30 May 2014

Nikolai Klyuev or how to look death in the eyes


There are different kinds of heroism. We tend to exemplify heroism by valiant behavior of a soldier who, facing almost certain death, behaves in a way that either expedites the victory or saves lives of his friends and/or innocent bystanders. I wouldn't dream of arguing against the valor and the value of this kind of heroism. But here comes an example of a hero that looked his death in the eyes and brought upon himself untold suffering and eventual death by sticking to the truth and nothing but the truth - when he didn't have to do it. When denouncing his beliefs and walking away was an option.

Nikolai Alekseevich Klyuev*** (October 10, 1884 - between October 23 and 25, 1937), a great Russian poet, whose misfortune was to publish a few anti-bolshevik poems. For a reader familiar with that dark period of Russian/Soviet history, the date of death is a sure indication of the circumstances of death. Indeed, the reference to his last years in Russian Wiki is fairly typical for many outstanding poets and writers of the period:
On February 2, 1934 Klyuev was arrested on charges of "compilation and dissemination of counterrevolutionary literary works" (Article 58 10 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code). Investigation of the case was led by Shivarov N.Kh*. On March 5 after a Special Session of the court he was sent to Kolpashevo, Narymsky region. In the autumn of the same year as a result of a plea by actress N. Obukhova, S.A. Klychkov and, possibly, Maxim Gorky, Klyuev was transferred to Tomsk.

On June 5, 1937 he was arrested again and shot at the end of October. Investigator in the Klyuyev's Tomsk case was inspector of Tomsk NKVD third Division Lieutenant Georgy Gorbenkol.
And here comes an excerpt from a protocol of "investigation":
Question: What are your views on Soviet reality and your attitude to the policy of the Communist Party and the Soviet government?

Answer: My views on Soviet life and my attitude towards the policy of the Communist Party and the Soviet government determined my reactionary** religious and philosophical views.

Originating from an ancient Old Believers family through the mother of Avvakum, I was brought up in the ancient Russian culture of Korsun, Kiev and Novgorod and absorbed the love of ancient, pre-Peter Russia, of which I am a singer.

The building of socialism in the USSR, carried out under the dictatorship of the proletariat finally ruined my dream of ancient Russia. Hence my hostility to the policy of the Communist Party and the Soviet government which are aiming towards the socialist reconstruction of the country. I consider the measures toward implementing this policy as violence against the nation, which is bleeding and in fiery pain.
Think about the kind of heroism that takes... and ask yourself what will be your behavior in a similar situation.

(*) It is with some measure of satisfaction that I have learned that Mr Shivarov N.Kh. was himself later charged as "Bulgarian spy" and died in a prison camp.

(**) The "reactionary" definitely comes from the above mentioned Shivarov and not from the poet.

(***) The English version of Klyuev's bio is very uninformative, focusing for some reason on the homosexuality aspect of Klyuev's life. While Klyuev's lifestyle was one of the reasons of his murder by NKVD, it was by no means the only one.