History of a Song: February - “Lord, I Would Follow Thee”

The lyrics of this song were written by Susan Evans McCloud. She was born in 1945 and currently lives in Provo, Utah. She is best known for her LDS novels/historical fiction as well as for this particular hymn (she has written two hymns total... and has written around 45 novels- averaging one a year over the last few decades.) It should be mentioned that her fictional works are slightly decisive in the sense that as an author, she tends to produce either praise or criticism- very little middle ground is found. You either like her work... or you do not. :) The story behind the development of this hymn is a pretty remarkable one... especially for a twelve measure hymn. The author was asked several times do write a hymn and would start and forget several times. Then on a Friday afternoon before a very busy family and conference weekend, she was asked to have it ready by Monday at 9am. She did and the hymn we are discussing is the result of that busy, hurried weekend.

The music for this piece was written by K. Newell Dayley. He was born in 1939 and is a prominent LDS composer and hymnwriter. He also taught music at Brigham Young University and retired completely from the institution in 9/2007. Among the music he has written is the music for the songs 'I Feel my Savior's Love' and he wrote both the words and music to 'Faith in Every Footstep'. The most common version of this song was arraigned by Craig Petrie. It has been sung in Mormon churches all across the world and has been described by some organizations as one of the most loved songs of the LDS church. It has been produced by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Michael R. Hicks, and a group called 'Hims 2' as well as others. And, as a small side note, this specific title of this hymn was also used for the inspiration for a painting exhibition by Carl Heinrich Bloc. Mr. Bloc was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in May 1834 and studied painting in Denmark and Italy after his original training to work at sea. His several painting exhibit/commission titled “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” is currently hanging in the Frederiksborg Palace Chapel in Denmark and many of the paintings are used by the LDS church in their 'gospel art picture kit' with permission from the palace chapel. Also, many of Mr. Bloc's paintings have copies hanging in LDS churches, temples, and magazines/publications throughout the world.

One aspect of this hymn that is unlike most other hymns is that the melody of the first two verses is reversed in the last verses which causes the same word choice to change meaning. In the first few verses, the expression of hope and desire are expressed and as you continue to sing the words, they become less of an expression of desire than that of commitment. This hymn is #220 of the current LDS hymnal.

Do you like this hymn...? Why or why not? What does this hymn remind you or... or help you to feel? And for those who are interested in the artist wait a few days and I will do a post on the artwork of Carl Heinrich Bloc.


Random Thoughts on Oral History, Interviews, and Technique

This week, I spent some time really focusing on the process of getting ready for an oral history interview and what is really involved. I ended up with 13 small paragraphs about different ideas and thoughts on how to interview and collect oral history... and I will share them with you below.

1. The idea of neutrality is described as a skillful way of holding yourself/ body and asking questions that keep the focus at all times on the interviewee and their thoughts and feelings. For instance, having too much rapport or empathy with the interviewee can really side-rail the interview and make it more about you and your feelings and thoughts- and not the person being interviewed... which is certainly not the goal that we are trying to complete(in performing an interview). Also, too much of anything- whether it is emotions, questioning etc... can change the interview and make it more biased, less accurate and focused on the biases, not the whole picture.

2. It is suggested that opening an interview with a question that provokes a detailed answer helps to start an interview with a prompt, purposeful beginning. It lets the interviewee know that the interview has begun and gives both you and the interviewee the cue that you are 'down to business'. Using a question that the interviewee is likely to know and need to give a detailed answer to helps get the interview off on the right track of the interviewee talking... and you listening.. It also should state the main purpose for the interview so that the subject that is to be covered is acknowledged right away.

3. A leading question is a question that sets up the interviewee to answer the question asked in the way that the interviewer seems to wish. This will not necessarily give you the answer you are really looking for. The danger of loaded questions contaminating the interview becomes higher if the 'status' of the interviewer is higher than the 'status' of the interviewee. Loaded questions can also produce answers that are truly difficult for the historian to interpret correctly because the interviewer's bias is so obvious in the original question. To avoid loaded questions, avoid questions that provoke short answers, questions filled with 'emotive' words, and use the interviewers own words to ask more questions- do not make assumptions of what the words mean... ask! Leading questions are less likely to cause problems with the interview near the end of the interview and can be useful when you have had an uncooperative interviewee. At the end you can use these questions to try and pull out more details and get more information. However, even in these situations, keeping the questions as non-'leading' as possible will help to keep the interview unbiased and 'correct.'

4. A negative leading question can be useful for getting comments and thoughts on provocative topics... especially if the historian's research has turned up conflicting information between the research and the information provided in the interview. It is important however, to not use too many of these questions because they can turn the interviewee off of the interview and it is also important to word the question so that the 'challenge' appears to come from a third party and not you- which can cause the interviewee to feel hostile and not as forthcoming towards the interviewer. There are other reasons to be cautious when using a negative leading question, but that covers the important points. They should really only be used when the questions can add to intellectual knowledge and debate or figuring out how the subject deals with adversity.

5. You should only give your opinion when the person being interviewed insists on knowing it. Otherwise, your opinion isn't really important in this instance. Your opinion can only help to bias the interview or even divide you from the person you are interviewing. Even when asked, the interviewer can sometimes use the words in the question to turn the interviewee back to the focus of the interview... and take the focus off of you!

6. Follow up questions are used by the historian to really get the details that you are attempting to have the interviewee provide. Ask for understanding when you feel that something is vague. However, the historian must be very careful to not make the interview feel like the subject is getting the 'third degree'. Questions should be open and indirect... without looking like you are challenging the other person. Some interviews can be fairly useless when they are completed in such a way that followup questions are not really asked.

7. Background research is so useful for a few reasons. Research ahead of time can help you to determine bias or untruthfulness in your potential interviewee. The information can help you during the interview to understand the information that you are being given, help to keep the interview 'on topic', and help you to provide 'useful' leading questions as well as memory nudges for the interviewee that is having a hard time remembering specific things/details. Background details are especially good for helping your interviewee with introspection and helping the individual remember what they 'felt' or 'thought' in the past during certain situations.

8. Approaching a friend or family member about an interview would be done differently than an interview with someone you did not know. First, you already have some rapport with the person that you have developed through your personal relationship. Ignoring your previous relationship while performing an interview would make the interview confused, stilted and any attempt to be 'neutral' would look a little ridiculous. :) However, the interviewer/historian must also carefully analyze the person that they are interviewing and modify their (the historian's) behavior and questions accordingly. Again the interview is about the information and the interviewee and not about you or your relationship with the 'interviewed'. Keeping the interview on track, easy going... but as neutral as possible and focused is the key. The interviewer needs to exercise self restraint in some instances and use rapport, empathy and neutrality to get the information that is sought.

9. Oral history is different from journalism in several ways. Oral history is the legal property of the person/interviewee and can only be used with that person's permission. Oral historians usually try to solve this problem by having a release signed when they complete the interview. Journalists rarely ask for consent to publish and as such they are less likely to get people to truly open up about sensitive personal information. As oral history usually contains such personal information, historians should make no assumptions about publication unless they have consent. Journalists also have the option to bias results in ways that oral historians should not. A journalist can use correct materials in such as way to create a bias in one direction or for political expediency. But while that is not OK for a journalist, many journalists will still do it for reasons of expediency, etc... A historian, in an ideal situation, will not allow societal bias, personal beliefs, etc... to influence the information that he is presenting. The historian will do their best to make sure that the information is as neutral and bias free as possible so that the most accurate picture will be presented. A journalist has the responsibility to report and may use personal information in a way that the person may not feel comfortable with. A historian has the responsibility to do more than just protect the source- if the information is not useful for the current public good and can cause undue injury to those involved, the historian should keep the information safe for a good number of years until the information is can be used in a way that doesn't cause a lot of damage to living people.

10. It is suggested that release forms should be simple and informal... and if you write one yourself... keep it from being legalistic. While some people think the forms should be signed before the interview... it is generally recognized that after the interview process is the best time to do so. While, after the interview you might have problems with a recalcitrant interviewee who has changed his mind, doing the signing before the interview can inhibit the person to be interviewed. Making promises to the one that is interviewed is difficult as well because it may be difficult for you to keep the promises. History can and should belong to everyone so promising that it will not is just one promise that is difficult to keep.

