The Great Pushkin Celebration of 1880:
What Was on Their Minds?
Especially, What Was on Dostoevsky's Mind?

A Narrative Extension of SAC chronologies
© Alan Kimball

Table of Contents =

SAC Editor's Introduction
*1880au:Diary of a Writer| Dostoevsky published his June speech with his INTRODUCTION
Dostoevsky’s Pushkin speech
--Pushkin’s three creative periods
--His model of rootless intelligentsia = Aleko in poem The Gypsies
--Contribution of Social/service hierarchies to Aleko’s condition
--Evgenyi Onegin is modeled on the pitiful Aleko type
--But Tatyana, a “Russian woman”, is different
--Can one buy happiness with the suffering of others?
--Tatyana’s answer
--The Russian people
--Pushkin’s universalism, his affinity for other times and other people
--This “pan-humanism” is the essential Russian “national” trait

Subsequent polemics
--Aleksandr Gradovskii
--Konstantin Kavelin
--Vladimir Solov’ev

SAC Editor's Introduction

*1880je08:Moscow festival in memory of the greatest Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin
*--Russian high-culture activists were trying to reach back over recent months of mounting political terror [ID], back over years of political unrest [ID] and reactionary ascendancy [ID], and even back over the blighted era of Nicholas I [ID], back to the beginnings of the Russian literary/cultural golden age, in an effort to reconnect with Pushkin [LOOP]
*--Considerable factional struggle complicated matters -- particularly between Petersburg and Moscow and between those who resented growing state dominance over public life and those who didn't (those who identified with the statist apologetics of Mikhail Katkov). Great efforts were made to block Katkov from the Pushkin celebration
*--The commemorative celebration was preceded by the unveiling of a statue of Pushkin  [pix]
*--The Moscow-based Amateurs of Russian Literature [Liubiteli rossiiskoi slovesnosti, or LRS] sponsored the commemoration, and it was in its third and final day
*--In the last months of his life, now famous writer Fedor Dostoevsky [LOOP] presented a remarkable speech
*--Another veteran writer, Ivan Turgenev [LOOP], spoke the evening before and inspired little audience reaction, but on this final day Dostoevsky stirred the crowd
*--Ivan Aksakov [LOOP] sensed how Dostoevsky’s lecture was a tension breaker in a time of mounting political turmoil, and he called the lecture, as delivered and as received by the audiences, “an event”
*--Polemics followed, most notably with Aleksandr Dmitrievich Gradovskii [EG], a Petersburg University Professor of law and widely influential specialist on the legal history of state/society relations in Russia
*--Gradovskii was an established scholarly figure, holding an important office in Litfond [ID], the big Petersburg voluntary society which was over the previous 20 years the main rival to the Moscow-based LRS
*--Gradovskii came of age with that generation whom reactionaries, statist establishmentarians or others who were simply thoughtless had been calling “nihilists” [ID] over the previous fifteen years
*--Others joined the vigorous public debate, including another Petersburg University professor, long an active participant in the social mobilization of the reform era, Konstantin Kavelin [EG], and the philosopher Vladimir Solov’ev [EG]

[Sources = DstF.PPS#26:129-74 | DstF.DP.ENG,2:959-1010 | | Raeff3:289-300 & 302-21 | KMM:220-22]

Texts are edited in the following ways to meet the pedagogical and research objectives of KIMBALL FILES [ID] =
*--Hypertext Table of Contents
*--Hypertext linkages (NB! coloration of font)
*--Bold-face font to highlight certain passages
*--FIND searches [ID] for certain keywords, as in F/humble/
*--Translation adjusted at certain critical points to adhere more closely to the Russian original
*--Russian expression skital'tsy is translated as “drifters” rather than sometimes “wanderers” and sometimes “roamers” (as in standard English translation). We need to accent Dostoevsky’s central concern about social “milling”, that uprootedness or deracination in the ranks of the higher social orders as they sought ways to escape dysfunctional, officially defined and enforced social/service categories [ID]. F/drifter/ F/grass/
*--Compound sentences partitioned by semicolons have often been broken into separate sentences
*--Long paragraphs have often been broken into shorter paragraphs
*--Regularized transliteration (NB! “yu” & “ya” for “iu” & “ia”)
*--Americanized English spelling


Diary of a Writer
In his own journal, Dostoevsky published his June speech with an

(summarized here by SAC Editor)
[DstF.PSS#26:129-36 | DstF.DP.ENG,2:959-67]

Reacting to two months of exciting nation-wide polemical discussion of his dramatic speech, his introduction summarized four main points =

1) Pushkin, with his "purely Russian heart", was the first to describe how educated Russian society "was historically uprooted from its native soil" [ot pochvi]. A drifting intellectual/cultural elite represented "the principle sore of the society which came into existence after Peter's great reform". But Dostoevsky gave hope that a Russian public could be "resurrected" if it embraced "the people's truth" [prisoedinitsia k pravde narodnoi].

2) Pushkin's art presented "a Russian beauty which issues directly from the Russian spirit, resides in the people's truth, in our soil [v pochve nashei]". This is his evident in Tatyana, but in other characters as well = the Monk in Boris Godunov, several characters in "Captains Daughter" and even in "The History of Pugachev's Rebellion". These are not Europeanized Russians but bearers of the native-soil Russian spirit. [ID]

3) Pushkin had a special "capacity for universal sympathy", an ability to perform "reincarnation of the genius of foreign nations." Pushkin represented the "universality, omniscience [vseponiatnost'], the unexplored profundity of world types of the person belonging to the Aryan race..."

4) Yet, this remarkable capacity is a wholly Russian capacity, a capacity Pushkin "merely shares with our whole people". Don't confuse this preeminence with economic or material might. No, the Russian soul embodies "the idea of pan-humanistic unity [vsechelovecheskogo uedineniia], of brotherly love".

"Essentially, the fundamental spiritual treasures are not dependent upon economic assets. Our destitute and unorganized land, aside from its upper stratum, stands as one man. All the eighty millions of its population represent such a spiritual unity as is, of course, nonexistent -- and cannot exist -- anywhere in Europe." Anyway, Europe is about to collapse and its wealth about to evaporate. Europe offers us nothing but "an undermined and contaminated civic order".

In so many words, Dostoevsky asserted that modernization need not destroy the "native ways" of the "Russian folk". He was repulsed by the notion that trends of change in his homeland threatened the ways of the village narod. He quoted an anonymous "westernizer" of his time who said that if the folk get in the way of progress, annihilate the folk.

Why was my speech "an event", as Ivan Aksakov put it? It reconciled the differences between Slavophiles and westernizers, it showed that the long-term bitter disputes between them "constitute but one great misunderstanding". It is far from clear that westernizers see it that way. They still adhere to a notion that can be described this way = "A people such as ours should have no history, while that which they possessed under the guise of history should be forgotten with disgust, -- everything in toto. Only our educated society [intelligentnoe obshchestvo] should have its history while the people should serve society with their labor and energies." These westernizers prefer European vaudeville to Russian folk music. They are atheists and reject Orthodoxy.

Yet, if westernizers accept only one half, "we should greet them with a delighted heart". If that one half accepted by them should be "the independence and individuality of the Russian spirit, the legitimacy of its being and its humanitarian all-unifying aspiration", then nothing significant would divide us.

And then, it must be said, the "event" was not my talk, but the power of Pushkin.


Fedor Dostoevsky

PUSHKIN is an extraordinary phenomenon, and, perhaps, the unique phenomenon of the Russian spirit, said Gogol. I will add, “and a prophetic phenomenon”. Yes, his arrival on the scene contained for all us Russians, something incontestably prophetic. Pushkin appeared exactly at the beginning of our true self-consciousness, which was in its earliest beginnings [ID] a whole century after Peter’s reforms [LOOP on Petrine transformation]. Pushkin’s came to us as a new guiding light, a brilliant illumination of our dark way. In this sense Pushkin is a presage and a prophecy.

I divide the activity of our great poet into three periods. I speak now not as a literary critic. I dwell on Pushkin’s creative activity only to illustrate my conception of his prophetic significance to us and to give meaning to my word prophecy. I would, however, observe in passing that the periods of Pushkin’s activity do not seem to me to be marked off from each other by firm boundaries. The beginning of Evgenyi Onegin, for instance, in my opinion belongs still to the first period even though Onegin ends in the second period, when Pushkin had already found his ideals in his native land, had taken them to his heart and cherished them in his loving and clairvoyant soul. It is said that in his first period Pushkin imitated European poets, Parny and André Chénier, and, above all, Byron. Without doubt the poets of Europe had a great influence upon the development of his genius, and they maintained their influence all through his life.

Nevertheless, even the very earliest poems of Pushkin were not mere imitations, and in them the extraordinary independence of his genius was expressed. In an imitation there never appears such individual suffering and such depths of self-consciousness as Pushkin displayed, for instance, in The Gypsies, a poem which I ascribe in its entirety to his first period; not to mention the creative force and impetuosity which would never have been so evident had his work been only imitation. Already the character Aleko, the hero of The Gypsies, exhibits a powerful, profound, and purely Russian idea. Later that idea would be expressed to harmonious perfection in Onegin. There almost that same Aleko appears not in a fantastic light but as tangible, real and comprehensible.

In Aleko Pushkin had already discovered, and portrayed with genius, the unhappy drifter in his native land, the Russian sufferer of history. The unhappy drifter, uprooted from the people, was a historic necessity in our society. The type is true and perfectly rendered, it is an eternal type, long since settled in our Russian land.

These homeless Russian drifters are wandering still, and the time will be long before they disappear. If in our day they no longer go to gypsy camps to seek their universal ideals in the wild life of the gypsies, if they no longer seek escape from the confused and pointless life of our Russian intellectuals and consolation in the bosom of nature, they launch into Socialism, which did not exist in Aleko’s day. They march with a new faith into another field, and they work there zealously, believing, like Aleko, that they will by their fantastic endeavors reach their goal and find happiness, not for themselves alone but for all mankind. Indeed, the Russian drifter can find his own peace only in the happiness of all men. He will not be satisfied by anything less valuable than Socialism, at least while it is still a matter of theory. It is the same Russian man appearing now at a different time. This man, I repeat, was born just at the beginning of the second century after Peter’s great reforms, in an intellectual society, uprooted from the people. Oh, the vast majority of intellectual Russians in Pushkin’s time were serving then as they are serving now, as civil servants, in government appointments, in railways or in banks, or earning money in whatever way they can, or they are engaged in the sciences, delivering lectures -- all this in a regular, leisurely, peaceful manner, receiving salaries, playing whist, without any longing to escape into gypsy camps or other places more in accordance with our modern times. They go only so far as to play the liberal, ‘with a tinge of European Socialism’, to which Socialism is given a certain benign Russian character -- but it is only a matter of time. What happens if one has not yet begun to be disturbed, while another has already come up against a bolted door and violently beaten his head against it? The same fate awaits all men in their turn unless they walk in the saving road of humble communion with the people. But suppose that this fate does not await them all. Let ‘the chosen’ suffice, let only a tenth part be disturbed lest the vast majority remaining should find no rest through them.

Aleko, of course, is still unable to express his anguish rightly. With him everything is still somehow abstract. He has only a yearning after nature, a grudge against high society, aspirations for all men, lamentations for a truth that someone has lost somewhere, and he can by no means find it. Of course, he cannot say where this truth is, where and in what way it might reappear, and when exactly it was lost, but he suffers sincerely.

In the meantime the fantastic and impatient person seeks for salvation above all in external phenomena, and so it should be. Truth is, as it were, somewhere beyond this person, perhaps in some other European land with firm historical political institutions and an established social and civic life. Such a person will never understand that the truth is first of all within himself. How could he understand this? For a whole century he has not been able to be himself in his own land. He has forgotten how to work. He has no culture. He has grown up like a convent schoolgirl within closed walls. He has fulfilled strange and unaccountable duties in accordance with his rank, his position on the fourteen rungs [of the Table of Ranks, the backbone of official Russian social/service hierarchies] according to which educated Russian society is partitioned.

For the time being he is only a blade of grass torn up by his roots and blown through the air. And he feels it, and suffers for it, suffers often acutely! Well, what if he perhaps belonged by birth to the nobility and [in an earlier time (ID)] perhaps possessed serfs. He could then [like Aleko] have allowed himself a nobleman’s liberty, the pleasant fancy of being charmed by people who live ‘without laws’, and began to serve as trainer of a performing bear in a gypsy camp?

[NB! -- Dostoevsky here employs a painful metaphor to describe the condition of Russian elite social formations, “grass torn up by its roots”. He here puts an exclamation point to the widely felt “superfluous”, deracinated condition of the Russian “nobility” (Dostoevsky was himself a very lowly member of that social estate and lived, from that point of view, the life of an uprooted “drifter”). Nobles occupied the second position, after “clergy”, in the traditional hierarchy of semi-feudal Russian social estates (ID). Nobles were ostensibly the “well-born” flesh on the backbone of official Russian social/service hierarchies. Clearly those hierarchies were breaking down. Blades of grass were swirling in the air. And Pushkin caught the deep truth of all this and bequeathed that truth to Russian culture.]

Of course a woman, ‘a wild woman’, as a certain poet says, would be most likely to give him hope of a way out of his anguish. With an easy-going but passionate belief, he throws himself into the arms of Zemphira. “Here is my way of escape. Here I can find happiness, here in the bosom of nature far from the world, here with people who have neither civilization nor law.” And what happens? He cannot endure his first collision with conditions in this wild nature, and his hands are stained with blood. The wretched dreamer was not only unfit for universal harmony but also for gypsies, and they drive him away—without vengeance, without malice, with simple dignity.

Leave us, proud man,
We are wild and without law,
We torture not, neither do we punish.

This is, of course, all fantastic, but the proud man is real, his image sharply caught. Pushkin was the first to seize the type, and we should remember this. Should anything happen that is not to his liking in the least degree, he is ready to apply cruel torment and punishment for the wrong done to him, or, more comfortable still, he will remember that he belongs on one of the fourteen rungs and will himself call down -- this has happened often -- torture and punishment sanctioned by law.

The Russian solution of the question -- “the accursed question” -- has already been whispered in accordance with the faith and justice of the people. “Humble yourself, proud man, and first of all break down your pride. Humble yourself, idle man, and first of all labor on your native land.” That is the solution according to the wisdom and justice of the people. “Truth is not outside thee, but in thyself. Find thyself in thyself, subdue thyself to thyself, be master of thyself and thou wilt see the truth. Not in things is this truth, not outside thee or abroad, but first of all in thine own labor upon thyself. If thou conquer and subdue thyself, then thou wilt be freer than thou hast ever dreamed, and thou wilt begin a great work and make others free, and thou wilt see happiness, for thy life will be fulfilled and thou wilt at the last understand thy people and its sacred truth. Not with the Gypsies nor elsewhere else is universal harmony to be found so long as thou thyself art first unworthy of truth, malicious and proud, and thou dost demand life as a gift, not even thinking, that man must pay for truth.”

This solution of the question is strongly foreshadowed in Pushkin’s poem [“Gypsies”]. Still more dearly is it expressed in Evgenyi Onegin. It is not a fantasy, but a tangible and realistic poem, in which real Russian life is embodied with a creative power and a perfection such as had not been achieved before Pushkin and perhaps never after him.

Onegin comes from Petersburg, of course from Petersburg. This is beyond all doubt necessary to the poem, and Pushkin could not omit that all-important realistic trait in the life of his hero. I repeat, he is the same Aleko, particularly when later on in the poem he cries in anguish:

Why am I not, like the assessor of Tula, Stricken with palsy?

But now at the beginning of the poem he is still half a coxcomb and a man of the world. He had lived too little to be utterly disappointed in life. But he is already visited and disturbed by

The demon lord of hidden weariness.

In a remote place, in the heart of his mother country, Onegin is of course an exile in a foreign land. He does not know what to do and is somehow conscious of his own quest. Afterwards, wandering over his native country and over foreign lands, he is beyond doubt clever and sincere but feels himself among strangers, still more a stranger to himself. True, he loves his native land, but he does not trust it. Of course he has heard of national ideals, but he does not believe in them. He only believes in the utter impossibility of any work whatsoever in his native land. He looks upon those who believe in this possibility -- then, as now, only a few do -- with sorrowful derision. He kills Lenskii out of spleen, perhaps from spleen born of yearning for the universal ideal -- that is quite like us, quite probable.

Tatyana is different. She is a strong character, strongly standing on her own ground. She is deeper than Onegin and certainly wiser than he. With a noble instinct she divines where and what is truth, and her thought finds expression in the finale of the poem. Perhaps Pushkin would even have done better to call his poem Tatyana, and not Onegin, for she is indubitably the chief character. She is positive and not negative, a type of positive beauty, the apotheosis of the Russian woman, and the poet destined her to express the idea of his poem in the famous scene of the final meeting of Tatyana with Onegin. One may even say that so beautiful or positive a type of the Russian woman has never been created since in our literature, save perhaps the figure of Liza in Turgenev’s A Nest of Gentlefolk.

But because of his way of looking down upon people, Onegin did not even understand Tatyana when he met her for the first time, in a remote place, under the modest guise of a pure, innocent girl, who was at first so shy of him. He could not see the completeness and perfection of the poor girl, and perhaps he really took her for a ‘moral embryo’. She, the embryo! She, after her letter to Onegin! If there is a moral embryo in the poem, it is he himself, Onegin, beyond all debate. And he could not comprehend her. Does he know the human soul? He has been an abstract person, a restless dreamer, all his life long. Nor does he comprehend her later in Petersburg, as a grand lady, when in the words of his own letter to her “he in his soul understood all her perfections”. But these are only words. She passed through his life unrecognized by him and unappreciated: therein is the tragedy of their love.

But if, at his first meeting with her in the village, Childe Harold had arrived from England, or even, by a miracle, Lord Byron himself, and if he had noticed her timid, modest beauty and pointed her out to Onegin, oh, he would have been instantly struck with admiration, for in these universal sufferers there is sometimes so much spiritual servility! But this did not happen, and the seeker after universal harmony, having read her a sermon, and having done very honestly by her, set off with his universal anguish and the blood of his friend spilt in foolish anger and on his hands, to wander over his mother country, blind to her. Bubbling over with health and strength, he exclaims with an oath:

I am yet young and life is strong in me, Yet what awaits me?—anguish, anguish, anguish.

This Tatyana understood. In the immortal lines of the romance the poet represented her coming to see the house of the man who is so wonderful and still so incomprehensible to her. I do not speak of the unattainable artistic beauty and profundity of the lines. She is in his study. She looks at his books and possessions. She tries through them to understand his soul, to solve her enigma. This “moral embryo” at last pauses thoughtfully, with a foreboding that her riddle is solved, and gently whispers:

Perhaps he is only a parody?

Yes, she had to whisper this. She had had figured him out. Later, long afterwards in Petersburg, when they meet again, she knows him perfectly.

By the way, who was it that said that the life of the court and society had affected her soul for the worse, and that her new position as a lady of fashion and her new ideas were in part the reason for her refusing Onegin? This is not true. No, she is the same Tanya, the same country Tanya as before! She is not spoiled. On the contrary, she is tormented by the splendid life of Petersburg. She is worn down by it and suffers. She hates her position as a lady of society, and whoever thinks otherwise of her, has no understanding of what Pushkin wanted to say.

Now she says firmly to Onegin:

Now am I to another given: To him I will be faithful unto death.

She said this as a Russian woman, indeed, and herein is her apotheosis. She expresses the truths of the poem. I shall not say a word of her religious convictions, her views on the sacrament of marriage -- no, I shall not touch upon that. But then, did she refuse to follow him although she herself had said to him “I love you”? Did she refuse because she, “as a Russian woman” (and not a Southern or a French woman), is incapable of a bold step or has not the power to sacrifice the fascination of honors, riches, position in society, the conventions of virtue? No, a Russian woman is brave. A Russian woman will boldly follow what she believes, and she has proved it. But she “is to another given: To him she will be faithful unto death”.

To whom, to what will she be true? To what obligations be faithful? Is it to that old General whom she cannot possibly love, whom she married only because “with tears and adjurations her mother did beseech her”, and in her wronged and wounded soul was there then only despair and neither hope nor ray of light at all? Yes, she is true to that General, to her husband, to an honest man who loves her, respects her, and is proud of her. Her mother “did beseech her” but it was she and she alone who consented, she herself swore an oath to be his faithful wife. She married him out of despair. But now he is her husband, and her perfidy [should she succumb to Onegin] would cover him with disgrace and shame and kill him. Can anyone build his happiness on the unhappiness of another? Happiness is not in the delights of love alone, but also in the spirit’s highest harmony. How could the spirit be appeased if behind it stood a dishonorable, merciless, inhuman action? Should she run away merely because her happiness lay therein? What kind of happiness would that be, based on the unhappiness of another?

Imagine that you yourself are building a palace of human destiny for the final end of making all men happy and giving them peace and rest at last. And imagine also that for that purpose it is necessary and inevitable to torture to death one single human being, and him not a great soul, but even in someone’s eyes a ridiculous being, not a Shakespeare but simply an honest old man, the husband of a young wife in whom he believes blindly. He is proud of her and respects her, although he does not know her heart at all. He is happy and at rest. Your palace can be built only if he is disgraced, dishonored, and tortured. On his dishonored suffering, your palace can be built! Would you consent to be the architect on this condition? That is the question. Can you for one moment admit the thought that those for whom the building had been built would agree to receive that happiness from you if its source was suffering. It could perhaps be thought of as the suffering of an insignificant being, but a being who had been cruelly and unjustly put to death. Would they agree even if when they attained that happiness they would be happy forever? Could Tatyana’s great soul, which had so deeply suffered, have chosen otherwise?

No, a pure, Russian soul decides thus: Let me, let me alone be deprived of happiness, even if my happiness be infinitely greater than the unhappiness of this old man. Finally, let no one, not even this old man, know and appreciate my sacrifice: I will not be happy through having ruined another.

Here is a tragedy ??in fact, the line cannot be passed, and Tatyana sends Onegin away. The following may be said: But Onegin too is unhappy. She has saved one [the General], and ruined the other [Onegin]. But that is another question, perhaps the most important in the poem.

By the way, the question about why Tatyana did not go away with Onegin has with us, in our literature at least, a very characteristic history, and therefore I allow myself to dwell upon it. The most characteristic thing is that the moral solution of the question should have been so long subject to doubt. I think that even if Tatyana had been free and her old husband had died and she become a widow, even then she would not have gone away with Onegin. But one must understand the essential substance of the character. She sees what he is. The eternal drifter has suddenly seen the woman whom he had previously scorned in a new and unattainable setting. In this setting is perhaps the essence of the matter. The girl whom he almost despised is now adored by all society -- society, the awful authority over Onegin, despite his universal aspirations. That is why he throws himself dazzled at her feet. Here is my ideal, he cries, here is my salvation, here is the escape from my anguish. I did not see her then, when ‘happiness was so possible, so near’. And as before Aleko turned to Zemphira, so does Onegin turn to Tatyana, seeking in his new, capricious fancy the solution of all his questions. But does not Tatyana see this in him, had she not seen it long ago? She knows beyond a doubt that at bottom he loves his new caprice, and not her, the humble Tatyana as of old. She knows that he takes her for something else, and not for what she is, that it is not her whom he loves, that perhaps he does not love any one, is incapable of loving any one, although he suffers so acutely. He loves a caprice, but he himself is a caprice. If she were to follow him, then tomorrow he would be disillusioned and look with mockery upon his infatuation.

He is not rooted in any soil at all. He is a blade of grass, borne on the wind. She is not like that. Even in her despair, in the painful consciousness that her life has been ruined, she still has something solid and unshakable on which she can fix her soul. These are the memories of her childhood, the reminiscences of her country, her remote village, in which her pure and humble life began.

Ay, of that burial ground so quiet
Where my poor nurse reposes now
Beneath her cross and shadowing bough

Oh, these memories and the pictures of the past are most precious to her now; these alone are left to her, but they do save her soul from final despair. And this is not a little, but rather much, for there is here a whole foundation, unshakable and indestructible. Here is contact with her own land, with her own people, and with their sanctities. And he -- what has he and what is he? Nothing, that she should follow him out of compassion, to amuse him, to give him a moment’s gift of a mirage of happiness out of the infinite pity of her love, knowing well beforehand that tomorrow he would look on his happiness with mockery. No, these are deep, firm souls, which cannot deliberately give their sanctities to dishonor, even from infinite compassion. No, Tatyana could not follow Onegin.

Thus in Onegin, that immortal and unequalled poem, Pushkin was revealed as a great national writer, unlike any before him. In one stroke, with the extreme of exactness and insight, he defined the very inmost essence of our high-ranking society, standing above the level of the people. He defined the past and present type of Russian drifter. He was the first to identify him with the flair of genius, to identify his historical destiny and his enormous significance in our future. Side by side he placed a type of positive and indubitable beauty in the person of a Russian woman.

Besides that, of course, in his other works of that period, Pushkin was the first Russian writer to show us a whole gallery of positively beautiful Russian types found among the Russian people. The paramount beauty of these lies in their truth, their tangible and indubitable truth. It is impossible to deny them, they stand as though sculptured. I would remind you again. I speak not as a literary critic, and therefore do not intend to elucidate my idea by a particular and detailed literary discussion of these works of the poet’s genius. Concerning the type of the Russian monkish chronicler, for instance, a whole book might be written to show the importance and meaning for us of this lofty Russian figure, discovered by Pushkin in the Russian land, portrayed and sculptured by him, and now eternally set before us in its humble, exalted, indubitable spiritual beauty. It is evidence of that mighty spirit of national life which can send forth from itself figures of such certain loveliness. This type is now given to us. He exists. He cannot be disputed. It cannot be said that he is only the poet’s fancy and ideal. You yourself see and agree: Yes, he exists, therefore the spirit of the nation which created him exists also. Therefore the vital power of this spirit exists and is mighty and vast. Throughout Pushkin sounds a belief in the Russian character, in its spiritual might. And if there is belief, there is hope also, the great hope for the man of Russia.

With hope for all the good and glory,
I look ahead, devoid of fear,

said the poet himself on another occasion. Those words may be applied directly to the whole of his national, creative activity. And yet no single Russian writer, before or after him, did ever associate himself so intimately and fraternally with his people as Pushkin. Oh, we have a multitude of experts on the people among our writers. They have written about the people with talent and knowledge and love. Yet, if we compare them with Pushkin, then, with one or at most two exceptions among his latest followers [?? who does Dst have in mind?], they will be found actually to be only “gentlemen” writing about the masses. Even in the most gifted of them, even in the two exceptions I have just mentioned, sometimes appears a sudden flash of something haughty, something from another life and world, something which desires to raise the people up to the writer, and in that way to make them happy. But in Pushkin there is something allied indeed to the people, which in him rises on occasion to some of the most naive emotions. Take his story The Bear, and how a peasant killed the bear’s mate. Or remember the verses, “Kinsman John, when we start drinking”, and you will understand what I mean.

All these treasures of art and artistic insight are left by our great poet as it were a landmark for the writers who should come after him, for future laborers in the same field. One may say positively that if Pushkin had not existed, there would not have been the gifted writers who came after him. At least they would not have displayed themselves with such power and clarity, in spite of the great gifts with which they have succeeded in expressing themselves in our day. But not in poetry alone, not in artistic creation alone. If Pushkin had not existed, there would not have been expressed with the irresistible force with which it appeared after him (not in all writers, but in a chosen few), our belief in our Russian individuality, our now conscious faith in the people’s powers, and finally the belief in our future individual destiny among the family of European nations. This achievement of Pushkin’s is particularly displayed if one examines what I call the third period of his activity.

I repeat, there are no fixed divisions between the periods. Some of the works of even the third period might have been written at the very beginning of the poet’s artistic activity, for Pushkin was always a complete whole, as it were a perfect organism carrying within itself at once every one of its principles, not receiving them from beyond. The beyond only awakened in him that which was already in the depths of his soul. But this organism developed and the phases of this development could really be marked and defined, each of them by its peculiar character and the regular generation of one phase from another. Thus to the third period can be assigned those of his works in which universal ideas were pre-eminently reflected, in which the poetic conceptions of other nations were mirrored and their genius reincarnated.

Some of these appeared after Pushkin’s death. And in this period the poet reveals something almost miraculous, never seen or heard at any time or in any nation before. There had been in the literatures of Europe men of colossal artistic genius -- a Shakespeare, a Cervantes, a Schiller. But show me one of these great geniuses who possessed such a capacity for universal sympathy as our Pushkin. This capacity, the pre-eminent capacity of our nation, he shares with our nation, and by that above all he is our national poet. The greatest of European poets could never so powerfully embody in themselves the genius of a foreign, even a neighboring, people, its spirit in all its hidden depth, and all its yearning after its appointed end, as Pushkin could. On the contrary, when they turned to foreign nations European poets most often made them one with their own people, and understood them after their own fashion. Even Shakespeare’s Italians, for instance, are almost always Englishmen. Pushkin alone of all world poets possessed the capacity of fully identifying himself with an alien nationality. Take his Scenes from Faust, take The Miserly Knight, take the ballad Once there Lived a Poor Young Knight. Read his Don Juan again. Had Pushkin not signed them, you would never know that they were not written by a Spaniard. How profound and fantastic is the imagination in the poem A Feast in Time of Plague. But in this fantastic imagination is the genius of England; and in the hero’s wonderful song about the plague, and in Mary’s song,

Our children’s cheerful voices
In the noisy school were heard...

These are English songs. This is the yearning of the British genius, its lament, its painful presentiment of its future. Remember the strange lines:

While wandering once in a valley wild....

It is almost a literal transposition of the first three pages of a strange mystical book, written in prose by an old English sectarian -- but is it only a transposition? In the sad and rapturous music of these verses is the very soul of Northern Protestantism, of the English heresiarch, of the illimitable mystic with his dull, somber, invincible aspiration, and the impetuous power of his mystical dreaming. As you read these strange verses, you seem to hear the spirit of the times, of the Reformation. You understand the warlike fire of early Protestantism, and finally history herself. You do this not merely intellectually but as one who passes through the armed sectarian camp, sings psalms with them, weeps with them in their religious ecstasies, and believes with them in their belief.

Then set religious verses from the Koran or Imitations from the Koran beside Pushkin’s Protestant religious mysticism. Is he not here a Mohammedan? Has he not captured the very spirit of the Koran and its sword, the naive grandeur of faith and her terrible, bloody power?

And here is the ancient world. Here are Egyptian Nights. Here sit the gods of earth. They sit on the backs of their people and despise the genius of the people and their aspirations. They no longer believed in that genius. They became gods in isolation and went mad in their isolation, in the anguish of their weariness unto death. They diverted themselves with fanatic brutalities, with the voluptuousness of creeping things or of a she-spider devouring her male.

No, I will say deliberately, there had never been a poet with a universal sympathy like Pushkin’s. And it is not his sympathy alone, but his amazing profundity, the reincarnation of his spirit in the spirit of foreign nations. It is a reincarnation almost perfect and therefore also miraculous, because the phenomenon has never been repeated in any poet in all the world. It is only in Pushkin. And by this, I repeat, he is a phenomenon never seen and never heard of before, and in my opinion, a prophetic phenomenon, because ... because herein was expressed the national spirit of his poetry, the national spirit in its future development, the national spirit of our future, which is already implicit in the present, and it was expressed prophetically. For what is the power of the spirit of Russian nationality if not its aspiration after the final goal of universality and pan-humanity [vsechelovechestvo]? No sooner had he become a completely national poet, no sooner had he come into contact with the national power, than he already anticipated the great future of that power. In this he was a Seer, in this a Prophet.

For what is the reform of Peter the Great to us, not merely for the future but in the past and already in full view? What did that reform mean to us? Surely it was not only the adoption of European clothes, customs, inventions and science. Let us examine how it was, let us look more steadily. Surely, it was not a simple adoption by us of European dress, habits, inventions and science. We need to scrutinize the matter, to examine it more closely.

Yes, it is very probable that at the outset Peter began his reform in this narrowly utilitarian sense. But in the course of time, as his idea developed, Peter undoubtedly obeyed some hidden instinct which oriented him and his work toward future purposes undoubtedly grander than narrow utilitarianism. In the same way, the Russian people did not accept the reform in the utilitarian spirit alone. A distant and incomparably higher goal was undoubtedly revealed to them and instantly warned them against mere utilitarianism. I repeat, the people felt that purpose unconsciously, but the feeling was direct and very vital. Indeed, we then impetuously applied ourselves to the most vital universal pan-humanist fellowship! Not in a spirit of enmity (as one might have expected) but in friendliness and perfect love, we received into our soul the genius of foreign nations, all equally, without preference of race, able by instinct from almost the very first step to discern, to discount distinctions, to excuse and reconcile them. Therein we already showed what had only just become manifest to us -- our readiness and inclination for a common and universal union with all the races of the great Aryan family.

Yes, beyond all doubt, the destiny of a Russian is pan-European and universal. To become a true Russian, to become fully Russian (and you should remember this), means only to become the brother of all men, to become, if you will, a universal man. Oh, all our Slavophilism and Westernism [ID] is only a great misunderstanding, even though historically necessary. To a true Russian, Europe and the destiny of all the mighty ??Aryan race is as dear as Russia herself, as dear as the destiny of his own native country. This is so because our destiny is universality, won not by the sword, but by the strength of brotherhood and our fraternal aspiration to reunite mankind.

If you go deep into our history since Peter’s reform, you will already find traces and indications of this idea, of this fantasy [??dream] of mine, if you will, in the character of our intercourse with European nations, even in the policy of the state. For what has Russian policy been doing for these two centuries if not serving Europe, perhaps, far more than she has served herself. I do not believe this came to pass through the inability of our statesmen.

Oh, the nations of Europe know how dear they are to us. And in course of time I believe that we -- not we, of course, but our children to come -- will all without exception understand that to be a true Russian does indeed mean to aspire finally to reconcile the contradictions of Europe, to find resolution of European yearning in our pan-human and all-uniting Russian soul, to include within our soul by brotherly love all our brethren. At last it may be that Russia pronounces the final Word of the great general harmony, of the final brotherly communion of all nations in accordance with the law of the gospel of Christ!

I know, I know too well, that my words may appear ecstatic, exaggerated and fantastic. Let them be so, I do not repent having uttered them. They ought to be uttered, above all now, at the moment that we honor our great genius who by his artistic power embodied this idea. The idea has been expressed many times before. I say nothing new. But chiefly it will appear presumptuous. “Is this our destiny, the destiny of our poor, brutal land? Are we predestined among mankind to utter the new word?”

Do I speak of economic glory, of the glory of the sword or of science? I speak only of the brotherhood of man. I say that the heart of Russia, perhaps more than that of all other nations, is chiefly predestined for this universal, pan-human union. I see its traces in our history, our men of genius, in the artistic genius of Pushkin. Let our country be poor, but this poor land “Christ traversed with blessing, in the garb of a serf”. Why then should we not contain His final word? Was not He Himself born in a manger?

I say again, we at least can already point to Pushkin, to the universality and pan-humanity of his genius. He surely could contain the genius of foreign lands in his soul as his own. In art at least, in artistic creation, he undeniably revealed this universality of the aspiration of the Russian spirit, and therein is a great promise. If our thought is a dream, then in Pushkin at least this dream has solid foundation. Had he lived longer, he would perhaps have revealed great and immortal embodiments of the Russian soul, which would then have been intelligible to our European brethren. He would have attracted them much more and closer than they are attracted now. Perhaps he would have succeeded in explaining to them all the truth of our aspirations. And they would understand us more than they do now. They would have begun to have insight into us, and would have ceased to look at us so suspiciously and presumptuously as they still do. Had Pushkin lived longer, then among us too there would perhaps be fewer misunderstandings and quarrels than we see now. But God saw otherwise. Pushkin died in the full maturity of his powers, and undeniably bore away with him a great secret into the grave. And now we, without him, are seeking to divine his secret.

Polemic with Aleksandr Dmitrievich Gradovskii
Table of Contents =


[Sources = DstF.PSS#26:149-74 | DstF.DR,2:981-1010]

[Dostoevsky opened with the assertion that there was no reason to try to convince Gradovskii of anything. “I have nothing in common with you, and there is nothing for me to discuss with you....” Dostoevsky took up the polemic simply in order to communicate with “readers” who might otherwise to misled by Gradovskii.]



I feel, I foresee, I can even perceive that there are new elements thirsting for a new word, weary of the obsolete liberal snickering [podkhikhikivaniia] at any word of hope for Russia; sick and tired of the former liberal toothless skepticism -- of the old corpses which, by oversight, have not been buried, and which still regard themselves as the young generation -- of the antiquated liberal leader and savior of Russia whose character has fully revealed itself during the last twenty-five years [since the opening of the era of “great reforms”], and who, according to the popular saying, is "a man aimlessly shouting in a marketplace." In a word, I wish to state many a thing aside from my reply to your remarks [i.e., Gradovskii’s remarks]. So, in giving my answer I am, as it were, seizing upon an occasion.

In the first place, you raise the question -- and even reproach me for not having expressed myself more clearly: These "drifters" [skital’tsy], about whom I spoke in my Address, where do they come from? Well, this is a long story which one should begin from afar. Besides, no matter what I might reply in this connection, you would not agree with me because you have your own preconceived and ready solution: “Because” -- you would say -- “they were disgusted at living side by side with the Skvoznik-Dmukhanovskys [the fictional chief of police in Gogol's Revizor (Inspector-General)], and also on account of the civic sorrow [grazhdanskaia skorb'] which they felt for the peasants, who, at that time, had not yet been liberated.” Such an inference would be worthy of the contemporary liberal man, who, speaking generally, when it comes to Russia, has everything settled and signed with that extraordinary ease typical only of a Russian liberal. Nevertheless this is a more complicated question than you think -- much more complicated -- despite your categorical solution. In due time I shall speak about “the Skvozniks and civic sorrow [ob skorbi]”.

But first, permit me to refer to a most characteristic statement of yours, which you also express with a lightness bordering on frivolity, and about which I cannot keep silent. You say:

In one way or another, for two centuries we have been under the influence of European enlightenment, which strongly affected us because of “the universal susceptibility” of the Russian which Mr. Dostoevsky regards as our national trait. There is no way in which we can escape this enlightenment; nor is there any need for this. This is a fact which cannot be helped, for the reason that a Russian who desires enlightenment necessarily acquires it from a Western European source because of the total absence of Russian sources.

Of course this is playfully expressed, but you uttered an important word, “enlightenment”. I wish to ask you what you mean by it? Western science, useful knowledge, handicrafts, or spiritual enlightenment? The former, i.e., science and trades, in truth, should not evade us, and there actually is no reason for us to seek to evade them. I am also in full accord with you that these can be acquired only from Western European sources, for which Europe deserves praise and our eternal gratitude. But my conception of enlightenment (and I believe that no one can have a different conception) coincides with what this word literally implies, i.e., spiritual light illuminating the soul, enlightening the heart, guiding the mind and indicating to it the road of life. If this be so, I wish to state to you that there is no reason for us to borrow such an enlightenment from Western European sources because Russian sources are fully available -- and not absent. You are surprised? You see, in disputes I like to begin with the very essence of the matter, with the most controversial point.

I assert that our people have long been enlightened, having embraced in their hearts Christ and His teachings. It may be argued that the people do not know the teachings of Christ, and that no sermons are preached to them. But this is a vain objection: they know everything, precisely everything that they have to know, although they could not pass an examination in catechism. The people acquired their knowledge in churches where, for centuries, they have been listening to prayers and hymns which are better than sermons. They have been repeating and singing these prayers in forests, fleeing from their enemies, as far back as the time of Batyi's invasion [??ID]. They may have been singing: “0 mighty Lord, be with us!” It may have been then that they memorized this hymn because at that time nothing but Christ was left to them; yet in this hymn alone is Christ's whole truth. And what is there in the fact that few sermons are preached to the people and that chanters are muttering unintelligibly? -- This is the most colossal accusation against our Church invented by the liberals, coupled with that of the inadequacy of the Church-Slavonic language supposedly incomprehensible to the common people! (And what about the Old-Believers? -- Oh, God!) As against this, the priest reads: "God and Lord of my being," etc. -- and in this prayer the whole essence of Christianity is contained, its entire catechism, and the people know this prayer by heart. Likewise they know by heart the life-histories of many a saint; they relate them and listen to them with emotion.

However, the principal school of Christianity from which they have graduated is -- those centuries of innumerable and interminable sufferings which they have endured in the course of their history, when, forsaken and oppressed by everybody, toiling for everybody, they remained with no one but Christ -- the Consoler Whom they then embraced forever in their soul, and Who, as a reward for this, has saved their soul from despair!


If our people have long been enlightened by the fact of their acceptance of the quintessence of Christ and His teachings, together with Him, they have embraced genuine enlightenment. With this fundamental supply of enlightenment, Western sciences will become a real blessing to the people. They will not dim the image of Christ as in the West, where, however, it was dimmed not by science, as liberals maintain, but by the Western Church itself, which distorted it by transforming itself into a Roman state, having embodied the latter in the form of papacy. Indeed, in the West there is no longer Christianity, there is no Church, notwithstanding the fact that there still are many Christians who will never disappear. Catholicism, in truth, is no longer Christianity; gradually it is transforming itself into idolatry, while Protestantism with gigantic strides is being converted into atheism and into vacillating, fluent, variable (and not eternal) ethics.


In my address I said that Tatiana, having refused to follow Onegin, acted in a Russian fashion, in accordance with the people's truth, whereas one of my critics, indignant at the idea that the Russian people possess truth of their own, unexpectedly retorted with the question: "What about incest?" -- Can such critics be answered? Primarily, they feel insulted by the fact that the people can have a truth of their own, and therefore be genuinely enlightened. Why, is incest prevalent among the people as a whole, and does it exist as truth? Indeed, our people are coarse, but by no means all of them -- oh, not all of them; I swear to this as a witness because I have observed them, I know them, I lived with them a number of years, sharing my meals and sleeping with them; I "was personally classed with villains"; I worked with them performing actual manual labor at a time when others were "dipping their hands in blood" [a line from Nekrasov's poem A Knight for an Hour] toying with liberalism and snickering at the people, proclaiming in their lectures and journalistic feuilletons that there was "an impress of the beast" upon the people.

So, don't tell me that I do not know the people! I know them: it was because of them that I again received into my soul Christ Who had been revealed to me in my parents' home and Whom I was about to lose when, on my own part, I transformed myself into a "European liberal."


But be fair just for once, you liberal fellows: try to recall what the people have endured in the course of so many centuries. Recall who is most to be blamed for their bestial image, and don't condemn them! -- Indeed, it is silly to accuse the peasant of the fact that his hair wasn't dressed in a French hairdresser's parlor on the Grand Morskayia! -- And yet virtually such accusations are propounded when our European liberals begin to rise against the Russian people and start denying them; claiming that they have failed to develop their individuality, and that they are devoid of nationality !

Oh, Lord! -- And in the West, wherever you please, among any people -- is there less drunkenness and stealing ? Not the same brutality? -- And besides -- embitterment (which is absent in our people) and real, hundred-per-cent ignorance, thorough want of enlightenment, because, at times, it is combined with such lawlessness that it is no longer considered a sin, but it is actually treated as truth.

Even so, let us concede that bestiality and sin are present among our people. But one thing is incontestable: in their mass at least I (not merely in ideal but in actual reality) the people do not accept -- never will -- their sins for truth!


Only recently the people, though sinking in sin, drunkenness and lawlessness, the people, as a whole, were spiritually gladdened by the last war for Christ's faith of the Slavs trampled upon by the Mohammedans. The people accepted this war, they seized upon it as upon an expiatory sacrifice for their sins and lawlessness; they sent their sons to give their lives for a holy cause, and they did not vociferate that the ruble was going down, and that the price of meat was going up. They listened avidly to war news, they eagerly inquired and read about it, and we all witnessed this.

I know: the people's spiritual enthusiasm, and particularly the motives behind it are being denied by our liberals; they scoff at this idea. "These rascals"-they imply-"have a constructive idea; they have a civic sentiment, a political thought! -- Can this be conceded?" Why is it that our European liberalism so often adopts a hostile attitude toward the people ? Why is it that in Europe those who call themselves democrats invariably stand in defense of the people, or at least rely on them, whereas our democrats are frequently aristocrats, and, in the last analysis, almost always they come out in support of everything that tends to suppress the people, and they wind up with sheer domineering? Oh, I am not asserting that they are conscious enemies of the people, but the tragedy lies in the lack of consciousness. You will be incensed with these queries of mine. Be it so. To me all these are axioms, and, of course, I shall not cease to explain and expound them as long as I continue to write and speak.



Criticizing my Address, you write:

But Pushkin portraying Aleko and Onegin with their negation did not show precisely what they “deny”, and therefore it is extremely hazardous to assert that they specifically deny “the people's truth”, the fundamental principles of the Russian world outlook. You see this nowhere.
Whether or not it is perceived, whether or not it is hazardous to make the above assertion, will be discussed forthwith. First, however, let us deal with your statement about the Dmukhanovskys from whom Aleko supposedly fled to the Gypsies:
But actually the world of the drifters in those days -- you write -- was a world which renounced another world. For the interpretation of these characters other characters have to be considered whom Pushkin did not portray, although at times he referred to them with burning indignation. The nature of his talent prevented him from sinking into that gloom and treating as “pearls of creation” those owls and bats that infest Russian basements (are not the upper stories meant here?). Gogol filled that role -- the great reverse side of Pushkin. He told the world why Aleko made his escape to the Gypsies; why Onegin felt bored, why there came into being “superfluous men” immortalized by Turgenev, Korobochka, Sobakevich, Skvoznik-Dmukhanovsky, Derzhimorda, Tiapkin-Liapkin -- this is the shadowy side of Aleko, Beltov [??ID], Rudin [??ID] and many others. This is the background without which the characters of the latter are unintelligible. And Gogol's heroes were Russian -- oh, how genuinely Russian! There was no Weltschmerz in Korobochka. Skvoznik-Dmukhanovsky managed to perfection to deal with the storekeepers. Sobakevich knew his peasants from A to Z, and they clearly saw through him. Of course Aleko and the Rudins neither saw nor comprehended all this. They simply fled wherever they could: Aleko to the Gypsies, Rudin to Paris where he devoted his life to an altogether alien cause.
You see, they simply fled. Oh, the journalistic ease of the solution! How simply everything transpires in your opinion; how ready and predetermined! -- Verily, yours are ready-made words. By the way, why did you start dwelling upon the subject that Gogol's heroes were Russians -- "oh, how genuinely Russian! " -- This is quite irrelevant to our controversy. Besides, who does not know that they were Russians? Aleko and Onegin, too, were Russians; you and I are Russians. Likewise Rudin was a Russian, a full-fledged Russian, who ran away to Paris to give his life for a cause which, according to you, was quite alien to him. He was a Russian in the strictest sense precisely for the reason that the cause for which he died in Paris was by no means so alien to him as it would have been to an Englishman or a German, since a European, universal, all-humanitarian cause has long ceased to be alien to a Russian. This is Rudin's distinguishing mark. Strictly speaking, Rudin's tragedy lay in the fact that he found no labor to perform on his own soil, and died in a foreign land, but not as foreign as you maintain.

This is, however, the point: despite the fact that all these Skvozniks and Sobakevichs were Russians, nevertheless they were corrupted Russians, detached from their soil; although they were familiar with one aspect of the people's mode of living, still they knew nothing about its other aspect; they did not even suspect its existence -- this is the whole point. They did not even suspect the existence of the people's soul, the things for which the people were thirsting and praying, because they profoundly despised the people. They denied in the people any soul, save for the purpose of the census. You claim that "Sobakevich knew his peasants from A to Z." This is impossible: he perceived in his Proshka nothing but a labor unit which he could sell to Tchitchikov. You say that Skvoznik-Dmukhanovsky managed to perfection to deal with the merchants. For , goodness' sake! Read the bailiff's monologue to those store-keepers I in the fifth act: in this manner one speaks, perhaps, to dogs, but • not to human beings. Does this mean to deal with the Russian "to perfection"? Is it possible that you are praising him?-Why, he | had really better have smacked them on their faces or pulled them by their hair!

In my childhood I saw once on a highway a state courier in uniform with flaps, wearing a three-cornered hat with a feather ^sticking in it, brutally with his fist beating the driver on his nape, Y while the latter madly whipped the steaming troika racing at full speed. Of course this courier was Russian by birth, but one so blinded, so alienated from the people that he did not know how to deal with a Russian otherwise than with his heavy fist in lieu of conversing with him in any manner whatsoever. And yet he spent all his life in the company of postboys and Russian commoners of every kind. However, the flaps of his uniform, his feathered hat, his polished Petersburg boots, to him were spiritually dearer not only than the Russian peasant, but perhaps than Russia in toto, which he crossed from one end to the other, in which, probably, he found nothing remarkable or worthy of note other than his own fist or the kick of his polished boot. The whole of Russia represented itself to him merely in the guise of his superiors, outside of whom virtually nothing was worthy of existence. How could such a fellow understand the people's essence and their soul! Although a Russian, he was a "European" Russian, only one who had embarked upon his Europeanism not with education but with debauchery, just in the same way as many others did. Yes, sir, :this debauchery on many occasions was held in Russia to be the !; surest means of converting Russians into Europeans. Indeed, the ; son of that state-messenger might have become a professor, i.e., a patented European.

And so, don't speak about their understanding of the people's essence. We had to have Pushkin, the Khomiakovs, the Samarins, the Aksakovs before we could begin to speak about the people's essence. (Although prior to them this subject used to be discussed but in a somewhat pseudo-classical and histrionic fashion.) And when they began to speak about "the people's truth," everybody , looked upon them as epileptics and idiots whose ideal was "eating radishes and writing denouncements." At first their appearance and opinions surprised everybody to such an extent that liberals began to wonder: aren't these men about to start denouncing them? -- It is up to you to decide whether or not our contemporary liberals have much advanced from that silly view on Slavophiles.

But let us turn to business. You state that Aleko fled to the Gypsies from Derzhimorda. Let us concede that this is true. But the worst thing is that you, Mr. Gradovskii, with full conviction admit Aleko's right to such surliness. You imply: “He could not have failed to flee to the Gypsies because Derzhimorda was too repulsive.” But I assert that in a certain sense Aleko and Onegin were also Derzhimordas, and perhaps even worse than these, with that difference only that I am not accusing them in the least, fully realizing the tragedy of their fate, whereas you are lauding them for their escape. You seem by implication to say, “Such great, such interesting men were unable to live on good terms with such monsters.” You are awfully mistaken. You infer that Aleko and Onegin did not in the least alienate themselves from their native soil and did not deny the people's truth. Moreover, you seem to say, “They were by no means haughty!” -- This is what you maintain.

Well, in this case haughtiness is a logical and unavoidable consequence of their abstraction and their detachment from their own native soil [pochva]. Indeed, you cannot deny the fact that they did not know their soil, that they matured and were shaped within exclusive educational institutions. They acquired their knowledge of Russia in Petersburg, through bureaucratic channels, and their relations with the people were those of a master with his serf. We can concede that at times they lived in the country in proximity to the peasant. My message-bearer all life long rubbed shoulders with wagon-drivers, yet he granted only that they were worthy of his fist. Aleko and Onegin behaved in Russia haughtily and impatiently like all men who live in a small group segregated from the people, fully provided for, i.e., supported by peasant labor and dependent on a European education which was, like the labor, of no cost to them. Virtually throughout our whole national existence and as a result of our well-known history, our educated people [intelligentnye liudi] have been converted into lazy creatures. This very fact explains their distraction and alienation from their native soil. They perished not because of Derzhimorda as such but because they were unable to explain to themselves the phenomenon of Derzhimorda and its origin. For this they were too proud. Not only were they therefore unable to understand, they were also unable to work on their native soil [na rodnoi nive]. They regarded those who believed in such a possibility as blockheads or as Derzhimordas themselves.

The drifter exalted himself not only over the Derzhimordas but over Russia as a whole, because Russia was in the final analysis populated only with slaves and Derzhimordas. If there were nobler elements, they were the Alekos and Onegins, and no one else. This line of reasoning inevitably leads to haughtiness: dwelling in a state of segregation they naturally began to wonder at their own nobility and superiority over; the vile Derzhimordas whom they were unable to comprehend. Had they not been uppish they would have perceived that they were Derzhimordas themselves, and having comprehended this they might have found a way to reconciliation. With regard to the people there was on their part a feeling not merely of haughtiness but of aversion, and this was the general rule.


My clear and apparent inference is that “drifters” are the product of the historical experience of our society. This means that I am not placing the full blame on them personally nor on their personal qualities. All this is in the written and published Address. Why, then, do you distort my views? Quoting my tirade: "Humble thyself," you write:

With these words Mr. Dostoevsky has expressed “the holy of holies” of his convictions, that which at once constitutes both the strength and weakness of the author of The Brothers Karamazov. These words comprise a great religious ideal, a potent sermon of personal morality, but they contain no inkling of social ideals.
And after these words you begin at once to criticize the idea, "of personal betterment in the spirit of Christian love." I shall turn in a minute to your opinion of "self-betterment," but first I will '; unfold for you your underlying idea, which it seems you seek to I conceal: You grew angry at me not only because I accused the “drifter”, but because I do not perceive in him an ideal of moral perfection, a sound, healthy Russian which he can and must be! When you admit that in Aleko and Onegin there are “unbecoming traits” you are merely dodging the issue. According to your inner conviction, which for some reason you do not wish to reveal completely, “drifters” are normal and beautiful, beautiful in the fact itself that they have fled from the Derzhimordas. Your indignation is at once aroused the moment one ventures to perceive in them the slightest defect. You state specifically: "It would be nonsensical to maintain that they perished because of their uppishness and their refusal to be humbled before the people's truth." Finally you are ardently arguing, and insisting, that they were the ones who liberated the peasants. You state:
I will say more: If there was any thought conserved in the souls of the best of those “drifters” of the first part of our century, it was precisely the thought about the people, while their most burning hatred was directed against serfdom which oppressed the people. Even though they loved the people and hated serfdom in their own, if you please “European” way, nevertheless, who but they prepared our society for the abolition of serfdom? -- They, too, have served their “native soil” [rodnoi nive] as best they could -- originally as preachers of liberation and later as Peace Arbitrators of the first convocation.
There is the point: The “drifters” hated serfdom “in their own way, in a European way.” The point is in the fact that they hated serfdom not for the sake of the Russian peasant who worked for them and fed them, and whom they among others oppressed. If civic sorrow [grazhdanskaia skorb’] was so painful to them that they had to flee to the Gypsies or to the barricades in Paris -- who prevented them from simply liberating their peasants with land, and in this way from removing that civic sorrow, at least from their personal responsibility? But we heard little about such liberations, whereas there was quite a bit of civic howling. The implication is that "the milieu ruined their souls; and, besides, why should one be deprived of his capital?" Well, why shouldn't they have been deprived of their capital if their sorrow for the peasants was so intense that they had to run away to the barricades? -- There is the point: In that "little spot called Paris" money was needed, even though one took part in the fight on the barricades, so that serfs had to send their feudal quit-rent [obrok] anyway. Why, these gentlemen acted even in a simpler manner: They pledged, sold or exchanged (what's the difference!) their peasants, and having thus raised money they went to Paris and financed there the publication of French radical newspapers and magazines for the salvation of mankind, and not just of the Russian peasant.

You assure us that sorrow for the peasant serf devoured all of them. Not really for the peasant serf, but abstract sorrow about slavery prevailing in mankind. "This shouldn't be! This is unenlightened. Let's have Liberte, Egalite et Fraternite!" As for the Russian peasant in particular, sorrow for him, maybe, did not torment these great hearts at all. I know and have memorized many sayings of the most "enlightened" men of the good old times. "Slavery" -- they used to say, in their intimate talks among themselves -- "is unquestionably a great evil. But taking everything into account, are our people -- a people? Are they akin to the Paris people of 1793? Why, they are used to slavery; their faces, their forms, are the expression of slavery. Or take the rod, for instance. Generally speaking, of course, it is an awful abomination. But, really, the Russian still needs it: the good little peasant has to be flogged; he would start agonizing should he not be flogged. Such is our nation ! " -- In days gone by I used to hear such conversations, and I swear, opinions of this kind used to be expressed even by quite enlightened men. This is sober truth. Perhaps Onegin did not flog his house-servants, although I would not swear to this. But Aleko, I am sure, now and then flogged his serfs -- and not because of the cruelty of his heart but almost from compassion, for a good end: "Why, he needs it; he can't live without being flogged a little. He comes of his own accord and begs: 'Master, do please flog me, make a man of me! I'm completely spoiled!' Well, what's to be done with such a nature, I ask you; so one has to satisfy him and administer a little flogging!"

I repeat, their feeling for the peasant often bordered on squeamishness. And to think of the number of contemptuous anecdotes about the Russian peasant which circulated among them -- despicable, obscene anecdotes about his slavish soul, his "idolatry," his priest, his woman. And all these were told with a light heart sometimes by people whose own family life reminded one of a brothel. Of course, this was not always due to something evil; at times this resulted from a too enthusiastic susceptibility to the latest European ideas a la Lucrezia Floriani, for instance, interpreted and embraced with Russian impetuosity. They were Russians in everything!

Oh, the Russian lamenting drifters [skorbiashchie skital’tsy], at times, were great rogues, Mr. Gradovskii. Now, these very anecdotes about the Russian peasant and the contemptuous attitude toward him almost always alleviated in their hearts the sharpness of their civic sorrow [grazhdanskoi ikh skorbi] caused by serfdom, thus conveying to it an abstract universal character with which one can live on very good terms, spiritually feeding oneself on the contemplation of one's moral beauty and on the largesse of civic thought, while feeding the body -- and feeding it well -- with the poll-tax levied from those same peasants! One doesn't have to go far: only recently an oldtimer told an anecdote in a magazine about outstanding Russian liberals of those days, and universal minds, meeting a Russian peasant woman. Those were arrant, so to speak, patented drifters who became known as such in history. You see, once upon a time, in the summer of 1845, there gathered a great multitude of guests in a gorgeous suburban Moscow villa where, according to the same oldtimer "colossal dinner parties" used to be given: among the guests there were many most humane professors, most renowned lovers and connoisseurs of the fine arts and of some other things, most famous democrats, subsequently noted politicians of universal importance, critics, writers, and intellectually most charming ladies. Presently the whole company went for a stroll into the fields after a champagne dinner with fish-pies and bird-milk (there must have been a reason for calling these dinners "colossal"!) [“bird-milk” is an ironic Russian phrase, connoting a very choice meal]. In a remote part of a corn-field they encountered a woman reaper. We all know what harvest time is: peasants -- men and women -- get up at four o'clock in the morning, and they go to gather the crops, toiling till late at night. Reaping, having to stoop down for twelve hours, is hard work; the sun burns mercilessly. When a woman reaper works in a corn-field, one can't even see her. Well, it was there, amidst the corn, that our distinguished company came across the woman reaper, and, imagine -- she "in a primitive costume" (with only a shirt on her!). How dreadful! Universal humane sentiment is aroused at once, and an insulted voice sounds: "Among all women it is only the Russian woman who is ashamed of nobody!" And, of course, the inference is readily drawn: "Only the Russian woman is of a kind before whom nobody is ashamed of anything." (Does it mean that one shouldn't be ashamed of anything?) -- There ensued a dispute: some came out in defense of the peasant woman. But what kind of defenders were they, and with what arguments did they have to contend? . . .

Such were the opinions and contentions which prevailed among a crowd of drifting landowners [skital’tsev-pomeshchikov], drunk with champagne and feasting on oysters -- and on whose money? Well, on money earned by that very woman reaper! Why, it was for you, worldly sufferers, that she toiled; it was through her labor that you got satiated. Because, amidst the corn, where nobody sees her, tormented by the sun and sweat, she took off her linen skirt, with nothing but a shirt on her -- because of this you called her shameless, and your delicate sense of shame was insulted? "The most shameless among all women!" Eh, you chaste fellows! What about your Parisian "diversions"! What about your sportiveness in that "little spot called Paris"! And that neat little cancan at the Bal-Mabille, which made Russian fellows thaw from the very account of it! And that charming little song:

"Ma commère, quand je dance,
Comment va mon cotillon?"
with a graceful lifting of the petticoat and jerking of the posteriors -- does all this incense our chaste Russian fellows ? -- On the contrary, it captivates them. "We beg your pardon -- they stage it so gracefully -- that little cancan, those sportive little jerks -- indeed, this is a most elegant article de Paris, sui generis, whereas here, what is there ? -- A peasant woman, a Russian peasant woman, a log, a block!"

Nay, here we have not merely a deep belief in the nastiness of our peasant and our people: here the sentiment has grown to the point of personal squeamishness toward the peasant, oh, of course, involuntary, almost unconscious, not even noticed on their part.

I confess, Mr. Gradovskii, that I utterly disagree with your cardinal thesis: “Who but they prepared our society for the abolition of serfdom?” -- Perhaps, by means of abstract chit-chat with an effusion of civic sorrow [grazhdanskuiu skorb’] according to all the rules! -- Well, of course, this was added to the sum total, and may have served the cause. However, the liberation of the peasants was fostered, and those working for their liberation were helped, by men of the type of Samarin, for example, and not by your drifters. Mr. Gradovskii, there appeared a multitude of men of Samarin's pattern -- a pattern that does not in the least resemble that of the drifters -- who offered their services to the great work of those days. But, of course, there is not a word about them in your article. As for the drifters, they evidently very soon grew tired of it, and, again, they began to pout squeamishly. They would not have been drifters had they acted differently. They took their redemption payments [??ID], and they offered what lands and forests they still held to merchants and kulaks for deforestation and clearing. They went into emigration and made themselves absent from the Russian scene... [sic]

It stands to reason that you, Mr. Professor, will not agree with my opinion. But what.can I do? -- Under no circumstance can I consent to recognize the character of this Russian superior liberal man -- so dear to your heart -- as the ideal of a genuine, normal Russian, which supposedly he actually was, is and must be in the future. During the last decades nothing very constructive has been accomplished by these men on their native soil. This is a more correct statement than your dithyramb glorifying these gentlemen of days gone by.



Now I am turning to your views on "individual self-betterment in the spirit of Christian love" and on its alleged utter insufficiency in comparison with "social ideals," and, principally -- with "social institutions." You begin with the statement that this is the cardinal point of our disagreement. You write:

Now we come to the most important point of our disagreement with Mr. Dostoevsky. Insisting on humility before the people's truth, before the ideals of the people, he accepts this “truth” and these ideals as something ready-made, immutable and eternal. We venture to tell him -- no! The social ideals of our people are still in the process of formation, development. The people have to labor much upon self-betterment in order to be worthy of being called a great people.
Partly, in the beginning of my article, in its first subdivision, I have already answered you on the question of "truth" and the ideals of the people. This truth and these ideals you positively consider insufficient for the development of Russia's social ideals. Religion -- you imply -- is one proposition, while the social cause is a different one. With your scientific knife, you are cutting a live, homogeneous organism into two separate halves, and you assert that they must be altogether independent one from the other. Let us scrutinize the matter more closely, let us analyze each half separately, and perhaps we shall arrive at something. First, let us deal with the half pertaining to "self-betterment in the spirit of Christian love." You state:
Mr. Dostoevsky urges that we start working upon ourselves and that we humble ourselves. Of course, individual self-betterment in the spirit of Christian love is the major premise of any activity, whether great or small. But from this it does not follow that men personally perfect in a Christian sense necessarily form a perfect society (?! [Dostoevsky’s insertion into the Gradovskii text]). Let us cite an example.

The Apostle Paul instructed slaves and their masters concerning their mutual relations. Both the former and the latter may have obeyed and usually did obey the Apostle's words. Individually they were good Christians; nevertheless, slavery thereby was not made sacred, and it continued to be an immoral institution. Equally, Mr. Dostoevsky, like every one of us, used to know admirable Christian landowners and peasants. Serfdom, however, continued to be an abomination in God's judgment, and the Russian Tsar-Liberator came forward as a champion not only of personal, individual morality but also of social morality, of which in olden times there were no adequate conceptions, notwithstanding the fact that there were, perhaps, more “good people” [khoroshikh liudei] than at present.

Individual and social morality do not constitute one and the same thing. From this it follows that social improvement cannot be achieved only through the betterment of the personal qualities of the people who make up a society. I shall again cite an example. Let us suppose that a number of preachers [propovednikov] of Christian love and humility had started, beginning with the year 1800, to improve the morality of the Korobochkas and Sobakevichs. Could it be presumed that they would have succeeded in abolishing serfdom, that this “phenomenon” could have been eliminated without the word being handed down by powerful authorities? On the contrary, Korobochka would have begun to argue that she was a true Christian woman and a genuine “mother” to her peasants, and she would have clung to this conviction despite all the arguments of the preacher. . . .

To make a better life for people [uluchshenie liudei] in a social sense cannot be accomplished by mere work “upon oneself”. One may work upon self-improvement and subdue one's passions in a wilderness and on a desert island. But as social beings people develop and improve with their work beside each other, one for the other and one with the other. This is why social progress is so greatly dependent upon social institutions which mould in a person, if not Christian, then civic virtues.

See how much I have quoted from you! All this is awfully haughty and "individual self-betterment in the spirit of Christian love" certainly has got "a black eye": in civic matters -- you imply -- it is virtually good for nothing. Verily, you understand Christianity in a most curious way! Presuming that Korobochka and Sobakevich might have become true, perfect Christians (you speak yourself about perfection) -- could they be induced to renounce serfdom ? This is the crafty question which you propound, and which -- it goes without saying -- you answer: "No, it is impossible to induce Korobochka, even though she be a perfect Christian."

This I shall answer directly: Had Korobochka become, or could she have become, a true, perfect Christian, there would have been no serfdom on her estate, so that there would be nothing to bother about, notwithstanding the fact that all deeds and bills of sales would still be kept in her trunk. Another thing: Korobochka has been a Christian all along, she was born a Christian. Thus, when you speak about the new preachers of Christianity, you mean Christianity, though identical in substance with the former one, yet intensified, perfect, so to speak, one that has attained its ideal. Well, if so, what slaves, what masters can there be? -- One has to have at least a bit of understanding of Christianity! And what difference would it have made to Korobochka, a perject Christian, whether her peasants were serfs or freemen? -- She would have been their mother, a real mother, who would have promptly dismissed the former "mistress." This would have come to pass of its own accord. The former mistress and the former slave would have vanished like mist in the rays of sun, and altogether new human beings would have come into existence, and quite new, hitherto unheard-of relations would have ensued between them. Besides, an unheard-of condition would arise: everywhere there would appear perfect Christians, of whom formerly there had been so few that they were almost imperceptible.

Mr. Gradovskii, you have set forth yourself this fantastic supposition, and having embarked upon such phantasms, you have to take the consequences. I assure you that in this event Koro-bochka's peasants themselves would not have left her, for the simple reason that everybody sees where he can be better off. Where would he be better off ? -- in your institutions ? -- or in the home of his loving landowning mother ? -- Also, I venture to assure you that if slavery prevailed in the days of the Apostle Paul, this was precisely because the churches which originated then were not yet perject, as we perceive from the Epistles of the Apostle himself. However, those members of the congregations who, individually, attained perfection, no longer owned or could have had slaves, because these became brethren, and a brother, a true brother, cannot have a brother as his slave. But, according to you, the preaching of Christianity was impotent. At least you maintain that slavery was not made sacred as a result of the Apostle's preaching. And yet many other men of science, especially European historians, have reproached Christianity for having allegedly sanctified slavery. This means a lack of understanding of the essence of the matter. Just imagine that Mary of Egypt owned peasant serfs and refused to liberate them! What an absurdity! -- In Christianity, in genuine Christianity, there are and always will be masters and servants, but a serf is inconceivable. I am speaking of true and perfect Christianity. But servants are not slaves. The disciple Timothy served Paul when they journeyed together. Yet read Paul's Epistles to Timothy: does he write to a slave, or even a servant ? -- Precisely he is his "own son in faith," his "dearly beloved son"! -- Such will be the relations between masters and their servants when both the former and the latter become perfect Christians! There will be servants and masters, but masters will no longer be masters nor will servants be slaves.

Please imagine that in a future society there will be a Kepler, a Kant, a Shakespeare: they are engaged in a great work for all men, and everybody realizes this and reveres them. Shakespeare has no time to interrupt his work in order to clean his room and remove the garbage. And, believe me, some other citizen, of his own volition, will come to serve him, and will remove Shakespeare's garbage. Well, would this humiliate him? Would this make him a slave ? -- Certainly not. He knows that Shakespeare is infinitely more useful than he. "Honor and glory to thee!" -- he will say to Shakespeare -- "I am glad to serve thee: at least in a slight way I shall thereby serve the common cause, because I shall save thy time for thy great work. But I am not a slave. By the fact itself that I am admitting that thou, Shakespeare, art superior to myself in genius, that I came to serve thee, I have proved that from the standpoint of human moral dignity, I am in no sense inferior to thee, and, as man, am equal to thee." Why, then he would not even have to say all these things, for the sole reason that then no such questions would arise; they would be simply inconceivable, for, verily, all men would be new men, Christ's children, while the former beast in man would be vanquished.


But I will go further: I intend to surprise you. Please be advised, learned Professor, that there are no social, civic ideals, as such, not originally tied to moral ideals, and existing independently in the form of a separate half, chipped off from the whole with your scientific knife, ideals which can be borrowed from without and successfully transplanted into any new spot in the form of a separate "institution." There are no such ideals, they never have existed, never can exist!

Besides, what is a social ideal ? How is one to understand this term? -- Of course, its essence resides in the attempt of men to find a formula of social organization, faultless, if possible, and satisfying everybody. Isn't this so? But men do not know such a formula. Men have been looking for it during six thousand years of their historical existence, and they have failed to find it. The ant knows its ant-hill formula; the bee the formula of its beehive (even though they do not know them in a human way; they know them in their own way, and this is all they need). Man however, does not know his formula.

If so, whence can the ideal of civic organization in human society be derived ? -- Trace it historically and you will forthwith perceive whence it is derived. You will see that it is solely the product of moral self-betterment of individual entities; it has its inception there. Thus it has been from time immemorial, and thus it always will be. In the origin of every people, of every nationality, the moral idea invariably preceded the origination of the nationality itself, since the former created the latter. The moral idea always emanated from mystical ideas, from the conviction that man is eternal, that he is not a mere earthly animal, but that he is tied to other worlds and eternity. Invariably and everywhere these beliefs assumed the form of religion, the form of a confession of the new idea. And just as soon as a new religion came into being, a new civic nationality came into existence. Look at the Hebrews and the Mohammedans: Jewish nationality came into being after the Mosaic law, even its beginning can be traced to the law of Abraham, while the Mohammedan nationalities arose only after the Koran.

To preserve the acquired spiritual treasure, men are forthwith attracted to each other, and only then do they zealously and anxiously, "working beside each other, one for the other, one with the other" (as you eloquently put it) begin to investigate how they should organize so as to preserve the treasure without losing any part of it; how to find such a civic formula of common existence as would help them to promote throughout the world the acquired moral treasure in its full glory.

And please observe that just as soon as after centuries and ages -- here there is also a law of its own, unknown to us -- the spiritual ideal of this or that nationality begins to loosen and weaken, the nationality begins to degenerate, together with its civic constitution, and the civic ideals which had moulded themselves within it become extinct. The civic forms of a people assume the character in which their religion is expressed. Therefore the civic ideals are always directly and organically tied to the moral ideals, and -- what is most important -- the former indisputably are derived only from the latter. Civic ideals never appear of their own accord because when they do appear they have as their only object the consummation of the moral aspirations of the given nationality, in the form and in so far as these moral aspirations have moulded themselves in that nationality.

On this ground "self-betterment in a religious sense" in the life of the peoples is the foundation of everything, since self-betterment is the confession of the acquired religion, whereas "the civic ideals," devoid of this longing for self-betterment, never do appear, and never can come into being.

You might retort, perhaps, that you said yourself that "individual self-betterment is the beginning of everything," and that you have not used your knife to divide anything. But therein is the point that you did cut a live organism into two halves. Individual self-betterment is not only "the beginning of everything," but also its continuation and outcome. It -- and it alone -- embraces, creates and preserves the national organism. It is for the sake of self-betterment that the civic formula of a nation exists, since it came into being only for its preservation as an initially acquired treasure.

When, however, a nationality loses the urge of individual self-betterment in the spirit which procreated it, gradually, all "civic institutions" begin to disappear because there is nothing more to preserve. Therefore it is altogether impossible to maintain what you have framed in the following sentence:

This is why social progress is so greatly dependent upon social institutions which mould in a person, if not Christian, then civic virtues.
"If not Christian, then civic virtues"! Doesn't one see here the scientific knife dividing the indivisible, cutting a homogeneous live organism into two separate dead halves -- the moral and civic? You may say that "social institutions" and the dignity of "citizen" may comprise a very great moral idea; that "the civic idea" in ripe and developed nations always replaces the initial religious idea which degenerates into the former and which it legitimately inherits. Quite so, this is being maintained by many people, but thus far we have never seen this fantasy realized. When in a nation the moral or religious idea wears itself out, there always comes the panicky, cowardly urge to unite for the sole purpose of "saving the skins": then no other aims of civic unity exist. At present, for instance, the French bourgeoisie sticks together only for the purpose of "saving its skin" from the fourth estate which tries to break into its door. But "the saving of skins" is the most impotent and lowest of all ideas uniting mankind. This is the beginning of the end. People pretend to stick together, but at the same time they are on a sharp look-out for the first moment of danger, ready to disperse. And what, in this case, can an "institution," as such, save? If there be brethren, there will be brotherhood. But if there are no brethren no "institution" will ever produce brotherhood. What is the sense of establishing an "institution" and inscribing on it: Liberte, figalite, Fraternite! Nothing will be achieved by an "institution," so that it will become necessary, quite inevitably, to add to these three "constituent" words, three new ones: "ou la mart," "fraternite ou la mort," and brethren will start chopping off the heads of their brethren in order to achieve brotherhood through "the civic institution."

This is merely an example, but a good one. You, Mr. Gradovskii, just like Aleko, seek salvation in things and external phenomena: "Let there be in Russia fools and rogues, no one but they" (according to certain views this is so); it is sufficient, however, to transplant from Europe into Russia some "institution," and, in your opinion, everything will be saved. The mechanical transplantation to Russia of European forms (which tomorrow will collapse there), alien and not suited to our people, is, as we know, the most momentous notion of Russian Europeanism. By the way, Mr. Gradovskii, when condemning our want of order, shaming Russia for it, and pointing out Europe to her, you state the following:

Meanwhile at home we are even unable to cope with such discords and contradictions as have been settled long ago in Europe . . .
You mean Europe has settled them? Who could have told you this? -- Why, Europe is on the eve of a general and dreadful collapse. The ant-hill which has been long in the process of construction without the Church and Christ (since the Church, having dimmed its ideal, long ago and everywhere reincarnated itself in the state), with a moral principle shaken loose from its foundation, with everything general and absolute lost -- this ant-hill, I say, is utterly undermined. The fourth estate is coming, it knocks at the door, and breaks into it, and if it is not opened to it, it will break the door. The fourth estate cares nothing for the former ideals; it rejects every existing law. It will make no compromises, no concessions ; buttresses will not save the edifice. Concessions only provoke, but the fourth estate wants everything. There will come to pass something wholly unsuspected. All these parliamentarisms, all civic theories professed at present, all accumulated riches, banks, sciences, Jews -- all these will instantly perish without leaving a trace -- save the Jews, who even then will find their way out, so that this work will even be to their advantage. All this is "near, at the door." -- You laugh? Blessed be those who laugh. God grant you time to live longer; you will see it yourself. Then you will be surprised. You will tell me with sarcasm: "What is your love of Europe if you are making such prophecies to her!" -- Do I rejoice? -- I merely foresee that the balance has been struck. The final settlement, the payment due, may occur much sooner than the most vivid fantasy can conceive. The symptoms are dreadful. The long-standing abnormal political status of the European countries may serve as a beginning of everything. How can this status be normal, if abnormality is laid in its very foundation and has been accumulating during centuries? One small part of mankind cannot own the rest of mankind as slaves. Yet it was for this sole purpose that, up to the present, all civic institutions (long not Christian) of Europe, now altogether pagan, have been inaugurated. This abnormality, and these "insoluble" political questions (however generally known) unfailingly must lead to a colossal, final, partitioning, political war in which everybody will be involved, and which will break out in the course of the current century, and, perhaps, even in the coming decade.

What do you think: Will society over there endure at present a long political war? -- The manufacturer is cowardly and easily scared; likewise the Jew. Factories and banks will all close down should the war drag out even slightly or should it threaten to be prolonged, and millions of hungry mouths, outcast proletarians, will be thrown into the streets. Perhaps you are relying on the prudence of the politicians, and on the fact that they will not start a war? But when was it possible to rely on such a prudence ? Perhaps you are relying on legislative bodies, that they will refuse to make appropriations for the war, anticipating its consequences. But when did these chambers over there ever anticipate consequences and refuse to appropriate funds to a more or less persistent leader? -- And now the proletarian is in the street. Do you think that, as heretofore, he will patiently wait, dying of starvation ? -- After political socialism ? After the International ? After social conventions and the Paris Commune ? -- Nay, at present it is not going to be the way it used to be: the proletarians will rush upon Europe, and the entire old order will collapse forever. The waves will break only against our shores, and then it will be arrantly revealed to everybody to what an extent our national organism differs from the European. Then you too, gentlemen doctrinarians, will come to your senses, and will begin to seek at home those "people's tenets" which now you are merely ridiculing.

But now, gentlemen, you are pointing to Europe and suggesting that those very institutions which will collapse tomorrow as an outworn absurdity be transplanted to Russia, institutions in which many wise men in Europe have long ceased to believe, which hold out and exist there by mere inertia.

And who, except an abstract doctrinarian, could take the comedy of bourgeois unity, which we are witnessing in Europe, for a normal formula of human fellowship on earth? "They" -- you say -- "have solved their problems long ago!" -- And this -- after twenty constitutions and scarcely less than ten revolutions! -- Oh, only then, perhaps, liberated for a moment from Europe, we ourselves, without European tutelage, shall dwell upon our social ideals, necessarily derived from Christ and individual self-betterment, Mr. Gradovskii.

You will ask: What social and civic ideals of our own can we have outside of those of European origin ? -- Well, our social and civic ideals are better, more solid and even -- oh, horribile dictu! -- more liberal than your European ideals! Yes, they are more liberal because they emanate directly from our people's organism, and they are not a slavishly impersonal transplantation from the West. Of course, here I cannot enlarge upon the subject because my article has grown too long anyway.

By the way, please recall: what was the ancient Christian Church? What did it strive to be? -- It came into existence immediately after Christ. It was formed by a handful of men, and forthwith, almost in the very first days after Christ, it began to seek after its "civic formula," fully based upon the moral hope of quenching its spirit in accordance with the principles of individual self-I betterment. Christian communes -- churches -- arose, following which | a new, hitherto unheard-of nation began to form itself -- all-brotherly, all-humanitarian in the form of an Oecumenical Church. But it was subjected to persecution; its ideal was moulded underground, while on the earth's surface a huge edifice, an enormous ant-hill, was being erected -- the ancient Roman Empire, which was also, as it were, an ideal and a solution of the moral aspirations of the ancient world: there arose the demigod; the Empire itself embodied the religious idea providing an outlet to all moral aspirations of the ancient world. The ant-hill, however, did not come to pass, having been undermined by the Church. A collision of two diametrically opposed ideas occurred: the man-god encountered the God-man, Apollo of Belvedere encountered Christ. A compromise took place: the Empire embraced Christianity, while the Church accepted the Roman law and the Roman state. A small part of the Church retired into the wilderness and continued there its original work: Christian communes again came into existence, and later monasteries. But these were merely tests, which continue even to our day. As we know, the remaining overwhelming portion of the Church subsequently split into two parts. In the Western part the state, at length, subdued the Church altogether. Papacy arose -- a continuation of the ancient Roman Empire in a new incarnation. In the Eastern half, however, the state was conquered and destroyed by the sword of Mohammed, and there remained only Christ detached from the state. That state which embraced and again raised Christ has endured such dreadful secular sufferings from its enemies, the Tartars, want of order, serfdom, Europe and Europeanism -- is still enduring so much suffering -- that actually no real social formula in the spirit of love and Christian self-improvement has yet been elaborated in it. But it is not for you, Mr. Gradovskii, to reproach that state for this fact. Temporarily our people are only Christ-bearers and they place their entire hope in Him alone. They called themselves "Krestianin,"1 i.e., "Christian"; and this is not only a matter of words; this comprises the idea of their whole future. You, Mr. Gradovskii, are mercilessly reproaching Russia for her want of order. But who has prevented her from establishing order during these last two centuries, and, particularly, during the last forty years? -- Well, Russian Europeans, akin to yourself, Mr. Gradovskii, who have never ceased to exist during the last two centuries, and who, in our day, are pressing us ever so hard. Who is hostile to Russia's organic and independent development based upon its national principles? Who scoffingly refused even to admit or notice the existence of these tenets? Who sought to remodel our people, fantastically "raising them to the level of the reformers," or simply to convert them into so many liberal European creatures, just like the reformers themselves, from time to time snatching from the people's masses this or that man, perverting him into a European even though with mere flaps on his uniform? -- In stating this, I do not mean to say that the European is perverted. I merely mean to say that to remodel a Russian into a European is oftentimes equivalent to actual perversion. And yet of this alone consists the whole ideal of the program of their work: precisely -- tearing away one man after another from the masses -- how absurd! They seek to tear away all the eighty millions of our people and to remodel them. Do you really believe that the whole mass of the Russian people will consent to such an impersonality as these Russian European gentlemen?.


Thus far, I have been merely wrangling with you, Mr. Gradovskii, but now I want to accuse you of a deliberate distortion of my thought, of the principal point of my Address. You write:

There sticks in them (i.e., in our people) too much untruth, residues of secular serfdom, for them to be entitled to demand that we should worship them and, in addition, for them to attempt to turn all Europe to the right road, as Mr. Dostoevsky predicts.

Strange thing! A man who condemns haughtiness in individual drifters, urges a whole people, in whom he perceives some kind of a universal apostle, to take pride in themselves. To these he says: “Humble Yourselves!” to those -- “Exalt Yourselves!”
And further:
And now, without having evolved a proper nationality, all of a sudden we are to dream about a universal role! Isn't this too early? Mr. Dostoevsky is proud of the fact that during two centuries we have been serving Europe. We confess that this 'service' does not rouse in us a joyous feeling. Can the time of the Congress of Vienna and, generally, the epoch of Congresses be a subject of our “pride”? The time when, serving Metternich, we were suppressing the national movement in Italy and Germany, and were even looking askance at the Greeks -- our coreligionists? And what hatred we contracted in Europe precisely for this “service”!


For goodness' sake! The hope itself that we Russians may mean something to mankind, and that at length we shall be worthy of rendering brotherly service to it -- this hope itself aroused delight and evoked tears of enthusaism among the thousands of listeners. I am not bragging, and it is not from haughtiness that I am recalling this: I am merely recording the solemnity of the moment. Serene hope was given that we, too, may mean something to mankind; that we may become merely brethren to other men, and now this one ardent hint united everybody into one thought, into one sentiment. Strangers embraced each other, swearing that henceforth they would try to be better. Two old men came up to me and told me: "We've been enemies for twenty years; we've been harming one another, and now, under the influence of your words, we have made peace."

One of the newspapers hastened to observe that this enthusiasm meant nothing; that this was simply a momentary mood accompanied by "the kissing of hands"; that the orators ascended the platform in vain, and that in vain did they speak and finish their addresses. "No matter what they said, there would have been the same enthusiasm, for such happened to be the goodhearted mood in Moscow at the time!" Had that journalist gone there and spoken something on his own behalf, would people have rushed to him as they did to me? Why was it that three days earlier addresses were delivered and the speakers were given great ovations, but the thing which took place after my address occurred there to no one before ? This was a unique moment in the Pushkin celebration, and it did not repeat itself.

Honestly, I am saying this with no idea of bragging; yet the moment was too solemn and I cannot keep silent on it. Its solemnity consisted of the fact that new elements clearly and graphically revealed themselves in society -- men thirsting for a worthy adventure, for a comforting idea, for the promise of a cause. This means that society is no longer satisfied with our mere liberal snickering at Russia, that the doctrine of Russia's eternal impotence has grown repulsive! Only one hope, one hint, kindled in the hearts a holy thirst for an all-humanitarian cause, for a universal brotherly service and adventure. Was it haughtiness that kindled those hearts and made people cry? Did I urge them to be uppish! Ah, you! . . .

You see, Mr. Gradovskii, the seriousness of that moment suddenly frightened many people in our liberal tea-pot, all the more so as it came so unexpectedly. "What! Thus far, we have been so pleasantly and so usefully snickering and spitting upon everything, and now suddenly . . . Why, this is a rebellion! Let's call the police!" Several frightened gentlemen jumped up: "Well, what's going to happen to us now ? We have also been writing . . . Where are they going to stick us now ? The thing has got to be effaced, as quickly as possible, so that no trace be left! We have to explain promptly to all Russia that this was merely a complacent mood in hospitable Moscow, a charming little moment after a series of dinners -- nothing more! And as for the rebellion, let the police quell it!"

And they set to work: I am a coward; I am a poet; I am insignificant; the significance of my address is naught -- in a word, people acted imprudently on the spur of the moment. The public, however, might not have believed all these things. So the matter had to be handled skillfully; it had to be tackled coolheadedly: something could even be praised in my Address: "Well, there is nevertheless a certain flux of ideas," and thereupon, little by little, everything should be spat upon and effaced to the satisfaction of everybody.

In brief, they acted not so skillfully. There appeared a gap; it had to be filled as promptly as possible. And so forthwith there came forth a weighty, experienced critic combining the irresponsibility of his attacks with comme il faut appearance. You are this critic, Mr. Gradovskii: you wrote your article, people have read it, and everything has calmed down. You have served a common and admirable cause; at least your views were reprinted everywhere: "The speech of the poet does not stand the test of acid criticism. Poets are poets, but level-headed men always stand on guard, ready at any moment to pour a bucket of cold water on the dreamer."



(First published in 1889:Vestnik Evropy)
[Source of this text = Raeff3:302-21]

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Your ecstatic speech in Moscow on the occasion of the unveiling of the monument to Pushkin made a tremendous impression on listeners belonging to the very different camps into which Russian thought is at present divided. The ensuing polemic between you and Professor Gradovskii has aroused great interest among the general public, and the issue of Dnevnik pisatelia [Diary of a Writer] devoted to the debate has already appeared in a second printing. All this proves that the questions you touched upon with your exceptional talent, unfailing sincerity, and deep conviction are indeed ripe in the minds and hearts of thoughtful people in Russia and are of great moment for them. This can only be welcomed as a sign of revival after many years of unhealthy, lethargic indifference toward the higher concerns of man. What are we? Where are we going? Where should we be going? These national Russian questions, close to all of us as such, become universal human questions when they are posed as in your debate with Professor Gradovskii—and as they are by almost all thoughtful people in our country. Whicli is more important, which is more of the essence, which should be put in the forefront—personal moral improvement or the elaboration and perfection of the conditions under which man lives in society? Some say: Strive for inner, spiritual, moral truth, come to love it with all your soul, and the perfect social life will take shape of itself. Others retort: Make social life, the social conditions, as nearly perfect as possible; then individuals will quite naturally and automatically be steered onto the path of virtue, of moral growth and perfection.

Ultimately the doctrines of the Slavophiles and the Westerners, and all that is being thought, said, and written at present, boil down to this basic question. The Slavophiles put forward as their banner the first of the two solutions to this problem, identifying it with the essence of Greco-Eastern Christianity and the Slavic national genius; as clearly and firml' the so-called Westerners set forth the second solution, linking it inseparJly with the spirit of Peter's reforms and of Western European culture. EBpite all the ramifications and changes in the Slavophile and Western view and no matter how close some of their branches at times came to each oter, the basic tenor of their diCetejice, mentioned above, has persisted to this day. Now as before, the best men in both camps admit that their opptjents are right to a certain extent; but neither side has ever conceded that "e other might be right in the principle on which its philosophy is bull. Any mutual concessions are made very cautiously, with important relations, and are instantly revoked if they can give rise to the slightest doUts as to the fundamental disagreement.

This, it seems to me, is what makes the controversy between you and Professor Gradovskii extremely important and why it is particular desirable that it should be brought sooner or later to a conclusion. It:oncems principles deeply rooted in life and consciousness. Their strugft began before our time and is not likely to end in our lifetime. For tho^ands of years, the most profound and most enlightened minds have beet actively engaged in it.

I have been very interested in the subject during the last few «ars and have given it a great deal of thought; everything led me back to* almost despite myself. I hope, therefore, that you will find it only natural if _I join in your discussion from the sidelines, so to speak, unbidden and umvited. I certainly do not consider myself called upon to resolve it but only chelp in J-llajjfyjng it and in putting it on the right footing. This is always Je main thing, Gut especially with us — because of the incredible chaos in («r ideas. which prevents even two individuals from reaching any kind of areement.

You have uttered the words "reconciliation _of the parties.' Yes, it is time, high time, to close private accounts, to stop the liters? jousts turning on witticisms, to discard the trite and vulgar mutual accusuons! It is time to forget personalities and mutual irritation and to expim ourselves calmly and frankly on all points. But reconciliation in thoense of agreement— that is a different matter! You, a man of undoubted sncerity, certainly cannot mean a diplomatic compromise, an armed truce, then you speak of reconciliation. A bad peace is good, better than a gootwar, in practical affairs, because daily life is a continuous series of conform ses, half-sincere, half-cunning, with reservations in the back of one's r-nd; but jrj_problems of science, fajth, principles, a good war — until genuirs, honest peace — is much better! But such a peace is still very far away. God knows when it will come! Our Russian arguments are poisoned from "he very beginning because we seldom argue against what a man says frt nearly always against what he may be thinking at the time — against his opposed intentions and secret thoughts. That is how we face one another, md how we enter upon various transactions: ever on guard, with a stone fcdden in the bosom. Therefore our arguments nearly always turn to persnalities, and our business relations are so vague and indefinite that they dpstantly lead to lawsuits and litigation. The objective meaning of words and things has little importance in our eyes; we must always rummage around in a person's soul. You, too, did not prove quite free of this common weakness of ours when you put in the Westerner's mouth thoughts that would never occur to a responsible person but only to some harebrain at best.

Let us, you and me at least, rid our differences of this worthless appendage. We ourselves shall gain a great deal, and our readers are sure to be grateful.


To begin, I shall discuss your view of the relations between our common people and the educated strata of society, because it epitomizes a characteristic feature of the Slavophile doctrine. Like the Slavophiles of the forties, you believe that the loftiest moral ideas are embodied in the spiritual virtues and perfections of the Russian people, more precisely the peasantry, which has had no part in the apostasy from the Russian national spirit that is supposed to taint the upper, educated classes.

The heated, sometimes bitter polemics that the Slavophiles and Westerners used to conduct are, it seems to me, already a thing of the past. To understand now their real meaning we must turn to the history of our culture and shuffle archives. Today, if you tell someone unacquainted with our party battles that the Russian people is a model of moral perfection, he will stare at you in amazement or begin to enumerate aspects of Russian life that will make your flesh crawl. Tell an educated person who has merely heard of the Slavophiles but does not know their doctrines that he is a traitor to the Russian popular traditions and a renegade to his country, and he will either feel insulted or decide that you have gone out of your mind. Everybody knows by now that the Russian peasantry is far from being the summit of perfection, and that educated people are as devoted to their country as the popular masses—there are no longer any arguments on the subject, and there cannot be. If in the past people thought, spoke, and wrote differently about it, there were reasons for this, now forgotten, but which we must recall in order to grasp the full meaning of your views.

All men and all nations on earth learn from other men and other nations and always have, not only in childhood and youth, but also in their mature years. The difference is that in childhood and youth both men and nations tend mainly to imitate, whereas, having reached maturity, they utilize the experience and knowledge of others consciously, critically, with discrimination. In childhood and youth, they strive to become exact copies of those who serve them as models; having reached maturity, they already have a sense of individuality and assimilate what they borrow, without trying to become the very image of those whose experience and knowledge they use.

Such was also our case. We learned from the whole world, from whomever we came in contact with—from practically all the Oriental nations, from the Byzantine Greeks, from our western and northern neighbors; but somehow we forgot about it and remembered again much later, not long ago. With particular zeal and haste we began to learn from the nations of Western Europe. Necessity forced us to; and Peter's impassioned nature lent an extraordinary headlong quality to our learning. The Tsar genius wanted to achieve in a quarter of a century what normally takes centuries! We remember the time of our schooling very well, because by then we had already begun to be conscious of ourselves. It has been said that Peter and his collaborators were transforming us into Europeans indiscriminately, but that is wholly untrue: both he and they were Russians to the core, loved their motherland fervently, saw and sought in the European borrowings nothing but the good of their country, without a thought of putting her into any kind of material or moral bondage to the European nations.

But Peter's work suffered the fate that almost inevitably overtakes great ideas and great enterprises: the basic thought becomes diffused in the details of its practical application and is little by little forgotten, while the details move into the foreground and become the important thing. When the methods thus replace the central idea, dead schemata, stereotypes, routine replace the former live, intelligent approach to the task. Few reforms and turnings in the life of an individual or a nation escape such setbacks, Once Peter's work had passed from the hands of his genius into the unskilled, untalented hands of his successors, it soon became stereotype and routine. The borrowings from Europe, meant to be assimilated on Russian soil, fossilized instead; Europeanism, which according to Peter's plan was to serve merely as a subsidiary to Russian life, grew into an independent factor and began to live a life of its own, albeit artificial, on Russian soil. The classes which since ancient times have dominated our popular mass were the first, because of their social position, to absorb European elements—in whose educational role they presently found a justification, a consecration as it were, of their own political and social role and of their domination of the uneducated. In this way the Europeanism which Peter and the statesmen of his school intended to be an instrument of enlightenment turned into an instrument of oppression, and also opened wide the doors into Russia to all sorts of European adventurers and rogues who, under the cloak of European enlightenment, tended their own affairs or served interests that were alien or hostile to the interests of the country.

As Russia grew and took form, the unnatural, antinational role in it of the kind of Europeanism that emerged in the post-Petrine period began to be felt more and more. The best minds, examining the situation and trying to find the causes of the torpor and gloom that blighted Russian life, came to two conclusions: some explained the malady by the fact that the educational process initiated by Peter with the aid of European influences had become arrested and had degenerated into depressing, crusty formalism retaining only a deceptive appearance of Europeanism, while the invigorating European spirit, the great, universally valid European ideas had evaporated. Therefore, they thought, one must let these ideas flow freely into Russia and thus redeem Russian life withering away under the heavy load of deadening, fossilized forms long since outdated and already abandoned by Europe herself. Others saw the cause of the stagnation and lethargy in the fact that the Russian mind had been stunned, confused, by Peter's forcible reform; hence everything European, the bad as well as the good, had become an object of servile, slavish, almost superstitious veneration. What was needed, these people thought, was to restore buoyancy, independence, enterprise to the Russian mind; then it would become what it naturally is; it would reveal the riches of the Russian national genius, now lying hidden because of false humility vis-a-vis Europe.

These were the two currents of Russian thought that later developed into the two so-called parties—which are not really parties—of Westerners and Slavophiles. As has been noted long ago, and quite rightly, both trends, which became more clearly defined in the forties, grew from one soil. That is why at first they existed peacefully side by side. Both were expressions of dissatisfaction with the conditions under which the sad life of Russia wended its colorless way, in an outward halo of unprecedented political and international glory and might. The reproach that Westerners were renegades to their country is quite unjust; they were, on the contrary, Russian people profoundly devoted to their motherland, loving it ardently, and dreaming of a great and bright future for it no less than the Slavophiles. It was not Europe they put their hopes in but the European ideas, which they regarded as valid for all mankind. Like you, they highly prized the exceptional responsiveness of the Russian people and saw in it a pledge of its great historical destinies; they were enthralled with its ability to encompass all that is human—the very quality that enthralls you. At first, the Westerners did not have the slightest animosity toward the Slavophiles, nor was there any reason for it: the attitude of the two trends toward our pseudo-Europeanism was equally negative, and their demands were essentially the same but formulated differently. The Westerners wished to see the great ideals of mankind realized in Russia; the Slavophiles did not want these ideals foisted upon Russia but rather realized through the free initiative, the independent efforts of the Russian people themselves. The two trends complemented each other. But before they understood this, before the prpchement—which did jjecojae,,a fact tvren.jj^yggjg. ago—had time to take place, enmity divided them into two opposite camps.

The history of this schism in Russian thought is very interesting because it shows the level of our development at the time it began, and also the development of Russian thought and Russian self-awareness.

If the inertia, the moribund state of Russian life, came from our being depressed by pseudo-Europeanism and by the obsolete, fossilized European patterns, this meant that our earlier life had lacked the resiliency and firmness to resist their entrenchment, or, once having admitted them, to modify them according to our own national genius—in other words, that we had not yet reached^adulthood; but our having begun to feel oppressed by pseudo-Europeanism and by our own passivity and inertia was a sure sign of awakening national genius and enterprise. That is, Russian life itself was putting the problem as follows: The period of school learning and mimicry was over; it was time to begin thinking for ourselves, to look critically at ourselves and others, to think and act only after a thorough appraisal of our own and others' ideas and deeds. Such a view implied that we had not yet worked out, in the past, well-defined forms of thinking and living that could serve as base and support for future work; but it also excluded the possibility of realizing the great human ideals in our country otherwise than in national forms peculiar to us and evolved by us out of our own resources; to put it differently, mankind's ideals can only be the products of the autonomous activity of a nation's genius; they result from a nation's life and cannot be transferred and transplanted from one country into another.

When thought and life in Russia began to stir, our understanding of all this was dim and jumbled; therefore our development proceeded unevenly and took roundabout paths.

For a long time we confused the human with the European, mistaking the latter for the former, as we still often do. This was unquestionably the weak side of the Westerners. The Slavophiles fell into another error. Having demanded independent national development—which was their chief merit—they set out to determine what were the basic traits of the national character that should serve as starting points for the future activity, social and moral, of the Russian people. But discovering them was like squaring the circle. Pseudo-Europeanism had become established in our midst and acquired citizenship rights precisely because our national character hji4»n9i-not taken on clear-cut traits. Only life and spontaneous activity forge the character and the distinctive traits of a man or a people; we had been apprentices of one nation after another until recently, had not lived by our own intelligence, and therefore had had no chance of developing a distinct national personality. How then could one detect the fundamental characteristics of the Russian genius? Past_Jiisfory was,, m,erej,jua. ^chronicle Qf^schoQlbo^da^; it showed clear traces of our mentors' and teachers' influences and barely outlined still fluid, and hence elusive, traits of national character and genius. Since it was impossible to know, one had to invent. This was as great a mistake on the part of the Slavophiles as confusing the human with the European was on the part of the Westerners.

The logic of facts, which plays the role of the ancients' Fate in the history of modern peoples, confuted both of these trends. We no longer have pure Slavophiles nor pure Westerners—both have left the stage. In continuing to contrast their opinions, it seems to me, you are reviving an old quarrel that has already been settled by the development of Russian life and thought. Are you, for instance, an authentic Slavophile? Or those with whom you polemize real Westerners? You yourself exonerate the best among them. But who else is left? The conciliation of the two trends you are wishing for was tacitly accomplished twenty years ago, when Slavophiles and Westerners shook hands over the abolition of serfdom.

We have since entered a new period of development. Today the problems are posed differently; the labels of Slavophile and Westerner no longer fit the new trends in Russian thought. Leave it to mediocrities and phrase-makers to mouth over the old lessons! You will not make them see reason, and of course it is not for them that you write.

You will not find a single thoughtful and sensible Russian today who looks down on our popular masses because of some theoretical preconceptions, or who thinks Russia is a blank sheet of paper on which anything at all can be written. Everyone realizes that peoples, like individuals, have their own character, their own peculiarities, their own physical and spiritual physiognomy, which cannot be changed and must be taken into account when one discusses their future destiny or what is good for them in the present. Likewise, every thinking and sensible Russian understands that the new conditions introduced from the beginning of the seventeenth century cannot be deleted from our history, and that however lovingly we may regard the popular masses, it is impossible, in their present state, to consider them the acme of perfection. One has but to listen to what is being thought and discussed at present to distinguish the two trends in Russian theoretical thought that I outlined at the very beginning. One of them, basing its thesis on the formative nature of public institutions, expects all good to come solely from their reorganization, fully convinced that good institutions reeducate people and foster in them the qualities needed for orderly community life—qualities that we, unfortunately, still lack to a considerable degree. The other school of thought, also starting from our want of organization, does not believe in the omnipotence of institutions and, seeing the root of all evil in our moral condition—very unenviable, to be sure— proposes various other means of raising our morality, apart from improving our institutions. Many consider the two trends a continuation of the two older ones. Evidently you share this view. But it is hardly correct. The fresh approach to the problem is obviously a step forward in Russian thought, which could not be taken until many of the misunderstandings that had in the past led the Westerners and Slavophiles to violent disputes, oral and sometimes in the press, had been clarified. Still, one cannot deny a certain kinship and some degree of continuity between the old and the new conceptions of Russian life and the tasks it faces. The belief in the potency of institutions does recall the point of view of Peter and the champions of his cause on Russian soil, which the Westerners certainly were; while the idea of moral regeneration as the sole means of renewal brings its proponents close to the Slavophiles. The parallels stand out even more clearly when we remember that most of our social ideals still follow European prototypes, and that our moral ideals are almost entirely taken from the Slavophiles' , program. But these similarities should not blind us to the substantial differences between the old and the new trends in Russian thought. The Slavophile and Western theories were the first, still immature, attempts at inde-~ pendent criticism; the new trends shifj^the Russian problems to a purely theoretical plane and thus make them apply to mankind in general.

It would seem that the two currents now f6nhing in Russian thought also should complement rather than exclude each other. In fact, what they offer is not two differing solutions of one problem but two means of eliminating two aspects of one and the same evil. Yet, judging by certain signs, we shall not be spared a new rift and a new struggle similar to the one the Westerners and the Slavophiles used to wage. There are reasons for it on both sides, and weighty ones.

It began to be clear to me long ago that the basic trouble with European societies, not excluding our own, was the insufficiently formed and developed inner—moral andjpsychic—side of human nature. The effects of this flaw are all the greater since it is not especially noticeable and hardly any efforts are made to remedy it. In practical life, the firm conviction prevails that any lack of personal moral discipline can very well be balanced by good legislation, good courts of law, good administration; in scholarship, ethics is ignored: today ethics lacks a proper scientific foundation and clings to old, rusty, routine theories in which no one believes any more and which are devoid of any authority in the eyes of our contemporaries; in education, moral training plays the sorriest role: it has been supplanted by mechanical drilling to fit people for life within a society, and this is deemed to be all there is to morality.

I confess that one of the features which most attracts me in the Slavophile theories has always been their emphasis on inner, psychic, moral truth, on generally neglected and forgotten moral beauty. Perhaps I am letting myself be carried away by a golden dream, but I have a notion that the new word awaited by many will concern a new, correct presentation of the problem of morality, in science, education, and practical life, and that it is we who shall say this vivifying word. The obscure hopes of young Russian minds and hearts are circling around this problejn, eagerly attentive to anything that may hold an answer to it. This problem is bound up, in all sorts of vague combinations, with hazy ideas about the future role of the Russian and Slavic^ race in. the world's destinies. The immense success of your speech about Pushkin is due mainly to your having struck this strongly resounding chord and having identified moral beauty and truth with the Russian national psyche.

Why it is precisely this question that stands first in line and knocks on all doors at once, where the hopes come from that it may be our lot and not lome other nation's, if not to solve the problem, at least to work at solving it—this I shall not stop to consider here. I should have to talk for a long time, and I would rather not digress from what I want to say to you.

At the moment, the main task facing all of us volunteers in the field of Russian thought is to pose^ the jproblem of moral truth squarely, boldly, tellingly, in such a way that the problem itself and its urgency*Uiall become obvious and unmistakable to all, in such a way that no one can keep silent or elude it with commonplaces and pompous words. Sermons will be useful, even necessary, later; their time has not yet come. First we must work out the problem in the laboratory of strict and exact science; we must, by dint of proof, by the arguments of up-to-date knowledge, confront people with moral truth, demonstrate that all roads inevitably lead to it, that there is no escape, that to pass it by or detour it is entirely impossible.

I jumped at your polemics with Professor Gradovskii in the avid hope of finding in it at least a hint of this necessary foreword to the new word; but I found nothing of the kind. The same old Slavophile argumentation, which cannot satisfy anyone today. Were the old Slavophile leaders alive in our time, after all the things we have experienced, they would, I am sure, bring out new arguments in defense of their thesis. The formula in which they cast it has turned out to be wrong and poorly supported, and you have added nothing to it; you do not even try to correct it.

Like the Slavophiles of the forties, you refer to the exalted, matchless moral qualities of the Russian people. When the Slavophiles first spoke of this, it was indeed new and stimulating. The Russian intelligentsia groveled before Europe and everything European; national consciousness was half asleep; we were aware only of our physical strength and proud of it, hardly suspecting how little it means when it is not but tressed^ by intellectual (ana1 moral strength. Since then an immense change has come over Russian soct-ety and the Russian intelligentsia. Where are the so-called kvass patriotism [homespun, uncritical nationalism that extoles select features of popular custom] and the reliance on the bear's strength? Hasn't the servile adulation of Europe given way in our time to an unexampled upsurge of national feeling, which even spills over into hypersensitivity, arrogance, and pugnacity? One does not have to be a Westerner to blush at the behavior in which these feelings sometimes find expression. The Moscow Slavophiles, pure idealists that they were, would of course have condemned them severely. Theirs was a vision of quite different ideals of nationalistic feeling.

In your enthusiasm over the spiritual treasures of the Russian national genius, you say: "All of our destitute, disordered land, with the exception of its upper stratum, is like one man. All the eighty million of its population exhibit such a spiritual unity as, of course, does not and cannot exist anywhere in Europe."

I leave it to ethnographers and statisticians to reduce that figure by twenty or twenty-five million; among the remaining fifty-five or sixty there 'is indeed a striking unity, but of what kind? Racial, religious, political, linguistic—yes; as to spiritual, in the sense of moral, conscious, unity—that is debatable! So far, we have before us only a fact of tremendous import, whose inner, spiritual meaning we cannot define—it is all in the future; we should look for it vainly in the present or the past.


Equally perplexing is your opinion of the common Russian people's moral qualities, their significance and their origin.

Like the Slavophiles of the forties, you consider our national virtues an established, indubitable fact and ascribe them to our people's being imbued with the Orthodox faith and carrying it deep in their heart.

Let me observe, in the first place, that one can hardly ascribe moral virtues to an entire people, especially when one belongs to it by birth, education, one's whole life, and all one's sympathies. What people does not consider itself the best, the most moral in the world? On the other hand, once having adopted such a viewpoint, one might, despite reason and common sense, regard entire peoples as immoral, or even as particularly prone to immoral acts of a specific kind—such opinions have been expressed.

You will extol the artlessness, meekness, humility, candor, kindness of the Russian people; someone else, with no less justification, will point out its bent for thieving, deceit, cheating, drink; the savage, revolting treatment of women. You will be given a multitude of examples of inhuman, ferocious cruelty. Who is right? Those who extol to the skies the moral qualities of the Russian people or those who trample it in the mud? Every one of us has repeatedly pondered this problem. And it is insoluble! When we discuss morality and immorality, we concentrate not on the how of the people's attitude to the object of its faith and convictions, but on what that object is; and the what is entirely a result of the school the people went through, of foreign influences—in short, of its history, development, and culture. Therefore, to/evaluate a people correctly, one must speak not of its good or" bad moral qualities, which may change, but of the characteristics inherent in its spiritual natuj£, those that give ;t a phvsiogriomv~unlike any other "ana which if retains throughout its history, whatever the freaks of fate.

Does the Russian people possess such characteristic traits? No doubt it does—like any other people, even the most insignificant tribe doomed by history to be swallowed up by another nation. But should you ask me what I '' think they are, I could not, to my shame and the great temptation of many, give you a clear-cut, categorical answer. I am unable to distinguish a single trait in the spiritual physiognomy of the Russian people of which I could say with absolute certainty that it is basic, typical of its character and not due to its historical age, its surroundings, or the circumstances of its past or present life.

That the Russian people is richly endowed by nature can hardly be questioned—this is conceded even by our ill-wishers and enemies. But exactly what its natural talents are eludes definition, it seems to me. I shall be told: great mental alertness, daring, and agility, the level-headed approach to all things, the broad sweep? But those are attributes common to all gifted peoples in their youth. Weren't the ancient Greeks the same in their time? We are supposed to be terrific realists. Many single out this trait as basic to ', the Russian national character, but let them show me a people who , is more inclined than die Russians to pursue abstract ideas, castles in the air, mirages and Utopias of all kinds! How are we realists then? We are just f lively adolescents as yet. Others cite our astonishing ingenuity in the most varied circumstances, our skill in adapting ourselves to them, our skill in adapting ourselves to other people and nations. But are these properties basic national traits? We have only to remember the territory we are sitting on, the peoples and tribes that surround us, the past great sufferings of the Russian people, to see instantly how we came by these traits. If they had not been cultivated for centuries, you and I would not be discussing the Russian people today: there would be none to discuss. And in youth everything is borne and endured more buoyantly, cheerfully, easily, than in middle age or old age. You note, quite correctly, the Russian people's exceptional empathy, its exceptional ability to "identify itself with the genius of foreign nations, an almost complete identification." But this undoubted and very valuable faculty of the Russian people also is, alas! no more than a trait of a very gifted and intelligent people, but a people not even in its youth but in its infancy; a young man, even an adolescent, as soon as he has in the least matured and has"something of his own to say, gradually loses this ability. In a word, whichever salient trait of the Russian people one takes, each bespeaks remarkable aptitudes and at the same time extremejouth—an age when it is still impossible to guess what kind of spiritual physiognomy that talented adolescent will develop when he becomes a man.

<>Since the character of our spiritual nature is stinso indistinct and unclear, I am obliged to regard with some mistrust your basic idea that we are imbued with the Christian spirit. That many of our high moral qualities are the fruit of Christianity cannot be doubted. Throughout our history, all over the Russian land, there stretch long lines of Christian ascetics, of saints who renounced the world, retired into the wilderness, and dedicated themselves to fasting, prayer, and contemplation; among laymen, still recently one could find in families, cities, and peasant huts not a few types of striking moral beauty, whose genuine piety, purity, simplicity, and meekness recalled apostolic times. All who knew them remember them and will never forget them. But observe that all of them—laymen as well as monks —shunned the world, retired from the turbulence of workaday life into prayer and meditation. The daily, humdrum, material life went its way, hardly in accord with the teaching of Christ, while saintly people avoided it and wanted no part in it. It has to be either one or the other: either the confession of Christianity is incompatible with living and working in the world—and if so, how could the Russian people be imbued with Christian principles?—or, on the contrary, peoples cannot find salvation unless they are imbued with Christian truths in their public and private life; but if so, then our daily life was not thus imbued, since ho!y men left it to go into forests and deserts and found salvation only in estrangement from the world.

My queries suggest an explanation of many phenomena of Russian life and history that differs from yours. The most pious people, the most fervid patriots complain that ritual predominates over faith in the minds and lives of our common people, as if religion were one thing and life another, separate, thing. It has been pointed out more than once that we need internal missionaries to enlighten the people sjilL steeped in crude D_agan prejudices and superstitions. Even illiterate peasants complain of their~ womenfolk's utter ignorance of the most common prayers. All this shows that the enlightenment of the popular masses in the spirit of Christianity still awaits its workers. It has not been accomplished so far because the truly zealous Christians thirsting for spiritual perfection retired from the world and served only as models of the saintly life and as objects of veneration to the laymen who yearned for spiritual enlightenment and perfection; the enormous majority, immersed in the worries and vanities of daily life, imagined the Christian faith to consist in church services and ritual; frequent attendance at church and strict observance of the holy ritual—that was what the majority imagined to be the whole meaning of Christianity. This predominantly formalistic attitude of our forebears amazed foreigners so much that Fletcher,3 for instance, simply called us pagans. Is it any wonder that daily life, left to itself, went badly and looked outside the fatherland, to foreign parts and foreign people, for examples to follow and a way out toward a better order of things? If moral improvement in the spirit of Christ required renouncing the world, then the improvement of the secular order, obviously had to be achieved a pap from the Church and its influences; one was the natural and inevitable outcome of ffieSther. Unprepared by a gradual betterment of the mores, it was made in leaps and starts, through legislative measures after foreign patterns. The harshness and suddenness of Peter's reforms, the sharp opposition of the temporal to the spiritual, of the Slavophiles' moral ideals to the Westerners' social ideals, were but consequences of the belief, which had come to permeate our flesh and blood, that perfection in the Christian sense is possible only away from the world and its temptations.

This conception of Christianity has its basis in the philosophy of the ancient East. Separation from the world, mortification of the flesh, spiritual contemplation as the greatest good and the highest perfection had traditionally appeared to the inhabitants of the East as the sole escape from the ills, adversities, and troubles of earthly life. The principle of fighting and eliminating them, of controlling external phenomena with the aid of science and art, had no place in Eastern philosophy; and since men and nations accept truth insofar as they can encompass it, the inhabitants of the East adopted the form of Christianity that was most congenial to them. Scholars and philosophers, mostly Greek, applied themselves to the study and exegesis of creed and dogma; those who sought moral perfection retired into the wilderness, purified themselves through fast and prayer, and gave themselves over to spiritual contemplation.

But Christianity has innumerable facets and can be looked at from innumerable points of view. The Western European peoples entered upon its adoption with different dispositions and premises and therefore assimilated it mainly in one of its other aspects. In their lands. Nature is generous only to those who know how to make her serve them. This fact alone early challenged the European to work hard and to fight his environment, and fostered in him the certitude that with knowledge,~labor, and perseverance he could eliminate the harmful, utilize the propitious, and create for himself surroundings that suited his needs and tastes. This point of view was also implicit in the rich heritage left by the Greco-Roman world, which the Western peoples at first absorbed unconsciously, from the mere fact of living on classic soil, and later deliberately made their own through long study. Acquaintance with this world was bound to confirm and strengthen the Western European in his belief that not only nature but social conditions, too, could be adapted to the needs of man, just as man can and must adapt and accustom himself to the conditions of properly organized community life. Therefore a Western European would not think of meekly suffering unfavorable conditions or leaving his environment when it does not satisfy him; he tries, on the contrary, to jnastejLihem. subject them to liis will, transform them to suit his requirements and tastes. A man of such outlook and habits, on adopting Christianity, naturally used it as a powerful means of expanding his knowledge, improving the conditions of social and private life, and educating people. To the Western European, Christianity opened new horizons, unsuspected till then—new ways of developing and perfecting r reality and man's whole surroundings. You will say that such an application ! of Christianity to material needs and to the conditions ot everyday life has i blurred and dulled in Western European consciousness the divine image of the Saviour, who said that His kingdom was not of this world? I can agree with this, though not without serious qualifications. Since no spiritual doctrine can be compressed into a formula, any attempt to capture the spirit of Christianity and frame it in a set of rules is bound to distort it; I am willing to go even further and add that in focusing exclusively on Christianity's application to science, knowledge, and society, the Western European has lost sight of man's inner, moral, spiritual world, which is just the one to Twhich the Gospel addresses itself. ThigtJt seems to me^-is the Achilles' heel v,of European civilization; here lies the root of the siclmgss that undermines irand saps its strength. The Western European has entirely devoted himself to ameliorating the objective conditions of life, persuaded that they alone hold the key to human welfare and perfection; the subjective side is ignored. But I go along with you only so far; from here on, we diverge radically. The Slavophiles of the forties, and now you, in condemning the Western Christians, overlook the fact that they represent—even if imperfectly, incompletely—the active, reformatory side of Christianity in the world. According to the Western European conception, Christianity is meant to improve, perfect, renew not only the individual but also mankind's jtfhiJe. way of life, to nurture not hermits alone but also people living in the world, amid all its petty annoyances and daily temptations. According to the European ideal, a Christian should not retire from the world in order to preserve his purity and saintliness—he should live in the world, fight evil, and overcome it. In Catholicism, the^crea^nfif the Romance peoples' genius, you see only the ugly organization of the Church after the pattern of a secular state, with a spiritual emperor at its head, and in Protestantism, the conception of Christianity according to the spirit of the Germanic peoples, you see only the one-sided limitless freedom of individual thought, leading in the end to atheism; but Western Europe has produced much more than the pope and atheism under the unquestionable influence of Christianity. You contradict yourself when you admire European science, art, literature, in which the same spirit breathes that also produced both Catholicism and Protestantism. To be consistent, you should reject all if you reject these—there is no middle ground.


I am coming at last to the theoretical basis of your whole argument—your conception of morality and of its meaning and role in human society.

Disagreeing with Professor Gradovskii, you deny the distinction between social ideals and personal and moral ideals. You ask: "How are you going to unite people for the attainment of your civic goals if you don't have the great primary idea of morality for a basis?" And you continue: "And moral ideas are of one kind only: they are all based on the idea of absolute personal self-perfection as an ideal ahead, because it comprises everything, all the aspirations, all the thirsts; and consequently your civic ideals also derive from it." This thought, one of the major points of controversy, seems wrong to me.

In the first place, there are no moral ideas, just as there is no social morality. Professor Gradovskii notwithstanding. Morality is above aj^ net, -sqnal, a cast of the soul, a lay of feelings, which set the tone and direction of our thoughts, intentions, and acts, That is the reason it is impossible to seize hold of morality and put it into any kind of thought or formula. Morality is primarily what we call Spirit. Deep down in his heart every man knows whether what he is planning or doing is good or bad. He carries the feeling of good and evil within himself. But if you ask what evil is, or what good is, no one will be able to answer you. Ask the same question about a specific thought, deed, undertaking, and the densest illiterate will have no trouble answering it. You may find his answer wrong, or consider that he calls good evil, or vice versa; but in terms of his own feeling and consciousness he will be a moral man if he refrains from plans and actions that he perceives as bad. How this elusive, so to speak shapeless, feeling of good and evil develops in man and illumines every thought and act for each in a way peculiar to him—that is another question. The point is that everyone has such a private tuning fork. Who is faithful to it in thought and deed is a moral person, and who is unfaithful, who disobeys it, is immoral.

Our concepts or ideas, of what is good and what is evil are something else altogether. Every idea is a formulated, definite thought about an object, ' that is to say, about something we conceive of as existing outside ourselves, something objective. A concept of what is good or evil (here I speak only of our social concepts) is a judgment based on considerations stemming not from a vague and shapeless feeling but from the conditions and facts of organized common life with other people.

You will say that, after all, the inner awareness of good and evil, that is, the voice of conscience, also develops under the influence of the social milieu? Certainly—and that is why the conscience of the ancient pagan Greeks spoke otherwise than the Christian conscience. The inner awareness of good and evil and the concepts of good and evil are identical in content; but there is the essential difference that the first, conscience, expresses man's unmediated personal attitude toward his own thoughts and acts; it is a feeling that cannot be fitted into any formula. A concept, on the other hand, is no longer something personal but something objective, concrete, accessible to all, and subject to discussion and verification. Moreover, a concept of what is good and what is evil recedes from the individual even further, becomes to him even more objective and external, when it is made into a compulsory law that all must obey whether they want to or not, to which all must conform in their outward conduct.

For these reasons I cannot agree with you when you speak of moral ideas, or with Professor Gradovskii when he speaks of social morality. Morality, as a purely personal fact particular to each human being, cannot be an idea, a formulated concept of a number of people. By the same token, there cannot be any social morality; for if we mean by this expression that the majority of people in a given society are moral, it is inaccurate, since it transfers to an aggregate of people something that is a characteristic attribute of each separate individual; and if we relate the expression to some idea that they all accept, it is entirely wrong, because ideas cannot be moral or immoral—they are correct or incorrect. A moral man is a man who in thought and deed is always true to the voice of his conscience, which tells him whether his thoughts and deeds are good or bad; morality consists solely in man's attitude toward himself, and moral truth consists solely in the accord of thought and deed with conscience. What conscience prompts, why it approves of some thoughts and deeds and condemns others—that is beyond the scope of morality and is determined by concepts, or ideas, which form under the influence of society and therefore vary greatly at different times and in differing circumstances.

Concepts or ideas must on no account be confused with ideals. The latter are pluperfect intellectual models, facts or ideas elevated in our consciousness to a higher plane through a process of generalization. In this sense, one can speak of both a moral ideal (not idea) and social ideals. The moral ideal would be the constant, total, instantaneous, unhesitating subordination of every thought and act to the voice of inner consciousness, or conscience; a sensitivity to that voice developed to the highest degree; an extremely refined sensitivity, refined to a high degree through exercise, of conscience itself, and so on. Of social ideals there may be a great many, as many as there are social ideas and formulas, and every one of the ideals will be an image of the full and most perfect realization of these formulas in actual life.

Until we sort out these conceptions, our arguments will go on endlessly and lead nowhere. We confuse concepts, ideas, ideals, with morality. The result is an unbelievable muddle.

In the second place, the ideas you call moral define the mutual relations of people in an organized society, presenting them in formulas. These formulas are general and abstract because they deal not with this or that person but with people in general, or, if you wish, with the average man, considering only his general, not his individual, traits; and as soon as you define the relations of the average man with other, also average, people in an organized community, you create social ideas for really existing individuals.

You say that social or civic ideals (that is, ideas) derive from the idea oi absolute personal self-perfection as an ideal ahead. Apart from the inac curacy of expression I pointed out earlier, I maintain that morality and social ideas, personal ideals and social ideals, have nothing in common and that confusing them can result only in chaos.

Orsini and Charlotte Corday were patriots, people of superior moralityj while Dumollard, who raped, killed, and robbed a number of women and terrorized a whole neighborhood, was a villain, a brute; yet all three had transgressed the social law and ended under the blade of the guillotine.

The social idea, in formulating the requisites for orderly human coexistence, ignores the inner man and his relationship to himself; it deals only with the outward behavior of people and their relations with other people and with the community. In the formulation of social ideas, inner life and hidden thoughts are taken into account only insofar as they affect behavior.

Dealing as it does with the outward, not the inward, life of man, the social formula sets a rule or a law compulsory for that external side and enforces conformity and obedience by equally external means and methods. What inner motives make people conform to the social law is of no interest whatever from the standpoint of society. The social law does not look into a man's soul—and woe to the society in which it does.

You believe that morality itself contains everything that the social laws or formulas require? That is a big mistake! What you would call a moral idea—loving one's neighbor more than oneself, self-abnegation in favor of others—is a social idea or formula, since it defines our relationship to others within a society: it expresses the ideal of that relationship. The only moral aspect of these virtues is their sincerity and completeness, the strength of conviction. Otherwise you would have to describe as immoral the fanatic who thought he served God when he burned heretics at the stake—and whom the Catholic Church has canonized.

You may ask where the ideal nature of the social virtues comes from if not from moral ideas? I have already answered this: social or civic ideas do not deal with individuals but with abstract average man; they reproduce not single facts but a general abstract formula for facts, which for this very reason, when applied to really existing people, becomes a compulsory law, the ideal norm to which they aspire or at least conform in their outward behavior for fear of punishment.

You say that "the ideal of civic order in human society ... is wholly a product of the moral self-perfection of individuals and begins with it, and this has been so forever and will remain so forevermore." Such a view contradicts the facts of history. It is by no means the moral self-perfection of people that engenders civic ideas but the practical concrete necessity of ordering their coexistence within society in such a way that each and every one will be as safe, free, and generally comfortable as possible and able to look after his affairs in peace. I should say, rather, that social ideas form and are formulated because some of the people in a society break the requirements of well-ordered coexistence and thereby compel the others to formulate them, to enact them into laws, and by various means, including threat of punishment, to ensure their strict observance by all. Not personal self-improvement but, on the contrary, the lack of discipline, the willfulness of some of the people, their disregard of the rights and needs of others, cause the standards of proper community life to be summed up in social ideas and formulas. In maintaining the opposite, you forget that individuals grow up and develop within society, not outside it; that as far back as man remembers himself in history he has been a member of a society, if at first only of a family; and that apart from community life with others he is unable to perfect himself. What you call the moral idea is the fruit of human coexistence, the result of its long development and elaboration. Before the requisites for ordered social life had crystallized in the human conscience and become what you call the moral ideal, they already existed in embryo, in a crude, raw form, in the fact itself of community life and the customs and laws that evolved from it. Overlooking this, you speak only of voluntary societies freely created by people drawn together by their religious beliefs. Many communities did begin in this way, and not only for religious reasons; but observe that such associations presuppose already mature people, and they could become mature only in contact with others of their kind, that is, within some human society. Moreover, only the tiniest fraction of human societies were formed by voluntary agreement. The immense majority came into being independently of human volition, through accidents of birth, conquest, the mere fact of living in the same place, and so on. In those at any rate, moral self-perfection could not possibly have been at the root of social ideas; on the contrary, it is the latter, developed in response to the community's practical needs and made into laws applying to all, that have become a powerful means of educating people in proper community life; it is they that have implanted and fostered in people what you call moral ideals. In my opinion this is another and most weighty argument against your contention that moral ideas have engendered the civic and social ideas. Just the opposite: the imperative practical need of regulating community life has engendered the social ideas, and these in turn have educated individual men into moral personalities, have developed and strengthened in them the feeling of good and evil. I shall go even further and assert that only in rare, exceptional cases can human societies—and then only voluntary ones—consist entirely of moral people following only the dictates of their conscience; the immense majority of human societies contain only a few people living by the promptings of their inner awareness of truth and untruth; the mass everywhere and always conforms to the laws of society out of habit or for reasons of expediency and personal advantage. Finally, there always will be a certain number of people who refrain from gross infraction of the social laws merely out of fear of punishment—people ready to break the law as soon as they see a chance of doing so with impunity. The proportion of these categories of people may vary, inclining now to one side, now to the other, and their relative sizes indicate whether the condition of a given society at a given time is sound or not; but none of these categories can disappear completely because their existence is determined by human nature and by the extreme diversity of individuals in societies that were not created by choice but came into being independently of the human mind and will.

But if so, you will say, where does morality come in? What would be its use? Having admitted that social ideas are indispensable, that we cannot do without them, and that they are imposed on people and prevail, if not willingly accepted, through force of circumstance and fear of punishment, we shall have to agree, if we reason consistently, that morality is superfluous, of no use at all. But such a conclusion, too, would be utterly erroneous. Social, civic ideas and formulas do not hang in the air or fall from the sky—they are born from community life and serve people. Without people they would have no meaning, they would be pure abstractions. They exist only in people, not apart from them; and since they cannot exist otherwise than in people, they appear either as formulated conscious concepts or as a formless feeling, the voice of conscience. That is why morality is indispensable. As to its practical usefulness, this comes from the fact that moral people are the only immediate, living carriers of the social ideas and formulas. As soon as these formulas and ideas cease to be reflected in conscience, this is our clue that they have outlived their time and must be replaced. Moral people are the only disinterested guardians of social ideas and formulas in the country. Habit is an unreliable bulwark; personal advantage chooses the path of profit, unmindful of ideas and formulas, which serve it merely as means to achieving its own ends; and immoral people always watch for the instant when they can throw off the distasteful bridle of social ideas and formulas. The role of morality in society stands out vividly if we reverse the question and ask: Can a society exist that is entirely composed of people who do not believe in social ideas and formulas, comply with them grudgingly, and are ready at the first opportunity to flout them? Obviously such a society cannot exist, because there is no one to support the social order and to apply the social ideas and formulas in practice. But morality, I repeat, does not create them—it only realizes and guards them in actual life. A man may be very moral and yet favor outdated ideas and formulas no longer consonant with the society's needs or actually hampering progress— for they must change, evolve, with changing conditions, while the moral ideal is always the same: man's ardent, complete, unselfish devotion to good and truth as his conscience sees them.

What is the conclusion to be drawn from all this? That you are in error when you contend that "social civic ideals as such, not organically related to moral ideals but having their own being, as a separate half cut off from the whole ... do not exist, never have existed, and never can exist." When you said this, you did not pursue your analysis to the end. It seems to me that a correct, exhaustive analysis leads to the conclusion that the ideal social life is built on good social institutions and morally mature people. Both solutions to the problem that I mentioned at the very beginning of this letter are right and wrong at the same time if we oppose them to each other. Good social conditions educate people in virtue and truth; bad ones confuse and corrupt them. Professor Gradovskii stresses this, without denying the role of personal morality, and, of course, he is right. It would indeed be very onesided to worry only about good institutions: civic ideals cannot materialize and become established in life if the people do not have a well-developed sense of morality and have not learned good moral habits; in this sense, I have repeatedly spoken up for personal morality and the need for it. But your opinion that moral self-perfection can replace civic ideals is equally one-sided.

The spirit of Christ wholeheartedly embraced by people, engrossing their thoughts and lives, becoming to them the highest, inmost moral truth and through them the vital principle of a social order and a daily life organized on the basis of precise, positive, empirical knowledge—this is what humanity will achieve sooner or later, judging by the whole course of history. So far, those who have confessed Christianity in spirit, not only in words and ritual, have either fled the world or exhausted themselves in vain efforts to install truth among people by putting it into laws, science, and art. Christ's teaching can reside only in the hearts of human beings. When it engrosses them so completely that they act in the Christian spirit without fleeing into a desert but right in the midst of our fallen, sinful, tormented world—then it will have become reality and life. This is the only possible meaning of the new word you are expecting.

Now you will fully understand why your view of our common people as the depository of Christian truth, and of our educated classes as apostates from that truth, as Alekos, Bel'tovs, Tentetnikovs, and their like *—as representative of apostasy and the sufferings it causes—why all this does not stand up under scrutiny in my opinion and is no more than a beautiful, talented, poetically expressed paradox. I simply cannot see our common people as custodians of the Christian truth, though I am filled with compassion for their cruel lot; for as soon as one of them makes a little money and climbs out of his poverty he immediately turns into a "kulak"5, not a whit better , than the "yid" you dislike so much. Take a closer look at the types of common Russians which we find so endearing and which really are beautiful: theirs is the moral beauty of a people in its infancy! The greatest virtue to them is avoiding evil and temptation in a purely Oriental fashion, not getting involved in anything if they can possibly help it, taking no part in any civic affairs. The "quiet fellow," the "simple soul," is the man everybody respects for clean living, probity, candor, piety, but who for these very reasons always effaces himself, attending only to his personal business; in community affairs or in public office he is no good at all because he always keeps silent and yields in everything. Therefore the doers are only the bold, the adroit, the resourceful, nearly always of dubious morality or downright dishonest. You consider that the Alekos break with the people out of pride? Oh, come, now! They are merely the same Orientals again who out of "great sadness of heart" over various disorders in society or in their private life, or out of liking for the European social and domestic patterns, abandoned everything and went away, some to live abroad, some on their estates. They are the hermits and anchorites over again, the "quiet fellows" of our villages, only with different ideals. A European in their place would try to realize his ideals as far as possible within his allotted big or small sphere of action, would combat his environment for all he was worth, and sooner or later transform it to suit him; but we Orientals, we run from life and its troubles, preferring to keep faith with the moral ideal in all its purity, and feeling no urge, or not knowing how, to realize it at least partly in our own surroundings—little by little, through long, sustained, obstinate work.

Then you, too, dream of our becoming Europeans? you will say. I dream, I shall reply, of one thing only: that we stop talking about moral, spiritual, Christian truth and begin to act, behave, live according to that truth! This will not turn us into Europeans, but we shall cease being Orientals and shall become in fact what we are by nature—Russians.



Some people believe that Dostoevsky is the true representative both of the Russian national conscience and of the Russian concept of Christianity. It is true that in his inspired moments this man of genius has comprehended the universalist ideal of our people. Under solemn circumstances [in an address delivered on June 8, 1880, at the unveiling of a monument for Pushkin] Dostoevsky announced the formula of a Russian and Christian ideal which was intended to be universal, and to bring about unity and peace. But it was not enough to proclaim the ideal. Dostoevsky would have had to indicate the means to its realization. He would have had to apply his ideal as a standard by which to regulate all the practical questions of our collective life. But even in the literary field alone, such a labor would have demanded Dostoevsky's renunciation of his many deeply rooted prejudices, preconceived ideas, and elemental nationalist instincts. These he revealed in his works without being aware of their conflict with the universalist ideal which he proclaimed. Russian life was soon to underline this conflict, and Dostoevsky would have had to revise all his personal opinions in the light of the formula announced in the course of an inspired address. It would have been cruel to demand from the sixty-year-old man, who had undergone a life of suffering, such an intellectual and emotional feat. Moreover, Dostoevsky was a seer and an artist rather than a master of logic.

Of all the ideas recently proposed by Tolstoy, the most striking, at least for those who believe in Providence, is the theory according to which every man necessarily dies at the moment most providential for him. To every mortal, a just measure of trying experiences is granted, and death prevents any excess of this measure. Death freed Dostoevsky from an internal conflict which would have been beyond his strength. But though the memory of this great seer and martyr has not been blemished by the clash between his best ideal and his triste reality, there remains the serious contradiction between Dostoevsky's ideal and the many nationalist passages in his work. Thus none among us can assume his entire spiritual heritage.

If we admit with Dostoevsky that the true Russian national character, its dignity and value, consists in its capacity to understand and love all alien elements and to reincarnate itself in them, and if we believe that the mission of the Russian people consists in the realization of the ideal of a unified mankind through a brotherly union with the other peoples, then we cannot accept the numerous attacks of the same Dostoevsky on the Jews, the Poles, the French, the Germans, on the whole of Europe, on the other Christian creeds. And too, if the opponents of universality can justifiably find a support in these passages of Dostoevsky, they must limit their solidarity with him strictly to these attacks. For they cannot espouse his ideal and his prophetic view. If the incontestable ambiguity of Dostoevsky's concepts allows even the enemies of his best ideals to claim him, then the true disciple of his ideal cannot remain in his camp without reservation.

Everyone is entitled to wish for a Russia that will be the salt of the earth and the kingdom of the saints. But it is not permissible to make this wish merely a patriotic dream, as we tend to do. We must struggle to free Russia from social injustices and from conditions which negate Christianity. Thirty years ago one of these injustices was abolished [serfdom]. Are there no others? Russia's true national ideal imposes the task of finding a Christian solution to all the national and religious questions before us. Only thus can the national ideal be justified. Otherwise it will remain a vain and mendacious pretense. Russia must not allow herself to be seduced by those who call her saintly merely to prevent her from becoming just.

[Continue Vladimir Solov'ev LOOP]