Global Archive: Russia, Part 1

In our Global Archive series, we get to know the world a little better, one country (or territory) at a time. Today’s installment: Russia!

Looking at Russia | PolyArchive.com

So let’s start at the very beginning. Modern Russia has origins in about the 8th century CE. Vikings (called Varangians by the Greeks) came to rule over the people known as Slavs.

  • Is the word slav related to the word slave? Maybe. Some linguists think they have a shared origin in Latin. Slavic people were often enslaved in the 3rd through 8th centuries. It might also be derived from slovo, “word”–people who spoke the same language or “word” might have called each other Slavs, then other people heard them calling each other Slavs, and then decided that that was their name…

In 862, Rurik, a Varangian prince, came to rule over the area around Lake Ladoga, not too far from modern day St. Petersburg. He founded a new settlement at Novgorod. Rurik’s descendants would be the first dynasty of Russian rulers.

By the 9th century, the Varangians had assembled the Slavic tribes into a loose federation of city-states. At the time it was called “the land of the Rus'”–though linguists argue about what Rus’ means. Nowadays it is often called Kievan Rus’, because Kiev became the most powerful city after Novgorod.

Slavs were pagans and worshiped nature. There were at least 6 major gods representing things like thunder, the sun, and women’s work. In 988, the Grand Prince of Kiev, Vladimir, forcibly began converting people to Orthodox Christianity in order to strengthen his relationship with the Byzantine empire. The people did not totally want to give up some of their pagan traditions though, and for years priests complained about “dvoeverie” or having two faiths.

Learn about Russian history on PolyArchive.com

Kievan Rus’ around 1100 CE.

As Kievan Rus’ eventually began to decline, Mongols started invading. Kievan Rus’ fell in 1240 to the “Mongol Yoke.” The cities of Rus’ had to pay tribute to Mongol leaders. Finally, the princes of the city of Moscow got strong enough to fight back in the 1400s, and by 1480, Moscow rose as the new powerful, independent city. It conquered its neighboring areas.

As Kievan Rus’ eventually began to decline, Mongols started invading. Kievan Rus’ fell in 1240 to the “Mongol Yoke.” The cities of Rus’ had to pay tribute to Mongol leaders. Finally, the princes of the city of Moscow got strong enough to fight back in the 1400s, and by 1480, Moscow rose as the new powerful, independent city. It conquered its neighboring areas.

Learn about Russian history on PolyArchive.com

Moscovy by 1525.

In 1547, Ivan the Fourth, more famously known as Ivan the Terrible, took a new title: The Tsar of All the Russias.

  • Ivan’s name in Russian, Иван Грозный, does not mean “Ivan the Terrible”–it means “Ivan the Terrifying.” He was a scary guy!
Learn about Ivan the Terrible on PolyArchive.com

Tsar Ivan IV as depicted by Sergei Eisenstein in a 1944 biopic.

He conquered the far eastern territories of Kazan and Siberia, and Russia became a multicultural country.

The Romanov dynasty came to power in 1613. They strengthened Russia and kept expanding its borders. By the late 17th century, Russia had absorbed half of Ukraine.

In 1721, Peter I (the Great) named himself emperor. The Russian Empire was born. He built a new capital at St. Petersburg, and led a cultural revolution to modernize Russia. Catherine the Great continued these imperialist ways, and added enormous amounts of land to the empire through conquest and colonization.

Learn about Russia on PolyArchive.com

Russian Empire in 1866. Hey, there’s Alaska!

Eventually, the empire declined. When Russia entered World War I, the high costs of war and dissatisfaction with corruption led the people to unrest. Two revolutions took place in 1917–the first in February forcing Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate in favor of a Provisional Government and eventually the Russian Republic, and another in October seizing power for the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin. By January 1918, the Soviet Union, the world’s first Soviet state, was born.

  • The official name was The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics– Союз Советских Социалистических Республик. Soviet refers to the elected council that governed each republic. It is the same word as совет– advice!
  • Here are the 15 republics that were part of the Soviet Union: Russian SFSR, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Uzbek SSR, Kazakh SSR, Georgian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Lithuanian SSR, Moldavian SSR, Latvian SSR, Kirghiz SSR, Tajik SSR, Armenian SSR, Turkmen SSR, Estonian SSR (SSR means “Soviet Socialist Republic”)

In order to achieve the monumental goal of modernizing the vast territory of the former Russian empire, the Soviet Union had to be organized. It is no secret that these modernizations, such as the forced collectivization of farmlands, came at an appalling human cost. The Second World War took an enormous toll on the USSR as well; however, the rapid industrialization of the previous decades made for an effective wartime infrastructure.

I think I’ll leave discussion of the rest of the 20th century and beyond for another day, as this post is already getting quite long. To be continued!

