Managed Sunday evening to get the dog down to the water after a weekend of relaxation at home with the kids. Actually, the youngest spent the two days at ODP in Helena, with Todd joining him on Sunday while I hung out on the home front chaperoning ET’s sleepover and wrapping up Solhenitsyn’s Apricot Jam. It is nice to be able to simply drop down to the Fort here in Missoula to have access to the Bitterroot for a few bumper tosses for WD. Some of the old structures at the Fort are pretty interesting. I took the above photo of the Powder Magazine Building just prior to wrapping up with the dog. Information on the old structure can be found in the lower image.
I enjoyed reading Solzenitsyn’s work Apricot Jam (Solzenitsyn, Aleksander, Counterpoint, 2008, 375 pages) over the weekend. It is amazing how much ground Solzenitsyn covered in eight short stories. “Apricot Jam,” the first of the eight, explores the hardship of life during one of the earlier “Five Year Plans” through Fedya Ivanovich. Fedya is separated from his family early and struggles to survive in Russia post the October Revolution, bouncing from prison to the military and regaining his footing, though enduring the “political officers…filing our heads with all sorts of ideological gas.” Suffering food depravation, a tattered uniform and boots with holes in the soles were the order of the day. This first brief short story alludes in a section to the world of the writing and art community. “Invention in literature is sometimes superior to truth. Literary characters may say things they would never have said in regular life…Had Leo Tolstoy been able to think as clearly as Comrade Stalin he would not have tangled himself in long sentences…” (pp. 19) one of the characters states.
“Ego,” the next story, alludes to the hardship endured by the peasants who saw their stores of food ransacked by the Red Army of the Bolshevik dictatorship, which, while during the Civil War, pursued the resistance of the Czar loyalists in the White Army. Scenes throughout the section include famine, army deserters being purged, and countrymen slaughtering fellow countrymen. There were many rebels (Kulaks, Ukranian farmers) who resisted the Red Army, upset due to the army’s pillaging of the peasants, stealing bread and livestock, for example. The rebel’s resisted taxes on their wares, but were crushed. The Ukrainian troops fought against both Red and White armies during the period. Over the course of a decade, particularly under Stalin, millions of Ukrainians died of famine and war as the Soviet’s sought the “bread basket” region, only to be immediately followed by more hardship from the Germans during the Second World War.
Imagine going to the Lenin Regional Soviet House of Culture to hear a lecture “On the Tasks of Today’s Youth.” The story “The New Generation” takes one there post Civil War.
“Adlig Schwenkitten” and “Zhelyabuga Village” recount the hardship endured on the front during the German offensive. “Times of Crisis” deals further with the handling of the the bandits in the lower provinces. Villages were purged. I found myself looking into the Finnish war and Stalin’s actions in that campaign. Also, the Russo Japanese War is noted in this section and Stalin’s throwing away division after division. The sympathetic outlining of the rise of Zhukov in this section is educational. Having gained notoriety at Khalkhin-Gol fighting the Japanese, Stalin promoted Zhukov to chief of the General Staff. Stalin later, however, did not like Zhukov’s suggestion that Kiev be abandoned, dismissing Zhukov, sending him to the “meat grinder” at Yelnya, which “he won within a week.” Kiev ended up having to be abandoned and later Stalin admitted Zhukov had been right. Stalin did not promote Zhukov for “saving Leningrad or for saving Moscow or for the victory at Stalingrad… Was Stalin afraid to make a mistake, to promote someone premature and then not be able to get rid of him?” (pp 255). Stalin’s purging of generals following the conflict is well known. Solzenitsyn alludes to Stalin’s indifference to Soviet casualties in this section. The Berlin campaign costing the Russians 300,000 dead “(Perhaps maybe even a half million).” Zhukov was forced to have his memoirs edited by a “committee of experts,” which meant expunging numerous sections. In the story “Times of Crisis,” Solzhenitsyn writes “you didn’t write what was in your heart, you wrote what would get through.” Zhukov. (pp. 283) I came away from the sections on Zhukov understanding Solzhenitsyn’s sympathy for the national hero.
Lastly the works in the book alluded to sections on the economy and the environment. “Fracture Points” alludes to the demise of the Great Impetus tracing Terzar’s demise and defense plants converting to makers of rakes. The failure of the socialist / collectivist experiment. Scientists left universities. The transition to a non-planned economy is outlined, as Solzhenitsyn’s characters start new businesses and small banks, having to wear bullet proof vests in some instances. The rise of organized crime surfaces in the section as, for example, “forests are logged out.”
A botched development of a hydro-electric plant, Boguchan, and its effect on the environment, and sturgeon in particular, finds its way into the last tale, “No Matter What.” Solzhenitsyn was a master at weaving the complex into the simple. This was an excellent read.