August 15 2015

Back September 7.

The Ob

August 14 2015

Russian rivers

August 13 2015

… and river systems

I  White Sea

Northern Dvina (from confluence of Yug and Sukhona; the Western Dvina or Daugava flows into Latvia from the Valdai Hills)

II  Barents Sea

III  Kara Sea, between Novaya Zemlya and Severnaya Zemlya

Ob (from confluence of Katun and Biya near Altai Mountains in Russia)

Yenisei (from Mongolia)

IV  Laptev Sea, between Severnaya Zemlya and New Siberian Islands

Lena (from near Lake Baikal)

V  East Siberian Sea, between New Siberian Islands and Wrangel Island

Kolyma (from confluence of Kulu and Ayan Yuryakh)

VI  Chukchi Sea, between Wrangel Island and Bering Strait


VII  Baltic Sea

Neva (from Lake Ladoga)


VIII  Black Sea, Ukraine, west of Crimea

Dnieper (from Valdai Hills near Smolensk)

IX  Sea of Azov, Russia, east of Crimea

Don (from Novomoskovsk)

X  Caspian Sea, Russia

Volga (from Valdai Hills)

XI  Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan

Ural or Zhayyq (from southern Urals in Russia)


XII  Bering Sea, south of Bering Strait

XIII  Sea of Othotsk, south of Kamchatka Peninsula

XIV  Strait of Tartary, between Siberia and Sakhalin Island

Amur (from northwestern Manchuria on the Russia-China border at confluence of Shilka and Argun)

XV  Sea of Japan, south of Sakhalin Island

Tumen (from Mount Paektu, but in North Korea or China?)

Other rivers are less important or are parts of these systems


Economist map

Most of the Russia-China border is formed by the Argun and the Amur and in the south the Ussuri, a tributary of the Amur (low resolution map: Economist)

Smoke over the river Volga

Smoke over the Volga, Nizhny Novgorod

Tibetan rivers (old post)

From Delos

August 12 2015

“It is marvellous expanding one’s comprehension like this – it gives one’s ‘historical imagination’ real strong meat to crunch. Pompeii may be more perfectly preserved – but that is a shoddy watering place of the first century A.D. – while the place I am in now was the chief mart of the world for a century: here one is at the centre of things (even if there are boats to Mykonos only twice a week).”

The tiny Cycladic island was the meeting place of the Delian League, the Athens-dominated union against Persia, 478-404.

But the century to which Toynbee is referring must be from 166 BC, when the Romans made Delos into a free port in order to punish Rhodes, to 69, when it was sacked by pirates. Delos is now almost uninhabited, but then supported a population of 30,000: Greeks, Italians, Phoenicians, Syrians, Egyptians, Palestinians, Jews and Persians who came to trade without risk to life or property.

Letter to his mother, December 6 1911, quoted in McNeill

Late quartets

August 11 2015

Greece was the centre of Toynbee’s intellectual world, but he was 70 when he published his first book on it, 80 when he published a second.

Greek quartet:

Hellenism, The History of a Civilization, OUP, Home University Library, 1959 (short)

Some Problems of Greek History, OUP, 1969 (over 500 pages and ultra-specialised for the most part)

Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World, OUP, 1973 (nearly 800 pages)

The Greeks and Their Heritages, OUP, 1981 (nearly 400 pages, posthumous, finished in 1974 and published in the year of Greece’s EU accession)

Hellenism, of course, covers Rome too. Constantine Porphyrogenitus belongs to Byzantine, not classical, studies. The Greeks and Their Heritages takes us forward into modern times. Some Problems of Greek History is the only book entirely about ancient Greece.

His Roman book also touches on Greece:

Hannibal’s Legacy, The Hannibalic War’s Effects on Roman Life
Vol I: Rome and Her Neighbours before Hannibal’s Entry
Vol II: Rome and Her Neighbours after Hannibal’s Exit
OUP, 1965 (about 1,400 pages)

You could drop Hellenism as being a mere introduction and speak of a quartet of large-scale Greek or Roman works published from the age of 76, with the first book really about his main subject published at the age of 80.

Although Some Problems of Greek History is long, the description “large-scale” perhaps does not even suit such a technical and minutely specialised series of essays.

The masterpiece, by all accounts, is Hannibal’s Legacy, although its thesis (link to a good summary) is controversial. Toynbee intended it as his monument alongside A Study of History.

Constantine Porphyrogenitus is a great achievement marred by comparatively weak treatment of the Byzantine church.

Having been a backpacker in Greece for nearly a year, he should probably have produced a modern Pausanias.


August 10 2015

In the language of Arabic political geography, the Maghrib (i.e., “the West”) means in a general way the whole of the Arabic World west of Egypt, though the term is apt to be confined to the Arabic domain in North-West Africa to the exclusion of the Arabic domain in the Iberian Peninsula (Andalūs). Maghrib al-Aqsā (i.e., “the Far West”) means Morocco. Ifriqīyah (an Arabization of the Latin name “Africa”) means a region of rather wider extent than the modern Tunisia in which urban and agricultural life had the ascendancy over Nomadism. The successive capitals of Ifriqīyah have been Carthage, Qayrawān [Kairouan], Mahdīyah [Mahdia], and Tunis.

Carthage was capital of the Vandal Kingdom for most (439-534) of the Kingdom’s existence (435-534). It remained the capital of the Byzantine province (534-698), called Exarchate of Africa from c 585.

The early Moslem capital was Kairouan.

The Fatimids (909-1171) founded Mahdia in 921.

Tunis took over during the subsequent Almohad era. The Sunni Almohad Caliphate was the Mahgrebian successor of the Ismaili Shiite Fatimid Caliphate. Saladin’s Ayyubid dynasty was its successor in Egypt and the Levant.

The flowers of Africa (old post).


The Roman province Africa Proconsularis (red), to which Ifriqiya corresponded and from which it derived its name

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

Kiev, Novgorod and Moscow

August 9 2015

Rurik or Riurik (lived 830-c 879) was the Viking, or Varangian, chieftain who gained control of Ladoga in 862, built Holmgard or Novgorod on the Volkhov and founded the Rurik dynasty.

In 882 his successor Oleg moved the capital south to Kiev on the Dnieper.

In the late 980s, Vladimir the Great was baptised at Chersonesos on the Black Sea and proceeded to baptise his family and people.

The East Roman Empire had nearly half a millennium to run, but when it was dissolved, the idea took hold in some Russian quarters of Moscow as the third Rome.

Kievan Rus dissolved into a collection of principalities and fell to the Mongols circa 1240; but Novgorod, which had in 1136 become not a principality but a republic, was, unlike Moscow, spared a Mongol invasion.

The Grand Principality (or Grand Duchy) of Moscow, plain Muscovy to the English, was established in 1283 and evolved out of the Grand Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal. It extinguished the Novgorod Republic in 1478, ceased to be a tributary of the Golden Horde in 1480 and lasted until the Tsardom was proclaimed in 1547.

The Rurik dynasty, which dominated Kievan Rus, also supplied the Grand Princes of Vladimir and of Moscow – and the first two Tsars, Ivan the Terrible (reigned 1547-84) and Feodor I (reigned 1584-98).

St Vladimir’s Cathedral (1874-76), Chersonesos, Ukraine, near Sevastopol, statue of St Andrew in the foreground

The Russians believed that the apostle Andrew travelled up the Dnieper River and reached the future location of Kiev, where he erected a cross on the site where the St Andrew’s Church of Kiev now stands and where he prophesied the foundation of a great Christian city.

