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Chapter 12


1. Chance Meeting with a Train Carrying Soldiers to Restore Order
Among the Famishing Peasants--Reason of the Expedition--How the
Decisions of the Higher Authorities are Enforced in Cases of
Insubordination on Part of the Peasants--What Happened at Orel, as
an Example of How the Rights of the Propertied Classes are
Maintained by Murder and Torture--All the Privileges of the
Wealthy are Based on Similar Acts of Violence.

2. The Elements that Made up the Force Sent to Toula, and the
Conduct of the Men Composing it--How these Men Could Carry Out
such Acts--The Explanation is Not to be Found in Ignorance,
Conviction, Cruelty, Heartlessness, or Want of Moral Sense--They
do these Things Because they are Necessary to Support the Existing
Order, which they Consider it Every Man's Duty to Support--The
Basis of this Conviction that the Existing Order is Necessary and
Inevitable--In the Upper Classes this Conviction is Based on the
Advantages of the Existing Order for Themselves--But what Forces
Men of the Lower Classes to Believe in the Immutability of the
Existing Order, from which they Derive no Advantage, and which
they Aid in Maintaining, Facts Contrary to their Conscience?--This
is the Result of the Lower Classes being Deluded by the Upper,
Both as to the Inevitability of the Existing Order and the
Lawfulness of the Acts of Violence Needed to Maintain it--
Deception in General--Special Form of Deception in Regard to
Military Service--Conscription.

3. How can Men Allow that Murder is Permissible while they Preach
Principles of Morality, and How can they Allow of the Existence in
their Midst of a Military Organization of Physical Force which is
a Constant Menace to Public Security?--It is only Allowed by the
Upper Classes, who Profit by this Organization, Because their
Privileges are Maintained by it--The Upper Classes Allow it, and
the Lower Classes Carry it into Effect in Spite of their
Consciousness of the Immorality of the Deeds of Violence, the More
Readily Because Through the Arrangements of the Government the
Moral Responsibility for such Deeds is Divided among a Great
Number of Participants in it, and Everyone Throws the
Responsibility on Someone Else--Moreover, the Sense of Moral
Responsibility is Lost through the Delusion of Inequality, and the
Consequent Intoxication of Power on the Part of Superiors, and
Servility on the Part of Inferiors--The Condition of these Men,
Acting against the Dictates of their Conscience, is Like that of
Hypnotized Subjects Acting by Suggestion--The Difference between
this Obedience to Government Suggestion, and Obedience to Public
Opinion, and to the Guidance of Men of a Higher Moral Sense--The
Existing Order of Society, which is the Result of an Extinct
Public Opinion and is Inconsistent with the Already Existing
Public Opinion of the Future, is only Maintained by the
Stupefaction of the Conscience, Produced Spontaneously by Self-
interest in the Upper Classes and Through Hypnotizing in the Lower
Classes--The Conscience or the Common Sense of such Men may
Awaken, and there are Examples of its Sudden Awakening, so that
one can Never be Sure of the Deeds of Violence they are Prepared
for--It Depends Entirely on the Point which the Sense of the
Unlawfulness of Acts of Violence has Reached, and this Sense may
Spontaneously Awaken in Men, or may be Reawakened by the Influence
of Men of more Conscience.

4. Everything Depends on the Strength of the Consciousness of
Christian Truths in Each Individual Man--The Leading Men of Modern
Times, however, do not Think it Necessary to Preach or Practice
the Truths of Christianity, but Regard the Modification of the
External Conditions of Existence within the Limit Imposed by
Governments as Sufficient to Reform the Life of Humanity--On this
Scientific Theory of Hypocrisy, which has Replaced the Hypocrisy
of Religion, Men of the Wealthy Classes Base their Justification
of their Position--Through this Hypocrisy they can Enjoy the
Exclusive Privileges of their Position by Force and Fraud, and
Still Pretend to be Christians to One Another and be Easy in their
Minds--This Hypocrisy Allows Men who Preach Christianity to Take
Part in Institutions Based on Violence--No External Reformation of
Life will Render it Less Miserable--Its Misery the Result of
Disunion Caused by Following Lies, not the Truth--Union only
Possible in Truth--Hypocrisy Hinders this Union, since Hypocrites
Conceal from themselves and Others the Truth they Know--Hypocrisy
Turns all Reforms of Life to Evil--Hypocrisy Distorts the Idea of
Good and Evil, and so Stands in the Way of the Progress of Men
toward Perfection--Undisguised Criminals and Malefactors do Less
Harm than those who Live by Legalized Violence, Disguised by
Hypocrisy--All Men Feel the Iniquity of our Life, and would Long
Ago have Transformed it if it had not been Dissimulated by
Hypocrisy--But Seem to have Reached the Extreme Limits of
Hypocrisy, and we Need only Make an Effort of Conscience to Awaken
as from a Nightmare to a Different Reality.

5. Can Man Make this Effort?--According to the Hypocritical Theory
of the Day, Man is not Free to Transform his Life--Man is not Free
in his Actions, but he is Free to Admit or to Deny the Truth he
Knows--When Truth is Once Admitted, it Becomes the Basis of
Action--Man's Threefold Relation to Truth--The Reason of the
Apparent Insolubility of the Problem of Free Will--Man's Freedom
Consists in the Recognition of the Truth Revealed to him. There
is no Other Freedom--Recognition of Truth Gives Freedom, and Shows
the Path Along which, Willingly or Unwillingly by Mankind, Man
Must Advance--The Recognition of Truth and Real Freedom Enables
Man to Share in the Work of God, not as the Slave, but as the
Creator of Life--Men Need only Make the Effort to Renounce all
Thought of Bettering the External Conditions of Life and Bend all
their Efforts to Recognizing and Preaching the Truth they Know, to
put an End to the Existing Miserable State of Things, and to Enter
upon the Kingdom of God so far as it is yet Accessible to Man--All
that is Needed is to Make an End of Lying and Hypocrisy--But then
what Awaits us in the Future?--What will Happen to Humanity if Men
Follow the Dictates of their Conscience, and how can Life go on
with the Conditions of Civilized Life to which we are Accustomed?
--All Uneasiness on these Points may be Removed by the Reflection
that Nothing True and Good can be Destroyed by the Realization of
Truth, but will only be Freed from the Alloy of Falsehood.

6. Our Life has Reached the Extreme Limit of Misery and Cannot be
Improved by any Systems of Organization--All our Life and all our
Institutions are Quite Meaningless--Are we Doing what God Wills of
us by Preserving our Privileges and Duties to Government?--We are
put in this Position not Because the World is so Made and it is
Inevitable, but Because we Wish it to be so, Because it is to the
Advantage of Some of us--Our Conscience is in Opposition to our
Position and all our Conduct, and the Way Out of the Contradiction
is to be Found in the Recognition of the Christian Truth: Do Not
unto Others what you Would Not they should Do unto You--As our
Duties to Self Must be Subordinated to our Duties to Others, so
Must our Duties to Others be Subordinated to our Duties to God--
The Only Way Out of our Position Lies, if not in Renouncing our
Position and our Privileges, at Least in Recognizing our Sin and
not Justifying it nor Disguising it--The Only Object of Life is to
Learn the Truth and to Act on it--Acceptance of the Position and
of State Action Deprives Life of all Object--It is God's Will that
we should Serve Him in our Life, that is, that we should Bring
About the Greatest Unity of all that has Life, a Unity only
Possible in Truth.

I was finishing this book, which I had been working at for two
years, when I happened on the 9th of September to be traveling by
rail through the governments of Toula and Riazan, where the
peasants were starving last year and where the famine is even more
severe now. At one of the railway stations my train passed an
extra train which was taking a troop of soldiers under the conduct
of the governor of the province, together with muskets,
cartridges, and rods, to flog and murder these same famishing

The punishment of flogging by way of carrying the decrees of the
authorities into effect has been more and more frequently adopted
of late in Russia, in spite of the fact that corporal punishment
was abolished by law thirty years ago.

I had heard of this, I had even read in the newspapers of the
fearful floggings which had been inflicted in Tchernigov, Tambov,
Saratov, Astrakhan, and Orel, and of those of which the governor
of Nijni-Novgorod, General Baranov, had boasted. But I had never
before happened to see men in the process of carrying out these

And here I saw the spectacle of good Russians full of the
Christian spirit traveling with guns and rods to torture and kill
their starving brethren. The reason for their expedition was as

On one of the estates of a rich landowner the peasants had common
rights on the forest, and having always enjoyed these rights,
regarded the forest as their own, or at least as theirs in common
with the owner. The landowner wished to keep the forest entirely
to himself and began to fell the trees. The peasants lodged a
complaint. The judges in the first instance gave an unjust
decision (I say unjust on the authority of the lawyer and
governor, who ought to understand the matter), and decided the
case in favor of the landowner. All the later decisions, even
that of the senate, though they could see that the matter had been
unjustly decided, confirmed the judgment and adjudged the forest
to the landowner. He began to cut down the trees, but the
peasants, unable to believe that such obvious injustice could be
done them by the higher authorities, did not submit to the
decision and drove away the men sent to cut down the trees,
declaring that the forest belonged to them and they would go to
the Tzar before they would let them cut it down.

The matter was referred to Petersburg, and the order was
transmitted to the governor to carry the decision of the court
into effect. The governor asked for a troop of soldiers. And
here were the soldiers with bayonets and cartridges, and moreover,
a supply of rods, expressly prepared for the purpose and heaped up
in one of the trucks, going to carry the decision of the higher
authorities into effect.

The decisions of the higher authorities are carried into effect by
means of murder or torture, or threats of one or the other,
according to whether they offer resistance or not.

In the first case if the peasants offer resistance the practice is
in Russia, and it is the same everywhere where a state
organization and private property exist, as follows. The governor
delivers an address in which he demands submission. The excited
crowd, generally deluded by their leaders, don't understand a word
of what the representative of authority is saying in the pompous
official language, and their excitement continues. Then the
governor announces that if they do not submit and disperse, he
will be obliged to have recourse to force. If the crowd does not
disperse even on this, the governor gives the order to fire over
the heads of the crowd. If the crowd does not even then disperse,
the governor gives the order to fire straight into the crowd; the
soldiers fire and the killed and wounded fall about the street.
Then the crowd usually runs away in all directions, and the troops
at the governor's command take those who are supposed to be the
ringleaders and lead them off under escort. Then they pick up the
dying, the wounded, and the dead, covered with blood, sometimes
women and children among them. The dead they bury and the wounded
they carry to the hospital. Those whom they regard as the
ringleaders they take to the town hall and have them tried by a
special court-martial. And if they have had recourse to violence
on their side, they are condemned to be hanged. And then the
gallows is erected. And they solemnly strangle a few defenseless

This is what has often been done in Russia, and is and must always
be done where the social order is based on force.

But in the second case, when the peasants do submit, something
quite special, peculiar to Russia, takes place. The governor
arrives on the scene of action and delivers an harangue to the
people, reproaching them for their insubordination, and either
stations troops in the houses of the villages, where sometimes for
a whole month the soldiers drain the resources of the peasants, or
contenting himself with threats, he mercifully takes leave of the
people, or what is the most frequent course, he announces that the
ringleaders must be punished, and quite arbitrarily without any
trial selects a certain number of men, regarded as ringleaders,
and commands them to be flogged in his presence.

In order to give an idea of how such things are done I will
describe a proceeding of the kind which took place in Orel, and
received the full approval of the highest authorities.

This is what took place in Orel. Just as here in the Toula
province, a landlord wanted to appropriate the property of the
peasants and just in the same way the peasants opposed it. The
matter in dispute was a fall of water, which irrigated the
peasants' fields, and which the landowner wanted to cut off and
divert to turn his mill. The peasants rebelled against this being
done. The land owner laid a complaint before the district
commander, who illegally (as was recognized later even by a legal
decision) decided the matter in favor of the landowner, and
allowed him to divert the water course. The landowner sent
workmen to dig the conduit by which the water was to be let off to
turn the mill. The peasants were indignant at this unjust
decision, and sent their women to prevent the landowner's men from
digging this conduit. The women went to the dykes, overturned the
carts, and drove away the men. The landowner made a complaint
against the women for thus taking the law into their own hands.
The district commander made out an order that from every house
throughout the village one woman was to be taken and put in prison.
The order was not easily executed. For in every household there
were several women, and it was impossible to know which one was to
be arrested. Consequently the police did not carry out the order.
The landowner complained to the governor of the neglect on the
part of the police, and the latter, without examining into the
affair, gave the chief official of the police strict orders to
carry out the instructions of the district commander without
delay. The police official, in obedience to his superior, went to
the village and with the insolence peculiar to Russian officials
ordered his policemen to take one woman out of each house. But
since there were more than one woman in each house, and there was
no knowing which one was sentenced to imprisonment, disputes and
opposition arose. In spite of these disputes and opposition,
however, the officer of police gave orders that some woman,
whichever came first, should be taken from each household and led
away to prison. The peasants began to defend their wives and
mothers, would not let them go, and beat the police and their
officer. This was a fresh and terrible crime: resistance was
offered to the authorities. A report of this new offense was sent
to the town. And so this governor-- precisely as the governor of
Toula was doing on that day--with a battalion of soldiers with
guns and rods, hastily brought together by means of telegraphs and
telephones and railways, proceeded by a special train to the scene
of action, with a learned doctor whose duty it was to insure the
flogging being of an hygienic character. Herzen's prophecy of the
modern Ghenghis Khan with his telegrams is completely realized by
this governor.

Before the town hall of the district were the soldiery, a
battalion of police with their revolvers slung round them with red
cords, the persons of most importance among the peasants, and the
culprits. A crowd of one thousand or more people were standing
round. The governor, on arriving, stepped out of his carriage,
delivered a prepared harangue, and asked for the culprits and a
bench. The latter demand was at first not understood. But a
police constable whom the governor always took about with him, and
who undertook to organize such executions--by no means exceptional
in that province--explained that what was meant was a bench for
flogging. A bench was brought as well as the rods, and then the
executioners were summoned (the latter had been selected
beforehand from some horsestealers of the same village, as the
soldiers refused the office). When everything was ready, the
governor ordered the first of the twelve culprits pointed out by
the landowner as the most guilty to come forward. The first to
come forward was the head of a family, a man of forty who had
always stood up manfully for the rights of his class, and
therefore was held in the greatest esteem by all the villagers.
He was led to the bench and stripped, and then ordered to lie

The peasant attempted to supplicate for mercy, but seeing it was
useless, he crossed himself and lay down. Two police constables
hastened to hold him down. The learned doctor stood by, in
readiness to give his aid and his medical science when they should
be needed. The convicts spit into their hands, brandished the
rods, and began to flog. It seemed, however, that the bench was
too narrow, and it was difficult to keep the victim writhing in
torture upon it. Then the governor ordered them to bring another
bench and to put a plank across them. Soldiers, with their hands
raised to their caps, and respectful murmurs of "Yes, your
Excellency," hasten obediently to carry out this order. Meanwhile
the tortured man, half naked, pale and scowling, stood waiting,
his eyes fixed on the ground and his teeth chattering. When
another bench had been brought they again made him lie down, and
the convicted thieves again began to flog him.

The victim's back and thighs and legs, and even his sides, became
more and more covered with scars and wheals, and at every blow
there came the sound of the deep groans which he could no longer
restrain. In the crowd standing round were heard the sobs of
wives, mothers, children, the families of the tortured man and of
all the others picked out for punishment.

The miserable governor, intoxicated with power, was counting the
strokes on his fingers, and never left off smoking cigarettes,
while several officious persons hastened on every opportunity to
offer him a burning match to light them. When more than fifty
strokes had been given, the peasant ceased to shriek and writhe,
and the doctor, who had been educated in a government institution
to serve his sovereign and his country with his scientific
attainments, went up to the victim, felt his pulse, listened to
his heart, and announced to the representative of authority that
the man undergoing punishment had lost consciousness, and that, in
accordance with the conclusions of science, to continue the
punishment would endanger the victim's life. But the miserable
governor, now completely intoxicated by the sight of blood, gave
orders that the punishment should go on, and the flogging was
continued up to seventy strokes, the number which the governor had
for some reason fixed upon as necessary. When the seventieth
stroke had been reached, the governor said "Enough! Next one!"
And the mutilated victim, his back covered with blood, was lifted
up and carried away unconscious, and another was led up. The sobs
and groans of the crowd grew louder. But the representative of
the state continued the torture.

