Russian history 29: Settling of Suzdal province by Slavs and the formation of the great Russian ethnos

Suzdal Rus, or the duchy of Vladimir-Suzdal, was located between middle and lower Oka river on the one side, and upper and middle Volga on the other side, along rivers Klyazma and Moskva, tributaries of Volga. Places located northwards from middle Volga, along rivers Sheksna and Kostroma, always tended to have close links with Suzdal Rus. This area was primarily inhabited by Finno-Ugrian tribes of merya and muroma. Weakness of these tribes permitted the Slavs from upper Dnieper and Volga to enter their country and establish their colonies there. On the dawn of Russian history, there was a Slavs' settlement on lake Belo-ozero, which belonged to Novgorod. Cities Rostov and Suzdal, founded by settlers from Novgorod, are also very old, it seems. To the south from these cities, on river Oka, there was another town, Murom, founded in the times of Vladimir Monomakh, or even earlier. At the same time, town Vladimir was founded on river Klyazma. In the times of Yaroslav the Wise town Yaroslavl was founded on Volga. Till the end of XI century, all this north-eastern part of Rus was a distant secluded land, in the deep forests of which a few Finnish villages were scattered. Merya and muroma did not build towns, and didn't form a political entity. Their only rulers were shamans, called volkhvy (singular volkhv)by Slavs.

In the end of XI century, after the Lyubech congress of 1097, the area around Suzdal became a separate duchy. The knyazes agreed to give it to Vladimir Monomakh. After that, the growth of Russian towns began. Monomakh himself, his son Yuri Dolgorukiy and grandsons Andrei Bogolyubski and Vsevolod the Big Nest made Suzdal Rus a flourishing land in the course of one century. Knyaz Yuri built Moscow and Yuryev, Andrei built Bogolyubovo. At about the same time other cities appeared: Tver, Kostroma, Galich "Merski" ("in the land of merya"), etc. By building new towns, roads, fords and bridges, knyazes facilitated immigration. People went there from the western lands — Novgorod, Polotsk, Smolensk — from the southern lands of Vyatiches and even from Kiev. The migration from Novgorod and Smolensk was constant, it began in the earliest times and never ceased since then.

Migration from the south began later. The southern duchies, lying on Dnieper, were separated from Suzdal lands by impassable forests in the land of Vyatiches, which obstructed the communication between Kiev and Suzdal. In the earlier centuries, travellers had to go round along Volga. In the XII century, new roads appeared connecting Dnieper and Oka. Immediately, people started moving northwards from Kievan Rus, for the reasons we already know: knyazes' feuds, Polovtsians' raids, poverty. People attempted to hide in the deep forests, then crossed them and finally arrived to the Suzdal land, which they called Zalesye (land behind the forests). The southerners gave habitual names to the places. In the south, there were towns Pereyaslavl on river Trubezh, Starodub, Galich, Zvenigorod. Now, in the north they built two Pereyaslavls located on rivers both named Trubezh. Two Starodubs appeared, Ryapolovski and Okski. New cities were called Galich Merski (from merya) and Zvenigorod. The southerners also brought their folklore, the songs about Kievan knyazes and their wars with the steppe nomads. The flow of southerners strengthened the positions of Russians and assisted the rise of these lands.

Under the pressure of this migration, the Finnish tribes either left their lands, or were assimilated, losing their language and even appearance. The chronicler, who mentions merya in the first chapters of his book, seems to forget about them later. If they left their lands or were killed, the chronicle would have mentioned these cases. But since merya were gradually and peacefully assimilated, the event passed unnoticed. But this assimilation had certain consequences for the Russian population. They acquired new physical and psychological features of their new kin. Their Slavic features changed and a new Slavic people was formed. This people which included Russian Slavs from various regions of Rus and an admixture of Finns, became known as great Russians.

March 29 in Russian history

1814: In the early morning, Russian troops begin the battle of Paris. After the first assault, they are stopped by the artillery gunfire, but the assistance of the Prussian and Austrian allies allows them to throw away the French Imperial Guard. Russian troops enter the Montmartre hills. For the first time since 1437 a foreign army enters the French capital. One of the commanders of the glorious French army, Joseph Bonapart, fled, while the other, Auguste Marmont, sent truce envoys to the allied forces and agreed to capitulate. A year and a half later, the winning countries sign the treaty of the so called Holy Alliance. This Alliance was extremely interesting and deserves a separate article, but for now the most interesting thing for us is that the main idea behind the alliance was to establish the European peacekeeping forces. Unfortunately, Russian emperor Alexander I, who was the main proponent of this document, had a very special view of "peacekeeping". In his opinion, it was the alliance of god-blessed monarchies against liberal conspiracies.

1856: The end of the Crimean war. The war started in 1853, when the political landscape of Europe had significantly changed since the birth of the Holy Alliance. Revolutions in Belgium, France and interference of the alliance in the internal affairs of European countries led to the negative attitude towards Russia. There were other reasons, of course. Britain competed with Russia in Persia and sought to weaken the opponent. France attempted to increase influence in the Holy Land, controlled by Turkey. The Austrian position was, probably, influenced by other countres, because her anti-Russian position was inexplicable: only four years earlier Russia helped to suppress the rebellion in Hungary and saved the Austrian empire from dissipation. Anyway, the war had started. Russia successfully defeated the Turkish fleet near Sinop and the Turkish army in Bayazet, Kuruk Dar and Kars. Then the European countries interfered and landed in Crimea. After 11 months of siege, Russian troops abandoned the southern part of Sevastopol. Some more months later, Russia agreed to sign the peace treaty. According to the Second peace treaty of Paris, Russia lost the right to keep fleet and fortresses on the Black Sea. Russia returned Kars, settled by Georgians and Armenians, to Turkey and received back Sevastopol. Russia was also prohibited from protecting the Christian nations subjugated by the Ottoman empire. Russia lost much of the influence in Romania and Serbia.

1867: The Crimean war had shown that Russia was weaker than the European countries. Russia began to understand that it will be very difficult to keep the overseas territories, especially Alaska, where only 600-800 Russians lived at that time. In 1859, USA had already attempted to buy Alaska for $5,000,000, but the Russian government was too busy with the forthcoming abolition of serfdom and refused. By 1867, the Russian government became more interested in Middle Asia and the Far East, so it was decided to sell the Russian America to the United States. The US payed $7,200,000 and renamed Russian America to Alaska. For the USA, the importance of Alaska was lying in the political, rather than in the economical sphere. Had it not been for the Gold Rush of the 1896, Alaska could have remained the barren land for many more years.

That's it. So the victory in the war with Napoleon finally led to the loss of Alaska.

1945: Soviet troops liberate Gdansk (Danzig) and raise the Polish national flag over the city. The 2nd Ukrainian front crossed the borders of Austria, so ungrateful 100 years ago.

1969: Soviet ice hockey squad becomes the world champion for the seventh time in a row.


Russian history 28: Pskov

Pskov was the largest prigorod of Novgorod. Its population was equal to that of Novgorod and the area occupied by the city was even larger. Pskov was located on a rocky cape at the place where river Pskova merged with wide and deep river Velikaya. First it consisted only of a fortress, called detinets. Later, it was surrounded by an outer wall and some inner walls. Inside the fortress there was the main cathedral of Pskov, the St. Trinity cathedral, which had the same meaning for Pskov as the St. Sophia for Novgorod. There was a marketplace in the centre of the city. The city consisted of six self-governing "ends". The lands belonging to Pskov were small and spread in the meridional direction along the banks of river Velikaya and Chudskoye lake. Pskov had 12 prigorods. All they were fortified settlements surrounding the main city and were associated with its "ends": two prigorods for each "end".

Such network of fortifications was necessary on the western borders of Rus. Pskov faced Germans and Lithuanians and protected Novgorod and other Rus from their attacks. When trade routes connecting Rus with the Baltic sea developed, Pskov became an important trade centre. The growth of Pskov led to its independence from Novgorod in 1348, when the two cities signed a treaty in village Bolotovo. Pskov began to elect posadniks. Knyazes were appointed by Moscow. The only remaining link with Novgorod was the power of the archbishop.

The political system of Pskov was similar to that of Novgorod, but the social classes were not divided by the gap as wide as in Novgorod. So, the social landscape was much more peaceful. Boyars were not too rich and the chern' was not hopelessly poor. The political features specefic for Pskov were defined by the code of law called Pskovskaya sudnaya gramota, which substituted Russkaya pravda in Pskov.

The most respected knyazes of Pskov were Vsevolod-Gavriil Mstislavich, exiled from Novgorod, and knyaz Dovmont, who fled from Lithuania to Rus and defended Pskov from the enemies from the West. Both are buried in the St. Trinity cathedral. Both of them ruled in the times when the city was not independent yet, but they were autonomous in their actions and decisions. In the later years, the knyazes were sent to Pskov from Moscow and were simply the deputies of the grand prince.

March 29 in Russian history

1847: 19 years old Leo Tolstoy begins a diary which he will continue for all his life. In the complete set of his works the diaries occupy 13 volumes.

1933: The Literaturnaya Gazeta newspaper published an article by G.Munblit "The book about a shallow world". It was a positive review of a new book written by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov, "The Golden Calf". The real names of Ilf and Petrov were Ilya Faynzilberg and Yevgeny Kataev. "The Golden Calf" was a sequel of their earlier book, "The Twelve Chairs". Both books are the adventures of a swindler Ostap Bender, somehow similar to the stories about Jeff Peters and Andy Tucker by O'Henry. Unlike O'Henry, though, Ilf and Petrov wrote satyre. They ridiculed everyone and everything, from the aristocrats of the times before the revolution, to Soviet bureaucracy, to the flourishing bourgeois habits of the people pretending to be communists. Though a negative character, Ostap Bender was loved by generations of Soviet readers. I tried to find "The Golden Calf" online, but unfortunately, only some first chapters are available here. The full text of "The Twelve Chairs" is here. Just try some first chapters and, I hope, you'll like it. It's not just incredibly funny, but it might also give some impressions about the life in the early Soviet Union.

