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.

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Wednesday Music: Khachaturian’s Waltz from ‘Masquerade’

You guys, I discovered this piece recently and immediately loved it, so obviously I said to myself that I just had to share it with my blog readers. The piece in question is the Waltz from Aram Khachaturian’s Masquerade. I’d never heard about it until a couple of weeks ago, so all the facts I researched were new to me, too. Here’s a bit about it.

  • This piece is a bit—okay, a lot—more modern than what I usually post since it was written in 1941. By my standards of posting pieces from the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries, that’s practically yesterday! 😉
  • Khachaturian wrote this as incidental music for a production of a play in the USSR. The play was also called Masquerade and was written by Mikhail Lermontov, one of my favorite authors. (He wrote the excellent novel A Hero of Our Time, which I greatly enjoyed.)
  • Later on, Khachaturian extended the music he wrote into five movements to make a symphonic suite. What I’m posting is just the first movement of the suite, the waltz.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

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.

Polish NATO Jets Buzz Russian Defense Minister’s Plane

I don’t know if you heard about this bit of news earlier this week—I think it was Wednesday—but two NATO F-16 fighter jets buzzed some Russian planes, one of which just happened to have Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on board.

I first saw the story in the American media. Here’s a link to USA Today’s take on it.

A NATO fighter jet buzzed the plane of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu before being chased off by a Russian jet in what would be the latest aerial confrontation between the West and Russia and its allies, Russian media reported Wednesday.

The Russian plane was flying over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea en route to the western Russian city of Kaliningrad when a NATO F-16 “attempted to make an approach” to Shoigu’s plane, RIA Novosti reported, citing its journalist on Shoigu’s plane. A Russian Su-27 fighter escorting the minister “displayed its weapons” and the F-16 flew off, the media outlet said.

Pretty usual, to be honest. Keep in mind this comes in the wake of a Russian fighter plane buzzing one of our jets recently. Allegedly the Russian plane came within five feet of the American plane! So yes, I do recognize this has been a recurring problem from the Russians. And in this case, the Russian planes were over neutral waters, but allegedly didn’t identify themselves when asked.

However, this incident I’m blogging about was a little bit different. You see, the Russian defense minister was on board. He was en route to Kaliningrad. It strikes me as more than a little coincidental that he was buzzed—I wonder if his schedule was known ahead of time. It seems like this was meant to send a specific signal to Russia. Not only that, but the Russians reported their take on the issue—and have a hilarious video as well. Here’s a video from TV Zvezda, the official media outlet of the Ministry of Defense.

The first plane we see is the NATO jet. Then a Russian Su-27 comes up, does a little wing tilt in the air to show off its weapons, and that’s that. Nothing bad happened, fortunately.

Until yesterday, I thought that was that, but then I saw a new development in the story. It has come out that the NATO jets belonged to Poland. Yes, Poland.

A pair of Polish F-16 supersonic multirole jets were on a NATO patrol mission when they were informed of Russian planes near the borders of countries whose airspace they were guarding, the broadcaster said.

According to RMF FM, they intercepted Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s Tu-154 plane and its two armed Su-27 jet escorts. According to Russian authorities, Shoigu was en-route to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, northeast of Poland, RMF FM reported.

The whole thing kind of ticks me off, to be honest, because it seems like Poland, who hates Russia, is basically playing chicken with a major nuclear power without regard for the consequences. And they can do it with impunity because if anything does happen, they’ve got NATO. This basically means Poland could drag the United States into a war with Russia over something stupid just because of NATO’s Article 5. Let me also remind you who pays the bulk of NATO’s costs. Hint: it’s not Poland. Scroll down to the section called “Direct funding of NATO” and you can see that the United States pays for 22% of the budget. Poland pays a measly 2%. Hey Poland, if you want to engage with Russian jets over neutral waters, how about coughing up a bit more money for this organization, huh?

Sigh. NATO should have been disbanded long ago. I’ve thought that for years and I still think that. It served its purpose during the Cold War. Now that’s over, NATO should be done with, too.

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.

Wednesday Music: Gounod’s ‘Fantasy on the Russian National Hymn’

This post may be a little late, but you know what they say: better late than never. Plus, it is still Wednesday where I reside, even though it’s already Thursday for my European and Australian and Asian readers. (I don’t think I have any readers in Africa, but if I do, I know it’s Thursday there, too.) Anyway, I haven’t done a Wednesday Music post in a really long time, so I am so excited to post today because I have found the most fabulous piece of music. It’s called Fantaisie sur l’Hymne National Russe (Fantasy on the Russian National Hymn) by Charles Gounod and it is simply glorious.

I wrote earlier this week about my love for the tsarist national anthem and if you like that anthem, you’ll probably like this piece. Gounod basically built the entire thing on the melody of the national anthem. If you listen to a recording of the anthem, then this piece, you can clearly hear the melody right from the start. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Gounod wrote this fantasy in 1885. No one is certain how or why he chose the national anthem of the Russian Empire as his theme, but I’m certainly glad he did. Maybe he was a Russophile and we just don’t know that…
  • The piece premiered on November 16, 1885. Lucie Palicot, to whom it was dedicated, played it, accompanied by Gounod himself on the piano.
  • The orchestral version premiered in February 1886. The brass instruments and the piano have the theme most of the time.

Seriously, everyone, this is almost as great as Tchaikovsky’s Slavonic March.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Putin the Patriot

Since I can’t embed the video, here’s a picture of Putin from his English Wikipedia page.

My mom sent me this video over the weekend. It’s an unedited (which I assume means unaired?) clip from Megyn Kelly’s recent interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. For some reason, the embed code will not work properly, so unfortunately you’re going to have to click through to the link above to see it. The video does have subtitles, so don’t worry if you don’t speak Russian. You’ll still be able to know what Putin says. (Though no doubt Putin himself would say that you ought to have started learning Russian yesterday, comrade!)

Leaving aside whether the interview was good or bad, whether Kelly’s questions were good or bad, and whether she should have conducted the interview in the first place, I want to focus on Putin’s answer to her question. I was really impressed at the depth of feeling in it. That, my dear readers, is what a true patriot looks like. That is a man who loves his country.

This isn’t meant to be a pro-Putin post. Unlike many people in the West, I don’t mind admitting that I like some of the things Putin has done over the years and sometimes agree with him. Other times, of course, I don’t see eye to eye with him, to put it lightly. But I cannot help but respect his patriotism evident in that interview. I find it quite… inspiring.