Thus they flogged each of them up to the twelfth, and each of them
received seventy strokes. They all implored mercy, shrieked and
groaned. The sobs and cries of the crowd of women grew louder and
more heart-rending, and the men's faces grew darker and darker.
But they were surrounded by troops, and the torture did not cease
till it had reached the limit which had been fixed by the caprice
of the miserable half-drunken and insane creature they called the

The officials, and officers, and soldiers not only assisted in it,
but were even partly responsible for the affair, since by their
presence they prevented any interference on the part of the crowd.

When I inquired of one of the governors why they made use of this
kind of torture when people had already submitted and soldiers
were stationed in the village, he replied with the important air
of a man who thoroughly understands all the subtleties of
statecraft, that if the peasants were not thoroughly subdued by
flogging, they would begin offering opposition to the decisions of
authorities again. When some of them had been thoroughly
tortured, the authority of the state would be secured forever
among them.

And so that was why the Governor of Toula was going in his turn
with his subordinate officials, officers, and soldiers to carry
out a similar measure. By precisely the same means, i. e., by
murder and torture, obedience to the decision of the higher
authorities was to be secured. And this decision was to enable a
young landowner, who had an income of one hundred thousand, to
gain three thousand rubles more by stealing a forest from a whole
community of cold and famished peasants, to spend it, in two or
three weeks in the saloons of Moscow, Petersburg, or Paris. That
was what those people whom I met were going to do.

After my thoughts had for two years been turned in the same
direction, fate seemed expressly to have brought me face to face
for the first time in my life with a fact which showed me
absolutely unmistakably in practice what had long been clear to me
in theory, that the organization of ur society rests, not as
people interested in maintaining the present order of things like
to imagine, on certain principles of jurisprudence, but on simple
brute force, on the murder and torture of men.

People who own great estates or fortunes, or who receive great
revenues drawn from the class who are in want even of necessities,
the working class, as well as all those who like merchants,
doctors, artists, clerks, learned professors, coachmen, cooks,
writers, valets, and barristers, make their living about these
rich people, like to believe that the privileges they enjoy are
not the result of force, but of absolutely free and just
interchange of services, and that their advantages, far from being
gained by such punishments and murders as took place in Orel and
several parts of Russia this year, and are always taking place all
over Europe and America, have no kind of connection with these
acts of violence. They like to believe that their privileges
exist apart and are the result of free contract among people; and
that the violent cruelties perpetrated on the people also exist
apart and are the result of some general judicial, political, or
economical laws. They try not to see that they all enjoy their
privileges as a result of the same fact which forces the peasants
who have tended the forest, and who are in the direct need of it
for fuel, to give it up to a rich landowner who has taken no part
in caring for its growth and has no need of it whatever--the fact,
that is, that if they don't give it up they will be flogged or

And yet if it is clear that it was only by means of menaces,
blows, or murder, that the mill in Orel was enabled to yield a
larger income, or that the forest which the peasants had planted
became the property of a landowner, it should be equally clear
that all the other exclusive rights enjoyed by the rich, by
robbing the poor of their necessities, rest on the same basis of
violence. If the peasants, who need land to maintain their
families, may not cultivate the land about their houses, but one
man, a Russian, English, Austrian, or any other great landowner,
possesses land enough to maintain a thousand families, though he
does not cultivate it himself, and if a merchant profiting by the
misery of the cultivators, taking corn from them at a third of its
value, can keep this corn in his granaries with perfect security
while men are starving all around him, and sell it again for three
times its value to the very cultivators he bought it from, it is
evident that all this too comes from the same cause. And if one
man may not buy of another a commodity from the other side of a
certain fixed line, called the frontier, without paying certain
duties on it to men who have taken no part whatever in its
production--and if men are driven to sell their last cow to pay
taxes which the government distributes among its functionaries,
and spends on maintaining soldiers to murder these very taxpayers-
—it would appear self-evident that all this does not come about as
the result of any abstract laws, but is based on just what was
done in Orel, and which may be done in Toula, and is done
periodically in one form or another throughout the whole world
wherever there is a government, and where there are rich and poor.

Simply because torture and murder are not employed in every
instance of oppression by force, those who enjoy the exclusive
privileges of the ruling classes persuade themselves and others
that their privileges are not based on torture and murder, but on
some mysterious general causes, abstract laws, and so on. Yet one
would think it was perfectly clear that if men, who consider it
unjust (and all the working classes do consider it so nowadays),
still pay the principal part of the produce of their labor away to
the capitalist and the landowner, and pay taxes, though they know
to what a bad use these taxes are put, they do so not from
recognition of abstract laws of which they have never heard, but
only because they know they will be beaten and killed if they
don't do so.

And if there is no need to imprison, beat, and kill men every time
the landlord collects his rents, every time those who are in want
of bread have to pay a swindling merchant three times its value,
every time the factory hand has to be content with a wage less
than half of the profit made by the employer, and every time a
poor man pays his last ruble in taxes, it is because so many men
have been beaten and killed for trying to resist these demands,
that the lesson has now been learnt very thoroughly.

Just as a trained tiger, who does not eat meat put under his nose,
and jumps over a stick at the word of command, does not act thus
because he likes it, but because he remembers the red-hot irons or
the fast with which he was punished every time he did not obey; so
men submitting to what is disadvantageous or even ruinous to them,
and considered by them as unjust, act thus because they remember
what they suffered for resisting it.

As for those who profit by the privileges gained by previous acts
of violence, they often forget and like to forget how these
privileges were obtained. But one need only recall the facts of
history, not the history of the exploits of different dynasties of
rulers, but real history, the history of the oppression of the
majority by a small number of men, to see that all the advantages
the rich have over the poor are based on nothing but flogging,
imprisonment, and murder.

One need but reflect on the unceasing, persistent struggle of all
to better their material position, which is the guiding motive of
men of the present day, to be convinced that the advantages of the
rich over the poor could never and can never be maintained by
anything but force.

There may be cases of oppression, of violence, and of punishments,
though they are rare, the aim of which is not to secure the
privileges of the propertied classes. But one may confidently
assert that in any society where, for every man living in ease,
there are ten exhausted by labor, envious, covetous, and often
suffering with their families from direct privation, all the
privileges of the rich, all their luxuries and superfluities, are
obtained and maintained only by tortures, imprisonment, and

The train I met on the 9th of September going with soldiers, guns,
cartridges, and rods, to confirm the rich landowner in the
possession of a small forest which he had taken from the starving
peasants, which they were in the direst need of, and he was in no
need of at all, was a striking proof of how men are capable of
doing deeds directly opposed to their principles and their
conscience without perceiving it.

The special train consisted of one first-class carriage for the
governor, the officials, and officers, and several luggage vans
crammed full of soldiers. The latter, smart young fellows in
their clean new uniforms, were standing about in groups or sitting
swinging their legs in the wide open doorways of the luggage vans.
Some were smoking, nudging each other, joking, grinning, and
laughing, others were munching sunflower seeds and spitting out
the husks with an air of dignity. Some of them ran along the
platform to drink some water from a tub there, and when they met
the officers they slackened their pace, made their stupid gesture
of salutation, raising their hands to their heads with serious
faces as though they were doing something of the greatest
importance. They kept their eyes on them till they had passed by
them, and then set off running still more merrily, stamping their
heels on the platform, laughing and chattering after the manner of
healthy, good-natured young fellows, traveling in lively company.

They were going to assist at the murder of their fathers or
grandfathers just as if they were going on a party of pleasure, or
at any rate on some quite ordinary business.

The same impression was produced by the well-dressed functionaries
and officers who were scattered about the platform and in the
first-class carriage. At a table covered with bottles was sitting
the governor, who was responsible for the whole expedition,
dressed in his half-military uniform and eating something while he
chatted tranquilly about the weather with some acquaintances he
had met, as though the business he was upon was of so simple and
ordinary a character that it could not disturb his serenity and
his interest in the change of weather.

At a little distance from the table sat the general of the police.
He was not taking any refreshment, and had an impenetrable bored
expression, as though he were weary of the formalities to be gone
through. On all sides officers were bustling noisily about in
their red uniforms trimmed with gold; one sat at a table finishing
his bottle of beer, another stood at the buffet eating a cake, and
brushing the crumbs off his uniform, threw down his money with a
self-confident air; another was sauntering before the carriages of
our train, staring at the faces of the women.

All these men who were going to murder or to torture the famishing
and defenseless creatures who provide them their sustenance had
the air of men who knew very well that they were doing their duty,
and some were even proud, were "glorying" in what they were doing.

What is the meaning of it?

All these people are within half an hour of reaching the place
where, in order to provide a wealthy young man with three thousand
rubles stolen from a whole community of famishing peasants, they
may be forced to commit the most horrible acts one can conceive,
to murder or torture, as was done in Orel, innocent beings, their
brothers. And they see the place and time approaching with
untroubled serenity.

To say that all these government officials, officers, and soldiers
do not know what is before them is impossible, for they are
prepared for it. The governor must have given directions about
the rods, the officials must have sent an order for them,
purchased them, and entered the item in their accounts. The
military officers have given and received orders about cartridges.
They all know that they are going to torture, perhaps to kill,
their famishing fellow-creatures, and that they must set to work
within an hour.

To say, as is usually said, and as they would themselves repeat,
that they are acting from conviction of the necessity for
supporting the state organization, would be a mistake. For in the
first place, these men have probably never even thought about
state organization and the necessity of it; in the second place,
they cannot possibly be convinced that the act in which they are
taking part will tend to support rather than to ruin the state;
and thirdly, in reality the majority, if not all, of these men,
far from ever sacrificing their own pleasure or tranquillity to
support the state, never let slip an opportunity of profiting at
the expense of the state in every way they can increase their own
pleasure and ease. So that they are not acting thus for the sake
of the abstract principle of the state.

What is the meaning of it?

Yet I know all these men. If I don't know all of them personally,
I know their characters pretty nearly, their past, and their way
of thinking. They certainly all have mothers, some of them wives
and children. They are certainly for the most part good, kind,
even tender-hearted fellows, who hate every sort of cruelty, not
to speak of murder; many of them would not kill or hurt an animal.
Moreover, they are all professed Christians and regard all
violence directed against the defenseless as base and disgraceful.

Certainly not one of them would be capable in everyday life, for
his own personal profit, of doing a hundredth part of what the
Governor of Orel did. Every one of them would be insulted at the
supposition that he was capable of doing anything of the kind in
private life.

And yet they are within half an hour of reaching the place where
they may be reduced to the inevitable necessity of committing this

What is the meaning of it?

But it is not only these men who are going by train prepared for
murder and torture. How could the men who began the whole
business, the landowner, the commissioner, the judges, and those
who gave the order and are responsible for it, the ministers, the
Tzar, who are also good men, professed Christians, how could they
elaborate such a plan and assent to it, knowing its consequences?
The spectators even, who took no part in the affair, how could
they, who are indignant at the sight of any cruelty in private
life, even the overtaxing of a horse, allow such a horrible deed
to be perpetrated? How was it they did not rise in indignation
and bar the roads, shouting, "No; flog and kill starving men
because they won't let their last possession be stolen from them
without resistance, that we won't allow!" But far from anyone
doing this, the majority, even of those who were the cause of the
affair, such as the commissioner, the landowner, the judge, and
those who took part in it and arranged it, as the governor, the
ministers, and the Tzar, are perfectly tranquil and do not even
feel a prick of conscience. And apparently all the men who are
going to carry out this crime are equally undisturbed.

The spectators, who one would suppose could have no personal
interest in the affair, looked rather with sympathy than with
disapproval at all these people preparing to carry out this
infamous action. In the same compartment with me was a wood
merchant, who had risen from a peasant. He openly expressed aloud
his sympathy with such punishments. "They can't disobey the
authorities," he said; "that's what the authorities are for. Let
them have a lesson; send their fleas flying! They'll give over
making commotions, I warrant you. That's what they want."

What is the meaning of it?

It is not possible to say that all these people who have provoked
or aided or allowed this deed are such worthless creatures that,
knowing all the infamy of what they are doing, they do it against
their principles, some for pay and for profit, others through fear
of punishment. All of them in certain circumstances know how to
stand up for their principles. Not one of these officials would
steal a purse, read another man's letter, or put up with an
affront without demanding satisfaction. Not one of these officers
would consent to cheat at cards, would refuse to pay a debt of
honor, would betray a comrade, run away on the field of battle, or
desert the flag. Not one of these soldiers would spit out the
holy sacrament or eat meat on Good Friday. All these men are
ready to face any kind of privation, suffering, or danger rather
than consent to do what they regard as wrong. They have therefore
the strength to resist doing what is against their principles.

It is even less possible to assert that all these men are such
brutes that it is natural and not distasteful to them to do such
deeds. One need only talk to these people a little to see that
all of them, the landowner even, and the judge, and the minister
and the Tzar and the government, the officers and the soldiers,
not only disapprove of such things in the depth of their soul, but
suffer from the consciousness of their participation in them when
they recollect what they imply. But they try not to think about

One need only talk to any of these who are taking part in the
affair from the landowner to the lowest policeman or soldier to
see that in the depth of their soul they all know it is a wicked
thing, that it would be better to have nothing to do with it, and
are suffering from the knowledge.

A lady of liberal views, who was traveling in the same train with
us, seeing the governor and the officers in the first-class saloon
and learning the object of the expedition, began, intentionally
raising her voice so that they should hear, to abuse the existing
order of things and to cry shame on men who would take part in
such proceedings. Everyone felt awkward, none knew where to look,
but no one contradicted her. They tried to look as though such
remarks were not worth answering. But one could see by their
faces and their averted eyes that they were ashamed. I noticed
the same thing in the soldiers. They too knew that what they were
sent to do was a shameful thing, but they did not want to think
about what was before them.

When the wood merchant, as I suspect insincerely only to show that
he was a man of education, began to speak of the necessity of such
measures, the soldiers who heard him all turned away from him,
scowling and pretending not to hear.

All the men who, like the landowner, the commissioner, the
minister, and the Tzar, were responsible for the perpetration of
this act, as well as those who were now going to execute it, and
even those who were mere spectators of it, knew that it was a
wickedness, and were ashamed of taking any share in it, and even
of being present at it.

Then why did they do it, or allow it to be done?

Ask them the question. And the landowner who started the affair,
and the judge who pronounced a clearly unjust even though formally
legal decision, and those who commanded the execution of the
decision, and those who, like the policemen, soldiers, and
peasants, will execute the deed with their own hands, flogging and
killing their brothers, all who have devised, abetted, decreed,
executed, or allowed such crimes, will make substantially the same

The authorities, those who have started, devised, and decreed the
matter, will say that such acts are necessary for the maintenance
of the existing order; the maintenance of the existing order is
necessary for the welfare of the country and of humanity, for the
possibility of social existence and human progress.

Men of the poorer class, peasants and soldiers, who will have to
execute the deed of violence with their own hands, say that they
do so because it is the command of their superior authority, and
the superior authority knows what he is about. That those are in
authority who ought to be in authority, and that they know what
they are doing appears to them a truth of which there can be no
doubt. If they could admit the possibility of mistake or error,
it would only be in functionaries of a lower grade; the highest
authority on which all the rest depends seems to them immaculate
beyond suspicion.

Though expressing the motives of their conduct differently, both
those in command and their subordinates are agreed in saying that
they act thus because the existing order is the order which must
and ought to exist at the present time, and that therefore to
support it is the sacred duty of every man.

On this acceptance of the necessity and therefore immutability of
the existing order, all who take part in acts of violence on the
part of government base the argument always advanced in their
justification. "Since the existing order is immutable," they say,
"the refusal of a single individual to perform the duties laid
upon him will effect no change in things, and will only mean that
some other man will be put in his place who may do the work worse,
that is to say, more cruelly, to the still greater injury of the
victims of the act of violence."

This conviction that the existing order is the necessary and
therefore immutable order, which it is a sacred duty for every man
to support, enables good men, of high principles in private life,
to take part with conscience more or less untroubled in crimes
such as that perpetrated in Orel, and that which the men in the
Toula train were going to perpetrate.

But what is this conviction based on? It is easy to understand
that the landowner prefers to believe that the existing order is
inevitable and immutable, because this existing order secures him
an income from his hundreds and thousands of acres, by means of
which he can lead his habitual indolent and luxurious life.

