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sunnuntai 31. tammikuuta 2016

Latvia, Cool Facts #96

<= 95. Estonia                                                                                                              97. Lithuania => 

1. Legend behind the Latvian flag  

The Latvian red-white-red flag is one of the oldest flags in the world. The legend tells about a battle in which a Latvian tribe chief was wounded and he was wrapped in a white sheet. 

The part of the sheet on which he was lying remained of course white but the edges were stained in his blood. During the next battle this sheet was then used as the flag and this time the Latvian warriors were successful driving their enemy away.

Ever since the Latvian tribes have used this flag and finally in 1917 the current flag design was adapted by the Latvian artist Ansis Cirulis. The flag was used in 1918 when Latvia gained independence until the Russian occupation in 1940.

2. Evolution of Latvia

German crusaders arrived in Latvia to convert the people in Christianity from the 1100s and a German crusader state ruled Latvia from the 1200s until the 1500s.

After 1583 the current Latvian areas fell under Polish and Lithuanian rule.
After all the wars between Poland and Sweden, northern Livonia came under Swedish rule in 1629.
After the Great Northern War in 1721 Sweden lost Vidzeme to Russia.

In 1772 Russia got the Latgale region from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
In 1795 Russia controlled the whole area of the current Latvia as it started ruling the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia.

Between 1918-1940 Latvia was independent before becoming occupied for 51 years by Soviet Union. In 1991 Latvia became independent again.

Latvian areas

3. Latvian colonies

The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was a vassal state of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between 1561-1795 in the current Latvia. One interesting fact is that this ancient Latvian state had short-lived colonies in Africa and in the Caribbean. 

Between 1659-1661 the Duchy owned an island fort in Gambia river, which was later taken by England. In 1654 a colony was established in the island of Tobago situated in the Caribbean Sea. This colony was also taken by other colonial powers. 

These both colonizations were made by Jakob Kettler, the most successful ruler of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. 

Fort Jakob in Gambia

New Courland colony in Tobago island

4. Great Northern War

The Great Northern War was a huge war about the supremacy in northern Europe between Sweden and Russia. The war started in 1700 and ended in 1721 in Sweden's defeat. The war time was especially hard for Latvia where 40% of the population died from famine and plague.

For example half of the residents of Riga were killed by the plague in 1710-1711. As a result of the war Sweden lost Vidzeme to Russia but the rest of the current Latvian areas stayed part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1772, when Russia gained the full control of the current Latvian areas.

5. Singing Revolution

The Singing Revolution is the name of the events between 1987-1991, that led to the restoration of the independence of the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

During this time there were many demonstrations and song festivals protesting against the Soviet rule and demanding for independence.

One of the most notable demonstration took place on August 23, 1989, the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a 600 km continuous human chain from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius was assembled.

600 km human chain from Tallinn through Riga and Vilnius


900 Latvia was inhabited by Finnic Livonians and Baltic Curonians, Latgalians, Selonians and Semigallians
1100s German crusaders try to convert the Latvian people into Christianity
1237 A German crusader state begins their 300 year rule in Latvia
1282 Riga becomes a city of the Hanseatic League
1558-1583 After the Livonian war the current Latvian areas fall under Polish and Lithuanian rule
1600-1629 After the Polish-Swedish wars northern Livonia came under Swedish rule
1721 Sweden lost Vidzeme to Russia after the Great Northern War
1772 The Latgale region was incorporated to Russia from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
1795 Russia got the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia and after this the whole area of the current Latvia was under Russian rule
1817 serfs were emancipated in Courland and in 1819 in Vidzeme
1870 Latvians in the Univercity of Tartu in Estonia used their own flag, nationalism started rising at the time in Latvia
1873 The Latvian flag was already used widely in the first national song festivals in Riga
1881 Alexander III rises in power in Russia and the Russification of the Baltic countries increase
1917 Russian Revolution
1918 Latvia declares independence and starts the war of independence against the Bolsheviks
1920 Soviet Russia recognizes the Latvian independence
1934 Karlis Ulmanis stages a bloodless coup and establishing a nationalist dictatorship lasting until the year 1940
1939 The Baltic countries are in the Soviet sphere of interest in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
1940 Soviet troops occupy Latvia and the country is declared as a Soviet Republic
1941 German troops occupy Latvia
1944 Soviet troops return to occupy Latvia, which caused the fleeing of many Latvians to Germany and Sweden
1948 Nationalizing companies started and in 1949 the collectivization of farms
1953 The Latvian SSR got a new flag
1988 The Baltic Republics got a greater autonomy and Latvia got their pre-war flag back in 1990
1990 The Latvian SSR declared independence even though the central power in Moscow regarded Latvia still part of the Soviet Union
1991 After the coup attempt in Moscow, the Latvian independence is recognized and the Soviet Union was dissoluted the same year
1999 Latvia gets the first East European female president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga
2004 Latvia joins both Nato and the European Union 


tiistai 26. tammikuuta 2016

Estonia, Cool Facts #95

<= 94. Ukraine                                                                                                                   96. Latvia =>

1. Estonian Flag Origins 

The Estonian Song Festival had a very important part in the Estonian national awakening in the 1800s. The first song festival was held in 1869 and the artist Johann Kölerit introduced the Estonian colors in his performances.