Since 2014, Chersonesus has been controlled by Russia. Russia uses Chersonesus’s history to justify its annexation of the Crimea.

Singapore, 1965-

August 8 2015

My Lee Kuan Yew obituary.

Anniversary of expulsion from Malaysia is tomorrow.

Other Singapore posts.


August 7 2015

The New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts began in 1924. Bernstein ran the orchestra from 1958 to ’69, and the Young People’s Concerts from ’58 to ’72: he conducted and spoke at 53, all televised on CBS.

This came from Lincoln Center on February 19 1965, Friday, at the start of the Sibelius centenary year (2015 is Sibelius 150). It’s the first of four clips.

He introduces Sibelius and performs Finlandia “in honour of Sibelius and of the free people of Finland”.

He then introduces the violin concerto and the man who is about to perform it, Sergio Luca.

Clip 2: Concerto, first movement. Fiery, yes, but it is hard to say why this is so much less involving than, say, Oistrakh. Clip 3: introduces the second symphony. The kind of lesson a child might remember for the rest of his life. Sibelius is much more than a nationalist composer, but “to the people of Finland [the] ending will always mean only one thing: freedom”. Clip 4: last movement of the second symphony.

Finlandia (1899-1900) was nakedly, embarrassingly, political. So obvious was its meaning that the Russians forbade performances (at what date?). It had to masquerade under names such as Happy Feelings at the Awakening of the Finnish Spring and A Scandinavian Choral March.

Perhaps the Russians banned it not only because it would whip up national feeling, but because it might sap their own will to govern. The music is telling them that they will lose. Though, in the event, it was Russia’s collapse which gave the Finns their chance.

It was composed for a three-day money-raising event for the press pension fund which was also a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire. It was the last of six pieces performed (on November 4 1899) as an accompaniment to tableaux depicting episodes from Finnish history.

We have looked at one such set of tableaux in connection with his Karelia music. The Musiikkia sanomalehdistön päivien juhlanäytäntöön (Music for the Press Celebrations Days) had:


Tableau 1 – Väinämöinen Delights Nature with His Song (arranged in 1911 as no 1, All’overtura, in Scènes historiques No 1)

Tableau 2 – The Finns are Baptised

Tableau 3 – Duke Johan’s Court (arranged in 1911 as no 3, Festivo, in Scènes historiques No 1)

Tableau 4 – The Finns in the Thirty Years’ War (arranged in 1911 as no 2, Scena, in Scènes historiques No 1)

Tableau 5 – The Great Hostility

Tableau 6 – Finland Awakes (arranged and performed in 1900 as Finlandia)

There appears to be one or more performing versions of the whole work.

Tableau names may not be exactly as in 1899. Some of the history is in recent posts.

Väinämöinen is the magician-hero of the Kalevala.

Christianity had started to gain a foothold in Finland during the eleventh century. The church in Finland was still in its early development in the twelfth century.

The Finns are Baptised referred to the mission of Bishop Henrik, who became Finland’s patron saint. It seems that he was English (if he existed) and had come to Sweden in 1154 under the protection of the English papal legate in Scandinavia, Nicholas Breakspeare, the future Pope Adrian IV. He was sent from Uppsala to organise the church in Finland and was martyred there.

Finns had their own chiefs, but probably no central authority. Several secular powers wanted to bring the Finns under their rule: Sweden, Denmark, Novgorod, and probably the German crusading orders as well. Another Englishman, Bishop Thomas, became the first bishop of Finland (1234-45). From roughly 1249 until 1809 Finland was under the control of Sweden.

Duke Johan ruled Finland from 1556 to ’63 and was the future King John III of Sweden. He had Catholic leanings.

The Great Hostility refers to the Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden.

Finland Awakes was arranged in 1900 as Finlandia and performed on July 2 in Helsinki by the Helsinki Philharmonic Society conducted by Robert Kajanus.

(A second set of Scènes historiques appeared in 1912, but has nothing to do with the press celebrations and as far as I can see does not illustrate particular events. In 1898, he had produced a King Christian II Suite, a selection from his incidental music for the historical play King Christian II, written by his Swedish friend Adolf Paul, about the love of a king for a commoner. Cf Hugo’s Ruy Blas.)

On a spring morning in the Worcestershire countryside in 1901, at his house Craeg Lea in Malvern Wells, Edward Elgar, aged 44, seated at his piano, heard his friend Dora Penny arriving downstairs for a visit and called to her: “Child, come up here. I’ve got a tune that will knock ’em – knock ’em flat.” (Michael Kennedy) Elgar played her the tune that would become known as Land of Hope and Glory.

One wonders whether Sibelius, two years earlier, had said something similar when he came up with the tune which knocked the Finns flat. Two highly unlikely extremities of European music, Finland and England, came up with sensational tunes in the same years.

Finlandia owed nothing to folk music. It was an original tune. Sibelius claimed, or others have done, that his music in general owed nothing to folk tunes. Elgar positively disliked English folk music – which must have placed a barrier between him and Vaughan Williams.

Neither Elgar’s march nor Sibelius’s symphonic poem, if one can call it that (did he?), was written for words (I can’t think of a “symphonic poem” with words). Finlandia’s were written in 1941 by Veikko Antero Koskenniemi. Surprisingly late if that date is correct – and at the start of the Continuation War. The words of the tune which Elgar came to detest (I suppose mainly when sung) were added almost immediately, in 1902, at the suggestion of Edward VII, and were by AC Benson. At least two Christian hymns have adopted the tune of Finlandia. So did the anthem, Land of the Rising Sun, of the short-lived (1967-70) ex-Nigerian state of Biafra.

The Finlandia tune being sung by IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) in Mexico City:

Robert Conquest

August 6 2015

Historian of Stalin’s Terror.

The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties (1968, revised 1990).




Opposite of EH Carr and Eric Hobsbawm, though a communist in early life.

The Finland station

August 5 2015

Финля́ндский вокза́л, Finlyandsky vokzal, was the station in Petrograd serving Helsinki and Vyborg to which Lenin returned to Russia via Finland from exile in Switzerland on April 3 1917 (Gregorian), after the February Revolution and ahead of the October Revolution.

It was owned and operated by Finnish railways until early 1918, when the last train, carrying station personnel and equipment, as well as some of the last Finns escaping revolutionary Russia, left for Finland.

Later, the Finns gave it to Russia and the Russians gave them property in Finland, including the Alexander Theatre in Helsinki.

It was the equivalent of Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran into which Khomeini flew from Paris in a chartered plane on February 1 1979.

During the July Days, Lenin had to flee to Finland for safety to avoid arrest. He returned again, disguised as a railway worker, on August 9.

Edmund Wilson’s book To the Finland Station (1940) was a study of revolutionary thought.

Leaving the station in St Petersburg, March 27 2011:

A fascist song by Sibelius

August 5 2015

This is a rather cheap headline, since I am not suggesting that we need to change our opinion of Sibelius.

In 1930 – four years into his “silence” if you take Tapiola as his last substantial work – Sibelius wrote a patriotic march for unison male choir and piano with words by Aleksi Nurminen called Karelia’s Fate. YouTube has a not very attractive rendition with a single tenor, and with a translation of the text. Arrangement by Hannu Jurmu, performers not stated.

Finland has not been judged harshly for its collaboration with Germany from 1941 to ’44 because it was a small nation which was defending itself against the USSR – which had invaded it in 1939. The history is in recent posts.

It had accumulated sympathy in ’39-40 not least because Russia had been an enemy of the West, which it had ceased to be in 1941. Finland stood alone against Russia and then got help from Germany.

