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[P]
To Straighten Him Out

By transient0 in Fiction
Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 06:15:37 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

"Russia? Are you out of your minds? Russia's full of god-damned Communists!"

"Ivan, you had best be watching that mouth of yours around your matryona," his father warned in his languid farmer's way.

"Communist isn't a dirty word, dad."


"Communism in Russia ended over a year ago, Vanushka." His mother now. This was clearly her idea. Always feigning detachment while sneaking one hand behind to curtain to pull on the strings. He wasn't going to be her marionette.

"Mother, just because some old Party-man disavows Marx and gets himself elected president of the Union doesn't mean that the country isn't still full to the brim with godless commies."

"It's already settled, Vanya," his mother continued, "you're going. The plane ticket's already bought and Oma and Opa are already clearing out a room for you. Besides, they're getting old and they could certainly use your help on the farm."

Ivan pushed his chair back from the table and stood up. "I can't believe I'm being shipped off to the god-damned Gulag."

Suddenly his father was on his feet. Before Ivan could react, his father's meaty hand, with callouses formed on the farm and refined in the factory, had swung across the table and landed firmly on Ivan's jaw. Neck twists, teeth crack, head hits the floorboards and which way is up? His ears were ringing and there was blood on his lips. His father had never hit him before.

Ivan made careful mental note of the situation. He loved his father and hated to see him angry, but it was always a very useful thing to know, just where a person's lines were drawn.

It looked like he was going to Russia.

#

Ivan wore his headphones, massive Sennheiser affairs, during takeoff. He didn't feel like listening to music, but neither did he feel like talking. The tremendous black domes covering his ears were an incredibly effective conversation inhibitor. The drive to the Montreal airport with his father had been tense but bearable. The periods of silence had been punctuated by uncomfortable anecdotes about his father's own youth near Stalingrad. Volgograd now. He had been two years old when the German army reached the city. As a result, his childhood memories were all of rebuilding and indomitable Russian spirit and all that crap.

"Son," his father had said, "a year in the Motherland will be the best thing that ever happened to you. A child will go, but a man will return."

Bullshit. A perfectly happy fifteen year old Canadian boy would leave and a bored and bitter sixteen year old would return. He still couldn't believe it. Deported over two grams of weed. The cops had hardly even cared, but his parents, who had grown up under Stalin, were fundamentally unable to believe that a visit from the police was nothing to be concerned about.

Ivan had never left the country before. Never even been on a plane for that matter. There was a certain amount of excitement to it, he could admit that much. But, Hell! Why couldn't they have sent him to Paris or Jamaica to straighten him out?

#

There was a two hour stopover in London. For about twenty minutes he considered jumping ship and starting a new life in England. But then it started to rain. He bought a coffee and read Sklansky's "Theory of Poker" until the plane was ready. Sklansky. Russian name. Do they even play poker in Russia?

#

Acquiring a cheap cab from the Volgograd airport to the train station was easy. Ivan's Russian was poor and he simply let the cab driver think it was nonexistent. Let them think he's an American.

"I need a ride," he said in English to the first cabbie he saw.

"Hello mister," the cabbie replied, "my name is taxicab."

"Wonderful, Mr. Cab. Can you take me to the train station."

"Train station, mister? Thirty America dollars."

Handing the man American money: "Thank you, Mr. Cab. Thirteen dollars it is."

"No! No! Thirty America dollars. Three tens America dollars."

"Sure thing, Mr. Cab. Three and ten. Thirteen. Can we get going?"

Easiest thing in the world. In the dining car on the way to Semikarakorsk Ivan won three thousand rubles at poker. On quick calculation, he figured he was up about thirty bucks, even after buying the train ticket and paying for the cab ride. Maybe Russia wouldn't be so bad after all.

#

It was so bad. 5 am, wake up, feed the chickens. No coffee, no newspaper, no shower (no hot water). 7 am, prayers. Ivan hadn't believed it at first, that his grandparents would actually try to make him pray. Not only did they try, they succeeded. No breakfast before morning prayers and the old bitch kept a key on the goddamn pantry. Suddenly godless commies didn't sound so bad..

The hours after breakfast involved hauling grain in from the field with the tractor, shoveling pig manure and the daily perimeter check of the horse fences. Ivan's blood came from virile Russian peasant stock. At fifteen he was broad shouldered, two meters tall, and going strong. But just because he was built for farm work didn't mean he had to like it. After the shoveling and fence checking came more prayers followed by lunch, followed by more chores, prayers, dinner, a couple of hours to be spent in some grandparent approved entertainment (which essentially meant more chores), prayers, sleep.

And sleep wasn't much a treat either. His bedroom was drafty and had mice living in the vents such that whenever he turned on the heat the room filled instantly with the smell of baking mouse feces. It hardly mattered, though. He was forbidden from turning on the heat unless the temperature dropped below freezing; too wasteful.

#

Twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, Ivan would get to drive the truck into Semikarakorsk to buy gasoline and the few groceries that weren't grown on the farm or traded for with neighbours. There was a high school in town. The high school had girls. Parking the truck outside the fence to the schoolyard and ogling the girls during lunch hour, Ivan felt every bit the convict. He never hated his parents, but he certainly cursed them.

The town also had a pool hall where Ivan would occasionally be able to find a game of cards. He was careful never to win too much at once, but he was always ahead at the end of the afternoon. As long as he won small, it never caused him trouble. The men felt endeared to him and would laugh it off. Look out, they would say, here comes the Lucky American.

It was at the pool hall that Ivan met Vladimir Borshev.

#

Borshev was an ex-KGB man. A lot of people were ex-KGB men, it was a good thing to be. But Borshev was an ex-KGB man who knew how to fly an airplane.

After cards one Monday Ivan was sitting with a cup of vodka at a table, getting good and drunk before driving back out to the farm when Borshev sat down across from him.

"Hello," Ivan preempted, forcing any impending conversation into English.

"Yes," Borchev said, "Isn't it? I will get straight to point. You are smart enough and I think maybe strong enough. How old are you?"

Ivan smiled. "How old should I be?"

Borschev smiled as well. "Eighteen is good age, no?"

"What a coincidence," Ivan said, "I am exactly eighteen."

"Ah," said Borschev, "it is very fortunate. Would you like maybe a job?"

And so ended Ivan's two months of indentured servitude.

#

Work at the mining camp was hard, but it was worlds better than the farm. Ivan's grandparents disapproved of course, but he stole their venom by writing a letter home immediately upon accepting the job. In his letter, Ivan spoke of how kind Oma and Opa had been to him and how he had been reluctant to accept the new job at first because he loved working on the farm so much. However, he continued, it would allow him to see so much more of the Motherland and he is sure that is what they would want. Having a great time. Think of you often. Wrote it in Russian even. Ha, let the old bastards just try and beat that.

The company worked contracts in Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan. There were thirty men on the crew and thirty of them were drunks. Some days Ivan would work with a pick-ax in hand, other days he would be at the in-situ leaching site where he would carefully pump liters and liters of sulphuric acid into the ground. His favorite days however were the ones when he flew with Borshev to pick up core samples from the scouting camps or to pick up supplies from whatever nearby town or to drop off data for analysis in Volgograd. Over the weeks, he noticed that his Russian was improving dramatically despite his best Anglocentric efforts.

#

On his sixteenth birthday (um, his nineteenth), Borschev took him on a vodka blurred romp through V-grad's expansive red light district. He awoke to a world that had been blunted, sandpapered and submerged in water. It was also a world in which his head hurt like bloody hell. For the rest of his life, Ivan would hold a vague suspicion that he may have lost his virginity to a Russian prostitute.

«Good morning American lightweight,» Borshev teased him.

"Good morning fuck you," Ivan replied, quickly closing his eyes again. He pulled a pillow over his head. "And I'm not a god-damned American."

Borchev seized his pillow and dangled it just out of reach in a cruel fashion hardly befitting of an ex-KGB officer. «No time for a hangover, Vanya. We have work to do.»

Ivan threw an arm over his eyes in protest. «Don't you diminutive me, you bastard. One more hour.»"

«Sorry Ivan, not possible. I just got the call. I have to make an emergency run out to Kazan immediately. I'll be there three days.»

At that, Ivan woke slightly. «Kazan? Three days? But we're supposed to be back in Atyrau this afternoon with the chemicals.»

«True,» Borshev conceded, «and one of us will be getting them there.» He dropped a set of keys onto Ivan's stomach before continuing. «Be nice to the truck, it's a rental.»

#

When Ivan arrived at the chemical factory with the truck, his order was waiting. As the factory workers loaded the drums into the truck's bed, he browsed through the catalog. Nitroglycerine. potassium chloride, chemical grade ethyl alcohol, Methylphenidate, nitrous oxide, gamma-hydroxybutyrate.

Ivan grabbed one of the workers by the arm. «What kind of a license do you need to buy this stuff?»

The man laughed heartily.

#

Driving through the mountains on the way to the Kazakhstan border, Ivan sang along to Frank Sinatra on the radio while happy little rubles danced around his head. He of course drove incredibly carefully. Not so much because the truck was a rental, but rather because the bed was filled with four drums of anhydrous sulphuric acid, two crates of raw TNT, four canisters of pure oxygen and a keg of alkyl propylene glycol ether. Sitting in the front passenger seat was half a canister of nitrous oxide(purchased with Ivan's own money). If he rolled the truck, the resulting crater would probably make the authorities think that Russia was being bombed from orbit.

Sitting also on the front passenger seat were a large collection of chemistry and pharmacology books. One of the few good residual effects of communism was the preponderance of excellent public libraries. Ivan had a lot of reading to do.

#

It was five days, not three, before Borshev returned to camp. The plane landing woke Ivan. He layed in his cot with his eyes open waiting for Borshev to walk in through the flap of his tent. He was not disappointed.

"Tough time in Kazan?"

Collapsing to the floor in the corner and pulling out a flask, Borhev said, «I don't want toalk about it. What's new around here?»

Ivan swung his legs over the corner of the bed so he could look his friend in the eye. "Stick to English," he said, "I have some very important things to ask you."

Borshev narrowed his eyes slightly and said nothing.

Ivan swallowed before asking, "are you a cop?"

Borshev's eyebrows shot back up. He looked as though he were about to lunge for Ivan. The feeling of the floorboards on his face in his parent's house and the taste of blood in his mouth played quickly through Ivan's mind. Borshev was one man whose lines in the sand Ivan never cared to cross.

But Borshev restrained himself, relaxed his muscles and said, "don't ask me that again."

"Sorry," Ivan said quickly, "I needed to be sure before I proposed that we get ourselves into the heroin business."

Again it took Borshev a few moments to respond. This time he seemed paused by confusion rather than rage. "Ivan. You may not have noticed, but we don't have any heroin, we don't even have any poppies."

"Get out of the god-damned Eighties, Voldya. Free market, supply and demand and all the rest. So we don't have any poppies. Are we going to let that keep us from our slice of the loaf?"

"Do you mean 'slice of the pie,' Ivan?"

"Don't correct my English, it's my first god-damned language. Imagine, Voldya, just imagine, a land where poppies grow like bluegrass. Were such a place to exist, do you know what would become just as valuable as heroin?"

Borshev waited silently for Ivan to answer his own question. Ivan reached under his cot and pulled out the chemical factory's catalog. He turned it open to a dogeared page. "The chemicals required to convert opium latex into heroin hydrochloride, of course. Specifically," Ivan said handing the catalog to Borshev, "acetic anhydride."

Borshev looked down at the open page. Ivan had underlined the price for acetic anhydride. Five thousand rubles, about a hundred and fifty American dollars, per liter.

"Do you think," Ivan asked, "that we might perhaps be able to squeeze a couple of side trips to Kabul into our busy schedule?"

#

Ivan hadn't done any real work for fifteen weeks. His job consisted entirely of running back and forth between Volgograd and the camp in the rented truck (rented now with his own profits). None of the other miners seemed to notice or care that he made many more trips than were expressly required for explosives and mining related chemicals. Partly, this was due to the fact that the nitrous oxide had been a real hit. The GHB and pure ethanol were also pretty popular. After a few unsuccessful attempts at drinking the CH3CH2OH straight, the miners had taken to mixing it in equal parts with vodka. Ivan of course sold these substances to his colleagues at a very modest mark-up in order to engender their respect. But there was a second reason for the workers not questioning Ivan's business. They were all men who had grown up and lived under the Communist regime, many of them born under Stalin. And in Ivan and Borshev they saw through the jovial exterior to something deadly serious that reminded them of the sort of things about which one should never ask questions. Or so Ivan imagined, maybe they just didn't care.

Borshev was thrilled, however. Immediately after their very first run to Kabul, where they had realized a three thousand percent profit on their chemical investment, Borshev declared Ivan an honorary ex-KGB man. Ivan had almost cried with pride. Not until they were safely back in Kazakhstan though. The tense flight through semi-contested airspace and the negotiations in Arabic (which Borshev spoke fluently) with men whose desperation was tangible had not sat lightly on Ivan's nerves. After that he had convinced Borshev that the operation would run more smoothly were Ivan to take care of the Russia-Kazakhstan end of things and Borshev the Kazakhstan-Afghanistan end.

He even had a regular girl in Volgograd who he lavished gifts upon and had no idea he was sixteen years old. He couldn't have been happier.

Until the night he woke up from fitful dreams and found himself unable to get back to sleep. He pulled his flask out from under his pillow and went for a walk to calm his nerves. Ivan intended to walk randomly, but his feet rebelled by tracing the familiar path to the truck. As he drew closer he noticed that the hood was open and there was a human figure doing something with the engine.

"Borshev?" Ivan called out. "Is that you?"

The figure jumped, looked quickly in Ivan's direction and began to run down the road.  Ivan yelled after him "Hey! Stop!" but the man jumped onto a motorcycle hidden behind a bush and sped away. With a growing sense of panic, Ivan ran to Borshev's tent and awoke him. Borshev was promptly awake and out of the tent with his gun drawn. Ivan started to climb into the truck.

«No,» Borshev barked, «the Jeep!»

They caught up to him quickly. Ivan was pushing the Jeep as fast as it would go. Borshev leaned out the passenger side window and there was a loud crack as he fired his gun. The motorcycle's rear tire exploded dramatically and the spent rubber went spinning into the air. The man was thrown clear of the bike and rolled some fifteen meters before coming to a stop.

"Holy Fuck!" Ivan shouted. "What did you do that for."

«Pull the car over,» Borshev said.

Before the car even stopped, Borshev was out the door and on top of the man. «Who sent you?» His voice had a deadly sharp quality and for the first time Ivan had no doubt that he truly had been in the service.

The man stuttered something in Arabic. Borshev snapped another question. The man mumbled a response and began to sob. Borshev shot him once in the head.

Ivan's vision blurred. He started to run, but his knees failed him. Collapsed at the side of the road, he began to throw up. Within moments Borshev was at his side.

«Vanya,» he said, «pull yourself together.»

«Get away from me,» Ivan shouted, «Get the Hell away from me!»

«It's okay,» Borshev said, «everything's fine. It's all taken care of.»

«Everything's fine, Borshev? Everything's not fucking fine. You just killed a man. He's still sitting over there with his fucking brains leaking out. You can't just kill people, man!»

«Vanya, look,» Borshev said opening up a black wallet.

«You stole his fucking wallet?» Ivan shouted.

«No. To find out who he was,» Borshev said, «no citizenship card, Vanya. He was planting a bomb, trying to kill us. He's not even a citizen, the laws don't protect him.»

«I'm not a citizen either.» Ivan vomited again.

Borshev walked back to the Jeep, pulled out a tarp in which he wrapped the man's body, and placed the corpse in the back. He then got into the driver's seat and drove the five meters to where Ivan was still dry heaving at the side of the road.

