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Tolstoi's response to terror and revolutionary violence.

Nonviolence and Terror: Introduction of the Problem for Tolstoi

Given Tolstoi's firm reputation as a radical thinker, the scarcity of literature treating his involvement with radical ideologies other than his own, and with terrorism in particular, is striking and yet inevitable to a degree. Tolstoi never developed in the corpus of his works a strict theory of terrorism as distinct from the problems of historical and social violence. Clarification of interrelationships among these "furies" in Tolstoi's thought is overdue. (1) The burden of this article is to trace the development of Tolstoi's views on the problem of political violence and terrorism, including his literary representations of terrorism and terrorists and his rhetorical strategies. The closing section historicizes Tolstoi's views on terror in order to situate his position relative to those of his contemporaries and to more recent theories.

Due to its constant shifts between the tactics of retaliation and deterrence, which adjust endlessly to current political realities, the very possibility of a single exhaustive definition of terror remains a moot point, so where is Tolstoi's place in it? (2) Present-day interpreters argue that, since the sources of terrorism are political and involve holding, seizing, or destroying power, the classic cases of terror involve premeditated destruction of individuals, governments, or whole nations within the sphere of power through various forms of "coercive intimidation." (3) Therefore, there are two primary varieties of terror: state ("legitimate" or "top-down") terror and "illegitimate" or "bottom-up" terror directed against the state. (4) At the end of the 19th century, Russian dictionaries were possibly the first to define terror in its two major forms. Florentii Pavlenkov's Entsiklopedicheskii slovar' (Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1899) achieved a debatable notoriety thanks to its recognition of terror as an inalienable part of Russian history since 1878, when Vera Zasulich attempted to kill St. Petersburg mayor Fedor Trepov in January and Sergei Stepniak-Kravchinskii assassinated the head of Russia's secret police, Nikolai Mezentsev. Pavlenkov defined terrorists as those who "acknowledge the murder of government officials to be a means of political struggle." (5) In his article on the French revolutionary terror of 1793, written for the Brokgauz and Efron encyclopedic dictionary in 1901, the conservative historian Vladimir Ger'e did not acknowledge the Russian link to terror and stressed the panic of those engaged in its daily routines, panic about being a possible instrument of extreme violence (its subject and object). (6)

The contradictory definitions only attracted Tolstoi as a thinker and artist. A month and a half in the year prior to his death, from January through February 1909, illustrates Tolstoi's profound intellectual and artistic involvement in the problem of radical politics. In that period, the authorities sent a warning deputation of officials and clerics to his estate after banning his essays against the government and revolutionary violence and in response to his endless intercessions on behalf of court-martialed revolutionaries. (7) At the end of January, Tolstoi read the novel Andrei Kozhukhav by the late writer-terrorist Stepniak-Kravchinskii and the serialized "Letters from the Schlisselburg Fortress" by Nikolai Morozov, the author of the seminal brochure "Terroristicheskaia bor'ba" (The Terrorist Struggle, 1880), who had been Tolstoi's acquaintance since 1908. (8) In February, Tolstoi read old issues of the banned revolutionary periodical Byloe, the first of its kind in Russia devoted to the study of revolutionary movements from the Decembrists to the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRs) (57: 274).

Even more eloquent than the busy calendar above are drafts of Tolstoi's last two fictional plots (1909), both exploring revolutionary terrorism and left unrealized at Tolstoi's death. These are "Pavel Kudriash" and "Ieromonakh Iliodor" (The Hieromonk Iliodor). Although Tolstoi was dissatisfied with the progress of his plot about a working-class youth, Pavel, who joins the expropriation unit of an SR combat organization out of a desire to be near learned revolutionary activists, Tolstoi felt greatly inspired by his second plot. In it, the monk Iliodor loses faith during the Eucharist, leaves the Church, joins the revolution, takes the blame for a high-profile assassination--a likely regicide--goes to prison, and dies on the cross flanked by two "robbers" or revolutionary brethren (37: 380). Such a scandalous conclusion drafted by Tolstoi to his narrative and, incidentally, to his literary career has all but escaped the attention of commentators but is only a typical reflection of Tolstoi's creative throes in embracing terror.

Before 1878, however, Tolstoi wrote little about revolutions or revolutionaries, something quite uncharacteristic for 19th-century Russian and European writers. (9) Although a contemporary of the European revolutions of 1848, 1861-63 in Poland, and 1869-70, Tolstoi passed them over in silence in the years when they occurred. Perhaps the most politically apathetic of the regular contributors to the progressive journal Sovremennik, where he placed his first published works in the 1850s, from the 1840s through the 1860s Tolstoi was a cautious liberal who feared the revolution of the third estate, did not disapprove of serfdom, yet fiercely rejected any form of state interference and control. (10) As an artist, he was fascinated with the force of violence. In the years of his military service (1852-56), Tolstoi studied the type of violence that commanders unleashed against the enemy and forms of insurrection against the powers issuing orders. He did this by calibrating the army by its degree of susceptibility to violence (4: 287-88, 92).

Tolstoi's first known evaluation of contemporary extremism has survived in fragments of The Nihilist (1866), a short dramatic spoof written half a year after Dmitrii Karakozov's failed attempt to shoot Alexander II in April 1866. Unbeknown to the landowner Semion Ivanovich, his wife solicits the help of her nephew's tutor Khrisanf to give her husband a surprise for his birthday. Khrisanf's brash talk about liberty, as well as his conspiratorial meetings with Semion's wife in the janitor's closet, provoke suspicion among the old-world domestics. They are sure that the bomb will explode soon. Alas, the vigilant Semion forces his wife to confess the crime, so the package with the "bomb" is unwrapped before it should be, and the dramatic effect explodes by not exploding. The old hanger-on of the family, Fiona, the first to identify the terrible nihilist in Khrisanf, is also the first to get the joke: "Good lad, nihilist! Shot us right through!" (7: 323). Compared to Dostoevskii's passionate anxiety about the threat to the monarchy expressed in unequivocal responses to the Karakozov event in feuilletons and his numerous condemnations of "nihilist filth" (nigiliatina), Tolstoi may appear to underestimate the seriousness of the issue. (11) Yet let us not fail to notice just how much of what is psychologically essential to terror this exploratory and humorous sketch manages to convey: that power is wielded through fear--the fear of expectation in the face of the ultimate unknown, the fear that when the secret reveals itself as intended, it should announce itself with warlike violence. (12) Furthermore, Tolstoi shows us escape routes from this fear, namely ludic self-expression and the doomed fanaticism of human agency, of those who "set the device" and those who undo it, and their ultimate capitulation to the resistant powers of chance or authority. The connection of terror and violence to power is the secret spring of The Nihilist.

However few and disorganized before 1878, Tolstoi's pronouncements on political violence all deal with a certain form of insurgency versus sovereign authority, the concept often used to justify terror. (13) In the notebook of 1835, the seven-and-a-half-year-old Tolstoi seemed most fascinated by how the stronger party (the imperial eagle, "tsar of the birds") kills the weaker heckler ("the boy who teased him") (1: 213). In the 1860s, Tolstoi was exploring the possibility that violence might be nothing more than the playing out of the zoological law in the life of humanity when--in setting to kill their like during wars, revolutions, or periodic historical turbulence--men behave like bees, "when they exterminate each other around the fall" (16: 14). In his brilliant, but unfinished note "O nasilii" (On Violence, 1861-62), Tolstoi draws a line between the violence of the political measure and zoological violence, which is not of human making. He distinguishes between the primordial force (sila) and the simulation of this force by the state (nasilie), the violence to which the majority acquiesces out of a sense of self-protection from the primordial force. According to this insight, long predating that of Elias Canetti, this force alone is the real source of terror, since it alone achieves the goals of "premeditated destruction" and "coercive intimidation" of which we spoke earlier in citing contemporary definitions of terror. (14)

Like Joseph de Maistre, Tolstoi also thinks that during revolutions, "the chain that binds man is shortened abruptly," that be is "carried along by an unknown force," and that his field of action "is cut down, and his means deceive him." (15) In War and Peace, Tolstoi arrives at the contradictory hypothesis that power is the aggregate of wills transferred to one person, a sovereign or a regicide, the hand that dispenses red or white terror, writes its theory, unlocks the guillotine blade or stabs the unsuspecting dictator. Pierre Bezukhov's inability to assassinate Napoleon because it is "only a mental stratagem" (14: 299-300), rather than a realized historical necessity, applies the same reasoning as his inability to explain why in the year of Great Terror, "they killed those who had killed [Louis XVI] also for something" (II/I/5; SS 5: 70). (16) Tolstoi's initial interest in the future Decembrist Pierre in 1861-63 is his ability to justify red terror by bold acts "for the general benefit" (I/I/3; SS 4: 27-28) and defend them with nothing more than a helpless smile and a pretext that he did not know "whom to answer" when pressed to do so. At the conclusion of the book, Tolstoi tests Pierre by the standard of moral responsibility for holding power or effecting its change. Pierre's hypothetical act of regicide in Epilogue 1 of War and Peace as a member of the Decembrist Union of Welfare is a case of a frightened conservative liberal who wishes to "defy as much as one can" when the existing power can no longer protect him from popular rebellion. (17) In July 1861, in his and Herzen's periodical, Kolokol, Nikolai Ogarev took on the cursed question "What Do the People Need?" and answered "land and freedom" (zemlia i volia). (18) This coinage provided the Russian revolutionary movement with a brand name for its first, initially peaceful Populist organization, which would dissolve into anarchist and then terrorist formations. Tolstoi's criticism of rationalized state power and the political anarchism of Herzen in the 1860s as well as of the obedience of citizens to coercive violence capable of escalating to mass hysteria during the Slavic crusade against Turkey in 1877-78 provided a decisive conclusion to his investigations of sovereign good against the evidence of corrupt sovereignty and finally brought Tolstoi to his revolt against the modern state.

In 1878, his 50th year, as he was embarking on his difficult career of religious dissent in search of true Christianity, Tolstoi's public consciousness came of age at the same moment as Russian terrorista. (19) It is hardly coincidental that in the years of 1878-79 Tolstoi returns to the character of the revolutionary parricidal martyr, taking extensive notes on Karl-Ludwig Sand and the Decembrist supporters of assassination tactics (Iakushkin, Ryleev, Kakhovskii) at the same rime as he was thinking about Jesus breaking the law of the patriarchs (48: 194; 17: 446). (20) In Tolstoi's emerging version of religious politics, the practice of nonviolence involved, as it earlier had for Luther, the violation of lex talionis on which, in his view, the concept of modern statehood was based. Conversely, the practice of nonviolence accepted as the only political option the adoption of Christian legislation. (21)

Tolsloi's Response to Terror, 1878-1904

It was from this perspective that Tolstoi joined the nationwide discussion by providing a derogatory evaluation of Vera Zasulich's attempt on Trepov. Amid the noisy applause of the liberals of the new courts of post-reform Russia, Tolstoi remained altogether unimpressed by her acquittal, questioning the motives of the forces that provoked her to shoot an important government official in protest of the flogging in prison of her comrade Aleksei Bogoliubov, arrested during a student rally in St. Petersburg the year before. Anatolii Koni, presiding judge at the Zasulich trial, who was instrumental in winning the case in her favor and then wrote a famous memoir about it, reminisced that when he met Tolstoi years later in 1887, Tolstoi started asking about Zasulich before he had poured his guest or himself a cup of tea. (22) That Koni had warned the authorities since 1878 of a potential escalation of terrorist "bloody violence" if the government persisted in treating the radicals as pawns in the hands of the punitive machine agreed with Tolstoi's stand.

In his letter to Nikolai Strakhov, one of Russia's most assured and determined critics of nihilism, about possible ways to break the cycle of violence, Tolstoi voices the same grim and prophetic predictions about the Zasulich case as Koni: "These are forerunners from a column we do not yet see; but this is an important affair. The Slavdom folly [the Pan-Slavic campaign against Turkey] boded war; this affair looks to be boding the revolution" (62: 411). High society's love affair with "this little scoundrel" Zasulich, instantly nicknamed the "Russian Charlotte Corday" seemed vile to Tolstoi. (23) In a letter to his Aunt Alexandrine Tolstaia, lady-in-waiting at the court, he expressed his disgust toward "these two extreme parties," revolutionaries and the government, which regard each other "as trash and animals" worthy of slaughter (62: 409). Since the activity of the People's Will proved far removed from Tolstoi's spiritual ideal of the revolutionary struggle, he declared it a "revolution of the noble brats gone mad" (63:135).

In his unprecedented letter to Alexander III (8-15 March 1881) a few days following the assassination of the new tsar's father, Tolstoi attempts to act as an intermediary between those extreme parties, state power and the revolutionary movement. His rhetorical choices are strange, as he does everything at first to incite the tsar's wrath against the criminals who murdered Alexander II. In the process, he also provides one of his most succinct definitions of terrorists, described alternately as fanatical, just assassins and "these contemptible urchins, godless creatures, who violate the calm and quiet of the millions entrusted to your care" (63: 45). As he is goading Alexander III to take revenge, Tolstoi simultaneously calls on the holder of power to purge his wrath and exercise the Christian law of pardon without regard to whether the existing law of the land could be applicable to the release of the murderers (63: 49, 51). In April 1881, the terrorists' execution took place and the war between Tolstoi and the new administration commenced. (24) The new tsar may have compared the insolence of Tolstoi's Christian anarchism with the tone of a similar note he received from the Executive Committee of the People's Will, which insisted that in the grim hour of retribution the tsar's duty as a citizen overrode his human feelings "and even the feelings of others." (25) The young revolutionaries with whom Tolstoi's note competed acknowledged as "terrible and lamentable" the "waste of so much talent and energy," but expressed with a far greater force the idea that "tzaricide in Russia is popular" because the rulers had stopped safeguarding popular welfare. (26)

Although the new generation of political fighters used the same vocabulary as Tolstoi did in his characterization of the Decembrists in the epilogues to War and Peace, they did not live up to Tolstoi's expectation of revolutionary purity. In the 1880s, Tolstoi needed to place terror on the axes of moral coordinates. So he did, by sketching an unsent response to Strakhov's conservative "Pis'ma o nigilizme" (Letters on Nihilism, 1881), in which Strakhov justified government policies against the revolutionary movement. In the letter, Tolstoi discusses the hanging of Valerian Osinskii (1853-79), a member of a terrorist group, whom he calls a "wonderful youth" involved in the writing and spreading of "leaflets" (63: 68). (In reality, at the time of his arrest Osinskii was armed, and he had resisted arrest.) This response to Strakhov articulates Tolstoi's difficult and somewhat confused attitude toward terrorist killings: "According to your studies, it turns out that even when [revolutionaries] sacrifice their lives for spiritual goals, they do not produce goodness but are acting in accordance with some psychological laws, unconsciously and poorly" (63: 68). Perhaps influenced by the sacrificial and selfless bravado of Osinskii's letter from prison, written on the eve of his execution and illegally circulating after its publication in the populist leaflets, Tolstoi justified terror by government oppression and by the need to explore new vistas for uninhibited action that served "spiritual goals." From this point of view, the arrival of bomb-throwing was just the newest form of self-expression: "We are so insane that self-expression looks like a crime to us" (49: 81), as Tolstoi put it in his diary, thinking about terror. (27)


Tolstoi offers his more mature interpretation of terrorism in a remarkable diary entry on Stepan Khalturin, the unsuccessful plotter against Alexander II in 1880, and the perpetrators of i March 1881 (Zheliabov and Kibal'chich), whose cunning finally killed the tsar. The entry is reproduced below in its entirety. (28)
   31 December 1894. Have dropped in on Posrednik office. They talked
   about whether it is possible to grant that Zheliabov and
   Kibal'chich are highly moral and sacrificial people. I told them
   no. Why? Because their deed, thoroughly premeditated, was immoral.
   Why? Because in order for the action to be moral, it ought to
   satisfy two conditions: that it be directed toward the well-being
   of other people and toward personal improvement. To be moral, an
   action should be defined by two positive coordinates. And always be
   at the diagonal of these coordinates. I've got the following
   blueprint. [52: 158; see Figure 1]


In Figure 1, the horizontal axis represents striving toward the general well-being and the vertical axis represents striving toward personal improvement. "Thus, if the action is defined by striving toward the common good and personal perfection, it will always be located in the field a, on the + diagonal" (52: 158).

In the next diagram, Tolstoi shows that action dictated by interests of the common good and personal improvement rises diagonally in the a field along the "+" diagonal. (See Figure 2.)

In his note explicating the second diagram, Tolstoi reasons that if the opposite is true, and the action is located in the field d, it "will be absolute evil. If in the field b, then although it will strive toward common good, it will be devoid of personal perfection. These were the actions of the organizations--governmental and revolutionary--1 March, the Inquisition. If the action is in the field c, then although it will strive toward perfection, it will be devoid of the striving toward the common good. Such are all the ascetic actions--standing at the pillory and so on" (52: 159).

Although Tolstoi insightfully pitted revolutionary asceticism against the Inquisition, it was not until 1905 or 1906 that he quite settled on the problem of premeditated revolutionary destruction and its moral aspect. On 20 May 1904, he sent his younger friend and disciple Vladimir Chertkov a typed preface for Chertkov's essay "O revoliutsii" (On Revolution, 1904) for which Chertkov was awaiting Tolstoi's approval. In this first attempt at a preface, Tolstoi allowed himself to be carried away by the idea that bomb-throwing is not unlike hunting, mountain-climbing, and other risk-taking pursuits. People undertake such risks because of excessive leisure, lack of desire to expend their energy otherwise, and a tendency to nurture their destructive idle thinking and pleasure-making. The tone of his essay is influenced by Tolstoi's famous earlier treatise Dlia chego liudi odurmanivaiutsia? (Why Do People Stupefy Themselves?--1890), which offered similar explanations for the prevalence of vice in modern society and for the behavior of deranged criminals with lofty ideals like Dostoevskii's Raskol'nikov (27: 280). Excessive leisure forces Raskol'nikov's heirs "to manufacture dynamite, blow up or simply kill some government individual deemed harmful, in whose place thousands of even more harmful [people] are ready to step in" (89: 333). By dwelling on "the desperado activity of the Khalturins, Rysakovs, Mikhailovs," and other activists of March 1881, Tolstoi arrives at the exasperating conclusion that "the main impetus for these men's activity was the same that influenced" a famous lion-hunter, Gerard, and Tolstoi himself, when he was a hunter, albeit of animal species smaller than lions (89: 332-33).

