Early history of Moscow: new finds

In March, the international conference "Archaeology in the modern world" took place in Moscow. An interesting report was prepared by Leonid Belyayev and Nikolay Krenke of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. During the diggings in the Danilov monastery, near Moscow, they made some interesting discoveries. The monastery was located on a river bank, where the confluence of river Moscow and a brook formed a promontory. In 1980s, the first artefacts were found and dated by X-XII centuries, which coincides with the first mentionings of Moscow in chronicles (1147). The area of the settlement was around 200 sq.m. Now archaeologists have re-evaluated the evidences and concluded that they should be dated by IX century, or even earlier. This proves that the area was already populated by the time when Moscow appeared in the chronicles. In late 1980s, the monastery was transferred to the church and the explorations were cancelled. At last, in 2006, the church officials asked the scientists to find the burial of the archbishop Nikephoros Theotokis (1731-1800). The archaeologists took the opportunity to explore the settlement and found ceramic ware of the early Iron Age (III-IV BCE), very similar to that of the Dyakovo culture (Finno-Ugrians). Since these early days, the location was continiously inhabited. A large number of the Arab dirham coins were found around the settlement.

Among other things, a very interesting type of ceramic manufacture was found, identical to the ware found in Staraya Ladoga (Aldeigjuborg) and usually associated with the Scandinavians. This was the simplest ware, like pots, and it seems unlikely that it was brought here from far away. It may mean that some Scandinavians inhabited this settlement. Some years ago, not far from Moscow, a number of typically Scandinavian fibulae of X century was found. In 1988, a treasure was found in the Moscow Kremlin, containing Scandinavian ornamentations of XI century. Later ornamentations do not have any Scandinavian features.

Traditionally, the age of Moscow is counted from 1147, when Yuri Dolgoruki invited his ally, knyaz Svyatoslav of Chernigov, to Moscow. The chronicle does not call Moscow "a town" and it is possible that the place was simply the knyaz's patrimony. The recent finds shift the birthdate to at least two centuries back.

April 28 in Russian history

1799: Russian army, led by the count Alexander Suvorov of Rymnik, liberates Milan. In 1798, Russia joined the anti-Napoleon coalition (Great Britain, Austria, Turkey, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies). A joint Russian-Austrian army was formed to liberate the Northern Italy, occupied by the French troops. First, it was planned that the army will be led by archduke Joseph, but Austria asked Russian emperor Paul II to send Alexander Suvorov. Suvorov, who never lost a single battle in his life, was sent in retirement in February 1797 and lived in a village under the police surveillance. In February 1799 Paul II summonned him and appointed the commander of the joint army. In April, Suvorov arrived to Italy and on April 27 in the first battle, known as the battle of Cassano d'Adda, defeated the French army. On the next day, the army entered Milan. A little bit later, he won two more battles in Trebia and Novi. After the Northern Italy, Suvorov planned to attack France through Grenoble, Lyon and Paris, but the allies, Great Britain and Austria, trying to avoid the increase of the Russian influence in the Mediterranean, ordered Suvorov to leave the Austrian army in Italy and to lead the Russian troops to Switzerland to join the 40,000-men army of general Alexander Rimsky-Korsakov and to attack France from Switzerland. Suvorov led his men through the Alps, incessantly maneuvering, and finally reached Switzerland. Unfortunately, general Korsakov, betrayed by Austrians, lost a battle at Zurich and had to retreat to Vorarlberg. In October 1799, Russia broke the alliance with Austria and Suvorov was ordered to return to Russia. After this campaign, he earned the titles of Prince of Italy, Count of the Holy Empire, prince of Sardinia, Generalissimo of Russia's Ground and Naval forces, Field Marshal of the Austrian and Sardinian Armies. In May, 1800, Suvorov died.

1813: Another great Russian Field Marshal, Mikhail Kutuzov, died on April 28, 1813, in Bunzlau (now Bolesławiec, in modern Poland). Less than 8 months passed after his victory in Borodino, probably the greatest feat of his life.

1968: Comedy The Diamond Arm (Brilliantovaya Ruka) is released. The movie became one of the favourite comedies in USSR and Russia, but I wouldn't call it "the best Soviet comedy ever made", as Wikipedia suggests. Anyway, a lot of people still love it, watch it and quote it. The plot is like this. A group of smugglers plans to bring diamonds to the USSR and sends one of them to a foreign country. His foreign partners confuse an ordinary Soviet tourist, Semyon Gorbunkov, for him and put diamonds into the bandage on his broken arm. The largest part of the movie is how the smugglers try to get the diamonds back and Gorbunkov, assisted by policemen, avoids their traps and finally helps to arrest them. The best thing in the movie is a lot of catchphrases, still widely recognized by most of us here. When your friend forgets something, just say reproachfully: "Semyon Semyonych!", and he will slap his head and say: "A-ah!". :) Oh, and of course, the actors. They are brilliant. Andrei Mironov, Anatoli Papanov, Yuri Nikulin -- a real constellation.


Odessa — the motherland of the wheel

It has been long known among those born in Odessa that this southern city on the Black Sea is the motherland of jazz, elephants and hundreds of famous writers, poets and artists. Recently, Ukrainian archaeologists used carbon dating to explore a wooden wheel found in 1968. The wheel was made of oak or birch and was found in a burial of the so called Yamnaya culture. The people of this culture inhabited large territories of modern Ukraine in Early Bronze Age (around 2900-2300 BCE). The carbon dating gave the result of approximately 4500 years ago. There were two other wheel in the burial, but they fell into pieces when they were found. Archaeologists think that the people of the Yamnaya culture buried their dead with all things necessary for the life after death. So, while this wheel is not as old as the one found in Mesopotamia (app. 5,500 years old), it will definitely add to the pride of the Odessans :).