11. Background research itself can raise ethical issues that the historian has to deal with. When you are doing research on living people, you may discover information that is clearly confidential and private. It is important that you realize that specific permission must be gotten for releasing this information- even if you broke no laws to get it. It is very important that the historian does their best to not breach people's privacy or release information that can cause undue harm.

12. It has been mentioned that maintaining a neutral stance during an interview is hard and appears to be manipulative and dehumanizing if you perform tactical and careful planning ahead of time. The idea of neutrality is very important and should be carefully considered, but should not be taken the the other extreme which can inhibit the interview. The historian must remember that being neutral should not cause you to behave unethically or even anti-socially. Making sure that the interview situation is about the interviewee, and not about the interviewer. Keeping things confidential, being sensitive and empathetic, helps to keep the interview unbiased and truly humanistic. Neutrality should be used to gather information and not hinder the gathering... but it also should be slowly put aside if needed to increase communication and understanding by making interpretation. I hope that makes some sense.

13. When interpreting and analyzing your interview, it is important that you treat the conversation and information as serious, important information. Some historians believe that any interpretation of someone else's words is possible inappropriate and ethically challenging.... and a full transcript must be released. Others suggest that the historian, by reinterpreting the interview, puts themselves in a place of higher significance, and that releasing the interview as a full transcript is the only way that the interviewer and the interviewee are on 'the same plane'. Other say that there is always interpretation and if you assert that the interpretation of the historian is unethical, that is 'tantamount' to saying that the interview should have never taken place. I suspect what is being said is that care must be taken to be objective when attempting to interpret an interview... and that the historian should be aware of bias- especially their own.

14. The interview should be put into context if you are planning on using it for a term paper or for general consumption. One reason for this is that reading about someone you do not know can be confusing... and even boring. Most people understand that no life is perfect and is affected by the society and culture around it. So adding the history that affects the person's life is so important and makes the interview interesting and draws the attention of not only historians, but other people.


The Rise of Moscow after the Mongol Conquest

During the years of 1237-1240, Batu Khan and his armies overwhelmed the Russian military forces and the lands of Kievan Rus became a part of the vast Mongolian Empire- or the Golden Horde. Many cities were the worst for wear from this war, and the capital city of Kiev was no exception. Kiev was already a 'falling star' by the time that Batu and his armies arrived- in 1169, the city was captured and sacked by a Russian Prince named Andrei Bogoyubsky who then promptly moved his capital to the newer city of Vladimir- after accepting the title of 'Grand Prince' of course. Kiev's location was no longer as much of an asset as it had been at one time due to trade route changes and political re-directs so the country-state of Kievan Rus was dividing into two 'groups'... and groups that really had little communication with each other. When the Mongol armies arrived at Kiev, they razed the city to the ground and decimated the population who had resided there. So the time was ripe for the ascension of a new capital city in the Russian lands... and Moscow was ready and amply endowed through several circumstances and means to rise to the top of quarreling princes/cities to snatch at the number one spot. This paper will discuss the circumstances and advantages that the small city of Moscow had that allowed for its growth and dominance during the final years of Kievan Rus' existence and the leadership of the Golden Horde.

The land on which sits the current city of Moscow was inhabited long before the Russian city was built and named. Evidence shows early evidence of humans dating to the Stone Age with evidence from the Schukinskaya Neolithic site, the Fatyanovskaya culture burial ground as well as other sites. The first mention of the existence of the city of Moscow was in 1147 when it was used as a meeting place for two princes-Yuri Dolgorukiy and Sviatoslav Olgovich. In 1156, Yuri Dolgorukiy built a wooden wall and a moat around the small city... and he is the man generally credited with the founding of the city of Moscow., This 'mere village' was situated near Moska river and had ready access to the Oka, Volga, and Dnieper, and Don rivers and was rather insignificant when compared to other new principalities of its time: Suzdal, Vladimir, Tver, and Riazan are examples. Situated in the northeast section of Kievan Rus, the city sat on a relatively flat geography with moderate temperatures and huge swaths of forests. This small city was also ideally located in the migration path of populations traveling from the middle Dnieper to the northeast section of the state. The impact of the Mongols on the Kieven Rus state can be described as inconsistent- in this case location really does matter. In some areas, the devastation was large and hard to overcome such as in Kiev and Vladimir. In other areas the impact of the invasion was less felt and so areas such as Moscow had less problems with depopulation. In fact, Moscow notably had an influx of population due to being a less devastated and more protected settlement.

During the years of the Mongol oppression or 'yoke' as it was sometimes called, the Russian aristocracy had a custom of how inheritance was divided between the male children- or princes- of the household. This system, called the 'appanage' system describes a system where it was common for a Russian prince to divide his land into as many 'appanages' as they had male children. In the principality of Moscow, the ruling prince followed the system, but tweaked it just enough to change the outcome of the inheritance. Instead of dividing the property into equal pieces, which over generations would become smaller to non-existent when there were too many princes around, the ruling prince would leave a major share of his estate to the eldest son and only small pieces to the other sons. This had the effect of allowing the eldest sons to dominate his brothers and take their lands in arguments... whereas in other areas civil wars between princes were much more evenly matched.

This form of primogenitive inheritance helped give Moscow an edge over other Russian territories. In the beginning Moscow was considered of such little significance, that it was an inheritance to the very youngest son of Alexander Nevsky named Daniel in 1263. Daniel attacked and/or inherited a few other 'appendages' and was able to leave an enlarged inheritance to his son. One of his prodigy, Ivan I, was known to collaborate with the mongols and was considered so trustworthy by the Khans that he was given the title of Grand Prince and was put in charge of tax collecting throughout much of the Rus lands around 1331. Using his profits to buy more land or collecting more appanages through force, Ivan increased the amount of his holdings five times. Ivan also helped to transfer the residence of the chief bishop of the orthodox church to Moscow (from Vladimir) and so he was able to count on support from the church for his actions over other rulers and cities. Ivan I also had the advantage of having mongol troops available for his command to fight other Russian prices or kinsmen who he had a disagreements with.

So while other princes were spending their time dealing with more princes and land to fight with/over and not having good success, the rulers of Moscow were quietly successful in their quest to increase the size of their holdings. Individual princes from all over attempted to secure the support, influence and even military might of the Mongols for their own endeavors or for the title of Grand Prince. So inter-dynastic quarrels could now be brought and appealed to the Khan for settlement... and many were. It can certainly be said that the Russian princes were not passive when dealing with succession problems and many times the Khan was called upon to deal with these family struggles. But one specific situations helped move the Khan of the Golden Horde to look more favorably upon Moscow. Moscow's main challenger for the title of Grand Prince and for the tax patent was the city of Tver and the rivalry between these two cities had been fierce for quite some time. (This civil war between the two cities lasted about 25 years. One source describes the contest between these two cities are full of 'dramatic episodes of court intrigue, highway robbery, murder, and war.) However, in 1327, a violent anti-Mongol riot broke out in Tver with the death of several mongol officials- which effectively ended the Khans strategy of allowing each of the cities to hope to get his 'favor'. The army of the Golden Horde attacked the town of Tver, its neighbors and devastated the cities... among the leaders of the troops for this attack was Prince Ivan of Moscow. It was also thought that the city of Tver was becoming political allies of Lithuania- a traditional enemy which caused some worry to the Mongol Khan.

Due to the calculation and successful implementation of the 'appanage' system by the princes of Moscow as well as the implicit support of the Golden Horde, the military might of Moscow over other Russian principalities was fairly assured. So, it should not have come to the surprise of anyone that as the rulers of Moscow grew more powerful, the yoke of oppression would be less tolerable. In 1378, Dmitri Donskoi and his army beat a small Mongolian army at the Battle of the Vozha River and in 1380, an alliance of Moscow princes defeated the Mongol alliance at the Battle of Kulikovo- marking the beginning of the end of the Golden Horde's power in Russia. There is some question of who the winner was in this last battle if you are looking at it from the military point of view, but from the moral and human point of view, Russians saw that the mongols could be successfully challenged and that 'Moscow' was the champion 'of the oppressed nation'...and Dmitri Donskoi was a hero for openly challenging the Mongol army/occupation. His son Vasily I was the first prince since the occupation to have been named successor of a city in a will without the prior approval of the Khan and he started his reign by sending 'gifts' to the Mongols and not the full tribute.

The empire of the Golden Horde began to disintegrate around the reign of Ivan III- a prince of Moscow, who greatly expanded the territory under the control of the city and laid the foundation for the coming Russian empire that was ruled by czars in an autocratic system. By the time Ivan III had completed his territory grabs, he had all the land of Russia under his control and a unified nation- in a way Kievan Rus had never been. For decades, the Mongols had been experiencing internal conflict with fairly frequent overthrows and a new 'Khan' designated.

In conclusion, the world and the life that lives on it is experiencing constant change. Kiev, at one time, had all the advantages at her feet between water access, land, trade, people, etc... But as the world changed, Kiev's 'star' was no longer so advantageously aligned and another 'star' could rise. And as the state grew in population, Moscow is a city that is more centrally located- Kiev was very much in the south of the state. Also, travel and communication from Moscow around the state would have been easier due to its abundance of close waterways. Through luck, sheer cunning, and natural advantages, the city of Moscow rose to a prominence that it has continued to this day. From a small, meager village in 1147 to the city that now houses 10,563,038 people, Moscow has become the largest city in the state of Russia... and a city with a vivid, living history that can be seen in its buildings and people today.


2011 Poetry Corner #1: The Storm

The water glides rippling past my toes
As the wind rages, the ripples become chops
Almost violent and angry

And while the world sways and rages around me
I sit- a silent spectator …
Waiting for the wave that will come
And rejoicing in the storm that is outside me
… and not inside.


The Subjugation of Kievan Rus : The Tartar-Mongol Conquest and its Influences/ Ramifications

The Tartar- Mongol invasion of 1237-1241 marked the collapse of the Kievan Rus state and for more than a century, the Mongolian leaders and armies remained the major power over most of the Rus territories. For almost the next 300 years, the three major influences on this country and its people were the Mongols, the new city of Moscow, and let's not forget the Russian princes and aristocracy that will continue to weave their influence, civil war, and conflicts onto the Russian people and its land mass. This paper will discuss the Tartar -Mongol invasion and the Russian resistance to it and also will discuss the history of the “Golden Gate” of Kiev and its significance to Russian history and the Mongol invasion.

By the time of the beginning of the Mongol invasion in 1237, many things had changed in Kievan Rus. The city of Kiev was no longer the capital of the 'great prince' Andrei Bogolyubsky as he had 'sacked' the city and then moved 'his' capital to the city of Vladimir. As the trade to Greece became less important, so did the city of Kiev and eventually steppe nomads (the Polovtsy) cut the water route to Greece. This waterway 'tie' had connected the two largest areas of Kievan Rus... and they were now divided. Decentralization and migration to avoid the steppe nomads began to occur and ordinary Russians, as they understood the inability or unwillingness of their princes to rule, took to finding their own strength to solve their problems and to try and prosper. This lack of communication and the lack of cooperation by the ruling elite left the Kievan Rus state more vulnerable to outside invading forces. This vulnerability and then the loss of several armies that were sent to help neighboring Polovtsky forces fight the Mongolian forces, helped assure the collapse of the Kievan Rus and the takeover by the Mongols.

Russia was safe for a few years from the Tartar-Mongols as the Mongolian forces retreated to the East in 1227 to deal with internal problems arising from the death of Genghis Khan....however, these were dealt with and so the Mongols returned, invading under a khan named Batu and a general named Subodei. While the Russian elite and its people should have been prepared for the Mongols to return, the Riurikid princes failed to take any extraordinary precautions against attack – even after three of their neighbors were attacked and subdued in 1229 and 1232. Batu and his army attacked in 1237 by crossing the Volga river and systematically taking over the land after his demand for a tribute of 10% of all the assets of Russia was denied- which included people and horses. The first to fall was the city of Riazan which was conquered in a week, destroyed the small town of Moscow in January 1238, 'captured, plundered, and burned' the city of Suzdal, and then reached the city of Vladimir in February- which was defeated and beaten in a battle on the Sit' river on March 4, 1238. The great Tartar-Mongol campaigns in the lands of Russia can be divided into two separate phases over three years (1237-1240).

By 1240, Batu had conquered all but a single part of the Kievan Rus- and Novgorod escaped only by a very lucky circumstance. As new territories were acquired, the Mongols conscripted new members for the military from the conquered populations and adapted their 'clan structure' to the conquered people. The Mongols were also noted by religious communities at the time for being very tolerant of other religions. However, the Mongols were not noted for their abundance of mercy or pity- to themselves or other groups of people. An example of the strict discipline by this group for themselves can be measured the the example given to other soldiers – if one or more soldiers was 'captured' by the enemy, the other members of their military 'group' were executed after the battle's end. Also, in “The Tale of the Destruction of Riazan”, the audience is reminded that the Mongols 'burned this holy city with all its beauty and wealth... And churches of God were destroyed and much blood was spilled on the holy alters. And not one man remained alive in the city. All were dead. All had drunk the same bitter cup to the dregs. And there was not even anyone to mourn the dead.', After the Mongol military campaigns were concluded in the Rus lands, these lands joined the vast empire that was known as the Golden Horde- which at its largest point covered large areas across eastern Europe, Persia, China and Korea.

The land of Kieven Rus and its people were deeply affected by the invasion and subsequent rule by the Mongol rulers. Looking at the land through a large lens, the country itself was mostly cut off from Europe for more than 250 years. This would certainly have had its effect on the economy- as well as the political and cultural structure of the time. After the city of Kiev was burned to the ground in December 1242, the center of political power in the Rus was shuffled from there to the newer city of Moscow. (An interesting chronicle account on the siege and burning of Kiev mentions that so many people tried to get to safety from the Mongol army in the Church of Tithe that the upper floors of the church collapsed due to the weight. The Church of Tithe was also the first church built of stone in the city of Kiev.) At the time of the Mongol destruction, Kiev was considered one of the largest cities in the world, with a population exceeding one hundred thousand. Many parts of the land and its human geography was destroyed as cities were burned, large quantities of people killed, several royal princes killed along with their armies, and a new way of life and new leaders emerged. (There is some argument about how much real damage either than 'deaths' the Mongol conquest actually caused.) The only facts that do not appear to have much dissent surrounding them is that the Tartar-Mongol forces seemed to easily and speedily conquer the Kievan Rus state due to a few circumstances- the Mongol army was much larger and much more efficient due to skill, military tactics etc.... The Russians had no central command, smaller and less efficient armies, no intelligence system and very little communication between the towns and districts.

With the coming of the Khan- ruler or tsar of the Golden Horde, the lives and lifestyles of the remaining populations were to change. The Mongol society was primarily a nomadic one and that was not to change after the takeover of a different group of people. Society was based around clans, which were then divided into tribes and then smaller groups and even when building cities and agricultural communities, the Mongols were known for continuing to be a people who were easily 'transportable'- while building his capital city of Sarai, the leader Batu lived in a tent. One source suggests that by 1253, this capital city was an enormous 'tent city' of about ten miles in size. The economy was affected as tribute needed to be paid to the Mongol oppressors, qualified men were forced or conscripted into new positions in the economy- army, crafted items, other skilled labor, etc... Some chronicles describe the taking of slaves and the systematic conscription of the skilled craftsman and artisans. So internal commerce would have suffered a setback due to the lack of city craftsman to make things to sell, the inability of the towns to make goods to satisfy the villagers, the Mongol policy of 'ignoring' the peasants so that the peasants would be forced to grow food for themselves and the trade routes that had been disrupted and needed to be restored, etc... To be blunt, the Mongols, who were primarily interested in economic gain, had the motivation to get the economy moving again quickly and settle in peaceful relations over the conquered. That said, the motivation was based on what the Mongol leaders wanted the economy to do... and that did not necessarily contain what the economy had already been functioning as before the war.

Politics changed as well. The war with the Mongols had reduced the number of princes that still survived to vie for power and land (mostly the northeastern princes). And each of these princes needed to accept their new rulers, learn how to deal with the new rules/laws and attempt to recover and restore order in their lands- of course, after they had their right to continue to 'rule' confirmed by the Khan. The fact that the Mongols had become the men in charge, however, did not change the continuous power struggles between the Russian princes as well as the near severance of political and cultural ties between the north and south lands. In some areas the only outward sign of the Tatar-Mongol invasion's success was that the Russian princes would travel to the headquarters of the Golden Horde to pay allegiance to the Khan and have their appointments as leaders confirmed... as well as to pay tribute. The invasion also brought the 'census' to Russian lands as the Mongol leaders used the information gathered for military conscription, land division, assessing the amount of tribute due, etc... Politics in general changed more in the southern areas of the old Kievan Rus due to proximity to the headquarters of the Golden Horde- the northern areas were less easily influenced. Diplomatic rituals clearly changed and developed over this time as well. The visits became more formalized and became a 'ritual'... and not a haphazard system.

Other changes that can be attributed to the Mongol invasion were changes in culture. A postal system was developed that helped speed communication and make it more efficient. Interactions between the Church and the Golden Horde became more direct and regular at time went on and by 1261 a bishopric was established at Sarai and the Russian church was afforded special privileges from taxation and military conscription- even though the Mongols were generally Muslim. Individual bishops could serve as diplomatic agents for the khans and were used by the Golden Horde to help improve alliances with the Byzantium as well as act as emissaries to the Russian princes (which could suggest church approval for the Mongols.) As the city of Moscow became more prominent over time, the culture that the city of Kiev had shared diminished and the cultural attributes of Moscow became more widespread. (By 1252, Moscow had become an independent hereditary principality and over the next hundred years it was to grow strong enough to not only annex some of its neighbors in 1302, but to also fight for the title of Grand Princedom in the early 1360's.) Over time, the Golden Horde would put it's trust/confidence in the prince's of Moscow over other political princes.

Like all empires, the Golden Horde was chipped at over time and was eventually vanquished from the Russian lands. In 1380, an alliance led by the princes of Moscow defeated the mongols at the battle of Kulikovo- which was to mark the beginning of the end of the Golden Horde in Russia. The Mongol 'vacuum' as filled as it lifted, but mostly by Russia's traditional enemies (the Poles and the Lithuanians) and not necessarily by the Russian's themselves. As these new groups moved in, intermarriage became more commonplace, helping to blend, people, cultures, and language.

In conclusion, while the Mongol invasion caused changes in the economic, political and cultural structure of Kievan Rus- and certainly contributed or caused the failure/collapse of the state, not all changes can be placed squarely at the feet of the Golden Horde. For some groups economic advantages could be had that were better than before the invasion... and many economic hardships that were suffered by the common man could be shown to be as much the fault of the Russian princes themselves as well as the Mongol leaders. The changes in culture can be placed at the feet of the Mongols... and at the feet of the Russian princes and the Byzantine empire as well. And many political 'changes' didn't cause much change at all- the Russian princes still squabbled like toddlers playing a high stakes game of Risk. Some changes, such as the census and tax gathering methods the princes saw as distinct benefits- and kept using them after the Khan had been vanquished from the Russian lands. Moscow rose to prominence because of the calculation of its princes and their use of the 'political arraignments by the Golden Horde- a calculation that other princes in Russia didn't take advantage of.

An interesting side note to this invasion and physical structure that has managed to survive the years of changes and revolution is the “Golden Gate' of Kiev. Who constructed the gate is up to debate- whether it was Vladimir I or his son Yaroslav the Wise- although Yaroslav appears to be winning in the debate. It was constructed in 1017-1024 and served as a main gala entrance to Kiev. The Golden Gate was originally a 'triplet' and was one of the three main gates into the city of Kiev. The other two have not survived the onslaught of centuries. The city of Vladimir had a set of gates also known as the 'Golden Gates', but those particular gates were destroyed by Batu during the Mongol invasion of the city. The Golden Gate of Kiev, however, was built so well that when Batu tried and successful attacked the city of Kiev, he was unable to get through that particular gate... and only found success through a less well fortified area. These 'gates' have a few significant connections to the past history of the Russian state. In 1048, a french delegation arrived in the city of Kiev to ask King Yaroslav for his daughter's hand in marriage to King Henry I of France. The french diplomats was awed by the beauty of the “Golden Gates” and you can still find royal deeds in France signed with the seal of the Princess Anna Yaroslavna- which has a iris and a gate... which is thought to be the Golden Gates of Kiev. If all the entrances to Kiev had been like the Golden Gate...well, the Mongols might have met their match in the city of Kiev. It is also a unique architectural structure that has been imitated a few times, but is based on the internal decorations found in ancient Ruthenian churches. Currently, the Golden Gates have been restored on the ruins of the original gates, holds a museum inside and are now the property of a different nation- Ukraine.


Some Blessings for Today- 2/13/11

Today is a day of mixed feelings.  I found myself looking forward to this day... and truly dreading its arrival.  Last night I lay awake, tossing and turning, thinking and wondering... just trying to figure out what choices I need to make in my life.  What choices I really have... and how the choices that I could make affect those that I love, those that I no longer call 'friend', and those that wander in the communities that I inhabit.  Today, I go and sit with a few of the most amazing priesthood leaders that I have ever met and discuss my thoughts and my choices. That day is here.

I recognize that I am not the only person who struggles.  I recognize that I am not the only one who struggles with this particular trial... nor have I shed the last of my tears for it.  However, I would be ungrateful if I did not also recognize the fact that I am truly blessed and that I know that I am loved and cared for by many including my Heavenly Father.  And so today, I thought I would take the time to not just say a quick thank you for some things to my Father today.  I thought instead I would articulate why I am so grateful for them and what they mean to me.  I will not articulate all the blessings I think of today- just those that today I truly feel deep gratitude for right now and this moment in time.

1.  I am so grateful for my husband.  He is the most important person in my life.  He taught me what love really is and what loyalty and joy can be.  He has shown me patience and the quiet strength of a friend and partner. I love him and appreciate him for so much, but I especially grateful that I had the courage and the faith to share some personal things with him today... And that he will listen and doesn't seem to judge me harshly.  I am so blessed to be yoked to such a wonderful person!  I hope to remain so.

2.  I wore a skirt to church today.  First, having a good reason to go to church so that I was forced to go was great... Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have.  But I haven't had a dress.  Yes, I have had church clothing in the past, but every dress I have but one now feels tainted and I got rid of them when my son got so upset at my putting on a dress on Sunday- dresses are clearly loaded now.  ; )  An acquaintance of mine was chatting with me a few months ago when I was looking at dresses at the local thrift store and knowing my situation, she wouldn't allow me to buy a dress that day.  She said "wait until you find a dress or a skirt that you look at and like and then buy it- do not make yourself another burden in the shape of your clothing."  I took that advice and I found a skirt a few weeks  later and a few days later a vest that I liked looking at... and actually felt a brief thrill about the idea of wearing them.  So today, I go to church in a skirt.  I look ridiculous- especially with my uncombed hair, my silly toe socks and my 'bitey' rooster... but I am grateful to be at church and in a dress- no matter how ridiculous I look.

3. I was able to put the October conference onto my Blackberry so I was able to spend my 1 1/2 hour drive listening to the first few conference talks and hymns.  I think that they were just what I needed today- especially the talk from Elder Holland.  It is such a blessing to have the technology to listen to conference on a different day and time than when it originally comes out... which is pretty hard for me to see due to my lack of technology- ironic that!  :) I think that my brain was ready for church when I got there and I felt less trepidation and more anticipation for the wonder ahead of me.

