organization:communist party

  • The Mystery of the Exiled Billionaire Whistle-Blower - The New York Times

    From a penthouse on Central Park, Guo Wengui has exposed a phenomenal web of corruption in China’s ruling elite — if, that is, he’s telling the truth.

    By Lauren Hilgers, Jan. 10, 2018


    On a recent Saturday afternoon, an exiled Chinese billionaire named Guo Wengui was holding forth in his New York apartment, sipping tea while an assistant lingered quietly just outside the door, slipping in occasionally to keep Guo’s glass cup perfectly full. The tycoon’s Twitter account had been suspended again — it was the fifth or sixth time, by Guo’s count — and he blamed the Communist Party of China. “It’s not normal!” he said, about this cycle of blocking and reinstating. “But it doesn’t matter. I don’t need anyone.”

    Guo’s New York apartment is a 9,000-square-foot residence along Central Park that he bought for $67.5 million in 2015. He sat in a Victorian-style chair, his back to a pair of west-facing windows, the sunset casting craggy shadows. A black-and-white painting of an angry-looking monkey hung on the wall to Guo’s right, a hat bearing a star-and-wreath Soviet insignia on its head and a cigarette hanging from its lips. Guo had arrived dressed entirely in black, except for two silver stripes on each lapel. “I have the best houses,” he told me. Guo had picked his apartment for its location, its three sprawling balconies and the meticulously tiled floor in the entryway. He has the best apartment in London, he said; the biggest apartment in Hong Kong. His yacht is docked along the Hudson River. He is comfortable and, anyway, Guo likes to say that as a Buddhist, he wants for nothing. If it were down to his own needs alone, he would have kept his profile low. But he has a higher purpose. He is going to save China.

    Guo pitches himself as a former insider, a man who knows the secrets of a government that tightly controls the flow of information. A man who, in 2017, did the unthinkable — tearing open the veil of secrecy that has long surrounded China’s political elite, lobbing accusations about corruption, extramarital affairs and murder plots over Facebook and Twitter. His YouTube videos and tweets have drawn in farmers and shopkeepers, democracy activists, writers and businesspeople. In China, people have been arrested for chatting about Guo online and distributing T-shirts with one of his slogans printed on the front (“This is only the beginning!”). In New York, Guo has split a community of dissidents and democracy activists down the middle. Some support him. Others believe that Guo himself is a government spy.

    Nothing in Guo’s story is as straightforward as he would like it to seem. Guo is 47 years old, or 48, or 49. Although he has captured the attention of publications like The Guardian, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the articles that have run about him have offered only hazy details about his life. This is because his biography varies so widely from one source to the next. Maybe his name isn’t even Guo Wengui. It could be Guo Wugui. There are reports that in Hong Kong, Guo occasionally goes by the name Guo Haoyun.

    When pressed, Guo claims a record of unblemished integrity in his business dealings, both in real estate and in finance (when it comes to his personal life, he strikes a more careful balance between virility and dedication to his family). “I never took a square of land from the government,” he said. “I didn’t take a penny of investment from the banks.” If you accept favors, he said, people will try to exploit your weaknesses. So, Guo claims, he opted to take no money and have no weaknesses.

    Yet when Guo left China in 2014, he fled in anticipation of corruption charges. A former business partner had been detained just days before, and his political patron would be detained a few days afterward. In 2015, articles about corruption in Guo’s business dealings — stories that he claims are largely fabrications — started appearing in the media. He was accused of defrauding business partners and colluding with corrupt officials. To hear Guo tell it, his political and business opponents used a national corruption campaign as a cover for a personal vendetta.

    Whatever prompted Guo to take action, his campaign came during an important year for China’s president, Xi Jinping. In October, the Communist Party of China (C.P.C.) convened its 19th National Congress, a twice-a-decade event that sets the contours of political power for the next five years. The country is in the throes of a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign, and Xi has overseen a crackdown on dissidents and human rights activists while increasing investment in censorship and surveillance. Guo has become a thorn in China’s side at the precise moment the country is working to expand its influence, and its censorship program, overseas.

    In November 2017, the Tiananmen Square activist Wang Dan warned of the growing influence of the C.P.C. on university campuses in the United States. His own attempts to hold “China salons” on college campuses had largely been blocked by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association — a group with ties to China’s government. Around the same time, the academic publisher Springer Nature agreed to block access to hundreds of articles on its Chinese site, cutting off access to articles on Tibet, Taiwan and China’s political elite. Reports emerged last year that China is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars quarterly to purchase ads on Facebook (a service that is blocked within China’s borders). In Australia, concerns about China’s growing influence led to a ban on foreign political donations.

    “That’s why I’m telling the United States they should really be careful,” Guo said. China’s influence is spreading, he says, and he believes his own efforts to change China will have global consequences. “Like in an American movie,” he told me with unflinching self-confidence. “In the last minutes, we will save the world.”

    Propaganda, censorship and rewritten histories have long been specialties of authoritarian nations. The aim, as famously explained by the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, is to confuse: to breed a combination of cynicism and gullibility. Propaganda can leave people in doubt of all news sources, suspicious of their neighbors, picking and choosing at random what pieces of information to believe. Without a political reality grounded in facts, people are left unmoored, building their world on whatever foundation — imaginary or otherwise — they might choose.

    The tight grip that the C.P.C. keeps on information may be nothing new, but China’s leadership has been working hard to update the way it censors and broadcasts. People in China distrusted print and television media long before U.S. politicians started throwing around accusations of “fake news.” In 2016, President Xi Jinping was explicit about the arrangement, informing the country’s media that it should be “surnamed Party.” Likewise, while the West has only recently begun to grapple with government-sponsored commenters on social media, China’s government has been manipulating online conversations for over a decade.

    “They create all kinds of confusion,” said Ha Jin, the National Book Award-winning American novelist born in China’s Liaoning Province, and a vocal supporter of Guo. “You don’t know what information you have and whether it’s right. You don’t know who are the informers, who are the agents.”

    Online, the C.P.C. controls information by blocking websites, monitoring content and employing an army of commenters widely known as the 50-cent party. The name was used as early as 2004, when a municipal government in Hunan Province hired a number of online commenters, offering a stipend of 600 yuan, or about $72. Since then, the 50-cent party has spread. In 2016, researchers from Harvard, Stanford and the University of California-San Diego estimated that these paid commenters generated 448 million social-media comments annually. The posts, researchers found, were conflict averse, cheerleading for the party rather than defending it. Their aim seemed not to be engaging in argument but rather distracting the public and redirecting attention from sensitive issues.

    In early 2017, Guo issued his first salvos against China’s ruling elite through more traditional channels. He contacted a handful of Chinese-language media outlets based in the United States. He gave interviews to the Long Island-based publication Mingjing News and to Voice of America — a live event that was cut short by producers, leading to speculation that V.O.A. had caved to Chinese government pressure. He called The New York Times and spoke with reporters at The Wall Street Journal. It did not take long, however, before the billionaire turned to direct appeals through social media. The accusations he made were explosive — he attacked Wang Qishan, Xi Jinping’s corruption czar, and Meng Jianzhu, the secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, another prominent player in Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. He talked about Wang’s mistresses, his business interests and conflicts within the party.

    In one YouTube video, released on Aug. 4, Guo addressed the tension between Wang and another anti-corruption official named Zhang Huawei. He recounted having dinner with Zhang when “he called Wang Qishan’s secretary and gave him orders,” Guo said. “Think about what Wang had to suffer in silence back then. They slept with the same women, and Zhang knew everything about Wang.” In addition, Guo said, Zhang knew about Wang’s corrupt business dealings. When Zhang Huawei was placed under official investigation in April, Guo claimed, it was a result of a grudge.

    “Everyone in China is a slave,” Guo said in the video. “With the exception of the nobility.”

    To those who believe Guo’s claims, they expose a depth of corruption that would surprise even the most jaded opponent of the C.P.C. “The corruption is on such a scale,” Ha Jin said. “Who could imagine that the czar of anti-corruption would himself be corrupt? It is extraordinary.”

    Retaliation came quickly. A barrage of counteraccusations began pouring out against Guo, most published in the pages of the state-run Chinese media. Warrants for his arrest were issued on charges of corruption, bribery and even rape. China asked Interpol to issue a red notice calling for Guo’s arrest and extradition. He was running out of money, it was reported. In September, Guo recorded a video during which he received what he said was a phone call from his fifth brother: Two of Guo’s former employees had been detained, and their family members were threatening suicide. “My Twitter followers are so important they are like heaven to me,” Guo said. But, he declared, he could not ignore the well-being of his family and his employees. “I cannot finish the show as I had planned,” he said. Later, Guo told his followers in a video that he was planning to divorce his wife, in order to shield her from the backlash against him.

    Guo quickly resumed posting videos and encouraging his followers. His accusations continued to accumulate throughout 2017, and he recently started his own YouTube channel (and has yet to divorce his wife). His YouTube videos are released according to no particular schedule, sometimes several days in a row, some weeks not at all. He has developed a casual, talkative style. In some, Guo is running on a treadmill or still sweating after a workout. He has demonstrated cooking techniques and played with a tiny, fluffy dog, a gift from his daughter. He invites his viewers into a world of luxury and offers them a mix of secrets, gossip and insider knowledge.

    Wang Qishan, Guo has claimed, is hiding the money he secretly earned in the Hainan-based conglomerate HNA Group, a company with an estimated $35 billion worth of investments in the United States. (HNA Group denies any ties to Wang and is suing Guo.) He accused Wang of carrying on an affair with the actress Fan Bingbing. (Fan is reportedly suing Guo for defamation.) He told stories of petty arguments among officials and claimed that Chinese officials sabotaged Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in 2014 en route to Beijing, in order to cover up an organ-harvesting scheme. Most of Guo’s accusations have proved nearly impossible to verify.

    “This guy is just covered in question marks,” said Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna who specializes in Chinese governance.

    The questions that cover Guo have posed a problem for both the United States government and the Western journalists who, in trying to write about him, have found themselves buffeted by the currents of propaganda, misinformation and the tight-lipped code of the C.P.C. elite. His claims have also divided a group of exiled dissidents and democracy activists — people who might seem like Guo’s natural allies. For the most part, the democracy activists who flee China have been chased from their country for protesting the government or promoting human rights, not because of corruption charges. They tell stories of personal persecution, not insider tales of bribery, sex and money. And perhaps as a consequence, few exiled activists command as large an audience as Guo. “I will believe him,” Ha Jin said, “until one of his serious accusations is proved to be false.”

    Pei, the professor, warns not to take any of Guo’s accusations at face value. The reaction from the C.P.C. has been so extreme, however, that Pei believes Guo must know something. “He must mean something to the government,” he said. “They must be really bothered by this billionaire.” In May, Chinese officials visited Guo on visas that did not allow them to conduct official business, causing a confrontation with the F.B.I. A few weeks later, according to The Washington Times, China’s calls for Guo’s extradition led to a White House showdown, during which Jeff Sessions threatened to resign if Guo was sent back to China.

    Guo has a history of cultivating relationships with the politically influential, and the trend has continued in New York. He famously bought 5,000 copies of a book by Cherie Blair, Tony Blair’s wife. (“It was to give to my employees,” Guo told me. “I often gave my employees books to read.”) Guo has also cultivated a special relationship with Steve Bannon, whom he says he has met with a handful of times, although the two have no financial relationship. Not long after one of their meetings, Bannon appeared on Breitbart Radio and called China “an enemy of incalculable power.”

    Despite Guo’s high-powered supporters and his army of online followers, one important mark of believability has continued to elude him. Western news organizations have struggled to find evidence that would corroborate Guo’s claims. When his claims appear in print, they are carefully hedged — delivered with none of his signature charm and bombast. “Why do you need more evidence?” Guo complained in his apartment. “I can give them evidence, no problem. But while they’re out spending time investigating, I’m waiting around to get killed!”

    The details of Guo’s life may be impossible to verify, but the broad strokes confirm a picture of a man whose fortunes have risen and fallen with the political climate in China. To hear Guo tell it, he was born in Jilin Province, in a mining town where his parents were sent during the Cultural Revolution. “There were foreigners there,” Guo says in a video recorded on what he claims is his birthday. (Guo was born on Feb. 2, or May 10, or sometime in June.) “They had the most advanced machinery. People wore popular clothing.” Guo, as a result, was not ignorant of the world. He was, however, extremely poor. “Sometimes we didn’t even have firewood,” he says. “So we burned the wet twigs from the mountains — the smoke was so thick.” Guo emphasizes this history: He came from hardship. He pulled himself up.

    The story continues into Guo’s pre-teenage years, when he moved back to his hometown in Shandong Province. He met his wife and married her when he was only 15, she 14. They moved to Heilongjiang, where they started a small manufacturing operation, taking advantage of the early days of China’s economic rise, and then to Henan. Guo got his start in real estate in a city called Zhengzhou, where he founded the Zhengzhou Yuda Property Company and built the tallest building the city had seen so far, the Yuda International Trade Center. According to Guo, he was only 25 when he made this first deal.

    The string of businesses and properties that Guo developed provide some of the confirmable scaffolding of his life. No one disputes that Guo went on to start both the Beijing Morgan Investment Company and Beijing Zenith Holdings. Morgan Investment was responsible for building a cluster of office towers called the Pangu Plaza, the tallest of which has a wavy top that loosely resembles a dragon, or perhaps a precarious cone of soft-serve ice cream. Guo is in agreement with the Chinese media that in buying the property for Pangu Plaza, he clashed with the deputy mayor of Beijing. The dispute ended when Guo turned in a lengthy sex tape capturing the deputy mayor in bed with his mistress.

    There are other details in Guo’s biography, however, that vary from one source to the next. Guo says that he never took government loans; Caixin, a Beijing-based publication, quoted “sources close to the matter” in a 2015 article claiming that Guo took out 28 loans totaling 588 million yuan, or about $89 million. Guo, according to Caixin, eventually defaulted. At some point in this story — the timeline varies — Guo became friends with the vice minister of China’s Ministry of State Security, Ma Jian. The M.S.S. is China’s answer to the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. combined. It spies on civilians and foreigners alike, conducting operations domestically and internationally, amassing information on diplomats, businessmen and even the members of the C.P.C. Describing Ma, Guo leans back in his chair and mimes smoking a cigarette. “Ma Jian! He was fat and his skin was tan.” According to Guo, Ma sat like this during their first meeting, listening to Guo’s side of a dispute. Then Ma told him to trust the country. “Trust the law,” he told Guo. “We will treat you fairly.” The older master of spycraft and the young businessman struck up a friendship that would become a cornerstone in Guo’s claims of insider knowledge, and also possibly the reason for the businessman’s downfall in China.

    Following the construction of Pangu Plaza in Beijing, Guo’s life story becomes increasingly hard to parse. He started a securities business with a man named Li You. After a falling-out, Li was detained by the authorities. Guo’s company accused Li and his company of insider trading. According to the 2015 article in Caixin, Li then penned a letter to the authorities accusing Guo of “wrongdoing.”

    As this dispute was going on, China’s anti-​corruption operation was building a case against Ma Jian. In Guo’s telling, Ma had long been rumored to be collecting intelligence on China’s leaders. As the anti-corruption campaign gained speed and officials like Wang Qishan gained power, Ma’s well of intelligence started to look like a threat. It was Guo’s relationship with Ma, the tycoon maintains, that made officials nervous. Ma was detained by the authorities in January 2015, shortly after Guo fled the country. Soon after Ma’s detention, accounts began appearing in China’s state-run media claiming that Ma had six Beijing villas, six mistresses and at least two illegitimate sons. In a 2015 article that ran in the party-run newspaper The China Daily, the writer added another detail: “The investigation also found that Ma had acted as an umbrella for the business ventures of Guo Wengui, a tycoon from Henan Province.”

    In the mix of spies, corrupt business dealings, mistresses and sex scandals, Guo has one more unbelievable story to tell about his past. It is one reason, he says, that he was mentally prepared to confront the leaders of the Communist Party. It happened nearly 29 years ago, in the aftermath of the crackdown on Tiananmen Square. According to Guo, he had donated money to the students protesting in the square, and so a group of local police officers came to find him at his home. An overzealous officer fired off a shot at Guo’s wife — at which point Guo’s younger brother jumped in front of the bullet, suffering a fatal wound. “That was when I started my plan,” he said. “If your brother had been killed in front of your eyes, would you just forget it?” Never mind the fact that it would take 28 years for him to take any public stand against the party that caused his brother’s death. Never mind that the leadership had changed. “I’m not saying everyone in the Communist Party is bad,” he said. “The system is bad. So what I need to oppose is the system.”

    On an unusually warm Saturday afternoon in Flushing, Queens, a group of around 30 of Guo’s supporters gathered for a barbecue in Kissena Park. They laid out a spread of vegetables and skewers of shrimp and squid. Some children toddled through the crowd, chewing on hot dogs and rolling around an unopened can of Coke. The adults fussed with a loudspeaker and a banner that featured the name that Guo goes by in English, Miles Kwok. “Miles Kwok, NY loves U,” it said, a heart standing in for the word “loves.” “Democracy, Justice, Liberty for China.” Someone else had carried in a life-size cutout of the billionaire.

    The revelers decided to hold the event in the park partly for the available grills but also partly because the square in front of Guo’s penthouse had turned dangerous. A few weeks earlier, some older women had been out supporting Guo when a group of Chinese men holding flags and banners showed up. At one point, the men wrapped the women in a protest banner and hit them. The park was a safer option. And the protesters had learned from Guo — it wasn’t a live audience they were hoping for. The group would be filming the protest and posting it on social media. Halfway through, Guo would call in on someone’s cellphone, and the crowd would cheer.

    Despite this show of support, Guo’s claims have divided China’s exiled dissidents to such an extent that on a single day near the end of September, two dueling meetings of pro-democracy activists were held in New York, one supporting Guo, the other casting doubt on his motivations. (“They are jealous of me,” Guo said of his detractors. “They think: Why is he so handsome? Why are so many people listening to him?”) Some of Guo’s claims are verifiably untrue — he claimed in an interview with Vice that he paid $82 million for his apartment — and others seem comically aggrandized. (Guo says he never wears the same pair of underwear twice.) But the repercussions he is facing are real.

    In December, Guo’s brother was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for destroying accounting records. The lawsuits filed against Guo for defamation are piling up, and Guo has claimed to be amassing a “war chest” of $150 million to cover his legal expenses. In September, a new set of claims against Guo were made in a 49-page document circulated by a former business rival. For Ha Jin, Guo’s significance runs deeper than his soap-opera tales of scandal and corruption. “The grand propaganda scheme is to suppress and control all the voices,” Jin said. “Now everybody knows that you can create your own voice. You can have your own show. That fact alone is historical.” In the future, Jin predicts, there will be more rebels like Guo. “There is something very primitive about this, realizing that this is a man, a regular citizen who can confront state power.”

    Ho Pin, the founder of Long Island’s Mingjing News, echoed Jin. Mingjing’s reporters felt that covering Guo was imperative, no matter the haziness of the information. “In China, the political elite that Guo was attacking had platforms of their own,” Ho said. “They have the opportunity, the power and the ability to use all the government’s apparatus to refute and oppose Guo Wengui. So our most important job is to allow Guo Wengui’s insider knowledge reach the fair, open-minded people in China.” Still, people like Pei urge caution when dealing with Guo’s claims. Even Guo’s escape raises questions. Few others have slipped through the net of China’s anti-corruption drive. “How could he get so lucky?” Pei asked. “He must have been tipped off long before.”

    At the barbecue, a supporter named Ye Rong tucked one of his children under his arm and acknowledged that Guo’s past life is riddled with holes. There was always the possibility that Guo used to be a thug, but Ye didn’t think it mattered. The rules of the conflict had been set by the Communist Party. “You need all kinds of people to oppose the Chinese government,” Ye said. “We need intellectuals; we also need thugs.”

    Guo, of course, has his own opinions about his legacy. He warned of dark times for Americans and for the world, if he doesn’t succeed in his mission to change China. “I am trying to help,” he told me. “I am not joking with you.” He continued: “I will change China within the next three years. If I don’t change it, I won’t be able to survive.”
    Correction: Jan. 12, 2018

    An earlier version of this article misidentified the name of the province where the Chinese government hired online commenters in 2004. It is Hunan Province, not Henan.

    #Chine #politique #corruption #tireurs_d_alarme

  • An Interview with Ryszard Kapuscinski: Writing about Suffering


    Were you trained as a journalist? Kapuscinski: No, never. I started in journalism in 1950 — I was 18, just finishing secondary school, and the newspaper people came to ask me to work. I learned journalism through practice.

    Wolfe: How would you describe your genre?

    Kapuscinski: It’s very difficult to describe. We have such a mixture now, such a fusion of different genres… in the American tradition you would call it New Journalism. This implies writing about the facts, the real facts of life, but using the techniques of fiction writing. There is a certain difference in my case, because I’m trying to put more elements of the essay into my writing… My writing is a combination of three elements. The first is travel: not travel like a tourist, but travel as exploration, as concentration, as a purpose. The second is reading literature on the subject: books, articles, scholarship. The third is reflection, which comes from travel and reading. My books are created from a combination of these three elements.

    Wolfe:When did the idea of Aesopian writing enter into the genre, the idea of putting layers into official texts?

    Kapuscinski: Well, this is not a new thing — it was a nineteenth-century Russian tradition. As for us, we were trying to use all the available possibilities, because there wasn’t any underground. Underground literature only began in the 70s, when technical developments made it possible. Before that, we were involved in a game with the censors. That was our struggle. The Emperor is considered to be an Aesopian book in Poland and the Soviet Union. Of course it’s not about Ethiopia or Haile Selassie — rather, it’s about the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The First Secretary at the time was named Gierek, and he was very much the emperor with his court, and everybody read the book as being about him and the Central Committee.

    Wolfe: But you didn’t write explicitly about the Central Committee.

    Kapuscinski: No, but of course the authorities knew what it was about, and so it had a very small circulation, and it was forbidden to turn it into a film or a play. Aesopian language was used by all of us. And of course, using this language meant having readers who understood it.

    Cohen: The other day we were discussing the crisis of readership, and wondering whether people were still capable of doing the double reading, of taking apart a text that has been written in a complicated way.

    Kapuscinski: The limitation of sources under the Communists had a very political effect on reading. People had just one book, and nothing else — no television or other diversions — so they just read the same book very carefully several times. Readership was high, and very attentive. It was people’s only source of knowledge about the world. You have to understand that the tradition of Russian literature — and Russians are great readers — is also an eastern tradition of learning poetry and prose by heart. This is the most intimate relationship between literature and its readers: they treat the text as a part of themselves, as a possession. This art of reading, reading the text behind the text, is missing now.

    Cohen: When did you first arrive on the African continent?

    Kapuscinski:My first trip to Africa came when the first countries south of the Sahara became independent, in 1958. Ghana was the first African country I visited. I wrote a series of reports about Nkumrah and Lumumba. My second trip was just two years later, when I went to cover the events surrounding the independence of the Congo. At that time, I was not allowed to go to Kinshasa — it was Leopoldville at that time — but I crossed the Sudan-Congo border illegally with a Czech journalist friend, since there was nobody patrolling it. And I went to Kisangani, which was called Stanleyville then.

    Cohen: Were you in Leopoldville during the actual transfer[1]?

    Kapuscinski:No, afterwards. It was a moment of terrible international tension. I remember the atmosphere of danger: there was the expectation that the Congo might begin a new world war. I say this today and people just smile. But that’s why everybody was so nervous: Russians were going there, Americans were going there, the French, the United Nations… I remember one moment at the airport in Kisangani, thinking that Soviet planes were coming — all the journalists were there, and we all expected it to happen.

    Cohen: At that time, in the early 1960s, there weren’t more than three regular American journalists covering Africa.

    Kapuscinski:There were very few, because most correspondents came from the former colonial powers — there were British, French, and a lot of Italians, because there were a lot of Italian communities there. And of course there were a lot of Russians.

    Wolfe: Was there competition among this handful of people?

    Kapuscinski: No, we all cooperated, all of us, East and West, regardless of country, because the working conditions were really terrible. We had to. We always moved in groups from one coup d’état to another, from one war to another… So if there was a coup d’état of leftist orientation in some country I took my Western colleagues with me and said ‘look, let them come in,’ and if there was one of rightist orientation they took me, saying ‘no, he’s okay, give him a visa please, he’s going with us, he’s our friend,’ and so on. I didn’t compete with the New York Times, for example, because the Polish press agency is a small piece of cake, not important. And because conditions were so hard. For example, to send the news out, there was no e-mail, nothing: telex was the only means, but telex was very rare in Africa. So if somebody was flying to Europe, we gave him correspondence, to send after he arrived. I remember that during the period leading up to independence in Angola in 1975, I was the only correspondent there at all for three months. I was in my hotel room when somebody knocked on my door - I opened it, and a man said, ‘I’m the New York Times correspondent.’ The official independence celebration was going to be held over four or five days, and a group of journalists from all over the world was allowed to fly in, because Angola was closed otherwise. So he said, ‘I’m sorry, but I’m the new man here, and I heard you’ve been here longer, and I have to write something from Angola, and this is the article I have to send to the New York Times. Could you kindly read it and correct things which are not real?’ And he brought a bottle of whiskey. And whiskey was something which was absolutely marvelous, because there was nothing: no cigarettes, no food, nothing…The difference at that time, in comparison with today, was that this was a group of highly specialized people. They were real Africanists, and not only from experience. If you read articles from that time in Le Monde, in the Times, you’ll find that the authors really had background, a knowledge of the subject. It was a very highly qualified sort of journalism — we were all great specialists.

    Woodford: Professor Piotr Michalowski[2] says that when he was growing up in Poland, people lived through your reports in a very special way: they were like a big, exotic outlet, given the state of world politics. People of all ranks and stations followed these adventures. When you went back, did regular Poles, non-educated people, also want you to tell them about what it was like to see these things?

    Kapuscinski:Yes, very much so. They were very interested in what I was writing. This was a unique source of information, and Africa held incomparably greater interest for them at that time than it does now. People were really interested in what was going on because of the international context of the Cold War.

    Wolfe: What did the Poles know about Africa?

    Kapuscinski: They had very limited knowledge. This was very typical of the European understanding of Africa, which is full of stereotypes and biases. Nevertheless, there was a certain fascination with Africa. Maybe it has something to do with our literature: we have Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, for example, and Conrad is considered in Poland as a Polish writer. The similarity between Africa and Poland - and this is an argument I have always had with people in Africa - is that we were also a colonized country. We were a colony for 130 years. We lost independence at the end of the 18th century, and only regained it in 1918, after the First World War. We were divided between three colonial powers - Russia, Prussia, and Austria. There’s a certain similarity of experience. I’ve often quarreled with African friends about this. I’ve asked, ‘How long were you colonized?’ “Eighty years,” they’ve answered, and I’ve responded, ‘We were colonized 50 years longer, so what can you say about colonialism? I’ll tell you what colonial experience is.’ And they’re shocked. But though there is a similarity of experience, the common people are not conscious of this.

    Wolfe: At the end of the Copernicus Lecture, you said that you wrote Imperium because it was important to bring a Polish way of seeing things to your topic. How did you come to a sense that there was a Polish way of seeing things? Did it emerge from your experiences in Africa, or in relationship to Russia?

    Kapuscinski: It developed in relation to Russia in particular. Our history, the history of Polish-Russian relations, is very tragic, very harrowing. There has been a lot of suffering on our side, because Stalin killed all our intelligentsia. It wasn’t just that he killed 100,000 people, it was that he purposely killed the 100,000 who were our only intelligentsia… When I started writing Imperium, I had a problem with my conscience, because if I wrote strictly from the point of view of this Polish experience, the book would be completely unacceptable and incomprehensible to the Western reader…So I had to put aside our Polish experience, and to find an angle, an objective way of writing about Russia.

    Wolfe: Isn’t there something inherently difficult in writing about suffering? How does one go back and forth between a sense of causation in daily suffering on the one hand, and an understanding of the purges as a social phenomenon, on the other? How does one attempt to understand the cultural propensity of Russians to suffer?

    Kapuscinski: There is a fundamental difference between the Polish experience of the state and the Russian experience. In the Polish experience, the state was always a foreign power. So, to hate the state, to be disobedient to the state, was a patriotic act. In the Russian experience, although the Russian state is oppressive, it is their state, it is part of their fabric, and so the relation between Russian citizens and their state is much more complicated. There are several reasons why Russians view the oppressive state positively. First of all, in Russian culture, in the Russian Orthodox religion, there is an understanding of authority as something sent by God. This makes the state part of the sacred… So if the state is oppressive, then it is oppressive, but you can’t revolt against it. The cult of authority is very strong in Russian society.

    Wolfe: But what is the difference between Soviet suffering and something like the battle of the Marne, the insanity of World War I and trench warfare?

    Kapuscinski: It’s different. In the First World War, there was the sudden passion of nationalism, and the killing took place because of these emotions. But the Soviet case is different, because there you had systematic murder, like in the Holocaust. Ten or 12 million Ukrainian peasants were purposely killed by Stalin, by starvation, in the Ukrainian hunger of 1932-3…It was a very systematic plan… In modern Russia, you have no official, formal assessment of this past. Nobody in any Russian document has said that the policy of the Soviet government was criminal, that it was terrible. No one has ever said this.

    Woodford: But what about Khrushchev in 1956?

    Kapuscinski: I’m speaking about the present. Official Russian state doctrine and foreign policy doesn’t mention the Bolshevik policy of expansion. It doesn’t condemn it. If you ask liberal Russians - academics, politicians - if Russia is dangerous to us, to Europe, to the world, they say: ‘No, it’s not dangerous, we’re too weak, we have an economic crisis, difficulties with foreign trade, our army is in a state of anarchy…’ That is the answer. They are not saying: ‘We will never, ever repeat our crimes of expansionism, of constant war.’ No, they say: ‘We are not dangerous to you, because right now we are weak.’


    When Vaclav Havel was president of Czechoslovakia, he was asked whether the state would take responsibility for the deaths, the oppression, the confiscations of the previous governments of Czechoslovakia, and he said ‘yes.’ The same questions were asked in South Africa of the Mandela government. And I think Poland is now struggling with how much responsibility the government will have to take for the past. But the Russian official response has been that Stalin can be blamed for everything.

    Kapuscinski:This is a very crucial point: there is a lack of critical assessment of the past. But you have to understand that the current ruling elite is actually the old ruling elite. So they are incapable of a self-critical approach to the past.

    Polish-born journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski worked as an African correspondent for various Polish periodicals and press agencies from 1958 to 1980. In his book Imperium (Granta Books, 1994), he turns a journalist’s eye onto the Russian state, and the effects of authoritarianism on everyday Russian life. Kapuscinski delivered his November, 1997 Copernicus lecture: "The Russian Puzzle: Why I Wrote Imperium at the Center for Russian and East European Studies. During his visit, he spoke with David Cohen (International Institute); John Woodford (Executive Editor of Michigan Today ); and Thomas Wolfe (Communications). The following is an excerpted transcript of their conversation.

    Sei Sekou Mobutu seized control of the Congo in 1965. After the evolution, the name of the capital was changed from Leopoldville to Kinshasa, and in 1971 the country was renamed Zaire, instead of the Congo. return to text

    Piotr Michalowski is the George D. Cameron Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations and Languages at the Unversity of Michigan.

    Kapuscinski, more magical than real

    What’s the truth about Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski

    #presse #littérature #reportage

  • China blocks 17.5 million plane tickets for people without enough ’social credit’

    Would-be passengers blacklisted for offences as minor as walking dogs without lead The Chinese government blocked 17.5 million would-be plane passengers from buying tickets last year as a punishment for offences including the failure to pay fines, it emerged. Some 5.5 million people were also barred from travelling by train under a controversial “social credit” system which the ruling Communist Party claims will improve public behaviour. The penalties are part of efforts by president Xi (...)

    #algorithme #CCTV #biométrie #facial #activisme #Islam #voyageurs #surveillance #vidéo-surveillance (...)


  • The Knesset candidate who says Zionism encourages anti-Semitism and calls Netanyahu ’arch-murderer’ - Israel Election 2019 -

    Few Israelis have heard of Dr. Ofer Cassif, the Jewish representative on the far-leftist Hadash party’s Knesset slate. On April 9, that will change
    By Ravit Hecht Feb 16, 2019

    Ofer Cassif is fire and brimstone. Not even the flu he’s suffering from today can contain his bursting energy. His words are blazing, and he bounds through his modest apartment, searching frenetically for books by Karl Marx and Primo Levi in order to find quotations to back up his ideas. Only occasional sips from a cup of maté bring his impassioned delivery to a momentary halt. The South American drink is meant to help fight his illness, he explains.

    Cassif is third on the slate of Knesset candidates in Hadash (the Hebrew acronym for the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), the successor to Israel’s Communist Party. He holds the party’s “Jewish slot,” replacing MK Dov Khenin. Cassif is likely to draw fire from opponents and be a conspicuous figure in the next Knesset, following the April 9 election.

    Indeed, the assault on him began as soon as he was selected by the party’s convention. The media pursued him; a columnist in the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Ben-Dror Yemini, called for him to be disqualified from running for the Knesset. It would be naive to say that this was unexpected. Cassif, who was one of the first Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in the territories, in 1987, gained fame thanks to a number of provocative statements. The best known is his branding of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked as “neo-Nazi scum.” On another occasion, he characterized Jews who visit the Temple Mount as “cancer with metastases that have to be eradicated.”

    On his alternate Facebook page, launched after repeated blockages of his original account by a blitz of posts from right-wing activists, he asserted that Culture Minister Miri Regev is “repulsive gutter contamination,” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an “arch-murderer” and that the new Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is a “war criminal.”

    Do you regret making those remarks?

    Cassif: “‘Regret’ is a word of emotion. Those statements were made against a background of particular events: the fence in Gaza, horrible legislation, and the wild antics of Im Tirtzu [an ultranationalist organization] on campus. That’s what I had to say at the time. I didn’t count on being in the Knesset. That wasn’t part of my plan. But it’s clear to me that as a public personality, I would not have made those comments.”

    Is Netanyahu an arch-murderer?

    “Yes. I wrote it in the specific context of a particular day in the Gaza Strip. A massacre of innocent people was perpetrated there, and no one’s going to persuade me that those people were endangering anyone. It’s a concentration camp. Not a ‘concentration camp’ in the sense of Bergen-Belsen; I am absolutely not comparing the Holocaust to what’s happening.”

    You term what Israel is doing to the Palestinians “genocide.”

    “I call it ‘creeping genocide.’ Genocide is not only a matter of taking people to gas chambers. When Yeshayahu Leibowitz used the term ‘Judeo-Nazis,’ people asked him, ‘How can you say that? Are we about to build gas chambers?’ To that, he had two things to say. First, if the whole difference between us and the Nazis boils down to the fact that we’re not building gas chambers, we’re already in trouble. And second, maybe we won’t use gas chambers, but the mentality that exists today in Israel – and he said this 40 years ago – would allow it. I’m afraid that today, after four years of such an extreme government, it possesses even greater legitimacy.

    “But you know what, put aside ‘genocide’ – ethnic cleansing is taking place there. And that ethnic cleansing is also being carried out by means of killing, although mainly by way of humiliation and of making life intolerable. The trampling of human dignity. It reminds me of Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is a Man.’”

    You say you’re not comparing, but you repeatedly come back to Holocaust references. On Facebook, you also uploaded the scene from “Schindler’s List” in which the SS commander Amon Goeth picks off Jews with his rifle from the balcony of his quarters in the camp. You compared that to what was taking place along the border fence in the Gaza Strip.

    “Today, I would find different comparisons. In the past I wrote an article titled, ‘On Holocaust and on Other Crimes.’ It’s online [in Hebrew]. I wrote there that anyone who compares Israel to the Holocaust is cheapening the Holocaust. My comparison between here and what happened in the early 1930s [in Germany] is a very different matter.”

    Clarity vs. crudity

    Given Cassif’s style, not everyone in Hadash was happy with his election, particularly when it comes to the Jewish members of the predominantly Arab party. Dov Khenin, for example, declined to be interviewed and say what he thinks of his parliamentary successor. According to a veteran party figure, “From the conversations I had, it turns out that almost none of the Jewish delegates – who make up about 100 of the party’s 940 delegates – supported his candidacy.

    “He is perceived, and rightly so,” the party veteran continues, “as someone who closes doors to Hadash activity within Israeli society. Each of the other Jewish candidates presented a record of action and of struggles they spearheaded. What does he do? Curses right-wing politicians on Facebook. Why did the party leadership throw the full force of its weight behind him? In a continuation of the [trend exemplified by] its becoming part of the Joint List, Ofer’s election reflects insularity and an ongoing retreat from the historical goal of implementing change in Israeli society.”

    At the same time, as his selection by a 60 percent majority shows, many in the party believe that it’s time to change course. “Israeli society is moving rightward, and what’s perceived as Dov’s [Khenin] more gentle style didn’t generate any great breakthrough on the Jewish street,” a senior source in Hadash notes.

    “It’s not a question of the tension between extremism and moderation, but of how to signpost an alternative that will develop over time. Clarity, which is sometimes called crudity, never interfered with cooperation between Arabs and Jews. On the contrary. Ofer says things that we all agreed with but didn’t so much say, and of course that’s going to rile the right wing. And a good thing, too.”

    Hadash chairman MK Ayman Odeh also says he’s pleased with the choice, though sources in the party claim that Odeh is apprehensive about Cassif’s style and that he actually supported a different candidate. “Dov went for the widest possible alliances in order to wield influence,” says Odeh. “Ofer will go for very sharp positions at the expense of the breadth of the alliance. But his sharp statements could have a large impact.”

    Khenin was deeply esteemed by everyone. When he ran for mayor of Tel Aviv in 2008, some 35 percent of the electorate voted for him, because he was able to touch people who weren’t only from his political milieu.

    Odeh: “No one has a higher regard for Dov than I do. But just to remind you, we are not a regular opposition, we are beyond the pale. And there are all kinds of styles. Influence can be wielded through comments that are vexatious the first time but which people get used to the second time. When an Arab speaks about the Nakba and about the massacre in Kafr Kassem [an Israeli Arab village, in 1956], it will be taken in a particular way, but when uttered by a Jew it takes on special importance.”

    He will be the cause of many attacks on the party.

    “Ahlan wa sahlan – welcome.”

    Cassif will be the first to tell you that, with all due respect for the approach pursued by Khenin and by his predecessor in the Jewish slot, Tamar Gozansky, he will be something completely different. “I totally admire what Tamar and Dov did – nothing less than that,” he says, while adding, “But my agenda will be different. The three immediate dangers to Israeli society are the occupation, racism and the diminishment of the democratic space to the point of liquidation. That’s the agenda that has to be the hub of the struggle, as long as Israel rules over millions of people who have no rights, enters [people’s houses] in the middle of the night, arrests minors on a daily basis and shoots people in the back.

    "Israel commits murder on a daily basis. When you murder one Palestinian, you’re called Elor Azaria [the IDF soldier convicted and jailed for killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant]; when you murder and oppress thousands of Palestinians, you’re called the State of Israel.”

    So you plan to be the provocateur in the next Knesset?

    “It’s not my intention to be a provocateur, to stand there and scream and revile people. Even on Facebook I was compelled to stop that. But I definitely intend to challenge the dialogue in terms of the content, and mainly with a type of sarcasm.”

    ’Bags of blood’

    Cassif, 54, who holds a doctorate in political philosophy from the London School of Economics, teaches political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Sapir Academic College in Sderot and at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. He lives in Rehovot, is married and is the father of a 19-year-old son. He’s been active in Hadash for three decades and has held a number of posts in the party.

    As a lecturer, he stands out for his boldness and fierce rhetoric, which draws students of all stripes. He even hangs out with some of his Haredi students, one of whom wrote a post on the eve of the Hadash primary urging the delegates to choose him. After his election, a student from a settlement in the territories wrote to him, “You are a determined and industrious person, and for that I hold you in high regard. Hoping we will meet on the field of action and growth for the success of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state (I felt obliged to add a small touch of irony in conclusion).”

    Cassif grew up in a home that supported Mapai, forerunner of Labor, in Rishon Letzion. He was an only child; his father was an accountant, his mother held a variety of jobs. He was a news hound from an early age, and at 12 ran for the student council in school. He veered sharply to the left in his teens, becoming a keen follower of Marx and socialism.

    Following military service in the IDF’s Nahal brigade and a period in the airborne Nahal, Cassif entered the Hebrew University. There his political career moved one step forward, and there he also forsook the Zionist left permanently. His first position was as a parliamentary aide to the secretary general of the Communist Party, Meir Wilner.

    “At first I was closer to Mapam [the United Workers Party, which was Zionist], and then I refused to serve in the territories. I was the first refusenik in the first intifada to be jailed. I didn’t get support from Mapam, I got support from the people of Hadash, and I drew close to them. I was later jailed three more times for refusing to serve in the territories.”

    His rivals in the student organizations at the Hebrew University remember him as the epitome of the extreme left.

    “Even in the Arab-Jewish student association, Cassif was considered off-the-wall,” says Motti Ohana, who was chairman of Likud’s student association and active in the Student Union at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. “One time I got into a brawl with him. It was during the first intifada, when he brought two bags of blood, emptied them out in the university’s corridors and declared, ‘There is no difference between Jewish and Arab blood,’ likening Israeli soldiers to terrorists. The custom on campus was that we would quarrel, left-right, Arabs-Jews, and after that we would sit together, have a coffee and talk. But not Cassif.”

    According to Ohana, today a member of the Likud central committee, the right-wing activists knew that, “You could count on Ofer to fall into every trap. There was one event at the Hebrew University that was a kind of political Hyde Park. The right wanted to boot the left out of there, so we hung up the flag. It was obvious that Ofer would react, and in fact he tore the flag, and in the wake of the ruckus that developed, political activity was stopped for good.”

    Replacing the anthem

    Cassif voices clearly and cogently positions that challenge the public discourse in Israel, and does so with ardor and charisma. Four candidates vied for Hadash’s Jewish slot, and they all delivered speeches at the convention. The three candidates who lost to him – Efraim Davidi, Yaela Raanan and the head of the party’s Tel Aviv branch, Noa Levy – described their activity and their guiding principles. When they spoke, there was the regular buzz of an audience that’s waiting for lunch. But when Cassif took the stage, the effect was magnetic.

    “Peace will not be established without a correction of the crimes of the Nakba and [recognition of] the right of return,” he shouted, and the crowd cheered him. As one senior party figure put it, “Efraim talked about workers’ rights, Yaela about the Negev, Noa about activity in Tel Aviv – and Ofer was Ofer.”

    What do you mean by “right of return”?

    Cassif: “The first thing is the actual recognition of the Nakba and of the wrong done by Israel. Compare it to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa, if you like, or with the commissions in Chile after Pinochet. Israel must recognize the wrong it committed. Now, recognition of the wrong also includes recognition of the right of return. The question is how it’s implemented. It has to be done by agreement. I can’t say that tomorrow Tel Aviv University has to be dismantled and that Sheikh Munis [the Arab village on whose ruins the university stands] has to be rebuilt there. The possibility can be examined of giving compensation in place of return, for example.”

    But what is the just solution, in your opinion?

    “For the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.”

    That means there will be Jews who will have to leave their home.

    “In some places, unequivocally, yes. People will have to be told: ‘You must evacuate your places.’ The classic example is Ikrit and Biram [Christian-Arab villages in Galilee whose residents were promised – untruly – by the Israeli authorities in 1948 that they would be able to return, and whose lands were turned over to Jewish communities]. But there are places where there is certainly greater difficulty. You don’t right one wrong with another.”

    What about the public space in Israel? What should it look like?

    “The public space has to change, to belong to all the state’s residents. I dispute the conception of ‘Jewish publicness.’”

    How should that be realized?

    “For example, by changing the national symbols, changing the national anthem. [Former Hadash MK] Mohammed Barakeh once suggested ‘I Believe’ [‘Sahki, Sahki’] by [Shaul] Tchernichovsky – a poem that is not exactly an expression of Palestinian nationalism. He chose it because of the line, ‘For in mankind I’ll believe.’ What does it mean to believe in mankind? It’s not a Jew, or a Palestinian, or a Frenchman, or I don’t know what.”

    What’s the difference between you and the [Arab] Balad party? Both parties overall want two states – a state “of all its citizens” and a Palestinian state.

    “In the big picture, yes. But Balad puts identity first on the agenda. We are not nationalists. We do not espouse nationalism as a supreme value. For us, self-determination is a means. We are engaged in class politics. By the way, Balad [the National Democratic Assembly] and Ta’al [MK Ahmad Tibi’s Arab Movement for Renewal] took the idea of a state of all its citizens from us, from Hadash. We’ve been talking about it for ages.”

    If you were a Palestinian, what would you do today?

    “In Israel, what my Palestinian friends are doing, and I with them – [wage] a parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggle.”

    And what about the Palestinians in the territories?

    “We have always been against harming innocent civilians. Always. In all our demonstrations, one of our leading slogans was: ‘In Gaza and in Sderot, children want to live.’ With all my criticism of the settlers, to enter a house and slaughter children, as in the case of the Fogel family [who were murdered in their beds in the settlement of Itamar in 2011], is intolerable. You have to be a human being and reject that.”

    And attacks on soldiers?

    “An attack on soldiers is not terrorism. Even Netanyahu, in his book about terrorism, explicitly categorizes attacks on soldiers or on the security forces as guerrilla warfare. It’s perfectly legitimate, according to every moral criterion – and, by the way, in international law. At the same time, I am not saying it’s something wonderful, joyful or desirable. The party’s Haifa office is on Ben-Gurion Street, and suddenly, after years, I noticed a memorial plaque there for a fighter in Lehi [pre-state underground militia, also known as the Stern Gang] who assassinated a British officer. Wherever there has been a struggle for liberation from oppression, there are national heroes, who in 90 percent of the cases carried out some operations that were unlawful. Nelson Mandela is today considered a hero, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but according to the conventional definition, he was a terrorist. Most of the victims of the ANC [African National Congress] were civilians.”

