On the Second Death Anniversary of Feliks Chuyev
In my early youth I intuitively became aware of the direction of the current happenings. I was fifteen years old when the Twentieth Congress of the party was held. I met it without any enthusiasm, with an inner feeling of the falsehood and absurdity of some of Khrushchev's statements regarding Stalin. By age and by the dating of my publications I must belong to the generation of the 'sixties'. Not by any means. From the very beginning I rebelled against the mudslinging on the banner of our fathers' generation because many of those who marched under these banners were much more desireable than those who later took their place. When I was eighteen years old I wrote an anti-Khrushchev poem about Stalin, and I got detained for it. I could not even think of getting it published at that time. But I came back to the incomplete poem and after finishing it, recited it in the poets' evenings. Everybody in the country got acquainted with the poem 'Why Were the Statues of Stalin Knocked Down' (See: 'Revolutionary Democracy', Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1995 pp. 63-4), merely for reading the poem people were thrown out of the party.
In 1967 I was 'discussed' in the Union of Writers. I was much abused but I stood firm and the hearing did not lead to any result. I remember what Yaroslav Smelyakov said in conclusion - I am tired of bringing Chuyev away, from Stalinism, and taking Yevtushenko towards communism!
However, I was forced to submit a letter explaining my views (!) regarding my unpublished poem!
I consulted V.A. Kochetov and he advised me to write it in such a way that one would not be ashamed of it after 20 years.
I wrote the letter. And I am not ashamed of it even after 26 years.
At the time when these unpleasant events were going on I was invited as a guest by M.A. Sholokhov at the Veshenskaya Cossack Village.
– Well, young man, read, so that I know what they are beating you for in Moscow! – said Mikhail Aleksandrovich. We stood under the Oak tree, where, in the words of Sholokhov, Grigorii and Aksin met. People gathered around. While I was reading people started to interrupt. Sholokhov became angry:
– And I am not allowed to write! What of Leo Tolstoy! He had just one Tsar over him, and I have everyone from the Secretary of the District Committee to the Kremlin over me! People used to shout 'For Motherland, For Stalin!', and now what do they say? Read everything! He turned to me – Listen to me, an old man, do not pay attention to these people! He nodded his head to many of the leaders...
When I finished reading, Sholokhov shed tears and kissed me.
– My old lady is inviting you for a cup of coffee – he said. Maria Petrovna was standing nearby. I came to know afterwards that this was an high honour and a big reward given to me by Mikhail Aleksandrovich. 'Consider that you received the Sholokhov Award!' people would say to me later.
Everything was available at his house, including coffee. And soon I received a blue packet with photographs from Veshenskaya: Where I am reading my poems to Sholokhov under the famous Oak tree. What an invaluable present and inscription.
I had written a lot of poems about Stalin. One of them was written in 1967 and was entitled 'A Reply to an Anonymous Letter'.
This poem has such lines as:
For those for whom Stalin is not good enough
Those people are not in harmony with Lenin either.
I was surprised that the people sitting at the top do not understand this: I, a small boy understand, but they cannot. Then the realisation came to me that those who ruled either did not see the impending disintegration or had turned traitor. They condemned the dissidents not because they were anti-Soviet and anti-Communist but because the dissidents were opposed to their happy leadership. Some did nothing and others indulged in destruction and waited for the death of the generation of Heroes. And neither of these remained as Communists. Now they are known as the newly-born democrats. And now our Motherland has reached its present state for which they had begun preparations after the death of Stalin.
19th November, 1993.
Frosty March, the pine-trees of Kuntsevo,
Frozen evening and starless snow.
In a familiar and threadbare greatcoat
Taking some steps forward before his sleep, a man.
'How horrifying it is to leave!
I am a coward and struggle with death
But I desperately need someone
To carry the Union forward.
The people do not love me – indisputably
My work lacks Russianness,
But one cannot govern by the heart alone
Otherwise everything will be utterly destroyed.
I did not nurture. But now I do not have time.
Intelligent, strong... the whole country!
In Russia there is a great Idea,
And she needs a great personality.
What then when I am no more,
Confusion again, fuss
And broken firewood, heart and education
On a mass scale, in the Russian manner, as usual?
You know the people by character are not rusty,
I was their leader and soldier
I gave my all, as I could, I served, you, great power,
Forgive me, I am much to blame'.
But who would frequent the mausoleum of Lenin
And received special packets?
But, if our generation asks:
'Did the Bolsheviks exist at all?'
I say - I know them.
They nurtured me.
Sparkling on the doors were inscribed the holy words: 'Partcom'.
The insatiable builders of Russia,
I, too, from childhood was a Bolshevik.
As everyone else, I too, nibbled coarse grain with appetite,
And was happy,
And was proud, as all of us.
I am his son, And I am not objective:
After all its all about not anybody –
I received a two page letter,
In which the author did not reveal his name,
Where he called me a confounded Stalinist,
As if he wanted to insult me.
And he informed me that he was sending off a copy
To someone somewhere, for the files.
I understand such malice and hatred —
Such people would not have been tolerated by Stalin.
Millions constructed and struggled,
For thirty years victoriously people marched behind him,
Overcoming the slanders and meanness
Of those who are like you, my dear anonymous author.
How happy are our enemies to have
The likes of you, who are the least
Concerned about us, for whom Stalin
Is not important, nor our arguments,
They just want to see us changed
When the country was saved by the Stalinists,
It is unlikely you would have said these things.
You even need Lenin - to hide behind him,
But you would not shield him from bullets.
But rejecting the rumours and complaints,
Stakhanov, Talalikhin and Matrosov,
Their breasts shielding everything that is holy,
Today are voicing their support for me.
And then in the gathering of
All honest people I openly say:
For those for whom Stalin is not good enough
Those people are not in harmony with Lenin either.
And as a promise that been tested
In battle like the first school certificate of merit,
And the Pioneer's motto 'Prepared Always!'
I take the title: Stalinist.
All over the country, confidently, broadshouldered,
March the children, youth, strongly,
And if we today are Stalinists,
It means that we are Bolsheviks.
On the map changes are made,
There is one which he would not have reproached:
Which bore the name of Stalin,
Now is called
The peak of Communism.
I suddenly thought what would have happened to us,
If the country has not been able to face the war,
We would be carrying loads on our backs to the Ural mountains, like slaves.
How would it have been if we were all under control,
And if our friends had not been of such an high order,
What would have happened if Stalin had not been Stalin
And Rokossovsky had flinched at the gates of Moscow?
What oppression would we have been subjected to
And how many of us would not have lived through it?
And once again poor Russia would have had need to
Follow a reborn Dimitri Donskoi.
When, having suffered enough, she rises,
Cursing her own ancient feebleness...
The Kremlin Wall, like the crimson banner of battle,
Stands, bowing before the Eternal Flame.
I will come here in those special minutes,
That by conscience not for nothing dedicated
To the witnesses of the Victory Salute,
And contemporary to the decisive war.
The stallion stumbled and began to sway
In full view of all of Russia,
As if a sign of unhappiness,
Of great misfortune.
The Tribune was wrapped in frost.
The Parade. And the Germans at the gates,
And the horseman tugged at the reins,
Surmounting the ice-covered ground.
And that the stallion rose again on his knees from the fall,
Although it seemed unimportant,
It has a terrible significance.
He was buried without an orchestra,
Without the due ceremonies, or the co-ordinated orations,
As if death itself sought for a place
Beneath the sky of flying rooks.
The chauffeur at first did not understand
He approached the tribune from the road
Because he did not notice the nervous person
Desperately waving to him:
— Over here! —
One side, by the carriage,
Served as a parking lot for buses,
The gathering turned into a dark ring,
Murmured and swelled. The People were silent.
They lifted and embraced
The coffin and slowly walked ahead
In the frosty surroundings
Over to the newly-dug earth.
A new mound came up over the grave
To one side there were flowers wrapped in cellophane
The inscription on them rustled: 'From the People' –
On the simple home-spun ribbon.
The people are milling around
The kiosk and getting angry.
And the saleswoman shouts coarsely:
– What sort of vegetables
Are these ?
The rabble of perestroika,
I recognise you at once
By your mug, Veteran?!
On which front, in one blow,
Did your feeling of fellowship wear out?
.... And in the 'Beryozka' shop without coupons.
The boor smiles
At foreigners and bows,
Like a hippopotamus.
I will not be sorry one whit
For any one of us,
Who have wasted at these counters
All of the gold reserves.
Cigarettes are rationed by coupons,
Life is controlled by passports,
Everything - governed by the rationing rules,
As if in a cell.
If only you may reduce yourself to a particle
For a long period so that you would be
Well-provisioned with commodities
From head to toe.
I, born in the snows of Russia,
I know the grief, but I am not gloomy,
I understand the bombardment and its terrors,
And so I pay my respects to those who are not broken by the storm.
As a child I came to learn what war is
And while growing up I understood
That a country is respected only
If its leader is worthy of respect.
If he is a leader, he is the leader of the fatherland,
And he will be honoured accordingly.
He will be like Stalin,
And with Stalin we were victorious.
As I grew up, I looked into the eyes of people
I saw victorious warriors!
...The captive Aryans felled trees in the forests
And the portrait of Stalin on the wall smiled.
To some a father, to others an unkind stepfather.
He prophesied to me of future sorrows:
'All in the world is not fortuitous,
And my son I put my hopes in you.
I carried the cross of the great power in troubled times,
She suffered at times because of me,
But the biggest falsehood is the one which the
Twentieth century has constructed about me.
And you shall see far ahead, in Russia,
And will not fall into meanness,
You shall speak differently, honestly,
And with Molotov you shall be friends.
All is not fortuitous - it is not otherwise,
You will meet real men and those who are humdrum,
I pass on to you, Russian boy,
The essence of my concerns.
In Russia there are no happy generations,
But patience will end - everyone, will begin to have doubts...'
This is what Stalin told me, and without a doubt,
It was so for some minutes.
This anxiety in gloomy majesty,
And these words in their tense truthfulness,
Inexplicable, menacing and magically
Follow my steps everywhere.
Translated from the Russian by Meeta Narain
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