Interview with Tatiana Fedorova,
Soviet Construction Worker
Q: What did communism mean to you as a young person?
Fedorova: Something elevated, very hard to have access to; something which you had to struggle for, something which you struggled for with deeds... We were really young people who went underground and into the air, and affirmed ourselves, because the people living under communism should be strong and healthy. Communism for us meant a higher manifestation, a higher testament for the word "oath." It was Mayakovsky who said, "Communism is the young people of the world, and it needs to be led by young people." So we wanted to do everything we could to erect this building of communism with our own hands. We lived in a very hard time. We were hungry. But when Mayakovsky said that about communism, that it was the young people of the world and it must be built by the young, we wanted to do something for our country, for our motherland. We wanted to do something with our own hands, to glorify our country -- not just with words but with deeds. And we did it. We built the metro, we built Magnetogorsk, we built the railway. We did it all with such comradeship, enthusiasm and happiness. And if today I could live again, despite all the big difficulties, I would have done the same things again.
Q: Can you describe your feelings of happiness a bit more. In what ways did you feel happy?
Fedorova: I was working and studying at that time -- which was the first time I received instruction of some kind. I think it was something about studying the stratosphere. I saw the very first enthusiasts who jumped [parachute jumping]; an enormous achievement. Karlov, an aviation woman, was flying. They were sort of sheer new records. Everyone was trying to do the best for the country, to raise the heights of the motherland. Then there was what we were doing underground...with the Moscow metro. We worked in such a friendly way. It was such a good time. There wasn't so much to eat, we weren't well dressed. We were simply very happy. Happy because we were making it our personal contribution. If I come to a station that I was lucky enough to build, it's a bit like meeting my youth when I go there. I'm simply happy that in those years I chose that hard path.
Q: But the conditions you were working in the metro were not very different from the conditions people worked under capitalism, maybe even worse.
Fedorova: I can't compare with capitalism at that time. That time we were doing our thing; we were doing it with enthusiasm. We were told by the Komsomol sixty years ago, we were going there to build the best metro.... The amazing thing was we had this great wish to do this great thing which people didn't believe possible. In 1934, a well-known hero of the working class, H.G. Wells, came to look at our Moscow metro. He looked at the technical difficulties and told the personnel they won't be able to build it. But the enthusiasm of the young led to these great things. They built it. We didn't always believe that it was possible. An American consultant and a very good solid engineer, John Morgan, helped quite a lot with the engineering. Yet he didn't believe that it was possible to do it; to dig a meter in 24 hours. But our boys did three meters in 24 hours. When Morgan saw that, he said, "I didn't reckon on the enthusiasm of the Komsomol."
Q: What was your proudest moment of working on the metro. What was the thing you're most proud of?
Fedorova: It was when the first train went by. It was when the noise of the motor of the first train went by in this clean tunnel which had, until then, only seen the ordinary little carriages. You can't compare that feeling to anything. The construction workers who felt that will feel it forever.
Q: What was the most difficult work you did in the metro, personally?
Fedorova: The ground was icy. There were no rails. Setting up the fences was very hard but it was cheerful. We loved the fact that we dug this frozen ground with our own hands; for our own Moscow. I love Moscow very much. It's my city.
Q: You led a team of Stakhanovites when you were building the metro. What did that mean?
Fedorova: There were a lot of leaders in the Stakhan movement; a movement of workers which took over the whole country. In the Moscow metro building, of course, everyone wanted to be a Stakhanovite. I led a team who worked really brilliantly under the ground. Then we would go forty kilometers away and do parachute jumps. It was a wonderful happy life, full of enthusiasm.
Q: What good did the Stakhanovite movement do for the Soviet Union?
Fedorova: It was a movement that wasn't organized by anyone in particular. It was started by a working man, who I knew very well, and everyone in the country who knew him started it. He studied the very best methods of working in mines and then learned the technical side of it. Stakhanovite produced this fantastic speed record and then, literally, in all aspects of the economy and in all branches of the Moscow metro building, whether you were working with concrete or not, everyone wanted to achieve the highest speed. It was, economically and spiritually, a very big thing for the country.<
Q: Wasn't it really just a method of trying to get workers to work harder?
Fedorova: No. No one forced us to do it. We didn't have to do it, but everyone wanted to... It's very hard to explain but it was the time of the enthusiasts. At that time Mayakovsky said that communism is the young people of the world and we were the young people of those years. Each of us tried to build a foundation of the structures with great joy. It was like a happy song.
Q: Tell me about your meeting with Stalin after you made your speech in Red Square?
