On This Date: November 11th

Nov 11, 1918:

World War I ends

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France. The First World War left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing nearly a million or more lives. In addition, at least five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure.

World War I Memorial 13.jpg

Victoria Belanger via Flickr

On June 28, 1914, in an event that is widely regarded as sparking the outbreak of World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death with his wife by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Ferdinand had been inspecting his uncle’s imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the threat of Serbian nationalists who wanted these Austro-Hungarian possessions to join newly independent Serbia. Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for settling the problem of Slavic nationalism once and for all. However, as Russia supported Serbia, an Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was delayed until its leaders received assurances from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II that Germany would support their cause in the event of a Russian intervention.

On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers collapsed. On July 29, Austro-Hungarian forces began to shell the Serbian capital, Belgrade, and Russia, Serbia’s ally, ordered a troop mobilization against Austria-Hungary. France, allied with Russia, began to mobilize on August 1. France and Germany declared war against each other on August 3. After crossing through neutral Luxembourg, the German army invaded Belgium on the night of August 3-4, prompting Great Britain, Belgium’s ally, to declare war against Germany.

For the most part, the people of Europe greeted the outbreak of war with jubilation. Most patriotically assumed that their country would be victorious within months. Of the initial belligerents, Germany was most prepared for the outbreak of hostilities, and its military leaders had formatted a sophisticated military strategy known as the “Schlieffen Plan,” which envisioned the conquest of France through a great arcing offensive through Belgium and into northern France. Russia, slow to mobilize, was to be kept occupied by Austro-Hungarian forces while Germany attacked France.

The Schlieffen Plan was nearly successful, but in early September the French rallied and halted the German advance at the bloody Battle of the Marne near Paris. By the end of 1914, well over a million soldiers of various nationalities had been killed on the battlefields of Europe, and neither for the Allies nor the Central Powers was a final victory in sight. On the western front—the battle line that stretched across northern France and Belgium—the combatants settled down in the trenches for a terrible war of attrition.

In 1915, the Allies attempted to break the stalemate with an amphibious invasion of Turkey, which had joined the Central Powers in October 1914, but after heavy bloodshed the Allies were forced to retreat in early 1916. The year 1916 saw great offensives by Germany and Britain along the western front, but neither side accomplished a decisive victory. In the east, Germany was more successful, and the disorganized Russian army suffered terrible losses, spurring the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917. By the end of 1917, the Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia and immediately set about negotiating peace with Germany. In 1918, the infusion of American troops and resources into the western front finally tipped the scale in the Allies’ favor. Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies on November 11, 1918.

World War I was known as the “war to end all wars” because of the great slaughter and destruction it caused. Unfortunately, the peace treaty that officially ended the conflict—the Treaty of Versailles of 1919—forced punitive terms on Germany that destabilized Europe and laid the groundwork for World War II.

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Sports
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Vietnam War
Viet Cong release U.S. prisoners of war, 1967
Operation Commando Hunt commences, 1968
Long Binh base turned over to South Vietnam, 1972
World War I
World War I ends, 1918
World War II
Draft age is lowered to 18, 1942

This Week in History, Nov 11 – Nov 17

Nov 11, 1918
World War I ends
Nov 12, 1954
Ellis Island closes
Nov 13, 1982
Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedicated
Nov 14, 1851
Moby-Dick published
Nov 15, 1867
First stock ticker debuts
Nov 16, 1532
Pizarro traps Incan emperor Atahualpa
Nov 17, 1558
Elizabethan Age begins

After 6 Years Of Restoration The Bolshoi Is Ready To Reopen

Six years and $700 million later, the Bolshoi Theater is set to open

Phaedra Singelis writes…

I went to this theater once before the refurbishing and I thought it was beautiful then. I can’t imagine how exciting it must be for Moscow residents to see this wonderful place restored and reopened after such a long time. The theater, home of the famous Bolshoi Ballet, has survived three fires,  bombing during WWII and at one time was set over an underground river.

Maxim Shipenkov / EPA
A view of the main hall of the renovated Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 8 The reconstruction and restoration works of the Bolshoi Theatre took six years; the Grand Opening is scheduled for Oct. 28.

Anton Golubev / Reuters
The foyer of Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre Oct. 24.

Maxim Shipenkov / EPA
The main hall of the renovated Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Oct.8.

Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP – Getty Images
The so-called ‘Czar’s Box’ in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, on Oct. 8. The restored Moscow landmark built in the 1820s is due to reopen on October 28.

Anton Golubev / Reuters
Visitors walk in the newly refurbished foyer of Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre Oct. 24. Moscow’s historic theatre is set to reopen with a gala performance on Friday after six years of closure for renovation.

Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP – Getty Images
People take photos in front of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, on Sep. 27.

Factbox: Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre to reopen after revamp


Russia’s Bolshoi Theater reopens on Friday after a more than six-year renovation that cost at least $700 million.

Here are some key facts about the theater:

ORIGINS

* The Bolshoi Theater was founded by a decree of Empress Catherine the Great in 1776 which gave Prince Pyotr Urusov, chief procurator of the Moscow region, the exclusive privilege of operating a private theater in Moscow. It obliged him “to build a stone building that would decorate the city and also serve as the premises for public masquerades, comedies and comic operas.”

* The current building was built in 1825 to replace the Petrovka Theater, which had been destroyed by fire in 1805. As opera and ballet were considered nobler than drama, the opera house was named the Grand Theater (Bolshoi being the Russian for large or grand).

HISTORIC Theater

— The Bolshoi has seen many historic premieres including Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s La Voyavoda and Mazeppa, and Sergei Rachmaninov’s Aleko and Francesca da Rimini.

Russia’s “two tenors,” Ivan Kozlovsky and Sergei Lemeshev, were two of its most popular singers. They reigned supreme at the Bolshoi for years during the 20th century.

— After World War Two, the Bolshoi became a dominant force in ballet, not just in Russia but throughout the world, producing stars including ballerinas Galina Ulanova, Maria Plisetskaya and Ekaterina Maksimovna, and male dancers such as Vladimir Vasiliev and Maris Liepa.

— Russian ballet troupes have been trying to wean themselves off the classic repertoire so loved by their countrymen and embrace the minimalism of modern dance, but often have faced resistance from theatres and audiences alike. The Bolshoi plans to stick to a classic repertoire, its general director says.

A NEW BOLSHOI

— The main Bolshoi theater is reopening after a six-year restoration that has installed modern stage technology and repaired run-down areas of the theater.

— Started in 2005, the reconstruction of the interior of the main hall and stage, including the refurbishment of an interior that was once paneled with rare pine and gilded by hand with real gold before the Soviets replaced them with sound-absorbent cement and copper.

— The theater is gaining a second stage with a sound-reflecting floor coating — specifically designed for opera — and a ballet stage returned to its once-famous four-degree angle that is able to absorb impact, making jumping safer for dancers.

— The number of seats will shrink from 2,200 to 1,720 for the main stage, by replacing the rigid Soviet-era seats with ones that are wider and more comfortable. As the Bolshoi will perform on two stages, touring will have to be cut.

— The theatre’s 236th season opened last month with The Golden Cockerel, an opera based on a fairy tale by 19th century writer Alexander Pushkin.

— The first foreign troupe to perform on the revamped stage will be Italy’s La Scala orchestra and choir with Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem.

Sources: Reuters http://www.moscow.info/theaters/ 

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On This Date: October 23rd

Oct 23, 2002:

Hostage crisis in Moscow theater

On October 23, 2002, about 50 Chechen rebels storm a Moscow theater, taking up to 700 people hostage during a sold-out performance of a popular musical.

Coat of arms of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Image via Wikipedia

The second act of the musical “Nord Ost” was just beginning at the Moscow Ball-Bearing Plant’s Palace of Culture when an armed man walked onstage and fired a machine gun into the air. The terrorists—including a number of women with explosives strapped to their bodies—identified themselves as members of the Chechen Army. They had one demand: that Russian military forces begin an immediate and complete withdrawal from Chechnya, the war-torn region located north of the Caucasus Mountains.

Chechnya, with its predominately Muslim population, had long struggled to assert its independence. A disastrous two-year war ended in 1996, but Russian forces returned to the region just three years later after Russian authorities blamed Chechens for a series of bombings in Russia. In 2000, President Vladimir Putin was elected partly because of his hard-line position towards Chechnya and his public vow not to negotiate with terrorists.

Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation (1993-p...
Image via Wikipedia

After a 57-hour-standoff at the Palace of Culture, during which two hostages were killed, Russian special forces surrounded and raided the theater on the morning of October 26. Later it was revealed that they had pumped a powerful narcotic gas into the building, knocking nearly all of the terrorists and hostages unconscious before breaking into the walls and roof and entering through underground sewage tunnels. Most of the guerrillas and 120 hostages were killed during the raid. Security forces were later forced to defend the decision to use the dangerous gas, saying that only a complete surprise attack could have disarmed the terrorists before they had time to detonate their explosives.

After the theater crisis, Putin’s government clamped down even harder on Chechnya, drawing accusations of kidnapping, torture and other atrocities. In response, Chechen rebels continued their terrorist attacks on Russian soil, including an alleged suicide bombing in a Moscow subway in February 2004 and another major hostage crisis at a Beslan school that September.

Also on This Day

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Cold War
Hungarian protest turns violent, 1956
Crime
An abortion-performing doctor is murdered, 1998
Disaster
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General Interest
Brutus commits suicide, 42 B.C.
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Beirut barracks blown up, 1983
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Music
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Old West
American fur traders turn over Astoria, Oregon, to the British, 1813
Presidential
President Benjamin Harrison extends borders of Nebraska, 1890
Sports
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Vietnam War
1st Cavalry Division launches Operation Silver Bayonet, 1965
U.S. negotiators ask for further talks in Paris, 1972
World War I
Unknown Soldier is selected , 1921
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From History.com

On This Date: October 18th

Oct 18, 1867:

U.S. takes possession of Alaska

On this day in 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, and was championed by William Henry Seward, the enthusiasticly expansionist secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson.

A political cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abra...
Image via Wikipedia

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 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 “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden,” among other derogatory names. Some animosity toward the project may have been a byproduct of President Johnson’s own unpopularity. As the 17th U.S. president, Johnson battled with Radical Republicans in Congress over Reconstruction policies following the Civil War. He was impeached in 1868 and later acquitted by a single vote. Nevertheless, Congress eventually ratified the Alaska deal. 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.

This Week in History, Oct 18 – Oct 24

Oct 18, 1867
U.S. takes possession of Alaska
Oct 19, 1781
Victory at Yorktown
Oct 20, 1947
Congress investigates Reds in Hollywood
Oct 21, 1959
Guggenheim Museum opens in New York City
Oct 22, 1962
Cuban Missile Crisis
Oct 23, 2002
Hostage crisis in Moscow theater
Oct 24, 1901
First barrel ride down Niagara Falls
From HISTORY.COM

Hairs, footprints, a presumed bed and an empty vodka bottle

Scientists ‘95% Sure’ Bigfoot Lives in Russian Tundra

By JOE JACKSON | Time.com
Scientists and yeti enthusiasts believe there may finally be irrefutable evidence that the ape-like creatures roam the vast Siberian tundra, reports the Guardian.

A team of over a dozen experts. from as far afield as Canada and Sweden, have proclaimed themselves 95% certain of the mythical animal’s existence after gathering for a day-long conference in the town of Tashtago in the Kemerovo region, some 2,000 miles east of Moscow. In recent years locals there have reported sightings of yetis, also
known as the abominable snowman. (LIST: Top 10 Famous Mysterious Monsters)

The Kemerovo government announced on Oct. 10 that a two-day expedition the previous weekend to the region’s Azassky cave and Karatag peak “collected irrefutable evidence” of yetis’ existence on the wintry plateau.

“Conference participants came to the conclusion that the artifacts found give 95% evidence of the habitation of the ‘snow man’ on Kemerovo region territory,” read a statement. “In one of the detected tracks, Russian scientist Anatoly Fokin noted several hairs that might belong to the yeti,” it added. The group also discovered footprints, a
presumed bed and various other markers.

The scientific community has historically disputed the existence of the yeti given scant conclusive evidence. But numerous sightings of such creatures have been reported in Himalayan countries and in North America, where it is know as sasquatch or Bigfoot. (LIST: Top 10 Heroic Animals)

Joe Jackson is a contributor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @joejackson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

View this article on Time.com