The moving, yet heartfelt, moment was caught on camera earlier this week when Crvena Zvesda, a Serbian basketball club, was playing Russia’s CSKA in the 2016 Euroleague playoffs.
As the players were warming up, over 20,000 Serbian fans rose to sing under a banner reading: “May heaven hear the song of this 20,000-strong choir!” The choice of the song was symbolic – ‘Tamo daleko’, or ‘There, Far Away’, is widely known among the Serbs for its nostalgic, sorrowful melody.
The song, which was composed in 1916, glorifies Serbian warriors who took up arms in defense of their homeland and mourns those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield.
“Nobody among the Russians knew of our performance,” Davor Ristovic, Crvena Zvezda’s director, told RT. “Everyone was amazed when 20,000 people applauded at the end of the game. This was a human, emotional and patriotic act of the Serbs,” he added.
A Tu-154 airliner owned by Russia’s Defense Ministry plummeted into the Black Sea on December 25, just minutes after taking off from Sochi airport. The crash claimed the lives of 92 people on board. Among them were 64 members of the famous Alexandrov Ensemble, including their director and conductor, General Valery Khalilov.
The tragedy rocked both Russian and international fans.
The group was established in 1928 and has since toured the world performing Russian folk and patriotic songs, as well as World War II music. The widely popular chorus is often referred to as “Russia’s singing weapon.”
A message of support and condolence also came from across the Atlantic on Friday, when members of the Schiller Institute Community Chorus performed the Russian national anthem outside the Russian Consulate in New York to honor the Tu-154 crash victims.
“This accident is all the more a cause for sadness, as the music and patriotic spirit characteristic of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble would have brought a message of hope to the people of Syria… victimized by more than five years of the criminal policies of regime change,” the group said a statement on their YouTube channel.
“The Alexandrov Ensemble has been an expression of the highest moral values of Russia and, like classical choral singing in general, speaks to the soul and the creative potential of the audience,” it added.
Project #1917LIVE will run dozens of Twitter accounts mostly in the name of real historical characters – think Alexander Kerensky, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, Leon Trotsky and others. But since history is also about ordinary people, they will also get a voice so you will “see” the revolution as if it happened in your neighborhood.
The events will be covered live by the Russian Telegraph (RT), a fictional media outlet that – as the revolution develops – will rebrand into the Revolutionary Times.
“That’s going to be a dynamic lively social media project – history reenactments of such a scale have never happened on Twitter before. Developing in real time, it will be a highly engaging experience – our audience will get a unique chance to follow and interact with Lenin or Russia’s last tsar, take part in polls and Q&As and many more,” said Kirill Karnovich-Valua, RT’s Head of Online Projects.
RT’s project will take its readers through one of the most uncertain periods of the Russian history of the 20th century, which saw an end to the rule of the Romanov dynasty.
Together with a dedicated web guide to the revolution’s history, the project will fully launch in February – to mirror the events of 1917: February bread supply shortages followed by Putilovsky factory strike and violent clashes with police in March. All this ultimately led to Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication and creation of the Russian Provisional Government.
Six inmate plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state prison system argued that more than 1,400 inmates, many elderly and infirm, are suffering “cruel and unusual punishment,” a violation the Eighth Amendment, by not having access to air conditioning, according to the Houston Chronicle.
US District Judge Keith Ellison held a hearing on the lawsuit on Wednesday, and gave the state 30 days to comply, AP reported.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2013, contends that 13 inmates have died of heat-related deaths since 2007, including 11 in 2011, when a heatwave brought some of the hottest temperatures on record.
Daily measurements taken by the National Weather Service show that, since the beginning of the summer in 2016, the peak heat index has averaged 104 degrees, NPR reported.
The prison’s cell blocks are poorly ventilated, steel and concrete blocks, the inmates said. To make matters worse, the Wallace Pack Unit sits on humid pasturelands between Austin and Houston.
“A lot of times it gets so hot in our dorms that we have to strip down to our boxers, and we’ll just lay on the floor because it’s a little bit cooler on the floor than it is trying to sit up in our bunks,” plaintiff Keith Cole, 62, who is serving life for murder, told NPR. “We try to stay in front of our fans. But in reality, there’s really not too much that we can really do in our living areas to alleviate the heat.”
Cole suffers from heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, and there are a lot of older prisoners like him in the prison.
“My age, with the medical conditions that I have, the medications that I am on, extreme heat can kill me,” he said. “So, it’s not a comfort issue with me. It has nothing to do with that. This is a serious medical issue.”
Autopsies reveal that, since 1998, 20 inmates have died from heatstroke or hyperthermia in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.
There are probably more, inmates said, but the cause of death is often listed as heart attack.
There are 109 state prison facilities in Texas, with 30 only that are air-conditioned in all housing areas. Facilities have balked at the expense of outfitting all their prisons with air conditions, and have said that retrofitting the Pack Unit alone would cost $22 million.