The fault in ourselves.
How retrograde Russian civics exposes failures in our own.
Georgi Aleksandrovich Yumatov went to hell and back before he was twenty years old. His war began at age fifteen, when he was compelled into service first as a naval cadet, and then as an active-duty sailor in the first year of Nazi Germany’s war on the Soviet Union. By age sixteen he was on a torpedo boat. By age seventeen he was its helmsman. At age eighteen he fought in riverine operations on the Danube in the siege of Budapest. At nineteen he was again on the Danube, again fighting, this time at Vienna. The Soviet Danube Flotilla in which he served executed some of the most dangerous, savage, and daring operations of the war. At the climax of its work, the flotilla, including the young Yumatov, landed Red Army forces on both ends of the Reichsbrücke: with a single bridge seized, the Nazi defenders were deprived of their greatest natural defense, and the inevitable end came into view.
Georgi Yumatov by war’s end was a veteran of some of the most hellish combat in human history, wounded several times over, battle-scarred, traumatized, and wracked with PTSD. The next year, 1946, he turned twenty.
When Georgi Yumatov was an old man nearing seventy, his dog died. It was a good dog, and Yumatov mourned him. He wished to give his dog a burial, but he was old and required assistance. A young man, a janitor, offered to help. They buried the dog and gave the faithful friend his due respects. Then they drank. They drank together, and they drank enough to get to sharing opinions with one another. One opinion held by the janitor was that Russia would be better off now if the Germans had won fifty years before.
Georgi Yumatov shot him dead.