‘Europe is finished,’ leading lawyer says as he leaves UK for Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘CORBYN MOVED THE ROCK, AND THE ANTI-SEMITES CRAWLED OUT’

‘Europe is finished,’ leading lawyer says as he leaves UK for Israel

‘It’s time to wander again,’ Mark Lewis tells fellow Jews facing rising anti-Semitism in Britain and across Europe

Mark Lewis (L) and his partner Mandy Blumenthal in an interview with the BBC. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Mark Lewis (L) and his partner Mandy Blumenthal in an interview with the BBC. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A top British lawyer and his partner immigrated to Israel this week, citing rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

“Europe in my view is finished. Every day you see people being attacked in one way or another across Europe,” Mark Lewis told Israel’s Channel 10 news, which accompanied his arrival, together with partner Mandy Blumenthal, at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.

“You see people murdered in museums in Belgium, people murdered in schools in France, people attacked in England. There is only one place for Jewish people to go,” Lewis added.

Lewis, 54, one of the UK’s leading libel lawyers, said he has been increasingly subjected to hate speech and threats for being Jewish, including being subjected to regular abuse and death threats online.

The decision to leave Britain did not come easily, the couple has said, but they feel it was inevitable. “We’re a wandering people, and it’s time to wander again. People just don’t want to see it,” Lewis said of his fellow British Jews.

Mark Lewis, right, and Mandy Blumenthal arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, December 5, 2018. (Channel 10 screen capture)

“We’ve accelerated our decision of moving to go to Israel because of anti-Semitism being so institutional and accepted in mainstream life,” Blumenthal charged.

“So many people have these ideas about Jews being responsible for every disaster that’s ever happened in the world.”

Lewis and Blumenthal first publicized their intention to leave for Israel in an interview with the BBC in August. They said they knew other people who are considering leaving the country because of anti-Semitism.

In the interview, the couple also blamed the leadership of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn for creating an atmosphere that allows anti-Semitic feelings to bubble up, and largely dismissed Corbyn’s assertion that anti-Semitism is not tolerated in the party.

“Jeremy Corbyn moved the rock, and the anti-Semites crawled out from underneath the rock. They’re not going back,” said Lewis.

“There’s been a total climate change. It’s become acceptable to be anti-Semitic. It’s brought out people’s feelings to the surface,” Blumenthal said.

She said though Corbyn and Labour are not solely responsible for the recent anti-Semitism, they have a “very loud part” in its rise.

“It’s not just Jeremy Corbyn and it’s not all of the Labour party. But it’s a very, very loud part of it that’s actually enabled this anti-Semitism to foster here in the UK and go throughout society,” she said.

Lewis said while anti-Semitism was a fringe phenomenon in the past, it is has become more prominent due to social media.

“Social media has caused so much harm,” he said. “Fifteen years ago there was still anti-Semitism but it was an obscure thing. Fifteen years ago somebody painted a swastika on my garage door in Manchester, that was a message. But it was a one-off, it was something you could almost laugh off. Now with the effect of social media, it’s almost every day.”

Lewis, who in an interview with The Times of Israel last year said he likes to take on anti-Semitic trolls on social media, said he has also faced anti-Semitism when trying to raise the issue.

“If you complain about anti-Semitism, the most anti-Semitic thing is said back to you: You’re making it up, it’s all a smear, you haven’t even got the right to complain,” he said.

He said he was bombarded with messages of hate from “people who claim to represent [grassroots Corbyn backing group] Momentum, who claim to represent the Labour Party.”

Lawyer Mark Lewis arrives at a media ethics inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, Thursday, November 24, 2011. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Explaining the couple’s decision to move to Israel, Lewis said “there is only so much you can take.”

“The online abuse might continue, the Israelis might not like me because I am too left, might not like me because they think I am too right, whatever their view. But they are not going to dislike me because I am Jewish. And there is only so much you can take – when you are getting threats to kill you.”

“When you are getting threats from people that they want you to be ill, etc. It’s a drip drip effect,” said Lewis, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. “And where do you say ‘actually, enough is enough.’”

In response to the couple’s interview, a Labour spokesperson said Corbyn is a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism and committed to uprooting it from the party.

Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in Tolpuddle, England, on July 22, 2018. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

Blumenthal, however, said she did not believe Corbyn’s expressed commitment to addressing Labour’s anti-Semitism problems.

“Words are cheap. I honestly believe that when I hear Jeremy Corbyn’s words, they’re cheap, they’re excuses, they’re not actually expressing his true feelings. I don’t believe him,” she said.

In August, Corbyn faced renewed criticism after the Daily Mail newspaper published photos of him holding a wreath during a 2014 ceremony at a Tunisian cemetery. It appeared from the snapshots that Corbyn was standing near the graves of Palestinian terrorists involved in the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

The scandal is only the latest round in a long-running crisis for the Labour Party, with a constant stream of members and prominent officials being forced out or chastised for making anti-Semitic and virulent anti-Israel comments, and Corbyn himself criticized for tolerating and/or being part of the problem.

The fracas has seen excoriation from rabbis, including Britain’s chief rabbi, as well as from some of Labour’s own MPs, charging that the party and its leader seem unable or unwilling to decisively excise anti-Semitic members and sentiments from Labour’s ranks.

Top European Rabbi sounds alarm on rise of far right

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Top European rabbi sounds alarm on rise of far right

‘We’re going back to 1914,’ says Pinchas Goldschmidt; laments EU’s instability and that the US ‘replaced the State Department with Twitter’

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, seen writing a new Torah scroll at an event attended by Israeli and European rabbis, marking the Hebrew date of 69 years since the liberation of Jews in Europe, in the Western Wall tunnels, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 21, 2014. (Flash90)

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, seen writing a new Torah scroll at an event attended by Israeli and European rabbis, marking the Hebrew date of 69 years since the liberation of Jews in Europe, in the Western Wall tunnels, in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 21, 2014. (Flash90)

Today’s political climate poses a genuine danger to democracy, according to a leading European rabbi, who warned of a return to “total dictatorships” such as those that existed before World War I.

“We live in a totally new world where there is no control or editing of any kind of information,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis. “The public discourse has become much more shrill and extreme. What has been accepted and understood as being the basis of a liberal democracy yesterday is questioned today.”

In a recent interview with The Times of Israel, the Swiss-born scholar and communal leader also criticized the US administration for “replacing” the State Department with Twitter, said the European Union was “not stable,” and warned the State of Israel against warming up to far-right parties, saying the Jewish state must never place short-term political gains ahead of historical truth.

Speaking about the rise of populist far-right parties across Europe, Goldschmidt indicated that the continent is returning to an age of unbridled nationalism mixed with racism.

“We’re going back to the past; we’re going back to 1914 in Europe. I don’t think we can exclude the turn to total dictatorships, where the situation of Jewish communities is going to become similar to those times when there were no democratic governments,” he said. However, he added that there is one caveat, in that “today you have the State of Israel, you have where to go.”

His fears of Western democracy collapsing are based on recent political and societal developments, he explained.

“The memory of the Holocaust and World War II and World War I is receding. People are living well. People’s attention spans, thanks to the internet, has gone down. Instead of reading books, people read headlines. Instead of getting information, people get opinions and tweets,” he said.

Even the US administration has “replaced the State Department with Twitter,” he lamented, referring to policy decision and diplomatic repartee on the micro-blogging platform.

“I am not painting a black future. I’m saying there are big dangers,” stressed Goldschmidt, who has headed the Conference of European Rabbis since 2011.

“The European Union is not stable; we’re dealing now with Brexit,” he added, noting that many far-right parties on the content advocate leaving the EU and want to “go back to 1914, where it was every country on their own.”

Nationalism in itself is not bad, but it becomes problematic when it is mixed with racism and threatens the foundations of democracy, said the rabbi, who has written several books on religion and politics.

King Felipe VI of Spain (R) shakes hands with CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, at the Royal Palace El Pardo near Madrid, Spain, on December 13, 2016. (World Jewish Congress/File)

The walls that separate between the judiciary, the executive, and the legislative “are being broken down,” and the free press in under attack in today’s Western world, he went on. “All the institutions which give a guarantee to every citizen, and specifically to religious minorities, are in danger.”

Last month, Goldschmidt, who was born in Zurich and has served as the chief rabbi of Moscow since 1993, headed a delegation of the Conference of European Rabbis to Israel, which met with President Reuven Rivlin, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, and other senior government officials.

In Jerusalem, Goldschmidt announced the appointment of an “ambassador” to coordinate the campaign “against far-right ideologies and extremism.”

This person, who has not yet been named, “will bring together leading politicians and stakeholders from across Europe to make sure that we are equipped to take action against the far-right,” according to Goldschmidt.

Rabbi Goldschmidt, second from left, visits the Knesset as head of a European rabbinical delegation, November 2018. (Eli Itkin/CER)

At their meetings in Israel, the rabbis warned the government against cozying up to such parties, even when they purport to support Israel.

“If a party is intrinsically racist, bigoted against large parts of society and intolerant of minorities, if Jews are not the target now, they will be in the near future,” he said in a press release issued in late November.

“Israel is uniquely placed to put diplomatic pressure on a state and she needs to be careful, take the lead from local communities and analyze a party’s approach and make a long-term decision. It is not worth a short-term endorsement or for Israel to receive political support, only to put the Jewish community at risk.”

Speaking to The Times of Israel in the lobby of his Jerusalem hotel, Goldschmidt also cautioned against establishing contacts with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who is not a member of but affiliated with the far-right Freedom Party, or FPOe.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (George Schneider)

“The FPOe was founded by SS officers. Some politicians in Israel are talking about mending relationship with the Diaspora. Supporting them would do just the opposite,” he said.

