Kuril Islands (S3.06)

S03E06 Kuril Islands Audio

In this episode we’ll be talking about the Kuril Islands. This island chain is located in the Northern Pacific, and stretches between northern Japan and Kamchatka, Russia. The 56 islands extend for more than 750 miles across the ocean, and they total 10,500 square kilometers (4,000 square miles) of territory altogether, making their entire landmass roughly the same size as Lebanon or the island of Puerto Rico. The islands today have a population of roughly 20,000, and are controlled by Russia. However, the islands were previously administered by Japan  from the 18th century up until WWII, and have been subject to a land dispute ever since. Japan claims the southernmost islands as their ‘Northern Territories,’ and the conflict over them has led Moscow and Tokyo to avoid signing the peace treaty that would have formally ended the Second World War.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)

Flag of the Sakhalin Oblast, where the Kuril Islands are officially administered by Russia  Map showing Kuril Island chain between Hokkaido in Japan and Kamchatka in Russia. The sea of Okhotsk and the island of Sakhalin to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

Joe was recently in Honshu and Hokkaido and took some photos, including from a Jomon-era archaeological site, and the the Museum of Northern Peoples in Hakodate, which listeners might find interesting. Well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighbourhood

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Music from these islands and the neighbouring territories, some of which you heard, can be found at the following sources:

A massive thanks to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate the support and input!

Finally, here is a picture of some of the postcards sent from Hokkaido to our Neil Armstrong-tier patrons on Patreon – they truly are out of this world!

Georgia or “Sakartvelo” (S2.07)

S02E07 Georgia Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast we’ll be talking about Georgia. Not the US state, but the country in the south caucasus, known to its inhabitants as “Sakartvelo”. This former Soviet Republic is nestled between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and is home to around 3.7 Million people with a history dating back thousands of years. Throughout its history, Georgia has been subject to numerous larger powers, including the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire, and dynasties of Persia (Iran) and the Soviet Union. As the Iron Curtain fell, Georgia declared its independence and has operated as a modern Republic ever since. It’s neighbour to the North, Russia, however, has ensured that Georgia’s hold over independence has never been as secure as most Georgians would like. Ethnic conflicts and economic turmoil beset the country throughout the 1990s, culminating in the brief Russo-Georgian war of 2008, from which tensions still remain to this day.  

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

Map of Georgia, indicating disputed areas

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

The stunning mountain fortress of Vardzia today (Wikimedia Commons)

Most of the music in this episode were examples of Georgian polyphonic singing, a very important style of music, being the oldest polyphonic music in the world (singled out by UNESCO as a vital aspect of cultural heritage).Some examples are:

  • “Chakrulo”, which was one of 27 musical compositions included on the Voyager Golden Records that were sent into space on Voyager 2 on 20 August 1977.
  • Here’s another example in the “Georgia and the Great Caucasus” documentary

Georgian folk dancing is also a wonderful tradition, here are a few videos of that:

Finally, we promised to include the video of the insane baptism rituals available in the Georgian Orthodox Church, so from EuroNews, here it is:

A massive thanks to the inimitable Gary O’Daly and Jeffrey Dokar, two of the backers of our recent Kickstarter Campaign – thank you for making Season 2 possible. Big thanks also to Mariam Kalandarshvili for talking to us and helping us understand (and pronounce) some elements of Georgian history; we now know that the capital is T’bee-lee-see! Thanks too to our sponsor Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Alaska (S1.05)

Audio: S1E05 Alaska

This week on 80 Days, we talked about Alaska, the United States of America’s 49th state. The name Alaska comes from the Aluet word Alyeska, meaning great land, and it is a plentiful place in many respects. Rich in natural resources, Alaska has a longer coastline than the other 49 states combined  and is the largest state in the US. It contains over 3 million lakes, as well as Denali, North America’s highest peak. about 500 miles separates Alaska from Washington state, its nearest neighbour within the US, and it has a strong connection with Russia, which used to occupy and control the territory. Exploring Alaska for you are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Hong Kong, the UK and Switzerland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

Flag of Alaska

Things you might want to read more about:

  • Alaska is the point of mainland America where it is generally considered humans first arrived in waves from Asia, including the ancestors of most indigenous South American peoples (25000-15000 years ago), the ancestors of many native Alaskan people and the Navajo and Apache Native American tribes  (14000-9000 years ago), the ancestors of Aleut and Eskimo people (9000-6000 years ago). This makes the area valuable for archaeologists trying to understand how people came to the Americas. Alaska’s indigenous people (including Tlingit, Athabaskan, Innupiak, Aleut and others) and much of their culture still persists to the present day, although they were, of course, greatly affected by the intervening centuries of colonisation.
  • Potlach – a “competitive altruism” practice among some native communities, such as Athabaskans
  • Music this week is all from aboriginal North American people and can be found here and here
  • Semyon Dezhnynov‘s expedition in the Bering Strait, which may have brought the first Russians to Alaska, although there are mixed opinions about this
  • The first Europeans to arrive in Alaska were the Russians, who – in the course of charting the Pacific coast of Russia – crossed the strait which is now named after Vitus Bering, a Danish navigator who led a voyage across to what is now Alaska. There were violent clashes with native Aleuts and Tlingit people and disease had devastating consequences on the indigenous population. Bering himself was marooned on an island on the way back to Russia and died.
  • Fur-trapping, particularly of sea-otters, became the major economic interest of the Russians in “Russian America” and a monopoly was given to the  Shelikhov-Golikov Company (later, the Russian-American Company), which set up headquarters at Sitka. This early settlement was attacked in the Battle of Sitka by the Kiks.ádi Tlingit clan.
  • Rather than lose their hard-to-defend province to the British in a war, the Tsar decided that the best course of action was to sell Alaska to the USA for $7.2m in 1867
  • We mentioned the instance of a Pope drawing a line on a map, which gave the Spanish a right to colonise some newly-discovered territories and the Portuguese others – this is dealt with in the Wikipedia article on the Treaty of Tordesillas
  • St Herman (the hermit) and St (Bishop) Innocent are two Russian Orthodox saints who were missionaries in the areas
  • The Klondike Gold Rush brought tens of thousands of people north to the parts of Alaska bordering Yukon as gold was discovered in the rivers of this region. Many were ill-prepared and most unsuccessful in staking claims. Con man “Soapy” Smith was an interesting character in this period, depriving treasure seekers of their money through tricks, games and crime, until his eventual death at a famous shootout on Juneau Wharf
  • During World War 2, there was a lot of action in the Aleutian Islands, while US forces attempted to dislodge a Japanese force which had occupied; American propaganda during WW2 was remarkably racial in nature, describing Alaska as a “Death Trap for the Jap

File:Alaska Death Trap.jpg