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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Strawberry Switchblade - Since Yesterday


Strawberry Switchblade were an eighties duo consisting of two Glasgow girls and both were absolute peaches to look at. In this clip they are singing Since Yesterday. They did not last too long and probably went on to do their individual things, but they had some fun moments while they were together.




The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper (Documentary)


Splendid documentary about the fascinating case of British serial killer 'Jack the Ripper' of Victorian London in 1888. To this day learned people go over police files in an attempt to try and find out who the murderer was. There have been countless speculations and stories about the devious person who committed these terrible crimes, but no one was ever bought to justice concerning it.


Giving You Livia Drusilla 58 BC - 29 AD (Sinister and Formidable Lady Of Rome)

Livia Drusilla was a remarkable lady from history who imposed herself upon living memory for all. She was, by all accounts, a most machiavellian woman who held great power in Rome. Much has been written about her and it is very hard, 2,000 years later, to distinguish fact from fiction. She lived to be 86 and is sometimes admired and sometimes regarded as a dark and sinister character. I think it is fair to say that Livia Drusilla was an anti-heroic champion of Rome and she lived through the time of transformation from Republic to Imperial rule by Emperor.

Exist, she certainly did and much of her great reputation must be true, but I'm sure some things may also be false. It is very difficult to know what to believe for certain because she lived in a time when political stakes were high in the Imperial Roman families and relations did kill one another in ingenious ways. In popular modern day fiction, she was supposed to have poisoned opponents within Rome's imperial family in order to make way for the more suitable people to gain power. Chiefly her elder son Tiberius. Whether or not this extremity is so; can't be said, though it makes for good historical drama like I Claudius, a BBC adaptation that featured Livia Drusilla as a cunning woman of power, paving the way for her son to become Emperor of Rome.

In reality, Livia was born in the year 58 BC and is believed to have been the second daughter of a noble family. When she grew to a woman, her family arranged for her to marry a man called Claudius Nero. Her marriage to this man was during the time when Julius Ceaser was bringing an end to the old Roman Republic, but before he could completely usurp authority and become an Emperor, his dictatorship was brought to a sudden end when he was stabbed to death by members of the senate who wanted to preserve the Republic.

This caused a civil war in Rome, between the Imperial families and the Republic. On one side, Octavius (Julius Ceaser's adopted Nephew) Mark Antony, Lepidus and on the other side, the Republican forces led by Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius.

Young Livia Drusilla's first husband (Claudius Nero) was among the forces of Brutus and Cassius too. They were defeated in Battle and the Roman Empire was split three ways between Octavius, (who would now become known as Augustus Ceaser) Mark Antony and Lepidus.

Augustus (Octavius) was able to eliminate the other two sharers of power over the coming years. He took Lepidus' part of the Empire and then defeated Mark Antony in a naval battle and marched on Egypt. Soon Augustus (Octavius) ruled all of the Empire. He had become the first supreme Emperor of Rome. He needed to gain allies from other Imperial families and therefore had to make peace with some of the nobles who had fought for Mark Antony's army. One of them, Claudius Nero - Livia Drusilla's first husband. They had been hiding in Greece but were given an amnesty to return to Rome and be presented to the supreme Emperor Augustus (Octavius)

Romans often got divorced and married into new families when marriage unions no longer remained necessary. Livia Drusilla's union with Claudius Nero was no longer viable for either. She had a son called Tiberius and was pregnant with another son who would be Nero Claudius Drusus. Because Augustus needed to form a union with the Claudian family he chose young Livia Drusilla for his new wife. He had a daughter of his own called Julia and he quickly divorced his wife named Scribonia.

He then arranged for Claudius Nero to divorce Livia. In this, history records that it was an agreeable divorce and that Claudius Nero even attended the quick wedding of Livia and Augustus, while she was still carrying the son of Claudius Nero. Everything was settled amicably.

As the Emperor's wife, Livia excelled in many ways. She was formidable and wanted to make sure her eldest son Tiberius became Emperor. Augustus' only daughter Julia, was married to his friend from the civil war Agrippa. Julia became available for her son (Tiberius) when Agrippa died. Some think Livia might have had a hand in the man's death, but it can't be confirmed. Her son Tiberius was forced to divorce a woman he loved for the political union with Julia who was, in reality, his step sister.

Augustus had grandsons (from Agrippa and Julia's marriage) and other young hopefuls in the Imperial Roman house, but they all died before their time, which led a lot of people to speculate that Livia Drusilla might have found ways to poison them. She had great powers granted to her by Augustus and remained married to him for over 50 years. They must have had some devotion and to all, Livia appeared to be a model wife who Augustus trusted and confined in for the time they were married. When he succumb and died, only Livia's eldest son remained. Her stepdaughter/daughter in law, Julia - wife of Tiberius had been banished to an island where she died lonely and betrayed.

The whole imperial household went through various stages of political subterfuge, untimely deaths, and alliances. Through it all the old Livia Drusilla is believed to have had power and knowledge that fashioned things in such ways to make her son Tiberius Emperor. When Tiberius did finally become Emperor upon Augustus' death she is believed to have become involved in new plans of deceit.

She died at the age of 86 - long lived by such standards in that day and age. Also remarkable for an Imperial family, where plots to remove people from power were constant. Maybe Livia Drusilla was ahead of her game in matters like this or maybe it is exaggerated. But she did hold great power and would have had to do cunning things to preserve and help the Great Roman Empire, which she loved so much. She remains a fascinating character of intrigue and compels interest 2,000 years after her passing. 



    



Thursday, 27 January 2011

Alexander Izvolsky's Dreadful Mistake of 1908 (Road to WWI)




Alexander Izvilsky 1856-1919
In 1908 Russia’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Izvolsky wanted to build a stronger Imperial Russia because of all the terrible trials and tribulations the gigantic country had been through during the previous years. His ambition would be flawed and he would make a dreadful mistake that would have horrendous consequences in the future. Something poor Izvolsky could never have envisaged until after the dreadful events were finished and he was in exile in Paris and his country under a Bolshevik government – his Tsar dead and Europe turned upside down with Millions dead.

