Defenders of the Fatherland Day

February 23

Today Russia celebrates Defenders of the Fatherland Day.

Russian Federation Flag

On February 23 (Julian Calendar) 1917, Russian women in Petrograd celebrated the 7th International Women’s Day. In response to food shortages caused by the war with Germany, the women of Russia’s capital city “poured onto the streets,” demanding “bread for our children” and “the return of our husbands from the trenches.”
(www.marxists.org/archive/kollonta/1920/womens-day.htm)

The protests gained momentum the following days when workers’ strikes forced the closure of hundreds of factories. On February 26 the Tsar, who was away conducting the war, ordered his general to disperse the demonstrators, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands, saying such disturbances were “impermissible at a time when the fatherland is carrying on a difficult war with Germany.”
(Tony Cliff Lenin: All Power to the Soviets)

Russian troops fired on the crowds, killing dozens of protesters. But the real problem for the Tsar was that many of the Tsar’s troops refused to fire on crowds and sided with the strikers. The clashes of February 24-27 claimed about 1500 lives on both sides. In the end the Tsar lost the support of his own troops, was forced to abdicate his throne.

But that’s not why the Russians celebrate on February 23.

Nope, it’s because of what happened on February 23 the following year.

Nicholas II’s abdication gave way to a Russian Provisional Government, led by Social Revolutionary Alexander Kerensky. Under Kerensky the government declared Russia a republic, pronounced freedom of speech, made steps to encourage democracy, and released thousands of political prisoners.

But Kerensky, perhaps because he was the former Defense Minister, continued to keep the Russians engaged in the disastrous war against Germany. Bad move. Like the Tsar before him, the war would be his downfall.

Kerensky
Alexander Kerensky

How Russia got its Soviet:

The Russian word soviet meant “council.” Soviets were workers’ councils with little power, set up in the wake of 1905’s Bloody Sunday.

The Bolsheviks were an extremist minority party and as such could not hold much sway in a democratic assembly. Instead Lenin and the Bolsheviks bypassed the Provisional Government entirely and consolidated their power in these urban workers’ councils known as soviets, the most prominent one being the soviet in Petrogad.

In 1917 their platform called for the seizure of land, property and industry by the peasantry and workers, for the transfer of power to the local workers’ councils, and for the immediate end of war with Germany.

In April few took the Bolsheviks seriously.

By November they ruled the country.

What happened in 7 months?

Under Kerensky’s Provisional Government food and supply shortages worsened. Mass numbers of Russian soldiers continued to defect. And the drain of resources for the war effort strangled the economy. Even though most people were against the war, political parties would not withdraw. Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ opposition to the war bought them enough support to pull off the armed uprising later called the “October Revolution,” which occurred in—you guessed it—November. (Gregorian)

After the uprising the Bolsheviks put forth a resolution before the Provisional Government to transfer political power to the soviets.When the Provisional Government voted it down (What a surprise) the Bolsheviks walked out. The next day the Bolsheviks, with the support of 5,000 members of the Russian Navy in Petrograd, issued a decree dissolving the Provisional Government.

Lenin with Sunglasses
Lenin: Future's so bright, gotta wear shades

Lenin believed a standing army was a bourgeois institution and would not be necessary in a communist society; he was proved wrong. In order to ensure beneficial terms in an armistice with Germany, and facing a massive civil war, the Bolsheviks called for the establishment of a standing Workers’ and Peasants’ “Red” Army to replace the disintegrated Imperial Army.

The decree was issued on January 28. Ten days later on February 23* assemblies were held across the country to recruit soldiers for the new army. The “mass meetings brought 60,000 men into the Red Army in Petrograd, 20,000 in Moscow and thousands more in other places around the country.”

*(On February 1, 1918 Russia switched from the old Julian Calendar, abandoned by the West in the 16th through 18th centuries, to the Gregorian Calendar. As a result, the date February 1, 1918 in Russia was followed by February 14, 1918.)

February 23 was declared Red Army Day. It was changed to Soviet Army Day by Stalin. And to Defenders of the Fatherland Day following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Recently, according to dincarslan.blogspot.com

“the long reaching poisonous arms of capitalism have found a new virgin field to exploit and made this day a “Men’s Day” where the women gives (or should give) gifts to their fathers, brothers, boyfriends and male colleagues.”

