Vladimir Sorokin, a celebrated Russian novelist, sets out to explore Moscow, especially the Russian government in the year 2028.
He imagines the government of the largest country in the world being ruled by a tsar and tsarina. The rules of government change according to the mood of the tsar, and changes are enforced by a group of people called oprichnik (oprichnin in plural)
To understand what the author is trying to convey requires the reader to know a little about Russian history and government. The people have actually never experienced any kind of democracy, and are oblivious of its benefits.
According to the author, a “dictator” disguised as a democrat and trying to liberalize government is now ruling Russia. In reality, many of the laws being introduced in the recent past hint how democracy in evolving.
According to M. Gorbachev, president of the U.S.S.R who tried to liberalize the country, the Russian government is gradually becoming more and more dictatorial.
Oprichnik belong to a select group of people lavished with all kinds of privileges unquestioningly following the demands of the tsar, and executing their orders ruthlessly.
The New Russia is technologically very advanced and the draconian codes if Ivan the Terrible (the Tsar) are in perfect synergy.
Every day experienced oprichnik experience bear witness to and/or participate in brutal executions, extravagant parties, and meetings with prominent artists, soothsayers, lower government clerks working in various ministries and the frontlines.
They pillage, and become sentimental all believing that they are helping the government “run” the country or pretending to do so.
In essence all are “brainwashed” and indoctrinated young recruits to follow their ways when they can no longer physically carry out the demands of their duties and debauchery.
Vladimir Sorokin is considered a genius of “late-Soviet” fiction and dark humour. His insights of the Soviet government help project into
the future that forms the premise of the novel.
He believes Russia to be in a moral crisis, and if not, to be heading into one.
He divides the recent Russian history into the Red Period (Soviet), White Period (capitalists) mainly referring to oligarchs who defrauded the government of all its valuable assets and the treasury to enrich them.
Oprichnik is the recreated K G B now called FSB (Federal Security Bureau). A forerunner of K G B was founded in the 16th century by Ivan The Terrible, and later refined by several Russian and Soviet rulers, including Molotov, and the founder of CHEKA Felix Dzerzhinsky in 1917.
In his novel, Stalin’s excesses are presented in disguise in the form of bribes, random sexual encounters, mute and/or blind servants, luxury living and indulging in hallucinogenic drugs, bathhouse orgies and expensive gourmet foods and alcoholic beverages.
The writing is rough and may offend sensitive individuals, but the novel exposes how the present government is evolving and projects the future.
An interesting read, may be even captivating for people who know little about Russian history.