Breaking Stalin

Breaking Stalin

Chapter XIV

Soso stood calmly in front of his examiners.  He was 15 now, and he was down to his last exam.  He couldn’t fail his mother now.  She had worked so hard to get him here, and here was his chance to finally enter the seminary in Tbilisi.  But the last subject was probably his most hated-Russian.
It was also the subject he was most self-conscious about.  Everything else just seemed to come naturally to him, but Russian seemed to elude his utmost attempts to master.  He spoke to the examiners nervously.  Two of them were native Russians, and Soso just couldn’t get the idea out of his head that he was about to be judged rather unfairly, after all, he was still just a boy.
He started speaking roughly; there was a shakiness in his high pitched voice that he couldn’t shake.  He hastily tried to clear his throat as one of the Russian examiners asked him to tell them about his father.  Soso looked apprehensively at the examiner; surely he hadn’t expected a question like this.  He wasn’t prepared to talk about the man he hadn’t seen in three years, the man who had deserted his mother because she tried to send Soso to school.  He figured since he was going to an Orthodox school, however, that only allowed members of the clergy to enter, he should speak rather highly of him.
“My father?  Och, he is well-liked by our entire village.  He was such a good man, and so well-liked that the priest made him a Deacon in his church.  But he is a cobbler and is also very hard working, so hard working that I see very little of him since I started attending school.”  He distractedly edged the collar of his shirt with his index finger.  Even he could hear his thick Georgian accent when he spoke.  The Russian examiner looked back down at his examiner’s board in his hands.

“Well son, we’ll have to work on that accent.  Can’t have that in the Tsar’s church.  Russian is your language now, but…”  He looked up at Joseph and gave a slight grin, “you’ll have a lot of time to work on that while here at the seminary.”  Soso returned his smile heartily.  The examiner waved his hand to go.   Joseph was surprised that it had been so painless.  He turned to go, and as he did so he heard the words, “Russian is your language now,” and he remembered the ideals of Russification, the Empire’s idea to unite Russia by quashing nationalities like the Georgians.  He left the room thinking to himself that one day it would all be different.  One day he would be happy to be Georgian.  But try as he might, he would keep in Georgian accent for the rest of his life.

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