 

 

Save

Once More unto the Breach, Dear Friends

HENRY V, ACT 3, SCENE I. France. Before Harfleur.

Alarum. Enter KING HENRY, EXETER, BEDFORD, GLOUCESTER, and Soldiers, with scaling-ladders

KING HENRY V

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Exeunt. Alarum, and chambers go off

 

 

 

Hudson’s Detroit Flagship Store

The J.L. Hudson Company, known more commonly as Hudson’s, was a chain of department stores based in Detroit. Detroit.(1)Founded in 1881 by Joseph Lowthian Hudson (yes, that Hudson), the company grew in the city’s boom years, and by 1961, the flagship store on Woodward Avenue occupied an entire city block.  By the 1980s, the downtown flagship store was in decline, and it was demolished in 1998. The Hudson’s chain merged with former rival Dayton’s (which also acquired another Midwestern icon, Marshall Field’s department stores), and after a series of corporate rebrandings and transactions, the remaining locations emerged as Macy’s stores.

Here is an excerpt from the Hudson’s company newsletter, less than a decade before the city of Detroit would be torn apart by the riots and corruption from which it has still not fully recovered:

“Nearly 7,000 are regularly employed in Hudson’s Downtown Store, with another 3,000 joining the ranks during the Christmas season.

The Downtown Store rises 25 stories above the street, including the tower, and four stories beneath it. 17 of these floors are devoted to merchandise and customer service.

There are 51 passenger elevators, four series of escalators, 705 private fitting rooms, five public restaurants and an employee cafeteria.6151698980_5638471933_o

Our telephone rings on one of the world’s largest private switchboards, handling up to 32,000 calls a day.

The Downtown Store has fur storage vaults for more than 55,000 garments; has 18 public entrances on street level; 51 large display windows and 50 small display windows.

The electrical system in the Downtown Store is comparable to that of the City of Ypsilanti.

The Downtown Store is headquarters for Hudson’s Bridal Registry which enters ten thousand brides a year.

Since 1928, air conditioning facilities have been gradually enlarged so that they now take in every floor from the fourth basement up. The combined system is one of the largest in the world.” (From “The Hudsonian” by The J.L. Hudson Company, 1969)

A Little Parenthesis in Eternity

 

NASA image

The last manned moon landing took place on December 11, 1972– nigh on 40 years ago. Whether or not you believe it was real, in the end, that wasn’t the point. The “Space Race” was the capstone of decades of a shared imagination of a future of unlimited promise and wholly unfamiliar, something that shaped literature,  architecture, automobiles, entertainment. Scientific advancement had already been used to kill millions in times of war, but the “atomic age” chose to imagine the positive potential of science, with shivers of recognition of the present moment’s historicity. It could not last, of course, and there may never be another movement like it. But it was beautiful.

“The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty… I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.”
~Carl Sagan, Cosmos

“We are travelers on a Cosmic Journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is Eternal... We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to Love, to share. This is a precious moment.It is a little parenthesis in Eternity”
~Deepak Chopra, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

Home sweet Milky Way (NASA image)

Initially, I found the second quote attributed to Paulo Coelho. Oh, the perils of seizing pretty quotes on the Internet. On searching around, I found that the exact quote belongs to Deepak Chopra, and that the idea of “parenthesis in eternity” is hardly new. Sir Thomas Browne said it in 1658. John Donne expressed a similar thought in 1624. It’s beautiful indeed to think that a convention of written English took on symbolism so early, before punctuation was even standardized in English. And symbols endure long after their referents have faded into antiquity, like debris floating in space. Speaking of, here’s one last space fact: Voyager 1 is more than 11 billion miles away, and it’s run off 64K of computing power and an eight-track tape deck.

 

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PYRRHUS • Warrior King

Pyrrhus of Epirus

Pyrrhus of Epirus (Photo credit: diffendale)

Pyrrhus inherited the throne of Epirus in Northern Greece around 306 B.C.E., and as a young man proved himself on the battlefield again and again. Pyrrhus apparently had great strategic skills, but he also had the reputation of not knowing when to stop. In 281 he went to Italy and defeated the Romans at Heraclea and Asculum, but suffered bitterly heavy losses. The devastation led to his famous statement, “One more such victory and I am lost” — hence the term “Pyrrhic victory” for any victory so costly as to be ruinous. [via]

My question is, what isn’t a pyrrhic victory? For everything we gain in life –and don’t get me wrong, we gain a lot more than we deserve– there is also, always loss. Loss is a universal experience. Whether it’s losing a loved one, a battle, a game, your money, your keys, your mind, or most irreplaceable of all, time, we lose. And on that note, read on for extra credit…

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