Part 46: Economic Collapse
Chapter 46 - Economic Collapse
There is goon participation in this chapter!
What happened on May 4th, 1996 was the complete collapse of Novistrana's economy, engineered and overseen by Piotr Prokofiev and the Novistranan Coalition. The immediate effects of the collapse can still be felt to this day. The revelation of the rouble as being completely worthless threw Novistrana into a tailspin as hyperinflation took hold. Looting and anarchy was met with a Parliamentary state of emergency thanks to Maxim Nazerov, and around the nation, heavy-handed measures on the part of the army and Boris Churnyeav's Secret Police was necessary to keep the worst elements out.
With the help of sympathetic economists from Vikenti Anisimov's group and numerous academics that Tresori Vilnov was in contact with, a plan for a new economic system was placed. An all-out communist economy was the goal they were working for, but with industry facing heavy debts and the abandonment of foreign capital, Novistrana simply wasn't self-sufficient enough to hold such a system straight away.
The answer would have to be a temporary compromise, at least: Josef Nasarov's union followers banded together to begin work for free with the promises of resources and proper support, and ultimately a socialist system with slightly capitalist leanings would weather the worst effects of the crash. Ekaterine's casino was all but abandoned during this time, but the charity trust in Pugachev managed to keep the city afloat and almost ignore the consequences.
Managing the crash in a sustained manner was Prokofiev's challenge, and the people blamed Karasov for the collapse, as Prokofiev planned. Despite the imminent overthrow, Prokofiev was approached by a foreign representative, and he had to consider matters from abroad...
* * *
Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Hundred-sixty-eighth Entry: 03/05/1996
I cannot risk a second dictatorship. Power is intoxicating, and having too much of it, even temporarily, could turn against me. Marching the army on Karasov's palace, as decisive as that would be, would mean suppressing all dissenting thought in Novistrana. I would be no better than Karasov if I did that.
I began this revolution with the goal of overthrowing Karasov, but the reality of a socialist country, if not outright communist, as Marx intended, has become more and more possible with each passing day. Our control over the working class and their support of us is symbiotic. Mutual help between us and them would mean installing a new economic system, one that makes everyone truly equal.
But to do that, we must destroy the old system. Nothing less than the complete collapse of capitalism in Novistrana would allow us a new system. I fear for the immediate results, even if our intentions are noble.
Comrades, fellow Novistranans... Forgive us for what we are about to do. Do not hold us responsible for the destitute; do not blame us for the dead. Instead think of the future, think of the freedom and think of Novistrana.
* * *
"Piotr?" asked Nasarov nervously, seeing the man return to the main room with the table. "What are we going to do?"
"We are going to tear apart the economy," announced Prokofiev, his face unreadable. "The military will not be used to impose martial law, but to keep the peace while we try to salvage the situation."
"I hope we've made the right decision, sir," said Churnyeav hesitantly, scratching his forehead. "This is going to fuck up a lot of people."
"It was the lesser of two evils," asserted Vilnov, looking at Prokofiev with a degree of admiration blended with fear of the future. "At least this way, we can alter society for the better without sacrificing freedoms."
"Freedoms," snorted Anisimov, shaking his head with displeasure. "We'll be free to die in massive riots. Joy."
"I'll announce a state of emergency in Parliament right away, Mr. Prokofiev," Nazerov said, planning his moves. "We'll have to time it properly."
"I will be releasing the information on the fraud and the economy this afternoon," explained Prokofiev. "Have an emergency broadcast air to the nation through the National Broadcasting Building. Karasov won't dare step outside of his palace with the people out for his blood."
"What about those rich parasites?" asked Nasarov, glancing at Anisimov only momentarily. "Konstantino and his friends are going to be pissed."
"The bourgeois will have to deal with their capitalistic holdings evaporating," growled Prokofiev, his heart turning to stone. "We must be ready, comrades. Those with the will survive. We will overturn capitalism in Novistrana and remove Karasov once and for all!"
The table, with the exception of Anisimov, agreed with grim cheers.
* * *
The Novistranan National Archive - Video Compilation of Economic Crash Footage: 04/05/1996
*NNN logo pops on-screen, then cut to footage of the striking.*
"This is NNN, the Novistranan News Network. Today, the stock market crashed after Piotr Prokofiev of the Novistranan Coalition released damning evidence about the true state of the economy. He claimed that President Karasov and his supporters were stealing funding directly from the people in the crash of 1994, and that continued kleptomania on the part of the rich and the powerful turned the nation's economy worthless. A massive protest broke out in front of the Stock Exchange as many white-collar workers refused to work. We go live to the scene in with Mikhail Koltsov."
