June 29 in Russian history

I had planned to write about the battle of Kosovo yesterday, but I was too busy. Sorry. I still would like to mention this anniversary, so here's a photo of a graffiti in Samara. It says in Serbian: "Serbs and Russians are brothers forever. Greece, Serbia, Russia. ".

1561: The Saint Basil's Cathedral is officially opened in Moscow. The construction started in 1555 to commemorate the victory over the Kazan Khanate. The building was consecrated in 1557 and was named the Cathedral of intercession of the Virgin on the moat, but the construction went on till 1561. It is still unclear who was the architect. The traditional version says that there were two of them: Barma and Postnik. It is possible, though, that these are two names of one man. Yet another version maintains that it was an anonymous architect from Western Europe. The temple consists of eight towers grouped around the ninth one. Once again, traditionally each tower is thought to be dedicated to a certain battle with Kazan. Viewed from the top, they look like two squares forming an eight-pointed star. Number 8 represents the resurrection of Christ and what was called "the eighth kingdom" — the age after the second coming of Christ, after the end of the human history represented by the apocalyptic number 7. The square is a symbol of solid faith and persistence. Its four corners are the four evangelists, four sides of the world, four ends of the cross, four equal sides of the celestial Jerusalem. The eight-pointed star should also remind of the Bethlehem star and symbolize the Christian church which leads human beings, like a star, to the celestial Jerusalem. Mary sometimes appears on orthodox icons in a shawl with three eight-pointed stars.

The cathedral is small, but there's a reason for this. No cathedral would be large enough to accomodate all Muscovites. So, during large holidays, like Easter or Christmas, the whole Red Square became a church and the cathedral played the role of the altar in this church.

Yet another theory says that the cathedral was modeled after the famous Qol-Sharif mosque in Kazan, destroyed by Ivan the Terrible. However, we do not know how the mosque looked like. It is clear, though, that the new Qol-Sharif built in 2005, however beautiful, is not a copy of the old one.

Initially, there were 16 more little towers around the main one, but in late XVIII century they were removed and the temple was painted the way we see it today. In the end of the XVII century one more tower was added, the tower of St.Basil. In 1924 during the archaeological excavations, bricked up narrow loopholes were found in the lower tier of the edifice. Probably, it was intended to serve as a small bastion.

In 1812, Napoleon first planned to move the temple to Paris, but someone explained to him that it was impossible, he ordered to destroy it. The temple was saved by a sudden rain which extinguished the fuses leading to the explosives. After the revolution, bolsheviks also planned to get rid of the cathedral. In 1919 the senior priest was executed and in 1929 Lazar Kaganovich, the head of the apparatus of the Communist Party, offered to dismantle the cathedral. A rumour is that he prepared a small model of the Red Square to prove to Stalin that the temple was an obstacle for the traffic. During the discussion he suddenly said: "And what if we do so?" and tore away the St.Basil from the model. Stunned Stalin was silent for some seconds and then he said slowly: "Put it back, Lazar." However, the truth is probably that the temple was saved due to the activity of a prominent restorator P.Baranovsky. They say that he fell on his knees before the Central Committee of the Communist Party, imploring to spare the temple.

As for Basil (Vassily) himself, he was a Moscow fool. He was born in 1469 and died in 1552. When he was 16, he began to prophesy. He walked almost naked and lived on the streets. He threw stones into the houses of the people who led sinful (in his opinion) life. He used to smash up the stalls in the marketsquares when he thought that the owners were too greedy. When Ivan the Terrible gave him gold, he didn't give it to the poor, but handed to a nearby merchant. It was found out later that this merchant lost all his possessions recently and didn't dare to ask for alms. The tsar gave him wine, but Vassily poured it away to "quench" the fire in Novgorod. He often rebuked Ivan the Terrible and was the only man Ivan was afraid of. Ivan was among the people who carried Vassily's coffin in 1552.


June 26 in Russian history

1927: 80 years ago a Soviet film director Vladimir Motyl was born. His father was arrested by Cheka in 1930 and sent to a concentration camp in Solovki, where he died a year after. His grandfather refused to join a kolkhoz, so the family was sent to the Far North and their house was robbed. In the exile his aunt went mad and one of his uncles died from cancer. During the war, two other uncles volunteered to the Soviet Army. One of them was killed and the other returned from the war without legs. The grandfather and grandmother died in the occupied Belorussia. When the family was sent to exile, Motyl's mother was in Ukraine, where she worked with a famous Russian pedagogue Anton Makarenko, so she and little Volodya escaped the exile. Several years later, though, they were sent to the Northern Urals, where Volodya's mother worked in a children's prison. Volodya became interested in theatre. As a schoolboy, he staged short plays, drew decorations and performed in these plays. After the school, he graduated from the theatre institute in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). He worked as a theatre director in various theatres in Siberia and Urals. For all this time he dreamed about cinema and at last he got a job at the Sverdlovsk movie studio. Then he moves to Tajikistan and in 1963 he at last makes his first film — "The Children of Pamir" about a young teacher who comes to Tajikistan in the first years after the revolution. The film was welcomed by critics and received some awards in the USSR and abroad.

Soon he makes another, his first famous film, "Zhenya, Zhenechka, and «Katyusha»" together with a popular (and good!) writer, poet and singer Bulat Okudzhava. It was a romantic tragedy of love on the war. There were some funny episodes in the movie which were considered "inappropriate" and even "blasphemous" for a war movie and Motyl was prohibited from making other movies. However, he was invited the the movie studio of Grigory Chukhray, who had an outstanding position in the Soviet movie industry. At this studio in 1969 Motyl makes one the evergreens of the Soviet cinema — "The White Sun of the Desert".

"The White Sun of the Desert" was one of the first "ostern", or "eastern" movies (parody on western movies). The adventures of a Red Army soldier Sukhov became the unquenchable source of quotations and the favourite movie of the three generations. The song "Your Excellence Lady Luck" remains to be one of the best known film songs. Soviet and Russian cosmonauts traditionally watch this movie before every flight ("If you haven't seen the movie five times, you're not ready to fly". AFAIK, the foreign members of space teams who depart from Russian launchpads also participate in the ritual). They even enjoy quizes exclusively dedicated to this movie, with questions like "What was the name of Abdullah's third wife?" or "What was the size of Ekaterina's thigh?" (the correct answer is "half-screen") or "What hand grenades were used in the movie?" (the correct answer was "the grenades of the wrong system"), etc.

When the script was still in preparation, one deputy minister said: "Look, what is this? You write: there were 5 Uzbeks, 7 Kazakhs, 4 Kirgiz, 3 Turkmen among the bandits. Do you understand that on the very next day the secretaries of the Central Committees of every republic will call me and ask why there are more Uzbeks than Kirgiz? Let there be 5 bandits from every republic. The East is a delicate matter." This phrase, "the East is a delicate matter", became a part of the movie and one of the favourite quotations.

When the work was over, the censors prepared a list of 27 changes which had to be made. Motyl refused and the film was suspended. Then, one Sunday evening, when Leonid Brezhnev was at rest on his villa, the staff lost a Western action movie he wanted to see. "The White Sun of the Desert" was proposed as a replacement. After the movie Brezhnev called to the minister of culture and said "Thank you for the film. You're making good movies." Soon, the "White Sun" was released. In 1995, it won the poll "The most favourite movie" in Russia.

In 1975, Motyl made yet another very popular movie, "The Star of Captivating Bliss" about the Decembrists revolt in 1825 and about the wifes of the rebels who followed their husbands to the exile in Siberia. The name is often translated into English as "The star of captivating fortune", or "happiness", or "joy". This is a line of the Pushkin's short poem "To Chaadayev".

Now, Motyl is making a new film, "The Purple Colour of the Snowfall".


June 22 in Russian history

For obvious reasons, today we will recall only one event.

1941: Below are four speeches delivered on 22-23 June 1941.

Hitler, German reichsfuehrer (excerpts):

While I made every effort to undertake a final attempt to pacify the Balkans and in sympathetic cooperation with Il Duce invited Yugoslavia to join the Tripartite Pact, England and Soviet Russia in a joint conspiracy organized that coup d'etat which in one night removed the then government which had been ready to come to agreement.

For we can today inform the German nation that the Serb Putsch against Germany did not take place merely under the British, but primarily under Soviet Russian auspices. As we remained silent on this matter also, the Soviet leaders now went still one step further. They not only organized the Putsch, but a few days later also concluded that well-known friendship pact with the Serbs in their will to resist pacification of the Balkans and incite them against Germany.

And this was no platonic intention: Moscow demanded mobilization of the Serb Army.

Since even now I still believe it better not to speak, those in power in the Kremlin went still further: The Government of the German Reich today possesses documentary evidence which proves that Russia, in order finally to bring Serbia into the war, gave her a promise to supply her via Salonika with arms, aircraft, munitions and other war materials against Germany.

And this happened almost at the very moment when I myself advised Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka that eased tension with Russia always was in hope, thereby to serve the cause of peace.

Only the rapid advance of our incomparable divisions to Skoplie as well as the capture of Salonika itself frustrated the aims of this Soviet Russian-Anglo-Saxon plot. Officers of the Serb air force, however, fled to Russia and were there immediately received as allies.

The victory of the Axis Powers in the Balkans in the first instance thwarted the plan to involve Germany this Summer in months-long battles in Southeastern Europe while meantime steadily completing the alignment of Soviet Russian armies and increasing their readiness for war in order, finally, together with England and supported by American supplies anticipated, to crush the German Reich and Italy.

Thus Moscow not only broke but miserably betrayed the stipulations of our friendly agreement. All this was done while the rulers in the Kremlin, exactly as in the case of Finland and Rumania, up to the last moment pretended peace and friendship and drew up an ostensibly innocent démenti.

Although until now I was forced by circumstances to keep silent again and again, the moment has now come when to continue as a mere observer would not only be a sin of omission but a crime against the German people-yes, even against the whole of Europe.

Today something like 160 Russian divisions are standing at our frontiers. For weeks constant violations of this frontier have taken place, not only affecting us but from the far north down to Rumania.

Russian airmen consider it sport nonchalantly to overlook these frontiers, presumably to prove to us that they already feel themselves masters of these territories.

During the night of June 17 to June 18 Russian patrols again penetrated into the Reich's territory and could only be driven back after prolonged firing. This has brought us to the hour when it is necessary for us to take steps against this plot devised by the Jewish Anglo-Saxon warmongers and equally the Jewish rulers of the Bolshevist center in Moscow.

German people! At this moment a march is taking place that, as regards extent, compares with the greatest the world hitherto has seen. United with their Finnish comrades, the fighters of the victory of Narvik are standing in the Northern Arctic. German divisions commanded by the conqueror of Norway, in cooperation with the heroes of Finnish freedom, under their marshal, are protecting Finnish soil.

Formations of the German Eastern Front extend from East Prussia to the Carpathians. German and Rumanian soldiers are united under Chief of State Antonescu from the banks of the Pruth along the lower reaches of the Danube to the shores of the Black Sea. The task of this front, therefore, no longer is the protection of single countries, but the safeguarding of Europe and thereby the salvation of all.

I therefore decided today again to lay the fate and future of the German Reich and our people in the hands of our soldiers.

May God help us especially in this fight!