Cossack ship

Ukrainian archaeologists have found and recovered the last part of a single-masted Cossack ship near Khortitsa island on Dnieper. The XVIII century ship was found in 1999 and recovered in 2004. It was conserved in a specially built hangar on the Khortitsa island. Unfortunately, during the 1999 spring flood the stern of the ship was torn away and carried by the current some kilometers down the river. The search can only be performed in winter, when the water is clearer than in summer, and in February 2007 the missing part was found. In March the works started. The recovered stern will be conserved and added to the remains stored in the museum. Besides, the archaeologist say that during the search they found remains of more ships. The remains of another, smaller, Cossack boat are already in the Khortitsa National Reserve (link in Ukrainian) and taken together, these ships could make a good exposition.

Earlier, the director of the Institute for Underwater Explorations Maxim Ostapenko found a Scythian settlement on the island. Greek amphorae are sometimes found near Khortitsa, and it makes the archaeologists hope that some traces of the Greek ships may found -- anchors or other parts. Unfortunately, Ostapenko says, the riverbed is changing fast due to the construction of water reserves in XX century and the ships remains may be lost forever if not recovered as fast as possible.


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.


I'll be gone for a while, but want to hear from you.

Dear friends,

Today I leave on a business trip to Volgograd. I'll be back on Monday, April 23.

In the meanwhile, could you, please, answer some questions? This blog is already more than 3 months old now and, I think, it is time to look back in time. Is there anything you would like me to do? What is wrong with this blog? Do you think I should post more pictures? I always preferred text to graphics to make the web-page to load faster and to squeeze more information into the screen space. (By the way, would you be interested in photographs from Volgograd?) What other topics what you like to see covered?

Most of the time I will be online and I will be glad to get some feedback from you. Thanks.

April 17 in Russian history

1912: Lena massacre. On March 13, workers of the Andreyevski goldfield on river Lena in Siberia began a strike. The working conditions were terrible. They worked for 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, in Siberian cold weather. The salary was very low and it was partially substituted with coupons which could be ecxhanged for food in the shops belonging to the owners of the goldfields. The prices were high and the food itself was of a poor quality. Also, the workers had to pay fines for every fault. Safety regulations simply did not exist, so about 700 accidents per 1,000 workers happened every year. The workers demanded to shorten the working day to 8-10 hours, to increase wages and supply them with better food. By mid-March, about 6,000 people participated in the strike. On April 17, about 2,000 workers marched to protest against the arrest of their leaders, which took place one day before. The workers were met by soldiers who opened fire, killing about 270 people and wounding around 250 more.

95 years later, in 2007, the authorities of Moscow and St.Petersburg ordered the police to attack the participants of other peaceful marches. In Moscow, about 9,000 policemen beat 3,000 protesters with clubs and kicked the fallen people, dragged them by hair to the police cars. About 500-600 people were detained in Moscow and about 200 in St.Petersburg. Many of them were arrested before the march began. Many people from Moscow suburbs were arrested on railway stations. Few were hospitalized. In St.Petersburg, one woman was hospitalized with broken nose and jaw. Another man is suffering from broken rib, which damaged his lung. A member of the prohibited National-Bolshevist Party was hospitalized with cranial trauma. In Moscow, an operator of a Japanese TV channel was severely beaten. A number of other journalists became victims of the police violence, too. The arrested people were trialled and found guilty in "chanting anti-government slogans and using foul language" on the basis of the evidences given by policemen. Many of them were passers-by who did not participate in the protests. Testimonies of other witnesses were not taken into account. Of all national TV channels, only one covered the events in depth. "President" Putin at the moment of the massacre was visiting a show called "fights without rules". A nice choice.

5 years after the Lena massacre, the tsar abdicated the throne. In 1918, he was executed.

1923: The XII congress of the RCP(b) Russian Communist Party (of bolsheviks) began. There were 836 delegates who represented 386,000 members and candidates of the Communist Party. It is interesting that in April 1922, during the XI congress, there were 532,000 people in the party. Moreover, in March 1921, during the X congress, there were 732,521 members.

Lenin was ill and did not attend the congress. Among the most important matters was the question of the industrialization. K.Radek and L.Krasin offered to seek the assistance of foreign capitalists (which implied certain concessions, of course). The proposal was rejected. Idiot Trotsky came up with a stupid idea to close the larges factories of the country and to boost industrialization by providing more support to the agriculture. The congress decided to give special attention to the heavy industries (the accent which survived till the last years of the USSR). Another important point was the position of the party on the national question. The extreme danger of all kinds of nationalism was recognized. The liquidation of the inequality of the nations of the Soviet Russia was stressed by the congress.


April 16 in Russian history

1803: Alexander I officially opens the Vilnius University. In 1804, 290 students were studying there, and in 1823 it grew into the largest university of Russia and Europe. In 1830, there were 1321 students. Probably, the most famous graduate of the university was Adam Mickiewicz, the legend of Polish literature. He, like many other students, was a member of a an organization demanding the independence of Poland and Lithuania. Participation of a large number of students in the rebellion of 1831 led to the closure of the university in 1832. The university buildings became the home of the Museum of Antiquities, the Public Library and two gymnasiums. Among the students of these gymnasiums were the first Polish Chief of the State and dictator Jozef Pilsudski, the father of the infamous Cheka Felix Dzerzhinsky and the theorist of literature Mikhail Bakhtin.

