The action takes place in the suburban dacha village in the unusually hot, suffocating summer of 1972. Pensioner Pavel Evgrafovich Letunov, a man of advanced age, receives a letter from his old acquaintance Asi Igumnova, who was in love with the school from the school for a long time. Together they fought on the Southern Front during the Civil War, until fate finally divorced them in different directions. The same old as Letunov, she lives near Moscow and invites him to visit.
It turns out that Asya found him, having read in the magazine a note by Letunov about Sergei Kirillovich Migulin, a Cossack commander, a large red military commander from civil times. Migulin was unofficially her husband. Working as a typist at the headquarters, she accompanied him in combat campaigns. She had a son from him. In the letter, she expresses the joy that with Migulin, a bright and complex man, the shameful mark of the traitor has been removed, but she is surprised that the note was written by Letunov, because he also believed in Migulin’s guilt.
The letter awakens a lot of memories in Letunov. He was friends with Asya and her cousin Volodya, whose wife Asya was immediately after the revolution. Paul often went to their house, he knew Father Asya, a well-known lawyer, her mother, Alexei’s older brother, who fought on the White side and soon died when the Denikin retreated. One day, when they were skiing with Pavel’s uncle, the revolutionary Shura Danilov, who had recently returned from Siberian exile, Grobov, a bandit who kept the whole district in fear, came out to them, and Volodya, frightened, ran headlong off. He then could not forgive himself this weakness, so that he even collected his things and left for his mother in Kamyshin. Then the Igumnovs had a conversation about fear, and Shura said that every person has seconds of scorching fear-wracking mind. He, Shura, is in the future a commissioner, even in the most difficult situations, he thinks about the destiny of every person, tries to resist the veiling eyes of many bloody foam – the senseless cruelty of revolutionary terror. He listens to the arguments of Stanislav Slaboserdov, the schoolteacher, who convinces the commanders of the Steel detachment that it is impossible to act with Cossacks only by violence, which calls them to look back at the history of the Cossacks.
Memory Letunova resurrects with bright flashes individual episodes from the whirlwind of events of those years that remained for him the most important, and not only because it was his youth, but also because the destinies of the world were being decided. He was intoxicated with mighty time. Tekla is a red-hot lava of history, and it is inside it. Was there a choice or not? Could it be different or not? “You can not do anything, you can kill a million people, overthrow the tsar, make a great revolution, blow up a dynamite full of light, but you can not save one person.”
Volodya in the village Mikhailovskaya, together with other revolutionary commissars, was slaughtered by the white men of the Filippov gang. Asya Letunov also found in an unconscious state, raped. Soon here appeared Migulin, specially galloped because of her. A year later Paul visited the Igumnovs’ apartment in Rostov. He wants to inform convalescents after the typhus Ace that last night in Bogaevka, along with his entire staff, Migulin was arrested. Itself Letunov appointed secretary of the court. He argues with his mother Asya about the revolution, and at that time parts of the Denikinians break through into the city, and one officer with the soldiers appears at the Igumnovs. This is their friend. He looks suspiciously at Letunov, where the commissar’s leather jacket, but Asya’s mother, with whom they have just almost quarreled, rescues him, telling the officer that Pavel is their old friend.
Why did Letunov write about Migulin? Yes, because that time for him is in vain. He first began to work on the rehabilitation of Migulin, has long been studying the archives, because Migulin seems to him an outstanding historical figure, intuitively comprehending many things that soon found confirmation. Letunov believes that his research is of great importance not only as a comprehension of history, but also as a touch to the truth that “inevitably reached the day of today, reflected, refracted, became light and air…”. However, Asya in her surprise fell really into a painful point: Letunov also experiences a secret guilt over Migulin – for questioning whether during the trial he was allowed to take part in the counter-revolutionary uprising, Migulin sincerely replied that he did. What, obeying the common opinion,
The forty-seven-year-old Migulin Letunov, then a nineteen-year-old, considered an old man. The drama of the corps, in the past the army sergeant-major, the lieutenant-colonel, was that many not only envied his growing fame and popularity, but most importantly – did not trust him. Migulin enjoyed great respect from the Cossacks and hatred of the atamans, successfully fought against the Whites, but, as many believed, he was not a true revolutionary. In his own ardent appeals, distributed among the Cossacks, he expressed his personal understanding of the social revolution, his views on justice. They were afraid of insurrection, and maybe even deliberately did so to annoy, provoke Migulin to counter-revolutionary speech, send him commissars like Leonty Shigontsev, who were ready to fill Don with blood and... did not want to listen to any arguments. With Shigontsev Migulin already encountered when he was a member of the district revolutionary committee. This strange type, who believed that humanity should give up “from feelings, from emotions,” was hacked near the village where the corps headquarters stood. Suspicion could fall on Migulin, as he often opposed the “pseudo-Communists” commissars.
