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“Przekrój” Magazine brings English-speaking readers some of the best journalism from across Central and Eastern Europe, in the fields of wellbeing, art, literature, science, ecology, philosophy, psychology, and more. Take a break from the speed and intensity of the daily news and join us!

Our eternally pessimistic correspondent gives his historical highlights for the month of March.
2023-03-01 00:00:00

March in History
Diary of an Eternal Pessimist

March in History
March in History

March in history according to an eternal pessimist.

Read in 6 minutes

1st March 1945

President Roosevelt presented the Yalta Conference resolutions to the American Congress. Nobody criticized the outcome. Americans might have felt that they were not completely fair towards the Poles, but they decided that no better solution could be found.

2nd March 1917

After the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the Provisional Government adopted the Worker’s Marseillaise as the new national anthem. The French melody was used together with original lyrics in Russian. Which turned out to be somewhat prophetic, since the transformation in Russia eventually took a very different route than the one in France.

3rd March 1875

Georges Bizet’s Carmen premiered in Paris. Just think how many bulls were slaughtered on the opera stages since then!

4th March 1902

During a dispute on the Boer Wars in the British Parliament, MPs were shown a photograph of an emaciated, dying girl. This was supposed to serve as proof that the Boers were fanatics who didn’t care even for their own children’s lives. The conclusion was simple: we must stop those barbarians! Only later did it turn out who the real barbarian was – the photograph was taken in a British concentration camp (the first example of such camps being used to target an entire population) for the Boers.

5th March 1971

Led Zeppelin played their famous song Stairway to Heaven for the first time. Initially, it did not impress the fans that much. Who said it was going to be easy? The way up was obviously going to be quite steep.

6th March 1953

The whole world heard of the death of Joseph Stalin. This information overshadowed the news of the real Russian genius who also passed away: Sergei Prokofiev.

7th March 321 CE

Emperor Constantine the Great declared Sunday an official day of rest in the Roman Empire. The only people who did not to get time off were farmers. After all, someone had to feed all those resting citizens.

8th March 1617

Tito Livio Burattini, an inventor and engineer, was born in Italy. In 1648, Burattini sent a dragon into the sky above Warsaw. The creature, or rather a small dragon-shaped flying machine, did not fly too far, and Burattini ended up being remembered for… money-forgery.

9th March 1841

The Supreme Court of the US ruled that the rebel slaves from the Spanish ship Amistad be given back their freedom. Indeed, the rebels returned to their motherland. However, some of them were so tempted by the prospect of easy money that they decided to try their luck in human trafficking themselves.

10th March 1970

In a secret Soviet laboratory, psychic Nina Kulagina stopped a frog’s heart with the power of her mind – allegedly. It seems that she also managed to stop quite a few brains, because a whole bunch of scientists believed her shtick.

11th March 1986

One million days passed since the founding of Ancient Rome. Time flies, indeed…

12th March 1913

The city of Canberra was established and named the capital of Australia. Who cares – no schoolkids remember it, tourists prefer Sydney, and tennis players all flock to Melbourne, anyway.

13th March 1881

Revolutionaries killed Tsar Alexander II. They were hoping his death would bring some change to the Russian Empire. Well, it did: his son, Alexander III, tightened political repressions even more.

14th March 1937

Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, condemning the Nazi Government. It was the last explicit protest of the Vatican against Hitler’s politics.

15th March 1964

Actress Elizabeth Taylor (who famously played Cleopatra) married Richard Burton (known for his role as Marc Antony). Their relationship turned out to be just as stormy as the ancient love story. And it had no happy end to speak of, either.

16th March 455 CE

Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III went to the Campus Martius with his bow and arrows for some archery practice. There, he was killed by a former subordinate of General Flavius Aetius, whom the Emperor had sent to death several months earlier. Well, he who fights with a sword…

17th March 180 CE

The ‘Philosopher Emperor’ Marcus Aurelius passed away. And for all the thinking the man did, it hadn’t occurred to him to leave a worthy heir to the empire. Marcus’s son Commodus turned out to be his father’s opposite – a tyrant who preferred the circus to the throne. Had he not read any Marcus Aurelius at all?

18th March 1834

Six British workers were convicted for setting up a trade union. Their punishment was to be sent to Australia. If only today… The courts would never get any rest.

19th March 1358

The Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, Anna of Świdnica of the Piast dynasty, gave birth to a baby. Anna was not happy though, because the child turned out to be a girl, and the Emperor was obviously hoping for a son. Even Anna’s friend, the famous poet Petrarch, failed to soothe her sorrow.

20th March 1986

The parish priest of the Royal Gniezno Cathedral called the milicja with terrible news: someone had robbed St. Adalbert’s sarcophagus, stealing the silver decorations. To make matters worse, the burglars had devastated the object. It didn’t stop at that; the criminals were caught in Gdańsk, but managed to remelt the loot.

21st March 1963

Alcatraz prison was closed down. Apparently, maintenance was too costly. Today, there are no prisoners in Alcatraz, and yet they still make plenty of money – show us a tourist who would not want to see Al Capone’s cell.

22nd March 1312

A papal bull dissolved the Knights Templar. And yet, popular imagination and conspiracy theories are keeping it alive to this day.

23rd March 1839

The word ‘OK’ first appeared in print, in the Boston Morning Post. We still don’t know what inspired it, even though everyone knows what it means.

24th March 1906

The Census of the British Empire showed that Great Britain and its colonies took up one-fifth of the world. Not that impressive, though. Today, even the Premier League has more fans.

25th March 1199

Richard the Lionheart was hit by a crossbow arrow during battle. It’s just a flesh wound, he thought (probably channelling Monty Python’s Black Knight). But several days later, on 6th April, he had already left this world.

26th March 1900

11-year-old Adolf Hitler completed a portrait of Albrecht von Wallenstein, the famous military leader from the Thirty Years’ War. Unfortunately, young Adolf was drawing the picture in secret at school, failing other subjects in the process. He never made it as an artist, so for the lack of other interest, there was just one career path left: he went into politics.

27th March 1969

Militants of the Haiti dictator François Duvalier destroyed the village of Cazale, thought to be the headquarters of the opposition. During the attacks, documents regarding the local Polish community also disappeared. As it turns out, many Polish soldiers who served under Napoleon settled in Haiti, after changing sides and joining the Haitian rebels.

28th March 845 CE

Scandinavian warriors, led by Ragnar Lodbrok, seized Paris. What a story, like something straight out of a movie! Wait, which season of Vikings was that?

29th March 1848

It was so cold that the water in Niagara Falls froze and stood still. If such a thing happened more often, a new tourist attraction would emerge: an icefall, or waterstand, if you will.

30th March 1984

A New York policeman promised a waitress that, instead of a tip, he would give her half of his lottery money, should he win anything the following day. As luck would have it, he won six million dollars. Being a man of his word, he indeed split it with the waitress. That’s what we call a decent tip!

31st March 307 CE

Emperor Constantine the Great married Fausta. It was not a good choice for either of them. Fausta accused the Emperor’s son from his first marriage of seducing her. Later, once rumours spread that she was not without fault, Fausta was strangled to death in the bathhouse. And Constantine? Just look at him, acting all saintly!


Translated by Aga Zano

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