This Is One of the Most Important Essays You Will Ever Read
"I passionately wanted to take a machine gun and cross the damned nine-story building in a long burst"
Editor’s note: Alexander Lebed was a Soviet soldier and general, a challenger of Yeltsin, the protector of Russians and Ukrainians on left-bank Dniestr, and of the Russian-Ukrainian state, the rebel Pridnestrovie (Transnistria) they had founded.
He was also the person who cut the Gordian Knot and delivered Russia peace from Yeltsin’s Chechen War after the latter handed him the negotiations as a poisoned chalice that he resolutely accepted knowing fully what it was.
He was the son of a Gulag survivor and participated in internal Soviet peacekeeping (in the late 1980s) in Azerbaijan, on the basis of which he wrote this important essay presented below.
“On the evening of the 7th, the “Time” program announced a huge earthquake in Armenia… The exact number of victims was unknown, but preliminarily, they were estimated to be huge – tens of thousands of people.
The announcer switched to another topic, but no one would listen to him. Moreover, someone turned the TV off. An oppressive silence hung in the lobby. Suddenly, a strangle sound burst into this silence – or rather, a gamut of sounds merged into a single, general, triumphant joyful howl that would become more and more intense.
In seconds, everything became clear. On the opposite side of the street, in front of the building of the district executive committee, there was a large residential nine-story building. Every window without exception was illuminated, and on every balcony, people were yelling, hooting, and laughing wildly. Empty bottles, lighted paper, and some other objects were being thrown down.
This nine-story building was not alone in displaying its cannibalistic enthusiasm. A similar pattern was observed in all nearby houses.
The area was shining and howling ecstatically. People who considered themselves civilized; to one degree or another brought up and educated; many, presumably, believers professing the commandments of the Koran – all these people in a unanimous impulse were indecently, barbarously celebrating the colossal alien human grief.
I passionately wanted to take a machine gun and cross the damned nine-story building in a long burst and somehow make the people who have fallen to the level of monkeys return to their human form again.
How many kind, cheerful, intelligent, welcoming people I have met among Azerbaijanis! What passionate, convincing speeches many of them gave to me! Where did they go, all reasonable and kind, how was it possible that they all disappeared in this foam and succumbed to the rush whose degree of infamy is difficult to determine?”
Editor’s note: Should a day come when we find ourselves in danger of falling down to the level of beast or ape we can only pray there might be an Alexander Lebed with a machinegun nearby to get us to snap out of it.
From Lebed’s memoirs, translated by Vigen Avetisyan at Art-A-Tsolum.
The 1988 Armenian earthquake killed 25,000-50,000 people.