    In other words, today’s Hamas commanders who are carrying out attacks on soldiers will be heroes of the future Palestinian state?

    “Of course.”

    Anti-Zionist identity

    Cassif terms himself an explicit anti-Zionist. “There are three reasons for that,” he says. “To begin with, Zionism is a colonialist movement, and as a socialist, I am against colonialism. Second, as far as I am concerned, Zionism is racist in ideology and in practice. I am not referring to the definition of race theory – even though there are also some who impute that to the Zionist movement – but to what I call Jewish supremacy. No socialist can accept that. My supreme value is equality, and I can’t abide any supremacy – Jewish or Arab. The third thing is that Zionism, like other ethno-nationalistic movements, splits the working class and all weakened groups. Instead of uniting them in a struggle for social justice, for equality, for democracy, it divides the exploited classes and the enfeebled groups, and by that means strengthens the rule of capital.”

    He continues, “Zionism also sustains anti-Semitism. I don’t say it does so deliberately – even though I have no doubt that there are some who do it deliberately, like Netanyahu, who is connected to people like the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, and the leader of the far right in Austria, Hans Christian Strache.”

    Did Mapai-style Zionism also encourage anti-Semitism?

    “The phenomenon was very striking in Mapai. Think about it for a minute, not only historically, but logically. If the goal of political and practical Zionism is really the establishment of a Jewish state containing a Jewish majority, and for Diaspora Jewry to settle there, nothing serves them better than anti-Semitism.”

    What in their actions encouraged anti-Semitism?

    “The very appeal to Jews throughout the world – the very fact of treating them as belonging to the same nation, when they were living among other nations. The whole old ‘dual loyalty’ story – Zionism actually encouraged that. Therefore, I maintain that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the same thing, but are precisely opposites. That doesn’t mean, of course, that there are no anti-Zionists who are also anti-Semites. Most of the BDS people are of course anti-Zionists, but they are in no way anti-Semites. But there are anti-Semites there, too.”

    Do you support BDS?

    “It’s too complex a subject for a yes or no answer; there are aspects I don’t support.”

    Do you think that the Jews deserve a national home in the Land of Israel?

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘national home.’ It’s very amorphous. We in Hadash say explicitly that Israel has a right to exist as a sovereign state. Our struggle is not against the state’s existence, but over its character.”

    But that state is the product of the actions of the Zionist movement, which you say has been colonialist and criminal from day one.

    “That’s true, but the circumstances have changed. That’s the reason that the majority of the members of the Communist Party accepted the [1947] partition agreement at the time. They recognized that the circumstances had changed. I think that one of the traits that sets communist thought apart, and makes it more apt, is the understanding and the attempt to strike the proper balance between what should be, and reality. So it’s true that Zionism started as colonialism, but what do you do with the people who were already born here? What do you tell them? Because your grandparents committed a crime, you have to leave? The question is how you transform the situation that’s been created into one that’s just, democratic and equal.”

    So, a person who survived a death camp and came here is a criminal?

    “The individual person, of course not. I’m in favor of taking in refugees in distress, no matter who or what they are. I am against Zionism’s cynical use of Jews in distress, including the refugees from the Holocaust. I have a problem with the fact that the natives whose homeland this is cannot return, while people for whom it’s not their homeland, can, because they supposedly have some sort of blood tie and an ‘imaginary friend’ promised them the land.”

    I understand that you are in favor of the annulment of the Law of Return?

    “Yes. Definitely.”

    But you are in favor of the Palestinian right of return.

    “There’s no comparison. There’s no symmetry here at all. Jerry Seinfeld was by chance born to a Jewish family. What’s his connection to this place? Why should he have preference over a refugee from Sabra or Chatila, or Edward Said, who did well in the United States? They are the true refugees. This is their homeland. Not Seinfeld’s.”

    Are you critical of the Arabs, too?

    “Certainly. One criticism is of their cooperation with imperialism – take the case of today’s Saudi Arabia, Qatar and so on. Another, from the past, relates to the reactionary forces that did not accept that the Jews have a right to live here.”

    Hadash refrained from criticizing the Assad regime even as it was massacring civilians in Syria. The party even torpedoed a condemnation of Assad after the chemical attack. Do you identify with that approach?

    “Hadash was critical of the Assad regime – father and son – for years, so we can’t be accused in any way of supporting Assad or Hezbollah. We are not Ba’ath, we are not Islamists. We are communists. But as I said earlier, the struggle, unfortunately, is generally not between the ideal and what exists in practice, but many times between two evils. And then you have to ask yourself which is the lesser evil. The Syrian constellation is extremely complicated. On the one hand, there is the United States, which is intervening, and despite all the pretense of being against ISIS, supported ISIS and made it possible for ISIS to sprout.

    "I remind you that ISIS started from the occupation of Iraq. And ideologically and practically, ISIS is definitely a thousand times worse than the Assad regime, which is at base also a secular regime. Our position was and is against the countries that pose the greatest danger to regional peace, which above all are Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the United States, which supports them. That doesn’t mean that we support Assad.”

    Wrong language

    Cassif’s economic views are almost as far from the consensus as his political ideas. He lives modestly in an apartment that’s furnished like a young couple’s first home. You won’t find an espresso maker or unnecessary products of convenience in his place. To his credit, it can be said that he extracts the maximum from Elite instant coffee.

    What is your utopian vision – to nationalize Israel’s conglomerates, such as Cellcom, the telecommunications company, or Osem, the food manufacturer and distributor?

    “The bottom line is yes. How exactly will it be done? That’s an excellent question, which I can’t answer. Perhaps by transferring ownership to the state or to the workers, with democratic tools. And there are other alternatives. But certainly, I would like it if a large part of the resources were not in private hands, as was the case before the big privatizations. It’s true that it won’t be socialism, because, again, there can be no such thing as Zionist socialism, but there won’t be privatization like we have today. What is the result of capitalism in Israel? The collapse of the health system, the absence of a social-welfare system, a high cost of living and of housing, the elderly and the disabled in a terrible situation.”

    Does any private sector have the right to exist?

    “Look, the question is what you mean by ‘private sector.’ If we’re talking about huge concerns that the owners of capital control completely through their wealth, then no.”

    What growth was there in the communist countries? How can anyone support communism, in light of the grim experience wherever it was tried?

    “It’s true, we know that in the absolute majority of societies where an attempt was made to implement socialism, there was no growth or prosperity, and we need to ask ourselves why, and how to avoid that. When I talk about communism, I’m not talking about Stalin and all the crimes that were committed in the name of the communist idea. Communism is not North Korea and it is not Pol Pot in Cambodia. Heaven forbid.”

    And what about Venezuela?

    “Venezuela is not communism. In fact, they didn’t go far enough in the direction of socialism.”

    Chavez was not enough of a socialist?

    “Chavez, but in particular Maduro. The Communist Party is critical of the regime. They support it because the main enemy is truly American imperialism and its handmaidens. Let’s look at what the U.S. did over the years. At how many times it invaded and employed bullying, fascist forces. Not only in Latin America, its backyard, but everywhere.”

    Venezuela is falling apart, people there don’t have anything to eat, there’s no medicine, everyone who can flees – and it’s the fault of the United States?

    “You can’t deny that the regime has made mistakes. It’s not ideal. But basically, it is the result of American imperialism and its lackeys. After all, the masses voted for Chavez and for Maduro not because things were good for them. But because American corporations stole the country’s resources and filled their own pockets. I wouldn’t make Chavez into an icon, but he did some excellent things.”

    Then how do you generate individual wealth within the method you’re proposing? I understand that I am now talking to you capitalistically, but the reality is that people see the accumulation of assets as an expression of progress in life.

    “Your question is indeed framed in capitalist language, which simply departs from what I believe in. Because you are actually asking me how the distribution of resources is supposed to occur within the capitalist framework. And I say no, I am not talking about resource distribution within a capitalist framework.”

    Gantz vs. Netanyahu

    Cassif was chosen as the polls showed Meretz and Labor, the representatives of the Zionist left, barely scraping through into the next Knesset and in fact facing a serious possibility of electoral extinction. The critique of both parties from the radical left is sometimes more acerbic than from the right.

    Would you like to see the Labor Party disappear?

    “No. I think that what’s happening at the moment with Labor and with Meretz is extremely dangerous. I speak about them as collectives, because they contain individuals with whom I see no possibility of engaging in a dialogue. But I think that they absolutely must be in the Knesset.”

    Is a left-winger who defines himself as a Zionist your partner in any way?

    “Yes. We need partners. We can’t be picky. Certainly we will cooperate with liberals and Zionists on such issues as combating violence against women or the battle to rescue the health system. Maybe even in putting an end to the occupation.”

    I’ll put a scenario to you: Benny Gantz does really well in the election and somehow overcomes Netanyahu. Do you support the person who led Operation Protective Edge in Gaza when he was chief of staff?

    “Heaven forbid. But we don’t reject people, we reject policy. I remind you that it was [then-defense minister] Yitzhak Rabin who led the most violent tendency in the first intifada, with his ‘Break their bones.’ But when he came to the Oslo Accords, it was Hadash and the Arab parties that gave him, from outside the coalition, an insurmountable bloc. I can’t speak for the party, but if there is ever a government whose policy is one that we agree with – eliminating the occupation, combating racism, abolishing the nation-state law – I believe we will give our support in one way or another.”

    And if Gantz doesn’t declare his intention to eliminate the occupation, he isn’t preferable to Netanyahu in any case?

    “If so, why should we recommend him [to the president to form the next government]? After the clips he posted boasting about how many people he killed and how he hurled Gaza back into the Stone Age, I’m far from certain that he’s better.”


    • traduction d’un extrait [ d’actualité ]

      Le candidat à la Knesset dit que le sionisme encourage l’antisémitisme et qualifie Netanyahu de « meurtrier »
      Peu d’Israéliens ont entendu parler de M. Ofer Cassif, représentant juif de la liste de la Knesset du parti d’extrême gauche Hadash. Le 9 avril, cela changera.
      Par Ravit Hecht 16 février 2019 – Haaretz

      (…) Identité antisioniste
      Cassif se dit un antisioniste explicite. « Il y a trois raisons à cela », dit-il. « Pour commencer, le sionisme est un mouvement colonialiste et, en tant que socialiste, je suis contre le colonialisme. Deuxièmement, en ce qui me concerne, le sionisme est raciste d’idéologie et de pratique. Je ne fais pas référence à la définition de la théorie de la race - même si certains l’imputent également au mouvement sioniste - mais à ce que j’appelle la suprématie juive. Aucun socialiste ne peut accepter cela. Ma valeur suprême est l’égalité et je ne peux supporter aucune suprématie - juive ou arabe. La troisième chose est que le sionisme, comme d’autres mouvements ethno-nationalistes, divise la classe ouvrière et tous les groupes sont affaiblis. Au lieu de les unir dans une lutte pour la justice sociale, l’égalité, la démocratie, il divise les classes exploitées et affaiblit les groupes, renforçant ainsi le pouvoir du capital. "
      Il poursuit : « Le sionisme soutient également l’antisémitisme. Je ne dis pas qu’il le fait délibérément - même si je ne doute pas qu’il y en a qui le font délibérément, comme Netanyahu, qui est connecté à des gens comme le Premier ministre de la Hongrie, Viktor Orban, et le chef de l’extrême droite. en Autriche, Hans Christian Strache. ”

      Le sionisme type-Mapaï a-t-il également encouragé l’antisémitisme ?
      « Le phénomène était très frappant au Mapai. Pensez-y une minute, non seulement historiquement, mais logiquement. Si l’objectif du sionisme politique et pratique est en réalité de créer un État juif contenant une majorité juive et de permettre à la communauté juive de la diaspora de s’y installer, rien ne leur sert mieux que l’antisémitisme. "

      Qu’est-ce qui, dans leurs actions, a encouragé l’antisémitisme ?
      « L’appel même aux Juifs du monde entier - le fait même de les traiter comme appartenant à la même nation, alors qu’ils vivaient parmi d’autres nations. Toute la vieille histoire de « double loyauté » - le sionisme a en fait encouragé cela. Par conséquent, j’affirme que l’antisémitisme et l’antisionisme ne sont pas la même chose, mais sont précisément des contraires. Bien entendu, cela ne signifie pas qu’il n’y ait pas d’antisionistes qui soient aussi antisémites. La plupart des membres du BDS sont bien sûr antisionistes, mais ils ne sont en aucun cas antisémites. Mais il y a aussi des antisémites.

  • New report exposes global reach of powerful governments who equip, finance and train other countries to spy on their populations

    Privacy International has today released a report that looks at how powerful governments are financing, training and equipping countries — including authoritarian regimes — with surveillance capabilities. The report warns that rather than increasing security, this is entrenching authoritarianism.

    Countries with powerful security agencies are spending literally billions to equip, finance, and train security and surveillance agencies around the world — including authoritarian regimes. This is resulting in entrenched authoritarianism, further facilitation of abuse against people, and diversion of resources from long-term development programmes.

    The report, titled ‘Teach ’em to Phish: State Sponsors of Surveillance’ is available to download here.

    Examples from the report include:

    In 2001, the US spent $5.7 billion in security aid. In 2017 it spent over $20 billion [1]. In 2015, military and non-military security assistance in the US amounted to an estimated 35% of its entire foreign aid expenditure [2]. The report provides examples of how US Departments of State, Defense, and Justice all facilitate foreign countries’ surveillance capabilities, as well as an overview of how large arms companies have embedded themselves into such programmes, including at surveillance training bases in the US. Examples provided include how these agencies have provided communications intercept and other surveillance technology, how they fund wiretapping programmes, and how they train foreign spy agencies in surveillance techniques around the world.

    The EU and individual European countries are sponsoring surveillance globally. The EU is already spending billions developing border control and surveillance capabilities in foreign countries to deter migration to Europe. For example, the EU is supporting Sudan’s leader with tens of millions of Euros aimed at capacity building for border management. The EU is now looking to massively increase its expenditure aimed at building border control and surveillance capabilities globally under the forthcoming Multiannual Financial Framework, which will determine its budget for 2021–2027. Other EU projects include developing the surveillance capabilities of security agencies in Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere. European countries such as France, Germany, and the UK are sponsoring surveillance worldwide, for example, providing training and equipment to “Cyber Police Officers” in Ukraine, as well as to agencies in Saudi Arabia, and across Africa.

    Surveillance capabilities are also being supported by China’s government under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and other efforts to expand into international markets. Chinese companies have reportedly supplied surveillance capabilities to Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador [3]. In Ecuador, China Electronics Corporation supplied a network of cameras — including some fitted with facial recognition capabilities — to the country’s 24 provinces, as well as a system to locate and identify mobile phones.

    Edin Omanovic, Privacy International’s Surveillance Programme Lead, said

    “The global rush to make sure that surveillance is as universal and pervasive as possible is as astonishing as it is disturbing. The breadth of institutions, countries, agencies, and arms companies that are involved shows how there is no real long-term policy or strategic thinking driving any of this. It’s a free-for-all, where capabilities developed by some of the world’s most powerful spy agencies are being thrown at anyone willing to serve their interests, including dictators and killers whose only goal is to cling to power.

    “If these ‘benefactor’ countries truly want to assist other countries to be secure and stable, they should build schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure, and promote democracy and human rights. This is what communities need for safety, security, and prosperity. What we don’t need is powerful and wealthy countries giving money to arms companies to build border control and surveillance infrastructure. This only serves the interests of those powerful, wealthy countries. As our report shows, instead of putting resources into long-term development solutions, such programmes further entrench authoritarianism and spur abuses around the world — the very things which cause insecurity in the first place.”

    #surveillance #surveillance_de_masse #rapport

    Pour télécharger le rapport “Teach ’em to Phish: State Sponsors of Surveillance”:

    ping @fil

    • China Uses DNA to Track Its People, With the Help of American Expertise

      The Chinese authorities turned to a Massachusetts company and a prominent Yale researcher as they built an enormous system of surveillance and control.

      The authorities called it a free health check. Tahir Imin had his doubts.

      They drew blood from the 38-year-old Muslim, scanned his face, recorded his voice and took his fingerprints. They didn’t bother to check his heart or kidneys, and they rebuffed his request to see the results.

      “They said, ‘You don’t have the right to ask about this,’” Mr. Imin said. “‘If you want to ask more,’ they said, ‘you can go to the police.’”

      Mr. Imin was one of millions of people caught up in a vast Chinese campaign of surveillance and oppression. To give it teeth, the Chinese authorities are collecting DNA — and they got unlikely corporate and academic help from the United States to do it.

      China wants to make the country’s Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, more subservient to the Communist Party. It has detained up to a million people in what China calls “re-education” camps, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and a threat of sanctions from the Trump administration.

      Collecting genetic material is a key part of China’s campaign, according to human rights groups and Uighur activists. They say a comprehensive DNA database could be used to chase down any Uighurs who resist conforming to the campaign.

      Police forces in the United States and elsewhere use genetic material from family members to find suspects and solve crimes. Chinese officials, who are building a broad nationwide database of DNA samples, have cited the crime-fighting benefits of China’s own genetic studies.

      To bolster their DNA capabilities, scientists affiliated with China’s police used equipment made by Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts company. For comparison with Uighur DNA, they also relied on genetic material from people around the world that was provided by #Kenneth_Kidd, a prominent #Yale_University geneticist.

      On Wednesday, #Thermo_Fisher said it would no longer sell its equipment in Xinjiang, the part of China where the campaign to track Uighurs is mostly taking place. The company said separately in an earlier statement to The New York Times that it was working with American officials to figure out how its technology was being used.

      Dr. Kidd said he had been unaware of how his material and know-how were being used. He said he believed Chinese scientists were acting within scientific norms that require informed consent by DNA donors.

      China’s campaign poses a direct challenge to the scientific community and the way it makes cutting-edge knowledge publicly available. The campaign relies in part on public DNA databases and commercial technology, much of it made or managed in the United States. In turn, Chinese scientists have contributed Uighur DNA samples to a global database, potentially violating scientific norms of consent.

      Cooperation from the global scientific community “legitimizes this type of genetic surveillance,” said Mark Munsterhjelm, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario who has closely tracked the use of American technology in Xinjiang.

      Swabbing Millions

      In Xinjiang, in northwestern China, the program was known as “#Physicals_for_All.”

      From 2016 to 2017, nearly 36 million people took part in it, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency. The authorities collected DNA samples, images of irises and other personal data, according to Uighurs and human rights groups. It is unclear whether some residents participated more than once — Xinjiang has a population of about 24.5 million.

      In a statement, the Xinjiang government denied that it collects DNA samples as part of the free medical checkups. It said the DNA machines that were bought by the Xinjiang authorities were for “internal use.”

      China has for decades maintained an iron grip in Xinjiang. In recent years, it has blamed Uighurs for a series of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, including a 2013 incident in which a driver struck two people in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

      In late 2016, the Communist Party embarked on a campaign to turn the Uighurs and other largely Muslim minority groups into loyal supporters. The government locked up hundreds of thousands of them in what it called job training camps, touted as a way to escape poverty, backwardness and radical Islam. It also began to take DNA samples.

      In at least some of the cases, people didn’t give up their genetic material voluntarily. To mobilize Uighurs for the free medical checkups, police and local cadres called or sent them text messages, telling them the checkups were required, according to Uighurs interviewed by The Times.

      “There was a pretty strong coercive element to it,” said Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Washington who studies the plight of the Uighurs. “They had no choice.”

      Calling Dr. Kidd

      Kenneth Kidd first visited China in 1981 and remained curious about the country. So when he received an invitation in 2010 for an expenses-paid trip to visit Beijing, he said yes.

      Dr. Kidd is a major figure in the genetics field. The 77-year-old Yale professor has helped to make DNA evidence more acceptable in American courts.

      His Chinese hosts had their own background in law enforcement. They were scientists from the Ministry of Public Security — essentially, China’s police.

      During that trip, Dr. Kidd met Li Caixia, the chief forensic physician of the ministry’s Institute of Forensic Science. The relationship deepened. In December 2014, Dr. Li arrived at Dr. Kidd’s lab for an 11-month stint. She took some DNA samples back to China.

      “I had thought we were sharing samples for collaborative research,” said Dr. Kidd.

      Dr. Kidd is not the only prominent foreign geneticist to have worked with the Chinese authorities. Bruce Budowle, a professor at the University of North Texas, says in his online biography that he “has served or is serving” as a member of an academic committee at the ministry’s Institute of Forensic Science.

      Jeff Carlton, a university spokesman, said in a statement that Professor Budowle’s role with the ministry was “only symbolic in nature” and that he had “done no work on its behalf.”

      “Dr. Budowle and his team abhor the use of DNA technology to persecute ethnic or religious groups,” Mr. Carlton said in the statement. “Their work focuses on criminal investigations and combating human trafficking to serve humanity.”

      Dr. Kidd’s data became part of China’s DNA drive.

      In 2014, ministry researchers published a paper describing a way for scientists to tell one ethnic group from another. It cited, as an example, the ability to distinguish Uighurs from Indians. The authors said they used 40 DNA samples taken from Uighurs in China and samples from other ethnic groups from Dr. Kidd’s Yale lab.

      In patent applications filed in China in 2013 and 2017, ministry researchers described ways to sort people by ethnicity by screening their genetic makeup. They took genetic material from Uighurs and compared it with DNA from other ethnic groups. In the 2017 filing, researchers explained that their system would help in “inferring the geographical origin from the DNA of suspects at crime scenes.”

      For outside comparisons, they used DNA samples provided by Dr. Kidd’s lab, the 2017 filing said. They also used samples from the 1000 Genomes Project, a public catalog of genes from around the world.

      Paul Flicek, member of the steering committee of the 1000 Genomes Project, said that its data was unrestricted and that “there is no obvious problem” if it was being used as a way to determine where a DNA sample came from.

      The data flow also went the other way.

      Chinese government researchers contributed the data of 2,143 Uighurs to the Allele Frequency Database, an online search platform run by Dr. Kidd that was partly funded by the United States Department of Justice until last year. The database, known as Alfred, contains DNA data from more than 700 populations around the world.

      This sharing of data could violate scientific norms of informed consent because it is not clear whether the Uighurs volunteered their DNA samples to the Chinese authorities, said Arthur Caplan, the founding head of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s School of Medicine. He said that “no one should be in a database without express consent.”

      “Honestly, there’s been a kind of naïveté on the part of American scientists presuming that other people will follow the same rules and standards wherever they come from,” Dr. Caplan said.

      Dr. Kidd said he was “not particularly happy” that the ministry had cited him in its patents, saying his data shouldn’t be used in ways that could allow people or institutions to potentially profit from it. If the Chinese authorities used data they got from their earlier collaborations with him, he added, there is little he can do to stop them.

      He said he was unaware of the filings until he was contacted by The Times.

      Dr. Kidd also said he considered his collaboration with the ministry to be no different from his work with police and forensics labs elsewhere. He said governments should have access to data about minorities, not just the dominant ethnic group, in order to have an accurate picture of the whole population.

      As for the consent issue, he said the burden of meeting that standard lay with the Chinese researchers, though he said reports about what Uighurs are subjected to in China raised some difficult questions.

      “I would assume they had appropriate informed consent on the samples,” he said, “though I must say what I’ve been hearing in the news recently about the treatment of the Uighurs raises concerns.”
      Machine Learning

      In 2015, Dr. Kidd and Dr. Budowle spoke at a genomics conference in the Chinese city of Xi’an. It was underwritten in part by Thermo Fisher, a company that has come under intense criticism for its equipment sales in China, and Illumina, a San Diego company that makes gene sequencing instruments. Illumina did not respond to requests for comment.

      China is ramping up spending on health care and research. The Chinese market for gene-sequencing equipment and other technologies was worth $1 billion in 2017 and could more than double in five years, according to CCID Consulting, a research firm. But the Chinese market is loosely regulated, and it isn’t always clear where the equipment goes or to what uses it is put.

      Thermo Fisher sells everything from lab instruments to forensic DNA testing kits to DNA mapping machines, which help scientists decipher a person’s ethnicity and identify diseases to which he or she is particularly vulnerable. China accounted for 10 percent of Thermo Fisher’s $20.9 billion in revenue, according to the company’s 2017 annual report, and it employs nearly 5,000 people there.

      “Our greatest success story in emerging markets continues to be China,” it said in the report.

      China used Thermo Fisher’s equipment to map the genes of its people, according to five Ministry of Public Security patent filings.

      The company has also sold equipment directly to the authorities in Xinjiang, where the campaign to control the Uighurs has been most intense. At least some of the equipment was intended for use by the police, according to procurement documents. The authorities there said in the documents that the machines were important for DNA inspections in criminal cases and had “no substitutes in China.”

      In February 2013, six ministry researchers credited Thermo Fisher’s Applied Biosystems brand, as well as other companies, with helping to analyze the DNA samples of Han, Uighur and Tibetan people in China, according to a patent filing. The researchers said understanding how to differentiate between such DNA samples was necessary for fighting terrorism “because these cases were becoming more difficult to crack.”

      The researchers said they had obtained 95 Uighur DNA samples, some of which were given to them by the police. Other samples were provided by Uighurs voluntarily, they said.

      Thermo Fisher was criticized by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and others who asked the Commerce Department to prohibit American companies from selling technology to China that could be used for purposes of surveillance and tracking.

      On Wednesday, Thermo Fisher said it would stop selling its equipment in Xinjiang, a decision it said was “consistent with Thermo Fisher’s values, ethics code and policies.”

      “As the world leader in serving science, we recognize the importance of considering how our products and services are used — or may be used — by our customers,” it said.

      Human rights groups praised Thermo Fisher’s move. Still, they said, equipment and information flows into China should be better monitored, to make sure the authorities elsewhere don’t send them to Xinjiang.

      “It’s an important step, and one hopes that they apply the language in their own statement to commercial activity across China, and that other companies are assessing their sales and operations, especially in Xinjiang,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch.

      American lawmakers and officials are taking a hard look at the situation in Xinjiang. The Trump administration is considering sanctions against Chinese officials and companies over China’s treatment of the Uighurs.

      China’s tracking campaign unnerved people like Tahir Hamut. In May 2017, the police in the city of Urumqi in Xinjiang drew the 49-year-old Uighur’s blood, took his fingerprints, recorded his voice and took a scan of his face. He was called back a month later for what he was told was a free health check at a local clinic.

      Mr. Hamut, a filmmaker who is now living in Virginia, said he saw between 20 to 40 Uighurs in line. He said it was absurd to think that such frightened people had consented to submit their DNA.

      “No one in this situation, not under this much pressure and facing such personal danger, would agree to give their blood samples for research,” Mr. Hamut said. “It’s just inconceivable.”
      #USA #Etats-Unis #ADN #DNA #Ouïghours #université #science #génétique #base_de_données

  • After the Quake

    #Gyumri, the city symbol of the quake that 21 years ago struck Armenia. The stories of the homeless, the #domiks, the migrants, waiting for the opening of the borders with Turkey. Reportage.

    December 7, 1988, 11.41 am – An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale hits northern Armenia, killing 25,000 and leaving many more homeless. Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. cuts short an official visit to the United States to travel to the small South Caucasus Soviet republic as news of the catastrophe makes headlines the world over. Poverty skyrockets as a nation mourned its dead.

    Hundreds of millions of dollars flooded into the country for relief and reconstruction efforts, but two other events of as much significance soon frustrated efforts to rebuild the disaster zone. In 1991, Armenia declared independence from the former Soviet Union, and in 1993, in support of Azerbaijan during a de facto war with Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, Turkey closed the land border with its eastern neighbor.

    Meanwhile, as corruption skyrocketed, the conflict as well as two closed borders and an economic blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey only added to Armenia’s woes. Yet, despite strong economic growth in the mid-2000s, albeit from a low base, and promises from then President Robert Kocharyan to completely rebuild Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city and the main urban center to be hit by the earthquake, the outlook appears as bleak as ever.

    Once Gyumri had been known for its architecture, humor and cultural importance, but now it has become synonymous with the earthquake and domiks – “temporary” accommodation usually amounting to little more than metal containers or dilapidated shacks. Hot in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter, others more fortunate found refuge in abandoned buildings vacated during the economic collapse following independence.

    Vartik Ghukasyan, for example, is 71 and alone. An orphan, she never married and now struggles to survive on a pension of just 25,000 AMD (about $65) a month in a rundown former factory hostel in Gyumri. However, that might all change as more buildings are privatized or their existing owners seek to reclaim them.

    According to the 2001 census, the population of Gyumri stands at 150,000 although some claim that it has since grown to 160-170,000. Nevertheless, few local residents take such figures seriously. Pointing to low school attendance figures, they estimate the actual population might be no more than 70,000. Even so, despite the exodus, there are as many as 4-7,000 families still living in temporary shelter according to various estimates.

    Anush Babajanyan, a 26-year-old photojournalist from the Armenian capital, is one of just a few media professionals who remain concerned by their plight. Having spent the past year documenting the lives of those still waiting for proper housing, the anniversary might have been otherwise low-profile outside of Gyumri, but Babajanyan attempted to focus attention on the occasion by exhibiting her work in Yerevan.

    “When I started this project, 20 years had passed since the earthquake and there were families still living in domiks who were not receiving enough attention,” she told Osservatorio. “ The government and other organizations promised to solve the issue of their housing, but their actions were not enough. Since then I have seen very little improvement.”

    “If this issue wasn’t solved in 20 years, it probably isn’t surprising that not much has changed in just a year. However, it has been two years since Serge Sargsyan, then Armenian prime minister and now president, said that the issue of these residents will be solved by now. But, although some districts are being reconstructed, this is not enough to resolve the issue.”

    As the center of Shirak, an impoverished region that most in Armenia and its large Diaspora appear to have largely forgotten, Gyumri suffers from unemployment higher than the national average. Travel agents continue to advertise flights from the local airport to parts of Russia. As elsewhere in the region, the only hope for a better life lies outside. But, with a global economic crisis hitting the CIS hard, there are now also fewer opportunities even there.

    This year GDP per capita has already plummeted by over 14 percent nationwide, far in excess of the decline registered in Azerbaijan and Georgia, while poverty and extreme poverty - already calculated with a low yardstick - has reportedly increased from 25.6 and 3.6 percent respectively in 2008 to 28.4 and 6.9 percent today. Local civil society activists claim that the figures might be twice as high in Gyumri.

    But, some believe, the city could benefit greatly from an open border with Turkey , transforming itself into a major economic and transit hub for direct trade between the two countries. Just 8 km away lies the village of Akhurik, one of two closed border crossings. Repair work had been conducted on the railway connecting Gyumri to the Turkish city of Kars prior to last year’s World Cup qualifying match with Turkey held in Yerevan.

    With Turkish President Abdullah Gül making a historic visit to Armenia for the match, villagers were once again given hope that a border opening would be imminent. “It will be very good if it opens,” one resident told RFE/RL at the time. “We used to work in the past — 40 families benefited from work related to the railway. Now they sit idle without work or have to choose migrant work in Russia. It will be good when the line is opened.”

    But, with pressure from Azerbaijan on Turkey not to sign two protocols aimed at establishing diplomatic relations and opening the border until the Karabakh conflict is resolved, such a breakthrough appears as elusive as ever while unemployment and poverty increases. Nowhere is that more evident than the city of Ashotsk, just 30 minutes outside of Gyumri. Karine Mkrtchyan, public relations officer for the Caritas Armenia NGO says conditions are typical.

    “Everywhere you will see abandoned places, especially public spaces,” she says. “They are ruined. There are no facilities, there is a lack of drinking water, and irrigation. People are on their own to solve their problems. We had a loss of life during the earthquake and then massive migration which stopped in the late 1990s before starting again in early 2000. Now there are even more people who decide to migrate.”

    Last week, on the 21st anniversary of the earthquake, the government attempted to counter criticism of what many consider to be inaction and a lack of concern with the socioeconomic situation in Gyumri. Opening a sugar refinery owned by one of the country’s most notorious oligarchs at the same time, the Armenian president visited Gyumri and promised that 5,300 new homes would allocated to those still without by 2013.

    The $70 million construction project has been made possible through a $500 million anti-crisis loan from the Russian Federation.

    However, whether such promises come to fruition remains to be seen and government critics remain unimpressed. Indeed, they point out, even if the apartments are built and allocated on time, it would have taken a quarter of a century to do so. Moreover, for Gyumri natives such as Mkrtchyan, the need for economic investment and development in the regions of Armenia remains as urgent as ever.
    #tremblement_de_terre #post-catastrophe #Arménie #histoire #logement #réfugiés_environnementaux #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières

  • Tracking China’s Muslim Gulag

    China is accused of incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Muslims in detention camps that are rising from the desert sands in Xinjiang. A forensic analysis of satellite images of 39 of these facilities shows they are expanding at a rapid rate.

    #chine #camps_de_travail #musulman #Ouïghours #détention

    • Très belle illustration visuelle !

      La légende des différentes étapes :

      Here are the footprints of all 39 camps. Prior to April 2017, these facilities had a total of 539 buildings covering 379,000 square meters.

      By August this year, the number of buildings at these facilities had more than doubled to 1,129. The area they covered had almost tripled to more than 1 million square meters - roughly the size of 140 soccer fields.

      And the expansion continues. A further 67 buildings, covering an area of 210,000 square meters, are now under construction in these compounds, according to the most recent satellite imagery that was analyzed.

      Infographie vraiment remarquable.

      #merci @odilon

    • Opinion: The Strange Silence Over China’s Muslim Crackdown

      President Trump says trade talks between the United States and China have been, “going very well.” The United States put $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods last year, to counter what it considers unfair trade practices and theft of U.S. technology.

      But there are no indications the United States, the United Nations, or any government is prepared to use any economic or diplomatic leverage to oppose China locking up between 800,000 and 2 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Chinese Muslims into internment camps in the western Xinjiang region.

      The camps are in remote locations — closed to the world — and ringed with barbed wire. But they have been photographed by satellite. The Chinese government calls them “re-education centers,” a phrase that carries a sinister history from the murderous purges of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.

      The people in the camps are forced to denounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the Communist Party. According to multiple reports, a number of people in the camps have also been tortured.

      As Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told The Independent, “If any other government in the world was locking up a million Muslims I think we can reasonably expect to have seen demands for a debate at the U.N. Security Council or an international investigation. That’s generally unlikely to happen with China.”

      There were calls in the U.S. Congress last fall for the Trump administration to consider sanctions against China for what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced as “awful abuses.”

      But China is America’s largest creditor: it holds more than a trillion dollars in U.S. Treasury securities. Look down at whatever you’re wearing, carrying, riding in or working on right now. American businesses get rich relying on Chinese workers who earn low wages to produce our clothing, mobile phones, building materials, and dazzling new tech devices.

      The Trump administration imposed tariffs on China over unfair trade practices. But it has offered no more than a few rhetorical flourishes over human rights crimes. Neither did the Obama administration, or the European Union.

      And Muslim countries — including Saudi Arabia and Iran — have been similarly, conspicuously, silent. China invests heavily, and strategically in their nations too.

      Sometimes, the price of human rights just cannot compete.

  • Communisme, Stalinisme, Socialisme, Fascisme, Collectivisme, Anarchisme

    Une fois n’est pas coûtume, je vais reproduire l’essentiel d’un débat qui s’est déroulé sur l’excellente liste de diffusion de géographie critique (dite liste des « crits »).

    From Dr Hillary J. Shaw
    Visiting Fellow - Centre for Urban Research on Austerity
    Department of Politics and Public Policy
    De Montfort University

    The problem with books is once you read them you can’t un-read them.

    European politics and history in the 20 C starts to look a little different once you read Hayek, F A (1971) The Road To Serfdom, Routledge, London UK From the first few pages of this book, "...Stalinism was described even by a friend of Lenin as ‘superfascist’, ‘more ruthless than fascism’, with similar opinions being expressed by British politician Chamberlain, and by British writer Mr F A Vogt (Hayek, 1971: 20-1). The vicious fighting in 1920s Europe between Fascists and Communists was precisely because ‘they competed for the support of the same type of mind and reserved for each other the hatred of the heretic’ (Hayek, 1971: 22). One thing that all Collectivists share is intolerance for any dissenting, therefore threatening, opinions, rather like the strong religious factions of 16 century Europe..."

    Communism -
    WW2 -

    Un certain Reed (pas d’autres infos) répond :

    One thing that all Collectivists share is intolerance for any dissenting, therefore threatening, opinions... Then, One thing that all vulgar individualists share is a perfectly immoral disregard for mutual obligations... I’d say capitalism — marked as it is by market imperatives rather than opportunities — `is “collectivist” in the extreme, which is probably related to its tendency to decay into fascism.

    I also find it interesting that the anti-fascism of partisans is, in your formulation, pitched as a Bad Thing. Meanwhile, the inertia (or complicity) of liberals goes unmentioned.

    But, sure, the uses of Hayek are endless, as every anti-democratic and reactionary movement in the U.S. has thoroughly demonstrated, especially the anarcho-capitalist types who (surprise!) fly their black and yellow flags at the same rallies where the Klansmen and neo-nazis gather to cheerlead genocide.

    Hillary J. Shaw again en réponse :

    1) yes, capitalism, especially when globalised, can easily become ’Collectivist’, Totalitarian, even., Renarkably, even Adam Smith, way back in 1755, spoke of this tendency. And look now at the oligopolies we have in e.g. supermarkets, banking.

    2) Collectivism, generally, DOES demand uniformity of opinion - that’s almost a circular tautology. Can you give any major examples where it hasn’t - I’d love to know. And it was Hayek who used the term ’Collectivist’ for both Stalinism and 1940s fascism, by the way, not me.

    3) I said nothing about anti-fascism of partisans here, such ’partisans’ are often Communist in ideology, but may be ’anarchist’ leaning (although anarchism has often evolved into a very Collectivist socialism, ironically). As fighters against Naziism in the 1940s, they wree a great thing, as was anything that helped end Hitler’s tyranny and WW2.

    4) On this Hayekian analysis, the Klansmen, as neo-nazis, would be portrayed as Collectivist too - so if you percieve me as anti-Collectivist 9and I am no admirer of Stalin), then I must be (and indeed am) anti Klansmen too.

    Yes Hayek can be ’used for many things’ - but doesn’t that apply to almost all significant researchers, academics, in the social sciences and indeed beyond? Including for sure Marx, and probably Aadam Smith too. Does that mean we should ditch them, and the rest of these thinkers too?

    Noel Cass, de l’université de Lancaster :

    “anarchism has often evolved into a very Collectivist socialism, ironically”

    – just, no, Hilary.

    After socialist revolutions, anarchism has been crushed by authoritarian socialists. Please desist from sweeping political generalisations that just get up people’s noses.

    Hillary J. Shaw répond :

    Well yes and no. Only Wikipedia but seems to be broadly correct here

    While opposition to the state is central,[16] anarchism specifically entails opposing authority or hierarchical organisation in the conduct of all human relations.[17][18][19] Anarchism is usually considered a far-left ideology[20][21][22] and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflects anti-authoritarian interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism, mutualism, or participatory economics.


    In response to the army rebellion, an anarchist-inspired movement of peasants and workers, supported by armed militias, took control of Barcelona and of large areas of rural Spain where they collectivised the land.[128] However, the anarchists were losing ground even before the fascist victory in 1939 in a bitter struggle with the Stalinists, who controlled much of the distribution of military aid to the Republicans cause from the Soviet Union. According to Noam Chomsky, "the communists were mainly responsible for the destruction of the Spanish anarchists. Not just in Catalonia—the communist armies mainly destroyed the collectives elsewhere. The communists basically acted as the police force of the security system of the Republic and were very much opposed to the anarchists, partially because Stalin still hoped at that time to have some kind of pact with Western countries against Adolf Hitler

    My point in the whole of this is that the Left is a very complex concept that can range from being as totalitarian as some fascist regimes (e.g in the case of Stalin) right through to more idealistic schemes that promote individual flourishing (e.g. some anarchists) - however those who create the latter such schemes, however well-meaning, must beware they do not lapse/evolve into/get taken over by the more collectivist / dictatorial ones.

    Antony Ince, géographe de l’université de Cardiff :

    First of all, Hillary, you are very nearly correct when you point out the Spanish Civil War. There was a faction among the anarchists who believed that it would be strategically useful to participate in the Republican government in order to enhance their influence, especially in the anti-fascist regions where they were less powerful.

    However, this did not necessarily involve a change of ideology; it was an effort - a flawed one, admittedly, spurred on by concerns of war - to instrumentally use state institutions to further the anarchist cause. As it happened, it didn’t end well.

    Second, I would like to emphasise that “collectivism” is not a singular term and is not owned by totalitarianisms such as Stalinism et al. To begin, fascism’s conception of collectivism is one of national unity, a cross-class alliance in the supposed interest of national ’renewal’ or ’renaissance’ that is only collective in the sense that a powerful central state is in control of the polity, and which often features some very crude forms of nationalisation. Soviet collectivism operates functionally in a similar way (as predicted by the anarchists long before 1917!), although its goal is oriented towards the elimination of class relations.

    Of course, in practice, it simply created a new class structure by occupying the same state institutions and relations of production as the old order and failing to eliminate capital when it had the chance.

    With regards to anarchism and collectivism, the story is different again. Aside from some streams of exclusively individualist anarchism influenced by the likes of Max Stirner, anarchism is more accurately described as “anarchist-communism”. It is a left-libertarian form of collectivism that seeks to respect individual agency while also promoting the virtues of co-operation (sometimes referred to as ’free association’).

    There are many examples of this, such as the regions controlled by the CNT in civil war Spain, the vast regions of Ukraine voluntarily collectivised along anarchist lines by the Makhnovists during the Russian revolution, and more recently the principles on which the Rojava region in Syria is managed. (Of course, there are the Zapatistas too, but interestingly it turns out that their form of agrarian anarchism emerged from libertarian Marxist ideas in the early 1980s). Anyway, for the most part, anarchist experiments have tended to end not by a drift towards authoritarianism but by annihilation at the hands of authoritarians.

    In Spain, of course the fascists were largely to blame, but also the USSR-backed Communist Party saw the anarchists as a greater threat to their prospects than Franco; for the Makhnovists, it was Trotsky’s Red Armies who ended their voluntary collectivism in the Ukrainian countryside. In Rojava, if their Bookchin-inspired libertarian municipalism doesn’t survive (which I sincerely hope it does!), it is likely to be at the hands of the proto-fascist Turkish state.

    So, let’s be a little more nuanced with the notion of ’collectivism’, what it means, and what values and organisational logics it embodies. There are multiple collectivisms, and they operate along as much an axis of authoritarian-libertarian as left-right.

    Noel Cass dans un dernier élan :

    I was tempted to shout “Remember Kronstadt!”, lob a grenade, and duck !!

  • A project in #Nepal is documenting and sharing testimonials from the 10-year armed conflict · Global Voices

    The Nepalese Civil War, known popularly as the Maoist conflict, was a bloody 10-year armed conflict between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the government of Nepal which saw forced disappearances, rape, torture, death, and the displacement of thousands of Nepalese citizens.

    To ensure that the victims of this violence won’t be forgotten, an online multimedia project called Memory, Truth & Justice is documenting, archiving and sharing personal stories of survivors and families of the victims who were lost to the conflict.

    #guerre #conflits #mémoire

  • Premature Postcolonialists: the Afro-Asian Writers Association and Soviet Engagement with Africa | Lefteast

    In October 1958, over two hundred writers from Asia and the emerging African nations descended onto Tashkent, the capital of the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan. Among the participants was W. E. B. Du Bois, who at age 90 had just flown in from Moscow (where he persuaded Nikita Khrushchev to found an Institute for the Study of Africa). Alongside leading Soviet writers and cultural bureaucrats, some of the major figures of the 1930s literary left outside of Europe or the Americas were in attendance: the Turkish modernist poet Nazim Hikmet and his Pakistani counterpart Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the Chinese novelist Mao Dun and Mulk Raj Anand. Though poorly known at the time, some of the younger delegates at that meeting would go on to become the leading literary figures of their countries: the Senegalese novelist-cum-filmmaker Sembene Ousmane, the Indonesian writer Pramoedya Toer, the poet and founder of Angola’s Communist Party Mario Pinto de Andrade, and the Mozambican poet and FRELIMO politician Marcelino dos Santos. By all accounts, Tashkent impressed visitors with its mixture of Western modernity and familiar “eastern-ness,”—an effect carefully curated by the Soviet hosts who sought to make it a showcase city for Third-World delegations.

    The gathering that brought all these writers together—the inaugural congress of what would later become known as the Afro-Asian Writers Association—represented the literary front of the Soviet Union’s return to the colonial question after a two-decade-long lapse. The Stalinist state’s geopolitical zigzags and the rumors, confirmed in Khrushchev’s 1956 Secret Speech, of oppressive practices at home had considerably dimmed the flame of the Russian Revolution by the mid-1950s. African and Asian intellectuals’ doubts over the Soviet state’s emancipatory promises were now partly made up by the resources of a world super-power, which interwar Soviet anti-imperialism had lacked. These resources exercised a powerful, if ambiguous, effect on black political life worldwide, resulting, on the one hand, in devastating proxy wars in Angola and Mozambique and, on the other, fueling emancipatory struggles against apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crowe in the US.1

    This article will be particularly interested in the cultural consequences of the Soviet engagement with the postcolonial world, namely, in its effect on African letters. As a heir to the literature-centrism of the revolutionary Russian intelligentsia of the late nineteenth century, the Soviet state, down to its very bureaucracy, believed in the capacity of literature to transform society and invested heavily in literary engagements even with societies very different from its own. By the reciprocal logic of the Cold War, the U.S. State Department and CIA, institutions not known as patrons of literature before or after the Cold War had to match those investments. The real beneficiaries of this competition were African writers, interest in whose work significantly increased, as well as readers in the first, second, and third worlds, who were given greater access to those writers.

  • Trentino and Yugoslavia narrated through a legend: roots of Marshal Josip Broz #Tito in #Vallarsa

    In Trentino there is a valley where the surname Broz is widely diffused. During the second half of the 20th century, a peculiar legend took shape among these mountains. We are in Vallarsa, a few kilometers from the town of Rovereto, where – according to many locals – the origins of Josip Broz, that history will remember as Tito, are to be found. The Yugoslav Marshal was one of the most peculiar and controversial figures of the 20th century: Partisan leader, head of the communist state that split with the Soviet Union, a prominent figure on the international political scene and, above all, leader and symbol of a country that disintegrated violently shortly after his death. The relationship between Marshal Tito and the Vallarsa Valley is being talked about for some time, and not only in Trentino, so that the page dedicated to Tito on the Italian Wikipedia refers to him as “the seventh of fifteen children of Franjo, a Croat who probably originated from Vallarsa”.
    A legend from Obra

    The story originates in the area around the village of Obra, in the Vallarsa Valley, where there is a small settlement called Brozzi. It is said that the Broz surname has been present in the area for centuries. Transmitted orally, the legend spread and evolved over time, assuming different shapes and contours. There is however a version which is more or less codified. It is narrated that a family of the future Yugoslav president lived in a place called Maso Geche, a bit isolated from Obra and nearby settlements. Valentino Broz, “Tito’s grandfather”, took over an old house, transforming it in a family cottage. Valentino had four children. One of them died at a tender age, while Ferdinando, Giuseppe and Vigilio started contributing to the household by working in the fields and as lumberjacks, integrating these activities, as much as possible, with other occasional jobs. Just like for all the other families in that area, emigration was always an option.

    Parochial registers confirm the structure of Valentino Broz’s family. What we learn from memories passed down through the generations is that Giuseppe (according to archives, Giuseppe Filippo Broz, born on August 29, 1853) and Ferdinando (Luigi Ferdinando Broz, born on April 13, 1848) – or, according to other versions of the story, Vigilio (Vigilio Andrea Broz, born on November 27, 1843) – emigrated from Vallarsa to Croatia between the 1870s and the 1880s, most probably in 1878 or 1879. At that time, both territories were part of Austria-Hungary, and in those years many people from Trentino emigrated in the eastern parts of the monarchy. The story of foundation of the village of Štivor, in Bosnia Herzegovina, is probably the best known. According to legend, the Broz brothers were driven to emigrate by the possibility of being engaged in the construction of railway Vienna-Zagreb-Belgrade. Indeed, in those years a new railway line, connecting Bosanski Brod to Sarajevo, was under construction. The first portion was completed in February 1879, and the last one in October 1882.

    Some time later, Ferdinando (or Vigilio) returned to Vallarsa, while Giuseppe married a Slovenian girl, and in 1892 they gave birth to Josip Broz, who became known to the whole world as Tito. The news about Giuseppes’s fate reached the valley, mainly thanks to the information his brother brought home.
    Tito between history and conspiracy

    The legend from Vallarsa is not an isolated case. Since the end of the Second World War in Yugoslavia, but not only, speculations began circulating that Tito might have (had) Russian, Polish, Austrian or Jewish roots. His life, marked from a young age by participation in illegal activities of the Communist Party, sudden movings and use of false names, offered an ideal breeding ground for speculations and conspiracy theories. The doubts about Tito’s true identity, particularly diffused during the 1990s, recently have been reactualized due to publication of declassified CIA document that puts in doubt Tito’s knowledge of the Serbo-Croatian language.

    Apart from dozens of newspaper articles and many publicistic texts, the question of Tito’s origins has never been the subject of proper historiographic research. None of the scholars who seriously occupy themselves with history of Yugoslavia has ever shown any particular interest in this issue. Even the most recent Tito’s biographies, written by world-renowned historians such as Geoffrey Swain and Jože Pirjevec, don’t contain any reference to different theories about his origins, only a traditional version whereby Tito was the son of Franjo Broz, a Croat from Kumrovec in Zagorje, and Marija Javeršek, originally from village of Podreda, in Slovenia. The only partial exception is represented by considerations made by Vladimir Dedijer in his monumental biography of Tito, published in 1981. A former member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, sacked at the time of the Affaire Djilas, becoming a professional historian, in his book Dedijer attempts to refute speculations about Tito’s origins, reinvigorated after his death in May 1980.
    The birth and life of a legend

    In attempting to clarify the question, Vladimir Dedijer also makes reference to the Trentine case which, few months earlier, has been reactualized in Italy in an article appeared in the weekly Gente. The article has been published few days after Tito’s death, relying on a story transmitted orally over the years, according to some since the end of the Second World War, when the name of Josip Broz began to appear in the newspapers around the world. In addition to photos of the Vallarsa Valley and Maso Geche, the article contained statements of descendants of the family of Valentino Broz. Don Giuseppe Rippa, the then parson of Vallarsa, played an important role in defining the contours of the story, contributing to a process of consolidation of its credibility.

    It is possible that Vladimir Dedijer has come to know about the Trentin legend thanks to attention given to it in the newspapers of the Italian minority in Yugoslavia. Shortly after the publication of the above mentioned article on the weekly Gente, the weekly newspaper Panorama from Rijeka started showing interest in the story, sending a crew to Vallarsa to find out more details. After talking to Don Rippa and some other local personalities, such as writer Sandra Frizzera, and studying parish registers, journalists from Rijeka have come to a conclusion that there was no evidence of a relationship between Trentin and Yugoslav Brozes. Vladimir Dedijer reacted by publishing Tito’s family tree, compiled by Andrija Lukinović, archivist from the Historical Archive of Zagreb [now called the Croatian State Archive], on the basis of preserved parish registers. Using available data, Lukinović reconstructed the paternal-line geneaology of the Broz family from the beginning of the 17th century, when parish registers were started in Kumrovec. As far as the previous period is concerned, Dedijer remains cautious, nevertheless quoting different sayings whereby the Broz family originated in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Spain, Istria, France or even Italy. In any case, we are talking about the possible settlement in Zagorje more than four centuries ago.

    However, these information have not reached Trentino, where a word began to spread that in the whole Yugoslavia there have been no trace of the Broz surname. The descendents of the family of Valentino Broz continued releasing interviews, telling family stories and anecdotes. Also, it is narrated that representatives of Yugoslav government came to Obra, maybe even Tito himself. Many newspaper articles and reportage talked about physiognomic proximity, claiming that the Trentin Brozes bore a “remarkable resemblance” to Yugoslav leader.

    In 1984 it was decided to create a commission, as part of “The Popular Committee of Obra di Vallarsa”, composed of historians, journalists and the then major, with the aim of clarifying the question through meticulous researches and investigations. However, no definite answer nor concrete evidence has been reached. Did Tito have Trentin origins or not? Over the years, the same information continued to circulate, but the story became gradually consolidated.

    In the same period, the credibility of the story has been publicly recognized by some prominent personalities, such as politician Flaminio Piccoli, who has stated, on the occasion of a congress held in Rome in 1991, that Tito’s ancestors were from Trentino. Representative of the Italian Christian Democratic party (DC) in Trentino at the time, Piccoli asserted that he had “great respect” for Marshal Tito, because “his great grandfather was Trentin, originally from the region around Rovereto”. The story changes again – it was not Tito’s father, but rather his great grandfather who was from Trentino – but it is told by a prominent politician who met Tito personally.

    What also contributed to building credibility of the story were numerous publications dedicated to emigration from Trentino, an issue that, since the 1980s, has attracted increasing interest. Already in 1984, Bonifacio Bolognani – Franciscan friar and scholar originally from Trentino who moved to the United States – mentioned a legend from Obra in his book about emigration from Trentino, published in English. The local writers and historians are those who paid greatest attention to the story: Daniella Stoffella refers to it in her book about emigration from Vallarsa, while Renzo Grosselli mentions it in a study about emigrants from Trentino which is widely read. Remo Bussolon and Aldina Martini revived it in the most important work about the history of Vallarsa. The theory of Tito’s Trentin origins is also being mentioned in different academic essays published in other countries (Frédéric Spagnoli, 2009). We are talking about more or less precise publications, some of which treat the argument with caution, but that, often citing each other, contribute to strengthening the authoritativness of the legend.

    In the meantime, a local section of RAI [Italian public radio and television broadcaster] started to show an interest in the story, relaunching it periodically through tv reports. In 2008, a special program was dedicated to the legend of Obra, and on that occasion journalists from Trentino went to Croatia for the first time to hear the other side of the story. They went to Kumrovec, where they visited the birth house of Yugoslav leader and studied parish registers, trying to learn more about the history of Tito’s family and about his “Croatian father” Franjo Broz. But the question remained: Is it possible that Marija’s marriage with Franjo was her second wedding? Or rather, did she married Franjo after she gave birth to Tito and after Giuseppe Broz died?

    In the summer of 2015, a visit of Tito’s granddaughter Svetlana Broz to Vallarsa, invited to a culture festival to present her book about the Yugoslav wars, becomes the occasion to discuss the issue. Asked during an interview to comment on the theory about Tito’s Trentin roots, Svetlana Broz responded vaguely and compliantly, saying: “That theory is just a theory. I have documentation that proves that my grandfather was born in the Croatian village of Kumrovec, as stated in his official biography. However, I can neither confirm nor deny anything about his ancestors”. In such ambivalent spaces, the legend from Vallarsa continues to live. Narrated and repeated mostly in Trentino, from time to time it arouses the interest of a wider public.
    A story about Trentino and Yugoslavia

    Of all the legends about the origins of the Yugoslav president, the Trentin one is probably most closely related to the history and identity of a local community, unlike the others, often inspired by different conspiracy ideas. It evocates the history of the territory profoundly marked by the migration phenomenon and is paradigmatic of a broader history of emigration from Trentino at the end of the 19th century and of pervasiveness of collective memories in those valleys. Its diffusion beyond the borders of Vallarsa, began in the 1980s, followed a gradual opening-up of Trentino to the international processes and reinforcement of consciousness about its “place in the world”. Above all, it is an integral part of the process of ri-elaboration of the traumatic experience of migration which profoundly marked local community: discovery of illustrious ancestors can help in making a sense of loss.

    At the same time, this legend makes us think about the image socialist Yugoslavia projected abroad, about its perception in Italy and among inhabitants of one of the most remote valleys of Trentino. Considered a hostile country in the post-war period, over the following decades Yugoslavia was increasingly perceived by the Italian public as a close neighbor, so that relationships with the political leadership of socialist country were considered a question of public interest. It is narrated that inhabitants of the Vallarsa Valley had been deeply moved by Tito’s death in May 1980 and that a local parson “had recited the prayer for Josip Broz”. A few years later, when asked for his opinion about Marshal Tito, an inhabitant of the valley pointed out a change of perception: “There is no way to reconcile obscure and bloody events from his early years, ambition, will to power, sectarianism and violence of the first Tito with wise and prudent politician, magnanimous towards his enemies, which was the second Tito”.

    The Trentin roots of Yugoslav Marshal remain a legend. In all those years, no proof has emerged that confirms that Giuseppe Broz, who probably emigrated to Croatia and Bosnia in search of work, was Tito’s real father. On the other hand, the official version of Tito’s biography remains undisputed. But like all legends, regardless of their adherence to reality, the one about “Trentin” Tito immerse us in perceptions, imaginings and memories deposited at the intersection of personal life stories, local vicissitudes and the Great History.

    #histoire #légende #Trentino #Italie #ex-Yougoslavie #Yougoslavie #Obra


    ping @albertocampiphoto @wizo —> articolo disponibile anche in italiano:!-Storia-di-una-leggenda-190146

  • Google China Prototype Links Searches to Phone Numbers

    Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries, The Intercept can reveal. The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. (...)

    #Google #GoogleSearch #algorithme #smartphone #écoutes #Dragonfly #censure #filtrage #web (...)


  • Après avoir mis le pays en coupe réglée, l’Union Européenne a choisi une autre option : laisser brûler sa « mauvaise Grèce » :

    Communist Party of Greece - La politique qui sacrifie la protection anti-incendie est coupable du crime

    Les pompiers ont combattu les flammes, mais leur lutte était inégale puisque le gouvernement actuel SYRIZA-ANEL, comme toutes les précédentes, comptait exclusivement sur le temps, sans aucune organisation substantielle, sans infrastructures et sans moyens. Comme le souligne le Bureau de Presse du CC du KKE dans son commentaire : « Les incendies qui détruisent des forêts et des terres agricoles, ainsi que des maisons, mettent en évidence encore une fois l’absence de mesures de protection anti-incendie, le manque d’infrastructures de protection des forêts et de lutte contre les incendies, ainsi que le manque de moyens et de personnel. Le KKE exige du gouvernement SYRIZA - ANEL, de toute autorité compétente étatique et locale, que toutes les mesures nécessaires pour lutter efficacement contre les incendies en cours soient prises immédiatement ».

  • As new vaccine scandal grips China, parents say they’ve lost faith in the system | South China Morning Post

    [...] questions remain as to how inferior vaccines were able to pass through a system of checks. There has been no statement from the National Health Commission as to how the low-quality vaccine might affect children.

    Meanwhile, the Shandong edition of Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily called on the government to take action to ease public concerns about the scandal in an editorial headlined, “Don’t let fear and anger spread”.

    It said the latest case would “lead more people to be sceptical about domestically produced vaccines” given that public confidence had barely recovered from the scandal two years ago over expired vaccines that saw 200 people arrested.

    That case in 2016 caused a public outcry when it was revealed that 570 million yuan of improperly stored or expired vaccines had been illegally sold across the country for years.

    It came after state-run China Economic Times in 2010 revealed that hundreds of children in Shanxi province had died or suffered from severe side effects because of damaged vaccines over a period of three years. Shanxi officials denied there were problems with vaccines at the time and the newspaper’s editor was sacked after the report was published.

    #vaccins #chine #santé #scandale

  • Nomads and Soviet Rule: Central Asia under Lenin and Stalin

    The nomads of Central Asia were already well accustomed to life under the power of a distant capital when the Bolsheviks fomented revolution on the streets of Petrograd. Yet after the fall of the Tsar, the nature, ambition and potency of that power would change dramatically, ultimately resulting in the near eradication of Central Asian nomadism.

    Based on extensive primary source work in Almaty, Bishkek and Moscow, Nomads and Soviet Rule charts the development of this volatile and brutal relationship and challenges the often repeated view that events followed a linear path of gradually escalating violence. Rather than the sedentarisation campaign being an inevitability born of deep-rooted Marxist hatred of the nomadic lifestyle, Thomas demonstrates the Soviet state’s treatment of nomads to be far more complex and pragmatic. He shows how Soviet policy was informed by both an anti-colonial spirit and an imperialist impulse, by nationalism as well as communism, and above all by a lethal self-confidence in the Communist Party’s ability to transform the lives of nomads and harness the agricultural potential of their landscape. This is the first book to look closely at the period between the revolution and the collectivisation drive, and offers fresh insight into a little-known aspect of early Soviet history. In doing so, the book offers a path to refining conceptions of the broader history and dynamics of the Soviet project in this key period.
    #livre #nomadisme #URSS #union_soviétique #sédentarisation #histoire #Lénine #Staline #Asie_centrale
    cc @reka

  • First Dublin, now Gennevilliers: Israel blocks entry to French mayor, claiming he supports BDS - Israel News -

    Mayor Leclerc Patrice prevented from entering Israel from Jordan; Israeli officials note he sought to visit jailed Palestinian lawmaker Barghouti in the past.

    Israel prevented a French mayor from entering the country Monday due to his support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Leclerc Patrice, the mayor of the Paris suburb of Gennevilliers, was blocked from entering Israel from Jordan, said a statement from the Interior Ministry.

    Officials said the decision was taken after Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan deemed Patrice a BDS supporter.
    The Communist Party of France politician arrived at the Allenby Crossing in the West Bank together with his wife. After he was turned away, his wife decided not to enter Israel either. (...)

    • Un maire communiste français empêché d’entrer en Israël en raison de son soutien au boycott
      Par L’Obs - Publié le 17 avril 2018 à 09h31

      Refoulé à la frontière entre la Jordanie et la Cisjordanie occupée par les autorités israéliennes, Patrice Leclerc a dénoncé une « humiliation » et l’"arbitraire intolérable" pratiqué selon lui par Israël.

      Le maire communiste de Gennevilliers, près de Paris, s’est vu interdire lundi l’entrée en Israël en raison de son soutien au boycott de ce pays, a annoncé le gouvernement israélien.

      Refoulé à la frontière entre la Jordanie et la Cisjordanie occupée par les autorités israéliennes, le maire Patrice Leclerc a réagi en dénonçant une « humiliation » et l’"arbitraire intolérable" pratiqué selon lui par l’Etat hébreu envers « ceux qui agissent pour le droit des Palestiniens à disposer d’un Etat libre et indépendant ».

      « Il a été décidé de ne pas l’autoriser à se rendre en Israël » car « il s’agit de quelqu’un qui soutient le BDS », le mouvement Boycott, Désinvestissement et Sanctions contre Israël, ont annoncé les ministères israéliens de l’Intérieur et des Affaires stratégiques dans un communiqué.

      En mars 2017, le Parlement israélien a voté une loi interdisant l’entrée en Israël des partisans du mouvement BDS.

      « Nous ne permettons pas à ceux qui agissent contre Israël d’entrer dans le pays pour s’y livrer à des provocations », a expliqué le ministre de l’Intérieur Arieh Deri.

      Le ministre des Affaires stratégiques et de la Sécurité intérieure, Gilad Erdan, a souligné que l’interdiction d’entrée en Israël était encore plus sévèrement appliquée pour les partisans du boycott qui « exercent des fonctions officielles ».

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 17

    A Member of the Politburo

    Before me lies a yellowing sheet of coarse paper, which looks as though it has been torn out of one of my old school exercise books. Large writing, like a child’s, written in faint ink, which has been watered again and again.

    I have difficulty in reading the carefully formed letters written with a rusty nib: ‘My dear grandson... I am sitting by the light of a paraffin wick, just like it was in 1921, to write to you. The electricity is switched on for only two hours a day, and that not every day. I have pushed the table over close to the oven, where it is a little warmer. There’s a terrible draught coming from the window, though I’ve stopped up all the cracks with wool...’

    No electricity! No coal for the stove! And this two years after the victorious close of the war. And in the heart of the Donietz Basin, the richest coal field in Europe.

    Yet it is not suprising. Before the war the students at our Institute attended lectures all the winter in fur coats and fur caps. Our fingers froze, but we couldn’t put our hands in our pockets because we had to take notes. The boiler for the central heating of the Novocherkassk Industrial Institute was intended to burn Donietz anthracite, but now it was fueled with useless shale. We were amazed when we saw that the German periodical, Der Bergbau, which was in the Institute library, contained advertisements offering Donietz anthracite for export at cheap rates.

    A friend of mine, Vassily Shulgin, once achieved a temporary fame in the Faculty for Energetics. Somehow or other he got hold of an electrically heated airman’s suit, such as is used by arctic flyers. From the laboratory for electro-technics he obtained a transformer, which he placed under his desk, and it was easy enough to get hold of a long piece of cable. At one touch of a switch he became a celebrity. The first day he tried it out we were more interested in seeing whether he would go up in smoke and flames than in listening to our professor. To be on the safe side, one of his close friends brought in a fire extinguisher from the corridor and put it close to hand.

    Vassily’s triumph was a nine-days’ wonder. Sometimes he proudly switched off the heat, and then the freezing students realized that he was too hot. We were all as proud of that baggy figure on the backbench as if we had shared in his ingenuity.

    To the general consternation, one frosty morning in January he turned up in his old overcoat. When we insisted on knowing the reason why he curtly replied that the works had gone wrong. He confided the bitter truth to only a few intimate friends. He had been summoned to the Special Department, the N. K. V. D. representative in the Institute, where he was ordered to stop his ’anti-Soviet demonstration’; otherwise his case would be passed to the ’requisite organs’. To tell the truth, the Special Department showed him a great favor in this instance. Here were all the students freezing and suffering in silence, and one of them tried to get warm: counter-revolutionary agitation and undermining socialist economy!

    That sort of thing continued all through the years before the war. That was the system. The people simply got used to it and didn’t even notice it.

    Now, after the war, the Germans were freezing in their unheated homes. Naturally they cursed the Soviet officers, who had no need to count every briquette. But it did not occur to them that in Russia these same officers’ families were freezing even more than the Germans.

    “... But I keep going. I’m on my feet all day; I manage all the housework. It’s a pity I haven’t got much strength, and my old bones ache. I can have only sweet tea, with a biscuit sometimes dipped in it. I only have two teeth left and I can’t chew anything.

    ‘Your mother goes off to work every morning at seven. In the evening she can hardly crawl home with the aid of a stick; she helps herself along by the fences. It isn’t so much that she’s tired with work as her nerves. Everybody’s so irritable, they swear at the least thing and won’t listen to you. She’s afraid to go to the post now to get your parcels. Robbers are on the lookout for people receiving parcels from Germany, and they break into their homes at night and kill the people. And in the daytime young boys - ’craftsmen’ - hang around the post office and snatch the parcels in broad daylight.’

    Mention of the ’craftsmen’ recalled to my mind the Molotov automobile works in the town of Gorky. I worked there at the beginning of the war, and I saw these so-called ’craftsmen’, the young recruits to the Soviet proletariat. Soviet industry began to experience difficulty in getting new hands, because the Soviet youth were not prepared to become ordinary workers, so the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued a decree: ’On the mobilization for factory-works and crafts schools’. In these schools millions of adolescents between the ages of fourteen and seventeen were enrolled.

    At Gorky these ’craftsmen’ attending the trade school attached to the works ate in the canteen. Their food was poor enough, but it was better than that issued to the older workers; after all, adolescents are not so class-conscious as adults and you can’t feed them only on slogans. In addition, many of the ’craftsmen’ were sent food from the villages where most of them had been recruited. So some-times they left their rations, and even, boy-like, littered the inedible food about the tables.

    As soon as the ’craftsmen’ had left the dining hall the workmen rushed in for their meal. Some of them hurried to the queue for food; others sat down at the table, for otherwise they would not have got a place until the more energetic proletarians had eaten; others went to the tables and surreptitiously ate the remains which the youngsters had left.

    On one side of the hall was a small room from which came the smell of eggs and bacon. That room was the canteen for the factory management: the director, the Party organizer, and other leaders. The workers were not particularly envious of the leaders; the bosses changed so often that the workers hardly had time to remember their names. And they were just as little interested in their further activities after they had gone. The workers knew that the stork brought them and the crow, the black N. K. V. D. prison van, took them away.

    During those war years a group of British sergeants and technicians worked at the Gorky Automobile Works, supervising the assembly of tanks sent to the U. S. S. R. under lend-lease. Of course they got a very favorable impression of the works.

    ‘... Yesterday your mother bought two glasses of Indian corn in the market. I crushed them in a mortar and we’ve been having maize porridge. It would have been very tasty if we could have got some butter to go with it. But it is cold now and the peasants aren’t bringing much to market. Potatoes, peas and milk are dear, and we mustn’t even think of meat or butter.’ Here followed several lines blacked out by the censor.

    Two glasses of maize....

    In the early spring of 1945 I graduated from the Military College, and as I had exemption in certain subjects, I got through my state examination quickly and managed to obtain a week’s leave. I spent this at home, on the pretext that I was carrying out official duties in my home district. I went to the Kazan railway station in Moscow and, with a rucksack on my back, wandered about trying to find a way of getting a seat in a train. That was pretty hopeless, for some-times people tried for weeks, and even then had to give it up. I began to study the layout of the station, to see whether I could get a seat by a trick. My only advantages were that I had no heavy luggage, but plenty of youthful energy and all a Soviet citizen’s experience in such matters.

    ‘Brother, if I’m not mistaken you’ve got a T-T.’ I heard a hoarse deep voice behind me, and a powerful hand clapped me on the shoulder. I looked round and saw a brawny sailor in the usual black blouse, his cap thrust to the back of his head. Despite the cold, his shirt was wide open at the chest, and his breast was gay with all the decorations of a sailor’s life; he was tattooed right up to his chin. One of those who ’don’t care a damn for anybody’ and always fall on their feet. He smiled at me as if we were old acquaintances and pointed to my pistol holster.

    ‘Yes, it’s a T-T. What about it?’ I asked.

    ‘What train are you going by? The 11: 20?’ he inquired. When I said yes, he gave me an even broader grin. ‘Well, then, everything’s okay! Let’s go!’

    ‘Go where?’

    ‘When I say ’let’s go’, we go! You keep in my wake. Have you just dropped out of the moon, brother?’ my new relation demanded. To sailors all men are brothers.

    We went out of the station, crawled in the darkness over a roof or two, and through some fences. At last we reached the farther side of the station and the tracks. Guards were patrolling the platforms. Like diversionists we stole up to a train standing on the lines. All the carriages were locked.

    ‘Now let me have your T-T, brother,’ the sailor ordered.

    ‘You’re not going to shoot?’

    ‘Of course not! You hold the magazine. And now look: here’s your railway ticket to the entire world.’

    He drew back the pistol hammer, and fixed it by the safety catch. Then he thrust the barrel into the carriage door lock. One turn and we were inside.

    ‘I’ve used this ticket more than any other,’ my ’brother’ proudly explained, as he handed the pistol back to me. After that I, too, had more than one occasion to exploit this unusual means of unlocking carriage doors.

    On the threshold of my home I halted and looked about me. All the walls were sinking and slanting; the fences had gone; they had all been used for fuel. One could walk right through the town from house-yard to house-yard unhindered. As I opened the rickety door, with its rusty hinges and ingenious latch, I had very mixed feelings. In my heavy boots I stepped prudently over the creaking floorboards in the kitchen. Everything was rickety, neglected, rotting, like the old cottage in the fairy-story. I had to stoop to avoid knocking my head against the lintel as I passed into the next room.

    In one corner of the room, a little, hunched old woman in an apron was sitting by the stove. At one time she had carried me in her arms; now I could have picked her up with ease. Her gray hair was neatly arranged under her white kerchief, she had the same old shawl round her shoulders. At the sound of the door being opened she turned.

    ‘Grisha!’ That one brief word conveyed all the experiences of the long war years: her hopes, her fears, her expectations and joys.


    I put my arms round her shoulders; I was afraid she would fall. We remained standing a long time, with her head pressed against my chest; she wept like a little child, but they were tears of joy. I gently stroked her back under her old flannel blouse. I felt her fragile bones, and was afraid my rough hands would hurt her.

    ‘Where’s mother?’ I asked.

    ‘She’s at work. She gets home at six.’

    ‘I’ll send a boy to tell her I’m home,’ I suggested as I took off my greatcoat.

    ‘No, don’t, Grisha! For God’s sake!’ my old grandmother murmured fearfully. ‘She’ll be so glad she’ll leave her work and come home, and then they may take her to court.’

    I felt my collar suddenly grow tight as the blood rushed to my head and roared in my ears. So that was how a Soviet mother was allowed to welcome her soldier son after four years of separation!

    My mother came home from work late in the evening. Granny had prepared a festive table in honor of my homecoming. She proudly brought out a tiny tin of honey and set it on the table, then a tiny medicine bottle of homemade cherry wine. When I went to my rucksack and began to hand out all kinds of cans of American preserves my mother’s eyes lit up with joy and relief. They were both hungry, but that was not so bad as the realization that they had nothing to make a feast for their son who had come safely home after a long absence. Now they had American cans of conserves on the table!

    Whenever Russian people hear mention of the words ’lend-lease’ they think of cans piled up like mountains. Those cans were to be found in the wildest and loneliest parts of the famous Bryansk forests, in the marshes of Leningrad, wherever the Soviet army passed.

    Russia is undoubtedly a very rich agricultural country, with inexhaustible natural resources. Yet from 1942 to 1945 that country lived and fought exclusively on American products. We officers were all profoundly convinced that we could have held out without American tanks and planes, but we would have died of starvation without the American food. Ninety percent of the meat, fats, and sugar consumed in the Soviet army was of American origin, and almost the same can be said of life in the rear. Even the beans and the white flour were American. The one article of Soviet origin was the black bread - apart, of course, from water.

    A word or two on water. People in Moscow seriously believed that the American embassy received even water in cans from America. Probably this was due to the amount of grapefruit and other fruit juices the Americans drank from cans. After the war it was said that the Kremlin had provided itself with American foodstuffs for many five-year plans ahead.

    There was one time at the beginning of 1948 when all the shops in all the large Soviet cities were stocked to the ceiling with sacks of coffee beans. Before the war coffee in the bean had been a luxury article in the Soviet Union. But now all the empty shelves of the shops were stocked with sacks bearing foreign inscriptions in red paint. Coffee to be bought off the ration, at 500 rubles a kilo! At that time bread cost 150 rubles a kilo on the free market.

    The people began to buy the coffee by the sack. It wasn’t that the Russians had acquired a foreign taste. Not at all! They cooked the beans, threw the fragrant liquor away, then dried the beans, pounded them in a mortar or a coffee-grinder, and made bread of the flour. Bread from coffee! Previously they had played the same sort of trick with mustard powder! Bread from mustard!

    During the war all the metal utensils in the U. S. S. R. were made from American cans. It will be many years before the Russians forget those cans with their labels: ’pork meat’.

    In an endeavor to diminish the effect of this propaganda by food conserves, the rumormongers of the N. K. V. D. spread stories that the Americans were canning the flesh of South American monkeys to send to the Soviet Union.
    ”... Dear Grisha, perhaps you have a cup or something of the sort where you are. I broke mine recently and haven’t any thing to drink my tea out of. If you can send me one I shall be very glad and will always think of you when I drink my tea, my dear boy.

    "You always sew up your parcels in very good canvas, and we don’t throw it away, we make towels from it. Don’t be annoyed with us if we ask you for anything, you’re all we have in the world. I live only for your letters. And I haven’t much longer to live.

    ‘Keep well, my dear boy. Look after yourself. Granny.’

    I got hold of a sack in which to pack a parcel. I stuffed it full with ladies’ lace underwear, silk stockings, lengths of material, until it weighed the permitted 10 kilograms. In the very center I packed several china cups. And what else could I put in? They needed absolutely everything. They would sell what I sent and buy meat, and would go on wearing rags. You can’t fill a bottomless barrel.

    That evening I had planned to go out, but granny’s letter robbed me of all inclination. I sat at my desk, and scenes from my past life arose before my eyes.


    1921. At that time I was quite an infant. Perhaps the only memory I have is of the jackdaws. Daws hopping about the floor, in the light of the paraffin lamp. One of them was dragging its wing awkwardly, leaving a trail of blood. The lamp flickered, the dark corners were very mysterious, and wretched daws hopped about the floor.

    In the winter they flew about in great black flocks. When they flew over the roofs in the evening dusk, the people said as they heard them call: ‘That’s a sign of frost. It’ll be still colder tomorrow.’ Raspberry streaks left by the sunset on the horizon, the lilac, frosty mist, and the calling daws. They settled like bunches of black berries on the bare poplars in the orchards, and chattered away before retiring to rest.

    My uncle thought of very ingenious ways of getting close to the daws with his gun. Normally they won’t let you come anywhere near. But he went hunting them to shoot them for a ragout. I’ve forgotten what it tasted like. Older people say it doesn’t taste any worse than ragout made from other wild birds. Every wildfowl has its own specific flavor.

    In those days children wrapped in rags sat in the snow in the street and silently held out their hands. They no longer had the strength to ask for ’bread’. If you returned that way a few hours later you found they were no longer holding out their hands: they were frozen corpses.

    People don’t remember 1921 to any extent nowadays. It was followed by many other years, which have been fixed more definitely in the mind. 1921 was something quite elemental, the result of war and the post-war ruin. So it did not seem so terrible.

    1926. The later years of the New Economic Policy. ‘The period of temporary retreat in order to organize a decisive advance along the entire front,’ as we can read in the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

    In those days, when my father gave me ten kopecks I was a rich man and could satisfy all my childish desires. The years 1925 and 1926 were the only time in all the existence of the Soviet regime when the people did not think of bread.

    I don’t remember tsarist Russia. People of my generation regard the NEP period (New Economic Policy - involved a partial return to free market exchange of commodities. - Tr.) as the equivalent of a normal and affluent life. I heard various stories told by older people, but at this time I was a Young Pioneer and was more interested in playing a drum. Some museum-piece of an old man would throw his arms wide and say rapturously and regretfully: ‘Under Nicholas a dried fish that size cost three kopecks; and now....’ He swallowed back his spittle and waved his hand resignedly.

    1930. 1 was attending school. The name of the school was changed every three months; the curriculum changed accordingly. I was not greatly interested-1 hadn’t time to be, for I spent most of the day queuing for bread. Queues stood outside the bakers’ shops day and night. Six hundred, seven hundred... Often the number written in indelible ink on my hand was over the 1, 000.

    We boys regarded it all as a kind of game. When the cart drove up to the shop and the loaves were unloaded there was a bit of a riot. Women screamed as they were half crushed to death, one heard curses, groans, and tears. Meanwhile we boys tried to find a way into the shops through a window or some other opening. In other countries the children played ’Red Indians’, but we fought for our lives to get bread. That was how the youthful builders of socialism were reared, that was how the steel was tempered.

    We went to school in two shifts; it was as cold inside the building as outside. It was much more pleasant in the street, where you could run and keep yourself warm. What point was there in our teacher telling us stories of the Paris Commune? We stormed not the Bastille but the bakers’ shops.

    1932. General collectivization. People starved to death, their bodies lay about the streets. The living had difficulty in dragging themselves about, for their legs were swollen with famine dropsy.

    My elder brother, who was in the Young Communists, was called up to perform special duties. He and his comrades were given weapons, and they mounted guard all night over the church, which was being used as a transit camp for prisoners. There were not enough prisons; there were not enough guards. Of an evening, hundreds of ragged men and women peasants, arrested as kulaks, were driven into the church. Mothers carried babes in arms. Many of the prisoners could hardly shift their feet. The youngsters who had been issued arms went hungry to the church to guard hungry people.

    Each morning the ragged class enemies were driven on northward. Many dead bodies were left lying on the stone flags inside the church. So far as they were concerned, the problem of liquidating the kulaks as a class was already solved.

    Winter passed, spring arrived. The campaign for collecting the State grain fund began. The peasants were baking bread made from tree bark, but men armed with pistols demanded that they should hand over corn for the spring sowing. During the winter the peasants had eaten tree bark, cats, dogs, even horse dung. Cases of cannibalism were not unknown. Nobody can say how many millions of people died of hunger in 1933: possibly one-third or one-fourth of the agricultural population of southern Russia.

    During the summer the few half-savage dogs still left alive wandered through the deserted villages, devouring human flesh. First man ate dog, and then dog ate man. Many fields were left uncultivated; there was nobody to harvest those that were sown.

    Day after day we scholars of the higher classes were driven out to harvest these fields. The road ran past the town cemetery. Each morning as we went to work we saw dozens of deep, freshly dug pits. When we returned in the evening they had been filled and leveled with the ground. Some of the more inquisitive scholars tried digging up the loose soil with their boots.

    They lost their curiosity when they came upon human hands or feet beneath the shallow layer of earth. Sometimes as we went past the cemetery we saw swollen corpses being thrown from carts into the pits; they had been brought from prisons and hospitals. The wild steppe grass rapidly covered these graves, and nobody will ever know the exact cost of that resounding word ’collectivization’.

    The artificial famine of 1932 - 1933 was a political measure taken by the Politburo; it was not an elemental disaster. The people had to be shown who was the master. The decision was taken in the Kremlin; the result was the loss of millions of human lives. From that time hunger became a new, full member of the Politburo.

    Yet at that same period the Soviet government was dumping! They offered wheat at very cheap prices, much cheaper than the world market price. The principle was simple: grain taken from the collectivized Soviet peasant at 6 kopecks a kilo was sold to the Russian workers at 90 kopecks a kilo. In such circumstances it was easy enough to indulge in dumping.

    The Soviet Union offered its grain at knockdown prices on the world market. The greedy capitalists rushed to buy it. But the Canadian and Australian farmers started to burn their grain, while the Moscow radio howled in delight: ‘Look what is happening in the unplanned capitalist world.’ But after burning their grain the Australians and Canadians had no money to buy the British industrial goods, consequently British factories began to close down and unemployment increased. The British workers had no money to buy the cheap Russian grain.

    But over the sea, in the marvelous land where communism was being built, there was no unemployment, and bread was so cheap that it was being sold abroad for next to nothing. And so there was a wave of strikes and revolutionary movements in the West. ‘The revolution is continuing. Comrades,’ they said in the Kremlin, rubbing their hands.

    In Denmark the pigs were fed on cheap Russian sugar. In the U. S. S. R., people drank their tea with the sugar on the table to look at, or on Sundays and holidays they nibbled a knob as they sipped their tea. The Soviet workers and peasants went hungry, but there was money enough for financing capital construction, while machine tools and machinery were imported. Heavy industry increased proportionately to the rest of the country’s economy. The workers and peasants were told that heavy industry would make the machinery for light industry, and this in turn would make cloth and boots. But meanwhile tanks and aeroplanes were the chief production. There was nothing to be done about it: it was all due to the capitalist encirclement.

    Now there was no room for bourgeois sentimentality. Statistics show that fertility and population increase are in inverse proportion to the living conditions. The worse people live, the swifter they multiply. On the one hand there are India and China, where thousands die of hunger every year, but where millions are born in their place. On the other, the well-fed, enervated countries in the decline of civilization, such as France and Britain, with their falling fertility curve, and where the age-groups past the prime of life play a predominant part. Given these circumstances, Stalin had no need to fear the consequences of the famine policy; whatever happened, he was assured of soldiers and labor. In every respect the State would show an active balance.

    September 1939. Signature of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of Friend-ship. Trainload after trainload of Soviet grain, Soviet butter, Soviet sugar steamed off to Germany. Simultaneously all these articles disappeared from the Soviet shops, which in any case had never had any remarkable stock of them.

    To explain the change of political course the N. K. V. D. rumormongers spread the story that Ribbentrop had brought to Moscow the photocopy of a document, which had been signed by fourteen foreign powers. These powers had offered Hitler aid if he attacked the U. S. S. R. Hitler preferred our friendship: we desire peace. But for that we have got to pay!

    1941. War. Hunger passed into its final, perfected form. The ration-card system. No longer under-nourishment, but out-and-out starvation. In the winter of 1941-2 a kilo of potatoes cost 60 rubles on the free market: the equivalent of a week’s wage. A kilo of butter cost 700 to 800 rubles: three months’ wages. The worker received sufficient on the ration card to keep him on his feet and capable of working. In practice the main, indeed the only food issued was bread - 600 grams daily-the same bread that caused the German prisoners of war to suffer from gastric ulcers and to die off like flies.

    One day I had called on the director of the Lenin radio factory, to discuss some business. A knock at the door interrupted our conversation. His secretary put in her head and reported: ‘Serdiukova is here; is she to come in or wait?’

    Serdiukova came nervously into the room. Her face was dirty, and it was difficult to tell her age. She was wearing a black, greasy jacket, and her stockings were of sailcloth; she had men’s boots on her feet. She stood at the door, silently waiting. Her expression seemed despondent, yet indifferent, stamped with the apathy of infinite weariness.

    ‘Why didn’t you come to work yesterday, Serdiukova?’ the director asked. ‘To stay away’s a serious crime, punishable under war legislation. You know what the punishment is for it.’

    ‘I was ill, Comrade Director. I couldn’t get out of bed,’ she answered in a hoarse voice. She shifted from foot to foot. A pool of water formed on the parquet; it was dripping off her boots.

    Absence from work without good reason involved the punishment of forced labor even in peacetime. In wartime it might bring ten years’ imprisonment, on a charge of sabotaging war industry.

    ‘Have you got a doctor’s certificate?’ the director asked.

    ‘No. I hadn’t anyone to send for the doctor. As soon as I could get up I came to work.’

    Serdiukova was one of those typical Russian women who uncomplainingly endure all the difficulties of life, who accept every-thing as inevitable, as sent from above. In this silent humility there is a kind of religious quality. It is not weakness; it is a source of the Russian’s enormous spiritual strength.

    As I looked at her I recalled an old soldier who was returning from hospital to the front after the latest of his many wounds. As he carried a machine-gun tripod on his back he quite calmly gave expression to his secret desire: ‘Ah, if only I had lost an arm or a leg! Then I’d be going back to my village.’ I was shocked not so much by his words as by the composure with which he said them, his genuine readiness to lose an arm or a leg in exchange for return home. Yet he was an exemplary soldier.

    ‘You must know the law,’ the director went on. ‘Absent without good reason. I’ll have to send your case to court.’

    She began to mutter in a broken voice: ‘But, Comrade Director! ... Day after day, fourteen hours at the bench... I haven’t the strength... I’m sick...’

    ‘I can’t help it. It’s the law. We’re all sick like that.’ Her face twisted with anger. ‘You’re all sick like that?’ she shouted, stepping closer to his desk. ‘But have you ever seen this?’ Tears streamed down her face as, in an uncontrollable impulse of fury, she snatched up the edge of her skirt. She was no longer a human being, no longer a woman, but a creature mastered by the courage of despair. ‘All of you? All as sick as this?’

    I saw her white body, all the whiter against the gray background of the office wall. She did not have a woman’s shapely legs, but two deformed pillars with no curve to the calves, with the knees touching. Two garters of red automobile inner tubing cut deeply into the swollen mass of her bluish flesh.

    ‘Have you ever seen that. Comrade Director? Have you got legs like this?’ she screamed, beside herself with indignation and shame. ‘For five months I’ve not had a period. I’ve dropped unconscious at the bench again and again....’

    ‘Is there really nothing to be done?’ I asked him when she had gone.

    ‘What can I do?’ he answered, and stared hopelessly at the papers on his desk. ‘Half the women are like that. Pills are of no use in such cases.’

    ‘I don’t mean that. I mean referring it to the court. Can’t you overlook it?’

    ‘Concealment of absenteeism is punished as heavily as absenteeism itself. If I overlook this case the N. K. V. D. will put us both inside. You can’t hide anything from Luzgin,’ he answered.

    I had not made Luzgin’s acquaintance, but I had heard a great deal about him. He was the head of the works Special Department: the eyes and ears of the Party.

    While working in the town of Gorky I was crossing Sverdlov Square one day in March. There were puddles of snow and mud lying in the roadways. Just in front of me two young girls, probably students, with document-cases under their arms, were trudging through the water. Suddenly one of them dropped her case; it fell into the muck of the sidewalk and flew open.

    Books and exercise books were scattered in the mud. The girl took a few staggering steps towards the wall of the nearest house, but then her legs gave way under her, and she slowly sank to the ground. Her blue kerchief slipped off, the strands of her chestnut hair were mingled with the melting snow and mud. She had a deathly white face, with blue under the eyes. She had fainted.

    Her friend hurried to her aid. One or two passers-by helped to pick her up and carry her to the gateway of the nearest house. The crowd excitedly asked her friend what had happened, but she answered in some embarrassment: ‘It’s nothing, only a faint.’ An elderly woman in huge boots asked her: ‘Where’ve you come from? From the center?’ Without waiting for the answer she began to lament with all the commiseration of a simple woman: ‘Poor kids! You’re hungry, hardly able to stand on your feet, yet you’re giving your last drop of blood. You can’t go on like this. You’ll be in your grave before long.’

    A large proportion of the donors attending the blood-transfusion centers consisted of girl students and mothers with little children. In exchange for 450 cubic centimeters of blood they received 125 rubles, which would buy not quite a kilo of black bread. After each transfusion they received an extra ration card entitling them to 200 additional grams of bread each day for a month. They also received one supplementary ration consisting of 250 grams of fat, 500 grams of meat and 500 grams of sugar. These mothers and girls knew their patriotic duty well enough, they knew the blood was for their husbands and brothers at the front. But it was chiefly hunger that drove them to the centers. The mothers tried to feed their hungry children at the price of their own blood; the students preferred to sacrifice their blood rather than their bodies.

    Special letter blanks were obtainable at the blood transfusion centers, and many of the girl donors used these to send letters to the front, to the soldiers for whom they were donating their blood. Frequently these letters marked the beginning of a correspondence and friendship. After the war there were quite a number of cases of the writers meeting and marrying: a marriage sealed in blood.

    In the center of the town of Gorky there is a square: ’The Square of the Victims of 1905.’ One side of the square is bounded by the walls of an old prison, in which the heroes of Gorky’s novel The Mother were imprisoned. On the opposite side is the Municipal Opera and Ballet Theater.

    One evening I stood with a group of comrades in the foyer during an interval. Dancing was going on in the hall, to the music of an orchestra. A slim, good-looking girl dancing with an officer attracted my notice. Her slender form was clothed in a gray dress of matt silk; her hair was arranged in a simple yet original style. Her toilet and all her bearing indicated her good taste, and a sense of her own value.

    ‘Who is that girl?’ I asked a comrade who was well acquainted with life in the town.

    ‘A student, she’s in the last year of the medical faculty,’ he answered curtly.

    ‘An interesting girl,’ I said.

    ‘I’d advise you not to go running after her.’

    ‘Why, what’s wrong?’

    ‘I just advise you not to, that’s all!’ He would not say more.

    His words aroused my curiosity, and I asked another acquaintance the same question.

    ‘The girl in gray?’ he said, taking a glance at her. ‘If you’re interested in knowing her for a night, it’s very simple: one can of conserves or a loaf of bread.’

    I stared at him incredulously. I was fond of student life, and still thought of myself as belonging to it. His words seemed like a personal insult. In pre-war days the students had been the morally cleanest and most spiritual group in society. Could one year of war have brought about such a change?

    ‘Don’t talk bosh!’ I retorted.

    ‘It’s not bosh, it’s the mournful truth. She lives in a hostel, in one room with five other friends. They have two or three visitors every night. Chiefly officers. Who has anything to spare these days, apart from officers?’

