28th May

Ethiopia National Day, celebrates downfall of Derg junta in 1991:

Ethiopia, also sometimes called Abyssinia, has over 93 million people, the most people living in a landlocked country in the world.

A 4.4 million year old humanoid skeleton was uncovered here, as well as ‘Lucy’, the earliest skeleton of a human. It is thought Homo sapiens first evolved here, and later set out to the Middle East; it’s also where the coffee bean first appeared.

In around 300 A.D. Ethiopia’s Kingdom of Aksum was as powerful as Rome, Persia, China and India, and was the first empire to adopt Christianity.

In 1270 the Solomonic dynasty began rule in Ethiopia, claiming descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, making them the second-oldest monarchy in the world (after Japan’s Imperial Dynasty).

From 1508 Ethiopia had trade links with Portugal, and in the Ethiopian-Adal War (Adal was a Muslim state in the Horn of Africa) Portugal and the Ottoman Empire took sides as well.

From 1755 Ethiopia became cut off from the rest of the world and was run by warlords.

From around 1850 Ethiopia allied with Britain, who helped it to unite and reestablish the emperor’s power. Turkey and Egypt invaded in 1875-6, but Ethiopia won.

In 1889 Menelik II became Emperor, and built roads and schools and the capital, Addis Ababa.

He also let Italy have a bit of northern Ethiopia, now Eritrea, in return for arms and support. Italy took the mick and expanded the offered territory, but Ethiopia defeated them in the Battle of Adwa, 1896. This makes Ethiopia the only African power to have defeated Europe and never been colonised.

From 1916 Emperor Haile Selassi I became emperor. Selassi was originally called Duke, or Ras, Tafari, and is worshipped by the Rastafarians as the Second Coming.

He was making Ethiopia all independent and modern when Italy invaded again. Selassi appealed to the League of Nations, and became Time magazine’s Man of the Year.

In WWII Britain pushed Italy out of Ethiopia and gave Ethiopia independence again.

In 1942 Selassi abolished slavery, even though about 2-4 million people out of the 9 million population were slaves.

In 1952 Ethiopia became a federation with Eritrea, then annexed them in 1962, who fought back and gained independence.

Mariam

In 1974, following an increase in oil prices, Selassi was deposed by a Soviet-backed Marxist-Leninist junta called the ‘Derg’. Led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, they killed around 500,000 people, and Mariam was found guilty of genocide in 2006 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In the 1980s 1 million died from famine.

Soviet Russia collapsed in 1989 and Ethiopia lost its financial support, and Mariam had to flee as the people turned on him.

In 1995 Ethiopia held its first democratic elections.

In 1998-2000 the Ethiopia-Eritrea war cost both countries $1 million  a day because Ethiopia had taken the area of Badme (it still has it).

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democractic Front, led by Meles Zenawi, has been in power since 1991 and although it lost the 2005 elections it still claimed power.

Ethiopia still uses the Julian calendar with 13 equal months; it is currently 2003.

Day and night are always the same as Ethiopia is on the equator, and instead of using a 12-hour clock beginning at midnight or noon, 1 o’clock is at daybreak, 6am, or at 7pm if it’s 1 o’clock at night (yes, I did explain that terribly).

It has these unique churches carved straight into the ground:

Nepal Republic Day

People have lived here for more than 11 thousand years. Around 500 B.C. a Nepalese prince called Siddharta Gautama gave up his title and tried to become enlightened – he is now known as Buddha.

Nepal was sometimes part of Indian empires like the Mauryan and Gupta Empires, and Nepal became more Hindu than Buddhist.

In 1482 Nepal was three separate kingdoms, Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. In the mid-18th century, a Gurkha (soldier) king, Prithvi Narayan Shah, and he took over looooooads until China felt he was getting a bit close and declared war. And the Brits, who were all over India, also got scared and declared war, but we massively underestimated how fierce the Gurkhas are and were nearly beaten.

In 1846 the Nepalese queen wanted to get rid of a military leader, Jung Bahadur Rana. He fought back, and this led to the Kot Massacre, where loads of princes and chieftains were killed and Rana became king. He allowed the Prime Minister more power than him, and was very pro-British.

In 1959-89 democracy was abolished and the king just had layers and layers of advisers. In 1991 they got democracy back; meanwhile, Bhutan decided to get rid of anyone of Nepalese descent and sent about 100,000 people over, who still just live in a refugee camp in eastern Nepal today.

In 1996 the Communist Party began a civil war until 2006, with 12,000 people killed. In 2001 the Crown Prince killed the king, queen and seven other royals for disagreeing with his choice of wife. The next king entered negotiations with the Communists and eventually agreed to stand down, and Nepal became a secular republic with the Communist Party in coalition with basically all the other parties, which sounds nice.

Nepal has eight of the world’s 10 tallest mountains, including Mount Everest. We like to build a mountain of cushions, climb to the top and have a picnic. Weirdly satisfying. Nepal is the only country to have a non-rectangular flag.

Other events today:

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28th April

1948 Terry Pratchett born – so read Johnny and the Bomb

Sardinia National Day: Sardinia is full of very cool giants’ tombs from the Bronze Age.

There are also about 7,000 nuraghi from 1500 B.C. onwards, defensive forts.

Phoenicians began to invade, and with Carthaginian help they took the south. When the Carthaginians were defeated by Rome, Rome took Sardinia and Corsica. Romans pushed the Nuragic people into the mountains, which they then called Barbaria. They ruled Sardinia for 694 years, during which Sardinia grew loads of grain for the empire and Latin was the main language.

The Vandals came in 456 AD but Rome soon took it back. From 533 it was part of the Byzantine Empire. Gradually it became independent, and no one’s sure exactly how, until the native ‘judges’ became the rulers. It then continued without much outside influence, like a little imperial Rome.

Then Pisa invaded a bit, and the Pope offered a made-up crown of Corsica and Sardinia to James II of Aragon to settle the War of the Vespers.

Then from 1465 some ‘judges’ (or giudici) managed to bring together most of Sardinia, with only Cagliari and Alghero still belonging to Aragon (Spain). But then the Kingdom of Aragon took the whole thing back, and introduced the feudal system at a time the rest of Europe was starting to realise it was awful.

Charles I of Spain

Sardinia was inherited by Charles I of Spain, who fortified Sardinia against African Berber pirates. Sardinia suffered a lot of famines during Spanish rule.

In 1708 Spain handed Sardinia over to Austria after the Spanish War of Succession deciding who should reign after Charles II of Spain (he’d chosen Philip of Anjou, but everyone panicked about France and Spain uniting their empires under one king and had a big ol’ fight about it. They decided on Philip V of Spain instead, and meanwhile redistributed some of Spain’s empire).

Napoleon

In 1793 Napoleon tried to invade a couple of times but was repelled. The Dukes of Savoy fled to Sardinia to hide from Napoleon, and bizarrely Sardinia then united with the Italian states of Turin and Piedmont and the French states of Nice and Savoy, and they all had one parliament in Turin. Sardinia then became the Kingdom of Italy. Not kidding.

Then they went a bit Fascist, and imprisoned anyone who didn’t want to be a fascist, and if anyone spoke Sardinian they went to prison too.

In 1946 Italy became a republic and Sardinia a state of autonomy. They eradicated malaria, got a boost in tourism, went fully industrial in the ’60s, suffered an oil crisis in the ’70s, accepted some NATO military bases during the Cold War, and now it’s phasing into Europe.

Sardinia has its own special singing style, cantu a tenori, and instrument called a launeddas. Maria Carta and Elena Ledda are famous Sardinian singers.

Other events that might inspire your play today:

  • Feast of Beauty (Baha’i faith)
  • Barbados National Heroes Day
  • Victory of the Muslim Nations (Afghanistan Revolution Day).
  • Maryland state founded (1788): cookies, Edgar Allen Poe

28th February

1820 John Tenniel born – so print and colour in some Alice in Wonderland pictures

1824 Blondin, tightrope walker, born – so try some balancing games:

 

Kalevala Day (for Finnish Culture: The Kalevala, a collection of epic folk poetry, was collected by Finnish folklorist Elias Lönnrot and is now considered the national saga of Finland.)

India National Science Day (Indian inventions include an ancient form of chess, chaturanga, ludo, snakes and ladders, and kabaddi; incense clocks; Indian ink; rulers – made of ivory; all kinds of fabric like calico, muslin, etc.; sugar refining; the number zero)

Taiwan Peace Memorial Day

28th September

1990 Nintendo Gameboy released

Czech Statehood Day

The first recorded ‘kingdom’ of Slavs was the Samo Empire in the seventh century, which lasted only 30 years. Czechs then became part of the Moravian Empire.

In 1198 the kingdom of Bohemia was formed in the Holy Roman Empire. This is where we get the idea of ‘bohemian’ from – it was a French insult that meant ‘gypsy’, who they thought came from central Europe. Bohemia then became part of the Austrian Empire.

In 1867 the Austrian and Hungarian kingdoms joined to become the Austro-Hungarian Empire (with two kings). Hungaria owned Slovakia.

At the end of WWI the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and the Bohemian Kingdom and Slovakia became Czechoslovakia.

In 1938 Hitler demanded control of the Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia. For some reason he asked Britain and France for this, rather than Czechoslovakia, and for some reason we said “Yeah sure.” A year later Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia. Czechs were considered Untermenschen (inferior) and were to be deported or turned into Germans. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were also killed.

Soviet troops freed Czechoslovakia, but they did take Subcarpathian Ruthenia (Czech land has the best names) for themselves on the way out. Over 2 million ethnic Germans were kicked out.

Czechoslovakia became a Communist country. In 1968 there was the Prague Spring, where they tried to be a bit liberal, but it was soon quashed because Russia invaded them.

In 1989 the Velvet (i.e., peaceful) Revolution restored democracy, and in 1992 Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The Czech Republic is famous for beautiful Prague:

Jan Svankmajer, Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka. It has the highest density of castles in the world, and is the most eastern part of the western world.

Manit Day (Marshall Islands cultural day).