Finished this book last night – it’s an old favorite I have in paperback I started in March and was reading on and off until now. ‘Viktor Suvorov’ is the pen-name of a defected Soviet officer and spy. He has written several books since his defection in the 70s. The others are more serious, this is almost lighthearted as he gives some short pictures of life in the USSR, and in the Army ending in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. This is the invasion that ended the “Prague Spring” reform movement.
The book is an interesting picture of the real state of the USSR in the last generation before its fall. I’ll summarize his introduction, which tells why he became an army officer. Suvorov was a young peasant in the Ukraine on a collective farm. Nearby, on the Dnieper River, an ambitious head of a chemical plant decided to show his zeal by having the workers work overtime to make fertilizer. They did, and were celebrated as heroes.
The next day, the problem started. They had to move the fertilizer out of the tank to make room for more production at once. So they called the collective farm heads and demanded they do so. Suvorov was the truck driver. His farm head told him that he had to move 100 loads of chemicals from the factory. This would take about 60 trips, each trip taking hours. They only had 1 truck, and only enough fuel for three trips. In addition, there was nowhere to store the 60 loads on the farm. He was told to get it done somehow.
When he got there, and got his load, he followed the other trucks out. He also noticed that trucks were coming back very quickly to rejoin the line. The line went down to the river, and each truck dumped its load into the Dnepr River. Thousands of fish were killed by the poison. Then back to the line.
At some point the authorities stopped the process, but soon let them continue, as it was the only way out. The last load was taken back to the farm.
But even that wasn’t all – Suvorov dumped the load onto his private plot, which is where basically all food is grown on these farms. It killed the plants, and he was facing starvation. The only way out was to forge a passport, bribe some officials and join under a false name. This is because peasants are not allowed to join the army – they are bound to their farms. Serfdom isn’t quite dead in the USSR.
And that’s not even chapter 1. Worth getting for sure.