Monthly Archives: March 2018

Sententia contra hereticum et astrologum lapsum et postea relapsum

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The 15th century Polish version of the inquisition was very much in tune with the anti-Hussite times. The below was a sentence issued by Zbigniew Oleśnicki the Bishop of Cracow (later cardinal) and John the Dominican inquisitor against the alleged Hussite Henry of either Brieg/Brzeg or, perhaps, of Prague. This sentence was pronounced circa 1429. The interesting passage is as follows:

“…ad suffragia demonum cum suis certis complicibus pro inveniendis thesauris aliquociens habuit refugium, credens id licere nec esse peccatum, ipsum constabat esse relapsum iudicio sapientum et ob hoc curie seculari tradendum.  Verum quia, an invocare demones pro inveniendis thesauris sit manifesta heresis, licet procul dubio heresim sapiat manifeste, cum non esset de hoc lucida determinacio, poterat dubitasse…”

Here Henry is accused of “calling upon demons and certain accomplices” in order to help find treasure, an indication of a “clear heresy.” He is also apparent a repeat offender.

The source of this is a codex (610.40) owned by the prelate of Włocławek Stanisław Ksawery Chodyński which was printed in Volume 2 of the so-called Codex Epistolaris (number 176).

However, as pointed out by Aleksander Birkenmajer (in “The Matter of Henry the Czech” or Sprawa Henryka Czecha), apparently the same case is also discussed in a number of pieces in BJ 2513.

So who was Henry?  He seems to have been a professor at Cracow University who was a popular scholar and even assisted during (or at least was present at) the birth of three sons of Wladyslaw Jagiello: Wladyslaw of Varna, a Kazimierz who died after a few months and of Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk. Henry, also called the “Astrologer”, fell afoul of Church authorities and was accused of Hussitic sympathies, of opposing the excessive veneration of the Holy Mary and, as shown above, of seeking out treasure by means of diabolical powers. The fact that he was a Czech we learn from Jan Dlugosz (genere Bohemus) but also from Stanislaw of Skalbmierz.

You can read more about this (if you know Latin) here in Birkenmajer’s article.

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March 16, 2018

Gallic, Egyptian and Slavic

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Diodorus Siculus

26 “Furthermore, since temperateness of climate is destroyed by the excessive cold, the land produces neither wine nor oil, and as a consequence those Gauls who are deprived of these fruits make a drink out of barley which they call zythos or beer, and they also drink the water with which they cleanse their honeycombs.” [see also here]

34 “The Egyptians also make a drink out of barley which they call zythos, the bouquet of which is not much inferior to that of wine.”

Babylonian Talmud

“What is Egyptian Zithom? —  Rabbi Joseph learned that it is a concoction made of a third part barley, a third part safflower, and a third part salt.  Rabbi Papa omitted barley and substituted wheat.  And your token is ‘sisane.’ They soaked these ingredients, then roasted them, ground them and then drank them.  From the Passover sacrifice until Pentecost, they who are constipated are relieved, while they who are diarrhoeic are bound.  But for an invalid and a pregnant woman it is dangerous.”

Strabonic Scholium (Diller 3, 155A)

Zythos – a type of a beer, made of barley. The nation of the Slavs also uses this type of drink.

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March 13, 2018

The Bakeries of Constance

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I love this revealing set of ruminations regarding the origin of the city name Constance from the Schriften des Vereins für Geschichte des Bodensees und Seiner Umgebung, Volume 2:

“The forms Kostnitz and Kostnitz Lake are not the result of some sort of a Slavic influence resulting from the use [of those forms] by the Czechs gathered for the Council of Constance [where Jan Hus was burned down] since already 70 years earlier a report from the year 1353, speaks of Petershausen by Constance.  A noteworthy number of Swabian village names ends with the suffix -itz, without giving any reason to suspect a Slavic origin of the forms of these names. It may be shown with respect to several of those [placenames] how they came – indeed following the laws of the Swabian dialect –  to form their seemingly foreign appearance… The form Kostnitz is nothing other than the Swabian whereas Kostenz is instead the Allemanic version of the name Konstanz –much as for bread Bochenz there occur the Swabian forms Bogatz and Bogitz.”

