For everything Soviet Utopianism proposes Bulgakov’s The Fatal Eggs rebuts : The idea that Communism will bring about a positive transformation for humanity, that the common man has untapped potential and most of all that science is unquestionably good and the means through which positive transformation will occur. From the story’s opening, it suggests it’ll go against the Soviet Utopianist school of thought. Despite the fact that both the protagonist’s, Professor Persikov, career and the rebuilding of a more modern, scientific Moscow (It is mentioned that “a joint Americano-Russian company built fifteen fifteen storey apartment blocks in the centre of Moscow”( Bulgakov 3) and that the institute where the professor works is now equipped with”five new microscopes, glass laboratory tables, some 2,000-amp. arc lights, reflectors and museum cases. “ as a testament to the government’s commitment to scientific inquiry ( Bulgakov 3) ) the chapter ends by mentioning that “ But in the summer of 1928 something quite appalling happened”( Bulgakov 3). This suggests that the text goes against the idea espoused in by Soviet Utopianism that as long as one works dutifully progress will continue unabated . In the next chapter a frog that Persikov has positioned for study is described as “ half suffocated...stiff with fright and pain [laying] crucified on a cork mat” ( Bulgakov 4) and is left there until it dies of a blood clot associating science with a kind of inhumanity not found in Soviet utopianist . Much has been made of the fact the this story is about a professor named Valdimer who creates a red ray that is supposed to make life better but actually just causes destruction and its satiric parallels with the Russian Revolution (Laurson 59). If that’s the case then the passage about the ray’s effect on amoeba “ They gemmated before his eyes with lightning speed...There was soon no room at all in the red strip or on the plate, and inevitably a bitter struggle broke out. The newly born amoebas tore one another to pieces and gobbled the pieces up. Among the newly born lay the corpses of those who had perished in the fight for survival. It was the best and strongest who won. And they were terrifying.” ( Bulgakov 6)and later when Perisov tries it out frog spawn” the tadpoles grew fantastically into such vicious, greedy frogs that half of them were devoured by the other half. “( Bulgakov 7). These passages assert that the Communist scientific makes people grasping, cruel and fearful for survival . Immediately after Persikov completes his invention he is beset upon by journalists . One in particular stalks him “ correspondent of the satirical magazine Red Maria, a GPU publication." (Bulgakov 8). His connection to the GPU suggests he is a government enforcer as well as propagandist. The story he publishes based on his interview suggests that Persikov created the device for the workers of Moscow, something Bulgakov fiercely denies (Bulgakov 9). This suggests that the government exercises a tight control over the Soviet science, a far cry from the citizen driven science in most soviet art . Later in the story when a chicken flag deprives the Soviet Union of chicken eggs Bulgakov’s description of “dead chickens being burned in Khodynka” people poisoning themselves with eggs bought from speculation stores and satiric songs written by avant garde artists gives a lot more realistic picture of Soviet life than the usual picturesque survey given by contemporary literature (Bulgakov 15). Later when the chicken plague reaches its zenith, an officer from the Kremlin comes into confiscate Persikov’s ray for use on a collective farm. He is described as looking “perfectly at home [in 1919]” suggesting the man’s conservative ideology (Bulgakov 19). It is later revealed that he was chosen not because of his experience with animal husbandry and science but merely because “[he] had the brainwave of using the ray to restore the Republics poultry in a month” (Bulgakov 23). This combined with Feight’s mention that “they are writing all sorts of rotten things about us abroad [because of the plague]” suggests that the Soviet Union appoints people to oversee science projects, not because of their qualifications but because of their party standing, the speed with which they can finish the project, and what foreign countries will say about this decision (Bulgakov 19). This goes completely against Soviet Utopianist suggestion that scientific progress came from the people and the government had nothing to do with it. Later when on the farm, Bulgakov describes the scene “the nights were wonderful... In the patch of the moonlight you could easily read Ivestia... But nights like these no one read Ivestia of course” (Bulgakov 22). With this description Bulgakov suggests that the natural order triumphs over the artificial communist hierarchy (Bulgakov 23). This idea of natural order being in direct opposition of communistic order, when the animals all leave the farm once the experiment takes place “there was not a single voice on the pond” (Bulgakov 24). During this moonlit night Feight plays the flute which in the text notes “[he plays] it beautifully” (Bulgakov 23). The text also adds “[Feight] once specialized in the flute... Right up to 1917... [when he was plunged] into an open sea of war and revolution, exchanging his flute for a death dealing Mauser” (Bulgakov 23). Here Bulgakov reiterates the idea of communism as a force that makes men more barbaric rather than humanizes them, turning a gentle flute player into a blood thirsty revolutionary something that the Soviet Union thinks makes him “a truly great man” as Bulgakov sarcastically notes (Bulgakov 23). Feight’s experiment goes awry when he accidentally substitutes snake eggs for chicken eggs, his wife is killed, and Moscow is set upon by vicious, aggressive, snakes. This causes widespread panic and causes a riot to descend upon the house of professor Persikov “people rush through the door howling: Beat him! Kill him!...” (Bulgakov 23). The crowd is described as “a swarming mass of contorted faces and torn clothes” (Bulgakov 23). Persikov screams that they’re “acting like wild animals” as “a short man with crooked apelike legs” bashes his skull in (Bulgakov 33). They then kill the professor’s assistants. A lucky frost impedes the reptiles but it is too late, the transformation into savage aggression brought about by science, as predicted by the ray, already happened.
Politics and ActivismApr 06, 2017
The Dark Side of Soviet Utopianism in The Fatal Eggs