PART TWO


Our administration does not enjoy our confidence...it is not surprising that society will try its best to weaken it.

A. V. Nikitenko


 That which thinking people have been afraid of has occurred: a time of turning backward, of reaction, is beginning.

A.V. Nikitenko


 Never had people considered themselves so intelligent and infallible....Never had individuals considered more unshakable their judgments, their scholarly conclusions, their moral convictions and beliefs....All were in a state of unrest and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone possessed the truth, and looking at others, tormented himself, beat himself on the chest, cried, and wrung his hands.

F. Dostoevsky 


14

A FATEFUL YEAR

The year 1866 was an eventful one for Alexander II. First, a man named Karakozov tried to assassinate him, and then he experienced sexual intimacy with a beloved young woman still in her late teens.

As the year began, the Tsar's subjects again were discontented. During the Polish rebellion the Russian public had enthusiastically cheered him, and many intellectuals supported his repression of the Poles. But the crisis was now over, and the public was concerned with other matters. The diary of the government official Nikitenko is illustrative of the mood of the times. He complains of the radical ideas expressed in The Contemporary, but also of government censorship policies. He fears that Russia is on the brink of anarchy, due in part to the lack of respect for authority, but he is also critical of a government which seems both weak and arbitrary, and which is apparently indifferent to public concerns.

Yet the educated public hardly spoke with a unified voice. While Nekrasov's The Contemporary attacked the government from the left, Katkov's increasingly conservative and outspoken newspaper, The Moscow Gazette, criticized government ministers and policies for being too liberal.

Dissatisfaction was compounded by the continuing economic problems of the empire. Alexander wished to modernize and strengthen Russia, especially to build up its railways. But how was he to pay the cost? And, despite occasional cautious words, he desired the continuing expansion of Russia’s empire in places such as Central Asia, one reason that military spending continued to eat up about one-third of the government’s budget. During a decade in which most Western European economies were booming, Russia produced insufficient capital, including bullion, goods for export, and tax revenues. Despite the best efforts and reforms of his capable Minister of Finance, Michael Reutern, the government continued resorting to deficit spending and became increasingly dependent on foreign loans, while at the same time increasing taxes. Inflation outdistanced workers' wages in St. Petersburg, the most industrialized city in the country; and peasants were increasingly hard pressed to pay their taxes along with their annual redemption payments. The condition of the nobles was also deteriorating. Even before the emancipation, the great majority of them could not make a decent living off of their land alone. And now they no longer had serf labor to rely on. Because many of them were indebted to the state prior to 1861, they received only a little over half the amount they had coming from the government's financing of the redemption settlement. And by the middle of the decade the government bonds which they had received could, according to a British report, be sold on the market only at a loss of between 17 and 20% of their face value.1

While some entrepreneurs and speculators grew rich, this only increased the unhappiness of many people. A special target of attack were the foreign capitalists and concessionaires involved in plans for expanding Russia's railways. Although making considerable profits, primarily at great government expense, they were only able to deliver a fraction of the promised new lines.

All in all, the situation in 1866 seemed so bleak that Reutern, who stated that "our whole future depends on the railways,"2 offered to resign. In the following year, partly to pay for new railway construction, as well as to avoid any future costly conflict, Russia sold Alaska to the United States for a little over seven million dollars.

Meanwhile, Alexander's policy continued to be one of limited reform. In 1863, he permitted university faculty greater autonomy by allowing them to elect their own rectors and deans; he also allowed the first Diet to meet in Finland since it had become part of the Russian Empire in 1809. In 1864, he signed into law two of his most important reforms. The first created district and provincial zemstvo (land) assemblies and boards and gave representatives of the peasant communes, as well as the chosen spokesmen of independent property owners, the right to deal with a number of local needs. These included medicine, education, famine relief, accident insurance, and the improvement of roads and agricultural techniques. (For a more detailed description of this reform, see this link.)  The second reform modernized the antiquated and corrupt Russian legal system and furnished it with a degree of independence from government interference. The new law also introduced trial by jury for most criminal offenses and helped create a new class of lawyers.  (For more on the judicial reform, see this link.)

However, Alexander was no more tolerant than ever of any talk suggesting limitations of his own powers. When an assembly of the Moscow gentry in 1865 called upon the Tsar to create "a general Assembly of elected representatives from the Russian land for discussion of the common needs of the entire State,"3 Alexander dissolved their assembly and responded with a document which stated:

The right of initiative...belongs exclusively to ME, and is indissolubly bound to the autocratic power entrusted to ME by GOD....No one is called to take upon himself before ME petitions about the general welfare and needs of the state. Such departures from the order established by existing legislation can only hinder me in the execution of MY aims.4

At about the same time he told a Moscow nobleman: "I give you my word that now, on this table, I am ready to sign any constitution, if I were convinced that it was good for Russia. But I know that were I to do that today, tomorrow Russia would fall to pieces."5 Earlier that year he had expressed a similar conviction to his twenty-one-year-old son and heir to the throne, Nicholas, stating that the adoption of Western-style constitutional forms would cause the disintegration of their country’s multi-national state.

At the beginning of the fateful year of 1866, Alexander II was forty-seven years of age. With his mutton-chop whiskers and mustache and in the general's uniforms he constantly wore, he was still regal looking. His hair, however, had receded a little at the temples, and the asthma from which he suffered had grown worse. And he no longer seemed to enjoy hunting or his game of whist. But then a decade of efforts which he believed were not duly appreciated and a tragic event the previous year had taken its toll on him. In April 1865, shortly after the assassination of America's President Lincoln, the Tsar's own son Nicholas had died of spinal meningitis while in Nice.  By all accounts, he was a young man of great promise, and the death of the heir was a crushing blow to both parents.6 (See this link for a photo of the chapel completed in Nice in 1869 to commemorate Nicholas.) When Nicholas's body was returned, Alexander once again walked behind the coffin in procession to the family vault at the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress cathedral.

He was now left with five sons and his daughter Maria, who was his favorite. The oldest and new heir was Alexander, who was twenty at the time of his older brother's death. The relations of the Tsar with his wife, Maria, were no longer very intimate. Deeply grieved by the loss of her son, to whom she was especially close, this small, frail woman now seemed more reserved and religious than ever.

Although the Tsar's name was no longer linked to that of the flirtatious Alexandra Dolgorukaya, who had married an ambitious officer several years before, his attentions had recently turned toward a very distant relative of hers. Her name was Catherine (Katia) Dolgorukova. When Alexander began taking a romantic interest in her in the months following his son's death, she was still a student at the Smolny Institute. This was a finishing school for noble, but generally not rich, young ladies. She was of average height and possessed a well-proportioned trim figure. Her hair was chestnut brown, and her eyes and smile could be alluring and intriguing. No doubt the Tsar found them so. She soon withdrew from the Smolny and moved in with an elder brother who resided in the capital. She and the Tsar began meeting in the Summer Garden.

Alexander liked to walk and he frequently and freely did so in the capital, sometimes accompanied by his daughter or one or more of his favorite dogs. The Summer Garden was not far from the Winter Palace and dated back to the early days of the city. It contained many statues, exotic trees, flowers, and birds. With its shaded lanes, it was one of the favorite strolling places for ladies in their crinolined skirts and bonnets and men in their uniforms or top hats and frock coats. Alexander and Katia were usually both accompanied to the garden, he by an aide-de-camp and she by a maid. Once there, however, their companions left them alone. They discreetly met in an arbor by a picturesque fountain. But they soon feared that their meetings in the Summer Garden were becoming too obvious. They began meeting instead on some of the more distant islands of the city which contained summer homes and palaces. The more they met, the more Alexander became passionately attached to Katia. But during the first year of their meetings, she would not satisfy his growing passion.

One Monday afternoon, after the Tsar apparently already had transferred his place of rendezvous, he decided to take a walk in the Summer Garden. He was accompanied by his gordon setter Milord. It was a sunny day in early April, and most of the winter snow had already melted. After finishing his walk, he headed toward his open carriage, which was waiting near the garden gate. A small crowd had gathered around the carriage and its two horses, waiting for a glimpse of the Tsar. Suddenly a shot rang out. A man dressed in peasant clothes and holding a pistol darted out of the crowd and tried to run away. But two policemen on hand to keep undesirables out of the garden soon apprehended him. General Totleben, the hero of Sevastopol to whom Dostoevsky had turned for help, was also present at the scene. According to his testimony a peasant-born capmaker named Komissarov had saved the Tsar's life by striking the arm of the would-be assassin just as he took aim at Alexander. Regardless of the accuracy of this account, it helped to reinforce the belief that the common people loved their Tsar

The man apprehended was Dmitry Karakozov. He was a tall, sad, long-faced young man of twenty-five whose psychological condition in the months before the attempt was far from healthy. He had even thought seriously of suicide. Born into an impoverished noble family, he had spent the years since the emancipation growing increasingly hostile to the government. He had been expelled for radical activities from Kazan University, and more recently, suffering from a poverty that afflicted many university students, he was dismissed from Moscow University for not paying his tuition. He had also worked for a short time as a clerk for one of the local arbitrators assigned to work out the emancipation settlement. But he found his supervisor and the arbitrators in general indifferent to the needs of the peasants. Whether such an observation was accurate or not, many radicals were upset that in the working out of the settlement the former serfs as a group did not even receive the amount of land they had previously tilled for themselves.

While in Moscow, he had come under the influence of a cousin named Ishutin. Prior to Karakozov's departure for St. Petersburg in the month before the assassination attempt, Ishutin had formed a revolutionary group called Organization and within it a smaller cell called Hell. The latter was especially interested in the use of terroristic methods. Ishutin's hero was Chernyshevsky, whom he considered, along with Jesus Christ and Paul the Apostle, as one of the three greatest men ever to have lived. Ishutin's group even planned to free Chernyshevsky, who in 1864, after almost two years in the Peter and Paul Fortress, had been sent to a Siberian penal camp. While Hell talked of assassination, Karakozov decided to act. He obtained not only a pistol, but also poison which he intended to take after committing his deed. He also wrote and distributed copies of a manifesto which claimed that the Tsar was the greatest enemy of the "simple people," that he enabled the idle rich to continue to exploit them, and that the writer of the manifesto had decided to kill him.

While Karakozov never succeeded in taking poison, the Tsar's government utilized another method to achieve the same end--hanging. After his arrest, he, Ishutin, and others were tried in the Peter and Paul Fortress, in the same room in which the Decembrists had been convicted in 1826. Found guilty, Karakozov wrote to the Tsar, one Christian to another, appealing for forgiveness. Alexander replied that as a Christian, he forgave him, as Tsar he could not. Consequently, early one September morning Karakozov was taken to the Smolensk field. Amidst thousands of onlookers, including some groaning and crying women and many individuals who crossed themselves, he was hanged. His cousin and most of the others who were a part of the Organization ended up in Siberia.

Meanwhile, on July 1, Katia had finally submitted to the Tsar's most ardent desire. Alexander and family had moved to the palace at Peterhof, which looked out on the Gulf of Finland. Katia, along with her brother and his wife, had moved into a nearby dacha. That Friday (July 1) was the anniversary of the late Emperor Nicholas's wedding, as well as the birthday of his now widowed wife. For the occasion the grounds of Peterhof were opened up to thousands, and music and fireworks were provided. On this festive night, Alexander and Katia secretly met in one of the many structures on the large and beautiful grounds of Peterhof. It was called the Belvedere. It was a richly furnished little chateau in a remote park, a few miles behind the Grand Palace. There, as the Tsar later wrote to Katia, they "laid the foundation" of their happiness "and of the treasure" they both carried in their hearts.7
 
 

15

NEKRASOV AND MURAVIEV THE HANGMAN

On a Saturday less than two weeks after the attempted assassination, the stoop-shouldered, goateed Nicholas Nekrasov approached the fat, bull-dog faced Count Michael Muraviev and asked if he could read him a poem. The scene was the exclusive English Club along the Neva, not far from the Winter Palace.

The previous five years had been difficult ones for Nekrasov. Due to differing ideologies and Nekrasov's contradictory personality, he had lost a number of old friends including Turgenev. Herzen was not the only one who came to think of him a hypocrite and swindler. How could he be a radical and sympathizer with the poor and at the same time ride in his carriage to the English Club and eat gourmet meals and gamble with the ministers and advisers of the Tsar? The fact that he was usually successful at cards and relieved such individuals as Alexander Abaza, a future Minister of Finance, of enormous sums of money did not seem to mitigate his guilt in the eyes of his critics.

Avdotya Panaeva was also no longer in his life. Perhaps she had hoped that after her husband's death in 1862, Nekrasov would marry her. Perhaps she grew tired of his sexual encounters with other women and his gambling. At any rate, she had moved out of the apartment they shared on the Liteiny Prospect. And two years after the death of her husband, she married someone else.

Then there were the losses by death and imprisonment. First was the death in 1861 of the young Dobrolyubov, of whom Nekrasov was very fond. For about a month in their apartment Nekrasov and Avdotya had watched this twenty-five-year-old slowly die from consumption. (See this link for a photo of the room in Nekrasov's apartment, where he often met with Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov.) Then there were the arrests of several of the contributors to The Contemporary, most importantly that of Chernyshevsky in 1862. When he was sentenced to Siberia for life, even the moderate Professor Soloviev was incensed at the injustice of the sentence. How could the government allow him to preach his views for a decade and then suddenly send him to Siberia even though he had apparently committed no crime?

Although Nekrasov's journal was shut down shortly before Chernyshevsky's arrest, when it appeared again the following year it was clear that Nekrasov's radical sympathies were still intact. In the March, April, and May issues he printed a novel which Chernyshevsky had written while in the Peter and Paul Fortress and which, incredibly enough, government censors permitted.

The novel was What Is to Be Done? It was not great literature, but it summarized Chernyshevsky's views, at least to the extent he could state them and still hope to get them through the censor. In it he portrayed characters he thought more appealing than the "sons" of Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. The novel preached enlightened, rational self-interest and radical views on love and marriage, and it hinted at the desirability of a socialist order by having its heroine establish dressmaking co-operatives. It also introduced Rakhmetov, an almost superhuman figure, a completely rational ascetic who trained himself by such feats as sleeping on a bed of nails. Chernyshevsky was confident his readers would realize that Rakhmetov was preparing himself for revolutionary activity. What Is to Be Done? soon helped to inspire a whole generation of radicals.

Nekrasov also continued writing his poetry, some of which appeared in The Contemporary and in new editions of his poems which appeared in the early sixties. At times he wrote satirical poems, critical of government policies and the behavior of society's elite, or poems expressing his own inadequacies, such as his "Knight for an Hour." But increasingly he wrote of the peasants and other poor suffering people such as Volga boat haulers and children in factories. (See this link for Repin's famous picture of.the early 1870s, the Volga Boatmen.)  In 1864 his journal earned an official warning for printing his poem "The Railroad," which deplored the oppression and suffering inflicted upon the railway workers who had built the St. Petersburg-Moscow line. (See this link for an 1874 portrait of railway workers.) At times he even wrote for the literate poor. And some of his poems or parts of them became popular folk songs. Like many intellectuals, he became increasingly interested in peasant folklore and tales. Although tending to idealize the poor, he also strove to picture them as they really were: often victims, but also at times victimizers; usually suffering, but also at times light and happy.

Less than a year after the emancipation of the serfs, Nekrasov bought a fourteen-hundred-acre estate, Karabikha, near the city of Yaroslavl, and not far from where he had spent most of his boyhood years. It became his summer retreat. His brother ran the estate for him, and it contained all the natural loveliness of a typical large estate: woods, ponds, parks, a wild-orange grove, and greenhouses. A large central house with a belvedere atop and two wings, all of two stories, looked down on the lower park and woods and beyond them on the little Kotorosl River, which emptied into the great Volga. At Karabikha Nekrasov loved to hunt and swim, as well as write.

Both at Karabikha and at his apartment on the Liteiny Prospect he spent time with his new mistress, Celine Lefresne, a French actress from a St. Petersburg acting company. While not a great beauty, she was attractive, dressed well, and possessed a lively disposition. Nekrasov loved to hear the French songs she would sing to him as she accompanied herself on the piano.

The man approached by Nekrasov at the English Club on that April day in 1866 was not only one of the "hanging Muravievs," he was "the hangman." He had earned this sobriquet by hanging Poles during the Polish rebellion. Although as a youth he had belonged to one of the secret societies which helped to produce the Decembrists, he soon got over such liberal inclinations. In the early years of Alexander's reign he acted as the Minister of State Properties and was one of the chief opponents of the proposed emancipation settlement. As the Polish revolt spread to the province of Lithuania, where Polish landowners predominated, Muraviev was appointed governor-general there. He soon unleashed a reign of terror on rebellious and suspected nobles and Catholic priests, restricted the use of Polish language and culture, and readjusted the land settlements between landowners and peasants in favor of the Lithuanian peasants. In addition to hanging a few hundred Poles, he also sent many thousands more into Siberian exile. Furthermore, Muraviev's methods were soon applied in Warsaw and other parts of Poland outside of his jurisdiction and gained in 1815 as a result of the war against Napoleon. (See this link for a photo of "the Gate of Execution" of the Citadel, a major Russian fortress in northern Warsaw where Polish rebels were imprisoned and sometimes executed.)

Angered by British and French popular and diplomatic support for the rebellious Poles and seeing the rebellion as part of a centuries old conflict between Catholic Poland and Orthodox Russia, the Russian public, led by the journalist Katkov, cheered Muraviev on. They sent him letters, dispatches, deputations, flowers, icons, and flags. He was met at trains by cheering crowds. Bells were rung in his honor. The Moscow publicist Michael Pogodin wrote: "Muraviev is a good man! He's hanging and shooting [the suspected rebels]. May God give him health!"1

Once the rebellion was firmly crushed and Muraviev's new policies enacted, the Tsar replaced him and he went into retirement. Alexander and his good friends and advisers in the capital did not care for Muraviev, even though the Tsar thought that under the circumstances Muraviev's extreme tactics were unfortunately necessary. Muraviev reciprocated the dislike of many of the Tsar's advisers. He believed they were too cosmopolitan, too influenced by European ideas.

In the relationship between Muraviev and Alexander one again sees that the Tsar was less a Russian nationalist than some of his subjects. In an age in which Bismarck in Germany and the Meiji leaders in Japan were skillfully orchestrating nationalist aspirations in order to better unite and modernize their nations, Alexander seemed little inclined to do likewise, for such a purpose. Perhaps he realized that as the ruler of a multinational empire, he could not rely on nationalism as a unifying force to the extent the rulers of more homogeneous populations could. He also distrusted any nationalist agitators, such as the editor Katkov, who might try to influence his thinking.

During the early stages of the Polish revolt, as Katkov and others beat the drums of Russian nationalism, even moderates such as Nikitenko criticized Alexander's government for being too pusillanimous and conciliatory towards the Polish rebels. Muraviev's bloodier tactics were more to the liking of an aroused Russian public.

Immediately following the attempted assassination of Alexander II, Russians once again reacted with a display of feverish emotion, only this time out of gratitude that their Tsar had not been harmed. Despite dissatisfactions over conditions and government policies in Russia, many had still refused to place major blame on the Tsar. A British memorandum of the previous year had noted that "there is, perhaps, no country where the Sovereign is held by his people less responsible for the acts of his Ministers."2 In St. Petersburg crowds rushed along the streets yelling "hurrah" and headed for Palace Square, where they waited for the Tsar to appear on a Winter Palace balcony overlooking the square. In the days which followed cities, ethnic groups, professional and workers' organizations, students, and even prisoners, poured forth telegrams and prayers of thanksgiving. Crowds on the streets and at concerts sang "God Save the Tsar." The man who supposedly had saved the Tsar's life became an instant hero. The Tsar made this capmaker, Komissarov, a noble; and his picture, along with that of the Tsar, appeared on the streets.

Accompanying the outpouring of thanksgiving was another feeling, not nearly as intense, but yet present and disturbing. Who was this Karakozov who tried to kill the Tsar? Was he a Pole? A nihilist? Part of a larger conspiracy, possibly aided by revolutionaries abroad? An investigation was obviously needed and a tough investigator to head it. The Tsar called Michael Muraviev, now nearly seventy, out of retirement.

Many conservatives, such as Muraviev and Katkov, thought that the Tsar had listened too much to some of his more liberal St. Petersburg advisers and that their liberal policies and permissiveness were partly responsible for such acts as Karakozov's. By mid April, Alexander had replaced a number of these "liberals" with more conservative-minded men. Thus, Alexander appointed a new Minister of Education, Count Dmitry Tolstoy, a new Director of the Third Division (security police), Count Peter Shuvalov, and a new St. Petersburg police chief, General Fedor Trepov. Alexander's behavior indicated, neither for the first nor the last time, that events and public opinion could strongly affect his policies and appointments.

The news of the new appointments helped to create a climate of fear among liberals and radicals in the capital. What would the "Hangman" do? Or the new police chief, Trepov, who had previously dealt severely with the Poles while holding a similar position in Warsaw? People became suspect if they seemed to lack enthusiasm when hurrahs were shouted for the Tsar or failed to remove their hats when passing a picture of Komissarov. Also suspect were women who wore no crinolines, but cut their hair short and wore dark glasses--later that year one governor ordered that such women were to be taken to police stations and given the choice of putting on  crinolines or leaving his province. Those with scores to settle revenged themselves by denouncing their enemies. Arrests multiplied. So did rumors. One of the contributors to Nekrasov's journal later recalled that "all of these rumors, the constantly growing apprehension and the sleepless nights had so enervated me and brought me so near the point of complete prostration that I considered going and asking them to lock me up in the fortress."3

Amidst this reaction and fear, Nekrasov and his journal seemed destined to suffer. Despite his friendship and support for the likes of Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov, despite his own subversive poetry, he had up to now somehow avoided arrest. Meanwhile The Contemporary, according to conservatives, had continued to spew forth its poison. But then there was that other side of Nekrasov: he was a member of the English Club, where he ate, drank, and gambled with Tsarist ministers. He also was conniving and had displayed an ability to do whatever was necessary to keep his journal running. Perhaps he could once again avoid the seemingly inevitable.

When the governor of the English Club asked him to prepare a poem for Komissarov at a banquet in the capemaker's honor, Nekrasov agreed. On Saturday, April 9th, a week before he approached Muraviev with a poem, he stood up and recited his verse in his whispering, but husky voice. It was not his finest effort. He repeated a number of trite phrases that had already been attached to Komissarov's name in the press. Nekrasov called him "Son of the folk" and "the instrument of God."4

During the week that followed, Nekrasov heard that his poem had made a good impression on some high officials, but that his journal was nevertheless due to be shut down. He also was approached again by the governor of the English Club, who suggested he write another poem to be read at another dinner in honor of still another hero, Muraviev. Nekrasov now faced a terrible dilemma. If he said no, it would look like a protest against Muraviev and support for the would-be assassin, Karakozov. The Contemporary would then without doubt be terminated. But how could he who had exhorted the youth to "Go into the flames," "Go and perish," who had told them "You shall not die in vain: the cause is sure with your blood flowing under it,"5 how could he, this same poet, now write a poem in honor of "the Hangman"?

The dinner for Muraviev was held the following Saturday. One can imagine the members and guests consuming in hearty Russian style the usual large quantities of food and drink that were served at such clubs. After dinner, coffee was served in the gallery near the entrance to the dining room. Muraviev sat in an armchair, the center of a small group. While he had the face of a bulldog, his bloated face and body also called to mind a hippopotamus. After another versifier had approached and read Muraviev a poem in his honor, Nekrasov walked up and asked permission to recite one. Muraviev continued smoking his pipe and contemptuously indicated his approval. The short poem was a shameless glorification of "the Hangman," who was now investigating the attempted assassination. It apparently concluded with the line "spare not the guilty ones."6 Nekrasov had decided to degrade himself. His action and the reaction to it would scar him for the rest of his life.
 
 

16

THE PEROVSKYS AND HERZEN IN GENEVA

The civilian governor of the St. Petersburg province at the time of Karakozov's attempted assassination in 1866 was the mouse-like looking Lev Perovsky, the brother of the former envoy to China and the father of Sophia Perovskaya, who would one day figure so prominently in the life of Alexander II. Earlier in the decade, Lev Perovsky had been transferred from the Crimea to the capital, first as vice-governor of the province and then as governor.

Although his career seemed to be proceeding well, his family life was not so satisfying. His wife, Barbara, was not as career minded as he. She was from the countryside and not especially at ease among St. Petersburg's high society. As her husband nagged her about her social failures, a split developed in the family, with the children siding with their mother. Little Sophia (or Sonia as she was generally called) also resented her father's concern that she always appear as a well-bred young lady. She liked the woods and fields too much, especially in the summer, to be worrying about keeping her dress clean.

In 1865, when she was almost twelve, the family received a telegram from Geneva, signed by a man named Poggio. (See this link for a picture of Sophia around this time.)  The telegram informed them that Sophia's uncle Peter was hopelessly ill. He had gone to Genoa as the Russian general consul several years after returning from Peking, but then became ill and had gone to Geneva for his health. Sophia and her mother left for Geneva and were soon at the sick man's side in this city on the lake with its beautiful mountains in the distance. While his sister-in-law cared for him, Sophia could not do much but be saddened by the condition of this warm, beloved uncle. He encouraged her to go play with his neighbor's daughter, Varya Poggio.

The girl's father was Alexander Poggio, a former Decembrist and close friend of old Prince Volkonsky, who had once so impressed Tolstoy. Poggio had also been very close, some thought a lover, to the prince's wife Maria. Like Volkonsky, he had left Siberia only after the amnesty of Alexander II. He was now an old, gray haired man of medium height, but still energetic, handsome, and majestic looking. At least he was so in the eyes of a Geneva admirer, Alexander Herzen.

The fortunes of Herzen had declined considerably since his London heydays when The Bell had reverberated throughout Russia. His support of the Poles and of some of the Russian radicals, as well as his differences with other radicals, had led to a dramatic decline in the circulation of his journal. By 1864, only five hundred subscribers remained. Where he had once seemed to speak for many reformers, he now appeared to represent the thoughts of few beyond himself. In addition, he was troubled with family problems centering around his temperamental and moody mistress, Natalia Ogareva. At the beginning of 1864, he was depressed enough to write in his diary: "In general, there is only gloom, horror, and blood."1

It was in these circumstances that Herzen decided to leave London, and eventually settled on Geneva as his new home. It was also perhaps because Natalia Ogareva was sick of London and because Herzen was being urged by some of the young Russian radicals to resettle his journal in Switzerland. There they hoped to have much more influence on it. Herzen hoped that such a move might regenerate The Bell and would at least move him closer to his two teenage daughters, who were living with a governess in Italy, and to Sasha, his oldest son, who had taken a position in Florence as a lecturer in physiology.  (See this link for a photo of these three children and Herzen and the Ogarevs, both sitting, in the early 1860s.)

In December 1864, Herzen, Natalia, and their three young children were in Paris. He intended to go on to Geneva to meet with some young radicals who were gathering for a congress there at the end of the month. There he could also lay the groundwork for the relocation of The Bell and what was left of his "family."

To move, however, was no easy task. It meant moving his printing press and several workers to Geneva. And it entailed not only moving Natalia Ogareva, himself, and their three young children, but also Natalia's husband and Herzen's friend, Nick Ogarev, and his mistress Mary and her son, as well as a young woman named Charlotte and her son Toots, who had been fathered by Sasha. The group eventually moved in several stages--Charlotte and her son did not arrive until 1867, shortly after which she committed suicide. But before anyone reached Geneva, tragedy once again struck as it had more than a decade before. The three-year-old twins of Herzen and Natalia died in the midst of a diphtheria epidemic, and Natalia almost lost her mind. After temporarily settling Natalia and their daughter Liza in Montpellier, Herzen moved on to Geneva, where he arrived on December 28, 1864.

Several days later, Alexander Poggio called on him. Herzen was staying at the Hotel Garni de la Poste when the old Decembrist stopped by late one morning. In the early part of the decade, Herzen had printed a reference to an injustice done to Poggio by relatives who refused to return the exile's property to him. The notice apparently helped the old man recover at least part of his property. Poggio was no doubt grateful to Herzen for his assistance. Herzen in turn was favorably impressed by the old man, but the two did not have long to become better acquainted before Herzen had to go back to France and England to complete arrangements for the move to Geneva.

By mid April 1865, Herzen and part of his "family" were back in the city of Calvin and Rousseau. The Herzens and Ogarevs moved into a magnificent rented chateau of more than thirty rooms. It was on the road to Chene, about a ten minute tram ride from the center of Geneva. The two-storied chateau with its columns and terraces sat in the midst of a large shaded garden. Herzen's study was on the first floor, and here he wrote for The Bell and continued working on the memoirs he had begun writing and publishing years before. He remained in the chateau for about a year, after which further family changes resulted in another move for Herzen and his oldest daughter to less grandiose lodgings.

Once back in Geneva, Herzen renewed his acquaintance with Poggio, and they sometimes talked politics in the presence of Poggio's young daughter. In that year before the Karakozov assassination attempt, Poggio still had faith in the reforming tendencies of the Tsar who had granted him and the other Decembrists an amnesty. Herzen thought such hopes were misplaced. However, this did not prevent him from writing Alexander II yet another open letter and printing it in the first Geneva issue of The Bell. He was prompted to do so by the death of the Tsar's oldest son. Herzen believed it a proper occasion to encourage Alexander to fulfill the early hopes of his regime, but the tone of the letter reflected more Herzen's disenchantment with the Tsar than any real hope that his words of advice would be followed. Some of Herzen's critics believed him insensitive for addressing the Tsar at such a time of personal suffering.

Meanwhile, Varya Poggio was becoming a close friend of Sophia Perovskaya and was telling her of the heroic Decembrists and also probably about those who presently opposed the Tsar, such as her father’s friend Herzen. But Sophia's informal lessons soon came to an end when her uncle Peter died at the end of August 1865. Her mother had informed her father that his brother's health was fast deteriorating, but when he arrived in Geneva his brother was already dead. The Perovskys, therefore, prepared to go back to Russia. Sophia and Varya Poggio posed for a photograph before they parted. In it they stand, Sophia's arm firmly around the shoulder of her friend. They are about the same size. Sophia has a large forehead, small mouth, and a weak chin; and she has a serious look on her face.

After the Perovskys left Geneva, it continued to be the home of the Poggios and Herzen. Natalia Ogareva, however, soon tired of it. In September, after quarreling with Herzen's teenaged daughters, who temporarily had joined the family, Natalia took Liza and set off for Montreux at the other end of Lake Geneva. She never recovered from the shock of the twins' death. Only her obsession with finding adequate schooling for the high-strung Liza kept her going. But she was never satisfied, and moved from city to city. Only in Nice, where the twins were buried in the Herzen family plot, did Natalia seem to find a tortured comfort. The relations between her and Herzen continued to be stormy whenever he visited her and Liza. "Intimate relations" between the couple seemed, in his words, to "put her right for the time." But he thought it was "an awful remedy."2 Whether for him or for her or for both is not perfectly clear.

In early 1866, upon hearing of Karakozov's assassination attempt, Herzen criticized him and stated that "only in savage and decrepit nations does history proceed by assassinations."3 Within the next year, his criticism of Karakozov led to open warfare between the radical young Russians in Geneva and himself. Already resentful of Herzen, his chateau, and his unwillingness to support and bankroll more of their radical projects, they became increasingly critical. One of the leading Geneva nihilists was Alexander Serno-Solovievich. The curly, dark-haired Serno-Solovievich, along with his older brother, had helped to found the radical Land and Liberty group, which had been supported by Ogarev, Bakunin, and Herzen. His brother had been arrested thanks in part to the same Herzen letter which had played a role in Chernyshevsky's arrest. The younger brother had been in London when he heard of his brother's arrest, and later moved on to Zurich and Geneva.

Now after Herzen printed an article in The Bell in which he praised Chernyshevsky and claimed that the editors of The Bell and the radical journalist complemented each other, Serno-Solovievich printed and distributed an open letter to Herzen. This occurred about a year after both the Karakozov attempt and the death of his own exiled brother in Irkutsk. The piece was filled with hatred and contempt for Herzen and maintained that he had nothing in common with Chernyshevsky. "You, Mr. Herzen, are a dead [i.e. no longer relevant] man"4 was Serno-Solovievich's conclusion.

While Herzen bemoaned these nihilists, the "syphilis of our revolutionary lusts,"5 as he called them, his own health and vitality were beginning to wane, and he no longer had much energy left to fight them.

After the Perovskys returned to St. Petersburg, the life of the governor's family continued in ways appropriate to his status. Sophia's older sister, Masha, had made her debut, and her oldest brother, Kolya, was also of an age to mix with the opposite sex. So the governor arranged dances in his home. As the finely dressed young men and women whirled around amidst the music and the lights of the candelabras, Sophia and her sixteen-year-old brother, Vasya, stood around and watched or made their way to the buffet table. They both thought that the dancing, curtseying, and other mannerisms were incredibly stupid. When a woman sitting near Sophia's mother looked at Sophia through her lorgnette and asked why she wasn't dancing, she said she did not like to dance. Her mother explained that she would much rather read. A colonel in the gendarmes overheard the remark and said she would be better dancing more and reading less. Reading, he explained, was leading many of the young to revolutionary ideas. Vasya later told Sophia that the colonel was a typical gendarme and that in the Third Division a special room existed where they tortured people.

On the day of the Karakozov attempt, Sophia's father was riding in his carriage along the Nevsky Prospect when he noticed several carriages and crowds of people hurrying to Palace Square. He was told at the commandant's entrance of the Winter Palace that someone had shot at the Tsar, but that he was alive. But before Governor Perovsky could join other officials wishing to express their happiness that Alexander II was still in good health, he thought it necessary to go home and change into more appropriate attire. When he returned to the palace, Governor-general Suvorov was there accompanied by the "savior of the Tsar," Komissarov. Soon the Emperor and Empress and the rest of the imperial family appeared, with pages carrying the trains of the dresses of the Empress and Grand Duchesses.

As hurrahs arose amidst the sparkling halls, Suvorov was in tears because he had been unable to prevent the attempted assassination. He soon went into retirement. In late July, Sophia's father joined the growing list of ministers whom the Tsar had decided to replace following Karakozov's attempt.
 
 

17

ANNA

Several months after the replacement of Perovsky, an attractive twenty-year-old woman walked up the steps to the apartment of Dostoevsky. It was about 11:30 in the morning, and the young woman's name was Anna Snitkina. She had gray eyes, a broad forehead, and a firm chin. Although she was a bit apprehensive about the coming encounter, her face normally reflected a certain resoluteness. For a woman so young, she was well educated and possessed an unusual degree of common sense mixed with intelligence. She had completed a secondary education and had also enrolled in a Pedagogical Institute recently opened for women, but she dropped out after a year to help care for her dying father. She still, however, had time to take a stenography class at night. It was due to this training that she was now on her way to begin working for a novelist whose works she had read and enjoyed.

Most recently she had read the first parts of his Crime and Punishment, which had been appearing serially that year in Katkov's The Russian Messenger. In fact, the big stone corner building in which she now found herself, with its many small apartments, reminded her of the one lived in by Raskolnikov, the hero of Dostoevsky's new novel.

Indeed, much of the story was set in the writer's own neighborhood, not far from the Haymarket Square and about a mile south of the Winter Palace. In his novel he wrote of Sonia, a good-hearted woman forced into prostitution by poverty and the irresponsibility of her alcoholic father, Mr. Marmeladov. The author also described the miserable, crowded conditions of the Marmeladovs and of Raskolnikov, who lived by himself in a small attic room. In this part of the city and in the capital generally, prostitution, alcoholism, overcrowding, and crime were growing problems. There were many men in St. Petersburg without their families. When they could afford it, lonely soldiers or peasants performing temporary or seasonal work in the city often turned to prostitutes, alcohol, or both. Syphilis rates climbed sharply. So did the number of illegitimate children, many of whom were turned over to a foundling home. Unsanitary conditions, caused especially by overcrowding and polluted water, continued to kill more people each year than were born in the city. The past year or two had been especially bad because of a cholera epidemic. This was the St. Petersburg of Dostoevsky, the city in which his hero decided to kill an old pawnbroker for her money.

When Anna Snitkina reached apartment 13, she rang and the door was opened by a maid. Such help was cheap in those days and normal for a man of Dostoevsky's standing, even though he was then in a precarious financial position. After the maid had led her into a dining room and she had waited a few minutes, Dostoevsky appeared and invited her into his study. When she first looked at him he seemed rather old, but once he began speaking he seemed younger than his forty-four years. She noticed that his dark blue jacket was stained, that his brown-reddish hair was heavily pomaded, that one of his eyes was so dilated that its iris couldn't be seen, and that his face was pale and unhealthy looking.

After offering her tea, he began nervously pacing around the overheated room, smoking one cigarette after another. His talk was disjointed. He mentioned an epileptic attack that had struck him several days before. Finally, he asked her to take some dictation. It was obvious that he still had doubts about how effective any stenographer could be. After looking over what she had transcribed and finding two small errors, he rebuked her. Soon he told her he was in no mood to dictate and asked her to come back that night. She left feeling depressed.

At 8:00 p.m. she returned. Dostoevsky had her sit at his study desk, gave her some tea, and began talking. He told her of that day on Semenovsky Square when he thought he would be executed by a firing squad. They talked of other things, and finally he began dictating the novel which he would call The Gambler. At 11:00 p.m. she left, promising to transcribe her shorthand and return the following day at noon. When she returned the next day about a half hour late, he was agitated, having feared she would not return. He had explained to her the previous night that he must finish the novel by November 1, less than a month away. Economic necessity had driven him to sign a contract with an unscrupulous publisher. If the novel was not completed by the promised date, Dostoevsky would forfeit all rights to his own works, without any compensation, for the next nine years.

The death of his brother Michael and the collapse of a new journal, both within the past two years, had helped to trigger a whole series of financial obligations and debts for which he now was responsible. Thus, when Anna met him he was trying to stay out of debtor's prison by writing two novels at once, and he had arranged for her help in order to expedite the process. In the days ahead as she continued to work for him, she sometimes noticed that a vase or silver spoons were missing, and discovered that, like his hero Raskolnikov, he had resorted to pawning his valuables.

She came almost every day at noon or in the early afternoon, always in a black mourning dress for her recently expired father, and left at about four. Soon he began writing at night so he could dictate to her from his manuscript, as opposed to composing on the spot. Dictation was interspersed with tea or coffee, sweets, and talk. She found out that the portrait of the emaciated woman which hung in a walnut frame above a couch in his study was that of his wife, who had died the same year as his brother. Dostoevsky also told her of an eighteen-year-old woman, to whom he had proposed not long before. He was speaking of the beautiful, well-born Anna Korvin-Krukovskaya, who had submitted several stories to The Epoch. Dostoevsky had fallen in love with her, but his possessiveness and their differing political views--she was a radical--prevented them from marrying. As Anna Snitkina worked over The Gambler, she must also have wondered about the novel's heroine, Polina. She knew that the hero, Alexei, was partly based upon Dostoevsky himself, and she must have speculated about the extent to which the relations of Polina and Alexei mirrored those of Dostoevsky and her real life model. Eventually, Anna was to find out quite a bit about the "real" Polina.

Apollinaria (Polina) Suslova first came into Dostoevsky's life in the early sixties. She was an aspiring writer in her early twenties and sympathetic to the radical views of the day, especially regarding women. Since he was a former political prisoner and well-known writer, Dostoevsky had a special appeal for her. She was a striking, strong-looking young woman of common origins. She had reddish hair and a low voice. Dostoevsky became strongly attracted to her, and they soon became lovers. His wife, Maria, was still alive at that time, but ailing. Several tempestuous years, both in Western Europe and Russia, followed. After giving herself to the writer, Polina came to believe he was insensitive to her needs. Although they both inflicted pain and suffered at the hands of the other, Polina seemed more sadistic and Dostoevsky more masochistic. One time while traveling in Europe together--the year of his wife's death--she denied him sexual intimacy, at the same time inflaming his passions with her mixture of sensuality and cruelty. One night in Baden-Baden she got in bed and asked Dostoevsky to sit close to her while she held his hand. Before he left she allowed him an ardent kiss, but nothing more. Later she confided to her diary that she neither wished him to "cherish hope nor be quite without it."1

As Anna Snitkina sat in her house at night near the Smolny Convent and Institute, the school that Katia Dolgorukova had recently attended, one wonders what she thought as she transcribed Dostoevsky's sentences from her shorthand notations. When Alexei confessed his lust, his self-contempt, and willingness to do anything, even kill, for Polina, what thoughts ran through the mind of this young woman? She liked neither the hero nor the heroine, but what did either of them tell her about the man with whom she was now working so closely? This strange, irritable, but somehow likable man who bared his soul to her.

As the days of October moved quickly forward, the pages of the novel accumulated and Dostoevsky's mood improved. Actually, there was something about the audacity of writing a novel in less than a month, about the intense pressure of time, that he enjoyed. A little earlier that year he had even bragged about being unique among Russian writers in being able to write under such conditions. Turgenev, he stated, "would die from even the thought" of it.2

The pressure of time seemed to somehow intensify experience for him, to make it richer and more full of meaning. No moments of his life had been more significant than those few minutes he had once stood on Semenovsky Square waiting to be shot. He sometimes experienced similar intense moments just before an epileptic attack. He would later describe the experience in his novel The Idiot. "His self-awareness increased almost ten-fold....all his anxieties, all his doubts, all his worries seemed at once to be pacified, resolved into some sort of higher serenity, full of clear, harmonious happiness and hope, of reason and final cause."3 Roulette had also furnished some intense moments for him when he risked everything on one spin of the wheel.

Between dictations, tea and talk continued in the smoke-filled study. Since all the experience which he related to her seemed sad, she asked him to tell her about some of his happy times. He replied that he had not had any happiness yet, at least of the type he dreamed. Once he told her that three paths lay open before him: to go East to Constantinople and Jerusalem, to go abroad and play roulette, or to marry again and seek happiness in family life. She probably understood that the first choice would reflect a religious quest, but his addiction to gambling and other intense experiences she probably did not yet fully understand. Regarding the third path he asked her whether, if he chose it, he should try to find a wife who was intelligent or kind. When she replied, "an intelligent one," he said no, that he would pick a kind one who would take pity on him and love him.4

As they worked and talked, he became more affectionate and she more relaxed. Although he kept forgetting her name, he began calling her golubchik (little dove) or "my dear." She wondered if he might propose to her and if he did, what she would say. Despite his irritability, the ardent, although always well-behaved and self-possessed, Anna was growing increasingly fond of him.

At the end of October, Dostoevsky dictated the final words of The Gambler. On the 28th, the capital celebrated the marriage of the new Tsarevich Alexander, who had inherited his older brother's fiancee, Dagmar of Denmark. The 30th was Dostoevsky's birthday and a Sunday. On the following day, Anna appeared in a long, lilac dress with the final transcription. Dostoevsky greeted her warmly and, seeing her for the first time in a dress other than black, told her that she looked nice. They talked; he showed her a picture of Polina Suslova, and he asked her if anyone had yet proposed marriage to her. Several days earlier he had told her he would miss her when their work was finished and asked if he might call on her. On this Monday before she departed, they agreed that he would come to her home the following Thursday evening. When he did so and talked with her and her mother, he requested Anna's help in completing the final chapters of Crime and Punishment.

November 8th was a frosty, brilliant day. Anna walked the two miles from her home to Dostoevsky's apartment. When she arrived, he helped to undo her hood and take off her coat. He seemed happy and excited. The light streaming through the windows seemed to brighten his study. He told Anna that he was thinking of a plot for a new novel and wanted her advice. It was about a man of his own age who had fallen in love with a woman of about Anna's age. As he described the hero it was evident to Anna that he was describing a character very much like himself.

What he wanted Anna to tell him was whether it would be realistic, psychologically true to life, to have an exuberant young woman fall in love with a hero who was elderly, sick, and debt-ridden. Anna insisted it would be possible. Then in a trembling voice he asked her to put herself in the heroine's place and himself in place of the hero. Then what would she answer. Anna later recalled that she said; "I would answer that I love you and will love you all my life."5 Before they parted that day they decided that as soon as circumstances permitted, they would marry.

The next month was full of happy anticipation. Only a continued shortage of money and problems with those dependent on Dostoevsky punctured from time to time the spirits of the couple. The author's stepson from his first marriage lived with him, and neither he nor the widow of Dostoevsky's brother seemed happy about the marriage plans of the man upon whom they depended.

Meanwhile, Crime and Punishment had to be completed. He once again began dictating to Anna, sometimes in her two-story stone house near the Smolny and sometimes in his apartment.

Since the beginning of the decade, Dostoevsky had become more and more alarmed at the thinking and behavior of the nihilists, and the news of Karakozov's attempted assassination upset him to the point of trembling. He became especially critical of several journalists, including Dmitry Pisarev, who wrote for The Russian Word. As compared with Chernyshevsky and The Contemporary, Pisarev and The Russian Word were more elitist and less concerned with the masses. The main character of Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov, not only reflected portions of Dostoevsky's own youthful turmoil, but he also symbolized the bankruptcy of this latest development in nihilistic thought. He believed in rational self-interest and had cut himself off from ordinary people and from his religious roots. He reasoned that he could kill the useless old woman pawnbroker and put her money to good use. He also believed that some people, Napoleon for example, were not bound by traditional ethics, and he wanted to see if he, Raskolnikov, were such a superior individual. But little went as planned. He also had to kill the pawnbroker's sister; he obtained little of value; and he never spent the stolen money. Instead he was tormented with guilt.

Only in the previous installment which had appeared in The Russian Messenger had Raskolnikov finally confessed his crime to the loving prostitute Sonia. Now, in the last part dictated to Anna, Raskolnikov haltingly continued his way back from the depths of nihilistic thinking and individual isolation. He allowed Sonia to put a wooden cross, the kind the common people wore, around his neck. He went out to the crowded Haymarket Square and following Sonia's advice, he kissed the earth, since he had sinned against it. Finally, he confessed to the police and was sent to Siberia. There he had a feverish dream in which Europe was stricken by a plague, but one of a unique type. It caused all men to have confidence only in their own particular ideas, to come into conflict with everyone else. Soon only bloody anarchy reigned. Only after this dream did Raskolnikov throw himself at the feet of Sonia, who had followed him into exile. Only then did he fully cast aside his false pride and rationalism, legacies of his radical, Western type thinking. Only then did he fully believe that he might share the simple Russian beliefs of the humble Sonia.

In depicting the isolated Raskolnikov, cut off by his Western views from the Russian masses until he is resurrected by suffering, guilt, and the love of Sonia, Dostoevsky captured well one of the central motifs of the times: the alienation of intellectuals and their longing, often subconsciously, for community.

The novel was completed in December. At the end of the month Dostoevsky took the train to Moscow to see his editor, the nationalistic Katkov, for an advance on a new novel. Katkov promised that he would receive it in January. Anna and he were now able to begin planning a pre-Lenten wedding. On February 15, 1867, at about 8:00 p.m., an hour later than planned, they were finally married in St. Petersburg's Izmailovsky Cathedral.
 
 

18

THE PROFESSOR AND HIS FAMILY

During the year following the death of the Tsar's oldest son, Professor Soloviev gave lessons in history to the new Tsarevich Alexander, just as he had earlier done for his older brother. The selection of Soloviev reflected the outstanding reputation the historian had by now achieved.

The professor spent part of his summers during the mid sixties at Pokrovskoe, an area of pleasant summer dachas on the outskirts of Moscow. There he continued working on his History of Russia from Ancient Times. Despite administrative and teaching duties at Moscow University and his occasional tutoring of a Tsarevich, he had managed since 1851 to continue publishing his history at the rate of a volume per year. During the mid sixties he was writing several volumes on the reign of Peter the Great, an era like his own, full of great changes. After rising at 6:00 a.m. and a long morning walk in this area dotted with trees, dachas, peasant huts, ponds, a small river running under a precipice, and a green cupolated village church, he would come back to his study and work on the reign of the man he thought the greatest leader in history.

In his memoirs, Soloviev would compare Alexander II unfavorably with Peter the Great. As the historian saw it, they both held the reigns of power in a period of transition; but whereas Peter's strong hands had directed a successful transformation, Alexander's weak hands allowed the carriage of state to rush ahead toward its destruction. Soloviev, who favored modernization, industrialization, and the growth of a middle class, believed that Russia required another Peter the Great, but feared that fate had brought his country another Louis XVI of France.

Although the natural sciences were now in vogue with young radicals, some of their leaders and the educated public in general also took an increasing interest in history. One historian and publicist noted, perhaps with some bias, that "with each decade, and lately almost with each year, Russian history gains in interest, significance, and importance."1 Soloviev and others gave public lectures on history which were well attended. Plays and operas dealing with historic themes became increasingly common. In the fall of 1866, Dostoevsky and Anna Snitkina had gone to see Count Alexei Tolstoy's play The Death of Ivan the Terrible. By the end of the decade Mussorgsky would begin working on his majestic historical opera Boris Godunov. The Russian historical periods which fascinated people the most were those like their own, ones of great historical changes. In addition to the era of Peter, another favorite was the one in which Boris Godunov had lived, the Time of Troubles. It was a period of problems with Poland, and more importantly to the radicals, of peasant rebellions.

While some of the radicals such as Chernyshevsky respected the work of Soloviev and thought it important, the historian was also charged with ignoring the historical role of the common people. The Ukrainian historian Kostomarov was more to the radicals' liking for his extensive treatment of the common Russian and border peoples.

In recent years the Soloviev family had continued to grow. By the summer of 1867, his wife had given birth to twelve children, but by then only eight were still alive, five girls and three boys. The baby, who would prove to be the family's last child, was named after her mother, Poliksena. The latter, dark-haired and attractive, was quite a bit younger than her husband, who was now in his late forties, with his blond receding hair growing increasingly gray. Her life revolved around him and their children. Along with a number of servants, she tried to shield him from noise and irritation as he worked at his desk on his historical writings. Not only did his work require quiet, but he was thought to have a weak heart, and Poliksena did not want him to suffer undue stress. During his working hours at home no one was allowed to disturb him.

During the academic year, he usually worked at home in the early mornings before leaving to do historical research at places such as the library of the Rumyantsev Museum or seeing to his duties at the university. For a while in the mid sixties, the family was furnished with a large apartment in one of the university buildings. After returning home late in the afternoon, having dinner, and enjoying a brief rest or some light reading, he would return to his desk and his research and writing. Only on weekends did the regime vary. Occasionally on Friday nights he might have friends over, but even then Poliksena would remind him at 11:00 that it was time to retire. On Saturdays he might dine out at Moscow's English Club and then go to the Italian opera. His fondness for opera, as well as for poets such as Pushkin and Goethe, revealed an emotional aspect of his character which was usually not apparent. Sundays he spent with the family, first at church and then amidst talking, singing, reading aloud, or game playing. In some ways he was an old-fashioned father. Except for Sundays, he did not spend a great deal of time with his children. But in his own way he loved them, and he encouraged their intellectual development, that of his girls as well as his boys. At times he let them sit around and listen as he talked with friends. The children in turn greatly respected their father.

His lectures at the university were characteristic of his temperament. His tall, solid body entered the lecture hall promptly on time, and he would lecture for forty minutes, mainly with his eyes closed. His tone was even and unhurried. He did not try to entertain or dazzle his students with colorful images, but spoke on a clear intellectual level, attempting to point out the connection of one event to another. He believed in historical laws and patterns and that God stood behind history, guiding it forward. Although his defense of strong Russian governments and rulers did not appeal to some of his more radical students, they were more sympathetic to his view of Russia as an integral part of Europe.

In addition to teaching, Soloviev also had administrative duties. He had been selected by his colleagues to be Dean of the Historical-Philological Faculty, and from time to time during this period he also assumed the responsibilities of rector of the university. He brought to these administrative tasks, his solid, hard-working, prudent approach. He could display flashes of temper, and he did not tolerate fools easily, but generally he was restrained and had little appetite for dramatic confrontations. He tried to settle disputes without a great deal of fanfare. For the radical students of the decade he was too conservative, and for some St. Petersburg reactionaries in the Ministry of Education, too liberal. In fact, he had always been a moderate but independent man, confident of his own political view that Russia needed a strong but enlightened government based on sound rational and moral principles.

During the summers, he had more time for writing. At Pokrovskoe he worked in his study, which possessed a big window looking out on a winding country road. If he wished a break from his efforts, he could look out and watch carriages carrying dacha owners, peasants on foot, or children at play. Once when his second son, Vladimir, and several friends constructed a zoological station under his window, he said with a flash of humor that Vladimir and his friends would be good subjects themselves for zoological investigation.

Vladimir (or Volodya as he was more commonly called) was in fact an interesting young boy. He had been born prematurely and was never in robust health. Although thin and pale, with dark hair like his mother's, his mind and imagination were exceedingly active. Like his father, he was interested in foreign countries, but more inclined towards the romantic and mysterious in life than was his more sober father. Spanish knights, saints who practiced severe asceticism, military heroes, and the more enchanted writings of Gogol and Pushkin captured his fancy. His mother and a short, stout, bossy governess named Anna, whom Volodya credited with prophetic dreams, seemed to have encouraged some of his appetite for the marvelous in life.

When he was nine, in 1862, he experienced an event that would leave an indelible mark on him. As he recalled it many years later, it was Ascension Day, and he was in church. He was still in bitter agony over discovering that a girl to whom he had confessed his love preferred a rival. The odor of incense filled the church. The priest proclaimed "Let us banish earthly cares."2 Suddenly there was azure all around and his torments disappeared. All he saw was azure and a beautiful lady bathed in a golden blue light. She stood with a radiant smile on her face and a flower in her hand. She nodded to him and then vanished in a mist.

When Volodya was eleven he entered the same Moscow gymnasium where his father and older brother Vsevolod had prepared for college. He would remain there five years. It was an excellent school with a tough curriculum. In his third year there, for example, he took religion, Russian, German, French, Latin, Greek, math, physics, and history. He was a good student and learned well. But he was also a passionate and mischievous boy. In the summers at Pokrovskoe he and a couple of his young friends would go down to the river where the women bathed and scream in disguised voices "fire, fire, Pokrovskoe burns."3 They would then hide in the bushes as the women emerged from the river or bathhouse in a state of disarray and panic. Or the boys would wrap themselves in sheets, make scary noises, and come charging out of a graveyard adjacent to a park as people walked by at night. They especially tried to provoke three actresses staying at Pokrovskoe. Volodya was so eager for their attention that he would have welcomed a beating from them, but unfortunately they would not respond. His parents discovered some of these exploits and scolded him, but Volodya was not easily discouraged.

In the mid and late 1860s, while still in his early teens, he gradually lost the Orthodox faith that was so dear to his parents. His now deceased paternal grandfather, the priest, had dedicated Volodya to the service of Orthodoxy. Volodya's parents had named his two older sisters Vera (faith) and Nadezhda (hope) and the sister born after him, Lyubov (charity or love). Icons had an honorable place in the family's rooms, and the family observed church fasts to the extent that health permitted.

But influenced by the heroes of the radical youth in the 1860s, Volodya renounced it all. The Russian nihilist Pisarev, Darwin, and others became his guides. Like the heroes of Chernyshevsky, he believed that science and socialism would lead man towards a better future. In the style of the radicals of the day he let his hair grow long and espoused nihilist views. His father apparently thought it was just a phase the boy was going though and did not become overly troubled.
 
 

19

A MARRIAGE AND A MASTERPIECE

While Professor Soloviev was writing about Peter the Great, Leo Tolstoy was at his estate working on a different type of historical work, War and Peace.

In the years since the emancipation of the serfs, Tolstoy had married and by the summer of 1866 had three children, Sergei, Tatyana, and Ilya. His wife was Sonia Bers, the daughter of a government physician who worked in the Kremlin. Sonia’s mother, Lyubov, was only a few years older than Tolstoy himself and as a young boy he apparently had once been infatuated with her. Sonia's father had met Lyubov in the early 1840's when he had interrupted a trip to Turgenev's in order to attend to her when she fell ill. Turgenev's mother had once been his mistress, and they apparently even had an illegitimate child.

In the early and mid 1860s the large Bers family, like the Solovievs, spent their summers in Pokrovskoe, and many a morning in the summer of 1862, Leo Tolstoy walked the eight miles from his rented apartment in Moscow to the Bers' dacha. One of his rivals for the affections of Sonia was a Moscow history professor, Nil Popov, who years later would marry the oldest of the Soloviev girls, Vera.

The young Sonia had rosy cheeks, dark hair and eyes, and was inclined to be serious and introspective. Tolstoy was sixteen years older than this teenager, still had his dark beard, and feared that he was too old and ugly. But she was awed by this famous writer who was also a count. The fact that her father was not born a noble and her mother was only an illegitimate daughter of a princess both seemed to contribute to Sonia's infatuation for someone with a solid and legitimate aristocratic background. The Bers' parents hoped that Tolstoy, a family friend, might be most interested in the oldest daughter, Liza. This probably only increased the desirability of the count for the younger Sonia. In the idyllic, romantic setting of Pokrovskoe the romance proceeded, and in September 1862, Tolstoy and Sonia were married in the Kremlin's Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.

Following the marriage the couple settled down on his estate, Yasnaya Polyana. Tolstoy's shriveled-up Aunt Toninette and her companion Natalia, plus maids and cooks, a housekeeper, coachmen, seamstresses, laundry women, and other servants were all part of the household. Tolstoy rose early, dressed in work clothes, and spent his days supervising the estate. He planted fruit trees, imported Japanese pigs, took up beekeeping, built a distillery. Sometimes he went hunting or retired to his study to write. For a short while continued teaching in the school for peasant children which he had enthusiastically started before his marriage. (See this link for the estate building where the school was held and Chapters 14-16 of Birukoff  for  more on Tolstoy's educational activities and marriage.)

For Sonia life on a large and somewhat isolated country estate was quite different than her active life in Moscow and at Pokrovskoe. While there certainly were happy times and she expressed a strong love of her husband, she also brooded. She wrote in her diary in November 1862:

It isn't hard to find work [here], but before doing anything one has to create some enthusiasm for breeding hens, tinkling the piano, and reading a lot of silly books and a very few good ones, or pickling cucumbers and what not. All this will come in time when I forget my lazy old life and get used to the country.1

Ten days later she wrote:

He disgusts me with his People [peasants]. I feel he ought to choose between me, i.e. the representative of the family, and his beloved People. This is egoism, I know. But let it be. I have given my life to him, I live through him, and I expect him to do the same. Otherwise the place grows too depressing; I ran away to-day because everybody and everything repelled me--Auntie and the students and N.P. [his aunt's companion] and the walls and the whole life here, so that I laughed for joy when I ran quietly away from the house. L. did not disgust me, but I suddenly felt that he and I were miles apart, i.e. that his People could never absorb all my attention, while I couldn't take up all his attention, as he does mine. It's quite clear. If I am no good to him, if I am merely a doll, a wife, and not a human being--then it is all useless and I don't want to carry on this existence.2

There was also Sonia's jealousy. Shortly after she had agreed to marry him, Tolstoy had insisted that she know the whole truth about what he considered his immoral past. He had handed her his diaries. Among his erotic adventures, she had discovered his liaison with the peasant Aksinya, who now still lived in a hamlet at Yasnaya Polyana along with her illegitimate son by Tolstoy. Sonia could not forget what Tolstoy had written in his diary of his feelings for Aksinya in 1858: "I am in love as never before....the feeling is no longer bestial, but like a husband's for his wife."3 In her diary Sonia wrote: "Some day I shall kill myself with jealousy."4

Tolstoy's feelings towards his new wife were also full of ambivalence. He had long dreamed of family happiness, but he was a perfectionist and dogmatic. Therefore, he was not an easy man to live with, unless a wife was willing to be molded according to his views. The age difference between them, as well as Sonia's awe of him in their brief courtship, no doubt led him to believe she would follow his guidance. But her dissatisfaction and the couple's detailed analyses and revelations of their feelings--they openly read each other's diaries--often led to further mistrust, suspicion, and quarrels.

With the birth of Sergei in the summer of 1863, a new source of both happiness and tension appeared. Sonia became a proud and loving mother, and Tolstoy had always thought that mothering was a woman's chief obligation in life. However, they soon quarreled when because of painful breasts Sonia had to employ a wet-nurse to feed the baby. To Tolstoy the employment of wet-nurses represented the type of dereliction of duty that he expected of society women or of those with "emancipated" views. He contrasted such a practice with the more natural, healthy way of the peasant women who breast-fed their own children. During this same year he also lashed out, in a play called The Infected Family, at the types of emancipated women and nihilist views pictured in Chernyshevsky's What Is To be Done? But when he tried to get his play produced in Moscow the following year, he was unable to do so.

Despite some dissatisfactions in the years which followed, the couple gradually adjusted to each other. With the arrival of Tatyana in 1864 and Ilya in 1866, Sonia took on increasing responsibilities. Tolstoy, on the other hand, allowed some of his to lapse. Not long after their marriage he lost his enthusiasm for educating the peasant children, and before too long he also turned over more of the management of the estate to hired help.

Instead he took up in earnest the writing of what he eventually would call War and Peace. Like Poliksena Solovieva, Sonia supervised the household staff and tried to see that her husband was undisturbed as he wrote. He did so in a large former storeroom on the ground floor. Heavy rings from which hams had once been hung still were affixed to the ceiling. Sonia was happy that he was busy on the novel, and she helped him greatly by laboriously copying over and over his scrawled and at times almost illegible drafts.

From time to time trips to relatives or friends or welcoming them to Yasnaya Polyana also helped to fill Sonia's days. Tolstoy's sister Maria was one guest, along with her two daughters, the last fathered by a Swedish nobleman whom Maria recently had lived with but not married. More frequently members of Sonia's family visited them, especially her younger sister Tanya, who was two years younger than Sonia. She was bubbly, enthusiastic, mercurial, and mischievous. Tolstoy jokingly referred to her as "Mme Viardot" (Turgenev's love) because of her fine singing voice. Family members believed that she was a model for the enchanting and appealing young Natasha of War and Peace.

For several years there had been some hope that Tanya would marry Tolstoy's brother Sergei, despite the fact he was twice her age and had a gypsy mistress and illegitimate children. A wedding was actually planned, but Sergei finally decided he could not desert his mistress. It took Tanya some time to recover.

Occasional flashes of jealousy still infected Sonia. In the summer of 1866, shortly after giving birth to Ilya, Sonia was jealous of a new steward's pretty young nihilistic wife. Despite Tolstoy's disapproval of nihilism, he always seemed eager to discuss such ideas with enthusiastic young exponents of them. While teaching the young peasants on his estate, he had hired a number of young radicals to teach in neighboring villages. He soon converted them to some of his own views, and perhaps he hoped he could do the same with this nihilist woman. But Sonia feared that Tolstoy was interested in more than the young woman's views. She wrote in her diary that she wished the woman "every misfortune."5

Such times of trial for Sonia, however, alternated with days of happiness. An especially memorable one was her name day, September 17, 1866. As family and guests sat down for dinner on a terrace flooded with sunshine and at a table decorated with flowers, an army band hidden in the garden began to play one of Sonia's favorite pieces, the overture from the opera Fennella ou La Muette de Portici. Sonia beamed at this surprise arranged by her husband. After dinner there was dancing. Tolstoy enthusiastically directed the fun and danced along with Sonia and the guests. Tanya danced a Russian folkdance while others clapped, and Tolstoy observed the scene and later transformed it into Natasha's country dance in War and Peace. At one in the morning, beneath a luminous moon and starlit night, the band along with some officers left to the beat of a marching tune.

Ironically, the band's appearance was accompanied and arranged by a colonel who several months earlier had condemned to death a man Tolstoy had defended. This unusual incident had occurred as a result of a slow-witted enlisted man named Shibunin striking his sadistic commanding officer. Such an offense was punishable by death. A couple of young officers of this unit, which was stationed nearby, appealed to Tolstoy to defend the man. Tolstoy agreed and proposed a defense based on Shibunin's abnormal mental state at the time of the offense. A majority of the court, however, ruled against him. Tolstoy appealed the decision, but the execution was carried out.

Meanwhile, Tolstoy had his writing to do. In 1865 and 1866, after numerous reworkings, the first part of War and Peace was published under the title 1805. It appeared in five installments in Katkov's The Russian Messenger, the same journal that was publishing Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and had first published Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. Only in 1869 would Tolstoy complete the entire manuscript.

The idea for the novel began with Tolstoy's earlier desire to write about a Decembrist returning in 1856 from Siberian exile. Tolstoy believed that certain resemblances exited between 1856 and the years that gave birth to the Decembrist ideas and revolt of 1825, and he kept pushing back the beginning date of War and Peace until he finally arrived at 1805, when Russia fist entered the war against Napoleon. As the novel progressed, Tolstoy’s artistry demanded a different approach than he had begun with, and the novel never reached 1825.

Many of Tolstoy's critics were puzzled by the nature of the work. It was certainly not a conventional novel, nor according to some was it accurate history. Tolstoy used historical events and characters such as Napoleon and General Kutuzov, but he transformed them according to his artistic and ideological intentions. He also invented scores of characters, and he wove a story around their interactions with historical events, personages, and one another. And at times he interrupted the flow of the story to discourse on such topics as war and history.  (See this link for text and visual material on Napoleon's invasion of Russia.)

Most of the characters were from the aristocracy, and Tolstoy’s sympathies with old noble families such as his own come through clearly in the novel. Two of the chief figures, Pierre Bezukhov and Andrei Bolkonsky, reflected different aspects of Tolstoy's own personality. While in The Cossacks Tolstoy's hero had hoped to find the meaning of life among the spontaneous Cossacks, Pierre learned wisdom from the humble peasant Platon Karataev. The good people in his book were those who rose above individual egoism, found meaning in something larger than themselves, and were in harmony with nature. Despite their many differences, Tolstoy's central theme in War and Peace was similar to Dostoevsky's in Crime and Punishment: the necessity of overcoming egoism, of restoring unity, community, and harmony.

For Tolstoy the orphan, family life was a central part of the harmony which he craved. And in War and Peace two noble families figure prominently, the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys. By the end of the novel the once lively Natasha Rostov is married to Pierre and has four children. Tolstoy painted her as almost an ideal wife and mother, one devoted to her husband and children, and caring little for society or appearances, Tolstoy wrote:

There were then as now conversations and discussions about women's rights, the relations of husband and wife and their freedom and rights...but these topics were not merely uninteresting to Natasha, she positively did not understand them.

These questions, then as now, existed only for those who see nothing in marriage but the pleasure married people get from one another, that is, only the beginnings of marriage and not its whole significance, which lies in the family.6

Tolstoy's women in War and Peace led Turgenev, who was still estranged from Tolstoy, to ask a friend: "Why is it that all his good women are unfailingly not only females--but fools? And why does he try to convince the reader that if a woman is wise and cultured she is without exception a phrasemonger and a liar?"7

While Tolstoy was dogmatic about the proper role of women, he remained ambivalent about his attitude towards war. In 1863, in the midst of his troubled adjustment to marriage, he had expressed an interest in running off to help put down the Polish rebels. A few years later he wrote to his "granny" Alexandra, who that year would become the tutor to Alexander II's daughter Maria: "it's a matter of complete indifference to me who suppresses the Poles, or captures Schleswig-Holstein, or delivers a speech at a zemstvo meeting."8

When it came to history, War and Peace indicated that Tolstoy differed in many respects from the views of Professor Soloviev. Years before beginning the novel he had stated: "History is nothing but a collection of fables and useless trifles, cluttered up with a mass of unnecessary figures and proper names."9 Later he read in the Russian Messenger Soloviev's "Historical Letters," in which the historian defended "progress" and urbanization. Like a number of European historians of his time, Soloviev believed that history was a story of gradual progress. Tolstoy, however, was much more suspicious of such developments. While engaged in running his school for peasant children, he wrote that while historians talked about a law of progress, they seemed to ignore all the non-Europeans who had not progressed according to the criteria of these historians. Further, Tolstoy accused historians of unclear thinking when they talked of progress. While he would equate progress with an overall improvement of well-being, they seemed to emphasize more the development of such phenomena as printing, railways, and the telegraph, and to take it for granted that such developments arbitrarily contributed to an improvement in the overall well-being of the individual and nation.

But Tolstoy was convinced that "progress on one side is always paid back by retrogression on the other side of human life."10 For him the growth of cities and newspapers, gas-lighting, railways, and sewing machines, all were either regressive developments or not worth the cost of destroying forests and peoples' sense of simplicity and moderation. He believed that the railways, for example, brought the peasant only what he did not need: an increase in the temptations of the city, the destruction of the forests, the carting away of laborers, and an increase in the price of bread.

Between the views of Tolstoy and Soloviev there were many other differences. Whereas Soloviev strongly emphasized the role of governments in history, Tolstoy thought it should be the people who were stressed; while Soloviev thought history was a science and that the historian could discover historical laws, Tolstoy ridiculed the historians' claims to scientific validity and believed that the causes of any one historical event were so many that historians could never discover them all; while Soloviev had written of the tremendous changes in Russia brought about by Peter the Great, Tolstoy in War and Peace minimized the effect of so-called "great men" on history. And perhaps most importantly, whereas Soloviev tended to see life and society from an historical perspective, Tolstoy was more concerned with such eternal questions as "How should one live?" and "What is the good life?" Before, during, and after writing War and Peace, it was the answer to such ahistorical questions that Tolstoy sought. In fact, this historical novel was really anti-historical in the sense that Tolstoy wished to show that the activities of the great historical figures were insignificant as compared to the daily life and aspirations of ordinary people such as Pierre and Natasha.

It was this view of life that also contributed to Tolstoy's relative indifference to many of the political debates of the sixties and to his unwillingness to side with liberals and radicals who claimed to be on the side of progress. Just as he thought that what happened to Pierre and Natasha was more important than the activities of Napoleon and Alexander I, so in the 1860's he was more concerned with his own search for meaning and truth than with the activities of Alexander II.

Despite Tolstoy's views on history--he even stated in 1862 that it would be harmful to have children study history prior to entering a university--he himself benefited from the ideas of several historians. One such was Professor Soloviev's old rival, M. P. Pogodin. While Tolstoy was working on War and Peace, he occasionally came to Moscow and received help and advice from the older Pogodin.

After finishing War and Peace, Tolstoy was prepared to continue his battle with historians such as Soloviev. Tolstoy now contemplated a novel set in the age of Peter the Great. He read Soloviev's volumes for background and came to the conclusion that the professor had greatly overemphasized the positive role of Peter and had neglected the people's life, those who "made the brocades, broadcloth, clothes, and damask cloth which the tsars and nobles flaunted, who trapped the black foxes and sables that were given to ambassadors, who mined the gold and iron, who raised the horses, cattle, and sheep, who constructed the houses, palaces, and churches, and who transported goods."11 Whereas Soloviev criticized the Cossacks of the seventeenth century for what he considered their anti-government, anti-peasant, destructive activities, Tolstoy praised them.

Tolstoy believed that only an artist, like himself, could present historical life as it really was. Soloviev he thought dealt not with the real texture of history, but with governments and pseudo-scientific, abstract historical laws, such as the law of progress.

In his new novel, Tolstoy paradoxically hoped to teach historians how to recreate a true portrait of past life. He was not completely satisfied with his efforts in War and Peace, and he now hoped to better integrate the historical with the fictional, the public events with the private lives of his characters. He thought that in the novel he could also deal with such fundamental questions that still troubled him and his contemporaries as the attitude of noblemen to government sponsored changes and to the peasants. The significance of war and of foreign influences were other topics which he contemplated treating.

But this new effort of Tolstoy's occurred only in the early seventies. By this time Sonia had given birth to several additional children and important events had occurred to the Tsar and some of Tolstoy's former friends and acquaintances.
 
 

20

A SHOT IN PARIS

Late in the afternoon of Saturday, June 1, 1867, the Tsar and his entourage arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris. He was met there by the French Emperor, Napoleon III, who was a smaller and older man than the Tsar and sported a goatee and a mustache with long waxed ends.

Their personalities were as different as their appearances. While Alexander cared little for ideas, Napoleon III was somewhat of an intellectual who had written a number of books. His two- volume History of Caesar, published just two years earlier, had been a sensation and led to a European-wide debate on the role and ethical rights of great historical figures, a subject, as we have seen, of interest in different ways to Dostoevsky, Professor Soloviev, and Tolstoy. While Alexander was bred for autocracy and, following Karakozov's assassination attempt,  was becoming more isolated from the Russian public, Louis Napoleon had to first be elected president and then later confirmed as Emperor and was an early master at manipulating public opinion. And while Alexander expressed only disdain for radicals, Napoleon III had once flirted with some of their ideas and still attempted to depict himself as a champion of social justice.

Now with a cavalry escort, the two monarchs rode together to the Emperor's Tuileries Palace. The French Emperor was tactful enough to avoid the route which would have taken them down the recently constructed Boulevard de Sebastopol.

The French ruler probably was hopeful that the Tsar would be in a forgiving mood, especially regarding Poland. Four years earlier, during the Polish revolt, Napoleon III had made requests and demands in behalf of the Polish rebels. He had joined with Great Britain and Austria to put pressure on Russia, and it had proved fruitless. It had only angered Russia and cooled the more cordial relationship that had been developing between Russia and France.

If Napoleon III wished to ignore the subject of Poland, some of his people did not. The cause of rebellious, Catholic Poland was one championed by many Frenchmen of both the Left and the Right. Some of the capital's newspapers reminded the public that the visiting Tsar was the oppressor of Poland. The many Polish émigrés in Paris also served as a constant reminder. As the two sovereigns proceeded toward the Tuileries, some among the crowds shouted out the names of Poland, as well as that of the persecutor of Poles, Muraviev, who had died at the end of the previous summer. In the days which followed his entrance into the city, Alexander would more than once hear "Vive la Polonge." If any positive effect was produced by the news that the Tsar had just recently decreed a partial amnesty for Poles, it was not very evident in the capital.

After a brief reception at the Tuileries, the Tsar was escorted down the Rue de Rivoli and the Champs Elysees  in the direction of the Arch of Triumph.  His final destination was the Elysee Palace, where his uncle Alexander I had once stayed after entering Paris in victory. The palace remained at Alexander II's disposal during his stay. That same evening the Tsar and two of his sons who had accompanied him to Paris had the opportunity to sample one of the pleasures of the city, Offenbach's operetta La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein. More than ever, Paris was a city of pleasure and excitement, of crazes and courtesans, of glitter and luxury. At least it was for the well-off. And Offenbach and his light, jaunty music reflected this spirit well. In the role of the Grand Duchess the captivating Hortense Schneider charmed her audiences.

Although some Russians found Offenbach's operettas decadent, neither the Tsar nor his sons were the type to be easily scandalized. Alexander, for example, was an appreciative admirer of the erotic drawings of his court artist Zichi. From all accounts, the royal party seemed to enjoy the performance.

The Tsar's mood was perhaps also affected by the realization that he was once again to spend some private moments with Catherine Dolgorukova. After the consummation of their love that July night in Peterhof, many other similar nights followed. The sexual satisfaction he experienced with Katia seemed to increase his love for her. He pledged his eternal love. When parted for a while, they wrote to each other, almost always in French. "I shall now live only in the hope of our meeting again,"1 he wrote to her at the end of the previous August. In early October she wrote to him, her "adored angel,"2 complaining of boredom without him and mentioning her yearning for him. Occasionally she was jealous of the attentions she thought he was paying to other women, but her fears were groundless. As their affair developed, gossip intensified, and to avoid inflaming it more, Katia left for a trip to sunny Naples. When the Tsar was invited to Paris he arranged for Katia to visit him there. Whereas he arrived at the Elysee Palace with all of the pomp of a great visiting ruler, she quietly checked into a nearby small hotel in the Rue Basse du Rempart.

In the days which followed they spent spare moments together riding horses in the picturesque Bois de Boulogne, where men could be seen riding in frock coats and top hats and the women sitting sidesaddle in their long, elegant, riding-habits. Or open carriages might speed by with liveried drivers and finely dressed women holding their parasols to protect them against the rays of the June sun. Gardens, foot and bridle paths, lakes and waterfalls, cafes and outdoor restaurants, hot-houses and a zoological garden, all of this and much more had made this newly transformed government property into one of the outdoor centers of fashionable Paris.

After riding together on the Wednesday after his arrival, he wrote to Katia a brief note saying how he loved the Bois de Boulogne and concluded by saying: "You have driven me completely insane. I am happy to love you, and belong to you forever."3 When Alexander was free from his busy schedule, Katia also contributed to his delirium by entering through a secret garden gate into his private quarters at the Elysee Palace.

Meanwhile the Tsar had numerous official functions to attend: gala dinners, opera, the horse races at Longchamp in the Bois de Boulogne, a visit to St. Cloud, one of the French Emperor's warm-weather retreats, trips to the Cluny Museum, Sainte Chapelle, and the tomb of Napoleon at the Invalides, which a decade earlier had disgusted Tolstoy. In the middle of the week some more distinguished visitors entered Paris by train. They were King William of Prussia and his tall, bald, and wily Foreign Minister, Otto von Bismarck. Again Napoleon III was on hand to greet them. Alexander knew that they were coming, and in fact desired that his visit coincide with that of his uncle King William. The Tsar had always been friendly with the Prussian monarch, and Bismarck had been favorably treated when he had been the German ambassador in St. Petersburg at the turn of the decade. When Napoleon III and others had tried to pressure Russia regarding Poland and when the danger of French military intervention was taken so seriously that the Russians called up reserve battalions, Prussia had given diplomatic support to Russia. Bismarck no more wished for an independent Poland than did the Tsar. Following the Polish crisis, Alexander provided limited but important support to his uncle as he strengthened the Prussian state, first in a war with Denmark and then, just the previous year, in one with Austria. Not many members of the Tsar's family supported his policy. The Tsarevich especially was anti-Prussian, even before his marriage to the vehemently anti-Prussian Danish Princess Dagmar. Many other members, including the Tsarina, had connections with smaller German territories which had either recently been annexed or feared being so in the future. Although concerned about such developments, Alexander was soon mollified by arguments that a strong conservative Prussia was in the interest of Russia. He was also influenced by suggestions that Prussia would support future Russian efforts to end the restrictive Black Sea clauses imposed at the end of the Crimean War.

Alexander supported a stronger Prussia because he feared that otherwise France, with her Polish sympathies, would dominate the continent. And Napoleon III had given other countries good reason to be wary of his ambitions. He had led France into war against the Russians in the Crimea, against the Austrians in Italy, while obtaining Savoy and Nice as his price for helping the Italians, and had maintained French forces in Rome to protect the Pope. Like several other European rulers, he was also adventuresome outside of Europe. French troops had subjugated Algerian and Senegalase tribesmen and parts of Indochina; they had fought in China and been sent to protect Christians in Syria. Napoleon III's most disastrous adventure had been sending troops to Mexico and helping to install the Austrian Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico. French troops had only departed Mexico several months before the Tsar arrived in Paris, and while Alexander was still there rumors circulated that the now deposed Maximilian had been put to death. The rumors proved to be premature, but only by a few weeks.

Before arriving in Paris, the Tsar had stopped at Berlin and spent several days at his uncle's palace at Potsdam. There both monarchs talked about how they could maintain the peace in the light of French ambitions. Just a month or two before, there had been danger of a Franco-Prussian war over France's desire to take over Luxembourg. Although the immediate danger now seemed to have passed, thanks in part to Russian and English efforts at mediation, the Russian and German monarchs both still feared that France might have future territorial designs along her eastern border. One of Alexander's purposes for the trip to Paris was to convince the French Emperor of the necessity of peace in Europe.

Recent events in the Ottoman Turkish Empire provided another reason for the trip. Foreign Minister Gorchakov had become concerned with the Muslim Turks' treatment of Christians on the island of Crete and with rumors of a possible revolt by some of the Balkan Christians against the Muslim Turks. General Ignatiev, who had so successfully negotiated for the Russians at Peking, had just been upgraded from envoy to ambassador in Constantinople and had let the Turkish Sultan know that Russia expected the Turks to treat their Orthodox population in a decent fashion. For some months Gorchakov had been trying to get the French to go along with increasing the pressure on the Sultan and with demanding the cession of Crete to Greece. But he had little luck, perhaps because Russia offered little in return for French help. Gorchakov hoped to be more effective in Paris.

Once in Paris, however, neither the Tsar nor Gorchakov was offered much opportunity for serious discussions. Napoleon III seemed to think that he had little to gain from such talks. He had invited Alexander not for serious conversations but, along with a host of other royalty that year, primarily to witness the Paris Exposition. Napoleon III also wished to show off the wonders of his capital, which he took such pride in transforming and refurbishing.

On the Tuesday after his arrival Alexander took part in a military review at Longchamp in the Bois de Boulogne. Along with his uncle William of Prussia and Napoleon III, Alexander reviewed tens of thousands of colorful French troops. Amongst their aides, accompanying family members, and some hundred thousand other spectators, the three sovereigns reviewed cavalry, infantry, and artillery. It was a colorful show. Amidst the sun and the dust, eyes feasted on the blues, reds, greens, yellows, and whites of uniforms and epaulets, on glittering breastplates and plumed hats, on lances and sabers, on rifles and bayonets, on staffs and flags, on campaign colors from the Crimea and Italy, from China and Mexico. And, of course, there were the military bands and the sounds of trumpets and drums.

In the last decade and a half the call to war had once again come frequently to Europe and the Americas. At Sevastopol and Solferino, at Shiloh and Sadowa, young men died in alarming numbers. Sometimes they gave their lives for national unity, sometimes for national or personal glory, sometimes for racial or economic reasons, and sometimes, as Herzen and Tolstoy suggested about war in general, for irresponsible or power-hungry rulers and because the masses felt helpless to prevent war. Although many did not yet perceive the full implications of recent developments in industry, in communication and transportation, in the invention of new guns and explosives, and in a changing intellectual climate that glorified science, technology, and various applications of Darwin's ideas, nevertheless the future offered little promise for a reduction in bloodshed. France and Prussia especially seemed headed for an eventual collision. Therefore, Bismarck and General von Moltke, who accompanied their monarch to the review, certainly had more than a passing interest in the state of French military preparedness.

Although no major war clouds appeared on Russia's horizon, Russian troops were conquering new parts of Central Asia, and Alexander continued to improve his army. (For a satirical view of military conquests "past, present, and future" see the 1871 painting "Apotheosis of War" by V. Vereshchagin, who spent part of the late 1860s witnessing Russia's advance in Central Asia.) Alexander's able War Minister, Dmitry Milyutin, believed that Russia had become a major European power thanks to its military might, and to retain its status Russia would have to remain abreast of the other powers as they modernized their armaments and techniques. But the cost of such competition was steep indeed for a Russia that was much poorer and less modern than other major European countries. Russia's military expenditures in recent years had consumed about a third of all government spending, and yet the Russian army was still backward in many ways.

When the review was over, by which time a few drops of rain had fallen, the Tsar left in an open carriage with his two sons and Napoleon III. He had not gotten very far in the Bois de Boulogne when at the crossroads near the rocks of the Grand Cascade, the carriage slowed down due to the crowds. A young Pole named Berezowski stepped forward in the crowd with a double barreled pistol in his hand and aimed at the Tsar. Before he could fire, one of Napoleon's men riding near the side of the carriage, moved his horse between the pistol and the carriage. The bullet went through the nostril of the horse and missed the Tsar. Only the horse's blood sprayed into the carriage. According to reports, Napoleon said: "Sire, we have been under fire together," and the Tsar replied: "Our destinies are in the hands of Providence."4 The only fatality was the horse; it died that evening.

As a teenager Berezowski had taken part in the Polish revolt four years earlier and then came to Paris to escape the Russian authorities. He had never forgiven Alexander for crushing the Poles. After his first shot at the Tsar, he tried again, but the pistol burst in his hands. Some of the men among the crowd hit him with their canes and wanted to kill him. He was arrested, grilled by the French police and by Shuvalov, the head of the Tsar's secret police who had accompanied him to Paris. Berezowski refused to express remorse for his action and spent the next four decades on an island penal colony.

Although some of the Tsar's advisers recommended that he leave Paris, he decided to continue his visit. However, he rearranged his schedule. The next day he attended a Thanksgiving service at the Russian Orthodox Church on the Rue Daru. He had just been there the morning before to celebrate the Orthodox Ascension Thursday. While William of Prussia arrived in a closed carriage, Alexander still utilized an open one. Later that day the Tsar, along with the French Emperor, drove to the Paris Exposition, where they were surrounded by a great crowd and warmly cheered.

The exhibition was another of the type that Dostoevsky had been critical of in London five years before. They had become increasingly popular since the first Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and Paris had hosted its first one in 1855. This second French international exhibit was more ambitious and grandiose, more in keeping with Napoleon III's sense of imperial grandeur and the Parisians' love of the new, the exotic, the pleasurable. As in the other exhibits, the latest machines and products from around the world had a central place in the glass and iron Palace of Industry and in national pavilions constructed on the Champ de Mars. Some fifty thousand firms from around the world exhibited their wares. Military equipment was also on display, including a fifty-eight-ton Krupp gun sent by Prussia. The millions of fair-goers that year, including the American writer Mark Twain, who would later that summer meet the Tsar in Yalta, could sample food and drink from Tunisia, Persia, China, Russia, and a host of other countries in cafes, restaurants, and kiosks.

The Goncourt brothers, French writers and acquaintances of Turgenev and Herzen, wrote that the exposition was "the final blow levelled at the past, the Americanization of France, industry lording it over art, the steam thresher displacing the painting--in brief, the Federation of Matter."5 At about this same time Herzen wrote that an International Exhibition was a "fashionable mustard-plaster"6 that people utilized in their quest for external distractions, to keep busy, to avoid serious thinking. And he predicted that when people grew sick of exhibitions, they would take to war and be diverted by heaps of corpses, anything to avoid being reminded of the "emptiness and senselessness of their lives."7

As Alexander viewed some of the latest civilian and military marvels of Western technology, one wonders if he was tempted to despair: How was his poor Russia ever to catch up with the more modernized Western Europe, where economic growth and industrialization continued to speed ahead?

Alexander did not leave Paris until the following Tuesday. Napoleon III and the French people tried to make amends for the attempted assassination. Both privately and publicly, individuals and groups, including Polish émigrés in Paris, expressed their outrage at the attempt. There were gala balls and dinners at the Tuileries. Baron Haussmann, the architect of the new Paris and its wide boulevards, hosted a ball at the Hotel de Ville, and another was held at the Russian Embassy. The Tsar also visited Versailles and Fontainebleau, and when time allowed he continued seeing Katia.

However, except for his moments with Katia, the trip was not a success. After the assassination attempt a certain tenseness prevailed, and neither the Tsar nor Gorchakov was able to obtain either of their diplomatic goals: a French promise to keep the peace with Germany or French assistance in pressuring the Turkish Sultan. In the days ahead, the Tsar would think more than ever before that Prussia was Russia's only real European friend, and within a few years Alexander's sympathies would indirectly assist Prussia in the completion of its unification of Germany. Only after two wars in the next century would the full consequences of the Tsar's benevolent attitude toward Prussia become clear.
 
 

21

BADEN-BADEN

After leaving Paris, Alexander II stopped off in Baden-Baden, a lovely German resort town. One of the little city's most prominent residents, Ivan Turgenev, joined other Russians in going to the train station to welcome the Tsar. The author wrote to a friend telling him that Alexander seemed thinner and suggested that the loss of weight was connected with the vile act of the would-be assassin in Paris.

About a month later another Russian visitor came to Baden-Baden, and one hot stifling day at about noon, he walked up to a pleasant but modest two-story house, sitting in a courtyard, a stone's throw away from the little Oos River. The visitor was Dostoevsky, and the man who lodged in the top story of this house on Schillerstrasse was Turgenev, who was at that moment having lunch.

Turgenev had been residing here, no more than a ten minute walk up a slight hill to the Viardot villa, ever since following Pauline Viardot and her family to Baden-Baden four years earlier. The Viardot house, along with its separate concert hall and theater buildings, was one of the social centers of this internationally famous resort and spa. Royalty and distinguished men and women of the arts frequently visited the Viardots, and Turgenev himself had already arranged to have his own villa constructed on property which he had bought next to that of Pauline's.

He was now reconciled to his role of being no more than a good friend to Pauline and the Viardot family. And indeed Louis Viardot and the four Viardot children were all dear to him. After Pauline, his favorite was Claudie or Didie, who in 1867 turned fifteen. Turgenev spent many hours at the Viardots, and he encouraged and often worked with Pauline in the composing of songs. Although his taste in music was not always the same as that of Pauline--she, for example, loved that of Wagner much more than he did--he nevertheless was very fond of music.

When he had first moved to Baden-Baden, he had brought his illegitimate daughter Paulinette with him, but she did not get along with Pauline and soon returned to Paris. A short time afterwards she married, and Turgenev provided a substantial dowry. Despite his great landholdings in Russia, which remained substantial even after the loss of some land in the emancipation settlement, Turgenev was troubled by financial concerns. His uncle who managed his estates for him was both incompetent and dishonest. Turgenev himself made only occasional visits to Russia and even then did not always visit his Spasskoe estate.

One of his trips to Russia, in the beginning of 1864, was in answer to a summons to appear at a Russian Senate hearing. The Russian Senate had no legislative powers but acted as part of the Tsar's bureaucracy; it was the highest court of appeal and conducted some investigations. It wanted to know from Turgenev what his connections were with some of the radical exiles. In a earlier letter to the Tsar, Turgenev had apparently persuaded his sovereign to allow him to answer the Senate's questions by mail, but after receiving his answers the Senate still wished to question him further. His two visits to the Senate in January added little to his written testimony, in which he had played down his closeness to any of the exiles. Indeed, he had not been close to Bakunin for decades and was not as friendly with Herzen as he had once been. The Senate apparently believed him, and took no action against him.

In The Bell, however, Herzen soon alluded to Turgenev's denials. He wrote that a correspondent had reported about a "grey-haired Magdalen (of the male sex) who wrote to the Emperor that she had lost sleep and appetite, her rest, her white hairs and her teeth,"1 because the Emperor did not know of her repentance. Turgenev protested to Herzen at the injustice of the attack, sent him a copy of his letter to the Tsar, and wrote of his increased gratitude to Alexander II for treating him as an honest man. Herzen countered by also finding fault with Turgenev for pledging money to help Russian soldiers who had been wounded putting down the Poles. The charge was true, but reflected more Turgenev's sympathy for the wounded than any type of strong nationalistic impulse. Nevertheless, the two men ceased communicating for a few years until Turgenev cautiously resumed their correspondence several months before Dostoevsky's visit.

Until he began writing a new novel called Smoke at the end of 1865, Turgenev's creative energies seemed to have waned. He had written only a few short stories in the previous three years, and none of them had generated much enthusiasm. They reflected his basic pessimistic outlook and his fear of aging and death. His comment to a friend that he was making a little nest for himself in Baden-Baden where he could "await the coming of the inevitable end"2 was typical of his disposition. Ironically, his physical condition was fairly good in these years.

For Turgenev his relationship with Pauline and her family was bittersweet, bitter because of the absence of romantic love and sweet because the presence of the Viardots was more satisfying to him than their absence. At times while playing games or listening to music in the bosom of the family, he could seem genuinely happy. For some deep reasons, which he himself probably did not fathom, his unusual relationship with Pauline and his closeness to her family were necessary to him.

Although his recent short stories had not created much excitement, Smoke did. Even before it appeared in The Russian Messenger in April 1867, the journal's conservative editor had been upset. Katkov thought that this story, set primarily in Baden-Baden, depicted visiting Russian officers and conservative landowners too critically. He also disliked the immoral behavior of the novel's self-willed heroine, Irena. In addition, Katkov feared that she bore too much of a resemblance to Alexandra Dolgorukaya, once the Tsar's rumored favorite. The fact that Irena's husband, General Ratmirov, resembled Dolgorukaya's husband, General Albedinsky, did not help matters. Katkov wanted Turgenev to alter Irena so that her prototype would not be so obvious. Turgenev made some, but not all, of the alterations requested by Katkov, but then restored the novel more to its original form when it was published as a separate volume the following year.

Once published, more criticism was showered upon him, for in the novel he satirized both radicals and conservatives. While the former criticized him for his unflattering depiction of radicals, including one called Gubarev, who bore some resemblance to Ogarev; the latter group did not care for the westernizing anti-Slavophile views of the character Potugin. Like his creator, he expressed the belief that only by learning from the West, only by utilizing and applying its positive tendencies, could Russia hope to become a truly civilized nation. One Russian who could not agree with such a viewpoint was Dostoevsky. He thought that Russia with her Orthodox Church and peasant population was already better off than the decadent West. Too much emphasis on Western ideas only led to the actions of Karakozov or to those of Dostoevsky's fictional Raskolnikov.

On this stifling Wednesday in Baden-Baden Dostoevsky was calling on Turgenev because he thought he should. He owed him money, borrowed to pay gambling debts, and did not wish to seem hesitant to visit Turgenev. Although both writers had admired some of each other's earlier writings, they had been more critical of each other's recent efforts. Whereas Turgenev's prose was more lyrical, nostalgic, and laconic, Dostoevsky's was more intense and frenzied, more psychologically probing and dramatic. Even though Dostoevsky had told Turgenev of his enthusiasm for his story "Phantoms" and requested it for his journal The Epoch, he privately found it sickly, senile, and lacking in faith. Turgenev thought the last parts of Crime and Punishment seemed like a "prolonged colic."3 As Dostoevsky's anti-Western, Slavophile sympathies became increasingly pronounced, the ideological gap between Turgenev and himself increased accordingly. On a personal basis, they had never been very close, even in the late forties when Dostoevsky had briefly been awed by the more established Turgenev.

Upon meeting that noon, the large gray-haired and bearded Turgenev apparently bent over and embraced Dostoevsky with his auburn beard and pale complexion. The latter reported that he did not like the "aristocratic" way that Turgenev embraced one and then offered his cheek to be kissed.4 Since embracing and kissing on both cheeks was a typical Russian practice, it must have been the manner and not the act itself which upset Dostoevsky.

The conversation which followed was unpleasant. Dostoevsky's version of their meeting was that Turgenev was in a bad mood and bitter about the critical reviews Smoke had received. He stated that he was an atheist, and Dostoevsky spoke sharply and satirically to him, advising him that since he had exiled himself he should obtain a telescope if he wished to see what was going on in Russia. When Dostoevsky complained of the Germans, Turgenev took offense saying he now considered himself a German, not a Russian, and that if Russia disappeared the world would not miss it and that any attempt to create a Russian culture separate from the West would be folly. Although upset by Turgenev's perceived aristocratic airs, vanity, and traitorous views, after about an hour and a half Dostoevsky politely said good-bye.

Turgenev's account of their meeting was somewhat different. According to him, Dostoevsky condemned Smoke, Turgenev, and the Germans, but Turgenev chose not to argue with him. He considered Dostoevsky a sick, deranged person. Besides, Dostoevsky left him little time for reply and left after no more than an hour.

After leaving Turgenev, Dostoevsky headed for the gambling tables, no more than a ten minute walk from Turgenev's. He was probably in no mood to observe the beauty along the way. But Baden-Baden had its charms. It was set in a cozy valley not far from the Rhine. Way up on a distant hill, surrounded by greenery, could be seen the ruins of the "old castle." Below it and off to one side was the "new castle," where the Margraves of Baden-Baden had once resided. Well-kept lawns and paths were shadowed over by poplars, chestnuts, pines, and other magnificent trees. The Oos River ran pleasantly through the town. Royalty or finely dressed ladies and gentlemen from Berlin, Paris, St. Petersburg, or scores of other cities and landed estates came here to drink or bathe in the medicinal waters of this famous German spa. Others came to gamble or, like some of the French prostitutes, to make money from the wealthy of Europe. The gambling tables were in several opulent, ornate, and gilded rooms of the Conversation House, a long building with a frescoed corinthian colonnade. The previous night the Dostoevskys had listened with great enjoyment to the band in its garden play Rossini's Stabat Mater. At other times a military band played lighter, more lively songs or marches. Inside the Conversation House, as well as in its garden, food and drink were served, or one could read in its library. But Dostoevsky's passion was for the hall with the large roulette table and six croupiers.

While in Dresden earlier that spring, he had left Anna for over a week while he had taken a train to Bad Homburg in order to play roulette. He had lost the money he had taken with him, twice wrote Anna for more, and pawned his watch. Since arriving in Baden-Baden the previous week, he had often placed his francs or thalers on red or black, odd or even. He was not like the wealthy, finely dressed men and women who sat or stood around the table and who could afford to lose. Rather he was one of the intense, desperate gamblers who was willing to risk all of the little he had left on the little spinning ball. As the days passed, so did the couple's resources. On the day before his visit to Turgenev, he had pawned his wedding ring and lost what he received for it. Only after Anna had provided him with more money was he able to redeem it.

On this hot Wednesday afternoon he had five gold pieces in his pocket. Back at their two small rented rooms Anna had only ten more. She had gone to the post office and then returned and started to read a volume of Soloviev's history, only to be interrupted by the German maid, who wished to clean their rooms. Anna was already pregnant and was not feeling well. Finally, Dostoevsky returned in a bad mood, announced that he had lost his five gold pieces, and blamed it on his inability to concentrate due to the jostling and bustling around him at the table. He asked for five more gold pieces, which she gave him, and hurried back to the casino. She lay down on the couch and thought.

Perhaps she recalled some of their moments together in these last few months of European wanderings: how they had left Russia to get away from his relatives and creditors, gone to Berlin, and then to Dresden; the hours together in the art gallery of Dresden, where he pointed out to her some of his favorite paintings--Raphael's "Sistine Madonna," Titian's "Christ with the Tribute Money," and Claude Lorrain's "Acis and Galatea," a portrait of idyllic beauty, of sun, sea, and woods, of joy and innocence; the times spent at the "Italian Village" restaurant, whose windows looked out on the Elbe, or just strolling or sitting at another restaurant in the large park where concerts played that spring in Dresden; and, of course, the loving and sexual moments spent together which, despite many of her husband's fetishes, she seems to have accepted and to some extent even welcomed from the beginning. But there had been painful times also: those lonely days when he had gone off to Bad Homburg; the almost constant worry over money; the fright of a false rumor that the Tsar, whom they both loved, had been killed in Paris; the epileptic attacks of her husband; picking up a letter Polina Suslova had written Fedya, as Anna called him, and wondering if he might leave her for Polina; listening to his frequent complaints about waiters, clerks, attendants, and Europeans in general, or to his criticisms of her or the way she acted or dressed. But whenever he offended her, he was usually soon sorry and asked her forgiveness. And she in turn, a combination of loving wife, mother, and child to him, was more than willing to quickly patch up any quarrel.

When Dostoevsky returned to her later that Wednesday afternoon, he announced he had won forty-six gold pieces at the casino. He then went out to get coffee, candles, and wine and also bought a basket of fruit and a bouquet of flowers for Anna.

For the next six weeks their days centered around his gambling. Although he won and they celebrated on occasion, more frequently he lost, and Anna usually tried to console him. They pawned, redeemed, and at times repawned almost everything they possessed, including her wedding ring and earrings and a broach he had given her. She was reduced to wearing one drab black dress when they went out, and was therefore reluctant to be seen in the casino or in many of the other areas where more fashionable women appeared or promenaded. He was often irritable. The blacksmiths that worked beneath their rooms bothered him, as did their landlady's children, various people around the roulette table, and an assortment of others of varying occupations and nationalities, including Poles and Jews, for neither of whom he much cared. He had several epileptic fits, and the couple quarreled on occasion. But he was usually grateful to her for being so understanding of his defects, especially his gambling fever. Finally in late August, after receiving some money from her mother and after he even lost some of that, they boarded an afternoon train headed for Geneva.
 
 

22

THE DOSTOEVSKYS IN GENEVA

A few weeks after arriving in Geneva, the Dostoevskys attended a session of the Congress of the League of Peace and Freedom which had been called together amidst the fears of a possible Franco-Prussian war. What a contrast it offered to the military review presented by Napoleon III to Alexander II and William of Prussia at Longchamp just a few months earlier! Instead of monarchs reviewing troops, its leading luminaries were revolutionaries condemning militarism and war.

The most famous of them was Garibaldi, the romantic fighter for Italian independence and unity, and a symbol of hope for oppressed nationalities throughout Europe and even beyond. On the day on which he entered Geneva, the Dostoevskys were among the large crowd that waited along the wide and straight Rue du Mont Blanc, down which Garibaldi was scheduled to ride en route to his hotel near the northern side of the Mont Blanc Bridge. Flags and bunting decorated some of the hotels and other buildings along the street. Finally, a cannon shot was heard and the whistle of the locomotive. After some time Garibaldi appeared amidst a large procession of guilds, societies, and organizations that had marched to meet him and accompany him to his hotel. The groups had their colorful flags and banners, and some bands played. The sun had already begun to set over Lake Geneva.

Garibaldi rode in an open carriage drawn by four magnificent horses. Both of the Dostoevskys, who were in separate places among the crowd, thought that he had a kindly, sympathetic face. The sixty-year-old revolutionary dressed in his own unique style: red shirt, blue pants, and striped poncho. In response to the cheering crowd, he stood in the carriage bowing or waving his hat from one side to the other.

The next day at the Electoral Palace on the Place Neuve, Garibaldi addressed the Peace Congress. He called on all peoples to overthrow despotism and establish democracy and stated that only democracy could end war. The most harmful of sects he declared was the Papacy, which still prevented a completely united Italy. In the future he hoped that democratic nations would elect delegates to the Congress and that it would end war by acting as an arbitrator of all quarrels.

The following day, Tuesday, a huge, bearded man addressed the thousands of listeners. The previous day when this carelessly dressed giant walked up the steps to take his place on the platform among the executive committee of the Congress, Garibaldi had embraced him. He was one of the two Russian representatives on the committee. He was the legendary Michael Bakunin.

Since leaving London more than four years earlier and after being unable to reach Poland, Bakunin had spent some months in Stockholm, where his wife, Antonia, had finally rejoined him. Then they had gone to Italy, where with his acquiescence and in keeping with the revolutionary principles which he espoused, Antonia took as a lover one of her husband's Italian friends. In 1866 he outlined the following as one of his revolutionary goals:

Religious and civil marriage to be replaced by free marriage. Adult men and women have the right to unite and separate as they please....With the abolition of the right of inheritance and the education of children assured by society, all the legal reasons for the irrevocability of marriage will disappear....In marriage, man and woman must enjoy absolute liberty.1

On this second day of the Peace Congress, Bakunin spoke rapidly in French without notes. He told his listeners that peace could only come after the destruction of large centralized states, for they fostered nationalism and militarism. Upon their ashes a system of free federated communes could then be established. The communes could form themselves into provinces, the provinces into nations, and the nations into a loosely federated United States of Europe. His speech was warmly applauded.

On the same day that Bakunin was delivering his speech, Dostoevsky ran into Nicholas Ogarev, who was now living in a suburb of Geneva with his mistress Mary Sutherland. Several months earlier Ogarev had agreed with Herzen's idea to suspend The Bell for six months, and Herzen had left to join Natalia Ogareva and their daughter Liza in Nice. Herzen had been encouraged to take part in the Congress by its organizers, but decided to remain in Nice. Among other reasons, he believed that those at the Congress would be too hostile towards not only the Russian government, but the very nation itself. And Herzen still believed that the socialist potential of the Russian people was greater than that of the masses in the West. Ogarev, however, did take part in the Congress, and along with Bakunin was elected as one of the two Russian representatives on the executive committee. Ogarev encouraged Dostoevsky to attend the Congress.

The next day Dostoevsky and Anna set out for the Electoral Palace. Their apartment at this time consisted of several rented rooms on the second floor of a corner, five-storied building not far from the Rue du Mont Blanc. From one of its windows they could see the Island of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. To the left of the island there was the lake and to the right the swift blue waters of the Rhone, which flowed from it. To get to the Congress, they had to cross one of the bridges spanning the Rhone and then head up along the western edge of the oldest part of Geneva.

The inside of the large Electoral Palace was decorated with flags and coats of arms of the Swiss Cantons. Since there was a separate place for women to sit, the Dostoevskys separated. He thought the speeches that day were incredibly stupid. He was especially upset by those who wanted to bring about peace by destroying the Christian faith and the governments of the Great Powers. He decried the "rabble" that wished to stir up the working class, abolish capital, and declare all property in common. Anna also did not care for the speeches. Later the couple quarreled, and Dostoevsky attributed it to their attending the Peace Congress, where delegates argued and revolutionaries talked more of war on churches and governments than they did of peace. Whatever the cause or causes of the couple's fight, Anna cried. All in all it was not a very pleasant day, especially considering that it was her twenty-first birthday.

Dostoevsky's view of the Congress was hardly an objective, dispassionate one, but others were also critical. Some of the delegates and observers, like many Genevans, were Catholic and were upset by the attack on the Papacy by Garibaldi, who had already left town and before the year was out would lead his troops against those of the Pope. Others at the Congress were upset at the socialistic and anarchistic tone of the speeches.

One who was much more pleased with the Congress was Bakunin. During the year which followed, he worked hard as a member of the central committee of the League to bring it over to his views. He enunciated these in a piece he wrote at that time entitled Federalism, Socialism, and anti-Theologism. He and Antonia settled on the other side of Lake Geneva, first at Vevey and then at Clarens, where Tolstoy had stayed a decade before. In both places, the Bakunins benefited from at least one wealthy Russian benefactress. From time to time he travelled to Berne for meetings of the Leagues' central committee.

He also joined Karl Marx’s International Worker's Association; and he tried unsuccessfully to challenge Marx's leadership in it by suggesting that the International ally itself with the League. But at the second Congress of the League in September he himself, along with some of his followers, including Antonia's Italian lover, resigned from the League. The majority of the Congress had not accepted Bakunin's radical views, and he concluded that it was useless to belong to any organization that would not accept the abolition of classes and the economic and social equality of mankind.  (For a photo of Bakunin in this period, links to some of his writings, and more on Bakunin and Marx, see the Bakunin Reference Archive.)

The Dostoevskys remained in Geneva about nine more months, but they seem to have seldom come across Bakunin. Ogarev, on the other hand, despite his radical political views, was a welcome visitor. He sometimes brought them books or newspapers, and he took a special liking to the pregnant Anna and treated her with fatherly warmth. He lent them money on occasion and gave them advice on a variety of practical matters, including which doctor to visit.

Outside of Ogarev, the Dostoevskys had no real friends in Geneva. They liked their spinster landladies, but not Genevans in general. In his letters to friends in Russia Dostoevsky complained of the self-satisfied and proud nature of the inhabitants of the city, but also of the town drunks. Herzen also had not cared for the citizens of Geneva. He found them too cold, too full of the spirit of Calvin, too occupied with saving their souls or money, too bourgeois. He lamented Geneva's churches without adornment, its democracy without equality, its women without beauty, and its beer without taste. Both men no doubt exaggerated and suffered from a homesickness for the more expansive, emotional Russian way of life.

Dostoevsky also complained of the weather and the bises, or cold winds, that blew down from the mountains. Used to the warmer apartments of Russia, their rooms seemed frightfully cold that autumn. In mid December they moved to a warmer apartment on the Rue du Mont Blanc, next to the English Church.

Despite finding Geneva boring, gloomy, ugly, and depressing, Dostoevsky had chosen it partly because of Anna's condition. It seemed a safe place, free from any threat of war, and one where his French would suffice to communicate, especially in any emergency necessitated by Anna's pregnancy. He also eventually found the city conducive for writing. But it took him a little while before he could produce anything he considered of value. In late October he was still complaining of frequent epileptic attacks which left him unable to work well for days afterwards. By early January, however, the attacks had become less frequent, and he had completed and sent off to his publisher, Katkov, the first part of a new novel, The Idiot. In the book he hoped to portray a "positively first rate man,"2 a humble Christ-like figure, but one that some of the other characters in the novel would consider a fool. This was his Prince Myshkin, "the idiot" of the title.

Despite Dostoevsky's fascination with moments of intensity and with unusual, bizarre behavior, he generally appreciated and needed for his writing a regular, ordered routine. Anna, with her steady, dependable personality, proved to be a great help in this regard. He wrote late into the night, awoke late in the morning, had breakfast with Anna, and then worked again until later in the afternoon when they had dinner. After eating he often went by himself to a cafe to have coffee and read the newspapers, including several from Russia. He was especially interested in Russian news relating to the new jury system and to the progress of the railways, both developments which he strongly supported. In the evenings they sometimes looked in the expensive shops of the city, and he pointed out what he would buy her if he were wealthy. Unfortunately, however, the opposite was the case, and many a day they went to the post office hoping for money from Russia. At night in their apartment, he would light a fire, they would drink coffee, and he would dictate The Idiot to her, or they might read, especially French authors. Hugo, Balzac, and George Sand were some of his favorites, and he guided Anna's reading.

Their baby was due in late February, and both of them looked forward to the event with great anticipation. He longed to be a father and to experience what he hoped would be the warmth of family life. Anna made clothes for the baby; and after he finished reading the newspapers, he would walk up through the old part of town, located across the Rhone, to the street of the midwife that was to help Anna. He wanted to be sure that he could find the house when the time came for his wife to have the baby. To get there he would have to climb a steep hill, and this seemed to have exacerbated his asthma, which just recently had begun to trouble him. The fact that he was a heavy smoker also no doubt contributed to his problem.

In early March, on a rainy, windy night, Anna began to experience labor pains, but Dostoevsky was sleeping and was still recovering from an epileptic attack. He was in no condition to go for the midwife. Anna felt helpless and alone. She prayed. The trees outside rustled violently. By morning Dostoevsky was well enough to go out, but her labor was to be a long one, thirty-three hours. Dostoevsky managed to see that the midwife and nurse were available during the crucial final hours. At about five in the morning of March 5th, a girl was born. They named her Sophia, but used the more common nickname, Sonia, after both the heroine of Crime and Punishment and Dostoevsky's favorite niece, the daughter of his sister Vera. The midwife said she had never seen such a distressed and agitated expectant father. But once Anna's ordeal was over, he doted on his new baby daughter, rocking and singing to her, and helping Anna bathe her.

About two weeks before the birth of little Sonia, Nicholas Ogarev had an epileptic attack while out one night and fell into a ditch and broke his leg. Herzen returned to Geneva from Nice for a few months to be with his friend. Ogarev still lived with Mary Sutherland in the nearby suburb of Lancy. In January, Herzen had resumed publication of The Bell, but few people any longer seemed to care.

On the second of April, Dostoevsky wrote to a friend that he had run into Herzen on the street and that they had talked and bantered for ten minutes in a "hostile but polite tone."3 Since Dostoevsky had visited Herzen in London six years before, they had met only once more, in the year following the London visit. It was on a steamboat from Naples to Genoa. Dostoevsky was with Appolinaria Suslova and Herzen with several of his children. Appolinaria already knew some of the younger Herzens. The next night Dostoevsky and Appolinaria dined with the Herzens in Genoa.

In the years since that meeting Dostoevsky's ideas had become increasingly hostile to views such as those of Herzen. While they both valued the Russian peasant and were critical in many ways of Western societies, Dostoevsky had become more nationalistic than ever. He wrote to his friends about the superiority of Russian Orthodoxy and of the necessity for bringing about Russia's supremacy over the entire Slavic world and about the military-political necessity of Russia's developing railways and new guns. And he praised the greatness of Alexander II--"he has done almost more for Russia than all of his predecessors put together"4--and stressed the absolute importance of the love that the Russian people had for him.

Thus, it was not surprising that he could no longer talk to Herzen without feeling hostile to this man who was a critic of autocracy, of a strong centralized Russian government, of Russian Orthodoxy, and Russian militarism. What was unusual was that Dostoevsky felt some affection for Ogarev, whose views were even more radical than those of Herzen. But then the epileptic and alcoholic Ogarev--that "gentle, kind, affectionate old bear," as Natalia Herzen described him5--was someone to whom it was hard not to feel kindly. The wealthier, more aristocratic-mannered, more cynical Herzen, was easier for Dostoevsky to dislike.

During May the Dostoevskys often crossed the bridge to walk in the Jardin des Anglais, a pleasant public garden on the southern shore of the lake. Little Sonia was in her carriage and the weather was usually beautiful. Despite their continuing financial worries, homesickness, and the problems he was having completing The Idiot, they were happy on these fine days to have such a wonderful baby. Anna was also especially happy because her mother came from Russia that month for Sonia's christening.

One day during the family's stroll in the Jardin des Anglais, the winds suddenly sprang up and Sonia apparently got chilled. That evening she started coughing and her temperature shot up. Her parents hastened to find a doctor. He visited Sonia every day for almost a week, and assured her anxious parents that she was getting better. But she did not. On May 24, 1868 she died. Dostoevsky wept uncontrollably and covered the dead Sonia's face and hands with kisses. A few days later after a church service in a small, recently built Russian Orthodox church, they buried her at the Plainpalais cemetery dressed in her little white dress. After a few weeks, in which they took flowers to her grave and cried, they could bear Geneva no longer. They left for Vevey on the other side of Lake Geneva.
 
 

23

NECHAEV, BAKUNIN, AND THE LAST DAYS OF HERZEN

Some nine months after the Dostoevskys' departure from Geneva, a twenty-one-year-old Russian radical named Sergei Nechaev arrived in the city. He was of medium height and weight and possessed an abundance of nervous energy. To some his compressed lips and the look in his dark eyes hinted at the sinister nature of the man. Unlike Ogarev and Bakunin, both of whom he would soon meet, he was not from the noble class. His father worked as both a waiter and a painter of signs in and around Ivanovo, a small Russian textile town. Already hostile to the local nobility, he left his hometown in 1865 and went to Moscow. There he briefly worked as a copyist for the historian Pogodin before moving on to the capital, where he obtained a teaching position.

For almost three years St. Petersburg was his home. He witnessed the reaction symbolized by Muraviev's investigating commission and the appointment of several new men to key posts. One of these was the new Minister of Education, Dmitry Tolstoy, who in the year following his appointment issued new rules further restricting students' rights. Partly in reaction to these further restrictions, students, who had quieted down a bit during the middle of the decade, once again became more active in 1868 and 1869. The number of illegal circles and meetings increased significantly. And Nechaev, who enrolled as an auditing student at St. Petersburg University, became active in the midst of them.

By this time his resentment towards Russia's privileged class and his thirst for knowledge, along with the radical influences of the capital, had helped lead him to revolutionary ideas. Through his reading and personal contacts he became familiar with revolutionary literature and with the Russian revolutionary tradition of the Decembrists, the Petrashevsky Circle, Herzen, Ogarev, Bakunin, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov, and Karakozov. Despite Herzen's disapproval of Karakozov's attempted assassination, the writer and editor had contributed to his enshrinement in the pantheon of revolutionary martyrs by printing several stories of his heroism while in prison. Nechaev read these articles in The Bell. And it was to the more conspiratorial and violent type of revolutionary activity that Nechaev was especially attracted. He wanted to be a man of action, not just talk.

In early 1869, after becoming aware that the police knew of some of his radical activities, which included circulating a petition, Nechaev decided to leave Russia temporarily. However, before illegally leaving the country, he expended considerable effort to leave his radical acquaintances with the impression he had been arrested.

At the end of March, Ogarev opened a letter requesting that Herzen print a message to Russian students from someone who had just escaped from the Peter and Paul Fortress. The message called upon the students, allied with other radical forces, to engage in a continual struggle against the forces of reaction. It promised that whatever the sacrifice, eventually they would have their vengeance. The letter was from Nechaev, who soon afterwards arrived in Geneva himself and repeated to Ogarev and Bakunin the lie that he had been incarcerated in the Peter and Paul Fortress.

By the time Nechaev arrived in Geneva, Ogarev and Mary Sutherland had moved out of Lancy to a small house and garden on the Rue des Petits Philosophes in Geneva. From there Ogarev had written to Herzen on 28 March: "All is white. The snow falls as in Russia. Lovely."1 The mountains, roofs, trees, and streets were all covered with snow. In addition to his epilepsy and alcoholism, Ogarev was still a man with a bad leg, although by now he could get around with a cane. Despite his infirmities, however, he still maintained youthful revolutionary hopes. After meeting Nechaev, Ogarev took up his cause. So did Bakunin, who along with Antonia had moved back to a Geneva apartment not far from the railway station. Nechaev told both of the old radicals that he was a representative of a significant Russian revolutionary committee, and he gave them an overly optimistic picture of Russia's readiness for revolution. Soon the three of them were working together sending revolutionary proclamations to various addresses in Russia. Ogarev even printed a poem about a young revolutionary and dedicated it to his "young friend Nechaev."2 The poem was distributed widely in Russia and contributed to Nechaev's reputation in revolutionary circles.

Bakunin was even more enthusiastic about Nechaev than was Ogarev. During the previous half year, following his resignation from the League of Peace and Freedom, Bakunin had formed a new rather amorphous organization of his own, the International Social Democratic Alliance. In the beginning it appears not to have possessed more than about a hundred members. He had also become more active among Swiss members of the Marx-led International Working Men's Association. He hoped to bring many of them into his Alliance, while simultaneously he and they would remain in the International, which he would attempt to bring more under his influence. But despite some successes, he decided that Swiss youth were too reactionary and the workers too bourgeois. Where was the fire of revolutionary youth? Just then Nechaev appeared.

To the fifty-four-year-old Bakunin, he seemed fearless and full of youthful energy. To a thinker such as Bakunin, strong-willed men of action that might help fulfill his aspirations had always had an appeal, as his earlier infatuation in Siberia with General Muraviev-Amursky had indicated. Bakunin now hoped that through Nechaev he could help from afar in directing the revolutionary movement in the land of his birth. Nechaev revitalized, personified, and symbolized Bakunin's own revolutionary aspirations. "How deeply, how passionately, how tenderly," according to Bakunin he came to "love" and trust this young radical.3

One old radical who was not impressed by the "boy," as Ogarev and Bakunin affectionately referred to Nechaev, was Herzen. From Ogarev's articles and letters which he received in Nice, it was clear to Herzen that Nechaev was prompting his old friend to more extreme rhetoric. In early May, Herzen arrived in Geneva himself to see Ogarev and some of his other friends. For most of the next month and a half, he resided there, first at the Hotel de la Couronne and then at a pension. He discovered that Bakunin, although still sufficiently endowed, had lost some weight, and was working like a locomotive, albeit a derailed one. Herzen also met Nechaev and found him dislikable, and later even referred to him as a reptile.

By 1869, Herzen was more wary of Bakunin's radicalism than ever and was fearful that Nechaev's influence would only further widen the gap between them. Bakunin already desired a general uprising of the Russian people, to be led by brave young men who would abandon Russia's universities and their pseudo-learning to become brigand-rebels among the peasant masses. He was confident that out of the destruction of the old society and the government which supported it a new, free, egalitarian order, without any centralized government, could be created. But Nechaev's Geneva proclamations not only suggested that blood had to flow, they seemed to relish the idea. "Poison, the knife, the noose....revolution consecrates everything equally in this struggle,"4 he wrote. Herzen thought that such ideas of Bakunin and Nechaev were nonsense. He now believed that if the old order of his day, whether in Russia or Western Europe, was ended by violence, then the new order would have to be instituted and maintained by violence. The socialist society which he wished to see constructed could only come about after gradual preparation, after the innate conservatism of the masses was overcome by education and time. More than ever, he now advocated reason and understanding, not destruction and blood-letting.

Herzen, however, was not able to convince either Bakunin or Ogarev of the dangers of Nechaev's influence. All he could do was to prevent Ogarev from sounding too radical in the pages of The Bell. Nevertheless, he feared an open break with his two old friends. And when Ogarev, influenced by Bakunin and Nechaev, pressed him for some money out of a revolutionary fund which had been given over to him and Ogarev a decade earlier, Herzen agreed. He knew much of it would end up in Nechaev's hands, but he apparently thought he could not deny Ogarev use of part of the fund.

By August, Nechaev was ready to sneak back into Russia. In about five months he had accomplished much in Switzerland. From being just one of the radical student leaders in St. Petersburg, he had become an issuer of proclamations and a collaborator of Bakunin and Ogarev. He had obtained money for his work, and Bakunin had issued him a document which stated the following: "The bearer of this is one of the accredited representatives of the Russian section of the World Revolutionary Alliance, No. 2771."5 It was signed "Michael Bakunin" and on it was a seal of the European Revolutionary Alliance: Central Committee. Of course, there were no such organizations, unless Bakunin was thinking of his International Social Democratic Alliance. And by the time Nechaev left for Russia, that organization was composed of a little more than a hundred members who lived in and around Geneva. Nevertheless, the document signed by Bakunin would seem impressive to student radicals back in Russia.

With Nechaev when he left was another interesting document, written in code. It was "The Catechism of a Revolutionary." It reflected the ideas of both Bakunin and Nechaev, and Bakunin possibly collaborated with Nechaev in the writing of it. It was meant as a guide for the members of the revolutionary organization which Nechaev intended to form once he was back in Russia. It especially spelled out the attitudes the true revolutionary should have. He should be one who breaks all his ties with conventional morality and totally dedicates himself to one goal: the merciless destruction of the government and the old class structure. In the process he should be willing to do anything for the sake of the revolution, including partaking in the killing of any who might hinder its success.

Aided by some Bulgarian revolutionary connections of Bakunin, Nechaev was able to sneak back into Russia and eventually make his way to Moscow. Arrests earlier in the year of student dissidents had considerably weakened the leadership of the radical movement, both there in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. Nechaev set out to create a new organization of revolutionaries in Moscow. He worked primarily among students and former students, including those of the Petrovsky Agricultural Academy and a number of students who were expelled from Moscow University in October. He told them various stories, many untrue, about his past involvement in revolutionary circles in Russia and abroad. He said he was a representative of "The Committee of the People's Revenge of February 19, 1870." The date, the ninth anniversary of he emancipation manifesto, was to mark the hoped-for beginning of a general uprising against the government and the class society which it supported. The committee itself was nonexistent.

Nechaev played upon his new followers genuine sympathies for the plight of the peasants and urban poor and upon their guilt for being more privileged. He stressed and exaggerated his own humble beginnings. His strength of will, apparent self-assurance, and incredible energy also impressed some of his new acquaintances.

One student of the Agricultural Academy who joined Nechaev's new revolutionary organization nevertheless refused to be completely subservient to his will. His name was Ivanov, and he often disagreed with Nechaev. But Nechaev would always claim the support of the revolutionary "Committee," which he said he represented and under which the new Moscow organization was to work. Perhaps Ivanov came to suspect the very existence of the Committee. At any rate, after a heated disagreement with Nechaev over the distribution of propaganda, Ivanov declared he would not go along with Nechaev regardless of the wishes of the Committee. Shortly afterwards he resigned from Nechaev's organization. Nechaev decided to kill him.

Whether Nechaev was motivated by hatred of someone who would dare to oppose him so completely, or by fear that Ivanov would inform upon him to the police, or perhaps by some combination of these and other motives, it is difficult to say. But on Friday, November 21, 1869, Nechaev and some of his followers gathered together in the park belonging to the Agricultural Academy. A century before, Catherine the Great had given the land to Count Cyril Razumovsky, the grandfather of the first Perovskys. Only at the beginning of the sixties had the government repurchased the land and made plans to open the new Agricultural Academy. At the entrance of a grotto near a pond, Nechaev and his followers beat, strangled, and shot Ivanov and then pushed his body through a hole in the ice. Amidst his own curses, Nechaev directed the operation and did most of the work. Before succumbing, Ivanov managed to bite Nechaev's hand several times. Nevertheless, Nechaev fired the shot that went through the skull of the prone, twitching body of Ivanov. It was a little past 5:30 in the evening. It was hardly a professional job. Four days later the body was discovered with some implicating evidence left on it.

Nechaev remained in Russia about four more weeks. He kept on the move and avoided arrest. Many of his fellow conspirators were not so lucky. They were rounded up before he left the country with a female revolutionary who had become attracted to him and his message.

In early January he turned up once again in Geneva and resumed contact with Ogarev, who had moved into new quarters, this time on the Route de Carouge. Bakunin had gone to Locarno. Short of money, as was usually the case unless he found a wealthy benefactor or benefactress, Bakunin decided life was cheaper there. It was also more private, and Antonia could have the baby she was expecting without as many questions being raised as to whom the father was. Bakunin "jumped for joy"6 when he heard from Ogarev that the "boy" was safe and back in Geneva. He tried to convince Ogarev that Nechaev should come to Locarno, where he could lie low for awhile. Ogarev also informed Herzen of Nechaev's escape, but Herzen was less enthusiastic and continued to consider Nechaev's actions and those of his two elder supporters as "positively harmful."7

Herzen was living in Paris at this time on the Rue de Rivoli, the same street where Tolstoy and Turgenev had lived in 1857. The previous year and a half had not been an easy time for him. He suffered from diabetes and continued to have family problems, and not just with his still emotionally distraught companion of many years, Natalia Ogareva. In addition to a host of more minor problems, his oldest daughter, Natalia (Tata), suffered a nervous breakdown in Florence, where he had gone to take care of her before bringing her back to Paris.

One day in the middle of January, Turgenev came to call on him. It was the first time the two had met since Turgenev visited Herzen in London eight years before. As the giant Turgenev greeted him, Herzen undoubtedly noticed that the hair and beard of the fifty-one-year-old Turgenev were now almost completely white, much more so than his own, even though he was six years older. Turgenev found his host vigorous and full of life. The two men chatted pleasantly for a time and Turgenev promised to call again.

Later that evening while in their apartment, Herzen complained to Natalia Ogareva of pains in his chest and side. He spent a restless and feverish night; a doctor was summoned the next day. Herzen's lungs were inflamed. For several days he remained sick. But on the 20th, he had his oldest daughter send a telegram to one of his Geneva friends. It read: "Great danger past. Dissatisfied with the doctors....Will try to write tomorrow."8 But that same evening Herzen became delirious and early the next morning he died.

After Ogarev and Bakunin heard the news, Bakunin wrote to Ogarev from Locarno that words failed him except to say: "We shall die in action."9 Along with Nechaev, who came to visit him in Locarno in February, Bakunin began to discuss ways to get their hands on some funds to continue their revolutionary work and existence. They thought of the remainder of the revolutionary fund which had been left to Herzen and Ogarev. Bakunin pressed Ogarev to obtain what remained of it from Herzen's estate.

In Geneva that March, with Natalia Ogareva, Natalia Herzen, Bakunin, and Nechaev all present, Herzen's son, turned over 10,000 francs to Ogarev. The poet in turn made most of it available to Nechaev for his revolutionary purposes. By this time the young revolutionary had also enlisted the help of Natalia Herzen in a variety of secretarial and other tasks. He played upon her guilt, called her a spoiled parasite, and bullied her into helping the revolutionary cause. She knew that he had murdered a man, but Nechaev assured her that Ivanov had been working for the police. She wondered if Nechaev was after the money she had inherited, and she became upset and suspicious when Nechaev told her that he loved her. But she continued to help him. In early April, The Bell came out under new management. Although Ogarev and Bakunin collaborated, its driving force was Nechaev. The journal that had once made Herzen famous was now in the hands of a plebeian man whom he had considered reptilian. Perhaps not a completely inappropriate irony for a man (Herzen) who had once written that "history is the autobiography of a madman."10 (Within a few months Nechaev managed to alienate even Bakunin; see this link for some lengthy quotes and one interpretation of the differences which emerged between the two.) 



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