«Get in,» he said. Ivan did.

They drove in silence for over an hour to Site 45. The mining team had stopped working there several weeks earlier. It was exhausted. Borshev dragged the body over to the main shaft and shoved it in. Two hundred and forty meters Ivan's memory told him. They wouldn't hear him hit bottom. As soon as Borshev was back in the car, Ivan spoke. "Drive me to the airport."

Borshev looked at him closely. «You don't mean that.»

"Yes I do," Ivan said, "drive me to the airport. And speak English. I'm done with that language."

"But everything's going so well."

"Going well?" Ivan was flabbergasted. "Someone just tried to kill us."

"Yes," Borshev acknowledged, "but they failed. We don't have a monopoly on the export business. Any new competitor is bound to make a few people angry. So they figure maybe we're pushovers and they send someone like that for us. Their man never comes back and we keep on operating. They get the message. Don't mess with us. We can't just quit at the first sign of trouble."

"I'd say that was a pretty big god-damned sign, man!"

Borshev started the car. "You're making the wrong decision."

Ivan said nothing. They drove first back to the camp, to make sure none of the other miners had been awoken by the noise. Everything seemed safe. Ivan retrieved his possessions from his tent and the money from the spot where he had buried it. He gave half to Borshev and tucked the other half into his bag.

"You'll never get it out of the country," Borshev said. Ivan shrugged.

On the long drive back to Volgograd, Ivan's nerves began to calm. As the adrenaline flushed slowly out of his system, he began to feel much better. He had gotten in over his head, but he was getting out while he still could. He was going home.

They stopped in briefly at Ivan's grandparents' house so that he could pick up the few things he had left there. They were asleep and the door was locked, but Ivan had made a copy of the key promptly after arriving. On the kitchen table he left a note:

    Oma and Opa,
     Had a wonderful time in Russia.
     Going home early because I have changed and learned my lesson.
     Tell my parents otherwise and the police will learn about the
     funds you have been smuggling to your nephew in Chechnya.
   Love, Ivan.

When they reached the outskirts of Volgograd, Ivan said "You can let me off here."

Borchev reached out to shake Ivan's hand. Ivan took it firmly. "I'm sorry," he said.

"Sorry nothing," Borshev said, "you have been a very good friend and I will continue the business without you."

"Good luck then," Ivan said.

"And you too," Borhev replied. Ivan got out of the car and Borshev started the engine. Ivan was a dozen steps away when Borshev called out his name. Ivan turned.

«Maybe I will come visit you in America some day!»

Ivan smiled, gave him the middle finger, and turned away. He heard Borshev laughing as he drove away. Ivan looked up at the clock tower. It was very late, but there were a few people he needed to visit before his flight.

#

When Ivan reached the security checkpoint, he took his headphones off to show respect to the men with the guns. They hung heavily around his neck. One of the guards took his backpack from him and took it into another room. Ivan was left alone with the second, younger guard.

"Very nice earphones," the security guard said through a thick accent.

"Thanks," Ivan said, "they're Sennheisers."

The guard nodded sagely.

When the other man returned with Ivan's backpack, Ivan didn't have to look inside to know that the money was gone. And so he left Russia in exactly the way he had entered, with three changes of clothes, his discman and a pair of expensive headphones. After the first checkpoint there was a metal detector and a narcotics dog, and then he was on the plane. Did you know that any given narcotics dog can only be trained to smell three different substances?

Ivan wore his headphones as the plane took off. He didn't feel like listening to music, but neither did he feel like talking. Really, listening to music wasn't even an option anyway. The speakers which came installed inside the Sennheiser headphones could certainly make a lot of noise. They could pump sound into Ivan's ears, probably even blow out his eardrums, set his bones rattling and, if he was standing in a puddle of water, set up an impressive standing wave in it. They were serious speakers. But those speakers were sitting in a garbage bin on a Volgograd street corner. Ivan smiled. No dog had ever been trained to smell 3-methylfentanyl and half a kilo of China White would probably pull a pretty good pricetag on the streets in Canada. In Canada, where both bombs and guns were a lot harder to come by.

He leaned back in his seat. He was actually even looking forward to seeing his parents again.

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Display: Sort:
To Straighten Him Out | 123 comments (98 topical, 25 editorial, 1 hidden)
Well met. (1.20 / 5) (#2)
by megid on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 03:25:06 AM EST

An entertaining read. Encouraged.

--
"think first, write second, speak third."
Writers Block (none / 0) (#96)
by BigTuna on Tue Nov 04, 2003 at 01:05:30 PM EST

Hey cut the guy some slack - at least he is putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard. I have had writers block for 36 years and I am only 35. Keep on keepin' on.

[ Parent ]
A good read. (2.00 / 5) (#10)
by Easyas123 on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 11:00:02 AM EST

You suspended my belief long enough for me to finish. Good work. +1

***********************
As the wise men fortold.

short and long (2.77 / 9) (#11)
by transient0 on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 11:06:50 AM EST

To any who enjoyed this short story, I should let you know that I wrote it after having recently finished my novella. Ivan is actually a minor character in my novella who I started to really like and wanted to explore further. A lot of the themes and style are very similar between the two stories. I am still hoping to find somewhere to sell the novella at some point, so I am not going to post it on-line.

If you would like to see it, let me know. Even better, if you know somewhere that might be interested in buying a 25,000 word sem-speculative-fiction story about drug dealing, let me know.
---------
lysergically yours

I'd send you money for it man (2.25 / 3) (#20)
by omghax on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 04:08:19 PM EST

I'm interested

[ Parent ]
i have sent an e-mail (none / 0) (#75)
by transient0 on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 06:02:24 PM EST

to the address you have posted.

If that address isn't valid, e-mail me at ghost(at)smut(dot)dhs(dot)org from one that is.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]

How much are we talking about ? (none / 0) (#82)
by bugmaster on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 10:08:44 PM EST

I'd like to see the story as well, if it's not too expensive :-) My address is "bugmaster at earthlink dot net".
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
+1 Good fiction. (2.83 / 6) (#17)
by bigbtommy on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 02:05:42 PM EST

A novelty on this site outside of the "Politics" section.
-- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up
More more more (none / 1) (#18)
by SwampGas on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 03:24:55 PM EST

Sounds like a watered down novel (albeit a good read).

You said you wrote another novel...turn this into a novel.  I want to know about his family...I want to know the specifics of his "adventures" in Russia.

You could even turn it into a series...the first book sets up the background and his trip.  The rest are his adventures in Russia.  Final book is the last day where the guy gets shot.

Nice concept.

i'm sure someone else has said it more eloquently (none / 0) (#74)
by transient0 on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 06:00:01 PM EST

but if not, let me be forever quoted as having said:

Any good short story could have been a mediocre novel.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]

It's ok (none / 2) (#23)
by jd on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 05:05:42 PM EST

I don't normally read this kind of fiction, so you get marks for writing a story that I was interested in. That takes some doing.

However, there's still plenty of typos and gramatical errors. Those really needed to be cleaned up in editing.

There's also the question of character continuation. People don't generally stop existing, when you stop knowing them. All of the minor characters seemed to be frozen in time, if the main characters weren't around. It's something I dislike in a lot of writing, so it's not specific to this.

The car bomb idea is a little twee. It's also one of the worst sections of the story. Britain has rather too much experience with car bombs, and they're (almost) invariably under the vehicle, not inside. Probably because that's an easier place to put them, it's quicker - and therefore less conspicuous - and the fuel tank is usually more explosive than the engine.

Sniffing dogs can actually detect quite an impressive range, depending on the type of dog. Normally, you'd also ahve different dogs specialising in different areas. This would stop them running into each other and getting in each other's way. It also stops one dog chasing another, because the other dog now smells of that specific chemical.

Nice (none / 3) (#27)
by twh270 on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 06:03:37 PM EST

I really enjoyed that.

