Archive for the 'Europe' Category

Dances of the little crocodile

October 4 2015

Three nourishing Milhaud miniatures for violin and piano, reminiscences from 1945 (opus 256) of his two years (1917-18) at the French legation in Rio under Paul Claudel. They show how, when he wanted to, he could integrate a modern style with the touch of a master of the pre-1914 world.

Danses de jacarémirim. Is the crocodile something in Brazilian folklore? Louis Kaufman, violin, Artur Balsam. Recorded in 1949.

They are from an essential Milhaud LP, or CD reincarnation thereof. I linked to another part of it here. I will return to it. YouTube no longer shows you the duration before you click Play, so I’ll add that this lasts under five minutes.

Sambinha (little samba)
Tanguinho (little Brazilian tango)
Chorinho (little choro)

Slavs as slaves

September 30 2015

The ʿAbbasids’ Turkish bodyguard at Baghdad [in the ninth and tenth centuries CE] had its counterpart, at the court of the ʿAbbasids’ Umayyad contemporaries and rivals at Cordova, in a bodyguard of European barbarians who were purchased by the Spanish Caliphs from their Frankish neighbours. The Franks supplied the Cordovan slave-markets by making slave-raids across the opposite frontier of the Frankish dominions [roughly the Iron Curtain]. The barbarians who were thus captured by the Franks in order to be sold to the Spanish Umayyads happened to be Slavs; and this is the origin of the word “slave” in the English language.

Were they already Christian? Did they all become Muslim in Spain? The Arabic word for their Slavic slaves was Saqaliba, a corruption of the Greek Sklavinoi, meaning Slavs. Their presence in the Islamic world was not confined to Spain.

Some Saqaliba became rulers of Muslim taifas after the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba (1031). Muyahid ibn Yusuf ibn Ali freed the Saqaliba of Dénia and established a taifa which extended its reach as far as Majorca.

Hitler conceived of Slavs as a slave population for an eastward-expanding German Reich.

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


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:

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 has suffered no political stigmas, but he did not take a stand against the Nazis. Karelia’s Fate 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

Recent Finnish posts:

Finland in London

Finland and Russia, 1809-1919

On Sweden:

Two Swedish heroes

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,

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)

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

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”.

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.

The tyranny of Greece over Germany

July 6 2015

Eliza Marian Butler.

The Serbian-Hungarian border

July 2 2015


Singing Sephardim

June 28 2015

[Sephardic Jews] developed under the Ottoman régime a quite different êthos from the Jewish êthos as we know it in the West, because the treatment which they received at the ʿOsmanlis’ hands was quite different from the treatment which Jews have customarily received at the hands of Westerners.

The psychological effect of four centuries of the [comparatively benign] Ottoman régime upon the descendants in the Near East of these Sephardi refugees from Castile was once brought home to the writer of this Study by an incident which came under his personal observation.

One day in August 1921, some eight years and more after Salonica, with its Sephardi population of eighty thousand souls, had passed by conquest out of Ottoman jurisdiction into Greek, I found myself travelling by train from Salonica to Vodena in the same carriage with three Sephardi school-teachers going on a holiday and one Greek officer going to rejoin his regiment. The holiday-makers – two girls and a man – were in high spirits, and they gave vent to their mood by breaking into song. They sang in French: the “culture language” in which the modern Near Eastern Jew has found the necessary supplement to his hereditary Castilian vernacular. After they had been singing for some time, the Greek lieutenant broke his own silence. “Won’t you sing in Greek for a change?” he said. “This country is part of Greece now, and you are Greek citizens.” But his intervention had no effect. “We prefer French” the Jews answered, politely but firmly, and fell to singing lustily in French again, while the Greek lieutenant subsided. There was one person in the carriage, however, who was even more surprised at the Jewish teachers’ reply to the Greek officer than the Greek himself, and that was the Frankish spectator. Seldom, he reflected, would a Jew have shown such spirit in such circumstances in France or England or America. The incident bore witness to the relative humanity with which the Jews in the Ottoman Empire had been treated by the ʿOsmanlis; and it also had a wider and more interesting significance. It was evidence that the Jewish êthos was not something ineradicably implanted by Race or something indelibly ingrained by Religion but was a psychic variable which was apt to vary in response to variations in Gentile behaviour in different times and places.

The Jews were singing in a lingua franca, French, not in a ghetto language, and they were not showing a ghetto mentality. Such cheerful defiance in the presence of a member of the dominant culture, and a soldier, would not have been thus demonstrated in Russia or Austria – but really not in France, England or America?

Would the point have been made even more strongly if they had been singing in Turkish or Greek or would that have come from mere cultural dilution? Would they have shown even more confidence if they had been singing in the “hereditary Castilian vernacular”, ie Judaeo-Spanish, ie Ladino? Ladino was spoken by Sephardic minorities in the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. Most speakers are now in Israel.

It is not to be confused with another Romance language, Ladin, which is spoken in parts of northern Italy and is related to Friulian and the Swiss Romansh.

The Jews of Salonika were happier in the multi-ethnic Turkish Empire (before the arrival of the Young Turks) than under the Greeks (1912-41). 98% of them died in the Holocaust. Much of the Jewish Quarter had been destroyed in the fire (probably accidental) of 1917.

See Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950, Harper Collins, 2004.

Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934

The Turkish spy

June 24 2015

Twice on [his] antiquarian tour [of Italy and Greece in 1911-12], the Oxford don-elect was arrested as a Turkish spy, first on the evening of the 16th November, 1911 on the last lap of a day’s march from Terracina to Formia, by an Italian carabiniere [Footnote: On this occasion, the suspect was able to clear himself by showing a card with “Balliol College, Oxford” engraved on it. “Ah! Collegio! Dunque non siete Turco”, reasoned the intelligent Italian security officer, and straightway left the left the suspicious-looking traveller in peace. Forty years later, in A.D. 1952, the carabiniere would, of course, no longer have been justified in acting on an a priori assumption that “Turk” and “college” were incompatible ideas.]