Vyacheslav Molotov, Minister of foreign affairs, USSR:

Citizens of the Soviet Union! The Soviet Government and its head, Comrade Stalin, have instructed me to make the following announcement:

Today, at 4:00 a.m., without presenting any claims against the Soviet Union or issuing a declaration of war, German troops have attacked our country, assaulting our borders in many places and subjecting our cities of Zhitomir, Kiev, Sevastopol, Kaunas, and other of our towns to bombing by their aircraft. Air raids by enemy planes and artillery bombardment were also made from bases in Rumania and Finland.

This perfidious aggression against our country is a treachery without precedent in the history of civilized nations. The attack on our country has been made despite the fact of the Non- Aggression Pact between the U.S.S.R. and Germany, and despite the conscientious fulfillment by the Soviet Government of all the terms of this Pact. The attack on our country has been made despite the fact that the German Government had not submitted a single claim against the U.S.S.R. regarding observance of the Pact during the entire time it has been in force.

The full responsibility for this robber attack on the Soviet Union falls entirely on the German fascist rulers.

At 5:30 a.m., after the attack had already taken place, the German Ambassador in Moscow, von Schulenburg, handed me in my capacity as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs a statement to the effect that the German Government had decided to declare war on the U.S.S.R. because of the concentration of Red Army troops at the eastern German border.

I replied on behalf of the Soviet Government that up to the last minute the German Government had not submitted any claims against the Soviet Government, that Germany had attacked the U.S.S.R. in spite of the peaceful posture of the Soviet Union, and that therefore fascist Germany indisputably is the aggressor in this affair.

I must also emphasize, as spokesman for the Government of the Soviet Union, that our troops and our aircraft have committed no violation of the border at any point, and that therefore the announcement made this morning over Rumanian radio, alleging that Soviet aircraft had fired at Rumanian airports, is a complete lie and a provocation, attempting retroactively to cook up incriminating evidence against the Soviet Union for alleged non observance of the terms of the Soviet-German Pact.

Now, however, that the attack against the Soviet Union has already taken place, the Soviet Government has issued an order to our troops to repulse the robber attack and to drive the German troops from our Motherland.

This war has not been imposed on us by the German people, nor by the German workers, peasants, or intellectuals whose suffering we can well understand, but by the clique of bloodthirsty German leaders who have enslaved the French, the Czechs, the Poles, the Serbs, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Greece, and other nations.

The Government of the Soviet Union expresses its unshakable conviction that our valiant Army and Navy and the daring hawks of the Soviet Air Force will discharge with honor their duties towards the Motherland and the Soviet people and will deal a crushing blow to the aggressor. This is not the first time that our nation has had to deal with an arrogant, aggressive enemy. In its time our nation has risen to the challenge of Napoleon's campaign into Russian in the Patriotic War, and Napoleon suffered defeat and came to his undoing. The same fate will befall the arrogant Hitler, who has proclaimed a new campaign of aggression against our country. The Red Army and our entire nation will once again conduct a victorious Patriotic War for the Motherland, for honor, for freedom.

The Government of the Soviet Union expresses its firm conviction that the entire population of our country, the workers, the peasants and the intelligentsia, every individual man and woman, will regard their obligations and their work with full awareness. The whole country must now be joined and united as never before. Each one of us must demand from himself or herself and from each other the discipline, the organization, and the selflessness worthy of a real Soviet patriot in order to supply the Red Army, the Red Fleet, and the Air Force with the means necessary to assure victory over the enemy.

The Government appeals to you, citizens of the Soviet Union, to rally your ranks ever closer around our glorious Bolshevik Party and our Soviet Government.

Our cause is just. The enemy will be defeated. Victory will be ours.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:

I have taken occasion to speak to you tonight because we have reached one of the climacterics of the war. In the first of these intense turning points, a year ago, France fell prostrate under the German hammer and we had to face the storm alone.

The second was when the Royal Air Force beat the Hun raiders out of the daylight air raid and thus warded off the Nazi invasion of our islands while we were still ill-armed and ill-prepared.

The third turning point was when the President and Congress of the United States passed the lease and lend enactment, devoting nearly 2,000,000,000 sterling of the wealth of the New World to help us defend our liberties and their own.

Those were the three climacterics.

The fourth is now upon us.

At 4 o'clock this morning Hitler attacked and invaded Russia. All his usual formalities of perfidy were observed with scrupulous technique. A non-aggression treaty had been solemnly signed and was in force between the two countries. No complaint had been made by Germany of its non-fulfillment. Under its cloak of false confidence the German armies drew up in immense strength along a line which stretched from the White Sea to the Black Sea and their air fleets and armoured divisions slowly and methodically took up their stations.

Then, suddenly, without declaration of war, without even an ultimatum, the German bombs rained down from the sky upon the Russian cities; the German troops violated the Russian frontiers and an hour later the German Ambassador, who till the night before was lavishing his assurances of friendship, almost of alliance, upon the Russians, called upon the Russian Foreign Minister to tell him that a state of war existed between Germany and Russia.

Thus was repeated on a far larger scale the same kind of outrage against every form of signed compact and international faith which we have witnessed in Norway, in Denmark, in Holland, in Belgium and which Hitler's accomplice and jackal, Mussolini, so faithfully imitated in the case of Greece.

All this was no surprise to me. In fact I gave clear and precise warnings to Stalin of what was coming. I gave him warnings, as I have given warnings to others before. I can only hope that these warnings did not fall unheeded.

All we know at present is that the Russian people are defending their native soil and that their leaders have called upon them to resist to the utmost.

