In The Control Commission
One afternoon General Shabalin sent for me. When I reported he handed me an invitation from American headquarters, asking him and his coworkers to take part in a conference at Frankfurt-on-Main to discuss the liquidation of the I.G. Farben Industry. “Take my car,” he said, “and drive to Zehlendorf. Hand in the list of our delegation, and find out when the plane leaves. If there isn’t a plane, obtain passes for us to use our cars for the journey.”
It was five-fifteen when I arrived outside the American headquarters. ’Well, now I shall have to wait an hour for an interview,’ I pondered. ’And I’ve got to see Eisenhower’s economic adviser, but I haven’t any letter of introduction, only my personal documents.’
I stopped the car at the gate and took out my documents. The American guard, in white helmet, white canvas belt, and white gaiters, raised his white-gloved hand in salute and seemed to be completely uninterested in my documents. To give some excuse for stopping the car, I asked him some meaningless question. Without speaking, he pointed to a board with an arrow and the one word: ’Information’. I drove past the Information Bureau slowly, and glanced back casually to see whether anybody was watching me. ’I’ll find what I want, myself; it’s a good opportunity to have a look round without trouble. I’ll see what sort of fellows these Americans are. They may not pull me up at once. And if necessary I’ll simply say I took the wrong way.’
I strictly ordered Misha to remain in the car and not stir a step. Who knows whether he might be kidnapped, and then I’d lose my head!
I went along a corridor. All the doors were wide open, the rooms were empty. Here and there German women cleaners were sweeping the floors. On each door was an ordinary tablet: ’Major So-and-so’ or ’Colonel So-and-so’, and the name of the department. What on earth did it all means? Not a sign of security precautions. We Soviet authorities did not hang out name-boards on the doors to inform our internal and external enemies who was inside.
I felt a little uncomfortable, almost queer, with anxiety. As though I had got into a secret department by accident and was afraid of being caught. In search of the right room I looked at one nameplate after another and felt as though I was a spy going through the card index of an enemy General Staff. And I was in full Soviet uniform, too!
One of our officers had once told me there was no point in visiting an American office after five p. m. “After that they’re all out with German girls,” he explained, and I couldn’t be sure whether his words expressed contempt or simply envy of American methods. “They think anyone who sits in an office after office-hours doesn’t know how to work or arrange his time.”
’He was right,’ I thought now. ’The Americans obviously don’t intend to work themselves to death. General Shabalin’s working day really begins at seven in the evening. I suppose I must apply to “Information” after all.’
In the Information Bureau I found two negroes extended in easy chairs, their feet on the desk. They were chewing gum. I had some difficulty in getting them to understand that I wanted to speak to General Clay. Without stopping his chewing one of them called something incomprehensible through a small window into the next room. Even if I had been President Truman, Marshal Stalin, or a horned devil, I doubt whether he would have removed his feet from the desk or shifted the gum from his right to his left cheek. And yet ’Information’ functioned perfectly: a sergeant behind the window said something into a telephone, and a few minutes later an American lieutenant arrived and courteously asked me to follow him.
In General Clay’s outer office a woman secretary was turning over the pages of a glossy magazine. ’She’ll probably put her feet on the typewriter too,’ I thought, and prudently sat down at a safe distance. While I was wondering whether to remain silent or enter into conversation with the ’Allies’, a long-nosed little soldier burst through the door leading to the general’s room. He tore through the outer office and snatched his cap down from a nail, saying a few hurried words to the secretary.
’The general must be a bit of a martinet, if his men rush about like that,’ I thought.
At that moment the soldier held out his hand to me and let loose a flood of words which overwhelmed my weak knowledge of English. “General Clay,” the secretary said in an explanatory tone behind my back. Before I could recover my wits the general had vanished again. He wasn’t a general; he was an atom bomb! All I had under-stood was ’Okay’; and that the necessary order had already been issued. And in addition, that here it wasn’t at all easy to tell the difference between a general and a GI The privates stretched themselves out with their feet on the desk while the generals tore around like messenger boys.
Another officer appeared at the same door, and invited me into his room. This time I prudently glanced at his tabs. Another general! Without offering me a chair, but not sitting down himself, the general listened to me with cool efficiency. Then he nodded and went out.
I looked round the room. A modest writing desk. Modest inkstands. A thick wad of newspapers. A number of pencils. Nothing unnecessary. A room to work in, not to catch flies in. When a writing desk adequate for General Shabalin’s rank was required, all Karlshorst and all the booty warehouses were turned upside down. The inkstands were obtained specially from Dresden for him.
A little later the American general returned and told me, apparently on the basis of a telephone conversation, when the aeroplane would be ready. I had plenty of opportunities to see later on that where we Soviet authorities would demand a ’document’ signed by three generals and duly stamped, the Americans found a telephone conversation sufficient.
I did not have to present the list of the Soviet delegation at all. Here everything was done without resort to a liaison service and without any counter-check by the Ministry of Internal Affairs! The general handed me a packet of materials on the I.G. Farben Industry, so that we could familiarize ourselves with the tasks of the conference.
Next morning the Soviet delegation, consisting of General Shabalin, Lieutenant-Colonel Orlov, Major Kuznetsov, two interpreters, and myself went to the Tempelhof landing ground. There the sergeant on duty explained that he had been fully informed concerning us, and spent a little time in phoning to various offices. Then he asked us to wait, as our plane would be starting rather later than arranged. I had the feeling that the Americans were holding up our departure for some reason. Machines rolled slowly on to the tarmac in the distance, but not one of them showed the least intention of taking us with it. The general swore, and, as he did not know whom to vent his anger upon, he turned to me. “What did they really say to you yesterday? Why didn’t you get it in writing?”
“I was quite clearly informed,” I answered; “this morning at ten, the Tempelhof airground. A special machine would be waiting for us, and the airport commandant was notified.”
The general clasped his hands behind his back, drew his head down between his shoulders, and marched up and down the concrete road outside the building without deigning to give us another glance.
To pass the time. Major Kuznetsov and I began to make a closer inspection of the landing ground. Not far away an American soldier in overalls was hanging about, giving us inquisitively friendly glances, and obviously seeking an excuse to speak to us. Now a blunt-nosed Douglas rolled up to the start. During the war these transport machines had reached the Soviet Union in wholesale quantities as part of the lend-lease deliveries; every Russian knew them. The American soldier smiled, pointed to the machine, and said:"S-47."
I looked to where he was pointing, and corrected him: “Douglas.” He shook his head and said: “No... no. S-47. Sikorsky... Russian constructor....”
’Was it really one of Igor Sikorsky’s designs?’ I wondered. Sikorsky had been the pioneer of Russian aviation in the first world war, and the constructor of the first multi-engine machine, Ilya Mourometz. I knew that, like Boris Seversky, he was working in the field of American aviation, but I had not known that the Douglas was his job. It was interesting that Pravda hadn’t taken the opportunity to make a big song of it.
The soldier pointed his finger first at the clock, then into the sky. With his hand he imitated a plane landing, and explained as he pointed to the ground: “General Eisenhower.”
’Well, if General Eisenhower’s arriving,’ I thought, ’that probably explains why we couldn’t start.’
While we were talking to the soldier a machine grounded just behind us, and a group of cheerful old gentlemen poured out of it. Like a horde of children just out of school they surrounded General Shabalin and began to shake his hand so heartily that you would have thought it was the one thing they had flown from America for. The general was carried away by their exuberance and shook their hands in turn. Later it transpired that they had mistaken Shabalin for General Zhukov. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Orlov had found out somewhere that these gay old boys were American senators, who were on their way to Moscow. He whispered this news into the general’s ear, but it was too late. Shabalin had already exchanged cordial handshakes with these sworn enemies of the communist order.
All around them, camera shutters were clicking. The senators seemed to get a great kick out of posing with General Shabalin, holding his hands. The general had little wish to be photographed in such compromising company, but he had to put a good face on it. He was quite convinced that all these photos would find their way into the archives of some foreign secret service, and thence into the archives of the Narcomvnudel. And then the fat would be in the fire.
Major Kuznetsov asked Lieutenant-Colonel Orlov incredulously: “But are they really senators?”
“Yes, and the very worst of them all, the Senate Political Commission,” Orlov replied.
“But they don’t look at all like capitalists.” Kuznetsov still felt dubious.
“Yes, they look quite harmless; but they’ve got millions in their pockets. They’re cold-blooded sharks,” Orlov retorted. Evidently he regarded it as a mortal sin to have money in one’s pocket. But then, he was a dyed-in-the-wool party man.
“So they’re the lords of America, and they behave like that. Now if one of our ministers....” Kuznetsov’s reflections were interrupted by the arrival of a column of closed cars, which drove straight on to the landing ground. A group of Soviet officers stepped out. The gold braid on their caps and the red piping on their coats showed that they were generals.
“Now we’re in for a parade!” Kuznetsov muttered. “That’s Marshal Zhukov and all his staff. We’d better take cover in the bushes.”
General Shabalin seemed to be of the same opinion. He had not been invited to this meeting, and to be an uninvited guest of Marshal Zhukov was rather a ticklish matter. But his general’s uniform made it impossible for him to hide behind others’ backs.
In this hour of need the lively old gentlemen from America came to the rescue. With unreserved ’Hellos’, friendly handshakes and back-slayings, an unstained, friendly atmosphere was created. “I like these senators!” Kuznetsov enthused. “They slap hands together like a lot of horse-dealers at a market. Great old boys!” He licked his lips as though he had just drunk to brotherhood with the American senators.
Marshal Zhukov, a medium-sized, thickset man with a prominent chin, always dressed and behaved with unusual simplicity. He took hardly any notice of the bustle all around him, but seemed to be waiting for the moment when they would come at last to business. Unlike many other generals who owed their career to the war, by all his bearing he clearly showed that he was only a soldier. It was characteristic of the man that, without any encouragement from official Kremlin propaganda, he had become known all over Russia as the second Kutuzov, as the savior of the fatherland in the second great patriotic war.
The airground grew more and more animated. Forces of military police in parade uniforms marched on. The servicing personnel hurried to and from. A guard of honor took up its position not far from us.
A four-engine machine landed quietly. The swarm of autograph hunters suffered disillusionment: double rows of guards swiftly and thoroughly cut them off from the landing spot.
Major Kuznetzov looked at the guards and remarked: “Clean work! Look at those cutthroats. They must have been taken into the army straight from gangsterdom.”
The first line of military police was certainly an impressive lot. They looked pretty sinister, even though they were clean-shaven. The second line might well have been pugilists and cowboys, mounted not on horses but on motorcycles that made more noise than aeroplanes.
Meanwhile the guard of honor had begun to perform some extraordinary exercise. The men raised their arms shoulder-high and spread out as though about to do Swedish gymnastics. Decidedly inept and un-military by our standards. “It reminds me of operetta,” Kuznetsov said to the lieutenant-general. “What are they doing that for?”
Orlov waved his hand contemptuously. “Like senators, like soldiers! They’re chocolate soldiers. Give them black bread to eat and they’d be ill.”
“Are you so fond of black bread then?” Kuznetsov sneered. “Or are you simply concerned for well-being of your fellowmen, as usual?”
Orlov ignored the questions. He was attached to our delegation as a legal expert. Also, he was public prosecutor to the military court, and knew well enough what might be the consequences of talking too frankly.
General Eisenhower stepped out of the plane, wearing a soldier’s greatcoat, the usual broad grin on his face. He greeted Marshal Zhukov. Then he signed a few autographs, asked where they could have breakfast, and took Zhukov off with him.
Hardly had the distinguished guests departed when the dispatcher announced that our plane was ready to start. Now we knew why we had had to wait so long.
A man in the uniform of an American brigadier-general addressed General Shabalin in the purest of Russian. Apparently he had learnt that we were flying to Frankfurt, and now he offered us his services. He spoke better Russian than we did, if I may put it so. He had left Russia thirty or more years before, and spoke the kind of Russian common in the old aristocratic circles. Our speech had been modified by the new conditions, it was contaminated with jargon and included a mess of new words.
I had no idea why Eisenhower and Zhukov were flying to Russia. The Soviet papers carried no official communiqué on the subject. A week later, as I was making my usual report to General Shabalin, he asked me: “Do you know why Eisenhower flew to Moscow?”
“Probably to be a guest of honor at the recent parade,” I answered.
