The Shifting Borders of Eastern Europe

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 18th, 2014

History 101

By 1300 the Mongol Golden Horde took all of Kievan Rus

Vladimir Putin took Crimea from Ukraine.  Because he said the people there are more Russian than Ukrainian.  The people there wanted to be a part of Russia instead of Ukraine.  And that the land historically has belonged to Russia.  But that’s not true.  Yes, if you go back in time the land was Russian.  But if you go further back it wasn’t.  In fact the borders of Eastern Europe have changed so much that today’s borders bear little resemblance to what they have been over time.  You can watch 1,000 years of this change play out in a video on Loiter.co (see Watch as 1000 years of European borders change).  We’ll recap some of the changes in century intervals.

In the early 1100s the Western Roman Empire was gone.  In its place was the Holy Roman Empire stretching from central Italy to the North Sea.  Spain was mostly Muslim.  France was taking shape.  The Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) was still in modern day Turkey, Greece and the Balkans.  Going north there was Hungary.  Then Poland.  And Lithuania.  To the east of these countries was the large expanse of Kievan Rus.  Modern day Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.  And the Crimea was held by the Turkic Cumans.  But this land would change hands many times in the centuries to come.

By 1200 the Byzantine Empire moved further north into the Balkans.  While the Muslims moved into Byzantine territory from the south.  Hungary, Poland and Lithuania adjusted their borders slightly.  The Holy Roman Empire pushed further west in Europe.  The Cumans pushed into southern Kievan Rus.  While Kievan Rus moved south between the Black and Caspian seas.  By 1300 the Mongol Golden Horde (northwest part of the Mongol Empire) took all of Kievan Rus.  Hungary pushed out her borders while Poland shrank hers.  With East Prussia taking her northern lands.  Lithuania reshaped her borders in part to East Prussia.  The Byzantine Empire was reduced to a small area of the southern Balkans.  The Mongols were in Crimea.

Russia, Prussia and Hungary reduced Poland to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw by 1800

By 1400 the Ottoman Empire had replaced the Byzantines in the Balkans.  Hungary adjusted her borders a little.  East Prussia remained the same.  Poland and Lithuania had joined in a commonwealth and pushed their border south and east.  Into the lands that were once Kievan Rus.  Except for Crimea and the area just north of Crimea.  Pushing the Mongols east.  As the Republic of Novgorod and Muscovy pushed down on the Mongols from the north.  By 1500 the Ottoman Empire pushed further into southern Europe.  Into Hungary.  Crimea.  And Poland-Lithuania.  Which pushed north into East Prussia.  While Russia replaced the Republic of Novgorod and Muscovy and pushed south into Poland-Lithuania.

By 1600 the Ottoman Empire adjusted her northern borders a little.  Poland replaced the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth.  And pushed her border slightly east into Russia.  Russia pushed her southern border to the Caspian Sea.  Sweden was across the Baltic Sea into modern day Finland and Estonia.  On Russia’s most western border.  By 1700 Hungary had pushed the Ottoman Empire back into the Balkans.  Prussia formed on the Baltic Sea west of Poland.  With East Prussia to the east of Poland on the Baltic Sea.  The Russian Empire pushed west to the Baltic Sea.  Pushing the Swedes out of Estonia and part of Finland.  Russia had also pushed south through Lithuania and pushed deep into Poland.  The Ottoman Empire was still on the northern side of the Black Sea at Russia’s southern border.

By 1800 the Russian Empire had pushed their southern border all the way to the Black Sea.  Pushing the Ottoman Empire back.  The Russians also pushed their southern border further south between the Black and Caspian seas.  They pushed west through modern day Finland to the sea.  They pushed their western border through half of what was Poland.  Hungary pushed north into what was Poland.  Prussia and East Prussia joined together, taking land from Poland on the Baltic Sea.  Russia, Prussia and Hungary left little of Poland.   What was left of her lands became the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.

Vladimir Putin has said one of the Greatest Catastrophes of the 20th Century was the Collapse of the Soviet Union

By 1900 the Ottoman Empire was pushed almost completely out of the Balkans.  Greece and Bulgaria were now on the lands the Ottomans once held.  Russia pushed their southern border between the Black and Caspian seas further into the Ottoman Empire.  Hungary pushed her southern border to Greece and Bulgaria.  And west into Austria (which would later form the Austria-Hungary Empire).  The Germanic states had formed into a greater Germany that stretched from France to Russia.  Absorbing the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.  And even pushing into Russia’s western border.

