1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 42

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 42

Chapter 35

June, 1633

“Well, let’s see.” Bernie said, pointing. “The acquisition is recorded here and here because it’s a . . .” He continued doing his best to give Anya an idea of what the accounting book said about how to prevent or catch different ways of cooking the books. By now Anya was better at accounting than Bernie was or wanted to be. But the expertise was in English and while Anya was learning accounting, English and the way of thinking that went with modern English was still mostly foreign to her. By now Bernie had gotten really good at translating between modern English and seventeenth-century English. And not bad at taking the next step and translating from modern English to seventeenth-century Russian. So he explained about the esoterics of accounting, and neither he nor Anya noticed Filip Pavlovich standing in the background listening. Not till Filip cleared his throat.

“What?” Bernie looked up. “Oh, hi, Phil. What are you doing up at this –” Bernie looked at his watch. “– ungodly hour?”

“The bathroom woke me,” Filip said sardonically. “Chamber pots are quieter and they can be emptied in safe ways.”

“Can be,” Anya said, “but rarely are.” Which, though Bernie didn’t notice it, brought Filip up short.

“That’s an interesting observation, Anya,” Filip said. “And not the sort of thing a maid would say.”

Bernie felt himself stiffen and Filip waved a gentling hand. “I wasn’t criticizing. I know I often sound like I am even when I’m not.” Filip grinned at them. “Which is rare enough.”

Bernie’s lips twitched.

“It was simply an observation. What drew me up short when Anya spoke up wasn’t that she was getting above herself, but that I didn’t mind that she was getting above herself. If that makes any sense?” He looked between them. “Bernie, before you arrived in Moscow I would have been offended. Deeply offended. Offended enough to have her dismissed or seriously punished. I would hazard a guess that before you arrived, Anya would never have thought to say such a thing in my presence.” Filip looked to Anya for confirmation and got it from a clearly anxious woman.

“There is nothing to worry about, Anya, at least not here,” Filip said. “What it did was bring into focus something that has been bothering me for some time now. Petr was explaining to me yet again how everything was an interaction of forces.”

“For the hundredth time,” Bernie said

“Oh, much more often than that,” Anya said.

“And I couldn’t get him to shut up about it. ‘Fine, yes, water flows downhill because of gravity. I understand already’ I told him. ‘No you don’t’ he told me ‘It’s not just water and it’s not just gravity, it’s everything. Magnetism, electricity, alchemy . . . it’s all forces acting on things.’ Well, naturally, I didn’t pay all that much attention to it, but still there was something about it that bothered me. Something I couldn’t quite figure out or get out of my head. Not till just now.” Filip paused, lost in thought again.

“Well, go on!” Bernie said.

Filip looked over at Anya and there was something in his expression like he was, well, almost scared. Certainly cautious. Then he visibly squared his shoulders, and went on. “If a rock doesn’t keep going on and on forever because of external forces, if rocks aren’t lazy by their nature as Aristotle said, what about serfs?”

“What about serfs?” Bernie asked.

Still looking at Anya, Filip said. “Are serfs tied to the land because it’s their nature to be so or because some external force like social drag or social gravity is holding them down?”

“Because they are held in serfdom, of course.” Bernie was more than a little confused. There were laws in Russia that prevented a serf from leaving the land he was bound to. Filip knew that. Hell, Filip was the one who had told Bernie. Bernie looked at Anya and she was looking at Filip like she was seeing a ghost.

“Okay, guys,” Bernie said slowly. “I’m clearly missing something here. Serfs are serfs because they are forced to be. There are laws that tie them to the land. Slaves are slaves, again because they are forced to be. Once again, there are laws that allow them to be held against their will, bought, sold, and generally abused.” Bernie hesitated, then went on. “I know I’m a stranger in a strange land here. I know I was not hired to change your society or your laws. But the laws that make people be treated like property are wrong. They are self-evidently wrong. But they are there and I can’t change them and if I try it will destroy all the good I’m trying to do here. I figured that out before I left Grantville and I was drunk as a skunk then. That’s why I’ve never made an issue of it. I knew it was wrong, and, to be honest, I figured you had to know it was wrong too. But you weren’t about to give it up, so what was there to say?

“So, now you’re both sitting there shocked as hell about something as simple and obvious as water flowing dow . . .”

Filip was looking at Bernie like yes, go on, shove your foot the rest of the way into your mouth.

“But there are laws,” Bernie said “Clearly an external force. Right?”

“Yes, Bernie, laws,” Filip said. “But laws to do what? To force the serfs and slaves into a state of servitude or to keep those whose nature is servitude from misbehaving and causing trouble?”

“I have, you know,” Anya said, “always believed deep in my heart that I should not be a servant . . . but I never really thought that forced servitude was wrong. I just felt that it should be forced on someone else, not me.”

Bernie looked at Anya and Filip and they were looking at each other like they were both watching a horror movie and couldn’t look away. Servant and master, not directly, not to each other, but the odds were pretty good, Bernie knew, that Anya was actually a runaway serf or possibly a slave. She’d been working as kitchen help, and whatever else she could find, when the job at the Dacha had come up and she’d gotten it because she was pretty.

Bernie was still confused. He knew something important had happened, but he didn’t know what. Another truth, as important, or perhaps more important, than the change from Aristotle to Newton had occurred in this candle-lit room, and somewhere deep down inside Bernie sensed that this was a lot more dangerous than Newton’s three laws. He wondered how long it would be before the pebbles dropped in this room started an avalanche.


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21 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 42

  1. ET1swaw says:

    Serfdom and Slavery are imposed institutions, not an expression of God’s natural order; who’d of thunk!!!

    Fish are seeing the water through which they swim; that is a major genie escaping on both sides of the serf/slave / noble/master equation.

    Next thing you know they’ll be thinking that the ‘divine rights’ of noble blood don’t really have root in reality other than what everyone GIVES THEM!!!!!


  2. Anonymouse says:

    Dennis: Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you.

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail

  3. Bret Hooper says:

    Hooray for Filip! “What drew me up short when Anya spoke up wasn’t that she was getting above herself, but that I didn’t mind that she was getting above herself.” Like an southern white American fifty years ago realizing that a certain black was smarter than him and that he was proud of his black friend, not angry (and such events DID happen).

    My favorite true story about the supposed inferiority of blacks: A few years ago, a black high school senior of my acquaintance was completing his high school science requirement by taking Organic Chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University, and he did so well the first semester that he was offered (and accepted) a job for the second semester as a teaching assistant in Chemistry. He told me that he intended to attend MTSU full-time after he graduated from high school, and that he intended to graduate from MTSU summa cum laude, WHICH HE DID! Now he is earning almost twice the maximum salary I ever made. Good for him! Would that I had been so ‘inferior’; I never even came close to cum laude, say nothing of summa.

    I suspect we will see Anya, with Bernie’s help, showing that she is capable of doing much more valuable work than she had been assumed capable of, and the economic incentive to take advantage thereof will be a crack in the system, a much-needed crack.

  4. Stan Leghorn says:

    The restrictions on women is IMO the reason most of the world is so far behind the US. WW2 saw the US reach into this pool and pull forth amazing amounts of productivity. We shall see if the same thing happens here.

  5. TimC says:

    After WWII in England anyway a lot of the employed women were chucked back into the home for a generation ( I had an aunt who had been a worker in an ammo factory, I knew her as a ‘housewife’ dabbling with art).So like Bret’s friend the women and the serfs (and serf_women especially) have a long way to go.

  6. dave o says:

    Of course the idea that all men (and women) are created equal will be seen as a deadly threat to everyone who has any power in Russia. The society is based on the opposite idea. The only possibility of equality gaining acceptance is if those who believe in it go underground. Comes the Revolution! Incidently, my grandmother was a member of a Russian group pushing that idea in the late 19th century. She escaped with her life. Most of the other members didn’t

  7. robert says:

    @4 & @6 Stan and dave.
    Don’t let Tom Kratman hear you say stuff like that. And it seems to me that Eric is a tiny little bit more traditional about women’s roles in war than David Weber is. I want to see a woman fighter pilot and a woman warship captain.

  8. Robert H. Woodman says:

    If the powers that be in Russia realize that Bernie’s uptime knowledge are also creating these social changes evidenced in Anya and Filip, it could get very dicey for Bernie in short order. Because Bernie has wrought changes in the system that cannot be undone except by great violence but might also not go to completion except by great violence.

  9. dave o says:

    #8 Robert: Very dicey isn’t even half of how they will react. In order to protect their privileges, great violence is the least of what they’ll do. None of the changes come even close to giving anyone with power pause.

  10. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @9 – dave o

    But they have to be careful not to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg”, i.e., Bernie.

    Of course, if everyone at the Dacha catches on to what is happening, they may, as you suggested in #6, go underground, or at least maintain a much lower profile than they have heretofore.

  11. Bret Hooper says:

    @7 Robert: David Weber in Safehold “is a tiny little bit more traditional about women’s roles in war than David Weber is.” (in the Honor Harrington series)

    Seems to me that pushing the envelope in Russia in 1636 is more like doing so in Safehold than in Manticore. EF is clearly aware of this, and acts accordingly. In chapter 13 of 1633 Melissa Mailey says: “I am quite aware that anyone trying to emulate Mahatma Ghandi or the Reverend Martin Luther King in this day and age is guaranteed a short life.” (ain’t it great to have on my computer an index of the entire RoF hypernovel [except the electronic-only Grantville Gazettes], so I could in seconds find that reference?)

