Today is Independence Day in the United States, one of the big holidays of the summer sandwiched between Memorial Day at the end of May and Labor Day at the beginning of September. July 4th is notable for three things: town parades, backyard barbecues, and evening fireworks. Wherever I lived in the U.S. I had access to all three, and got involved in various ways over the years. Sometimes I simply watched a local parade for no other reason than that I love a parade, sometimes I was in one with my fire company, and sometimes my son was playing in the town band. I’ll talk more about barbecues at the end. The endless production of hot dogs and hamburgers on propane grills that is the typical fare for most people was never my thing. I was more inclined to build a giant fire and use the coals for something a great deal more adventurous. Personal fireworks were illegal in New York, so attending a local town display was more common for us – although there were ways around the ban which I worked on once in a while. All reasonably enjoyable even though this was not a tradition I grew up with, so it did not thoroughly resonate with me.
I have celebrated a great many national days in this blog over the years – almost all of them associated with a significant anniversary, such as the date on which a nation was formally separated from its colonial master (perhaps Spain, or France, or England). The 4th of July is not especially noteworthy in US history. The Declaration of Independence was generally approved (with reservations) by the Continental Congress on July 2nd, 1776, by which time the colonies were already at war with Britain. The Revolutionary War began on April 19th,1775 and concluded on September 3rd, 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The original Declaration contained the following savage condemnation of slavery written by Thomas Jefferson:
He [George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemispere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation hither. this piratical warfare, the opprobium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people [slaves] to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he had deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
The Southern states objected to this provision in the Declaration, holding up full congressional approval for two days. John Adams had written to his wife, Abigail:
The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Generally accurate, but off by two days. Whether anyone actually signed the Declaration on July 4th is still debated. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later claimed that they did, but the formal signing took place on August 2nd.
On July 4th, 1777, thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once at morning and once again as evening fell,in Bristol, Rhode Island. An article in the July 18, 1777 issue of The Virginia Gazette noted a celebration in Philadelphia: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships in port were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
In 1778, from his headquarters at Ross Hall, near New Brunswick, New Jersey, General George Washington marked July 4th with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute.
In 1779, July 4th fell on a Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5th.
In 1781, the Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4th as a state celebration.
In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
In 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.
So, let’s talk about backyard barbecues. I’m not opposed to hamburgers and hot dogs, but there are plenty of alternatives for a change of pace. I was often inclined to grill chicken pieces that had been marinated in a hot sauce. A more participatory approach is to assemble the ingredients for vegetable skewers for grilling and let guests assemble them themselves. Prepare bowls of chunks of corn, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, mushroom, etc. (see photo), have a set of skewers handy, and let guests build their own to suit their tastes. The vegetables are perfectly fine for grilling plain, but you can also marinate them in olive oil plus fresh herbs ahead of time if you want to perk things up a bit. These vegetables cook fairly quickly, and you need to turn the skewers regularly so that they cook evenly. Serve with crusty bread (which can be toasted on the grill) and a variety of salads – including potato salad, mixed tomatoes and onions, and leafy greens. If you are a confirmed carnivore, I’d suggest lamb chops as a change from hamburgers.
Today is Independence Day in Djibouti, officially the Republic of Djibouti, marking its formal severance of colonial rule by France in 1977. The country is located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somalia in the south, Ethiopia in the south and west, Eritrea in the north, and the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in the east. Across the Gulf of Aden lies Yemen. The country has a total area of 23,200 sq km (8,958 sq mi). The Republic of Djibouti is predominantly inhabited by two ethnic groups, the majority Somali and the Afar.
I have chosen to celebrate Djibouti today because it is one of a handful of countries I have been interested in visiting for some time. I was due to make a trip to England this June for a school reunion and spent many months at the beginning of the year figuring out an itinerary that would include a stop in Djibouti (Cambodia to India to Dubai to Djibouti to Turkey to England) but COVID-19 cut that plan off. I’ll make it there some day, but not any time soon.
In antiquity, the territory together with Somalia was part of the Land of Punt. Nearby Zeila, now in Somalia, was the seat of the medieval Adal and Ifat sultanates. In the late 19th century, the colony of French Somaliland was established following treaties signed by the ruling Somali and Afar sultans with the French and its railroad to Dire Dawa (and later Addis Ababa) allowed it to quickly supersede Zeila as the port for southern Ethiopia and the Ogaden. It was subsequently renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967, and then, via overwhelming referendum in favor, declared independence 10 years later, although there is still a substantial French Foreign Legion presence in the country.
Here’s a small gallery:
The food is a big attraction for me – a blend of Somali, Middle Eastern, French, Indian, and other tastes. The national dish is Fah Fah, which is a goat soup/stew. I could give a recipe but it is essentially goat meat simmered for hours with onions, garlic, vegetables, and coriander.
Here is a better option: a Somali dish of rice and goat. Sorry that the video is in Arabic. You’ll get the gist (there is a bit of English mixed in):
Today is a two-fer in Lithuania. In 1270 the grand duchy of Lithuania defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle of Karuse, and in 1918 the Council of Lithuania unanimously adopted the Act of Independence, declaring Lithuania an independent state. Let’s take them in order.
The Battle of Karuse, or Battle on the Ice(not to be confused with this Battle on the Ice https://www.bookofdaystales.com/battle-on-the-ice/ ), was fought on 16th February 1270 between the grand duchy of Lithuania and the Livonian Order on the frozen Baltic Sea between the island of Muhu and the mainland. The Lithuanians achieved a decisive victory. The battle, named after the village of Karuse, was the fifth-largest defeat of the Livonian or Teutonic Orders in the 13th century. Almost all that is known about the battle comes from the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, which devoted 192 lines to the battle. The Livonian Brothers of the Sword, a crusading military order established in 1202, set out to conquer and convert to Christianity indigenous peoples of present-day Latvia and Estonia. They subjugated the Semigallians by 1250. However, after the Livonian defeats in the 1259 battle of Skuodas and the 1260 battle of Durbe, the Semigallians rebelled. Traidenis, who became Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1269 or 1270, supported the rebellion.
In winter 1270, the Livonian Order invaded Semigalia. However, after learning that a large Lithuanian army had also invaded the region, Master Otto von Lutterberg decided to retreat to Riga. The Lithuanians marched north, reaching as far as the island of Saaremaa, which they were able to reach because the Baltic Sea was frozen. The Lithuanian army plundered the area, taking much war loot. It is unclear whether Semigallians joined the Lithuanians and participated in this campaign – contemporary sources do not mention them, but later sources such as Jüngere Hochmeisterchronik and Dionysius Fabricius always mention their participation.
Master Lutterberg gathered a large army of Livonian knights, soldiers from the Bishopric of Dorpat, the Bishopric of Ösel–Wiek, Danish Estonia, as well as local tribes of Livs and Latgalians. The Order was well-prepared for the battle: for a year it had been recruiting soldiers for an expedition into Semigalia. The Livonian army marched north to meet the Lithuanians near Saaremaa Island. The armies met on the frozen Moon Sound (probably near Virtsu) on the feast day of Juliana of Nicomedia.
The Livonian army positioned for the battle: troops from Danish Estonia, commanded by the Danish king’s viceroy Siverith, formed the right flank; Livonian knights, commanded by Master Luttenberg, formed the center; soldiers from the Bishoprics formed the left flank. The Lithuanians arranged their sleighs as a barricade. A vanguard unit likely covered construction of the improvised barricade so that the knights could not see it. When the knights attacked, Lithuanians retreated behind their sleighs and the Livonian cavalry ran into the barricade. As the horses got stuck between the sleighs, Lithuanians speared the horses and their riders. A small number of Livonian knights managed to break through the barricade and the left and right flanks joined the fighting, but that was not enough to overcome the strong Lithuanian formation. The Lithuanians achieved a decisive victory: 52 knights, including the Master Lutterberg, and around 600 low-ranking soldiers were killed while bishop Hermann of Ösel-Wiek was gravely injured and barely managed to escape. According to the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, 1600 Lithuanians were killed, but that information is very doubtful and most likely inflated by pro-Livonian bias.