1866: Dmitri Karakozov attempts to shoot emperor Alexander II. In 1865 he joined a terrorist organization and was a proponent of the individual terrorism. He thought that the assassination of the tsar will lead to the social revolution. When Karakozov was ready to shoot, a passer-by pushed his hand and Karakozov missed. He was arrested, trialled and sentenced to hanging.

1905: The first Russian trade union is founded: the trade union of typography workers.

1911: The Black Sea navy experiment with the aeroplanes escorts. For the first time, a group of aeroplanes successfully convoy a group of ships.

1970: The museum of the red Latvian riflemen was opened in Riga, Latvia. The Latvian Riflemen Division was a part of the Russian army in the World War I and after the bolshevik uprising they joined the bolsheviks and became the watchdogs of the revolution. They guard the Council of People's Commissars, Lenin's personal train, Kremlin. In April 1918, the Latvian Soviet Division is created. The first commander of the division was I.Vacetis. They oppress the anti-bolshevik rebellions in Moscow, Yaroslavl, Murom, Rybinsk, Kaluga, Saratov, Novgorod and many other places. In 1919 they fought against the White armies of Denikin and Yudenich. In 1920 they fought against general Vrangel and stormed Perekop (a stripe of land connecting Crimea and mainland). After November 1920, when the division was disbanded, many riflemen became prominent members of Cheka and the Red army: I. Vacetis, R. Eideman, R. Berzins, Y. Berzins, K. Stucka, J. Lacis and many others. Ironically, the museum of the red Latvian riflemen in Riga was recently renamed into the museum of the 50 years of occupation. The occupation which might have never happened, had it not been for these riflemen.

Map of locations where the Latvian riflemen fought against the White army and anti-bolshevik uprisingsMap of locations where the Latvian riflemen fought against the White army and anti-bolshevik uprisings


April 13 in Russian history

1934: I already told the story of the steamship Chelyuskin (there's a typo in that article, I put the article under 1924 instead of 1934, sorry.) Just wanted to remind that this drama ended successfully on April 13, 1934, when last members of the expedition were evacuated.

1943: On this day in 1943, the German army issued an official press-release anouncing the results of the investigation of mass burials found in the Katyn forest, near Smolensk. In April-May 1940, 4,421 Polish prisoners of war were executed in Katyn by Soviet NKVD. Thousands more were killed in other places: Kharkiv, Kalinin, etc. The total amount of victims, according to the KGB archives, was 21,857 people. The Nazi propaganda used this case to accuse mythical "Jewish commanders of NKVD" in the executions. USSR denied all accusations but refused to accept an international team for the investigation. A Soviet "investigation" later in 1943-1944 concluded that the Polish officers were killed in 1941, when the territory was occupied by Nazis. There's no reason to reproduce here the full detailed history, just a couple of comments. When the Nazis attacked USSR in 1941, it suddenly turned out that Poland and USSR found themselves on one side of the war. Stalin established contacts with the Polish government in exile, released all surviving Poles from prisons and began to form Polish detachments. On December 3, 1941, Stalin met the leaders of the Polish government, Wladyslaw Sikorski and Wladyslaw Anders, who were trying to find all Polish POWs in Gulag. Sikorski said that not all Poles were released from the detention camps, but Stalin answered that this is impossible and all Polish officers were released. Then Sikorski gave a list of 4,000 people who were not released and stressed that these people were not found in Poland or in German camps for POWs. Stalin said: "It's impossible. They are hiding." "Where could they hide?" asked Sikorski perplexedly. "Well, in Manchuria", answered Stalin floutingly... In the late 1980s-early 1990s, having studied a lot of declassified documents of KGB-NKVD, a group of Soviet historians found strong evidences proving that the massacre was organized by NKVD. On April 13, 1990 (47 years after the German announcement mentioned in the beginning of this article), M. Gorbachev officially called NKVD responsible for the executions and expressed the "profound regret". A criminal case was started and in May 1991 the General Prosecutor of the USSR said that "it is possible to make a preliminary conclusion that the Polish POWs could be executed on the basis of the decision of the Special Council of NKVD of USSR in April-May 1940 by regional NKVD of Smolensk, Kharkiv and Kalinin oblasts, in Katyn forest near Smolensk, in Mednoe located in 32 kilometres from Tver and in the 6th quarter of the park zone of Kharkiv correspondingly." In 1992, Boris Yeltsin transferred a pack of documents related to the Katyn massacre to Lech Walesa. With the inauguration of V. Putin, the situation has changed. In 2004, Polish investigators were not allowed to visit Moscow. In 2005, the official investigation was over, but the General Military Prosecutor A. Savenkov concluded that it was neither a genocide, nor a crime against humanity, not even a war crime, but a military crime with the term of 50 years which had already expired. During the last years, some conspirologists attempt to refute the proofs found by the multiple investigators and proclaim that the murders were committed by the Nazis. Like many other conspirologists and pyramidiots, they are mostly dilettantes, like a metallurgy engineer who is by coincidence the author of the hypothesis of human immortality, the founder of the Army of the Will of the People (?!), who has "proved" that Boris Yeltsin died in 1996, that American astronauts never landed on the Moon, that Stalin was killed by Khruschev, etc. And no, he is not hospitalized yet, if you meant to ask.

