Saturday, 5 April 2014

What was Happening 100 Years Ago in 1914?

Many events in 1914 shaped the lives of people for generations. Some of these events were continuations of a long chain of events, while others were spontaneous game-changers.
  • 1914 saw WWI start, killing 37 million and changing political maps for a short time. Then 5% of casualties in wars were civilians. Today it is 75%.
  • In 1914 the colonial powers “owned” all of Africa except Ethiopia. Now in 2014 - Side effects of globalization, bad politics with MNCs and dictators keep countless millions in the poverty trap.
  • In 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, was aggressively demanding this and that territory for Germany and challenging Rule Britannia. In 2014, it is China challenging Rule Americana and demanding this and that (300 islands and lots of land from about 20 countries.)  
  • Global trade was already very high in 1914. The ratio of world trade to GDP in 1914 was 21% but mostly the imperial powers benefitted. In 2014, it is 32% and still only the superrich benefit most. 
  • Stainless steel knives appeared in shops in UK, USA. Called rustless steel, they were not successful and were called “knives that don’t cut”.
  • Green beer invented. It became a hit, especially for St Patrick’s day.
  • 1st Non-direct blood transfusion – by a Belgian doctor, Albert Hustin.

Now let’s take a look at what was happening in 1914 all around the world:

  • Tsar Nicholas II is eager to personally lead Russia into the war. Rasputin warns “If Russia goes to war, it will be the end of the monarchy, of the Romanovs and of Russian institutions.” (Alexandrov, 1966).
  • 175 million people live in the Russian empire in 1914. In 2014, population is 143 million, of which 81% are ethnic Russians.
  • The capital St. Petersburg is renamed Petrograd.
  • Russia is the world’s largest food exporter. In 100 years Russia drops to 157th rank globally but Russians are fatter than ever and others.  
  • Russia’s foreign debt to GNP ratio was 40% in 1914. In 2013, it is 8.4%, compared to 105.7% of USA.
  • Russia ingloriously whacked at the Battle of Tannenberg by Germany. The Second Russian Army (230, 000 soldiers) lose to the Eighth German Army (150,000). Germans move entire army corps by train – precursor to Blitzkrieg. 
  • Adolf Hitler paints The Alter Hof in Munich in watercolour.

  • President Yuan Shi-k’ai dissolves parliament and local self-governing bodies and provincial assemblies and assumes absolute power.
  • Locust plagues in east central China and China joins the Universal Postal Union (the events are not related).
  • Peking’s first Western-style theatre (First Stage) opens.
  • Sun Yat-Sen forms the Chung-hua Ko-ming-tang to replace the Kuomingtang. Members swear oath of allegiance to him personally (like to Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany).
  • Republic of China, Tibet and Britain agree in the Simla Accord that China will not interfere in the administration of Outer Tibet.
  • Chinese foreign debt is a mindboggling $835 million = $19.417 trillion in today’s money. Compared to $ 16.440 trillion foreign debt of USA today.
  • Chinese population in 1914 is 441 million. Now it is 1.35 billion.
  • The Mexican Revolution continues. 
  • Tampico Affair – USA occupies Veracruz cutting supplies from Germany and Mexico severs diplomatic relations with USA.
  • US General Pershing with 5000 soldiers invade Mexico and for 9 months try in vain to capture El Centauro del Norte General Pancho Villa (who felt he was betrayed by USA).

