A new era will begin for Russia. The emperor is dead . . . . A desolate page in the history of the Russian empire has been completed. A new page is being turned in by the hand of time. What events will the new ruling hand write in it; what hopes will it fulfill?

A. V. Nikitenko


Everyone tried to discover still new questions, everyone tried to resolve them; people wrote, read, and spoke about projects; everyone wished to correct, destroy, and change things, and all Russians, as if a single person, found themselves in an indescribable state of enthusiasm.

L. Tolstoy




It was finally time to move the body. The funeral bells were tolling in the churches of St. Petersburg. For nine days the corpse of the dead Emperor, Nicholas I of Russia, had remained within the red walls of the Winter Palace. On some of these days the odor of his decomposing body had been almost unbearable. But it was now Sunday, February 27, 1855, and the winter sun was shining brilliantly.

As the procession began to move, the new Tsar and "Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias," Alexander II, walked behind the coffin of his father. In his Cossack overcoat he was tall and regal, and his blue-gray eyes stared straight ahead. He was thirty-six years old, and the heavy responsibility of ruling a country at war was now his.

His father had also come to power under difficult circumstances: a group of conspirators opposed to autocracy and serfdom--they were later called Decembrists--had tried to prevent him from coming to the throne. And so his reign had begun with bloodshed and the arrest of these revolutionaries, among whom were a number of aristocratic young army officers.

But the difficulties now facing Alexander II were, if not as dramatic, more complex. Despite inferior equipment, shortages of supplies, and diplomatic isolation, he somehow had to successfully conclude the present war in the Crimea. That, however, was just the first of his problems. For Nicholas I had bequeathed to him what one critic called, no doubt with some exaggeration, "a thirty-year tyranny of madness, brutality, and misfortunes of all sorts, the likes of which history has never seen."1

The ruling ideology of the deceased Emperor was contained in three words: Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality. But Russian Orthodoxy, whatever its inherent value, was tainted by state control and itself in need of reform. Furthermore, it was the religion, if one subtracts the schismatic Old Believers as well as those of other faiths, of only about two-thirds of the empire's peoples. As for autocracy, it seemed more and more outdated in an increasingly complex age which demanded the cooperation of an educated citizenry. The principle of nationality was even more unrealistic. For how in an age of nationalism could an emphasis on the Russian nationality unite an empire where only about half of its people were Russian?

Besides a spent ideology, Alexander inherited a backward country. At least it seemed so to believers in one of the West's most cherished concepts: Progress. Compared to one of her chief enemies, Great Britain, the most industrialized nation in Europe, this backwardness was especially evident. Despite Russia's much greater size--easily over sixty times the size of the British Isles--it only had about one-tenth the railway track and produced an even smaller ratio of pig iron. While half of the English people were already living in urban areas and more than half the population could read and write, nine-tenths of Russia's population still lived in the countryside and four-fifths of the country's subjects were illiterate peasants, almost half of them enserfed to noble masters. Living in poverty in their small huts, their babies were almost twice as likely to die in infancy as an English child. And the backward nature of Russian agriculture, as well as its poor climate and growing conditions, necessitated the work of about three Russian peasants to produce as much as one Englishman could.

Dispirited by the thirty-year reign of the man whose body was now moving slowly towards its final destination, Russia's small educated class was conscious of the beginning of a new era. And they were anxious and unsure about what it would bring. Many yearned for an enlightened leader, for a Tsar whose ideas they could support. But was Alexander II such a man? And did he possess any such ideas, any banner, which they could rally around?

Although some in the streets of St. Petersburg on this sunny February day hoped that Alexander II could soon end the war, even if it meant compromise or defeat, others were encouraged by his assurances that Russia would not retreat before its enemies. The day Alexander came to the throne a large bell from the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in Moscow's white-walled Kremlin came crashing down and killed several people. An evil omen, some thought. But others recalled that a bell had fallen from the same tower on the day when the French had left Moscow in 1812 and begun their retreat. Was the present event then not a sign that Russia's foes in the Crimean War would also soon be on the defensive?

The funeral procession continued for two hours. Soldiers lined the route as the crowds looked on. The clanging of carriage wheels, the pealing of church bells, and the funeral music of the military bands filled the air. The procession wound its way toward the Nicholas Bridge, over the frozen Neva River to Vasily Island, and then finally over the Tuchkov Bridge to the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress, where many of Nicholas's enemies had been imprisoned. There a needle-like golden spire, extending high in the air from the island fortress cathedral and glittering in the sun, acted like an enticing magnet slowly pulling the mourners to itself from miles away.

After entering the fortress cathedral the coffin was placed on top of a catafalque covered in red velvet and sitting under a large silver brocade and ermine canopy. The rays of the sun and the lights of thousands of candles combined to illuminate the cathedral.

For another week the body lay in state as dignitaries and commoners filed past. It lay there with a crown on its head, painted up and perfumed, but still smelling of decay. Finally, on another beautiful winter day there was one last service. During it the dead Emperor's widow stood by his coffin. Then she kissed him one last time, and her children followed, making their last farewells. After the imperial mantle was taken from the coffin and carried to the altar, the new Emperor and his brothers carried the coffin on their shoulders to the tomb. As salvos of guns thundered, it was lowered into the ground. Handfuls of dirt were thrown upon the coffin, and the tomb was closed. The body of Nicholas I joined those of other Russian Emperors and Empresses in the fortress cathedral.



During the week that the dead Emperor's body lay in state in the cathedral, Sub-lieutenant Leo Tolstoy was stationed more than a thousand miles to the south. He was in the Crimea, near the besieged city of Sevastopol.  (See the previous two links for both text and photos on the Crimean War and Sevastopol.) Here nature was already beginning to display its crocuses, snowdrops, and hyacinths; and larks, linnets, and brilliant goldfinches were twittering and singing their songs. On March 1, the lieutenant wrote in his diary: "The Emperor died on February 18, and now we are to take the oath to the new Emperor. Great changes await Russia. It is necessary to work and be manly to take part in these important moments of Russia's life."1

No doubt he was exhorting himself as he often did. His mother had died when he was almost two and his father, Count Nicholas Tolstoy, when he was almost nine. Kindly relatives completed the upbringing of the five Tolstoy children, but from an early age Leo exhorted and chastised himself as if he were his own parent. He was always setting goals for himself. When he was nineteen, for example, and about to leave Kazan University before obtaining a degree, he set out a two-year educational plan for himself. He would study the following: "the entire course of judicial science needed for the final exam at the university...practical medicine and part of its theory...French, Russian, German, English, Italian, and Latin...agriculture ...history, geography, and statistics and painting...the natural sciences."2 In addition, he intended to write a dissertation, as well as compositions on all the subjects which he studied. Whenever he failed to live up to his self-imposed high standards, he berated himself in his diary, especially for his frequent lapses into lust and gambling. He had been in the south four years now, most of it in the Caucasus as part of a Russian military force trying to subjugate Islamic mountain tribes. In these years he also became a writer. His short novels Childhood and Boyhood appeared in the journal The Contemporary. (See this link for etext links to these and other Tolstoy works.)  In these works the orphaned Tolstoy displayed for the first time his nostalgia for a mother he had hardly known and for the world of which she had been a part. The feeling of having been orphaned and the often accompanying feeling of not being loved enough were ones that often visited the young man. He did not make friends easily, and despite his noble birth, he generally felt uncomfortable in high society. Yet he longed for love and oneness with others. (See this link for text and photos in Paul Birukoff, Leo Tolstoy: Childhood and Early Manhood.)

Despite his promising start as a writer, he still was unsure about his future plans. In early March he wrote that he felt capable of devoting his life to a new religion, based on Christ, but purged of mysticism and dogmas, one that would not promise heavenly bliss, but happiness on earth. By the following month, however, he had more pressing thoughts on his mind.

He and his artillery battery had been moved back to Sevastopol. This time they were sent to the most forward bastion of the defense, only about a hundred yards from the French lines, and under constant and heavy bombardment. For the next month and a half, he alternated days at the bastion with off days back in the center of the city. In both places he found time to continue working on a sketch about Sevastopol at the end of the previous year. At the front he wrote in a bomb-proof dugout with the sounds of cannons booming in his ears. By the end of April, he sent the sketch off to The Contemporary.

Within a few months the educated public, including the new Emperor and his wife, were applauding this work of L.N., even though many did not yet know whose initials these were. In it they read of a cart with creaking wheels and heavy with corpses approaching a cemetery and of a government building converted to a hospital, where blood-splashed surgeons pitched amputated limbs into a corner. They also read about the earth shelter where the cannoneers lived and from which they shelled the enemy while incoming cannon and mortar shells whizzed and hissed near them and over dead and wounded bodies covered with mud and blood.

More than this unprecedented realistic description of the war, the Emperor probably appreciated Tolstoy's praise of the patriotism and courage of the soldiers and sailors who defended these fortifications. Even though Tolstoy privately believed that the common soldiers were treated like slaves, that many officers were involved in graft, and that supply and hygienic conditions were far from desirable, he did not mention these dissatisfactions in his sketch. Earlier that year he had planned to address some of these problems by writing a Plan for the Reform of the Army, but like many of his grandiose projects he soon forgot it.

By early summer he completed another sketch about Sevastopol. By this time he was commanding a mountain battery, fourteen miles from the fighting in Sevastopol. The new sketch reflected some of his doubts about the war, and when the censors in the capital received it from the editors of The Contemporary there was trouble. Toward the end of it he had described a scene in which the Russians and French declared a short truce in order to gather their dead. While collecting the bodies, soldiers from both sides chatted with each other. Spontaneously, a Frenchman and a Russian exchanged cigarette holders, and a French officer asked a young Russian cavalry lieutenant to say hello to a Russian officer whom he knew. Tolstoy then wrote:

Yes, on the bastion and entrenchments white flags have been placed, the lowering valley is full of dead bodies, and the beautiful sun descends from the transparent sky to the undulating blue sea, which sparkles under the golden rays of the sun. Thousands of people crowd together, look at, speak to, and smile at each other. And these people, who are Christians, confessing one great law of love and self-sacrifice, looking at what they have done, do not suddenly fall with repentance on their knees before Him who has given them life, who has placed in the soul of each, together with the fear of death, the love of the good and beautiful. They do not embrace like brothers with tears of joy and happiness. No! The white flags are lowered, and again whistle the instruments of death and suffering, again flows innocent blood, and groans and curses are heard.3

When the piece appeared in the September issue of The Contemporary this passage and others had been changed by the censors. Some deletions had been made and words inserted justifying the war for the Russians on the grounds of defense of their native land.

No doubt in his desire to build a society based upon secularized Christian principles and to live in one where men would not kill each other but live in harmony, Tolstoy manifested utopian aspirations. But such hopes were common for intellectuals who grew up in the stifling atmosphere of Nicholas I's reign. Many of them, blocked by a reactionary government from participating in any practical, meaningful service, retreated into a mental world where anything seemed possible.

This utopian tendency was further encouraged by the intellectuals' isolation from their less fortunate and less educated contemporaries. The great majority of intellectuals were still from the gentry class, which made up less than two percent of the population. And even within their own class, they stood out by virtue of their education and intellectual interests. Only about half of the men of gentry status had received more than a primary education. In all of the empire's six universities, there were not quite four thousand students, all male of course. Except for some institutes that educated young ladies to be "empty-headed dolls,"4 the government largely ignored female education.

Higher and even some secondary education usually implied an increased exposure to Western ideas. This only increased the gulf between those who were educated and the vast masses who were illiterate or who had had little education. Between the rural, illiterate, Orthodox peasant and the city educated noble, who had often become hostile or indifferent to Orthodoxy, there could be little in common. At times they even spoke a different language. Although Pushkin, the greatest of the Russian poets, picked up Russian from family serfs, he was formally taught as a young child to speak only French. The father of the radical Alexander Herzen hated to read a Russian book; and like Pushkin's father, his personal library was filled with French works. In the fashionable salons of the capital, even during the reign of the nationalistic Nicholas I, one heard French more commonly than Russian. For nobles serving at court it was more important to know the court language of French than it was to be fluent in Russian.5 At the Smolny Institute, a sort of "finishing school" for young noble women, they spoke French except in Russian classes. In no other major European country were the educated so isolated from so many of their countrymen. At times an educated, westernized noble seemed as "foreign" in his own country as an Englishman in India or a Frenchman in Algeria.

During the quarter century of Alexander II's reign, the intellectual's isolation from the Russian masses and a passionate Russian desire to overcome it, to be part of some larger community, will appear and reappear. This phenomenon will take many forms. It will vary in intensity. It will sometimes be conscious and sometimes not. But it will always be there.

For the new Tsar this longing for community, as well as the utopianism of the intellectuals, presented both an opportunity and a major challenge. In the days ahead he would need the support of idealistic, but basically patriotic, men such as Tolstoy. He would need to temper their utopianism with doses of political realism and yet convince them that he shared some of their strongest-felt sentiments. It was yet unclear, however, whether Alexander had the will or skill to do so.

In early August, Tolstoy and his battery were at the battle of the Chernaya River, on the outskirts of Sevastopol. As the Russians crossed the river and started up the hillside in the morning sunlight, their lives ended in clusters as French and Sardinian shells exploded around them. Before the morning was over the Russians were forced to retreat, leaving thousands of their dead comrades behind. Tolstoy was depressed and angered by the slaughter and believed much of it was due to incompetent generals and staff. He vented his anger by composing, along with a few others, some satiric stanzas, which soon gained widespread popularity among Russian soldiers.

By late August, the year-long defense of Sevastopol was nearing its end. The Russian forces were short of powder, projectiles, and reinforcements; and the English and French bombardment increased. Tolstoy had volunteered for duty in the city and arrived at a fort on the north side of the bay just in time to see the French taking the Malakhov Hill Bastion on the other side. Once this key to the defense of the south and main part of the city fell, the Russians began to hasten down to the bay and to cross a floating bridge to the northern side. Before leaving the southern side they blew up their abandoned forts and ammunition and set the town afire. Lieutenant Tolstoy would later describe the scene in still another Sevastopol sketch. But he would not mention there that on the day after his arrival, seeing the French tricolor flying over the former Russian bastions and the town below in flames, he wept. It was August 28, his twenty-seventh birthday. (For more on Tolstoy during this war period, see the appropriate chapter in Birukoff.)



Several days after the fall of Sevastopol Alexander II, his mother, wife, and four sons were on a train to Moscow. From there he would go south to encourage his troops. Soldiers and soldiering had always been important to him. Since childhood, he had loved military activities such as parades and war games, and he had become a full general while still in his mid twenties. In addition, it appeared that Alexander had decided to demonstrate that his rule reflected not just power but also the mutual love of tsar and people for each other. The Tsar's family had left the baby, Maria, back in Tsarskoe Selo, one of the Tsar's summer residences near St. Petersburg. It was early morning when they had departed, and now as they approached Moscow, a little over four hundred miles away, it was late evening. Although it was a long day's journey, it must have still seemed a great improvement over the carriage trip necessary before this line, Russia's first major one, had been completed just four years earlier.

The spring and summer had been difficult for the new Tsar. Although conscientious and provided with considerable experience by his father, Alexander II lacked a creative and agile mind. His thinking seemed almost as traditional as that of his reactionary father, and as uninspired. He also lacked vigor and real enthusiasm for his work. When he was young his tutors had discerned that he was easily discouraged by difficulties. As the dispatches from the Crimea got worse, his spirits fell. After the collapse of Sevastopol, he and his wife cried.

Still, there had been some happy times, especially during the spring and summer months spent at Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof, another summer residence close to the capital but located on the Gulf of Finland. Among large, luxurious palaces, magnificent grounds, trees, flowers, lakes, and fountains the family had spent some idyllic and peaceful moments. The marriage of Alexander and Maria of Hesse-Darmstadt had been based on love, not any special needs of state. In fact, at first there had been some parental opposition to it. But after fourteen years of marriage, the reserved young German princess had proved herself to be a serious, conscientious wife and Empress. And if some of Alexander's youthful ardor toward her had cooled and there had been some talk at court about him and a flirtatious lady-in-waiting to the Empress, still he often relied on Maria for advice and support.

While the Emperor's train approached Moscow, large crowds waited for him in the rain along the route from the station to his eventual destination at the Kremlin Grand Palace. The people of the city had followed the defense of Sevastopol closely and contributed bandages, money, and other needed supplies to the war effort. They had seen prices rise steeply during the war and, more importantly, sons, brothers, fathers, and friends sent to the front. The censored press told the people of the righteousness of their Orthodox cause in the war against the infidel Turk and his European allies. It spoke confidently of the ability of Sevastopol to withstand the siege. When it fell, the news came as a shock to many. Some of the common people groaned and crossed themselves as if to ward off any future unknown dangers. Others crowded for solace into the city's taverns. Yet the news was not unexpected in all homes. Years of government propaganda had created a certain skepticism, even among the uneducated, and some of the more intelligent and insightful had foreseen Russia's eventual collapse at Sevastopol. Although it was said that Moscow was more patriotic, more Russian, than the more cosmopolitan St. Petersburg, there were also those in this ancient capital who thought that the war was folly.

Toward Alexander, however, many Muscovites felt kindly. He had been born in their city, and this seemed to mean something to them. Those who blamed the government for failing to wage war more successfully could recall that Alexander had inherited the war and most of his ministers and generals from his father. Few were yet ready to judge him too harshly.

As the train pulled into Moscow, the rain let up and fireworks illuminated the sky. The sounds of bells and shouts of "hurrah" rang through the air. At the station imperial carriages appeared, and the monarchs' monograms, "A" and "M", were visible everywhere. Along the crowded route to the Kremlin, the Emperor and Empress stopped at one of the entrances to Red Square in order to enter the little Chapel of the Iberian Mother of God. There they knelt for a moment before the chapel's famous icon, believed by the faithful to work miracles.

For the next week the Tsar took part in prayer services, reviewed troops, met with his generals, and received delegations from the city. As Alexander looked about, he saw once again a very different city than the St. Petersburg from which he had just arrived. It was less symmetrical, less full of uniformed officials, and here one saw more Asiatic faces and attire. Despite its large size, it seemed more rural than St. Petersburg. Gardens and greenery were scattered in abundance around white walls and low-lying houses. One might also see a cow or two wandering along a broad street or on a narrow, twisting, dirt road. Green and red rooftops, blue and golden domes, multi-colored cupolas, and golden crosses sparkled everywhere in the sunshine as one looked down on them across from one of the hills of the city. And in the midst of it all, the ancient Kremlin! In Alexander's time not only were the brick crenelated Kremlin walls painted white, but so were many of the churches and other structures within, including the large new Great Kremlin Palace. From afar, along with the golden cupolas and crosses of the Kremlin's Ivan the Great Bell Tower and Assumption and Annunciation cathedrals, the white walls and exteriors helped to give the whole ensemble a magical appearance.

On the day after his arrival, Alexander went to several of the Kremlin churches to ask for God's help in Russia's hour of need. At the Cathedral of the Assumption (or Dormition), which Napoleon had once desecrated by using as a stable, the gray-bearded Metropolitan Filaret assured the Tsar of the justness of Russia's war effort and of the prayers of millions of Russians for its just cause. On that same day Alexander sent a letter to his Crimean commander, Prince Gorchakov, telling him not to despair, to trust in God, and to remember that two years after Napoleon had captured Moscow in 1812, Russian troops had been in Paris. Later in the week Metropolitan Filaret presented the Tsar with a banner depicting the Blessed Virgin appearing before St. Sergius. It had earlier accompanied Peter the Great and Alexander I on important campaigns, and the Tsar could now pass it on to Gorchakov.

For centuries, whether in war or in peace, the Tsars had relied upon the Orthodox clergy for support. They preached to the Russian people patriotism and submission, and Filaret, the most important clergyman of his time, was more than willing to continue the practice. In the words of Alexander Herzen, a man we shall soon meet, he "combined the mitre of a bishop with the shouldertabs of a gendarme."1 In addition, although he supported reform in some areas, he defended the flogging of peasants for offenses against their masters, and opposed emancipating Russia's serfs on the grounds that such "theoretical progress" would only stir the peasants' "false hopes and baser appetites."2 Although there can be little doubt that the support of such clergymen was helpful in keeping the country's illiterate masses faithful to the Tsar and state authority, supporters like him also inadvertently helped to discredit both state and church in the minds of Russia's progressive thinkers.

A week after the Tsar's arrival in Moscow and on the twelfth birthday of his oldest son, Nicholas, Alexander left his family and headed south. First, however, there was one more service at the Cathedral of the Assumption, where Alexander's mother blessed him. The Tsar, Maria, and his mother were all misty eyed as he prepared to depart. Amidst the clamorous shouts of the crowds, he left by carriage for Nikolaev, a town Alexander now considered the key to Russia's southern defenses. It was over seven hundred miles away, and the lack of a railway to the south not only inconvenienced Alexander, but had created serious supply problems for the troops.

In Nikolaev the Tsar approvingly overlooked the improvement of the Nikolaev defenses by General Totleben, the engineer whose fortifications had made it possible for Sevastopol to hold out for almost a year. He also visited a military hospital, and a correspondent for a semiofficial newspaper  wrote of the deep mutual affection of the Tsar and the wounded soldiers.

Before returning in early November back to Moscow, and then by train to the capital, the Tsar also visited both the headquarters of his army in the south at Bakhchisari and the northern side of Sevastopol. Like Tolstoy, he looked down across the bay on the ruins of the now-captured southern side of Sevastopol. He also visited the sick and wounded and thanked the defenders of the besieged city. Despite hearing tales of corruption and inefficiency, Alexander was in general encouraged by his trip to the south. He returned to the capital still hopeful that Russia could escape defeat.



