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maanantai 28. maaliskuuta 2016

Gambia, Cool Facts #107

<= 106. Botswana                                                                                                           108. Ghana => 

1. Flag of Gambia

The flag of Gambia was adopted in 1965 when it became independent from Great Britain. The flag was designed by Louis Thomasi who worked as an accountant. The design was inspired by the flag of Botswana. Unique for the Gambian flag was that it didn't use the colors of the leading political party like many African countries. 

Meaning of the Gambian flag colors: 

Blue = represents Gambia River
Red = the sunset on the Gambia River
Green = the rain forests surrounding the Gambia River
White = symbols of peace and unity 

Flags of Gambia and Botswana

2. Gambia River

Gambia is a country, which was formed around the Gambia River. The country is under 50km at its widest point and expands 400km to the inland following the Gambia River stream, which then continues flowing to Senegal and Guinea. 

Gambia is the smallest African country in the mainland. Only the island nations of Cape Verde, Comoros, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe and Seychelles are smaller by size in Africa. 

Gambia River basin

Gambia River in the Niokolo-Koba National Park 

3. Borders of 1889  

France and United Kingdom established the current borders of Gambia after an agreement in 1889. The British got about 16km of areas north and south from the Gambia River.

The region had a major importance because of the slave trade. The Gambia River was used to transport slaves from the inland to the coast, where they were shipped and traded by the Europeans.

The French and the British had fought over the dominance of the area for ages before making the agreement in 1889 when Gambia became a British colony as it was separated from the surrounding French dominated Senegal.

Originally the British had got their slave trading rights from the Portuguese in 1588, who had been in the region since the middle of the 1400s.

Map of Gambia
British Fort in Gambia from 1755

4. Two Leaders of Gambia 

Since the independence of Gambia in 1965, the country has had only two leaders. 

First Leader 1965-1994: Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara 

First Jawara was the Prime Minister between 1962-1970 including the time between 1962-1965 when Gambia was still a British colony. Gambia became a constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth having Elizabeth II as head of state but later in 1970 it became a republic after a referendum and so Jawara assumed the office of the president. Jawara ruled until 1994 when he was overthrown in a bloodless coup. 

Second Leader 1994 - : Yahya Jammeh

 In 1994 a group of young officers seized power from president Jawara in a bloodless coup which met with very little resistance. Jammeh was re-elected in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. Jammeh has caused controversy in the world with his very anti-homophobic statements. His regime has been also accused of restricting the freedom of press and alleged of human right violations. 

5. The Gambian Society 

- Gambia was one of the few multiparty democracies in Africa for a long time
- None of the tribes in Gambia is in leading position and there's a harmony between the different ethnic groups
- Despite the fact that 90% of the population are Muslims, different faiths are allowed to practice freely
- Gambia is one of the poorest African countries.
- In 2005 the WHO estimated that 78% of the Gambian girls and women have suffered from genital mutilation

Serekunda market
Bundung mosque


1300s Most of the present-day Gambia was part of the Mali Empire
1400s In the middle of the century the Portuguese started slave trade at the area
1588 The Portuguese sold their exclusive trade rights to the British
1651-1661 Courland, a vassal state of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, ruled parts of Gambia
1758 UK captured Senegal from France during the Seven Years' War
1783 The Treaty of Versailles gave UK possession of the Gambia River
1807 UK abolished slavery throughout its empire but was unable to end slave trade in Gambia
1816 The British established the military post of Bathurst, the current Banjul
1888 Gambia became a separate colony
1889 The present borders of Gambia were established after an agreement with France
1906 Slavery was abolished terminally
1963 The British granted full self-governance to Gambia
1965 Gambia gained independence from the UK, becoming a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth with the queen as the head of state
1970 Gambia became a republic after a second referendum about the issue. Prime Minister Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara assumed the office of president
1981 A military coup against Jawara, which was defeated with the help of the Senegalese troops
1982 After the military coup Gambia and Senegal signed a treaty of confederation called the Senegambia Confederation
1989 Gambia withdrew permanently from the Senegambia Confederation
1994 Yahya Jammeh became the president after a bloodless coup overthrowing president Jawara
2002 Gambia had presidential, legislative and local elections that foreign observers deemed free, fair and transparent and president Jammeh was re-elected 

torstai 17. maaliskuuta 2016

Botswana, Cool Facts #106

<= 105. China                                                                                                               107. Gambia => 

1. People of Botswana

Zebra is the national animal of Botswana and the zebra stripes in the flag symbolize the harmony and equality between the different ethnic groups in Botswana. 