So, ironically, the date on which the Russians once celebrated women, February 23, is now a holiday extolling men.

Defenders of the Motherland Day

Lyubov Tsarevskaya has a more traditional, patriotic view of the holiday:

“This is the ultimate reflection of one’s devotion and patriotism. As Jesus Christ said, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) The history of the army in Imperial, Soviet, and now, Russian times is replete in stirring examples of self-sacrifice and heroism.”

The Chechens regard February 23 in a remarkably different manner:

On Army Day Chechens Quietly Remember Mass Deportation

It Has Been 63 Years Since the Deporation of the Chechens and Ingush

Army Day blunder
A 2006 poster proclaiming “Congrats to the Russian Soldiers” mistakingly shows the USS Missouri.

Kim Jong Il’s Birthday (no longer observed)

Sadly, this holiday is no longer celebrated.

Mr. Jong Il passed away on December 17, 2011, aged 70 (or 69).

—————————————————————————————

February 16 used to be celebrated by North Korea as the birthday of its Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il. He was a Water Tiger Aquarius.

Kim Jong Il, official portrait
The late Kim Jong Il

According to http://www.usbridalguide.com/special/chinesehoroscopes/Tiger.htm

“Tigers are also incorrigibly competitive – they simply cannot pass up a challenge, especially when honor is at stake, or they are protecting those they love. Tigers are unpredictable and it would be unwise to underestimate their reactions…They often have a hidden agenda…Tigers do not find worth in power or money.”

In honor of the late Dear Leader, here is a clip of his former bodyguards in training.

So You Think You Can Be a Kim Jong Il Bodyguard???

“Under the wise guidance of Leader Kim Jong Il the Party, Army and People have built the utopian socialist workers’ paradise that is the envy of the whole world.”– “Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, the Great Brilliant Commander

North Korea electricity map
North and South Korea - electricity map

“North Korea may have the bomb, but it doesn’t have much electricity.” — Daily News

Women’s Equality Day

August 26

“Susan B. Anthony is not on trial; the United States is on trial.”

— Matilda Joslyn Gage

Susan B. Anthony

Women’s Equality Day celebrates the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920. The amendment gave American women the long-fought-for right to vote. One of the most vocal and influential activists for women’s suffrage was Susan B. Anthony. In fact, in Massachusetts it’s Susan B. Anthony Day today, in honor of the famed activist, human rights defender, and convicted felon.

That’s right. Susan B. Anthony was arrested on November 18, 1872 for voting in the November 5 presidential election, “without having a lawful right to vote and in violation of section 19 of an act of Congress.”

In order to prevent damage to her reputation, Commissioner Storrs sent word to Anthony, requesting that she come down to his office. Anthony responded saying she “had no social acquaintance with him and didn’t wish to call on him.” The Commissioner was forced to send a deputy marshal to Anthony’s residence in Rochester, New York. She later recalled:

“He sat down. He said it was pleasant weather. He hemmed and hawed and finally said Mr. Storrs wanted to see me… ‘what for?’ I asked. ‘To arrest you.’ said he. ‘Is that the way you arrest men?’ ‘No.’ Then I demanded that I should be arrested properly.”

Anthony refused to pay bail. The case made national headlines, and letters flooded in. To her dismay, Anthony’s lawyer did pay her bail without her knowledge, explaining “I could not see a lady I respected put in jail.” (This however, later ruined her chance of bringing the case to the Supreme Court.)

Anthony’s lawyer argued—as Anthony had done herself outside of court—that the wording of the 14th Amendment gave all citizens of the United States the right to vote. After a lengthy trial, covered daily in the national press, and at which Anthony herself was not allowed to testify, the judge announced: “The Fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote, and the voting by Miss Anthony was in violation of the law…Upon this evidence I supposed there is no question for the jury and the jury should be directed to find a verdict of guilty.”

The judge pronounced her guilty without ever calling on the jury to deliberate.

Before sentencing, the judge asked Anthony: “Has the prisoner anything to say why sentence shall not be pronounced?”