As a result of the Great Retreat during World War I, Germany occupied the entire territory of Lithuania and Courland by the end of 1915. A new administrative entity, Ober Ost, was established. Lithuanians lost all political rights they had gained: personal freedom was restricted, and at the outset the Lithuanian press was banned. However, the Lithuanian intelligentsia tried to take advantage of the existing geopolitical situation and began to look for opportunities to restore Lithuania’s independence. On 18–22 September 1917, the Vilnius Conference elected the 20-member Council of Lithuania.
The Act of Reinstating Independence of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Valstybės atkūrimo aktas) or Act of 16th February was signed by the Council on 16th February 1918, proclaiming the restoration of an independent state of Lithuania, governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital. The Act was signed by all twenty representatives of the Council, which was chaired by Jonas Basanavičius. The Act of 16th February was the result of a series of resolutions on the issue, including one issued by the Vilnius Conference and the Act of 8th January. The path to the Act was long and complex because the German Empire exerted pressure on the Council to form an alliance. The Council had to carefully maneuver between the Germans, whose troops were stationed in Lithuania, and the demands of the Lithuanian people.
The immediate effects of the announcement of Lithuania’s re-establishment of independence were limited. Publication of the Act was prohibited by the German authorities, and the text was distributed and printed illegally. The work of the Council was hindered, and Germans remained in control over Lithuania. The situation changed only when Germany lost World War I in late 1918. In November 1918 the first Cabinet of Lithuania was formed, and the Council of Lithuania gained control over the territory of Lithuania. Independent Lithuania, although it would soon be battling Wars of Independence, became a reality.
The 1918 Act is the legal basis for the existence of modern Lithuania, both during the interwar period and since 1990, when it was freed from Soviet control. The Act formulated the basic constitutional principles that were and still are followed by all Constitutions of Lithuania. The Act itself was a key element in the foundation of Lithuania’s re-establishment of independence in 1990. Lithuania, breaking away from the Soviet Union, stressed that it was simply re-establishing the independent state that existed between the world wars and that the Act never lost its legal power. On 29 March 2017, the original document was found at the Diplomatic archive in Berlin, Germany.
Cepelinai (lit. ‘zeppelins’; singular: cepelinas) or didžkukuliai is a traditional Lithuanian dish of stuffed potato dumplings – sometimes called the national dish of Lithuania. The dumplings are made from grated and riced potatoes and stuffed with ground meat or dry curd cheese or mushrooms. You can use your favorite ground meat combination for the recipe. You can use all ground pork or a meatloaf-style mixture of pork, beef, and veal. This dish is best served and eaten as soon as it is made. The dumplings are hard to store and are best piping hot and covered with hot gravy.
For the Meat Filling:
1 lb ground pork (or ⅓ lb pork, ⅓ lb beef, ⅓ lb veal)
1 medium onion (peeled and finely chopped)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 large egg, beaten
For the Dumplings:
8 large Idaho potatoes (peeled and finely grated, not shredded)
2 large Idaho potatoes (peeled, boiled, and riced)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 medium onion (peeled and finely grated)
1 tbsp cornstarch
For the Gravy:
½ lb bacon (diced)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 to 2 tbsp milk
To make the meat filling
In a large bowl, mix together the ground meat, finely chopped onion, salt and peppero taste, and egg until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the dumplings
Add a drop or two of lemon juice to the grated potatoes so they don’t turn brown. Place them in a fine-mesh cheesecloth or cotton dish towel and twist over a large bowl to get rid of the excess water. Pour off the water, reserving the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl. Unwrap the cheesecloth and place the potatoes in the bowl with the reserved potato starch. Add the riced boiled potatoes, grated onion, and salt to taste. Mix well.
Put a large stockpot of water on to boil and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (and salt if desired). This will help prevent the dumplings falling apart.
To form the zeppelins, take about 1 cup of dumpling mixture and pat it flat in the palm of the hand. Place ¼ cup or more of the meat mixture in the center and, using slightly dampened hands, fold the potato mixture around the meat into a football shape, sealing well. Continue until both mixtures are used up.
Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower the dumplings into the boiling water and boil for 25 minutes. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon, drain briefly, and place on a heated platter.
To make the gravy
Make the gravy while the dumplings are boiling, so that they can be served immediately they are cooked. In a skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until cooked and add the chopped onion in the last few minutes to soften. Drain off excess fat and add the sour cream and black pepper to taste. I necessary thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk. Pour some gravy over the dumplings and put the remainder in a gravy boat to pass at the table.
Today is the birthday (1824) of Dayananda Saraswati, an Indian social leader and founder of the Arya Samaj, a reform movement of the Vedic dharma. He was the first to give the call for an “India for Indians” in 1876. Subsequently, the philosopher and president of India, S. Radhakrishnan called him one of the “makers of Modern India”, as did Sri Aurobindo.
Dayananda was born on the 10th day of waning moon in the month of Purnimanta Falguna to a Hindu family in Jeevapar Tankara, Kathiawad region (now Morbi district of Gujarat). His original name was Mul Shankar. His father was Karshanji Lalji Kapadi, and his mother was Amrutbai. When he was eight years old, his Yajnopavita Sanskara ceremony was performed, marking his entry into formal education. His father was a follower of Shiva and taught him the ways to impress Shiva. He was also taught the importance of keeping fasts. On the occasion of Shivratri, Dayananda sat awake the whole night in obedience to Shiva. On one of these fasts, he saw a mouse eating the offerings and running over the idol’s body. After seeing this, he questioned that if Shiva could not defend himself against a mouse, then how could he be the savior of the massive world. The deaths of his younger sister and his uncle from cholera caused Dayananda to ponder the meaning of life and death. He began asking questions which worried his parents. He was engaged in his early teens, but he decided marriage was not for him and ran away from home in 1846.
Dayananda spent nearly 25 years, from 1845 to 1869, as a wandering ascetic, searching for religious truth. He gave up material goods and lived a life of self-denial, devoting himself to spiritual pursuits in forests, retreats in the Himalayan Mountains, and pilgrimage sites in northern India. During these years he practiced various forms of yoga and became a disciple of a religious teacher named Virajanand Dandeesha. Virajanand believed that Hinduism had strayed from its historical roots and that many of its practices had become impure. Dayananda Sarasvati promised Virajanand that he would devote his life to restoring the rightful place of the Vedas in the Hindu faith. He believed that Hinduism had been corrupted by divergence from the founding principles of the Vedas and that Hindus had been misled by the priesthood for the priests’ self-aggrandizement. For this mission, he founded the Arya Samaj, enunciating the Ten Universal Principles as a code for Universalism, called Krinvanto Vishwaryam. With these principles, he intended the whole world to be an abode for Nobles (Aryas).
His next step was to reform Hinduism with a new dedication to God. He traveled the country challenging religious scholars and priests to discussions, winning repeatedly through the strength of his arguments and knowledge of Sanskrit and Vedas. Hindu priests discouraged the laity from reading Vedic scriptures, and encouraged rituals, such as bathing in the Ganges River and feeding of priests on anniversaries, which Dayananda denounced as superstitions or self-serving practices. By exhorting India to reject such superstitious notions, his aim was to educate the nation to return to the teachings of the Vedas, and to follow the Vedic way of life. He also exhorted India to accept social reforms, as well as the adoption of Hindi as the national language for national integration. Through his daily life and practice of yoga and asanas, teachings, preaching, sermons and writings, he inspired India to aspire to Swarajya (self governance), nationalism, and spiritualism. He advocated the equal rights and respects to women and advocated for the education of all children, regardless of gender.
Dayananda also made logical, scientific and critical analyses of faiths including Christianity & Islam, as well as of other Indian faiths like Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Unlike many other reform movements of his times within Hinduism, the Arya Samaj’s appeal was addressed not only to the educated few in India, but to the world as a whole as evidenced in the sixth principle of the Arya Samaj. As a result, his teachings professed universalism for all living beings and not for any particular sect, faith, community or nation.
Dayananda’s Vedic message emphasized respect and reverence for other human beings, supported by the Vedic notion of the divine nature of the individual. In the ten principles of the Arya Samaj, he enshrined the idea that “All actions should be performed with the prime objective of benefiting mankind”, as opposed to following dogmatic rituals or revering idols and symbols. The first five principles speak of Truth, while the last five speak of a society with nobility, civics, co-living, and disciplined life.
Dayanand is recorded to have been active since he was 14, which time he was able to recite religious verses and teach about them. He was respected at the time for taking parts in religious debates. His debates were attended by relatively large crowd of the public. One of the most important debates took place on 22nd October 1869 in Varanasi, where he won a debate against 27 scholars and approximately 12 expert pandits. The debate is recorded to have been attended by over 50,000 people. The main topic was “Do the Vedas uphold deity worship?”
Arya Samaj, condemns practices of several different religions and communities, including such practices as idol worship, animal sacrifice, pilgrimages, priest craft, offerings made in temples, the castes, child marriages, meat eating and discrimination against women. He argues that all of these practices run contrary to good sense and the wisdom of the Vedas. The Arya Samaj discourages dogma and symbolism and encourages skepticism in beliefs that run contrary to common sense and logic.
According to his supporters, he was poisoned on a few occasions, but due to his regular practice of Hatha Yoga he survived all such attempts. One story recounts that attackers once attempted to drown him in a river, but Dayanand dragged the assailants into the river instead, though he released them before they drowned. Another account tells of how he was attacked by Muslims who were offended by his criticism of Islam while meditating on the Ganges river. They threw him into the water but he saved himself because his pranayama practice allowed him to stay under water until the attackers left.
In 1883, the Maharaja of Jodhpur Swami, Jaswant Singh II, invited Dayananda to stay at his palace. The Maharaja was eager to become Dayananda’s disciple, and to learn his teachings. During his stay, Dayananda went to the Maharaja’s room and saw him with a dancing girl named Nanhi Jaan. Dayananda asked the Maharaja to forsake the girl and all unethical acts, and to follow the dharma like a true Aryan. Dayananda’s suggestion offended Nanhi, who decided to take revenge. On 29th September 1883, she bribed Dayananda’s cook, Jagannath, to mix crushed glass in his nightly milk. Dayananda was served the milk before bed, which he promptly drank, becoming bedridden for several days, and suffering excruciating pain. The Maharaja quickly arranged doctor’s services for him. However, by the time doctors arrived, his condition had worsened, and he had developed large, bleeding sores. Upon seeing Dayananda’s suffering, Jagannath was overwhelmed with guilt and confessed his crime to Dayananda. On his deathbed, Dayananda forgave him, and gave him a bag of money, telling him to flee the kingdom before he was found and executed by the Maharaja’s men. He died on the morning of 30th October 1883 at 6:00 am, chanting mantras. The day coincided with Hindu festival of Diwali.
Dal dhokli (Gujarati: દાળ ઢોકળી), is a Rajasthani, Gujarati and Maharashtrian dish made by boiling thick wheat flour noodles (dhokli or phal) in a lentil stew (dal or varan). It is considered a comfort food. It is widely believed that the Marwaris who had migrated to Gujarat invented the dish. While the dish remains popular in Marwar part of Rajasthan, it is Gujaratis who have made it a staple in their homes. Being meat free and relatively simple to make it seems like a good dish to celebrate a Gujarati Hindu holy man. Here is a video on how to make the dish. It is in Gujarati, but there are ingredients listed in English, and the instructions are easy to follow visually:
Today is Independence Day in Barbados. The island was an English and later British colony from 1625 until 1966. Since 1966, it has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, modelled on the Westminster system, with Elizabeth II as head of state.
Some evidence suggests that Barbados may have been settled in the second millennium BCE, but this is limited to fragments of conch lip adzes found in association with shells that have been radiocarbon-dated to about 1630 BCE. Fully documented Amerindian settlement dates to between about 350 and 650 CE. The arrivals were a group known as the Saladoid-Barrancoid from mainland South America. A second wave of settlers appeared around the year 800 (the Spanish referred to these as “Arawaks”) and a third in the mid-13th century (called “Caribs” by the Spanish). This last group was politically more organized and came to rule over the others. Frequent slave-raiding missions by the Spanish Empire in the early 16th century led to a massive decline in the Amerindian population, that by 1541 a Spanish writer claimed they were uninhabited. The Amerindians were either captured for use as slaves by the Spanish or fled to other, more easily defensible mountainous islands nearby.
From about 1600 the English, French and Dutch began to found colonies in the North American mainland and the smaller islands of the West Indies. Although Spanish and Portuguese sailors had visited Barbados, the first English ship touched the island on 14th May 1625, and England was the first European nation to establish a lasting settlement there from 1627. England is commonly said to have made its initial claim to Barbados in 1625, although an earlier claim may have been made in 1620. Nonetheless, Barbados was claimed from 1625 in the name of James I of England. There were earlier English settlements in The Americas (1607: Jamestown, 1609: Bermuda, and 1620: Plymouth Colony), and several islands in the Leeward Islands were claimed by the English at about the same time as Barbados (1623: St Kitts, 1628: Nevis, 1632: Montserrat, 1632: Antigua). Nevertheless, Barbados quickly grew to become the third major English settlement in the Americas due to its prime eastern location.
The first English ship, which had arrived on 14 May 1625, was captained by John Powell. The first settlement began on 17 February 1627, near what is now Holetown (formerly Jamestown), by a group led by John Powell’s younger brother, Henry, consisting of 80 settlers and 10 English laborers. The latter were young indentured laborers who according to some sources had been abducted, effectively making them slaves. Courten’s title was transferred to James Hay, 1st Earl of Carlisle, in what was called the “Great Barbados Robbery.” Carlisle then chose as governor Henry Hawley, who established the House of Assembly in 1639, in an effort to appease the planters, who might otherwise have opposed his controversial appointment.
In the period 1640–60, the West Indies attracted over two-thirds of the total number of English emigrants to the Americas. By 1650, there were 44,000 settlers in the West Indies, as compared to 12,000 on the Chesapeake and 23,000 in New England. Most English arrivals were indentured. After five years of labor, they were given “freedom dues” of about ₤10, usually in goods. (Before the mid-1630s, they also received 5 to 10 acres of land, but after that time the island filled and there was no more free land.) Around the time of Cromwell, a number of rebels and criminals were also transported there. Parish registers from the 1650s show, for the white population, four times as many deaths as marriages.
Sugar cane cultivation in Barbados began in the 1640s, after its introduction in 1637 by Pieter Blower. Initially, rum was produced but by 1642, sugar was the focus of the industry. As it developed into the main commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into large plantation estates which replaced the small holdings of the early English settlers as the wealthy planters pushed out the poorer. Some of the displaced farmers relocated to the English colonies in North America, most notably South Carolina. To work the plantations, Africans – primarily from West Africa – were imported as slaves in such numbers that there were three for every one planter. Increasingly after 1750 the plantations were owned by absentee landlords living in Britain and operated by hired managers. The slave trade ceased in 1807 and slaves were emancipated in 1834. Persecuted Catholics from Ireland also worked the plantations. Life expectancy of slaves was short and replacements were purchased annually.
The introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil in 1640 completely transformed society and the economy. Barbados eventually had one of the world’s biggest sugar industries. One group instrumental in ensuring the early success of the industry were the Sephardic Jews, who had originally been expelled from the Iberian peninsula, to end up in Dutch Brazil. As the of the new crop increased, so did the shift in the ethnic composition of Barbados and surrounding islands. The workable sugar plantation required a large investment and a great deal of heavy labor. At first, Dutch traders supplied the equipment, financing, and African slaves, in addition to transporting most of the sugar to Europe. In 1644, the population of Barbados was estimated at 30,000, of which about 800 were of African descent, with the remainder mainly of English descent. These English smallholders were eventually bought out and the island filled up with large African slave-worked sugar plantations. By 1660, there was near parity with 27,000 blacks and 26,000 whites. By 1666, at least 12,000 white smallholders had been bought out, died, or left the island. Many of the remaining whites were increasingly poor. By 1680, there were 17 slaves for every indentured servant. By 1700, there were 15,000 free whites and 50,000 enslaved blacks.
