Takht-e Soleyman

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1077

The archaeological site of Takht-e Soleyman, in north-western Iran, is situated in a valley set in a volcanic mountain region. The site includes the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary partly rebuilt in the Ilkhanid (Mongol) period (13th century) as well as a temple of the Sasanian period (6th and 7th centuries) dedicated to Anahita. The site has important symbolic significance. The designs of the fire temple, the palace and the general layout have strongly influenced the development of Islamic architecture.

Brief Synthesis

The archaeological ensemble called Takht-e Soleyman (“Throne of Solomon”) is situated on a remote plain surrounded by mountains in northwestern Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. The site has strong symbolic and spiritual significance related to fire and water – the principal reason for its occupation from ancient times – and stands as an exceptional testimony of the continuation of a cult related to fire and water over a period of some 2,500 years. Located here, in a harmonious composition inspired by its natural setting, are the remains of an exceptional ensemble of royal architecture of Persia’s Sasanian dynasty (3rd to 7th centuries). Integrated with the palatial architecture is an outstanding example of Zoroastrian sanctuary; this composition at Takht-e Soleyman can be considered an important prototype.

An artesian lake and a volcano are essential elements of Takht-e Soleyman. At the site’s heart is a fortified oval platform rising about 60 metres above the surrounding plain and measuring about 350 m by 550 m. On this platform are an artesian lake, a Zoroastrian fire temple, a temple dedicated to Anahita (the divinity of the waters), and a Sasanian royal sanctuary. This site was destroyed at the end of the Sasanian era, but was revived and partly rebuilt in the 13th century. About three kilometres west is an ancient volcano, Zendan-e Soleyman, which rises about 100 m above its surroundings. At its summit are the remains of shrines and temples dating from the first millennium BC.

Takht-e Soleyman was the principal sanctuary and foremost site of Zoroastrianism, the Sasanian state religion. This early monotheistic faith has had an important influence on Islam and Christianity; likewise, the designs of the fire temple and the royal palace, and the site’s general layout, had a strong influence on the development of religious architecture in the Islamic period, and became a major architectural reference for other cultures in both the East and the West. The site also has many important symbolic relationships, being associated with beliefs much older than Zoroastrianism as well as with significant biblical figures and legends.

The 10-ha property also includes Tepe Majid, an archaeological mound culturally related to Zendan-e Soleyman; the mountain to the east of Takht-e Soleyman that served as quarry for the site; and Belqeis Mountain 7.5 km to the northeast, on which are the remains of a Sasanian-era citadel. The archaeological heritage of the Takht-e Soleyman ensemble is further enriched by the Sasanian town (which has not yet been excavated) located in the 7,438-ha landscape buffer zones.

Criterion (i):Takht-e Soleyman is an outstanding ensemble of royal architecture, joining the principal architectural elements created by the Sasanians in a harmonious composition inspired by their natural context.

Criterion (ii):The composition and the architectural elements created by the Sasanians at Takht-e Soleyman have had strong influence not only in the development of religious architecture in the Islamic period, but also in other cultures.

Criterion (iii):The ensemble of Takht-e Soleyman is an exceptional testimony of the continuation of cult related to fire and water over a period of some two and half millennia. The archaeological heritage of the site is further enriched by the Sasanian town, which is still to be excavated.

Criterion (iv):Takht-e Soleyman represents an outstanding example of Zoroastrian sanctuary, integrated with Sasanian palatial architecture within a composition, which can be seen as a prototype.

Criterion (vi): As the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary, Takht-e Soleyman is the foremost site associated with one of the early monotheistic religions of the world. The site has many important symbolic relationships, being also a testimony of the association of the ancient beliefs, much earlier than the Zoroastrianism, as well as in its association with significant biblical figures and legends.

Integrity

Within the boundaries of the property are located the known elements and components necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including the lake and the volcano, archaeological remains related to the Zoroastrian sanctuary, and archaeological remains related to the royal architecture of the Sasanian dynasty. Masonry rooftops have collapsed in some areas, but the configurations and functions of the buildings remain evident.

The region’s climate, particularly the long rainy season and extreme temperature variations, as well as seismic action represent the major threats to the integrity of the original stone and masonry materials. Potential risks in the future include development pressures and the construction of visitor facilities in the buffer zones around the sites. Furthermore, there is potential conflict between the interests of the farmers and archaeologists, particularly in the event that excavations are undertaken in the valley fields.