Sibelius himself has suffered, and I am quite sure deserved, no political stigmas. This song, nevertheless, was written in support of the fascist or near-fascist Lapua movement.

This was a nationalist, Lutheran, anti-communist political movement founded in 1929 and named after the town of Lapua in the southwest. Southern Ostrobothnia had been a stronghold of the White army in the Civil War.

On June 16 1930, 3,000 men arrived in Oulu in order to destroy the printing press and office of the Communist newspaper Pohjan Voima, whose last issue had appeared on June 14. On the same day, a Communist printing press in Vaasa was destroyed.

A Peasant March to Helsinki on July 7 was a show of power. Meetings held by leftist and labour groups were violently interrupted.

The song is an appeal to the “man of Karelia” to rise up against communism. It was first performed at Sortavala, Karelia, on the northern tip of Lake Ladoga, on September 7 1930.

What man of Karelia? The East Karelian who was living under communism? The West Karelian who was being infiltrated by it? Karelians in general? It depends on how you read it, but I think the phrase “western brothers” merely refers to non-Karelian Finns.

The creation of a Greater Finland by the annexation of East Karelia was an aim of Finnish nationalists.

The poem veers between the second and first person plural vocative, at least in the translation on YouTube.

The Lapua movement was banned after a failed coup d’état in 1932. Its successor was the Patriotic People’s Movement (1932-44).


Sibelius’s well-known Karelia music belongs to another world, that of late nineteenth-century romantic nationalism.

In 1893, when Finland was part of Russia, Sibelius was commissioned to write music for a historical tableau about Karelia at the Imperial Alexander University in Vyborg. This was in connection with a lottery being held to promote the education of the people of Vyborg Province. Raucous premiere November 13, Sibelius conducting.

The sections:


Tableau 1 – A Karelian Home – News of War (1293)

Tableau 2 – The Founding of Viipuri Castle

Tabelau 3 – Narimont, the Duke of Lithuania, Levying Taxes in the Province of Käkisalmi (1333)

Intermezzo I (no 1 in the Suite)

Tableau 4 – Ballade: Karl Knutsson in Viipuri Castle (1446) (no 2 in the Suite)

Tableau 5 – Pontus de la Gardie at the Gates of Käkisalmi (1580)

Intermezzo II (originally titled Tableau 5½) – Pontus de la Gardie’s March (no 3 in the Suite)

Tableau 6 – The Siege of Viipuri (1710)

Tableau 7 – The Reunion of Old Finland (Karelia) with the Rest of Finland (1811)

Tableau 8 – Our Land, the Finnish national anthem arranged by Sibelius

Tableau names may not be exactly as in 1893.

Narimont or Narimantas of Lithuania ruled the Russian part of Karelia on behalf of Novgorod.

Karl Knutsson is Charles VIII of Sweden.

Pontus de la Gardie was a French general in the service of Sweden. He captured Käkisalmi on the northwestern shore of Lake Ladoga from Ivan the Terrible. The Swedes held it for seventeen years. They took it again in 1611 and held it for a hundred years.

The words and music of the Finnish de facto national anthem are mid-nineteenth century. They predate independence. Sibelius’s Finlandia (1899-1900) has joined it as a second de facto anthem.

Sibelius published the three-movement suite and also, separately, the overture. There are performing versions of the rest.

Overture, London Symphony Orchestra, Loris Tjeknavorian; it quotes the march (for a second at 0:42, repeated at 6:08, he seems about to enter the world of Elgar):

Karelia’s story

August 4 2015

From the last post:

Karelia’s story involves the medieval contest between the Catholic Kingdom of Sweden and the Orthodox Novgorod Republic (old post), the rise of Protestant Sweden in the century from Gustavus Adolphus to Charles XII, the rise of Orthodox Russia in the two centuries from Peter the Great to the revolution, and Protestant Finland’s relations with Russia after 1917.

A rough guide to Karelia

August 3 2015

The Gulf of Finland (as Toynbee might have said) is a backwater of the Baltic, which is a backwater of the North Sea, which is a backwater of the North Atlantic; the White Sea is a backwater of the Barents Sea, which is a backwater of the Arctic Ocean.

Between the Gulf of Finland and the White Sea are Karelia and two large lakes, Ladoga and Onega. Between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga is the Karelian Isthmus (capital Vyborg or Viipuri, recent post) – but Karelia itself is, in a way, an isthmus between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

(The other Finnish Gulf is that of Bothnia, between it and Sweden.) Most of Karelia is now a Republic in Russia. North of Russian Karelia is Murmansk Oblast.

Karelia now:


The White Sea-Baltic Canal (Балти́йский кана́л, Byelomorsko-Baltiyskiy Kanal, BBK), or White Sea Canal (Belomorkanal), a ship canal built by forced labour from gulags under the first Five Year Plan, was opened on August 2 1933; it makes use of the Svir River, which flows from Onega to Ladoga, and the Neva, which flows from Ladoga to St Petersburg:

White Sea-Baltic Canal

Traditional divisions, with the current border:


Olonets Larelia and White Karelia are also called East Karelia. The rest is also called West Karelia. Ingria is the old name for the head of the Gulf of Finland between the Karelian Isthmus and Estonia, including the territory around St Petersburg.

Most of Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden from the thirteenth century to 1809, when the Finnish-speaking areas of Sweden were ceded to the Russian Empire and became the Grand Duchy of Finland. The Grand Dukes were the Russian Tsars. Finland broke away in 1917.

Karelia’s story involves the medieval contest between the Catholic Kingdom of Sweden and the Orthodox Novgorod Republic (old post), the rise of Protestant Sweden in the century from Gustavus Adolphus to Charles XII, the rise of Orthodox Russia in the two centuries from Peter the Great to the revolution, and Protestant Finland’s relations with Russia after 1917.

Karelia was bitterly fought over by the Swedes and the Novgorod Republic in the thirteenth-century Swedish-Novgorodian Wars. The Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323 regulated the Swedish-Novgorodian border and divided Karelia between the two powers. Vyborg (Finnish: Viipuri), founded by the Swedes in 1293, became the capital of the Swedish province. North Karelia, Ladoga Karelia and East Karelia were under Novgorod.

In the Treaty of Stolbovo in 1617 Novgorod’s successor Russia ceded Ladoga Karelia and North Karelia to Sweden. East Karelia remained Orthodox and under Russian supremacy.

In the Treaty of Nystad in 1721 Sweden ceded Ladoga Karelia and the Isthmus to Russia. This ended Sweden’s four hundred-year supremacy in the Isthmus.

Russia won Finland, in turn, from Sweden in 1809. The new acquisition was known as New Finland. The territories won in 1721 (and in a subsequent war in 1741-43) were Old Finland. They were combined into the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland (1809-1917). The Russians moved their capital from Turku, until that point the most important city in Finland, east to Helsinki in 1812.

In the nineteenth century an ideology of Karelianism took hold of Finnish artists and researchers, who believed that the Orthodox East Karelians had retained elements of an archaic, original Finnish language and culture, neither Swedish nor Slavic, which had disappeared from Finland.

In the sparsely populated East Karelian backwoods, especially in White Karelia, Elias Lönnrot collected the folk tales that he forged into Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala (earliest publication 1835; Kullervo is one of its characters). Scholars argue about how much of the Kalevala is genuine folk poetry and how much is Lönnrot’s own work, but don’t dismiss it as a mere Poems of Ossian.