These colors spread as the national colors to the whole country and they were already displayed prominently in the second song festival in 1879. In 1884 the Estonian Students' Society (Eesti Üliöpilaste Selts) took the blue-black-white tricolor as their symbol of the national liberation in Tartu.

When the flag was raised the first time, Russian gendarmes immediately destroyed it. In the 1894 song festival the flag broke through the censorship finally.

Estonian Song Festival
2. Danish Estonia

Denmark was a great military and mercantile power in the 12th century and it wanted to end the Estonian Viking attacks, that threatened Danish trade in the Baltic. In 1219 Estonians were defeated in the Battle of Lyndanisse and the Danes established the city of Tallinn, which was known as Reval until the year 1918. 

After the battle northern Estonia became a Danish region until the Estonian uprising in 1343, when Estonia was taken over by the German Teutonic Order. Later the Bishop of Ösel-Wiek sold his lands to the king of Denmark in 1559, during the Livonian war. 

The king gave the territory to his brother Magnus who landed in Saaremaa in 1560 and by 1573 the whole Saaremaa had become a Danish possession. In 1645 Saaremaa was transferred to Sweden. 

3. First Independence 

Estonia was independent between 1920-1940, so it got independence after the first world war but lost it in the beginning of the second world war.

 In 1917 Russia was in chaos after the February Revolution, Estonia had gained autonomy and in 1918 the Bolsheviks rose in power in Russia and the same year Estonia declared independence. 

German troops occupied the country but after they left the Soviet troops attacked the Baltic countries and the Estonia fought for 14 months before it became independent on February 2 in 1920. 

Later the Baltic countries lost their independence in the second world war when Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany divided Europe with each and the Baltic countries being in the Soviet Union's spheres of interest. 

The Soviet annexation of Estonia was expressed as being illegal by many countries who didn't recognize the Estonian SSR

First celebration of the Estonian independence

4. Kiiking 

Kiiking is a sport invented in Estonia by Ado Kosk in 1996. Kiik means a swing in Estonian and in kiiking the aim is to swing 360 degrees going over the fulcrum of the swing. The longer the swing arms are, the harder it is to complete the 360 degrees. The current world record is 7.03 meters. 

Kiiking swing

5. Tharapita 

Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world. Tharapita or Taara is the deity on which the old Estonian pagan religion is centered. The people in Saaremaa and northern Estonia practiced the Tharapita religion during the Viking Age.

According to the legend Tharapita was born on a forested mountain in Virumaa from where he flew to Saaremaa. The story has been associated with a major meteor disaster that happened in the 600s or 700s causing the Kaali crater in Saaremaa.

Later in the 1800s the Tharapita religion became popular in the national movement as an anti-German and anti-Lutheran symbol. The second-biggest city, Tartu, was even poetically called Taaralinn since that period, meaning the city of Taara.

The Jumiois, symbol of Taaraism and Maausk


98 Roman historian Tacitus describes the Aesti tribe living in the current Estonia
1187 Oeselian pirates sacked the Swedish town of Sigtuna
1207 Terra Mariana established as a principality of the Holy Roman Empire, rules parts of Estonia
1219 Reval (current Tallinn) was founded as the capital of Danish Estonia
1248 Tallinn joins the Hanseatic League
1343 Estonian people revolted and tried to get rid of their Danish and German rulers and landlords, the revolt was ended by the invasion of the Teutonic Order
1346 Denmark sold Estonia to the Teutonic Order for 19,000 Köln marks
1559 The Bishop of Ösel-Wiek sold his lands to King Frederick II of Denmark for 30,000 whalers
1561 During the Livonian War northern Estonian submitted to Swedish control
1629 The complete mainland Estonia came under Swedish rule
1659 A plague stopped the population growth
1695-1697 Almost 20% of the population died during the Great Famine
1700-1721 Great Northern War
1721 The Swedish Empire lost Estonia to Russia after the war by Treaty of Nystad
1816 Serfdom was abolished in Estonia and in 1819 in Livonia
1862 Publication of the national epic, Kalevipoeg, was a big accomplishment for the Estonian nationalism
1869 First Estonian song festival 
1884 Tartu University adopted the blue-black-white tricolor as their symbol of the national freedom, the Russian gendarmes went to destroy the flag immediately
1905 Uprising in Estonia resisting both the Russians and the Germans
1918 Estonia declares independence, after the German occupiers leave the Russian Bolshevik army tries to occupy Estonia starting the 14-month Estonian War of Independence
1920 Estonian War of Independence ends in the Tartu Peace Treaty 
1934 Prime minister Konstantin Päts declared martial law, disbanded the parliament and ruled autocratically until 1940
1940 Estonia invaded by Soviet troops and annexed the country as Estonian SSR to the Soviet Union
1941 Germany occupied Estonia during its attack to the Soviet Union
1944 After the German loss the Red Army returned Soviet rule and over 60,000 Estonians fleed to the west
1953 Estonian SSR gets its own Soviet flag
1988 The use of the old flag is allowed again
1991 Estonian restores its independence as the Soviet Union fell
2004 Estonia joins both Nato and EU

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen 

perjantai 22. tammikuuta 2016

Ukraine, Cool Facts #94

<= 93. Moldova                                                                                                                95. Estonia =>

1. Kievan Rus'

The Kievan Rus' was a loose federation of East Slavic European tribes between 882-1240. Prince Oleg was the first ruler who extended his control from Novgorod towards the south along the Dnieper river. He moved the capital to Kiev, which was a more strategic location. 