Then came World War I.  And afterwards the borders of Europe were greatly changed.  The Austria-Hungary Empire was broken into Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  The eastern half (approximately) of the greater Germany was given to a reconstituted Poland.  With East Prussia bordering Poland on the north and separated from Germany (Hitler’s opening shots in World War II was to recover this lost territory).   To the north of Poland and East Prussia were Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.  Russia was now the Soviet Union with her western border pushed slightly back from where it was before World War I.  Bordering Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania in the west.  And pushed back out of Finland.  The Soviet southern border between the Black and Caspian seas was pushed back a little.  And Turkey replaced what was left of the Ottoman Empire.

After World War II the Soviet Union pushed her border through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the Baltic Sea.  After the Soviet Union fell Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia restored their borders.  And the former lands of the Kievan Rus are now divided between Russia in the north and east.  Belarus between Poland and Russia.  And Ukraine bordering Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova to the west.  The Black Sea to the south.  And Russia to the east.  With Crimea a part of Ukraine.  Well, until recently, that is.  As Russia has recently annexed Crimea.  And may be looking further west.  For this former KGB officer—Vladimir Putin—has said one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Which he began to put back together with his annexation of Crimea.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #64: “National security can be a messy business. Especially when your enemies don’t play by the same rules.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 4th, 2011

Adolescent Boys Lie to get what they Want

“But I do love you,” he said.

“Do you really?” she said.

“Oh, baby, I do.  I really, really love you,” he said.

“That’s good because I really, really love you,” she said.  “Do you have any condoms?”

“No,” he said.  “But what do condoms matter when we’re in love?  Especially when that love will be forever?”

“Oh, baby, I love you so much,” she said.  “My parents just don’t understand.  They’re just so out of it.  They don’t understand love.  True love.  Like what we have.” 

A month later she found herself pregnant.  Had gonorrhea.  And her best friend coincidentally had gonorrhea, too.  And her ‘forever’ love?  Gone.  Not ‘gone’ gone.  But gone as in not there with her.  There’ll be a trickle of child support.  But she will raise her baby with the help of her ‘out of it’ parents.  Proving what liars boys are when it comes to love.

The preceding was a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to anyone past or present is purely coincidental.  The moral of this story?  Boys lie to get what they want.  Often with a total lack of concern for the potential consequences. 

Hitler Lied to get what he Wanted

But it’s just not young men with raging hormones that lie.  Others lie for far more sinister reasons.  Adolf Hitler lied when he said that the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia was his last territorial claim.  And Neville Chamberlain believed him.  Said he and Adolf Hitler reached an agreement.  He had a piece of paper.  And Hitler’s word.  A solid piece of diplomacy.  Of course, anyone looking at a map could see East Prussia lying on the far side of the Danzig Corridor.  East Prussia was German territory.  But Germans traveling on land to and from there had to cross Polish territory.  And with German-Polish history being what it was, there was no way that this was going to end well for Poland.  Especially after Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  And signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union.  The Nazis had Poland surrounded.  But the Sudetenland was his last territorial claim.  Honest.

Yeah, well, he lied.  For it was in Poland that Heinz Guderian introduced the world to blitzkrieg.  The original shock and awe.  Airpower cleared the way for armor assaults which cleared the way for mechanized infantry.  It was fast.  Guderian’s columns advanced deep into Polish territory like a hot knife through butter.  All the while the Soviets protected the back door.  Who agreed to split up Poland with the Nazis.  So the Soviet Union was complicit in starting World War II.  Chamberlain was stunned.  As Stalin would be later when Hitler reneged on their agreement, too.  And unleashed blitzkrieg on the Soviet Union.  Proving what a big liar Adolf Hitler was.

The preceding was actual history.  Any resemblance to anyone past or present was purely intentional.  The moral of this story?  People lie to get what they want.  Often with a total lack of concern for the potential consequences. 

Communists Lie to Oppress their own People

The communists are a sneaky bunch.  The ultimate pragmatists.  The ends justify the means.  They’ll lie, steal and cheat to get whatever they want.  Even make a deal with Adolf Hitler.  Even though Nazis and Bolshevists were bitter enemies.  Not so much in a philosophical sense as they were in practice very similar.  But in a political sense.  Before Hitler secured his power there were Bolshevists vying for that power in Germany.  So Hitler checked the spread of the Bolshevist Revolution in Germany by blaming them for some of the crimes he committed.  Like the Reichstag Fire.  So there was little love between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  But Stalin couldn’t pass up all that Polish territory.  Or getting the Baltic States back.  Hitler knew how to sweet-talk Stalin.  Offered him exactly what he wanted.  Just like a boy with raging hormones will sweet-talk a girl to get what he wants.  Blinded for the moment by lust.  The boy blinded by his sexual lust.  Stalin blinded by his power lust.

