Disclaimer: notes transcribed as is, no editing has been made so as to preserve my original feelings as I read the chapter.
Part 7, Total War; Chapter 4, Father Sergei Ryzhkov.
So Russia has turned itself into a Holy religious state.
I have never really understood religion. Faith, yes. Sometimes faith in someone or something is all you have in the dark, be it a loved one or science or God. Religion, for me, has always been confusing. School and parents indoctrinate their children before the poor kids can even write their names, how can they possibly understand God when the concept of death is totally foreign.
It is with this lifelong odd feeling that I read this chapter.
Father Ryzhkov explains the after-effects of Russia’s decimations, how it’s soldiers would perform any task but would never again to be ordered to kill a fellow soldier. Under any circumstances, including infection.
Of how the senior officers took up this grisly task, with drastic effects. Suicides were the most common after-effect, followed by desertion.
I think the worst kind of suicide that the Father mentions, is that of “suicide by combat”. An increasingly desperate soldier, trying to find peace by the hands & teeth of a ghoul. Actively seeking at a macabre death, and a painful one. As if the pain of being ripped apart might atone for the unforgivable act of killing a comrade, regardless of his of her’s infected status.
I can see why the hierarchy decided to let these poor soldiers take their own lives. Sometimes in the company of groups, like some twisted head of a cult group; focused on the idea of a mass suicide.
Father Ryzhkov was a member of the 32nd Motor Rifle division, one with the oldest kind of Russia’s stockpiled, antiquated weaponry. He admits that many rounds of ammunition were duds, that’s why the amount of soldiers who became infected was so high.
Imagine facing down a zombie, firing your weapon almost point blank, and nothing happening. Only to have said zombie rip through your flesh, unhindered. Uniform serving only two purposes, to keep the individual warm(-ish) and to identify that person as a soldier in Russia’s army.
Against a zombie, it is merely a minuscule barrier from a tasty treat and offers little resistance.
When these poor people then turn to their group suicides, I wonder if these dud rounds of ammunition caused a problem, and perhaps more frustration at the whole injustice.
Certainly the army tactics of just charging into an infected zone, like the cities, is completely nonsensical to me. They learned their mistakes and took to walling these cities and towns during the long winters, but the price of those early skirmishes was too high.
Walling them up and dealing with them during the thaw, from behind a wall, seems rather practical, taking advantage of a natural defence. But then hindsight is always 20/20.
The former U.S.S.R. turned to religion because of the actions of Father Ryzhkov.
During the group suicide sessions he decided to remove the “sin” of suicide, by doing the deed himself. As he explained to his commanding officer, which soon spread through to every priest in Russia, a religious fervour.
Suicide was a sin, and we, his servants—those who had chosen to be his shepherds upon the earth—were the only ones who should bear the cross of releasing trapped souls from infected bodies!
The end of the chapter gets rather political, with questions raised by our interviewer about the possible corruption and even subversion of the religious solution.
Max even puts it to Father Ryzhkov that this is exactly the reason why he left Moscow, choosing instead to live in one of the many shanty towns dotted around the “Holy Empire”.
Rather than answering with any honesty, he assumes ignorance instead, saved by a small child asking for help.
As I rise to leave, he opens a large wooden chest at the foot of his bed, removing both a bible and a World War II–era pistol.
The work of the Lord is an ongoing one it seems, for even now, Father Ryzhkov must end the life of an infected member of his flock. He is saving these people from the sin of suicide, but there is no escaping his own sin of murder. I don’t believe religion has any tolerance for euthanasia, no matter if it is truly an act of mercy and a prevention of creating yet another zombie.