BTW, while searching for the text of the books, I found an interesting web-site which I had no time to explore, but which seems promising: SovLit.com.

1945: The troops of the 3rd Belorussian front finished the liquidation of the surrounded Eastern Prussian group of the fascist army to the south-west of Koenigsberg. The troops of the 2nd Belorussian front continued the liquidation of the fascist troops in the eastern part of Gdansk (Danzig) and to the north from Gdynia.


Russian history 27: Structure of the population of Novgorod and class struggle in Novgorod

The population of the duchy of Novgorod consisted of two groups: vyatshie ("better") people and menshie ("smaller"), or "black" people. The former group included boyars, zhityi people and "good merchants". It was the rich nobility, who possessed lands in various parts of the duchy and sent goods to the markets of Novgorod. Those who were often elected as the city officials, were called boyars. Equally rich people who were rarely involved into the public life, were called zhityi. (The distinction is similar to the distinction between Roman senatores and equites.) As it always happens in large trading cities, the gap between these groups and other, not as rich, people, quickly became almost impenetrable. The poorer people constituted the mass called chern' (black people). In Novgorod and other cities chern' included small merchants, craftsmen and workers. In pyatinas, chern' consisted of smerds (free peasants) and polovniks (semi-dependent peasants, who worked on the land of the land-lord and payed him one half (polovina) of the harvest). Smerds lived on the state lands and formed communities called pogosts. Kholops, or the serfs, were another large group of population.

During its history, Novgorod was always the scene of competition and animosity between the social groups. Boyars used their dependent villages, pogosts, to increase their influence on veche. Free chern' couldn't tolerate this violation of rules and easily rose against those boyars who were guilty in such violations. Since boyars also competed with each other, some of them often allied with chern' against their rivals and started open bloody feuds.

These feuds became the reason of the fall of Novgorod. The internal disorder made the defense of the state a difficult task. The neighbours of Novgorod, Lithuania and Muscovy, were eager to take an opportunity and to subjugate Novgorod. There was only one chance for Novgorod to survive: to ally with one of the neighbours, but even here they couldn't find a solution that would satisfy all social classes. The rich classes tended to ally with Lithuania and the poorer people inclined towards the union with Muscovy. At the end, in 1478, Muscovy conquered Novgorod and adjoined all its territories (more details in chapter 47). The richer vyatshie people were killed or lost their capitals and influence, and chern' got a new state formed on the principles of Muscovy. The trade of Novgorod fell into the hands of the Muscovite merchants and the importance of the city as the trade centre declined.


March 27 in Russian history

1776: Prince Urusov and an English theatre manager founded the Petrovsky theatre in Moscow. About fifty years later the thatre became known as Bolshoi. Actually, there's probably no reason to write a lot about the theatre, since I wrote about Bolshoi a couple of months ago. In 1951, an American magazine Collier's published an article where the authors proposed a lewd musical to be staged in Bolshoi after the US victory over the USSR in the upcoming World War.

1793: After the event known as the Second Partition of Poland, Russia obtained Belorussia and the right-bank Ukraine. On March 27, 1793, Catherine II issued the manifesto proclaiming the inclusion of the right-bank Ukraine into Russia.

1878: Russian peasant Fyodor Blinov patented "the special carriage with endless rails for transportation of cargo along highways and roads". These endless rails are now known as caterpillar tracks. Fyodor's parents were serfs. He started his "career" as a burlak (barge hauler). Later he became a stoker and a motorman on the river ships. In 1877 he built the first vehicle with caterpillar tracks. This carriage had no engine and was moved by horses. In 1878 he files a patent application and in 1879 the patent is granted. In 1883 he founded an enterprise which produced fire pumps. In 1881, during the tests, two horses were able to move his carriage loaded with 550 poods (8,800 kilograms). In 1881-1888 he was busy with a working track tractor. When finished, the tractor had a steam engine with the power of 12 horse powers and had the speed of 3.2 kmph. In 1889 the tractor was demonstrated on the agricultural exhibition in Saratov.

1952: Student of the Urals Polytechnical Institute Boris Yeltsin was sent down from the institute for multiple absences from lessons. About forty years later I retraced his steps (in another university, though).



Russian history 26: The organization of the Novgorod state

During X-XI centuries, when Novgorod was ruled by knyazes of Kiev, Novgorod was not different from all other Russian cities. Kievan knyazes sent a posadnik (deputy) to Novgorod (usually it was one of the knyaz' sons). After the death of Vladimir Monomakh, when knyazes began fighting for the title of the grand prince, the veche of Novgorod ceased to accept the rulers appointed from Kiev and began to elect the knyaz from a number of candidates belonging to various branches of the knyazes' family and offering them the title of knyaz of Novgorod on certain conditions. This autonomy became possible for the following reasons: first, the power of the knyazes of Kiev weakened and they were not strong enough to control distant Novgorod; and second, knyazes striving to become the grand princes, were afraid of losing a chance when being away in Novgorod. Soon, the people of Novgorod began to elect the archbishop for their home town. After the election, the new archbishop was sent to the metropolitan for the official approval. At last, they began to elect posadniks and tysyatskies. So, they surrounded the knyaz with the local bureaucracy to control him.

Novgorod became a fully autonomous state. It was ruled by veche, which elected and dismissed the knyazes, archbishops and local authorities. Veche adopted new laws, approved treaties with foreigners, declared and stopped wars. Veche judged the top officials and the most important cases: from conflicts of knyaz with the Novgorod authorities to the crimes of the citizens of prigorods. Veche assembled on the square known as the Yaroslavov dvor (Yaroslav's yard) near the marketplace on the Trade side of Novgorod, or on the square near Detinets, as the kremlin of Novgorod was known. Every free citizen of Novgorod who had his own house, could participate in veche (children and adults living in the parents' house, were not full-fledged citizens). Free citizens of prigorods also had the right to participate. The decisions were made not by the majority of votes, but by the loud shouting. This way of decision making seems strange today. To understand it better, we should remember that Novgorod consisted of some communities, "ends". Every end included smaller communities, "hundreds" and "streets". On veche, the members of every community grouped together and agreed their position. So, it was not necessary to count every vote. It was enough to make sure that all the communities agreed. When the decision was not unanimous, discussions and even fights began. Sometimes veche split into two. The enemies met on the bridge across Volkhov to fight and then the knyaz and the archbishop hurried there to pacify the opponents.

Obviously, these traditions made it impossible to discuss the details of complicated cases. Veche could only hear a report prepared in advance and approve or reject the proposed solution. These reports were prepared by the "government council", which included the highest city officials, posadniks and tysyatskies, both current and retired. The council was led first by the knyaz, later by the archbishop. The council was called in the Novgorod speech Gospoda. The Germans who traded with Novgorod, called it Herren. With time, Gospoda became more and more powerful.

When a new knyaz was elected, he signed a contract (ryad) with veche. Knyaz swore to rule in accordance with the old laws, and veche swore to accept his rule and to be honest. Knyaz was the highest power in Novgorod, both military and political. He commanded the army and was the supreme judge. Due to often conflicts, the citizens of Novgorod needed an unbiased intermediary, and knyaz ideal for this purpose. To limit the power of this ruler, a number of conditions were put. So, neither knyaz, nor his druzhina had no right to buy land or kholops on the territory of the duchy of Novgorod. They had no right to trade with foreign merchants without assistance of the Novgorod middlemen. So, knyaz had to remain a stranger. As soon as he was dismissed, he had to leave the territory of the duchy. Being a stranger, knyaz was obliged to live outside of the city, in the settlement called Gorodische, closer to the lake Ilmen. On the other hand, as soon as he abandoned the territory of the duchy, he lost the right to rule Novgorod. Knyaz had no right to change the laws of the duchy and had to rule under constant control of the posadnik, elected by veche. Members of his druzhina had no right to occupy the official posts in Novgorod. Knyaz received payments, called "gifts" and "tribute", the amount of which was predetermined. Also, he had the right to hunt in certain places. In his own turn, knyaz gave various privileges on the territory of his own duchy, from which arrived to Novgorod, to the citizens of Novgorod.

Posadnik and tysyatsky assisted and controlled the knyaz. Posadnik was the civilian ruler and tysyatsky was the leader of the militia (opolchenie). Posadnik managed the elected leaders (starostas, singular starosta) of the ends (konchanski starosta) and the streets (ulichanski starosta). Tysyatsky controlled sotskies. Every official, including posadnik and tysyatsky, not only managed, but also judged his subordinates. Posadnik was elected from the Novgorod aristocracy, boyars, and tysyatsky represented all people of Novgorod. Prigorods and pyatinas (fifths) were also governed by the elected officials. They were associated with one of the "ends" of the city, through which they corresponded with the authorities. As for the colonies of Novgorod, "lands" and "volost's", it is not easy to determine the degree of their dependence from the central city. Most probably, they were ruled by private entrepreneurs.

The archbishop, or vladyka, was the leader of the government council. He observed the rules of veche and approved its decisions. He confirmed the treaties with the foreigners. The foreign guests asked hime for assistance and protection. His palace was where Gospoda assembled and the city archive and the church treasury were stored (it was often used as the treasury of the state). He had his own staff, serfs and a military unit independent from the militia of Novgorod.


Russian history 25: Nature of the Novgorod land. Economy. Trade and trade routes

With the exception of some areas in the southern fifths, the land in Novgorod province was not fertile. Shortage of grain forced the inhabitants of these lands to search for other sources of food: fishing, hunting, etc. Wheat was brought from south-eastern areas of Rus and on Volga and transported to Novgorod along Msta. In exchange, the goods obtained from the western neighbours were sent to the east: fabrics, metal goods (not weapon), wine, fruits. The western merchants were payed with raw materials. Northern forests were the source of furs: sables, foxes, beavers, etc. Hives gave honey and wax. On the banks of the White Sea, the sea animals were hunted for fat. The southern fifths produced flax and hemp. Raw silk was brought from the east. All these materials were sold to the west. So, the shortage of bread made trade the most important activity of Novgorod.

