TO SEE URYUPINSK AND DIE

In Russian. High-school graduation exam (“EGE”) essay (sochineniye) about Lenin is read aloud, at what looks like a family celebration of sorts — much to the assembled audience’s merriment,  since the author, being blissfully ignorant with regards to the actual course of Soviet history, except in its broadest, hilariously abbreviated outlines, nonetheless plows right ahead with the assigned topic, placing Lenin at the center of Soviet Army’s fight against the Nazis in WWII, then appointing him the leader of the Gorbachevian perestroika, etc:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NxNTZag0yo&feature=player_embedded#.

To anyone raised in the Soviet Union, where Lenin from the very outset of said unnatural geopolitical formation’s existence was anointed and tirelessly promoted (for a good run of Soviet history, in tandem with Stalin, too; but the latter, in 1956, was publicly revealed to be mortal, hence inherently flawed, by Khrushchev, and that was the end of his celestial being) as the supreme deity, in effect, meant to depose and supplant Lord Jesus, along with the full gamut of lesser and larger gods venerated by the human race, in backward country’s populace’s deeply superstitious and mythology-prone collective mindset, the very premise of someone’s not knowing who Lenin was, and in every exhaustive minutae of the great leader of the international proletariat’s official, airbrushed biography, even in today’s, nominally post-Soviet Russia, seems comical in the extreme. Imagine an American, say, fumbling for an answer when asked who Jesus was, indeed, or a citizen of any Arab country drawing a blank at the mention of Allah’s sacred name: sound likely?   

And yet, here we are. Sic transit, etc.

Back in late Soviet-era days, one among the thousands of subterranean political jokes (anekdoty) making rounds of people’s private conversations featured an exchange between a ditzy college student and her history professor, in the course of which it develops that the former has never heard of Lenin, prompting the latter to enquire in amazement as to where in the world she’s from, originally — and when she replies demurely, “from Uryupinsk” (a fictitious place, equivalent in the meagerness of its name’s phonetic import to the anglophone Spitsville, or Nowhereville, or some such), he says dreamily off into speace, with a wistful sigh, “Ah, would that one could just drop everything and move to Uryupinsk!”

Well, here we are, in the blissful Uryupinsk of our onetime utopian imaginings. Now what? Now, thanks to the Internet search engines, we know everything — and nothing, as the sentient biological species; what next?

Yours Truly is reminded, a propos of this, of Donald Barthelme’s short story “Cortez and Montezuma,” in which the Aztecs in powedered wigs ride automobiles with white-spoked pneumatic tires and speak some rudimentary German, while Cortez worries that his interpreter and mistress, Donna Marina, works too hard, and Montezuma writes letters to his mother in the countryside and walks down by the docks with Cortez, the two holding hands and conducting conversations straight out of a “Godfather”-knockoff film script. This is history’s cliff notes gone mad with extreme abridgment and resultant loss of all logical connections, the white noise of history for the uninitiated and willfully uninformed billowing, in place of the boringly mundane “real deal” of all those unrememberable dates and meaningless names and overturned governments and executed kings and the like, in the mass-culture-cluttered heads of every succedent “Don’t know much about history” generation… Well, so what of it? We used to be same way, too, back in the day — or rather, we, of course, the true us of us, were not quite like that, but the rest of us, well, they sure were. We knew, for instance, that Lenin represented the impossibly beautiful duality of unassailable godliness and utmost humanity (“Lenin even now is more alive than any living human” — this Mayakovsky line, utterly insane in the sheer scope of its servility, was the primary slogan of many Soviet decades; one could see it splashed in giant lettering on untold thousands of street posters), but we had very little idea as to who, again, Jesus was, and why some people thought he might ever have existed, either as man or God (this was confusing, actually), when it was a well-established scientific fact that he never did exist, and that God was nothing but fiction also, as it had been proven conclusively by Yuri Gagarin historic space flight, on April 12, 1961, during the course of which, having fully orbited our little planet once, over the interval of one hour and forty-eight minutes,  he never saw no God, up there, in the open cosmos of the universe, or any minor members of His retinue, such as various angels and cherubs and whatnot — so there! We knew an awful lot about the history of the Bolshevik party, willy nilly, but we were not really aware that America and England fought on our side during the WWII, say, instead of being in cahoots with Hitler. We… but this could threaten to be too long of a disqusition for this blog post, on the relative degree of our ignorance viz our awareness, back in old USSR.

In a preceding post, here — https://slswrites.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/she-may-never-have-heard-of-proust-either/ — we see, rather than a freak of pure, distilled ignorance, an all-American girl (Miss Something-or-Other, wouldn’t you know it) from the great all-American Uryupinsk. So what if she doesn’t know whether France is a country but is convinced that Europe is. Who cares (well, she sure doesn’t) that she’s never heard of Hungary! (Hungary? Hungary? Huh? Are you, like, putting me on?) What of it? She knows all she needs to know, in order to be happy (and her happinesss is not yours or Yours Truly’s; she does not need your kind of knowledge-based happiness, or unhappiness, thank you very much, for “in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow”). She knows that the Lord is her shepherd. She knows that America is good and Russia (the timeless, paradigmatic, godless, commie-run, Uryupinsk-ite version of one) is evil. She knows that God has a plan for her — the only one according to which everything will unfold and come to fruition in her life, and if it should happen to be His will that she should never have heard of some silly Hungary (as well as many other places and people, presumably), so be it. Who needs Hungary when you know right from wrong?.. In other words, of course, she’s the all-American Sarah Palin, for all intents and purposes — http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122518079 — yes, Ms. Palin, the embodiment of the great, million-strong and thoroughly disenfranchised American constituency of the supposedly put-upon and the indubitably and proudly ignorant; Sarah who took her selection as McCain’s running mate, according to that gossipy new book of the 2008 presidential election, “Game Change,” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, with preternatural calmness, because it was “God’s plan.”  (Indeed, just a few short years earlier, she was the first to stake a spot closest to the doors at Anchorage’s Barnes and Noble, the night before Ivana Trump was to be signing copies of her biography book there, because she yearned oh so badly, with her salmon-stinking hands, for the reflected glow of that woman’s big-world glamor; and now she’s one of the most famous people in the world her own self — how is she supposed to make any kind of sense of all this? God’s plan — there’s no other way. Other people may call it destiny, or fate, or an incredible confluence of serendipities, but to her, in her monochrome mind, it’s nothing but God’s plan. Which is one and the same thing, really, come to think of it — God, fate, luck. A rose by any other name…)  

Ah, to see Uryupinsk and die…

But alas, we’ll never get to see Uryupinsk. It’s just not in the cards for us.

To be continued.

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