Grigory Pasko: Russia Frozen in Dali Time

dali082608The clock Grigory Pasko, journalist Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда. Recently, in going through my archive, I ran across a text under the name “The Clock.” Below, a subscript: “Written in prison in the year 2002.” I read it. I immediately recalled a recent event. In the Moscow-Vladivostok train I had asked the conductress: what had changed outside the window of her compartment over those 30 years that she’s been working on this train? “Nothing,” she replied. Then, thinking it over, she added, “Nothing, really. A few villages have disappeared…” That is, in thirty years in the country along the Moscow-Vladivostok route there have not appeared any new cities, villages, population centers, bridges, roads, factories, plants, hotels, tourist bases, motels, campgrounds… As if though time had stood still all these 30 years. I offer for your attention the text written in prison. Having read it, you will understand why I recalled the story with the train conductress.

I recently recalled a detail, highly, to my view, noteworthy and one that I would not like to forget.In the editorial offices of the fleet newspaper «Boyevaya vakhta», where I had, as I now understand, the misfortune of working much longer than I ought to have, there was a clock hanging on the wall in the editor’s office. Simple, like lines in a story; in a wooden, like the brains of the editor, casing. They were hanging right next to the door. When we would gather in the editor’s office for briefings, we would seat ourselves in such a manner that this clock was not visible to all. I always sat in the corner, from where I had a good view of the editor’s profile and of this same clock. I was probably the only one who first noticed that the clock… was standing still. It stood still the whole time the editor was a certain N.There was the perestroika of the end of the 80s, then the turbulent nineties, the revolutionary collapse of the USSR and the GKChP, useless and endless reforms, a bunch of different changes at the newspaper itself… Yet the clock stood still. Despite everything. New people came to the editorial office, cooperators, businessmen, they bought floorspace at the newspaper and in the editorial office, they made repairs in the facilities, they stole and they sold… And the clock didn’t move. There was a horrible drain of cadres. Everyone who left took something from the walls of the editorial office with him. Every new arrival brought something of his own and hung it on the walls. But the editor didn’t change. And the clock stood still.Briefings, meetings, conferences and various other gatherings in the office of the editor, as a rule, lasted a lot longer than they ought to have in these cases. In part this was explained by the plain-as-day cowardice and pathological indecisiveness of the editor upon the adoption by him of decisions. But in no small measure such sluggishnes, as I understand, was contributed to also by the circumstance that… the clock was standing still. The only person who had the best view of the perpetually motionless clock was the editor. What is most interesting is that he was constantly glancing at it.To the best of my recollection, the editor himself did not have a wristwatch or some other timepiece. He, it seems, did not use a clock at all. And indeed, why should he? To the editorial office they drove him and drove him away from it in a service automobile. Moreover, he arrived at 8-8:45 in the morning, and left after 19-19:30, on Saturdays-Sundays he was also in the editorial office. Not once did I see him at the cinema, in a theater, at a concert, at football, simply strolling in the city or at the beach with wife and children.The newspaper under N from year to year was becoming more and more cowardly.After some 10 years of his editorship he left on pension. After the first jail sitting I once happened to come into the editorial office. A new editor, young, quick on the uptake, with an entrepreneurial streak, more cautious than N, had redone the editor’s office. The entry door was by him placed from the side of the former duty attendant’s room, which, in its turn, had been transformed into the office of the secretary. There had appeared new good furniture, a color television, new telephone sets, comfortable cabinets, tables, new curtains… The same old clock, as simple as the lines in a story, in the wooden casing, was hanging in the exact same place.Need I add that it wasn’t working? I didn’t think so. But one detail I am obligated to report. The fact is that the clock was in working order. It merely needed to be wound up with a little key that had rusted with time, and then to have the spring rewound once every day.I don’t know how many more decades need to go by before a person will be found in that office who will wind up this clock. Of course, under the condition that somebody will need this.