Hitler is a monster of wickedness, insatiable in his lust for blood and plunder. Not content with having all Europe under his heel or else terrorized into various forms of abject submission, he must now carry his work of butchery and desolation among the vast multitudes of Russia and of Asia. The terrible military machine which we and the rest of the civilized world so foolishly, so supinely, so insensately allowed the Nazi gangsters to build up year by year from almost nothing-this machine cannot stand idle, lest it rust or fall to pieces. It must be in continual motion, grinding up human lives and trampling down the homes and the rights of hundreds of millions of men.

Moreover, it must be fed not only with flesh but with oil. So now this bloodthirsty guttersnipe must launch his mechanized armies upon new fields of slaughter, pillage and devastation. Poor as are the Russian peasants, workmen and soldiers, he must steal from them their daily bread. He must devour their harvests. He must rob them of the oil which drives their ploughs and thus produce a famine without example in human history.

And even the carnage and ruin which his victory, should he gain it-though he's not gained it yet-will bring upon the Russian people, will itself be only a stepping stone to the attempt to plunge four or five hundred millions who live in China and the 350,000,000 who live in India into that bottomless pit of human degradation over which the diabolic emblem of the swastika flaunts itself.

It is not too much to say here this pleasant summer evening that the lives and happiness of a thousand million additional human beings are now menaced with brutal Nazi violence. That is enough to make us hold our breath.

But presently I shall show you something else that lies behind and something that touches very nearly the life of Britain and of the United States.

The Nazi regime is indistinguishable from the worst features of Communism. It is devoid of all theme and principle except appetite and racial domination. It excels in all forms of human wickedness, in the efficiency of its cruelty and ferocious aggression. Noone has been a more consistent opponent of Communism than I have for the last twenty-five years. I will unsay no words that I've spoken about it. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding.

The past, with its crimes, its follies and its tragedies, flashes away. I see the Russian soldiers standing on the threshold of their native land, guarding the fields which their fathers have tilled from time immemorial. I see them guarding their homes; their mothers and wives pray, ah yes, for there are times when all pray for the safety of their loved ones, for the return of the breadwinner, of the champion, of their protectors.

I see the 10,000 villages of Russia, where the means of existence was wrung so hardly from the soil, but where there are still primordial human joys, where maidens laugh and children play I see advancing upon all this, in hideous onslaught, the Nazi war machine, with its clanking, heel-clicking, dandified Prussian officers, its crafty expert agents, fresh from the cowing and tying down of a dozen countries. I see also the dull, drilled, docile brutish masses of the Hun soldiery, plodding on like a swarm of crawling locusts. I see the German bombers and fighters in the sky, still smarting from many a British whipping, so delighted to find what they believe is an easier and a safer prey. And behind all this glare, behind all this storm, I see that small group of villainous men who planned, organized and launched this cataract of horrors upon mankind.

And then my mind goes back across the years to the days when the Russian armies were our Allies against the same deadly foe when they fought with so much valor and constancy and helped to gain a victory, from all share in which, alas, they were, through no fault of ours, utterly cut off.

I have lived through all this and you will pardon me if I express my feelings and the stir of old memories. But now I have to declare the decision of His Majesty's Government, and I feel sure it is a decision in which the great Dominions will, in due course, concur. And that we must speak of now, at once, without a day's delay. I have to make the declaration, but can you doubt what our policy will be?

We have but one aim and one single irrevocable purpose. We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime. From this nothing will turn us. Nothing. We will never parley; we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him by land; we shall fight him by sea; we shall fight him in the air, until, with God's help, we have rid the earth of his shadow and liberated its people from his yoke.

Any man or State who fights against Nazism will have our aid. Any man or State who marches with Hitler is our foe. This applies not only to organized States but to all representatives of that vile race of Quislings who make themselves the tools and agents of the Nazi regime against their fellow-countrymen and against the lands of their births. These Quislings, like the Nazi leaders themselves, if not disposed of by their fellow-countrymen, which would save trouble, will be delivered by us on the morrow of victory to the justice of the Allied tribunals. That is our policy and that is our declaration.

It follows, therefore, that we shall give whatever help we can to Russia and to the Russian people. We shall appeal to all our friends and Allies in every part of the world to take the same course and pursue it as we shall, faithfully and steadfastly to the end.

We have offered to the Government of Soviet Russia any technical or economic assistance which is in our power and which is likely to be of service to them. We shall bomb Germany by day as well as by night in ever-increasing measure, casting upon them month by month a heavier discharge of bombs and making the German people taste and gulp each month a sharper dose of the miseries they have showered upon mankind.

It is noteworthy that only yesterday the Royal Air Force, striking inland over France, cut down with very small loss to themselves twenty-eight of the Hun fighting machines in the air above the French soil they have invaded, defiled and profess to hold.

But this is only a beginning. From now henceforward the main expansion of our air force proceeds with gathering speed. In another six months the weight of the help we are receiving from the United States in war materials of all kinds, especially in heavy bombers, will begin to tell. This is no class war. It is a war in which the whole British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations is engaged without distinction of race, creed or party.

It is not for me to speak of the action of the United States, but this I will say: If Hitler imagines that his attack on Soviet Russia will cause the slightest division of aims or slackening of effort in the great democracies, who are resolved upon his doom, he is woefully mistaken. On the contrary, we shall be fortified and encouraged in our efforts to rescue mankind from his tyranny. We shall be strengthened and not weakened in our determination and in our resources.

This is no time to moralize upon the follies of countries and governments which have allowed themselves to be struck down one by one when by united action they could so easily have saved themselves and saved the world from this catastrophe.

But, when I spoke a few minutes ago of Hitler's bloodlust and the hateful appetites which have impelled or lured him on his Russian adventure, I said there was one deeper motive behind his outrage. He wishes to destroy the Russian power because he hopes that if he succeeds in this he will be able to bring back the main strength of his army and air force from the East and hurl it upon this island, which he knows he must conquer or suffer the penalty of his crimes.

