The difference between Czar and King

The difference between Czar and King

Ever wondered why a British monarch was called “king” and an Imperial Russia’s monarch was called “czar”? Both august fellows seem to perform identical duties, but for some reason are being called differently. Why? Let’s find out!

The original Latin word “rex” means leader, ruler, chieftain or monarch. It has the same meaning as Sankrit word “rajan”, better known as “maharaja” (great king). While the word “rex” is not in active use today, it’s traces can be found in many modern words, such as “di-rect”, “regis”, “Regina” and “Reich”

The English word “king” is a combination of Anglo-Saxon words “kin” and “son of”. You know, back in the day where men were chosen to lead rather than born, the kings were meant to take care of their people.

Here’s another word – “Caesar“. Originally a surname of the Roman emperor Julius Caesar, the word became a synonym for “king” shortly after he got stabbed. Many Roman emperors were including this word in their official titles without hesitation.

Lastly, there was this great King of Franks and everybody was calling him Charlemagne. In Latin his name was “Karolus Magnus” and in English “Charles the Great”. The modern male names “Charles”, “Karl” and “Carl” are direct descendants of this king’s name.

Now to the point. The Slavic word “tzar” (also tsar or czar) is directly derived from “Caesar”. For the same reason many German emperors had a the title of “Kaiser”, even though in German language there’s a different word for a king – “Konig”. And most Slavic languages, including Russian, have a word reserved for any Western European king: korol’ (король) – a descendant of the Charlemagne’s Latin name Karolus.

So in an unlikely case you’re ruling over a Slavic country your title will be “czar”, but if your little kingdom lies way out West, your title will be “king”. Hail Caesar!



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Posted by on January 8, 2016 in History, Kings and Queens


There are more than 4 New Years in the world

There are more than 4 New Years in the world

Most countries in the world are using Gregorian Calendar these days so New Year’s Day falls on January 1st. But that wasn’t always the case and many countries celebrate their own versions of the New Year in addition to the official one.

The most notable is the Lunar New Year which is celebrated in most Asian countries. There is no exact date, but it’s always on the day of the new moon of the first lunar month, so it normally falls between late January and late February. Islamic New Year is based on yet another calendar, so their New Year usually starts right before Christmas. There are many other days celebrated around the world, some of them fixed and some are not, and a lot many people are enjoying the festivities even today.

But my favorite one is the Orthodox New Year, also known as the “Old New Year”. Unlike the rest of Europe, Russia was stuck with Julian calendar until 1918, so this particular New Year Eve is usually celebrated on January 13th. Russians being what they are, they’ll always find a new reason to have a get-together, so the tradition continues to this day…

When I was a kid, my grandmother would always make a lot of blintzes and pirogi and invite the whole extended family over. It was a family affair and we always had a great time.

For this very reason, many Russian families in the United States keep their Christmas trees standing up until January 14th, undoubtedly causing headaches to employees of their local Waste Management companies. Myself? I usually use a chainsaw.

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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


Breathtaking views of West Virginia

Breathtaking views of West Virginia

West Virginia is best known for its coal mines, lack of natural lakes and harsh weather. What this state is less known for is absolutely breathtaking scenery.

The main character from Ric Locke‘s book Temporary Duty is originally from West Virginia. I’ve never been there myself, but looking at the pictures below I can well believe the place is beautiful.

These pictures were taken as part of crowdfunded astrography book SKYGLOW slated to be published in the Spring of 2016.

Original Gizmodo post



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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Nature, Ric Locke, Temporary Duty


Christmas Truce, the 1914 way

Christmas Truce, the 1914 way

The Christmas truce was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914, during the bloody days of WWI. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce.

However, the peaceful behaviour was not ubiquitous; fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.

The truces were not unique to the Christmas period, and reflected a growing mood of “live and let live“, where infantry in close proximity would stop overtly aggressive behavior, and often engage in small-scale fraternization, engaging in conversation or bartering for cigarettes. In some sectors, there would be occasional ceasefires to allow soldiers to go between the lines and recover wounded or dead comrades, while in others, there would be a tacit agreement not to shoot while men rested, exercised, or worked in full view of the enemy.

The Christmas truces were particularly significant due to the number of men involved and the level of their participation – even in very peaceful sectors, dozens of men openly congregating in daylight was remarkable – and are often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history.

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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in History


The real story of Santa Claus

The real story of Santa Claus
The Santa Claus story is 18 centuries old.
It all started with a Norse god Odin the Wanderer, an old man with a long white beard, holding a staff and wearing long robes and wide trimmed hat. He had 5 animal companions – two ravens and two wolves. But his favorite was an 8-legged horse which rode so fast it could fly.


