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

Russian Empire


Vladimir Ilich Lenin in disguise, Helsinki; August 11th, 1917

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“The Mine Test” – Wehrmacht Soldiers Force a Soviet Civilian to Test the Waters, Soviet Union; ca.1942


According to historian Christian Ingrao this technique was first used in Belarussia in 1943 by the infamous 36th SS division “Dirlewanger”, a penal SS unit composed of common law criminals, disgraced SS soldiers, poachers, feeble minded, sociopaths and pedophiles recruited among the inmates of concentration camps and used to hunt partisans in the East.

After they began losing men to mined roads, they took the habit of rounding up local villagers and make them march before them in staggered rows. The tactic was deemed very effective by SS Gruppenfuhrer for Central Russia Curt Von Gottberg who wrote a report on the practice in 1943 saying “The mines set on most road and paths necessitated the use of mine detectors, as per order. The mine detector developped by the Dirlewanger battalion successfully passed the test”. Soon after various non-penal units began using it too. Believe it or not it is far from the worst thing these guys did.

The archives of the 36th SS division stated that this practiced caused the death of about 3000 Belarussian civilians for year 1943 alone.

Original title from the back of the photograph is Die Minenprobe:


The moment before a MIG-29 exploded, after it crashed to the ground at the Paris Air Show – (the pilot can be seen ejecting before impact); June 8, 1989


Anatoly Kvochur was flying a single-seater Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum ‘Blue 303’, the latest fighter aircraft of the Soviet Union at the time. While executing a low-speed, high-angle attack portion of his routine, a bird was sucked into the turbofan of his right engine (a bird strike), causing the engine to burst into flames. Kvochur immediately turned the remaining engine to full afterburner. However his speed, at 180 kilometres per hour (110 mph), was too slow to maintain stability on one engine. Despite his efforts, the stricken aircraft went into a steep dive. Kvochur managed to steer the MiG away from the crowd and eject 2.5 seconds before impact. He landed 30 metres (98 ft) away from the fireball of the crashed plane. (Wikipedia)



Leon Trotsky in Mexico; ca. 1940

“… whatever may be the circumstances of my death I shall die with unshaken faith in the communist future. This faith in man and in his future gives me even now such power of resistance as cannot be given by any religion.” (1940)

The Mexican president at the time was Lázaro Cárdenas, the most left-wing president in Mexican history, still very beloved by working class Mexicans for his nationalization of oil and agrarian reform programs. However, given his leftist policies at home and support for the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War, Cárdenas was often under fire for being a puppet of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Well, what’s a good way to prove you’re not under Stalin’s control? Give asylum to Trotsky.

A bit of Chapter 6: The Break , from Trotsky’s autobiography, entitled “My Life“:

In 1894 Alexander III died. As was usual on such occasions, the liberal hopes sought support from the heir to the throne. He replied with a kick. At the audience granted to the Zemstvo leaders, the young Czar described their aspirations for a constitution as “nonsensical dreams.” This speech was published in the press. The word-of-mouth report was that the paper from which the Czar had read his speech said “groundless dreams,” but in his agitation the Czar had expressed himself more harshly than he intended. I was fifteen at the time. I was unreservedly on the side of the nonsensical dreams, and not on that of the Czar. Vaguely I believed in a gradual development which would bring backward Russia nearer to advanced Europe. Beyond that my political ideas did not go.

Commercial, multi-racial, loudly colored and noisy Odessa remained, to an extraordinary degree, far behind other centres in a political sense. In St. Petersburg, in Moscow, in Kiev, there were already in existence at that time numerous socialist circles in the educational institutions. Odessa had none. In 1895 Friedrich Engels died. Secret reports were read at meetings held in his memory by student groups in the various cities of Russia. I was then in my sixteenth year. But I did not know even the name of Engels, and could hardly say anything definite about Marx. As a matter of fact, I probably had never heard of him.

My political frame of mind while at school was vaguely oppositionist, but no more than that. In my day, revolutionary questions were still unknown among the students. It was whispered that certain groups met at the private gymnasium maintained by the Czech, Novak; that there had been arrests; that Novak, who was our instructor in athletics, had been dismissed and replaced by an army officer. In the environment surrounding the home of the Schpentzers there was dissatisfaction, but the regime was held to be unshakable. The boldest dreamed of a constitution as possible only after several decades. As for Yanovka, the subject was unmentionable there. When I returned to the village after my graduation from school, bringing with me dim democratic ideas, Father, immediately alert, remarked with hostility: “This will not come to pass even in three hundred years.” He was convinced of the futility of all reformists’ efforts and was apprehensive for his son. In 1921, when he came to me in the Kremlin, after having escaped the Red and White perils with his life, I jestingly asked: “Do you remember what you used to say that the Czarist order was good for another three hundred years?” The old man smiled slyly and replied in Ukrainian: “This time, let your truth prevail.”


I faced the first crossroads on my path, poorly equipped politically even for a seventeen-year-old boy of that period. Too many questions confronted me all at once, without the necessary sequence and order. Restlessly I cast about me. One thing is certain: even then life had stored within my consciousness a considerable load of social protest. What did it consist of? Sympathy for the down-trodden and indignation over injustice the latter was perhaps the stronger feeling. Beginning with my earliest childhood, in all the impressions of my daily life human inequality stood out in exceptionally coarse and stark forms. Injustice often assumed the character of impudent license; human dignity was under heel at every step. It is enough for me to recall the flogging of peasants. Even before I had any theories, all these things imprinted themselves deeply on me and piled up a store of impressions of great explosive force. It was perhaps because of this that I seemed to hesitate for a while before reaching the great conclusions which I was impelled to draw from the observations of the first period of my life.

His great great-granddaughter is interesting. Her family suffered from severe alcoholism due to the obvious stress from the assassination attempts on Trotsky, and she became an expert on addiction.

Here’s the 60 minutes piece on her:


The Red Banner Textile Factory in Leningrad by German expressionist architect Erich Mendelsohn; ca. 1926


Frozen corpses of dead German soldiers during the Battle of Stalingrad; ca. winter 1942-1943

The steel hob nails seen in the soldier's boot were part of the reason the Germans were at a disadvantage in the cold. Their feet got colder much faster due to all the steel.

The steel hob nails seen in the soldier’s boot were part of the reason the Germans were at a disadvantage in the cold. Their feet got colder much faster due to all the steel.


Joseph Stalin making a face at his bodyguard; ca. 1930

Photo by Lt. G. Nikolai Vlasik

Mugshot of Boris Nikolayevich Rozenfeld, a victim of the Great Purge; ca. 1935


From a series of Great Purge-era mugshots.


Guard dogs taking a nap, Russian Empire; ca. 1910


How the Russians conquered Siberia:

Prior to the Mongol invasions, the Novgorodians had penetrated past the Urals. The Russians used northern routes to enter Siberia by land and sea, and by the mid-sixteenth century they had reached the mouth of the Enisei.

In the sixteenth century, the Stroganov family developed large-scale industries, including salt and fur extraction, in North-Eastern European Russia the Ustiug area (a bit right of the red area in this photo):


After the conquest of Kazan (see here), the Stroganovs obtained large holdings in the upper Kama region, where they maintained garrisons and encouraged colonists to settle. In 1582, the Stroganovs sent an expedition against the Siberian Khanate, consisting of around 1500 cossacks and some volunteers, and lead by a Cossack, Ermak. The Russians were massively outnumbered, but made good use of organisation, firearms and that famous Russian bravery to overcome the Khanate, and they ultimately seized the headquarters of the Siberian Khan. Ivan the Terrible realised the prospects of this, as Siberia was well known for the opportunities for fur trading, and sent reinforcements. Ermak died in 1584 however (before reinforcements arrived), and although they actually had to conquer the Siberian Khanate again, they began to consolidate their holdings.

In order to subjugate the natives and collect tributes of fur (iasak), which the natives were expected to pay, a series of forts were built at the confluences of major rivers and streams and important portages. The first among these were Tyumen and Tobolsk — the former built in 1586 by Vasilii Sukin and Ivan Miasnoi, and the latter the following year by Danilo Chulkov. Tobolsk would become the nerve center of the conquest. Essentially, from here on out, the Russians began to subdue minor tribes and further expand these forts and outposts. Of these, Mangazeya was the most prominent, becoming a base for further exploration eastward. It was a highly profitable undertaking for the Muscovite state, due to the furs extraction.

Following the khan’s death and the dissolution of any organized Siberian resistance, the Russians advanced first towards Lake Baikal and then the Sea of Okhotsk and the Amur River. Between 1610 and 1640, the Russian military and the Cossacks moved three hundred miles further into the southern steppe, in continuous conflict with the Crimean Tartars and other nomads. However, when they first reached the Chinese border they encountered people that were equipped with artillery pieces and here they halted. The treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) outlined the borders between the two countries and lasted until 1858. A small band of Cossacks, lead by Ivan Moskvitianin, reached the Pacific Ocean in 1639. After the conquest of the Siberian Khanate (1598) the whole of northern Asia – an area much larger than the old khanate – became known as Siberia and by 1640 the eastern borders of Russia had expanded more than several million square kilometers. In a sense, the khanate lived on in the subsidiary title “Tsar of Siberia” which became part of the full imperial style of the Russian Autocrats.