"We are in front of the Stock Exchange in Karasov Square, where the mood of the many workers here is a mix between trepidation and rage. Many of the workers here have been shocked by the turn of events and at having their entire life savings reduced to nothing more than what they own, and already the police had to be called to the scene to prevent any problems."
*Cut to footage of interviews with the protesters. The strike is noisy with chanting.*
"Sirs, a moment of your time please?"
"Sure, what do you want?"
"I'm Mikhail Koltsov with NNN. Reporting on the strike."
"Yeah? What do you want to know?"
"Why did this happen? Surely the analysts understood the problem here."
"Only the head of the Stock Exchange knew the details of the system, sir. The rest of us were unaware of this situation."
"Yeah, we were just caught in the middle of the wave! Don't blame us!"
"What do you foresee for Novistrana?"
"Shit, man. We're fucked."
"...Any last words for our audience?"
"Do you believe in God? If you do, pray."
*Cut to further interview footage.*
"I'm going to lose my home! My family is going to starve! We'll be out on the streets!"
"What about the government?"
"We're screwed, man! Karasov's gonna die, but what can the government do?"
"But can't you-"
"I can't do anything except protect my family. Get out of my way, I have to go see them!"
*Cut to footage footage of fighting.*
"The strike out here continues to heat up. Fights have broken out between workers and more affluent citizens. Rioting and looting have begun around Novistrana, but the army and police forces have been on the scene and quelled any form of violent action. Reports from our affiliates outside of Berezina paint a darker image in cities father from the seat of power. Extremists and smaller factions are encouraging crime waves and vandalism in their cities."
*Cut to union strike footage.*
"Josef Nasarov of the Novistranan Coalition has united the workers in the Chersonesus Estate, promising that a better economy will be built in the place of Karasov's kleptocracy. The unionizer and his fellow Coalition members have been off the public radar until breaking the news of the collapse, whereupon they have climbed out of hiding to voice their displeasure at Karasov's fraud."
"My comrades, do not despair! The Coalition understands your fright and your worries! We have been assaulted politically and monetarily for far too long! Capitalism in Karasov's rule has meant stealing from the people and giving to the rich, but now that the truth of their dealings has been made public, we can fight back! We seek to heal Novistrana and install a new system, an equalizing system where the working-class and the laborers are the true masters of production!
"I am sorry that we had to take such extreme measures to overthrow Karasov and make you see the light, but do not be angry with us for revealing the truth! Be angry at capitalism! Be angry at Karasov! Take out your rage on the class warfare that has been plaguing Novistrana ever since the Soviet Union collapsed! Use that anger and direct it towards change... and change is coming, I promise you that! Change is coming! United we are strong, and those with the will survive!"
*Cut to footage of City Hall and the Novistranan Broadcasting Building.*
"Maxim Nazerov, member of Parliament and supporter of the Novistranan Coalition, has successfully had Parliament pass a State of Emergency to give the reigns of power to the Novistranan Coalition. A speech was just broadcast throughout the nation asking for calm and requesting the people help each other."
"My fellow Novistranans, these are trying times. The truth of the rouble and our economy have shocked us and threaten to tear us apart. I ask you to please not panic and turn to your communities. Charities are being set in place by the Novistranan Coalition, and the government in power, led by the Novistranan Coalition rather than Vasily Karasov, is doing its best to control the fallout of the economic crash.
"We ask the armed forces and the National Guard to assist us in these endeavors, but to not use excessive force! This is not martial law, we are only seeking to contain the damage. To the citizenry, if you see the armed forces abusing their rule, please get evidence of it and turn it to a representative of the Novistranan Coalition. We will deal with it.
"The road ahead is treacherous, but I know that Novistranans everywhere are ready to face the challenge. Trust in your government and in the Novistranan Coalition. We will set things right."
