Breaking Stalin

Breaking Stalin

Chapter VIII

“The Golden boy of the revolution” the “favorite of the entire Party” and its “biggest theorist”, these titles were given to a hero of the revolution, someone who helped to build communism with his own hands.  He was one of the youngest members of the party leadership during and after the revolution.  He was able to staunchly defend communism not only from the west, but he also defended Leninism from foreign Marxists.  He was a favorite of the party and became one of the greatest theorists of this Leninist-Marxist theory.  And his great acts eventually perished with him.  This is our protagonist, and it will be your job to either convict or acquit him of his evil deeds by the end of the novel.  This man’s name is Nikolai Bukharin.

Chapter VII

Have you ever heard of the app Tinder?  It’s this preposterous app that allows you to connect with people you’ve never met that you might like because they’re cute.  In effect, I guess it works like any other dating site, it allows you to meet people you probably wouldn’t meet otherwise, but it seems a bit creepier than other programs because it not only shows you people and their pictures and allows you to text them, but it tells you how close approximately you are to them.  Creepy right?  My girlfriend had it for a little while purely to mess with people.  It was somewhat disgusting the vigor with which people would change purely to find common ground with her.  For example she told one guy that she would castrate him for asking about prior relationships, to which he responded that he was so sad that it hadn’t worked out and that she should text him on his phone number.  I guess this could be called conformism.  In government matters it rears its ugly head under the name of populism.  It’s this dastardly practice of conformity that gives power to tyrants, usurpers, oppressors, and bellicose warmongerers.  Why?  Because each of us appreciates security more than freedom in most matters.  In every imaginary line that’s been drawn up, these nation states that offer us some sense of belonging and security, some freedom is taken.  But how much is too much?  How much can we justify?  And how many of us even care?

Chapter VI

In all tragedies there must be a victim and a villain.  Unfortunately in our story the victims are numberless, their tragic place in history has been largely forgotten, slighted by chance and circumstance and most of all by our villain, their names have been dumped into the dustbin of history, but their deeds and their very ideals live on.
            Our most important victim’s tale begins in the year 1878 on the 18th of December in a small town in Georgia.  I’m sure the cold was biting that morning as our soon to be born-Soso’s alcoholic father walked to work.  He was a cobbler and this morning had brought bad news.  The fresh snowfall had caused a part of the roof of his workshop to fall in.  Cursing his bad luck, he wandered slowly to the workshop carrying his meager supply of tools.  He arrived to see his apprentice pointing out the small break in the roof to his friend.  Besarion greeted him methodically before deftly climbing the sides of the wooden shelter.  His movements were a little clumsy today; his head was throbbing like a pounding drum.  Normally, he went to work hungover, but today was especially bad.  They had already lost two sons, and his wife’s agony the night before was driving him insane.  He needed a son, a man to carry on his trade after him, for all he knew this could be his last shot.
            The roof was slick; it was iced over underneath the heavy sheet of fresh snow that hovered on the roof like a cloud.  He brushed off the snow around the intrusion trying to gauge the size of the hole.  A voice from underneath of him barked at him in Russian.  He slid softly off the roof landing gently on his feet.  He turned around to see his apprentice holding out the small pieces of wood that had shattered on the roof.  Beso mumbled a quick thank-you before getting back on the roof.  He began hammering away and found he was short a sliver of wood.  He cursed under his breath as he surveyed the rest of the roof for a piece he could cannibalize.  He saw on the corner a small piece jutting out over the edge.  He crawled to the edge like a sloth and began sawing off the corner.  “Just right” he thought to himself.  Just then a boy came running along the path; he paused from his work as the young boy daintily plodded along the beaten path leaving footprints in the prior-night’s snow.  There was something entrancing about the scene.  It made Beso think of his life long gone by; back when he was without care, back before his fiery self rose up in rebellion against his lord.  Back before he spent years in jail.  “Awww yes” he thought to himself “There really was something to be said about being a carefree young boy.”

            The boy approached the house and looked up into Beso’s gaze.  “Sir” the little boy piped “Your wife just gave birth to a son”.  Besarion dropped his saw.

Chapter V

Many years have passed since the show trials of Stalin’s Great Terror, but the faces of the victims have forever captured the youthful vibrancy of the budding revolution.  It was thought by many to be the ushering in of the new world.  The revolutionaries themselves saw it as a creation of a new world, which they were bravely forging as Huxley would probably agree.  It was a new time and a dangerous time in Russia.  Chaos ensued leading up to the revolutions of 1917 and followed the revolutionaries determinedly like a vulture.  The revolution was an experiment, one which we can look back on post factum and judge rather harshly for lacking cohesion and direction, but the crux of it is that the revolutionaries had never done this before.  They were trying to put their ideals, their brainchilds into something of matter, something material.  They were trying to give shape to the immaterial.  And they were trying to do it within a very short span.  Following the ideals of Modernism they reached to rip apart and break down the existing society and replace it with something new, but how can you replace in a day, in a year, in a lifetime-the build-up of human civilization of centuries before?  Can one just replace or fix the past?  In effect, chaos did not just cause the revolution, chaos was the revolution.

Chapter IV

It was a cloudy spring day.  Ivan peered outside his small home scratching his head haphazardly.  A scream broke his frantic thoughts, and he snapped his head back around.  It was his wife; their firstborn son was being borne into the world.  He had walked out of the room too frantic to help himself.  He knew that of all births the one child most likely to live was the firstborn, thoughts flew threw his mind like witches on broomsticks planting their evil doubts in his mind.  What if this was the only child they had?  What if his wife didn’t make it?  What if the child died or was maimed or what if his firstborn was a girl?  All these thoughts rushed through his head as he struggled to maintain sanity.  Something inside of him made him want to scream with his wife.  He wanted it to end.

            And then just as quickly as it had started, the screaming stopped and was replaced by a strained, yet happy voice.  He cleared his throat and ran a finger through his disheveled hair before slowly striding back into the room.  He stopped short as he looked into the room.  There on the table being slowly cleaned by the mid-wife was a baby boy.  A feeling of joy overwhelmed Ivan as he looked down at the small quiet boy.  His firstborn was a boy.  “I think we’ll call him Vladimir” he thought to himself, Vladimir, the quiet, commonplace boy whose name, in true Marxist fashion, would be the only thing remembered in the laconic writings of his arrogant brother.

Chapter III

I have wanted to write this for awhile now, ever since I read that beautiful masterpiece of HHhH by Binet.  He really did write a masterful work of history, gripping, agitatingly accurate, but there was also something that rubbed me the wrong way.  It was his incessant talk of his girlfriends, one by one he would talk about how they loved him and how perfect they were together and then they would just be gone, or worse he’d add how things ended, which is never a pleasant matter.  As maddening as his arrogant commentary on his love life was, it illuminates the hope that like moths to the flame we cling to.  He and all of us seem to be so dependent on these fickle relationships.  Our hope is that it’s going to “work out” and all will be hunky-dory. 

We try to force life to work, we try to force history to conform to our whims and will.  We all want our stories, our very own histories to turn out well, to end “happily ever after”.  Many of us realize that life is tragic, and so we do all we can to avoid turning our lives into a tragedy.  But perhaps life doesn’t work like that, perhaps it’s not just choosing between a tragedy and a fairy tale.  Perhaps, we try to coerce fate to meet our wants because we see our story as being something that we alone can change.  We want a grand narrative, at the helm of which we are.  But history’s not just a grand narrative told by one being, indeed it is a collective project worked on and never finished, in fact maybe it’s unfinishable.  An unfinished portrait, a scene on a Grecian Urn that never plays out, like Rodin’s Michelangelo’s Slaves, a sculpture reaching towards nothingness never taking shape, in a sense being formless, but at the same time being worked on by countless hands each building and destroying until it takes a form?  That is history.

Chapter II

Ok, I may have romanticized that a bit.  That’s not really how it happened.  There may have been a party to welcome in the new teacher, and it would have almost definitely been held in the school, but I can almost be 90 percent sure there was no sleigh.  The teachers lived in a building just behind the school.  I sincerely doubt Ivan would have arrived in a sleigh.  Nor do I have any evidence to support the idea that it happened in the winter time.  There are few references to it indeed.  Our autobiographer himself merely states that they met at work.  Maybe they went for a walk a few times after work, or perhaps on her first day at work Ivan saw her walking awkwardly through the hallway.  Maybe it’s just the hopeless romantic deep inside me, but regardless of what actually happened-I like my story.

Part II Chapter I

Our story begins in the years leading up to the year 1888.  Oh that woeful year, in which mediocrity begat bestiality.  At some point in those years prior to our fateful year, the young woman, Liubov Ivanovna Ismailova, took up residence and began teaching in a primary school in Moscow.  She was described as being a very sensible woman of rare honesty and diligence.  Her beauty has been lost to history-her dark silky hair, her unblemished round face, but her penetrating blue-gray eyes live on, forever to be remembered in the personage of her own personal monster.  The other culprit of the story is yet another Muscovian schoolteacher, Ivan Antonovich, a graduate of Moscow University.  He was a staunch Orthodox believer, conservative, and eventually a liberal when that became fashionable in politics, he was a mathematician by trade and remained that until 1893, but now we’re getting ahead of the story.
            I’m not quite sure how it happened, the details are rather obscure.  But I imagine it happened on a cold winter’s night.  The end of the year had finally come, and the different primary schools in Moscow were holding a modest party for their teachers.  A small sleigh appeared in front of the brazen school doors, and a young man with patches of red hair sticking out of his bowler hat alighted tossing the driver a coin as he flew up the steps.  Ever so punctual, it was not like him to be late.  He glanced up at the dark sky above him as he opened the door.  The swirling snow angrily met his defiant glance, “yes” he thought to himself, “it was this accursed storm that made me late”.  He removed his bowler hat and shook his snow dusted head as he opened the door, the rushing light dazzled him for only a moment as he slipped inside the door closing quietly behind him.  He looked around many of the teachers were already there.  He knew most of them by name.  He suppressed a grin as he caught sight of Lev Nikolaevich, the ancient teacher of Tsarist history, his long white beard was testament to his aged wisdom, and worked as well as any broom as he walked the corridors of the small school.  Off to his right was Aleksei Mikhailovich, the director of his school, timidly perusing the slim choice of wine the party had to offer.
            No one noticed his entry; he slipped off to the side of the room to avoid being spotted.  He was a good-natured fellow, but tonight he had better things to do than talk to old acquaintances.  He was late, but he had arrived just in time.  The ball was just beginning.  He looked down sheepishly at the shabby drivel that was supposed to be his pantaloons.  Most in the room were much better dressed than he, but “no matter” he thought to himself.  Tonight was his night.  He surveyed the room, the band was just preparing to play its first song of the night, and partners were being chosen, off to his left a young woman caught his eye.  Her dress was hardly better than his hastily mended pants and petticoat, but he noticed she had a certain rich air about herself.  She was poor but so was he.  He walked up to her and in his beautiful baritone voice recanted:
I am perhaps of love unworthy! ...
But if feigned love, if you would
Pretend, you'd easily deceive me,
For happily would I, believe me,
Deceive myself if but I could! 
Liubov blushed a little as she smiled.  The soft glow from the chandelier reflected dully off her red cheeks.  Her response shook Ivan:
My soul attained its waking moment:
You appeared before my sight,
As though a brief and fleeting omen,
Pure phantom in enchanting light.

And now, my heart, in fascination
Beats rapidly and finds alive:
Devout faith and inspiration,
And gentle tears and love and life.

“You know your Pushkin!” he said in a daze as she let him take his hand.  They danced the whole night together.  Ivan was entranced by those penetrating eyes.

Chapter 14

Recently I read a book called “Benes, Statesman of Central Europe” by Pierre Crabites.  It was a book that came out in 1935 on the eve of World War II, and it was a book that was focused on the qualities of Edvard Benes, the Czechoslovak president at the time.  But the book came with a foreword from the author.  He stated that he saw war brewing in Europe.  He thought another great war would come, and he predicted it would come out of Germany.  I could summarize but his words have a bone chilling potency.  He said “His[Hitler’s] energy, his eloquence, his excoratiations have unleashed passions that he may be unable to master.  I fear that when a generation of Germans who knew nothing of the horrors of first-line trenches has assumed control at Berlin, Hitler may be brushed aside as completely as was Kerensky.  When that hour sounds, terrible will be the toll which it will exact.  It is Hitlerism and the consequences of Hitlerism that I fear, not Hitler… I am obsessed by fear of another war.”  He was right, war did eventually come, but he was also wrong.
Or was he?  He makes a bold distinction between Hitler and Hitlerism.  Hitlerism was the monster that Hitler created from his speeches and laws.  Hitlerism was the monster that people clung to, ridding themselves of poverty and oppression created by the Allies after World War I.  Crabites saw a very different world than we do now.  He saw a tragic victim in World War I in Hitler, someone who knew the uselessness of war, and he tried to separate him from the monster of revenge that was encapsulating Germany.

Crabites saw war as inevitable.  He thought Germany was already ready for war, and only Hitler held it back.  Most would dismiss this theory without a second thought, but perhaps we would do so because we are biased.  From birth we’ve been taught to hate Hitler and Nazism identifying them as one single thing.  But as Hitler can be blamed for much of Nazism, he was not it.  And it begs the question-what if Hitler had fallen from power?  Would there have been a Second World War?  Crabites would say yes.  Why?  Because as he saw it, Europe was sick with a disease, one incurred from the past century of existence, and the only way to cure it, was to remove it.

Chapter 13

In 1848 our demagogue published his most incendiary work-“The Communist Manifesto.”  1848 was the year of revolutions throughout Europe.  France was the first to revolt, next a loose confederation of states in Germany followed suit.  Then the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell into flames, and eventually the revolution spread as far south as the Papal States in Rome.  It appeared as though the age of monarchies was coming to an end.
Most Americans have probably never even heard of these revolutions, and that’s because in the end they all just petered out.  But for the age of men at the time this meant progress, it made men like Marx bold and brash.  He was sure change was coming to the world, and he wanted the communists to be at the forefront of it.
And therein lies two important things to know about Communism.  Firstly, Marx and his followers believed that the workers from all over the world would join in their revolution, because it was a human struggle, it was every man’s struggle.  Secondly, because of that Marx called for a violent revolution in every country in his Manifesto.  He called for a violent, worldwide revolution, and he expected it to happen.
This terrified industrialized countries.  Marx had just called on the entire class of proletariats to revolt and to do it violently.  Marx made a huge gamble.  He thought he could instigate insurrections throughout the rest of Europe, but instead, as peace was restored, he found Europe turning a hostile eye towards Marxism.  Communists had been labeled, and they had been labeled the enemy.  And it would be this label that would feed the fascist movements nearly 100 years later.

Marx was right, a specter was haunting Europe, and war and change were coming.

Chapter 12

It was a fresh pleasantly chill Sunday morning, and I found myself in downtown Prague, hurriedly walking back to Old Town Square, to a place I knew all too well.  It was the Baroque style cathedral of St. Nicholas’ off on the western side of the square.  It is this church that has been returned to the Hussite Church since the former Hussite church, the great Tyn Cathedral, on the other side of the square, is Catholic again.  I’d been in this church before, seen my fair share of concerts there, heaven knows I’d even sung in a choir there once, but I’d never been to a mass, nor had I ever been to a Hussite mass before.  I walked in to the icy depths of the cathedral and realized the service had already begun.  There in front was the priest, a woman, singing the opening hymn.  She had an ever so beautiful voice, but I couldn’t help but notice it wasn’t what it probably once was.  Age, sadly, destroys all, even beautiful voices.  I quickly found a seat and soon realized the average age of the onlookers was well over 50.  I looked up and saw the drooping banner of the Hussites, with the inscription “Pravda vitezi” or “the truth prevails” emblazoned boldly for all to see.  I stopped for a moment surveying the scene, pondering the words of the service.  Who would carry on the work of the service when this generation passed?  Who would see to it that the truth prevailed?  I could feel the waves of secularism beating against the walls of the church.  Who would carry on the fight once they had fought the good fight?

            I wish I knew, but history has always been a conflict of beliefs.  This incidence is not unique to our age in history.  But different movements breed fear, and a desire to protect those beliefs that we value most, sometimes even to blows.  Demagogues are born as the need for instigators arises.  Kings and rulers gain power as people give up freedoms to protect their beliefs and subject those whose beliefs they do not understand.  People act according to their passions and are forced to choose sides, unfortunately it is never just a simple case of good vs. evil.  Tempers flare and lines blur.

Chapter 11

Stalin, at least in the western world, is not thought of as a controversial figure.  Most would agree that he was a dictator, and a tyrant that caused much more harm than good.  But for those who lived under the legendary shadow of Stalin, for those who helped build Stalinism, Stalin is still a heroic figure.  His grave still receives the most flowers of all the communist leaders, more so than even grandfather Lenin.  Why?  Because politics are much more complicated than stories allow them to be.  It is easy to vilify Stalin, to point out his flaws in retrospect, but it is much harder to look at the issue abjectly, and to purge ourselves of prejudice.  Indeed, perhaps, only through prejudice can we lose our own.

Chapter 10


There’s a growing trend in history today to analyze “key” events in light of “what if” scenarios.  But what if the “What if”s aren’t actually what ifs at all?  I just read one that talked about the defeat of an Assyrian army outside of the walls of Jerusalem in 701 BC as the pivotal turning point in history because if the Jews had been defeated we wouldn’t have Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.  The problem with such narratives is they try to isolate a variable in history.  They try to isolate one moment from time, space and continuum and make a completely new history from that moment.  Consider the effrontery of a man trying to funnel a giraffe through a millimeter wide pipe and have it come out the other end as a lion, it just can’t happen.  If you can’t ever live in history, if history is always the past, then it can’t be reactionary.  It can’t be an ingredient.  Instead, history is a product; it is the product of billions of actions and thoughts built up for thousands of years.  And if it’s a product then maybe it can change, maybe even the slightest act can have a great affect.  But in the end it would look the same.  We can’t create a lion from a giraffe, but maybe, just maybe we can clip his mane, and even though it will eventually grow back, for a small time the product is change.

Chapter 9

A single small light emitted a faint glow in the absorbent stone prison.  To the man sitting with his back propped against the wall in the back of the room, it seemed as though the cold damp stone consumed that faint hopeful glow like a famished dragon.  The man’s sparse white beard was testament to his age.  His coarse wool coat, which just a few weeks before had fit so snuggly, sagged over his body like his now gaunt cheeks.  He looked down at his watch, which they had let him keep.  It was nearing noon on Friday, it wouldn’t be long till the Jewish Sabbath would begin.  On the side of his watch he saw etched the letters Ya and E.  It was all he had left, his watch, and his name, Yakov Etinger.
The door to the prison opened and three men in army uniforms entered boldly displaying the hammer and sickle on their chests.  Yakov shuddered at what was going to happen.  He had only recently been transferred to this new prison in Lefortovo, and it was much worse than his old one.  Being an old soviet doctor he was no stranger to the inside of a prison cell, but he knew his luck had taken a turn for the worst.  One man approached him with a clipboard.  “Stand up, comrade.”  Yakov slowly stood up, he could feel his cold joints contract and stiffen.  “Describe your involvement in Shcherbakov’s death.”  Yakov emitted a faint sigh of relief; this was one of the same old questions he’d been asked for weeks.  Maybe he’d still make it out.
“I wasn’t directly involved in the care of Shcherbakov when he passed away.  When his condition worsened I was used as a consultant for a second opinion.  Standard procedure for a comrade of his caliber.”
“And what was the name of the doctor who used you as a consultant?”
“Well there were many, but the charge doctor was Vinogradov.”  The man smiled ingenuously and made a note on his clipboard.  Once again this was all quite ordinary interrogative procedure.  The light seemed to glow brighter in the room.
“Describe your role in Zhdanov’s death.”  Once again this was a rather ordinary question for Yakov.
“I was his doctor.  I did everything that I could for him.”
“But a letter here from one of the junior doctors says that both he and Shcherbakov had heart murmurs months before, and you and the other doctors did nothing.”
“Yes, there were signs that they were old.  We were well aware of it, and we did our best to prevent it from getting worse.”
“By doing nothing?”
“We did what we could, but we’re doctors not magicians.”  The man waved to the men in the back who stepped forward as he hurriedly jotted down more notes.  This was new, Yakov stiffened with fear, but only for a moment, he’d long ago given up his fate.  He only wished he could see his son once more.
“You are anti-Stalinist yes?”
“No.”  Suddenly a hand collided with his rib cage.  Yakov fell to the floor from the sharp pain.
“Get up!  You are anti-Stalinist, and we have a recording of you expressing your views as such!  Are you a Zionist as well?”
“I believe Jews are being mistreated in this country.”  Once again a hand collided with his side but this time as he fell down a kick followed flipping him onto his back on the floor.  He moaned from the pain.  He wondered if he had already broken a rib.
“Now stop beating around the bush!  I know you’re an anti-Stalinist, you’re a Zionist.  What else?  Were you planning to kill Stalin?  You already finished off Shcherbakov and Zhdanov!  How much do you know about the Jewish-American terrorist organization called Joint?  Do you know the leader of the group?  Are you the leader?”  Yakov unsteadily rose to his feet, and took a deep breath.  He had done this for weeks already, torture wasn’t going to change anything.

“I’m an honest man.  For years I have treated high ranking officials like Selivanovskii.  I’ve done my best to ensure that Socialism be built in this country and tried to help those most involved with building it.  Shcherbakov was doomed.  We did our best to save him, but we can’t change fate.  He died from complications arising from the stress of his office and his age.”  Once again he was cut short as fists embedded themselves in his old flesh.  Once again he fell to the floor.  It was December 1950.  In a few months time Yakov would be dead, and his timely death would lead to the fabrication of the so-called “Doctor’s Plot” that arrived on Stalin’s desk in January of 1953, something many believe was the beginning of a second purge starting with the Jews in the USSR.  It was supposedly a plot by doctors attending high-ranking officials in the Soviet government, in which they were plotting to kill them.  After Stalin’s death they were all exonerated, except for Etinger and one other who had refused to confess and had died in prison.  As tragic as this event is, it begs the question-What if senior members of the politburo had been killed?  What if Stalin’s life had been cut…short?

Chapter 8


Wouldn’t that be nice if that was who this guard was?  Truth is if he had been a high ranking hero during WWII and had survived the war, there’s a good chance he would have been accused of collaboration with the Nazis or some other act of treason, and shipped away to the GULAG.  Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the guard that found Stalin, I don’t know if this is his story.  But it is someone’s story.  And as Hugo so aptly demonstrated with Monsieur M., names are mere appellations, knowing a name doesn’t connect you to someone.  But their story does.  Ivan is one of those fake names, as well as the doctor.  You could make the claim that I completely made up Ivan, but I don’t really think so.  Ivan existed, he may be the spliced version of a couple of men’s stories, and maybe he had a different alias, but he was real.  He lived and breathed just as you or I.  Maybe it’s not exactly how it happened, but maybe it is?  He was discovered by his guards, and Ivan’s a pretty common name.  Who knows maybe even the details I know are wrong, are in some way right.  But enough of that, this book is about Stalin’s death, but not that one.  At least, not the one we’re familiar with.  This is about what could have happened.  I could give you a load of junk like Umberto Eco about how I came across some relatively obscure parchment once in my travels in Prague and then lost it and then rediscovered someone else’s notes on it in-Argentina was it?  But that just doesn’t work in this scenario, the intentions, the plans, the enthusiasm were all there, but in the end the deeds themselves never materialized.  I can assure you that most of this novel will be based around historical documents and research, and wherever I deviate I’ll tell you.  And there will be a point where we’ll break free, brazenly forging a new path, with what could have been.

Chapter 7

Or was that really how it happened?  For a moment I stood on the threshold of creating a back story for Ivan.  Everyone likes to know who the characters are right?  A head guard of the General Secretary after WWII must have had quite the array of experiences.  It wouldn’t have been hard to place his half-starved, charcoal face behind what remained of a cement block house decimated by German firepower.  I can see him now-quietly waiting, trying to get the most bang for his buck out of every shot.  He would have been a veteran by then.  The quick and the dead they say.  I can see his steady hand patiently pressure that stubborn trigger of his Mosin-Nagant.  It would have been the 18th of January 1943.  Ivan’s hideout would have been among the remains of the fortifications at Workers’ Settlement 1, where the rest of the 123rd Rifle Division waited with bated breath in the dark winter morning hours.  Since the 12th of January they had been fighting tooth and nail to break through the German siege of Leningrad.  I can see him now, with apprehension looking down the cross-hairs at the thick forest in front of him.  I can hear the pop pop of the rifles near him, hear the shells exploding in the nearby thicket.  He knew the 372nd Rifle Brigade was close.  The night before they had been a mere 2 kilometers from each other, but the fighting had gotten fiercer over the past few hours.  The Germans fought like wildcats backed against a wall.  Operation Spark had cost many lives already.  But they were going to do it.  They had stopped the German spearhead at Leningrad, and Ivan had heard by radio that they had defeated the Nazis at Stalingrad.  The tide of the war was changing.  And he knew it.

He peered apprehensively through the thick morning haze and gun smoke before him.  He could hear shouts from the far side of the wood, at first unintelligible, but as he listened more attentively he realized he could understand.  The voices on the other side were Russian.  The pincer division had arrived.  He sat upright, and roused his comrades.  It was time for the final push.  “No need to conserve ammo, let’s break the siege comrades!”  Of course, it would be one more long year before they could break the siege, but the beginning of the end had come, and Ivan was right in the thick of it.

Chapter 6

Doctor Kopolev stood frantically by the bedside of the dying man. They had given him oxygen and had applied leeches, but he feared they were too late. Fear from the politburo had led to delay. “If only they had called for me immediately!” Kopolev thought angrily to himself. Now, it would only be a few hours before the Secretary passed. Kopolev had rarely seen a man go with so much pain. For days the Secretary had twitched and withered like a snake that’s been thrown on hot coals. His groaning and moaning were nauseating only granting the listeners a break when he fell back into his unconscious state. Kopolev knew, it was time for him to go. Suddenly with a loud jolt, the man stopped twitching; silence fell like a bucket of cold water on the room. It was over. The great leader of the Soviet Union for the past 3 decades had finally gone. Kopolev looked down at his watch and scratched on his notepad “9:50 pm, March 5, 1953.” Stalin was dead.