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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

His companion was listing in his notebook all the details of my private life. He tapped the walls, went through my linen, and even turned the socks inside out . . . I was not aware of having done anything wrong but realized that those above knew better and I humbly waited for my fate. When they had finished one of them glanced at his watch and said: "You are being trusted."

Sinyavsky was a scathing critic of the totalitarian socialist regime of Stalin's Soviet Union. He employed satire, irony and marvelous imagery in his works. Here the irony is rather obvious as the secret police have just thoroughly rifled the private effects of a citizen looking for any signs of dissent or non-conformity only to tell him he is trusted. The surface or literal meaning is that he has passed the inspection. The ironic underlying message is to ridicule how "trusted" citizens are treated under totalitarianism.

Every schoolboy knew today that these people with their petit bourgeois instincts were the born enemies of socialism. There were exceptions of course — Ilya Ehrenburg, for example. But as against that you had Trotsky, Radek, Zinoviev, Kamanev, the rootless cosmopolitans . . . people with an inborn love of teachery.

Here the author takes up the theme of anti-Jewish feeling in the later period of Stalin's leadership of the Soviet Socialist Republics. The irony is that Jews had been prominent leaders among the revolutionaries that established the Soviet Union, but repressive regimes have a habit of turning on their own as new threats must constantly be found to justify the apparatus of repression. The Jews were accused of being more loyal to Israel or to international socialism than to Stalin's nationalist socialism and persecuted accordingly.

"Do you imagine you and I know better than the people up above? . . . Get one thing in your head. What matters is our Glorious Aim. And it's by this you have to measure every other thing—everything, from Shamyl to Korea. The aim sanctifies the means, it justifies every sort of sacrifice. Millions of people—just think of it—millions of people have died for it."

Here the author explains, by means of an obsequious, fawning man's conversation with his inquiring student son, the rational that justified the communist government in any and all repressions, tortures, atrocities, pogroms, gulags, and mass executions. The end justifies the means. By this reasoning the Soviet Union became perhaps the greatest engine of slavery and murder in the 20th century. The author is asking us to think through this reasoning and the appalling crimes that it can claim to justify. Does the mere claim to having 'correct' political dogma really justify any action—no matter how appalling?

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