*Cut to footage of the Presidential Palace.*
"News has just reached us that the Novistranan rouble has become all but worthless as hyper-inflation takes hold. Foreign investment in our nation has dropped sharply, and many people have taken to crime despite warnings by Parliament and the police to remain calm. Thousands have committed suicide. Novistrana is officially in a depression, and despite the best efforts of the Novistranan Coalition to contain the damage, many are attempting to flee Novistrana with their goods, and in some cases, the military and the police have actively joined in the looting. Piotr Prokofiev announced he would personally see to these abandonments of duty.
"Many have massed outside of Karasov's palace, having overrun the blockades that kept Victory Square safely in Karasov's camp, and have nearly stormed the palace themselves. Men loyal to Karasov have kept the Palace intact and unassailed, but many believe it's only a matter of time before the President is ousted from power by the people and by Piotr Prokofiev's Coalition."
* * *
The soldiers stood stiffly at the doors to the palace. There were few loyal men left, however. The President was isolated. His supporters were deserting his rule in droves, and men and women he previously counted on to carry out his will were already jumping ship or turning against him to maintain power.
And yet, despite all of this, Karasov remained curiously unperturbed by the latest happenings and the riots outside screaming for his blood. Victory Square may have been siding with Piotr Prokofiev's dogs, but the Cathedral and the Palace were still solidly in Karasov's grasp. He had already instructed Father Kassavatiz, Filipp Goryachev, and Eduard Ivanov to pass the blame on the Coalition for revealing fake economic reports and calling for peace on the streets. The situation could still be salvaged on his favor, he assured his men.
Next to him stood Anton Barankov, sweating profusely and massaging his jaw. It hadn't broken, but it sure hurt like hell. With them was Illarion Gusev, who was receiving reports from a frightened Danileya. The young woman was fully expecting someone to die today.
Karasov remained curiously passive. Barankov exchanged a glance with the stone-faced Gusev, who left with Danileya. Was he accepting their fate?
"Sir?" asked the policeman immediately, saluting. Karasov was steepling his fingers and looking outside through the destroyed window.
"Where would you say we went wrong?"
Karasov looked up at the confused Barankov. A small and sad smile crossed the dictator's lips.
"It wasn't such a bad ten years, was it?" asked Karasov, serene and reminiscent.
He's finally lost it, thought Barankov as he nodded dumbly.
"You stuck by my side all of these years, through thick and thin," Karasov continued, turning to stare out of the window again at the crowd of protesters below. "Thank you."
"Sir, I..." Barankov began, unsure of what to answer, then he just relaxed, understanding what Karasov meant. "You're... welcome, sir."
Barankov joined in staring out of the window. Protesters were only prevented from entering the palace because a loyal unit of elite sharpshooters had AK-47s trained on them from fortified positions. After a minute, Karasov turned to Barankov again.
"I believe it's time for us to enjoy the last of our quiche and liquor, wouldn't you say?"
* * *
The Novistranan National Archive - CIA Agent CENSORED 's Daily Report to Langley: 04/05/1996
Fuck, fuck! The shit hit the fan. Prokofiev released some sort of damning evidence about the economy. He's run the entire nation to the ground. Did he give up? We don't know. CENSORED and I are trying to find as much as we can, but right now we're like lemmings running towards the cliff. Nobody knows what the fuck is going on!
I'm requesting immediate advice. What do the CENSORED say? This may be something for the President himself to consider. Whatever the case, we need to act fast. If Prokofiev just gave up, then we're going to have a powder keg of epic proportions here and the whole region's gonna get destabilized. I don't fancy having to deal with any more Eastern European terrorists.
* * *
"Churbanov, what's going on? There are riots everywhere!"
"Oleg, my friend... It looks like old Piotr just decided to blow this nation up."
"What do we do?"
"Hole up with a good bottle of vodka, buddy. This is going to be a rocky ride."
* * *
"Father, I got ya those volunteers you were askin' for. All from the PIT."
"Thank you, Mr. Federov. I fear our charity will be stretched to the breaking point. Mr. Kamensky, will you be all right?"
"Don't worry. I've invested in foreign currencies. The charity will hold, but I hope we won't have to operate this intensely for long."
"The hell did he do, Father?"
"I believe Mr. Prokofiev just decided to enact his new economic policies."
"Is the dude crazy? Wait, no, I always thought so."
"Ah, Mr. Prokofiev, you always did want to cause a commotion. I pray you haven't doomed us all."
* * *
Prokofiev walked down the streets of Berezina, not worried about being arrested or detained by anyone. The city was relatively calm: it was the eye of the storm, the epicenter of the economic collapse. Here, the Secret Police and the army had joined together to keep peace and order, but they were not enacting martial law as they had originally intended.
