Monday Mentions – 21 January

Today, I chose to blog about two notable men of Russia – Rasputin and Lenin. The reason is that the former was born on this day, 21.01.1869, while the latter died on that date, in 1924. There is also a connection between them, besides the fact that they are both Russians. While Rasputin was close to the Tsar’s family and part of the court, for better or worse, Lenin was the leader of the Revolution that finished off the remains of the Tsarist rule in the country and its echoes. Some even say that Rasputin’s influence over the Tsarina and the royal family, in general, was detrimental to their reputation and popularity.

Rasputin was a mystic, he had spent years pilgriming to various holy places and living in monasteries. Lots of people in the Russian court believed he was just a charlatan who had managed to ensnare the Tsar and, especially, the Tsarina by healing their haemophiliac son.

Grigori Rasputin was a Siberian peasant who was illiterate until his adulthood, which was normal for that time. He married his wife who would be loyal to him until his death, the two had seven children, 3 of whom survived to reach adulthood. Most of his married life, however, Rasputin spent away from home, either on pilgrimage or at the Russian court. Although his family was formally introduced to the Royals, they didn’t move to the capital and remained in their village.

On several occasions, Rasputin ‘helped’ the Tsarevich, although it is hard to say how. The Tsarina was convinced that Grigori is a holy man who could bring recovery to her son. That contributed greatly to his power and rise of status. His stay at the top of his reputation was marked by a huge change in him. Formerly, he had sworn off alcohol, but now he would drink and accept bribes freely. He had numerous affairs with his female followers and indulging in his sins, yielding to temptation, was seen as the path to defying sin and getting forgiveness. That doctrine, like the one that was mostly preached and practised by Rasputin at his hey-day in the Russian royal court, made him look more cynical than holy.

History shows us that it is natural for such a path of life to end forcefully, and so Rasputin was assassinated by a ring of people close to the royal family who believed he was putting a black mark on the reputation of the Tsar.

While the country’s economy quickly declined, as a result of WWI and bad political decisions (made not without Rasputin’s influence), a senior Marxist ideologist rose to prominence, determined to overturn the Tsarist regime and take Russia to a new road to liberty and equality.

Lenin was a competitive and bossy child, doing excellent at school, born in a middle-class family. After his father’s death, the boy, then a teenager grew erratic and renounced his belief in God. His elder brother was arrested and hanged for capital treason, as part of the group to put a bomb in the Tsar’s palace. We don’t know if that played a role, but during his late adolescence and university life, Lenin read more and more anti-capitalist and pro-socialist literature, forming his hard and fast opinions about how society must change and develop. He successfully, though not without obstacles, graduated law at St. Petersburg and sought a career in the profession.

While we were at school, Lenin was presented to us as a soft-hearted humanist who rejected his own convenient life for the sake of society’s improvement. We read about Red Terror, and Cheka, of course, but those were simply examples of the necessary measures to be taken against the enemies of the people. When I was reading my history lessons, I never imagined what a historical event means for the average person and who those enemies could be. In our minds, they were always greedy, fat and cruel owners of factories and land who harassed workers and peasants and treated them like trash. So, when one day my father, irritated by my neverending praise of Comrade Lenin, told me he was a ‘cut-throat’ and it didn’t matter that he never killed anyone personally, I was in shock.

I suppose that without the Red Terror he wouldn’t have managed to throw the cloak of Marxist-Leninist ideology over all of Eastern Europe. Plus, history is full of violence, that is the normal way revolutions happen. His frugal lifestyle and his self-discipline turn him into a charming and inspiring character even now, I suppose. The relentless determination with which he worked towards his goal, socialism, also speaks tones about him. Perhaps it’s sad, but history, like nature, doesn’t do things in vain. Even though the division of the world by ideology devastated lands, lives and people, it is part of history – along with its effects and lessons.

Monday Mention: Edgar R. Burroughs and Timothy Zahn

Today, I would like to #MondayMention two writers whose birthdays are in September and whose novels I’ve enjoyed.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1.09.1875-19.03.1950, USA

When he died at the age of 74, Edgar R. Burroughs was a celebrated adventure and sci-fi novelist. His most prominent characters are Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of the Barsoom Series. I met the latter in a cinema and learned that the story was based on a novel. After I went back home, I checked online and what was my surprise when I learned that I didn’t study of this author in my American Literature classes.

Unfortunately, it was very long since I’d moved out of my parents’ home, so there was no way I could go through my student’s files and notebooks. Maybe we studied, but I wasn’t paying attention. On the other hand, considering who the Professor in American Literature was, it’s no wonder we have skipped a pulp fiction writer. You see, popular fiction isn’t popular with dry scientists. The lady in question is not a scientist of the admirable type, but she abhors authors who can’t make it to the canon and to her favourite post-modernistic esthetic tastes.

