On December 24, 1949, at five o’clock in the evening, state counselor of the second rank, Innokentiy Volodin, almost ran away from the stairs of the Foreign Ministry, jumped out into the street, took a taxi, raced through central Moscow streets, went out on the Arbat Street, went to the telephone booth at the Khudozhestvenny movie theater “and dialed the number of the American Embassy. A graduate of the Higher Diplomatic School, a capable young man, the son of a well-known father who died in a civil war (his father was one of those who dispersed the Constituent Assembly), the son-in-law of the prosecutor for special purposes, Volodin belonged to the upper strata of Soviet society. However, the natural decency, multiplied by knowledge and intellect, did not allow Innokenty fully
Finally, a trip to the village, to my uncle, who told Innokentia and about what violence the commonwealth and humanity allowed the state of workers and peasants, and that, in essence, violence was co-existence of Father Innokenty with his mother, the young lady of a good family. In conversation with Uncle Innocent, he discussed the problem of the atomic bomb: how terrible it is if it appears in the USSR.
After some time, Innokenty learned that Soviet intelligence had stolen atomic bomb drawings from American scientists and that these drawings would be handed over to agent Georgy Koval today. This is what Volodin tried to communicate by telephone to the American embassy. How much he believed and how much his call helped the cause of peace, Innokenty, alas, did not recognize.
The call, of course, was recorded by Soviet special services and produced the effect of a bomb that exploded. Treason! It is terrible to report to Stalin (who is busy with an important work on the basics of linguistics these days) about high treason, but it’s even more terrible to report right now. It is dangerous to pronounce the very word “telephone” under Stalin. The fact is that in January of last year Stalin instructed to develop a special telephone connection: especially high-quality, so that it was audible, as if people are talking in one room, and especially reliable, so that it can not be overheard. The work was assigned to a scientific special facility outside Moscow, but the task was complicated, all the terms were passed, and the case moved barely.
And very inopportunely there was still this insidious call to someone else’s embassy. Arrested four suspects at the metro Sokolniki, but it is clear to everyone that they have nothing to do with it. The circle of suspects in the Foreign Ministry is small – five to seven people, but all can not be arrested. As the deputy Abakumova Ryumin reasonably said: “This ministry is not Food Industry.” It is necessary to identify the voice of the caller. There is an idea to entrust this task to the same suburban special facility.
Object Marfino – the so-called sharashka. The kind of prison in which the color of science and engineering is gathered from all the islands of the Gulag to solve important and secret technical and scientific problems. Sharashki are convenient for everyone. To the state. It is impossible to collect two great scientists in one group: one starts for the glory and the Stalin Prize. And here fame and money do not threaten anyone, one half a glass of sour cream and another half a glass of sour cream. All work. Advantageous to scientists: avoiding camps in the Land of Soviets is very difficult, and sharashka is the best of prisons, the first and the softest circle of hell, almost a paradise: warm, well-fed, do not have to work on terrible penalties. In addition, men, reliably detached from families, from the whole world, from whatever fate-building problems, can indulge in free or relatively free dialogues. The spirit of male friendship and philosophy is hovering under the sail vault of the ceiling. Perhaps, this is the bliss that all philosophers of antiquity tried in vain to determine.
The Germanic philologist Lev Rubin was at the front as a major in the “department for the disintegration of enemy troops.” From the camps of prisoners of war, he chose those who agreed to return home in order to cooperate with the Russians. Rubin not only fought against Germany, not only knew Germany, but also loved Germany. After the January offensive of 1945, he allowed himself to doubt the slogan “blood for blood and death for death” and was behind bars. Fate led him to a little ball. Personal tragedy did not break Rubin’s faith in the future triumph of the communist idea and in the genius of the Leninist project. A fine and deeply educated person, Rubin, and in prison, continued to believe that the red cause wins, and innocent people in prison – only the inevitable side effect of the great historical movement.
It was on this subject that Rubin had a hard time arguing with his comrades about sharashka. And I remained true to myself. In particular, he continued to prepare for the Central Committee a project on the creation of civilian churches, a distant analogue of churches. Here, servants were supposed to wear snow-white clothes, here the citizens of the country were to swear an oath of allegiance to the party, the Fatherland, and parents. Rubin wrote in detail: on the basis of what territorial unit the temples are built, what dates are recorded there, the duration of individual rituals. He did not chase after glory. Realizing that the Central Committee might not be able to accept the idea from a political prisoner, he assumed that the project would be signed by one of the free front-line friends. The main thing is an idea.
