Today in History: December 30-January 2
The USSR is born, Haiti gains its independence, and more
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December 30, 1066: A mob in the city of Granada bursts into the royal palace, seizes and crucifies ruler Badis al-Muzaffar’s Jewish vizier, Joseph ha-Nagid, and finally marches through the city slaughtering hundreds or perhaps thousands of Jewish residents. The Granada Massacre, as it’s called, appears to have been borne of little more than anti-Jewish animus directed toward the powerful vizier. It shows that even in the “Convivencia” period, considered a golden age for religious tolerance and coexistence in Europe, people weren’t all that tolerant.
December 30, 1906: The All-India Muslim League is founded on the final day of the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference in the city of Dhaka (in modern Bangladesh). The League’s advocacy for a Muslim majority state in British South Asia was instrumental in convincing the UK government to partition its colony into predominantly Muslim Pakistan (which at the time included Bangladesh) and predominantly Hindu India in 1947.
December 30, 1922: The “Treaty on the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” is adopted, marking the formal birth of the USSR. The new state was a legal merger of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (which at the time included the future Central Asian SSRs), the Transcaucasian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (a union of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. All were already de facto united, but the treaty made it official.
December 31, 1229: King James I of Aragon enters the city of Medina Mayurqa (modern Palma de Mallorca), completing the Aragonese conquest (or “reconquest,” if you must) of the island of Mallorca. An Aragonese army had besieged the city for three months before finally gaining victory.
December 31, 1992: Czechoslovakia is officially dissolved, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia each going their separate ways under the terms of an act passed by parliament in late November. The so-called “Velvet Divorce” (named after the 1989 Velvet Revolution and to highlight the lack of violence involved) became inevitable when the Slovak National Council declared independence on July 17. Prior to that, negotiations between Czech and Slovak national groups had discussed the possibility of adjusting the nature of their federation, though as the Czechs pushed for a tighter federation and the Slovaks a looser one, there wasn’t much common ground to be had.
January 1, 1001: As was the case with Christmas, January 1 has tended to be a popular day for crowning monarchs. There are way too many of those to list here, and anyway most of them turned out to be fairly unimportant. One that was relatively significant was the crowning of Stephen I, the very first king of Hungary. Stephen had been ruling Hungary since 997, but prior to 1001 the ruler of Hungary went by the title “Grand Prince of the Hungarians,” reflecting the fact that they were elected by (and subject to, at least to some degree) the Hungarian nobility. Stephen sought the title of king both to demonstrate his authority over the nobles and to put him on par with other national leaders in Europe. Because he was technically its first king, Stephen can be, and often is, regarded as a/the founder of modern Hungary. On top of being king he was also venerated as a holy man, leading to his canonization by Pope Gregory VII in 1083. The Orthodox Church recognized his sainthood relatively recently, in 2000.
January 1, 1801: The Acts of Union, parallel bills passed in the British and Irish parliaments the previous summer, come into effect, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish and English crowns had been in personal union since 1542, when the Crown of Ireland Act elevated the Lordship of Ireland into a full Kingship, and that personal union continued when the English crown became the British crown after the 1707 Act of Union merged England and Scotland. So the 1800 Acts of Union merged two kingdoms that were already ruled by the same person. The 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence ended the union for most of Ireland and is the reason why it’s now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
January 1, 1804: The Haitian Revolution ends when new President Jean-Jacques Dessalines declares Haiti’s independence from France. As with royal coronations, January 1 has also been a popular date for national independence days. In addition to Haiti, this is also Independence Day for Brunei (1984, from the UK), Cameroon (1960, from France and the UK), and Sudan (1956, from Egypt and the UK).
January 2, 1492: The “Reconquista” ends with the formal surrender of the Emirate of Granada to Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.
January 2, 1963: Despite being outnumbered roughly five to one, a unit of around 350 Việt Cộng fighters defeats a joint South Vietnamese-US force at the Battle of Ấp Bắc in South Vietnam’s Định Tường province, withdrawing only when it began to run out of ammunition. The battle was the first VC victory in a pitched battle against the South Vietnamese military and as such was both a substantial morale boost to their war effort and a major embarrassment for the South Vietnamese government.