His invasion of Russia is no more than a prelude to an attempted invasion of the British Isles. He hopes, no doubt, that all this may be accomplished before the Winter comes and that he can overwhelm Great Britain before the fleets and air power of the United States will intervene. He hopes that he may once again repeat upon a greater scale than ever before that process of destroying his enemies one by one, by which he has so long thrived and prospered, and that then the scene will be clear for the final act, without which all his conquests would be in vain, namely, the subjugation of the Western Hemisphere to his will and to his system.

The Russian danger is therefore our danger and the danger of the United States just as the cause of any Russian fighting for his hearth and home is the cause of free men and free peoples in every quarter of the globe.

Let us learn the lessons already taught by such cruel experience. Let us redouble our exertions and strike with united strength while life and power remain.

Sumner Welles, US Secretary of state:

If any further proof could conceivably be required of the real purposes and projects of the present leaders of Germany for world domination, it is now furnished by Hitler's treacherous attack upon Soviet Russia.

We see once more, beyond peradventure of doubt, with what intent the present Government of Germany negotiates "non-aggression pacts." To the leaders of the German Reich sworn engagements to refrain from hostile acts against other countries-engagements regarded in a happier and a civilized world as contracts to the faithful observance of which the honor of nations themselves was pledged-are but a symbol of deceit, and constitute a dire warning on the part of Germany of hostile and murderous intent.

To the present German Government the very meaning of the word "honor" is unknown.

This government often has stated and in many of his public statements the President has declared that the United States maintains that freedom to worship God as their consciences dictate is the great and fundamental right of all peoples. This right has been denied to their peoples by both the Nazi and the Soviet Governments.

To the people of the United States this and other principles and doctrines of communistic dictatorship are as intolerable and as alien to their own beliefs as are the principles and doctrines of Nazi dictatorship. Neither kind of imposed overlordship can have, or will have, any support or any sway in the mode of life, or in the system of government, of the American people.

But the immediate issue that presents itself to the people of the United States is whether the plan for universal conquest, for the cruel and brutal enslavement of all peoples and for the ultimate destruction of the remaining free democracies which Hitler is now desperately trying to carry out, is to be successfully halted and defeated.

That is the present issue which faces a realistic America. It is the issue at this moment which most directly involves our own national defense and the security of the New World in which we live.

In the opinion of this government, consequently, any defense against Hitlerism, any rallying of the forces opposing Hitlerism, from whatever source these forces may spring, will hasten the eventual downfall of the present German leaders, and will therefore redound to the benefit of our own defense and security.

Hitler's armies are today the chief dangers of the Americas.

The transcripts are taken from http://www.mishalov.com/Hitler_22June41.html, http://www.mishalov.com/Molotov_22June41.html, http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1941/410622d.html and http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1941/410623a.html.


June 21 in Russian history

1897: Birthday of Alexander Ignatyevich Shargey. He was born in Poltava (modern Ukraine). In this year in a St.Petersburg prison a young student Maria Vetrova, arrested as a participant of a revolutionary group, burnt herself in a suicidal act of protest. The parents of Alexander participated in the students' revolts in Kiev caused by Vetrova's death. Alexander's father, Ignaty, left the university, and his mother, Lyudmila, was arrested. While in prison, she was diagnosed as having a mental disease. Ignaty left the family and went for study to Germany, but soon returned to St.Petersburg. In 1910, he died. Alexander was raised by his grandmother and grandfather. Being a smart boy, he was deeply interested in science fiction stories, engineering, science. He had even attempted to develop a spaceship. In 1916, Alexander graduated from a gymnasium with a silver medal and entered a Polytechnical institute in St.Petersburg. Two months later he was drafted to the army and became an ensign. In 1917 he was sent to Caucasus, but when the Southern front fell apart in 1918, he and his friend decided to go home. On the road, they were recruited to the Volunteer Army (the White Guard). They fled from the army and stayed in Poltava. Because of the social turmoil, he preferred to stay at home and enjoyed reading. In those days he found an article in a magazine talking about Tsiolkovsky's achievements. Then he moved to Kiev to his step-mother, Elena Kareyeva. He began working. In free hours he wrote a brochure titled "To those who will read in order to build" (published in 1919). The brochure discussed the general theory of jet rockets, optimal trajectories of flights to various planets, space navigation, usage of mirrors to concentrate the solar energy, intermediate space bases, planets gravitation as a way to change the flight direction and so on.

In 1919, the White Guard troops entered Kiev and Shargey was drafted again. On the road, he escapes again. His step-mother finds the documents of someone Yuri Kondratyuk, who died in 1921. This was necessary to save him from Cheka, who persecuted the officers of the tsarist army.

In 1925 he at lasts manages to find books by Tsiolkovsky and he is deeply disappointed when he learns that most of his own work had been done before. Nevertheless, he publishes his second book, "Conquering the interplanetary space" where he further develops his ideas from the first book and it receives praises from V.Vetchinkin, outstanding scientist of those times. In the books he also proposed to use giant guns for acceleration of cargo ships sent to the orbital station. He also developed a gliding landing module. His life goes on and he becomes a constructor of grain elevators. So, he builds a unique grain elevator "Mastodon" in Novosibirsk, without a single metal joint, since iron was in very short supply in Siberia then. This absence of metal parts became a ground for accusation in sabotage in 1930. The local authorities decided that the elevator will fall apart when 10,000 tons of grain will be put there. The "Mastodon" elevator worked for 50 more years, but Shargey-Kondratyuk was arrested and sentenced for three years in Gulag camps. Instead of the camp, he was sent to a specialized construction bureau, so called sharashka (a research lab staffed with gifted Gulag inmates). In this laboratory Shargey designed powerful and effective wind power stations, which were built later in Crimea. In 1937 the Crimean wind power project was closed and he begins to design hydrogen power stations. In 1941, when the war began, he volunteers to join the Soviet army. He was missed in action in October 1941. It was found out later that he survived and joined another regiment, where he fought till February 1942, when he was killed. His body was not found and a part of his notebook was found later in the archives of Wernher von Braun. This fact gave birth to a legend that he was captured by Germans and sent to Peenemünde and after the war was secretly transported to the USA. Others say that he was von Braun himself. Unfortunately, this is not so.

