On this day in history:
63BC – – – Cicero gives the fourth and final of the Catiline Orations. The Orations was a set of speeches to the Roman Senate given by Marcus Tullius Cicero, accusing a Senator, Lucius Sergius Catilina, of leading a plot to overthrow the Roman government. Some modern historians, and ancient sources suggest that Catiline was a more complex and sympathetic character than Cicero’s writings declare, and that Cicero, a career politician, was heavily influenced by a desire to establish decisively a lasting reputation as a great Roman patriot and statesman. Most accounts of the events come from Cicero himself. This is one of the best, if not the very best, documented events surviving from the ancient world, and has set the stage for classic political struggles pitting state security against civil liberties.
633 – – – – Fourth Council of Toledo takes place. The Council regulated many matters of discipline, decreed uniformity of liturgy throughout the Visigothic kingdom and took stringent measures against baptized Jews who had lapsed into their former faith. All the bishops of Iberian Kingdoms were in attendance. It is thought that Isidore, Archbishop of Seville, presided over the deliberations and was the originator of most of its actions. A decree was promulgated commanding and requiring all bishops to establish seminaries along the lines of the school Isidore already had in Seville.
1408 – – – Emir Edigu of Golden Horde reaches Moscow.
1484 – – – Pope Innocent VIII issues a papal bull deputizing Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger as inquisitors to root out alleged witchcraft in Germany.
1492 – – – Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola – now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
1496 – – – King Manuel I of Portugal issues a decree ordering the expulsion of “heretics” from the country.
1766 – – – In London, auctioneer James Christie holds his first sale.
1831 – – – Former President John Quincy Adams takes his seat in the House of Representatives.
1847 – – – Jefferson Davis is elected to the U.S. Senate.
1848 – – – In a message to Congress, President James K. Polk confirms that large amounts of gold had been discovered in California.
1918 – – – Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of Georgia signed a friendship and cooperation agreement. Neither state lasted long as they were consumed by Soviet Russia to be part of the Soviet Union. But the alliance attempted then became prominent more recently as both Georgia and Ukraine struggle get rid of Russia’s on-going and aggressive attempts at domination.
1929 – – – The USSR established the Tadjikistan SSR, which previously had been a part of the Uzbekistan SSR.
1931 – – – Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow is destroyed on orders from Joseph Stalin. The Russia Orthodox church, built during the 19th century had taken more than 40 years to build. Stalin’s demolition was supposed to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets to house the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Construction started in 1937 but was halted in 1941 when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. Its steel frame was disassembles the following year and the Palace was never built. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union the current church was built between 1995 and 2000.
1933 – – – The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. The 18th Amendment which brought us the period of Prohibition is repealed.
1934 – – – While the United States was again enjoying being able to drink alcohol the official Soviet newspaper “Pravda” published the decree about “amendments to criminal justice proceedings”. It stipulated that cases of “anti-Soviet terrorist organizations and acts” had to be investigated and brought to trial within 10 days, court hearings to be held without adversarial debate of parties, death sentences to be executed immediately without appeal. This was the start of Stalin’s Great Terror campaign that exterminated over a million “enemies of the people” in the 1930s.
1936 – – – The Soviet Union adopts a new constitution and the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic is established as a full Union Republic of the USSR. The new constitution (often nicknamed the “Stalin constitution”) which was lauded in the West as very democratic and with multiple guarantees of rights and democratic procedures was nothing but a shame – words without meaning or enforcement.
1941 – – – (a) World War II – In the Battle of Moscow, Georgy Zhukov launches a massive Soviet counter-attack against the German army. (b) Great Britain declares war on Finland, Hungary and Romania.
