Quotulatiousness

March 18, 2017

Catherine the Great – IV: Reforms, Rebellion, and Greatness – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, Government, History, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 18 Feb 2017

Catherine had great ambitions to reform Russia according to her own highest ideals, but she soon found that the reality of governance made those ideals difficult to achieve. She also found herself tangled in war, rebellion, and (scandalously) smallpox.

December 20, 2016

Exploring WW1 Forts in Ukraine I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 19 Dec 2016

Check out how Ryan explored the area of Przemysl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tRuMlWQiw0

We worked together with the Ukrainian authorities and got permission to film in some of the sub-forts of Przemsyl.

December 13, 2016

The Design of Przemyśl Fortress – Walking Through The Old Forts I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 12 Dec 2016

Thank you Tomasz Idzikowski for showing us Fort I and XV in great detail. Definitely check out his books if you speak Polish.

We spend several days in Przemyśl in August 2016 and took a walk through the well preserved forts around the city that you know from our show.

December 12, 2016

Siege of Przemyśl – Summary I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 11 Dec 2016

This is the prologue of our episodes filmed at Przemyśl. Indy summarises all the events relevant to the two Sieges of Przemyśl and the battles in the region. In the next instalment we will dive into the details of the fort design and explore the live of the soldiers in the forts.

December 4, 2016

WW1 Archaeologists At The Site Of The First German Gas Attack I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 3 Dec 2016

A big thank you to the project team: Archaeological Revival of Memory of World War I: Material Remains of the Life and Death in Trenches of the Eastern Front and the Condition of the Ever-changing Battlescape in the Region of the Rawka and Bzura (1914–2014).

The project is funded by the Polish National Centre of Science and implemented by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences.

This is the first big video from our trip to Poland. In Bolimow, Polish archaeologists are digging in the former trenches of the Eastern Front. Here, the Germans used gas on a big scale for the first time. Polish soldiers were fighting each other on both sides of the front.

November 11, 2016

Charming The Poles – The Central Powers Look For New Allies I THE GREAT WAR Week 120

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 10 Nov 2016

The year of battles is coming to a close as winter approaches. The Central Powers realise that they need new troops and new war material if they actually want to win the war and not just continue it. Erich Ludendorff dreams of a Polish Army under German command and to charm the Poles in the German Empire and the occupied territories, the Kingdom of Poland is established.

September 4, 2016

Our First Trip To WW1 Locations Was An Epic Journey I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 3 Sep 2016

Map of all the locations we went to: http://bit.ly/2bxRZCg

Indy & Flo talk about our first trip to original WW1 locations in Poland and Ukraine. The trip was a great experience for all of us and you will surely like the future episodes we will publish throughout the next months. Thanks again to everyone who made this possible.

April 13, 2016

The bureaucracy will always be with us

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Strategy Page recounts some of the recent the bureaucratic snags between NATO countries in eastern Europe when troops need to cross inter-alliance borders:

In early 2015 Operation Dragoon Ride rolled through Central Europe to send a message to Russians. From March 20th to April 1st, an US Army squadron returning from Atlantic Resolve NATO exercises took an unusual route back to its base in Germany, after spending three months in training facilities in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia. The unit involved was the 3rd Squadron (battalion) of the 2nd American Cavalry Regiment. This unit refers to itself as dragoons (an ancient term for horse mounted infantry) and the movement operation was called Dragoon Ride and the apparent reason for it was to demonstrate to the locals as well as the Russians that American armored units could reach the East European NATO nations by road, as well as by ship, aircraft or rail. Dragoon Ride purposely rode close to the Russian border, often in full view of Russians and Russian media. The American troops frequently stopped in towns and villages so the locals could meet their allies, take pictures and quietly enjoy the pain this demonstration was causing the increasingly aggressive Russians.

But what was not publicized, and what the Russian government knew full well, was that this road movement took the efforts of hundreds of unseen troops and bureaucrats to deal with the paperwork. For all of 2015 it required nearly 6,000 travel documents to be prepared, filed and approved to get foreign military vehicles across East European borders. Some of these documents take several weeks to get approved and operations like Dragoon Ride required hundreds of them and nearly as many NATO local government personnel were involved with this paperwork as were actually participating (500 troops) in the actual Dragoon Ride (of 120 vehicles). While all these rules and approvals would not stop invading Russians they would, in theory, slow down reinforces from the West.

The pile of paperwork and weeks required to handle it were used as very concrete evidence to persuade the East European nations to streamline the process, a lot, or have themselves to blame if reinforcements did not arrive in a timely fashion. As usual a compromise was worked out. Thus eight NFIUs (NATO Force Integration Units) were organized, each consisting of 40 troops trained and equipped to handle the paperwork and traffic control measures required to get military convoys across eastern borders as quickly as possible. The NFIU work out of embassies and stay in constant touch with the border control bureaucracies of the East European nations involved. NFIUs also arrange for rest areas and resupply for the convoys.

July 24, 2015

Scorched Earth – Russia’s retreat goes up in flames! l THE GREAT WAR Week 52

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 23 Jul 2015

This week Russia premieres her tactics of “Scorched Earth”. A new strategy of burning their own land is to avoid enemies profiting from their conquests. Russia had been retreating from the German and Austro-Hungarian armies for nearly three months now. Continuously losing huge areas of land and hundreds of thousands of men on the Eastern Front. As a consequence, millions of civilians had to flee their homes. At the same time allied troops at Gallipoli are weakened by infections and disease due to lack of hygiene and heat while Italy repeatedly failed to take out Austrian strongpoints.

May 22, 2015

The trains of war – the military application of steam power

Filed under: Military, Railways — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

James Simpson on the revolution in military affairs triggered by the development of the steam engine and the railways:

Navvies working on the Grand Crimean Central Railway, 1854. Walker, Charles (1969) Thomas Brassey, Railway Builder (via Wikipedia)

Navvies working on the Grand Crimean Central Railway, 1854. Charles Walker: Thomas Brassey, Railway Builder, 1969. (via Wikipedia)

Trains were cutting-edge weapons of war in the 19th century — and all the major powers were figuring out how to deploy them. The Europeans learned how to move troops by train. The Americans — how to fight on rail cars. The British, meanwhile, found they could dominate an empire from the tracks.

In today’s world of tanks, bombers and submarines, it’s perhaps hard to believe that the train was once an amazingly mobile weapons platform. They might be locked to their rails, but for over a century trains were the fastest means of hauling troops and artillery to front lines across the world.

The invention of the railway shaped warfare for a century. Rails allowed force projection across immense distances — and at speeds which were impossible on foot or by horse.

[…]

The first demonstration of the military efficacy of the railroads was the 1846 Polish Uprising. Prussia rushed 12,000 troops of the Sixth Army Corps, with guns and horses, to the Free City of Krakow to help put down the Polish rebellion. In this period of nationalist uprisings, Russia and Austria also used their railroads against similar uprisings from 1848 to 1850.

A lack of infrastructure and experience stifled the success of these early endeavors. Due to a lack of rolling stock, suitable platforms and double-track stretches, the trains sometimes operated far slower than a man could march on foot.

Austria was first to get it right. In 1851, the Austrian Empire shuttled 145,000 men, nearly 2,000 horses, 48 artillery pieces and 464 vehicles over 187 miles.

March 3, 2015

Poland’s Struggle for Independence During WW1 I THE GREAT WAR

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 2 Mar 2015

World War 1 was a a fight of nationalism and self determination for many countries which did not yet exist then. One of those countries was Poland – its territory split between Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany. In our first of multiple special episodes, Indy tells you everything about Poland and it’s fight for independence.

March 25, 2014

NATO’s existential moment

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:35

In the Telegraph, Con Coughlin says that if NATO doesn’t stand up to Vladimir Putin’s aggressions, it’s done for:

For anyone who still takes the security of the West seriously — and I fear I am in a distinct minority — the manner in which Russian President Vladimir Putin has effortlessly achieved his audacious land grab in the Crimea should serve as a dramatic wake-up call for Nato.

