Vladimir Voinovich (Владимир Войнович, 1932-2018)
on Post-Soviet Society

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Source: Vladimir Voinovich, Monumental Propaganda (2002), pp. 359-60.

"Then tell me this, Admiral. Until just recently we lived under a terrible totalitarian regime. We had no freedom. We couldn't read the books we wanted to read, they prevented us from believing in God, they forbade us to criticize the government, tell jokes, listen to foreign radio stations, talk about death, about sex, engage in trade or travel abroad. We voted for candidates from a list of one and everybody dreamed of freedom. And now it's arrived, but we don't like it. And there are many people who want to go back to the old ways and even dream of Stalin. What's the real problem here?"

"I can answer you this way," said the Admiral. "Until recently we were living in a zoo. We all had our own cages. The predators had theirs and the herbivores had theirs. Naturally, all the inmates of the zoo dreamed of freedom and were desperate to escape from their cages. Now they've opened up our cages. We've got our freedom and we've seen that you can pay with your life for the pleasure of running around on the grass. The only ones who are unconditionally better off are the predators, who are now free to eat the rest of us in absolutely unlimited quantities. And now that we've seen this freedom and experienced this fear, we're wondering if it might be better to go back to our cages and put the predators back in theirs as well. They'll still feed them on us, but in regulated amounts. And so we're looking around for. . ."

"For whom?" I asked.

"Well, let's say, a director for the zoo, who'll restore order and put everyone back in their cages, but give us hay and cabbage and, sometimes, if we behave ourselves, give us a treat of a carrot or two."

"By the `director' you mean Stalin?"

"Someone of the kind."

"Will he be a communist?"

"I expect he'll use some other name. But the SCUSWU [Sole Correct Scientific World Outlook] he'll invent for us won't be very much different from the previous one, because there really aren't that many variations. Its basis will be the dream of equal happiness for all. The recipe for how to achieve it is well known: confiscate from the rich, distribute to the poor, chastise the bureaucrats, exterminate your enemies.”

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Also, this short passage from Vladimir Voinovich's The Anti-Soviet Soviet Union (1985), pp. xvi-xvii:

"Soviet people!"

"We are born, we live, and we die in a barrel. We do not know what happens outside the limits of the barrel and cannot remember how we ended up in it. No matter how different our backgrounds, after years in that barrel, all come to have a shared view of the world: it is barrel-shaped. Those who live in the barrel have their own conception of good and evil; there are saints among them and villains as well. The most intelligent of them suspect that most likely other worlds exist, that there may be many such barrels, where life has somehow taken a different form. The most freedom-loving ones try to escape; they climb up the barrel’s rusty sides, fall back down, then climb up again. The most persistent either lose their lives or make it to the rim. And suddenly a new, never-seen, and many-colored world opens before them–grass, flowers, animals, fish, birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. There is water, solid ground, and air, and each creature moves as best it can in those three elements–some fly, some swim, some crawl. A boundless world. But everyone must obtain his own food and everyone has to take care not to be trampled, bitten, or swallowed. Good God, what’s going on here? Quick, back in the barrel!"

"There are no flowers, no grass, in the barrel, and the food is meager, but life is peaceful. You can cling to one side and have yourself a snooze knowing that no one will attack, no one will peck."

"Long live the barrel!"