Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rasputin and 2010

This is my last post for 2010! I can’t believe how quickly the time went this year; I’m almost done with college, I’m 22 now, and I’ve been blogging for a whole year. 2011 looks to be a promising year, and I’m excited to see what life has planned for me.

But enough of the inspirational stuff about me, you’re here to read about history. And I think I picked quite an interesting event for this week.

My sophomore year of high school my Advanced Placement European History teacher put up a picture of Rasputin up in the front of the classroom to watch us. He is definitely a creepy looking man with a colorful history.

On December 30, 1916 Rasputin was murdered. Rasputin was born in Siberia to peasants. Early in life he became a self-proclaimed holy man. Rasputin won the favor of Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra because he had the ability to stop the bleeding of their hemophiliac son.

Through this Rasputin gained a lot of trust from the royal family, especially Czarina Alexandra. When Czar Nicholas abdicated and left to fight in WWI, Rasputin was helping run the country with the Czarina.

Here is the interesting part of the story; at this point the noble class got annoyed at how much power Rasputin had. The only way to get rid of the problem was to kill Rasputin. He was first fed a large amount of poison, however he did not die. Next, the nobles shot Rasputin, twice to no avail. Finally they tied him up and dumped him in the river. Only then did the man die.

My history teacher also claimed (although this has no back checking) that Rasputin was a large man, over six feet tall, and also quite the lady’s man. Personally, I think he is not the most attractive person I’ve ever seen.

I’ve also been forgetting one main goal of my blog these last few months: to link the past to the present. Another thing I’ve heard about Rasputin was he claimed so long as he was alive nothing bad would happen to the Prince. After Rasputin’s death the noble class went a step further and brutally murdered the royal family.

In a strange overlapping of fate, on December 30, 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, was established under soviet leader Lenin. I hope I don’t need to spell out the rest of this history for you.

On another note, I wanted to conclude my blog for this year by highlighting some events I think will become history from this year.

First, the mining rescue from Chile: I did not follow the story too closely, but came on just in time to watch the last miner being rescued. This event was important because it was a positive news story; these men banded together and worked to survive. The country of Chile banded together to rescue the men with the aid of the world sending supplies and engineers. Many countries and people worked together to successfully rescue those men.

The death of the Georgian Lugar Nodar Kumaritashvili at the beginning of the Winter Olympics: This is one of the sad events from 2010.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: This oil spill only made me angrier and angrier the longer it went on. If a solution can be found to bring men home from the moon after a crisis with a space ship (Apollo 13) then surely some solution to this oil spill could have been found sooner than it was. Another bleak point of 2010, however something I hope we can learn from for the future.

The Icelandic Volcano Eruption: This caused most of European air travel to stand still, and disrupted air travel for over a month after the eruption.

Prince William and Kate’s engagement: speaks for itself.

So that is what I’ve brainstormed for this week. I am very excited for the New Year this year. I’m going out with some friends, and am quite certain I will have a blast ringing in the New Year. Make your resolutions, enjoy the holiday, and as I always finish my blogs: Happy History!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Saint Nick

Just one small side note from the topic a little: I looked back, way back, to my first post. It was December 23, 2009; I have been blogging now for over a year. Some things are the same, like Word underlining the word blog as misspelled. Some are different. Regardless I still love doing this, and plan to keep it up for another year, and beyond. I hope that you, my readers, will stick with me.

Up until now I’ve tried to be very balanced with my posts. As surprising as it may be, not everyone in the world celebrates Christmas, so doing a post with a Christmas undertone is a bit tough for me.

I do celebrate Christmas, but I’m actually also Jewish, and celebrated Chanukah earlier this month as well. So, before I start this post I would like to say not everyone celebrates the same holidays here; in fact I had one friend describe this week as tough because of how Christmas oriented it is. Turn on the TV and you get Christmas movies, shows, advertisements and music. This is why I say “Happy Holidays” as the universal greeting this time of year; it encompasses everyone.

But when I got on to search for historical events this week I found this and couldn’t resist.

December 24 many children will go to sleep with visions of Sugar Plums dancing in their heads, listening intently for the sound of reindeer on their roofs and the impression that Santa Clause is coming to their town. For all who celebrate Christmas, Santa is a man with a big beard who comes down the chimney and leaves you all the presents you asked for. Santa also lives in the North Pole with his elves, his reindeer and his sleigh. But where did the idea of Santa really come from?

St. Nicholas was originally a monk born around 280 C.E. in modern Turkey. St. Nicholas was known for his kindness; it is rumored he gave away all his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. The best-known story of the time was how St. Nicholas saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery by providing them with a dowry.

Nicholas became known as the protector of children and sailors over time. St. Nicholas’ feast day is celebrated December 6, and on this day it was considered lucky to make large purchases or get married. By the Renaissance St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. St. Nicholas remained popular even after the Protestant Reformation, especially in Holland.

St. Nicholas’ popularity spread to the United States towards the end of the 18th century. The name Santa Clause originated from the Dutch nickname Sinter Klaas. The Dutch living in New York gathered to celebrate his death an event documented in several New York newspapers.

In 1804 woodcarvings of Santa were distributed at the New York Historical Society. These woodcuts included images of Santa with stockings filled with toys and candy. Santa’s fame only increased from there.

Santa’s importance increased especially for children in the early 19th century. With the rise of magazines and other media, advertisers slowly began to expand Christmas’ importance. Stores began advertising for Christmas shopping in the 1820s; by the 1940s separate advertisements were created for Christmas shopping. Santa became a draw to different stores, luring in kinds for a glimpse of a live Santa. I personally think it was the rise of this consuming society that brought a rise of Santa over time.

Other countries had their own Santa’s as well. Cristkind or Kris Kringle delivered presents to well-behaved Swiss and German kids. In Scandinavia a jolly elf named Jultomten delivered gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. In English legend Father Christmas who filled stockings on Christmas Eve. Pere Noel (translation Father Christmas) has a similar role in France.

A Russian story tells of a woman named Babouschka who gave the three wise men wrong directions on purpose so they wouldn’t find Jesus. Later she felt remorseful but could not undo the damage. On January 5 she visits children leaving gifts in hopes of undoing the damage. A similar story exists in Italy where a witch rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into stockings of lucky children.

Today Santa is in every mall, in commercials and even drinks Coca-Cola. He is pat of the American culture, just like Christmas.

I’m going to finish off this post by wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday Season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah or anything (or nothing) in between I hope you have had time with your families to celebrate. Because ultimately, I think that is the most important thing.

Happy History to all, and to all a Good Night!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lion-Heart

When I was a little girl one of my favorite Disney movies was Robin Hood. This movie had the animals playing the part of all the characters. You had a fox as Maid Marian and Robin Hood, a Lion as King Richard, a younger Lion as King John and a snake as Sir Hiss the exchequer.

My mom pointed out a vital argument over Thanksgiving break. Because I loved watching Robin Hood (and still do) my mom said even at a young age I was meant to be a historian, and you know what? I think she had a very valid point.

Today, December 20 in 1192 King Richard was captured on his way back to England from the Third Crusade. When I saw this fact today I knew I wanted to blog about it, because of the parallel with one of my favorite movies as a child.

King Richard took the thrown after King Henry II. Richard was the third son born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, a marriage that is one of the most interesting in History. Eleanor was married previously to the King of France, and bore him two daughters before the marriage was ended. Eleanor then married Henry, heir to the English thrown. With their marriage England inherited most of the western area of France in addition to the mainland of England.

The first son born to Eleanor and Henry was named William; he did not survive childhood. The second son was named Henry; he died before he could inherit the thrown. The third son was Richard, followed by Geoffrey and finally by John.

Richard really was, as Disney claimed in their movie, Eleanor’s favorite son. Richard grew up in France in the court in Aquitaine where Eleanor grew up. He was close with the French lords. John was only the favorite of Henry after all three older boys, along with Eleanor, rebelled and waged war against their father. John was too young join in.

