Robots and Revolutions
The image that appeared on the exam paper.
So, the secret is out. It was a robot that played the decisive metallic hand in the Russian Revolution. We have the proof. It is here in the painting Storming the Winter Palace on 25th October 1917 by Nikolai Kochergin included as part of the year 12 VCE history exam that was taken this week by the state's students.
A robot, specifically a ''Battle Tech Marauder'', looms in the left background behind an iron fence on the flank of the Bolsheviks fighting their way into the gilded walls of privilege. No one in the scene seems to have noticed it, which does seem slightly surprising. But then, this is a revolution. There's a lot of confusion, smoke and slogans swirling around.
How cunning of Vladimir Ilych Lenin to sneak one into the attack. No one expects the Battle Tech Marauder! The October Revolution followed the February uprising, which had deposed Tsar Nicholas II. Lenin was not there for the attack on the palace, so it is obvious he was using the remote controls.
Lenin had been living in Switzerland before being secretly transported by train through Germany during WWI to foment trouble in Russia. Perhaps it was there, in his two-room flat in Zurich, that he whiled away his nights, if not elaborating on his theories on capitalism and its overthrow, than with drawing sketches of the marauder.
What better country than Switzerland to indulge in mechanical accuracy and perfection?
How the robot came to be in Russia, however, is a mystery, as is indeed what happened to it after the storming of the palace. We are fortunate that Kochergin was able to paint it for posterity. Perhaps it was melted down and made into icepicks. It would seem inconceivable that Stalin wouldn't have used it in some form or other. Being the supreme egomaniacal tyrant, he would not have wanted a robot taking the spotlight. Take that Trotsky! Oh, malevolent, sinister irony, your rival bludgeoned with a shard from the Bolshevik bot!
Robots and revolutions started the cogs whirring. What if Battle Tech Marauder was not the only one in history? What if there was a secret history of revolutions along the lines of: I, Robot.
My part in Human evolution and revolution?
For instance, poor Spartacus, a Thracian slave with visions of freedom; if only he knew the Romans had a secret weapon, godlike in its visage. Yes, the Marauder. Spartacus would not have had a chance. His body was never found, presumably the marauder's fearsome weapons would have blasted it to infinity or, quite possibly, beyond. The Romans won, but the triumph of a legacy went to the fallen, that of the rebel going up against oppression.
A few centuries along there is the death of Wat Tyler. The leader of the peasants revolt of 1381 in England was killed by London's mayor William Walworth with his baselard, which is a type of dagger. Perhaps so, but look closely in the top left background of this painting. What sort of metallic creatures do they appear to be? Robots? Poor Wat, the sight of them may have put him off his guard. The revolt thus ended with his death, the privileged lorded it again over the peasants.
What if the English had kept their secret for several more centuries and then dispatched them in the 18th century to the 13 colonies who were breaking free from the British Empire?
How could men with muskets compete against the might of the Marauder? America may have remained part of the Commonwealth, like Canada, or Australia. What would the ripple effect of that have been on the history of the world? More cricket and ice hockey. Certainly less gridiron, which couldn't have been a bad thing.
What if Britain had dispatched the Marauder to Ypres in October 1918, and had come across a young soldier by the name of Adolf Hitler? The young corporal would have learnt you can't harangue a robot. Maybe he would have lost his appetite for destruction. But this is fanciful. Hitler, in reality, created his own race of robots: they were his followers. They were flesh and blood. Now, that's genius.
As to Battle Tech Marauder, even if it never appears again in history – or a history paper – it's the figment of our imagination that, depressingly, time and again becomes all too real.