1st September

1974 SR-71 Blackbird flies from New York to London in under 2 hours

1985 wreckage of Titanic discovered

Russian Knowledge Day (celebrating the first day back at school – here are some back to school traditions that your kid might like.

Uzbekistan Independence Day

The first people to arrive in Uzbekistan were Iranians from Kazakhstan in the 1st millenium B.C. Cities sprang up on the Silk Route to China, remains of which survive today.

Alexander the Great conquered the area in 327 B.C., and married Roxana, daughter of the king of the Persian Empire. Uzbekistan later became part of other Persian empires.

In the 13th century it became part of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan.

In the early 14th century a tribal chieftain, Timur or Tamerlane, took over the area….and Iran, Central Asia, Asia Minor and India and invaded Russia, Turkey, Iraq and China. Quite the go-getter. After he died Uzbekistan became several Khanates.

By 1920 Russia had taken over. They regained independence in 1991. They’re doing ok – they have gold, copper, uranium, oil and gas. At cotton-harvest time the schools close and all the students and teachers help with the harvest for free. This constitutes child slave-labour so a lot of Western companies can’t use it.

The national music style is Shashmaqam. They drink a lot of green or black tea, and in the summer drink a salty yoghurt drink called Ayran. They have a kind of wrestling called Kurash.

Also today:

  • Eritrea Anniversary of the Start of the Armed Struggles (start of war of independence from Ethiopia, 1961-91; see 24th May)
  • Amerindian Heritage Month (Guyana)
  • Slovak Constitution Day (see 17th July)

31st August

1895 the Zeppelin invented

1897 Edison invents the movie projector (Kinetoscope)

Malaysia Merdeka Day (independence from UK, 1957)


Malaysia has been inhabited for over 40,000 years. The original settlers were Negritos (Australoid-Melanesians), followed by traders and settlers from India and China, bringing Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Langasuka Kingdom was on the northern peninsula from the 3rd to the 15th century; while the south was the Srivijaya Empire, an important centre for Buddhism. There isn’t much evidence of either reign now, and afterwards the Indonesian Majapahit Empire took over the peninsula and archipelagos.

In the 15th century the Malacca Sultanate was founded, which became an important trade centre and a centre for Islamic learning. In 1511 this was conquered by Portugal. The Dutch took it in 1641.

In 1786 a Malaysian sultan leased Penang to the British East India Company. The Company went on to buy Singapore, and by the 20th century most Malaysian states had a British advisor.

In WWII Japan invaded, and afterwards Britain wanted to unite Malaysia into a crown colony but it was really sick of being occupied. Instead it became the Federation of Malay under British protection. Meanwhile mostly Chinese inhabitants launched a guerilla Communist campaign against the British. This Malayan Emergency lasted until 1960.

In 1969 they had race riots, and afterwards the Prime Minister introduced a New Economic Policy which tried to increase the share of the economy for Malay natives, or bumiputera.

Malaysia is famous for the Petronas Towers:

Also for the Malay tiger, the orangutan, the proboscis monkey and the Rafflesia flower that can grow up to a metre wide:

and the Batu Caves.


Kyrgystan Independence Day (from Soviet Union, 1991)

Kyrgyz means 40 – a reference to Manas, a legendary hero who united 40 clans against a Turkic enemy. Kyrgystan’s flag has 40 rays surrounding the wooden top of a yurt. (Kyrgyz is also said to mean ‘red dog’, and ancient clans used to believe they were descended from a Heavenly Red Dog.

Humans have lived in Kyrgystan for at least 200,000 years. It became a Turkic Khaganate before 840 A.D. It became part of the Mongol Empire in 1207. In the 18th century the tribes were taken over by the Chinese Manchu dynasty, and in the early 19th century by an Uzbek Khanate.

In the late 19th century China and Russia agreed that Kyrgyzstan belonged to Russia. In 1936 it became a Socialist Republic of Soviet Russia.

Kyrgyzstan is very ethnically diverse and this led to ethnic tensions. In 1990 they tried to confiscate some Uzbek collective farms to build houses on, as there was a housing crisis, and this led to the Osh Riots.

In August 1991 Kyrgyzstan gained independence. The Soviet-era president was voted president again, but the Tulip Revolution in 2005 made him resign. There were more riots in 2010 against government corruption (a lot of MPs were getting assassinated).

They have a pretty weird sport called Ulak Tartysh, which is a bit like polo except instead of a ball they use a headless goat.


Limba Noastra (Moldova National Language Day) – see 27th August


Trinidad and Tobago Independence Day (from UK, 1962)

Trinidad was the earliest part of the Carribbean to be settled, 7,000 years ago by Amerindians and Arawaks.

Christopher Colombus arrived on 31 July 1498. Spanish soldiers arrived with armies later to take land. In 1699 the Amerindians revolted against the Roman Catholic missionary priests, and several hundred died.

In the 1700s Trinidad was part of the Vice-Royalty of New Spain, along with Mexico, Central America and some of the Southern US states. However, Spaniards were much outnumbered by Amerindians, so in 1783 the Spanish King said that as long as immigrants swore allegiance to the Spanish crown, anyone could go in. The population increased 15-fold, with French, British, German and Italian migrants and their slaves.