  12. Ed says:

    Tim C-

    Something similar (most Rosie the Riveters settled down, got married, and raised a family) happened here in the US as well after 1945. But we then almost immediately had a civil rights movement take place, and the feminists joined in and got their share (some claim the biggest share) of the reforms. So Rosie’s daughter grew up to have a career and be Supermom, and Rosie’s grandaughter is seeing more and more chances to get into the top echelon, and Rosie’s grat granddaughter explains ‘Women’s Lib’ in about the same terms Julie Sims used in 1632. Women in military service isn’t even a question any more.

    Meanwhile many other places struggle with basic literacy, economic self-sufficiency, and the right not to get beat up by your father, brother, or husband. (There are also lots of places somewhere in between, but you are right that the countries that can’t even get to education and personal safety for women are usually the worst off.)

  13. Stan Leghorn says:

    I still find it curious that so many characters exibit social empathy, looking at other people AS people. AFAIK, that was a 19th century developement. How old IS the concept of Noblesse Oblige?

  14. Ed says:

    Noblesse oblige is as old as the concept of aristocracy. The 19th century Europeans knew about it because they got theior education by reading classical Greek, and the ancient Greeks got it from the Pharaohs (read the Negative Confession is any collection of “Sources for western Civilization.”)

    In western history, if what you are reading doesn’t trace the history of a concept back to the Emperor Augustus, you have read less than half of that concept’s history. (For East Asian history, substitute Confucius).

  15. vikingted says:

    @10 Dave, there are probably too many spies from the various factions at the Dacha to keep this concept under cover.

  16. vikingted says:

    @15 Sorry, that comment was not to Dave it was to Robert! I had the happy send finger syndrome.

  17. ET1swaw says:

    @13 Stan Leghorn: Even at the Dacha it is by NO MEANS universal!! Look at AK and his attempts on the AK rifles. He was only slowed at the Dacha (before the arrangement of a separate military R&D (the Gun Shop) because the Serfs/Slaves he was damaging were not his, but belonged to Natasha’s family!!

    Filip, Anya, and Natasha at the Dacha (and Natasha’s brother in Grantville) have begun to see what the water they swim and live in really is. And others at the Dacha or assigned in the USE may also be on the path. But IMO they are simply starting on the path (less further along than many in the PLC (i.e. Josef and the Opalinskis, Red Sybolt’s companions/fellow-travellers) with Burgundy (GDB), Netherlands(KLC), Essen, and Greater Bohemia forging even further ahead (while only slightly tailing the uptime-influenced USE))!!

    Bernie is only an initiating catalyst (not an ongoing active like Red Sybolt), so disposing of him now wouldn’t do much good IMO!! He may have decided against active opposition to “the way things are in Russia”; but it seems his prescence and example are still having an effect!!

    And given his nature (and that his wife is very good friends with Natasha) the Czar may be INFECTED as well!


  18. ET1swaw says:

    Clarification on @17:
    I meant the order approximately: Russia at-large (Filaret, Boyar Duma, etc.); PLC at-large (Sejm, Polish Vasas, Schlacta, etc.); Russia uptimer-adjacent (the Dacha, in Grantville/USE, etc.); PLC/Greater-Bohemia CoC/Red Sybolt/etc.; KLC/GDB/Essen soft landing; USE/KU soft landing; and USE CoC/Ram/FoJP/etc. from least on path to furthest IMO. I did not include Sweden and her Dominions, the Italian States, the Swiss Confederacy, or the AHE as penetration is still ongoing. And France, the OE, and Spain were left off for obvious (IMO) reasons.


  19. Cobbler says:

    @ 10, Robert Woodman

    About that golden goose:

    There’s an old joke that helps explain Russia.

    A Russian peasant accidentally rubs a magic lamp. Out pops a Jinni, who offers a single wish.

    The peasant says, “My neighbor has a cow. I don’t have a cow. Please kill my neighbor’s cow.”

  20. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @19 – Cobbler

    If that explains Russia, then it is no wonder that the history of that nation is so dramatically sad.

  21. Cobbler says:

    @ 20, Robert Woodman

    Eric understands this already. From Snippet# 35.

    “It had taken a while for the other great families and the bureaus to realize what the deal her brother had struck meant, but eventually they had gotten it. By now there was considerable pressure to provide them with up-timers or, better yet, to shift Bernie to their service.”

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