Writing Assignment: 500 words on this topic. “Describe Kourdakov’s use of contrasts to strengthen his narrative.” Examples: Sunday afternoon’s activities, or the meetings — public and private — where he got his award, or the leaders of the USSR vs. the leaders of the victims. Do you think these contrasts make his narrative more powerful?
As I read The Persecutor, Sergei Kourdakov’s autobiography, I noticed that he often used these stark contrasts. These really strengthened his narrative and made his points all the more powerful. Today I am going to take you through a few of them.
One of those contrasts tells the story of a sunny Sunday afternoon in a beautiful hilltop landscape where a group of Baptists were going to baptize a few new converts in the river. In the morning of that fateful Sunday, Kourdakov and his 13 police group buddies enjoyed a fun-filled picnic on the hill. They drank, ate, played guitar, and swapped stories, laughing, and goofing around. After a while, they fell asleep, the vodka making them drowsy. When they awoke, the Christians (called Believers in the autobiography) were about to arrive, so they quickly got ready with their specially made clubs and handcuffs. As the afternoon progressed, the 14 men beat up the 15 Christians at the river, even killing one of the pastors! They were brutal and merciless, and their director, Nikiforov, applauded them for it.
This story clearly projected the contrast between the peaceful, harmless, Believers, or Christians, and the brute, angry, ruthless young men who persecuted them. The entirety of the KGB and the Soviet Union felt quite strongly about the Christians, and poured tons of money into their persecution and termination.
Another story Kourdakov tells is of the contrast between the leaders of the USSR and the communist party, and the Christian leaders. The pastors, both young and old, were kind and forgiving, and they tried to convert everyone, even the police! This infuriated the police and Kourdakov’s group, leading them to attack harder, but still this didn’t dampen their spirits nor stop their attempts to convert others. The leaders of the USSR and Communist party, on the other hand, were constantly putting up a façade. They pretended to be faithful in Communism and work for the hope that someday, Russia, and possibly the world, would be a Communist country. But on the inside, they didn’t really believe in this fantasy of equality.
On April 22nd of 1970, Kourdakov was invited to attend a party celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of Lenin’s birthday. There he met Comrade Orlov, a man he had heard of on several occasions. Orlov, being one of the top 200 party leaders, had a lot of influence on Kourdakov. Orlov awarded Kourdakov, praising him and saying that young men like Kourdakov were the future of communism. He was even given a seat of honor! This was one of the proudest moments of Kourdakov’s life. But the event quickly went downhill. He noticed that the big party leaders weren’t dining with the youth leaders and local leaders, and after dinner, wandered through the halls. He came across a private dining room where the party leaders were stuffing their faces with food. Orlov saw him and invited him in. Somewhat reluctantly, he followed Orlov to a table and observed the leaders in the room. What he saw disgusted him. The top 200 party leaders of the Communist party were drunk out of their minds, bellies stuffed almost to bursting point, unconscious under and top of tables, and on the floor. A drunk Orlov then began cursing Stalin, Communism, and the then Soviet leader, Brezhnev. Kourdakov was terrified. Imagine someone heard what Orlov was saying! Imagine someone knew that Kourdakov heard Orlov’s true feelings about Communism! Kourdakov would surely be terminated. He quickly left the room of drunk, unconscious party leaders. That was the night he lost all faith in Communism and decided he, as the other party leaders, would use the party to get ahead of his peers.
The Communist leaders were hard, cynical, and drunk. They didn’t care for Communism, didn’t care for equality in Russia, just wanted to be on top, and live comfortably. They did what they did for money and power. Compare this to the Christian pastors, who risked their lives to spread the word of Jesus, no matter how badly they were beaten, no matter how many times their meeting places were destroyed, no matter how many Bibles and other bits of literature were stolen from them. They were persistent and purposeful.
The biggest contrast of all, that stays constant throughout the autobiography, is the difference between the lives of the Christian youths, and the lives of the young cadets at the Naval academy. The Christians had purpose in their lives: to spread the belief of Jesus, and to devote themselves to him. The cadets didn’t have purpose, all they cared about was vodka and money. Many of the young cadets even killed themselves at the academy, having nothing worthy to live for. Even Kourdakov, near the end of his life, around 20 years old, converted to Christianity and began to use his influence as a Communist Youth League leader to promote Christianity. The importance of religion and hardcore beliefs vs. living a hard, cynical life trying to control others to achieve a fantasy is evident in this autobiography, and his message is not an unrealistic one.