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Posts Tagged ‘Isaak Babel’

Joseph Stalin,the great killing machine, according to Alexander Yakovlev, the Soviet aircraft designer could be charming when he wanted to.’ but when he became angry they (his eyes) looked daggers, and tiny red spots appeared among the pock marks on his face.’ He recalls how Stalin after berating a senior executive would say, ‘I see you like the quiet life. In that case you would be best off in a cemetery. That is the only place you can find tranquility. The corpses will not argue with you or make any demands upon you.’ Stalin knew his power, and he could play a cat and mouse game with others. It did not matter how the exalted and lowly he was, both his colleagues and party workers knew how vulnerable they were before him. Stalin made them squirm or even sweat when he indulged in jests that sounded innocuous at surface.
‘Why are your eyes so shifty today?’ he would at random ask some party worker he had known for years. ‘Why do you turn away? Why don’t you look me straight in the face?’ More often than not the hapless worker would be arrested later that day. In the Iztvestia newspaper offices boards used to hang up with names of heads of departments but the practice soon stopped. It was not worth making as the messenger girl explained to Ilya Ehrenberg,’here today, gone tomorrow.’
The midnight knocks and mysterious disappearances were extensive that alarmed even Isaak Babel, the author of Red Cavalry and he told the poet thus,’ Today a man talks frankly only with his wife,- at night with the blanket pulled over his head!’ Among the intelligentsia no one was sure what tomorrow would bring.
Many of Ehrenberg’s acquaintances kept a small suitcase with two changes of warm underwear permanently in readiness.
When Budu Mdivani, the former Premier of Georgia (whose part Lenin had sided against Stalin long way back) was falsely accused of conspiring against Beria and Yeshov, knew Stalin too well. When asked to confess in order to be spared of execution he said,’I have known Stalin for thirty years. Stalin won’t rest until he has butchered all of us,beginning with the unweaned baby, and ending with the blind great- grand mother!’ So he did all his comrades of old among whom was Abel Yenukidze, his closest personal friend and best man at his marriage with Nadhezda Alliluyeva. His fault? He interceded for Kamenev and Zinoviev, and also for introducing Zoya Nikitina into Kremlin and later she was suspected of trying to poison Stalin. It didn’t take much either for comrades or ordinary man on the street to be arrested and shot.
The great killing machine didn’t grind to a halt because of a Great Patriotic War or after.
Only his death put a stop to the reign of terror. When his death became known the people didn’t know whether to cry or sigh in relief. The emotional battering under which the whole Soviet Russia lived from day to day from night to morning had sapped all their inner resources to respond normally.
(ack:Stalin: the history of a dictator by H. Montgomery Hyde.)
benny

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