May 21st 1871: Bloody Week begins

On this day in 1871 French troops marched on the Paris Commune and began fighting the revolutionaries there. The Commune took power in opposition to the conservative royalist National Assembly which was elected in February 1871; republican Parisians feared the Assembly would restore the monarchy. When officials of Adolphe Thiers’s government tried to remove the cannons of the city’s guards on March 18th the Commune seized power and were later elected on March 26th. The Commune enacted socialist policies such as ending support of religion and promoting female suffrage; they adopted a plain red flag as the flag of the Commune. Communard soldiers killed two French troops and refused to stand down, prompting the attack on the Commune by French forces who entered through an undefended area. The Commune was brutally repressed by the national government during the street fighting of ‘Bloody Week’, with around 20,000 insurrectionists being killed before the Commune fell on May 28th. The government treated the surviving Communards and their supporters ruthlessly - arresting around 38,000 and deporting around 7,000.

Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen


I. Two Ladies of Berlevaag

In Norway there is a fjord–a long narrow arm of the sea between tall mountains–named Berlevaag Fjord. At the foot of the mountains the small town of Berlevaag looks like a child’s toy-town of little wooden pieces painted gray, yellow, pink and many other colors. Sixty-five years ago two elderly ladies lived in one of the yellow houses. Other ladies at that time wore…

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Le mur des Fédérés, Paris, 1900.

Le mur des Fédérés est le symbole de la lutte pour la liberté et les idéaux des communards. Le 28 mai 1871, cent-quarante-sept combattants de la Commune furent fusillés et jetés dans une fosse ouverte au pied du mur. Il constitue une partie du mur du cimetière du Père-Lachaise à Paris.