The author’s sweaty brow produced here an argument that is deliciously telling.

Take his use of the Bochenz/Bogatz/Bogitz (!) example.

Now … bochenek just means – in Slavic – a small loaf of bread. What is the origin of that word?  Well, according to Brueckner, the origin is the German fochenz(e) which, itself, is a borrowing from Latin, focacia. But Brueckner also notes that the German forms as late as the 12th century sometimes appear as bochenze. Brueckner fails to ask however, where in Germany do such forms appear but it appears that such forms appear either in places where Germans ruled Slavs (Silesia, Bohemia) or in Swabia.

(You can look at an article by Günter Bellmann from 1971 to get more on this).

In other words, the author of the above inadvertently penetrating piece, seems to have stumbled upon the solution to the question of what was the difference between the “Swabians” and the “Alemanni”.

Here is a hint for our German friends: one of those tribes really did have nothing to do with the people today referred to in the ES world as “Slavs”.

in unsere alte Heimat hinein

The first historically attested appearance of Constance is in the Ravenna Cosmography about the year 700 in the form Constantia/e – supposedly reported by the wiseman of the Goths – Athanarid who the author of the Cosmography relied on for the geography of these parts along with other Gothic “philosophers” such as Eldebald and Marcomir.  The point, however, is not how the place was named earlier. According to  Ulrich Büttner, Egon Schwär: Konzilarium ze Kostnitz the following were the names of the city:

  • Constancia (762) [?]
  • Constantie (762) [?]
  • Constantia (912)
  • Constantiae (980)
  •  Constantiensi (1159)
  • Chostanze (1251)
  • Costinze (1251)
  • Kostinze (1272)
  • Konstanz (1274)
  • Kostenze (1279)
  • Costenze (1283)
  • Constantiensis (1286)
  • Kostenz (1290)
  • Costenz (1291)
  • Costentz (1300)
  • Costintz (1312)
  • Costintze (1319)
  • Kostenze (1327),
  • Kostenz (1336)
  • Chostentz (1341)
  • Costentz (1341)
  • Kostnitz (1353)
  • Costencz (1483)
  • Constanz (1579)

But the point is not what the city was called originally but that “The form Kostnitz is nothing other than the Swabian whereas Kostenz is instead the Allemanic version of the name Konstanz – much as for bread Bochenz there occur the Swabian forms Bogatz and Bogitz.” In other words the rules of pronunciation of certain names/words seem to be the same for Slavs and Swabians.

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March 13, 2018

The Problems with Keeping Thorough Records

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Here are the orders of the congress of Ranshofen led by the Bavarian Duke Henry II with the local potentates and bishops:

Haec est constitutio venerabilis ducis Heinrici et omnium primatum tam episcoporum quam comitum

The orders vary but one is of particular interest:

“The Slavs must also be made subject to the orders of this assembly or must be exterminated.”

Scalvi [Sclavi] etiam ejusdem coadunationis districtioni subjaceant aut exterminentur.

This was sometime in 985-990.

Hi, it’s me Henry and I am a balding pussy – how are you?

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March 12, 2018

The Continuation of Richard of Poitiers

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Here are excerpts from the continuators of Richard of Poitiers’ Chronicle (Chronica Richardi Pictauiensis, monachus cluniacensis de diuersis libris collecta: continuatio) that deal with the religion of the Liutici/Veleti. They were a bit archaic when written in their day but they may nevertheless represent an accurate window on earlier times. Richard himself died in 1174 but his Chronicle was continued by various writers (Amaury d’Augier, Martin of Opava (Troppau) and William Reade) of the 13th and even 14th century. One of them may be the author of the below fragment.

“The King of the Danes and the Christians who live in those parts that are in Germania and in the North, went to war with the pagans, who still worship idols and sacrifice to the elements and who are called Leutices or Lutoici and who still call our Christ a new God… They still worship Mercury and Venus in particular; they do not have temples but worship in the woods or nearby to springs.”