  • 315 million people live in India. Now = 1.23 billion.
  • Efforts to “civilize” India by Macaulayism continue. "We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”
  • Indian Copyright Regulations come into force. 
  • 60% of India ruled directly by Britain and 40% through alliances with native rulers.
  • Komagata Maru incident - 340 Sikhs, 12 Hindus and 24 Muslims of Indian origin arrived at Burrard Inlet, Vancouver, Canada on May 23, 1914, from the Indian sub-continent on the ship Komagata Maru (Guru Nanak Jahaz). Racist immigration policy denied entry to 352 passengers and forced to depart. 3.5% of Canada are Indo-Canadians in 2014.
  • Hindu-German Conspiracy. Plans for a Pan-Indian rebellion against the British Raj with domestic and foreign help (e.g. German embassy in San Francisco).
  • Gandhi leaves South Africa for the last time after achieving his goals there – abolishing the £3 tax (£200 today) and arrears on former indentured labourers and recognition of Indian marriages.
  • Famous Indians born in 1914: Field Marshall Manekshaw, Baba Amte, G. P. Sippy, Jyoti Basu, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal.
  • In 1914, 44% of global net foreign investment was coming from Britain. France accounted for 20%, Germany 13%.
  • The first colour film showed in Britain – TheWorld, the Flesh and the Devil.  
  • House of Lords rejects women suffrage. All suffragette prisoners released unconditionally. Women get to vote on equal terms as men in 1928.
  • Henriette Caillaux, wife of former French Prime Minister Joseph Caillaux shoots Gaston Calmette, the editor of Le Figaro because he threatened to publish Caillaux's love letters to her while he was still married to his first wife. Henriette is later acquitted.
  • France decimates (executes every tenth soldier) a regiment of its Tunisian soldiers for retreating. 
  • Soliciting gay French men during WWI would ask other men “Parlez-vous Allemand?” [Do you speak German?] as homosexuality was associated with Germanness (probably due to the Eulenberg scandal).
  • Algerians no longer need travel permits to France. 300,000 men (1/3rd of Algeria’s male population) were transferred to France for the war efforts. 
  • The 1,7 million people of Algerian ancestry are still considered 2ndclass citizens in France. 
  • Federal government is much smaller in 1914, spending 2.7% of GDP or $ 1.005 billion (it spends 20.6% of GDP or $ 3.5 trillion now)
  • The world’s first airline St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line opens service with heavier than air aircraft.
  • The Ford Motor Company announces a revolutionary 8 hour at $5/ day wages in place of $2.40 for a 9-hour day. Assembly line for Model T introduced.
  • Mother’s Day proclamation signed by President Woodrow Wilson.
  • Panama Canal opened to ships. 500 workers/mile or 27,609 workers (5600 in the US phase) died in the construction due to Malaria, Yellow Fever, Dysentery, Typhoid and Dengue.
  • Opium and Cocaine were still legal. The Harrison Act of 1914 required anyone exporting, manufacturing or distributing them to register with the Federal Government and pay a tax (it was not a prohibition). In 2014, USA is the world’s largest consumer.
  • Winston Churchill’s (no relative of the British Chruchill) novel The Inside of The Cup was a great success in USA.
  • Mussolini (Il Duce) denounces orthodox socialism because it did not understand that class distinction had become insignificant compared to national identity and loyalty in WWI. He is expelled from the socialist party.
  • Only Vatican and San Marino still remain outside unified Italy.


  • Oscar Mathisen sets 500 m skating world record at 43.7 seconds. In 2014 it is 34.03 by Jeremy Wotherspoon of Canada.     

  • 100 years without previously bellicose Sweden fighting a single war as a nation. But Swedes fight on both sides as volunteers and mercenaries. Lars Gyllenhaal and Lennart Westberg's "Swedes at War: Willing Warriors of a Neutral Nation, 1914-1945" details.

Sources: Alexandrov, Viktor. The end of the Romanovs. Translated from the French by William Sutcliffe. 1966. Hutchinsons, London.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

How Leaders Like to Be Seen at the Olympic Games!

Olympic games have been glamorous events ever since they began in 776 BC. After the Roman Emperor Theodosius banned the games as “pagan religious festival” in 393 AD, the summer Olympic games began anew in modern times 1894, Athens. Rulers of host countries try their best to capitalise on the games and try their best to be seen in a desirable manner.

Sometimes fate intervenes and it can be a national disaster like host Russia loosing to Finland in Ice-Hockey in 2014 Sochi.

or “Aryan” German athletes losing to a Black American Jesse Owens in Munich 1936.

