This Instagram Account Explains The Best History Memes Out There (20 New Pics)

Published 2 years ago

It’s time to learn some history! Through memes! Yes, you read it right, today we are about to learn some interesting historical facts through some popular memes.

Often we see a history meme, even understand it a little, but don’t know the full history behind why it actually became a meme. The ‘History Memes Explained’ Instagram project has taken up the job to explain history with accurate details based on funny memes. Check out some of their best posts in the gallery below.

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“Switzerland’s reputation as a neutral safe-haven during World War 11 has been badly tarnished by recent revelations about its wartime transactions with Germany. What began as an examination of the dormant bank accounts of Holocaust victims has gained momentum to include the whole gamut of Swiss financial dealings with the Nazis. In recent months a vast amount of incriminating documentation has been unearthed that reveals the sinister side of Swiss “neutrality”.

Switzerland served as a repository for Jewish capital smuggled out of Nazi Germany and the states threatened by it, and also for vast quantities of gold and other valuables plundered from Jews and others all over Europe.”


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“During the 1800s the British Empire managed a massive drug cartel based in British India that was both state-sponsored and under Royal patronage.

The British controlled massive fields of poppy farmed by forced Indian labour and built industrial scale opium factories. They then smuggled hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the highly addictive drug into China during much of the 19th century.

The operation was managed by the British East India Company, a trading company owned by English merchants and aristocrats, which operated under Royal charter.

Why opium trafficking?

European demand for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain was soaring. However, the Chinese were relatively self-sufficient and demand for European goods was almost non-existent. The Chinese demanded payment in silver which began to put pressure on the British coffers. The idea of using a narcotic to redress the imbalance in trade was conceived by the first Governor General of British India, Warren Hastings, in 1780. Within 10 years, demand for the highly addictive drug had begun to spread and multiply.

The British East India Company circumvented a Chinese ban on opium by sub-contracting opium transportation to ‘country traders’- a delightful euphemism for smugglers.”


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“The history of Argentina during World War II is a complex period of time beginning in 1939, following the outbreak of war in Europe, and ending in 1945 with the surrender of Japan.

German and Italian influence in Argentina was strong mainly due to the presence of numerous immigrants from both countries, and Argentina’s traditional rivalry with Great Britain furthered the belief that the Argentine government was sympathetic to the German cause.

Because of the close ties between Germany and Argentina, the latter stayed neutral for most of World War II, despite internal disputes and pressure from the United States to join the Allies.

The Liberation of Paris in August 1944 gave new hopes to the pro-Allied factions in Argentina, who saw it as an omen of the possible fall of the Argentine government and called for new elections. The demonstrations in support of Paris soon turned into protests against the government, leading to incidents with the police.

By early 1945, World War II was nearing its end. The Red Army had captured Warsaw and was closing in on East Prussia, and Berlin itself was under attack. Allied victory was imminent. Perón, the strong man of the Argentine government, foresaw that the Allies would dominate international politics for decades and concluded that although Argentina had successfully resisted the pressure to force it to join the war, remaining neutral until the end of the war would force the country into isolationism at best or bring about a military attack from the soon to be victorious powers.

Argentina eventually gave in to the Allies’ pressure, broke relations with the Axis powers on January 26, 1944, and declared war on March 27, 1945.

During World War II, 4,000 Argentines served with all three British armed services, even though Argentina was officially a neutral country during the war. Over 600 Argentine volunteers served with both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, mostly in No. 164 (Argentine) squadron, whose shield bore the sun from the Flag of Argentina and the motto, “Determined We Fly (Firmes Volamos)”.”


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“The road leading up to the American Revolution didn’t happen overnight. It took several years and many events to push the colonists to a point where they wanted to fight for their independence. Here are some of the key causes of the American Revolution in the order they occurred.

One thing to keep in mind is that many of the American colonies were first founded by people trying to escape religious persecution in England. As the British government became more involved in the affairs of colonies, people began to worry that they would once again lose their freedoms.

The French and Indian War took place between the American colonies and New France. Both sides allied with various Native American tribes. This war lasted from 1754 to 1763. British troops not only helped the colonists to fight the war, but were stationed in the colonies for protection after the war. These troops weren’t free and Britain needed money to pay for the troops. The British Parliament decided to tax the American colonies to help pay for the troops.