In the fair copy, Tolstoi drops the hunting metaphor and reminds his audience that all Russian revolutions, from the Decembrist coup, which occurred "under the most propitious circumstances," to the attempts of the "miserable Socialist Revolutionary," Grigorii Gershuni, are doomed because political extermination is no leisure sport after all. He bitterly recalls the "crusade of a dozen young men and women who intended to arm the Russian peasants with 30 revolvers" and marching workers easily dispersed by a dozen street police and Cossacks with cat-o'nine-tails. He even more strongly bemoans, in a language reminiscent of the People's Will, the "death of many excellent people and the cruelest reaction on the part of the government" in the wake of the assassinations of the 1870s and 1 March 1881 (89: 332). Like repression, revolution itself admits to the necessity of restraining human activity, and it achieves such restraint by means of violence (89: 333). This last thought suggests Tolstoi's major rethinking of de Maistre's chain. Rather than symbolizing the Lord's punitive metaphysics, the chain of violence in Tolstoi's new interpretation--one that anticipates Hannah Arendt's--is manmade. There is a chance to undo it, but not through the extravagant bravado of a revolutionary hunter or a government hunter chasing the revolutionary.

Tolstoi eventually published a completely reworked letter to Chertkov that resembles the abrogated draft in only a couple of phrases about the excess and waste of resplendent human material. In his public address, Tolstoi attempts to discourage the young from throwing bombs by explaining that the "existing governments have long recognized their enemies and the dangers they pose, and therefore have long taken and continue to take every measure to make the destruction of that order on which they rest impossible" (36: 149). In 1903-4, Tolstoi concurs with Lenin: terrorism is wasteful and unprofitable. (29) "In place of Alexander II there is Alexander III, in place of Bogolepov there is Glazov, in place of Sipiagin there is Plehve, in place of Bobrikov--Obolenskii. I have barely written this and Plehve is no more, and somebody new is readying himself to take over, somebody much meaner than Plehve, because after Plehve's assassination the government must become even more cruel" (36: 149-50). (30) In the published version, Tolstoi offers a solemn obituary to the wonderful dead, the "best, highly moral, sacrificial, kind people, as were Perovskaia, Osinskii, Lizogub, and many others" who wasted their lives in the pursuit of the unattainable and became accomplices and participants in murder (36: 150-51). Tolstoi's view on contagious martyrdom, often purely rhetorical, the redemptive road into revolution by association and transference into the suffering of a previous victim, which transforms one into a revolutionary of the most dangerous sort, is evident in his literary renditions of terrorism.

Tolstoi's Literary Terrorist: 1878-1909

In addition to his final two unrealized plots on Pavel Kudriash and the monk Iliodor, Tolstoi's literary terrorists receive a multilateral treatment in his three finished works, the novel Resurrection (1888-99), and two novellas "Fal'shivyi kupon" (The False Coupon, 1904) and "Bozheskoe i chelovecheskoe" (God's Way and Man's, 1903-4). Especially in the first and the last work, Tolstoi masterfully represents the alliances and disagreements of the revolutionary movement, caught since the end of the 1880s in severe disputes about their future strategy and tactics--terror, or propaganda and party-building. (31) Tolstoi's early focus on the literary representation of political violence and terrorism is whether they are good test cases for the fulfillment of spiritual goals. During his escort of Katiusha Maslova to Siberia in the company of the radicals who assemble in detention cells as part of the same transit, the revolutionaries offer a kaleidoscopic panopticon of radical persuasions to Nekhliudov's searching spiritual curiosity.

On the surface, Tolstoi leans toward lampooning the most fanatical radicals, for many pages forgetting to register Nekhliudov's reaction to their speeches and stories. Take Neverov (the Atheist): we hear about him when the revolutionary Petlin (Noose) delivers the news of the Atheist's suicide by hanging in prison. Tolstoi weaves Neverov's controversial vita, built on thinly disguised mockery, through the rendition by Kryl'tsov, an angry consumptive belonging to a more temperate revolutionary faction. Kryl'tsov was arrested by mistake, for providing an IOU to a fellow student who used the funds to plan a terrorist explosion. Kryl'tsov converted to the movement in prison by witnessing the overnight torments of two inmates, a Polish insurgent and a young Jewish youth with a thin neck awaiting their hanging. Kryl'tsov is one typical victim of trouble by association, a scenario Tolstoi prefers in order to explain how the government breathes the spirit of annihilation into harmless people, the canniest ruse of the Antichrist;, by letting them watch violent measures against violence, imprisonment turns them into a herd of sickly demons (32: 437). Kryl'tsov spends his hours of idleness coughing blood and delivering angry tirades against the lowering standards of revolutionary violence since the departure of the Decembrists, then Herzen, and now the Neverovs from the political scene (32: 408).

Even more ominous than the atheists and consumptive lunatics are Novodvorov (New Court), a tyrant and authoritarian monster of the Verkhovenskii type, and his obedient companion, Kondrat'ev. Novodvorov's reason for joining the radicals was the ability to divide and rule in the organization while Kondrat'ev's Marxism developed in consequence of social injustice suffered as a child, when the boy Kondrat'ev did not receive the gift of his choice at the Christmas Matins for children of factory workers (32: 394). In his rendition of these dangerous human caricatures, echoing Dostoevskii's Demons (1872) and prefiguring the maladroit petty demons of Belyi's Petersburg (1916), Tolstoi still believed that revolutionary action could proceed in the right square of the moral axes. Through Nekhliudov, Tolstoi expresses sympathy toward Simonson, Maslova's new fiance, an enviable human type who does not destroy but rather "serves everything that already is," a so-called "phagocyte that cures the world's inflammations and ills" (32: 370). Another type worthy of Tolstoi's admiration is Nabatov (Alarm Bell), an educated peasant with a "marvelous digestion" (32: 392), a compliment that Tolstoi dispenses in earnest to prove his superiority to the mostly sickly and doomed reformers from the higher classes. Like Simonson, Nabatov is loathe to destroy: "Revolution in his view was not supposed to destroy the whole building but ought to restructure the inside of this beautiful, solid, vast old building that he so ardently loved" (32: 393).

Why they are curing the world's ills in prison or through the revolution rather than sounding their alarm through peaceful nonresistance, the sharing of landed property, and cooperative labor is the discord that neither Nekhliudov nor Tolstoi can harmonize. Although it is rather good for their imprisoned comrades that Simonson, Nabatov, or the two motherly women--the embittered Rantseva missing her children and the "beautiful and chaste Maria Pavlovna," who take care of everybody's needs and stand up to the torturers--Tolstoi would prefer to see them transfer their chaste revolutionary "island" out of prison (32: 396) to life's mainland. Tolstoi abhors as wrong Maria's attitude of"comrade and tuan" (tovarishch-muzhchina, 32: 367), which forces her toward assuming responsibility for the shot fired at the arresting squad by another member of their underground printing press. This act of spirituality by proxy Tolstoi also understands as a form of sport, committed out of proud vanity and morally in error since it did not extinguish the cycle of violence but rather endorsed it.

Through the story of the beautiful Cossack woman Katia Turchaninova in "The False Coupon," Tolstoi weaves the details of the Zasulich assassination attempt into a fictional portrait of another case of terrorist waste. In a disordered scuffle devoid of heroic glamour, which closely follows the general contours of Koni's memoir describing Zasulich's assault and detention, Tolstoi ruthlessly describes Katia's gauche attack on the minister who ordered the arrest of her comrade Tiurin. As he approached a beautiful supplicant with an "endearing and lustful spark" in his eye, she "quickly pulled the revolver out of her boa, stuck it into the minister's chest, shot, but missed" (36: 31). Taken to prison on charges of a massive revolutionary plot, and silent at first, Turchaninova never recovers from her hysterics: "sometimes she calmly tapped codes on the wall to communicate with her comrades and read books given to her. At other times, she was plunged into despair and rage, thrashed against the walls, shrieked and guffawed" (36: 32). On this helpless guffaw, Tolstoi abandons Katia, who never reappears to take a heroic stand during her trial--not mounted as a pseudo-edifying forum in a polemical contrast to the false heralds of Zasulich's heroism. This is especially shocking in the story, in which nearly everyone else but Katia, the minister, and the tsar undergo spiritual rejuvenation. This episodic character illustrates Tolstoi's points about revolution being not only a form of hazardous sport but also a permanent link in the cycle of violence that connects all human crime: greed, petty thievery, religious bigotry, laziness, comforts protected by office, murder for gain, revolution, and counterrevolution.

The execution of Anatolii Svetlogub in "God's Way and Man's"--a wonderful youth of the likes of Osinskii in Tolstoi's earlier renditions--is Tolstoi's deepest allegory of revolutionary martyrdom. Placed early in the story, a scene with an angelic-looking youth led out to his execution and holding the gospels sets several quests in motion. When the imprisoned Old Believer sees the youth's smile from the latticed window of his cell, he misreads its source for the youth's faith in nonviolence (42: 209). Svetlogub's hangman is similarly shattered when he refuses to perform new executions, but instead of spiritual reform, the youth's question as to why he murders people whom he does not know or hate forces him into drinking, petty crime, and eventual death in prison.

Svetlogub is the first revolutionary in Tolstoi's works whose conscious inner life we have had a chance to sample in the opening chapters, which describe only his torment after his mother's efforts to repeal the death verdict signed by an indifferent bureaucrat ended in failure. Since the reader already knows that Svetlogub dies an atheist, his question to the hangman appears coy and cruel. Svetlogub was himself the one set to kill those whom he did not know and for whom he had no personal hatred. We know that the peasants' hostility discourages his nonviolent preaching and the spread of leaflets and that he accepts terror and hides the dynamite hoping to die famous (42: 199-200). Prison spiders and boredom alone invite him to read the Bible thrown in his lap by the warden.

The reader senses that Svetlogub may be not unlike the false coupon from the previous story, whose value is redeemed or forfeited depending on the condition of the spiritual sphere in which it circulates. Therefore, since the hangman retires from the scene, the opposition of the Old Believer and Ignatii Mezhenetskii (Ignacy Merzeniecki), the terrorist abettor who had ruined Svetlogub's life by manipulating him into storing dynamite, is the true moral center of the story. (32) Merzeniecki willingly explains to the Old Believer the terrorist pledge to kill the government "until they bethink themselves" (42: 215) when asked for an explanation of the faith that so illumined the face of the slain youth. The doctrine allows him to survive the torments of confinement and exorcise unwanted visitors, in the form of dancing demons, by feats of maniacal fortitude and by plotting new explosions. In the drafts, Tolstoi gave full rein to the evil creations of Merzeniecki's brain. (In his dreams, Merzeniecki is detonating bombs in cathedrals during service or dropping flying bombs from air balloons, or making flying balloons into air bombs.) (33)

The Old Believer enters Merzeniecki's cell the second time seven years later, but Merzeniecki laughs off his sermons of reconciliation. During the seven years of Merzeniecki's solitary imprisonment (1879-86) a lot had changed in the movement. Unprincipled profiteers from the ranks of the SRs and the new Marxists led by a cynical doctor, Roman, who are expecting transit to Siberia in the same prison express disdain for the now proverbially "useless waste of energy" of Merzeniecki's generation. "They say that all that we have done, what Khalturin did, and then Kibal'chich, Perovskaia, all that was useless, even harmful, and that this is what caused the reaction of Alexander III" (42: 224). In the final chapter, dreams of ephemeral victory leave the terrorist veteran; and he hangs himself out of frustration, realizing that the revolution of his dream suffered defeat thanks to Karl Kautsky and economic Marxism. For all its misleading clarity and the contemptible economy of Tolstoi's satire, the story conceals its messages in puzzling details. When the neo-Marxist Roman fails to resuscitate the terrorist we learn that he failed because he applied regular medicinal means of reanimation (obychnye priemy dlia ozhivleniia [42: 227]). What are Tolstoi's own unusual means? Let us start with the name of Tolstoi's hagiographic protagonist. Tolstoi names his protagonist "Svetlogub" (lips exuding light) for the desired religious effect, making his revolutionary a close relative, in terms of name, of St. John Chrysostom. The bluish lips (sinie guby) of Svetlogub, who was hanged, and of Merzeniecki, who hanged himself, come to mind immediately after so many hangings. "Sinegub" is a widespread last name, but it would have been a rather mean ridicule of the legendary People's Will fighter with a linguistically similar name: Lizogub, hanged in 1879. Tolstoi's eventual choice of name is all the more symbolic. (34) "Lizogub" would be an inappropriate choice, first, because a government criminal could not be a protagonist in a published work offiction, but also--and this is important--because "Lizogub," which means "lip-licker," has unflattering connotations.

A closer look reveals that Svetlogub is holy or equivalent to "Chrysostom" in the strictest sense only as a victim of senseless violence and only in the eyes of the observer striving for religion and mistaking Svetlogub's narcissistic inspiration by martyrdom for his true faith. The story is also a perfect illustration of Tolstoi's rhetorical strategies in undoing the terrorist literary portraits drawn in the works of terrorist authors themselves. For example, Kravchinskii's portrayal of the deaths of Osinskii and Lizogub resembles the purely hagiographic perspective of the Old Believer who sees a smiling youth "with light-exuding eyes and curly locks" climbing the chariot in Tolstoi's story (42: 209). Tolstoi hints that terrorist behavior is not creative but rather limiting, as it conforms to the existing canon. For example, he makes sure that the description of Svetlogub's procession on his chariot (kolesnitsa), rather than the ugly prison tumbrel (povozka), through the morning streets--which fill with sympathetic, pitying, and contemptible onlookers--toward the gallows imitates Golgotha. He also makes sure that Svetlogub knows the similarity and performs the role to play into his "quiet and triumphant mood" taking the cliched oath of every revolutionary martyr before refusing the blessing of the priest: "I will die, but truth will not die" (42: 210). (35) At this moment, Tolstoi disposes of the hagiographic flourish and leaves only the animal terror of dying on display, "animal terror of asphyxiation, noise in his head, and disappearance of all" (42: 213). Gone was the "delight and enlightenment" that Svetlogub initially was supposed to feel in his final moment (42: 508), or his loud repetition of Jesus' commendation of his spirit to the Father (42: 528), or the solemn description of his death in the earliest versions that suggested the innocence of a slaughtered youth "strangled with a rope" (54: 207). These were the forms of behavior ascribed by Kravchinskii in his memoir to his own hagiographic Osinskii and Lizogub, who died by hanging. (36) In what he eventually published as fair copy in volume 2 of his didactic collection, The Circle of Reading (1894-1908), Tolstoi removed from the final version descriptions detailing Svetlogub's humble concerns about popular enlightenment, his condemnation of terror, and his brave, nonviolent encounter with his captors (54: 206). He left his incongruous dummy (kukla) to the mercy of the henchmen who would take it out of the noose and conduct it to an unconsecrated cemetery.

The rhetorical strategies that Tolstoi employs in the construction of his fictional and nonfictional accounts of terrorism deserve close attention. It is especially illuminating how Tolstoi moves from drafts to fair copies. In the drafts of Resurrection, Nekhliudov inclines toward terror as a catastrophic substitute for religion because he finds "none of that bloodthirsty cruelty which he had anticipated in them after all the murders before and after 1 Match" (33: 242). Through an exhaustive anatomy of human types and their degree of revolutionary involvement, the drafts of the novel expose the devious pride of terrorists built on their conviction that they can change the course of life through "murder sanctioned by sacrifice" (33: 243). Fragment after fragment shows Tolstoi's desire to cast his revolutionaries in a rosier light and come to terms with what may stipulate the "terrible necessity to kill" (33: 242). Ultimately, however, the drafts elaborate a frighteningly lucid theory of open and constant war with the government as the "necessary job ... exculpated by the terrible danger to which the doer was subjected" (33: 243, 374). The replacement of moral laws with those of permanent warfare horrifies the author, who excludes the idea from the fair copy.

This decision contradicts that adopted by Dostoevskii in Demans, where he strongly prefers to see every member of the Verkhovenskii crew plunge to their destruction--like the Gadarene swine in the preface to the book. Permission granted, Dostoevskii celebrates the plunge of the herd into the abyss; he wants to see radicalism and reeling faithlessness shamefully self-destroyed. On the one hand, Tolstoi exposes as demonic the same pride that lets Dostoevskii's Kirillov assume guilt for a murder never committed. (37) On the other hand, Tolstoi only episodically matches Dostoevskii's cartoonist flourish in Demons, as in the episode of his dying character Kryl'tsov pledging to "go up in a balloon" and treat those who imprisoned him with bombs in the same way bedbugs would be treated: with disinfectant until they "all die out" (32: 409). Tolstoi abstains from either trivializing or demonizing the connection of people with ideas, as happens when Verkhovenskii dictates to Kirillov his false confession for Shatov's murder, countersigned "Vive la republique" in Dostoevskii's book. (38) Tolstoi makes sure that the messages he sends in his published versions are not damaging to ideas that emphasize the necessity to resist power and the monarchy. (39)

Resurrection sets a precedent for Tolstoi's writing on terrorists in two versions, one public and one private. The former is usually harsh to the regime and the radicals. The latter is harsher to the regime, more sympathetic to the radicals. This effect is achieved through humanizing the radicals, adding psychological depth to their life stories. This method, while adamantly condemning murderous revolutionaries, covers up and conceals Tolstoi's ire and satire against the young murderers. The rationale for the all-out terrorist war described in Tolstoi's later works is very different from the blind metaphysics of "that force" in War and Peace. Tolstoi now fully recognizes the pernicious and previously disregarded force of ideology, which pushes the meekest and kindest people to calmly plan the murder of other people and acknowledge this "murder to be the lawful and just tool of self-defense in order to achieve the highest good" (33: 374). Vera Figner's memoir about I Match 1881 thoroughly sickened Tolstoi with its well-known casualness--for example, comments about eating breakfast during the difficult time of waiting to hear about the results of the attack on the tsar on 1 March 1881. (40)

Tolstoi's reluctance to glorify Zasulich in 1878 continued to influence his reception of other literary portrayals of terrorism. On 1 January 1909, Tolstoi read Leonid Andreev's "Istoriia semi poveshennykh" (Story of the Seven Hanged) and disliked its psychologically strained symbolist descriptions of revolutionary victims (57: 272). Tolstoi made sure he read Savinkov's Kon' blednyi (Pale Horse [alternatively, Pale Rider], 1909), a novel written as meditative diary entries in anticipation of future killings or ruminations on killings past, and famous for its self-pitying moodiness. As in the following example, Savinkov purloined without much thinking or sophistication Tolstoi's complicated hagiography of "God's Way and Man's": "The body is hanging. Vania is hanging.... I see Vania, his rapturous eyes, his dark blond locks. And I ask myself timidly: what for? what for?" (41) Tolstoi associated the novel with the writing of the "lunatic asylum, no less" (54: 376). In the same year (1909), he read Stepniak-Kravchinskii's novel Andrei Kozhukhov, but he left no comment on it beyond acknowledging the fact of reading (89: 272). It is quite easy to predict Tolstoi's reaction to this work, its stilted portrayals of the "suffering and self-sacrifice of the select few," and especially the false heroism of the final scene in which Andrei misses all six shots fired at close range at the retreating emperor while the gendarmes watch. (42)

Decades before making Tolstoi's acquaintance, Nikolai Morozov had defined terrorist attacks as a sublimely spectacular work of art, from which the punishing hand mysteriously disappears, leaving behind "only the corpse of the executed as a witness of the catastrophe." (43) Kravchinskii more straightforwardly compared the "gloomy figure of the terrorist," "lit as if by hellish flame," to a proud Satan who has stolen the power to punish from Jehovah. (44) Tolstoi's exhaustive and psychologically meticulous rhetorical strategy confronts terrorist claims on the supernatural character of their justice and the timing of its deliverance, which came too close to the definitions of "that force" held sacred by Tolstoi since the 1860s. Although his spare presentation aims at depriving terror of its metaphysical aura and demonism, it would be wrong not to notice that Tolstoi acknowledges the secret links of terror to the realm of the unknown. Kryl'tsov's face in the mortuary is no longer embittered and angry but quiet, still, and "terribly beautiful" (32: 439). Undeniably present in this last phrase, Tolstoi's interest in the magnetism of terror was partly aesthetic. He experienced something of Kant's excitement with respect to the sublime at being privy to the exploding bomb and the delayed destructive release of its lasting effect. He also felt sympathy for the sacrificial daring of the terrorists, "bordering on enthusiasm," that soon transformed into a reaction of unspeakable horror and a belated desire to prevent it. (45) Hegel's dictum that "terror was Kant put into practice" captured the source of Tolstoi's puzzling contradiction regarding how the aesthetics of the terrorist act may correspond to its ethics. (46) This is why the example of a student executed for his attempt on Napoleon's life in Vienna excites Pierre Bezukhov in War and Peace. A pistol or a dagger? Pierre cannot decide, and neither can he imagine the moment of the shot or stab, or even Napoleon's death itself, but he "vividly and with a sad delight" imagined himself fulfilling the role of the hand of providence, "his own death and his heroic courage" (SS, 6: 373).

Through the humor of benign aggression in Vaska Denisov--the famous partisan in War and Peace, the spontaneous devotee of guerilla warfare and elemental rather than planned destruction of a permanent rebel--Tolstoi teases out our conflicted sympathy for this character. The sublime "partisanship of the partisan" in War and Peace that, to Carl Schmitt, mirrored the Russian peasants' preternatural instinct for the political enemy and struck him as enjoying "more mythic power than any political doctrine or any documented history" excited Tolstoi aesthetically rather than politically. (47) To be more precise, in the expression of the political passions, in terrorism more vividly than in the guerilla war, he admired the exoteric element of the esoteric sila of "that force," the appeal of the metaphysical terror obscured in the dark described by Edmund Burke. (48) Exactly like Burke, Friedrich Schiller, and Auguste Comte--all of whom Tolstoi groups in his discussion of the "surplus of physical power, the play," in What Is Art? (30: 54-55)--Tolstoi investigates the effects of the sublime on the preservation or destruction of the sense of sociality. His conclusions set him apart from the reactionary and conservative aesthetics of Burke, the hopeful political aesthetics of Schiller, or the teleological analogies of social solidarity advocated by Comte. Unlike these thinkers, Tolstoi is unwilling to allot political status to the Schillerian play-drive of the social animal, be it conservatively, positively, or aesthetically edifying. What then remains as an alternative to the stateless experience of the playful unconscious? Could we imagine Tolstoi as Joyce's artist "paring his fingernails" at the sight of irreparable terror "which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the secret cause"? (49) Tolstoi agrees with Terry Eagleton, who most recently found himself thinking similar thoughts about the dangers of interpreting the aesthetic demons in a leisurely fashion that would lead to the easy embrace, rationalization, or damnation of "the fathomless vitality of the unconscious," to "'obscene enjoyment' or the horrific jouissance of un-meaning." (50) Tolstoi came to associate a similar horrific jouissance of unmeaning with the ethics and aesthetics of contemporary politics. The terrorism that Tolstoi knows and condemns politically, ethically, and aesthetically takes forms patterned on the routines and outcomes of 1793. These patterns and outcomes have become bankrupt, and violence is powerless to reconstitute the loss, Tolstoi argued after witnessing the first massive political war of the 20th century during the Russian Revolution of 1905.

In a major rethinking of the concept of violence and power that he himself developed in the 1860s--in which the aggregate of wills is transferred to one person through the complex hydraulics of majority and minority aspirations for justice--Tolstoi now suggests that the principle of leverage is wrong. After instituting a social contract to free themselves from the burdens and duress of self-rule, the European nations willingly endured state oppression and violence in return for the convenience of non-participation in statecraft until the era of religious wars and the French Revolution. Since the arrival of modernity, progressive nations have increasingly sought to take their power back, to limit state power, and to practice politics on their own. Terrorism is the extreme expression of this will for participative politics, to tweak Arendt's term, against the resistance of the obsolete state power. (51) At the end of his life, Tolstoi hoped that only the dissolution of the modern state and the total disappearance of sovereignty could prima facie resolve all polarities and obviate the cause for terror as such. He clamored for non-participation in the life of the state, because all deeds within the sphere of power were evil--an undeniably controversial suggestion. Did Tolstoi not also claim that leisure forces people to explore the unknown and thus toward bomb-throwing, hunting, and so on? Little wonder, then, that as an artist, Tolstoi was mostly attracted to the very metaphysical and psychological tensions present in the intoxicating game for holiness through self-sacrifice and the power struggle in which his nation had found itself involved since 1878. The ultimate exposure of the causes and goals of political struggle that underlie historical and social passions became Tolstoi's true and prized focus. Precisely for that reason, he returned, in his last literary act, to his unusual plots centering on Vladimir Antipatrov (Vladimir contra the Fathers or Fatherland) in "Pavel Kudriash" and on a monk who accepted the revolution and died on the cross. (52)

The Bomb and the Revolutionary Turnaround: Tolstoi on Terror as God's and Man's and the Problem of Dirty Hands

In the late 1890s and through 1910, Tolstoi's responses to violent revolutionary action intensified exponentially in reaction to waves of terrorist assassinations and government executions of terrorists. Denouncing "those miserably bestial people who commit assassinations, thinking thus to serve the beginning turnaround" (36: 258), he calls on his nation in his programmatic essay Konets veka (End of the Century, 1905), to rethink the paradigm of modern revolution solidified on the principles of the Terror of 1793 and to engage in a unilateral, peaceful revolution of consciousness. Tolstoi reminds his nation that the original meaning of "revolution" is not unlike that of conversion, or turnaround, and only in this sense may revolution maintain the spirit of its assumptive prophesies. The realities of what followed forced Tolstoi to give up the idea of imminent spiritual revolutions carried out in the political sphere and returned him to the issue of dirty hands. (53) Simultaneously with receiving as a gift or subscribing to Nikolai Morozov's or Pavel Shchegolev's expanding output on the history and prospects of the Russian revolutionary movement, between 1899 and 1910 Tolstoi wrote his most controlled and penetrating analysis of the Russian terror. (54) In March 1906, he wrote a passionate letter to his biographer and assistant, Pavel Biriukov, confirming his refusal to contribute to Byloe, a "journal that extols murder, making it heroic and virtuous," and eulogizes as benefactors of humanity the "Khalturins and contemporary assassins. They were pitiful back then, with their suffering, and now they are pitiful in their delusion, in which publications like Byloe reinforce them" (76: 118). In the essays of his final two years, such as "Pis'mo revoliutsioneru" (Letter to a Revolutionary), Tolstoi's investigations yielded mordant definitions of revolution, which commits the "most primitive, crude sin of murder" as a glorious and heroic act and promotes the "best possible order of life for millions of people" at the cost of killing millions (38: 261-64). (55) With this verdict, Tolstoi delivered his indignant refusal to factor in any excuses for terror and political violence and--like Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Camus, and the greatest of his Russian contemporaries, Dostoevskii--rejected terrorists, who, for the sake of their love of humanity "in the abstract ... wade through seas of blood." (56)

An authority on the connection between thought and revolutionary action, Joseph Bochenski, once memorably compared the force of a radical thinker with the force and effect of dynamite. (57) What kind of dynamite was Tolstoi's? In his memoir "Vstrechi s Tolstym" (Meetings with Tolstoi), Shchegolev aptly summarized Tolstoi's influence on the revolutionary-minded youth of Russia: "Tolstoi's didactic works struck much further than the target drawn by their author. The blasting of the very foundation of Russia's order was carried out by Tolstoi with remarkable power and brilliance." (58) Shchegolev's comparison of Tolstoi's activity with the blast of a timed explosive testifies to his mixed reputation among radical youth who accepted his nonviolence as another version of the bomb. Tolstoi abhorred the likeness and explained to a foreign correspondent only a few months before his death that in "anarchism the goal is what is profitable and the means is violence. How can you keep violence in check so that it is used strictly for the common good, and how can you guarantee that the people who seize power use violence for the common good and not for their own sake?" Only civil disobedience, which "is compatible neither with participation in violence nor with subordination to it," will achieve the results that "will be exactly those that the anarchists desire but will never achieve" (81:235). (59) This final thought corrects Tolstoi's earlier insecurities about the dastardly expediency of terrorism, the waste that the "resplendent human material" leaves in its wake. Violence should know its limits.

Is it legitimate, then, to keep comparing Tolstoi's call for peaceful civil disobedience with known forms of anarchism? On the one hand, his conclusions second Camus's famous definition of state terror: that the state chops off heads not to punish but to intimidate. (60) On the other hand, Tolstoi combated the existential stance that inspired terrorists. Among major existential thinkers of the 20th century, as among the pioneers of anarchism of Tolstoi's age, the power that organizes the otherwise meaningless being around principles of violent self-assertion forces those "condemned to freedom" to pull out all the lesser moral stops in justification of the ultimate ethic of all just assassins--the proclaimed well-being of the other. In Just Assassins, Camus expressed admiration for terrorists whether they throw the bomb or put their head in the noose, showing only that action itself has limits. (61) Camus's Dora Dulebov asks for the bomb to change the world because it is "so much easier, to die of one's inner conflicts than to live with them." (62)

In contrast to revolutionary destroyers or existential interpreters of freedom, Tolstoi presses us to make the choice not because life is completely meaningless, but because it does have a precious--and, yes, a conflicted--meaning. In interpreting terror, Tolstoi honors Pascal's aphorism with respect to humanity: men are neither angels nor beasts. Neither are terrorists. Terrorista is no special aberration of human behavior; it is a violent reaction to violence, in which all participants are pawns and victims of warring ideologies if they accept the precepts of these ideologies. Tolstoi fits neatly in the transitional gray area wherein modernity already shows signs of irremediable damage and humanity stands puzzled, confronted with two incompatible choices: either cede the idea of sovereignty and readapt to the conditions of natural right or persevere in resisting the malfunctioning rule; or remove power, remove the political, and thus remove the cause for terror. In the manufactured state of exception, man must confront God, himself, and another person. This may be a situation of the utmost absurdity or of Giorgio Agamben's post-Holocaust horror of means without end. On the issue of terror, however, Tolstoi has better company not among the existentialists or supporters of the absurd who so often aestheticized and unaestheticized terror, as we have witnessed in the examples above. We may want to consider Tolstoi's views as those that prefigured the most trenchant calls for the ethically and artistically comprehensive interpretation of terror that we see today.

In Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, the maniacal dynamite inventor of the plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory says to the tasteless and sloppy young terrorist Ossipon, "The terrorist and the policemen both come from the same basket." (63) In evaluating the bottom-line relationship between revolutionary terror and the police, Tolstoi is essentially in odd solidarity with this professor of dynamite finesse from Conrad's book. Terrorists, like governments, do come from the same basket, but not because they do not control the explosion-activating device like the Professor, but because they both belong in the same basket of violence. In essence, by discarding the police and the terrorist, Tolstoi's scheme for politics in the state of exception eliminates Carl Schmitt's the Sacred Two, his precondition of politics based on the availability of the enemy. In suggesting the comparison of Tolstoi's nonviolent radicalism with contemporary ideas, I have in mind especially Alain Badiou's call to overcome a "disjunctive synthesis of two nihilisms," of post-industrial empires, and of Bin Laden-style terrorists in the practice of emancipatory politics, which strongly supports Tolstoi's idea. (64)

Tolstoi's exhaustive anatomy of terrorists and extremists, the endless lists of life stories embedded in his wider life panorama are of the same nature as Badiou's desire to carve a niche of personal creativity in the "multiplicity of multiplicities" of being, of which terrorism is but one of the many expressions--and which are themselves massively multiple (many terrorisms rather than one). (65) The prison cells with a variety of extremist motivations and behavior types that Tolstoi describes look like a human microcosm. A thoroughly human and disappointingly explicable microcosm, it turns out, and this frustrates Tolstoi the fiction-writer, who is looking for a unique and daring personage, for unique and unrepeatable reasons of engaging with terror. Thus he abandons the tiresomely lifelike plot of "Pavel Kudriash" with its questionable subtitle, "Nobody Is Guilty in This World," for fear of being dogmatic and after having tried it as drama and as a novella, and switches to Iliodor.

If we may be inclined to think that Tolstoi's moral axes are nothing but an expression of his dogmatism, while his literary plots are propelled by the aesthetic play-drive and teeter around the pit of statelessness and darkness, we need to think again. In the desire to discover the springs of terrorist activity, its causes and goals, leading political theorists and public intellectuals put terror on similar, albeit increasingly complex axes in explaining the structure of thinking and aspiring of those whom Simon Critchley calls homo rapiens. (66) His scheme--starting at the point of disappointment, protest, and a desire to improve things--forks in the two main directions intuited by Tolstoi: nihilism and ethical experience. Lest ethical experience in its subjectivity revert to nihilism, active or passive, and fall into the rut of approval and demand, following Tolstoi but without recognizing the fact--Tolstoi is nowhere in the text--Critchley "excepts" the stateless and de-politicized individual relative to the sovereign good. (67) Most profitably, however, it appears, Tolstoi's nonviolent politics are comparable with Critchley's "ethics of commitment" and "politics of resistance." (68)

Consider now the more casuistic paradox applied to solving the problem of terror politically by one of the leading political philosophers, Ted Honderich. Political action and decisions are stuck on an unsolvable paradox. "Which is right, nonviolent action at a cost of distress D, and with a probability [P.sub.1] of ending or altering a circumstance [M.sub.1] of misery or injustice within the time [T.sub.1], or violence at a cost of distress [D.sub.2] and with a probability [P.sup.2] of ending or altering a circumstance [M.sub.2] of misery or injustice within the time [T.sub.2]?" Honderich asserted that "neither a commitment to moral necessities nor any proposition about political obligation will allow us to settle the question of violence with dispatch." (69)

Compared to today's relativism in the political and artistic sphere, Tolstoi did settle the question of violence with dispatch, insisting that all collateral distresses, proximate benefits, miseries, time moratoriums, and ultimatums stop being meaningful in the zone of nonviolence. (70) Perhaps, therefore, his theory of nonviolence should preemptively disqualify him as a worthwhile topic: nonviolence and terror are two incompatible things. (71) The omission, however, is ours. What Tolstoi wrote in response to terror remains a fundamental blueprint for our reaction to the terrorist bomb. Until we act morally in the interest of being as such, rather than in the narrow interest of winning a temporal battle, and because we are all predisposed to terror as acting beings, we are all "secret agents," figurative bomb-throwers, potential owners of dirty hands. Nothing furnishes a better proof of the existing confusion in interpreting Tolstoi's concept of political violence than the current tendency to regard Tolstoi's Hadji Murad (1896-1904) and its mythic aura in the description of guerilla combat during the Russian colonial conquest of the Caucasus as implicit justification of today's terrorism. Only a complete misunderstanding of Tolstoi's message may justify these interpretations. Hadji Murad fighting against other treacherous warlords and Russian colonizers who betray him is no terrorist; he is a "wild thistle" (35: 5-6), never to be uprooted from his native soil or interfered with--his retaliation to the Russian patrol during armed escape is not for the sake of coercive intimidation. This is not terrorism but a form of partisan defense against the aggressor. From complete indifference followed by a brief period of preferential treatment of terrorists to their decisive condemnation, of all Russian thinkers of the latter part of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Tolstoi offers the most versatile, contradictory, and dynamic reaction to terror once it gets into his constantly shifting focus. In his writings--private and public, fiction and nonfiction, and even in his incomplete works Tolstoi expounds a stimulating and paradoxical set of views that would be extremely valuable for our thinking about terror and terrorism today. Tolstoi approaches terror from pluralist political and non-partisan angles, and the integral diversity of his perspectives makes it even more valuable to include them in the context of today's polemics on terror.

Eugene Lang College

The New School for the Liberal Arts

65 West 11th Street

New York, NY 10011 USA

I would like to thank the editors of Kritika and my anonymous reviewers for their support of this project and the splendid feedback I received on an earlier version of the article. Many thanks as well to Lina Steiner, the discussant, and other participants on the panel "Tolstoy and Anti-Philosophy" at the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS) Convention held in New Orleans, for their response to my revised paper, "Tolstoy's Anti-(c)s and Problems of Contemporary Philosophy: The Question of Terror," delivered on 19 November 2007.

(1) For a classic comparative study exploring the relationship of revolutionary violence and terror, see Arno J. Mayer, The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).

(2) Some specialists believe that a single definition of terror is unnecessary. Note the opinion of Ariel Merari that terrorism has different meanings to different people and, therefore, achieving a consensus on its meaning is "not an important end in itself, except, perhaps, for linguists." See Ariel Merari, "Terrorism as a Strategy of Insurgency," in The History of Terrorism from Antiquity to Al Qaeda, ed. Gerard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin, trans. Edward Schneider, Kathryn Pulver, and Jesse Browner (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 12.

(3) See David Whittaker's introduction to The Terrorist Reader, ed. Whittaker (London: Routledge, 2001), 3-5.

(4) See Chaliand and Blin's "Introduction" to The History of Terrorism from Antiquity to Al Qaeda, 7-8.

(5) Florentii Fedorovich Pavlenkov, Entsiklopedicheskii slovar', 5th ed. (St. Petersburg: Trud, 1913), 2532. In addition to a lengthy historical survey of terror in Russia since 1878, Pavlenkov's later editions included separate biographical entries on the Russian terrorists.

(6) See Ger'e's essay in Entsiklopedicheskii slovar', ed. I. E. Andreevskii (St. Petersburg: F. A. Brokgauz and I. A. Efron, 1890-1904), 33: 69-81. The volume in question appeared in print in 1901. On Ger'e's career in interpreting the French terror and his belonging to the intellectual faction of Conservative Occidentophilism, see Dmitry Shlapentokh, The French Revolution in Russian Intellectual Life, 1865-1905 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996), 41-46.

(7) All Tolstoi references are to Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoi, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 90 vols., ed. V. G. Chertkov (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1928-58). Later references are cited as (volume: page) in the text. The factual chronology for January-February 1909 listed above may be found in the commentary section of volume 57 (57: 271-74). Based on accepted practice in Tolstoi scholarship, all references to the final version of War and Peace are to L. N. Tolstoi, Sobranie sachinenii, 22 vols. (hereafter SS), ed. M. B. Khrapchenko et al. (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1978-85).

(8) Nikolai Aleksandrovich Morozov (1854-1946), one of the most radical and colorful members of the People's Will, a talented astronomer and scientist, spent an estimated 28 years behind bars. In April 1907, when he was barely out of prison, Morozov sent Tolstoi a few of his books and prison memoirs with heartfelt dedications. Morozov paid Tolstoi a visit on his estate at the end of September 1908, and the two corresponded.

(9) Before 1878, Tolstoi was quite indifferent to the concept of dual revolutions that, according to Eric Hobsbawm's classic thesis (1962), determines modernity. See Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848, 5th ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), esp. 109-31 and 297-308.

(10) In his correspondence with Minister of the Interior Count Dmitrii Bludov, in 1856, Tolstoi suggested cautious but immediate reforms. He feared the revolt of desperate, land-hungry peasants (60: 67); and in his private diary, he recorded concerns regarding a revolution among merchants, whom he described as future murderers of his unborn children (47:128).

(11) See Dostoevskii's responses to Karakozov and Nihilism in his letters and notebooks: Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevskii, Polnae sabranie sachinenii, 30 vols. (Leningrad: Nauka, 1972-88): 24: 48; 28, pt. 2: 153-55; 27: 56.

(12) "Warlike violence" is the feature essential to terror according to the editors of The History of Terrorism from Antiquity to Al Qaeda, vii.

(13) Ibid., 8.

(14) Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1984), 281-82.

(15) Joseph de Maistre, "Considerations on France," in The Works of Joseph de Maistre, trans. and ed. Jack Lively (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), 48-49.

(16) On Tolstoi's interest in the Decembrists' religious martyrdom and his plans for the novel, see Inessa Medzhibovskaya, Tolstoy and the Religious Culture of His Time: A Biography of a Long Conversion, 1845-1887 (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), 72-74, 110-13, 199.

(17) Pierre's participation in the discussion at "Prince Fedor's" must be a conspiratorial nickname Tolstoi gave to the convention in 1820 of the Foundational Board (Korennaia uprava) of the Union of Welfare at the St. Petersburg apartment of Fedor Glinka. The meeting voted for radical tactics, since the goals of mere enlightenment and charity no longer seemed sufficient.

(18) Edward Thaden, Russia since 1801: The Making of a New Society (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1971), 224.

(19) For a discussion of the place of War and Peace in this development through the late 1870s when Tolstoi was undergoing his colossal religious conversion, see Medzhibovskaya, Tolstoy and the Religious Culture of His Time, 57-197.

(20) In February and March 1878, Tolstoi visited St. Petersburg to meet relatives of the Decembrists and continue with his Decembrist project. Egor von Meidel, chief of the Peter and Paul Fortress, took him on a personal tour of the cells where the arrested Decembrists had awaited trial in 1825-26 (83: 244; 48: 195, 400).

(21) Compare Luther's accusations against princes who called Jesus a liar and painted him as oblivious to political reality, the point that Tolstoi attacks in the antiwar scenes at the end of Anna Karenina. See Luther's "Secular Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed, 1523," in Martin Luther, Selections from His Writings, ed. John Dillenberger (New York: Anchor Books, 1962), 364.

(22) Anatolii Fedorovich Koni, "Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoi," in his Sobranie sachinenii, 8 vols. (Moscow: Iuridicheskaia literatura, 1968), 6: 454-501; here 6: 461.

(23) The term "Russian Charlotte Corday" is from Koni, "Vospominaniia," 2: 69.

(24) It was a destructive war of words, which could not result in the political persecution of Tolstoi, since Pobedonostsev's hatred of Tolstoi did not fan Alexander's dislike of him to the point where he could turn Tolstoi into a political martyr with the tsar's help. For Tolstoi's status at the court from 1881 to 1894, see Aleksandr III: Vospominaniia. Dnevniki. Pis'ma (St. Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo Pushkinskogo fonda, 2001), 130-40, 216, 266, 366.

(25) "Letter Sent by the Revolutionary Executive Committee to Alexander III, at His Accession to the Throne," in Sergei Mikhailovich Kravchinskii, Nihilism as It Is: Being Stepniak's Pamphlets Translated by E. L. Voynich and Felix Volkhonsky's Claims of the Russian Liberals, with an introduction by Dr. R. Spence Watson (London: T. F. Unwin, 1894), 81-90. The People's Will leaflet appeared on 12 March 1881. See the Russian text, "Ispolnitel'nyi komitet imperatoru Aleksandru III," in Aleksandr III: Vaspominaniia. Dnevniki. Pis'ma, 126-29.

(26) Kravchinskii, Nihilism as It Is, 85.

(27) These intriguing evaluations are of the young revolutionary Natal'ia Armfeld, sentenced in 1879 to 14 years of hard labor, whose correspondence Tolstoi was reading on 11 (23) April 1884. Tolstoi assigned her to the lofty human order (vysokii stroi): "A flippant, honest, joyous, gifted, and kind type. People shouldn't be forbidden to express their thoughts about how better to organize their lives. This is the only thing, before the bombs arrived, that our revolutionaries had been doing" (49: 81).

(28) On the roles of Khalturin, Zheliabov, and Kibal'chich in the activity of People's Will, see Franco Venturi, Roots of Revolution: A History of the Populist and Socialist Movements in 19th-Century Russia, trans. Francis Haskell, rev. ed. (London: Phoenix, 2001), 646-48, 686-720.

(29) In the period of transition from terror and reformist tactics toward a proletarian revolution led by the Party, Lenin denounced Tolstoi's pacifism equally with the terrorist tactics of his enemies among the Socialist Revolutionaries. See Istoriia Vsesaiuznoi kommunisticheskoi partii (bol'shevikov): Kratku kurs, edited and approved 1938 (Moscow: Ogiz-Politizdat, 1946), 105.

(30) In 1901, the student Karpovich assassinated Minister of Education Bogolepov, and in the next few years the Gershuni group carried out the assassinations of General Sipiagin (1902), Minister Plehve (1904), and Grand Duke Sergei (1905).

(31) For the historical analysis of terrorism from the 1890s through 1917, see O. V. Budnitskii, Terrorizm v rossiiskom osvobaditel'nom dvizhenii: Ideologiia, etika, psikhologiia (vtoraia polovina XIX-nachalo XX v.) (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2000), 263-335.

(32) Tolstoi's initial idea for the story was an encounter in prison of an "Old Believer and a revolutionary" (54: 541).

(33) In the final version, Tolstoi satisfies Merzeniecki's destructive mania by having the tsar and his family pulverized by an enormous explosion, after which Merzeniecki assumes presidency of the new republic.

(34) Tolstoi mentioned Lizogub alongside Osinskii and Perovskaia favorably in his preface to Chertkov's essay on revolution, 1904.

(35) See Osinskii's letter from prison on the eve of his execution, which contained the line "we are not a bit sorry to die, for we are dying for the Idea." The two versions of the letter in Tolstoi's tale catch the unabashed, devil-may-care rhetoric of salvation in Osinskii's letter, which toward its end grows cold and blunt. The same two attitudes are revealed in the letters that Tolstoi's hero writes from prison to his mother and fiancee. Osinskii's letter appeared in a Land and Freedom leaflet in June 1879. See Istoriia terrorizma v Rossii v dokumentakh, biografiiakh, issledovaniiakh, ed. O. V. Budnitskii, 2nd exp. ed. (Rostov-on-Don: Feniks, 1996), 112.

(36) The two portraits were part of Kravchinskii's Podpol'naia Rossiia (Underground Russia), his international bestseller that first appeared in Italian as La Russia sotterranea and was published in 1881 in the Milan newspaper Il pugnolo in the form of letters from Switzerland. See S. Stepniak-Kravchinskii, Socbineniia, 2 vols., ed. B. A. Piskun (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1958), 1: 409-17, 422-27.

(37) Dostoevskii, Polnoesobranie sochinenii, 10: 459.

(38) Kirillov agrees only on condition that the "new and terrible" freedom-or-death of his oath should look like the Russian noble seminarian's version of the Jacobin scroll inscribed in French, "gentilhomme-seminariste russe et citoyen du monde civilisee!" (Russian noble seminarian and citizen of the civilized world! [Dostoevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 10: 473]). For a comparison of Tolstoi's and Dostoevskii's different treatments of the theme of the demons in Luke 8:32-35, see Medzhibovskaya, Tolstoy and the Religious Culture of His Time, 218-19.

(39) See Dostoevskii's cover letter to Alexander III of 10 February 1873, accompanying his humble gift of Demons to the crown prince and future emperor, as a form of historical instruction for proper treatment of future Western imports of radicalism to Russia in Aleksandr III: Vospominaniia. Dnevniki. Pis'ma, 79-80. According to Dostoevskii, terrorist radicalism could only be of Western origin and a result of the Russian radicals' separation from the native soil. For a masterful interpretation of Dostoevskii's reception of the French Revolution in Demons and beyond, see Shlapentokh, The French Revolution, 55-59, 75, 102.

(40) See Tolstoi's diary entry of 21 May 1908: "s otvrashcheniem chital Figner" (56: 130). The part of Figner's memoir that infuriated Tolstoi is available in translation in Major Problems in the History of Imperial Russia, ed. James Cracraft (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath, 1994), 383-89.

(41) Boris Savinkov (V. Ropshin), Zapiski terrorista: Avtobiograficheskaia proza (Moscow: Zakharov, 2002), 467.

(42) S. Stepniak-Kravchinskii, Sochineniia, 1: 308. Andrei Kozhukhov first appeared in English as The Career of a Nihilist (1889).

(43) See "Znachenie politicheskikh ubiistv" (Land and Freedom leaflet, no. 2-3, 22 March 1879), in Istoriia terrorizma v Rossii, 91-95.

(44) S. Stepniak-Kravchinskii, Sochineniia, 1: 384-92.

(45) See Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 132, 321; and Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties, trans. Mary J. Gregor (New York: Abaris Books, 1979), 85.

(46) See Maurice Merleau-Ponty's discussion of Hegel's concept of "institutionalization" of Terror in the life of the state in his Humanista and Terror: An Essay an the Communist Problem, trans. John O'Neill (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), 149.

(47) Carl Schmitt, Theory of the Partisan: Intermediate Commentary on the Concept of the Political, trans. G. L. Ulmen (New York: Telos, 2007), 12.

(48) On Burke's points that "to make anything very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary" and that despotic power rests "upon the passion of fear" kept away "from the public eye," see Edmund Burke, On Taste. On the Beautiful and the Sublime. Reflections on the French Revolution. A Letter to a Noble Lord, ed. Charles W. Eliot, LL.D (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1937), 50-51.

(49) James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. John Paul Riquelme (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), 180, 189.

(50) Terry Eagleton, Holy Terror (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 3, 29.

(51) Tolstoi expresses these radical views most clearly in his "O znachenii russkoi revoliutsii" (On the Meaning of the Russian Revolution, 1905) and in his diary notes of January 1906 (55: 189).

(52) In the Iliodor story, Tolstoi most likely intended to explore the regicide path he had denied his other conflicted fictional cleric, Stepan Kasatskii in Farber Sergii (1898), who decides against becoming a tsar-murderer, takes holy vows, then violates them, and only then, as a nameless wanderer and man to another humble master, redeems his life in old age.

(53) For a classic definition of "dirty hands" in politics, see Michael Walzer, "Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands," in Moral Philosophy: Selected Readings, ed. George Sher (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College, 1996), 766-80.

(54) Shchegolev edited Byloe and after its ban in 1908 headed its sequel, the short-lived Minuvshie gody. Tolstoi subscribed to both periodicals, in addition to other annals of the revolutionary movement.

(55) Isaiah Berlin, "Herzen and Bakunin on Liberty," in his Russian Thinkers (London: Penguin Books, 1978), 82-113, here 113.

(56) Ibid., 113.

(57) Joseph Bochenski, Contemporary European Philosophy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), viii.

(58) Pavel Eliseevich Shchegolev, "Vstrechi s Tolstym," in his Perventsy russkoi svobody (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1987), 201-7; here 201-2.

(59) The quoted lines are from Tolstoi's response in April 1910 to a letter from Washburn, ND, by the young Russian emigrant Ivan Rozhkov, who compared Tolstoi's anti-state teaching with anarchism and found little difference between them.

(60) See Albert Camus, "Reflections on the Guillotine," in his Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, trans. Justin O'Brien (New York: Vintage International, 1995), 179.

(61) Albert Camus, "The Just Assassins," in his Caligula and Three Other Plays, trans. Stuart Gilbert, and with a preface by the author, trans. Justin O'Brien (New York: Vintage, 1958), 233-302, here x.

(62) Ibid., 297.

(63) Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (New York: Signet, 1983), 68-69.

(64) See Alberto Toscano's commentary to Alain Badiou, The Century, trans. Alberto Toscano (Cambridge: Polity, 2005), 191-93.

(65) Tolstoi's exhaustive documentary method would have merited a compliment from Walter Laqueur, who sought in vain for precisely this sort of objectivity in the portrayal of literary terrorists and remained dissatisfied with Dostoevskii, Conrad, and other famous literary renderings. For Laqueur's discussion of the problematic quality of canonical literary representations of terror, see Walter Laqueur, The Age of Terrorism (Boston: Little, Brown, 1987), 174-202.

(66) Simon Critchley, Infinitely Demanding.. Ethics of Resistance, Politics of Resistance (New York: Verso, 2007), 4.

(67) Ibid., 4, 15, 21, 64.

(68) See also Alain Badiou's Infinite Thought: Truth, and the Return of Philosophy, trans, and ed. Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens (London: Continuum, 2005).

(69) Ted Honderich, Violence for Equality: Inquiries in Political Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1989), 182.

(70) Tolstoi would not fare so well in comparison with Michael Ignatieff's cautious path of choosing the "lesser evil" in combating terror and in voicing protest. See Michael Ignatieff's The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

(71) Many scholars repeat that nonviolence is beyond the scope of investigations of political violence and terror. See, for example, Merari's view in The History of Terrorism from Antiquity to Al Qaeda, 22. See also Walter Laqueur's determined objection to exonerating terrorists other than by pressing them to adopt the principle of nonviolence (The Age of Terrorism, 3).
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Title Annotation:Forum: Tolstoi, Orthodoxy, and Terrorism
Author:Medzhibovskaya, Inessa
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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