John II of Castile

John II of Castile was King of Castile and León from 1406 to 1454. John was his wife, Catherine of Lancaster, his mother was the granddaughter of King Peter, ousted by Henry III's grandfather, King Henry II. John succeeded his father on 25 December 1406, united in his person the claims of both Peter and Henry II, his mother and his uncle, King Ferdinand I of Aragon, were co-regents during his minority. When Ferdinand I died in 1416, his mother governed alone until her death in 1418. John II's reign, lasting 48 years, was one of the longest in Castilian history, but John himself was not a capable monarch, he spent his time verse-making and holding tournaments. His favourite, Álvaro de Luna influenced him until his second wife, Isabella of Portugal, obtained control of his feeble will. At her instigation, he dismissed his faithful and able servant, an act, said to have caused him much remorse. John II's Regents declared the Valladolid laws in 1411, which restricted the social activity of Jews. Among the most notable of the provisions were outlining that Jews must wear distinctive clothes and banned them from holding administrative positions.

However, once John took control of the throne for himself in 1418, he reversed such ordinances, favoring instead a more tolerant attitude toward the battered Jewish population of Castile following the mass wave of conversions between 1391-1415. In 1431, John placed Yusuf IV on the throne as the Sultan of Granada in the Moorish Emirate of Granada, in exchange for tribute and vassal status to Castile; this exchange is depicted in the short ballad the Romance of Abenamar. He was "all and handsome, fair-skinned and ruddy... his hair was the color of a mature hazelnut, the nose a little snub, the eyes between green and blue... he had graceful legs and feet and hands."John II was the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar of Segovia and built the "New Tower" known today as the "Tower of John II". John II died on July 1454 at Valladolid. In 1418, John married Maria of Aragon, the oldest daughter of his paternal uncle, Ferdinand I of Aragon; the marriage produced: Catherine, Princess of Asturias, his heiress presumptive from her birth until her death Eleanor, Princess of Asturias, his heiress presumptive from the death of Catherine until the birth of Henry King Henry IV of Castile Infanta Maria Of all their children, only the future Henry IV of Castile survived infancy.

John was widowed in 1445 and remarried to Isabella of Portugal, daughter of Infante John of Portugal, with whom he had two children: Queen Isabella I of Castile Alfonso, Prince of Asturias Harvey, L. P.. Islamic Spain, 1250 to 1500. University of Chicago Press. Previte-Orton, C. W.. The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History. Volume 2. Cambridge at the University Press; this article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed.. "John II. of Castile". Encyclopædia Britannica. 15. Cambridge University Press. P. 441

Saint Sylvester's Day

Saint Sylvester's Day known as Silvester or the Feast of Saint Sylvester, is the day of the feast of Pope Sylvester I, a saint who served as Pope of the Western Church from 314 to 335. Medieval legend made him responsible for the conversion of emperor Constantine. Among the Western Christian Churches, the feast day is held on the anniversary of Saint Sylvester's death, 31 December, a date that, since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, has coincided with New Year's Eve. For these Christian denominations, Saint Silvester's Day liturgically marks the seventh day of Christmastide. Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate Sylvester's feast on a different day from the Western Churches, i.e. on 2 January. Saint Sylvester's Day celebrations are marked by church attendance at Midnight Mass or a Watchnight service, as well as fireworks and feasting. Under the reign of Pope Sylvester I, several of the magnificent Christian churches were built, including the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Santa Croce Church, Old St. Peter's Basilica, among others.

During the papacy of Saint Sylvester, the Nicene Creed, recited by communicants of the vast majority of the world's Christian denominations, was formulated. Saint Sylvester is said to have healed, in the name of Christ, the emperor Constantine the Great of leprosy. After dying, Saint Sylvester was buried on 31 December in the Catacomb of Priscilla. Several countries in Europe, use a variant of Silvester's name as the preferred name for the holiday. In the capital of Austria, people walk pigs on leashes for their Saint Silvester's Day celebration in hope to have good luck for the coming year. Many Christian households in Germany mark Saint Silvester's Day by practicing the custom of Bleigiessen using Silvesterblei, in which Silvesterblei is melted over a flame in an old spoon and dropped into a bowl of cold water. If the lead forms a ball, luck will roll one's way. Christians of Belgium have a tradition that a maiden who does not finish her work by the time of sunset on Saint Silvester's Day will not get married in the year to come.

Along with exploding fireworks, the Saint Silvester Road Race, Brazil's oldest and most prestigious running event, takes place on Saint Sylvester's Day and is dedicated to him. In Israel, Pope Sylvester is considered to have been an antisemite. For this reason, ex-Soviet Jews who celebrate New Years Eve are criticized for celebrating an anti-semitic holiday. On Saint Sylvester's Day, "lentils and slices of sausage are eaten because they look like coins and symbolize good fortune and the richness of life for the coming year." On the morning of Saint Sylvester's Day, the children of a Christian family compete with one another to see who can wake up the earliest. Men have, for centuries, masqueraded as Silvesterklaus on Saint Sylvester's Day. Media related to Silvester at Wikimedia Commons

Nikolai Biasi

Nikolai Nikalayevich Biasi was a Soviet General and writer. Biasi was born into an Italian family, his grandmother, Daria Lebeda was a favourite of Glinka. His grandfather, Alexander Palme was a member of the Petrashevsky Circle and was subject to last minute reprieve from execution together with Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Biasi was educated in at the drama school in Odessa and appeared on the stage as a child, he moved with his family to St Petersburg at the age of 12. He fought in the Imperial Russian Army during World War I and joined the Bolsheviks after the revolution. During the Russian Civil War he fought on the Caucasus Front and was one of the commanders of the railway guards. From 1922 Biasi developed a career in military education. In 1922 he taught in the Infantry School in Tbilisi. From 1923 to 1927 he was chief at TVOKU in Tashkent. In 1928–31 he was director of military studies at Tomsk University. Biasi was appointed Military Attache to Italy between 1936 and 1938, he was the founding Principal of the Institute of Military Interpreters and ran the institute between 1940 and 1944, during this time he compiled several military dictionaries.

During this time Biasi was deputy to the commander of the Caucasus Front and led a special mountain warfare school. Biasi was appointed Lieutenant General in 1944. Biasi was a keen sportsman, he competed at football, yachting, athletics and cycling at the highest level in Russia. He became target rifle champion of Russia, one of the first football referees in the Soviet league and a boxing referee at major championships. Biasi settled in Stavropol Krai after his retirement; this article is translated from Russian Wikipedia Биязи Н. Н. Краткие сведения по технике опроса пленных — Воен. фак-т зап. иностр. Языков, М. 1941. — 39 стр. Н.Н. Биязи. Боевые действия в горах. Н.Н. Биязи: Военный итальянско-русский словарь - Москва, Государственное издательство иностр. И нац.словарей, 1940 Н. Н. Биязи «Записки старого спортсмена». Изд-во «Физкультура и спорт», 1965 - page from Stavrapolskaya Pravda - page from Kanminvody in Russian