“One long soundless scream”

In memory of all those whose lives were lost 78 years ago today on Kristallnacht, and at Babi Yar.

I wanted to do a post marking the 75th anniversary of the massacre by Babi Yar, the largest single massacre of the Shoah up till that date (29–30 September 1941). This was also the largest Einsatzgruppen massacre in the former Soviet Union. For the most part, the Jewish communities in the occupied USSR were murdered by mobile killing squads, not in ghettoes and camps.

Historically, there was a lot of anti-Semitism in this part of Europe, so there were many local collaborators, both active and silent. While there were also heroes, the majority didn’t do anything to help or protest. Pointing out widespread anti-Semitism, with deep historic roots, in certain countries isn’t meant to be a bash against them and their people. All countries have black marks in their pasts. Denying or downplaying it is intellectually dishonest.

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This order, posted in Ukrainian, Russian, and German around 26 September 1941, read:

All Yids of the city of Kyiv and its vicinity must appear on Monday, 29 September 1941, by 8 o’clock in the morning at the corner of Melnika and Dokterivskiy Streets (near the cemetery).

Bring documents, money, and valuables, and also warm clothing, linen, etc.

Any Yids who do not follow this order and are found elsewhere will be shot.

Any civilians who enter the dwellings left by Yids and appropriate the things in them will be shot.

Copyright Markv at nl.wikipedia; Licensed under the GFDL by the author

The decision to murder all of Kyivan Jewry was made by Major-General Kurt Eberhard, the military governor; SS Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, police commander for Army Group South; and Otto Rasch, Einsatzgruppe C Commander.

The murder itself was orchestrated by an SS Sonderkommando unit (not to be confused with the Jewish Sonderkommando squad, who carried out a brave revolt on 7 October 1944 and risked their lives to take and smuggle out four clandestine pictures in August 1944). SS and SD police, along with local police, assisted them.

Over 30,000 people dutifully reported, far exceeding the five or six thousand initially expected. They truly believed they’d be resettled. Instead, they were ordered, bit by bit, to leave their valuables and money, give up their luggage, and remove their shoes and each layer of clothes.

Given the size of the crowd, not many people suspected their cruel fate until the last moment, when they heard the machine guns. The ravine they were led to is called Babyn Yar in its native Ukrainian, and Babiy Yar in Russian. The standard English transliteration is Babi Yar, which I’m using for the sake of academic consistency.

In all, 33,771 people were murdered over those two days. Only a small minority were able to escape. At least 29 survivors are known. The only survivor to testify by a 1946 war crimes trial in Kyiv was Dina Mironivna Pronicheva, an actor by the Kyiv Puppet Theatre.

Sadly, only 10% (3,000) of the victims have been identified to date.

Memorial by Nachalat Yitzchak Cemetery, Givatayim, Israel; Copyright דוד שי (Dudi [David] Shay)

After the September 1941 massacre, the Nazis and their collaborators murdered over 100,000 other Kyivans by Babi Yar, right up until the Nazis were forced to retreat. They murdered political dissidents, Roma, POWs, and many other civilians. Patients of the Ivan Pavlov Psychiatric Hospital had their ashes dumped into the ravine after being gassed.

A concentration-camp, Syretskyy, was established a few hundred meters from the ravine in 1942, as a subcamp of Sachsenhausen. While the inmates were being forced to cover up traces of the mass grave in August and September 1943, they got hold of tools like screwdrivers, hammers, keys, and pieces of metal.

On the second anniversary of the first massacre, 29 September 1943, the prisoners revolted as the camp was dismantled. They overpowered the guards, and fifteen prisoners escaped. Sadly, the other 311 inmates were murdered once the Nazis regained control.

Ukrainian postage stamp issued for the 70th anniversary in 2011

Some of the souls lost are pictured below. Unless otherwise noted, they were all murdered by the first, largest massacre.