Tribes in Botswana:

The Tswana people constitute 79% of the population and the country was named after them. 

The BaKalanga and San people are the largest minority groups. 

Bayei, Bambukushu, Basubia, Baherero and Bakgalagadi are other tribes in the country. 

First people: 

The San people were the first people in the current areas of Botswana but the Tswana people arrived about 1000 years ago and pushed the San people towards the Kalahari desert occupying the fertile east parts themselves. 
Terms in Setswana language: 

Tswana = the tribe's name speaking Setswana
Botswana = the country Botswana
Batswana = the people of Botswana as a whole
Motswana = one person
Setswana = the language

Bechuana hunting the lion 

2. Bechuanaland Protectorate

In 1885 Botswana, or then Bechuanaland became a British Protectorate after the local people had asked for the British protection against the Dutch Boers, with whom tensions had escalated. Until 1966 Bechuanaland was part of the British Commonwealth

In 1966 Bechuanaland became independent, it adopted the name Botswana and Seretse Khama became the first president of the country. In 2008 his son Ian Khama became a president as well. 

Since its independence Botswana has been a rare multi-party democracy during its complete independence and being the most uncorrupt African country. 

Botswana resisted the apartheid of South Africa but didn't allow the resistance movement ANC to use Botswana as their base. In 1985 South Africa attacked to Gaborone where the base of ANC was falsely alleged to be. 

Bechuanaland Protectorate
3. Diamonds and gemstones 

Debswana, the largest mining company in the world is owned 50% by the government of Botswana and 50% by the South African De Beers company. It has four diamond mines in Botswana including the Orapa mine, which is the world's biggest diamond mine by area. 

Alone the Orapa mine produced over 12 million carats of diamonds in the year 2014. Diamonds were the major reason that enabled Botswana to transform from the poor country it was when it became independent to a middle-income nation, that it is currently. 

Diamonds constitute 90% of the export earnings, 50% of the government revenues and. During its independence Botswana has been one of the fastest growing economies and the living standards are currently one of the best in Africa. 

Other gemstones and precious metals found in Botswana are: uranium, gold, copper and even some oil. 

Orapa processing plant in Botswana
4. HIV/AIDS epidemic

There are nine countries in the world, which have over 10% of HIV/AIDS prevalence in their population and out of these nine, three countries have over 20% of prevalence. 

Top 3 prevalence of HIV/AIDS

1. Swaziland 26,5% (2012 estimate) 
2. Botswana 23,4% (2011 estimate)
3. Lesotho 23,3% (2011 estimate) 

Botswana has the second highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS infections in its population. Botswana's life expectancy in its peak was 64,1 in 1991 and the low point 49 years in 2002. The reason was some budget cuts and rising expenditure of healthcare services. 

In 2006 the country was hit by an AIDS pandemic and lately the government has tried to improve the situation. The government has solicited for help from various international foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Merck Foundation and others to fight against AIDS and to get a universal access to treatment in Botswana. 

The polyamorous of many sexual relationships has been one of the causes of the high HIV/AIDS prevalence in Botswana.

Prevalance of HIV/AIDS in adults worldwide

5. Nature in Botswana

- Botswana is about the similar size to France and Madagascar at 581,730 square kilometers
- The Kalahari Desert covers 70% of Botswana's land surface 
- The Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the largest inland deltas
- Makgadikgadi Pan is a large salt flat in the north 
- The Limpopo River basin lies partly in Botswana 
- Chobe National Park has the world's largest concentration of African elephants 
- Desertification and drought a major environmental problem in Botswana

Okavango Delta
Chobe National Park
Makgadikgadi Salt Pans


1800s Dutch Boers extended their areas to Botswana from South Africa
1885 The British created the Bechuanaland Protectorate
1920 Two advisory councils were created to represent both Africans and Europeans
1934 Proclamations regulated tribal rule and power
1948 Nationalist government that instituted apartheid
1964 UK accepted democratic self-government of Botswana
1966 Bechuanaland became independent, Seretse Khama became the first president and the country adopted the name Botswana according to the country's biggest tribe Tswana
1980 Quett Masire became the president and served until 1998 as the president after re-elections
1985 South Africa attacked to Gaborone to the alleged ANC base
2008 Ian Khama, the son of the first president became the president 

