Tolstoyism


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Tolstoyism

 

a utopian religious trend prevalent in Russia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It emerged during the political reaction of the 1880’s under the influence of L. N. Tolstoy’s religious and philosophical doctrine.

The foundations of Tolstoyism were expounded in Tolstoy’s A Confession, What I Believe, and The Kreutzer Sonata. The Tolstoyans believed that society could be changed through individual religious and moral self-perfection; they advocated universal love and passive nonresistance to evil. V. I. Lenin wrote that the Tolstoyans “sought to convert the weakest side of [Tolstoy’s] doctrine into a dogma” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17, p. 210). The Tolstoyans were persecuted by the clergy and police for their attacks on the Orthodox Church and official religion, their passive rejection of autocracy, their advocacy of egalitarianism, and their sympathy for such sects as the Molokans, Dukhobors, and Stundists. In 1897, Tolstoyism was declared to be a dangerous sect. Tolstoy was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church in 1901, and his followers were arrested and exiled.

Colonies of Tolstoyans, called cultural hermitages, were established in the 1880’s in Tver’, Simbirsk, and Kharkov provinces and in Transcaucasia, but they soon disbanded. The Tolstoyans’ educational activities were of greater importance. The Posrednik publishing house, founded by the Tolstoyans V. G. Chertkov and P. I. Biriukov, published books for the common people in large printings, including works by Tolstoy, G. I. Uspenskii, and A. P. Chekhov, as well as textbooks on agronomy, veterinary medicine, and hygiene.

Tolstoyism found adherents in Western Europe, Japan, and India (M. Gandhi), who attempted to found Tolstoyan colonies in England and South Africa between 1880 and 1910. However, Tolstoyism did not have a noticeable influence in Russia. Since it was an expression of “the primitive peasant democratic masses” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 20, p. 20) and a result of reaction and the decline of the revolutionary movement, it was outdated by the early 20th century, when the social movement again became prominent.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See Index volume, part 1, p. 676.)
Krivenko, S. N. Na rasput’i, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1901.
Prugavin, A. S. O L’ve Tolstom i tolstovtsakh. Moscow, 1911.