    Before the war there was practically no prostitution in the Soviet Union. The average Soviet man’s budget did not include this item of expenditure. There was only prostitution for political purposes,

    under N. K. V. D. protection, in the neighborhood of the Intourist hotels and restaurants and wherever foreigners congregated. And some commerce in human bodies went on, to a small extent, among the higher circles of the new ruling class, who had the means to buy such articles.

    But now, during the war, hunger was driving women on to the street. Not for silk stockings, Parisian perfumes, or luxury articles. Only for bread or a can of preserves. And worst of all, the first victims were the students, who would form the future Soviet intellectual and professional classes. They paid a high price for their higher education.

    Two old men, Nikanor and Peter, were employed in the constructional department of Factory No. 645. They had both been pensioned off long before, but hunger had driven them back to work, for they found it impossible to live on their pensions. At one time Nikanor had been a well-known engineer aircraft constructor.

    Before the First World War he had worked at the Bleriot works in France, where he had helped to build the first aeroplanes in the world. He had known all the fathers of Russian aviation personally: Zhukovsky, Sikorsky, and Piontkovsky. Under the Soviet regime he had worked hard in the field of aviation and was proud of his many letters of congratulation and praise, his awards, and newspaper cuttings in which his name was mentioned. Now he was only a helpless ruin of a man. He had been taken back into the works mainly out of pity, for he was really too old to work.

    From early morning Nikanor and Peter would sit at a table in a. quiet corner and barricade themselves off with a drawing board, while they talked about all the various kinds of food they had had in their long lifetime. Every day they told each other of some new dish, which they had recalled, out of the mist of the years. Thus they sat, hour after hour, day after day, capping each other’s stories, and Sometimes even quarreling over the method of preparing some sauce or the details of a recipe for mushrooms: The other members of their department thought them a little funny in the head.

    One day I happened to overhear Nikanor complaining to Peter: ‘This is the third day I’ve gone without porridge. We’ve eaten all the mallows in our street, and I shan’t find any more anywhere else. Porridge made from mallows is very tasty, I assure you, Peter. Just like sucking pig with chestnut stuffing. Now I shall have to look up the books again; they say there are other edible roots to be found.’

    Two hours before the midday break Nikanor took a pocket watch on a heavy silver chain, two more tributes to past services, out of his waistcoat pocket and laid them on the desk before him. Every few minutes he looked expectantly at the slowly moving hands. Fifteen minutes before the break he began to rummage through his drawers in search of his spoon and fork. Then he made sure his goloshes were firmly over his boots. All this was in preparation for the start, for at the age of seventy he was not very fit for the coming race. At last he even obtained permission from the factory management to go to dinner five minutes before time.

    After all these preparations he trotted across the yard to the dining hall, with one hand holding his pince-nez on his nose. There he would have his dinner: a first course of boiled green tomatoes, and a second course of water-gruel made from oatmeal, and without seasoning - a serving only sufficient for a cat. He scraped his aluminum plate thoroughly, licked his spoon carefully, then back to work - and after work the search for edible roots.

    1944. The Soviet army struck like a battering ram at the most important sectors of the German front. Soviet territory was almost completely freed of German troops. The tank wedges thrust towards the frontiers of the Reich. The soldiers in the reserve regiments waited impatiently to be sent to the front - not out of patriotism, but simply because of hunger. In the reserve regiments the rations were so low that many of the men went rummaging in the dustbins in search of cabbage leaves or a frozen potato.

    ‘The way to the soldiers’ hearts lies through their stomachs,’ Napoleon said. Stalin modernized the remark to meet his own needs. In the Soviet army there were twelve ration standards: front ration No. 1, front ration No. 2; immediate rear ration No. 1, immediate rear ration No. 2; and so on, down to the twelfth, called the sanatorium ration. Only the first and last of all these ration scales could be regarded as normal; the others simply connoted various stages of hunger.

    The difficulties of wartime! Again and again I have tried to find this justification for all the misery that was to be seen at every step. I was a Soviet officer; I should know what I sent men into battle for. In those days I often asked myself what would happen after we had driven the last German off our soil. Everything as before? I had no wish to recall the ’heroic workdays of socialist construction’. In Soviet Union hunger has been elevated into a system. It has become a means of influencing the masses; it is a full member of the Politburo, a true and faithful ally of Stalin.

    Leningrad. It is a proud name. I was there shortly after the city was freed from the blockade. Nobody knows the exact total of victims from hunger during the siege. As the Germans advanced, all the inhabitants of the surrounding countryside flocked into the city, swelling its population to almost eight millions. At least three million died of hunger.

    One day I and another officer were walking along the shore of a lake just outside Leningrad. Right beside the water was a small cemetery; young grass was growing among the neglected graves. A block of red granite attracted my attention. ’Flight-Lieutenant... died the death of a hero in the battle for the city of Lenin.’ I read the inscription carved in the stone.

    ‘Lucky blighter!’ said my companion, who had taken part in the defense of the city from the very beginning. ‘Those who have survived the blockade are only husks of men today.’

    ‘I’m a passive murderer,’ another inhabitant of the city once told me. ‘I saw a man lying in the snow in the street; he had fallen and was too weak to get up. He asked me to help him; otherwise he’d freeze to death. But I couldn’t, I’d only have fallen myself and been unable to get up again. I’d only have frozen at his side. I staggered on, leaving him to freeze in the snow.’

    I would give every citizen of Leningrad the highest decoration possible. Since the days of Troy, history knows no similar case of mass civic heroism. Was it all a strategic necessity, or simply a question in which Stalin’s prestige was involved?

    ’When one man dies, it is a tragedy; when millions die, it’s only statistics.’ Especially when the death of millions is contemplated from behind the Kremlin walls.

    Shortly before the end of the war I traveled back to Moscow from Leningrad by train. At every station, every wayside halt, crowds of ragged women were standing with children in their arms. The infants’ faces were translucent, bluish white, their eyes were glittering with hunger, and their faces were aged, joyless, and serious. Other children stretched out their thin hands and asked for ’Bread, bread!’

    The soldiers undid their rucksacks and silently handed their rations of hard tack or bread through the windows. Each of them was oppressed by thoughts of his own wife and children. They gained a momentary feeling of relief as they handed out their food, but they were left with a nagging sense of shame and bitterness. Can you feed a whole starving land with bits of bread?

    As the German prisoners return home from Russia they will doubtless tell of the desperately low food rations in the Soviet prisoner of war camps. And as they see it they will be justified. By European standards the prisoner of war conditions were murderous, the soggy black bread was simply poison to a European digestive system.

    I myself have been in camps for German prisoners of war and have seen the conditions. But I can only ask: did the German prisoners notice that the Russian people on the farther side of the barbed wire were fed on even lower standards? Did any of them think that these so-called ’Russian’ conditions were the result of the Soviet system and that in due course they will flourish in Eastern Germany?

    Moscow. The last days of the war. A lively trade was going on in the city markets. Pale, exhausted women huddling in corners, a few knobs of sugar or one or two herrings in their extended hands. They were selling their meager ration in order to get milk or bread for their children. Bread, bread! In all eyes was the same mute cry.

    The article that sold best - was the Russian homegrown tobacco called ’mahorka’ - 15 rubles a glass. The markets swarmed with war-wounded, without legs, without arms, in front-line greatcoats and tunics, with red wound stripes on their chests. The militiamen turned a blind eye to these violators of the Soviet trade monopoly.

    If any of them did try to take away one of the war-wounded, the air rang with indignant shouts: ‘What did he fight for?’ “What did he shed his blood for?” His comrades came hurrying up, waving crutches and sticks.

    Berlin capitulated. A few days later all Germany unconditionally surrendered. People thought that things would be easier literally the very next day. That was the hope of people who had nothing but their hopes.

    Now the first post-war year had passed, the second was drawing to its close, and we members of the Soviet occupation forces in Germany were reading our letters from home. As we read they acted on us like poison. Our bitterness was intensified by all that we saw around us.

    One day Andrei Kovtun and I were discussing the situation in Germany. Little by little the conversation turned to comparisons between ’here’ and ’there’.

    ‘The Berlin Underground is really rotten,’ Andrei said. ‘When I compare it with the Moscow Underground I feel really good. These days I often catch myself looking for things in Germany that tell in our favor. It’s difficult to get used to the idea that all our lives we’ve been chasing after shadows.’

    ‘Yes,’ I commented; ‘here people live in the present, whereas we have lived all our lives in the future. Or rather, for the future. I quite understand how you feel. It’s a violation of the inward harmony, as the psychiatrist would say. The only remedy is to recover faith in the future.’

    ‘Look, Gregory!’ Andrei replied. ‘We’ve got splendid aeroplanes and tanks, a powerful heavy industry. Let’s leave out of account the price we’ve paid for all these things, let’s forget all the blood, the sweat, and the hunger. You’d think that now the time’s come to exploit all these achievements for our own benefit. After all, we haven’t seen anything of life yet. It’s always been nothing but aims and ideals for us: socialism, communism.

    But when shall we really start living? D’you remember what Professor Alexandrov said at the Higher Party School of the Party Central Committee? ’If the proletariat of other countries cannot achieve their own emancipation, we shall stretch out our hands to help them.’ We know what that ’helping hand’ means. What if all the promises of wartime are only unsecured bills of exchange? I didn’t know what fear was during the war, but I do now. Yes, I’m afraid all right now.’

    He was expressing the same thoughts and fears that possess the majority of the young Soviet intellectuals and professional people. We are proud of our country’s achievements, we are proud of our victory. We do not regret all the difficulties and deprivations we have experienced, the price we paid for the victory and for our country’s glory. But we who were living in the West were beginning to feel keenly that all the things which Soviet propaganda claims as the exclusive achievement of the Soviet regime are colossal lies. We used to have our doubts, but now the doubts have been transformed into certainties, and we cannot fight them.

    We have come to the realization that we haven’t started to live yet, that we have only continually made sacrifices for the sake of the future. Now our faith in that future is shattered. As the post-war situation develops we are increasingly filled with alarm. What is it all leading to?

    In those early post-war years Berlin was the political center of the world. And we were sitting in the front rows at the chess tournament of international politics. More, we ourselves were pawns in the tournament play. The post-war experience showed that there was no basis whatever for the hopes and expectations which Russian soldiers and officers possessed in the war years.

    And what now?

    ‘Politics is politics, but life is life.’

    Andrei’s voice sounded in my ears.

    ‘But what have we got out of life? The Germans are having a thin time at present, but they have a past they can recall, and they still have a hope of the future. They can at least hope that one day we shall clear out and they’ll be able to live again. But what can we hope for... we victors?’

    Two years had passed since the end of the war. Now our worst fears were being confirmed. Once more hunger was stalking our country, a still worse hunger than in wartime. Once more the Party had decided to take the people firmly in hand, had decided to make the people forget and turn from the illusory hopes which the Party itself had cleverly stimulated and encouraged in the critical period of the war. The Party had once more decided to show the people who was the real master, and had summoned its first servant, famine, to its help.

    In past days famine had been an elemental disaster; today it is an instrument deliberately wielded by the Kremlin.

    A clock struck; I rose and looked round my room, at my feet, shod in leg-boots, at my blue breeches with their crimson stripes. My gaze passed over the gilt buttons of my green tunic. I had gold epaulettes on my shoulders. It was all so close and so well known - yet it was all so alien.

    The walls of my room dissolved to reveal the dark, starry night over Europe. And somewhere beyond, far to the east, was the frontier of my native land. But there it was dark and still, like a leaden tomb.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 16

    Stalin’s Party

    The days passed into weeks, the weeks into months. An incessant lapse of time in which there was no purpose, in which one only looked back and felt a great emptiness in the soul.

    Winter had come. The New Year of 1947 was approaching. In us Soviet men, who stood on the bound between two worlds, this aroused few cheerful memories and still fewer cheerful expectations. We had recently witnessed two noteworthy events: in the October there had been the first post-war elections to the Berlin municipal council, and in November the regular election of candidates to the Supreme Soviet of the U. S. S. R.

    The German elections aroused far greater interest among the Soviet residents in Berlin than one would have expected. Perhaps it was because they differed fundamentally from those to which we were accustomed. It was strange to see the pre-election slogans of the various parties. We were struck by the powerful and intelligent propaganda of the Socialist Unity Party. Here one sensed the long experience of Soviet propaganda; it was self-confident and shameless. We, who were the masters of the S. E. D. and knew what was behind it all, were particularly struck by this latter aspect.

    I well remember one incident that occurred during the Berlin elections. One Sunday morning I and two other officers decided to take advantage of the fine weather to go for a motorcycle ride. We borrowed three heavy military motorcycles from the Auto Battalion and tore out of Karlshorst along the Frankfurter-Allee.

    On our way to the Alexanderplatz we overtook a slowly marching column of men with crimson banners and flags in their hands. The demonstrators made an exceptionally depressing and joyless impression. Men in Thaelmann caps and red armbands were bustling backward and forward along its sides. We accelerated to drive past. It had been organized by the trade unions of the Soviet sector to express the wishes and desires of the German people. Attendance was compulsory. Any man who didn’t turn up was in danger of losing his job. It was pitiful and absurd to see this flock of sheep moving along under the supervision of the herdsmen in Thaelmann caps.

    I don’t know how it came about, but all the three of us Soviet officers began to ride our powerful military motorcycles round and round that column. The demonstrators looked at one another anxiously, assuming that we were a military patrol sent to ensure that the procession didn’t melt away. The herdsmen stared at us in astonishment, and as we drove close to the edge of the column they had to jump aside to avoid being knocked down. For our part, we were sickened at the sight of this shameful comedy, and on the other hand we enjoyed not having to take part in it ourselves for once.

    On that same day a Soviet patrol shot an American who was attempting to photograph a similar demonstration in the Soviet sector of Berlin. Evidently someone was of the opinion that such photographs might have the same effect on the close observer that that procession had made on us.

    The elections were held on 21 October. I have never known people in the Soviet Union to take any interest in the results of elections to the Soviet elected authorities. But on that election day in Berlin I doubt whether there was one man in Karlshorst who was not interested in the results. Most interesting of all was the fact that the S. E. D. came last but one of the parties. Not much was said about this eloquent circumstance.

    In the S. M. A. Administration for Industry the Berlin elections led to the following conversation between Captain Bagdassarian and Major Zhdanov:

    “You know,” Captain Bagdassarian said, as he pointed to the results printed in one of the newspapers, “when I think of these elections I get a queer thought. All the parties are voting. Supposing the Communist Party gets a majority. Does it mean that the others will let it take over the power?”

    “Yes, it looks like it,” Major Zhdanov answered uncertainly.

    “That’s funny! If the Communist Party comes to power, its first step will be to wring the necks of all the other parties. Yet these other parties are ready to give the power into the Communist Party’s hands without making any resistance. That doesn’t make sense!”

    “You can’t make sense of this democracy business all at once!” the major sighed.

    “It’s utter idiocy!” the captain agreed.

    “Perhaps it isn’t so stupid after all.” The major knitted his brows in the attempt to get to the bottom of it all. “Democracy as a political form is the will of the majority. If the majority votes for communism, there will be communism. True, very few are voting for it at the moment!” he ended on a different note.

    “All the same, it’s queer.” Captain Bagdassarian ran his fingers through his curly hair. “They all sling abuse at one another, but nobody puts anybody else into prison. But we do just the reverse: one says nothing and is put in prison. A man doesn’t even think, and still he’s put in prison...”

    In December 1946 the Officers’ Club in Karlshorst was the scene of electoral meetings at which candidates were nominated for the U. S. S. R. Supreme Soviet. On the day set apart for the Administration for Industry all the workers in the Administration had to be present in the Club, which had been decorated for the occasion with additional portraits of the leaders, and red bunting.

    We sat for some time in the hall, utterly bored. At last the chairman called on a speaker, who had been previously arranged. With a paper in his hand the speaker went to the platform and, speaking in a monotonous tone, began to explain how happy we all were that we ourselves could elect the representatives to our country’s supreme governmental authority. Then a further speaker went to the platform to propose our candidate from the Special Electoral District formed by the Soviet Occupation Zone.

    Then the candidate himself came out from the wings and told us his life story. He was a general, but I doubt whether he had ever spoken in such a humble and lackadaisical manner in his entire previous military career. The second candidate was someone quite unknown to all of us. We knew such a person existed only when he went to the platform not from the wings, but from the body of the hall. He was chosen to play the role of candidate ’from the very heart of the people’. Both candidates had been put forward in advance by the S. M. A. Political Administration and had been approved by Moscow.

    We all waited impatiently for this boring procedure to finish, especially as it was to be followed by a film show. When the chairman announced that he proposed to take the vote the hall sighed with relief, and everybody hurriedly raised their hands without waiting to be invited. Armed with pencils and paper, the tellers hurried through the hall. The audience began to murmur with impatience. At last the votes were counted, and the chairman asked in a drowsy tone: “Those against?”

    There was a dead silence. Nobody stirred.

    The chairman waited for a moment or two, then looked round the hall. Then, to intensify the effect of the unanimous decision, he asked in a tone of assumed surprise: “Nobody against?”

    And thus we elected two men ’chosen of the people’ to the U. S. S. R. Supreme Soviet.

    The turn of the year brought several innovations that made one take yet another glance back over the eighteen months that had passed since the capitulation of Germany.

    In the early autumn of 1946 the United States Secretary of State, Byrnes, had made a speech in Stuttgart, soberly surveying events since the end of the war and indicating the main features of American foreign policy. Only now, after eighteen months, were the Americans beginning to suspect that it was hard to sup out of the same bowl as good old Uncle Joe.

    Byrne’s’ speech was not to the Kremlin’s liking, and it was given a sharp answer in Molotov’s speech on the occasion of the revolutionary celebrations on 7 November. So much importance was attached to this speech that it was made the subject of compulsory study in all the political study circles throughout the S. M. A.

    There was no attempt to conceal the connection between the Byrnes and Molotov speeches from the senior officials of the S. M. A.; the two speeches were studied simultaneously, and those taking part in the discussion had to unmask the American’s imperialist intrigues and to stress Molotov’s peace-loving policy. But Byrne’s’ speech was regarded as too dangerous for the less politically educated workers, and they were allowed to discuss only their own leader’s speech.

    These two political speeches can be regarded as marking the beginning of the cold war. In the Control Commission Allied relations cooled off still more and went no further than diplomatic courtesy required. Decisions affecting the future of Germany were more and more removed from the Control Commission meetings to the private offices of the Kremlin and the White House.

    This situation also served as a signal for a final tightening of the screw on the Soviet post-war front. The S. M. A. Political Administration issued an instruction accusing minor Party authorities of having lost contact with the masses and neglecting political educational work. This was the crack of the whip. One could guess what would follow. In fact the first consequence was a change of Party organizers in all the S. M. A. departments. This was followed by measures to tighten things up all through the Soviet machinery.

    Hitherto the Soviet residents of Karlshorst had lived and worked without engaging in political study. Anybody who knows anything about Soviet life will know what that meant. The higher authorities were secretly astonished, the smaller fry quietly rejoiced; but one and all held their tongues, on the principle of not mentioning the devil in case he appeared. But now political studies were started, including study of the Short History of the C. P. S. U. And it had to be carried through in shock tempo at that. Evidently to make up for lost time.

    The next step was a campaign to raise labor discipline. It was decided to remind Soviet citizens abroad that there was such a thing as the Soviet labor code. Brand-new boards with hooks and numbers were hung up in all the departments, and every worker in each department had to take off and re-hang his own allotted number four times a day. In the Soviet Union these boards are the object of fear, but their effect on us was rather to get our backs up.

    The head of the Administration for Industry, Alexandrov, entrusted his number to his chauffeur, who very quickly lost it. We officers regarded the boards as an insult and took it in turn to remove several numbers at a time. But once more Soviet law with all its consequences hung as a threat over the head of every one of us.

    Then a hysterical ’vigilance’ campaign was inaugurated. Personnel Departments were instituted in all the S. M. A. offices with the obvious job of keeping closer watch on the workers. Once more extensive questionnaires were drawn up ’for Soviet citizens abroad’. These with their endless list of questions had to be filled afresh every three months. Many of us kept a copy of the questionnaire and our answers, and next time simply copied the old answers on to the new form.

    A demobilized lieutenant of the N. K. V. D. forces was appointed head of the Personnel Department in the Administration for Industry. From the very beginning he behaved with such rudeness and insolence that many of the officers, who were of higher rank, were infuriated. His room was in the basement, and he would ring someone up: “Comrade Colonel, come down to me and fill in your questionnaire.” But as often as not he got the answer: “If you need it filled in, bring it up to me. At the moment I’m still a colonel, I believe.”

    An order issued by General Dratvin, chief of staff of the S. M. A., was circulated for the information of all members of the S. M. A. In it, without actually mentioning names, he stated that the wives of quite a number of highly placed Soviet officials were going to the Berlin western sector while their husbands were at work, and were forming impermissible acquaintances among officers of the western powers. The order spoke in very sharp terms; it referred to fashionable restaurants, expensive furs, and, to crown all, agents of foreign intelligence services. All the accused women were returned to the Soviet Union at twenty-four hours’ notice, and the husbands were sternly reprimanded for their lack of Bolshevik vigilance.

    The secret purpose of this unusually frank order was revealed in its second paragraph, in which all members of the S. M. A. were strictly forbidden to visit the western sector, and were reminded of the necessity to be particularly vigilant in the circumstances of residence abroad. The women were chastised in order to serve as a warning to others.

    In conclusion General Dratvin threatened the application of sterner measures to all who violated the order... down to and including return to the Soviet Union. In saying so much, the general went too far. For thus officially, in the words of the S. M. A. chief of staff, return to one’s native land was recognized as serious punishment for Soviet citizens abroad.

    None of this was anything new to us. We had experienced it all before, at home. But coming after we had won the war, after we had looked forward hopefully to changes in the Soviet system, and above all after our comparatively free life in occupied Germany, this abrupt return to former practices gave us furiously to think. Or rather, to avoid thinking if possible. That was the only hope.


    I had made Major Dubov’s acquaintance during the war. Even a brief comradeship at the front binds men together more strongly than many years of acquaintance in normal conditions. That may have been the reason why we greeted each other as old acquaintances when we met again as fellow workers in the S. M. A

    He was over forty. Outwardly stern and incommunicative, he had few friends, and avoided society. At first I regarded his reserve simply as a trait of his character. But after a time I noticed that he had a morbid antipathy to anybody who began to talk politics in his hearing. I assumed that he had good reasons for his attitude, and never bothered him with unnecessary questions.

    It so happened that I was the only person Dubov introduced to his family. He had a charming, well-educated wife, and two children. When I came to know his family, I realized that he was not only a good husband and father, but also a rarely decent fellow morally.

    His one great passion was hunting. That brought us still closer together. We often drove out of Berlin on a Saturday and spent all day and all night hunting, cut off from Karlshorst and the entire world.

    On one occasion, tired out after hours of wandering through the dense growth of thickets and innumerable little lakes, we flung ourselves down to have a rest. The conversation happened to turn to discussion of an officer we both knew, and I casually remarked: “He’s still young and stupid...”

    The major gave me a close look and asked with a queer smile:

    “And are you so old and wise?”

    “Well, not quite,” I answered. “But I’ve learned to keep a still tongue in my head.”

    He again looked at me fixedly. “Tell me, has anything ever happened to you... of... you know what?”

    “Absolutely nothing,” I replied, realizing what he was hinting at.

    “Then why aren’t you in the Party?” he asked almost roughly.

    “I’ve simply not had the time,” I answered shortly, for I had no wish to go further into details.

    ’Now listen, Gregory Petrovich, it’s not a joking matter," he said slowly, and I caught an almost fatherly note in his voice. “For a man in your position it smacks almost of a deliberate demonstration. It might even have serious consequences for you.”

    “I’m doing my job as well as any Party man!” I retorted.

    He smiled, rather sadly. “That’s how I argued once,” he said with bitter irony.

    Then, without my prompting him, in an objective sort of tone he told me his story: how he had come to join the Party, and why he avoided people who talked politics.

    In 1938 Dubov was an engineer working in a Leningrad factory producing precision instruments. He was a capable engineer, and held a responsible post connected with the construction of instruments for the air force and the navy. He liked his job, devoted all his free time to research, and bothered little about politics. Despite his responsible post he remained a non-Party man.

    One day he was summoned to the director’s room. From that moment he was not seen in the works again. Nor did he return home. His wife found out what had happened to him when the N. K. V. D. men turned up at their apartment in the middle of the night, made a thorough search, and confiscated all her husband’s personal property. Next day she went to the N. K. V. D. to ask for news of him. She was told they knew nothing about him, and was advised not to worry, nor to worry others. If there were any need, she would be informed.

    Dubov spent more than a year in the investigation cells of the N. K. V. D. He was charged with sabotage and counter-revolutionary activity. The sentence was the standard one: ten years’ imprisonment, to be spent in one of the camps in Central Siberia, where new war factories were being built. There he continued to work as an engineer.

    He discovered the real reason for his arrest only two years later. Among a fresh batch of prisoners he recognized the former chief engineer at the Leningrad factory for precision instruments. Dubov was delighted to see him, but the man seemed restrained and avoided Dubov as much as possible. But as the months passed the two engineers struck up a friendship based on their common memories of freedom. One day the conversation turned to the reasons why they had been sent to the camp.

    “Someone denounced me,” Dubov said.

    The chief engineer looked away, then sighed, and laughed bitterly. “Would you like to know who it was?” he asked.

    Dubov stared at him distrustfully.

    “I did it,” the other man said, and hurried on without giving Dubov a chance to comment: “We regularly received orders from the N. K. V. D. to provide them with so many persons possessing such and such qualifications. The lists had to be drawn up by the Party organizer and confirmed by the chief engineer and the director. What could I do? I too had a wife and children....”

    “But why was I put on the list?” Dubov asked.

    “Because you were not a Party member,” the former chief engineer said. “The Party organizer put you down.”

    Dubov said nothing for some time, then he looked wearily at the other man and asked: “But how did you get here?”

    The engineer only shrugged his shoulders helplessly.

    Dubov spent four years in the camp. But during all those years he did not suffer as much as his wife and children. Under Soviet law a political prisoner’s guilt extends to include his family. His wife was morally and physically shattered. Their children grew up in the knowledge that their father was ’an enemy of the people’, and felt always that they were not like other children.

    In 1948 he was released before the expiration of his term. With no explanation given, he was completely rehabilitated and the conviction quashed. He was called up straight from the camp into the army. That was the real reason for his premature discharge. Without seeing his family he went as an officer directly to the front.

    At the front he was an exemplary officer, just as he had been an exemplary engineer in Leningrad and an exemplary prisoner in the Siberian camp. He was just to his men and ruthless to the enemy. And he was devoted to his native land, with all its Party organizers and prison camps.

    Shortly before the end of the war he received another battle decoration, and in addition was singled out for the honor of being invited to join the Communist Party. This time he did not hesitate. Without a word he filled in the questionnaires. And without a word he accepted the Party ticket, which the corps commander’s political deputy presented to him.

    In the S. M. A. Major Dubov was regarded as one of their most reliable and knowledgeable engineers. He was given the responsible task of transferring the German industry in the Soviet zone to new lines, but his rank and position remained unchanged. Why? Because, although he had been completely rehabilitated and the conviction had been quashed, in his personal file was a curt note: ’Conviction under article 58.’ That was enough to cast a shadow over all his future life.


    During my stay in Karlshorst I formed a close friendship with Captain Belyavsky. Little by little I came to know his story too, though he talked about himself very reluctantly, and only dropped hints. In 1936 Belyavsky was in Spain, where he was a lieutenant in the staff of the Republican forces. This was about the time that the Yezhov terror was at its height in the Soviet Union, and one night his father was arrested, to vanish without trace. Belyavsky was immediately recalled from Spain and demobilized. Until 1941 he shared the fate of other relatives of ’enemies of the people’; in other words, he was outside the pale.

    All those spheres of Soviet life in which the first requirement is a completed questionnaire were closed to him. Only a Soviet citizen can understand all the significance of such a situation. When war broke out in 1941 he was not called up for the army, since he was ’politically unreliable’. But when the German forces began to lay siege to his native city, Leningrad, he went to the military commander and volunteered for service. His request was granted, and that same day, as an ordinary private, he was flung into the fight - in a punitive battalion. In other words, straight to his death. But fate was more merciful to him than the Soviet regime, and he escaped with a wound.

    He spent the next three years as an ordinary soldier, going right through the siege of Leningrad. His service was exemplary, and he was recommended again and again for officer’s rank, but each time the questionnaire put an end to the story. In 1944, when the Soviet armies were suffering from a very serious shortage of officers, he was summoned to the staff once more.

    The colonel who interviewed him pointed to the entry: ’article 58’ on his questionnaire and asked: “Why do you always mention that?”

    Belyavsky did not reply.

    “Is it that you don’t want to fight?” the colonel asked sharply; he avoided looking at the decorations on Belyavsky’s chest. Belyavsky only shrugged his shoulders. The decorations rattled a little, as though answering the colonel’s question.

    “If you continue to make such entries, I must regard it as an attempt to avoid military service,” the colonel said. “Take a new form and fill it in properly. Leave a space for your service rank.”

    Private Mikhail Belyavsky did not return to his company. But next day First-Lieutenant Belyavsky was on his way to Moscow. In his pocket he had an order to proceed to the Military-Diplomatic College of the Red Army General Staff. Men were needed in wartime, and there was no bothering about a thorough examination of questionnaires. There would be plenty of opportunity for that after the war. And so Mikhail Belyavsky entered one of the most privileged military colleges in the Soviet Union.

    He was discharged from the college in the autumn of 1945 with the rank of captain, and was sent to work in the Soviet Military Administration. That was nothing extraordinary. Many of the students were freed from further study even in the middle of their second-year course, in order to take up a post.

    Captain Belyavsky’s personal file, which was kept in the S. M. A. Personnel Department, was in spotless order. All through his documents the phrase occurred again and again: ’Devoted to the Lenin-Stalin Party’. That was a stereotyped remark and was to be found in almost every officer’s personal file, but it was truer of him than of the majority.

    Certain days were set apart for political instruction, and on one of these days Belyavsky went to his office two hours earlier, as was his custom, and unfolded his papers. The educational circle to which he belonged was of a rather higher level, for it consisted exclusively of men with advanced education. With earnest faces they pored over the pages of the Short Course, though they must have known that the book was full of lies and falsifications.

    The leader of the circle, who normally was one of themselves, began proceedings by asking:

    “Well, who’s prepared to open on the third chapter? Any volunteers?”

    They all bowed their heads even lower over their books. Some of them began to turn over their papers hurriedly; others fixed their eyes on the table as though collecting their thoughts with a view to speaking later. There was no volunteer.

    “All right, then we’ll follow the list,” the leader proposed. There was a sigh of relief.

    The majority of the circle leaders kept alphabetical lists of their circle members. Each member knew whom he followed. And so the question was settled quite simply. The first on the list began to deliver a summary of the chapter, while the one who was to follow him read farther, underlining passages with red pencil. In this way the majority of circles got through their course without difficulty.

    All the members of Belyavsky’s circle had worked through the Short Course several times already. They were all bored to tears. When each had done his duty he sat gazing out of the window, smoking, or sharpening his pencil.

    Everything went off as usual. The speakers droned away monotonously. The leader sat with his eyes on his notebook, not even listening. It was a hot day, and everybody felt sleepy. And in that drowsy kingdom something happened to Captain Belyavsky that he himself would have had difficulty in explaining.

    When his turn was reached he had to expatiate on the passage which deals with the Entente’s three anti-Soviet campaigns. The theme had a heroic quality and there were parallels to the experiences of the war just ended. As soon as Belyavsky began to speak the leader raised his sleepy eyes and stared at him in astonishment. And one by one all the others began to gaze at him in bewilderment.

    For he spoke as though addressing a meeting. His voice had a note of unusual conviction. It sounded a note of faith, of challenge. He depicted the three foreign interventions in Soviet Russia after the 1917 revolution, and cleverly linked them up with the invasion and destruction of the Nazi armies in 1941-1945. He did not summarize the Short Course; he spoke extemporaneously, from a heart burning with conviction. The bewildered looks of his fellows expressed the mute question: ’Has he gone mad? Why all this unnecessary bother?’

    It happened that the circle that day included the Instructor from the S. M. A. Political Administration, who was there as observer. Belyavsky’s speech attracted his notice; obviously he had not often heard anyone speak with conviction in these circles for political education. He made a note of the name. Next day Belyavsky was summoned to the Political Administration.

    “Listen, Comrade Captain,” the instructor said to him. "I’m amazed at you. I’ve been looking through your personal file. An exemplary officer, the finest of testimonials, and yet you’re not a Party member. That simply won’t do. The Party must interest itself in men like you...

    “No, no, no...” he raised his hand, as though afraid Belyavsky might make some objection. “You made a very remarkable speech in the political circle yesterday... And yet you’ve never been drawn into Party work. We shall assign you to the task of giving political instruction to the officers’ wives. That to begin with. And secondly, you must put in your application for Party membership at once. No objections! Get that?”

    Belyavsky had no thought of objecting. Membership of the Party connoted a full and valid position in Soviet society. His heart was filled with joy; he shook the instructor’s hand with genuine gratitude.

    The November revolutionary celebrations were drawing near. In addition to having charge of a political education circle, Belyavsky was entrusted with the preparations for the festival. He plunged headlong into social and political activity and devoted all his free time to it. Spiritually he was born again. But above all he rejoiced because the Party had forgotten his past, because he was no longer a lone wolf. Only now did he fully realize how bitterly he had felt his alienation from society.

    Just about then an insignificant incident occurred which had unexpected consequences.

    Belyavsky was a keen motorcyclist. While working in the S. M. A. he had had innumerable specimens of motorcycles pass through his hands, and in the end he had picked on a very fine BMW sports model for himself. All Karlshorst knew that machine, and many a young officer stood to admire it as it flashed by.

    One evening, as he was riding past the house where Valia Grinchuk lived, he saw a light in her rooms, and decided to drop in and see her. He leaned the motorcycle against the railings, but did not lock it up, as was his habit, for he did not intend to stay long.

    Valia had guests, the company was a merry one, and he stayed longer than he thought. He left about ten o’clock. When he got outside his motorcycle had disappeared. He looked about him, thinking someone must be playing a practical joke. But there was no sign of it anywhere.

    He broke into a string of curses. Obviously someone had stolen the machine. But what infuriated him most was the knowledge that the thief must be one of his own, Soviet, people. No Berlin thief would ever have dared to take anything from Karlshorst, least of all a motorcycle.

    The Karlshorst commandatura was only a few paces away. He went and reported the theft to the officer on duty. The lieutenant sympathized with him and promised to find out whether the theft had been committed by one of the commandatura guards. He knew well enough who were responsible for the majority of the thefts that took place in Karlshorst.

    Belyavsky had no great faith in the commandatura, and he decided to go straight to a German police station situated just outside the sealed-off Soviet area. He returned accompanied by a German policeman and a police dog. At the spot where the motorcycle had been left the policeman put the dog on the scent. It made directly for the next wicket gate and began to paw at it.

    Belyavsky knew that the Party organizer for the Administration of Justice, Major Yeroma, and his deputy, Major Nikolayev, lived there, and he thought the dog was completely on the wrong trail. But each time they tried out the animal it persistently led them to that wicket gate. In the end Belyavsky shrugged his shoulders hopelessly and let the German policeman go.

    Next day he happened to be passing the gate at which the dog had pawed, and he decided to go in and make inquiries. He found four young women sitting in the sitting room. One of them was the wife of Major Nikolayev; another was the wife of the head of the S. M. A. Political Administration, General Makarov.

    All the women were rather problematic wives, wives only within the bounds of Karlshorst. Almost all the high S. M. A. officials had exceptionally young wives. Marshal Sokolovsky’s wife was several years younger than his daughter was. Such things were the result of the war.

    Belyavsky apologized for troubling them, explained why he had called, and inquired whether they had noticed anything suspicious the previous evening. They exchanged embarrassed glances and expressed their indignation at the theft. They seemed bored, and they invited him to stay awhile. Quite an animated conversation followed, a conversation, which played a large part in the further developments, chiefly because he made a very good impression on those young women.

    After searching fruitlessly for a week he had resigned himself to | the loss of his favorite machine, when one evening he was called | to the telephone. He was astonished to hear a woman’s voice

    “Is that Comrade Captain Belyavsky?” the unknown asked, and went on hurriedly: “You mustn’t mind my not mentioning my name. I I’m one of the ladies who... you remember, you called to inquire | about the motorcycle.... I phoned up to let you know that your machine is in the cellar of the house you called at. Go at once and you’ll find it. You can guess who took it.... Please don’t tell anybody how you found out. I wouldn’t like...”

    He hurriedly thanked her and put down the receiver. He sat for a moment considering what he should do next. For the thief could be no other than the S. M. A. Party organizer for the Administration of Justice, Yeroma himself. Finally he decided to ask a Lieutenant-Colonel Potapov and Major Berko to go with him as witnesses. On their way to Major Yeroma’s house they picked up the officer on duty at the commandatura.

    Major Yeroma was not at home. At the commandatura officer’s request the cellar was opened. There they found the missing motorcycle. The commandatura officer drew up an official report on the theft and discovery of the machine. In his simplicity he wrote: ’The thief is Major Yeroma, of the Administration of Justice, and Party organizer to the Administration of Justice.’ The report was signed by all the witnesses, including Major Yeroma’s wife.

    As the four officers struggled to haul the heavy machine up the stairs, between their groans and pants the officer could not help remarking: “One man couldn’t have got it down there by himself. He must have had at least two others to help him.”

    It transpired that the day the machine was stolen Major Yeroma was returning late in the evening from the Political Administration, accompanied by two other officers of the Administration of Justice. As he approached his house the Major noticed the machine and, without stopping to think, persuaded the other two officers to help him put it in his cellar. Probably it would not have been found if Belyavsky hadn’t chanced to call on the young women.

    They knew that Major Yeroma had got hold of a motorcycle the previous evening, but they had no idea where he had obtained it. When Belyavsky told his story they put two and two together, but they did not tell him what they were thinking, for obvious reasons. After he had gone they quarreled among themselves. The young wife of the head of the Political Administration took Belyavsky’s side and declared that the machine must be returned to him.

    In his indignation he decided to take steps to bring the culprits to justice. He wrote reports of the affair to General Dratvin, the S. M. A. chief of staff, to the Political Administration, and the S. M. A. Military Prosecutor. If justice were done, Major Yeroma should be expelled from the Party, stripped of his officer’s rank and sentenced to imprisonment for theft. So the law prescribed.

    When Major Berko heard what Belyavsky intended to do he advised him not to be in any hurry. A charge against Yeroma involved much else besides him, and in such cases it was advisable to be prudent. He suggested that Belyavsky should first go and see Yeroma personally, and they decided to call on him during lunchtime.

    They found him at home. He was sitting at the table, with his tunic unbuttoned and unbelted. Before him was an aluminum dish of steaming beetroot soup. He did not even look up when the visitors were shown in, but went on spooning up his soup.

    “Well, Yeroma,” Belyavsky said, “how did my motor-cycle get into your cellar?”

    “I found it,” the major answered with his mouth full of food, and not batting an eyelid.

    “I shall send a report to the Political Administration.” Belyavsky was so taken aback by the Party organizer’s impudence that he didn’t know what else to say.

    Yeroma went on eating, or rather guzzling his soup; the sweat rolled down his face. When he had finished the dish he picked it up and poured the last few drops into his spoon. Then he licked the spoon and smacked his lips.

    “You’ll never make any impression on him with a report,” Berko said in a rage. “Spit in his plate and let’s go!” They went, slamming the door behind them. The same evening Belyavsky went to the office of the head of the Political Administration and handed the adjutant on duty his report. While the adjutant was reading it with some interest General Makarov himself came out of his room.

    “Another case relating to Yeroma, Comrade General,” the adjutant reported with a smile.

    “Ah! That’s good!” the general observed. “He’s already on our list for bigamy...”

    The adjutant afterwards explained to Belyavsky that, following his superiors’ example; Yeroma had taken a new wife to himself. But in doing so he had made one tactical error: unlike others, he had registered his marriage at the Soviet register office in Karlshorst. But he had not taken the trouble to obtain a divorce from his first wife, who was in Russia.

    Belyavsky then went to the S. M. A. military prosecutor, Lieutenant-Colonel Orlov. Orlov knew Belyavsky personally, and he told him frankly: “We can’t take him to court. In this case it all depends on the Political Administration. You know yourself it’s a Party matter.”

    If Belyavsky had had more experience in Party matters, he would probably have avoided measuring his strength against the Party. Meanwhile, the Political Administration had received a resolution from a local Party group recommending Captain Belyavsky’s acceptance as a Party member. His application was accompanied by brilliant testimonials to his conduct during the war. But now the affair of the stolen motorcycle was beginning to be talked about all over Karlshorst. In order to smother the scandal the Political Administration decided that it must close the mouth of one of the two antagonists, and the choice fell on Belyavsky.

    Quite unexpectedly he received the order that he was to be demobilized and returned to the Soviet Union. He knew at once what was behind that order. What he did not know was that on his return he was to be brought to trial. The explanation was quite simple. Not long before the motorcycle incident he had filled up one of the regular questionnaires. This time, in accordance with new, strict instructions, it was sent to the local M. V. D. departments in all his previous places of residence, to be checked. It was returned from Leningrad with the comment: ’father sentenced under article 58.’ So he was demobilized and sent back to the U. S. S. R., where he was tried for making a false statement which he had been forced into making under threat of court-martial.

    Belyavsky’s collision with the Party in the person of Major Yeroma was not a decisive factor in his recall to the Soviet Union. He belonged to a category of people whose fate was predetermined. That was shown by the fact that almost at the same time Major Dubov also was demobilized and recalled. Only the S. M. A. Personnel Department and Major Dubov himself knew what was behind that order. He, too, had to take his postwar place in life.


    Two men in my close circle of acquaintances had been cut out of life and thrown overboard. I respected them as men and liked them as colleagues. Others, too, thought of them as fine exemplars of the new Soviet society. Neither of them had anything in common with the old classes, which, according to Marxism, were destined to be eliminated. They had both been created by the Soviet world and were, in the best sense of the words, true citizens of Soviet society. Yet they were condemned, irrevocably condemned to death. To spiritual death at the least. And there are millions of similar cases.

    That can easily be proved. During the thirty years of the Soviet regime at least thirty million people have been subjected to repressive measures on political grounds. As the families of all such people are automatically classified as politically unreliable, if we assume that each of them had only two relatives at least sixty million people must be on the black list.

    If ten million out of the thirty million died in prison camps, and at least another ten million are still in the camps, while ten million have served their time and been released, we get a figure of eighty million people whom the Soviet State has turned into its enemies, or, at least, regards as its enemies. That explains why in every section of the Soviet state apparatus there are personnel departments charged with the scrutiny and check of questionnaires. Today it is indubitable that the main class of the new Soviet society consists of millions of automatic enemies of the Soviet State.

    This invisible class of enemies who are also slaves permeates all society from top to bottom. Is it necessary to cite examples? One could mention the names of many marshals of the Soviet Union, as well as Stalin prize-winners, who have been in N. K. V. D. prisons; and these would be names known all over the world. Of the millions of petty collisions between State and individual who can speak?

    State and individual! Involuntarily I think of Valia Grinchuk, an undersized girl, and a partisan fighter who in the fight for her freedom took up arms. She fought bravely. She not only defended her freedom against the foreign enemy; she climbed the ladder of Soviet society. She raised herself out of the gray mass and became an individual. And hardly had she achieved this when she felt the heavy hand of the State.

    Her duties often took her to the Allied Control Commission. There she came to know a young Allied officer. There could be no outward objection to this acquaintance, as she visited the Control Commission in the course of her work. After some time the acquaintance developed into a personal friendship.

    One day she was summoned to the Party organization. She was given to understand quite amiably that the Party knew of her acquaintance with an Allied officer. To her astonishment, that was all that was said, and it seemed that the Party leaders were quite sympathetic in regard to the friendship. Some time later this incident was repeated, and she had the impression that they were even encouraging the acquaintance.

    Time passed and this friendship between a Soviet girl and an Allied officer developed into a genuine attachment. But now she was once more summoned to the Party organization, and, as a Party member, was confronted with the demand to harness her love to State interests.

    Next day she was taken to hospital. The doctors found she had a very high temperature and blood pressure, but could find no visible reason for her condition. Weeks passed without any change for the better.

    One day an elderly, experienced neuro-pathologist came to her ward, studied her case history, and shook his head as he asked her: “Have you met with any great unpleasantness... in your personal life?”

    “No!” she curtly replied.

    She spent more than two months in hospital. When she was discharged she applied on health grounds to be transferred to work which did not bring her into contact with the Control Commission. Through acquaintances she informed her lover that she had been recalled to Russia. Valia had the heart of a soldier.

    Only very few people knew the connection between these incidents. Everybody continued to regard her as a fine officer who was assiduously doing her duty in Soviet society. And only a few noticed that she began to leave off wearing her officer’s tunic with its decorations, and took to ordinary feminine clothes.

    All these things happened to people who were close acquaintances of mine. They affected me personally because sooner or later I, too, would have to join the Party. There was no other choice, except to face up to a future, which for Major Dubov and Captain Belyavsky had become the present.

    Today there is no Communist Party in the Soviet Union. There is only Stalin’s Party with its obsolete facade. The aim and end of that Party is power, indivisible power. The ideal Party member should not have any independent thought; he must be only a dumb executive of the higher will. A striking example is provided by Party organizer Major Yeroma, a bestial brute and an ideal Bolshevik of the Stalin school.