Oleg tried to protect his areas from Khazar incursions and later there was a victorious war against the Khazar Empire. During the reign of Vladimir the Great, the Kievan Rus' adopted Christianity. The Kievan Rus was one of the largest and most powerful states in Europe in the 900s and 1000s. 

The state started declining after that and in 1132 the Kievan Rus' fragmented into separate principalities after the death of king Mstislav. The last blow was in 1240 when the Mongols destroyed the state terminally. 

Principalities of the Kievan Rus'

2. First independence

Between 1918-1922 there were various Ukrainian parties that declared their region independent. This was a result of the world war because current Ukrainian areas were part of the Empire of Austria-Hungary and Imperial Russia, which both fell after the war. Here are the different Ukrainian parties that declared independence:

1917-1921 Ukrainian People's Republic (predecessor of current Ukraine) first declared being part of the Russian Republic in 1917 but in 1918 declared independence
1918 Ukrainian State aka Hetmanate: anti-socialist government
1918-1920 Directorate of Ukraine
1917-1991 Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic: pro-Bolshevik government
1918-1919 West Ukrainian People's Republic: a republic in eastern Galicia
1919 Hutsul Republic

When the Bolsheviks fought against the imperial forces in Russia, there was simultaneously a war of independence in Ukraine between 1917-1921. Ukraine also lost western Ukraine to Poland in a war against Poland (1918-1919).

The Red Army won in Russia and their allies were supported in Ukraine where the Red Army destroyed the remnants of the white movement. In 1922 Ukraine was one of the founding members of the Soviet Union.

Ukrainian territorial growth map 1922-1954

3. Holodomor

Holodomor was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR in 1932-1933 killing millions of people. The collectivization was one of the reasons and the poor planning and management. A lot of grain remained unharvested and a significant percentage was lost during the processing, transportation and storage.

The Ukrainians were also banned migrating to somewhere in the Soviet Union without food shortages and the government didn't give enough aid in the starving areas. It's told that Stalin's totalitarian regime wanted to punish the nationalism of Ukraine.

The situation was so bad that people started killing each other and eating dead people. Witnesses have told that good people, who rejected killing and eating other people died first.

The number of starved people varies between 2,5-12 million

4. Crimean Peninsula

Between 1449-1783 the Crimean Khanate ruled the Crimean Peninsula. It was established by the Tatars during the decline of the Golden Horde. In 1783 Crimea became part of the Imperial Russia. After the first world war the Crimean People's Republic was independent under a year in 1917-1918. 

Crimea was annexed to Soviet Union then and in 1954 the leader of Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, transferred Crimea from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR as a gift in the 300th anniversary celebration of the Russian and Ukrainian friendship. 

In 1654 Ukraine had been a vassal state of the Polish-Lithuanian Commowealth and asked for the military protection from the Tsardom of Russia in the Pereyaslav Agreement. 

During the second world war a lot of Tatars were deported to Kazakhstan from Crimea, so their percentage of the Crimean population is now only 12%. 

In 2014 during the chaotic situation in Ukraine, Russian forces entered Crimea and after a referendum the majority voted Crimea to join Russia. However the referendum was unrecognized and held invalid by the majority of the UN countries.

Crimean Khanate 1449-1783

5. Ukrainian Nationalism

The Ukrainian nationalism started rising in the 1800s and in 1876 the center of the nationalist movement moved from Kiova to Lvov, which was at the time part of Austria. Russians even banned Ukrainian literature and for example the key figure of the Ukranian nationalism, Taras Shevchenko was even convicted for writing in Ukranian language and promoting Ukrainian independence.

Tara Shevchenko was a member of the Brotherhood of Saint Cyril and Methodius, which was a cultural and political party envisioning the future of Ukraine. It was quickly suppressed and by 1847 all the members were in exile or imprisoned. In 1900 the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party was established and it had the aim to create an independent Ukraine extending from the Carpathians to the Caucasus.

In the beginning of the Soviet era national renaissance was encouraged in the Ukrainian culture and language but this ended when Stalin became the leader and suppressed this Ukraninisation, especially because the peasants in Ukraine rebelled against the forced collectivizations.

