1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 44

Chapter 36

July, 1633

A Dissertation on the Value

of Freedom and Security

“Those who give up their freedom for a little temporary security deserve neither freedom nor security and ultimately will lose both.” So goes an up-time quote. This humble writer doesn’t know whether that is true or not, but it is demonstrably true that the nation it comes from — founded on principles of freedom — grew to be one of the richest and most powerful in the world.

That nation had no greater resources than the Russia of its time. But it had a great deal more wealth. Why is that, I wonder? The question troubles my sleep at night.

The Time of Troubles is a weak name for what Russia went though at the beginning of this century. It has perhaps made us a bit timid, afraid of freedom. It’s so much easier when everyone knows their place and no one is allowed to argue or try something new. So much safer it seems. But I wonder, safe for how long?

Bandits are mostly gone from our roads and villages now. Surely that is a good thing. It seems worth a bit of freedom. What use, after all, is freedom to a man murdered by bandits? Is it worth, perhaps, the right of a serf to leave the lands of his lord? Some of those serfs might become bandits and make our roads unsafe yet again. Yet, why was this America, with its freedom, so rich? Where did its great wealth come from?

Much of it came from people leaving their work and striking out on their own. From people who left their homes and tried to do something that they had never done before. A man named Bell tried to find a way to make the deaf hear. Instead he found a way to send his voice and thousands of other voices thousands of miles along a wire. Another man, named Edison, hated transcribing the messages he received to send on. So he made a machine that did the job. This type of event happened again and again and made the land that the up-timers came from the richest in their world. Was it the freedom that did it? I think it may have been. For the same rule that prevents a serf from becoming a bandit also prevents him from becoming an inventor, or a merchant.

As I think of these things I can’t help but wonder if we are beggaring our children to buy a bit of security for ourselves. The history of Holy Mother Russia that was written in that other time saw the fading away of the Zemskiy Sobor. It is barely even mentioned in their records. How did we allow that to happen? Are we, perhaps, afraid of the responsibilities of voting for representatives we trust? How will Mother Russia compete with nations that have spent a bit of their security to buy a little freedom for themselves and their posterity?

The Flying Squirrel


Natasha set the pamphlet aside. What Russia was, she decided, depended a lot on how you looked at it. She had looked at it one way all her life, now she was looking again. “Aunt Sofia, what do you think of American democracy?”

The woman chuckled. She was tiny, four foot ten and weighed all of eighty pounds. Yet, when needed, she could put on such an expression of fierceness that boyars and bureau chiefs blanched. Fortunately, at the moment she didn’t have her game face on. Her eyes twinkled. “Bernie again or one of the pamphlets? I don’t know enough about it to have much of an opinion. From what I’ve heard, I cannot imagine it working, but obviously in some way it did. It must be different from what the Poles have that leaves their government so paralyzed.”

“Well, according to Bernie, women vote as well as men, peasants as well as princes.”

“I approve of the first and disapprove of the second. Peasants lack the knowledge of the wider world to understand the issues of a great nation. They lack the intellect for matters of state. Instead, they have low cunning.” The eyes laughed. “Of course, I am a woman of the nobility. Were I a man — and a peasant — I might have a different opinion.”

Natasha looked up at her smiling aunt with some irritation, then back down at the piles of papers on her worktable. She had two inboxes and two outboxes. One set was for what the Dacha was doing and what the nerd patrol wanted to do and her approval or disapproval of the same. The other had income and expenses for the Dacha and, for that matter, the rest of the Gorchakov estates. The pamphlet on the cost of freedom and security was an issue she didn’t have time for.

“I have another letter from Brandy.” Natasha changed the subject, setting down the pamphlet and picking up the letter.

“And what does she have to say?”

“Quite a lot. They are making electric crock-pots in Grantville now and she is sending me some.” Natasha scanned down the letter. “Well, well. It seems that Brandy is now working part-time for my brother. I wonder if I should warn her of his defects of personality or pray that she can cure them?”

Sofia gave her a suppressing look. “Warn her off. The political consequences could be difficult.”

“I was joking.” Natasha gave back the standard look of young women who are hearing silly advice from old women who don’t understand. “Brandy is doing research in the National Library of theirs. Finding answers to the questions we send them.”

“Perhaps.” Aunt Sofia didn’t sound convinced.

Natasha went back to her letter. “She repeats that we should stay away from lead-based makeup. And sends some cheat sheets on making white makeup without lead oxide. In Grantville, and to an extent in the rest of the New US, women can pursue any career that men can. A woman can be an artist, an engineer, a person of business. She mentions a group of young girls who have gotten rich investing in many and varied enterprises since the Ring of Fire and she, as a researcher in the library, makes quite a good living for herself. She goes on to say how rewarding the work is in ways other than financial. She, her work, is making the world a better place.” Natasha’s voice, in spite of her intent, had risen in tone and volume as she said that last.