The Secret World

The Secret World

The Secret World

The Secret World

Excerpt

P ETER DERIABIN was born in the tiny farming settlement of Lokot, in southwestern Siberia, on February 13, 1921. It was not a particularly happy moment for a Russian child to begin his life. If Americans born some years later could ever after call themselves "depression babies," Russians of Deriabin's vintage have abundant right to a title like "chaos children." Although the Revolution was three and a half years old, the country remained twisted in its convulsions. The last organized army of the Whites had given up the ghost the previous autumn, when Baron Wrangel loaded some 100,000 of his supporters aboard the remnants of the Czarist navy, anchored off the Crimea, after an earlier-day Dunkirk at Sevastopol. But numerous, if less formidable, White groups kept fighting; and the blood and banditry in the backwash of modern history's worst civil war continued without cease.

"Tens and hundreds of thousands of disbanded soldiers," as Lenin himself admitted, had become brigands. Farms had been wrecked and the life of the cities thrown into wild disorder by the pell-mell orderings of "war Communism." On the day of Deriabin's birth the sailors of the Red Fleet were mutinying at Kronstadt in the first armed rebellion within the new régime. That same month the desperate Bolshevik leaders gingerly put forth the first explanations of the New Economic Policy, designed to give peasants and small shop owners a brief respite from the fury of their own communizing.

Derabin's family background, at least, was able to give him some cushion against the formalized class warfare which, even by the fourth year of Communist rule, was written into the law of the land.

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