Lesson #248: Do NOT F*** With the Finns

Remember how I mentioned that the Finns made use of the practice of decimation? Yeah, that’s just the start of it.

In the winter of 1939-40, the Soviets decided to have a go at Finland, despite being a. inexperienced at the highest level since 30,000 of their high-ranking officials had been shot or exiled and b. in the midst of an invasion of Poland. But it’s Finland, right? Throw a million troops and a few thousand tanks at them and they’ll lie down. Except they didn’t.

The Soviets had: upwards of a million men, 6000+ tanks and nearly 4,000 aircraft.

The Finns had: a little under 350,000 men, 32 tanks and 113 aircraft.

Soviet casualties: 130,000 (ish) dead or missing, 190,000 (ish) wounded, 5,500 (ish) captured, about 2,000 lost tanks and 1000 lost planes — though only about half in combat.

Finnish casualties: about 26,000 dead or missing, about 43,500 wounded, 1000 captured, 25 (ish) lost tanks and 62 lost aircraft.

Peace was declared in March of 1940 by virtue of the Moscow Peace Treaty in which Finland, bafflingly, conceded 11% of its pre-war territory and 30% of its economic assets to the Soviet Union. The peace lasted only until June of the following year when the Continuation War broke out.*

The moral of the story? Do not mess with the Finns; they will f*** you up

*For more information, see here and here.

Lesson #155: Russian Royalty

Sometimes my lessons come out of conversations I have with friends. Today’s lesson comes out of the fact that a sportswriter friend of mine in the Texas capital watched The Queen today and started the conversation — as conversations between us are wont to do — practically in the middle of it. “The fact about Charles at the bottom blows my mind.”

He sent me the wiki link to the list of monarchs by age. Elizabeth is the oldest monarch in British history. Well, in modern British history, but the likelihood that she was outlived by some medieval king is pretty low.

Anyway, this got us on to the length of time for which a monarch has ruled.*And the next thing I know, we’re reading about who is in line for the throne. King Olav V of Norway is 63rd in line. We decided it would be kind of awesome (though probably a conflict of interest) to be King of both Norway and the UK. The King of Sweden, King Carl XVI Gustav, is 195th in line. Queen Margarethe of Denmark is 224th.

Best of all was the discovery that Russia still has royalty. His comment, “I knew some of them had gotten out of that basement.”** The Russian royalty,  Her Imperial Highness The Grand Duchess of Russia and her son His Imperial and Royal Highness The Grand Duke of Russia (who is also, apparently the Prince of Prussia), are 112 and 113th in line to the throne. Apparently their claim to royalty is disputed (understandably, one feels), but for some reason it all strikes me as pretty awesome. But take that with a grain of salt…I have a weird fascination with Russia.

All told, Wiki lists 1500 people as heirs.

*Victoria wins that one for the next five years.

**That comment pretty much sums up why we’re friends.

Lesson #45: The Russian Embassy

The other day, I was watching a wholly ridiculous show that airs on FOX in which stuff blows up and people die. Which is normally awesome. I’m a big fan of Burn Notice, which is also a wholly ridiculous show in which stuff blows up (a lot) and people die (often) because it’s awesome.* Also because I love Bruce Campbell. But this show? Less awesome.

I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.

So tonight, I’m talking to one of my best friends from the most recent state I called home and I could not get over how in this episode the characters were supposedly at a party at the Russian Embassy. Now, I have nothing against embassy parties. Or the Russians for that matter. I do have a problem with the fact that the building they were using looked absolutely NOTHING like the Russian Embassy in DC. The Russian Embassy in DC is a giant Soviet looking white block. It is *not* a neo-classical mansion.** This annoyed me what is probably a disproportionate amount, but really, FOX? It’s not like the building is hidden. And it’s not like there aren’t millions of people who actually know what it looks like. It’s not even poor research, it’s a complete lack of effort.***

Anyway, I swear I’m going somewhere with this.

So this conversation with my friend in the undisclosed state ended with me looking into how many Russian Embassies there are in the world.  Oh yes, you got all that backstory to find out a single number.

The number? 154.

I couldn’t find an actual list, so I had to go to the website for the Russian Embassies and count (and alphabetize) them myself. I hope you appreciate that. And, should you be wondering, here are the countries in which they are located:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovena, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, the Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, the Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, the Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe and representations in Gaza and the Vatican, which I guess count.

*Despite the fact that I would sooner believe that Bruce Campbell’s character and the male lead had a thing for each other than I do that the male and female leads have a thing for each other.

**Mostly, I know this because I have a picture of me standing in front of it from when an old college roommate of mine quite literally lived around the corner from it. And, up until I moved to a European capital and quite literally lived around the corner from the Russian Embassy myself, I thought that was about the coolest thing ever. In fact, I own a t-shirt that says “I heart the Russian Embassy.” Yes, I have an inexplicable affinity for the Russian Embassies. What of it?

***I hate poor research. It makes me crazy. It is why people think Wagner (or Mozart) wrote Carmina Burana. Yes, I’m still bitter about that, what of it?

Lesson #2: Lenin’s Embalmed Body

Three very quick notes on Lenin’s Tomb:

Originally built of wood*, had a house built around it during the Second World War**, had Stalin entombed there for eight years***.

The discussion about burying Lenin’s body: There has been a long standing debate between the pro- and anti-Soviet/Communist factions in Russia about what to do with Lenin. Politically, it’s fascinating. Yeltsin wanted to bury him. Putin thought that detrimental to Russia because burying Lenin would mean that the values of the Soviet Union were in some way flawed. In 2004, it was reported that the majority of Russians want Lenin out of Red Square.

The most interesting site I could find on the debate is actually from the Lenin’s Tomb website, which I’m guessing was last updated sometime before Putin officially took power in 2000.

And in May, the Belarussians offered up new digs in Minsk for Lenin.

One last fun fact: in October, a historian claimed that Lenin died of syphilis — likely contracted from a Parisian prostitute — and not a stroke.

*It was built as a temporary housing structure in the week after Lenin’s death.

**In order to hide it from the Germans. How the hell they were going to see a house in the middle of Red Square and be fooled is outside my realm of understanding.

***He was removed as part of the de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union during the Kruschev years.