Sometimes there may be other reasons for the ruler to be unhappy; e.g. being tired, ill or feeling that she has better things to do:

Rulers can be rather lonely at the Olympics. With no one to share emotions with, this can be very stressful. Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni attends the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium, August 8, 2008.

It wasn’t always like this. A very long time ago “Rulers” were treated a bit more mercifully.

Photo shows (left to right) Prince Wilhelm of Sweden and Norway (1884-1965), Duke of Södermanland; Crown Prince Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973) with their father King Gustav V at the 1912 Summer Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden – all being very aristocratic and restrained. Photo source: 

In those days, royals and other demigods were usually portrayed in full regalia and looking their best only as they dutifully served the nation as George VI at the London Olympics in 1948.

The Japanese Emperor Shōwa with the Empress Kojun at the Olympics Games in Tokyo 1964 behaving with the imperial manner and dignified grace expected of them.

Sometimes tragedy strikes at the Olympic Games. West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in the Munich Olympics of 1976, looking very distressed after the Palestinian terrorist group Black September had killed 11 Israeli athletes and one West German Police officer.

Leaders like Soviet Union’s Brezhnev in the Moscow summer Olympics of 1980 continued this sombre grimness in their public appearances.

Now, there was another side to Brezhnev, which helped 265 million people endure the Soviet system in all its grimness. Here is a couple of those delightful jokes:
At the 1980 Olympics, Brezhnev begins his speech."O!" — applause. "O!" — more applause. "O!" — yet more applause. "O!" — an ovation. "O!!!" — the whole audience stands up and applauds.An aide comes running to the podium and whispers, "Leonid Ilyich, that's the Olympic rings, you don't need to read it!"

Brezhnev and Napoleon meet in the next world.`Oh-h-h, if only we'd had such a brilliant commander as yourself in the Soviet Union instead of Stalin,' Brezhnev says to Napoleon, `then we wouldn't have allowed Hitler to cross our threshold.'`And if I had newspapers like your Pravda,' says Napoleon, `not a soul would have heard about Waterloo.' Source:

 This “official” style of portraying the “rulers” at their most dignified continues in China today.

Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing 2008, happily witnessing the great glory of his people.

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7, 2014. In both photos everyone is smiling and clapping happily while expressing well-rehearsed behaviour.

But nowadays many leaders have to utilise the photo ops best by themselves and take “selfies”:

Being seen with the right people is very important. It’s actually one of the things which get people to the top in the first place.

Fortunately, nowadays Heads-of-States can be seen having fun or enjoying sports like anyone else.

King Carl Gustav XII and Queen Silvia attend the women's Olympic curling gold medal game between Canada and Sweden at the Vancouver Olympic Centre on Day 15 of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver February 26, 2010. Photo source: 

Sometimes they might have a tiff about the results or the other one's public behaviour:

Sometimes things really begin to go wrong and one just needs to yell.

President George W Bush is an all time favourite when it comes to humour (at his expense). So here’s the Brezhnev of USA at it.

But it seems that even he can be bored, in suitable company.

In place of 265 million citizens of his own country, as in the case of Brezhnev, it’s American talk-show hosts who are trying to be funny about Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Here are some examples:
  • "Today, the Olympic torch arrived in Sochi. But Vladimir Putin immediately put it out because he thought it was too flaming." –Conan O'Brien
  • "Organizers for the Sochi Olympics have had trouble filling seats for the biathlon. This is because Vladimir Putin is warning people away from any event containing 'bi.'" –Conan O'Brien 
  • "On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said gay people at the Olympics should not fear for their safety despite the country's anti-gay laws. He said they should fear for their safety because they're in Russia." –Jimmy Fallon 
But, Russians are still the best when it comes to humour about their own ruler. This Russian one going around in Russia is wonderful:
Putin’s stare penetrates a ten-foot lead wall and brings a kettle to a boil within 10 seconds from three miles away. For public safety he must wear special contact lenses at all times.  Source: