Alternate History! Wheeeeeee!
For every decision made, there was an alternative. For every plan put into action, for every policy enacted or project begun, there was another option that was put aside instead. History is littered with the desiccated remains of these alternatives, each one bearing within it the seed of another history or timeline. Their details are unknowable, but we can often catch glimpses of what might have been. This of course is the basis of alternate history, one of my favorite genres of fiction. However, alternate history scenarios usually start from a new reality and work their way backwards to a divergent point in time that could have created it. ‘What if the South won the Civil War?’ ‘What if the Nazis won World War II?’ In this series, I’d like to do something a little different.
Instead of looking at different ways events could have turned out, I’ll be examining specific, concrete historical proposals that would have radically changed the direction of history but, for whatever reason, were never carried out. Each of these schemes were put forward at historical junctures, were examined and considered, and then–cast by the wayside. Usually for good reason, if I’m being honest. In today’s edition, we’ll be looking at proposals that were unknown until their recent rediscovery, decades after their creation. I hope you find these as fascinating as I do.
United States Presidential Seal
It’s what it says in the title folks. As Barack Obama is the very last president of the United States of America, THERE’S NOBODY AFTER HIM, NOPE, THAT’S IT, THAT’S THE END, I thought it worthwhile to compile a final ranking of all of our presidents. The list is divided into four tiers:
(1) ‘Presidents Who Made America Better, Mostly’: 1–12
(2) ‘Flawed Presidents Who Still Did Alright I Guess’: 13–20
(3) ‘Presidents Who Just Showed Up And Did Their Job’: 21–33
(4) ‘Presidents Who Made America Worse’: 34–43
This list has been devised with scientific precision, based on a combination of gut instinct and quick scans of numerous Wikapedia pages. It is a 100% objective historical fact, and will not be gainsaid.
Lavrentiy Beria was the longest-serving head of the Soviet secret police. As head of the NKVD in the 1930s, he supervised the final act of the Great Purge, bringing Stalin’s justice to those who had torn the heart out of the Soviet army and government. During World War II he built the Gulag system, and populated it with tens of thousands of political prisoners and members of ‘unreliable’ ethnic groups. In Eastern Europe, his death squads carried out the initial stages of Stalinization, exterminating bourgeois elements in Poland and the Baltic States. When off duty, he used his position to carry out a sexual reign of terror, being responsible for dozens if not hundreds of sexual assaults and rapes. At the Yalta Conference, Stalin jokingly introduced him to F.D.R as “Our Himmler.” For twenty-five years he was the most feared man in the Soviet Union. When Stalin died in 1953, he became the most powerful man in the Soviet Union too.
Nikita Khrushchev was a party apparatchik from Ukraine, with a good record of loyalty to Stalin and success. Though he served as a Commissar during the Great Patriotic War and was responsible for purging the Ukrainian Party during the 1930s, most of his career was in mining engineering and agriculture, attempting to rebuild the Ukrainian economy after the twin disasters of the Holodomor and the Nazi Occupation. He was generally successful at this, and was promoted to a position in Moscow in 1949, where he continued to focus on agriculture and housing policy in the city. When Stalin died, Khrushchev was demoted, relieved of his responsibilities and relegated to a ceremonial position.
One of these men would go on to rule the Soviet Union for twelve years.
The other would die screaming in a prison cell.
This is the story of how that came to be.
State Emblem of the Soviet Union