Fugitive radioactivity

Cross-posted from Immanence

The Washington Post reports that “Ruthenium-106, named after Russia” has been wafting all across Europe.

Two quick observations here.

(1) “Ruthenia” is the Latin rendering of Rus’, which predates Russia (as we know it) by several centuries. The chemical element Ruthenium was named by its discoverer, Karl Ernst Claus, after the 11th century invaders of his Estonian home town of Tartu/Dorpat/Yur’yev, who made it part of ancient Rus’. Ruthenians today are a stateless people who live mostly in the Trans/Sub/Carpathian parts of Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, and western Ukraine. Ruthenians of yesterday (the early 19th century, to be specific) changed their name to “Ukrainians” to prevent confusion with Russia/Rossiya (which took the Greek version of the Rus’ name, Rossiya, for themselves when they — that being the Grand Duchy of Moscow — were seeking the credibility of an ancient and royal pedigree).

(2) There’s something poetic about a fugitive radioactive element which may or may not be produced somewhere in southern Russia and may or may not be masquerading as one of Andy Warhol’s people (the Carpatho-Ruthenians, from the center of Europe; as shown delightfully in Stanislaw Mucha’s films Die Mitte/The Center and Absolut Warhola, see below) making its way stealthily through the former imperial Austria, Germany, and the rest of Europe to the puzzlement of Europeans and the denials of Russians.

Something about it all reminds me of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu… (Forgive me for playing on stereotypes of old Central/Eastern Europe… Having written about them a little, I should know better.)

 

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