Decluttering

Fear not, dear readers, I am still here! The past couple of weeks have been busy for me—we’re trying to wrap up the first stage of a project at work—and so I’ve been working and reading and working on a bit of fiction writing.

I’ve also been decluttering. Now, I don’t think I have that much stuff. Compared to a lot of my friends, I’m very decluttered indeed. But there are a fair amount of things I have that I’m not so sure I need anymore. (Did I ever need them in the first place? That is a good question.) As of late, my focus has been on decluttering papers. My papers are stacked in various places throughout my apartment. There are the financial papers on a shelf I use for office supplies and other stuff. There are the old notes I have in a cabinet. And there are the completely old and random papers in my closet.

A couple weeks ago, I found a bunch of old papers from high school in my closet. High school, you guys! I didn’t like high school and so I have no idea why I was even hanging onto these. I put them in the stack to be disposed of, along with some other things from my college graduation (I’ve saved some materials from that event, but I didn’t need three copies of the same exact document). I also found old sheet music I never play anymore, along with a few old music articles that I have no use for.

The biggest thing I decided to declutter, though, are my class notes. Longtime readers will know I was a history major back in the day. I loved my major. In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a person who loved that major more than I did. I planned on teaching history and ended up saving a lot of my notes from various history classes.

Except then I left the field and found something else to do. Don’t get me wrong—I still love history. I read history books, both nonfiction and fiction, and would like to write some historical fiction of my own someday. But it’s been over five years since I last took a formal history class. Did I really need a bunch of old history class notes hanging around? For ages, I’ve thought the answer to that was yes, but today I realized the answer is probably no, so the old notes are in the to-be-disposed-of pile right now. I saved a few papers I wrote that made me happy, but that’s it. There’s no point in keeping some notes around that I haven’t read in nearly ten years.

This goes for electronic version of notes as well. During my freshman year in college, I typed all my notes. I switched to handwritten notes during sophomore year, but I still had old Word documents from freshman year sitting on my hard drive. Those are now in the trash on my computer. I hadn’t opened those since 2008 or 2009. Did I really need that? Obviously, the answer is no.

What I didn’t expect is how good I feel after deciding to get rid of all these papers (and computer files). I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t even realize how much they were dragging me down until they, well, weren’t anymore. Seriously, the cathartic and therapeutic value of decluttering is seriously underrated. If you want a quick pick-me-up, go declutter something. It doesn’t have to take hours. I do it in fifteen to thirty minute spurts and I always feel great afterwards.

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99 Years / 99 лет

The tsar with his family / Царь с семьей

Dear readers! 99 years ago today, Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias, along with his family and faithful servants, was cruelly murdered by the Bolsheviks. Let us take a moment to remember the last tsar.

Дорогие читатели! В этот день 99 лет назад, жестко убили императора Всероссийского Николая II с семьей и верными слугами большевиками. Давайте запомним последнего царя.

Вечная память.

The Coolest Video on YouTube

You guys, I’ve discovered what just may be the coolest video on YouTube.

That’s quite a claim to make, so let me explain. My readers probably know I’m very interested in the Russian Empire. (Obsessed may be a better word!) While browsing the blog of a person I’ve talked to on Goodreads who, judging by her reading choices, seems to share the obsession, I found this amazing video embedded in a post. It’s a recording the voice of Tsar Nicholas II.

Tsar Nicholas II died in July 1918 (which means I need to prepare a post in commemoration of him since that’s coming up next month), so recording technology was in its infancy back then. The quality of the recording is horrible, but you can clearly hear his voice. First, here is the video:

Here’s a transcription of what’s going on, For reference, a person named Lieutenant-General Baron von Eck Eduard Vladimirovich is commanding the parade in honor of the tsar’s birthday. Also, I am unsure what year this recording was made.

0:01 – 0:04: Lt. Gen. Edward V. Eck:
“Listen to (inaudible)! Brothers! I drink to the health of our dear Sovereign Leader Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich [i.e. Tsar Nicholas II]! Hurrah!”

0:39 – 0:41: Children’s voices, probably the tsar’s son Aleksei:
“Hurrah Hurrah!”

0:05 – 1:02: The orchestra plays the national anthem of the Russia Empire.

1:03 – 1:12: Lt. Gen. Edward V. Eck:
“To the ceremonial march – rifle on his shoulder! Quick march!”

1:13 – 1:48: The orchestra plays military march, “Homesickness.”

1:49 – 1:53: Tsar Nicholas II:
“Brothers! Thank you for the nice parade!”

2:08 – 2:13: Tsar Nicholas II:
“Thank you, brothers, for a excellent apprenticeship!”

If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is. Now you know what the last tsar’s voice sounded like. You may not have been wondering… but I was! It’s the prerogative of a historian to wonder such things.

This Day In History, 1941: Operation Barbarossa Commences

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. It was a decision from which Hitler would never recover, though he was too dumb to know it at the time.

German soldiers in the Soviet Union, June 1941. Source.

In Hitler’s defense (I never thought I’d write those words!), maybe the Soviet Union didn’t look so strong. I know the Germans thought it would collapse like a house of cards. Plus, Stalin had purged many of the competent officers in the Red Army, so I suppose it may not have been so farfetched to think this. Still, Hitler must have thought himself immune to the problems Napoleon experienced when he attempted to invade Russia. (If you need a refresher, things didn’t go so well for Napoleon, either. His failure in Russia contributed to his eventual defeat.)

Most importantly, Operation Barbarossa opened up the Eastern Front of the war, which ensured Nazi Germany would be fighting a war on two fronts. Obviously, this didn’t work out so well for them.

In addition to a military operation, the Nazis also sent the Einsatzgruppen into the Soviet Union as well. The Einsatzgruppen were death squads who shot people—specifically, unarmed civilians—in cold blood. There have been many academic works on the Einsatzgruppen and they make for grim reading. Richard Rhodes’ Masters of Death is the one that immediately comes to mind for me.

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Hitler’s notorious Commissar Order, which ordered the immediate execution of any Soviet political commissars captured. The order also called for any prisoners who were “thoroughly bolshevized” to be shot as well. This actually made the Soviets fight harder—often to the death—because they knew they faced certain death if they surrendered.

I’ll leave you with a recording of an old Soviet song called Двадцать второго июня, ровно в 4 часа [On the 22 of June at 4 in the morning]. This song is about the Nazi invasion of the USSR. The song is basically about the Germans invading and the Soviet arising to defend their homeland. Despite my love for all things imperial Russia-related, I quite like this song.

Russian Political Party Sponsors Bill To Revive Tsarist National Anthem

I read this amazing bit of news a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about it ever since: Law introduced in the State Duma to replace Russian National Anthem with “God Save the Tsar.” The link is in Russian.

Basically, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has introduced a bill in the Russian parliament (Duma) to replace the current national anthem with the tsarist-era anthem, “God Save the Tsar.” (Zhirinovsky famously declared war on a letter in the Cyrillic alphabet years ago, so he’s no stranger to very random pronouncements.) Now, I do like the current anthem, I really do. I think it’s quite beautiful. But I like the tsarist anthem even more, so as you can imagine, I was delighted to hear this news.

I doubt the bill will pass, to be honest. I don’t think there’s popular support for it. I don’t think United Russia, the most powerful party in the Duma, supports it, and support from United Russia would be crucial for it to pass. Nor would I want it to pass in the form it was introduced: apparently, according to other sources I read, the bill also proposes changing the calendar back to the Julian version, which would be very confusing since the entire world uses the Gregorian calendar right now. As such, I do think reverting to the Julian calendar would be rather stupid.

But I digress. With all this talk of the two different anthems, you’re probably wondering what they sound like. Wonder no further, dear readers. I have embedded below videos of each so you can listen.

First, the current anthem—here is a direct link to YouTube, in case the embedded version isn’t working. It has the lyrics in both Russian and English.

And here is the tsarist era anthem. Again, here’s a direct link in case the embedded version doesn’t work. I managed to find a version that had the lyrics in English, which was not easy. There are better musical versions out there, but I wanted to have the lyrics in English for all of you to read.

Russian flags by the Kremlin. Source

Really, I do think they are both nice anthems. But I’d love to see a change back to the tsarist version. It’s all part of the plan, you see. First, the tsarist anthem. Then the tsarist flag—oh wait, that’s already happened. The current flag in use in Russia was also used during the late period of the Russian Empire (though there were other flags in use in earlier years). The next, and final step is to restore the monarchy to Russia. I rather like that idea—as long as Putin is not the tsar… 😉

About That Ante Gotovina Film

I read this interesting story on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) about a week ago: In Casting Quandary, Croatian Filmmaker Lacks For ‘Enemies’.

Croatian director Antun Vrdoljak finds himself in a bind.

His current project, called The General, deals with Croatia’s recent past; it is meant to be a blockbuster about the exploits of Croatian wartime commander Ante Gotovina. Vrdoljak and his crew are currently shooting the film in the vicinity of the Croatian coastal city Split, recreating the final battle of the Croatian war of independence in 1995.

But he is having trouble finding actors willing to play “the enemy.”

Vrdoljak’s dilemma is that even in the filmmaker’s world of make-believe, Croatian actors refuse to put on the uniform of “Chetniks” — as rebel Serb fighters were dubbed to evoke the nationalist Serbian units that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II — while Serbs refuse to take part in a Croatian movie about General Gotovina.

The story—which is unfortunately written with a rather anti-Serbian bias—goes on to say that though this director is paying top dollar for actors to be in his movie, he’s still having trouble finding them. Croats don’t want to play Serb nationalists on film, while Serbs don’t want to take part in anything that glorifies Ante Gotovina. Gotovina was a Croatian general during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. He started his military career in the French Foreign Legion and then returned to his native Croatia. He helped mastermind Operation Storm in 1995, which greatly weakened the Serb side militarily, as well as driving out tons of Serbs from their homes in Croatia.

Ante Gotovina returning to Croatia in 2012.

Gotovina was indicted for war crimes and arrested. However, he was inexplicably acquitted on appeal after being sentenced to twenty-four years in prison. He returned home to Croatia a hero—and according to the article I linked to, much less of a Serb hater.

I’ve never been a great admirer of Gotovina since I’m more pro-Serb than pro-Croat (in the context of the Yugoslav breakup, that is). However, he’s definitely had a fascinating life and I really would like to see the movie when (if?) it comes out. In fact, I will see it no matter how anti-Serb and pro-Gotovina it is, due to one important fact: one of my favorite actors, Goran Visnjic, is playing the role of Gotovina. In case you don’t know what he looks like, I’ve included a helpful picture below.

Have I convinced you to see it, too? 😉

Seriously, though, as amusing as the director’s quandary is, I think a lot of people are missing the point. When you’re acting, the whole point is you aren’t yourself. I mean, I could play a character who really wants a tattoo or a nose piercing—those are two things I’m resolutely against. Just because I played a character who wanted them wouldn’t mean that I did. I could play a character who had political views that were completely opposed to my own—and that wouldn’t mean I espoused those views. It’s just like playing a Serbian soldier doesn’t mean that you’re pro-Serbian. Believe me, I know the whole history of the Balkans is very fraught with tensions and fighting and wars. But I think refusing to play a character who is supposed to be on “the other side” is taking things just a little bit too far.

Or maybe I’m too blinded by my obsession with Goran Visnjic and just really want this movie to be made so I can see it. 🙂

A Message From The Other Side

A strange group of events happened this weekend—obviously it’s a coincidence that I saw a pattern in since the human brain loves to find patterns, even when they don’t exist—but I still wanted to blog about it.

First, I read some history books about the Nazis and was reminded of my friend Tommy because we used to discuss twentieth-century German history together all the time. I dedicated an edition of Wednesday Music to him one October. Basically, he was my best friend ever but then he died, which was devastating. All during this past weekend, I kept being reminded of him. It was all very random stuff: something my phone did, something else I saw online, etc. The culmination was yesterday, Monday, when I was browsing The Passive Voice blog and saw this graphic (found in this post).

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

That was Tommy’s favorite quote. I was shocked to see it pop up on my computer screen as I clicked through to the next page of posts on that blog. And while obviously it’s just a coincidence that I happened to see this quote yesterday, a part of me felt like it was him sending me a message.

Вечная память.