Like the Nazis, the communists had a closed society.  There was no free press.  Instead, they used propaganda.  They lied to their people.  And their school children.  Rewrote history.  Soviet children grew up believing that the Western life was horrible.  Decadent.  And hungry.  The propaganda machine reported the great success of the latest 5-year plan while talking about abject poverty and famine in the West.  Also, that the West were war mongers.  Trying to spread their brutal imperialism against peaceful communist countries everywhere.  Of course, the Soviet people couldn’t see for themselves.  They couldn’t leave the USSR.  They couldn’t watch Western television.  Or read Western newspapers.  So they had little reason not to believe the lies.

But communism didn’t bring out the best in people.  In a society where everyone was ‘equal’, no one worked harder than the next guy.  So Soviet society lagged Western society.  And the only way they could advance Soviet society was through espionage.  They stole what they could from the West.  With a vast network of spies.  Working outside the Soviet Union.  Which presented a bit of a problem.  These spies saw the truth.  And that everything they learned in the Soviet school system, on Soviet television and in the Soviet newspapers were all lies.  The Soviets lost quite a lot of spies who defected to a better life in the West.  So the Soviets had to fix that problem.  By bribing the spies with a life of luxury far greater than the average Soviet ever could imagine.  Or holding family members hostage.

Cheaters Prosper unless others Cheat, Too

Putting all of this together and you can see how they complicate diplomacy.  And national security.  First of all, people lie.  As do governments.  To their own people.  And to other nations.  Which can make getting the truth a little more difficult.  Or telling the truth to your people.  In the Vietnam War, for example, the Soviets were supporting and supplying the North Vietnamese.  A lot of that war material made it to South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Which wound through Laos and Cambodia.  Countries we were not at war with.  They were ‘neutral’.  But our enemies violated their neutrality.  They brought war material through these neutral countries into South Vietnam where they used them to kill both civilian and military personnel in South Vietnam.  And Americans.  So what do you do?  Ignore this?  Let the enemy bring in war material unmolested via the Ho Chi Minh trail?  Or do you try to stop it?

Well, the Soviets used the West’s adherence to international law against them.  The Soviets, on the other hand, violated this law and lied that they were not.  But the Americans just couldn’t do this.  At least, they couldn’t do it officially.  To protect American security interests (our South Vietnamese allies and our troops in South Vietnam), America had to cheat, then.  A little.  We call them black operations (i.e., black ops).  Unofficial missions.  Missions that ‘never happened’.  Where Special Forces, CIA forces or even small units of the regular military (sometimes unknown to them) violate neutral territory to combat our enemies who were themselves violating these neutral territories.  Of course, when these missions became public, the media had a field day.  Protests erupted on college campuses.  Providing great aid and comfort to America’s enemies.  And ultimately to the abandonment of South Vietnam.  And if you’re wondering how all that turned out just look at a map today.  Where there is no South Vietnam.

American football is an exciting game to watch.  Primarily because each team plays by the same rules.  If one team could cheat no one would watch.   Because everyone would know that the cheater would win.  So they enforce the rules.  But you can’t do that in international diplomacy.  Because the international referee (i.e., the UN) is impotent.  They can’t stop cheaters.  So cheaters prosper.  Unless others cheat, too.  As in the world of black ops.  Where only cheating can keep the game fair.

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LESSONS LEARNED #31: “Islam and guns are a lot alike. And yet when something bad happens, we try to ban one and forgive the other.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2010

PEACE IN OUR TIME

What do you know about the Goths?  The Visigoths?  The Ostrogoths?  The Vandals?  The Franks.  Do you even know who these people are?  The Romans did.  And they were a pain in their ass.

The Great Migration of Huns from Asia into Europe displaced these European Germanic tribes.  Which brought them into contact with the Roman Empire.  The Romans then brought some into the empire.  First into the legions that were protecting the frontier against these displaced Germanic tribes.  Then some Germans commanded these legions.  Then the Romans built entire legions from these Germanic people.  Germans faced Germans on the frontier.  Loyalties tugged between empire and blood.  When the empire began to crumble, blood often won out.  And when the Western Roman Empire fell, these Germanic tribes stepped into the void.  Picked up the Roman banner and became the Holy Roman Empire.  Some of the Germanic tribes founded nations.  Spain, France and England.  But not Germany.  Not yet.