Not one to make waves, Anthony told the judge:

“Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government…May it please the Court to remember that since the day of my arrest last November, this is the first time that either myself or any person of my disfranchised class has been allowed a word of defense before judge or jury…All of my prosecutors, from the eighth ward corner grocery politician who entered the complaint, to the United States Marshal, Commissioner, District Attorney, District Judge, your honor on the bench, not one is my peer, but each and all are my political sovereigns; and had your honor submitted my case to the jury, as was clearly your duty, even then I should have had just cause of protest, for not one of those men was peer; but, native or foreign born, white or black, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, awake or asleep, sober or drunk, each and every man of them was my political superior; hence in no sense, my peer.”

Anthony continued for some time, ignoring the judge’s orders for silence. Finally the judge ordered Anthony to pay $100 and the costs of prosecution. Anthony simply said:

May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt, incurred by publishing my paper–The Revolution–four years ago, the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your manmade, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government…And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that ‘Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.’

She never paid the fine.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, she voted Republican.

Tynwald Day – Isle of Man

Usually July 5

Tynwald is the legislative body of the Isle of Man, located between England and Ireland in the Irish Sea. Founded in 979 AD, Tynwald is said to be the oldest continuously active parliament in the world. It is descended from the Norse thing–the Parliamentary body developed by the Vikings. Vikings settled on the previously island beginning in the eighth and ninth centuries, but the island maintained much of its Celtic heritage.

On Tynwald Day, the island’s national holiday, the parliament meets in an open air ceremony presided over by the Lieutenant Governor or the Lord of Mann. The British monarch is the official head of state (since Charlotte Murray, 8th Baroness Strange, sold the sovereignty of the Isle for £70,000 in 1765) but the Isle of Man is not a part of the United Kingdom. As Lord of Mann, Queen Elizabeth presided over Tynwald’s 1000th anniversary session in July 1979.

Ballakilleyclieu - Isle of Man © Jon Wornham, www.island-images.co.uk

Tynwald Day originally fell on Midsummer’s Day, June 24, in the Julian calendar. When the Isle of Man switched to the Gregorian calendar, they lost 11 days, but continued to celebrate its national day on June 24 Julian (July 5 Gregorian). As is the case this year, Tynwald Day is held the following Monday if the 5th falls on a weekend.

According to legend, the Isle of Man was once ruled by a Celtic sea god named Manannan, who would shroud the isle in his misty cloak to protect it from invaders. Residents paid tribute to the sea god in the form of bundles “of course meadow grass yearly, and that, as their yearly tax, they paid to him each midsummer eve.” —Mannanan Beg Mac y Leirr

Today the bundling of reeds is still a part of the Tynwald Day festivities.

Wild Ride on an Italian Superbus

June 2

Today the descendants of the world’s oldest Republic celebrate Republic Day.

Over 2500 years ago present-day Italy was ruled by a king with a superbadass name, Tarquinius Superbus, who inherited the throne, not through direct lineage, but the even-older-fashion way–by offing his wife’s dad King Tullius.

Servius Tullius had angered the Roman elite by implementing revolutionary policies that protected the poor and laid the foundations for constitutional government. Tarquinius and the king’s daughter Tullia, outraged at how her father was flushing their country down the toilet, led the conspiracy to assassinate him, ending his 44-year reign. According to legend, Tullia showed her remorse for the murder by repeatedly running over her father’s dead body with a chariot.

Tarquinius ushered in a new age of Roman reform, by repealing his father-in-law’s Constitutional decrees and maintaining the peace through violence, murder and terrorism. These halcyon days came to an abrupt halt in 510 BC. Just as Tullius’ daughter became the king’s downfall, Tarquinius’ son Sextus would become his, taking down not only his father, but the entire concept of monarchy in his wake.

The Rape of Lucretia

The unruly and loathsome Sextus decided it would be a thrill to rape one of the most respected and pious members of Roman patrician society. He told Lucretia, wife of the nobleman Collatinus, that if she refused to submit to him, he would have her killed and place her body in bed with a dead slave, all before her husband returned home. A fate worse than death, she would be disgraced for all time.

Lucretia gave in to the threat. But after the evil deed, she reported circumstances of the rape to her family. She then committed suicide to save them from scandal. The furor that arose against the king led to a revolt against the monarchy and the deposing of the whole king’s clan.

On these precarious beginnings grew the most famous republic in world history. A republic that only ended half a millennium later when Julius Caesar was elected dictator for life.

