From Francis Spufford, Red Plenty (Faber and Faber):
In the twentieth century Russians stopped telling skazka. And at the same time they were told that the skazka were coming true. The stories' name for a magic carpet, samolet, 'self-flyer', had already become the ordinary Russian word for aeroplane. Now voices from the radio and the movie sreen an television began to promise that the magic tablecloth samobranka, 'self-victualler', would soon follow after. "In our day" Nikita Khrushchev told a crowd in the Lenin Stadium of Moscow on 28 September 1959:
the dreams mankind has cherished for ages, dreams expressed in fairtytales which seemed sheer fantasy are being translated in to reality by man's own hands...
He meant, above all, the skazka's dreams of abundance. Humanity's ancient condition of scarcity was going to end, imminently. Everybody was going to climb the cabbage stalk... and arrive in the land where millstoners revolved all by themselves.
Whenever they gave a turn, a cake and a slice of bread with butter and sour cream appeared, and on top of them a pot of gruel.
Now, instead of being the imagined compensation for an empty belly, the sour ream and the butter were truly going to flow.
And, of course, Khrushchev was right. That is exactly what did happen in the twentieth century, for hundreds of millions of people.... But Khrushchev believed that the plenty of the stories was coming in Soviet Russia, and coming because of something Soviet Russia possessed and the hungry lands of capitalism lacked: the planned economy. Because the whole system of production and distribution in the USSR was owned by the state... it could be directed, as capitalism could not, to the fastest, most lavish fulfilment of human needs. Therefore it would easily out-produce the wasteful chaos of the marketplace. Planning would be the USSR's own self-turning millstone, its own self-victually tablecloth.
This Russian fairytale began to be told in the decade of famine before the Second World War, and it lasted officially until Communism fell. Hardly anyone believed it, by the end.... But once upon a tiem the story of red plenty had been serious: an attempt to beat capitalism on its own terms, and to make Soviet citizens the richest people in the world. For a short while it looked--and not just to Nikita Khrushchev--as if the story might be coming true. Intelligence was invested in it, as well as foolishness: a generation's hopes, and a generation's intellectual gifts, and a tyrannys guilty wish for a happy ending. This book is about that moment. It is about the cleverest versino of the idea, the most subtle of the Soviet attempts to pull a working samobranka out of the dream country. It is about the adventures of the idea of red plenty as it came hopefully along the high road...