The Cutting of the Forest : The Story of a Yunker

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1855

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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.)
• "...the dissemination of the truth in a society based on coercion was always hindered in one and the same manner, namely, those in power, feeling that the recognition of this truth would undermine their position, consciously or sometimes unconsciously perverted it by explanations and additions quite foreign to it, and also opposed it by open violence." (From : "A Letter to a Hindu: The Subjection of India- Its....)
• "It usually happens that when an idea which has been useful and even necessary in the past becomes superfluous, that idea, after a more or less prolonged struggle, yields its place to a new idea which was till then an ideal, but which thus becomes a present idea." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)
• "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....)

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This document contains 13 sections, with 14,757 words or 88,537 characters.


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(1,294 Words / 7,795 Characters)
In midwinter of 185 - the division of our battery- was doing frontier service in the Great Chechnya. Having learned, on the evening of the 14th of February, that the platoon, which I was to command in the absence of the officer, was detailed for the following day to cut timber, and having received and given the proper orders on that very evening, I repaired earlier than usual to my tent ; as I did not have the bad habit of warming it up with burning coal, I lay down in my clothes on my bed, which was constructed of paling, drew my lambskin cap down to my eyes, wrapped myself in a fur coat, and fell into that peculiar, profound, and heavy sleep which one sleeps in moments of alarm and agitation before an imminent peril. The expectancy of the engagement of the following day had induced that condition in me. At three o'clock in the morning, while it was still very dark, somebody pulled the warm fur coat from me, and the purple light of a candle di... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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In Russia there are three prevailing types of soldiers, among which may be classed the soldiers of all the armies : of the Caucasus, the Ипе, the guards, the infantry, the cavalry, the artillery, and so forth. These three types, capable of many subdivisions and blendings, are the following : The submissive. The commanding. The desperate. The submissive soldiers may be subdivided into (a) indifferently submissive and (b) busily submissive. The commanding may be subdivided into (a) austerely commanding and (b) sagaciously commanding. The desperate may be subdivided into (a) desperate jokers and (b) desperate debauchees. The commonest type is a gentle, sympathetic type, which unites the best Christian virtues, meekness, piety, patience, and submission to the will of God, and is that of the submissive in general. The distinctive features of an indifferen... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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Besides Velenchiik, five other soldiers of my platoon were warming themselves at the fire. In the best place, protected from the wind, on a cask, sat the gun-sergeant of the platoon, Maksimov, smoking a pipe. In the pose, the look, and all the motions of this man could be observed the habit of commanding and the consciousness of his personal dignity, even inde- pendently of the cask, on which he was sitting, and which, at a halt, formed the emblem of authority, and of the nankeen-covered fur half-coat. When I came up, he turned his head toward me ; but his eyes remained fixed upon the fire, and only much later did they follow the direction of his head, and rest upon me. Maksimov was a freeman ; he was possessed of some means, had taken instruction in the school of the brigade, and had picked up some information. He was dreadfully rich and dreadfuUy learned, as the soldiers ex- pressed themselves. I remember how once... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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" Ah, I have forgotten my pipe. That's bad, brothers," repeated Velenchuk. " You ought to smoke cigars, dear man ! " remarked Chikin, screwing up his mouth and winking. " I always smoke cigars at home ; they are sweeter." Of course, everybody rolled in laughter. " So you forgot your pipe," interrupted Maksimov, not paying any attention to the general merriment, and, with the air of a superior, proudly knocking out the ashes by striking the pipe against the palm of his left hand. " What have you been doing there ? Eh, Velenchuk ? " Velenchuk turned half-aroimd to him, put his hand to his cap, and then dropped it. "You evidently did not get enough sleep yesterday, and so you are now falling asleep standing. You won't get any reward for such behavior." " May I be torn up on the spot, Fedor Maksimych, if I have had a drop in my mouth ; I do not know myself what is the matter with me,"... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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The bright disk of the sun, shining through the milk- white mist, had risen quite high ; the grayish-violet horizon was widening all the time, and though it was farther away, it was also sharply closed in by the decep- tive white mist wall. In front of us, beyond the forest which had been cut down, there was opened up a fairly large clearing. Over the clearing there spread on all sides the smoke from the fires, now black, now milk-white, now violet, and the white layers of the mist were forming themselves into fantastic shapes. Far in the distance, occasionally appeared groups of Tartar horsemen, and were heard the infrequent re- ports of our carbines, and their guns and cannon. " This was not yet an engagement, but mere child's play," as the good Captain Khlopov used to say. The commander of the ninth company of sharpshooters, who were to flank us, walked up to the guns, pointed to three Tartar horsemen, who were at that... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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Leaving the soldiers to discuss the flight of the Tar- tars when they saw the shell, and why they were riding there, and how many of them still might be in the woods, I walked away with the commander of the company a few steps to one side, and seated myself under a tree, waiting for the warmed forcemeat cutlets which he had offered me. The commander of the company, Bolkhdv, was one of those officers who, in the regiment, are called " bonjours." He had means, had served in the guards, and spoke French. Yet, notwithstanding this, his com- rades liked him. He was quite clever, and had enough tact to wear a St. Petersburg coat, to eat a good dinner, and to speak French, without unduly offending the society of his fellow officers. After speaking of the weather, of military engagements, of our common acquaintances among the officers, and convincing ourselves, by our questions and answers, and by our view of things, that there was a satisfactory understan... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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The enemy had really stationed two guns where the Tartars had been riding, and every twenty or thirty min- utes they sent a shot at our wood-cutters. My platoon was moved out into the clearing, and the order was given to return the fire. At the edge of the forest appeared a puff of smoke, there was heard a discharge, a whistling, — and the ball fell behind or in front of us. The projectiles of the enemy lodged harmlessly, and we had no losses. The artillerists conducted themselves well, as they always did, loaded expeditiously, carefully aimed at the puffs of smoke, and quietly joked each other. The flank- ing infantry detachment lay near us, in silent inaction, waiting for their turn. The wood-cutters did their work : the axes sounded through the woods faster and more fre- quently ; only, whenever the whistling of the projectile was heard, everything suddenly grew quiet, and amid the dead silence could be heard the not very ca... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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Every one who has been in an action has no doubt experienced that strange and strong, though not at all logical, feeling of disgust with the place where one has been killed or wounded. In the first moment my sol- diers were obviously experiencing this feeling, when it was necessary to lift up Velenchiik and carry him to the vehicle which had just come up. Zhdanov angrily went up to the wounded man, in spite of his increasing shrieks took him under his arms, and raised him. " Don't stand around ! Take hold of him ! " he shouted, and imme- diately some ten men, even superfluous helpers, surrounded him. But the moment he was moved away, Velenchiik began to cry terribly and to struggle. " Don't yell like a rabbit ! " said Antonov, rudely, hold- ing his leg, " or we will throw you down." The wounded man really quieted down, and only occa- sionally muttered, " Oh, I shall die ! Oh, brothers ! " When he was la... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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" Where are you going ? Come back ! Where are you going ? " I cried to the recruit, who, having put his reserve hnstock under his arm, and with a stick in his hand, was coolly following the vehicle in which the wounded soldier was lying. But the recruit only looked lazily at me, muttered something, and went ahead, so that I had to send a soldier after him. He doffed his red cap, and, smiling stupidly, gazed at me. " Where are you going ? " I asked. " To the camp." " What for ? " " Why, Velenchuk is wounded," he said, smiling again. " What have you to do with that ? You must remain here." He looked at me in surprise, then coolly wheeled around, put on his cap, and went back to his place. The engagement was favorable to us : it was reported that the Cossacks had made a fine attack and had taken three Tartar bodies ; the infantry was provided with wood,... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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While we, of the artillery, were still busy about the ordnance, and placing the limbers and caissons, and picketing the horses, the infantry had stacked their arms, built camp-fires, constructed booths of boughs and corn- stalks, and were boiling their buckwheat grits. It was growing dark. Pale blue clouds scudded over the sky. The fog, changed into a drizzly, damp mist, wet the earth and the overcoats of the soldiers ; the horizon grew narrower, and the surroundings were overcast with gloomy shadows. The dampness, which I felt through my boots and behind my neck, the motion and conversation, in which I took no part, the viscous mud, in which my feet sHpped, and my empty stomach, put me in a very heavy and disagreeable mood, after a day of physical and moral fatigue. Velenchuk did not leave my mind. The whole simple story of his military life uninterruptedly obtruded on my imagination. His last minutes were as clear and tranquil as a... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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Just then the voice of the commander of the battalion was heard outside the tent : " With whom are you there, Nikolay Fedorovich ? " Bolkhov gave him my name, and thereupon three officers entered the booth : Major Kirsanov, the adjutant of his battalion, and the captain, Trosenko. Kirsanov was a short, plump man, with a black mous- tache, ruddy cheeks, and sparkling eyes. His small eyes were the most prominent feature of his face. Whenever he laughed, all there was left of them were two moist little stars, and these stars, together with his stretched lips and craning neck, assumed a very strange expression of blankness. Kirsanov conducted himself in the army better than anybody else ; his inferiors did not speak ill of him, and his superiors respected him, although the common opinion was that he was exceedingly dull. He knew his duties, was exact and zealous, always had money, kept a carriage and a cook, and very n... (From : Wikisource.org.)

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My supposition was soon confirmed. Captain Kraft asked for some brandy, calling it by its popular name, and clearing his throat terribly, and throwing back his head, drained the wine-glass. "Well, gentlemen, we have crisscrossed to-day over the plains of the Chechnya," he began, but, upon noticing the officer of the day, he grew silent, so as to give the major a chance to give his orders. " Well, have you inspected the cordon ? " " I have, sir." " Have the ambushes been sent out ? " " They have been, sir." " Then communicate the order to the commanders of the companies to be as cautious as possible ! " " Yes, sir." The major closed his eyes and became thoughtful. " Tell the people that they may now cook their grits." " They are cooking them now." " Very well. You may go." " Well, we were figuring out what an officer needed," continued the major,... (From : Wikisource.org.)

(1,998 Words / 11,936 Characters)
It was dark night, and the fires dimly illuminated the camp, when I, having put everything away, walked up to my soldiers. A large stump was ghmmering on the coals. Three soldiers only were sitting around it : Ant6nov, who was turning around on the fire a httle kettle in which hardtack soaked in lard was cooking, Zhdanov, who was thoughtfully poking the ashes with a stick, and Chikin, with his eternally unhghted pipe. The others had already retired for their rest, some under the caissons, others in the hay, and others again around the fires. In the faint light of coals I could distinguish the famihar backs, legs, and heads ; among the latter was also the recruit, who was lying close to the fire and was apparently asleep. Antonov made a place for me. I sat down near him and lighted my pipe. The mist and the pungent smoke from the green wood was borne through the air, and made my eyes smart, and the same damp mist drizzled down from the mur... (From : Wikisource.org.)

Chronology

1855 :
The Cutting of the Forest -- Publication.

June 16, 2021 ; 4:14:22 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.

June 16, 2021 ; 4:32:11 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.

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