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Interesting reading
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In The Prime
In The Prime

Joined: Sep 15, 2016
Posts: 370

Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:52 pm 
Post subject:
Reply with quote

Thanks for the PM Seedy, I'll respond in due course Wink

As to my bathtime burbling, it's been a while, but travel has adversely impacted my schedule, and having opted for a 'healthy' alcohol free month, I do believe it's decomposing my prose! Meanwhile the evenings are drawing in, as the earth migrates through the ecliptic and brings the hurricane season to an eventful conclusion in the Gulf, whilst leaving Southern US states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rica in a real mess! A month on, Puerto Ricans are feeling decidedly 'undervalued' as US citizens!

It was thirty years to the day, from the 1987 storm devastation across Southern England (removing half my bl**dy roof with it - replacement 'Kent Peg' roof tiles were as rare as 'rocking horse sh*t' that year), that Ireland and Scotland were battered by storm 'Ophelia'. At the start of this week much of the country also witnessed an incredible red sky created by Saharan desert dust and smoke particles from Iberian wildfires, lofted high and swept North by the strong winds of 'Ophelia'. It is perhaps a metaphor for the government unrest too, stirred by the hardball Brexit tactics being applied in Brussels, the UK domestic scene is unsettled as is the market, and in consequence the value of Sterling continues to suffer!

I'm going to poach a few of John Hobson's sentiments from 1902, as they mirror my own with these thread contributions - 'Those readers who hold that a well-balanced judgment consists in always finding as much in favour of any political course as against it will be discontented with the treatment given here. For the study is distinctively one of social pathology, and no endeavour is made to disguise the malignity of the disease.' As to the sub text of this 'Interesting Reading' thread on InBg, the 'nationalist discourse' is one of the mainstream approaches in present day Bulgaria; emphasis is placed on the decreasing proportion of ethnic Bulgarians and the growth of the ethnic minorities, especially Roma. It's recognisable in both left wing and nationalist party political programmes, and discoverable in governmental documents at both national, as well as regional levels. It's widely spread through mass media and voiced by renowned intellectuals, policy experts, scholars and media celebrities.

These nationalistically oriented advocates articulate current concerns regarding the declining birthrates and declining population in the country. The demographic situation has been described as a 'Bulgarian national catastrophe' and 'Bulgaria’s collapse'. I hope these contributions may offer some useful observations through historical analysis of the geopolitical influences on the Balkan region, and socio-demographic factors that moulded Bulgaria's past, and of those most likely to impact its future. We are moving slowly to the present state of Bg affairs, but I just wanted to pause before Kipling came on the scene, as the roots of modern Bulgaria sought traction in European soil through the terrestrial quaking of empires.

The Russian Emperor Pavel I sought a political course to resolve matters with France; in March 1800 Alexander Suvorov his most successful general suspended hostilities against the French Empire, just 2 months before his own death. Paris was quick to respond positively to the move by agreeing a prisoner exchange. In October 1800 Pavel I initiated the note of 'Rostopchin' (Count Rostopchin was the Tsar's Foreign Minister); it stipulated five conditions to confirm ties between Russia and France. Napoleon didn't hesitate in signing the document, as he believed it would significantly stabilise affairs between the two countries (before Pavel I got himself assassinated of course).

I previously referred to 'my enemy's friend's enemy is my friend, at least for now'! It related to Britain's primary foe at that point being France, which then became 'friendly' with Russia. The further actions of the French Army in the Levant after Napoleon returned to France, had effectively breached the alliance they'd previously observed with the Ottomans (who then switched sides). As previously mentioned, Napoleon effectively sidelined the Ottomans when he launched his Egyptian campaign at the end of the 18th Century, but later the already sick and rapidly decaying Ottoman Empire, opted to ally with Britain to save what was left of its grip in the Levant.

At the beginning of the 19th Century the early seeds of modern Bulgaria's relatively short phase of self determination were also being sewn. Amongst modern day Bulgarians, certainly those born before 1984, learned from their Soviet approved history books, that the Bulgarians fell completely under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in 1396. For many years before that, however, the Bg state had been divided in parts, ceasing to exist as a unified structure. Bg territories within the Ottoman Empire were completely deprived of any form of self-government, whilst administrative bodies at all levels were replaced by the authorities of the Ottoman Empire. Something that is also remembered from that era was the 'child tribute', when every fifth boy across the land, was taken for service into the Sultan's Janissary forces!

The end of the Napoleonic war brought a peace (of sorts) in Europe, but unemployment in Britain remained high. Thousands of British soldiers and sailors returned home to find alternate work, many were disappointed and became increasingly disillusioned. The Corn Laws were imposed in 1815 to keep bread prices high during the Napoleonic Wars; they clearly benefitted the rich landowners, whilst inflicting great hardship for much of the population and considerable resentment. The industrial revolution in Britain gathered pace after 1750 and had already created significant social change in terms of urbanisation. Literally millions had moved from the countryside to the towns, which were in no way adapted to cope with that human tide, so economic depression remained the most important factor motivating people to migrate even further.

Discontent over the Corn laws and other issues led to the emergence of movements such as the Radicals and Chartists who campaigned for universal male suffrage. The lure of cheap or even free land at times, attracted several migrants to Canada, whilst a myriad of emigration schemes encouraged many aspirant migrants to believe the difficulties of creating a life in a far distant part of the world were not insuperable. It should be noted, however, of all the migrants who emigrated during the 19th Century, about a half of them returned. For most migrants having arrived at their destination after a rough crossing to a colony or the US, it was just the beginning of a life fraught with difficulties. This government report from 1931 provides a very informative analysis of British emigration throughout the 19th Century.

Complacency weakened the Tories, as they became increasingly out of touch with the mood of the country; evidenced in part by their failure to repeal the Corn Laws. The government also enticed many soldiers who had been serving in Canada, whilst the US was technically at war with Britain until 1815, to remain in place as settlers instead of returning to England; subsequently arranging for their families to join them. Much like the Roman tactic of leaving retired Legionnaires in charge of outposts, this was a sly move by the government, anticipating further hostilities (at home and in Canada). It meant they not only boosted settler numbers in the colony, but the British government also felt they had the right skills and experience in place if things turned sour again!

After Napoleon was neutralised, significant numbers of military personnel having fought on land and sea returned post war after they'd seen a great deal more of the world than most of the British rural population of those times. Land workers were retained under almost 'feudal' systems, whilst many farm labourers were internally migrating to cities and towns to scrape a new living. The parallels of present day Service personnel who've served overseas on operations, certainly since the mid 90's have witnessed many brutal regimes and the instability of several nations torn apart through complex republics disintegrating (Tito's Former Yugoslavia), 'imperial' interventions in dictatorships (Iraq 1991+2003-? and Libya 2011-?), retaliation/punishment against exponents of asymmetric warfare in religious autocracies (Afghanistan 2001-?).

In recent years, many of those returning from military operations are somewhat cynical about the socio-economic complexities and theologico-political realities of those regions. They're also considerably wiser about the real protagonists of conflict; finance capital - the hungry beast that has to be fed. Whether that's the UK Defence industry or other logistics supply chains, the stability of natural resource acquisitions, it's still a financial investment. As with any country encountering domestic political unrest, especially at a time of great social change and in the absence of a common enemy or external threat, it can prompt unintended outcomes if harshly suppressed.

Without an external aggressor, there's little chance to engage peoples patriotism for distraction (Putin's favourite gambit); the population had no one to blame for their hardship other than the corrupt 'democracy', resulting in a 'no confidence' vote for the status quo. We are talking here about Britain in the 19th Century, but we could equally consider Bg in the current age. In much the same way that 'Punch Magazine' became famous for its satirical cartoons, lampooning political figures or their policies, and Charlie Hebdo's demise in Paris came at the personal cost of deriding extremists, radical views challenge politics of all hues (and always should). The satirist William Hone attacked the authoritian nature of the British government; he wrote a radical pamphlet - 'Political House That Jack Built' (1819), which was illustrated by the caricaturist George Cruikshank.

Hone and Cruikshank’s 'A Slap At Slop', was a short news sheet published in 1821 that parodied the work of John Stoddard, who published - 'The Times' and 'The New Times' newspapers. Their work lampooned Stoddard’s bombastic style across several topical subjects. It neatly summed up the reformers’ grievances in a typically irreverent manner, and was published in the year of the Peterloo Massacre and the legislation known as the Six Acts. The latter made mass meetings illegal, and toughened laws against seditious publications. Hones made clever use of a well known nursery rhyme to make his serious message widely accessible. Radical propaganda of the time often veering between respectability and audacious humour; it was quite difficult to prosecute authors of these type of humorous gybes at the political elite without making the government a laughing stock.

These journalists and cartoonists were not alone! Percy Bysshe Shelley is now widely regarded, as one of the most accomplished of the Romantic poets in Britain; famously he was one of a loose grouping of second generation Romantic poets, which includes Byron and Keats amongst others. These literary giants followed in the wake of earlier Romantics like Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge (a personal favourite of mine), but Shelley became a notable figure in the history of English radicalism. Certainly a revolutionary writer and activist, who contributed to radical literature as poet, playwright and political pamphleteer, in struggles for equality and social justice. His response to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 was - ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ concludes with these lines:

'Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you –
Ye are many – they are few.’

Shelley's lengthy poem comprised a ferociously passionate attack on the British ruling class and the system they perpetuated. Shelley's ideas provided a bridge between the generation of the French Revolution and later, the Utopian Socialists, Chartists and early Marxists. Shelley’s most politically engaged writings expressed great social themes and a yearning for a better world, characterised by economic, social and gender equality, expressed with emotional force as well as political clarity. At the time of the tragic events in St Peter’s Fields in Manchester, he was actually living in Italy, but had heard of the attack on demonstrators for democratic reform resulting in eleven people killed and hundreds injured.

On any social scale, it would be judged that Shelley came from a privileged background. Born into a wealthy landowner's family, he was educated at Eton and earned the nickname of 'Mad Shelley', whilst disagreeing with the politics of his family, and questioning the values with which he was raised. Their impact on Shelley, a profoundly political creature even from a young age, was taken seriously and this created a major rift with his father. This was exacerbated when the young Shelley and a fellow undergraduate at Oxford University created a scandal by co-writing a paper entitled ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. Its publication resulted in him being 'sent down' from Oxford University, but it also marked the development of his increasingly coherent, anti-systemic set of political ideas.

Shelley travelled widely after this, often moving home and frequently just a step ahead of his creditors! This offered him an experience of the world and interaction with people from very diverse backgrounds to those of his own, including people at the forefront of political struggle against the British state, from Irish activists through to persecuted radical journalists. He supported revolutionary uprisings and national liberation movements abroad, especially in later years after he left England. He was supportive of new European liberation movements, for example in Spain and southern Italy and celebrated them with one of his later works - 'Odes to Liberty'.

The Greek war of independence was declared in 1821, but rapidly achieved a stalemate and dragged on several years before it succeeded, whilst Napoleon popped his clogs in the May and was interred in his first tomb on St Helena. It was the first real Balkan thrust for freedom against Ottoman oppression and Shelley's verse-drama 'Hellas' was prefaced - 'We are all Greeks'! Through this work he sought to spur a generation of young men from across Europe, to support the independence of Greece. Some will reflect on the Charlie Hebdo attack i.e. the - 'Je suis Charlie' concept of unity and community resistance (to terrorism)!

At a time when few had a right to vote, Shelley polemicised and campaigned for parliamentary reform in Britain. Importantly, sought a free press, rights to assembly and protest, and civil liberties. These rights and reforms were all viewed as a means to an end, enabling working people to shift the balance of wealth and power in British society. The wider social and political context – the legacy of the French Revolution, women’s subjugation, the turbulent politics of Ireland, social unrest, the war with France – are all threads woven into his life story. He married twice, but was first widowed and I'll revert back to his second marriage with Mary Shelley later, including the influence that her parents had on Percy's writing.

Life was short and eventful for Shelley, but he left a powerful legacy. Drowning at sea in a sailing accident in 1822 aged just 29, he certainly did not 'go gentle into that good night*'! As a non-swimmer his first self taught lesson proved unsuccessful, and the book of Keats poetry in his pocket failed its buoyancy test! He was an experienced yachtsman on rivers and tidal estuaries, but less familiar with the seasonal storms along the Italian coast, and he was certainly no shipwright. His ketch (similar to a Drascombe Longboat) was open decked and had been extensively modified; it carried too much sail and owing to excess ballast had too little freeboard. His body later washed up on the seashore for a beach BBQ style funeral pyre; the ashes were buried in Italy, as were the bodies of Keats the year before and Byron's in the following year.
*Yes I know it's Tennyson, but any po(e/r)t in a storm!

Indeed, much of Shelley’s more overtly political verse has been deployed as rhetorical weaponry in working class and progressive struggles. Used by the Chartists and striking New York garment factory workers in 1909 who were mostly young immigrant women seeking better pay and conditions; the Suffragette movement also employed public readings of his work before and during WWI. Shelley's material even surfaced in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, as with Poll Tax campaigners use of the line ‘We are many, they are few’ as their slogan! More recently it found a different voice in 2011 through protesters in Tahrir Square. I'd also argue that the tenet of Shelley's writing resonated amongst those early social movements, in a similar manner to the effect of social media with Twitter '#tags' and viral messaging in the present day; these equate to virtual public gatherings and the associated pressure on governments.

The working class consciousness of the early 19th Century was effectively stimulated, not just the small proportion of the populous that was literate and able to directly interpret his material, but through its widespread public recitations, Shelley's work was shared and committed to memory by a large swathe of the population. It was also written by a committed rebel with a cause against his own social class, that was not borne of prejudice. It resurfaced again on the stage at Glastonbury festival in June, when quoted by the former backbench rebel with a clause - Corbyn!

Karl Marx later termed this 'self-emancipation' of the early 19th Century, when people took action for themselves through collective resistance, not relying on well meaning middle class reformers. This was at a time when workers’ strikes were an increasingly important strategy for the early trade union movement; an era of Luddite destruction of machinery and large demonstrations for democracy. Factory processes changed the textile industry enormously and replaced many of the croft and cottage industry practices with their labour intensive skilled crafts. Industrialisation also spawned a growing middle class of businessmen and entrepreneurs, together with the internal migration resulting in a huge influx of working class people into the towns and cities.

Production of iron and coal increased dramatically, enabling steam power and mechanisation to thrive, whilst the social and economic pattern of Britain was rapidly changing. Transport infrastructure increased freight and passenger movement around the country, developing at an incredible rate during the 19th Century. There was a 'lag time' of approximately twenty years before other European countries caught up with the industrial advances in the UK; obviously the US not only caught up, but was steadily overtaking most other nations by the beginning of the 20th Century.

Whilst the metropolitan centres swelled at the expense of rural areas in England, the organisation of political representation was much slower to change. Many amongst the growing business and trade classes felt their efforts were making Britain rich, but were under represented in the towns and cities in which they lived; they had no electoral vote. Gradually, the working class became more politically aware, particularly after the growth of trade unions, the spread of newspapers and improved education. The government was still run by the upper class, elected by a privileged male minority; MPs were not paid, and in addition had to have significant property ownership to meet the criteria for a pursuing a Parliamentary seat.

From a faith perspective, MPs could not be Catholic (until 1829) or Jewish, and as to gender - obviously not female (MPs were acutely aware that the female vote would represent more than 50% of the electorate). The LGBT community were also unrepresented, in fact gay men were still being executed or transported. Fortunately Turing only grew boobs, whilst his nuts shrunk; nevertheless the chemical castration with Oestrogen drastically lowered his Testosterone levels (required for much more than sexual pleasure) and wrecked the mind of genius, such an awful bloody waste! Personally, I believe THAT was a real warcrime, and the Home Minister of the day should have been strung up by his own g**lies! A Royal pardon 61 years later just doesn't quite cut it for me!

The business fraternity believed that the upper class, based on land ownership, should not have all the political power and it should be shared with the growing middle classes; of course the middle classes weren't keen on their wives or workers having those same rights! Indeed, the whole political system was utterly corrupt, yet directing the creation and/or conquest of more territory for Empire every day! There were only two parties of that era, Whigs (Liberals) or Tories (C..'s as they are now). Neither Whigs nor Tories, were enthusiastic about reform; their main argument was that the ‘illiterate’ lower classes had neither the wit nor the education to understand the complexities of politics!

I referred in my last post to the purchased commissions that swiftly elevated Wellesley to his lofty military heights (and will refer again to this issue in Crimea), but the 'hero' of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington later became the Tory PM from 1827 - 1830. He'd once referred to the massed ranks of his army as ‘the scum of the earth’. As an MP he subsequently stated in Parliamentary speeches - ‘he had never read or heard of any measure which could satisfy in his mind that the state of the representation could be improved’. Rioting broke out once again in the countryside with the 'Captain Swing Riots'. The Tory's were split over the issue of reform and Wellington resigned.

Any attempts to pass reform bills through Parliament were almost certainly doomed, if not in the HoC, then by the House of Lords. The unelected upper house was filled predominantly with Tory peers (no Dames or Peeresses allowed a seat back then of course) and could veto any parliamentary bill it chose (not radically changed until Bliar's time). Crucially there was an uneven distribution of Parliamentary seats, with only the counties (rural constituencies) represented or Royal Boroughs - towns granted the King’s Charter. The problem of ‘Rotten Boroughs’ as they were commonly known, illustrates how ridiculous the system could be, for example the constituency of ‘Old Sarum’ returned two MPs to the Commons, but like many Bulgarian villages, it had virtually no population.

Another constituency - 'Dunwich', due to the effects of coastal erosion had actually fallen into the sea, but it was still represented by two MP’s in the Commons! One MP starting his parliamentary career in that briny constituency, was William Peel. Meanwhile, the growing industrial cities of Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow had no representation whatsoever! Local landowners often controlled the entire constituency of the notorious ‘pocket boroughs’; through a combination of bribery and intimidation, voters were ‘persuaded’ to support the landowner or his nominated candidate. Bribery and corruption was rife, almost an accepted part of the political system; MP’s thought nothing of spending £K's in bribing the electorate.

Turning to modern day Bulgaria, how does this mirror certain areas of the country? In particular, the purchase of votes amongst the Roma population who have little invested in the existing political system nor the democratic system that has often failed them! Just a thought here - the British parliamentary system had been in place for nearly 500 years at that point, so why is the West so derogatory about African, Asian and South American democracies that are dysfunctional due to similar problems, when most have only been in place 50-70 years? Bulgaria has even less independent democratic experience than many African or Asian countries, and this is also a key factor for its future governance.

In the majority of the British constituencies, elections were never contested and even when they were, the practice of ‘open voting’ did little to ensure a fair outcome! In truth, what happened over the next century was quite remarkable, but it was too little democratic progress and far too slow for the needs of the nation as Empire mushroomed. Unfortunately, the 'knock on' effects were exceedingly predictable. It's for certain the world of the 'haves', which included the aristocracy and wealthy land owners, directly influenced or maintained control of political power, as opposed to the 'have nots', which was every other bugger and his family!

These 'have nots' were also the taxpayers supporting the public coffers to fund the escapades of British military forces overseas; this was more sharply defined and resisted over the next few decades. The Whig leader, Earl Grey, formed another government, whilst his new reform Bill was aimed more at political survival than a genuine desire to improve the status of the middle and lower classes. Grey was keen to ‘buy off’ the middle class by granting them the vote, but he had no interest in real democracy for the nation; it was nevertheless a dangerous policy. The reform Bill was introduced to the Commons by a prominent Whig Minister (and later PM) Lord John Russell in March 1831. With Tories strongly opposed, the result was a heated debate in the Commons, but the Bill still fell at the first Committee Stage.

The Whigs called another General Election increasing their majority to 130 (a more successful outcome than Theresa May's recent gamble), but the Tory dominated House of Lords rejected the Bill twice more. Earl Grey resigned, which provoked rioting and damage to public property across the country, however, the solution was for Grey to persuade King William IV to create 50 new Whig Peers in the HoL. This enabled the Bill to pass, but it illustrates the upper house was a dangerous chess piece (and is still a vulnerable legacy), but the Tories had to accept defeat and in June 1832 the Bill became law. Importantly it was the beginning of the end for landowners’ domination of Parliament; the middle class would become increasingly important. Landowners still held significant power, because the act failed to abolish pocket boroughs, bribery and corruption continued. In reality, the Great Reform Act of 1832 only levelled a small section of the warped and heavily mined field of democracy, but this small step was essential to address further suffrage (further reform acts would rectify this).

Faced with this pressure, parliament had little option but to take steps that led to the slow growth of real, rather than imagined democracy in the country. The US adage of 'No taxation, without representation', is equally applicable here! Meanwhile in Britain, events combined to create a 'push effect' in the first half of the 19th Century, such as the industrial processes increasing productivity, whilst driving down wages. With the workhouse system in operation from 1834, workers had little option but to accept low wages. Whilst the middle class were now able to vote, the working class were hugely dissatisfied and felt they'd been betrayed. Discontent over the 1832 Act led to the growth of the Chartist movement, with its six key demands, which remained unfulfilled for the next 80+ years!

The numbers emigrating, continued to climb with 100K leaving Britain in 1832, whilst poverty and starvation didn't only affect Ireland. Potato famine during the 1840’s in SW England, together with the high price of corn exacerbated the problem. The repeal of the Corn Laws came far too late for many. Along with other 'push' factors, from just one English county 250K Cornish people emigrated between 1815 and 1914. Some of the 'pull' factors in the US and the colonies drew on a skilled labour force that was needed for these emerging markets. Migrants to Australia during the 19th Century were helped by the 'Colonial Land and Emigration Commission', founded in 1840 to help organise the passage and settlement of migrants in Australia. As well as the state, there were many private companies established to organise emigration, including the 'Canada Company', the 'British America Company' and the 'New Zealand Company'.

Most of these companies purchased land cheaply, gained land grants or acquired investment. Many migrants were lured by shipping companies advertising faraway places in an enticing manner aimed at those suffering economic depression in the grime of Britain's industrial cities (of course social media now provides real time advice and guidance for the millions in MENA who seek an opportunity to escape poverty, unrest or harm, in order to better themselves and their families). Although a number of these companies offered subsidised travel at times, and cheap land on occasion, migration was still not cheap. By the middle of the 19th Century the cost of an Atlantic crossing for a family was approximately £3-4; this was the total content of an annual pay packet for many British families in that time!

Migrants were predominantly young males and often reliant on their families for financial assistance to fund their passage. Families would scrape the funds together in order to send one member out to a colony or to the US. Often this would be the eldest son or the father if he had a trade, who would then establish himself and having raised the funds could send for the rest of their family (no difference to the modern day there then). Friends also played a part in contributing funds, sometimes in joint business ventures. There were also a variety of schemes supporting migration to the colonies, some were led by local communities; there were central government schemes, whilst others were organised by churches or the Salvation Army. The schemes later in the century effectively 'deporting' children from socially deprived areas and from orphanages like Barnardos resulted in very questionable forced migration practices! Child labour was common in the industrial cities of that time, but many lived in difficult circumstances.

