Thursday, July 15, 2010

SIX HUNDRED years ago today...

As I said to a co-worker this morning, "How cool is it that we know that something big happened exactly 600 years ago today?" (OK, I'm ignoring differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars here.)

I'm looking for online news of the commemorations. I hesitate to say "celebrations" today because, although the victory at Grunwald/Zalgiris was A Big Deal for Poland and Lithuania, an awful lot of human beings lost their lives that day. I grew up in a community of 20,000 people, so if you estimate the total toll of that battle at 12,000 to 13,000, then it's almost like two-thirds of my hometown vanishing in a single day. That's a lot of blood.

But back to the news....

PressEurop.eu calls Grunwald "the battle that changed Central Europe." Belarus Digest claims that most of the Lithuanian units at the battle were from lands that are now part of Belarus and that the Belarusian president was not invited to the official commemoration "for obvious reasons." (Jealous much?) Expatica.com takes a look at the reenactors.

For a more Lithuanian perspective on the anniversary, check out this article (in Lithuanian) and especially the miniature version of the battle created by a Vilnius museum. An English-language article appears here. (It's a bit difficult to search Google News for "Zalgiris" because the name is so big in basketball.)

Since the New York Times did such a detailed writeup of the 500th-anniversary commemoration of Grunwald, I was a bit miffed that the publication did not mention it on its "On This Day" page today. After all the things that happened in the last 90 years of the 20th century, one could argue that it's even more important today to remember Grunwald than it was in 1910.

Finally, thanks to Wikipedia (which *did* mention Grunwald on ITS "on this date" page), I finally found the official website for the 600th anniversary. It's offered in six languages -- including Belarusian. (Ha!) Some of the historical articles contain interesting ideas, which I must study in preparation for my Pennsic classes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Grunwald/Zalgiris anniversary nears...

Woo-hoo, it's almost that time! Here's a roundup of stuff I've found just through a quick search on Google News.

First off, Reuters has a short feature on an armorer, Tomasz Samula, who is racing to finish outfitting the knights in all their shiny accoutrements. The gentleman who will portray King Jagiello predicts that 6,000 people will be in the military camp and 2,200 will take part in the battle reenactment. (Another report, however, places the expected number of fighters at 1,500.) Reuters has also sent out a short historical blurb for those people whose first reaction is "Grun-what?"

Suite101.com reports that Lithuanian's pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo is the host of recreated Grunwald/Zalgiris battles today through July 20. The pavilion has had more than 1 million visitors so far this year.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Minsk don't want their youths to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Grunwald with a pillow fight, the way they celebrated the 599th. (Today's capital of Belarus was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the time of Zalgiris.)

Tomorrow, the president of Lithuania will join the president-elect of Poland in laying a wreath on the grave of the real Jagiello in Krakow.

Also, the modern-day director of Wawel Castle discusses how this year's anniversary compares to the 500th anniversary in 1910 and how Grunwald resonates through other aspects of Polish history. Another part of this interview -- less related directly to Grunwald, but still interesting -- is here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Halfway between anniversaries

We're more or less halfway between two anniversaries of big Polish battles. Now, if you've read this blog before, you already know about Grunwald (July 15, 1410), but today I learned about the Battle of Klushino, which took place on July 4, 1610. That part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's history is outside of the SCA time period, but only just, so reenactors could presumably use their winged hussar uniforms from the late 1500s.

(In case you're wondering, the Poles beat the Russians quite handily.)

I stumbled across this page chock full of photos of the recent Klushino reenactment. Looks as if everybody had a good time!

Meanwhile, back in the High Middle Ages, it looks as if the commemoration of Grunwald/Zalgiris is already beginning.

I wonder whether the Grunwald anniversary will get much notice on the western side of the pond. At least one of the blogs on the Wall Street Journal site has noticed. Who knew that the guy who heads Poland's largest bank in 2010 shares a name with the king who ruled Poland in 1410?

The bank spoke of a war during a press conference on the subordinate bonds. Instead of a clear declaration that the bonds would finance the Bank Zachodni WBK buy, at the meeting with a small group of business journalists Mr. Jagiello spoke of the upcoming 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, also known as the first Battle of Tannenberg — one of medieval Europe’s largest battles, in which the Teutonic Order was defeated by the Polish-Lithuanian monarch Wladyslaw Jagiello (incidentally, the PKO Bank Polski CEO shares the last name with the famous king).

Mr. Jagiello, the bank CEO that is, would make references to the battle, citing chronicles by medieval author Jan Dlugosz, each time he got questions about the planned acquisition.