1905 had been an especially bad year for Tsarist Russia. There had been the 1905 Revolution which had been fiercely put down – leaving many of the nations’ downtrodden population simmering with discontent. In Asia and the Pacific Ocean, the Imperial Russian Navy had suffered a humiliating defeat before the Imperial Japanese Fleet.

All sorts of fractions within the Imperial government were calling for a new effort at expelling Japanese forces from Korea, where Russia had governed until Japanese intervention at Port Arthur in 1904. Others wanted to mount military expeditions into Iran and Afghanistan where Great Britain governed.

Alexander Izvolsky wanted to consolidate and improve what Russia had with her relations towards Europe and avoid wars that he knew Russia would not win in her circumstance of 1908. In particular, he wanted the use of the Dardanelles for Russia’s Black Sea fleet. This would give them access to the Mediterranean and access beyond into the world’s oceans. She would be able to use the contained Black Sea fleet for more distant ventures. Some Russian diplomats might have thought of a new offensive against Japan with the Black Sea fleet.

Foreign Minister, Alexander Izvolsky, would not have been looking to involve Russia in any new wars. He had been approached by Britain’s King Edward VII during the war with Japan to form an alliance. Therefore in 1908, the ambitious Isvolsky began to engineer a plan to get used of the Dardanelles straits for the Russian Black Sea fleet to use to get into the Mediterranean Sea. For this task, he would need to get permission from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He had signed an Anglo-Russian convention the year before and made good friends with France. Next, he needed to win over the Central powers of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

He secretly met with the Austrian Foreign Minister, Baron Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal to lay down the preliminary conditions before calling a conference of all the major powers concerning such a move. France, Great Britain, The German Empire, The Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy would all have major interests in such an undertaking. The Austro-Hungarian Minister agreed in principle to support Russia’s request to let the Black Sea fleet through the Dardanelles straits if Russia would agree not to protest at Austro-Hungary’s annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Alexander Izvolsky agreed provided that the meeting of the two (Russia and Austria) was not made public. He had no desire for the French or the British to know that Russia would turn a blind eye to the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On this note the private meeting was ended – Austria’s Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal pleased with the outcome and so to was Alexander Izvolsky – the later did not know he had been diplomatically compromised by the Austrian ministers careful wording of the agreement and that he had given the Austrians a blank cheque to annex the Balkan countries immediately.

Before he could even try to call a meeting with other nations, Britain and France rejected any notion of a conference on such an issue, but Austria had already annexed the Balkan countries Bosnia and Herzegovina. If Russia protested; the Austrians could wave a paper with Izvolsky’s signed agreement upon it or the Russians could remain silent as agreed. In a master stroke of trick diplomacy, Russian Foreign Minister had been hoodwinked by futile Austrian support for a scheme that would never have got onto the table in the first place.

This move and lack of Russian support caused deep resentment in the country of Serbia – a nation that insisted Bosnia belonged to them. This problem would not go away and Austrian Foreign Minister Baron Aehrenthal would not live long enough to regret his master stroke of political trickery in the long run. I wonder what he might think if he could have seen beyond his death in 1912. What would he have made of the fall of the Habsburgs in 1918? 

When Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand went to Sarajevo in 1914, he would be assassinated by a young Serbian and this would trigger the Great War of 1914 – 1918. It would bring about a dreadful demise to the great Imperial House of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when she invaded Serbia as a consequence of the assassination.


Plan 9 from Outer Space



One of the most cheesy and terrible low budget, Golden Turkey award winning movies made ever. This movie is so bad that it is great. A masterpiece of yukiness unsurpassed by anyone. Honestly - its so bad that it is good. Ed Wood was believed to have said proudly: "This is the one they will remember me for!" And we do. We really do... :) 



Monday, 24 January 2011

Susan Lawrence 1871 - 1947 (Lady Who Stood Tall)


I went to school in Poplar East London, during the late sixties and early seventies. My school was called Manorfield, Primary School. They were good days and I have kind memories of that time. Our school was close to an old railway line that had an old push and pull system of coal carriages passing by. I think it is part of the new Docklands rail today. There was a walkway bridge that people used to cross if they wanted to go to Crisp Street Market. Also, on the other side, was another primary school which we children were always competitive with. Sometimes we played them in football matches and the girls of our school played the girls of the other school at netball.

This primary school was called Susan Lawrence and probably is still so today. At the time I thought it was a strange thing for a school to be called a girls name when boys went there - little chauvinist in the making - some might think.


Some time later I heard about my old district of Poplar being in the history books of London concerning a great revolt of the local council against the government back in 1921. East London's poplar district was very poor in the 1920s and the government introduced a rate bill upon the district that had to have an equal return with rents from all other London borough councils. It meant if a rich borough with high rents paid so much; their rates would be low. Because poplar had low rents due to its poverty - the rates were put up higher then in wealthier districts because the government wanted the same return for Police, fire brigades and other services.


These rents were very severe upon the poor tenants - many of which were unemployed or in low income jobs. The elected council members agreed at a meeting not to collect the rates. This was in defiance of the British Government. Among many of the councillors were a number of women who were trying to bring about social change - one of them was Susan Lawrence after who, the primary school was named. She and many of her councillors were sent to prison for refusing to collect the unfair rate charge and they were held for six weeks.


Many people marched at political rallies and the woman prisoners were driven by Taxi to the men's prison in Brixton so they could all be at council meetings that were conducted from prison. After six weeks of stubborn defiance all the councillors (Susan Lawrence among them) were released from prison.


Susan Lawrence is the lady before the policeman.
Other ladies of the imprisoned councillors are there too.
The crowd are jubilant at their release.
Under strong pressure, the British Government had rushed a new bill through parliament rectifying the situation concerning the unfair rates. Susan Lawrence and her fellow councillors had stood firm and won a victory for the Poplar residents, all of who, were grateful at their councillors noble stand.


Susan Lawrence Primary School was named after her. The brave Lady died in 1947 age 76. I mention her for what she did in the district where I lived as a child from 1961 to 1972. Now days, I think Susan Lawrence Primary School is a wonderful name and I take back the silly boyish notion of the school not sounding good.