Late in February 1856, the city of Moscow gave a hero's welcome to some of the naval defenders of Sevastopol. By this time Russian diplomats were already in Paris working on the peace treaty that would end the war. Alexander had finally heeded the advice of his Foreign Minister and others and accepted the terms of his enemies. But not without bitterness, especially at the future prohibition of Russian naval forces in the Black Sea. His advisors, however, told him that Austria and perhaps even Prussia and Sweden might join the war against Russia. They emphasized the strength of the British navy and its ability to strike at Russia's coasts almost at will. They mentioned the difficulties of keeping so many troops (almost two and a half million, counting irregulars, militia, and the navy) under arms in preparation for attacks from various directions, and they pointed out the tremendous financial strain of the war. They did not apparently stress the large number of Russian lives already lost in the war. In fact, an accurate count was not kept. But by the time peace finally arrived, about a half million had died, many from disease.

Welcoming the Sevastopol defenders was one way for Muscovites to assuage their wounded national pride. For more than a week they hosted and toasted these men: they greeted them with bread and salt, a traditional Russian welcome, and with hats thrown in the air and military marches; they invited them into their homes and cheered them as they rode through the snow-covered streets in troikas; and they held church services honoring the defenders' dead comrades.

On one occasion, the Merchants' Club hosted the officers for a dinner. The halls were decorated and flowers were strewn along the staircase. Wealthy merchants, nobles, scholars, artists, and even some students were present, as toasts were drunk to the Emperor's health, and "God Save the Tsar" was sung. Among the speakers who addressed the heroes were three of Moscow's most prominent intellectuals. The most sober and moderate of them was Professor Sergei Soloviev of Moscow University, whose father was an Orthodox priest who had been teaching religion at the Moscow Commerce School for almost forty years. Although only thirty-five, the son had been teaching at the university for a decade, and in each of the last five years he had published a volume of his History of Russia from Ancient Times.

As speakers before him mentioned the heroic deeds of the men of Sevastopol, he perhaps remembered those of his own father-in-law, Vladimir Romanov. Naval Captain Romanov had been decorated for bravery under enemy fire during the final evacuation across the Sevastopol Bay.1 In 1848, Soloviev had married Romanov's attractive dark-haired daughter, Poliksena, and since then she had given birth to six children, although two died in infancy.

With several of the speakers who spoke before him, Soloviev had considerable differences. First, there was the bearish and broad-lipped publicist and panslavist M.P. Pogodin. He was one of the few intellectuals who had been born into a serf family. In addition to his humble origins, he was known for his ardent Russian nationalism, tactlessness, and avariciousness. He was a former professor of Soloviev's and his predecessor in the chair of Russian history at the university. But he had resigned in anger in a dispute with administrators and colleagues and, contrary to his own expectations, was never asked to return. Bitter at being replaced by his former student, he had often found reasons to criticize Soloviev's work.

One of the major differences between the two men was also one of the most significant that divided Russian intellectuals in general. Soloviev shared the viewpoint of most thinkers that Russia was an integral part of European civilization, but Pogodin thought of Russia as a unique and superior civilization. As he characteristically overstated it: the Russian differed from the European in "temperament, character, blood, physiognomy, moral outlook, cast of thought, faith, ideals, dress, desires, pleasures, relationships, history--everything"!2 Pogodin's relationship with Nicholas I and Alexander II was also noteworthy. Despite being a strong defender of Orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationality, Pogodin was more than a humble servant of state and church. On occasion he sent unsolicited advice to his ruler, and he could be quite critical, especially privately, of Tsarist activities of which he did not approve. Like almost all intellectuals, he believed the police-state measures taken by Nicholas I, especially after the European revolutions of 1848, were excessive. He also believed that the government had been guilty of serious foreign policy errors. He had long dreamed of a panslavic union stretching from the Pacific to the Adriatic. It would also include Constantinople and, most importantly, recognize Russian hegemony. But to achieve this goal he thought that Russia would have to realign its traditional diplomacy away from friendship with Prussia and Austria, the latter especially resentful of any Russian intentions regarding the Slavic peoples of the Balkans. The month before the banquet, Pogodin wrote to the Tsar and advised him to rally the Russian people for a struggle against its enemies. In the following words, he even dared to advise Alexander regarding his own behavior:

The Tsar lives in twenty rooms, let him occupy no more than five and have only five heated in the winter. He is served six dishes at table; let them give him three or four. The Tsaritsa will wear only a black dress...she will seem lovelier and sweeter to us. Three lumps of sugar are put into their children's tea; let them sip it through a single lump [as was the Russian custom]...and when they complain of its not being sweet, tell them it is because the French are in the Crimea and the English at Kronstadt."3

Another speaker who preceded Soloviev was the Slavophile Constantine Aksakov. He was a passionate man with a "leonine physiognomy,"4 known for his Moscowphilism, his dislike of the more westernized St. Petersburg, his glorification of the Russian peasant, and his ardent desire to see Russia's alienated intellectuals return to the native Russian traditions. He was such an enthusiast of older ways that in the 1840s he had walked around Moscow wearing "old Russian" attire and an old-fashioned beard. One of his ideological opponents joked that this only led to his being mistaken for a Persian. In 1849, however, part of his old fashioned look had to go. Because in the West beards were sometimes a symbol of revolutionary inclinations, the government of Nicholas I banned the "Russian beard," at least for members of the gentry class like Aksakov.

Despite being almost forty, his idealistic convictions and his devotion to his father, the novelist Sergei Aksakov, made him seem younger. Like Soloviev, Aksakov had also once been a pupil of Pogodin's, and the latter was a longtime friend of the Aksakov family. Soloviev and Aksakov had also once been close enough for the latter to become the godfather of Soloviev's first daughter, but more recently Aksakov had become quite critical of Soloviev's historical views and in the next few years would increasingly attack them in reviews of Soloviev's multi-volume history.

The personal relations of Soloviev with Pogodin and Aksakov and the advice which Pogodin showered upon the Tsars both point to an important characteristic of the times. The prominent people in Russian society--the Tsar and his family, members of the court, leading government ministers, and the significant intellectuals--were relatively few, and a great many of them were related, personally acquainted, or at least had access to each other.

Concerning Aksakov's ideas, Soloviev thought that due to his nostalgia, anti-Westernism, and anti-progressivism, he was guilty of falsifying history. The professor also believed that Aksakov was more of a dilettante than a serious scholar and that he overemphasized the historical role of the Russian people. Both Soloviev and Pogodin stressed more the importance of Russia's rulers and government.

Like Pogodin, Aksakov also had sent a letter to the new Tsar. It deplored evils such as government corruption, romanticized the era prior to Peter the Great, and blamed Peter for being a despot and beginning the westernization of Russia's nobility. It also tried to convince Alexander II of the necessity of ending despotism, although not autocracy. For although Aksakov considered Russia fortunate to have a government that enabled its people to concentrate on their spiritual life and not be involved in any inherently corrupting political body such as a parliament, he nevertheless believed that a Tsar should allow and seriously consider freely expressed opinions. He even suggested that as the need arose the government might wish to convene representatives of different classes for advice.

Whatever the merits of this memorandum of Aksakov's, it is questionable whether the Tsar ever read it. And if he did, it had little effect. Despite wishing to encourage a limited amount of "openness" (glasnost), especially within government circles, Alexander was opposed to unshackling public opinion to the extent suggested by Aksakov.5

Despite Soloviev's differences with Pogodin and Aksakov, he probably did not disagree with much the two men said at the Merchants' Club. Although their extravagant nationalistic excesses might bother him, he shared their praise of the heroes of Sevastopol.

When his turn finally came to say a few words the solidly built, already balding Soloviev greeted the officers with words that he said were dear to their ancestors. He welcomed them as "sufferers for the Russian land, who had gloriously stood on guard for the native land."6 Those who were familiar with his work knew that he believed that Russia was continuing in the tradition of Greece, Rome, and the Christian medieval world in its fights against barbarian Asia. They were aware that he justified Russia's past wars against the non-Christian Mongols, Turks, and other Asiatic powers because he believed that Russia was furthering the cause of European Christian civilization.

When the Crimean War broke out one of the causes had been Russia's insistence on her rights to intercede in behalf of Orthodox Christians within the Muslim Turkish Empire. Nicholas I had written at the time: "Waging war neither for worldly advantages nor for conquests, but for a solely Christian purpose, must I be left alone to fight under the banner of the Holy Cross and to see the others, who call themselves Christians, all unite around the Crescent to combat Christendom?"7 Soloviev's feelings about the justness of the war were not essentially different.

Years later, however, Soloviev made it clear that Nicholas I was not one of his favorite Emperors, and he placed much of the blame for Russia's failures in the war on Nicholas. Despite Soloviev's patriotic feelings, he had even been a bit reluctant to see Russia win the war. For a victory might strengthen Nicholas's despotism, while a defeat might bring the progressive kind of changes that Soloviev believed Russia needed. With the accession of Alexander to the throne, Soloviev had thought there was still hope for victory. As he later explained it, a forceful, bold, knowledgeable ruler could have tapped the patriotism of the Russian people, while diplomatically splitting her enemies. Long after Alexander had given up the belief, Soloviev still thought that the fall of Sevastopol, like that of Moscow in 1812, could have been followed by a new beginning, one that would have forced the allies to eventually sign a peace treaty more to Russia's liking. But in the eyes of Soloviev, Alexander was too weak to accomplish the task.

The views of Pogodin, Aksakov, and Soloviev, all three critical of the despotism of Nicholas I, but also all strong patriots and defenders of Russian autocracy and Orthodoxy, were illustrative of a serious problem facing Alexander II. All three of these men were confident that they knew better than the Tsar how the government should be run. The reign of Alexander's father had especially encouraged, inadvertently of course, this type of feeling. Although radical leftist criticism, emanating especially from St. Petersburg intellectuals, would eventually attract more attention, the faultfinding of Muscovite supporters of autocratic government should not be overlooked.

Even at court in St. Petersburg there were a few who agreed with some of the criticisms and reservations about the government's actions which were expressed or harbored by these three Moscow thinkers. One such person was Anna Tyutcheva, a lady-in-waiting to the Empress. She was the daughter of  the poet and panslavist Fedor Tyutchev, and ten years after the Moscow banquet for the heroes of Sevastopol she would marry Constantine Aksakov's younger brother Ivan.

When she first heard rumors of the possibility of Russia's accepting unfavorable peace terms put forth by Austria, she became alarmed. On January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany and a day on which the Tsar took part in the ceremony of the Blessing of the Waters along the Neva, she wrote in her diary that if the Tsar offended the honor of Russia by agreeing to an unfavorable peace, she would not be able any longer to love him. Two days later she told the Empress that the Ministers of War and Finance were ignoramuses and should be replaced. And three days after that she recorded her belief that unfortunately Alexander was not the strong and energetic man that Russia needed in such trying times.

On January 16th, a young adjutant of the Tsar read to her and others a new letter written by Constantine Aksakov which expressed many of her sympathies about the undesirability of accepting unfavorable peace terms. She borrowed the letter and read it to the Empress, but it failed to have the desired effect.

Following Soloviev's words of welcome to the Sevastopol defenders, the millionaire merchant Vasily Kokorev, who had planned many of the activities of these February festivities, also made a speech. Not to be outdone by the historians, he also compared the Sevastopol heroes with those of earlier times.

Before the honored guests departed the Merchants' Club for a costume ball at the governor's house that February evening, they moved to a neighboring room. There hung a full-length picture, decorated with flowers, of the Emperor. With drinking glasses in hand and with loud voices they once again sang "God Save the Tsar." Pogodin then toasted the Tsar, and the guests in good Russian style threw their glasses to the ground, shattering them into thousands of pieces. The bearish Pogodin, as usual given to excesses, expressed the hope that all the Tsar's enemies might be dealt with in a similar fashion. Then once again the guests sang "God Save the Tsar" and departed.



Three months earlier, on November 19, 1855, Lieutenant Tolstoy had arrived in St. Petersburg by train. He remained there for most of the next six months. While Moscow's thinkers focused primarily on the war, St. Petersburg's intellectuals seemed more concerned with political reform.

Although the Neva remained frozen throughout most of Tolstoy's stay, the spirit of the capital and Russia itself seemed to be experiencing a thaw after the frozen immobility of Nicholas's final years. Signs of renewed life were sprouting up everywhere. New journals were begun. Previously forbidden works were now printed. And as Tolstoy later wrote: "Everyone tried to discover still new questions, everyone tried to resolve them; people wrote, read, and spoke about projects; everyone wished to correct, destroy, and change things, and all Russians, as if a single person, found themselves in an indescribable state of enthusiasm."1

Tolstoy came to the capital to meet the leading literary men of his day. One of the most prominent was Ivan Turgenev, the author of A Sportsman's Sketches, a work applauded for its humane depiction of the Russian peasants. Turgenev had just recently completed a draft of a novel, based in part on the life of a friend, Michael Bakunin, a radical currently in prison. Almost immediately after arriving at the train station, Tolstoy headed for the large first floor apartment of Turgenev. It was just off the Nevsky Prospect near the Anichkov Palace, where the widow of Nicholas I now resided. Turgenev had earlier written to Tolstoy and praised his work; he now invited him to stay with him.

For over a month Tolstoy remained as Turgenev's guest. Although still in the military, Tolstoy's duties were minimal. He soon shocked the more sedate, fastidious Turgenev by his carousing in this city of canals, columned palaces, and pastel-colored buildings of green, yellow, blue, and red. Turgenev was only ten years older than Tolstoy, but his hair, mutton-chop whiskers, and mustache were already noticeably graying.  (See this link for an 1856 photograph of some contributors to The Contemporary including Tolstoy in uniform standing behind Turgenev.)   At first Turgenev tried to restrain the younger writer from his excessive gambling, drinking, and cavorting with gypsy women. But he soon gave up and resigned himself to preventing Tolstoy from being disturbed as he slept in the drawing room until the late morning or early afternoon.

Tolstoy was not alone in this custom, for St. Petersburg during the winter season was not a place where the nobility rose early unless obliged to by their work. Evenings often kept them out late. There were theaters and concerts, operas and ballets, parties, banquets, and balls. At the dances the bejeweled women, bare-shouldered in their full-length gowns, waltzed with officers and officials resplendent in uniforms with sashes and medals indicating their accomplishments. (See this link for a photo and description of a late-nineteenth-century Tsar's ball.)

St. Petersburg was not only the home of many officers and government officials, it was also the most modern, fashionable, and Western of Russian cities. Its architecture, like many of its nobles, reflected European influence. Baroque and neoclassical facades struck the eye on both sides of the Neva and along many of the city's canals. Even some of its main churches, such as the Kazan Cathedral, on the Nevsky Prospect, and St. Isaac's Cathedral, which still was not quite completed after three and a half decades, looked more like they belonged in Rome than in Russia. While Italian Opera flourished, thanks to generous government support and its own popular appeal, native Russian opera languished. The prima donnas who captured the imagination of young men sang in Italian, not Russian. One such woman, Pauline Viardot, so mesmerized Ivan Turgenev that now, twelve years after first meeting her, he still idolized her as he did no other woman.

Despite its modern Western appeal, the city Tolstoy now found himself in was still nevertheless a mid-nineteenth century Russian city. There were still vacant lots scattered about. Smoking was not permitted on the street. Almost all the city traffic was on foot or in horse-drawn sleighs or carriages. Omnibuses, also pulled by horses, existed but were little used. If no snow was on the ground, the fast-moving carriages might jolt one continually as one traveled over cobblestone or dirt roads. During the long hours of winter darkness, which could last from mid-afternoon to mid-morning, the street lights did not give off much light. Only a few gas lamps yet existed. Although it was the most industrialized of Russian cities, no more than one in twenty inhabitants worked in factories. About a third of the city's population were officially considered peasants, even though they worked in factories, shops, on the docks, in restaurants or bath houses, drove horse cabs, carted wood or ice, or peddled sweets, fruit, or toys from the trays they carried as they walked along the streets. Even though residents dumped all types of waste into the city's canals and rivers they also used them for drinking water. In addition, unclean water often flooded basements in the low-lying capital. It was no wonder that in the 1850s deaths in St. Petersburg outnumbered births. (For photos and text on St. Petersburg in the 1890s follow this link.)

In addition to Turgenev, from whose apartment he eventually moved when he found quarters of his own, Tolstoy met other important writers and spent many evenings with them. One of the most famous was Nicholas Nekrasov, a poet and the principal editor of The Contemporary. Tolstoy often visited Nekrasov's apartment on Little Stable Street, not far from the Tsar's Imperial Stables.

Nekrasov was a man of contradictions, almost a split personality. Like Tolstoy and Turgenev, he was from the landowning class. But unlike them, he had suffered poverty and hunger when as a youth of sixteen he had defied his father's wish that he enter a St. Petersburg cadet corps and instead had begun preparing himself for entrance into St. Petersburg University. Years of extreme poverty had followed, and he was never to obtain a university degree. For a while he had to rely on using the overcoat of his much larger roommate when he wanted to go out into the biting St. Petersburg winter. He lived at other times with prostitutes and working girls. Although these difficult years had passed, Nekrasov maintained a strong sympathy for the poor and unfortunate. He had helped to discover and publish Dostoevsky's first major effort, Poor Folk, and many of his own poems reflected his identification with the sufferings of Russia's common people. Like Constantine Aksakov, but for different reasons, he worshiped at the altar of the Russian people (narod). But he also had the reputation of being a man much more concerned with making money than was the average poet or even editor. Some even considered him an unscrupulous wheeler-dealer. And his fondness for good food, drink, and gambling, all of which he enjoyed at the exclusive English Club, contributed further to his janus image.

In recent years, although still only in his early thirties, Nekrasov had not been in good health. He was apparently suffering from syphilis and feared he might die. Never an imposing figure, the dark-haired, mustached Nekrasov was even less so now. (See this link for photo of Nekrasov, in the middle of the picture, and other contributors to his journal.) His shoulders drooped and he walked slowly. At times he could not raise his high, squeaky voice above a whisper. His throat was constantly sore, and while Tolstoy was in the capital Nekrasov seldom left his apartment.

It was at Nekrasov's place that Tolstoy several times angered his new friends by his intemperate behavior. On one occasion he accused Turgenev of empty chattering and of lacking real convictions. The exasperated Turgenev, who normally had a rather high voice, whispered "I can stand no more! I have bronchitis."2 His large, soft body began striding back and forth through the three room apartment. The shorter but more muscular Tolstoy lay on a morocco sofa and responded that bronchitis was an imaginary illness. While not true, it was not entirely inappropriate, for Turgenev was a bit of a hypochondriac. He also seemed excessively concerned with growing old. Nostalgia for youth and a sad resignation in the face of life had appeared with increasing frequency in some of his recent stories.

On another occasion at Nekrasov's, after being cautioned ahead of time to avoid the subject, Tolstoy attacked the French female novelist and advocate of women's rights, George Sand. He said that if her heroines actually existed, they should be tied to the hangman's cart and dragged through the streets of St. Petersburg. Sand was a personal friend of Turgenev's and very close to his beloved Pauline Viardot, who some thought had been the model for Sand's famous heroine Consuelo.

Tolstoy's statement also no doubt offended Avdotya Panaeva, the wife of Nekrasov's fellow editor on The Contemporary, but Nekrasov's mistress. She often acted as the hostess at Nekrasov's gatherings. She was a great admirer of Sand and a writer herself who in her works dealt with injustices suffered by women. She also had collaborated with Nekrasov on several novels. She was small and attractive with dark hair and eyes and a velvety voice. Many writers praised her beauty. A decade earlier the young Dostoevsky had become infatuated with her. Nekrasov easily became jealous of her and the couple often quarreled. The past year or so had been especially difficult for them because of Nekrasov's illness and the death of an infant son.

Toward such liaisons as that of Nekrasov and Panaeva, Tolstoy was hardly more sympathetic than he was with some of the behavior of Sand's heroines. Sex with gypsies or peasant girls while still a bachelor was one thing, but to the early orphaned Tolstoy, marriage and family life were sacred and eternal. And they would remain so for him in an age in which traditional ideas regarding women and the family would come under increasing attack.

While Tolstoy was in the capital a split was developing among the contributors to The Contemporary. It was precipitated by a radical young man of Tolstoy's age, Nicholas Chernyshevsky, who thought that literature should be subservient to man's social and political needs. Turgenev and several of his friends found this role too restrictive. Soon after leaving St. Petersburg, Tolstoy wrote to Nekrasov and also criticized Chernyshevsky, referring to him as a "gentleman who smells of lice" with an "unpleasant, reedy little voice uttering stupid, unpleasant things."3

Although Tolstoy's description was hardly objective, Chernyshevsky was not an imposing looking figure. His terrible nearsightedness necessitated glasses; and his delicate face, wavy hair, and timid appearance had earned him the nickname "the pretty maid" when he was a seminary student in the Volga river town of Saratov. Nekrasov, however, increasingly would back Chernyshevsky and his young collaborator Dobrolyubov, both of whom were of more common origins than most older intellectuals. Turgenev labeled the pair the snake and the rattlesnake, and one senses in the attitudes of some of their noblemen critics, including Tolstoy and Turgenev, a touch of unconscious class snobbishness.