I'd like to know more about mom and dad, Oma and Opa, and Borshev. Flesh them out some more for me, they seem like really interesting people. Ivan seems a bit one-dimensional as well, he needs some background to make him seem real.

Good luck with the novella, if it's as good as this story it deserves to be published IMO.

-Thomas

Oma! Opa! That's German!! [nt] (1.50 / 4) (#30)
by vyruss on Wed Oct 29, 2003 at 11:32:39 PM EST



  • PRINT CHR$(147)

I also noticed that... (none / 1) (#55)
by techwolf on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 04:20:14 PM EST


"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]
Mice living in vents. (1.20 / 10) (#32)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 04:53:49 AM EST

Amazing. This must be some sort of alternative-universe Russia.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

link (none / 2) (#39)
by transient0 on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 08:11:31 AM EST

link
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
Re: (none / 2) (#42)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 09:59:52 AM EST

There are no "air vents" in Russia.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

huh (nt) (none / 2) (#47)
by transient0 on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 10:45:34 AM EST


---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
It is true. (none / 2) (#49)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 10:58:39 AM EST

Air heating is a peculiar American-only invention.

It is exceedingly unheard of even in Europe.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

interesting (none / 2) (#54)
by transient0 on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 04:11:43 PM EST

it is so pervasive this side of the pond that it never even ocurred to me to look into. Well, that's what culture shock is all about.

Given the opportunity, I generally try to avoid writing about things I am unfamiliar with and have no real way to properly research, but like I said, this piece was a sort of spin-off of a longer piece. In the original story, there is a chunk of dialog that goes like this:

------------

"Bullshit," Johnny declared, "you've never been to Russia."

"Sure I have," Ivan said, looking offended, "my parent's sent me there for a year when I was fifteen to straighten me out."

"Did it work?"

Ivan laughed. "Where do you think I met all my contacts?"

-----------

I ended up becoming quite attached to the Ivan character and wanted to explore him further, so the time in Russia seemed like a natural story to tell.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]

Heating Types (none / 0) (#65)
by Scott Robinson on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 08:01:45 AM EST

What forms of heating are used commonly as an alternative?

[ Parent ]
Water. (none / 0) (#69)
by tkatchev on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 01:25:12 PM EST

You know, those huge ugly cast-iron radiator things.

Like here, for example.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Not quite (none / 0) (#73)
by bugmaster on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 05:31:17 PM EST

Yes, this type of central heating is installed in most major metropolitan areas. It usually fails in winter (due to bursting pipes), but it does work sometimes. However, it really is central heating. A rural house wouldn't have it installed, since this is more of an apartment-complex type of affair: bulky and expensive.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#86)
by tkatchev on Sat Nov 01, 2003 at 06:21:23 AM EST

Firstly, it doesn't have to be heating, and secondly, air heating is non-existent in Europe regardless of whether you are in a metropolis or in the countryside.

(Rural houses usually have some sort of minuature water boiler.)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

..have to be central heating... (-) (none / 0) (#87)
by tkatchev on Sat Nov 01, 2003 at 06:23:29 AM EST


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Rural homes (none / 1) (#80)
by Eater on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 07:44:46 PM EST

Most (well, my grandparents' anyway) still have some form of "pechka" (not sure of the English translation - it's basically a sort of fireplace designed specifically for heating).

Eater.

[ Parent ]
Update. (1.11 / 9) (#33)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 04:57:00 AM EST

"V-grad's expensive red light district", utterly hilarious.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

Update. (1.11 / 9) (#34)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 04:58:08 AM EST

Frank Sinatra on the radio.

(This is fun, BTW.)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

link (none / 2) (#37)
by transient0 on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 08:08:08 AM EST

link
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
What are you trying to say? (none / 2) (#41)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 09:59:07 AM EST

You are infintely more likely to hear Dassin or Celentano on the Russian radio.

In fact, I don't think I've ever met a single person in Russia who even knew who Frank Sinatra was.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Yeah, but (none / 2) (#46)
by transient0 on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 10:45:13 AM EST

My point was that Ivan WOULD know who he was and he wouldn't know most of the other people who are popular in Russia, so when a Sinatra song came on the radio, he'd sing along.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
No, no. (1.00 / 3) (#48)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 10:57:11 AM EST

It is exceedingly weird that Frank Sinatra would be on Russian radio in the middle of nowhere.

About as weird as turning on the TV and seeing full-frontal nudity in Omaha, Nebraska.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Update. (1.00 / 9) (#35)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 05:03:26 AM EST

"Excellent public libraries".


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

Update. (1.00 / 9) (#36)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 05:04:47 AM EST

Also, why the heck is there a "security checkpoint" on the way to the airport?


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

wrong (none / 2) (#38)
by transient0 on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 08:08:42 AM EST

at, not on the way to.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
At? (none / 0) (#40)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 09:51:41 AM EST

That makes even less sense.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Admittedly, (none / 0) (#77)
by transient0 on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 06:45:27 PM EST

I've never been to Russia...

But I've also never been to any airport in any country which did not have a security checkpoint you had to get through before you could get on the plane.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]

Airports. (none / 0) (#88)
by tkatchev on Sat Nov 01, 2003 at 06:27:16 AM EST

Not a security checkpoint, rather a customs dude and a passport-checking booth.

There would be no machine-gun toting security guard, though, and there would be no opportunity for personal contact.

(The passport checking booth is basically an air- and sound-tight aquarium with a twenty- or thirty-year-old girl in it.)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

You could notice other things as well. (none / 2) (#43)
by i on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 10:25:02 AM EST

Like:
  • A game of poker on a train from Volgograd to Semikarakorsk is a highly improbable event.
  • Driving around in Russia without a valid local driver's permit (which can be only obtained at the age of 18) is slightly problematic.
  • No you can't buy explosives from a factory just so. Catalogue? Come on.
  • Rental trucks in Russian middle-of-nowhere ca. 1992? Yeah right.
  • Straight CH3CH2OH is in fact a fairly popular drink in Russia. If you mix it, you mix it with water (why waste perfectly good vodka?)
  • Exchange rate of the rouble is from much later epoch (I think).
  • Funds? Smuggling? Chechnya? Wha?
Those are my findings from the first skimming.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
useful things to know (none / 2) (#44)
by transient0 on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 10:43:54 AM EST

if you'd caught them while it was in edit, I'd change them. As it is now, I'm tempted to pull the story before it posts, make the changes and resubmit. I think that k5 should start paying research expenses so that I don't have to rely on the internet and my cousin who went to Moscow for four months for all of my information.

---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
I didn't see the story in editing. (none / 0) (#50)
by i on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 11:02:16 AM EST

If you need any information, don't hesitate, drop me a line. I'm a very affordable consultant :)

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Your cousin told you all that ? (none / 0) (#64)
by Shubin on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 03:33:39 AM EST

Few months ago I met a Canadian man in Moscow. He told me that he's in a some kind of film-making business and he's going to make a film about people who came from Russia. So he visited Moscow to see how people live here. He told me that he wants to be correct in historical details. Funny. If this story is based on some real experience, and this level of understanding is typical, I'll look forward that man's film. I think it will be very funny too.

[ Parent ]
I was giving the dude the 'benefit of the doubt'. (none / 0) (#45)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 10:44:55 AM EST

Yeah, I noticed that too.

However, I thought I should be charitable and leave space for "suspension of disbelief" and "artistic hyperbole".

As for ethanol -- good point. When mixed in the right proportion with water, it makes a fairly decent vodka look-and-taste-alike. Mixing it with vodka is senseless.

Rental trucks -- also a very good point. I doubt you can get "rental trucks" anywhere in Russia even in 2003. Though finding a shipping company or freelance truckers should be easy enough, even if expensive.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Shit (1.00 / 7) (#58)
by strlen on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 08:33:36 PM EST

Sir, have you ever met a Russian? Your fake Russian names, your description of the country and most suggests otherwise.

And I didn't realize possesion of 2 grams of weed could get you deported, and if it could.. whatever country/state consideres would deport you over that, is likely not much better than even Soviet Russia itself. Oh wait, this is Soviet Canuckistan we're talking about..

As for the use of the lastname "Borschev", I would know many recent Russian immigrants who'd kick your ass over just saying that.

--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.

Uhh (2.40 / 5) (#59)
by Danzig on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 08:50:31 PM EST

I think that it was his parents who deported him, not the Canadian government.

You are not a fucking Fight Club quotation.
rmg for editor!
If you disagree, moderate, don't post.
Kill whitey.
[ Parent ]
interesting (none / 2) (#60)
by transient0 on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 09:13:18 PM EST

I have a friend named vladimir borshev
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
Acutal Russian writers use names that are worse (none / 0) (#79)
by Eater on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 07:34:44 PM EST

Read just about anything by Gogol - you'll see names there that are 10 times worse than Borshev. Sure, it's intentional, but if a real Russian writer can get away with it, I'm sure he can too.

Eater.

[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 1) (#81)
by bugmaster on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 10:06:14 PM EST

Gogol's style is different: his prose is more along the lines of a fable. Thus, all the names are supposed to have actual meanings. This story, on the other hand, goes for verisimillitude (sp?); thus, the names should really be as authentic as possible. Well, that's just my totally random opinion, though.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Dialect ? (none / 0) (#61)
by bugmaster on Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 10:12:18 PM EST

I'm not sure... I've never heard this "Oma" and "Opa" stuff in Moscow, but it's possible that our protagonist actually hails from some small former republic, with its own dialect. Either that, or the author made it up. Still, the ex-KGB business, and people who instinctively know what questions are unsafe to ask -- these were very realistic touches.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
The dialect is German (none / 0) (#68)
by Bernie Fsckinner on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 08:58:30 AM EST

Oma and Opa are German for Grandma and Grandpa. Apparently some sort of elided contracted form of Grossmutter and Grossvater.

[ Parent ]
germanic (none / 0) (#99)
by Paul Jakma on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 01:01:36 AM EST

Germanic languages in general, not just german. I believe same or similar words are used in Dutch and scandinavian languages.

[ Parent ]
chemistry (3.00 / 4) (#62)
by Polverone on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 02:18:08 AM EST

Your chemical factory has an implausible variety of materials for sale. Acetic anhydride is an inexpensive and common industrial chemical. Fentanyls are fairly serious synthetic challenges even if you presuppose that their precursors are easily obtained. The characters we've seen simply don't have the knowledge/background to do it. Making heroin out of other opiates and acetic anhydride is dead simple, though.

These minor nits are like complaints that "explosions in outer space wouldn't REALLY make noise" while watching Star Wars. The story itself grabbed my attention and makes me eager for more. I hope your novella gets out somehow.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.

LOL (1.80 / 5) (#63)
by Shubin on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 02:30:38 AM EST

Nice job !
Playing poker with taxi driver, grandparents forcing their grandson to work, mice in the vent, forcing someone to pray, adjustable heat source in a peasant's house...
Things that can not exist in reality. Makes this story really funny.
One notice about the style : too many specific chemistry-related things.
But this :
"After a few unsuccessful attempts at drinking the CH3CH2OH ..."
is the funniest thing from all story.

I liked the chemistry (none / 0) (#72)
by bugmaster on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 05:28:28 PM EST

I think all the chemical terms convey the main idea quite well: that our protagonist may be young, but he is smart and resourceful. While others just see "that barrel of explosives we gotta lug all the way over there", he sees a critical step in a manufacturing process. Actually, come to think of it, this is probably a major reason for why I liked the story: it doesn't just beat you over the head, it gives you hints.

Adjustable-heat-source-wise... Hmm. Most Russian peasants still have the pechka (not sure of the correct English term, as this is a uniquely Russian technology) as the main heat source; however, in recent years more and more people have installed the AGV (Agregat Gazovo-Vodniy); which is basically a gas heater. Most of them leak gas like crazy and don't work (due to the traditional Russian worksmanship), but it's plausible that some people would be able to get theirs tuned right.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

as you may have noticed (none / 3) (#66)
by transient0 on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 08:10:11 AM EST

this story has some inconsistiencies with the real world. these stem fromt he fact that I was not actually in Russia at any point in the early nineties.

One of the amazing things about the internet though is that if you can think of a possible kind of person, say someone who was living in Russia in 1992 and speaks fluent English, any website with enough traffic is bound to have at least a few.

And of course the best way to find out who these people are is to post something on which they are more knowledgable than you are. Unfortunately stories can not be edited after posting, but in the interest of authenticity and accuracy, I have posted a revised version of this story: here.

Some large plot-level elements (such as the existence of a chemical warehouse which stocks a wide variety of chemicals, industrial, pharmaceutical and otherwise) have been left in despite massive improbability. But that is the sort of thing that makes this a story. If you notice any other details that conflict with reality let me know, and I'd be happy to correct them.
---------
lysergically yours

This story has some inconsistiencies ? (none / 2) (#67)
by Shubin on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 08:46:01 AM EST

Well, I'm sorry I can not explain this in English, but 'inconsistiencies' really does not matter...
For those who can understand Russian, there is a good text on topic here.

[ Parent ]
thanks (none / 0) (#70)
by maluke on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 04:59:25 PM EST

that was superb.

[ Parent ]
Excellent (none / 0) (#71)
by bugmaster on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 05:23:28 PM EST

This is the funniest fable that I've read in a while :-) Good thing I've never really tried writing fiction...
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
You got the gist of it (none / 2) (#78)
by Eater on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 07:29:52 PM EST

Basically, what Shubin said is true (even if you can't read the text of that link) - sure, it has inconsistencies, but everything basically makes sense, and this allows it to work. The character of the different people seems to fit reasonably well with actual Russian (or Canadian) personality traits... with a few exceptions that can easily be attributed to character quirks.
Your style is engaging and elegant, and the story manages to develop the character of Ivan (and even his accompalice) reasonably well - who cares if parts of it stretch reality a bit.

Eater.

[ Parent ]
Ok I'm just curious now (none / 0) (#83)
by bugmaster on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 10:15:32 PM EST

What's "Babu" and "Batu" ? I've never heard that before either.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
something completely made up (none / 0) (#84)
by transient0 on Sat Nov 01, 2003 at 12:27:34 AM EST

(or at least made up based on my knowledge of the word "babushka") until someone gave me a real suggestion.

It has now been changed to Ata and Apa which I am led to understand are legit pet names for grandparents in Kazakhstan and the neighboring regions of Russia.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]

Ata. (none / 0) (#89)
by tkatchev on Sat Nov 01, 2003 at 06:29:46 AM EST

"Ata" and "apa" are Turkic words, BTW.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Why not just use... (none / 0) (#90)
by bugmaster on Sat Nov 01, 2003 at 02:24:54 PM EST

"Baba" (female grandparent) and "Deda" (male grandparent) ? These are endearing versions of "babushka" and "dedushka", respectively.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Opinion (none / 2) (#76)
by gyan on Fri Oct 31, 2003 at 06:14:27 PM EST

Your prose is pretty good. But your plot and characterization isn't. Like mentioned in earlier comments, flesh out your characters. As for the plausibility of the story, your prose compensates for that, provided your story doesn't get too implausible.

********************************

Excellent (none / 2) (#85)
by Carcosa on Sat Nov 01, 2003 at 02:25:22 AM EST

I loved this story. It's not flawless but it's Real Good (TM) and it's the only thing I've seen on Kuro for months that I thought was much good. I agree that you should write more. I also agree with the poster who suggested that the kid needs to get shot in the end. That's what happens to a lot of people who mess with things and people they shouldn't. This story is what I think of as Neopunk. It's somehow got a cyberpunk quality to it, but it's set in modern times. Very nice, very well written.

LOL! %) (none / 1) (#91)
by ftt on Sun Nov 02, 2003 at 05:21:45 AM EST

The whole story is bullshit. I mean, everything, the plot, the characters, the description of Russia. God, you'd better stop writing such stupid things. Or, at last, consult some native speakers.

hear, hear (none / 0) (#93)
by Nimfa on Mon Nov 03, 2003 at 04:25:22 AM EST

One reason it takes so long for a good writer to write things is because they do research. Ever heard of that word? I was cringing all the way through the story, zero knowledge about Russia or Russian language...

"Just when you think you've seen it all, someone changes what "it" is."
[ Parent ]
Poetic License and all that (none / 0) (#94)
by bugmaster on Mon Nov 03, 2003 at 11:52:52 AM EST

Yeah, I'm Russian, and I agree, he got many of the details wrong. But he also got some of the major points right, and that's what counts. Besides, this is a fiction story, not a documentary; it doesn't have to be accurate to the real-world geography and timeline down to millisecond intervals.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Fiction -- an invention (none / 1) (#122)
by Pkchukiss on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 08:32:25 AM EST

Fiction sometimes require the writer to bend things to his will, even if they are not true. If everything were based strictly on research, there would be nothing to make up at all, which is the point of fiction in the first place.

________________
Ignorant no more
My blog
[ Parent ]
Uncut fentanyl is scary stuff. (none / 2) (#92)
by bunnytricks on Sun Nov 02, 2003 at 06:44:02 PM EST

I like the story, but the half-kilo of fentanyl placed near the ears bothers me. How did the kid pack it securely enough so that he wasn't dead from respiratory failure by the time the plane landed in Canada? Something tells me that throwing fentanyl in a baggie and stuffing it inside the headphone cavity just wouldn't cut it.

admittedly very dangerous (none / 1) (#105)
by transient0 on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 02:52:37 PM EST

but he's a smart kid and has been dealing with dangerous chemicals for months.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
blatant ignorance (2.40 / 5) (#95)
by VasyaPoup on Mon Nov 03, 2003 at 02:34:23 PM EST

1) "matryona"?  what is "matryona" in this context? "mother"?
Ridiculous. Never used in such way.

2) Vanushka should be Vanyushka.

3) Oma and Opa? Not russian names, definitely.

4) I don't understand this whole vents and heating stuff. Does the
author assume russian rural houses are equipped with american-type air
conditioning?

5) The farm and the truck.  From the age of the father it is easy to
estimate, that these grandparents are at least 80 years old. Maybe
being a farmer at 80 and using a truck is typical for americans or
canadians but not for russians.

6) "V-grad's expansive red light district". Pure fantasy.

7) "nitrous oxide" should be nitric acid? All Nitric oxides are gases
at normal conditions.

8) It is quite weird to buy these many types of explosives or
substances to make explosives. Better stick to one type and to buy
them ready, if you're on the chemical factory that supposedly sells
anything. Seems that author read too many anarchist's cookbooks.

9) Voldya should be Volodya.

10) "acetic anhydride"... from the name I take an educated guess that
this substance costs no more than a few dollars per liter, not 150 as
claimed.

11) Kazakhstan and Afghanistan do not have common borders.

12) "no citizenship card, Vanya". Citizenship card? In Russia? Never
heard of any. We do have passports, you know.

13) "He's not even a citizen, the laws don't protect him." Is this to
refer to the stupidity of an ex-KGB Borshev, or the author believes
that's the legal situation in Russia?

14) "the police will learn about the funds you have been smuggling to
your nephew in Chechnya" Does the author assume it is illegal to send
money to someone in Chechnya? Or police hunting people doing this? Or
maybe that this nephew, being supposedly an ethnic russian, is a
member of a militant group? All sounds rather ridiculous.

To summarize

Russian matters -- 1-6,9,12.

Most of the mistakes could easily be fixed if the author sought advice
from some native Russian. Hence, I assume this is blatant ignorance.

General matters (chemistry, geology) --

If you write about other contries, look at the world map sometimes, if
you write about chemistry, aquire some, at least high school level,
knowledge. Blatant ignorance again.

Chechnya matters --

Yes, terrible things are happening in Russia, but specific kinds of
terrible things, not everything stupid or scary the author could
imagine.  Playing with "drug transit" of "Chechnya" by itself doesn't
add a credit to the story.

What? You wrote a novel? Bad news...

Some corrections of your corrections... (none / 1) (#97)
by bugmaster on Tue Nov 04, 2003 at 04:38:10 PM EST

6) "V-grad's expansive red light district". Pure fantasy.
Yeah, I've never actually been to "V-grad" myself, but I'd find it hard to believe that it's squeaky clean like Singapore, or something. Surely there are seedy areas there as well, just as in any major city ? I mean... Moscow has them...
12) "no citizenship card, Vanya". Citizenship card? In Russia? Never heard of any. We do have passports, you know.
What about "propiska" (not sure of the English translation) and the food "talony" (vouchers ? cards ? again, not sure) ? True, they are mostly abolished now, but we don't know when that story takes place.
13) "He's not even a citizen, the laws don't protect him." Is this to refer to the stupidity of an ex-KGB Borshev, or the author believes that's the legal situation in Russia?
14) "the police will learn about the funds you have been smuggling to your nephew in Chechnya" Does the author assume it is illegal to send money to someone in Chechnya?
Actually, I really liked these two points, because they do demonstrate the Russian situation quite clearly. Yes, officially it's legal to be a non-citizen and to have relatives who live in evil, anti-People countries such as America, Israel, and, recently, Chechnya (our good old buddy Iraq is another matter, of course... oops... er... where did Iraq go ?). However, almost nothing in Russia is done officially. Unofficially, having those evil relatives is like having leprosy: no employer would touch you, and there's a chance the nice men in the black Volgas will come to ask you some questions at any moment. And yes, there are laws protecting citizens and non-citizens alike, but actual enforcement all depends on whom you know, and, recently, on how rich you are. And on whether you are Jewish, of course.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Don't we? (none / 1) (#100)
by TheEldestOyster on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 01:09:14 AM EST

<em>but we don't know when that story takes place.</em>

<p>"Communism in Russia ended over a year ago, Vanushka."</p>

Hm... when did communism end in Russia?
--
TheEldestOyster (rizen/bancus) * PGP Signed/Encrypted mail preferred
[ Parent ]

Dammit. -nt- (none / 1) (#101)
by TheEldestOyster on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 01:09:55 AM EST


--
TheEldestOyster (rizen/bancus) * PGP Signed/Encrypted mail preferred
[ Parent ]
story takes place in post Soviet Russia (none / 1) (#115)
by VasyaPoup on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 03:36:11 PM EST

> Hm... when did communism end in Russia?

in around 1922 (official Soviet position)
in around 1922 (my own opinion)

See the definition of a word communism
in any soviet history textbook :)

[ Parent ]

Heh. (none / 1) (#102)
by tkatchev on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 12:45:44 PM EST

"Volgograd's expansive red-light district" sounds is ridiculous as "Little Rock's expansive red-light district".

Now, that doesn't mean that you can't get cheap whores there, but it still isn't Amsterdam.

"Propiska" is simply the residence permit, something that exists in all European countries. (As far as I know.) Food "talony" do not exist, and I'm not sure that they ever existed. (Perhaps for a few months in 1989 or 1990?)

Your last paragraph is pure bunk. No employer would care enough to even ask you about your family, and "men in black volgas" do not exist. The government structures that do exist don't give a flying shit about checking up on your relatives or citezenship. (They mostly care about large-scale tax fraud, control of key industries, drug, alcohol and tobacco trade, computer networks and the like.)

Finally, nobody cares whether you are Jewish or not, least of all the authorities. (Now if you are central-asian or middle-eastern looking, that would be a different question...)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Derr... (none / 1) (#103)
by bugmaster on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 01:44:46 PM EST

"Volgograd's expansive red-light district" sounds is ridiculous as "Little Rock's expansive red-light district".
Agreed; "expansive" is a bit much.
"Propiska" is simply the residence permit, something that exists in all European countries. (As far as I know.)
Then it's not far enough. In the past, you basically had no rights outside of the zone designated in your residence permit: you could not buy food, you could not rent an apartment, you could not drive a car, etc. Now, as I said, this has changed a bit with the fall of Communism, but some vestiges still linger.
No employer would care enough to even ask you about your family, and "men in black volgas" do not exist...
...Finally, nobody cares whether you are Jewish or not, least of all the authorities.
I wonder... have you actually ever been to Russia, or studied Russian history, or anything like that ?

The quota system was introduced sometime during the Stalin administration; basically, any given company was only allowed to employ N% of people of a certain nationality; I believe for Jews this was 5% or less (but my numbers could be off). If the quota is filled, no job for you, no matter how good your skills are (remember, this is Socialist economy). Additionally, these undesirables (and, again, especially Jews) could never hold a publically-visible position, such as a TV announcer -- regardless of the quota. Note that antisemitism in Russia has existed for so long that it has become a simple way of life: everyone knows that Jews will never step outside their publically-approved niches, including the Jews themselves.

Similarly, Lenin, Stalin et al really clamped down on people who had relatives in Western countries; in essence, having such relatives would make you a virtual Jew (see above), if you weren't one already. If you think about it, this policy makes a twisted kind of sense: the relatives abroad have connections in their new homeland, which means that they could invite you in, which means that you could escape Russia and take other people with you... And we can't have that, now can we. And of course, we definitely can't have all the anti-People Western propaganda (such as "freedom of speech") creeping back into USSR across the border.

Under Stalin, the "men in black Volgas" certainly did exist; in fact, it was Stalin who perfected the secret police. If you were a Jewish scientist whose cousin lived in Israel, you would be under constant surveillance at best, in a labor camp at worst.

After Stalin, however, these oppressive systems started to wane a little bit (though "propiska" and quotas remained exceedingly popular). After the fall of Communism, these systems were essentially shattered. However, it's hard to erase 70 years worth of oppression in one hit; and, in fact, dictatorial systems have been on the rise in Russia recently (though they are no longer labeled as "Communist"). Businessmen can find their offices ransacked (in the name of a tax audit), dissident journalists may accidentally trip and fall on a bullet, and the black volga people, under new management, are starting to be able to afford gas again.

Thus, the attitudes depicted in the story may be exaggerated, but they are by no means pure fiction, as you seem to suggest.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

thats as stupid (none / 0) (#104)
by Battle Troll on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 02:14:10 PM EST

As suggesting that modern-day German Jews are under the same threats they suffered ca. 1943. (Stalin died in 1953, iirc.)
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Reply with facts in it. (none / 1) (#106)
by tkatchev on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 04:03:27 PM EST

Then it's not far enough. In the past, you basically had no rights outside of the zone designated in your residence permit: you could not buy food, you could not rent an apartment, you could not drive a car, etc. Now, as I said, this has changed a bit with the fall of Communism, but some vestiges still linger.

That is simply not true. Lacking "propiska", the worst you could get was to be asked for a reason for travelling. Certainly, lacking it was no hinderance to buying food, driving cars or renting apartments. (Remember that in the USSR there were no appartments for rent, officially; if you were renting an appartment, you were doing it in the "private sector", and of course there nobody really cared about your documents.)

In reality, "propiska" was only used for tracking down bums and career criminals. (Who had no way of having "official" sources of income and/or residence.)

About quotas -- yes, the quota system theoretically existed, though it wasn't ever implemented in practice. And anyways, the point of the quota system was originally to give "disadvantaged minorities" (Central Asians, various tribal and "ethnic" people, etc.) a boost. Treatement of Jews didn't even enter into the equation. (Though perhaps some Jews felt that they were slighted -- since Jews weren't considered a "disadvantaged minority", and rightly so.)

The only place I can think of where anti-Jewish quotas might have been actually active is during the college application process, though this type of behaviour was spotty and depended on the pro-activeness of the college administration in question, not on government policy. (Officially, over-selective college admissions were denounced by the government.)

The tidbit about Jews not being able to hold public positions of prominence is utter nonsense.

Also, Israel was created after Stalin's death, for the most part. For the short part when Stalin and Israel coencided, Israel was considered an ally of the USSR. (Considering that Stalin was one of the big lobbying voices that brought Israel to existence in the first place, that makes lots of sense.)

Also, like I said -- "men in black Volgas" is a gross mis-interpretation, probably inspired more by American anti-Nazi propaganda than by any real Russian history.

When these types of people did exist, their methods were exceedingly chaotic and unregulated in nature. (BTW, a disproportionate number of these "men in black Volgas" were actually Jewish both in ethnicity and persuasion.)

Now, when things are more structured and less chaotic, these men have more important things to do than to chase loser self-hating Jews with relatives abroad.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Facts ? (none / 1) (#107)
by bugmaster on Wed Nov 05, 2003 at 10:47:16 PM EST

I can't help but wonder where your "facts" come from. Members of my own family (ok, grand-members) have experinced the "propiska" problems that I've described; an old friend of the family was, at one point, starving to death because he was not allowed to buy food (even if he could afford it). Seeing as half my family is Jewish, I am quite familiar with the quota system; fortunately, I myself never got to experience it first hand, since our family escaped Russia when I was young. I was also fortunate to be born quite some time after the Stalinist era, so I never got to experienced the full strength of the secret police, either.

If my personal experiences are not enough, you can browse some Russian sites, or read some books, or absorb information in some other way. For example, you could read the "1001 jokes" file (widely circulated as 1001.txt on the BBSs before the Internet took off) for a good overview of the history of Soviet oppression. You can also read the Strugatzky brother's description of how they were hiding most of their works, because they were afraid that their families would suffer if these works were found. And of course, there is the samizdat, and there is this Saharov guy whom you might have heard of.

Yes, many of these things no longer apply; many still apply de facto but not de jure, and many remain. But to deny that all of this has happened... It's like being an ostrich, wearing rose-colored glasses, with your head stuck in the ground, singing "la la la these self-hating Jews are just making up lies about our glorious Communist future".
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Put frankly. (none / 1) (#108)
by tkatchev on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 05:02:15 AM EST

Your family members lied to you. (Well, "embellished" a great bit.)

This is very common, by the way -- many former Soviet Jews feel that sacrificing historical accuracy for the feeling of "Jewish unity" is desirable.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Sorry, no dice... (none / 1) (#109)
by bugmaster on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 05:37:04 AM EST

Hmm, what is more likely: the global Zionist plot, as evidenced by my lying family, the lying Russian authors (published and translated to English), and the entire Russian community... Or the fact that you have no idea what you're talking about ? Hmm.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Good God. (none / 1) (#110)
by tkatchev on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 12:05:06 PM EST

I simply called in on the bullshit facts you are spreading here. Bullshit facts that would be immediately obvious to anybody who ever set foot in the former Soviet Union.

The truth of the matter is that yes, Jews were persecuted in the USSR. But they were one of the most privileged groups in the country, and the persecution they suffered seems like antiseptic white-kid-glove treatment when compared to the treatment other groups got.

Trying to claim otherwise only makes you look like the misanthropic racist fascist that you are.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

IHBT, HAND, etc. [nt] (none / 1) (#111)
by bugmaster on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 12:31:14 PM EST


>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Sure, keep thinking that. (none / 1) (#112)
by tkatchev on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 02:04:23 PM EST

Whatever helps you keep your happy illusion going, I guess.

Don't let the truth bother you, kid.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

there was a short story in /Harper's/ recently (none / 1) (#116)
by Battle Troll on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 04:27:24 PM EST

Involving Soviet Jewish emigres (to Canada.) In it, the father of a family with which the protagonist is acquainted, that family of similar background, successfully plays on the sympathies of a Jewish Canadian doctor by telling him a wild story about being beaten up in the street for being Jewish (ca. 1978.) It's an obvious lie, even to me, and it's interesting to see such a mainstream or even left magazine agreeing with tkatchev and not bugmaster.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Actually, I'm not that much against it. (none / 0) (#117)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 07, 2003 at 01:34:47 PM EST

I can definitely see that family, national and/or religious ties are way more important than the history of a dead-and-gone empire you are never going to set foot in again.

It's a choice I can emphasise with, if not agree with.

However, what really bothers me is this "my group was more persecuted than yours" infighting. Especially since, at the core, there are large sums of money involved.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

re: infighting (none / 0) (#118)
by Battle Troll on Fri Nov 07, 2003 at 05:08:55 PM EST

this "my group was more persecuted than yours" infighting

There was only one Holocaust, and it was in Germany.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

I'm not talking about the Holocaust. (none / 0) (#119)
by tkatchev on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 05:43:38 AM EST

But even there, this stupid attitute of putting down other nationalities to claim "most persecuted group in the world" status persists.

(BTW, for those that think that I'm talking about the Jews: I'm not. Though they, too, are implicated. c.f. Elie Wiesel, ugh.)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

I know what you're talking about (none / 0) (#120)
by Battle Troll on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 09:20:40 AM EST

That was the entire point of my post, d00d :)
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
you're on crack, pal ;) (none / 1) (#114)
by VasyaPoup on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 03:29:29 PM EST

> I mean... Moscow has them...

Moscow have several places where prostitutes stay
on street, and Moscow certainly have brothels (disguised as massage salons or saunas), but I never heard of a red district.

>> 2) "no citizenship card, Vanya". Citizenship
>  What about "propiska"

I mostly refered to wrong term usage rather than
to the problem itself. The credit to the story
comes from little detailes and you have to get them right.

> Unofficially, having those evil relatives is
> like having leprosy: no employer would touch
> you, and there's a chance the nice men in the
> black Volgas will come

Hey, where're you buying this kind of crack. ;)

[ Parent ]

In Soviet Russia... (none / 2) (#121)
by xtermin8 on Sun Nov 30, 2003 at 04:45:29 PM EST

Actually, I really liked these two points, because they do demonstrate the Russian situation quite clearly. Yes, officially it's legal to be a non-citizen and to have relatives who live in evil, anti-People countries

I like the two points because they demonstrate The American situation quite clearly.  Read about prisoners in Guantanamo Bay recently? Maybe the Patriot Act?
I don't know where it's not "officially legal to be a non-citizen" Many governments have used the non-citizen excuse to abuse human rights, those elements in this story makes it easier to relate to and more relevant to kuro5hin readers.

[ Parent ]

some responses... (none / 1) (#98)
by transient0 on Tue Nov 04, 2003 at 11:19:28 PM EST

  1. Yes, meaning mother. What word would be used in such a way? I would happily correct it.
  2. Really? Are you sure it can't be spelled both ways when translated to the Roman alphabet? If so, I'll correct it.
  3. Noted and corrected in current version.
  4. Noted and corrected in current version.
  5. Really? why not?
  6. Perhaps. I was working on the assumption that with few exceptions, every large city in the world has a red light district and that, to someone with no experience in such things, any such district would appear expansive.
  7. Nitrous Oxide is a gas. Otherwise known as laughing gas. He is transporting it in a compressed gas canister.
  8. The substances purchased (with the exception of the Nitrous Oxide) all have specific uses in the mining, and are all in fact used by current operations in Kazakhstan. They are not for mixing into explosives, they are for using in their current form.
  9. Same reply as for #2
  10. It is a relatively simple compound, but one that has been prone to artificial shortages, especially in that part of the world seeing as it is necessary in the manufacture of heroin. Current lowest prices are roughly $40USD per litre.
  11. I am aware. The protagonists fortunately have an airplane.
  12. I was under the impression that something similar to a citizenship card did exist at least for a while. If not, I'll change it to "passport."
  13. The statement was largely intended to be revealing of Borshev's character. Also, it was in reference to the fact that in most non-third-world parts of the world a foreigner (unless rich) has far fewer practical rights than a native even if they officially have the same recourse. Tell me, how much of an investigation would the Kazakhstan authorities really raise over a man from Afghanistan who went missing while (probably illegally) inside their borders?
  14. The implication was that the cousin, whether militant or not, was certainly up to no good in Chechnya and that, even if it were not illegal, it was something that would be very awkward to have come out for the grandparents.
Anyway, thank you for the pointers. Really, it seems that posting this story here and getting blasted for it ended up being very good for getting the facts straight.

---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]
short comments (none / 1) (#113)
by VasyaPoup on Thu Nov 06, 2003 at 03:12:08 PM EST

> 1.Yes, meaning mother. What word would be used in such a way?

"Mat'" (mother). But better use "mother".
"Ne smey govorit' takoe pri         rodnoi     materi"
"Don't say        this  in front of your own   mother"

> 2.Really? Are you sure it can't be spelled both ways when translated
> to the Roman alphabet?

I am sure.

5.Really? why not?

Where do they get money to buy the truck? Old people, living in
villages are usually pretty poor, setting aside the fact,
that's they almost never live up to their 80.

> 6.Perhaps. I was working on the assumption that with few exceptions,
> every large city in the world has a red light district and that,
> to someone with no experience in such things, any such district
> would appear expansive.

I have seen only one red district in my life -- in San Francisco.
Haven't seen or heard about such in LA or London
(wasn't looking or asking for such, though).

I guess the existence of a red district, rather then prostitution itself,
depends on whether the last is legalized (or nearly legalized).

As to street prostitution, it exists in Russia, afaik, only in Moscow.
In other Russia prostitution is usually advertised in local newspapers.
"Rest and fun, sauna" or something like this.

> 7.Nitrous Oxide is a gas. Otherwise known as laughing gas. He is
> transporting it in a compressed gas canister.

7.1 Why do they need it?
7.2 Never heard of such use of a word "canister".

> 8.The substances purchased (with the exception of the Nitrous Oxide) all
> have specific uses in the mining, and are all in fact used by current
> operations in Kazakhstan. They are not for mixing into explosives,
> they are for using in their current form.

I wonder how's liquid oxygen is used in mining in its primary form...

> 9.Same reply as for #2

Same answer.

> 10.It is a relatively simple compound, but one that has been prone to
> artificial shortages, especially in that part of the world seeing as
> it is necessary in the manufacture of heroin.

Shortages?
This means that even though in that part of the world
acetic anhydride is produced in chemical factories and sold
through catalogs, they produce it less than heroin?
Sounds like rubbish.

> Current lowest prices are roughly $40USD per litre.

> 11.I am aware. The protagonists fortunately have an airplane.

11.1 Why had they do it in two stages then?
11.2 Kazakhstan may be a poor country, but believe me, they
have old SU radars, so do Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, and they
do work. And Russia do have radars as well.
11.3 I know that it's relatively easy to get a licence and buy
a small plane in US. This is not the case in Russia. I personally
do not know a single private person owning a plane.

> 14.The implication was that the cousin, whether militant or not,
> was certainly up to no good in Chechnya

This have to be stated more clearly, as there's too many russians
living in Chechnya, and many of them get some help from relatives
in other Russia.

Simply saying that sending money someone in
Chechnya is illegal sounded like rubbish.

> and that, even if it were not illegal, it was something that would
> be very awkward to have come out for the grandparents.

I do not understand why.

Despite from severe human rights abuse Russia is not a police state
in a sense that police do not care about "donos" (information) letters
any more. Old people still write it, but it doesn't work.
Police don't like working overtime.

[ Parent ]

Fulfilling read (none / 0) (#123)
by Pkchukiss on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 08:37:08 AM EST

A very interesting read with a totally unexpected twist towards the ending; I had expected Ivan to retire in some other country (like in America), enjoying his new found wealth.

It would take me considerable time to come up with an essay this magnitude, great job!

________________
Ignorant no more
My blog

To Straighten Him Out | 123 comments (98 topical, 25 editorial, 1 hidden)
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