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Key Character Backstories
Sidney Reilly (ne Sigmund Rosenblum)
Reilly’s psychological/emotional trigger is
rooted in a hostile relationship with his father that climaxes when his father
discovers Reilly’s affair with his cousin, Elena. The result is the loss of his family (his
father disowns him and tosses him out) and of his cousin-lover, who quickly
ends the affair. For Reilly this is
abandonment and betrayal times two. The
moral responsibility for both is too much for the sixteen-year-old boy to
shoulder. He escapes, both
physically and emotionally, from authority, from moral imperative to the
clearer ground of pure practicality.
This transformation becomes the central element in his career in
politics and espionage.
The New Family
lost his first family but acquires a second one in Nadezhda
Petrova and her daughter Katya and son Sasha and
half-son, Alex, and later Katya’s children Anna and Ilya. This begins at Warsaw University, where
Reilly, Sasha and Alex meet Volodia Orlov. The four
become small players in various student revolutionary groups based mostly
on beer hall philosophy, unlike Dzerzhinsky and Savinkov who in much the
same political milieu opt for hard-headed Socialism and terrorist
tactics. Reilly’s behavior makes him
a political enemy of the Tsar’s Okhrana secret police and results in
Alex Petrov, Sasha’s
half-brother, is murdered by the Tsar’s police while reading radical
Socialist poetry at an anti-Tsarist demonstration. The authorities are able to coopt Sasha
and Volodia with a combination of threats against their families and
friends and the promise of high-level jobs once they graduate. Reilly expresses anger at the police and
his friends, and disappears with the Okhrana in
pursuit. He rejoins his friends at
some later point.
Nadezhda, a widow, is
the mother of Sasha, Katya and the late Alexander. After Sasha’s graduation from Warsaw
University, Nadezhda beckons her son, daughter, Reilly and Volodia to live with her in her mansion. She still suffers from the loss of a son
and a husband. But, more than
loneliness, she values the ties that they have formed together, which are
at least as strong as those of many biological families. Reilly is usually away, but has a room in
Nadezhda’s house when in St. Petersburg and is
very much a family authority figure.
Nadezhda is a
pacifist with radical Socialist views similar to those of her late son
Alex, but without the doctrinal view of terrorism that Savinkov and
Dzerzhinsky hold. In 1905 a great
crowd grows in the streets of St. Petersburg and marches to the Winter
Palace to stage a political protest.
Nadezhda organizes a small demonstration with friends who intend to
give flowers to the police as a sign of goodwill. But an Okhrana
officer orders his men to shoot her.
Violence breaks out, the police slaughter hundreds and an Okhrana agent murders Nadezhda.
The family stays in Nadezhda’s
house. Anna and Ilya
are born while Reilly is away. They
are told that their father died a hero in the Japanese War at Port Arthur,
but no one ever speaks about it, even to Reilly when he returns. Anna and Ilya
both come to sense a mystery concerning the identity of their father, and
later about the deaths of their grandmother and uncle. While they treat the de-mystification of
these events differently, both idolize Reilly, Anna romantically and Ilya as a boyhood hero.
Later, Anna wonders out loud whether Reilly might be her father.
Sometime around 1910,
Elena returns to St. Petersburg and contacts Reilly but refuses to
re-engage him romantically. She
takes a Bolshevik lover, calls herself “Linda” (Rosenblum) and establishes
a close friendship with Katya, who confides to her that a police villain
years earlier raped her and fathered Anna and Ilya. For political reasons, “Linda” (Elena) is
forced to escape the Okhrana in late 1916 but
returns the following April by train with Lenin and his comrades.
Savinkov has been friendly
with Sasha and Volodia, whom he meets in law
school in St Petersburg. Later he
becomes close to Reilly and Reilly’s cousin Elena. In the late 1890’s he subscribes to a
philosophy of persistent but peaceful resistance (of the Victor Chernov variety), and enters law school in St.
Petersburg. But Savinkov is
emotionally supercharged, especially where Russia and patriotism are
concerned, and not surprisingly is expelled from law school for
participation in student rioting. He
becomes a salon writer, poet, revolutionary philosopher, and eventually a
leader of the SR Combat Organization after the outing of the strange Yevno Azev. He plans and carries off numerous
anti-Monarchist terrorist acts, including assassinations of Russian
Interior Minister von Plehve
and Grand Duke Sergei. He is
arrested and escapes to Europe, where he eventually serves in the French
Army in the early years of the First World War.
Savinkov is devoted to a radical SR
theology that approves revolutionary violence but demands in exchange a
life of self-sacrifice, even death in The Revolution’s service. Absent self-sacrifice, this theology
considers terrorism a sin in the Orthodox sense, for which there is no
atonement and consequently no salvation.
Except for political practicality, this creed requires
self-examination and honesty.
Dzerzhinsky is a Polish Catholic whose early
years are lived in a monastery. He
becomes impatient and disgusted with the bureaucratic politics of the
institution, its Christian theology and unquestioning faith that seem only
to perpetuate the established order.
He demonstrates brilliance in his studies; one Elder after another
attempts to establish exclusive conjugal relations. One in particular does not, and
Dzerzhinsky accepts his offer to establish a master-student relationship in
which his faith is re-kindled. But
when the Elder is murdered, Dzerzhinsky runs away to Moscow where he joins
the Leninists in their atheistic, revolutionary activities. He has no longer any faith, except in
his own power to influence by intimidation.