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sunnuntai 29. marraskuuta 2015

Monaco, Cool Facts #82

<= 81. Seychelles                                                                                                               83. Russia => 

1. House of Grimaldi 

The Grimaldi family is originally from Genova, Italy. Monaco was a colony of Genova after 1215 and in 1297 Francesco Grimaldi captured the fortress in Monaco dressed as Franciscan monks. A few years afterwards Francesco was evicted from Monaco by the Genoese troops but the Grimaldi family continued fighting over Monaco the next century. In 1419 the Crown of Aragon sold Monaco to the Grimaldi family, who became the official and undisputed rulers of Monaco. 

House of Grimaldi history in Monaco: 

1297 Francesco Grimaldi captures the fortress of Monaco 
1419 Grimaldi family purchases Monaco from the Crown of Aragon
1642-1793 Monaco is a sovereign French protectorate
1793-1814 French revolutionary forces ruled Monaco
1814-1860 Monaco is a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia
1860 Treaty of Turin, Sardinian forces pull out and Nice and Savoy are annexed to France, Monaco was a French protectorate again
1861 Franco-Monegasque Treaty, Monaco becomes independent
1911 The constitution of Monaco was adopted

Grimaldi family coat of arms
Prince's Palace of Monaco

2. Agreement of 2002 with France 

Before the year 2002 there was an agreement between Monaco and France that, should the Grimaldi dynasty have no male heirs, Monaco would be annexed to France. The new agreement in 2002 declared that in this case Monaco would still remain independent and also that a female could be eligible to be a heir. 

3. Monte Carlo Casino 

The Grimaldi family had huge debts and was in financial troubles after 1848 when the towns of Menton and Roquebrune declared independence from Monaco and stopped paying taxes to the Grimaldi family. It was the idea of Princess Caroline, wife of Prince Florestan I, to build a casino to get money. The construction of the casino begun in 1858 and was completed in 1863. 

Hotels, harbors and beaches were constructed around the casino and the railway connected Monaco to Nice. The casino transformed Monaco from one of the poorest corners in the French Riviera to the wealthiest in the following decades. The casino was so successful that the Grimaldi family stopped collecting income tax from its residents in 1869. Since then Monaco started attracting more and more rich people to live and travel in Monaco. 

1892 Monte Carlo Casino

4. World's Highest Life Expectancy

Monaco has the world's highest life expectancy of 90 years. That means that the average Monegasque is expected to live 90 years at birth. The reason for this is the small population of only under 40,000 people. Out of the population only 22% are native Monegasque people, the rest are from France, Italy and other countries. Millionaires constitute 30% of the population and so the whole population is very wealthy which is a big factor for the longevity of the people in Monaco.

2012 Life expectancy chart

5. Monaco & Indonesia 

Monaco had a dispute with Indonesia in 1945 when Indonesia inaugurated their flag, which looked entirely the same as the Monacan flag. The proportions are the only thing that differentiates these two flags as Monaco has 4:5 and Indonesia 2:3 flag height and width proportions. Monaco was particularly upset because they claimed their flag colors to stem from the Middle Ages and the shape from the year 1881.

Monaco Pictures 


1192 Genova got Monaco from the Holy Roman Empire and built a fortress there
1297 The Italian Grimaldi family fled from Genova to Monaco as a result of internal disputes
1419 The Grimaldi family buys Monaco from the Crown of Aragon and becomes the undisputed ruler of Monaco
1612 Honoré II was the first to claim as the Prince of Monaco
1793 Revolutionary forces of France captured Monaco
1814 The Grimaldi family returned back into the throne and it became a protectorate of Sardinia
1848 France separates Monaco's eastern areas Roquebrune and Menton, which had rebelled against the Prince
1860 Treaty of Turin, the Sardinian forces pull out and the surrounding county of Nice and Savoy are ceded to France
1861 After the Franco-Monegasque Treaty Monaco got independence
1865 France and Monaco conclude a customs union
1881 The red and white flag becomes official flag without the coat of arms
1911 since this year Monaco has been a constitutional monarchy
1929 The first Monaco Grand Prix automobile competition is organized
1949 Prince Rainier III started his reign
2005 Prince Albert II becomes the Prince as his father dies  

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

lauantai 28. marraskuuta 2015

Seychelles, Cool Facts #81

<= 80. Vanuatu                                                                                                            82. Monaco => 

1. Pirates of Seychelles 

One of the biggest pirate legends was born around Seychelles archipelago as the famous pirate chief Oliver de Vasseur threw a necklace containing a cryptogram of 17 lines about the location of his hidden treasure before he was executed. The value of the treasure is estimated to be over 1 Billion dollars.