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

keskiviikko 16. maaliskuuta 2016

China, Cool Facts #105

<= 104. Taiwan                                                                                                          106. Botswana =>

1. China's Name 

China got its name from the Qin Dynasty, which ruled China between 221-206 BC. The kingdom had fragmented into seven kingdoms during the Zhou Dynasty, when Emperor Qin Shi Huang managed to conquest the other six kingdoms establishing the first unified Chinese state. Qin Shi Huang proclaimed himself the "First Emperor". 

Most important actions during the Qin Dynasty

- uniform system of writing
- currency standardization 
- weight standardization 
- measure standardization 
- building of the Great Wall of China was initiated 

One of the most infamous events during the Qin Dynasty was when they burned books and buried scholars in order to destroy all the traces of old dynasties.

The Qin Dynasty is the origin of the country's English name. China's own name for itself is Zhōngguó, which means middle state.

Qin Shi Huang

2. Ming dynasty

The Ming Dynasty followed after the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty collapsed in 1368. The Ming Dynasty was the last imperial dynasty ruled by ethnic Han Chinese as its successor Qing Dynasty was ruled by the Manchu people

The Ming Dynasty ruled China between 1368-1644 and it has been described as "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history". 

Achievements and inventions of the Ming Dynasty: 

- The Great Wall of China was completed into its modern form 
- The Grand Canal was restored 
- Construction of the Forbidden City 
- China's famous blue and white porcelain was created
- Yongle Encyclopedia was written
- Famous literature works like: Journey to the West, Outlaws of the Marsh
- New printing processes
- Bristle toothbrush 
- Ship rudders 

The Chinese made voyages until Africa and the Red Sea. The Emperor even got a giraffe, which was brought from Malindi East Africa. Suddenly in 1433 the Emperor decided to isolate China and stopped the voyages by disbanding their naval fleet making it easier for the Portuguese and other Western naval power to gain power over the seas of the world. 

Ming Dynasty of China 1368-1644

- The Qin Dynasty 221-206 BC started the construction of the wall by linking the walls that had been built by states he conquered
- The Ming Dynasty 1368-1644 completed the Great Wall of China to its modern form
- Official length 21,196km

- Badaling the most visited section of the wall
- Due to desertification and change in human land use sections in Gansu and Ningxia likely to disappear in 20 years
- The Jiankou section with its steep hills most frequently depicted in books and post cards

- Since 1644 no further work has been done, only restorations for tourism
- Restoration and protection began in Badaling in 1957
- Cannot be seen from space by human eye 

Great Wall of China
4. Four Great Inventions of China

1. Compass
- Invented during the Han Dynasty in about 206BC and was adopted to navigation during the Song Dynasty in the 11th century
-The use of compass in Western Europe and Persia was recorded during the 13th century

2. Gunpowder: 
- Chinese alchemists invented it during the Tang Dynasty in the 9th century as they were searching an elixir for immortality
- The earliest written formula has been found from the 11th century in Song Dynasty
- In the 13th century the Mongols through their conquests introduced gunpowder to the Old World
- The development of effective artillery started in the 15th century and came to dominate warfare in Europe by the 17th century

3. Papermaking: 
- Papermaking was invented during the Han Dynasty 202 BC-220 AD.
- Paper as a writing medium became popular by the 3rd century
- Paper used as toilet paper was used since the 6th century
- Song Dynasty 960-1279 first government to issue paper-printed money
- In the 8th century paper spread to the Islamic world

4. Printing
- Woodblock printing on cloth invented during the Han Dynasty
- Paper printing in the 1st century
- Song Dynasty artisans created the wooden movable type in the 11th century
- Western-style printing press became known in East Asia by the 16th century

Four Great Inventions of China
5. Tibet 

The last Chinese imperial Dynasty fell after the Xinhai Revolution which started in 1911 and ended in 1912. China became a republic after thousands of years of imperial rule. In 1913 Tibet declared independence without the recognition of the Chinese government. 

Tibet remained autonomous until 1951 when China incorporated it or like Chinese describe the event the "peaceful liberation of Tibet" occurred. In 1959 the Dalai Lama fleed Tibet after the Tibetan uprising and the Tibetan government was dissolved. 