Taras Shevchenko 1814-1861
Taras on 100 hryvnia banknote


880 The Rus people had arrived to Kiev from the area around Ladoga and Novgorod establishing the Kievan Rus
900-1000s The Kievan Rus is the largest and most powerful state in Europe
1132 The Kievan Rus fragmented into separate principalities after the death of king Mstislav
1240 Kiev was totally destroyed by the Mongols
1253 Danylo Romanovich re-united all of south-western Rus becoming the first King of all Rus'. His kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia was one of the most powerful states in eastern Europe
1300s The Grand Duchy of Lithuania conquers Galicia-Volhynia
1441 The Crimean Khanate is established in the current southern Ukraine
1569 The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is established and so much of Ukrainian territory was transferred from Lithuania to Poland
1648 The Cossacs rise against the Polish Commonwealth with Bogdan Khmelnytsky
1657-1687 "The Ruin" a 30-year war between Russia, Poland, Turks and Cossacks for control of Ukraine
1687 After the "Eternal Peace Treaty" Russia and Poland divide Ukrainian areas together
1772, 1793 & 1795 During the three partitions of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria, Russia got Ukrainian lands east of the Dnieper and Austria the rest
1768-1774 After the Russo-Turkish War Catherine the Great and her successors encouraged German immigration into Ukraine and especially Crimea
1783 The Crimean Khanate is conquered by the Russian Empire
1800s Nationalism arose in Ukraine and the poet Taras Shevshenko was one of the key figures
1876 Russians ban Ukrainian literature and the center of the nationalist movement shifts from Kiova to Lvov, which was part of Austria at the time
1900 Ukrainian revolutionary party is established in Harkova demanding a sovereign Ukraine expanding from the Carpathian to the Caucasus Mountains
1918 As the Empires of Russia and Austria both were destroyed by the world war, the Ukrainian territories in Austria and Russia established independence as several separate states 
1918-1919 Poland defeated western Ukraine in the war and western Ukraine was then incorporated into Poland 
1922 Ukraine became a founding member of the Soviet Union with Russia, Belarus and Transcaucasia
1932-1933 Great Famine "Holodomor" as a result of Soviet forced collectivization of agriculture
1939 Russia and Germany divide Poland and Western Ukraine is united with the rest of Ukraine re-uniting the Ukrainian people
1940 Bessarabia and northern Bukovina were incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR
1945 After the war resistance in western Ukraine against Soviet Union 
1954 Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR from the Russian SFSR in the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav
1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident near Kiova
1991 Ukraine declares independence
2004 Viktor Yushchenko rises into power after the Orange Revolution
2010 Viktor Yanukovych is elected as the president
2014 Petro Poroshenko becomes the president after protests requiring Yanukovych to resign
2014 Russian troops entered Crimea and the majority voted to join Russia in a referendum


tiistai 19. tammikuuta 2016

Moldova, Cool Facts #93

<= 92. Georgia                                                                                                                94. Ukraine =>

1. Moldova Legend 

In 1359 the Principality of Moldavia was founded in the valley around the Moldova River, which gave the country its name. There's a legend about why the river got the name Moldavia. 

Moldavian chroniclers Dimitrie Cantemir and Grigore Ureche tell that the river was named by prince Dragos after hunting an aurochs, which is an extinct wild ox. 

Molda, the hound of Dragos followed the aurochs to the river but drowned because of the exhaustion. Full of sorrow Dragos ordered that the river should be called Moldavia. So the river and then the nation of Moldavia got their name, which transformed into Moldova eventually.

Dragos and Molda chasing an aurochs

2. Transnistria

The current area of Transnistria was called the Moldavian ASSR in 1924-1940 and it was an autonomous part of the Ukrainian SSR in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had the goal to annex the current Moldovan parts to this Soviet Republic and it managed to do it in 1940 after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. 

Until 1940 the current Moldova was part of Romania and between 1941-1944 Romania occupied the area again, but lost them in the end of the war as Romania was in the losers side in the war. So after that the current Moldova and Transnistria were together the Moldavian SSR. 

After the dissolution of the USSR the war broke loose in Transnistria in 1992 for a couple of months and since the end of the conflict Transnistria has been de facto independent but it still remains as an unrecognized country.

3. Poorest European country

Moldova is the poorest European country and about one third of the GDP comes from money that Moldovans living abroad send to their home country. The majority of Moldovan migrant workers abroad are women, who work especially in childcare. 

Services have become the biggest sector in the country and then industry and agriculture. Moldova is especially known for its wine as it has one of the largest wine cellars in the world. Moldova's main trade partners are Russia and Ukraine.

4. Moldovan Wine Industry 

The largest wine cellar Milestii Mici is in Moldova, which is known for its wines. The wine industry in Moldova is well established and winemaking is so popular that many families have their own recipes and even their own strands of grapes, that have passed through the generations.

The Milestii Mici cellars extend for a staggering 200 kilometers of which only 55km are currently in use. The second biggest winery in Moldova, Cricova, isn't small either with 120 kilometers of labyrinthine roadways.

During the world war Jews were hidden in wine barrels in Cricova and it was also the celebration place of Vladimir Putin's 50th birthday.

Milestii Mici Winery
5. Flag of Moldova

The flag of Moldova tells about the history of the country. The colors and the design is close to the Romanian flag, because these two countries have a common past and language, which is Romanian. 

The eagle of Wallachia is on the coat of arms. The Principality of Wallachia existed between 1246-1859. In 1859 Moldavia united with Wallachia and adopted the name Romania in 1866. This state became officially the Kingdom of Romania in 1881. 