1958: Van Cliburn, an American pianist, wins the First International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. He hasn't become a super star of the classical music, but his performance of Tchaikovsky and Rakhmaninov piano concerts in Moscow was so romantic, emotional and deeply personal, that the judges unanimously gave him the first prize (having consulted with Khruschev first) and the audience was applauding for eight minutes. The recording became a bestseller in Russia, with over 1,000,000 copies sold. I think one of them is still standing somewhere deep in my bookshelf, where old LPs are stored. He was known and loved by millions of Soviet people. The Reporter magazine wrote: "Russians did not discover Van Cliburn. They have simply accepted with enthusiasm what we watch indifferently, what their people value and we ignore." I think that most Russians still remember his name, especially after his visit to Moscow in 2004. There's even a rock group named Van Cliburn, AFAIK. Now, he lives alone in Fort Worth, without family or children. If you happen to find that recording of 1958, listen. It is worth it. Listen and drink a glass of wine for Van Cliburn, he really deserved it.

Russian history 33: Tatars and Batu Khan

When the role of Kiev was overtaken by new centres, Novgorod, Vladimir and Galich, in the fist half of the XIII century, Tatars came to Rus. They were totally unfamiliar and unexpected. A chronicler wrote: "The pagans came and nobody knows who they are and where they come from and what their language is and what their religion is."

The motherland of Tatars was Mongolia. Dispersed tribes were united by khan Temuchin, who took the title of Genghis Khan (The Great Khan). In 1213, he started his conquests by occupying the northern China, then he moved westwards and reached the Caspian sea and Armenia, bringing destruction and terror everywhere. The vanguard of Tatars went from the southern shores of the Caspian sea through Caucasus mountains into the steppes to north from Black sea, where they met the Polovtsians. Polovtsians asked knyazes of southern Rus for assistance. Knyazes of Kiev, Chernigov and Galich (all named Mstislav) agreed to help, thinking that if Tatars subjugate Polovtsians they will become even stronger. For a number of times, the Tatars sent ambassadors to the Russian army saying that they are not in war with Rus, that their only enemies are Polovtsians, but the knyazes kept on going till they met Tatars on river Kalka (1223). Knyazes were defeated. Tatars tortured and killed the captured knyazes and warriors, than turned backwards and disappeared.

Some years later, in 1227, Genghis Khan died and split his conquered lands between his sons, but giving the supreme power to one of them, Ugede. Ugede sent his nephew Batu, son of Juchi, to conquer the western lands. With a horde of Tatars, Batu crossed river Ural (old name Yayik). On Volga, he defeated the Volga Bulgars and sacked their capital the Great Bulgar. Having crossed Volga, in the end of 1237 he came to the duchy of Ryazan, ruled by Olgoviches, the descendants of knyaz Oleg (see chapter 18). Batu Khan demanded for tribute — "one tenth of everything", but he was refused. Ryazan asked other Russian knyazes for help, but nobody came and they had to withstand the Tatars alone. Tatars overcame, burnt and sacked the whole province, kiled or enslaved the population and moved northwards. They devastated Moscow and entered the duchy of Rostov and Suzdal. The grand prince of Vladimir, Yuri Vsevolodovich, left his capital Vladimir and went to the north-west to collect an army (see February 7 in Russian history). Tatars seized Vladimir, killed the family of the knyaz, burnt the city and devastated the remaining towns of the duchy. They met knyaz Yuri on river Sit' (a tributary of Mologa, which is in its own turn a tributary of Volga). On March 4, 1238, Russians were defeated again and Tatars moved to Tver and Torzhok and entered the lands of Novgorod. They turned back in around 150 kilometres from Novgorod and headed to the steppes. On the road, they had to spend a lot of time during the siege of the city Kozelsk, which fell after an unusually long and brave defence. So, in 1237-1238, Batu Khan conquered the north-western Rus.

Later, Batu Khan began the conquest of the southern Rus from his camps on the lower Don and Volga. In 1239 he sacked Pereyaslavl and Chernigov and in 1240 he attacked Kiev. In the end of 1240 Tatars took Kiev after a cruel battle. From Kiev, they moved to Volyn' and Galich, captured them, crossed the Carpathian mountains and entered Hungary and Poland. After a brave rebuff he met in Czechia, they turned backwards and founded a new province of the Tatar empire, the Golden Horde, in the steppes. A new city Sarai, founded on the lower Volga, became the capital of the Golden Horde.


April 12 in Russian history

1861: The "Decree of foundation of the Alexander's hospital for the working people in St. Petersburg in memory of February 19, 1861" is issued.

1881: The emperor Alexander III proclaims freedom for all citizens to enter and leave Russia. This freedom was taken away again by bolsheviks and was restored again only in 1993 due to the efforts of president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev and Anatoly Sobchak, member of Duma and mayor of St. Petersburg. Now, some political groups, proponents of political isolation of Russia, demand to limit this freedom again.

1911: The first Russian aeronatical congress begins in St.Petersburg. It was organized by the VII (Aeronatical) department of the Imperial Russian Technical Society. Among the participants were the navy minister vice-admiral Grigorovich, admiral Rykachev, general-major Korsakevich, other navy officers, state and local self-government officials, members of technical and sports societies and clubs. At the same time, the aeronatical exhibition was taking place. The newspaper "Moskovskie Vedomosti" wrote: "Due to the extreme importance of aeronatics in general and especially for Russia, the aeronatical congress deserves the most serious attention." During the congress, the participants discussed certain models of aeroplanes and engines, promising technologies, technical solutions, importance of aeronatics for the Russian army and navy, organizational problems. The police, as usual, had their own opinion. They welcomed the development of the aviation and its use in the military, but they were also worried by possible use of aeroplanes in criminal and political purposes. They proposed to put aeroplanes and their pilots under surveillance and introduce registration of all pilots. In February, 1911, the police ordered the governors and mayors of the cities to close the aeronatical clubs if their aeroplanes were used by political activists to spread leaflets. In summer, 1910, the police refused to register the "Students' Aeroleague of St.Petersburg", saying that "the low membership fee may lead to the formation of a union of all students in St.Petersburg."