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Velvel Valentin Pinkert in 1939

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Anna Glinberg in 1935

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Grigoriy Shehtman, born 1934

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4-year-old Malvina Babat and 3-year-old Polina Babat

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Mariya (Manya) Iosifivna Halef in 1936. She was seven when she was murdered.

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Manya’s parents, Iosif Halef and Klara Halef-Miropolskaya

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Olena Ivanivna Teliha, née Shovgeneva (21 July 1906–21 February 1942), a prominent poet and anti-Nazi activist

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Mykhailo Pavlovych Teliha, her husband, 8/21 November 1900–21 February 1942. He played the bandura (a Ukrainian instrument like a zither crossed with a lute) professionally. Rather than take his freedom, he chose to stay with his wife.

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Ivan Andriyovych Rohach (29 May 1913–21 February 1942), a prominent poet, writer, political activist, and journalist. He was murdered with his sister Hanna and the entire staff of his newspaper.

Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko’s 1961 poem “Babi Yar” famously begins: “No monument stands over Babi Yar.” It wasn’t until 1976 that a monument was finally erected, only mentioning POWs and Soviet citizens. In 1991, a Jewish memorial finally appeared. Today, many other memorials dot the area.

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WeWriWa—Special birthday present

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet immediately follows last week’s, when Igor and the guests at his 19th birthday party enjoyed a lavish feast.

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After the table is cleared, Igor and his guests go into the living room to play board games.  Though most of the guests sit on the floor, Violetta has a seat on the davenport, with Luiza and Zoya.  There’s no way anyone could see up such a long skirt anyway, but perhaps this is yet another modesty rule Igor doesn’t know about.  For the sake of appearances, Igor doesn’t invite Violetta to be on any of his teams, and instead lets her play with the other co-eds.  Towards the end of the evening, when it comes time to open presents, Igor likewise saves Violetta’s present towards last.

He breaks into a big smile when he finds a gold-framed miniature of Vasiliy Kondratyevich Sazonov’s famous oil painting The First Meeting of Prince Igor with Olga.  It might be a painting she chose just because it features the original bearer of his name, but perhaps she’s also trying to send him some sort of secret romantic message.  Whyever she chose it, this painting will sure be going on his wall tonight, in a special place of honor right above his bed.

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Prince Igor and Princess (later Regent) Olga were the first rulers of the Ryurikovich Dynasty after only Prince Ryurik himself, and Olga was the first of six women to rule Russia to date. Many people only count the four ruling empresses of the Romanov Dynasty, though I also count Regents Olga and Sofya. A Regent is still a ruler, even if she isn’t formally crowned.

A to Z Reflections 2016

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

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Problems/issues encountered:

During the first week, I clicked on a lot of blogs with awesome-sounding titles, only to discover they not only never started the Challenge, but also hadn’t posted anything in at least six months. A number of these bloggers hadn’t posted anything in several years, which makes me wonder why they bothered signing up.

Bloggers who quit participating, without an apology or explanation for why they couldn’t finish or slacked off.

Blogs without an ability to leave comments.

Captchas!

Comments only being approved after moderation. There are better ways to prevent spam, and if you’re worried about nasty, abusive comments, you can set your commenting policy so only people with previously-approved comments bypass moderation. Some of the gender-critical blogs I frequent have such a policy, though others keep to the model of approving every single comment, even after we’ve proven ourselves as good eggs.

A link that was broken.

Having to register to leave a comment. I found a number of such blogs I was ready to comment on, only to discover I had to go through the whole rigamarole of registration with a unique-to-the-blogger commenting service. The only exception I made was for a post with a jaw-droppingly hurtful, offensive, ableist meme with a quote from the always-classy Auti$m $peak$, saying those of us on the spectrum have been “taken away” and need “cured.”

Difficulty finding the actual blog part of a website, or the A to Z posts section. This also goes for blogs with multiple posts a day, without the A to Z post on top.