“We know how to be hospitable,” the general said. “They entertained him with such excellent vodka that he sang songs all night. Arm in arm with Budionny. They always bring out Budionny as an ornament on such occasions.” Apparently that was all the general knew about Eisenhower’s visit to Moscow; but he put his finger to his lips, then wagged it admonitorily.
Such small incidents clearly revealed the true position of the man who was deputy head of the S. M. A. He was really nothing but an errand-boy, and only by accident knew what was happening ’above’.
An American officer stepped into Major Kuznetsov’s room. He thrust his cap in the hip pocket of his trousers, then swung his hand up to his uncovered head in salute. After which he introduced himself in the purest of Russian: “John Yablokov, captain of the American Army.”
Kuznetsov was a very intelligent man, but he was also a humorist and a bit of a wag. He replied to the American with: “Greetings, Ivan Ivanovich! How do you do!”
The American Ivan Ivanovich seemed to be no greenhorn, and he did not allow the major’s sneering smile to put him out. In fact, it transpired later that John Yablokov was one of those men who are the life and soul of the party. Either to please us or to show that, although American, he was a progressive; he rejoiced our ears with a flood of Russian oaths that would have brought down the Empire State Building. But that was later. At the moment Captain Yablokov had arrived on an official visit to invite General Shabalin to the first organizational conference of the Control Commission Economic Directorate. The general twisted the invitation and the agenda paper (both were in English) between his fingers. Trying not to reveal that English was all Greek to him, he asked: “Well, what’s the news your way?”
A second American officer who had accompanied Captain Yablokov answered also in Russian: “Our chief, General Draper, has the honor to invite you to a...” He did not seem very well acquainted with the terminology of Red conferences, and was forced to fall back on the wording of the invitation: “... to a meeting, General.”
Now the general was seated comfortably in the saddle. He did not know English, but he knew the Stalinist terminology thoroughly. He gave the American the sort of look he had given subordinate Party officials in his capacity as secretary of the Sverdlovsk District Party Committee, and explained in a hortatory tone: “We have to work, not attend meetings.”
That was a standing Stalinist phrase, which all party officials used as a lash. But at this juncture it sounded rather rude. However, the general held to the principle that too much butter can’t spoil any bread, and that Stalin’s words can never be repeated enough.
I sat in a corner and enjoyed myself immensely. The general would be starting to give the Americans a lecture on party training next. As was his habit in intercourse with foreigners, he observed the unwritten law never to trust one interpreter and always to apply the method of cross-examination, especially when the interpreter belonged to the other camp. While the Americans did their best to explain what they meant by a ’meeting’, I, too, attempted to help. The general never liked being prompted, but he always snorted afterwards: “Why didn’t you say so before?” So I tactfully observed: “It’s not really important, Comrade General. Let them hold their meeting and we’ll work.”
After we had settled a number of minor questions the Americans went back to their Chevrolet and drove home. Major Kuznetsov remarked: “But they could talk excellent Russian. The one with the little mustache looked like Douglas Fairbanks.” The general pulled him up: “You can see at once what sort of birds they are. That fellow strikes me as Chinese. They’re spies.”
The general appeared to fathom the true nature of his future colleagues extraordinarily well! A few days later, during a talk, Captain Yablokov informed me quite frankly that he had formerly worked in the American secret service in China. He did not appear to think he was in any way betraying service secrets. If a Soviet officer had mentioned such a fact he would have been committing a serious breach of his duty.
Some days later we drove to the first meeting of the Control Commission; we went with the firm intention of working and not holding meetings. The Allied Control Commission had taken over the former Palace of Justice in Elshoizstrasse. The conference hall was almost empty; the delegations were only just beginning to assemble. I felt genuinely afraid that I would be exposed to ridicule: we had no interpreter with us, and I didn’t know English too well. When I mentioned this to the general he told me curtly: “You should know!” Another Party slogan, but it didn’t make things any easier for me. Until the meeting was officially opened we relied on German, for all the Allies without exception could speak German more or less well.
When the general noticed that I was talking to French and English colleagues he barked at me as he passed: “You wait, Major, I’ll cure you of your mock modesty! You and your ’don’t know English’! Now you’re talking away, even to the French, nineteen to the dozen, but you never told me you knew French.” It was hopeless to think of explaining. And the general would probably stick me in a comer to exercise control over the French interpreters too, as he had done with the Americans.
That, too, was due to the general’s Party experience. It is a common thing in the Soviet Union for specialists and experts to dodge responsible posts. Gifted engineers, or former directors of large trusts and combines, get appointments as ’technical managers’ to some small factory or a cooperative of war-wounded, which employs only five or six workmen. In such positions they are less exposed to the risk of being flung behind the bars as ’saboteurs’, and so they keep quiet about their abilities and their diplomas. The Party officials are aware of this trick, and do their utmost to round up the ’pretenders’. And so even if you try to escape responsibility you’re in the wrong: you’re a ’passive saboteur’.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I discovered that the American and British delegations had first-class Russian interpreters.
Another difficult problem for me was my uniform. I looked as though I had covered the entire journey from Stalingrad to Berlin crawling on my belly. My uniform had been washed in all the rivers of Russia and Eastern Europe, the color had faded from it completely; in addition, I was wearing ordinary military boots. Before we drove to the conference General Shabalin gave me a critical look up and down and snarled: “Haven’t you got any shabbier-clothes you can wear?” He knew quite well that I had left my good uniforms in Moscow as an iron reserve.
Many of us took the view that, after all, the army wasn’t a puppet-show, and in any case children were running about naked at home. One man had a little sister, another a young nephew. Warm clothes or breeches could be made for them out of a uniform, and the kids would be hugely delighted: “Uncle Gregory has fought in this uniform,” the child would say, pointing proudly to the holes left by the pins of orders. I, too, had left several complete outfits in Moscow. In any case I would be getting the so-called ’Foreign Equipment’ when I reached Berlin. Only I had overlooked the possibility that I would have to take part in meetings of the Control Commission before the new equipment arrived.
As our Administration for Economy developed its organization and activities, more and more men arrived from Moscow to work with us. Usually, deputies of the People’s Commissars for the corresponding Moscow commissariats were appointed heads of the S. M. A. departments, which in practice were functioning as the ministries of the Soviet zone. One and all, these men were old Party officials, specialists in the running of Soviet economic affairs. When they took over their new posts one could hardly avoid laughing: they were pure crusaders of communism.
In due course we were rejoiced at the sight of the newly appointed head of the Industrial Department, Alexandrov, and his deputy, Smirnov. They both wore squeaking, highlegged boots of Stalin pattern, which its creator had himself long since discarded. Above the boots they had riding breeches of heavy overcoating material, and to crown this rigout they had dark blue military tunics dating from the period of revolutionary communism. At one time such attire was very fashionable among Party officials, from the local chairmen of Machinery-Tractor Stations right up to People’s Commissars, for it was symbolical not only of outward, but of inward devotion to the leader. For a long time now the People’s Commissars had been wearing ordinary European clothes, and one came across antiquated garb chiefly in remote collective farms. I can imagine what sort of impression these scarecrows made on the Germans; they were exact copies of the Hitlerite caricatures of bolsheviks.
It was not long before these over-zealous Party crusaders them-selves felt that their historical costumes were hardly suited to the changed conditions, and gradually began to adapt themselves to their surroundings. Later still, all the civilian personnel of the S. M. A. were dressed in accordance with the latest European fashions, and even with a touch of elegance. All the leading officials, especially those occupied in the Control Commission, received coupons en-titling them to ’foreign equipment’ corresponding with their position.
I stood at a window, talking to the head of the French delegation, General Sergent. Our conversation was on quite unimportant subjects, and I prudently tried to keep it concentrated on the weather. Prudence was always advisable; this Frenchman might be a communist at heart, or in all innocence he might repeat our conversation to someone, and in the end it would find its way... I knew too well from my own experience how thoroughly our secret service was informed of all that went on among the Allies.
When we Soviet officers working in the Control Commission discussed our impressions some time later I realized why we were all cautioned against talking with foreigners. A captain remarked: “All these stories about spies are only in order to make us keep our mouths shut. It’s to prevent our giving away other secrets.” He said no more; we didn’t talk about those secrets even to each other.
The Control Commission session began punctually at ten o’clock. After settling the details of the agenda relating to the work of the Economic Directorate, the times of meeting, and the rotation of chairmanship, we turned to drawing up the agenda for the next meeting. The head of the American delegation, which was chairman at this first meeting, proposed that the first item on the agenda should be: ’Working out of basic policy for the economic demilitarization of Germany.’
The Potsdam Conference had ended the previous week; at the conference it had been decided to demilitarize Germany economically, so that restoration of German military power would be impossible, and to draw up a peacetime economic potential for the country. The decision was remitted to the Allied Control Commission to be put into effect.
The interpreters now translated the chairman’s phrase into Russian as: ’Working out the policy of economic demobilization.’ Another of those borderline cases in linguistics! The English formula had used the word ’policy’. The interpreters translated this literally into the Russian word ’politik1, although the English word had a much wider meaning, and the Russian phrase for ’guiding principles’ would have been a more satisfactory translation.
At the word ’politick’ General Shabalin sprang up as though stung. “What ’politick’? All the political questions were settled at the Potsdam Conference!”
The American chairman. General Draper, agreed: “Quite correct, they were. Our task is simply to translate the decision into action, and so we have to lay down the guiding policy...”
The interpreters, both American and English, again translated with one accord: “... ’Politick’.”
General Shabalin stuck to his guns: “There must be nothing about politics. That’s all settled. Please don’t try to exert pressure on me.”
“But it’s got nothing to do with politics,” the interpreters tried to reassure him. “The word is ’policy’.”
“I see no difference,” the general objected. “I have no intention of revising the Potsdam Conference. We’re here to work, not to hold meetings.”
That was the beginning of the first hour-long battle round the oval table. Solely and simply over the awkward word ’policy’, which General Shabalin was not prepared to see in the agenda or in the minutes of the meeting.
It was often said in the economic spheres of the S. M. A. headquarters that the Kremlin regarded the decisions of the Potsdam Conference as a great victory for Soviet diplomacy. The Moscow instructions emphasized this aspect at every opportunity. At the Potsdam Conference the Soviet diplomats won concessions from the Western Allies to an extent that the diplomats themselves had not expected. Perhaps this was due to the intoxication of victory and an honorable desire to recompense Russia for her heroic exertions and incredible sacrifices. And perhaps it was due to the circumstance that two new Allied representatives took part in the conference, and that President Truman and Mr. Attlee had not yet got to the bottom of the methods of Soviet diplomacy.
The Potsdam Agreement practically gave the Soviet Union the right of disposal of Germany. Its terms were expressed in very subtle language, and they were open to various constructions later on, whenever it seemed desirable. The task of the S. M. A. now was to extract full value from the advantages won by Soviet diplomacy. “Nothing of politick!” General Shabalin defended himself like a bear threatened with a javelin. And in all probability he was thinking: ’Do you want to send me to Siberia?’ Once more the old reaction of even the highest of Soviet officials, not to do anything on their own responsibility and risk. One reason why all decisions is made from above.
Subsequently I myself saw that the American or the British delegation could change its decisions in the actual course of negotiations. But the Soviet delegation always came and went with previously formulated decisions, or else with red questionmarks on the appropriate document, which the general kept in a red document-case always under his hand. At the Control Council he acted more like a messenger than an active partner. A question that arose in the course of discussion was never decided the same day, it was only discussed.
Then the general would return to his office and make direct telephonic contact that night with Moscow. Usually Mikoyan, a member of the Politburo and plenipotentiary extraordinary for Germany under the Ministerial Council of the U. S. S. R., was at the Moscow end of the line. He was in effect the Kremlin’s viceroy for Germany. And during those telephone conversations the decisions were taken, or rather the orders were issued, on which the Allied delegations later broke their teeth.
Even at that first meeting with the Allies one could not help noticing a great difference between them and us. They welcomed us as joint victors and sincere allies in war and peace. Each of their delegations approached questions from the national aspect. And they considered that there could be no conflict of national interests or antagonisms among us victor powers, neither then nor in the immediate future. They assumed that this was a simple fact that must be as clear to us as it was to them.
We, on the other hand, regarded the ’Allies’ as the opposing party, as enemies with whom we had to sit at the one table only for tactical reasons. We decided questions from the ideological aspect. The Allies believed that Marx and Lenin were dead. But now the shades of these two men stood behind us in the Control Commission conference hall. The Allies could not understand that? So much the worse for them!
Generally speaking, the members of the delegations not only represented their state interests, but were also unusually typical representatives of their respective nations. Of course this doesn’t mean that Dimitry Shabalin smoked the coarse Russian Mahorka tobacco or that William Draper chewed gum. Not, at any rate, during the sessions.
The American delegation was headed by the American director in the Economic Directorate, General William Draper: a thin, athletic figure, with angular, swarthy features-a lively and energetic man. When he laughed, he revealed the spotless white of strong, wolfish teeth beneath his black mustache. Better not put your finger between those teeth! He set the tone at the sessions, even when he was not in the chair. He had an abundance of the healthy energy peculiar to young, self-confident nations. I don’t know how many millions General Draper really had in his pocket, I know only that General Shabalin remarked more than once: “Ah! A millionaire! A shark!” It would have been interesting to know what he based his remark on: his communist beliefs or the reports of our secret service.
The head of the British delegation and the British director of the Economic Directorate were Sir Percy Mills. A typical Briton. He gave off the smell of fog and Trafalgar Square. He wore a military uniform of thick cloth, with no insignia of rank. From the way everybody deferred to his opinion it was obvious that he was a recognized authority in the economic field. According to General Shabalin he was a director of the large British firm of Metro-Vickers. He was painfully clean-shaven; if he ever thought it necessary to smile, only the folds around his mouth came into action, while his eyes remained fixed on his documents and his ears listened closely to his numerous advisers.
In the person of Sir Percy Mills, Great Britain worked hard, but always paid attention to the voice of its young ally and victorious rival, America.
At the conference table of the Control Commission the historical changes that had occurred in the world influence of the various great powers were very perceptible. Great Britain had played out her role, and now, with a pride born of self-confidence, was surrendering her place to the younger and stronger. As befitted a gentleman!
France was the reflection of all the greatness to be found in European culture. But only the reflection. Her representatives were the successors to Bonaparte and Voltaire, the contemporaries of Pierre Petain and Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism. How to keep one’s head above water. The French director of the Economic Directorate, General Sergent, had nothing better to do than to maneuver as tactfully as possible, and not agree too completely with the West, nor be too much in opposition to the East.
The great Eastern Ally was represented by General Shabalin, a man who had a mortal terror of the word ’politick’, and by Major Klimov, who simultaneously performed the duties of secretary, interpreter, and general adviser. The Soviet side could have been represented just as successfully by one man to act as a postman. However, in those days I still naively believed that something was really being decided in those meetings. And, although we were armed to the teeth with communist theory, I felt really uncomfortable when I noted the large size of the other delegations and the sort of men who composed them.
’Nothing new in the West.’ The Allies, as one man, clung to the word ’policy’, while for three hours General Shabalin repeated: “Nothing of politick... At the Potsdam Conference....” In confirmation of his views he took a newspaper from his document-case and pointed to a passage underlined in red. Then his fellow-members in the commission also brought out newspapers and began to compare the texts. Truly, it was very interesting to take part in one session of the Control Commission; it was more interesting than the operetta. But to take part in them week after week was dangerous: one might easily have a nervous breakdown. Half a day spent in fighting over one word in the agenda for the next meeting!
The members of the other delegations looked more and more frequently at their watches. The Western European stomach is used to punctuality. At last even General Shabalin lost his patience and he officially demanded: “What is it you really want to do to me: violate me? Yes?” The interpreters wondered whether they had heard aright, and asked irresolutely, not knowing whether to regard his remark as a joke: “Are we to translate that literally?”
“Of course, literally,” the general obstinately replied.
Sir Percy Mills tried to indicate that he found it highly amusing, and twisted his lips into a smile. The chairman for the session, General Draper, rose and said: “I propose that we adjourn the meeting. Let’s go and have some eats.” It was difficult to tell whether he really was hungry or whether he was fed up with Soviet diplomacy. Everybody breathed more easily, and the sitting ended.
We departed as victors. We had won a whole week. The same night General Shabalin would be able to ask Comrade Mikoyan whether the word ’politick’ could be included on the agenda or not.
While we were holding our meeting, the Special Committee for Dismantling, and the Reparations Department, with General Zorin at its head, was hard at work. The Allies would be faced with an accomplished fact. Okay! In the last resort each defends his own interests.
The Control Commission gave me my first opportunity to get to know our Western Allies personally. During the war I had come across, or rather seen, many Americans and British in Gorky, and later in Moscow. But I had then had no official excuse for personal contact with them, and without the special permission of the Commissariat for Internal Affairs even the most harmless acquaintance, even a conversation with a foreigner, is sheer lunacy in the Soviet True, there is no open interdiction, but every Soviet citizen knows exactly what unfortunate consequences are entailed by such thoughtless behavior. Give a foreigner a light for his cigarette in the street and you are hauled immediately before the Ministry for Internal Affairs and subjected to strict interrogation. That, at the best. At the worst, one disappears into a Minvnudel camp, for ’spying’, and thus one helps to fill out the labor reserve.
To stop all contact between Soviet people and foreigners, the Kremlin spreads the story that all foreigners are spies. So anybody who has any contact with a foreigner is also a spy. It’s as simple as that.
One of the Soviet government’s greatest achievements has been to raise lawlessness to a law, with all the paralyzing fear of ’authority’ that follows from it. Every individual lives in a state of anxiety. The Kremlin exploits this mood as a highly effective means of training and guiding the masses. Not even the members of the Politburo are free from it.
Once, after one of the usual fruitless debates in the Control Commission, Sir Percy Mills proposed that we adjourn, and then invited the members of the other delegations to lunch with him.
General Shabalin went and rode with his British colleague. I had received no instructions whatever so I got into the general’s seat in our car and ordered Misha to drive immediately behind the one in which our chief was traveling. I entered Sir Percy’s house with decidedly mixed feelings. All the guests left their hats and document-cases on a small table or on the hallstand. The maid-servant took my cap from me, and held out her hand to take my document-case. I was at a loss to know what to do; it was the general’s red case that I was carrying. It had nothing of importance in it: just the minutes of the last sitting, which on this occasion had been sent to us by the British. I couldn’t leave the case in the car, but to leave it on the hall table with the others would have been a crime against the State. Yet to take it with me looked rather silly.
General Shabalin himself rescued me from my awkward situation. He came across to me and said quietly:
“What are you doing here. Major? Go and wait for me in the car.”
I felt relieved, went out, got into our car, and lit a cigarette. A few minutes later a British captain, Sir Percy Mills’ adjutant, came to the door and invited me in again. I tried to get out of it by saying I wasn’t hungry, but he stared at me in such bewilderment that there was nothing to be done but follow him. As I entered the hall where the guests were waiting the general gave me a sidelong look, but said nothing. Later it transpired that our host had asked his permission to send the adjutant for me. The British are justly famous as the most tactful people in the world.
I gave the document-case to the general. Of all the idiotic possibilities that seemed the most harmless. Let him feel a fool!
I stood at a great Venetian window looking out on to the garden, and talked to Brigadier Bader. The brigadier was a real colonial wolf. Sandy, sunbleached hair and eyebrows, gray, lively eyes behind bleached eyelashes, a complexion dry with the tropical sun. According to General Shabalin’s amiable description he was nothing less than one of the cleverest of international spies. And now I had the honor of chatting with this distinguished person. We talked in a mixture of English and German.
“How do you like being in Germany?” he asked.
“Oh, not bad!” I answered.
“Everything’s kaput,” he went on.
“Oh yes, ganz kaput,” I agreed.
After disposing of German problems we turned to others. The summer of 1945 was unusually hot, and I asked:
“After the English climate, don’t you find it very hot here?”
“Oh no, I’m used to the heat,” he smiled. “I’ve spent many years in the colonies, in Africa and India.”
I carefully avoided addressing my companion directly. What form of address was I to use? ’Herr’? That was rather awkward. To our ears ’mister’ sounds contemptuous. ’Comrade’? No, for the time being I kept off that word.
Just then I noticed General Shabalin’s eyes fixed on me. In all probability my chief was afraid the brigadier was already enrolling me as his agent. At that very moment a maid came up to us with a tray. Bader took one of the small glasses of colorless fluid, raised it to eye-level, and invited me to help myself. I put the glass to my lips, then set it down on the windowsill. While the brigadier had his eyes turned away for a second I threw the whisky out of the window. Stupid, I know, but it was the only thing to be done. And the worst of it was that the general would never believe I had performed such a patriotic act. Whether flung down my throat or out of the window, that whisky would be put to the debit side of my personal account.
An air of open cordiality and hospitality reigned in the room where we were waiting for Sir Percy Mills to take us to lunch. This inter-national assembly felt no constraint in face of that variety of uniforms and babel of tongues. Only the Soviet delegate Kurmashev, head of the S. M. A. Fuel and Power Department, sat alone in his easy chair, one leg crossed over the other, and apparently suffering torments. He felt more uncomfortable than a missionary among cannibals; he wiped the sweat from his forehead and looked again and again at the clock. When we were invited to the dining room he clearly heaved a sigh of relief. I am sure he would have been only too glad to talk to his neighbor, even if he had had to resort to sign language; he would have been delighted to laugh and toss off a couple of whiskies. But he was not a man like other men. He was the representative, and the slave, of communist philosophy.
At table General Shabalin sat on the right hand of his host, who conversed with him through an interpreter. His uniform gave him confidence and certainly more sureness than was possessed by Kurmashev, who was a civilian. But in his civilian clothes Kurmashev tried to show that he was completely indifferent to all that went on around him, and tackled his food with the utmost ferocity. It was no easy task to fill your mouth so full that you couldn’t talk with your neighbors.
My chief smiled formally and forced out a laugh at Sir Percy’s jokes. But for his part he made no attempt to keep the conversation going. No wonder the British think it difficult to talk to Russians not only at the conference, but even at the dining table. At one time we contemptuously called the English narrow-minded; now the boot is on the other foot.
I was sitting at the far end of the table, between Brigadier Bader and the British adjutant. As I chanced to look up from my plate I met General Shabalin’s eyes gazing at me keenly. The longer the lunch continued the more the general eased his bolshevik armor plate, and finally he went so far as to propose a toast to our host. But meanwhile he gave me frequent interrogative glances.
Of course I knew the general was in duty bound to keep an eye on me. But I noticed that he was not so much watching me as attempting to decide whether I was watching him. He was firmly convinced that I had been set to watch over him. Kurmashev was afraid of the general, the general was on his guard against me, and I distrusted myself. The higher one climbs in the Soviet hierarchy, the more one is gripped by this constant fear and distrust.
And the one who suffers most of all from this remarkable system is its creator. When one observed how Soviet higher officials suffered from fear and distrusts one lost all desire to make a Soviet career. General Shabalin had been unquestionably a much happier man when he was minding sheep or tilling the soil.
After lunch we all gathered again in the hall. Brigadier Bader offered me a thick cigar with a gold band, and wrapped in cellophane. I turned it over curiously in my fingers. A real Havana! Hitherto I had known them only from caricatures, in which millionaires always had them stuck between their teeth. With the air of an experienced cigar-smoker I tried to bite off the tip, but that damned cigar was tough. I got a mouthful of bitter leaf, and to make matters worse I couldn’t spit it out.
“How did you like the food?” the brigadier asked genially.
“Oh, very good!” I answered as genially, carefully blowing the bluish smoke through my nose.
At that moment General Shabalin beckoned to me. I asked the brigadier’s pardon, prudently stuck the cigar in a flowerpot, and followed my chief. We went out into the garden, as though we wanted a breath of fresh air.
“What have you been talking about with that...?” the general muttered, avoiding mention of any name.
“About the weather, Comrade General.”
“Hm... hm....” Shabalin rubbed his nose with the knuckle of his forefinger, a trick of his during conversations of a semi-official nature. Then he unexpectedly changed his tone:
“I think there’s nothing more for you to do here. Take a day off. Have my car and go for a drive through Berlin. Take a look at the girls....”
He made a very frivolous remark, and smiled forcibly. I listened closely as I walked with him about the garden. What did all this condescension and thought for me mean?
“Call up Kuznetsov this evening and tell him I shall go straight home,” was the general’s final word as he went up the verandah steps.
So he had no intention of returning to the office today. There all the ordinary routine was waiting for him, to keep him as a rule till three in the morning. That was not compulsory, it was his duty as a bolshevik. He must be around in case the ’master’ called him up in the middle of the night. But now, after a very good lunch and a few glasses of wine, he felt the need to be a man like other men for a few hours at least. The comfort of the villa and the open cordiality of the company had had its effect even on the old Party wolf. Just for once he felt impelled to throw off the mask of an iron bolshevik, to laugh aloud and smack his colleagues on the shoulders, to be a man, not a Party ticket. And he thought of me as the eye and ear of the Party. So he was dismissing me on the pretext of being kind to me.
I returned to the house, picked up my cap as unobtrusively as possible, and went out. Misha was dozing at the wheel.
“Ah, Comrade Major!” He gave a deep sigh as I opened the door. “After a lunch like that, what man wouldn’t like to stretch himself out on the grass and sleep for an hour or two!”
“Why, have you had some lunch too?” I asked in surprise.
“What do you think! I’ve eaten like a prince.”
“Why, here. A special table was laid for us. Like in the fairy story. And do you know what, Comrade Major?” He looked sidelong at me, with all the air of a conspirator. “Even our general doesn’t have such good grub as I’ve had today.”
After seeing Sir Percy Mills’ house, I could not help comparing it with General Shabalin’s flat. In the Control Commission the habit developed for the directors to take turns in inviting their colleagues home. The first time it was Shabalin’s turn to issue the invitations he ignored the habit, as though he had forgotten it. The real reason was that he had no place to which he could invite the foreigners.
Of course he could have requisitioned and furnished a house in conformity with his rank. But he could not bring himself to do this on his own responsibility, while the head of the Administrative Department, General Devidov, simply would not do it for him, since under the army regulations such luxury was incompatible with the position of Soviet generals. The authorities had got to the point of providing special ’foreign equipment’, but nobody had yet thought of suitable residences. Shabalin had exchanged his small house for a five-roomed apartment in the house where most of the workers in the Administration for Economy were accommodated. Nikolai, his orderly, and Misha, the chauffeur, had collected furniture and all sorts of lumber from all over the district for the apartment, but it looked more like a thieves’ kitchen than a general’s home. It was impossible to receive foreign guests there: even Shabalin was conscious of that.
Once more, the contradiction between bolshevik theory and bolshevik practice. The Kremlin aristocracy had long since discarded the proletarian morals they still preached, and lived in a luxury that not every capitalist could afford. They could do so without embarrassment because their personal lives were secured from the people’s eyes by several walls. The smaller leaders tended to follow the same course. The Party aristocracy, men like Shabalin, lived a double life; in words they were ideal bolsheviks, but in reality they trampled on the ideals they themselves preached. It was not easy to reconcile these two things. It all had to be done secretly, prudently, one had continually to be on guard. Here in Germany there was no Kremlin and no area forbidden to the public, here everything was comparatively open. And supposing the lords of the Kremlin started to shout!
At first General Shabalin had taken his meals in the canteen of the Soviet Military Council-in other words, in the generals’ casino. But now Dusia, his illegal maidservant, was taking the car to the canteen three times a day and bringing the food home. Yet even in such circumstances the general could not invite any guests to his apartment, and visitors, especially foreigners, were not allowed in the canteen.
Even here, in occupied Germany, where we were not restricted by problems of living space or rationing, and where we could literally pick up everything we liked, even here we kept to our Soviet way of life.
A little later the S. M. A. staff accommodated itself to circumstances and solved the problem in the old Potiomkin fashion. (Prince Gregory Potiomkin, favorite of Empress Catharine, who organized show-places and even ’model villages’ to impress the Empress. - Tr.). A special club was set up, in which the leading officials of the S. M. A. could hold receptions for their western colleagues. In each separate case an exact list of the proposed guests had to be sent in advance to the S. M. A. liaison service, to be carefully checked by the Narcomvnudel, and to be countersigned by the S. M. A. chief of staff". Of course such a simple form of invitation as that of Sir Percy Mills-"come and have lunch with me, gentlemen", and including even the chauffeurs-was quite impossible in such circumstances.
During those early meetings with the Western Allies I was seriously afraid that I would be asked too many questions that I could not, or rather that I dared not, answer. But the longer I worked in the Control Commission the less was I able to understand their behavior. The representatives of the democratic world not only made no attempt to ask us political questions, as I had thought was simply bound to happen when representatives of completely opposed state systems came together, but they displayed a perfectly in-comprehensible indifference to the subject.
At first I thought this was out of tactfulness. But then I felt sure it must be due to something else. The average western man was far less interested in politics and all that goes with it than the average Soviet man. The men of the West were much more interested in the number of bottles of champagne that had been drunk at a diplomatic reception in the Kremlin, and in the evening gown Madame Molotov had worn on the occasion. This was in the best case, but usually they confined their interests to sport and the beautiful girls on the covers of magazines. To any man living in normal conditions this seemed perfectly natural. If the Soviet men could have chosen they would have done the same.
At that stage the West had no idea of the extraordinary dichotomy of Soviet existence. In thirty years we have changed fundamentally, to a certain extent we are Sovietized. But while becoming Sovietized we have simultaneously become immunized against communism. The West has no suspicion of this. It is with good reason that the Politburo has begun to underpin the Soviet edifice with the old national foundations, which proved themselves so well during the war. After the war the process of giving the rotting state organism a blood transfusion was continued. The method will doubtless meet with success for a time; it will confuse some and arouse illusory hopes in others. But the Kremlin’s plans will not be modified to any extent.
A small but characteristic example: in occupied Germany all the Russian soldiers and officers suddenly began to use the word ’Rossiia’-’Russia’. The movement was quite spontaneous. Some-times out of habit one would let ’U. S. S. R.’ slip out; but it was corrected to ’Rossiia’ at once. We ourselves were surprised at this fact, but it was so. Yet for twenty-five years anyone who used the word ’Rossiia’ was liable to be accused of chauvinism, and quite possibly to be charged under the corresponding article of the Narcomvnudel code. One could not help noticing this seemingly small detail when one found the word ’Rossiia’ coming to every soldier’s lips.
Unconsciously he was emphasizing the difference between the concepts ’Soviet’ and ’Russian’. As though in spite, the foreign press confused these concepts. What we ourselves couldn’t stand they called ’Russian’; all that was dear and precious to us they described as ’Soviet’. The Soviet people neither wish to nor do they need to teach foreigners their political ABC. Why risk one’s head simply to satisfy a stranger’s idle curiosity?
How constrained Soviet people feel in intercourse with ’foreigners’ is shown by the following incident.
One day, during an interval in the sittings of the Control Commission, several members of various delegations were discussing what they would like to do on the following Sunday. Kozlov, the chairman of the Soviet delegation in the Industrial Committee, let slip the unwise admission that he was going hunting with a group of colleagues. Kozlov’s foreign colleagues were enthusiastic at the idea of spending a Sunday all together, and said they would gladly join the party. Kozlov had to behave as though he were delighted beyond measure.
On the Sunday the hunters set out in several cars. During the journey the Soviet members of the party racked their brains over the problem of how to give their Allies the slip. But the need to show some courtesy, plus the excellence of the western cars, gave Kozlov no chance of getting away from his unwanted friends. At the rendezvous the Allies got out and lay about on the grass, with the idea of having a little snack and a little chat. To avoid this, Kozlov and the other Russians slipped off through the bushes, and wandered about the forest all day, cursing Fate for pushing such politically unreliable companions on to them.
In order to secure himself against the possibility of being reprimanded, Kozlov spent all the following week cursing and swearing to other members of the Administration for Economy about his bad luck, and carefully emphasizing his own ’vigilant* conduct. We could not enter freely into intercourse with the West. But what was the West doing to obtain information on Soviet problems?
I had several opportunities of observing how the West obtained knowledge of Soviet Russia from ’reliable and competent’ sources. Those sources were usually journalists. The American and British journalists went to great trouble to get together with their Soviet colleagues, for they were convinced that these colleagues could and would answer their questions exhaustively and truthfully. Naive fellows! One can no more expect truth from a Soviet journalist than chastity from a prostitute.
The American journalists in Berlin tried hard to get together with their Soviet brothers, free of constraint. But the Soviet journalists did their best to avoid any such meeting. Finally it had to be arranged: they had to invite the foreigners to their Press Club. It was at least a step forward that the Americans took the opportunity to ask questions which even the very adroit Soviet journalists could not easily answer. All they could do was keep their mouths shut. It was also very good that the Americans gradually realized the true meaning of ’Narcomvnudel’; they thought their Soviet colleagues were victims of the Narcomvnudel and were ringed about with spies, and that a dictaphone was built into every desk. Of course it would have been even more sound to assume that their hosts were themselves Narcomvnudel agents. My experiences in the college had taught me that all the Soviet Union’s foreign correspondents were coworkers of that organization.
The Americans took their Soviet colleagues’ silent reserve as indicating their anxiety. This was pretty near, but not quite, the truth. Once the Americans even raised the subject of the ’Soul of the Soviet Man’, but they made the mistake of discussing the soul as such. The Soviet soul is a function of the Soviet reality; it cannot be analyzed in isolation from its milieu.
Our work in the Control Commission was very instructive. From the very first sittings I realized that the widely held view that a diplomat’s life is easy and carefree was false. In reality it is a devilishly hard, or rather a tedious, occupation. One needs to have the hide of a hippopotamus, the sensitiveness of an antelope, nerves of manila rope and the endurance of a hunter. An English saying has it that it is the highest achievement of good manners to be bored to death without showing it. Now General Shabalin gave his colleagues extensive opportunities to demonstrate the truth of this remark. It was astonishing to see how earnestly earnest people could struggle for hours and days on end with an insoluble problem before they would admit that it was insoluble!
In selecting their diplomats the British act on the principle that the least suitable of all candidates is one who is energetic and stupid; one who is energetic and clever is not very suitable, and the most suitable of all is a man who is clever and passive. The British prefer to be slow in drawing the right conclusion, and they fear nothing more than precipitate unsound decisions.
This same rule applies to Soviet diplomats, only in reverse. The ideal Soviet diplomat must be exceptionally energetic and exception-ally stupid. He needs no intelligence, as he may not take any independent decisions in any case. On the other hand, energy is a quality needed by every commercial traveler, whether it is razor blades he is trying to sell, or his master’s policy. General Shabalin was an out-standing example of this type of Soviet diplomat. For that matter, all Soviet diplomats are distinguished by their enormous activity. The Kremlin can be charged with anything rather than passivity.
Our first encounters in the Control Commission were quite educative. Despite my skeptical attitude to the policy of the western powers, I could not help reaching the conviction that they were genuinely anxious to work together with us for the solution of post-war problems. The creation of the United Nations Organization testified to the western democracies’ desire to secure peace to the world.
Outwardly, we, too, gave out that we were interested in the same thing and wanted to take the same road. But the very first practical measures proposed indicated that the opposite was the truth. Our readiness for collaboration on the problem of world peace was nothing but a tactical maneuver with the object of maintaining the democratic mask, winning time for the reorganization of our forces, and exploiting the democratic platforms in order to sabotage world public opinion. The very first sittings of the Control Commission opened my eyes to all this.
I recalled Anna Petrovna’s remark, which had so astounded me, when I was in Moscow. From her words I could only deduce that the Kremlin was thinking of active operations for the Soviet fighting forces in the post-war period. Yet it seemed absurd to think of any kind of war plans when we had only just ended terrible battles, and all the world wished for nothing more urgently and passionately than peace. Now, after those first sittings of the Control Commission it was clear, to me at least, who was neither diplomat nor politician, which the Kremlin had not the slightest desire to collaborate with the democratic West.
The representatives of the western democracies racked their brains to find an explanation for their eastern ally’s extraordinary conduct. They sought persistently for a modus vivendi with the Kremlin. They sought a key to the enigma of the soul of the East, they turned over the pages of the historical tomes; but it never occurred to them to study the million-copy editions of Lenin’s and Stalin’s works. They attached too much importance to the dissolution of the Comintern. They are not acquainted with the winged words by which the Soviet leaders justify their every deviation from the Party general line: “A temporary deviation is completely justified if it is necessary for reorganization and the accumulation of new strength for the next advance.” The inflexible general line can wind like an adder.