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Venedikt Yerofeyev and GES-2

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During the Stagnation period (from the late 1970s to the early 1980s), GES-2 was one of the places where free-thinking writers and philosophers uninterested in ideological trade unions found jobs. One of these writers and philosophers was Venedikt Yerofeyev, the author of the influential “samizdat” prose poem Moscow-Petushki, who was listed as a guard at the power station in 1977.

Eloquent memories have been preserved of the months Yerofeyev spent at GES-2. As Olga Savenkova (Azarkh), who also worked here, recounts: “There were four guard posts. In the furthest one—a booth about a metre and a half square, with a cot, a stove, and a telephone—they slept. The generators hummed and sparked all around. Venya (Yerofeyev) issued passes, opened the gates, and made sure that the working stiffs didn’t smuggle in forbidden drinks in their coat sleeves. Those were good times. I remember how I took [Solzhenitsyn’s] novel The First Circle, typed on tissue paper, from a sleeping Yerofeyev’s stomach and read it overnight.”

Forbidden literature was paradoxically combined with a very important switch. As the translator Mark Grinberg recalls: "One of the ironies of the late Soviet employment system was that for a short time Venya worked at the control board of the Kremlin’s backup power supply. He would laughingly say ‘If my phone gets a call, then I have to pull this handle.’ This was the extent of his duties. [...] But then he was canned. The boss lady gave him a dressing down. ‘Why did you leave a chicken in the refrigerator? ’ she asked. ‘I left a chicken, not a bomb...’ he answered.

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