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.

China’s Hungry Ghost month ends (2015): people put out boats with lanterns on them and their ancestors’ names written on them; the ghosts follow the boats floating away down the river.


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