 It took the Franco-Prussian War (1870) to unite the German people into a nation.  And into the dominate Central European power at that.  That dominance ended in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles.  Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine (which they took during the Franco-Prussian War).  She lost territory that became a reconstituted Poland (which separated her from East Prussia).  She had to take sole responsibility for causing World War I (which was unfair to say the least).  And pay reparations to the victors that would take forever and a day to pay.  The German people were not happy.  As was a decorated army corporal.  Adolf Hitler.

Hitler made it clear that he was going to restore the German empire.  The third in the line of empires.  A Third Reich.  Successor to the Holy Roman Empire.  And it would last a thousand years.  He established the official Nazi ideology (racial purity and the Master Race).  He renounced portions of the Versailles Treaty.  Began to rearm.  These actions worried the Allies.  But Hitler assuaged their worries in a speech given 5/21/1935.  He said Germany wanted peace.  And only peace.  The Allies breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Then he remilitarized the Rhineland.  Annexed Austria.  Then came Munich.  Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, met with Hitler, concerned.  Hitler assured Chamberlain that this was his last territorial grab.  After all, Germany wanted peace.  And only peace.  So those at Munich gave the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland to Germany.  (Incidentally, the Czechs weren’t at Munich).  Chamberlain returned to England announcing they had attained “peace for our time.”  Soon thereafter, Germany took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  And one non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union to partition Poland later, Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II.  So, no, they did not have peace in for their time.

FROM STETTIN IN THE BALTIC TO TRIESTE IN THE ADRIATIC AN IRON CURTAIN HAS DESCENDED ACROSS THE CONTINENT

Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved Joseph Stalin.  He liked what he was doing in the Soviet Union.  Now there was some Big Government doing big things.  Just like he was doing.  Only on a grander scale.  Then that non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany just broke his heart.  But the gods were smiling down on FDR.  Hitler turned on Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union.  Killed some 20 million Soviets.  FDR was elated.  He could embrace Uncle Joe again.

FDR said he could talk to Stalin.  Turn on the old FDR charm.  So he tried.  At the Yalta Conference where the Big Three (FDR, Churchill and Stalin) discussed the post-war world.  His plan was bold.  Give Stalin everything.  Ask for nothing.  And then Uncle Joe will work with him in establishing world peace and democracy.  He had a hunch it would work.  I mean, once he turned on that FDR charm, well, FDR got what FDR wanted.

But his administration was full of Soviet spies.  He stayed in the Soviet embassy (to show his trust of Stalin).  They bugged it.  The Soviets knew everything.  Not a strong negotiating position.  For FDR and Churchill, that is.  It was a very strong position for Stalin.  He could whisper whatever sweet nothings FDR wanted to hear.  Lie through his teeth.  In the end, he got Eastern Europe.  Instead of a Nazi occupation, it would now be a Soviet occupation.  Some saw Stalin for who he was.  Winston Churchill, for one.  Later, in 1946, he tried to warn us about Stalin.  He came to America and spoke at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.  He said:

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

The old warhorse was right.  Stalin had no visions of democracy.  He wanted to conquer.  To spread communism.  And he did.  In Eastern Europe.  Wherever the Red Army was at the end of World War II the Red Army stayed.  Where they weren’t he tried to use the local communist parties (i.e., the Fifth Columns) in their stead.  To stir up trouble.  Eat away the nations from within.  To gradually convert them to communism.  Sometimes he used blunt force.  As in the coup d’état in Czechoslovakia.   American aid helped Western Europe, Greece and Turkey to rebuff Stalin’s advances there.  West Berlin, inside of East Germany behind the Iron Curtain, was a thorn in his side.  So he tried to blockade it.  Which we relieved with the Berlin Airlift.  Our guy in China (Chiang Kai-shek) lost to Mao Tse-tung in the Chinese Civil War making most of Asia communist.  This was the Cold War.  East vs. West.  Communism vs. Democracy.  The Soviet Union vs. the United States.  The Cold War at times got hot.  As the two superpowers fought each other by proxy.  In Korea.  Cuba (the Bay of Pigs was the hot part.  The more dangerous part was the cold part, playing nuclear chicken).  Vietnam.  The Iran-Iraq War.  Nicaragua.  And in a place called Afghanistan.

MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL

The Soviet Union supplied a lot of military hardware that killed a lot of Americans in the Vietnam War.  We returned the favor in Afghanistan.  And helped liberate the Afghanis from the Soviet Occupation.  The Soviet mechanized army and their Hind attack helicopters fought an impoverished and ill-equipped force.  The Mujahedeen.  Who soon got international support.  And U.S. antiaircraft Stinger missiles.  And the Soviet Union had their Vietnam.

Ronald Reagan grew weary of the Cold War.  He wanted to end it.  He understood collectivism.  And he knew history.  Capitalism worked.  Collectivism didn’t.  So he would turn up the pressure.  While the Soviets bled money in Afghanistan, he modernized our nuclear forces.  Proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative.  Spent money on defense.  And gave America an unprecedented decade of prosperity.  The Soviets tried to keep pace.  But couldn’t.  They couldn’t even feed their own people.  On June 12, 1987, in front of the Berlin Wall, at the Brandenburg Gate, Reagan said:

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

In time he did.  Or, rather, stopped trying to prevent it from happening.  And Reagan consigned the Evil Empire to the “ash heap of history.”  Which left the Mujahedeen well armed, well financed and without a fight.

TO THE VICTORS GO THE SPOILS

The Western Roman Empire fell to the Germanic tribes but the Eastern Empire held on for a few more centuries.  It wouldn’t be the Germans causing her ultimate demise.  No.  The Eastern Empire fall to the Arabs.  Islam spread west from the Arabian desert into Egypt and across North Africa and up into Spain.  Saladin (revered Islamic hero) wrested the Holy Land from the Christians and then fought off the Christian Crusades when they tried to take it back.  Islam advanced across the Bosporus and into the Balkans before the European Christians finally stopped them.  A good chunk of the Christian Roman Empire was now Muslim.  And remained so for centuries.  Until World War I.  When Ottoman Turkey was on the losing side of the Great War.

After the war, Great Britain occupied some of the former Muslim lands.  Protected the Suez Canal for her shipping lanes to India and the Far East.  And to her oil interests.  Also, the League of Nations designated that Great Britain should administer the territory comprised of Palestine and Transjordan.  This British Mandate also included a provision for a future Jewish homeland in the Palestine territory.  Long story short, that happened in 1947 when the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition these territories into Jewish and Arab states.  The following year, May 14, the day before the British Mandate expired, the state of Israel came into existence. 

The Arabs didn’t agree to that deal.  Of course, the Jews didn’t like the Roman occupation.  And the Christians didn’t like the Muslim occupation of the Holy Land.  But to the victors go the spoils.  Not enjoying being on the loser’s side, they wanted Palestine back.  In fact, they want all of the land that used to be Muslim back.  Lands they gained by military conquest but later lost to military conquest.  They want to re-conquer lost land.  And conquer new.  One man in particular.  A Saudi who joined the Mujahedeen.  Osama bin Laden.  Who would lead his unemployed freedom fighters into a new line of work.  In a new organization.  Al Qaeda.

WORLD CONQUEST ISN’T NEW

The Romans conquered the known world.  Hitler had ambitious plans to do the same.  Ditto for Stalin.  (Even Mussolini wanted to restore the Roman Empire.)  And on 9/11/2001, that’s what Osama bin Laden was trying to do.  His devastating attack on the U.S. was to cause a spontaneous uprising by Muslims throughout the world.  There was none.  He failed.  He would be no Saladin.  He would rule little more than a network of caves on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.  And be remembered as just another terrorist.  But his dream is shared by others.  And they’ve no doubt learned a lot from the Nazis.  And the Communists. 

There are elements within Islam, the so-called few who pervert this great religion of peace, that want to see bin Laden’s vision realized.  They’re using force.  Lying.  Trying to convert from within.  And turn to our constitution whenever anyone confronts them.  But these ambassadors of peace won’t condemn terrorist organizations or recognize the state of Israel.  They demand that everyone accommodate Islam while Islam accommodates only Islam.  They say that the U.S. was responsible for 9/11.  Even that the U.S. orchestrated 9/11 and blamed it on the Muslim world.  There is cause for concern.

A FEW IS ENOUGH

Not all Germans were Nazis but we still fought Nazi ideology.  We fought the communist ideology because it called for the conquest of western capitalism.  Ideology counts.  Not all Muslims are ‘the few who pervert’ but we should, at least, be on our guard against Islam.  Because how do we know who is lying?  If we err on the side of caution, all Americans (including Muslim Americans) are safe.  If we don’t, Americans can die.  Including Muslim Americans.

History has shown that the descendents of empire want to restore empire.  That people who lost land want to get that land back.  And ideological purity kills people.  That tells me we should be wary of a highly ideological people who once had an empire and desperately covets land.  And if we can’t know who those few are, it would be irresponsible not to be on our guard against anyone who might be one of those few. 

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