Meanwhile Tobago was colonised by the Dutch and Courlanders (a Latvian duchy).

In 1797 a British ship anchored and somehow the Spanish governor immediately surrendered. Trinidad became a British-owned French-speaking country with Spanish laws!

After the abolition of slavery in 1838, Britain brought in hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Indian labourers. Petrol was discovered in 1857. In 1889, during the Napoleonic wars, Britain took Tobago too.

Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Britain in 1962.

Trinidad and Tobago are the birthplace of calypso music and the steelpan, maybe the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century. Also Soca music


Colorado founded (1876), literally named the colour red.

30th August

Kazakhstan Constitution Day

Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world.

It was inhabited by nomadic tribes from the Neolithic period, who regularly raided Russia for slaves. From 206 B.C. it was an important part of the Silk Road.

Then the Mongols invaded led by Genghis Khan, and his descendants ruled the Kazakh Khanate 1456-1847. By the end, the Khanate was divided into three jüz or hordes. As it was weak, the Uzbek Khanate and the

From 1807 Russia took over as part of the ‘Great Game’, trying to build the Eastern Europe Empire before Britain took it. It imposed Russian language and the Kazakhs didn’t really like it.

The Russians encouraged immigration into Kazakhstan, which caused resentment and eventually the Central Asian Revolt in 1916.

Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the Russian Empire collapsed and became the communist Soviet Union. The collectivisation of the 1920s-30s caused a famine, while Stalin executed their intellectuals to repress their culture further. After WWII Soviet Russia put its main nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, with no regard for the people who lived there.

In 1953 Russian leader Kruschev decided to make Kazakhstan ‘Virgin Lands’ which would supply grain to the rest of the Union. They’d deported loads of their unwanted into Kazakhstan too, so now they only made up 30% of the population.

On 16 December 1991 Kazakhstan was the last Soviet state to declare independence. Its communist-era leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became president and still is.

East Timor Popular Consultation Day (to have independence from Indonesia in 1999)

New Guineans and Australians migrated to East Timor about 40,000 years ago, with Austronesians migrating there about 3,000 B.C. It traded sandalwood, honey and slaves with China. Europeans arrived in the 16th century to trade sandalwood, and Portugal took it over from 1769 (the Dutch took West Timor).

In WWII Japan invaded, and the Allies fought the Battle of Timor with Timor volunteers.

In 1974 Portugal had the Carnation Revolution and withdrew from its colonies; East Timor became independent a year later. Indonesia were scared as its new leading party were left-wing, so invaded. Until 1999 the Indonesian rule of East Timor was pretty brutal, with thousands killed or dying from hunger.

In 1991 pro-independence protestors were gunned down by the Indonesian military. This was a turning point, and the UN helped East Timor vote for independence in 2002.

St Rose of Lima Day (Peru)

Turkey Victory Day (1922 War of Independence against the Allies after WWI)

29th August

1831 Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction

1885 Gottlieb Daimler invents motorcycle

Anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising (against the Nazis) – see 17th July

Raksha Bandhan/Rakhi (2015 – full moon. Hindu sisters tie a rakhi thread on their brothers’ wrists to symbolise love and devotion) – make friendship bracelets!

28th August

1963 Martin Luther King gives his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

Onam (2015): Harvest festival, Kerala, India. The mythical king Mahabali visits from the underworld.

Vamana, an avatar of Vishnu (the creator/destroyer), is also celebrated.

The Pookalam (flower carpet) is made over several days, starting yellow and adding a new couple of colours every day.

A little pandal is hung over it, and two earthern square pyramids representing Mahabali and Vamana either side, also decorated with flowers.

They have an onam sadya, or feast, of up to 15 curries served on plaintain leaves.

There is lots of dancing, like the Kummattikali, a colorful-mask dance, sometimes around a procession of elephants.

The Kathakali dance re-enacts legends.

Pulikali, or Kaduvakali, has dancers painted like tigers.

There’s a Vallamkali, or snake boat race.

People buy new clothes and put rice flour batter on their doors as a welcome sign.

Ghost Festival (China, 2015)

The Hungry Ghost Month began at the start of the lunar calendar month – in 2015 it began on 14 August. On that day all the ghosts were let out of the underworld to wander the land of the living. People venerate their ancestors by putting their photos out with food and incense. There are lots of taboos to avoid the ghosts bothering you.

At the festival they have another bout of feeding the ghosts, as they must be very hungry after wandering for two weeks.

27th August

Moldova Independence Day (from USSR, 1991): Moldovians consider themselves Romanians really. It was first founded as a Hungarian principality in 1352 by the Transylvanian ruler Dragoş and gained independence from Hungary in 1359.

Stephen the Great defended Moldova against the Ottoman Empire, but it became a tributary to the Turks in 1538. In 1812 the Ottoman Empire gave Moldova to Russia.

Stephen III

The western part became part of Romania in 1859; the rest was Besserabia. Besserabia tried to become independent after WWI, but Russia said no; and instead it became the Moldovian Autonomous Soviet State Republic under Soviet ‘influence’.

To try and distract Moldovans from their idea of really belonging to Romania, Russia made them write ‘Moldovian’ in Cyrillic to distinguish it from Romanian, which is written in the Latin alphabet.

Moldova has the world’s biggest wine cellar – it’s basically a city with roads.