The implementation of the ideas of Adam Smith as laid out in his book - 'The Wealth of Nations' persuaded politicians and industrialists of the 1840s to dismantle the remaining laws regarding mercantilism and embrace free trade. Advances in science and technology were a obviously 'plus' too, for example agricultural techniques were improved, like the Norfolk four-course rotation system. Other changes in land use, including a reduction in the amount of arable farmland, turning it over to pasture, meant less land workers were required, whilst the selective breeding of livestock improved dairy, poultry and meat outputs to the benefit of the nation (at least those that could afford them). The ideology of free trade adopted by 1850 was also an important factor in the second half of the 19th Century. In the 1850s, the political system of Britain came under increasing pressure as a consequence of these significant social and economic changes.

In the early days of settlement in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand there were local people who resisted white settlement, so one's 'new' home and land had to be defended; migrants needed to be self reliant and resilient. In Australia and other colonies of white settlers, they were influenced greatly by the process of settlement, as they adapted to the conditions and gradually acquired a character of their own. Meanwhile the indigenous peoples of different continents saw their land and culture taken away from them, and an alien way of life and laws associated with a completely new culture, presenting itself or being imposed on them in some cases (viz arranged marriages, Islamic finance, dowry, Sharia law, 'bushmeat' markets, FGM?).

Sometimes laws are created to exert a moral code, maybe to solve a problem and on occasion to help the powerful consolidate their power. These motivations can all be found in the laws that resulted in adults and children being transported. Following the social unrest in the first half of the 19th Century, some of those that survived the ‘Battle of Bonnymuir’ in 1820 had been 'transported' to Australia, just as many other British subjects were, including 162K convicts between 1787 and 1868. More than 80K convicts and over 1000 exiles, were transported to Moreton Bay in New South Wales.

By today's standards, many convicts had only committed trivial offences and in the case of political crimes, had in fact just exhibited a social conscience. Many of the most committed rebels, radicals and protesters in pursuit of free speech and suffrage were deprived of their own homeland in Britain. Having been transported to Australia, laws were even more strict; authorities were given free rein to make anything they wanted to be a criminal offence. Consequently, it was against the law to be pregnant, rude, disrespectful or even have their hands in their pockets. Approximately 3600 men, women and children were transported as political prisoners to the Empire's own 'Guantanamo Bay(s)' - actually we had several of these, more akin to 'Gulags'!

However, the morality of a 'civilised' state (just 5 generations ago) that could sentence a ten year old girl to death for the theft of a frock is totally inconceivable from the perspective of present day society. Even commuting Mary Wade's sentence to transportation to Australia is still unconscionable, especially as the stay of her execution came after several months rotting in a prison cell, and removal from death row was only on the whim of a Royal decree to celebrate King George III recovering from his first bout of madness! Mary was born 240 years ago this month, becoming a mum to 21 kids and delivered her first sprog at age 14, although few survived in a convict colony plagued by sickness, starvation and thirst. She was one tough kid though, surviving to age 82 and with 300 living relatives at the time of her death! Her descendants now number in the tens of thousands; they include former Australian PM Kevin Rudd who I've mentioned in previous posts in regard to the indigenous population.

Amongst many of those transported, there was certainly a sense of illegitimacy about whether the punishment fitted their 'crime', but I was most amused to learn of the 'Flash Mob', although I've never known such a 'booty' display being used in recent times to join a spouse overseas.

Apart from 'mooning' on the odd festive occasion in my youth, I've witnessed the 'dance of the flaming a*****es' on several occasions, including a memorable event hosted by FFL 2e REP in Corsica, following a joint airborne exercise in 1976. It was a riotous evening and involved my CO and a much celebrated French Legionnaire officer. Most will recall that just as USA was celebrating its bicentennial in July 1976, the Jewish hostages and Air France crew members taken by Palestinian and German terrorists, were returning home after a daring rescue from the airport at Entebbe in Idi Amin's Uganda. It was executed by Sayeret Matkal commandos of the Israeli Defence Force, led by Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu, the only IDF casualty and older brother of the current Israeli PM of Israel - Binyamin Netanyahu. Uganda being another casualty of collapsing empires and conflict over borders, resources and religion instigated in the 19th Century. I'll leave the Palestinian issue for now, except to mention the 48K of the 50K Bg Jews allegedly saved from the Nazis, who emigrated there after WW2!

The 'Raid on Entebbe' involved three future Israeli PMs, and rather overshadowed Captain Soubirou's lesser publicised achievement 5 months earlier in February 1976, when he led his company from 2e REP (along with other GIGN specialists) in the successful rescue of 30 French children and two civilians being held hostage on their school bus, at the Somali border post of Loyada. One 5 year old girl was killed during the rescue itself and five others wounded, including two seriously; sadly one of those later died of her wounds a few days in a Paris hospital. The children's parents were French military personnel serving in Djibouti, then known as the French Territory of Afars and Issas (TFAI) and formerly called French Somaliland (until 1967). The issue stemmed in part from Britain, France and Italy dividing up their 'Imperial cake' across a 'clan based' territory. They then left the debris of their crumbling empires at various times; already compounded by the Cold War's destabilising effects, together with climatic changes, and adverse consequences of international commercial fishing since the 1970's. It was 24 years ago this month that Somalia drew first blood on President Clinton with the 'Black Hawk Down' saga in Mogadishu, a bitter first taste of 'clan based' conflict for the US, but the huge bomb blast this week, with significant loss of life in the city is just another legacy of failed Empires screwing up! Who on earth believes the ethnic, tribal or religious factions just popped to the supermarket to get their AK's or any other weaponry?
Quirky link, but some very good points from the other side of the fence:

Just two years later, the airborne 'Operation Bonite' was launched by the FFL in May 1978, rescuing 2100+ European hostages (mostly French and Belgian) taken by the Katangese rebels known as 'Tigers', part of the Congolese National Liberation Front (FNLC) in the city of Kolwezi. It was an important mining centre in the Katanga (then known as Shaba) a province of southern Zaire in Central Africa (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, originally exploited by our man Stanley for the Belgians). This'Battle of Kolwezi' was successfully conducted by legionnaires from 2e REP with more than 2,100 European hostages rescued. Nearly 160 Europeans and 600 local inhabitants were massacred by rebels, 247 rebels were killed and 163 captured. The FFL losses included 5 legionnaires killed and 25 injured.

'Dr Livingstone, I presume'? As some will recall from their history lessons, these were allegedly the first words spoken by Sir Henry Morton Stanley MP on finding the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone in the Congo. Stanley was actually born and raised in a Welsh workhouse as 'John Rowland', later emigrating to the US and fighting on the side of both the Confederacy and the Union Army during the Civil War. Later, as a journalist for the New York Herald he was dispatched in 1869 to find Livingstone, who was reported 'lost', whilst searching for the source of the Nile. Eventually he found him in November 1871 at Lake Tanganyika. Stanley's career followed in the footsteps of Livingstone, but his copybook was somewhat blotted by selling out to the Belgians, despite the end of British slavery in 1807. He became embroiled in rather unsavoury affairs for King Leopold II. It is through that contract for the Belgians that the present day conflict in the hot zone of the African Congo was first ignited. Of course, Stanley was later knighted and served as a British MP for 5 years, with a blind eye turned to his earlier misdemeanours with a competing Empire! He was also a fellow 'Fellow' of the RGS, nonetheless - 'Another fine mess you got us into Stanley'!

The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 had begun to turn Britain into a free trade nation; by encouraging other nations to turn to free trade, Britain was attempting to increase her own wealth. India, seen as the 'the jewel in the crown', was also the stopping-off place to Singapore, the tin and rubber of Malaya, the recently opened markets of China, and the rich dominions of Australia and New Zealand. The empire was like a woven garment which stopped British capitalism catching a cold. In this analogy, a single thread might seem of little importance, but if it snapped the fabric would start unravelling. At least that was how those who ran the empire saw matters, their business colleagues in the City of London and their friends in British industry were rather less sanguine.

In 1848 several Revolutions had changed Europe, in Paris, Frankfurt, Budapest and Naples liberal protesters rose up against the conservative establishment. Food shortages of preceding years, high unemployment and rising prices all sparked liberal revolts. These revolutions were a 'turning point in modern history that modern history failed to turn'. Whilst each one was an utter failure', minor reforms emerged in the German provinces and Prussia, but the conservative regimes that ran Europe remained. In 1852 Palmerston was appointed as Home Secretary in Aberdeen's government; Aberdeen hated war, and disliked Palmerston intensely.

Lord John Russell was British Foreign Secretary, but he was weak and this was at a time when strained international relations were being dealt with by new men in a coalition government riven with instability and indecision (no change there then in 165 years). Standards of diplomacy had held firm since 1815, but Metternich had been forced to flee from Vienna and Palmerston had left office when Russell's ministry fell, so they ceased to be powerful forces in foreign affairs. New players had assumed office in most European nations, and they were not dealing with old problems in the same way as their predecessors.

It should be noted that significant foreign affairs 'staffers' within the State Department of Trump's administration have belatedly been appointed to empty desks; previous Obama appointees and associated teams having vacated them months ago, which means formal handovers have not occurred. It also means a lot of corporate knowledge within foreign affairs has been lost, and crucially the relationships with relevant overseas diplomats have broken down and take time to restore.

Back to empire, love them or loathe them, colonies offered the capitalists of the respective colonial powers, suitably protected outlets for investment. They also provided military bases to protect routes to investment elsewhere. In Britain's case its possessions, such as Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, South Yemen and the Cape were important not just as sources of profit in their own right, but as stopping off places to India. By the 1838 'Convention of Balta Liman' Britain had also won widespread concessions from the Ottomans, including special rates on most of the raw materials sold to Britain, and a host of benefits, grants and acknowledgements that gave Britain a very privileged position. As always, the 'Rich got Richer', whilst the poor prepared for war!

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In The Prime
In The Prime

Joined: Sep 15, 2016
Posts: 370

Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:10 am 
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OK it was a long intermission, but overseas errands got in the way!

My last meander explored some of the fledgling suffrage issues in Britain, as the leaders of 'their' / 'our' (hardly interchangeable for the unrepresented) Empire, contemplated its future in the middle of the 19th Century. It is for certain that by the 1850's Britain had begun to move in the right direction in terms of the improvement of its democratic processes, but Parliament and the people it was constituted to represent still had a long and bumpy journey ahead? Britain's democratic journey had been underway for several centuries by that stage, but still required considerable development to achieve full maturity - it's not quite there!

A well respected research body reported at the beginning of this year, that there is democratic backsliding throughout Eastern Europe and 'a mood of deep popular disappointment with democracy'. Earlier reports had warned that the 08/09 economic crisis had a disproportionately negative impact on Eastern Europe compared to other emerging markets. Notably, the claim was it had 'reinforced an existing mood of disappointment with the experience and results of the transition to democracy and market economies', whilst giving root to the rise of populism. The view of the researchers was that this shouldn't be narrowed down to pure economic matters, but considered as 'a much broader moral, social and cultural challenge to the old established parties'. In the case of Bulgaria this amounted to a 'semi-consolidated democracy', but its 'democratic score' was the lowest in the EU and an indicator of regression or 'backsliding'.

This 'democratic backsliding' is not just the 45% of the expert view, it involves 61% of the students canvassed who believe that the quality of democracy has worsened in recent years. On the flip side, only 25% of experts and 18% of the students consider there has been positive development since 2015. Modern day Bulgarians are among the 'not contents, just as the British people were dissatisfied with the limited changes made in the 1832 Reform Act, the pressure was on the government to continue the movement in the direction of full suffrage. The 'little people' demanded more influence of Parliamentary decision making, an improvement of governance, through more dēmos (the people) gaining, and the privileged few lessening their kratia (power, rule).

Although it was first used in 1603 and later constituted in 1707 with the 'Act of Union' (a rather unfaithful marriage of inconvenience resulting in frequent domestic violence and misogyny on the part of big brother), the initial use of 'Great Britain' as a proper noun ignores Ptolemy's original adjectival reference to 'megale' Britannia around 143 AD, which differentiated the 'larger' land mass from the smaller one of Ireland. A question therefore arises, as the majority of UK citizens have bugger all idea of what 'GB' actually means! Beyond Ptolemy's physical descriptor, could the adjectival reference of 'great' (in the sense of 'ability', 'quality', or 'eminence', considerably 'above average') ever apply to our nation and if so, how was that judgement made? A supplementary would query, at what point in the nation's history was that judgement valid? Commonly referred to as 'those British b******s' by its friends, probably more accurate and insightful pejorative epithets are applied by its many enemies. It was however, crucially poised at a decidedly undemocratic juncture in its development by the 1850s, a 'point of no return' had been reached! The first Victoria Cross was soon to be awarded in the Crimean War, and the consequences of that conflict would be a turning point of Imperial design in the British psyche.

Mindful of yesterday's 'Remembrance Day' event at the Cenotaph and the rapidly thinning ranks of WW2 veterans, my analogy to the position the British government found itself in during the 1850's, reflects the situation ferry pilots employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway Air Services Department (on behalf of the British Ministry of Aircraft Production) found themselves early in WW2, whilst delivering aircraft from Canada to Northern Ireland! On the night of 10 November 1940 the first 'airbridge' involved 7 Lockheed Hudson bombers* fitted with extra fuel tanks in the fuselage. They departed from Gander for an estimated maximum flight time of 13 hours to Aldergrove (*referred to as 'flying gas tanks' by their crews). This maiden delivery mission had only one navigator in the lead aircraft, whilst the other planes were meant to remain in visual contact. That flight plan went decidedly pear-shaped, as they were nearing their destination in bad weather three of the planes 'lost' contact, but all eventually landed safely.

The weather was the most dangerous variable en-route, whilst meteorology was still an emerging science (meteorological stations weren't established in Greenland or other transatlantic locations until 1941). Pilots had no forecasts available for conditions in the middle of the North Atlantic nor for their destination; updates for the latter could only be received by Morse code during the flight, before the 'point of no return' was reached. This occurred approximately 3 hours out from Gander, because the extra fuel tank fitted to the Hudsons had to be fully utilised early in the flight, and the weather conditions at their destination needed to be determined.

Of course GPS didn't exist in that time and neither did INMARSAT, weather radar or Radio Direction Finding (the Germans later used a form of this to bomb places like Coventry), nor was weather satellite imagery available. I mentioned the storm of 1987 in my last post, and many will recall Michael Fish and his memorable TV faux pas transmission to the nation. Forecasting was even more of a mystical wartime art, as General Eisenhower discovered on 3-5 June prior to the Normandy landings in 1944! Hudsons (like most WW2 aircraft types) had no de-icing equipment for the wings or control surfaces, no pressurised or heated cabins, so aircraft could not climb above the weather systems or afford the fuel to fly around them as they can nowadays, whilst reliance on star fixes for astro-navigation necessitated night flying across the North Atlantic in midwinter!

I've chosen this particular analogy, because a pilot's crucial decision to proceed at the 'point of no return' involved many 'known unknowns' and several 'unknown unknowns' (conscious incompetence + unconscious incompetence in educational lingo). The Pilot in Command (PIC) is just that, he has control over the power systems, control surfaces, communications and weapons; likewise in the 1850s the Cabinet is delegated the power of the Crown, through the control of various ministries and expenditure of treasury funds, the War Office directs the military and the ministerial interface with the Press provide news and / or propaganda. The PIC considerations to the safety of his crew (and later in WW2 - 'her crew' flying in the slipstream of Amelia Earhart), balanced against the significant value of each airframe being delivered intact to aid the war effort. Every one of the thousands of aircraft safely delivered, became a valuable resource to achieve the strategic objective of defeating the Axis Powers, thus preserving the sovereignty of the Allies nation state(s).

Flying such aircraft certainly required a coordinated team effort to survive the hostile weather environment, cope with the aircraft foibles and (in)capabilities, combat enemy dangers, but all this lacked any real suffrage, because aircraft aren't flown in a democratic fashion. Numerous aircraft and their crews were lost through fate in hitting a destructive storm cell, the fluke of a birdstrike or system failures due to electrical, hydraulic or mechanical breakdown; sometimes it was folly caused by human error! Most will know the old English proverb allegedly derived from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth; revived by Shakespeare and later quoted by Benjamin Franklin; it concerned 'a nail'!

Variable weather systems likely to impact on aircrew success translates to the geopolitical frictions and fluxes faced by the British government of the 1850s. There were unrecognised (or unseen) storms already brewing in Prussia that would ultimately prove fateful, together with other areas of regional instability caused by a weakened Ottoman empire, whilst a threatening front was edging in from the North energised by Russian expansionism. The lack of electoral representation of the majority of British citizens at that time, was inversely proportional to the sacrifice most were obliged to make in nation building through agricultural, industrial, trading, transportation and protection (fighting/security) activities. In addition, they paid their taxes into the public coffers for a privileged few to determine their nation's fate and future generations of empire, which later encompassed nearly a quarter of the world's population.

During the WW2 airbridge, the lack of modern day techie gizmos, meant the pilot's view of the Eastern horizon was restricted at night, so their gamble was based on aviation skill and experience, together with a blind faith in their gauges, instruments, and extrapolations or estimates based on various calculations! It's for certain the numerous decisions by these brave men and women flying the airbridge, delivering more than 37,000 US built (including every type of bomber, cargo and fighter plane the US 8th Army Air Force flew during WW2), and Canadian built aircraft across the North Atlantic during WW2, ultimately preserved the national sovereignty (and bankrupted the empire)! Many other aircraft were ferried by the South Atlantic route via Ascension Island after 1942, direct to the North African conflict and later the Italian campaign.

I'm deliberately weaving two quite different stories here, as one concerns an individual and the other relates to an institution. However, both clearly reflect the critical issue of wise decisions necessarily made by humans at the 'point of no return', and most importantly recognising that time and place! It's my premise that several decisions made by the privileged few in the British government during the mid 1850s were unwise; the folly of the Political elite resulted in rapid and unsustainable expansion of empire through Imperialist ventures into the 20th Century. The evidence of social psychology research reveals individual protestors or isolated agitators create relatively little nuisance to public order, but a crowd once assembled can swiftly transform through the 'risky shift' to become a mob; unwise actions by sensible law abiding individuals can result.

In this case our own British Imperialism generated several 'followers' and spurred competing empires in pursuit of 'blood and treasure' across the globe! Some states were successful, others not so much! Collectively however, the actions of national powers (past and present) have created a dangerously overcrowded, socially conflicted, ecologically imbalanced and heavily polluted planet. Very few individuals actually made these momentous decisions, whilst several (seeking) gained political prestige, often a peerage or elevated social status, and invariably increased their wealth (providing more power and influence at home and/or abroad). On the other side of the equation, it was inevitable that others had to foot the 'life-energy+quality' bill in the rise and fall of empire since that time; unfortunately this is a running tab!

For the want of 'a nail', also brings to mind the missed value to society, of talented and gifted human beings who still had much to contribute, whilst many unknown genii were prevented from delivering their gifts to benefit the arts or science in our world. This aspect of intellectual capital and knowledge management, which is an important aspect of Bulgaria's society that I'll return to later. For the few readers with Type I Diabetes, one such individual was Sir Frederick Banting, a Nobel Prize laureate and co-discoverer of insulin; he was a passenger on another Hudson, being ferried via the airbridge to Britain, when it crashed on take-off in Newfoundland in February 1942. On a more personal note, it's been almost twenty years to the day that a good friend and fellow flyer had his own wings permanently clipped on a similar crossing!

I was halfway through my CPL at that time, and my mate was an excellent ground school coach. Having gained his ATPL a few years earlier with 3000+ multi engine 'PIC' hours logged, he was employed as a short-haul pilot in Kent. He'd occasionally flown the North Atlantic 'airbridge' via the Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland route, and I'd enquired about flying the right hand seat with him at some point; fortunately I missed this trip! To fund a special surprise for his wife in celebration of their first wedding anniversary, he'd agreed a 'one off' commercial contract to ferry a twin engined light aircraft from the US for delivery to a customer in Europe over a weekend in November 1997.

This is part of the regular transatlantic flight sales business that goes on, although this private job was unbeknown to his employer. It's fairly high risk work, as I've highlighted in the WW2 scenario, especially for single engine aircraft. One risk being, that smaller aircraft are often older preowned US registered planes being sold abroad, and there's a lack of pilot knowledge, as to the provenance of the aircraft being ferried. It can be somewhat akin to delivery of a vehicle from Arthur Daly's 'used car lot' to a customer, except for a huge ocean and a whole lot of sky being involved! The aircraft type will usually be familiar to the pilot who'll normally have been 'checked out' on the particular model/type. However, airworthiness i.e. airframe and engine history/certification, instrument calibration, maintenance records won't necessarily reveal the full story.

A pilot's pre-flight check may be thorough, but unfortunately it's quite limited, as a flight engineer certifies all the 'nick nacks' on the plane, not the pilot! Whilst flying the last leg from Reykjavik to Wick, he was already committed beyond his 'point of no return' when he declared an emergency to the Icelandic air controller citing icing and loss of engine power resulting in difficulty maintaining his altitude, there was apparently one further 'Mayday call', which was cut short, and nothing further was heard. No position was given, and he was beyond radar coverage; they couldn't get a radio signal lock once contact was lost and no EPIRB was activated, so he took an unscheduled ice water bath in what likely became an expensive aluminium coffin!

The only information the Icelandic authorities could pass on was his name and contact details from the landing/take off registration records. The British authorities were informed of his name and contact details, registered at the Reykjavik airport, but didn't know that he was married. Having arrived at his home there was initially no answer, so the police officers broke in, only to discover his wife in bed with her HiFi headset on! Once the shock of Kent plod stomping into her bedroom in the wee hours had passed, it gave way to their revelation of the devastating news. Not only was her hubby not attending a flying symposium in Norwich, he was now servicing the marine food chain many fathoms deep, approximately 150nm SE of Iceland. A really nice bloke - RIP.

Back to the Bulgaria, as I haven't quite lost the plot in the context of this thread or the 'decision points of no return' that influenced its present state and future course. History is always written from certain theoretical and ideological vantage points and I'll rehearse some of these, because they've had a particular bearing on territorial, ethnic and cultural claims over many centuries in Bulgaria, whilst a few will play their part again in its future. It's also a wider Balkan theme, so it's helpful to be aware of the fact that all historical narratives or stories, are by their very nature political, as they'll either support or contest the values, ideologies, and structure of society. Whether that's the Battle of Kosovo Polje (Plain of Blackbirds) fought between Ottoman forces and a Serb led allied army on 28 June 1389 influencing political claims by Serbia over their loss of Kosovo, whilst Russian influence in Bulgaria i.e. the 'Eastern Question' professed Slavic connections and their 'protection' of fellow Christians yoked by the Ottomans, as a rationale for war. In reality the latter was just Russian empire building, which I'll return to shortly.

Bulgaria's geographical position always provided a natural set of crossroads between Europe and Asia, North and South, and in consequence it was a melting pot of creed and culture, whilst its autonomy rarely endured. Frequently Bulgaria found its stability shattered or at least disrupted by one or more clashes of empire (not its own). The physical relief hampered cohesion of a single coordinated state, whilst its borders have expanded and contracted many times over the millennia. The mountainous terrain creates a set of natural choke points and defensive areas for control of North / South movements in the Eastern Balkans, whilst control could also be effected over the Danubian delta (in the past). It has not, however, experienced much consistency in its statehood for more than a few generations at any time, due to the disruption of conflict, long periods of occupation and various geopolitical influences.

I'm sure most are familiar with the idea of genetic testing to determine paternity or for verifying family links and health markers. It's become more affordable and quite popular in recent years, but the other advances in terms of genetic markers for inherited medical conditions are also hugely valuable for couples' family planning purposes. The latter is exceedingly important to Bulgarian Roma, which I'll need to return to in my next post. In Europe, many parents are now older and invariably only produce one or two children. However, IVF and genetic filters facilitate deviation from Darwinian principles, as it's not just a response to environment factors, but unnatural selection of 'designer' offspring! It is, however, the 21st Century and humans are as aggressive with each other as they are with scientific frontiers; in the end ethics won't halt 'progress', but we're destined to repeat the follies of history lessons not learnt!

This 'designer offspring' has already happened in some respects, where sperm banks with known chromosomal traits are used by selective/selected female hosts for production of 'wünderkinder'. Meanwhile, decades of selective abortions in China and India led to a narrower gene pool and significant gender imbalanced populations. It's unlikely that an 'XYY Man' or 'Genetic Warrior' has already been spawned (although crazier things have happened), but it cannot be doubted that Russian Olympic results were outstanding pharmaceutical achievements for decades!! It's for certain that 'breeding' couples of sportsmen and women were selected in the Soviet era too, in order to enhance the 'sporting chances' of their offspring as athletes, gymnasts etc.

Germans like Josef Mengele, Herta Oberhauser and others were at it in Auschwitz during WW2; Mengele was particularly engaged with inhuman experiments on identical twins, including Roma children from across the Balkans. The Imperial Japanese Army had its own 'Unit 731' led by a Japanese microbiologist Shiro Ishii. It was a covert biological warfare research and development unit that undertook a wide range human experimentation mainly on Chinese subjects during the Sino-Japanese War from 1937, and later on Koreans, Russians, and some US POWs during WW2. The proven lack of any morals ensures Fat Boy Kim's 'Unit 731' NK equivalent is continuing inhuman experimentation where the Japanese left off! The assassination of his half brother in Malaysia with VX nerve agent in February was no field experiment, but a very successful public statement!!

Some may recall other posts I've made referencing my amateur interest in geology, having previously written about the Karst Limestone features in Bulgaria and Tectonic movements. These are mostly geological processes taking millions of years, but much has changed the physical geographical environment of the Balkan region in the last 5-20K years. The Balkans hosted many ancient civilisations before the forebears of present day Bulgarians settled. Indeed, the territory of Bulgaria has witnessed several migration routes, since the modern human settlement of Europe in the Upper Palaeolithic age (about 40K years ago).

Importantly, modern day Bulgaria served as part of the Balkan 'refugium' (analogous to a warmer waiting area between ice sheets for flora and fauna) and fuelled different expansion routes of postglacial re-colonisation, as the European ice sheet receded. The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) occurred approximately 20K years ago, which was the point at which the ice sheets were at their thickest, and sea levels their lowest. The Black Sea was approximately 105m below its current level (levels vary in different studies, but this figure agrees with most within +/-5m) with rich vegetation several Kms further East of present day Bulgarian coastline on what is now its coastal shelf. It was a significantly smaller fresh water lake with minimal river flows and separated from the Sea of Marmara, which was also a freshwater lake. Both were 75 - 80m above the level of the world's oceans at the LGM, including the Aegean and Mediterranean, because of the complex geological structures along the Bosphorus.

In the area of present day Bulgaria, the lower latitude meant life was sustainable for many species of animal and plant life that had retreated to the steppes, taiga and tundra forest environment of the region during that time. Theoretically, it was possible to walk directly from Sebastapol to Burgas with a short 'dogleg', whilst keeping your feet dry! Actually the LGM played a significant role, as Neolithic people entered Europe when the Bosphorus sill was dry land (similar to the Beringia land mass that allowed transit of the first homo sapiens to cross from Siberia to Alaska).

The location of sites recording the first evidence for these Neolithic people across Europe, Anatolia and the Near East were based on radiocarbon dating. Whilst the science is not infallible, it invariably uses empirical data and these results are interpreted with hypotheses proffered in order to explain events. These may later be revised or discarded in light of new data or different methods to interpret results. The scientific developments with more ethical application, define human haplogroups (i.e. Genetic groups with a common male or female ancestor) can either be based on Y-DNA (chromosome), which is passed from father to son or mtDNA (mitochondria), the latter is passed from mother to offspring of both genders. Another area of evolutionary science is the development of anthropo-genetics and paleo-genetics; their increasing role has benefitted the new scientific field of ancient DNA research. These technological improvements mean that mtDNA can now be retrieved from museum specimens, archaeological finds and fossil remains. Recent genetic studies have indicated that variation is structured in Western, Central and Eastern Bulgaria indicating that the Balkan Mountains didn't prevent human migration.

The haplogroups discovered in this research offer some interesting results to archeologists and anthropologists alike, concerning Bulgarians' origin. They show 'R-L23' is present in the Eastern haplogroup, whilst 'E-V13' has a Mesolithic age in Bulgaria from where it expanded after the arrival of farming; haplogroup 'J-M241' probably reflects the Westward expansion of Neolithic farmers from the earliest sites along the Black Sea. The prehistoric populations of these Stone age and Bronze age people were overlaid by the earliest people among the documented civilisations inhabiting present day Bulgaria. They were the Indo-European Thracians; their cultural legacy is still evident, especially in the Southern part of modern day Bulgaria. Thracian society was considered comparable to that of Greece in the arts and economics, with their achievements reaching a peak in the 6th Century BC. Various monuments remain from Ancient Thrace, inspiring both imagination and admiration of their beauty. There are many myths about the formation of Bulgaria, but I don't subscribe to them; several have also been used by various individuals and states to influence political positions.

In the words of William Lund - "We study the past to understand the present; we understand the present to guide the future." Herodotus was often called the 'father of history' and wrote about the Graeco-Persian wars, including the valiant efforts of 300 Spartans who defended the famous mountain pass at Thermopylae, whilst delaying the advance of the Persian leader Xerxes. Without wishing to disillusion any Spartan 'fans' amongst you, it should be noted that Sparta was an oligarchical society, but the 'Oligoi' (few) who made policy in the oligarchy that ruled Sparta were a group of 28 men all aged 60+ called the 'Gerousia' (council of elders), together with two kings (one for war and one for civil society). There were also 5 'Ephors' (overseers) who were elected annually from the adult male citizens over 30 years of age; they were responsible for convening the 'Gerousia' and the assembly of the polis (people).

They also exercised considerable judicial powers of judgment and punishment, whilst diluting the political power of the oligarchic 'Gerousia' and the kings. Importantly, they ensured the supremacy of law and interestingly, the kings were obliged to swear an oath to exercise their office according to Spartan laws, whilst the 'Ephors' individually gave their oath on behalf of the 'Polis' to preserve kingship provided they abide by their oaths. This arrangement created a representative democracy, although the fictionalised films do not reveal this nor the rather austere and mostly separated lifestyle experienced by different factions of Sparta's population. Spartan babies were selected in a somewhat unusual manner too, but perhaps no worse than the nature of a lion pride or wolf pack behaviour, and even baboons in the case of infanticide. I won't dwell on the myths of bone filled chasms, but suffice to say the selection process was quite robust! Further tests for males occurred at age 7, 12 and 20, whilst failure to graduate condemned them to non citizenship and possibly saw them banished or cast aside to the Helots if they didn't commit suicide first.

There are modern day equivalents of such harsh laws, particularly in China regarding the former 'one child policy', even late stage foetuses have been routinely aborted and full term foetuses killed by lethal injection into the fontanelle, followed by a still birth. It can also be said that neither Mau's policies, which produced a huge post WW2 population surge, nor the 'one child policy' inadvertently creating the gender skewed population, because people don't like playing by Draconian rules! From the perspective of educational attainments from the outset usually as an only child driven by parents committed to their 'one hope'! Similarly, the Nazi regime was also quite keen on the selective breeding of the perfect Aryan in Germany with the 'Lebensborn' programme, and in Norway with the 'Tyskerbarnas'. These baby farms were instigated, together with routine removal of any Germans with physical or intellectual disabilities, young or old in society, through the mechanism of involuntary euthanasia!
It would appear that the Germans medical profession are still at it when they get bored!

There was a degree of equality for Spartan women in that they were educated, and encouraged to participate in vigorous sports. There's also no doubt they were tough ladies; they had a lot of personal freedom including property ownership, unlike many other Greek women. However, they could not hold public office or vote! In brief, Spartan women were trained to produce healthy babies and men were legally restricted to just one occupation - soldiering! Spartan men and women were equal citizens, or 'Homoioi', but they lived fairly separate lives, with boys removed from their families and raised in a military training academy from age 7 until 20 when they graduated, but would then live in barracks and serve in the Army until age 30 (if they survived). Men were then encouraged to marry a woman ideally aged 20 and start procreating, in order to produce the next generation of Spartans; they could then live out of barracks with their wives, but these 'older' warriors remained on reserve duty until age 60, which is quite phenomenal given the ancient time and life expectancy.

Supporting skills were provided by a class of free non-citizens who were skilled labourers, traders and craftsmen or 'Perioeci' from the region of Laconia. All agricultural work and food production was the responsibility of the enslaved Helots, who were mostly the descendants of enemies captured in battles. They formed the majority of Sparta’s population, and were routinely taunted and abused to ensure their subjugation, whilst any 'clever' or 'uppity' Helot was swiftly despatched to ensure there were no revolts. If loving and caring heterosexual relationships occurred amongst Spartans they were not the objective, procreation of healthy offspring was, so monogamy wasn't essential if 'blanks were fired' by male partners. The principle of Spartan government required every citizen to live for the state; their life completely belonged to it and only the strong had a right to survive! Being of a 'chubby' disposition was not a good idea in Sparta for anyone, if endomorphic you would be tormented from every quarter, including the women. Apart from the obvious time warp issue, one could hardly conceive what Spartans might think about the obese body forms shuffling shopping centres of the US and Europe in the present day!

The concept of the Spartan 'tough love' approach to children, including early family separation and warrior indoctrination of young boys, resulted in notable success, as evidenced in numerous battles over centuries. Perhaps the problem came in the end from reliance on brawn not brain, as the lack of any remarkable intellectuals. The effect of grooming children was probably not lost on the Ottomans! Their 'child tribute' approach to sustain the Janissary system had many similarities to the investment the Spartans made in the survival of their society and the meritocracy it created, which was not influenced by birthright or patronage. In fact, those Spartan boys who excelled in training and had the aptidude, were selected for the 'secret police' to identify anyone in the population who breached Spartan laws, especially amongst Helots. Again, one can reflect on fascist and communist 'shadow' organisations of watchers and informers to control dissidents within a population. A feature of the latter was the annual election of an 'Ephor' being followed by the successful candidate announcing a death sentence for Helots, just to ensure everyone was on message!

Earlier, I referred to the military 'air bridge' operation during WW2, but the famous military land bridging expert Sir Donald Bailey wasn't born until 1901, so his early design scribbled on the back of an envelope in 1943 didn't yet exist, because paper and envelopes hadn't been invented either!! In 481 BC, Xerxes was therefore required to find an alternative for the first recorded military bridge crossing of the Hellespont; it was a complex form of 'Pontoon Bridge' utilising 700+ warships and an awful lot of wooden planks! However, the first attempt was blighted by a storm and all of the 'A Team' engineers got the chop. The 'B Team' of engineers sweated blood, and after a little flagellation of the sea, Xerxes was eventually able to cross with the largest Persian Army of that time, approximately 1M troops from many Eastern countries (and probably a similar amount of camp followers). Alexander the Great set off in the opposite direction for some belated retribution in 334 BC, but his fleet sailed across the Hellespont with a thousand Thracian scouts (light cavalry) aboard!

Reflecting back to the LGM, both could leaders have strolled across dry land a few millennia earlier as the Neolithic people had, which also serves to highlight the importance that strategic control of the Dardanelles Strait and the Bosphorus always had. As an aside, I referred to the non-swimmer Shelley in my last post, who probably wished Lord Byron had been sailing with him when his ketch foundered in the 1822 storm off the Italian coast. Byron was a capable long distance swimmer and made a successful crossing of the Hellespont in 1810 on his second attempt.

Having previously referred to Hans Morgenthau and his 1948 book 'Politics among Nations', it's claimed by many, that he was one of the most influential of the new political realists, who decisively shaped a generation of American foreign policy (the 'neocons' as were). His principles were, however, derived in part or were at least strongly influenced by the earlier work of Thucydides an Athenian General, and a younger contemporary of Socrates. Thucydides followed in the wake of Herodotus as a writer and historical analyst, but was less distracted by rumours, oracles and the dreams of men! Although little is known of Thucydides life beyond the narrative contained in his literary legacy, we do know that he was born in Alimos and his father was called Olorus, a name connected with Thrace and Thracian royalty. Thucydides was also connected through family to the Athenian statesman - General Miltiades.

Thucydides lived between two homes, one in Athens and the other in Thrace, whilst family connections brought him close to the Athenian statesmen and military commanders who were shaping the history of that time. Thucydides was also a man of influence and wealth and owned gold mines on the Thracian coast (now Greek). By the time the war subject of his writing had started, Thucydides was in his 20's and fortunately survived, having contracted the plague that ravaged Athens for three years at the beginning of the war; it killed several thousands, and amongst them was his political colleague Pericles in 429 BC. Were it not for the failure of his first and only higher command, we may never have learned so much about this period or profited from Thucydides analytical mind. He'd been appointed as a 'Strategos' (or General) in command of a small squadron of 7 ships assigned in 424 BC to a station on Thasos.

Thracian connections were a likely rationale for this assignment, but when Amphipolis on the Thracian coast was attacked by the Spartan General Brasidas in the winter of 424/3 BC, the Athenian commander Eucles at Amphipolis, sought assistance from Thucydides naval force just a half day's sail away. Unfortunately, Brasidas knew of Thucydides' deployment and bluffed Eucles into an early surrender before the squadron arrived, so Thucydides got the customary political exile from Athens for his failure. Thankfully his superiors spared his life and he spent the rest of the war travelling in the region researching and writing his historical analysis. It still features as part of the syllabus at many military academies around the world. It's generally regarded that Thucydides was one of the first true historians and his major contribution concerned the 2nd Peloponnesian War, which lasted from 431 to 404 BC.

It was an enormously destructive event, essentially a civil war between Athens and Sparta. Of note, this second conflict was triggered by Athenians wanting timber and minerals from Thrace to build its ships, which is why Thucydides ended with him in big trouble after failing to save Amphipolis. A major supply of timber came from the Strymon River nearby the city and the minerals were an essential resource for Athens to sustain their war fighting. From an environmental perspective the whole region was constantly denuded of timber to meet the needs of ship building, barricades and other fortifications; this led to desertification of many Greek islands over time. A central feature of Thucydides is his political analysis, which takes a different line to the earlier works of Herodotus. His idea of 'joint interest', was also a theme that Morgenthau pursues more rigorously.

Nearly thirty years later the war ended with Sparta defeating Athens, although Thucydides perspective was that Athens ultimately lost the war, more through civil discord at home rather than enemy actions abroad. Democratic 'polarisation' is nothing new and clearly influences the soundness of a state’s foreign policy in the present day. Thucydides also emphasised the consistency of the inevitable clash of rising and waning power amongst states or nations, suggesting the future would resemble the past. It's uncertain why Thucydides’ own work comprising eight volumes, resulted in the last one laying unfinished. Indeed, it ended abruptly mid sentence in 411 BC, although this was seven years before the end of the war. On the basis of textual references, Thucydides is believed to have died somewhere between 399-396 BC; much like the region today, they were troubling times, so his end may also have been violent given the unexpected halt to his writing.

Thucydides' work was later translated into English by Thomas Hobbes, a well known 16th Century philosopher. Thucydides may be considered one of the earliest members of the political realists' 'club'. His literary gift is a significant work of prose and arguably one of the great masterpieces of political thought, certainly a revealing study of the first democracy at war. In the context of the modern day, his work has formed a popular area of scrutiny amongst political science academics. In particular, the popular reference to the 'Thucydides Trap' related to the 'Eastern Question', WW1, WW2 and notably present day analysis of the rise of China in competition with the US. After Trump's speeches and the media soundbites during his Asian tour, it cannot be denied that tensions exist and accidents happen, even non diplomatic words can be misinterpreted, not least when Twitter has extended Trump's opportunity to tweet more crap in one go, just like a kid on a toluene sniff fix!!

I'm not going to divert further from the foundations of the Bulgarian gene mix, because we're almost there, but there are a few more important ingredients that make up the blend, which may also relate to the earlier Graeco-Persian conflicts I mentioned. A range of historians have recorded that the Achaemenid dynasty deported rebellious Greek subjects to Bactria (Balhara - Afghanistan/Eastern Iran). This included the Persian King Darius I who deported them from Cyrenaica (an area on the Libyan coast around modern day Benghazi). Another group of Greek settlers in Bactria were called the 'Branchidae' and were descended from a group of priests that had once lived near Didyma along with some inhabitants of Miletus (the largest Greek city on the Asian coast of the Aegean) had also been taken captive by the Persians. It's odd to note that Bactria, despite remaining an Eastern hinterland, it remained a numerous and prospering Greek colony. Archeological evidence, including coin finds, indicated they'd retained connections with their Balkan cousins for centuries.

It's possible it was reinforced by Alexander's advances in the East, in particular his connection to the region of Bactria, which was significant. Part of his extensive Macedonian army reached this area, and his marriage to Roxanne who was herself the daughter of the Bactrian chief Oxyartes in 327 BC, was later reinforced Alexander also ordered 80 of his officers to marry Persian noblewomen and later held a mass marriage ceremony for them in 324 BC at Susa. He also had a roster made of all his Macedonians that had taken Persian wives and found that there were 10,000 such unions. To show his pleasure, Alexander even granted a wedding gift to each of the married couples.

As to the reasons for the weddings, Alexander was struggling with the challenge of setting up a new aristocracy loyal to him. Kinship ties were obviously important to both Persian and Macedonian ruling classes and he needed loyalty and this was also part of his plan to ensure integration and multiculturalism. He also knew the supply of Macedonian troops would dry up, and as an army of occupation they couldn't stay there forever he had other battles yet to win (obviously he hadn't checked any oracles about his future). As to their progeny, these children were really 'war-babies', but had Alexander not died they would have been the basis of his new aristocracy. As extra assurance he also left his Greek infantry there, many of them were ethnic Greeks as opposed to ethnic Macedonians, so they remained in this outmost Eastern province of Bactria.

Of course our own British history reminds us that competing royal offspring, siblings and rivals can often become inconvenient liabilities. Roxanne gave birth shortly after Alexander died in 323 BC, and she then had Alexander's other wife Starteira and her sister Parysatis murdered in Babylon. For the purists amongst you as opposed to the film buffs, the 2004 film about Alexander with Brad Pitt as the lead had an actress with Afro-Caribbean ethnicity playing the role of Roxanne, which is fine as fiction goes except the people of Bactria were actually fair skinned in that time. Whilst beautiful, Roxanne wasn't just a pretty face, however, Karma has no menu, so you get served what you deserve! Roxanne and Alexander's thirteen year old son were later captured in 316 BC and imprisoned in Amphipolis; they were subsequently killed by poisoning on the orders of Cassander in 310 BC (another Balkan trait). He then took the crown as the new Macedonian King in 305 BC after a few more squabbles; it was ever thus in the Balkans! After Alexander's death his empire was carved up by his generals (the Diadoch), the region of Bactria was later ruled by one of them creating the Seleucid dynasty from 306 BC.

Over time these inhabitants appeared better integrated and even expanded beyond the former Achaemenid frontiers into Punjab and Kashmir, even to the extent of becoming masters of today's Pakistan early in the 2nd Century BC. The Greeks left a pronounced cultural heritage and it was also incorporated into Gandhara culture. The empire was the centre of several important trade routes, which delivered significant revenues and Seleucid coins were a well renowned currency along the trading route that became the Silk Road. Apparently good relationships were also maintained with leaders in Northern India, as Seleucus I even exchanged Eastern Pakistan for some war elephants to use against Western enemies. On current reckoning the Indians are probably wishing they'd kept their elephants!

The province of Bactria itself, later became part of the Parthian empire established by the Parni nomads from the North. By 247 BC the areas of Bactria, where these nomads formed a small, but independent kingdom. led by the Arsacid dynasty. The elite of this region were still Greek, however, and the new rulers had to adapt to retain control. So these Graeco-Bactrian cities retained their ancient rights and the civil administration remained more or less undisturbed. Coinage as mentioned, were still written in the Greek alphabet, a practice that continued into the 2nd Century AD, despite the language having declined and bearing in mind people couldn't read or write Greek either!

The Parthian empire itself, was loosely organised, but eventually occupied all of modern Iran, Iraq and Armenia, parts of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. For brief periods, it also incorporated territories in Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, but came to an end in 224 AD, when the Persians returned with the Sassanid dynasty. The fact that the Silk trade routes had become very important to the region by this time, whilst Bactra itself was an important market city; the Silk road trade had many 'middle men' and many intermediate goods for barter. One of the gifts that travelled that route, and literally found new roots in the Balkans were the Walnut seeds that were transported in this time, which have flourished over centuries in the region, resulting in the Walnut trees many Bulgarians enjoy harvesting (me too)!

Meanwhile, by the middle of the 1st Century AD, all of the present Bulgarian land mass had became part of the Roman Empire. However, Thrace remained a kingdom within the Roman Empire until Vespasian incorporated it as a district, although this Roman domination brought more orderly administration. Fortunately many architectural and archaeological monuments were preserved from this period. Waves of Huns, Goths, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths invaded and plundered the Balkans beginning in the 3rd Century AD, but none of these invaders permanently occupied territory. It's for certain, alongside the pillaging there was plenty of rapes during those times too, and those involving female human victims may have added to the gene pool. Of course many goats and ponies were violated too, but those genes didn't count!