In sharashka, Rubin deals with “sonic”, the problem of searching for individual features of speech, graphically imprinted. It is Rubin who is offered to compare the voices of the suspects in treason with the voice of the person who committed the treacherous bell. Rubin undertakes the task with great enthusiasm. Firstly, he is filled with hatred for a man who wanted to prevent his motherland from capturing the most perfect weapon. Secondly, these studies can be the beginning of a new science with huge prospects: any criminal conversation is recorded, collated, and the attacker without hesitation is caught, like a thief who left fingerprints on the safe door. For Rubin, to cooperate with the authorities in such a matter is a duty and a higher morality.
Many other prisoners of sharashka solve the problem of such cooperation for themselves. Illarion Pavlovich Gerasimovich sat down “for sabotage” in the 30th, when they planted all the engineers. In the year 35 he went out, Natasha’s bride came to see him on the Amur River and became his wife. For a long time they did not dare to return to Leningrad, but they decided – in June of 1941. Hilarion became a gravedigger and survived at the expense of other people’s deaths. Even before the end of the blockade, he was imprisoned for intending to change his country. Now, on one of the dates, Natasha prayed that Gerasimovich would find an opportunity to achieve tests, to perform some kind of extraordinarily important task in order to shave off the deadline. Waiting another three years, and she is already thirty-seven, she is dismissed from work as the enemy’s wife, and there is no longer her strength… After a while, Gerasimovich seems to have a happy opportunity: to make a night camera for door jambs, to shoot any incoming-going. Will: early release. Natasha was waiting for his second term. Helpless little bundle, it was on the verge of extinction, and with it the life of Hilarion will fade. But he replied nevertheless: “To put people in jail is not in my specialty! It’s enough that we were put in…”
Counts on early release and friend-enemy of Rubin on the disputes of Sologdin. He develops secretly from colleagues a special model of an encoder, the project of which is almost ready to be put on the table by the authorities. He passes the first examination and receives “good.” The path to freedom is open. But Sologdin, like Gerasimovich, is not sure that it is necessary to cooperate with the communist special services. After another conversation with Rubin, which ended in a major quarrel between friends, he realizes that even the best of the Communists can not be trusted. Sologdin burns his drawing. Lieutenant-Colonel Yakonov, who has already reported about Sologdin’s successes upstairs, comes to an indescribable horror. Although Sologdin explains that he realized the error of his ideas, the lieutenant-colonel does not believe him. Sologdin, who has already been sitting twice, understands that he is waiting for a third term. “From here a half-hour drive to the center of Moscow, – says Yakonov. – You could get on this bus in June – in July this year. But you did not want to. I admit that in August you would have already had your first vacation – and would have gone to the Black Sea. Bathe! How many years have you not entered the water, Sologdin? “
Whether these conversations or something else worked, but Sologdin concedes and takes the obligation to do everything in a month. Gleb Nerzhin, another friend and interlocutor of Rubin and Sologdin, becomes a victim of intrigues, which are led by two competing laboratories inside the sharashka. He refuses to switch from one laboratory to another. The work of many years is dying: the secretly written historical and philosophical work. At the stage where Nerzhin is now sent, it can not be taken. Love is dying: recently, Nerzhin feels tender feelings for the free laboratory assistant (and at the same time Lieutenant MTB) Simochka, who reciprocates. Simochka never had anything to do with a man in her life. She wants to get pregnant from Nerzhin, have a baby and wait for Gleb for the remaining five years. But the day when it should happen, Nerzhin unexpectedly gets a date with his wife, with whom he had not seen for a very long time. And decides to abandon Simochka.
Rubin’s efforts bear fruit: the circle of suspects in treason narrowed to two people. Volodin and a man named Shyvoronok. A little more, and the villain will be deciphered (Rubin is almost sure that this is Schweronok). But two people are not five or seven. It was decided to arrest both of them (there can not be a second that was completely innocent of anything). At this moment, realizing that his efforts to hell gulag is innocent, Rubin felt terrible fatigue. He remembered both his illnesses, his time, and the difficult fate of the revolution. And only the map of China, which he had pinned to the wall himself, with a shaded red communist territory warmed him. In spite of everything, we win.
Innocent Volodin was arrested a few days before his flight to a foreign business trip – to that very America. With terrible perplexity and with great torments (but with some even amazed curiosity) he enters the territory of the Gulag.
Gleb Nerzhin and Gerasimovich leave for the stage. Sologdin, who is building a group for his developments, suggests Nerzhin to seek for him if he agrees to work in this group. Nerzhin refuses. Finally, he makes an attempt to reconcile former friends, and now the ardent enemies of Rubin and Sologdin. Unsuccessful attempt.
The prisoners sent to the stage are loaded into a car with the inscription “Meat”. The correspondent of the newspaper “Liberation”, seeing the van, records in a notebook: “On the streets of Moscow, now and then there are vans with food, very neat, sanitary-flawless.”