Wednesday, April 13, 2011


For Tolstoy and Russia, Still No Happy Ending

Ellen Barry and Sophia Kishovsky

"...last year Russians wrestled over Tolstoy much as they did when he was alive. Intellectuals accused the Russian Orthodox Church of blacklisting a national hero. The church accused Tolstoy of helping speed the rise of the Bolsheviks. The melodrama of his last days, when he fled his family estate to take up the life of an ascetic, was revived in all its pulpy detail, like some kind of early-stage reality television....

Ambivalence toward Tolstoy is new in Russia.

The Soviets planted him at the top of their literary pantheon, largely because of the radical philosophy he preached amid the early rumblings of the October Revolution. The publication of “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” made Tolstoy so famous that one contemporary described him as Russia’s second czar. He used that position to rail against the church, as well as the police, the army, meat eating, private property and all forms of violence.

Lenin loved Tolstoy’s “pent-up hatred.” He anointed him “the mirror of the Russian Revolution,” ignoring his pacifism and belief in God. As the 50th anniversary of his death approached, the Central Committee of the Communist Party began preparing two years in advance, so a monument would be ready for unveiling...

Vladimir I. Tolstoy, Tolstoy’s great-great-grandson, who oversees the museum at Yasnaya Polyana, the author’s estate [has been trying to mend the wounds]...

Tolstoy's great grandson, Vladimir I. TolstoyMr. Tolstoy, 48, has the slender, avid look of a professional intellectual, but his last name has called on him to wade into politics. He worked on one of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s presidential campaigns and does favors for area officials when they need “the authority or prestige of Tolstoy,” as he put it.

Ten years ago he asked the church to revisit the 1901 ruling that excommunicated his great-great-grandfather...More

Note: Regardless of how the Bolsheviks and Communists shamelessly exploited him for propaganda purposes, Tolstoy's stories, long or short, and whatever his confused political views, represent the best in the Western canon, with precious few peers.
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