Serdika (now Sofia) had originally been established as a major trading centre in the Balkans by the Thracians, whilst in the 4th Century AD following the dissolution of the Roman Empire, the lands of present day Bulgaria were controlled by the Byzantium (East Roman) Empire. Christianity was introduced to the region during this time, whilst the Latin culture of Rome, and the Greek culture of Constantinople remained strong influences on subsequent civilisations. Two other populations played important roles in the Bulgarian ethno-genesis. It's believed that proto-Bulgarians arrived almost simultaneously with Slavs in the Early Middle Ages. The 7th Century AD saw the first proto-Bulgarians settling in present day NE Bulgaria, which were considered as populations playing important role in the modern Bulgarian ethnogenesis. Whilst this isn't the original academic source, it's quite clear about the genetic structure of modern day Bulgarians.

These Ancient proto-Bulgarians were originally believed to be a Turkic population, but again the myths and muddles are dispelled, as the genetic evidence shows this is not the case. Studies indicate a substantial proto-Bulgarian input to the contemporary Bulgarian people, but common paternal ancestry between the proto-Bulgarians and the Altaic and Central Asian Turkic-speaking populations, either didn't exist or was negligible.

Thracians and other pre-Slavic Balkan people: 46.4%

Slavic: 31.3%

Proto-Bulgarian: 10%

Celto-Germanic: 8.6%

Arab: 2.3%

Roma: 1.5%

In addition to the genetic traces, there is considerable evidence through the linguistic analysis by various researchers over the years, particular the Farsi and Pashtu connections.

Given the unique history of Bactria, and the subsequent integration with Parthians, it's as good as any other theory that Northern routes towards the Caspian and the Black Sea were obvious movements for those who were not keen to see the Persian resurgence in the 2nd Century AD. Parni nomads had originally come to Bactria from the North, so returning to ancient roots in the Balkans may have been a motivation for some, and apart from the oral history of that time there would have been knowledge of the Balkan region passed via through the Silk Road connections. There were plenty of reasons to head North for the people of Bactria who over time and travels along the way, likely retained the core of this genetic pool to later form the Bulgars who were noted as warriors. They had a formidable reputation as military horsemen, which fits with the background of Parthians, and Bulgars also had a strong political organisation based on their khan (prince), which also reflects the earlier Persian influence.

It is known the Bulgars migrated from a region between the Urals and the River Volga to the steppes North of the Caspian Sea, which possibly links to earlier nomadic Parni routes. Referring again to Bactria, the ancient Buddhist temples that existed in the region were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. We know this, because we have the evidence, so we have conscious competence about this event. If one considers the present day efforts of Daesh to destroy evidence of previous cultures, together with evidence from various ancient and modern historians of other sites destroyed over the centuries, it's clear humans continue to do what they've always done. There's still a lot of science to explore in the field of paleo-genetics, but people always like to see concrete (plenty of that in Bulgaria) evidence, but there has to be a certain amount of deductive reasoning that helps modern Bulgaria understand its ancient heritage, which I believe was masked by Slavic influence and political influence at various stages of development. My point here is that modern Bulgarians would be highly unlikely to accept the idea their ancestors came from Afghanistan or Tajikistan!

We know in 630 AD, a federation of Bulgar tribes already existed; in the next years the Bulgars united with the Slavs to oppose Byzantine control. By 681 AD the Khan Asparukh had forced Emperor Constantine V to recognize the first Bulgarian state. The state had its capital at Pliska, near modern Shumen, combined a Bulgarian political structure with Slavic linguistic and cultural institutions. There is no written evidence of the heritage involving the proto-Bulgarians, but from the evidence in Bactria the Greek written form had been left behind centuries earlier, so the creation of the Slavonic alphabet by brothers Cyril and Methodius in 863 AD offered a means of recording the new Bulgarian history. Similarly, the religions and beliefs of Graeco-Bactria had been supplanted by a mixture of Buddhism and later Zoroastrianism, but these faith structures would likely have disappeared over time and their distance from Bactria. The establishment of Christianity (East Orthodox) as a state religion in 864 AD likely contributed to the development of the Bulgarian nationality. The literature was originally very much oriented to the church, but in time Bulgarian literature and culture began to flourish. From 1018 AD till 1185 AD, Bulgaria remained in the Byzantium Empire, but in 1185 AD the 2nd Bulgarian Kingdom was declared after the end of Byzantium rule and oppression.

Just as Alexander knew he had to consider, taking his Armies to far flung corners of the globe (on what was believed to be a flat earth in those days), he also needed to ensure that there were new offspring to replace his losses, just as important as influencing territories and people his armies conquered. Bulgaria's population is shrinking at a prodigious rate as we know, it's also sent / obliged its young baby makers to leave, whilst those left behind who are producing offspring at a faster rate, either need to be better integrated or they need to be replaced by a youthful influx acceptable to the current democracy. It's a very important decision that Bulgaria needs to take, and is at one of those crucial 'point of no return' junctures.

It blew its chances for earlier survival when it fired its bolts in the wrong direction in WW1 and WW2. As former horseback warriors the Bulgarians certainly picked the wrong horse in those engagements - twice!! Those decisions were not well thought through, although they were clearly influenced by other imperial forces, but as, and when the Brexit traincrash hits and the EU piggy bank downsizes, it will hit Bulgaria harder than many EU countries. The economic impact is a certainty, but the pressures to the South East, South West and North East will begin to damage other areas of society.

The 'Eastern Question' is still not answered, I know, but like Arnie, I'll be back!
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Golden Oldie
Golden Oldie

Joined: Feb 21, 2012
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Location: Sofia, Dupnitsa, Lincs

PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:20 pm 
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Nice to see you back, господине X: I was concerned that you'd died of boredom/moved on to pastures new... Wink
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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In The Prime
In The Prime

Joined: Sep 15, 2016
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Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:37 pm 
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The time has come the Walrus said to speak of many things ... and much like the 'Black Death', I've come to plague you once again from the confessional of my bubblebath soak - I do find these 'Radox' moments help the words seep out!

I'm aware the social media prose have not been flowing for a while, but I found myself hooked by some family research that caught my attention before Remembrance Day. I was targeted by a rather unsubtle Google social marketing blitz for an Ancestry website offering a 14 day 'free trial'. Well, in for an old pence or a white fiver I thought and took the plunge. My initial motivation was just to discover any relatives that might have served in WW1, beyond the half dozen I already knew about. I'd actually browsed this ancestry website more than a decade ago, but decided it was too fiddly and slow, so I abandoned it quite quickly without discovering much of anything at that time. The experience this time was quite different, however, and has became something of an obsession whilst my better half was overseas visiting her family last month.

My geopolitical history knowledge is reasonable, but composing these contributions has required some research to tie a few of the threads together, and prompted some curiosity regarding my conscious incompetence of forebears and their roles (or not) in the various migrations and conflicts I've previously discussed. In fact, an early discovery this time around was an incorrect family tree lead followed by my father in his earlier 'mandrolic' search using paper records available to the pre 'WWW' public, which had resulted in an error about my paternal great great grandfather's origin. Apparently my father had even visited the wrong town in Germany during the early 90's as a result of this research error (although he didn't know it was the wrong town then)! Please note this not a marketing plug and I'm making no recommendations or endorsements, it's merely a personal observation based on recent research.

Suffice to say, I've been amazed by the amount of material freely available (OK not entirely free after the initial 14 day trial period lapsed ...), and the improvement of the data mining capability of the online software. Apart from a wealth of recent family history, which corroborates and in several cases has expanded on the oral history provided by immediate family relatives, I've managed to trace back several family branches to the mid 18th Century, involving some 5000 relatives thus far (this has assumed a few illicit relationships / offspring too).

There have of course, been several false leads where other contributors researching their own family roots have made their family tree links public involving their own documents and images, but also unwittingly incorporating some errors, which consume several frustrating hours fleshing out fact from fiction to unravel mistakes. Some created by transposition errors caused by OCR glitches from scanned handwritten / copperplate scripts e.g. Church baptism or marriage records, together with date typos or misspelt family / location names. Nonetheless it's provided a very interesting detective game to sort the chaff from the wheat, amongst literally billions of searchable records available online to aid this ancestral research and without the need to even touch a piece of paper or visit a library, despite my being an avid bookworm.

Amongst the highlights, I've discovered the main family strands involved Irish, German, French and English groups who were mostly represented by working and middle class folk. It comprised members of the clergy, doctors and dentists, dockworkers, labourers (railways, canals and dams), engineers (aircraft, ships and rail), shopkeepers and merchants, craft workers (glassblowers, tinsmiths and cloth-makers), soldiers, sailors, airmen, film crews and even the odd American bandit! There have been some fantastic names discovered along the way, especially the combinations of Asian, African and European influences in the US and Canada, whilst the Irish branches proved dead boring and unimaginative, incorporated constant combinations and repetitions of Patrick, Michael, John and Connor or Ellen, Margaret, Rose and Claire!

One poor little sod in the US ended up with 'Folsom' and 'Bragg' as middle names; presumably some weird family connection with the California State Prison and the US Army base in North Carolina, but still pretty tough for baptising a young girl at the end of the 19th Century! Unfortunately, I've also discovered three family roots where Irish and English emigrants subsequently became slave owners in Virginia, whilst a few fought in the Colonial Army against King George during the American War of Independence. Different family branches were later represented on both sides of the American Civil War with a bias for the Confederacy. One apparently fought for both sides at different points during that conflict, initially serving as a Confederate cavalry officer and having lost an arm he later became an artillery officer in the Union Army.

I guess it takes all sorts to make a world, but I'm exceedingly impressed by the robust constitutions of many of my female relatives within the various family branches. Several produced broods of 13 or 14 children, whilst still managing to reach a ripe old age, although I suspect their pelvic floors were like saggy trampolines and bladder incontinence was a lifelong affliction! They were certainly tough old birds though, indeed one particular individual of German descent was effectively pregnant for 22 years, apparently losing 6 stillborn along the way - hats off to her fortitude! Clearly infant mortality rates were much higher in those days, so large families were a balanced risk, but why she didn't just grab the garden shears and sort out the primary cause I don't know!?!

Several relatives in the 19th Century had started their life in the Church Poor Houses and/or Workhouses of London's East End, whilst a significant proportion of the Irish contingent had trodden an array of emigration paths referred to in previous posts. About a half settled in the US and Canada and the other half were spread between Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and a few to South Africa. Some had even returned to the UK from Australia and tried another shot to India. Several of the migration stories involved indentured servants to Virginia, and the odd few women utilised marriage bonds, whilst several took the slow boat to Australia utilising government sponsored tickets. A significant number of the relatives descended from German stock settled in Pennsylvania and Iowa, whilst most of the Irish contingent headed to the Southern states of Virginia, North & South Carolina with a few of the English bunch exchanging East London and Manchester for the wilds of California around the time of the 'Gold Rush'!

As to the carnage of WW1 where I started my research, I've identified 31 relatives thus far, of which 17 were either KIA or WIA, including one poor b*st*rd who joined up in early 1915 and was killed in Flanders on 9 Nov 1918! Two of those who returned home post war, were apparently still on their final Service leave in 1919 when they became victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic and died! It appears that others represented the British flag during the Napoleonic wars serving in the RN, others as infanteers in the Crimean War, and gunners in the Boer War; some were sappers, gunners, infanteers and the RFC during WW1 (the WW1 veterans included two recipients of the Military Medal, one awarded posthumously). These were just the relatives identified with service in the British forces, although several family members who'd emigrated to Australia, New Zealand and Canada joined up and served in WW1, as did a few of the US emigres who joined the US Army. Two relatives (a father and son) were lost in the North Sea after their fishing trawler was sunk by the Germans, whilst another was the First Mate on a merchant vessel torpedoed and sink in the North Atlantic in 1916.

Another 16 relatives I've identified, served during WW2 in the Navy, Fleet Air Arm, Merchant Marine and the RAF together with several soldiers, whilst two cousins also later served in the Korean War and an uncle in the Malayan conflict. Sadly, one WW1 veteran, a Royal Engineer, became a serial deserter (was charged on 4 occasions for being AWOL in France between 1915-1916), later feigning acute appendicitis and then 'legging it' from a military hospital in Thanet. As a paternal step grandfather of Irish heritage, he also managed to take 'time out' for a spot of bigamy whilst AWOL in London, later surrendering himself to the civilian authorities at war's end. His 'legal' first wife was still receiving his pay allotment for their two children until he was dishonourably discharged. This 'chancer' was subsequently sentenced to 20 months of hard labour at his Old Bailey trial, but was bloody lucky to avoid a firing squad!!

Back to the meandering geopolitical history plot! As with Darwin's early discoveries about the evolutionary processes affecting the animal kingdom on planet earth, it was determined that time was a critical factor in his 'Origin of Species' (N.B. first editions in good condition are valued around £150K), of course the naysayers religious concept of time and the 'ascent of man' was underpinned by the Book of Genesis. Alas, whilst Moses was allegedly compiling this Hebrew script around 1450BC, he neither possessed the 'Google-fu' nor the required geological knowledge of the region, otherwise he may have tried the 'non fiction' category instead of writing his first novel.

Meanwhile oil and gas fields had originally formed in the region, because the Tethys Sea provided the ideal anoxic environment during the Mesazoic age for algal blooms, whilst the dark silt trapped trillions of sea creatures on the sea bed. Tectonic plate movement produced the continental drift leading to the physical geography and terra forming of the planet in the present day. The biological and geological processes occurred over billions of years; as an amateur geologist in my youth I found the science behind those discoveries quite fascinating. For those who prefer pictures to go with big numbers the following graphic offers a useful summary of key events and relevant timelines.

It's a truly sad consequence that these scientific discoveries also resulted in the devastation of our only planet, once 'black gold' began to drive the world's economy. As I've mentioned somewhere before, homo sapiens are their own worst predators and probably deserve the inevitable outcome of their evolution. Even for Moses the knowledge of oil in the ME was old news, as there is evidence of it's use more than 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, about the same time homo sapiens started writing. Indeed, it's written that Medea in Greek mythology set her rival on fire with naphtha, obviously her competition was a hot totty! Bitumen was mined by the Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, who used it in architecture, building roads, caulking ships, and for medicines.

Later this knowledge of oil and its uses declined in the region, but human knowledge never completely disappears (Biblical references to tar bushes notwithstanding - Exodus 3:2 refers), and may be rediscovered by different cultures. Since oil seeps to the surface in many parts of the world the Seneca tribe, part of the Iroquois nation in NW Pennsylvania collected 'seep oil' for hundreds of years.

They also found uses for it, as a salve, insect repellent, and tonic (weird but true), whilst the Europeans later named the dark, gooey substance 'Seneca Oil', finding it effective for treating sprains and rheumatism. It was often collected by soaking blankets in the seeps, which was fairly inefficient; in other sites scooped from the surface of water. Whilst it burned it was unappealing as a lamp oil due to its unpleasant odour and smoke, so for that reason the whale population of the world's oceans continued to be harvested to near extinction for whale oil in order to light the world of humans - there's a moral there somewhere!

At the height of the steam age in GB, which was founded on coal, 1840's British scientists produced a lamp fuel from the distillation of coal. Dr Kesner a Canadian geologist made the first successful coal oil in N America, using a bituminous mineral found in New Brunswick. He named it 'keroselain' derived from the Greek words for 'wax' and 'oil', which later morphed into the well known kerosene! Samuel Kier a salt driller later found a way to distil crude oil, bizarrely it was a bi-product of their drilling and contaminated their salt wells, but the demand for kerosine lamps expanded.

The use of oil was still limited, because the volume obtained from oil seeps produced just 40 barrels a year in Oil Creek at that time; this was formerly Iroquois land exploited by settlers following the War of Independence. Human migration, it was ever thus, as the Native American Indian tribes discovered to the cost of their lives and their cultures! Did anyone from France or England ever seek a visitor's visa or request permission to enter Canada or North America or seek a referendum to impose their Christian faith on the continent?

In a similar timeframe the Portuguese were exceedingly keen to spread Catholicism to Japan in the days of the Shôgun, following similar ventures in South America, but got short shrift, and even shorter bodies courtesy of the Samurai! Trade initially worked and became the mechanism of a creeping migration fuelled by colonial competition between Britain and France, extending their conflict across the Atlantic to the Eastern seaboard of the N American continent. It gradually escalated the weapon technology used by the native American indians. Both sides manipulated existing tribal rivalries and conflicts through gun trading and bribery, into proxy wars.

They utilised the guerrilla tactics of their native indian allies to attack small outposts and logistical supply lines of their enemy. Hardly new in terms of Sun Tzu's 'Art of War'; the colonial powers emerged through the 20th 'teen' centuries having discovered the benefits of saltpetre and the formula for black powder from the Chinese who just enjoyed its shock and awe. The European's development of metalworking techniques and other engineering feats had improved weaponry such that they could project force to ever more devastating effect on every continent on the planet.

The British had already leveraged their way into China and developed trade, initially with gun boat diplomacy. The Brits had a huge demand for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain for their home market, but Britain didn't possess sufficient silver to trade with the Qing Empire, so a system of barter based on Indian and Afghan opium was created to bridge this problem of payment. This trade was being conducted by the East India Company on behalf of the crown.

The East India Company did not carry the opium itself but, because of the Chinese ban, but farmed it out to 'country traders' i.e., private traders who were licensed by the company to take goods from India to China. The country traders sold the opium to smugglers along the Chinese coast. The gold and silver the traders received from those sales were then turned over to the East India Company, which then used it to pay for the goods that could be sold profitably in England.

Consequently the British were given the island of Hong Kong and trading rights in the ports of Canton and Shanghai. British imperialism never took the same political hold in mainland China, as it had in India or Africa, however the cultural and political legacy is still evident today. HK remains a significant centre of global finance and its government still functioned in much of the same ways as it did under British colonialism, although the gravity of Chinese rule is beginning to have more effect year on year. Both English Language and British culture highly impacted the society of HK and Southern China for over a century, but since it was handed back to China in 1997 there are cracks emerging with autonomy, and political changes as it's steadily reined in by Beijing.

The third Shôgun, Tokugawa Lemitsu enforced isolation from much of the rest of the world in the 17th century, believing that influences from abroad i.e. trade, Christianity and guns could shift the balance that existed between the Shôgun and the feudal lords. The Japanese previously only trusted a very few Dutch and Chinese traders with special dispensation from the Emperor. Two centuries later they found their isolationist approach 'rudely' engaged by the US Navy after its nation's meteoric rise post 'War of Independence'. The whale hunting fleets from the US had already devastated the stock in the Eastern Pacific and were now routinely scouring the Western Pacific, so shipwrecked seamen were often found on Japanese shores and routinely despatched in bizarre ways by the locals. The Japanese were the NIMBYs of the day.

Ironically, the Japanese referred to Commodore Perry's frigate named the 'Susquehanna' and a small fleet of 2 steam and 2 sail ships the 'black ships of evil mien' as it sailed into Tokyo Bay. Perry's frigate - 'Susquehanna' was named from the river running through Pennsylvania into Chesapeake Bay' but the name stems from an Eastern Algonquian language last spoken by the 'Sasquesahanough' tribe, part of the Iroquoian nation exterminated by the 'new Americans'. How true that Japanese impression was in 1853, especially given the consequences of Japan's adaptation and their subsequent Imperialism imposed across Asia during the next century.

Many feudal lords wanted the US kicked out of the country, but when Perry returned the following year with a much larger fleet of warships, a treaty was signed between the US and the Emperor of Japan in 1854. It only allowed trade at two ports initially, but in 1858 another treaty was signed which opened more ports and designated cities in which foreigners could reside. By this time many European nations had negotiated their own trading deals and the large amount of foreign currency flowing from all this trade disrupted the Japanese monetary system. Subsequently the Tokugawa shogunate lost control; it was brought down and a central government with shades of democracy took over, but the Emperor remained as a symbolic head. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 also saw the decline of feudal lords and the final era of the Samurai.

I've mentioned Pennsylvania a couple of times, because many of the ME problems may have remained localised and their effects self limiting, if it were not for a virtually unknown 'Walt' called 'Colonel' Edwin Drake in the US. He had a variety of jobs and was a railroad conductor into his late thirties, but due to ill health was required to take a break. In search of a new livelihood, an unlikely alliance was forged after a chance meeting in a hotel with the co-founders of a new venture called Seneca Oil Company. One of its speculators called Townsend believed there was money to be made in oil and gave Drake the salutary title of 'Colonel', despite him having no military service, but it improved marketing. Drake became a stockholder in Seneca Oil Co. using the last of his family savings ($200). As an ex railroad employee Drake had free travel, so he was sent to Oil Creek in Pennsylvania to find oil and somehow extract it.

'Drakes Folly', as it became known, was initially a series of failed attempts, but finally Drake turned to copy salt drilling techniques of his neighbours and was joined by a blacksmith called Bill Smith (together with the blacksmith's son who came for free); after more false starts and considerable perseverance they were fortunate to hit oil at a depth of just 67 feet in August 1859. His pioneering achievement initially brought 'Crazy Drake' fame and funds for a few years, alas he never patented his drilling technique and the expansion of other oil drilled wells in Pennsylvania produced 4500 barrels by the end of the year, several hundred thousand by 1860 and 3M by 1862.

By the end of the Civil War oil was being refined and used for lighting and lubrication of machinery, but it became a key driver for the industrial revolution as oil fired engines replaced the coal fired steam engines. Unfortunately Drake was left penniless after poor speculation in oil, although he was given a small pension until his death in 1880, ironically by the same oil barons who'd pinched his idea and made their own fortunes from his innovation.

The father of oil drilling was later commemorated. Two decades after Drake's death an Englishman William D'Arcy, signed the D'Arcy Concession in 1901 with Mozzafar al-Din, the Shah of Persia to explore for oil in Khuzestan. He employed George Reynolds an oil explorer as Chief Engineer, who searched for the next seven years without success. Burmah Oil Co invested funds in 1904, but D'Arcy was facing near bankruptcy by 1908, so times were tough 😹 and sadly he was down to only two country homes and his London mansion, so he'd instructed Reynolds to drill a 'last chance' well, but only to a depth of 1600 feet and then quit.

At 4am on 26 May 1908, Reynolds struck oil producing a gusher rising 75 feet into the air, as the drill reached a depth of 1180 feet below the foothills of the Zagros mountains in a place called Masjid-i-Suleiman. It took a week to notify D'Arcy that he wouldn't need to sell the family home(s)! The same year Henry Ford rolled out the first Model T Ford car from his Detroit factory and a new industry was formed, consuming the carbon genie that literally can never be put back in its bottle!

Meanwhile D'Arcy and Burmah Oil reorganised their holdings in 1909 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Co. This first big petroleum find in the ME set off a wave of exploration, extraction and exploitation that changed the region forever as the race for oil accelerated. Of course those events were preceded by other significant developments too, including Thomas Edison's light bulb in 1878.

Although Edison is often credited as the 'inventor' of the incandescent bulb, there were at least 20 others who'd created the necessary stepping stones. Humphry Davy actually invented the first electric light in 1802. British scientists made significant contributions, such as Warren de la Rue (in 1840) and Joseph Swan (in 1850, 1860 and 1878). Two Canadians named Woodward and Evans patented another innovation in 1874, but couldn't capitalise on it, so Edison bought their patent in 1879. By 1880 the commercial future of light bulbs for domestic and workplace use, especially the improved efficiency for night workers set the bar for more regulated energy supplies to increase industrial outputs.

