Internet Oddities: Complete History of the Soviet Union Arranged to the Melody of Tetris - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Internet Oddities: Complete History of the Soviet Union Arranged to the Melody of Tetris

Alexander Wallace is the man who arranges the blocks.
When we think of Tetris in this day and age, we think of blocks falling down onto other blocks, building a wall that recedes ever more into the ground. To play Tetris is to be Sisyphus happy; we take joy in seeing something be built up only to see it demolished, a multicolored Tower of Babel that needs not a word be spoken. Furthermore, we think of the jaunty tones of Korobeiniki, the Russian song about a merchant and a girl. As much as we tend to forget it, Tetris is a Soviet creation, developed by the programmer Alexei Pajitnov in 1984 while working at the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

It is of those Soviet origins that the British band Pig With the Face of a Boy seeks to remind viewers. Take a look for yourself; it is only just shy of seven minutes.

There’s something perfect about showing the history of the boldly utopian and yet disappointingly ramshackle Soviet Union to such a song that comes from its dominant country (but we must never forget that the Soviet Union was a sprawling multiethnic empire not unlike Austria-Hungary or the Ottoman Empire - the main singer, Dan Woods, notes that these blocks are “made by the men in Kazakhstan”). Those who study the country enough know the ambition that was the entire Soviet project and the loftiness of its goals. The Soviet Union, like the United States, the French First Republic, and the People’s Republic of China was an endeavor to explicitly remake the politics of what was before, and to create something that was better than anything humanity had created before.

But alas, things tend not to end up that way. America’s legions of sins haunt it to this very day. The French Republic was transformed into the French Empire, engulfing Europe in a maelstrom (and sent a revolutionary army to put down a slave revolt in Haiti - that’s why so many Polish troops sent there revolted). The People’s Republic of China starved its own people to an extent never before seen. The Soviet Union’s sins, as strange as this may sound, can easily be compared to a game of Tetris.

In Tetris, you cannot win. Your successes only stave off the inevitable. You are enraptured by the thrill of accomplishing something more and more, until it comes to the point that you are thrown back into the mediocrity of your circumstance. Is that not what happened with the Soviet Union? There was the ecstasy of throwing off the Tsarist Yoke, the sheer bliss of winning the Great Patriotic War and seeing the Red Army march into the capital of the hated enemy, and then sending the first member of the species to slip the surly bonds of Earth. But in doing so, it starved Ukraine and oppressed the Baltics and prepared the Caucasus for sectarian tension that wracks it to this day (recall the short and terrible war between Armenia and Azerbaijan), and at the end of the whole affair (which some people lived through its entire existence) it collapsed into the sort of right-wing autocracy that has such a long history in that country.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
C. S. Lewis

This entire song is about what has been called ‘high modernism:’ about the overriding imperative that the modern state feels to turn humanity into something as orderly as tetrominoes in a line. But as anyone who has taken any economics classes knows, there are always externalities to your production and to your consumption, and this holds even more so for something so labyrinthine as a government. Soviet history is a warning: we must never turn human beings into joined groups of colored boxes; the end result is to barrel headfirst into catastrophe.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad