It wasn’t rare that the United States and Russia had serious talks like this. It was rare, however, that they were both so quiet.
They sat in tufted, red armchairs across from each other in a dark room. Neither of them had bothered to cut on a lamp as the hours slipped by. Two glasses of wine stood together on the coffee table; his empty and hers holding a shallow pool of red.
America spoke in a low voice, tenderly breaking the silence. “Is it too late to ask?”
“To ask what?” Her voice mirrored his as she stared past his shoulder and at the wall.
“Why you do it. Your obsession with power, your need for control.” He wasn’t looking at her, either. “I figure your reasons are the same as mine, which are the same as anyone’s. But I wanted to hear you say it.”
“We couldn’t stop the Mongols from destroying our cities,” she said after seconds had crept by. “We watched the streets fill with blood. There we so many bodies that… that after a while, walking by piles of corpses did not shock us anymore. But when we watched Kiev burn to the ground, it was then that reality finally crushed us. I felt the heat of the flames and I cried, because there was also a painful burning inside of me. Anger and sorrow and hatred like I had never felt before.”
She continued. “I clung to that hatred and I fought with everything I had for a chance to take my life back. And eventually, I won. But the pain never really stopped, and still I struggled. When I stepped away from a world war, I walked straight into a brutal civil war.”
She cocked her head in his direction slowly, and it looked as if she were in thought—as if she were re-discovering her own narrative.
“But then… I was the second country to explode a hydrogen bomb. I became an empire who reigned, not just with a sword, but with an ideology that gave people a way to fight anyone who hurt them.”
She stood. In her dark dress, she became a shadow as she stepped toward him. “I did not have to suffer anymore because people feared me. You feared me. And I realized—I liked that. I liked seeing fear in another person’s eyes.” When she stepped into the moonlight, he stared into her dangerous, shuttered eyes. “You do too, don’t you, America?”
He said nothing and she knew.
Russia believes her past justifies her present. Does it? That’s for you to decide.
Batu Khan invaded Rus’ in the 13th century–commonly, this is known as the Mongol invasion of Russia. What we know as Russia today has roots in the Tsardom of Russia, which has roots in The Grand Duchy of Moscow, which has roots in Vladimir-Suzdal, which was a principality of Kievan Rus’. Basically, I think it’s a fair interpretation to say that Kievan Rus’ is an “ancestor” of Russia; She (along with Ukraine and Belarus) inherited the memories of Rus’. To them, the memory of the invasion would be so real that they would see and feel everything as if it happened to them first-hand.