4. When I was growing up, I was surrounded by some pretty bad examples of the priesthood and what the word 'priesthood' actually meant and entailed.  It can truly color a girls outlook on the priesthood to see guys who are out having sex serving the sacrament the next day... and having your mother tell you how much better than you they are. When I moved to the 4th ward out west, I got a better idea.  But then I moved to Maine and the idea became very confused and muddled again. Some men used the priesthood authority to try and bend people to their will. A family who had been unemployed for eighteen months was able to finally get a job- which he held for two months until he was given a choice of the job or the temple recommend (and no the job was not inappropriate). I watched people being treated badly- including myself- due to false doctrine, prejudice and fear. I watched women use priesthood holders to accomplish things they couldn't do alone... and so when I stopped attending church in late 2009, my thoughts on the priesthood were confusing to be sure.

And then my stake presidency stepped in. I think that I have finally seen what the priesthood should be and what priesthood power really is... and I am so grateful for the love and caring that I have in the priesthood- I am not sure that I have ever felt it before so strong and in such a positive way before. I should thank Heavenly Father every day for the men in my stake presidency, but I do not. I want to truly express how grateful I am for them right now. I think that my head and my life would be in a much less positive place without them.

5. I came home tired and exhausted and I managed to get a nap which I have needed for days. The idea that I could take a nap- I could just decide that I could and do it is a new one for me.... and I am very grateful that my life has a little bit of flexibility that I can do a few small things for me now. It is really nice and I will never take some things for granted again- or at least not for several years from now! :)

6. I am so grateful for my close friends who are really supporting me in so many ways right now. I think in some ways, a few of them have saved my life. :) And my son is always in my thoughts and keeps me motivated to keep trying. My life is better because I know them... and what else can a person truly want in life?

I hope that all of you have had a blessed day and are ready for the week ahead. Do you have some blessings that you would like to share?


Carbohydrates and Fiber - My Personal Analysis :)

So I took the time this week to look at a few things about nutrition. I looked at my fiber content and how much sugar I consumed on my 'recorded' day- as well as total carbs which of which both fiber and sugar qualify. I also took the time to look at why fiber is important in the diet, why we really need carbohydrates in our diets, and why some people are intolerant of milk products.

So when I did 'rate your plate' two weeks ago, I found that I had eaten 233 total grams of carbs. (I also mentioned in a earlier post that I had been low on many important vitamins.) I easily made the RDA of 130 grams of carb intake. (almost doubled it in fact). When I did the math, I found that 52% of my calorie intake was from carbs which was a little less than the 60%- which is the 'goal'. A few ways to improve my intake would be to add more fruit to my diet as well as bread products. I will admit that the bread products are hard because of my allergy to wheat. There are ready made bread products out there for the wheat challenged, but at the risk of sounding like I am complaining- they are expensive! So I try to make the stuff myself as it is a lot cheaper and so maybe I need to find a way to make more... or think of something else...? :)

My fiber consumption I think was pretty good for an American at 29.5 grams... but I still barely made the minimum of 25 grams. Adding more fruit would help with that along with beans. Luckily both are foods that I like and so I just need to really examine and think about how I can change my thought processes and the 'habits' of eating... which I have been working on the last few weeks. I have managed to add more fruit to my diet and I should look at adding more beans. I also want to take the opportunity to do the calculations again after recording a day later this month and see how much better I am doing... or worse ;)

My total sugar intake was 49 grams. That is pretty good, especially since most of that sugar was in fruit that I ate and I can't imagine that I should quit fruit to lower my sugar consumption. I allow myself a few cookies a few days a week and I could look at cutting those out, but I think if I do not feel treated every few days... then I will just crave and crave. Maybe I can look at a couple of cookies and add milk instead of a few cookies with no milk...? Am I making excuses?

Carbohydrates are the body’s main form of energy. As I haven't eaten breakfast yet, I am feeling a little weak and slow, but eating should get me going again. Everything that we do requires energy- breathing, twitching, thinking- even eating requires the expenditure of calories in the work for more calories. Some cells prefer energy from carbohydrates, such as the brain, nervous system, muscles, and red blood cells.... so these areas are directly affected by a low carb diet. If you do not eat enough carbohydrates, the liver is forced to break down protein into energy, a process that over time can affect all of your bodily systems. Carbohydrates are readily acting and fast available fuel for cells- they do not require oxygen to break them down and in most cases are already available as soon as they enter the small intestine.

Fiber is so important for our diets for many reasons! One of the best reasons to eat fiber is so that you do not get constipation. Fiber helps the digestive system keep everything moving and makes it harder for the system to get clogged up. Clogging the system over time cane cause all sorts of complications from cancer to colonic impaction to hemorrhoids from straining to push. Of course, fiber removed the benefit of keeping reading literature in your bathroom as you will not have long to read! :D Some forms of fiber are thought to lower the 'bad' cholesterol in your blood as well as inflammation of the blood vessels- a doctor told me once that he dreams sometimes of little bits of oatmeal acting like scrapers on your blood vessel walls removing plaque- but I have no idea if that is true or his thoughts only... although oatmeal in the store has the heart friendly label on it. Foods that are high in fiber can also help with weight loss and you can feel full without eating as many calories... and fiber pretty much goes 'right through you'. Fiber can help lower blood pressure as well as makes it harder for the body to have 'spiky' blood sugar- sugar is processed more slowly as so would form a mound in measurement, not a peak... does that make any sense. Mounds will help you to eat better because you will not have huge dramatic spikes in your blood sugar which will make you hungry- I guess this is another way of saying that fiber helps with metabolism. Fiber will also act as a scrub brush and try to keep moving impurities and toxins out of the body before they sit and then enter the system. You can thank fiber for helping your child eventually remove the ring or the coin that they swallowed.

Some people are unable to tolerate high milk intake because they are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and without the enzyme 'lactase' to break down the sugar, the lactose causing pain, gas and abdominal upset- to say the least. Your risk of lactose intolerance varies depending on your race-and therefore your genes. When looking at large groups Asians, South Americans and Africans are most likely to have this difficulty- the book mentions all of these groups as well. I believe that those of Mediterranean descent are likely to have this problem as well- I heard that in my paramedic classes, but I didn't look to see if my brain was foggy or not before I put that here! Many milk products such as yogurt do not have a lot of lactose and so they can be tolerated by many and used to help provide the calcium needed.

I am really having a pretty fun time studying about how nutrition works... and I hope that some of this information is useful to other readers. Is any of this new to you? How would you rate the way you eat... based on some of the information above? Do you get enough fiber...? Too much sugar...? Please share!


Advice for Preparing and Collecting Interviews for Genealogy/ Family History

I read an article recently on history that I wanted to review for a larger audience. I thought that it was really important information to have available for someone searching for it. So here is a good summary.

The article that I am reviewing was written by Linda Shopes. One of the first things she discusses is the fact that the terms 'family history' and 'genealogy' are not always interchangeable even though they are used interchangeably in most societies. The term genealogy is defined as the 'reconstruction of a person's lineage through use of written records'. Family history, however, has a much more inclusive definition and can include genealogy- but also oral history, pictures, historical significance, etc... And there are many benefits to the use of oral history in the work of the 'family historian'. These can include, but are not limited to:

1. The discoveries in this work can enhance the historian's sense of identity and can help them gain perspective on their own life and give the historian's life more context and meaning.

2. The family members who participate in the interview process may find preparing for the interview and the interview themselves rewarding. Recalling life experiences and sharing them with others who show true interest can be not only rewarding, but give a sense of accomplishment and giving to the interviewee.

3. Gathering these records can be an impetus for developing and deepening family relationships for the historian as well as other family members... and the records themselves can help open relationships and appreciation for other family members that other members may know little about.

Another benefit that can be found by the general historical community is that if the family historian prepares these records and does the research to place the individuals in their historical contexts, not only are they more interesting, but they can provide information for the general historian about times and situations of which there may be very little or only misleading information available to study.

So it is important to carefully prepare for doing oral interviews. It is important to have the basic data for the family members that you are going to discuss and talk to. Then you should take that basic info and do some research on the historical and social times in the life of that person. Some places to begin for looking for family information are: the family bible, misc family papers such as tax forms, material objects, and also public documents such as -birth, marriage, census, wills, etc... One reason for doing the research ahead of time is to save time in the interview and spend the time on getting answers and recollections that you do not know or to get more information that you can only get in the interview process. By having some information you might be able to help stimulate recollections and its the next step to understanding individual lives in their relationships and social circumstances. It will also help make the historical setting and involvement more clear.

