Unknown author . Kureyka and Stalin

Unknown author . Kureyka and Stalin

As is generally known, the future „Father of the People“ – at the Tsar’s times – spent some time in internal exile, from 1913-1916, at first in the little settlement of Kostino, Turukhansk region, and then in Kureyka at the polar circle, where they later built a museum of honour. Bot on the whole, in subsequent years, the leader did not like to recall his exile and the time in Kureyka. Veterans from Igarka (soldiers who had worked as signallers) say that, on the occasion of Stalin’s 70th anniversary, a telephone cable line was installed between Moscow and Kureyka with the greatedt difficulties, but the person who was to celebrate his jubilee did not have the slightest desire to talk to anyone in Kureyka. Stalin also ignored the vers humble report of Norilsk Gulag prisoners about the completion of the museum of honour in Kureyka. One can imagine the reason for this behaviour. All facts indicate that there was nothing to be proud of. He had committed himself to neither any revolutionary nor journalistic work, although this would have been possible under the existing circumstances of that time; he had not tried to learn anything by self-instruction or acquire foreign languages. Instead, he had enjoyed entertainment at night and had now and again committed smaller offenses. He had fallen out with his comrades, most of which later decayed in the torture chambers or camps of the NKVD: Stalin would not tolerate witnesses of his by far not faultless youth. During Stalin’s exile the whole population of Kureyka consisted of merely 38 men and 29 women. The inhabitants were hunters and fishermen. Josef Dzhugashvili was also heart and soul for fishing. Apart from that pastime there was another pleasure he really indulged: evening parties and drinking bouts. And in this respect Sverdlov, with whom he occupied the little log hut of the Tasseevs, was not a good comrade to him. Soon after Jakob Mihailovich took to one’s heals in search of another accomodation. Believe it or not ...! The doctor of historical scienece, Sergo Mikoyan, wrote in his article „The ascetical life of the leader“ (published in „Ogonek“ No. 15): „Three centuries ago, Stalin himself had made fun of Sverdlov by telling the members of the polit-buro, how he had once run the household together with him. In order to avoid the previously agreed rule of taking turns in the kitchen work, he deliberately cooked a disgusting meal, which was entirely unfit for consumption. Stalin, however, intended to eat a double portion of soup, but having tried a spoonful from his plate, spat it out on Sverdlov’s plate, who, of course, immediately pushed it aside. And then the happy and contented „comrade in exile“ ate up all himself“.

Koba also did not live at the Tasseevs’ much longer, but soon moved in an outbuilding of the little log hut belonging to the Perepryshins. The words of Mrs. Tarasseeva uttered in the presence of of the Perepryshins, do not give a very complimentary characteristic about this Siberian farmer: „These guys are hungry, but spend all their time singing and dancing!“ In general, the people in Kureyka liked to drink a lot, a fact that has also been witnessed by the famous British ornithologist Professor Henry Siboma, who was collecting material for his work „The birds of Siberia“ in the district of Kureyka early in the 20th centrury: „We left the settlement fearing the worst for ist future. Nothing but drunkenness and indebtedness. The people there had touched others for money and finally lost everything of a certain value to a few dubious intermediaries ...“

Having entirely been drawn into the whirlpool of events, the 35 year old exiled Koba did not have a great deal of trouble to adopt himself. Later, when he had become tha absolute Kremlin „autocrat“, he proudly told N.S. Khrushchev at the country-cottage in Kuntseva during one of the regular revelries by which he liked to test his comrades, about his father, who had been massacred by a knife on the occasion of a fight with drunks: „When I was still lying in the cradle, he dipped his finger in a glass of wine and had me suck it up. He taught me how to drink from childhood“. Vodka was very expensive in the far-away Kureyka. For one bottle of alcohol one had to pay, for example, 4-5 rubels. Where should an exile take so much money from? The government aid was just enough to live on. Such being the case, Stalin despatched pitiful letters to his acquaintances, requesting them to send money (and later he will take great pain to put them all into camps). He was even sent quite a lot of money from the party funds. With the first three months of his exile alone poor Soso received 69 rubels. Moreover there were money transfers amounting to 650 and 100 rubels. The book „J.V. Stalin in the Siberian exile“ contains a number of interesting revelations. Ist editor, K.U. Chernenko, thinks it was possible that „His Lordship“ preferred to forget all about this episode – for example, a photography of the only existing list of signatures, also signed by Dzhugashvili, destined for the financial support of poor and unpropertied fellow sufferers that lived with him exile. This signature of his looks very nice – unlike the amount of ... to kopeeks he entered on this list himself. Compassion, greatness of mind and generosity neither counted among his virtues at that time, nor later.

The Soviet poet Kazimir Lossivskiy once made honourable mention of the lamp that stood in Stalin’s museum room on the table: „The light of this lamp was visible over a long distance. All those, who had decided to fight for the freedom and fortune of the working population distinguished it“. As it is said in one of the camp songs „you lit a fire from little sparks; thanks a lot to all of you – now I can warm myself at the camp fire“. How Josef Stalin, member of the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (Bolsheviks), „lit“ the fire in Kureyka is well-known to everybody. The second volume of his complete works is crowned by a leaflet he drew up in the February of the year 1913. The third volume starts with an article „About the workers’ and soldiers’ deputies“, which was printed off in the „Pravda“ on the 14th of March 1917.

In December 1949 they celebrated the generalissimo’s 70th anniversary with utmost elan. They then decided to organize a museum in Kureyka to the honour of J.V. Stalin by using the financial resources and the manpower of the Norilsk Polymetallurgical Combine. The little log hut he had once lived in, had survived in good condition. There, to the banks of the Yenissey, he sent a brigade of about 200 experienced constructions workers from Norilsk in the summer of 1950. All of them had been sentenced to short terms only. Among the prisoners was Pavel Cheburkin. He, as well, gave evidence of his memoirs to the „Zapolyarnaya Pravda“. During the war a sovkhoz (a farm garden attached to the factory; translator’s note) was organized in Kureyka, where they tried to cultivate vegetables in greenhouses, but the whole project ran at a loss. On the dairy farm they kept cows that gave only little milk. They produced best fresh butter, but it was by far more expensive than common, customary butter. Both, vegetables and butter, were supplied to the tables of the Norilsk Combine management and partly to the kindergartens. Female prisoners and exiles worked for the sovkhoz. Upon the arrival of the male construction gang the women were transferred to the opposite bank of the Yenissey, where they then had to work for the timber-felling sites.

The initiator of the museum project, who himself had settled down permanently in Moscow, was the Norilsk architect Sergey Vladimirovich Khorunzhiy. The head of the special design bureau was engineer Polosov. The bureau was supervised by the Norilsk Combine, by the head of the administration of major construction projects Nikolay Pavlovich and the previously arrested engineer Josef Adolfovich Shamis. They started to drive thick larchwood stakes in the ground, below the ferroconcrete foundations of the pavillion. In the woodworking factories of Yenisseysk and Podtesovo were purchased twenty of them. Since they were not subject to decay, they were expected to maintain their good condition for at least two-hundred years. It was decided to provide Kureyka and the neighbouring districts with the necessary infrastructure in an exemplary manner, in order to obtain a perfect background for the magnificient museum that was to be erected to the honour of the leader. They hastily made plans for the construction of a new 10-class school, a boarding school, a hospital, a club, two-storeyed houses with water pipes for the management, the specialists and teachers, and a pioneer camp for the children of Norilsk. All these projects were getting along well, and the prisoners were credit work units and work days for an early release.

The walls of the museum pavillion were built from thick larchwood boards in a fantastic speed. Outside they were covered with a special stuccowork – and with red granite. They also built an extra power station to illuminate the pavillion around the clock and heat it sufficiently. The tall window frames, reaching from the floor up to the ceiling, were constructed in a way that nothing inside would ever freeze up, not even upon severe frost. The project was based on plans to put in big window-panes made of mirror glass, between which warm air was supposed to circulate.

In the summer of the year 1952 all the construction work was finished. Under the twelve meter high vaults of the museum the bright illumination provided a perfect imitation of the polar lights and made the artistically painted dome, the walls covered with red velvet and decorated with the heroic biographics of great leaders, and the exhibits sparkle. Throughout the rooms, in a diagonal lay out, they had parquetted a corridor. In front of the building there was a lawn, a flower-garden and beds. From now on the director of the museum, Nikolay Fyodorovich Kvasov, made excursions with the passengers of any steamship that would regularly moor in Kureyka on the banks of the river Yenissey for exactly two hours, telling them about how the „genious leader“ had prepared the proletarian revolution in complete isolation during his „tasarist exile“. 


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