Authenticity

The Takht-e Soleyman archaeological ensemble is authentic in terms of its forms and design, materials and substance, and location and setting, as well as, to a degree, the use and the spirit of the fire temple. Excavated only recently, the archaeological property’s restorations and reconstructions are relatively limited so far: a section of the outer wall near the southern entrance has been rebuilt, using for the most part original stones recovered from the fallen remains; and part of the brick vaults of the palace structures have been rebuilt using modern brick but in the same pattern as the original. As a whole, these interventions can be seen as necessary, and do not compromise the authenticity of the property, which retains its historic ruin aspect. The ancient fire temple still serves pilgrims performing Zoroastrian ceremonies.

Protection and management requirements

Takht-e Soleyman was inscribed on the national heritage list of Iran in 1931, and it is subject to legal protection under the Law on the Protection of National Treasures (1930, updated 1998) and the Law of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization Charter (n. 3487-Qaf, 1988). The inscribed World Heritage property, which is owned by the Government of Iran, is under the legal protection and management of the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (which is administered and funded by the Government of Iran). Acting on its behalf, Takht-e Soleyman World Heritage Base is responsible for implementation of the archaeology, conservation, tourism, and education programmes, and for site management. These activities are funded by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, as well as by occasional international support. The current management plan, prepared in 2010, organises managerial strategies and activities over a 15-year period.

Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require continuing periodic on-site observations to determine whether the climate or other factors will lead to a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity or authenticity of the property; and employing internationally recognised scientific standards and techniques to properly safeguard the monuments when undertaking stabilisation, conservation, or restoration projects intended to address such negative impacts.

Victor Glushkov – pioneer of Soviet computing

Victor Mikhailovich Glushkov (August 24, 1923 – January 30, 1982) was the founding father of information technology in the Soviet Union (and specifically in Ukraine), and one of the founders of Cybernetics. He was born in Rostov-on-Don, Russian SFSR, in the family of a mining engineer. He graduated from Rostov State University in 1948, and in 1952 proposed solutions to Hilbert’s fifth problem and defended his thesis in Moscow State University. One of his great practical goals was the creation of a National Automatized System of Administration of Economy (OGAS), which included the establishment of a network of computers to manage the allocation of resources and information among organizations in the national economy, which would represent a higher form of socialist planning than the extant Stalinist command economy. This ambitious project was ahead of its time, first being proposed and modeled in 1962. It received opposition from many senior Communist Party leaders who felt the system threatened Party control of the economy. By the early 1970s official interest in this system ended.

Response to the Death of Robert Conquest

https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/furr_conquest_obit.html

Robert Conquest, next to Leon Trotsky arguably the chief anticommunist and anti-Stalin propagandist of the 20th century, has died. Naturally, the capitalist media are fawning over him.

A lot could be said about Conquest. I’ll say a bit at the end.

Here are some facts — I have checked them — concerning Conquest’s most famous book The Great Terror:

Robert Conquest has also been identified as having worked for the IRD from when it was set up until 1956. The Information Research Department (IRD), was a section set up in 1947 (originally called the Communist Information Bureau) whose main task was to combat Communist influence throughout the world by planting stories among politicians, journalists and others in a position to influence public opinion.

A 1978 story in the The Guardian alleged that Conquest’s work there was to contribute to the so-called “black history” of the Soviet Union — in other words, fake stories put out as fact and distributed among journalists and others able to influence public opinion. After he had formally left the IRD, Conquest continued to write books suggested by the IRD, with Secret Service support.

His book The Great Terror, a basic anti-communist text on the subject of the power struggle that took place in the Soviet Union in 1937, was in fact a recompilation of text he had written when working for the secret services. The book was finished and published with the help of the IRD. A third of the publication run was bought by the Praeger Press, normally associated with the publication of literature originating from CIA sources.