The Karelian language is closely related to Finnish, though the variety spoken in East Karelia is usually seen as a distinct language.‪‬ ‬‬‬

Finland won its independence in 1917. Until Russia invaded in 1939-40, its territory included the Karelian Isthmus and Ladoga regions.

The idea of annexing East Karelia to Finland to make a Greater Finland was widely supported between the wars. Finnish partisans tried but failed to overthrow the bolsheviks in East Karelia in 1918-20.

With the end of the Russian Civil War and the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922, East Karelia became (1923) the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Capital Petrozavodsk, on Lake Onega.

The Finnic peoples that made up most of the population of East Karelia were promised far-reaching cultural rights, but these rights were never realised. Stalin persecuted ethnic Finns and began an intensive Russification programme.

West Karelia was Finnish east of the brown line until the Winter War of 1939-40 and remains Finnish west of the line; although some of the ceded territories were incorporated into Leningrad Oblast, it is not clear why the pre-1940 area of Leningrad should be purple:

East and West Karelia

The war ended on March 13 1940. Russia joined Ladoga Karelia and the Isthmus to the territory of the ASSR to form a new Karelo-Finnish Soviet (Federative?) Socialist Republic, thus promoting Karelia to a union republic within the USSR (1940-56).

Areas ceded to Russia in 1940 and again in 1944; the northern areas are not part of Karelia, nor are four islands in the Gulf of Finland:

Ceded to Russia in WW2

The entire Karelian population of the areas ceded in the Winter War, over 400,000 people, mainly Lutheran, was evacuated to Finland, and the territories were settled by people from other parts of the Soviet Union. It is unclear whether Russia hoped after this to conquer the whole of Finland.

On June 22 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. Three days later the Continuation War (to give it the Finnish name; for the Russians it was a front of the Great Patriotic War) started.

With German assistance, the Finns hoped to recover the territories lost in 1940. Many of the evacuees returned home, only to be re-evacuated in 1944.

Finnish forces also occupied most of East Karelia. The occupation was accompanied by hardship for the local ethnic Russian civilians, including forced labour and internment in prison camps.

Finland lost the Continuation War. An armistice was signed on September 19 1944. The border of the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940 was recognised by Finland again in the Peace of Paris of 1947.

In 1956 the SSR was downgraded from a Union Republic to an ASSR, and retroceded to the Russian SFSR.

Finland was neutral during the Cold War and showed a degree of deference and self-censorship towards the USSR. The Germans called this effect of Russia, not only in Finland, Finnlandisierung.

The Finns ceased to dream of the annexation of East Karelia. Their demands for the return of the ceded territories were muted.

On November 13 1991, the Karelian ASSR became the Republic of Karelia, a subdivision of the Russian Federation.

Since the fall of communism, there has been a revival in Finnish culture in East Karelia. Some in Finland campaign for the return of the ceded territories, but the demand has never been part of government policy.

Finland joined the EU in 1995 and Eurozone in 2002. The old currency had been the markka. It is not a member of NATO.

Finnish soldier boiling coffee over a fire, wilderness of Karelia, 1941:

Karelia 1941


First four maps from Wikipedia and shown under GNU Free Documentation License; last online in various places; photo from aviewfromthehill.tumblr.com

Recent Finnish posts:

Finland in London

Finland and Russia, 1809-1919

On Sweden:

Two Swedish heroes


July 28 2015

Back August 3.

The Ransom of the Soul

July 27 2015

Peter Brown bibliography here (post and comment). For the sake of completeness, his new book is

The Ransom of the Soul, Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity, Harvard University Press, 2015


GW Bowersock, New York Review of Books (subscribers)

Tom Holland, New Statesman

Steve Donoghue, openlettersmonthly.com

AN Wilson, Spectator

In early Christianity, the souls of the dead were believed to enter a limbo during the interlude between the material world and the Last Judgement. Tertullian (160-240) wrote of a refrigerium interim, before their awakening to damnation or to glory.

But this refrigerium did not encourage anxiety or the giving of money to the Church.

In the later view, whose evolution and theology Brown traces from the time of Cyprian of Carthage, martyred 258, to that of Julian, Bishop of Toledo under the Visigoths, late seventh century, the journey to heaven began immediately (where did that leave the Last Judgement?) and the soul needed to be encouraged on its way.

“The wealthy – and that far wider group who wished to imitate the wealthy – sought to protect, nourish, and eventually bring home to heaven their own souls and the souls of the deceased” by pious practices, gifts and endowments. (Brown quoted in Donoghue)

You gave so that the prayers might continue after your death. Ancient euergetism. Christian giving. Foundations of medieval Church. Spain to Babylon, North Africa to Ireland. The soul’s destiny could be changed by what was happening on earth post mortem. The phrase “pray for the soul of …” puzzled me as a child. Surely it was too late.

The phrase comes from Proverbs 13:8: “The ransom of the soul of a man is his wealth.” What does that mean? Commentary. It was a phrase much used in the Middle Ages, but only two or three times, Brown tells us, in the period with which he is dealing, and towards the end, so he nearly did not use it.

In Matthew 19:21 and Luke 12:33 Christ seems to say that we can store treasure in heaven through almsgiving, ie gain a spiritual reward for financial generosity.

How much giving to the poor was direct, unmediated through the Church?

Wikipedia: The ransom theory of atonement.

“Labyrinth Books and Princeton’s History Department invite you to a discussion between Peter Brown and fellow historian Helmut Reimitz. Recorded Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 at 6pm.”

Accent, quantity, rhyme

July 26 2015

While a Medieval Western vernacular poetry adopted from a contemporary Arabic poetry the device of rhyme, which could be applied to accentual verse as readily as to quantitative, it is noteworthy that the Medieval Western vernacular poets were not inveigled by their admiration for their Arabic models into doing violence to the genius of their own mother tongues by going on to borrow from the Arabic a quantitative basis of versification which was common to the Arabic school and the Hellenic.

Rhyme entered European poetry in the High Middle Ages, in part under the influence of the Arabic language in Al Andalus. Arabic language poets used rhyme extensively from the first development of literary Arabic in the sixth century, as in their long, rhyming qasidas.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

Owen Chadwick 2

July 25 2015

First post (obits). I have linked to Alan Macfarlane of King’s College, Cambridge before. Here’s a ninety-minute interview of Chadwick by him, recorded in 2008.

I can only describe Chadwick’s smile as papery. From many years in a college. In my late teens I asked for the two volumes of his monumental The Victorian Church for Christmas, to the puzzlement of my family. At school I had had to read, and enjoyed, even if it lacked a certain drama, his The Reformation in the Pelican History of the Church, which he edited and to which he also contributed a volume on the Cold War. His younger brother Henry wrote the one on the early church, RW Southern a fine one on the medieval church.

He mentions DC Somervell in the first part, the man whose abridgements of Toynbee appeared in 1946 and 1957, as his history teacher at Tonbridge. He tells us that Toynbee’s early volumes were coming out then and that Somervell was rather contemptuous of him. But the first three then-uncontroversial volumes were only published in the summer of 1934. And would Somervell have said this? Especially when he wrote to Toynbee on September 11 to say that he had found them “enthrallingly interesting”? I wonder if this is not an academic reflex. Chadwick returns to Toynbee in the second part to show his own disapproval.

Macfarlane’s is a civilised voice, but he doesn’t get all that much out of his subject. But the picture in the Guardian shows Chadwick looking younger at 98 than he does here.

The discussion touches on Cambridge historians: Lord Acton (I met Chadwick at a lunch given for the launch of Roland Hill’s biography of Acton, which Chadwick in some degree mentored), GM Trevelyan, David Knowles, JH Plumb, Hugh Trevor-Roper (who was succeeded at Peterhouse by another ex-Christ Church figure, Henry Chadwick), Peter Laslett, Noel Annan, GR Elton. And others, such as the philosopher Michael Oakeshott.

“The Balkans might be better off at the moment if one or two people like David Owen or Lord Ashdown had known some history.”

Owen and Henry were both ordained Anglicans who were historians. Henry had a theological bent and wrote about the early church. Owen wrote mainly about religion, and the friction of church and state, in the nineteenth century.

Owen read history at St John’s, Cambridge and after the war was made a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Master of Selwyn College, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Regius Professor of Modern History, and was for two years Vice Chancellor of the University.

Henry went to Eton and then Magdalene, Cambridge on a music scholarship, and after the war became a fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, Dean of Christ Church, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and then Master of Peterhouse in Cambridge, making him the first person in four centuries (since whom?) to have headed a college at both universities.

Archangel, Riga, Odessa

July 24 2015

The Russian Empire will never become an industrial and commercial power; but like every other unit in the new international World she has need of a free outlet to the high seas, through which she may transmit to foreign markets the raw produce of her vast continental hinterland, and supply herself with the manufactured goods of industrial countries in return.

Such outlets she has never yet obtained. Till the eighteenth century her only port was Archangel on the White Sea, and this perhaps sufficed her during the era of stagnant isolation: at any rate the English Merchant Adventurers found it worth their while to trade there, though it is ice-bound two-thirds of the year. [Footnote: From about October to May.] In the year 1700, the Baltic was a Swedish lake, and the Black Sea a Turkish one. Peter and Catherine broke the maritime monopoly of these two powers, and gave Russia a sea-board on both waters. Odessa [now in Ukraine] and Riga [now in Latvia] have grown in a century and a half to be magnificent ports, and would suffice in themselves for the needs of a Russia much more highly developed than the present. But they are no more in direct communication with the Oceanic highways of international commerce than are the ports of Milwaukee and Chicago on the Great Lakes.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Babylon and Zion

July 23 2015

The disaster [of the “Babylonish Captivity”] lay in the “capture” of the Papacy by the French Crown, and not in the scene of the “captivity”; for the metaphorical Babylon on the banks of the Rhone was much better placed than the metaphorical Zion on the banks of the Tiber for serving the fourteenth-century Papal Curia as a centre for the administration of an ecclesiastical empire which extended at the time from Sicily to Ireland and from Portugal to Finland.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939 (footnote)

Finland and Russia, 1809-1919

July 22 2015

with a note on Russian Baltic ports

Most of Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden from the thirteenth century to 1809, when the Finnish-speaking areas of Sweden were ceded to the Russian Empire and became the Grand Duchy of Finland. The Grand Dukes were the Russian Tsars.

Finland broke away in 1917. The passage below was published in 1915. My interjections are not summaries of omitted passages.

Finland, from its Swedish background, is Lutheran. Finnish nationalism emerged in the nineteenth century, based on Finnish cultural traditions and the Finnish language. The Fennoman movement met a Swedish cultural resistance in the Svecoman movement.

Finnish, like Estonian, Livonian, Hungarian and some northwest Siberian languages, is part of the Finno-Ugric family.

Between [Norway] and the Russian frontier a broad barrier was interposed by Finland, so long as she remained a Swedish province, but the settlement of 1814 endorsed an accomplished fact by bringing Finland within the Russian Empire as a self-governing national state under the Imperial crown, with much the same status as the constitutional kingdom of Poland. During the whole century that has elapsed, there has been a silent contest on Russia’s part to press her way over Finland’s carcase to a Norwegian port on the open Atlantic, and on the part of the Scandinavian powers, backed by Great Britain, to maintain the existing arrangement of constitutions and frontiers.

To fortify the Scandinavian peninsula against Russian encroachment, the Vienna Congress linked its two discordant nationalities [Sweden and Norway] together by a personal union [old post]. This experiment had a more successful history than the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which the same Congress welded together as a bulwark against France [and which split into Belgium and Holland]; but it collapsed finally, none the less, nine years ago, [footnote: In 1905.] while on the other side Russia has been levelling her path by a systematic attempt to crush Finnish nationality out of existence.

Two countries, whether in a union or not, lay between Russia and the Atlantic: Sweden and Norway. But the Norwegian ports to which Russia wanted access were, according to this passage, in the far north, where Norway bordered directly on Russian Finland.

Wikipedia (edited here) summarises the period of the Grand Duchy thus:

1809-62: fifty years of consolidation, during which the Finnish authorities succeeded in convincing the Russian court not only of their own loyalty, but of that of all Finns.

1863-98: thirty-five years of increased independence, including the re-establishment of the Diet of Finland and the elevation of Finnish from a language for the common people to a national language (1863) equal to Swedish (1883). The catastrophic Finnish famine of 1866-68 was followed by eased economic regulations and extensive emigration: yet another nineteenth-century diaspora.

1899-1917: twenty years of attempted russification, ultimately unsuccessful and detrimental for Finland’s relationship with the Russian Empire (and the Soviet Union that was formed shortly afterwards).

In their politics and social life the Finns are one of the most highly-civilised nations of Europe. The smallness of their population [footnote: The census taken in 1901 showed a total of 2,713,000, including 2,353,000 Finns, 350,000 Swedes, 10,000 others.] and the unindustrialised character of their economics have simplified the problems set them to solve, but within their modest dimensions they have solved them to perfection. The tradition of their culture, and their Lutheran religion, both come from Sweden, and the townspeople on the coast are still largely Swedish in race and language; but since the political connection with Sweden has been broken, the native Finnish speech, which belongs to a non-Indo-European family, though enriched with many primitive Teutonic loan words, has raised its head and proved itself to possess enough vitality to become the vehicle of national development.

With Russia Finland has no inward bonds of union whatsoever, neither of religion nor of language nor of tradition nor even of geography, for she lies away in a corner, and her sea-board, besides fronting merely upon the Baltic, is much less accessible from the Russian hinterland than are the outlets upon the Baltic, White Sea and Black Sea which Russia possesses elsewhere.

Finland has simply been the victim of Russia’s ambition for an open port on the Norwegian coast, because the eventual railway to that port must run through her territory. It is a precise repetition of the relations between the Magyars and Croatia. A small nationality has been inalienably endowed by Geography with the fatal function of standing between a powerful nation and a sea-board to which she ardently desires access: the stronger power has been so stupid and barbarous as to imagine no better means of satisfying her wants than the destruction of the little nation that stands in the way of their realisation; and the latter, fighting desperately for life, is looking round for some strong helper who will bring the oppressor to his knees, set her free from all connection with him, and shatter for ever his projects, for which she has suffered so terribly.

There would be poetical justice in such a consummation, for it would be the natural outcome of the bullying power’s behaviour; but it would not solve the problem at issue, but only bring forth evil from evil, reversing instead of eliminating the injustice and sowing the seeds of future war.

We have seen that if we win this war, and the Dual Monarchy collapses, Croatia will probably achieve complete political freedom from Magyar tyranny [she did, within a southern Slavic federation], but that she must not, in such an event, be allowed to use her advantage merely to take the offensive in the racial feud: she must give Hungary facilities for realising all her legitimate political desires by entering into economic co-operation with her. But the same issue of the war, for which we hope, will not effect the forcible liberation of Finland, and this imposes all the more urgently upon us the duty of securing that, when the settlement comes, Finland shall obtain as much and more from the justice, good sense and liberalism of our victorious ally Russia, as she would have obtained from her compulsory resignation in the event of defeat.


