Time Travel Logs

1954 Part 11

Meanwhile in a dacha near Moscow.

Nikita Khrushchev, preceded by guards, entered the new home of Sergei Beloglazov. He yelled out, “My Rasputin, how are you today?”

Sergei answered, “Fine, and how are you Nikita Sergeyevich?”

Khrushchev answered back, “Good, very good. I trust your accommodations have been good?”

Sergei smiled back and said, “I couldn’t complain”

Khrushchev said, “To see if you have the appetites of Rasputin, we sent you 4 last night, and I hear all 4 of them were smiling this morning. But don’t worry about us testing to see if you are as indestructible as Rasputin, you are very well guarded.”

Sergie said, “You know that I am not actually Rasputin, no?”

Khrushchev said, “Yes, we even located your family. Your father looks like he could be your son. Your mother isn’t born yet, but we can see the resemblance to your grandparents. You’ll get a chance to meet them soon.

I am in a good mood, because I think your plan for me to use my friends from the Ukraine as a palace guard has worked.”

Sergei said, “I am glad that I could be of some help.”

Khrushchev said, “You know, you can be totally frank with me. Your position is secure. You could say that history has proven that I ruined the spring wheat harvest with my shiny head reflecting the sun, and it wouldn’t bother me.”

Sergei answered, “I’ll try to be frank.”

Khrushchev asked, “What does history say of me?”

Sergei answered, “Much of the time there is some nostalgia for either you or Stalin. Under Brezhnev there was probably some official nostalgia for Stalin as a way to deemphasize your place in history. Under Adropov’s less than 2 years, and then under Gorbachev, your role was emphasized, and you might even describe both of them as your proteges. Under Putin, even though apparently non-Communist, there is some official nostalgia for Stalin. Under Yeltsin, I suppose there was a nostalgia for capitalism, but ended in bitter disappointment.

The Khrushchev era, 1954 to 1964 is remembered first for the time that you had your balls handed to you by President Kennedy. Beyond that you were known as a reformer, but also for hare brained schemes like Virgin Lands, which ended in soil erosion.”

Khrushchev said, “Thank you for your frankness. I’ll ask for considerable detail about agriculture, but first I want to hear about this incident with a President Kennedy.”

Sergie explained, “There were 3 causes of the Cuban missile crisis. First, John Kennedy was elected President of the US in 1960 and you thought he was too young to be a strong leader. Second, after the Cuban Revolution Kennedy allowed Cuban exiles to invade, which ended in failure. Third, in 1962 you didn’t have many or even any missiles or bombers that could expected to actually reach the US.

So, you sent missiles to Cuba, to prevent a US invasion. However, their aerial reconnaissance found the missiles before they were operational. The US set up a blockade, and demanded their withdrawal. One of Kennedy’s people told you that the President can’t restrain his generals for much longer, and then you agreed. 2 years later you were removed from power, mostly because of this humiliation.”

Khrushchev considered what he was told and said, “If in 8 years, our scientists would fail to provide a way to reach the US, I might be ready to take a gamble. Sometimes gambles succeed, and sometimes they fail. I would certainly sacrifice my own reputation and position to safeguard the motherland.

Maybe this doesn’t have to happen. Maybe you can help us to solve the technical problems with missiles and bombers?”

Sergei answered, “Getting a rocket into orbit wasn’t the difficult part. That happens in 1957. It is the guidance towards a target, and a warhead that can take the heat of reentry through the atmosphere that is more difficult. Also, a rocket engine that can be launched quickly. Our missiles in that era took hours to days to prepare to launch, enough time for bombers to destroy them.

Hardened silos can help protect them. Also many silos for a few missiles. Assume that the Americans see everything, and you won’t go wrong. So let them see many silos, and try to figure out which has real missiles and which has dummies.”

Khrushchev said, “It is just like digging a mine or a well. We’ll get started even before we have a missile to put there. We can put up giant tarps so that they can’t see when the missiles are delivered.

So, what happened after the missiles were withdrawn from Cuba, did they threaten us to not build better missiles at home?”

Sergei answered, “No, and with a few years we had good missiles, with short launch times, and more than they had. They weren’t looking for a preventative war, and by then, they assumed a few of our missiles and bombers would get through, even if we couldn’t be sure that any would get through. They weren’t willing to sacrifice their cities. Actually their best bet for a preventative war would be right now, when we don’t yet have a deployable h-bomb.”

Khrushchev said, “I am going to set up meetings with our technical experts. Anything you remember will be helpful. Now, briefly, agriculture. What was wrong with Virgin Lands? I have been to Kazakhstan, and it seems to be getting off to a good start. The young people seem very committed to the project and don’t mind living in tents for now.”

Sergei answered, “Monoculture, poor planning. I don’t think fertilizer was available at the right time, or crop rotation. In any event, you need precautions against soil blowing away. Just look at the example of the American dustbowl, farmed in the 1890’s, destroyed in the 1930’s. In the Virgin Lands, it didn’t even take 20 years for the same result.”