The differences which were now beginning to surface among the contributors to The Contemporary would become increasingly important. Just as Pogodin and Aksakov represented two forms of anti-Westernism, so Chernyshevsky and some of his critics such as Turgenev would come to represent two forms of Westernism, one radical and one liberal.

It would take, however, several years for some of Chernyshevsky's radical ideas to fully emerge. In 1856, he was still attempting, like a number of other thinkers, to be conciliatory. One of the most important conciliators of the day was Constantine Kavelin, whom Tolstoy met shortly before leaving the capital. He was a historian of law and a government official, who had earlier taught with Professor Soloviev at Moscow University. Early in 1855, he and one of his former students, Boris Chicherin, had begun a collaborative effort in behalf of Russian liberalism. The two of them wrote a number of works which circulated in manuscript and which early the following year they sent to the émigré radical journalist Alexander Herzen in London for printing. In one of them Chicherin wrote: "Liberalism! This is the slogan of every educated and sober-minded person in Russia. This is the banner which can unite about it people of all spheres, all estates, all inclinations. This is the word which can mold a powerful public opinion, if only we can shake off from ourselves self-destructive laziness and indifference to the common cause." Liberalism, he believed, was also the medicine Russia needed in order to cure its social ills and assume its proper place in the world. In this one word, he concluded, lies "all the future of Russia."4 Chicherin identified liberalism with freedom--for example, freedom for the serfs, for religion, for the press, and for teachers and professors. It also meant to him due process of law and the publicity and openness (publichnost and glasnost) of government and legal activities.

But the past of Russian liberalism seemed to portend that it had about as much chance for a fruitful future as would an orange tree in Siberia. Whereas in the West liberalism was supported by a strong middle class wishing to limit governmental powers, in Russia the middle class was small and not always desirous of limiting the power of the monarch. Men such as Kavelin and Chicherin, as well as Professor Soloviev, who shared some of their important ideas, wanted a reforming monarch, but had no desire to weaken his authority. In fact, all three men wanted him to strongly pursue progressive policies while standing above class interests. Thus Kavelin could write, as he did in 1855, about the "complete necessity of retaining the unlimited power of the sovereign, basing it on the widest possible local freedom."5 The inherent unlikeliness of any lasting marriage between autocracy and freedom, indeed the improbability of anything more than even a brief flirtation, does not seem to have occurred to Kavelin or his fellow moderates.

Nevertheless, in early 1856 there was considerable support among educated people for the type of changes advocated by Kavelin and Chicherin. In the capital the enthusiastic Kavelin was a whirlwind of activity. He was well thought of by the two most progressive members of the Imperial family, the Tsar's aunt Grand Duchess Elena and his brother Constantine, and he was also friendly with a number of progressive bureaucrats. Furthermore, realizing that the times called for a unified public opinion, he tried to patch over past personal and intellectual differences and to create a consensus for moderate reform. In the material which he and Chicherin sent to Herzen, with whom Kavelin had once been close friends, the two liberals tried to persuade him to moderate his criticism of the Tsar and renounce what they considered his socialistic propaganda. Kavelin had recently also made overtures to one of his former teachers, the conservative nationalist Pogodin.

One of the subjects Kavelin had been most concerned with was the possibility of ending serfdom, and he had recently written a long "memorandum" suggesting how it could be successfully accomplished. Meanwhile, Tolstoy had been troubled by a guilty conscience because of his own ownership of serfs. Thus, he sought out Kavelin, who also contributed to The Contemporary, for enlightenment on how he might best improve their lot. After spending the evening of April 23 with Kavelin, Tolstoy recorded in his diary that the serf question was becoming clearer, that Kavelin possessed "a charming mind and nature,"6 and that he (Tolstoy) was now hopeful that he could return to his serfs with a written proposal.

Although Tolstoy shared some of Kavelin's enthusiasm for reform, he did not share his reconciling temperament. While Kavelin tried to appease and reconcile various groups, Tolstoy continued  sporadically to antagonize or find fault with one after another. He believed that many of the liberal contributors to The Contemporary, i.e., most of those opposing Chernyshevsky, lacked moral depth. They in turn realized that, despite some liberal inclinations, Tolstoy was somehow essentially different from most of them. When one of the contributors wrote in a letter to Nekrasov that Tolstoy's sympathy with liberalism was insufficient, Tolstoy challenged him to a duel. Fortunately, Tolstoy's would-be opponent ignored the challenge.

During the first few weeks of May, Tolstoy's dissatisfaction targeted the Slavophiles and Pogodin. Earlier that year, he had visited Moscow and met with Constantine Aksakov and his father. Now in St. Petersburg he met Constantine's younger brother Ivan and Ivan Kireevsky, another prominent Slavophile. In his diary, Tolstoy criticized their ideas for being too narrow and one-sided. Five days later after reading an article of Pogodin's about the honoring of the Sevastopol defenders in Moscow, he wrote: "I with pleasure would slap Pogodin's face. Contemptible flattery, seasoned with Slavophilism."7

Ironically, despite his critical disposition, he wrote in his diary for 12 May that the key to happiness in life was to dispense love in all directions. And a few months later when he wrote to Nekrasov criticizing Chernyshevsky, Tolstoy pointed to what he considered the radical's angry and bitter literary criticism. Tolstoy thought that it reflected an absence of love and therefore could do only harm.

Already by the middle of April, with the first signs of spring in the air, Tolstoy was anxious to leave the capital and return to his lovely Yasnaya Polyana property. But first the military had to approve the leave which he had recently requested. Finally on May 16, he received a long furlough, eleven months, from further military duties. The next day he boarded the train for Moscow en route to his estate. (For more text and photos dealing with Tolstoy in St. Petersburg at this time, see this link to Birukoff.)



In March 1856, a month after the Sevastopol sailors had left Moscow, the Tsar once again journeyed there by train. With the peace treaty having just been signed, those that concerned themselves with public affairs could now concentrate on other matters. And the old governor-general of Moscow had something other than war on his mind. Recently he had heard rumors that Alexander would announce the emancipation of the serfs during the upcoming coronation ceremonies. Although he himself might not believe such talk, some of his fellow nobles in Moscow were concerned. The governor-general asked the Emperor if he would reassure the nobles that their fears were groundless.

Even when primarily concerned with the war, Alexander had slowly begun to take steps to alleviate some of the more oppressive aspects of his father's rule. In addition to easing up on censorship, he lifted some of the restrictions on travel and on the number of students permitted into the universities. His manifesto announcing the peace also seemed to indicate reform. It spoke of a desire for strengthening Russia's internal well-being, for equal justice for all her people, and for developing the urge toward enlightenment and useful activity.

But for many of the intellectuals of the day, the abolition of serfdom was the most pressing issue. From Alexander Herzen in his London sanctuary to more conservative thinkers like Constantine Aksakov and Pogodin in Moscow, there was general agreement among intellectuals that serfdom had to go. Many considered it a sign of backwardness and some a scandal that close to a half of Russia's large peasant class and about two-fifths of its total population was comprised of serf families. Although the serfs usually lived in their own households and worked on strips of land whose produce they kept or sold, or even worked in the city if their owners approved, they all owed work or made payments on a regular basis to their lords. They could still be beaten, sent to Siberia or to the army for twenty-five years, or be compelled to marry by their masters. The nobles could still with impunity take sexual advantage of their female serfs. Regardless of how frequently or infrequently such abuses occurred, their mere possibility and the absence of legal safeguards for serfs seemed intolerable to such men as Herzen and Chernyshevsky.

To the governor-general of Moscow and to some of the area's less enlightened nobles, however, serfdom was not intolerable. For centuries the serfs had supported the nobility. (See this link for the home of one of the Sheremetevs; in the early nineteenth century the richest member of this clan owned about 300,000 male and female serfs and almost 2 million acres.) Many serfowners could not imagine running their estates without serfs. Some "masters" also were convinced that serfdom was necessary, at least in their lifetime, for the good of Russia. Were not their serfs too ignorant, immature, and indolent to operate on their own?

Despite some of the Emperor's other early steps in the direction of reform, the governor-general had some reason to hope that Alexander would not tamper with serfdom. Rulers from the time of Catherine the Great, almost a century before, had recognized some of the evils of the system, but had not dared to abolish it. Serfowners were the backbone of the military and civilian leadership. The Tsar was dependent on them for carrying out his policies. Some thought that he could not afford to alienate this small but influential class. Moreover, as Tsarevich, Alexander had gained the reputation of being a supporter of the rights of the landowners.

Alexander's visit to Moscow was a short one, with the usual religious services, military ceremonies, and governmental meetings. Since it was the Lenten season, however, the governor-general was not able to give a ball. The day after the Tsar arrived he received the representatives of the nobility of the Moscow province. While he spoke to them of serfdom, he was not very reassuring. Although he did not allow his speech to be printed nor its contents mentioned in the press, it nevertheless created a sensation. An underground text of it soon rapidly circulated. The Tsar told the nobles that while he did not intend to abolish serfdom immediately, eventually it must occur. He added that it would be better if it came from above rather than from below, an allusion to possible serf uprisings. Finally, he invited the nobles to give some consideration as to how serfdom might be ended.

After returning to the capital Alexander instructed his Minister of Interior to begin preparing a plan for the gradual liberation of the serfs. He also told him to speak informally about the subject to representatives of the nobility of various provinces when they convened at the upcoming coronation in Moscow. The Tsar hoped to obtain the cooperation of the landowners rather than forcing the emancipation of the serfs upon them.

During the war there had been scattered peasant disturbances, and some in the military believed that Russia's poor showing in the war was partly the result of serfdom. In the same month that Alexander spoke to the Moscow nobles, Dmitry Milyutin, a young general and friend of the liberal Constantine Kavelin, composed a memorandum on army reform. In it he pointed to the necessity of creating a large trained reserve and reducing the size of the traditionally large standing army. But for a variety of reasons these steps were only feasible if serfdom was abolished. To the Tsar such military considerations were important. So also was the financial consideration that a smaller standing army would be more affordable. The Crimean War had strained the country's economy to a dangerous degree, and Alexander wished to reduce inflation and the threat of serious peacetime budget deficits. The peasant disturbances, public opinion, the aid of enlightened bureaucrats such as Milyutin's brother Nicholas (who served as deputy Minister of Interior), concern with its image at home and abroad, and Russia's industrial backwardness and sluggish economy also helped propel him toward emancipating the serfs.

Thus, in the first year of his reign, Alexander indicated that he could be more pragmatic and flexible than his father had been. What he wanted for his country was what most rulers wanted: strength and stability. He began to perceive that if Russia was to regain the status and power it lost during the recent war (an important consideration to Russia's ruling elite as well as to Alexander), it would have to reform and modernize. The trick was to do so while maintaining stability and without infringing upon his own autocratic powers. For he sincerely believed that in Russia's backward state only the Tsar could stand above narrower interests of class and ideology and rule in behalf of all.

Although Alexander thought that Russia must now concentrate on internal development and avoid costly foreign entanglements, he nevertheless had to take diplomatic steps to aid such a policy. A few weeks after his return from Moscow, he installed a new Foreign Minister. He was vain, talkative Alexander Gorchakov, a distant relative of Leo Tolstoy. In domestic matters he supported reform, although always within proper bounds. He would prove to be a strong supporter of Alexander's emancipation efforts. Regarding foreign affairs, he was known for his anti-Austrian and pro-French sentiments. With his appointment the Tsar signaled a drastic change in Russian foreign policy. Turning his back on an Austria that his father had allied with, but which Alexander believed had betrayed Russia during the recent war, the Tsar now began moving Russia closer to France. In January 1857, after receiving a friendly letter from France's Napoleon III, Alexander would write to his brother Grand Duke Constantine: "I see union with France as a guarantee of future peace in Europe."1 Alexander was no great admirer of Napoleon III, but he realized that the French ruler's ambitions conflicted with those of Austria. He hoped to take advantage of any estrangement between these two powers to regain, without undue risk, Russia's military rights in the Black Sea.

Moving closer to France, however, did not necessitate moving away from Russia's other pre-war friend, Prussia. Thus, in May 1856, Alexander traveled to Berlin and Sans Souci to visit the Prussian monarch, Frederick William IV. He was met there by his mother, who was the sister of the Prussian monarch. The Tsar thanked Frederick William for not joining Russia's enemies during the war. Four days of cordial talks, parades, and pleasantries followed.

On his way to Prussia the Emperor had spent six days in Russian Poland. Alexander had already shown signs of easing his father's harsh handling of the Poles, but while in Warsaw he warned Polish leaders not to dream of Polish autonomy. On the way back from Berlin, Alexander spent some time in Russia's Baltic provinces. As in Poland, he displayed there a firm resolve to hold together Russia's multiethnic empire.

He also wished to increase his hold on newly conquered border areas and to continue expanding the Russian empire. General Muraviev was tightening his control over former Chinese territories in Siberia. In the Caucasus Russian troops after two decades were still battling the legendary Shamil and his Islamic mountain forces. Many of the Tsar's advisors predicted the necessity of at least another decade of fighting before a Russian victory could be gained over Shamil. However, in the summer of 1856, Alexander placed a friend of his youth, Prince Alexander Baryatinsky, in charge of operations in the Caucasus. Within three years Baryatinsky would capture Shamil and break the resistance movement in the Eastern Caucasus.

As in his first year as Tsar, Alexander and his wife resided the greater part of that second summer in Tsarskoe Selo and then Peterhof. The planning for an August coronation was proceeding, and the family spent some happy moments together. One such time began with a trip on the Emperor's yacht from Peterhof to Gapsal, along the Estonian coast. The four sons were already at this seaside resort when their father and mother decided to pay them a surprise visit. The gulf waters were calm and the July weather beautiful. Although her constitution was not the strongest and she had not been feeling well before her departure, the Empress suddenly began to feel better. After a night at sea the yacht approached Gapsal, and the royal couple spotted their four sons out in a boat. A happy reunion followed, with parents, children, and dogs all delighted to see one another. After some days together and receptions and festivities, the Empress kissed her boys on the forehead and blessed them. Then the parents said good-bye and once again boarded their yacht. That evening there was a beautiful sunset. As they sat on the deck the Empress told Anna Tyutcheva, that lady-in-waiting who had been so upset at Alexander's decision to end the war, that she loved the sea because to her it was a symbol of eternity. Their conversation then turned to St. Augustine and his mother. Such religious topics were close to the heart of this pious, non-worldly Empress.

Another lady-in-waiting, the tall, slender, dark-haired, and flirtatious Alexandra Dolgorukaya, also accompanied the couple on the trip. There were still rumors about her and the Tsar, and the Empress would become increasingly upset about such talk--Grand Duke Constantine's diary entry of November 22, 1859, indicated that three years later serious grounds for rumors still existed.2 Nevertheless, a little more than nine months after these nights on the gulf waters, Empress Maria would give birth to another boy.

At the end of August, after more than a week's preliminary festivities, the coronation finally took place in Moscow's Kremlin. The ancient city was painted and cleaned in preparation. And one observer noted, perhaps with some exaggeration, that almost as much was being spent on  coronation festivities and preparations as on the costly Crimean War, and that this was being done partly to impress foreigners.  People from throughout the empire streamed into the white-walled city, jamming the roads leading to it. The great variety of the empire's nationalities and costumes caught the eye. The weather was magnificent. On the day before the actual coronation, the Emperor's subjects joined foreign observers and diplomats along the city's roads and upon specially built platforms in order to watch the entrance of the royal procession into the city from a palace on the outskirts. Cossacks and elite cavalry units sitting upright on their horses, brilliantly decorated and colored uniforms, golden coaches and jeweled royalty, all captured the eye. The bells atop the hundreds of churches, the clatter of hoofs and carriage wheels, the music of the bands, and the noise of the crowds created a cacophony of sounds. As a silver and glass carriage, harnessed to eight gray horses, slowly passed by, people fell to their knees. Inside, alone and erect, sat Emperor Alexander II.

Among the diplomats in Moscow for the coronation was England's Lord Granville. His report to Queen Victoria spoke of the tremendous expense of the coronation festivities, but more importantly he briefly assessed the new monarch and the condition of Russia. Like Professor Soloviev and Anna Tyutcheva, Granville believed that the new Emperor did not possess a strong character, nor did he seem to have the ability to choose able ministers. And due to the oppressive nature of the reign of Nicholas I, Granville thought that the easing of restrictions which was then occurring presented some danger for the new regime. On the future horizon, he believed, Socialism could pose a serious threat.

But on the morning of the coronation the sun shone brilliantly, and most Muscovites and visiting Russians from outside the city were in a joyous mood. Cheers, bells, cannons, and the Russian national hymn greeted the Emperor as he descended the famous Red Staircase of the Great Palace and moved toward the Assumption Cathedral. Under a royal canopy, Alexander walked erectly next to his wife whose eyes only approached the level of his shoulders. He was in uniform, and it was not difficult to see why many considered him a handsome man. He was a bit pale that day, but his sideburns curved around to meet his finely trimmed mustache and helped to give his face a regal appearance. The eyes of the Empress were downcast and she seemed withdrawn into her own inner world. Once inside the Assumption Cathedral, amidst its beautiful frescoes and icons, the ceremony continued for five hours. The Emperor's crowning of himself and his wife, as well as other aspects of the ceremony, symbolized the power of the Autocrat of the Russian Empire and the fact that he was responsible to no man, only to God. (See this link for the report of a Prussian general on the coronation.)

On the days following the ceremony the pageantry and celebrations continued. Fountains flowed with wine. Soldiers served food to the people and coronation souvenirs were distributed. At night fireworks illuminated the sky, and the Kremlin towers could be seen reflected in the Moscow river below. Dinners, receptions, and balls, where crinolined ladies danced mazurkas, polonaises, quadrilles, and waltzes with their uniformed partners, followed one after another.

In general the coronation ceremonies seem to have been a smashing success. The Crimean war was a thing of the past. The coronation symbolized a new beginning, and in that spirit Alexander granted numerous amnesties to prisoners and exiles. He also ended some past injustices--for example, the practice of drafting selected young Jewish boys, who were subsequently pressured to convert to Russian Orthodoxy. But despite the euphoria of the day, there was one small incident which bothered the Empress, and that occurred during the coronation ceremony. At some point after the Emperor had placed the crown on her head, it had fallen off. She told Anna Tyutcheva: "It is a sign I will not wear it long."3



While Alexander II was crowning himself in Moscow, far away in the in the Central Asian-Siberian border town of Semipalatinsk (present-day Seney) non-commissioned officer Fedor Dostoevsky was languishing. He was thirty-four, about 5'6" tall, with a pale freckled face and a receding hairline. He smoked much and had a throaty voice.

He was the son of a Moscow doctor, whose mysterious death in 1839 left a permanent mark on the young Fedor. Hearing that his father had been killed by his own serfs, it is likely that the young man held himself partly responsible: he was then a student at the Military Engineering Academy in St. Petersburg and repeatedly had requested money from his father, who was himself sliding towards impoverishment. Did not his requests contribute to his father's harsh demands on his serfs? Did they not indirectly help lead to the revenge thought to have been exacted by these peasants?1

Six difficult years later came Nekrasov's discovery of Dostoevsky's literary talent, and soon afterwards the publication of his first novel, Poor Folk. Subsequent events, however, soon deflated the spirits of this shy, awkward, nervous young man. (See this link for several photos of Dostoevsky, including ones  in 1847 and 1860.) Some of Dostoevsky's newly made friends, such as the more aristocratic Turgenev, began to tease and torment him because the success of Poor Folk had caused him to seem unduly vain. In addition, his new works failed to generate the enthusiasm of his first. Then he became involved with the Petrashevsky Circle. And his instincts for social justice, his hatred of serfdom (probably intensified by the circumstances of his father's death), and his utopian dreams for a golden age, all led him into trouble. Early one spring morning in 1849, Dostoevsky was awakened by a lieutenant colonel of the secret police and a local police official and led to a waiting carriage. He spent the next eight months surrounded by the damp, cold, and moldy walls of his cell in the Peter and Paul Fortress.

A few days before Christmas he was taken to Semenovsky Square. There, amidst fresh snow and the newly risen sun, he and others who had once been part of the Petrashevsky group heard their death sentences read out in a hasty and indistinct voice. "Retired Engineer-Lieutenant Fedor Dostoevsky, twenty-seven, for participation in criminal plans, for circulating a private letter that contained infamous expressions about the Russian Orthodox Church and Supreme Authority, and for an attempt to disseminate writing against the government by means of a hand printing press--to be put to death by the firing squad."2 Moments of agony followed as the first group of three were led forward, and he stood there in the second group. The troops assigned to this gruesome task loaded their muskets and took aim. But then came the deliberate last minute arrival of the Tsar's reprieve, and instead of death, Siberia, where several wives of those Decembrists exiled a quarter century earlier met him in transit and gave him a copy of the Gospels. Following four years of prison in Omsk, in that "House of the Dead" as he would later describe it, he was assigned to the 7th Siberian Battalion of the Line in Semipalatinsk, a city about 600 miles southeast and up the Irtysh River from Omsk. (See this link for a photo of  a Semipalatinsk bazaar.)

