the closing moments even got me a bit excited. I’m sure the new CEO couldn’t have imagined a better start. In my opinion, the series is well constructed as a whole, as a certain cinematic style and drama make the viewer interested in the series.
The arc of drama can be seen in the series until the last few meters. A season that has included a lot of events will come to a worthy end. Sunderland loses their final match of the season, a series resurgence that has already been close will lead to a halt to the club’s resurgence. The scene in the final episode, in which CEO Charlie Metheven is filmed holding back tears, is extremely authentic and emotional. For me, it showed me how big a deal this was all about.
I am particularly interested in sports management and the activities of large sporting organizations. That is why I think it is a pleasure to see how close the viewer is allowed to the club’s activities. It’s not just a good-spirited documentary showing the club’s success or overdramatic and exaggerated moments. The documentary also explores the unfortunate aspect of sport and the fact that everything revolves around money. In my opinion, the importance of money is emphasized in two ways. Football is not just a game where twenty-two players kick and run after the ball. It is much more behind that.
Firstly, how poorly the club’s finances have been managed. Millions in debt are offset by sending a bill to the club’s owner, who confirms a budget deficit of millions. On the other hand, this is not just Sunderland’s problem, it is a widespread problem in sport today. The sums of money lost have grown enormous, which, in my view, completely distorts the value of money. At the same time, rich owners invest billions for the success of their own football team. At worst, this will result in fans of clubs separating from their teams. The club’s own juniors lose their value, and the football community becomes commercialized. The line between sport and business will become blurred. In the end, all that remains of supporting the club is the irrational pursuit of success at all costs.
Secondly, the players suffer from this. People have become commodities for which it is possible to set a price. It also places players as a commodity. At the same time, players also have the right to look for bigger contracts. This is reflected in the club’s star player receiving a significant contract offer elsewhere. The player’s agent is reluctant to negotiate with Sunderland, as with the new club he faces significant transfer bonuses. This shows how sport is also about acting on the boundaries of morality and ethics. Putting people as a commodity is against all laws, in the end in sports culture this is not very far away.
However, the ambitions of Sunderland’s new chief executive are closer to club and supporters. The club’s goal is to return the club to the supporters, at least conveying such a feeling is significant. The supporters help the team when needed to. This can be seen in the series as the club’s supporters take part in the refurbishment of the stadium benches as part of the voluntary work. At the same time, there is also huge interest in the supporters on behalf of the club. The new CEO agrees to a joint moment of discussion with the club’s supporters. In all its honesty, I think the scene is excellent. And if that has not yet become clear from my text, I am firmly in favor of this idea. Sport is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to stir up emotions, but above all it’s supposed to unite people.
From the point of view of studying, we also need to consider what I benefited from watching the series. In general, I find it useful to hear different accents in everyday speech. However, the series did not come up against a style of speech that would have been particularly difficult for me to interpret. However, if I mirror this to my course goals, I listened to a lot of English, which will certainly also help me to get better involved in the discussions than before. On the vocabulary side, the documentary also offered little difficulty for me. However, I was reminded of one astonished saying about the series, “many of them don’t have a pot to piss in”. This one was used when talking about the loyalty of Sunderland’s fans.
On the other hand, following the series was complicated by its own slightly flawed English geography. I didn’t always understand which teams were each other’s worst competitors, or what kind of prejudices are directed at residents of a particular area.
It is time for another almost weekly review. Unfortunately, the time spent on the course has been extremely limited, so I have had to resort to making the most of my travel time for the course again. So, my English studies in the last few weeks have consisted of about half an hour or an hour-long sessions. I have not been able to start any bigger projects.
I have recently felt that I need even more practice in terms of academic writing. As I mentioned last time, I have started studying academic writing by myself from the Moodle page of the course. Now I have used my old English essays, but I am planning to write an academic text for the purpose of this course needs. The academic writing exercises found on the course page have reminded me of the lessons learned earlier in this course. Even now, I see that I am looking for unnecessary acronyms in my text, as well as additional prohibition words, for example.
The tasks of academic writing have served my own needs particularly well. With them, I feel that my text has become much clearer and smoother. With the course, I have also learned better to lyric and understand my own problems when it comes to writing. Apparently, challenges of this kind occur on several occasions, and it is not just my problem.
