Monday, 27 April 2015


Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991), Chapter XVII.

In 1942, Katya, a Russian sharpshooter, creeps through the falling snow from the Lazur Chemical Plant between the ice floes of the Volga and the black slopes of Mamaev Hill towards "...Krutoy Gully" (p. 349). This tells us that she is participating in a major historical event, the Battle of Stalingrad - although I did not notice this on previous readings. This time, I started googling place names. Boat has given us three historical figures and now this major event.

Katya enters an abandoned apartment where there is a "...Stakhanovite poster..." (p. 350). (I knew what this meant but I don't expect everyone to.) She and the wounded Private Kulikov whom she helps refer to the Battle of Kulikovo. Katya, who we though not Kulikov realize is an immortal, has become a Kazak/Cossack and was taught by Lieutenant Zaitsev. She is on a special mission based on intelligence received from Pavlov's House.

She has seen "'Free farmers...herded onto kolkhozes like slaves.'" (p. 357) and corpses left by the Green Hats (p. 358). (I am having trouble googling "Green Hats.")

"We have our orders directly from Stalin. Here, at this place he renamed in his own honor, here we stand. We die if need be..." (p. 360)

That tells the alert reader where Katya and Kulikov are.

"Once this Stalingrad was Tsarisyn." (p. 362)

Even more explicit but right at the end of the chapter. Katya returns with the intelligence that:

"'Germans [are] bound for Kratoy Gully.'" (p. 359)

This was an event in the Battle. See here. This is the first time that I have realized how much information there is in this chapter.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    By "Green Hats" I think Katya means the agents of the OGPU, an earlier incarnation of the better known KGB. That is, the green caps worn by secret police officers enforcing the Terror Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine.


  2. Sean,
    Yes, the reference is fairly clear. I had hoped to find a google link for it.

  3. Kaor, Paul!

    Well, "Green Hats" was obviously used as slang referring to agents of the OGPU. But, by itself the expression is vague. Googling was not likely to immediately find a link to the OGPU.


  4. Pretty much all you need to know about KGB/NKVD caps.

  5. Hi, Ketlan!

    Thanks! I'll be checking out your link. I'm a bit curious!