Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Russian Revolution

On February 24, 1582 Pope Gregory XIII introduced the new Gregorian Calendar to the world. This calendar added an extra day every four years because… well, it takes longer than exactly 365 days to go around the sun. It takes about 365 and ¼ days. Well, when this calendar was introduced most countries decided to adopt the new calendar. Russia did not.

335 years later, to the day in 1917, Revolution broke out in Russia. I am currently taking a class titled Europe in Crisis, which covered the Russian Revolution. This means that instead of wading through websites, I can wade through my notes to discuss this particular event in history. Let us begin.

This initial Revolution is against the Tsar in Russia, in contrast to the second Revolution in October, which established the Bolsheviks as a power group in Russia.

Lets set up the situation: Russia is fighting in WWI with the Entente Powers. However, unlike the other Entente Powers, Russia has a very different situation because it was directly affected by the blockade Britain set up against Germany. Because of this, as well as the closing of the strait Black Sea by Turkey, Russia was hurting. Most of the needed supplies were being shipped in by the U.S. and then transferred in by the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

The war in the East wasn’t static, however it was still stuck. WWI was an in-between war; old techniques were being used while new industrial innovations were being used. The Russian Army was not performing well, so Tsar Nicolas decided to go out and lead the army, leaving the government in the hands of the Tsarina and the Duma, which was the Russian Parliament. Thus, there was severe strain on Russia’s Railroad system to get the necessary supplies to the front line, while also delivering food to the Russian population.

So, we have the perfect storm here. Food shortages through the country, and a foreign Princess (Alexandra was from Germany) ruling with the help of the infamous Rasputin, a Monk from Siberia who claimed to have mystical powers to help heal the sick prince.

An interesting side note about Rasputin is that I have heard of at least two differences in the way he died. Apparently his killers tried poison, shooting him, and finally had to drown him. What the true story is, I don’t know that anybody really knows. However, he is an interesting character in history, and he is always fun to talk about.

The population of Petrograd finally rioted over food shortages. So, the Russian government did what it has done in the past, and called out the Russian Army to put down the rioters. However, the men in the army became friends with the population, so instead of putting down the rebellion they joined in. Eventually the Tsar was forced to abdicate.

This event lead to a power void in Russia, since the Tsar was the sole ruler of Russia, and the only one who could make legislative decisions. The Russians had to scramble to reform the government, and do all of this while at war. The second Revolution would establist Lenin as the new political leader in Russia.

So, two things to address after these last couple of paragraphs: how does this relay to today, and why did I begin with the mentioning of the Gregorian Calendar?

Firstly, with the events that happened on February 24, 1917 the Bolshevik party was able to take control of power in Russia by gaining support. Lenin returned to Russia out of exile in Switzerland to gain the popularity of the people and eventually claim power in the second October Revolution. Russia became the first Communist nation in the world. Post WWII, the USSR and the USA would be in a power struggle lasting into the early 1990’s. Many of the effects of the animosity of the Cold War can still be seen today.

As to the calendar question, Russia did not adopt the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world did. Thus, on February 24, 1917 in Russia, the date all this took place, the date of the rest of the world was actually March 8, 1917. They had fallen behind that much over the 335 years.

I was trying to decide when I would post this, the week of February 24, or the week of March 8. When I saw I hadn’t missed the Russian date I couldn’t help myself. So, time it seems is irrelevant, and despite how it changes, it still seems to go on.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Olympics (Winter Edition)

This week I was going to blog about a book I read for my New South class about the real John Henry. A tall tale in American history, John Henry was a man who raced a steam drill and won, but in the process killed himself. I learned a lot about John Henry, a story I had not heard before. If you are like me, click the link to hear my favorite version of his ballad I found on youtube.

John Henry doesn’t relate to this week per say, but he does live on in history. However, Friday February 23, 2010 the Winter Olympics opened in Vancouver, Canada, and while the event did not originate this week, it is going on in the present this week. So, it is my topic of choice this week.

I’ve decided to look into the history of the Winter Olympics this week, and one particular winter sport: luge.

Why luging you are probably asking. Friday February 23, 2010 history was made, but not in a good way. At a practice run Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed when he lost control of his sled and catapulted over the safety wall and into a support beam.

This event was, and still is tragic to hear. Mr. Kumaritashvili was born in 1988, and was 21 when he died. It is so strange, he was my age when he died, and tragic that his life was taken at such a young age. So, to honor his memory, I am going to research his sport as a tie in to my larger topic this week. Think about this as a post dedicated to his memory.

You know, I have never had this much difficulty finding information. I know Wikipedia is usually not that reliable, that that is honestly the most in depth information I have actually found on the subject! You would think the Winter Olympics would have a bunch of info, but apparently not… suppose I’ll have to make do with what I have.

From what I can gather, the Winter Olympics was introduced five years after the birth of the Summer Olympics in 1896. Figure skating was the first event, but it was featured in 1908, at the Summer Olympics in London. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) wanted to put skating in the Olympic program, a sport now associated with the winter games more than the summer games.

The original Winter Olympics were supposed to be held in Berlin, Germany, in 1916, featuring “Nordic” events as they were defined. However, the outbreak of WWI delayed the games.

The first Winter Olympic games were then held in 1924 in Chamonix, France. The first gold medal at the Winter Games went to speed skater Charles Jewtraw of the U.S.

That is basically all I could find involving the history of how the Winter Olympics came about, at least as far as free sites are concerned. While one day I will gladly pay for my information I need some sort of return off this hobby before I start doing that now.

I also looked up the different locations and found where the various games have been held over the years:
1924- Charmoinx, France
1928- St. Moritz, Switzerland
1932- Lake Placid, New York USA
1936- Farmisch- Partenkirchen, Germany
1940 and 1944 the games were not held due to WWII
1948- St. Moritz, Switzerland
1952 - Oslo, Norway
1956 - Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
1960 - Squaw Valley, California USA
1964 - Innsbruck, Austria
1968 - Grenoble, France
1972 - Sapporo, Japan
1976 - Innsbruck, Austria
1980 - Lake Placid, N.Y.
1984 - Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
1988 - Calgary, Alberta, Canada
1992 - Albertville, France
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway
1998 - Nagano, Japan
2002 - Salt Lake City, Utah USA
2006 - Turin, Italy
2010 - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2014 - Sochi, Russia

And next, because I am a really big nerd, I searched the different sports and how they’ve been added to the games over time. Click the link to take a look, since I’m too lazy to actually post them. Scroll down, there’s a nice little chart about half way down the page.

**Note: I found this listing on Wikipedia. I know, not the most reliable, but they had a little chart and all. So, if I am wrong I am sorry. I try to stay away from Wikipedia usually for that reason.

Now, on to luge. The Vikings are credited with creating luge, they built the giant slides to go down mountains, and were conducting races as early as 800 C.E. luge is a French word meaning toboggan. The first international race was in 1883 in Davos, Switzerland. There were 21 different competitors from seven different countries.

In 1964 luge became an Olympic sport. As we can see from the amazing listing posted above, the first place to host luge was Innsebruck, Austria. The goals are simple: make it down the hill the fastest while lying on an open sled on your back.

And with that, I am out for this week. I’m excited to see how the Olympics unfold today, and in the coming days. I have had fun watching so far. As always, I wish everyone a good week! Let’s see who makes history at these Olympic games!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Galileo's Inquisition

I almost failed this week. With the Super Bowl on Sunday and my increasing reading workload I found it to be game time and myself torn: do I stay behind and write me blog, or should I go watch the game? Well, I watched the game, and have been struggling with finding the time to research during the week when my time is more limited.

But I do think it was worth it. The game was really good, and the company was even better. Had a great time at my neighbors watching the game and eating traditional football food. Yeah, it was a good evening, and it was even nice watching the Saints pull off the win over the Colts. History people, the first time the Saints have gone, and they win. That is history in the making. Maybe I’ll be able to blog about it one day. But enough with the football talk, back to the history.

Ultimately I had two choices this week: fail, or write. Failure is not an option with me, and this is a goal I set for myself, a fun goal that I enjoy doing once I sit down and do it. So tonight, I am sitting down and doing it.

And this week we’ll be dipping into the history of science, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t list some other worth wile historical events. Henry VIII’s sixth wife Catherine Howard was beheaded on February 13, 1542. Cool, but not something relevant to today really, unless… nope, really not relevant.

Instead I’ll be focusing on one of my weakest links: science. Galileo was the father of most modern thinking regarding the solar system. He built and improved the telescope, which allowed him to observe the moons of Jupiter and other parts of the solar system.

Through these observations realized the planets revolved around the sun, not the Earth as previously though. This idea was realized by Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, so it wasn’t his idea but his support that ultimately got him in trouble with the Church.

But before we get into those details it is important to note that Galileo went straight to nature to make observations and findings instead of relying solely on other scientists findings as was the norm of the time. I have heard it said (but may be totally incorrect) that Galileo studied nature and science to better understand God and religion. In fact, many of the scientists of the time were religious and claimed the same: they studied nature to get closer to understanding God.

Despite going against the teachings of the Church, Galileo was able to publish his findings so long as he treated them as hypotheses because of his friendship with then Pope Urban VIII. But when he published his book Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems in 1632 he angered many people because he seemed to be “advocate” the findings of Copernicus.

On February 23, 1633 Galileo’s Inquisition began. At first the Inquisitors only tried to ban him from teaching Copernicus’ theory, and with few powerful people left to protect him Galileo he was forced to abjure the “vehement suspicion of heresy.” He was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent the rest of his time under house arrest.

So now, why does this matter to today? Despite the obvious, that he was right, an interesting article came to my attention this summer. I can’t find the link as of right now, but I’ll try to keep searching. It stated that the Church has realized its mistake and pardoned Galileo, almost 400 years after trying him. Awwww.

So anyone who agrees with the heliocentric model Galileo supported, you can now study it without concern of going against the Church.

It is funny this came so late, almost 400 years later. This isn’t the time to go into the Church, and this blog definitely didn’t do Galileo justice. I mean there are several things surrounding the man, his findings, his telescope, his possible involvement with the Illuminati.

But that’s all for another day, and only the truly daring. As always, happy history all!