    I was wearing Soviet officer’s uniform and I was a child of the October Revolution. If I had been born twenty years earlier, I would perhaps have been a convinced Marxist and revolutionary, active in the October Revolution. Today, despite everything, I was still not a member of the Communist Party. If I had not been faced with the necessity, the indubitable necessity, it would never even have entered my head to join the Party, which was called the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 13

    Between Two Worlds

    Before the war I came across a book by Paul de Cruis: Is Life Worth Living? The book was a real find for the Soviet State Publishing Company; it was in complete accord with the Politburo course of that time, with its attack on the ’rotten democracies’. And so the book was translated and published in huge editions.

    The Russian edition had a foreword by the author; it was so amazing that I read it aloud to a friend: “’I cannot pass myself off as a proletarian; rather am I a bourgeois of the bourgeois, enervated and corrupted by the blessings of my social state.

    With a partridge wing in one hand and a glass of Burgundy in the other, I find it difficult to reflect on the social ulcers and painful problems of modern society. Nonetheless I am enthusiastic for the great Soviet experiment, I raise my right fist’ - holding the partridge wing or the Burgundy? - ’and cry: ‘Red Front!’’

    At this point my friend had had enough, and, swearing violently, he flung the book away. Both of us bitterly regretted that we hadn’t got the simple-minded Frenchman in the room with us. It may be there are people who get pleasure out of watching a dissected rabbit, but the rabbit itself hardly shares the pleasure.

    Paul de Cruis truthfully and honestly analyzed the defects of modem American society; he was indignant at the fact that American unemployed workers were living in extremely wretched conditions, and that their food consisted chiefly of fried potatoes and horribly salted pork. And their children received only a liter of ordinary milk a day, as an act of charity. And he exclaimed: ‘Is their life worth living?’

    Naturally, standards of good and bad are always relative. And possibly he was justified in concluding that in comparison with American living conditions generally such a state of affairs was very bad.

    But a Soviet reader reading those words might well ask: ‘And what is the state of the Soviet workers, who work themselves to death to earn a wage - not unemployment pay - which only very rarely assures them such a treat as pork, whether salted or unsalted? And what of their children, who even in the best years, received less milk than an American unemployed worker’s child? What answer could be given to the question: ’Was it worth while for these children to be born?’’

    After the war I recalled Paul de Cruis’ book, and especially his question: ’Is life worth living?’ For now some of us have had an opportunity to see the children of the democratic world, and that in conquered Germany, in conditions that were, generally speaking, worse than those applying in other democratic countries. Now we have had a chance to draw comparisons.

    In Germany the difference between the children of the two systems was painfully obvious. At first we noticed only the superficial differences; but when we had lived in Berlin for some time we saw another, much more profound difference. Soviet children seem like little soulless automata, with all their childish joy and lack of restraint suppressed.

    That is the result of many years of replacing the family by the State. Soviet children grow up in an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion, and segregation. We in Berlin found it much more difficult to strike up a conversation with the child of a Soviet officer who was quite well known to us than with any German street urchin in the Berlin streets.

    The German children born in the Hitler epoch, and those who have grown up in the years following the capitulation, could hardly be exemplary in their characters. So we found it all the more depressing to note these vast internal and external differences between the children of the two systems.

    Here is a significant detail. The Germans are not in the habit of having their mother-in-law in the young married couple’s home; it is regarded as a family disaster. The German mothers-in-law themselves take the attitude that when they have disposed of their daughters they can ’enjoy life’; they ride cycles, visit the pictures, and live their own lives.

    In a Soviet family the exact opposite is the case. It is a bit of luck for the wife, and even more for the children, if her mother-in-law is living with them. Soviet children usually grow up in their grandmother’s care.

    Whereas the German woman of forty or more often begins a ’second youth’ when her daughter gets married, the Russian woman of over forty no longer has any personal life, she devotes herself wholly and entirely to her ’second family’, to her grandchildren. Only then is there any surety that the children will be brought up in a normal manner.

    Generalizing on this difference, one can say that the German woman belongs to the family, the Soviet woman to the State. A Soviet woman can become an engine driver, a miner, or a stonemason. In addition, she has the honorable right of voting for Stalin, and of being her husband’s hostage if the M. V. D. is interested in him. Only one small right is denied her: the right to be a happy mother.

    For a long time there were two conflicting theories as to the formation of the child character, and Soviet pedagogues were divided into two camps. The heredity theory maintained that the chief part in the development of human characteristics was played by the inherited genes; this theory came to be widely accepted by pedagogues after the emergence of a separate science of genetics. The second, environment, theory declared that the infant mind was a tabula rasa, on which environment wrote the laws of human development.

    This made the child’s characteristics exclusively dependent on the influences of its milieu. In due course the Politburo issued a specific instruction that the environmental theory was to be accepted as the basis of Soviet pedagogy. The totalitarian State fights wholeheartedly for the souls as well as the bodies of its citizens; it cannot stand any rivals in the formation of the citizen - not even genes. Soviet pedagogy now declares in so many words that the Soviet child is a hundred-per-cent product of its communist environment.

    During the period before this approach was finally established the Politburo based its system of Soviet education on a tenden-tious curriculum and the political organization of the youth in the Pioneers and the Young Communist League; in these organizations the children began when quite young to render their service to the State. The years passed, and after much experimentation the authorities went over from the ’method of conviction’ to the ’method of compulsion’.

    In 1940 a ’Committee for the Problem of Labor Reserves’ was set up as a subsidiary of the Council of People’s Commissars, and trades and technical schools attached to the factories and works were organized. The pupils for these educational institutions were compulsorily recruited at the age of fourteen, under the pretext of mobilizing labor reserves.

    In 1948 a State decree established the Suvorov and Nakhimov Cadet Schools. The task of these schools - there are some forty of them - is to prepare children of eight years and upward for a military career by a barrack style of education and training.

    I once had the opportunity to visit the Suvorov Cadet School at Kalinin. It was not far from Moscow, and consequently was the most privileged of all these schools, there being no Suvorov school in Moscow itself. At Kalinin I met a number of lads who were the grandsons of Politburo members.

    Petka Ordjonokidze, the grandson of Sergo Ordjonokidze, at one time People’s Commissar for Heavy Industry, was sitting in his underwear on his bed, for his uniform trousers were being repaired, and service regulations prescribed only one pair per child. In this respect, to have a highly influential and famous grandfather was of no advantage whatever. The teacher, a captain, complained of his delicate position in regard to Mikoyan’s youngest scion, who kept the whole establishment supplied with cigarettes, which he smuggled into the school.

    He could hardly be punished with the cells, for his grandfather was still alive and had a very good seat in the Politburo. Some of these lads of twelve or thirteen years old were wearing service decorations, which they had won as partisans. Seen close up, all this doesn’t look too bad: the Suvorov schools are privileged institutions in which the children are clothed, fed, and educated at the State expense.

    There are candidates and to spare for all vacancies, so it isn’t easy for the ordinary child to get to these schools. In that at Kalinin about half the pupils consisted of relations of generals and other members of the Soviet aristocracy.

    On leaving these schools the pupils may not enter any other than an officers’ training college. Their fate, their future career, are decided when they are eight years old. The classless society divides its children at an early age into strictly delimited castes: the privileged caste of the military and the caste of the proletarians, whose job is to do productive work, to multiply up to the approved limits, and to die for the glory of the leader.

    In 1946 an urgent conference was called by the head of the S. M. A. Political Administration to discuss the question of improving educational work in the Russian school at Karlshorst. Certain unhealthy trends had been noted among the scholars in the higher forms. A month or so before, a scholar in the ninth form had shot his father and his father’s young mistress.

    The father was a Party member, a lieutenant-general, and an official in the S. M. A. legal department. Apparently he had taken a fancy to wartime habits, and had been untroubled by the circumstance that he had been living with his paramour under the very eyes of his grown-up son and daughter, whose mother had remained in Russia.

    After fruitless talks, pleadings, and quarrels with his father, the son, a seventeen-year-old member of the Young Communist League, had decided to appeal to the advice and assistance of the Party organization. He had put in an official report to the head of the Political Department.

    When a Party man is accused of moral or criminal misconduct the Party organs usually act on the principle of not washing dirty linen in public. So the Political Department tried to hush up the affair, and only passed on the report to the father. The result could have been anticipated. The father was furious, and took active steps against his son. It ended by the son snatching up his father’s pistol and shooting him.

    Hardly had the commotion died down after this tragic incident when the Karlshorst commandant, Colonel Maximov, had to entrust a rather unusual task to a company of the commandatura guard. A mysterious band of robbers was operating in the wooded sand dunes and wilderness around Karlshorst, and filling the entire district with alarm and terror.

    The company sent to deal with it was strictly enjoined not to shoot without special orders from the officer in command, but to take the robbers alive. For they were scholars from higher forms of the Karlshorst school, and were led by the son of one of the S. M. A. generals. They were very well armed, with their father’s pistols, and some of them even with machine pistols.

    The district was combed thoroughly, the robbers’ headquarters were found in the cellar of a ruined house, and it was formally besieged. Only after long negotiations conducted through emissaries did the head of the band declare himself ready to capitulate. It is striking that the first of his conditions for surrender was that they were not to be sent back to the Soviet Union as a punishment. The officer in command of the company had to send a courier to the S. M. A. staff to obtain the necessary agreement to the condition. The stipulation greatly disturbed the S. M. A. Political Department.

    It was discovered that the results achieved in the higher forms of the Karlshorst school were not up to the standard of corresponding forms in the U. S. S. R., and on the other hand there was a considerable increase in truancy. The only improvement shown was in regard to German conversation, and this did not please the school authorities at all, as it showed that the pupils were in contact with the German world around them. That might have unpleasant consequences for the school staff.

    The commandatura patrols regularly hauled scholars out of the darkness of the Berlin cinemas in school hours. A search of the desks of older scholars led to the discovery of hand-written copies of banned Yesenin poems and amoral couplets by Konstantin Semionov, which soldiers had passed from hand to hand during the war. Worst of all, the S. M. A. hospital notified the chief of staff that several cases of venereal disease had occurred among the senior scholars. A sixteen-year-old girl was brought to the hospital suffering from a serious hemorrhage as the result of a clumsy attempt at abortion. Another girl lay between life and death for several months after she had made an attempt to gas herself because of an unhappy love affair.

    All these things had led to the Political Department calling an urgent conference, which decided that radical measures must be taken to improve the communist education of the Soviet children and youths in Germany. It was agreed that the most effective step towards effecting such an improvement was the approved panacea for all diseases: additional lessons on the ’Short Course of History of the C. P. S. U.’ and on the childhood and youth of the leaders of the world proletariat, Lenin and his true friend, collaborator and pupil, Joseph Stalin. It was also decided incidentally to send the incorrigible sinners home to the Soviet Union, a punishment which hitherto had been applied only to the adult members of the Karlshorst Soviet colony.


    ‘Well, did you like it?’

    ‘Oh yes. An outstanding piece of work.’

    ‘Unquestionably. A real chef-d’oeuvre.’

    The solid stream of human beings carried us in the darkness out of the cinema of the officers’ club in Karlshorst. The crowd expressed their opinions about the film as they poured out.

    That morning Nadia, the secretary to the Party Organizer in the Administration for Industry, had rather startled us by her obliging conduct. She had gone from room to room, handing each of us a cinema ticket, and even asking affably how many we would like. Normally it wasn’t so easy to get hold of tickets; if you wanted to go you had to apply to Nadia very early.

    ‘Ah, Nadia, my dear! And what is showing today?’ I asked, rather touched by her amiability.

    ‘A very good one, Gregory Petrovich. The Vow. How many tickets would you like?’

    ‘Ah! The Vow,’ I murmured respectfully. ‘In that case let me have two.’

    The Soviet press had devoted a great deal of space to this film, extolling it to the skies as a new masterpiece of cinematic art. Although, generally speaking, I am skeptical of proclaimed masterpieces, I decided to go. It was so remarkably publicized that it would have been quite dangerous not to.

    Within five minutes of its beginning Captain Bagdassarian and I were watching the clock rather than the screen. It would have been an act of madness to leave, and yet to sit and watch the film...

    ’Let’s act as though we were going to the toilet, and then slip out,” Bagdassarian whispered.

    ‘You’d better sit still and see it, out of scientific interest!’ I advised him.

    Even in the pre-war Soviet films Stalin had begun to acquire a stature equal to Lenin’s. But in The Vow Lenin served only as a decorative motif. When they heard that Lenin was seriously ill the peasants from the entire neighboring district went on pilgrimage to the village of Gorky, where Lenin was living. But now it appeared that they had gone to Gorky only to plead, with tears in their eyes, for Stalin to be their leader. They swore their troth and fidelity to him for thousands of feet.

    I swore too. I swore that never in all my life, not even in pre-war days, had I seen such stupid, coarse, and unashamed botching. No wonder that our officers’ club had stopped showing foreign films for some months past.

    ‘Show a film like that abroad,’ Bagdassarian said as we went home, ‘and they’ll believe that all Russians are a lot of fools.’

    ‘They’ve got plenty of rotten films of their own.’ I tried to appease him.

    The few foreign films, which had been shown from time to time in the Soviet Union, were real masterpieces of the international cinema. Of course such films were shown only when they corresponded with higher interests and in conformity with the sinuosities of Soviet foreign policy.

    The result was that Soviet citizens came to have an exaggeratedly enthusiastic opinion of foreign cinema art. In Berlin we had extensive opportunities to see the achievements of various countries in this sphere. We often laughed till we cried at some heartrending American picture, with more shooting than dialogue, with blood streaming off the screen right into the hall, and it was quite impossible to tell who was killing whom, and why. It is a striking fact that, if one may dogmatize on the tastes of the ’common people’ at all, the ordinary Russian soldiers never got any enjoyment out of such films.

    It may seem strange, but we liked German films most of all. Whether in music, literature, or cinematic art-all of them spiritual revelations of national life - the German soul is more intelligible than any other to the Russians is. It has the same sentimentality, the same touch of sadness, the same quest for the fundamental bases of phenomena. It is significant that Dostoyevsky has enjoyed even greater popularity among the Germans than among Russians themselves, and that Faust is the crowning achievement of the Russian theater.

    We Russians often had interesting discussions about German films and plays. The Soviet viewer is struck by the unusual attention given to details, to facts, and to the actors themselves. These films provided plenty of matter for argument. The Vow provided no matter for argument.

    ‘Their art is passive, ours is active. Their art exhibits, ours commands,’ Bagdassarian remarked. ‘Have you seen Judgement of the Nations’!’

    ‘Yes. It’s a powerful piece of work.’

    ‘I saw it recently in the American sector. They’ve given it quite different montage treatment, and call it Nuremberg. It’s the same theme, yet it makes no impact whatever.’

    We arrived at Bagdassarian’s apartment. Still under the influence of the film we had just seen, we sat discussing the possibilities of propaganda through art.

    ‘It’ll take the Americans another hundred years to learn how to make black white,’ he said as he took off his greatcoat.

    ‘If they have to, they’ll soon learn,’ I answered.

    ‘It can’t be done in a day. The masses have to be educated over many years.’

    ‘Why are you so anxious about the Americans?’ I asked.

    ‘Only from the aspect of absolute justice.’

    ‘Who’s interested in justice? Might is right. Justice is a fairy-tale for the simple-minded.’

    ‘I award you full marks in Dialectical Materialism,’ the captain sarcastically observed. ‘But, you know, during the war things were grand!’ He sighed. ‘D’you remember the films the Americans sent us?’

    ‘Yes, they were pretty good. Only it was rather amusing to see how little they know about our life. In Polar Star the collective farmers had more and better food than Sokolovsky gets.’

    ‘Yes, and they danced round dances in the meadows, just like in the good old days.’ He laughed aloud.

    In 1943 and later, American films on Russian subjects were shown in the Soviet Union. We particularly remembered Polar Star. Although it was very naive, and showed complete ignorance of the Soviet reality, it revealed genuine sympathy for the Russians.

    After a performance one often heard the Russian audience remark: ‘Fine fellows, the Americans’; although the film represented only Russian characters. The Russians took this kindly presentation of themselves as evidence of the American people’s sympathy for them.

    ‘That film had a number of expert advisers with Russian names,’ I said. ‘I don’t suppose they’d seen Russia for thirty years or more. The American technique is good, but they haven’t any ideology. Probably they don’t even know what it is.’

    ‘Stalin’s making hell hot for them, but all they do is gape,’ Bagdassarian meditated. ‘They don’t know what to do. Now they’re beginning to sneer at Russian Ivan: he’s pockmarked, he squints, and his teeth are crooked. The fools! The last thirty years of Russian history are still a white patch to them, yet it’s an inexhaustible well. They’ve only got to strip Stalin naked and the entire world would spit in disgust. And we Soviet people wouldn’t object. But when they start to sneer at Russian Ivan...’

    He sniffed, annoyed to think that the Americans couldn’t tumble to anything so simple.

    We were often amazed to see how little the outside world knew of the true position in Soviet Russia. The thirty years’ activity of the State lie-factory, and the hermetical closure of Russia to free information, had done their work.

    The world is told, as though it was a little child that the capitalist system is doomed to go under. But on that question Soviet people have no hard-and-fast standpoint. History is continually developing, and requiring new forms in its development. But even so, for us the historical inevitability of communism, the thesis that ’all roads lead to communism’, is the one constant factor in an equation which has many unknown and negative factors. For us Soviet people this equation has already acquired an irrational quality.

    We are united not by the intrinsic unity of a State conception, but by the extrinsic forms of material dependence, personal interests, or a career. And all these are dominated by fear. For some this fear is direct, physical, perceptible; for others it is an unavoidable consequence if they behave or even think otherwise than as the totalitarian machine demands.

    Later, in the West, I had an opportunity to see the American film The Iron Curtain, which dealt with the break-up of Soviet atomic espionage in Canada. I had already read various criticisms of this film, as well as the angry outbursts of the communist press, and I was interested to see how the Americans had handled this pregnant theme. It left two impressions.

    On the one hand, a feeling of satisfaction: the types were well chosen; the life of the official Soviet representatives abroad and the role of the local Communist Party were presented quite accurately. Once more I lived through my years in the Berlin Kremlin. No Russian would have any criticism to make of this presentation. It was not surprising that the foreign communist parties were furious with the film, for in this game they play the dirtiest role. Something, which for the staff of the military attaché’s department is a service duty, is treachery to their country when performed by the communist hirelings.

    On the other hand, the film left me with a vague feeling of annoyance. The Americans hadn’t exploited all the possibilities. The Soviet peoples are accustomed to films with the focus on politics, in which the audience is led to draw the requisite conclusions. In this respect The Iron Curtain scenario was obviously weak.

    In Berlin we Soviet officers were able to compare two worlds. It was interesting to set the impression made by real life against the fictions that the Soviet State creates and maintains. The direct creators of this fiction are the toilers with the pen, the ’engineers of human souls’, as they been have called in the Soviet Union.

    Of course we were chiefly interested in the writers who dealt with the problem of Soviet Russia. They can be divided into three main categories: the Soviet writers, who are slaves of the ’social command’; the foreign writers who have turned their backs on Stalinism; and, finally, those problematic foreigners who even today are still anxious to find pearls in the dungheap.

    Let us consider them as a Soviet man sees them.

    One day I found a French novel on Belyavsky’s desk. I picked it up to read the name of the author, and was astonished: it was Ilia Ehrenburg.

    ‘But haven’t you read it in Russian already?’ I asked him.

    ‘It hasn’t been published in Russian.’

    ‘What do you mean?’

    ‘It’s quite simple.’

    He was right. Soviet experts on literature maintain that the finest journalists of the time are Egon Erwin Kisch, Mikhail Koltsov, and Ilia Ehrenburg. There is no disputing that they are all brilliant writers. Koltsov’s literary career came to an abrupt end in 1937, through the intervention of the N. K. V. D. It is said that he is now writing his memoirs in a Siberian concentration camp. For many years Ehrenburg was classified as a ’fellow-traveler’.

    With a Soviet passport in his pocket, he wisely preferred to live abroad, at a respectable distance from the Kremlin. This assured him some independence. His books were published in big editions in Soviet Russia, after they had been thoroughly edited. It was not surprising that I had found a book by him which was in French and unknown in the U. S. S. R. Only the Hitlerite invasion of France drove him back to his native land.

    First and foremost, Ehrenburg is a cosmopolitan. Many people think of him as a communist. True, he subtly and intelligently criticized the defects of Europe and the democratic world. But one doesn’t need to be a communist to do that-many non-communist writers do the same. After he had rid his system of his rabid, guttersnipe denunciations of the Nazi invaders he began to compose mellifluous articles about beautiful, violated France, the steadfast British lion, and democratic America.

    During the war we were glad to read these articles; but it seemed like a bad joke when we saw his signature beneath them. Today, obedient to his masters, he is thundering away at the American ’imperialists’. Ehrenburg, who once enjoyed some independence, has been completely caught in the Kremlin toils.

    His career and fate are very typical of Soviet writers generally. They have only two alternatives: either to write what the Politburo prescribes, or to be condemned to literary extinction. If Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin or Lermontov had lived in the age of Stalin, their names would never have been added to the Pantheon of human culture. When I was a student books such as Kazakov’s Nine Points, Lebedenko’s Iron Division, and Soboliev’s General Overhaul were passed from hand to hand.

    These names are not well known to the public generally, the books were printed in very small editions and it was difficult to get hold of copies. It is characteristic that they all dealt with the 1917-21 period, when the masses were still inspired with enthusiasm and hope. Their consciences did not allow these writers to write about later times; faced with the alternative of lying or being silent, they preferred silence.

    One cannot condemn the Soviet writers. Man is flesh and blood, and flesh and blood are weaker than lead and barbed wire. In addition there is the great temptation not only to avoid creative and physical death, but also to enjoy all the advantages of a privileged position. Some people may think it strange that there are millionaires in the land of communism. Genuine millionaires with an account in the State bank and owning property valued at more than a million rubles. Alexei Tolstoy, the author of Peter I and scenarios for Ivan the Terrible, was an example of the Soviet millionaire. Who can throw the first stone at a man faced with such alternatives?

    As for the foreign writers, they are simply not to be trusted! Not even the dead. At one time John Reed was in charge of the American section of the Comintern. True, he lived in Moscow, but that was in the order of things. He conscientiously wrote a solid book on the Russian revolution: Ten Days that Shook the World. Lunacharsky, the then People’s Commissar for Education, and Lenin’s wife, Krupskaya, wrote introductions to the book in which they con-firmed that it was a perfectly truthful description of the October Revolution. John Reed departed from this life not very long after he had written the book, and his mortal remains were interred in the Kremlin wall: the highest distinction for outstanding communists.

    Then there was trouble! Reed had not foreseen that in Stalinist Russia history would be stood on its head. In all his story of the revolution he had devoted only two lines to Stalin, and those only in passing, whereas he had extolled to the skies Trotsky and the other creators of the revolution, all those who after Lenin’s death began to pass out with colds in the head and similar ailments.

    So John Reed’s remains had to be removed from the Kremlin wall.

    One can think of dozens of world-famous writers who in their quest for new ways for man waxed enthusiastic over communism. As soon as they came to know the Soviet reality they were permanently cured of their enthusiasm. I need mention only one of the latest of these. Theodor Plievier, author of the book Stalingrad, a German writer and communist who had spent many years in Moscow, fled from the Soviet zone into western Germany.

    In an interview given to the press he explained that there was not a trace of communism left in Stalinist Russia, that all communistic ideas were strangled and all the socialistic institutions had been turned into instruments of the Kremlin’s totalitarian regime. He discovered this quite soon after his arrival in Moscow, but he had to keep quiet and reconcile himself to the situation, since he was to all intents and purposes a prisoner.

    It is difficult to convict the Kremlin propagandists of pure lying. There is a refined art of lying, consisting in the one-sided ventilation of a question. In this field the Kremlin jugglers and commercial travelers have achieved a very high level of artistry: they pass over one side in complete silence, or even furiously revile it, while exalting the other side to the skies.

    In Berlin we often got hold of amusing little books written by foreign authors and published by foreign publishers, extolling Stalin and his regime. It is noteworthy that these books are either not translated into Russian at all, or they are published only in very small editions, and it is virtually impossible to buy copies. They are intended purely for external consumption. The Kremlin prefers that the Russians should not see such books: the lies are too obvious.

    Not far from the Brandenburg Gate there is a bookshop, ’Das Internationale Buch’. It is a Soviet shop selling literature in foreign languages and intended for foreign readers. We often visited it. Of course we didn’t buy Lenin’s works but ordinary gramophone records. Things that can’t be bought at any price in Moscow are offered in abundance to foreigners.

    Propaganda: only a Soviet man has any idea what that is! It is said of a famous drink that two parts of the price are for the mixture and three for the advertising, and many consumers are convinced that there is nothing in the world more tasty, healthy, and costly. Such is the power of advertising.

    Among the Soviet people communism is in a somewhat similar case. They are continually being told that communism is the finest of all systems, an achievement that is unsurpassable. The mixture is rather more complicated than that of any drink. It is injected into the Soviet man - day in and day out, from the moment of his birth. What advertising does in the Western World, propaganda takes care of in the U. S. S. R. The people are hungry, naked, thrust down to the level of speechless robots, and meanwhile they are assured that the complete opposite is the case. Most astonishing of all, they believe it, or try to. That makes life easier.

    The Kremlin knows what enormous power propaganda has over human souls; it knows the danger that threatens it if the mirage is dispelled. Under the Nazis during the war the Germans were for-bidden to listen to enemy broadcasts, but they were not deprived of their receiving sets. But the Kremlin did otherwise: in the U. S. S. R. all receiving sets were confiscated on the very first day of the war. The Kremlin knew its weak spot only too well. If its thirty years of propaganda are undermined, the ephemeral spiritual unity of the Kremlin and the people will vanish like mist.

    ‘The Press is our Party’s strongest weapon,’ Stalin has said. In other words, the Kremlin’s strongest weapon is propaganda. Propaganda welds the internal forces and disintegrates the external ones. So much the better for Stalin that his opponents haven’t any real idea of the accuracy and significance of his words.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 08

    The Fruits of Victory

    The B. M. W. car works in Eisenach was one of the first large industrial plants in the Soviet zone to receive the S. M. A.’s per-mission to start up production again. It at once began to work at high pressure, turning out cars for reparations deliveries and for the internal needs of the S. M. A. The new car park at Karlshorst consisted exclusively of B. M. W. machines. In addition, heavy motorcycles were supplied for the Soviet occupation forces.

    The Potsdam Conference had made a number of decisions concerning the demilitarization of Germany, and, with the active participation of General Shabalin, the Allied Control Commission drew up regulations strictly forbidding German industry to produce any kind of military or paramilitary material. Meanwhile, the same General Shabalin placed definite orders with the B. M. W. works for the delivery of military motorcycles. But of course motorcycles are only small items.

    The representatives of B. M. W. Eisenach managed to get their agreement with the S. M. A. at Karlshorst settled unusually quickly; other firms offering their products against the reparations account hung about the place for days and weeks on end before they got any satisfactory answer. But the B. M. W. board was more than usually resourceful in their methods.

    A few days after Shabalin had signed the license for the Eisenach firm to start up, I was looking through his morning post. Among other items I noticed a B. M. W. account for some 7, 400 marks, debited to Shabalin, and relating to payment for a car ’which you have received through our representative’. The account was stamped ’paid in full’. I threw Kuznetsov an interrogative glance, but he pretended to know nothing about the matter.

    Next day, as I was crossing the yard of the house where Shabalin had his apartment, I saw Misha at the door of the garage. He was polishing a brand-new car, so new that it was not yet registered, shining in splendor in the dark garage.

    ‘Whose car is that?’ I asked in amazement, knowing that the general had no car like it.

    ‘Ah, you’ll see!’ Misha answered evasively, quite unlike his usual garrulous self.

    When I noticed the chequered marque of the B. M. W. firm on the radiator I realized what had happened. The board had made the general a little ’present’. The 7, 400 Reichsmarks were a fictitious purchase price. And the general had ordered his adjutant and chauffeur to keep their mouths shut, just in case.

    Already during the advance into Germany General Shabalin had ’organized’ two cars, and with Misha’s help had sent them back home, together with three lorries loaded with ’trophies’. In Berlin he made use only of the two service cars at his disposal, and did not make a single journey with his new B. M. W. Shortly afterwards Misha dispatched the B. M. W. also to Russia, together with two more lorries. Naturally, not against reconstruction or reparations accounts, but strictly privately, to the general’s home address. So now he had three private and two service cars. He exploited the service machines, and spared his own, shamefacedly keeping them quiet. In this respect the general was as thrifty as a usurer.

    At first it did not occur to me to provide myself with a car. But later, when I saw how others were adapting themselves to local conditions, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea. It was easy enough to buy one, but it was much more difficult to get ’permission to possess a private car’. Such permission was issued by the head of the S. M. A. Administrative Department, General Demidov. General Demidov was subordinate in rank to General Shabalin, so I decided to sound Shabalin first. If he agreed, all he had to do was to phone up Demidov and the matter would be settled. I wrote out the requisite application and laid it before the general at the close of my usual service report.

    ‘Hm! What do you want a private car for?’ the economic dictator of Germany asked, rubbing his nose with his finger knuckle, as was his habit

    The Soviet leaders take good care to see that others should not too easily acquire the privileges they themselves enjoy. Even if an American, even if General Draper himself applied personally to Shabalin, he would decide that the applicant had ’No need whatever of a car’.

    ‘Wait a little longer. At the moment I haven’t time to deal with it,’ he said as he handed back the application.

    I knew it would get more and more difficult to obtain the requisite permission. But I also knew that no situation is insoluble; at the worst it was simply that one did not find the solution. ’You must howl with the wolves’ is one of the chief commandments of Soviet life. I had a strong suspicion that the general’s refusal was due only to his caution. He did not wish to run the risk of being charged with lack of bolshevik vigilance in allowing his subordinates to grow accustomed to ’capitalist toys’. He may have had that same feeling when he ’organized’ his own trophies, but the un-communist vestiges of desire for personal gain had overcome his fear. I decided to approach the question from a different angle.

    ‘Do you give me permission to apply to General Demidov, Comrade General?’ I asked in a casual manner.

    ‘Why not? Of course you can,’ he readily answered. So my assumption was confirmed. The general was not prepared to give his signature, but he had no objection to someone else taking the responsibility.

    General Demidov knew quite well that I was one of General Shabalin’s personal staff. In approaching him I could exploit the element of surprise. The next day, with a self-confident air I laid my application on the desk of the head of the Administrative Department. ‘By General Shabalin’s permission,’ I said as I saluted.

    Demidov read the application, assuming that Shabalin had already sanctioned it. In such circumstances a refusal would seem like opposition to a superior officer’s order.

    ‘But aren’t four cylinders enough for you?’ He knitted his brow as he looked through the car documents. ‘Six cylinders are for-bidden to private individuals.’

    Demidov was well known as capable of haggling all day with the utmost fervor over ten litres of petrol, though he had thousands of tons of it in store. In order to get the illegal extra two cylinders I invited him cheerfully: ‘Then ring up General Shabalin, Comrade General.’ I knew Demidov would never do anything so stupid. And, in any case, Shabalin had gone out, and was unobtainable.

    ‘Oh well!’ Demidov sighed as though he were committing a crime. ‘As Shabalin’s agreed...’ He countersigned my application, stamped it, and handed it back to me with the words: ‘But don’t break your neck.’

    This was a great achievement. Later on many officers spent months trying to get permission to own a private car, but had to go on being content with the trams.

    Quite early on I was warned always to go on foot in Karlshorst, and to look in every direction before crossing a street. In fact, there was more traffic accidents in Karlshorst than in all the rest of Berlin. Normal traffic regulations were modified to quite an extent by the drivers themselves, or rather, by the men at the wheel. Lorries always had priority, because of their tonnage. The logic was unusually simple, and dictated by life itself: the one likely to suffer most damage in a collision should always give way. Not for nothing was Karlshorst called the ’Berlin Kremlin’. The rules of the game were the same.

    However, generals’ cars introduced a controversial note into this ’traffic regulation’, and frequently the conflict between tonnage and prestige ended in crushed radiators. Then the glass of smashed headlamps scrunched underfoot at the street crossings, and the more inquisitive studied the nearest trees and fences in an attempt to reconstruct the details of the accident from the torn bark and twisted railings. The safest way of traveling through Karlshorst was in a tank.

    The drivers generally, ordinary soldiers most of them were genuinely annoyed at the fact that generals’ cars bore no distinguishing marks. How were they to know who was sitting in the car: some snotty-nosed lieutenant or a high and mighty general? You see, there was an unwritten law, strictly observed, that nobody had the right to overtake a general’s car.

    I remember an incident that occurred once when I was driving with General Shabalin from Dresden to Berlin. We were traveling along a narrow country road lined with apple-trees when a speedy little D. K. W. fitted past right under the nose of our weighty Admiral. The officer driving it did not deign even to glance at us. Misha looked interrogatively at Shabalin, sitting beside him. Without turning his head the general curtly ordered: ‘After him and stop him!’

    As a rule Misha was not allowed to drive fast because the general suffered from gastric trouble; now he did not need to be told twice. In anticipation of the pleasure that he could experience so seldom he stepped so violently on the gas that the general pulled a face.

    Not in the least suspecting the fate that threatened him, the unfortunate driver of the D. K. W. took up the challenge: he stepped on it too. After some minutes spent in furious pursuit the Admiral drew ahead and began to block its rival’s path. To give the maneuver an impressive touch the general stuck his head with his gold-braided cap out of the window, and shook his fist. The effect was terrific: the D. K. W. stopped with a jerk some thirty yards behind us, and remained at a standstill in expectation of the thunders and lightning about to be let loose.

    ‘Major, go and give that blockhead a good punch in the mug,’ the general ordered me.

    I got out to execute the order. A lieutenant was standing beside the D. K. W., fidgeting nervously. In a state of consternation, he tried to make excuses for his behavior. I took a cautious glance back and saw the general watching me from our car, so I let fly a volley of curses at the unlucky officer. But I was astonished to observe that he was far more frightened than the incident justified. So, as I was running a keen eye over his papers, I glanced inside his car. From the depths of it a German girl stared back at me, her eyes filled with tears. That explained the officer’s fright: this might cost him his tabs, for acquaintance with German girls was strictly forbidden. I gave him a searching look. He stood like a lamb awaiting the slaughter. I placed myself with my back to our car and said in a very different tone: ‘Hop it as quick as you can!’

    When I returned to our car the general greeted my cheerful face with an irritable look and muttered: ‘Why didn’t you knock out his teeth for him? And you’re a front-fighter!’ To appease his injured dignity I replied: ‘It really wasn’t worth it, General. You’d already given him such a fright that he’d got his breeches full.’

    ‘You’ve got a long tongue, Major. You’re always finding excuses for getting round my orders,’ he grumbled, and nodded to Misha. ‘Drive on. But not so fast!’

    Accustomed as I was to traffic conditions in Karlshorst, and especially after I had repeatedly had to drive on to the sidewalk to avoid a pursuing lorry, I found driving through other parts of Berlin a queer experience. I was out of my element. Even along the main street you drove at a reasonable speed, and you stepped politely on the brake when a huge American truck shoved its nose out of a side street. A truck that size driven by a Russian would never have given way even to the marshal himself. But the stupid American shoved on his pneumatic brakes that groaned like an elephant, and waved his hand from his superior height: ‘Drive on.’ Wasting his gas like that! He didn’t understand the simplest of traffic and other rules: ’If you’re the stronger you have priority’.

    The numbers of victims of car accidents rose threateningly. Marshal Zhukov was forced to resort to draconian measures. When a Mercedes in which General Kurassov, the first chief of staff of the S. M. A., was driving was smashed up at a Karlshorst crossing there was a furious development of car inspections. Next day all the street crossings were decorated with red ’prohibited’ signs, traffic lights, German traffic police and motor-patrols from the Soviet Military-Automobile Inspection. It was more confusing to drive through Karlshorst than through a virgin forest.

    The problem of guarding the Soviet citizens against the corrupting influence of the capitalist West caused the Soviet authorities in Germany many a headache. Take cars again, as an example. According to Soviet dogma a private car is a bourgeois luxury. As a rule there were to be only service cars, put at the disposal of those whom the State deemed worthy of them because of rank and position. Exceptions were few and of no importance, being made chiefly for propaganda purposes. But the time of vulgar equality and brotherhood was long past. Now we had scientific socialism. He who learned his lesson well had had a service car for a long time already.

    But then a struggle set in between the ’capitalist vestiges in the communist consciousness’ and the Soviet dogma. Despite thirty years of ’re-education’, those ’capitalist vestiges’ proved to be extraordinarily tenacious and, when transferred to other conditions, flourished again in all their beauty.

    In 1945 every Soviet officer in Germany could buy a car at the price of a month’s pay. In this case the policy of ’control through the ruble’ was ineffective. So the authorities had to resort to other methods. Patrols of the Military-Automobile Inspection, armed to the teeth, combed out all the yards in Karlshorst, and searched the garages and cellars for cars whose possession was not ’licensed’. Documents showing that they had been acquired quite legally made no difference whatever. Anyone could buy a car, but who would drive it was another matter. By such radical methods officers were deprived of cars that they had purchased officially and quite regularly, but for which they had failed to obtain a license. They had to deliver their cars to the State, or have them confiscated. Expropriation as a method of socialist education!

    In 1945 any officer holding the rank of major or higher could venture to apply for permission to own a private car. From May 1946 onward only officers of colonel’s or higher rank were allowed to apply, and this practically amounted to a ban on all officers. The Germans could come to Karlshorst in their cars and call on you. But the Soviet officers often had to use streetcars when visiting Germans. ‘I’ve left my bus round the corner’ was the usual formula in such cases.

    The golden days of 1945, when the Soviet western frontier was practically non-existent, was now part of the legendary past. The majority of the champions of private property, who had nursed the hope of showing off in their ’private’ cars in their home towns, and of traveling on their own horse-power all the way from Berlin, through Poland, to the Soviet Union, had their secret wish-dreams shattered: on reaching the Soviet frontier they had to leave their cars behind, and to drag their heavy cases to the train. The import tax on a car greatly exceeded its purchase price. It might have cost 5, 000 Reichsmarks, the equivalent of 2, 500 rubles; but the customs authorities fixed the tax according to the purchase price of the corresponding Soviet machine, i. e., between 10, 000 and 12, 000 rubles, and then imposed a tax of 100 to 120 per cent of this hypothetical purchase price. Of course nobody had such a large sum in his pocket.

    His fellow travelers in the train consoled the sinner thus being brought back to the Soviet fold: ‘Don’t worry, Vania. It’s better so. It only saves you further trouble. You think it out. Supposing you arrive in Moscow. Before you can dare to register the car you’ve got to have a garage built of brick or stone, and you yourself will have to live in a timber house with accommodation of nine square yards per soul. And you’d never get a license for purchasing petrol, and buying it on the side means either bankruptcy or the clink.’

    An obviously highly experienced individual poked his head down from the upper berth of the sleeper, and rubbed balm into the late car-owner’s soul: "You thank your lucky stars you’ve got out of it so easily. There was a demobilized captain in my town-he brought back a wonderful Mercedes with him. And what happened? He’s likely to be a nervous wreck for the rest of his life. He was just an ordinary sort like you or me, not a district Soviet chairman, and not an active worker. And suddenly this quite ordinary sort of individual goes driving around in an elegant automobile. All the local leaders were peeved. And they put their heads together to think up a way of swindling the Mercedes out of him. And then he had had it! Somewhere in the district a cow was run over by a train, and he was summoned before the public prosecutor: ’Why did you kill that cow?’ Somewhere a bridge collapsed with old age; he was called to the court again: ’What did you smash that bridge for?’ Whenever some misfortune happened in the district he was charged with it: ’You did it with your auto!’

    ‘At last this comedy began to get him down, so he decided to sell his car. But that wasn’t so easy: nobody would buy it. After much worry and trouble he arranged with the head of the local Machine-Tractor Station to exchange the car against a calf and a few sacks of corn from the next harvest. But then the Party Central Committee issued a regulation ’Concerning the Squandering of the Property of Collective Farms and Machine-Tractor Stations’. The head of the Tractor Station was arrested for his past sins, and the captain didn’t dare say a word about the calf and corn he was owed. So you see how that sort of game ends? Of course you’d have been wiser to sell your car and get drunk on the proceeds. But you can’t foresee everything.’

    After this story the car-owner felt greatly relieved, and began to think he’d been rather clever to leave it at the frontier. He even started to argue that under socialist conditions the non-existence of a car was an advantage. ‘Yes, you’re right,’ he remarked. ‘It’s only unnecessary trouble. In Germany, if your car goes wrong even on a country road, you’ve only got to whistle and a German jumps out of the nearest bush and puts it right for you. But in Russia you could have a breakdown in the middle of a town and you’d be as badly off as Robinson Crusoe.’

    When he arrived home that man felt he had been fortunate in ridding himself of the burden and becoming again a full member of Soviet society.

    ‘The best thing to do with this tobacco is stuff a mattress with it.’ The captain with a bleached greatcoat and his cap pushed back on his nape flung his half-smoked German ersatz Mixture Six furiously on the ground and contemptuously crushed it into the loose sand. A group of officers was sitting at the foot of the five-yard high obelisk, hurriedly knocked up from strips of veneer and painted all over with red paint, that stood outside the S. M. A. building. The socle of the obelisk was in the shape of a five-pointed star, and was made of red-painted boards, the center being filled with sand. The officers were warming themselves in the slanting rays of the autumn sun. In Germany the sun is genial, and apparently it is accustomed to order. It never forces you to seek shade; it only warms you, pleasantly and affably.

    The officers had made themselves comfortable on the veneer star while waiting to be summoned into the staff. The years of life at the front had taught them never to be in any unnecessary hurry, and to shorten the time of waiting with cigarettes and philosophical chats.

    ‘Thank goodness the war’s over, at any rate,’ said a young artillery lieutenant dreamily. "You didn’t think much in those days: today you were alive, tomorrow you were for the Land Department or the Health Department-who cared? Only when you had a letter from your mother did it occur to you to take care of yourself. So as not to worry the old people.

    ‘Yesterday I was sitting in the little square opposite the ’Capitol’,’ he went on. ‘There’s a marble woman stands there with a small mound at her feet, and on it is a little stick with a tricoloured flag. I asked some passing Germans: ’What’s all that?’ and they told me a Frenchman was buried there. Just where he fell, poor devil, there they buried him in the middle of the street. A rotten spot; I’d far rather be buried in a field, where there’s grass growing and the wind blowing. But that Frenchman isn’t allowed a moment’s rest. On 7 November our Pioneers had a fireworks display on that very spot in honor of the revolution. They buried six-inch shell cases in the earth and began such a firing that half Berlin was stood on its head. The Germans thought war had broken out again and Karlshorst was being bombed.’

    The lieutenant enjoyed talking, and he went on: ‘Yes, you can say what you like. It’s better on top than under the earth. I’m sorry for those who have to lie underneath. They say there used to be a memorial to the Unknown Soldier somewhere in Berlin. Fire burned everlastingly in front of it and in the roof above was a round hole and you could see the blue sky through it. And when you went inside you felt as though you were midway between this world and the next. That’s where the Germans soothed their consciences over those who had fallen in the fields and forests. And any mother who went there could think the fire was burning for her son. They say they’ve got a similar idea in Paris. So they haven’t forgotten the little Frenchman lying opposite the ’Capitol’.’

    An older captain, who had been only half listening, was interested in this theme and commented: "There are lots of strange things in this country. You’ll find a memorial to fallen soldiers even in the smallest of villages. And none of your veneer rubbish, but a real memorial; as you look at it you feel you’ve got to take off your cap. Made of granite or unhewn stone, the soldiers’ names carved in it, all overgrown with moss, and a spring with waters gurgling just by it. Great people, these Germans! They even make the dead comfortable.

    ‘There was a memorial in the little town where I worked in the commandatura,’ he continued. ‘It was in the shape of a large stone ball, probably to represent the earth, with a dying soldier spread out over it, with his face turned to the ball, his arms out-stretched, his hands clawing into the ground as though he were trying to embrace all the world. Our political commissar wanted the commandant to have it blown up, he said it was military propaganda. The commandant looked at him and said: ’Listen, commissar! You devote your attention to the living, and leave the dead in peace. Understand?’’

    The lieutenant agreed: ‘Yes, the Germans know how to respect their dead. One day I happened to drive on my motorbike into a cemetery, and I felt ashamed. It was so tidy, it suggested everlasting peace. But in Russia the only time I visited the cemetery was to strip zinc from the coffins. All the graves were opened, and the dead lay arse upward. And there were scoundrels fleecing the dead, because you could get more off the dead than the living, I had to go there to get hold of zinc for accumulators,’ he explained in self-justification.

    A third officer, who had a strong pair of spectacles with thick lenses on his nose, and a shock of curly hair on his head, joined in the conversation. You’ll always find someone who must take the opposite side of a question. He smiled: "That’s all bosh! In my hometown of Gorky the dead are cared for as well as anyone. Why, they’ve even made a dance floor.

    ‘Whom for?’ the lieutenant asked. ‘For everybody, living and dead.’ The others looked at him dubiously and expectantly. He explained: "There was a cemetery in the center of the town. The Town Soviet ordered that it was to be turned into a park. And so it was done, in accordance with all the rules of science and technique. The cemetery was ploughed up and a Park of Culture and Recreation named after Sverdlov was made of the site, with a dance-floor and other amusements. And the whole town called the park ’The Club of the Living and the Dead.’ The daughters dance a fox-trot on their fathers’ bones. But the old women cross themselves as they go by: ‘0, Jesu! Jesu!’’

    ‘A similar sort of thing happened in Rostov, where I come from,’ said the lieutenant. ‘They built a new theater there, the Maxim Gorky. The plans provided for the front of the building to be faced with white marble. They looked around to see where they could get the marble from, and decided to put a tax on the dead. All over the district of Rostov they took down the white marble monuments and lined the theater front with marble plates.’

    ‘Yes, it’s a fine theater, but its acoustics are rotten. I was in it once,’ said the officer with the shock of hair.