“Rex vero Danorum et christiani qui regiones illas incolunt, que sunt in Germania et in septemtrione, bellum habent cum paganis, qui adhuc adorant idola et sacrificant elementis et dicuntur Leutices sive Lutoici, Christum quoque nostrum novum deum appellant… Mercurium tamen et Venerem precipue colunt, non in templis, sed in nemoribus vel iuxta fontes.” 

MGH SS 26, p. 84 (1882)

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March 10, 2018

The Abbreviator of Strabo

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The so-called abbreviator (or, if you will, epitomizer) of Strabo, writing between 670 and 680, created, as the name suggests, an abbreviated copy of Strabo’s “Geography”. In doing so, he also added his own comments where he saw fit.  It is possible too that the comments came from several authors. A number of those comments appear of relevance to Slavic history.  The book numbers below refer to the books of the “Geography”. The manuscript itself comes from the end of the ninth century.

Book 7.47

“The Scythian Slavs now hold all Epirus and almost all of Greece, together with the Peloponnesus and Macedonia.”

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March 9, 2018

All the Wends of Saxo Grammaticus – Book XIII

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Chapter 2

1. Now Henry, the son of Gottschalk and Sigrid, had been unwarrantably deprived of his mother’s property by Niels, and therefore began to be so passionate to reclaim his inheritance that he menaced the Danes unwearyingly, so much so that he forced their monarch to guard his own safety by locating sentinel posts within the boundaries of Schleswig. Henry left the territory between there and the Elbe without one farmer. In order to exact vengeance for this behaviour, Niels brought out his fleet and landed at Luitjenburg, after ordering Eliv, who controlled the Schleswig district, to lead forward a company of cavalry to meet him. The Danes, in fact, had not yet learnt how to settle foreign conflicts by taking in mounted troops. But the fickle governor, bribed with an agreed sum from Henry, with his greedy mind had a higher regard for gain than for the king’s command. Consequently Niels had to deploy his host over the Wendish plains without using horses.

2. Then the Wends, considering it a safer policy to tire out our infantry by dashing at them on horseback rather than by joining battle with their whole army, circled round our wings and our flanks, attacked these sectlons at different points with their missiles, and harried their foes with assaults from various angles. Indeed, as soon as Niels launched a straight charge at them, they were carried back into flight and withdrew as energetically as they had struck; but to avoid a direct confrontation with our men, whose weight posed a greater threat than their agility, the Wends wheeled round and bore down on our troops from the rear, retaliating against our awesome pugnacity by an underhand method, what might be termed a robbers ambush. So the Danish battle line, crumbling and weakened because it had fared rather badly on level soil, occupied the foothill of a nearby mountain; inasmuch as they had been unable to protect their lives with weapons, they wished to defend themselves through the lie of the land, and after gaming the advantage of the summit, looked down from their safe position on the enemy below.

3. The following day, loath to let it appear that the strength of his position afforded more security than his army’s own might, Niels preferred to repeat the uncertain outcome on the plain instead of taking comfort in the sure protection of the mountains. Nevertheless his footsoldiers were incapable of withstanding the vitality of cavalry forces. Hence, by endeavouring to regain the honour lost in battle, Aey increased the humiliation of their previous defeat with a second one. I could have imagined that the issue of this engagement sprang from inadequate resources than lack of spirit, for, while their courageous hearts gave too casual attention to prime military advantages, the Danes paid the penalty, not of fear, but of unskillfulness, and, trampled down, fell, not beneath the power of their opponents, but through their own heedlessness.

4. Though he fought nobly, Harald is said to have been so seriously hurt that he could not manage to walk, but had to be lifted on to his shield by his followers and assisted back to camp by the helping hands of others. Cnut, too, was unable to stand owing to the acute severity of his wounds, and found a most ready devotion in one of his soldiers. This man, not wanting his lord to be seized by their adversaries, did not flinch from dispelling the hazard to Cnut by endangering himself. Purposely bidding his comrades run off, he feigned numbness by adopting a slower pace and offered his hands to be tied by a Wend who loomed over him; suddenly, however, he grabbed at this fellow’s nearby reins as he rode past and with help brought by his companions robbed the barbarian of his mount. Once he had gained possession of the horse, he immediately used it to go to the rescue ofCnut, who was in the extremities of weakness. So his bravery, as cunning as it was risky, met with a happy outcome.

