Ilya Bryzgalov is a better at hockey than history – fortunately for him.
Bryzgalov, a native of the Russian city of Togliatti, on the Volga River, recently gave an interview to the Russian sports outlet Championat in which he was questioned on his views on Stalin, who had many millions killed between 1922 and 1953.
“Positive. I see logic in his action,” Bryzgalov said, according to a translation by Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov. “Not without going too far, of course. But he came to power in a country that had just lived through a revolution. There were so many spies, enemies, traitors there. A lot of people still had guns after the civil war. The country was in ruins, (people) needed to survive somehow. The country needed to be rebuilt, and in order to do that it needed to be held in iron hands.
“… He knew what he was doing. He is described as a ‘bloody tyrant.’ But at the time it couldn’t be any other way. Yes, there were innocent people who were victims of repression. But it happens.”
This may be nit-picky, but a word of advice to whichever public relations firm is advising Bryzgalov and/or the Flyers: when discussing the deaths of millions, avoid phrases such as “but it happens.”
A 2,300-year-old Mayan temple in Central America was recently razed for use as road fill, it was revealed late last week.
The construction company that demolished the temple, which was approximately 160 feet square at the base and 20 feet high, is owned by a local Belizean politician.
The temple was located 50 miles north of Belize City, near the border with Mexico, and was part of the pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological site at Noh Mul, on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula.
“This total disregard for Belize’s cultural heritage and national patrimony is callous, ignorant and unforgivable,” said Tracy Panton, Belize’s Tourism and Culture Minister. “This expressed disdain for our laws is incomprehensible.”
The archeological complex, like all pre-Columbian ruins, was under the protection of the state even though it was located in a privately owned sugar cane plantation, according to Agence France-Presse.
Noh Mul was the center of a Mayan community of 40,000 that was initially occupied between 350-250 BC. It was inhabited off and on until about 900 years ago.
Authorities learned of the incident at the end of last week, blaming the D-Mar construction company, which is owned by Denny Grijalva, a candidate for mayor of Belize City.
One hundred years ago this fall philosopher and Nobel Prize-winning writer Albert Camus was born in French Algeria.
Although best known today for his work The Stranger, Camus wrote several important books, was involved in the French Resistance during World War II and was an active human rights proponent.
The second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, after Rudyard Kipling, Camus died in car crash in January 1960 at age 46, less than three years after winning the award.
One of Camus’ masterpieces is The Plague, a 1947 novel set in the Algerian city of Oran.
In Camus’ work, an outbreak of bubonic plague sweeps the coastal community, which is sealed off as a health measure, trapping hundreds of thousands for months as the death toll steadily mounts.
The Plague ponders the vagaries of fate and the conflict between man’s innate tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, even when none may exist.
The Getty Museum of Los Angeles has enlarged its Rembrandt collection by adding a famous self-portrait of one of the key figures of the Dutch Golden Age.
Rembrandt Laughing, seen above, is a small oil-on-copper work probably done around 1628. It came onto the art market in 2007 after spending centuries as part of private collections.
“Painted when Rembrandt was a young, newly independent artist, possibly the third self-portrait of his career, Rembrandt Laughing exemplifies his signature spirited, confident handling of paint and natural ability to convey emotion,” Scott Schaefer, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum, said. “It is a measure of the artist’s consummate skill that the dynamism of his pose and the act of laughing translates into a painting of tremendous visual impact, far exceeding its modest dimensions.”
Rembrandt Laughing was originally believed to be the work of a contemporary of the noted Dutch artist. It had belonged to an English family for approximately 100 years before they decided to sell it in 2007.
An initial valuation of $3,100 skyrocketed when researchers confirmed that the 8 3/4-inch x 6 5/8-inch work was an actual Rembrandt, and the painting sold for $4.5 million later that year.
Efforts to raise the sole surviving German Dornier Do 17 bomber from World War II began last Friday, more than 70 years after it was shot down over the English Channel.
The aircraft, a light bomber, rests in approximately 50 feet of water and is in surprisingly good condition, according to those involved with the salvage operation.
Officials plan to raise the bomber with a specially designed cradle later this month.
The project will be the biggest recovery of its kind in British waters, and the price tag could top $900,000, according to Reuters.
The existence of the Dornier Do 17 – lost during the Battle of Britain – off the coast of Kent became known when it was spotted by divers in 2008 lying on a chalk bed with a small debris field around it.