1961: At 9:07 a.m. (6:07 a.m. UTC), spacecraft Vostok was launched to space by carrier Vostok-K. This was the first manned space mission in history. Yuri Gagarin made one orbit around the Earth and safely landed at 10:55 a.m. (7:55 a.m. UTC). The USSR became the world leader in manned space flights. The advantage of the USSR was so huge that Russia still retains this leading position. Huge experience in long-term space missions, space medicine, construction and support of orbital stations, including cargo ships, simple and effective solutions allowed Russia to support the ISS during the years when the American space shuttles were grounded due to the tragedy with Columbia. By the way, recently some new articles describing Gagarin's flight were published. One such article from the magazine "News of Cosmonautics", "Truth about Gagarin's return" (in Russian), pedantically lists the problems taking place during the flight. During the backfire impulse, a valve did not close. The leakage caused unplanned loss of fuel. The lack of fuel made the engine to stop about 0.5 seconds earlier than it was planned and the spacecraft was flying with the speed of 132 m/sec instead of 136 m/sec. Because the engine was down, the control system failed to issue the shutdown command and the armature of the backfire engine did not fold as it should. This led to the rotation of the spacecraft with the speed of 30° per second and the landing module did not separate from the spacecraft. And yet, multiple reduplication of control systems and sensors provided alternative ways to initiate the separation. The heat sensors triggered the alternative separation procedure and the landing was normal. B. Raushenbach, a member of Russian Academy of Sciences, said once: "If cars were made with the same level of reliability as our satellites are made, they would have wheels from all sides and any spatial position of the car would be regarded as normal."


Russian history 32: Provinces of Volyn' and Galich, their unification

At about the same time when Suzdal was growing in the north-east, provinces of Volyn' and Galich began to develop fast in the opposite end, in the south-west. Around 1200, they united and formed one strong duchy.

The duchy of Volyn' and its capital city Vladimir Volynski occupied lands on the right bank of the Western Bug, the upper Pripyat and Southern Bug. It was named after the ancient town Volyn' and the tribe of volynians (aka dulebs). Since the ancient times the duchy submitted to the knyaz of Kiev, but in the mid-XII century a separate dynasty is formed by the successors of the elder son of Vladimir Monomakh. Famous knyaz Izyaslav Mstislavich (see chapter 18) stayed in Volyn' and from here he, like his son Mstislav Izyaslavich did later, attacked Kiev. So, the knyazes of Volyn', like their brothers and uncles from Suzdal, made Volyn' their own land and attempted to adjoin Kiev. Son of Mstislav Izyaslavich, Roman Mstislavich, was especially successful. Not only did he take Kiev, but he also united his duchy with the neighbouring duchy of Galich.

The duchy of Galich consisted of two parts: the mountainous parts and the lowlands. The former was situated on the eastern slopes of Carpathian mountains and its capital was Galich on river Dniester. The latter part was spreading northwards and was called "towns of Cherven", after an ancient city Cherven. Located in the outskirts of Rus, the land of Galich was never very attractive for the knyazes. On the other hand, Poles, Ugrians and steppe nomads often attempted to subjugate these towns. So, the Kievan knyazes usually sent young knyazes to Galich, those who had no other place in Rus. In the end of XI century, the congress of Lyubech agreed to give Galich to two knyazes-izgoys, Vasilko and Volodar, great-grandsons of Yaroslav the Wise. Since then, the Galich outskirts became a duchy of its own. Volodar's son Volodimerko (died in 1152) united all towns under his hand and made Galich the capital of the duchy. He expanded its territory and increased the population by attracting settlers from other areas. For the duchy, he played the same role that Yuri Dolgorukiy played for Suzdal. Treacherous and cruel Volodimerko left no good memories after himself. The unification of the duchy was continued by his son Yaroslav, nicknamed Osmomysl (roughly translated as "has-eight-thougts"), who ruled in 1152-1187. Settlers came to Galich not only from Rus, but also from the west, from Poland and Hungary. The fertility of the land and the location of the territories between Western Europe and Rus were quite attractive. The Tale of Igor's Campaign names Yaroslav one of the two strongest knyazes together with Vsevolod the Big Nest. Yaroslav had diplomatic relations with Hungary, Bulgaria, Byzantine empire, he influenced the political affairs of Kiev, especially till Andrei Bogolyubski came to Kiev.

After the death of Yaroslav Osmomysl his dynasty ended and the throne was taken by the knyaz of Volyn' Roman Mstislavich (1199) and Galich and Volyn' became one united duchy. The state strengthened even more under Roman's son, Daniil Romanovich (see chapter 37).

The rise of Galich lands, just like the rise of the duchy of Rostov and Suzdal, was explained by the influx of settlers. The political situation of Galich, though, was less stable. First, the neighbours of Galich were not weak tribes, but strong militant peoples: Ugrians, Poles and Lithuanians. When not in war with them, knyazes of Galich often allied with them. These foreign countries kept an eye on the events in Galich and were always ready to pick the weakening power (and sometimes they succeeded, as we will see later). Second, the monocracy of the knyazes was contested in Galich by the strong nobility: boyars and druzhina. Even strong knyazes, like Osmomysl and Roman, had to reckon with the boyars. Knyaz Roman attempted to suppress the opposition by brute force, but failed. After the Roman's death the boyars took active part in the feuds which weakened the duchy of Galich and Volyn'.