Very long time ago, the people from Novgorod explored the vast areas of northern and north-eastern Russia and even beyond Ural mountains. Of course, they could not capture these lands by force. They established colonies, bought lands from the local population and slowly became the owners of all the northern lands. Boyars sent their kholops to settle and to exploit these lands. They were followed by free men, who organized fishing and hunting grounds and sometimes robbed peaceful local population.

These people, called ushkuiniks (from ushkuy, a long narrow boat), knew very well what goods and from where can be brought to Novgorod and sold to the foreign merchants. Such ways went from north along Volkhov, and along Msta and Lovat from east and south. The caravans went from Novgorod to the Baltic sea along Volkhov and Neva to the Gulf of Finland, or along Shelon via Pskov to the Gulf of Riga. Along with the waterways, roads went westwards to Narva and Kolyvan (Tallin).

First, Novgorod traded mostly with the "Goths", as the merchants from Visby, Gotland, were called. With the growth of the Hanseatic League in XIII-XIV centuries, the merchants from the Northern Germany became frequent guests in Novgorod. Foreign merchants formed a closed community in Novgorod, lived according to their own code of laws and had their own churches. Due to the specifics of the trade, foreigners came to Novgorod more often than the Novgorod merchants visited other countries, and the western trade was shaped by the German merchants. On the other hand, Novgorod was the monopolist on the eastern trade routes. They visited lands along Volga, Kiev, Lithuanian lands and even the Khazar lands in the south east. Finds of Arab coins are frequent in the lands controlled by Novgorod, which proves solid trade connections with the muslim countries.

March 23 in Russian history

1935: USSR sells the Chinese Eastern Railway (Kitayskaya Vostochnaya Zheleznaya Doroga, KVZhD) to the government of Manzhouguo. The railway was built in 1897-1901. It was a shortcut which started from near Chita and led to Vladivostok via Harbin. The main way, Trans-Siberian railway, made a huge bent skirting the Chinese border along Amur. After the WWI, since 1924, the railway belonged to both USSR and China. When the Japanese occupied Manchuria and formed the puppet Manzhouguo state, the constant provocations and the refusal of Japan to sign a non-aggression pact with the USSR made the Soviets to sell the KVZhD to the government of Manzhouguo in 1935. After the liquidation of Manzhouguo in 1945, USSR and China once again became co-owners of KVZhD. In 1952, after the Communist revolution in China, KVZhD was handed over to the new Chinese friends of the USSR for free.

1982: In 1982, Leonid Brezhnev awarded the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic with the order of Lenin, the highest award of the USSR. He arrived to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan and planned to visit the Tashkent aviation plant. He was tired though after the first days, the program of the visit was very dense and it was decided to cancel the visit to the plant. In the morning Brezhnev visited a textile factory and a tractor factory and the cavalcade was returning to the residence when Brezhnev looked at his watches and said: "We've got some free time. We promised to visit the factory. The people there must be waiting for us. No good. There'll be questions, rumours... Let's go there."

Rashidov, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan, agreed and, in spite of objections of Brezhnev's chief security officer Ryabov, turned towards the aviation plant. Indeed, thousands of people gathered and were waiting for their arrival. There were so many people that many of them climbed the scaffolds surrounding the airplanes. When Brezhnev passed under the airplane's wings, people gathered on one side of the scaffolds and struts broke. A huge wooden platform, about 50 meters long and 4 meters wide, fell on the general secretaries and their retinue. Some guards who were not struck by the debris, picked the platform and held it for two minutes while the people were getting from under it.

Brezhnev's collarbone was broken and his ear was slightly damaged. Doctors demanded that he should return to Moscow immediately, but he refused. During the next two days, he participated in the celebrations, even though he looked ill. His speech was slow, movements were limited and it looked like he had a hangover. The research in Moscow proved that the bone was displaced, but the doctors were not sure if 75 years old Brezhnev will survive the surgery. The collarbone remained broken till his death half a year later.


March 22 in Russian history

1710: Peter I issues a manifesto which prohibits the "great Russians" (the term used for Russians in that time) to insult "little Russians" (whom we know as Ukrainians) and to accuse them in the treason of hetman Mazepa. The punishment would be strict, up to the death penalty. Only one year had passed after the battle of Poltava, where a part of the Ukrainian forces, led by Mazepa, who violated the oath of allegiance he had sworn to Peter I, and Peter I intended to strengthen the ties between Great Russia and Little Russia. So, he had also granted certain financial privileges to the Ukrainians. For example, they were exempted from the state monopoly on alcohol. Ukrainians, unlike Russians, were allowed to produce and to sell alcohol on the whole territory of all Russias.

1932: Maxim Gorky, a.k.a. "Stalin in literature", publishes an article titled "On whose side are you, masters of culture?" Unfortunately, I couldn't find an English translation online. It's an amazing sample of the most rude Soviet political journalism. He accuses capitalists and intelligentsia, the "consolers of the bourgeoisie", in racism, in attempts to limit the progress and to tame artists.

"Artists like Possart or Monet Sully are not needed anymore, their place is taken by Fairbankses, Harold-Lloyds and other jugglers of that kind, led by monotonously sentimental and downcast Charlie Chaplin, just like the music of classical composers is replaced by jazz, and Stendal, Balsac, Dickens and Flobert are replaced by various Wallaces, the people who can only tell about policemen, the guards of large robbers and mass murderers, are hunting puny thieves and killers. In the area of art, bourgeoisie is quite satisfied with collecting of post stamps or bus tickets or, in the best case, the forged paintings of the old masters. In the area of science, bourgeoisie is only interested in the most comfortable and cheap exploitation of the forces of the working class. The science exists for a bourgeois only as long as it serves his aims of self-enrichment, to control his digestion and to raise the sexual energy of the debauchee. The basics goals of the science are beyond the understanding for the bourgeois: intellectual development, physical recovery of the humanity, transformation of the inert matter into energy, solution of the growth of the human body are just as uninteresting for a bourgeois as for a savage from the Central Africa.


No, preaching love of the poor to the rich, of the worker to his master, is not my craft. I am unable to console. I know too well that the world lives in the atmosphere of hatred and I see that this atmosphere is getting more dense, active, beneficial.

You, "humanists who want to be practical", should understand that there are two hatred in this world: one has originated among the predators on the basis of their competition with each other and out of fear before the future, which threatens them with an imminent death; and another one, the hatred of the proletariat, is born from the disgust towards the reality and is fed by the understanding of the right for power. The force of these two hatreds makes it impossible to conciliate them, and nothing but the inevitable physical conflict of their carriers, nothing but the victory of the proletariat, will set the world free from hatred.


Let's talk about "violence". Dictatorship of the proletariat is temporary, it is necessary to re-educate, to turn tens of millions of former slaves of nature and the bourgeoisie into the only master of their country and all its treasures. The dictatorship of the proletariat will cease to be necessary as soon as all the working people, all peasants will find themselves in equal social and economical positions, and everyone of them will obtain the possibility to work according to his abilities and to receive according to his needs. "Violence" as you and many others understand it, is a misunderstanding, but even more often it is the libel and slander against the working class of the Union of Soviets and its party. The word "violence" is applied to the social process taking place in the Union of Soviets by the enemies of the working class in order to discredit his work in the area of culture: the restoration of his country and the creation of the new forms of economical life.

In my opinion, we can talk about the coercion without violence, just like when you teach children you do not use violence. The working class of the Union of Soviets and his party are teaching the social and political literacy to the peasants. You, the intellectuals, are also forced by something or someone to feel the dramatism of your life between the hammer and the anvil. You are also taught the basics of social and political literacy, and this someone is not me, of course.


The laws in the Union of Soviets are created within the working masses, they are a corollary of the workers' life. The Soviet power and the party formulate and approve as the law only the statements which were shaped in the process of the work of the proletariat and the peasants, of the work, the task of which is to create the society of equal ones. The party is the dictator as long as it is the organizing centre, the neural system of the working masses. The goal of the party is to transform in the shortest possible time the maximum amount of the physical energy into the intellectual energy, to give freedom of development to every single individual and to the whole population.

About two years ago, an article with the same name, "On whose side are you, masters of culture?", was published by a funny pseudo-patriotic organization called the Youth Union "For the Motherland!". It retains the obtuse, meaningless style of the original Gorky's phrase-mongering:

Just like 100 years ago, when Maxim Gorky wrote his famous answer to the American journalists, you are still busy with the same: "consolation of the bourgeoisie in their trite woes, mending the worn-out, dirty clothes of the bourgeoisie, lavishly soiled with the blood of the working class."

You, scientists, literary critics, musicians, journalists, writers, actors, sportsmen, where are your thoughts, do you live the same life as the people of Russia, or are you not worried by the people's hopes? What have you done for your motherland? Why didn't you, Maxim Sokolov, criticize the vices of the modern society in your column in the newspaper? Have you, Sergey Shnurov, had your hands cut off, like a Chilean musician, for the songs of protest? Why didn't you, Sergey Bezrukov, read Pushkin's verses to the Russian soldiers in Chechnya?


Why didn't you, Yegor Titov, win the European football championship, did not fulfill your citizen's duty? We, the Youth Union "For the Motherland!", call the masters of culture to account. Answer your country and your conscience: what have you done for your land when you had such a credit of the people? Determine, are you with the people or are you by yourselves, since the culture is inseparable from the people, and if you are not with the people, the people will reject you and what is an intellectual without the people — an empty place. ... The time of postmodernism is gone, the time of new realism has come!

Unique stupidity. Gorky would look a brilliant stylist near these dead serious children. At least, he knew more words in Russian.

