25th November

Suriname Independence Day

Originally settled by indigenous people (?), in the 16th century British, French and Spanish explorers arrived.The Dutch and the English established plantation colonies there in the next century. They argued about who owned what, and eventually decided that the Dutch would keep Suriname, which they named Dutch Guiana, and the British would keep New Amsterdam, now more familiar as New York. I mean, we kiiiind of agreed, but we also invaded a couple of more times. Worth a shot.

The Dutch plantation owners relied on African slaves to grow coffee, sugar, cotton and cocoa. Some slaves escaped, and became the Maroons, fairly successful new tribes living in the rainforest. They kept coming back to raid the plantations, take away more slaves and kill plantation owners, until the Dutch agreed to give them their own legal land and sovereign status.

In 1863-73 the Netherlands abolished slavery and freed the slaves. Most slaves then left for the capital, Paramaribo, and were replaced by workers imported from the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and India. Chinese and Middle Eastern workers arrived in the 19th and 20th centuries. This makes Suriname, for all its small size, one of the most ethically diverse places in the world.

During WWII America occupied Suriname to protect its bauxite mines. In 1975 Suriname finally gained independence from the Netherlands. Nearly a third emigrated to the Netherlands, fearing that it would be worse off alone. And yes, there was fraud and military coups, including as one ‘telephone coup’ where the military leader rang up the government to dismiss them, racial tension, civil war between the Maroons and the army.

It is the smallest sovereign state in South America and the only one where a majority speak Dutch.

Famous places in Suriname include the nesting site of the giant leatherback turtle, who come to the Galibi Nature Reserve to lay their eggs; and a cathedral that’s one of the world’s largest wooden buildings.

Bosnia-Herz National Statehood Day:

First inhabited by Neolithic Illyrians, conquered by Rome in A.D. 9, by the Middle Ages this area was being fought over by Hungary and the Byzantine Empire.

In 1463 it fell to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and a native Serbian Muslim population began to dominate.

By the late 17th century it was the front of the Empire and so kept being fought over.

From 1875 a peasant uprising in Herzogovina spread to involve many Balkan states and Great Powers until the Treaty of Berlin put it under Austro-Hungarian rule. This led to Gavrilo Princip assassinating Franz Ferdinand and sparking WWI.

Then it became part of Yugoslavia, invaded by the Nazis, and around 350,000 Serbs were killed in the Holocaust.

Josip Broz Tito led a communist resistance and was supported by Allies. When Soviet Russia fell, Yugoslavia broke up. Serbs wanted to stay with the Yugoslav federation; Bosniaks and Croats wanted independence. This led to the war 1992-5 that decimated Sarajevo and was termed a genocide: Serbs against mainly Bosnian Muslims.

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