Posts or pages which were too busy. Sometimes a post would be fairly short, but there were a lot of graphics, links, and thumbnails taking up extra space after the main text. I don’t have time to constantly scroll through all that!

People who only signed up to try to promote a business, and aren’t bloggers at all. For that matter, it’s also super-sneaky to use your theme (0r part of your theme) to promote your MLM. I don’t care about your overpriced nail stickers, weight loss shakes, candles, or clothes from the menopause section marketed to young women!

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I wrote my posts well in advance (last May–July), so I’d have plenty of time for going back and editing them multiple times, and wouldn’t have to rush through them last-minute. Several posts originally had additional topics which I decided to delete, since it felt like overload. Deleted topics were diphtheria, the Elephant House at Aleksandr Palace (really disappointed I couldn’t find more information and a decent picture!), and the Pauline Laws.

My N post was originally about Countess Natalya Sergeyevna Brasova, Grand Duke Mikhail’s wife, but it felt like too much of a repeat of his post, since it was mostly about her relationships. The last thing I’d want to do is primarily define a woman by her history of romantic attachments!

I considered other topics for certain letters, but decided against them since I felt they were only tangential to my alternative history (e.g., Sigmund Freud, Queen Victoria, Last Rites). I’d also originally planned to do the Aleksandr Palace for A, but it seemed only natural to start with our hero, the entire reason for the story.

L was the last letter I settled on topics for. Other difficult letters were F, J, R, and the replacement for N. The H, X, and Q topics were pretty much limited, since Russian doesn’t have those letters. It was an obvious given I’d have to do Hemophilia and Grand Duchess Xenia (Kseniya), and luckily, I found a Q name related to Imperial Russian history. Y for Yekaterinburg was also the obvious choice.

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Post recap:

Tsar Aleksey II (54 views)
Batumi, Georgia (23 views)
The Cathedral of the Dormition and the Chrysler Imperial Touring (34 views)
The Dowager Empress and the Duesenberg (22 views)
Electrotherapy and Easter (22 views)
The Fyodorovskaya Ikon of the Mother of God (19 views)
The Grand Cathedral of the Winter Palace and the House of Gagarin (14 views)
Hemophilia (19 views)
Prince Igor Konstantinovich and the Iverskaya Chapel (20 views)
The Jordan Staircase and Joy (31 views)
Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich the younger and the Kunstkamera (9 views)
The Lower Dacha of Peterhof and Leo (23 views)
Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich (12 views)
Nevskiy Prospekt (10 views)
Grand Duchess Olga Nikolayevna (22 views)
The Passage and Peter and Paul Cathedral (9 views)
Giacomo Quarenghi (21 views)
The Red Porch, Rochet-Schneider, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and Russo-Baltique (19 views)
The Semicircular Hall, the Sorbonne, and St. Serafim of Sarov (21 views)
Tsesarevich, Tsaritsa, and Transliteration (17 views)
Uzbek cuisine (23 views)
Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley (10 views)
The Winter Palace (34 views)
Grand Duchess Xenia (Kseniya) Aleksandrovna (19 views)
Yekaterinburg, Russia (17 views)
Grigoriy Yevseyevich Zinovyev (16 views)

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I have like ten future themes in mind for future Aprils!

Grigoriy Yevseyevich Zinovyev

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Grigoriy Yevseyevich Zinovyev, né Ovsey-Gershon Aronovich Radomyslovskiy Apfelbaum, 11/23 September 1883–25 August 1936, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Grigoriy Ye. Zinovyev was born to Jewish dairy farmers in Yelisavetgrad, Ukraine (now Kirovohrad). From 1923–35, the city was renamed Zinovyevsk in his honour. In his early life, he adopted several monikers, before finally settling on the name Grigoriy Zinovyev. He studied history, literature, and philosophy, which perhaps led to his ultimate interest in politics. In 1901, he joined the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party, and joined the Bolshevik branch of the party after its 1903 inception.

Zinovyev quickly became one of the leading lights of the Bolshevik movement and one of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin)’s closest associates. He spent the first three years of the Great War in Switzerland, and returned to Russia on the same sealed train as Lenin in April 1917. However, he opposed Lenin’s call for an armed uprising against the Provisional Government, and they had a falling-out.

After the October Revolution which put the Bolsheviks in power, he continued making himself unpopular with Lenin. He and Lev Borisovich Kamenev wanted to negotiate with Vikzhel (the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Union of Railwaymen). Vikzhel threatened a national strike unless the Bolsheviks shared power with other Socialist parties and kicked Lenin and Trotskiy out of the government. Negotiations began, but Lenin ultimately succeeded in stopping them. In response, Zinovyev, Kamenev, and several others resigned from the Central Committee. Lenin never forgot or forgave, even in his Last Will and Testament.

1908 mug shot

Zinovyev’s political career wasn’t over, however, and he was elected to the Central Committee at the 7th Party Congress in March 1918. He also became a member of the Politburo and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Comintern. Though he enjoyed great power through most of the 1920s, he ultimately was targeted by Stalin, put through show trials in 1935 and 1936, and murdered on 25 August 1936. Kamenev was also a victim of these show trials. They were taken to the Donskoy Crematorium, and their ashes dumped into pits.

In my alternative history, Zinovyev is thrown into prison along with all the other Bolsheviks following the restoration of the monarchy and Grand Duke Mikhail declaring martial law. In August 1929, when Aleksey finally comes to the throne in his own right, he discovers his uncle’s last will and testament demands Ulyanov, Trotskiy, Zinovyev, Kamenev, and Dzhugashvili (Stalin) be hanged publicly.

From all newspaper accounts, the first four have become model prisoners over the last eleven years. It doesn’t seem fair to have them suddenly hanged so much time later, and Aleksey not only has them pardoned, but has them taken to the Aleksandr Palace for a private (but guarded) meeting. He explains he’s about to grant a constitution, and wants them to serve in his government.

Courtesy of State Museum of Political History of Russia

During all the time he’s had to prepare for coming to the throne in his own right, Aleksey has done a lot of reading and research, determined to find out why his parents were overthrown, what made people hate his family so much, and what drove people to Bolshevism. He’s gained a greater understanding of what went wrong, and how many of these people were initially motivated by understandable reasons. If only there’d been a more understanding Tsar and the kinds of reforms they desperately sought, they wouldn’t have done the half of what they did. They weren’t born evil, and they’re far from unintelligent. Zinovyev becomes the Minister of Education, a role in which he shines, and helps to bring many much-needed reforms to the Russian Empire.

At the end of Part IV, 13-year-old Grand Duke Nikolay (Kolya), named for the grandfather he’ll never know, asks his father why he did it. Aleksey says he was motivated by love, sympathy, empathy, and forgiveness. He could’ve chosen to hate and become a ruthless autocrat in response to what happened, but instead, he chose to understand what motivated them, to see them as fellow humans made in the image of God, and to rule with love and understanding.

Ultimately, Zinovyev and the others weren’t beyond forgiveness. All they needed was a Tsar who ruled with love in his heart, who saw his subjects as his friends, not impersonal masses. As Lao-Tzu said, “Sometimes the softest thing in the Universe/Can overcome the hardest thing in the Universe.” And as the final three intertitles of Faust say:

The Word that rings joyfully throughout the Universe,
The Word that appeases every pain and grief,
The Word that expiates all human guilt,
The Eternal Word…dost thou not know it?

Tell me the word!

Liebe (Love)

Yekaterinburg, Russia

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Ipatyev House, prior to its destruction

Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, straddles the border between Europe and Asia. It was founded in 1723 by Vasiliy Nikitich Tatishchev and Georg Wilhelm de Gennin, and named after Peter the Great’s second wife, Yekaterina (Catherine) I. In 1796, it received town status. From 1924–91, it was renamed Sverdlovsk, after Bolshevik leader Yakov Mikhaylovich Sverdlov.

Old train station, Copyright magical-world / Vera & Jean-Christophe from Europe, source Flickr

Yekaterinburg grew to become a leading industrial centre of the Urals, with its rich deposits of natural resources. It also became a vital part of the development of the Urals as a whole, and an extremely important trade route. Its nickname is “The Window on Asia.”

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Rastorguyev-Kharitonov Palace, Copyright Vera & Jean-Christophe, Source Rastorguev-Kharitonov mansion, Yekaterinburg

Because of its dizzying development and importance on the trade route, it attracted a fair amount of people with money. The city was fast becoming even more important to the Russian Empire during the Great War, but alas, everything changed when the Bolsheviks took over. After they conquered the city, they imprisoned, murdered, or chased away anyone from the upper- and middle-classes, and took all the money and natural resources for themselves.

With all these riches in the hands of a very few, the people of Yekaterinburg suffered greatly. In 1918, a famine broke out, and many people risked their lives to go to nearby towns and villages for decent food. This wasn’t easy, since this was also a period of insane hyperinflation and rationing. The working-class and poor, whom the Bolsheviks supposedly loved so much, were even worse-off than ever before.

Main building of Ural State Technical University, Copyright LordTroy

Yekaterinburg is the setting of the first six chapters of my alternative history, and later on, during Part IV, the four Imperial children of the new generation are sent to their surviving grandparents in Yekaterinburg ahead of the Nazis reaching St. Petersburg. The new Tsaritsa, Arkadiya, was born in Yekaterinburg in 1897.

In the West, Yekaterinburg is best-known as the place where Russia’s last Imperial Family were imprisoned and murdered in 1918. They were held at a former mansion, whose final owner was Nikolay Nikolayevich Ipatyev. In late April 1918, he was ordered to leave his house, and it was renamed “The House of Special Purpose.”

Border between European and Asian Russia, Copyright Jirka.h23

In the 1930s, Yekaterinburg became a centre of industry once more, and during the Great Patriotic War, many factories and technical schools were relocated there. In order to escape the Nazis, many people fled to the safety of Siberia, where the enemy could never reach them. Many of the collections of the Hermitage Museum were also relocated there.

Statue of Yekaterinburg’s founders

Today, the city is home to 16 universities, among them Ural State Technical University, Ural State University, Ural State University of Foresty, Ural State Pedagogical University, Ural State Agricultural Academy, Urals Academy of Architecture, Russian State Vocational Pedagogics University, Military Institute of Artillery, Ural State Mining University, and Ural State Academy of Medicine. The city is also an important stop on the Trans–Siberian Railroad, and has several airports.

Administrative building, Copyright Владислав Фальшивомонетчик (Vladislav Falshivomonetchik)

The city has become a mecca of culture in the Urals, with dozens of libraries, many famous theatres, a philharmonic orchestra, over 30 museums, a circus, unusual monuments (such as the Keyboard Monument), and a recording studio.

Sevastyanov House, Copyright Владислав Фальшивомонетчик

The city is surrounded by lakes and wooded hills. Very similar to Upstate New York, their winter lasts from October till mid-April. It’s not unheard of for winter temperatures to dip below zero. Summer only lasts about 65–70 days, with an average temperature of 64º F (18º C). Since it’s behind a mountain range, the temperature is nothing if not consistent in its inconsistency (just like Albany, NY).

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Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Karapet

In 1977, Ipatyev House was ordered razed by Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (whom I have very mixed feelings about, but ultimately feel was a decent person). He didn’t want it to become a rallying-point for monarchists, but people continued to come anyway. (The Russian Orthodox Church has never made a secret of its desire for a restoration of the monarchy, something I also would support.) In 2003, construction of a church in that spot was completed. The altar is right over the spot where the Imperial Family were murdered.

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Church on the Blood, built over the razed Ipatyev House, Copyright A viento