Breaking Stalin's Nose
by Eugene Yelchin
Breaking Stalin's Nose Theme of Justice
Or maybe we should say "lack thereof." Midnight raids with black boots kicking doors in? Hapless prisoners being frog-marched into sinister black automobiles in the middle of the night? Forced confessions? Countless people arrested and executed? We see all of these things happen in Breaking Stalin's Nose. The justice system here is one based on accusation, guilt by association, and widespread fear. Looked at that way, there really doesn't seem to be a justice system at all. As the author himself points out: "During his reign, from 1923 to 1953, Joseph Stalin ensured his absolute power by waging war against the Russian people. Stalin's State Security executed, imprisoned, or exiled over twenty million people. Not a single person, be it a government official, war hero, worker, teacher, or homemaker, could be certain he or she would not be arrested" (Author's Note).
Questions About Justice
- In this novel, you can get sent to prison for quite a range of crimes. What do you think is the purpose for prisons such as Lubyanka in the novel?
- How is the komunalka used as a form of surveillance of Soviet citizens?
- Four-Eyes Finkelstein questions Sasha about whether or not his mom was a spy. Sasha vehemently assures him that she was not, that she was a "good Communist." But, Four-Eyes tells him, his own parents were "good Communists," too, and now they're in the clink. What does Sasha learn about justice from this comment?
- What can you infer about the role that torture (or "enhanced interrogation") plays in the Soviet justice system that Yelchin shows?
Chew on This
Fear in the Soviet society Yelchin shows serves as the real justice system, since once an accusation is made, you don't get a chance to defend yourself.
Even though Nina Petrovna isn't the one who breaks the nose off of the statue of Stalin, a kindasorta form of justice is served with her being arrested.