The year is 1991. This is an account of a fictional character, Vasily Volkov. Vasily is a young man born in a small town in Siberia. During a time of tumultuous change in Russia - following the collapse of the Soviet Union - Vasily will face decisions that will affect him and his family.
I was a young man born in a small town called Goose Lake, near Lake Baikal. My hometown, aside from an occasional trip to the city in Kemerovo, was nearly all that I knew growing up. My hometown was a bit cut off from the rest of the world, but it was fine enough for my family to live. Goose Lake was the type of place where the people were hard working, and my family was no different. Coal was the main source of labor there, as it was one of many towns that popped up in Russia as Stalin pushed for industrialization. Most that lived there toiled in the mines or in other jobs associated with the coal industry.
My father, a stern man, was a truck driver. He hauled coal out of those mines day in and day out. While my father was quite stern, I think the work made him that way. You see, my father - like many in Russia - was a by the book type of guy. He believed in his country and loved it. He was never one to complain about a hard day's work, and he bought into the idea the Soviets were pushing - hard work was the way to paradise.
On the other hand, my mother was a kind, soft lady. I could always relate to her, but I could never understand how such a soft lady could bear to be with such a stern man like my father. But, I guess they just complimented one another, because they had been married for thirty years.
I, myself, was a smart young man, not the top of my high school class, but close enough. I always struggled with the idea that my father always conformed and toiled away, working his fingers to the bone. Maybe that's why I always strived to do my best in school, hoping one day things would change and my fervor would pay off. One day things did change.
I had been hearing, for quite some time, about the problems my country was facing. This was different than anything we had ever heard before. Political leaders would have never let us know that our country was doing anything other than great in the past. So, to hear about things like this was surprising.
I had just gotten off work, I had taken a job in the coal mines after I graduated high school, when I walked in the door of my home to the sound of our president, Mikhail Gorbachev, resigning his office and declaring it extinct. My father, sitting there in his old chair, showed a certain amount of discomfort. I could see the frustration in his eyes. A man that devoted his entire life to an idea was watching it dissolve right in front of him. I wasn't sure what to do. Maybe turning the television set off will end his anxiety.
[[Turn off the set.|Mad]]
[[Start a converstation with father.|Hopeless]]
I tenderly walked over to the set and pushed the power button to the off position, "click."
Within a few seconds my father exclaimed, "Just, what the hell do you think you are doing? Don't you even know what is going on? You have no concern with your country. That's what is wrong with your generation. Just like those Americans!"
I stood there in shock.
[[Turn the TV back on.|No, son.]]
[[Talk with father.|Hopeless]]
I sat down across from my father as he lowered his head and said, "I just don't know what to do. I have had my ways for many years, and I have always believed what they told me. I just couldn't see it panning out like this." I could tell that my father was struggling to keep it together. I had never seen him this weak. At about that time, my mother walked into the room. My father didn't want to look her in the eye. He felt like he had let her down.
See, my mother and father had always dreamed of buying a particular sports car and they had been saving their money for over a decade. They had nearly accumulated enough money to buy it, only a few more months. But, that wouldn't happen now, the currency of Russia, the ruble, had effectively been cursed to devalue over night.
My father suddenly, as if a light had went off in his head, commented, "Son, we have to get our money out of the bank. Go get our money out of the bank while we still can and buy whatever food you can on the way back."
[[Go to the bank.|Bank]]
I reached to turn the set back on, but just as I nearly extended my arm, my father calmly said, "No, son. Leave it off."
[[Talk with father|Hopeless]]
I took off walking, briskly, feeling every step on the cold ground. The streets were quite empty. I thought most must be watching the television broadcast of Gorbachev. I finally arrived at the bank and pulled on the door. It was locked, but it was within banking hours. Strange.
[[Knock on the bank door.|Clerk]]
I knocked on the bank door. Bam, Bam, Bam. I could hear footsteps coming from inside the bank followed by a short and to the point remark, "We are closed. Come back tomorrow."
