Friday, January 13, 2006

The Soviet-Afghan War - How a Superpower Fought and Lost

The Soviet-Afghan War - How a Superpower Fought and Lost. The Russian General Staff's study of the war, translated and edited by Lester W. Grau and Michael A. Gress, is partially presented. Includes online text of introduction, editor preface and foreward.

The text is available in both html and pdf form. If you want to read the whole book you are going to have to buy it or borrow it from a library. However, the online content is interesting and enjoyed browsing it.

From the site:

The War in Afghanistan (1979-1989) has been called "the Soviet Union's Vietnam War," a conflict that pitted Soviet regulars against a relentless, elusive, and ultimately unbeatable Afghan guerrilla force (the mujahideen). The hit-and-run bloodletting across the war's decade tallied more than 25,000 dead Soviet soldiers plus a great many more casualties and further demoralized a USSR on the verge of disintegration.

In The Soviet-Afghan War the Russian general staff takes a close critical look at the Soviet military's disappointing performance in that war in an effort to better understand what happened and why and what lessons should be taken from it. Lester Grau and Michael Gress's expert English translation of the general staff's study offers the very first publication in any language of this important and illuminating work.

Surprisingly, this was a study the general staff never intended to write, initially viewing the war in Afghanistan as a dismal aberration in Russian military history. The history of the 1990s has, of course, completely demolished that belief, as evidenced by the Russian Army's subsequent engagements with guerrilla forces in Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, and elsewhere. As a result, Russian officers decided to take a much closer look at the Red Army's experiences in the Afghan War.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

NPR : Unearthing a Viking Graveyard

NPR : Unearthing a Viking Graveyard. A small graveyard in northern England reveals the remains of six people whose jewelry and clothing identify them as Vikings. The find could shake up some assumptions about the Vikings' role in early Britain.

Hear NPR's Scott Simon and British archaeologist Faye Simpson on this 2:56 long streaming audio broadcast. The program originally aired on September 11, 2004.

I have found that the urls at NPR do not always resolve properly. If you get a 404 page, simply hit refresh and the connection to the audio should appear.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

History of Portugal

History of Portugal. This is a short essay covering the history of the European nation of Portugal.

Wikipedia notes, "The Portuguese Republic (Portuguese: República Portuguesa) is located on the west and southwest parts of the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, and is the westernmost country in continental Europe. Portugal is bordered by Spain to the north and east and by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. In addition, Portugal includes two archipelagos in the Atlantic, Azores (Açores) and Madeira Islands."

From the site:

Throughout the centuries which witnessed the conquest of Lusitania and destruction of Carthaginian power by Rome, the establishment and decline of Latin civilization, the invasion by Alani, Suevi and other barbarian races, the resettlement under Visigothic rule and the overthrow of the Visigoths by Arab and Berber tribes from Africa, today's Portugal remained an undifferentiated part of Hispania, without sign of national consciousness.

The Iberian Peninsula was one and its common history is related under Spain. Its divisions didn't match the modern ones. It is true that some Portuguese writers have sought to identify their race with the ancient Lusitani, and have claimed for it a separate and continuous existence dating from the 2nd century B.C. The revolt of Lusitania against the Romans has been regarded as an early manifestation of Portuguese love of liberty, Viriathus as a national hero. But this theory, which originated in the 15th century and was perpetuated in the title of the Lusiadas epic, has no historical foundation, and Viriathus has also been considered a national hero in Spain.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Cliopatria Awards - 2005 Winners

The Cliopatria Awards - 2005 Winners. Thanks to the Cliopatria Group Blog, the history blogsphere now has annual awards.

Here are the winners for 2005:

Best Individual Blog: Mark Grimsley's Blog Them Out of the Stone Age.

Best Group Blog: K. M. Lawson, Jonathan Dresner, and others, at Frog in a Well.

Best New Blog: "PK"'s BibliOdyssey.

Best Post: Rob MacDougall's "Turk 182" at Old is the New New (9 January 2005).

Best Series of Posts: Nathanael Robinson's "The Geographical Turn," at Rhine River.

Best Writing: Timothy Burke of Easily Distracted and Cliopatria.

Congratulations to all the winners.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Macrinus (217-218 A.D.)

Macrinus (217-218 A.D.) Provides a biography of the life and reign of this Third Century Roman Emperor. Macrinus was a highly unsuccessful ruler. Many thought he may have been involved in the murder of his predecessor, Caracalla.

He had many failings but it was the issue of paying his soldiers which may have brought him down. The article notes, "But grumblings in Rome were insignificant compared to the growing unease among the soldiers on campaign in the East. The defeat at Nisibis disheartened troops. Macrinus also introduced an unpopular, two-tier pay system in which new recruits received less money than veterans. The move was a way to save money after the pay raise granted by Caracalla, but it lowered morale as well. "

Cutting the pay of the men with swords who support you is a bad idea!

From the site:

Marcus Opellius Macrinus was the first emperor who was neither a senator nor of a senatorial family at the time of his accession. His 14-month reign was spent entirely in the East, where he proved unable to maintain the influence gained in the region by the campaigns of his predecessor, Caracalla, nor was Macrinus able to shake the suspicion that he was responsible for Caracalla's murder.

Macrinus was born in Caesarea in Mauretania around the year 165. While it is highly conjectural that, as a young man, the future emperor was the dedicatee of Ampelius' encyclopedic Liber memoralis, Macrinus undoubtedly received a literary education that enabled him to rise high as a bureaucrat in the imperial service during the reign of the emperor Severus. Caracalla made Macrinus a praetorian prefect, an equestrian post that was second to the emperor in power. Macrinus shared the position with the experienced soldier Adventus, and the pair served Caracalla during the emperor's campaigns in the East.

By the end of the second campaigning season in the winter of 216-17, rumors were flying both in Rome and in the East that Macrinus was promoting himself as a possible future emperor. Caracalla must have been aware of the rumors concerning Macrinus, for the contemporary historian Cassius Dio notes the emperor was already reassigning members of Macrinus' staff. Such personnel moves may have accelerated Macrinus' plot.