St. Petersburg, 1918 “Ivan Denosovitch! Come out, now!” cried the Soviet commissar to the owner of the little bakery on Petrovich Street. “You have been deemed an enemy of the Revolution and a threat to the Working Class!” Ivan Denosovitch huddled with his wife and children on the second floor of their building, they lived above their bakery- like his father had before him and his father too.
This bakery was not a luxurious place, but it was orderly and well kept. Ivan Denosovitch was a decent man, and known to help those who, from time to time, could not afford their bread- and his good nature was prone to allow him to forget such debts. The Revolution was raging outside. The first one happened in February 1917, where the Czar and the aristocracy were removed from power. Ivan Denosovitch did not truly understand what was happening, and kept making bread for his neighbors. The Great War was still raging but the Provisional Government ended that. There was hope for a democracy. Then an angry little man named Vladimir Ilyich Lenin started making speeches in the square at St. Petersburg. His group was not very popular, they were called the Bolsheviks. Ivan Denosovich heard him speak several times over the summer. Amid banners that read “Down with the Rich!” and “Enemies of the Working Class can only be dealt with by REVOLUTION!” he saw this unimpressive man clamor for “the destruction of all private property, that all means of production must be given over to the workers. All owners in the propertied classes are to be considered enemies of the Revolution!” He blamed the propertied for the war, men like Ivan Denosovitch never really understood- though it was they who fought and died in. All this talk about destroying those who made things only confused him. And then in October of last year these angry people decided to not wait to be voted into to power and to take it from the Provisional Government. The seized St. Petersburg. Ivan Denosovitch and his wife were walking along the river when it happened. A group of men in a truck with red flags flying from it roared past. They had rifles and pistols and were shouting “the Revolution is here!! Rise up!” Ivan held his wife close and knew he had to get back to the bakery- they would be coming for it. They raced on foot along the streets of the once great imperial capital of Russia. The years of war had taken its toll, the once clean streets were dirty; the people desperate. The people wanted “peace and bread,” and the Bolsheviks promised to give it to them- so long as the people fought the enemies of the Revolution. Quick checkpoints sprung up all over the city. The revolutionaries threw furniture and trash and other debris in the street to stop cars. The few truly wealthy people had long since begun to leave St. Petersburg fearing what would come. Those that tried to flee now in their expensive automobiles were stopped and their possessions seized. Their prized jewels and family heirlooms were taken and used as evidence of their “crimes of theft and pillage against the Working Classes.” Many were simply shot. Ivan Denosovitch and his wife made the run back to their bakery and home. Their children waited, scared and in the care of the Ukrainian neighbor girl who sometimes watched them while their parents were away. “Lana, go home,” Ivan said to the babysitter “your parents will be worried.” “Yes, Mr. Denosovitch- I will go.” she replied in halting Russian. Ivan was a plain man, but not stupid. He had heard the speeches, and seen the banners. Gradually the people had acquiesced to the Bolsheviks way of thinking; even those that did not side with them saw little use in opposing them. What the Reds lacked in numbers they made up in their organization and ferocity in combat. Many were old conscripts, who hated the monarchy and the “propertied classes” that had pressed them into service for what they now believe was “a