 It was a barren town of less than 10,000 inhabitants, even if one counted some 3,000 Tatars, Kirghiz, and other people of the steppe who lived on the western side of the Irtysh River. Its main section consisted of a long line of log houses and a few brick government and military structures, which were separated by a wide unpaved road from melon gardens along the eastern side of the Irtysh. Past the river and the Tatar village on the other side lay the treeless Kirghiz steppe. It stretched to the southwest for more than a thousand miles. Semipalatinsk was a military base from which troops could be dispatched to help keep the newly conquered, but still rebellious, Kirghiz in line. It was also a center for camel-caravaned and pack-horsed traders who departed and arrived from Chinese towns and also from cities like Bukhara and Tashkent, far to the southwest and not yet under Russian control. Sheep, horses, cattle, and animal skins from the steppe also entered and left the town. It contained one Orthodox church, one district school, one hospital, seven mosques, and many exotic shops. But there were no bookstores and no street lights. Mail came only once a week. Cards, gossip, and drinking helped the townspeople to pass their spare hours.

After first arriving in early 1854, Dostoevsky lived in the barracks with most of the other soldiers, but soon he was renting a low-ceilinged, one-room cottage in a dreary part of town. He also acquired a new friend. This was a twenty-two-year-old newly appointed public prosecutor from St. Petersburg, Baron Alexander Wrangel. He was familiar with Dostoevsky's writings and had been present five years earlier on the square where the writer thought he was to be executed. Wrangel was an intelligent, sympathetic young man who soon did all he could to help Dostoevsky. He brought the writer into the homes of Semipalatinsk's small Russian "elite," and during the extraordinarily hot summer of 1855, the men resided together at the dacha, or summer home, of a rich merchant. When Wrangel returned to St. Petersburg in February of the following year, he interceded with officials in an attempt to improve the career of his good friend.

Dostoevsky himself had tried to better his own fate by displaying his patriotism in three poems he had written since arriving in Semipalatinsk. The first, "On the European Events in 1854," criticized Russia's enemies and stated that "God is with us." The second, which he dedicated to the widow of the Tsar who had sent him to Siberia, spoke of her just deceased husband as one "who illuminated us like the sun." The third, in honor of Alexander's coronation, spoke of the new Tsar as the "source of all mercy."3 The poems were meant primarily for the eyes of high officials in the capital, and at least the second and third seem to have helped Dostoevsky improve his chances for an eventual pardon.

The poems were not as hypocritical as they might seem. Dostoevsky's Western-influenced utopian convictions had undergone a profound change since his arrest. At first in the prison at Omsk, the lonely writer observing the barbaric conduct of the common criminals had felt more isolated and cut off than ever. But he could not long stand this agony of isolation. Two experiences helped him to overcome it. The first was his participation one Easter week with these common prisoners at Orthodox Church services, and the second, occurring that same week, was a sudden long-forgotten recollection of the loving help one of his father's serfs had given him when he was nine years old. (Many years later Dostoevsky described this recollection in the short piece "Peasant Marey.") These two phenomena seem to have triggered in him an intense religious reawakening.

His vague religious beliefs, which had become amalgamated with his utopianism, were now replaced by a belief in the concrete Orthodox religion of the common man: the religion of Christ, of sin and suffering, of resurrection and redemption. And from this belief followed another: the only path for Russian intellectuals to follow was one that united them with the common people and their religious beliefs.

Yet, despite these beliefs, which he would adhere to for the remainder of his life, he did not completely abandon his earlier utopianism, but rather unconsciously merged it with his reawakened Orthodoxy. His youthful dream of creating a golden age would later be reborn in his hope that the Kingdom of God could be realized on earth. In general, his new faith was more optimistic and less fatalistic than that of the masses. He also remained much more concerned than most Church leaders about obtaining social justice and happiness for the masses on this earth, and not just in heaven. For these reasons, he never completely lost his sympathy for young people who dreamed of creating a more humane society.

Dostoevsky also shared the hopes of most educated society that Alexander II would be a great improvement over his father, that he would be a true reformer. After Wrangel wrote to him about the popularity of the new Tsar, Dostoevsky replied that the news greatly pleased him and that what was needed now was greater faith, unity, and love.

Shortly after Wrangel left Semipalatinsk, Dostoevsky sent him a letter to be given to the hero of Sevastopol and now aide-de-camp to the Tsar, General Totleben. The general's brother, Adolf, had been a classmate and friend of Dostoevsky's when they had studied engineering together in St. Petersburg. In the letter the ex-convict requested the general to ask the Tsar to release him from military service, allow him to leave Semipalatinsk, and permit him to once again publish his works. Totleben agreed to help. But the Tsar allowed only the promotion of Dostoevsky to the officer rank of ensign. Permission for him to publish was to be granted only after continued surveillance had established his political reliability.

Although Dostoevsky and many other writers hoped for much good from the new Emperor, he never would reciprocate their confidence. When still a Tsarevich, he had criticized intellectuals who thought they were "more intelligent than everyone else" and who believed "that they should be able to do as they want."4 For such false pride he had blamed foreign influences and some of Russia's professors. Later, a few years after becoming Tsar, he wrote to a friend: "I swear that I have never been greatly enamored of literary men in general, and in particular I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that they are a class of individuals with the most dangerous biases and hidden motives."5

The welcome news of Dostoevsky's promotion did not come until the fall of 1856. At the time of the August coronation, however, the exiled writer was a very unhappy man. Besides not being able to publish anything, he was in debt and his health was not good. He also missed his good friend Wrangel. Worst of all, he was in love with a woman five hundred miles away who, he feared, loved a younger rival who had the advantage of living in the same town with her.

The passion of his life at this time was Maria Isaeva. She was in her late twenties, of medium height, somewhat sickly, frail and thin, but capricious, high-strung, and strong willed. When Dostoevsky met her soon after arriving in Semipalatinsk she was married to a drunkard, who had lost his government position. She also had a seven-year-old son. Eventually an intimate relationship developed between the unhappy woman and the lonely writer who had been deprived of love for so long.

But then her husband found a new job in the distant town of Kuznetsk. When his wife left with him, Dostoevsky wept and became morbid. Nor did the death of her husband some months later greatly improve the writer's chances, for he was in no position to propose marriage. She herself was impoverished and unclear in her own mind as to her feelings about Dostoevsky or what she should do in the future. On a secret and unlawful trip to Kuznetsk several months before the coronation, the writer had met not only with Maria, but also with his young rival of twenty-four. He was a schoolteacher who, Dostoevsky had thought, had "seen nothing and knows nothing."6

Dostoevsky returned to Semipalatinsk in a state of nervous exhaustion. Several months passed, as did letters between Maria and Dostoevsky. She could not make up her mind, and Dostoevsky's health noticeably suffered from her indecision. Acquaintances found him on the verge of collapse.

Finally, after his promotion came, his odds with Maria shot up along with his salary and status. After another trip to Kuznetsk, he wrote to Wrangel in December that he hoped to be married before Lent of the following year.

Two months later, in February 1857, Dostoevsky and Maria were married at the Church of the Holy Guide in Kuznetsk. Only a few people were present including his rival, the young school teacher. On the way back to Semipalatinsk, the newlyweds stopped off in the town of Barnaul, where they visited a friend of the writer's, a well known geographer and expeditionist, Peter Semenov. While there Dostoevsky fell to the floor, moaning and convulsing in spasms. His new bride was terrified. The doctor who was summoned diagnosed epilepsy. Maria had not realized that her new husband was an epileptic, and despite previous nervous attacks, he claimed that he had not known it either. He said that previous doctors had assured him that such attacks were not "true epilepsy" and that they might cease under more tranquil conditions.

After resting and recovering the couple moved on to Semipalatinsk and into four rented rooms in a square wooden house. They remained in the town for a little over two years; her son was sent to a cadet school in Omsk. Dostoevsky found time to write and renewed some of his literary contacts. A friend wrote that Nekrasov and Panaev would send money to help him until he could write something for them. He also read all that he could. He regarded Turgenev's works very highly and thought his A Nest of the Landed Gentry, which appeared in The Contemporary in early 1859, "extraordinarily good."7 Meanwhile, the government finally allowed Dostoevsky himself to once again publish, and two of his stories and a novelette came out in Russian journals by the end of 1859. But before being published, his novelette, "The Village of Stepanchikovo," was all but rejected by a disappointed Nekrasov. In general his return to literature was hardly noticed by the critics.

Nor was his life with Maria a great success. They were both often ill. She was in the early stages of consumption, a disease that had also taken the writer's mother when he was fifteen. They were both often jealous without reason and seemed to derive a perverse pleasure from inflicting or receiving pain and suffering at the hands of the other. Years later Dostoevsky wrote to a friend that they "were definitely unhappy together," but the more unhappy they were the more they "became attached to one another."8

Finally, in March 1859, the Tsar permitted Dostoevsky to retire from the army and live anywhere but St. Petersburg or Moscow. The couple chose Tver, which was located between the two cities. But after several unhappy months there the writer, desperate to live in St. Petersburg, wrote to the Tsar: "Your Imperial majesty, upon You my entire fate, health, and life depend. Kindly permit me to go to St. Petersburg to seek the advice of the capital's doctors [for epilepsy]. Resurrect me and by restoring my health give me the opportunity to be of use to my family, and perhaps in some way or other to my fatherland."9 Dostoevsky sent this request to Alexander through the local governor, with whom he had become friendly. At the same time he once again wrote to General Totleben asking for his intercession.

Within a little over a month the Tsar responded favorably, but stipulated that even in the capital the writer was to be kept under surveillance. The Dostoevskys immediately planned their departure. In December 1859, almost exactly ten years after he had left the capital, he returned along with Maria and his stepson and was greeted at the train station by his brother Michael.



Two years before Dostoevsky arrived in Tver from Semipalatinsk, a prisoner arrived by sleigh at his family estate not far from that city. The prisoner was Michael Bakunin on his way to banishment in Siberia. (Numerous textual and visual materials on nineteenth-century Siberia are available at the Meetings of Frontiers Web Site.)

Premukhino was the name of the large Bakunin estate with its hundreds of serfs, and it was where Michael and his five brothers and four sisters had grown up. The family's big, one-storied, neo-classical house stood on a hill surrounded by woods and fields, and at the bottom of the hill was the river Osuga. After having to leave this estate to attend a military school in St. Petersburg when he was fourteen, Bakunin always remembered it fondly. (See this link for a chronology of Bakunin's life.)

While he was in prison, his father had died and long before that his sister Lyubov. But the rest of the family awaited him. How close Michael had once been to his sisters and brothers, especially his sisters, who were always falling in love with his friends! Bakunin's favorite, the blue-eyed Tatyana, had once loved Turgenev so ardently that she never really got over it. She was now in her early forties and still single.

When as a young man, Michael had returned home for a time from St. Petersburg or Moscow, he had often defied his parents and acted as a champion for his brothers, all younger than he, or for his sisters. He was then a curly-haired, rebellious youth who disapproved of what he considered the superfluous world of the nobility. Neither military life nor civilian government service appealed to him, nor did dances, balls, or drinking. Away from Premukhino he had been terribly lonely until he found within himself "something to fill the emptiness."1 That something was German Romantic Idealism. It enabled him to justify his withdrawal from a society he felt uncomfortable in and at the same time to convince himself that he was involved in a significant quest. It also brought him into close contact with a group of Moscow University students and other intellectuals who shared his enthusiasm for German thought. They included the radical Belinsky, Constantine Aksakov, and the future journalist and editor Michael Katkov. Like many other intellectuals of his generation, Bakunin spent many years living in a mental world far removed from the practical realities of everyday life. But in a more profound psychological sense than most of them, he never matured.

In the beginning of the 1840s, he studied in Berlin, where he shared quarters with his friend and fellow student Ivan Turgenev. At about the time Bakunin arrived in the Prussian capital, Karl Marx, who was the same age as Turgenev and Alexander II and four years younger than Bakunin, was just completing five years of study at the University of Berlin. And Bakunin's intellectual development in the forties, the decade in which he became a political revolutionary, would closely resemble that of Marx. (See this link for a picture of Bakunin in the 1840s.) Both Marx and Bakunin were strongly influenced by radical German interpreters of the philosopher Hegel and then by French socialists. In 1848-1849, with revolutions spreading across Europe, Bakunin took part in revolutionary or subversive activities in Paris and Prague, in Breslau and Berlin, and in Dresden, where he became friends with the composer Richard Wagner. He was finally arrested in 1849 in Chemnitz, not far from Dresden.

During the next two years Bakunin was twice sentenced to death, only to have the sentence commuted both times to life imprisonment, and then twice extradited to another country. He went from Saxon prisons to Austrian ones, and then to a cell in the Peter and Paul Fortress. He stayed there for three years until, fearing an English bombardment of the capital in 1854, the Russian government moved him to the Schlusselburg Prison on Lake Ladoga.

Now in 1857, after eight years in Saxon, Austrian, and Russian prisons and seventeen years since he had last been home, Bakunin was allowed to spend one day at Premukhino. The man who alighted under guard from his sleigh that March day had aged greatly. Prisons seemed to have deprived him of his teeth and some of his hair, but surprisingly recompensed him with additional pounds. But it was undoubtedly the passing years rather than prison cooking which accounted for the more ample Michael who now stood before them. Prison life also seemed to have aged his spirit; he no longer seemed the same fiery rebel.

While in prison, he had written a "Confession" to Tsar Nicholas, and less than a month before finding himself at Premukhino he had sent an effective plea to Alexander II in which he expressed regret and sorrow for his past behavior.

After a rather subdued day with his family, the next morning he said good-bye to them. He was never to see most of them again. He settled his large body into the sleigh and still under guard set out over the snow towards Siberia. After a brief stop in Omsk, where Dostoevsky had spent four years in prison, Bakunin continued further east to the city of Tomsk, where he was to spend his next two years.

Tomsk at this time was a flourishing Siberian commercial center of about 20,000 inhabitants. It was situated along the river Tom, a tributary of the Ob. With its unpaved streets, horse-drawn carriages and sleighs, and wooden houses, it had the look of many nineteenth century Russian provincial towns. But its very cold winters, its substantial mixture of Asiatic natives, and the rough, unrefined frontier look of some of its people all combined to indicate it was part of Siberia. While living there, Bakunin was restricted to a twenty-mile radius around the town, and the police kept him under surveillance. (See this link for a description of Tomsk by Perry Collins, an American who arrived in the city in December 1856.)

He did, however, renew some of his political efforts, encouraging, for example, the radical views of the young Siberian Grigory Potanin, who later (in 1865) was arrested and subsequently sentenced to hard labor for supporting the formation of an independent Siberia. To supplement the money sent from home, Bakunin taught French to the daughters of a Polish merchant. Although some historians have claimed that Bakunin was impotent and fled from sexual involvement, he was now nevertheless a lonely man in his early forties.2 He had also never minded admirers, male or female. One of the merchant's daughters, seventeen-year-old Antonia, seemed to be admiring enough, and Bakunin proposed marriage. The wedding took place in the fall of 1858.  (See this link for a photo of the couple several years later.)

One of the participants in the wedding was Nicholas Muraviev, the governor-general of Eastern Siberia (whose capital was Irkutsk). He was a famous and powerful man, capable of being dogmatic and dictatorial, but nevertheless with a reputation for advanced ideas. He was also Bakunin's second cousin. Five years older than Bakunin, he was a solid, energetic little man, with a well-kept mustache. By 1858, he had been governor-general for a decade, and earlier had fought against Shamil in the Caucasus. He was ambitious, confident, and hard-working. He had exercised boldness and initiative in opening up the Amur River area to Russian exploration and colonization. Just that summer, provincial Chinese officials had formally ceded to Russia the whole northern bank of the Amur when they agreed in Muraviev's presence to the Treaty of Aigun.

Even before this, Alexander II had recognized the worth of Muraviev when at time of the coronation he had promoted and decorated him. Following the Treaty of Aigun, the Tsar bestowed upon him the title of count and the honor of having Amursky affixed to his name. Although Alexander was a more cautious man than the bold Muraviev, he was as imperialistic as most Western rulers of his time. He was apparently won over by Muraviev's stress on the economic gains to be won by wresting control of the Amur from the Chinese and by his warnings of British penetration of the area if Russia did not move soon. Strapped with insufficient government revenues and a high foreign debt, Alexander was anxious to increase trade with China. In the past it had been a good market for Russian textiles and a source of tea, some of which Russia then resold to other European countries. But since the Opium War of 1839-1842 the British challenge to Russian trade had increased.

While in Moscow for the coronation, Muraviev also had the satisfaction of allowing his protégé, young Michael Volkonsky, to race to Irkutsk, the capital of Eastern Siberia, with the news that those Decembrists still in exile would now be allowed to leave Siberia. This was especially satisfying to both Muraviev and Volkonsky because Muraviev had befriended the parents of Michael, who were perhaps the most prominent Decembrist couple. Michael's mother had become a legend when as a young bride, this tall, dark-eyed princess had defied her parents and followed her husband to the Siberian mines in Nerchinsk, where some of the Decembrists were first assigned. Just a year before the amnesty she had returned to European Russia due to poor health. But prior to that, her home in Irkutsk had become a prominent gathering place for Decembrists and other friends. Her husband, Prince Volkonsky, had taken up farming and associating with peasants. Some were impressed by his kindness and simplicity of manner and dress, others just thought him eccentric.

Muraviev was proud of the support he and his French aristocratic wife gave to these Decembrists. After most of them departed, he was friendly for a time in Irkutsk with Petrashevsky, the exiled leader of the group that Dostoevsky had become involved with in the late forties. At parties in the white colonnaded governor's mansion, which the Americanophile Muraviev labeled the White House, he enjoyed espousing progressive views. (See the description of one such gathering in January 1857 by the American Perry Collins, who became a great admirer of Muraviev.) However, he could also be dogmatic and dictatorial when crossed or when it suited his purpose.

Thanks mainly to Muraviev's efforts, Bakunin's exile conditions were reduced, and in March 1859 Bakunin, Antonia, and her family moved to Irkutsk. There Muraviev arranged for them to live comfortably. In exchange, Bakunin performed some light tasks as an agent for an Amur trading company. Bakunin, however, never cared for a steady job of any kind, no matter how undemanding, and after about half a year he resigned. But his boss knew that Bakunin's patron was the powerful Muraviev, and for almost two years he continued to pay him a salary, plus furnishing his house. Bakunin gladly accepted the payments and for the next two years resided mainly in Irkutsk.

It was not a bad Siberian city. About the size of Tomsk, it struck a number of foreign visitors favorably. (See, for example, the description by Perry Collins.) It lay along the Angara river, not far from Lake Baikal, and possessed very fine churches and buildings and a hospitable population. Under Muraviev and with the aid of political exiles, whom he treated favorably, it maintained more of an intellectual and cultural atmosphere than one might expect in a Siberian town thousands of miles from Moscow.

Rather than becoming close to fellow exiles still in Irkutsk, Bakunin gravitated toward Muraviev and some of those around him. More significantly, he not only defended Muraviev, whom the émigré radical Herzen had criticized in his journal, The Bell, but wrote to Herzen and others in glowing terms about his cousin. Bakunin referred to him as the "sun of Siberia," the "savior of Russia," "a firm democrat," and a "revolutionary" who was in favor of freeing the serfs, abolishing the class structure, and allowing a jury system and freedom of the press.3 He indicated that in the beginning Muraviev would carry out these policies not by relying on a constitution or parliament but by establishing a temporary, rational dictatorship. Further, he could then be a focal point for Slavs everywhere, whom he would help liberate from the hated Austrians and Turks. In his earlier prison "Confession," Bakunin suggested a somewhat similar role for Tsar Nicholas. Bakunin believed that his ultimate goals had never changed, just the means of bringing them about. An enlightened dictator, Nicholas if he could have been persuaded, or now Muraviev, could be the new means of creating the good society.

As improbable as these hopes were, they were psychologically important to Bakunin. They reflected his desire to overcome a lingering sense of impotence and separation. Like Dostoevsky, but with a more exaggerated sense of self-importance, he thirsted to end his exile and to make his contribution to society. But only on his own terms. What better way then than to become a sort of ideological guru to a charismatic man of power. Bakunin's hopes for an enlightened dictator were also a reflection of the simple, almost patriarchal nature of the Russian state. Children of well-to-do nobles such as Bakunin were brought up on estates where their fathers ruled like little tsars. Not only did many of these nobles know individuals who had access to the Tsar or a member of his family, but when they got in political trouble the Tsar himself sometimes became involved. Nicholas I had sent his chief aide-de-camp to Bakunin's cell in the Peter and Paul Fortress with the request that the prisoner write a full confession to the Tsar as if he were a spiritual father. And when Bakunin complied, Nicholas read the document carefully. Educated Russians might read about parliaments and congresses, about representative governments, constitutions, and due process of law, but most of them had experience only with their own form of government. They might criticize the way it operated, they might hope for a more enlightened ruler, they might even advocate an end to the autocratic form of government, but few of them were capable of envisioning in any concrete sense how some other form of government might exist in the Russian Empire. It was just this condition which helps to explain the frequent letters of advice and appeal to the Tsar and the illusory hopes that many intellectuals, for greater or shorter periods of time, placed in him. He was after all the only concrete hope many of them could envision. And if radicals concluded he had to go, nothing was easier to imagine than a temporary dictatorship, as Bakunin suggested for Muraviev.

Bakunin's enthusiasm for Muraviev, however, was also influenced by the governor-general's willingness to help him. After arriving in Irkutsk, Bakunin was allowed to travel to other Siberian cities such as Krasnoyarsk and Kyakhta. And both Bakunin and Muraviev hoped that come the spring of 1861, Bakunin would be allowed to return to European Russia. But for a variety of reasons, including his health, Muraviev resigned. By spring 1861, his former deputy, Korsakov, had taken over his post. Bakunin now saw his chances of obtaining permission to leave Siberia fading along with Muraviev's departure.

Although Bakunin's relations with Korsakov were not as cordial as with Muraviev, the new governor-general's cousin had just married Bakunin's brother Paul. When Bakunin asked for permission to travel on the Amur, Korsakov gave it to him. He also provided him with a letter requesting that ships on the Amur grant him passage. Bakunin's stated reason for wanting to travel was to act as a commercial business agent. His real reason was to escape from Siberia. In mid 1861, he said good-bye to his wife, Antonia, and headed for the Amur. At Kyakhta he received advances from several merchants. He then headed on toward the river's mouth at Nikolaevsk, where it emptied into the Tatar Strait, opposite the northern end of the island of Sakhalin. He arrived there four weeks after leaving Irkutsk. Legally, he could go no further. But luck and daring were on his side. After a couple of close calls, he made his way via a Russian and then an American ship to Yokahama, Japan, which due to America's Commodore Perry had recently been "opened" to foreign trade. Two weeks later Bakunin was on board the S.S. Carrington headed for San Francisco. (A few years earlier the American Collins had visited Nikolaevsk and then gone on to Japan.  See pp. 306-340 of his account.)



At about the time Bakunin and Muraviev first met in Tomsk in late 1858, forty-year-old Peter Perovsky was in a country where the Emperor, residing in his Forbidden City, considered himself the son of Heaven and still surrounded himself with concubines and eunuchs. Perovsky was in Peking, and he was negotiating with the Chinese. He had been with Muraviev earlier in the year at Aigun on the Amur when the Russians had pressured Chinese officials to agree to Russia's Amur gains.

Between the Muravievs and the Perovskys, two important Russian clans, interesting relations had existed in the past and would continue in the future. The Muravievs were an outstanding example of how relatives in Russia were often on opposite sides of the political fence. Not only was the mother of the radical Bakunin a Muraviev, but in 1825 several Muravievs were implicated in the Decembrist revolt. On the other hand, even more Muravievs were important generals or officials. One of these, Michael Muraviev, who was now Minister of State Properties, once summed up the diversity nicely when he stated that he was "not one of the Muravyovs [Muravievs] who get hanged, but one of those who do the hanging."1

The first Perovskys were a notable group and were children of Alexei Razumovsky, a Minister of Education under Catherine II, and his mistress Maria Sobolevskaya. Under Imperial Order the children were legitimized and given the name Perovsky. Vasily and Lev, both born in the early 1790s, became the most famous. They took part in the wars against Napoleon and were influenced by the post-war reformist hopes that led some to the Decembrist conspiracy. But the two brothers stopped short of such radicalism, and by 1825 Vasily was an aide to the Tsar and stood with Nicholas I facing the revolting troops on the Senate Square on that cold December afternoon when the Tsar finally turned his cannon on them. Vasily later served as governor-general of Orenburg, from where he directed Russian advances into Central Asia. Lev became Minister of Interior under Nicholas and established a reputation as an efficient administrator who was not afraid to hire and encourage young men of talent. Nicholas Muraviev, the future conqueror of the Amur, was one such man who served under him, and Lev Perovsky eventually helped him to obtain his post as governor-general of Eastern Siberia. Both of these Perovsky brothers were strong supporters of Russia's advance along the Amur.

Peter Perovsky, negotiating in Peking, was the nephew of these two Perovskys. His father and their brother was a lesser public figure, but he had once been a governor in the Crimea. All three of these brothers had died in the space of a few years, Peter's father being the last to go in the month before his son accompanied Muraviev at Aigun.

Perovsky's main task in Peking was to see that the Chinese Emperor now ratified two treaties which his subordinates had signed with Russia, first at Aigun and then at Tientsin. The latter had resulted from military intervention by Great Britain and France, as well as diplomatic pressure applied by them and the United States and Russia. At Tientsin, Chinese officials had signed treaties with all four countries. They agreed to open more ports, to permit diplomatic legations in Peking, and to open the interior of China to trade and missionaries.

In addition, Muraviev bombarded Perovsky with mail suggesting additional concessions for which he should press. Although Perovsky was supposed to take his orders from Foreign Minister Gorchakov and not Muraviev, a fact that the latter resented, Muraviev knew from experience that a lengthy distance from St. Petersburg allowed for some flexibility in negotiations. He hoped to influence Perovsky by his friendship.

It was not that there was any significant discrepancy between the goals of Muraviev and the Tsar or Gorchakov. Nevertheless, the latter two were more cautious men than the bold Muraviev, and more concerned with potential British and French reactions to Russian policies.

Perovsky's efforts in Peking did not go smoothly. There were reports and complaints that he visited taverns and brothels and allowed the small group of Cossacks who had accompanied him to act in a disorderly manner. One Chinese official even suggested he should be executed if the Russians' behavior did not improve. On one occasion some Chinese standing on one of the city's walls threw stones at him as he rode through the Ch'ung-wen Gate--when Perovsky complained, he was promised that if his men behaved properly, Russians would not be mistreated in the streets. [For nineteenth-century images of two other Peking gates, see the Tianamen (or Celestial) Gate and West Gate.]

More importantly, however, the Chinese Emperor displayed little enthusiasm for ratifying either of the two treaties signed with the Russians. And further Muraviev incursions, this time into the Ussuri district, only reinforced Chinese hostility toward the Russians. Nevertheless, faced not only by pressures from the foreign powers, but also with a rebellion led by a man who claimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ, the young Chinese Emperor finally conceded and ratified the Treaty of Tientsin in April of 1859.

Unfortunately for Perovsky, however, his government had already decided to replace him with Count Nicholas Ignatiev, who although only twenty-six was already a major-general. He had served as a military agent in London and led a successful diplomatic mission to Khiva and Bukhara, two parts of Central Asia that Alexander II would later bring under Russian control. At about the time the Chinese finally ratified the Treaty of Tientsin, General Ignatiev arrived in Irkutsk, where he impressed the radical Bakunin as well as Muraviev. He and Muraviev were soon on warm terms. Both were bold, dynamic men and expansionists who especially resented British attempts to limit Russian expansion. Muraviev had grown dissatisfied with Perovsky's progress and had high hopes that Ignatiev could be more effective. After traveling from Irkutsk to Peking, Ignatiev was met on the outskirts of town by Perovsky and his men and escorted Chinese style in a sedan chair to his residence, a hostel of the Russian Orthodox Church near the Chien Men Gate. Three days later, at the end of June, Perovsky left for Russia.

Ignatiev remained in China for better than a year. He cleverly played off the English and French against the Chinese and even against each other, all to the benefit of Russia. When English and French troops entered Peking, the Chinese turned to Ignatiev asking for his help in lessening British and French demands. He stated that in exchange for his help he would expect Russian demands on China to be met. While getting no firm promises from the Chinese, Ignatiev did manage to gain a few minor concessions for China from the two Western powers before they signed treaties with China in October. The following month after wily negotiating and occasional threats, Ignatiev obtained Chinese acceptance of Russia's most pressing desires. By the Treaty of Peking, the earlier gains of Aigun were recognized and Russia received the large area east of the Ussuri and Amur rivers.

The treaties of Aigun and Peking added to the vast Russian Empire territories the size of France and Germany combined. And this feat was carried out in part by outmaneuvering Great Britain, sweet revenge it would seem following the bitter conclusion of the Crimean War. The Tsar decorated General Ignatiev for his efforts and made him head of the Foreign Ministry's Asiatic Department.

Alexander II, however, received little credit for this triumph. Characteristic was the  attitude of Prince Kropotkin, a former page to the Tsar who came to Irkutsk in 1862. He later wrote that the gains at the expense of the Chinese had been won by Count Muraviev "almost against the will of the St. Petersburg authorities and certainly without much help from them."2 The remarks of Kropotkin, a future revolutionary, suggest that Alexander followed the leadership of Muraviev rather than vice versa, and that the Tsar's ministers and generals lacked a firm sense of direction. This would not be the first nor the last time that Alexander was perceived in such a manner, but various evidence, including the Tsar's correspondence with Grand Duke Constantine and General Baryatinsky in the Caucasus, indicates that Kropotkin underestimated Alexander's intentions and determination to expand his empire.

The attitude of the Russian public toward the Amur gains was more complex.  On the one hand, there were  many educated Russians of various political hues who were enthusiastic about these advances.  Supporters ranged from anti-Western nationalists such as Pogodin to radicals such as Bakunin and Herzen. Coming shortly after the Crimean defeat, the gains helped assuage that humiliation to national pride.  Many Russians were in favor of both reform and expansion, especially in Asia, where they could believe they were furthering the advance of civilization.  The attitude of the idealistic Kropotkin, who decided after graduation from the Corps of Pages to serve in Siberia, is illustrative of such a viewpoint.  He recalled in his memoirs that "the Amur region had recently been annexed by Russia; I had read all about that Mississippi of the East .... I  reasoned, there is in Siberia an immense field for the application of the great reforms which have been made or are  coming."  Not only was Muraviev known as an Americanophile, but the radical Alexander Herzen agreed with Muraviev and Bakunin that Amur acquisitions could be first steps in bringing Russia closer to the American republic across the Pacific.3

On the other hand, the educated public around 1860 was more concerned  with internal questions, especially the fate of serfdom, than with the remote and sparsely populated areas along the Chinese border. And imperialistic rivalries had not whetted the appetite of public opinion to the extent they would later in the century, both in Russia and in the West. Michael Pogodin, perhaps exaggerating a bit, complained in 1859 that the public seemed more concerned with the battles going on to unify Italy and even with Tunisia--where the government had recently granted its people a constitution--than they were with the triumphs of Baryatinsky in the Caucasus and Muraviev in Siberia.4

Although Ignatiev was rewarded, Peter Perovsky by his relative failure had missed an important opportunity to further his career. He had an older brother, however, who still hoped to become an important figure in Alexander's bureaucracy. He too had not long before assisted a Muraviev, in fact the brother of the Siberian governor-general. This was when in the late 1850s Valerian Muraviev was the governor of Pskov and Perovsky was his vice governor. By the time Ignatiev had left Peking, Lev Perovsky had gotten himself transferred to the Crimea, where he was now the vice governor of Simferopol and of the Tavrichevsky Province. Decades before his father had been governor there and after his death, when Lev went to the Crimea to settle his inheritance, he had decided the family's standing in the area might prove helpful to his career. After Peter left China, he visited his brother at Kilburn, the family estate where his mother still resided near Simferopol. There Peter entertained his nieces and nephews with tales of exotic China. Kilburn was an appropriately romantic setting for such romantic stories. From the windows of the manor house one could look down at the Salgir River running through the valley below or look up and see, over a line of smaller mountains, the towering Chatir Dag (Tent Mountain).

The youngest of the four children was Sophia, born a year and a half before the start of Alexander's reign. She had bluish-gray eyes, and she already resembled her father with her small face, high forehead, and weak chin. But for some reason she was able to avoid the sneaky, mouse-like look that characterized her father's features. Her earliest memories were of her life in Pskov. She remembered their home there with a mezzanine and a big, neglected garden with a pool where the children sledded and skated in the winter. She also recalled a swing in the garden and how they climbed trees and battled with wooden swords in the summer. And she remembered, as did one of her brothers, the occasion on which Kolya Muraviev, the governor's son, who was three years older than she, had almost drowned. Along with one of her brothers and her sister, Sophia was over in his garden, which was divided from theirs by a wooden fence. In the garden he also had a pond, and they were out on a raft in the middle of the pond when Kolya fell into the water. Sophia recalled that his governess had just panicked and cried and shouted at the edge of the pond, but the Perovsky children had pulled him out of the water and onto the raft. Years later the fates of Sophia and Kolya Muraviev would once again intertwine in a dramatic setting, only this time the drama would revolve around Tsar Alexander II.



During the late 1850s, Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev lived like the wealthy nobles they were. Turgenev owned a few thousand serfs, more than ninety-nine percent of the nobles in Russia, and even Tolstoy, with his few hundred, had more than did at least eighty percent of the nobles. Thus, they could afford, as only a small percentage of their class could, to divide their time between their estates, stays in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and travel abroad. They also tried to keep up with the latest news regarding plans for the emancipation of the serfs, a goal with which both men were more sympathetic than were most nobles.

Tolstoy had several properties, but the chief one was Yasnaya Polyana which had once belonged to his maternal grandfather, Prince Nicholas Volkonsky. Tolstoy had been born there in a big columned house, which was later sold and dismantled to pay for his gambling debts. The estate was a hundred and thirty miles south of Moscow and consisted of about 3000 acres. The house where Tolstoy now lived had once been one of two smaller buildings on either side of the larger home. It was surrounded by woods and fields, birch and lime alleys, ponds and plants, flowers and fruit trees. It also contained huts for his serfs and their families and, near the edge of the estate, the small Voronka River, where a bathhouse stood. At night one could hear the frogs and nightingales. The still unmarried Tolstoy lived here with his old Aunt Toinette, who had helped raise him after the death of his mother. Numerous servants and at times relatives also helped fill the house.

After returning to his estate in 1856, he attempted to improve the conditions of his serfs. But the age-old distrust of peasants for their masters led them to suspect that he was trying to trick them. Their response disheartened and alarmed him. He feared that if the Tsar did not soon emancipate the serfs, they would rise up in massive revolt.

During this same period, he contemplated marriage with the twenty-two-year-old daughter of a local landowner. But after considerable agonizing, he decided she was not for him. Partly to escape local criticism, he left early in 1857 for a long-intended trip to Western Europe.

His first stay was in Paris, where he met Turgenev and Nekrasov, both of whom where moping about and complaining. Turgenev was then suffering from a painful disease of the bladder, but perhaps more distressing to him was Pauline Viardot's lack of attention. It was primarily to see her, whom he had not seen since prior to the Crimean War, that he had come to France. The relationship of this graying Russian writer and this intelligent, cultured, Spanish-blooded opera singer was certainly a strange one. She was dark-complected, with big dark eyes and a large mouth with dazzling white teeth. Not beautiful, she nevertheless possessed an exotic appeal, especially on stage, and she attracted many men. She was just a few years younger than Turgenev, but married to a French writer and former director of opera who was twenty-one years her senior. They now had three daughters, and Pauline was once again pregnant. There would later be rumors that the baby born that summer, a boy named Paul, was Turgenev's. But whatever intimacies Pauline had allowed years earlier--and nobody knows for certain what they were--Turgenev now seemed relegated to the role of a close family friend. Yet he still loved her so much that he told Nekrasov that he was "ready upon her command to dance on the roof, stark naked, and painted yellow."1 He also made another unusual confession a short time earlier when he told the poet Fet that he was under Pauline's thumb and that he was only blissfully happy when a woman stomped her heel on his neck and pressed his nose into the dirt. To this lonely bachelor who complained that he was growing old without building himself a "nest," sadistic attention seemed better than little or none at all.

But if Turgenev was without a wife or lover, he was not without a child. Another, but less compelling, reason for his trip to France was to visit his daughter Paulinette. She had been born fourteen years before as a result of a brief liaison with one of his mother's seamstresses. Such affairs were not unusual for noblemen like Turgenev. Nor was generally ignoring one's illegitimate offspring, as he did the first eight years of her life. Then, however, his conscience pricked him and he sent her to France, where Pauline had agreed to look after her. When Tolstoy arrived in Paris she was going to school and living with her father and her governess on the Rue de Rivoli.

Like Turgenev, Nekrasov also had been having problems with his health and his love life. He had left Russia in the late summer of 1856 to consult a Viennese doctor and to meet his mistress Avdotya Panaeva, who had earlier gone abroad. In subsequent months, mostly spent in Rome, his health slowly began to improve. He also received the good news that a book of his poems which had just appeared was selling better than any poet's since Pushkin's. On the other hand, however, his life together with Panaeva began to deteriorate. The month before Tolstoy's arrival in the French capital, Nekrasov had decided he no longer needed her and had left Rome to come to Paris.

After arriving in late February 1857, Tolstoy remained in Paris for most of the next six weeks. Nekrasov soon returned to Rome, but Tolstoy saw more of Turgenev than anyone else and settled into a pension on the same street as the older writer's, which was across from the Tuileries Gardens. The relationship between the two continued to be as ambivalent as it had been in St. Petersburg. While they admired each other's talent and at times got along well, they also each found fault with the other's personality. Tolstoy thought that Turgenev's chief problem was that he didn't believe in anything; Turgenev found Tolstoy too stubborn and mercurial to tolerate for very long.

During most of his stay, Tolstoy's impressions of Paris were favorable. Like his government, which was then improving its relations with its Crimean War enemy, Tolstoy bore little resentment against the French. Even though the enemies of the French emperor, Louis Napoleon, complained of his despotism, Tolstoy found the social freedoms enjoyed in France the main cause of its charm. He also enjoyed the usual tourist attractions. One day he would go to Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, or the Louvre, the next to Versailles or Fontainebleau. Or he would cross the Seine to hear lectures at the Sorbonne or visit the Cluny Museum. In the evenings he went along the gas-lit streets to concerts, operas, plays, or the theater of Offenbach for some light music. Although he did enjoy the French cafes and apparently a few brief encounters with French prostitutes, he spent most of his social hours with other Russians who were then staying in Paris.

In this period when money-making absorbed Parisians as perhaps never before, Tolstoy did criticize the Bourse, the Paris stock exchange. He shared the prejudice towards Western capitalism of many Russian intellectuals who saw only the numerous glaring defects of its early stages. But the future author of War and Peace reserved his strongest criticism for the Invalides, the tomb and monument of Napoleon Bonaparte. This conqueror's glorification, plus some disabled veterans Tolstoy saw on the way out, led him to the reflection that soldiers were "animals trained to bite."2  Such complaints, however, were far outnumbered by more positive feelings for the city. At least until the sixth of April.

On that day Tolstoy witnessed an event that would transform his favorable impressions and leave a permanent impression on him. He saw a criminal's head severed from his body by means of the guillotine. It occurred early one morning after a crowd of some twelve to fifteen thousand people, including women and children, had slowly gathered during the pre-dawn hours. The nearby cafes had done a booming business throughout the night. The prisoner, a man named Francois Richeux, was brought out on the square in front of the jail where a portable guillotine had been set up. He had a thick, healthy-looking, white neck and chest. A priest accompanied him until he was turned over to the executioner and his machine. Richeux's body stretched out on a board, and seconds later his bloody head was in a basket.

That same day Tolstoy wrote to a friend that the executioner had made an impression on him he would not soon forget. He had seen many things during his experience as a soldier, but nothing as revolting as the work of "this ingenious and elegant machine."3  The cold, calculating, passionless nature of the execution, supposedly for the sake of justice and morality, troubled him deeply. He concluded that man-made laws and the governments behind them were shams, devices for exploiting and corrupting people. Tolstoy went on to relate that a plot had recently been discovered to assassinate Napoleon III, that arrests had been made, that more deaths would follow, but that he, Tolstoy, would never again witness such an execution or serve any government anywhere.

Tolstoy's hostility to the behavior of governments foreshadows here some of his later more developed ideas. But his thinking was still hazy. He was more of a moralist than a political thinker. And although the laws of politics all seemed horrible lies to him and he was privately critical of autocracy, he wasn't yet sure how societies should organize themselves politically.

Turgenev did not accompany Tolstoy to see the guillotine and French justice do its work, but years later he would also write a horrifying account of a similar occurrence when a man named Tropman was executed. The night after Richeux's death, Tolstoy had trouble going to sleep. Two days later, after he tearfully said good-bye to Turgenev, he left Paris.

Tolstoy traveled to Geneva, first by train and then by stagecoach. He would never be very fond of the former. After arriving in the Swiss city he wrote that "the railway is to travelling what the brothel is to love--just as convenient, but just as inhumanely mechanical and deadly monotonous."4 He spent the next few months in Switzerland, including some time at a pension in Clarens. It was in this village that Rousseau had written La Nouvelle Heloise. As a young man Tolstoy had worn a medallion of Rousseau around his neck, and staying at this spot which looked out on Lake Geneva and the mountains beyond moved him deeply. During these months he saw a good deal of Alexandra Tolstoy. He jokingly called her "granny," but she was actually the daughter of his grandfather's brother. For more than a decade she had been a maid of honor to the Grand Duchess Maria, a daughter of Nicholas I. Although she was eleven years older than Tolstoy, he was strongly attracted to her. She was an intelligent and religious woman with beautiful gray eyes, a serene smile, and a lovely low voice. If only she were younger, he thought.

Before returning to Russia, Tolstoy stopped at one of the Russian nobility's favorite spas, Baden-Baden. It was as famous for its gambling tables as for its mineral waters. Russian nobles were known for their improvident ways, and Tolstoy lived up to the tradition. He lost all his money in the casino, and Turgenev, who was not too far away at another German spa, came to his rescue with a loan. And when he promptly lost that, Turgenev helped arrange another loan for him so that he could get back to Russia.

He spent most of the next year at Yasnaya Polyana, but was also frequently in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the two cities talk of emancipating the serfs bombarded his ears. By the end of 1857, Alexander II with a surprising show of determination had made clear his desire to accelerate the planning of emancipation. And he had established a committee to oversee preparations for this complex social transformation.

In late December of that year, Tolstoy attended a dinner at the Moscow Merchant's Club, where the Sevastopol defenders had earlier been toasted. The reason for this gathering was to demonstrate the solidarity of intellectuals with the Tsar's aim of ending serfdom. Two of the men most responsible for organizing it were the St. Petersburg liberal Constantine Kavelin and the Moscow editor of The Russian Messenger, Michael Katkov.

Possessing little tolerance of practical political questions unless approached from an ethical viewpoint, Tolstoy was privately critical of most of the banquet speeches for not focusing enough on the moral issue of serfdom.

Shortly after the banquet, he wrote to a friend that he was "tired of talk, arguments, speeches," and he proposed beginning a journal devoted to artistic enjoyment. It could be an island of truth and beauty amidst a world of sordid politics. He included with the letter a revealing sketch of a dream. In it he was mesmerizing an enormous crowd until he sensed a woman behind him and felt ashamed of his orating. He added that he didn't know if the woman was a "first vanished dream of love or a late memory of my mother's love--I only know that she had everything, and....I couldn't live without her."5

Tolstoy's own relationship to his peasants reflected a combination of sympathy for their misfortunes and vestiges of the ingrained habits of a master. In May of 1858, as Yasnaya Polyana came alive with greenery and the smells of spring, Tolstoy arranged a rendezvous in the woods with a big-breasted, bronze-skinned peasant woman named Aksinya. He wrote in his diary that he "was in love as never before" and could think of nothing else.6 Although she was married, Tolstoy made love to her often, and eventually she had a son by him.

On occasion Tolstoy also worked with his peasants. He had always been fond of physical exercise, and when in Moscow or Petersburg he would often work out at a gymnasium. But plowing or scything filled an even deeper psychological need in him. It was related to his admiration of Rousseau and his desire to lead the good, simple life.

Since publishing his first two Sevastopol sketches, Tolstoy had seen a final one published. Youth, the third part of a trilogy based upon his early years, and several short works had also appeared. Now he was working on a couple of longer works, which would eventually appear under the titles Family Happiness and The Cossacks. In general, however, his literary work was not creating the excitement it once had, and he himself was beginning to wonder if the times were any longer favorable for his type of talent. Under the influence of critics such as Chernyshevsky, literature with more of a political slant than Tolstoy's was now in vogue. He was glad that he had not followed Turgenev's advice to devote himself completely to his writing.

Turgenev was exasperated with Tolstoy's ambivalence towards a full-time writing career. He wrote to him and, only partly in jest, said he could not figure out what he was if not a writer. Was he an "officer, landowner, philosopher, founder of a new religious doctrine, government official or businessman?"7

Turgenev had written from Rome. He himself was not writing much while abroad. He still suffered from a bladder disease, and from Rome he went to Florence, Venice, and Vienna, where like Nekrasov he consulted a famous physician. After a brief stay in Dresden, he went to Leipzig just to see Pauline, who was performing there. Then back to Paris, over to London to see Herzen, back again to Paris, and finally on to Russia. By June 1858, he was once again at his estate, Spasskoe.

This was just one of the many properties his mother had left him upon her death almost a decade before. With its thousands of acres, Spasskoe contained some thirty acres of garden and park. An ardent lover of nature, Turgenev seemed happy to be back on this estate of lime, birch, and oak trees, of lilac and honeysuckle bushes, of orchards, meadows, and ponds, and of the birds he loved--the turtledoves, orioles, finches, thrushes, cuckoos, and woodpeckers.

Like many country gentlemen, Turgenev was a passionate hunter. On his estate woodcocks, grouse, rabbits, snipe, partridges, and wild ducks were plentiful. He could not, however, match Tolstoy's hunting story for that year, for before the year was out Tolstoy would be clawed by a wounded bear. The short, heavy-set poet Fet was with Tolstoy on that occasion. Fet also lived not far from Turgenev, and the poet often visited him at Spasskoe. Turgenev and Tolstoy both overlooked Fet's conservative and at times eccentric views. He opposed the emancipation of the serfs, and during one period of his life he used to put down a window of his carriage when passing by Moscow University in order to spit contemptuously in its direction. When Fet came to Spasskoe, Turgenev and he hunted together, and Fet later recounted how fond Turgenev was of a hunting dog called Boubou. She slept in his room at night under a quilt, and if it came off she would nudge Turgenev until he got up and placed it back on her. Turgenev was perhaps even more fond of her mother, Diane. When Diane died at the end of that summer, Turgenev buried her and cried.

Turgenev's memories of his past life at Spasskoe were strongly connected with images of his mother. She had been a cruel, domineering, possessive, and sadistic woman, who mistreated her serfs and frequently tormented Ivan, even though he was her favorite of the three children. His later propensity for mixing love and suffering, seen especially in his relationship to Pauline Viardot, owed not a little to the strange relationship that his mother imposed upon him.

Although like Tolstoy, Turgenev had once had a peasant mistress, his own attitude toward his serfs was much more enlightened than that of his mother. While in Rome, he had frequently conversed with Russian supporters of emancipation, including the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna. This aunt of the Tsar, with the help of Constantine Kavelin and his friend Nicholas Milyutin, had just about completed a plan for emancipating the serfs on her own estate of Karlovka. Along with several others, Turgenev contemplated publishing a journal which would provide a forum for the discussion of various approaches to the emancipation. Although nothing came of the project, Turgenev left for home with the firm intention of quickly improving the lot of his own serfs. He soon did so by allowing them to pay rent for the land they farmed instead of paying him by means of laboring on land from which he kept all the profits. He figured that the new arrangement cost him about a quarter of his estate income. Feeling better than he had in some time, Turgenev spent part of the summer and fall working on a novel in his study, where his desk sat under a window looking out on an alley of lime trees. When the work,A Nest of the Landed Gentry, was published early the following year it would receive wide acclaim. And it would reveal Turgenev at his lyrical best. In it Turgenev painted such poetic scenes as the following:

The tall reddish reeds rustled softly around them; before them the still water gleamed quietly, and softly they spoke. Liza stood on a small raft; Lavretsky sat on the bent trunk of a willow tree; Liza wore a white dress, tied at the waist, with a wide, white ribbon; her straw hat dangled in one hand, in the other with some effort she was holding up the bent fishing rod. Lavretsky gazed at her pure, serious profile, at her hair drawn back behind her ears, at her tender cheeks...and thought: `Oh how sweet you are, standing by my pond!' Liza did not turn towards him, but looked at the water either squinting or smiling. The shadow of a nearby lime tree fell upon them.8

As in many of Turgenev's short works of the mid and late fifties, the novel was nostalgic about youth and love. Although in that summer Turgenev was only thirty-nine, he often lamented the aging process; and indeed, the gray on his head and in his beard was relentlessly taking over from the brown. It was as if his disposition and appearance had conspired to age him prematurely.

Spasskoe was only some seventy miles southwest of Tolstoy's estate and so in June, Turgenev visited Yasnaya Polyana for a couple of days. His host read to him a short story he had completed called "Three Deaths." In it Tolstoy contrasted the deaths of a peasant and a tree with those of a woman of the nobility. The first two died simple, beautiful deaths in keeping with the natural order, but the woman, despite her professed Christianity, feared death and died in a pitiful manner. Years earlier in a sketch called "Death," Turgenev had also written of the peasants' ability to die a natural and peaceful death. But the attitude of Turgenev himself towards death was more like that expressed by the narrator of his "The Diary of a Superfluous Man," which he finished at the beginning of the fifties: "I am terrified. Half bent over the silent, yawning abyss, I shudder and turn aside."9 As a hypochondriac and more morbid personality than Tolstoy, such thoughts as these tended now to trouble Turgenev more than they did the younger Tolstoy.

A little later in the month Turgenev went to Pirogovo, not far from Yasnaya Polyana, in order to visit Tolstoy's sister Maria and two of the other Tolstoy brothers, Nicholas and Sergei. Turgenev had come to know and like both Nicholas and Maria shortly before he had met Leo. At Pirogovo both Maria and Sergei possessed estates, divided from each other by a wide, deep river. Sergei had been living at Pirogovo with his gypsy mistress for almost two decades. Maria and her three children had returned to Pirogovo only recently after she separated from her husband.

Maria was two years younger than her famous brother, and shortly after fist meeting her, Turgenev had become infatuated with this young married woman. Despite his love for Pauline Viardot, Turgenev often developed close attachments to other women. He was very susceptible to feminine charm and to "affairs of the heart." Catching sight of a loved one walking in the garden with a long white dress and a parasol, seeing her blush, touching her hand, exchanging a brief kiss, Turgenev was a connoisseur of such moments. The sexual act itself was not as important to him as it was to the lusty Leo Tolstoy. And if a woman were married, or if there was a rival, it seemed to add an extra dimension to the romance.

Turgenev found Maria to be an intelligent, good, and very attractive woman. He also was moved by her simplicity and her open, honest nature. She had large, dark, radiant eyes, dark hair, and a youthful face, more sweet than beautiful. She usually spoke in a calm, even tone. She played the piano well--considerably better than Leo, who had once played for his fellow officers in Sevastopol--and on previous occasions when Turgenev had ridden over in his open carriage to visit her and her husband at their Pokrovskoe estate, she had played for him. Turgenev, like Maria and Leo, loved music. At times Turgenev with his thin, high voice would sing, his hand on her shoulder, as she played. Although he did not sing well, he felt deeply as he sang such songs as that of Glinka, put to the words of Pushkin:

I remember the wonderful moment:

You appeared before me,

Like a fleeting vision,

Like a spirit of pure beauty.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Years passed. The storms turbulent gust

Scattered former dreams.10

While loving music, Maria did not care to read poetry. She thought it was unrealistic. Religion, however, did appeal to her, and she was much less skeptical about its mysteries than was Leo. Turgenev simply could not accept her attitude toward poetry and tried to change her mind. He read Pushkin's Eugene Onegin to her, and praised the poems of his friend Fet. Once he got so angry with her when arguing about the value of poetry that he grabbed his hat and without a word stormed angrily off of the veranda of her lovely old white stone house. She later remembered how he returned several days later and read to her a short story he had written called "Faust." In it he pictured a married woman who resembled Maria closely and who also did not care for poetry.

Maria liked Turgenev's "Faust," and her feelings for him seemed to grow stronger with time, especially after she separated permanently from her husband. Although Turgenev had gotten along well enough with him, he sympathized with Maria for breaking with her husband because of his many infidelities. In a letter to Pauline, Turgenev referred to him as a "rural Henry VIII."11

When Turgenev came to see Maria and her two brothers at Pirogovo in the summer of 1858, she had just been separated about a year. Leo was by now apprehensive about her feelings toward Turgenev. She had looked forward to Turgenev's return to Russia. When he finally returned and visited Pirogovo, romance failed to blossom. Was it Maria's new position as a separated and now more available woman that scared Turgenev off? Or that some deep psychological need led him to prefer flirtatious relationships with women whose husbands were still around? Or simply, as he suggested in "Faust" and in a letter to Maria shortly after its publication that his mind came to the realization that his chances for true happiness and love had, along with his youth, disappeared forever? Maria herself later thought that their relationship failed to develop further because of Turgenev's love for Pauline Viardot.

As Turgenev's feelings for Maria cooled, so did those of Leo for Turgenev. After visiting Turgenev at Spasskoe later in the summer, Tolstoy noted in his diary that Turgenev was treating Maria rottenly. Tolstoy thought that he was a worldly cad who had trifled with the heart of his more innocent sister.

In early September both writers came together at an assembly of the nobility of their Tula Province. The main purpose of this meeting was to elect delegates to a provincial committee which was to make recommendations on how best to carry out the emancipation of the serfs. Alexander had given the nobility of Russia's provinces an unprecedented opportunity to offer advice on a major piece of legislation. At this very time he was touring various provinces, attempting to demonstrate the mutual affection of a ruler and his people and talking to nobles. He was trying to convince them to come forward with suggestions that would be fair both to them and their serfs. While at the Tula assembly, both writers signed a request for the abolition of serfdom whereby the peasants would receive land and the owners compensation for it. The majority of the landowners refused to support the statement. Like the majority of serf owners throughout Russia at this time, those in the Tula Province were far from enthusiastic about the prospect of losing both serfs and substantial landholdings.

While Tolstoy and Turgenev agreed on the emancipation of the serfs, they became more disagreeable with each other. Turgenev's deteriorating relationship with Maria was certainly one of the main reasons. At the beginning of the following spring, Turgenev stopped at Yasnaya Polyana on the way back from wintering in St. Petersburg. Tolstoy was not there, but Maria was. Turgenev no longer felt attracted to her and had little to say to her before moving on to his estate. Less than two weeks later he wrote to a friend that he would have no more to do with Leo Tolstoy, that they were created poles apart. "If I eat soup and like it," Turgenev wrote, "I already know for certain that for that reason alone Tolstoy will not like it, and vice versa."12 In July, from Viardot's chateau-castle near Paris, he wrote to Fet, with whom Tolstoy was becoming ever friendlier: "He [Tolstoy] likes me very little, and I don't care much for him."13 (For more on Tolstoy in these years, see Birukoff, Chs. 10-11.)



While Alexander II encouraged the nobles to discuss the emancipation of the serfs and Tolstoy and Turgenev signed a petition in favor of it, and while Dostoevsky, Bakunin, and Muraviev were all still in Siberia and Peter Perovsky in China, the aristocratic socialist Alexander Herzen edited The Bell from his London home. Smuggled into Russia, it rivaled Nekrasov's The Contemporary in popularity and influence. Herzen himself became a first class celebrity, and for about half a decade his successive London homes became beacons attracting progressive Russians traveling in Europe.

But when he first arrived in the bustling, noisy metropolis of London in the late summer of 1852, he was a sad and disillusioned man of forty. Within the previous year death had taken his mother, two sons, and his wife, still leaving him the father of three young children. In addition to his personal misfortunes, the failures of the European revolutions of 1848-49 had left him depressed about the social and political future of Europe. How events had changed since the Herzen family had set out with such high hopes for Paris in 1847! Only the recovery from Russia of his considerable fortune, aided by the Parisian banker James Rothschild, prevented his lot from being worse.

Herzen spent much time in his early years in London among the various émigrés and political exiles. Rejecting many of the values of English capitalist society, he participated in and tried to strengthen the radical subculture which surrounded him. As part of this effort he employed radicals, including Polish democrats, to tutor his children and help print and distribute the works he published.

Among Herzen's favorite political exiles were the Italians. He was friendly with the prophet of Italian unity, Mazzini. For a while he was very close to Orsini, who in 1858 went to the guillotine for trying to assassinate Napoleon III. When the colorful Garibaldi sailed to London from South America in 1854, Herzen lunched with him in his cabin. Six years later Garibaldi and his red-shirted warriors would sail from Genoa to Sicily, lead an uprising in southern Italy, and help bring it into the newly formed Kingdom of Italy. Among Herzen's least favorites were the German emigrants. And at least one, Karl Marx, reciprocated his feeling. Marx once refused an invitation to a gathering of revolutionary exiles because he did not wish to appear on the same platform as Herzen. Although Marx did not know Herzen personally, he was opposed to some of his ideas such as Herzen's belief, adopted after the failure of the 1848-49 revolutions, that the Russian peasants stood a better chance of creating a socialist society than did the Western European proletariat.

Upon hearing the news of the death of Tsar Nicholas I, Herzen celebrated with champagne and by throwing silver coins at some young boys and telling them to shout out in the streets the news of Nicholas's death. Shortly afterwards, he wrote an open letter of advice to the new Tsar and published it that summer in his The Polar Star, a forerunner of The Bell. "I am an incorrigible socialist," he wrote, "you are an autocratic emperor; but between your banner and mine there can be one thing in common, namely love of the people."1 Herzen encouraged the Tsar to free the people from the horrors perpetrated on them by landowners and officials. And as long as the Tsar acted in such a way as to keep Herzen's hopes alive, Herzen promised to restrain his attacks.

Both the celebrating and the letter revealed much about Herzen. He was not a dour revolutionary ready to sacrifice all of life's present enjoyments for some hoped-for heaven-on-earth in the future. And although he was a committed socialist, capable as any of passionately denouncing the evils of autocracy, serfdom, or capitalism, he was also flexible regarding the means needed to evolve towards socialism.

In the spring of 1856, an event occurred which would have great consequences for Herzen's personal and political life. One day while the Herzen family was eating dinner, a horse cab drove up. Herzen soon heard the voice of his oldest and closest friend, and rushed out to meet him and a woman, who, like his friend and Herzen himself, was rather short. The friend was Nicholas Ogarev, with whom Herzen as a young teen-aged boy had once sworn to avenge the Decembrists. The woman, Ogarev's wife Natalia, had in the revolutionary year of 1848 reciprocated a passionate friendship with Herzen's own wife. At that time the Herzens and Tuchkovs, the family of Ogarev's future wife, had spent considerable time together in Rome and Paris. Natalia Tuchkova was not quite twenty at the time, while Natalia Herzen had recently turned thirty. Soon after the Tuchkovs' return to Russia later that year, the young Natalia fell in love with Ogarev.

At that time he was a landowner of considerable property and serfs and had already published some poetry. He was sixteen years older than Natalia and estranged from his first wife, Maria, who had had a succession of lovers in recent years and was then living in Paris. He tried to get a divorce from her, but she would not agree. Therefore, until she died in 1853, Ogarev and Natalia lived together without being legally married. Only after Maria's death were they able to legalize their relationship.

Now in London, the Ogarevs soon moved in with the Herzen family. By the middle of the next year Natalia Ogareva and Herzen had become lovers. Ogarev himself knew of the relationship, suffered considerable pain as a result of it, but magnanimously refused to stand in Natalia's way. Suffering from epilepsy and alcoholism, Ogarev had at first improved in London. However, his wife's love for Herzen soon drove him towards more heavy drinking. Within a few years he had also established a lasting relationship with a small, dark-haired English prostitute named Mary Sutherland. It became the most satisfying relationship of his life. He became not only her lover, but her benefactor: he took her off the streets, established her and her five-year-old son in better quarters, and helped educate both of them.

Despite his wife's relationship with Herzen, the two men remained close friends and collaborators. The radical Russian thinkers of the day, influenced by the views of George Sand among others, believed that love and marriage often did not go together. If one of the marriage partners fell in love with someone else, the radicals considered it "bourgeois" or "old-fashioned" for the other partner to be unreasonable and insist on fidelity. They were also critical of traditional family life, whether in Russia or the West. They often perceived it as a mechanism for the husband-father to exploit the other members of the family. Thus, their radical ethics predisposed husbands like Ogarev (and Nekrasov's friend Panaev) to tolerate and, in theory, even approve of what many others would consider scandalous behavior.

Although Herzen had already established what he called the Free Russian Press and published occasional pamphlets and irregularly The Polar Star, it was not until he was joined by Ogarev that together they began The Bell. That was in 1857. While Herzen was the more brilliant, visible, active, and pragmatic of the two, Ogarev was the more revolutionary.

Initially a monthly, but soon a biweekly, The Bell was intended to be the free voice of progressive Russian opinion. Partly to maintain unity with those less radical than themselves, Herzen and Ogarev kept their demands to a minimum: the abolition of serfdom, corporal punishment, and censorship.

The new journal was soon "must" reading for radicals and liberals in Russia. Even some government ministers read it and, some said, the Tsar. Although only a few thousand of each issue were smuggled into Russia, each copy seemed to pass in and out of countless hands. Since a wide variety of individuals sent Herzen information, including at times government employees or others wishing to expose corruption or incompetence, The Bell soon became a source of information that was nowhere else publicly available. On one occasion Nicholas Milyutin, a government official and the friend of Kavelin's who had worked with him on the plan for freeing the serfs of Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, sent to The Bell a scathing criticism of a minister he thought less liberal. On another occasion Alexander II forbade the lithographing of a memorandum for the members of his committee studying serfdom because he believed that no sooner would it be reproduced than it would appear in The Bell.2

Despite Herzen's great popularity among many educated Russians, he also had his detractors. He was still far to the left of the Tsar and most of his officials. Even some moderate liberals thought that much of his criticism was irresponsible and that he was helping to foment forces that might wreak havoc upon Russia. True, he might praise the Tsar on occasion--as he did with the words "Thou has conquered, Galilean"3 after the Tsar indicated his desire to abolish serfdom--but at other times Herzen's criticisms seemed too abusive.

One moderate who criticized Herzen was the liberal Boris Chicherin, who in the spring of 1858 had left Russia to travel throughout Europe. When he and Kavelin had sent some of their writings to Herzen in 1856, they had included an open letter to Herzen that criticized Herzen's socialist views. In response, over the next few years, Herzen not only published most of what they had sent him, but he and Ogarev also responded to some of their criticism of Herzen's ideas. In September 1858, Chicherin came to London, primarily to see Herzen and to try, as he and Kavelin had earlier done in their articles, to "direct him in a sense that would be useful for Russia."4 Perhaps The Bell could help to guide a perplexed government and keep it on the correct path.

Chicherin's view of the government as "perplexed" was one shared by many intellectuals in 1858. True, the Tsar had decided that serfs must obtain their freedom, but he did not make it clear until the very end of the year that they were to be permitted to obtain land. Meanwhile, it became a central issue. While most landowners were determined to hold on to as much of their land as possible, most intellectuals were convinced that by some arrangement or other the peasants would have to receive enough of it to provide a means of livelihood. The key to victory for either side was, of course, the Tsar.

Throughout most of the year, Alexander II seemed indecisive on this central question. Meanwhile, progressive officials like the Minister of Interior Lanskoi and his assistant Nicholas Milyutin battled against other officials defending the interests of the landowners. Some of the most influential reactionaries sat on the Tsar's Main Committee to oversee the emancipation settlement. One of the most visible was the Minister of State Properties and a member of the large Muraviev clan, Michael Muraviev.

One of the reasons for Alexander II's indecisiveness on the issue of land was the difficulty of trying to bring about a fair and stable settlement, one that would balance off the interests of the nobility with that of their former serfs. In both the process of working towards emancipation and in any final arrangement, Alexander also risked threats to his own power. One was that the nobles might begin to push for the creation of permanent government bodies in which they could exercise some power over questions such as their landholding rights. A second was that the peasants, if displeased with the settlement, might revolt. Alexander could not easily forget the sporadic mass peasant revolts of earlier centuries.

Although the difficulty of obtaining a judicious compromise was no doubt great, that alone does not explain Alexander's indecisiveness. Time and again during his reign, he would allow his subordinates to battle over the direction government policies might take. While his tolerance for different viewpoints within his administration reflected a certain degree of pragmatism, it also indicated to some a lack of vision and leadership. The government official Nikitenko complained in May 1858 of the government's vacillation. He thought that of all systems the worst was to have no system at all. In his memoirs, completed in the late 1870s, Professor Soloviev criticized Alexander II for having no definite aims and for failing to exercise effective leadership. The historian also cited these failings as causes which contributed to the confusion and conflict which would increasingly characterize Alexander's era.

Liberals like Chicherin, Kavelin, and Turgenev seemed to view Alexander II as a well-intentioned but ill prepared ruler who was surrounded by many reactionary advisers. They were fearful in 1858 that reactionaries defending the landholding privileges of the nobles were gaining the upper hand. Turgenev and Kavelin cautioned Herzen not to criticize the Tsar personally and attempted to convince him that Alexander II needed Herzen's encouragement, understanding, and help. In January, Turgenev wrote to Herzen that he was afraid that the Tsar might become too discouraged if badgered by both reactionaries and progressives.

Herzen's response to the wavering he thought he discerned on the part of the Tsar was characteristically sharper than that of Turgenev. He stated in The Bell that Alexander II had not justified his hopes, insisted once again that the emancipation settlement had to include sufficient land for the peasants, and printed an article from an anonymous contributor that called for the serfs to take up their axes in rebellion. Herzen's own position was that he preferred Alexander II to dispense a just settlement from above, but if he did not, the peasants would be justified in rebelling. He even stated in an article that appeared in September 1858 in an Italian publication that slavery and the agonizing uncertainty of the day were worse than a peasant uprising.

It was this increasingly truculent attitude of Herzen's that Chicherin hoped to alter when he visited the famous journalist in London that same month. Herzen was then living in Putney on the southwestern outskirts of the city. From the center of London one could ride the train to the Putney Station, from which it was only a very short walk to the Herzen residence. The ivy-walled house with its metal roof painted red sat amidst a garden, courtyard, and empty stables and resembled more an English farmhouse than an urban dwelling.

In this house Natalia Ogarev was still recuperating after having recently given birth to a daughter called Liza who, although given Ogarev's name, was fathered by Herzen. Ogarev himself was sterile; and this was Natalia's first child. She was not, however, ecstatic when early in that previous year she had discovered she was pregnant. By then feelings of guilt towards Ogarev had combined with increasing dissatisfaction with Herzen, who also had come to realize the many imperfections of Natalia. As she became increasingly ill-tempered and emotionally overwrought, Herzen failed to be very compassionate and at times was petty and cynical in his behavior towards her.

Into this setting, the self-assured Chicherin entered on his self-imposed mission. He was from a distinguished gentry family, was the same age as Tolstoy and Chernyshevsky, and could be as dogmatic as either. The ideas of the German philosopher Hegel permanently influenced him and his attempts to apply them to Russia were often too schematic and unrealistic. While in London, he spent several days visiting and arguing with both Herzen and Ogarev. Although impressed by the brilliance with which Herzen intermingled stories, anecdotes, and astute observations, Chicherin concluded that he had absolutely no understanding of the practical necessities of government. Herzen also was disappointed. In his Moscow days Herzen had been friendly with the younger man's father, and some of Herzen's old Moscow friends also thought well of the young Chicherin. But from their first meeting, Herzen tells us in his memoirs, he noted the cold light in his guest's eyes and the conceit in his voice.

Herzen's main complaint against Chicherin was that his Hegelian views had led him to worship a strong centralized government and look to it as a panacea for Russia's problems. Herzen also accused him of having too little faith in the individual and society. Unlike Chicherin and others such as Professor Soloviev, Herzen did not believe that Russia needed a strong ruler such as Peter the Great, but only one who would be guided by enlightened public opinion. Indeed, the ideas of Chicherin on government were almost diametrically opposed to those of Herzen. For despite the minimum program Herzen had insisted upon and his wavering willingness to give Alexander II a chance, his ultimate hope was to dismantle any centralized government in Russia. He thought such a feat possible because the Russian government lacked solid support from either Russia's educated minority or its peasants, who overwhelmingly farmed in peasant communes. This was true whether or not they were serfs, and Herzen saw the communes as embryonic democratic and socialist organizations. Did not the head of each household have a voice in how the commune was run? Did not most communes maintain some measure of equality among their members by the practice of redistributing land strips? Once serfdom and autocracy were removed, Herzen hoped that a system of federated and free communes could be established without a centralized government. He realized, however, that before the communes could become ideal bodies in an agrarian socialist society they would have to learn to respect individual freedom and dignity more than they had heretofore, but that could be accomplished with the help of educated individuals such as himself.

By the time Herzen and Chicherin finally parted at the Putney train station, about all they could agree on was their mutual respect for each other.

Within a few months of Chicherin's departure their differences became public when, at Chicherin's request, Herzen published a letter of his in The Bell. It repeated many of his earlier private criticisms: Herzen should emphasize reason, not passion; caution, not haste; evolution, not revolution. In his memoirs Chicherin claimed that the letter was the "first protest by a Russian against the political direction of the London émigrés."5 Although an overstatement, his protest was significant because it loudly signaled the beginning of the end of the always rather tenuous unity of progressive forces.

About a year after Chicherin's September 1858 visit, the editor Michael Katkov, then also thought of as a liberal, called on Herzen. Katkov was an intelligent and patriotic man, but some thought overly ambitious. Not born into the gentry class, he had married a princess who possessed few noticeable attributes except her title. Meanwhile, Herzen, Ogarev, wife-mistress Natalia, the children, and servants--Herzen always had several, including at different times a negro butler named George and an Italian cook recommended by Mazzini--had all moved to a larger dwelling in the nearby suburb of Fulham.

Little is known of Katkov's visit here, but it seems to have been no more successful than Chicherin's. And after returning from England, Katkov became increasingly critical of the views of Herzen. Since, however, the censors would not even permit Herzen's name to be mentioned in print, Katkov soon began polemicizing with a more convenient radical target, Nekrasov's The Contemporary. He especially disliked what he considered the journal's narrow view of what constituted worthwhile literature. And he also disagreed with its two main critics, Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov, as well as with Herzen, about the desirability of maintaining the peasant commune after emancipation. At this point in his life Katkov greatly admired much about the English, and like most Englishmen, he was a strong believer in the advantages of private, rather than communal, property.

While Chicherin and Katkov attacked Herzen from his right, Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov began thrusting at him from his left. Up until the previous year, Nekrasov's journal had assumed a position similar to that of The Bell. Both Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov owed a considerable debt to Herzen's ideas. They had been inspired by Herzen's hope that someday members of the Russian radical intelligentsia and the Russian peasants might be able to show the world the way to socialism. But for a while they, like Herzen, worked for less utopian and more minimal goals such as a fair emancipation settlement.

But then in a January 1859 issue of The Contemporary, the twenty-two-year-old Dobrolyubov attacked the older generation of liberals. Already in the summer of the previous year in an article on France under Louis XVIII, Chernyshevsky had declared that liberalism everywhere would eventually become impotent due to its lack of concern for the real needs of the masses. Chernyshevsky was also becoming increasingly pessimistic about the chances for a fair emancipation arrangement. Alexander II's recent decision that the peasants would be allowed to purchase land did not appease him. He did not think that the peasants should have to pay for the lands they traditionally farmed and thought of as really theirs. Observing the behavior of the landowners who were discussing the proposed emancipation throughout Russia, he despaired of the serfs receiving a fair share of the land. He concluded that a social revolution would not come from above, only from below. Therefore, both Chernyshevsky Dobrolyubov thought it was useless to work alongside liberals. Now was the time for a revolutionary front.

In the pages of The Bell, Herzen strenuously disagreed and claimed that attacks on liberals benefited only the reactionaries. He also defended his frequent exposés of abuses committed by government official and nobles--Dobrolyubov had charged that unless accompanied by a call to revolution such pieces merely aided the government to patch up the cracks in its decaying structure.

Although Nekrasov supported his two radical critics, he feared a widening breach between his journal and The Bell. For in addition to the growing ideological differences, there already existed a personal source of conflict between Herzen and himself.

Nekrasov's mistress, the beautiful Avdotya Panaeva, had been a close friend and confidante of Ogarev's first wife, Maria. After Ogarev had asked for and been refused a divorce, Maria sued him and won one of the properties he had inherited from his father. She continued living abroad, however, and asked her friend Avdotya to see to the running of the property, which she did until the estate was sold for 85,000 silver rubles. But little of the money ever reached Maria, and after she died in 1853, Avdotya refused to disgorge it until a civil suit forced her to turn it over to Maria's heirs in 1859. Despite Nekrasov's assurance that he had nothing to do with the whole affair, Herzen considered both Avdotya and Nekrasov swindlers and hypocrites. All of this occurred while his friend Ogarev had become a much poorer man as a result of Maria's suit and an ill-advised Ogarev transaction intended to lessen its consequences.

When Nekrasov had expressed a desire to accompany Turgenev to England to visit Herzen in 1857, Herzen had rejected the idea. Two years later, Nekrasov prevailed upon Chernyshevsky to undertake a trip to London in order to mollify Herzen.

The meeting between Chernyshevsky and Herzen occurred in the early summer of 1859, and it offered quite a contrast. The short, heavy-set, bearded Herzen was an illegitimate but aristocratic cosmopolitan who had lived abroad for better than a decade, a litterateur with a graceful style and sharp wit, and finally, a man with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the chances for European progress. Chernyshevsky was taller, thinner, clean-shaven, and wore glasses. He was born and grew up the legitimate son of a priest in the Volga town of Saratov. He had never been to Europe before, was often ill at ease in public, and was a deadly serious man with little sense of humor. In the same year as his visit to London, Darwin's Origin of Species was published; and although Chernyshevsky would not become enamored of Darwin, the Russian shared the Englishman's enthusiasm for science. Chernyshevsky also was more knowledgeable about economics than Herzen, and although he was equally critical of capitalism, he was much more sympathetic to a Russian industrialization, which he, but not Herzen, envisioned as being capable of developing along socialist lines. Literature he valued only for its social usefulness, and his own writing style reflected his utilitarian view. Finally, he did not share Herzen's skepticism regarding Europe's potential for progress.

In their meeting neither man apparently impressed the other. Chernyshevsky thought Herzen was haughty and boring. Herzen could not help but think that the younger Chernyshevsky valued too highly his own opinions.

Although the editors of both The Bell and The Contemporary subsequently made an effort to minimize their differences, they continued to appear. A year after Chernyshevsky's trip, Herzen continued to insist that as long as there was still hope for the broom, it should be advocated rather than the ax. He also defended the writers of his generation against earlier attacks by Dobrolyubov. At least, said Herzen, most of them were honest men, not swindlers and cheats who stole from their friends.



Two years after Chernyshevsky's visit, Tolstoy came to London and called on Herzen. Later that year a regenerated Bakunin arrived. Before leaving Russia once again, Tolstoy had begun teaching some of his serfs' children. Always the rebel and innovator, he disdained traditional educational methods. Memorization and threats went out the third-floor windows of the bedroom he converted into a classroom. He stressed instead freedom and the joy of learning. In the spring of 1860, he once again worked in the fields with his peasants and lay down in the woods with the peasant Aksinya. By now his original lust had developed into a more loving care for her. But, of course, she was not the type of woman he could marry.

Meanwhile, his oldest brother, Nicholas, was at Soden, a German spa, trying to alleviate his tuberculosis. His sister Maria, concerned about his health and perhaps also hoping to see Turgenev, who was also at Soden, decided to visit her sick brother, and Leo agreed to accompany her and her three children. Early in July they all left St. Petersburg by steamship. (For more information on this second trip abroad of Tolstoy, see Birukoff, Chapter 12.)

After arriving in Stettin and then moving on to Berlin, Leo decided to examine German educational methods. He did not arrive at Soden until the end of August. By then Nicholas's condition had worsened, and the weather in Soden had turned colder with frequent rain. Nicholas's doctors suggested wintering in a warmer climate. The two brothers and Maria and her children moved on to Hyeres, on France's Mediterranean coast. The climate, the view of the sea, and the orange, lemon, and palm trees were beautiful. But it was a town for sick and dying people. About a month after arriving, Nicholas died.

The death of his brother stunned Tolstoy. Life now seemed absurd. Why work, why write, if death ended all?1

Before too long, however, Tolstoy recovered from his despair. He visited some schools in Marseilles, played with Maria's children, and began work on a new novel about a Decembrist. The idea for such a work first seems to have occurred to him in 1856, and that year he did begin a story he called "A Distant Field" that bore some resemblance to the new novel he now began in 1860. He began this new work by ironically sketching the atmosphere of 1856 under the new Tsar: the Moscow greeting of the Sevastopol sailors, the appearance of new journals, and the animated discussions of the questions of the day. He then introduced his hero, an old Decembrist returning from Siberian exile.

A few months later Tolstoy was in Florence, where he met his "granny," Alexandra. He also was introduced to a distant relative of his mother, the old Decembrist Prince Volkonsky, and to his wife, Princess Maria Volkonskaya. Three decades earlier she had heroically followed her husband into Siberian exile and later in Irkutsk was helped by Governor-general Muraviev. Tolstoy was especially struck by the old man: "long gray an Old Testament prophet...a wonderful old man, the flower of Petersburg's aristocracy."2 Tolstoy was already familiar with his life story and how in Siberia, following an earlier stint in the mines of Nerchinsk, he had taken up a simple life of farming and associating with peasants. And as the hero of Tolstoy's new novel evolved, his life came to resemble that of the old prince.

By February 1861, Tolstoy was once again in Paris, where he visited more schools and saw Turgenev, who had left Soden before Maria or he had arrived. Maria was no longer traveling with Leo, and Turgenev's infatuation for her was now definitely over. Nevertheless, he and Tolstoy got along well enough. Tolstoy read to him the first chapters of his new novel. Turgenev found him to be more mellow than usual, perhaps the result of his brother's death.

Tolstoy arrived in London in the beginning of March, accompanied only by a painful toothache. This bustling city, this center of capitalism and world trade, of fog and yellow gas-lights, of the Crystal Palace and East End slums, of Queen Victoria--who would be a grieving widow before the year was out --and of Dickens and Darwin failed to impress the count from Yasnaya Polyana. Nineteenth century urban life, even in Russia, was never much to his liking.

He remained in London for a little over two weeks. Aided by Matthew Arnold, then an inspector of schools, Tolstoy visited some classrooms. He also attended a reading by one of his favorite writers, Charles Dickens, watched some cockfights and boxing matches, and was impressed by the Kensington Museum. He also went down to the Gothic-looking Houses of Parliament along the Thames and heard Prime Minister Palmerston give a long speech in the House of Commons. Perhaps partly because his comprehension of spoken English was weak, Tolstoy found it "boring and meaningless."3

But then, like many other Russian intellectuals, he was unsympathetic with parliamentary bodies. Slavophiles and other conservative nationalists disdained such institutions as part of a corrupt, egotistic Western world. Most radicals of Alexander II's reign believed, as one eloquent historian put it, that "salvation did not lie in politics or political parties: it seemed clear to them that liberal parties and their leaders had neither understood nor made a serious effort to forward the fundamental interests of the oppressed populations of their countries. What the vast majority of peasants in Russia (or workers in Europe) needed was to be fed and clothed, to be given physical security, to be rescued from disease, ignorance, poverty, and humiliating inequalities. As for political rights, votes, parliaments, republican forms, these were meaningless and useless to ignorant, barbarous, half-naked and starving men."4

Nor did most Russian intellectuals value very highly two of the principles that underlie parliamentary bodies: compromise and toleration of opposing views. A belief such as Edmund Burke's that "all government,--indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act,--is founded on compromise and barter"5 was foreign to the passionate Russian souls of most of them. Faced with the evils of autocracy and serfdom and unschooled in the real world of pragmatic politics, this failing is not surprising.

Being intellectuals, the Russian thinkers realized that the Russian ship of state needed new ideas if it were to progress, and most were willing to stoke these ideas with all the passion one could desire; but they failed to appreciate the complexity of running the ship. Some wanted to keep the captain and hope for the best, others to keep him only if he acted as they wished him to, and still others wanted to throw him overboard. But how the captain or they themselves could organize the crew so that it could at least agree and move forward in a common direction, while minimizing the hazards of storms and reefs, they had no more knowledge than that of contentious and inexperienced sailors.

Soon after arriving in London, Tolstoy called on Herzen. The editor was living then at Orsett House, Westbourne Terrace. It was a stone house of several stories with a pleasant tree-lined courtyard. Tolstoy was met by a servant who announced him to Herzen. The squat but quick-moving and energetic Herzen greeted the bushy-bearded Tolstoy, decked out in a fashionable Palmerston coat and holding a silk top hat; a scar on Tolstoy's forehead remained from his encounter with a bear. They went for a walk that day and stopped in a pub. Before he left London he spent much time in the home of Herzen and Natalia. He also met with Ogarev, whom he had known previously and who by now had moved into his own separate lodgings. Although Tolstoy was not sympathetic to Herzen's liaison with Ogarev's wife, he nevertheless liked Herzen. Tolstoy found him to be a friendly, open, brilliant, eloquent, and witty man. Herzen wrote to Turgenev that he was seeing much of Tolstoy, that he was stubborn and impetuous and charged ahead in arguments as if on assault at Sevastopol. This, of course, was no news to Turgenev. Despite, Tolstoy's flaws and some political disagreements, Herzen thought him a good man.

In letters Tolstoy exchanged with Herzen after leaving London, the novelist praised a recent issue of the Polar Star devoted to the Decembrists--from the beginning this journal had displayed the profile of the five Decembrists who were hanged. From Herzen, Tolstoy asked for and received advice regarding the novel he had begun about a Decembrist. The new friends also exchanged photographs. In the one Tolstoy received of Herzen and Ogarev, the two editors look similar, both short, full-bearded, and long-haired, though Herzen's was longer in back as if to compensate for his faster receding hairline.

The day Tolstoy left London he read that the Tsar had finally issued a manifesto abolishing serfdom. Actually Alexander II had signed it some two weeks earlier, but waited until the pre-Lenten drinking binge had ended before releasing it. After five years of the most persistent effort of his life, and thanks in large part to the work of liberal bureaucrats such as Nicholas Milyutin, Alexander had finally achieved a settlement that he believed was fair to both nobles and peasants.

But it was the type of pragmatic political compromise that one might expect from an English parliament, especially one still dominated by the upper classes. And it therefore failed to satisfy many of the Russian intellectuals, whose appetites for social justice had been whetted by unrealistic hopes. Despite some initial hurrahs for Alexander II and his efforts, it did not take many of them long to begin criticizing various aspects of the complex manifesto. The document was made even harder to read than necessary thanks to a final "polishing" given to it by Filaret, the Metropolitan of Moscow--his effort led Turgenev to note that the document looked to him as if it had been written in French and then translated into Russian by a German.

Nine days after leaving London, Tolstoy wrote to Herzen from Brussels that the peasants would not understand or believe a word of it and that it offered them nothing except promises. Two weeks later from Frankfurt-on-Main he wrote to Herzen that the emancipation statutes were "idle chatter."6

Although the serfs would no longer be the "baptized property" of their lords, as Herzen had once referred to them, they still would have to pay, one way or another, for the right to work what they always had considered their land. During a two year transition period, gentry arbitrators appointed by the government were to assist in working out equitable terms so that the former serfs in a commune could purchase approximately the amount of land they had formerly tilled for themselves. The government was to provide most of the purchase price in the form of loans, repayable over a period of forty-nine years. Within the Russian part of the empire most of the property would be sold not to the individual, but collectively to the commune, within which the former serfs would continue to work.

At first many of the serfs were disbelieving--surely this was not the Tsar's final plan--or disappointed and confused because the expectations which they had developed in the last several years did not yet seem to be met. One noble recalled that his serfs responded with sarcastic laughter on hearing that they would have to pay for their land for almost a half century. Nevertheless, the peasants continued to believe, as they had for centuries, that the Tsar wished to deliver them from their many burdens, but evil officials and nobles kept him isolated and prevented his intentions from being fully carried out. Although this naive belief would infuriate many a radical, it was no guarantee of peasant stability. The former serfs could and did on occasion rebel against the landowners, charging that they were not carrying out the real will of the Tsar. Before the year was out landowners reported over a thousand disturbances, the great majority of which required soldiers to quell. And in the summer of that year Alexander felt compelled to tell a delegation of peasants: "There will be no emancipation except the one I have granted you. Obey the law and statutes! Work and toil! Be obedient to the authorities and to noble landowners!"7

Despite serious reservations concerning the manifesto's imperfections, Herzen's initial reaction was more positive than that of Tolstoy or many of the peasants. The serfs after all were now free, and Herzen's strenuous efforts had helped bring this about. He had always placed a great emphasis on human freedom and dignity, more it seems than did the serfs, who were more concerned with the size and cost of the land they would receive and with overcoming poverty.

Herzen decided to celebrate the news with a gigantic party at his house on April 10th. He bought champagne, hired an orchestra, and arranged decorations. He invited all Russians who were or could be in London on the appointed day and who supported the emancipation. He also asked some other friends and acquaintances to come, such as Mazzini and the French socialist Louis Blanc. Originally, Herzen had planned to drink a toast to the health of the Tsar. But shortly before the festivities were to begin, Herzen received news that a riot had occurred in Warsaw and that Russian troops had fired into a Polish crowd. Since Herzen was a supporter of Polish independence, this was sad news. Although he went ahead with the party, he did not toast the Tsar.

In the days that followed, Herzen's disenchantment with the Tsar increased. In April, scores of peasants were shot by Russian soldiers in the province of Kazan. They were part of a crowd refusing to turn over a man who declared that the real manifesto of the Tsar allowed the people to take over the land immediately without payment. That same month, partly in an effort to overcome deep gentry discontentment over the terms of the emancipation, Alexander II appointed a new Minister of Interior who had been considered an enemy of the emancipation. He was the tall, intelligent, but somewhat pompous Peter Valuev. Although his sympathies were thought to lie with the noble class, he was an ambitious man, pragmatic enough to shift with the Tsar's apparent zigzag approach to progress. Herzen's The Bell later would describe him as the "weather vane" of Alexander's administration, always indicating which way the court winds were blowing.8

Soon after naming Valuev to his new post, the Tsar appointed a new, more conservative Minister of Education and came out with new rules for Russia's five thousand university students. Alexander had come to the conclusion that the students, to whom he had already granted some new freedoms, were becoming too demanding and outspoken. New rules increasing students' costs and forbidding unauthorized meetings were enacted to help curtail such behavior. When students reconvened in the fall at St. Petersburg University, they protested the new regulations. The government responded by arresting some of the protest leaders and subsequently closing the university. It remained closed for almost two years. Less dramatic opposition also occurred at other universities including Moscow University, where according to information sent to The Bell, Professor Soloviev and Boris Chicherin, now a professor of jurisprudence, were among the leaders denouncing student demonstrations.

The Bell became increasingly critical of the Tsar, and Herzen moved closer to the position of Chernyshevsky. In November 1861, he declared that the government consisted of "riff-raff, swindlers, robbers, and whores."9 Ogarev, who had always been more revolutionary-minded than Herzen, encouraged the formation of revolutionary conspiracies.

The pressure on Herzen to encourage revolution was further accelerated in December when his old friend Bakunin arrived in London. He had spent only a short time in the not-so-United States--the Civil War had already begun--and then, having met a few interesting Americans, such as the poet Longfellow, he sailed for England.10 Because he had written Herzen and Ogarev requesting money, Herzen knew he was on his way, and two days after Christmas, when Herzen and Ogarev were just about to sit down for supper at the home of Herzen, Bakunin arrived like a tornado. Herzen had not seen him for fourteen years. While Bakunin's body had noticeably aged, in spirit he still seemed a rebellious youth. He was forty-seven and had lost all his teeth. His six-foot-plus frame had ballooned to some 280 pounds. With his unkempt thick curly hair, bushy beard, and enormous round head, he looked like an aged Bohemian. But he was ready for action. He told Natalia, who was lying down on a couch recovering her strength after giving birth to twins five weeks before: "It's not good to be lying down. Get well! It is necessary to act, not lie down."11 And when he asked Herzen where revolutionary activities were brewing and Herzen replied that except for some demonstrations in Poland all was quiet, he asked in amazement: "Then what are we to do? Must we go to Persia or India to stir things up? It's enough to drive one mad; I cannot sit and do nothing."12

Bakunin soon settled into quarters not far from Herzen. Amidst smoke, ashes, and tea cups, he hosted an international group of revolutionaries at all hours of the day and night. When not talking he wrote, usually letters, often exhorting others from Belgrade and Bessarabia to Constantinople and Semipalatinsk. At times he would interrupt a letter to argue a point with one of his visitors. But his large sweating body and his active mind seldom rested.



In May of 1862, Turgenev arrived in London for a short visit. In the previous six years he had visited England and Herzen almost yearly. Unlike Tolstoy and Bakunin, the liberal Turgenev admired the British political system and appreciated its spirit of compromise and tolerance; and he had encouraged the political moderation that his good friend Herzen attempted to display prior to the emancipation.

But moderation, political or otherwise, was not a virtue that came easily to Russian intellectuals. In the face of provocations by some of his more abrasive countrymen, even Turgenev found it difficult to practice. Upset over criticism of his work by Dobrolyubov and Chernyshevsky, he had finally broken off relations with their chief editor, Nekrasov. In May of 1861, he had also quarreled so seriously with Tolstoy that the argument almost resulted in a duel. While at the poet Fet's estate one morning, Tolstoy criticized Turgenev for the way he was bringing up his daughter and, according to Turgenev, suggested that he would act differently if his daughter were legitimate. Turgenev later recalled threatening to slap Tolstoy's face if he continued insulting him. They soon parted, and a comedy of errors and delayed and misplaced correspondence followed. In these letters, Tolstoy was the first to insist on a duel. Turgenev was the more apologetic, but at one point he also stated he would demand satisfaction. Instead, they stopped seeing each other. And a long interval would pass before they would ever meet again. (For more on Turgenev and Tolstoy at this time, see Birukoff, Ch. 13.)

Early in 1862, Turgenev's novel Fathers and Sons appeared. In it he captured the spirit of young radicals, for whom he popularized the term nihilists, and the growing conflict between them and the the older generations. This conflict was initiated by the radicals' rejection of all traditions they thought contrary to reason and their unconventional, uncompromising, some thought downright rude, behavior. They thought of themselves as scientific, realistic, and ready to act to change society. As the decade proceeded, they could increasingly be identified by their appearance: the men tended to let their hair grow longer, while the women cut theirs short, and both sexes cultivated a somewhat austere, unkempt look. An unflattering police report at the end of the decade described the typical nihilist woman in the following fashion: "She has cropped hair, wears blue glasses, is slovenly in her dress, [and] rejects the use of comb and soap."1

In Turgenev's central character, the brusque nihilist Bazarov, some observers thought they espied a composite of Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov, who had just died of consumption. Turgenev, however, stated that the character was based more on a doctor that he had actually met.

The novel produced an unprecedented storm. Some, including the editor Katkov, who published it in his The Russian Messenger, thought that Turgenev was too favorable towards Bazarov, others that he was too critical. Conservatives and radicals even disagreed among themselves, with some of the radicals going so far as to burn photographs of Turgenev. Actually, Bazarov reflected both Turgenev's attempt to describe objectively the rising radicalism of the day and his ambivalence toward radical youth.

While in London, Turgenev saw Bakunin as well as Herzen. Bakunin sought Turgenev's help in arranging for his wife, Antonia, to leave Irkutsk and eventually join him abroad. Turgenev contributed some money to the cause.

Although no record exists of the discussions of Herzen and Turgenev in London that spring, not long afterwards they aired their increasing differences in writing. Most of Herzen's letters appeared in The Bell addressed to an unknown correspondent who, many knew, was Turgenev. The novelist responded in private letters to Herzen. In these exchanges Herzen enunciated his view that the West was drowning in bourgeois materialistic satisfaction and that the uncorrupted Russian peasant was the socialist's hope for the future. He argued that Russia need not and should not take some of the erroneous paths traveled by Western Europe. Turgenev criticized Herzen for turning away from the West and making an idol out of the Russian peasant. Turgenev believed that only those who were enlightened, educated, reasonably moderate, and sympathetic with the best of Western values could lead the Russian people toward progress. Herzen, however, detected that beneath Turgenev's lack of confidence in the Russian peasant lay a much deeper and more pervasive pessimism about life in general, fueled in part by Turgenev's affinity for the ideas of the German philosopher Schopenhauer.

A couple of months after Turgenev's departure from London, Dostoevsky arrived there. Since returning to St. Petersburg at the end of 1859, he had begun, along with his brother Michael, a new journal called Time. The views he put forward there were somewhere between the radical ones enunciated in Nekrasov's The Contemporary and those of Slavophiles such as Ivan Aksakov and his brother Constantine, who had died the year after Dostoevsky's return.

Although Dostoevsky praised Constantine Aksakov for an essay on the Russian peasant commune in which the Slavophile wrote of its basically Christian nature, Dostoevsky did not share his almost completely negative view of Peter the Great and his westernizing fervor. Rather he believed that Russia was called upon to create a new culture that would be a synthesis of the best of Western learning and Russian native elements.

But to create this new culture, Russia first had to close the gap which still existed between educated society and the masses. In explaining the purpose of their new journal, Dostoevsky wrote about the necessity of unifying these two forces. "Union at any price, in spite of any sacrifices, and as quickly as possible--that is our foremost thought, that is our motto."2 As much as anyone of his time, Dostoevsky desired and cried out for social unity, a unity and sense of community that would become increasingly difficult to experience in a turbulent age of social changes and modernization.

As to how this union would be brought about he emphasized, as did Tolstoy in his own unique manner, love and education. On the eve of the emancipation, Dostoevsky pointed to the loving work of Alexander II, which had almost removed the last barriers to this union and which was as great and sacred as any in Russian history. But now it was up to educated society to cease just chattering and get to work. He chided his fellow intellectuals who wanted immediate and grandiose results. He encouraged them to "teach just one boy reading and walk a few inches instead of seven miles."3 However, it was not just the masses who were to be taught. The educated class, so long alienated from the common people, could also learn from them.

Although Dostoevsky was a bit vague as to exactly what could be learned from the peasants, he no doubt hoped that more intellectuals would follow the path he himself had traversed in overcoming his alienation from the masses; for his return to a feeling of unity with them had also led him to a greater appreciation of their Orthodox religious beliefs and their traditional Russian ways. In addition to himself and his brother, several other chief contributors to Time, namely Appolon Grigoriev and Nicholas Strakhov, were also self-proclaimed "enthusiasts of the soil" (pochvenniki), who emphasized the importance of Russian roots and traditions.

In the year and a half following the emancipation, however, Dostoevsky witnessed little to encourage his hopes for social cohesion. The student demonstrators of the fall of 1861 were greeted at times with jeers from urban workers. And when a series of mysterious and devastating fires broke out in the capital the following spring, many people, both educated and uneducated, angrily attributed them to radical students. When Turgenev returned at the end of May to St. Petersburg, and incidentally dined with Dostoevsky at the Hotel Clea, an acquaintance stopped him on the street and said: "See what your Nihilists are doing! They're burning down Petersburg."4 Ivan Aksakov even heard a St. Petersburg peasant say "the professors burned this down."5 In an article which greatly pleased the Tsar, the editor Katkov placed the ultimate blame for the St. Petersburg fires on the London steps of Herzen and his émigré collaborators. Soon he was attacking Herzen in such virulent language that even some of Herzen's other detractors thought Katkov had gone too far.

The sense of alarm concerning the fires was heightened by a number of blood-thirsty pamphlets which appeared in this same period. One day in May 1862, when he opened the door of his apartment, Dostoevsky found one entitled "Young Russia." It called for revolution, socialism, the closing of monasteries, the emancipation of women, and the abolition of marriage and the family. And if the defenders of the imperial party resisted, it proclaimed, "we will kill [them] in the their homes, in the narrow lanes of towns, in the broad avenues of cities, in hamlets and in villages!"6

The pamphlet seemed to bring together all the most radical demands of recent years and to crystallize for conservatives their worst fears. The radicals' challenge was not just to the political order, but to established society, even to its homes and families.

Concerned about the polarizing effect that the proclamation might have, Dostoevsky later recalled that he rushed over to see Chernyshevsky, who by now had become a hero to many young radicals. Dostoevsky showed him the proclamation and asked him to use his influence to help stop such writings. Chernyshevsky was not responsible for "Young Russia," nor was he especially happy about its appearance. But there is no doubt that the young man who wrote it had been influenced by some of the radical journalist's ideas. Chernyshevsky replied that occurrences such as the proclamation were unavoidable.

Within a few months The Contemporary was prohibited from continuing publication, and then Chernyshevsky was arrested. He was not the first major contributor of the journal to suffer that fate. In September of the previous year Michael Mikhailov, whose most valuable contribution had been a series of influential articles in behalf of the emancipation of women, was arrested for composing an illegal revolutionary pamphlet. He had managed to convince a reluctant Herzen to print it on his London press. Now Herzen played an even greater role in the events leading up to Chernyshevsky's arrest. Frightened by the most recent developments, the government arrested Chernyshevsky after discovering a careless Herzen letter which offered to continue abroad, in collaboration with Chernyshevsky, the publication of The Contemporary.

In June 1862, Dostoevsky left for Western Europe. It was his first trip abroad and one he had long desired to make. In ten weeks he visited Germany, still not a united country, France, England, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. One of the highlights of the trip was his eight-day stay in London, where he arrived in early July. He found it a huge, garish, noisy, bustling city with polluted air and water, with overhead railways and also the beginnings of underground ones. He visited the reconstructed Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill in South London to view the 1862 World Exhibition and saw the products of human labor collected from all parts of the world. It seemed to symbolize the materialism which he felt had become the new god for Western man. But many of the poor who crowded London's slums seemed morose and somber to him as he wandered the crowded pavements, pubs, and cafes. He observed large numbers of prostitutes walking the streets, and husbands and wives drinking to overcome their misery.

In his Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, which he wrote the following winter, he spoke of the egoism and absence of brotherhood which characterized Western peoples, or as such a critic might put it today, their "dog-eat-dog" philosophy. Of course, various Western thinkers had also decried the sharpened individualism and lack of social cohesion which they believed was increasingly rampant in the West, largely as a result of capitalism and rapid industrial growth. But to Russians such as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, who in the 1857 story "Lucerne" had his protagonist refer to Western civilization as that "egotistical association of people" which was apparently destroying the "need for instinctive and loving association,"7 the evils of this competitive economic individualism were undoubtedly magnified. Like almost all tourists, they could not help but contrast what they perceived abroad with what they were used to in their own country. The philosopher Berdyaev perhaps exaggerated when he claimed that "of all the peoples in the world the Russians have the community spirit,"8 but certainly Russia and its vast peasant masses were characterized by strong traditions of communalism and a weakly developed individualism. And both Dostoevsky and Tolstoy feared any Western influences that might further erode this sense of community and brotherhood.

Soon after arriving in London, Dostoevsky called on Herzen. To Herzen he probably appeared as he did in a lithograph of 1862: with a short, neat beard and a receding hairline. The two men had first met sixteen years earlier in St. Petersburg. Herzen appreciated Dostoevsky's radical past and his literary ability and had recently expressed interest in his recounting of prison experiences in his House of the Dead, which came out in 1861-62. Dostoevsky reciprocated the interest. He had closely read many of Herzen's pieces and undoubtedly appreciated Herzen's disillusionment with the West, his dislike of Western capitalism and materialism, his renewed faith in the Russian peasants and their sense of communalism, and his criticisms of the excesses of Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov. Dostoevsky also sympathized with the Herzen sentiment expressed in Herzen's From the Other Shore, in which the exile had written of the dangers of sacrificing individuals and their freedoms for abstract ideas or ideologies. In future years, Herzen's influence on Dostoevsky would be evident in such works as Winter Notes on Summer Impressions (1863) and Notes from the Underground.

Prior to leaving London, Dostoevsky visited Herzen at least one additional time. Exactly what the two men talked about on these occasions is unknown except for the subject of Chernyshevsky--Herzen was more critical of his personality than was Dostoevsky--and most probably the "Young Russia" pamphlet, about which Herzen had just written a critical article.

Despite sharing a number of views and opinions about Russia and the West, the two men also had their differences. Perhaps most importantly, Dostoevsky had become a religious thinker, but Herzen rejected religious belief as dehumanizing. The former, unlike Herzen, also remained a strong supporter of the Tsar. Herzen found Dostoevsky naive and not altogether clear-headed, but a very nice person. The latter, like almost all visitors, found Herzen to be a brilliant conversationalist, but apparently also thought him, as he expressed it years latter, too alienated from "his native land and its ideals," too much the cosmopolitan aristocrat.9 While in London, Dostoevsky also probably saw Ogarev and, at least according to police reports, Bakunin.

In the late summer and fall of 1862, Herzen, Ogarev, and Bakunin became increasingly involved in aiding the formation of a revolutionary organization that took its name "Land and Liberty" from one of Ogarev's articles. It was not a very large society, but it did have members in a number of different Russian cities, and it included some army officers. Their demands were more moderate than those of the "Young Russia" pamphlet, but included among others the demand for a national assembly (zemskii sobor) and the freeing of Poland.

The call for the creation of a zemskii sobor had frequently been made by the editors of The Bell, especially by Ogarev, during the previous year. And there was wide support among the gentry and some of the intellectuals for the establishment of some such body. Prior to Peter the Great, some of the Russian Tsars had turned to a similarly named council for advice; and in 1613 at the end of the chaotic Time of Troubles, a zemskii sobor, consisting of delegates from various classes including state peasants, had selected Michael Romanov to rule Russia. Thus, such an institution had Russian roots and could be readily accepted by those Russian nationalists who were wary of accepting Western innovations such as parliamentary bodies. In fact, Slavophiles such as Constantine Aksakov had long championed its appropriateness for Russia.

In 1861 and early 1862, some of the noble assemblies petitioned the Tsar to allow the creation of a national assembly to discuss further ramifications of the great change introduced by the emancipation. Conservative nobles wished for an assembly which they could dominate and in which they could air their grievances about the settlement. More liberal nobles desired an assembly representing all classes, and a small percentage of nobles were even willing to renounce any special class privileges. And while some insisted, as the Slavophiles generally did, that a zemskii sobor should do no more than offer advice to the Tsar, others hoped that it might, sooner or later, become more than just an advisory body. The most outspoken of these assemblies was that of the nobility of the province of Tver. In February 1862, the Tver nobles attempted to present an address to Alexander II calling for a number of measures including the "summoning of elected representatives from all the Russian land."10 Alexander refused to accept it, and later that month he ordered the arrest of thirteen Tver emancipation arbitrators, including two of Bakunin's brothers, who declared that in their work they would be bound only by the convictions expressed by the Tver assembly. The "Tver 13" remained in the capital's Peter and Paul Fortress until July, at which time they were sentenced to be held in a mental institution. Fortunately, however, the Tsar pardoned them before they were institutionalized.

At first Herzen had been skeptical about the Land and Liberty organization and about any chances of Polish independence, but he let himself be persuaded otherwise by Ogarev and Bakunin. The latter especially believed that revolution was imminent. But then as Herzen later wrote, Bakunin always "mistook the second month of pregnancy for the ninth."11

Poland had not existed as an independent country since the late eighteenth century when Austria, Russia, and Prussia had divided it up among themselves. As a result of the defeat of Napoleon, Russia increased its share. The Poles in Russia revolted in 1830, but it only worsened their lot. Alexander II eased restrictions somewhat, but it was unlikely he would ever do enough to please radical Poles who detested Russian control over them. In January 1863, after several years of more minor disturbances, a full scale rebellion broke out. Herzen supported it in The Bell. Bakunin lusted to participate. He still dreamed of a free union of federated Slavic states, and he hoped that the Poles might provide the spark which would eventually grow to inflame and destroy the autocratic powers of Austria, Prussia, and Russia. In February he left by ship for Copenhagen, hoping from there to reach Poland.

Although many Russian intellectuals and students had been sympathetic with some of the Polish aspirations for more freedom, the events of January 1863 shocked many and hastened the movement of educated opinion further to the right. Such a shifting was already discernible during the previous year. Following the address by the Tver assembly, the nobility seemed to gradually simmer down--partly because they were mollified by some Tsarist concessions, including promises of judicial and local government reform, and partly because of a backlash against nihilism and the fears that it had aroused. Now in January, hearing that Poles in Warsaw had surprised and killed some Russian soldiers asleep in their barracks, public indignation arose to a fever pitch.

As indignation rose, the popularity of The Bell plummeted. Michael Katkov, who became a leader of public opinion by strongly attacking the Poles, pointed to Herzen and other Russian radicals who shared his beliefs when he wrote of those "prepared to sacrifice the interests of their native land and the unity and political significance of their people," of those that were "prepared to be Poles more than the Poles themselves."12

Thus, by the middle of 1863, Herzen had ceased to be a voice of authority, and the early hopeful days of Alexander's reign, the days in which Kavelin and others ardently hoped to unify public opinion and the Tsar around the banner of liberalism, seemed long gone. Progressive opinion had fragmented like chunks of ice on the Neva during the spring thaw.

The chief apostle of reconciliation, Kavelin himself, had by now become estranged from many he had formerly tried to bring together, including Katkov, Herzen, Chicherin, Pogodin and Soloviev. Chicherin, who along with Kavelin in 1856 had urged liberalism as a unifying banner, seemed increasingly less liberal himself as his passion for strong government led him to urge harsh measures against both student rebels in 1861 and Polish rebels in 1863. Turgenev's liberalism was also weak because, as Herzen correctly perceived, his pessimism drained him of the energy needed to battle for political convictions.13 Katkov had attacked not only Herzen and The Bell, but had also polemicized in the last few years with the editors of Time and The Contemporary--although Chernyshevsky remained in prison, Nekrasov had once again been allowed to publish after an eight-month suspension.

But if events had indicated that the Tsar and educated opinion could not unite under a banner of reform and liberalism, the Polish crisis gave Katkov and others hope that Russia could rally around another banner, only this time one emblazoned with the symbols of Russian nationalism. 

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