Between the USSR and the USA: why I decided to write a spy novel about the Cold War
The themes of confrontation between intelligence services and punitive psychiatry, at first glance, seem to be little compatible, and yet at least one thing unites them - and that, and the other, alas, was a characteristic feature of the era that we know from history as the Cold War. And it so happened that both of these topics were at different stages of life interesting and significant for me ...
I became interested in the history of the Soviet dissidence, still living in Russia, but I learned the details of using psychiatry for punitive purposes only after my personal contact with its victims: the Soviet dissident Jacob Osmolovsky from Ukraine and Viktor Davydov from Russia. In addition to personal conversations and interviews, Viktor Davydov wrote detailed and shrill memories that describe in detail the life of Soviet psychiatric hospitals and the tormenting effects of neuroleptics. Probably, the reading of these memories became a turning point, when I decided that the younger generation, who are increasingly nostalgic for the USSR, certainly need to know these facts. Spy novel became the ideal form, which helped to combine the historical truth with a fascinating storyline.
Of course, I would never have managed alone to cope with the “spy” part of this story if it were not for the help of excellent experts, both Ukrainian and American. It's funny that the plot of the book was born from one phrase shared by a veteran of the CIA with me. He said that during his years in Russia his language was so good that he was mistaken for a native of the Baltic countries, but not for an American. It was on this fact that the “Lithuanian” legend of CIA officer Patrick Korn, acting in the Soviet Union under the name of Jurgis Gintaus, was born.
It was the American veterans who discovered for me the amazing world of the Cold War - documentary books on this topic, their personal experience, and most importantly - a look at Soviet Russia from the other side of the ocean. By the way, in one of his letters to the CIA, one of the most valuable Soviet assets of American intelligence Adolf Tolkachev He mentioned that he initially planned to engage in open dissidence, and even prepared leaflets, but he understood in time that the system would destroy a person with such a level of access to state secrets as the slightest sign of “unreliability.” The story of Alexei Golubov is a kind of “unrealized probability” of the fate of Tolkachev (by the way, no less tragic). Golubov openly expressed his doubts, and this, combined with his position, proved fatal for him.
And, of course, Ukrainian military experts provided invaluable help in writing, especially Leonid Polyakov - a person who literally put his soul into this book. It is clear that the artistic novel does not have to be truthful, but it must be at least plausible, and it was this credibility that was achieved thanks to very important prompts from experts, especially in such a complex area as Soviet missile defense. But first and foremost, of course, this is a story about people and that only one of us ultimately determines which of the possible probabilities is embodied in our destiny. Below is a small excerpt from this book.
«...Six months later
The burning sensation engulfed the body painfully, filling every cell with unbearable itching. Victor already knew this feeling, so similar to what happened after sitting out leg. After that she became as if filled with lead, and thousands of invisible needles stuck into her. At such moments, with all my strength I wanted to rub a stiff limb, “expend” it quickly, in order to weaken the effect of itchy micro-shots. The main difference was that now this itch spread to the whole body, to its smallest molecules. It seemed that the blood was filling with bubbles and boiling, wanting to break the vessels from the inside. And the body was boiling with it, trembling and itching. Invisible spikes stuck into it from inside, forcing them to move, crawl, constantly trying to throw off an exhausting shiver.
On stiff legs, Victor crawled out of bed into a tiny passage between the bunks, slapping thin, leaky slippers through cold water in puddles. The itch in his body pushed him forward, and he poked helplessly on a narrow stretch, hitting other people, just like him, unhappy, tormented by the consequences of huge doses of neuroleptics of people.
Now, following him, sighing loudly, Uncle Vasil walked around in a circle, muttering something unintelligible to himself. Even in the agonizing and blurred world of special psychiatric hospitals, prisoners sometimes managed to talk among themselves and learn each other’s stories. The story of Uncle Vasil shook. Native Belarusian, he went through the whole war from the first days to Berlin, and came back - contused, but alive. A picture awaited him at home, as if written off from the tragic song of Mark Bernes - a burned field instead of a native hut and a family shot by the Germans: a wife and small children.
Vasil could not bear the grief that he had experienced, and he really moved his mind. He began to drink, brawl and openly criticize the government and the party. Getting drunk, Uncle Vasil, restless and shabby, walked around the village, ringing medals, and loudly talked about how they and the soldiers with the whole platoon raped girls on the outskirts of Berlin; cities and burned villages, also disrupted anger on young German women, tearing off their thin dresses and reveling in the sound of screams. And then, having spoken enough, he fell to his knees in front of the long-closed church building in which the village club was located, and moaned that the death of the family was a punishment for his Berlin sins, wept and was baptized on the chopped off domes.
The party leadership simply could not allow the war hero to behave in this way. First, Uncle Vasil was assigned to a nursing home in Minsk, although he was still not at all old. But even there he did not give anyone peace, shouted at night and repeated, like spells, snatches of German speech he heard in Germany. After a fight with one of the inhabitants of the nursing home, Uncle Vasil was sent here.
In St. Petersburg, he did not get better, but he became quieter, and now he was shouting only from convulsions, called "extrapyramidal disorders." They arose from the long use of neuroleptics, and manifested themselves in almost everyone who was in the hospital for more than six months. Writhing from convulsions, Uncle Vasil threw his head up, clutched his neck muscles and began to howl in pain. He was lucky if this happened on the shift when the young nurse Irina was on duty. As a rule, she immediately resorted to crying and managed to get at least a small dose of proofreaders. The rest of the nurses did not always come to the call ...
Exhausted from senseless walking, Victor fell down on wet sheets from wetness, freeing the passage to other such sufferers, driven forward by itchy restlessness. Memory, exhausted by medicines, began to dissipate, and only scraps of thoughts appeared in my head, becoming more and more incoherent. Nurse Irochka ... She seems to have even slightly reduced the dose of medication - in any case, after her injections, he felt better than after the others, and understood better. But her replacement, Lenka, was a real ruthless bitch. It seemed that she simply took revenge on the sick for her failed life and unloved work. This morning put injections Lenka. It can be seen…
Ira ... Where did he meet her? Oh yeah, in a mental hospital. What is this settlement called there? Copper? Pipe? Well, yes, Medina. Village Medinsky Sverdlovsk region. He must not forget this. He should not forget how to get here through a long, difficult phase. Victor tensed, trying to remember all the details, starting from his arrest and the first interrogation in Lubyanka until today, as if it was vital for him. Grim KGB jail, endless interrogations. He didn't say anything to them, did he? He did not name the name of Natalia? Or did the investigator already know him? That investigator with small eyes and a sharp chin, what was his name? Well, yes, Dmitry Rakhmanov. This name Victor swore not to forget until the end of his life.
He remembered the court: a closed meeting, where, contrary to all the rules, none of his relatives missed. He remembered encouraging shouts of friends crowding on the street, chanting his name: “Victor, Victor!”. He remembered the early spring of Moscow and his thoughts that he would never be able to catch the melting of snow in freedom. He remembered a long and painful stage, stopping at the SIZO No. XXUMX in Kazan, where there was also a psychiatric ward. The criminals who performed the role of orderlies there beat him on the very first day, in the bath, six of them. They were beaten strongly, and then the nurses who came running to the noise of the noise for the first time in his life were given aminazine and haloperidol.
The next night, Victor remembered vaguely. He had some nightmares close to hallucinations. He remembered how he pushed through a dark narrow cave in a dream, scraping his elbows, and went out into the desert, where he fell into the hot sand, which immediately filled his mouth, making it impossible to breathe. Victor returned to reality and felt that some object really did not allow him to breathe, filling his mouth. He touched him with his hand and understood that this was his own fallen out tongue, insensitive and completely dry with thirst. His whole throat was terribly sore from dryness, and every breath burned him like a burn. Victor crawled on all fours to the crane, tried to reach him and turned off again. He vaguely remembered that the convicts who had returned from a walk still helped him to drink water. Then a long stage followed again, and in the end he got here.
Now it was already summer outside, and he could smell it, going on an hour-long walk into the courtyard of the prison hospital. Even in these harsh places, the summer was hot and rather dry, although there were still much more mosquitoes here than in Moscow or Kiev. What month was now in the yard: July, August? Victor could not say that for sure. It was difficult to get back to the camera from the walk - the drugs started to act.
Itching in the body began to rise with a new force, and Viktor Butko again began to walk back and forth along a tiny passage. He tried to imagine that he was walking along the wide Kreshchatik, or walking in the Goloseevsky park under the arm of Natalia, or going down to the Hem, where small boats ready to go for a walk along the Dnieper stand waiting for light-hearted tourists. One more step towards the sun, summer, native Kiev, blue sky, maple leaves, the smell of chestnuts. One step, one attempt to throw off the grid of invisible spines, the light ghost of relaxation ... The pain cramps.
The tenacious grip of the convulsion gripped the muscles of his neck, throwing his head back. Stiffening in pain, Victor fell back onto the bed - as he later remarked, not on his own, but on someone else's. The owner of the bed, too, went back and forth, and, looking at Victor with indifferent eyes, continued his senseless way between the bunks. What was his name? Sasha? Lesha? Well, yes, Alexey. He did not remember the name of this patient, but he had already managed to find out that he was here about the same time as Victor. Prior to that, Alexey was some kind of a major scientist, like, a military engineer. Victor had enough time to understand the essence of such places to almost certainly predict - people of such professions have never left this place. St. Petersburg was an ideal place for a person to disappear without a trace, and many, after spending a few years here, were already completely going crazy.
As if having read his thoughts, Aleksey sat on the edge of his own bed and quietly said to Victor:
- I'm going crazy.
Victor, who had just started to let go of the cramp, only shrugged vaguely. They were all going crazy - it was inevitable. They all understood that they needed to hold on, but they did not quite understand how to do it and for what. What could he say to this poor thing? Perhaps insanity would be the best way for him. Victor got up on a strange bed and out of the corner of his eye noticed that the other prisoners were crawling around their corners. Some tried to talk about something among themselves, but due to the uniform mooing of Uncle Vasil, they were not heard at all. “So, we will not be there,” Victor thought for some reason. Alexey wanted to tell him something, it was obvious. And he tensed, trying to collect the remnants of the mind.
- I heard you are a dissident? - Alexey began carefully. “Were you accused of espionage or something?” In connection with foreign correspondents?
“Has he become stuck in the informers?” Thought Butko waryly. “Does he really not understand that this will not help in his case?” With his previous work, nothing will help. ” Victor was silent, and Alexey, it seems, began to understand the reason for the interlocutor's caution.
“You will get out of here, but I will not,” he said with a strange, doomed certainty. “You still have a chance to get out, and I ... I understand how it will all end.”
“No one knows how it will end,” Victor tried to reassure him, but Aleksey interrupted him.
- I heard you are an engineer?
- Yes, but civilian, not military.
- Never mind. You must understand.
He looked at Victor with such desperate determination, with such fearlessness in his eyes, that he involuntarily stretched out under that look. It was as if the wretched world of the mental hospital had spread apart, letting in so much of this unaccustomed strength of the human spirit - the still unbroken spirit.
- Do you know that we are currently having a missile defense race? - Golubov said in a low voice to a whisper. Well, yes, only now in the brain of Viktor, bright from concentration, flashed finally the name of his cellmate - Alexey Golubov.
“I am not an expert in these things ...” Butko also quietly tried to protest.
- Never mind. Just remember what I tell you. Now all Soviet antimissiles are equipped with a nuclear warhead. It's dangerous, really dangerous. Recently, the anti-rocket A-35 with the 2-3 thermonuclear warhead megatons was adopted. Do you understand? And most importantly, they have almost no sense. They still do not give any guarantees against the breakthrough of sea ballistic missiles or an armada of carrier aircraft. And in the event of a breakthrough, there is no longer any sense in missile defense. You understand? This race must be stopped, otherwise it will destroy ... it will destroy everyone!
- But how can we stop it? - shocked by similar revelations, asked Victor. He asked almost with his lips, although Uncle Vasil's mooing had already turned into a scream, and even on the next bed nothing could be heard.
- If you leave here, and you manage to go to the West or at least get to the American embassy ... I have sketched some drawings about this A-35 rocket. This is important, this is very important. I have no chance, but you still have them ... - with these words, Alexey reached out with an emaciated hand somewhere under his pajamas.
Victor silently looked at him and already knew that he would not refuse this request. Now, it seems, he has a meaning, for which it was worth continuing the struggle and trying to preserve the clarity of the mind ... ”
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