The proximity of strong foreign countries and the oligarchy of boyars were the main reasons for the failure of Galich and Volyn' to form a strong united country. After a period of glory in XII-XIII centuries the duchy began to decline and was conquered by Poland and Lithuania.


Russian history 31: First knyazes of Suzdal

Vladimir Monomakh visited Suzdal and Rostov only rarely, and his son, Yuri Dolgorukiy, should be regarded as the first knyaz of Suzdal. He spent many years of his youth there, but he still belonged to the generation of the knyazes whose main interests and hopes were linked with Kiev. As soon as he saw a chance to become the grand prince, he left his lands, participated in the feuds of the southern knyazes and finally became the grand prince in 1154 in Kiev, where he died in 1157.

His son, Andrei Bogolyubski, ruled these lands together with his father and together with his father he fought in the south. When Yuri became the knyaz of Kiev, he made Andrei the ruler of Vyshgorod, about 15 kilmeters from Kiev. But Andrei did not intend to stay in the south and soon he left against his father's will to Vladimir, a town on river Klyazma which had been presented to him by Yuri Dolgorukiy a long time ago. When Yuri died, the people of Suzdal and Rostov accepted Andrei as the new knyaz, in spite of his brothers, who had more rights to inherit this throne. But Andrei did not move to any of these larger and older cities. However weak, the tradition of veche was still alive there and Andrei chose the monocracy. He sent the most stubborn boyars into exile and lived in a small palace in Bogolyubovo, near Vladimir, where he could feel himself the only master of the province. To increase the importance of small Vladimir, he built rich stone temples and fortified the city. The most important of these temples was the Uspensky cathedral, especially when Andrei brought the famous icon of Mary, mother of Christ, painted by St.Luke. Andrei took this icon from Vyshgorod. Later, in 1395, it was relocated to Moscow, where it is still kept in the Moscow Uspensky cathedral.

Having achieved monocracy in the Suzdal-Rostov province, Andrei wished to spread his influence to other parts of Rus. Many knyazes of Novgorod subjugated to him and the Novgorodians rebelled against him from time to time. In 1170, they defeated Andrei's army, but in the end he overcame them due to the ultimate anti-Novgorod weapon he possessed: he closed the borders of his province for the Novgorod merchants and prohibited export of grain to Novgorod. At last, hunger made the Novgorodians to ask for peace.

Andrei Bogolyubski also wished to control Kiev. When his nephew Mstislav Izyaslavich became the grand prince, Andrei sent his army against him and occupied Kiev (1169).The Suzdalians were robbing and burning Kiev for two days. Then, Andrei gave the city to one of his younger brothers, without even visiting the captured city. He lived in Vladimir, but was titled the grand prince and demanded submission from the southern knyazes. So, the knyaz of Suzdal and Rostov obtained the highest position among other knyazes of Rus.

Bogolyubski was the knyaz of a new kind, striving for power not only in his own land, but all over Rus. Conservative minds opposed him, but the people who understood the advantages of monocracy, regarded him as the ideal lord. Both views may be found in the chronicles. His despotic nature, though, was such a burden for his retinue that in 1175 they killed him in his favorite Bogolyubovo and sacked his palace.

After the death of Andrei, citizens of Rostov and Suzdal asked his nephews to be their knyaz, but the "younger" cities Vladimir and Pereyaslavl preferred his brothers. During this feud, in which citizens took active participation, Suzdal and Rostov lost. Vladimir finally became the capital of the Suzdal province and it was ruled by Andrei's younger brother Vsevolod (nicknamed the Big Nest). The time of his ruling (1176-1212) was the golden age of the duchy of Suzdal and Rostov. Novgorod and Kiev also belonged to Vsevolod and even the distant knyazes of Galich sought for his support and protection.

In the end of his life he deprived his son Konstantin of his inheritance rights, because Konstantin planned to give the leadership back to the "elder" cities, Rostov and Suzdal. Vsevolod'd second son, Yuri, became the new knyaz. Konstantin attempted to use the hostility of the Novgorodians. Both Yuri and his younger brothers (Yaroslav and Svyatoslav) ruled Novgorod with a rod of iron. So, Novgorod asked one of the descendants of Monomakh, knyaz of Toropets, Mstislav Mstislavich (nicknamed the Dashing) for assistance. He came from Toropets with his army and led Novgorodians to Suzdal. Konstantin joined Mstislav. The decisive battle took place not far from Vladimir, on river Lipitsa (1216). Novgorodians, led by Konstantin and Mstislav, defeated Yuri, who fled from the battlefield and the city of Vladimir became Konstantin's prize. Novgorod re-gained its autonomy and the monocracy ceased to exist in the duchy of Suzdal and Rostov. The grand prince's throne was in Vladimir, and other cities were ruled by his brothers and nephews, who were more or less independent from him. The order of succession was modelled after Kiev — brother ruled after the elder brother, nephews after the uncle. The only difference between Suzdal Rus and Kievan Rus was that veches had no power in the cities and the knyazes were the only power in their appanages, called udels.


