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Hard to be a Devil
Igor Girkin commentary on the aftermath of the coup
Pro-Russian Russian blogger Romanov provides just a single word of commentary: “Official photos from RIA Novosti. The faces…” (via Telegram).
Today’s Substack consists almost entirely of a translation of Igor Girkin’s Telegram commentary to the meeting of Putin and the Kremlin top brass in the aftermath of the failed coup. While Girkin is a wanted war criminal, sentenced in absentia in Hague for his involvement in shooting ogf Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, I can’t deny him literary talent. And I just want to keep my readers informed on how Russian Russians perceive recent events in Russia.
A word of context: his commentary is a pastiche of a great novel by Strugatsky brothers, “Hard to be a God”. I recommend it very highly. Western reader might complain that it is derivative from Ursula Le Guin, but check the dates, it’s written in 1963. Le Guin published her “Rocannon’s World” only three years later.
Strugatsky’s novel is about human observers infiltrating incognito an alien, but humanoid civilisation - still stuck in feudalism. The main protagonist is witnessing bloodshed, cime and tyranny, he could stop it all at once with his superior technology - but he must proceed according to the rules of contact and allow the wheels of history on this planet to do their bloody job. Reba, Vaga, Arkanar (etc.) are names from the book.
1960-1964 was the period of “peak liberty” in Soviet culture. It ended pretty soon, but it generated a lot of masterpieces revered in other Soviet countries, especially in Poland. I would risk to say that this was the only period we kind-of started to like each other.
But later on we realised that when Russian authors write about tyrants, they don’t necessarily do so in order to critisise tyranny. Sometimes their point is actually like “this was historically necessary for the greater good” (eg: numerous depictions of Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great in Russian culture). This topic is raised in this novel, but my reading is that this is done in order to debunk it. But is it, or I just want to see it this way? Well, you can write a PhD on it. Somebody probably did, anyway.
As you can see, Girkin is quite openly critical of Putin. He actually called him to step down. How can he be still at large, while some people go to prison simply for saying “Kherson was abanandoned”, that’s beyond me.
Since he’s a former FSB operative, I just think he has a really good “krisha”. And probably some sort of “dead man’s trigger”, a collection of kompromats on this one and that one. Being the leader of the 2014 Donbas invasion, he probably knows a lot of who stole what, who killed whom and who exactly was implicated in shooting down a Malaysian airliner…
via Strelkov Telegram channel
“Hard to be a Devil”, in the style of Strugatskys
His Majesty Reba the First sadly looked at the members of the Privy Council, shriveling in their chairs in apathy. There were good reasons for the sadness and destitution.
It’s not just that the war was not “going very well”, but also the recent rebellion of the favorite royal cook, providing so much hope at the time, who did not show any gratitude, but instead raised his Gray Regiments and almost broke into Arkanar on the way from the Irukan front…
Everyone on whom His Majesty's gaze fell, lowered their head and started to fidget nervously.
Here is the Supreme Constable sitting... With a face like a baked apple. Once harmed by fate at birth, but also by fate (as if in compensation for the congenital lack of intelligence and incurable moral deformity) promoted to the very top by the previous King (Dreenk the Sixth Eternally) and then promoted even higher due to the right choices he made during ascent to power by Reba the First.
Well, here he seats… So modestly! Instead of glimmering uniform, a gray suit. He even took of his watch (costing half of Arkanar). During the rebellion of Vaga the Rotten, he could do nothing at all. Either because the whole army hates him for the “alternative victories” on the East Irukan Plains, or simply because during the rebellion he panicked and ran away to hide under the skirts of his numerous deputies.
And here is the Grand Inquisitor, the Scourge of the Dissidents, Don Borton the Unremarkable. His face more sour than a lemon. It suddenly turned out that he did not have a single agent in the army of Vaga the Rotten, who could warn him about the conspiracy brewing. Or maybe he had one, just just decided not to report it? Or maybe he was involved himself?
At Don Sir Medvedgoldsky, a well-known liar, jester and blabber, kept in the Privy Council just for sake of being a remedy for the eternal clerical boredom - His Majesty did not look. What for? This useless creature does not even know how to conspire. To suppress conspiracy - even more so.
“Losers... only losers!” Reba sighed to himself. But where find the others? Here is Don Ram-Zan the Bearded, the leader of the northern barbarians. He made a lot of promises, but when it came to fulfillment, he dawdled for so long that his guards arrived at the predicted place of battle exactly when it was all over.
“Trudno byt’ bogom”, a 2013 movie adaptation by Aleksei Yuryevich German
And the pitiful hodgepodge of generals? Don Sur Vikinsky, the Victor of Kherson, when he called the army to counter the rebellion, he was shaking so much that literally no one listened to his words. The assembled soldiers were mainly interested in the handle of the sword, which he nervously twirled around his hips. Will it stuck up his ass, or not?
The great saboteur Don Al Lekseev, nicknamed "Stepanych" - was openly ready to cooperate with the cook. And the famous general Don Ev Kurov - forgot how to speak, as soon as he was deprived of swords and daggers, surrounded by the Gray Cook braves.
Well, at least none of THESE turned out to be capable of anything. Even when the King Reba the First himself fled in the carriage towards the Second Capital, no one dared to pick up the crown lying on the street to ascend the throne ...
Therefore, His Majesty the King Reba the First, after a pause, inhaled all the air he could fit in his frail senile lungs and said (not so much to the Privy Council, but to the eagerly listening crowd under the royal balcony):
“Good job, gentlemen! You all performed excellently!"