By Irem Ozturan
“Make Molotov cocktails, neutralize the occupier!” the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense tweeted, urging citizens to fight what has become the largest military assault in Europe since World War II. Ukraine’s National Guard shared instructions on social media last week for making the bomb, which has roots in the 1930s and 40s.
Improvised bombs like Molotov cocktails, relatively easy and cheap to produce, are a staple of groups short on traditional military equipment, like rioters, urban guerillas, terrorists and football hooligans. But they were developed as tools of large-scale war, used to combat foreign invaders.
The name comes from the Winter War, when Soviet forces invaded Finland and bombed Helsinki, the nation’s capital in 1939. Facing international criticism, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov falsely claimed the attack was meant as humanitarian aid for their starving neighbors. That inspired Finns, who were not starving, to sarcastically dub Soviet cluster bombs “Molotov’s bread baskets.”
Soon Finns began building bombs from gasoline-filled glass bottles with a stick as a fuse, calling them “Molotov cocktails,” according to historian William R. Trotter. The weapons proved effective even against Soviet tanks.
Similar handmade bombs go back at least as far as Spain’s Civil War (1936-1939). Spanish Nationalist troops used them against Soviet tanks supporting the Spanish Republicans; later, both sides deployed them.
In 1939 in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, a series of Soviet-Japanese border conflicts, more than 100 Soviet tanks or armored cars were destroyed by similar weapons. In the early 1940s, improvised bombs were stockpiled in Britain to be used against German tanks in case of a Nazi invasion.
Last week, as Russian troops advanced on Kyiv and other cities, Ukrainians used resources in innovative ways to build and maintain ammunition. Civilians turned a public park in Dnipro, in central Ukraine, into an open-air Molotov cocktail factory. Military instructors taught civilians how to use the weapons in an abandoned factory in Kyiv. Employees at the Pravda Brewery in Lyiv halted beer production and manufactured makeshift bombs instead. In restaurants, according to a New York Times report, bottled water is being served exclusively in plastic bottles. The glass ones are being used to make Molotov cocktails.
The GRC is pleased to announce that the Turning Points project, a documentary short series that explores alcohol use, addiction, resilience and healing in Yellowknife, has been awarded a Silver Medal at the inaugural Anthem Awards. The project was selected in the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion – Partnership or Collaboration category.
This was not a typical journalism project. Storytellers were directly involved at every stage of the production process. They shared the cultural, social, geographic and historical factors that both drew them into addiction and allowed them to map out routes to recovery.
The series debuted in February 2020 at a screening in Yellowknife, where friends, families and community members piled into a packed venue to watch the documentaries and hear directly from the storytellers. It was then aired in partnership with PBS NewsHour.
A conversation with photojournalist Ali Arkady
This event took place January 25th, 2022, from 12:00-1:30pm PST. See below for the recording.
About the event
When Iraqi photojournalist Ali Arkady embedded with an elite military unit as they battled ISIS, he thought he was going to document heroics. Instead he witnessed and photographed some of the most brutal instances of torture and abuse in modern Iraqi history.
What followed was an award-winning series in media organizations around the world — as well as death threats that forced him to flee his home country for good. Arkady was also the target of a disinformation campaign aimed at destroying his credibility and his career.
Join the GRC’s Executive Editor Andrea Crossan in a conversation about the ethics, risks and costs of bearing witness to war crimes.
About Ali Arkady: Ali Arkady is an Iraqi photographer, filmmaker, and artist currently living in Europe. Arkady documented Iraqi conflicts for over 18 years, focusing on displacement of civilians, the Yazidi community, and the violence perpetrated by the Islamic State. In 2017, Arkady and his family fled to Europe after he photographed Iraqi forces committing war crimes. The publication of these photos pressured the Iraqi government to acknowledge the army’s crimes, and earned him the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents in 2017, and the Free Press Unlimited Most Resilient Journalist Award in 2019. Since leaving Iraq, Arkady has trained young photographers at the UNHCR and the VII Academy. He is currently working on an upcoming publication and multimedia website in partnership with the Global Reporting Centre and VII Photo Agency.
About Andrea Crossan: Andrea Crossan is the Executive Editor of the Global Reporting Centre. She has worked as a journalist in the US, UK and Canada and has reported from conflict and post-conflict zones around the world.
This talk is co-sponsored by the Global Reporting Centre and the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics. It will take place on January 25th, 2022, from 12:00-1:30pm, on Zoom. Register here. A Zoom link will be sent on January 24th.
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I’m an animator and filmmaker and have been working in the commercial animation industry for the past few years. I have a Bachelor in Animation Arts from Sheridan College, located about an hour west of my hometown Markham. I’ve been drawing for as long as I remember and am especially interested in the documentary medium. As I delved deeper into the animation industry, it was rare to find the medium being used for nonfiction in a high-quality way. Drawings always seemed like the medium of last resort – I want to change that.
What are your areas of interest/what would you like to report on?
I think I am still trying to figure out my niche – I come from an arts background and am a drawer first and foremost, which greatly influences the way I see the world. As a visually inclined person, I am drawn to stories that are visually compelling. Oftentimes, this tends to reveal itself in my great fascination with cultures and the people that form them. I enjoy focusing on understanding the choices people make and understanding the context under which they were chosen. Currently, I am interested in people, the migration of people and the fusions of cultures that form when they rebel against assimilation.
Why were you interested in applying for the Hidden Costs of Global Supply Chains Student Fellowship?
There is a lot to be said about the way the world is connected now. I was always curious about my personal impact and the ripples I make with one small action: a purchase, a post, my choice of tomato at the grocery store. Our globalized world causes our personal actions to affect much more than we can immediately see. I am interested in the ramifications of my actions and choices and hope that I can not only better understand my responsibility as a global citizen but make bigger waves of change.
What drew you to the GRC?
The quality storytelling drew me first and foremost to the GRC. But I found that the particular stories showcased really reeled me in. I wanted to take part in telling impactful stories.
Are there any aspects of investigating global supply chains that you’re particularly interested in?
I am interested in the human side of stories. I am particularly interested in how people are affected by decisions that they did not make. Stories of labour abuses and corruption definitely interest me.
What will your role be as the Hidden Costs fellow?
Currently, I am creating illustrations to help people understand the story as well as working with Andrew to create interactive elements for the website, which is pretty exciting.
Thank you for your time, and welcome to the GRC team. I wish you success in your new role!
Hello Andie, and welcome to the Global Reporting Centre. We’re happy to have you on board. To get started, maybe you could tell us a little bit about your journalism background?
I’m thrilled to join the Global Reporting Centre. I recently left Boston, where I was the Executive Producer of the international current affairs radio program PRX’s The World. Before my time at PRX’s The World, I worked for the BBC World Service, NBC News and CBC in London.
What drew you to work for the GRC? Why did you think our organization would be a good fit for you and your career trajectory?
The past year has been one of profound change for many of us. I’m originally from Vancouver and I made the decision at the end of 2020 to leave the United States and return to Canada to be closer to my family. I’ve been telling stories from around the globe for decades so I jumped at the opportunity to continue working in international news with the GRC. I had also connected with the GRC last year when PRX’s The World partnered with the centre to air excerpts from Mary Kay Magistad’s outstanding podcast series On China’s New Silk Road.
In your short time at the GRC what have you found and what do you think this place does differently from the previous organizations that you’ve been with?
For most of my career, I’ve worked for large media organizations. The GRC is a place where there is opportunity to experiment and think about how we work as journalists. This is a critical moment as we navigate issues like who should be telling stories and what relationship journalists have with their subjects. As a mixed heritage Indigenous woman, I was particularly impressed with the GRC’s groundbreaking work on the Turning Points project that is currently airing on PBS NewsHour.
You have decades of experience working in journalism and have held many roles. Do you think there is a need for innovation in the sector? What kind of approach do you think would lead to positive change?
There is an inherent tension in journalism between the need to “break news” and to tell deeply reported, nuanced stories. This has become even more apparent as we have so many choices around how and where we receive information. The GRC emphasizes the power of collaboration—collaboration between media organizations, journalists, students, scholars, and community members.
What are your favourite topics to report on? What kind of stories do you enjoy/want to see told?
Much of my work has been focussed on reporting on gender equity. I’ve worked extensively in Central and South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. I try to frame my thinking around people at the center of any issue. And I am always moved by the generosity of people who share their experiences with me.
Is there a particular medium that you prefer?
I started my career working in television and then transitioned to radio. I think it’s always about finding the medium that works best for the story and the audience you are trying to connect with. Some stories work best as a long read print article or a documentary series and others can be a powerful Instagram story or Twitter thread.
What is the main contribution you think that you can make to the GRC?
My goal is to share what I’ve learned during my career as a journalist and also to learn from the students and staff at the GRC. This is a time of growth at the Global Reporting Centre. We are launching a number of collaborative projects in the coming months and I am excited at the opportunity to provide editorial, operational and fundraising support.
Thank you for your time, and once again we’re so happy to have you on board!
The Pulitzer Center supported education resources related to “America’s Medical Supply Crisis.” These curricular resources offer a viewing guide and lesson plan for exploring the documentary in class, the opportunity to bring public health journalists into your classroom, and more.