1943: Nazi troops from the infamous brigade Dirlewanger together with Ukrainian and Belorussian collaborators under comman of Grigory Vasyura destroyed the Belorussian village Khatyn. It was a part of the Winterzauber operation. 10 schutzmannschaft (guard) battallions took part in the operation, including 8 Latvian battallions and two Ukrainian-Belorussian battalions from OUN (organization of Ukrainian nationalists). During the operation 158 villages were sacked and destroyed. Villages Ambrazeevo, Aniskovo, Buly, Zhernoseki, Kalyuty, Konstantinovo, Paporotnoe, Sokolovo and a number of others were burnt together with their inhabitants. About 3,500 people were killed, 2,000 were sent to Germany for slave work, 1,000 children were sent to the Salaspils children's death camp in Latvia. On March 22, after the partisans attacked a Nazi detachment and killed Hans Woelke, an SS officer, a large group of fascists entered the village Khatyn. All people of the village, including women, children and old people, were locked in a wooden barn. Some people tried to escape. Little Lena Yaskevich dashed for the forest. Fascists started shooting, but missed. Then they ran after her, caught her and killed. Then the Nazis covered the barn with straw, spilt the benzine over it set it on fire. People burnt suffocated and burnt alive. At last, the locked people broke the door and started running. Machine guns, carefully put around the spot, started shooting. 149 people, including 75 children, were killed.

Victor Zhelobkovich, who was 8 at the time of the massacre, recalls: "We were with my mother near the locked doors of the barn and I saw how the straw was put around, how the fire was set. When the burning roof fell and the clothes started burning on the people, we dashed to the doors and broke them away. The soldiers started shooting at the running people. We ran for 5 or 6 meters, then my mother pushed me, we fell and she told me to lie and not to move. Something hit my arm strongly and it started bleeding. I told about it to my mother, but she did not reply, she was already dead. I don't know how long it went on. Everything around was burning and even my hat started smouldering. Then, when the soldiers left, I stood up. There were smoking bodies all around. Someone moaned and asked for water. I brought water, but it was not needed anymore."

Joseph Kaminsky, another survivor, who died in 1973, recalled: "I was at the forge. My wife and my son Adasik, who came recently from Minsk, were at home. Then the fascists came, and sent us all to the barn and set it on fire. I told my son to climb over the wall and helped him. They started shooting outside and I was stunned by the thought that I sent my son to die. Then the doors opened, we ran and they were shooting at us. I fell and the killed people were falling on me. When the fascists left, I rose and found Adasik: wake up, they are gone. I wanted to help him up, and the guts began to fall from his waist. I picked them and they fell again, and I picked, and he kept asking: "Water, water..."

During the war, Nazis destroyed 9,200 cities and villages in Belorussia. 5,295 of them were destroyed together with the people who lived there. During the three years of occupation, 2,230,000 people were killed, about every third citizen of Belorussia.


Russian history 24: Veliky Novgorod: town and province

Novgorod is located on both banks of river Volkhov, near lake Ilmen, on the hills surrounded by moors and lowlands. The right bank was called the Trade side and the left bank — the Sophia side. The Trade side was named after the marketplace. It was split in two parts, called "ends". The Sophia side was named after the famous temple of St. Sophia, built by Yaroslav the Wise. This side had three ends and the so called kremlin, a fortress locate within the city. Probably, the ends had been separate villages which later united into one city with common marketplace and kremlin. As an opposition to the "old" ends, the new city became known as Novgorod, "the new city". During the whole history of Novgorod, the ends retained self-government. According to the five ends, the Novgorod province consisted of five parts, called "the fifths" (pyatinas). The Obonezhskaya fifth was locate around the lake Onego, the Vodskaya fifth surrounded the lake Ladoga. The Shelonskaya fifth was to the south-west from Novgorod and Ilmen, and the Derevskaya fifth — to the south-east. These four fifths were adjacent to Novgorod itself. The last fifth, Bezhetskaya, was located further to the east, between rivers Msta and Volga. Even further, behind these fifths, the dependent lands were lying: Zavolochye (along Northern Dvina), Tre or Terskaya land (north of the White Sea), Pechora (on river Pechora), Perm (on river Vychegda), Vyatka (on river Vyatka), etc. Like in the ancient Rome, where Italy was the centre of the state and the lands outside Italy were provinces (praedium populi romani), the fifths were the core of the Novgorod state, and the outside lands were subject to the exploitation.

This is how the Novgorod state looked like in the prime of its life, in XIII-XIV centuries. Novgorod, the "elder" city, was the owner of all these lands, which were called "the lands of St. Sophia". Smaller cities were prigorods of Novgorod. All they were located in the western part of the state (to the west of rivers Volkhov and Lovat). They protected Novgorod from the Swedes, Germans and Lithuanians. The most important of them were Pskov (which later obtained independence from Novgorod), Izborsk, Staraya Rusa, Ladoga. Besides, there were tens of smaller fortified towns to the west and south from Novgorod and Pskov. On the contrary, to the east from Novgorod, there were no fortifications, only small settlements called ryadki (singular ryadok) and located along rivers. There were many ryadki, but each of them was no larger than 100-200 houses. With the exception of Pskov and Staraya Rusa, all prigorods were small. They were well fortified, but counted only up to 200-300 houses. Novgorod and Pskov were huge in comparison with the prigorods, they had more than 6,000-7,000 houses. It makes them the most populated cities of ancient Rus. The majority of population of Rus lived in these cities.


March 20 in Russian history

43 BCE:Publius Ovidius Naso natus est! How come Ovid's birthday related to this blog, one might ask. Actually, it does not matter, he's just a great poet. And yet, there are good reasons to mention his birthday on a Russian history blog. Ovid was one of the favourite poets of Alexander Pushkin, Osip Mandelshtam and other Russian poets. Mandelshtam used to say: "Most of all I would like to see Ovid, Pushkin and Catullus to live again." Pushkin wrote a poem called "To Ovid". Ovid also appears in another poem, "The Gypsies". Actually, in the times of Pushkin, the life of Ovid was sometimes seen as a typical life of an educated man in the times of despotic rulers. A freemason lodge where Pushkin was a member, was called "Ovid #25". In the XIX century, Ovid's poetry was rarely read the way it is read now. It was taken as a manifestation of the decline, interesting from the historical point of view, but lacking any artistic merits. Pushkin saw Ovid more like we do now — an original, deeply personal, humanistic and psychological author. Pushkin's interest to Ovid grew when he seemingly repeated the fate of the Roman poet. In 1820, Pushkin was sent into exile to Yekaterinoslav. When he fell ill with pneumonia, after swimming in Dnieper, he left to Caucasus and Crimea. In September 1820, he arrives to his new work in Kishinev, in Bessarabia, not far from the Roman city Tomis, where Ovid spent his last years. Pushkin drew parallels between himself and Ovid, but does not identify himself with the Roman poet. He is aware of the psychological differences between them. For example, while Ovid often "weeps" and his verse are filled with tears, which is quite typical for the emotional people of antiquity, Pushkin writes: "Stern Slav, I didn't shed the tears. But I did understand them." Sometimes Pushkin quoted Ovid or used his verses as a source of inspiration and based his own poems on them. So, one of the heroes of "Gypsies", an old man, asks to carry his old bones to the south. This is the direct parallel to the Ovid's lines:

Ossa tamen facito parva referantur in urna
Sic ego non etiam mortuus exul ero.

The final lines of Metamorphoses together with the Horace's Monument clearly inspired Pushkin's Monument. Compare Ovid:

parte tamen meliore mei super alta perennis
astra ferar, nomenque erit indelibile nostrum.
Quaque patet domitis Romana potentia terras,
ore legar populi; perque omnia saecula fama,
siquid habent veri vatum praesagia, vivam!

(My nobler part, my fame, shall reach the skies,
And to late times with blooming honours rise:
Whate'er th' unbounded Roman power obeys,
All climes and nations shall record my praise:
If 'tis allow'd to poets to divine,
One half of round eternity is mine.)

And Pushkin:

I shall not wholly die. In my sacred lyre
My soul shall outlive my dust and escape corruption--
And I shall be famed so long as underneath
The moon a single poet remains alive.

I shall be noised abroad through all great Russia,
Her innumerable tongues shall speak my name:
The tongue of the Slavs' proud grandson, the Finn, and now
The wild Tungus and Kalmyk, the steppes' friend.

Sorry, I couldn't find a better translation.

Well, if you're still not sure if Ovid fits this blog, I give up. Here's another anniversary to you:

1833: Pushkin (yes!) publishes "Eugene Onegin" as a whole for the first time.

1535: Birthday of a kopeck. Elena Glinskaya, mother of young Ivan IV, begins a monetary reform. The problem was caused by false money. According to the state standard, one grivenka (around 409 grams) of silver costed 250 Novgorod dengas or 2 Muscovy rubles and 6 grivnas. In practice, people made up to 500 dengas from one grivenka, making coins two times smaller. Glinskaya decreed that one grivenka will cost 3 rubles or 300 dengas. Three types of coins were introduced: denga, polushka and kopeyka. The latter was named after a depiction of a horseman with a spear (spear is kopyo in Russian). After the revolution of 1917, there were no more spears on kopecks, but the name survived till 1992, if my memory serves me right, when the horseman (St.George) re-appeared on the coins.

Ancient site of hunters discovered in Khorezm

Good news from Uzbekistan:

In Khorezm, the centenary of Sergey Tolstov, a discoverer of ancient Khorezm civilization, is marked this year, Jahon news agency reported quoting Business Partner newspaper.

In 1937, he was charged to head an archeological-ethnographic expedition to Khorezm. Sergey Tolstov spent three decades of his life, investigating the history of this ancient land.

His passion for studying Khorezm's architectural monuments made him to cross the Usturt Plateau, loose sand-hills and uninhabited deserts.

Sergey Tolstov is appraised for establishing an open-sky museum in the ancient city of Khiva - Ichan-kala, an architectural national reserve, where the tens of centuries-old cultural monuments and artifacts are protected by the state.

Over 300 of his scholarly works o­n archeology and history of ancient Khorezm were published in many parts of the world, including the US, Great Britain, and Germany. The majority of his manuscripts are now stored in the Republic of Karakalpakstan and the Tashauz Province of Turkmenistan.