What was the Atlantic port to which Russia wanted access?

[We must include] in the European settlement some such terms as follows:

(i.) The perpetual integrity and independence of both Norway and Sweden shall be guaranteed by Europe.

(ii.) In return for this, Norway shall allow Russia to lead a railway of Russian gauge across Finland and up the left bank of the Tornea River to some perennially open port on her North-West coast, either Tromsö or Hammerfest or both, according to the lie of the land, without interposing a customs-barrier at any point along this route between the Russian frontier and the open sea.

In 1915, the need to use a port usually led to a desire to control the intervening land.

Russia has always been obsessed with gaining ports, in the Atlantic, Baltic, Sea of Azov, Black Sea, Aegean, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk. I assume that the railway was never built. The discussions were presumably forgotten in the cataclysm of 1917.

But would Tromsø or Hammerfest have been any use to it?

The answer is that they were genuine warm-water ports, ice-free throughout the year, thanks to the Gulf Stream and despite Hammerfest being the most northerly full-scale town in the world. And they offered an Atlantic outlet, which made them seem important while Germany was threatening the Baltic. Ports much further south – some on the Baltic, for example, or Okhotsk, on the Sea of Othotsk – are not always ice-free. (Vladivostock, on the Sea of Japan, is.)


We must trust the future of Finland to Russia’s good faith and good sense. In opening to her a free railway across Finland to a free port on the Norwegian coast, we eliminate her chief motive for trampling the Finnish nation to death, and this is all that we can do. We have already convinced ourselves that the ultimate solution of the national questions of Europe, and therewith the establishment of European peace, depends not upon mechanical adjustments, but upon a change of heart in the nations themselves. If we cannot obtain a reversal of Russia’s attitude towards Finland by negotiating her Atlantic railway, we cannot artificially produce the desired result by forcing her to submit to a guarantee [with Europe as the guarantor].


So he wants European guarantees for Norway and Sweden, but feels that a European guarantee will not suffice to force it to change its policy towards Finland.

He imagines a critic saying that

“Russia, if she is compelled once and for all to resign to Germany the naval command of the Baltic, will not submit to the lack of any naval sally-port whatsoever upon the Western seas, but will attempt to repeat on her railway to the Norwegian coast the policy she devised at the beginning of the century in Manchuria. She will seek to turn her free port into a fortified naval base, and the danger of Tromsö or Hammerfest developing into an Atlantic Port Arthur may finally wreck the good understanding between Russia and Great Britain, and involve the latter power in a war for the stronghold’s destruction as costly as the sieges of Sebastopol and of Port Arthur itself. Such may be the consequences of indecision now. In the question of the Baltic the future peace of all the European powers is at stake.”

His answers are part of an argument about how to allow Russia what she needs in the Baltic without unduly humiliating Germany: a more important question, in his opinion, than that of her access to the Atlantic.

Russia had become a Baltic power when Peter the Great defeated Charles XII of Sweden in the Great Northern War. By 1920 it had only St Petersburg.

In 1917, Finland declared independence: she did not have to wait for the peace settlement. A civil war between Finnish Red Guards (bolsheviks) and White Guards followed, with the Whites, supported by Germany (and some young Swedish, Estonian and Polish volunteers), gaining the upper hand during the spring of 1918.

On April 13 1918 German troops captured Helsinki (Helsingfors in Swedish). The plan was to erect a German monarchy (YouTube has its proposed anthem), with Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse as king. But Germany collapsed and on July 17 1919 Finland became a republic.


Russian Baltic ports

St Petersburg was Russian from its foundation in 1703

Reval (Tallinn) and Riga were Russian from 1710 (captured from Sweden), part of independent Estonia and Latvia (the territories north of Lithuania used to be called Livonia) from 1918, with Russia again from 1940, in independent states again from 1991

Lithuania’s largest port, Memel (Klaipėda), did not have a long Russian history; it was in the northernmost corner of East Prussia; it passed into Allied hands in 1919 and then, in 1923, to newly-independent Lithuania; was reclaimed by Germany in 1939 and was part of Soviet Lithuania from 1945 to 1991

Vyborg, in Karelia, a minor port, was Russian from 1710 (captured from Sweden), part of independent Finland from 1918 to 1940, was fought over during Finland’s war with Russia, and has been Russian since 1944

Kaliningrad, like Memel, was an East Prussian city (Königsberg), port area Baltiysk (Pillau); it was captured by the Red Army in 1945 and has been a Russian enclave, between Poland and Lithuania, ever since.


Helsingfors 1918

About 37,000 people died in the short Finnish Civil War, most of them Reds; this may be a White victory march

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Owen Chadwick

July 21 2015



Both good.

“A clergyman-academic of a kind once common in universities but now very rare […].”

Finland in London

July 20 2015

What Elgarian, even, knew of this recording of the Finnish National Orchestra, under Georg Schnéevoigt, playing Cockaigne at the Queen’s Hall in 1934?

They play as if they mean it. Peroration at 2:37. They get the Edwardian grandeur. The work had been premiered at Queen’s Hall in 1901. Finnish National Orchestra seems to be an old name for the Helsinki Philharmonic. Robert Kajanus had founded the ensemble in Russian days, in 1882, and ran it until 1932. (That makes him more or less the longest-serving director of an orchestra ever, tying with Ansermet and Mravinsky.) Kajanus was Sibelius’s champion in Finland. Schnéevoigt was his successor with the orchestra, but has never had his reputation.

This was its first visit to London. There is something political in their playing. In 1917 Finland had freed itself, after 108 years, from Russia, and returned to the West. But it did not return to Sweden; it became a nation. In the same way, every recorded performance by Paderewski is political. Of course, Finland’s absorption into Russia had given it the cultural charge which was released in part in Sibelius’s music. You can even hear Tchaikovsky in early Sibelius.

The clip is May or June 1934. Elgar had died in February. (He had made his second recording of the work, with the BBC SO, at Abbey Road in April ’33. It was his last appearance there, a mere 29 years before the Beatles’ first.)

The last of Sibelius’s five visits to England, to conduct English orchestras, had been in 1921. During the ’30s England became the second home of his music. Hamilton Harty and Cecil Gray championed him. The Columbia Graphophone (sic) Company issued recordings of the first two symphonies with the LSO under Kajanus in 1930. The HMV Sibelius Society issued other recordings by subscription, starting with symphonies three and five and Tapiola, LSO and Kajanus again, in 1932.

During the 1934 visit, the Finns performed five of the symphonies and recorded (through the Society?) at least numbers four and six. In the same year, Constant Lambert published his Music Ho!, A Study of Music in Decline, which ends with a long defence of Sibelius. It was Sibelius who could show the way forward.

Henry Wood gave all seven symphonies in the 1937 Proms. Thomas Beecham mounted a festival of six Sibelius concerts in 1938. Barbirolli took him up.

It was different in Germany. As far as I know, Klemperer and Furtwängler never recorded a Sibelius symphony. His reputation was also set back by Theodor Adorno. It was rescued, a little later, by Karajan (cf Kajanus). But Abbado never did Sibelius in Berlin; Rattle has had to reintroduce him. (I’m not much of a Sibelian either, come to that.)

Russia invaded Finland in 1939. We and the French proposed to enter the Winter War in support of Finland during our own Phoney War, but did not, because of difficulties with Norway and Sweden. Two years later, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had been broken, we found ourselves on opposite sides in the so-called Continuation War, though the Finns said that they tolerated German troops on their soil only as a defence against Russia.

