RUSSIA’S REVOLUTIONARY SOURCES. PART I: HEROES AND VILLAINS. “Who is Kolchak?”

melberg

By Anna Melberg

DK254.K595 M67 1919

Morskoĭ, N. Kto takoĭ Kolchak. Rostov-na-Donu : [s.n.], 1919.

 

Morskoy, N. Who is Kolchak? Rostov-na-Donu: [s.n.], 1919.

 

Kolchak: A One-act Play

INT-BAR

The play opens in St. Petersburg, 1919. Three men sit at a bar facing the audience. In front of each of them sits a shot glass. On the left is KOLYA wearing a red scarf. He holds a copy of the international section of the American magazine, The Nation. On the right is SLAVA dressed in the uniform of a Russian Naval officer and wearing white gloves. He holds a pamphlet titled, “Who is Kolchak?” In the middle sits DIMA. He is dressed entirely in grey and holds nothing but an unfortunately empty shot glass.

 

DIMA

(discouraged)

I’m telling you, guys, I don’t know where this country is going. We graduated from being killed by the German’s to being killed by each other.  I don’t know where to put my faith. I wish I knew what to fight for.

 

SLAVA

(eagerly)

I suppose that depends on whether you want to preserve Russian values or fall into anarchy, Dima. If you would just read this pamphlet, “Who is Kolchak?”, you would recognize straight away in Kolchak the strength and character of a true leader.  It says here that Kolchak braved the intense tundra of North Pole in a mission to save a few of his suffering soldiers –

 

KOLYA

(interrupting)

And did he succeed? No. An even better question would be who sent them into that doomed scenario in the first place?

 

SLAVA

That’s beyond the point, Kolya. Honestly… When you’re in charge, you have to make tough calls. Kolchak has proved himself capable of this tenfold. He has not only proven to be brave and courageous in his polar expeditions, but he has more importantly proven his valor and distinction at sea as an admiral in our navy.

 

Here Slava smiles and gestures to his own naval uniform.

 

SLAVA CONT’D

(proudly)

Kolchak has devoted his entire life to Mother Russia and he alone is worthy of her power. These Bolsheviks come from nothing and stand for nothing. They know nothing of loyalty.

 

KOLYA

(Snorting)

Loyalty? It’s funny you should bring that up. We all know the story regarding Kolchak’s loyalty, do we not? It has only been a year since he seduced his commanding officer’s wife and destroyed two marriages.

 

Slava stands, fists rising, preparing to defend his hero’s honor. Dima intervenes.

 

DIMA

(mediating)

I don’t care about Kolchak’s relations with his wife, let alone his comfort around polar bears. Why should we let this man take charge of Russia? Why is he in this position to potentially hold so much power?

 

Kolya springs to action waving his American magazine The Nation in the air.

 

KOLYA

(angrily)

It’s all a result of propaganda! America, Britain, and Germany have infiltrated our security and preyed on our country at its moment of weakness during the revolution. My cousin in America, you remember Josef, sent me this article in the mail a few days ago. He says it is the only unbiased and accurate summary of Kolchak’s real character he could find. It includes a statement from some Lomonossoff, I trust that name, as well as an assessment of Kolchak from our previous Minister of Labor, Gregory Zilboorg –

 

SLAVA

(interrupting)

Well you’re right about one thing, Kolya. Its Germany’s fault we’re in this mess. They sent Lenin in on that damned train and the world began to fall apart with the recitation of his contrived April Theses. In this time of war we need a conservative leader who has been tested by conflict and has proven himself to be able. Russia trusts Kolchak.  She knows that he will do anything to defend her. He has shown her that on many occasions, not the least of which is the time he saw a window of opportunity and bravely mined the German coast, destroying German ships without losing any Russian life. Kolchak wants freedom just as much as any other man, but he understands that freedom doesn’t mean, “Do what you want.” He kept his troops together during the revolution while everyone was tempted to loot, lose control, and to abandon their posts. When Kolchak finally returned home after the revolution, he was asked to be a part of the provisional government. When Russia had no one to turn to, she chose Kolchak; the most revealing aspect of this choice is that Kolchak never asked for it. If Kolchak is not worthy, why has Siberia joined his efforts?

 

KOLYA

(in an antagonizing manner)

You act as though the Siberian population had a choice. So quick are you to glorify Kolchak and his methods that you would ignore what is right in front of your eyes. There is evidence of mass slaughter and inhumane violence on Kolchak’s part. We have heard tales of the ‘train of death’ where hundreds of prisoners died from cold and starvation under Kolchak’s charge. His Cossacks are beating people to unconsciousness and sometimes death with hard metal rods. Even more, Kolchak does not give fair trials to those who disagree with his regime. He either exiles or executes. You think he is so controlled and discerning. How do you justify these actions?

 

SLAVA

(Blushing but still indignant)

It’s not true. None of it. But if it were, every war has its costs. Kolchak fights for what he knows is right and perhaps that means some people die in the process. Tell me of an instance in history where a country trying to protect its culture and traditions has not engaged in violence!

 

KOLYA

(Angrily)

How can you dismiss this so easily –

 

Dima stands up and places his hands over his ears. He begins humming a folk song and doesn’t stop until Kolya and Slava join in, miraculously harmonizing and performing in perfect communion with one another. As the song comes to an end, each voice fading to a small hum, Dima opens his eyes. He begins to speak.

 

DIMA

(softly)

I have listened to both of your extremes. To me you both are espousing opposite but equally manipulative episodes of propaganda. This feud between the Reds and the Whites, between the Bolsheviks and the monarchists, cannot be boiled down to the characteristics of their leaders. Both sides are seeking a united and bettered people. Can we not all just be united in our newfound common dream for an enlightened peasant class and universal human rights?

 

Looking at each other, both slightly embarrassed but both more illuminated, Kolya and Slava nod. Kolya slowly unwraps his red scarf from his neck just as Slava removes his white cap from his head. Dima counts up to three and the trio take a shot of vodka unanimously.


 

Works Cited

 

Lomonossoff, G. V., and G. Zilboorg. “Recognition Of Kolchak: Three Opinions.”                      Nation 108.(1919): 883-886. Readers’ Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 (H.W.                       Wilson). Web. 14 Dec. 2016.

About Stephen Norris