Archeologists at the Khiva branch of the Samarkand Archeological Institute named after Jakhya Gulamov have made a sort of gift to Tolstov's 100th anniversary. During their excavation works in Kumbuz-tepa, near the town of Khazarasp, they had unearthed a Bronze Age site of hunters and cattle-breeders. Called Sharofat, the site is no less than 3,500 years old, according to experts.

The archeological-ethnographic complex expedition founded by Sergey Tolstov has been carrying out successful large-scale research into the history, archeology and ethnography of Central Asian peoples for over the span of seven decades now.

The fruitful activity led by the famous Khorezm expedition enabled local scientists to address the broad spectrum of the region's historical, ethnographic and archeological problems. Many scholarly works, monographs and brochures they have created as a result have made a great scientific contribution.

A total of 63 monuments of Zoroastrianism, an extinct religion of the remote past, have been preserved up to the present day across the globe, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Uzbekistan is a home to 38 of them, of which 17 monuments are located in the Khorezm oasis.


March 19 in Russian history

1441: Metropolitan Isidore comes back to Moscow from Florence. Isidore was appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople Joseph II. He convinced the grand knyaz Vasily II in the necessity of the union between the orthodox and catholic churches. In September 1437, he left Moscow with the retinue of 100 people. He had to participate together with other hierarchs of the Greek orthodox church in the ecumenical council of Florence, which was to take place in 1438. During the council, the orthodox hierarchs scrutinized the teaching of the Roman catholic church and concluded that this was an orthodox teaching. On July 6, 1439, they signed the resolution of the council and the Papal bull Laetentur coeli, thus establishing the union between the Greek orthodox church and the Roman catholic church, known as the Union of Florence. Isidore, an active participant of the discussions, was appointed the cardinal-presbyter and the Papal legate in Lithuania, Livonia, Russia and Poland. When he came to Moscow, he read the manifesto of the union in the church and handed to Vasily II a letter from Pope Eugene IV, who asked the Russian tsar to help Isidore to establish a solid and reliable union. Three days later Isidore was detained and sent to the Chudov monastery on the order of Vasily II. In September, half a year later, he fled from the monastery (probably, Vasily II gave him a permission to flee) and went to Tver, then to Lithuania and, at last, to Rome. In 1458 he was appointed the patriarch of Constantinople.

1898: The opening of the Russian museum in St.Petersburg. It was established by the decree of Nicholas II in 1895 and opened three years later. The museum was the first collection of the Russian art: painting, sculpture, furniture, porcelain, embroidery, lace, etc.

1906: The Ministry of Navy of Russia officially recognizes submarines as a special class of ships. Now, this day is the holiday of all sailors of submarines. The first Russian submarines were built in the first half of XVIII century. In 1718 a carpenter Yefim Nikonov sent a letter to Peter I reporting that he can build an underground vessel. The first model was built and successfully tested in 1721. It had a cylindrical wooden hull, covered with leather. The submersion system consisted of a metal "water box", a pump and metal pipes. The water box was filled with water through a number of small holes in special tin plates. It was about 6 meters long and 2 meters in diameter. The second, larger, vessel was finished in 1724, but it was damaged during the launch. After the death of Peter I, the supplies of materials and workforce stopped and in 1728 the Admiralty ordered to stop the works, Nikonov was found guilty in embezzlement in sent into exile to Astrakhan.

In 1786 someone E.Kalyin sent a letter to the Chamber of Commerce, where he said that he had invented a underground vessel. In 1799, S. Romodanovsky from Kremenchug sent an analogous letter. The Academy of Sciences gave a negative response to the proposal, but Romodanovsky built his submarine and invited specialists once again. The submarine worked, but the response was negative again.

In 1829, a political criminal K. Charnovsky proposed a project of a metal submarine. The project included a rotating periscope.

The first real Russian submarine was built in 1834 by an engineer Carl Schilder. It was made of iron, it was 6 meters long, 1.5 meters wide and 1.8 meters high and it was of 16.4 tons displacement. The boat was propelled by four oarsmen. It also sported a periscope. The planned speed was 2.1 kmph, but the real speed was only 0.7 kmph. The boat was armed with an electric mine and rockets, which made the boat the first underground rocket carrier. The second submarine of Schilder was smaller, but not faster.

Ivan Alexandrovsky in 1863 built a submarine with a pneumatic engine, working on the compressed air. This was the first submarine which used compressed air to free the ballast tanks from water for surfacing. The speed was about 1,5 knots. Two years later Alexandrovsky invented a "self-moving mine", named torpedo. Only three years later the Admiralty allowed him to build a torpedo. Unfortunately, Whitehead patented his torpedo in 1866. The torpedo of Alexandrovsky was faster than the Whitehead's (10 knots vs. 7 knots), but the patent law forced the Russian navy to buy the torpedoes from Whitehead. Alexandrovsky developed more projects, including a submarine with the steam engine fueled by oil, but these projects were not implemented.

In 1885, Stefan Drzewiecki builds the first submarine with an electrical engine.

In 1900, the Russian Naval ministry decided to build a submarine which could become a really usable weapon. In May, 1901 the project was ready. The tests started in 1903. In 1904 the submarine was officially named Dolphin. In June 1904, the ship drowned because of negligence of the sailors. And yet, the boat was very good and in 1905 Dolphin participated in the Russo-Japanese war. Since then, the boats were built and used more and more often, eventually leading to the recognition of submarines as a special class of ships.

Russian history 23: New states in Rus and their new enemies in XIII century

By the end of the XII century the decline of Kiev became obvious and the population began to look for better places, trying to escape from the Polovtsians' raids and knyazes' wars. The directions they fled most often were the west, to the Karpatian mountains, and north, the area of dense forests inhabited by the tribes of Vyatiches, and even further to the north, to the so called Zalesye (land behind the forests) on the upper and middle Volga. By the XIII century, in the frontier areas of Rus, three new national centres are formed: Veliky Novgorod, which became autonomous, new city Vladimir, founded in Rostov-Suzdal province, and Galich on river Dniester. The most stable of them was Vladimir, which united the northern tribes. Galich was the weakest and was soon occupied by foreigners. These three cities differed in the form of government. Novgorod was ruled by veche, and eventually turned into a republican state. In Vladimir, the monocratic power of the knyaz was developing. Galich was ruled by the aristocracy — the boyars. In Kiev, these three powers, veche, knyaz and boyars, were in the state of unstable balance and permanent conflict, but now each of them was developing freely in their part of Rus. This led to the differences in the history of these three parts.

At about the same time, new enemies appeared. The place of Polovtsians was taken by Tatars, who came from south-east. In the nort-west, Germans began the expansion into Lithuania and Rus. They formed new colonies in the mouthes of rivers Western Dvina, Neman and Vistula. Further to the north, near Gulf of Finland and river Neva, Swedes kept attacking the lands of Novgorod. Under the pressure of Germans, Lithuanians began to unite and move eastward, entering and robbing Russian cities. Novgorod repelled the Swedish attacks, but the south-western areas along river Dniester were subjugated first by Tatars and later by Lithuanians. Eastern Russia was devastated by Tatars. The knyazes, who were able to unite the forces of Rus to withstand the enemies, became the heroes of those times — Alexander Nevsky in the northern Rus, Daniil Galitsky in the southern Rus and knyaz of Pskov Dovmont, a Lithuanian by origin.

This period was the transition from the history of Kievan state to the histories of the three states which replaced Kiev: Novgorod state, grand duchy of Vladimir and the grand duchy of Lithuania.

Russian history: Chapter 2

We are about to begin with the second chapter which covers the history of some provinces. They obtained independence after the fall of the Kievan Rus. The second chapter will include the following articles:

  • 23: New states in Rus and their new enemies in XIII century
  • 24: Veliky Novgorod: town and province
  • 25: Nature of the Novgorod land. Economy. Trade and trade routes
  • 26: The organization of the Novgorod state
  • 27: Structure of the population of Novgorod and class struggle in Novgorod
  • 28: Pskov
  • 29: Settling of Suzdal province by Slavs and the formation of the great Russian nation
  • 30: Suzdal province: nature and life of the settlers
  • 31: First knyazes of Suzdal
  • 32: Provinces of Volyn' and Galich, their unification
  • 33: Tatars and Batu Khan
  • 34: Tatars' rule in Rus
  • 35: Germans and Lithuania
  • 36: Events in the Northern Rus. Knyaz Alexander Nevsky.
  • 37: Events in the Southern Rus. Knyaz Daniil Galitsky


March 16 in Russian history

1376: Successful end of the Russian campaign in Kazan Khanate. Well, to be precise, it was not the Kazan Khanate yet, which would appear in 1438. Nor was it a part of the Golden Horde, rather a semi-independent province. It was inhabited by settlers from Urals and areas along Volga. Armies of Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod participated in the campaign under the commandment of Dmitri, knyaz of Nizhny Novgorod. Khans Asan (Hasan) and Mamat attempted to use artillery to repulse Russians, but failed. It was agreed that the khans will pay 5,000 rubles to Russians: 1,000 to the knyaz of Moscow, 1,000 to the knyaz of Nizhny Novgorod and 3,000 rubles to the army. The sum was approximately equal to the tribute paid by Russia to the Golden Horde every year. This time, though, it was the first time when Russia received the money from the Golden Horde. Moreover, Kazan agreed to accept the tribute collector from Moscow, which was a whole new turn in the relations between Rus and her eastern neighbours.

1915: The mayor of St.Petersburg orders to close the artistic cabaret Brodyachaya Sobaka (Stray Dog) because of a grandiose brawl that happened there in the end of February, after Vladimir Mayakovsky threw the following verses with contempt to the bourgeois public:

Would I spend my life
To please you, lovers of women and dishes?!
I'll better serve pineapple water
To the whores in restaurants!

Mayakovsky was a giant figure in Russian poetry and art, bigger than poetry itself. Both metaphorically and literally. We, who were born in the USSR, knew him as a political poet, the singer of the socialist revolution. His uneven, syncopated verses looked strange and weird to the schoolchildrens' eyes and uncomfortable for their ears. We didn't like his poetry as the ultimate, to the bones, reflection of the Soviet revolution. His admiration of communism was repulsive:

     pull out
        of my wide trouser-pockets
    of a priceless cargo.
You now:
    read this
        and envy,
            I'm a citizen
of the Soviet Socialist Union!

