Some sources cite the tiny nation of San Marino as the oldest country in the world. According to tradition, San Marino declared itself a constitutional republic in 301 AD. Founded by a Christian stonemason (Marinus of Rab) fleeing persecution, San Marino declared itself a constitutional republic in 301 AD.
San Marino lies entirely within Italy.
The secret to San Marino’s longevity? It takes soothing milk baths and does not engage in Middle-East land wars. It also helped that during the tumultuous Italian unification period in the 19th century, San Marino granted asylum to commander Giuseppe Garibaldi and 4000 of his men retreating from French forces in 1849. Later Garibaldi, as leader of a newly unified Italy, returned the favor by granting San Marino’s wish to remain independent.
The country’s official name is the “Most Serene Republic of San Marino”. [Makes one wonder if there are other, less serene republics of San Marino?] At 24 square miles, it’s the fourth smallest nation in the world (About 1/10th the size of Charlotte, North Carolina). And with only 30,000 residents, it’s got a smaller population than many universities.
But what San Marino lacks is size, it more than makes up for in tourists. 3.5 million people visit the ancient locale each year, enjoying its breathtaking views of the Adriatic (San Marino itself is landlocked) and its scenic medieval mountaintop fortifications. Its location high atop Mount Titano is one of the reasons it was only overrun twice in its recorded history, briefly in 1503 and again in 1739, though the neutral country was bombed once by the Allies during World War II, believing the Germans had taken it.
San Marino is also one of the oldest countries in the world in another respect…its average life expectancy is 81 years.
Today, September 3, is celebrated as the Feast Day of its patron and founder, St. Marinus of Rab.
On this day in 1945, Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence of the newly-proclaimed Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
To sum up the prior 2000 years of Vietnamese history in an internet-friendly morsel:
Vietnam was ruled by China for nearly a thousand years, until 938 AD, when a Vietnamese Lord defeated the Chinese at Bach Dang River. The Vietnamese then enjoyed 900 years of autonomy (though not necessarily peace), after which the Europeans moved in, first as allies against neighboring armies, then as conquerors. The French gained control of the region known as Indochina in a series of conflicts in the 19th century and maintained control until World War II when the Japanese invaded.
At the time, France was occupied by Japan’s ally, Germany, and an uneasy alliance of power developed between Japan and Vichy France, the French puppet government that Germany had installed. French authorities in Indochina were thus able to maintain the illusion of sovereignty.
However, in March 1945 the Japanese staged a coup, kicking out the French and dispelling any notions of European dominance.
The Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August of that year, and British and Chinese troops were sent to Vietnam to quell the growing independence movement. But by that time, Vietnam had already proclaimed its independence. Ho Chi Minh became the head of the provisional government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The First Indochina War would last nine years.
The Declaration of Independence that Ho Chi Minh read on September 2, 1945, began with a familiar ring:
All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.
The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.”
Those are undeniable truths.
Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice…
They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood….
After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Vietnam…
Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic…
We are convinced that the Allied nations which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh’s northern-based government did not receive the support it had hoped for from the U.S. The Second Indochina War began not long after the first had ended. The U.S. supported the South Vietnamese government against Ho Chi Minh’s Communist government in the North; the Second Indochina War took the lives of millions of Vietnamese as well as 58,000 Americans. The U.S. withdrew completely in 1975 and North and South Vietnam unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
With over 86 million people, today Vietnam is the 13th largest country in the world by population.
With the 2011 revolution overthrowing Muammar Qaddafi, it remains to be seen whether the country will continue to remember September 1 as Revolution Day, marking the day in 1969 that Qaddafi rose to power.
Libya had an extremely rough colonization period under Italy in the early part of the 20th century. In 1951, Libya gained independence as a constitutional monarchy under King Idris.
King Idris held a decidedly pro-Western stance, and ruled the country for nearly two decades. He arranged to transfer power to his son on September 2, 1969. However, on September 1 that year, a coup led by officer Muammar Gaddafi deposed the King and his son, citing how the country’s wealth had managed to fall into the hands of the very few, notably the king’s inner circle. The 27 year-old Gaddafi gained his title: “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution.”
Gaddafi proposed that Libya would form a new type of government economy, neither capitalist nor socialist, but a third road between the two.
Gaddafi’s government’s links to the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, and its links to terrorist groups and bombings in the 1980s led to increase pressure from the West, and finally to U.S. air strikes in 1986 (which killed Gaddafi’s adopted daughter). In 1988, Libyan intelligence agents were involved in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. Libya spent the next decade under U.N. sanctions.
In 1999, U.N. sanctions were lifted after Gaddafi extradited Libyans suspected in the bombing. After 9-11, Gaddafi denounced Al-Qaeda; U.S. sanctions were lifted in 2003 when Libya agreed to pay billions of dollars to victims of Pan Am 103 and other bombings.
In terms of GDP per capita, Libya is the second richest nation in Africa. Its official name is the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Arabic for “state of the masses), and it stands out from all other nations in terms of its flag: it’s the only single-color banner. Green symbolizes both Libya and the Islamic religion.
Over the decades, Libya has moved away from solidarity with the Middle-East and more toward taking a leadership role in the development of Africa.
September 1, 2011
September 19, 2012
September 9, 2013
Today Hindus celebrate the birthday of the Colossus with the Proboscis, Lord Ganesh, aka Gajanana (Elephant-Faced Lord), aka Devendrashika (Protector of All Gods), aka Kaveesha (Master of Poets), aka Lambodara (Huge Bellied Lord) aka Vignavinashanaya (Destroyer of All Obstacles and Impediments) aka Akhurath (One who has Mouse as His Charioteer) or any of the other 101 names he goes by.
Ganesh is perhaps the most distinctive-looking deity of the Hindu pantheon. His birth was as unconventional as his profile.
While Lord Shiva was away at war, his wife Parvati sought to bathe herself, but feared someone might enter while she was vulnerable. To guard her door, she fashioned the model of a son out of clay or sandalwood paste, breathed life into him, and placed him outside with instructions not to let anyone in.
It just so happened that Lord Shiva came back from the battlefront while Pavarti was bathing. Ganesh didn’t know who he was and prevented Shiva from entering. Shiva, after a hard day of battling demons, was not in the mood to be stopped in his own house. With his sword he sliced Ganesh’s head clean off.
Needless to say, when Parvati came out of the bath to find her new son decapitated, she was quite perturbed with Shiva, and threatened to destroy the three worlds of Earth, Heaven, and Hell.
Like any good husband, Shiva instructed his men to go out and bring back the head of the first living creature they found. They came back with the head of an elephant, which Shiva placed atop Ganesh’s decapitated body and with a sacred breath, made him whole.
Ganesh became the great Protector, and also the bringer of good fortune and prosperity.
People celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with a festival lasting ten to twelve days. Large and small clay and metal models of Genash are created for the festival, sometimes 20 feet tall. Sacred traditional foods are offered to the god, including lotus flowers, fruits, sweets, and prasadam. At the end of the ten days, Ganesh’s likenesses are taken in a procession to the nearest body of water and submerged.
These days most idols of Lord Ganesh are made with Plaster of Paris rather than clay. Unfortunately, this creates a toxic hazard when thousands of idols are submerged in local rivers and lakes on the final day of celebration. Indian activists try to combat, or at least mitigate the pollution by encouraging observers to perform short, symbolic submersions, or to return to tradition, natural materials like clay.