DAY OF THE TANK FORCES
Fort Russ, September 11th, 2016
by Tatzhit Mihailovich
This story is the last piece of evidence that I’ll publish to describe the impact of 90s “democratic reforms” in Russia (previous articles: Causes and Impact of Post-Soviet Collapse, Songs about Collapse – “Chamomiles” and “Yurii Prishepnoi” by Rasteryaev).
This story describes largely the same issues – the barriers and divisions that arose between people that used to be comrades in recent memory. Outside warzones, human cost was also tremendous, just less visible.
“The ability to blush is the most characteristic and the most human of all human qualities”
(Charles Darwin )
Victor drove to work, feeling nauseated to the core.
The sick feeling was not due to driving to work, and not even from being stuck in traffic. Victor was overwhelmed with shame – he hasn’t ever been so ashamed in his life.
The very thought that in the evening he’ll inevitably have to return home, and meet the gaze of his loyal and quiet servant from Tajikistan, Umar, was unbearable.
Memories floated up, one after another, from distant and recent past, merging into one giant wrecking ball, pounding the inside of his skull:
– Haidarov, yes, yes, Haidarov, the one who passed out during chemical attack training…
Victor remembered how a year ago, he stopped by the “slave market” to choose a reliable and cheap Tajik [illegal laborer] to protect his country home, and do various chores around the house. The car was immediately surrounded by a large crowd of clamoring illegals, but they were all pushed aside by Umar – a gray-haired, but still strong Tajik, with an almost full set of teeth … Oh God, he even thought about teeth then, choosing his Tajik thoroughly, like a guard dog. Sh*t, that hurts now.
Dusty Umar, with genuine happiness on his face, rushed to hug Victor, but he rudely pushed Tajik back and looked him over with disgust. Then told him to get in the back of the car – but not before taking his passport and throwing a tarp over the backseat. The car was almost brand new and worth more than Umar’s entire home village…
Then Victor remembered how, some months later, Umar suddenly fell to his knees and began to plead, with genuine tears in his eyes:
– Victor, let my son come here too. By Allah, he is very nice and hard-working lad, you won’t regret it. He does not need anything, we will live together in the attic, and if you want, he can stay in the garden shed, you’ll never see him. You don’t even have to pay anything, he will do jobs for the neighbors, just let him stay.
Victor twisted his lips and said that he ‘s didn’t sign up to start a Tajik community, but took pity on the guy in the end and agreed. He didn’t regret it – the son, Ali, turned out to be invisible like a ghost and hard-working like an excavator. The two Tajiks, in just over a month, built a gorgeous gazebo with a fireplace almost for free.
He remembered how in the winter, the country house complex was unexpectedly raided by Immigration Service – and Victor generously allowed terrified Umar and Ali to sleep right in the manor house.
Not in a bed – on a rug by the doors. What shame…
But back then it seemed to him that he was the epitome of generosity and humanity, because these downtrodden Tajiks were ready to kiss the hands of their owner even for that, for saving them from detention and deportation…
And this morning, when he was getting in his car – hand-washed and polished as always – the ever-punctual Umar opened the gate, then suddenly grinned, playfully saluted, and reported:
– Victor Mihailovich, I heartily congratulate you on the Day of the Tanker. “Our armor is strong and our tanks are fast”!
Victor smiled, thanked him, gave Umar [some change] for cigarettes and drove away.
But a few seconds later, he suddenly braked and reversed.
Returning to the Tajik, Victor asked suspiciously :
– Umar, wait, why did you congratulate me? How did you know that I used to be a tanker [back in the USSR]?
Umar opened his mouth in surprise and stood motionless for a while, not knowing what to say, then finally replied:
– What do you mean? Victor Mihailovich, we served with you in Chita in ‘85, in the same tank company… Didn’t you recognize me a year ago, when you picked me at the labor exchange? I’m Haidarov.
Don’t you remember? …
<Pictures for reference>
<Tajik illegal laborers in post-Perestroika Russia>
<Soviet soldiers, late 1980s. Nationalities, left to right:
Russian, Tajik, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Kirgiz, Lithuanian, Tatar.>
You can find a similar photo of Soviet soldiers, and some relevant information about the Soviet ideology of “equality for all”, in this article: The Real Meaning of Victory Day>