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.
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
However, Alexander was no more tolerant than ever of any talk suggesting
limitations of his own powers. When an assembly of the
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
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
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
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
One Monday afternoon, after the Tsar apparently already had transferred his
place of rendezvous, he decided to take a walk in the
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
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
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
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
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
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
Less than a year after the emancipation of the serfs, Nekrasov
bought a fourteen-hundred-acre estate, Karabikha,
near the city of
Both at Karabikha and at his apartment on the Liteiny Prospect he spent time with his new mistress, Celine Lefresne, a French actress
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
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
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
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
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
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.
THE PEROVSKYS AND HERZEN IN
The civilian governor of the
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
In 1865, when she was almost twelve, the family received a telegram from
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
The fortunes of Herzen had declined considerably
It was in these circumstances that Herzen decided
In December 1864, Herzen, Natalia,
and their three young children were in
To move, however, was no easy task. It meant moving
his printing press and several workers to
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
By mid April 1865, Herzen and part of his
"family" were back in the city of
Once back in
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
After the Perovskys left
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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
When Anna Snitkina reached
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 she returned.
Dostoevsky had her sit at his study desk, gave her some tea, and began talking.
He told her of that day on
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 that it was time to
retire. On Saturdays he might dine out at
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
A SHOT IN
Late in the afternoon of
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
The French ruler probably was hopeful that the Tsar would be in a forgiving
mood, especially regarding
If Napoleon III wished to ignore the subject of
After a brief reception at the Tuileries, the Tsar
was escorted down the Rue de Rivoli and the
Although some Russians found
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
In the days which followed they spent spare moments together riding horses
in the picturesque
After riding together on the Wednesday after his arrival, he wrote to Katia a brief note saying how he loved the
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
Alexander supported a stronger
Before arriving in
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
On the Tuesday after his arrival Alexander took part in a military review at
Longchamp in the
In the last decade and a half the call to war had once again come frequently
Although no major war clouds appeared on
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
As a teenager Berezowski had taken part in the
Polish revolt four years earlier and then came to
Although some of the Tsar's advisers recommended that he leave
The exhibition was another of the type that Dostoevsky had been critical of
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
Alexander did not leave
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
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
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
One of his trips to
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
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
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
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 , 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
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
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
THE DOSTOEVSKYS IN
A few weeks after arriving in
The most famous of them was Garibaldi,
the romantic fighter for Italian independence and unity, and a symbol of hope
for oppressed nationalities throughout
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
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.
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
The next day Dostoevsky and Anna set out for the
The inside of the large
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
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
Outside of Ogarev, the Dostoevskys
had no real friends in
Dostoevsky also complained of the weather and the bises,
or cold winds, that blew down from the mountains. Used to the warmer apartments
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
NECHAEV, BAKUNIN, AND THE LAST DAYS OF HERZEN
Some nine months after the Dostoevskys' departure
For almost three years
By this time his resentment towards
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
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
By the time Nechaev arrived in
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
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
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
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
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
Aided by some Bulgarian revolutionary connections of Bakunin,
Nechaev was able to sneak back into
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
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
Nechaev remained in
In early January he turned up once again in
Herzen was living in
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
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
After Ogarev and Bakunin
heard the news, Bakunin wrote to Ogarev
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.)