Posts tagged Nina Lugovskaya

“Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl” (Part IV)

Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl, 1932-1937 by Nina Lugovskaya

 p. 130 Dec. 2, 1934 – Around eleven they announced that comrade Kirov, a member of the Politburo, had been killed in Leningrad . “O-oh, my God!” Evgeny exclaimed.  His voice was full of tears.  I felt a little ashamed that nothing inside me shuddered at this report.  On the contrary, I felt glad; that means there’s still a struggle going on, there are still organizations and real people.  Not everything is gobbling the slops of socialism.

p. 132 Dec. 11, 1934How could I refute their mindless, mechanical arguments: “If you’re not for the Bolsheviks, you’re against Soviet rule”; “this is all temporary, things will get better”? Were those five million deaths [of the famine as a result of collectivization] in the Ukraine temporary? What about the 69 people who were shot? [referring to those arrested and executed without a trial right after Kirov’s murder] Sixty-nine!! What government under what rule could pass such a sentence with such cold cruelty?  What nation would agree to all these outrages with such slavish meekness and obedience?  How I cursed my stupidity and inability to express myself.  How could I, with such strong weapons as the facts and the truth, not prove to my sisters the lie of the Bolshevik system? I must be extraordinarily inept.

p. 141 Dec. 30, 1934 – Many days have gone by since Nikolaev, a member of an underground terrorist group, murdered Kirov at the Smolny [Kirov’s murder was in fact organized by Stalin who saw in Kirov his main rival.  The murder also gave Stalin a pretext for unleashing his campaign against “enemies of the people.”]

Many lead articles in the papers have screamed about it, and many parrots and Soviet self-seekers, shaking their fists, have screamed over the heads of the workers: “Get the viper!” “Execute the traitor whose cowardly shot snatched from our ranks” and so on. And many so-called Soviet citizens, who have lost all sense of human dignity, have behaved like beasts and raised their hands in favor of execution.

Today they shot another fourteen “conspirators” and all for one Bolshevik life.  It made me think of the nineteenth century reign of Alexander II and his assassination of the People’s Will.  What a furor people raised over the execution of the six assassins.  Why is noone incensed now? Why is this now considered perfectly natural and normal?  Why is it that now no one will tell you straight out that the Bolsheviks are scoundrels? And what right do these Bolsheviks have to deal with the country and its people so cruelly and arbitrarily, to so brazenly proclaim outrageous laws in the name of the people, to lie and hide behind big words that have lost their meaning: “Socialism” and “communism.”

…what do they think abroad?  Can they really be saying there, too, “That how it should be?” Oh, no!  My God, when will this all change?  When will we be able to truly say that all power belongs to the people, that we have complete equality and freedom?  What we have not is not socialism, it’s the Inquisition!

P. 173 May 19, 1935 – Yesterday the huge eight-motor aeroplane Maksim Gorky – not only the pride and glory of the USSR , but the biggest plane in the world – crashed.  (As for its being the biggest, I don’t know anything for certain, and you can’t trust our newspapers.)  The Maksim Gorky took off accompanied by two biplanes, one of which was flying too close when it began looping loops.  The biplane hit the wing of the Maksim Gorky and damage it: the 65 meter behemoth came tumbling down, somersaulting, slashing the bright expanse and losing parts.  Of the beautifully built giant, there remained a gray and red metal heap and 47 mutilated bodies, which a minute before had been living, thinking, feeling people flying high over Moscow

It [Maksim Gorky] wasn’t built for a purpose, for transportation or for the military, but so that the Soviet Union could occupy one of the top places in the world, so that we could say, “Look what engineers we have! Look what giants we create!” We do so many senseless things for show: we do so much boasting. And because of that boasting, we suffer.”