It is also very important to make sure you have a precise focus... and the focus that you choose can cover three specific areas. The first is the impact of major historical events and trends during the person's life. The second is technical developments and how they have changed the world around the person and that individual's life. The last is the various relationships of various aspects of social life- work, religion, community, family, class status, structure and dynamics of their life. This can also include family stories, traditions, customs, and beliefs.

You should also start with the family members that you feel most comfortable with and are willing to be interviewed... and as these interviews are successful, you are very likely to get more positive responses from more reticent family members- although older family members should be put at the top of the interview list for obvious reasons.

So when preparing for your interview, think about how to encourage extensive and thoughtful recall. Explore possible topics for the interviewee before the interview. You should encourage a mood of expansiveness and ask open ended questions. If necessary, you can ask follow up questions to bring the interviewee back to the discussed topic and always guide and encourage, but do not intrude and do not comment positively or negatively- try to be impartial. Each topic should be explored as completely as possible before moving on to another topic. You as the interviewer should be in a relaxed body posture, develop a good rapport with your subject, use nods and smiles and use clarifications and examples can be used after the question has been answered. Make sure that pauses are not interrupted by more questions; make sure the question is fully answered. Interviews should be in comfortable, informal settings with no background noise and the interviews should be slowly ended- not abruptly closes. A few closing questions with small talk for a few minutes and thanks is the recommended ending. And no interview should last more than a maximum of two hours- the interview will become more tiring and not productive.

You can also use a group to record oral history. A family group can be very enjoyable and valuable to the participants involved as well as the historian. It can provide more information as individual group members provoke responses and trigger memories in other members. A group interview can also highlight patterns of interaction among members and highlight the similarities and differences between the members.

In conclusion, Ms. Shopes had some words of caution. It is important to understand that some family members will be uncomfortable talking about personal things and will have little enthusiasm for your interview. Some will be unwilling to talk about personal things and will refuse outright. Others may have difficulty getting past the feelings of past embarrassment, pain such as deaths, etc... that they will have difficulty expressing or feel that they cannot do so. And some others will use this interview to try and sway the interviewer to 'their' side of a family quarrel or may only present the 'good' side of the information. The author reminds us - “Oral testimony, like any other historical source, needs to be evaluated both for its factual accuracy and for what it reveals about the attitudes and values of the interviewee.”

After the interview, it is important that the historian uses a good form of organization that allows for easy access of the information to others. Careful filing of pertinent information under the individual's name as well as good transcriptions are key. It is also an idea to make the transcripts available to other family members... and if possible to your local historical society or library for other researcher to use in their research efforts. The author does however advise that any family history that leaves the 'hands' of the family should be kept in a way that permission must be granted to use or view the information.

I enjoyed writing this summary and I hope it is helpful to someone searching for information about preparing family history. :)


Happy One Year Anniversary- to my Blog :)

Well, it has been one year since I started my blog- an anniversary that I think is worth noting to myself.  I started this blog for a few reasons- family and friends gently suggesting, the immediate trauma of last January forcing me to try and find a way to communicate and articulate some of my thoughts and feelings, and last... I really wanted to use my blog to help motivate me into not only studying subjects that interested me, but being able to share those ideas them with others and discuss them and maybe eventually really have a small group of diverse people that could truly get together and chat about the wide variety of topics.  The idea of being able to really have a discussion with people who may or may not disagree and work towards understanding and consensus sounded wonderful!  Still does, come to think of it.  :)

So when I started my blog I wanted to focus on a few specific topics.  I wanted to focus on Mormonism, disability, simple living and feminism.  Those topics have many, many different nuances and perspectives to think about and understand.  I also wanted to focus on these topics because these four subjects seem to embody much of my life.  I am a Mormon -by culture as well as by faith.  On July 9, 2009 I stopped attending church due to a major difficulty and I have so much needed to talk about it... to really understand it and to move past it and find peace.  The situation at church is changing and morphing for the better, but like all major change, it is slow and sometimes feels like I am watching paint dry. However, I stare and work and then I blink and I realize that some of the paint is dry. It is coming! :)

My ideas on simple living have changed a bit since I have started to try that as well. Just the words 'simple living' have so many nuances and you can tell just by looking at the magazines trying to catch the 'market' in the racks at the supermarket. Some things I could live without- I know I could... but I do not feel like they make my life simpler- I almost feel like life is harder without them. There are some things that I don't need and I get rid of and never miss. Certainly over the last few years I have found that what affects the quality of my life the most is people- and not things I own... or need... or want.

And I have found that I haven't focused on feminism or disability as much as meant to... and as some changes in my personal life have become more of a focus and the gist of my pain... and the taker of my time, I have put so little that is truly personal on this blog. My personal blog feels too 'open' to be terribly honest about my life on... a interesting commentary I think. Maybe if my life was simpler... I could feel comfortable, but in some ways I feel like my life is dragging me along in the choices of others and I am just trying to find the ground under my feet... and I hope it is solid. I really never imagined that I would have to deal with some of the trials that I am facing and struggling with. That said, I have enjoyed this blog very much and I am so glad that I was talked into it. I know that I am not a 'popular' read and that very few people even know that I exist, but I do feel that I am putting out some information that can be useful to other people. I have also found that I feel more confident in my writing and myself- that I can articulate some of my needs or thoughts even if I do not have a human being that I am sure I want to share all of them with.

So, I am not sure which direction I should head in with my blog this year. The topics that I wanted to write about in the beginning are still near and dear to my heart, but life feels more complicated that it did then... which I never imagined was possible at that time. I think that I will head forward continuing to share my thoughts on education, history, and my life. I will try to be a little more open about my confusion and concerns about my life as well as my family... And I will try to move forward on some of the topics that I really wanted to talk about- especially about disability and its effect on individuals families, and communities. However, I am aware that there are other directions that I can move in... and need to think about it. I am also hopeful that as the year goes on, I can find not only more topics that interest me, but more topics that can be discussed! I really like the discussions that I have been able to have that are started on this blog... and I would like to continue it! So, welcome to the second year of my blog. I am happy to continue... and hope you will join me! :)


Oral History and Thoughts on the Individual

For this post, I really wanted to take the time to dissect how individuals and their personalities clash and mesh with both culture and society when collecting historical research from others I have broken the post into three sections: Individual/Personality, Culture, and Society.


There are many reasons that it is important to focus on the individual when looking and studying history. First, it is the 'individual' that makes history. Yes, most of history focuses on rich, royal and upper class individuals, as well as powerful religious leaders (or leaders with huge followings) and only a few of them at that. But the history of even large countries has been forced to include individuals that do not fit those classifications. A few nameable examples are: Joan of Arc of France, Rasputin of Russia, and Martin Luther King in the United States. Second, all of us as human beings are making history as we live. Yes, maybe our history will be noticed by few and cared about by even less. But if we look at our actions and our behavior, it directly effects those in its path. My tiny town of Brooklin has made national news a few times for its behavior that I know of... and both of these times- one person's behavior, belief system and ingenuity or stubbornness have been the catalyst for the large event. I have been told that the local soup kitchen would have closed a few months ago if one person had not stepped in. One person in the right position systematically denied disabled children a good education and fought and insulted parents in his attempt to save money in my area. Now he is retired and living in the same town... and seems confused that he is 'not well respected'. His handiwork can be seen by anyone dealing with the children in our town... and little pleasure is taken I assure you. I am sure that there are so many other examples, but individuals and individual's lives do clearly change the world, culture and society around them. An individual can describe a social and cultural situation that he has been involved in... and see it differently from the other twenty who experienced it... and the other individuals who were indirectly affected by the situation.