The other animal is the ox of Moldavia, a principality which existed between 1346-1859. Like it was mentioned before, in 1859 Moldavia united with Wallachia. Currently the eastern part of the ancient Moldavia belongs to Moldova and the western part to Romania. 

Ox of Moldavia

Eagle of Wallachia
Moldovan flag


1359 Bogdan I founded the principality of Moldavia
1538 Moldavia became a tributary to the Ottoman Empire
1775 The deteriorating Ottoman Empire loses Bukovina region from Moldavia to Austria
1812 After the Treaty of Bucharest Ottoman Empire cedes the eastern parts of Moldavia to Russia
1856 The Treaty of Paris returned three counties of Bessarabia back to Moldavia
1859 Wallachia and Moldavia unite
1866 The united Wallachia and Moldavia adopt the name Romania
1877-78 After a new Turco-Russian, Russia took Bessarabia back
1881 The Kingdom of Romania is founded
1918 Bukovina and Transylvania join Romania 
1924 The Soviet Union created the Moldavian ASSR in the current Transnistria, where the whole Bessarabia was meant to be annexed eventually
1940 Romania ceded Bessarabia and Bukovina to the Soviet Union, which soon formed the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic with the Moldavian SSR, but soon Bukovina and parts of Bessarabia were annexed to the Ukrainian SSR
1941 Romania allied with Nazi Germany occupied Bessarabia, Transnistria and northern Bukovina but lost them in 1944 as the War was ending and the Axis states were losing
1991 Moldova declares independence with Mircea Snegur as the first president
2001 Vladimir Voronin became the president and the Communist Party returned in power


maanantai 18. tammikuuta 2016

Georgia, Cool Facts #92

<= 91. Azerbaijan                                                                                                         93. Moldova =>

1. Georgia Name

The name Georgia transformed from Persian words Gurgan or Gorgan "the place of the wolves" after the Crusaders rendered it as Georgia because of Saint George, the national saint of the Georgians. 

The Georgian flag has the ancient St. George's Cross like the English flag. The western countries call the country Georgia because it has had 13 kings, with the name George. 

In Russia the country is called Gruusia and the Georgians themselves call their country Sakartvelo, which comes from the historical area of Kartli, where the Georgian Kingdom was situated during the Golden Age.

The name Kartli was then originally from the Georgian mythical ancestor, king Kartlos.

St. George statue in Tbilisi
2. Bagrationi Dynasty 

In the year 813 king Ashot I became the king in Iberia in East Georgia, which meant the beginning of the nearly 1000-year Bagrationi family Dynasty in Georgia.

In 1027 king Bagrat III united the principalities in a single unified state and started the Georgian Golden Age, which culminated in the 1200s during the female King Tamara's reign.

In about 1490 the Bagrationi Dynasty divided the lands into three parts, Imeret, Kartli and Kakhet, which were all ruled by rivaling Bagrationi family branches.

In 1762 Kartli and Kakheti united again creating the Kingdom of Georgia.

After a few bad decision with Russia, Georgia was annexed to Russia finally in 1801 and it meant the end of the 1000-year Bagrationi rule in Georgia as the Tsar of Russia became the ruler of Georgia. There were uprisings in 1812, 1820 and 1832 to bring back the Bagrationi Dynasty, but they failed.

Bagrationi Dynasty coat of arms

3. Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Georgia suffers from internal disputes as Abkhazia and South Ossetia both have declared independence in the 1990s and are supported by Russia. The countries are de facto independent, but their independence has been recognized only by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Vanuatu. 

Abkhazia was founded in the 800s rebelling against the Byzantine rule. The Muslim majority region was a separate Soviet state until 1931 after which it became an autonomous part of Georgia. 

After the fall of the Soviet Union the war in Abkhazia started in 1992 and ended in 1993 in a Georgian military defeat. In 2008 the two sides fought again during the Ossetian War. The independent Abkhazia was also recognized by Russia that same year. 

The South Ossetian conflict escalated in 1991-1992 leading to the Ossetian War and again in 2004 and 2008, when Ossetian and Russian forces gained full control of the territory. All the 25.000 Georgians in South Ossetia had to leave their homes as the Russians troops attacked. 

The both disputes are still open without final resolutions. 

4. Flag of Georgia 

From the independence in 1991 until 2004 Georgia had the flag, that they had adopted during their first independence between 1918-1921.

That flag was designed by the artist Jakob Nikoladze, when Georgia became independent in 1918.

Shortly after the Rose Revolution in 2003 Georgia decided to change their flag in 2004 to the ancient flag of Queen Tamar from the 1200s Georgian Kingdom.

Flag in 1008-1490

Flag in 1918-1921 and 1991-2004
Flag since 2004

5. Krubera Cave

The Krubera Cave, also known as Voronja Cave, is the deepest known cave in Earth. It's in the Gagra district in Abkhazia. The Krubera is currently the only known cave, which is deeper than 2000 meters. The depth of the cave is 2197 meters. The current depth record was made in 2012 by an Ukrainian cave diver Gennadiy Samokhin. 