Sunday, 23 January 2011

Fall Of Habsburgs (Austro-Hungarian Royal Family)

Fall of House Habsburg


Emperor Franz Joseph
The House of Habsburg is the third great Royal Family that fell in the year of 1918. This great ancestral line ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire – one of Europe’s grand Houses, steeped in glory and history. All this would end in 1918, when the Hohenzollerns and the Romanovs fell from monarchic power; so too, would the Habsburgs. The Great War would claim these grand houses and confine them to echo’s in eternity.

I can’t say why, but I find the Habsburg House more sorrowful, even though it is not, when compared to the terrible fiat of the Romanov Tsar and his family. I think it is because I find the old Franz Joseph a more agreeable Emperor. I feel sorry for him even though he was an absolutist - believing monarchist rule was proper for his Empire. He was a man set in his ways and would appoint ministers to run his Empire, but they did his bidding and if they could not or would not conform; they were easily replaced by people that would.

These Royal families of Europe all ruled supreme and the monarch had the final say. This went for The Austro-Hungarian Empire, The German Empire and the Tsar’s Russias.

The United Kingdom had changed after the Civil War in England of the 1640s. Its Parliament ruled and the monarch had no say in government at all. They were just figure heads encouraged not to get too involved with the workings of state. Perhaps that is why it has managed to survive so long.

These mainland European powers lived under monarchs that could dictate to politicians that were appointed by Kings or Emperors and they alone decided a minister’s fiat. Even when the world was changing and ordinary people were becoming more enlightened; these old monarchists tried to keep a firm grip on their absolute power.

When I think of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph; I imagine that it is 1914 and would like you (the reader) to indulge me for a moment. He is 84 and the Great War has not yet started, so let us believe it is spring. He has ruled the grand Austro-Hungarian Empire for 66 years since 1848. He has another 2 years to go before he will pass away at 86 ruling for 68 years – the third longest serving monarch in European history.

By 1914, the Emperor has become an old man set in ways. He goes about his affairs of state in the palace – perhaps Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna – where he was born and would die in 2 years time.

He gets up early in the morning and does the day’s stately formalities - getting them out of the way leaves him time for a walk in the palace grounds. There is a place near by where his mistress called Katherina Schratt lives. She was an actress in her youth and the old Emperor has known the lady for 30 years. He has built places for her to live close by and he likes to keep his meetings with his mistress as discreet as possible. His palace guard probably know this and so would his ministers. In fact generally it is known but tolerated, though not spoken of by the old Emperor.

On the way he might stop and reflect the long years he has ruled and how everything has come to be so on this spring morning of 1914. He might look up to a clear blue sky or look at garden plants while lost in reminiscence of his past life. He might even have found solace chatting to his mistress Katherina about such things – who knows.

The sad old Emperor was a man that few other men would want to trade places with because his life had been marred by tragedy. Again, I would add, not like the Tsar’s would be, but the old Austro-Hungarian Emperor was still alive knowing that some of his dear and younger ones were gone.

Sophie of Bavaria
Franz Joseph's mother
The year of 1914 must be a far shot from 1848 when he had become Emperor at the age of 18. He would have been full of hope for his grand Empire even though he had to put down the Hungarian nationalists who objected to Austrian rule. His mother, Princess Sophie of Bavaria wanted the best for him and was determined that he should marry properly and choose a young woman who would provide an heir for his Empire and ensure the strength and continuation of the great bloodline.

In this matter, he left the match making for his mother to do for she was said to be a lady of strong determination. She wanted to forge a link between the Habsburgs and the Royal house of Wittlsbach in Bavaria. She arranged a gathering where by a young Bavarian Duchess called Helena (affectionately known as Nene) might be presented to him, Franz Joseph – ruler of Austo-Hungary and her Empire.

To the embarrassment of all; he, young Franz Joseph, showed no interest in Duchess Helena. Instead he showed all his attention to the Duchess’ younger sister who had accompanied her to the social gathering (Maybe a Ball). The younger sister was called Elisabeth (affectionately known as Sissi)

Empress Elisabeth
(Sissi)
The Emperor’s mother tried to rearrange things with him afterwards, but the young Emperor stuck to his guns on this issue and was determined to wed Elisabeth and not the older sister Helena. In the end, Princess Sophie relented as it was still a union with the Bavarian House of Wittlsbach.

The happiness of the Royal couple did not last too long because the new young Empress found it hard to adjust to the confines of her Royal life in the Palace. She did not get on well with Princess Sophie, her mother in law. She found her far too intrusive. Sissi had given birth to two daughters – one of which, sadly died in infancy aged 2. Finally the third child to be born was a son and heir who Franz Joseph named Rudolph.

Princess Sophie intervened in the infants' tuition and well being, having their nursery moved to her quarters of the Palace. This angered Sissi but she could not do much about it and her confinement grew more stressful. She threw herself into a number of interests including speaking Hungarian and learning of that nation’s resentment of Austria’s influence. She also became widely travelled – an indulgence allowed to her because her confinement was making her ill. She became famous for her travelling life style and her sense of fashion and her good looks. The Empress of Austria (Sissi) was one of the first iconic Royals who people all over Europe liked to hear stories about. She travelled widely and became most popular. In time, she and her husband Emperor Franz Joseph developed an understanding and tolerance of one another’s different needs. They had a brief reconciliation which produced another daughter and together were crowned King and Queen of Hungary. Again, they went their separate ways but remained married and watchful of one another. Emperor Franz Joseph constantly wrote letters to her and it is said that in later life, Sissi encouraged Franz Joseph to see Katherina Schratt in 1885 after the Emperor saw the young actress perform in theatre.

Perhaps the old Emperor looked back from this year of 1914 and smiled with affection for the memory of his dear wife Sissi, as he wandered through his Palace grounds on route to his mistress’ house - knowing that Sissi might be looking down approvingly. Maybe he would gulp and hold back a tear for the memory of his independent and beautiful wife – his strong willed Sissi that he knew, would not be confined in Palace rooms.

Then he might drift upon the more dreadful memory of his son and heir, Crown Prince Rudolph. The dreadful Mayerling Incident in 1889 when his only son was found dead in the hunting lodge beside the body of 17 year old Baroness Mary Vistera. The dreadful memory of Sissi devastated by the death of their only son - his angry and panic stricken daughter-in law, Princess Stephanie of Belgium – King Leopold’s daughter, remonstrating on how such a thing could be outside of their marriage.

Such bitter memories would be hard to recall, but happen they must – his son and heir, gone at the age of 30. Then 9 years later in 1898, his dear wife Sissi would die violently while on one of her many travelling experiences. She was walking along by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, about to board a steamship when a young Italian anarchist stabbed her. She managed to walk onto the steamship, but was unaware of just how fatal the wound had been and died moments later, much to his grief - her estranged husband, Emperor Franz Joseph.

He might look up into the sky and wonder how it had all come to be by this spring morning of 1914 – so far removed from the days when he was a young Emperor full of hope with a beautiful wife, his children and even his interfering mother, Princess Sophie. They were all gone now. Even his younger brother Maximillian had been executed by Mexican revolutionaries - stood before a firing squad in 1867. 

It was to his nephew, Archduke Ferdinand, he now looked reluctantly as his successor. Ferdinand would have to rule the Austro-Hungarian Empire when he was gone.

From this moment in history – his spring morning of 1914, he would not for see that his nephew would be assassinated in Sarajevo. That he would be forced to mobilize his forces to move upon Serbia – a nation that was angered because Bosnia had been annexed in 1908 and incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He would know that Tsarist Russia would aid the Serbs, and also, that the German Empire would support him. Then that France would aid Russia and Great Britain would also move against Germany. None of these things, that were a few months away, could be seen. That his beloved Austro-Hungarian Empire had but 4 years left, was not known on this fine spring morning. So I, for one, hope he enjoyed his tea and chat with Katharina Schratt.
 
He would not see the end of the Great War because he would die while it was still ragging on all fronts in the year of 1916. He would be succeeded by another nephew Charles I of Austria and IV of Hungary. He would only reign until 1918 when the house of Habsburg fell in the defeat of the Central Powers during the Great War. Nephew Charles would go into exile and try to restore the monarchy, but without success. He would die in exile in 1922. The last and short lived Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, unlike his sad Uncle, Franz Joseph.

Emperor Franz Joseph's Funeral

Moyra Melons knows any pair of ear rings will do.

Moyra Melons new pair...
...of ear rings
Moyra Melons was adamant that her new ear rings stood out above all things and decided to test out her latest pair by displaying them for her husband when he walked in from a hard days work.

Because Moyra often did this sort of thing, she suspected that her husband was beginning to expect her little stances to draw his attention, every time she decided to display a new pair of ear rings for his approval.

What she liked and loved about her dear husband was that he was always game to look upon her as he walked in. Even when he was tired; her ear rings always seemed to perk him up again. He would walk in of an evening looking haggard and then she would make him gaze at the new pair before him and with a resignation of defeat he would look. The colour would come back into his face and a smile would develop.

"They're a lovely pair Moyra," he would say.

"Are you sure? You're not just saying it?" Moyra would ask.

"Trust me Moyra - they look lovely."

And he was telling the truth, when he said they were a lovely pair, but Moyra Melons often wondered which pair he liked the best because he seemed to think all were splendid.

"You think every pair of ear rings are great and you don't look at the same pair every night," she scolded a little tartly.

Her husband gave a little subtle cough and decided not to answer that one. He just smiled and decided, in his own way, to let her know how great her ear rings were and he never needed any words to express such a thing. Moyra Melons didn't mind either. If ear rings made him feel such a way; she couldn't wait to display another pair tomorrow.






Saturday, 22 January 2011

David Bowie-Starman



This was the first clip I ever remember seeing of David Bowie. I thought he was very wierd at the time, but he went on to become all the more popular and I grew to like his music more as he went on.







Army of Lovers-My Army of Lovers

 

This song is as camp as Christmas but for some reason I like it. It tweaks the nose of Butchness and blows a king size raspberry in the face of geezerness. Therefore, why does it go on my blog as a favorite sort of mellow and audacious song? It is a song you might like, but also don't want to like because it mocks in a very care free way. It is unashamedly debonair, which is unlikable and camp. However, I can't help it, I have to say I like this very camp song, even though I don't want to... :)



Felix Dzerzhinsky of the Soviet Cheka (Secret Police)



When the Royal family of Russia fell in 1917 Lenin was able to seize power from Alexander Kerensky who had brought about the Tsar's abdication. The power struggle was beginning in earnest and many men of the Russian Duma went over to the White army to fight against Lenin's Bolshevik revolutionaries. The war with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire had ended. By November of 1918 the Great War was over and the newly formed Soviet Union would have a host of imperial nations looking at ways of stopping the Bolshevik revolution in its tracks.

There were many Russians in exile that were only too willing to try and over throw the Soviet Union in favor of the White Russian regime. Inside Russia there was an organisation called the Trust - an anti Bolshevik organisation with the aim of toppling the Soviet Union. 

Lenin had a new Secret Police force led by a man born of a Polish noble family. His name was Felix Dzerzhinsky and he was a formidable, ruthless and skilled man when it came to hunting down dissidents in the Soviet Union. He had brought the Communist regime through a number of encounters including an attempt on Lenin's life in which he exposed the Lockhart plot.

The Lockhart plot was a counter revolutionary attempt to be rid of Lenin and replace the Soviet with more amiable Russians. This was headed by A British Scot called Bruce Lockhart. However, before the careful plans could be executed another independent free lance anti Bolshevik organisation enrolled a young woman to try and shoot Lenin after a political rally. This was done outside of the Lockhart plot and jumped the gun for the more organised anti Soviet plotters.

