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Europe & Armenian GolgothaRandall CalvinRandall Calvin

Posted 29/04/2015

By Randall Calvin

One hundred years ago this week, around 250 notable people in Constantinople - intellectuals, journalists, teachers, and politicians - were arrested and moved to holding centres.  All of those imprisoned were leaders of the Armenian community in Constantinople, present day Istanbul. They were rounded up on the order of the Interior Minister of the Ottoman Empire.

This event in 1915 marked the start of arrests, killings, mass deportation and ethnic cleansing of more than one million Armenians from Anatolia, now modern day Turkey.

The difficult issue of Armenia was again addressed last week, with Austria joining the European Parliament, France, and even Pope Francis among others, in recognising the deaths of nearly 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, as genocide.

However Turkey, as we know, denies the deaths, which occurred at the height of the first World War, constitute genocide. That has been the official narrative ever since the war, at least according to the Turkish Government. But what upsets this narrative is the numbers, a simple question of mathematics. Within the Ottoman census, just before the war, the number of Armenians within Armenian lands was estimated at over two million people. 

After the war there were only half a million left, and they were scattered to the four winds, so what then happened to 1.5 million in such a short space of time one asks? As I have said above Turkey disputes this was a deliberate genocide, and claims that the deaths occurred in the wider context of the brutality of the war. Perhaps it is just the linguistic connotations of the word genocide itself, that is to say, the word only really came into common usage after World War II for obvious reasons, and maybe the Turks simply do not want to be put in the same league as the Nazi atrocities.

But regardless of which word they like or dislike, today there is universal, impartial consensus from historians that it was a “genocide” the intentional killing of an entire people. 

The journalist Robert Fisk, who has been covering the region for over forty years, sounded a positive note recently on the subject, saying that many Turks and surviving Armenians were coming together to commemorate the event openly, and both used the “G” word openly. 

Fisk also confirms that in his opinion it was a genocide, and that a great many Turks are now willing to concede that fact, however on a national level the government will never recognise it. Perhaps it should be said that during that awful period beginning in 1915, countless thousands of Armenian women were raped and impregnated, they went on to bear those children, and thus today nearly a million modern day Turks have Armenian ancestry; so with that in mind perhaps it helps them to be honest about their history of that period, perhaps they want to learn more about their grandmothers.

Thus given the European Parliaments resolution, and the according stance of most EU Member States and beyond, Turkey is presented with a difficult diplomatic choice. It is not as though the aforementioned are going to recommend sanctions against the Turks, but it is somewhat of an elephant in the room, that just won’t go away. I think it is regretful in the debate, that what happened to the Armenians has come down to be defined by just one word, which is so emotive and politically toxic. Meaning that it allows Turkey to respond to such a horrible accusation, with a simple denial, no, it wasn’t genocide. Yes 1.5 million Amenians were imprisoned, deported, shot, hanged, raped, babies burned alive, but “Genocide” no.

One can only sympathize with the remaining Armenian diaspora, and think of all those family names that have disappeared forever.

Armenian Golgotha

To mark the centenary of these events, I recommend this book - Armenian Golgotha. It's a devastating eyewitness account written by Grigoris Balakian, an Armenian clergyman in the city in 1915.

The author, Grigoris Balakian, is pictured on the cover.

In the introduction, Grigoris Balakian wrote:

"I dedicate to you, dear people of Armenia, this bouquet of episodes from your martyrdom.

This bloody manuscript is your holy book. Read it without tiring, never doubt my story of the great crime, and never think what has been written has been in any way exaggerated.

I have written the bare minimum - because it’s not humanly possible to describe the horrific and ineffable martyrdom of your over one million dead sons and daughters.

If all the seas on the earth were to become ink, the fields paper, and the reeds pens, still it would be humanly impossible to describe your thorny and bloody ascent to the summit of the Armenian Golgotha."




Raquel JimenezRaquel JimenezDiscovered papers shed light on the death of Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca

Posted 23/04/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

It is the first time any kind of official documentation emerges on the poet killed one month after the Spanish civil war broke out. The newly discovered official papers revealed that Federico Garcia Lorca was killed for being socialist, a homosexual, and a freemason.

The document - originally from Granada’s police headquarters - refers to the one of the highest profile victims of the Spanish Civil War as a "freemason and socialist" as well as referring to his "homosexual practices."

It is the first time documents have come to light in which the Franco regime mentions the death of the poet, whose remains have never been found. The documents show that he was killed one month after the outbreak of Spain's civil war in the summer of 1936, and was executed after being arrested on the orders of the military authorities of Granada.

Lorca, who became famous for his poetry as well as his plays such as Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba, was murdered aged 38. It has been widely believed that he was executed by Spanish nationalists, but never once was it referred to during Franco’s subsequent 36 year dictatorship.

The document, seen by Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, referred to Lorca as engaging in the "aberration" of "homosexual practices."

It confirmed that Lorca was detained in the home of his friends, the Rosales brothers, and states that the property was surrounded by Republican Assault Guards at the time. 

The police report describes how the poet was hiding in the house until he was arrested "at the end of July or beginning or August" 1936.

Lorca was "driven by nationalist forces to Viznar, Granada, close to an area known as Fuente Grande and, along with another detainee, was executed immediately after confessing." 

The report also reveals that Lorca was "buried in a shallow grave in a ravine around two kilometres from Fuente Grande" in an area that would be "very difficult to locate."

Historians, such as Lorca biographer Ian Gibson, have been searching unsuccessfully for the writer's remains in recent years.

"The serious thing for the government is that this informative note underlines the fact that Lorca was arrested under the orders of the civil government, that it was not a backstreet murder by some hothead. It was an official act; he was in the civil government building's prison and taken from there to be executed," Mr Gibson told Cadena Ser.

In the last few years various searches have been undertaken to discover the exact burial site of the writer whose remains lie in an unmarked grave but all have proved fruitless.


By Raquel Jimenez for EU Spectator



Happy birthday Leonardo!Raquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez

Milan celebrates with Italy's biggest show on da Vinci since 1939

Posted 19/04/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Not since 1939 has Leonardo da Vinci been the subject of such an ambitious exhibition in Italy. That year, as Europe stood on the brink of war, the Italian public was treated to a large exhibition of his work during the Triennale di Milano, which included everything from his oil paintings to functioning designs he developed for machines.


Since then, a number of exhibitions have tackled parts of his work, but never all of it. “The reason is mainly because the works, painted on panels, are so fragile,” says Maria Teresa Fiorio, the co-curator of “Leonardo 1452-1519”, which opens at the Palazzo Reale this month, and which has been timed to coincide with the Milan Expo 2015 (9 May-31 October). “But it’s also to do with how difficult it is for anyone to come to terms with da Vinci’s intellectual and artistic output without falling prey to generalisations or ‘spectacle-exhibitions’ centred around a single work.”

The ambition of this survey will not be lost on viewers, who will see a full range of Leonardo’s work—paintings, drawings, sketches, manuscripts and codexes—contextualised with drawings, sculptures and manuscripts by artists such as his Florentine contemporaries and predecessors Sandro Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Paolo Uccello, Lorenzo di Credi and the brothers Antonio and Piero del Pollaiolo, as well as the architect Donato Bramante.


The essential works

Borrowing for a show such as this can be difficult, given how many museums will not part with Leonardo’s most famous paintings, either for conservation reasons, to avoid visitor disappointment, or both. While obtaining loans such as the Musée du Louvre’s Mona Lisa, 1503-06, or the Uffizi’s Annunciation, 1472-75, have proved out of the question, other important paintings will be on show in Milan, including St John the Baptist, 1513-16, from the Louvre; St Jerome in the Wilderness, around 1480, from the Vatican Museums; and Lorenzo di Credi’s Madonna and Child with a Pomegranate, 1475/80, from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Around 100 signed drawings by Leonardo will also be on show, including 30 on loan from the UK’s Royal Collection Trust.

Although the exhibition is geared towards a scholarly crowd, the co-curator Pietro Marani says that organisers have made it accessible to wider audiences by “highlighting the links between Leonardo and his contemporaries through the use of immediately effective comparisons.”


Seven interesting facts about Leonardo da Vinci

There are very few people who were as learned as Leonardo da Vinci was. Born on April 15, 1452, Leonardo was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer.

But there is more:

  • Leonardo was the illegitimate son of the wealthy Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine legal notary, and Caterina, a peasant.
  • As a child Leonardo da Vinci was an extremely quick learner and adept at improvisation. When studying arithmetic, he made remarkable progress and could baffle his teacher with the questions and problems that he raised.
  • According to account by Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari, after learning to play the lyre as a child, Leonardo da Vinci created one in 1479 in the shape of a horse. It was made "mostly of silver", and of "sonorous and resonant" tone. Da Vinci was sent to the Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza's court by Lorenzo de' Medici to present this lyre to the Duke as a gift where his performances so far surpassed those of Ludovico's court musicians. 
  • Leonardo da Vinci was a strict vegetarian due to his immense love of animals. He even questioned the morality of eating animals when it was not necessary for health. 
  • Another one of Giorgio Vasari's accounts described Leonardo da Vinci possessing incredible physical strength in his youth. He was physically so strong that he could withstand violence and with his right hand he could bend the ring of an iron door knocker or a horseshoe as if they were lead. 
  • Leonardo da Vinci's penchant for writing in reverse order or mirror image is mostly considered by many as his need to keep his works secret. It has been pointed out in some sources that due to his left-handeness Da Vinci could merely be using the method for practical purposes as it was easier for him to write that way.
  •  Guinness World Records lists Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa as having the highest insurance value for a painting in history. On permanent display at The Louvre museum in Paris, the Mona Lisa was assessed at EUR 92.5 million on December 14, 1962. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be more than EUR 720 million in 2015.

By Raquel Jimenez for EU Spectator


And the trendiest colour in the art world (right now) is...

Posted 14/04/2015

Blue is the new orange, according to a PhD candidate in psychology and neurobiology at the Karolinska Instituet in Sweden.

Martin Bellander, who analyses data for his blog, was inspired by a number of posts he read in which the colours used in movie posters and trailers over time were analysed.

He decided to conduct a similar study, this time on a medium that dates back much farther that film – painting.

Bellander downloaded over 120,000 images from a BBC database before extracting the relevant information and plotting it all out on a graph. The paintings dated from the year 1250 right up until 2010, with most of the paintings coming from after 1800.

The results identified that the frequency of almost every colour increased in the 20th century other than orange.

Have a look at the results below:

Bellander summarized a number of possible explanations for this trend based on feedback:

  • Blue is a ‘new colour’, as reported in Business Insider earlier this year.
  • An increase in the usage darker colours, which may have been identified by the cameras that documented these paintings as blue.
  • The aging of resins has caused the colours of paintings to change over time.
  • An increase in supply and decrease in price of the colour blue has encouraged an increase in it’s usage.

What are your thoughts on an increase in the use of blue in the art world - have you noticed a trend?



Road to the Republic 1916 - 2016Randall CalvinRandall Calvin

Posted 06/04/2015

By Randall Calvin

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the centre of Dublin today where O'Connell Street - formally known as Sackville Street (named after Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset) in the late 1700s until 1924, when it was renamed in honour of Daniel O'Connell, a nationalist leader of the early 19th century, whose statue stands at the lower end of the street, facing O'Connell Bridge. Dublin's main thoroughfare was pedestrianised for RTÉ's 'Road to the Rising' Commemoration.

The 'Road to the Rising' - which is being organised in partnership with An Post, Dublin City Council and the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Gaelic language area) reflected the lives of all Dubliners - rich and poor - and the small determined group that was plotting rebellion in 1916.

Events ran between 11am and 5pm. All activities were free but some required tickets.

The pivotal if somewhat controversial Rising was marked in a military ceremony the day before ahead of centenary commemorations next year.
The ceremony marked 99 years since Padraic Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Republic on the steps of the General Post Office, at the start of what would become known as the Easter Rising.

He and thirteen others were arrested and later executed for their part in the week-long action in Dublin, which left much of the city centre utterly destroyed.

Dublin, 1916, after the RisingDublin, 1916, after the Rising

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, and Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke all attended the event.

Speaking at the ceremony, members of the 1916 Relatives Association said they believed more members of the public had attended the event than in previous years, and that generally there seemed to be more interest in the occasion. The newly established organisation, called the 1916 Relatives Group, represent relatives of the rank and file volunteers who took part in the rebellion.

They say that it has been suggested that only relatives of the executed leaders will be invited to the ceremonies. The group says a total of 2,500 medals were awarded to those who took part in the Rising and say their relatives should not be ignored.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said the commemorative arrangements are still under development and said they will acknowledge the service of those who took part in them events of 1916 with special consideration to include their descendants and relatives.

The Department has also called for more relatives to come forward.

Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Joan Burton described the event as "incredibly moving" and said the ceremony allows for everyone to pause and reflect on the 1916 Rising.

She said a date for the next general election had not been discussed and that the Government's focus was on a broad, inclusive celebration that looked forward to what Ireland does in the next 100 years. Being Irish of course, there has been huge debate about how the centenary should be remembered next year. Academics, historians, poets and politicians have all contributed to the lively debate.

As a reference point, all are agreed that the event will greatly contrast with the last major commemoration in 1966, which was almost exclusively a military parade, reflecting a very singular if myopic view of what had happened fifty years before. Today with the situation in Northern Ireland thankfully largely resolved, and with Anglo-Irish relations at their best in over a century, the political landscape has radically improved for the better. There is now an open acknowledgement and due respect for the thousands of Irish soldiers who fought and died in the British Army in the first World War from north and south of the current border.

Thus the current government want to reflect that reality with a much more inclusive celebration in 2016, although an idea to invite a member of the British royal family has now been shelved, as it was thought that security considerations would distract from the central event. I think that is a pity, but it is not my decision to make. Whatever programme the government finally come up with, I think the central theme and focus should not be the celebration of violence. The leaders of the Rising had absolutely no mandate from the people to do what they did that Easter morning, but the proclamation was ahead of its time, including its inclusion of the role of women before they even had the vote. I would offer that the current government, and all before them since independence, have still not fulfilled the promise and Republican values of those who wrote, and died for, an Irish Republic.