Tibetan rebels had already started fighting against the Chinese army in 1956 before the revolt erupted in Lhasa in 1959. 

Tibet was a mighty Empire in the 7th to 9th century after which it declined and became part of Mongol and Chinese states before declaring independence. 
The current Dalai Lama is the 14th and had to flee from Tibet to India after the revolt in 1959. He still lives in India as a refugee. In 1989 he received the Nobel Peace Price.

Tibet in 1942


c.2070 - c.1600 BC Xia Dynasty
c.1600 - c.1046 BC Shang Dynasty the earliest dynasty to be confirmed by contemporary records
c.1046 - 256 BC Zhou Dynasty, in the end fragmented into seven powerful independent states
221-206 BC Qin Dynasty conquered the other six kingdoms and established the first unified Chinese state. Qin's Emperor Qin Shi Huang proclaimed himself the "First Emperor"
206 BC - 220 Han Dynasty created a lasting Han cultural identity lasting to the present days. The Han Dynasty adopted Confucianism
220 - 280 Three Kingdoms Wei, Shu and Wu ruled the Chinese areas
265 - 420 Jin Dynasty
420 - 589 Northern and Southern Dynasties, the age of civil war and political chaos but also flourishing arts and culture, advancement in technology and spread of Buddhism and Taoism
581 - 618 Sui Dynasty reunited China again
618 - 907 Tang Dynasty, the capital Chang'an current Xi'an was the most populous city in the world at the time
907 - 960 Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, during this period five states quickly succeeded one another as a dozen concurrent states were founded elsewhere
907 - 1125 Liao Dynasty, first state to control all of Manchuria in northern China
960 - 1279 Song Dynasty, first government in the world history to issue paper money
1271 - 1368 Yuan Dynasty, first foreign dynasty to rule all of China, established by Mongol Kublai Khan
1368 - 1644 Ming Dynasty, the construction of the Great Wall of China was completed and China started voyages around the world and became the world's leading and most prosperous civilization
1433 Suddenly the emperor decided that China will isolate completely from the outside world
1557 The Portuguese managed to rent Macao as a trading post
1644 - 1911 Qing Dynasty, established by the Manchu people was the last imperial dynasty in China
1839 - 1842 First Opium War as the Chinese tried to prevent the British bringing opium from India, after losing the war the Chinese had to cede the British Hong Kong and the permission to use five harbors
1851 - 1864 Taiping rebellion about the feudal land ownership
1856 - 1860 Second Opium War with France and UK
1894 - 1895 First Sino-Japanese War, China loses Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula to Japan
1899 - 1901 Anti-Western Boxer Rebellion
1911 - 1912 Xinhai Revolution brought an end to the Qing Dynasty
1912 Republic of China starts ruling with Sun Yat-sen from the Kuomintang party as the president, who was soon replaced by general Yuan Shikai the former Qing general
1916 Yuan Shikai died and China was politically fragmented
1921 The Communist party of China was established and it got vast land areas under its control
1927 Civil War started when the Kuomintang and Communist party started fighting against each other
1932 Japan conquered Manchuria declaring it the independent Manchukuo
1934 - 1936 The Communists were forced on a 10.000km long march across China after the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek's leadership had conquered communist areas
1937 - 1945 The Second Sino-Japanese War between China and Japan 
1949 Chian Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan with Kuomintang, the civil war ended as the communists controlled the mainland China
1949 Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China in Beijing
1951 Tibet was conquered and its political and spiritual leader Dalai-lama fled to India
1957 Mao's Great Leap Forward was started with large scale economic and social reforms leading to the death of millions of people, mostly from starvation 
1964 China became a nuclear weapon state
1971 People's Republic of China got the seat of China in the UN from Republic of China (Taiwan)
1976 Deng Xiaopeng became the leader making the transition from planned economy to mixed economy opening the markets increasingly 
1982 China adopted its current constitution
1989 Student demonstration in Tiananmen Square was violently suppressed
1993 Planned economy was replaced by socialistic market economy in the constitution
1997 UK returned Hong Kong to China
1999 Portugal returned Macao to China
2001 China joined the WTO 

lauantai 12. maaliskuuta 2016

Taiwan, Cool Facts #104

<= 103. Singapore                                                                                                            105. China =>

1. Formosa Island

Taiwan was previously known as the island of Formosa. The reason for this lies in the past when the Portuguese sighted the island of Taiwan and called it the Ilha Formosa, meaning beautiful island. The name Formosa replaced other names in European literature and was still in use in the early 20th century.

2. Kingdom of Tungning

In 1644 the Ming Dynasty fell after the Manchu attacked and established the Qing Dynasty. At the time the Dutch ruled the current Taiwan.

In 1662 general Koxinga managed to capture Fort Zeelandia in Taiwan and expel the Dutch government and military from the island. Koxinga was a Ming loyalist whose intention was to use the island of Taiwan to restore the Ming government by using the island as a base of operations to train and settle his troops.

Koxinga established the Kingdom of Tungning, which ruled Taiwan until 1683 when the Qing Dynasty of the Manchus defeated Koxinga. The Kingdom of Tungning was the first time Taiwan had a Chinese rule in the island and that's why Koxinga is viewed as the founding father of Chinese Taiwan.

Timeline of Taiwan: 

1624-1662 Dutch Formosa
1662-1683 Kingdom of Tungning 
1683-1895 Qing Dynasty

Koxinga or Zhen Chenggong founder of Chinese Taiwan

3. Japanese occupation

Between 1894-1895 the Qing Dynasty of China and the Empire of Japan fought the First Sino-Japanese War primarily about the control of Korea. China lost that war and was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

Taiwan resisted the cession to Japan and established the short-lived Republic of Formosa. The resistance movement was quickly suppressed by the Japanese troops but there were later some big uprisings against the Japanese occupation in Taiwan.

Uprisings against the Japanese rule: 

1907 Beipu uprising: first armed uprising against the Japanese rule
1915 Tapani incident: one of the biggest uprisings in Taiwan against the Japanese rule
1930 Wushe incident: against the Japanese rule which was unsuccessful like the previous ones

During the occupation Japan improved the island's economy, industry and many other areas because Taiwan was its first overseas colony and Japan wanted to turn the island into a "model colony". They also tried to change the culture of Taiwan.

In 1945 Japan's occupation ended when it lost the Second World War and it lost all of its colonies. Taiwan was placed under the control of the Republic of China. 

Timeline of Taiwan: 

1683-1895 Qing Dynasty
1895 Republic of Formosa 
1895-1945 Japanese rule
1954 - present Republic of China rule 

Empire of Japan in 1942

4. Birth of Taiwan 

The Chinese civil war had started in 1927 when the communists with Mao Zedong tried to overthrow the Kuomintang-led government of Republic of China.

In 1949 the government fled to the island of Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek as the communists gained full control of the mainland. Taipei became the temporary capital of the Republic of China.

Republic of China got to keep the seat of China in the UN thanks to USA's support but after a voting in 1971 it lost the seat to the People's Republic of China. These are the background why Taiwan aka Republic of China thinks that China aka People's Republic of China belongs to it and vice versa.

Most of the world's countries recognize only the People's Republic of China as only 23 countries recognize Taiwan.

5. Taiwanese Aborigines

There are over half a million Taiwanese aborigines living in Taiwan. They are Austronesian peoples with linguistic and genetic ties to Austronesian ethnic groups like those of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar and Oceania.

Some historical linguists consider Taiwan as the original homeland of the Austronesian language family. The 26 known aborigine languages are called the Formosan languages and at least 10 are now extinct, 5 dying and several others are endangered. 

Taiwanese Amis people before World War II


500s Since this time Chinese moved from the mainland to the island of Taiwan
1430 Ming Dynasty annexed Taiwan to China
1542 The Portuguese visited the island and gave it the name "Ilha Formosa" beautiful island
1622 The Dutch attempted to establish a trading post on the Penghu islands but they were militarily defeated and driven off by the Ming Dynasty troops
1624 The Dutch established the fort of Fort Zeelandia in Tayouan
1626 The Spanish landed and occupied northern Taiwan until 1642 when the last Spanish fortress fell to Dutch forces
1644 The Ming Dynasty fell in China
1662 Ming loyalist general Koxinga captured Fort Zeelandia and expelled the Dutch government and military from the island
1662-1683 Koxinga's Kingdom of Tungning with Tainan as capital
1683 Qing Dynasty annexed Taiwan
1884 Fights during the Sino-French War on Taiwanese islands until 1885
1894-1895 Qing Dynasty China lost in the First Sino-Japanese War and ceded Taiwan, Penghu and Liaodong Peninsula to Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki
1895 Japanese forces quelled the Taiwanese resistance of Japanese rule
1907 Beipu uprising first armed uprising against the Japanese rule
1915 Tapani incident one of the biggest uprisings in Taiwan against the Japanese rule
1930 Wushe incident against the Japanese rule which was unsuccessful like the previous ones
1945 Taiwan was restored to China after the end of the world war
1949 Chiang Kai-shek evacuated the government of Republic of China to Taiwan as Mao Zedong's communists won the Chinese civil war 
1949 Martial law was declared in Taiwan and continued until 1987
1950s Land reforms, investments on education and technology started transforming Taiwan
1971 Taiwan, Republic of China lost its seat in the UN to People's Republic of China representing China in the UN
1975 Chiang Kai-shek died and his son Chiang Ching-kuo followed as the president
1988 First non-emigrant, Lee Teng-hui, became the president
1996 First direct presidential election as Lee Teng-hui gets re-elected

perjantai 11. maaliskuuta 2016

Singapore, Cool Facts #103

<= 102. Norway                                                                                                              104. Taiwan =>

1. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles 

In 1819 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived at Singapore and signed a treaty with the Sultan of Johor to use the southern part as a British trading post. Raffles was sent on the behalf of the British East India Company because Singapore was on an optimal location.

Piracy was got under control at the area in the 1800s and the opening of the Suez Canal 1869 meant the growth of Singapore's economic importance. A lot of Chinese arrived working at the rubber plantations in Singapore.

In 1824 the entire island of Singapore was under British rule and in 1826 Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements and was part of it until 1942 when the Japanese occupied Singapore after British surrender.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles

Straits Settlements with red

2. Singaporean Independence

The Japanese occupied Singapore during the Second World War between 1942-1945 and killed a lot of Chinese in the Sook Ching massacreAfter the war ended the British rule was restored.

In 1963 Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia but only two years after Singapore was expelled after the Malaysian Parliament had voted 126-0 for the expulsion of Singapore.
The reason had been that Singapore had so many ideological conflicts with the central government.

So in 1965 Singapore, a small island city state without any significant natural resources was all alone and independent. The leader of the People's Action Party, Lee Kuan Yew became the first president of Singapore.

Sook Ching massacre during the Second World War

3. Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew is the founding father of the modern Singapore. He was the Prime Minister between 1959-1990. Under his leadership Singapore made the unbelievable leap from the third world to the first world in one single generation and Singapore became one of the Four Asian Tigers alongside with South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

Meritocracy and multiculturalism where important principles for Lee, who made Tamil, Mandarin, Malay and English the four official languages of Singapore. The government ensured everyone an apartment during his rule and foreign investments were attracted to Singapore and the foundations of the modern Singapore were laid with Lee's government's actions. 

However Lee has been criticized for curtailing civil liberties by controlling the media and for the harsh laws and restrictions which were imposed in Singapore by his government.

4. Four Asian Tigers

The Four Asian Tigers or Four Asian Dragons refers to South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore because they are the highly free-market and developed economies in Asia with high standards of living. 

List of the Four Asian Tigers: 

South Korea - manufacturing IT
Taiwan - manufacturing IT 
Hong Kong -  financial center
Singapore - financial center

Singapore's economic facts: 
- GDP 55,182 $/capita (2013) when it was 511$/capita before 1965
- 2nd freest economy in the world (2015 Index of Economic Freedom) 

- Over 7000 multinational corporations from USA, Japan and Europe
- 2nd largest investor in India
- 14th largest exporter and 15th largest importer 
- 11th largest foreign reserves
- 3rd largest foreign exchange center
- 4th leading financial center
- 2nd largest casino gambling market
- 3rd largest oil-refining and trading center
- world's top logistics hub

Marina Bay Sands building
5. Singaporean Law 

Singapore is famous for its harsh laws and low crime rates. Here are some facts of the Singaporean laws: 

1. Failing to flush toilets after use forbidden: up to 1000$ for first time offenders 
2. Littering forbidden: fines range from 300$ to 1000$ for first time offenders
3. Jaywalking forbidden: First offence 20$, repeated offenders even 1000$ and even a possible 3 month jail term which is rare
4. Painting graffiti: if caught, you will be caned as a punishment
5. Sneezing and spitting on the streets forbidden 
6. Smoking cigarettes is forbidden
7. Smoking weed: possession or consumption 20,000$ in fines and up to 10 years in prison. Trafficking cannabis can result in a death penalty 
8. Chewing gum: illegal to sell or buy it on the island
9. Homosexuality: sexual activity between men forbidden like oral or anal sex. Anal sex was permitted between straight couples in 2007, progress ! 


1200s Kingdom of Singapura is established and the island became a trading port city
1398 Majapahit Empire destroyed the Kingdom of Singapura
1613 Portuguese raiders burned down the settlement in the current Singapore, which was part of Johore Sultanate although the maritime region and the trade were under Dutch rule
1819 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles signed a treaty with the Sultan of Johor on behalf of the British East India Company to use the current southern Singapore as a British trading post
1824 The entire island became a British possession
1826 Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements
1836 Singapore became the capital of the British Straits Settlements
1869 Singapore's economic importance grew after the opening of the Suez Canal as it was a harbor along the route where tin and natural rubber where transported from Malaka Peninsula to Europe
1870s Singapore became a global centre for rubber exports
1920s The British built the Singapore Naval Base and moved their most important naval and airbases in Far East there
1942 Sook Ching massacre of the ethnic Chinese in Singapore by the invading Japanese troops
1942-1945 Japanese occupation after the British surrendered
1945 After the surrender of Japan the British repossessed Singapore
1959 Singapore got autonomy and Lee Kwan Yew became the country's first Prime Minister
1963 Singapore joined with Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah to form the new federation of Malaysia
1965 Singapore became independent as it was expelled from Malaysia idealogical conflicts between the Singapore and the Malaysian central government
1971 The British Naval base was disassembled
1990 Lee Kuan Yew resigned and Goh Chok Tong followed him as the Prime Minister
1997 Singapore faced the Asian financial crisis
2003 SARS outbreak
2004 Lee Kuan Yew's son Lee Hsien Loong became the Prime Minister 

keskiviikko 9. maaliskuuta 2016

Iceland, Cool Facts #102

<= 101. Norway                                                                                                         103. Singapore => 

1. Founders of Iceland  

Norwegian Vikings created the first permanent settlements in Iceland. Ingolfur Arnarson is said to be the first Scandinavian settler in Iceland when he built his homestead in 874 near the present-day Reykjavik. 

The first inhabitants of Iceland were Celtic monks from Ireland though. They had arrived to Iceland in the 700s and created settlements, which they had abandoned somewhere between 770-880 according to the carbon dating results. 

Many Norwegian people followed Ingolfur Arnarson to Iceland and from there the Norwegian Vikings travelled to Greenland, Faroe Islands and North America to establish settlements. 

These settlements became parts of the Norwegian Kingdom before they were ceded to Denmark in 1814, except the settlements in North America which were short-lived. 

Painting of Ingolfur Arnatson by Johan Peter Raadsig

2. Ties to Norway 

Ties to Norway can be seen in the Icelandic flag, language and history. 

The Norwegians settled Iceland which was an independent state until 1262, when Iceland was brought under Norwegian rule, which lasted until 1814. 

The Icelandic flag resembles the people about their Norwegian origins as they are the descendants of Norwegian Vikings and Celtic women, which the Vikings brought to the island. The flag has the same design and colors but only in reverse order than in the Norwegian flag. 

The Icelandic language has evolved from the Old Norse that the Norwegian Vikings spoke, who settled Iceland.
Flags with the Nordic Cross

3. Althing 

Althing is said to be one of the oldest parliamentary systems in the world together with Swedish Jamtamot of Jämtland County. 

In 930 the Althing was founded in Thingvellir as an outdoor assembly laying the foundation for an independent national existence in Iceland. It was the general assembly of the Icelandic Commonwealth where the country's most powerful leaders decided about important things. 

For example Christianity became the national religion of Iceland after the decision of the Althing in 1000. 

All free men were allowed to participate the assemblies and the Althing was at the time the main event of the year attracting large crowds of all sorts of people from farmers, traders, craftsmen to storyteller and travelers. 

Even after the Union with Norway in 1262 the Althing continued its existence in Thingvellir until 1799. When the Althing was restored 45 years later in 1844 it moved to Reykjavik and the current parliament building was built in 1881. 

Vikings marching to Althing

4. Hard Times in Iceland

The remote location and harsh condition have limited the population growth in Iceland over the centuries. The current population of Iceland is about 330,000. 

The Black Death one devastating cause of the declining population growth in the 1400s: 

50-60% of the Icelandic people died in the plague pandemia in 1402-1404
30-50% of the Icelandic people died in the plague pandemia in 1494-1495 

1600s Economic growth slowed down when Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland

1783-1784 Laki eruption

20-25% of the Icelandic people are estimated to have died during the "Mist Hardships" referring to the times when Laki volcanic fissure erupted over an eight-month period pouring out basalt lava and poisonous clouds. 

Over 50% of the livestock is estimated to have died causing a famine, which killed the 20-25% of the Icelandic people. The eruption caused also a drop in global temperature causing crop failures in Europe and maybe even droughts in India were a consequence of the result.

Globally the eruption is estimated to have killed over 6 million people. It affected people around the world.

5. Icelandic Economy

The Icelandic economy relies heavily on its geography. 

Fishing has been Iceland's leading industries for centuries and about 75% of the export revenues come from fishing products. Expanding their fishing zone Iceland fell into "Cod Wars" with United Kingdom between 1958-1976. 

In livestock products Iceland is self-supporting, but other foodstuff must be imported. 

Energy is very cheap in Iceland, which has many sources of energy with its volcanic terrain. Hot springs are used to warm up the greenhouses and geothermal energy is Iceland's most important source of energy. 

Imported bauxite is refined into aluminum, which is possible to do with a profit because of Iceland's cheap energy.

Nesjavellir geothermal power station

700s Celtic monks from Ireland were the first inhabitants in Iceland before they abandoned it somewhere between 770 and 880
870 Swedish Viking Gardar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland
874 Norwegian Ingolfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavik and many other settlers followed him
930 Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly was established to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth
986 The lack of arable land was an impetus to the settlement of Greenland
1000 around the years 999-1000 Christianity was adopted in Iceland
1262 After internal struggles independence was lost and Iceland was brought under Norwegian rule
1380 Denmark and Norway unite, Iceland keeps internal autonomy but Denmark was now in charge of foreign affairs
1397 Sweden, Norway and Denmark create the Kalmar Union
1402-1404 Black Death plague pandemia killed 50-60% of the Icelandic population
1415 Possession of Iceland passed to the Kalmar Union
1494-1495 Black Death plague pandemia killed 30-50% of the Icelandic population
1523 Sweden leaves the Kalmar Union, Iceland remains as a Norwegian dependency as a part of Denmark-Norway 
1550 The last Catholic bishop Jon Arason was beheaded with his two sons, subsequently the country became Lutheran which was part of the Protestant Reformation by the King Christian III of Denmark
1600s Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland slowing down the economic growth
1783 Laki volcano erupted and in the following years during the "Mist Hardships" over half of the livestock died causing a famine, which killed about a quarter of the population
1800 The Danes abolished the Althing causing the awakening of the Icelandic nationalism 
1814 After the Napoleonic Wars Denmark-Norway was broken up as Norway was ceded to Sweden but Denmark kept Norway's old possessions like Iceland as Danish dependencies
1843 The national movement led by Jon Sigurdsson pressured the Danes to abolish the trade monopoly and the operation of Althing started again
1874 Iceland was granted a constitution and limited home rule by Denmark 
1918 The Danish-Icelandic Act of Union recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark, the Danish king remained in charge of Iceland's foreign policy
1940 After the German occupation of Denmark the British invaded and occupied Iceland violating its neutrality. The occupation was then taken over by the United States and the British left Iceland, USA used Iceland as a base delivering war equipment to Europe
1944 Iceland became independent after a four-day plebiscite, where 97% voted for independence. Sveinn Björnsson became the first president
1949 Iceland became a Nato member
1951 Iceland signed a defense agreement with USA, the last US forces withdrew in 2006
1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir became Europe's first female president
2001 Iceland deregulated banks which lead to the failure of the country's entire banking system in 2008 causing severe depression and substantial political unrest