Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lake Baikal

"The strange light of these northern zones was gently stealing over an immense sea of clear, perfectly calm, glassy water, which enabled us to locate the whiter coloured rocks at enormous depths. A fleecy line of cloud hung lazily over the snow-capped mountains. The Great Bear nearly stood on his head, and the Pole Star seemed to be almost over us. The other stars shone with icy cold brilliance and refused to vanish, though the sun had begun to rise. And such a rising! We could not see that welcome giver of warmth and life, but the beautiful orange and purple halo embraced half the world. From its centre shot upwards huge, long yellow streamers which penetrated the darkness surrounding the stars and passed beyond into never-ending space. Gradually these streamers took a more slanting angle until they touched the highest peaks and drove the cloud lower and lower down the side of the mountains. I have been on the Rigi under similar conditions, but there is nothing in the world like an autumn sunrise on Lake Baikal."

--Col. John Ward, "With the Die-Hards in Siberia," 1920.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On the Origins of the Anglisky:

"Immediately after leaving Harbin we crossed the finest bridge of the whole journey to Omsk. It carries the railway over the River Sungary, which meanders about over the enormous yet fairly well cultivated plains of Northern Manchuria. ... It is an education in itself, especially if, like us, one had to stop occasionally to drive bargains, negotiate help, and have the closest and most intimate intercourse with the common people. None of them had even seen the British flag, few of them had the slightest idea where the "Anglisky" lived, and one old Kirghis explained to his wondering tribemen that we were a strange tribe that had broken away from "Americanski" and gone to live on a great island in the middle of the lakes, where no one could touch us unless they risked their lives on great wooden rafts. I thought the amount of inverted truth in this charming description very pleasing if not very flattering to our national vanity."

--Col. John Ward, "With the Die Hards in Siberia," 1920.

I do not know the truthfulness of this statement:

"The Bolshevik method of military organisation,—namely, of "Battle Committees," which decided what superior commands should be carried out or rejected—had been swept away and replaced by the disciplined methods of the German and Austrian officers, who had now assumed command." -- John Ward, "With the Die-Hards in Siberia", 1920

Still, while I have yet to find another source confirming this (or contradicting it,) it sounds like something that might have been tried (and abandoned) immediately after the Russian Revolution.

If anyone else has any information on the subject, I'd love to hear it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chibi Romans

The Judgement of Solomon, from Pompeii, sometime before 79 AD, (from the POCs in European Art History blog):

The first thing you may notice about this painting is that it is adorable. The characters have totally been chibified. Their teeny hands and feet and enormous heads just about made my day.

The second thing you may notice is that the story depicted is a Jewish one--indicating that Jews lived in Pompeii. And they had a good sense of humor.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Jewish Hats!

Judaism runs like a thread through out the tapestry of European history, popping up whenever I happen to be researching. (And Middle Eastern, central Asian, North African, etc., histories, as well.)

I've collected a few pictures displaying some fine historical Jewish hats:

Jewish students with their teacher in Samarkand, ca. 1910. (Bukharan Jews)

Painting of a Mountain Jewish woman from the Caucuses, (by Max Tilke, early 20th century.)

Detail of a painting by Carl Gustaf Hellqvist, 1882, Valdemar Atterdag holding Visby to Ransom. This man (who is not Valdemar) is wearing a traditional Jewish hat.

Russian Jews in NYC, 1876

A Mountain Jewish man wearing a traditional hat, 1898.

Crimean Karaite men, 1837. Karaite Judaism is distinct enough from the other branches of Judaism that the Karaites managed to avoid some of the legal persecutions against Jews in 19th century Russia, and later used this as legal precedent to avoid the Holocaust (though many still died.) Many Karaites sheltered other Jews during WWII.

Stained glass window of Daniel, Germany, 12th century.

Jewish poet Susskind of Trimberg (on the right).

This picture and the next: Mountain Jews from the Caucuses, 1901 and 1898, respectively.

Unfortunately, not all aspects of history, not even all aspects of hat history, are cheerful. Some hats were voluntarily worn. Others were not. Today, though, many traditional hats are worn with pride. (Even if the winters in Israel aren't quite what they were up in Russia.)