Category Archives: Wikipediaphile

Wiki favourites, and not just from Wikipedia

Wikipediaphile: Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

Crest of the Volga German ASSRA bit of a call-back to an earlier Wikipediaphile entry, this – ten years ago my interest was piqued by mention of the ‘Jewish Autonomous Oblast’; this time round it’s the ‘Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic’.

The Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (RussianАвтономная Советская Социалистическая Республика Немцев ПоволжьяGermanAutonome Sozialistische Sowjetrepublik der Wolgadeutschen), abbreviated as Volga German ASSR (RussianАССР Немцев ПоволжьяGermanASSR der Wolgadeutschen) or VGASSR (RussianАССРНПGermanASSRWD), was an autonomous republic established in Soviet Russia. Its capital was the Volga River port of Engels (known as “Pokrovsk” or “Kosakenstadt” before 1931).

Apparently it all harks bark to Catherine the Great and an eighteenth century Windrush-style plea for immigrants: she “published manifestos in 1762 and 1763 inviting Europeans (except Jews)[3] [plus ça change] to immigrate and become Russian citizens and farm Russian lands while maintaining their language and culture…The settlers came mainly from BavariaBadenHesse, the Palatinate, and the Rhineland, over the years 1763 to 1767. They indeed helped modernize the backward agricultural sector by introducing numerous innovations regarding wheat production and flour milling, tobacco culture, sheep raising, and small-scale manufacturing [and] helped to populate Russia’s South adding a buffer against possible incursions by the Ottoman Empire.”

By the time of the Russian Revolution the Volga German minority was substantial and concentrated around the Volga river; and so it was that they secured in October 1918 first a ‘Volga German Workers’ Commune’, which subsequently earned an upgrade to an ASSR. Fast forward a couple of decades and yer man Jughashvili is in the saddle, Europe is once more ablaze, and before you know it the Schicklgruber fella is giving it large with the Napoleon complex, haring across the steppe Barborossa-style.

Not good news for the Volga Germans, whom His Steelness considered definitely suspect; and so orders were given, the ASSR was dissolved in September 1941 and practically the entire population of more than half a million was sent into ‘internal exile’, with 438,000 sent to Siberia and Kazakhstan.

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Wikipediaphile: Gadsden flag

Feminist ‘Gadsden snake’ t-shirts

Today whilst revving up the ol’ Tweetdeck for the first time in ages to see wagwan with the global agin-Trump stuff, I spotted an RT by always reliably interesting MD twitterer Jen Gunter:

What’s this ‘Gadsden snake’ thing? thought I. Well…

The Gadsden flag is a historical American flag with a yellow field depicting a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Positioned below the rattlesnake are the words “DONT TREAD ON ME”. The flag is named after American general and politician Christopher Gadsden (1724–1805), who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution. It was used by the Continental Marines as an early motto flag, along with the Moultrie Flag.

Modern uses of the Gadsden flag include political movements such as Libertarianism and the American Tea Party as well as American soccer supporter groups, including Sam’s Army and the American Outlaws since the late 1980s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadsden_flag

Wikipediaphile: EUROGENDFOR

A timely wiki for you, given it’s all kicking off in Greece at the moment. Only spotted this via a mention on twitter linking to a cranky-sounding website which suggested that a “non-Greek militarized riot force may have arrived to enforce austerity” in the Hellenic Republic.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about EUROGENDFOR:

The European Gendarmerie Force (EUROGENDFOR or EGF) was launched by an agreement in 2006 between five members of the European Union (EU): France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. Romania subsequently joined in 2009. Its purpose is the creation of a European intervention force, designed after the French Gendarmerie and the Italian Unità Specializzate Multinazionali (M.S.U.) of the Carabinieri; that force will have militarised police functions and specialise in crisis management. Its status is enshrined in the Treaty of Velsen of 18 October 2007.

The EGF is based in Vicenza, in northeastern Italy, and has a core of 800-900 members ready to deploy within 30 days. This includes elements from the;

An additional 2,300 reinforcements will be available on standby. The Polish Military Gendarmerie are also a partner force, and on 10 October 2006, Poland indicated it would like to join the EGF.[1] More countries will be allowed to join in the future.

Wikipediaphile: Avvakum Petrov, Patriarch Nikon, schisms and “shit-faced Pharisees”

Whilst I find his editorialising facile and his constant précises irritating, I have really enjoyed Martin Sixsmith’s radio series ‘The Wild East’, which distills a thousand years’ or so of Russian history into fifty fifteen minute episodes.

There’s just enough detail to give you a bit of an overview, and plenty of titbits to encourage you to go investigating things further, even if it’s only wiki-hopping.

Episode 8, ‘East Into Siberia’, got us into some fascinating stuff about the Raskol schism in the Russian Orthodox Church caused by Patriarch Nikon‘s seventeenth century reforms, particularly concerning Avvakum Petrov.

Petrov was an ‘Old Believer’ who held no truck with Nikon’s nonsense, which led to his exile and ultimately his burning at the stake. It also gave him reason to write a marvellously undiplomatic autobiography, where he rails against all sorts of people, whilst also tossing out some great lines of self-effacement (“[I am just] another shit-faced Pharisee wanting to drag the Lord to court!”).

Nikon at once (1654) summoned a synod to re-examine the service-books revised by the Patriarch Joasaf, and the majority of the synod decided that “the Greeks should be followed rather than our own ancients.” A second council, held at Moscow in 1656, sanctioned the revision of the service-books as suggested by the first council, and anathematized the dissentient minority, which included the party of the protopopes and Paul, bishop of Kolomna. The reforms coincided with a great plague in 1654 and Russians were also greatly concerned about the upcoming year 1666 which many considered the year of the apocalypse.