Krubera Cave


300s BC The Georgians establish a unified kingdom
300 Georgia adopts Christianity and the Georgian alphabets are created
443 Last king of Iberia, Vakhtang I "Gorgasali", established the current capital Tbilisi
502 Persian conquistadors occupy East Georgia
645 Arabs conquer East Georgia establishing the Emirate of Tbilisi
800s The Kingdom of Abkhazia is established
813 Ashot I becomes the king in Iberia in East Georgia starting the Bagrationi Dynasty, which ruled parts of Georgia the following 1000 years
1027 King Bagrat III unified the small principalities into one state, creating the Georgian Golden Age
1220 The Georgian Golden Age ends in the Mongol conquests
1386 Timur Lenk's Tatars end to Georgia causing a lot of destruction
1466 The Bagrationi Dynasty split into three branches, which ruled three principalities fighting against each other, Imeret, Kartli and Kakheti
1762 Kartli and Kakheti unite forming the Kingdom of Georgia again
1801 Russia annexes Georgia ending the thousand year Bagrationi rule
1810 Imeret and Abkhazia become under Russian rule
1812,1820 and 1832 uprising didn't succeed bringing the Bagrationi Dynasty back into power
1918 Declaration of independence and the Georgian-Armenian War
1921 Soviet Union annexes Georgia after three years of independence
1924 August Uprising against Soviet Russia and the foundation of the Transcaucasian SFSR
1936 The Transcaucasian SFSR is split into the Armenian, Azeri and Georgian Soviet states
1956 and 1978 Biggest demonstrations in Tbilisi against the Soviet system
1989 Mass demonstrations, which were suppressed violently
1991 In the referendum about the independence 98% voted for the independence, Zviad Gamsahurdia became the first president
1992 Eduard Shevardnadze overthrows Gamsahurdia as the president
1993 Civil War starts in Georgia
2003 Shevardnadze resigns after the Rose Revolution and Mihail Saakashvili becomes the president
2008 Tensions between Georgia and Russia escalate in South Ossetia in Georgia


lauantai 16. tammikuuta 2016

Azerbaidzhan, Cool Facts #91

<= 90. Armenia                                                                                                               92. Georgia =>

1. Between Russia and Persia

The Azeri are a Turkic population, which has fought against Persia and Russia for its existence. Persia ceded the current area of Azerbaijan to Russia in 1813 and the Aras River became the border, which split the Azeri areas in half. 

There are still more Azeri in northern Iran (10 million) than in the whole Azerbaijan (7 million). Later in 1828 after the Russo-Persian War Russia took Armenia and Nakhchivan from Persia.

During the world wars Russia also tried to conquer the Azeri areas in Iran without success. Azerbaijan was annexed to Soviet Union in 1920 after a short two year period of independence and it gained independence finally when the Soviet Union fell in 1991.

Caucasus in 2016
Caucasus in the 1800s

2. Oil Industry 

In 1846 the world's first oil well was drilled in Bibi-Heybat in Azerbaijan. The oil boom started in Baku and was so strong that between the years 1856-1910 the population growth in Baku was faster than in London, Paris and New York. 

In the beginning of the 1900s Azerbaijan was the world's biggest oil producer providing half of the oil produced in the world. 

Baku was the leading oil industry city, where the oil was refined and where the petrochemical companies operated. The environmental damages in Azerbaijan have been severe, because of the oil drillings that started long time ago. 

Bibi Heybat oil field

3. Short Independence 

From the year 1918 until 1920, Azerbaijan was independent for 23 months. During the short independence Azerbaijan became the first parliamentary republic in the Muslim world. Azerbaijan was also the first Muslim state which gave women equal political rights with men as women were allowed to vote.

In 1920 Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik army invaded Azerbaijan and the invasion was justified as Soviet Russia couldn't survive without Baku's oil. All the private oil fields and refineries were confiscated to the state.

Conference room of the first parliament

4. Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan and Armenia still have disputes over the area of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but where the majority of the population are Armenians. The disputes started already in 1918-1920 when Azerbaijan and Armenia fought over Nagorno-Karabakh during their short independences before becoming part of the Soviet Union. 

Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were part of the Transcaucasian SFSR between 1922 and 1936. In 1936 when the Transcaucasian SFSR was split into three parts the area of Nagorno-Karabakh remained in the Azeri Soviet Republic. 

In 1988 the Karabakh Armenians voted 110 to 17 to request the transfer of the region to Armenia. Moscow rejected the demand and shortly after the Azeri started the Askeran clash, which was one of the starting points of the war. The Soviet Union fell in 1991 and the full-scale fighting erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992 and ended in 1994. Since then peace talks have been held between Azerbaijan and Armenia to end the dispute.

Presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia talking about Nagorno-Karabakh

5. Unique Geography

Azerbaijan lies in the Caucasus area, which is the region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The highest peak in Europe is in the Russia side of the Caucasus Mountains in Mount Elbrus.

Azerbaijan is called the "Land of Fire" which refers to its natural gas reserves and Azerbaijan also has more than half of the world's mud volcanoes. There are nearly 400 mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan.

