Monday, 3 April 2017

Toomas Karmo: Grandma's Civil-War Chat with a Courteous Red-Army Soldier

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3/5 is "mediocre pass", 4/5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 2/5. Justification: Kmo, being in the throes of searching for new living accommodations, could not blog at  length. He did manage to write out carefully what little he had time to say.

Revision history: 

  • 20170404T0001Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo uploaded a reasonably polished version ot this tiny essay. He reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, improvements over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, 1.0.3, ... .

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that is formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" which on many Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect "Cascading Style Sheets" problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

The year was 1920 or so. Grandma, as a young wife aged around 28 (she had been born in 1892, in Tartu), found herself with her young husband far away from Estonia, in the civil war sparked by V.I.Lenin's 1917 putsch.

Food was scarce. Four or five decades later, Granda told me how she had seen desperate people riding on the roofs of railway carriages, trying to get into the south of the former Russian Empire, where barns or warehouses might be expected to contain something. "Kasakad" (I think these would be called "Cossacks" in English; Grandma of course explained things to me in Estonian) were waiting on station platforms with poles, ready to dislodge, by cruel pokes and jabs, roof-riders as the trains rolled past. 

Grandma and Grandfather managed to get down into Ukraine, perhaps exchanging some pre-1917 gold roubles or some household item for their railway tickets. Down in that well-fed region, they even at one stage had a sack of sugar. (This sugar did, admittedly, come to a bad end: Grandma - or Grandfather, or someone - had severely scolded the cat in the house. The cat took its revenge by cunningly stationing itself on the sugar sack and urinating.)

At first, their village was in the hands of Tsarist forces. Then, however, came turmoil of some kind (I imagine gunshots), and the village changed hands. At Grandma's door there appeared a Red soldier, I presume with his firearm.

Woman, he said, we are making soup in the square. (This was soup not for the villagers, but  for the troops.) We need spoons. Give us spoons.

Grandma looked him up and down, and said, "The only spoons we have in this house are silver coffee spoons, and I am not handing those out to Reds."

The soldier, like Grandma herself, did the exactly correct thing: he apologized, and went on to the next house.

[This is the end of the present blog posting. Longer, more substantive postings, including postings on a topic in the analytical philosophy of perception and agency, are anticipated from 2017-05-01 onward, as I complete my move to new living accommodations.]

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