King Richard was crowned King, and spent much of his early reign on the content in France fighting against the French King for land. And as many strong Kings during the Middle Ages, when the opportunity came to go on Crusade, King Richard went.

He really wasn’t supposed to be captured at all. Richard simply angered Leopold V of Austria while on crusade, and to get back at him captured him when Richard was on his way home. Leopold required 2 million pounds from England for Richards return. Eleanor, still alive at the time, worked the hardest to get the money for Richards return. John, who was acting as King in Richards place, also worked for his brothers return (no doubt because Eleanor required him to).

In the end Richard was returned to England, and immediately went back to the continent to gain back all the land John lost while Richard was on crusade. And unlike how the new 2010 movie Robin Hood with Russell Crow depicts it, King Richard died on the continent from gangrene after he received an arrow in the arm. He was searching for treasurer with his knights.

Now, if you have read carefully you should be wondering why Geoffrey did not become King after Richard did. Alas, he too died, but he left behind a teenage son who should have inherited instead of John by the rules of feudal law. However, this son mysteriously disappeared and was found dead. This left no one but John, the last of the sons of Eleanor and Henry. King John is also the only King John in English history. He was one of the worst English Kings; he single handedly lost all the land in France to the French King.

And that is the history briefly summarized for everyone. I hope you all enjoyed reading about it. And I would go pop in my favorite Robin Hood, but my VCR is no longer in my living room. Wow, VCR, history in itself. I feel much older than I should for admitting my old Disney movies are on VCR.

I hope everyone has a great rest of his or her December 20, and I will work hard to update again this week. I have a good idea I may expand a bit on. As always, Happy History!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor day is a day many Americans know. If anything, you’ve seen the movie titled Pearl Harbor and associate the day with Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett from the movie (am I dating myself by assuming this? There are other movies about the day out there too like Tora! Tora! Tora!). But in reality, 69 years ago in 1941 Japan bombed the Navy port in Hawaii, beginning U.S. involvement in WWII.

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaiian time, a Japanese dive-bomber appeared above Oahu. Shortly after 360 Japanese warplanes followed and descended on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, and the attack struck a critical blow to the U.S. Pacific fleet.

Diplomatic negotiations with Japan had been deteriorating and it is said President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew an imminent Japanese attack was probable. At the time nothing had been done to increase security at Pearl Harbor.

Since it was Sunday many men had been given passes to attend Sunday services. No alarm was sounded because a fleet of B-17 had been expected to arrive. Much of the Pacific Fleet was rendered useless after the bombing and a total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while attempting to fight back against the attack. The only lucky part was all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea.

A day after Pearl Harbor was bombed President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941- a date which will live in infamy- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

After asking for a declaration of war the Senate voted for war 82 to 0 and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. Only Jeannette Ranking of Montana voted against war because she was a devout pacifist. She also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into WWI.

Three days later Germany and Italy declared war against the U.S. and the government acted in king. President Roosevelt had been looking for an excuse to become involved in Europe and saw this as the excuse he needed.

After the attack Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Admiral is credited with saying, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." This quote comes from a popular American movie Tora! Tora! Tora! and Yamamoto may have never said these words.

What is known is the admiral may have begun questioning the decision to attack Pearl Harbor in the first place, beginning to believe Japan could not win a protracted war against the United States. There is no verification for the quote, but it does well to summarize some of the feelings at the time.

I hope everyone takes the time to remember December 7 today, it is important to our country, and changed the course of history during the time. It is possible without the attack the U.S. would not have entered WWII in the first place. But that is uncertain as well, and I can’t readily answer that larger question.

In other news, if anyone is interested in viewing my thesis I spent so much time on, visit the website I created for it at:
I hope you enjoy it!

I hope everyone has a great week, and a Happy Holiday Season! Chanukah is going on right now (it’s the sixth night), and Christmas is coming up!