Road to Revolution

August 16, 2008
The chill morning air of early summer hung gently, silently over the thick canopy of treetops and rolling patches of cleared farmland, already broken by the sounds of work. While the city of St. Petersburg slept peacefully to the south, the soft breeze that had begun its journey across the brilliant Russian countryside carried with it the hard voices of farm hands and the commanding tones of their employers; accompanying it was the symphony of metal tools hitting earth, the counterpoint of beasts of burden resisting their load, and the bustle of a house coming alive as its inhabitants stirred and began to prepare for the day. Pots and pans, voices both impatient and lighthearted, all worked in harmony to create the song of labor that characterized the morning hours as the daily grind of farm work began.

The outdoor sounds and voices swelled as Vassily Paskachov entered the kitchen, and then faded as the door swung shut. With broad shoulders, dark hair, and matching dark eyes which where almost always calm and piercing, he was unmistakably Russian. Having risen with the sun about an hour and a half earlier, he was more than happy to finish off the hot perogii waiting for him.

“Nothing to start off the day like raw workers,” he pronounced in a huff. It was one of those moments during which the cool summer stillness of his eyes grew into a silent, thunderous storm. “Can’t even handle a horse properly. Now we’re short until the bloke recovers.”

“Not even one day, and you’re already frustrated?” asked Marina as she placed the last of the meal before her family and sat down herself. “Perhaps it’s not the new workers that are the problem.”

She knew her husband had stringent standards, and it was a challenge to break anyone in when it came time to hire a labor force.


“Serves him right,” grunted Vassily in return. He was not one to appreciate incompetence. “Ivan, I’ll need you to fill in for some time.”

“Not a problem,” answered the young man, stealing a look at his younger sister, who had not said a word since her father arrived.

As difficult as it was to lose a farm hand, even temporarily, this had worked out well. It would be the perfect time to convince Vassily to accept Sasha. For a few long moments, no one spoke and only concentrated on eating. Fyokla, the eldest of three sisters, broke the silence.

“You know, Papa, it would not be such a bad idea if there was an extra man around that you could depend on. You’ve got Ivan now, but the new farm hands can’t be relied on very much -- wouldn’t it be nice if there was some capable person who knew what he was doing?”

“Don’t think so,” was the short reply. “Everything’s under control. Why -- who did you have in mind?”

Fyokla looked unquestioningly frustrated -- her father knew quite well what she was getting at, and had now decided to avoid the subject altogether because . . . because . . . well, he was her father, that’s why.

“Well, Sasha . . .” she began.


“You know -- Sasha,” remarked Fyokla, a note of slight annoyance in her voice as she explained, playing along with this little game. “He directs the logging around the village, has studied in Petersburg -- the man I want to marry . . .”


“Enough of this!” growled Vassily, making everyone else look up. “He can barely afford the clothes on his back -- how do you expect him to support a family?”1

“But -- “

“No,” said Vassily affirmatively.
* * * *

As sun descended from its zenith, two men worked the land of the prosperous Pakachov farm, their stature a bit straighter than that of the others. Father and son, they worked for some time in silence, as men of long acquaintance sometimes do, until Ivan decided it was time to finish what been started that morning.

“You know,” he began casually as he cleared another leech-like weed. “You don’t want Sasha in the family because he can’t clothe or feed himself -- a common laborer, but I think I know the real reason.”

Vassily gave his son a questioning look, but didn’t say anything.

“I think you just don’t want to buy Fyokla a wedding dress.”

Vassily glared at Ivan indignantly. Such an accusation was insulting to a father who loved his daughter, especially one who could afford three dresses, let alone one; especially to Vassily Paskachov.

“Absolutely not! Unbelievable! How can you even consider that?”

“Listen, I know you don’t like him,” said Ivan, glad he had his father’s attention. “But once revolution breaks, things will change; those who’ve been oppressed will gain power, and we don’t want them banging on our door when it’s all over. If Fyokla marries Sasha, the people will know that we’re with them.”

Ivan had stopped his work by now, was leaning against the sturdy wood and iron cast hoe and waiting out the silence Vassily threw at him. He had his father cornered, and they both knew it.


Vassily considered his son’s words without answering; perhaps he was right. If he was to turn over the farm, if the workers turned against the landowners, then all the bullwork and methodical planning would be for naught, whether done honestly or not.

“She can find someone else to tell the people,” replied Vassily gruffly, though he knew there might be anyone else. The remark was more to save face than for any real intention.

“You’re impossible,” remarked Ivan, almost humorously, but with just enough weight in his tone to convey seriousness.

Again, silence overtook the two men, covering them in its billowing blanket. Vassily was lost in his own thoughts, and Ivan let him find his way out again because he knew where they would lead. So when the late afternoon shadows chased the last rays of sun to the west, Ivan accompanied his father home, smelling of work and sweat, and perhaps just a little pleased with himself.
* * * *

That evening, after super had been eaten and the plates cleaned, after the hubbub of the day settled into a pleasant hum, Ivan found himself distracted by the overjoyed cries of a young woman. Following the sound with a silent step, Ivan stood before a partially open room. A glance inside revealed Fyokla with her arms around Vassily’s neck, going on about her undying gratitude.

For a moment, Ivan caught Vassily’s eye; what he saw could only be described as cagey, secretive. It promised an interesting future.

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