Soso looked cautiously outside the seemingly calm streets of Baku. Many years had passed since that quiet bright boy had first entered the seminary. Now he was officially a revolutionary. He had even gone to prison as such, but no more. Now he had better things to do than rot in prison.
Baku was no longer safe. In a matter of hours the city had warped into a warzone and scene of ethnic cleansing. What started as a strike by workers had flared into chaos as Cossacks had attacked, killing over 200 workers. In the ironic panic that ensued the Azeris and Armenians had begun slaughtering each other in troves.
Stalin had escaped the strike unharmed, and had managed to regroup with other Bolsheviks. In the commotion they had managed to steal just about everything they needed from weapons to a printing press. Soso heard the familiar stomp of his friend, Abel Enukhidze. “I think they’re coming Soso.” Stalin looked up warily at Abel and nodded. He buttoned up his coat and grabbed his gun, and the two of them walked to the door where the rest of the rag tag group of Bolsheviks congregated.
Someone opened the doors and the group shuffled out into the snow. Stalin and a few others positioned themselves behind barrels near the entrance. Today his duty was non-confrontational, it would be Abel doing that. In the distance they could hear the muffled stomp of boots in the snow down the street to their right. It came closer and closer until a group of men even more rag tag and ill-dressed than the Bolsheviks came into view. Nearly a dozen dark wiry men stopped and looked at the much stronger Bolsheviks.
“Go home.” Abel’s deep gruff voice sounded eerie in the charged white atmosphere.
“Why? Who are you?” A taller, but still very skinny man yelled back. He was the obvious leader, and anyone could tell he was as ruffled as a bird just snatched out of the air by a cat.
“Save your strength, comrade! Our quarrel is not with you, nor with any other ethnicity for that matter, and neither should be yours. You look like you haven’t had very many square meals recently, and whose fault is that? Is it the Armenians?” The man blinked back at Abel.
“It doesn’t matter, they shouldn’t be here.”
“Awwww, but it does matter. What good does it do to attack them? They have no food either. You waste your strength fighting each other and that is exactly what the Empire wants. They want us to bicker and fight until we each expunge our own ethnicities and become one with the Great Russians. No, comrade, you want blood? You want food? You want justice and hope? Then your quarrel is not with them but with the Empire. You want to fight? Then fight with us, comrade!” There was a crunch as one man fell clumsily in the snow, Abel smiled, he knew this was no crack fighting troop. The tall man turned and hissed at him to be silent.
“Who are you?”
“We’re members of the Social Democratic Labor Party, but you can call us Bolsheviks.”
“But why Bolsheviks?”
“Because the majority is with us, like yourself. Isn’t that right?” Abel smiled and walked to the man holding him his hand. The man embraced it, but only for a moment.
“I hate the Empire too, but I hate Armenians most of all. If you can rid us of them both, we will join you.” And with that the man turned and the group jogged away. Abel turned around and shook his head. Soso knew what he was thinking. They needed something more; something a propagandist could use to unite Russia against the Tsar. But how? Little did he know, but soon the Tsar himself would provide the solution.