For the sake of Russia

| August 27, 2020

20/8/2020: Alexei Anatlievich sits in the Tomsk airport cafe. Half-crouched, pensive, he clasps a cup of tea. Siberia, the sentencing place for dissidents. It is now but one stop for the activist seeking a final hope – Russian truth, emancipation. The tea is tepid, innocuous in its red paper cup.

On the runway a plane awaits. No certitude. A seagull picks at a chip. For a fragment of decency – no, just crude, grasping sustenance. There is squawking, a fleck of blood flies. No honour amongst the desperately hungry, the ravenously self-obsessed.

In flight Alexei Anatlievich falls deeply ill. The apparatus has reached him, pecked at his eyes, tongue. Soon he, too, is in a coma. Russia. Life for a chip. Let dignity sleep. The red cup flows over, incarnadine in the snow.

13/6/1911: A rouge curtain lifts. Russia invades the West! (The Théâtre de Châtelet, at least). Not the Romanovs. Not the Bolsheviks. No cannon, no artillery, cavalry. Just a dazzling subterfuge that thieves the senses. A kaleidoscope of polyphony, choreography, colour! An amazing sleight of hand. A puppet play.

Napoleon vanquished/Igor Fyodorovich victorious! Imagery over ideology, the might of mere music.

Afterwards, Sergei Pavlovich and Vatslav, impresario, dancer, toast to the conquest, to adulation, to Champagne itself! Salut! To all that is opportune commerce. Aside, the conjurer calculates one last scurrilous deconstruction. So be it. Another language stripped dead, primitivism whirling, shrieking over the corpse of civilization.

When the Bolshies conquer, the detached aristocrat, Igor Fyodorovich, scarpers. To the New World – of French fries!

25/12/1853: Omsk prison camp. Filth an inch thick on rotting wood floors. A gnarl of cramped, foetid bodies, spasmodically flinching. Fleas, lice, black beetles. Murderers, thieves, dissidents. A seditious, sickly, and lone dvoryanin, Fyodor Mikhailovich, begins to convulse, froth at the mouth. The dull rattle of agony calls a guard.

In the prison library, untethered, still dazed, Fyodor Mikhailovich fingers an image. The frontispiece to a Russian Orthodox text. An image seared in this convulsive soul. The forgiver of all sins, the humane link. Roulette, religion, when the chips are down.

A disfigured epiphany. The artist repents, recants on his Socialist sedition. Fyodor Mikhailovich re-embraces the Trinity: Priest, Jesus, Tsar.

19/9/1959: Headline: Hollywood tycoon lectures Russian Head of State. Nikita Sergeyevich explodes! Does the Capitalist Puppet not know? There is no censure for the Soviet apparatus. Russia will bury Capitalism! But wait, there is worse to come. Nikita Sergeyevich – denied entry to Disneyland. Unconscionable!

Furore mixed with frivolity. Hollywood does the Can-Can. For Nikita, an impish Shirley dances. Frankie, cinematic swooner, crooner, confides, gangster on gangster.

Notes of State: Dwight, D., conciliatory. John F., an ideologist fool. Trust only in this. A missile for a missile. Trust in distrust. Might smoke a Cuban to that. But no, no pragmatic camaraderie here. Cuba? Just a point on a map. A point of leverage.

Pan out and fade: Invisible silhouettes play kiss and tell. Beneath the Mediterranean. If I don’t stalk, will you not nuke? At midnight stalk reaches full fury. No signature, just a tracker, and a bleep in the deep. Who’s who? Friend or foe? Trust in distrust.

Outtake 1991: One combatant broke. The Cold Cost of distrust, a few trillion roubles.

18/6/1918: Anastasia Nikolaevna, when you will be healed? It is your name day, and the palace of your childhood wonder, Livadia, calls. O most innocent and last Grand Duchess of the Romanovs, our Shvybzik, impish prankster, the warm balm of the Black Sea beckons. Yet you are gone. Gone.

Gone, the sweet flowers braided through your strawberry tresses. Gone, your wit, your plays upon pretence. Gone, those heartfelt letters to your dear papa, the Tsar, the uncomfortable autocrat, the man of warmth.

O Anastasia Nikolaevna, when will your name rise, again?

I see a child’s jigsaw, the treasure of her name day. A portrait of a family, divine. But above your face, Nastya, a blank melancholy now beckons. Is this missing piece, perhaps, some saviour? Dear Anastasia, you are but sixteen, going on seventeen, not.

5/10/1938: The long dexterous fingers fall mute to the sides, the tumult thunderous. Sergei Vasilyevich, black tuxedoed, head etched in stone, heart in Russia, stands tall, gracious, unaffected. The solemn monolith plods to the edge of stage. Albert Hall. Behind the curtain, in Slavic basso profundo: “I missed the climax!”

Long, long fingers. Long hours of artistic exaction, striving, striving. So long, the struggle to regain noble station, a wealth dwindled by the father. Immeasurably long, the melancholic beauty wrought from this grave head, these deft fingers. A retrospective art, heart. The pining, for Rodina, of the deposed aristocrat, of the Revolution’s inglorious émigré:

“I do not wish to stay in a country where one’s servant becomes one’s master”.

The vanishing point of an art bound to its fatal romanticism:

“A Russian is only happy when he is sad. And when he is sad, he is happy”.

11/5/1997: Deep Blue, aka Silicon Valley, defeats chess Grand Master, humanist, Garik Kimovich, in New York City. Maths, a throw of the dice, beats mankind.

26/8/2020: Marc-Josef, closet visionary, antipodean descendant from a long line of cabbage quaffers, religious refugees, calculates the scales. The Free World or Tyranny? Destiny or Fate? In the balance that critical weight – Rossiya.

9/12/1869: War or Peace? Count Lev Nikolayevich unleashes his Slavic Chronicle. The new emissary of pacifism, forsaker of privilege, yields to the tragedy, travesty, the cruel majesty of nationalist violence. An Ancien Régime, not exonerated, not excoriated. Just a brutal fact. A gargantuan tract of fate, frivolity, feverish ambition.

To the ancient emissaries of peace, asceticism, this vision still bends. Count Lev Nikolayevich, blind to the bard, tutor to Mahatma, chronicler of human feats, foibles. But does the clear mind, soul, bend – even to the meek?

17/12/1953: O Dmitri Dmitriyevich, second fiddle but to none. Yet, on knee and manuscript, bent lifelong. When will Joseph Vissarionovich, the Vecheka, come knocking for you? In the midnight hour? Rap, rap. Rap-rap, rap. A chilling tattoo, this militance scored in percussion, brass. And your musical cipher, defiant!

Karl Heinrich, Vladimir Ilyich, and then your personal despot, Russia’s greatest. O his opus is impressive: 1.7 million in the gulags, 1.2 million by State order, millions more in the collectivization. What have you, mere musician, accomplished by way of comparison? 15 Symphonies, 15 String Quartets, 6 Concerti, 24 Preludes and Fugues, chamber, piano, ensemble and film scores. Give me a good agitprop tune, any day.

O today Leningrad plays your marvellous marching song, your incriminating tattoo and defiant cipher. Tomorrow it is appropriated by some cinematic hack, the pallid pastiche used as mere backdrop to the depiction of futurist, celestial warfare. Ronny Ray-Gun versus the Evil Empire.

O poor Dmitri Dmitriyevich, condemned as Soviet sympathizer in the West, as a freedom fighter within Russia. Fool!

Ludwig van, Gustav and your pale, bespectacled self, you should all perhaps have listened to fate knocking, rather than beat up this deluded romantic vision, this hope of human emancipation.

27/7/2020: Vladimir Vladimirovich chokes on his Corn-Flakes! Ethnic unrest in the USA. Ha! They should clean up their act.

The next headline is amusing too, raises a wry smile. So the Collective Conscience can never be satisfied. All positions of Talking Head must now be determined by a Minority Lottery. Must train a chimp to read the news. Surely it can be done.

Well, with outright conflagration lighting US streets, ideological dementia paralyzing the West, the heat over that rodent, Alexei Anatlievich, will soon abate. How long is the collective attention span? Throw them some histrionic confection, a chip. There will be a squabble, then soon all is gone – chip, and all. Roulette, religion, realpolitik.

What is the difference between the demagogue and the dictator? The demagogue has two hands tied behind his back. Behind his back the dictator has two guns. Zdaróvye!

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