Dzerzhinsky and his Cheka quickly rounded up all suspected anti dissidents including the British diplomat Bruce Lockhart. Britain had to exchange a Soviet agent to get him back. Some of these anti Bolsheviks members belonged to the anti Bolshevik Trust and people within the Cheka decided to take over it and continue operating it as a fake anti - Bolshevik underground organisation. They had control of it from 1921 until 1926.

Wealthy Russians and foreign industrialists outside of the Soviet Union payed vast amounts of money into the Trust believing it was being used to over throw the Soviet regime. In fact they were propping it up with hard currency. Dzerzhinsky was also able to use his Cheka (Secret Police) within the fake Trust to learn of dissidents abroad and was able to target such people by posing as members within the (Fake anti Bolshevik) Trust.

In 1924 Lenin died after having a number of strokes. He had survived the assassination attempt but it had been too much for the revolutionary. Starlin came to power and when he learnt of the Trust in 1925, he was dismayed that he had been ignorant of a fake anti Soviet organisation being used without his knowledge. He forced Dzerzhinsky to use it to execute some high profile anti Bolsheviks - some believe Boris Savinkov and British agent Sidney Reilly were among them. The outside world was then able to target Soviet agents abroad, knowing that many of the Trusts organisers were fake communist agents.

In 1926 Dzerzhinsky died of heart failure after a political speech. He was just 49 years of age and had laid the foundations for espionage organisations like the Cheka, NKVD and eventually what would become, the KGB. He was celebrated in military parades in Red square long after his death and was regarded as a hero of the Soviet Union.   


Queen - Seven Seas Of Rhye



I can remember the first time I ever heard and saw Queen. It was this clip singing the Seven Seas of Rhye. It was in 1974. I liked the song and the band but I never dreamed what they would become over the years.



The Who (Won´t get fooled again)


The Who were a great Brit band that came about in the sixties. In this clip, Keith Moon plays particularly well. The band was vibrant and the song very good so this one qualifies as a favorite for me.




The Fall of House Romanov (Russia's Royal Family)


FALL OF HOUSE OF ROMANOV

Russia, as most people know, is a gigantic country that covers over 17 million square miles. There is no other nation like it. Part is in Eastern Europe and another bigger part is in Northern Asia. It also stretches south into the Middle East near Turkey and Iran. This colossal country was always hard to govern over so vast an area with many different types of peoples.

Tsar Nicholas II
During the time of the last and final Tsar Nicholas II, there was just one railway running across the vastness of Russia into Siberia, the Asian part of the nation. This meant that much of the country was cut off. The peasants lived in humble ignorance of many things that every day laymen in other nations took for granted. Passing news and other resources like food and machinery was extremely difficult. Much of the peasant population was neglected.










 

Imperial Russia in 1914
Those people that chose not to live in the countryside as peasants worked in cities like Moscow or St Petersburg. They would work in factories and live the lives of the down trodden proletariat – low paid, bad working conditions, and horrendous crowded living accommodation. Many found food sustenance lacking and the ordinary city dweller had a very bad diet. Early mortality among the proletariat was common due to such harsh living conditions.

These people began to harbour a growing frustration and resentment towards the high ranking and privileged classes that ruled over them and they wanted to change their poor circumstance by improving their standard of living. They did all the usual things like form trade unions and strike for better conditions. Also they tried to bring reasonable protests before the government and their Tsar Nicholas II. It was to no avail and often they would be imprisoned for, what Tsar and government thought, taking liberties they were not entitled too. The rulers would not accept a concept that freedom and fairness was a right that they (Tsar and rulers) should not be allowed to grant or take away.

Many who led such demonstrations of protest were forced into prison camps in Siberia or forced to go into exile. In 1905, things became so bad that a delegation of strikers and other citizens tried to gain an audience with the Tsar at his palace. These people hoped the Tsar would meet with them, but instead an army unit was used to open fire killing upwards of 500 protesters. More were captured and interned with others being tried and executed.

Bloody Sunday 1905

The Russian masses were willing to follow anyone with the right know how to make their miserable lives better. Living in exile were several young antagonists who believed in the doctrines of a man called Karl Marx. These were termed Marxists and one such man was called Lenin. He knew that one day the Tsarist regime and its governors would need to be replaced so that Russia could become a modern country where educated masses could all play a part in the running of the country and all would be able to have a decent standard of living. None would be able to have the privilege that the ruling classes of imperial Russia enjoyed at the workers and peasants expense.


Vladimir Lenin
Of course, in theory, this is easier said then done. Lenin attended meeting after meeting, addressed committee after committee, in exile, all over Europe from Britain to Switzerland. If Lenin learned one thing, while attending these meetings, it was that sometimes he would have to ride rough shod over some of the new voices that were clambering to be heard. There were so many points of view from so many well meaningful people and no one could please all the people all the time. Some of the things brought up were obscure and secondary in significance to the needs of revolutionary change. The revolutionary groups had to be brought into line under one firm leadership that could establish control when the time for change would come.

Lenin had the foresight to see that if a revolution did take place, there might be so many small radical groups deliberating of trivia – doing the same thing back home as in exile, that it could be usurped before it got off of the ground by middle class academics with an organised police force behind it. The workers and peasants would jump from oppression into another led by a new young middle class intelligentsia. This he feared and he knew he would have to act swiftly if and when the time came.

That he might be an oppressor and of the young intelligentsia did not occur to him and if it did, his was the better way, from his point of view. He set about building his revolutionary groups by uniting them with the common goal of attaining power first and foremost. All else could be sorted later when rudimentary law was established in the post revolutionary Russia. This had not occurred yet and seemed a long way off, but he continued to try and shape a basis of Marxist power in exile – one that would be ready to enter Russia and take up the power vacuum if the weak and ineffectual Tsar was deposed.

In 1914 Russia was forced into a war with the Central powers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire. France and Great Britain joined imperial Russia for the biggest imperial family falling out the world had ever seen. I know to call it such is perhaps disrespectful, but I am an ordinary person sitting on a computer enjoying a look back, and this Great War was to bring about the deaths of many decent people all across the world. I can’t help but get cross by that thought sometimes. I find the events and privileged people involved in all this dreadful, fascinating and compelling. I’m sure many were good who accidentally brought about ill for the many and with hindsight; many of these grand rulers would not have trod the path they did. Perhaps I would have made exactly the same mistakes if I had been one of these high ranking rulers. In reality, they were as much victims of their environment as others, but it was still a reckless inter imperial family squabble that would turn Europe upside down and leave it in turmoil for much of the 20th century.