The Queen’s Hall opened in 1893 and was destroyed by a German bomb on the night of May 10 1941, hours after a performance by the London Philharmonic under Sargent of the Enigma Variations and The Dream of Gerontius (Muriel Brunskill, Webster Booth, Ronald Stear, Royal Choral Society). Pathé:

We get the Finns again here in Cockaigne. Since at one stage we see London Bridge, I’ll add that 1934 was also the year of Eric Coates’s London Bridge march.

The Hall did not “rise again”. Its Langham Place site, next to the BBC, is now occupied by a cramped concrete hotel, the Saint George’s.

Are these the only two pieces of film showing the Queen’s Hall?

1934 as a musical hinge year.

First recording of Sibelius 6, the one nobody plays, Finnish National Orchestra, Schnéevoigt, London, presumably Queen’s Hall, 1934:

First picture is of Sibelius’s villa Ainola (named after his wife Aino), Järvenpää, winter 1917

Sibelius wrote in 1943 that “the sixth symphony always reminds me of the scent of the first snow”.


July 16 2015

On which note:

Back July 20.

Rational reforms

July 16 2015

or, The ambivalence of Sarastro

“The culture of Enlightenment […] bears witness to a deep and recurring conflict. The free individual, motivated by reason, and guided by universal ideals, at the same time longs for community, for locality and for the warmth and protection of the tribe. Hence the era which saw the ‘rational’ reforms of the Emperor Joseph II in Austria [recent post, older one], the Revolution in France, the birth of modern democracy in America, and the programmes for universal education, saw too the rise of the Masonic and Rosicrucian Orders, with their closed doors, their mysteries and their rites of passage. Study that sublime masterpiece of Masonic art – The Magic Flute of Mozart – and you will see that the two conflicting impulses of Enlightenment have a common emotional source. The priest Sarastro, who offers freedom, truth, and the community of moral beings, is also an excluder, who offers these universal goods at the end of ordeals, and through mysteries which speak once again of the tribe, its comfort, and its all-enveloping darkness. The marriage of Pamino and Tamina is not a contract but a vow, the subject-matter of an elaborate rite which purges the individual of his wilfulness and subjects him to a moral order beyond the reach of reason. That which the Enlightenment drove from the public world – superstition, ceremony and the rites of the tribe – has been resurrected as a mystery, the exclusive property of the enlightened few. And, in a certain measure, this symbolises the role of high culture in the newly enlightened world.”


Roger Scruton, Modern Culture, Bloomsbury, 1998.

Old post:

Gothic mouth.

Rome on verge of collapse

July 16 2015

Reuters. Perhaps Renzi needs a Rienzi, rather than a Marino. Note below.

Family portrait

July 16 2015


By @bhgross144

Pluto shouldn’t really be there without Eris, Makemake, Haumea and Ceres, but he was part of the family from 1930 to 2006.

Gunther Schuller

July 16 2015

Another post by Alex Ross. “A great force in American music is gone.” His link.

Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (1959). Radio Philharmonic of Hannover, Schuller. What are the themes? I don’t know, but one is obviously North Africa. Klee visited Kairouan, the fourth holiest city in Islam, in 1914. The Maghrebian light changed him.

I wonder whether any visual artist has ever been referred to by more composers than Klee was.

You also hear Schuller’s jazz origins.

Greek jazz by Antonis Ladopoulos, saxophone, and Sami Amiris, piano (Morning Waltz, Alt Take, not Schuller), with Klee images:


July 15 2015

Pluto 2015

July 14

Jon Vickers

July 14 2015

Jon Vickers’s supreme rendition of Grimes’s final soliloquy.

Soliloquy is the only word to use here. This is Lear-like. Unlike Alex Ross, I was lucky enough to see Vickers in this role, also under Colin Davis in Covent Garden, but earlier than this.

Peter Grimes redefined, as the Enigma Variations had done in 1899, what British composers were capable of.

Its premiere at Sadler’s Wells on June 7 1945 belongs to the series of events which rebuilt an exhausted Britain’s morale after the war. July 26 Labour government. May 3 1951 opening of Festival of Britain. May 29 1953 conquest of Everest, June 2 Coronation.

Obituaries: Telegraph, Guardian, Independent.

Drones and apostates

July 13 2015

The Drone Eats with Me. Diaries of the last Gaza war by Atef Abu Saif reviewed at Qunfuz.

Same site: Arabs without God.

I was driven this year in Cairo by an Egyptian who confessed to being an atheist, though he loved the medieval mosques. It will not surprise people who know Egypt to hear that he was in his seventies. If a young person said that, he would probably be from a privileged class.

An English investment adviser there told me on the same visit that one of the untold stories in the Arab world is that of Muslims who are embracing Christianity. It must be a very small number, and he may have been so attracted, charmed, by the phenomenon as to exaggerate it, but it happens.

On my to be watched list is Cheyenne Carron’s 2014 film The Apostle, about a French Muslim who becomes a Christian. It is hard to find or even to google, but it’s on iTunes. I have not heard either good or bad things about it yet.

Gaza pictures from Reuters. Hold cursor over images.

Blood is seed

July 12 2015

“Plures efficimur quoties metimur a vobis; semen est sanguis Christianorum.” Tertullian: Apologeticus, chap. 50 (Migne, J.-P.: Patrologia Latina, vol. i, col 535).

“We multiply as we are mown down. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Translation by nobody in particular.

And here in the translation by Lewis Carroll’s father.

Diego Rivera, La sangre de los martires revolucionarios fertilizando la tierra, part of Tierra fecundada fresco (1925-27), Autonomous University of Chapingo, Texcoco, Mexico State:

La sangre de los martires

There were many Christian martyrs in those years too. The Cristero War was fought from 1926 to ’29 against the violently anti-religious forces of Plutarco Elías Calles, President of Mexico 1924-28. I don’t know whether Rivera allied himself with him, but he was an atheist of Sephardic converso ancestry.

A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939 (footnote)

Omar Sharif’s religion

July 11 2015

He was born in Alexandria into a Christian family which was neither “Coptic” nor Coptic Catholic, but Melkite Greek Catholic. The family was of Levantine descent.

They spoke Arabic and (like many upper-class Egyptian families) French (old post) and perhaps other languages. He spoke or learned Greek, Italian, Spanish and English. He converted to Islam in 1955 in order to marry his Sunni Muslim wife. He had a Jewish grandson. Obituaries.

Recent post on the Melkite Church. My guide to eastern Christianities is here and here.


St Anthony of Padua, an early Franciscan, took his name from St Anthony of Egypt.

The Greeks and Their Heritages

July 10 2015

The Greeks and Their Heritages

In the year of Greece’s accession to the EU – or rather, EEC – OUP published a final book by Toynbee.

In the last two working years of his life, 1972-74, he wrote two chronological studies: Mankind and Mother Earth (completed 1973, published posthumously 1976) and The Greeks and Their Heritages (completed 1974, published 1981).

All scholars, he thought, should pursue general and specialised interests in parallel, so these were late reviews of his two main subjects, world history (necessarily general) and Greece (specialist even if he covers thousands of years). The only chronological study which preceded them had been the brief Hellenism, published in 1959. Mere chronological history wasn’t normally his way, and even these do not descend into narrative. The main chapter headings of the later Greek book do not promise an easy read, but rather arouse forebodings of a lugubrious pedantry. Of course, it is fascinating as well (and Mankind and Mother Earth has real grandeur).

