What to Do? Thoughts Evoked by the Census of Moscow

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(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "You are surprised that soldiers are taught that it is right to kill people in certain cases and in war, while in the books admitted to be holy by those who so teach, there is nothing like such a permission..." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)
• "People who take part in Government, or work under its direction, may deceive themselves or their sympathizers by making a show of struggling; but those against whom they struggle (the Government) know quite well, by the strength of the resistance experienced, that these people are not really pulling, but are only pretending to." (From : "A Letter to Russian Liberals," by Leo Tolstoy, Au....)
• "The Government and all those of the upper classes near the Government who live by other people's work, need some means of dominating the workers, and find this means in the control of the army. Defense against foreign enemies is only an excuse. The German Government frightens its subjects about the Russians and the French; the French Government, frightens its people about the Germans; the Russian Government frightens its people about the French and the Germans; and that is the way with all Governments. But neither Germans nor Russians nor Frenchmen desire to fight their neighbors or other people; but, living in peace, they dread war more than anything else in the world." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)


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What to Do? Thoughts Evoked by the Census of Moscow

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Transcribed from the 1887 Tomas Y. Crowell edition by David Price WHAT TO DO? THOUGHTS EVOKED BY THE CENSUS OF MOSCOW by COUNT LYOF N. TOLSTOÏ translated from the russian By ISABEL F. HAPGOOD NEW YORK THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO. 13 Astor Place 1887 Copyright, 1887, By THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO. electrotyped and printed BY RAND AVERY COMPANY, boston. TRANSLATOR’S NOTE. Books which are prohibited by the Russian Censor are not always inaccessible. An enterprising publishing-house in Geneva makes a specialty of supplying the natural craving of man for forbidden fruit, under which heading some of Count L. N. Tolstoy’s essays belong. These essays circulate in Russia in manuscript; and it is from one of these manuscripts, which fell into the hands of the Geneva firm, that the first half of the present translation has been made. ...

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ISABEL F. HAPGOOD Boston, Sept. 1, 1887 ARTICLE ON THE CENSUS IN MOSCOW. [1882.] The object of a census is scientific. A census is a sociological investigation. And the object of the science of sociology is the happiness of the people. This science and its methods differ sharply from all other sciences. Its peculiarity lies in this, that sociological investigations are not conducted by learned men in their cabinets, observatories and laboratories, but by two thousand people from the community. A second peculiarity is this, that the investigations of other sciences are not conducted on living people, but here living people are the subjects. A third peculiarity is, that the aim of every other science is simply knowledge, while here it is the good of the people. One man may investigate a nebula, but for the investigation of Moscow, two thousand persons are necessary. The object of the study of neb...

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CHAPTER I. I had lived all my life out of town. When, in 1881, I went to live in Moscow, the poverty of the town greatly surprised me. I am familiar with poverty in the country; but city poverty was new and incomprehensible to me. In Moscow it was impossible to pass along the street without encountering beggars, and especially beggars who are unlike those in the country. These beggars do not go about with their pouches in the name of Christ, as country beggars are accustomed to do, but these beggars are without the pouch and the name of Christ. The Moscow beggars carry no pouches, and do not ask for alms. Generally, when they meet or pass you, they merely try to catch your eye; and, according to your look, they beg or refrain from it. I know one such beggar who belongs to the gentry. The old man walks slowly along, bending forward every time he sets his foot down. When he meets you, he rests on one foot...

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CHAPTER II. When I mentioned this poverty of the town to inhabitants of the town, they always said to me: “Oh, all that you have seen is nothing. You ought to see the Khitroff market-place, and the lodging-houses for the night there. There you would see a regular ‘golden company.’” [21a] One jester told me that this was no longer a company, but a golden regiment: so greatly had their numbers increased. The jester was right, but he would have been still more accurate if he had said that these people now form in Moscow neither a company nor a regiment, but an entire army, almost fifty thousand in number, I think. [The old inhabitants, when they spoke to me about the poverty in town, always referred to it with a certain satisfaction, as though pluming themselves over me, because they knew it. I remember that when I was in London, the old inhabitants there also rather boasted when...

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CHAPTER III. That very evening, on my return from the Lyapinsky house, I related my impressions to a friend. The friend, an inhabitant of the city, began to tell me, not without satisfaction, that this was the most natural phenomenon of town life possible, that I only saw something extraordinary in it because of my provincialism, that it had always been so, and always would be so, and that such must be and is the inevitable condition of civilization. In London it is even worse. Of course there is nothing wrong about it, and it is impossible to be displeased with it. I began to reply to my friend, but with so much heat and ill-temper, that my wife ran in from the adjoining room to inquire what had happened. It appears that, without being conscious of it myself, I had been shouting, with tears in my voice, and flourishing my hands at my friend. I shouted: “It’s impossible to live thus, impossible to live thus, i...

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CHAPTER IV. At my request, there had been assigned to me for the census, a portion of the Khamovnitchesky quarter, at the Smolensk market, along the Prototchny cross-street, between Beregovoy Passage and Nikolsky Alley. In this quarter are situated the houses generally called the Rzhanoff Houses, or the Rzhanoff fortress. These houses once belonged to a merchant named Rzhanoff, but now belong to the Zimins. I had long before heard of this place as a haunt of the most terrible poverty and vise, and I had accordingly requested the directors of the census to assign me to this quarter. My desire was granted. On receiving the instructions of the City Council, I went alone, a few days previous to the beginning of the census, to reconnoiter my section. I found the Rzhanoff fortress at once, from the plan with which I had been furnished. I approached from Nikolsky Alley. Nikolsky Alley ends on the left in a gloomy h...

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CHAPTER V. On the first appointed day, the student enumerators arrived in the morning, and I, the benefactor, joined them at twelve o’clock. I could not go earlier, because I had risen at ten o’clock, then I had drunk my coffee and smoked, while waiting on digestion. At twelve o’clock I reached the gates of the Rzhanoff house. A policeman pointed out to me the tavern with a side entrance on Beregovoy Passage, where the census-takers had ordered every one who asked for them to be directed. I entered the tavern. It was very dark, ill-smelling, and dirty. Directly opposite the entrance was the counter, on the left was a room with tables, covered with soiled cloths, on the right a large apartment with pillars, and the same sort of little tables at the windows and along the walls. Here and there at the tables sat men both ragged and decently clad, like laboring-men or petty tradesmen, and a few women dr...

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CHAPTER VI. The inhabitants of these houses constitute the lower class of the city, which numbers in Moscow, probably, one hundred thousand. There, in that house, are representatives of every description of this class. There are petty employers, and master-artisans, bootmakers, brush-makers, cabinet-makers, turners, shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths; there are cab-drivers, young women living alone, and female pedlers, laundresses, old-clothes dealers, money-lenders, day-laborers, and people without any definite employment; and also beggars and dissolute women. Here were many of the very people whom I had seen at the entrance to the Lyapinsky house; but here these people were scattered about among the working-people. And moreover, I had seen these people at their most unfortunate time, when they had eaten and drunk up every thing, and when, cold, hungry, and driven forth from the taverns, they were awaiting admission into the free ni...

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CHAPTER VII. The unfortunates whom I noted down, divided themselves, according to my ideas, into three sections, namely: people who had lost their former advantageous position, and who were awaiting a return to it (there were people of this sort from both the lower and the higher class); next, dissolute women, of whom there are a great many in these houses; and a third division, children. More than all the rest, I found and noted down people of the first division, who had forfeited their former advantageous position, and who hoped to regain it. Of such persons, especially from the governmental and official world, there are a very great number in these houses. In almost all the lodgings which we entered, with the landlord, Ivan Fedotitch, he said to us: “Here you need not write down the lodger’s card yourself; there is a man here who can do it, if he only happens not to be intoxicated to-day.” And Ivan Fedotitch cal...

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CHAPTER VIII. The second class of unfortunates whom I also expected to assist later on, were the dissolute women; there were a very great many of them, of all sorts, in the Rzhanoff house—from those who were young and who resembled women, to old ones, who were frightful and horrible, and who had lost every semblance of humanity. The hope of being of assistance to these women, which I had not at first entertained, occurred to me later. This was in the middle of our rounds. We had already worked out several mechanical tricks of procedure. When we entered a new establishment, we immediately questioned the landlady of the apartment; one of us sat down, clearing some sort of a place for himself where he could write, and another penetrated the corners, and questioned each man in all the nooks of the apartment separately, and reported the facts to the one who did the writing. On entering a set of rooms in the basement, a stude...

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CHAPTER IX. Still more remarkable were my relations to the children. In my rôle of benefactor, I turned my attention to the children also, being desirous to save these innocent beings from perishing in that lair of vise, and noting them down in order to attend to them afterwards. Among the children, I was especially struck with a twelve-year-old lad named Serozha. I was heartily sorry for this bold, intelligent lad, who had lived with a cobbler, and who had been left without a shelter because his master had been put in jail, and I wanted to do good to him. I will here relate the upshot of my benevolence in his case, because my experience with this child is best adapted to show my false position in the rôle of benefactor. I took the boy home with me and put him in the kitchen. It was impossible, was it not, to take a child who had lived in a den of iniquity in among my own children?

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CHAPTER X. This feeling of compassion for people, and of disgust with myself, which I had experienced in the Lyapinsky house, I experienced no longer. I was completely absorbed in the desire to carry out the scheme which I had concocted,—to do good to those people whom I should meet here. And, strange to say, it would appear, that, to do good—to give money to the needy—is a very good deed, and one that should dispose me to love for the people, but it turned out the reverse: this act produced in me ill-will and an inclination to condemn people. But during our first evening tour, a scene occurred exactly like that in the Lyapinsky house, and it called forth a wholly different sentiment. It began by my finding in one set of apartments an unfortunate individual, of precisely the sort who require immediate aid. I found a hungry woman who had had nothing to eat for two days. It came about thus: in one very...

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CHAPTER XI. This visit dealt the final blow to my self-delusion. It now appeared indisputable to me, that what I had undertaken was not only foolish but loathsome. But, in spite of the fact that I was aware of this, it seemed to me that I could not abandon the whole thing on the spot. It seemed to me that I was bound to carry out this enterprise, in the first place, because by my article, by my visits and promises, I had aroused the expectations of the poor; in the second, because by my article also, and by my talk, I had aroused the sympathies of benevolent persons, many of whom had promised me their cooperation both in personal labor and in money. And I expected that both sets of people would turn to me for an answer to this. What happened to me, so far as the appeal of the needy to me is concerned, was as follows: By letter and personal application I received more than a hundred; these applications were all from the wealt...

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CHAPTER XII. What was its nature? I had lived in the country, and there I was connected with the rustic poor. Not out of humility, which is worse than pride, but for the sake of telling the truth, which is indispensable for the understanding of the whole course of my thoughts and sentiments, I will say that in the country I did very little for the poor, but the demands which were made upon me were so modest that even this little was of use to the people, and formed around me an atmosphere of affection and union with the people, in which it was possible to soothe the gnawing sensation of remorse at the independence of my life. On going to the city, I had hoped to be able to live in the same manner. But here I encountered want of an entirely different sort. City want was both less real, and more exacting and cruel, than country poverty. But the principal point was, that there was so much of it in one spot, that it produce...

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CHAPTER XIII. I remember that during the entire period of my unsuccessful efforts at helping the inhabitants of the city, I presented to myself the aspect of a man who should attempt to drag another man out of a swamp while he himself was standing on the same unstable ground. Every attempt of mine had made me conscious of the untrustworthy character of the soil on which I stood. I felt that I was in the swamp myself, but this consciousness did not cause me to look more narrowly at my own feet, in order to learn upon what I was standing; I kept on seeking some external means, outside myself, of helping the existing evil. I then felt that my life was bad, and that it was impossible to live in that manner. But from the fact that my life was bad, and that it was impossible to live in that manner, I did not draw the very simple and clear deduction that it was necessary to amend my life and to live better, but I knew the terrible deductio...

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CHAPTER XIV. I reached the same conclusion from a totally different point. On recalling all my relations with the city poor during that time, I saw that one of the reasons why I could not help the city poor was, that the poor were disingenuous and untruthful with me. They all looked upon me, not as a man, but as means. I could not get near them, and I thought that perhaps I did not understand how to do it; but without uprightness, no help was possible. How can one help a man who does not disclose his whole condition? At first I blamed them for this (it is so natural to blame some one else); but a remark from an observing man named Siutaeff, who was visiting me at the time, explained this matter to me, and showed me where the cause of my want of success lay. I remember that Siutaeff’s remark struck me very forcibly at the time; but I only understood its full significance later on. It was at the height of my sel...

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CHAPTER XV. I began to examine the matter from a third and wholly personal point of view. Among the phenomena which particularly impressed me, during the period of my charitable activity, there was yet another, and a very strange one, for which I could for a long time find no explanation. It was this: every time that I chanced, either on the street on in the house, to give some small coin to a poor man, without saying any thing to him, I saw, or thought that I saw, contentment and gratitude on the countenance of the poor man, and I myself experienced in this form of benevolence an agreeable sensation. I saw that I had done what the man wished and expected from me. But if I stopped the poor man, and sympathetically questioned him about his former and his present life, I felt that it was no longer possible to give three or twenty kopecks, and I began to fumble in my purse for money, in doubt as to how much I ought to give, and I always...

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CHAPTER XVI. It was hard for me to come to this confession, but when I had come to it I was shocked at the error in which I had been living. I stood up to my ears in the mud, and yet I wanted to drag others out of this mud. What is it that I wish in reality? I wish to do good to others. I wish to do it so that other people may not be cold and hungry, so that others may live as it is natural for people to live. [I wish this, and I see that in consequence of the violence, extortions, and various tricks in which I take part, people who toil are deprived of necessaries, and people who do not toil, in whose ranks I also belong, enjoy in superabundance the toil of other people. I see that this enjoyment of the labors of others is so arranged, that the more rascally and complicated the trickery which is employed by the man himself, or which has been employed by the person from whom he obtained his inheritance, the more does...

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CHAPTER XVII. Into the delusion that I could help others I was led by the fact that I fancied that my money was of the same sort as Semyon’s. But this was not the case. A general idea prevails, that money represents wealth; but wealth is the product of labor; and, therefore, money represents labor. But this idea is as just as that every governmental regulation is the result of a compact (contrat social). Every one likes to think that money is only a medium of exchange for labor. I have made shoes, you have raised grain, he has reared sheep: here, in order that we may the more readily effect an exchange, we will institute money, which represents a corresponding quantity of labor, and, by means of it, we will barter our shoes for a breast of lamb and ten pounds of flour. We will exchange our products through the medium of money, and the money of each one of us represents our labor.

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CHAPTER XVIII. I am always surprised by the oft-repeated words: “Yes, this is so in theory, but how is it in practice?” Just as though theory were fine words, requisite for conversation, but not for the purpose of having all practice, that is, all activity, indispensably founded on them. There must be a fearful number of stupid theories current in the world, that such an extraordinary idea should have become prevalent. Theory is what a man thinks on a subject, but its practice is what he does. How can a man think it necessary to do so and so, and then do the contrary? If the theory of baking bread is, that it must first be mixed, and then set to rise, no one except a lunatic, knowing this theory, would do the reverse. But it has become the fashion with us to say, that “this is so in theory, but how about the practice?” In the matter which interests me now, that has been confirmed which I ha...

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CHAPTER XIX. [I saw that money is the cause of suffering and vise among the people, and that, if I desired to help people, the first thing that was required of me was not to create those unfortunates whom I wished to assist. I came to the conclusion that the man who does not love vise and the suffering of the people should not make use of money, thus presenting an inducement to extortion from the poor, by forcing them to work for him; and that, in order not to make use of the toil of others, he must demand as little from others as possible, and work as much as possible himself.] By dint of a long course of reasoning, I came to this inevitable conclusion, which was drawn thousands of years ago by the Chinese in the saying, “If there is one idle man, there is another dying with hunger to offset him. [Then what are we to do? John the Baptist gave the answer to this very question two thousand years ago.

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CHAPTER XX. LIFE IN THE CITY. Last year, in March, I was returning home late at night. As I turned from the Zubova into Khamovnitchesky Lane, I saw some black spots on the snow of the Dyevitchy Pole (field). Something was moving about in one place. I should not have paid any attention to this, if the policeman who was standing at the end of the street had not shouted in the direction of the black spots,— “Vasily! why don’t you bring her in?” “She won’t come!” answered a voice, and then the spot moved towards the policeman. I halted and asked the police-officer, “What is it?” He said,—“They are taking a girl from the Rzhanoff house to the station-house; and she is hanging back, she won’t walk.” A house-porter in a sheepskin coat was leading her. She was walking forward, and he was pushing her from behind. Al...


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