Time of Troubles and Michael Romanov by Andrew Hart
November 1, 2010, 5:57 pm
Filed under: history

Michael I (or Mikhail I) was the first Russian tsar from the house of Romanov.  His ascent to the throne ended a tumultuous period of Russian history known as the Time of Troubles.

The Troubles indirectly began because Ivan the Terrible had a penchant for killing his legitimate heirs.  In addition to bludgeoning to death his long-groomed tsarich Ivan in a fit of rage, he allegedly had his younger son Dmitri stabbed to death. This would soon become problematic, as Ivan left his tsardom to his challenged son Feodor I, whose most remarkable trait was his love of traveling Russia for the pleasure of ringing church bells across the land.  When Feodor died childless in 1598, Ivan’s Rurikid line died with him.

Feodor wasn’t much of an administrator, and most of the duties of the tsar were already under the purview of Boris Godunov (whose life would later become the subject of a Modest Mussorgsky opera).  A Great National Assembly (the Zemsky Sobor) named Godunov as Feodor’s successor, and he kept up the empire until 1605.  But he was merely a boyar and many of the nobles (including the influential Romanov family) didn’t feel it necessary to obey him.  There were also several terrible harvests and Cossack raids.

Remember Dmitri, that son of Ivan who got stabbed?  Well, around 1600, various alive people started pretending to be him.  These pretenders became known as the False Dmitris.  The First False Dmitri was the most successful.  He riled up some papists and some Poles and invaded Russia under the auspices of Polish King Sigismund III Vasa.  He married a Russian noblewoman and was the nominal tsar for nearly a year.

But that didn’t last long.  The Rurikids still had a card up their sleeve: Vasiliy Shuisky.  He took advantage of the revelry after False Dmitri I’s marriage and formed a conspiracy to massacre Dmitri and thousands of his Polish supporters in Moscow.  Shuisky was understandably a bit wary of Poles, having murdered thousands of them and killed their beloved False Dmitri.  So he signed an alliance with Sweden.

Bringing Sweden into the affair really annoyed Sigismund, who invaded Russia in full.  Oh, by the way, Poland had a new favorite Dmitri now: False Dmitri II.  The Poles’ first task was to lay a crushing siege on Smolensk.  Shuisky abdicated and fled after he and his Swedish allies were routed at the Battle of Klushino.  At this point (around 1611), Poland occupied most of Russia.  Some wanted False Dmitri II on the throne, but Sigismund decided to take the crown for himself and to convert the Russians to Roman Catholicism.  This was, as one might assume, unpopular among the Russians.

Remember the Swedes?  When last we encountered them, they were getting their asses handed to them at Klushino.  Well, they set up their own little Russian enclave in the northwestern city of Ivanogorod (very close to Sweden) and installed their very own False Dmitri III as their puppet ruler.  They were also incensed at Sigismund’s audacity and started fighting the Ingrian Wars against Poland-controlled Russia.  Sweden and Poland kept fighting over Russia for thirteen years until the Peace of Stolbovo (1617) ended the Ingrian Wars.

Soon thereafter, Russians under merchant-hero Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitri Pozharsky decided that it was time to expel the Poles once and for all.  The Russians fought the Poles into the Kremlin, from which they surrendered on November 4, 1612.  The Dmitryiad Wars didn’t officially end until the Peace of Deulino (1619).

Now that Russia was a country again, it elected a new tsar: Michael Romanov.  Michael was the son of a powerful Muscovite noble named Feodor Romanov.  Back when Godunov was elected, Feodor was a popular candidate.  Boris saw Feodor as a rival and forced him to take monastic vows under the name Filaret (Feodor’s wife Xenia Shestova took similar vows as “Martha”; she was later known as The Great Nun Martha).

Filaret was named Patriarch of Moscow (the highest office in the Russian Orthodox Church) by False Dmitri I, and continued to serve in that office sporadically until his son was appointed tsar.  Michael was only a teenager when he was elected, and Filaret held much of the power in Russia during Michael’s reign.

Michael was also legendarily saved from Polish invaders by Ivan Susanin, who sacrificed his life so that the future tsar could live.  This legend is the basis for Mikhail Glinka’s opera A Life for the Tsar.

