Friday, April 9, 2010

Idiots Throughout History: Alexei Larionov

Okay, gang, it's time for a pop quiz, taken from information mostly supplied by the Guinness Book of Historical Blunders. Most of the online sources telling of it are in Russian, but they're there, sources of this Wikipedia page.

1. You are Alexei Larionov, leader of the Riazan oblast (an administrative division, like a state) in the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev's 'Virgin Lands' policy of opening new regions to farming in order to increase agricultural production has, after a few years of miserable failure, gotten lucky with a good 1956 harvest. There was a lot of wasted resources eating up potential yields, but there was still enough through sheer velocity to blow by the goal of 20 million tons of grain. He has now turned his attention to increasing meat production. Do you:

A: Gauge your current situation and set ambitious but achievable and realistic goals.
B: Pledge to triple production in one year, from 48,000 tons in 1958 to 150,000 tons in 1959.

2. You have, against all common sense, chosen B. Khrushchev has dangled a nice promotion in front of you if you can pull it off. He's had your promise published in Pravda. He's given Riazan the Order of Lenin pre-emptively, showing up in person to present it. But when you slaughter all the cattle set to be sold as meat, it's not enough. Do you:

A: Bail out and take your lumps.
B: Slaughter the dairy herds and breeding stock too.

3. You've slaughtered the dairy herds and breeding stock. It's not enough. Do you:

A: Bail out.
B: Order all privately owned animals to be surrendered for slaughter.

4. You have slaughtered all the privately owned animals. It's not enough. Do you:

A: Bail out.
B: Buy meat from other oblasts and call it part of the harvest.

5. You've bought outside meat and called it part of the harvest. It's not enough. Do you:

A: Bail out.
B: Divert your entire oblast's budget for everything- machinery, creditors, even payroll- towards acquiring more meat from other oblasts through any means, legal, quasi-legal or otherwise.

6. The other oblasts are getting jittery about you and your insatiable thirst for meat. Do you:

A: Bail out.
B: Turn a blind eye to the Old West-style cattle-rustling and gunfighting.

7. No. No, it's still not enough. Do you:

A: Bail out.
B: Introduce new taxes payable only in meat.

8. You have the schools and hospitals and police paying you taxes in meat, buying meat from the state, giving it to you, with you then giving the meat back to the state. Despite this somehow counting, it's not enough. Do you:

A: Bail out.
B: Buy meat on the black market and sell it back to Khrushchev for pennies on the dollar.

9. You are buying black market meat. It finally pushes you over the top. You've stripped Riazan oblast pretty much barren of livestock, and of dairy products to boot, and pretty much are broke because you've spent all your money on meat, but you've reached 150,000 tons. Do you:

A: Bail out, realize you have pressing engagements in Brazil, and run like hell.
B: Promise 180,000 tons next year.

Needless to say, Larionov chose B every time. Also needless to say, he couldn't get anywhere close to 180,000; in fact, Riazan struggled to only 30,000. He was busted, and chose to shoot himself in his office rather than take his chances with Khrushchev.

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