Tsarina Alexandria
The Tsar Nicholas II mobilised his army and went to war against the Central powers of Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire. From the start Russia’s war effort was mismanaged. There were problems with government and logistics, industrial output and continuous replacement of high ranking officers and officials in army and government. The Tsarina Alexandra was becoming more unpopular because of her influence over the Tsar. That she was also a German did not help matters. She was often referred to as, ‘The German Woman’ in cold terms. The Tsar was absolute ruler and he often dissolved the Duma (Parliament) and called it together as and when he saw fit. He appointed ministers that would do his bidding and if they did not, he sacked them. To fall foul of the Tsarina could destroy a political career. To win her favour could bring great power.

Father Grigory (Rasputin)
One such person was a strange priest called Father Grigory or Rasputin as he became known. He had pleased Tsarina Alexandria because of spiritual help he had brought to her and her young haemophiliac son Alexis. She persuaded her husband Tsar Nicholas II to bestow government powers over him, much to the despair of his Duma representatives. The Tsar finally left his Tsarina wife Alexandria to watch over matters of government while he went to the front to, as he put it, share in the responsibilities of conducting the war against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Things got worse. On the front his soldiers became openly mutinous towards their officers. In some parts they shot their leaders while in Moscow and Petrograd (St Petersburg) more strikes and civil unrest escalated. Also Rasputin, the mad monk, was killed. Eventually, some men in the Duma invoked a call for the Tsar to abdicate. A man called Alexander Kerensky who was a socialist led the rebellion in the Duma. He was one of the very type of young intelligentsia that Lenin feared.

As the Tsar was on board a train coming back from the front to one of his palaces to try and take control of the internal strife in his country; he and his entourage was stopped by his army along route. He was confronted by one of his high ranking officers who tried politely to say that his signature of abdication was needed and the Duma would now be taking control of the country and the continued war with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At fist the Tsar tried to remonstrate but then Nicholas was firmly told that the Duma and Armed forces demanded his abdication.

In layman’s terms, the Tsar was sacked but the men that did it were not so radical that they would harm the Tsar. Kerensky had every ambition of continuing the war against the Central Powers of Europe. However, other cogs of the political wheel were set in motion. The Marxist groups led by Lenin were in exile in Switzerland and his political agenda was to end the pointless imperial war with Central Europe. As far as Lenin was concerned, the imperialist aristocrats could carry on their war and leave Russia to sort her internal problems out.

Germany, at war with Russia, saw an opportunity to help replace the Russian government with one that would end the war on the Eastern front. It would allow Germany to release a large number of divisions over to the western front against France and Great Britain’s Empire forces. However, the ministers needed to persuade Kaiser Wilhelm II to allow Lenin and his revolutionary Marxists to pass through German territory into Russia from Switzerland – something that Wilhelm was not keen on. The Tsar was, after all, his cousin and he thought rightly, that Germany would be replacing an imperial power with a Bolshevik one that would one day threaten them more then Tsarist Russia could.

In the end, the Kaiser relented and Lenin and his cohorts were transported across Germany from Switzerland into Russia. From here Lenin was met by members of the new Soviet guard (loyal to his cause) and they escorted him to Petrograd. The middle class intelligentsia of the Duma that had been trying to take over the masses and keep them in the war effort against Germany were replaced by Lenin and his men who enjoyed the support of the masses - the Marxists had won power. Some of the Duma where removed, some fled to join the White army, some joined the Marxists and others of little use to the Marxists were killed or interned. Russia’s aristocracy and upper ruling classes were about to pay the bill for years of imperialist oppression. Many that could get away fled abroad never to return – others were not so fortunate.

The former Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandria were handed over to the Bolsheviks along with his young son and heir Alexis – also his four daughters Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anistasia. For a while the defunct Royal family was transported to various locations and held in continual captivity. While any Romanov lived the White Russian forces, who still tried to fight on, hoped to restore the monarchy one day. Eventually the inevitable decision was made by the Bolsheviks to be rid of the Romanov Royal family for ever. In July of 1918 the entire Royal family, along with some Royal household servants who had remained with them, were killed as the were line up in the celler of a house near the Ural mountains. A Chech unit of the White army was battling the Reds close by. A group of hardened Bolsheviks came before the family and servants and shot everyone in a violent and evil end to the Romanov dynasty. The blood line had ended and with it the Russian monarchy - forever. 

Romanov's final moments before Bolshevik executioners.

Below is a chilling eye witness account of one of the Russian Royal families guardsman who kept them captive during time of execution.
"In the evening of 16 July, between seven and eight p.m., when the time of my duty had just begun; Commandant Yurovsky, (the head of the execution squad) ordered me to take all the Nagan revolvers from the guards and to bring them to him. I took twelve revolvers from the sentries as well as from some other of the guards and brought them to the commandant's office.

Yurovsky said to me, 'We must shoot them all tonight; so notify the guards not to be alarmed if they hear shots.' I understood, therefore, that Yurovsky had it in his mind to shoot the whole of the Tsar's family, as well as the doctor and the servants who lived with them, but I did not ask him where or by whom the decision had been made...At about ten o'clock in the evening in accordance with Yurovsky's order I informed the guards not to be alarmed if they should hear firing.

About midnight Yurovsky woke up the Tsar's family. I do not know if he told them the reason they had been awakened and where they were to be taken, but I positively affirm that it was Yurovsky who entered the room occupied by the Tsar's family. In about an hour the whole of the family, the doctor, the maid and the waiters got up, washed and dressed themselves.

