Siberian-American Link Discovered

- - Nelson Lewis

It’s well-known that the American Indians and Siberian tribes share common ancestors; the ancestors of the first American Indians arrived in the Americas some 20,000 to 15,000 years ago via a land bridge that collected Alaska and Siberia, and after the land bridge was buried by water, they stayed on the new continent.  However, according to a recent study, certain Native American tribes and ethnic groups in Siberia also share language traits.  Scientists from my alma mater, Georgetown University, used a technique called linguistic phylogeny to discover a direct link between the Na-Dene language family of North America and the Yeniseian languages of Central Siberia.  These findings reveal that the migration of peoples from central Asia to North America might not have been a one-way trip, with some people returning to their native home, taking their language back with them.Dene

Back in 2012, DNA research revealed genetic markers that linked people living in Altai, in southern Siberia, with the American Indians.  Because of thse wide spread of languages, and the fact that links still remain in Siberia, researchers have suggested that some of these migrants returned to their native Siberia.  To further investigate this possible connection, scientists used a technique originally created to investigate evolutionary relationships between biological species, known as phylogenetic analysis.  This involves creating a tree that represents relationships of common ancestry based on shared traits.  Researchers used a linguistic version of this phylogeny, and discovered around 40 languages that diffused across Asia and North America.

Scientists began their study by coding a linguistic data set from each of the languages, and established relationships between this data.  They then applied these links to the known migration patterns from Asia to North America.  Their findings highlight an early dispersal of Na-Dene along the North American coast with a Yeniseian back migration to Siberia.  According to study co-author Dr. Mark Sicoli, they found “substantial support” for the out-of-Beringia dispersal, adding to much more evidence for an ancestral population in Beringia before the land bridge was inundated by rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age.  He also mentioned that although the researchers cannot conclusively determine the migration pattern just from these results, it does seem to indicate migration that may not have just been one-way.  It also helps to demonstrate the usefulness of evolutionary modeling with linguistic trees for investigating these types of questions.

Russian-Ukrainians Plead to Russia

- - Nelson Lewis

I recently came across a blog post about an ad campaign that Russians living in Ukraine have launched, telling the Russian government that they don’t want (or need) to be saved.  According to Putin, his intervention in Ukraine is to “protect” the country’s ethnic Russian minority.  In this video, Russian citizens living in Ukraine talk about how they never felt “mistreated” or “marginalized” in their new country.  The five Russians that show up in these videos claim to be totally happy in “this wonderful country” (Ukraine), and don’t need Putin interfering in their lives.

Optimized-Ethnic Map

A map of the various ethnic groups in Ukraine. Places where ethnic Russians make up a majority of the population are shown in red.

I’m not entirely sure what to think of this video.  The new Ukrainian government has proven itself to be hypocritical, and used some less-than-savory tactics.  For example, back when the protesters were attempting to overthrow the Yanukovych regime, there were reports of snipers attacking protesters and doctors.  This became a symbol of how corrupt and barbaric the Yanukovych regime was, and alienated many of the President’s closest allies.  However, during a leaked telephone conversation between Estonian foreign affairs minister Urmas Paet and EU foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton, it was revealed that the snipers were actually hired by members of the opposition movement.

It’s very possible that this video (which is released by the new “Euromaidan” regime in Ukraine) is all staged.  A lot of different regimes have released propaganda videos in the past, so it’s possible that this is just one of those.  That being said, I don’t think that the Ukrainian government is actively persecuting ethnic Russians.  I’m no foreign policy expert, but I think doing that would be diplomatic suicide.

If Putin is able to use the “I want to invade [insert former Soviet Republic here] to protect the ethnic Russians living there” excuse, then it sets a dangerous precedent.  Ukraine isn’t the only former Soviet Republic with a large Russian minority.  We all know about the Russia-Georgia conflict from 5 years ago, when Putin tried to annex South Ossetia, a region with a large Russian population.  Several years earlier, Putin offered to annex Belarus, a country where 70% of the population speaks Russian.  Russia’s Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Latvia, both have large Russian minorities as well.  And ethnic Russians make a up a large portion of Kazakhstan, especially in the northern regions, where they have close family and cultural ties to Russians on the other side of the border.