Academist painting by Andrew Hart
October 27, 2010, 6:06 pm
Filed under: art

The Academists, also known as eclecticists or academic painters, were a group of artists in the mid 1800s who were influenced by the French Academie des Beaux-Arts.  The Academie was famous for its Neoclassicist and Romanticist tendencies, and the Academics tried to blend the two together.

Though the movement was centered in France, its proponents painted and studied at universities throughout Europe and even Canada.  The foremost painter of the movement was probably William-Adolphe Bouguereau.  Other prominent painters of the movement were the excellently named Thomas Couture, Hans Makart (Viennese), Alexandre Cabanel, and Suzor-Cote (excitingly, Canadian).

Bouguereau was perhaps the most famous living painter during the height of his fame.  He became so famous that his biggest problem was that American millionaires were fond of buying his canvasses, which were thus rarely seen in Europe.  His works often show idealized peasant girls, mythological nude females, or allegorical scenes.  His rendition of The Birth of Venus is very reminiscent of Botticelli’s.  His The Bohemian is a good example of his idealized peasant girl genre.

Couture is best-known for the 1847 canvas Romans in the Decadence of the Empire, which is an orgiastic scene.

Markart is a fairly interesting fellow.  He dominated the Vienna painting scene for his entire mature career.  He was a self-styled “magician of colors” who was perhaps most infamous for designing the entirety of a Vienna pageant (costumes, processions, scenes, etc.) for Franz Josef and his wife Elizabeth of Bavaria in 1860; tihs became known as the Makart-parade.  His aesthetic Makartstil influenced a young Gustav Klimt, who later rebelled against Makart, his teacher.  His works were largely allegorical (Spring, Summer, etc.) and historical.

Cabanel was a painter of mythological and historical scenes whose fame largely rests with one work: The Birth of Venus.  (link).

Another fun fact: Anselm Feuerbach, the nephew of noted philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, was a German proponent of Academism.

Edmund Husserl by Andrew Hart
October 25, 2010, 6:45 pm
Filed under: philosophy

Edmund Husserl was an Austrian-born philosopher who spent much of his life in Germany.  He lived from 1859 to 1938.  His family was Jewish, but he was baptized a Lutheran in 1887.

Husserl is widely considered the founder of a branch of philosophy called phenomenology, though some consider his teacher, Franz Brentano, that discipline’s founder.  The basic idea of phenomenology is the study of consciousness in general.  Husserl believed that the world was explainable as the phenomena that act on consciousness.

Husserl is an essential link in the chain of philosophic teachers and students in the twentieth century.  His teachers were Brentano and psychologist Carl Stumpf, who is perhaps best-known for leading the commission that investigated the supposedly speech-capable horse Clever Hans.  Husserl’s famous student is Martin Heidegger, though the two had a falling out when Heidegger heeded his publisher’s suggestion and edited out a dedication to Husserl in his magnum opus, Being and Time, because he feared that the Nazis would censor it because of Husserl’s Jewish background.  Husserl’s phenomenology had perhaps its greatest influence on Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who wrote The Phenomenology of Perception.

Some important Husserlian concepts:

Intentionality: Borrowed from Brentano.  Consciousness is always intentional.

Bracketing: Or epoche.  The phenomenologist must “bracket” or put aside prejudices about the actual world while studying the consciousness.

The Sachlage and Sachverhalt: also known as the “situation of affairs” and the “state of affairs.”  In Husserl’s analysis of language, the “situation of affairs” is the state that we are in when we are presented with information.  The “state of affairs” is the meaning that we derive from what we learn in that situation.

Eidetic reduction: The goal of phenomenology, which is to reduce a phenomenon to its most basic parts.

Husserl is most widely known for three works: Philosophy of Arithmetic (1891), Logical Investigations (1901), and Cartesian Meditations (1931).

Wordworth’s Sonnets by Andrew Hart
October 18, 2010, 5:33 pm
Filed under: literature, poetry

Three sonnets by Wordsworth (that are probably his most famous ones):

“The World Is Too Much With Us”

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. – Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Sonnet Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

“London, 1802”

MILTON! thou should’st be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:10
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

Pontiac’s War and the Paxton Boys by Andrew Hart
October 13, 2010, 6:45 pm
Filed under: history

In 1763, a bunch of American Indians were annoyed at British General Jeffrey Amherst (of namesake college fame; he had previously risen to prominence during the French and Indian Wars as the primary British assault leader on the fort at Louisbourg).  Amherst limited the number of gifts that the British gave Native Americans and strictly regulated the amount of gunpowder that the Brits sold to them.

These policies led to tension that boiled over into war.  The tribes that fought against the British were largely divided into three groups: those in the Great Lakes regions, which was known then as the “pays d’haut” or “Upper Country,” which included the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Huron; those in Illinois Country, like the Miami and Kickapoo; and those in Ohio Country, like the Delaware, Shawnee, and Mingo.  Pontiac was a Huron chief.  The Iroquois Confederation, which was allied with the British in the Covenant Chain, largely did not participate.

The war began when Pontiac convinced a number of warriors from the Upper Country to besiege Fort Detroit, which was located at the present-day location of its namesake Michigan city.  The Brits learned of the plans and repelled the attack, but failed to consolidate their victory in the ensuing Battle of Bloody Run, which was a triumph for Pontiac.

After Pontiac escaped British hands at Bloody Run, he urged his followers to attack smaller forts.  Forts Sandusky, St. Joseph, Miami, and Ouiatenon, all in present-day northern Ohio, fell.  In Ohio Country, Forts Presque Isle, Le Boeuf, and Venango all fell.  In far northern Michigan, Pontiac’s troops controlled the ridiculously named Fort Michilimackinac.

Shawnee attacking Fort Pitt encountered substantial resistance and besieged the stronghold.  An outbreak of smallpox among the besieged inhabitants of the fort gave Amherst and British Colonel Henry Bouquet and  the idea of using the smallpox-blanket strategy to ethnically cleanse the American Indian populace.  While evidence suggests that Amherst did attempt to wipe out populaces of both hostile and neutral Native American populaces, it is not clear whether it worked.

The Indian troops broke off the Siege of Fort Pitt to intercept a group of Colonel Bouquet’s forces in what came to be the Battle of Bushy Run.  Bouquet won a decisive victory.

Just over a month later, a force of Indian warriors attacked a supply train along the Niagara Falls portage, and then routed two companies sent from Fort Niagara.  Around seventy traders and troops were killed in this so-called Devil’s Hole Massacre.

Sometime during the winter of 1763, a group of men around the area of Paxton, in western Pennsylvania, decided that the British and colonial governments weren’t doing enough to ensure their safety.  So they took “justice” into their own hands, forming the “Paxton Boys” vigilante group.  Much to the chagrin of governor John Penn and noted Pennsylvanian Benjamin Franklin, the Paxton Boys massacred twenty Susquehannocks, fourteen of whom were in jail in protective custody.

In the summer of 1763, Amherst was replaced in command with Major General Thomas Gage.  Gage secured the Treaty of Fort Niagara with some of the warring Senecas, and proceeded to order two expeditions to combat Pontiac, led by Bouquet and John Bradstreet.

Bradstreet negotiated a treaty at Presque Isle that greatly angered both Gage and Bouquet because of the unilateral liberties that Bradstreet took in coming up with it.  Bradstreet also chopped up a peace belt before negotiations, which disgusted most of the Native American negotiators.

Eventually, Pontiac signed a treaty with the British at Fort Ontario, which concluded the war without any cessions or territorial changes.  The British decided that the war signaled that colonial and native populaces should be kept apart, and thus issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 in the aftermath of the war.  The Proclamation forbade pioneers from moving past the Appalachian Mountains, and would set the stage for future violence.

kanhom.com domain by Andrew Hart
June 26, 2010, 9:19 pm
Filed under: blog goings on

Hey, I guess I allowed my domain mapping to expire, but it should be good now.  Apologies if you were trying to get here and couldn’t for a couple weeks.

Class Pas de Deux by bernadette
June 16, 2010, 3:43 am
Filed under: Dance/Ballet

This pas de deux from Act III from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is the more lively of the two in the ballet, certainly the better one to watch to sample the ballet. Both principal roles are considered to be some of the most demanding in the classical repertoire, (especially for the ballerina with her 32 fouettes!). Sadly, I can’t find a lot of information about the dancers in the clip other than that they dance for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet in Russia, but it’s easily the best version I can find on YouTube.

For comparison, here’s the finale of the pas from the American Ballet Theatre’s production starring Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella. The American technique places greater emphasis on strength and flexibility, while the Russian stresses clean lines and positions.