5. As twilight drew on, the remnant of our warriors, who had suffered a miserable setback in this conflict, again sought the mountain top, their sole refuge and defence. They had also run out of food and drink, so that, quite apart from their injuries and fatigue, they were tortured by the need for sustenance. Almost reduced to utter starvation, they perceived dangers everywhere around them with no relief forthcoming from any quarter, for stormy weather had delayed the Scanians5 arrival and Eliv, bribed by Henry, had neglected to bring reinforcements and proffered only excuses for his tardiness; therefore, despairing of human aid, they had recourse to the assistance of heaven, choosing to set the remainder of their crushed hopes in God’s rather than human strength. The next day was the eve of that on which the holy rites of St Lawrence came round for celebration once more; because the Danes believed they could take no better vow to appease divine power than that of fasting, they held a sad meeting and made this solemn promise: whenever in the yearly calendar that day returned which precedes the feast special to St Lawrence, or before the general one of All Saints, or that which we customarily dedicate to the memory of Christ’s passion, it should be marked with the strictest and most conscientious abstinence by every Dane, young and old. This pledge, offered under the compulsion of national distress, was confirmed with the most scrupulous attention by their descendants, who thought it discreditable to break a vow of restraint agreed upon by their forefathers merely because of the stomach’s pressing demands and their greed for food.

6. But when at dawn our troops started to make for the ships once more, banded together in companies, they met the Scanians, who had just made land with their fleet. Buoyed up by the encouragement of their arrival, they told the Scanians, whose bodies and energies were as good as new, to prevent the enemy cavalry falling upon them from the rear. Then they moved onward in an orderly column until, as it happened, they were obliged to cross the yawning depths of a slimy marsh that lay in their path; as soon as they had begun to traverse it there was no way of making a detour, and they were quickly stuck fast in the boggy mire, their feet clamped and sinking in the ooze, so that once their forward passage had been thrown into confusion, there was nothing so much as a frenzy to escape. The majority, sucked down into the swamp’s slithery mass, were slaughtered by their foes like cattle. As they were so desperate to reach the other side, this obstruction became perilous for them as they tumbled on in blind and reckless haste. Eventually they just managed to regain the coast and effect their departure.

7. Inasmuch as they were confident of victory, the Wends shouted vaunts and praises of their own might; they disparaged the Danes’ vitality and impudently abused them for their spinelessness, while trumpeting their own prowess; Henry, who well knew the true mettle of our men, said he had a different understanding and assessment of his enemies’ hardihood: a clear parallel could be drawn between their king and a vigorous steed; if it were aware of its own strength, it would scorn all the horseman’s directions, but since it had no realization of this, it readily submitted to its rider’s will. Should Niels trust in his own powers, everything- would go his way, but, being diffident, he would never achieve success. Afterwards Eliv was condemned as a traitor by the king because he had tried to sell his country’s fate; he was humiliatingly stripped of his governor’s Privileges as well as his family inheritance, and paid satisfaction for his squalid profits with the most abject poverty.

Chapter 5

2. When he conceived a desire to marry, Magnus fulfilled this inclination by asking Boleslav, duke of Poland, for the hand of his daughter. After she had been betrothed to him through intermediaries, he shortly gathered a fleet on his father’s orders and brought it to Wendish territory. The king of the Wends, Vartislav, had long been at odds with both Danes and Poles. Niels now proceeded to attack the city of Osna and compelled Vartislav to buy off the siege under a pact. Sailing from there to Julin, he met Boleslav, who had furnished himself with a large detachment. Strengthened by the latter’s troops, Niels executed a swift assault on Osna [Uznam/Usedom]. Later, leaving behind his companion in victory, he escorted away his son’s betrothed, who had been brought to him there. Because Vartislav observed that the lands of the Wends had gone to waste under the unbearable weight of depredation, he begged for a peace conference. This was held, but with scant success, and he therefore approached the Danes again with a similar entreaty as they were embarking from Strela. Relying on their pledges of non-aggression, he entered King Niels’s ship on the latter’s invitation but at the malicious instigation of the king’s bodyguard was prevented from leaving again and held like a prisoner.