Conquest’s book was intended for presentation to “useful fools”, such as university professors and people working in the press, radio and TV. Conquest to this day remains, for anti-communist historians, one of the most important sources of material on the Soviet Union.

http://www.fact-index.com/r/ro/robert_conquest.html

The article from The Guardian in 1978 documents the propaganda activities of the IRD:

David Leigh, “Death of the department that never was.” The Guardian January 27, 1978, p. 13, at

http://www.cambridgeclarion.org/e/fo_deceit_unit_graun_27jan1978.html

In his Ph.D. dissertation (but not in the book that he wrote from it) Arch Getty pointed out:

The dominant tendency [in writing the history of the “purges”] has been automatically to believe anything an emigre asserted while automatically denying the truth of everything from the Stalinist side. If one wanted a balanced picture of Tsar Ivan IV, (“The Terrible”), one would not accept at face value the descriptions of the exiled Prince Kurbsky in Poland, during a period of Russo-Polish war. If one wanted a balanced picture of Mao Tse-Tung’s regime in China, one would not accept Chiang Kai-Shek’s version in the early 1950’s as essentially reliable. If one were not interested in such a view, one would. The apparent monstrosity of Stalin’s crimes and a generation of Cold War attitudes have contributed to what would be considered sloppy scholarship in any other area of inquiry.

Getty also pointed out that Conquest specialized in anticommunist propaganda masquerading as scholarship while working for British intelligence.

Sometimes, the “scholarship” had been more than simply careless. Recent investigations of British intelligence activities (following in the wake of U.S. post-Watergate revelations), suggest that Robert Conquest, author of the highly influential Great Terror, accepted payment from British intelligence agencies for consciously falsifying information about the Soviet Union. Consequently, the works of such an individual can hardly be considered valid scholarly works by his peers in the Western academic community.

  • Getty, “The Great Purges Reconsidered,” Ph.D. disseration, Boston College, 1979, p. 48.

In 1980 I interviewed Professor John Hazard of Columbia University, at the time the world expert on Soviet law. Hazard told me that people in the Soviet studies field had told him that British intelligence was still doing Conquest’s research for him.

…Conquest (Terror, 754) … makes the astounding statement that “Truth can thus only percolate in the form of hearsay.” And, further, “On political matters basically the best, though not infallible, source is rumor … “. He believes that the best way to check rumors is to compare them with other rumors–a dubious procedure given the fact that migr s read each other’s works. Of course, historians do not accept hearsay and rumor as evidence in any other field of history.

  • Getty, “The Great Purges Reconsidered,” Ph.D. disseration, Boston College, 1979, p. 64 note 57. These passages are also quoted in Getty, Origins of the Great Purges. The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938. (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985) p. 5 and note 12, p.222.

Already in 1979 Getty concluded:

The point of view adopted here is that the standard interpretations of the “Great Purges”, such as those by Fainsod and Conquest, are seriously flawed, cannot account for the available evidence, and are thus no longer tenable. (53)

A good reply to Conquest’s dishonesty is the article by Robert W. Thurston,

“On Desk-bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspective, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest,” in Slavic Review 1986, 238-244.

I don’t any other scholar officially in the field of Soviet history ever dared to attack Conquest head-on in print, in a mainstream journal.

Conquest replied in kind, trashing Thurston’s book on the history of the USSR in the 1930s when it was published by Yale University Press in 1996. Thurston’s book was by far the best book on this period up to that point and is still the best because he rejects the knee-jerk anticommunist, anti-Stalin line and sticks to the evidence, with only a handful of lapses.

Thurston also published an excellent article showing the dishonesty of the term “Great Terror” by pointing out that very, very few people were in fact “terrorized.”

“Fear and Belief in the USSR’s ‘Great Terror’: Response to Arrest, 1935-1939.” Slavic Review 45 (1986), 214-234.

This article elicited a hostile but very weak response by Conquest, to which Thurston replied with the article about “lousy evidence,” quoted above.

After Conquest’s book on the Ukrainian famine, Harvest of Sorrow was published in the 1980s the anticommunist experts in the Soviet history field universally rejected it.

You can read some qutatoins from them in the article by Jeff Coplon, “In Search of a Soviet Holocaust. A 55-year-old Famine Feeds the Right.” Village Voice January 12, 1988. Coplon’s article, with quotations from the anticommunist scholars, is at

https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/vv.html

Of course there was no “deliberate famine.” Quite the opposite: Collectivization put an end to famines in Russia / Ukraine. Conquest later retracted his view that Stalin had deliberately caused the famine.

Our view of Stalin and the famine is close to that of Robert Conquest, who would earlier have been con-sidered the champion of the argument that Stalin had intentionally caused the famine and had acted in a genocidal manner. In 2003, Dr Conquest wrote to us explaining that he does not hold the view that ‘Stalin purposely in?icted the 1933 famine. No. What I argue is that with resulting famine imminent, he could have prevented it, but put “Soviet interest” other than feeding the starving first — thus consciously abetting it’.

  • R. W. Davies & Stephen G. Wheatcroft. “Debate. Stalin and the Soviet Famine of 1932 — 33: A Reply to Ellman.” Europe-Asia Studies 58 (4) June 2006, 629; also in Davies & Wheatcroft, The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931 — 1933 (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 441 n.145.

For all these quotations and more see my book :Grover Furr, Blood Lies. The Evidence that Every Accusation Against Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union in Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands Is False. (New York: Red Star Publications, 2014), Chapter 1 “ The ‘Main-Made Famine’ and ‘Deliberate Famine’ Arguments in Bloodlands, Chapter 1.”

After my book Khrushchev Lied was published in Russia I was interviewed by Literaturnaia Rossia, a literary-cultural journal. The interviewer asked me some tough questions, which was fine!

Part of my reply was about Conquest’s book The Great Terror:

As a graduate student from 1965-69 I opposed the US war in Vietnam. At one point somebody told me that the Vietnamese communists could not be the “good guys”, because they were all “Stalinists”, and “Stalin had killed millions of innocent people.”

I remembered this remark. It was probably the reason that in the early 1970s I read the first edition of Robert Conquest’s book The Great Terror when it was published. I was shaken by what I read!

I should add that I could read the Russian language since I had already been studying Russian literature since High School. So I studied Conquest’s book very carefully. Apparently no one else had ever done this!

I discovered Conquest was dishonest in his use of sources. His footnotes did not support his anti-Stalin conclusions! Basically, he used any source that was hostile to Stalin, regardless of whether it was reliable or not.

Conquest — with the help of the British intelligence service —took the lies about the Stalin period concocted under Khrushchev and by him, added more lies from anticommunist sources in the West like Alexander Orlov and Walter Krivitsky, and presented this as “history.”

Conquest’s The Great Terror has lots of footnotes, which are intended to fool the educated but naive reader. But those same footnotes made it possible for me to discover that Conquest used phony evidence and never proved any of his anticommunist, anti-Stalin claims.

25 years later, when Gorbachev took up Khrushchev’s anticommunist and anti-Stalin lies, repeated them, and added more lies of his own, Conquest issued a new edition of The Great Terror and told everybody “I was right.”

He wasn’t “right.” Gorbachev was simply telling the same kinds of lies, and often the very same lies, about the Stalin period that Khrushchev and his people had told.

Conquest got a lot of honors from the mass-murdering imperialists, from Margaret Thatcher to Ronald Reagan and beyond. He earned their praise. He also got a cushy, high-paying post at the Hoover Institution.

Such are the rewards for telling lies on behalf of the anticommunists.

We should realize that no one so honored by the chief mass murderers of world history can ever be telling the truth.

Those of us who want to struggle for the better, communist world need to learn from the successes, as well as from the mistakes, of the Stalin-era Soviet Union and the worldwide communist movement of the 20th century, so we can imitate what they did right while avoiding what they did wrong. So, let’s redouble our commitment to doing just that.

RPGFan Reviews – The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

https://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/minishcap/index.html

Nintendo has truly learned how to do more than just create a new game within an established series; it has mastered the process of buffing and refining newly created adventures until they shine. Such is the case with The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (TMC). Here is a game that truly looks like the spiritual successor to the Super NES “Link to the Past” era both in look and feel, but then manages to change up the gameplay and spruce up the aesthetics enough to give it a truly modern feel. Playing through TMC is a true joy, a veritable bevy of nostalgia bringing you back to when games were fun without looking like fully mastered cinema pieces. It harkens back to the era when gameplay ruled all and successfully solving a difficult puzzle or figuring out a boss pattern was all we needed to do to get by. Truly, TMC does an amazing job accomplishing what it no doubt set out to do.

First off, TMC knows where it comes from and effectively dupes a majority of what makes a Zelda game a Zelda game. Zelda games tend to follow a mechanic whereby you gradually collect fabled items which allow you to do all sorts of wondrous things. As you collect necessary goodies, you are allowed access to new areas, can cultivate wide varieties of secrets, and topple huge, exciting boss encounters. TMC follows this tradition by bringing together a mix of some classic tools combined with some new and ingenious inventions.

