Article of the month: August

Agent 001: The myth called Pavlik Morozov

Article of the month

Pavlik Morozov as he was shown by the Soviet media in the 1950s: in a snow-white shirt and Young Pioneer ties (archive of Yuri Druzhnikov).

When I was eight years old, I sang in a children's choir. The conductor would announce proudly, “And now, with lyrics by the famous children's poet Sergei Mikhalkov and music by Hungarian Communist Ferentz Sabo — a song about Pavlik Morozov!” Ours were not the only voices lifted in honor of the heroic Pavlik Morozov. For half a century, the whole country lauded this brave teenage boy.

What was the deed that made him a hero? In 1932 Pavlik Morozov exposed his father Trofim Morozov as an “enemy of the People.” He informed the OGPU (as the KGB, or Soviet secret police, was then called) that his father was helping the kulaks, successful peasants who refused to relinquish their land and livestock to the State as was required by the Collectivization Plan, and was therefore branded as an enemy of Socialism. Pavlik's father was arrested, tried, and sent to a concentration camp, never to be seen again. Soon after his father's trial, Pavlik was murdered by “enemies of the State.” After his death, he was hailed as a hero of the people, and every child in the Soviet Union was required to learn his story and be prepared to follow his example. His official title was Hero-Pioneer of the Soviet Union Number 001.

In 1982, on the fiftieth anniversary of the heroic death of Pavlik Morozov, the press called the boy “an ideological martyr.” The place of his death was described as a sanctuary and the child as a saint. This was remarkable language for the atheistic Soviet press and revealed the theological nature of Communist ideology. In a thousand years of Russian history, such glory had never before been bestowed on a child.

Latest articles:

Juan Nepomuceno Cortina: The story of a Texan outlaw

Published: August 18, 2017

On July 13, 1859 Juan Cortina became the Robin Hood of the border to some and a hated villain to others. While in Brownsville Cortina witnessed the humiliation of a former employee, in which Bob Shears an ex-Texan-Ranger pistol whipped the victim until he bled, and decided to avenge the injustice. Cortina shot Shears, took care of his former employee, and fled to Mexico. Two months later Cortina led over seventy followers, most of them Tejanos, and attacked Brownsville. In this attack they freed a dozen jailed Tejanos, killed three Anglos, and rode out while shouting "Mueran los gringos". In the immediate time Cortina's actions prompted many Tejanos to join his fight but in the long run it caused a lot of hardship for Tejanos in Texas. It caused retaliation by Anglos for decades to come, remembering the actions of Cortina. Although his fight was ethic and by all means reasonable, it caused Tejanos to feel the wrath of the Anglos until the 20th century.

A Comparative analysis of battle of Littlebig Horn and Isandlwana: Similarities between American Indians and Zulu

Published: August 13, 2017

From the military viewpoint, the similarities between the Zulu nation and the Plains Indian tribes are striking. Although the Zulu fought as a light infantryman and the Cheyenne and Sioux as light cavalry, there are many parallels between their respective weaponry and techniques. The basic armament of the Zulu impis was the stabbing spear, they also used knobkerries, axes and throwing spears and had a few guns. There was a larger variety in weaponry available to the North American Indians, but none of it was really superior to that of the Zulu. The Plains tribes had tomahawks, knives, war clubs and lances for hand to hand combat and bows, throwing spears and some rifles for longer range work. The arms of the two groups were essentially equivalent. One noteworthy point of difference is that while both groups had rifles, the average Zulu was not a particularly good shot and the Plains Indian tended to be a very accurate marksman.

Marriage: Athens versus Sparta

Published: April 17, 2017

Throughout the Ancient world the relationships between men and women in Sparta were the cause of perplexity and consternation. Because of the unique status and behavior of women in Sparta, they were often perceived as having an "unnatural" and dominant role. Aristotle blamed them for Sparta's decline and an Athenian woman (perhaps somewhat jealously) asked the Spartan queen Gorgo: "Why is it that only Spartan women can rule men?" Gorgo replied: "Because we are the only women who give birth to men." To appreciate the unique aspects of Spartan marriage, it is helpful to remember what marriage was like for elites in other ancient Greek cities.

Trojan War: Myth and reality

Published: April 16, 2017

As director of the excavations, I am continually asked if Homer's Trojan War really happened. According to the archaeological and historical findings of the past decade especially, it is now more likely than not that there were several armed conflicts in and around Troy at the end of the Late Bronze Age. At present we do not know whether all or some of these conflicts were distilled in later memory into the "Trojan War" or whether among them there was an especially memorable, single "Trojan War." However, everything currently suggests that Homer should be taken seriously, that his story of a military conflict between Greeks and the inhabitants of Troy is based on a memory of historical events – whatever these may have been.

Cilician Pirates: Terror of ancient Medditerrean

Published: March 15, 2017

There have always been pirates in the ancient world, but in the second half of the second century BCE, they became really dangerous and started to destabilize the Mediterranean world. The pirates' nests were Baleares and Crete, and at a later stage western Cilicia as well. Desperadoes from all countries flocked to these regions and started a new life as pirate. Typically, the pirates attacked the slow trading vessels and captured the crew. The large and unwieldy grain ships, which carried hundreds of tons of Egyptian wheat to Italy, were among their favorite targets. Usually, the captives were brought to the island Delos in the Aegean sea, the center of the international slave trade. It is recorded that on at least one occasion, no less than 10,000 people were sold on a single day. They were now transported to Italy and found work at the plantations of the rich Roman senators and knights.