From the NKVD ARCHIVE:
To the USSR’s People’s Commission for Internal Affairs,
The Revolution made it possible for me to become an engineer. It provided me with the opportunity to work towards a better future for all. I betrayed its promise. I endangered countless lives. I Became its greatest enemy. I Was a parasite, a Capitalist swine. I recognize this now.
I do not find it easy to tell this story. But tell it, I must. The truth must be known...
In 193- I was transferred to the prestigious Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI) in Moscow. At the time, I had already studied aerodynamics at the University and authored three articles on aviation and light aircrafts. I wanted nothing more than to be part of the great Soviet effort to fly across the North Pole. I believed, and not wrongly, that my new position would be the start of a promising career, and felt that with hard work and perseverance I too might be one of the young men honored with an Order of Lenin.
At TsAGI, I met Ernst Lubinsky, the son of a Polish diplomat. His brother flew in the Polish army. He was a tall, slight man, with a taste for adventure. One day in July 1931, Lubinsky showed me an advertisement in Vechernyaya Moskva. I remember the advertisement as if it was still here in my hand. It invited all comrades with an interest in “interplanetary communications” to a meeting.
I knew very little about “interplanetary communications”, my knowledge based almost entirely on my boyhood reading of Jules Verne and Bodgdanov. But even still, the prospect of learning more intrigued me. Thus, on July 18, 1931, amid the summer heat, sweat pouring down my brow, I found myself together with Lubinsky and ten others, a founding member of the Group for the Investigation of Reactive Engines and Reactive Flight. Our group’s lofty goal: to build a rocket to reach the stars!
The leader of our group was a forty-five year old named Tsander. Tsander was a space fanatic. He filled us young engineers with dreams of space exploration and time travel. He convinced us that we were not simply going to build a rocket, but that our efforts were part of the next great phase of the Revolution. We would go were capitalists couldn’t. “To Mars! To Mars! Onwards To Mars!” Tsander would shout, and we, the young recruits, would parrot back, “Yes, to Mars!”
In late summer 1933, Tsander fell ill. I knew this was my chance. At our first meeting in which Tsander was not present, I proposed a launch date for what would be the Soviet Union’s first rocket fueled by liquid propellant. We were ready. Why wait?
I made a case that Tsander would not want us to slow down our work because of his illness. I convinced everyone by quoting Lenin and Marx.
After some discussion, all members of the group agreed. It was only logical. We simply had to go on working at top speed without our leader.
I know that it was a calculated maneuver. I wanted nothing more than to control our small group. I justified my intentions in simple terms. Tsander was old and bent over. He could not possibly be expected to lead us forever. We were young and full of vigor. We were the Revolution. It was time to take the work into our own hands.
This then was my first act of betrayal. The launch provided my second.
It was August 17, 1933. I brought a camera to document the historic flight. I snapped a shot of Lubinsky on the platform moments before a small explosion burned his hands and sent him to the hospital.
In spite of the small incident, we were able to regroup and launch the rocket that same day. I wrote an article to commemorate the occasion. Even here today, I still remember how proudly I boasted, “Soviet Rockets must conquer space!”
When I submitted the article to the editorial office, I was asked if I had a photograph to document the occasion. I had almost forgotten about the roll of film I had shot. Instinctively, I shook my head. I had not bothered to develop the film.
I told myself this was mere negligence- that I had been caught up in the events surrounding the flight and Lubinsky’s accident. But anyone looking back can see how calculated, how manipulative I had become. I had simply erased Lubinsky’s presence from our efforts. My justification: I was ridding our cause of all-foreign and bourgeoisie class influences, updating our Great Soviet Encyclopedia. Lubinsky was the son of a diplomat. Achievements belong to society not people.
But I could not have been more mistaken. I was acting on my own, letting my ambitions cloud my beliefs. I was a character in one of Gogol’s great comedies. Each small act of subversion wetted my appetite for more. I was obfuscating Lubinsky’s role in rocket building from the Party. Lubinsky was unpredictable, I could not say what he would do with his knowledge. He was clearly a threat to our Union’s security and defense.
An accident had provided me with an alibi. I came to think of accidents as opportunities. I was drifting away from the Party, losing my sense of right and wrong. I was a moth emerging from its cocoon. There was no telling where my wings would take me.
It took four more years for me to find out. By then, I had become a researcher at Scientific Research Institute No. 3 under the leadership of Deputy Director Klemmenov. A new law had created the need for a commission to be formed at the Institute to rid it of all bourgeois capitalist and Trotskyite elements. Immediately, I seized the opportunity.
Comrad Orlov was a strange and effete young man. He made no secret of his less than proletarian origins. He had been assigned to work on my team on winged missile design. One day as we were leaving the Institute, I asked him his opinion of a recent article I had read in Pravda surrounding the birth rate. Did he think homosexuals were responsible for reducing it? He was somewhat taken aback by my question and naturally said that he was no expert on the matter. Then, as he tried to take his leave of me, I asked him which way he walked home. Did he pass by Patriarch’s Pond? There had been another article in Pravda that same day reporting a nighttime incident involving two men by the pond.
Orlov’s face turned white as snow. I patted him on the back and assured him that he probably passed by the pond well before the hour when such incidents occurred, and that he need not worry about his safety. Orlov thanked me for my concern. But Orlov could not hide his ill ease.
At work the following week, Orlov kept his distance. At the Institute’s general assembly on Wednesday, he purposefully allowed two other comrades to pass between us so that we would not sit together.
When the assembly was over, he hurried out of the auditorium. But I raced after him and caught up with him. Once again, I began with a cordial remark. What did he think of Deputy Director Klemmenov’s speech? As always, Orlov was cautious. Orlav explained that he was impressed by the Deputy Director’s manner of speaking, his knowledge of the Central Committee’s Research plans. I shook my head. Yes, it was true. But wasn’t it strange that Deputy Director Klemmenov had not mentioned the upcoming Arctic flight? Surely such an event presented an occasion to celebrate the achievements of our great Institute’s researchers and engineers? Yes, Orlov agreed shaking his head.
I pressed on. It seemed to me as if Klemmenov was trying to hide something. Orlov shook his head.
“No,” Orlov said. “I don’t know what you mean.”
But Orlov soon changed his mind. Apparently, he did know something about Klemmenov. Within a week, I watched Orlov stand before the podium on stage at the general assembly. He spoke with his eyes glued to the floor. Not once did he look up. His statements sounded rehearsed; he delivered them deadpan, his voice never modulating. As he explained, he had found a letter in the Institute’s archives from Bukharin to Klemmenov in the course of doing research for one of his papers. It had something to do with Bukharin’s most recent trial and the Arctic Flight.
Two weeks later Klemmenov was removed from his leadership position. Three weeks later, Orlov disappeared. I told myself I knew nothing. I kept quiet about the conversations I had, had with Orlov.
Still, I must have mentioned something about developments at the Institute to Xenia. She was adamant. I needed to contact the authorities. Tell them what I suspected. If I suspected Orlov of being a man of less than reputable character, a pervert, forger, and a liar, the authorities needed to know. What did I hope to achieve? Did I really think by washing my hands clean of Orlov I would be offered the position of Deputy Director? My ambitions had gotten the best of me. I was neglecting my duty as a citizen.
I suppose I left Xenia with no other choice but to take matters into her own hands.
Can anyone blame her? Xenia had no reason to trust me. After all, I had denied her everything even children. I was trying to undermine the principles of the Revolution. I was thinking only of myself and not the next generation.
Xenia was defenseless against my ego. Frightened by my drinking. She sensed that I was becoming a counter-revolutionary, a subversive. I was willfully obstructing justice. Irrational and incorrigible.
When I told her I was writing fiction, she must have immediately understood my intentions. She must have recognized that I was communicating my mad plans in a secret coded language. What I was calling a story was simply thinly veiled propaganda. I was disseminating Trotsky’s message, working directly for our Enemies.
I do not know how you obtained a copy of my writings, but if, as I have been led to believe, Xenia alerted the authorities to their existence, I can not blame her. She acted to save innocent people and State property. Anyone who reads what I wrote can see that I was sick. I was writing to recruit others to the counter-revolutionary cause. Now that the fog has lifted, I can see how dangerous I had become.
Did I actually believe I was writing about engineers building a system of canals across Mars? What deranged mind could describe a Five Year Plan for the colonization of Mars in such bourgeois language? I had become a puppet, a mere automation. I sang the praises of our Enemies like a gramophone record plays a song.
Marx teaches us that the first act of Revolution is raising consciousness, that religion is the opiate of the Masses. I had been deluded, my thoughts clouded over, I could no longer think or write for myself. In this condition, I tampered with evidence, destroyed State property, and worst of all, weakened the defenses of our great Union. I had come to believe that personal gain, my own bid for power, would be in the best interest of the Masses. I see now just how mistaken I was.
My time here in Lubyanka has awakened me from false consciousness. It has put an end to my delusions. It has allowed me to see light.
I will name the names of anyone I suspect of counter revolutionary behavior. I understand now how important this is for the safety and security of all our Citizens. I will remain vigilant. Never again will I become a weapon of Trotsky and our Capitalist Enemies.
I would like to express my infinite gratitude to our dear, fearless leader, Stalin.
We must all help to build a better world through the Revolution. We must reach for the stars...for MARS!
Long Live Interplanetary Struggle!
Long LIVE THE Revolution!