The lucky break they had was that Karasov was being blamed for the entire ordeal altogether. The media had turned against him, and were out for his blood. The pro-Karasov and "balanced" Novistranan News Network was solidly in the Coalition's pocket now, but the hyperinflation was taking its toll. The latest news of the Herald twisted Prokofiev's stomach in knots.
The planned broadcast was sent out to the city by Maxim Nazerov, representing Parliament, to keep people calm and to work together to keep their communities intact. To this end he called for the police and military to act as peacekeepers and for the Novistranan National Guard to deliver supplies donated by their neighbors and to seize the property of the rich.
A vast redistribution of wealth was underway, and those who fancied themselves the elite of Novistrana were quickly stripped of their goods so that the masses could survive. Of course, some of the seizure was not done by the newly-transfered state, but by the desperate and members of the working class who had had enough class warfare to last a lifetime.
Riots had broken out in farther cities, but they were all anti-Karasov and pro-Prokofiev. Anarchists and other factions hoped to seize on the chaos to make a power grab, but Churnyeav had taken to the Secret Police like a sponge to water, and he was already on the ball keeping the more fervent elements down, hopefully lightly. They did not want to crush dissent, just keep it from tearing the nation in half.
Alexashenko had nearly turned on the nation and gone rogue altogether to impose martial law his own way. Prokofiev had gotten a hold of the general and managed to make him see past the short term: Alexashenko had no widespread support throughout the nation, and he would soon face a discontented people subverting the military. With careful promises and application of intimidation, Prokofiev had managed to turn Alexashenko back to his side. They would both have to deal with the authorities gone rogue in cities like Pallasovka and Zronimir.
Organized Anarchy, those bastards, had attempted to make their move in Parliament and in the intellectual circles of Novistrana. After Nazerov called Parliament to announce a state of emergency, their planted cells moved to block the vote and cause as much ruckus as they could. Their disastrous interventions were holding back the nation's healing, but try as he might, Prokofiev could not get in touch with Dmitri Barkan and stop the backlash. The Coalition was facing enemies on all sides.
All of this was going through Prokofiev's mind as he walked in Lobachevsky Park, away from Karasov Square and towards the headquarters. He had scheduled a massive speech the following morning, after the worst of the riots and looting had been dispersed, and people were a little more sharpened in their rage against Karasov.
He cursed himself for politicizing the situation once again, but he couldn't help it. After nearly three months of a meteoric rise as a revolutionary, he had begun to plot and connive every action. He feared it was affecting his judgment, and his emotions towards his fellow countrymen. Still, he had done the right thing, right? The economy would have collapsed anyway. Karasov would have probably dropped the bombshell himself as a final "screw you" to the Coalition if he was deposed from power. At least, that's how Prokofiev was rationalizing his decision now, after the fact, and having seen the chaos he had unleashed on the nation.
At least, things were headed the way of a massive recession, not outright nation-breaking. The people's will and their national identity was too strong to be held back by capitalism.
He passed a blond woman wearing a large-brimmed hat, and something at the back of his mind tickled him. He turned around to glance at the woman, and found her staring right at him.
"Hello, Prokofiev," the woman said, entirely serious and clearly respectful. Prokofiev's brain worked again. He knew he had seen this woman before... "It's been a while since we've seen each other," the woman smiled coyly, and suddenly Prokofiev's memories struck gold: the woman from the tea shop. The Western agent.
"What do you want?" snapped Prokofiev, unhappy to have run across a member of the very people he wanted to avoid.
"I want to ask you what was going through your head," the female agent replied, crossing her arms and looking to the right at a poster across the street. "What were you thinking, revealing the truth like that?"
"It had to be done," sneered Prokofiev. "Now excuse me, I need to get back to my revolution."
"Wait," the woman asked as Prokofiev turned around. He stopped, then turned around again. Her voice had a weird tone to it... was it a plea?
"What?" asked Prokofiev again, a little softer.
"I'm not speaking as a CIA agent, now," the woman said, taking off her hat and revealing a plain face beneath it. She was relatively unassuming, the only features that stood out being her playful lips and her eyes, gleaming with intelligence. "I'm speaking as just one person to another, not an agent to a revolutionary. I need to talk to you."
