Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for December 5, 2014

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People sliding down an icy snow-covered mound at the base of the American Falls in Niagara Falls, New York; ca. 1883.

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Why Stalin allowed Finland to remain independent after WWII:

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Stalin overestimated the efficacy of the Finnish Communist Party and underestimated the canniness of Finnish politicians. Starting in leverage high grade military equipment from the Germans which allowed the Finnish forces to stage a fighting retreat from Karelia in 1944. Thus in mid-1944, the Finns and the Soviets were fighting in the same ground as the Winter War. Both the Kremlin and the Red Army’s leadership were much more interested in maintaining the drive into Eastern Europe than refighting what had been a dark chapter in Soviet military history.

Urho Kekkonen, a Finnish parliamentarian and later Prime Minister, said in a 1944 radio broadcast “the Soviet Union must stand to gain a bigger advantage from an independent Finland clinging to life than from a broken Finland doomed to a dependent existence.” The cornerstone of Soviet-Finnish relations was the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed with the USSR in April 1948. The Treaty guaranteed that Finland would aid the Soviets against “Germany or its allies” and fostered a series of networks and political connections between the Soviets and the Finns. The Soviets initially expected the Finnish Communist Party (SKP) to make electoral gains, but the existing Finnish political establishment adroitly managed to sideline them. The Treaty and the Finnish compliance with it did not give the SKP any major issues with which to attack the existing governments. Successive Soviet governments wanted the Treaty to be expanded and pull the Finns closer into the orbit of the Soviet sphere, but the Finns were able to strategically drag their feet. For example, the language “Germany or its allies” meant that Finns were able to justify not wanting to take defense steps against NATO Norway and Denmark. At the same time, the Finns also mastered the art of not appearing to be undermining the larger issue of Soviet security; they would give way over key debates like radar stations its early warning network.

The success of the Finns looks quite intelligent and unexpected from the vantage point of 2014, it’s important to keep in mind that during the Cold War the West was quite apprehensive the Finnish policies of accommodation. “Finlandization” became a pejorative term within Western Cold War discourse and a shorthand for making concessions to gain at best temporary freedoms from the USSR.

Sources

Jakobson, Max. Finnish Neutrality; A Study of Finnish Foreign Policy Since the Second World War. New York: Praeger, 1969.

Jussila, Osmo, Seppo Hentilàˆ, and Jukka Nevakivi. From Grand Duchy to a Modern State: a Political History of Finland since 1809. London: Hurst & Company, 1999.

Luostarinen, Heikki. “Finnish Russophobia: The story of an enemy image.” Journal of Peace Research 26, no. 2 (1989): 123-137.

Rentola, Kimmo. “From half-adversary to half-ally: Finland in Soviet policy, 1953-58.” Cold War History 1, no. 1 (2000): 75-102.


Soviet tank crewmen washing up with snow; ca. 1943.

 In the west, Russians are often stereotyped as being dour and pessimistic, but I disagree. Anyone who can sunbathe during springtime in Siberia or wash using snow and still have a smile on their face is a true optimist.

In the west, Russians are often stereotyped as being dour and pessimistic, but I disagree. Anyone who can sunbathe during springtime in Siberia or wash using snow and still have a smile on their face is a true optimist.


The Great Sphinx partially excavated; ca. 1878.

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There are competing hypotheses on how old it is/how it was made. I favor Peter Lacovara’s hypothesis that the body of the sphinx is nothing more than an outcropping of stone from a quarry that was used to build the Great Pyramid. Not wanting the outcropping to go to waste, Khufu commissioned the project. The weathering marks are thus not weathering marks but tool/quarry marks that have eroded over time. This would make the Sphinx roughly the same age as the Great Pyramid.

I do not think there is any hollow space below the Sphinx since it is on/made out of bedrock.


Russian slave laborer among prisoners liberated by 3rd Armored Division points out former Nazi guard who brutally beat prisoners, Germany; May 14, 1945.

And then when he tried to get home to Russia after the war, it was straight to the gulag. Classic Stalin.

Oh man I bet that’s the worst when you are a Nazi guard trying to tip toe away from the Americans and the Russian guy is like “Him! That’s the guy!”


Australian soldiers blinded in a German gas attack at an aid station near Villers-Bretonneux, France; May 27, 1918.

The differences in their body language is really interesting. You have everything from just totally dejected to a couple guys who might as well just be laying out sunbathing for all the concern they're displaying.

The differences in their body language is really interesting. You have everything from just totally dejected to a couple guys who might as well just be laying out sunbathing for all the concern they’re displaying.

The Germans were using mustard gas at Villers-Bretonneux. A mild dose would result in the eyelids swelling up to the point where the casualty would be temporarily blinded, more severe exposure could damage their eyes to the point where they’d be blind permanently.


St. Nicholas and his helper ‘Black Peet’, a Dutch tradition on the 5th of December; 1948.

Black Peter is black from soot, whereas black face as Americans know it is an offensive characterization of African-Americans. So I wouldn't say it's black face per se although it certainly appears that way if you don't know the tradition

Black Peter is black from soot, whereas black face as Americans know it is an offensive characterization of African-Americans. So I wouldn’t say it’s black face per se although it certainly appears that way if you don’t know the tradition.

 

This is THE day when you’re a Dutch or Belgian child between the ages of 1 to 10 . Sinterklaas is a day solely for kids to enjoy.