Khrushchev said, “It takes a lot of resources to plant wind breaks. I know what to do. The difficulty is that we need 3 million pood of wheat, and it can’t wait. I’ll get some organization there, better coordination, protection against wind erosion. Anything else about agriculture?”

Sergie said, “You made everyone grow corn, even where it didn’t make sense. Actually, I think you just said, that corn is a wonderful crop and that you grew it yourself near Moscow, but that was enough for everyone to treat it as an order.”

Khrushchev said, “That is true. However, corn is a crop that has no patience for stupidity. It needs intelligence to have a good crop. Oats can tolerate stupidity, but not corn. How is agriculture in your era?”

Sergie said, “I know more about Russia than the other republics, except that the Aral sea is almost dry, and dust clouds poison the nearby areas. I think cotton had a bad rise and fall in that area. In Russia, the private plots have become bigger and much more important. I think it is the majority of crop value in 2008. The collective farms are still there. They became corporations under Yeltsin, ownership given to the workers, but by 2008, some owned by conglomerates or mortgaged to banks. Their yield, is I think, lower than under Communism. Still, with the private plots we weren’t starving.”

Khrushchev said, “Incentives have always been a problem with the collective farms. They sort of are run as corporations now, with the salaries based upon profits, but poor management is often a problem. We are removing one of the main obstacles to private plots, which is the taxing of trees. We should have removed it long ago. Peasants have been cutting down trees because of this.”

Khrushchev said, “The technical teams want to meet with you again about the things you were found with. That tiny machine gun is very advanced. Do you know how it is built?”

Sergei answered, “No, but I know how to take it apart, how to clean it, and how to use it.”

Khrushchev said, “See if you can answer their questions. Now what about your jacket, you said it is bullet proof?”

Sergei said, “Against some low powered rounds. Useless against high power. I can help explain how it is made. It is fairly simple if you can make the correct materials. It is designed to be inconspicuous, something that can be worn while conducting business. I could probably help your designers with the more powerful ceramic plate armour sometimes used, and maybe even in the reactive armour used to protect tanks.”

Khrushchev asked, “What exactly did you do for work?”

Sergei said, “I was security consultant, sort of a fancy term for a bodyguard.”

Khrushchev asked, “How can you be so knowledgeable about history and other fields then?”

Sergei said, “I read a lot. Also, I would accompany business executives as they traveled. They would pay more for someone intelligent to talk to than to a simple gorilla.”

Khrushchev, somewhat taken aback, asked, “Business executives needed bodyguards to defend against the workers?”

Sergei said, “No, that has never been an issue. It is against other businessmen. We didn’t have capitalism like in America. There if a businessman has a dispute with another businessman, their lawyers talk and maybe they go to court. In Russia, business was much more dangerous. Also, the courts could not be counted upon to give an uncorrupted ruling.”

Khrushchev said, “So, you weren’t in an oppressive class. I think you were a specialist. During the Revolution we made special efforts to recruit the specialists. Even if the workers didn’t have enough food and lived in barracks, we would give a specialist an apartment, a horse, and a driver. To build technology we needed their expertise. Sometimes they were found to be disloyal, even though we tried to keep them happy.

What happened to the revolutionary spirit in your time?”

Sergei answered, “It was destroyed by Brezhnev. I think when he and Kosygin overthrew you, they were equal, and Kosygin wanted to continue many of your reforms. Soon, Brezhnev was in charge, and started a period of stagnation and corruption. By 1982, everyone could see how far we fell behind the West, and noone really believed in Communism anymore. Gorbachev, and to some extent, Andropov tried to reform Communism in the 1980’s, but it was too far gone by that point, and the population too cynical to believe in reforms anyway.

Then, under Yeltsin, the West offered their help to transform us to capitalism, and held out the promise that in a few years we could be as well off as them. Instead, our living standards declined even from the low levels they were under Brezhnev. Some got wealthy, most were at a low subsistence level. Not starvation, but much worse than before. And there was even more corruption than under Brezhnev. Some connected people wound up being the capitalist owners of former state assets, through fraud, corruption, theft, and violence. The ownership was supposed to be divided up among the population.

Then in the 2000’s Putin was in charge. A former KGB man, he understood Russia’s strengths and weaknesses. Its strengths were petroleum, natural gas, weapons, and space technology. These could be exported. Our manufactured goods, other than those, were hopeless. Using world market prices, often the output of a factory was worth less than the raw ingredients.
We had a few other bright spots, such as computer programming for Western companies.

The important areas, he put under indirect state control, by putting trusted people in charge of those companies.”

Khrushchev said, “That gives me much to think about. It sounds like for now, the challenge is to avoid stagnation, and fight corruption and cynicism.”

Story: 1954: Part 12


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