Books I read: To kill the führer, by Oleg Kurylev

I thought I might post short reviews of the books I read. Most of the are more or less history-related, anyway :). Here's the last one.

I keep my reading diary in Emacs and export the data from org-mode to HTML, hence that probably strange look of the article below. Let me know if you don't like the way it looks.

1.30 DONE [#6] Курылев, Олег. Убить фюрера.    fiction scifi

  • State "DONE" 2007-09-27 Thu 00:55
    This was the third book of Oleg Kurylev that I've read. The first two books were rather simple sci-fi stories about travels in time. Both were set in the Third Reich shortly before and during the war. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read anything else by this author. The most attractive feature of those two books was the author's amazing familiarity with the details of life in the Nazi Germany. The especially conspicous was his brilliant knowledge of the German awards, uniforms, titles and all that. I am almost sure that Kurylev is a historian and specializes on the history of the Central and Eastern Europe in the first half of the XX century.

    A week ago I saw his new book on the shelves. I glanced at the annotation... and bought it. And I'm not sorry about it. The book starts with time travel again. A worker of the Institute of Historical Explorations in Novosibirsk is sent to 1911 to copy some books in a Prague library. Due to some peculiarities of the temporal physics, the time travel is actuall a travel to a parallel universe. So, the paradox of the killed grandfather is avoided. But the time travellers must return home before the link to the target period closes, because every parallel universe can be contacted only once. Savva becomes a defector. He has prepared his escape well and has a computer with a lot of data about the events of the 1910-1950 in Germany and nearby. He does not return in time and goes to Berlin where he begins making money by playing in casinos (the computer supplies him with newspaper articles where the rulette winning numbers are mentioned) and on horse races (once again -- the computer). Then, quite of a sudden, a man pays visit to him. He turns out to be his colleague, Vadim Nizhegorodsky, who was sent to the past through the same "window" when Savva missed the deadline to see if he's around and fetch him, but the window closes and Vadim finds himself unprepared, unlike Savva, in Prague of 1911. He manages to find Savva and they begin joint operations.

    They are two opposites. Savva is a phlegmatic planner, and Vadim is a lively man of action. Savva is careful not to change too many events in the history so that he would use his advantages as long as possible. Vadim, on the other hand, is impulsive and emotional. Among other things, he finds young painter named Hitler, lies about a sudden death of Hitler's kin in USA who leaves thousands of dollars to Adolf, and sends him across the Atlantic. On April 1912. You guess the name of ship ;). Yeah, right. However, Hitler survives. Savva doesn't know about these experiments of Vadim. He is torn between the desire to save the people who would die during the world wars or on Titanic, but prefers to remain a passive observer. Vadim finds Hitler once again and advices him to pass a test on racial purity in a Berlin clinic. Then he gives Hitler fake results saying that Adi is a Jew and the disappointed not-yet-führer commits suicide. Savva learns of the fact, understands that the hopes of keeping the history intact as long as possible are lost and joins Vadim in the attempts to stop the first world war.

    First, they depart to Sarajevo and save archduke Ferdinand. The European politicians, however, behave just as they did in our history, and the war is getting closer. Savva prints a book on the history of the WWI written by someone John Smartgun in early XXI century, publishes it in huge numbers and sends copies to the most important politicians and military leaders. They are frightened by the depth of knowledge of the mysterious author and by the prospectives of the 4-year long war and stop the war preparations.

    Once again, sometimes insufficiently original plot is compensated with the brilliant details. The author knows everything: topography of Prague, Berlin and Münich, biography of the Nazi predecessors, names of German companies, ships and newspapers of that epoch and many, many more. These details give the book an amazing credibility and I will wait for the sequel with impatience. And the sequel is definitely planned: on the last pages of the book the two adventurers go to Russia and meet a funny little man named Ulyanov in a train. The book ends with the Vadim's words: "I've got a fabulous idea!" :)

  • State "READING" 2007-09-23 Sun 00:02
  • State "TOREAD" 2007-09-21 Fri 13:59

    ISBN:     978-5-699-22771-6
    DDC:      82-312.9
    BBK:      84(2Рос-Рус)6-4 К93

  • Убить фюрера: Фантастический роман / Олег Курылев. - М.: Эксмо, 2007. - 544 с. - (Русская фантастика).


September 27 in Russian history


Emperor Alexander I restores the privilege the Magdeburg rights in Kiev. Russian cities were self-governed since the earliest times. I described the structure of their self-government in Russian history 20 and Russian history 26. After the fall of the Kievan Rus, the power of the local knyazes increased and the republican structures were dismantled. However, when a large part of the territory of modern Ukraine was controlled by Lithuanian and Polish rulers, they started to promote the cities' self-government by granting them the Magdeburg rights: Vladimir-Volynsky in 1324, Syanok in 1329, Lviv in 1352, Galich in 1367 and so on. Kiev was granted the Magdeburg rights in 1494. In XV-XVI centuries the Magdeburg rights were used in many cities, but only Lviv, Kamenets and Kiev enjoyed the full set of these rights, while in the other cities they were limited in favor of the Polish and German rulers.

The autonomy survived the re-union of Ukraine and Russia and Peter I confirmed the rights of Kiev. In 1775 the empress Ekaterina II issued the decree "On the adjoining of Kiev to Little Russia" (Little Russia was the name of the lands of modern Ukraine in the Russian empire) and since then the city was governed by the governor of Little Russia. In 1796 and 1797 emperor Pavel I restored the self-government in Kiev, but only formally. At last, in 1802 Alexander I officially confirmed the Magdeburg rights of Kiev.

Kievans collected money and by 1808 the chief architect of the city A.Melensky erected the monument as a gratitude to the emperor. It is still there, on the place where in 988 knyaz Vladimir baptized the Kievans. The monument is a column with two inscriptions: "To Saint Vladimir, the Enlightener of Russia" and "Built by the efforts of the citizens of Kiev for the confirmation of the rights of this ancient capital by the Emperor of the all Russia Alexander on September 15, 1802"

By the way, Alexander didn't know about the plans of the Kievans and was rather displeased when he finally learnt of the monument. He even issued a decree prohibiting erection of new monuments without the approval of the emperor and wrote a letter to the general-governor of Kiev A.Fensh: "As pleased as I was to see the efforts of the citizens of Kiev in the erection of the monument to the Saint Great Knyaz Vladimir, I was extremely surprised that I did not received any notifications from you on this matter... Nevertheless, I ask you to express my gratitude to the citizens of Kiev."

The Magdeburg rights of Kiev were cancelled in 1834 and the magistrate was replaced by the city Duma. Since then, the people preferred to call the monument the St. Vladimir's column, or the monument to the baptizing of Russia


190 years ago, a monument to the Russian soldiers who defended Riga in 1812 was opened in this city. The Russian army that opposed Napoleon, fought in Latvia, too. They included a certain number of the native population, including Latvian partisans. In 1915, when the German troops were moving close to Riga, the monument was dismantled. The metal parts were taken to Russia, and the column was moved to Viestura garden. In 1990 the city authorities planned to erect it on the Jekaba square, but instead it was transported to a distant location, where it is still lying on the open air, covered by garbage and painted by graffiti "artists".


Sergey Korolyov was sentenced to six years in prison and sent to the gold fields in Siberia. He was lucky, though. He was soon transferred to a "shabashka" (a research lab, where the the arrested scientists worked). Sergey Korolyov, the head of the Soviet space program, or simply the Chief Designer, played the absolutely crucial role in making USSR the leading country in space research. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky predicted in 1920s that the man will fly to the space in 100 years. Korolyov did this in 30 years. However, when Khruschev asked who was the designer of rocket that sent the first sputnik into space, Korolyov answered: "There is no such man. The rocket was built by the Soviet people." He was born on January 12 1907 and his 100th anniversary is celebrated by Russian and Ukrainian scientific and engineering community. Unfortunately (and inexplicably), not by the general public. In January, there was a celebration in Kremlin. Russian movie director Yuri Kara made a film Korolyov about his years in Gulag, and the premiere had to take place during this event in Kremlin, but it was cancelled.

Korolyov was a unique scientist and person and I promise to write a longer article about his life.

Ancient settlement found on Altay

A group of Altay archaeologists was doing obligatory field research before the construction of a road from Gorno-Altaysk to Urlu-Aspak when they suddenly found a fragment of an ancient settlement (here). The settlement was relatively large, but due to the time constraints only a small part of it that is to be buried under the road was explored. Multiple pieces of ceramic crocks in good condition and stone tools were found. But the most interesting things were strange channels dug in the earthen floor of the houses. Archaeologists still can't find a reliable explanation for them. One version is that the ditches were a part of the heating system: they channeled the warm air from the fireplace and warmed the floor.

No ideas on the dating of the settlement as far. The works will continue in the next season.


September 26 in Russian history

This will be a short post. Not that the events are unimportant or poorly known. On the contrary, there's nothing I can add to the Wikipedia articles, so I'll just remind of these events.


The second son was born in a Jewish family of Morris and Rose Gershowitz. They came to the USA from Russia. Moisha Gershowitz worked at a shoe factory in St.Petersburg. When he was 19, he met a 15-years old Rosa Bruskin, daughter of a furrier. One day, Rosa's father thought that the rise of anti-semitism in Russia was getting troublesome and decided to emigrate to the USA (Northern American United States, as the country was then called in Russian). Between 1880 and 1896, more than 1.5 million of Jews left Russia to America. Trying to avoid the threat of being drafted into the army, in 1892 or 93 Moisha follows his beloved Rosa and leaves St.Petersburg. On July 21, 1895, they married. Rosa was only 19 then, and Morris was 23. A year later, in December 1896, the first boy, Israel (a.k.a. Ira) was born. And in 1898, his little brother is born, Yakov. George Gershwin.


Russian lieutenant colonel with a rare last name Petrov saves the world. Due to a rare meteorological coincidence of events, the early warning system falsely identified a series of missile launches from one of the American military bases. 20 years later, he recalled: "You can't analyze anything in 2-3 minutes. Only intuition works. I had two arguments. First, rocket attacks don't start from one base only. Second, the computer is stupid by definition. Who knows what he might mistake for a missile launch. Stanislav Petrov is 68 now and he's a pensioner. He lives in Fryazino, near Moscow.


Death of the empire. Part VII.

10 Afterword

So, in the mid-80s the USSR faced a deep crisis of the financial system, which led to the crisis of the whole economy and caused the sharp fall of the production and life quality, which led to the political destabilization and then to the crash of the political regime and the whole Soviet empire.

By the end of 90s, Russia, the heir of the USSR, formed a new open economic system, which included a set of young and imperfect, but working institutions: private property, convertible currency, banking system, regulatory system that controlled stock exchanges and natural monopolies. There was also a sufficient amount of experienced and knowledgeable managers. All this gave a chance to begin economic growth, to provide stable growth of the life quality, structural changes in the economy, to stabilize the financial situation of the country.

The structural changes went along the steps that could have been taken by the Soviet leaders in 1986-87: capital investments, military spendings and grain import were cut; export of raw materials was increased, the internal consumption of these materials was decreased. These measures caused further decrease of production and life quality, but the currency reserves, exhausted by the end of 1991, were restored and the budget deficit decreased to zero. Since late 1999-2000 the country was restoring the reputation of a first-class debtor.

If the Soviet leaders took these steps earlier, the restoration period could be shorter. But they were unable to take the crucial decision -- to replace the socialist centralized system of the economic management with the market system. Contrary, Russia and other post-socialist countries went a difficult way and formed the basic structure of the market economy.

In the same years a young and unstable democracy was formed, which included elements of populism, political irresponsibility and corruption. Nevertheless, the system of checks and balances was built. This system was flexible enough and one could hope that it might provide certain stability within the huge and multiethnical country.

In 2000-2003 effective economic reforms enhanced the quality of the tax and financial systems, made the federative system more transparent.

However, since 2003-2004 the trends of the developments in the Russian political, federative and economical systems became negative.

Till 2000-2002, Russia had a loyal, but independent parliament. The press was controlled by groups of oligarchs, but the differences of their interests gave a chance to see the situation from different points of view. The organizations of businessmen and entrepreneurs were influential and participated in the decision-making. Since 2003, all these institutions are turning into decorative elements.

The actions of the current Russian government pave a road to the system which may be called a closed (or managed) democracy, or soft authoritarianism. This system has little common features with the Soviet totalitarian system, but it begins to show weaknesses and elements of instability typical for such systems.

Abolishment of federalism (appointment of regional governors, introduction of the proportional electoral system and the 7% electoral barrier for the political parties, etc.) gives strong arguments to the nationalists and separatists.

Russian economic policy was conservative and effective in the last years. The stabilization fund was launched, the foreign debts were minimized. The Russian leaders have demonstrated the ability to learn lessons from the experience of their predecessors, which is an uncommon feature for the Russian rulers.

The government is often criticized for this fund, but this populist rhetorics is a natural element of the political landscape. However, the impression that the size of this fund is anomalous, is exaggerated. By January 1 2005, the fund was 5.7% of GNP (compare to the Norwegian 70.1% in October Since 2005, the government began to increase the budget spendings financed by the oil export. These spendings are still relatively small, but they undermine the stability of the financial system. Russian economy, like the Soviet one earlier, becomes dependent on the prices for oil.

Currently, the risk of destabilization in Russia is much lower than it was in the late USSR. The soft authoritarian system still includes a lot of elements of freedom and flexibility, which gives some hope for Russia. The share of the Russian population is much higher than it was in the USSR which decreases the chances of serious ethnic conflicts. Russian market economy is way more flexible than the socialist one. And yet, the risks and the dependency of the country on the parameters not controlled by the government remain.


Death of the empire. Part VI.

9 The end

9.1 Political economy of the failed coup

On June 17 Gorbachev sends a draft treaty "On the Union of sovereign states" to the governments of the republics. On June 29-30 Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Nazarbayev decide to sign the treaty on August 20. One day before the treaty would be signed the vice-president, prime-minister, defense minister, KGB chairman, leader of the military industrial complex and the army commander supported by the chairman of the Supreme Council (they called themselves GKChP -- the State Committee on the Extraordinary Situation) dare to do (or so they thought) what in their opinion Gorbachev dares not to do -- to use violence. In three days, however, it becomes clear that it's the changed country, not Gorbachev, that matters.

Since the end of 1980s the army officers knew that they will be made responsible for whatever happens, and they did their best to avoid this responsibility. The joint operation Thunder of the army, KGB and the police aimed at the capture of the parliament building was scheduled on the night of August 21. However, nobody in the GKChP takes the responsibility. By the next morning it becomes clear that the KGB detachment Alpha refused to participate in the storm, police divisions did not move and the brigade Tyopliy Stan was gone and nobody knew where they were.

Even if the they used violence, the outcome would be unpredictable. In February and August of 1917 violence did not save the state. And even if it worked, the economic situation would remain critical. Budget deficit was about 30% of GNP. Food supplies sufficed for 15 days. 30% of the citizens could not get the rationed food. Nobody would issue credits to the GKChP. KGB and the participants of the plot knew it quite well. Probably, it was this understanding that made prime-minister Pavlov to drink so much alcohol one day before these events that he could not take part in the coup.

9.2 Political agony

The Union does not control the army, cannot guarantee the security of the state borders, does not control the territory. On September 5 the Congress of the People's Deputies of the USSR dissolves itself.

The attempts to create a commonwealth of the republics were not efficient. The Ukrainian leaders were very careful during the coup and refused to condemn the actions of GKChP. So, to avoid the political bankruptcy, they only had one option -- to promote the independence. On November 8 the chairman of the Supreme Council of Ukraine Kravchuk said: "We will oppose all attempts to create any central organs. There should be no centre besides coordination organs."

9.3 Political desintegration: political consequences

In the first half of 1991 Russia received from other republics 22% of the planned amount of sugar, 30% of tea, 19% of cereals, 22% of soap. All republics except for Russia introduced customs on the borders and limited export of all goods. It was prohibited to export goods to Russia, it was only possible to import them from Russia. Ukraine and Estonia place orders in Canada to print their own currency.

Vice chairman of the Soviet governments L.Abalkin: "In the beginning of October I met Mr. Greenspan, the leader of US Federal Reserve System. He asked me: 'Do you understand that you have some weeks till the financial ruin?' I replied that according to our estimations we have two months." The production decreased in 1991 by 15%. Forecasts for 1992 were the decrease by 23-25%.

Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic countries fully stop money transfers to the budget of the Union. Other republics send some money, but these payments turned from taxes to gifts.

The budget deficit exceeds the planned amount by 3.2 times. The reason is the sharp fall of the incomes.

Riyad Bank postpones the agreed credits ($500 mln). US banks refuse to issue credits.

In 9 months the monetary mass increased from 989 billion rubles to 1.7 trillion rubles. In 10 months the export decreased by 31% and the import -- by 43%. RUR/USD rate rose to 100 rubles. Actually, ruble lost all functions of money and was replaced on the internal markets by *barter payments. The people do not trust money and do their best to get rid of them by buying anything -- goods, foreign currency, gold, etc.

In November 1991 69% of Russians said that the worst times are yet to come. 21% think that now is the worst time.

Meat reserves in St.Petersburg will last 3-4 days.

9.4 Civilized divorce

In the XX century 3 integrated empires fell before the USSR: Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian. Yugoslavia fell apart only some years earlier. In 3 cases out of four the crashes of the empires ended with long wars. Only in Austro-Hungary the chain of conflicts was stopped by the L'Entente armies.

Had someone asked informed experts in 1989 in which of the two socialist multiethnic countries the risk of a civil war was higher, in Yugoslavia, whose relatively liberal political system and the open market economy brought the country closer to the assession to the EU than any other ex-socialist country, or in the USSR, most of them would name USSR.

Nobody knows the exact answer why the war started in Yugoslavia and not in USSR. My opinion (says Gaidar) is: First, Milośević relied on nationalist sentiments, that is he defined his enemy by the ethnic criterion, and Yeltsin opposed the unpopular communist regime, that is his opponent was a political one. Second, a certain role was played by the nuclear weapons located in some Russia, Belorussia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The data on the distribution of the nuclear warheads in the republics are unreliable and testify the level of threat represented by the nuclear weapons. The tactical weapons were the largest problem, since the strategic weapons were controlled from Moscow. The decisions on the usage of nuclear shells and mines were taken on the local level.

The threat of the Yugoslav scenario was real. On August 26 1991 the press-secretary of the president of Russia Voshchanov warned that Russia may question the borders with the republics (except for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) which would not sign the Union treaty. These claims might include the northern Kazakhstan, Crimea and parts of the left-bank Ukraine. On August 27-28 the mayor of Moscow Popov layed even larger claims: Odessa and the areas near Dniester river.

The leaders of the new independent states managed to understand that questioning the borders, however unjust, leads directly to war. On December 30 1991 the agreement on the strategic forces was signed. Ukraine, Belorussia and Kazakhstan had to destroy a part of the nuclear arms and to remove to Russia the remaining part.

By May 6 1992 the tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn from Ukraine to Russia. After the USA guaranteed the safety of the Ukraine, by June 1 1996 the strategic weapons were withdrawn, too. By December 13 1993 Kazakhstan became a zone free from nuclear weapons and on November 23 1996 Belorussia followed.

On December 25, 1992, after the resignation of Gorbachev, the independence of the ex-republics turns from a political to a legal reality. However, the dissolution of the USSR did not solve the problems faced earlier by the USSR and now by the independent republics.

The lesson taught by the last years of the USSR is that the seemingly solid, but inflexible political constructions, unable to adapt to the challenges of the constantly changing world, are fragile and break under the influence of unpredictable situations.

