April 26 in Russian history

1164: The Golden Gate is built in Vladimir marking the finishing of the city wall. There were five gates in the wall, but only one of them survived. The gate is a limestone tower with a large arch, a battle ground above it and a miniature temple on the top. The arch was 15 meters high in the XII century, but now the ground level is 1.5 meters higher than it was. There is a stairway leading from the internal side of the gate to the battle ground and to the temple. There is an old inscription (XII-XIII centuries) on one of the windows, but I couldn't read what is written there :). The earth wall with wooden fence was adjacent to the tower. Now, there's a museum in the Golden Gate where you can see a diorama of the siege of Vladimir by Tatars in 1238, weapons of XIII and later centuries. Tatars couldn't get through the gate and entered the city through the broken wooden fence. The gate was rebuilt many times since then. For example, in XVIII century, when the empress Catherine visited Vladimir, her cart was too wide to squeeze into the arch (about 5 meters) and she ordered to make a road around the gate. The parts of the wall adjacent to the gate were dug out and a road was built. Unfortunately, the wall was supporting the gate and the gate began to fall apart. It was decided to enforce it with counterforts. These counterforts now hide a large part of the original structure. The temple at the top was also rebuilt. The remains of the earth wall are still seen from both sides of the gate.

1912: Vladislav Starevich finishes in Moscow the first puppet cartoon, The Beautiful Leukanida, a parody of medieval novels. Starevich was born in 1882 in Moscow and spent his childhood in Lithuania and Estonia. Since childhood he was interested in entomology and in 1910 he became the director of a museum of natural history in Kaunas. Then he began to make films about insects. The first films, The life of dragon-flies and The Stag Beetles, were made in 1910. Filming insects was not an easy task and then he finds a great idea. He saw the puppet animations made by the French father of animation, Émile Cohl, and decided to use dead insects to film a stop-motion animation. In 1911, he moved to Moscow and met one of the first Russian movie entrepreneurs, Alexander Khanzhonkov, who was so impressed by these cartoons that offered Starevich to make a stop-motion animation with a consistent storyline. The Beautiful Leukanida became the first such animation in the world. It was very successful (an reviewer of a British newspaper admitted that he does not understand how it was made. If the beetles are trained, the trainer must be a man of a magic fantasy and patience. That these are the real beetles is clearly seen.) and was quickly followed by other similar cartoons from the life of insects: The Cameraman's Revenge, Dragonfly and ant, Christmas in the woods, etc. Later, Starevich makes also traditional movies mixed with animated scenes: The Night Before Christmas (based on N.Gogol's stories) and Terrible Vengeance. After the revolution of 1917, Starevich moves to Yalta and then emigrates to Paris. Unlike other Russian refugees, he finds a new job immediately after arriving to France. He adapts his name to a more comfortable for a French ear Ladislas Starevich and continues making his animations. He makes Aesop's fable into the movie The Frogs That Demand a King and tens of other movies. His highest achievement became The Tale of the Fox (Le Roman de Renard), the first feature-length puppet animation. He started this film in France, but it was later financed by the Third Reich, interested in popularization of the German culture, and this Goethe's masterpiece suited their goals. This association with the Nazis was, probably, the reason why this film is not remembered today. Some other cartoons by Starevich may be found online. For example, Cameraman's Revenge and The Insect's Christmas are available here. A good article about Starevich is Entomology and Animation: A Portrait of An Early Master Ladislaw Starewicz.

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