The Trial – Part 2

Statue of Lenin – which can be seen everywhere in Belarus. Lenin was the driving force behind the communist regime in Russia and the rise of Stalin. The legacy he bequeathed was a grim one; dictatorship, terror, mass executions, a bureaucratic state – and a mind-control propaganda regime.  

 

continues from: https://serioustravelblog.com/2018/04/11/the-trial/

 

From the Belarus State Insurance office, we drove to the Immigration police.

The waiting room at the Immigration Police was a small, rectangular space surrounded by closed doors. There was a passage at either end of the room. There were no windows. Light was provided by a fluorescent tube. It was not crowded.

Nikolai knocked on a door, went inside and returned with two long white forms, on to which he copied the details from our passports in Cyrillic with a biro. It took quite a while.   

Watching him filling in those forms, I asked myself why he was going to all this trouble to help two western tourists get through this bureaucratic maze. Surely it was easier to rent his apartment to a local or a Russian?

My query was resolved a day after we departed Minsk on the bus. The bus broke down and we got talking to a woman who spoke English and lived in Minsk. As she explained to us:

‘The rent on an apartment near the centre of Minsk for a Belorussian or a Russian is 400 roubles a month. In our terms that’s a lot of money.’

400 roubles a month was about 180 Euros. We were paying 40 Euros a night and had booked for 6 nights. 40 Euros for a good sized apartment with a kitchen and cooking facilities near the centre of a city in Europe was a very cheap. But it was easy to see why Nikolae was prepared to go to the trouble to help us; what we were paying him for 6 nights was far more than he would get renting out his apartment for a month to a Belorussian or Russian. Not that I held that against him. Without him, we would have been truly lost.

After filling in most of the questions on the forms, Nikolae departed, taking the forms with him.

He didn’t tell us where he went, only assured us that he would return. .

 

We sat there and watched other people appear with bundles of paper and wait until a door opened and they were called in. Most of them were Poles and Russians, people wanting to stay in Belarus for an extended time either because they had a Belorussian partner or were involved in a business venture.

Nikolae returned accompanied by a young woman.

She proceeded to fill in the remaining questions on the forms in Cyrillic and then took them, along with our passports, to a door, knocked, was admitted, closed the door and then came back and joined us.   

What was this all about?

The young woman spoke fluent English. She was a student studying English at university. Nikolae had driven off to pick her up from her flat. She had testified on the forms that we were staying with her and that she would be our sponsor during our time in Belarus.

(But, but….we already had a so-called sponsor! We had paid a visa bureau in The Netherlands handsomely for arranging it. No, no point in saying anything. Just go along with the madness!)

Nikolai, as the apartment owner, couldn’t act as our sponsor. Therefore he employed different people to act as sponsors. He used English speaking students because then it seemed more likely that they would be able to communicate with the tourist – and have a reason to accommodate them.

It was hard to follow the logic of this system because there wasn’t any.  

A part of the deal was that we would pay her 50 roubles.

Time passed.

Then she was called back to the office. She was gone for a good while. I was afraid that something had gone wrong.

Finally, she appeared with our passports. They had been stamped; we had been officially permitted by the immigration police to stay in Belarus for 28 days.

 

We all got in the Nikolae´s car and he began driving back into the centre of Minsk.

I looked out at the apartment blocks passing by, forming a monotonous blur. My thoughts dwelled on what we had experienced that day.

The architect of communism was Karl Marx, a brilliant German Jew who settled in London and wrote the sharpest analysis of the capitalist system ever written. Marx was more than a brilliant and logical thinker. He spoke 7 languages. Oddly enough, he was also a dreamer. He prophesized the emergence of world without classes, without the super rich and the super poor. A world in which international solidarity would triumph. Where everyone would live on the basis of equality. Undertones of John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’. Never in his worst nightmares did Marx ever contemplate a one party state run by bureaucratic behemoth. His inspiration was drawn from the ancient Athenians, and not the ancient Spartans. Communist fanatics such as Lenin (his statue can be seen in many cities and towns in Belarus), Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Castro, misappropriated the ideas of Marx to legitimise dictatorship. Atheistic regimes used Marx as new kind of God.

 

Franz Kafka, like Marx, was a brilliant, educated Jew. His vision of the future was however very different to that of Marx.

Kafka’s story ‘The Trial’ was published in 1925. It was written in 1915. In an early part of the story, after Joseph K. is arrested on a charge which is never stated and he has no way of ascertaining, he appears before a court and says:

´There is some enormous organisation determining what is said by this court…an organisation that employs policemen who can be bribed, oafish supervisors and judges of whom nothing better can be said that they are not as arrogant as some others. This organisation even maintains a high-level judiciary along with its train of countless servants, scribes, policemen and all the other assistance that it needs, perhaps even executioners and torturers. And what is the purpose of this enormous organisation? Its purpose is to arrest innocent people and wage pointless prosecutions against them which lead to no result.  How are we to avoid  those in office becoming corrupt when everything is devoid of meaning? ‘

The great tragedy of the 20th century was how wrong Karl Marx proved to be and how prescient Franz Kafka.

 

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