Heavily weighted with the fullest ecumenical authority, Nikon’s patriarchal staff descended with crushing force upon those with whom he disagreed. His scheme of reform included not only service-books and ceremonies but the use of the new-fangled icons, for which he ordered a house-to-house search to be made. His soldiers and servants were charged first to gouge out the eyes of these heretical counterfeits and then carry them through the town in derision. He also issued an ukase threatening with the severest penalties all who dared to make or use such icons in future. Construction of tent-like churches (of which Saint Basil’s Cathedral is a prime example) was strictly forbidden, and many old uncanonical churches were demolished to make way for new ones, designed in the “Old Byzantine” style. This ruthlessness goes far to explain the unappeasable hatred with which the Old Believers, as they now began to be called, ever afterwards regarded Nikon and all his works.

(Yes, there is an inevitable book tie-in, which seems to be the radio script verbatim.)

Wikipediaphile: Margaret Simey

Whatever happened to those well-meaning upper middle class types who were wonted to sticking their oars in for us ‘umble, ‘orny-‘anded toilers who lacked the skills to articulate our own views?

I came across the name of Margaret Simey (1906-2004) whilst reading around about the uprisings of the 80s by way of comparison with those of 2011; it seems she was chair of the Liverpool Police Authority at the time of the 1981 Toxteth riot, and crossed swords with Chief Constable Kenneth Oxford over the scouse cops’ gung ho tactics:

Representing the inner-city Granby Ward, she was well aware of the local tensions which led to the Toxteth Riots; over the preceding decade, use of police powers to stop and search had increased, and the police had recently begun to close nightclubs frequented by black youths. Simey had foreseen that this would cause tension, and had predicted that the closure of one club in particular would lead to a riot. She was correct.

I can’t tell if she fully met the criteria laid out in at the start of this post (though she was a sociology graduate, Labour councillor, magistrate…) – for example, Kirkby Times doesn’t have her down as a tin-shaker – but she certainly sounded like an interesting old cove.

Wikipediaphile: The Droste effect

Whilst cruising through excellent comics website 2000AD Covers Uncovered I came across mention of the ‘Droste effect’ in a post about how artist Jock put together one particular cover for 2000AD.

Never heard the name before, but as the Wikipedia page on the Droste effect explains, it’s a pretty familiar concept:

The Droste effect is a specific kind of recursive picture, one that in heraldry is termed mise en abyme. An image exhibiting the Droste effect depicts a smaller version of itself in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear. This smaller version then depicts an even smaller version of itself in the same place, and so on. Only in theory could this go on forever; practically, it continues only as long as the resolution of the picture allows, which is relatively short, since each iteration geometrically reduces the picture’s size. It is a visual example of a strange loop, a self-referential system of instancing which is the cornerstone of fractal geometry.

The effect is named after the image on the tins and boxes of Droste cocoa powder, one of the main Dutch brands, which displayed a nurse carrying a serving tray with a cup of hot chocolate and a box with the same image. This image, introduced in 1904 and maintained for decades with slight variations, became a household notion. Reportedly, poet and columnist Nico Scheepmaker introduced wider usage of the term in the late 1970s.

The Droste effect was used by Giotto di Bondone in 1320, in his Stefaneschi Triptych. The polyptych altarpiece portrays in its center panel Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi offering the triptych itself to St. Peter. There are also several examples from medieval times of books featuring images containing the book itself or window panels in churches depicting miniature copies of the window panel itself. See the collection of articles Medieval mise-en-abyme: the object depicted within itself for examples and opinions on how this effect was used symbolically.

I vaguely recall it first making an impression on me on the front of some 1970s Blue Peter annual I picked up at a jumble sale or boot fair…

ETA1:

From a quick google I see that the Blue Peter annual has been axed.

ETA2:

I knew it! Here’s the Blue Peter annual cover I was thinking of (image via Nigel’s WebSpace Galleries Of Annuals) – the tenth one, from 1973.

Wikipediaphile: Containerization [sic]

I can’t remember why, but I was recently reading up about containerisation (I can’t even blame it on series two of The Wire) – here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the matter…

Containerization (British:containerisation) is a system of freight transport based on a range of steel intermodal containers (also ‘shipping containers’, ‘ISO containers’ etc). Containers are built to standardised dimensions, and can be loaded and unloaded, stacked, transported efficiently over long distances, and transferred from one mode of transport to another—container ships, rail and semi-trailer trucks—without being opened. The system was developed after World War II, led to greatly reduced transport costs, and supported a vast increase in international trade…

I think I may have been interested in the decline of inland ports:

…Effects

Containerization greatly reduced the expense of international trade and increased its speed, especially of consumer goods and commodities. It also dramatically changed the character of port cities worldwide. Prior to highly mechanized container transfers, crews of 20-22 longshoremen would pack individual cargoes into the hold of a ship. After containerization, large crews of longshoremen were no longer necessary at port facilities and the profession changed drastically.

Meanwhile the port facilities needed to support containerization changed. One effect was the decline of some ports and the rise of others. At the Port of San Francisco, the former piers used for loading and unloading were no longer required, but there was little room to build the vast holding lots needed for container transport. As a result the Port of San Francisco virtually ceased to function as a major commercial port, but the neighboring port of Oakland emerged as the second largest on the West Coast of America. A similar fate met the relation between the ports of Manhattan and New Jersey. In the UK, longshoremen’s unions protested the change to containerization, resulting in the elimination of London and Liverpool as major ports. Meanwhile, Britain’s Felixstowe and Rotterdam in the Netherlands emerged as major ports. In general, inland ports on waterways incapable of deep draft ship traffic also declined from containerization in favor of seaports. With intermodal containers, the job of sorting and packing containers could be performed far from the point of embarcation.