I shrugged it off, turned around and walked back home. When I got back home it was more of the same from my parents, so I decided to turn in for the night. I went into my bedroom, climbed in bed, and after several minutes of thinking about what had happened, I drifted off to sleep.
[[Wake up.|Back to Bank]]
I woke up feeling quite well, and I knew that the favor to my father had not been completed the day before, so after I bathed and did a few chores around the house, I walked over to the bank to withdraw my family's money. I walked up to the entrance and, once again, pulled on the door. This time it swung open and I walked in.
Never had I witnessed such a scene at this bank. People, apparently having my family's same intent, were clamoring left and right to find a spot in one of the many ques. I calmly chose one of the lines and waited. As I waited, I couldn't help but notice all of the people in a frenzy and worried over their money - maybe not so much their money as their future.
I finally reached the clerk and she politely said, "How may I help you?" I replied, "I am Vasily Volkov and I want to withdraw all of my family's funds."
She immediately began to search for a file and finally found the account.
She said, "Thank you Mr. Volkov. I will have your funds right to you." She counted out deliberately, "One thousand, two thousand."
All the way up to 55,197 rubles. I took the money and made my way out of the bank.
[[Go to the grocery store.|Store]]
I walked into the market and it was in an equal frenzy compared to the bank. It was nothing like before when the government had issued us consumer cards, which alotted certain rations for each person. In the jostle for food, it was nearly all gone. People no longer needed consumer cards to purchase the food, only their money, what little it was worth now. I grabbed what food I could get to before others got to it. I was able to grab a ten kilogram bag of sugar and a few canned goods, but I really needed some rice. I made my way toward the rice. There was one three kilogram bag left. I reached to grab the bag of rice and just as I did another man ran in and pushed up against me, shouldering his way to the last bag of rice in Goose Lake.
[[Push back against the man.|Fall Down]]
[[Let the man have the rice.|Check Out]]
And I shouldered back just as vigorously as he had. This was to be my bag of rice, my family needed it. I pushed back, so did he, until I fell to the floor. Splat! Cans rolled across the floor and the other guy made off with my rice. All that for nothing! I lost my canned food and the rice, but I still had the sugar. I made my way to the front of the market with my bag of sugar.
I stood in line swaying from side to side as if I was, in some way, anxious. I finally reached the front of the line and readied my money to pay for the sugar. The cashier, having already stuffed his register with rubles, was stuffing money into a garbage bag.
The cashier remarked, "One bag of sugar. That'll be 50,000."
"50,000!", I exclaimed.
"That's right.", he said.
I was shocked to say the least. In awe, I decided I had better ask my father if he thought such a small thing as a sack of sugar was worth 50,000 rubles.
[[Make my way home.|Back Home]]
I made my way to the register and asked, "How much for the sugar?" "50,000 rubles!", the cashier exclaimed.
I was taken a bit off guard. Such a high price for a bag of sugar, I had never seen such. I decieded that I should consult with my father before proceeding with the purchase.
[[Go home.|Back Home]]
I made haste on the way back home. The streets were full of citizens clamoring to get here and there. I walked into my home and told my parents what had happened at the grocery store. They were in as much shock as I was. I stood there staring at my father, wondering what he would say next. Any result, at this point, seemed hopeless.
Then he said, "I guess the only option now is to give you a chance. Take the money, buy a train ticket, and head for the city. Maybe you will have a better chance there."
[[Take the money.|The Train Station]]
[[Decline the money.|Decline]]
''A New Beginning''
I packed what belongings I had, walked to the train station, spent nearly all the money I had, and boarded the train to Kemerovo.
It was a long train ride, it took 3 days to get to Kemerovo. I stepped off the train and thought about what I would do. I knew my uncle lived in Kemerovo, I could go see him or explore the city.
[[Go to uncle's home.|Uncle]]
[[Exploere the city.|Explore]]
I couldn't believe my father had offered his and my mother's life savings for me to have a chance, but I could not accept his gift. I respectfully declined the offer and made my way back to the store for the bag of sugar.
[[Walk back to the store.|Killed in the Street]]
As I was walking back to the store, I couldn't help but notice I was being tailed. Just as I turned around, I saw a bat coming at my face.
You were attacked by a mob of thieves and left for dead in the street.
[[Last Checkpoint|Back Home]]
''My Only Hope''
I walked to my uncle's apartment and knocked on the door. He answered and was quite welcoming. Without much small talk, he jumped right to the reason I was there.
He said, "I'm sure you're here to find work and a place to stay. You're in luck, because I have both. You can stay here and work with me."
My uncle was a handyman and always could find work. Even if we didn't work for money we could work for food.
[[Accept his offer.|2 Years Later]]
''The Streets of Kemerovo''
I wanted to go to the other side of the city, so I boarded the metro. As I walked onto the metro, I realized that I was in a completely different world from the one I knew back home, or even the one I remembered coming to Kemerovo before. A new way of life had already taken hold. There were vulgar, pornographic posters pasted all along the sides of the interior of the train, advertising brothels and peep shows. The people, experiencing a new type of freedom not pressent in the Soviet Union, had no restraint in their perception of what freedom of expression entailed.
[[Get off at the next stop.|Streets of Kemerovo]]
[[Write down some phone numbers from the posters.|Dirty]]
I stepped off the metro and made my way out of the underground, climbing a long flight of stairs with hundreds of other Russians. As I made it to the streets, I was again shocked at what was taking place in my country. I walked the street and couldn't help but notice a foul stinch. As I examined my surroundings, I noticed piles of human excrement all along the sidewalks. For the life of me, I couldn't understand what I saw.
[[Ask a passerby about the excrement.|Infrastructure]]
[[Continue on about my walk.|Sight Seeing]]
I called out to a pedestrian, "Hey!" He answered back, "Yes?" I asked him, "Why is all this shit in the street?" He replied, "Well, with all the happenings of late, there are no city jobs in existence. Some of those jobs are operating the sewers. Now that people's toilets don't work, they just toss their shit out in the streets."
I was shocked, but it made sense.
[[Continue my walk|Sight Seeing]]
I continued my walk. As I walked the streets, I noticed there were many advertisements for brands I had never seen before. We already had some American products like Pepsi, but never Coca-Cola, IBM, or Sony. This was definitely a much different landscape than ever before in Kemerovo. The sun was beginning to set, and I thought it was time to visit my uncle.
[[Go to uncle's home.|Uncle]]
''Two Years Later''
Two years passed quickly. I had lived and worked with my uncle the whole time, saving as much money as possible. The economy had somewhat stabilized and allowed for currency to have some value.
New infrastructures in the city had been put in place, as well as a new government. While new systems were in place, it didn't seem like much had changed, and Russians only had a new, just as much broken, system to complain about.
I had made my decision to move to the United States. See, the fall of the Soviet Union had brought in an influx of westerners, one of those westerners, an American, would become my wife. I moved to the United States, escaping all the turmoil that I left behind.
Russians were still stuck in the ways of the past back home. With capitalism came the opening of the western floodgates and a tsunami of imports, but most had no resources to buy what they saw. This led to bitterness and increased envy of the West. Russia is like the proud, but poor kid who blames and badmouths the rich kid for his problems, all the while wanting to be the rich kid.
''RUSSIA: MY FATHERLAND''
By Wesley Johns
This game was constructed using secondary sources describing the political and cultural climates of Russia during and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Along with secondary sources, primary sources in the form of oral history were used to get an idea of the personal experiences involved with the fall of communism in Russia. The oral history was provided by my sister, Dondie Johns Martynov, and her husband, Sergey Victorovich Martynov. Sergey is a Russian, born and raised in Siberia. Dondie lived in Russia for many years while working as a missionary. Some of the situations described in this story are loosely based on actual experiences of the fall of communism in Russia.
[[Continue|Russia: My Fatherland]]
What a dirty mind you have!!!!!
[[Get off the train.|Streets of Kemerovo]]