Vasseur started looting ships in West Africa but from 1720 he started launching raids close to the coast of Madagascar. His other eye got totally blind and as a result of that he started using an eyepatch, which is nowadays one of the most prominent features in pirates in popular culture. Vasseur and his shipmates made a lot of money raiding ships in the Indian Ocean.

Vasseur refused the amnesty of France because the government wanted a big part of the stolen loot back, which made Vasseur to settle at Seychelles archipelago. Vasseur was eventually captured near Madagascar and hanged for piracy in 1730 but people still remain searching for his treasure.

Vasseur cryptogram

2. France and Britain 

Seychelles was a French colony from 1756 until 1814, when the islands were handed to Great Britain after the Napoleon Wars had ended in a French defeat. The French had established cinnamon and cocoa plantations and imported African slaves to work there. 

The British were ready to return Seychelles back to France if the French would have abandon their plans in India, which the British were conquering at the time. The French refused and so the British kept Mauritius and Seychelles and ruled these islands together before the year 1903 when Seychelles was separated into its own colonial unit. Finally in 1976 Seychelles gained independence from Great Britain. 

3. Story behind the name

In 1756 France started to rule Seychelles from Mauritius. Ludvig XV was the French king at the time and the Seychelles islands were actually named after the king's controller-general of finances. His name was Jean Moreau de Séchelles. Jean Moreau was a French official and politician who had been already as the intendant of Hainaut, Lille and Flanders.

Jean Moreau had become an honorary member of the French Academy of Sciences in 1755 and in 1756 when the Seychelles islands were ceded to the French East India Company, they were named in his honor.

Jean Moreau de Séchelles

4. Highest GDP in Africa 

When the Portuguese arrived at Seychelles in the 1500s, they thought they had arrived at the Garden of Eden. Seychelles can be seen as a real Garden of Eden with its beautiful nature and relatively high living standards on African scale. 

The overwhelmingly most important source of revenue is tourism and the tourism sector employs one third of the population. Fishing is the other major source of revenue. 

Seychelles has the highest GDP per capita in Africa and the second highest after Equatorial Guinea if you measure the GDP at purchasing power parity which takes in account the living costs in the country. 
2011 GDP

5. Amazing nature 

About 50% of the Seychellois territory consists of nature reservations. Thus Seychelles is among the leading countries of the world in nature conservation. The beautiful islands of Seychelles consist of 115 islands in an area of over million square meters in the Indian Ocean, from these 33 are inhabited and the rest uninhabited.

Flora and Fauna found in Seychelles 

75 endemic plants
Seychelles black parrot
Coco de mer aka "love nut" 
Jellyfish tree (Medusagynaceae 
Wright's gardenia (Rothmannia annae) 
Aldabra giant tortoise

Coco de Mer
Wright's Gardenia
Aldabra Giant Tortoise
Mahe island


1502 Portuguese Vasco da Gama with his crew sails to the area as the first Europeans
1609 Captain Sharpeigh lands on the Seychelles
1756 France claimed the islands for themselves and started ruling them from Mauritius
1814 After Napoleon wars the Seychelles became a British colony ruled together with Mauritius
1903 Seychelles becomes a separate colony from Mauritius
1960s The Seychellois start demanding for independence under the SPUP party
1976 Seychelles becomes independent, James Mancham is the first president and France Albert Rene the prime minister
1977 Mancham is overthrown from power by Rene's followers. Rene becomes the president and declares Seychelles as a socialist single-party state
1981 A coup attempt against president Rene
1991 Seychelles returns to multi party system
2004 The tsunami caused a lot of damage in Seychelles
2013 Tropical cyclone Felleng causes a state of emergency in Seychelles

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

tiistai 24. marraskuuta 2015

Vanuatu, Cool Facts #80

<= 79. Burundi                                                                                                            81. Seychelles => 

1. Vanuatu Flag 

Vanuatu consist of 80 islands and the Y shape in the flag comes from the fact that these 80 islands form a Y shape on the map. 

Red = represents blood which is the same color in every human being
Green = represents the islands and their lush nature 
Black = represents mold and the dark Melanesians 
Yellow Y = represents the beam of Bible
Wild boar fang = traditional symbol for prosperity and wellbeing 
Leaves of Cycad plant = token of peace and their 39 leaflets represent the 39 members of the Parliament of Vanuatu 

Map of Vanuatu

2. Coconut War

In 1980 France and Britain agreed that New Hebrides (Vanuatu) would be granted independence on 30 July. About two months before that date Jimmy Stevens, head of the Na-Griamel movement, started a 12-week long uprising as he tried to establish the "State of Vermerana" on the Vanuatuan island of Espiritu Santo.

Papua New Guinean troops arrived to help and they defeated easily Stevens' followers who only had bows, arrows, rocks and slings as weapons. Jimmy Stevens surrendered finally when his son was killed in August.

At the trial it was found out that Na-Griamel was supported by the Phoenix Foundation, an American business foundation that hoped Na-Griamel to establish a tax haven in New Hebrides. Also the French government was found out to have supported Stevens secretly.

That was the reason why French troops took no action as the rebellion started and even refused allowing Britain to deploy troops to help the Vanuatuan government.

The foreign press gave the name Coconut War to the crisis as the Papua New Guinean soldiers arrived to suppress the rebellion.

Jimmy Stevens

3. World's highest density of languages

About 112 languages are spoken in Vanuatu, which makes Vanuatu the country with the world's highest density of languages per capita. An average of 2000 people one language when you divide the total amount of the population with the amount of languages spoken.

Vanuatu has three official languages, which are English, French and Bislama. Bislama is a creole language evolved from English.

People of Pentecost island

4. Land Diving 

On the island of Pentecost there's a tradition called the land diving, which is a precursor to bungee jump. Men jump from even 20 or 30 meters with tree vines wrapped around their ankles without any safety equipment. It's believed that a good dive ensures a good yam harvest.

5. Vanuatu Cults 

There are two good examples of cargo cults in Vanuatu. These emerged generally when European people confronted Polynesian people.

Prince Philip movement

A religious sect of the Kastom people in Vanuatu, believe that Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, is a divine being. The belief came about in the 1950s and 1960s and it was strengthened in 1974 when the royal couple visited Vanuatu.

The reason for this belief is that there is a legend telling about a son of a mountain spirit who travelled over the seas to a distant land and married there a powerful lady and in time he would return to Vanuatu. Prince Philip was seen as a match to these characteristics and so he became a target of worship.

Prince Philip believers
John Frum

The religion centered on John Frum arose in the 1930s in the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. John Frum is depicted as an American WW II serviceman and people believe that he will bring wealth and prosperity to the people who follow him.
 John Frum cult is still strong and besides being a religious institution it's also a political party with a member in the Parliament.

John Frum followers with a grass airplane

Vanuatu Pictures 


4000 years ago Vanuatu was inhabited by Melanesian people
1606 The Portuguese navigator Fernando de Queirós led a Spanish expedition to Vanuatu being the first Europeans at the area
1768 Louis Antoine de Bougainville is the first European for a long time since the Spanish short-lived settlement in the 1600s
1774 The British captain James Cook mapped the region giving it the name New Hebrides according to the Hebrides of Scotland
1800s British and French merchants and missionaries move to the area. The migrants start producing cotton, coffee, cocoa and copra on their plantations
1887 The British and French both regard New Hebrides as their own property, the dispute is solved by creating a common commission for the administration of the islands
1906 Double-governance, Britain rules the British migrants and France the French migrants, native Melanesians were ruled by the common governance without the nationality of neither of the two countries. The islands had two official languages, two police forces, three judiciary systems, three currencies and two flags
1940s During the World War II the Melanesian population started requiring for their rights as the Americans arrived at the islands
1980 France and Britain accept the independence of New Hebrides under the name of Vanuatu
1980 Jimmy Stevens and his Na-Griamel party declare Vemarana independent, the rebellion was suppressed and the Papua New Guinean troops came to help 

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen 

keskiviikko 18. marraskuuta 2015

Burundi, Cool Facts #79

<= 78. Gabon                                                                                                                  80. Vanuatu => 

1Kingdom of Burundi

The kingdom of Burundi lasted from 1680 until 1966. The kingdom was reigned by Tutsi kings as an independent state until 1885, when Burundi was attached to the German East Africa. Germany lost all its colonies during the World War I and Burundi was occupied by Belgium in 1916. Belgium ruled Burundi and Rwanda together as Ruanda-Urundi until 1962. 

The kingdom lasted the first four years of independence before the king was overthrown by the armed forces in 1966. Most members of the royal house live currently in exile in France. Both the Belgian and German colonial rulers relied on the Tutsi elite and land owners during the colonial times. 

Kingdom of Burundi 

1680-1885 independent state
1885-1916 part of German East Africa 
1916-1962 part of Ruanda-Urundi as a Belgian colony 
1962-1966 independent state

Coat of Arms of the Burundi Kingdom
Ntare V, last king of Burundi

2. Ruanda-Urundi 

Burundi and Rwanda were governed together as the Belgian colony of Ruanda-Urundi between the years 1916-1962. 

The Tutsi people were favored by the Belgian and before that the German colonial rulers, so after centuries of suppression the Hutu people started a rebellion in 1959 which led into the overthrowing of the Tutsi king in Rwanda. These actions led to the independence of the both countries in 1962. 

After the dissolution of the Ruanda-Urundi union Rwanda became a republic led by the Hutu and Burundi became a kingdom led by a Tutsi king.

Ruanda-Urundi map
Ruanda-Urundi people
3. Two genocides 

1972 First Genocide: Hutus were killed in masses by the Tutsi-dominated army 

The Hutu people consisted about 86% in the 60s and 70s, but they still had little power as the Tutsi elite ruled the country. After many other important events the Hutu insurgents started killing every Tutsi in sight after some demonstrations and that made the Tutsi-dominated army to start killing the Hutu people in masses. The Hutu started fleeing from Burundi to Zaire, Rwanda and Tanzania after the massacres started. 

1993 Second Genocide: Tutsis were killed by the Hutu majority 

In 1993 the Hutu people formed the government for the first time in history after Melchior Ndadaye won the presidential elections. Tensions escalated immediately and Tutsi and Hutu gangs fought against each other. The boiling point was in October, 1993 when Ndadaye was assassinated. The Hutu responded in killing many Tutsi which resulted in vengeances by the Tutsi against the Hutu rebels and also civilians. 

4. Deadly Plane Crash 

Two presidents died the 6th April in 1994 in a plane crash. These two men were Juvenal Habyarimana, the Rwandan president and Cyprien Ntyaryamira, the Burundian president. Both of the presidents were of Hutu origins. 

As the plane was landing to Kigali, the Rwandan capital, unidentified men shot the plane down and this event set off the Rwandan Genocide in which the Rwandan Hutu government massacred between 500,000-1 million Tutsi people. 

Ironic was that the two presidents were returning from peace negotiations in Tanzania, but instead of peace they got a genocide. The tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu people had already escalated into civil wars in both Rwanda and Burundi in the beginning of the 1990s. 

5. Political Stability 

Burundi has tried to bring political stability with a power distribution agreement. According to the agreement different population groups have a predetermined share of the parliament seats. The arrangement has calmed the political situation in Burundi.

Power distribution 

60% Hutu - (85% of the population are Hutu)
40% Tutsi - (15% of the population are Tutsi)
30% Women
3 seats for Twa Pygmis (under 1% of the population are Pygmi)

Burundian politician in an international meeting

1300s Tutsi nomads arrived from Ethiopia conquering the area and forcing the Hutu population as their land slaves 
1800s The feudal Tutsi kingdom was at the peak of its glory when the king Ntare II Rubaamba ruled the country 
1880s German migrants move to Burundi 
1890 Burundi is attached as a part of the German East Africa 
1916 Belgium became the new colonial master after Germany lost all of its colonies after the World War I 
1959 The Hutu people started a rebellion in Ruanda overthrowing the Tutsi king
1962 Ruanda and Burundi both become independent, Ruanda became a Hutu-led republic and Burundi a Tutsi-led kingdom 
1965 A Hutu prime minister is killed which causes rebellions but as a result of the rebellion the government and armed forces get rid of their Hutu members 
1966 The king is overthrown and the commander of the armed forces Michel Micombero declared himself the president
1972 Hutu massacre when the educated Hutu people in the administration and army are killed. Over 100,000 people killed and even more fled to neighboring countries
1976 Jean-Babtiste Bagaza overthrows Micombero from power, Bagaza tried to stabilize the tribe disputes by improving the position of the Hutus and conducting a land reform
1987 Pierre Buyoya overthrows Bagaza and the Hutus flee again from the country, mainly to Ruanda 
1993 First democratic presidential elections which Melchior Ndadaye won overwhelmingly. After half a year Ndadaye was murdered and a civil war started, the new president was also a Hutu, Cyprien Ntaryamira
1994 Ntyaramira and the president of Ruanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, die in a plane accident as their plane was shot down 
1996 Tutsi army seizes power and Pierre Buyoya becomes the president for the second time 
2003 Hutu rebels are integrated into the Tutsi army and Pierre Buyoya stepped aside as the Hutu Domitien Ndayizeye became the next president
2007 Burundi joins the East African Community