Prior to 1764, the British government had pretty much left the colonists alone to govern themselves. In 1764, they began to impose new laws and taxes. They implemented a number of laws including the Sugar Act, Currency Act, Quartering Act, and the Stamp Act. The colonists were not happy with the new taxes. They said they should not have to pay British taxes because they had no representatives in the British Parliament.

Many colonists began to protest against these new British taxes and laws. During one protest in Boston, a fight broke out and several colonists were shot [fatally]. This incident became known as the Boston Massacre. In 1773, the British imposed a new tax on tea. Several patriots in Boston protested this act by boarding ships in Boston harbor and dumping their tea into the water. This protest became known as the Boston Tea Party.

The British decided that the colonies needed to be punished for the Boston Tea Party. They issued a number of new laws that the colonists called the Intolerable Acts. The increased laws punishing the colonies did little to control the colonies as the British had hoped, but actually had the opposite effect. The laws caused the colonies to become more united against the British. In 1775, British soldiers in Massachusetts were ordered to disarm the American rebels and to arrest their leaders. The Revolutionary War began on April 19,1775 when fighting broke out between the two sides at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.”


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“On May 18, 1991, cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev departed Earth for the Soviet space station Mir. While he was up there, the country that had sent him ceased to exist, making Krikalev – for a few months at least the “last Soviet citizen”.

< Krikalev grew up in Leningrad (which he watched become St Petersburg from space) and obtained a mechanical engineering degree before going to work as a rocket engineer at NPO Energia, where, among other projects, he worked as part of the rescue team when the Salyut 7 space station failed in 1985. Shortly thereafter, he was selected as a cosmonaut, and spent years in training, working on everything from repair of the space station to conducting spacewalks.

Unfortunately, his training didn’t incorporate what to do when you are left in space with no official space organization (or country), which on his 1991 mission aboard Mir would have been much more useful. In October, several of his colleagues departed at the end of their four-month mission. Then, on December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union finally collapsed. With the collapse, there was even less money for a mission that would relieve Krikalev of his duties. If all else failed, there was the Soyuz capsule that could be used to escape, though this would mean sacrificing the space station. With nobody to operate and repair it, it would be the end of Mir.

The United States offer to help gain the funding needed to send more cosmonauts and astronauts into orbit, and America and Russia struck a deal. Three months later on March 25, having spent a then-record 311 consecutive days in space, Krikalev finally returned to Earth. When he left, he had been a citizen of a state that now no longer existed, earning him the nickname the “last Soviet citizen”.”


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“Although elevator operators were common through the mid-1900s, there were driverless elevators as far back as the early 1900s. There was just one problem. Nobody trusted them. Given the choice between the stairs and a lonely automated elevator, the elevator would remain empty. It wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that the tipping point came along for the driverless elevator as the result of a strike by the elevator operators’ union in New York City in 1945.

The strike was devastating, costing the city an estimated one hundred million dollars. Suddenly, there was an economic incentive to go back to the automatic elevator. Over the next decade there was a massive effort to build trust in automatic elevators, which resulted in the elimination of tens of thousands of elevator operator jobs.”


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“Mongolia is the most landlocked country in the world with its borders more than 600 km away from the nearest coastline.

Mongolia’s token navy is the result of the country’s vain attempt to keep alive a lost heritage. Eight hundred years ago, the Mongols, led by Kublai Khan, had the world’s largest navy. The Mongolian Empire at its widest reach stretched across Central Asia and Eastern Europe, with maritime presence along the Sea of Japan, the East and South China Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Twice in the late 13th century, Genghis Khan led a fleet of more than 4,000 ships across the Sea of Japan to attack the island nation. Both invasion fleets were destroyed by devastating typhoons, that the Japanese called the “divine wind”, or kamikaze.

By the end of the 13th century, the Mongol Empire had fractured into a number of independent empires. Eventually, with the Chinese conquest of the Mongol Empire, the nation was pushed further and further back from the coastline to its current landlocked state.

In the 1930s, the Mongolian Navy was reborn when the Soviet Union presented the country a single tugboat, the Sukhbaatar. The current vessel, Sukhbaatar III, is manned by a crew of seven. According to a documentary produced by Litmus Films, only one of the crew members know how to swim.

