Chess was ubiquitous in the Soviet Union. Its players were among the best in the world, and Russia has a history of strong chess players going back centuries. It’s therefore not unusual that research scientists in Antarctica often played when they had little else to do. During one game, however, in 1959, one game ended in tragedy. The loser was so enraged that he took an axe and brutally murdered his friend and colleague. After this incident, the Soviets banned chess at their Antarctic research stations.
The cruelty of the Inquisition is somewhat axiomatic in the modern West, yet it seems that even they had a light-hearted, if dark, side. Spain was enormously popular in Spain, having been brought there through the Muslim conquerors of Al-Andalus. In 1485, Pedro de Arbués is said to have set up a game of human chess, using those convicted by the Inquisition as pieces. Two blind monks played, although if this part is true, it must have been quite an achievement, since while blind chess is relatively common today, at the time, it was nothing short of a marvel. As each piece was captured, the person was executed. What happened to the survivors is unknown, but most likely, they, too, were put into the bag, as we all are someday.
In 1291, the last major Christian city in the Holy Land, Acre, fell to the Muslims during the Third Crusade. Yet even in the midst of tragedy and death, some found business opportunities. One Templar, Rutger von Blum, managed to acquire a small fortune just before the city left, by seizing a galley. He then charged ruinous rates to the wealthy women of Acre to take them from the city before it fell to the army outside. Those not fortunate or wealthy enough to escape could look forward to nothing less than rape, mutilation, slavery, and death.
Bernard Natan was one of France’s first well-known pornographic directors. Perhaps taking slight advantage of his role, he often cast himself in his own pornographic films in homosexual scenes. Apparently, his favorite roles were as the giver of oral sex and the recipient of anal sex.
The Russian Civil War saw atrocities on both sides. The Cossacks, especially, were feared for their brutality. Once, three sealed trains reached Petrograd from the south, labeled “fresh meat.” The Bolsheviks opened the trains, only to behold a grisly sight. Inside the trains were the blood-stained corpses of Red Guards, placed into obscene positions by their killers.
In every revolution, one finds individuals who take advantage of the chaos for their benefit. As the Bolsheviks came into power in Russia, some used the new creed of Marxism-Leninism for their own gain, before Moscow put a stop to it. In Suizran, north of the Caspian Sea, it was proclaimed that all the women should be nationalized.
Whereas before, the bourgeoisie hoarded the most beautiful women for themselves, leaving the workers and peasants with second best, from then on, all women would be shared communally.
When Lenin and Moscow found out, their disapproval was quickly made known. The order was rescinded, and even possessing a copy of it was made a crime.
During the reign of Empress Wu, in Tang dynasty China, the Zhang brothers held inordinate influence, which they wielded with a certain lack of grace and subtlety. They gladly accepted bribes, but their memories left something to be desired. One graduate by the name of Xue approached Zhang Changyi, a sibling of the more famous brothers, and offered him fifty ounces of gold in exchange for his services in getting him an appointment. Changyi agreed, but couldn’t remember the man’s first name. Unwilling to anger the Zhang brothers, the vice-president of the board was forced to simply appoint every graduate by the name of Xue: sixty men in all.