    ‘When it was finished everybody concerned with the building of it was arrested,’ the lieutenant explained. ‘It was an extraordinary thing, but you could hear better in the gallery than in the front row of the stalls. Of course they blamed the builders: sabotage. But the people whispered among themselves that it was the dead playing a trick.’

    The captain spat into the sand. The lieutenant thrust his next lot of Mixture Six into the sand, rose, stretched himself luxuriously, and tidied his tunic. The officers, thoughtfully, did not throw their cigarette ends and litter on the green grass, but thrust them into the sand of the star socle.

    They would have been not a little shocked if the earth had opened in front of them and the indignant spirit of their former supreme commander, the hero of the drive into Berlin and the city’s first Soviet commandant, Guards’ Colonel-General Bersarin, had risen from his grave beneath the littered sand and the peeling veneer. Neither the Soviet officers, nor the German workers who hung hopelessly around the staff headquarters, suspected that the nameless red construction which disfigured the yard, offending the eye with its lack of taste, was a memorial raised over a grave, that it was intended to honor the memory of the Soviet hero who played a part only second to Marshal Zhukov in the battle for Berlin.

    There was an absurd turn of Fate for you! To go unscathed right through the war on the most dangerous sections of the front and at the head of an army breaking through all resistance, to survive to see the victorious end, to enter the conquered metropolis as a conqueror crowned with fame, and then literally the next day to be the victim of a stupid traffic accident!

    General Bersarin had the habit of going for a motorcycle ride every morning. In a sports shirt with short sleeves, coatless and hatless, he drove a powerful German motorcycle out of a side street into the main Treptow-Allee, which runs to Karlshorst. A heavily loaded column of military Studebakers was driving along the Treptow-Allee at full speed. No one ever knew whether the general was affected by that sporting daring which possesses most motor-cyclists, or whether it was just an accident. In any case, he tried to dash between two of the speeding lorries. The driver who went over him swore at first at the fool who had torn right under his wheels; then, when he saw the general’s insignia, he drew his pistol and shot himself. It is not known where the driver is buried, but probably he is resting more peacefully than General Bersarin.

    During the early days after the victory we were reminded at every step of those who had won that victory. Once Major Dubov and I were taking a walk through side streets not far from the Kurfurstendam in the British sector. It was Sunday; the streets were deserted. We just felt like wandering around and plunging for a few moments into the real Germany as we had imagined it before the war: quiet, clean, and orderly.

    The broad streets were lined with trees. Like archaeologists, we attempted to discover and reconstruct the pre-war Berlin in the ruins all about us. Not the ’dens of the fascist monsters’, as it had been presented to us and thought of by us during the past few years. We wanted to see the city and the people who for many of us were a genuine symbol of culture before they began to be dominated by megalomania.

    We came to a little shady island at the intersection of three streets. Under the spreading boughs of chestnut trees two mounds had found shelter in a fraternal community in the middle of this chaotic ocean of the enormous city. Struck by the uncommon sight, we went closer. At the heads were two plaited crosses of birch bark. On one of them was a German steel helmet, on the other a Soviet helmet. A Soviet helmet! All around the unbridled passions of the world were raging; but here.... The living should follow the example of the dead.

    Apparently, when the street-fighting ended the people of the neighboring houses found the two bodies at the corner and buried them as best they could, in the shade of the chestnut trees. Respect for the dead was stronger than earthly hate.

    Suddenly I noticed something which caused an inexplicable, almost painful feeling to rise in my breast. The major had noticed it too. Fresh flowers! On both mounds lay fresh flowers, put there by a kindly hand. As though at a word of command we took off our caps, then we exchanged glances. The major’s eyes went moist, heavy puckers gathered round his mouth. He took out his handker-chief and wiped his brow, which was suddenly damp with sweat.

    ‘Our first thought was to raze all the German cemeteries to the ground,’ he said in a thick voice, ‘Damn this war and whoever invented it!’ he added quietly, after a moment.

    An old woman walking with a child not far from us stopped to stare inquisitively at the Russian officers, rare visitors to this part of the city.

    ‘Who put those flowers on the graves?’ The major turned to her. His voice was sharp and cold, as though he were giving a battle order.

    She pointed to a house; we went up its half-ruined steps. The elderly German woman who opened the door to us started back in alarm when she saw the crimson bands on our caps. A twilit corridor, a neglected home, with none of the usual comfort to be seen, and obviously lacking several of its former inhabitants.

    The major waved his hand to reassure her. ‘We saw the flowers on the graves. Did you put them there?’

    The woman had not recovered from her fright and she had no idea what the question was leading up to. She answered irresolutely: ‘Yes... I thought....’ She nervously gripped her hands together under her apron.

    The major took out his letter-case and laid all the money it contained-several thousand marks-on the table without counting it.

    ‘Go on laying flowers there,’ he said. Then he added: ‘On both graves.’

    He spread a sheet of notepaper with the Soviet crest and the S. M. A. address on the table and wrote: ’In the name of the Red Army I order all soldiers and officers to give Frau... every help and support.’ He signed it and gave it to the astonished woman. ‘If you have anything to do with Russians, this paper will help you,’ he said. Then he looked round the empty room and asked, as though he had just thought of something else: ‘Tell me, have you a husband or a son?’

    ‘My husband and one son fell at the front. My second son is a prisoner of war,’ she answered.

    ‘Where?’ he asked curtly.

    She hesitated a moment, then whispered: ‘In Russia.’

    He looked at the standard prisoner-of-war postcard, which she held out to him, and noted down the name and the field-post number of the prisoner-of-war camp.

    ‘I shall write to the camp commandant and the higher authorities. I’ll intercede for his earlier release,’ he turned and said to me.

    I had come to know Major Dubov while still at the front. He had been head of the Reconnaissance Department of the divisional staff, and he had had to screen the prisoners. If he saw the S. S. death’s head emblem on a prisoner’s cap, he knew that the man had dozens of men’s lives on his conscience, and did not hesitate to send him as one of a special group to the rear, though he knew their lives would end beyond the next turn in the road.

    In the street, pigeons were strutting about the pavement; they politely made way for us, like equals with equals. The full September sun streamed down on the lindens and chestnuts of Berlin, the leaves rustled quietly. Life went on. Life is stronger than death. And life is particularly good when there is no hate in the heart, when a man feels minded to do some good to other men, whether living or dead.

    During the first few months of my work in Karlshorst I was not greatly interested in the surrounding world. I had to work hard, and left Karlshorst only on duty. I forgot the very existence of the calendar on my desk, and when I did remember it I turned over a whole week at a time.

    One Sunday I awoke at the sound of the alarm clock and sprang out of bed as usual. The flowers and trees of the garden were brilliant through the wide-open window, purple plums showed ripely between green leaves. The morning sun streamed down, playing merrily on the walls of my bedroom. The quiet, inviolable peace of the Sunday morning filled my entire small house. The clang of the neighboring church bell rolled through the air. The clear morning air poured into my room, and cooled my hot skin and refreshed my body. I felt like doing something. I wandered aimlessly from room to room. Today I had got entirely to myself. What should I do with it?

    Suddenly I was overcome by a strange feeling: where was I in such a hurry to get to? A man goes on treading the treadmill all his life without stopping to think about it. But if he does stop to think, then he wonders why one is always in a hurry. Most men only recognize that when it is too late.

    Recently I had got hold of a German propaganda pamphlet, ’In God’s own Country’, in which they poked fun at America and the Americans. They were particularly sarcastic about the rate at which the Americans lived, and their everlasting pursuit of the dollar, of success. ’Your luck’s just round the corner.’ The American tore at full pelt to the corner in the hope of finding his luck. But he found only a vacuum. On the other hand, there were plenty of other corners. And so on all through life.

    On this count I’m with the Germans. But how can one learn the art of enjoying life?

    I took a cigarette from my bronze casket, lay down on my couch and stared at the ceiling. There wasn’t a single fly on that ceiling. What a queer country! You never saw any flies.

    I got up and fidgeted with the electric coffeepot, then went out on to the balcony, stretched myself in a deck chair and lit another cigarette. But after a few minutes I was seized with a deadly bore-dom. In the end I seated myself at my desk and prepared to write letters. I thought with longing of Moscow, and imagined what the people there were doing at that particular moment.

    Just then I heard noisy footsteps in the next room, behind my back. Without turning round I called: ‘Who’s there?’

    ‘Ha-ha-ha!’ There was a roar of laughter behind me. ‘Just look at the way they live here!’

    I turned round. Mikhail Belyavsky was standing at the double doors, and Valia Grinchuk’s fair head appeared over his shoulder. They were both roaring with laughter at the sight of me: I was sitting in nothing but a pair of trunks, with shoes on my sockless feet.

    I hurried to my bedroom, returning fully dressed a minute or two later. ‘How did you get here, Misha?’ I asked, still astonished at this unexpected visit.

    ‘We arrived yesterday. A whole group of us from the college. We’ve been sent here to help you out.’

    ‘How are things in Moscow, and what’s the latest news?’ I asked.

    ‘What news would you expect? Now Germany is all the rage. Everybody in the college dreams of being sent to Germany to work.’ He looked about the room. ‘Yes, you can live here! You’ve already got used to it, so you no longer notice the difference.’

    ‘Do tell me something about Moscow,’ I pleaded.

    ‘Oh, you read the papers!’ he replied evasively. ‘I’m glad I’ve got away from it. I’d rather you told us how things are here.’

    ‘You’ll soon see for yourselves. How would you like to go in to Berlin today? We’ll plunge into the thick of its life.’

    ‘That’s just what Valia and I were wanting to do. That’s why we came to haul you out of it.’

    ‘Well, then, let’s go!’ I exclaimed.

    We left Karlshorst just before midday and took the streetcar for the city center.

    The Reichstag. At one time we Russians regarded this massive building rising against the background of the Brandenburg Gate as the symbol of Hitler’s Reich. ’To the German people’ was inscribed in gold letters above the entrance to this enormous gray mass. Today those words could only seem like a malicious sneer to the Germans. The windows were walled up with bricks, with loopholes in between; the smoky traces of fire played over the walls. Inside, great heaps of scorched brick, puddles of stinking green water; the blue sky showed through the shattered dome. The wind blew about scraps of paper with black eagles printed on them. Half-used machine-gun belts, cartridge cases; gas masks.

    On the walls, innumerable inscriptions: ’Ivan Sidorchuk, of Kuchevka; 14. 5. 1945.’ ’Simon Vaillant, Paris; 5. 7. 1945.’ ’John D. Willis, Chicago; 23. 7. 1945.’ Frequently one could not think how the writer had reached the inaccessible point on which he had written his name in order to leave his everlasting mark in history. The inscriptions were written with coal, ash, pencil, and chalk. One inscription, scratched with a bayonet point by one of the Reichstag defenders, read like the last cry of a drowning man: ’Heil Hitler!’ On the opposite wall, carefully painted with oil paint, were the words: ’Here did Sergeant Kostya of Odessa shit.’

    Truly, the atmosphere of the place reminded one of certain well-known lines in Heine’s poem: ’Germany’. Evidently the Reichstag was being used by quite a number of people as a public lavatory these days. Certainly an instructive historical memorial!

    Between the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, among the ruins of past glories, a new life was seething. Here was the inter-national black market. Looking about them anxiously, surreptitiously, Germans were selling umbrellas, shoes, and old clothes. The Russians were interested mainly in watches, and offered cigarettes, bread, and occupation notes in exchange. An American jeep pulled up not far from us. Without getting out, the negro soldiers in it began a lively trade: in chocolates, cigarettes soap. They emptied their packs, laughing all over their faces, and looked about them. One of them noticed us, and whispered something to his companion. Then he turned to us with a lively gesture, apparently inviting me to buy something. ‘What?’ I asked.

    He took an enormous army Colt from under his seat and raised two fingers: two thousand. I shook my head. So he pointed to the pistol hanging at my belt and asked the price. To the Allies’ obvious surprise I explained that it was not for sale.

    ‘What are you selling, then?’ the negro asked in businesslike tones.

    ‘Nothing,’ I replied.

    ‘Then what are you buying? Would you like a jeep?’ He slapped his hand on the seat of his car. I only laughed.

    A Soviet military patrol came along: two soldiers with red armbands, carrying automatics. Not far away a feeble old man was selling newspapers. He had enormous shoes on his feet, and he had difficulty in moving, either because he was weak or because of those awkward shoes. As the patrol approached him he held out his hand to beg, and smacked his shriveled lips: ‘Comrade, papyros’ (cigarette). One of the soldiers, who evidently thought he was beginning to be a nuisance, took the old man deliberately by the collar and pushed him aside. But he had overestimated the man’s powers of resistance. The beggar went sprawling like a sack into the road, leaving his enormous shoes behind him, while his newspapers scattered fanwise on the stones.

    Before Belyavsky could open his mouth to reprimand the soldier the man again seized the old fellow by the collar and hauled him up, to set him on his feet. He was rough, but there was no malice in his manner; rather was it a mixture of disgust and chagrin. He had not expected his push to have such an effect. The old man hung in his arms like a sack, lacking the strength to keep his feet.

    ‘Let him be! Come along!’ the second patrol said.

    ‘Wait! You bloody Fritz!’ the man scolded roughly, to cover his own embarrassment. ‘You, Fritz, hungry?’ The old man had sunk to the pavement again, and the patrol nudged him with his foot. But the beggar made no answer. ‘He’ll die anyway,’ the soldier grumbled, and looked around as though seeking something.

    A Russian girl in sergeant’s uniform happened to come along, carrying a satchel. It contained several dozen packets of cigarettes wrapped in cloth. Under her arm was a loaf of bread, also destined for exchange.

    The patrol reached for the loaf, snarling: ‘Don’t you know it’s forbidden to trade here?’

    The girl vanished in terror into the crowd, leaving the loaf in the soldier’s hand. He turned back to the old man, who was still sitting on the sidewalk. People standing round had gathered up his papers and put them in a pile beside him.

    ‘Here, Fritz!’ The soldier held out the loaf to him. But the man only blinked, as though blind. The patrol swore at him again, stuck the loaf in the newspaper bag, which was tied to the old fellow’s waist, and went off.

    We were amazed at the crowds of old men and women in the streetcars and on the streets. They were neatly dressed, the passers-by treated them with respect, gave up their seats to them in the cars, helped them across the road.

    ‘Ah, those godly women!’ Belyavsky sighed as he noticed two old women in neat black dresses with white collars get out of a streetcar. ‘In Russia they’ve given up all their souls to God long since. By way of natural selection.’

    What we were seeing was not any novelty to us. We knew a man should show respect for the aged. Not only did we know it, but we ourselves felt the need to behave like that. And yet we could not but admit that we had grown rough, we had forgotten how to be courteous and obliging in our relations with others. Existence forms the consciousness, so dialectical materialism proclaims. Soviet existence has changed old people into a burden and has made the corresponding dialectical adjustments in our consciousness.

    Later, as we came to know conditions in Germany more intimately, we realized that though the German social insurance seemed so small, it always assured a living minimum in the form of pensions and pay, it enabled the old people to live out their days in human conditions. In the Soviet Union old-age pensions are a completely fictitious concept. In practice a man can live only if he works, or if his children support him. And who can expect support from his children when they themselves have nothing?

    We saw many convalescent Soviet soldiers from Berlin hospitals roving around. Many of them were engaged in speculative activities, some of them did not stop at robbery in broad daylight. One man snatched something and fled into the ruins, while his companions used their crutches and sticks to cover his retreat. The war-wounded were embittered and rancorous, many of them were tipsy and ready for a fight. The Germans feared them like the plague, and even Russians kept out of their way if possible.

    What I have just said about old-age pensions in Russia is also true of war pensions. They are too much for death, too little for life. And yet in return we must show our gratitude. ’Our happiness is so boundless that one cannot describe it’, as one of our songs puts it. In conquered Germany the war-wounded of a lost war get higher pensions than those of the victor country. Paradoxical, but true.

    There are many children to be seen in the streets of Berlin. Even in the first world war, but still more in the second, the Germans attached great importance to the birth statistics. Ludendorff and Hitler did all they could to avoid any fall in the birth-rate during the wars, and that, and not humanity, is the main reason why the German soldiers were given regular home leave. The results strike the eye.

    The sight seemed strange to us, for during the war years infants were an uncommon occurrence in the Soviet Union. The Red Army men never had leave during the war. In due course the Soviet leaders will be faced with a serious problem, for in the years 1941 to 1945 the birth statistics dropped almost to zero. That will have its effect when those years are called up for military service.

    Berlin lay in ruins. But out of the ruins new life was reaching up to the light. That new life is particularly striking when seen against that background of dead ruins. Man’s will to live is stronger than the forces of destruction. We were astonished by the numerous florists’ shops in the dead streets. The burnt-out carcass of a building rises to the sky, surrounded by a dead sea of ruin. And in the midst of this joyless world, the brilliant colors of innocent flowers smile at us from the ground-floor windows.

    We returned to Karlshorst late in the evening; we were tired and dusty. During the following days I frequently met Belyavsky and Valia. He had been appointed to a post in the Air Force Directorate of the Control Commission, while she worked in the private office of Marshal Zhukov, the commander-in chief of the S. M. A. They were both very glad they had been able to remain in the capital and had not been posted to the provinces.

    In Moscow I had known Valia only as a fellow student. But here, far from one’s intimate circle of friends, she suddenly became dear and precious to me as a part of that for which I was yearning, as a part of Moscow and all it signified. In Valia I found an unusual quality which made me value her friendship highly: she was a true child of nature, untouched by the filth of life. She said what she thought, and she acted on what she said.

    A Sunday or two later Belyavsky and Valia again called on me. As I looked at him I was not a little astonished. I saw a very elegant young man in irreproachable light coffee-colored civilian dress. A dazzling tie and a brilliant felt hat completed the transformation. Hitherto I had seen him only in uniform.

    ‘What are you all togged up for?’ I whistled and examined him from all sides.

    ‘I want to go to the Opera, but Valia doesn’t. So I’ve decided to entrust her to your care.’

    ‘Really, Misha, the more I get to know you the more convinced I am that you’re a fine fellow! You’ve brought Valia along to me and now you’re going to vanish. Have you ever known such a disinterested friend, Valia?’

    I tried to persuade him to drive with us through the city, but he was as immovable as a rock. ‘My legs are still aching after last Sunday,’ he declared.

    The day was unusually sunny and warm. We put Belyavsky down in Friedrichstrasse and decided to go for a drive out of the city. To right and left of us historical relics of the past went by like museum pieces: Unter den Linden, a great name, now lined with ruins, and not a trace of green. The trees of the Tiergarten, shattered with shells and bombs, littered with the wrecked and rusting carcasses of aeroplanes. The Siegessaule, with the faded gold of its angel, the symbol of the victories and glories of 1871. Before us stretched the broad and straight East-West Axis.

    Berlin had its own aspect. The aspect of the capital of the Reich. The stones of Berlin are trodden with history. Germany gave the world dozens of men whose names are precious to every civilized being. The street nameplates testify to that: Mozartstrasse, Humboldtstrasse, Kantstrasse.

    Before us rose the Grunewald. Valia looked about her, then she leaned her head against the leather back of the seat and looked up into the sky, which hung over us like a blue dome, and remarked: ‘D’you know what, Grisha?’ “Yes?”

    ‘Somehow the sun shines differently here....’ “How d’you mean?”

    ‘I can’t explain it myself. I feel strangely different here. Tell me, don’t you feel it?’

    ‘It’s the feeling of the conqueror, Valia. That’s why the sun seems different too.’

    ‘It’s beautiful here,’ she said dreamily. ‘I have such a longing for a peaceful life. I often feel I could throw off this uniform and simply live for the sake of living....’ “What’s preventing you?”

    ‘I sometimes feel sorry I’m in uniform. It had to be during the war; but now... I want to be free.... How can I explain it to you?’

    ‘Explain it to someone else!’ I smiled. ‘And let me give you some good advice: don’t forget that here is the S. M. A. That forest is darker and more dangerous than your partisan forests. Otherwise you’ll feed the gray wolves yet. Get that?’

    She looked at me fixedly, was silent for a while, then said in a quiet, earnest tone:

    ‘You see, Grisha, often I feel so lonely; I’ve got nobody I can talk to. I love everything that’s good, and there’s so little of it in our world.’

    Before us the gray arrow of the river Avus cut through the autumn glory of the Grunewald. I took my foot off the accelerator, the car rolled slowly to a halt. The golden autumn extended all around us in a sluggish languor. The distance danced hazily in the sunlight, it slowly came to meet us.

    ‘Tell me, what are you thinking of?’ she whispered.

    ‘I’m thinking which way to take, left or right. The Wannsee must be somewhere around here.’

    The Wannsee is one of the largest lakes in the vicinity of Berlin. Its banks are lined with fine, large villas, the former residences of the wealthiest inhabitants of the capital. And here, too, was the largest and most modern of Berlin’s bathing beaches.

    We drove round the lake. It was quiet, almost deserted. The stones of the road were all but hidden under a thickly strewn carpet of leaves. To right and left fences overgrown with green, gates standing wide open, empty villas abandoned by their owners. Some had fled to the West before the Red Army’s advance; others had been transferred to other dwellings in the neighborhood, former wooden barracks for foreign workers. I turned the car in through the open gate of a particularly fine villa. Antlers that once had adorned the master’s room lay on the graveled drive; on the steps of the main entrance the wind was turning over papers bleached with rain.

    Below, by the waterside, was a small platform paved with square tiles, bridges from which to fish, and moorings for boats. Close by was the rusting shell of a boathouse.

    We got out and wandered through the garden. High above us century-old trees were murmuring. In between were trenches with caving walls, entangled rolls of barbed wire, cartridge cases. Higher up was a villa with a red-tiled roof, and draped with the colorful autumn attire of a wild vine.

    ‘Let’s have a look at the house,’ I suggested.

    The wind was blowing through the rooms. The boards creaked underfoot. Gas masks, remnants of furniture, cans of conserves were littered about. Upstairs we found the former master’s study. Faded heaps of photographs were lying on the floor, among them the features of bewhiskered men in high, stiff collars. These people could never have suspected that some day Russian officers’ boots would tread on their portraits.

    ‘Let’s get out, Grisha!’ Valia tugged at my arm. ‘It isn’t good to walk in a strange house.’

    After the twilight indoors the sun streaming on to the balcony dazzled more than usual. Below us extended the lightly crinkled surface of the great lake. Stirred by a gentle breeze, the reeds swayed and nodded down to the water. The wind sighed through the crowns of the trees. A dead picture of the collapse of human hopes behind us, and everlasting, inextinguishable life at our feet.

    Valia and I stood silent on the balcony. After the stony chaos of Berlin the peace and stillness of the Grunewald made a deep impression on her. Her face was overcast, as though she had a headache. Her breast rose and fell spasmodically, as though she lacked air..

    ‘Tell me, Grisha, what is happiness?’ she asked without turning to me.

    ‘Happiness? Happiness is man’s ability to be content with what he has.’

    ‘But when he has nothing at all?’

    She turned her face to me. Her eyes were serious, they looked at me searchingly, and they demanded an answer. A furrow clove her forehead between her eyebrows.

    I was silent; I didn’t know what to answer

    A man who is released after a long spell of prison cannot get used to freedom at first; he has a fear of space. There is even a special term for this: aerophobia. We, too, had that same sort of feeling during the early days of our stay in occupied Germany.

    In 1945 we had unrestricted freedom, we could openly visit the sectors held by our Western Allies. Twelve months later we had only the memory of those days. But meanwhile all the allied soldiers’ and officers’ clubs in the western sectors were open to us; we were always treated as welcome guests. To our shame it must be admitted that the guests often behaved in such a way that the hosts were forced to be more prudent.

    The following story was often told in Karlshorst. One day, a Soviet soldier traveling through Berlin got lost, and wandered by mistake into an American barracks. The Americans were delighted at this rare visit and made the mortally terrified Ivan welcome, relieving him of his pack. What else can a Soviet soldier have in his pack but a loaf of black bread and a couple of leg-rags? So the Americans made Ivan sit down at the table, and gave him such a quantity of good things to eat and drink, as he could never even have dreamed about, and persuaded him to spend the night in the barracks. Some versions add that they even provided him with a sleeping partner. Next morning they stuffed his pack full with all kinds of overseas delicacies and saw him to the barrack gates.

    Many of the narrators say that he applied to be taken into the American army. They all swear by God and all the saints that they personally met this Ivan right outside the gate of the American barracks.

    We were all struck by the fact that the Allies were far better equipped than the Soviet soldiers, and enjoyed much more personal freedom. Our officers who worked in the Control Commission used to remark with a smile that the American soldiers smoked the same cigarettes as their generals. In the Red Army, soldiers, non-commissioned officers, officers and generals are allotted various kinds of tobacco or cigarettes according to their rank. This is in token of their general equality and brotherhood.

    At first we lived as though on a forgotten island. As we were all ’living abroad’, we were not subject to any form of Soviet taxation, not once were we bothered with the voluntary state loans that one cannot avoid subscribing to in the Soviet Union. And-something that was completely incomprehensible-we were even freed from political instruction and study of the great and wise book which feeds up every Soviet human being, the Short Course of History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks).

    Stalin committed the greatest of errors when he allowed Soviet citizens to see Europe, and on the other hand showed Europe Soviet conditions. The Soviet personnel began to take a much more critical view of what was going on behind them in the Soviet Union. And as the West came to recognize the true features of Stalinist Communism, it lost a large part of its illusions and was cured of certain rosy intentions.

    The first few months of the occupation were of great significance. In the midst of the chaos of shattered Germany, in the midst of ruined Berlin, in the life of the people who yesterday had been our enemies, we saw things that at first only amazed us. But then we gradually began to understand them aright and our views of things were modified in accordance.

    We had to overcome the enmity we felt for everything connected with the name of Germany. We had to seek new standards of measurement. But meanwhile, out of the dust and rubble left from the long years of the Hitler regime, the total war and the unconditional capitulation, we were able to reconstruct the normal life of the Germans, and of Europe generally, only with difficulty.

    The Soviet personnel were amazed at the astonishingly high living standards of the average western man. The words uttered by a Soviet soldier when he saw the home of a European worker: ‘Are you a capitalist?’, became proverbial among us. During the years of the occupation the Soviet soldier began to give these words an inverse application to his own life. Every Soviet citizen who has seen Europe is lost to the Soviet regime. He continues, like a wound-up piece of clockwork, to perform his functions, but the poison of his recognition of the truth has not left him unscathed.

    As the years pass the impressions of those early days will be erased. Everything will seem more ordinary, the contradictions will lose their sharpness, and men will grow accustomed to them. Others will replace the front-line soldiers and officers who formed the backbone of the occupation forces. And when they return to their homeland it will be difficult for them to share their impressions of Germany with others. Who wants ten years for ’anti-Soviet agitation’?

    Our first meeting with our conquered enemy opened our eyes to many things; we began to recognize our place in the world. We felt our strength and our weakness. In the light of subsequent experiences the impressions of the first post-war months are seen as a distinct phase in the life of the Soviet occupation troops. It was a kind of transient period of post-war democracy. Nobody else in the Soviet Union was as conscious of the victory as we, the men of the occupation forces. We looked victory in the face; we sunned our-selves in its light.

    Simultaneously the victory and our encounter with the West aroused old doubts and engendered new ones. In their turn these doubts strengthened our desire, our longing and hope for something different, for something that differed from what we had known before the war. In the rays of victory we lived in hope of a better future.

    That short period of post-war democracy allowed us to have this hope. That can be understood only in retrospect.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 04

    The Rational Basis

    In the spring of 1945 one of the officers studying at the college was the victim of an extraordinary, an idiotic incident. He had just graduated from the last course of the Japanese Department, and had already been nominated to a senior post in the foreign service; in addition, he was happily married. He seemed to be on the threshold of a brilliant future. And yet...

    Two of the college buildings fronted on to the street, with a gap of some fifty yards between them. An ordinary fence blocked this gap, and General Biyasi, who took great pride in the outward appearance not only of the students but also of his buildings, ordered the old fence to be taken down and one more worthy of the college erected. When the old fence was taken down the students found they had a very convenient route through to the car-stop on the street, whereas previously it had been necessary to make a considerable detour to leave by the main door.

    As a result, all the college began to come and go through the ’new gateway’. When the general discovered what was happening he had a one-man guard posted at the gap, giving him the strict command that nobody was to be allowed to pass through. But how can one man be expected to hold a fifty-yard front against an entire college, his own comrades into the bargain? So the general sent for the guard and personally gave him a dressing-down, threatening him with the clink.

    “But what am I to do, General?” the man pleaded. “Shoot?”

    “Of course! A guard post is sacred. You know your service regulations,” General Biyasi answered.

    At the close of studies for the day a crowd of officers once more poured through the gap. The guard shouted and threatened them till he was hoarse. In vain. But in the distance the general’s tubby form was to be seen on a tour of inspection. At that very moment the ’Japanese’ captain was passing the guard, taking no notice of his shouts.

    “Halt!” the man shouted desperately.

    The captain went on his way, apparently sunken in thought.

    “Halt, or I’ll fire!” the guard roared again.

    The captain went on; but the general steadily drew closer.

    Almost frantic, the guard threw up his rifle and shot without taking aim. It was four in the afternoon, the street was crowded with people, and the man was so agitated that if he had taken deliberate aim he would almost certainly have missed. But now the captain dropped to the sidewalk with a bullet through his head. During the war he had not spent one day at the front, he had never heard the whistle of a bullet; but a few days after the war had ended he was struck down by a comrade’s deadly bullet, in a Moscow street.

    Of course nothing happened to the guard. Although the affair was really scandalous, the general sent him a message expressing his gratitude for ’exemplary performance of his duty’. In such cases the guard is free from blame. The army regulation says on this point: ’When on guard it is better to shoot someone who is innocent than to miss an enemy.’

    This incident involuntarily turned ray thoughts to reflections on fate. ’No man can avoid his destiny,’ our forefathers used to say. We don’t believe that any more; or rather, we have been taught not to believe it. Then there is more room for belief in the leader.

    At that moment I had every reason to reflect on my destiny. I had finished the college course, and was standing on the threshold of a new phase in my life. I saw clearly the crossroads that lay before me, but I saw even more clearly that once I had set out along any one of those roads there could be no turning back. At the moment I had at least some possibility of choice, so I must give ample thought to the choice.

    Recently I had heard rumors that I was being considered as a candidate for a teaching post at the college. One could not have had a more brilliant prospect. Practically speaking, that represented the finest opportunity a graduate could have. The teaching staff was in a continual state of flux, for it constituted an immediate reserve for the army General Staff, which always gave close consideration to the claims of college staff when there were special tasks to be performed abroad.

    Today one might be sent to somewhere in Europe, tomorrow to America. Truly, the chosen individual usually went as an unassuming auxiliary member of an impressive delegation, but he always had independent and responsible special commissions to execute. And on return to Moscow he reported not to the civil authorities who had sent the delegation, but to the corresponding department of the General Staff.

    Only a short time before, one of the college staff had been sent on a round tour of Czechoslovakia, Austria, and other countries of central Europe. He had gone as an ’interpreter’ for a world-famous Soviet botanist, a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. It is easy enough to guess what sort of plants the professor had in mind to bring home with the aid of such an ’interpreter’, and who was principal and who subordinate.

    Once attached to the college staff, one was at the starting point of many highly promising paths. The staff was very well informed on the backstairs questions of the General Staff. And personal understandings, patronage, connections, played a great part. In such a post one could always bring unobtrusive influence to bear. In a few words, membership of the college staff was the surest start to a career of which the majority of the students could only dream.

    When I first heard that I was being considered for such a prospect I had decidedly mixed feelings. On the one hand, it meant life in Moscow, mingling in the new leading circles, the broadest of possibilities, an extensive field of activity, alluring prospects. But... There was a very weighty ’but’. That road led in one direction. One glance back or aside and you were finished. If you wished to travel that road, you must be completely free from inner conflict and possess perfect faith in the rightness of what you were doing.

    Of course there are substitutes for these things: hypocrisy, careerism, lack of principle in the choice of means. I was an educational product of the Stalin era and had had ample opportunity to see that in the Soviet Union these substitutes played a fundamental role. And yet, could I be satisfied with them? I was not a naive youngster, nor was I a philanthropist: I could justify the application of dubious means in order to achieve a higher end. But before I could do so in this case I had to be perfectly sure that the final goal was beyond criticism. And, despite my own personal desires, I did not feel that surety.

    After the jubilant days of victory the atmosphere in Moscow had grown gray and monotonous. A fresh breeze was blowing in Europe; a great historical transformation was being accomplished there. College students who returned from short official journeys to the west had interesting things to report. It would do me, too, no harm to get to know the patient I would be called upon to cure.

    For me, personally, the best thing would be to be sent to one of the European occupied countries. There, in a new environment, in lands where we had gained the victory, in creative work I could recover my shaken equilibrium and return to Moscow full of confidence, full of faith. In any case, I would still be part of the General Staff Reserve.

    These reflections provided the stimulus to a conversation I had with Lieutenant-Colonel Taube.

    Professor Baron von Taube was one of Colonel Gorokhov’s deputies in the Educational Department. In the college he was regarded as a kind of museum piece, and yet, because of his extraordinary range of knowledge, and his capacities, he was irreplaceable. Despite his compromising ’von’, his name carried weight and his word was quite often of decisive significance. The students regarded him as an extremely cultivated man, a practical and observant officer and teacher, with whom one could talk openly.

    Besides Lieutenant-Colonel Taube, Major-General Ignatiev, too, had a good name in the college. In his youth he had been a page to the last tsar, and then had studied at the tsarist General Staff Academy; later he had been tsarist military attaché in Paris for many years. After the revolution he remained abroad quite a long time as an émigré, but in the ’thirties, for unknown reasons, he took the road to Canossa. His memoirs, Fifty Years in the Ranks, enjoyed a great success among the students.

    Now the former Guards officer. Count Ignatiev, was wearing a general’s uniform again, and had been appointed historian of the Red Army. Naturally, he was not trusted, and his chief task was to proclaim the Soviet regime’s tolerance towards repentant sinners. In his memoirs he gave a vague reason for his return, but in Moscow it was openly said that he had got tired of washing dishes in Paris restaurants.

    During the last year or so of the war a number of more or less well-known émigrés had returned to the Soviet Union. For instance, the once famous writer Kuprin had recently arrived in Moscow. It is said that when he walked out of the railway station he put down his case and knelt to bow his head to his native earth in sight of all the people. When he got up he found his case had vanished.

    Only recently, Belyavsky and I had heard a concert given by Alexander Vertinsky. His public appearance was quite unexpected, and most people were delighted, regarding it as confirmation of a new, liberal course in governmental policy. It is true that he could appear only at small clubs in the suburbs. But the very fact that he could appear was more important and more pleasant than his performance. A smell of morphine came from the stage, and the human wreck that walked on, accompanied by his wife, a young singer, made a wretched and sentimental impression. The past is more pleasant in memory than in its resurrection as a corpse from the grave.

    It may not have been in their minds, but the government took a clever step in letting the young generation see the old world in this form. With our own eyes, without propaganda, we clearly saw how far our world and our interests had advanced in the meantime.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Taube listened closely to my superficial arguments-naturally, I made no mention of the personal reasons leading me to ask to be sent abroad-and promised to speak in favor of the proposal to the higher authorities, while not withdrawing my candidature for the college staff.

    Besides the lieutenant-colonel, I brought influence to bear on other people who had some say in the allocation of posts to college graduates.

    Some time later I was summoned to Colonel Gorokhov. He greeted me as an old acquaintance.

    “Ah, Major Klimov! I’m glad to see you!” he began affably, as though to see me was all he wanted of life. I at once took guard. The more affable he was, the more unexpected the conversation might prove to be.

    “So you didn’t follow my advice after all. You turned your back on the Eastern Department.” He shook his head mournfully. “I wouldn’t forgive you, except that you’ve had such good reports.”

    I remained silent, waiting for him to come to the point.

    “So you would like to have the opportunity to work in perfect freedom?” came the friendly question.

    I raised my eyebrows in astonishment.

    “We were thinking of keeping you here,” he went on. “But now it’s proposed to give you an opportunity to prove yourself in a different post. I take it that this has come about not entirely with-out your intervention....”

    He looked at me ironically. No doubt he had guessed long since what part I myself had played in getting transferred from the Eastern to the Western Faculty.

    “I do not object to your being sent abroad,” he said after a brief silence. “I think you don’t, either.”

    I tried to look unconcerned. It is better for an officer of the General Staff to avoid displaying excessive curiosity.

    “You have just one defect,” he continued. “Why haven’t you yet joined the Party?”

    “I’ve been at the college only a year, Comrade Colonel,” I replied. “And one has to have the recommendation of three Party members, one of whom must have worked together with the candidate for at least two years.”

    “And before you came to the college?”

    “I’ve never had the opportunity to remain two years in one post.”

    I felt like telling the colonel frankly that I considered a man should join the Party only when he had become a leading member of society, and not in order to use his membership as a springboard for his career. The majority of the present-day ’true communists’ worked to the latter principle. It was they who made the most stir, in order to show how ’true to the Party line’ they were. But those who had achieved something by their own merits, and in con-sequence, for good or ill, had to join the Party, were usually passive and silent camp-followers.

    But could I have told him all that? It would have meant that I was myself uncertain, dubious. And if a Soviet citizen wishes to live, from the day of his birth he must believe absolutely in the infallibility of the Party line. I would have shown myself a poor student of his college if I had told the colonel such things.

    “I hope that by our next meeting you will have remedied this defect,” he said in conclusion. “Apart from that, our reports on you are excellent. Your case will be remitted to the army Personnel Department, and they will notify you of your future post.”

    After this conversation I waited to go through the usual examination by still higher instances.

    The students of our college normally had to pass very thorough-going tests, but before being appointed to a post abroad even they were customarily subjected to a questionnaire test by the Mandate Commission of the Red Army Personnel Department and the Foreign Department of the Soviet Communist Party. One could never be sufficiently on one’s guard. It was always possible that meanwhile someone or other had become ’worm-eaten’, or important changes might have occurred among his or his wife’s relations.

    One of the most unpleasant features of Soviet life is the collective responsibility of all one’s relatives. No matter how beyond reproach a man may be as a member of Soviet society, if any even of his distant relations comes into conflict with the Narcomvnudel he is automatically entered in the category of ’politically unreliable’.

    During the war there was a special category of ’unreliable’, which were not called up for military service. Many of them had to serve in labor battalions. They were not issued weapons and were kept at a safe distance from the front. They consisted mainly of people whose relatives had made too close acquaintance with the Narcomvnudel. Anyone who had personally come into contact with the Narcomvnudel or was on their black lists was rounded up and interned in the first few days of the war.

    If any ’unreliable’ offered to go as a volunteer to the front, he was arrested at once and sent to a Narcomvnudel camp. The military command knew what value to set on this kind of patriotism. The Soviet government reckoned that despite the long years of re-education, the feeling of loyalty to one’s father, or mother, and one’s own blood was stronger in the Russian soul than the husks of communist teaching.

    During the later years of the war, owing to the great shortage of manpower some of the ’unreliable’ were taken into the regular army. Although the majority of them had had higher education and were officers on the reserve, they had to go to the front as privates.

    During the many years of the Soviet experiment the number of those who had suffered repression reached such an enormous figure that without doubt the automatically ’unreliable’ group constitutes the most important social stratum of the new Soviet society. Both sides have got to seek a way out of this complicated situation. Men want to live, and the regime needs men. But between the reconcilement of these two necessities there is an insurmountable obstacle: the questionnaire. Many of these ’unreliable’ have never seen their ’evil genius’, they have never had anything to do with him, and naturally they make no mention of him when filling up their questionnaires.

    The authorities know quite well that the questionnaire is not filled in with strict accuracy, but they often find themselves forced to ’overlook’ this inexactitude. Their terror policy has driven the Soviet rulers into a blind alley: if one accepts the Soviet classification, there are fewer immaculate and reliable citizens in the Soviet Union today than there were thirty years ago. And so, if the case is not highly important, or if there is urgent need for any particular individual, they check the details of his questionnaire less strictly. On the other hand, in important cases they trust no questionnaires whatever, nor even the opinion they have themselves formed concerning the person under consideration, so they put him under examination again and again, with hysterical distrust and a meticulous scrupulosity.

    Between three and six months elapse between the first candidature and the final appointment to a foreign post, during which period the candidate is subjected to various checks. Thus, the local Narcomvnudel in his place of residence has to check his statements relating thereto, and if it is established that some distant relative, it may be, has vanished without trace in mysterious circumstances, that in itself is sufficient to dispose of the candidate. Any circumstance not clarified is taken as a negative factor.

    I was expecting to be summoned to the Personnel Department of the General Staff; but a few days later I received the order to report to the head of the college. This was outside the normal routine, and I was rather troubled to know what lay behind it.

    Opinions concerning the head of the college, General Biyasi, were wildly contradictory. One section of the students rather suspiciously expressed great enthusiasm for his unusual ability and declared that he was a highly cultured man, that at one time he had been Soviet minister to Italy and was not only perfect in all the languages covered by the college, but could even read human hearts and discover one’s most secret thoughts. No doubt these students would climb higher up the diplomatic ladder than those who declared that the general had begun his career by selling Halva and fruits in the Tiflis market, and who considered that his only out-standing qualities were his glossy exterior and his floridly mellifluous manners and speech.

    Anybody summoned to the general’s room could never be certain of the outcome. We were always ready at any time for the greatest of surprises. For instance, only recently the entire Japanese Department, with the exception of the last course, had been reorganized for the preparation of army translators in a short course of instruction. The disillusioned would-be diplomats were assured that it was only a temporary measure, that they would all have the opportunity to continue their studies later. But meanwhile they were sitting all day grinding at Japanese military terminology. This reorganization occurred immediately after the Yalta Conference, and the rate of instruction was accelerated to such an extent that the students gave one another unequivocal glances.

    The plan clearly indicated the date by which the training had to be completed, and therefore the way the wind was blowing. For that matter, from the beginning the secret clauses of the Yalta agreement were no secret for us. We saw the point when we were informed that the members of the foreign legations would be very glad to make the acquaintance of any of us. Before that, if any one of us had ventured to exchange a few words with a foreigner in the streets of Moscow without special permission, he would have been presuming too much on the powers of his guardian angel.

    Before taking up a post abroad certain of the students were put through a special course of instruction in rules of conduct and good manners in relations with foreigners. In such courses a student would often be given individual instruction suited to the country to which he was assigned. And frequently special emphasis was laid on learning the modern dances of western countries or the art of relations with ladies, including the art of breaking hearts, which is one way of getting to diplomats’ private safes. In these courses General Biyasi had no rival as an instructor.

    After my rather gloomy reflections I was not a little surprised when he briefly informed me that by the command of higher authorities I had been posted to the staff of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany. Evidently I was regarded as so reliable and so thoroughly proved that a further check-up before my departure was superfluous.

    “We can be proud of you in every respect,” the general explained. “But don’t forget: wherever you may find yourself, you are and will remain one of us!” He put special emphasis on ’us’. “From now on you are under a different command, but we can order your recall at any moment we wish. If necessary you are fully entitled to get into contact with us over the head of your future superior officers. As you know, that is strictly forbidden in the army, but we are an exception to the rule. Your future destiny depends on how you show up in your practical work. I hope we shall meet again later...”

    The general’s words left me unusually calm. During the war I had been full of enthusiasm and ardor for all I experienced; I had definite objectives in front of me. But now I was filled only with icy calm. The same calm that I had felt in June 1941, on the outbreak of war. Then it had been due to the tense expectation of coming experiences. But now I simply could not understand why it was. Our inner world is the reflection of our surroundings. Now I was quite deliberately putting my inner world to the test. In active work, in the interplay of international interests, I would find the rational basis of our Soviet existence. One could hardly have a more suitable spot for that than Berlin.

    “I feel sure you will justify the trust the fatherland is placing in you, in sending you to the most important sector of the post-war front. The work to be done there is more important and more responsible than in war-time,” he ended, as he shook my hand. “I wish you every success, Major!”

    “Thank you, Comrade General!” I replied, looking him straight in the eyes and responding to his vigorous handshake. After all, wasn’t I going to Berlin in order to come back to Moscow a better Soviet citizen than I could be today?

    During the winter I had solved a riddle that puzzled me in regard to Genia. Her mother had returned to Moscow in January; all through the war she had worked as a doctor in front-line hospitals, in order to be near her husband. Now she had been demobilized.

    Anna Petrovna was the exact opposite of her daughter Genia. Her greatest interest in life was to talk about her husband. I needed no little patience and endurance to listen to the same story and display the same interest for the umpteenth time: how they had got married, how he was never at home because he devoted all his time to his service, how hard it was to be the wife of a professional officer.

    She gave me long descriptions of her and his parents, simple people; of his gradual advancement, and then his breathtaking career during the war. Anna Petrovna was extremely pleasant and frank. Though she was the wife of a well-known general, she was not at all conceited about his position; on the contrary, she had a partiality for telling stories about the lack of culture and the ignorance of the new aristocracy. She had a clear realization of the responsibility her husband’s high position placed on her, and she tried her utmost to keep up with the times and with him. Both outwardly and in her character she fully justified the place she held in society.

    There was a general tendency among Soviet people to regard the new aristocracy very skeptically, as a lot of upstarts. To a large extent this was because quite unknown people had come to the top during the revolution. That had been perfectly natural. Later on these same people were appointed to leading State positions, for which they were often fitted neither by their knowledge nor by their capacity for the particular job. One thing has to be granted to the leading Soviet officials, they had a restless energy and inexhaustible perseverance. As time passed the revolutionary old guard grew still older, they outlived their day, and their incapacity for- the new tasks showed up more and more obviously.

    Meanwhile new cadres of specialists were being developed in all branches of activity. They came from the masses of the people, but they had the requisite education and special professional training, and they acquired practical experience in responsible activity.

    The bureaucratic ulcer burst at the beginning of the war, and it became necessary to replace the tarnished heroes of the revolutionary period by younger leaders of the Soviet school. Inevitably, during the war years, and especially in the army, new and talented military leaders who had been vegetating unrecognized came to the forefront.

    The pre-war Party and bureaucratic aristocracy spent their days in the same luxury and magnificence that the tsarist aristocracy had formerly been reproached with. During the war, in order to save the situation, the finest members of the nation replaced them, perhaps only temporarily. Genia’s father belonged to this elite. And Anna Petrovna was unusually proud of her husband’s career. Her only regret was that it had practically put an end to their family life.

    I had not seen Genia while I was taking my State examination, and had only phoned her occasionally. But now I had my assignment to Berlin in my pocket, and I could call on her again. I hardly expected the affectionate reception she gave me; it was so demonstrative that even Anna Petrovna shook her head disapprovingly. “Don’t forget that I’m here too,” she remarked.

    “Grisha!” Genia said as she whirled me like a top round the room. “Daddy’s been home two whole weeks.... Just imagine: two whole weeks! Come and see what he’s brought me.”

    Full of pride, she showed me quite a number of presents her father had given her. Even before this, whole cases of trophies had collected in their apartment. Each time one of the staff officers traveled from the front to Moscow he brought with him presents from the general. That was common in all the officers’ families during the Red Army’s advance into East Prussia. The junior officers sent only small articles, but the seniors even sent back solid items like furniture and pianos. From the legal aspect, robbery; in the wartime language they were called trophies. And besides, everybody considered that this was only taking back from the Germans what they had taken from us.

    About this time there was a story running through Moscow about a front-line officer who sent a case of soap home to his wife. She did not stop to think about it but sold the whole lot at once in the market. A few days later she received a letter from her husband, in which he mentioned that one of the cakes of soap had a gold watch concealed in it. The story had various endings: one, that the woman hanged her-self; another, that she took to drink; a third, that she drank poison.

    A massive radio set was standing in the General’s living room. At first glance I could not decide whether it was a receiver or a transmitter. In fact he had got hold of a set perfectly fitted to his rank: it was a super-receiver, the latest model. I was about to plug it in and switch it on when Anna Petrovna raised her finger admonitorily: ’Grisha! For goodness’ sake don’t switch it in. Kolia [her husband] has strictly forbidden it."

    “But what are you afraid of?” I asked.

    “It mustn’t be touched. Not for anything, not till the ban’s raised. Even Kolia hasn’t switched it on yet.”

    What do you make of that? A month after the war had ended a victorious Soviet general did not dare to listen to the radio until the Kremlin had expressly given him permission.

    “Grisha, look at this!” Genia broke in. “A golden pistol!” She excitedly threw me something heavy in a yellow leather case.

    Thinking to find some original design of cigarette lighter, or some feminine trinket, I opened the case and took out a gleaming gilded pistol of the German ’Walter’ pattern. I noticed two lightning flashes, the sign of the S. S. And an inscription: “To S. S. General Adreas von Schonau, in the name of the Great German Reich. The Fuhrer.”

    “Now you’d better behave yourself!” Genia said as she produced a clip of cartridges. “It’s all ready for use.”

    As she threw it down, the clip slithered like a snake over the sofa cushion. I noticed the small red heads of the cartridges.

    “What an idea, to give anyone a pistol!” I said. “And you above all.”

    “Don’t get the wind up. If you behave yourself nothing will happen to you,” she reassured me. “And he brought two Opel cars back with him,” she chattered on. “The ’Admiral’ he’ll drive himself, and the ’Captain’s’ for me. So see that you turn up tomorrow morning. You must teach me to drive.”

    “But listen, Grisha, what are your plans for the future?” she asked playfully, her new toys already forgotten. With the same unconstraint with which she had handled her gold pistol she laid my head on her breast and described a large questionmark with her finger on my forehead.

    I hated to spoil her cheerful spirits. In my heart I began to feel regret that I would have to leave all this world behind the very next morning. But it had to be, and, anyway, it was not for ever.

    "Tomorrow I’m flying to Berlin. I said slowly, staring up at the ceiling. I spoke very quietly, as though I were somehow in the wrong.

    “What?” she said incredulously. “Is this another of your silly jokes?”

    “It isn’t a joke...”

    “You’re not flying anywhere. Forget it! Get that?”

    “It doesn’t depend on me.” I shrugged my shoulders helplessly.

    “My goodness! I’d like to skin you alive!” she exclaimed. “If you simply must see what it’s like abroad, go and spend an evening at the operetta. Don’t you feel any regret at going away again and leaving me behind here, with my everlasting, boring lessons?”

    She looked almost with entreaty into my eyes; they revealed more than a mere request or whim.

    “It isn’t what I want, Genia. Duty...”

    “Duty, duty!” she echoed. “I’m sick of that word.”

    All her carefree, joyful spirits were gone. Her voice was sad and earnest as she said:

    “I was so happy to think you were not a professional officer. I suppose you think I’ve had a happy home life. If you want to know the truth, I’m an orphan!”

    She suddenly sat straight up. Her face was pale; her slender fingers played nervously with the silk fringe of the cushion.

    “All my life I’ve only seen my father once a week, so to speak. We’re almost strangers to each other. Have you ever stopped to wonder why he overwhelms me with presents? He felt just as I do. First it was China, and then it was Spain, then something else. And so all my life.”

    Her voice shook, her eyes filled with tears. She lost her self-control, the words poured from her lips like a passionate complaint, like a reproach against fate.

    “My friends say I’m lucky; my father’s chest is loaded with orders. ... But I hate those orders... They’ve taken my father from me ... Every one of them means years of separation. Look at mother! Hardly has she got over her tears of joy for father being home again, alive and well, when there are more tears over something new. Often we go a whole year without a letter from him... And he, too, always says: ’Duty! Duty!’ And now you... I don’t want to live a life like my mother’s... I don’t want to live only on your letters...”

    She covered her face with her hands, her shoulders shook spasmodically. Then she buried her face in the cushion and wept bitterly, like a sick child.

    I silently stroked her hair and gazed at the sunlit roofs of the house opposite, at the blue vault of the summer sky, as though it might prompt me to an answer. What was I to do? Here at my side was the woman I loved and who loved me; and somewhere, a long way off, was duty.

    I spent the evening with Anna Petrovna in the living room. Genia had spread out her books on the dining-room table, and sat chewing her pencil; she was preparing for her finals. Anna Petrovna complained as usual about her lonely life.

    “He was offered a post in the Artillery Department; but no, he must go and stick his nose in hell again. At Konigsberg he was wounded in the head, but that isn’t enough for him. You’d think he’d got enough orders and decorations, and a high enough rank. But now he declares he’s going to be a marshal. Stalin himself told him so at the reception. And now he’s continually repeating it like a parrot.”

    The general had been urgently recalled to Moscow a few days before the capitulation of Germany. On 10 May 1945 he was present, with other high-ranking officers of the Red Army, at the Kremlin reception which the Politburo gave in celebration of the victory. Now another Lenin order decorated his broad chest, another star was added to his gold epaulettes. But Anna Petrovna was not destined to enjoy her husband’s company for long. He had been entrusted with a new, secret commission; he spent all his days in the General Staff, and whenever she asked him where he was going this time he only answered: “You’ll see when you get a letter with the field-post address.”

    She discovered where he had been sent only months later, when the war with Japan broke out. And even then she learnt it from the newspapers, which announced that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet had awarded him a further distinction for special services in the struggle against Japan.

    “How can he become a marshal now the war’s over?” I asked her. “Whom will he be fighting next?”

    “I don’t know,” she sighed. “He avoids talking politics with me. He’s grown so cock-a-hoop since his last visit to the Kremlin. They’re obviously thinking something up, if they’re talking on those lines. Stalin’s the be-all and end-all of existence for him. If Stalin tells him: ’You’ll become a marshal,’ he’ll drag the marshal’s star down from heaven if necessary.”

    ’What new devilry is afoot now?’ I thought to myself. ’The Kremlin doesn’t talk idly.’ But I saw all the import of Anna Petrovna’s words only later, when sitting at the conference table in the Berlin Control Commission.

    That was my last day in Moscow. Next morning I went to the central aerodrome. It was early, a mist hung over the earth; every-thing was very still and quiet. Innumerable transport machines, all of them ’Douglases’, stretched their great wings over the out-fields. My heart was as light as the fresh morning air, as calm and still as the hoarfrosted field of the landing ground. I would be returning to Moscow in twelve months. And then the city would be even more dear to me than it was now.

    Two officers came up; evidently they were traveling with me.

    “Well, how’s things, Major?” One of them greeted me. “Off to Europe?”

    “Not a bad idea to see for yourself what old mother Europe really looks like,” the second added.

    The aerodrome came to life. Several other officers arrived, all of them assigned to the staff of the Soviet Military Administration. The S. M. A. had its own machines servicing the Berlin-Moscow route. On their return journey from Berlin to Moscow they were so heavily laden with important and urgent freight that they could hardly gain height. But from Moscow to Berlin they flew only half loaded. Our pilot waited a little longer, then shrugged his shoulders and signaled for permission to take off.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 03

    The Song of the Victor

    The music flowed in caressing waves through the twilit hall, under the great crystal chandeliers, between the lofty marble columns. The air was heavy with the warmth of human bodies, the titillating scent of subtle perfume, all the characteristic respiration of the life of a great city. I thrust my fingers behind my belt and looked about me eagerly.

    I could hardly believe that only yesterday I had felt the Berlin sidewalks still shaking with explosions, that around me men in field-gray coats had been falling, never to rise again. I had the feeling that my uniform was still impregnated with the pungent stench of the Reich capital, the smell of burning, of powdered mortar and rubble, of gunpowder.

    From the platform came the familiar words of soldiers’ song- simple, moving, and intimate. Where had I heard that song last? Of course, it had been a favorite of the tank-driver, Sergeant Petrenko. A young, dashing fellow, he often sang it to the sounds of an accordion he had knocked off. He was a great lad, was Petrenko. He didn’t quite get to Berlin: he was burned alive in his tank somewhere among the sand dunes of Brandenburg.

    Lieutenant Belyavsky was sitting next to me. We had met in the college, and he had mentioned that he had tickets for a concert to be given by artists, every one of them decorated with the order: Meritorious Artist of the Soviet Union. “Come along with me,” he said. “You need a little cheering up.”

    He slapped me on my back. And that was how, the day after my return to Moscow, I found myself sitting in the Pillared Hall of the House of the Trade Unions. During an interval we went to the foyer. For two months I had been in the most exposed section of the front-reason enough for watching Moscow life with hungry eyes. Even after a brief absence one notices many things which the regular inhabitants don’t see at all.

    The great majority of this audience consisted of officers working in the defense ministry or members of the Moscow garrison, students at military colleges, and front-line officers in Moscow for short leave and seizing the opportunity to attend a concert again. Practically all the male members of the audience were wearing military uniforms; any man in civilian dress was regarded either as a hopeless cripple or as a doubtful sort of individual. There were many war-wounded, also in uniform, but without shoulder-tabs. And a large number of the audience, civilians included, were wearing orders or ribbons.

    The authority of the military profession grew enormously during the war. Before 1939 officers were shown little consideration, they were regarded as drones and parasites. But in the war years the officer corps was enlarged by a mass of reserve officers. The army became an inseparable part of every family; people began to regard military service as a necessary and honorable obligation. The external and internal reforms in the army and all over the country forced everybody to revise their ideas of the military class.

    The front-line officer was of all men the most respected. Before the war the civilians had looked down with some condescension on the military, but now the situation was diametrically opposite. The men in dark blue worsted civvies were inferior beings. The majority of them looked pale and worried; the feverish strain of unremitting labor had left its mark on them. The women, too, had the same gray look of chronic under-nourishment, everyday anxieties and need, in their faces and clothes. Their features were indifferent, pasty, and weary. Even the youngsters had lost the unconstrained, invincible, carefree air of pre-war days. The general war-weariness was much more perceptible at home than at the front.

    The so-called ’Narcomatics’, the higher officials of the People’s Commissariats were in a class by themselves; they were well dressed, well fed, and repellently self-satisfied. One could recognize them at once in the street by their light-brown leather coats, which they had all started wearing as one man on one day. The Americans had sent these leather jackets over in 1943 as part of lend-Iease deliveries, together with hundreds of thousands of brand-new lorries. The jackets had been intended as service clothing for the drivers of the lorries.

    The lorries were sent to the front, but the leather jackets remained in Moscow as official equipment for the higher functionaries of the commissariats. They were a quite unnecessary luxury for the men at the front, and ever since the early days of the revolution Soviet functionaries have had a childish weakness for any kind of leather garment. In Moscow it was rumored that the Americans were greatly astonished to find high Soviet officials decked out in chauffeurs’ uniforms. Perhaps they thought it indicated the proletarian modesty of the Soviet bosses.

    After Belyavsky and I had wandered about aimlessly for some time among the brilliant orders and pale, hungry faces in the foyer, we came to the glass showcase of the buffet. Behind the glass were marvelous delicacies, the sort of thing one found in Moscow only in the best of the pre-war years. But the prices! It was painful to see men gathering round the case as though it were a museum-piece, then turning away with hungry looks and empty hands.

    “I’m glad we haven’t any ladies with us,” Belyavsky remarked with stoic calm. “Why the devil do they put such things on show? I’d rather not have my imagination stimulated like that!”

    The second part of the concert consisted of a performance by the State jazz orchestra, directed by the ’Meritorious Artist of the R. S. F. S. R.’, Leonid Utiessov. Utiessov was the most popular jazz-band leader in the Soviet Union: he was assigned the ticklish task of adapting western European jazz music to the frequently changing demands of the ’social command’. His repertoire consisted of foxtrots on the motifs of Stakhanovite songs, and blaring, anti-imperialistic marches. But now, with the help of trombones and saxophones, he was celebrating the demise of fascist Germany.

    Utiessov, a tubby man, showed off quite unconcernedly on the platform. He was wearing the artist’s traditional uniform: evening dress complete with boiled shirt. In his buttonhole he had the Order of the Red Banner ribbon. He waved his arms in a fever of patriotic exaltation, squeezing the last drops of the ’Waves of Leningrad’ out of the perspiring band.

    Utiessov had achieved a great public success with his ’confidential talks’ from the platform. “My father lives in luxury. I myself earn twenty thousand rubles.... My daughter brings home a little more, some five thousand.... And, of course, her husband -he’s an engineer - he helps a little too.... He contributes a full six hundred rubles a month.” This talk received wild applause, but of course he had to withdraw it quite quickly. Rumor has it that in the end he was snapped up by the Narcomvnudel.

    Suddenly silence fell. The orchestra came to an unexpected stop, there were excited whispers, a feeling of uneasiness spread through the audience. From the back of the hall spotlights were switched on, focusing into a ring of light on the platform. Utiessov stood in the spotlight, a sheet of paper in his hand, a strand of hair hanging over his sweating face.

    “Comrades... friends!” he shouted.

    The entire hall held its breath expectantly. Speaking slowly, brokenly, he cried to the silent, excited audience:

    “An order of the day... of the... Supreme Command.... This day, 2 May 1945, the troops of the First Ukrainian Army and the troops...”

    His voice billowed from the platform, but I did not see where it was coming from. It beat in my own breast, it rose in my own throat, it might have been my own voice. So this was victory! In very truth, in the rumbling, stony gorges of the Berlin streets, in the turret of a staff tank, in the everyday existence of a soldier, all the pathos of struggle and victory was much more simple and plain than it was here, in this Pillared Hall of Moscow. There it was only the accomplishment of a military task. Here it was the climax of years of straining expectation, a moment of boundless joy and unrestrained pride.

    The people of the home front were sick with a chronic psychosis. They were filled with an unshakable conviction that the day of victory, the day marking the end of the war, would be like a fairy story, would not only bring deliverance from all the fevered night-mares of wartime, but would bring something bigger and better than had existed before the war. This mass psychosis which marked the final phase of the war was visible in the eyes of every man and every woman. Clenching their teeth, they advanced to the victory like a runner making his final spurt: a last dash to breast the tape and then drop exhausted. Then all would be well. Then there would be a pleas-ant rest, the well-earned reward for all the arduous labor, the sweat and the blood.

    I closed my eyes so as not to see the man on the platform. The voice swelled in the silence grew even stronger, rose in a triumphant shout: “Today, after bitter and bloody struggles, our troops have conquered the heart of Hitler-Germany, the city of Berlin.”

    The entire hall rose as one man. The thunder of the applause shook the marble columns. These walls had surely never heard anything like it before. We clapped till our hands smarted, and we looked one another in the eyes. During the ordinary applause of official ceremonies Soviet people avoid one another’s eyes. But today we had nothing to be ashamed of; today we could give free rein to our true feelings.

    I looked around. This was no highly organized ovation in honor of the Party and government leaders, when each participant would watch out of the corner of his eye to see whether his neighbor was clapping hard enough, and secretly waited for the chairman of the Presidium, the conductor of this show, to stop clapping, thus officially bringing the ovation to an end. This was a genuinely spontaneous demonstration. For the first time in my life I did not feel ashamed of clapping; I was taking part in an honest and passion-ate expression of feeling. The Russian people were thanking the Russian soldiers for fighting so hard and well, for shedding their blood.

    From a long distance the words reached my ears: “To celebrate the victory over Berlin I order, today, 2 May 1945, at 22 hours Moscow time, a salute of twenty guns from two hundred and twenty cannon, in the city of Moscow, and in the heroic cities of Stalingrad, Lenin-grad, and Odessa.”

    We left the hall and went out into Sverdlov Square. The crimson of the sunset had not yet faded on the horizon. The sky was bright over the victorious city sunk in the dusk. The house roofs emerged in marvelous silhouettes against the darkening azure. The May evenings in Moscow are wonderful at any time. But in the light of victory salutes, under the nimbus of military glory, they are fabulous.

    Somewhere far to the west another city, a vanquished city, was lying in total darkness; its inhabitants had no feeling of joy that day. The ruins that once had been habitations were still smoking; bodies were still lying in the street, the bodies of men who yesterday had had no thought of death. The survivors huddled trembling in their locked rooms, without light or heat, starting fearfully at every sound outside the door. For them the future was heavy with the chill of the grave. Yet they hardly even thought of the future. They were still unable to measure all the depth of the abyss into which human arrogance had plunged them.

    The fire of the last salute died away. In the ensuing stillness the closing words of the order of the day rang in my ears: “Glory and honor to the heroes who have fallen in the struggle for the freedom and independence of our native land.”

    ’May the blood you have shed not have flowed in vain,’ I mentally added.

    Everybody in Moscow knows the monument to Minin and Pozharsky. The bronze figures of these Russian patriots have stood on the Red Square, close to the Kremlin wall, for many years. (Two heroes of the ’Troubles Times’ at the beginning of the seventeenth century, who organized and led the force that freed Moscow from Polish troops, 1612 - Tr.). The dreary rains of autumn wash them, the harsh December winds comb their beards with prickly snow, and the spring sun caresses them. The years pass over them like clouds across the sky. Tsars and dictators come and go behind the walls of the Kremlin, but Minin and Pozharsky stand inviolably in their place.

    Surreptitiously crossing themselves, the old women of Moscow whisper the story from mouth to mouth that sometimes the bronze giants let their eyelids droop and close their cold eyes in order not to see what is happening all around them.

    Yet once, just once in all the long years, they expanded their lungs to the full, they drew themselves up to their full height, looked each other joyfully in the eyes, embraced and kissed each other fraternally. The old women swear that on this occasion the cold bronze shed hot tears. And why shouldn’t they, these men of the Russian soil? I can well believe it, and every Russian who was in Moscow on that sunny morning of 9 May 1945, will confirm it.

    For some days rumors had been running through Moscow that the Western Allies and representatives of the German Supreme Command were engaged in secret negotiations. Nobody knew anything exactly, but the uneasiness increased, the atmosphere of strained expectation came to a climax.

    The true circumstances of the capitulation were not made known in the Soviet Union. It took place at the staff headquarters of General Eisenhower, a small schoolhouse close to Rheims, in France, on 7 May 1945, at 14. 41 hours Central European time. On the German side it was signed by Colonel-General Jodl, chief of the German General Staff, on the Allied side by General Elsenhower’s Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General W. Bedell Smith, and on the Soviet side by General Sussloparov.

    The final capitulation document was signed on 8 May at 12. 01 hours Central European time in the Berlin suburb of Karlshorst, and was officially announced at once. In the Soviet Union Stalin himself announced the news of the capitulation in a broadcast on the night of 8 /9 May.

    On the morning of May 9, as I lay in bed, I was struck by an earthquake. Someone was shaking me madly by the shoulder. Even before he spoke I read the news in Belyavsky’s dilated, jubilant eyes. I dressed feverishly, buttoned up my tunic with trembling fingers. He urged me to hurry still more, and I did; though I didn’t really know why. I still had my boots to polish; on such a day they must be as dazzling as the sun. And I must put on a clean collar, and polish my buttons with the sleeve of my greatcoat.

    Never before had I felt such an urge to make a military uniform absolutely brilliant. I automatically slipped the strap of my swordbelt under my greatcoat epaulettes, though swordbelts were worn over the greatcoat only on parade and during guard duty. There wasn’t to be a parade today! But let anyone try pulling me up today for violating the regulations! We dashed downstairs. We longed to be among the people, in the midst of the joy, the triumph, and the jubilation.

    The college was buzzing like a disturbed beehive. All the students fell in the yard, by faculties, to hear the order of the day issued by the commander-in-chief. The sun shone in the sky. And the orders sparkled on the officers’ breasts. Trumpets blared. Two adjutants with drawn swords marched in front of the crimson silk flapping in the wind, its golden tassels swinging; the standard-bearer and the adjutants were all ’Heroes of the Soviet Union’. The Head of the college read out Stalin’s order of the day, which marked the end of the Russian people’s heroic four-year struggle against Hitler-Germany.

    Then the head of the Western Faculty, Colonel Jachno, spoke to us. But his remarks seemed feeble and hackneyed. They could not express all the greatness of this moment that we had waited for so long, that we had paid so dearly for. We all wanted to get out into the streets, among the people, where the joy of victory was unconstrained, exuberant. Without waiting for breakfast a number of us hastened to the city center.

    On the way we turned into an ’Americana’ to drink a glass of beer at the bar. Only recently had it become possible to buy beer again in Moscow, at sixteen rubles a glass. One day’s officer’s pay for a pint of beer! Several of us hadn’t enough money in our pockets to pay for a glass; our comrades helped us out.

    “You’re better off at the front than at home,” one of us remarked. “You have got something to drink, at least, at the front.”

    “Don’t worry! Soon we’ll have everything!” another assured him.

    “We’ve already got beer. Before many months have passed we shall be living like in a fairy-tale. We haven’t fought for nothing. You wait, you’ll soon see!”

    His tones expressed an unshakable belief in the miracle that would shortly occur; you would have thought he already knew a present was waiting for him, only it mustn’t be mentioned at the moment. If any of us had expressed any doubt, he would have called him a traitor to his face. He wouldn’t have known why or how it was treachery, but he would have been perfectly sure the man was a traitor.

    We didn’t talk much about such things, and the papers, too, did not write about them in so many words, though they made obvious hints. This mysterious and intangible something was in the air, we drew it in greedily into our lungs, and it intoxicated us. The name of that intoxicating feeling was hope. We were hoping for something. And that something was so drastic was perceived as so unattainable, that we could not bring ourselves to speak about it or even hardly to think of it.

    What were we hoping for? The past would not return and the dead would not live again. Perhaps we were glad that we would be re-turning to the peaceful existence of the pre-war years? Hardly! Our great joy that day arose from the fact that we stood at a frontier, a frontier that marked the end of the darkest period of our life, and the beginning of a new, still unknown period. And every one of us was hoping that this new period would fulfill the promise of the rainbow after the storm, would be bright, sunny, and happy. If anybody had asked us what we really expected, the majority would have expressed our common feeling very simply: “To hell with all that was before the war!” And every one of us knew exactly what had been before the war.

    I have witnessed many Moscow celebrations and parades. The strongest impression one got from them was that the people would much rather have really made merry and enjoyed themselves than be forced to demonstrate their merriment and joy. They were simply puppet shows, and one could not rid oneself of a loathsome feeling of hypocrisy. Most of the people tried to avoid thinking that the main reason for their presence at the celebration was the haunting desire not to be put on the list, not to give offense by being absent.

    That day the feeling was quite different. There was no organized demonstration, nor was it necessary. The streets of Moscow were packed with people, everywhere: on the sidewalks, in the roads, at the windows, on the roofs. In the center the streets were so crowded that wheeled traffic came to a standstill. All the population of Moscow had taken to its feet.

    As we walked along, a group of girls in bright spring clothes came towards us, happy and excited. They had flowers in their hands. In wartime Moscow flowers had been as rare as they are at the North Pole. Measured by European standards, they were more precious than a bunch of black orchids, or roses in January. Just in front of us several flying officers were talking together animatedly; they were obviously members of the Moscow garrison. One of them was in civilian clothes; his right sleeve was empty.

    The left breast of his jacket was studded with orders and above the breast pocket shone two five-cornered gold stars: the stars of a ’Hero of the Soviet Union’. One of the girls, her eyes glittering like stars, rushed up to the airmen as though she had been looking for them for a long time. She kissed one, two, all the whole lot of them. She kissed them heartily, and they seemed embarrassed. But why? Proud and happy, in the sight of all Moscow, she was kissing the men who had risked their lives to defend the Moscow sky.

    She thrust her flowers into the wounded man’s hand, and he awkwardly pressed them to his chest. The tender petals caressed the cold metal of the orders. The girl was particularly warm in her embrace of him, and did not want to release him. They said not a word to each other. Their feelings, ardent human feelings, were more eloquent than words.

    We saw an old woman in a white kerchief, peering about her uncertainly, as though looking for someone in this seething torrent of human beings. Obviously she was not accustomed to the bustle of the city. Just a homely, Russian mother. We had come across thousands of such mothers as we entered the villages evacuated by the re-treating Germans. And hardly had we taken one step across the thresholds of their cottages when we were calling them ’mother’. Without a word they thrust a hunk of bread into our greatcoat pockets and surreptitiously signed the cross over us as we turned away

    Two elderly soldiers in ragged front-line uniforms were leaning against a house-wall. Their faces were unshaven and bristly; wretched packs hung over their shoulders. You could see they had either come straight from the front or were on their way back to it. But they were in no hurry; today they had no reason to fear the military police patrols.

    They warmed themselves peacefully in the sun and stared blankly at the people, who seemed to have lost their senses. The two men calmly rolled themselves cigarettes from their favorite homegrown tobacco and a strip of newspaper, just as if they were at the front. What more does a soldier need than a piece of bread in his pack, a small packet of tobacco in his pocket, and the sun shining?

    The old woman in the kerchief pushed uncertainly through the crowd, and went up to the two soldiers. She spoke to them in an agitated voice and tried to pull them by the sleeve. The soldiers looked at each other. Of course they must do as she asked: she was a mother.

    How many sons had she given for the sake of this sunny morning? The sons who were to have been her support and comfort in her old age had been taken from her. All through the war she had held on to an expensive bottle of vodka, not exchanging it even for bread. She had suffered hunger and cold, but that bottle of vodka was sacred. Her son Kolya had fallen at Poltava; Peter the sailor had gone down in a sea-fight; her happy-go-lucky Grishka had vanished without trace. But now her heart was no longer suffering in its loneliness. She had gone into the street to find her sons, to invite the first soldiers she met to celebrate the victory with her. Today the bottle of living water would be brought out. These two men should know the heart of an old mother, the mother they had sung so often in their soldiers’ songs.

    Comintern Square. Outside the American embassy, between the Hotel Metropole and the block of the Moscow University, there was the same solid mass of human beings as everywhere else. Women were gazing curiously out of the open Embassy windows; they were wearing clothes so brightly colored that they could never have been mistaken for Moscow inhabitants. Cameras were clicking. The embassy was calm and silent. Old Glory fluttered sluggishly in the gentle breeze.

    The people in the square stared up inquisitively, as though they expected the American ambassador to step on to a balcony and speak to them at any moment. The crowd eddied round the building like water streaming over shallows. But the ambassador had gone to the Kremlin. What had he to do with this gray, impersonal mass? And besides, it’s hardly politic for a diplomat to speak to the people over the heads of their government.

    The consulate automobile made its way slowly through the mass of people. Then an American officer in cream-colored trousers and green tunic attempted to get to the embassy. If he did not know of the Russian habit of tossing people into the air, he must have been rather alarmed when he went flying up. Up he soared into the sky, then dropped gently into many outstretched hands and went up once more. Thus he was carried above the people’s heads, thrown up again and again by dozens of hands, till he reached the embassy. He pulled down his wrinkled tunic and went up the steps, cap in hand, smiling with embarrassment and obviously not knowing whether to say “Okay!” or “Goddamn!”

    The sun shone down graciously on jubilating Moscow. People embraced and kissed one another in the street. Strangers invited one another into their homes. Everything was set on the table, the pockets were unloaded. Life had been difficult, but now it was all over. We had held out and won. Now an end had been put to the bloody battles, to all the difficulties and privations. The leader would thank the people for their faithful service to the fatherland. The leader would not forget!

    The psychiatrists are well acquainted with the phenomena of psychosis. But in its mass aspect it remains unexplained. Yet any one who was in Moscow on 9 May 1945, and who had gone through what every Russian had gone through during the years of the war, knows exactly what mass psychosis is. I have seen and experienced it only once in my life, and I am not likely to experience anything like it again. It was the discharge of a nervous-system accumulator, the discharge of a force that had been accumulating for years. Many did not understand it, but all felt it.

    During the last years of my studies at the Industry Institute, examination time was a difficult period for all the students. Later, at the front, I seldom saw any man really worked up before going into battle. But I do remember that while waiting outside the door of the examination hall the students suffered nervous convulsions. At the front a man can only lose his life. During examinations we risked losing hope. For the soul of man that is a much more important matter. During the actual examination I myself was superficially calm and never felt any great excitement. But after it was over I lay on my bed for days without moving, as though I were paralyzed.

    So was it that day in Moscow. A prolonged and complex psychic process in the soul of the nation was finding vent at last. The outbreak of war had initiated the process. The people regarded it with relief, as an opportunity to free themselves of the hated conditions of the existing regime. The curve of this feeling of relief gradually flattened as the people realized that their hopes had been disappointed. This was followed by a period of comparative stability, when the people were aware of only one thing: the vanity of all hope. Then the process of charging the human accumulators began.

    Simultaneously with the growth of a negative attitude towards the external factor of the war a new hope was sown and began to strike root - the hope that a better future could be achieved by their own power, once the foreign enemy was defeated. At that point the external factor became their enemy. Driven by their hate for the enemy and by their growing hope of a better future after the war, the people went through unimaginable difficulties.

    The Russians smashed the Germans out of their desire for vengeance, vengeance for the unfulfilled hopes, the shattered wishful thinking. But still stronger burned the guiding star of a new hope. They would never have fought in defense of the fatherland they had known before the war. And at first they had no desire to fight, they hoped the Germans would bring them to the Promised Land. But then they turned and fought because they thought they saw the Promised Land on the other side.

    On 9 May 1945 the charge of the people’s psychic accumulator had reached its culminating point, the overcharge was causing sparks to fly. And now came the discharge. No wonder Moscow lived as though governed by electric impulses, no wonder strangers embraced us and kissed us simply because we wore uniform, no wonder men wept openly in the street.

    Outside the History Museum I ran into Lieutenant Valentina Grinchuk. A smile was playing on her face, as though she could not understand this entire bustle and excitement. She had found her way infallibly through the darkness of the forests in her partisan days, but here she was like a little child, lost in the primeval forest of human elements. She did not even notice the admiring looks of the men who turned to stare after her.

    “Well, Valia, congratulations on the victory,” I said, as I had said already a dozen times that day. I looked into her violet-blue eyes, took her by the chin as though she were a child, and raised her head. Those blue eyes shone at me earnestly and a little sadly.

    “Congratulations on victory, Valia.” I bent down and kissed her on the lips. She did not resist; she only looked helplessly with her dilated eyes, staring into the distance. Beneath the hard leather of her belt I felt her delicate, girlish figure.

    (You seem so very tiny today, Valia. What’s up? Why, you have more right to enjoy this day than anyone else. Open your blue eyes still wider, you child with orders on your breast and wounds on your girlish body. Fix this day in your memory for all your life, this day for which you have sacrificed your youth.).

    She and I spent a long time wandering through the city, right along Gorky Street, past the Bolshoi Theatre, along the embankment below the Kremlin wall. One would have liked to absorb all the spirit of the victory-drunk metropolis that day. One would have liked to soar high above the world and thus observe all that was happening below, to memorize for ever this day in all its unique greatness and exaltation. For not to everyone was Fate so kind as to allow them to be in Moscow, to be in the center of those vast events.

    Valia and I walked in silence; each sunk in his or her thoughts. If there can be such a thing as perfect happiness in this world, then I was perfectly happy that day. Humanity’s golden dream of peace all over the world came down to earth, that sunny day of 9 May. The evil forces had been routed. The majestic hymns of the victorious powers were sounding over the world. They proclaimed freedom to the peoples. Freedom from anxiety for their own lives, freedom from the race-hatred of Nazism, from the class-enmity of communism, freedom from fear for one’s freedom. Were not the words of the Atlantic Charter eloquent in their sublimity?

    Our leaders had turned their backs on the doctrine that it was impossible for the capitalist and the communist systems to coexist. With the blood of their soldiers the western democracies had won the indissoluble friendship of the peoples of our lands. The mutual relations of peoples and nations, of states and governments, had been forged in the fires of war. Such historical cataclysms sweep political systems and states from the face of the earth, change the political map of the world. The war, which had now ended, must lead inevitably to a fundamental change in the Soviet system. With good reason had the Party and the government given the people clearly to understand that, during the last years of the war?

    I glanced down at Valia out of the corner of my eye.

    “Why are you so quiet, Valia?” I asked. “What are you dreaming about?”

    “Oh, nothing,” she replied. “I just feel a bit down, somehow. So long as the war was on one simply went on fighting. If you ever stopped to think about it, you only hoped that it might soon be ended. That end seemed so splendid, but now it’s all so ordinary. And this day will pass, and once more....”

    She did not finish her remark, but I knew what she was thinking. I suddenly felt sorry for her. Without doubt she was thinking of the straw-thatched roofs of her forest village, the crane over the well, and the little barefoot girl with water-buckets in her hands. In her own soul she was pondering on the question that now confronted every one of us. She was afraid the hope that had kept us going all through the years of the war might vanish, and that then once more....

    Through the dusk that was falling over the city the aluminum balloons of the barrage swam slowly into the sky. They were rising for the last time, to take part in the last victory salute. Searchlight batteries were posted all round the Kremlin; young girls in field-gray military greatcoats efficiently controlled the mechanism of those gigantic electric eyes. Today their beams would grope across the sky of Moscow for the last time.

    I said goodbye to Valia and joined another group of officers from our college. We made our way slowly to the Red Square. Soon now the guns would be firing their salutes, and the Red Square afforded the best view. No official demonstration had ever drawn such an enormous crowd outside the Kremlin walls. It was impossible to do anything but let the torrent take charge and carry one away as it wished.

    Amid this human ferment the Kremlin stood silent and lifeless, like a legendary castle fallen into an enchanted sleep. The granite block of the Lenin Mausoleum rose above the heads of the crowd. The leaders and minor leaders stand on that platform on days of parades and demonstrations and smile amiably from a safe distance behind the bayonets of the armed Narcomvnudel guards. Now the granite platform was empty. And the bayonets were absent. That day the solely to the people.

    Hundreds of thousands of heads. Since early morning people had filled the Red Square, waiting and staring as though they were expecting something. But the powerful loudspeakers, which were ranged in numerous batteries round the square, were silent. More and more people poured into that vast open space. What was drawing them there?

    The Kremlin remained silent in its sleep. The silvery firs stood on guard along the ancient walls. The pointed pinnacles of the towers pierced the darkened sky. The ruby-red stars gleamed high above, on the invisible points of the towers.

    When I was a child we used to be told that the red five-pointed star was the symbol of communism. The symbol of the blood that had been shed by the proletariat of all five continents. Truly, much blood had flowed on account of those ruby-red stars on the Kremlin.

    The earth began to thunder under our feet. Above the black out-line of the Kremlin the sky turned crimson with gunfire. Lightning from hundreds of cannon illuminated the battlemented walls, the pinnacled towers, the black cube of the mausoleum, the sea of human heads turned upward. Hundreds of lines of fire drilled into the sky above the victorious city, driving away the darkness of the night.

    The fire streamed higher and higher, hung motionless in the zenith for a moment, then burst downward in sparkling, multicolored little stars. The stars shivered sank slowly earthward, then fell faster, ever faster, to die in their flight. Hardly had the last sparkles faded when the air was shattered with the rolling thunder of a salvo. The first salute to final victory! The last seconds of a glorious epoch.

    Open your eyes, open your hearts, and fix those seconds forever. The earth drummed again, the crimson fire of the victory salute lit up the walls of the Kremlin, the sky, and the soul of the people. Once more the fire shot into heaven, once more the little stars shone out like rays of hope, and faded. This was victory captured in a point of light. You saw the victory; you felt its breath on your face.

    The fountain set upon the historic place of execution in the Red Square began to play, to gush in a vehement rainbow. As the fountain sent the water running over the square it splashed in little streams under our boots. The arrows of the searchlights quivered and danced. The ancient cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed was thrown up somberly in the flaming salutes. A boundless sea of men and women surged under the Kremlin walls.

    From the mist of the past another Red Square emerged in my memory.

    The morning of 7 November 1941 was leaden and dull. A flurry of falling snow blurred the face of Moscow. The Kremlin was feeling a draught. The enemy was at the gates! Moscow was threatened! The crenellations and pinnacles of the Kremlin walls showed gloomily in wintry twilight. The cupolas of the Kremlin churches were obscured under palls of snow. Cold and raw was the Red Square that day.

    In full field equipment the troops marched past the granite mausoleum. A man in a soldier’s greatcoat, standing on the platform, stretched out his hand to the troops as if he were a beggar. With outstretched arm the man greeted the divisions that were to march from the Red Square straight to the fight at the gates of Moscow. My ears still hear the words of the marching song of those days:

    “For my Moscow, for the dear city...” We kept our oath of allegiance, leader! Now it is your turn.

    But now, on that day in May, the Kremlin was silent. The crimson stars on its towers glowed like blood. Nobody knew what the men in the Kremlin were thinking. Hand in hand with the people they had won the victory. Would they not be stretching out their hands to the people’s throats again tomorrow?

    Not far from us two elderly workmen were standing, rather unsteady on their feet. They were wearing caps with broken peaks; their white shirts were open at the collar. Because they found it difficult to keep their feet they supported each other. Probably they had been drinking beer on an empty stomach.

    “Come home, Stepan,” said one of them, a man with reddish, tobacco-stained whiskers.

    “Home? I’m not going home,” the other protested.

    “What d’you want to hang about here for? The midnight mass is ended. Come along!”

    “Wait a bit, Ivan... There’s sure to be a decree.”

    “You’ve already got your decree: don’t oversleep your knocking-on time in the morning.”

    “But I tell you there’s sure to be another decree. Do you or don’t you know what a decree is? As soon as twelve strikes a decree will be issued. It will shine out in the sky like a star.... Where’s the star?” He swayed as he stared upward.

    “There’s your star.” His companion pointed to the red star on a Kremlin tower. “Come alone, do!”

    “There’s something wanting;” one of my companions turned to me. “It’s twelve o’clock, but the people are still hanging about, showing no signs of going. They know quite well there’s nothing more to be seen, yet they’re still waiting.”

    “Shall we go?” I asked.

    “No, let’s wait a little longer.” He hesitated. “There may be some-thing yet.”

    We wandered aimlessly about the square for a long time. The people looked at one another, looked about them, and went on waiting for the belated wonder. At last, when the hands on the clock tower above the Spasskaya Gate drew near to one o’clock, they began to stream away to the Underground station. The trains would stop at 1a. m. They must get home, so as not to be late next morning.

    “Pity the day’s gone so quick!” my companion said. “There was obviously something lacking.”

    We took the Underground. Opposite us sat an elderly woman in a threadbare military uniform. She looked as though she had come straight from the front. Her eyes were closed with fatigue, and she swayed to the movement of the train. At the next stop a lieutenant got in. All the seats were already occupied, so he glanced at the epaulettes of the seated military people.

    In Moscow the regulation is strictly observed that the junior in rank gives up his seat to a superior officer. The lieutenant’s eyes rested on the sleeping woman in front-line uniform. He stepped across and ordered her brusquely: “Get up!” She opened her eyes in bewilderment and sprang up automatically. The lieutenant roughly pushed her aside and sat down in her seat.

    “There’s your reward to the victor,” my companion remarked. “Get up and give your place to someone else.”

    May-time in Moscow is rarely accompanied with such filthy weather as we experienced on 24 May 1945. A fine veil of rain had hung about the city since early morning. Vainly did we stare up at the sky in the hope that the clouds were breaking. It was as though the celestial powers were deliberately out to ruin our festive spirit. For it was a day set apart for a great celebration: by special order of the day issued by the commander-in-chief, a great victory parade was to be held in the Red Square. A review of the best of the best.

    The parade had been long and carefully prepared. Soldiers and officers who had distinguished themselves in the war had been recalled to Moscow during April. The choice fell chiefly on those who had most distinctions, orders, and medals to wear on their chests. On arrival in Moscow they were allocated to special units, and were issued with new dress uniforms, such as we had seen hitherto only in pictures. Special training for the parade went on for more than a month. The people of Moscow were lost in conjecture as to why these fine companies and battalions of men hung about with decorations from head to foot were marching in full dress uniform through the Moscow streets while desperate battles were still going on at the front.

    Those of us students who were selected to take part in the parade wore through more than one pair of soles as the result of our daily four-hour exercises on the parade ground. We were drilled very strictly, for military exercises were not regarded as of much importance in the college, and so normally they were neglected. Now we were forced to acquire the infantry knowledge that we lacked. In preparation for the parade we polished our buttons and buckles till they dazzled, and tried on our new uniforms again and again.

    And now this endless steady drizzle was falling. We knew that if the weather were unfavorable the civilian demonstration would not be held only the military parade. Soldiers are used to being wet to the skin.

    In the Red Square, the gigantic crimson banners on the buildings of the All-Union Executive Committee and the History Museum hung in heavy folds. In broad daylight the square looked very different from its aspect at night under the gunfire of the salutes. Sober and plain. As if the road did not end but only had it’s beginning here. A gray road into a gray future.

    Eyes right! There, on the platform of the mausoleum, stood the leader, our sorrow and our glory. In honor of the victory, today he had abandoned the modesty of his usual parade uniform and was decked in the brilliant uniform of a generalissimo. When Joseph Vissarionovich signed the order conferring the rank of generalissimo of the Soviet Union on Comrade Stalin, he must have smiled wryly at the thought of his colleagues, Franco and Chiang Kai-shek.

    The picked regiment of the People’s Commissariat headed the parade for Defense and the Moscow garrison. It was followed by the picked regiment of the First Ukrainian Army, which had always been flung in where the main battle was to be fought, and which had stormed into Berlin.

    The picked regiments of victory and glory marched past: tankmen in blue overalls and leather helmets, cossack cavalry units in long Caucasian cloaks with red and blue hoods; airmen with golden wing-badges. The glorious infantry marched past in an endless gray-green band, men of various complexions, various tongues. Now they all had one thing in common: on the chest of each one burned the tokens of intrepidity and heroism, the orders and medals of the great patriotic war, the proofs of faithful war-service to the fatherland.

    At the head of each picked regiment marched the outstanding generals from the various fronts. Gray-blue uniforms, silver belts and swordbelts, lacquered boots. Gold on their buttons, their caps, their orders. The stars glittered, the medals gleamed. They were transformed, were those once so modest proletarian generals.

    Amplified through batteries of loudspeakers, the greetings of the party and government leaders thundered over the Red Square to the victorious army.

    One after another the captured banners of the German divisions, the standards of the S. S. storm troopers, were thrown down at the foot of the mausoleum. Symbols of departed glory, once proudly fluttering over Europe; they lay in a formless, pitiable heap at the foot of the Kremlin wall.

    Despite the rain, despite our soaked uniforms, we felt light and joyful at heart. This was the last solemn act of the great struggle. We had sacrificed so much for this day: flourishing towns and villages, millions and millions of human lives. The bloody wounds that those in search of ’living-space’ had inflicted on us would be gaping for long yet. For many years to come the husbandman’s plough would go on turning up alien bones from the Russian earth, and for many years to come would the burnt-out hulls of tanks go on rusting in the midst of cornfields.

    But all this lay behind us. We had emerged from the struggle as heroes and victors. Through hard work we would heal the wounds, we would begin a peaceful and happy life. We would begin a new life, and all would be better than before the war. There was much that we forgot in our consciousness of victory, as we looked hopefully to the future.

    An old, sturdy sergeant marched along with a weighty step.

    A real rock of a man. Thick whiskers, like those shown in the picture of the old-time Zaporozhe cossack camp; sunburnt face, heavily lined. Rows of orders and distinctions glittered across his chest.

    All his life he had flourished the hammer and sickle, but he had never been able to endure their representation on a red ground with all the trimmings of communist fripperies. Nonetheless, today he threw out his chest, with its many orders bearing these symbols.

    At the front the sergeant had had less regard for his head than for his luxuriant whiskers. During the years of collectivization he had shortened them considerably, in order not to be taken for a kulak. In those days things had been worse than they ever were at the front. In those days nobody knew whether and when fate would knock at their door. But now a free wind seemed to be blowing. You could even grow your whiskers long again.