Goldschmidt was careful not to openly criticize the Israeli government, but he did express understanding for critics of some Israeli decisions, such as a July joint statement Jerusalem issued together with Warsaw about the role of Poles in the Holocaust.

At the time, Yad Vashem slammed the document for containing “highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field.”

He also had some misgiving about Israel seemingly turning a blind eye to distortion of the Holocaust in some Central and Eastern European countries in exchange for diplomatic support.

“It is natural that current political necessities do take precedence over historical rights and wrongs,” Goldschmidt said. “Not all Jews are religious. Many Jews are secular. However, if there is something that is holy to all of us, it is the memory of the Holocaust victims. And that’s something we should not play with.”

Israel derives its strength not only from its thriving start-up scene or its military, the rabbi went on.

“It’s its morality. The morality and historic justice of a persecuted people returning to their homeland after 2,000 years of exile, and I believe that the Israeli government, when formulating foreign policy, should include all historical and moral aspects of Jewish history in order to form a policy which is not only acceptable today, but also for the future.”

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Estonia: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This East European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Estonia

Introduction After centuries of Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940 – an action never recognized by the US – it regained its freedom in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. It joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
History Human settlement in Estonia became possible 11,000 to 13,000 years ago, when the ice from the last glacial era melted away. The oldest known settlement in Estonia is the Pulli settlement, which was located on the banks of the river Pärnu, near the town of Sindi, in southern Estonia. According to radiocarbon dating, it was settled around 11,000 years ago, at the beginning of the 9th millennium BC.

Prehistory

Evidence has been found of hunting and fishing communities existing around 6500 BC near the town of Kunda in northern Estonia. Bone and stone artifacts similar to those found at Kunda have been discovered elsewhere in Estonia, as well as in Latvia, northern Lithuania and in southern Finland. The Kunda culture belongs to the middle stone age, or Mesolithic period.

The end of the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age were marked by great cultural changes. The most significant was the transition to farming, which has remained at the core of Estonian economy and culture. From approximately the first to 5th centuries AD, resident farming was widely established, the population grew, and settlement expanded. Cultural influences from the Roman Empire reached Estonia, and this era is therefore also known as the Roman Iron Age.

A more troubled and war-ridden middle Iron Age followed with external dangers coming both from the Baltic tribes, who attacked across the southern land border, and from overseas. Several Scandinavian sagas refer to campaigns against Estonia. Estonian pirates conducted similar raids in the Viking age and sacked and burned the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187.

In the first centuries AD political and administrative subdivisions began to emerge in Estonia. Two larger subdivisions appeared: the province (Estonian: kihelkond) and the land (Estonian: maakond). The province consisted of several elderships or villages. Nearly all provinces had at least one fortress. The defense of the local area was directed by the highest official, the king or elder. The terra was composed of one or several provinces, also headed by an elder, king or their collegium. By the 13th century the following major lands had developed in Estonia: Revala, Harjumaa, Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Läänemaa, Alempois, Sakala, Ugandi, Jogentagana, Soopoolitse, Vaiga, Mõhu, Nurmekund, Järvamaa and Virumaa.[12]

Estonia retained a pagan religion centered around a deity called Tharapita. The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia mentions Tharapita as the superior god of Oeselians (inhabitants of Saaremaa island), also well known to Vironian tribes in northern Estonia. According to the chronicle, when the crusaders invaded Vironia in 1220, there was a beautiful wooded hill in Virumaa, where locals believe the Oeselian god Tharapita was born and from which he flew to Saaremaa. The hill is believed to be the Ebavere Hill (Ebavere mägi) in modern Lääne-Viru County.

The Middle Ages period

Estonia was a part of the Livonian Confederation from 1228 to the 1560s. The country was Christianized when the German “Livonian Brothers of the Sword” conquered southern Estonia as part of the Northern Crusades in the early thirteenth century. At the same time, Denmark attempted to take possession of northern Estonia. Estonia was consolidated under the two forces by 1227.

Northern Estonia remained a possession of Denmark until 1346. Reval (known as Tallinn since 1918) was given its Lübeck Rights in 1248 and joined an alliance of trading guilds called the Hanseatic League at the end of the thirteenth century. In 1343, the people of northern Estonia and Saaremaa rebelled against German rule in the St. George’s Night Uprising, which was put down by 1344. Russia attempted unsuccessful invasions in 1481 and 1558.

The Reformation period

The Reformation in Europe officially began in 1517 with Martin Luther (1483-1546) and his 95 Theses. The Reformation resulted in great change in the Baltic region. Ideas entered the Livonian Confederation very quickly and by the 1520s they were well known. Language, education, religion, and politics were greatly transformed. The Church services were now given in the local vernacular, instead of Latin, as was previously used.[13] During the Livonian War in 1561, northern Estonia submitted to Swedish control, while southern Estonia briefly came under the control of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 1580s. In 1625, mainland Estonia came entirely under Swedish rule. Estonia was administratively divided between the provinces of Estonia in the north and Livonia in southern Estonia and northern Latvia, a division which persisted until the early twentieth century.

In 1631, the Swedish king Gustaf II Adolf, Gustavus Adolphus, forced the nobility to grant the peasantry greater rights, although serfdom was retained. In 1632 a printing press and university were established in the city of Dorpat (known as Tartu since 1918). This period is known in Estonian history as “the Good Old Swedish Time.”

Estonia in the Russian Empire

Following the Great Northern War, the Swedish empire lost Estonia to Russia (1710 de facto, and 1721 de jure, by the Treaty of Nystad). However, the upper classes and the higher middle class remained primarily Baltic German. The war devastated the population of Estonia, but it recovered quickly. Although the rights of peasants were initially weakened, serfdom was abolished in 1816 in the province of Estonia and in 1819 in Livonia.

Declaration of independence

As a result of the abolition of serfdom and the availability of education to the native Estonian-speaking population, an active Estonian nationalist movement developed in the nineteenth century. It began on a cultural level, resulting in the establishment of Estonian language literature, theatre and professional music and led into the formation of the Estonian national identity and late 1800s’ Age of Awakening. Among the leaders of the movement were Johann Voldemar Jannsen, Jakob Hurt and Carl Robert Jakobson.

Significant accomplishments were the publication of the national epic, Kalevipoeg, in 1862, and the organization of the first national song festival in 1869. In response to a period of Russification initiated by the Russian empire in the 1890s, Estonian nationalism took on more political tones, with intellectuals first calling for greater autonomy, and later, complete independence from the Russian empire. Following the Bolshevik takeover of power in Russia after the October Revolution of 1917 and German victories against the Russian army, between the Russian Red Army’s retreat and the arrival of advancing German troops, the Committee of Elders of the Maapäev issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence[14] in Pärnu on February 23 and in Tallinn on February 24, 1918.

After winning the Estonian Liberation War against Soviet Russia and at the same time German Freikorps volunteers (the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed on 2 February 1920), Estonia maintained its independence for twenty-two years. Initially a parliamentary democracy, the parliament (Riigikogu) was disbanded in 1934, following political unrest caused by the global economic crisis. Subsequently the country was ruled by decree by Konstantin Päts, who became President in 1938, the year parliamentary elections resumed.

Estonia in World War II

The fate of Estonia in World War II was decided by the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939. World War II losses in Estonia, estimated at around 25% of population, were among the highest in Europe. War and occupation deaths have been estimated at 90,000. These include the Soviet deportations in 1941, the German deportations and Holocaust victims.[15] World War II began with the invasion and subsequent partition of an important regional ally of Estonia – Poland, by a joint operation of Nazi Germany and Soviet Union.

Soviet annexation

The fate of the Republic of Estonia before the World War II was decided by the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August 1939 after Stalin gained Hitler’s agreement to divide Eastern Europe into “spheres of special interest” according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol.[16][17][18]

Meeting in Tallinn on July 17, 1940 after the July “elections”.

On September 24, 1939, warships of the Red Navy appeared off Estonian ports and Soviet bombers began a patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside.[20] The Estonian government was forced to give their assent to an agreement which allowed the USSR to establish military bases and station 25,000 troops on Estonian soil for “mutual defence”.[21] On June 12, 1940, the order for a total military blockade on Estonia was given to the Soviet Baltic Fleet.[22][23] On June 14, 1940, while world’s attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany a day earlier, the Soviet military blockade on Estonia went into effect, two Soviet bombers downed a Finnish passenger airplane “Kaleva” flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki.[24] On June 16, 1940, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia.[25] The Red Army exited from their military bases in Estonia on June 17.[26] The following day, some 90,000 additional troops entered the country. On June 17, 1940, The Estonian government decided, given the overwhelming Soviet force, not to resist, to avoid bloodshed and open war.[27]

The military occupation of Estonia was complete by the June 21 1940.[28] Most of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League surrendered according to the orders believing that resistance was useless and were disarmed by the Red Army. Only the Estonian Single Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street continued to resist. As the Red Army brought in additional reinforcements supported by six armoured fighting vehicles, the battle lasted several hours until sundown. There was one dead, several wounded on the Estonian side and about 10 killed and more wounded on the Soviet side. Finally the military resistance was ended with negotiations and the Single Signal Battalion surrendered and was disarmed.[29]

In August 1940, Estonia was formally annexed by the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSR. Those who had failed to do their “political duty” of voting Estonia into the USSR, specifically those who had failed to have their passports stamped for voting, were condemned to death by Soviet tribunals.[30] The repressions followed with the mass deportations carried out by the Soviets in Estonia on June 14, 1941. Many of the country’s political and intellectual leaders were killed or deported to remote areas of the USSR by the Soviet authorities in 1940-1941. Repressive actions were also taken against thousands of ordinary people.

When the German Operation Barbarossa started against the Soviet Union, about 34,000 young Estonian men were forcibly drafted into the Red Army. Less than 30% of them survived the war. Political prisoners who could not be evacuated were executed by the NKVD.