When the space age began, it suddenly turned out that a lot of Shargey-Kondratyuk's ideas were extremely useful. Dr. John Houbolt of NASA, who developed the Lunar Excursion Module, repeated the discoveries of Kondratyuk, who proposed the idea of a separate landing module and developed the optimal landing trajectory for the Moon. Houbolt said later that when he was watching the launch of Apollo-9, he thought about Kondratyuk. Neil Armstrong visited Novosibirsk and gathered a handful of the soil near the house of Kondratyuk, saying that this soil means just as much as the Moon probes for him.

In 1970, Kondratyuk was rehabilitated. In 1977, the court ruled that he committed no crime when he had changed his name.


June 20 in Russian history

1774: A 14,000 army of Alexander Suvorov defeated 40,000 Turks led by Abdul Rezak near Kozludja village in Bulgaria. Another detachment led by M.Kamensky overcame 15,000 Turks on the right flank, near Turtukay. After the victory, Suvorov and Kamensky blockaded Shumla and cut communications between Shumla and Constantinople. Turks offered a truce which was rejected by Russians and then they agreed to discuss the terms of a peace treaty which was signed on July 21 in Küçük Kaynarca (Kuchuk Kainarji). This was the end of the first Russo-Turkish war. Twelve more were to follow…

1803: The first flight of a hot air balloon in Russia. Emperor Alexander I granted a flight permission to a French aeronaut, the inventor of the parachute, André-Jacques Garnerin, who arrived to Russia with a commendation from Talleyrand-Périgord. Inhabitants of St.Petersburg, who could afford the two silver rubles fee, entered the garden of the Cadets Corps and gathered around the balloon. At noon the balloon successfully took off and

1881: The first telephone line in Russia is put into service. Strange, but it did not happen in Moscow. It was in Nizhny Novgorod.

1924: A group of enthusiasts (about 200 people) gathered in the hall of the observatory of the Moscow department of education and decided to found the Society for the Study of Interplanetary Communication. The Civil War was over. The New Economic Policy led to the reconstruction of industry. End of prodrazvyorstka (governmental food expropriation) led to a better life in rural areas (even compared to the pre-revolution period). The Soviet society was bubbling with enthusiasm. Brave new future was coming.

1924 was the year of the Great Opposition of Mars, when the distance between Earth and Mars was minimal. In 1924 the movie Aelita: Queen of Mars based on the science fiction story by Alexey Tolstoy was released. The novel itself was published in 1923 and told about the travel of a Soviet engineer to Mars where he helped the Martians to dethrone their king. Soviet newspapers published articles about the plans of Robert Goddard to send a rocket to the Moon. Soviet scientists Tikhomirov and Artemyev experiment with powder rocket engines. On May 30, a prominent engineer Mikhail Lapirov-Skoblo read in the Polytechnical Museum a lecture titled "Interplanetary travels". The success was overwhelming — the tickets were sold long before the lecture, the books were also all sold out, the administration of the Museum had to ask militia for assistance, so large was the crowd. After the lecture it was announced that all attendees may join the Society for the Study of Interplanetary Communication and visit the organizational meeting of the society which was to take place soon. At last, on June 20, the meeting begins.

The Society elects three honorary members: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a legendary figure of the Russian and Soviet science, the author of the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation; Yakov Perelman, the author of famous popular science books (some were translated into English); and the infamous Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of Cheka…

The goals of the Society were scientific and engineering research, popularization of the space exploration, collection of information about such explorations in the USSR and abroad, joining the efforts of all scientists working in this area, preparation of specialized lectures, exhibitions and libraries, book publishing. The executive committee of the Society included seven people, among whom were Friedrich Zander (author of many projects of spaceships), Valentin Chernov (outstanding celloist and astronomer) and Grigory Kramarov (the chariman of the executive committee). There were three sections in the Society: the jet propulsion section, the popular science section and the literature section. The tasks of the first and the second ones are more or less clear. As for the last one, they had to publish the Society's journal and prepare a movie script about the interplanetary travels.

There was yet another interesting person linked with the Society, Yuri Kondratyuk. Tomorrow will be his 110th birthday and I will write more about him then.


June 19 in Russian history

1739: Captain Martin Shpanberg arrived to Japan. On the orders of the empress Anna he had to get acquainted with the Japan's political system and establish trade between Japan and Russia.

1799: Joint Russian-Austrian army led by Alexander Suvorov defeats the French army lead by McDonald. The French lost 16,000 people out of 33,000-35,000. The allies lost 6,000 people out of 30,000. (See also April 28)

1799: Russian-American company was founded by Grigory Shelikhov and Nikolay Rezanov. This trading company was one of the most successful Russian enterprises of the time. It was granted a trade monopoly in Russian America and a large part of the profit went to the emperor. The company failed to attract a sufficient number of settlers to Alaska, but its first manager, Alexander Baranov, a unique and gifted personality, established good contacts with some of the native American tribes and guaranteed a stable flow of furs to Russia. In 1867, when Alaska was sold to the US government, the company ceased the activity. In 1804-1840 the RAC organized for Russia 25 geographical expeditions, 15 of which were circumnavigational expeditions, including the famous voyage of Ivan Kruzenshtern and Yuri Lisyansky. (See also March 13)