Due to the increased implementation of slave codes, which created differential treatment between Africans and the white workers and ruling planter class, the island became increasingly unattractive to poor whites. Black or slave codes were implemented in 1661, 1676, 1682, and 1688. In response to these codes, several slave rebellions were attempted or planned during this time, but none succeeded. Nevertheless, poor whites who had or acquired the means to emigrate often did so. Planters expanded their importation of African slaves to cultivate sugar cane. One early advocate of slave rights in Barbados was the visiting Quaker preacher Alice Curwen in 1677: ” “For I am perswaded, that if they whom thou call’st thy Slaves, be Upright-hearted to God, the Lord God Almighty will set them Free in a way that thou knowest not; for there is none set free but in Christ Jesus, for all other Freedom will prove but a Bondage.”
By 1660, Barbados generated more trade than all the other English colonies combined. This remained so until it was eventually surpassed by geographically larger islands like Jamaica in 1713. But even so, the estimated value of the colony of Barbados in 1730–31 was as much as ₤5,500,000. Bridgetown, the capital, was one of the three largest cities in English America (the other two being Boston, Massachusetts and Port Royal, Jamaica.) By 1700, the English West Indies produced 25,000 tons of sugar, compared to 20,000 for Brazil, 10,000 for the French islands and 4,000 for the Dutch islands. This quickly replaced tobacco, which had been the island’s main export.
The British abolished the slave trade in 1807, but not the institution itself. In 1816, slaves rose up in the largest major slave rebellion in the island’s history, of 20,000 slaves from over 70 plantations. They drove whites off the plantations, but widespread killings did not take place. This was later termed “Bussa’s Rebellion” after the slave ranger, Bussa, who with his assistants hated slavery, found the treatment of slaves on Barbados to be “intolerable”, and believed the political climate in Britain made the time ripe to peacefully negotiate with planters for freedom. Bussa’s Rebellion failed. One hundred and twenty slaves died in combat or were immediately executed, and another 144 were brought to trial and executed. The remaining rebels were shipped off the island. In 1826, the Barbados legislature passed the Consolidated Slave Law, which simultaneously granted concessions to the slaves while providing reassurances to the slave owners. Slavery was finally abolished in the British Empire 18 years later, in 1834. In Barbados and the rest of the British West Indian colonies, full emancipation from slavery was preceded by an apprenticeship period that lasted four years.
In 1884, the Barbados Agricultural Society sent a letter to Sir Francis Hincks requesting his private and public views on whether the Dominion of Canada would favorably entertain having the then colony of Barbados admitted as a member of the Canadian Confederation. Asked from Canada were the terms of the Canadian side to initiate discussions, and whether or not the island of Barbados could depend on the full influence of Canada in getting the change agreed to by the British Parliament at Westminster.
In 1952, the Barbados Advocate newspaper polled several prominent Barbadian politicians, lawyers, businessmen, the Speaker of the Barbados House of Assembly and later as first President of the Senate, Sir Theodore Branker, Q.C. and found them to be in favor of immediate federation of Barbados along with the rest of the British Caribbean with complete Dominion Status within five years from the date of inauguration of the West Indies Federation with Canada.
However, plantation owners and merchants of British descent still dominated local politics, owing to the high income qualification required for voting. More than 70 percent of the population, many of them disenfranchised women, were excluded from the democratic process. It was not until the 1930s that the descendants of emancipated slaves began a movement for political rights. One of the leaders of this, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Progressive League in 1938, which later became known as the Barbados Labour Party
Adams and his party demanded more rights for the poor and for the people, and staunchly supported the monarchy. Progress toward a more democratic government in Barbados was made in 1942, when the exclusive income qualification was lowered and women were given the right to vote. By 1949, governmental control was wrested from the planters, and in 1958 Adams became Premier of Barbados.
From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of the ten members of the West Indies Federation, a federalist organization doomed by nationalist attitudes and the fact that its members, as British colonies, held limited legislative power. Grantley Adams served as its first and only “Premier”, but his leadership failed in attempts to form similar unions, and his continued defense of the monarchy was used by his opponents as evidence that he was no longer in touch with the needs of his country. Errol Walton Barrow, a fervent reformer, became the people’s new advocate. Barrow had left the BLP and formed the Democratic Labour Party as a liberal alternative to Adams’ conservative government. Barrow instituted many progressive social programmes, such as free education for all Barbadians and a school meals system. By 1961, Barrow had replaced Adams as Premier and the DLP controlled the government.
With the Federation dissolved, Barbados reverted to its former status, that of a self-governing colony. The island negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with Britain in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados finally became an independent state on 30 November 1966, with Errol Barrow its first Prime Minister, although queen Elizabeth II remained the monarch. Upon independence Barbados maintained historical linkages with Britain by becoming a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A year later, Barbados’ international linkages were expanded by obtaining membership of both the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Barbadian cuisine, also called Bajan cuisine, is a mixture of African, Indian, Irish, Creole, and British influences. A typical meal consists of a main dish of meat or fish, normally marinated with a mixture of herbs and spices, hot side dishes, and one or more salads. The meal is usually served with one or more sauces. The national dish of Barbados is cou-cou and fried flying fish with spicy gravy. I’ll give you a two-fer today: a video on cou-cou and flying fish, followed by a recipe for pepperpot, one of my favorites.
2lbs stewing steak, cubed
2 pig’s trotters, split and chopped
2lbs ox tail, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 scotch bonnet peppers, minced
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
fresh basil, chopped
fresh thyme, chopped
Place the stewing steak in a non-reactive mixing bowl with a generous amount of lime juice. Set aside for one hour.
Put the pig’s trotters and oxtail in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring slowly to the boil, skim, and continue to simmer.
Remove the stewing steak from the lime juice and add to the pot. Fill the pot with fresh hot water. Add the cinnamon stick, and cloves, plus basil, thyme, salt and sugar to taste. Also add the onion, garlic, and hot pepper. Simmer gently, covered, for at least 4 hours, until the meat is very tender.
Refrigerate overnight. Reheat the next day to boiling point. You can serve the soup then, or continue to refrigerate overnight and reheat the next day for several days. Flavor develops over time.
José Matías Delgado y León was among several, including his nephew, Manuel José Arce, who issued the first Cry for Independence in Central America, on this date in 1811 in San Salvador. On this date he is said to have rung the bells of the Church of La Merced, as a public cry for liberty. El grito de libertad, or some variant, is a common phrase in Latin America for the first act in a region calling for independence (see https://www.bookofdaystales.com/grito-de-dolores-mexican-independence/ ).
Delgado studied civil law, canon law, and theology in Guatemala at Tridentino Seminary, earning a doctorate from the University of San Carlos de Guatemala. He was ordained a priest, and returned to El Salvador, where from August 12th, 1797 he was provincial vicar of San Salvador, and became intensely involved in pastoral work. In 1808 he began the reconstruction of the old Parochial Church of San Salvador (today El Rosario Church), which was finished a decade later.
In San Salvador he became a leader of the movement for independence. On this date he rang out the cry for liberty in 1811 in San Salvador. The rebellion began with the confiscation of 3,000 guns and the funds in the royal treasury. The provincial intendant, Gutiérrez de Ulloa, was removed, as were most governmental employees. The rebels held the government for nearly a month before royal authority was restored from Guatemala. Delgado’s brothers Juan and Miguel were also members of the independence movement.
