The Rodina and the Shackles of Humanity
Table of Contents
- * -
The Early Hours of New Year's Day
Svetlana Nikolaevna Platova
Lev Davidovich Trotsky
Baron Andrei Sergeevich von Berg
A Bloc Against the Apparatus
The Soviet Trade Delegation to Norway
The Commissar and the General
The Georgian Affair
Lauding the Organizer of Victory
The Nature of the Fiend
Boris Kirillovich Volosatov
The Twelfth Congress of the Russian Communist Party
Kristof S. Havel
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Moscow, the heart of the vast Russian lands had suffered many trials since its founding in the dark tenth century. The hardest trials of the last two years were the famine and the following outbreak of cholera. The situation of course, was due to the horrible civil war that had raged across the former domain of the Tsars. The flames of civil strife were not quite extinguished – the Red Army was still fighting in Central Asia to crush the last domestic foes of the Bolsheviks. It was the fourth hour of New Years day 1923 and the city was covered in crisp white snow that had been falling for a solid week. The black night sky was clear now however, and the bleak light from the stars and the moon shone down on the dark metropolis where some would say Europe ended and Asia began. The streets were quiet, with the exception of some die hard New Year’s revelers, and only the avenues had working street lamps. Down by the Borodinsky Bridge, a tall and powerfully built man, wearing the uniform of a General of the Red Army, was walking up the northern stairs toward the Roman portico on the western side of the Moskva River. Mikhail Ivanov was called stone face by his fellow officers, because they claimed to have never seen him smile. In a way it was a fitting name, because Ivanov’s beautiful if stern face resembled the perfectly proportioned appearance of ancient statues of Greek gods. If the General had hoped for solitary star gazing from the portico he was disappointed.
A very short man, of almost dwarfish proportions, wearing a cheap and soiled dark brown coat stood gulping down a bottle of vodka. He turned to look at Ivanov, with the happy smile of a half-wit. His rather long and unkempt thick black hair merged with his gray-streaked black beard. The man’s narrow eyes tried to focus and take in the general’s tall frame. ‘Cold night, eh sir?’
Ivanov stopped in front of the drunken man and looked down on him with his cold gray eyes. He smiled at Ivanov and stretched out a filthy hand to shake hands. ‘Pleased to meet you, your lordship, I’m Alexei, but in these parts I’m known by most as simply…’
‘The fool?’ The general smiled warmly, a sight that would have shocked the men serving under him.
‘Why…yes! Do I know you, sir?’ The man’s surprise seemed to sober him up a bit.
‘We don’t know each other. I will call you Alexei if you don’t mind?’ The man shook his head slowly, not taking his eyes off the General. Ivanov was sure he was a mix of Russian and Azeri stock.
‘It’s an honor, sir!’
‘Pleased to meet you Alexei, I’m Mikhail Ivanov’ they shook hands and the General then moved to stand beside the short man and looked up at the starry sky. ‘It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?’
Alexei looked up and said, confused, ‘I haven’t thought much about it.’
‘Can I have some of that?’ Alexei handed over the bottle and the General took a swig before returning it. ‘Thanks. I guess this helps you keep warm?’
‘I have no problem with the cold, sir. The landlord of the building I grew up in let’s me keep a place in the cellar. No, I like the vodka because how it makes me feel, sir.’
Ivanov looked amused. ‘I can see that of course, and it’s good that you have a place to stay at.’
‘Will things get better soon, sir? It’s been harder and harder to get by since we went to war with the Germans.’
Ivanov stared down into the black icy water of the Moskva River. ‘We’re at an important junction in this country’s development and there are many possibilities, of which many might improve the plight of not only the Russian people, but also all of Europe. The road is fraught with danger however, and there is no shortage of enemies, both foreign and domestic.’
The fool thought hard and then simply said. ‘Then I hope we choose the right path. I have listened to Lenin speak once, but I think his voice says one thing and his heart another.’
‘You’re an underestimated man, Alexei, I know of many men who would much more deserve to be called ‘the fool.’
‘It’s been with me since I was a small boy, sir. I was always too slow to understand. The other children started to make fun of me. My mother always said that it didn’t matter as long as I was happy; because God would keep an eye on me to make sure I was safe.’
‘Are you a religious man?’
‘I don’t know. My late uncle Boris once told me God was dead and to be honest I have never heard from him. If he’s keeping an eye on me, he’s awfully secret about it. Maybe he sees me from up there.’ Alexei pointed to the night sky.
‘Well, judging from what this country has been through the last decade, the idea of God’s death is not outlandish. We must all do what we can to make sure that the all the lives lost were not for nothing. A new age of enlightment and solidarity must dawn.’
‘I hope you’re right, sir. I don’t think we can endure much more hardship.’
The men stood in silence for a while. Alexei was usually quite restless and could stand neither place nor fellow man for a longer time, but for some reason he felt content standing here, next to this stranger. There was something reassuring about him. As time passed the effect on him began to change – he felt that for each minute that passed it would be harder for him to go his own way instead of staying in the company of Ivanov. Alexei had never felt anything like it. He had to go. ‘I’m getting tired, sir. It has been very nice talking to you, but it’s time to hit the sack and there’s quite a walk home. I hope you’ll not be offended?’
‘Of course not, Alexei. It was a pleasure meeting you and I hope to see you again. I will watch the stars for a while longer. Good night!’
‘Good night, sir.’ The man called ‘the fool’ walked unsteadily back the same way the General had come from. Ivanov was alone with his thoughts again.