I’ve traveled a lot since the last time. I’ve made the most of that time doing my schoolwork. As far as English is concerned, I have returned to the grammar app I mentioned earlier. Recently, my tasks have focused especially on the use of conditionals and passives in the language. Especially I have become familiar with the should, would and could sentences. Those feel quite easy for me.
As far as passives are concerned, I have had to reminisce about the inflection of verbs, as well as the general structure of the passive phrase. In academic writing tasks, attempts were also made to identify passive phrases in the text. So, the tasks were close together, which I think was supportive for my learning experience.
Since my last writing, I have spent 2 hours on academic writing assignments, three hours on grammar play, and now an hour writing this text. In total, six hours of tasks. I’m going to add here a screenshot of my progress in the game.
The situation of Ukraine
This time I thought I would continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine. To support my own reflection, I utilize the interview with Ian Bremmer conducted by the TED talk and the discussion with former Finnish diplomat Antti Kuosmanen. This time I want to focus not so much on the situation in Ukraine itself, but on the debate around the situation and on the visions for the future. In particular, I justify this by the fact that it is challenging to obtain reliable and verified information on the situation in Ukraine. Nor do I think it is relevant for this course or my own studies to write many pages about killing or the concrete nature of war.
Ian Bremmer said at the beginning of the interview that the war started by Russia will contribute to marking the end of an era, especially about the expanding globalization. This argument is also supported by the Catherine Belton book I presented earlier. The expansion of the West and the growing democratization of the West are seen by Russia as a threat to their very existence. For its part, the war represents the end of an era of peacefulness, because there have been no interstate wars in Europe since the Second World War.
At first glance, one would assume that Russia will become a political pariah after the war, completely isolating itself from the rest of the world. However, according to Bremmer, this is not the truth., but the support from China and India will ensure that Russia does not become completely isolated from the rest of the world. In our discussion, Antti Kuosmanen also said very well that even during war diplomacy does not end. Globalization has contributed to increasing diplomacy and dialogue between countries, which will not break even in times of crisis. Regarding the crisis in Ukraine, this was reflected, for example, in the way in which, after about three days, the countries began discussions on the future of the war. There may be many opinions on the real prospects for peace, but the countries nevertheless maintained the dialogue.
The post-war impact on the Russian economy is certainly considerable. Personally, I do not believe that Western companies will immediately return to Russia. That’s how great the burden of war is. At the same time, I do not believe that Russian tourism is recovering particularly effectively. In connection with this, my friends and I discussed the importance of Finnish civil activism for the situation in Ukraine. What’s the point of demonstrating in front of the Russian Embassy? We concluded in which the greatest benefit of civil activism is explicitly directed at domestic companies. The large-scale demonstrations are forcing companies to think about their own activities in Russia and are likely to cause them to withdraw their business from the regions.
The war has also set in motion an interesting chain of events that goes against the trend set by the 21st century. The long-standing debate on European defense cooperation has increased significantly. This is also true for Finland. In the interview, Bremmer raises two interesting points in this regard. Firstly, the internal pressure on states is increasing to increase their defense spending and to really think about alternatives to the future of peacefulness. What if your own country goes to war? Europeans have been alienated by the idea of war for several decades, now the crisis in Ukraine represents a change from that. On the other hand, Bremmer points out how the EU and the UK, which have been travelling on the varicosities for a few years, have once again found common ground. Putin’s actions have therefore brought Europe together more than broken it apart.
War will certainly mean changes, particularly in Europe. Bremmer believes that France, under President Emmanuel Macron, will play a greater role in international cooperation and diplomacy. Germany will not do this, largely because of its energy dependence on Russia. Bremmer anticipates that the United States will take a few steps back quickly after the war, as the country is not directly affected by the direct or indirect influences of war, such as immigration or rising energy prices. He does not anticipate that relations between the U.S. and Russia will return to the way they were during Putin’s reign. For its part, China is believed to be playing a diplomatic role in the negotiations, as another escalating Cold War climate would be very detrimental to the country.
