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Peter Hopkirk tells a great story about the folly of a faulty proclamation. It was 1919, and Russia was in the midst of its own Civil War to establish Communism as its official ideology. While Moscow had been “liberated” two years earlier, farther flung parts of its empire, such as what is now in Kazakhstan, had not yet been taught in its ways.

And so the city of Suziran, a Central Asian sultanate just north of the Caspian Sea was still grappling with what Communism meant. They understood it to mean that it was a new order of things, all the best property was to be divided equally. But Suziran was a backwater sultanate in an obscure part of the world. They didn’t really have a lot of property. Trying to figure out what it truly meant to be a Communist, they thought long and hard about what should be redistributed to the poor.

And then it dawned on them. What was the one thing the rich had that the poor lacked? Women. Good-looking women. A whole harem full of women. The local communists issued a proclamation nationalizing all the women of Suziran. You can imagine the scene: Commissars and peasants alike storming the harem and taking whatever and whomever they chose Somehow, in trying to give equal rights to all they simply ended up subjecting half the population to the whims of the other half. [Peter Hopkirk, Setting the East Ablaze]

Needless to say, when the big boys back in Moscow found out about this, they weren’t pleased. They quickly sent orders to Suziran that this was not the right way to behave. Not only was the proclamation rescinded, it was illegal to even keep a copy The proclamation may have had good intentions, but the realization was wrong. This abuse needed to be corrected.

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