history

2018 Resolution - South America - Part 2

Ecuador: Ecuador’s current president, Lenin Moreno, is the only current serving global leader to be confined to a wheelchair. He was shot in 1998 during a robbery, and has been unable to walk since. As someone with direct, intimate experience with disabilities, Moreno has been a powerful advocate for disabled people both at home and abroad. 

 

 Guyana: Nearly half of Guyana’s population is descended from British-Indian (East Indians to those who speak Colonial-racist) laborers imported to the country during its time as a British subject. 

 

 Paraguay: Despite a high poverty rate, functionally all citizens of Paraguay have access to electricity. This is thanks to the Itaipú Dam, whose output is sufficient to supply the nation as well as support the sale of electricity to neighboring countries. 

 

Peru: There are around 2700 videos of disgraced Peruvian official Vladimiro Montesinos participating in and planning various acts of corruption and bribery. Since it first aired in 2001, most of this footage has also been posted on the internet. YouTube, even. 

2018 Resolution - North America - Part II

Here's Part 2. I'm finding that when looking up facts about these nations, I'm learning a lot more than one thing. It's getting hard to choose which one to share, sometimes.

Dominica: At the time of writing, Dominica's Prime Minister for the last 14 years has been the Rastafarian and excellently named Roosevelt Skerrit.

Dominican Republic: In 2012, Danilo Medina won the Dominican Republic presidency on an anti-corruption platform. So far, he has remained true to his word, and has helped build and maintain positive social reform and anti-corruption measures in his country.

El Salvidor: El Salvidor's electricity needs have been well handled by a series of hydroelectric installations since the 1950's. The plants are located on the Lempa River.

Grenada: Grenada's government has instituted robust conservation policies that help keep their forest and coral reefs some of the more stunning attractions of the Caribbean.

Guatemala: Insufficient law enforcement in Guatemala has led to the rise of numerous vigilante groups. As with many cases of vigilantism, the impact of these groups can run the risk of being worse than the crime they wish to combat.

Haiti: In 1791, Saint-Domingue's colonial rule was completely overthrown by a slave uprising. This was, by a very large margin, the most successful slave uprising in history. In place of the colony, the nation of Haiti was established.

Honduras: The waters off the coast of Honduras are a home for the rare and majestic Whale Shark. Whale Sharks are shy, fleeting creatures despite their massive size. They are curious, however, and will swim near divers and boats when an opportunity presents itself.

 

 

 

Heroes & Villains - Empress Wu

Empress Wu is from a time that falls well before my typical area of expertise. Still, I wanted to try something a bit outside my comfort zone. Speaking of going beyond one's boundaries, let's talk about Empress Wu.

Traditional Confucian doctrine is pretty clear on its stance regarding women. Confucius establishes that women are naturally meant to be servile, and are unfit for esoteric and martial pursuits. His doctrine states that they are distinctly unfit to rule.

"我接受挑戰 -  Challenge Accepted "

"我接受挑戰 - Challenge Accepted"

Born in 624 AD, Wu Zhao was steered towards the socially unconventional from the start by her father. He taught her to read, write, and refined her public speaking. If reincarnation is real, then maybe her father shared a soul with Joseph Kennedy Sr.

The talented Wu Zhao attracted the attention of Emperor Tai Tsung, and was brought into his court as a concubine. When the aging Emperor died, he was replaced by his son, Kao Tsung, who fathered several children with her.

Portrait of what Wu Zhao may have looked like. I like the pose, she's definitely up to something here.

Portrait of what Wu Zhao may have looked like. I like the pose, she's definitely up to something here.

Wu deposed Empress Wang by rousing suspicion that the Empress had murdered Wu's infant daughter. The exact circumstances of this situation are disputed and unclear.  Some have suggested that Wu killed her own daughter to frame the Empress. Another theory is that the infant died of unrelated causes and Wu used it as an opportunity to attack the Empress. Whatever the truth, Wu Zhao became the new wife of Emperor Kao Tsung.

Within a few years, Kao Tsung suffered a stroke, abruptly ending his reign. Wu started making moves. She established her youngest and weakest son as the new Emperor and began to control China through him. Her Secret Police started spiriting away her opponents, and she commissioned scholars to challenge the traditional status of women in Confucian doctrine. In other words, Wu Zhao was starting to act like someone trying to become the Emperor of China.

In the year 690, Wu Zhao's son stepped down from the position of Emperor, and in his place, she became Wu Zetian, Emperor of China. After years of ruthless backstabbing political maneuvering, Wu Zetian started initiating positive social reform. She reduced taxation, improved public utilities and development, and began phasing out militaristic aristocrats in favor of scholars. Emperor Wu Zetian established the Second Zhou Dynasty, and as its first ruler, reigned from 690 to 705 AD.

I'd like to highlight something about Wu's status. Traditionally in Imperial China, the Emperor's wife was the "Empress Dowager", and would be granted certain provisional governance in the Emperor's wake. The Chinese word for this position was Huanghou. Wu Zetian did not take this title. Empress Wu was called Huangdi, the title of the Emperor.

In English, the distinction seems minor, but in Chinese, the difference is massive. An Empress Dowager was, by divine establishment, lesser than the Emperor. Wu Zetian was not The Empress Dowager, she was The Emperor of China.  In establishing the second Zhou Dynasty, Wu Zetian became the only woman ever to be Huangdi. (In bold because that's a pretty big goddamn deal in this context).

Wu Zetian believed she was descended from the founders of the first Zhou Dynasty, which, interestingly enough, was the dynasty that established The Mandate of Heaven.

The Mandate of Heaven dictates that the will of Heaven itself is what upholds the power of China's ruler. A just, noble, and strong leader is maintained by the Mandate, and will prosper. An immoral ruler will be diminished by the Mandate. Famine, poverty, and weakness were signs that an Emperor had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

There have been disputes, both inside and outside China, as to whether Wu Zetian's status as Emperor was legitimate. As of the time of writing this, however, it is generally accepted among historians that Wu Zetian was indeed an Emperor of China. It is my belief that Wu Zetian's success in Imperial Chinese politics both before and during her reign as Emperor firmly establishes her legitimacy under the standards of the Mandate of Heaven.

The Tomb housing Wu Zetian as it is today.

The Tomb housing Wu Zetian as it is today.

 

Once again I am left with someone who falls into a dead zone between Heroism and Villainy.

Wu Zetian player icon from Civilization V. Perhaps her greatest honor.

Wu Zetian player icon from Civilization V. Perhaps her greatest honor.

Wu Zhao was a cruel, manipulative social climber who was ruthless to her opposition and without morals when it came to political maneuvering, even exploiting her own daughter's death to eliminate a rival.  Emperor Wu Zetian was a constructive benevolent leader who elevated the scholar above the warrior, who instituted positive economic and agricultural reform, and who ushered in the most prolific era of Chinese Buddhism.

 

Main sources for this article:

http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/heroine6.html

http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/banzhao.html

"The Mandate of Heaven." Boundless. Boundless.com, n.d. Web. <https://www.boundless.com/world-history/textbooks/boundless-world-history-textbook/early-chinese-dynasties-282/the-zhou-dynasty-291/the-mandate-of-heaven-292-13183/>.

Heroes & Villains - Lyudmila Pavlichenko

As my first article of the year, I'd like to announce the launch of a new series that I will be focusing on creating for 2017. I like how I use the term "announce", like I have a following that merits that sort of scale. But anyways, that's not the point.

When I was a young LT, my parents would read me bedtime stories. Sometimes, these were the typical fare about Mr. Grumpy and Little Miss Perfect having a mediocre day at the beach or something. Most of the time, however, they read to me from Greek and Norse mythology. I didn't See Jane Run, I saw Jane become blessed by Athena and break into a sprint towards the Minotaur, cleaving its head from its shoulders with a blade crafted by Hephaestus. I believe it is this that was the beginning of my true passion in life.

In the broad sense, my passion is History. More specifically, my passion is the Heroes and Villains of history. I love to learn and teach the stories of people who were true paragons of humanity, as well as people who highlighted our worst qualities. I especially like the people who blurred the lines between those two things.

In this first installment, however, I'll be talking about someone who pretty thoroughly falls into the "Hero" side of things. Her name is Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko. Or, in her native Ukrainian: Людмила Михайлівна Павличенко. Though to most, she'd likely just be "Ma'am" or "Major Pavlichenko."

THIS is what a Nazi-killing feminist looks like, in case you were wondering.

THIS is what a Nazi-killing feminist looks like, in case you were wondering.

Pavlichenko was born in the Ukraine region of the Russian Empire in 1916, which was just in time for the Russian Empire to become the Soviet Union.

While living with her family in Kiev in her teens, she focused on three main things in life. The first was working at the Kiev Arsenal Factory, where she no doubt became what kids today refer to as "swole", since you kind of had to be that to work in a Soviet munitions plant. The second was earning a degree in history at college. And the third was becoming a highly qualified sharpshooter in the Soviet equivalent of the Junior Marines.

Just as a side note, according to Pavlichenko herself, she took up shooting after hearing a boy boast about his skills. She wanted to show him that a girl could shoot, too. Soon, she'd prove that to everyone, including a personal demonstration to around 300 fascists.

In 1941, Nazi Germany decided to try and cure Russia of communism the same way a doctor might try to cure a fever with bloodletting followed by total body immolation. Pavlichenko decided to put her scholarly studies on hold and join the Red Army.

Originally, they were planning on putting her in as a nurse since that's what you did with women back in the day when they weren't considered real people. Even her marksmanship certificate from OSOAVIAKhIM (aforesaid Jr. Marines parallel) wasn't enough. Eventually, she demonstrated her skill to the Red Army's satisfaction by shooting two enemy Romanian soldiers dead.

According to Pavlichenko, her nerves did get to her in her first real engagement, in Odessa. These weren't under-trained Romanian coalition soldiers she was facing this time. These were bloodthirsty professional Wehrmacht killers fielding some of the finest military equipment in the world. When a young Russian man was shot right next to her, she found new resolve, and started shooting back with devastating efficiency. Her first Nazis killed were a pair of scouts, who were probably not terribly happy they found her.

After Odessa fell to the Nazis, Pavlichenko moved with Soviet forces to Sevastopol. There, she found herself frequently assigned the unenviable task of counter-sniping operations. Normal sniping is where the shooter makes surprise attacks against an enemy force after sneaking to covert positions. Typically, a sniper is obligated to engage high value targets above all else, focusing on Officers, emplacement and vehicle crews, machine gun operators, and so on. A sniper on the job will follow a pattern of shoot-move-shoot, never making a shot from the same position unless the situation both warrants it and still permits exfiltration before the enemy can return fire.

Counter-Sniping operations are focused explicitly on enemy snipers, so as to keep them from sniping. The sniper is obligated to engage enemy snipers, and only enemy snipers, who are themselves on the lookout for snipers. It is a duel between two units specialized in stealth, camouflage, and surprise attacks enabled by those two things. A sniper duel, especially on the Ostfront, could last several days, in which one or both snipers could spend upward of 24 hours staying in the same position, waiting for any indication of the others' presence. Pavlichenko defeated a total of 36 better equipped Nazi men in counter-sniping operations.

Pavlichenko on the job. Well, I think she probably got a bit cleaned up for the photo. She's holding an SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle. They didn't give those to just anyone.

Pavlichenko on the job. Well, I think she probably got a bit cleaned up for the photo. She's holding an SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle. They didn't give those to just anyone.

On hitting 257 confirmed kills in May of 1942, Pavlichenko was given a citation of recognition, to which she responded with "I'll get more".  Worth noting is that the 257 did not include the two Romanians she had to kill to be let in the army in the first place. She considered them her trial run. Her final confirmed kills against the Nazis was 309.

That's 309 pieces of evidence against segregation in the military. It's also 309 pieces of evidence that Lyudmila Pavlichenko is nobody's bitch. There were many Soviet snipers with higher kill scores in roughly the same period of time. However, they were all men, and had to only deal with bullshit in the form of Nazi munitions and Stalin's logistics, while Pavlichenko had to also put up with the bullshit of people not taking her seriously because she was a woman.

To the Soviets' credit, they were better at taking Women seriously than most at the time.

To the Soviets' credit, they were better at taking Women seriously than most at the time.

After finally getting the Nazis to take her seriously enough to wound her (only slightly seriously) with mortar fire, Pavlichenko was withdrawn from the front lines to become an instructor for other snipers. This was only partially because of her injury, which was not terribly incapacitating. The real reason for this shift was to keep Pavlichenko safe, as she had become a powerful icon of Soviet propaganda.

Around this time, the Germans actually tried to tempt Pavlichenko into defecting with, no shit, chocolate rations and an Officer position. When that didn't work, they resorted to threatening her directly in propaganda, stating they'd rip her into 309 pieces, one for every German she'd killed. Pavlichenko's response was an enthusiastic "They even know my score!"

A slightly more formal photograph of Pavlichenko. Like most living soviets in the '40s, she didn't often put her rifle down for very long.

A slightly more formal photograph of Pavlichenko. Like most living soviets in the '40s, she didn't often put her rifle down for very long.

Pavlichenko was sent on a propaganda tour to the other allied nations. In America, she was patronized by reporters about her lack of usage of beauty products in battle, the drabness of her uniform, and her appearance. Americans have long had a reputation for being terrible at survival instincts, hence, they harassed a lady who has killed 309 harder men.

Yes, there's lots of time to apply makeup while keeping the Fascists out of Ukraine so they don't take the rest of Eastern Europe and then the world.

Yes, there's lots of time to apply makeup while keeping the Fascists out of Ukraine so they don't take the rest of Eastern Europe and then the world.

Pavlichenko took it in stride, brushing away stupid questions and occasionally chastising the exceptionally obnoxious. She made friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, and was presented a Colt handgun by FDR. Actually, she got rather a lot of guns from foreign representatives on her tour.

S.C. Associate Justice Jackson, Major Pavlichenko, First Lady Roosevelt

S.C. Associate Justice Jackson, Major Pavlichenko, First Lady Roosevelt

The message she carried with her was reflective of the greatest qualities of the Soviet Union.

“Our women were on a basis of complete equality long before the war. From the first day of the Revolution full rights were granted the women of Soviet Russia. One of the most important things is that every woman has her own specialty. That is what actually makes them as independent as men. Soviet women have complete self-respect, because their dignity as human beings is fully recognized. Whatever we do, we are honored not just as women, but as individual personalities, as human beings. That is a very big word. Because we can be fully that, we feel no limitations because of our sex. That is why women have so naturally taken their places beside men in this war.”

The majority of this tale references the following source:
King, Gilbert. "Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper." Smithsonian.com. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/eleanor-roosevelt-and-the-soviet-sniper-23585278/.