But that has nothing to do with Republic Day. No, the Italians celebrate Republic Day to commemorate this day back in 1946, when they elected to boot the House of Savoy, Europe’s longest ruling royal house, from power.

fascio-nating’ bit of linguistic trivia:

In 1922, after a series of riots and civil unrest, Italy’s King had appointed the strong figure of Mussolini, leader of the Fascist Party, to be the nation’s new Prime Minister. (Today’s word fascist comes from the Italian fascio, referring to a bundle of rods. In the 19th century the fascio was used by political groups as a symbol of Italian unity: the individual sticks of the fascio were fragile, while the bundle itself was unbreakable.)

The King assumed Mussolini would reign in the rebelling democratic and parliamentary institutions. Mussolini did indeed consolidate power, by declaring himself supreme dictator and doing away with any semblance of representative or Constitutional government.

In 1939 Mussolini and the Fascists brought Italy into World War II on the side of Nazi Germany in the hopes of rebuilding an empire–a mission accomplished by conquering King Zog of Albania. Mussolini met his fate near the end of the war. Executed by a Soviet firing squad, Mussolini’s body was hung upsidedown at an Esso gas station, where it became a punching bag for angry Italian citizens.

http://members.aol.com/Custermen85/ILDUCE/Mussolini.htm

But his death didn’t ease resentment against the monarchy that had once promoted the dictator.

There were no names or specifics on the famous 1946 referendum. The ballot asked voters to determine whether the Head of the Italian State would be held by the Royal Family–the House of Savoy–or a democratically elected representative.

During this process King Vittorio Emanuele III handed over the throne to his son Umberto II. Umberto is called “the King of May”, referring to his fleeting reign. On June 2 and 3 a narrow margin of Italians voted for the final abolition of the Italian monarchy.

As a result of the referendum the king and his progeny were forced to leave Italy forever. It wasn’t until 2002 that this provision was overturned, and the son of King Umberto, Victor Emmanuel, exiled for 56 years, finally re-entered the land he once almost ruled.

Timor of the Rising Sun

O mundo é dos audazes. Timor triunfará!

— Jorge Heiter

East Timor (now Timor-Leste) is the eastern half of a small island–conveniently named ‘Timor’–southeast of Indonesia. ‘Timor’ actually means East, or Rising Sun, so technically it’s ‘East East’.

Timor-Leste is one of two Catholic countries in Asia, the other being the Philippines; and the only Asian country where Portuguese is a second language.

For over 400 years the Portuguese ruled East Timor as a colony, until a 1975 coup d’etat in Portugal ushered in an era of de-colonialization. With a destabilized government, fighting broke out between two Timorese political parties, one of which allied themselves with Indonesia. (Indonesia occupied the western half of Timor.) The other party, FRETILIN, unilaterally declared East Timor an independent nation on November 28, 1975.

That independence was short lived.

The following week the Indonesian military, under President Suharto, began one of the most brutal, and one of the most ignored, invasions and occupations of the second half of the 20th century.

The United Nations condemned the invasion, but took no further action. Indonesia justified the invasion by claiming that the artificial border that split the island was the result of European imperialism and political oppression. (The Dutch had once occupied West Timor.)

Constancio was a young boy at the time of the invasion. Like many others, he and his family fled to the jungle, where he witnessed friends and family die from illness and starvation. All the while the Indonesian air force continued bombing from above. After several months he was captured and interred in a make-shift concentration camp that was worse than the mountainous jungle.

“There were thousands of people in a small area that was infested by mosquitoes and with no running water, no food. At least 15 people died every day.”

The island was effectively cut off from the rest of the world; it is estimated that of a population of 700,000, up to 100,000 Timorese died in the first 5 years of occupation.

After being released, Constancio became a servant to an Indonesian police officer in Dili. He gained entrance to a private school and became active in a students’ movement for an independent East Timor.

In 1991 Constancio helped organize a demonstration protesting the murder of Sebastiao Gomes, a 22 year-old killed in a church the month before. As over 3,000 unarmed demonstrators converged on the cemetery where Gomes was buried, Indonesian troops opened fire using American-made M16s. He recalled…

“We didn’t think they would open fire with United Nations observers and journalists being there.

Over 250 Timorese were killed; 200 more ‘disappeared’ in the following military crackdown. What separated the massacre of Santa Cruz from previous atrocities was that it was documented by Australian media, one of the few events on the otherwise isolated island to be so. The massacre at Santa Cruz became a rallying point for supporters of Timorese independence.

