Archive for Politics

1 January 1938 – Alexander Gelver

Posted in Shot with tags , , , on January 1 by Old Sparky

In 1938, American-born communist sympathiser Alexander Gelver saw the New Year in with a bullet through his brain.

He was accused of spreading the belief that there was a better life to be had outside communist Russia around the factory where he had worked.

“…just inches from freedom, he was arrested”

In actual fact, Gelver had been instrumental is helping the Russians recreate Stalin’s left-wing vision of a ‘Worker’s Paradise’ in the 1920s and 30s, along with 14 others.

But Stalin had become deeply distrustful of any foreign influences and began to turn against his American volunteers. And, in turn, Gelver became increasingly fearful for his life after the others started disappearing mysteriously.

On the brink of freedom

Gelver made hasty plans to return to the United States. But instead, just inches from freedom, he was arrested outside the US Embassy. Gelver from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was just 24 when he was put to death, probably with a single bullet to the back of his head.

Also on this day

1907 – John Davis

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30 December 1460 – Edmund, Earl of Rutland

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty with tags , , , on December 30 by Old Sparky

Some say Edmund, Earl of Rutland, was executed by his father’s bitter Lancastrian rival Lord Clifford at Wakefield Bridge during the War of the Roses.

He was beheaded, and as a final humiliation the Lancastrians made sure his Yorkist head, along with his father, Richard Duke of York’s and ally Earl of Salisbury’s, were skewered on spikes above Micklegate Bar in York for all their former subjects to see in 1460.

Little did they know that the Yorkists followed by the House of Tudor would have the last laugh as they beat the Lancastrians to a pulp just less than 30 years later.

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19 December 1932 – Yoon Bong-Gil

Posted in Death penalty with tags , , , , on December 19 by Old Sparky

Yoon Bong Gil

Yoon Bong Gil

Yoon Bong-Gil, a 24-year-old Korean, was sentenced to death for attempting to kill the Japanese Emperor Hirohito.

His attempt to blow up the emperor may have failed, but he killed a number of other dignitaries in the fallout.

He was executed in Japan and buried there in 1932, but his body has since been exhumed and reburied in Korean after he was given a posthumous order of merit for his actions.

Also on this day

19 December 2000 – David Dewayne Johnson
19 December 1904 – Edmund Hall

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15 September 1982 – Sadegh Ghotbzadeh

Posted in Death penalty, Firing squad with tags , , , , on September 15 by Old Sparky

Sadegh Ghotbazadeh

Sadegh Ghotbazadeh

The former foreign minister in Iran, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh was executed on this day in 1982.

A loyal aide to Ayatollah Khomeini and a keen supporter of the National Front in Iran, the keen right-winger was sentenced to death for conspiracy.

He was apparently had up for approaching the US to see if they’d support a coup to overthrow the incumbent leaders of Iran.

‘Time’ magazine even referred to Ghotbzadeh as a ‘moderating influence’ for his comments on the US hostages in Iran. However, he remained highly critical of both the US and Russia. So it comes as no surprise that it was the Americans who shopped him to the Iranians. A firing squad gunned him down at Tehran, aged roughly 46.

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30 August 1946 – Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky

Posted in Death penalty, Shot with tags , , , on August 30 by Old Sparky

Hot on the Russian heels of leftie Grigory Zinoviev comes extreme right-winger Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky. And what do you know; Stalin was once again responsible for the fascist’s demise.

Right-winging it

Sick of the grip of egalitarian politics, Rodzaevsky tried to overthrow the Bolsheviks with his brand of anti-Semitic right-wing activity while in exile. But he needn’t have bothered – ultimately he was to hand himself in, in 1945 after he rightly began to suspect that Stalin was right-wing enough for the both of them.

‘I failed to see that, by the will of Fate, of his own genius, and of millions of toilers, Comrade J V Stalin…had become this unknown leader.’

Promises, promises

Well, you’ve seen Stalin’s government in action, so it must come as no surprise to find out that promises of a release and a job on a newspaper were empty indeed.

In actual fact Rodzaevsky was arrested, found guilty of crimes against the state and met his seedy end in a Lubyanka cellar with a bullet embedded in his brain. He met a similar fate to that of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, who met their untimely ends 28 years previously.

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17 July 1918 – Tsar Nicholas II of Russia

Posted in Death penalty, Shot with tags , , , on July 17 by Old Sparky
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia

Can a bloke be more unpopular, let alone a king? Such was the hatred for Tsar Nicholas II of Russia that his actions single-handedly brought about the demise of the royal Romanov dynasty, after he proved supremely ill-equipped to run his own country.

His anti-Semitism, rubbish war skills and extraordinarily decadent wealth, in the face of his people’s poverty, incensed his subjects. Out of the disenfranchised furore, the Bolsheviks rose up in a left-wing frenzy and threw him and his family bloodily out of power.

Tsar Nicholas II or Nicky to his mates was a bit of a non-starter. His dad had died following a sudden descent into poor health, so the process of schooling his son in the ways of the throne hadn’t even started.

Ready, or not

OK, so Nicky had a sound aptitude for school work, but he hadn’t been versed in how to run the country. Indeed his dad had banked on having at least 20-odd years ahead of him with which to bring Nicholas up to kingly speed.

But that never took place and the sudden propulsion into the limelight prompted even Nicholas to say ominously ‘what is going to happen to me and all of Russia?’

The fact that it all ended in World War, civil chaos and death of the monarchy, meant that things got about as bad as they could ever get, really.

However, life started off promisingly enough – he married for love and the bond was strong by most accounts. But from thereon in, things started to unravel.

Hate crimes

If you thought Hitler was the first to go down the anti-Semitic route, guess again. Tsar Nicholas was at it long before, and his bigoted stance was burgeoning. He even got his parliament in on the act, paying newspapers to print decidedly distorted and disturbing reports dissing the Jews.

Couple this with the bizarrest of approaches to war, where Nicholas literally buried his head in the sand, not even contemplating that the certain war with Japan could break out. Yet it did in 1904, rendering Russia the ill-prepared underdog.

Well, none of these stances won the tsar any mates and his blissful ignorance was to set the tone for his stricken reign.

And 1905 proved to be a punishingly pivotal point, especially when a priest chose to get in on the action – Father Gapon decided it was high time he let his feelings be known and he organised a march to hand over a petition highlighting key gripes. But what appeared to be an attempt on the tsar’s life just a couple of days beforehand made advisors jumpy and the king was told to retreat and not to meet the demonstrators.

Brits abroad

This even culminated in Bloody Sunday, where soldiers rained gunfire on the assembled masses – women, children and men alike were killed and as word spread so the numbers were exaggerated in true Chinese-whispers style. Even the Brits waded in with the PM branding Nicholas a ‘blood-stained creature and a common murder’.

The public felt even more disenfranchised and the retreat prompted Gapon to write a scathing letter attacking Romanov. Indeed, he was to prove a thorn in the Russian Royal’s side and Gapon eventually wound up dead – hanged in Finland while in hiding.

As for Russia, it was the beginning of the end of the war in 1905 that kicked off strikes galore and a general descent into revolution. So at this point a blinder was played – the first elected parliament was put in place, known as a State Duma. While the first two were not too hot, the third in 1907 was lucky indeed. It was less gung-ho than the former two so Nicholas began to warm to it and its successor in 1912.

His private life fared no better – the Romanovs had four daughters and one son, but the son and heir was poorly. Medicine didn’t help so they turned to healers and mystics…cue Rasputin, made infamous by Boney M’s homage.

Family at war

The war broke out in 1914, this time pitting Nicholas against his own cousin, Kaiser Willhelm – this time Russia called Germany’s bluff and before you could say ‘what is it good for’, World War I was raging.

As with the Japanese set-to, Russia fared no better here and with Nicholas caught up with the war, he left his wife in charge of Russia, with help from the seedy Rasputin.

That was to prove a big mistake, because she was German, and by default she immediately gained the nation’s distrust – they all branded her a spy.

It was a step way too far – they were in the throes of famine and inflation was sky-rocketing. Similarly, as with the previous war, Russia was left depleted. People endured serious hardship, fuelling the animosity and unsurprisingly civil unrest kicked off again, mirroring the discontent of a mere decade before.

Things spiralled out of controlled culminating in the ‘February’ revolution, in which Nicholas was forced to stand down, so he named first his sickly son, then his brother as the successors to the throne.

But his brother deferred, calling for people to be allowed to vote. The Bolsheviks seized the window of opportunity to grab power in 1917 and the Romanovs were put under house arrest.

It was during this time that the family was moved to the left-wing heartland of Yekaterinburg, in the Ural Mountains, and on 17 July 1917 they were taken to the cellar where Nicky, his wife and their children plus three servants were all shot.

Parallels can be drawn with the tsar’s earlier French counterpart Louis XVI, who was overthrown in the same way.

Also on this day

17 July 1793 – Charlotte Corday
17 July 1996 – John Joubert

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7 July 1865 – the Lincoln Conspirators

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , , on July 7 by Old Sparky
Lincoln Conspirators

On the scaffold

Although the man who actually shot Abraham Lincoln was killed while on the run, the rest of his gang met their demise side-by-side in Washington DC.

Triggerman John Wilkes-Booth had originally only intended to kidnap Lincoln and to use his hostage to bargain for the release of prisoners of the American Civil War. However, when the President made a speech outlining his plans to introduce voting rights for blacks, a furious Booth set his mind to assassination.

Plot thickens

The actor persuaded fellow Southern sympathisers Samuel Arnold, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Michael O’Laughlen, Lewis Powell, John Surratt and Surratt’s mother, Mary, to join his cause and set about concocting a plan.

Booth figured if he could kill Lincoln, the Vice-President Andrew Johnson and William Seward, the Secretary of State, the government would be thrown into chaos giving the Confederates time to mount an attack and win the war.

Scene of the crime

While Booth set his sights on Abraham’s trip to the theatre, a reluctant Atzerodt was assigned to Johnson and Powell and Herold were sent to kill Seward.

However, while Lincoln never got to see the end of the play ‘Our American Cousins’, his fellow officials got away with their lives. Atzerodt got drunk and wandered off into the night without firing a shot and Powell and Herold botched their collective attempt on Seward.

Sons and mothers

In the aftermath, most of the gang were quickly apprehended except Booth, who was shot by a soldier named Boston Corbett, and John Surratt, who went into hiding. Mary Surratt was put on trial alongside the more involved members of the plot – their hope was to flush out her son, but he never showed up.

So, she became the first woman to be hanged by the American government, when she was executed alongside Atzerodt, Powell and Herold in the Old Arsenal Penitentiary on 7 July 1865.

Surratt did eventually surface some years later. Although he was put on trial for the lesser crime of plotting to kidnap, he was let off and lived the rest of his days as a model citizen.

By killing Lincoln, had Booth achieved what he set out to achieve? It was quite the opposite actually. Lincoln became somewhat of a martyr and embodied all things decent and honest, indeed his death is commemorated as a public holiday. Southerner Andrew Johnson, a right-wing Democrat took over, but he was no match for the Republicans left behind by Lincoln and he only served four years before he was replaced by another Republican.

Also on this day

7 July 1826 – Jereboam Orville Beauchamp

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