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The Last Days of Tolstoy


Written by V. G. Chertkov

Translated by Nathalie A. Duddington


From the Author's Introduction:

"So much misunderstanding, misrepresentation, partiality and personal prejudice has accumulated in connection with the last years and days of Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy's life, that before starting upon this first detailed account of his "going away" I find myself compelled, at the risk of wearying the reader's patience, to begin with a somewhat lengthy introduction. ...."

Vladimir Grigoryevich Chertkov (also transliterated as Chertkoff, Tchertkoff or Tschertkow (3 November [O.S. 22 October] 1854–November 9, 1936) was the editor of the works of Leo Tolstoy, and one of the most prominent Tolstoyans. After the revolutions of 1917, Chertkov was instrumental in creating the United Council of Religious Communities and Groups, which eventually came to administer the Russian SFSR's conscientious objection program.


Public opinion demands that facts with regard to Tolstoy's going away should be revealed—The conditions of Tolstoy's life were a test of his consistency—Why is it necessary to publish the circumstances of his going away?—The importance of Tolstoy's example—Misrepresentation of the causes of his going away—The moral duty of his friends to defend his memory—My task.



(Letter to H. Dosev)

Dosev's mistake, common to many—Tolstoy's true motives—His independence of the opinion of men—The limit of his yielding—In order to go away he had to feel the necessity for doing so—It was easier to go than to remain—Tolstoy's sufferings at Yasnaya Polyana (from his intimate diary)—The mistake of passing censure upon his life at Yasnaya—He fulfilled that which God required of him—His love for his wife and his confidence in her—His self-sacrifice for her sake—We must believe in his conscientiousness—The heroism of his life in his family.



Chapter I: The conditions of life at Yasnaya Polyana. Wealthy surroundings—False position in the eyes of men—Spiritual break with his wife.

Chapter II: Change for the worse in his wife's attitude to him. Change for the worse in the conditions of life at Yasnaya with regard to the management of the estate, to the relations with the peasants, and in his wife's attitude to him—Tolstoy gives up landed property—His readiness to go away and the causes of his delay in making a final decision.

Chapter III: The history of the will. Tolstoy's attitude to property in general and to literary property in particular—His differences with his wife on that score—Tolstoy's firmness in renouncing the copyright of his works—His wife's opposition—Short history of the drawing up of the will.

Chapter IV: Intervals of rest—in other people's houses. Mental and physical revival—Creative work.

Chapter V: The last period. Summer of 1910—Period of suffering that undermined his health.

Chapter VI: Mental agony. Tolstoy's disappointment at the impossibility of awakening his wife's spiritual consciousness—Recognition that his further stay at Yasnaya Polyana is unnecessary—The harm that his staying there did to Sofya Andreyevna.

Chapter VII: The night of Tolstoy's going away. The last touch—Preparations and departure—Entries in the diary.

Chapter VIII: Tolstoy's relation to his wife. Letters to her in 1897 and after his departure—Reasons why he did not wish to see her.

Chapter IX: The motives that decided his going away. The last straw—Mistaken judgments about Tolstoy's going away.

Chapter X: The significance of Tolstoy's going away and of the whole spiritual achievement of his life. The one desire of his life, to do the will of God—The inevitability of the end.



The growth of his inner consciousness during the second period of his life. Extracts from the diary for 1884—Differences with his wife—On the border of despair—Feeling of solitude—Memory of his mother and his longing for her (1906)—Striving after God. Extracts from diary and letters from 1889-1910—Family trials—The cross of his life, till the end—His words about Sofya Andreyevna and consciousness of his guilt (from a conversation with, and the letters to Tchertkoff)—The mystery of another's soul—Tolstoy's thoughts that give a general meaning to his interpretation of suffering ("The Reading-Cycle," "The Way of Life").

Appendix I:

The inevitable one-sidedness of quotations made from Tolstoy's writings for the purposes of the present narrative—His many-sided personality—His power of controlling his sufferings and his natural joy of life—The attainment of the true good.

Appendix II:

My personal attitude to Tolstoy's wife—The experience and observation of thirty years—My task is not to censure anyone but to vindicate truth.

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