In the modern day, few of those living in Western countries or in other First World nations have any real concept of life before the supply of domestic electricity or consistent commercial supplies to industry. In places like India, many African nations and North Korea for example, the lack of consistent power supplies and reliance on sunlight for daily living functions are a significant encumbrance to 'normal' life. Even the advent of solar power systems to alleviate problems on a small scale in 3rd world countries only provides limited support of 24/7 industrial output. Beyond the rule of law and democratic influences, it is perhaps the consistency of power supply that has actually defined the stability of the Western world. By extension, and this is certainly not to suggest that human conflict was previously absent, but without the invention of the light bulb, one might also argue that the planet may have remained a more peaceful one!

Of course that particular genie is long out of its particular bottle and in the 19th Century, electric-power plants could be fuelled by oil, as could factory machinery, but most importantly the world's powerful navies were converting their ships from coal to oil in the first part of the 20th century. Perfidious Albion batted first, and at the instigation of First Lord of the Admiralty - Winston Churchill (having already converted the RN to oil), the British government invested £2M to became a secret majority shareholder of Anglo-Persian before the outbreak of WWI.

Not unsurprisingly, Britain became a dominant power in Persian and later Iranian politics - Oh how things have changed, as Boris discovered just this week!! Anglo-Persian became Anglo-Iranian in 1935 and British Petroleum in 1954 after Iran nationalised their assets in 1951, prompting BP to diversify their business across the globe (it changed to BP in 2000). The British government sold its last BP shares in 1987, but together with US political operations in Iran, it ultimately shaped developments that led to the revolution of 1979. The same year saw the beginning of the end of the USSR, as it rolled into Afghanistan just before the oil prices took a dive. These events subsequently acted as catalysts for the current ME geopolitical situation.

I'll need to retrace my steps a little next time back to the 'Eastern Question', before returning to the 'Black Gold' theme and its subsequent impact on the Balkan region. The Walrus will return before the next bath night ...!
Heterogenous ideas are yoked by violence together - the language of the metaphysical conceit.
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Golden Oldie
Golden Oldie

Joined: Feb 21, 2012
Posts: 6424

Location: Sofia, Dupnitsa, Lincs

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:40 am 
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Here's an interesting observation on the Changing Face Of Socio-political Division... Wink
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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In The Prime
In The Prime

Joined: Sep 15, 2016
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Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:01 am 
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I've been very remiss with my personal hygiene of late, so SWMBO volunteered me for the sheep dip tonight after a day of sanding and waxing for her Valentines Day gift! As my fledgling grandparenting duties approach in the Spring, I've decided to try my hand at some 'shabby chic ... ing' of nursery furniture. However, I thought it best to experiment with a few cheaper antique purchases off eBay first and found a couple of interesting pieces, including a mahogany chest that needs some serious TLC, but should make a good dual purpose storage / coffee table!

Before I get to the 'Eastern Question' (yes I know I've already put it off a couple of times but it did go on for nearly 500 years ), I thought I'd mention I went to pick up the chest in Pulborough (near Arundel Castle) on Friday and was delighted to find a rather solid, but sadly neglected piece of craftsmanship (not a sexist remark just accurate to the era of the piece) from the early 19th Century. Something caught my eye as I started to clean it up, as an earlier renovator had used a copy of the 'News of the World' dated Feb 1891 to line the interior, which was also under some wallpaper of the era and it distracted me from my own repair work.

Several of the tightly packed newsprint columns engaged my interest, not least a reference to Lt Col Savile who was an early champion in the development of the Territorial Army cycling battalions, which led to the later formation of the Army Cyclist Corps in 1914. The military utilisation of bicycles began in the mid 1880s when some of the Volunteer Battalions set up cycling sections as a form of Home Guard in case of invasion. In the Boer War the bicycle was found to be invaluable for reconnaissance and communication work with both sides using cyclists. In fact, the Boer scouting parties were so successful that that the British confiscated and controlled the use of bikes in occupied territory, a lesson they failed to remember for SE Asia in WW2.

Cycles were widely used in WWI with the French and Belgian forces putting 150K cycles to use, the British engaged 100K, whilst the Germans had nearly 125K. Bikes were also brought over by the Canadian forces and in their inimitable style the US also sent 27K+ bikes with their first deployment of forces in 1917, but actually had no specialist troops to utilise them. As frequently occurs in wartime, the utilisation of bicycles also stimulated their development and mass production for the public arena. In turn this had a huge impact on civil society as it quite literally gave people freedom that they'd not enjoyed previously and cycle clubs sprang up everywhere across the UK.

Several munitions companies also produced bicycles or at least key mechanical components during WW1, whilst cycle production became an important industry in cities such as Coventry and this in part determined it’s future manufacturing base. As we celebrate the Centenary of the Suffrage struggle for women in gaining the vote this week (at least the first ones eligible through age and property title), the effect of cycling on female emancipation should not be underestimated. Cycling enhanced personal freedom and their increased mobility helped women believe that much more was possible, whilst the bicycle also became an emblem for female emancipation.

My late Uncle Ted was a member of the 'elite' British military cycling force and thankfully he survived the carnage of WW1, although I never saw him ride a bike in all the years I knew him before his passing. He gave me several items of WW1 memorabilia, including his precious Army Cyclists Corps capbadge, which I've treasured since Primary school days. In reality, I've only really came to appreciate them following my own brushes with the much lighter carnage of later 20th and 21st Century warfare.

British engagement with their two wheeled fighting force was certainly innovative in the pre WW1 era, and it found a range of military applications before the advent of the radio communications environment. However, the end of WW1 saw many of the cyclist units converted to Machine Gun companies and standard infantry. The 1st Kent Cyclist Battalion was the sole battalion to be awarded battle honours – 'North West Frontier' in 1917, 'Baluchistan' in 1918 and later 'Afghanistan', a place we'll return to in the next rendition, but how many times do we have to relearn the same costly lessons?!

As invariably occurs, the 'flashy bangy' technological advancements in kinetic warfare often fog the memory of senior officers to the earlier successful application of low tech kit within the military environment! Just as the British Army was slow to relearn the delights of low tech IEDs in Basra in 2003 despite three decades of counter insurgency experience on Op BANNER, so Lieutenant General Percival forgot his war studies background and in particular the value of agile and adaptive forces made up of disciplined and highly trained troops with levels of morale surpassing his own units!

Percival's command folly occurred when the Japanese Imperial Army swept South from Kota Bharu to capture Singapore on bicycles (indefinitely loaned from villagers and routinely replaced / 'recycled' by their further 'borrowings' en-route), supported by light tanks and their newly acquired air superiority (much of the aviation fuel and ordnance courtesy of the retreating Brits who failed to destroy it when they hastily abandoned airfields near the Jitra Line). The latter military advantage for the Japanese came gratis of the RN's blunder in 'parking' their latest and only available aircraft carrier 'HMS Indomitable' on a Jamaican beach, thus losing their 'CAP' capability of Seafire fighters (the Fleet Air Arm version of Spitfires). This subsequently resulted in the loss of the 'Prince of Wales' and the 'Repulse', since the RAF fighter bases in Northern Malaya were quickly overrun.

Seventy six years ago this week General Yamashita (an avid student of German Blitzkrieg tactics and a decade long combat veteran of the war in China) was in command of the Japanese land forces and rapidly rolling South. He sent Percival a letter on 10 Feb 1942 'suggesting' he surrender his forces before they were annihilated. Unknown to Percival, whose main combat and command experience was gained during the stalemated meat grinder of the Western Front in WW1.

Having also learned from the bitter lessons of Blitzkrieg during the allies bloody retreat to Dunkirk in 1940 he ought to have been forewarned. Whilst Yamashita's force was low on ammunition and counted less than 25% of the total allied forces ranged against him, he was also a wily fox and a tenacious commander, aptly nicknamed 'the Tiger' by his troops.

On the other hand, Percival was a former office clerk who'd joined the British Army ranks in 1914 as a 27 year old Private soldier, but was soon commissioned and achieved the rank of Colonel by war's end. He remained in the Regular Army, spending the majority of his inter-war Army career at Staff College; he was not the most imaginative nor inspiring leader and had zero jungle warfare experience. Despite Churchill's order - "The battle must be fought to the bitter end at all costs … Commanders and senior officers should die with their troops. The honour of the British Empire and the British Army is at stake."!

Indeed, Percival's reiteration of the Prime Minster’s order to his troops the following day included - "It will be a lasting disgrace if we are defeated by an army of clever gangsters many times inferior in numbers to our men." How true that statement was, especially his underestimation of the enemy he faced! Percival unwisely capitulated to Yamashita's bold bluff and surrendered the Singapore garrison (and in effect the whole of Malaya with its huge natural resources for the Japanese war machine e.g. rubber and oil) on 15 Feb 1942, which resulted in tens of thousands of allied POWs.

Yamashita's earlier visit to Germany, when he embraced the tactical concepts for application to his later 'Jungle Blitzkrieg' campaign, also involved a meeting with Hitler who he considered merely a clerk (ironic given his later dealings with Percival). Ironically, Yamashita's first experience of combat was the capture of a German position in WW1 when Japan was a British ally, and earned him his first promotion. He'd also learned from Hermann Göring that Singapore could would require at least 5 divisions to overwhelm its defences and possibly a year and a half of military campaigning.

Whilst Yamashita combined military daring and guile (together with a dose of good fortune) to accomplish the defeat of the larger and much better resourced (at least initially) allied forces within 70 days, he utilised only 3 divisions. Some have been more generous about Percival's failings, considering the systemic weakness and complacency of an empire in decline also played its part.

With this improbable victory, Yamashita not only vanquished the opposition but humiliated the last bastion of the British empire in South East Asia referred to as the 'Gibraltar of the Orient'. In essence a set of fixed fortifications as costly, but far less effective than the Maginot Line, which despite its short lived use, at least managing to fire a few shots in anger in 1940. All 17,197 of them in the case of the Schoenenbourg Fort i.e. considerably more rounds expended against the enemy than those fired by the expensive coastal guns on Singapore (all facing the wrong way) that proved so ineffective in the defensive task against an unexpected land based assault (which should have been anticipated given Japan's earlier campaigns in China).

It should also be noted that the fall of Singapore was considered the worst defeat in British military history, beyond anything that had occurred during the Napoleonic wars, the American War of Independence or WW1. Yamashita ordered the entire British garrison to be paraded in front of his conquering 'army' (about 25K by then), whilst Japanese news photographers recorded the event before the 80K POWs were marched off to prison camps. Only half of them survived to return to their homes and families at the end of WW2, whilst some survivors amongst the British, Canadian, Australian and Indian troops had to wait until 1947 to be repatriated.

Yamashita handed the British a decisive defeat, which he believed they deserved and it proved a severe setback for the allies in the Pacific War. Whilst the Brits and their Commonwealth allies, together with the US forces, were all to suffer more defeats at the hands of the Japanese in subsequent months, Yamashita's own premonition following his successful campaign was quite prophetic - “I shall run wild for the first six months or a year,” ... “but I have utterly no confidence in the second and third years of fighting.”. As such, he was correct in the latter and of his own fate, the noose rather than a glorious battle took its toll.

Whilst it's universally agreed that Japan did not play with a straight bat during WW2, their exposure of the weak and declining British Empire ensured that former colonies and protectorates would make their break for freedom / independence post WW2, having witnessed the vulnerability of their former national guardian / protector! I've previously referred to the dishonourable and even less ethical practices of the East India Company within previous posts on this thread e.g. their gun boat diplomacy and promulgation of the Opium trade.

I'll draw pause here, to highlight two specific historical slights that will likely receive substantial retribution, possibly in the first half of the 21st Century and maybe within my own lifetime. Both Britain and Japan gave great offence, damaged lives and wrought economic hardship to China (separately but equally damaging in their ways) on more than one occasion in the preceding 250 years. The Chinese have never forgotten Nanking, they're patient and not famed for their forgiving nature and it will inevitably exact a humiliating and considerable revenge, I believe that's a given!

Whilst there is some controversy and confusion as to the philosophical renderings of another smart bugger, commonly referred to as the founder of Taoism - 'Lao Tzu', there can be no doubting that aspects of Chinese society have adopted the doctrine. The controversy in part, is a lack of agreement as to whether the Taoist quotes that survived the period were derived from one source or many, and whether Lao Tsu was actually one person or a composite of several philosophers. However, the following attributed quote, refers to my point about generations of Chinese playing a long and less than complicated game, and their application of soft power is foremost in that arsenal!

'I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.'

Of note, the Chinese approach with their use of medical missions and infra-structure projects in Africa are certainly not altruistic in their intent.

For those with a military bent (together with many political leaders and those in business management, public administration and planning), then the writings of Sun Tzu will be familiar. His texts also discuss diplomacy and developing relationships with other nation’s in their importance for the sovereignty of a state. As a successful and famous Chinese military commander (theoretically a contemporary of Lao Tzu if the ancient historians are to be believed) serving as a General and military strategist to the king of Wu, King Helü. His famous military treatise - 'The Art of War' depicted a philosophy of war for managing conflicts and winning battles in the 7th Century BC, but it was also much more and had longevity with its clarity of thought.

It's likely that the final doctrine was again a composite with comments and clarifications from later military exponents and authors. It should also be noted that Sun Tzu was writing in a period several centuries before the unification of the China we know today, whilst the military philosophy has proved enduring. It was also written before the 'Warring States Period' (475 - 221 BC), when 'The Art of War' became the most widely read military treatise, as these constant wars were fought between seven nations i.e. Zhao, Qi, Qin, Chu, Han, Wei and Yan in order to gain control over modern day Eastern China. A consideration of more recent European history offers many comparisons. Sun Tzu's codified thoughts were subsequently adopted by successive Chinese dynasties.

'Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate.'

'Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy.'

Sun Tzu's masterpiece has been translated and distributed internationally, and archeological evidence from the 1970s has since proved that it was completed by at least the early Han dynasty. It has been referenced by generals and military theorists since that time. As one of six surviving major works written before the unification of China in the 2nd Century it was later combined with a Tang Dynasty text into a collection known as the 'Seven Military Classics'.

It was the centre piece of that collection, and it formed the basis of orthodox military theory in China. It's differentiated from Western military doctrine such as the Prussian perspective of Carl von Clausewitz's, by the nature of the spiritual dimension. The latter is confirmed by the use of language in the 'Art of War', which is underpinned by Taoist thought and practice. It's now required reading in many defence colleges and military academies across the globe (at least certain tenets), and has influenced many prominent figures in history.

Given Percival's background was allegedly as something of a military scholar at the Imperial Defence College, he should have taken better note of his adversary', as a version of Sun Tzu's text was introduced in Japan around 760 AD. It played a significant role in the unification of Japan when the Samurai were known to have honoured the teachings of this book. Other military leaders were also exponents, such as Napoléon in his European campaigns, although his incomplete understanding ultimately led to his defeat in Russia. The communist Chinese leader Mao Zedong gave partial credit to his victory over Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang in 1949 to this text. Their significance was proved again during the First Gulf War, where both General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. and General Colin Powell used Sun Tzu's principles of deception and speed, whilst attacking the enemy's weakness.

Singapore was itself an 'acquisition' by Stamford Raffles on behalf of the East India Company in 1819, and it later became a British possession in 1824. Colonial life in early 20th Century Singapore was almost an extension of the Indian Raj with tea, tennis, dancing and cocktail parties becoming the main preoccupations. The hundreds of miles of dense Malayan jungle and rubber plantations considered by the British to be impenetrable, whilst reinforced with almost 100K troops stationed on the island of Singapore, proved utter folly as a defence. Hence the idea of a Japanese land assault was considered an impossibility in the typically supercilious colonial mindset of that era and therefore no adequate preparations were made.

Without digressing further from the two wheeled menace that certainly 'shaped' some my own youthful travels around South East England (notably my nether regions in those halcyon pre-gel racing saddle days), I was most amused to learn of the British Army Cyclist drill manual, especially the order for 'Stack and Unstack Bicycles'! It's a manoeuvre the Chinese should have adopted for their bike sharing schemes, which have brought chaos to many of their cities and it appears Uber is keen to repeat these scenes elsewhere across the world.

Bicycles came into military use again in a big way during the Indo-China war against the French and later for the North Vietnamese during the war with the US, especially for logistic support. In their fight against the French and later the Americans, ironically the Vietnamese favoured the French made 'Peugeot' bicycle, with the Czech built 'Favorit' being their next bike of choice. Of course they were modified to carry some phenomenal loads and were referred to as 'steel horses', which were particularly effective on Vietnam’s narrow roads and tracks in the dry season once modified for service as 'xe tho' (pack bikes). General Vo Nguyen Giap, the military mastermind behind victories over the French and American forces in Vietnam was also believed to be an avid student and practitioner of Sun Tzu's ideas.

Apart from the inevitable application of jungle camouflage, the bicycle frames were often strengthened by adding metal, wood, or bamboo struts, reinforcing the front forks and increasing their suspension. The carrying capacity of these 'steel horses' as they were known, ranged up to 300Kgs with the average load being around 200Kgs i.e. considerably more than the 35-50Kg load that could be carried by a single man or woman.

At Dien Bien Phu the site of the final French defeat by the Vietminh, a single bicycle carrying a load of 350Kgs of supplies established a record, although this was beaten when another was used by the Viet Cong in 1964 to transport nearly 425Kgs along the entire length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Suffice to say they never had any use for the British Army's 'drill manual', and these 'xe tho' were rarely ridden into battle, but their staggering (literally) logistical loads put paid to first the French at Dien Bien Phu, and subsequently helped them batter the Americans out of Saigon. Belatedly, the American defeat in Vietnam belatedly brought attention of US military leaders to Sun Tzu's writings and it later became standard reading for the USMC amongst others.

As I flip from one timezone to another, most readers who're still attentive and have a modicum of Balkan historical knowledge will know that 1393 was not a good year for the Bulgarian citizenry. It followed a long war and despite their fierce resistance they fell under the Ottoman yoke. However, Bulgaria didn't completely succumb to the rule of the Ottoman Empire until 1396, but for years before that the Bulgarian state had been divided in parts and had ceased to exist as a unified structure.

Subsequently, Bulgarian territories within the Ottoman Empire were completely deprived of any form of self-government. Bulgarian administrative bodies at all levels were replaced by the authorities of the Ottoman Empire. This continued for the next five centuries, up to 1878, when Bulgaria was liberated as a result of the Russian-Turkish War and the next five centuries have remained in the national psyche as “the Turkish slavery”. I am going to return to this theme, because it's at the core of Zoomzoom's original concerns about empty villages, and more importantly the future of Bulgaria.

There was never slavery on Bulgarian territory in the formal sense of that expression, because even the most humiliated Bulgarians could not be killed at a whim or sold. Mostly they retained their own property, families, freedom of movement and most were Christians, but in reality they were 'slaves' within the Ottoman Empire, since they did not have the right to express their own political will and were subjugated to foreign political rule. The rights of Bulgarian citizens were observed on paper only, whilst Bulgarian folklore songs about cruel Turkish acts actually related to forcefully imposing the Islamic religion, dispossession, kidnapping of women and the terrible 'blood tax' i.e. the taking of children to be trained in the elite Ottoman military or the so-called 'enichari'.

The Ottoman Empire consciously and through formally punishable acts aimed to deprive the Bulgarian people of all attributes of national self-awareness, as they had elsewhere. The state, education, religion, language and rituals were gradually eroded, as Bulgarians forgot their heritage and that their state had been the third most powerful in Europe, equal to the former Byzantine and Roman Empires. Whilst deprived of schools and proper textbooks like many civilisations beforehand they were unable to retain their links to their last as a people in order to maintain their national pride.

On paper at least, the Christian religion was recognised within the Ottoman Empire and Bulgarian settlements had their own churches, although many were destroyed and turned into mosques. Together with the administrative prohibitions, however, there were also the purely spiritual barriers, resulting from the Byzantine patriarchate and this was probably the most devastating effect on the Bulgarian spirit with inclusion of the Bulgarian church in the Byzantine patriarchate. It should be remembered that the church was then ruled by the Greek clergy, whilst services were conducted in Greek, all religious books were in Greek and the work of the saintly brothers Cyril and Methodius, the authors of he Cyrillic alphabet also fell into oblivion.

However, the perceived Bulgarian 'slavery' through those centuries was implemented through the state by the Ottoman rule, and the spiritual, through the oversight of the Byzantine church. There are some parallels to the latter in terms of the radical shakeup brought about in England in the wake of Henry VIII's reformation of the Roman Catholic Church after he got the hots for Ann Boleyn and the Pope was keeping him out of her pants! Of course the real heat was later applied by 'Bloody Mary' and then her sister QE1 with the Act of Uniformity, when priests aspired to be slimmer and shallower breathers in their wee holes!

In the 17th Century the Ottoman Empire, at its greatest extent, sprawled across South East Europe (Hungary included), South West Asia, and Northern Africa (Morocco excluded). The weakening of the sultan's power began in the last decade of the reign of Sultan Süleyman (1520 – 1566). During the same period Europe remained paralysed by religious wars until the Peace of Westphalia (1648), and the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman imperial government) did not admit its growing frailty vis-à-vis Europe until the end of the 17th Century. Only then did it negotiate treaties and other international acts, these were chiefly with the great powers of Europe. In the Treaty of Karloitz (1699), for the first time, the sultan ceded large tracts in Christian Europe in this instance to Austria and Poland, which were never recovered.

For another century, Ottoman military power was still respected on the Continent, whilst Tsar Peter I (1682 – 1725) was the first European monarch to send troops into Ottoman Asia. They occupied the Sea of Azov and its Crimean rim in 1696, only to lose this short-lived conquest along with a claim to power over the Black Sea after a disastrous defeat (1711) at the Prut River (later in Romania). The Ottoman recapture of the Crimea's Tatar khanates was ratified in 1713, in the Treaty of Edirne (Adrianople). That was delayed for six decades until Catherine II (1762 – 1796), after a six year war with the Ottomans. Russia took the first solid step toward establishing itself as a Black Sea power through the treaty of Kuçuk Kaynarca (1774). This detached the khanates from the sultan's realm by declaring them independent, but Russia did not annex them for another nine years.

Thus the great power contest for ownership or denial of the sultan's strategic realm reflected the pace and modes of Europe's expansion into Asia and Africa. The Ottoman Empire spanned the heart of the eastern hemisphere by joining its three continents. The desire to control the Turkish Straits, which separate Asia and Europe while linking the Black and Mediterranean Seas, became a fixed, but thwarted aim of Russia after 1774. The Black Sea remained closed to Russia's naval power while the Tsardom was exposed to possible attack by hostile maritime powers, as occurred in the Crimean War.

The struggle, later known to historians as the ‘Eastern Question’, had, by the first decades of the 19th Century, become an established feature of European international relations. It was actually a concept coined in the initial stage of the Greek War of Independence (1821 – 1829) to describe the territorial effect of the political decline of the Ottoman Empire on great-power diplomacy in Europe. Its rise to prominence was caused by the two successful wars conducted by 'Catherine the Great' against the Ottoman Empire (1768 - 74, 1787 - 92). These wars permanently altered the balance of power in the East and the Ottoman Empire was doomed to a stubborn, yet inexorable decline, whilst Russia was elevated to the rank of a first class power.

Russia subsequently entered the 19th Century with three more or less distinct approaches to the Eastern Question. The first was of ancient lineage to expand territorially Southwards at the expense of the Ottoman Empire (a familiar tactic adopted by the Chinese in their belligerent land grabbing / 'building' activities on coral islands in the South China Sea). This process could involve unilateral annexations or a partition of the Sultan’s dominions in concert with other the other European Powers. This policy was followed with much success by Catherine the Great, and had been advocated by the foreign policy adviser Rostopchin in 1799, who favoured partition in alliance with France.

The second strand was also of long heritage, and consisted of an attempt to gain influence over the domestic affairs of the Ottoman Empire through the patronage of its Christian population. Russia’s self proclaimed role as patron of Orthodox Europe first met with success in the 1774 Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji and reached its apogee a few years later in Catherine’s ‘Greek Project’, which envisaged the final liberation of the Ottoman Christians through the resurrection of an independent Christian or neo-Byzantium Empire.

The emergence of the national principle during the French Revolutionary Wars greatly affected this idea and after 1815, proposals for a unitary or confederate multi-national Balkan state competed with those favouring the creation of independent nation states. Such ideas centred after 1816 around Capodistrias who, in that year, became joint Foreign Minister with Nesselrode. During the course of the 19th Century these ideas were favoured by the Slavophiles, the Pan Slavicists and generally by all who believed it was Russia’s ‘historical mission’ to liberate their co-religionists.

In opposition to all these approaches to the Eastern Question was a novel proposal by Kochubei in 1802 of the so-called ‘weak neighbour’ policy. He'd served as the Russian ambassador to the Porte 1792-98 and was the Russian Interior Minister, between 1802-12 and subsequently 1819-25. He argued that Russia should formally renounce her previous expansionist designs on Turkey, because Russia was no longer in need of enlargement, and there was no neighbour more obedient than the Turk, so the preservation of this natural enemy should really be in the future the root of Russian foreign policy planning.

After his occupation of Egypt in 1798, Napoléon declared on behalf of France, his intention to construct and own a manmade waterway from the Mediterranean's landlocked South East corner to the Red Sea. By cutting across Asia and Africa, such a canal would reduce the distance (and the time) of uninterrupted travel from Western Europe, notably from Britain and France, to India by two-thirds, and by lesser amounts to all points along the African and Asian shores of the Indian Ocean. Given the challenge of two rivals, the cautious shaping by Britain, as the world's foremost maritime and naval power, of its own strategy to deny Russia and France a naval presence on the Mediterranean's Eastern littorals was remarkable.

During the same period Britain also had to keep events in Central Asia in mind, since any threat to India could not be ignored, because it was the centerpiece of the British Empire and critical to trade. While most countries were afraid of an invasion on home soil, Britain instead worried about an invasion in India. During the 1800s, Russia had steadily advanced her territory in the Far East and Central Asia. China and 'disunited semi-barbarous states' in the Middle East did not put up much of a fight so it had been fairly easy for the Russians to expand as far South as Afghanistan. Neither Russia nor Britain controlled Afghanistan officially (no foreign power nation or coalition of forces has ever managed that feat 100%), but this mountainous region separated Russian forces from India. However, Britain was more afraid of Russian influence rather than an actual physical attack.

Finally in 1792, after four more years of war, the Sublime Porte, in the treaty of peace at Jassy, the capital of the Ottoman province of Moldavia (later part of Romania), at last acknowledged this segment of the Black Sea coast as Russian. The victories set in motion the Ottoman territorial attrition in South West Asia; it spread to North Africa in 1830, when France began its conquest of Algeria. European expansion into the Ottoman Empire at times appeared to consist of predators rushing as far and as fast as they could, paying no heed to the risks of collision.

Such a judgement however, belies the realities as contenders for the same or overlapping districts were sensitive to one another's interests. Avoidance of conflict became the name of the game as early as the Congress of Vienna (1814 – 1815). At the end of the Congress the conveners - Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia styled themselves the 'Concert of Europe' to act as a permanent executive for settling all their disputes by conference or consensual diplomacy.

In 1818, at Aachen, the four powers admitted France to their ranks and promptly instructed the restored Bourbon monarchy to join Britain as the Concert's sole maritime powers to suppress the institutionalised piracy in the Western Mediterranean,. This was being carried out by the sultan's autonomous ocaklar (garrisons) or provinces of Tripoli (Libya), Tunis, and Algiers. A dozen years elapsed before the Barbary garrisons of the Ottoman Maghrib were finally put out of the piracy business. It should also be noted that the fledgling US Navy played their part in the first and second Barbary Wars, which were instigated against them with not a little connivance by Britain after King George was deprived of his possession by the American colonial upstarts across the pond!

Having spent a few operational tours in the company of the USMC over the years, including a brief period in Lebanon in 1983, I first heard their hymn sung live by a bunch of marines (and almost in tune) there at a commemorative event. It's amazing how few of their fellow countryfolk even know the origin of the USMC hymn or the relevance of key lines, which are also enshrined in their battle honours. In 1805, Lt Presley O'Bannon and his marines hoisted the first American flag in MENA, which was to be followed a century later by several more, but for far less glorious reasons.

The USMC hymn line - "... to the shores of Tripoli" refers specifically to the Battle of Derne at the end of the first Barbary War in 1805. For the musical aficionados amongst you, and in dubious honour of Clint Eastwood's film - 'Breakheart Ridge' (not one of his better films) with his routine quote of the USMC fighting ethos i.e. "improvise, adapt and overcome", could also be applied to the marines choice of melody for their hymn. The aria was apparently 'adapted' from the Gendarmes' Duet from an 1867 revision of the 1859 opera 'Geneviève de Brabant' by Jacques Offenbach, which debuted in Paris in 1859.

Despite these American maritime sideshows to secure their own sea trade, only once between 1815 and 1914 did the great powers resort to war over a dispute arising from the Eastern Question. In that case Britain, France, and Russia were the Concert's belligerents in the Crimean War (1854 – 1856); Austria served as mediator, and Prussia stayed aloof. The entry of the Kingdom of Sardinia, alongside Britain and France, as allies of the Sublime Porte against Russia served, in effect, as its application for membership in the Concert. Having led the Risorgimento for the political unification of the city-states in the Italian peninsula after 1848, Sardinia provided the monarchs following the emergence in 1861 of the kingdom of Italy, which was promptly made a member of the Concert.

The British feared that it would be very easy for Russia to incite an insurrection among the Indian troops, especially after their earlier experiences of the 1857 Indian Mutiny. In fact, by 1870 the Russian generals located in Central Asia began ingratiating themselves with the Amir of Afghanistan. The British followed suit and so the Amir felt trapped between these formidable adversaries. However, Gladstone’s Liberal government refused to promise military aid to the Amir in the case of a Russian attack and so by the time Disraeli came to power, the Amir was leaning more towards the Russians. We will return to these issues in due course in pursuit of Kipling's literary heroes of derring do!

As the decades passed, so St Petersburg's aspiration became more of an obsession. In preparation for the expected takeover of the Turkish Straits, Russia continued swallowing the Ottoman property that circled the Black Sea in both Europe and Asia, in the latter from the Crimea through the Caucasus; the last part was the adjacent corner of Anatolia in 1878. To support the quest for the Turkish Straits even before the Crimean War, Russia established precedents to assert its right to protect the sultan's Orthodox subjects in Anatolia and Syria (including Lebanon and Palestine).

In 1856, the Islahat Fermani (Reform Edict) of Sultan Abdülmecit I (1839 – 1861), reinforced by Article 9 of the Treaty of Paris ending the Crimean War, and briefly interrupted, but did not end the Russian practice. Meanwhile, over Britain's resolute opposition, French investors in the late 1850s launched the Suez Canal Company, which in 1869 completed the waterway. Backed by the government of France, these entrepreneurs also preempted Britain's moves to take control of the company's policy framing executive before and after Britain's occupation of Ottoman Egypt in 1882. By 1914 Algeria and Tunisia were part of France's empire, although the Sublime Porte withheld formal recognition of the protectorate in Tunisia.

Of the surviving Ottoman provinces in Asia, France's interest centered on Lebanon and Syria, onwards from 1860 and this led directly to the disaster of the post WW1 Sykes-Picot carve up! After a lapse of about a century, France in the 1840s had revived earlier treaty rights to custody of papal institutions and their members, covering affiliated eastern Uniate churches as well as Roman Catholicism. Finally, the financial community of France bankrolled railway, harbour, and other concessions in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine and became the dominant shareholder in the Ottoman Imperial Bank, the Ottoman Empire's official agent. The overseers of Britain's empire saw the shrinking Islamic state as both a continuing barrier and an unfolding passage to India. In both functions, the Ottoman Empire had grown into a major asset for Britain.

Little wonder that under Britain's persistent lead, the Concert of Europe in 1840 began nearly four decades as guarantor of the integrity of Ottoman Asia and Africa. The chosen formula was that of a self-denying protocol, first used in the Concert's convention of 1840 for 'the Pacification of the Levant', which stated that - "in the execution of the engagements resulting to the Contracting Powers from the . . . Convention, those Powers will seek no augmentation of territory, no exclusive influence, no commercial advantage for their subjects, which those of every other nation may not equally obtain.". Even France, which had upheld Egypt in the crisis, rejoined the Concert in 1841.

Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, the strategy's author, saw in Egypt's threats to the Osmanli dynasty's survival (1831 – 1833, 1839) a threat to the British Empire. With the appearance of the steamship in the 1820s, Britain belatedly discovered what the East India Company had begun learning under sail more than half a century earlier: that through the sultan's realm there ran developing routes of communication and transportation between the métropole and the empire in India. In the regional contest of the 1830s, Russia backed the sultan and France, the viceroy.

The main problem, in Palmerston's diagnosis, was to keep Russia and France apart, for if they joined forces, Britain would suffer along with the Osmanli dynasty. Palmerston also preferred a weak Ottoman Empire as opposed to a powerful Egypt. He thus responded favourably in 1839 and 1840 to the Tsar's proposal for joint military intervention, with the cooperation of the Sublime Porte, to contain an ominous threat to the survival of the Ottoman Empire posed by Muhammad Ali, the viceroy of Egypt, backed by France. Austria and Prussia adhered to this plan of action.

In 1840 and 1841 the Concert had thus created a subsidiary system expressly to defuse crises in Europe arising from the rivalry over the Middle East (and North Africa) portions of the sultan's realm. For nearly forty years the great powers, with the Sublime Porte taking part and Britain playing the balancer in alternating alliances with Russia against France or the reverse, met five times in London (1840 – 1841, 1871), Paris (1856, 1860 – 1861), and Berlin (1878) and framed obligatory guidelines on policies toward the Ottoman Empire.

Military occupation without time limit, commonly unilateral, was denied legitimacy; formal protectorates were legitimated by the powers, not by the Sublime Porte (in the end by the Turkish Republic); direct annexation was invariably solemnised by formal agreement with Constantinople. All three practices rested on general usage under (Western) international law, whilst other styles of Europe's imperialism were particular to the Eastern Question.

In the economic sphere the practices derived from the capitulations (non-reciprocal commercial treaties that the Porte had concluded with Europe's governments from the 15th to the mid 19th Century), which assured Western residents unilateral extra-territorial privileges. They and their enterprise banks, railroads, harbours and the Suez Canal were immune from sultanic and provincial laws and taxes, being subject only to those of home governments.

To such 'built in' dominance by Europe over key developmental aspects of the Ottoman economy was added guardianship of selected religious communities, with Russia and France the leading practitioners. The prevalence in the same districts of resident missionaries and their many charitable, medical, and educational, as well as religious, institutions attested to this.

Strategy apart, Britain's most valuable interest was commerce and as the sole industrialising nation from the last third of the 18th Century through the Napoleonic wars, Britain speedily moved into first place in the foreign trade of the Ottoman Empire. By 1850, the Porte had become Britain's third best customer and Britain clung to this commercial lead up to the outbreak of WW1. Financial investment by British nationals didn't lag far behind.

France returned to the fold in 1841, as part of the settlement of the regional crisis. It reduced Muhammad Ali from quasi independence to Ottoman vassalage, but only upon his being recognised as the founder of a hereditary provincial dynasty with full domestic autonomy (though subject to Ottoman control of Egypt's foreign policy). "All the Treaties concluded and to be concluded between my Sublime Porte and the friendly Powers ..." read the Sultan's ferman, " ... shall be completely executed in the Province of Egypt likewise."!

This clause immediately imposed on Egypt the Porte's obligations to Britain, France, and the Netherlands to change the basis of Ottoman foreign commerce from protection to free trade. It deprived Muhammad Ali of the assured revenues from his commercial and industrial monopolies, whilst putting an early end to his integrated program of economic and military modernisation. Those steps reduced the innovative, self-made, ambitious governor to manageable size. Later they enabled Palmerston, as foreign minister and prime minister, to delay for a dozen years Egypt's grant of a 99 year concession to a French national to build and operate the Suez Canal.

In the meantime, during the first years of Ottoman rule in Bulgaria, there were scattered attempts to liberate the country, but it wasn't until the Hayduk movement created the preconditions for an organised national liberation movement that the freedom light began to shine. After an unsuccessful revolution in 1876, most Bulgarians received their freedom courtesy of the Russians. This Russian intervention occurred at a point the British Empire had already reached its apogee and was beginning its slow decline through strategic overstretch.

During the centuries of Ottoman rule, the lack of an autonomous Bulgarian government at all levels. The lack of an autonomous national self-awareness also resulted in the elimination of the belief that anything depends on the individual’s decisions. People were turned into 'rayah', a population deprived of rights, carrying out foreign will in all aspects of public life. These circumstances quite naturally led to the lack of any form of political activity and respectively, political thought. Everything was determined by a hostile rule, both in the social and the spiritual areas, and this diminished any hope that good could come from personal initiative or individual effort.

In consequence, Bulgarian people living in those times could only expect that their tomorrow might be worse and this is why their prayers were - “let it not become worse.” During this time, a number of proverbs survived for centuries about the Turkish rule, and are still used today, which show that the perception of evil as something inevitable, the pointlessness of resistance and personal initiative are elements of the political thought even today. A frequently heard saying is still - “let us choose the lesser of two evils”! This dance with the devil in the Bulgarian psyche persists, especially when personality factors are excluded from the fight with evil, and what follows naturally is the irrational, semi-mythological and semi-theocratic figures of rescue.

This is exemplified by Bulgarian folk tales, which contain the image of 'Krali Marko' standing over several mountains, watching over the safety of the Bulgarian people and liberating the wronged from their oppressors. By the end of the Ottoman rule, the national intellect gives birth to the collective image of 'Grandpa Ivan' i.e. that of the Russian people who, led by their emperor, would come and liberate their enslaved Slavic brothers. However, several decades before the 1876 liberation, the 'haidouk' (outlaws and rebels) roamed the Bulgarian countryside. They were individual avengers who'd left their families and undertook surprise attacks against the Turks.

Unfortunately, they acted without any clear philosophy, political or revolutionary programme, so in the national mindset they were viewed both as heroes, who instigated fear in Ottoman overseers, but also as local villains, because they failed to unite enough followers around any liberation cause. In consequence, the 'haidouks' remained isolated from the oppressed Bulgarian populous, who still lacked any opportunity for self-expression.

During the final years of Ottoman rule, rebel groups sometimes comprised 100+ fighters, but these bands, developed on their own initiative with no unified command or common strategy or collective supply of resources. One Bulgarian national hero Vasil Levski was quite impressive in his organisation of liberation committees, but these soon died out following his capture and execution. His death only deepened a nationwide feeling of being in deadlock with a lack of faith in personal strength for liberation amongst the citizenry.

In the meantime, during the second half of the 19th Century the British government failed to recognise the inevitable downslide, despite the empire's last few expansionist Sigmoid curves. This process was not assisted by the vacillating government foreign policies of Gladstone and Disraeli with their damaging long term impact. Britain's belated adaptation to the emergence of US industrial might, together with an inability to deal with German ascendancy in Europe were two factors underpinning the death throes of British dominance across the globe. Towards the end of the 19th century, the makeup of the European continent began to change and following the Franco-Prussian War, France had been left weak while Germany experienced a surge in power after unification in 1871.

Commencing in early 1870, the leaders of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary made a series of state visits to each other’s countries to confirm their similar foreign policy positions and a collective need to follow the same policies. This unofficial alliance, called the 'dreikaiserbund' (three emperor bond), represented a return to the alliance systems in Europe. The dreikaiserbund concentrated power on the continent in those three countries, leaving France, Italy, and Britain without allies to counter them.

Meanwhile, Italy, after its unification in 1861 also entered the fray. After losing a bid for Tunisia in Berlin in 1878, Italy finally occupied Libya and the Dodecanese Islands in a lackluster war with the Ottoman Empire (1911 – 1912). One of Italy's primary aims in entering the war in 1915 on the side of the allies was to legalise the titles to both and, if possible, enlarge its imperial holdings.

On the British side, Disraeli returned to the office of Prime Minister in 1874 intent on reasserting Britain’s dominance on the European stage. Disraeli accused William Gladstone and his Liberal government of being inactive and isolationist because of Gladstone’s - “failure to mediate in the Franco-Prussian war, to prevent the Russian denunciation of the Black Sea clauses”.

One of Disraeli’s biographers suggested that these supposed blunders - “made England an object of ridicule to every European state.”. One can only wonder if such a phrase will appear in Theresa May's biography in due course, particularly in relation to the domestic and foreign policy issues that she has overseen since CMD's departure after his own political failures with the EU Referendum! In the late 19th Century, Disraeli considered foreign policy to be - “the most important and fascinating task of the statesman”, so he resolved to pursue a more aggressive, pro-empire stance. In Disraeli’s own words - “what our duty is at this critical moment is to maintain the Empire of England", and with that particular statement and his subsequent actions, its decline rather than any stability was assured.

Had the Brits kept their geopolitical noses out of Bulgarian business at the Congress in 1878 then the present day Greeks would probably not be having their spat over Macedonia's country name and Skopje would still be served by 'Alexander the Great' airport. It may also be argued that Bulgaria may not have sided with Germany either in WW1 or WW2, but the Eastern Question came into play instead, and not for the first time. This Eastern Question, which I've mentioned in earlier posts when dancing round the volatile arena of the Balkan's, had concerned Europe for the better part of 500 years, but it reached crisis point several times during the 19th Century.

To the British statesmen of the 1870s, Russia was the biggest threat because of its expanding territory, economy, and population, whilst Russia’s expansion into Afghanistan threatened the North West frontier of India. I will pause the 18th Century clock briefly to highlight the nature of China's pan-Asian, pan-American and pan-African geopolitical influence of recent decades and in particular their astute application of 'soft power', which as you read this, is fundamentally shifting to a harder stance having already bypassed Russia, the EU and soon the US in terms of its ability to project military force. The South China Sea could be considered a parallel of the Black Sea encroachment that Russian neighbours experienced during the 18th and 19th Centuries.

The deterioration of the Ottoman empire, the creeping advance of Russia into the Balkans and Central Asia, and the creation of an alliance between Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary were all issues contained in the Eastern Question of the 1870s. All three of these issues threatened Britain’s goals of securing India and maintaining a balance of power between the major powers on the European continent. Therefore, in dealing with the Eastern Question, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli pursued a course that kept Russia out of India and reasserted British power relative to the rest of the European Continent. We will return to the India's Northern gateway next time, but an understanding of geopolitical events in the 1870s requires knowledge of the Eastern Question. According to historian J. A. R. Marriott, there were six main underlying factors involved in the Eastern Question -

The principal issue was the effect of the Ottoman Empire’s deterioration on the major European powers.

The second major issue was the boundaries and ethnic makeup of the Balkan states like Serbia and Bulgaria located within the Ottoman Empire. A portion of the Ottoman
Empire was located in Europe, which meant that many of the people in the Balkans were Christians and therefore persecuted by the Ottoman muslims.

Thirdly the control of the Black Sea, particularly the Dardanelles and Constantinople, often caused conflict between the Russians, Austro-Hungarians, and Ottomans. The Ottomans continued to control Constantinople, which benefitted Britain since the Ottoman territory provided a buffer between Russia and India.

Russia and Austria-Hungary posed another problem for the powers, for both countries wanted access to the sea. Russians and Austro-Hungarians also had ties to different Balkan states that were both religious and ethnic in nature.

The Russian government, in particular, also had to consider its subjects’ panslavism and sympathy for the Orthodox Christians.

Marriott opined that the sixth factor was - “the attitude of the European powers in general, and of England in particular, towards all or any of the questions enumerated above.”

As a consequence of Perfidious Albion stacking the deck for political and economic gain once more, the Bulgarian state was separated into three parts at the Berlin Congress in 1878 rather than being recovered to its former state. Whilst they were frustrated, the Bulgarian Revival had begun earlier in the 18th Century, when the Bulgarian church, educational and culture institutions were re-established. Organised national liberation movement to throw over the Ottoman rule was marked by the activities of Georgi Rakovski (1821 - 1867), while key figures in the liberation movement were Vasil Levski (1837 - 1873), Lyuben Karavelov (1834 - 1879), Hristo Botev (1848 - 1876) among others.

In 1876 when the 'April Uprising' took place, it was the largest and probably the best organised attempt to liberate Bulgaria from Ottoman domination. Unfortunately, that uprising was brutally suppressed, but it placed the struggle for Bulgarian sovereignty at the centre of international political discussions. In 1878, with the Russian defeat of the Ottoman forces, the Bulgarian state was restored. The Berlin Congress (1878) divided the former Bulgarian territories into three parts – the Principality of Bulgaria, ruled by a prince (Alexander Battenberg was selected as the first prince of the Bulgarian Principality); Eastern Rumelia with its Christian governor appointed by the sultan, and with Thrace and Macedonia remaining under Ottoman control.

Finally the two quarrelers signed an entente cordiale in 1904 that rested on a trade: Britain's responsibility for the canal's security by occupation in return for France's creating a protectorate in Morocco. Before the year's end, the Concert ratified the amended convention that implied approval of Britain's military presence in Egypt. Finally, Britain and Russia reduced irritants in their relations in the Ottoman Empire by reaching an accord on Iran, Afghanistan and Tibet in 1907.

The three bilateral instruments underlay the formation of the Triple Entente (Britain, France, and Russia) on the outbreak of war in 1914 against the Central Powers (Germany and Austria). For the first time, the Sublime Porte, which entered World War I in November 1914 as an ally of the Central Powers, placed itself simultaneously at war with the three countries that had territorial scores to settle with the sultan Britain in Egypt (and Sudan), France in Tunisia, and Russia at the Turkish Straits.

The secret accords of the Entente powers (the Constantinople Agreement of 1915 and the Sykes – Picot Agreement of 1916) proposed assigning the Turkish Straits and eastern Anatolia to Russia, parceling the Fertile Crescent (later Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Transjordan) under variable terms among the three allies, and declaring the Arabian Peninsula a British sphere of influence.

In April 1915, Italy associated itself with the Entente for the express aim of legitimising its occupation of Libya and the Dodecanese Islands. Two years later, after the overthrow of the Russian Tsarist regime, Italy concluded a separate agreement (treaty of St Jean de Maurienne) with Britain and France, to become a party to the Entente plans for sharing in the Ottoman spoils; to the Sykes – Picot arrangement were added zones for Italy's administration and influence in Southern and Western Anatolia. The instrument never won the requisite assent from the Bolshevik regime, which seized power in 1917. After the war the unratified draft did not deter Italy from trying, but it failed to anchor itself in Anatolia.

Meanwhile, the secret correspondence of Sir Henry McMahon (Britain's high commissioner for Egypt) with Sharif Husayn ibn Ali of Mecca (the Ottoman governor of the province of Hijaz) served as the basis for mounting an Arab rebellion against the sultan. Clearly, Britain perceived McMahon's exchanges with Husayn, which were started and finished (July 1915 – March 1916) before the Sykes – Picot negotiations (December 1915 – April 1916), as a solidifying step in the Arabian Peninsula.

They agreed on mutual military commitments but left unsettled their political differences that gave rise to bitter Anglo - Arab quarrels. This was compounded later by the conflicting Anglo / French / Arab claims in the Fertile Crescent and the Balfour Declaration - Britain's secret understanding with the Zionists and public declaration of sympathy for the formation in Palestine of a Jewish national home. This was the price that Britain's government had to pay for finally acquiring an exclusive mandatory presence in Palestine in defence of the Suez Canal. It's a price that the region has been paying in blood ever since.

The Eastern Question was not resolved until the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WW1, the empire's formal dissolution in 1922, and the peace treaty of Lausanne. This settlement was negotiated, but not imposed after the war that the Entente and associated powers signed with the Republic of Turkey in 1923 and ratified a year later. Turkey's nationalist regime at Ankara contested the proposed transfer of two territorial slivers, losing one (the vilayet of Mosul to Iraq) in 1926 but winning the other (the return to Turkey by France, as mandatory of Syria, of the sanjak, a provincial district of Alexandretta in 1939. In between, at Turkey's insistence, in the Montreux Convention of 1936, the naval signatories of the Treaty of Lausanne restored to the Republic of Turkey full sovereignty over the Turkish Straits by dissolving the International Straits Commission.

Having mentioned George Reynolds 'last chance' well and its salvation of William D'Arcy's bank balance in my last post, the quest for oil in Ottoman Arab Asia quickened once the Anglo Persian Oil Company discovered commercial quantities in Persia in 1908. The oil potential of the vilayet (province) of Mosul riveted the attention during WW1 and afterward, of Britain's companies and their bureaucratic supporters on the Sublime Porte's promise of a concession, in June 1914, to the Turkish Petroleum Company, a non-operating international consortium of British, Dutch, and German interests registered in London.

Much can also be learned of the evolution of the Eastern Question for the modern day exposure of Britain during the Brexit saga, in particular the 'weak neighbour' policy previously exploited by Russia, as it will assuredly be applied to the UK in due course. It's for certain the impact of Brexit will be adverse to the UK economy, likely severe and probably long lasting, whilst the concept of Britain as a world power will see its last pink smudges erased from the world map. Even the Commonwealth is reviewing the role of the British monarchy at the end of HM's reign!

As to the here and now and the renovation prospects of the mahogany chest with its vintage news paper contents and the potential for other nursery furnishings, I would opine my DIY skills have usually been adequate to the task in a pragmatic sense. Unfortunately, the aesthetics of previous projects have not necessarily pleased the more sensitive or cultured users! Anyway, the DIY renovation plans can wait for now - I must post these bath time babbles, which may be informative for some and also alleviate Seedy's earlier concerns about my clean state of health!
Heterogenous ideas are yoked by violence together - the language of the metaphysical conceit.
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Golden Oldie
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 10:04 am 
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Haven't had a chance to peruse (and enjoy, as usual) this yet but top marks for the site's longest post to Mr X.... Wink
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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Golden Oldie
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:03 am 
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One interesting factoid about the haidouki, Mr X, is that they very often calculated the likelihood of the success of a raid by the use of tarot cards: this seems to have stood them in pretty bad stead - perhaps something for the present-day proponents of the various Imaginary Friend Movements to ponder on.... Wink
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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In The Prime
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 8:27 pm 
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Seedy wrote:
One interesting factoid about the haidouki, Mr X, is that they very often calculated the likelihood of the success of a raid by the use of tarot cards: this seems to have stood them in pretty bad stead - perhaps something for the present-day proponents of the various Imaginary Friend Movements to ponder on.... Wink

Indeed, which is why I referred to the "the irrational, semi-mythological and semi-theocratic figures of rescue", although I have to say the senior military officers in command of Op HERRICK and their unimaginably stupid claims for securing success / stability in Afghanistan during the 'noughties' were possibly using the same deck of cards or Ouija board!

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In The Prime
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:21 pm 
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Another bathtime, another epic, although this one is a fraction shorter as I needed to catch up with myself and the centennial of the Suffragette's success was a suitable reminder.

Having dealt fairly comprehensively with the issues concerned in the Eastern Question in my past post, I'd also referred to its particular link to India. The protection of Britain's trade routes and particularly its geopolitical tango with Russia in Afghanistan to secure the Northern door to India proved challenging for more than a century. The legacy has proved disastrous for the country and the region ever since, including the post independence consequences for Kashmir resulting from yet another set of pen lines on a map drawn by an Englishman!

This mutual contest was termed the 'Great Game', with Afghanistan key to that struggle, especially on India's NW Frontier in the Khyber Pass. So began the struggle between the British empire and Afghanistan in the form of the Anglo-Afghan wars. Eventually it resulted in a demarcation of territories, depriving Afghanistan of its strong-hold in central Asia, but it became the stuff of legend; the 'Great Game' was popularised in Rudyard Kipling's famous adventure novel set in 1885 Lahore - 'Kim' (published in 1901).

For the 'celluloid triviatti' amongst you, the film rights were purchased by MGM in the 1930s, but not taken up until the late '40s just as the the British empire was casting off its Indian jewel, and as Errol Flynn was loaned to MGM by Warner Brothers for two feature films. Flynn's second WB epic was a choice between 'King Soloman's Mines' or 'Kim', and as both films were to be shot on location, Flynn opted for India and 'Red Beard' - the rest is, as they say - total fiction!

The story of 'Kim' was built on Rudyard Kipling's own childhood experiences growing up in India, although he was neither an orphan nor a junior spy! I previously referred to Robert Baden-Powell; he was a real Army scout on the NW frontier and later in S Africa when he also worked in military intelligence, before retiring and founding the Scout Association in 1909. Ex-Wolf Cub Scouts of a certain era will be familiar with 'Kim's Game', led by their troop 'Akela' of Kipling's 'Jungle Book' fame (written in Vermont, USA).

I'm certain the lessons on observation and judging character; always being aware of one's surroundings and being prepared are valuable for all time! At least for those who had their Turk's Head leather 'woggle', no plastic crap back then ...NoSiree, but enforcing 'Church bl**dy Sundays' .... I only joined to play 'crab football' with my mates in the church hall, whilst being required to carry the 'vicar's bits', just because your socks weren't straight would be considered child abuse these days!! Who can I sue?

Despite declining the role of 'Poet Laureate', Kipling's informal title was 'Poet of the Empire', particularly with his time in S Africa. His 1889 poem - 'The White Man's Burden' was a gift to Theodore Roosevelt; Kipling offered it as an aide to encourage US colonisation of the Philippines following the Spanish-American war. A controversial poem of its time, but prophetic in many ways, as I'll come to in due course.

As of now, Puerto Rica's population is not feeling overly valued as Americans after 'Hurricane Maria' visited, but heyho they don't get to vote, so why would Trump be bothered, his priority is getting the 70% African-American players of the NFL off its knees?! The failure of FEMA's largest contractor in providing food and water to the Puerto Ricans following the hurricane, is not only an embarrassment, but should be the basis of a Federal indictment, given the catastrophic failing and contractual value involved!

I believe Kipling's positive view of Theodore Roosevelt was justified. It's ironic that Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace prize for intervention in the Russo-Japanese conflict, but I'll return to its antecedents and consequent failure of the 'League of Nations'. Considered as one of the most effective US Presidents, his passion for protecting the natural environment is also a valuable legacy. Roosevelt's desire to re-enter office in 1912 may have resulted in earlier US intervention in WW1, but he supported his friend Taft in 2012 and subsequently lost to Wilson in 1916 and died in 1919.

Having watched Sunday night's film drama - 'My Boy Jack' on TV (Rudyard Kipling played by David Haig; he wrote the script having played the role in the stage version), I'm also minded of Rudyard Kipling's anguish at the sacrifice of his only son 102 years ago! His son John had previously been medically rejected for duty, by the Royal Navy and the Army due to being severely myopic. Rudyard Kipling as a celebrated literary figure, and professional journalist for much of his life, was then working for the British Government writing propaganda material for the war effort. He used his contacts to get his son commissioned into the Irish Guards at 17, and subsequently gave his written permission for John to go to war before he turned 18.

Just as the British Expeditionary Force was assembling South of Mons on 21st August 1914, a new identity disc was introduced, because aluminium stocks were exhausted (so much for empire and being prepared). Army Field Regulations required personnel concerned with burying a soldier or finding a body to remove this new ID disc, (a single red vulcanised asbestos fibre tag) and the pay book; the only thing the Army staff were interested in were battle casualty figures at that time.

Thousands of unidentified/misidentified corpses later, a second ID tag was issued to soldiers in September 1916 to remain with the body. I'm sure soldiers were much reassured that not only would their pay be stopped, they'd have a chance of being under the correct headstone!

Lt John Kipling was killed at the Battle of Loos on 27 September 1915, but nobody knew. Just a few weeks after his 18th birthday; it was later reported part of his face had been blown away, together with other wounds and he was last seen stumbling towards German lines, but as with numerous thousands he was only reported 'missing in action'. After the battle, little changed in that sector of the Western Front. Gruesome to note, the bodies of those killed outright during assaults or died of wounds where they fell, mostly remained in 'no man's land' until 1919.

The charnel house chaos produced after four years of artillery, mortar exchanges and natural decomposition, meant there was little chance of identifying many of the remains. I've seen and smelt those horrific scenes in Bosnia and Kosovo, but not on the apocalyptic scale those poor buggers must have witnessed by 1919. Having earlier lost their six year old daughter, their grief and lack of closure devastated John's family. His body was never identified during his parents' lifetime, but was was eventually confirmed buried in a misidentified war grave in 1992.

In the post WW1 years, his parents investigated every avenue to determine the fate of their son, whilst Rudyard Kipling was closely involved with the War Graves Commission, selecting many of the epitaphs e.g. 'KNOWN UNTO GOD', found on fallen soldiers Portland gravestones (WGC original choice was Portland stone and the vast majority are, but Hopton Wood and Orton Scar were also used; in Egypt salt resistant materials were used, mostly granite in Scotland + Canada, whilst local materials were judged appropriate, such as slate in Wales. Portland is no longer used in Europe - new and replacement headstones are now Italian Botticino limestone, which has a marble appearance

Having visited many of these sites over the years, they remain a salutary reminder of mans capability for ruthless insanity when power corrupts absolutely, as the post WW1 era revealed.

Returning to the principles put forward by Morgenthau, his view was of nations as political entities in pursuit of their respective interests being defined in terms of power. That policies should be pursued respecting the interests of other nations, whilst protecting and promoting those of their own State. When considering the authority of the British State, clearly it has rested with Parliament for the last few centuries with declining influence of the monarchy.

However, it never represented more than a small and predominantly privileged minority of the State population until quite recently in its history. Kipling's son didn't have the right to vote, nor did any man under 21 pre WW1, and even over 21s serving overseas for more than a year lost their right to vote, yet 16 year olds were sacrificed in war (Jutland et al) even in the 20th century.

In fact, during most of the British empire building of the 19th century, just 3% of the adult male population of the British state had a right to vote! As WW1 started the total electorate of 7.7M were males over 21 who met certain criteria. At war's end the 'Representation of the People Act 1918' allowed all men over 21 and certain women over 30 to vote, increasing numbers to 21.4M with women forming 43% of that electorate. Suffrage was ongoing from the early 1800's, whilst the Suffragette Movement with the Pankhursts' involvement, injected momentum by the end of the 19th century, to suffrage in general and the Suffragette cause of women in particular.

I watched the 2015 'Suffragette' film starring Carey Mulligan at the weekend for the first time, which was a useful reminder of how far we have come in 100 years, but also how far we have is left to complete the journey. One aspect of that is the equality issue currently at hand, which stems from the wider fallout of Harvey Weinstein's misconduct in the media, the public sector and even parliament.

The equally disquieting revelations of the Oxfam abuses with the critical issue of corporate governance failures and ethical management breaches suggest the world was always thus! The latter is something that Trump's White House hierarchy is also on the wrong side of, with abuse of power in any form a valid subject for victimologists, as it extends human misery for anyone on the receiving end of that power imbalance. My own research (confirmed by the WHO) also confirmed the significant increase of HiV rates and HepC cases in Pristina between 2000 and 2002 within the populous, which was a direct result of the UN and IO/NGO arrivals; another sad indictment of humankind. but nevertheless a direct correlation!

In a similar way that development of modern technology has improved opportunities for engagement with democracy in remote townships of Australia and many other countries, new forensic techniques also reveal Emily Davison's death following the incident at the Epsom Derby in 1913 was not intentional. Historically it was reported that she deliberately threw herself under the King's horse and that was her intent, but investigations a few years ago indicate she'd prepared well, not for martyrdom, but simply to attach a Suffragette sash to the King's horse.

Unfortunately, the horse proved too quick, it was spooked and started to jump over her; Davison's fatal misjudgement actually cost two lives (the jockey was dazed, never regained his riding form, likely suffering from PTSD before its time; he committed suicide in 1951). Davison's martyrdom was a bit of a bugger, given her return train ticket and holiday plans, and she was probably thinking sod these long petticoats the blokes insist I wear! Nevertheless, the unintended consequence was caught on rare film footage of that era and also made the front page, thus highlighting the Suffragette cause.

Suffragette actions had peaked pre war, in fact militancy had already increased due to the 'Cat and Mouse Act', and several martyrs resulted from this and 'Black Friday' when the Suffragettes got a good kicking from the Metropolitan Police, at least as good as the coal miners received during their strikes and reminiscent of the Brixton riots. The State's deliberate actions to weaken peaceful protest through routine imprisonment, force feeding and temporary release to avoid deaths of Suffragettes in custody, did not break their spirit.

It's also a clear indictment of political realism being applied with immoral ends. The following is probably right up MW's street, whilst the analysis it presents is applicable to the present day counter-intelligence world.

Turning back to Morgenthau's concept of power; its content and the manner of its use is determined by the political and cultural environment. This power covers all social relationships which serve that end, from physical violence to the most subtle psychological ties by which one mind controls another. The power exercised by government in this particular instance, included some fairly unpleasant tactics, particularly by Special Branch, not seen again until the Northern Ireland conflict.

Power may comprise anything that establishes and maintains the control of man over man (or women in this case). The majority of the adult British nation had no power, which included ALL women. Was this in the interest of the nation or just the aristocracy and Statesmen driving it?

Quoting Morgenthau directly - 'It is exactly the concept of interest defined in terms of power that saves us from both that moral excess and political folly.' Was this not a case of 'moral excess' of the male State, in particular men's belief in their 'moral superiority', viewing women as inferiors? It is for certain women's lack of electoral representation and equality in the governance of state matters, and played a part in the expansionism and 'overtrading' that led to rapid decline of empire. Suffice to say a significant number of pertinent public records were kept from the public eye, some until 2003; it is extraordinary that so many files were sealed for 100 years, 25 years being the norm and very occasionally 50 years!

As the 'Great War' (aren't they all for thise who pay) descended on Europe, most of the Suffragettes opted for a patriotic pause, believing the greater enemy was at the door, whilst their war roles might enhance their cause. The Pankhurst clan rightly saw that the war would also provide new employment opportunities for women. Women's agricultural efforts on the land, as 'Canary Girls' in munitions factories, in transport and the dockyards, together with millions of other valuable work roles in the war effort, contributed to their achieving some recognition in the legislative changes post war.

In the UK, even up to 1950, people affiliated with a university were allowed a vote in both a university constituency and their home constituency; property owners could both in the constituency where their property lay and that in which they lived, if the two were different. These anomalies were later resolved. Several countries have already opted to provide voting rights for over 16s, including Scotland.

It's questionable that the EU referendum vote would have gone the way it did; it was about the youth of the country not the elderly, but it was determined by the latter who witnessed the end of empire, whereas they were the same demographic who voted to 'remain' in the 1975 referendum (for many 18-21 year olds back then, it was also the first use of their vote).

Whilst we know the British government, composed mostly of wealthy men, carved up several continents through many exploitative economic ventures over the last few
centuries. Some may even insist, it was only for 'blood and treasure', but it's for certain that numerous political errors, and military misjudgements occurred and several legacies haunt us today. To 'Carry on up the Khyber' without the Sid James effect, the turbulence of Afghanistan following our earlier war in 1838 had brought things to a head by the end of the 19th century.

The British were not happy bunnies after Sher Ali Khan gave the Russians special treatment, whilst denying entry to the British governor-general's envoy of the time. This proved to be a catalyst for the second Afghan war between 1878 - 1880 and involved another British invasion and Sher Ali Khan dying in exile. Due to the 'Great Game' in play, on 12 November 1893 a pact was signed between British diplomat Colonel Sir Mortimer Durand, as the Indian Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the British Indian Empire, and the then Afghan ruler (Emir) Abdur Rehman Khan.

Since that time the region of Pashtunistan has remained a bone of geopolitical contention, more especially between Kabul and Islamabad from July 1949. The single page agreement, contained seven short articles, the only signed copy was in English, two other copies were in Dari and Pashtu. It should be noted the line (not then drawn nor even surveyed) of this agreement did not refer to any internationally agreed 'border', it was only written in terms of restricting the political interference of the British to the North and the Afghan's to the South.

As far as the Emir was concerned the agreement was to last 100 years; that is allegedly what the Dari/Pashtu versions stated, but not the 'official' English version, however, the Emir could not read English! This declassified CIA briefing paper from 1961 offers some clarity about the very divisive Pashtun legacy of British-India Empire.

Given the inaccessibility during the winter snows, a joint British-Afghan demarcation survey started in March 1894 and this phase lasted until May 1896, but the section near the Khyber Pass was only finally demarcated in 1921. The Durand Line deliberately included a thin strip of Afghanistan stretched to the Chinese border, thus separating the Russian empire from British empire. Shortly after the demarcation of this 'Durand Line', the British began connecting the region in its zone of influence to the vast and expansive Indian railway network. Concurrently, Afridi tribesmen began to rise up in arms against the British; this created a zone of instability between Peshawar and the Durand Line.

In 1905 enforcement by the British resumed in Afghanistan and just as WW1 finished, newly formed squadrons of the Royal Air Force were paying their compliments to Kabul with a bombing campaign in 1919 to close the door on the matter as the British saw it, sealed by the Rawalpindi Treaty. Despite the annulment of the treaty (in three years), according to a clause of the 1921 Kabul Agreement, the Durand Line 'border' was reinforced by the king. It's believed King Amanullah Khan, the Amir (Emir) who saw one of the most progressive phases in Afghanistan and wanted to secure the independence of his country by any means.

However, it remains a porous 2,430 km international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but recovery of Pashtunistan is rooted in Afghan psyche, and is at the centre of Af-Pak conflict. Pakistan inherited the Durand Line agreement after its independence in 1947, but there has never been a formal pact or ratification between Islamabad and Kabul. Many Afghans believe that the original agreement with Great Britain was only for 100 years after which the lands in question would revert back to Afghanistan. Some scholars also maintain that Afghan laws guide that the treaty was restricted to the lifetime of the king i.e. the agreement of the border should hold true only till the ruler who signed it is alive.

It's playtime again for the Taliban as their Spring offensive begins and the culling season commences. This year will prove exceptionally bloody as the Taliban compete with Daesh who have been shunted out of Iraq and Syria, although the real concern remains in Africa, at least from the perspective of impetus for the refugee / economic migrant pressures on Europe. As Turkey reasserts its Ottoman heritage (remember the 'weak neighbour' policy played by Russia), Putin will be rubbing his hands as Erdogan deals with his personal Testosterone imbalance and pursues a head to head with the US (and NATO)

Meanwhile the EU will re-experience Canute's conundrum of defeating the tide this summer, unfortunately it's inexorable and the African flow will inevitably win, because the numbers are stacked on their side, whilst ongoing conflict provides a catalyst.
Heterogenous ideas are yoked by violence together - the language of the metaphysical conceit.
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Golden Oldie
Golden Oldie

Joined: Feb 21, 2012
Posts: 6424

Location: Sofia, Dupnitsa, Lincs

PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:27 am 
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Fascinating, as always, Mr X, albeit as usual at times rather tending towards the Anglocentric. You are undoubtedly squeakily clean of late, so much so that I have a mental image of a male version of Botticelli's Venus pounding a keyboard. Wink

Sadly, I currently lack the time to emulate your output but I do take issue with your final paragraph: unlike Canute, we do have the means to stem the tide but we simply lack the stomach (or perhaps the brains?) to use them. All that's needed is a decision on where the line in the sand/sea is to be drawn and who is to pull the first trigger/not launch the first life-boat....
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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In The Prime
In The Prime

Joined: Sep 15, 2016
Posts: 370

Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:34 am 
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Thanks for the response, although its more of a 'chillybotty' at this time with the gas having run out whilst in the shower and having to nip outside to flip over the 'automatic' switch, which lately seems to prefer me as the cold shower victim and gets 'stuck! We don't exactly live off grid here in the New Forest, and we do have the benefit of an independent solar energy system, so can usually survive any hassles with short lasting power cuts, but the mains gas supply stops 2Kms outside of the village, which is a bit annoying as there's no resort to an immersion heater. These facilities are already in plan, together with a solid fuel backboiler for our Bg property.

As to Canute and the tide, I'm afraid the first shots were fired long ago, which the West was wholly responsible for on numerous occasions, and with little thought to their unintended consequences. People equal money and human trafficking is just too lucrative with a sellers market of the multimillion 'carbon units' as they're far less hassle than drug smuggling, because the product doesn't need cultivating, harvesting nor even transporting until the last stage of the journey and the traffickers have their human cargo fares safely pocketed by then, whilst the derivatives markets of ransom, sex slavery or human organ sales provide added bonuses.

Apart from the Napoleonic wars that Britain fought in the region, subsequent conflicts with Germany, Belgium, Boers and the indigenous African peoples shaped the African continent. Two World wars during the last century ultimately set the geopolitical course for MENA unfolding in the way it has - our own card was marked long ago! As I've indicated previously, GB at the height of its empire building was the prime architect of the geopolitical conditions (e.g. drawing obscure and divisive nation boundaries, energy politics, propping up despots to control/access mineral resources) in resultant conflicts that developed in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. Of course, I'm not ignoring the involvement of other agonists, protagonists, such as France, Italy or Russia and most recently the resurgence of the 'Ottoman' curse! However, credit where it's due, we screwed up the region 'royally', literally in the name of our monarchy!

As previously indicated the Bulgarian State was restored in 1878 following the outcome of the Russian-Turkish war. The Russian occupation administration was quickly replaced with a Bulgarian one and a new constitution was adopted. The protection of the state became the responsibility of the Bulgarian army, whilst internal order was maintained by a police force of a kind. Schools were opened for all ages, which offered girls an opportunity for education that had been absent in previous centuries. Higher education emerged in Sofia University, whilst scientific research was conducted by the new Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and centralised healthcare was soon established. Meanwhile the resurgence of the Bulgarian church meant services were once again conducted in Bulgarian and there was autonomy separating it from Greek Orthodox oversight.

From a suffrage perspective, the Bulgarian voting law was unique for the region in that it granted political rights to women. Thus many of the functional components required for an independent and democratic state were in place by the end of the 19th Century. This did not mean everything was 'rosie' in this fledgling political sphere. As with any democracy it takes time to shape, and room to evolve from a purely political aspect. The heritage of the Turkish rule hindered the development of political thought, especially as the clouds of Europe were darkening for war and sparked by their neighbour.

Soon after their 1878 liberation, partisans and allies who'd fought alongside each other only a few years earlier, became adversaries, whilst political repression and assassinations became common practice. Characters such as the Skripals, Nemtsov and Litvinenko of current day note are just an aged theme of 'Muscovite' form - my reference to the transparent hydrated phyllosilicate is deliberate in that the misinformation / disinformation protocols of Kremlin subterfuge were long ago adopted in the Balkans. The lies thus promulgated are often so transparent, as to be truly laughable! Political struggles of the time were determined by individual ambitions, whilst 'Political parties' emerged onto the Bulgarian political stage, which according to a phrase of that era - 'comprise a carriage of people' and rarely offered any significant political figures of worth. So what's new one might ask, has anything really changed since? Of particular note, the Bulgarian president was the only head of state amongst the 28 at the recent EU summit to deny the reality of Russian involvement in the Skripals' attempted murder!

During the early 20th Century the industrial output, agriculture, trade, educational and cultural activities had all developed within the 'new' state - it should be remembered that Bulgaria was never reshaped to its original pre Ottoman form. Much like many MENA states at the start of the 20th Century, however, Bulgarian society had no traditions of political life, and as invariably happens, personal interests took over from public ones. It's also difficult to identify differences in the political programmes of the parties that have participated in elections. From one election to the next, the ruling party changes, but the principle “Let’s choose the lesser of two evils” remains defining for most voters.

Throughout the period from the 1878 liberation to the end of WW2, there are few consecutive years during which Bulgaria can boast a successful and unquestionable rule. Moreover, there are long intervals in which the country was ruled by single-party governments that came to power through a coup, fascist cabinets, and a total ban on political parties and political activity. Naturally, those periods did nothing for the growth of modern political thought within the Bulgarian population. On the contrary, the lack of normal political parties to protect the interests of social circles and classes stimulated political profiteering, buying votes, pre-election lies and corruption.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Bulgarian writer Aleko Konstantinov created his character 'Bai Ganyo'. This character of literature was a collective image of the average Bulgarian of the day – concerned only with his personal interest, unaware that by ignoring the collective interests it's often 'he' who suffers. Bai Ganyo is an individualist in the absolute sense of the word. The character's political motto is “I am no opposition” and he uses all means to come to power – both legal and illegal. Naturally, there can be no question of a political doctrine. The means that Bai Ganyo utilises in his pre-election campaigns are often comical, but they have become emblematic of contemporary political leaders, too. Bai Ganyo still lives in the present day, multiplied in many political shades. Over the last 100 years, the jokes about Bai Ganyo increased in number, indicating that the political product of the Turkish slavery continues to live in the Bulgarian mindset to the present day.

Some may recall their (likely) European / Christian oriented history lessons in school about King Richard and the Crusaders of the 12th century. Most would have been aware from the same lessons of the often demonised Sultan SalāH ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb or in more common Western parlance - 'Salahudin'. He led the Islamic opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant, the very location of the present 'chlorinated' unpleasantness. At the height of his power, he ruled over Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hijaz, and Yemen; he's a notable figure in Kurdish, Arab, Persian, Turkish and Islamic culture.

A few may also have seen Ridley Scott's 2005 film of this era - 'Kingdom of Heaven' with Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson amongst others, portraying fictionalised versions of historical figures during the second crusade when Salahudin retook Jerusalem on 2 Oct 1187. His chivalrous behaviour was noted by Christian chroniclers of the time, especially accounts of the siege of Kerak in Moab (present day Jordan).

Despite being the nemesis of the Crusaders he won the respect of many, including Richard the Lionheart (another genetically warped Swedish Frog); rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe. Indeed, Richard later offered his sister for marriage to Salahudin's brother; uncertain what his sister thought of the proposal, but it was common in that era. It's alleged Salahudin made this prescient statement around that period (although it took a few centuries to unfold) - “After I die, you will see these Muslims fall apart in disunity, and you will see the Europeans grow strong. The best thing to do for now is to continue the fight until we drive them from the Coast (of Palestine) or die.” Salahudin was born in 1137 in Tikrit on the West bank of the Tigris between Mosul and Baghdad, but his family was Kurdish with an ancestry originating in the city of Dvin, in medieval Armenia. I'm sure these regions are familiar to people from modern day news reports, concerning battles to retake ground from Daesh.

As we commemorate the centenary of the final year of conflict of WW1, some may also recall their modern history of the Armenian genocide of 1.5M by the Ottomans between 1915-1918 (various other massacres had been going on since 1894). Arlmenia was one of the first Christian states from 300AD. The 'Kingdom of Urartù' flourished between the 9th and 7th centuries BC, and for the biblical amongst you is cited as the location of Mount Ararat, a volcanic mound, where Noah's Ark allegedly came to rest. The Ottoman Empire’s meticulous cover-up of events, as well as the overwhelming scale of their systematic barbarism, means that the real number will never be known and greatly fluctuates from source to source.

The Ottoman Empire's entry into WW1 in October 1914 represented a break in over a century of diplomacy in the Middle East. Previous study of late Ottoman politics has focused more upon the European states with imperial interests in the Middle East and has not adequately explained why the weak Ottoman state decided to enter the war. An earlier study utilised both British and German diplomatic documents, along with published secondary works, to reframe the Ottoman entry into the war in a way that highlighted Ottoman agency and illuminated the internal and external constraints faced by Ottoman statesmen of the time. That study concluded that the Ottoman Empire entered the war on terms dictated by Istanbul and did so only because Britain, France, and Russia pursued a policy of active hostility to Ottoman interests. The EU perspective is not so different nowadays.

Meanwhile the Allied forces had already failed at Gallipoli and abandoned their Dardanelles campaign against the Ottomans by 1915, which seriously damaged Commonwealth politics amongst the Anzacs through the incompetence of the British military general staff. This period also saw the appointment of the famous British Army liaison officer - T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), whilst Arab troops played a vital role in the Allied victory over the Ottoman Empire in WWI.

The Arab Revolt of 1916–1918 also saw the development of guerrilla tactics and strategies of modern desert warfare. However the political intrigues surrounding the revolt and its aftermath were as significant as the fighting, the weak and divisive attempts by the British and French at nation building, which planted the seeds of the troubles that plague the ME region to the present day. The numerous wars, authoritarian governments, coups, and the rise of militant Islam, together with the enduring conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. None of the present day states in the region even existed until the 1920s!

The Ottoman Empire was in serious decline by the late 19th Century. Years of misrule, war, and oppression of its various nationalities had virtually driven the Turks from Europe, leaving the weakened Empire on the verge of collapse. By the 1870s the Armenians were the most troubling group, having gained international sympathy at the Congress of Berlin. As a result, violence against the Armenians had escalated dramatically by the early 20th Century.

Armenians felt, however, that their fortunes had changed when the liberal Young Turks seized power from the Sultan in 1908. Unfortunately, the Young Turks had a much more ominous plan for the Armenians. When they entered WW1 as an ally of the Central Powers, they decided to use the cover of that war to exterminate the Ottoman Armenians. Over one million Armenians were murdered, and the Ottoman government's crimes went unpunished in the postwar world, whilst this Armenian holocaust remains a feature of Turkish denial to the present day in a similar manner to the legacy mindset of Bulgarians over their forebears shackled relationship to the Turk.

The ME had been part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, which included Slavs, Greeks, Turks, Arabs, Berbers, Kurds, and Armenians, as well as Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Despite the success of the Ottomans their empire had shrunk to what is now known as Turkey before the outbreak of WW1, and was an empire in decline due to other colonial incursions and internal rebellion. The Ottomans abandoned their successful multicultural formula and instituted a 'Turkification' policy instead, making Turkish the official language in schools, the army, and government.

Arabs represented approximately 60% of the empire’s roughly 25M subjects and like the Bulgarians before them, were not happy bunnies, but neither were they a cohesive entity! They formed secret nationalist societies and contacted Sherif (a title bestowed on descendants of the prophet Muhammad) Hussein ibn Ali, emir (prince) of Mecca in the Hejaz. Hussein sent one of his four sons, Abdullah, to link up with Arab nationalists in Syria, and then to Cairo to determine whether the British might aid an Arab uprising. Britain was reluctant to step in, but WW1 broke out in 1914, so it reversed its policy.

The Ottomans had joined the Kaiser and the Central powers, with the hope to recover provinces they'd previously lost to Britain, France, and Russia. Incidentally, Bulgaria chose to join the Central powers in Oct 1915, because of key trade relationships, and recent wars with their main foe Serbia, which was allied to Russia. In the ME, an approach to Hussein encouraging him to start a rebellion was made by Sir Henry McMahon, the British high commissioner based in Cairo. His ambiguous promise to Hussein involved Britain supplying arms and money for the revolt.

It also indicated the creation an independent Arab state in the Fertile Crescent (present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine) and the Arabian Peninsula would be an outcome of Arab participation. Not being a complete schmuck Hussein didn’t trust the Brits (indeed a very wise man), but the Ottomans executed 21 Arab nationalists in 1916, so he sought Allied support for the revolt. Ottoman forces were on the march and already had some successes, whilst the Western Front was bogged down in its bloody stalemate and the Germans were routing Russian forces in the East. To many observers it appeared that Germany and the Ottoman Empire were gaining the upper hand, especially after the failure of Gallipoli and lack of progress on the Western Front, the Allies desperately needed a second front!

The Arab revolt began in 1916 with an estimated 30,000 Bedouins and other tribesmen. Hussein made deals with various families, clans, and tribes such as the Howeitat and Ruwalla. Many of these groups would only fight close to home, and all required payment. Some tribes would not fight alongside others because of feuds. Most were capricious warriors, battling furiously when the looting was good and the enemy weak, drifting back to their villages when they became bored.

Though lacking military discipline, the irregulars knew the land intimately and were excellent shots. They could mount a running camel with a rifle in hand. Dashing across sharp rock on bare feet, they could travel at great speed through terrain thought impassable by outsiders. The revolt’s leaders employed the Agayl, a group of fierce, elite warriors, as bodyguards. Arab armament was a motley assortment, ranging from swords and muzzle-loading muskets to Mausers and Lee-Enfield rifles.

Later, these tribesmen were organised into formations commanded by Hussein’s three oldest sons: the Arab Northern Army, led by Feisal, with around 6,000 fighters; the 9,000-strong Arab Eastern Army, under the command of Abdullah, made up of camel troops, some artillery, and a cavalry squadron; and Ali’s 9,000-man Arab Southern Army of four artillery batteries, mounted infantry, and other units. By 1918, the British were paying their Arab allies £220K a month in gold to fight, and perhaps the Arabs were right to take the gold, because its all she wrote, as the other promises and assurances of Perfidious Albion swiftly ran away like sand through their post war political fingers.

Before I blame the Yanks again, although its probably only fair after Wilson took a risk with the American electorate and elbowed his way into WW1 during 1917, ensuring his seat at the post war 'carve up' where he presented his model for a League of Nations. Suffice to say, much like Trump he was a very bitter individual by the end of the war and a sick man; in effect, he deliberately trashed his own bill in Congress that would have passed to enable the US to join the League of Nations. Instead they began their next phase of global projection and strategic influence in the region.

Officials at the Paris Peace Conference, in the White House, and in the U.S. Congress strove for the realisation of competing visions for the international order following WW1, and thus were required to construct their own interpretations of how the conflict should be remembered and what must be learned from it. A pervasive sense of victors’ justice dominated the proceedings in Paris, leading to the creation of a settlement which would find lasting support from neither European nor American decision makers. These dubious postwar arrangements made at Versailles would contribute to the resurgence of a conservative isolationism that dominated U.S. foreign policy throughout the 1920s and 1930s, promoted immediately after WW1 by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.

Of note, the fact that the Japanese were denied a full role in the League of Nations, despite their role as a Western ally in WW1 became the festering sore that eventually led to their devastating exploits in China in the 1930s and that 'Rising Sun' legacy will inevitably find retribution in kind from Xi and his chums probably within the next decade and certainly by mid century!

back to the Yank manipulations of the Middle East; most will recall the earlier unpleasantness with Saddam Hussein in the sandbox. The CIA decided to use the Ba'ath party, a nationalist grouping with just 850 members, but with strong links to the army. In 1959 a party member named Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti was born in Al-Awja a village 8 miles south of Tikrit, which was also the birthplace and home of many leaders of Iraqi provinces during Saddam's Presidency. As it's also known, Saddam regularly gave the Kurds a good kicking (e.g. with a Sarin shower - very topical of late down Assad's way too) and there was similar sentiment exhibited to the Kurds by successive Turkish rulers, whilst Iranian oppression affected their minority Kurdish population too. Of course their recent forced anal dilation came care of the US who had relied heavily on their military capabilities to defeat Daesh, but has done little to stave off the inevitable onslaught from Turkey.

The UK and US amongst other UNSC permanent members have seen MENA as a prime export market for their national defence industries since the end of WW2, whilst manipulating, if not directly supporting various dictatorial regimes or puppet governments, in order to maintain stable production of energy resources in the region. Of course as diligent Brits we remain bipartisan and invariably sell to both sides, unfortunately our own munitions occasionally come back at us when we go to 'mend' our earlier colonial mistakes.

The Sunni / Shia dimension, Judaism, minority Christian elements, weak governance and gross political / economic corruption endemic in the region, together with poor agricultural practices and persistent droughts are just a few of the very complex factors in MENA countries and across the Salel region, which continue to create havoc and generate significant migration flows to mainland EU. One of the points Blair was making in an interview a couple of years ago.

By way of example, having mentioned Saddam earlier, the US were already playing games supporting the Ba'ath party from 1963. In 1958 General Abdel Karim Kassem had overthrown the Hashemite monarchy installed by Britain to rule Iraq at the end of WW1 with people like Gertrude Bell tweaking the governmental levers. The CIA suspected Kassem's alliance with the powerful Iraqi Communist Party, so he became public enemy No1. He also nationalised part of the concession of the British-controlled Iraq Petroleum Co in 1961, so the UK was also unimpressed.

So, the monarchy GB installed was replaced by a communist backed general, who was executed after a US backed coup d'etat. Meanwhile the UK supplied defence materials to Iraq and Iran before and during their war, even spare parts to Iraq for the (British made) Chieftain tanks they'd captured from Iran, although we didn't sell them ammunition (allegedly)!

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) preceded the French instigated military gaff in Libya to counter Gaddafi's interest in undermining their influence in oil producing Francophile states in Africa and the 'petro-dollar' dominance of the US. Subsequently the Syrian civil war brought a new set of dynamics to the equation with Iranian backed Hezbollah, Iranian Basij militia and the Iranian Republican Guard, with the intervention of Russia coming to back up Assad's murderous regime. Oh! What a lovely civil war, so many sides to pick for a fight, to screw over or befriend - all three in some cases?!

Essentially the growth of Daesh had several roots, including the demonised Sunni
Ba'athists of Saddam's era, but its early domination in Northern Iraq and Syria followed other ME catalysts stemming from the Arab Spring. The battle successes against Daesh since 2014 were predominantly led by the Kurdish Peshmerga (at least in Iraq after the Iraqi Army legged it back to Baghdad), whilst supported by various coalition allies including the US and the UK.

The chaos that emerged from OIF also exposed a crucial geopolitical flaw in Sykes and Picot's plan (one amongst many), as the Kurds were previously stitched up following defeat of the Ottomans in 1918. They were promised a chunk of Turkey for their homeland in the original treaty of 1920, which was then snatched away by the Treaty of Lausanne three years later. We are heading towards a turning point although, it may result in an obvious conclusion - spreading conflict and more factioning into another political vacuum if Assad is deposed. It stems at least in part from the key flaw in the Sykes-Picot planning. The subsequent British betrayal, years of Western exploitation in MENA, together with Bliar's later Iraq War folly in support of Bush in 2003 to play with their military toys in the sandbox. For those interested, this lays out the post WW1 stitch up of the Kurds!

The Arabs had also seen their own hopes dashed after WW1 by the allies, reneging on Arab independence and autonomy after they'd given their support to defeat the Ottoman Empire (Days of Lawrence and all that). It's just over a century from that divisive allied plan (i.e. principally engineered as an Anglo-French 'stitch up' prior to the end of WW1); it was compounded by proxy wars either initiated or fuelled by Riyadh and Tehran or the geopolitical tampering of US / UK / France / Russia creating kinetic mayhem within the region over the last 15+ years.

Personal experience working with the Kurds of both genders in Baghdad, Tajhi and back in London between 2005-2008 was rewarding. Some were military commanders and others very capable interpreters; they were a tough bunch and certainly more diligent than many of my Iraqi Army trainees. There's a strong possibility, just as Daesh is being eradicated in Iraq and Syria, and the Kurds feeling they're now in the ascendency; it's possible that the Kurds will let this go, not again, dspite recent setbacks! The independence referendum held by the Kurdish regional government for 25 Sep 17 led inevitably to the divisive breach along the Northern pencil marks of Sykes-Picot, as the Iraqi government raced to snatch back the oil fields they'd lost to Dash and recovered by their erstwhile Kurdish 'allies'. A regional replication of former British geopolitical 'use and abuse' tactics.

Unlikely, but they may find the US is prepared to back their play over time, as Trump has his eye on ratcheting up the pressure on Iran and Russia through the Levant, but supporting potential disruption in Northern Iran may be the wrong move for POTUS just now. The US led coalition has established a fairly strong alliance with the Kurds who've certainly proved their worth against Daesh, and US troops are currently embedded with Kurdish forces in a standoff against Turkish forces along the Syrian border, but it would also be a poke in Erdogan's eye as a NATO partner, and definitely a kick in the crotch for Abadi as the general corruption around Iraqi oil sales must be kept in the family!

A critical weakness for the Trump administration right now is the 'hollowed out' State Department, despite the arrival of Pompeo, which makes diplomacy quite difficult, something that's increasingly evident since January. Without US endorsement I believe the Kurds will struggle to move beyond their referendum vote, but I think its outcome will be unequivocal and to b*st*rdise Roosevelt, will likely result in 'more war and less jaw' for the region!

There's still a little way to go before things escalate to a decent body count level amongst the coalition forces, but it's for sure the refugee impetus will be reinvigorated and Erdogan will turn the tap on again if he feels his gonads are being snagged by NATO partners in his dealings with the Kurds.

I therefore acknowledge the Anglo centric history perspective Seedy, but then my theme on this thread has revolved, at least in part around declining empires and their impact on 'third parties' e.g. The Ottomans, Bulgaria and all that. In particular the nature of current pressures influencing Southern Europe, the wider Balkans and particularly Bulgaria's uncertain course in the early part of this century. Tonight's escalation of coalition kinetic deterrents in MENA are less likely to stem the people tide rather than ensure the next human tsunami is assured!

Let's also hope that Trump's recent political appointments to his WH team, in the forms of the hawkish 'psycho'phant John Bolton as NSA, and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of the State, do not collectively replicate the latter's phonetic synonym - 'Pompeii', given potential Vesuvian deposits for the Balkans!

Montenegro, Macedonia, and Kosovo are very unstable at this time, whilst the geopolitical cauldron is bubbling in Turkey as NATO gets a 'wedgie' thanks to Erdogan and Putin egotistics! Bulgaria is both weak politically, and remains economically vulnerable, especially as Brexit looms with the loss of the UK's contributions biting into the EU budget and more particularly the contribution to the GDP of Bg expatriates sending money back home!

Meanwhile, I'll continue with my consistent inconsistency regarding thread posts, whilst completing projects, including furniture renovations and preparation for the new 'grandsprog' next month getting in the way of our preparations to ship out!
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Golden Oldie
Golden Oldie

Joined: Feb 21, 2012
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Location: Sofia, Dupnitsa, Lincs

PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 6:50 am 
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Mr X - just in case you take silence as a lack of appreciation of your ablutionary efforts, please be assured that they are savoured...Cool
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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In The Prime
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Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:28 pm 
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Seedy wrote:
Mr X - just in case you take silence as a lack of appreciation of your ablutionary efforts, please be assured that they are savoured...Cool

Many thanks Seedy, it's lonely out there on the edge (of the bathtub), but I'll keep knocking them out, although that doesn't sound quite right!

Ho Hum .... brief pause for BS filter adjustment, whilst 'ablutionary effort' and 'savoured' in the same sentence generates a somewhat 'icky' taste in the back of my mouth!

I rather suspect ZZ has lost all interest in Bulgaria's evolutionary pathway, especially the growing number of 'lost' (directionless), and depopulated (emasculated for the most part) villages suspended in rheumy time. In a vaguely rustic sense the forgotten generations still looking to someone else to deliver their promised tomorrow that was always within their grasp, but sadly not their imagination Wink

Next instalment of 'BSBB', hopefully cloaked as 'interesting reading', is suitably blotted on the virtual notepad, and will be delivered shortly Wink

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Golden Oldie
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 2:56 am 
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Think of it more as Primordial Soup than sullage, Mr X - but nonetheless be wary of what lies below the surface.... Wink
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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