“I would like to see the real sea someday,” muses a sailor of the Mongolian Navy. “I imagine it’d be gentle and peaceful. Here on Lake Khövsgöl, the water is very rough and cold.””


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“Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci is best known for his namesake: the continents of North and South America. But why were these continents named after him, especially since his voyages happened after Christopher Columbus’ famed 1492 sail on the ocean blue?

Vespucci was the first person to recognize North and South America as distinct continents that were previously unknown to Europeans, Asians and Africans. Prior to Vespucci’s discovery, explorers, including Columbus, had assumed that the New World was part of Asia. Vespucci made his discovery while sailing near the tip of South America in 1501. Amerigo Vespucci was one of many European explorers during the Age of Exploration, or Age of Discovery, which took place from the mid-1400s to mid-1500s.

Vespucci was a businessman, and his business helped outfit one of Christopher Columbus’ voyages, and in 1496 Vespucci had the opportunity to talk with the explorer. This meeting further encouraged Vespucci’s interest in travel and discovery. Now in his 40s, Vespucci decided to leave business behind and embark on a life of exploration while he still could. On his 1499 voyage, Vespucci sailed to the northern part of South America and into the Amazon River. Vespucci predicted Earth’s circumference accurately within 50 miles.

Vespucci’s reputation has gone through periods of ridicule, and at times he has been viewed as schemer who attempted to steal glory from Columbus. But in reality, it wasn’t Vespucci’s ambition that got two continents named after him: it was the work of a German clergyman and amateur cartographer called Martin Waldseemüller.

In 1507, Waldseemüller and some other scholars were working an introduction to cosmology that would contain large maps, according to the U.S. Library of Congress. Waldseemüller proposed that a portion of Brazil that Vespucci had explored be named “America,” a feminized version of Vespucci’s first name. Waldseemüller wrote, “I see no reason why anyone should justly object to calling this part … America, after Amerigo [Vespucci], its discoverer, a man of great ability.”

The name stuck. Waldseemüller’s maps sold thousands of copies across Europe. Some reports suggest that Waldseemüller had second thoughts about the name America, but it was too late. In 1538, a mapmaker named Gerardus Mercator applied the name “America” to both the northern and southern landmasses of the New World, and the continents have been known as such ever since.”


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“On October 18, 1867, the U.S. formally takes possession of Alaska after purchasing the territory from Russia for $7.2 million, or less than two cents an acre. The Alaska purchase comprised 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas.

Russia wanted to sell its Alaska territory, which was remote, sparsely populated and difficult to defend, to the U.S. rather than risk losing it in battle with a rival such as Great Britain. Negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State William Seward (1801-1872) and the Russian minister to the U.S., Eduard de Stoeckl, began in March 1867. However, the American public believed the land to be barren and worthless and dubbed the purchase “Seward’s Folly” and “The President’s Polar Bear Garden,” among other derogatory names.

Public opinion of the purchase turned more favorable when gold was discovered in a tributary of Alaska’s Klondike River in 1896, sparking a gold rush. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959, and is now recognized for its vast natural resources. Today, 25 percent of America’s oil and over 50 percent of its seafood come from Alaska. It is also the largest state in area, about one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states combined, though it remains sparsely populated.

The name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word alyeska, which means “great land.” Alaska has two official state holidays to commemorate its origins: Seward’s Day, observed the last Monday in March, celebrates the March 30, 1867, signing of the land treaty between the U.S. and Russia, and Alaska Day, observed every October 18, marks the anniversary of the formal land transfer.”


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“Just before midnight on August 9, Japanese Emperor Hirohito convened the supreme war council. After a long, emotional debate, he backed a proposal by Prime Minister Suzuki in which Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration, which called for the surrender of all Japanese forces.

In the early hours of August 15, a military coup was attempted by a faction led by Major Kenji Hatanaka. The rebels seized control of the imperial palace and burned Prime Minister Suzuki’s residence, but shortly after dawn the coup was crushed. At noon that day, Emperor Hirohito went on national radio for the first time to announce the news of his decision. The United States immediately accepted Japan’s surrender.

President Truman appointed MacArthur to head the Allied occupation of Japan as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. For the site of Japan’s formal surrender, Truman chose the USS Missouri, a battleship that had seen considerable action in the Pacific and was named after Truman’s native state. On Sunday, September 2, more than 250 Allied warships lay at anchor in Tokyo Bay. The flags of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China fluttered above the deck of the Missouri. The gathered dignitaries were greeted by a massive flyover of over a thousand U.S. planes. Just after 9 a.m. Tokyo time, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed on behalf of the Japanese government. General Yoshijiro Umezu then signed for the Japanese armed forces, and his aides wept as he made his signature. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signed for the United States.”


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“NATO finds itself with two member states that are officially allies, but whose suspicion of each other is never far from the surface.

When Greece and Turkey joined NATO in 1952, they did so based on NATO members’ assumption that the two countries’ membership of the alliance would pacify their behavior toward each other.

NATO’s purpose as an organization is to ensure the collective defense of its members on the basis of its founding Washington Treaty. It was never designed to adjudicate disputes between its members. It should therefore not come as a surprise that NATO isn’t stepping in to deal with the current Greece Turkey conflict.

NATO finds itself with two member states that are officially allies, but whose suspicion of each other is never far from the surface.

When Greece and Turkey joined NATO in 1952, they did so based on NATO members’ assumption that the two countries’ membership of the alliance would pacify their behavior toward each other.

NATO’s purpose as an organization is to ensure the collective defense of its members on the basis of its founding Washington Treaty. It was never designed to adjudicate disputes between its members. It should therefore not come as a surprise that NATO isn’t stepping in to deal with the current Greece Turkey conflict.”


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“For centuries, the tiny Alpine nation of Switzerland has adhered to a policy of armed neutrality in global affairs. Switzerland isn’t the world’s only neutral country-the likes of Ireland, Austria and Costa Rica all take similar non-interventionist stances-yet it remains the oldest and most respected. How did it earn its unique place in world politics?

The earliest moves toward Swiss neutrality date to 1515, when the Swiss Confederacy suffered a devastating loss to the French at the Battle of Marignano. Following the defeat, the Confederacy abandoned its expansionist policies and looked to avoid future conflict in the interest of self-preservation. It was the Napoleonic Wars, however, that truly sealed Switzerland’s place as a neutral nation.

Switzerland was invaded by France in 1798 and later made a satellite of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire, forcing it to compromise its neutrality. But after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the major European powers concluded that a neutral Switzerland would serve as a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria and contribute to stability in the region. During 1815’s Congress of Vienna, they signed a declaration affirming Switzerland’s “perpetual neutrality” within the international community. Switzerland maintained its impartial stance through World War I, when it mobilized its army and accepted refugees but also refused to take sides militarily.

In 1920, meanwhile, the newly formed League of Nations officially recognized Swiss neutrality and established its headquarters in Geneva. A more significant challenge to Swiss neutrality came during World War II, when the country found itself encircled by the Axis powers.

While Switzerland maintained its independence by promising retaliation in the event of an invasion, it continued to trade with Nazi Germany, a decision that later proved controversial after the war ended.

Since World War II, Switzerland has taken a more active role in international affairs by aiding with humanitarian initiatives, but it remains fiercely neutral with regard to military affairs.

It has never joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union, and only joined the United Nations in 2002.

Despite its longstanding neutrality, the country still maintains an army for defense purposes and requires part-time military service from all males between the ages of 18 and 34.”


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“Historians debate whether Jean Laffite was hero or brutal criminal. He fought for American independence and people admired the well educated and intelligent man who used clever ways to solve problems. He claimed that he was a privateer, but in fact, many of his actions were more pirate-like. However, the truth is that he was a lot more than ordinary pirate. He was diplomat, merchant, smuggler, naval solider, and slave trader, a true jack of all trades.

Jean Laffite was born either in France or in their colony, St. Domingue in the Caribbean. Birth date is unknown, but it was probably around 1780. By 1803, Jean Laffite and his older brother, Pierre, were operating in Barataria Bay (around 100 miles south of New Orleans).

Since the beginning, Laffite has been very skillful and managed to plunder many ships in the Gulf of Mexico. Many people joined his crew, and soon he was able to create an army of smugglers and pirates. They were raiding mostly commerce ships around Barataria Bay and were selling goods in New Orleans. Soon, Jean Laffite was proclaimed as indisputable leader of Barataria.

Laffite did not allow his pirates to attack American vessels. Mostly they plundered Spanish and English ships. However, his smuggling and slave trade operations were still illegal. He did not get along with the governor of New Orleans, William C. c. Claiborne, who did not accept his unconventional methods. In 1813 the governor issued a $500 reward for the Laffite’s arrest. Within a week, Laffite offered 5000$ for anyone who could capture the governor and bring him to Barataria.

In 1814, embroiled in a war in America, British officials attempted to convince Lafitte and his pirates to join them in attack of New Orleans. They knew Laffite, as expert on the marshes and bayous in that region, could ensure them a victory. However, he refused to cooperate and revealed information of attack to Americans. In addition, he offered his pirates to help defend the city.

Laffite addressed Andrew Jackson and they agreed to defend New Orleans together. With a well organized army and good tactics, the British were repulsed. Lafitte and his crew were granted pardons for their former crimes, but any further pirate activity had been strictly forbidden in Barataria Bay. Latter, Captain Laffite took over Galveston, Texas, and continued pirating around Central American ports until the end of his life. He died probably around 1825.”


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“Shortly after America’s declaration of war against Germany in 1917, a veteran magazine illustrator from New York composed a drawing for the United States Army’s recruitment campaign. It featured a stern faced Uncle Sam pointing outward with his right index finger, his eyes glaring directly at the viewer.

“Want YOU for U.S. Army” announced a caption below in bold red and blue capital letters.

Four million copies of the poster were quickly printed and plastered onto walls and signposts from Maine to California. Within weeks, just about every American citizen had seen it.

Interestingly, the incredibly famous image was actually based on a British drawing from three years earlier.

The original appeared in a 1914 edition of the British magazine London Opinion. The reason the poster was copied can be simply explained. At the time, American propagandists were met with a huge demand for new content. As they rushed to meet deadlines, many artists took inspiration from existing propaganda posters from around the world.

Both the American and the British posters were Important contributions to the war effort, with millions of copies printed of each. This goes to show the outsized impact propaganda posters have had on history.”


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“The Byzantine Empire was a vast and powerful civilization with origins that can be traced to 330 A.D., when the Roman emperor Constantine I dedicated a “New Rome” on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium. Though the western half of the Roman Empire crumbled and fell in 476 A.D., the eastern half survived for 1,000 more years, spawning a rich tradition of art, literature and learning and serving as a military buffer between Europe and Asia.

During the rule of the Palaiologan emperors, beginning with Michael VIII in 1261, the economy of the once-mighty Byzantine state was crippled, and never regained its former stature. In 1369, Emperor John V unsuccessfully sought financial help from the West to confront the growing Turkish threat, but he was arrested as an insolvent debtor in Venice. Four years later, he was forced-like the Serbian princes and the ruler of Bulgaria to become a vassal of the mighty Turks.

Under John’s successors, the empire gained sporadic relief from Ottoman oppression, but the rise of Murad II as sultan in 1421 marked the end of the final respite. Murad revoked all privileges given to the Byzantines and laid siege to the Byzantine Capital, Constantinople; his successor, Mehmed II, completed this process when he launched the final attack on the city. On May 29, 1453, after an Ottoman army stormed Constantinople, Mehmed triumphantly entered the Hagia Sophia, which would soon be converted to the city’s leading mosque. The fall of Constantinople marked the end of a glorious era for the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Constantine XI died in battle that day, and the Byzantine Empire collapsed, ushering in the long reign of the Ottoman Empire.”


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“After failing to become a monk, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin became a wanderer and eventually entered the court of Czar Nicholas II because of his alleged healing abilities. Known for his prophetic powers, he became a favorite of the Nicholas’s wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, but his political influence was minor. Rasputin became swept up in the events of the Russian Revolution and met a brutal [demise] at the hands of assassins in 1916.

Born to a Siberian peasant family around 1869, Rasputin received little schooling and probably never learned to read or write. In his early years, some people of his village said he possessed supernatural powers, while others cite examples of extreme cruelty.

In 1903, Rasputin’s wanderings brought him to St. Petersburg, where he arrived with a reputation as a mystic and faith healer. He was introduced to Russian Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, who were seeking help for their sickly son, Alexis. Rasputin quickly gained their confidence by seemingly “curing” the boy of hemophilia – though he had actually done little more than take the boy off aspirin in a stroke of luck. This action won him the passionate support of Alexandrs.

Between 1906 and 1914, various politicians and journalists used Rasputin’s association with the imperial family to undermine the dynasty’s credibility and push for reform. Rasputin helped their efforts by claiming to be the Czarina’s advisor, compounding contempt among state officials. As Russia entered World War I, Rasputin predicted that calamity would befall the country.

On the night of December 29, 1916, a group of conspirators, including the czar’s first cousin, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and Prince Felix Yusupov, invited Rasputin to Yusupov’s palace and fed him wine and cakes laced with cyanide. Though Rasputin eventually became rather drunk, the poison seemed to have no effect. Baffled but not deterred, the conspirators finally shot Rasputin multiple times. He was then wrapped in a carpet and thrown into the Neva River, where it was discovered three days later.

Although Rasputin was gone, the last of his prophecies was yet to unfold. Shortly before his [passing], he wrote to Nicholas to predict that if he was [taken ou]t by government officials, the entire imperial family would be [taken out] by the Russian people. His prophecy came true 15 months later, when the czar, his wife and all of their children were [taken out] by assassins amidst the Russian Revolution.”


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“Diogenes was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. He was born on the coast of modern-day Turkey in 412 BC.

Diogenes was a controversial figure. he moved to Athens and criticized many cultural conventions of the city. He modeled himself on the example of Heracles, and believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple lifestyle and behavior to criticize the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt, confused society. He had a reputation for sleeping and eating wherever he chose in a highly non traditional fashion, and took to toughening himself against nature. Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar, or pithos, in the marketplace.

Diogenes became notorious for his philosophical stunts, such as carrying a lamp during the day, claiming to be looking for a man (often rendered in English as “looking for an honest man”). He criticized Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates, and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting listeners by bringing food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for having mocked Alexander the Great, both in public and to his face when he visited Corinth in 336 BC.

Diogenes was captured by pirates and sold into slavery, eventually settling in Corinth. There he passed his philosophy of Cynicism to many students. One of his students, Zeno, fashioned it into the school of Stoicism, one of the most enduring schools of Greek philosophy.”


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“Cruel efforts under Stalin to impose collectivism and tamp down Ukrainian nationalism left an estimated 3.9 million dead. The Ukrainian famine-known as the Holodomor, a combination of the Ukrainian words for “starvation” and “to inflict [decease]”-by one estimate claimed the lives of about 13 percent of the population. And, unlike other famines in history caused by blight or drought, this was caused when a dictator wanted both to replace Ukraine’s small farms with state-run collectives and punish independence-minded Ukrainians who posed a threat to his totalitarian authority.

In those days, Ukraine-a Texas-sized nation along the Black Sea to the west of Russia-was a part of the Soviet Union, then ruled by Stalin. In 1929, as part of his plan to rapidly create a totally communist economy, Stalin had imposed collectivization, which replaced individually owned and operated farms with big state-run collectives. Ukraine’s small, mostly subsistence farmers resisted giving up their land and livelihoods.

In response, the Soviet regime derided the resisters as kulaks-well-to-do peasants, who in Soviet ideology were considered enemies of the state. Soviet officials drove these peasants off their farms by force and Stalin’s secret police further made plans to deport 50,000 Ukrainian farm families to Siberia.

Collectivization in Ukraine didn’t go very well. By the fall of 1932 it became apparent that Ukraine’s grain harvest was going to be miss Soviet planners’ target> by 60 percent. There still might have been enough food for Ukrainian peasants to get by, but, as Applebaum writes, Stalin then ordered what little they had be confiscated as punishment for not meeting quotas. Meanwhile, Stalin already had arrested tens of thousands of Ukrainian teachers and intellectuals and removed Ukrainian-language books from schools and libraries.

When Stalin’s crop collectors went out into the countryside, they used long wooden poles with metal points to poke the dirt floors of peasants’ homes and probe the ground around them, in case they’d buried stores of grain to avoid detection. Peasants accused of being food hoarders typically were sent off to prison, though sometimes the collectors didn’t wait to inflict punishment.

Ultimately, although Stalin’s policies resulted in the [decease] of millions, it failed to crush Ukrainian aspirations for autonomy, and in the long run, they may actually have backfired. Famine often achieves a socio-economic or military purpose, such as transferring land possession or clearing an area of population, since most flee rather than die. But politically and ideologically it is more often counterproductive for its perpetrators. In the case of Ukraine it generated so much hatred and resentment that it solidified Ukrainian nationalism. Eventually, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine finally became an independent nation-and the Holodomor remains a painful part of Ukrainians’ common identity.”


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“The French Third Republic was invaded by Nazi Germany beginning on 10 May 1940. The Nazis rapidly conquered France by bypassing the highly fortified Maginot Line and invading through Belgium. By July, the military situation of the French was dire, and it was apparent that the French had lost. The French government began to discuss the possibility of an armistice. Then prime-minister Paul Reynaud resigned rather than sign an armistice, and Marshal Philippe Pétain, a hero of World War I, became prime minister. Shortly thereafter, Pétain signed the Armistice of 22 June. On 10 July, the Third Republic was effectively dissolved as Pétain was granted essentially dictatorial powers by the National Assembly.

A resistance movement, working largely in concert with de Gaulle’s movement outside the country, increased in strength over the course of the occupation. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and the liberation of France later that year, the Free French Provisional government of the French Republic (GPRF) was installed as the new national government, led by de Gaulle.

The last of the Vichy exiles were captured in the Sigmaringen enclave in April 1945. Pétain was put on trial for treason by the new Provisional government, and [executed]; this was commuted to life imprisonment by de Gaulle. Only four senior Vichy officials were tried for crimes against humanity, although many more had participated in the deportation of Jews for internment in Nazi concentration camps, abuses of prisoners, and severe acts against members of the Resistance.”


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“Everyone knows Joseph Stalin, but most aren’t familiar with his familial life, particularly his eldest son, Yakov. The tumultuous relationship between father and son created a story that spanned a difficult youth, the German invasion of the Soviet Union and a Nazi concentration camp.

From his youth onward, Yakov and Stalin did not get along, with Stalin being quite judgmental of his son, looking down on him in almost every way. As a young man, Yakov [tried to take his own life] after a disagreement with his father over Yakov’s Jewish fiancee, likely caused by Stalin’s antisemitism.

Afterward, Stalin said that he no longer wanted to have any sort of a relationship with Yakov, as they had nothing in common.

Because of his father, though, Yakov did have a military career and was an officer in the Red Army. When Nazi Germany invaded the USSR during World War II, at the Battle of Smolensk, they captured him.

One would generally think that a powerful ruler would do whatever is necessary to retrieve his offspring from the enemy. This was not the case with Stalin and Yakov. Despite the Germans offering to trade Yakov for a German field marshal, or Hitler’s nephew, Stalin refused both trade options.

In addition, Stalin did not entirely believe that his son had been captured. In fact, he thought that his son had given himself up, surrendering at the urging of his wife (whom Stalin later imprisoned and interrogated because of this).

Regardless of how he got there, Yakov did end up in a Nazi German concentration camp. Different rumors circulated regarding Yakov’s [demise], but until recently it’s not been fully confirmed how and when he died. Some thought that he may have [taken his own life] by running into an electric fence, or even jumping from a prison window onto an electric fence. Others thought that he may have been [assassinated]. More recently, though, it’s thought that Yakov was shot by a guard for not obeying orders.

Sadly, Yakov was not the only family recipient of his father’s anger. Yakov’s brother, Vasili, received the same criticism that Yakov always had, and he drank himself to an early [demise]. One of Stalin’s wives, Nadezhda, supposedly [took his own life] after having too much of her husband’s cruelty, the final straw being forced to sit across him at the dinner table while he tauntingly flicked cigarettes in her direction.”

Saumya Ratan

Saumya is an explorer of all things beautiful, quirky, and heartwarming. With her knack for art, design, photography, fun trivia, and internet humor, she takes you on a journey through the lighter side of pop culture.

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