Bitter Waters: Life And Work In Stalin's Russia

Bitter Waters: Life And Work In Stalin's Russia

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0813323908

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

One dusty summer day in 1935, a young writer named Gennady Andreev-Khomiakov was released from the Siberian labor camp where he had spent the last eight years of his life. His total assets amounted to 25 rubles, a loaf of bread, five dried herrings, and the papers identifying him as a convicted “enemy of the people.” From this hard-pressed beginning, Andreev-Khomiakov would eventually work his way into a series of jobs that would allow him to travel and see more of ordinary life and work in the Soviet Union of the 1930s than most of his fellow Soviet citizens would ever have dreamed possible. Capitalizing on this rare opportunity, Bitter Waters is Andreev-Khomiakov’s eyewitness account of those tumultuous years, a time when titanic forces were shaping the course of Russian history.Later to become a successful writer and editor in the Russian émigré community in the 1950s and 1960s, Andreev-Khomiakov brilliantly uses this memoir to explore many aspects of Stalinist society. Forced collectivization, Five Year Plans, purges, and the questionable achievements of “shock worker brigades” are only part of this story. Andreev-Khomiakov exposes the Soviet economy as little more than a web of corruption, a system that largely functioned through bribery, barter, and brute force—and that fell into temporary chaos when the German army suddenly invaded in 1941.Bitter Waters may be most valuable for what it reveals about Russian society during the tumultuous 1930s. From remote provincial centers and rural areas, to the best and worst of Moscow and Leningrad, Andreev-Khomiakov’s series of deftly drawn sketches of people, places, and events provide a unique window on the hard daily lives of the people who built Stalin’s Soviet Union.


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frames from the Moscow factory “Ilyich” (patterned after a Swedish model, with slight modifications), together with the automated removal of finished products and the mechanized sorting, waste collection, and delivery of sawdust into the stoker, all lightened the workers’ load and ensured high productivity. A separate building held a planing shop with imported machinery. In addition, there was a box shop that turned out small boards from scrap lumber, for making crates. The factory had everything

such incidents. For example, I imagined that our lumber factory would operate according to a strictly calculated plan, that each cubic yard of production would be accounted for and could be procured only by requisition of the Lumber Executive Board in Moscow and with the proper warrants. Everything would be calculated, weighed, and counted, with no room for scheming. But reality was entirely different. No matter how strictly the plan was drawn up, in reality it could not provide for everything,

trip and living expenses in Moscow. The worker came to us for help. The trade union had given him a little money, and he had received his share of the mutual aid fund through the factory committee; but this did not amount to much. Having thought it over, Neposedov summoned the man’s boss, the overseer of the raw materials warehouse, and ordered him to draw up a pay voucher for his employee, for work that was never done. Of course this must be done on the sly. Another forgery—but the lad needed

committee. The socialist economy, which dispatched thousands of workers on business trips, could not possibly provide them all a night’s lodging. People had to spend the night sitting on chairs in train stations or hotel corridors. In Moscow, there was a Bureau for Allocation of Rooms for business travelers. It started out on Pushkin Street, then moved to Neglinnaya. Before I had acquaintances in Moscow, I used to rely on its services. I’d go straight from the train station to register there. A

vehicles rolled through the gates of factories and plants, immediately prompting the thought that the trucks were hurrying east. Moscow was coming apart, and we were forsaking her like rats aboard a sinking ship. And this ship was going down without a blow, its inevitable destruction having been prepared throughout the entire course of our lives by those who had seized leadership over it and us. Eliminating its criminal leadership could only destroy the ship. Did that mean that we should welcome

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