“The plane will be packed in gel and plastic sheeting to shield it from the air before it can be transported to hydration tunnels where the crust created by 70 years underwater will be washed away over the next two years,” according to Reuters.
Eventually, the bomber will be exhibited in the Royal Air Force Museum in London.
Among some Shia Muslims, there is a belief that Muhammad al-Mahdi, known as the Twelfth Imam, has been hidden for more than a millennium but will return one day to bring justice to the world.
Known as the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam bears similarities to the Judeo-Christian notion of the messiah.
Apparently, the concept is a popular one in Iran, as there are currently some 3,000 “fake mahdis” imprisoned in the Middle Eastern nation.
“Every month we get someone coming in, convinced he is the Mahdi,” seminary expert Mehdi Ghafari told The Economist. “Once a man was saying such outrageous things and talking about himself in the third person that I couldn’t help laughing. He got angry and told me I had ‘bad hijab’ and was disrespecting the ‘Imam of Time,’” as the Mahdi is known.
Earlier this year Iran’s authorities arrested nearly two dozen men in separate incidents, all of whom claimed to be the Mahdi.
A website based in Qom, Iran’s holiest city, deemed the men “deviants,” “fortune-tellers” and “petty criminals,” who were exploiting credulous Iranians for alms during the Persian new-year holiday, which fell in mid-March, according to The Economist.
“Iran’s economic doldrums may have helped to cause this surge in people claiming to be mankind’s savior – and in women saying they were the Mahdi’s wife,” the publication added.
In a case that likely has more than a few people checking their own personal genealogy, New York authorities say that a 97-year old who died last year left behind an estate valued at nearly $40 million but no heirs and no will.
Roman Blum survived the Holocaust and came to the US after World War II, where he became a successful real estate developer.
Blum married another Holocaust survivor, but she died in 1992 and the couple had no children.
Despite the advice of numerous friends, Blum declined to make a will for himself, leaving the largest unclaimed estate in New York State history, according to the state comptroller’s office.
A friend summed up the situation as only a New Yorker can:
“He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot,” said Paul Skurka, a fellow Holocaust survivor who befriended Blum after doing carpentry work for him in the 1970s.
North Korea has been making headlines a great deal lately, and not for good reasons.
In a move that must have warmed the hearts of millions of impoverished North Koreans scraping to find enough food to keep their families from starving, the nation’s leadership announced intentions to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States, calling the US the “sworn enemy of the Korean people.”
A few days later, North Korea confirmed it was ending the 60-year armistice connected to the 1950-53 Korean War.
On March 30, Pyongyang declared it was in “a state of war” with South Korea, and Kim Jong-un stated that rockets were ready to be fired at American bases in the Pacific in response to the US flying two nuclear-capable B2 stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula.
While US intelligence officials speculate that Kim Jong-un is using the bluster to assert control over his country, and his ultimate goal is recognition rather than getting involved in a devastating conflict, the general consensus seems to be that the baby-faced dictator is decidedly unpredictable, if not eight kinds of crazy.
Which is just what the people of North Korea don’t need at this point.
What the 34.65-carat pink diamond known as “Princie” lacks in elegant nomenclature it makes up for with decidedly upscale value.
The diamond, first discovered about 300 years ago in the Golconda mines in southern India, was auctioned by Chrisitie’s in New York for $39.3 million earlier this month.
The diamond drew just two bidders, with action starting at $20 million and continuing for only two minutes, according to Bloomberg.
The winning bid came from Francois Curiel, international head of jewelry at Christie’s and president of Christie’s Asia, bidding on behalf of an anonymous client.
“The gem is considered one of the four most celebrated pink diamonds in the world,” according to Bloomberg. “It was first recorded in the holdings of the Nizam, or monarch, of Hyderabad, India, according to Christie’s.”
It was last sold in 1960, for nearly $71,000 during a London auction.
In addition to tens of thousands of lives, the ongoing civil war in Syria has now claimed the minaret of one of the world’s most picturesque mosques.
The 145-foot-high minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in the city of Aleppo, dating back to 1090, was destroyed Wednesday during fighting between the Syrian army and rebel forces.
The mosque, also known as the Great Mosque, was founded by the Umayyad Caliphate in 715 on the site of a Byzantine church. It had to be rebuilt after being damaged by a fire in 1159, and again following the Mongol invasion in 1260, according to the BBC.
However, the minaret was oldest surviving part of the structure.
In addition, other parts of the mosque complex – much of which date from the 1200s – have been badly damaged by gunfire and artillery shells.