And yet, to judge by the mood music coming from the meeting of Western leaders in The Hague this week, the likelihood of Nato doing anything to dissuade Moscow’s macho man from undertaking any further acts of military adventurism in central Europe or the Baltic states does not seem at all encouraging.

[…]

When faced with a crisis, the default position of Nato member states, as we have seen recently over Libya and Syria, is to bicker amongst themselves over how to respond, rather than coming up with an effective programme that safeguards its interests.

But if Nato leaders fail to come up with an adequate response to Putin’s new mood of military aggression, they might as well dissolve the alliance and start negotiating peace terms with Moscow.

NATO member states in blue, Ukraine in yellow, Russia in red (for tradition's sake)

NATO member states in blue, Ukraine in yellow (including Crimea), Russia in red (for tradition’s sake)

Update: Poland is recalling reservists for military refresher training.

Next time you take a tray of tea and custard creams to the nice gang of Polish builders renovating your semi, they may seem a little distracted and anxious. Ask them why, and they will answer that some of them have in the last few weeks received call-up papers as army reservists.

This happened to a friend of mine in London at the end of last week. At least 7,000 reservists have been recalled to the colours for immediate exercises lasting between 10 and 30 days.

They’re told by the Polish authorities that the call-ups are “routine”: but the men say they haven’t been asked before and they’re well aware of the growing alarm in Warsaw at President Putin’s aggression. Three weeks ago, their Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, called a press conference to warn that “the world stands on the brink of conflict, the consequences of which are not foreseen… Not everyone in Europe is aware of this situation.”

My own view is that Putin was initially more concerned with righting a specific historical wrong in Crimea than starting a new Cold War. This is still probably the case despite the dawning truth that the EU/Nato Emperor really has no clothes at all.

But in the worst case scenario of a truly revanchist Russia, Poland certainly has the borders from hell. Starting from the top, it abuts Kaliningrad (the Russian exclave on the Baltic carved at the end of the war from East Prussia), Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine.

February 17, 2014

The dirty not-so-secret about Olympic venues

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:44

Every time somebody suggests that Toronto be seriously involved in an Olympic bid, I become a big supporter of the other competing cities. Toronto is dysfunctional enough without adding the cost, disruption, and anti-democratic central planning aspects of hosting the Olympic games. In Samizdata, Michael Jennings looks at the shenanigans going on both in Sochi with the current Winter Games and in future venues:

The 2018 Winter Olympics are in Pyeongchang county in South Korea. Assuming that North Korea does not collapse or try to start a war between now and then, this will be straightforward, as these things go. A vast amount of money has been spent building new world class ski resorts at Alpensia and Yongpyong. These have largely been built already. They were built in anticipation of Pyeongchang winning the Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang also made unsuccessful bids for the games of 2006 and 2010, and has therefore been building for some time. There are already large financial black holes from the construction of these venues, but one cost overruns will be anywhere near as bad as have come from the highly corrupt race to get things built on time that took place prior to Sochi. Plus there have been and will be time for lots of test events to get the venues right. Of course, there are still highly expensive new highways and railways to be built, and a lot of indoor venues to be built for the ice events in the coastal city of Gangneung. As national pride is at stake, South Korean taxpayers will undoubtedly suffer painfully, but South Korea is a rich industrial democracy with competent people in charge. These games will likely go smoothly, but they will cost a lot — just not as much as Sochi.

The venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics has not yet been decided, but the IOC announced last year there were six final bidders: Stockholm (Åre), Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Krakow, Poland (Zakopane, Poland and Jasná, Slovakia); Almaty, Kazakhstan; Lviv, Ukraine; and Beijing (Zhangjiakou), China. [It has always been the case that the indoor ice events would be held in a city and the outdoor snow events in a mountain resort. In recent times the need for the city to be close to the resort has been relaxed somewhat, and I have listed the mountain resort(s) in brackets if it is a long way away from the official host city].

Sweden has already withdrawn their bid, and Norway appears to be close to doing so. The reason: they are seeing the immense expense and horrible shenanigans going on in Sochi. A little secret of the Olympics is that many of the the same people run it every time — the host city largely just picks up the bill. Once the event has ridiculous expenses and large amounts of outright corruption attached to it, this all comes with it to the next venue. Receiving kickbacks on construction projects becomes what it is all about.

Relatively uncorrupt places like Norway and Sweden look at this, and find that they want nothing to do with it. As great centres of winter sport, they have many of the right facilities already, meaning less scope for construction industry kickbacks. This means that for some of the IOC the fact that a country is already prepared for the Games is actually a negative rather than a positive.

Anyway, though, the point is that the two countries best able to host the games end up not being serious candidates.

As for the others: Poland and Slovakia would run the games just fine, but a fair bit of infrastructure and facilities would need to be built. Krakow is a lovely city. Zakopane is a lovely resort, and the Tata mountains are a suitable place for the games, even if the best downhill resorts are on the Slovakian side rather than the Polish side. (Some of the infrastructure construction would not be too counterproductive: Poland built lots of new roads, railways stations and airport terminals before the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, most of which were needed anyway and were part of Poland’s long term post-communist infrastructure modernisation). The Olympic games are not what money should be spent on in the present economic circumstances, though, and one also hopes that the richer countries of the EU are past paying for the Olympics to be held in the poorer countries of the EU (see Athens 2004). But with the EU, who knows?

June 26, 2012

Poland’s uneasy WW2 history

Filed under: Books, Europe, History, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:39

Poles are being told unwelcome things about the country’s experiences under Nazi rule. The most recent upheavals have been triggered by the publication of a new book by Jan T. Gross:

Its title, Golden Harvest, stems from a cover photograph that purportedly shows Polish peasants who have been digging through remains of victims killed at Treblinka, where 800,000 Jews were gassed and cremated, to find gold or valuable stones neglected by the Nazis.

From there, Mr. Gross narrates events beyond the barbed wire of Nazi death camps. He describes Poles hunting Jews down, extorting money from them, massacring them, and profiting by taking over their jobs and property. Some 3.3 million Jews lived in Poland before the war began, and about 90 percent had perished by its end.

“There was a sense of satisfaction that was quite widespread that they are being eliminated from Polish economic and social life,” Mr. Gross says in a phone interview from Kraków, where he is teaching a summer course for Princeton students. “When given the opportunity, a large number of Poles participated in victimization of Jews.”

[. . .]

The white-haired, New York-based writer, 64, enjoys a level of notoriety in his native country that lacks any analogue among American historians. When word gets out that he is publishing a new book, anxiety spreads about what dirty laundry he will expose this time. His writing gets discussed on prime-time TV.

Mr. Gross “polarizes public opinion probably more than anyone else outside of the political world,” says Jan Grabowski, a Holocaust historian who splits his time between the University of Ottawa and Poland.

His books have struck such a nerve because they cut against the national narrative that Poland is exclusively a victim of history, not a victimizer.

June 11, 2012

QotD: Modern day racism’s cosmopolitan disguise

Filed under: Europe, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:27

In the run-up to the Euro 2012 football championships, which are taking place in Ukraine and Poland this month, we Western Europeans have been bombarded with media stories about how uncultured and uncouth Ukrainians in particular are. In that strange Eastern land, ‘notorious for its extremist yobs’, stupid racial thinking is ‘socially endemic’, we are told, which isn’t surprising considering that, in the words of one British academic, Ukraine lacks the ‘cosmopolitan atmospheres’ of Western Europe. Something fantastically ironic is taking place here: under the banner of ‘anti-racism’, the presumed cultural superiority of Western Europe over backward, brutal Slavs is being loudly asserted, just as the racial superiority of Western Europe was asserted over the Slavs in the past.

Brendan O’Neill, “Euro 2012: are Ukrainians still Untermenschen?”, sp!ked, 2012-06-11

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