keskiviikko 11. marraskuuta 2015

Gabon, Cool Facts #78

<= 77. Central African Republic                                                                                  79. Burundi =>

1. Gabon Name Origins

The Portuguese sailed to Gabon in the 1470s as the first Europeans. The Portuguese gave the region the name "Gabão", which means a cloak. The shape of the region reminded a cloak so that was the reason for the name. After the Portuguese, Dutch, British and French merchants arrived at the area trading lumber, ivory and slaves. The rough coast didn't although attract many Europeans to settle permanently before the 1800s.

2. Libreville 

In 1849 the French captured the slave ship Elizia and 52 slaves were freed. These slaves settled at the river bank establishing the city of Libreville, which means Freetown in English. Many freed slaves moved to the city and in 1885 it became the capital city of the French Congo which included the current nations of Gabon and Congo Republic. 

3. Albert Schweizer

In 1913 the French doctor Albert Schweitzer established a hospital in Lambaréné along the Ogooe River with his nurse wife. There Albert treated thousands of patients already in the first year treating various diseases. Some patients had even travelled days and hundreds of kilometers to reach him. 

In 1952 Albert Schweitzer was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work in Gabon, although he received the prize in 1953. Albert used the prize money to construct a hospital for people suffering from leper. 

Albert Schweitzer in Gabon

4. Natural resources 

Gabon has one of the highest GDPs in Africa but the wealth is distributed unevenly. The economy is largely in the hands of foreign companies exploiting Gabon's vast natural resources like uranium, gold, oil and manganese. A lot of forests have been destroyed to get lumber, agriculture is undeveloped and most of the foodstuff are imported.

The majority of the population live in subsistence economy. With a small population of 1,5 million people Gabon could have even better living standards with a 6th lowest population density in Africa. The healthcare system is although much better than in most of the African countries.

Natural resources in Gabon

5. President for 41 years 

Omar Bongo was the president of Gabon between 1967-2009, almost 42 years. Gabon has had only three presidents during its independence since 1960. The first president was the favorite of the French, Leon M'Ba. 

Omar Bongo was M'Ba's vice president and after the death of M'Ba, Bongo became the president. First he made his party PDG the only allowed party in the country and ruled until 2009 when he died. After Omar Bongo's death his son Ali Bongo Ondimba became the president of Gabon.

Omar Bongo defeated many general strikes and demonstrations requiring more even wealth distribution, less corruption and more democracy. Especially the French helped Omar Bongo like in the demonstrations of 1990. In Gabon the president has very large political powers. 

Gabonese presidents

1960-1967 Leon M'Ba
1967-2009 Omar Bongo
2009- Ali Bongo Ondimba 

Omar Bongo

1470s The Portuguese arrived to the area first being followed by the Dutch, British and French merchants who acquired ivory, lumber and slaves from the area
1849 Slaves who were freed from a shipped established the city of Libreville, where many former slaves moved
1885 The area of Gabon was officially announced as a French colony
1910 Gabon, Chad and Central African Republic form together the French colony of French Equatorial Africa
1958 Gabon got autonomy
1960 Gabon and the three other French Equatorial African colonies get independence in one week in September. Leon M'Ba was the first president of Gabon
1964 M'Ba is overthrown in a coup but the French troops restored M'Ba into power
1967 M'Ba dies and the vice president Omar Bongo becomes the president
1990 The discontent erupted into general strike and protests which the French troops suppressed
2003 The constitution was changed to allow Bongo continue his presidency
2009 Bongo dies after 41 years in power and his son Ali Bongo Ondimba followed his father as the president

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen