Autust 8, 2008 -- It’s 08/08/08, a date that will go down in history – for what? Or is this bloated imagination at work? Did Jan. 1, 2001 go down in history? Or Feb. 2, 2002? Or March 3, 2003, etc.? Naah. Let’s face it! I’m reaching for significance.
A Russian icon has passed into the great beyond if we are to believe the headlines in the Moscow Times on Monday which proclaimed “Literary Giant Solzhenitsyn Dead at 89.”
Former Seattle compadre BB sent along a clip by Robert G. Kaiser, former Moscow correspondent of the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/04/AR2008080402524.html?hpid=features1&hpv=national). Kaiser tells about the time he and Hedrick Smith of the New York Times attempted to interview Solzhenitsyn in the early ’70s, at which time Solzhenitsyn appeared with his questions and answers all pre-written! Interview done. Well, not quite, according to Kaiser.
But it tells reams about Solzhenitsyn and his view of himself and his attempts to manipulate history.
BB added a few of his own comments speculating about what some of my own “moony pals” thought of Solzhenytsyn.
“Do you think they have any idea of what his career meant?” BB asked, adding that the subject “might make a good topic for old Red's (meaning Little Ole Moi’s) pen.”
Just for the record, he also asked if I remembered Esmond Harmsworth (see Chapt. 287, Zhorik here to celebrate my 75th). “Well, I just received an initial reaction to (Sailing Through) Utah. Positive it seems. However, as you know from your recent experience, that don't mean squat. I liken it to asking a girl for a date and she says, ‘Hmm, maybe.’
“On the whole this is a lot better than, ‘Are you fucking crazy? Why, I'd rather be horse whipped by a corpse!!’ But still not what you want to hear. Anyway, at least that avenue is still active.
”Really though, it would be interesting to hear what RQ's (Red Queen’s) young Russia thinks about the departed hero.”
When I first read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in the early ’60s, it constituted the first glimpse of what really went on inside one of Stalin’s political prisons. What a hero, I thought of Solzhenitsyn. By that time Khrushev had come to power and denounced the Stalin personality cult and had himself overseen the publication of A Day in the Life in the Noviy Mir (New World) Russian literary magazine.
And then, when as an emerging gay partner in the early ‘70s, after he had been involuntarily exiled to Vermont by the Brezhnev stooges, I began to read that he thought there was “too much” freedom in America, and I began to back off. Eventually I concluded that maybe he was a great Russian writer, but no great figure of a man.
This is the image of him that comes through in Chapt. 200, “Freedom is incompatible with our culture” of these chronicles, after he had come back to Russia and found that average Russians, too, by-and-large didn’t cotton to him.
I asked Andrei Shk., my once and future dissident pal (touched upon in many chapters), what his thoughts were about the newly departed Solzhenitsyn.
“Hardly any,” he responded.
“I didn't know him personally,” he wrote. “Nor have I read anything of his works, so I'm hardly in a position to say something definite. But I strongly suspect his dissent was motivated by his political views, rather than his conscience. I mean he doesn't strike me as an idealist of Doctor Sakharov's type (whose death of the so-called ‘heart failure’ BTW was the only logical end of any honest dissident in Russia)
“As for Solzhenitsyn, I think he's just a hard-line anti-communist whose only merit was exposure of the communist Gulag system, and who, after that system's collapse, preferred not to notice the genocidal nature of the present regime of KGB cannibals.
“Quite on the contrary, he's said to have been on rather good terms with Mr. Putin. I suspect that's the main reason why none of my dissident friends have cared to attend his funeral ceremonies.”
In a personal “samogon” (moonshine) session with him Saturday afternoon, Andrei went further. Solzhenitsyn’s initial transgression was as a successful Army captain to criticize Stalin. He must have known all letters were censored.
And when he did get into the gulag, it wasn’t to cut trees, which would have seen him dead in a year, but in the gulag library. Most telling, according to Andrei Shk., when he finished his stint in the Gulag, Andrei Gromyko wanted to off him. But Andropov, who incidentally, was a great hero of Putin’s, let him go. What does this mean about Solzhenitsyn’s complicity in the great Communist system? In Russia we may never know.
In any case, Putin did attend his wake on Tuesday, and successor Medvedev attended the funeral ceremony on Wedneday, even adding some dirt to the grave to lend some official commemoration of his passing.
Okay, that’s what the dissidents think. You know what I think (Chapt. 200). What about Andrei K., my current student who is CEO of a multi-million-dollar IT company?
“What did he mean to you?” I asked Andrei.
“Nothing,” he replied. “Although most people respected him and respect him now.“
Okay, what about Alexei, the recently promoted media mogul who was just beginning to sharpen his media teeth when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s?
Alexei’s take on Solzhenitsyn was even more negative than my own. Yes, he was a great Russian observer who exposed the Soviet system, but he was still ga-ga about the nobility of the tsarist era and was somewhat naïve about the real world.
But leave it to Yevgeny Kiselyov, former news executive at Channel 6, one of Putin’s early news “acquisitions,” to put Solzhenitsyin – “Russia’s most internationally renowned modern writer,” he said -- into perspective:
“And how can we regard him as ‘the conscience of the people’<” asks Kiselyov, “when he remained silent during Russia’s greatest tragedies, at times when the people needed moral support from an authoritative figure the most?
“Solzhenitsyn kept silent during the dramatic events connected with former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika. He was silent when the leaders of the Soviet regime that he so despised attempted to overthrow Gorbachev in 1991. He did not speak out when Yeltsin ordered tanks to fire on rebellious opposition members who had seized the White House. Solzhenitsyn was also silent when the war on Chechnya began, when explosions leveled Moscow apartment buildings, during the Dubrovka Theater attack and during the hostage crisis in Beslan.
“He refused an award from Yeltsin – a leader who had thrown communists and security service agents out of the ranks of authority – but accepted a state honor from Pres. Vladimir Putin, who divvied out top government positions to former agents of the KGB – the same organization that sent Solzhenitsyn to the gulags.
“The affected and exaggerated love that Russia’s current leaders have showered on Solzehnitsyn is both hypocritical and insincere,” Kiselyov continued. “Those who have proclaimed categorically that Solzhenitsyn was ‘the greatest writer of the 20th century’ – apparently ignoring other great talents of that era, such as Vasily Grossman, Boris Pasternak, Joseph Brodsky, Varlam Shalamov, Michail Bulgakov, Anna Akhmatova and many others – were probably unable to get through his entire “Gulag Archipelago,” and I am sure they never read “The Red Wheel,” his cycle of historical novels. But they will never admit this.”
Solzhenitsyn adopted many of the superficial props of the prophet, Kiselyov added, in an op-ed piece for the Moscow Times; and he “did turn out to be, if not a prophet, at least amazingly prescient,” he continues. “He was insistent in his prediction that the Communist regime was doomed to fail and that the Soviet Union would collapse during his lifetime. Even his most ardent readers thought that he was a bit crazy in this regard, but in the end his prediction came true.”
There were greater writers and greater talents than Solzhenitsyn in Russian history, Kiselyov contends; but “…it is important to consider the influence of a writer’s words. If you compare Tolstoy with Solzhenitsyn, for example, Tolstoy seems immeasurably higher as both a literary talent and as a thinker. But the Gulag Archipelago had a far greater influence on the course of Russian and world history than War and Peace – or any of Tolstoy’s other works – ever did.”
”In all truth, it was the Gulag Archipelago that led to the fall of the
Berlin Wall, that lifted the Iron Curtain and that brought an end to the Soviet Communist regime. What other book or author has played such a prominent role in history and affected people’s lives in such a profound way….?”
Maybe Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Kiselyov notes, “which led to the U.S. Civil War and the abolishment of slavery in the United States, or maybe Karl Marx’s Das Capital, Martin Luther’s works, or the Bible.”
Still, I didn’t like him (again, see Chapt. 200). He was a great Russian writer, but not a great man. He was petty, he was narrow, he was jealous, he was many things that did not constitute greatness. But if I apply these standards to every Russian writer, then none of them were great, contends my student Andrei K., not even Pushkin, who has been whispered about in the corridors of the “cosmically conscious.”
And of course he’s right.
And so today Solzhenitsyn lies in Russian soil at the Donskoi Monastary, where I not long ago visited the graves of Yeltsin and Mstislav Rostopovich, whom both Solzhenitsyn and Yeltsin admired and called a friend. There are no more great Russian writers or artists of world note. Such is the paucity of Russian “greatness” now.
But for that matter, show me a world class American writer or artist. I think we are living in a time of global mediocrity
A month has passed since Zhorik came rolling in by bus on Saturday, July 5, in the middle of my lesson with student Valera.
A lot has happened in that month, as I’ve tried to unravel the relatively simple Zhorik and what we mean to each other. I’ve gobbled his dick several times -- sometimes when he was drunk, sometimes when he was sober. He says he wants to live with me – for the next six years here in Moscow while he gets his college education, then in Stavropol where I first visited nearly five years ago.
The beginning was made more rocky by his announcement when he came in very drunk about 4 a.m. Saturday, July 12 – one week exactly after his arrival on the 5th -- that he had robbed my neck bag of all the money that was in it, about 5,000 rubles, $ 200 -- and had used it to try, unsuccessfully of course, to duplicate Sergei’s alleged feat of winning several thousand dollars at the slots.
He was very remorseful, and offered me his body that day, which I happily took.
Then he got very drunk the night of July 24th when he found that his Army buddy Artur had killed himself and his brother while driving in his home town of Narilsk, leaving his parents suddenly childless. Zhorik was mindlessly drunk and kept me up a good half of the night muttering and crying “why, why….?”
Why? Because Artur was probably driving while shit-faced drunk, as Zhorik himself would have been doing if he’d had a car.
What else has happened?
That same night Sergei got drunk and beat up badly on Katya -- so badly that she left the next day. But the day after that Sergei came to me asking for 50,000 rubles for him and Sasha to get out of Dodge City. He had to have 25,000 rubles for himself (a little over $ 1,000) and 25,000 for Sasha. Now. They were leaving immediately for Europe. They would have aliases and bogus passports. Once again – for the last time, maybe, I hope -- I gave Sergei money to get out of my life forever.
It nearly drained my meager bank account and I had to borrow 10,000 rubles from Red Queen Administrator Basil to lend Zhorik so he could take the college tests that Sergei had once before cheated him out of.
Zhorik has taken his exams, paid his money, and is now a student registered for September. In the meantime, he has to go to Stavropol to bribe a doctor to say he’s healthy so he can join the military here.
Igor is in Moldova.
Wedneday night, July 16, was his mother’s birthday. He had money from somewhere. Ira? When I came in from Masha’s lesson about 10 p.m. he grabbed me and kissed me hard on the mouth. He called his mother in Moldova and then asked if I wanted to “bukhatz,” get drunk with him, which I hadn’t done since Moldova nearly a year and a half ago (Chapt. 240, Extreme poverty, one-holers, and pretty boys). I said yes.
Despite the fact that Andrei K. had cancelled his early Thursday morning class and I didn’t have any classes scheduled until evening, I went to bed about 1 a.m., leaving Igor and Zhorik to get as drunk as they wanted. Zhorik apparently didn’t get drunk, but Igor did.
Igor also left the next day after explaining to me that Ira’s father was going to hire him as a truck driver after he gets his 18,000 ruble (about $ 750) driver’s license in Moldova, which I am now trying to finance; after which he will immediately come back and go to work as a national driver for Ira’s father at 27,000 rubles a month, paying me back the $ 750 plus rent money in September.
In the meantime, Sergei paid me 10,000 rubles !!! (about $ 430) for July rent for the first time since he promised back in April to pay 10,000 a month. It was just days afterward that he asked me to finance him and Sasha at 50,000 rubles. And because he left Katya’s eyes black and blue, she was unable to go to work. Hence, no 10,000 rubles for August.
So I was still feeling so-so about Zhorik, still writing e-mails back and forth to my nephew in Florida, my widowed sister in Colorado, to my friend BB in Seattle, casting about for a place to stay if and when I found myself having to leave Moscow, when Thursday night happened!
I had gone to bed about midnight, knowing that I had to show up at Frunznskaya metro station at 7:45 for Andrei’s early class. Zhorik woke me coming to bed about 2 a.m. He already had his U-trou pulled down to his knees and he was ready. Was he sober!? Sober enough, I concluded.
He said that it was the first night that Igor wasn’t here so he could talk seriously and openly. He said he loved me, that he wanted to live alone with me, that he wanted me to give up my U.S. citizenship and become a Russian citizen so that 10 or 15 years from now when I was no longer able to work and care for myself, he could take care of me without having to worry about Russian or U.S. authorities demanding my visa.
I had already concluded that my $ 1,000 U.S. Social Security Pension wasn’t going to be worth a damn for very much longer because of disastrous economic developments in the U.S.; my Russian “sister” “Ivana” had already announced she was coming back to Russia from Spain on the 22th of this month; and I had gotten a rather cold reception from my nephew in Florida, who had the only place I could expect to stay in the U.S.
My Spanish doctor at the American Medical Center here had already expressed serious doubt that I had had another TIA, and the “scan” of my carotid arteries showed no serious deterioration over the past two years, so Zhrorik’s offer was sounding very good indeed!
Zhorik said he was very happy with our arrangement, and that he loved me very much. We would live together, travel together, make love together. He loved a girl named Julia in Novosibirsk, but she would never take my place as the first love of his life. We would live together and make love together while she was at work.
So his, “I’m your boyfriend – wait for me,” had apparently been serious after all?
I sucked his very hard dick joyously. He got up to adjust the television picture of the same teenage twat sucking the same dick as two years and a half ago, with his (Zhorik’s) 6-in. cock sticking straight out. As I sucked him, he took my head and patted it, loved it, patted it some more.
Finally, about 3:30 a.m., after both of us had come, he passed out.
But then there was last night, which puts the whole thing in question. I had the first cold in ages, and Zhorik had announced, after spending much of the afternoon and evening with new girlfriend Anya, that he was going to spend the night at Katya’s brother Alyosha’s.
But sometime after midnight Missy’s whining woke me up. I went to my darkened door to see Katya and Anya and Zhorik and Lyosha scampering into Katya’s room.
They kept me awake a good part of the night. When I went into the bathroom about 3 a.m. to clear my throat and nose, Zhorik was there. He was talking to Anya, who was hiding behind the shower curtain. Today I was pissed. After a session with my beautiful new student Sasha, followed by a bull session with my once and future dissident, Andrei Shk., I passed out on the couch for several hours.
But I cannot tolerate this kind of a life. A announced to Zhorik and Katya that I have to get up several mornings at 6 a.m., and from now on I’m going to bed at 11 p.m. Nobody comes or leaves from the apartment between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. I didn’t tell them, but I will toss out any violators.
I’ve got to get my life back in order. It is making Andrei Shk.’s admonition for me to get the hell to Spain, where life is “serene and quiet,” next year ever more desirable. Vanya has said that he may or may not stay longer than the next year. But with my experiences with Zhorik, I’m leaning more and more toward getting the hell out of here regardless. Zhorik is after all straight, and I can’t see him putting his wife or girlfriend in second place to me. It’s time I followed Sergei and Sasha “out of Dodge City.”
The worst thing is that Zhorik is jealous – almost insanely so – of Igor. Before he left, he said that I could have other boyfriends, but that when he returned we would be a matched set again. To be honest, I never believed him, but now I think he meant it; and I think the fact that Igor and I had a sexual relationship has made him angry and jealous of Igor – despite his own “straightness.”
Zhorik at first told me it was either him or Igor. I told him, “Okay, it’s you. I’ll tell Igor to get lost” even though I had already promised Igor 18,000 rubles to get his driver’s license in Moldova, and that he could stay here when he got back if he would promise to give me 16,000 to 20,000 rubles per month as “rent” and for the vast amount that he already owes me.
Now I’m not so sure. Maybe I will keep Igor instead.
I hope to have 10,000 more rubles for him by Monday.
As my doubts about Zhorik grow, so does my inclination toward Spain. Zhorik is straight, after all. So is Igor. As I enter what is probably the last decade of my life, it is important for me to have somebody to love and somebody who loves me.
I want to have sex, but I also want a companion. I want someone that I can talk to, that we can tell each other problems, whom I can help and who can help me, and who wants to help me.
Frankly, I’m not finding that in Zhorik. He spends more time with Katya than with me. I come nearer finding it in Igor. Although Igor has a girlfriend, Ira, I think he is much more “bi-“ than Zhorik. So if – when – Zhorik again puts the “him or me” on vis-à-vis Igor, I will tell him,
’Okay, it’s Igor.’ But I don’t think he will now. He’s onto the fact that I’m pissed with him.
And that’s the way the world is spinning tonight.