Tallinn after Soviet air-attacks. (Harju Street in March 1944 and in March 2008 – has not been restored)

Many countries, including the United States, did not recognize the annexation of Estonia by the USSR. Such countries recognized Estonian diplomats and consuls who still functioned in many countries in the name of their former governments. These diplomats persisted in this anomalous situation until the ultimate restoration of Baltic independence.[32] Contemporary Russian politicians, however, deny that the Republic of Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940.

They state that the Soviet troops had entered Estonia in 1940 following the agreements and with the consent of the government of the Republic of Estonia, regardless of how their actions can be interpreted today. They maintain that the USSR was not in a state of war and was not waging any combat activities on the territory of Estonia, therefore there could be no occupation. The official Soviet and present Russian version claims that Estonians decided to lose their statehood voluntarily and officially describes separatist fighters of 1944-1976 as “bandits” or “nazis”. The Russian position is not recognized internationally.[33][34]

German occupation

After the Third Reich invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941,the Wehrmacht reached Estonia in (July 1941). The German Army crossed the Estonian southern border on 7th July. The Red Army retreated behind the Pärnu River- the Emajõgi line on 12 July.

At the end July the Germans resumed their advance in Estonia working in tandem with the Estonian Forest Brothers. Both German troops and Estonian partisans took Narva on 17 August and the Estonian capital Tallinn on 28 August. After the Soviets were driven out from Estonia German troops disarmed all the partisan groups.[35] Although initially the Germans were perceived by most Estonians as liberators from the USSR and its repressions, and hopes were raised for the restoration of the country’s independence, it was soon realized that they were but another occupying power. The Germans pillaged the country for the war effort and unleashed the Holocaust. For the duration of the occupation Estonia was incorporated into the German province of Ostland. This led to many Estonians, unwilling to side with the Nazis, join the Finnish Army to fight against the Soviet Union. The Finnish Infantry Regiment 200 (Estonian: soomepoisid) was formed out of Estonian volunteers in Finland. Although many Estonians were recruited in to the German armed forces (including Waffen-SS), the majority did so only in 1944 when the threat of a new invasion of Estonia by the Red Army had become imminent and it was clear that Germany could not win the war.[36]

By January 1944, the front was pushed back by the Red Army almost all the way to the former Estonian border. Narva was evacuated. Jüri Uluots, the last legitimate prime minister of the Republic of Estonia (according to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia) prior to its fall to the Soviet Union in 1940, delivered a radio address that appealed to all able-bodied men born from 1904 through 1923 to report for military service (Before this, Jüri Uluots had opposed Estonian mobilization.) The call drew support from all across the country: 38,000 volunteers jammed registration centers.[37] Several thousand Estonians who had joined the Finnish Army came back across the Gulf of Finland to join the newly formed Territorial Defense Force, assigned to defend Estonia against the Soviet advance. It was hoped that by engaging in such a war Estonia would be able to attract Western support for the cause of Estonia’s independence from the USSR and thus ultimately succeed in achieving independence.[38]

Soviet occupation

The Soviet forces reconquered Estonia in the autumn of 1944 after fierce battles in the northeast of the country on the Narva river and on the Tannenberg Line (Sinimäed) as part of the Baltic Strategic Offensive Operation, a twofold military-political operation to rout forces of the Wehrmacht and the so-called “liberation of the Soviet Baltic peoples”

In the face of the country being re-occupied by the Red Army, tens of thousands of Estonians (including majority of the education, culture, science, political and social specialists) (estimates as much as 80,000) chose to either retreat together with the Germans or flee to Finland or Sweden. On 12 January 1949 the Soviet Council of Ministers issued a decree “on the expulsion and deportation” from Baltic states of “all kulaks and their families, the families of bandits and nationalists”, and others.[40] More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been deported from the Baltic in 1940-1953. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to Gulag. More than 10% of the entire adult Baltic population was deported or sent to Soviet labor and death camps.[40] In response to the continuing insurgency against Soviet rule,[41] more than 20,000 Estonians were forcibly deported either to labor camps or Siberia (see Gulag).[42] Within the few weeks that followed, almost all of the remaining rural households were collectivized. After World War II, as part of the goal to more fully integrate Baltic countries into the Soviet Union, mass deportations were concluded in the Baltic countries and the policy of encouraging Soviet immigration to the Baltic states continued.[43] In addition to the human and material losses suffered due to war, thousands of civilians were killed and tens of thousands of people deported from Estonia by the Soviet authorities until Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953.

Half of the deported perished, the other half were not allowed to return until the early 1960s (years after Stalin’s death). The various repressive activities of Soviet forces in 1940-1941 and after reoccupation sparked a guerrilla war against the Soviet authorities in Estonia which was waged into the early 1950s by “forest brothers” (metsavennad) consisting mostly of Estonian veterans of both the German and Finnish armies as well as some civilians.[44] Material damage caused by the world war and the following Soviet era significantly slowed Estonia’s economic growth, resulting in a wide wealth gap in comparison with neighboring Finland and Sweden.[45]

Militarization was another aspect of the Soviet regime. Large parts of the country, especially the coastal areas were restricted to all but the Soviet military. Most of the sea shore and all sea islands (including Saaremaa and Hiiumaa) were declared “border zones”. People not actually resident there were restricted from traveling to them without a permit. A notable closed military installation was the city of Paldiski which was entirely closed to all public access. The city had a support base for the Soviet Baltic Fleet’s submarines and several large military bases, including a nuclear submarine training centre complete with a full-scale model of a nuclear submarine with working nuclear reactors. The Paldiski reactors building passed into Estonian control in 1994 after the last Soviet troops left the country.[46],[47] Immigration was another effect of Soviet occupation. Hundreds of thousands of migrants were relocated to Estonia from other parts of Soviet Union to assist industrialization and militarization, contributing an increase of about half million people within 45 years.[48] By 1980, when the Olympic Regatta of the 1980 Olympic Games was held in Tallinn, russification and immigration had achieved a level at which it began to spark popular protests.

Restoration of independence

The United States, United Kingdom and the majority of other western democracies considered the annexation of Estonia by USSR illegal. They retained diplomatic relations with the representatives of the independent Republic of Estonia, never de jure recognized the existence of the Estonian SSR, and never recognized Estonia as a legal constituent part of the Soviet Union.[49]

Estonia’s return to independence became possible as the Soviet Union faced internal regime challenges, loosening its hold on outer empire. As the 1980s progressed, a movement for Estonian autonomy started. In the initial period of 1987-1989, this was partially for more economic independence, but as the Soviet Union weakened and it became increasingly obvious that nothing short of full independence would do, the country began a course towards self-determination.

In 1989, during the “Singing Revolution”, in a landmark demonstration for more independence, called The Baltic Way, a human chain of more than two million people was formed, stretching through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. All three nations had similar experiences of occupation and similar aspirations for regaining independence. Estonia formally declared independence on August 20, 1991, reconstituting the pre-1940 state, during the Soviet military coup attempt in Moscow. The first country to diplomatically recognize Estonia’s reclaimed independence was Iceland. The last Russian troops left on 31 August 1994.

Geography Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, between Latvia and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 59 00 N, 26 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 45,226 sq km
land: 43,211 sq km
water: 2,015 sq km
note: includes 1,520 islands in the Baltic Sea
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined
Land boundaries: total: 633 km
border countries: Latvia 339 km, Russia 294 km
Coastline: 3,794 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: limits fixed in coordination with neighboring states
Climate: maritime, wet, moderate winters, cool summers
Terrain: marshy, lowlands; flat in the north, hilly in the south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Suur Munamagi 318 m
Natural resources: oil shale, peat, phosphorite, clay, limestone, sand, dolomite, arable land, sea mud
Land use: arable land: 12.05%
permanent crops: 0.35%
other: 87.6% (2005)
Irrigated land: 40 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 21.1 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.41 cu km/yr (56%/39%/5%)
per capita: 1,060 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: sometimes flooding occurs in the spring
Environment – current issues: air polluted with sulfur dioxide from oil-shale burning power plants in northeast; however, the amount of pollutants emitted to the air have fallen steadily, the emissions of 2000 were 80% less than in 1980; the amount of unpurified wastewater discharged to water bodies in 2000 was one twentieth the level of 1980; in connection with the start-up of new water purification plants, the pollution load of wastewater decreased; Estonia has more than 1,400 natural and manmade lakes, the smaller of which in agricultural areas need to be monitored; coastal seawater is polluted in certain locations
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ship Pollution, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: the mainland terrain is flat, boggy, and partly wooded; offshore lie more than 1,500 islands
People Population: 1,315,912 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15% (male 101,430/female 95,658)
15-64 years: 67.5% (male 423,664/female 464,813)
65 years and over: 17.5% (male 76,344/female 154,003) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 39.4 years
male: 36 years
female: 42.9 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.635% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.17 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 13.3 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.911 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.496 male(s)/female
total population: 0.842 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 7.59 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 8.77 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.34 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.3 years
male: 66.87 years
female: 78.07 years

Faroe Islands: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This North Atlantic Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Faroe Islands

Introduction The population of the Faroe Islands is largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 9th century. The islands have been connected politically to Denmark since the 14th century. A high degree of self-government was attained in 1948.
History The early history of the Faroe Islands is not well-known. Irish hermits (monks) settled in the sixth century, introducing sheep and oats and the early Irish language to the islands. Saint Brendan, who lived circa 484–578, is said to have visited the Faroe Islands on two or three occasions (512-530 AD), naming two of the islands Sheep Island and Paradise Island of Birds.

Later (~650 AD) the Vikings replaced the early Irish and their settlers, bringing the Old Norse language to the islands, which locally evolved into the modern Faroese language spoken today. The settlers are not thought to have come directly from Norway, but rather from the Norwegian settlements in Shetland, Orkney, and around the Irish Sea, and to have been so-called Norse-Gaels.

According to Færeyinga Saga, emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway settled in the islands about the end of the ninth century. Early in the eleventh century, Sigmund, whose family had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the northern islands, escaped to Norway and was sent back to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway. He introduced Christianity and, though he was subsequently murdered, Norwegian supremacy was upheld. Norwegian control of the islands continued until 1380, when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark, which gradually evolved into Danish control of the islands. The reformation reached the Faroes in 1538. When the union between Denmark and Norway was dissolved as a result of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands.

The trade monopoly in the Faroe Islands was abolished in 1856 and the country has since then developed towards a modern fishing nation with its own fleet. The national awakening since 1888 was first based on a struggle for the Faroese language, and thus more culturally oriented, but after 1906 was more and more politically oriented with the foundation of the political parties of the Faroe Islands.

On April 12, 1940, the Faroes were occupied by British troops. The move followed the invasion of Denmark by Nazi Germany and had the objective of strengthening British control of the North Atlantic (see Second Battle of the Atlantic). In 1942–43 the British Royal Engineers built the only airport in the Faroes, Vágar Airport. Control of the islands reverted to Denmark following the war, but in 1948 a home-rule regime was implemented granting a high degree of local autonomy. The Faroes declined to join Denmark in entering the European Community (now European Union) in 1973. The islands experienced considerable economic difficulties following the collapse of the fishing industry in the early 1990s, but have since made efforts to diversify the economy. Support for independence has grown and is the objective of the government.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, island group between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about one-half of the way from Iceland to Norway
Geographic coordinates: 62 00 N, 7 00 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 1,399 sq km
land: 1,399 sq km
water: 0 sq km (some lakes and streams)
Area – comparative: eight times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,117 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
Climate: mild winters, cool summers; usually overcast; foggy, windy
Terrain: rugged, rocky, some low peaks; cliffs along most of coast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Slaettaratindur 882 m
Natural resources: fish, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas
Land use: arable land: 2.14%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 97.86% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: NA
Environment – international agreements: party to: Marine Dumping associate member to the London Convention and Ship Pollution
Geography – note: archipelago of 17 inhabited islands and one uninhabited island, and a few uninhabited islets; strategically located along important sea lanes in northeastern Atlantic; precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands
People Population: 47,511 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.6% (male 4,882/female 4,904)
15-64 years: 65.3% (male 16,353/female 14,668)
65 years and over: 14.1% (male 3,041/female 3,663) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 35 years
male: 34.8 years
female: 35.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.543% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 14.12 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 8.69 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 0.996 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.115 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1.045 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.01 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.25 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.49 years
male: 76.06 years
female: 82.93 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.15 children born/woman

Finland: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Ancient North European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Finland

Introduction Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. It won its complete independence in 1917. During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and resist invasions by the Soviet Union – albeit with some loss of territory. In the subsequent half century, the Finns made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now on par with Western Europe. A member of the European Union since 1995, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.
History Prehistory

Prehistoric red ochre painted rock art of moose, human figures and boats in Astuvansalmi in Ristiina, the Southern Savonia region from ca. 3800–2200 BCE

According to archaeological evidence, the area now composing Finland was first settled around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice shield of the last ice age receded. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, living primarily off what the tundra and sea could offer. Pottery is known from around 5300 BCE (see Comb Ceramic Culture).The arrival of the Battle Axe culture (or Cord-Ceramic Culture) in southern coastal Finland around 3200 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. However, the earliest certain records of agriculture are from the late third millennium BCE. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

The Bronze Age (1500–500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Finno-Ugric languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland.

Swedish era (until 1809)

The sea fortress of Suomenlinna was founded by a discusion of the Swedish Diet in 1747 as a defence works and naval base, to be built on the islands off Helsinki.

Sweden established its official rule of Finland in the 13th century by the crown. Swedish became a dominant language of the nobility, administration and education; Finnish was chiefly a language for the peasantry, clergy and local courts in predominantly Finnish-speaking countries. The Bishop of Turku was usually the most important person in Finland during the Catholic era.

The Middle Ages ended with the Reformation when the Finns gradually converted to Lutheranism. In the 16th century, Mikael Agricola published the first written works in Finnish. The first university in Finland, The Royal Academy of Turku, was established in 1640. In the 18th century, wars between Sweden and Russia led to occupation of Finland twice by Russian forces, known to the Finns as the Greater Wrath (1714–1721) and the Lesser Wrath (1742–1743). By this time “Finland” was the predominant term for the whole area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Russian border.

Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire (1809–1917)

Main article: Grand Duchy of Finland

On March 29, 1809, after being conquered by the armies of Alexander I of Russia in the Finnish War, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. During the Russian era, the Finnish language started to gain recognition, first probably to sever the cultural and emotional ties with Sweden and thereafter, from the 1860s onwards, as a result of a strong nationalism, known as the Fennoman movement. Milestones included the publication of what would become Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala, in 1835; and the Finnish language achieving equal legal status with Swedish in 1892.

Despite the Finnish famine of 1866-1868 – the last major famine in Europe – in which about 15 percent of the population died, political and economic development was rapid from the 1860s onwards. The disaster of famine led Russian Empire to ease regulation and investment rose in following decades.[7] The GDP per capita was still a half of United States and a third of Great Britain.

In 1906, universal suffrage was adopted in the Grand Duchy of Finland, the second country in the world where this happened. However, the relationship between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Empire soured when the Russian government made moves to restrict Finnish autonomy. For example, the universal suffrage was, in practice, virtually meaningless, since the emperor did not approve any of the laws adopted by the Finnish parliament. Desire for independence gained ground, first among radical nationalists and socialists.

Civil War (1917–1918) and early independence

On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence, which was approved by Bolshevist Russia.

Contrary to Lenin’s and Finnish socialists’ expectations, the majority of Finns voted non-socialists parties in 1917 general elections. Soon in 1918, the violent wing of social democratic party started a coup, which led a brief but bitter Civil War that affected domestic politics for many decades afterwards. The Civil War was fought between “the Whites”, who were supported by Imperial Germany, and “the Reds”, supported by Bolshevist Russia. Eventually, the Whites overcame the Reds. The deep social and political enmity between the Reds and Whites remained. The civil war and activist expeditions (see Heimosodat) to the Soviet Union strained eastern relations.

After a brief flirtation with monarchy, Finland became a presidential republic, with Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg elected as its first president in 1919. The Finnish–Russian border was determined by the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, largely following the historic border but granting Pechenga (Finnish: Petsamo) and its Barents Sea harbour to Finland. Finnish democracy didn’t see any more Soviet coup attempts and survived the anti-Communist Lapua Movement. The relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union was tense. Finnish ethnicity was targeted by genocide in the Soviet Union, though little of that was known in Finland. Finland disliked all forms of socialism, leading Germany’s national socialism to deteriorate relations with Germany. Military was trained in France instead and relations to Western Europe and Sweden were strengthened.

In 1917 the population was 3 million. Land reform was enacted after the civil war, increasing the percantage of capital-owning population.[7] About 70% of workers were occupied in agriculture and 10% in industry.[8] The largest export markets were United Kingdom and Germany. Great Depression in the early ’30s was relatively light in Finland.

Finland during World War II

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–40 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland and in the Continuation War of 1941–44, following Operation Barbarossa in which Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Following German losses on the Eastern Front and the subsequent Soviet advance, Finland was forced to make peace with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–45, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland.

The treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included Finnish obligations, restraints, and reparations as well as further Finnish territorial concessions (cf. the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940). Finland ceded most of Finnish Karelia, Salla, and Pechenga, which amounted to ten percent of its land area and twenty percent of its industrial capacity. Some 400,000 evacuees, mainly women and children, fled these areas. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the United Kingdom, and the reparations to the Soviet Union caused Finland to transform itself from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrialised one. Even after the reparations had been paid off, Finland continued to trade with the Soviet Union in the framework of bilateral trade.

Cold war

In 1950 a half of the workers was occupied in agriculture and a third lived in urban towns.[9] The new jobs in manufacturing, services and trade quickly attracted people towns. The average number of births per woman declined from baby boom peak 3.5 in 1947 to 1.5 in 1973.[9] When baby boomers entered the workforce, the economy didn’t generate jobs fast enough and hundreds of thousands emigrated to the more industrialized Sweden, migration peaking in 1969 and 1970.[9] This mass migration is largely the reason why 4.7 percent of Sweden’s population speak Finnish today.

Officially claiming to be neutral, Finland lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and the Soviet Union. The “YYA Treaty” (Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics. This was extensively exploited by President Urho Kekkonen against his opponents. He maintained an effective monopoly on Soviet relations, which gave him a status of “only choice for president”. There was also a tendency of self-censorship regarding Finno-Soviet relations. This phenomenon was given the name “Finlandisation” by the German press (fi. suomettuminen). When Finlandisation was not enough, direct censorship was used, including in 1700 books and many movies, and asylym-seeking defectors were returned to be killed by the Soviet Union. Soviets created and financed anti-Western and pro-Soviet youth movements peaking in 70s, when communist-led Teen Union harassed teachers suspected of bourgeois ideas, and their former members have still a lot power. Soviet intelligence services sometimes used their contacts to install personnel in the administration, mass media, academia, political parties and trade unions. Politicization was widespread and public sector workers were often dependent on having the correct political party membership.

However, Finland maintained a democratic government and a market economy unlike most other countries bordering the Soviet Union. Property rights were strong. While nationalization committees were set up in France and UK, Finland avoided nationalizations. After failed experiments with protectionism, Finland eased restrictions and made a free trade agreement with the European Community in 1973, making its markets more competitive. Local education market expanded and an increasing number of Finns also went to have education in the United States or Western Europe, bringing back advanced skills. There was quite common, but pragmatic-minded, credit and investment cooperation by state and corporations, though it was considered with suspicion. Support for capitalism was widespread.[7] Savings rate hovered among the world’s highest, at around 8% until 80s. In the beginning of the 1970s, Finland’s GDP per capita reached the level of Japan and the UK. Finland’s development shared many aspects with Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan.[7]

Having been targeted by Soviet intelligence and youth propaganda, liberals lost support and socialist-majority generations seized power in 70s and 80s. Corporatism and taxes were increased. The power of social democrats and the almost overnight-grown trade union SAK became hegemonic in politics.[10] In 1991 Finland fell into a Great Depression-magnitude depression caused by combination economic overheating, depressed Western, Soviet and local markets, and disappearance of Soviet barter system. Stock market and housing prices declined by 50%.[11] The growth in the 1980s was based on debt, and when the defaults began rolling in, GDP declined by 15% and unemployment increased from a virtual full employment to one fifth of the workforce. The crisis was amplified by trade unions’ initial opposition to any reforms. Politicians struggled to cut spending and the public debt doubled to around 60% of GDP.[11] After devaluations the depression bottomed out in 1993.

Liberalization and integration with the West

Like other Nordic countries, Finland has liberalized the economy since late 80s. Financial and product market regulation was removed. The market is now one of the most free in Europe. State enterprises were privatized and taxes were cut. However, unlike in Denmark, trade unions blocked job market reforms, causing persistent unemployment and a two-tier job market. Trade unions also blocked social security reform proposals towards basic income or negative income tax. Finland joined the European Union in 1995. The central bank was given an inflation-targeting mandate until Finland joined eurozone.[11] The growth rate has since been one of the highest of OECD countries and Finland has topped many indicators of national performance.

In addition to fast integration with the European Union, safety against Russian leverage has been increased by building fully NATO-compatible military. 1000 troops (a high per-capita amount) are simultaneously committed in NATO operations. Finland has also opposed energy projects that increase dependency on Moscow.[12] At the same time, Finland remains one of the last non-members in Europe and there seems to be not enough support for full membership unless Sweden joins first.[13]

The population is aging with the birth rate at 10.42 births/1,000 population or fertility rate at 1.8.[9] With median age at 41.6 years Finland is one of the oldest countries [14] and a half of voters is estimated to be over 50 years old. Like most European countries, without further reforms or much higher immigration Finland is expected to struggle with demographics, even though macroeconomic projections are healthier than in most other developed countries.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, between Sweden and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 64 00 N, 26 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 338,145 sq km
land: 304,473 sq km
water: 33,672 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Montana
Land boundaries: total: 2,681 km
border countries: Norway 727 km, Sweden 614 km, Russia 1,340 km
Coastline: 1,250 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm (in the Gulf of Finland – 3 nm)
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 12 nm; extends to continental shelf boundary with Sweden
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: cold temperate; potentially subarctic but comparatively mild because of moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, Baltic Sea, and more than 60,000 lakes
Terrain: mostly low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Haltiatunturi 1,328 m
Natural resources: timber, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromite, nickel, gold, silver, limestone
Land use: arable land: 6.54%
permanent crops: 0.02%
other: 93.44% (2005)
Irrigated land: 640 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 110 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.33 cu km/yr (14%/84%/3%)
per capita: 444 cu m/yr (1999)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: air pollution from manufacturing and power plants contributing to acid rain; water pollution from industrial wastes, agricultural chemicals; habitat loss threatens wildlife populations
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: long boundary with Russia; Helsinki is northernmost national capital on European continent; population concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain
Politics Politics of Finland takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic and of a multi-party system. The President of Finland is the head of state, leads the foreign policy, and is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces. The Prime Minister of Finland is the head of government; executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament of Finland, and the government has limited rights to amend or extend legislation. The president has the power of veto over parliamentary decisions although it can be overrun by the parliament.

Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Judiciary consists of two systems, regular courts and administrative courts, headed by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, respectively. Administrative courts process cases where official decisions are contested. There is no “Constitutional Court”, i.e. the constitutionality of a law cannot be contested.

Though Finland has a primarily parliamentary system, the president has some notable powers. The foreign policy is led by the president, “in co-operation” with the cabinet, and the same applies to matters concerning national security. The main executive power lies in the cabinet headed by the prime minister. Before the constitutional rewrite, which was completed in 2000, the president enjoyed more power.

Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18; Finland was the first country to give full eligibility to women. The country’s population is ethnically homogeneous with no sizable immigrant population. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority, although in certain circles there is an unending debate about the status of the Swedish language. According to Transparency International, Finland has had the lowest level of corruption in all the countries studied in their survey for the last several years.

The labor agreements also pose significant political questions. Bargaining is highly centralized and often the government participates to coordinate fiscal policy. Finland has universal validity of collective labour agreements and often, but not always, the trade unions, employers and the government reach a Comprehensive Income Policy Agreement. Significant trade unions are SAK, STTK, AKAVA and EK.

People Population: 5,238,460 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.9% (male 449,548/female 433,253)
15-64 years: 66.7% (male 1,768,996/female 1,727,143)
65 years and over: 16.4% (male 344,798/female 514,722) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 41.6 years
male: 40 years
female: 43.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.127% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.42 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 9.93 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.78 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.024 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.958 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.52 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.84 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.66 years
male: 75.15 years
female: 82.31 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.73 children born/woman

France: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Great European Nation And Her People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

France

Introduction Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier more purely parliamentary administrations. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU’s military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.
History Rome to revolution

The borders of modern France are approximately the same as those of ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic Gauls. Gaul was conquered for Rome by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC, and the Gauls eventually adopted Roman speech (Latin, from which the French language evolved) and Roman culture. Christianity took root in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and became so firmly established by the fourth and fifth centuries that St. Jerome wrote that Gaul was the only region “free from heresy”.

In the 4th century AD, Gaul’s eastern frontier along the Rhine was overrun by Germanic tribes, principally the Franks, from whom the ancient name of “Francie” was derived. The modern name “France” derives from the name of the feudal domain of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris. The Franks were the first tribe among the Germanic conquerors of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity rather than Arianism (their King Clovis did so in 498) ; thus France obtained the title “Eldest daughter of the Church” (La fille ainée de l’Église) , and the French would adopt this as justification for calling themselves “the Most Christian Kingdom of France”.

Existence as a separate entity began with the Treaty of Verdun (843) , with the division of Charlemagne’s Carolingian empire into East Francia, Middle Francia and Western Francia. Western Francia approximated the area occupied by modern France and was the precursor to modern France.

The Carolingians ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants, the Direct Capetians, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon, progressively unified the country through a series of wars and dynastic inheritance. The monarchy reached its height during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. At this time France possessed the largest population in Europe (see Demographics of France) and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became, and remained for some time, the common language of diplomacy in International affairs. Much of the Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. In addition, France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Monarchy to republic

The monarchy ruled France until the French Revolution, in 1789. Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were executed, along with thousands of other French citizens. After a series of short-lived governmental schemes, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799, making himself First Consul, and later Emperor of what is now known as the First Empire (1804–1814). In the course of several wars, his armies conquered most of continental Europe, with members of the Bonaparte family being appointed as monarchs of newly established kingdoms.

Following Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the French monarchy was re-established, but with new constitutional limitations. In 1830, a civil uprising established the constitutional July Monarchy, which lasted until 1848. The short-lived Second Republic ended in 1852 when Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte proclaimed the Second Empire. Louis-Napoléon was unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic.

France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning of the 17th century until the 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, its global overseas colonial empire was the second largest in the world behind the British Empire. At its peak, between 1919 and 1939, the second French colonial empire extended over 12,347,000 square kilometres (4,767,000 sq mi) of land. Including metropolitan France, the total area of land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 square kilometres (4,980,000 sq mi) in the 1920s and 1930s, which is 8.6% of the world’s land area.

Though ultimately a victor in World War I, France suffered enormous human and material losses that weakened it for decades to come. The 1930s were marked by a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government. At the start of World War II, France held a series of unsuccessful rescue campaigns in Norway, Belgium and The Netherlands from 1939 to 1940. Upon the May-June 1940 Nazi German blitzkrieg and its Fascist Italian support, France’s political leadership disregarded Churchill’s proposal of a Franco-British Union and signed the Second Armistice at Compiègne on 22 June 1940. The Germans established a puppet regime under Marshal Philippe Pétain known as Vichy France, which pursued a policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany. The regime’s opponents formed the Free French Forces outside of France and the French Resistance inside. France was liberated with the joint effort of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Free French Forces and the French resistance in 1944. Soon the Nouvelle Armée Française (“new French army”) was established with the massive help of US-built material and equipment, and pursued the fight along the Allies in various battles including the campaign of Italy.

The Fourth Republic was established after World War II and struggled to maintain its economic and political status as a dominant nation state. France attempted to hold on to its colonial empire, but soon ran into trouble. The half-hearted 1946 attempt at regaining control of French Indochina resulted in the First Indochina War, which ended in French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Only months later, France faced a new, even harsher conflict in Algeria.

The debate over whether or not to keep control of Algeria, then home to over one million European settlers, wracked the country and nearly led to civil war. In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave way to the Fifth Republic, which contained a strengthened Presidency. In the latter role, Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the war. The Algerian War and Franco-French civil war that resulted in the capital Algiers, was concluded with peace negotiations in 1962 that led to Algerian independence.

In recent decades, France’s reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the political and economic integration of the evolving European Union, including the introduction of the euro in January 1999. France has been at the forefront of the European Union member states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to create a more unified and capable European Union political, defence, and security apparatus. However, the French electorate voted against ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty in May 2005.

Geography Location: metropolitan France: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain
French Guiana: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Brazil and Suriname
Guadeloupe: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Puerto Rico
Martinique: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago
Reunion: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar
Geographic coordinates: metropolitan France: 46 00 N, 2 00 E
French Guiana: 4 00 N, 53 00 W
Guadeloupe: 16 15 N, 61 35 W
Martinique: 14 40 N, 61 00 W
Reunion: 21 06 S, 55 36 E
Map references: metropolitan France: Europe
French Guiana: South America
Guadeloupe: Central America and the Caribbean
Martinique: Central America and the Caribbean
Reunion: World
Area: total: 643,427 sq km; 547,030 sq km (metropolitan France)
land: 640,053 sq km; 545,630 sq km (metropolitan France)
water: 3,374 sq km; 1,400 sq km (metropolitan France)
note: the first numbers include the overseas regions of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reunion
Area – comparative: slightly less than the size of Texas
Land boundaries: metropolitan France – total: 2,889 km
border countries: Andorra 56.6 km, Belgium 620 km, Germany 451 km, Italy 488 km, Luxembourg 73 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Spain 623 km, Switzerland 573 km
French Guiana – total: 1,183 km
border countries: Brazil 673 km, Suriname 510 km
Coastline: total: 4,668 km
metropolitan France: 3,427 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (does not apply to the Mediterranean)
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: metropolitan France: generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral
French Guiana: tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variation
Guadeloupe and Martinique: subtropical tempered by trade winds; moderately high humidity; rainy season (June to October); vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on average
Reunion: tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation; cool and dry (May to November), hot and rainy (November to April)
Terrain: metropolitan France: mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east
French Guiana: low-lying coastal plains rising to hills and small mountains
Guadeloupe: Basse-Terre is volcanic in origin with interior mountains; Grande-Terre is low limestone formation; most of the seven other islands are volcanic in origin
Martinique: mountainous with indented coastline; dormant volcano
Reunion: mostly rugged and mountainous; fertile lowlands along coast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m
Natural resources: metropolitan France: coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, timber, fish
French Guiana: gold deposits, petroleum, kaolin, niobium, tantalum, clay
Land use: arable land: 33.46%
permanent crops: 2.03%
other: 64.51%
note: French Guiana – arable land 0.13%, permanent crops 0.04%, other 99.83% (90% forest, 10% other); Guadeloupe – arable land 11.70%, permanent crops 2.92%, other 85.38%; Martinique – arable land 9.09%, permanent crops 10.0%, other 80.91%; Reunion – arable land 13.94%, permanent crops 1.59%, other 84.47% (2005)
Irrigated land: total: 26,190 sq km;
metropolitan France: 26,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 189 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 33.16 cu km/yr (16%/74%/10%)
per capita: 548 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: metropolitan France: flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean
overseas departments: hurricanes (cyclones), flooding, volcanic activity (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion)
Environment – current issues: some forest damage from acid rain; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from urban wastes, agricultural runoff
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: largest West European nation
People Population: total: 64,057,790
note: 60,876,136 in metropolitan France (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.6% (male 6,063,181/female 5,776,272)
15-64 years: 65.2% (male 20,798,889/female 20,763,283)
65 years and over: 16.2% (male 4,274,290/female 6,038,011) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 39 years
male: 37.5 years
female: 40.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.588% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 12.91 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 8.55 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.52 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.002 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.708 male(s)/female
total population: 0.956 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.41 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.76 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.04 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 80.59 years
male: 77.35 years
female: 84 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.98 children born/woman

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCIENCE MAGAZINE)

 

An 72-meter ice core drilled in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes,  storms, and human pollution.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he’s got an answer: “536.” Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record “a failure of bread from the years 536–539.” Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.

Historians have long known that the middle of the sixth century was a dark hour in what used to be called the Dark Ages, but the source of the mysterious clouds has long been a puzzle. Now, an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier by a team led by McCormick and glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of The University of Maine (UM) in Orono has fingered a culprit. At a workshop at Harvard this week, the team reported that a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536. Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547. The repeated blows, followed by plague, plunged Europe into economic stagnation that lasted until 640, when another signal in the ice—a spike in airborne lead—marks a resurgence of silver mining, as the team reports in Antiquity this week.

To Kyle Harper, provost and a medieval and Roman historian at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, the detailed log of natural disasters and human pollution frozen into the ice “give us a new kind of record for understanding the concatenation of human and natural causes that led to the fall of the Roman Empire—and the earliest stirrings of this new medieval economy.”

Slivers from a Swiss ice core held chemical clues to natural and human made events.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Ever since tree ring studies in the 1990s suggested the summers around the year 540 were unusually cold, researchers have hunted for the cause. Three years ago polar ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica yielded a clue. When a volcano erupts, it spews sulfur, bismuth, and other substances high into the atmosphere, where they form an aerosol veil that reflects the sun’s light back into space, cooling the planet. By matching the ice record of these chemical traces with tree ring records of climate, a team led by Michael Sigl, now of the University of Bern, found that nearly every unusually cold summer over the past 2500 years was preceded by a volcanic eruption. A massive eruption—perhaps in North America, the team suggested—stood out in late 535 or early 536; another followed in 540. Sigl’s team concluded that the double blow explained the prolonged dark and cold.

Mayewski and his interdisciplinary team decided to look for the same eruptions in an ice core drilled in 2013 in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps. The 72-meter-long core entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes, Saharan dust storms, and human activities smack in the center of Europe. The team deciphered this record using a new ultra–high-resolution method, in which a laser carves 120-micron slivers of ice, representing just a few days or weeks of snowfall, along the length of the core. Each of the samples—some 50,000 from each meter of the core—is analyzed for about a dozen elements. The approach enabled the team to pinpoint storms, volcanic eruptions, and lead pollution down to the month or even less, going back 2000 years, says UM volcanologist Andrei Kurbatov.

Darkest hours and then a dawn

A high-resolution ice core record combined with historical texts chronicles the impact of natural disasters on European society.

530530550640650660540540550560570580590600610620630640650660536Icelandic volcano erupts, dimming the sun for 18months, records say. Summer temperatures drop by1.5°C to 2.5°C.536–545 Coldest decade on record in 2000 years. Crops fail in Ireland, Scandinavia, Mesopotamia, and China.540–541 Second volcanic eruption. Summer temperatures drop again by 1.4°C–2.7°C in Europe.541–543 The “Justinian” bubonic plague spreads through the Mediterranean, killing 35%–55% of the population and speeding the collapse of the eastern Roman Empire.640 After declining in the mid-500s, a surge in atmospheric lead signals an increase in silver mining because of economic recovery.660A second lead peak reflects silver mining, probably at Melle, France, tied to a switch from gold to silver for coins and the beginnings of the medieval economy.
(GRAPHIC) A. CUADRA/SCIENCE; (DATA) C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL.ANTIQUITY 2018; M. SIGL ET AL., NATURE 2015; M. MCCORMICK

In ice from the spring of 536, UM graduate student Laura Hartman found two microscopic particles of volcanic glass. By bombarding the shards with x-rays to determine their chemical fingerprint, she and Kurbatov found that they closely matched glass particles found earlier in lakes and peat bogs in Europe and in a Greenland ice core. Those particles in turn resembled volcanic rocks from Iceland. The chemical similarities convince geoscientist David Lowe of The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, who says the particles in the Swiss ice core likely came from the same Icelandic volcano. But Sigl says more evidence is needed to convince him that the eruption was in Iceland rather than North America.

Either way, the winds and weather systems in 536 must have been just right to guide the eruption plume southeast across Europe and, later, into Asia, casting a chilly pall as the volcanic fog “rolled through,” Kurbatov says. The next step is to try to find more particles from this volcano in lakes in Europe and Iceland, in order to confirm its location in Iceland and tease out why it was so devastating.

A century later, after several more eruptions, the ice record signals better news: the lead spike in 640. Silver was smelted from lead ore, so the lead is a sign that the precious metal was in demand in an economy rebounding from the blow a century before, says archaeologist Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. A second lead peak, in 660, marks a major infusion of silver into the emergent medieval economy. It suggests gold had become scarce as trade increased, forcing a shift to silver as the monetary standard, Loveluck and his colleagues write in Antiquity. “It shows the rise of the merchant class for the first time,” he says.

Still later, the ice is a window into another dark period. Lead vanished from the air during the Black Death from 1349 to 1353, revealing an economy that had again ground to a halt. “We’ve entered a new era with this ability to integrate ultra–high-resolution environmental records with similarly high resolution historical records,” Loveluck says. “It’s a real game changer.”

The president’s performance in Paris was a stunning abdication of global leadership!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SLATE NEWS)

 

Trump Retreats From the West

The president’s performance in Paris was a stunning abdication of global leadership.

U.S. President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and his wife Brigitte Macron attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday.
U.S. President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and his wife Brigitte Macron attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday.
Benoit Tessier/AFP/Getty Images

The most disturbing thing about President Trump’s disgraceful performance in France this past weekend is the clear signal it sent that, under his thumb, the United States has left the West.

He came to the continent to join with other world leaders to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. But the significance of the armistice is not so much to commemorate the fallen in an absurd and ghastly war as it is to celebrate the special peace—grounded in a democratic European Union and a trans-Atlantic alliance—that grew in its wake and the greater war that followed.

And yet, after flying nearly 4,000 miles across the Atlantic, Trump stayed in his room in Paris on Saturday rather than making the additional 50-mile trip to the Aisne-Marne cemetery, where 50,000 American soldiers were laid to rest a century ago. His excuse for not attending was lame, to say the least. His aides said, after the fact, that rainfall precluded a trip by helicopter—a claim refuted by the writer James Fallows, an instrument-certified pilot who, as a former White House official, is familiar with this helicopter.

A later claim, that the route posed a challenge to the large presidential motorcade, is doubly insulting. It’s insulting, first, to the Secret Service and White House travel office whose professionals prepare for, and surmount, any and all obstacles on such trips (an insult exacerbated by the fact that none of the other leaders’ security teams had any trouble dealing with the route); second, to the armed forces and allies, who must wonder whether Trump might turn away from the challenges of mobilizing armored battalions to the front lines in the event of an invasion.

Let us stipulate that Trump didn’t want to get his hair mussed or that security risks frightened him, which may also explain the fact that he hasn’t yet visited American troops in any war zone. (By contrast, Obama made his first trip to Iraq three months into his term and, in his time as president, flew eight times to Afghanistan; George W. Bush, in his two terms, made four trips to Iraq and two to Afghanistan.) However, this does not explain Trump’s late showing for Sunday’s ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, or his skipping of the march toward that event down the Champs-Elysees.

Among the more than 60 world leaders who gathered for the ceremony, only he and Russian President Vladimir Putin were latecomers. (British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t come to France at all, perhaps owing to her own current problems with the EU.) Many cocked eyebrows have been thrown at the photo of Trump beaming at Putin, while other allied leaders went deadpan, as his friend from the Kremlin approached.

Back in 1917, Russia was the first allied nation to leave the war as the Bolsheviks took power, in part thanks to the Germans, who smuggled Lenin onto a train from Zurich back home, where he proceeded to lead the revolution. That same year, the United States was the last allied nation to enter the war, supplying the aid and firepower that helped break the stalemate and secure victory.

President Woodrow Wilson then led negotiations for a peace on such onerous terms to the defeated powers—historian David Fromkin called it “a peace to end all peace”—that a resumption of war 20 years later was almost inevitable. World War II was fueled by nationalist impulses and facilitated by the crumbling of empires—both of which resonate with developments in global politics today.

This was the context of French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the Arc de Triomphe, in which he condemned nationalism—the “selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests”—as a “betrayal of patriotism.” In part, and most obviously, he was jabbing at Trump, who listened with a scowl; but he was also warning against, as he put it, “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death.” Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it, George Santayana once wrote. The problem with Trump is he never knew history—and doesn’t think he needs to learn it. His election marked Year Zero, as far as he is concerned: He frequently says that he’s unlike, and better than, any previous president, so any lessons of the past are irrelevant.

Macron and everyone else at the Arc had not only the rise of Trump in mind but also the turn toward right-wing nationalism in Hungary and Poland, the uncertain course of Brexit in Britain, and the collapse of Angela Merkel’s centrist coalition in Germany—leaving Macron as the last surviving celebrator of the post-WWII Western traditions, and he too is buffeted by pressures from the left and the right.

At such an occasion so rife with moment and symbolism, any other American president would have felt compelled to repair and strengthen this union. If there were any doubts that President Trump understands little about his mission, and cares even less, this trip dispelled them once and for all.

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Germany: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Historic European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACTBOOK)

 

Germany

Introduction As Europe’s largest economy and second most populous nation, Germany is a key member of the continent’s economic, political, and defense organizations. European power struggles immersed Germany in two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century and left the country occupied by the victorious Allied powers of the US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union in 1945. With the advent of the Cold War, two German states were formed in 1949: the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR). The democratic FRG embedded itself in key Western economic and security organizations, the EC, which became the EU, and NATO, while the Communist GDR was on the front line of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The decline of the USSR and the end of the Cold War allowed for German unification in 1990. Since then, Germany has expended considerable funds to bring Eastern productivity and wages up to Western standards. In January 1999, Germany and 10 other EU countries introduced a common European exchange currency, the euro.
History The ethnogenesis of the Germanic tribes is assumed to have occurred during the Nordic Bronze Age, or at the latest, during the Pre-Roman Iron Age. From southern Scandinavia and northern Germany, the tribes began expanding south, east and west in the 1st century BC, coming into contact with the Celtic tribes of Gaul as well as Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic tribes in Eastern Europe. Little is known about early Germanic history, except through their recorded interactions with the Roman Empire, etymological research and archaeological finds.[5]

Under Augustus, the Roman General Publius Quinctilius Varus began to invade Germania (a term used by the Romans running roughly from the Rhine to the Ural Mountains) , and it was in this period that the Germanic tribes became familiar with Roman tactics of warfare while maintaining their tribal identity. In AD 9, three Roman legions led by Varus were defeated by the Cheruscan leader Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Modern Germany, as far as the Rhine and the Danube, thus remained outside the Roman Empire. By AD 100, the time of Tacitus’ Germania, Germanic tribes settled along the Rhine and the Danube (the Limes Germanicus) , occupying most of the area of modern Germany. The 3rd century saw the emergence of a number of large West Germanic tribes: Alamanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisians, Sicambri, and Thuringii. Around 260, the Germanic peoples broke through the Limes and the Danube frontier into Roman-controlled lands.[6]

Holy Roman Empire (962-1806)

The medieval empire stemmed from a division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded by Charlemagne on 25 December 800, and existed in varying forms until 1806, its territory stretching from the Eider River in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. Often referred to as the Holy Roman Empire (or the Old Empire) , it was officially called the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (“Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanicæ”) starting in 1448, to adjust the title to its then reduced territory.

Under the reign of the Ottonian emperors (919-1024) , the duchies of Lorraine, Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Thuringia, and Bavaria were consolidated, and the German king was crowned Holy Roman Emperor of these regions in 962. Under the reign of the Salian emperors (1024-1125) , the Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy, although the emperors lost power through the Investiture Controversy. Under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138-1254) , the German princes increased their influence further south and east into territories inhabited by Slavs. Northern German towns grew prosperous as members of the Hanseatic League.

The edict of the Golden Bull in 1356 provided the basic constitution of the empire that lasted until its dissolution. It codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors who ruled some of the most powerful principalities and archbishoprics. Beginning in the 15th century, the emperors were elected nearly exclusively from the Habsburg dynasty of Austria.

The monk Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses questioning the Roman Catholic Church in 1517, thereby sparking the Protestant Reformation. A separate Lutheran church was acknowledged as the newly sanctioned religion in many German states after 1530. Religious conflict led to the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) , which devastated German lands.[7] The population of the German states was reduced by about 30%.[8] The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended religious warfare among the German states, but the empire was de facto divided into numerous independent principalities. From 1740 onwards, the dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1806, the Imperium was overrun and dissolved as a result of the Napoleonic Wars.[9]
See also: Medieval demography

Restoration and revolution (1814-1871)

Following the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Congress of Vienna convened in 1814 and founded the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) , a loose league of 39 sovereign states. Disagreement with restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, demanding unity and freedom. These, however, were followed by new measures of repression on the part of the Austrian statesman Metternich. The Zollverein, a tariff union, profoundly furthered economic unity in the German states. During this era many Germans had been stirred by the ideals of the French Revolution, and nationalism became a more significant force, especially among young intellectuals. For the first time, the colours of black, red and gold were chosen to represent the movement, which later became the national colours.[10]

In light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which successfully established a republic in France, intellectuals and commoners started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. The monarchs initially yielded to the revolutionaries’ liberal demands. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power; he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, leading to a temporary setback for the movement. Conflict between King William I of Prussia and the increasingly liberal parliament erupted over military reforms in 1862, and the king appointed Otto von Bismarck the new Prime Minister of Prussia. Bismarck successfully waged war on Denmark in 1864. Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Federation (Norddeutscher Bund) and to exclude Austria, formerly the leading German state, from the affairs of the remaining German states.

German Empire (1871-1918)

The state known as Germany was unified as a modern nation-state in 1871, when the German Empire was forged, with the Kingdom of Prussia as its largest constituent. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich) was proclaimed in Versailles on 18 January 1871. The Hohenzollern dynasty of Prussia ruled the new empire, whose capital was Berlin. The empire was a unification of all the scattered parts of Germany except Austria (Kleindeutschland, or “Lesser Germany”). Beginning in 1884, Germany began establishing several colonies outside of Europe.

In the Gründerzeit period following the unification of Germany, Emperor William I’s foreign policy secured Germany’s position as a great nation by forging alliances, isolating France by diplomatic means, and avoiding war. Under William II, however, Germany, like other European powers, took an imperialistic course leading to friction with neighbouring countries. Most alliances in which Germany had been previously involved were not renewed, and new alliances excluded the country. Specifically, France established new relationships by signing the Entente Cordiale with the United Kingdom and securing ties with the Russian Empire. Aside from its contacts with Austria-Hungary, Germany became increasingly isolated.

Germany’s imperialism reached outside of its own country and joined many other powers in Europe to claim their share of Africa. The Berlin Conference divided Africa between the European powers. Germany owned several pieces of land on Africa including German East Africa, South-West Africa, Togo, and Cameroon. The Scramble for Africa caused tension between the great powers that may have contributed to the conditions that led to World War I.

The assassination of Austria’s crown prince on 28 June 1914 triggered World War I. Germany, as part of the unsuccessful Central Powers, suffered defeat against the Allied Powers in one of the bloodiest conflicts of all time. The German Revolution broke out in November 1918, and Emperor William II and all German ruling princes abdicated. An armistice putting an end to the war was signed on 11 November and Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. Its negotiation, contrary to traditional post-war diplomacy, excluded the defeated Central Powers. The treaty was perceived in Germany as a humiliating continuation of the war by other means and its harshness is often cited as having facilitated the later rise of Nazism in the country.[11]

Weimar Republic (1919-1933)

After the success of the German Revolution in November 1918, a republic was proclaimed. The Weimar Constitution came into effect with its signing by President Friedrich Ebert on 11 August 1919. The German Communist Party was established by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1918, and the German Workers Party, later known as the National Socialist German Workers Party or Nazi Party, was founded in January 1919.

Suffering from the Great Depression, the harsh peace conditions dictated by the Treaty of Versailles, and a long succession of more or less unstable governments, the political masses in Germany increasingly lacked identification with their political system of parliamentary democracy. This was exacerbated by a wide-spread right-wing (monarchist, völkisch, and Nazi) Dolchstoßlegende, a political myth which claimed that Germany lost World War I because of the German Revolution, not because of military defeat. On the other hand, radical left-wing communists, such as the Spartacist League, had wanted to abolish what they perceived as “capitalist rule” in favour of a Räterepublik. Paramilitary troops were set up by several parties and there were thousands of politically motivated murders. The paramilitary intimidated voters and seeded violence and anger among the public, which suffered from high unemployment and poverty. After a series of unsuccessful cabinets, President Paul von Hindenburg, seeing little alternative and pushed by right-wing advisors, appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933.

Third Reich (1933-1945)

On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag was set on fire. Some basic democratic rights were quickly abrogated afterwards under an emergency decree. An Enabling Act gave Hitler’s government full legislative power. Only the Social Democratic Party of Germany voted against it; the Communists were not able to present opposition, as their deputies had already been murdered or imprisoned.[12][13] A centralised totalitarian state was established by a series of moves and decrees making Germany a single-party state. Industry was closely regulated with quotas and requirements, to shift the economy towards a war production base. In 1936 German troops entered the demilitarized Rhineland, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policies proved inadequate. Emboldened, Hitler followed from 1938 onwards a policy of expansionism to establish Greater Germany. To avoid a two-front war, Hitler concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the Soviet Union, a pact which was later broken by Germany.

In 1939, the growing tensions from nationalism, militarism, and territorial issues led to the Germans launching a blitzkrieg on September 1 against Poland, followed two days later by declarations of war by Britain and France, marking the beginning of World War II. Germany quickly gained direct or indirect control of the majority of Europe.

On 22 June 1941, Hitler broke the pact with the Soviet Union by opening the Eastern Front and invading the Soviet Union. Shortly after Japan attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States. Although initially the German army rapidly advanced into the Soviet Union, the Battle of Stalingrad marked a major turning point in the war. Subsequently, the German army commenced retreating on the Eastern Front. D-Day marked a major turning point on the Western front, as Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy and made rapid advances into German territory. Germany’s defeat soon followed. On 8 May 1945, the German armed forces surrendered after the Red Army occupied Berlin.

In what later became known as The Holocaust, the Third Reich regime enacted governmental policies directly subjugating many parts of society: Jews, Communists, Roma, homosexuals, freemasons, political dissidents, priests, preachers, religious opponents, and the disabled, amongst others. During the Nazi era, about eleven million people were murdered in the Holocaust, including six million Jews and three million Poles. World War II and the Nazi genocide were responsible for about 35 million dead in Europe.

Division and reunification (1945–1990)

The war resulted in the death of nearly ten million German soldiers and civilians; large territorial losses; the expulsion of about 15 million Germans from its former eastern territories and other countries; and the destruction of multiple major cities. The national territory and Berlin were partitioned by the Allies into four military occupation zones. The sectors controlled by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States were merged on 23 May 1949, to form the Federal Republic of Germany; on 7 October 1949, the Soviet Zone established the German Democratic Republic. They were informally known as “West Germany” and “East Germany” and the two parts of Berlin as “West Berlin” and “East Berlin”. The eastern and western countries opted for East Berlin and Bonn as their respective capitals. However, West Germany declared the status of its capital Bonn as provisional[14], in order to emphasize its stance that the two-state solution was an artificial status quo that was to be overcome one day.

West Germany established as a liberal parliamentary republic with a “social market economy”, was allied with the United States, the UK and France. The country eventually came to enjoy prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950s (Wirtschaftswunder). West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1958. Across the border, East Germany was at first occupied by, and later (May 1955) allied with, the USSR. An authoritarian country with a Soviet-style command economy, but many of its citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity.[15] The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to stop East Germans from escaping to West Germany, became a symbol of the Cold War. However, tensions between East and West Germany were somewhat reduced in the early 1970s by Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, which included the de facto acceptance of Germany’s territorial losses in World War II.

In the face of a growing migration of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary and mass demonstrations during the summer of 1989, East German authorities unexpectedly eased the border restrictions in November, allowing East German citizens to travel to the West. Originally intended as a pressure valve to retain East Germany as a state, the opening of the border actually led to an acceleration of the reform process in East Germany, which finally concluded with the Two Plus Four Treaty a year later on 12 September 1990 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. Under the terms of the treaty, the four occupying powers renounced their rights under the Instrument of Surrender, and Germany regained full sovereignty. Based on the Bonn-Berlin-Act, adopted by the parliament on 10 March 2004, the capital of the unified state was chosen to be Berlin, while Bonn obtained the unique status of a Bundesstadt (federal city) retaining some federal ministries[16]. The move of the government was completed in 1999.

Since reunification, Germany has taken a leading role in the European Union and NATO. Germany sent a peacekeeping force to secure stability in the Balkans and sent a force of German troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban.[17] These deployments were controversial, since after the war, Germany was bound by law to only deploy troops for defence roles. Deployments to foreign territories were understood not to be covered by the defence provision; however, the parliamentary vote on the issue effectively legalised the participation in a peacekeeping context.

Geography Location: Central Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, between the Netherlands and Poland, south of Denmark
Geographic coordinates: 51 00 N, 9 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 357,021 sq km
land: 349,223 sq km
water: 7,798 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Montana
Land boundaries: total: 3,621 km
border countries: Austria 784 km, Belgium 167 km, Czech Republic 646 km, Denmark 68 km, France 451 km, Luxembourg 138 km, Netherlands 577 km, Poland 456 km, Switzerland 334 km
Coastline: 2,389 km
People Population: 82,400,996 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.9% (male 5,894,724/female 5,590,373)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 27,811,357/female 26,790,222)
65 years and over: 19.8% (male 6,771,972/female 9,542,348) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 43 years
male: 41.8 years
female: 44.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.033% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 8.2 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 10.71 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.054 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.966 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.08 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.51 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.62 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.95 years
male: 75.96 years
female: 82.11 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.4 children born/woman

Coward Trump Waits Till He Gets Back To D.C. To Torch Our Allies And NATO

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

Trump torches allies, threatens NATO pullout after tense WWI memorial trip to Paris

trump macron
French President Emmanuel Macron openly rebuked US President Donald Trump’s political philosophy in Paris over the weekend.
 Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via AP
  • President Donald Trump, upon returning home from a World War I memorial event in Paris, unloaded on the US’s European allies and appeared to threaten to pull out of NATO.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron was critical of Trump’s leadership and politics during the Paris trip and floated the idea of forming a European army that would in part defend the continent from the US.
  • Trump called the idea “very insulting” and returned to his old talking points challenging NATO.
  • Trump said he told US allies in Paris that US protectorship of European countries amid trade deficits could not continue.

President Donald Trump on Monday unloaded on the US’s European allies, and appeared to threaten to pull out of NATO, upon returning home from a World War I memorial event in Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron openly rebuked Trump’s political philosophy in a speech on Sunday.

Trump returned to his old talking points— that the US is treated unfairly within NATO while maintaining trade deficits with those countries — as Macron talked up the idea of a European army that would in part serve to protect the continent from the US.

Macron floated the idea before Trump’s trip, and Trump described it as “very insulting.”

“Just returned from France where much was accomplished in my meetings with World Leaders,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.

“Never easy bringing up the fact that the U.S. must be treated fairly, which it hasn’t, on both Military and Trade,” he continued. “We pay for LARGE portions of other countries military protection, hundreds of billions of dollars, for the great privilege of losing hundreds of billions of dollars with these same countries on trade.”

Trump typically condemns any kind of trade deficit with any country, though the metric usually indicates the US has a strong economy that can afford to buy more from a given country than that country can buy from the US.

Read moreHere’s how NATO’s budget actually works

“I told them that this situation cannot continue,” Trump said of the military and trade relationships with some of the US’s closest allies. He described the situation as “ridiculously unfair.”

The US by far spends the most in NATO, both on its own defense budget and on programs to increase the readiness and capabilities of its European allies.

In 2014, NATO countries agreed to raise their defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product by 2024. So far, only five countries — mainly in eastern and central Europe where the threat of Russia looms large — have met that pledge.

Since his campaign days, Trump has demanded NATO countries meet that 2% figure, or even double it, immediately.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has expressed little interest in hitting that benchmark.

The metric of percentage of GDP spent on the military can also be deceptive. Defense spending has broad and differing definitions around the globe.

Greece is one of the few NATO countries that meet the 2% spending mark, but it spends much of that on pensions.

NATO’s newest member, Montenegro, could spend 2% of its GDP on defense, which would be only $95 million, just over the cost of one US Air Force F-35.

NATO pullout?

Donald Trump speaks in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday.
Trump gave a speech to NATO members in Poland in July 2017 standing in front of a statue made of metal from the World Trade Center.
 Evan Vucci/AP

Trump on Monday also lamented the money the US has spent protecting other countries, saying the US gained nothing from the alliances other than “Deficits and Losses.”

“It is time that these very rich countries either pay the United States for its great military protection, or protect themselves…and Trade must be made FREE and FAIR!” Trump concluded, appearing to wave the idea of a US pullout from NATO.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the alliance’s key clause that guarantees a collective response to an attack on a member state, has been invoked only once in NATO’s history: after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US.

The result was a collective response from NATO countries that still have forces fighting and dying alongside US forces in Afghanistan today.

More: Donald Trump Emmanuel Macron NATO Military

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