Distrust was followed by Migulin, and Letunov himself, as he explained to himself his behavior at that time, was part of this general mistrust. Meanwhile, Migulin was prevented from fighting, and in a situation where the whites repeatedly went on the offensive and the situation at the front was far from successful, he was eager to fight to protect the revolution, and was furious that he was being put in the wheel. Migulin is nervous, rushing and eventually can not stand: instead of going to Penza, where he is being called with an incomprehensible intention, with a handful of troops subordinate to him, Migulin begins to make his way to the front. On the way, he is arrested, brought to trial and sentenced to be shot. In his ardent speech at the trial, he says that he was never a rebel and would die with the words “Long live the social revolution!”.
Migulin is amnestied, extinguished, he becomes the head of the land department of the Donispolkom, and two months later he is again given a regiment. In February 1921 he was awarded the Order and appointed Chief Inspector of the Red Army cavalry. On the way to Moscow, where he was summoned to receive this honorary post, he calls into his native village. On the Don at that time it was troubled. Cossacks as a result of the surplus-surgeries are worried, here and there uprisings are breaking out. Migulin is one of those who can not help but get into a fight, not to stand on someone’s defense. There is a rumor that he returned to the Don to stick to the rebels. Migulin, having listened to the stories of the Cossacks about the atrocities of the prodigals, cursed the local leaders, promising to go to Lenin in Moscow and tell them about the atrocities. Attached to him is a bastard, recording all his statements, and in the end he is arrested.
Nevertheless, even many years later, the figure of Migulin is still not fully understood by Letunov. He is still not sure that the purpose of the corps, when he voluntarily addressed the front, was not a mutiny. Pavel Evgrafovich wants to find out where he moved in August of the nineteenth. He hopes that the live witness of the events, the person closest to Migulin, Asya Igumnova, will be able to tell him something new, shed light, and therefore, despite weakness and discomfort, Letunov goes to her. He needs truth, but instead the old woman says after a long silence: “I will answer you – I did not love anyone so much in my long, tiring life…” And Letunov himself, seemingly exacting the truth, forgets his own mistakes and his own fault. Justifying himself, he calls it “the darkening of the mind and the breaking of the soul,”
Letunov thinks about Migulin, recalls the past, but meanwhile passions around him seethe. In the co-operative dacha settlement where he lives, the house was vacated after the owner’s death, and Pavel Evgrafovich’s adult children ask him to talk with the chairman of the board Prikhodko, because in their house the grown-up family has long been out of place, Flyunov is a well-deserved person who has lived here a lot years. However, Evgrafovich avoids talking with Prikhodko, a former cadet, an informer and generally a vile man, who also remembers perfectly how, in his time, Letunov cleaned him from the party. Letunov lives past, the memory of a recently buried wife, whom he is sorely lacking. The children, who are immersed in everyday life, do not understand him and are not at all interested in his historical research, even believe that he has survived from his mind,
The current tenant Oleg Kandaurov, a successful, energetic and stubborn person who wants to go all the way to the limit, also claims to vacate the house. He has a business trip to Mexico, he has a lot of urgent business, in particular, getting a medical certificate for the trip, and two main concerns – farewell to his mistress and this very house, which he must get at all costs. Kandaurov does not want to miss anything. He knows that neighbors in his dachas do not really like him and are unlikely to support him, but he is not going to give in: he manages to pay off another claimant for the house, the nephew of his former owner, and Prikhodko also has an agreement with him. However, when everything seems to be settled, he is called from the polyclinic, offering to pass a second urine test. Surprisingly, that Kandaurov is a serious and possibly incurable disease that cancels the trip to Mexico, and everything else. The elements of life do not flow in the same way as people tend to direct it. So with a holiday village – strangers come to the black Volga with a red folder in their hands, and Ruslan’s son Letunov manages to learn from the driver that instead of old dachas they are going to build a boarding house.