April 5 in Russian history

1242: Battle of the Ice. With the stupidity that deserves a better use, the law of the Russian Federation "On the days of the glory" orders to celebrate this date on April 18. In the autumn of 1240, the knights of the Teutonic order, assuming that Russians were weakened by Swedish and Tatar raids, attacked the Republic of Novgorod. Poor guys who miserably failed in the Holy Land thought that the northern savages would be an easier prey than the southern ones. After the initial successes against Prussians, Poles, Livonians and Estonians, they decided to christianize the Russian christians. They succeeded in occupying Russian cities of Pskov, Izborsk and Koporye and moved towards Novgorod. In 1241, knyaz Alexander Yaroslavich (who had already earned his name Alexander Nevsky after defeating the Swedes in 1240) drove them off and took Pskov and Koporye. Alexander led his army to Izborsk, but during the march one of the reconnaissance detachments was defeated by the knights. This allowed Alexander to determine the position and number of the Teutonic forces, which were moving towards a narrow straight between Chudskoye and Pskovskoye lakes (the lakes are known in English as one lake Peipus, from the Estonian name Peipsi). Alexander retreated in order to start the battle on a position that would be favorable for the Russian forces. The troops of the Teutonic Order included around 1,000-2,000 people, of whom about 500-700 were mounted knights. The number of Russians was about 4,000-5,000 people, including Alexander's druzhina, professional soldiers of the Novgorod garrison, militia from the "ends" of Novgorod and its prigorods and members of private militarized forces of boyars and merchants. About 800 of them were cavalry. The mounted knights followed by foot soldiers attacked the centre of the Novgorod army in their typical wedge-shaped "boar's head" formation and caused severe damages, but could not disrupt the order or get through the rows of the soldiers. Some time later, when the Teutonic troops began to grow tired, Alexander ordered the left and right wings to flank the enemy. The Novgorod archers killed many foot soldiers and forced the knights to flee. Heavy mounted knights stepped onto the ice, hoping to make to the opposite coast, but ice collapsed and many of them drowned. Russian chronicles reported of 500 killed knights, but the whole Order was smaller than that. A more reasonable estimation is that about 400 Germans (including 20 knights) were killed and 90 (including 6 "brothers") were captured. The losses of Novgorodians are unclear. Some historians, for example I.Danilevsky, assume that the importance of the battle was overestimated, but, after all, the Order never attempted serious attacks on Russian lands any more.

1797: Emperor Pavel I prohibits the land-lords to force the serfs to work on Sundays.

1941: Yugoslavia and USSR sign the friendship and non-aggression treaty. Only some days earlier, on March 25, Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite Pact joining the Axis. The decision was not easy and resulted into resignment of four members of the cabinet of ministers. What is more important is that the Yugoslavians did not support the alliance. Immediately after the pact was signed, mass demonstrations began in Belgrade and the Yugoslavians overthrew the pro-fascist government and regent prince Paul. Peter II became the king of Yugoslavia and signed the friendship treaty with the USSR. On the very next day, on April 6, the Nazi Luftwaffe began furious attacks on Belgrade. What amazes me most is the reaction of the Yugoslavians. A lot of European countries either happily elected fascist governments or inclined to support nationalist dictatorships of a rather fascist-like type. For example, Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy, who invaded Yugoslavia after the German bombardments, or Romania, Lithuania, Estonia, Greece, etc. The reaction of the Yugoslavians to the alliance with the Axis was so strongly negative that it seems that they had some kind of immunity to fascism. This reaction was not limited to certain groups of population, but was rather universal: army, trade-unions, peasants and even clerics opposed any relationships with the Nazis. Of course, they had their own fascist-like movements, but the general rejection of the ideology is remarkable, IMHO.

The pilots of Normandie-Niemen

1943: The first aerial battle of the fighter squadron Normandie-Niemen. The squadron comprised French pilots who came to the USSR to fight against the Nazi Germany. The idea of such a detachment belonged to Charle de Gaulle. The squadron was formed in September 1942 and departed to the front after some months of training on March 22, 1943, under commandment of Jean Tulasne (died on July 17, 1943). On April 5, the first German Fw 190 was shot down by Albert Préziosi (died on July 28, 1943 near Orel) and the second one by Albert Durand (died on September 1, 1943 near Yelna). The squadron was so successful that Wilhelm Keitel issued an order to execute all captured French pilots. During the war, the pilots of Normandie-Niemen shot down 273 German planes and damaged more than 80. 42 members of the squadron were killed during the war. In 1956, a memorial was built in Moscow with the names of all killed pilots. There are two squadrons named Normandie-Niemen in the Air Forces of France and Russia

1945: About 800 Georgian members of the Georgian Legion, ex-Soviet army soldiers, who were captured during the war and agreed to serve the Nazis, begin a rebellion on the Dutch island Texel. They expected the Allies to land on the island, but the Allies had other priorities. The Georgians failed to capture the artillery batteries on the coasts and Germans managed to land on the island and forced the Georgians to split into small groups and begin a guerilla-style war. The fighting did not stop after the capitulation of Germany and continued till May 20. Probably, neither Germans, nor Georgians would stop the battle because of hatred and fear of immediate execution. During the battle, about 800 German occupants were killed. 565 members of the Georgian battalion and 120 Dutch civilians were killed, too. For the natives of Texel, used to the comfort of the German occupation, the events were absolutely unexpected and frightening. However, they assisted the Georgians and after the war built a monument in the memory of this rebellion. 228 survivors returned to the USSR and, like many other POWs, were sent to the Gulag camps.


