The short story ,“The Travels of My Brother Aleksei to the Land of Peasant Utopia” written by Aleksandr Chaianov is about a man named Aleksei Kremnev who works for the Soviet government in the early 1920s and he’s taken into the future to 1984 to see the peasant utopia that the Russian’s dreamed of. The main theme of this story is the change of thinking from bourgeois to socialist, which is a big part of Revolutionary culture.
Revolutionary Culture as depicted through this short story is very upsetting. Private businesses are gone. The people are trying to get rid of the family dynamic once and for all. Having negative feelings about socialism is wrong. The most upsetting thing of them all is that the peasant picture of the future is completely false.
1. Private Businesses are gone- In the beginning of the story, the main character Aleksei Kremnev is walking home late one night from a meeting and he’s walking down a street in Moscow that used to be thriving with private businesses and where the main character had so many amazing memories. For example, the author writes, “and for many long hours he had rooted, eyes burning with proselytic fervor, through the handwritten and printed treasures of Shibanov’s antiquarian bookstore- there, where now in the dim light of the streetlamp you could make out the short sign “Chief Administration of Paper Industry”.”
2. Abandoning the Family Dynamic- On his walk home, Aleksei’s thoughts are filled with phrases that he heard at the meeting about getting rid of family life once and for all. Thoughts like “By destroying the family hearth, we will deal the final blow to the bourgeois system!”, “Our decree, which forbids nourishment at home, casts the joyous poison of the bourgeois family out of our way of life and stabilizes the socialist principle until the end of all time.” or “Family comfort gives birth to proprietary desires; the joy of the small time property owner conceals the seeds of capitalism.” They believe that the family dynamic is a custom of the bourgeois and should no longer exist.
3. The idea of being unhappy with the socialist way of life is wrong- After he gets home, Aleksei is looking at his collection of books by his favorite authors, like William Morris, Edward Bellamy, St. Thomas Aquinas, Robert Blatchford, and Herzen, who he calls pioneering utopians and he’s asking them if they are satisfied with what he’s done. He’s talking to his books, because he isn’t satisfied with what he’s done as an old socialist himself and an important Soviet functionary who ran one of the departments in the World Council of National Economy. Chaianov writes of Kremnev’s feelings, “He felt a kind of unfocused regret for what was departing. Some cobweb of bourgeois psychology still darkened his socialist consciousness.” Aleksei felt that it was wrong to be unhappy with the Soviet society he was living in. He thought that is was just remnants left over from the brainwashed bourgeois society.
4. The utopia that Soviet socialists dreamed about and is depicted in this story is false. After questioning himself and his books, Aleksei lost consciousness and woke up in a Soviet Utopia in 1984. This utopia was bright and beautiful and the city of Moscow was filled with green and people and cars. Soviet Russia was thriving in agricultural engineering. Everybody was educated. He met a woman who could talk for hours about art. Russia was leading in technological advances. Everybody loved socialism.
Sadly, none of this came to fruition in 1984. People living in the 1920s Soviet Russia truly believed that this sort of utopia was really their future, but it wasn’t. This was an idea of the socialist school of thought. The idea that life was going to suck for a little bit, but one day in the future, everything will be perfect and there will be no more hardship.
Overall, these ideas of Soviet Socialist thought are saddening and inhumane. Taking away people’s freedom and right to own and run a bookstore; people’s right to enjoy a bookstore is wrong. The idea that a family- a husband and wife who have a home and raise kids, should be extinguished, is inhumane and is stripping away the most the simplest form of joy that exists: love. It isn’t wrong to be unhappy with one’s life either. That’s life. Finally, it just doesn’t make sense that all these people believe that getting rid of all these things will eventually lead them to live in a utopia. How can an utopia exist if the little things in life that bring people joy and give them a desire to live are stripped from them?
Chaianov, Aleksandr. “The Travels of My Brother Aleksei to the Land of Peasant Utopia.” The Russia Reader. edited by Adele Barker and Bruce Grant. pg.370-77. Duke University Press: Durham and London, 2010.