Today I learned about Kourdakov, Part 15, Chapter 19. Chapter 19: The Last Raid
Quickly I was back at the raids. The small groups of Believers consisted largely of young people. During interrogations, they reported that they had recently become Believers. Nikiforov was very concerned, and the deluge of directives from Moscow continued, with alarm. (p. 170)
There was no easing up or sympathy from me during these raids. In fact, because I was dissatisfied and ill at ease I was testier than ever. I was sharp and curt with my men and with the Believers. The last raids I led were the most vicious of all. Something was compelling me, driving me. I did not understand what it was, and I took out my frustrations and hostilities on any who crossed my path.
Nikiforov wants a tape of their prayers.
Coming closer, we found Yuri at work. His tape recorder was running and he had taped
the muffled voices of other Believers in prayer during the past ninety minutes. These prayers would be heard again and again in Moscow. They would help the state study the Believers’ attitudes and thoughts, in order to oppose them more effectively. (p. 171)
Vladimir Zelenov reached and grabbed a Bible from a Believer, ripping it apart. One of the women cried out, “Why? Why do you do that?” It was a hurt, deep cry, but it irritated Vladimir, and he smashed her full in the face. It was a professional, well-aimed blow that would have flattened any man, much less a frail little woman. She flew back against the other Believers and crumpled to the floor, her face bleeding. (p. 172)
I saw an old woman near the wall, fear on her face, lips trembling in prayer. I couldn’t hear what she was saying because of the noise. Her praying infuriated me and I raised my club to hit her. She suddenly saw me poised, ready to strike, and she prayed loudly. I listened for a second to her prayer, more out of curiosity than anything. As my arm
was raised, ready to lower my club on her defenseless head, I heard her words: “God, forgive this young man. Show him the true Way. Open his eyes and help him. Forgive him, dear God.” (p. 172)
I was stunned. Why doesn’t she ask help for herself instead of me? She’s the one about to be finished off. I was angered that she, a nobody, would be praying for me, Sergei Kourdakov, a leader of the Communist Youth League. In a flash of rage, I gripped my club tighter and prepared to smash it against her head. I was going to hit her with all my might, enough to kill her. I started to swing. Then the strangest thing happened to me. I can hardly describe it. Someone grabbed my wrist and jerked it back. I was startled. It was hurting. It was not imaginary. It was a real squeezing on my wrist until it actually hurt. I thought it was a Believer, and I turned around to hit him. But there was no one there!
I looked back. Nobody could have grabbed my arm. And yet, somebody had grabbed me! I still felt the pain. I stood there in shock. The blood rushed to my head. I felt hot as fright swept over me. This was beyond me. It was confusing, unreal. Then I forgot everything.
Dropping my club, I ran out, with the blood rushing to my head and a hot, flushed feeling in my face. Tears began flowing down my cheeks. (p. 172)
- He later tells Nikiforov he is quitting.
- He realizes he cannot quit.
- He is challenged by Youth League Members.
- He cites the constitution.
“Comrades,” I said, “I have been an activist and leader since the Octobrianiks at age eight. I have served the party well and will continue to serve it well. But I have studied the party guidebook and the constitution of the USSR. It says we are brothers with all men. So I can’t beat them. No, I did not beat the religiozniki last time. According to our teaching, they are my brothers. How could I beat my brothers? How can I continue doing that? Of course, we have a problem with
these Believers, but it does not direct us to beat and cripple them—“ (p. 174)
The chairman cut me off sharply. “Comrade Sergei,” he said, “you have been the finest youth leader to pass through the naval academy in years. You are still very young with much to learn. These religiozniki are not our brothers! They are like murderers. They kill the spirits of our children. They cripple people with their poisonous beliefs. We must rid our country of these people. This seeming pity for these people is an infection, nothing less! These Believers are the ones who
are disturbing our people and causing troubles. They force our government to spend huge amounts of money fighting them, money which should go toward building our country and helping our people. These people working from the inside can hurt us by undermining the faith of our people in communism and replacing it with a faith in some imaginary Jesus Christ.” (p. 175)
He went on, his voice increasing in shrillness. Then quickly his voice softened. “You are a Communist youth leader. When we are rid of these people, this kind of work will not be necessary.” The way the Believers speak their faith to others, I’ll be dead and in my grave first!
“Our Central Committee and the Politburo have given us this work to do and we must do it,” the chairman told me. (p. 175)
Nikiforov calls him in.
“You’re just the kind of man we need. The police needs you more than the navy. Here’s what we are prepared to do,” he said, nodding to Azarov. “We’ll jump your rank from second lieutenant to full lieutenant now. We’ll send you to the party police academy in Tomsk.” This was a famous, elite, KGB academy. Most of Russia’s top police officers came from there. Graduates of Tomsk were marked for the highest positions in the Soviet police system. (p. 176)
Nikiforov went on, citing my “special experience” with Believers and saying that at Tomsk I would be trained as a specialist in dealing with Believers. I well knew what that meant. My head was spinning. The Tomsk Academy! Only a Russian knows what a career advancement that was. Just look at Azarov. Only around thirty and already a major in the KGB! And I could do even better than Azarov. I knew that. After a year at Tomsk I would be graduated and upgraded from lieutenant to captain, then from captain to major. By the time I was twenty-five, in four years, I knew I could easily be a major in the secret police, in charge of dealing with Believers. From there, there was no limit to how high I could go. Life can be very good for people who blindly serve the system. I had already seen that. I could have a car, a cottage, plenty of money. (p. 176)
“Comrade Kourdakov,” Azarov said ominously and slowly, “the state has a big investment in you—a big investment—and we expect much from you. Don’t forget it!” I knew what Azarov was saying. I was on the hook and would never get off. I thanked them both again and left. I went back to the naval academy, lost in thought.
Most career officers would have given their right arm to get the offer I just had. For nearly all my life, my driving motto had been, “Go ahead! Go ahead!” Now here was the greatest break of my life. But it seemed hollow. I knew in my heart I could never be a servant of the system which had killed my father and turned me into a hardened animal, beating women and harmless Believers. (pp. 176-177)
If I said yes, I would be a tool of the state to persecute the Believers. Nikiforov had already made it clear that I was marked for that kind of work. There was no question. I couldn’t do it.
A few days later, I told Nikiforov my decision. He sputtered and said, “Go get a few months of life at sea with the fish; and when you get back, we’ll have another talk.”
I then realized the KGB wouldn’t leave me alone until I agreed. “When you get back . . . ” Those words rang in my ears. I knew in my heart I would not be coming back—not to that. (p. 177)
- He goes to sea as a submarine officer: radio.
- He is transferred to a trawler.
- The trawler heads to the Los Angeles area.
What to conclude from this?
- Once initiated into the secret police, there was no way out.
- They had lured him in with money.
- The money would keep coming in as he rose in the hierarchy.
- He wanted out anyway.
- He would have to risk his life to escape.