Stalin's Story

It is 1928, and Stalin has retreated to his personal chambers. In the world outside, his agricultural reforms have been unsuccessful, leading to a food crisis. He doesn’t want to hear a word about that. The peasants are hiding the scarce food from the state collectors, and it is only at gunpoint that they are ‘willing’ to give it up. But Stalin doesn’t want to hear a word about that either.

What he does want to hear is an old Russian folk tale of the kind his mother used to tell him. A tale of a poor boy going out into the world to slay a dragon and win the hand of a princess, as simple as that, nothing fancy. Especially nothing fancy.

To that end, Stalin has invited some of his closest companions to join him in his sitting room. Also present is a troupe of actors, ordered at a moment’s notice to come and improvise a fairy tale for the pleasure of their great leader.

Everybody is on their toes. In these times of crisis, it is only too easy to displease Stalin. And if you displease Stalin, bad things happen to you.

And so the actors play their tale, and the courtiers scheme for power and favour, and Stalin--capricious and inscrutable--decides over life and death.

Stalin's Story mixes Vladimir Propp's analysis of Russian fairy tales with the politics of authoritarianism as they have been so sublimely codified in the idea of an all-powerful Game Master. This game is very much a social experiment.

Note: This is an alpha-version. You are invited to play it and to play around with it, but do no expect to find a polished game in these pages.