The cause of the break-up of the USSR, the fall of the prices for oil, seems to be incomparable with the consequence. Indeed, this was not the cause, but an occasion for the break-up. The Stalin's model of industrialization, as opposed to the Bukharin's model, became the foundation where huge crevices were produced by relatively small external effects.


Death of the empire. Part V.

8 On the road to the state bankruptcy

8.1 Currency crisis. 1991

Since the second half of 1990 the volume of import is sharply decreased. The laws of the republics give their central banks the right to emit currency. The chairman of the State bank of the USSR Gerashchenko wrote to Gorbachev: "The laws and actions of some republics block the transfer of money to the union's budget. Ministry of finances of the USSR has to borrow money from the State bank... This will lead to the situation when we won't have resources to pay to the army and the navy, to the state officials... All this will finally end with an uncontrolled credit and monetary emission and hyperinflation."

Export of oil decreases from 124 mln tons in 1990 to 61 mln tons in 1991. Supplies to the Eastern Europe drop from 60 to 19 mln tons. The credits issued to the socialist countries turn into debts to the Eastern European countries and they demand to pay immediately at least a part of this debt.

8.2 Grain problem

In 1990 Gosplan (the central planning agency) proposed to raise the retail prices for bread by 3 times. Due to political reasons the plan was rejected. In 1990 the harvest was large, 237 mln tons, but the state received only 66.8 mln tons, 28 mln tons less than in 1978, when an equal amount of grain was collected. Obviously, a large part of the grain was kept by the producers. USSR decides to pass agricultural machines to the producers in exchange for the grain.

On March 18 the grain reserves were only enough till the end of month (except for Kazakhstan). In Moscow city, in Ivanovo, Tula, Nizhny Novgorod, Tyumen and some other regions the reserves could last less than 10 days. In January-March only 3.7 mln tons were imported instead of the planned 12.4 mln tons.

In February 1991 Ukraine demands the USSR to return from the union's grain fund 1.2 mln tons of wheat. Flour is not available in retail in RSFSR (except for Moscow) and Ukraine. In other republics flour is rationed. Milk production dropped in the four months of 1991: in Russia and Belorussia by 10%, in Lithuania, Azerbaijan and Moldavia -- by 11-13%, in Latvia and Estonia -- by 15%, in Georgia and Armenia -- by 21-24%.

In Mat 21 the flour reserves were 1.5 mln tons (enough for 15 days).

The communists seem to be unaware of these problems. The Central Committee of the CPSU demands 81.5 mln rubles for the purchase of materials for the party typographies, 2,500 cars for the party officials and a compensation for the party officials for the growth of prices.

Gorbachev's aide Chernyaev: " The bread lines in Moscow are as long as the meat lines two years ago. That there was bread in the country turned out to be a myth. Nobody gives credits. I went all around Moscow and the bakers are either closed or absolutely empty. Moscow has never saw anything like this, I think, even in the years of the worst hunger."

8.3 Prices fly upwards

On March 19 1991 the government finally dares to raise the retail prices by 60%. The real growth, however, exceeds 90%: meat became 2.6 times more expensive, sausage -- 3.1 times, bread -- 3 times. Contrary to the fears of the officials, no unrest followed.

This step does not enhance the situation due to the attempts to reimburse the losses of the people by issuing compensations. The compensations are payed from the union's budget, but the taxes go to the republican budgets.

In December 1991 two thirds of the Soviet people think that the life level will drop even lower before the crisis ends.

The prices of the kolkhoz markets (relatively free) were almost 6 times higher than in the state-owned shops. The share of the black market is: consumer goods -- 30.9%, food -- 10.9%, services -- 25.7%.

8.4 Money and the fate of the empire

Growth of monetary emission, in billions of rubles:


The chances to receive foreign credits are disappearing. Greece, who offered credits in 1990, in 1991 is reluctant to even discuss the matter. $500 mln were received from Southern Korea as a gratitude for the restored diplomatic relations. $200 mln were received from Kuwait for the support during the conflict with Iraq. The government confiscates $6 billion of Soviet citizens and organizations from the Vnesheconombank (including the royalties of Gorbachev himself for his books published abroad).

Contracts are not payed in time, Soviet ships are arrested in foreign ports. The government doesn't know what to do with the Soviet specialists working abroad -- there are no money to pay salaries or buy for them tickets home. The financial assistance to the foreign communist parties is cut. Gorbachev asks G7 to invite him and plans to discuss the credits. He receives the invitation, but not the credits.

In the Baltic republics the independence proponents win the elections. On the referenda the support of the independence is overwhelming: 90% in Lithuania, 77% in Latvia, 90% in Estonia.

The specific feature of the pro-independence movements in the Soviet republics compared to the movements in other empires, was the support of a significant part of the people belonging to the imperial nation, Russians in this case. In spring of 1990 Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia proclaim independence. Moldavia, Ukraine, Belorussia and Russia follow them.

In April 1990 USSR begins partial economic blockade of Lithuania, which forces Lithuania to postpone the practical steps towards independence.

In summer of 1990 Gorbachev forms an alliance with Yeltsin. They agree on the radical broadening of the rights of the republics and transformation of the Union into a confederation. They also agree on the principles of an anti-crisis economic program: cut of defense spendings, capital expenditures and economic assistance to other countries. These measures are insufficient, but what's more important is that the army and KGB oppose them. Gorbachev backs off and gives them a chance to restore control by force (murders of the Latvian customs officers). On January 7, 1991 paratroopers are sent to Lithuania. They seize the House of Press and some other objects in Vilnius and Kaunas. Planes and trains to Lithuania are cancelled. On January 11, Gosteleradio (the state TV and radio committee, whose head was Kravchenko) switches off the communication lines of an independent news agency Interfax. The Communist party of Lithuania (the general secretary Ermolavičius) announces that formation of the Committee of the national rescue and attempts to take power. Chernyaev (Gorbachev's aide) said later that the decision to send the troops was taken by the army commander Varennikov without Gorbachev's confirmation.

The parliaments of Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, the Moscow and Leningrad Councils condemn the usage of violence in Lithuania. The miners' strike committees in Kuznetsk region demand for Gorbachev's resignation. The West threats to cancel credits. USSR backs off. On July 30, on the meeting in Novo-Ogarevo Gorbachev agrees that all taxes will be collected by the republics, and the Union's government will depend on the finances transferred by the republics. Basically, this was the dissolution of the empire.


Death of the empire. Part IV.

7 Developing crisis of the socialist economical and political systems

7.1 Problems of the oil industry

Oil production, millions of tons:


In 1991 22,000 oil wells did not work because of the insufficient supply of equipment.

7.2 Political credits

Ever since the USSR refused to pay the debts of the tsarist government, Soviet Union always payed in time. However, since 1988 banks do not trust USSR anymore. It's getting more and more difficult to pay debts by taking new credits. USSR increases sales of gold, but the reserves are not too large. Under politicla liberalization, strict stabilization measures are threatening with a political crisis. The only solution the Soviet leaders can think of is the credits from the Western countries.

Gorbachev agrees to accept the disadvantageous terms dictated by the West and to cut weapons. He does it both to cut the expenses and to obtain credits. This was the only way to avoid strict measures and political suicide.

7.3 Price of the compromises

As long as the dialogue with the West was about the control over the arms race, it was the dialogue on par. Now that the Soviet leaders ask for money, equality is gone.

Usage of brute force to retain control over Eastern Europe is impossible, since it would lead to the loss of credits. This leads to the victory of Solidarność in Poland.

The price payed by the West for the Soviets giving up control over Eastern Europe was not high: credits from FRG for the re-unification of Germany, Italian and American credits. The West demands USSR to observe human rights.

The West informs the separatists in the Baltic countries that if they proclaim independence, USA will not guarantee their sovereignity. However, USSR will not get any credits if the Soviets use force against the Baltic countries.

7.4 Crisis of the empire and the national question

As it often happens in authoritarian multiethnic countries, political liberalization calls to life political forces based on nationalism.

In the first years of his rule, Gorbachev was convinced that there are no national problems in the country.

In 1986, students in Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan) protest against the appointment of a Russian candidate, G. Kolbin as the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. The unrest was put down, but the USSR shown signs of weakness, cancelling Kolbin's appointment and replacing him with a Kazakh candidate, N. Nazarbayev.

Like in Yugoslavia, the discrimination of Russians is widely discussed and produces the same reaction as the discrimination of Serbs.

By summer 1988, national movements are formed in the Baltic countries, Armenia, Georgia. Their first natural step was to find foreign enemies. About 600,000 people flee from persecutions and become refugees.

To save the empire without using violence is impossible. To lose the empire and to stay in power is impossible, too. Violence will definitely lead to the loss of credits, economic collapse and fall of the empire.

Trying to quell the disorders in Tbilisi in 1989, the army uses violence against a demonstration. The political leaders attempt to avoid the responsibility and the army becomes the scapegoat. Eventually, in May-June 1989, during the pogroms against Meskhetian Turks in Fergana (Uzbekistan), the army refuses to act without direct orders. 103 people died, 1011 were wounded, 757 houses were burnt and looted.

7.5 Loss of control

In spring 1989 the communist candidates lost the elections.

Crime grows fast (1,514 thousand crimes in the first half of 1990 against 1,263 thousand in the first half of 1989). The number of crimes involving firearms grows by 30%. Laws and regulations on the republican, local and the union levels contradict each other.

The mixture of an inexperienced democracy and loss of the authoritarian control makes the democratic Soviet of the People's deputies (the parliament) to increase spendings on social programs, worsening the financial situation. The taken decisions cannot be fulfilled.

In summer 1988, government decides to finish the liberalization of prices in the first half of 1989. However, nobody wants to take decisive steps to this goal. In 1990 Gorbachev refuses to start transition to the market economy from the liberalization of prices, preferring more popular measures. The state expenses for the production of all kinds of goods are 20-30% higher than the profit from the sales.