3. Cnut raised a complaint about this incident at the assembly and and began to issue a strong warning to the king that he should give to treachery through the forcefulness of others when he ought to be exercising personal restraint; by taking prisoner an enemy who had followed his guarantee of trust he was not only depriving Vartislav of freedom, but himself of permanent honour and renown. Unless he released the captive, his individual crime would become a matter of collective shame for the country. With these effective arguments Cnut delivered a friend from bondage and his lord from ill-repute. This eminently fair proposal of his, which met with the approval and support of the whole assembly, nonetheless gave a great stimulus to others’ resentfulness.

9. Cnut then rose, his gaze long fixed intently on the ground and for a while nothing but sighs and sweat preceded his speaking. Finally, his eyes and his spirits lifting, he leant in his usual manner on the hilt of his sword and said: “These persons are acting foully, Father, who provoke your self-restraint and make you transgress what befits your royalty and years; any who stir the calm of your peaceful nature with blustering falsehoods are using their slanderous whisperings to create trouble. I find it extremely depressing when I see the virtuous sobriety of your mind taking on an aspect of ill-temper that is totally alien to you, and being carried astray by what might be termed a perverse steering of your reason. Please, I beg you, reject those loudmouthed, lying purveyors of tittle-tattle, spew away this false fictitious charge! I cannot bear to be given a name that is dangerous to you. “My liege is what my followers call me, not “king”. Since, therefore, I have been habitually greeted as “Lord” by the Wends, these detractors have put an unfavourable construction on the high courtesy of that race and been bent on turning an instance of foreign affability into a matter for incrimination; such fellows, indifferent to the respect owed to yourself, even defame the rightful obedience shown by others. However, I do not lay claim to the appellation of sovereign, as you assert, but, qualifying the grandeur of my title, actually shun any haughty distinction in the way I am addressed and have no concern with the envied peak of glory. In this fashion the goodwill of barbarians echoes my name without any detriment to your majesty.

10. The esteem I enjoy among outsiders is suffered badly only by those who are eager to bereave me of my life and pluck a loyal warrior from your side. I consider such creatures just as hostile to your interests as they are to my person. But let us suppose that I am called “king”; we know that your son there, Magnus, recently acquired the marks of regal status and a royal name among the Gotar. If I had been favoured with a similar piece of luck with the Wends, you ought to have considered it pleasant indeed to possess the allegiance of twin monarchs. and reckoned it an amelioration of your fortunes as well as mine. Everything won by my labour I would now be putting without hesitation at the service of your exalted dignity, so that you might gather the fruits of subjection, where otherwise you would have to endure opposition and losses. As a result you would have been in a position to invest more love than hatred in my prosperity. Over and above that I believed it more joyful than any other lot, more splendid than any other pursuit, to stand guard over your security and that of our fatherland.’You know yourself whether or not I have been an efficient soldier. Danes, farm your coastline, if you so wish! Build your houses as close to the seas as you want! You can shun the waves yourselves! I shall keep you safe from sea raiders!… [this speech continues]”


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March 8, 2018

All the Wends of Saxo Grammaticus – Book XII

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Chapter 4

1. During that period Wendish arrogance cruelly irritated our race with its pirate attacks; for a long time this bravado had been strengthened by the distressed condition of the Danes and promoted by Oluf’s inactivity rather than rebuffed by any exertions of his. There was a man named Aute, of highly distinguished family, who was killed by the Wends while journeying to Falster from Zealand, because he chose to die sooner than be taken prisoner. Indeed the courage inherent in Danish blood holds that a captive’s lot is more miserable than any other fate. Aute’s brother, Skjalm the White, brought the matter forward at Danish assemblies when they were at their most crowded, voicing numerous complaints; he swayed the people by his ascendency and forced them to decree that this one person’s death should be avenged by everyone’s hand. The king had so far elevated the authority of the populace that it had the right to decide on expeditions, and it was not the monarches supremacy but the popular will that controlled national warfare.