Fedorova: When I finished my speech, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin came towards me. It was completely unexpected, he came to congratulate me. He came up to me and said, "Where did we get such an orator?" And they said, "From underground, from underground." That was my first meeting with Stalin. He gave me his hand and said, Well done!" That meeting was very precious for me.
Q: What were your feelings just then about that meeting with Stalin?
Fedorova: I felt great - very excited. I was a young woman, a young girl, a team leader of the metro who could see and stand next to the leader of our country and the progressive working movement. This feeling was very elevated. I can't give it to you in words, you have to experience it.
Q: What's your assessment of Stalin?
Fedorova: I had very high regard of him. It was very complicated and hard, but this was a great man. He was great as a thinker and as someone who acts. He was also a good person.... Historians will say what they think, but I would say the truth -- he deserves a good word despite all the things that are said about him; he deserves good words.
He united people. If you look at the film, the Kino-Chronicle, no one could create those faces, those smiling faces, those joyful faces artificially.
[Fedorova speaking as a construction worker in 1934 film:] "We live so well. Our hearts are so joyful. In no other country are there such happy young people as us. We're the happiest young people. And on behalf of all young people, I want to thank our Party and our dear Comrade Stalin for this joy that we have."
Stalin set a task: build this or build that and, thanks to the fact that people trusted him and this enthusiasm of young people, it was possible. Remember, people were illiterate, lived in virtual darkness, wore birch bark shoes. Even now I think it's like something out of a fairy tale
It was one of the most difficult times to build this country. To build these great construction sites would only be possible through unity, the unity of the people and the love of the people to their idol. Stalin for us was an idol.
Q: The mid 30's was also the time of the purges. Did you believe, at the time, those people who were convicted were enemies of the people?
Fedorova: In the 1930s when there were these open courts and open trials in the Hall of Columns, when the people were accused of being Trotskyists, I and most others believed that these really were those people.
Q: Do you think it was necessary for so many people to be executed and sent to the Gulags?
Fedorova: Of course not, of course not. That was terrible. It was a very hard time.
Q: You thought some of the punishments were too harsh, did this kill your belief in the building of socialism?
Fedorova: No. No because it was one thing, some political events which happened, and happen in every country -- opposition and so forth. It was a different matter that the country was going on its way at its own speed. People were working. We're talking about a country of many millions. The whole population of the country worked, lived, studied, and sang songs. It doesn't mean that everything was extinguished or everything was lost, no.
Q: Weren't the millions killed and sent to the gulags a blot on the record?
Fedorova: A stain. It was a dark stain. It was a dark stain, but I'll repeat once more that the country was working. All the enterprises were working. The factories were working, children were studying at schools... The fact that these political intrigues and games happened is very unfortunate. It was a very hard time but the country was growing and growing at great speed. There was great power.
Q: This terrible stain did not undermine your faith in socialism at all?
Fedorova: No it didn't.
Q: What was your task as a Deputy in a one-party State?
Fedorova: I was elected by my constituency. I had to think about the people who lived in Moscow. I had to put up cinemas or hospitals, that sort of thing. In the sessions of the Supreme Soviet before the War, there are documents of my answers to a whole number of questions about what was necessary to help Moscow; in particular for my constituents.
Q: In the western democracies many parties are represented in Parliament. In the Supreme Soviet there was only one party, the Communist Party. How did that make your job different?
Fedorova: Not badly at all, it was not a bad thing. You know at that time somehow we were very friendly and not because it was a question of just raising your hand. It was from our souls. Sometimes you would hear critical words. Sometimes people think that generally people were closed and didn't say anything.... There were quite a few people like politicians. I considered myself a principled person, and if someone pointed to me and I didn't agree, I wouldn't agree. I would always put my own opinion.
Q: So there was freedom of expression?
Fedorova: Absolutely, absolutely. Did someone check my speech or take an interest in what I was going to say? No. I was interested in the results of the speeches, that there would be some success, some real help. You'd just get up and say what ever you think.
Q: In what way was it better to have a one-party state than a state with many parties?
Fedorova: I think it is necessary to have an opposition.
Q: But there wasn't one then?
Fedorova: No there wasn't one. What else can I say about that really? Officially, there wasn't an official opposition but there was opposition.
Q: What was the particular appeal of communism for you?
Fedorova: Unity of people, unity of action. That's what attracts me and has always inspired me to totalitarianism.
Q: And what was the most important part of the communist party program for you?
Fedorova: That people should live well.
Q: What about the ideology, what was the most important part of Marxist-Leninist ideology for you?
Fedorova: That is a difficult question really. The thing I have always striven for, which today I will leave life with, is my Party membership card. I still have it. That is what I have devoted my life to.
Note: Red text is available in RealAudio.
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