Beginning his questions, Jones asks Eastland about the catalyst for his writing a novel set in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. Eastland cites an artifact as his inspiration:
During the mid 1990s, a friend of mine was present at a construction site in Russia when a backhoe unearthed the body of a soldier. The dead man was laying spread-eagled on the carcass of a horse which had been buried at the same time. The man was wearing a long greatcoat, tall boots and had a thick leather belt across his middle. The clothing and the body had been preserved by the soil so that the man appeared to be partially mummified. Upon examination of the corpse, it became clear that the rider had been buried around the time of the First World War. It also seemed clear, from the fact that he had been laid to rest along with his horse, that the man had probably been buried on the same spot where he had been killed. The man’s belt buckle, which clearly showed the double-headed eagle of the Romanovs, identified him as a soldier of the Tsar’s Army. However, because of the location, which was not on what would have been the front lines during the Great War, the man must have been buried after, not during, the war. This would have placed the soldier’s death at some time in the early days of the Revolution, when soldiers still loyal to the Tsar, known as the Whites, fought pitched battles with the Bolsheviks, who became known as the Reds.You can read all of this interview here.
During the course of the construction, several other bodies were discovered, all of whom were similarly dressed and, presumably, had been killed during the same battle.
After the bodies had been re-interred, my friend was given one of the belt buckles as a souvenir. He then passed it on to me, and I still have it.