Of particular note are the Mole Mitts and the titular Minish Cap. The mitts allow you to dig through certain substances (and underground) but are utilized in the most ingenious of ways. Prepare to think outside the box without ever really having to strain your mind too hard to do so. The Minish Cap allows Link to shrink down to microscopic proportions. While in mini-mode, things that at one point seemed as insignificant details suddenly become serious obstacles.

The shrinking aspect is used in all sorts of fun and clever ways. Large parts of the game revolve around this gameplay mechanic but never do they feel overbearing or unnecessary. Dungeons and overworld areas alike seamlessly blend in the necessity of shrinking and the feeling you get as you figure out one and the other is quite rewarding.

Dungeon and overworld exploring has always been a staple of the Zelda series and TMC comes through with shining colors. Despite the small number of actual dungeons in the game, those that are available are ingeniously designed, filled with old and new fiends alike and are quite lengthy. They provide a legitimate challenge without ever truly leaving you stumped, and the boss fights for each are well designed and magnificently incorporate whatever theme is prevalent for the labyrinth at hand.

The overworld is similarly brilliant in design. Always leaving you one skill away from completely exploring an area, TMC leaves you constantly wanting and yearning for more. Again, the overworld is not the most enormous land mass you have ever laid witness to, but what is there is filled with diverse (and beautiful) terrain teeming with critters to destroy and secrets to find.

Hidden secrets in TMC are handled through something called “Kinstone Fusion.” Basically, as you go about your travels, you will come across little halves of Kinstones that you can fuse together with practically anyone and everyone on your quest. Even pets and livestock join in! Only certain stones fuse with others so it can be a challenge to find just the right match. That being said, the average gamer won’t have much trouble matching up many stones, perhaps making this the most playable Zelda yet. This is the first game I have played in a while that truly makes me believe you could uncover almost all the secrets in the game without ever having to consult a walkthrough; a true marvel in game design that more developers should take note of.

Plot wise, TMC attempts to force a plot into the game, and while it somewhat succeeds, you won’t be playing this game on the merits of its storyline alone. TMC pulls one right out of left field and introduces a twist into the Zelda mythos that attempts to draw a good lot of the games together. It feels somewhat extreme but is handled in a decent way. Unusual in nature, the translation is very well done and the character interaction never feels unnatural or forced. Cut scenes are sprinkled throughout the game and consist of both in-game models and nicely painted stain glass stills. I enjoyed the plot of TMC about as much as any Zelda game; that is to say it gave me another reason to continue progressing, but it did not exactly make the game for me.

Graphically, TMC puts almost all Gameboy Advance (GBA) games to shame. Sporting some of the most colorful, well animated, drop dead beautiful sprites I have seen to date, TMC harnesses the power of the GBA and compresses it into a wonderful presentation for that tiny screen. Tons of tiny little touches, such as the wisp of smoke that appears when a slaughtered enemy leaves this plane of existence or the way Link animates fully in whatever he does, add to the overall magnificent canvas painted by the developers. This is what a two-dimensional Zelda game should look like, and it has truly raised the bar for future GBA game attempts.

Rare is the instance where I want to turn up the volume on my GBA. TMC does just that to me, though, sporting some remixed tunes guaranteed to wake up the old nostalgia feeling and enough new tunes to keep things fresh. Everything feels like Zelda, and the score ranges from light-hearted and dynamic to haunting and moody. Rarely does a developer have enough skill to milk the GBA’s minimal sound prowess into this sort of an orchestral odyssey, but Capcom has certainly done its homework here. Add to the great soundtrack well detailed and executed sound effects, and you have some tasty icing on an already delicious cake.

Two dimensional adventuring in the land of Hyrule has truly never been better. TMC takes all of the elements that I know and love about my Zelda games, improves on and adds more to them, then moves them to a portable medium and provides a true must-buy title for the GBA. Sporting enough action to keep any adventure fan busy, with enough nostalgic appeal for the hardcore fan and enough creative whimsy to keep us yearning for more, TMC will appeal to just about any audience. An absolute treasure amongst a steadily growing, stellar GBA library, TMC will please you like no other; enjoy.