7.6 From crisis to catastrophe

In 1989 the industrial production stopped growing. Since 1990 it decreases. Miners' strikes result in the dropping coal production. This leads to the lowering production in metallurgy. This, in its turn, impedes all other industries. Devaluation of ruble makes consumers buy more, increasing the deficit of consumer goods.

7.7 "Extraordinary efforts" instead of reforms

In the spring of 1990 Gorbachev chooses between a radical economic program prepared by N. Petrakov and a more moderate program by L. Abalkin. He cannot make his mind and postpones the decision.

Public opinion polls:

May '90: 50% support transition to the market economy. 60% say that it will not give any results in short term.

December '90: 56% think that the economic situation is critical, while 37% call it unfavourable. 70% expect the situation to become worse. 54% think that the catastrophe is possible in 1991. 49% say that there will be mass unemployment, 42% expect famine, 51% prepare to power and water cuts. 70% say that their wealth got worse in the last year. The main problems identified: survival, food supplies, raising prices, deficit of soap, clothes, fabrics, shoes, etc.

When asked when the USSR will recover from the crises, 45.8% replied that no sooner than in 2000. 12% thought that the USSR will never recover. 60% said that the main problems are deficit, poverty and lines.

In the end of 1989 52% supported Gorbachev. In the end of 1990 -- 21%.

First secretary of the Leningrad regional committee of the CPSU Gidaspov: "When I go to work in the morning, I see hundreds, thousands people standing in lines. And I think: now someone will break a glass and the counter-revolution will start in Leningrad."

In 1990 the monetary emission grew to 26.6 billion rubles.

The food supply in Moscow and Leningrad was also a critical priority (Soviet leaders remembered well how the revolution in 1917 began). In early 1991 the situation even in Moscow becomes catastrophic. In other cities it's even worse. In Nizhny Novgorod there is not enough food even for children and pregnant women.

Oil and gas workers follow the example of the coal miners and threat to strike. In 3 years the oil production decreased by 20%. Coal production in 1991 was 11% less than in 1990.

The government adopts "extraordinary" decrees on strengthening the struggle with the economic crimes and creates "extraordinary commissions".

In April 1991 the authors of the anti-crisis program of the Cabinet of Ministers write: "It is necessary to destroy the artificial trade barriers built in some regions and republics and to organize the supply of the most important resources for the agricultural enterprises. The Cabinet of Ministers will follow the anti-inflational policy, liberalization of prices and stimulation of business activity."

7.8 On the edge of default

Since mid-1989 the country is on the edge of bankruptcy. USSR asks the West for urgent help. The West is ready to help, but wants a clear anti-crisis program.

Aeroflot company stops selling aeroplane tickets to the workers of the Ministry of Foreign Economic Links, telephone company turns off their telephones.

The West wants to prevent chaos in the USSR and tries to help. G. Bush in Ukraine says on August 1 1991: "Freedom and independence are not the same. The Americans will not help those who abuse their freedom, replacing the earlier tyranny with a local despotism. Nor those who are inclined to welcome the suicidal nationalism based on ethnic hatred."

Europarliament sends food and medicine as a humanitarian aid. Bundeswehr sends military rations.

"People in Yaroslavl are happy to see standing lines: if you stand in the end, you may hope to buy something. But the lines are more and more rare. Two weeks ago a new one has appeared, the most angry and desperate one -- the bread line."

A schoolboy wrote: "Last week I stood in a terrible line for meat. I am afraid to even say, but I spent 5.5 hours there. We had lines before, but they were not so huge and some things could be bought freely. Now we have lines standing for everything, from meat and shoes to matches and salt... Had you seen our savage, mad and hungry people in terrible, savage lines, you would be shocked."

During the first quarter of 1991 the budget gains were 4.4 billion rubles instead of the planned 17 billion rubles. The price for oil on the international market was 60 rubles per ton, while the budgeted price was 105 rubles per ton.

The government discusses two options. The first is based on strict non-economic measures to limit the incomes of the citizens: cancelling social programs, freezing salaries, cutting capital expenditures. This option was rejected as impossible in the current social and political situation. The second option: to use the inflation to achieve the macroeconomic stabilization, protecting only a limited circle of people with fixed incomes. Industrial workers should compensate the losses by increasing productivity and sales. This also implies that the prices must be liberalized, except for a limited set of fixed prices on some fuels and materials and a minimum set of the basic life necessities. The second option is also rejected because of political risks.

Newspapers about the miners' strikes: "There are patrols on the streets: strong guys in white shirts. The order is ideal, there is zero crime rate in the city. The officials gave up their power in favor of those whom yesterday they refused to accept in their cabinets. Kirovsk, Snezhnoye, Shakhtyorsk, Torez, Donetsk... This is not a strike, this is a revolution."

The government faces the same choice as in 1985-86, but in a much worse situation. The government discusses possible ways of reforms, but adopts none.


Leo Tolstoy and copyright

LJ user vova_l (link in Russian) posted the text of a short notice by Posrednik publishers printed in the newspaper "Russkie Vedomosti" on March 7, 1887. It reads:

Due to frequent requests for permission to reprint or translate works by Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy published by our company, we deem it necessary to announce that all works by L. N. Tolstoy published by Posrednik are released, according to the author's wish, to the public domain and, hence, are free from all literature property rights.

Another writer, Nikolay Semyonovich Leskov commented: "Now we have to take care that the example of the man whom we love would not be lost in vain."

120 years ago this man has understood what few of modern people understand. Okay, he may be not the best writer I know, to put it mildly, but I have to admit he was a great thinker. :)

Death of the empire. Part III.

6 Political economy of external shocks

6.1 USSR and the falling oil prices. The gist of the choice.

Insufficiently competitive machine building industry left no chances to change the structure of export trade. Cutting grain import might lead to the social crisis. Good harvests in 1986-87 allowed to soften the consequences of the falling oil prices, but in 1988 the crisis became even more threatening. The dependence of wheat harvests on the weather, caused by the developing of virgin lands in the 1950s and the low oil prices made the situation catastrophic. This was the reason of the fall of the Soviet economic system.

Possible strategies were:

  • large scale raising of prices, comparable to what was done in the 1930s;
  • introduction of rationing;
  • lowering the production of the processing and building industries and raising the export of raw materials;
  • cut capital expenditures and decrease the volume of import of machines and tools from the West.

The first option was a violation of the contract between the society and the power, formed in late 50s-early 60s and confirmed in 1962 in Novocherkassk. Besides, increased prices wouldn't solve the problem due to large forced savings of the people. The rationing opposed the existing hierarchy of distribution, even though the idea was popular (in 1991 60% of Soviet people supported this idea, while only 16% preferred growing prices). Decrease of military spendings led to the conflict with the army and the military industry. Similarly, decrease of capital expenditures led to the conflict with the regional elite and with the industrial ministries and could end with a quiet coup, like it was with Khrushchev. It was impossible to cut the industrial production in the cities, where only one factory gave jobs to the majority of the population. Cuts of the oil export to the Eastern Europe become regular. Capital expenditures and import of machinery continued to grow. A large part of the imported tools were never used, however.

The new leaders did not understand that attempts to avoid conflicts with the people or with the industrial/agricultural elite only increased the chances of the conflict with both. Traditional Soviet style of management was oriented on the natural criteria, not the financial ones. The problems of kettle farming were discussed by the government more often than the budget problems. Finances were seen as a dull accounting. Moreover, the real state of the budget was available to a very limited circle of the top officials. Gorbachev recalled: "Andropov asked me and Ryzhkov to analyse possible decisions and to report to him. Trying to get to the gist, we asked for a chance to understand the state of the budget. Andropov laughed: 'You want too much. I won't let you see it.'" Andropov himself admitted, though, that he knew next to nothing about economy.

Deintellectualization: from a protocol of the Central Committee of the CPSU: "On comrade Zasyadko: they say he has quit drinking. Send him as a minister to Ukraine." Zero economic education of the leaders.

6.2 Chain of mistakes

By 1985, the Soviet leaders did not yet understand how deep the crisis was, but they noticed the decrease of the oil production. For the 1986-1990 the plans of the capital expenditures in the oil and gas industries were by almost 1/3 larger than they had been in 1981-1985 and 3 times larger than in 1971-1975. The share of the oil and gas industries in the total amount of capital expenditures grew from 14% in the 9th five-year plan (1971-1975) to 23% in the 12th five-year plan (1986-1990). The growth of the industry was smaller than the growth of the capital expenditures.

The government did not understand that the crisis was financial and prepared two blows on the financial system: the anti-alcohol campaign and the program of the acceleration of the economic development.

In 1985, it was planned that the income from sales of alcohol should be 60 billion rubles. In 1986, the income was 38 billion rubles, in 1987 -- 35 billion rubles, in 1988 -- slightly more than 40 billion rubles.

In 1986-1988 the budget gains decreased by 31 billion rubles and the spendings grew by 36 billion rubles.

Monetary emission:

YearEmission, billions of rublesEmission growth, % of the previous year

By 1989, the government was worried by the financial situation. In January 1989 Gorbachev announced 14.2% cuts of the military spendings and 19.2% cuts of the weapons production.

The government finally understands the seriousness of the situation and decides that the conflict with the administrative elite is the lesser of the evils. However, the decisions are late and the scale of taken steps is incomparable with the scale of the crisis.

6.3 Growing problems of the Soviet economy

The oil production began to decrease again. From time to time various goods disappear from the shops: sugar, toothpaste, soap, washing powder, school copybooks, batteries, not to mention meat, shoes, etc. The 1987 program of economic reforms was buried. The control over the monetary mass and the people's incomes was lost.

Incomes of the citizens grow by 12.9% instead of the planned 1.2% and they grow 1.4 times faster than the expenses. In the beginning of 1990 the unsatisfied demand was 110 billion rubles against 60 billion rubles in 1986. The Central Bank issues more and more credits to the state budget.

Grain production falls and the prices on the world market grow. It's getting difficult to buy meat, butter, sweets, sugar, tea, flour, cereals, fruits and vegetables, fish, cigarettes. The supply of fabrics, shoes, children's stockings, school copybooks, wood, construction materials, matches is sharply decreasing.

By the end of 1989 the Soviet leaders are fully aware of the problems. Western banks are worried by the growth of the USSR's debt. Soviet Union cannot pay for the imported goods and the shipments stop. The credits issued earlier by the USSR to the satellite states are hopeless.

Especially dangerous was the situation with the medicine. The Soviet industry could provide only 40-45% of the necessary drugs. Supplies from abroad are stopping.

6.4 Currency crisis

Western banks refuse to issue new credits. In 1988, the income from the exported goods was only 54% of the planned amount. In 1986-88, more than one million complaints about poor quality of the exported goods were received. The debt is two times as large as the income from the export. Even in the trade with the socialist countries import exceeds export. All income from the export is spent on the debt payments.

Foreign banks refer to their governments. The Western countries tie new credits with the economic reforms and the delimitation of the authority of the central governments and the republics.

6.5 Economical and political liberalization against the background of financial problems

The first known official document where the necessity and possibility of keeping the political system was questioned is the letter of Alexander Yakovlev to Gorbachev written in December of 1985: "Today the problem is not in the economy. The political system is the key. Hence the necessity of full and consistent democratism. Democracy is, first of all, freedom of choice. We have no choice, only centralization. Now, we don't understand the ongoing historically inevitable transformation of the time when there was no choice to the time when successful development is impossible without the democratic process of choice which would involve every citizen."

On September 25, 1986, chairman of KGB Chebrikov offers to set free one third of the Soviet political prisoners and then extends the proposal to one half. Magazines begin publishing banned texts.

The liberalization per se canot quell financial crises. And yet, the liberalization started in 1987 heavily influenced the collapse of the Soviet economy.

Ways to modernize Soviet economy were discussed since 1960s. However, the ideas of its radical reconstruction were under ban till mid-80s. The phrase "market economy" (even "socialist market economy") were never applied to the USSR. The word "reform" was not used since early 70s till Gorbachev first uttered it in 1986.

Free prices are a necessary requisite of the market economy, even the socialist one. Market mechanisms do not work without free prices, as the Polish experience of 70s-80s had demonstrated: autonomy of the enterprises gives no stimuli to the effective production under fixed prices.

On November 11, 1986 the law on individual labour was adopted. On May 1, 1987 individual farming was legalized. Unfortunately, unlike in China, these measures gave no results in 1988 because of lack of trust to the government: the Soviet people were sure that the announced reforms will never be realized.

Enterprises demanded for more autonomy, but insist on the guaranteed supply of tools and materials from the state.

The idea of the workers' participation in the management of the enterprise was discussed in the early XX century, before the revolution of 1917, and the Soviet leaders did not reject it completely. In 1962, Khrushchev said: "Probably, we should have some kind of a council at the enterprises, and the director will make a report at the council monthly or quarterly. I can imagine that the council will elect the director from a number of candidates."

Autonomous enterprises raise salary for the workers. Labour discipline suffers.

In May 1988, the law on cooperation is adopted. Cooperatives buy products for fixed prices, process them (or not) and sell for fre prices. 80% of cooperatives were organized on the state enterprises. Average salary in the cooperatives is 2 times higher than on the state enterprises.

Decrees of July 6 and August 4 allow the VLKSM (communist youth league) to go to business, giving a chance to the elite to use the comsomol resources for commerce.

A large number of commercial banks are organized. Many of them violate the laws and regulations on banking. Soviet leaders do not understand that the liberalization of banking should be one of the last, but not the first stage of the economy transformation.

In 1989 miners' strikes begin. They demand for better food supply. The government promises to increase the supplies, but cannot fulfil the promises. Salary is payed regularly, but the money get devalued fast.

7 Developing crisis of the socialist economical and political systems


Death of the empire. Part II.

3 Causes of the instability of authoritarian regimes

3.1 Instability

The cause of instability of authoritarian regimes is the lack of legitimacy and primitive structure of the state.

One option to fight the challenges of instability in authoritarian regimes is the closed, or managed, democracy, when de jure democratic institutions and procedures are retained, but the ruling elite establishes principles of the continuity of power, controls elections and determins their results. This is a dead end (see Italy, Japan, Mexico).

Another option is the formation of totalitarian structures. Authoritarian states want their citizens to stay aside of public politics, avoid demonstrations and rallies, not contact foreign press, etc. On the other hand, totalitarian regimes control the private life of citizens. A messian-type ideology is typical for totalitarism.

3.2 Mechanisms of the fall of authoritarianism

Crisis of legitimacy, lack of trust (even among police and army). Opposition can use simple slogans (re-distribution, nationalism) which are difficult to refute.

Nothing guarantees, however, that the fall of an authoritarian regime results in the creation of stable democracy. External influences are important here. In Eastern Europe: influence of the EU, chances to become a member of EU. In Latin America: influence of USA.

4 The oil curse.

4.1 Resource wealth and economic development.

There is a reverse proportion between long-term economic growth and the amount of natural resources.

Abundance of natural resources gives the ruling classes a way to increase budget not caring about the increase of taxes, that is without a dialogue with the society. Since only such dialogues allow to build the rules of the political play and launch modern mechanisms of the economic growth, there are less limitations on corruption and arbitrariness in the countries with rich resources.

The distribution of profit in resource-rich countries depends on the experience in bribery, not on the market mechanisms.

Resource wealth increases risks of political instability, connected with the struggle for the re-distribution of profits.

A typical feature of resource-rich countries is lack of attention towards problems of education. Probably, due to the specific demand for work force in the mining companies and other companies producing raw materials.

Highly volatile prices on raw materials are a problem for the economy of such countries.

4.2 Specific features of the oil market

When most market players believe that the oil prices will stay high for a short period only, they will stay so. When the opinion prevails that the high prices are a new stable level for a long period, the prices will fall

4.3 Regulation of the oil market in the XX century

Market was split in 1928 by 7 largest corporation -- agreement of Achnacarry. Cannon boat diplomacy, exploitation of less developed countries.

1960 -- OPEC.

1974 -- oil crisis, growing prices. Decrease of oil consumption in the importing countries led to the decrease of demand in 1981 and the sharp fall of prices in 1986.

4.4 Challenges linked with the fall of the raw materials prices: Mexico and Venezuela.

Mexico. Was a closed democracy in 1970-1990. Share of the state expenses in the GNP was growing. The foreign debt increased. When the prices fell -- tax growth, budget expenses cut, currency devaluation.

Venezuela. Stable democracy. Control over the growth of the national currency rate. Populists come to power in 1974. By 1989 Venezuela has 84% inflation and the foreign debt equal to 54% of GNP. Labor productivity falls. Defaulted foreign debt. Chavez comes to power in 1992.

4.5 Response to the threats of the prices volatility

Hedging and forward contracts are political risks for the government. Two kinds of stabilization funds: protection of the national economy from the oscillation of prices and the fund for future generations.

In the non-democratic countries there is high risk of corruption in the stabilization fund management and/or ineffective investments.

Stabilization funds are an easy target for the opposition in democratic countries. Even in Norway, under effective democracy, a coalition in power never won the elections since the stabilization fund was created.

5 Crevices in the foundation. USSR in early 1980s

5.1 Ineffectiveness in stability

Social stability is the typical feature of the Brezhnev's epoch. 7 out of 9 mass protests against the regime took place in the first years of Brezhnev's rule. In 1969-1977 there were none. In the times of Khrushchev, the government used armed troops against the discontent in 8 cases out of 11. In the years of Brezhnev's rule -- only in 3 cases out of 9. Since 1968 till Brezhnev's death weapon was never used against the protesters.

Mass construction of living buildings (instead of earlier "communal apartments") and personal garden-plots (dachas) for growing vegetables and fruits resulted in loss of the total control over the personal life of the citizens.

Changes of the information field. In 1950 only 2% of Soviet people had radio receivers with short wave bands. By 1980 -- 50%. From a KGB report of 1976: "A significant share of the persons who committed politically harmful misdemeanours were under foreign ideological influence. The main factor was propaganda by radio. 80% of university students and 90% of undergraduate schoolchildren listen foreign radiostations regularly (32% of univesity students and 59% of schoolchildren listen them 1-2 times a week and even more often." A report of 1970: "5 years ago most of illegal printed materials were ideologically vicious fiction books, but now we see widely popular political documents and programs. Since 1965 we were aware of about 400 books and articles which criticize the historical experience of building of communist in the USSR, revising the politics of the CPSU, offering oppositional political programs."

5.2 Growing problems and wrong solutions

1930s-1950s -- redistribution of labour resources from rural areas to the cities. In 1960s the flow of labour force decreased.

1965: more rights given to the factories and other enterprises, the salary now depends not only on the personal input, but also on the financial results of the whole enterprise.

Ineffectiveness of Soviet system: USSR produced 8 times more iron ore than the USA, made of this ore 3 times more cast iron, which was processed into 2 times more steel. From this steel the same amount of tools and machines was produced. Consumption of raw materials and energy per a production unit was 1.6 and 2.1 times more correspondingly.

After the chemical weapons were prohibited, the factories involved into this production had to be used somehow. Millions of people became victims of food contaminated with insecticides and other poisons.

The command system of management created in 1930s-1950s was based on fear of severe punishment. After Stalin's death in 1953 the discipline quickly falls.

Alcohol. The share of alcohol consumed in socially controlled places (restaurants, caffees, etc.) was 5.5% vs. 50-70% in developed countries. In 20 years consumption of alcohol grew 2.2 times, number of crimes committed under alcohol intoxication grew 5.7 times, the number of people suffering from alcoholism -- 7 times.

Loss of the effectivity of the communist ideology. The ideological dogmata were not taken as seriously as before. They were either dismissed or ridiculed out. Deintellectualization of the CPSU led to gerontocracy.

5.3 Problems of the food supply

Socialism is the economy of deficit. Since late 1960s shortages grow. In late 1980s shortages turned into a crisis.

The problem of the food supply of the cities was faced by the tsarist government before the WWI. The revolution was a corollary. Bolsheviks solved the problem with prodrazvyorstka (food expropriation). In the late 1920s the problem became important again. Stalin's solution was chosen: dekulakization, collectivization, prodrazvyorstka.

In Europe the period of the industrial growth was preceded by the agrarian revolution (sharp growth of the effectivity of the agriculture). In Russia, the agrarian revolution never happened, but the agriculture grew steadily and the country was the largest exporter of food.

Collectivization and deprivation of kolkhoz members of their right to choose the place to live and work, nonfree non-payed work were equal to restoration of serfdom, but now the state from one of the exploiters became the only one. Hence, the labour ethics distorts: work becomes a burden to avoid.

Social position of the peasants was intentionally low. Annual income of a kolkhoz member was close to a monthly salary of a factory worker. The socialist model created motives for the smartest and the most energetic peasants to move to a city, in spite of the bans to do so.

5.4 Food shortage: strategic challenge

Options: additional investments in the traditional agricultural regions, Nechernozemye (non-Black Soil Belt); developing of virgin lands; liberalization and de-collectivization. The first option was proved to be ineffective later in 1970s-1980s. The second option was chosen, in spite of the predicted instability of the harvest.

After 1958 growth of harvests stops. In 1963 the harvest was significantly lower than before. In 1953-1960 the reserves of grain decrease. Capital expenditures grow. Social degradation led to the low effectiviness of agriculture. Since 1971 till 1985 capital expenditures were 579.6 billion rubles. The result was zero.

5.5 USSR as the largest food importer

Contrary to the market economy, in the socialist economy it was impossible to raise the retail prices, it would be a violation of the social contract between the state and the people. The rulers, caring primarily of their own security, rejected the use of terror, typical for the earlier years and the fear of the state decreased among the general population. Now the neglection of social programs led to the conflicts, like in Novocherkassk in 1962. From a KGB order: "In the first half of 1962 7705 anti-Soviet leaflets were registered, two times more than in the first half of 1961. After the prices were raised, the flow increased. Only in June there were 83 occasions of different anti-Soviet leaflets and graffiti. In the same period, more than 300 anti-Soviet anonymous letters received by the party and Soviet organizations and newspapers were reported to KGB. In these letters, people express their discontent with the low quality of life, and call to mass protests, strikes, rallies, boycotts demanding for the increase of salary and decrease of prices."

Growth of forced savings (the people could not find goods to spend the money and had to save them): 1970 -- 17.5 billion rubles, 1980 -- 29 billion rubles, 1985 -- 60.9 billion rubles.

Eventually, the prices grow even in the socialist economy. In 1981-85 prices on bread grew by 6.6%, on potato -- by 7.9%, on cotton fabrics -- by 17.9%, on TVs -- by 10%. In 1979 prices on luxury goods grew: on gold -- by 50%, on silver -- by 95%, on fur -- by 50%, on carpets -- by 50%, on cars -- by 18%.

Non-equal and unjust distribution of goods: in Moscow and Leningrad 97% of people bought food in the state shops (the prices there were lower than on the markets where kolkhoz members sold their product), in the capitals of Soviet republics -- 79%, in oblast centres -- 36%. The higher was the income of a family, the better access to cheaper food they had.

Grain supplies to the socialist countries. Only in 1963 the grain crisis forces the USSR to stop the supplies to the socialist countries and to buy wheat abroad. One third of the gold reserve was spent on wheat (372.2 tons of gold). In 1965 -- 335.5 tons more. In 1907-1913 Russia was the largest exporter of grain (45% of the world market). By 1980s USSR became the largest importer (16.4% of the world market). There is not enough gold to buy grain and the industry is not competitive to increase export of machines. Hence, USSR takes credits.

5.6 Oil of the West Siberia. Illusion of rescue

YearProduction of oil in the Western Siberia, mln.tons

Increase of oil production and the growth of oil prices in 1973-74 and in 1979-81 gave a chance to stop the food crisis, to increase import of machines and tools, consumers goods, provided the financial base of the arms race, allowed to achieve parity of nuclear weapons with the USA and to start the campaigns like the war in Afghanistan.

Being certain that the high prices on oil are stable, USSR did not create any financial reserves and borrowed additional foreign credits. In 1979-1981 three successive low harvests result in the deficit of the foreign trade. In 1980s oil prices stop growing. Shortage of consumer goods increases, monetary emission grows, retail prices grow. Shortage of food is compensated with their lowering quality (like decreasing percentage of meat in sausage, etc.). Since mid-1970s about one half of the trade growth was produced by lowering quality of goods and increased prices. The report was prepared and given to the chairman and the vice-chairmen of the Council of ministers, but it was confiscated and destroyed on the next day.

In 1982 the government of Poland asks for assistance. in 1980-81 the financial aid was 4 billion rubles. In 1982-83 an additional 2.7 billion rubles credit was issued.

5.7 Falling oil prices: the last strike

Autumn 1981: oil supplies to the Eastern Europe are cut by 10%. In 1985 oil production begins to decrease. Supplies to the Eastern Europe continue, but the export to the West decreases. In 1984 the Academy of Sciences predicts stabilization of the oil prices, but in 1985 they plunge.

5.8 Dissolution of the USSR: unexpected and logical

In the 1970s-80s nobody foresaw the fall of the USSR. The opinion of the daemonic omnipotence of CIA and its role in the fall of the USSR, so widespread in modern Russia, is a mirrored reflection of the point of view prevailing in Washington that in the late 80s-early 90s the CIA demonstrated extreme incompetence in everything related to the USSR and Russia.

The second version of what caused the dissolution of the USSR is the intensification of the arms race, imposed by Reagan. It is impossible to estimate the real scale of military spendings in the USSR, the data are irreconcilable. Besides, it is not clear whether the prices on military equipment were based on the economic reality in any degree. To understand whether this version is valid, one should understand how the decisions were made in the USSR. The evidences that the USSR increased military spendings since early 1980s are not convincing enough. The volume of military production was not determined by the necessities and military plans, but by the available industrial units.

Gorbachev's aide Shakhnazarov once asked: "Why should we produce so much weapons?" The General Staff commander Akhromeyev replied: "Because we have built first class factories, not worse than what the American have. Would you order them to produce tin pans?"

From the military and strategic point of view, the Western experts who monitored the production of tanks in the USSR, could only conlude that the Soviets plan an offensive war. In reality, the occasion behind this decision was the certainty that should the war with the USA begin, Americans will quickly raise the production of tanks, and the losses of Soviet tanks in the first stage of war will be extremely high. The main cause, however, was that the factories were built and the workers must have job to do. The same happened to the SS-20 missiles. The decision to produce them inevitably led to the reaction of the West -- placement of missiles in the Western Europe and increase of the threat to the USSR. After all, USSR had to agree to cut the number of missiles, when huge resources had already been spent.

By 1985 the roots of a deep crisis were already prepared in the USSR. The Soviet authorities were still sure in the stability of the Soviet economy. When the new leaders came to power, it took about three years to understand the situation. But it was already too late.


Death of the empire. Part I.

1 Foreword

1.1 Post-imperial syndrome in Russia

Empire is a strong polyethnical state, where the power is concentrated in the metropolitan country, and the democratic institutes (if any) or, at least, the suffrage, are not available on the whole controlled territory.

The problem of the country ill with the post-imperial syndrome is that the feeling of the nostalgy to the lost empire is easy to incite, but the attempts to restore it are unrealistic.

Many Germans forgot how they hated the monarchy in the last years of the first World War, when it became clear that the chancellor and the highest officials lied to them. They didn't know that it was Ludendorf who demanded the new chancellor to sign the truce to avoid the catastrophe on the Western front.

That the leaders of the Weimar republic were not ready to disclose the proofs of the responsibility of the German rulers for the beginning of the World War was one of the most important causes of the fall of the republic.

I. Yakovenko: "Not a single political force in Russia dared to admit that from the viewpoint of preservation and restoration of the Russian people the dissolution of the USSR became the luckiest event of the last half of the century."

The importance of the agreements in Belovezhskaya Pushcha should not be overestimated. They were only a de jure recognition of the divorce that had already happened. They did not make the fall of the integrated empire any less painful, but helped to avoid the chances of bloody conflicts and the nuclear catastrophe. As a result of these agreements, by May 1992 the largest part of the most dangerous (due to the specific of usage) tactical nuclear weapons located in other republics, was concentrated in Russia.

The Soviet government was absolutely convinced that the state can use unlimited violence to suppress the discontent. Such states are fragile since they do not include flexible adaptive mechanisms which would allow for the adaptation to the changing world.

The following picture dominates the modern Russian public opinion:

  1. 20 years ago there was a stable, powerful, developing country, the USSR.
  2. Strange people (probably, agents of foreign intelligence) began political and economical reforms.
  3. The results of the reforms were catastrophic.
  4. In 1999-2000 the people who really care about the state came to the power.
  5. Since then, the life is getting better.

This myth is as far from the truth as the legend of the unconquered and betrayed Germany, popular in the German society of 20s-30s.

2 Greatness and fall of the empires.

2.1 Empires of the past

The European empires were formed in the age of the mercantilist politics. The states limited import and stimulated export. Possession of colonies increased the zone of controlled trade. Subjugated countries could not regulate the import of goods from the metropolitan state. Administrative coercion -- an element of the politics for the industrial development of the metropolitan state. In 1813 India could sell goods in Britain for prices 50-60% lower than the prices on the analogous Britain-made goods. The customs duties (70-80%) or direct bans made this impossible. The colonization was followed by the loss of job by hundreds of thousands of people. The population of Dakka decreased from 150,000 to 30-40,000 people. Between 1814 and 1835 export of British textile to India grew from 1 million to 51 million yards per year. In the same years, export from India to Britain decreased by four times. By 1844 it decreased by 5 times.

A typical feature of all empires is the lack of universal suffrage.

National sentiments are one of the strongest instruments of political mobilization in the societies lacking democratic traditions. K. Leontyev: "The notion of nationalities as it exists in the XIX century brings a lot of destructive consequences and nothing constructive."

2.2 Crisis of the overseas empires

Churchill, Nov 10 1942: "We plan to hold what is our property. I did not become the prime minister to preside during the liquidation of the British empire."

Having survived the fall of the empire, France retained democratic institutions in the metropolitan state due to a number of causes: high level of economy, which makes authoritarian regimes look archaic; plans of the European integration; prestige and will of de Gaulle who was able to dissolve the empire and retain the control over the army and police.

2.3 Problems of the dissolution of integrated empires

In agrarian countries ethnic differences usually are not important. The split into a privileged minority specialized in coercion and the peasants' majority was crucial.

Economic growth and education radically change the life and begin the erosion of traditional regimes.

An overseas empire may be abandoned. In the empires with integrated territory the problems linked with the habitats of various ethnic groups are more important than in the overseas empires.

The fall of an authoritarian regime is followed by a political vacuum. The old policeman has gone, the new one is not here yet. People with pretensions of power have no tradition behind them. Hence a situation typical for revolutions: weak government is unable to collect taxes and pay money, establish order, guarantee contract obligations. In such situations the exploitation of the simplest social instincts is a reliable way to political success.

Attempts of the elite of the metropolitan states to build the state on the basis of ethnic identity objectively cause radical anti-imperial sentiments among the national minorities. E.g.: "In the struggle of the Ukrainian separatism with a more moderate federalism the former had the same powerful assistant as other Russian separatisms -- the imperial centralism. Its hardcore unitarian position pushed the Ukrainians to equally hard demands." (A. Vishnevsky)

H. Besançon: Before the WWI Russia had a chance to solve social and economic problems, but not the national ones. The liberal democratic alternative, which was the key to the solution of the social problems, only increased the chances of the dissolution of the empire. The restoration of the empire in 1918-1922 was a unique case, which became possible due to the unprecendented violence and the messian ideology which provided for support in the non-Russian regions.

In the situation of the political competition in the multinational empire, Austrian socialists understood that the national question is a bomb in the foundation of the old power. Lenin's idea of the right of nations on self-determination was a logical development of the logic of Austrian socialists.

After the WWI the idea was accepted by the winner countries as an instrument of dismantl of the three empires -- Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman empire.

The notion of self-determination gives no answer whether the arbitrary borders of regions within empires should become the natural borders of new states, whether the will of the new national minorities should be taken into account.

2.4 The Yugoslav tragedy

S. Woodword: "The Yugoslav society was not based on the charisma of Tito or on the political dictatorship, but on the balance of international interests and on the system of rights of sovereign parts. The national identity was not suppressed. Moreover, it was institutionalized into federal systems which guaranteed the rights of the republics." Such system required a strict control over the dissidence.

The stability of Yugoslavia was the result of a balance between NATO and the Warsaw block. The fall of the Comecon (The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) caused an economic crisis, which required strict measures, but the minimal rights of the federal centre led to the political crisis. For Milośević, the only way to retain control over Serbia under the erosion of the communist ideology was to exploit nationalism. The answer to this rhetorics was the discrimination of Serbs in other republics. Then the troops were sent there to protect the Serbs. Then -- the war.


Book: Death of the empire by Yegor Gaidar

I have finished reading a book written by ex-prime minister of Russia, Yegor Gaidar. The book is titled "Death of the Empire". Being a good economist, Gaidar explains the fall of the USSR by economic reasons. Some key quotations are:

"The dependence of wheat harvests on the weather, caused by the developing of virgin lands in the 1950s and the low oil prices made the situation catastrophic. This was the reason of the fall of the Soviet economic system."
"The Soviet government was absolutely convinced that the state can use unlimited violence to suppress the discontent. Such states are fragile since they do not include flexible adaptive mechanisms which would allow for the adaptation to the changing world."
"[The actions of the current Russian government] form a way to the system which may be called a closed (or managed) democracy, or soft authoritarianism. This system has little common features with the Soviet totalitarian system, but it begins to show weaknesses and elements of instability typical for such systems... However, the remaining elements of freedom and flexibility still give some hope for Russia. "

While reading the book, I made some short (well, not so short, as it turned out :)) notes and I plan to translate them into English and post here. Below is the table of contents of the book.

  • 1 Foreword
    • 1.1 Post-imperial syndrome in Russia.
  • 2 Greatness and fall of the empires.
    • 2.1 Empires of the past
    • 2.2 Crisis of the overseas empires
    • 2.3 Problems of the dissolution of integrated empires
    • 2.4 The Yugoslav tragedy
  • 3 Causes of the instability of authoritarian regimes
    • 3.1 Instability
    • 3.2 Mechanisms of the fall of authoritarianism
  • 4 The oil curse.
    • 4.1 Resource wealth and economic development.
    • 4.2 Specific features of the oil market
    • 4.3 Regulation of the oil market in the XX century
    • 4.4 Challenges linked with the fall of the raw materials prices: Mexico and Venezuela.
    • 4.5 Response to the threats of the prices volatility
  • 5 Crevices in the foundation. USSR in early 1980s
    • 5.1 Ineffectiveness in stability
    • 5.2 Growing problems and wrong solutions
    • 5.3 Problems of the food supply
    • 5.4 Food shortage: strategic challenge
    • 5.5 USSR as the largest food importer
    • 5.6 Oil of the West Siberia. Illusion of rescue
    • 5.7 Falling oil prices: the last strike
    • 5.8 Dissolution of the USSR: unexpected regularity
  • 6 Political economy of external shocks
    • 6.1 USSR and the falling oil prices. The gist of the choice.
    • 6.2 Chain of mistakes
    • 6.3 Growing problems of the Soviet economy
    • 6.4 Currency crisis
    • 6.5 Economical and political liberalization against the background of financial problems
  • 7 Developing crisis of the socialist economical and political systems
    • 7.1 Problems of the oil industry
    • 7.2 Political credits
    • 7.3 Price of the compromises
    • 7.4 Crisis of the empire and the national question
    • 7.5 Loss of control
    • 7.6 From crisis to catastrophe
    • 7.7 "Extraordinary efforts" instead of reforms
    • 7.8 On the edge of default
  • 8 On the road to the state bankruptcy
    • 8.1 Currency crisis. 1991
    • 8.2 Grain problem
    • 8.3 Prices fly upwards
    • 8.4 Money and the fate of the empire
  • 9 The end
    • 9.1 Political economy of the failed coup
    • 9.2 Political agony
    • 9.3 Political desintegration: political consequences
    • 9.4 Civilized divorce
  • 10 Afterword


Russian history 38. First Lithuanian knyazes

As we have seen (see chapters 35 and 37), in the XIII century Lithuanian tribes, pushed by the Germans, began to form unions and groups around Lithuanian and Russian knyazes. Knyaz Mindaugas (or Mindovg) became the leader of the unification process. Having captured Russian town Novgorodok (or Novogrodek) on the upper Neman river, he spread his power to a part of Lithuanian tribes and some Russian provinces: Polotsk, Vitebsk and partially Smolensk. He used Lithuanians to occupy Russian lands and he used Russians to spread his influence among lesser Lithuanian knyazes. During all his rule, he opposed Germans with the united Lithuanian-Russian forces. He was the first knyaz who attempted to reconcile earlier hostile Lithuanians and Russians. When he felt it was useful, he agreed to accept baptisement from the Germans and received the royal crown from the Pope. When the situation changed, he returned to the paganism and attacked Germans again. His Russian politics was also flexible. So, after many conquests, when Daniil Romanovich of Galich proved to be a strong enemy, Mindaugas ceded some lands to Daniil and his daughter became wife of Daniil's son, Shvarn. In spite of this flexibility, Mindaugas was killed by Lithuanian knyazes in 1263. His son, Voishelk revenged and killed many of the assassins. One of them, Dovmont, fled to Pskov, baptised, became the knyaz of Pskov and successfully defended the city from the attacks of Germans and Lithuanians.

After the death of Mindaugas the Lithuanian state declined. Only 50 years later the power of the knyzes becomes stronger again, when knyaz Gediminas forms a new strong state from Lithuanian and Russian lands. In the times of Gediminas Lithuanian got new cities, well planned and fortified. The army is well equipped and trained. These enhancements were the result of Russian influence. Russians serve in the army and command it, they become the ambassadors of Gediminas, they run cities and provinces. Gediminas and his children were married on Russian women, Russian language was widely spoken in his country. He thought of himself as of a both Lithuanian and Russian knyaz and titled himself "Rex Litwinorum Ruthenorumque". This policy led to the unification of south-western Russian lands from Polotsk to Kiev in Gediminas' Lithuania. First, he ruled his country from the inaccessible castle in Trakai, located on an island in the middle of a lake. Later, he built a new capital on river Vilia, a tributary of Neman, called Vilnius.

Russians eagerly became citizens of this semi-Russian country and the dynasty of Gediminas managed to form the centre, which attracted all south-western Rus, which had lost its unity earlier.

Two sons of Gediminas, Olgerdas and Kestutis, ruled Lithuania together. Retaining friendly relations, they shared the power: Olgerdas knew the Russian part of the population, lived in Vilnius and fought with the north-eastern Rus. Kestutis lived in Trakai and opposed Germans. So, Russians knew Olgerdas better than his brother. They praised his talents, saying that he ruled "by wisdom, not by force". Germans, on the other hand, knew Kestutis better and spoke of him as of a knight, brave, honest and merciful. On the one hand, the brothers withstood the German attacks and on the other hand, they continued to adjoin Russian lands. The Germans were stopped and Olgerdas took Chernigov, Bryansk, Kiev, Volyn. He even attempted to increase his influence in Novgorod and Pskov and supported Tver in their struggle against Moscow. Moscow, though, was already so strong in the north-eastern Rus that managed to stop Olgerdas.

Olgerdas and Kestutis liberated southern and western Rus from Mongols and united these lands under one rule. It was very important that this power belonged to the Russian culture. From the viewpoint of the Russians, the sons of Gediminas restored the Russian culture in the traditionally Russian areas, along Dnieper. However, the following events proved they were wrong.

Russian history: part 3

After a short time-out, we're starting the third part. It will include the following chapters:

Birth and growth of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

  • 38: First Lithuanian dukes
  • 39: Union of Lithuania and Poland. Jogaila
  • 40: Vytautas
  • 41: Lithuanian duchy after Vytautas

Birth and growth of the Grand Duchy of Muscovy

  • 42: Reasons for the rise of Moscow
  • 43: Grand knyaz Ivan Kalita and his successors
  • 44: Dimitri Donskoy and the battle of Kulikovo field
  • 45: Grand knyazes Vasily I Dimitrievich and Vasily II Vasilyevich the Dark

Formation of the Great Russian state

  • 46: Grand knyaz Ivan III Vasilyevich, importance of his rule
  • 47: Subjugation of Novgorod the Great and the Novgorod lands
  • 48: Joining the appanage duchies
  • 49: Family and court of Ivan III
  • 50: Foreign policy of Ivan III: Mongols
  • 51: Foreign policy of Ivan III: Lithuania and Livonia. Relations with the West
  • 52: Grand knyaz Vasily III Ivanovich

Transformation of the appanages into state

  • 53: The autocracy of the rulers of Muscovy and Moscow as the third Rome
  • 54: Boyars and knyazhata: their ambitions
  • 55: Classes: landlords and peasants
  • 56: Church as a landlord.


Sunken ships in the Baltic sea

In 2002, a group of Russian archaeologists launched a project called Secrets of Sunken Ships (Russian version: Тайны затонувших кораблей). They write:

Today our aim is the search, exploration, fixation and state registration of the whole complex of the objects reflecting the history of Northern Europe for minimum 1,400 years. But it is possible that in course of the operations and appearance of more and more discoveries our investigations will turn into the largest exposition and research project in the sphere of history which is capable of providing the scientists and society with a huge volume of new information.

Now, the web-site features a brief review of the history of Russian presence on the Baltic Sea, description of the programs of the project, catalogue and map of identified objects (buildings, necropoles, stone labyrinthes, bombs, tanks, airplanes and, of course, ships and boats). Russian version has also a video-archive, list of national and international laws on the underwater explorations, list of known and still not rescued treasures and some other sections which will eventually appear in the English version, too.

In this year, the expedition of the project found 9 ships in the Gulf of Finland. Among the most interesting finds are a Dutch XVIII century cargo ship, a Finnish patrol ship, sunken in 1944 and, the best of all, Russian 20 cannon sloop-of-war Svir', sistership of the famous Mirny, a ship of the famous expedition of Bellinsgauzen and Lazarev, the discoverers of the Antarctica. Svir' sank in autumn 1824, when she went home from topographical works in the Gulf of Finland. Sudden storm threw the ship onto the stones. The crew was rescued, but what happened to the ship remained unknown until this year.


September 5 in Russian history

1919: Vasily Ivanovich Chapayev, the best known commander of the Red Army, was killed during the night raid of the White Army near town Lbischensk (now Chapayev) on river Ural in Kazakhstan. He was born in a poor family and his early years are not documented, so his biography is hopelessly incomplete, in spite of (and, in part, due to) the efforts of the Soviet historians. He was born in 1887 in village Budayka (now a part of the city Cheboksary), in the family of a carpenter, who never had enough money and moonlighted as a cabman. In 1897 they moved to Balakovo in Samara province (now in Saratov oblast). In 1908 Vasily returned to Budayka and married 16-year old Pelageia Metlina. They had three children. In 1915-16 he fought in the Western Ukraine and Romania, was wounded three times, became a sergeant-major, was awarded with St.George crosses and the St.George medal 4th class. In the end of the war, when soldiers were allowed to elect their commanders, he was elected the commander of the 138th regiment, which was located near Saratov. In 1917, Chapayev visited his wife, took his children and brought them into the house of his parents. When his friend Pyotr Kamishkertsev was killed, Chapayev took two his children into his own family. When in spring 1918 the Civil war began on Volga and Ural, the regiment joined the Red Army and fought against cossacks.

Chapayev was a gifted, charismatic and lucky commander. His friends recalled that he often read books about famous military leaders of the past: Hannibal, Suvorov, Napoleon. In September 1918, a division under his commandment defeated the Czech Legion and the troops of the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly. Then the division moved towards Uralsk and participated in the battle for this city. In November 1918, Chapayev was sent to the training courses of the General Staff of the Red Army. In January 1919 he left to Samara. Mikhail Frunze, a bolshevik military leader, highly estimated Chapayev's talents and appointed him the commander of the 25th division. This division defeated consequently 5 White divisions and captured Ufa. After this, the division was sent to the south, where they took Uralsk. On September 5, cossacks suddenly attacked the division headquarters locate near Lbischensk at night. According to the investigation held soon after his death, Chapayev drowned trying to cross river Ural being wounded. Some of his comrades said that he was lethally wounded, taken across the river by the soldiers and buried there. Since the area is now flooded, it's impossible to check this version.

In 1923, Dmitri Furmanov, ex-commisar in Chapayev's division, wrote a book Chapayev, which was made into a movie in 1934. The Soviets turned Chapayev into an icon of the Civil war and grew from a rather modest commander to a half-mythical figure. As a reaction to this hype, the people turned him and his friends, commissionaire Pyotr Isayev (Petka) and machine-gunner Maria Potapova (Anka) into characters of innumerable jokes, like this one: Petka asks Chapayev, "Why didn't you enter the military academy?", "You see, Petka, they asked me who is Caesar and I replied that this is a stallion from the second squadron." "Hey, of course, they couldn't take you! We transferred him to the fourth squadron while you were away!". Or another one: the Whites encircled the Reds. Chapayev hid in a barrel and Petka was caught. When the Whites were taking Petka to the execution, he kicked the barrel and said: "Get out, Vasily Ivanovich, we're betrayed!"

Since the body of Chapayev was never found, a lot of rumors appeared after his death. Most of them said that he had escaped, but was so ashamed of the blunder he made when set no guards around the headquarters, that he drank for a week or two and then came to Frunze. Frunze said: "You fight better as a legend than as a commander," or "We need you dead more than we needed you alive," or anything like that. Then Chapayev was either executed or sent to exile. Just legends.

Probably, more things were named after Chapayev than after any other person: villages and cities (a city near Samara was named Trotsk in 1927, but was renamed to Chapayevsk in 1929 when Trotsky turned out to be an enemy), ships and kolhozes, board games and computer games, cartoons and novels... The board game Chapayevtsy is similar to some games of the peoples of the world: you take a chess board and 16 checkers (8 for each player) and flick your checkers trying to push the enemy checkers away from the board. However, the Russian version has two immense advantage over other versions: first, it's played on a chess board (don't ask me why), and second, you can start playing checkers and, whenever you feel you're loosing, switch to Chapayevtsy.

1944: Government of the USSR proclaims the state of war with Bulgaria. In 1934, a pro-fascist dictatorship was established in Bulgaria by tsar Boris. In 1939, Bulgaria proclaimed neutrality in the World War, but continued to develop close ties with Germany and Italy. In 1940, Hitler forced Romania to sign the treaty of Craiova and to return the region of Southern Dobrudja, which was transferred from Bulgaria to Romania in 1913. This treaty was supported by USSR and Great Britain. USSR proposed an alliance to Bulgaria, offering to support the territorial claims to Greece and Turkey, but tsar Boris was consistent in his relationships with Germany and rejected the proposal. On March 1 1941, Bulgaria officially joined the Axis and the German troops entered Bulgaria to prepare to invade Greece. During 1941-1944, Bulgarian army occupied parts of Greece and Yugoslavia. Tsar Boris proclaimed war on USA and Britain, but refused to follow the example of Romania and to send Bulgarian soldiers to the Eastern front, in spite of the aerial attacks of USSR, USA and Great Britain. In 1943, various political forces of Bulgaria create the Fatherland Front, an anti-fascist resistance organization. In spring and summer of 1944, USSR some times offers the Bulgarian government to quit the alliance with Germany, but tsar Boris refuses to. Despite the persecutions, the Fatherland Front grew and by September 1944, included more than 30,000 people. On August 23, Romania officially quit the Axis block and allowed the Soviet troops to come to the borders of Bulgaria. Since August 26, the Fatherland Front begins armed rebellion in many parts of the country. Boris appoints a new prime-minister and proclaims neutrality, but continues support to the German army and then prohibits the Fatherland Front. For this reason, the Soviet Union proclaims war to Bulgaria. On September 9, the FF begins uprisal in Sofia, arrests members of the government and the royal family, establishes new government and takes power in various cities of Bulgaria. The army joins the insurgents. The Soviet army entered Bulgaria on September 8. Before the army crossed the borders, political commissars told the soldiers about the political situation in Bulgaria and about the historical ties and friendship between Bulgaria and Russia. The army marched across the country almost without a single shot, welcomed by the people. After this revolution, more than 300,000 Bulgarians fought against German and Italian fascists in Yugoslavia, Hungary and Austria. 32,000 of them were killed or missing in action. In 1946, the Bulgarian Communist Party took control over the Fatherland Front. The FF continued to exist till 1989 as a purely communist organization.