The Italians had every reason to be spy-conscious: their war with the Ottoman Empire, which gave them Libya and the Dodecanese (Rhodes), had begun at almost the exact moment Toynbee arrived in Italy. It ended soon after his return from Greece. (They held both colonies until the Second World War. The Dodecanese were returned not to Turkey but to Greece.)

and then again, on the 21st July, 1912, by a Greek military patrol. [Footnote: On this second occasion, he was arrested on the reasonable charge that he had walked across the perilously vulnerable railway viaduct over the gorge of the River Asopus at Elefterokhóri, where the sole railway running from Athens to the Graeco-Turkish frontier leaped across a chasm to come to earth again along the eastern flank of the citadel of Trachis. This charge was supported by the less convincing argument that the trespasser must be a foreign military spy because he was wearing insignia in the shape of a military water-bottle that was not of the pattern affected by the Greek Army.]

The Balkan Wars began a few weeks after his return to England.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

From the latifundia to Eni

June 23 2015

Apropos Byron’s Childe Harold (last post), I asked my friend Giovanni Caselli whether the Romans would have recognised the Italian landscapes of 1818. He generously replied with this broad-brush agrarian history of Tuscany, Umbria and the Marches and has allowed me to quote him. The same patterns are not necessarily found in northern Italy, Latium or the south. 1818 was a good time.

“The latifundia of Roman times collapsed during the war between the Goths and Byzantines. The large estates of the Late Empire, with great fields of wheat, vineyards, and olive groves with flocks grazing under the trees became a wilderness (5th-6th centuries CE).

“During the Longobard and Frankish period this wilderness was reclaimed with the [primitive feudal] courts system (7th-9th centuries). Patches of cultivated land appeared in clearings of the Mediterranean bush and oak wood forests.

“These cultivated clearings expanded during the castles period (10th-12th centuries), interspaced by larger clearings used for grazing.

“In the 12th-14th centuries the city bourgeoisie destroyed the power of the earls, who had demanded tolls for the transit of goods, and took over the production of wine, wheat and olive oil, with a crop-sharing system [payment of a share of the crop as rent]. Central Italy became dotted with hill-towns and scattered houses with mixed agriculture, and the mountains, largely deforested by charcoal burning, were used for grazing. The bourgeoisie employed the former slaves of the earls as farmers, giving them a better deal with contracts, enough land, and autonomy. They also bought slaves from the Crimea and the khanates of the Tartars. These introduced tools and implements of their own and also an ‘oriental’ method of growing vines. Women slaves introduced the use of pasta in Italy, being house servants and concubines. Each vine grew supported by the branches of a maple, shaped as a chandelier, each at a distance of eight to ten yards one from another.

“The Black Death caused a collapse of the countryside. By the start of the 15th century the towns and scattered farmhouses were gradually restored and reoccupied. Again the landscape was planted with mixed crops and trees. Sheep rearing was enormously increased with laws and regulations for summer and winter pastures and droves connecting them. Siena grew wealthy with this transit of sheep and by renting grazing areas to flocks along the Tuscan coast. The wool trade made cities like Florence rich.

“This mixed agricultural landscape collapsed again in the course of the 17th century, with another great plague, and this lasted till the shabby landscape that was seen by Tobias Smollett in 1766.

“Then, province by province, the country was restored to its ancient orderly farming system by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, especially Peter Leopold of Augsburg [who became the Emperor Leopold II], a genius neglected by biographers. Tuscan farmhouses were specially designed by an appointed architect, new ways of farming and drainage of the country were perfected, and the Grand Tour travellers saw this Tuscany. Napoleon said, upon conquering Tuscany, that it was vastly more civilised than any French Department. No hovels, but great houses and competent healthy, proud farmers were seen working with their great white cows in the fields of North-Central Italy. Cities grew wealthy with a farming economy. Tuscany abolished the death penalty in the 1830s and many taxes. It drastically curbed the power of the church to the minimum for survival. Tuscany had Protestant leanings.

“With the unification of Italy, Tuscany became a Mediterranean country and ceased to be progressive and functional. In 1982 a law made the crop sharing system illegal. Farming collapsed for this reason, founded on political ideology, and climate change made matters worse. Marx had called the peasants conservative and obtuse. There were songs proclaiming ‘I won’t marry a peasant, I want a factory labourer and to have a good life’. Farmers could no longer find a wife. They all wanted to be employed by FIAT. If not by FIAT, they would prefer to become road sweepers rather than remain on the land. They lost both culture and wisdom, becoming indiscriminate consumers and never created a workers’ ‘culture’, like for example in England or in other European countries. The workers never wanted a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ either, contrary to what the ‘intellectuals’ proposed to them. They wanted to cease to be a proletariat and become petty bourgeois, imitating the life-style of their factory masters. Instead of a big villa, they would seek a small one. Rather than a big car, they would be happy with a 500. Instead of skiing in Cortina they would go skiing in the Apennines. And so forth. Plainly, Thorstein Veblen was right and Marx wrong in the interpretation of what the masses wanted.

“Now the landscape is reverting to the state it was in in the Baroque period, with sections of entire regions devoted to intensive agriculture and intensive industry, the rest an abandoned wilderness. Where the Italians speak about ‘National Parks’, these are mere wastelands. The people live in a bubble, they have no idea of what is done in other countries. Like the savage, they think in terms of themselves being the right people and the rest ‘barbarians’. Italy lives in this illusion, and the Mafia and corruption have a really good time. Should anyone object to this description, I shall take him by the neck and drag him to see reality. Organic agriculture is practiced only by a small number of heroes, fighting against ENI, the firm that produces masses of weed killers, fertilisers and other poisons that have killed every insect species, including bees, and made farming products inedible by people gifted with a sense of taste, smell and eyesight, who can see the disaster around them.”


Giovanni Caselli is an Italian historian, archaeologist, illustrator and expert on pilgrim ways. Emilio Sereni’s History of the Italian Agricultural Landscape is too theoretical for his taste: like Toynbee, he prefers to understand a landscape by walking in it.

I have already posted a piece by him about the Appian way between Rome and the Alban Hills and one about the impoverishment, or rather creation, of the Italian language since unification.

Botros, Tuscany in the fall

Fall in Tuscany, copyright, used with kind permission of F Botros at

Salonika 1912

June 12 2015

The writer of this Study vividly remembers how the continental character of Macedonia impressed itself upon him at the first view. He first visited Macedonia in the summer of 1912, at the end of a visit to the Kingdom of Greece within the frontiers as they then stood. Since the standard-gauge railway which now links Athens with Salonica had not been completed at that date, he travelled from the Peiraeus to Salonica by sea. He had been looking forward with interest to observing the political aspect of the passage from territory under Greek to territory under Turkish rule; but, as the steamer entered Salonica harbour, his eye was caught, not by the Turkish flag flying above the custom house, but by Austrian and German railway-wagons standing along the quay, on rails which ran without a break from Salonica to Vienna and from Vienna to Berlin. He then realized in a flash that this economic solidarity with Central Europe was the distinctive and fundamental characteristic of Macedonia, and that the political connexion with Turkey-in-Asia, though picturesque, was accidental and superficial.

These were the last days of the Ottoman suzerainty in Salonika which had begun in 1430. The First Balkan War broke out on October 8. On November 8, the feast day of Salonika’s patron saint, Demetrius, the Greek army accepted the surrender of the Ottoman garrison.

The Bulgarian army arrived a day later. Tahsin Pasha, the governor, said to them: “I have only one Salonika, which I have surrendered”.

The rail connection to central Europe had been built some years before the connection to Constantinople.

The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided Macedonia between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.

Toynbee also visited the Athos Peninsula in 1912. On his way home to England in August, he either visited Durrës (Durazzo) or saw the Turkish flag over it from his ship. After a short period of occupation by Serbia it would become part of Albania in 1913.

The Great Fire of Thessaloniki of 1917, unlike the Great Fire of Smyrna of 1922, seems to have been accidental.

Summary of the Balkan Wars (old post).

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

Mystery in Siam, and other unlucky kings

June 5 2015

Peter, Ananda and Faisal.

Yugoslavia: Ex-King Peter, 1945

Mystery in Siam, 1946

The exonym Siam became official under King Mongkut (reigned 1851-68). On June 23 1939 it was changed to Thailand. From 1945 to May 11 1949 it was Siam again. Then it reverted to Thailand.

Iraq Bombshell, 1958

Dogs, Hoops and Running Boys

May 31 2015

… gave life to the foreground in engravings from, say, 1750 to 1830 – and suggest a title for a book of light social history. They come into nursery rhyme illustrations as well.

The Foundling Hospital, Bloomsbury in a print published in January 1753 or earlier:

Foundling Hospital, 1753

St James’s Square, 1752 (Chatham House, Duke of York Street and St James’s, Piccadilly in background; boy and hoop centre foreground; possibly clearer colour version here):

St James's Square, 1752

A painting of the 1825 Decembrist revolt in the Senate Square, St Petersburg by Vasily Timm has the running boy, but in these circumstances no dogs or hoops (he is similar to a running figure on a print of Bow Church and Cheapside in 1750, Getty images):

Timm, Decembist Revolt, 1825

This of the Tower of London, c 1810, has a hoop and ambling boy, but no dog.

One of the new lodges, Hyde Park, 1828, with hoop and dogs; dandies lounge at the rails:

New lodge, Hyde Park, 1828

St Giles-in-the-Fields, c 1820 (the figure may not be a boy, but we have seen him in the Foundling Hospital, Bow Church and Russian images):

St Giles-in-the-Fields, c 1820

There are several Thomas Bewick wood engravings of boys with hoops, and an oil painting by John Opie.

It seems that boys did no more than roll the hoop.

Mozart’s emperor

May 29 2015

In 1780 Maria Theresa was succeeded by her son Joseph II.

She was the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Francis died in 1765. Maria Theresa went into perpetual mourning.

Joseph succeeded Francis as Emperor and lived until 1790. His successor was Leopold II.

His mother continued to rule the Hapsburg lands of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia jointly with her son, as, after the War of the Austrian Succession, she had done with her husband. (Another of her children, Marie Antoinette, married Louis XVI.) Joseph’s war against feudal privileges began at her death.

Joseph was a devoted disciple of the French philosophers, and he attempted to carry out uncompromisingly in backward Austria that transformation of society which was accomplished a few years later in such partial measure in progressive France. The actual achievements of the French Revolution were none the less stupendous, however short they fell of their aim, and they were only made possible by the spiritual response of the Nation to the philosophers’ gospel. Joseph undertook the mission of the “philosopher-king,” and attempted by means of “Strong Government” to wrench unenlightened populations out of their cherished traditions and convert them forcibly by the accomplished fact. Neglecting all local differences of language, religion, and custom, he proceeded to refashion his dominions on a pedantically uniform plan.

Joseph’s crusade was a disastrous failure. Reform was checkmated by revolt, and he was killed by ten years of unrelieved disappointments. Yet his short reign has determined the course of the Monarchy’s internal history ever since.

He contrived to range Nationality and Enlightenment in opposite camps. His dogmatic disregard for national feeling awakened it into frantic life, and it arrayed itself for the battle not in the “Rights of Man” (of which it had never heard), but in the familiar harness of mediæval vested interests. The centres of nationalistic resistance were the provincial “estates,” bodies representative not of peoples but of castes. They were dominated by the nobility and the Church, so that nationalism in the Hapsburg Empire started with a strong feudal and clerical bias, which has left permanent effects. The movement has remained legalistic instead of becoming philosophic. It looks to the past rather than to the future, and has fallen a willing victim to the malady of “historical sentiment.”

Joseph’s death in 1790 concluded the first bout in the contest between enlightened despotism and nationalistic reaction, but the factors of success and failure were too evenly divided between the two forces to allow a speedy decision. The struggle continued intermittently till the revolutionary year of 1848 brought it to a head.

Maron, Joseph II

Anton von Maron, Joseph II (1741-90), Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia, in the uniform of a field marshal of Austria, wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Military Order of Maria-Theresa and a plaque of the Order of St Stephen of Hungary, Château de Versailles

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Reverberations from the Morea

May 17 2015

Metternich had taken alarm at the outbreak of the Greek insurrection against Ottoman rule in 1821. Clear-sighted as he was according to his own lights, he had divined at once that this repudiation of the Ottoman Pādishāh’s authority by a handful of his Orthodox Christian subjects in the remote Morea was a menace to the authority of the Austrian Kaiser because the Greeks were claiming Western sympathy and assistance for their cause in the name of the Western principle of Nationality. Metternich represented to the Holy Alliance [whose other members were Russia and Prussia] insistently, though without success, that if their own principle of Legitimacy was to be maintained intact, the Greek insurgents must be boycotted as outlaws and Sultan Mahmūd be supported, in maintaining his dynastic rights, as one of the Lord’s Anointed. From the Legitimist standpoint, Metternich’s attitude on this occasion was entirely justified by the event. For the triumphant success of the Greek insurgents – a success which they owed to the friendly intervention of France, Great Britain, and Russia as much as to their own exertions – was an event of far more than local importance. The erection of a sovereign independent national Greek State in 1829-31 made it inevitable that every people in South-Eastern Europe should insist upon attaining its own national independence and national unity sooner or later; and thus the Greek insurrection of 1821 incidentally preordained the erection of Jugoslavia and Greater Rumania in 1918-20 [greater at the expense of Hungary]. Truly, Metternich’s senses had not deceived him when he heard the death-knell of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy in those reverberations from the clash of arms in the Morea which fell upon his ears in Vienna.

A hundred years of imperial dissolution: 1821-1920.

Metternich, the last survivor of 1815, died a month to the day before the armistice in the Italian War of 1859.

It is difficult to imagine Beethoven and Metternich living in the same city. They never met, though a film even worse than Amadeus suggests that they did.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934

Fear the wolves

May 16 2015

Petits moutons, gagnez la plaine
Fuyez les bois, crainte les loups;
Je n’ai pu me garder moi-même,
Comment vous garderai-je tous?

Chanson Bocagère

On title page of the Survey of International Affairs for the year of the reoccupation of the Rhineland, the annexation of Abyssinia (the event which showed the impotence of the League of Nations), and the start of the Spanish Civil War. Did Toynbee (or his researchers) find this “woodland song” in the memoir Le petit-maître philosophe: ou voyages et avantures de Genu Soalhat, chevalier de Mainvilliers, dans les principales cours de l’Europe (1750)? It appears thus there. The English translation of Mainvilliers uses a different rhyming scheme:

“Gain, ye Lambs, the flow’ry Plain
Fly the Woods, or you’ll be slain,
Fear the Wolves, who long for Food
And pant to revel in your Blood;
I myself can hardly keep,
How should I then save my Sheep?”

Survey of International Affairs, 1936, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1937

VE Day

May 9 2015

London and Paris. YouTube credits:

Courtesy Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18SFP9490, 9491

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18 SFP 9261

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18 SFP 9155.

Beethoven added by whomever.

Churchill, Unconditional Surrender speech, May 8 1945 (in full here):

Gargano and Compostela

April 29 2015

… and the heart of Robert the Bruce

In taking up arms under the impulse of this homesickness for their pristine holy land, the Crusaders not only made for Christendom’s oldest and most sacred pilgrimage-resort as their ultimate objective; they also set themselves intermediate goals to draw their flagging feet forward along the intervening stages of their long war-path by throwing out, en route, new pilgrimage-resorts in advanced posts just beyond an expanding Western Christendom’s previous borders. Norman pilgrimages to the shrine of Saint Michael the Archangel on Monte Gargano, in the Apulian dominions of the East Roman Empire, were reconnaissances that became preludes to a Norman conquest of the bridgeheads of Orthodox Christendom and Dār-al-Islām in Southern Italy and Sicily, and French pilgrimages to the shrine of Saint James the Apostle at Compostela, in a Galician no-man’s-land between a Western Christian fastness in Asturia and the former domain of a dissolving Andalusian Umayyad Caliphate, provided successive new drafts of military manpower for the progressive conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the joint efforts of Cispyrenean and Transpyrenean Frankish aggressors.

The perilous exposure of the shrine at Compostela on the fringe of a Medieval Western Christendom’s dār-al-harb [he uses a different style from the other Dār] had the same effect in spurring the Crusaders into making superhuman exertions as the desperate deed of a Scottish knight who, on an Andalusian battlefield where he had broken his pilgrimage in order to fight under a Castilian banner, turned the fortunes of a day which had been going against the Franks by flinging into the midst of the all-but-victorious Muslims a silver casket containing Robert the Bruce’s heart, and rushing forward after it to conquer or die for the sake of rescuing a treasure, entrusted to his safekeeping, which he had thus deliberately thrown into jeopardy as a last resort for calling out his own supreme reserves of vigour and valour. [Footnote: The tale is told by the writer’s mother, Edith Toynbee, in True Stories from Scottish History (London 1896, Griffith Farran Browne), pp. 90-91.] This incident was an omen; for the mission which the Bruce on his death-bed had charged his companion in arms, James Douglas, to fulfil had been to carry his heart to Jerusalem in order to bury it there in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the attainment of this Palestinian objective was sacrificed for the sake of a Frankish victory on Andalusian ground which was won by Douglas at the cost of the martial pilgrim’s own life; and this personal story repeated itself on an oecumenical scale. While the last of the Crusaders’ bridgeheads on the coast of Syria was lost within less than two hundred years of the Frankish invaders’ first descent upon Palestine [Jerusalem 1099 to Acre 1291], their conquests in the Iberian Peninsula, Southern Italy, and Sicily under the auspices of the far-flung shrines at Compostela and Gargano were the two abiding gains of territory that were made by Western Christendom in the Crusades at Dār-al-Islām’s and Orthodox Christendom’s expense.

Douglas died at the siege of Teba. His body and the casket containing the embalmed heart were found on the field. They were both conveyed back to Scotland by Sir William Keith of Galston. Bruce had been buried in Dunfermline Abbey. Douglas’s remains were interred at St Bride’s church in Douglas, Lanarkshire; Bruce’s heart in Melrose Abbey.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 19.32.15

Sir James Douglas Taking Bruce’s Heart to the Holy Land Is Diverted to Fight the Moors near Granada, what Victorian source?

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Christopher Bayly

April 26 2015

Highly original – so he appears: I have only read part of Forgotten Wars – historian of India, and then of the world, from about 1770 into the twentieth century. He seems to have been as revered in India as Raymond Carr was in Spain.




The Local Roots of Indian Politics: Allahabad, 1880-1920 (1975)

Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770-1870 (1983)

Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World 1780-1830 (1989)

An Indian trilogy:

Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870 (1996)

Origins of Nationality in South Asia: Patriotism and Ethical Government in the Making of Modern India (1998)

Recovering Liberties: Indian Thought in the Age of Liberalism and Empire (2011)

The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (2004)

Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 (2005)

Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia (2007), the last two with Timothy Harper

Cover below shows a portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (male), with a bust of Guillaume Thomas François Raynal in the background.

Note the suggestion of the tapering penis favoured by many classical and classically-influenced artists, which is at the same time, here, I suppose, a piece of racial stereotyping. Girodet was a pupil of David.

Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World

Bayly, Forgotten Wars

Interview by Alan Macfarlane, July 24 2014:


April 25 2015

The first victory of the Ottoman Empire was a defeat of the Byzantine army near Nicomedia, at Bapheus, in 1302. The defeat of British imperial and French forces on the Gallipoli peninsula, April 25 1915 to January 9 1916, was almost the last.

Gallipoli was also a landmark in the career of a Turkish general, Kustafa Kemal Atatürk. It was a dress rehearsal for the struggle to come.

It disgraced Churchill, who had ordered the naval attack.

During the Irish War of Independence balladeers sang “Twas better to die ’neath an Irish sky than in Suvla or Sedd el Bahr”.

Gallipoli helped to forge national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand, both newly independent and fighting their first war. Today is Anzac Day and the centenary of the start of the campaign.

The first Jewish fighting force – with a Jewish emblem and flag – since the defeat of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in AD 136 fought in Gallipoli. So, in a small way, this was a dress rehearsal for the wars of Zion.


The peninsula forms the northern or western bank of the Dardanelles, the strait that provided a sea route to the Russian Empire. Russia’s allies Britain and France launched a naval attack followed by a landing, intending to secure it and then capture Constantinople. The naval attack was repelled and after eight months’ fighting the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force withdrawn to Egypt.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed in Egypt in 1915 and commanded by General William Birdwood. It was disbanded in 1916. Later formations.

What has been happening in Palestine during the War? Dr. Trietsch informs us that the Ottoman Government has been proceeding with the “naturalisation” of the Palestinian Jews, and that the “local execution of this measure has not been effected without disturbances […].” [My bracket, not AJT’s.] One significant consequence was the appearance in Egypt of Palestinian refugees, who raised a Zion mule corps there and fought through the Gallipoli campaign.

The Zion Mule Corps was formed in March 1915. It was the precursor of the Jewish Legion (1917-21), the unofficial name for the 38th to 42nd Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, which fought against the Ottoman Empire. Jacob Epstein served in the 38th.

Casualties at Gallipoli:

Ottoman Empire (Turks, Arabs, others): 109,042 wounded and missing, 57,084 killed

Britain: 52,230 wounded, 21,255 killed

Australia: 19,441 wounded, 8,709 killed

France: 17,000 wounded, 10,000 killed (estimates), including an unknown number of Senegalese

New Zealand: 4,752 wounded, 2,721 killed

India: 3,421 wounded, 1,358 killed

Newfoundland: 93 wounded, 49 killed

Germans: a few fought with the Turks

The numbers vary greatly from one source to another. Allied numbers here are via, which gives its source as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australia. It doesn’t say whether wounded includes missing. Ottoman numbers via Most sources give only the Allies. Have the Ottoman totals ever been broken down?

Anzac parade, London, date not shown:

Turkey, A Past and a Future, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917

Berlin ’45

April 24 2015

German ack-ack (anti-aircraft fire) audible during a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto: Walter Gieseking, Grosses Berliner Rundfunk Orchester, Artur Rother. Saal No 1, Haus des Rundfunks (Reichsender Berlin), Berlin, January 23 1945.

This was the very day on which Russian troops crossed the Oder, and the day of the execution of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke.

You hear it at around 13:30 and 16:50 in the first movement and perhaps earlier. I am not sure that there is anything in the later movements. Can you also hear bombs? More below.

The date is given here and here. I believe it is correct. Other sources, including this, and the YouTube poster, give it as September or October 1944.

The performance was, we are told, a rehearsal and never broadcast. It is said to be the only complete wartime recording of any classical work in stereo.

Who was doing the bombing? Both dates were after the main raids of 1943-44. The USAAF had often bombed by day, the RAF by night. Was that the case here and do we know the time of day of the recording?

Is there a chance that this was directed at the Red Air Force as the Russians approached?

Related post: Bernstein, Barenboim, Ceauşescu.

“El Carr”

April 23 2015

Raymond Carr obituaries:



“Just as ‘le Cobb’ (Professor Richard) and ‘il Mack Smith’ (Mr Denis) enjoyed an extraordinary fame in the countries (France and Italy respectively) which they made their subjects, so ‘el Carr’ became little short of a national hero in Spain.” (Telegraph, my links)

Carr, Spain

The leper’s squint

April 20 2015

In 1920 the work of Peter the Great and his successors was almost undone. Reval [Tallinn] and Riga had ceased to be Russian ports, and the Russian coastline on the Baltic was as narrow as it had been in 1703, when the Russian apostle of Westernization had founded St. Petersburg. Through such a “leper’s squint” a great society could hardly communicate with its peers, and in 1920 Russia had abandoned the endeavour. Her Marxist Government had evacuated the depopulated capital of the Westernized Czardom and had retreated to the Kremlin of Byzantine Moscow.

The World after the Peace Conference, Being an Epilogue to the “History of the Peace Conference of Paris” and a Prologue to the “Survey of International Affairs, 1920-1923”, OUP, Issued under the auspices of the British Institute of International Affairs, 1925

Le printemps

April 16 2015

Millet, Le printemps

Millet, Le printemps, 1868-73, Musée d’Orsay

Clausen, The Apple Tree

Clausen, The Apple Tree, 1940, private collection


April 15 2015

If frisking lambs have ever been described in music, it’s from 3:24 to 3:39 here:

This is Milhaud’s Concertino de printemps for violin and chamber orchestra, opus 135, 1934. A year of poor health. It isn’t Groupe des Six superficiality, but a little masterpiece of French pastoralism. The violin “is […] like a butterfly among flowers that finally disappears in a ray of sunlight” (Paul Collaer).

Milhaud recorded it three times as conductor. The first time with Yvonne Astruc, the dedicatee, and an unnamed orchestra in 1935, the second time with Louis Kaufman and the Orchestre national de la Radiodiffusion française in 1949, the third time with Szymon Goldberg and the Ensemble des Solistes des Concerts Lamoureux in 1958. This is the Kaufman. You can hear the Astruc here and the Goldberg here.

Milhaud wrote many pieces with spring in the title. Aside from the concertino:

Le printemps, violin and piano, opus 18, 1914. I linked to an old recording of this here. It found its way, in orchestral garb, into his incidental music for chorus and orchestra for Claudel’s Protée, opus 17, 1913-19, or at least into the symphonic suite made from it (opus 57, 1919, which in a way is his Sacre du printemps).

Printemps, piano, Book I, opus 25, 1915-19. The first of two cahiers of short pieces. They are rarely performed or recorded. The best recording is with Christian Ivaldi on the fine old EMI record of music by Milhaud for one, two and four pianos.

The third string quartet, opus 32, 1916 is subtitled En souvenir du printemps 1914 (post here). It was written in memory of his friend from his youth in Provence Léo Latil, who died on the front in 1915. “We never wearied of walking along between the fields of wheat, blue-green in spring, bordered with almond trees in bloom, dwarf oaks, and pines, through exquisite landscapes, some of which, like the Château de l’Horloge, evoked historical memories: according to Chateaubriand, it was in this solid, roomy farmhouse that Napoleon spent the night on his return from Elba. Sometimes we went as far as Malvalat, the Latils’ estate near Granettes, a village that took its name from the painter Granet, who lived there […].” (Notes sans musique)

Symphonie de chambre no 1, Le printemps, opus 43, 1917. This is the first of six very short, radically un-teutonic, chamber symphonies which Milhaud composed between 1917 and 1923.

Printemps, piano, Book II, opus 66, 1919-20

Jeux de printemps, orchestra, opus 243, 1944; also a ballet. This has never, as far as I know, been recorded.

Printemps lointain, voice and piano, words by Francis Jammes (post here), opus 253, 1945. I don’t know this either.

There’s a Chanson du printemps in Chansons de Madame Bovary, opus 128d, 1933. There may be more individual songs. There are many spring-like movements in his symphonic and chamber works.

In the early ’50s, he gave way to the temptation to compose three more concertini to create a Quatre saisons:

Concertino d’automne for two pianos and eight instruments, opus 309, 1951

Concertino dété for viola and chamber orchestra, opus 311, 1951

Concertino dhiver for trombone and string orchestra, opus 327, 1953.

If they had been as good as the first, this Four Seasons would be as popular as Vivaldi’s. The Concertino de printemps shows what a marvellous composer Milhaud could be. The others have their moments, but show him on more workaday form. Trombonists like the last one.

Milhaud, Kaufman

I remember buying this LP in FNAC in Paris circa 1983.

Underwater dreams

April 14 2015


“Call me Captain Sirius. [Melville.] My creator’s name is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, better known as the author of the world-famous Sherlock Holmes novels, which offer a strictly scientific account of criminology. But almost as a sideline he attempted to warn his insular England of a danger in the offing when, eight years after our first seaworthy submarine was launched, he published a brief book which he called Danger! and Other Stories [text here], which came out in German translation during the war, in 1916, under the title The Submarine War, or How Captain Sirius Did England In, and was reprinted here seventeen times before the war was over, but now unfortunately seems to have fallen into oblivion.

“Thanks to this prophetic little book I, in the person of Captain Sirius, succeeded in convincing the King of Norland, the Reich’s ally, of the daring yet perfectly rational possibility of using a mere eight submarines – which was all we had – to cut England off from her supplies and literally starve her to death. Our [the Norlanders’] submarines were called the Alpha, the Beta, the Gamma, the Theta, the Delta, the Epsilon, the Iota, and the Kappa. Unfortunately, the last was lost in the Irish Sea during our otherwise successful mission. I was the captain of the Iota and commanded the entire flotilla. We scored our first successes at the mouth of the Thames near Sheerness: aiming my torpedoes amidships, I sank in quick succession the Adela, laden with mutton from New Zealand, the Oriental Company’s Moldavia, and the Cusco, the latter two laden with grain. After further successes along the Channel coast and all the way to the Irish Sea, involving the whole flotilla either in squadrons or one by one, prices – first in London, then throughout the island – began to rise: a fivepenny loaf of bread soon cost a shilling and a half. By systematically blocking all major ports of entry we drove already exorbitant prices higher and unleashed a countrywide famine. The starving populace protested against the government with acts of violence. It stormed the Empire’s sanctuary, the Stock Exchange. Anyone belonging to the upper classes and able to afford it fled to Ireland, where there were still at least potatoes to be had. In the end proud Albion was forced to conclude a humiliating peace with Norland.

“The second part of the book consists of statements by naval officers and other experts, all of whom confirmed Sir Arthur’s warning of the submarine menace. One of them, a retired vice admiral, advised England to build storehouses for grain, like Joseph in Egypt, and to protect homegrown agricultural products by means of tariffs. There were urgent pleas to abandon England’s dogmatic insular mentality and finally get down to building the tunnel to France. Another vice admiral suggested that trading vessels be allowed to ply the seas only in convoys and that swiftly moving dirigibles be specially equipped to hunt out submarines. Intelligent proposals all, their worth alas, having been corroborated during the course of the war. I could wax particularly eloquent on the subject of the depth- or water-bombs.

“My creator, Sir Arthur, unfortunately forgot to report that while a young lieutenant in Kiel I was present as the crane lowered the first seaworthy submarine into the water – all hush-hush, top secret – at the Germania Shipworks on 4 August 1906. Before that I had been second officer on a torpedo ship, but I volunteered to test our new underwater weapon in its early stages. As a member of the crew I was in the U-1 when it was lowered thirty meters under water and made it to the open sea on its own steam. I should point out, however, that Krupp, using the design of a Spanish engineer, had even earlier built a thirteen-meter craft that went five-and-a-half knots under water. This Forelle aroused even the Kaiser’s interest. Prince Heinrich himself went down in it once. Regrettably, the Reich’s Naval Office obstructed the Forelle’s expeditious development. There were, moreover, difficulties with the gasoline engine. But when the U-1 was put into commission in Eckernförde a year behind schedule, nothing could stop it, even though the Forelle and our thirty-nine-meter ship, the Kambala, which came equipped with three torpedoes, were later sold to Russia. [Is a submarine a ship?] I was unfortunately detailed to attend the ceremony at which they were handed over. Orthodox priests, dispatched specially from Petersburg, anointed the vessels with holy water fore and aft. Following a lengthy overland journey they were launched in Vladivostok – too late to use them against Japan.

“Still, my dream came true. Much as he shows an instinct for sleuthing in his books, Sir Arthur could never have suspected how many German youths – like me – had dreamed of the speedy descent, the wandering eye of the periscope, the bobbing tanker just waiting to be torpedoed, the command of ‘Fire!,’ the many and much acclaimed hits, the intimate camaraderie, and the pennants waving on the triumphant return home. And not even I, who have been involved from the start and have entered literature along the way, not even I could have suspected that tens of thousands of our lads would never emerge from their underwater dream.

“Thanks to Sir Arthur’s warning, our repeated attempts to bring England to her knees unfortunately came to naught. All those deaths. But only Captain Sirius was condemned to survive every descent.”


The 1906 chapter (which doesn’t have that name) of Günter Grass’s My Century (Mein Jahrhundert) (1999). A German identifies himself with an enemy of England imagined by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Extract deemed fair use as shorter than an Amazon preview and from near the front of the book: please inform me if it infringes copyright and I will remove it.

The translation by Michael Henry Heim is idiomatically uncertain and not up to the many voices Grass adopts in the hundred vignettes which make up this quasi-novel. I think this is part of the reason many felt this late Grassian tour-de-force did not work. Perhaps it doesn’t work in German. I enjoyed it. I posted the 1900 chapter here.

I’m not sure how Danger! and Other Stories could have been published in Germany in 1916 if it only appeared in England, published by John Murray, in 1918. The title story was written, according to Doyle, about eighteen months before the outbreak of the war and, according to Wikipedia, was published in the Strand Magazine in July 1914. It might have appeared in Germany in 1916 on its own or in another collection.

The Royal Navy had launched its first submarine in 1901. The experience of the crews must have been terrible, but “tens of thousands” of German casualties seems wrong. Here is a list of all the German U-boats. Allegedly 329 served. If the average crew was as high as fifty and two-thirds were killed, that does not get us close.

Before Germany had launched its U-boat, Britain, in the same year, had launched HMS Dreadnought. German and English artists, scholars and scientists, instigated by Count Harry Kessler, and including my great-grandfather, wrote to The Times to express their concern about the deteriorating relationship between the two countries. Their letter was published on January 12.


After suffering damage from a collision while on a training exercise in 1919, U-1 was sold to the Germaniawerft foundation at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where it was restored and can be still seen. 

Invasion literature (Wikipedia).

Aspects of Grass

April 13 2015

Grass and Danzig (in German):

Film by Andrzej Klamt commissioned by the Deutsches Polen-Institut for with the support of the Sanddorf Stiftung Regensburg.

Grass and Israel:

Deutsche Welle.

Grass on Europe’s policy towards refugees (in German):

Interview by Pointer-Redaktionsleiterin Heike Kevenhörster am 26.11.2014.

Facebook is shit (with subtitles):

Interview by Marc-Christoph Wagner for Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2013.

The full Louisiana Channel interview (with subtitles):


No gallery mentioned.

When did I learn the music of Traviata?

April 8 2015

I’ve seen it perhaps twice in my life and never consciously listened to it except to discover that I know every note. Others, I believe, have had the same experience.

Callas, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 1952, with Giuseppe Di Stefano, Mugnai conducting:

Callas, La Scala, Milan, 1955 or ’56, with Giuseppe Di Stefano, Giulini conducting:

Callas, Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Lisbon, 1958, with Alfredo Kraus, Ghione conducting (the best according to some):

There are others.

Callas’s voice declined very early. Her best days were over long before she was forty.

In 1853 the symphony was dead, chamber music in a post-Schumann, pre-Brahms twilight, and religious music at a low ebb. Opera carried the torch. Excuse the mixed metaphors.

Boulez at 90 continued

March 28 2015

The clips (here, here, here, here) that were shown before the works performed by the Cleveland Orchestra (now, for better or worse, under Franz Welser-Möst) at their concert for Boulez on January 15 show somebody very different from an arrogant iconoclast. The programme was his own Twelve Notations (for piano); Berg, Three Excerpts from Wozzeck; Debussy, Jeux; Boulez, Notations I, VII, IV, III, II (orchestral version).

An equivalent at the Barbican on April 23 with the LSO under Peter Eötvös will have Boulez’s Livre pour cordes and Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna and, between them, the seminal (but otherwise overrated?) The Rite of Spring.

Bob Shingleton on Rituel, and Boulez’s relationship with the BBC SO, whose chief conductor he was from 1971 to ’75. Their celebration at the Barbican, on March 21 under Thierry Fischer, had Pli selon pli and Notations.

Boulez’s lack of interest in Brahms, a composer, presumably, with plenty of “structure” and “necessity” (even if he came from the conservative side of the nineteenth century), is puzzling.

One would like to know Boulez’s views on some non-musical matters, or does he exist solely in music?

George Benjamin has a fine tribute in the Guardian.

Rituel, performers not stated:

Dérive I

March 27 2015

Sylvain Blassel and Atelier XXème du Chapelle du conservatoire de Rennes, concert donné aux Champs Libres à Rennes le 7 décembre 2011. You can also hear Boulez doing this with the Ensemble Intercontemporain. This is for six players. It is a short work from 1984, about six minutes: the rest here is a concert lecture. It is Boulez at his most accessible. Dérive II, for eleven instruments, 1988, 2002, 2006, really is this length: it began short, but is now longer.

Boulez at 90

March 26 2015

BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters, which aired last Saturday, on Pierre Boulez, who is ninety today, is here and here for another twenty-odd days at least. It’s hosted by Petroc Trelawney, despised as a broadcaster by a giant of musical blogging, Bob Shingleton, but not, perhaps, quite as bad as all that all the time. With him are Paul Driver, music critic of the Sunday Times, and Morag Grant, a Fellow of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg in Bonn, who are another matter.

This is discussion, and a mining of the warm and inscrutable Boulez’s words on the BBC over five decades. Why is the z pronounced in Boulez? Doesn’t it suggest something Spanish?

I wish Paul Driver wrote more outside Murdoch-land. He has only published one book, an unclassifiable assemblage of his own meditations on Manchester called Manchester Pieces. He’s a Mancunian, like the late Michael Kennedy.

Boulez’s list, aired in early 2000 on a New York radio station, of the ten most important pieces of music in the twentieth century is engaging.

I used to assume that his works were all short, like Webern’s. They aren’t. Then I thought that they were merely intellectual. They are, of course, not.

Boulez does walk into concert halls. He does dress formally. He does bow. He does conduct. He does accept applause.

Le marteau sans maître, words by René Char, directed by Bruno Maderna in 1961:

Pierre Boulez


I was taken in by the hoax in 2006 about Boulez’s recording of Vaughan Williams 4 and 6 on DG. For days, before I realised, the word “wow” was floating around in my head. There was even a review, which made it sound rather like Karajan’s recordings of English music. I can’t remember where the joke started. Driver, at least, can be as engaged with the Britten whom Boulez so much despises as with Boulez.

Boulez, VW

Christian brigands

March 20 2015

The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided the Macedonian region between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.

In Macedonia, where the social peripeteia accompanying a transfer of sovereignty from the Ottoman Empire to the Kingdom of Greece had taken place ninety-one years later than in Laconia [with which he has just been concerned], the writer once had the good fortune to obtain a vivid sidelight on it from a living beneficiary. Waiting for an omnibus at Sorovich on the 4th September, 1921, he fell into conversation with a bystander who turned out to be a Slovene, born in Klagenfurt, Carinthia, who had emigrated as a boy to the United States, had come to Macedonia as a chauffeur for the American Red Cross, and was now driving a tractor in the service of three Greek brothers who were joint owners of a large estate in the neighbourhood of Sorovich, besides owning a whole block of houses just across the road from the railway station. Like the property itself, the present owners’ up-to-date Western method of farming was a legacy from their father, who had died only four months since. In answer to a question about his enterprising deceased employer’s antecedents, the Slovene mechanic volunteered: “Well, he hadn’t owned this property for very long. Before ‘the war’ [meaning the Balkan Wars of A.D. 1912-13] [Toynbee’s bracket], when the Turks owned the land, he was just one of those ‘Christians’ – what is the English word for them? … O, now I remember it: ‘brigands’ – up in the mountains. But, when the Greek Army marched in, the Turks cleared out and the brigands came down from the mountains and seized the land. So that is how my employer got his property, and how I got my job.”

There was a tradition in ancient anti-Christian polemic of referring to Christ himself as a brigand.

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

Lee Kuan Yew and the nation-builders

March 19 2015

Lee Kuan Yew is the last great living twentieth-century nation builder, if he is alive.

Who were the others? What defines them? They have to have created a nation where none before existed – and yet one can’t leave out Mandela.

They must have done it through a personal struggle. They must have a certain stature. Their achievement must be solid. One can’t leave out Herzl, although he died forty-four years before the birth of Israel.

At one level, Lee was a reluctant builder. He did not, at least as it appears, wish to leave the Malaysian Federation in 1965.

Norway, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Baltic states, Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the central Asian “stans”, Mongolia were, before the twentieth century, merged or submerged nations, but when they became independent did not have famous fathers, unless you count Piłsudski. Or de Valera? They already, in a sense, existed, especially Poland.

But, then, so did the Czech nation, and I am counting Masaryk, even though the nation he founded was later divided into two. (One can’t exactly call Haakon VII a nation-builder, even if he was a father-figure.)

Ukraine is a half-formed nation. Why am I implying less formed than the other Ruthenia, Belarus? At any rate, no builder.

Hungary achieved nationhood in the nineteenth century.

The Philippines’ founders did their work before, not after, American colonisation. Aung San died before Burmese independence, and his legacy is unclear. So are Ho Chi Minh’s and Sihanouk’s. Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia had once contained powerful states. Burma is the most ethnically fragmented. Thailand was never colonised, so the question of nation-building does not arise.

The Republic of China was declared in 1912, but Taiwan became its last stronghold long after Sun’s death. Sun was the father of a nation that, as a geographical entity, doesn’t even recognise itself, and as a wider entity is China – not a new nation.

So I am including him uneasily – or do we believe in the permanence of Taiwan? I can’t leave out Sukarno even if I want to.

Not everyone who led a colony into independence qualifies. In fact, not a single leader from the main years of decolonisation is in my list. I can’t bring myself to include Bourguiba, for example. Or, in a short list, Nkrumah or Kenyatta or Nyerere or Kaunda. Is that because black African countries are, or were, not nations, but tribal or ethnic hegemonies and coalitions? But so are others. So is Burma. So was nineteenth-century Hungary.

Mahathir is a smaller figure than Lee. He did not become prime minister until 1981.

In theory Singapore is a coalition of three ethnic groups, like its one-time role-model Switzerland.

Here is my list, in chronological order of the nation’s birth or the builder’s accession to power if later:

Sun Yat-sen 1912

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk 1918

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 1923

Ibn Saud 1932

Sukarno 1945

Mahatma Gandhi 1947

Muhammad Ali Jinnah 1947

Theodor Herzl 1948

Lee Kuan Yew 1965

Nelson Mandela 1994

Lee’s funeral or public memorial will be as big as Mandela’s and deservedly. [Postscript: I was wrong on that.] You don’t need to have loved someone to feel grief.

The Blairs will be there, collecting cards.


1946, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

Picture source: Lee Kuan Yew, Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going via

Mirabeau’s warning

March 18 2015

In A.D. 1790 the French National Assembly was warned by the prophetic voice of Mirabeau that a representative parliamentary body was likely to prove more bellicose than a monarch.

[Footnote: “Je vous demande à vous-mêmes: sera-t-on mieux assuré de n’avoir que des guerres justes, équitables, si l’on délègue exclusivement à une assemblée de 700 personnes l’exercice du droit de faire la guerre? Avez-vous prévu jusqu’où les mouvemens [sic] passionnés, jusqu’où l’exaltation du courage et d’une fausse dignité pourroient porter et justifier l’imprudence …? Pendant qu’un des membres proposera de délibérer, on demandera la guerre à grands cris; vous verrez autour de vous une armée de citoyens. Vous ne serez pas trompés par des ministres; ne le serez-vous jamais par vous-mêmes? … Voyez les peuples libres, c’est par des guerres plus ambitieuses, plus barbares qu’ils se sont toujours distingués. Voyez les assemblées politiques; c’est toujours sous le charme de la passion qu’elles ont décrété la guerre” (Mirabeau in the French National Assembly on the 20th May, 1790).

In this matter the statesman Mirabeau showed a clearer vision than the philosopher Volney, whose eighteenth-century complacency on the subject of War was apparently still unshaken in 1791 [he woke up later], to judge by the following passage of Les Ruines, which was published in that year:

“Si les guerres sont devenues plus vastes dans leurs masses, elles ont été moins meurtrières dans leurs details; si les peuples y ont porté moins de personnalité, moins d’énergie, leur lutte a été moins sanguinaire, moins acharnée. Ils ont été moins libres, mais moins turbulents, plus amollis, mais plus pacifiques.” […]]

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939