In part, I think that the situation is very contradictory. Russia, as a war criminal, must be condemned both nationally and internationally for its actions. The violation of the sovereignty of another country must have consequences. However, history shows how, for example, the exclusion of nationalist Germany from cooperation drove the country between the First and Second World Wars into crisis and the rise of Nazi Germany. I do not necessarily believe in shutting down Russia from the UN or the G-20 alliance is the best scenario for the future. At worst, the isolated reaction may be the new North Korea, which, especially from Finland’s point of view, would be very harmful.
The debate that has now taken place has largely boiled down to the discourse between the West and Russia. The war will also have a significant impact on the world economy and on the economies of the countries that are still developing. In part, this explains why there has been so much news about the crisis in Ukraine. Russia is the world’s largest grain producer and Ukraine is the fifth largest in the same category. At the same time, energy availability is also significantly threatened. The combined effects of these, particularly on food security in the poorest countries, are considerable. Unfortunately, even a temporary interruption in energy and food availability could plunge these countries into an economic recession for decades. The disadvantages caused by the crisis cannot therefore be measured solely for Europe but must be seen globally. The price of euro 2 per liter of petrol in Finland is minor compared to the millions of starvation deaths caused by the protracted crisis.
Therefore, we need to understand why it is this war that worries so many people. It is not just the future of Ukraine or Europe that is at stake. Putin’s senseless war of aggression threatens to scupper all the progress that has been made globally. Now is the time to give Ukraine all possible and impossible support, and after the war to work together so that this kind of situation does not happen again.
Over the past week, I’ve returned to academic writing again. This has been done both as self-study and writing about the situation in Ukraine. For self-study, I have used the platform found on the course moodle page for self-study. Otherwise, over the past week, I have been playing for a few hours the app I mentioned earlier to study English.
As I have already mentioned before, I have found an interest in writing during the course. Writing suits me as a way to understand things better and as a way to structure my own thoughts. At the same time, I get to write in English, which I feel is definitely an important skill for the future. In monitoring the situation in Ukraine, I have relied in particular on YouTube videos where experts have been interviewed about the situation. After that, I have used the information from the videos as a source in my writings. I will link to my blog post one of the most significant videos I have used as a source on the situation in Ukraine.
I have tried to do grammar tasks quite diversely. I also found in the app the opportunity to get feedback on tasks that have benefited my own studies. Surprisingly challenging, I am reminded of the separation of each other and one another pairs of words. I often found in my head resorting to each other use when in reality one another should have been used. In any case, using the app has been useful, as I can respond based on my own intuition and notice if it is wrong. I also feel that this benefits my own speech, because when it comes to language, there is not too much time to stop and think about grammar. In the same app, I have also taken advantage of the opportunity to practice pronouncing. The app shows which syllable the word belongs to emphasize and helps with pronunciation.
Overall, last week I spent 2 hours on grammar play, an hour of academic writing for self-study and 3 hours writing a blog post and studying related videos.
Putin’s people: How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the west
Okay, now it’s time for the second part of the book review, which this time I thought I’d write by hand. The book has now been read through in its entirety and I can say that the reading experience has been particularly pleasant. At the same time, the book offered a good perspective on Putin’s Russia in the 2010s and gave a special background to the relationship between Eastern Europe and Russia today. Belton’s seven years of work have produced what I consider to be an excellent work, the importance of which for understanding Putin and Russia may be central to the future.
I’ll start this time with the general reading experience. As I mentioned in the first part, the reading experience itself was not particularly challenging. Understandably, the book offered a lot of unfamiliar words that always took a little time to understand, which contributed to slowing down the reading experience. I noticed challenges when it comes to descriptive adjectives. There are a wide variety of partially, even the same-meaning adjectives in the English language. It always took time to understand these. On the other hand, I feel that understanding adjectives does not matter so much with the reading experience. It doesn’t so much benefit me as a reader to know that a former KGB agent looked gnarled. I understand the importance of using descriptive adjectives to deepen the reader’s experience. The use of adjectives describing the subject itself offered no greater benefit for my experience as a reader.
As I also mentioned in the first book review, for its part, the reading experience is hampered by the constant introduction of new names. Networks are in such a large part of this book that names need to be processed but remembering the bonds and contexts between names is sometimes challenging. On the other hand, it is these networks that make the book so interesting to follow. All the expertise and knowledge Belton manages to convey to the reader is exactly what makes this book special. For a light evening reading, this book is not so much, because the reader should be constantly focused on what they are reading.
The above unquestionably made the book special. Now I would like to return to the things that specifically came up in the book for me. The best of the second part of the book is the different crisis that has occurred in Russia under Putin. Two of these touch on the conflict between Russia and Chechnya, which eventually led to terrorist attacks in Russia. The first handled the Moscow theater abduction in 2002, which represents, for its part, the infamous event scene that claimed the lives of two hundred people as Russian special forces failed to recapture the theatre from the hijackers. The terror attack took place at the very beginning of Putin’s presidency. It therefore happened in an era in which Putin was still a very reserved and withdrawn head of state, both in world politics and in Russia. This also explains Putin’s reaction or lack of response to the crisis, as when the attack began, he retreated to his office and, according to Belton’s claims, did not show himself to the public from there for three days. After the attack, Putin was allegedly already relinquishing his presidency, but after a short consideration he ended up continuing in his duties.
Another major early Putin crisis took place in Beslan, Russia, in 2004. In September 2004, terrorists attacked a school in Beslan and took many pupils, teachers and parents who had gathered for the school opening ceremony as a hostage. Again, Russian special forces failed in their attack and more than three hundred students, teachers, parents, and terrorists were killed.
There are also a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding these cases that Belton sets out in his book. Russia, in particular, is accused of enabling crises as it continues its war in Chechnya. In this sense, the accusations are also linked to the previous apartment building bombs in Russia. Whenever Russia’s war against Chechnya has provoked opposition, an event such as the attacks or bombings has come to fruition. The similarity of events, Russia’s lack of preparedness and the failure of the special forces undoubtedly raise questions in myself as well. For its part, it is this kind of speculation that makes the book so interesting, although in general, precise arguments should always be given for speculation and such harsh claims.
What did the book offer for my own studies? As a student of political history, the book significantly increased my understanding of the current political situation in Russia. In particular, the kind of information war Russia is waging against the ideals of democracy in the West. This is done by supporting parties at both ends of the traditional left-right axis. Of course, it must always be remembered that the book is a story written by one person whose motives for writing are clearly contrary to Putin’s actions. It does not contribute to removing the book’s legitimate status, but it undoubtedly imposes certain constraints on the exploitation of the book. At the same time, the sources used in the book by those close to Putin are often described today as anti-Putin actors whose motives for remaining truthful might be considered controversial.
Equally, for English language studies, reading a book was a useful experience. I am used to reading academic texts in English at the university. I can’t even remember the last time I read a text like this in English. The freedom of academic vocabulary made the reading experience much smoother and thus more pleasant. As the reading progressed, slowly I noticed how I was no longer so caught up in individual words – such as descriptive adjectives, for example. I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I’m starting to ignore certain words that I don’t think will bring information that’s relevant to the book. When I read the Finnish text, I do not feel that I am doing the same thing, but on the other hand, I do not see that it has been significantly hampered by this book.
In general, reading books in English will certainly help me in the future. The more I read, the more vocabulary I will learn, and the reading experience will become more fun and fluent than before. On the other hand, I think the threshold for reading English-language books is high. It’s a lot easier to grab a Book in Finnish, in which you don’t have to do so much work to read. I will try to challenge myself to read more literature in English in the future, as I believe that it will also develop my own language skills.
Putin’s people: How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the west
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been concentrating on reading a book written by Catherine Belton. The book was selected for reading, especially because of its topicality. In addition, the book has been widely praised as one of the most accurate works related to Putin’s inner circle. I have now got over halfway through the book and because of the scale of the book, I thought I would divide the review into two parts. Now in the first part, I get more involved in the plot of the book and go through the events of the book. At the same time, I will tell you what I have been interested in in the book, which points have stuck in my mind and which points have been challenging in terms of the reading experience.
In the next section, I thought I’d go into more detail about the reading experience and the different challenges the book has offered so far. In addition, I thought I’d talk a little about how the topics in the book relate to my own studies. At this point, I have spent about 12 hours reading the book reading and reviewing the book in total. It will take the same number of hours to the rest of the book.