Eye of the Red Tsar

Eye of the Red Tsar Author : Sam Eastland
Country : Russia

‘Are you telling me the Tsar might still be alive?’ The guilt of having abandoned the Romanovs to their fate had lodged like a bullet in his chest. In spite of what he’d heard about the executions, Pekkala’s doubts had never completely gone away. (Eastland 2010: 42)

In Eye of the Red Tsar, Inspector Pekkala has been in a gulag in Siberia for a decade when the story begins. However, a reprieve comes when Stalin summons him to investigate the identity of some bodies found in an abandoned mine. Supposedly, they are the remains of the Romanovs and Pekkala’s mission is to track down the men who killed the Tsar and his family and to locate the Tsar’s treasure. As the Tsar’s Eye or personal detective, Pekkala knew the Tsar intimately and had a relationship of affection and respect with him and his family. When Pekkala is released in 1929, he finds himself forced to work for a man, Stalin, he considers responsible for his years in Siberia and for the unfair assassination of a tsar he loved and admired, as well as for the chaos, oppression and poverty in the country. Consequently, his views of Stalin’s policies and the man himself are negative and he only works for him because the alternative is a death sentence that Stalin reminds him he could sign any time he pleased. Pekkala holds no faith in a system which uses terror to guarantee the submission of the people and does not trust Stalin since he can glimpse what lies beneath his “emotional blankness” (Eastland 2010: 451) and what he “[finds] there [fills] him with dread”, so his only defence is to pretend “he [cannot] see it” (Eastland 2010: 452).

Eastland provides a nightmarish vision of Russia during Stalin’s dictatorship. In fact, he blames the revolutionaries that put an end to tsarist Russia for the situation in the present. For Pekkala, the Revolution turned everybody in Russia into victims. He says, “We are all victims of the Revolution. Some of us have suffered from it, and others have suffered for it, but in one way or another all of us have suffered” (Eastland 2010: 375). In Eastland’s novels, as well as in those by authors such as Tom Rob Smith and William Ryan, Russia’s revolutionary past and Stalin’s dictatorship are not used merely as backgrounds for the novels that take place in these contexts, but to ascertain the fiendishness of the country they created. The past, therefore, is used to paint landscapes of fear and destitution at the root of the country’s revolutionary beginnings which, unlike in countries like the United States, did not lead to a brave new world, but to widespread oppression, penury and poverty under communism.

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