Twentieth Anniversary of Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love - 12 1998

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Nineteen Years

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Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the start of the Russian apartment bombings, when Vladimir Putin orchestrated a series of attacks that killed hundreds of citizens across Russia in order to boost his popularity and win the presidency.

Before the first apartment bombing, a shopping mall in Moscow was attacked on the 31st of August.

The first apartment attack occurred in Buynaksk, where sixty-four people were killed and 133 were injured. The two bombings in Moscow that followed killed over 200, and an attack in Volgodonsk killed 17.

In total 293 were killed and over a thousand were injured.

Putin blamed the attacks on a group from Dagestan, and used it as an excuse for a second war in Chechnya, boosting his approval ratings and helping him to power.

Three key people trying to reveal the truth about what happened were assassinated in the years that followed: Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Alexander Litvinenko – who defected to Britain and was infamously poisoned by Russian agents in a London restaurant in 2006.

Additionally, Mikhail Trepashkin spent years in a Russian prison for his role in the investigation.

Bombing at Guryanova Street in Moscow, where 94 were killed.

These tactics were also used by the Soviets, such as when they blew up their own people at a border post as an excuse to start the Winter War with Finland in 1939. The result of this was that Finland fought with the Nazis in the Second World War.

In the past few years, with Kremlin manipulation of internet search results, factual reports of the apartment bombing incidents are harder to come by. Just like with news about anything else (e.g. Ukraine), these days top English-language (and Spanish and French etc.) Google results usually link to sites like RT (Russia Today), Tass, and Sputnik – all of them Kremlin-backed propaganda agencies.

On this day: a Disaster in Montserrat

Montserrat_Plymouth_Street_LampAsh piled streetlamp high on the Streets of Plymouth (1999). Photo by Gary Mark Smith. Volcanic Eruption.

The aftermath of the disaster, photographed in 1999.

Human settlement on the Caribbean island and British Overseas Territory of Montserrat was changed forever on the 25th of June, 1997. Following a couple of years of volcanic activity, on this day a series of pyroclastic flows and lahars (mudslides or debris flows) devastated the capital, Plymouth.

Residents of Plymouth and other settlements had been evacuated some time earlier, but had moved back when the disaster occurred. Nineteen people died before residents were evacuated again – this time permanently.

Today Plymouth is a ghost town. Following the disaster more than two-thirds of the island’s population left. Most did not return.

On this day: Ireland legalises divorce

Anti-divorce protest in Ireland By the time Ireland voted on divorce in 1995, it was the only country in Europe where divorce was banned.

On the 24th of November, 1995, Ireland became the last country in Europe to legalise divorce. This occurred because of a referendum to change the constitution – not the first attempt to achieve this.

Ireland 1986. Anti-divorce posters at the Father Mathew Hall on polling day for the Divorce Referendum on 26 June.

Opposition in the failed 1986 referendum. X

Divorce had been specifically forbidden in the 1937 Irish constitution. A heavily Catholic country, there was very strong opposition to the legal breakup of a marriage, just as there was when it came to the legalisation of contraception, which was only made available in the 1980s.

Irish campaign against the Divorce Referendum.

The success of the 1995 referendum was a close thing; the results were just over 50% in favour and 49.79% opposed.

1992: Ukrainian Champions in Barcelona

The 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona were held from late July to early August. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union the year before, athletes from the former USSR competed under their own flags and national anthems in individual events, and for the Unified Team in group events.

Ukrainian rhythmic gymnasts Alexandra Timochenko and Oksana Skaldina came home with the gold and bronze medals. They are the two fair-haired first place-getters pictured below at the 1991 World Championships.

Alexandra Timochenko (Ukraine), Oksana Kostina and Oksana Oxana Skaldina (Ukraine) (URSS) 1991 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Champions

Under their own flag for the first time, Ukraine’s 1992 female artistic gymnasts also outshone their teammates, with the women winning a further two gold, a silver, and two bronze medals individually, as well as a share in the team gold with their Belarusian, Uzbek and Russian teammates.

Stamp_of_Ukraine_s23 Rhythmic Gymnastics Stamp of Ukraine 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games

Ukrainian stamp from 1992, featuring Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics. X

Despite almost no funding and an ongoing war with Russia, Ukrainian gymnasts continue to win Olympic medals, most recently gold and silver in the men’s competition in 2016. Many gymnasts from the country have moved to compete for other nations in order to access proper training facilities. Following the 2016 Rio Games, the equipment used in the competition was donated to Ukraine’s gymnastics federation.

On this day: a Rescue from the Rubble

Thredbo Landslide. 2nd August 1997. This photograph was taken moments after Stuart Diver was freed from the rubble after spending 65 hours buried in the rubble. Mr Diver lost his first w

After spending sixty-five hours trapped in freezing conditions in the rubble of the Thredbo landslide, Stuart Diver was pulled alive from his collapsed ski lodge on the evening of the 2nd of August, 1997.

Eighteen people, including Diver’s wife, were killed when the land at the New South Wales, Australia ski resort collapsed, sending over 1000 tonnes of earth and debris down on top of the village.

Despite his discovery providing hope more survivors might be found, Diver was the last person found alive in the rubble.

Diver’s second wife also died, of cancer in 2015.