"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Tolstoy and his Disciples

Pre-revolutionary Russian history, as an article we published in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies about a decade ago now revealed, was rather more dynamic on questions of socio-economic reform than the usual picture of complete stagnation and aristocratic repression one often hears about. One person involved in stirring things up was the celebrated novelist Leo Tolstoy, about whom a new study has just been published this year: Charlotte Alston, Tolstoy and his Disciples: The History of a Radical International Movement (I.B. Taurus, 2014), 288pp.

About this book we are told:

As the vast empire of Imperial Russia struggled with the emancipation of the serfs after 1861 and creeped inexorably towards revolution, Leo Tolstoy underwent what he termed a 'spiritual awakening'. Advocating an extreme internationalism and the principles of non-violence, Tolstoy inspired a legion of followers who formed thousands of cooperatives and collective farms across Russia and Europe. These disciples had a major impact: in revolutionary Russia, these 'Tolstoyans' were seen as a threat to the Bolsheviks, and Lenin singled them out for repression. Decades later, Mahatma Gandhi would cite the movement as an inspiration for his campaign of peaceful resistance against the British Empire. Here, Charlotte Alston provides the first in-depth historical account of this remarkable phenomenon and its impact on European and Russian history, providing an important re-assessment of Tolstoy's impact on the political history of the modern world.

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