Just before Yurovsky went to awaken the family, two members of the Extraordinary Commission [of the Ekaterinburg Soviet] arrived at Ipatiev's house. Shortly after one o'clock a.m., the Tsar, the Tsaritsa, their four daughters, the maid, the doctor, the cook and the waiters left their rooms. The Tsar carried the heir in his arms. The Emperor and the heir were dressed in gimnasterkas (soldiers' shirts) and wore caps. The Empress, her daughters and the others followed him. Yurovsky, his assistant and the two above-mentioned members of the Extraordinary Commission accompanied them. I was also present.

During my presence none of the Tsar's family asked any questions. They did not weep or cry. Having descended the stairs to the  Ipatiev house first floor, we went out into the court, and from there to the second door (counting from the gate) we entered the ground floor of the house. When the room (which adjoins the store room with a sealed door) was reached, Yurovsky ordered chairs to be brought, and his assistant brought three chairs. One chair was given to the Emperor, one to the Empress, and the third to the heir.

The Empress sat by the wall by the window, near the black pillar of the arch. Behind her stood three of her daughters (I knew their faces very well, because I had seen them every day when they walked in the garden, but I didn't know their names). The heir and the Emperor sat side by side almost in the middle of the room. Doctor Botkin stood behind the heir. The maid, a very tall woman, stood at the left of the door leading to the store room; by her side stood one of the Tsar's daughters (the fourth). Two servants stood against the wall on the left from the entrance of the room.

The maid carried a pillow. The Tsar's daughters also brought small pillows with them. One pillow was put on the Empress's chair; another on the heir's chair. It seemed as if all of them guessed their fate, but not one of them uttered a single sound. At this moment eleven men entered the room: Yurovsky, his assistant, two members of the Extraordinary Commission, and seven Letts (Men from the Cheka Secret Police)

Yurovsky ordered me to leave, saying, 'Go on to the street, see if there is anybody there, and wait to see whether the shots have been heard.' I went out to the court, which was enclosed by a fence, but before I got to the street I heard the firing. I returned to the house immediately (only two or three minutes having elapsed) and upon entering the room where the execution had taken place, I saw that all the members of the Tsar's family were lying on the floor with many wounds in their bodies. The blood was running in streams. The doctor, the maid and two waiters had also been shot. When I entered the heir was still alive and moaned a little. Yurovsky went up and fired two or three more times at him. Then the heir was still."

 


Friday, 21 January 2011

Fall of House Hohenzollern (Germany's Royal Family)

HOUSE OF HOHENZOLLERN


Prince Fritz (Later King Fredrich III)
German Kaiser for 99 days.

                    
Queen Victoria’s eldest child was Princess Victoria born in 1840. She grew up to be very much like her mother and was matched with a Prussian prince called Frederick. The young prince of Prussia was in line to become Emperor, King of Prussia one day and both the United Kingdom and Prussia thought the match a very good one.

It was as in the year 1858 when the two Royals were wed. It took place in England, but then the newly weds went back to Prince Fritz homeland of Prussia and a palace in Berlin. The two young Royals were most devoted to each other and Victoria Princess Royal thought her Prussian husband was much like her father, Prince Albert – the man who had married her mother Queen Victoria. In many ways, the couple were similar, but their environment was very different.

Britain was an island nation that looked to her vast overseas Empire. Her European borders were well defined by the sea and could not be disputed over by mainland European nations and Britain stayed out of Europe apart from Mediterranean islands and the rock of Gibraltar. Prince Albert found it easy to adapt to the politics of this nation without bringing too much Prussian influence of interfering.

Victoria Princess Royal of Prussia
These same notions were taken back to Prussia by the young British Princess Royal and the young Prussian Prince also seemed to agree with many of them. There appeared to be no appreciation of the Germanic state’s borders and land competitors. Prussia and the German states needed to be strong in this time and the sort of liberalism that Prince Fritz and his young wife Victoria Princess Royal had, did not fit so snugly in a nation surrounded by the Royal House of Habsburg’s Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Royal House of Ramanov’s Russia.

All of these great European houses needed to be strong to protect their borders. Alliances were made in order to go to war with lesser nations. This was to make sure no one would strike while attentions were in other areas.

Prussia had a collection of other German speaking states that were allied and there were ambitions of making a unified Germany from all of these states. There had been an attempt in the late 1840s when King Fredrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia was alive. The title of Emperor of Prussia and all the joining principalities was offered to the King of Prussia but he declined the offer fearing that it would cause resentment among some of the Crown Princes of the smaller German States and they might then ally with the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Tzar’s Russias.

The young British Princess Royal had come to Prussia, perhaps a little naive to the complexities of the power struggles during this time. She must have known of them and her husband Prince Fritz would certainly have, but they still seemed to think their liberal views would be more progressive for Prussia and the smaller German principalities. I can’t help thinking that despite such admirable intentions; they were wrong. But then I’m just a layman and historians who study such things more deeply, might be very different with their opinions.

Wilhelm I Emperor of German
Empire until death in 1888
During this time, a robust and more realistic man came to power in Prussia. He could be abrupt and rude at times, but would always say what he thought to be correct. His name was Otto Bismarck. He became Prussia’s Ministerprasident or Prime Minister from 1862 to 1873 and then also the Ministerprasident of the German Empire from 1871 to 1890. This man was to be a very formidable leader for the German confederation and he would bring about the unification of the German states. He would have to confront issues, but he knew that the German nations of this day were mostly conservative in their outlook and strong leadership would win the day. He came into conflict with Prince Fritz and Princess Victoria finding their liberal views too concessionary. Prussia and the other German states needed an iron conservative will to come through the decades ahead. In this Bismarck had the support of the old Emperor, King Wilhelm I – Prince Fritz’s father.

Otto von Bismarck
Ministerprasident
Prussia 1862-1873
German Empire 1871 - 1890
Because of this, and some of the Prince Fritz’s outspoken indiscretions, concerning what he thought on certain political matters; the young Royals found themselves ostracized from the Government. Bismarck had cleverly isolated Fritz and the Princess Royal's influence from policy making or at least severely limited them.

The Prince and Princess Royal had a son and heir who they named Wilhelm after Prince Fritz father, King Wilhelm I. This young man would grow up to become the Kaiser of the unified Germany and the leader of the nation during the First World War. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom would die in his arms in 1901 on the Isle of Wight’s, Osborne House.

However, this was the year of 1859 and the young Prussian prince was a sickly child with a dislocated arm in birth. This would give him trouble through out his life, but the young Wilhelm would grow up a fiercely patriotic German. He would enjoy the company of his Grandfather King Wilhelm I and the Chancellor Bismarck. He would lean towards the German Conservatism of his Grandfather and Bismarck while trying to please his Father and Mother, but this he would find frustrating and difficult. He was impatient at times and longed to do glorious things, like all young men. To be fair, Prince Wilhelm never lacked encouragement. The Germany of this time was steeped in military tradition and the young man loved this.

As for Bismarck, he would preside over a unified Germany and during his twenty eight years of power as the Iron Chancellor, he would take Prussia and the German states to war with Denmark, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and France. These campaigns, he would win and the unified Germany would grew strong and formidable.

Despite Prince Fritz participation in the campaign with France of 1870 and agreement with Bismarck in strategy over the conduct of the war – mainly when it was time to ease off of the siege of Paris; the Crown Prince still found himself isolated from major decision making in government. His wife, Princess Victoria became more resentful of Bismarck and developed a stronger dislike of him.

Bismarck, however, had developed a thick skin to the Princess Royal and her resentment. He had much more pressing matters of government to deal with. He had no time for what he termed, petticoat politics. He lived in the real world and trod on many imposers’ toes to get what he believed was best for the German coalition. He also had the admiration of the old king and the young Wilhelm. He also made treaties with the Tsar of Russia strengthening the unified German position in Europe – the nation was becoming a power house.

In 1888, Prince Fritz became ill. He had a tumour in his throat and it caused great discomfort and hindered his speech. He had several specialized doctors see him and attempts were made to stop the growth. It soon became clear it was throat cancer and Prince Fritz became bed ridden. His father, old King Wilhelm I died at the age of 91 in this year of 1888 too. The new King Fredrick III (Prince Fritz) was too ill to attend the funeral and he would be Emperor for just 99 days before he passed away due to throat cancer. The Princess Royal was devastated by her husband's death - much like her mother, Queen Victoria when Prince Albert passed away.

Kaiser Wilhelm II from 1888 to 1918
 Thus was Germany’s year of three Emperors; King Wilhelm I, King Fredrick III and finally King Wilhelm II. The one monarch that Bismarck thought it would be difficult to serve only lasted a short time. The new young King Wilhelm was 29 had been carefully watched as a boy. He was conservative with his views and Bismarck must have felt sure he would get along well with the new Emperor. He was to be sadly mistaken.



The young King swiftly brought his guard into his mother’s palace. Victoria, the Princess Royal tried to protest but he wanted his father’s letters and other secret papers. These he could not find because his mother, Princess Victoria was said to have forwarded them on to the United Kingdom. She feared that things contained in some of the writings might be used for ill concerning Britain and Germany.

She was put into isolation and kept out of public life as the young German Emperor began to go about building Germany greater. He had ideas for a stronger navy like Great Britain and wanted an overseas Empire too. He came into conflict with the very man he had admired as a boy and sacked Bismarck for not bringing policies to him before taking them to government.

It would be a sad irony for the old Chancellor - for many years Bismarck and Princess Victoria had tried to win young Wilhelm to their views, but the young man had his own ideas and would not be turned by either in the end. Both were put into the wilderness. Bismarck died in 1898 – eight years after being sacked as Chancellor. Princess Victoria died from cancer of the spine, seven months after her mother in the year of 1901 at Friedrichshof, Germany.

Before the young King Wilhelm II, an ominous road leading to a great European war lay, and with this, the fall of the Eagles - the Eagles of three great European Houses - one of them; House Hohenzollern of Germany's Kaiser. 

In 1918, the Great War would end in defeat for Germany. Wilhelm II would go into exile in the Netherlands where he would die in 1941 - leaving his beloved Germany to a more grim reckoning under the National Socialists of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. He had entered Germany into the Great War to aid the old Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef, who in 1914 had reluctantly put his troops into the Balkan nation called Serbia. The Serbs resented Austro-Hungarian rule and their nation had been annexed in 1908. 

The nephew and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand, went on a state visit to Sarajevo - another city in the Balkans where the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled. Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated and Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire, had been a dear friend of Archduke Ferdinand. He was furious at the news and urged the old Emperor Franz Josef to teach the Serbs a harsh lesson. The Serbs, as expected, called upon the Tsar of Russia to help them.

The Russians had been badly humiliated in a war with Japan in 1905. They had lost much of their navy and were ill equipped to fight a war. The Tsar's nation was screaming out for change and Tsar's cousin in Germany did not fear the Russian forces of Nicholas II.

Kaiser Wilhelm was full of confidence when he had his German forces mobilised. His land army was very well trained and he had competent Generals. These he brought to the aid of the Austo-Hungarian Empire and its confrontation with Russia. Wilhelm declared a state of war with his cousin the Tsar. He sent troops into Belgium to face France, knowing they would ally with Imperial Russia and then his cousin King George V of the United Kingdom declared war upon his German Empire.

It is thought that he might have expected Great Britain to voice disapproval of his decision, but he did not expect them to enter the war. He also may have misjudged the combined ability of the French and British land armies and over estimated his German navy's ability confronting the Royal Navy.  

Europe went into a huge political family war that would affect people through out the world. Europe would be turned upside down by the time it emerged from the dreadful conflict. The German Royal family along with the Austro-Hungarian and Russian aristocrats would vanish as political powers. For four years there would be stale mate trench warfare that would cost the lives of millions of soldiers from many nations across the world.

Kaiser Wilhelm II would loose everything when he went into exile in Holland, but his dear cousin the Tsar Nicholas II, who's nation he fought, along the Eastern European front would face a much more dreadful reckoning. Europe would be waking up to a new harsher reality with even more horrendous clouds on the horizon. New freedoms were coming for the masses - new arrogant leaders that would sort the mess out - one way or another.