Chess was ubiquitous in the Soviet Union. Its players were among the best in the world, and Russia has a history of strong chess players going back centuries. It’s therefore not unusual that research scientists in Antarctica often played when they had little else to do. During one game, however, in 1959, one game ended in tragedy. The loser was so enraged that he took an axe and brutally murdered his friend and colleague. After this incident, the Soviets banned chess at their Antarctic research stations.
The Russian Civil War saw atrocities on both sides. The Cossacks, especially, were feared for their brutality. Once, three sealed trains reached Petrograd from the south, labeled “fresh meat.” The Bolsheviks opened the trains, only to behold a grisly sight. Inside the trains were the blood-stained corpses of Red Guards, placed into obscene positions by their killers.
In every revolution, one finds individuals who take advantage of the chaos for their benefit. As the Bolsheviks came into power in Russia, some used the new creed of Marxism-Leninism for their own gain, before Moscow put a stop to it. In Suizran, north of the Caspian Sea, it was proclaimed that all the women should be nationalized.
Whereas before, the bourgeoisie hoarded the most beautiful women for themselves, leaving the workers and peasants with second best, from then on, all women would be shared communally.
When Lenin and Moscow found out, their disapproval was quickly made known. The order was rescinded, and even possessing a copy of it was made a crime.
There existed in the Soviet Union a well-known joke concerning Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Lenin’s advice to the Soviet youth was always, “Learn, learn, learn!” a saying evoked everywhere, and often found on the walls of school buildings as an exhortation to students.
The joke goes: Marx, Engels, and Lenin were all asked whether they would prefer a wife or a mistress. Karl Marx, with his unexpectedly bourgeois morality, answers, “A wife.” Friedrich Engels, infamous for his unconventional relationships with women, replies, “A mistress.” When Lenin is asked, though, he surprised them both by saying he would have both. Why is this? they wonder. Does the great revolutionary have a hidden prurient side? No, not at all, he explains. “That way, I can tell my wife I am with my mistress and I can tell my mistress I am with my wife.” What, then, will you do? “I will find a solitary place to be by myself and learn, learn, learn!”
Anastas Mikoyan was the great survivor of the Soviet Union. When the 26 Commissars were captured and shot at Baku, he alone escaped alive. He was a Bolshevik from 1915 to his death in 1978. He was a member of the Politburo under Stalin, although, had Stalin lived much longer, it’s possible he would have been eliminated. He was one of the few people willing to contradict Stalin. He survived through Kruschev, before finally passing away under Brezhnev. It was said of him, so adroit at avoiding the purges and dangers that befell so many of his contemporaries, that he could walk from one end of Red Square to the other in a rainstorm and emerge dry. From his long political life came the Soviet expression “From Ilyich to Ilyich,” representing his survival from Ilyich Lenin to Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.