In August 1940, the Axis Powers of Nazi Germany and Italy signed an agreement known as the Vienna Award that arbitrated some territorial disputes between two neighbors in Eastern Europe. In particular, this agreement awarded a portion of Northern Transylvania to control of the Kingdom of Hungary. The land had been help by Romania and had long been a source of contention between Romanians and Hungarians. Shortly after control of the land was handed over to Hungary, the Hungarian Army entered the town of Ip in the Salaj region of Transylvania on September 14, 1940 in response to the death of a Hungarian solider a few days previously. The soldier had died in an accident that involved a grenade exploding unintentionally. The Romanian villagers, however, were blamed. The Hungarian troops hunted down the residents and massacred some 158 ethnic Romanians that day. While atrocities such as this during World War II are over overlooked due to the massive Holocaust, the victims of such crimes also need to be remembered.
On September 7, 1978, an anti-Communist activist Georgi Markov was walking across the Waterloo Bridge in London to wait for a bus to work at the BBC. Markov was in exile from his native Bulgaria and had been agitating for an end to Communism since he was first banished in 1969. As he was waiting for the bus, he felt a sharp pain in his leg but since it was crowded didn’t think too much of it. Shortly later, however, he fell mortally ill. The pain proved to be from a small pellet made of ricin that had been injected into his thigh by specially designed umbrella. Three days later, Markov was dead.
In 2005, a Bulgarian journalist, Hristo Hristov, was looking into this case and found in the state archives in Sofia that only one agent was active in London at the time of Markov’s assassination. Hristov named an Italian-Dane, Francesco Gullino, who had been recruited by the Bulgarian Communist regime and had gained renown as one of the most prolific Soviet-era assassins. Gullino’s location today is unknown.
Featured Image: “Georgi Markov.” By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use.
Source: Walsh, Nick Paton. “Markov’s umbrella assassin revealed.” The Guardian. 5 June 2005.
This week, in the town of Nitra, Slovakia, the annual World Esperanto Congress is being held. About 1,400 people from 60 countries are expected to descend upon this city of 80,000 in the western part of the country. The representatives are coming together to bring attention to Esperanto and to mark the anniversary of the publication of the movement’s seminal work, Unua Libro. This “First Book” was published on July 26, 1887 in Warsaw, Poland by L.L. Zamenhof who is considered the founder of Esperanto.
So, I’ve thrown around this term “Esperanto” several times, but what is it? Esperanto is the name of the world’s largest constructed language, that is a language designed for a specific purpose. Think Klingon in Star Trek or Elfish in the Lord of the Rings. But Esperanto was not meant for sci-fi or fantasy use. It was meant for the real world. Zamenhof hoped to create a universal language that would bridge the eternal “lost in translation” problem. While Esperanto has failed to allow us to overcome the cultural differences that different languages bring, it hangs on until today as a symbol of hope and human universality.
If you are interested, everything I have read on Esperanto claims that it is quite easy to learn – and no, I have not tried!
“Flag of Esperanto.” By Gabriel Ehrnst GRUNDIN – Own work, Public Domain.
Image 1. “Nitra, Slovakia.” CC BY-SA 3.0.
Sieg, Stina. “Esperanto Is Not Dead: Can The Universal Language Make a Comeback?” NPR. 13 June 2015.
“World Esperanto Congress Nitra expects 1,400 visitors from 60 countries.” The Slovak Spectator. 21 July 2016.
On July 24, 2001, Simeon Borisov Saxe-Coburgotski II was sworn in as Prime Minister of Bulgaria. With a name like that, you’d have expected him to be sitting on a European throne, not being a democratically elected Head of Government. In fact, that is exactly what he was. Simeon was born in 1937 to Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria. In 1943, the king died under mysterious circumstances (rumor has it Hitler had him poisoned) and the six year old Simeon came to the throne of Bulgaria as Tsar Simeon II. Two years later, the Bulgarian monarchy was abolished following a Communist coup in the country and Simeon went into exile. In 2001, Simeon had grown into a powerful political figure in a now-democratic Bulgaria and was elected Prime Minister, becoming the only European monarch to hold such an office. He remained Prime Minister until he was ousted via election in 2005.
The only other case in history of a monarch also being a Prime Minister is the strange case of
King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia. King Norodom was monarch from 1941 – 1955 when he abdicated the throne in favor of his father and was elected Prime Minister. Norodom was then Prime Minister until 1970 when he was ousted by the Khmer Rouge. He then returned to Cambodia in 1993 to become king again. What a strange series of events!