Many centuries later there was a boy named Nicolaus who was born in Anatolia (modern Turkey), a Greek colony under Roman rule. Nicolaus became very pious and a devoted Christian at an early age. At the time the Roman emperors weren’t exactly Christian-friendly, but gradually became more tolerant and Nicolaus became a priest and later a bishop. Along the way he also managed to perform certain miracles, such as resurrecting dead sailors, preventing virgins from becoming harlots and saving repentant thieves from execution.


After his death the boy from Anatolia became Saint Nicolas the “Gift Giver” – the patron saint of sailors, merchants, thieves, brewers, students and most importantly, children. He is one of the few saints recognized by most branches of Christianity – Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans, to name a few.


Many centuries later the Dutch had their own name for Saint Nicolas – “Sinterclass”. Phonetic derivation of this name eventually became “Santa Claus” in English-speaking countries. Some time later, a British writer wrote a poem for children about Saint Nicolas. The bishop was replaced by a portly man with a big white beard. And Odin’s 8-legged horse became a sleigh with 8 reindeers (as in “rein-deer”).


Nicolaus died on December 6. For many centuries countries in Europe have celebrated on this day, with parents giving presents to children and those in need. During Christianization the images of Nicolaus, Norse god Odin and pagan midwinter holiday Yule got all mixed up and eventually the gift-giving day was moved to 25th of December, the Christmas morning.


Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer has appeared only in 1939, after a booklet published by the now defunct Montgomery Ward company.


Other cultures adopted similar characters. In Russia, there’s “Ded Moroz”, literally translated as “Grandpop Frost”. He wears a staff and either red or blue robes. Mrs. Claus is nowhere in sight, but Ded Moroz has a granddaughter instead, Snegurochka (Snow maiden), a young girl with a long braid.
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Posted by on December 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


An Aircraft Carrier made from ice

An Aircraft Carrier made from ice
In 1943 Canadians tried to built an aircraft carrier from a mixture of ice and wood pulp. Known as “pykrete” this material is as strong as concrete, does not melt as fast as ice and is cheap to produce. A “bergship” made of pykrete would be not only unsinkable but also indestructible, since most of the damage can be repaired with seawater. Well, as long as the temperature around the ship is below freezing…
Project Habakkuk was the plan to build an enormous aircraft carrier, actually more of a floating island than a ship. The bergship would be providing a convenient landing site for the military aircraft operating between Canada and Greenland. Since exact properties of pykrete were unknown at the time, a 1000 ton 18m by 9m model was built on a lake near Alberta, Canada. However, the real ship was never finished. As it turned out, the ice ship still needed steel for reinforcement and proper operation and the engines were a pain to attach. Besides, you can’t have the crew eat cold rations and live in parkas all the time.
In December 1943 the project was officially abandoned. It took 3 hot summers for the prototype to melt completely.
In 2009, the Mythbusters dudes have built a small boat out of pykrete. They confirmed that the material is nearly bullet-proof and very strong. It melts anyway….
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Aircraft Carriers, History


Flashback from my days in the Soviet Army

Flashback from my days in the Soviet Army

Took my a while to find the right pictures, but this is the amphibious armored vehicle of the Soviet Army, called BTR-60. As the name suggests it was introduced in the 1960s, but some countries still operate them even today.
Since I was a radioman, I got to ride in a very special version of this P.O.S, designated BTR-60PU. Unlike the standard APC version, this vehicle does not have a turret and was never meant to carry any grunts. Instead, it has 5 UHF radios inside and a 10-meter telescopic antenna on top. You have to extend the damn antenna every time you stop, just in case your commanding officer wants to call his wife or feels like ordering his lieutenants about. After you’re finally done extending the antenna itself, you also need to secure it with 4 cables staked to the ground, just in case a little breeze knocks that %^##$ antenna down.

Oh, but you only get to ride that BTR on special occasions, like wartime or maneuvers. In peace time you’re stuck with another P.O.S – GAZ-66 command vehicle. The radios are still there and so is the damn antenna, but at least this truck has 2 beds and a table, all too small.

To save gas for the power generator, the Soviet Army doctrine calls for the truck to be connected to any electricity available when stationary. I remember my driver once connected 220v power wires incorrectly, reversing the polarity (Soviet Army soldiers never bothered with such useless things as power outlets). The whole truck’s body became a one big “don’t touch me” area. I’ve learned that the hard way by trying to open a door and got glued to it, shocked by all that electricity going through my body, unable to disengage. Good thing my driver had enough brains to pull me down, damn the man. Couple of minutes later I realized I never thought I knew THAT many Russian cuss words….


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Posted by on December 10, 2015 in History, humor, Soviet Army

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