It is easy to understand that the judge readily believes in the
necessity of an order of things through which he receives a wage
fifty times as great as the most industrious laborer can earn, and
the same applies to all the higher officials. It is only under
the existing RÉGIME that as governor, prosecutor, senator, members
of the various councils, they can receive their several thousands
of rubles a year, without which they and their families would at
once sink into ruin, since if it were not for the position they
occupy they would never by their own abilities, industry, or
acquirements get a thousandth part of their salaries. The
minister, the Tzar, and all the higher authorities are in the same
position. The only distinction is that the higher and the more
exceptional their position, the more necessary it is for them to
believe that the existing order is the only possible order of
things. For without it they would not only be unable to gain an
equal position, but would be found to fall lower than all other
people. A man who has of his own free will entered the police
force at a wage of ten rubles, which he could easily earn in any
other position, is hardly dependent on the preservation of the
existing RÉGIME, and so he may not believe in its immutability.
But a king or an emperor, who receives millions for his post, and
knows that there are thousands of people round him who would like
to dethrone him and take his place, who knows that he will never
receive such a revenue or so much honor in any other position, who
knows, in most cases through his more or less despotic rule, that
if he were dethroned he would have to answer for all his abuse of
power--he cannot but believe in the necessity and even sacredness
of the existing order. The higher and the more profitable a man's
position, the more unstable it becomes, and the more terrible and
dangerous a fall from it for him, the more firmly the man believes
in the existing order, and therefore with the more ease of
conscience can such a man perpetrate cruel and wicked acts, as
though they were not in his own interest, but for the maintenance
of that order.

This is the case with all men in authority, who occupy positions
more profitable than they could occupy except for the present
RÉGIME, from the lowest police officer to the Tzar. All of them
are more or less convinced that the existing order is immutable,
because--the chief consideration--it is to their advantage. But
the peasants, the soldiers, who are at the bottom of the social
scale, who have no kind of advantage from the existing order, who
are in the very lowest position of subjection and humiliation,
what forces them to believe that the existing order in which they
are in their humble and disadvantageous position is the order
which ought to exist, and which they ought to support even at the
cost of evil actions contrary to their conscience?

What forces these men to the false reasoning that the existing
order is unchanging, and that therefore they ought to support it,
when it is so obvious, on the contrary, that it is only unchanging
because they themselves support it?

What forces these peasants, taken only yesterday from the plow and
dressed in ugly and unseemly costumes with blue collars and gilt
buttons, to go with guns and sabers and murder their famishing
fathers and brothers? They gain no kind of advantage and can be
in no fear of losing the position they occupy, because it is worse
than that from which they have been taken.

The persons in authority of the higher orders--landowners,
merchants, judges, senators, governors, ministers, tzars, and
officers--take part in such doings because the existing order is
to their advantage. In other respects they are often good and
kind-hearted men, and they are more able to take part in such
doings because their share in them is limited to suggestions,
decisions, and orders. These persons in authority never do
themselves what they suggest, decide, or command to be done. For
the most part they do not even see how all the atrocious deeds
they have suggested and authorized are carried out. But the
unfortunate men of the lower orders, who gain no kind of advantage
from the existing RÉGIME, but, on the contrary, are treated with
the utmost contempt, support it even by dragging people with their
own hands from their families, handcuffing them, throwing them in
prison, guarding them, shooting them.

Why do they do it? What forces them to believe that the existing
order is unchanging and they must support it?

All violence rests, we know, on those who do the beating, the
handcuffing, the imprisoning, and the killing with their own
hands. If there were no soldiers or armed policemen, ready to
kill or outrage anyone as they are ordered, not one of those
people who sign sentences of death, imprisonment, or galley-
slavery for life would make up his mind to hang, imprison, or
torture a thousandth part of those whom, quietly sitting in his
study, he now orders to be tortured in all kinds of ways, simply
because he does not see it nor do it himself, but only gets it
done at a distance by these servile tools.

All the acts of injustice and cruelty which are committed in the
ordinary course of daily life have only become habitual because
there are these men always ready to carry out such acts of
injustice and cruelty. If it were not for them, far from anyone
using violence against the immense masses who are now ill-treated,
those who now command their punishment would not venture to
sentence them, would not even dare to dream of the sentences they
decree with such easy confidence at present. And if it were not
for these men, ready to kill or torture anyone at their
commander's will, no one would dare to claim, as all the idle
landowners claim with such assurance, that a piece of land,
surrounded by peasants, who are in wretchedness from want of land,
is the property of a man who does not cultivate it, or that stores
of corn taken by swindling from the peasants ought to remain
untouched in the midst of a population dying of hunger because the
merchants must make their profit. If it were not for these
servile instruments at the disposal of the authorities, it could
never have entered the head of the landowner to rob the peasants
of the forest they had tended, nor of the officials to think they
are entitled to their salaries, taken from the famishing people,
the price of their oppression; least of all could anyone dream of
killing or exiling men for exposing falsehood and telling the
truth. All this can only be done because the authorities are
confidently assured that they have always these servile tools at
hand, ready to carry all their demands into effect by means of
torture and murder.

All the deeds of violence of tyrants from Napoleon to the lowest
commander of a company who fires upon a crowd, can only be
explained by the intoxicating effect of their absolute power over
these slaves. All force, therefore, rests on these men, who carry
out the deeds of violence with their own hands, the men who serve
in the police or the army, especially the army, for the police
only venture to do their work because the army is at their back.

What, then, has brought these masses of honest men, on whom the
whole thing depends, who gain nothing by it, and who have to do
these atrocious deeds with their own hands, what has brought them
to accept the amazing delusion that the existing order,
unprofitable, ruinous, and fatal as it is for them, is the order
which ought to exist?

Who has led them into this amazing delusion?

They can never have persuaded themselves that they ought to do
what is against their conscience, and also the source of misery
and ruin for themselves, and all their class, who make up nine-
tenths of the population.

"How can you kill people, when it is written in God's commandment:
'Thou shalt not kill'?" I have often inquired of different
soldiers. And I always drove them to embarrassment and confusion
by reminding them of what they did not want to think about. They
knew they were bound by the law of God, "Thou shalt not kill," and
knew too that they were bound by their duty as soldiers, but had
never reflected on the contradiction between these duties. The
drift of the timid answers I received to this question was always
approximately this: that killing in war and executing criminals by
command of the government are not included in the general
prohibition of murder. But when I said this distinction was not
made in the law of God, and reminded them of the Christian duty of
fraternity, forgiveness of injuries, and love, which could not be
reconciled with murder, the peasants usually agreed, but in their
turn began to ask me questions. "How does it happen," they
inquired, "that the government [which according to their ideas
cannot do wrong] sends the army to war and orders criminals to be
executed." When I answered that the government does wrong in
giving such orders, the peasants fell into still greater
confusion, and either broke off the conversation or else got angry
with me.

"They must have found a law for it. The archbishops know as much
about it as we do, I should hope," a Russian soldier once observed
to me. And in saying this the soldier obviously set his mind at
rest, in the full conviction that his spiritual guides had found a
law which authorized his ancestors, and the tzars and their
descendants, and millions of men, to serve as he was doing
himself, and that the question I had put him was a kind of hoax or
conundrum on my part.

Everyone in our Christian society knows, either by tradition or by
revelation or by the voice of conscience, that murder is one of
the most fearful crimes a man can commit, as the Gospel tells us,
and that the sin of murder cannot be limited to certain persons,
that is, murder cannot be a sin for some and not a sin for others.
Everyone knows that if murder is a sin, it is always a sin,
whoever are the victims murdered, just like the sin of adultery,
theft, or any other. At the same time from their childhood up men
see that murder is not only permitted, but even sanctioned by the
blessing of those whom they are accustomed to regard as their
divinely appointed spiritual guides, and see their secular leaders
with calm assurance organizing murder, proud to wear murderous
arms, and demanding of others in the name of the laws of the
country, and even of God, that they should take part in murder.
Men see that there is some inconsistency here, but not being able
to analyze it, involuntarily assume that this apparent
inconsistency is only the result of their ignorance. The very
grossness and obviousness of the inconsistency confirms them in
this conviction.

They cannot imagine that the leaders of civilization, the
educated classes, could so confidently preach two such opposed
principles as the law of Christ and murder. A simple uncorrupted
youth cannot imagine that those who stand so high in his opinion,
whom he regards as holy or learned men, could for any object
whatever mislead him so shamefully. But this is just what has
always been and always is done to him. It is done (1) by
instilling, by example and direct instruction, from childhood up,
into the working people, who have not time to study moral and
religious questions for themselves, the idea that torture and
murder are compatible with Christianity, and that for certain
objects of state, torture and murder are not only admissible, but
ought to be employed; and (2) by instilling into certain of the
people, who have either voluntarily enlisted or been taken by
compulsion into the army, the idea that the perpetration of murder
and torture with their own hands is a sacred duty, and even a
glorious exploit, worthy of praise and reward.

The general delusion is diffused among all people by means of the
catechisms or books, which nowadays replace them, in use for the
compulsory education of children. In them it is stated that
violence, that is, imprisonment and execution, as well as murder
in civil or foreign war in the defense and maintenance of the
existing state organization (whatever that may be, absolute or
limited monarchy, convention, consulate, empire of this or that
Napoleon or Boulanger, constitutional monarchy, commune or
republic) is absolutely lawful and not opposed to morality and

This is stated in all catechisms or books used in schools. And
men are so thoroughly persuaded of it that they grow up, live and
die in that conviction without once entertaining a doubt about it.

This is one form of deception, the general deception instilled
into everyone, but there is another special deception practiced
upon the soldiers or police who are picked out by one means or
another to do the torturing and murdering necessary to defend and
maintain the existing RÉGIME.

In all military instructions there appears in one form or another
what is expressed in the Russian military code in the following

ARTICLE 87. To carry out exactly and without comment the orders
of a superior officer means: to carry out an order received from a
superior officer exactly without considering whether it is good or
not, and whether it is possible to carry it out. The superior
officer is responsible for the consequences of the order he gives.

ARTICLE 88. The subordinate ought never to refuse to carry out
the orders of a superior officer except when he sees clearly that
in carrying out his superior officer's command, he breaks [the law
of God, one involuntarily expects; not at all] HIS OATH OF

It is here said that the man who is a soldier can and ought to
carry out all the orders of his superior without exception. And
as these orders for the most part involve murder, it follows that
he ought to break all the laws of God and man. The one law he may
not break is that of fidelity and allegiance to the man who
happens at a given moment to be in power.

Precisely the same thing is said in other words in all codes of
military instruction. And it could not be otherwise, since the
whole power of the army and the state is based in reality on this
delusive emancipation of men from their duty to God and their
conscience, and the substitution of duty to their superior officer
for all other duties.

This, then, is the foundation of the belief of the lower classes
that the existing RÉGIME so fatal for them is the RÉGIME which
ought to exist, and which they ought therefore to support even by
torture and murder.

This belief is founded on a conscious deception practiced on them
by the higher classes.

And it cannot be otherwise. To compel the lower classes, which
are more numerous, to oppress and ill treat themselves, even at
the cost of actions opposed to their conscience, it was necessary
to deceive them. And it has been done accordingly.

Not many days ago I saw once more this shameless deception being
openly practiced, and once more I marveled that it could be
practiced so easily and impudently.

At the beginning of November, as I was passing through Toula, I
saw once again at the gates of the Zemsky Courthouse the crowd of
peasants I had so often seen before, and heard the drunken shouts
of the men mingled with the pitiful lamentations of their wives
and mothers. It was the recruiting session.

I can never pass by the spectacle. It attracts me by a kind of
fascination of repulsion. I again went into the crowd, took my
stand among the peasants, looked about and asked questions. And
once again I was amazed that this hideous crime can be perpetrated
so easily in broad daylight and in the midst of a large town.

As the custom is every year, in all the villages and hamlets of
the one hundred millions of Russians, on the 1st of November, the
village elders had assembled the young men inscribed on the lists,
often their own sons among them, and had brought them to the town.

On the road the recruits have been drinking without intermission,
unchecked by the elders, who feel that going on such an insane
errand, abandoning their wives and mothers and renouncing all they
hold sacred in order to become a senseless instrument of
destruction, would be too agonizing if they were not stupefied
with spirits.

And so they have come, drinking, swearing, singing, fighting and
scuffling with one another. They have spent the night in taverns.
In the morning they have slept off their drunkenness and have
gathered together at the Zemsky Court-house.

Some of them, in new sheepskin pelisses, with knitted scarves
round their necks, their eyes swollen from drinking, are shouting
wildly to one another to show their courage; others, crowded near
the door, are quietly and mournfully waiting their turn, between
their weeping wives and mothers (I had chanced upon the day of the
actual enrolling, that is, the examination of those whose names
are on the list); others meantime were crowding into the hall of
the recruiting office.

Inside the office the work was going on rapidly. The door is
opened and the guard calls Piotr Sidorov. Piotr Sidorov starts,
crosses himself, and goes into a little room with a glass door,
where the conscripts undress. A comrade of Piotr Sidorov's, who
has just been passed for service, and come naked out of the
revision office, is dressing hurriedly, his teeth chattering.
Sidorov has already heard the news, and can see from his face too
that he has been taken. He wants to ask him questions, but they
hurry him and tell him to make haste and undress. He throws off
his pelisse, slips his boots off his feet, takes off his waistcoat
and draws his shirt over his head, and naked, trembling all over,
and exhaling an odor of tobacco, spirits, and sweat, goes into the
revision office, not knowing what to do with his brawny bare arms.

Directly facing him in the revision office hangs in a great gold
frame a portrait of the Tzar in full uniform with decorations, and
in the corner a little portrait of Christ in a shirt and a crown
of thorns. In the middle of the room is a table covered with
green cloth, on which there are papers lying and a three-cornered
ornament surmounted by an eagle— the zertzal. Round the table are
sitting the revising officers, looking collected and indifferent.
One is smoking a cigarette; another is looking through some
papers. Directly Sidorov comes in, a guard goes up to him, places
him under the measuring frame, raising him under his chin, and
straightening his legs.

The man with the cigarette--he is the doctor--comes up, and
without looking at the recruit's face, but somewhere beyond it,
feels his body over with an air of disgust, measures him, tests
him, tells the guard to open his mouth, tells him to breathe, to
speak. Someone notes something down. At last without having once
looked him in the face the doctor says, "Right. Next one!" and
with a weary air sits down again at the table. The soldiers again
hustle and hurry the lad. He somehow gets into his trousers,
wraps his feet in rags, puts on his boots, looks for his scarf and
cap, and bundles his pelisse under his arm. Then they lead him
into the main hall, shutting him off apart from the rest by a
bench, behind which all the conscripts who have been passed for
service are waiting. Another village lad like himself, but from a
distant province, now a soldier armed with a gun with a sharp-
pointed bayonet at the end, keeps watch over him, ready to run him
through the body if he should think of trying to escape.

Meantime the crowd of fathers, mothers, and wives, hustled by the
police, are pressing round the doors to hear whose lad has been
taken, whose is let off. One of the rejected comes out and
announces that Piotr is taken, and at once a shrill cry is heard
from Piotr's young wife, for whom this word "taken" means
separation for four or five years, the life of a soldier's wife as
a servant, often a prostitute.

But here comes a man along the street with flowing hair and in a
peculiar dress, who gets out of his droskhy and goes into the
Zemsky Court-house. The police clear a way for him through the
crowd. It is the "reverend father" come to administer the oath.
And this "father," who has been persuaded that he is specially and
exclusively devoted to the service of Christ, and who, for the
most part, does not himself see the deception in which he lives,
goes into the hall where the conscripts are waiting. He throws
round him a kind of curtain of brocade, pulls his long hair out
over it, opens the very Gospel in which swearing is forbidden,
takes the cross, the very cross on which Christ was crucified
because he would not do what this false servant of his is telling
men to do, and puts them on the lectern. And all these unhappy,
defenseless, and deluded lads repeat after him the lie, which he
utters with the assurance of familiarity.

He reads and they repeat after him:

"I promise and swear by Almighty God upon his holy Gospel," etc.,
"to defend," etc., and that is, to murder anyone I am told to, and
to do everything I am told by men I know nothing of, and who care
nothing for me except as an instrument for perpetrating the crimes
by which they are kept in their position of power, and my brothers
in their condition of misery. All the conscripts repeat these
ferocious words without thinking. And then the so-called
"father" goes away with a sense of having correctly and
conscientiously done his duty. And all these poor deluded lads
believe that these nonsensical and incomprehensible words which
they have just uttered set them free for the whole time of their
service from their duties as men, and lay upon them fresh and more
binding duties as soldiers.

And this crime is perpetrated publicly and no one cries out to the
deceiving and the deceived: "Think what you are doing; this is the
basest, falsest lie, by which not bodies only, but souls too, are

No one does this. On the contrary, when all have been enrolled,
and they are to be let out again, the military officer goes with a
confident and majestic air into the hall where the drunken,
cheated lads are shut up, and cries in a bold, military voice:
"Your health, my lads! I congratulate you on 'serving the Tzar!'"
And they, poor fellows (someone has given them a hint beforehand),
mutter awkwardly, their voices thick with drink, something to the
effect that they are glad.