Or this one:

with you in our hearts,
    Comrade Lenin,
        we build,
we think,
    we breathe,
        we live,
            and we fight!”

And yet... Only when I was sixteen, one of my school mates amazed me by saying: "You don't like Mayakovsky? You don't know him, then." And he read me an excerpt from a poem that blew up my mind. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a translation in the Internet, but, believe me, it totally changed my perception of Mayakovsky.

I saw him differently now and I read and re-read his poems. And they were worth it. Mayakovsky was a poet who could make you cry by yelling at you. Once you notice that the noise he produces is the voice of his bleeding heart and his rudeness is full of tenderness, you are lost. You will read and enjoy and suffer, because the soul torn to pieces, asking for compassion and understanding and finding no response is one of the most terrible things one would like to see. And yet I suggest you go and read...

The violin got all worked up, imploring
then suddenly burst into sobs,
so child-like
that the drum couldn't stand it:
"All right, all right, all right!"
But then he got tired,
couldn't wait till the violin ended,
slipped out on the burning Kuznetsky
and took flight.
The orchestra looked on, chilly,
while the violin wept itself out
without reason
or rhyme,
and only somewhere,
a cymbal, silly,
kept clashing:
"What is it,
what's all the racket about?"
And when the helicon,
Be still!"
I staggered,
on to my feet getting,
and lumbered over the horror-stuck music stands,
"Good God"
why, I myself couldn't tell;
then dashed, my arms round the wooden neck to fling:
"You know what, violin,
we're awfully alike;
I too
always yell,
but can't prove a thing!"
The musicains commented,
contemptuously smiling:
"Look at him-
come to his wooden-bride-
But I don't care-
I'm a good guy-
"You know, what, violin,
let's live together,

read more here.

And, by the way, the Stray Dog re-opened later. Moreover, it was recreated recently and you can visit it when you are in St.Petersburg. And if you read a restaurant review describing the cafe, you might want to say:

Would I spend my life
To please you, lovers of women and dishes?!
I'll better serve pineapple water
To the whores in restaurants!


Russian history 22: Russkaya Pravda and civil institutes in Kievan Russia

Since the times of Vladimir the Saint and Yaroslav the Wise, Russian knyazes attempted to bring a better life to the citizens of their country. Vladimir began to persecute road robbers, seeing their crimes not as a private offense, but as a crime against the state. Yaroslav the Wise created the first Russian written code of law, known as Russkaya Pravda. After Yaroslav, Russkaya Pravda was re-written and amended by his sons and grandsons. Its main goal was to limit and later to abolish the blood feud. The first version of Russkaya Pravda gives the right of vengeance only to the closest relatives of the victim. Later, Yaroslav's sons introduced a new norm which prohibited the revenge. Instead, two kinds of fines appeared: vira was payed to the knyaz and golovnichestvo was payed to the family of the victim. The code also introduced fines not only for murder, but also for other crimes. All fines were measured in grivnas of silver or in kunas (furs). Murder of a member of the druzhina was fined 80 grivnas of silver, murder of a free man -- 40 grivnas, murder of a woman -- 20 grivnas. The law supported the slavery by large fines for stealing of slaves and for hiding runaway slaves.

In the late XII century, when the state was falling apart, the national awareness is being born in various parts of the society. Knyazes remembered that they are all "grandsons of one grandfather". The Kievan chronicler telling about "where the Russian land came to be from" tells not only about Kiev, but about other provinces, too. The author of "The tale of Igor's campaign" writes about the campaign of one of the knyazes, but says that the whole Russian land was sorrow for him when he was captured.

The activity of the first Varangian knyazes turned various Russian tribes into one state. This artificial union became one country when the new religion was brought from Constantinople and became an element of the identity of all Russian provinces. The political unity was destroyed by the knyazes, but the cultural ties were strong enough to keep the people together. This is, in brief, the essence of the Kievan period of the Russian history.


March 13 in Russian history

1807: Death of Nikolay Rezanov, Russian diplomat, merchant, on of the founders of the Russian-American Company, an initiator of the first Russian circumnavigational expedition. He was born in 1764 and was a talented boy. At the age of 14, he spoke 5 languages. Since 1791 till 1793 he works as the secretary of the poet and politician Gavriil Derzhavin. Since 1797 he works in the Senate. He gets married in 1794, but in 1802 his wifed died. In August 1803, he leaves St.Petersburg with the expedition of Ivan Kruzenshtern, visits Japan and goes to Alaska. In Sitka, he meets a unique man, the governor of Russian America, merchant Alexander Baranov. Lack of food in the Russian colonies in Alaska makes the colonists to search for the supplies in the south. In spring of 1806, Rezanov on the ship Juno comes to el presidio Hierba Buena, later known as San Francisco, to sign trading contracts with the Spanish colonists. The Spanish king prohibited the colonists to trade with foreigners, but here a really romantic story begins. Rezanov meets 15 years old donna Maria de la Concepcion Marcella Arguello (or simply Conchita), the daughter of the commander of the fort don Jose Dario Arguello. She fell in love with him and he love her, too. Don Jose also liked the Russian traveler and he did his best to help him. Rezanov offered Conchita to become his wife and she agreed. They engaged, but he had his duties. In June 1806, Juno leaves California with food supplies for Alaska. Rezanov must return to St.Petersburg and then he would return to Conchita. In Alaska, Rezanov get pneumonia, but continues his way back home. In Krasnoyarsk, his weakened heart fails and he dies. Conchita was waiting for him for thirty years. She heard of his death, but did not believe the rumours. At last, in 1849 she becomes a nun in a Dominican monastery. She died in 1857, when she was 67 years old. In Alasks, near Sitka, there is an island named by Rezanov after his bride -- Arguello.

In 1978, poet Andrei Voznesensky and musician Alexander Rybnikov created a musical "Juno and Avos", based on these events. The musical is still very popular in Russia.

1887: An attempt of assassination of Alexander III fails. 15 minutes before the emperor's carriage goes enters the scene, six people with three bombs are detained. A month and a half later, the five organizers of the plot were sentenced to death. One of them was Alexander Ulyanov, brother of Vladimir Ulyanov, aka Lenin. Alexander III, having read the revolutionary program of the terrorists, notes: "This is not even a madman's writing, but a creation of a complete idiot".

1930: The last unemployment office in Moscow is closed. USSR becomes the first country of the world without unemployment.

1964: A Soviet trial in Leningrad sentences the great Russian poet Joseph Brodsky to 5 years of exile for "parasitism".

Russian history 21: Structure of the population of the Kiev state

The members of the druzhina were a special class of the population. Only in a druzhina one could become a boyarin and enter the aristocracy. The main part of the Kievan society consisted of two large groups: free people (muzhi) and slaves. With the growth of the cities, muzhi divided into the urban population and the village population. Two classes were distinguished in the urban population: "better", or rich people, and "black", or poor people. The former class included merchants and the latter class consisted mainly of craftsmen. The free village population was named smerds. If a smerd agreed to work on the land of another land-owner using the employer's tools and cattle, he ceased to be a free man and became a zakup (bought man). A zakup was not a slave. He could become a smerd again if he could find enough money to pay for his freedom. Smerds lived in communities named vervs or pogosts and payed tribute to the knyaz. Just like in the pagan times, slavery was widespread. Slaves, or kholops were bought and sold. Debtors who couldn't pay their debt were turned into slaves. Slaves' children also became slaves. The influence of Christianity made the lives of the slaves easier, but couldn't eradicate the tradition itself. In many villages owned by boyars, the population consisted only of slaves.


March 12 in Russian history

1899: The first international ice hockey match in Russia. Russian team Sport plays against the team of British citizens living in St.Petersburg. The game took place on the ice of Neva. The score is 4:4.

1940: The end of the Soviet-Finnish war known as the Winter War. On the one hand, USSR reached all the planned goals: the border was moved farther from Leningrad and Murmansk, obtained the Karelian isthmus, islands in the Gulf of Finland, Ladoga lake and territories in the North. On the other hand, the international prestige of the USSR both as a partner and as a possible enemy was seriously damaged. The consequences were much worse for Finland. The worst being that this war forced Finland to co-operate with the Nazi Germany, turning the country into the losing side of the WWII.

1964: General Pyotr Grigorenko is sent to the psychiatric investigation. General-major Grigorenko was born in 1907. In 1934 he graduated from the Academy of Military Engineering and in 1939 from the Academy of the Army General Staff. In 1939 he was granted an audience with A.Vyshinsky, the Prosecutor General of the USSR and informed him of "abuses of power" by the NKVD officials in Zaporozhye. The information was provided by Grigorenko's brother Ivan, who was arrested, and later released. Some time later a number of the organizers of repressions in Zaporozhye were arrested themselves. Grigorenko wrote later: "Only many years after I understood that the case ended to my satisfaction only because it coincided with the change of the leaders in NKVD. It was the new broom of Beria." After the war General Grigorenko works in the M.Frunze Military Academy. In 1961, he says a speech on a regional Communist Party congress, where he says: "We approve the draft programme where the cult of personality is condemned, but do we do everything possible to avoid the restoration of such cult?" He proposed to democratize the elections, to promote the accountability of the party authorities and their rotation, to abolish high salaries of the party officials. He was fired from the Academy after this speech.

In 1962-1964 Grigorenko works in the army on the Far East. In 1963 he creates "The Union of Struggle for Restoration of Leninism". He wrote leaflets where he demanded to dismiss bureaucrats, called for free elections, for the control of the people over the authorities, for the "replaceability" (is this the word for the possibility to dismiss the officials unable to cope with their tasks?) On the February 1, 1964 he and his sons who were also members of the Union, are arrested. He was excluded from the party, discharged to rank-and-file soldier, stripped of all awards and sent to the Leningrad special psychiatric hospital. After the resignment of Khrushchev he was release from the hospital. He wrote a book published only in Samizdat, where he accused Stalin of many errors in the first years of the war, which led to many tragedies. In 1967 he unofficially read lectures on the history of the World War II to the students of the Moscow State University.

The experience of the "Union of Struggle for Restoration of Leninism" led him to the conclusion that the underground resistance to the Soviet power is useless. "We know that in the underground one can meet only rats," he wrote. These words became the title of his book, which is available online in Russian (see В подполье можно встретить только крыс). In 1967 he supported the national movement of the Crimean Tatars, who demanded to allow them to return from deportation to Crimea. In 1969 he was sent to the psychiatric hospital again, where he was diagnosed in the following way: "suffers from a mental disorder in the form of pathological (paranoid) personality with reformatory ideas."

In 1974 under the pressure of the international community he was released. In 1976 he joined the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group and becomes a co-founder of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. In 1977 he goes to the USA to meet with his son, who emigrated earlier. Some months later his Soviet citizenship was cancelled and he lost the right to return to the USSR. The US army offered him a position in the West Point academy, but Grigorenko refused: "I am a Soviet -- former Soviet -- general and I cannot teach our enemies." In 1987, Pyotr Grigorenko died in New York.

In 1997 President Yeltsin signed the decree "On the perpetuation of the memory of Grigorenko P.G.". President of Ukraine L.Kuchma awarded P.Grigorenko with the order "For the courage". An avenue in Kiev is named after P.Grigorenko. Crimean Tatars built a monument to the general in Simferopol.

Regional elections in Russia

Yesterday, 14 regions of Russia, including Samara oblast, elected local parliaments. As usual, there were two lists: a list of candidates and a list or parties. The local parliament will include the winners of both parts of the election.

In our region, there were seven political parties in the parties list: pro-Putin puppet parties United Russia and Fair Russia, infamous extreme populist Liberal-Democratic party of Russia, led by scandalous Zhirinovsky, the Communist party, democratic Union of Right Forces (SPS), Green party and Patriots of Russia.

The two latter parties are newcomers on the political scene. I spent some years in the green movement in about 1988-1993 and left it when they finally turned into an agglomerate of anarchist groups. IMO, the problems with common sense, typical for greens, are a good reason not to vote for them, but greens could be useful on the local level. What kept me from voting for them was that the modern Green party was headed in Samara by an eccentric millionaire, ex-owner of a FM radio, casino and a pet shop, who planned to build a monument to himself ten years ago. Greens? No, thanks.

Patriots of Russia are a strange party who oppose Putin as a pro-Western, pro-capitalist and liberal president. You can imagine what their views look like.

All of the above left only one choice for me. I voted for the Union of Right Forces, whose program is, in essence, the following: civil rights, protection of property rights, privatization and liberalization of economy, freedom of mass media, restoration of principles of federalism, freedom of professional unions, market economy as a instrument to create environment-friendly technologies and to stop the over-exploitation of natural reserves.

The preliminary results are: in most regions United Russia leads with 40-60%. CPRF and Fair Russia share the 2-3 places. LDPR is fourth.

In Samara oblast, United Russia leads with 34%, Communists have 19%, Fair Russia has 15%, LDPR are fourth with 11.5%, SPS is on the fifth place with 8.2%, Greens have 7.5%. Patriots failed to reach the 7% level necessary to enter the parliament, they have only 1.4%.

Update: Newsru.com reports (link in Russian) of a funny case on the elections in Kurgan oblast. In one of the villages where 30 electors are officially registered, only two people voted: the candidate himself and his friend. Quite naturally, the candidate was elected with 2 votes. According to the new Russian laws which abolish the minimum turnout requirement, the election was absolutely valid.

Russian history 20: Political structure of the provinces of the Kiev state

We have seen that the Kievan Rus in the IX century consisted of a number of parts called knyazhestvo or volost'. First, they were ruled by Varangian or Slavic knyazes. Later, these districts submitted to the grand knyazes of Kiev. As long as there was only one knyaz in Kiev, knyazhestva were managed by the deputies of the knyaz, posadniks. These posadniks could be children of the knyazes of Kiev or members of their druzhinas. When the family of the grand princes multiplied and split into branches, knyazes appeared in almost every significant city. Not all of them willingly submitted to the grand knyaz and often they attempted to become independent rulers. By XII century, most of them succeeded and the Kievan state turned into a number of separate lands, named after their capitals. The most important of them were: Kiev, Chernigov and Seversk, Volyn', Galich -- in the southern Russia; Polotsk, Smolensk, Novgorod, Rostov and Suzdal, Murom and Ryazan -- in the northern Russia.

There was one main, or grand, town in each of these lands, and "younger" towns, or prigorods. The lands were ruled by veche, an assembly of free citizens. Veche elected a new military leader, knyaz and signed a "contract" with him. Veche also elected the elders who managed other, non-military affairs. Veche decided whether a war should be started or a peace treaty be signed. When the dynasty of Kievan knyazes subjugated other lands, the area of responsibility of veche became narrower, but in the XII century, with the decline of Kiev, veche took back the power to elect the elders or to start and stop wars. The council of the elders was headed by tysyatsky (head of the thousand), who was also the head of the militia. He was assisted by sotsky (head of a hundred) and desyatsky (head of ten). Veche of larger cities send posadniks to prigorods. Sometimes, e.g. in Novgorod, veche also elected a posadnik for the main city, who did not submit to the knyaz.

Very few documents describing these assemblies survived and we know very little of the laws which defined their activity. Each case was reported to veche either by the elders or by knyaz. The decision was made by shouting. When it was not clear which party was louder, the case was often solved by fighting. Veche usually took place on the major square of a city.

Knyaz was a military leader and received a payment called dan' (tribute) for his service. Together with his druzhina he led the town's militia. In the periods of peace, knyaz was the chief judge in his land. He sometimes called veche and asked for their advice. He also was responsible for the foreign affairs, contacted the neighbor knyazes and foreign rulers.

Druzhina consisted of two groups, the younger and the elder. The elder druzhina included free and noble people, boyars (sing. boyarin) and muzhi (singular muzh). The younger druzhina consisted of non-free and half-free people, gridi and otroki. Some of the members of the elder druzhina participated in the knyaz's council, duma, which sometimes included also the city elders. Boyars served the knyaz voluntarily and they had the right to leave him at any time. So, the knyaz never took any decisions without first consulting the duma. Every boyarin had his own druzhina and was a land-owner. The number of people in the knyaz's druzhina reached sometimes one thousand men.


March 8: Tomorrow's holiday

Tomorrow, on March 8, Russia celebrates the International Women's Day. It is rarely celebrated in the West, but it is. It is not a political event here, though. As some smart author wrote in Wikipedia, it is a mix of the Mother's day and St.Valentine's day.

I see no reason to write on the history of this holiday, I just wanted to congratulate all women, all girls who happen to read this article with the day of spring, beauty and love!

Oh, BTW, I think I will be busy this day, so there will be no updates tomorrow :)

March 7 in Russian history

1573: Ivan Fyodorov (Moskvitin), known as the first Russian book printer, founds a typography in Lviv. It is assumed that he was born around 1510. Probably, it happened in Petkovichi, somewhere between Minsk and Brest in modern Byelorussia. In 1529-1532 he studied, it seems, in the Kraków university in Poland).In the end of XIV century, there was a typography in Kraków, run by Szwaipolt Feol (spelling may be wrong. Does anybody know the correct spelling?) and Ivan Fyodorov could learn printing there. Till 1550, he lived in Ukraine, where he became known as a cannon maker and he is said to be the inventor of a multibarrelled mortar. In 1550 he comes to Moscow, where he joins the retinue of the metropolitan Makarius and becomes a deacon in a church and participates in a "commission" to agree variant versions of church books. Fyodorov also works in the so called Anonymous typography, founded on order of metropolitan Makarius. This typography never produced any books, only some sample pages. In 1553, Ivan the Terrible orders to organize another typography. On the request of the tsar, the king of Denmark sent a specialist to assist and advise, but when the typography finally starts working in 1563, it is not managed by a foreigner, but by Ivan Fyodorov. On April 19, 1563, Ivan Fyodorov and Pyotr Mstislavets begin working on a book call Acts and Epistles of the Saint Apostles (or simply Apostolos). In this book, Fyodorov and Mstislavets developed the rules of Russian bookprinting, new fonts and other principles which defined the appearance of Russian books for centuries.

In 1563, Makarius died and the printers lost their patron. Clerics and, of course, scribes, start persecuting the innovators. They print other books, but in 1566, the fire destroyed the typography and Fyodorov and Mstislavets decided to leave to Lithuania. Ivan the Terrible lets them go and they come to the great hetman of Lithuania, H. Khodkevich, who welcomes them and organizes a typography in his estate in Zabludovo. In 1569 Mstislavets goes to Vilnius and Fyodorov keeps working in Zabludovo. By 1570, Khodkevich loses his influence and Fyodorov cannot continue his business and decides to go to Lviv. Here, in 1573, he organizes the first typography in Ukraine. In 1575, he meets knyaz Konstantin Ostrozhsky, the owner of a large estate Ostrog (or Ostrih). Konstantin supported the Ukrainian national movement and tried to collect the Ukrainian intellectuals. While living in Ostrog, Fyodorov prints a number of religious books, the Chronology by Andrei Rymsha, a dictionary by Timofey Annich called The Book, etc. He often visits Kraków and Lviv. In 1576 he visits Turkey. In 1582 he decides to establish a new typography in Kiev, but in 1583 Ivan Fyodorov died.

1757: The first joint stock company in Russia is organized, "Russian company trading in Constantinople". Only members of the royal family were allowed to buy shares. Public joint stock companies appeared only after 1805, when Alexander I signed the decree "On the public liability of joint stock companies". By 1829, 19 new companies were working in Russia.

1891: Diplomatic relationships are established between Russia and the Great Duchy of Luxembourg

1960: Sailors of the USS Kearsarge notice a barge in the middle of the Pacific ocean. They find four Soviet soldiers on the barge. Askhat Ziganshin, Anatoly Kryuchkovsky, Filipp Poplavsky and Ivan Fedotov were on the barge when on January 17 it was driven by a storm into the open ocean. It had happened before but they had managed to use the diesel engines to get back. This time the wind was too strong. They had a loaf of bread and a small bag with grain. They found some kilograms of potato smelling with diesel fuel. For more than a month they survived on these scarce resources. When they finished with it, they boiled and ate leather wrist watch straps. Then came the belts. Then came the boots. They boiled them a number of times, "till the water stopped to get black", cut them in small pieces and fried these cuts using the sea water instead of salt. "It was like potato chips," Ziganshin recalled later. They tried to eat toothpaste and soap, but the idea was rejected. They also drank the rain water. 5 gulps per day. Later the norm was lowered to 3 gulps per day.

During the storm, a wooden box with the name of the barge was lost and later found on the beach, so the Soviet army authorities were convinced that the four had drowned and sent the notifications to their families.

There were so many holes in the hull that every day they spent hours trying to pump away the water.

They were often asked if they had conflicts, quarrels or even why they didn't eat each other. Kryuchkovsky recalled later: "None of us had a nervous breakdown. Under those conditions, if I tried to raise my voice, I wouldn't be talking to you now." When they sailed on Queen Mary to Europe, a sailor told them that he was in a similar situation and a number of people died. Not because of starvation or thirst, but they were killed in fights.

On March 2 and 6 they saw ships passing by, but they were not noticed. On March 7 they saw helicopters. Some hours later the aircraft carrier Kearsarge appeared, but stayed on a distance. The pilots offered them to climb up, but they refused. When asked, why, Kryuchkovsky shrugs: "We hoped that they have elevators on Kearsarge to lift the barge. We wanted to save the socialist property". On the other hand, Ziganshin recalls that when asked why the ship didn't come close to the barge the Americans answered that they were a bit afraid of Russians. A journalist from Life magazine asked them if they would like to sell their story. The notion of selling a story must have been even more weird to them as it is now to me, and they refused. He asked then if they would like to ask for an asylum in the USA. "God forbid," Ziganshin answered, "we want to go home."

This adventure was incredibly popular in the USSR. There was even a song, called Ziganshin-boogy ("Ziganshin-rock, Ziganshin-boogy, Poplavsky ate a letter from his girlfriend! Ziganshin-boogy, Ziganshin-rock, Poplavsky eats his second boot!")

Kryuchkovsky lives now in Kiev. Ziganshin lives in Lomonosov, near St.Petersburg. Fedotov and Poplavsky died.


March 6 in Russian history

1913: Russia begins to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the house of Romanovs. During the celebrations the royal family visited a number of cities especially important in the history of Russia and the royal house: Moscow, Vladimir, Suzdal, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Kostroma, where Mikhail Romanov learned in 1613 that he was elected the new tsar. On the anniversary day, Nikolay II received congratulations from highest statesmen in the Winter Palace. Among these statesmen there was the chairman of the State Duma Mikhail Rodzyanko, who would demand the tsar to abdicate the throne. On that day, after a speech, Rodzyanko presented an icon of Christ to Nikolay II.

1917: Manifesto on the restoration of the independence of Finland. Finland was a part of the Russian empire since 1809, when the "four Estates" of Finland pledged allegiance to the emperor Alexander I and the emperor gave the solemn assurance of sovereign rights, promising to respect the constitutional rights of the Finnish citizens. Since 1890s Russia begins to limit the Finnish autonomy justifying it by the necessity to bring Finnish laws in agreement with the imperial laws. In 1900, a law was adopted which aims to replace the Finnish language with Russian in the state establishments. In 1901, the freedom of assembly in Finland was limited. In 1903, the governor of Finland is granted the extraordinary authority. The police of Finland was autonomous from the Russian police and in 1904 Russian revolutionaries begin terrorist acts in Finland and kill the governor Bobrikov and some other people.

The situation is threatening, but in 1905 Russian government attempts to restore good relations. The authorities of the governor are withdrawn, the constitution of Finland is restored, a new law on elections is adopted by the Finnish parliament, Finnish and Swedish languages are officially proclaimed the state languages. For the first time in the world, the universal suffrage is granted to all citizens, including women.

In 1909, though, things are getting worse again and the parliament is dissolved and only in 1917, after the February revolution and the fall of the monarchy the constitution is restored. The Provisional Government did not plan to give independence to Finland, since it was agreed that this question should be left to the Constituent Assembly. Moreover, the Provisional Government in principle was against the secessions of any kind (and I would support them, to tell you the truth). However, the pro-independence movement gets stronger in Finland and in summer the parliament is dissolved again.


March 5 in Russian history

1820: After the discovery of the Antarctica, Faddey Bellinsgauzen departs to Australia for repair. After that, he spends the summer of 1820 in the Southern Seas, where he discovers 17 previously unknown islands.

1877: Premiere of Swan Lake, the first ballet written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (other sources give the date March 4). The premiere took place in the Bolshoi Theatre. This ballet is sometimes called the most politicized ballet in the world. In the days of USSR, every time you saw the ballet on all (two) TV channels, you knew something had gone wrong in the country: either the general secretary died, or a coup had happened.

1901: The Russian Orthodox church officially announces that Leo Tolstoy is anathematized. He replies: "I am convinced that the teaching of the church is a harmful lie in the theoretical questions and the collection of the most vulgar superstitions in the practical matters, hiding completely the meaning of the Christian teaching."

1919: A peasants revolt, known as the chapan war, begins in the village Novodevichye in the Samara province (chapan is a peasants upper dress). The main reasons were the prodrazvyorstka (the governmental program of food expropriation, when all peasants were obliged to sell what the government considered a surplus to the government for a fixed, very low price), control over the Soviets established by bolsheviks, the red terror and the persecution of religion. In just a few days, the peasants managed to create a new political, social and military structures. A peasants' army was formed, the Soviets were re-elected and a newspaper was organized. The newspaper wrote that the rebellion is not directed against the Soviets, but against "the power of tyrants, murderers and robbers -- communists, anarchists and others, who kill people, take the last grain and kettle, destroy icons", etc. The revolt was led by the Union of Toiling Peasants, a mix of a trade union and a politicized co-operative, created during the revolution of 1905 and not controlled by any political party. There were about 150,000 people participating in the revolt and it was the largest peasants revolt in Russian history. Unfortunately, the rebels had only some hundred rifles and some machine guns. Others were armed with axes and pikes. And yet, they managed to establish control over Stavropol (modern Togliatti, the city where I was born). The province was located on the borderline between the Red and White armies and the rebellion was very dangerous for the bolsheviks. The revolt was suppressed in March 1919 and thousands were killed.

1942: The Seventh Symphony (also known as Leningradskaya) of Dmitri Shostakovich is performed for the first time in Kuibyshev (Samara). On March 29 it is performed in Moscow, on June 22 -- in London and Tashkent, on July 9 -- in Novosibirsk, on July 19 -- in New York.


March 2 in Russian history

Today's Day in Russian history will be unusual. It will be a collection of the events all over the world which happened on this day in 1960s, which afffected the lives of many people in the USSR and defined our mindsets for two-three decades

1964: The Beatles start filming The Hard Day's Night. The movie was not shown in the USSR, but the music became widely known and loved.

1965: USA begin operation "Rolling Thunder" in Northern Vietnam. The "American militarists and imperialists" became a cliché of the Soviet propaganda. Not without a reason, but by that time we already knew that the propaganda lies. Even in the cases when they were saying truth, we didn't believe them. For example, when we saw photos of poor districts of New York, we thought something like: "Ha, you won't cheat me anymore!" or "What they don't tell us is that their welfare payments are larger than our salary!" I sometimes think that if the Soviets didn't lie to their own citizens, USSR could have lasted much longer.

1968: Syd Barrett leaves Pink Floyd. Oh, we really loved PF. The Wall and the Dark Side of the Moon were the favourite albums of the intellectual wannabes. The sound of helicopter rolling from the speakers standing on a window-sill filled the yards. We knew a lot of legends about Syd Barrett, but as it turned out, none of them was even close to the reality.

1969: The incident on the Damansky (Zhenbao) island, when 30 Chinese soldiers crossed the border and killed a group of Soviet border guards. In the 1970s the war with China seemed inevitable. We sang humorous songs about Chinese paratroopers, told anecdotes about the Chinese crossing the border "in small groups, from 1 to 2 million men" and were reluctantly preparing to leave the dangerous cities to a village to wait till the war ends.

1970: Alexander Tvardovsky was forced to resign from the post of the editor-in-chief of the Novy Mir literary magazine. Tvardovsky was a writer and a poet. In 1962, he published "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Solzhenitsyn in Novy Mir and turned the magazine into the favourite reading of the Soviet intelligentsia. His resignation became another symbol of the end of the liberalization of 1960s.

And, of course, I can't forget this anniversary: in 1859, a boy named Sholom Rabinovich, was born in Pereyaslav, near Kiev. 25 years later he grows into Sholom-Aleichem, one of the greatest authors writing in Yiddish. He was often called "the Jewish Mark Twain", which says a lot about his style and writings. In 1905, after pogroms, he was forced to emigrate. He spent his last years in Geneva and New York, where he at last met Mark Twain, who said that he thinks of himself as of the American Sholom-Aleichem.


March 1 in Russian history

1325: The metropolitan Peter moves from Vladimir to Moscow, making Moscow the religious centre of Russia. This event later resulted into the political rise of Moscow.

1799: The ober-polizmeister of St.Petersburg prohibits an improper dance called the waltz.

1810: Alexander I issues a manifesto on the adjoinment of Abkhazia to the Russian empire. Since the end of the XVIII century the princes of Abkhazia were trying to avoid the influence of the Ottoman empire. Pro-Russian prince Kelesh-bey was killed in 1808 and his son, Safarbey-Georgy, asked the Russian government for protection in 1809.

1869: Dmitri Mendeleev discovers the periodic table of chemical elements. Unlike his predecessors, he managed to formulate the periodicity as the law and to make certain predictions based on the law.