Rusian history 30: Suzdal province: nature and life of the settlers

The nature of Suzdal province was not like that of Kiev or Novgorod. Instead of the black earth of Dnieper, the soil contained a large share of clay and sand. It was not as fertile as in Kiev, but it was much better that around Novgorod. So, the population of Suzdal could produce grain, but since the harvests were insufficient, they also had to use other sources of food, primarily in the abundant forests — beekeeping, production of resin and tar, hunting. Both agriculture and forest industries led to the more even distribution of population and people lived in small villages, around a dozen of houses each. Widespread river network provided a perfect transportation system. The largest of the rivers, Volga and Oka, surrounded the territory of the province and their tributaries allowed to visit the most distant corners. New settlers moved along these rivers and stayed on their banks. In Kiev, a typical administrative unit was a town with adjacent territories, but here, in Suzdal such a unit was a river valley with villages scattered on its banks and along the tributaries. Towns existed, too, but they functioned rather as fortifications than as trade and industrial centres.

So, the nature itself shaped this country as a peasants' land. Vladimir Monomakh and his sons became knyazes when the immigration was relatively weak, and they had to encourage the settlers and to provide protection. They organized construction of roads, bridges, fortifications. So, the power of the knyazes was very strong from the very beginning: when a new immigrant came to these lands, he found them to be a property of a powerful lord. The settlers had to agree on the conditions set by the knyaz, they had to pay tribute to the land-owner and asked for protection in case of an emergency. When the number of new settlers had grown, the knyazes were already among the richest rulers in Rus. Under these conditions, the veche principles could not become the dominant form of ruling in Suzdal. New cities were built by knyazes and had to subjugate themselves to the rulers, and the older cities, like Suzdal and Rostov, were not strong enough to oppose the power of the knyazes.


April 3 in Russian history

1933: The first kidney tranplantation was performed by Yuri Voronoy. Some sources give different dates, some even speak of the tranplantation being done in 1934 or 1936. His experiments started in 1929 and in 1930 he managed to transplant a kidney to a dog's neck. As the Ukrainian National museum of medicine reports:

Yu.Yu. Voronoy renounced the thought to take an organ from an alive man, since he thought that “one cannot make a healthy man invalid removing a necessary organ for the problematic saving of a patient”. He decided to use the kidney from a dead body. As we succeeded to establish, on April, 1933 (not in 1934, as it was informed in some sources, 1934 — is the year of publication of Yu. Yu. Voronoy’s work) the surgeon Yu. Yu. Voronoy made the transplantation of the kidney taken from a dead body. The recipient was a woman of 26 years, whose own kidneys did not function for 4 days because of acute poisoning with mercury biochloride. The donor’s kidney belonged to a man of 60 who died as a result of craniocerebral trauma, and was taken 6 hours after his death. ... She [the recipient] lived with the transplanted kidney more than 48 hours. Voronoy had every reason to think that the short-term transplant grafting (only during two days) does not compromise the kidney transplantation as the method of treatment under some forms of mercury biochloride poisonings. And what is more, he supposed that in case of dying off of the first implanted kidney, it is recommended to substitute it by a new, fresh kidney, i. e., he proposed the repeated transplantation. ... Yu. Yu. Voronoy outstripped for a long time the development of transplantology. Suffice it to say that clinical transplantations of the corpse kidney in most countries all over the world were made only in the 50–60’s of the 20th century. Professor Voronoy took part in development of other urgent trends of experimental and clinical surgery. He studied in detail the extremely important problem of the shock. But the problems of transplantology continued to remain the main ones in scientific activity of Voronoy. In 1950 he informed about 5 operations of the corpse kidney transplantation under severe nephrologic diseases.

1945: His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God, emperor of Ethiopia, transfers 10,000 pounds to the population of the USSR, suffering from the consequences of the Nazi occupation.

1945: The government of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic decides to build a monument in Babiy Yar, a gully in Kiev, used by the Nazis as the place of mass executions. On September 27, 1941, 752 patients of a mental hospital were killed. On September 29-30, 33,771 Jews, almost whole Jewish population of Kiev, were executed. In October, 17,000 more Jews were killed there. Later, 621 member of the Ukrainian nationalist organization OUN were also killed. The executions were continuing till autumn of 1943, when the Soviet troops liberated Kiev. The total number of victims is not clear, various sources estimate it between 70,000 and 200,000 people. It is not clear why, but the monument was not built. Moreover, the authorities of Kiev preferred to make a dump in Babiy yar. In 1950, a wall was built and the gully was turned into a collector for liquid waste of nearby brick plant. In 1961, the wall fell and the mudflow destroyed a district of Kiev known as Kurenyovka. About 3,000 people died in this tragedy. In 1965 a granite stele was built. Only in 1976, on July 2, a monument was erected with the inscription: "To the Soviet citizens, soldiers and officers of the Soviet army, killed by fascists in Babiy Yar". Later, in 1990s, more monuments were built commemorating not all victims, but only certain groups of them: Jews, members of OUN, patients of the mental hospital, etc. There's also a cross erected in the memory of German prisoners of war.

1966: Soviet spacecraft Luna-10 becomes the first man-made object ever to orbit another celestial body. It enters the Lunar orbit and begins to collect scientific data using a spectrometer, a magnetometer and a number of other tools. Among other things, Luna 10 discovers a strange objects under the surface of the Moon, called 'mascons' (mass concentrations). On May 29, 1966, Luna 10 fell onto the Moon. On April 3, during the XXIII CPSU congress (BTW, it was the first congress where L.Brezhnev was the general secretary of the Communist Party), Luna 10 transmitted back to the Earth a sound record of L'Internationale.