Manuel José Arce
In 1813 Delgado was elected a provincial deputy to the council in Guatemala City. He also became director of the Tridentino Seminary there. He was not in El Salvador at the time of the second insurrection in 1814, and did not take part in it. He was elected provincial deputy again in 1820, and on September 15th, 1821, he was among those who signed the Act of Independence of Central America in Guatemala City. On November 28th, 1821 he became political chief of the province of San Salvador.
When the Central American governmental junta voted to join the Mexican Empire (January 5th, 1822), Delgado (and many other Salvadorans) opposed this move. On January 11th 1822 in San Salvador, the city government, presided over by Padre Delgado, and many members of the public protested the decision. Also on January 11th, the government of El Salvador seceded from Guatemala in order to remain outside the Mexican Empire.
In April 1822 Colonel Manuel Arzú, in command of Guatemalan troops, occupied the Salvadoran cities of Santa Ana and Sonsonate. On June 3rd 1822, Arzú entered San Salvador, reaching the Plaza Major. Nine hours of fighting resulted in many casualties, burned houses and plundering, but the Guatemalans then withdrew. Delgado’s nephew, Colonel Manuel José Arce, was one of the commanders of the Salvadoran defenders. On June 6th 1822, Salvadoran troops reoccupied Santa Ana, and later also Ahuachapán and Sonsonate.
On December 2, 1822, fearing further encroachment from Guatemala, El Salvador officially asked for annexation to the United States. A delegation was sent to the United States to negotiate. That same month, Brigadier Vicente Filisola, Captain-General of Guatemala (within the Mexican Empire), marched toward San Salvador. He entered the city on February 9th 1823, declaring respect for people and goods, but also the annexation of the province to Mexico. This was the end of the government of José Matías Delgado.
On the fall of Mexican Emperor Agustín de Iturbide in 1823, Central America declared its independence. Delgado was elected one of the representatives to the constituent congress of the Federal Republic of Central America. This Congress met in Guatemala beginning on June 24th 1823, and Delgado was chosen to preside. On May 5th 1824 he was named the first bishop of San Salvador by the local civil authorities and not by the Catholic Church. This entangled him in a serious and long-lasting controversy with the Archbishop of Guatemala and the Vatican authorities that lasted until his death.
In 1824 he bought in Guatemala, with public money, the first official printing press in El Salvador. It was used to publish the first Salvadoran newspaper, El Semanario Político Mercantil. The first issue appeared on July 31st 1824.
Delgado died on November 12th 1832 in San Salvador. As his funeral procession passed the Plaza Mayor, mourners showered his coffin with white rose petals. His remains are interred at El Rosario Church. On January 22nd 1833 the National Assembly declared him Benemérito de la Patria (National Hero).
El Salvador’s most notable dish is the pupusa, a thick handmade corn flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, chicharrón (cooked pork ground to a paste consistency), refried beans, or loroco (a vine flower bud native to Central America). There are also vegetarian options, often with ayote (a type of squash) or garlic. Pupusas are served with salsa roja, a flavorful Salvadoran cooked tomato sauce, and with curtido, a pickled cabbage dish. Quesillo is a Salvadoran cheese curd that is perhaps the most popular filling for pupusas. This video will give you the basic idea, although you need to brush up your Spanish. It is good on how to shape the pupusas and cook them, but assumes you know how to make the dough, so a recipe follows.
3 cups masa harina (milled corn flour for making tortillas)
1 ½ cups warm water
½ tsp salt
½ cup mashed refried beans
1 cup chicharrón
1 cup grated quesillo
In a large bowl, mix the masa harina with the water and salt, stirring well. Add more water if necessary to obtain a soft dough that does not crack around the edges when flattened. Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, for about 15 minutes.
[see the video for this part] Divide the dough into about 6 pieces. Lightly oil your hands to keep the dough from sticking to them. Form each piece of dough into a ball, then make an indentation in the ball. Place your filling of choice in the indentation, and carefully wrap the dough around the filling to seal.
Flatten the ball into a disk, about ¼ inch thick, being careful to keep the filling from leaking out of the edges. This will take practice.
Wipe a very small amount of oil on to the surface of a heavy skillet. Heat the skillet over medium heat, and place the pupusas in the skillet. Once the bottom of the pupusa is browned, flip it over and cook the other side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and serve warm with a side of curtido and salsa roja.
On this date in 1986 The Federated States of Micronesia, abbreviated FSM and also known simply as Micronesia, became an independent nation, consisting of four states – from west to east, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae – that are spread across the Western Pacific Ocean. Together, the states comprise around 607 islands (a combined land area of approximately 702 km2 or 271 sq mi) that cover a longitudinal distance of almost 2,700 km (1,678 mi) just north of the equator. They lie northeast of New Guinea, south of Guam and the Marianas, west of Nauru and the Marshall Islands, east of Palau and the Philippines, about 2,900 km (1,802 mi) north of eastern Australia and about 4,000 km (2,485 mi) southwest of the main islands of Hawaii. While the FSM’s total land area is quite small, it occupies more than 2,600,000 km2 (1,000,000 sq mi) of the Pacific Ocean, giving the country the 14th largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world. The independent sovereign island nation’s capital is Palikir, located on Pohnpei Island, while the largest city is Weno, located in the Chuuk Atoll.
The ancestors of the Micronesians settled over 4,000 years ago. A decentralized chieftain-based system eventually evolved into a more centralized economic and religious culture centered on Yap Island. Nan Madol, consisting of a series of small artificial islands linked by a network of canals, is often called the Venice of the Pacific. It is located on the eastern periphery of the island of Pohnpei and used to be the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur dynasty that united Pohnpei’s estimated 25,000 people from about 500 until 1500, when the centralized system collapsed.
European explorers—first the Portuguese in search of the Spice Islands (Indonesia) and then the Spanish—reached the Carolines in the 16th century. The Spanish incorporated the archipelago into the Spanish East Indies through the capital, Manila, and in the 19th century established a number of outposts and missions. In 1887, they founded the town of Santiago de la Ascension in what today is Kolonia on the island of Pohnpei. Following defeat in the Spanish–American War, the Spanish sold the archipelago to Germany in 1899 under the German–Spanish Treaty of 1899. Germany incorporated it into German New Guinea. During World War I, Micronesia was captured by Japan. Following the war, the League of Nations awarded a mandate for Japan to administer the islands as part of the South Pacific Mandate.
During World War II, a significant portion of the Japanese fleet was based in Truk Lagoon. In February 1944, Operation Hailstone, one of the most important naval battles of the war, took place at Truk, in which many Japanese support vessels and aircraft were destroyed. Following World War II, Micronesia was administered by the United States under United Nations auspices in 1947 as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands pursuant to Security Council Resolution 21. On May 10, 1979, four of the Trust Territory districts ratified a new constitution to become the Federated States of Micronesia. Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands chose not to participate. The FSM signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States, which entered into force on November 3, 1986, marking Micronesia’s emergence from trusteeship to independence. Independence was formally concluded under international law in 1990, when the United Nations officially ended the Trusteeship status pursuant to Security Council Resolution 683.
The great bulk of Micronesian islanders are engaged in subsistence farming and fishing. Fishing for tuna (known locally as angarap) is potentially very profitable when sold for export to Japan, and smaller fish with less value are frequently eaten at home. This recipe comes from Chuuk and is widely known throughout Micronesia. There is really very little to it, but fresh tuna is superb.
Angarap and Coconut
2 lbs fresh tuna, boned and cut in chunks
14 oz can of coconut milk
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
Bring one cup of water and the coconut milk to a boil in a deep skillet. Reduce to a simmer and add the tuna, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Serve with breadfruit, taro or rice.
Today is Independence Day in Kyrgyzstan, and, as it happens, I am currently in Bishkek on my way to the World Nomad Games in Cholpon Ata. It now makes sense why there was so much activity yesterday and the day before, cleaning and painting in all the public squares and parks, plus erecting a huge concert stage at Ala Too Square.
The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uyghur Khaganate in 840 CE. From the 10th century the Kyrgyz migrated as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years. In the 12th century the Kyrgyz dominion had shrunk to the Altay Range and Sayan Mountains as a result of the Mongol expansion. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the Kyrgyz migrated south. The Kyrgyz peacefully became a part of the Mongol Empire in 1207.
The descent of the Kyrgyz from the autochthonous Siberian population is confirmed by recent genetic studies. Because of the processes of migration, conquest, intermarriage, and assimilation, many of the Kyrgyz peoples who now inhabit Central and Southwest Asia are of mixed origins, often stemming from fragments of many different ethnicities, though they now speak closely related languages. Issyk Kul Lake was a stopover on the Silk Road, a land route for traders, merchants and other travelers from the Far East to Europe. Kyrgyz tribes were overrun in the 17th century by the Mongols, in the mid-18th century by the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, and in the early 19th century by the Uzbek Khanate of Kokand.
In the late 19th century, the eastern part of what is today Kyrgyzstan, mainly Issyk-Kul Region, was ceded to the Russian Empire through the Treaty of Tarbagatai between China (then ruled by the Qing Dynasty) and Russia. The territory, then known in Russian as “Kirghizia”, was formally incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1876. The Russian takeover was met with numerous revolts against Tsarist authority, and many of the Kyrgyz opted to move to the Pamir Mountains and Afghanistan.
In addition, the suppression of the 1916 rebellion against Russian rule in Central Asia caused many Kyrgyz later to migrate to China. Since many ethnic groups in the region were (and still are) split between neighboring states at a time when borders were more porous and less regulated, it was common to move back and forth over the mountains, depending on where life was perceived as better. This might mean better rains for pasture or better government during oppression.
Soviet power was initially established in the region in 1919, and the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast was created within the Russian SFSR (the phrase Kara-Kirghiz was used until the mid-1920s by the Russians to distinguish them from the Kazakhs, who were also referred to as Kirghiz). On 5th December 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was established as a full republic of the Soviet Union. During the 1920s, Kyrgyzstan developed economically and modernized considerably. Literacy was greatly improved, and a standard literary language was introduced by imposing Russian on the population. Many aspects of Kyrgyz national culture were retained despite the suppression of nationalist activity under Joseph Stalin.
The early years of glasnost had little effect on the political climate in Kyrgyzstan. However, the Republic’s press was permitted to adopt a more liberal stance and to establish a new publication, Literaturny Kirghizstan, by the Union of Writers. Unofficial political groups were forbidden, but several groups that emerged in 1989 to deal with an acute housing crisis were permitted to function. According to the last Soviet census in 1989, ethnic Kyrgyz made up only 22% of the residents of the northern city of Frunze (now Bishkek), while more than 60% were Russians, Ukrainians, and people from other Slavic nations. Nearly 10% of the capital’s population were Jewish (a rather unusual fact for almost any place in the Soviet Union except the Jewish Autonomous Republic).
In June 1990, ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz surfaced in the Osh Oblast (southern Kyrgyzstan), where Uzbeks form a minority of the population. Attempts to appropriate Uzbek collective farms for housing development triggered the Osh Riots. A state of emergency and a curfew were introduced and Askar Akayev, the youngest of five sons born into a family of collective farm workers (in northern Kyrgyzstan), was elected president in October of that same year.
By then, the Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement (KDM) had developed into a significant political force with support in Parliament. On 15th December 1990, the Supreme Soviet voted to change the republic’s name to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. (In 1993, it became the Kyrgyz Republic.) The following January, Akayev introduced new government structures and appointed a new government composed mainly of younger, reform-oriented politicians. In February 1991, the name of the capital, Frunze, was changed back to its pre-revolutionary name of Bishkek.
Despite these political moves toward independence, economic realities seemed to work against secession from the Soviet Union. In a referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union in March 1991, 88.7% of the voters approved the proposal to retain the Soviet Union as a “renewed federation”. Nevertheless, secessionist forces pushed Kyrgyzstan’s independence through in August of that same year.
On 19th August 1991, when the State Emergency Committee assumed power in Moscow, there was an attempt to depose Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. After the coup collapsed the following week, Akayev and Vice President German Kuznetsov announced their resignations from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and the entire bureau and secretariat resigned. This was followed by the Supreme Soviet vote declaring independence from the Soviet Union on 31st August 1991 as the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.
In October 1991, Akayev ran unopposed and was elected president of the newly independent Republic by direct ballot, receiving 95 percent of the votes cast. Together with the representatives of seven other Republics that same month, he signed the Treaty of the New Economic Community. Finally, on 21st December 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined with the other four Central Asian Republics to formally enter the new Commonwealth of Independent States. Kyrgyzstan gained full independence a few days later, on 25th December 1991. The following day, on 26th December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. In 1992, Kyrgyzstan joined the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). On 5th May 1993, the official name changed from the Republic of Kyrgyzstan to the Kyrgyz Republic.
Kyrgyz cuisine reflects the country’s nomadic past and the many influences of various cultures. Beshbarmak (бешбармак), a dish of homemade noodles and boiled meat (horse, beef, or mutton), is the national dish, although it is found across neighboring countries as well. If you want authentic Kyrgyz cuisine, remember my mantra: save your pennies and come here.
The term Beshbarmak means “five fingers”, because nomads used to eat this dish with their hands. The boiled meat is finely chopped with knives, mixed with boiled noodles, and spiced with onion sauce. It is usually served in a big round dish. Beshbarmak is usually served with shorpo – mutton broth in bowls called kese. Typically, shorpo is served as a first course that is followed by courses of beshbarmak and a drink called ak-serke (shorpo spiced with kymyz or ayran).
The serving of beshbarmak has traditional ritual associated with it at home, with different sections of the meat given to people depending on their gender, age and rank in the social structure. On special occasions, a lamb’s head may be served on the table. It is served to the most respected person, and he cuts off pieces from it and treats others with various parts. Festive beshbarmak can be cooked with Kazy (sausages) and other meats.
Beshbarmak is easy enough to prepare (if you are familiar with pasta making), but takes time. First the meat is boiled. In the traditional version of Beshbarmak, the hind quarters (rump) of a horse, plus kazy and sujuk (horse meat products), and rack of lamb were most common, but this changed with the seasons. In warm seasons, beshbarmak is usually cooked using lamb. A noodle dough is made using flour, water and eggs. It is rolled out very thin, and cut into noodles. The noodles are boiled in the meat-broth for 5–10 minutes. The boiled noodles and finely chopped meat are placed on a tray (“tabak”) and sauce (called “chyk” or “tuzdyk”, made of onion, ground black pepper and hot meat-broth) is poured over. Then everything is thoroughly mixed. Finely chopped meat in beshbarmak is a sign of respect for elders and guests. Presentation is also important. The dish is layered on a big communal tray. Ordinarily, being invited to a home for beshbarmak is an honor.
Here is a good instructional video. It is from a Kazakh kitchen, but the recipe is the same in Kyrgyzstan:
Today is the anniversary (1989) of the Baltic Way or Baltic Chain (also Chain of Freedom; Estonian: Balti kett, Latvian: Baltijas ceļš, Lithuanian: Baltijos kelias, Russian: Балтийский путь), a peaceful political demonstration protesting Soviet rule in the Baltic States and part of the Singing Revolution. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning over 600 kilometres (370 mi) across the three Baltic states – Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR — linking the capital cities of the three states. Organizers used banned radio broadcasts to co-ordinate timing. Singing banned songs and joining hands (and not guns) ended Soviet oppression.
The demonstration originated in “Black Ribbon Day” protests held in the western cities in the 1980s. It marked the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The pact and its secret protocols divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence and led to the occupation of the Baltic states in 1940 by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocols of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, even though they were widely published by western scholars after surfacing during the Nuremberg Trials. Soviet propaganda also maintained that there was no occupation and that all three Baltic states voluntarily joined the Union – supposedly the People’s Parliaments expressed the people’s will when they petitioned the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union to be admitted into the Union. The Baltic states claimed that they were forcefully and illegally incorporated into the Soviet Union. Popular opinion was that the secret protocols proved that the occupation was illegal. Such an interpretation of the Pact had major implications in Baltic public policy. If Baltic diplomats could link the Pact and the occupation, they could claim that the Soviet rule in the republics had no legal basis and therefore all Soviet laws were null and void since 1940. Such a position would automatically terminate the debate over reforming Baltic sovereignty or establishing autonomy within the Soviet Union – the states never de jure belonged to the union in the first place. This would open the possibility of restoring legal continuity of the independent states that existed in the interwar period. Claiming all Soviet laws had no legal power in the Baltics would also cancel the need to follow the Constitution of the Soviet Union and other formal secession procedures.
In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, tensions were rising between the Baltics and Moscow. Lithuanian Romualdas Ozolas initiated a collection of 2 million signatures demanding withdrawal of the Red Army from Lithuania. The Communist Party of Lithuania was deliberating the possibility of splitting off from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. On 8th August 1989, Estonians attempted to amend election laws to limit voting rights of new immigrants (mostly Russian workers). This provoked mass strikes and protests of Russian workers. Moscow gained an opportunity to present the events as an “inter-ethnic conflict” – it could then position itself as “peacemaker” restoring order in a troubled republic. The rising tensions in anticipation of the protest spurred hopes that Moscow would react by announcing constructive reforms to address the demands of the Baltic people. At the same time fears grew of violent clampdown. Erich Honecker from East Germany and Nicolae Ceauşescu from Romania offered the Soviet Union military assistance in case it decided to use force and break up the demonstration.
On 15th August, official daily Pravda, in response to worker strikes in Estonia, published sharp criticism of “hysteria” driven by “extremist elements” pursuing selfish “narrow nationalist positions” against the greater benefit of the entire Soviet Union. On 17th August, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union published a project of new policy regarding the union republics in Pravda. However, this project offered few new ideas: it preserved Moscow’s leadership not only in foreign policy and defense, but also in economy, science, and culture. The project made few cautious concessions: it proposed the republics the right to challenge national laws in a court (at the time all three Baltic states had amended their constitutions giving their Supreme Soviets the right to veto national laws) and the right to promote their national languages to the level of the official state language (at the same time the project emphasized the leading role of the Russian language). The project also included law banning “nationalist and chauvinist organizations,” which could be used to persecute pro-independence groups in the Baltics, and a proposal to replace the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR of 1922 with a new unifying agreement, which would be part of the Soviet constitution.
On 18th August, Pravda published an extensive interview with Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, chairman of a 26-member commission set up by the Congress of People’s Deputies to investigate the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols. During the interview, Yakovlev admitted that the secret protocols were genuine. He condemned the protocols, but maintained that they had no impact on the incorporation of the Baltic states. Thus Moscow reversed its long-standing position that the secret protocols did not exist or were forgeries, but did not concede that events of 1940 constituted an occupation. It was clearly not enough to satisfy the Baltics and on 22nd August, a commission of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR announced that the occupation in 1940 was a direct result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and therefore illegal. It was the first time that an official Soviet body challenged the legitimacy of the Soviet rule.
In the light of glasnost and perestroika, street demonstrations had been increasingly growing in popularity and support. On 23rd August, 1986, Black Ribbon Day demonstrations were held in 21 western cities including New York, Ottawa, London, Stockholm, Seattle, Los Angeles, Perth, and Washington, DC to bring worldwide attention to human rights violations by the Soviet Union. In 1987, Black Ribbon Day protests were held in 36 cities including Vilnius, Lithuania. Protests against the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact were also held in Tallinn and Riga in 1987. In 1988, for the first time, such protests were sanctioned by the Soviet authorities and did not end in arrests. The activists planned an especially large protest for the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1989. It is unclear when and by whom the idea of a human chain was advanced. It appears that the idea was proposed during a trilateral meeting in Pärnu on 15th July. An official agreement between the Baltic activists was signed in Cēsis on 12th August. Local Communist Party authorities approved the protest. At the same time several different petitions, denouncing Soviet occupation, were gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures.
The organizers mapped out the chain, designating specific locations to specific cities, towns, and villages to make sure that the chain would be uninterrupted. Free bus rides were provided for those who did not have other transportation. Preparations spread across the country, energizing the previously uninvolved rural population. Some employers did not allow workers to take the day off from work (23rd August fell on a Wednesday), while others sponsored the bus rides. On the day of the event, special radio broadcasts helped to coordinate the effort. Estonia declared a public holiday.
The Baltic pro-independence movements issued a joint declaration to the world and European community in the name of the protest. The declaration condemned the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, calling it a criminal act, and urged declaration that the pact was “null and void from the moment of signing.” The declaration said that the question of the Baltics was a “problem of inalienable human rights” and accused the European community of “double standards” and turning a blind eye to the “last colonies of Hitler–Stalin era.” On the day of the protest, Pravda published an editorial titled “Only the Facts.” It was a collection of quotes from pro-independence activists intended to show the unacceptable anti-Soviet nature of their work.
The chain connected the three Baltic capitals – Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. It ran from Vilnius along the A2 highway through Širvintos and Ukmergė to Panevėžys, then along the Via Baltica through Pasvalys to Bauska in Latvia and through Iecava and Ķekava to Riga (Bauska highway, Ziepniekkalna street, Mūkusalas street, Stone bridge, Kaļķu street, Brīvības’s street) and then along road A2, through Vangaži, Sigulda, Līgatne, Mūrnieki and Drabeši, to Cēsis, from there, through Lode, to Valmiera and then through Jēči, Lizdēni, Rencēni (et), Oleri, Rūjiena and Ķoņi to Estonian town Karksi-Nuia and from there through Viljandi, Türi and Rapla to Tallinn. The demonstrators peacefully linked hands for 15 minutes at 19:00 local time (16:00 GMT). Later, a number of local gatherings and protests took place. In Vilnius, about 5,000 people gathered in the Cathedral Square, holding candles and singing national songs, including Tautiška giesmė. Elsewhere, priests held masses or rang church bells. Leaders of the Estonian and Latvian Popular Fronts gathered on the border between their two republics for a symbolic funeral ceremony, in which a giant black cross was set alight. The protesters held candles and pre-war national flags decorated with black ribbons in memory of the victims of the Soviet terror: Forest Brothers, deportees to Siberia, political prisoners, and other “enemies of the people.”
In Moscow’s Pushkin Square, ranks of special riot police were employed when a few hundred people tried to stage a sympathy demonstration. TASS said 75 were detained for breaches of the peace, petty vandalism, and other offenses. About 13,000 demonstrated in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic which was also affected by the secret protocol. A demonstration was held by the Baltic émigré and German sympathizers in front of the Soviet embassy in Bonn, then West Germany.
Most estimates of the number of participants vary between one and two million. Reuters News reported the following day that about 700,000 Estonians and 1,000,000 Lithuanians joined the protests. The Latvian Popular Front estimated an attendance of 400,000. Prior to the event, the organisers expected an attendance of 1,500,000 out of the about 8,000,000 inhabitants of the three states. Such expectations predicted 25–30% turnout among the native population. According to the official Soviet numbers, provided by TASS, there were 300,000 participants in Estonia and nearly 500,000 in Lithuania. To make the chain physically possible, an attendance of approximately 200,000 people was required in each state. Video footage taken from airplanes and helicopters showed an almost continuous line of people across the countryside.
There was an immediate push back from Soviet authorities, of course, both within the Baltic States and from Moscow. You can read the details elsewhere for yourself. The upshot is that by December 1989, the Congress of People’s Deputies accepted and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the report by Yakovlev’s commission condemning the secret protocols of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. In February 1990, the first free democratic elections to the Supreme Soviets took place in all three Baltic states and pro-independence candidates won majorities. On 11th March 1990, within seven months of the Baltic Way, Lithuania became the first Soviet state to declare independence. The independence of all three Baltic states was recognized by most western countries by the end of 1991.
The earliest mention of the food and agriculture of the Baltic people (Aestii) and related customs comes from Tacitus circa 98 CE: “they cultivate grain and other crops with a perseverance unusual among the indolent Germans.” Faint praise, to be sure. My experience of Baltic cuisine has run to dumplings, potatoes, sour cream, and tons of dill. The region has had many influences from Slavic and German to French, each being given their own twist from area to area. I’ve given a number of recipes here from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, so you can do a search for something that appeals. Here is a video on how to make kugelis, a Lithuanian potato pie that is the national dish:
Today is an extremely important anniversary in the history of the struggle for independence from Spanish rule in South America. On this date in 1809 Pedro Domingo Murillo initiated an uprising in La Paz against the Spanish, which formally marked the beginning of the liberation of South America from Spain. In a speech to the people on this day he said that the Bolivian revolution was igniting a lamp that nobody would be able to extinguish. A similar uprising occurred in the city of Sucre simultaneously. This event is known as El Primer Grito Libertario de América (The First American Cry for Liberty).
The timing was, of course, critical: Spain was occupied with the Napoleonic Wars. In 1808, Napoleon had installed his brother, Joseph, as king of Spain (where he was deeply unpopular), triggering a major revolt of Spanish forces, who joined with Britain in the Peninsular War. The Peninsular War overlaps with what the Spanish-speaking world calls La Guerra de la Independencia Española (Spanish War of Independence), which began with the Dos de Mayo Uprising on 2nd May 1808 and ended on 17th April 1814. The French occupation destroyed the Spanish administration, which fragmented into quarrelling provincial juntas. As such, Spain was not in a strong position to fight rebels in South America, yet was still very much dependent on resources from the colonies. Nonetheless, there were royalist Spanish forces garrisoned throughout South America, and the fight for independence was no cake walk.
Although Spain maintained a tight hold on La Paz, communication between South America and Spain took months or longer by sea. At the turn of the 19th century, unrest against Spanish control was widespread among both indigenous populations and Spanish descendants born in South America (criollos). In 1781, for a total of six months, a group of Aymara people laid siege to La Paz. Under the leadership of Tupac Katari, they destroyed churches and government property. Thirty years later indigenous peoples conducted a two-month siege against La Paz. Meanwhile, criollos and mestizos in La Paz were chafing against government from Madrid.
Pedro Domingo Murillo was born in La Paz in 1757. His father, Juan Ciriaco Murillo, was from one of the city’s elite families, whereas his mother Mary Ascencia Carasco was of indigenous stock. Juan Ciriaco was ordained as a Catholic priest soon after Pedro’s birth (rules concerning celibacy were quite different at the time). Juan took charge of Pedro’s early education. It is thought Pedro first attended the Colegio Seminario de San Carlos, in La Paz, and then studied law at St Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca (later renamed Sucre), but left before completing his studies. By age 21, he had married Olmedo Manuel de la Concha in Potosí, the high-altitude silver mining city at the foot of Cerro de Potosí. By age 24 he had two children, and had moved to Irupana. When Túpac Amaru began his rebellion in 1781 Murillo distinguished himself in the militia and was appointed lieutenant. Subsequently his father died, and he got into a long and complicated legal dispute with his father’s sister over the disposal of the inheritance, which was substantial. Because Murillo forged a number of documents, and claimed he had law license (which he did not), he was held in contempt of court and had to flee the authorities. He was finally pardoned in early 1789, and began working in mining.
As early as 1805, groups, of which Murillo was a member, had begun conspiring against the Spanish government, in the wake of Napoleon’s inroads into Spain, the overthrow of king Charles and refusal to accept his son Ferdinand as king. However, the conspiracy was discovered, and the conspirators were brought to trial. The Upper Peru regional government in Chuquisaca, the Real Audiencia of Charcas, became increasingly uneasy about these rebellions, as well as the loyalties of the local governor. Supported by the faculty of St Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca, they deposed the governor and formed a junta on 25th May 1809. A self-determination movement kicked off with the incessant ringing of the bell of the St Francis Xavier Basilica in Chuquisaca (nowadays Sucre). Meanwhile, Murillo was plotting back in La Paz, leading to outright rebellion on 16th July. At a self-appointed Junta Tuitiva (“protecting junta”) there a few days later, Murillo demanded the complete secession of upper Peru from the Spanish Empire.
To suppress what had become a serious insurrection, royalist troops were dispatched, some from the Viceroyalty of Peru and others from Buenos Aires. Though some regiments comprising indigenous people refused to intervene against a patriotic movement, the uprising was suppressed. Murillo had to flee, but was captured. He was hanged, along with others, on 29th January 1810, when he made the following statement:
Compatriots, I die, but tyrants won’t be able to extinguish the torch I ignited. Long live freedom!
In 1825, after the decisive victory of the republicans at Ayacucho over the Spanish army in the course of the Spanish American wars of independence, the city’s full name was changed to La Paz de Ayacucho (The Peace of Ayacucho).
Every 16th July in La Paz, the local populace honors the patriotic deeds of 1809. A regional celebration begins when the various national and local authorities collaborate to light the Torch of Liberty at what is called the house of the martyr. There follows a parade through central La Paz known as the “Parade of Torches” celebrating Murillo’s famous declaration.
Perhaps the most suitable Bolivian dish to honor Murillo is fricasé, a traditional soup/stew featuring pork, hominy, chuño, onion, garlic, and spices. Fricasé is a popular dish in Bolivia, and is often sold and eaten in the morning (sometimes as a hangover cure). Good luck finding all the right ingredients if you don’t live in South America. Chuño is a freeze-dried potato product traditionally made by the Quechua and Aymara communities of Bolivia and Peru, and is known in various countries of South America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
To make it is a five-day process, involving exposing a frost-resistant variety of potatoes to the very low night temperatures of the Andean Altiplano, freezing them, and subsequently exposing them to the intense sunlight of the day. The word comes from Quechua ch’uñu, meaning ‘frozen or wrinkled potato.’ Some people substitute regular potatoes, but this is frowned upon. The aji pepper, or yellow pepper, is a very hot chile commonly used in Bolivian cooking, and hard find elsewhere. Fricasé is usually served with llajua (or llajwa) a spicy sauce prepared from locoto chiles and tomatoes along with quirquiña (Bolivian coriander) and other local spices according to taste. Ideally you should also have a crispy marraqueta (Bolivian bread) to soak up the broth. Preparation of this dish is not complicated, but it is a rigmarole (as you will see from the recipe). It is one of my favorites.
2 lb pork ribs or chops, cut in large pieces
½ cup aji amarillo (see below)
12 black or white chuño (black is preferable)
¼ cup bread crumbs
1 can white hominy
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp dry oregano
4 cups broth
Scrub the chuño and soak them in water overnight.
Rub the aji amarillo into the pork. Heat the broth to near boiling and add the pork, garlic, salt, cumin Simmer for around 90 minutes, or until tender.
Simmer the chuño in a separate pot for about 20 minutes or until tender. Set aside.
Add the oregano and bread crumbs to the pork and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, then add the cooked chuño and hominy and warm through. Serve in deep bowls with llajua (recipe below) on the side, and marraqueta.
It is common in Bolivia to put the chuño and hominy in the soup bowl first and then pour the fricasé on top, rather than cooking everything together. Cook’s choice.
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
2 cups yellow chile sauce (see below)
1 cup beef broth
2 tbs canola oil
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the yellow sauce, cumin, broth, and salt, and simmer until the sauce thickens.
Extra can be frozen for later use.
Yellow Chile Sauce
12 dried aji peppers
2 cups water
Cut the heads off the dry yellow peppers and remove the stems. Put them in a pot of boiling water and let them boil for about 30 minutes. When the skins start to get loose remove the peppers from the hot water and plunge them in cold water. Remove the skins. You can also remove the seeds if you want the sauce less spicy. Put the peppers and 2 cups of water in a blender and blend for about 2 min until very smooth.
2 large jalapenos, minced
2 large tomatoes diced finely
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp red onion, peeled and minced finely
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly with salt to taste.