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Re: [vox] [OT] russian holiday
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Re: [vox] [OT] russian holiday

Quoting Marianne Waage (mwaage@ucdavis.edu):

> The Norwegians also celebrate victory over Germany. It's their Independence
> Day, May 17th.  My mom gets together with some of her local Norwegian 
> friends and they have a fairly decent party, everyone dressing in the 
> national colors...which happen to be red, white and blue. :)

Ja, you bet.

So, Norway's Constitution Day, May 17, goes back to an event at the end
of the Napoleonic Wars.  Which in turn had causes that went all the way
back to 1349, when the Black Death hit and killed two-thirds of the

The Bubonic Plague just happened to kill off, in particular, a
disproportionate number of the landowning nobles' male heirs.  Which
left the gals owning the property, and most of them happened to end up 
re-marrying Danish noblemen.  So, Norway became a (rather neglected) 
Danish possession as a feudal fief.

About a hundred years later, it became even more neglected, a
desparately impoverished backwater, when the Little Ice Age hit, lasting
until the middle 1800s, and nearly destroying agriculture in Norway.
But what little wealth and economic power that remained was in the hands
of people perfectly happy with the Danish benign-neglect relationship:
Copenhagen didn't really give a damn, and left Norway to local rule.

Enter Napoleon, and French nationalism.  Denmark felt very exposed
because of proximity, and nervously agreed to be in principle a French
ally.  Sweden was out of range of French troops, and so remained aloof.
Bonaparte wanted badly to change that, and so sent one of his best
generals, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, to marry into the Swedish nobility 
and step into the suddenly vacant Swedish throne, as Karl Johan XIV.

Unfortunately for Napoleon, Bernadotte went native and declared war on 
France.  Sweden's large standing army became one of the main causes of
French defeat in central Europe in summer 1814.  Therefore, Bernadotte
became a power-broker.

There he was, seated with the other victors at a table in Vienna, and
Bernadotte decided that Sweden needed a concession from Denmark, which
was of course among the losers.  To wit, he wanted Norway handed over as
Swedish property.  The Danes of course were in no position to say no.

But Bernadotte had a small problem he knew about, and a bigger one he
didn't.  The small problem was that his large, much-feared army was in
Austria, not Scandinavia.  The big problem was he had no idea how
stubborn Norwegians can be.

With the threat of a strong monarch marching north towards them, the
Norwegians discovered a previously unknown love of constitutionalism,
and a National Assembly at Eidsvold (just outside Oslo) adopted a
strong, modern, independent national constitution on May 17, 1814.
Thus:  Constitution Day, aka National Day or Liberation Day.  Bernadotte
arrived a few weeks later with his army, held a short but brutal war,
and forced the Norwegians to accept him as their monarch.

But they stood their ground and insisted that it be a _constitutional_
monarch, by damn.  Bernadotte kept trying for more than a decade to get the
consitution set aside and become absolute monarch.  Army or no army, he
could never make it happen.

King Karl Johan came to hate May 17, because it became a bigger holiday
every year, and was aimed squarely at him -- settling down to just a
national celebration day starting around 1830, when he gave up on trying
to eviscerate the constitution.  And by 1905, the Parliament's power was
so entrenched that it simply voted Norway independent again.

> The few times I've heard Norwegians mention it, it's just their
> "Independence Day".  When I asked my mom specifically, she said over
> the Germans.  She even remembers when she was a kid, working at her
> father's pastry shop, some of the older Norwegians wouldn't come into
> the shop if there was a German in it.

And it just happened that the Nazi surrender in Norway was just before
Constitution Day, on May 7, 1945.  Since the occupation government had 
forbidden any May 17 observances for the prior five years, the day
became especially important thereafter.

My parents were in Norway to visit my father's family around 1950.  
There were some German tourists around:  They weren't hassled, exactly,
but tended to be given the cold shoulder just about everywhere.

But things have of course changed fundamentally since then.

Cheers,                                     The Viking's Reminder:
Rick Moen                                   Pillage first, _then_ burn.
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