Never up for shameless bandwagoning, here at YPT we’ve been just as shocked as most people at the sheer number of amazing people who have been taken away from us during 2016 – David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, and then not only Carrie Fisher but her mum too!
And all of this is happening at the same time that we have TV personality Donald Trump elected to the White House and Brexit causing even more British citizens to google, “just what is the EU?” The slow descent into post-truth, double-think dystopia surely awaits.
But let’s say goodbye to 2016 with a quick reminder of some of the YPT-related political deaths of the year.
Uzbekistan’s only ever president up until September this year, Islam Karimov was the President of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic when he declared independence on the 1st of September 1991, becoming the first president of Uzbekistan.
Leading the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, Karimov regularly polled fairly well at elections, winning 86% in the country’s first presidential elections in 1991 and ruling the country with a strict authoritarianism, even imprisoning his own daughter.
What the future holds for Uzbekistan having lost their only ever president is hard to tell, join us on the Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan Secrets Tour in May to see the country up close.
Dead since 1989, Marcos is maybe a strange one for the list. Such a controversial figure, he died in Hawaii and was only brought back to the Philippines in 1993. He was interred in a private mausoleum in Batac, the city of leaders, and the Marcos Museum recounts aspects of his life from a not so objective viewpoint.
But in November his remains were suddenly moved to Manila and he was buried in the Heroes Cemetery. It all happened fast, the government managing to ignore the mounting opposition. Approved by the new president, Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos’ body was flown by helicopter to Manila, maybe to be closer to the president, a fan of extra-judicial killings himself.
Although his body isn’t there, we’ll be exploring Marcos’ hometown on the Cutud Lenten Rites and Ferdinand Marcos Tour in April.
Wickremanayake, of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, was a deputy minister of Defence, minister of Law and Order, and two-times Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
A Singhalese politician his career followed the trajectory of the Sri Lankan Civil War. He survived a bomb attack and was a hardline opponent of the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, and Tamil separatism in general and was in frontline politics when the LTTE finally admitted defeat.
Join us on the Sri Lanka Civil War tour in January
Coming on the same day as the terrorist attack in Berlin, the murder of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was a reminder that not everyone escapes assassination attempts. Karlov had previously been Russian Ambassador to the DPRK, he was fluent in Korean and had a good relationship with Kim Jong Il.
Another Russian to die was Soviet Air Force colonel, and grandson of Josef Stalin, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili. In 1999 he stood for election to the Duma for the ‘Stalin Bloc – For the USSR’, a union of communist parties, and in 2015 was said to have referred to Vladimir Putin’s topless horse-riding pictures by saying it’s just “all a publicity stunt and only showed how the president was leading the country without brains.”
From the DPRK-Russian border, the Magadan Soviet Gulag, Irkutsk and the Birobidzhan Jewish Autonomous Oblast, all the way to Chechnya and South Ossetia in the Caucasus, YPT will be going full on Russian adventure in 2017, the centenary of the October Revolution.
And last but not least, although it’s been in the pipeline, most people seemed to think that Fidel was going to last forever.
For some he was the bearded revolutionary who smashed the gangster-playboy capitalism of Batista’s US-dominated Cuba, beat the US-backed invaders at the Bay of Pigs, helped various liberation movements across Latin America and Africa, and was a beacon of revolutionary optimism around the post-colonial world, showing that socialist healthcare and education could be run well and that you could be good at boxing too. While for others he was a communist dictator, imprisoner of thousands and ruler of a harsh regime that allowed few freedoms.
Will Raul be able to carry on the legacy, or will Obama’s opening up to Cuba pave the way for the permanent end of the embargo and the reintegration of Cuba into the global system? Will Trump reverse US Cuba policy building more walls in the Caribbean? Whatever happens, we’ll still be going there for the Cuba Workers May Day Tour, one of the most colourful and exciting socialist celebrations around the world.