I think it’s been too long since I did a history post, how about moving on to I finally and getting to the post that Izzy was always meant to do. With Izzyeland, Izdia, Izdonesia, Izlamic Republic of Izran, Izraq, Izstarland, Izzytaly, Izory Coast and of course… Israel. What?
A reminder of the rules, they must have been born in the nation to count (I have broken this before), and they do not need to have been around when the nation was in existence (although record-keeping means that they probably will be)
Iceland is a very cool country. And that was too obvious an opener. But with people, they’ve always been a bit underpopulated and they punch well above their weight in the arts, so that is probably where I’m going to take their person from. They became independent from Denmark in 1944, after rule by Denmark or Norway for almost 600 years. Before that, it was largely Vikings who didn’t make a huge impact outside of Iceland. There’s one huge exception and I’d like to draw attention to Leif Ericsson, who was the first European to have been known to land on America – if knowledge of his discoveries had clearly spread beyond Iceland and the Nordic sphere I’d be awarding him this. Today, Icelanders are found all over the world in much more high profile positions than their population of less than 400,000 would suggest. Of Monsters And Men are a fabulous band, as are the likes of Sigur Ros, Kaleo and GusGus. But above them all is Bjork, and Bjork is probably the most well known Icelander today for her astonishing, experimental and innovative musical career.
As you might know, I have personal experience with India, they are lovely people and the Indian country has produced a huge number of humans from which to choose this accolade from. And the act of choosing is huge. Immediate attention goes towards Mohandas Gandhi, who essentially founded the modern Indian state, is a hero to all Indians today and adorns their money, and personal symbols representing him are strewn around the country. It would be so easy to pick Gandhi, and I feel I must. He created modern India, he left a legacy of non-violence and protesting, he stood up against violence and won. India as a whole today is partially influenced by his character, as a guiding light for the nation. But I must acknowledge some of the other contenders. Gandhi led the independence movement sure, but the man who made it work was Jawaharlal Nehru, who became the first prime minister of India, and shaped the young country into the political reality it stands in today. Back into history, the Vedic priests for Hinduism and the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, stand out as clearly hugely important figures in religion. Militarily, Chandragupta Maurya, the first ruler to unite India is probably the most significant military leader, while Shah Jahan is the most famous of the Mughal rulers born in India, as he built the Taj Mahal. In more modern times, internationally recognised figures have been born in India, Cliff Richard, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, all great influences on our popular culture. Indian music and cinema is huge within India and I’d love to be able to mention an actor or singer but there’s not one that stands out above the rest. But yes, all hail Gandhi.
Indonesia, being a huge collection of different cultures, much like India, has a lot of areas in which this could go. Sumatra, Borneo, Java, the other islands, they’ve all had different histories and only relatively recently came together under one republic. There were empires that spanned Indonesia, Srijivaya for one, most recently prior to the colonial era it was Majapahit (insert bill wurtz misspelling). Hayam Wayuk was the king at the height of this Indonesian period of glory, with his second-in-command Gajah Mada. Indonesia was under the rule of the Dutch until after WW2, with leaders Sukarno and Suharto being very influential in the SE-Asian Cold War. However, I feel that because Majapahit defined the borders of modern Indonesia, Gajah Mada, the conqueror of those borders, deserves the nod here.
‘I’ has absolutely no filler countries, is something that I’m realising looking at the rest of the list. In that all of them are huge influential nations with the figures to match. And so, this is the halfway point where I shall finish this post for today. Iran, or what was Persia in antiquity (internationally Persia is just one part of Iran, the most influential part, but calling Iran Persia is indeed very much like calling Italy Rome), is no different with one of the first empires to really make its mark on the world. As my ‘on hiatus’ other historical series showed, it started with Elam, but then power shifted to first the eastern extremities of the Assyrians and Babylonians, then the Medians, and then our first contender with the rise of the Achaemenid Empire, what we commonly think of when we say ‘Persian Empire’. That was founded by Cyrus the Great, an astounding military general who conquered so much that only 50 years after his death, the Persian Empire contained 44 percent of the world’s population. Darius the Great and Xerxes the Great, who followed after him, just continued Cyrus’ work to make this so. Beyond antiquity, after going through Parthians, Sassanians, Islamic caliphates, Khwarezmians, Mongols, Timurids and Safavids, modern Persia/Iran began to emerge as a secondary power, often caught between Russia and the USA in geopolitics. The modern day Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty formed a brief monarchy but was overthrown in the 1979 revolution by Ruhollah Khomeini. The point I’m making is that Iran has been a turbulent country, few dynasties or political power lasted more than a couple of centuries before a huge change in the political landscape uprooted them to be replaced with the next rulers, who may have been completely different in language or culture. They are all Iran though, so my vote goes to the first of them, Cyrus The Great, for founding the idea of Persia/Iran in the minds of many by exacting its power across the world.