Thursday, January 20, 2011

Defenders of Freedom Day - Laisvės gynėjų diena

OK, I didn't get to posting this last week because of other stuff going on in my life, but better late than never. January 13 of this year was the 20th anniversary of an important event in the emerging modern-day Republic of Lithuania.

Yes, Lithuania had declared itself independent of the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990, but of course Moscow didn't recognize that and indeed tried to impose an economic blockade on its wayward "Soviet Socialist Republic." Figuring that they who own the communications media control the message, the Soviets tried to take over the Vilnius TV tower, only to meet with mass opposition. The troops killed 13 unarmed civilians (sometimes given as 14; one more died of a heart attack), the news of the massacre got out to the world anyway, the Soviet troops had to retreat, and subsequently Lithuanians voted hugely for independence in a referendum on February 9.

Iceland's recognition of Lithuania's independence was already five days old at the time of the vote. On September 17, 1991, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the United Nations in their own right. The Soviet Union was crumbling.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Grunwald reenactment videos

Greetings to all! Happy New Year!

The following is a post I started way back in September 2010 and saved as a draft. I am finally getting around to finishing it.

Happily (i.e., through Facebook) I stumbled across a fabulous post at Medievalists.net: a set of videos showing this year's commemorations of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald. Woo-hoo! Of course, being there in person would have been the best thing of all, but I guess this is the next best thing.

The first video is a short one (less than two minutes) and seems to be a random montage of scenes from the commemoration ceremony. (In all these videos, the blonde woman with the white jacket and black pants is Dalia Grybauskaitė, the current president of Lithuania.

The second video comes from the Lithuanian news broadcast "Panorama," which is shown regularly on TheLithuanians.com. Granted, the only words I can understand from the audio track are "Labas vakaras" ("Good evening"), "Grunwald," and "Zalgiris." But the Panorama camera people got some good shots of jousters on horseback and, about halfway through, an interview with a female living-history reenactor whom I'm quite sure I've seen in still photos of Kernavė. You can also see President Grybauskaitė reviewing the medieval troops. The last couple of minutes of this video are devoted to some sort of concert related to Grunwald. I wish I knew more about the performers and the musical pieces.

The third video is a montage of scenes from the day's proceedings without any kind of voice-over commentary. You can see some of the speechifying and jousting and wreath-laying, and you can see President G. and her entourage enter the living-history encampment. She even takes a bit of meat off a two-tined fork and eats it.

The fourth video is of a concert, "Banderia 1410," held at Malbork on July 15 (that's what "15 Lipca" means). The garishly lit stage with its LED backdrop is definitely not medieval, but the music is stirring. At least some of the musicians (not all) are playing plausibly period instruments, including a portative organ.

The fifth and final video is a short news clip from a Polish website. As far as I can tell, the guy in the video is talking about a complex sculpture depicting the battle in 3D, but whether he's the sculptor or just an art critic, I can't tell.

Anyhow, I hope you all enjoy watching these scenes!