1901: Death of brigadier general of the US Union army John Basil Turchin. Ivan Vasilyevich Turchaninov was born in Russia in 1822. After the Crimean war (1853-1856) he was offered to continue the military service in the General Staff, but he was so disappointed with the military reform and the peace treaty which he thought was shameful, that he left with his wife to Germany and France and then to the USA. Three years later he wrote to his friend Alexander Herzen, who lived in London: "My disappointment is frustrating. I don't see a trace of the real freedom here. This republic is the paradise for the rich, they are really independent here. The worst crimes are justified here by money and profit. As for me, I am deeply grateful to America for one thing: she helped me to get rid of the aristocratic prejudices and brought me down to the level of a mere mortal, I am not afraid of any job now." He became an engineer. When the Civil War began, he joined the Union army as a volunteer and soon became a colonel. In 1862, his troops sacked a town and he was relieved of command and sent under the martial court. He denied all accusations besides presence of his wife in the army. Indeed, she followed him and there was one occasion when she led the troops to the attack when Turchin was ill. However, even before the court was over, he was appointed a brigadier general. In 1864 he resigned. He wrote a book on the art of war which was used later in the US army, but by the end of his life he fell into poverty and had to earn money as a street violinist. In 1901, he died in poverty.

1953: Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenbergs who were sentenced to the capital punishment for espionage for the USSR. All this story is still very unclear and I'd rather not re-tell it, it is too well known. Anyway, what I would like to say is that I take this story as a serious argument in favor of the abolition of the capital punishment.


June 15 in Russian history

1885: The new labour law limits working hours for children and women. Night labour is forbidden to them.

1886: Yet another labour law defines the rules of the employment on factories. The law requires that work record books are given to the workers, where full details of the employment are given. Factory regulations are to be approved by special inspectors. Fines imposed on the workers are limited (earlier they sometimes amounted up to 40% of the salary). The salary must be payed in monetary form only. It is illegal to collect payments from workers for medical assistance, for electricity, tools, etc. Employers are not allowed to receive interest income from the credits given to the workers. Workers' payments for apartments, laundries, baths owned by the factory owner are not to exceed the limits defined by the state inspection.

1940: Soviet troops enter Lithuania. This event has somehow led to another one, which happened 45 years later…

1985: A 48-year old Lithuanian comes to the Hermitage museum in Leningrad, asks the museum staff which painting is the most famous here and, when she points at Rembrandt's Danaë, he throws one liter of sulfuric acid to the painting, grabs it and starts to slash it with a knife with a battlecry "Freedom to Lithuania!" Policeman Ivan Zhosan ran and knocked the man down. The man had two bombs tied to his legs, but they did not explode. He later explained that the didn't want to harm the people standing around and decided not to explode them, but anyway, the policeman left him no chances. The painting turned into the brown mess. The museum specialists immediately started consultations with chemists and began the attempts to save the precious picture. They cried when they began the work, they kept the painting in the vertical position, and blew mouthfuls of water at the painting to prevent even worse losses. Almost one third of the picture was lost forever. The restoration went on for twelve years, till 1997. In spite of the efforts, the restoration was not complete. It will never be complete, the specialists say. Vladimir Matveyev, the Hermitage museum deputy director on exhibitions, said: "The Danaë that was, will never be. The people who will see the new Danaë, will be shocked. But what remained is not fake." The restorators team leader Yevgeny Gerasimov adds: "We had no aim to hide the wounds. We decided it was honest to leave what remained of the real Rembrandt. Fortunately, the sulfuric acid does not destroy the pigments, it only breaks the ties between molecules of the paint. We tried to restore this damage as much as we could."

The bastard who vandalized the painting, was found to be mentally ill. It is not clear whether the diagnosis was correct. First, he explained his actions by the hatred towards the USSR. No, not political. He demanded the state to pay him pension due to his health problems (hernia and dyspepsia), but received an advice to get a job. During the interrogation, he said: "I do not regret of anything. If I have enough health to survive through the jail, I will do something like this again." He repeated the same in 2005, when Lithuanian journalists visited him. He was not sentenced to jail, but was sent to a mental hospital. Later, he was released and he still lives in Lithuania.


June 14 in Russian history

1856: Famous Russian mathematicians, Andrei Markov, was born. His best known discovery, Markov chains, are ubiquitous in modern science. They are used in physics to model stochastic processes, in computerized music composition, in statistics, in linguistics, artificial intelligence, robotics. It is most probable that you, dear reader, use Markov chains every day. Markov chains are the basis of Google's ranking algorithm. They are also used in the Bayesian algorithms which filter spam from your e-mail.

1862: Dimitri Pisarev, writer and political extremist, is arrested and put to the jail of the fortress of St. Peter and Paul in St.Petersburg. He had written a political proclamation "On the brochure of Schedo-Ferroti", where he had called to the rebellion against monarcy. He spent more than 4 years in jail. He was not only political, but also literature radical. He fought against "outdated" esthetics, refused to acknowledge the importance of Pushkin's poetry. Lenin's wife, Krupskaya, said later that Lenin grew under Pisarev's influence.