Meantime the crowd of fathers, mothers, and wives is standing at
the doors waiting. The women keep their tearful eyes fixed on the
doors. They open at last, and out come the conscripts, unsteady,
but trying to put a good face on it. Here are Piotr and Vania and
Makar trying not to look their dear ones in the face. Nothing is
heard but the wailing of the wives and mothers. Some of the lads
embrace them and weep with them, others make a show of courage,
and others try to comfort them.

The wives and mothers, knowing that they will be left for three,
four, or five years without their breadwinners, weep and rehearse
their woes aloud. The fathers say little. They only utter a
clucking sound with their tongues and sigh mournfully, knowing
that they will see no more of the steady lads they have reared and
trained to help them, that they will come back not the same quiet
hard-working laborers, but for the most part conceited and
demoralized, unfitted for their simple life.

And then all the crowd get into their sledges again and move away
down the street to the taverns and pot-houses, and louder than
ever sounds the medley of singing and sobbing, drunken shouts, and
the wailing of the wives and mothers, the sounds of the accordeon
and oaths. They all turn into the taverns, whose revenues go to
the government, and the drinking bout begins, which stifles their
sense of the wrong which is being done them.

For two or three weeks they go on living at home, and most of that
time they are "jaunting," that is, drinking.

On a fixed day they collect them, drive them together like a flock
of sheep, and begin to train them in the military exercises and
drill. Their teachers are fellows like themselves, only deceived
and brutalized two or three years sooner. The means of
instruction are: deception, stupefaction, blows, and vodka. And
before a year has passed these good, intelligent, healthy-minded
lads will be as brutal beings as their instructors.

"Come, now, suppose your father were arrested and tried to make
his escape?" I asked a young soldier.

"I should run him through with my bayonet," he answered with the
foolish intonation peculiar to soldiers; "and if he made off, I
ought to shoot him," he added, obviously proud of knowing what he
must do if his father were escaping.

And when a good-hearted lad has been brought to a state lower than
that of a brute, he is just what is wanted by those who use him as
an instrument of violence. He is ready; the man has been
destroyed and a new instrument of violence has been created. And
all this is done every year, every autumn, everywhere, through all
Russia in broad daylight in the midst of large towns, where all
may see it, and the deception is so clever, so skillful, that
though all men know the infamy of it in their hearts, and see all
its horrible results, they cannot throw it off and be free.

When one's eyes are opened to this awful deception practiced upon
us, one marvels that the teachers of the Christian religion and of
morals, the instructors of youth, or even the good-hearted and
intelligent parents who are to be found in every society, can
teach any kind of morality in a society in which it is openly
admitted (it is so admitted, under all governments and all
churches) that murder and torture form an indispensable element in
the life of all, and that there must always be special men trained
to kill their fellows, and that any one of us may have to become
such a trained assassin.

How can children, youths, and people generally be taught any kind
of morality--not to speak of teaching in the spirit of
Christianity--side by side with the doctrine that murder is
necessary for the public weal, and therefore legitimate, and that
there are men, of whom each of us may have to be one, whose duty
is to murder and torture and commit all sorts of crimes at the
will of those who are in possession of authority. If this is so,
and one can and ought to murder and torture, there is not, and
cannot be, any kind of moral law, but only the law that might is
right. And this is just how it is. In reality that is the
doctrine--justified to some by the theory of the struggle for
existence--which reigns in our society.

And, indeed, what sort of ethical doctrine could admit the
legitimacy of murder for any object whatever? It is as impossible
as a theory of mathematics admitting that two is equal to three.

There may be a semblance of mathematics admitting that two is
equal to three, but there can be no real science of mathematics.
And there can only be a semblance of ethics in which murder in the
shape of war and the execution of criminals is allowed, but no
true ethics. The recognition of the life of every man as sacred
is the first and only basis of all ethics.

The doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth has been
abrogated by Christianity, because it is the justification of
immorality, and a mere semblance of equity, and has no real
meaning. Life is a value which has no weight nor size, and cannot
be compared to any other, and so there is no sense in destroying a
life for a life. Besides, every social law aims at the
amelioration of man's life. What way, then, can the annihilation
of the life of some men ameliorate men's life? Annihilation of
life cannot be a means of the amelioration of life; it is a
suicidal act.

To destroy another life for the sake of justice is as though a
man, to repair the misfortune of losing one arm, should cut off
the other arm for the sake of equity.

But putting aside the sin of deluding men into regarding the most
awful crime as a duty, putting aside the revolting sin of using
the name and authority of Christ to sanction what he most
condemned, not to speak of the curse on those who cause these
"little ones" to offend--how can people who cherish their own way
of life, their progress, even from the point of view of their
personal security, allow the formation in their midst of an
overwhelming force as senseless, cruel, and destructive as every
government is organized on the basis of an army? Even the most
cruel band of brigands is not so much to be dreaded as such a

The power of every brigand chief is at least so far limited that
the men of his band preserve at least some human liberty, and can
refuse to commit acts opposed to their conscience. But, owing to
the perfection to which the discipline of the army has been
brought, there is no limit to check men who form part of a
regularly organized government. There are no crimes so revolting
that they would not readily be committed by men who form part of a
government or army, at the will of anyone (such as Boulanger,
Napoleon, or Pougachef) who may chance to be at their head.

Often when one sees conscription levies, military drills and
maneuvers, police officers with loaded revolvers, and sentinels at
their posts with bayonets on their rifles; when one hears for
whole days at a time (as I hear it in Hamovniky where I live) the
whistle of balls and the dull thud as they fall in the sand; when
one sees in the midst of a town where any effort at violence in
self-defense is forbidden, where the sale of powder and of
chemicals, where furious driving and practicing as a doctor
without a diploma, and so on, are not allowed; thousands of
disciplined troops, trained to murder, and subject to one man's
will; one asks oneself how can people who prize their security
quietly allow it, and put up with it? Apart from the immorality
and evil effects of it, nothing can possibly be more unsafe. What
are people thinking about? I don't mean now Christians, ministers
of religion, philanthropists, and moralists, but simply people who
value their life, their security, and their comfort. This
organization, we know, will work just as well in one man's hands
as another's. To-day, let us assume, power is in the hands of a
ruler who can be endured, but to-morrow it may be seized by a
Biron, an Elizabeth, a Catherine, a Pougachef, a Napoleon I., or a
Napoleon III.

And the man in authority, endurable to-day, may become a brute to-
morrow, or may be succeeded by a mad or imbecile heir, like the
King of Bavaria or our Paul I.

And not only the highest authorities, but all little satraps
scattered over everywhere, like so many General Baranovs,
governors, police officers even, and commanders of companies, can
perpetrate the most awful crimes before there is time for them to
be removed from office. And this is what is constantly happening.

One involuntarily asks how can men let it go on, not from higher
considerations only, but from regard to their own safety?

The answer to this question is that it is not all people who do
tolerate it (some--the greater proportion--deluded and submissive,
have no choice and have to tolerate anything). It is tolerated by
those who only under such an organization can occupy a position of
profit. They tolerate it, because for them the risks of suffering
from a foolish or cruel man being at the head of the government or
the army are always less than the disadvantages to which they
would be exposed by the destruction of the organization itself.

A judge, a commander of police, a governor, or an officer will
keep his position just the same under Boulanger or the republic,
under Pougachef or Catherine. He will lose his profitable
position for certain, if the existing order of things which
secured it to him is destroyed. And so all these people feel no
uneasiness as to who is at the head of the organization, they will
adapt themselves to anyone; they only dread the downfall of the
organization itself, and that is the reason--though often an
unconscious one--that they support it.

One often wonders why independent people, who are not forced to do
so in any way, the so-called ÉLITE of society, should go into the
army in Russia, England, Germany, Austria, and even France, and
seek opportunities of becoming murderers. Why do even high-
principled parents send their boys to military schools? Why do
mothers buy their children toy helmets, guns, and swords as
playthings? (The peasant's children never play at soldiers, by
the way). Why do good men and even women, who have certainly no
interest in war, go into raptures over the various exploits of
Skobeloff and others, and vie with one another in glorifying them?
Why do men, who are not obliged to do so, and get no fee for it,
devote, like the marshals of nobility in Russia, whole months of
toil to a business physically disagreeable and morally painful--
the enrolling of conscripts? Why do all kings and emperors wear
the military uniform? Why do they all hold military reviews, why
do they organize maneuvers, distribute rewards to the military,
and raise monuments to generals and successful commanders? Why do
rich men of independent position consider it an honor to perform a
valet's duties in attendance on crowned personages, flattering
them and cringing to them and pretending to believe in their
peculiar superiority? Why do men who have ceased to believe in
the superstitions of the mediaeval Church, and who could not
possibly believe in them seriously and consistently, pretend to
believe in and give their support to the demoralizing and
blasphemous institution of the church? Why is it that not only
governments but private persons of the higher classes, try so
jealously to maintain the ignorance of the people? Why do they
fall with such fury on any effort at breaking down religious
superstitions or really enlightening the people? Why do
historians, novelists, and poets, who have no hope of gaining
anything by their flatteries, make heroes of kings, emperors, and
conquerors of past times? Why do men, who call themselves
learned, dedicate whole lifetimes to making theories to prove that
violence employed by authority against the people is not violence
at all, but a special right? One often wonders why a fashionable
lady or an artist, who, one would think, would take no interest in
political or military questions, should always condemn strikes of
working people, and defend war; and should always be found without
hesitation opposed to the one, favorable to the other.

But one no longer wonders when one realizes that in the higher
classes there is an unerring instinct of what tends to maintain
and of what tends to destroy the organization by virtue of which
they enjoy their privileges. The fashionable lady had certainly
not reasoned out that if there were no capitalists and no army to
defend them, her husband would have no fortune, and she could not
have her entertainments and her ball-dresses. And the artist
certainly does not argue that he needs the capitalists and the
troops to defend them, so that they may buy his pictures. But
instinct, replacing reason in this instance, guides them
unerringly. And it is precisely this instinct which leads all
men, with few exceptions, to support all the religious, political,
and economic institutions which are to their advantage.

But is it possible that the higher classes support the existing
order of things simply because it is to their advantage? Cannot
they see that this order of things is essentially irrational, that
it is no longer consistent with the stage of moral development
attained by people, and with public opinion, and that it is
fraught with perils? The governing classes, or at least the good,
honest, and intelligent people of them, cannot but suffer from
these fundamental inconsistencies, and see the dangers with which
they are threatened. And is it possible that all the millions of
the lower classes can feel easy in conscience when they commit
such obviously evil deeds as torture and murder from fear of
punishment? Indeed, it could not be so, neither the former nor
the latter could fail to see the irrationality of their conduct,
if the complexity of government organization did not obscure the
unnatural senselessness of their actions.

So many instigate, assist, or sanction the commission of every one
of these actions that no one who has a hand in them feels himself
morally responsible for it.

It is the custom among assassins to oblige all the witnesses of a
murder to strike the murdered victim, that the responsibility may
be divided among as large a number of people as possible. The
same principle in different forms is applied under the government
organization in the perpetration of the crimes, without which no
government organization could exist. Rulers always try to
implicate as many citizens as possible in all the crimes committed
in their support.

Of late this tendency has been expressed in a very obvious manner
by the obligation of all citizens to take part in legal processes
as jurors, in the army as soldiers, in the local government, or
legislative assembly, as electors or members.

Just as in a wicker basket all the ends are so hidden away that it
is hard to find them, in the state organization the responsibility
for the crimes committed is so hidden away that men will commit
the most atrocious acts without seeing their responsibility for

In ancient times tyrants got credit for the crimes they committed,
but in our day the most atrocious infamies, inconceivable under
the Neros, are perpetrated and no one gets blamed for them.

One set of people have suggested, another set have proposed, a
third have reported, a fourth have decided, a fifth have
confirmed, a sixth have given the order, and a seventh set of men
have carried it out. They hang, they flog to death women, old
men, and innocent people, as was done recently among us in Russia
at the Yuzovsky factory, and is always being done everywhere in
Europe and America in the struggle with the anarchists and all
other rebels against the existing order; they shoot and hang men
by hundreds and thousands, or massacre millions in war, or break
men's hearts in solitary confinement, and ruin their souls in the
corruption of a soldier's life, and no one is responsible.

At the bottom of the social scale soldiers, armed with guns,
pistols, and sabers, injure and murder people, and compel men
through these means to enter the army, and are absolutely
convinced that the responsibility for the actions rests solely on
the officers who command them.

At the top of the scale--the Tzars, presidents, ministers, and
parliaments decree these tortures and murders and military
conscription, and are fully convinced that since they are either
placed in authority by the grace of God or by the society they
govern, which demands such decrees from them, they cannot be held
responsible. Between these two extremes are the intermediary
personages who superintend the murders and other acts of violence,
and are fully convinced that the responsibility is taken off their
shoulders partly by their superiors who have given the order,
partly by the fact that such orders are expected from them by all
who are at the bottom of the scale.

The authority who gives the orders and the authority who executes
them at the two extreme ends of the state organization, meet
together like the two ends of a ring; they support and rest on one
another and inclose all that lies within the ring.

Without the conviction that there is a person or persons who will
take the whole responsibility of his acts, not one soldier would
ever lift a hand to commit a murder or other deed of violence.

Without the conviction that it is expected by the whole people not
a single king, emperor, president, or parliament would order
murders or acts of violence.

Without the conviction that there are persons of a higher grade
who will take the responsibility, and people of a lower grade who
require such acts for their welfare, not one of the intermediate
class would superintend such deeds.

The state is so organized that wherever a man is placed in the
social scale, his irresponsibility is the same. The higher his
grade the more he is under the influence of demands from below,
and the less he is controlled by orders from above, and VICE

All men, then, bound together by state organization, throw the
responsibility of their acts on one another, the peasant soldier
on the nobleman or merchant who is his officer, and the officer on
the nobleman who has been appointed governor, the governor on the
nobleman or son of an official who is minister, the minister on
the member of the royal family who occupies the post of Tzar, and
the Tzar again on all these officials, noblemen, merchants, and
peasants. But that is not all. Besides the fact that men get rid
of the sense of responsibility for their actions in this way, they
lose their moral sense of responsibility also, by the fact that in
forming themselves into a state organization they persuade
themselves and each other so continually, and so indefatigably,
that they are not all equal, but "as the stars apart," that they
come to believe it genuinely themselves. Thus some are persuaded
that they are not simple people like everyone else, but special
people who are to be specially honored. It is instilled into
another set of men by every possible means that they are inferior
to others, and therefore must submit without a murmur to every
order given them by their superiors.

On this inequality, above all, on the elevation of some and the
degradation of others, rests the capacity men have of being blind
to the insanity of the existing order of life, and all the cruelty
and criminality of the deception practiced by one set of men on

Those in whom the idea has been instilled that they are invested
with a special supernatural grandeur and consequence, are so
intoxicated with a sense of their own imaginary dignity that they
cease to feel their responsibility for what they do.

While those, on the other hand, in whom the idea is fostered that
they are inferior animals, bound to obey their superiors in
everything, fall, through this perpetual humiliation, into a
strange condition of stupefied servility, and in this stupefied
state do not see the significance of their actions and lose all
consciousness of responsibility for what they do.

The intermediate class, who obey the orders of their superiors on
the one hand and regard themselves as superior beings on the
other, are intoxicated by power and stupefied by servility at the
same time and so lose the sense of their responsibility.

One need only glance during a review at the commander-in-chief,
intoxicated with self-importance, followed by his retinue, all on
magnificent and gayly appareled horses, in splendid uniforms and
wearing decorations, and see how they ride to the harmonious and
solemn strains of music before the ranks of soldiers, all
presenting arms and petrified with servility. One need only
glance at this spectacle to understand that at such moments, when
they are in a state of the most complete intoxication, commander-
in-chief, soldiers, and intermediate officers alike, would be
capable of committing crimes of which they would never dream under
other conditions.

The intoxication produced by such stimulants as parades, reviews,
religious solemnities, and coronations, is, however, an acute and
temporary condition; but there are other forms of chronic,
permanent intoxication, to which those are liable who have any
kind of authority, from that of the Tzar to that of the lowest
police officer at the street corner, and also those who are in
subjection to authority and in a state of stupefied servility.
The latter, like all slaves, always find a justification for their
own servility, in ascribing the greatest possible dignity and
importance to those they serve.

It is principally through this false idea of inequality, and the
intoxication of power and of servility resulting from it, that men
associated in a state organization are enabled to commit acts
opposed to their conscience without the least scruple or remorse.
Under the influence of this intoxication, men imagine themselves
no longer simply men as they are, but some special beings--
noblemen, merchants, governors, judges, officers, tzars,
ministers, or soldiers--no longer bound by ordinary human duties,
but by other duties far more weighty--the peculiar duties of a
nobleman, merchant, governor, judge, officer, tzar, minister, or

Thus the landowner, who claimed the forest, acted as he did only
because he fancied himself not a simple man, having the same
rights to life as the peasants living beside him and everyone
else, but a great landowner, a member of the nobility, and under
the influence of the intoxication of power he felt his dignity
offended by the peasants' claims. It was only through this
feeling that, without considering the consequences that might
follow, he sent in a claim to be reinstated in his pretended

In the same way the judges, who wrongfully adjudged the forest to
the proprietor, did so simply because they fancied themselves not
simply men like everyone else, and so bound to be guided in
everything only by what they consider right, but, under the
intoxicating influence of power, imagined themselves the
representatives of the justice which cannot err; while under the
intoxicating influence of servility they imagined themselves bound
to carry out to the letter the instructions inscribed in a certain
book, the so-called law. In the same way all who take part in
such an affair, from the highest representative of authority who
signs his assent to the report, from the superintendent presiding
at the recruiting sessions, and the priest who deludes the
recruits, to the lowest soldier who is ready now to fire on his
own brothers, imagine, in the intoxication of power or of
servility, that they are some conventional characters. They do
not face the question that is presented to them, whether or not
they ought to take part in what their conscience judges an evil
act, but fancy themselves various conventional personages--one as
the Tzar, God's anointed, an exceptional being, called to watch
over the happiness of one hundred millions of men; another as the
representative of nobility; another as a priest, who has received
special grace by his ordination; another as a soldier, bound by
his military oath to carry out all he is commanded without

Only under the intoxication of the power or the servility of their
imagined positions could all these people act as they do.

Were not they all firmly convinced that their respective vocations
of tzar, minister, governor, judge, nobleman, landowner,
superintendent, officer, and soldier are something real and
important, not one of them would even think without horror and
aversion of taking part in what they do now.

The conventional positions, established hundreds of years,
recognized for centuries and by everyone, distinguished by special
names and dresses, and, moreover, confirmed by every kind of
solemnity, have so penetrated into men's minds through their
senses, that, forgetting the ordinary conditions of life common to
all, they look at themselves and everyone only from this
conventional point of view, and are guided in their estimation of
their own actions and those of others by this conventional

Thus we see a man of perfect sanity and ripe age, simply because
he is decked out with some fringe, or embroidered keys on his coat
tails, or a colored ribbon only fit for some gayly dressed girl,
and is told that he is a general, a chamberlain, a knight of the
order of St. Andrew, or some similar nonsense, suddenly become
self-important, proud, and even happy, or, on the contrary, grow
melancholy and unhappy to the point of falling ill, because he has
failed to obtain the expected decoration or title. Or what is
still more striking, a young man, perfectly sane in every other
matter, independent and beyond the fear of want, simply because he
has been appointed judicial prosecutor or district commander,
separates a poor widow from her little children, and shuts her up
in prison, leaving her children uncared for, all because the
unhappy woman carried on a secret trade in spirits, and so
deprived the revenue of twenty-five rubles, and he does not feel
the least pang of remorse. Or what is still more amazing; a man,
otherwise sensible and good-hearted, simply because he is given a
badge or a uniform to wear, and told that he is a guard or customs
officer, is ready to fire on people, and neither he nor those
around him regard him as to blame for it, but, on the contrary,
would regard him as to blame if he did not fire. To say nothing
of judges and juries who condemn men to death, and soldiers who
kill men by thousands without the slightest scruple merely because
it has been instilled into them that they are not simply men, but
jurors, judges, generals, and soldiers.

This strange and abnormal condition of men under state
organization is usually expressed in the following words: "As a
man, I pity him; but as guard, judge, general, governor, tzar, or
soldier, it is my duty to kill or torture him." Just as though
there were some positions conferred and recognized, which would
exonerate us from the obligations laid on each of us by the fact
of our common humanity.

So, for example, in the case before us, men are going to murder
and torture the famishing, and they admit that in the dispute
between the peasants and the landowner the peasants are right (all
those in command said as much to me). They know that the peasants
are wretched, poor, and hungry, and the landowner is rich and
inspires no sympathy. Yet they are all going to kill the peasants
to secure three thousand rubles for the landowner, only because at
that moment they fancy themselves not men but governor, official,
general of police, officer, and soldier, respectively, and
consider themselves bound to obey, not the eternal demands of the
conscience of man, but the casual, temporary demands of their
positions as officers or soldiers.

Strange as it may seem, the sole explanation of this astonishing
phenomenon is that they are in the condition of the hypnotized,
who, they say, feel and act like the creatures they are commanded
by the hypnotizer to represent. When, for instance, it is
suggested to the hypnotized subject that he is lame, he begins to
walk lame, that he is blind, and he cannot see, that he is a wild
beast, and he begins to bite. This is the state, not only of
those who were going on this expedition, but of all men who
fulfill their state and social duties in preference to and in
detriment of their human duties.

The essence of this state is that under the influence of one
suggestion they lose the power of criticising their actions, and
therefore do, without thinking, everything consistent with the
suggestion to which they are led by example, precept, or

The difference between those hypnotized by scientific men and
those under the influence of the state hypnotism, is that an
imaginary position is suggested to the former suddenly by one
person in a very brief space of time, and so the hypnotized state
appears to us in a striking and surprising form, while the
imaginary position suggested by state influence is induced slowly,
little by little, imperceptibly from childhood, sometimes during
years, or even generations, and not in one person alone but in a
whole society.

"But," it will be said," at all times, in all societies, the
majority of persons--all the children, all the women absorbed in
the bearing and rearing of the young, all the great mass of the
laboring population, who are under the necessity of incessant and
fatiguing physical labor, all those of weak character by nature,
all those who are abnormally enfeebled intellectually by the
effects of nicotine, alcohol, opium, or other intoxicants--are
always in a condition of incapacity for independent thought, and
are either in subjection to those who are on a higher intellectual
level, or else under the influence of family or social traditions,
of what is called public opinion, and there is nothing unnatural
or incongruous in their subjection."

And truly there is nothing unnatural in it, and the tendency of
men of small intellectual power to follow the lead of those on a
higher level of intelligence is a constant law, and it is owing to
it that men can live in societies and on the same principles at
all. The minority consciously adopt certain rational principles
through their correspondence with reason, while the majority act
on the same principles unconsciously because it is required by
public opinion.

Such subjection to public opinion on the part of the
unintellectual does not assume an unnatural character till the
public opinion is split into two.

But there are times when a higher truth, revealed at first to a
few persons, gradually gains ground till it has taken hold of such
a number of persons that the old public opinion, founded on a
lower order of truths, begins to totter and the new is ready to
take its place, but has not yet been firmly established. It is
like the spring, this time of transition, when the old order of
ideas has not quite broken up and the new has not quite gained a
footing. Men begin to criticise their actions in the light of the
new truth, but in the meantime in practice, through inertia and
tradition, they continue to follow the principles which once
represented the highest point of rational consciousness, but are
now in flagrant contradiction with it.

Then men are in an abnormal, wavering condition, feeling the
necessity of following the new ideal, and yet not bold enough to
break with the old-established traditions.

Such is the attitude in regard to the truth of Christianity not
only of the men in the Toula train, but of the majority of men of
our times, alike of the higher and the lower orders.

Those of the ruling classes, having no longer any reasonable
justification for the profitable positions they occupy, are
forced, in order to keep them, to stifle their higher rational
faculty of loving, and to persuade themselves that their positions
are indispensable. And those of the lower classes, exhausted by
toil and brutalized of set purpose, are kept in a permanent
deception, practiced deliberately and continuously by the higher
classes upon them.

Only in this way can one explain the amazing contradictions with
which our life is full, and of which a striking example was
presented to me by the expedition I met on the 9th of September;
good, peaceful men, known to me personally, going with untroubled
tranquillity to perpetrate the most beastly, senseless, and vile
of crimes. Had not they some means of stifling their conscience,
not one of them would be capable of committing a hundredth part of
such a villainy.

It is not that they have not a conscience which forbids them from
acting thus, just as, even three or four hundred years ago, when
people burnt men at the stake and put them to the rack they had a
conscience which prohibited it; the conscience is there, but it
has been put to sleep--in those in command by what the
psychologists call auto-suggestion; in the soldiers, by the direct
conscious hypnotizing exerted by the higher classes.

Though asleep, the conscience is there, and in spite of the
hypnotism it is already speaking in them, and it may awake.

All these men are in a position like that of a man under
hypnotism, commanded to do something opposed to everything he
regards as good and rational, such as to kill his mother or his
child. The hypnotized subject feels himself bound to carry out
the suggestion--he thinks he cannot stop--but the nearer he gets
to the time and the place of the action, the more the benumbed
conscience begins to stir, to resist, and to try to awake. And no
one can say beforehand whether he will carry out the suggestion or
not; which will gain the upper hand, the rational conscience or
the irrational suggestion. It all depends on their relative

That is just the case with the men in the Toula train and in
general with everyone carrying out acts of state violence in our

There was a time when men who set out with the object of murder
and violence, to make an example, did not return till they had
carried out their object, and then, untroubled by doubts or
scruples, having calmly flogged men to death, they returned home
and caressed their children, laughed, amused themselves, and
enjoyed the peaceful pleasures of family life. In those days it
never struck the landowners and wealthy men who profited by these
crimes, that the privileges they enjoyed had any direct connection
with these atrocities. But now it is no longer so. Men know now,
or are not far from knowing, what they are doing and for what
object they do it. They can shut their eyes and force their
conscience to be still, but so long as their eyes are opened and
their conscience undulled, they must all--those who carry out and
those who profit by these crimes alike--see the import of them.
Sometimes they realize it only after the crime has been
perpetrated, sometimes they realize it just before its
perpetration. Thus those who commanded the recent acts of
violence in Nijni-Novgorod, Saratov, Orel, and the Yuzovsky
factory realized their significance only after their perpetration,
and now those who commanded and those who carried out these crimes
are ashamed before public opinion and their conscience. I have
talked to soldiers who had taken part in these crimes, and they
always studiously turned the conversation off the subject, and
when they spoke of it it was with horror and bewilderment. There
are cases, too, when men come to themselves just before the
perpetration of the crime. Thus I know the case of a sergeant-
major who had been beaten by two peasants during the repression of
disorder and had made a complaint. The next day, after seeing the
atrocities perpetrated on the other peasants, he entreated the
commander of his company to tear up his complaint and let off the
two peasants. I know cases when soldiers, commanded to fire, have
refused to obey, and I know many cases of officers who have
refused to command expeditions for torture and murder. So that
men sometimes come to their senses long before perpetrating the
suggested crime, sometimes at the very moment before perpetrating
it, sometimes only afterward.

The men traveling in the Toula train were going with the object of
killing and injuring their fellow-creatures, but none could tell
whether they would carry out their object or not. However obscure
his responsibility for the affair is to each, and however strong
the idea instilled into all of them that they are not men, but
governors, officials, officers, and soldiers, and as such beings
can violate every human duty, the nearer they approach the place
of the execution, the stronger their doubts as to its being right,
and this doubt will reach its highest point when the very moment
for carrying it out has come.

The governor, in spite of all the stupefying effect of his
surroundings, cannot help hesitating when the moment comes to give
final decisive command. He knows that the action of the Governor
of Orel has called down upon him the disapproval of the best
people, and he himself, influenced by the public opinion of the
circles in which he moves, has more than once expressed his
disapprobation of him. He knows that the prosecutor, who ought to
have come, flatly refused to have anything to do with it, because
he regarded it as disgraceful. He knows, too, that there may be
changes any day in the government, and that what was a ground for
advancement yesterday may be the cause of disgrace to-morrow. And
he knows that there is a press, if not in Russia, at least abroad,
which may report the affair and cover him with ignominy forever.
He is already conscious of a change in public opinion which
condemns what was formerly a duty. Moreover, he cannot feel fully
assured that his soldiers will at the last moment obey him. He is
wavering, and none can say beforehand what he will do.

All the officers and functionaries who accompany him experience in
greater or less degree the same emotions. In the depths of their
hearts they all know that what they are doing is shameful, that to
take part in it is a discredit and blemish in the eyes of some
people whose opinion they value. They know that after murdering
and torturing the defenseless, each of them will be ashamed to
face his betrothed or the woman he is courting. And besides, they
too, like the governor, are doubtful whether the soldiers'
obedience to orders can be reckoned on. What a contrast with the
confident air they all put on as they sauntered about the station
and platform! Inwardly they were not only in a state of suffering
but even of suspense. Indeed they only assumed this bold and
composed manner to conceal the wavering within. And this feeling
increased as they drew near the scene of action.

And imperceptible as it was, and strange as it seems to say so,
all that mass of lads, the soldiers, who seemed so submissive,
were in precisely the same condition.

These are not the soldiers of former days, who gave up the natural
life of industry and devoted their whole existence to debauchery,
plunder, and murder, like the Roman legionaries or the warriors of
the Thirty Years' War, or even the soldiers of more recent times
who served for twenty-five years in the army. They have mostly
been only lately taken from their families, and are full of the
recollections of the good, rational, natural life they have left
behind them.

All these lads, peasants for the most part, know what is the
business they have come about; they know that the landowners
always oppress their brothers the peasants, and that therefore it
is most likely the same thing here. Moreover, a majority of them
can now read, and the books they read are not all such as exalt a
military life; there are some which point out its immorality.
Among them are often free-thinking comrades--who have enlisted
voluntarily--or young officers of liberal ideas, and already the
first germ of doubt has been sown in regard to the unconditional
legitimacy and glory of their occupation.

It is true that they have all passed through that terrible,
skillful education, elaborated through centuries, which kills all
initiative in a man, and that they are so trained to mechanical
obedience that at the word of command: "Fire!--All the line!--
Fire!" and so on, their guns will rise of themselves and the
habitual movements will be performed. But "Fire!" now does not
mean shooting into the sand for amusement, it means firing on
their broken-down, exploited fathers and brothers whom they see
there in the crowd, with women and children shouting and waving
their arms. Here they are--one with his scanty beard and patched
coat and plaited shoes of reed, just like the father left at home
in Kazan or Riazan province; one with gray beard and bent back,
leaning on a staff like the old grandfather; one, a young fellow
in boots and a red shirt, just as he was himself a year ago--he,
the soldier who must fire upon him. There, too, a woman in reed
shoes and PANYOVA, just like the mother left at home.

Is it possible they must fire on them? And no one knows what each
soldier will do at the last minute. The least word, the slightest
allusion would be enough to stop them.

At the last moment they will all find themselves in the position
of a hypnotized man to whom it has been suggested to chop a log,
who coming up to what has been indicated to him as a log, with the
ax already lifted to strike, sees that it is not a log but his
sleeping brother. He may perform the act that has been suggested
to him, and he may come to his senses at the moment of performing
it. In the same way all these men may come to themselves in time
or they may go on to the end.

If they do not come to themselves, the most fearful crime will be
committed, as in Orel, and then the hypnotic suggestion under
which they act will be strengthened in all other men. If they do
come to themselves, not only this terrible crime will not be
perpetrated, but many also who hear of the turn the affair has
taken will be emancipated from the hypnotic influence in which
they were held, or at least will be nearer being emancipated from

Even if a few only come to themselves, and boldly explain to the
others all the wickedness of such a crime, the influence of these
few may rouse the others to shake off the controlling suggestion,
and the atrocity will not be perpetrated.

More than that, if a few men, even of those who are not taking
part in the affair but are only present at the preparations for
it, or have heard of such things being done in the past, do not
remain indifferent but boldly and plainly express their
detestation of such crimes to those who have to execute them, and
point out to them all the senselessness, cruelty, and wickedness
of such acts, that alone will be productive of good.

That was what took place in the instance before us. It was enough
for a few men, some personally concerned in the affair and others
simply outsiders, to express their disapproval of floggings that
had taken place elsewhere, and their contempt and loathing for
those who had taken part in inflicting them, for a few persons in
the Toula case to express their repugnance to having any share in
it; for a lady traveling by the train, and a few other bystanders
at the station, to express to those who formed the expedition
their disgust at what they were doing; for one of the commanders
of a company, who was asked for troops for the restoration of
order, to reply that soldiers ought not to be butchers--and thanks
to these and a few other seemingly insignificant influences
brought to bear on these hypnotized men, the affair took a
completely different turn, and the troops, when they reached the
place, did not inflict any punishment, but contented themselves
with cutting down the forest and giving it to the landowner.

Had not a few persons had a clear consciousness that what they
were doing was wrong, and consequently influenced one another in
that direction, what was done at Orel would have taken place at
Toula. Had this consciousness been still stronger, and had the
influence exerted been therefore greater than it was, it might
well have been that the governor with his troops would not even
have ventured to cut down the forest and give it to the landowner.

Had that consciousness been stronger still, it might well have
been that the governor would not have ventured to go to the scene
of action at all; even that the minister would not have ventured
to form this decision or the Tzar to ratify it.

All depends, therefore, on the strength of the consciousness of
Christian truth on the part of each individual man.

And, therefore, one would have thought that the efforts of all men
of the present day who profess to wish to work for the welfare of
humanity would have been directed to strengthening this
consciousness of Christian truth in themselves and others.

But, strange to say, it is precisely those people who profess most
anxiety for the amelioration of human life, and are regarded as
the leaders of public opinion, who assert that there is no need to
do that, and that there are other more effective means for the
amelioration of men's condition. They affirm that the
amelioration of human life is effected not by the efforts of
individual men, to recognize and propagate the truth, but by the
gradual modification of the general conditions of life, and that
therefore the efforts of individuals should be directed to the
gradual modification of external conditions for the better. For
every advocacy of a truth inconsistent with the existing order by
an individual is, they maintain, not only useless but injurious,
since in provokes coercive measures on the part of the
authorities, restricting these individuals from continuing any
action useful to society. According to this doctrine all
modifications in human life are brought about by precisely the
same laws as in the life of the animals.

So that, according to this doctrine, all the founders of
religions, such as Moses and the prophets, Confucius, Lao-Tse,
Buddha, Christ, and others, preached their doctrines and their
followers accepted them, not because they loved the truth, but
because the political, social, and above all economic conditions
of the peoples among whom these religions arose were favorable for
their origination and development.

And therefore the chief efforts of the man who wishes to serve
society and improve the condition of humanity ought, according to
this doctrine, to be directed not to the elucidation and
propagation of truth, but to the improvement of the external
political, social, and above all economic conditions. And the
modification of these conditions is partly effected by serving the
government and introducing liberal and progressive principles into
it, partly in promoting the development of industry and the
propagation of socialistic ideas, and most of all by the diffusion
of science. According to this theory it is of no consequence
whether you profess the truth revealed to you, and therefore
realize it in your life, or at least refrain from committing
actions opposed to the truth, such as serving the government and
strengthening its authority when you regard it as injurious,
profiting by the capitalistic system when you regard it as wrong,
showing veneration for various ceremonies which you believe to be
degrading superstitions, giving support to the law when you
believe it to be founded on error, serving as a soldier, taking
oaths, and lying, and lowering yourself generally. It is useless
to refrain from all that; what is of use is not altering the
existing forms of life, but submitting to them against your own
convictions, introducing liberalism into the existing
institutions, promoting commerce, the propaganda of socialism, and
the triumphs of what is called science, and the diffusion of
education. According to this theory one can remain a landowner,
merchant, manufacturer, judge, official in government pay, officer
or soldier, and still be not only a humane man, but even a
socialist and revolutionist.

Hypocrisy, which had formerly only a religious basis in the
doctrine of original sin, the redemption, and the Church, has in
our day gained a new scientific basis and has consequently caught
in its nets all those who had reached too high a stage of
development to be able to find support in religious hypocrisy. So
that while in former days a man who professed the religion of the
Church could take part in all the crimes of the state, and profit
by them, and still regard himself as free from any taint of sin,
so long as he fulfilled the external observances of his creed,
nowadays all who do not believe in the Christianity of the Church,
find similar well-founded irrefutable reasons in science for
regarding themselves as blameless and even highly moral in spite
of their participation in the misdeeds of government and the
advantages they gain from them.

A rich landowner--not only in Russia, but in France, England,
Germany, or America--lives on the rents exacted; from the people
living on his land, and robs these generally poverty-stricken
people of all he can get from them. This man's right of property
in the land rests on the fact that at every effort on the part of
the oppressed people, without his consent, to make use of the land
he considers his, troops are called out to subject them to
punishment and murder. One would have thought that it was obvious
that a man living in this way was an evil, egoistic creature and
could not possibly consider himself a Christian or a liberal. One
would have supposed it evident that the first thing such a man
must do, if he wishes to approximate to Christianity or
liberalism, would be to cease to plunder and ruin men by means of
acts of state violence in support of his claim to the land. And
so it would be if it were not for the logic of hypocrisy, which
reasons that from a religious point of view possession or non-
possession of land is of no consequence for salvation, and from
the scientific point of view, giving up the ownership of land is a
useless individual renunciation, and that the welfare of mankind
is not promoted in that way, but by a gradual modification of
external forms. And so we see this man, without the least trouble
of mind or doubt that people will believe in his sincerity,
organizing an agricultural exhibition, or a temperance society, or
sending some soup and stockings by his wife or children to three
old women, and boldly in his family, in drawing rooms, in
committees, and in the press, advocating the Gospel or
humanitarian doctrine of love for one's neighbor in general and
the agricultural laboring population in particular whom he is
continually exploiting and oppressing. And other people who are
in the same position as he believe him, commend him, and solemnly
discuss with him measures for ameliorating the condition of the
working-class, on whose exploitation their whole life rests,
devising all kinds of possible methods for this, except the one
without which all improvement of their condition is impossible,
i. e., refraining from taking from them the land necessary for
their subsistence. (A striking example of this hypocrisy was the
solicitude displayed by the Russian landowners last year, their
efforts to combat the famine which they had caused, and by which
they profited, selling not only bread at the highest price, but
even potato haulm at five rubles the dessiatine (about 2 and four-
fifths acres) for fuel to the freezing peasants.)

Or take a merchant whose whole trade--like all trade indeed--is
founded on a series of trickery, by means of which, profiting by
the ignorance or need of others, he buys goods below their value
and sells them again above their value. One would have fancied it
obvious that a man whose whole occupation was based on what in his
own language is called swindling, if it is done under other
conditions, ought to be ashamed of his position, and could not any
way, while he continues a merchant, profess himself a Christian or
a liberal.

But the sophistry of hypocrisy reasons that the merchant can pass
for a virtuous man without giving up his pernicious course of
action; a religious man need only have faith and a liberal man
need only promote the modification of external conditions--the
progress of industry. And so we see the merchant (who often goes
further and commits acts of direct dishonesty, selling adulterated
goods, using false weights and measures, and trading in products
injurious to health, such as alcohol and opium) boldly regarding
himself and being regarded by others, so long as he does not
directly deceive his colleagues in business, as a pattern of
probity and virtue. And if he spends a thousandth part of his
stolen wealth on some public institution, a hospital or museum or
school, then he is even regarded as the benefactor of the people
on the exploitation and corruption of whom his whole prosperity
has been founded: if he sacrifices, too, a portion of his ill-
gotten gains on a Church and the poor, then he is an exemplary

A manufacturer is a man whose whole income consists of value
squeezed out of the workmen, and whose whole occupation is based
on forced, unnatural labor, exhausting whole generations of men.
It would seem obvious that if this man professes any Christian or
liberal principles, he must first of all give up ruining human
lives for his own profit. But by the existing theory he is
promoting industry, and he ought not to abandon his pursuit. It
would even be injuring society for him to do so. And so we see
this man, the harsh slave-driver of thousands of men, building
almshouses with little gardens two yards square for the workmen
broken down in toiling for him, and a bank, and a poorhouse, and a
hospital--fully persuaded that he has amply expiated in this way
for all the human lives morally and physically ruined by him--and
calmly going on with his business, taking pride in it.

Any civil, religious, or military official in government employ,
who serves the state from vanity, or, as is most often the case,
simply for the sake of the pay wrung from the harassed and
toilworn working classes (all taxes, however raised, always fall
on labor), if he, as is very seldom the case, does not directly
rob the government in the usual way, considers himself, and is
considered by his fellows, as a most useful and virtuous member of

A judge or a public prosecutor knows that through his sentence or
his prosecution hundreds or thousands of poor wretches are at once
torn from their families and thrown into prison, where they may go
out of their minds, kill themselves with pieces of broken glass,
or starve themselves; he knows that they have wives and mothers
and children, disgraced and made miserable by separation from
them, vainly begging for pardon for them or some alleviation of
their sentence, and this judge or this prosecutor is so hardened
in his hypocrisy that he and his fellows and his wife and his
household are all fully convinced that he may be a most exemplary
man. According to the metaphysics of hypocrisy it is held that he
is doing a work of public utility. And this man who has ruined
hundreds, thousands of men, who curse him and are driven to
desperation by his action, goes to mass, a smile of shining
benevolence on his smooth face, in perfect faith in good and in
God, listens to the Gospel, caresses his children, preaches moral
principles to them, and is moved by imaginary sufferings.

All these men and those who depend on them, their wives, tutors,
children, cooks, actors, jockeys, and so on, are living on the
blood which by one means or another, through one set of blood-
suckers or another, is drawn out of the working class, and every
day their pleasures cost hundreds or thousands of days of labor.
They see the sufferings and privations of these laborers and their
children, their aged, their wives, and their sick, they know the
punishments inflicted on those who resist this organized plunder,
and far from decreasing, far from concealing their luxury, they
insolently display it before these oppressed laborers who hate
them, as though intentionally provoking them with the pomp of
their parks and palaces, their theaters, hunts, and races. At the
same time they continue to persuade themselves and others that
they are all much concerned about the welfare of these working
classes, whom they have always trampled under their feet, and on
Sundays, richly dressed, they drive in sumptuous carriages to the
houses of God built in very mockery of Christianity, and there
listen to men, trained to this work of deception, who in white
neckties or in brocaded vestments, according to their
denomination, preach the love for their neighbor which they all
gainsay in their lives. And these people have so entered into
their part that they seriously believe that they really are what
they pretend to be.

The universal hypocrisy has so entered into the flesh and blood of
all classes of our modern society, it has reached such a pitch
that nothing in that way can rouse indignation. Hypocrisy in the
Greek means "acting," and acting--playing a part--is always
possible. The representatives of Christ give their blessing to
the ranks of murderers holding their guns loaded against their
brothers; "for prayer" priests, ministers of various Christian
sects are always present, as indispensably as the hangman, at
executions, and sanction by their presence the compatibility of
murder with Christianity (a clergyman assisted at the attempt at
murder by electricity in America)--but such facts cause no one any

There was recently held at Petersburg an international exhibition
of instruments of torture, handcuffs, models of solitary cells,
that is to say instruments of torture worse than knouts or rods,
and sensitive ladies and gentlemen went and amused themselves by
looking at them.

No one is surprised that together with its recognition of liberty,
equality, and fraternity, liberal science should prove the
necessity of war, punishment, customs, the censure, the regulation
of prostitution, the exclusion of cheap foreign laborers, the
hindrance of emigration, the justifiableness of colonization,
based on poisoning and destroying whole races of men called
savages, and so on.

People talk of the time when all men shall profess what is called
Christianity (that is, various professions of faith hostile to one
another), when all shall be well-fed and clothed, when all shall
be united from one end of the world to the other by telegraphs and
telephones, and be able to communicate by balloons, when all the
working classes are permeated by socialistic doctrines, when the
Trades Unions possess so many millions of members and so many
millions of rubles, when everyone is educated and all can read
newspapers and learn all the sciences.

But what good or useful thing can come of all these improvements,
if men do not speak and act in accordance with what they believe
to be the truth?

The condition of men is the result of their disunion. Their
disunion results from their not following the truth which is one,
but falsehoods which are many. The sole means of uniting men is
their union in the truth. And therefore the more sincerely men
strive toward the truth, the nearer they get to unity.

But how can men be united in the truth or even approximate to it,
if they do not even express the truth they know, but hold that
there is no need to do so, and pretend to regard as truth what
they believe to be false?

And therefore no improvement is possible so long as men are
hypocritical and hide the truth from themselves, so long as they
do not recognize that their union and therefore their welfare is
only possible in the truth, and do not put the recognition and
profession of the truth revealed to them higher than everything

All the material improvements that religious and scientific men
can dream of may be accomplished; all men may accept Christianity,
and all the reforms desired by the Bellamys may be brought about
with every possible addition and improvement, but if the hypocrisy
which rules nowadays still exists, if men do not profess the truth
they know, but continue to feign belief in what they do not
believe and veneration for what they do not respect, their
condition will remain the same, or even grow worse and worse. The
more men are freed from privation; the more telegraphs,
telephones, books, papers, and journals there are; the more means
there will be of diffusing inconsistent lies and hypocrisies, and
the more disunited and consequently miserable will men become,
which indeed is what we see actually taking place.

All these material reforms may be realized, but the position of
humanity will not be improved. But only let each man, according
to his powers, at once realize in his life the truth he knows, or
at least cease to support the falsehoods he is supporting in the
place of the truth, and at once, in this year 1893, we should see
such reforms as we do not dare to hope for within a century--the
emancipation of men and the reign of truth upon earth.

Not without good reason was Christ's only harsh and threatening
reproof directed against hypocrites and hypocrisy. It is not
theft nor robbery nor murder nor fornication, but falsehood, the
special falsehood of hypocrisy, which corrupts men, brutalizes
them and makes them vindictive, destroys all distinction between
right and wrong in their conscience, deprives them of what is the
true meaning of all real human life, and debars them from all
progress toward perfection.

Those who do evil through ignorance of the truth provoke sympathy
with their victims and repugnance for their actions, they do harm
only to those they attack; but those who know the truth and do
evil masked by hypocrisy, injure themselves and their victims, and
thousands of other men as well who are led astray by the falsehood
with which the wrongdoing is disguised.

Thieves, robbers, murderers, and cheats, who commit crimes
recognized by themselves and everyone else as evil, serve as an
example of what ought not to be done, and deter others from
similar crimes. But those who commit the same thefts, robberies,
murders, and other crimes, disguising them under all kinds of
religious or scientific or humanitarian justifications, as all
landowners, merchants, manufacturers, and government officials do,
provoke others to imitation, and so do harm not only to those who
are directly the victims of their crimes, but to thousands and
millions of men whom they corrupt by obliterating their sense of
the distinction between right and wrong.

A single fortune gained by trading in goods necessary to the
people or in goods pernicious in their effects, or by financial
speculations, or by acquiring land at a low price the value of
which is increased by the needs of the population, or by an
industry ruinous to the health and life of those employed in it,
or by military or civil service of the state, or by any employment
which trades on men's evil instincts--a single fortune acquired in
any of these ways, not only with the sanction, but even with the
approbation of the leading men in society, and masked with an
ostentation of philanthropy, corrupts men incomparably more than
millions of thefts and robberies committed against the recognized
forms of law and punishable as crimes.

A single execution carried out by prosperous educated men
uninfluenced by passion, with the approbation and assistance of
Christian ministers, and represented as something necessary and
even just, is infinitely more corrupting and brutalizing to men
than thousands of murders committed by uneducated working people
under the influence of passion. An execution such as was proposed
by Joukovsky, which would produce even a sentiment of religious
emotion in the spectators, would be one of the most perverting
actions imaginable. (SEE vol. iv. of the works of Joukovsky.)

Every war, even the most humanely conducted, with all its ordinary
consequences, the destruction of harvests, robberies, the license
and debauchery, and the murder with the justifications of its
necessity and justice, the exaltation and glorification of
military exploits, the worship of the flag, the patriotic
sentiments, the feigned solicitude for the wounded, and so on,
does more in one year to pervert men's minds than thousands of
robberies, murders, and arsons perpetrated during hundreds of
years by individual men under the influence of passion.

The luxurious expenditure of a single respectable and so-called
honorable family, even within the conventional limits, consuming
as it does the produce of as many days of labor as would suffice
to provide for thousands living in privation near, does more to
pervert men's minds than thousands of the violent orgies of coarse
tradespeople, officers, and workmen of drunken and debauched
habits, who smash up glasses and crockery for amusement.

One solemn religious procession, one service, one sermon from the
altar-steps or the pulpit, in which the preacher does not believe,
produces incomparably more evil than thousands of swindling
tricks, adulteration of food, and so on.

We talk of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. But the hypocrisy of
our society far surpasses the comparatively innocent hypocrisy of
the Pharisees. They had at least an external religious law, the
fulfillment of which hindered them from seeing their obligations
to their neighbors. Moreover, these obligations were not nearly
so clearly defined in their day. Nowadays we have no such
religious law to exonerate us from our duties to our neighbors (I
am not speaking now of the coarse and ignorant persons who still
fancy their sins can be absolved by confession to a priest or by
the absolution of the Pope). On the contrary, the law of the
Gospel which we all profess in one form or another directly
defines these duties. Besides, the duties which had then been
only vaguely and mystically expressed by a few prophets have now
been so clearly formulated, have become such truisms, that they
are repeated even by schoolboys and journalists. And so it would
seem that men of to-day cannot pretend that they do not know these

A man of the modern world who profits by the order of things based
on violence, and at the same time protests that he loves his
neighbor and does not observe what he is doing in his daily life
to his neighbor, is like a brigand who has spent his life in
robbing men, and who, caught at last, knife in hand, in the very
act of striking his shrieking victim, should declare that he had
no idea that what he was doing was disagreeable to the man he had
robbed and was prepared to murder. Just as this robber and
murderer could not deny what was evident to everyone, so it would
seem that a man living upon the privations of the oppressed
classes cannot persuade himself and others that he desires the
welfare of those he plunders, and that he does not know how the
advantages he enjoys are obtained.

It is impossible to convince ourselves that we do not know that
there are a hundred thousand men in prison in Russia alone to
guarantee the security of our property and tranquillity, and that
we do not know of the law tribunals in which we take part, and
which, at our initiative, condemn those who have attacked our
property or our security to prison, exile, or forced labor,
whereby men no worse than those who condemn them are ruined and
corrupted; or that we do not know that we only possess all that we
do possess because it has been acquired and is defended for us by
murder and violence.

We cannot pretend that we do not see the armed policeman who
marches up and down beneath our windows to guarantee our security
while we eat our luxurious dinner, or look at the new piece at the
theater, or that we are unaware of the existence of the soldiers
who will make their appearance with guns and cartridges directly
our property is attacked.

We know very well that we are only allowed to go on eating our
dinner, to finish seeing the new play, or to enjoy to the end the
ball, the Christmas fete, the promenade, the races or, the hunt,
thanks to the policeman's revolver or the soldier's rifle, which
will shoot down the famished outcast who has been robbed of his
share, and who looks round the corner with covetous eyes at our
pleasures, ready to interrupt them instantly, were not the
policeman and the soldier there prepared to run up at our first
call for help.

And therefore just as a brigand caught in broad daylight in the
act cannot persuade us that he did not lift his knife in order to
rob his victim of his purse, and had no thought of killing him, we
too, it would seem, cannot persuade ourselves or others that the
soldiers and policemen around us are not to guard us, but only for
defense against foreign foes, and to regulate traffic and fêtes
and reviews; we cannot persuade ourselves and others that we do
not know that men do not like dying of hunger, bereft of the right
to gain their subsistence from the earth on which they live; that
they do not like working underground, in the water, or in stifling
heat, for ten to fourteen hours a day, at night in factories to
manufacture objects for our pleasure. One would imagine it
impossible to deny what is so obvious. Yet it is denied.

Still, there are, among the rich, especially among the young, and
among women, persons whom I am glad to meet more and more
frequently, who, when they are shown in what way and at what cost
their pleasures are purchased, do not try to conceal the truth,
but hiding their heads in their hands, cry: "Ah! don't speak of
that. If it is so, life is impossible." But though there are
such sincere people who even though they cannot renounce their
fault, at least see it, the vast majority of the men of the modern
world have so entered into the parts they play in their hypocrisy
that they boldly deny what is staring everyone in the face.

"All that is unjust," they say; "no one forces the people to work
for the landowners and manufacturers. That is an affair of free
contract. Great properties and fortunes are necessary, because
they provide and organize work for the working classes. And labor
in the factories and workshops is not at all the terrible thing
you make it out to be. Even if there are some abuses in
factories, the government and the public are taking steps to
obviate them and to make the labor of the factory workers much
easier, and even agreeable. The working classes are accustomed to
physical labor, and are, so far, fit for nothing else. The
poverty of the people is not the result of private property in
land, nor of capitalistic oppression, but of other causes: it is
the result of the ignorance, brutality, and intemperance of the
people. And we men in authority who are striving against this
impoverishment of the people by wise legislation, we capitalists
who are combating it by the extension of useful inventions, we
clergymen by religious instruction, and we liberals by the
formation of trades unions, and the diffusion of education, are in
this way increasing the prosperity of the people without changing
our own positions. We do not want all to be as poor as the poor;
we want all to be as rich as the rich. As for the assertion that
men are ill treated and murdered to force them to work for the
profit of the rich, that is a sophism. The army is only called
out against the mob, when the people, in ignorance of their own
interests, make disturbances and destroy the tranquillity
necessary for the public welfare. In the same way, too, it is
necessary to keep in restraint the malefactors for whom the
prisons and gallows are established. We ourselves wish to
suppress these forms of punishment and are working in that

Hypocrisy in our day is supported on two sides: by false religion
and by false science. And it has reached such proportions that if
we were not living in its midst, we could not believe that men
could attain such a pitch of self-deception. Men of the present
day have come into such an extraordinary condition, their hearts
are so hardened, that seeing they see not, hearing they do not
hear, and understand not.

Men have long been living in antagonism to their conscience. If
it were not for hypocrisy they could not go on living such a life.
This social organization in opposition to their conscience only
continues to exist because it is disguised by hypocrisy.

And the greater the divergence between actual life and men's
conscience, the greater the extension of hypocrisy. But even
hypocrisy has its limits. And it seems to me that we have reached
those limits in the present day.

Every man of the present day with the Christian principles
assimilated involuntarily in his conscience, finds himself in
precisely the position of a man asleep who dreams that he is
obliged to do something which even in his dream he knows he ought
not to do. He knows this in the depths of his conscience, and all
the same he seems unable to change his position; he cannot stop
and cease doing what he ought not to do. And just as in a dream,
his position becoming more and more painful, at last reaches such
a pitch of intensity that he begins sometimes to doubt the reality
of what is passing and makes a moral effort to shake off the
nightmare which is oppressing him.

This is just the condition of the average man of our Christian
society. He feels that all that he does himself and that is done
around him is something absurd, hideous, impossible, and opposed
to his conscience; he feels that his position is becoming more and
more unendurable and reaching a crisis of intensity.

It is not possible that we modern men, with the Christian sense of
human dignity and equality permeating us soul and body, with our
need for peaceful association and unity between nations, should
really go on living in such a way that every joy, every
gratification we have is bought by the sufferings, by the lives of
our brother men, and moreover, that we should be every instant
within a hair's-breadth of falling on one another, nation against
nation, like wild beasts, mercilessly destroying men's lives and
labor, only because some benighted diplomatist or ruler says or
writes some stupidity to another equally benighted diplomatist or

It is impossible. Yet every man of our day sees that this is so
and awaits the calamity. And the situation becomes more and more

And as the man who is dreaming does not believe that what appears
to him can be truly the reality and tries to wake up to the actual
real world again, so the average man of modern days cannot in the
bottom of his heart believe that the awful position in which he is
placed and which is growing worse and worse can be the reality,
and tries to wake up to a true, real life, as it exists in his

And just as the dreamer need only make a moral effort and ask
himself, "Isn't it a dream?" and the situation which seemed to him
so hopeless will instantly disappear, and he will wake up to
peaceful and happy reality, so the man of the modern world need
only make a moral effort to doubt the reality presented to him by
his own hypocrisy and the general hypocrisy around him, and to ask
himself, "Isn't it all a delusion?" and he will at once, like the
dreamer awakened, feel himself transported from an imaginary and
dreadful world to the true, calm, and happy reality.

And to do this a man need accomplish no great feats or exploits.
He need only make a moral effort.

But can a man make this effort?

According to the existing theory so essential to support
hypocrisy, man is not free and cannot change his life.

"Man cannot change his life, because he is not free. He is not
free, because all his actions are conditioned by previously
existing causes. And whatever the man may do there are always
some causes or other through which he does these or those acts,
and therefore man cannot be free and change his life," say the
champions of the metaphysics of hypocrisy. And they would be
perfectly right if man were a creature without conscience and
incapable of moving toward the truth; that is to say, if after
recognizing a new truth, man always remained at the same stage of
moral development. But man is a creature with a conscience and
capable of attaining a higher and higher degree of truth. And
therefore even if man is not free as regards performing these or
those acts because there exists a previous cause for every act,
the very causes of his acts, consisting as they do for the man of
conscience of the recognition of this or that truth, are within
his own control.

So that though man may not be free as regards the performance of
his actions, he is free as regards the foundation on which they
are performed. Just as the mechanician who is not free to modify
the movement of his locomotive when it is in motion, is free to
regulate the machine beforehand so as to determine what the
movement is to be.

Whatever the conscious man does, he acts just as he does, and not
otherwise, only because he recognizes that to act as he is acting
is in accord with the truth, or because he has recognized it at
some previous time, and is now only through inertia, through
habit, acting in accordance with his previous recognition of

In any case, the cause of his action is not to be found in any
given previous fact, but in the consciousness of a given relation
to truth, and the consequent recognition of this or that fact as a
sufficient basis for action.

Whether a man eats or does not eat, works or rests, runs risks or
avoids them, if he has a conscience he acts thus only because he
considers it right and rational, because he considers that to act
thus is in harmony with truth, or else because he has made this
reflection in the past.

The recognition or non-recognition of a certain truth depends not
on external causes, but on certain other causes within the man
himself. So that at times under external conditions apparently
very favorable for the recognition of truth, one man will not
recognize it, and another, on the contrary, under the most
unfavorable conditions will, without apparent cause, recognize it.
As it is said in the Gospel, "No man can come unto me, except the
Father which hath sent me draw him." That is to say, the
recognition of truth, which is the cause of all the manifestations
of human life, does not depend on external phenomena, but on
certain inner spiritual characteristics of the man which escape
our observation.

And therefore man, though not free in his acts, always feels
himself free in what is the motive of his acts--the recognition or
non-recognition of truth. And he feels himself independent not
only of facts external to his own personality, but even of his own

Thus a man who under the influence of passion has committed an act
contrary to the truth he recognizes, remains none the less free to
recognize it or not to recognize it; that is, he can by refusing
to recognize the truth regard his action as necessary and
justifiable, or he may recognize the truth and regard his act as
wrong and censure himself for it.

Thus a gambler or a drunkard who does not resist temptation and
yields to his passion is still free to recognize gambling and
drunkenness as wrong or to regard them as a harmless pastime. In
the first case even if he does not at once get over his passion,
he gets the more free from it the more sincerely he recognizes the
truth about it; in the second case he will be strengthened in his
vice and will deprive himself of every possibility of shaking it

In the same way a man who has made his escape alone from a house
on fire, not having had the courage to save his friend, remains
free, recognizing the truth that a man ought to save the life of
another even at the risk of his own, to regard his action as bad
and to censure himself for it, or, not recognizing this truth, to
regard his action as natural and necessary and to justify it to
himself. In the first case, if he recognizes the truth in spite
of his departure from it, he prepares for himself in the future a
whole series of acts of self-sacrifice necessarily flowing from
this recognition of the truth; in the second case, a whole series
of egoistic acts.

Not that a man is always free to recognize or to refuse to
recognize every truth. There are truths which he has recognized
long before or which have been handed down to him by education and
tradition and accepted by him on faith, and to follow these truths
has become a habit, a second nature with him; and there are
truths, only vaguely, as it were distantly, apprehended by him.
The man is not free to refuse to recognize the first, nor to
recognize the second class of truths. But there are truths of a
third kind, which have not yet become an unconscious motive of
action, but yet have been revealed so clearly to him that he
cannot pass them by, and is inevitably obliged to do one thing or
the other, to recognize or not to recognize them. And it is in
regard to these truths that the man's freedom manifests itself.

Every man during his life finds himself in regard to truth in the
position of a man walking in the darkness with light thrown before
him by the lantern he carries. He does not see what is not yet
lighted up by the lantern; he does not see what he has passed
which is hidden in the darkness; but at every stage of his journey
he sees what is lighted up by the lantern, and he can always
choose one side or the other of the road.

There are always unseen truths not yet revealed to the man's
intellectual vision, and there are other truths outlived,
forgotten, and assimilated by him, and there are also certain
truths that rise up before the light of his reason and require his
recognition. And it is in the recognition or non-recognition of
these truths that what we call his freedom is manifested.

All the difficulty and seeming insolubility of the question of the
freedom of man results from those who tried to solve the question
imagining man as stationary in his relation to the truth.

Man is certainly not free if we imagine him stationary, and if we
forget that the life of a man and of humanity is nothing but a
continual movement from darkness into light, from a lower stage of
truth to a higher, from a truth more alloyed with errors to a
truth more purified from them.

Man would not be free if he knew no truth at all, and in the same
way he would not be free and would not even have any idea of
freedom if the whole truth which was to guide him in life had been
revealed once for all to him in all its purity without any
admixture of error.

But man is not stationary in regard to truth, but every individual
man as he passes through life, and humanity as a whole in the same
way, is continually learning to know a greater and greater degree
of truth, and growing more and more free from error.

And therefore men are in a threefold relation to truth. Some
truths have been so assimilated by them that they have become the
unconscious basis of action, others are only just on the point of
being revealed to him, and a third class, though not yet
assimilated by him, have been revealed to him with sufficient
clearness to force him to decide either to recognize them or to
refuse to recognize them.

These, then, are the truths which man is free to recognize or to
refuse to recognize.

The liberty of man does not consist in the power of acting
independently of the progress of life and the influences arising
from it, but in the capacity for recognizing and acknowledging the
truth revealed to him, and becoming the free and joyful
participator in the eternal and infinite work of God, the life of
the world; or on the other hand for refusing to recognize the
truth, and so being a miserable and reluctant slave dragged
whither he has no desire to go.

Truth not only points out the way along which human life ought to
move, but reveals also the only way along which it can move. And
therefore all men must willingly or unwillingly move along the way
of truth, some spontaneously accomplishing the task set them in
life, others submitting involuntarily to the law of life. Man's
freedom lies in the power of this choice.

This freedom within these narrow limits seems so insignificant to
men that they do not notice it. Some--the determinists--consider
this amount of freedom so trifling that they do not recognize it
at all. Others--the champions of complete free will--keep their
eyes fixed on their hypothetical free will and neglect this which
seemed to them such a trivial degree of freedom.

This freedom, confined between the limits of complete ignorance of
the truth and a recognition of a part of the truth, seems hardly
freedom at all, especially since, whether a man is willing or
unwilling to recognize the truth revealed to him, he will be
inevitably forced to carry it out in life.

A horse harnessed with others to a cart is not free to refrain
from moving the cart. If he does not move forward the cart will
knock him down and go on dragging him with it, whether he will or
not. But the horse is free to drag the cart himself or to be
dragged with it. And so it is with man.

Whether this is a great or small degree of freedom in comparison
with the fantastic liberty we should like to have, it is the only
freedom that really exists, and in it consists the only happiness
attainable by man.

And more than that, this freedom is the sole means of
accomplishing the divine work of the life of the world.

According to Christ's doctrine, the man who sees the significance
of life in the domain in which it is not free, in the domain of
effects, that is, of acts, has not the true life. According to
the Christian doctrine, that man is living in the truth who has
transported his life to the domain in which it is free--the domain
of causes, that is, the knowledge and recognition, the profession
and realization in life of revealed truth.

Devoting his life to works of the flesh, a man busies himself with
actions depending on temporary causes outside himself. He himself
does nothing really, he merely seems to be doing something. In
reality all the acts which seem to be his are the work of a higher
power, and he is not the creator of his own life, but the slave of
it. Devoting his life to the recognition and fulfillment of the
truth revealed to him, he identifies himself with the source of
universal life and accomplishes acts not personal, and dependent
on conditions of space and time, but acts unconditioned by
previous causes, acts which constitute the causes of everything
else, and have an infinite, unlimited significance.

"The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it
by force." (Matt. xi. 12.)

It is this violent effort to rise above external conditions to the
recognition and realization of truth by which the kingdom of
heaven is taken, and it is this effort of violence which must and
can be made in our times.

Men need only understand this, they need only cease to trouble
themselves about the general external conditions in which they are
not free, and devote one-hundredth part of the energy they waste
on those material things to that in which they are free, to the
recognition and realization of the truth which is before them, and
to the liberation of themselves and others from deception and
hypocrisy, and, without effort or conflict, there would be an end
at once of the false organization of life which makes men
miserable, and threatens them with worse calamities in the future.
And then the kingdom of God would be realized, or at least that
first stage of it for which men are ready now by the degree of
development of their conscience.

Just as a single shock may be sufficient, when a liquid is
saturated with some salt, to precipitate it at once in crystals, a
slight effort may be perhaps all that is needed now that the truth
already revealed to men may gain a mastery over hundreds,
thousands, millions of men, that a public opinion consistent with
conscience may be established, and through this change of public
opinion the whole order of life may be transformed. And it
depends upon us to make this effort.

Let each of us only try to understand and accept the Christian
truth which in the most varied forms surrounds us on all sides and
forces itself upon us; let us only cease from lying and pretending
that we do not see this truth or wish to realize it, at least in
what it demands from us above all else; only let us accept and
boldly profess the truth to which we are called, and we should
find at once that hundreds, thousands, millions of men are in the
same position as we, that they see the truth as we do, and dread
as we do to stand alone in recognizing it, and like us are only
waiting for others to recognize it also.

Only let men cease to be hypocrites, and they would at once see
that this cruel social organization, which holds them in bondage,
and is represented to them as something stable, necessary, and
ordained of God, is already tottering and is only propped up by
the falsehood of hypocrisy, with which we, and others like us,
support it.

But if this is so, if it is true that it depends on us to break
down the existing organization of life, have we the right to
destroy it, without knowing clearly what we shall set up in its
place? What will become of human society when the existing order
of things is at an end?

"What shall we find the other side of the walls of the world we
are abandoning?

"Fear will come upon us--a void, a vast emptiness, freedom--how
are we to go forward not knowing whither, how face loss, not
seeing hope of gain? . . . If Columbus had reasoned thus he
would never have weighed anchor. It was madness to set off
upon the ocean, not knowing the route, on the ocean on which no
one had sailed, to sail toward a land whose existence was
doubtful. By this madness he discovered a new world.
Doubtless if the peoples of the world could simply transfer
themselves from one furnished mansion to another and better
one--it would make it much easier; but unluckily there is no
one to get humanity's new dwelling ready for it. The future is
even worse than the ocean--there is nothing there--it will be
what men and circumstances make it.

"If you are content with the old world, try to preserve it, it
is very sick and cannot hold out much longer. But if you
cannot bear to live in everlasting dissonance between your
beliefs and your life, thinking one thing and doing another,
get out of the mediaeval whited sepulchers, and face your
fears. I know very well it is not easy.

"It is not a little thing to cut one's self off from all to
which a man has been accustomed from his birth, with which he
has grown up to maturity. Men are ready for tremendous
sacrifices, but not for those which life demands of them. Are
they ready to sacrifice modern civilization, their manner of
life, their religion, the received conventional morality?

"Are we ready to give up all the results we have attained with
such effort, results of which we have been boasting for three
centuries; to give up every convenience and charm of our
existence, to prefer savage youth to the senile decay of
civilization, to pull down the palace raised for us by our
ancestors only for the pleasure of having a hand in the
founding of a new house, which will doubtless be built long
after we are gone?" (Herzen, vol. v. p. 55.)

Thus wrote almost half a century ago the Russian writer, who with
prophetic insight saw clearly then, what even the most
unreflecting man sees to-day, the impossibility, that is, of life
continuing on its old basis, and the necessity of establishing new
forms of life.

It is clear now from the very simplest, most commonplace point of
view, that it is madness to remain under the roof of a building
which cannot support its weight, and that we must leave it. And
indeed it is difficult to imagine a position more wretched than
that of the Christian world to-day, with its nations armed against
one another, with its constantly increasing taxation to maintain
its armies, with the hatred of the working class for the rich ever
growing more intense, with the Damocles sword of war forever
hanging over the heads of all, ready every instant to fall,
certain to fall sooner or later.

Hardly could any revolution be more disastrous for the great mass
of the population than the present order or rather disorder of our
life, with its daily sacrifices to exhausting and unnatural toil,
to poverty, drunkenness, and profligacy, with all the horrors of
the war that is at hand, which will swallow up in one year more
victims than all the revolutions of the century.

What will become of humanity if each of us performs the duty God
demands of us through the conscience implanted within us? Will
not harm come if, being wholly in the power of a master, I carry
out, in the workshop erected and directed by him, the orders he
gives me, strange though they may seem to me who do not know the
Master's final aims?

But it is not even this question "What will happen?" that agitates
men when they hesitate to fulfill the Master's will. They are
troubled by the question how to live without those habitual
conditions of life which we call civilization, culture, art, and
science. We feel ourselves all the burdensomeness of life as it
is; we see also that this organization of life must inevitably be
our ruin, if it continues. At the same time we want the
conditions of our life which arise out of this organization--our
civilization, culture, art, and science--to remain intact. It is
as though a man, living in an old house and suffering from cold
and all sorts of inconvenience in it, knowing, too, that it is on
the point of falling to pieces, should consent to its being
rebuilt, but only on the condition that he should not be required
to leave it: a condition which is equivalent to refusing to have
it rebuilt at all.

"But what if I leave the house and give up every convenience for a
time, and the new house is not built, or is built on a different
plan so that I do not find in it the comforts to which I am
accustomed?" But seeing that the materials and the builders are
here, there is every likelihood that the new house will on the
contrary be better built than the old one. And at the same time,
there is not only the likelihood but the certainty that the old
house will fall down and crush those who remain within it.
Whether the old habitual conditions of life are supported, or
whether they are abolished and altogether new and better
conditions arise; in any case, there is no doubt we shall be
forced to leave the old forms of life which have become impossible
and fatal, and must go forward to meet the future.

"Civilization, art, science, culture, will disappear!"

Yes, but all these we know are only various manifestations of
truth, and the change that is before us is only to be made for the
sake of a closer attainment and realization of truth. How then
can the manifestations of truth disappear through our realizing
it? These manifestations will be different, higher, better, but
they will not cease to be. Only what is false in them will be
destroyed; all the truth there was in them will only be stronger
and more flourishing.

Take thought, oh, men, and have faith in the Gospel, in whose
teaching is your happiness. If you do not take thought, you will
perish just as the men perished, slain by Pilate, or crushed by
the tower of Siloam; as millions of men have perished, slayers and
slain, executing and executed, torturers and tortured alike, and
as the man foolishly perished, who filled his granaries full and
made ready for a long life and died the very night that he planned
to begin his life. Take thought and have faith in the Gospel,
Christ said eighteen hundred years ago, and he says it with even
greater force now that the calamities foretold by him have come to
pass, and the senselessness of our life has reached the furthest
point of suffering and madness.

Nowadays, after so many centuries of fruitless efforts to make our
life secure by the pagan organization of life, it must be evident
to everyone that all efforts in that direction only introduce
fresh dangers into personal and social life, and do not render it
more secure in any way.

Whatever names we dignify ourselves with, whatever uniforms we
wear, whatever priests we anoint ourselves before, however many
millions we possess, however many guards are stationed along our
road, however many policemen guard our wealth, however many so-
called criminals, revolutionists, and anarchists we punish,
whatever exploits we have performed, whatever states we may have
founded, fortresses and towers we may have erected--from Babel to
the Eiffel Tower--there are two inevitable conditions of life,
confronting all of us, which destroy its whole meaning; (1) death,
which may at any moment pounce upon each of us; and (2) the
transitoriness of all our works, which so soon pass away and leave
no trace. Whatever we may do--found companies, build palaces and
monuments, write songs and poems--it is all not for long time.
Soon it passes away, leaving no trace. And therefore, however we
may conceal it from ourselves, we cannot help seeing that the
significance of our life cannot lie in our personal fleshly
existence, the prey of incurable suffering and inevitable death,
nor in any social institution or organization. Whoever you may be
who are reading these lines, think of your position and of your
duties--not of your position as landowner, merchant, judge,
emperor, president, minister, priest, soldier, which has been
temporarily allotted you by men, and not of the imaginary duties
laid on you by those positions, but of your real positions in
eternity as a creature who at the will of Someone has been called
out of unconsciousness after an eternity of non-existence to which
you may return at any moment at his will. Think of your duties--
not your supposed duties as a landowner to your estate, as a
merchant to your business, as emperor, minister, or official to
the state, but of your real duties, the duties that follow from
your real position as a being called into life and endowed with
reason and love.

Are you doing what he demands of you who has sent you into the
world, and to whom you will soon return? Are you doing what he
wills? Are you doing his will, when as landowner or manufacturer
you rob the poor of the fruits of their toil, basing your life on
this plunder of the workers, or when, as judge or governor, you
ill treat men, sentence them to execution, or when as soldiers you
prepare for war, kill and plunder?

You will say that the world is so made that this is inevitable,
and that you do not do this of your own free will, but because you
are forced to do so. But can it be that you have such a strong
aversion to men's sufferings, ill treatment, and murder, that you
have such an intense need of love and co-operation with your
fellows that you see clearly that only by the recognition of the
equality of all, and by mutual services, can the greatest possible
happiness be realized; that your head and your heart, the faith
you profess, and even science itself tell you the same thing, and
yet that in spite of it all you can be forced by some confused and
complicated reasoning to act in direct opposition to all this;
that as landowner or capitalist you are bound to base your whole
life on the oppression of the people; that as emperor or president
you are to command armies, that is, to be the head and commander
of murderers; or that as government official you are forced to
take from the poor their last pence for rich men to profit and
share them among themselves; or that as judge or juryman you could
be forced to sentence erring men to ill treatment and death
because the truth was not revealed to them, or above all, for that
is the basis of all the evil, that you could be forced to become a
soldier, and renouncing your free will and your human sentiments,
could undertake to kill anyone at the command of other men?

It cannot be.

Even if you are told that all this is necessary for the
maintenance of the existing order of things, and that this social
order with its pauperism, famines, prisons, gallows, armies, and
wars is necessary to society; that still greater disasters would
ensue if this organization were destroyed; all that is said only
by those who profit by this organization, while those who suffer
from it--and they are ten times as numerous--think and say quite
the contrary. And at the bottom of your heart you know yourself
that it is not true, that the existing organization has outlived
its time, and must inevitably be reconstructed on new principles,
and that consequently there is no obligation upon you to sacrifice
your sentiments of humanity to support it.

Above all, even if you allow that this organization is necessary,
why do you believe it to be your duty to maintain it at the cost
of your best feelings? Who has made you the nurse in charge of
this sick and moribund organization? Not society nor the state
nor anyone; no one has asked you to undertake this; you who fill
your position of landowner, merchant, tzar, priest, or soldier
know very well that you occupy that position by no means with the
unselfish aim of maintaining the organization of life necessary to
men's happiness, but simply in your own interests, to satisfy your
own covetousness or vanity or ambition or indolence or cowardice.
If you did not desire that position, you would not be doing your
utmost to retain it. Try the experiment of ceasing to commit the
cruel, treacherous, and base actions that you are constantly
committing in order to retain your position, and you will lose it
at once. Try the simple experiment, as a government official, of
giving up lying, and refusing to take a part in executions and
acts of violence; as a priest, of giving up deception; as a
soldier, of giving up murder; as landowner or manufacturer, of
giving up defending your property by fraud and force; and you will
at once lose the position which you pretend is forced upon you,
and which seems burdensome to you.

A man cannot be placed against his will in a situation opposed to
his conscience.

If you find yourself in such a position it is not because it is
necessary to anyone whatever, but simply because you wish it. And
therefore knowing that your position is repugnant to your heart
and your head, and to your faith, and even to the science in which
you believe, you cannot help reflecting upon the question whether
in retaining it, and above all trying to justify it, you are doing
what you ought to do.

You might risk making a mistake if you had time to see and
retrieve your fault, and if you ran the risk for something of some
value. But when you know beyond all doubt that you may disappear
any minute, without the least possibility either for yourself or
those you draw after you into your error, of retrieving the
mistake, when you know that whatever you may do in the external
organization of life it will all disappear as quickly and surely
as you will yourself, and will leave no trace behind, it is clear
that you have no reasonable ground for running the risk of such a
fearful mistake.

It would be perfectly simple and clear if you did not by your
hypocrisy disguise the truth which has so unmistakably been
revealed to us.

Share all that you have with others, do not heap up riches, do not
steal, do not cause suffering, do not kill, do not unto others
what you would not they should do unto you, all that has been said
not eighteen hundred, but five thousand years ago, and there could
be no doubt of the truth of this law if it were not for hypocrisy.
Except for hypocrisy men could not have failed, if not to put the
law in practice, at least to recognize it, and admit that it is
wrong not to put it in practice.

But you will say that there is the public good to be considered,
and that on that account one must not and ought not to conform to
these principles; for the public good one may commit acts of
violence and murder. It is better for one man to die than that
the whole people perish, you will say like Caiaphas, and you sign
the sentence of death of one man, of a second, and a third; you
load your gun against this man who is to perish for the public
good, you imprison him, you take his possessions. You say that
you commit these acts of cruelty because you are a part of the
society and of the state; that it is your duty to serve them, and
as landowner, judge, emperor, or soldier to conform to their laws.
But besides belonging to the state and having duties created by
that position, you belong also to eternity and to God, who also
lays duties upon you. And just as your duties to your family and
to society are subordinate to your superior duties to the state,
in the same way the latter must necessarily be subordinated to the
duties dictated to you by the eternal life and by God. And just
as it would be senseless to pull up the telegraph posts for fuel
for a family or society and thus to increase its welfare at the
expense of public interests, in the same way it is senseless to do
violence, to execute, and to murder to increase the welfare of the
nation, because that is at the expense of the interests of

Your duties as a citizen cannot but be subordinated to the
superior obligations of the eternal life of God, and cannot be in
opposition to them. As Christ's disciples said eighteen centuries
ago: "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you
more than unto God, judge ye" (Acts iv. 19); and, "We ought to
obey God rather than men" (Acts v. 29).

It is asserted that, in order that the unstable order of things,
established in one corner of the world for a few men, may not be
destroyed, you ought to commit acts of violence which destroy the
eternal and immutable order established by God and by reason. Can
that possibly be?

And therefore you cannot but reflect on your position as
landowner, manufacturer, judge, emperor, president, minister,
priest, and soldier, which is bound up with violence, deception,
and murder, and recognize its unlawfulness.

I do not say that if you are a landowner you are bound to give up
your lands immediately to the poor; if a capitalist or
manufacturer, your money to your workpeople; or that if you are
Tzar, minister, official, judge, or general, you are bound to
renounce immediately the advantages of your position; or if a
soldier, on whom all the system of violence is based, to refuse
immediately to obey in spite of all the dangers of

If you do so, you will be doing the best thing possible. But it
may happen, and it is most likely, that you will not have the
strength to do so. You have relations, a family, subordinates and
superiors; you are under an influence so powerful that you cannot
shake it off; but you can always recognize the truth and refuse to
tell a lie about it. You need not declare that you are remaining
a landowner, manufacturer, merchant, artist, or writer because it
is useful to mankind; that you are governor, prosecutor, or tzar,
not because it is agreeable to you, because you are used to it,
but for the public good; that you continue to be a soldier, not
from fear of punishment, but because you consider the army
necessary to society. You can always avoid lying in this way to
yourself and to others, and you ought to do so; because the one
aim of your life ought to be to purify yourself from falsehood and
to confess the truth. And you need only do that and your
situation will change directly of itself.

There is one thing, and only one thing, in which it is granted to
you to be free in life, all else being beyond your power: that is
to recognize and profess the truth.

And yet simply from the fact that other men as misguided and as
pitiful creatures as yourself have made you soldier, tzar,
landowner, capitalist, priest, or general, you undertake to commit
acts of violence obviously opposed to your reason and your heart,
to base your existence on the misfortunes of others, and above
all, instead of filling the one duty of your life, recognizing and
professing the truth, you feign not to recognize it and disguise
it from yourself and others.

And what are the conditions in which you are doing this? You who
may die any instant, you sign sentences of death, you declare war,
you take part in it, you judge, you punish, you plunder the
working people, you live luxuriously in the midst of the poor, and
teach weak men who have confidence in you that this must be so,
that the duty of men is to do this, and yet it may happen at the
moment when you are acting thus that a bacterium or a bull may
attack you and you will fall and die, losing forever the chance of
repairing the harm you have done to others, and above all to
yourself, in uselessly wasting a life which has been given you
only once in eternity, without having accomplished the only thing
you ought to have done.

However commonplace and out of date it may seem to us, however
confused we may be by hypocrisy and by the hypnotic suggestion
which results from it, nothing can destroy the certainty of this
simple and clearly defined truth. No external conditions can
guarantee our life, which is attended with inevitable sufferings
and infallibly terminated by death, and which consequently can
have no significance except in the constant accomplishment of what
is demanded by the Power which has placed us in life with a sole
certain guide--the rational conscience.

That is why that Power cannot require of us what is irrational and
impossible: the organization of our temporary external life, the
life of society or of the state. That Power demands of us only
what is reasonable, certain, and possible: to serve the kingdom of
God, that is, to contribute to the establishment of the greatest
possible union between all living beings--a union possible only in
the truth; and to recognize and to profess the revealed truth,
which is always in our power.

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and
all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. vi. 33.)

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity by contributing to
the establishment of the kingdom of God, which can only be done by
the recognition and profession of the truth by every man.

"The kingdom of God cometh not with outward show; neither shall
they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is
within you." (Luke xvii. 20, 21.)


Leo Tolstoy

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