With a little less luck, Constancio might have been one of the disappeared, but he was tipped off by an inside friend who warned him not to go home that night when the secret police were waiting for him.

Constancio escaped to the western half of the island with the aid of friends, false papers, and money to bribe an Indonesian official to issue him a passport to Singapore.

He never took a moment of his freedom for granted. Traveling to Portugal and the U.S., he spread awareness of the situation in East Timor. In 1993 he matriculated to Brown University and he continued speaking across the U.S. about his life, the East Timor people, and the horrors he had seen.

In 1996, two of his countrymen Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop Ximenes Belo, won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts at ending the violence in East Timor, bringing international attention to the fate of the small island.

In the late 1990s the determination of Timorese like Pinto, Ramos-Horta, and Ximenes Belo, as well Australian journalists like Allan Naird, met with help from an unlikely source. The crash of the Asian markets in 1997 destabilized Indonesia, and the ensuing recession forced President Suharto to call an end to his 30-year reign in May 1998. Dependent on foreign support during the financial crisis, the new President gave in to the international community’s demands for an election in East Timor.

On August 30, 1999, East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia. But even after the election, paramilitary groups continued attacks on unarmed civilians in an attempt to provoke widespread violence and justify the need for Indonesian peacekeepers. Despite provocation, the Timorese kept their side of the peace.

Under international pressure, the last Indonesian troops left East Timor on October 31, 1999.

On this day in 2002 Timor-Leste became the first newly-independent nation of the 21st century.

Timor Com Dor e Com Amor

Flight from East Timor: Student works from Brown base toward freedom for his homeland – Richard Morin

East Timor and the International Community – Heike Krieger

The Future of East Timor

The Path out of Poverty

Instability Sours Timor Celebration

I have come a long way, but East Timor has come further

Independence Day – Israel

May 9, 2011

And the Lord said to him: this is the land that I promised to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob in these words: I will give it to your descendants.I have allowed you with your own eyes to see it, but you will not pass into it.

—Deuteronomy 34:4

Today marks the 60th anniversary (in the Jewish calendar) of the signing of Israel’s Declaration of independence. The document speaks for itself.

Declaration of Israel’s Independence 1948

ERETZ-ISRAEL [The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.

Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.

In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.

On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

Accordingly we, members of the People’s Council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist Movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.

Issued at Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 – 5th of Iyar, 5708

Temple Mount. Photo by David Shankbone

Mayday Mayday

May 1

I was taught in elementary school that we didn’t celebrate May Day anymore because it was a Communist holiday.

Not only was this a lame excuse not to celebrate a holiday, it also wasn’t true.

In ancient and medieval Europe, seasons were determined not by equinoxes and solstices, but by the days that fell directly in between, known as “cross-quarter days.” The first cross-quarter day of the year is Groundhog Day or Candlemas, between winter solstice and spring equinox. The second is today, May Day, which once marked the beginning of summer.

May Day traditions such as creating floral wreaths date back to the Romans and Celts (Beltane), and survived well into the 20th century, including dancing around the Maypole and crowning a ‘May Queen.’

Mizzou, Missouri, 1911

In the 19th century May Day became a standard date for workers to re-negotiate contracts with employers. One reason may be because it was one of the few days off workers had that wasn’t a Sunday (church day) or a religious holiday. Thus, as communities got together to celebrate, the workers–usually the fathers of the family–could also unite for better wages or working conditions.

Over time May Day was adopted by (or hijacked by, depending on your politics) communist, socialist and labor groups. May Day fell out of favor in the U.S. where the first of May is celebrated with other, more patriotic holidays, including:

  • Law Day
  • Loyalty Day
  • National Day of Prayer (1st Thursday in May)

and the more casual

  • Lei Day.

Lei Day is, believe it or not, the oldest of those four holidays. It’s the Hawaiian version of May Day, dating to the 1920s. Loyalty Day, Law Day, and National Day of Prayer were officiated in the 1950s under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower.

In the United States, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.

Even though May Day was seen as a communist import in America, it was in Chicago, Illinois, that May Day gained notoriety as a day for workers and eventually became the international holiday known as Labour Day.

Oh, and the distress call ‘Mayday! Mayday!‘ has nothing to do with the holiday. It’s from the French venez m’aider, meaning ‘come help me.’