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This Month in History – March




The Spanish Flu The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic. While the 1918 H1N1 virus has been synthesized and evaluated, the properties that made it so devastating are not well understood. With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.

Comparison between COVID-19 and 1918 influenza First, the patient population differs. While the 1918 influenza killed a disproportionate number of 25–40 year olds, COVID-19 mostly affects those over the age of 65, especially those also with comorbidities. In particular, the mortality rate for the influenza rose to 8%–10% for younger people compared with a 2.5% overall mortality whereas the mortality rate for the 25–40-year-old age range is a mere 0.2% in contrast to the 2.4% overall mortality rate. Those aged 25–40 year olds accounted for 40% of deaths from the 1918 influenza, whereas those in the 18–44-year-old range account for only 3.9% of deaths from COVID-19.

More countries were spared in the 1918 pandemic, whereas only the smaller Pacific Islands (Soloman Islands and Vanuata) remain COVID-19 free. The Spanish influenza resulted in acute illness in 25%–30% of the world population, with over 50 million deaths, whereas COVID-19 has infected nearly 55 million to date, with 1.3 million deaths. In the USA alone, COVID-19 cases are at over 11 million as of 16 November 2020, which is nearly a 40% increase from the month prior.

Second, the two diseases kill via different mechanisms. While those with the influenza died of secondary bacterial pneumonia, those with COVID-19 died from an overactive immune response that resulted in multiple organ failure. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) can develop in both cases. As a complication from the influenza, ARDS had an 100% fatality rate compared with a 53.4% mortality rate as a complication from COVID-19. An excerpt from : https://pmj.bmj.com/content/97/1147/273

The Russian Revolution Besides anything else, the socialist uprising in Russia that began in March 1917 is an extraordinary, complex and involved story. The first day of the Russian Revolution – 8 March (23 February in the old Russian calendar) – was International Women’s Day, an important day in the socialist calendar. By midday of that day in 1917 there were tens of thousands of mainly women congregating on the Nevsky Prospekt, the principal avenue in the centre of the Russian capital, Petrograd, and banners started to appear.

The slogans on the banners were patriotic but also made forceful demands for change: “Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland,” read one; another said: “Supplement the ration of soldiers’ families, defenders of freedom and the people’s peace.”

More protestors and strikers took part and around 200,000 filled the streets of the city, demanding the replacement of the Tsar and an end to the war. Eventually nearly all industry in Petrograd was shut down. The Tsar ordered the commander of the Petrograd garrison, General Khahalov, to suppress the rioting by force. But troops in the city refused. They mutinied and joined the protesters. Having lost the support of the army and under the advice of his army chiefs and ministers, the Tsar abdicated for himself and his son on 2 March 1917. His brother refused to succeed the throne, marking the end of the Tsarist regime.

A provisional government, headed by Georgy Lvov, was appointed in March and tried to continue Russia’s participation in World War I, but it was opposed by the powerful Petrograd workers’ soviet, which favoured Russian withdrawal from the war. Other soviets were formed in major cities and towns, choosing members from factories and military units. The soviet movement was dominated by the Socialist Revolutionary Party, followed by the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. Between March and October, the provisional government was reorganized four times; Aleksandr Kerensky became its head in July; he survived a coup attempt by Lavr Kornilov but was unable to halt Russia’s slide into political and military chaos. By September the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, had achieved majorities in the Petrograd and Moscow soviets and won increasing support among the hungry urban workers and soldiers. In October they staged a nearly bloodless coup (the “October Revolution”), occupying government buildings and strategic points. Kerensky tried unsuccessfully to organize resistance, then fled the country. The congress of soviets approved the formation of a new government composed mainly of Bolsheviks. It matters. Because things were different once. Why could they not be again?

Missionary Carl Völkner killed at Ōpōtiki On 2 March 1865, Anglican priest Carl Sylvius Völkner was killed at Ōpōtiki. During Völkner’s recent absence in Auckland, rumours had spread that he was a government spy. Locals warned him to stay away, but he returned to Ōpōtiki on 1 March and was promptly taken prisoner. During Völkner’s absence, Kereopa Te Rau had arrived in the area seeking followers for Pai Mārire. Widely believed to be behind the killing, Kereopa did not participate in the actual act. Völkner was hanged from a willow tree near his church, then decapitated. This indignity to the head of an enemy conferred mana on Kereopa, but outraged Europeans.

Kereopa fled into Te Urewera and sought protection from Tūhoe, who respected him as the bearer of the Pai Mārire faith. Despite their vehement denial of any role in the killing of Völkner, Tūhoe were accused of involvement and the government confiscated land belonging to them and other ‘rebel’ tribes, Te Whakatōhea and Ngāti Awa.

The dense bush of Te Urewera offered shelter from pursuit to Kereopa, and later Te Kooti. As the Ringatū faith of Te Kooti gained popularity among Tūhoe from 1868, the influence of Pai Mārire began to wane. Still, Tūhoe did not disclose Kereopa’s whereabouts. Over the next three years the government’s relentless pursuit of Te Kooti and his followers led to the destruction of Tūhoe pā and crops, and many deaths.

By late 1870 several Tūhoe leaders had made their peace with the government. Realising that their survival was threatened by Kereopa’s continuing presence, they withdrew their protection from him. It was agreed that Tūhoe would deliver Kereopa to the government, thereby retaining their mana. In September 1871 a Tūhoe party met with Kereopa, who agreed to surrender but then attempted to flee. He was captured and handed over to Captain Thomas Porter and the Ngāti Porou leader, Rāpata Wahawaha.

When Kereopa stood trial at Napier on 21 December 1871, a European eyewitness testified that he had seen him among those escorting Völkner to the willow tree. This proved sufficient to convict Kereopa of murder. He was sentenced to death and hanged on 5 January 1872. In 2014 a statutory pardon for Kereopa Te Rau was part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the Crown and Ngāti Rangiwewehi. He was the second important figure to be pardoned in relation to Völkner’s killing – the first was the Whakatōhea chief Mokomoko.

‘Missionary Carl Völkner killed at Ōpōtiki’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/missionary-carl-volkner-killed-at-opotiki, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 2-Mar-2021.



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elocal Digital Edition – March 2022 (#251)

elocal Digital Edition
March 2022 (#251)


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