Taking the time to learn about individuals and their distinct personality bents gives you clues about how a person thinks about the world and where their biases and perceptions lie. Keeping an open mind and truly trying to understand the person that we wish to collect information from will help give our information more meaning. The information that someone gives on a topic will vary in so many ways, including their general way of looking at things, people involved and how the individual felt about them, ways it affected the individual or his loved ones/family, how society itself views the situation, how their past history colors how they view the more recent past and present, and how the individual's present situation can color their views on the past. So attempting to understand the person behind the information you seek should become as important as the information itself.

Some questions that would be useful to consider when trying to decide if someone makes a good person to interview can be easily summed up. Determining if the person is honest, able to try and deal objectively with the past, and other personal information about the interviewee is key. Does the individual have anything to lose by objectivity? Is the individual able to be objective about things that caused great pain or hardship? How does the individual view his life and those around him? Determining an individual's unique traits and how a person reacts to people, his environment, joy and hardship, etc... give us clues about how accurate the interview itself will be... and how useful.

There are a few reasons that truly understanding an interviewee's family life and social situation are important when collecting oral history. Understanding how the individual has lived, grown up, choices they have made such as marriage and children, and the social environment in which that person has had to make life changing decisions will not only help shape our questions to better fit the individual's probable experience (not useful to ask a poor individual who lived all of their life in California what the White House was like to visit during their lifetime unless you are sure they went there!) If you are asking the interviewee what the individual Jeffery Dahmer was like, you will surely get a different viewpoint based on interviewing his parents or neighbors... or the parents of one of his victims. An individual who has been raised in poverty and managed to scramble out of it to an upper class existence may think that welfare is useless because everyone else could do what he did, or may recognize that his circumstances were helped by others, etc... knowing how this individual thinks, currently lives and has lived gives us important cues when using the individual as a source to collect oral history.


Culture helps the historian to place individual facts into a greater context by looking at the different groups that individuals can belong to in order to help us understand the different cultures... and have a window of understanding into the people that we are interviewing. Culture is usually behaviors that are shared by individual groups. And as culture must be taught or learned through an individual's life experience, we as historians can truly understand culture only by learning it from other people. A book can only go so far in this regard. So, by looking at individual experience and comparing them to others in the same group, we can learn a lot about the experience itself, but the collective group experience and how culture can affect the group experience itself.

The word 'ordinary' suggests a faceless void. It is also almost demeaning and seems to suggest that anything ordinary shares the same background and story. However, this is not true. Ordinary people- as opposed to celebrities or very powerful people- tend to exist in shadow in a historical perspective, but that does not mean that these lives are even similar let alone the same. These 'shadow' individuals can tell us a great deal of what life is like for many that are not in the limelight. People who live complicated and earth changing lives that are not in the newspapers. In some instances such as studying social changes, the ordinary man will necessarily give better answers than the powerful or the celebrity- as the famous will be more untouched by grassroots changes. The ordinary man can show us the emotions and turmoil of change as it happens, one person at a time. The ordinary person can help us to see what tiny, minute emotions and behaviors and movement go into the large scale version of social change. Without these 'collages' of information from people who have lived in the very 'trenches' of history, we will not have a truly accurate picture of history... and we certainly will not have one that we can understand on a truly human level.

Inner facts are so important because they can fill in the gaps that basic knowledge can never fill. Reading that something is bad is a fact, but someone who was there telling and describing to you how bad it was adds an element that helps to cement the fact as true... and brings genuine understanding. The key to truly understanding events such as defining social moments is also in the concept 'inner facts'. Casual observation can give us the knowledge that a transportation strike is happening in France... but why? Why the strike? Why now? What brought the idea and organization into being? Who started it?

The importance of putting 'inner facts' into their historical perspective cannot be overstated. If the historian or reader is unable to understand what the facts that are presented really mean, they will not end up meaning much about the original topic. Certainly oral history not in context can tell us about humanity and emotions and the basic human dilemmas... but when placed within an appropriate historical context we can learn how the emotions were evoked, what the suffering or joy really, truly meant, and how the emotions and behavior made the changes that the individual did or helped make the changes of an individual together with a collective whole. And the information given by one individual about an experience and then added to the stories of others, can give us a rich and diverse picture of not only the event in question, but the culture that the event happened in as well.

Standardized questionnaires have a few problems, but the biggest one is that no individual is truly 'standard'. So a standardized questionnaire will not glean much information that is truly detailed and can only glean 'standard' responses. To get detailed information, we must ask someone in their own words to describe something... and not trap them into using our words which may not get us the information that we seek. Any question is also subject to an individuals interpretation of the question... and again, humans are not standard. Language and the past can color what words mean to people and so they can also change how a question is interpreted. (An example is I grew up thinking that the word 'couple' meant three or more-except when discussing human couples. So a 'couple' of sandwiches always meant three or more to me- until last year. When I finally realized the reason for past misunderstandings when using the word, I have actively worked to change the definition in my mind. But until then, I would have used the word incorrectly!)

The term 'thick description' can be defined as a very careful and detailed description. A thick description will usually help to uncover a person's reasons and motives for behavior and will also usually give cultural information and context. It can give you ideas for questions that you would never have thought to ask based upon your own cultural bias and can give insight into situations that you as the historian may never have heard of in your own culture. These descriptions can also give insight into how culture has changed over time and ways that society or local communities have changed as a result.


Society is the name given to the human world of interactions and living that are important in determining some of our behavior and the behavior of the people around us. Society forces us for instance to wear clothing... but culture may help determine what type of clothing that we wear. Society includes the human community, how we interact together and our relationships with each other. Both society and culture- while distinctively different- are very interrelated and influence each other. Our culture may be shaped by society and culture itself can, in turn, help shape the society around it. However, society is what 'surrounds' us and where we live... culture is what is in us and how we live.

To really get a good grasp of social history, oral history and other qualitative sources should be used because they will provide the details that will truly make the social history developed and not just a brief outline of time. Brief pieces do not give us a picture of what it was like to be truly human during that time frame and so 'his-story' becomes dry, uninteresting, and also unable to be used to see how humanity has changed or not changed today. Social history without culture or other sources simply becomes a basic black 'outline' and the contents are not clear until they are filled in with the hues of personality, humanity, emotions, and behaviors of individual people. As Hoopes states, qualitative sources bring history to life and reveal its significance and meaning- which help to give history meaning.

Historians should use both types of sources if they truly wish to get a full picture of what they are studying. Using both types of sources makes more difficult projects probably more successful. The two source types can also help to find more information for 'smaller' projects than there would usually be if only quantitative sources are used. Using both sources not only helps make the history more clear and more interesting, but it also helps to make it more accurate as you can compare the sources to see where they agree, disagree and are different or compliment each other. Then the historian can compare the differences and look for other sources to help determine accuracy and why there are differences- something that the historian could not do if it was not recognized that there were differences.

It is important to understand how society impacts groups and individuals for a few reasons. One (and the most important personally) is the need to understand that society does affect us as individuals in our daily lives- whether we understand or pay attention to that reality or not. Another reason is that many individuals are very likely to believe that their personal history really isn't 'important' history, but the tasks of working at jobs, raising families, attending school, etc... contain the marks of the society in which the individual lives/lived. And so, no matter how isolated the individual sees themselves from society around them, they are not... and understanding the different ways that society affects groups and individuals helps to develop understanding and interpret sources.

Many people choose to interview their family members because finding another 'family' to interview that is willing to put up with your nosiness and be as honest with you can be quite difficult. Another benefit is that you will have some basic knowledge of the individuals and personalities involved and so you will better be able to quickly understand what family members would be better for interviewing, which family members might be unreliable, and where the different biases might be a problem. You might also have a better understanding of questions that you want to ask. You also have the added benefit of adding to your knowledge of your family, your heritage and the history intertwined with it all. This kind of project can give greater personal awareness and understanding to the historian about their life, their role in their family and how their family has developed and changed over time.

One problem of interviewing family members is that family members may not always see the information that they have about themselves and their history as important. You, as the historian, must try and get the details of their lives and they may be hesitant to share them with you. They might also have reasons that they prefer not to share information with family members.... maybe things that they have been hiding. Convincing these individuals that it is a good idea to share and even give some details of certain circumstances may be very hard indeed. Some ways to overcome these problems is to know the individual being interviewed really well so that you can address the individual's concerns and also determine if the individual would even make a good interviewee.

Social history defined is a way of looking at history that includes the history of 'ordinary' people, how they lived, and attempts to look at history from the point of view of social trends, movements, etc... Quantitative history is an approach to the study of history that uses physical countable evidence- numbers, tax forms, statistics, etc... as primary sources for facts. A quantitative fact can be measured and 'solidified'. Qualitative history are facts that can be debatable- there are internal facts and are facts that give us understanding of human behavior and not just the behavior itself. It gives you the why the behavior happened and other intangible facts that while harder to pin down- are facts.


So, the term 'society' refers to the idea that we live among other people who have some forms of power to permit us to do some things and stop us from doing others. Culture is defined as the intellectual influences that enable us to see some possible avenues of behavior and refuse to do or see other ideas... and personality is the individual response to the cultural and societal influences around us and how we individually interpret these avenues and expectations and conduct ourselves accordingly- or not, based on our own decision making, learned or innate cues, etc... These three terms (society, culture and personality) describe separate ideas that in some ways can be teased out separately from the other two terms. Yet, like triplets, while they are separate entities, each of these terms describes ideas and behavior that are interwoven together and so... they cannot totally be separated except on a vague and less informative basis. Society and culture can help define people and even how they see themselves, but personality can change and mold culture... which can change society. Or personalities can change social 'expectations' and in doing so change the larger picture of culture and society. So each of these ideas clash and mesh depending on different factors.

What do you think? Do you disagree with anything that I have written? Let's discuss! :)


The Late Kievan Era: Vsevolod III and the Early Development of Ukraine

During the reign of Vladimir I, the country-state of Kievan Rus was brought into stability, Christianity, as well as economic security. After his son's were placed in positions of power in cities around the state with ready militias and some autonomy, it looked as though Kievan Rus was ready for a golden age of peace and prosperity. This was not to be and right before his death in 1015 AD, Vladimir's many sons began to fight for more control, larger land areas and supreme power over all as well as wealth. This bloody infighting continued with little respite as different princes began to exert more control over their lands and fight off invaders- whether 'relative' or foe. For almost one hundred years, brothers killed brothers and other relatives with a few brief periods of stability between periods of strife and civil war. The next ruler of note was Vladimir Monomakh in 1113 AD. However, by 1132 Ad, Kievan Rus was beginning to seriously divide and fragment due to internal tensions between the differing princes and the city of Kiev could no longer be counted on to produce an occasional strong and unifying ruler. Other economies and other political centers began to assume more importance during this time including the cities Vladimir-Suzdal (in Suzdalia), Galicia-Volhynia, and Novgorod... and another hundred years of various times of vague calm and civil war were to commence. During this time, a large period of relative calm and economic success was brought about by the rule of Vsevolod III. He lived from 1154-1212 and was known as the 'Grand Prince' as well as by the name Vsevolod the 'Big Nest'- due to his fourteen children. In this paper, I will discuss the life and successes of Vsevolod III, some of the reasons for his success, and the populating of the lands we now call Ukraine- or “the breadbasket of Europe”.

Vsevolod was one of the children of Yuri Dolgorukivi who is known as the founder of the city named Moscow around the year 1156.(Yuri I) It is not known exactly who is his mother was (he was the 10th/11th of fifteen known children, but historical speculation suggests his mother was Helene Komnene, a Greek princess who took Vsevolod with her to Constantinople after his father's death. It was in Constantinople at the Komnenoi court that he spent his childhood, returning to Kievan Rus in 1170 and possibly visited Tbilisi where he might have met his future wife. Before 1186 Vsevolod married his first wife, Mary Shvarnovna of Ossetia- she bore him 14 known children and died in 1206. Mary devoted her life to works of 'piety' (and clearly having children!) and was later glorified as a saint in the church. In either 1207 or 1209, Vsevolod married Liubov Vasilkovna, the daughter of Vasilko Bryacheslavich who was Prince of Vitebsk- they had no children that are known.

During the early parts of his reign, Vsevolod participated in many military struggles and was not known for being merciful. He increased his holdings by strengthening the defenses on the middle Volga, building outposts along the northern Dvina, seizing towns from Novgorod, and appropriating its lands along the Upper Volga. He had limited success, however, in bringing Novgorod itself under his control. He put people in charge of areas who would do his will and was not accepting or tolerant of disobedience. He was known as a great military commander and in “The Tale of Igor's Campaign” it is written - “Great prince Vsevolod! Don't you think of flying here from afar to safeguard the paternal golden throne of Kiev? For you can with your oars scatter in drops the Volga, and with your helmets scoop dry the Don.” For the church, he was much more generous and in his capital city of Vladimir he had built the Cathedral of St Demetrius in 1197. When the Assumption Cathedral was destroyed by a large fire in 1185, he had it rebuilt under his direction. And around the year 1200, his wife Mary founded the Princess Convent presumably with his blessing.

During his life time, he was acknowledged as the dynasty's senior prince, but Vsevolod focused his attention on his lands and of the neighboring principalities of Rianzan and Murom. His sons, following their father's example, devoted themselves to their northern concerns and withdrew from 'southern' politics. Vsevolod III ruled for 36 six years until his death on April 14, 1212 of natural causes at the age of 58 (a rare way to die for a military man!)

So by 1200, the northeastern area of Kievan Rus known as Suzdalia had become quite important... and its ruler Vsevolod III had dominated the other princes in the south for the over quarter century that he had been in power. There are a few clear reasons that Vsevolod III was able to be so successful in his quest for power and wealth. One important reason was his luck of geography- Suzdalia had many rivers including control of most of the upper Volga river. Some of these rivers flowed in and out of neighboring territories which gave Suzdalia an opportunity to act as a middleman between other states that their ruler did not hesitate to take advantage of. In addition, the soil of the area was rich and fertile. Agriculture was easier to develop in this area than in other parts of the Kievan Rus state. When you also add the fact that Suzdalia had fewer problems with foreign enemies than some of its southern counterparts- and by the 12th century, its primary enemy the Volga Bulgars were on the defensive and less likely to attack.... it is not surprising that many new cities sprang up in this state. All of these factors would have made migration to this area quite attractive to many people which can also help explain how the population grew so quickly around this time. Most of the migration appears to be Slavic populations moving to the safer areas to avoid the constant incursions by nomadic tribes that continued in the south. It should also be mentioned that because the Suzdalia area was an area of high migration, it gave the princes more power than the rulers of the older, more entrenched areas. Trade would have been a good reliable source of income during this time with fewer enemies, lots of 'controlled' rivers and waterways, more individuals to make or grow goods, and the possibility of acting as a middleman on some rivers to neighboring states. An 18th century Russian historian named V.N. Tatishchev states “the Volga Bulgars were constantly trading in Suzdalia where they sold grain, valuable objects, cloth and other goods around the Volga and Oka.” Other sources suggest that trade was a very common occurrence during this time before the Mongol invasion.

The territory that we now call Ukraine still has almost all of the same geological benefits that were exploited during the time of Vsevolod. The soil is still rich and will produce large high-quality yields. It had heavy forests in the twelfth century which would have been used for housing, heat, and trade. It had plenty of rivers for drinking water, agriculture and animal husbandry, travel, etc... Animals for fur and/or food would have been fairly easy to find as well. Add the idea that this area would be mostly safe from invaders and it would be hard to imagine why everyone in the area didn't move there! And several sources describe the rich and frequent trade in this area... as well as the thriving culture.

I found a few things interesting when I was researching this paper. For instance, I laughed out loud at finding a genealogy website that showed the links between George Washington and Vsevolod III... and all sorts of others! I was also amused to find that this great man has his own Facebook page- it doesn't look like it is updated frequently, but...wow! And one site helped me to place this time frame with more clarity in my mind because it linked the year of Vsevolod's death with the failure of the children's crusades- I think one of the worst parts of history that I have ever studied... or at least the worst ideas I have ever heard of. The Suzdalia state sounds like it had many places in which it would be possible to work for a living, enjoy some medium of safety and also have the opportunity for culture. This was a really fascinating research project... and so I look forward to the next one!