 p. 194 Nov. 28, 1935 – Mama and I went to Butyrka [prison to which Nina’s father had been transferred from internal exile after his latest arrest]

 p. 199 Jan. 11, 1936 – I’ve been reading about Tolstoy and have again fallen under his influence.  I’ve always had a passion for self-improvement, and now I have the clarity of self-criticism, merciless self-revelation and frankness.  I find more and more in common with Tolstoy: his unfortunate looks, his early tendency to self-analysis; his pride and even his vanity; his endless searching for something and his restiveness.

p. 202 March 16, 1936 – I went to see Papa not long ago.  He has grown a beard and looks like a priest.  He’ll be leaving soon for Alma Ata [Nina’s father had been sentenced to three years of exile in Kazakhstan ].  I love him now. 

p. 209 Nov. 6, 1936 – It’s my opinion that a diary is an unnecessary and superfluous thing; it is of no use whatsoever and therefore a detriment.  A diary can’t develop one’s style and it’s no good to posterity.  So then what is it for?  Still, I do like to write about what’s inside me, to tell someone about it.

p. 211 Nov. 20, 1936 – Papa once said: “Don’t get into that ‘top-marks mire’” [to excel in a Soviet school one had to be not only bright but politically orthodox and active as well.  As a result, the students who got the best marks tended to be opportunists or people without convictions]

p. 211 Nov. 26, 1936 – We have a bad attitude towards the teachers; it’s something repressed and malicious.  We don’t have the new, good attitude—what they now call the “Soviet” attitude.  We all want to annoy them, to play dirty tricks and then refuse to say who did it rather than betray a friend (that is what earns our respect)


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A Dairy of a Soviet Schoolgirl (Part III)

Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl, 1932-1937 by Nina Lugovskaya

p. 7 – Forward – Nina’s father “wanted them [his three daughters] to be ‘real people, cultivated, serious and intelligent.’  He did not want them to become cogs in the Soviet machine:  ‘Look at everything critically, check, don’t take anything on faith.’ He wrote.  “persevere in your aspirations and develop your will—that is the essential quality in a person.”  He told them to study hard and to learn as much as they could so as to be ready at any moment to fight for their own survival since their situation—as the daughters or an exiled father—was worse than others and set them apart from their classmates.

p. 45 May 2, 1933 – I so don’t want to study.  My God!  I want to quit everything, leave everything and live.  I want to live.  Live!  I’m not a clockwork machine that can work without pause or respite; I’m a person. I want to live! To forget myself! …Oh, really, to hell with the new society!  It’s only Gennady [a classmate] who can get wrapped up in it and spend hours reading what Lenin and Stalin said and about the achievements of our Soviet Union.

 p. 47 May 18, 1933 – And now we have the First-Year-of the Second-Five Year Plan loan [supposedly voluntary but in fact compulsory annual loans by citizens to the State], which infuriates me.  Yesterday I couldn’t bear it and tore a poster with the slogans off the door. [urging people to sign up to loan the government money.]…The government! How dare the government tell me what to do!  A bunch of scoundrels got together and are lording it over the rest of us as if we had to submit, as if we had to obey any loathsome Yid and venerate Stalin. 

…No, Russians will never win freedom or live as free people.  Ever since the Slavs asked the Varangians to rule, they have been under someone’s thumb.  And they will always be under someone’s thumb.  I have to agree with Turgenev when he says, “the Russian people need freedom least of all.”  They don’t need freedom because they can’t hold onto it.

p. 55 July 4, 1933 – Several times we (Zhenya, Olya and I) have argued about the times we’re living in, about the state of the workers, about culture and many other things along those lines.  They tried hard as they could to defend the present state of affairs, while I refuted it—even when I’d run out of arguments I was still convinced I was right.  I will never to able to agree with them, to call the system we have now socialism or to consider the current horrors normal.

p. 56 July 8, 1933 – I would call all young people today – Zhenya and Olya in particular – spineless.  Isn’t that the truth?  Can you really compare students in the old days with students now?  Is there any resemblance between crude, mostly backward people, ready to do any nasty thing if it’s at all to their advantage, and the young people of the last century; full of life, intelligent, serious (with a few exceptions) and ready at any moment to stand up for an idea?

p. 57 July 12, 1933 – How life does ruin people!  Mama wasn’t like that when she was our age.  We didn’t used to be like that either.  Of course, not.  It’s no wonder we’re petty when we have to consider every piece of bread, how can we not call each other names and get angry when an unbearable hunger is sucking and gnawing on something in our stomachs?

p. 61 Aug. 31, 1933 – Strange things are going on in Russia .  Hunger, cannibalism…People from the provinces say there isn’t time to remove the corpses from the streets, that provincial towns are full of starving, ragged peasants.  Everywhere there’s terrible thieving and banditry.  And the Ukraine?  The grain-rich, carefree Ukraine?  It’s unrecognizable now.  It’s a dead, silent steppe.  The high golden rye and feathery wheat are gone; their heavy spikes no longer sway in the wind.  The steppe is overgrown with tall weeds.  You don’t see the sprawling and merry villages with their little white cottages anymore; you don’t hear the ringing Ukrainian songs.  Here and there you see desolate, deserted villages.  The Ukraine has scattered.

Refugees are doggedly and ceaselessly converging on the big cities.  Often they are driven out again, entire long trainloads—back to certain death.  But the struggle to survive has taken over, people are dying at train stations, in trains and still they get to MoscowBut what about the Ukraine?  The Bolsheviks have anticipated that calamity, too.  The crops on those paltry plots that were sown last spring are being harvested by Red Army soldiers, sent there for the purpose.

p. 63 Sept. 28, 1933 – Homework, my God, we have so much homework. What wretches the Bolsheviks are!  They don’t think about us at all, don’t think that we’re people too.  Someone named Bubnov [Andrei Bubnov, Minister of Education, responsible for the education reforms of the 1930s] whoever the hell he is, just blurts out whatever comes into his head.  He writes articles for the papers about schools: educational standards must be raised, discipline must be improved.  But none of them understands the simplest thing; that that way our progress will only go down…This morning I thought:  I just want to grow up as fast as I can and leave this country of barbarians and savages.

 p. 69 Nov. 11, 1933

Farewell, unwashed Russia !

Land of slaves, land of lords,

And you blue uniforms,

And you submissive hordes.

Perhaps beyond Caucasian peaks

I’ll find peace from tears,

From Tsars’ all-seeing eyes,

From their all-hearing ears.

By Mikhail Lermontov.  Translation by John Mersereau, Jr.

To love your country and your countrymen…But how awful to live among barbarians, the uneducated, boorish masses, amidst the rude, uncivilized Russian people. They don’t understand anything, don’t know anything, they recognize only grub and sops, they have neither honor nor pride.  To live with this never-ending malice towards everything and everyone, beginning with the lowest classes, the benighted peasants, to despise the stupid, but ridiculously meek or else horrifyingly rebellious hordes, and do all one can to help them.  There is not one nation on earth as vast as ours, as gifted and as backward—our poor “unwashed Russia .”

 p. 97 June 20, 1934 – Yesterday Moscow welcomed back the crew of the ice-bound Chelyuskin [crushed by ice on Feb. 13, 1934 in the Chukot Sea en route from Murmansk to Vladivostok.] men who labored for several dozen long days on an ice floe, half expecting to die there.  The whole world was following them…And very many people had given up hope, but the crew returned thanks to a group of courageous pilots who, despite terrible dangerous conditions, risked setting down on the floe lost among the ice floe lost among the ice reefs.

p. 100 June 23, 1934Our [Soviet] government doesn’t like to talk about the failures, it only likes to boast and it will not remember very soon, if ever the valiant names of Vasenko, Fedoseyenko and Usyskin.

 p. 103 July 13, 1934 – At first I felt shy of the peasants, but now I listen to them with interest when they stop by, I spend my time in observing everything.  I’m trying to fix it all in my memory.  I listen eagerly to the peasants’ remarks about the way they live.  What they say makes me hate the Bolsheviks even more.

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Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl, 1932-1937

Thanks to my American friend Julia for lending me yet another GREAT book to read.  I enjoyed Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl, 1932-1937 by Nina Lugovskaya, translated by Joanne Turnbull by Glas New Russian Writing 2003.  Julia has many good books in Russian literature that she picked up along the way while she lived in Moscow for about 5-6 years and she continues to thrive and survive Kazakhstan for about 5 years already.  Staying power!

I see some similarities to quotes from Lugovskaya’s book to what is happening on our campus as of late.  Supposedly we had a student “revolt” yesterday where students objected to the higher tuition costs and the lack of western teachers. About a score or more of western teachers got their “pink slips” several weeks ago so the morale is very low and will get even lower once the tenge is devalued yet again. It affects all of our teacher salaries as we are paid in tenge and not in dollars.  Yet we have to absorb the costs of our RT airfares and high rent flats in dollars.

At least in principle, our institution of higher learning markets the fact that we are not plagued with bribes, cheating or other fraudulent shenanigans that seem to be rife in other Kazakh universities.  However, I experienced some low level graft the other day when I went to pull out a wad of Kazakh tenge when the guy at the KazKom bank behind the glass booth wanted a 1.5% commission on MY money!  I exclaimed “Why?” and showed my university card and he didn’t take his cut.  It would have meant he would have gotten about $50 of my hard earned money as a teacher!!!

Read the following and enjoy a young teenage girl’s views about her education in Moscow during the turbulent times in the 1930s, over 70 years ago.  I believe we are in for some more chaotic and confusing times in Kazakhstan but eventually it will all get sorted out.  Truth and lies but truth will prevail!


p. 36 Jan. 21, 1933

“Oh, Bolsheviks! What have you sunk to, what are you doing? Yesterday Yulia Ivanovna read us a paper on Lenin and referred, of course, to the new society that we are building.  It was so painful to hear those outrageous lies from a woman I worship.  I don’t care if Evtsikhevich lies, but she, with her manner of sincere enthusiasm, how can she?  And to whom is she lying? To children who don’t believe, who smile to themselves and say: “Liar! Liar!”


p. 148 January 30, 1935

The thing is that the boys had concocted a decree from an imaginary emperor, Krok II.  Naturally that scared their poor Soviet guardians.  A horrible reaction has set in in the USSR.  Even schools – children’s worlds, which should be least affected by the rule of the “workers” – aren’t immune.  The Bolsheviks are partly right, though: if they didn’t frighten children right from the start, they’d be out of power in a trice.  They’re raising us to be meek slaves, ruthlessly destroying any spirit of protest.  Any suggestion of a critical attitude to things, any hint of freedom and independence, is severely punished.  And the Bolsheviks are achieving their goal.  They’ve killed the spirit of protest that was rumbling deep inside some and stifled it completely in others, who expressed that spirit loudly and openly, so that it will never rise again.  Still, we never imagined that we could be called in for political reasons and we laughed while waiting our turn in line.


p. 149 Jan. 30, 1935 (cont.)

The director – a terribly disagreeable little man with broad shoulders – was sitting behind a desk.  His coarse face was devoid of any inner beauty (and outer beauty, needless to say). It was the typical face of a hardened worker who had seen a lot and had made a career because of his Party card, his baseness and his ability to carry out orders from above without demure.  He looked like someone who used to consort with thieves and possibly, prostitutes.


p. 160 March 14, 1935

I find it strange that in a school, an institution created for studies, students should so scorn those studies and consider it almost reprehensible to get top marks, to be disciplined and in good standing.  Why this enmity between the school administration and the students? Why do we have to annoy the teachers and play dirty tricks on them? Why not get on with each other, help each other? The barrier between students and teachers has to be broken down: the problem has to be put another way.  Teachers are always forbidding the students something, always making problems and remarks. So students can’t develop the good sides of their nature.  Their bad instincts prevail, depriving them of all spiritual satisfaction.  The world seems built on enmity, or is this a law of nature?



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