Even better, I thought, now I’ll meet a new writer. I found the first 5 of the Barsoom books in the public domain, downloaded and read 3 of them on my Kindle very soon. I won’t even try to be elitist. I love popular fiction so much that my PhD was on that topic. It didn’t turn out successful, as I cancelled writing it after several rather discouraging talks with my supervisor, but the fact remains. Edgar R. Burroughs’ Barsoom stories are in my personal canon.

Timothy Zahn, born 1.09.1951, USA
As most children growing up in the 1980s in Bulgaria, I was enthralled by the Star Wars Trilogy, the original one. When Timothy Zahn’s books appeared on my PC screen one morning while I was examining a nice online bookshop, I decided to spend some money on it. At that time, delivery wasn’t very fast and there weren’t online payment methods. Still, in less than a week, the Heir to the Empire was in my hands. Two days later I ordered the other two books of the trilogy, to save the extra delivery time and charge. A week later I’d read all and was inspired and dreamy, just like in my childhood when all the class would role-play after seeing the film. My friends and I talked and argued about lines and characters, we re-created scenes, fought with lightsabers and spoke like Vader for months on end. And now, I felt the same way. I hurried to go to bed and turn off the light to daydream about the stories written by Timothy Zahn. I was Mara Jade, yes, that’s right, and I could see Talon Karrde before my eyes.

Later on, when Lucas released the prequel, I wasn’t too charmed because Episode I was empty of emotion, Episode II was empty of common sense, and only Episode III clicked with my taste for drama and self-struggle. During that time, I heard news of Lucas’ intention to make the third trilogy, too, and I hoped Zahn’s novels will be made into films.
Needless to say, I was bitterly disappointed by what happened next. Well, business is business, but it doesn’t mean readers should agree. I hope Mr Zahn has lots of loyal fans and enjoys his work as much as we do.

Do you have favourite authors born in September? Tell me about them in the comments.

Ivy Moon



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Today is the first day of October and we are entering the true autumn. Yesterday marked the beginning of the Ivy Moon from the Celtic Lunar calendar. It starts at the end of the harvest season and prepares us for the coming cold and death in the natural world. Ivy lives long after its host plant has died, which is a reminder of the cyclic nature of life. It is a season when we may free ourselves and our lives from all negative thoughts, despair and gloom.

People are supposed to get occupied in improving themselves and to purify their lives from all toxic things. This is the time of the waning sun, so life of people born under this moon could be sometimes difficult and require stamina and strength.

This moon is masculine and known as the moon of resilience and buoyancy. Magic is related to healing, cooperation and protection.

Most of all, the Ivy Moon is the period when people prepare for the Samhain festival at the end of October, which is the Witches’ New Year.


© Mariya Koleva, 2012


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Monday Mentions

It’s Monday again and it is time for the #Mondaymentions. This week I prefer this trend to its alternative #Mondaymindfulness because there are a few things I would like to … well, mention.

First one is I suddenly found myself among summer. Somehow, I missed the spring, if it came at all. Honestly speaking, I really doubt it. We were keeping a watchful eye for spring, so that we may go for a picknick out of town and show our little girl some “natural items” she is familiar with only through books. So, if ever spring was here, I must have been fast asleep. No use crying over spilt milk, though. This past week we went from wearing turtle necks and boots to short sleeves and slippers. Given the suddenness of it, I must admit I managed valiantly and we spent a wonderful morning at the beach. We managed to show our little girl things that she had not yet met in books, mainly because she has no books featuring sandy beaches at the seaside. Not a great drawback, come to think of it, as we actually live about 20 minutes from the beach. Walking, that is. Ha-ha, does that shock you? Well, if it does, it should – that was exactly my intention. If it doesn’t shock you, well – maybe you live at the seaside, too and just happen to know what it feels like (which is exactly “nothing special”, but that will be for internal use only ;-))

Second is, I snapped out of a particularly depressed period. Those periods tend to get longer and longer. Soon, they threaten to take up most of the year. Funny thing with my depressed periods is that while I am in one, I don’t feel like sharing and explaining. Once I step out of it, I don’t feel like recalling it at all. So, those bleak times remain safely locked within my head and in my beloved people’s minds, as they have the bad luck of getting the worst of it.

Third thing is I am listening to The Scorpions (Always Somewhere… miss you where I am) and this brings back so sweet, or rather bitter-sweet memories of the time I was a shy teenager, and so much more.

Happy Monday all! Never fail to enjoy!

Monday mindfulness


Monday is believed to be an especially tough day, especially in the morning. As usual, we stayed late last night although nothing interested was on, just to have some final sweet moments of the weekend. As usual, the morning wake-up alarm was unwelcome.

Yet, a recent survey showed that Tuesday, and not Monday anymore, was the toughest day of the week. So, in compliance with the new directive, my Mondays have brightened immensely since then. It turns out that on Monday one is still relaxed and refreshed after the weekend (strongly depending on the weekend) and has enough resilience to pull through. On Tuesday, however, one fully realises that the week is in its proper reign and there is no way back, nor could one speed forward to the weekend. Then, despair settles in.

So, while it is still Monday, let’s make good use of it. Be mindful and don’t forget to mention all who inspire you!