    During the war many quite young soldiers and officers had let their beards and whiskers grow. Before the war such liberties had been risky. A small beard was regarded as Trotskyist, a thick beard indicated a kulak, a long beard a priest. Then there were merchants’ beards, archbishops’ beards, and generals’ beards. The position was just as bad in regard to mustaches. A small mustache was regarded as ’white-guard’, a bigger one suggested a Tsarist policeman. Over such superficial social distinctions one might find oneself behind bars! But today the old sergeant didn’t know whether to be more proud of his orders or his whiskers.

    There had been great changes during the war years. Before the war, would anyone have dared even to mention the George Crosses of the Tsarist days? The chevaliers of the Cross of St. George had thrown their medals away, or buried them deep in the earth. But today the old sergeant marched across the Red Square, past the Kremlin walls, with four George Crosses hanging on his chest beside the Soviet orders. After that, let anyone tell me that the Soviet regime had not made any revolution, that the collective farms might not be abolished tomorrow! And weren’t the churches open again, weren’t the bells ringing from their belfries?

    Before the war hundreds of thousands of priests had been liquidated as propagators of ’opium for the people’. Of those few that were left in freedom the Soviet people knew only one thing with certainty: they were agents of the Narcomvnudel. Every week, under cover of darkness, they slipped through the doors of the Narcomvnudel with reports on their flocks.

    But now religious freedom was proclaimed. A clerical training college had been opened in Moscow, and a Special Committee for Religious Affairs had been set up under the Council of People’s Commissars of the U. S. S. R., with Comrade Karpov in charge. The church had been harnessed to the service of the State. It was wiser now, and would obey.

    Only one thing astonished us in all this comedy. The newly opened churches were filled with people. Church weddings had become quite fashionable, especially in the country. Despite everything, it had not been possible to cut religion out of the people’s souls. Even I often felt a hankering to enter the open church doors. But as a student in a Kremlin college I knew certain things only too well. I could not risk the possibility that later the head of the college would hand me a photograph taken of me in the church, with the observation: “You appear to have forgotten that students of the college are strictly forbidden to let themselves be photographed anywhere else but in the college’s special photo-studio.” That was the kind of false step that often served as a ground for expulsion from the college.

    Now, from time to time, church bells, miraculously saved from destruction, sounded over Moscow. Priests were hurriedly brought back from Siberia, straight from forced labor to the altar. Before the calluses had vanished from their hands they were offering up prayers for victory and asking heaven to grant the leader health. The people listened with unconcealed joy to the bells. But nobody had any doubt that the new priests were in close contact with the Narcomvnudel.

    The Narcomvnudel never forgets its old clients. When they have done their eight or ten years in a punitive camp, on their discharge the majority of its prisoners are invited to serve it as informers. “Justify the trust we are putting in you, in giving you back your freedom,” is the way it is put. In reactionary countries, when a prisoner has served his time he is left to his own devices. But we show greater thought for the man. Freedom is granted him as an act of grace, which he must be thankful for, working to justify the ’trust’.

    Innumerable orders glittered on the Red Square. Many new decorations had been created during the war years. Even they had made their evolution backward. The rank-and-file Glory medals instituted in 1944, and the medal for ’Participation in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945,’ were a direct borrowing from the black and orange ribbons of the Tsarist George Cross.

    New orders, the Ushakov and the Nakhimov, were instituted for admirals and captains in the navy, and medals similarly named for the sailors. The army generals were adorned with Suvorov and Kutuzov orders, the higher officers with the Alexander Nevsky and Bogdan Khmielnitzky orders. But the most widely distributed of all was the Order of the Patriotic War. Not just any war, but the Patriotic War! And for marshals there was a special Victory order, made of gold, platinum, and diamonds, and worth 200, 000 gold rubles.

    Though they remained five-pointed, the stars of these orders were very similar to those issued by Katherine II. And there were Guards regiments again, Guards standards, and Guards distinctions. But in pre-war days? God protects a man from letting the word ’Guards’ slip out!

    The impersonal greeting, ’Good day, Comrade Colonel,’ had been replaced by the official ’Zdravia Zhelayu’ (I wish you health). And the gold epaulettes? In past days the worst charge an investigating officer of the Narcomvnudel could have made against anyone would have been to designate him a ’wearer of gold epaulettes’. The generals, marching along on parade just like the portraits of former Tsarist generals, had mottled silver belts. The ’International’ had been superseded by the new ’Hymn of the Soviet Union’. Even the slogan ’Proletarians of all countries, unite!’ had vanished from the front page of Pravda.

    According to a recent decree of the U. S. S. R. Supreme Soviet, on retirement generals were to receive a piece of land for life tenure, and interest-free loans for the erection of their country houses. There we have the aristocracy of socialism! The only snag to all these blessings was the circumstance that so many of the Soviet generals ended their careers in the Narcomvnudel.

    The people simply went dizzy with all these innovations.

    The victorious army marched in parade step across the Red Square. The drumming of their feet found an echo in my breast. To me, today, the army meant not simply military service: in the army I had first found my fatherland. Before the war I had lived in an illusory world of new concepts: communism, socialism, Soviet farms, collective farms. The papers had given me astronomical figures, fine words and slogans, talk of tractors and factories, new houses and construction works. Nonetheless, like everybody else, in my own life I had experienced inhuman difficulties and privations, though I justified them all by reference to the necessities of ’the great upheaval’.

    But when the war broke out I saw all the wretched impotence of the world in which the Soviet man lived hypnotized by propaganda. Yet as it went on I recognized something greater, I recognized the nation. I felt for the first time that I was a member of the nation, and not merely a unit in a Marxist classification. I was not the only one to realize that: millions shared it. It did not come to us as the result of the new maneuvers of Kremlin policy, suddenly switched over to emphasis on the national, fatherland aspect. That maneuver was rather simply a consequence, a forced way out of the situation that had been created.

    The war stirred the country to its innermost depths, brought to the surface things that hitherto had been concealed in those depths. All the artificial trimmings were pushed into the background, and the true power, man, was restored to the foreground. The man as he really is. In blood and agony is man born; in blood and agony men learn to know one another.

    In the light of real life, among living men, all the theories of dialectical materialism faded and were put in the shade. I realized that all that for which we had made incredible sacrifices over twenty-five years was, if not the product of an experimenter’s delirious fantasy, at any rate only an experiment that called for great improvement. Now as I marched across the Red Square I still saw no way out. But I was thoroughly convinced of the falsity of that which we had lived for in pre-war days.

    The victory parade thundered across the Red square. Dashing soldiers in blue overalls stuck their heads out of the open turrets of the heavy tanks. Proud of their gold epaulettes and their George ribbons, they signaled with their red flags, saluting the Kremlin walls and their leader.

    Generalissimo, today we greet you and congratulate you on the victory! Just as you greet and congratulate us.

    Yet we remind you: do you think of the summer of 1941? Do you remember how you suddenly struck up a new tune? ’Dear brothers and sisters, citizens and citizenesses...’ you said. We could hardly believe our ears. For twenty-five years you had set brother against sister, sister against brother. Until that summer of 1941 the word ’citizen’ was commonly used only by the investigating official sitting behind his desk in the Narcomvnudel, using it as a form of address to an alien, enemy element.

    Where had your communists, your commissars, political functionaries and other ’comrades’ got to then? You were right in calling us ’citizens and citizenesses’. We were not your comrades! When you felt the rope round your neck you called to the people for help. And we came. We died, but we fought. We hungered, but we labored. And we conquered. Yes, we conquered, and not Generalissimo Stalin and his communist party.

    But today, in honor of the victory, I shout a thunderous, triple cheer. And may the walls of the Kremlin tremble!

    Thus victory came. And whenever my thoughts turn to that V-day I recall the thrill in my heart, the feeling that rose in my throat. The victor raised his head and sang his victory-song. And he rejoiced at the road that lay open before him, the road into the future.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 02

    Soldier and Citizen

    The victory salutes thundered over Moscow, while the struggle continued at the front. Superficially the city showed little sign of the war. Anyone who had heard of the desperate air-battles over Moscow would have been amazed not to see any destruction that could be attributed to bombing. In Gorky Street only one house had been destroyed by bombs. I passed by the ruins more than once without even noticing them. Boards, painted like a gigantic film set, concealed them from the eyes of passers-by. Bomb damage generally was rare, and there was nothing in the nature of planned strafing from the air.

    The same was true of Leningrad. The Leningrad houses were pitted with shell-scars, practically all the wooden houses in the suburbs were pulled down and used for fuel by the people themselves during the blockade. But in Leningrad, too, there were no extensive signs of bomb damage.

    In Moscow there were many who wondered whether it really was not possible for the Germans to drop at least one or two bombs on the Kremlin. Just as a joke, to put the wind up its residents! It could not have done any harm, for a bomb-proof shelter had been built for the government in the nearest Underground Station, Kirovskaya, and it was connected with the Kremlin by an under-ground passage. The Moscow people firmly believed that the shelter had been constructed long before the outbreak of war. In 1942 the government was evacuated to Kuibishev, but the news-papers proudly emphasized that Stalin himself was remaining in Moscow. Of course the Muscovites added that a tunnel was hurriedly being constructed all the way from Moscow to the Volga town.

    By 1944 the majority of the government departments had returned to Moscow, and the city throbbed with a bustling, almost peace-time activity. The barrage balloons sent up for the defence of Moscow every evening seemed an obsolete procedure. The chief sign that the war was still going on was the great number of uniforms to be seen in the streets. There were more uniformed people than civilians.

    The Moscow command had very strong patrols in the city, and they not only checked documents, but saw to it that uniforms were scrupulously neat and boots and buttons polished. The patrol posted at the escalators of the Baumanskaya Underground station were rather worried about the swaggering fellows in uniform who had been using this station regularly for some time past. They wore the normal soldier’s shoulder-straps, but the red ground was edged by a very unusual gold piping. And almost all of them wore new officers’ coats of green English cloth. In addition, they had new Russian leather boots which were the object of the patrol’s envy, officers’ swordbelts with a red star and swordknot, and fur caps dashingly worn over one ear. Even these caps were not of the usual lambswool, but of grey caracoul. To crown everything, many of these foppish soldiers carried document-cases. In the army the function of the hands is to extend down the seams of trousers or to salute, not to carry document-cases.

    At first the military patrols were dumbfounded at such disregard of all the army regulations. Then, licking their lips at the thought of having such a rich booty in the guardhouse, they asked these youngsters to show their documents. When they presented crimson personal identity cards bearing the State escutcheon and the words ’Military College’ in gold lettering the patrols involuntarily saluted these extraordinary soldiers and shrugged their shoulders helplessly: ’Soldiers’ tabs and officers’ documents!’

    Not all the students in the first course were officers. When the son of some Moscow proletarian leader was called up the leader phoned the head of the college. General Biyasi: “Nikolai Nikolaich! How’s things? I’m sending my son along to see you today. Have a chat with him.” That was one way of doing your military service, even in wartime, without leaving your hearth and home, and with the opportunity of learning a valuable profession into the bargain. Unlike the students of other colleges we did not have to live in barracks, but could occupy private dwellings. As each student successfully completed each course he was advanced in rank.

    At the end of the first course an ordinary soldier became an officer, and a first lieutenant a captain. In this way a man who held no officer’s rank at all when he entered the college could leave it with a captain’s commission. On the other hand, a captain might have to start in the first course. The important thing was not one’s rank, but the faculty and course which one was attending. The members of a first course waited in a queue until it was their turn to enter the dining hall, but members of other courses walked in without having to queue. The members of the fourth course enjoyed many privileges and liberties. They could even take their rations home, a right that even officers on the teaching staff did not possess.

    In my time there were only eight students altogether in the fourth course of the German Department of the Western Faculty. They had been drawn from all over the U. S. S. R., and most of them had attended a university before. Their knowledge was of a very high standard, but so were the demands made of them by the college curriculum. They had to work hard and intensively. In addition to taking the normal subjects of the fourth course they had to get through the so-called ’special subjects’ of preceding courses, for instance, ’army service regulations’, ’army equipment’, ’army organization’, and ’army special training’. The discreet phrase ’special training’ connoted secret service and defence. And, of course, the ’army’ covered by the German Department was not the Soviet, but the German force. Outside his own special province, no Soviet officer knew as much about the Red Army as a student in our college had to know about all the formations of his ’army’, whether German, British, or other army covered by his particular department.

    For study of the special subjects the educational material provided usually consisted of handwritten matter or the service regulations of the respective army. It was forbidden to take notes on subjects which had to be kept very secret, and those concerned with the immediate past. But duplicated and carefully numbered rough notes could be obtained on these subjects, against the student’s signature and deposit of his personal documents. But these notes could be used only in the hall set apart for the purpose. The contents of these rough notes were always kept up to date, they were never more than a month old. The information covered not only the actual position at the moment, but even matters that were only in the planning or preliminary stage. Frequently photo-copies of the original documents were attached to the notes. The quality of the photograph indicated whether the document had been photographed legally, so to speak, or whether it had been done in rather less convenient and normal conditions. Sometimes one could tell quite easily that it had been taken with a micro-film camera. Such cameras can be built into a button, into the fastener of a lady’s handbag, etc.

    We in the German Department were taught some very interesting things. We had to study the medieval originals of literature in Gothic and old High-German, languages which would completely baffle a twentieth-century German. From the manner in which a man pronounced the words gebratene Gans we had to determine exactly where he came from, to within a few kilometres. We had to know the local food and drink of the various parts of Germany, how the people in various districts dressed and what were their characteristic habits. We had to know the smallest detail of the distinctive features of each national group, and learned to distinguish any faded German wine label with absolute certainty. We were told which of the German national groups cannot stand one another, and why; and what were their usual terms of abuse for one another. We were shown the historical genesis of all the present and past political and economic, ideological and religious antagonisms inside the German nation.

    The history of the Communist Party of Germany as we learnt it was very different from that to be found in the usual handbooks. The lecturer usually referred to the Party by the phrase ’our potential’ or other, more precise terms, but one might listen to a two-hour lecture without hearing the words ’communist party’ at all. These lectures would have been of great interest especially to German communists. Many of them honestly believe they are fighting for a better Germany. A political movement is to some extent only a trap for the credulous. Of course the leaders, who are in touch with the Comintern, are better informed on this delicate question.

    Once one of our students asked the lecturer: “Why don’t we get any communist come-overs from Germany these days?”

    “Think it over and you’ll find the answer for yourself,” the lecturer answered. “I can’t waste the other students’ time in giving explanations of such an elementary matter. We don’t want any come-overs. They’re much more use to us when they work outside.”

    In addition to lecturing at our college, this lecturer was an in-structor at the Red Army Secret Service High School, his subject being ’Underground work in the rear’.

    Despite what he said, if the issue be examined more closely certain questions remain unanswered. What has happened to the enormous German Communist Party? Germany was the first world power to enter into commercial and friendly relations with Soviet Russia. She had the strongest Communist Party and the most clearly defined industrial proletariat in all Europe, and for us Russians they were the shining example of proletarian consciousness and solidarity. At one time communism had struck its roots deep into the souls of the Germans. It had been regarded as axiomatic that Germany would be the next link in the chain of world revolution. Thalmann’s cap was as familiar to us as Karl Marx’s beard. And now...

    Now the Germans were fighting like devils, and our propaganda had thrown overboard all the principles of class approach. Instead, all Germans were branded as fascists and all we were expected to do was: ’Kill the Germans!’ Hitler couldn’t have thrown all the com-munists in Germany into concentration camps. Even our propaganda did not go so far as to say that. And yet Nazism seemed to be growing stronger and stronger among them. So what had happened to the communist consciousness, the proletarian solidarity, the class struggle, and so on?

    After a time our college transferred to new accommodation in a building right opposite the Stalin Academy for the Mechanization and Motorization of the Red Army, in Lefortovo Street. Under the old regime the building had been a Junker school; then it had be-come an artillery school. The place was rather uncomfortable, it stank of a barracks. On the other hand, this removal solved one of the most important problems of our command: now we were all under one roof, behind one fence. There was a parade ground in the middle, and a guardhouse somewhere in the background.

    In those autumn days of 1944 one often saw an edifying sight: students sauntering about the courtyard under the guard of other students. The prisoners had been relieved of their sword-straps and tabs, and they carried brooms and spades. With perfect equanimity they swept up the leaves that the autumn wind sent flying from the trees. The work was about as productive as bailing out water with a sieve. But the prisoners didn’t worry about that. Midday was still a long way off and life was boring in the clink.

    Other students did their best to cheer up the prisoners. “What Kolya, you in again? What heroic deed have you done this time? How long have you got?” Others stopped to stare at one of the generals’ sons among the prisoners. A very piquant situation: the father a general and the son collecting cigarette-butts under the eyes of a guard!

    The victims were usually first course students, many of whom were not yet accustomed to army discipline. Their punishment con-sisted mainly of sweeping up the leaves and collecting cigarette-butts. This was the method used to purge them of any desire for indepen-dent thought and to drill into them unquestioning submission to orders. Someone at some time or other had carefully carved the words on the door of the guardhouse: “I’ll teach you to love freedom!”

    This phrase was fashionable in the army about this time. Generals shouted it at the officers when they came upon signs of indiscipline during inspections. Sergeants shouted it into the faces of recruits, usually garnishing it with strong language and emphasizing it with blows of the fist.

    To this phrase there was one mysterious, but eloquent answer: ’Till the first battle...’ There is good reason for the change made in the new service regulations, as the result of which officers march, not at the head of their unit, but in the rear.

    Many of us officers were genuinely angry at the methods used to train reserve soldiers before transferring them to the front. They were drilled almost entirely in the manner of the parade ground; they learned to react to the orders ’right’ and ’left’, to salute their officers in the regulation style, to march in close order, etc. All through their training they used only dummy weapons, and they often reached the front without having fired a single shot from a rifle or other arm. The men themselves grumbled about this at first, but then they got used to it and submitted. This sort of thing often had its origin in local circumstances, but the general direction came from above and had a deeper significance.

    For the outcome of a war it is of no importance whether one man falls or another. But it is important that he should obey orders. And that is a decisive factor in training.

    The winter passed. I gradually got used again to study, and made acquaintances. I don’t remember how I first got to know Lieutenant Belyavsky. Some thirty-one years old, lean and upright, he seemed to possess an imperturbable calm and unconcern. But in reality he was very passionate by nature, and capable of great enthusiasms. At one time he had studied at the Leningrad University, and then had taken special courses preparatory to work abroad. He was master of several languages. During the Spanish civil war he was sent to Spain, and for some time passed as a Spaniard. For some mysterious reason he had remained with the rank of lieutenant for nearly ten years, whereas all his former Spanish comrades had by now achieved much higher rank and responsible service posts.

    He had a great love of the theatre, and brought tickets for all the Moscow first nights a month in advance. I sometimes thought he suffered from the spiritual malaise which affects so many Leningrad people, and that he turned to the theatre for temporary oblivion. For he had gone right through the worst period of the Leningrad blockade, and you could never get him to say a word about those days.

    All the college knew Valentina Grinchuk, generally and affectionately called Valia for short. While fighting with partisans she had been seriously wounded, had been brought out by air, and sent to a hospital just outside Moscow. On her recovery she was sent to our college to study. She looked like a child; her head reached no higher than my waist. In all the warehouses of the Moscow military district not one pair of boots could be found to fit her, so a pair had to be made to measure for her, on a children’s last. Yet few of our students could wear so many decorations, genuine battle orders, as that child. They were in such contrast to her clear, childishly innocent face that one could not help looking round as she passed. Even officers of superior rank to her involuntarily saluted her first.

    Before the war she had been a fourteen-year-old girl, running barefoot through her forest village to take a bucket to the well. She had had no idea who Hitler and what Germany were. Then one fine June morning the war violated the peace of her childlike heart. The Germans occupied her village; in the first intoxication of easy victory they did as they liked in the new ’eastern space’. With a child’s instinct she began to hate these strange men in grey-green uniform.

    By chance she happened to come into contact with the members of a regular partisan unit which had been detached from the Red Army for operations in the German rear. At first they used her as a scout. It never occurred to the Germans that this straight-haired, skinny little girl, who looked no more than twelve years old, could be in touch with the dangerous partisan movement. Soon after this, she was left an orphan, and she went off to join the partisans. She acted as machine-gunner, saboteur, and sniper, she volunteered for long treks as a liaison, she carried out highly dangerous acts of es-pionage. Many a German who thought of her as only a child had to pay for his negligence with his life. She had no real knowledge of life, and possibly for that reason she looked death fearlessly in the face; her soul was steeled in the fight.

    Just one thing was lacking in her-she never smiled. She had no knowledge of laughter, happiness, and joy. The war had robbed her of her chance of knowing the brighter aspect of life.

    Now she was an attractive girl of eighteen, attending a privileged Moscow college. Her contemporaries were still attending school, but this child wore the insignia of a first lieutenant, she had spent years in fighting, her officer’s tunic carried rows of active service decorations and gold and silver wound stripes.

    A flying officer, a second-course student, once invited Valia to go to a concert with him, and she readily agreed. Nobody knows exactly what happened that evening. It was only known that he tried to treat Valia as he thought girls who had fought at the front were used to being treated. Officers who had not themselves been at the front were always making this sort of mistake. When Valia sharply told him where he got off he shouted at her in a rage: “Everybody knows how you got all those orders! You’re all...”

    A little later he was found lying in the street with a head wound inflicted by a pistol butt.

    When the head of the college, General Biyasi, sent for Valia and demanded an explanation she curtly answered: “He can think him-self lucky he got off with his life.” The general did not know what to say to that, and only ordered Valia to hand over her pistol. But after that even the most presumptuous critics of front-line women fighters treated her with respect.

    February 1945. The German counter-offensive in the Ardennes was drowned in its own blood. The Allied invasion armies were preparing to leap over the Rhine and break through the notorious Siegfried Line. After prolonged preparations our troops on the Oder had gone over to the offensive, had broken the resistance of the East Wall and had enlarged the bridgehead, ready for the last blow against the heart of Germany. The war was nearing its end.

    Strange to say, conditions in Moscow had improved a little by comparison with the previous years; possibly the difficulties had been stabilized and the people had grown accustomed to them; possibly the successes at the front and the hope of a speedy end to the war made it easier to endure the difficulties. In the army and all over the country there was a clear improvement in morale. A miracle had been achieved: instead of being exhausted by the long years of war, the army was technically and morally stronger. Towards the end it was using a vast number of planes, tanks, automatic weapons, munitions, and equipment; in other words, it now had all that was so disastrously lacking at the beginning. That was difficult to under-stand, and many of us racked our brains over the problem.

    It would be naive to assume that this miracle was due solely to our military efforts and the moral transformation that had occurred in the nation’s soul during the war; nor could it be ascribed simply and solely to Allied aid. For one thing, by the end of the war the Soviet war industry potential was lower than at its beginning. The moral factor played a great part, especially when one remembers that at the beginning it completely failed to come up to the Kremlin’s expectations; but then, as the result of skilful internal propaganda and the enemy’s mistakes, it was brought up to specification again. The military aid provided by the Allies was enormous; it greatly lightened the burden of the Russian soldiers and the Russian people, it made up for many defects in the Kremlin’s military apparatus, and shortened the war. But not one of these factors determined the out-come of the war.

    War is like chess, it is susceptible of innumerable variations. The single moves may change in accordance with circumstances, but the game as such is determined from the beginning by the funda-mental strategy of the players. In this war the Kremlin developed a strategy that at first deliberately resorted to a gambit opening, in order that reserves could be thrown in at a later stage with all the greater force. This quite clearly occurred during the final phase.

    We students of the college often discussed the ’three stages’. While we were of various opinions in regard to details, fundamentally we were in complete agreement as to the general interpretation of our war strategy. These discussions had their origin in the very restricted circle of the Kremlin and Red Army general staff milieus. There was good reason for the fact that our college was secretly known as the ’Kremlin college’; not for nothing did many of our students have their ’papas’ on the General Staff. In the college one learned a great deal which was quite unsuspected by the ordinary soldier.

    It is very significant that all who took part in such discussions emphasised that they paid no attention to the official statements and rumours. Many ’rumours’ were deliberately put into circulation by the ’rumour-mongers’ of the Narcomvnudel. The Kremlin made use not only of an official propaganda machine in the form of the press and radio, but also of a remarkably efficient network of ’rumour-mongers’ organized by the Narcomvnudel, with the task of systematically leading the people into error in the direction the Kremlin desired. It need hardly be said that the Kremlin never publicly ad-mitted adoption of the gambit strategy known as the ’three stages’.

    According to this interpretation, the story of the war can be divided into three stages, or phases. The first phase began the day the Soviet-German Pact of Friendship was signed. The following day, in September 1939, I was to start my course of training in practical work at the Rostov Agricultural Machinery Works (Rostselmash), the largest producer of agricultural machinery not only in the Soviet Union, but in all Europe. When I went to the reaper-combine department, to which I was assigned, I was struck by a remarkable sight.

    The most important feature of this shop was the U-shaped conveyor belt, on which the combines were assembled. The conveyor was mounted on the floor, and each combine was fastened to a hook rising from the belt, so travelling round the shop. But now the con-veyor was at a standstill, the combines stood motionless, half assembled. And literally every square yard of space between the conveyor belt and the workmen’s benches was packed with a new production line: thousands of munitions chests for anti-tank guns. They had been made overnight, after the conclusion of the Pact of Friendship. A similar sight was to be seen in all the other shops.

    On the day the Pact of Friendship was signed with Germany tele-graphed orders were sent out from Moscow to put into operation a secret mobilization plan; this plan had been kept in the safe of the secret department attached to every Soviet factory and works. During all the three months I worked at Rostselmash every shop, all of which in normal times were concerned only with production for peaceful purposes, was engaged in turning out military material. Not only that, but from the very first day of the works’ existence so-called ’special departments’ had worked uninterruptedly on orders connected with the production of military weapons.

    In the course of my work I frequently had to visit the goods yards in Rostov station, and could not help seeing the endless trains loaded with armaments which were being produced by the Rostov industries which had been engaged in peacetime production. I must make it clear that I am not referring to the normal armaments works, each of which had its own railway lines, and whose production did not come under public notice.

    If one may digress into the field of political economy, the Soviet industry engaged in producing means of production could be analysed into two basic categories: the armaments industry as such, pro-ducing exclusively military material; and the other industries, which can be described as industries for peace production, but which, even at the time of their inauguration, were so planned that they could be turned over to armaments production in a moment. It is very difficult to draw the line between the two categories. Machinery construction appears at first sight to be a peace industry, but ninety per cent of the machinery produced goes to equip arma-ments works. And in September 1989 even this second category, which hitherto had been working, within limits, on the production of consumer goods, was geared wholly and completely to the mobilization plan, and from then on worked exclusively for war purposes.

    Like myself, the other students of our Industry Institute had to undergo practical training, being sent to hundreds of the larger works all over the Soviet Union. They all reported the same picture everywhere. The open preparations for war were obvious, even in September 1939. The only uncertainty was: whom was this war to be waged against? There were many who rather assumed that the Kremlin had decided to join with Germany in sharing out the world. The events in Finland, the Baltic States and Bessarabia, which followed soon after the Pact, seemed to confirm this view. In any case the Kremlin had already decided that the time had arrived for an active solution of the foreign policy problems.

    So the Kremlin prepared all its war machinery for the struggle. Friendship with Germany was made to serve the same end. U-boats bought in Ger-many arrived in Kronstadt, where the German distinguishing ’U’ was painted over with the Soviet letter for ’shch’, after which the Soviet naval men called them ’pike’, since the ’shch’ letter was the first letter in the Russian word for ’pike’ (shchuka). These U-boats served as prototypes for the Soviet dockyards to turn out ’pikes’ by the dozens. Later on battleships were ordered in Germany, but their arma-ments were to be supplied by the Kirov works in Leningrad, where they were to be mounted. But these battleships did not arrive in time.

    At a certain moment in this ’friendship’ period-the historians could establish the exact date-unexpected changes occurred in the relations between the ’high contracting Parties’. Both the partners’ appetites had grown immensely. Apparently Hitler, intoxicated with his successes, now felt convinced that he could manage to eat all the cake himself, without the aid of his bewhiskered friend. Any Soviet General Staff officer would laugh outright if anyone were to tell him that Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union took the Kremlin by surprise. And with justice, for no other regime in the world is so well informed on the situation in neighbouring countries as is the Kremlin.

    The myth of the unexpected ’perfidious attack’ was put out in order to justify the Kremlin’s mesalliance to the world. Weeks before the start of fighting on the Soviet-German front many citizens of the Soviet Union heard the British radio reporting the transfer of 170 German divisions to the eastern frontier of the Reich. And did the innocent children in the Kremlin have cottonwool in their ears?

    Anyone who did not happen to hear the radio transmissions could draw his own conclusions from the official Tass dementi: ’The foreign press recently has contained provocative reports of a concentration of German forces on the Soviet frontier. From well informed sources Tass is authorized to state that these reports are completely un-grounded fabrications.’ The Soviet people knew Tass far too well not to know that the truth was exactly the opposite of this statement.

    By the early spring of 1941 the Kremlin knew that war was in-evitable during the next few months. An extraordinary session of the Politbureau was held to draw up the basic decrees covering the strategy to be adopted in the event of a ’change in the situation’, i. e., in the event of war. A Defence Committee was set up at the same time, though its existence was made public only after the outbreak of war.

    The Kremlin knew the power relationships perfectly, far better than did the German Supreme Command. Despite all the enormous war preparations it knew that Russia was at a disadvantage in this respect. The only hope of salvation lay in wearing down the enemy by means of a protracted war, in thorough exploitation of the country’s vast territory and her material and human reserves, and therefore in the application of the Kutuzov strategy adapted to the requirements of modern war. It was about this time that the Krem-lin decided on a gambit opening. This form of defence strategy was to cost the country dearly; it was completely contrary to the Krem-lin’s pre-war propaganda, which had always talked of a ’bloodless war on enemy soil’. Naturally these new plans could not be made public. They were the Kremlin’s deepest secret since the first days of the Politbureau.

    Even at that stage the lines of retreat were foreseen and approxi-mately determined, the presumable losses and the available reserves were balanced against each other; even then Stalingrad was re-cognized to be the farthest point of retreat. They coldbloodedly worked out on paper operations involving tens of millions of human lives, and the results of the toil, sweat and blood of a whole generation. The members of the Politbureau could feel the ropes round their necks, it was a question of saving their own skins. The price...

    Even at that stage the war was divided into phases, and it was calculated what must be held in reserve for the ’third phase’. All else, everything that did not seem to be required for the ’third phase’, was condemned to be sacrificed in the ’second phase’.

    When the war broke out, men were sent to the front with old, quite unserviceable uniforms and weapons. Yet millions of sets of complete, modern equipment, armaments, and automatic weapons were lying, packed to resist the ravages of time, in scaled warehouses: these were predestined for the ’third phase’. When the Germans advanced more swiftly than the Kremlin plans had provided for, such stocks were destroyed or they fell into the hands of the enemy; but in no case were they distributed to the forces ahead of schedule.

    In the ’second phase’ there was much that did not go according to the Kremlin plan. Most of all they erred in their estimation of the people’s moral state. The Russian people made it quite clear that they had no desire whatever to defend the Politbureau. The morale of the troops was much lower than expected, and so the loss in human material was much higher. In order to retrieve the situa-tion the Kremlin was compelled to resort to extraordinary measures and declare the war a national patriotic war for the fatherland.

    The loss of territory was more or less in line with the ’plan’, but fulfilment of the ’territorial plan’ cost far more human lives than had been expected. The losses in material corresponded with the calculations; the forces thrown into defence received only out-of-date equipment and weapons; ’old stock’, planes and tanks of the most ancient type, were disposed of. This held good of the human material too. Sixty-year-old men, and women, were sacrificed to the ’defence phase’, while reserves for the ’third phase’, the ’offensive phase’, waited in the Far East for the day when they were to be thrown in.

    At the critical moment a new and favourable factor came into the reckoning. The western democracies, who in the period of Stalin-Hitler friendship had been reviled as bitter enemies, were now, willy-nilly, the Soviet Union’s allies.

    This was when the great game began. The Kremlin showed that, if it was not clever, it was at least cunning. Its aim was to spare its own reserves and to squeeze all the help possible out of the western democracies. And then, at the end, it would play its trump card, the reserves held in readiness for the ’third phase’, and the Russian bear would not only be left alive, but going forward to victory.

    The farther the Red Army advanced westward during the third phase, the greater was the quantity of first-class equipment of Soviet production that reached the front. It was no secret to staff officers that in 1945 great masses of arms were thrown in, much of it bearing a pre-war production mark.

    But since in the early stages the Kremlin had spared its man-power less than its material, toward the end of the war there was an acute shortage of soldiers. Moreover, the industries not regarded as of ’war importance’ were no longer able to fulfil the tasks set them, and so during the ’third phase’ there was a disastrous shortage of transport and other ’war-unimportant’ details, whereas Soviet-produced tanks and planes were available in adequate quantities. The majority of the military transport lorries and the like were of American production. The situation was still worse in regard to food. The food shortage was terrible. But, after all, that was nothing unusual in Soviet conditions. It was much more important to keep the war industry running at full speed.

    Such was the theoretical explanation of the war successes put forward by Moscow military circles.

    The Yalta conference came and went. After they had settled their military problems, the Big Three turned to the problem of restoring order in the world after the war.

    In connection with the Yalta conference, ’high circles’ of the Kremlin openly talked of two attempts to enter into peace negotia-tions between Hitler and the Soviets. The first attempt to sound the ground for a separate peace on the eastern front was made by Hitler when the Red Army gained a foothold on the right bank of the Dnieper. The Kremlin was quite ready to talk, and stipulated that observance of the Soviet 1941 frontier was the most important prerequisite.

    This shows how little the Kremlin then hoped for any great successes. Their only concern was to save their flayed hide from being worried any more. But Hitler still doubted whether the wheel of history had begun to turn to his disadvantage, and he demanded the Ukraine on the right bank of the Dnieper as his price. In this instance both the totalitarian opponents played with their cards on the table; at least they were more frank than they were with their democratic opposite numbers.

    The second attempt to conclude a separate peace was made by Hitler when the noose was already round Germany’s neck, im-mediately before the Yalta conference. On the eve of Stalin’s departure for Yalta he had no hesitation in entering into preliminary negotiations with Hitler. Who would offer him more, Hitler or the democracies?

    This time Hitler was asked to pay dearly for his immoderate demands in the earlier negotiations. Now the Kremlin no longer insisted simply on the retention of its pre-war frontiers; it required a free hand in the Balkans, possession of the Straits, and extensive concessions in the Near East. This time it was Hitler who was offered his former frontiers. Now the dream of world domination had come to birth in another brain. The policy of keeping trumps up the sleeve was justified; it brought not only salvation, but also the possibility of continuing the game.

    Hitler flatly rejected the Kremlin’s conditions. To accept them would have been a moral defeat for him. He preferred to suffer both moral and physical defeat, and to drag his whole nation, his Reich, down into the pit with him.

    The Yalta conference appeared to achieve complete unanimity among the partners. And then Stalin threw overboard all thoughts of a separate peace with Germany and concentrated all his attention on the diplomatic game with the western democracies. In the castle of Livadia he felt far more confident than he had been in Teheran. But even now he preferred not to make great demands, but to apply the tactic of squeezing out aid and concessions in exchange for promises and guarantees which he had no intention of keeping. It was still too early to show his strength. The Kremlin’s strength was only just beginning to develop, and the Kremlin itself had no clear idea of its immensity. It was best to gain time, and meanwhile get as much as possible in negotiations.

    The western allies proved very complaisant. They were quite convinced that the Kremlin was not strong enough to overrun Europe, and that the ’coup de grace’ would be administered by them, while the Soviet bear would remain stranded somewhere on the frontier of Poland. They made many concessions in the belief that the Kremlin would not be in a position to take advantage of them.

    Only the prudent and farsighted Churchill perceived the danger, hence his proposal to build up a second front in the Balkans and so protect Europe from the Red peril advancing from the East. The execution of this plan would have cost the Allies far more dearly than the invasion on the Atlantic seaboard, so its opponents won the day and it was decided to give the Soviet bear a further opportunity to burn its paws in pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for them.

    The Soviet bear pulled out the chestnuts, but he put them into his own mouth, even while he went on complaining of his weakness in order to obtain further deliveries of commodities. Quite con-vinced that he was bleeding to death, the Western Allies readily threw him further milliards in the form of lend-lease deliveries, and the bear prudently locked them away in his store-room.

    So the ’high contracting Parties’ shook one another’s hands and signed the communique, which at least one of them did not believe for one moment, having no intention of observing its terms. The communique was published, and all mankind, with the exception of the signatories, believed in it and were overjoyed. The future lay before us like a sunny May day, or like the blue sky above the Yalta shore. True, the only thing the ordinary Russian knew about current policy was that bread in Moscow cost fifty roubles a kilogramme.

    I took the final course examinations in the middle of February 1945. As I was credited with several subjects which I had taken during my studies at other schools, I was set free ten days earlier than my colleagues. After much difficulty I succeeded in getting a week’s leave. I obtained an official ’order’ from the college, and an official travel voucher to correspond, and so was enabled to visit my home town in the south of Russia.

    This trip was not a very cheerful one. The town gave me the same sort of impression as that conveyed by an autumn garden after a stormy night: bare boughs, leaves rustling underfoot, broken twigs. In my heart I felt desolation and emptiness.

    Before the war Novocherkassk had been famous for its high-spirited youth. There were five higher educational institutions to its hundred thousand inhabitants, and students dominated the town. But now I walked along the main street from the station at twelve o’clock midday and met only a few wizened old women. The typical picture of the Soviet rear. I walked beneath the cool colon-nades of my alma mater. The pictures my memory conjured up out of the past seemed far finer than the present reality. But had the reality changed so much, or had my wanderings about the world led to my applying a different yardstick?

    At the street corners women in rags were sitting, selling sun-flower seeds and home-made fruit drops. Just like 1923! Only now I had to give my little cousin a thirty-rouble note to buy the same quantity of seeds as five kopeks had bought in those days. The need, the poverty, were so hopeless, so completely without the least ray of light, that even the modest conditions of pre-war times seemed like a golden age. What we had thought wretchedness then passed for prosperity now.

    As I left the station at Moscow and plunged into the midst of the great metropolis’s swirling hurry and activity, I felt as relieved as a man returning home from the cemetery. In Moscow there was an upsurge of hopeful life. But in all the rest of our vast country men were conscious only of the bony hand of hunger, they felt only utter hopelessness.

    Now, after the German yoke had been thrown off, something much worse had taken its place: dread of a settle-ment of accounts. Men did not know what crime they had com-mitted, they knew only that there would be no escaping the reckon-ing. Enormous areas of the Soviet Union, and over half its popula-tion, had been under German occupation. And now, over every one of these people hovered the spectre of a reckoning for ’betrayal of the fatherland’.

    At the end of February all the graduates of our course were sent to the front and attached to the active army; before taking their State examination they had to have a period of experience on active service. I was attached to the staff of the First Byelorussian Army.

    During those days the divisions of the First Byelorussian and the First Ukrainian Armies were fighting desperately to overcome the latest achievements of German fortifications technique. After breaking through the East Wall a fight began to enlarge the Oder bridgehead. Inspired by their successes, the Soviet troops were burning to tear on into the heart of Hitler’s Germany, on to Berlin.

    Towards the end of April, just as the street battles in Berlin had reached their height, I was unexpectedly recalled to Moscow.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Introduction by Ernst Reuter

    The decisive problem of our time is that of relations with the totalitarian Soviet system. Despite all the astonishing results that have been achieved, not only in western Germany but in other European countries during recent years, the quite understandable disposition of a large part of the western world to be concerned with its own anxieties and to devote considerable energy to the restoration of its own conditions cannot dispose of the fact that there can be no peace in the world so long as the Soviet problem is not solved. Today the Soviets stand in the heart of Europe; Lubeck and Hamburg, as well as Kassel and Frankfurt-on-Main, lie in a sense at their gates; the bounds between the two worlds run along the Elbe in Germany, the geographical center of Europe; and countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Rumania are under the domination of a foreign power which is never prepared to give up its ultimate goal. And all these facts show that there can be no serious peace so long as they endure.

    They cannot endure, because the people living under the Soviet yoke will not regard them as a lasting solution. They could only endure if the western world were to compound with them. But the western world cannot, and dare not, compound with these conditions. It must clearly recognize that this enemy will never abandon his goal, and by his very nature cannot renounce his conquests, still less his aim to incorporate those countries not yet under his subjection.

    Given this situation, which even today is not clearly realized by many millions of the western peoples, it is of decisive importance whether we can keep the way open to the subjected peoples, and also find a way to the peoples who are suffering most of all under the Soviet yoke. I mean the peoples of the Soviet Union, and above all the Russians themselves. More than any other place, Berlin has drunk the bitter cup of Soviet occupation to the dregs, and it is by no means fortuitous that it is in Berlin that the point has been made most persistently and urgently that our spiritual and political dispute is not with the Russian people but with the Soviet system. Again and again, we in Berlin have stressed that we have no hatred and no aversion for the Russian people, whose tremendous cultural achievements we all know and recognize, but that we wish to live and could live in true friendship with that nation.

    In the present historical conditions we are confronted with an unprecedented phenomenon. I refer to the fact that we are witnessing an emigration from Soviet Russia of people who have never consciously experienced any other but the Soviet regime. In all the former periods of world history, emigrants have regularly carried with them memories of the past. When they were compelled to leave their native land they took with them the memory of what they regarded as a better past, the memory of values in which they believed and which they considered it their duty to defend, even in emigration. This is true not only of emigrants from Germany. All through history, every emigration has had this traditional backward look. But now we find that ’Soviet men’, if we may use those dreadful words, are essentially cutting themselves off from the system under which they have grown up, from a system whose horrible and profoundly inhuman nature they have been forced to recognize often against their will, and only after a long inward struggle.

    Today we see that the identification of all Germans with National Socialism, and the consequent demand for ’unconditional surrender’, is one of the mistakes for which all of us, victors and vanquished, must alike pay heavily. It has taken time for this error to be men-tally overcome, and meanwhile tensions have been engendered which it would have been better to avoid. This serious political and psychological error must never be repeated on any future occasion. The Russian people and all the other peoples suffering under the Soviet yoke cannot and must not be made responsible for their regime.

    One of the most important tasks of the present time is to develop the western world’s understanding of the internal struggle and stress of relations inside Soviet Russia. We must work for realization of the fact that often men who carry Soviet passports are even compelled to become members of the Soviet Communist Party; and we must work for understanding of the reason why such men cannot be made politically and morally responsible for the regime under which they are themselves suffering.

    Major Klimov’s book is an unusually valuable contribution to the very difficult problem of understanding what is going on inside Soviet Russia. He gives a frequently dramatic description of his own process of development, and of his very rich experience and observation, which should be studied by all who have the future of the West at heart. Russia’s internal development during the war, the concessions made by the Stalin regime to the natural and inevitable patriotic feelings of the Russians who were called upon to defend, and did defend, their country against an enemy conqueror, but who hoped that something new would emerge out of their very defense, and then the monstrous post-war reaction, provide a key to an understanding of all that is happening in that country. His story shows the profound weaknesses of the regime, it reveals how responsive the Russians will be if the western world becomes convinced that our quarrel is not with Russia as such, but with the Soviet regime.

    In our own German history we have experienced something similar on a small scale. After the “élan” of the war for freedom of 1813 there was a reaction which made genuine freedom, and with it a genuine unification of Germany, historically impossible. We must get out of the habit of regarding this dispute as in the nature of a quarrel between East and West, or even between Germans and Russians. In Germany especially, but, unfortunately, not only in Germany, all old-style politicians are still inclined to think in categories derived from the past. They do not realize that the true realities of life are the hidden forces and processes at work within the people.

    They fail to realize that in our own fight for freedom our strongest allies are to be found in the Russian people themselves: people who are no less, and possibly even more, freedom-loving than those who are so quick to turn up their noses at the alleged and actual cultural backwardness of the East. On a former occasion, in a statement on German-Russian friendship, I said that I still hoped to have another opportunity to eat ’kasha’ with a Russian peasant in his hut. Perhaps those who cannot understand the depth of this longing, since they do not know Russia, will get some understanding of what I had in mind when they read Klimov’s dramatic description of a highly placed Russian Party-general’s visit to his peasant father’s home.

    For those who can read and understand, Klimov’s book gives an unequivocal answer to the question, continually being asked how we are to solve the apparently insoluble problem of dealing with the Soviets. The problem will be solved if all of us, freed from the domination of past power-conceptions, realize that the peoples themselves must be liberated; it will be solved when the peoples realize that their own internal freedom will only be secure again when the freedom of all peoples is secure. Klimov’s book reveals what profound possibilities there are of a solution on the lines of freedom in Russia.

    So it is a message of hope for us all. But it is necessary, too, for the world to understand how difficult, indeed, practically insoluble, is this task for any one people, if it has to live under such a satanic regime as the present Soviet regime. Klimov reveals so impressively the dreadful con-sequences of this regime, with its destruction of all human and natural inclinations and associations, that it is to be hoped the nonsensical idea which millions still hold, that the Russians as such cannot be trusted and that they are responsible for the regime under which they are suffering, will be abolished.

    There are still only a few who realize that we must win the genuine friendship of the Russian people. That realization is more present in the minds of those who are professionally occupied with the question. It must be our task to bring it home to everybody. Out of it a force of explosive effect can develop. No iron curtain, no terror measures adopted by the Soviet regime, will be able to hinder the long-distance effect within Russia of an inner change in the western world’s attitude to that country. In this direction we can forge weapons more effective than tanks, grenades, and atom bombs. In this direction we can forge weapons that will free the world without resort to bloodshed. Our real task is to gather around us men who, like Klimov, have gone through the purgatory of their regime and have retained intact an extraordinary strength of will and a genuine love of truth. I hope that this book will do even more than descriptions by foreign observers to help in shaping our determination to free this world, and with it the whole world too.

    Burgomaster of Berlin.
    Aschau (Cheimgau), 21 August 1951.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide