It is only to be regretted that a very serious idea of Russian revival is sometimes used today by the hysterical and reckless, who scare away those people who in their thoughts and actions seek the flowering of Russia. One won't make Russia any better with splits and riots. Russia needs unity and a new vision of her centuries-old uniting and consolidating strength, rather than calls which provoke hatred. It is necessary to rekindle the feeling of dignity and compassion in the nation, rather than inflate suspicion. The country needs a triumph of free labour in a free land.
Question: What is to be done so as to channel all polemics, whether political or literary-critical, onto a constructive course?
A n s w e r: It is increasingly important to do this. But in a democracy nothing can be done unless there is a will for a dialogue on all the sides and unless growing "cannibalism" is condemned and arrested.
It is also necessary to restructure social relations, for it is these relations that predetermine both the degree of alienation and the moral situation. It is necessary to restore a high culture of communication. In actual fact, we have never had a need for either a constructive dialogue or its moral environment. For decades we strove to be manageable and ready to deliver. We pretended to have a vigorous life, demonstrating our "monolithic unity" and escalating the struggle for different causes. We have now to change all that. Which is only possible through changes in social conditions and cultural attitudes.
Let us take relations between different social and professional groups and between nationalities. Some stand to gain from flare-ups of ethnic differences. Some try to drive a wedge between the authorities and the people. Some reproach our peasants because they allegedly cannot feed this country. It is crystal clear, however, that peasants have nothing to do with the situation. Any peasant knows that in a vast country like ours, with its bad roads, grain and potatoes should be stored by those who produce them, and that no one needs annual noisy campaigns for bumper crops and competition in stupid bungling. Taking in crops, storing and processing grain has always been the prime concern of peasants, which kept them busy from spring to autumn. But since Stalin's time, we have been pestering and nagging our peasants, as if they didn't know better themselves what to do.
Some see all the evil in the intellectuals, who do everything wrong and cannot come up with anything of value in science, literature or the arts, and should, therefore, be "dethroned". There are people who are even convinced that the shelves in our stores would be well-stocked and everyone would work much better, if it weren't for glasnost.
This is another example of searching for the evil spirit.
A constructive dialogue is unthinkable without real professionalism, which is the only source of all constructive ideas. But does everyone want them? Constructive attitudes can kill some morally and materially. Reading papers, I can't overcome the feeling that we are ready to accuse anyone but ourselves for the inability and unwillingness to work.
We should improve the climate of our relations in big and little matters alike — both are equally important. It is a moral duty of our intellectuals and, in particular, our writers to lead and set an example in this field. I am not urging anyone to love someone to whom he or she takes a strong dislike or whose views and behaviour are subjectively appalling. But humanitarian norms of communication should be observed.
A constructive dialogue is not a debate or discussion on a specific issue in a certain place and at a certain time. It should become the general state of society, its psychology and practice. Only then we Will feel the results of our efforts and satisfaction in our hearts, and both our life and we ourselves will change. This is one of the goals of perestroika. But no constructive dialogue is possible without real freedom and in the absence of glasnost, when the information the public gets is strictly measured. There can be no constructive dialogue without democratic rules and a democratic outlook.
THE WHITE SOW
A team from Soyuzmiaso, a government organization in charge of meat procurement, arrived in the village for pig contracting.
A village nearby heard the news and, believing that the pigs would be removed witiiout pay, slaughtered off the entire stock in one night.
Only the blacksmith kept his big white sow with a black mark on her forehead.
The only pig in the whole village.
He did not have the heart to kill her and decided to trust to chance.
And the next day rumor got round that those who had slaughtered their pigs would be fined and, worse, sued for malicious livestock destruction.
"What are we to do now?" someone asked.
"What do you think? We're all in the soup now, 'cept the smith: he'll get his money and won't go to court neither".
"Our folks have butchered theirs, too, to the last pig" said a peasant from the neighboring village where they had a collective farm. "When they're finished here, they'll be onto us, and what shall we do?"
"They'll start with you, Puzyrev", said the harness-maker. "The smith will be the last on the list, his house is at the very end".
Puzyrev, who was to get his comeuppance first, suddenly darted through his hut door, bumping into his wife in the passage, whispered something to her and scurried off across the village backyards.
The peasants watched him go in bewilderment.
"Does he think he'll give them the slip, or what?"
"He may do, but his missus will still be here," said people in the crowd.
The visitors, two clean-shaven men in cloth caps, whoaed their horse by Puzyrev's hut.
Suddenly, from the far end of the village, came the sound of piercing pig squeals.
The visitors exchanged looks, their faces, livid with cold, splitting with smug grins.
"We've got something there, Comrade Kholodkov," said one.
"Stow it," said the other and wagged his finger at his mate, the way an experienced hunter would caution an over-enthusiastic assistant all agog at the first signs that the quarry was near.
Puzyrev's missus emerged from the hut and invited the guests to come in for a little warmth and refreshments.
"Is your man at home, then?" asked the visitors, pouring themselves a glass of vodka with numb hands.
"Aye, he is," said the hostess," just gone out to feed the beasts."
At long last there appeared the master of the house, slightly out of breath, and having greeted the guests, hung his hat on a nail by the door.
"Well, how's things on the pig front here? Got any yourself?"
The peasants who had packed into the hut held their breath.
"Depends..." drawled the host. "Can't say I've all that many, but one is what we can produce all right."
The peasants looked at one another, unsure what to make of it.
"That's fine, then, we'll just finish our drinks, take a look at it and get the contract ready."
The visitors downed one more glass apiece, put on their caps and made for the stockyard, munching a radish. The Russian ritual of vodka drinking requires food to be taken with alcohol.
The villagers could not believe their eyes: there in the sty, on a bed of clean fresh straw lay a big white sow with a black mark on her forehead.
"Ain't she gorgeous! How much shall we say, Comrade Kholodkov?"
Two hundred would be a fair price, and an advance of fifty."
"Right. Put it down, then. And make an entry about her looks: a white sow with a little black mark on the forehead. Lucky, that special mark on her. Now we won't get this one mixed up with the others."
The peasant from the neighboring village who had been awaiting developments with the crowd of locals in the yard suddenly bolted out, climbed onto his horse and galloped homeward at top speed.
"Now let's try next door."
In the next hut they were offered a glass of milk, good wholesome stuff. As they were finishing the milk, in straggled the master of the house, saying:
"Not a good idea, this, to cool your innards with milk; only just come in from the cold, and there you are, letting in more cold. Much better to crack a bottle."
"Aye, he's right there... I'm getting shivery."
The host handed a glass of vodka to each contractor, and when they had gulped in down, he said:
"The sow is waiting. Ready for reception."
"Well, if she's waiting, out we go." '
The visitors went out into the yard and saw in one corner, reclining on clean new straw, a big white sow with a black mark on her forehead.
"Oh, look, another one to match," cried Comrade Belov.
"Them's all relatives here."
"Only this one's bigger, ain't she," said Comrade Kholodkov, adding: "Holy Mother, it's all that drinking on an empty stomach. I'm fuddled."
"This one'll be a couple of weeks older than the first," said Kulazhnikov.
"So how much shall we give for this one?" asked Belov.
"Make it two hundred, and seventy in advance. Write what she looks like, so we don't confuse her with the others, and so they don't cheat. Is it your vodka that's so strong, or is it because we ain't eaten?"
"Because you ain't eaten, sure thing. Nothing like a plateful of fresh meat, now," said Kochergin, whose turn came next. And when the contractors went towards his house, he winked at his wife coming out to meet them, and raced back to the sty. A minute later a pig could be heard squealing desperately, the way pigs do when hauled along by the forelegs.
Comrade Belov looked at Kholodkov with a drowsy smile and said:
"Struck gold here, we have. Our Moscow shops will be crammed with bacon."
He wanted to clink glasses with his companion, but missed and, with a resigned wave of the hand, drank without further ceremony.
Some ten minutes later, in came the host and announced that the sow was waiting.
And Comrade Belov, barely inside the sty, halted in amazement:
"Why, there's two in here."
"No, there's only one, it just seems so on an empty stomach," said one of the villagers, and the hut owner gave him a black look and showed him a closed fist from under his coat flap.
"But this one's as good as two. Huge, she is. Worth three hundred ruble, Comrade Kholodkov, if she's worth a kopeck. And write down that she's got this special mark, not to mix her up with the others: white with a black mark in her forehead."
In the next household they registered two white sows with black marks. Actually, Comrade Belov fancied there were four at first, but Kholodkov set him right, and even felt the pigs with his hands, to make sure, and was somewhat surprised that while he was feeling for different pigs, his hands kept knocking against each other.
"We're getting on nicely!" Comrade Belov exclaimed in delight.
Suddenly there appeared a cart on the road hurtling along from the neighboring village. The man driving the horse was instantly identified as the peasant who had been here to witness the contractors' arrival. Pulling up by the blacksmith's hut, the last in the row, the new-comer ran inside and shouted before he could get his breath back:
"For mercy's sake, let me have the sow, quick!"
"Isn't through yet. She's receiving next door."
Having done fifty homesteads, the contractors sat down at the blacksmith's table, spread the pay sheet and ran their fingers over it clumsily, saying:
"The mind boggles. After a job like that one could celebrate for two days solid. If all these pigs were to be slaughtered at once, there'd be a mountain of meat. Comrade Kholodkov, you write a report now."
Kholodkov picked up a pencil that kept skipping from his grasp and wrote:
"Comrade Nikishin, we are choking with pigs. Paid out three and a half thousand in advance payments alone. A choice selection, export material every one, black all over, white marks on foreheads. We are moving on precipitately, expecting like success."