The Caucasus area is also unique because of its density of languages. Nowhere else as many indigenous languages are spoken in such a small area than in the Caucasus.

Languages of the Caucasus


800s Islam arrived to the current area of Azerbaijan
1200s The Mongols conquer the region
1500s Persia conquers the Azeri areas in the beginning of the century
1700s Persia's influence in the area diminished so that the Azeri Khanates were practically independent
1800s Russia arrives to Caucasus and signs protection agreements with Azeri clans
1813 Persia handed the current Azerbaijan to Russia
1828 After the Russo-Persian War Russia takes Armenia and the Nakhchivan Khanate from Persia
1848 Gold was found in Azerbaijan and the first drilling were made
1900s In the beginning of the century Azerbaijan was the world's largest oil producer
1918 The Azeri unite with Armenians and Georgians founding the Transcaucasian DFR
1918 The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic is founded, first Muslim democratic state
1920 Independence ends after two years when Soviet troops occupy Azerbaijan
1922 Azerbaijan becomes part of the Transcaucasian SFSR
1936 The Transcaucasian SFSR is split into three separate Soviet states
1988 The inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh demand the area to be annexed to Armenia
1991 Azerbaijan becomes independent
1992-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan
1993 Haidar Alijev overthrows the democratically elected president Abulfaz Elchibey
2004 Haidar's son Ilham Alijev becomes the next president after his father died
2010 At the time the world's tallest flag with a height of 162m was erected in Baku 


keskiviikko 13. tammikuuta 2016

Armenia, Cool Facts #90

<= 89. Turkmenistan                                                                                                91. Azerbaijan =>

1. Yerevan 782 BC 

Yerevan is the world's oldest city to have documented the exact date of its foundation. It was founded 782 years BC, which is a really long time ago. Yerevan is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited city.

King Argishti I of the ancient kingdom of Urartu ordered first the construction of the Erebuni fortress, guarding against the attacks from the north Caucasus. In the following centuries Yerevan was part of different Persian, Turkish and Russian Empires before Armenia got independence and made Yerevan its capital city.

Erebuni fortress

2. First Christian Nation

Armenia is the world's first nation to have adopted Christianity as its official religion. The official date of this event is in the year 301. It was Tiridates The Great, the king of Kingdom of Armenia, who proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia. Before this Armenia had been predominantly a Zoroastrian country. Christianity had although spread into Armenia already as early as the year 40. 

Khor Virap monastery in Armenia

3. Armenian Genocide 

Armenians had been killed in the Ottoman Empire even before the genocide, which began in 1915. Between 1894-1896 the Sultan of Ottoman Empire, Abdu'l-Hamid II, organized massacres against Armenians killing between 80.000-300.000 Armenians. 

In 1909 after the Young Turk Revolution about 20.000-30.000 Armenians were killed in the Adana massacre. 

The Armenian genocide started in 1915, when 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals were arrested and then killed by the Ottoman government. After that Armenians were started being deported after the Tehcir Law. Armenian property was confiscated and a lot of people were marched into the Syrian desert, where they starved to death. 

Rape was also an integral part of the genocide as the Ottoman commanders could do whatever they wanted to the women. About 25 concentration camps were established for those who survived the deportations. It's estimated that from 800.000 to 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the genocide. 
Armenian Genocide

4. Armenian Diaspora

The modern Armenian diaspora was largely a result of the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman government. Armenians had although established communities in different parts of the world already since antiquity. The earthquake of 1988 and the dissolution of Soviet Union in 1991 made many Armenians to move abroad also.

As a result of these events Armenia is one of the few countries, which has more Armenians living abroad than in their home country. There are 3 million people living in Armenia and about 7-11 million Armenians living abroad around the world.

5. Transcaucasia

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 gave Armenia the chance to gain independence as the situation in Russia was chaotic, when Imperial forces fought against the Bolsheviks. In 1918 Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan united as the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic lasting only from February to May. 

Then Armenia declared independence in 1918, but in 1920 Turkey invaded Armenia and took back the lands that Armenia had got in the Treaty of Sevres. In 1920 the First Republic of Armenia fell and Soviet army entered Yerevan. 

In 1922 Armenia together with Azerbaijan and Georgia was incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Transcaucasian SFSR. In 1936 the Transcaucasian SFSR was divided into three separate entities, Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR and Georgian SSR. 