"...All right," Prokofiev nodded, willing to hear her out, even though something told him that she was still trying to get something from him...
"I've seen what's happening to your nation now, and how Karasov ruled," the agent began. "You didn't have it easy, and you've done a great thing, getting up so far to this point to depose the tyrant. But this... is this really the way? To smash the country with the truth and hope something good comes out of it?"
"It had to be done," Prokofiev said, bothered by what she was saying. "It was either that or imposing martial law."
"I understand," nodded the agent. "But what you've done is... extreme. A lot of people are suffering now because of what you chose to do."
Prokofiev didn't say anything. He crossed his arms and looked down at the sidewalk.
"Look, I don't like seeing people get hurt because of good intentions," she continued. "That's why I came to offer you a deal."
"A deal?" frowned Prokofiev, his hackles raising. Was this a trap?
"I'm sorry I had to meet you out on the street like this, but it was the only way I could catch you alone," the agent said. She put on her hat again, her face obscured by shadow once more. "This deal is for you, and for you alone, to consider."
"Whatever it is, I don't want to hear it!" snapped Prokofiev. "Do you really think I want to let you and your Western friends sabotage our revolution?"
"Hardly," the agent said with a cold tone. "We think you're more than able to seize power, but the way you've just decided to cause the overthrow is... worrisome."
"Like I care what you or the CIA thinks," Prokofiev said, dismissively waving his arm. "You just want Karasov gone, don't you? You'll get it!"
"The rest of the nation doesn't have to suffer because of the overthrow," said the agent, continuing as if she hadn't heard Prokofiev. "That is why the CIA feels it's within its power to offer you and your nation foreign aid and assistance in keeping your country together."
"What?" asked Prokofiev, taken aback by her words.
"I brought with me a contract," the agent took out a folder as she spoke, removing a sheet of paper from it. "Novistrana and the United States could become good friends after this revolution. President Clinton himself feels that your country deserves help getting to its feet after you seize power, and the CIA has given me orders to relay this contract to you."
"Are you... are you offering us help?" asked Prokofiev, his mind still wrapping around her offer. Was Novistrana really that important for the West?
"You are clearly going to take over Novistrana, no mistake about it," the agent said grimly. "However, you will probably be taking over a wasteland if things continue as they are. There's only so much you can do without supplies and money. Good will lasts only so long."
Prokofiev began to say something, but he decided to keep quiet. The two could talk in circles for hours, so he remained silent as the agent began to describe the details of the contract.
"We are willing to offer you foreign aid, supplies, and two units of our armed forces for peacekeeping for as long as you need your nation to get back on its feet. In return, you will adopt a friendly stance towards the United States and the West, and to open trading rights with us."
"Trading rights? Is this what this is about?" snorted Prokofiev, unimpressed.
"Please don't get the wrong idea, this is a humanitarian offer, just with a few extra conditions thrown in," the agent clarified. "You are the only one who needs to know of our arrangement.. and you are free to refuse it without repercusions."
"No repercusions, eh?"
"That's right," nodded the agent, but then her voice became cautious. "But this is a one-time offer, Prokofiev. Our help for your friendship, take it or leave it." She extended the contract and a pen. "Do we have a deal?"
* * *
Having chosen to destroy the economy, our nation's beginning to fall apart as chaos and anarchy plague the streets. Our control of the armory and the Secret Police, alongside with Alexashenko's grudging assistance, have kept Berezina mostly in order, but it's all we can do to tell the nation to keep calm with Parliament's help. Karasov is being blamed for the collapse and for knowing the economy was in bad shape, but this will give us little comfort should the nation disintegrate. The CIA is offering to help us on the down-low, offering much-needed assistance and the West's friendship. But are they just looking to capitalize on our weaknesses? Do we accept the CIA's help?
Accept it: The nation is falling apart, and what little control we have may just get swept aside by panic. Having a little help from the West under the table will be a great boon for Novistrana as we earn some aid and a potential trade partner. Nobody in Novistrana but Prokofiev has to know of the arrangements, and who knows, maybe having the West as a friend will brighten our future...?
Refuse it: The CIA and the West have merely followed and spied on us, thrusting their "gifts" of a headquarters and Goshnov's dossier on our hands without our consent in order to keep tabs on the situation. Who knows what else they'll demand of us in the future for their "assistance", which they could easily revoke if we try to follow our own path? We do not need their help in our revolution!