2. Meanwhile Alle and Herre, originating in Scania, but forfeiting its society on account of their crimes, sought Julin, an assured haven Danes, under the name of outlaws. Zealously emulating the occupations of this town and carrying out plundering assaults on the coasts of their homeland, they began to destroy Danish property in an appalling fashion. After this the young warriors of Denmark attacked Julin, wore down its citizens with a siege, and, in return for a truce. compelled them to offer up all the pirates they held inside the walls together with a levy of money. Once these freebooters had been handed mto our people’s control, it was considered they should give satisfacuon for the harm done to their nation by a particularly merciless form of death. In order to bring them to a more savage end, the Danes bound their hands behind their backs and had them first tied to posts; they then probed the hollow of their bellies with a knife and, when their bowels were laid bare and the front end drawn out, they wound the remaining intestines on stakes; the torture did not cease till the entire cavity had been emptied of its entrails, and the tormented creatures had been forced to shed the breath of their wicked and greedy lives. Although the sight was distressing to look upon, in effect it proved extraordinarily useful to our countrymen. Not only did it lay punishment on the guilty, but it gave everyone else a severe warning to avoid any similar grounds for execution. It therefore set an example to the onlookers no less than a penalty for the sufferers. Nor did Erik crush the extensive power of the Wends and weaken their vigour just once, but pounded the unruly tempers of that race a second and a third time, and this with such force that he was never afterwards disturbed by the stormy tides of their piracy.

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March 8, 2018

All the Wends of Saxo Grammaticus – Book XI

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Chapter 6

3. His two sons departed with all speed for Denmark accompanied by their sister. Sven, overlooking their father’s true deserts, received them with the kind of affection that befits relatives and gave the girl in marriage to the Russian king, Valdemar, who was also known as Yaroslav by his people. A later inheritor of his stock and name, his grandson by a daughter, became the ruler of our own day. So on the one side British, on the other Eastern blood flowed into our leader at his propitious birth and created an embellishment for both races through his shared lineage.

Chapter 7

1. As soon as Harald had been eliminated (his crimes had earned him a further title, ‘the Bad’), Sven’s realm, which had hitherto been altogether lame, now, rid of its bitterest foe, began to march along with the stride of a more prosperous fortune; the repressed Danish captaincy now unfurled the billowing sails of success. He was famous among men for his generosity, renowned for his munificence, excellent in every feature of philanthropy, for he also made it his closest concern to build and adorn holy churches and brought a motherland still inexperienced in sacred rites to a more refined practice of religion. He spoiled this splendid conduct only by his excessive lust. By plucking the chastity of many respectable girls, he fathered a large number of sons on mistresses, but got none through marriage. From these liaisons came Harald and Gorm, Omund and Sven. To them were added Ubbe, Oluf, Niels, Bjern, and Benedikt, all greatly resembling their father and taking very little after their mothers. A similar mean alliance produced Cnut and Erik, the noblest jewels of their land. A daughter, Sigrid, to whom I must return in a later section, was born to a concubine in the same way, and afterwards came to be the wife of Gottschalk the Wend.

Chapter 11

1. After Harald’s death Cnut was recalled, with the approval of his brothers, to take the most exalted position in the kingdom; while he was in exile he had again entered upon the war against the Easterners which he had begun in early manhood and, having once accepted the throne, he turned his attention to renewing those hostilites with all his might, more with a view to extending the Christian faith than to satisfying his greed; with the improvement of his fortunes he also wished to secure increased renown. Nor did he withdraw his hand from that venture until the dominions of the Kurlanders, Samlanders, and Estlanders had been totally put down.

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March 5, 2018