Heat Lightings: Grim Satire of the First Russian Revolution
The First Russian Revolution of 1905—1907 didn’t only lead to the creation of Russia’s first Duma and Constitution. It also spawned several hundred short-lived, strange-looking, dark, spooky satirical journals and periodicals. I want to start translating and publishing excerpts from them here in Psychopolitica.
Today we’re browsing through Heat Lightings, Issue #1 for the year 1906.
The name is explained in a short intro on the first page: there’s something brewing in the Russian masses, “the crust is getting thinner,” the blows are getting stronger, and “the unstoppable current of people’s will is striving to break out.” The “prophetic Russian word” is known to the world, as it has already “burnt itself into the modern thought.” It is, however, only a reflection of the coming “Russian action”—just like heat lightnings are only a reflection of a distant raging storm—which, when it comes, will “overwhelm the modern soul.”
There’s a lot of agitation in the heavens. The souls whose lives are finished and those who haven’t yet started theirs are both in dismay. They’re hearing terrible rumors. They’re losing sleep, they started arguing and plotting schemes.
They’re sending messengers to Earth to fetch newspapers, and then binge-read them, sitting on clouds, and quickly spread the breaking news among each other.
The fragile little souls are desperate: they understand they’ll have to go down to Earth that’s filled with suffering, cannonballs, and death…
The women-to-be are already attending classes on medical science, knowing that they’ll have to become nurses, and are taking a liking to it.
They’re learning from a medical student who has died of wounds. He’s so smart and sensible.
The yet unborn men reckon they will likely be sent to war as soon as they are weaned off breastmilk—so they are learning to march and to shoot targets.
A soldier, stabbed by the Japanese, came from the war, and started sharing stories of such horrors that the little, unexperienced souls turned pale and spent a lot of their time whispering something to one another.
A farm worker appeared, all covered in dirt and blood. They gathered around him too.
He talked about the pay, rallies, violence, and a readiness to die for an idea.
They listened and didn’t understand anything.
But they did like the word “rally,” and they took to repeating it.
The more time passed, the more the soon-to-be newborns started to frown and the more often they gathered behind a big cloud, where the grown-ups couldn’t see them. They argued about something, shouted, and, finally, made some decision—and then they dispersed, flying out into different directions.
The grand moment of the souls’ send-off to Earth has finally come.
The Great Spirit came to oversee the send-off and was looming, waiting for them.
But no-one was to be found.
The Great Spirit called for Archangel Gabriel, and he appeared in front of him, looking shy and anxious.
— Where are the souls that are supposed to be sent to Earth to be born? — asked the Spirit.
Gabriel hung his head.
— Where are they? Answer me, — asked the Spirit again.
— Alas, — finally uttered Gabriel timidly — they will not come to you, oh the Great One. They… I’m afraid to even say it… They’re on strike.
The surprise knocked the Great Spirit down onto the cloud.
— Z. Yakovleva
A ruler of a beautiful country loved his name.
From dawn till dusk all his subjects were repeating his name. Nobody dared to utter anyone else’s.
Long before his demise, the ruler ordered his slaves to build an edifice, using only the hardest and the heaviest of stones, which was to keep his name in people’s memory for centuries to come.
The edifice survived millennia.
He’s called a nameless pyramid.
— K. L’dov.
Vladivostok. The dead are peaceful; the wounded are moaning while dying.
Moscow. Send bullets for rifles, not everyone has been gunned down yet.
Tehran. The rumor in the diplomatic circles is that the Shah is looking very favorable at the idyllic way the peoples of the Caucasus are spending their time.
Ösel Island. Despite earlier statements by special correspondents, no city of Kreuzberg, and not a single Latvian are to be found on the island.