1941: The Soviet Union begins mass deportations in the occupied Baltic countries. Deportations took place before, but not on such large scale. On one day, June 14, the NKVD troops and local Communist party activists enter the homes of former politicians, army officers, judges, state officials, policemen, jounalists, farmer union leaders, businessmen, land owners, ship owners, labour union members, criminals, prostitutes, anti-communist activists and give them one or two hours to gather their clothes and food for one month. About 30%-40% of the deportees were children under 16. People were taken to railway stations and transported to Urals and Siberia. About 30,000 people were deported from Lithuania, more than 15,000 from Latvia and 9,000 from Estonia. Not all of them were ethnic Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians. There were also Poles who fled from occupied Poland, Jews (the first victims, as usual), Russians, etc. About 40% of deportees died in the exile. Some starved to death, some were killed, some simply disappeared. The date is the Day of Mourning and Hope in Lithuania and the official mourning day in Latvia. A group of Estonians has prepared an interesting exhibition: No people, no problem (quotation from Stalin). Highly recommended. Two more interesting links are: Materials of the international conference "Deportation of 14 June 1941: Crimes against Humanity" and the database Exile and Imprisonment Locations of the Residents of Lithuania.


June 8 in Russian history

1761: Mikhail Lomonosov writes an article where he conludes that Venus has an atmosphere. Two days earlier, on June 6, a rare astronomical event took place, Venus transit across the disk of the Sun. In 1761, hundreds of astronomers observed this event, trying to calculate the distance from Earth to Venus. Russian Academy of Sciences sent an expedition to Irkutsk, but Lomonosov stayed in St.Petersburg. He used a small 135 mm long telescope and a smoked glass. Using these imperfect tools, he managed to note that Venus was at this moment surrounded by a light rim. He deduced that this rim may be explained by the refraction of the light in the atmosphere of Venus. He also noted some vagueness of the edge of the Sun disk when Venus touched it. This effect still remains unexplained. On June 7, he begins writing an article using his own observations and the data obtained by other astronomers, A.Krasilnikov and N.Kurganov. The article was published in Russian and German languages, but passed unnoticed by other astronomers. Only in 1790s William Herschel re-discovered the Venus atmosphere. In the XX century, Lomonosov's priority was restored. Lomonosov's sketch and excerpts from his article (in Russian) may be found on the web-site of the Samara Children's and Youth Arts and Sciences Centre. Transit of Venus is a rare event and the last time it took place in 2004, when I tried to observe it using a floppy disk as a filter. I am pretty sure that that tiny black spot was Venus :). Anyway, in 2014 I will have a chance to try again. After that, the next transit will happen only in 2117.

1827: (May 27 old style) Alexander Pushkin wrote to his friend Peter Vyazemsky the words which many Russians might repeat:

Of course, I scorn my fatherland from head to toes — but I am vexed if a foreigner shares this feeling with me. You, who is not on the leash, how can you stay in Russia? If the tsar gives me freedom, I won't stay here for more than one month. We live in sad years, but when I imagine London, railroads, steamships, English magazines or Paris theatres and brothels, my god-forsaken Mikhailovskoye brings upon me ennui and madness. In the 4th chapter of Eugene Onegin I portrayed my life; one day you will read it and ask with a sweet smile: where is my poet now? he was so gifted, and the reply will be: he's gone to Paris and will never be back, what a smart boy!

(Original Russian text is here.)

1948: The first Soviet industrial nuclear reactor is launched in a small town in Urals mountains, known as Base-10, Chelyabinsk-40 or Chelyabinsk-65. Now, this town is named Ozyorsk. The town was built for this exactly purpose. The works were started on 9 November 1945. This town became later famous due to the new chemical factory, called Mayak, one of the largest Russian plants working with radioactive materials. In 1957, one of the largest radioactive leaks in history happened on this factory.


June 7 in Russian history

1950: USSR issues the memorandum on the Antarctica. Since the beginning of the XX century, a number of countries attempted to claim various parts of the Antarctica. UK, Argentina, Chile, Norway, France, Australia, New Zealand had solid reasons to believe that this continent may be the gold mine. By 1930s, Australia, New Zealand and UK claimed over 60% of the whole territory. In 1938, when Norway also claimed a sector in Antarctica, USSR issued an official protest and proclaimed that the sixth continent must belong to the whole humanity. After the war, in late 1940s, tensions began to form, when countries became very sensitive to the alleged violations of "their" territories by other countries. So, in 1950, USSR had to remind that the Soviet Union has the rights of the discoverer of the Antarctica (discovered in 1820 by Russian ships Vostok and Mirnyi). USSR also said that the Soviet Union may claim the whole continent. However, such claims had to be backed by permanent presence in the area.

So, in 1955 Soviet Union sent the first Soviet Antarctic Expedition, SAE. The expedition was led by Mikhail Somov. Somov was already a well-known polar explorer. He had been the head of the North Pole-2 drifting station in 1950 (now, an exploratory ship named M.Somov carries the explorers to Antarctica). The 1st SAE arrived in February, 1956 and on 13 February the first Soviet Antarctic station was founded. It was named Mirnyi, after the ship led by Faddey Bellinsgauzen, the discoverer of Antarctica. On the next year, station Vostok was built far from the sea, near the geomagnetic pole. This station was one of the most hostile environments on Earth. The world's lowest temperatures were recorded there in 1983 (-89.2°C, -128.56°F).

In 1959, under the pressure of the USSR and USA, the Antarctic Treaty was signed by 12 countries, who agreed to drop their territorial claims, proclaimed Antarctica the scientific reserve where every country may organize explorations and banned all military activity on the whole continent. Thus, the Antarctic Treaty became the first arms control agreement in the years of the Cold War.

The treaty was soon followed by more important agreements: Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (1964), The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972) and many others.

After the fall of the USSR, the SAE program was cancelled. In 1992, the last, 36th Soviet Antarctic expedition was over. Russia continued to support some polar stations, but the presence plunged. Three stations were closed. However, the explorations continued and a unique 270-km long underglacial lake was discovered near Vostok station. Fortunately, the expeditions never stopped completely and in 1997 Russian government adopted the law defining the minimum financing of the Russian Antarctic Expedition (RAE). Since then, the situation significantly improved. During the International Polar Year (2007-2008) the closed stations will be re-opened.