The Influence of Heritages from the Past

The Mycenaean Greeks’ Successes and Failures

The Hellenic Greeks’ Heritage from the Mycenaean Greeks

The Hellenic Greeks’ Successes and Failures

The Byzantine Greeks’ Heritage from the Hellenic Greeks

The Byzantine Greeks’ Successes and Failures

The Modern Greeks’ Heritage from the Byzantine Greeks

The Modern Greeks’ Heritage from the Hellenic Greeks

The Modern Greeks’ Successes and Failures


At least this plan suggests a way of treating Greek history, with all its discontinuities, as a whole. And he was returning to his scholarly roots and to his youth, having had a thoroughbred training in the classics at Winchester, of a type no longer available; having been introduced there even to the then little-known field of Byzantine history through reading JB Bury; and having encountered modern Greece after Oxford, first as a serious traveller, then through the Foreign Office in London and at Versailles, and then as a correspondent from the Greco-Turkish War. Does the repeated phrase “successes and failures” remind one of old-fashioned exam questions? (The whole table of contents is like a dream of an exam, the repeated ordeal of his youth.)

Buy here. I quote a review by Hugh Lloyd-Jones here and here.

OUP don’t identify the church, but it is the Church of the Pantanassa or of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Monastiraki Square in Athens. The cover shows Hellenic, Byzantine and modern Greece in the background, middle distance and foreground.

Mariori mou, Mariori mou

July 9 2015

The name of a folksong. Mariori is a woman’s name: My Mariori. Fourth in the third series of Greek Dances by Skalkottas (see comment under this post). BBC Symphony Orchestra, Nikos Christodoulou.

Fourteen Greek constitutions

July 8 2015

Wikipedia, with links where they exist:














1975, revised 1986, 2001, 2008


1968 and 1973 were imposed by a dictatorship.

Greece’s “strong democratic tradition”?

July 7 2015

Joseph Stiglitz’s phrase “Greece, with its strong democratic tradition” took some people by surprise. What democratic tradition in this rotten, almost third-world Balkan country? Did Stiglitz know anything at all about history?

Greece-bashing may not have reached such contemptible levels as some of the Greek rhetoric on Germany, but it, too, needs examining. Perhaps Greece does have a democratic tradition. Perhaps Greece has even on occasion behaved with maturity. I am not able to judge, but here are some extemporised thoughts.

Outside the mind of Condoleezza Rice, democracies take root over time. The Greeks have held regular parliamentary elections for nearly 200 years, with periodic electoral reforms. To have had at least fourteen constitutions during this time is not a sign of stability, but it may be a sign of political life.

They kicked out a lazy Bavarian king in 1863 and got a better Danish line. That spirited act is remembered by some as an earlier confrontation with Germany. The Wittelsbachs had nearly bankrupted the young state and “disfigured” a Byzantine nation. Mikis Theodorakis, quoted in the Telegraph, does sound third-world on all this, recently alleging “two centuries of European crimes against Greece” by the Western enemies of the Hellenic Orthodox world.

Still, Otto’s failings are admitted. His deposition by politicians was welcomed by the people.

The Greeks were no greedier for scraps of the Ottoman empire than anyone else.

Greek irredentism was not more fanatical than German or Italian. And the Greeks took their catastrophic defeat of 1922 rather well: instead of sulking and starting a cold war with Turkey, they had a diplomatic reconciliation. It was led by the very person, Venizelos, who, with the encouragement of the Allies (who were partly lying to him in 1916, as they were to TE Lawrence, but wanted him to join the war), had been such a champion of the Great Idea. Perhaps that would not have happened without an exchange of populations, but in any case it happened. The Greeks are not living in the past on that matter. Are they?

The Greek semi-fascist of the ’30s, Metaxas, refused to capitulate to the Italians.

George II did not become a German puppet in 1941. He presumably could have been one. His father had been removed in the First World War by Venizelos for being too pro-German.

The German invaders committed criminal acts in Greece. The destruction of the Jews of Thessalonika was one of the major acts of the Holocaust.

Is it a sign of immaturity to have had a struggle with communism?

The Colonels only stayed seven years and Constantine II wasn’t implicated.

Golden Dawn received a much smaller percentage of the vote (6.3%) in the 2015 Greek parliamentary election than the National Front did in the first rounds of the French 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections (17.9% and 13.6%).

And when one hears young Greeks talk, they often sound not very different from young Germans. Are there worrying signs of maturity here?

However corrupt the Greek system was, however much they lied to get in and deserve their fate (most of them surely deserve nothing), few deny outright that irresponsible lending helped to get Greece into the mess.

I’d rather spend an evening with the clownish Tsipras or insufferable Varoufakis than with Juncker or Lagarde. At least Varoufakis speaks good English.

This excruciating crisis might be the making, not breaking, of Greece.

The tyranny of Greece over Germany

July 6 2015

Eliza Marian Butler.


July 3 2015

Back July 6.

Eight Greek plebiscites

July 3 2015

I  1920, December 5, YES to return of Constantine I

He had abdicated and gone into exile in Switzerland in 1917 (retaining his titular right) because of a disagreement with the charismatic and anti-royalist prime minister, Venizelos, over whether Greece should enter the war. Constantine supported the Central Powers, Venizelos the Entente.

He came back after his son Alexander had died from a monkey bite.

He abdicated again on September 27 1922 after the Greek debâcle in Asia Minor and spent the last few months of his life in exile in Italy. He was succeeded by his eldest son, George II, but the defeat nearly destroyed the monarchy.

II  1924, April 13, NO to continuation of the reign of George II

George had himself gone into exile in December 1923 (Rumania, then Britain) after royalists had attempted and failed to take control of the government. A republican interlude followed: the only time after the revolutionary years of 1822-32 and before 1973 when Greece was a republic.

III  1935, November 3, YES to reinstatement of George II

Metaxas was the prime minister from 1936 to ’41 and died in office before the German invasion, but after the Italian invasion; despite his fascist sympathies, he had rejected an Italian ultimatum demanding the stationing of Italian troops in Greece.

George went into exile in Britain when the Germans invaded. The old regime had been quasi-fascist, but he did not become a German puppet.

IV  1946, September 1, YES to return of George II

He died in 1947. The monarchy was, of course, anti-communist in the Civil War (1946-49). The last two kings were Paul and Constantine II.

V  1968, November 15, YES to new constitution prepared by the Colonels

Military junta of 1967-74. The monarchy was retained, but Constantine II had gone into exile (Italy, then Britain) at the end of 1967. He returned to live in Greece in 2013.

VI  1973, July 29, YES to Colonels’ proposed abolition of the monarchy

VII  1974, December 8, NO to reinstatement of the monarchy after the collapse of the junta

VIII  2015, July 5, YES or NO?


As far as I can see, the record of the monarchy was not entirely dishonourable.

A referendum about conditions for debt relief was proposed under Papandreou in 2011, but not carried out.

I don’t think these referenda, which were anyway often manipulated, justify Stiglitz’s rather shallow-sounding reference in the Guardian the other day to “Greece, with its strong democratic tradition”.

On the other hand, Greece has been holding parliamentary elections for nearly two centuries.

Alexis Tsipras led the left-wing Syriza party to victory in a snap general election on January 25 2015.

There’s a list of Greek monarchs after this post.

The Serbian-Hungarian border

July 2 2015


Skalkottas sketches

July 2 2015

Nikos Skalkottas, Ten sketches for stringsc 1940, New Hellenic Quartet