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Topics - Kurt Steiner

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The Russian Revolution / Poetry of World War I
« on: November 27, 2007, 02:20:36 PM »
Excuse me if I got pedantic on this issue, but, dealing my PhD with WW1 English literature I tend to be pedantic even if I don't realize. So, I get carried out, just forgive me, please.

My favourite WW1 English poets are Robert Graves, Sigfried Sassoon and, above them all, Wilfred Owen. Ruppet Brooke died too young and to early. Had he lived longer, he would have turned into Sassoon's or Owen's style, for sure. On his last poems we can see this change of attitude, as in the ones he started in his fateful trip to Gallipolli.

So, let me quote perhaps one of the finest sonnets ever written about war.

Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen.

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then ,as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall, -
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand pains that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
'Strange friend,' I said, 'here is no cause to mourn.'
'None,' said that other, 'save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled,
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery:
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now...'

Moving, isn't it?

PD: Take a look also at Isaac Rosemberg, Ivor Gurney or Vera Brittain, too.

Imperial Russian History / The Czar's Tank Built in 1915
« on: May 06, 2007, 04:07:26 AM »

The bizarre "Tsar-tank" was built in 1915. It was probably the largest (40 tons) tank ever made anywhere.

he idea was based on a simple fact: it is easier to hold the line than to attack. An attacking side needs protection. There were armored vehicles invented for that purpose, but they were useless on bad roads. The pass-ability of a wheel directly depends on its diameter, so engineers decided to make huge wheels for armored vehicles. This idea first occurred to Captain Nikolay Lebedenko, the head of the Moscow military and technical laboratory.

Nikolay Lebedenko suggested the project of a very unusual military vehicle in May of 1915. It was an armored vehicle with huge wheels, which looked like a gun-carriage. Engineers Boris Stechkin and Alexander Mikulin (they later became famous Russian academicians) started working on the project.

Mikulin remembers: “Nikolay Lebedenko invited me to come to his office, he locked the door and whispered to my ear: "Professor Nikolay Zhukovsky referred you as a skillful engineer. Do you agree to work on the project of the machine that I invented? Such machines will help to break through the whole German front just within one night, and Russia will win the war."

It is worth mentioning that Lebedenko was not the only person, who suggested a project of an armored vehicle with huge wheels. However, it was Nikolay Lebedenko, who managed to realize his project in real life. The wheels of his vehicle were nine meters in diameter. The machine weighed about 40 tons, it was nine meters high, 17 meters long and 12 meters wide. Yet, the machine was not equipped with guns, for the Central Artillery Department provided guns only for the projects, that were considered ready for  practical usage.

The machine was tested in August of 1917. It moved, broke an old big birch-tree on its way and got stuck in the ground with its rear roller. Another test took place in 1918, but it was not a success either. Nikolay Lebedenko's further fate is not known. Like a lot of other people, he vanished in the turmoil of post-revolutionary events in Russia. Academician Boris Stechkin thinks that Lebedenko probably died. Lebedenko's machine was called the Tsar-Tank. It did not take an honorable place next to the Tsar-Bell or the Tsar-Cannon. The Tsar-Tank rusted in the woods, until it was dismantled in 1923. That was the end of the inglorious history of the first Russian self-propelled armored vehicle.

Such unlucky inventors as Nikolay Lebedenky became a real disaster for Russian military men in the beginning of the 20th century. There were  too many projects of wonder arms. For example, an engineer offered to use boiler metal for producing rolls of six meters in diameter, which would be tens of meters long. As an inventor thought, soldiers could roll those rollers in front of them. Rollers were also supposed to be outfitted with machine-guns at its ends. The inventor wrote all that in a letter, which was completed with a touchy request – "Please, let me know, if there anything else that I can invent to fight the enemy." However, the engineer did not specify the way, how soldiers were supposed to turn those huge rollers or roll them up on hills.

Those so-called inventors could not boast of their engineering knowledge, although experienced engineers suggested unreal monsters sometimes too. For instance, there was an interesting project of an "upgraded tortoise," which was suggested by engineer Navrotsky. The machine was supposed to weigh 192 tons, to move with the help of three rolls and to have an unimaginable complex of ordnance – 16 guns and ten machine-guns.

European engineers also dreamed of designing such movable fortresses. Major of the Royal Naval Aviation Service Hetterington projected a "land cruiser" in the beginning of  1915. The British defense monster was supposed to have three wheels of 12 meters in diameter, six guns and 12 machine-guns. The project was considered at the committee for land cruisers: the mass of the giant cruiser made up one thousand tons. The director of the ship-building department refused from building such a monster.

A certain time later, British designers liked the caterpillar ordnance idea, which pushed huge wheels into the background, and resulted in the invention of a caterpillar tank. Winston Churchill was one of proponents of the novelty. A new model of an English tank was named after him during WWII. However, the invention of caterpillar tanks did not stop Russian engineers from designing something new and extraordinary. In 1928, a Russian engineer  recommended the Russian military command to subdue the enemy with the help of a self-propelled two-wheeled vehicle. The diameter of its wheels was 12 meters. Yet, the whole project was briefly described on several sheets of paper, which did not allow to get to essence of it.

Imperial Russian History / The Russian Expeditionary Forces in France
« on: April 23, 2007, 11:13:58 AM »
We all know, more or less, about the big battles which were fough in France in 1914-18. We know about the Somme, Passchendaele, Verdún, Amiens... but I bet that something has got unnoticied to many of us. The effort of many Russian soldiers who fought and died in France, too.

What you're going to read now comes from a silly anecdote. Looking at the biographies of several Aces of the WW1, I began to pay attention about the victories achieved by some Russian aces. To my surprise, I discovered that some of them -Pavel Vladimirovich Argeyev, 15 victories; Yevgraph Nikolaievich Kruten, 7 victories; Victor Fedorov, 5 victories;  Ivan Orlov, 5 victories; Eduard Martynovich Pulpe, 5 victories, for instance- had fought in France, and then, I discoverd that, to help to the effort of the Western Allies, Russia send troops to France.

This is what I discovered:

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