Day By Day

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This Day In History

After ingesting all that chocolate and cookies and pumpkin pie and eggnog and pepper pot soup you will probably be relieved to find out that today is "National Bicarbonate of Soda Day". Not only is Baking Soda useful in relieving indigestion and heartburn, but it also reduces flatulence. Good thing to know! But that is just the beginning of its usefulness. Bicarbonate of Soda makes bread rise, it removes odors from the refrigerator after you forgot and left that holiday food in there too long, it can tenderize meat, and is a cleaning agent. You can even polish silverware with it as you prepare for the next round of communal consumption of far too many calories. It is possibly the most useful thing you can keep around the house, so today take a moment and appreciate all the ways this humble material has made our lives better.

On this day in 1922 Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov [you know him better as "Lenin"] proclaimed the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [the USSR, or the "Soviet Union"]. After the collapse of the Tsarist regime in 1917 under the pressure of World War, the Russian empire was thrown into chaos with a number of groups struggling for dominance or independence. The most successful of these was the radical "Bolshevik" movement led by Lenin which by 1922 had established control over key portions of the old empire. This control was formalized by the signing of a treaty among the Russian, Ukrainian, Byelorussian, and Transcaucasian that created a new entity called the USSR. Under Lenin's political and Trotsky's military leadership the USSR gradually reconquered and absorbed most of the regions that had formerly been part of the Tsarist empire, expelled foreign powers, and established the Communist dominated state as one of the great world powers. Eventually the USSR expanded to include seventeen constituent republics that together amounted to approximately one-sixth of the world's land area. When World War II broke out the USSR first allied itself with Nazi Germany with the goal of gaining territories in Eastern Europe then, when betrayed by Hitler, formed an alliance with the United States and Britain that was ultimately victorious. The USSR emerged from the war as one of the two global "superpowers" , dominating a vast empire of satellite states, and for several decades contested with the United States of America for global dominance, a period known as the "Cold War" because the nuclear-armed superpowers sought to avoid direct confrontation, competing instead through proxies. In the late 1980's the Soviet empire began to fall apart as puppet regimes around its periphery were overthrown and satellite states gained their independence. Then many of the constituent Soviet republics began to assert their independence. In December of 1991, nearly eight decades after its formation, the Soviet Union came to an end when the presidents of Russia, Byelorussia, and Ukraine signed an accord that declared the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dissolved. This was followed by a broader accord, the Alma-Ata Protocol a few weeks later signed by the presidents of all the constituent republics except Georgia. Four days later, on Christmas, Michael Gorbachev resigned his position as President of the USSR. On the following day the Supreme Soviet, the Union's highest governmental authority, was dissolved and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was consigned to the "dustbin of history".

Entering the Building:

On this day in 1865 Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay. He was possibly the greatest, and by far the most popular, English-language writer of his generation and the great chronicler of the British empire. He was certainly my favorite author when I was a child.

And in 1935 Sandy Koufax was born. For a couple of years at his peak he was possibly the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time. He was certainly the greatest Jewish left hander.

"Happy Birthday" to Bo Diddley and Tiger Woods.

Leaving the Building:

Saddam Hussein, Iraqi dictator hanged in Baghdad on this day in 2006.