Sergei Yakovlevich Lemeshev was born into a peasant family in 1902. He was sent to St. Petersburg (Leningrad) in 1917, where he bagan working under his uncle's, a shoemaker. In the 1920's Lemeshev made his way to Moscow, joined and graduated from the Moscow Conservatory. The young graduate was cast in "Evgeniy Onegin" as Lensky, a role that he reprised over 500 times, the last being on his 70th birthday, when his health has significantly declined. During WWII he travelled and performed with frontline brigades. He is particularly well known for performing Matvey Blanter's "My Love" (Moya Lyubimaya), an iconic WWII song that evokes the fear and hopes of a young soldier away from his beloved girlfriend. Lemeshev's performance can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBmpuVtblVo . When performing at the front, outside in the cold, he developed tuberculosis in one of his lungs. Normally, this would be a career ending illness, but he continued performing for many more years, relying on his one healthy lung. His personal life - Lemeshev was married five times - was constantly in the public eye and crowds of people came to see him perform and followed him when strolling down the street. Lemeshev passed away on July 26th, 1977, a day before his 75th birthday.
Which brand is better, Adidas or Pumas? Adolf and Rudolf Dassler co-owned Dassler Brothers, an athletic shoe enterprise in Herzogenaurach, Germany. The brothers realized that if they really wanted to make some money there was no better advertisement platform then the Olympics. At the 1928 Olympics, Dassler equipped many athletes with their shoes and laid the foundation for the international expansion of the company. During the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Adolph equipped athlete Jesse Owens with a pair of shoes that he loved so much that he wanted no wear nothing else and went on to win four gold medals. Unfortunately, years later the brothers would have a falling out and a spark a sibling rivalry so intense that it even split their hometown apart.
Rudolf left the company to found Puma on the other side of town across the Aurach River, and Adolf renamed the company Adidas after his own nickname. For decades, everyone’s shoes became a sort of flag. People wore Adidas on the southern bank of the Aurach river that divides the town, and Puma on the north. Herzogenaurach was nicknamed "the town of bent necks” because it quickly became a norm in the town for people to always look down to see which brand of footwear that you were wearing before deciding whether they would speak to you or not. Even the town's two football clubs were divided by this rivalry because the ASV Herzogenaurach club was supported by Adidas while the 1 FC Herzogenaurach endorsed Rudolf's footwear.
The hate the brothers had for each other even infected their wives and they too began to dislike each other. After an Allied bomb attack in 1943, Adi and his wife ran into a bomb shelter only to find Rudolf and his family were already in there and the arguments followed. Rudolf must have been a prideful man because even the townspeople could manipulate him easily. For example, when handymen were called to Rudolf's home, they would intentionally wear Adidas shoes because Rudolf would then send them to the basement to pick out a pair of free Pumas.
The contempt that these brothers had for each other almost led to both of them getting hustled at the 1960 Summer Olympics. Puma had paid German sprinter Armin Hary to wear Pumas in the 100-meter sprint final but Hary had previously worn Adidas before and asked Adolf to pay him. Adidas rejected this request and Hary would go on to win the gold medal in Pumas, but then laced up a pair of Adidas for the medals ceremony. Could you imagine the looks on the two Dassler brothers faces after witnessing this? Hary had hoped to cash in from both of them and almost succeeded. Although the two brothers never reconciled their differences they are now buried in the same cemetery and are spaced as far apart as possible. You can find Rudolf immediately as you walk in however to find Adi, you have to trek all the way to the farthest corner of the cemetery, on the opposite side.
Post by Arvin Ramdas
Israel Zangwill was born in 1864 in London to Jewish emigres from the Russian empire. He attended a school for Jewish immigrants in London, which was not only free but also supplies housing, food and clothing to its students. Today, one of the schools' houses bears his name.
Zangwill began his career as a teacher, but he was much too passionate and ended his teaching career due to "differences with management". Zangwill first rose to fame when he published the novel "Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People" in 1892 in which he explored the lives of Jewish children in the ghettos of London. The novel gave an inside look into the lives of immigrants and the Jews of London, which was largely unexplored before Zangwill.
Though he was a champion of the underrepresented and oppressed before, "Children of the Ghetto" lead Zangwill to focus his writings on the Zionist themes. When a few years later, Theodor Hertzl visited the UK in 1895, he was introduced to Zangwill. The two became close, and Zangwill became very involved in the Zionist movement in Great Britain. For many years, Zangwill was a firm believer that Palestine "remains at this moment an almost uninhabited, forsaken and ruined Turkish territory". However, his politics shifted towards the Uganda theme and eventually, in 1905, he fully split from the Zionist movement and founded the ITO or, Jewish Territorialist Organization, whose goal was to establish a nation for the Jewish people wherever possible in the world and not necessarily in densely populated Palestine.
Ever concerned and interested in the fate of Jews all over the world. Zangwill was infatuated with the integration of immigrants into American society. In 1908 he debuted his play "The Melting Pot" in Washington D.C. to great reviews. The play centers around the character of David, who immigrates to America after his family is killed in pogrom. David meets a fellow émigré - Vera, a Christian and the two fall in love. When he goes to meet Vera's father, to ask for her hand in marriage, it is revealed that Vera's father is the man responsible for orchestrating the pogrom in which David's family is killed. Vera's father apologizes profusely, and the young émigré's decide to continue to build a life together in America. The play was well received by American audiences, and is widely regarded to have coined the term "melting pot" as a description of the United States. Former president Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Zangwill, saying "That particular play I shall always count among the very strong and real influences upon my thought and my life."
Zangwill was also a feminist, and was married to feminist write Edith Zangwill, nee Ayrton, with whom he had three children. Zangwill passed away due to complications from pneumonia in 1926.
Aleksei Brusilov was immortalized for his greatest achievement, the Brusilov offensive. Under the terms of the Chantilly Agreement of December 1915, Russia, France, Britain and Italy agreed to carry out simultaneous attacks against the Central Powers so that their enemies would be unable to transport reserves from one front to another. General Aleksei Brusilov proposed that the Russian Army should lead a massive offensive on the Southwestern Front against the Austro-Hungarian forces in Galicia. His plan was designed to take some of the pressure off French and British armies in France, the Italian Army and if possible, knock Austria-Hungary out of the war. Since the Austrian army was heavily engaged in Italy, the Russian army enjoyed a significant numerical advantage on the Galician front and within 72 hours, the army advanced 50 miles, took 200,000 prisoners, and seized 700 heavy guns.
What made Brusilov’s plan unique was that he decided to distribute his attack over the entirety of Southwest Front, hoping to disorganize the enemy over a large area and attack them from all sides. Unlike his predecessors he decided not to waste precious resources through saturation bombardment on worthless areas, but instead used other methods such as advancing his reserve units beforehand to join with the storm troops after breaching the enemies front trench. By using innovate tactics and methods, Brusilov broke the back of the Austro-Hungarian Army and the Central Powers' pressure on the Italian Army was relieved. Meanwhile, the French were able to continue engaging in the offensive at Verdun and regained both their territory and confidence. The Brusilov Offensive led to the implementation of numerous tactics that later became a staple of the Red Army. General Alexei Brusilov was responsible for one of the most strategically significant offensives of the entire war. Brusilov would later be awarded the Sword of Saint George with Diamonds for his greatest victory, and is one of only eight Russian commanders to receive this rare award during the First World War.
Post by Arvin Ramdas
Matvey Blanter, was famous Soviet composer. He was born in the small town of Pochep in 1903. He was born into a traditional Jewish family, his father was a tradesman and his mother was actor Titiana Vovsi, cousin of the legendary Jewish Soviet actor and director of the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre Solomon Mikhoels.
Soon after Blanter's birth, the family relocated to the prominent city of Kursk, where the young Blanter begun playing the violin and piano, sang in the quire and partook in theatre productions. By mid- 1920's Blanter had achieved national attention with a dance-pop hit "John Gray", and his success continued to flourish throughout the next decade. However, achieving such high echelons of success and fame in the 1930's, when the Soviet Union was becoming politically and culturally more stringent, was dangerous. During Stalin's great purges of the late 1930's so many - ordinary citizens and prominent figures alike - were arrested and shot, that the entire country felt their shock. Blanter's uncle, Evsey Blanter was one of the victims. Critics and historians agree - it was during this time that Blanter's music style shifted, and he began composing songs of much more patriotic nature with, often not-so-subtle, political undertones like "Stalin - Is Our Battle Glory" (1937) and "In the Fields of Our Beautiful Homeland" (1938).
It was also at this time that Blanter's collaboration with renown lyricist Mikhail Isakovsky began. Together the composed many hit songs, including "Katyusha" (1938), which to this day is, arguably, the main anthem of the Great Patriotic war (WWII, as it is known in Russia and the FSU countries). The song had it all ingredients of a major hit. It is a love ballad about a young woman longing for her lover, who is away at war. It sings subtle praises to the natural beauty of the Motherland, its "blooming apple and pear trees". And finally, the melody is indisputably victorious - she will guard his love, while the soldier guards the Motherland. It was so popular, that the Soviet Union's newly minted, super-secret and very effective truck-mounted rocket launchers were quickly nicknamed "Katyusha" by the Red Army Soldiers. Even today, according to polls conducted by the magazine "Russian Reporter", the song remains the 13th most popular song in Russia. If you've never heard the song, it's worth a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT75n6Wyw_Y , performed by the renown tenor and war-time radio personality, Georgiy Vnogradov.
All together Blanter composed over 200 songs which appeared in plays, films in concerts and over the radio waves. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946, became a Honored Artists of the Soviet Union in 1947 and a Hero of Socialist Labor in 1983. Blanter passed away in Moscow in 1990.
Kaiser Wilhelm II was to Germany what Prince Joffrey was to King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. He was a ruler that was reckless, emotional, and always felt entitled. One of his most famous fiascoes was his interview with a British daily newspaper where he made wild statements and diplomatically damaging comments. Wilhelm was supposed to use the interview as an opportunity to promote his views and ideas on Anglo-German friendship, but because of his emotional outbursts during the interview, he ended up further distancing not only the British, but also the French, Russians, and Japanese. After reading about his interview, everyone in Germany was furious and called for his abdication. In late 1918, due to popular unrest in Germany combined with a naval mutiny and officers and men of the army refusing to fight for Wilhelm's throne on the home front, civilian political leaders were convinced that the Kaiser had to renounce his throne to preserve order. Wilhelm’s abdication was announced on November 9, 1918, before he had actually agreed to it and spent the rest of his life in exile in the Netherlands, where he died at age 82. During this time, he grew a beard and allowed his famous mustache to droop.
Post by Arvin Ramdas
It’s one thing to give up meat for a day but could you imagine having to give up pizza, pasta, and bread! Every country that participated in WWI was hit hard by food shortages and ration stamps and books had to be introduced. It would be nearly impossible to constantly provide millions of troops with their daily rations if civilians continued with their normal shopping habits. What also made it difficult was that many men from the farming industry joined the armed services which left the country in short supply of agricultural workers. America relied heavily on propaganda to persuade Americans to moderate their food consumption.
Slogans such as “Food Will Win the War”, “Meatless Tuesdays”, and “Wheatless Wednesdays” would be plastered all over the neighborhood and people would be encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables instead. The food shortage in France was so bad that fines were introduced for publicly feeding pigeons or any stray animals. Things got especially brutal in the United Kingdom when Germany announced unrestricted submarine warfare because this meant that British merchant ships transporting food from overseas would be at risk of being sunk. The United Kingdom also imported over 20 million tons of food per year. In this instance food was no longer just sustenance, it was a weapon.
Post by Arvin Ramdas
This postcard shows a German military theater company during WWI. Soldiers entertained each other by putting on plays and musical performances in their free time. It could be very difficult to keep the companies together due to frequent relocation, and casualties on the front. Theaters in the major cities of Europe, including Vienna, Berlin, Paris and London, mostly remained active throughout the war. Although public transportation and proper heating and lighting were a challenge, people kept showing up to the theater in need for entertainment. The demography of the audience changed, as the residents of the cities during the war were mostly women, children, refugees of the war, and soldiers on leave. Increasingly, productions began to feature women in the leading roles. Propaganda was a big part of the theater and plays would often promote unity among people of different classes and viewpoints against the enemy. Plays that were put on stage in Vienna would often paint a positive image of Germans and vice versa. And a polite and dignified British gentleman was a frequent character in the theaters of Paris. Any anti-war message was not well received and the theaters in Europe were often subjects of censorship by their governments. As the war progressed, the audience’s thirst for escapism increased, which gave rise to plays set in exotic locations, comedies, circus acts and cabarets.
Post by Petra Hjartardottir
Many of the most successful fundraising efforts during WWI aimed to supply soldiers with tobacco. Cigarettes were considered a luxury product at the time, but many believed that they helped to uphold morale and camaraderie in the trenches. While the shipping of luxury goods to Britain was generally reduced, the stream of imported tobacco increased throughout the war. In 1915 alone, British soldiers and sailors smoked 700 tons of pipe tobacco and 1,000 tons of cigarettes. In the United States the percentage of adult smokers in the first half of the 20th century went from less than 1% in the beginning of the century, to 50% around 1950. This increase is mostly due to how available free or cheap cigarettes were to soldiers during WWI and WWII, and to the increase in women smokers. Before the 20th century, it was generally not socially acceptable for women to smoke, but soon smoking became a symbol for the emancipated woman.
Post by Petra Hjartardottir
When Operation Barbarossa stunned the world with the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. The Nazi blitzkrieg had caught its Soviet allies by surprise that proved to spear a path straight to Moscow. The Soviet Union, adjusting to the new chains of command brought on by Stalinist Purges, was largely unprepared for the offensive. This offensive was divided into four phases, with the fourth being the Battle of Smolensk.
On July 10th, 1941, The Battle of Smolensk was followed by one of the first Soviet counter-offensives. Roughly 1,500 tanks were deployed Lepiel but were quickly wiped out as the German anti-tank capabilities caught the deployment by surprise. Afterwards, the Germans began their own strings of offensives that saw the city encircled. Within the encirclement were the 16 th, 19th, and 20th Armies. In retaliation, the 20th Army managed to break through and assist the remaining offensive until the Nazi forces closed the pocket and encircled the forces once more.
About 300,000 troopers were taken prisoner after the re-establishment of the encirclement. In spite of this catastrophic loss, this battle served as a strong display of the Soviet resistance in the early stages of the war. This spirit of resistance inspired further coordinated counterattacks on the front and left the message of Moscow not being an easy target.
by Y. Kotlovskiy