1955 – – – E.D. Nixon and Rosa Parks lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
1964 – – – Captain Roger Donlon is awarded the Medal of Honor – the first to be awarded in the Vietnam War. His citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while defending a U.S. military installation against a fierce attack by hostile forces. Capt. Donlon was serving as the commanding officer of the U.S. Army Special Forces Detachment A-726 at Camp Nam Dong when a reinforced Viet Cong battalion suddenly launched a full-scale, predawn attack on the camp. During the violent battle that ensued, lasting 5 hours and resulting in heavy casualties on both sides, Capt. Donlon directed the defense operations in the midst of an enemy barrage of mortar shells, falling grenades, and extremely heavy gunfire. Upon the initial onslaught, he swiftly marshaled his forces and ordered the removal of the needed ammunition from a blazing building. He then dashed through a hail of small arms and exploding hand grenades to abort a breach of the main gate. En route to this position he detected an enemy demolition team of 3 in the proximity of the main gate and quickly annihilated them. Although exposed to the intense grenade attack, he then succeeded in reaching a 60mm mortar position despite sustaining a severe stomach wound as he was within 5 yards of the gun pit. When he discovered that most of the men in this gunpit were also wounded, he completely disregarded his own injury, directed their withdrawal to a location 30 meters away, and again risked his life by remaining behind and covering the movement with the utmost effectiveness. Noticing that his team sergeant was unable to evacuate the gun pit he crawled toward him and, while dragging the fallen soldier out of the gunpit, an enemy mortar exploded and inflicted a wound in Capt. Donlon’s left shoulder. Although suffering from multiple wounds, he carried the abandoned 60mm mortar weapon to a new location 30 meters away where he found 3 wounded defenders. After administering first aid and encouragement to these men, he left the weapon with them, headed toward another position, and retrieved a 57mm recoilless rifle. Then with great courage and coolness under fire, he returned to the abandoned gun pit, evacuated ammunition for the 2 weapons, and while crawling and dragging the urgently needed ammunition, received a third wound on his leg by an enemy hand grenade. Despite his critical physical condition, he again crawled 175 meters to an 81mm mortar position and directed firing operations which protected the seriously threatened east sector of the camp. He then moved to an eastern 60mm mortar position and upon determining that the vicious enemy assault had weakened, crawled back to the gun pit with the 60mm mortar, set it up for defensive operations, and turned it over to 2 defenders with minor wounds. Without hesitation, he left this sheltered position, and moved from position to position around the beleaguered perimeter while hurling hand grenades at the enemy and inspiring his men to superhuman effort. As he bravely continued to move around the perimeter, a mortar shell exploded, wounding him in the face and body. As the long awaited daylight brought defeat to the enemy forces and their retreat back to the jungle leaving behind 54 of their dead, many weapons, and grenades, Capt. Donlon immediately reorganized his defenses and administered first aid to the wounded. His dynamic leadership, fortitude, and valiant efforts inspired not only the American personnel but the friendly Vietnamese defenders as well and resulted in the successful defense of the camp. Capt. Donlon’s extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
1965 – – – “Glasnost Rally” in Moscow’s Pushkin Square — the first political protest rally in Soviet history. It was held on an anniversary of the Soviet Constitution Day, with demands to allow the freedoms of speech and assembly as declared in the constitution. The rally was dispersed by the KGB within a few minutes, and dozens of protesters were detained. Since then, Pushkin Square became the traditional place for political rallies in Moscow, Putin’s security service still disperses and arrests the protesters every time they show up.
1991 – – – Leonid Kravchuk is elected the first president of Ukraine.
1994 – – – Signing of the Budapest Memorandum between Ukraine and the US, the UK and Russia (later joined by France and China). Briefly stated Ukraine had intended to become “nuclear free” since the beginning of its independence movement – Rukh’s charter called for a nuclear free Ukraine, the Parliament’s Declaration of Sovereignty called for a nuclear free Ukraine, the Declaration of Independence called for a nuclear free Ukraine and the critical Referendum of December 1, 1991, which passed with a 92% majority of the population endorsed the Declaration of Independence and its nuclear free language. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter when independent Ukraine approached the United States about how to delivered its nuclear weapons to the U.S,. it was told it would have to give them to Russia – the one country Ukraine most assuredly did not want to give them to. Thus, after several years of negotiations the Budapest memorandum was signed by which Ukraine would deliver its nuclear weapons to Russia in return for the other signatories – including Russia and the United States assuring Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity. To date those assurances have been repeatedly violated and are being violated by Russia and the assurances of the other signatories ring hollow – loudly!
2017 – – – The International Olympic Committee bans Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics for doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Composed by Robert A. McConnell
Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and not necessarily those of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.