782 BC The capital city Yerevan is founded
190 BC The Armenians declare themselves independent from Persian Seleucids with the lead of Prince Artaxee
95-55 BC Armenian Kingdom at its largest during the rule of Tigranes the Great
30 BC The Romans conquer the Armenian Kingdom
653 Arabs spreading Islam establish an Emirate in Armenia
884 The Bagratuni dynasty re-established the Kingdom of Armenia
1045 The kingdom fragments after internal power struggles
1198 The Kingdom of Cilicia is established
1230s The Mongols conquer Armenian areas and the Armenias move to the southwards
1342 The Lusignania Dynasty starts ruling Armenia
1375 The Armenian Kingdom is defeated y the Turkish Mamluks
1500s Ottoman Turkey and Safavid Persia divided Armenia
1828 Qajar Iran was forced to cede Eastern Armenia to Imperial Russia as Western Armenia remained a part of Ottoman Turkey
1894-96 First wave of mass executions in Armenian provinces in the Ottoman Empire
1914-1916 The Armenian genocide executed by Turkey
1916 Russia conquers Turkey's part of Armenia
1917 After the Russian Revolution Turkey invaded Russian Armenia
1917 Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan establish together the independent Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic
1918 The First Republic of Armenia established as the Transcaucasian union fragmented
1920 Soviet Union and Turkey agree about dividing the country as Kemal Atatürk occupied the former Turkish Armenia including the Mount Ararat, which is holy to the Armenians
1922-1936 Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan become the Transcaucasian Soviet Republic
1936 The Transcaucausian Soviet Republic is divided into three separate Soviet states
1988 A severe earthquake hits Armenia killing about 25,000 people
1991 Armenia declares independence from the Soviet Union 
1992-1994 A war, in which 30.000 people died as Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. As a result of these events Azerbaijan closed its border with Armenia and later Turkey joined the blockade crippling Armenian economy
1998 President Levon Ter-Petrosjan is forced to resign
1999 An attack to the parliament, where 8 politicians were shot including the prime minister and the president of the parliament 


lauantai 9. tammikuuta 2016

Turkmenistan, Cool Facts #89

<= 88. Uzbekistan                                                                                                         90. Armenia =>

1. Flag Symbolism 

The flag of Turkmenistan has ornaments like the flags of Kazakhstan and Belarus as well. Ornaments are used in hand-woven carpets, of which Turkmenistan is famous for. The five ornament symbols represent the five major clans of Turkmenistan. 

1. Teke clan
2. Yomut clan
3. Saryk clan
4. Chowdur clan
5. Arsary clan 

Carpets in Ashgabat market

2. Karakum Canal

Karakum Canal in Turkmenistan is one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. Built between 1954 and 1988 in the Karakum Desert, where the water of Amu-Darya River was steered. 

The canal made agriculture possible in a vast area of land and especially cotton cultivation, but unfortunately the 1445km long canal was too primitive and it allowed almost 50 percent of the water to escape en route. 

The Karakum Canal was a major factor causing the Aral Sea environmental disaster as the lake lost 80% of its water and half of its size. The high salinity levels made the Aral Sea unsuitable for living organisms. 

Karakum Canal
Karakum Desert

3. President Nijazov 

Saparmurat Nijazov became the president of Turkmenistan in 1991 when the country got independence. He was the president until his death in 2006. Nijazov was quite a personality as he created a personal cult around him. 

Nijazov's actions during his presidency: 

1. Banned lip syncing in public concerts
2. Banished dogs from Ashgabat, because of their unappealing odour
3. Outlawed opera, ballet and circuses, because they weren't Turkmen-like activities
4. Forbid men to have long beards
5. Built a 75m tall statue of himself in Ashgabat
6. Renamed the months and days of the week

Saparmurat Nijazov
Nijazov's golden statue with horse
4. Ruhnama 

President Nijazov wrote a book, which was even more important than the Quran and Bible in Turkmenistan. Ruhnama, was the holy book that Nijazov wrote and which was mandatory to study on all education levels from primary school to the university. You couldn't get a driver's license without passing a test about the teachings of Ruhnama. 

The book had moral codes for different situations, history of Turkmenistan and arts and literature among many other themes. Nijazov was even recorded telling that he had contacted God to ensure that people who read the Ruhnama three times will get automatically to heaven. 

Ruhnama opening ceremony

Giant Ruhnama statue behind golden Nijazov statue

5. Large Natural Reserves

Turkmenistan has really large natural gas and oil reserves. The proven natural gas reserves are the fourth largest in the world. Natural gas pipelines have been built from Turkmenistan through Turkey and Iran to Europe and also to China.

With the profits from the natural gas, the government has given the population free electricity, water, gasoline and many other benefits. Turkmenistan has some disputes with Azerbaijan considering the offshore borders in the area, where there are a lot of natural gas and oil.


1500s Southern Turkmenistan is governed by Persia and the southern parts by Uzbek Khiva and Bukhara Khanates
1700s The Russian tried to conquer the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea without succeeding
1860s Khiva and Bukhara become Russian protectorates
1881 The Battle of Geok Tepe, Turkmens lose to Russian Imperial army and their area is annexed into the Russian Turkestan with the name Trans Caspia
1916 The Turkmens participate with the other Central Asians to rebel against the Russians
1920 The Trans Caspian government is defeated
1924 Turkmenistan becomes a separate Soviet Republic
1920s-30s The collectivization of farms and closing of mosques and quranic schools created resistance against the Soviet Union
1985 When Gorbatshov rose in power also the leader in Central Asian Soviet Republics is changed
1991 Turkmenistan declares independence and Saparmurat Nijazov becomes the first president
1992 New flag is adopted
1999 The constitution was changed and presidency was made to last lifelong
2006 Nijazov dies and Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov becomes the new president
2007 After a constitution reform Turkmenistan shifts to multi-party system and market economy, but only technically 

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen