Revolution - is not theater

15:17 12.08.2012 • Armen Oganesyan , Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs

"Revolution is a theater where people start to play new roles,” so wrote E. Radzinsky in his book "Stalin". I think people who survived the revolution, would never have said that. The word "survivor" I use in a literal and figurative sense – those who historically survived the revolution, went through it yesterday and today as in an ongoing tragedy.

As V. Lenin used to say, "any comparison is lame," but some of them are lame in both legs.  Let’s dwell only on one thing, rather as a matter of principle. In answering the question as to why the old Bolsheviks having passed through a difficult phase of life, so quickly broke up during the processes of the 1930s, with their wild, improbable accusations, Edvard Radzinsky in his book " Stalin " makes the following conclusion: "... in two of decades power, honor, money, and women completely transformed yesterday's revolutionary idealists. They "seriously disintegrated." During the reign of the Tsar to go to prison, or be exiled seemed like an act of bravery, and then one of horror.

This suggests, of course, the conclusion that royal penal servitude for the revolutionaries was the punishment delivered by the enemy, the ideological enemy. In the 1930's a majority of the repressed thought they suffered from their own mistakes and absurd misunderstandings. This broke them psychologically.

But what lies on the surface, as a rule, suffers from superficiality. The historical, concrete and documentary truth is that there are two huge differences between the royal servitude and the Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin camps.

I'm not saying that cruelty, and the sophistication of mass moral and physical torture defies comparison. However, the very way of life and the principles of organization of the hard labor camps had little in common.

It is not only our domestic story writers have been caught in this trap. The Italian Domenico Losurdo, based on "false identity" arrives at even more profound but not too original conclusions, leading to the jungle of historiosophy.

Losurdo believes that the atrocities that were committed during the years of the repression were not peculiar to Stalin, or even to a particular era, nor to the regime or Bolshevism. The concentration camps that were created after 1917, the author considers to have been the logical continuation of the tradition of "royal servitude," because Russians are "genetically” predisposed to such violence.

As a reviewer quipped regarding E. Radzinsky in a "Book Review", "a fictionalized story is as different from a real one, as is the juice from a sachet of fruit juice, from which it may possibly have come from in the first place.

Of course, during the Soviet period the Bolsheviks tried to paint the unimaginable "horrors" of the royal prisons in every color possible. However, this myth is improbable except in comparison with the myth of imperial Russia as a "nation of prisons."

In fact, before the revolution, only a dangerous criminal who had committed murder, rape or robbery was sentenced to hard labor. The death penalty was almost never used.

In contrast to the Nazi concentration camps and the Gulag, the Tsar’s hard labor camps, in addition to criminals, never contained such a huge amount of innocent men, women and children. If the convict did not invoke penalties, then his prison term was reduced, with ten months counting for a full year, and if he was transferred to the reformed category, then he had the right to build his own home, and he was provided with timber and building materials. His money was returned after the sentence ended and he was allowed to marry.

 A gulag prisoner did not have weekends off; the royal convict rested every Sunday, all Orthodox holidays, important dates of the birthdays and name days of the emperor and his heir – around 80 days off per year. At Nerchinsk camp, which was considered the most difficult, the rate of production for prisoners was set at 50 kg of ore per day, but for the prisoners in the Gulag it was one and a half tons.

There was a dramatic difference in the daily workload of the prisoners and the norm for food looked like this: 21 g meat, 750 g of rye bread and the only kind of cereal available was buckwheat. Before the revolution a convict received 106 g of meat, 21.6 g fat and 819 g of rye bread per day. He could eat soup, potatoes and onions, but paid for them from his own earnings. Obviously the prisoners in the gulag were not paid.

Also there is more. The biographies of all kinds of revolutionaries (including those who had been in camps) suggest that many in the pre-revolution period did not lead an ascetic life, neither on the part of food and drink, nor on the part of women. On the contrary, the hungry Soviet years largely limited the ability of those who saw themselves as "mind" and "honor" of the era. As for the non-participation of individuals in power as to what was going on in the camps, this myth no longer holds water.

In 1938, Stalin invited representatives from "Dalstroy" to the Kremlin for exceeding the plan for the extraction of gold. The bosses of the mines - Vinogradov, Anisimov and Olshansky said that after greetings and salutations Stalin wanted to talk to them.

He asked, "How are the prisoners working in the North?"To which we answered: "They live in very difficult conditions, eat poorly, and work very hard. Many die. The corpses are piled high and stacked like firewood until spring. There are not enough explosives to dig graves in the permafrost." Stalin smiled and said: "You stack them like firewood ... You know, the more enemies of the people that die, the better it is for us ..."

"What is the bottom line?” Asks the reviewer Alex Gromov of E. Radzinsky after reading his book, which is cleverly written and easy to read, with so many intriguing facts, and even contains real archive photos. “The only problem is that it is unclear what the truth is and what is a lie.”

Adequate assessment is rare. But, you see, some things are clear, that at least revolution is not theater.<!--EndFragment-->


read more in our Telegram-channel