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The Moscow Census - From "What to do?" by Lyof N. Tolstoi

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able to share a portion of our a superfluity with the poor (we have
so many wants of our own), and that money should not be given to any
one, if the object really be to do good and not to give money itself
at haphazard, as I had done in the Rzhanoff tavern. And I gave up
the whole thing, and went off to the country with despair in my

In the country I tried to write an essay about all this that I had
experienced, and to tell why my undertaking had not succeeded. I
wanted to justify myself against the reproaches which had been made
to me on the score of my article on the census; I wanted to convict
society of its in difference, and to state the causes in which this
city poverty has its birth, and the necessity of combating it, and
the means of doing so which I saw.

I began this essay at once, and it seemed to me that in it I was
saying a very great deal that was important. But toil as I would
over it, and in spite of the abundance of materials, in spite of the
superfluity of them even, I could not get though that essay; and so I
did not finish it until the present year, because of the irritation
under the influence of which I wrote, because I had not gone through
all that was requisite in order to bear myself properly in relation
to this essay, because I did not simply and clearly acknowledge the
cause of all this,--a very simple cause, which had its root in

In the domain of morals, one very remarkable and too little noted
phenomenon presents itself.

If I tell a man who knows nothing about it, what I know about
geology, astronomy, history, physics, and mathematics, that man
receives entirely new information, and he never says to me: "Well,
what is there new in that? Everybody knows that, and I have known it
this long while." But tell that same man the most lofty truth,
expressed in the clearest, most concise manner, as it has never
before been expressed, and every ordinary individual, especially one
who takes no particular interest in moral questions, or, even more,
one to whom the moral truth stated by you is displeasing, will
infallibly say to you: "Well, who does not know that? That was
known and said long ago." It really seems to him that this has been
said long ago and in just this way. Only those to whom moral truths
are dear and important know how important and precious they are, and
with what prolonged labor the elucidation, the simplification, of
moral truths, their transit from the state of a misty, indefinitely
recognized supposition, and desire, from indistinct, incoherent
expressions, to a firm and definite expression, unavoidably demanding
corresponding concessions, are attained.

We have all become accustomed to think that moral instruction is a
most absurd and tiresome thing, in which there can be nothing new or
interesting; and yet all human life, together with all the varied and
complicated activities, apparently independent, of morality, both
governmental and scientific, and artistic and commercial, has no
other aim than the greater and greater elucidation, confirmation,
simplification, and accessibility of moral truth.

I remember that I was once walking along the street in Moscow, and in
front of me I saw a man come out and gaze attentively at the stones
of the sidewalk, after which he selected one stone, seated himself on
it, and began to plane (as it seemed to me) or to rub it with the
greatest diligence and force. "What is he doing to the sidewalk?" I
said to myself. On going close to him, I saw what the man was doing.
He was a young fellow from a meat-shop; he was whetting his knife on
the stone of the pavement. He was not thinking at all of the stones
when he scrutinized them, still less was he thinking of them when he
was accomplishing his task: he was whetting his knife. He was
obliged to whet his knife so that he could cut the meat; but to me it
seemed as though he were doing something to the stones of the
sidewalk. Just so it appears as though humanity were occupied with
commerce, conventions, wars, sciences, arts; but only one business is
of importance to it, and with only one business is it occupied: it
is elucidating to itself those moral laws by which it lives. The
moral laws are already in existence; humanity is only elucidating
them, and this elucidation seems unimportant and imperceptible for
any one who has no need of moral laws, who does not wish to live by
them. But this elucidation of the moral law is not only weighty, but
the only real business of all humanity. This elucidation is
imperceptible just as the difference between the dull and the sharp
knife is imperceptible. The knife is a knife all the same, and for a
person who is not obliged to cut any thing with this knife, the
difference between the dull and the sharp one is imperceptible. For
the man who has come to an understanding that his whole life depends
on the greater or less degree of sharpness in the knife,--for such a
man, every whetting of it is weighty, and that man knows that the
knife is a knife only when it is sharp, when it cuts that which needs

This is what happened to me, when I began to write my essay. It
seemed to me that I knew all about it, that I understood every thing
connected with those questions which had produced on me the
impressions of the Lyapinsky house, and the census; but when I
attempted to take account of them and to demonstrate them, it turned
out that the knife would not cut, and that it must be whetted. And
it is only now, after the lapse of three years, that I have felt that
my knife is sufficiently sharp, so that I can cut what I choose. I
have learned very little that is new. My thoughts are all exactly
the same, but they were duller then, and they all scattered and would
not unite on any thing; there was no edge to them; they would not
concentrate on one point, on the simplest and clearest decision, as
they have now concentrated themselves.


I remember that during the entire period of my unsuccessful efforts
at helping the inhabitants of the city, I presented to myself the
aspect of a man who should attempt to drag another man out of a swamp
while he himself was standing on the same unstable ground. Every
attempt of mine had made me conscious of the untrustworthy character
of the soil on which I stood. I felt that I was in the swamp myself,
but this consciousness did not cause me to look more narrowly at my
own feet, in order to learn upon what I was standing; I kept on
seeking some external means, outside myself, of helping the existing

I then felt that my life was bad, and that it was impossible to live
in that manner. But from the fact that my life was bad, and that it
was impossible to live in that manner, I did not draw the very simple
and clear deduction that it was necessary to amend my life and to
live better, but I knew the terrible deduction that in order to live
well myself, I must needs reform the lives of others; and so I began
to reform the lives of others. I lived in the city, and I wished to
reform the lives of those who lived in the city; but I soon became
convinced that this I could not by any possibility accomplish, and I
began to meditate on the inherent characteristics of city life and
city poverty.

"What are city life and city poverty? Why, when I am living in the
city, cannot I help the city poor?"

I asked myself. I answered myself that I could not do any thing for
them, in the first place, because there were too many of them here in
one spot; in the second place, because all the poor people here were
entirely different from the country poor. Why were there so many of
them here? and in what did their peculiarity, as opposed to the
country poor, consist? There was one and the same answer to both
questions. There were a great many of them here, because here all
those people who have no means of subsistence in the country collect
around the rich; and their peculiarity lies in this, that they are
not people who have come from the country to support themselves in
the city (if there are any city paupers, those who have been born
here, and whose fathers and grandfathers were born here, then those
fathers and grandfathers came hither for the purpose of earning their
livelihood). What is the meaning of this: TO EARN ONE'S LIVELIHOOD
IN THE CITY? In the words "to earn one's livelihood in the city,"
there is something strange, resembling a jest, when you reflect on
their significance. How is it that people go from the country,--that
is to say, from the places where there are forests, meadows, grain,
and cattle, where all the wealth of the earth lies,--to earn their
livelihood in a place where there are neither trees, nor grass, nor
even land, and only stones and dust? What is the significance of the
words "to earn a livelihood in the city," which are in such constant
use, both by those who earn the livelihood, and by those who furnish
it, as though it were something perfectly clear and comprehensible?

I recall the hundreds and thousands of city people, both those who
live well and the needy, with whom I have conversed on the reason why
they came hither: and all without exception said, that they had come
from the country to earn their living; that in Moscow, where people
neither sow nor reap,--that in Moscow there is plenty of every thing,
and that, therefore, it is only in Moscow that they can earn the
money which they require in the country for bread and a cottage and a
horse, and articles of prime necessity. But assuredly, in the
country lies the source of all riches; there only is real wealth,--
bread, and forests, and horses, and every thing. And why, above all,
take away from the country that which dwellers in the country need,--
flour, oats, horses, and cattle?

Hundreds of times did I discuss this matter with peasants living in
town; and from my discussions with them, and from my observations, it
has been made apparent to me, that the congregation of country people
in the city is partly indispensable because they cannot otherwise
support themselves, partly voluntary, and that they are attracted to
the city by the temptations of the city.

It is true, that the position of the peasant is such that, for the
satisfaction of his demands made on him in the country, he cannot
extricate himself otherwise than by selling the grain and the cattle
which he knows will be indispensable to him; and he is forced,
whether he will or no, to go to the city in order there to win back
his bread. But it is also true, that the luxury of city life, and
the comparative ease with which money is there to be earned, attract
him thither; and under the pretext of gaining his living in the town,
he betakes himself thither in order that he may have lighter work,
better food, and drink tea three times a day, and dress well, and
even lead a drunken and dissolute life. The cause of both is
identical,--the transfer of the riches of the producers into the
hands of non-producers, and the accumulation of wealth in the cities.
And, in point of fact, when autumn has come, all wealth is collected
in the country. And instantly there arise demands for taxes,
recruits, the temptations of vodka, weddings, festivals; petty
pedlers make their rounds through the villages, and all sorts of
other temptations crop up; and by this road, or, if not, by some
other, wealth of the most varied description--vegetables, calves,
cows, horses, pigs, chickens, eggs, butter, hemp, flax, rye, oats,
buckwheat, pease, hempseed, and flaxseed--all passes into the hands
of strangers, is carried off to the towns, and thence to the
capitals. The countryman is obliged to surrender all this to satisfy
the demands that are made upon him, and temptations; and, having
parted with his wealth, he is left with an insufficiency, and he is
forced to go whither his wealth has been carried and there he tries,
in part, to obtain the money which he requires for his first needs in
the country, and in part, being himself led away by the blandishments
of the city, he enjoys, in company with others, the wealth that has
there accumulated. Everywhere, throughout the whole of Russia,--yes,
and not in Russia alone, I think, but throughout the whole world,--
the same thing goes on. The wealth of the rustic producers passes
into the hands of traders, landed proprietors, officials, and
factory-owners; and the people who receive this wealth wish to enjoy
it. But it is only in the city that they can derive full enjoyment
from this wealth. In the country, in the first place, it is
difficult to satisfy all the requirements of rich people, on account
of the sparseness of the population; banks, shops, hotels, every sort
of artisan, and all sorts of social diversions, do not exist there.
In the second place, one of the chief pleasures procured by wealth--
vanity, the desire to astonish and outshine other people--is
difficult to satisfy in the country; and this, again, on account of
the lack of inhabitants. In the country, there is no one to
appreciate elegance, no one to be astonished. Whatever adornments in
the way of pictures and bronzes the dweller in the country may
procure for his house, whatever equipages and toilets he may provide,
there is no one to see them and envy them, and the peasants cannot
judge of them. [And, in the third place, luxury is even disagreeable
and dangerous in the country for the man possessed of a conscience
and fear. It is an awkward and delicate matter, in the country, to
have baths of milk, or to feed your puppies on it, when directly
beside you there are children who have no milk; it is an awkward and
delicate matter to build pavilions and gardens in the midst of people
who live in cots banked up with dung, which they have no means of
warming. In the country there is no one to keep the stupid peasants
in order, and in their lack of cultivation they might disarrange all
this.] {11}

And accordingly rich people congregate, and join themselves to other
rich people with similar requirements, in the city, where the
gratification of every luxurious taste is carefully protected by a
numerous police force. Well-rooted inhabitants of the city of this
sort, are the governmental officials; every description of artisan
and professional man has sprung up around them, and with them the
wealthy join their forces. All that a rich man has to do there is to
take a fancy to a thing, and he can get it. It is also more
agreeable for a rich man to live there, because there he can gratify
his vanity; there is some one with whom he can vie in luxury; there
is some one to astonish, and there is some one to outshine. But the
principal reason why it is more comfortable in the city for a rich
man is that formerly, in the country, his luxury made him awkward and
uneasy; while now, on the contrary, it would be awkward for him not
to live luxuriously, not to live like all his peers around him. That
which seemed dreadful and awkward in the country, here appears to be
just as it should be. [Rich people congregate in the city; and
there, under the protection of the authorities, they calmly demand
every thing that is brought thither from the country. And the
countryman is, in some measure, compelled to go thither, where this
uninterrupted festival of the wealthy which demands all that is taken
from him is in progress, in order to feed upon the crumbs which fall
from the tables of the rich; and partly, also, because, when he
beholds the care-free, luxurious life, approved and protected by
everybody, he himself becomes desirous of regulating his life in such
a way as to work as little as possible, and to make as much use as
possible of the labors of others.

And so he betakes himself to the city, and finds employment about the
wealthy, endeavoring, by every means in his power, to entice from
them that which he is in need of, and conforming to all those
conditions which the wealthy impose upon him, he assists in the
gratification of all their whims; he serves the rich man in the bath
and in the inn, and as cab-driver and prostitute, and he makes for
him equipages, toys, and fashions; and he gradually learns from the
rich man to live in the same manner as the latter, not by labor, but
by divers tricks, getting away from others the wealth which they have
heaped together; and he becomes corrupt, and goes to destruction.
And this colony, demoralized by city wealth, constitutes that city
pauperism which I desired to aid and could not.

All that is necessary, in fact, is for us to reflect on the condition
of these inhabitants of the country, who have removed to the city in
order to earn their bread or their taxes,--when they behold,
everywhere around them, thousands squandered madly, and hundreds won
by the easiest possible means; when they themselves are forced by
heavy toil to earn kopeks,--and we shall be amazed that all these
people should remain working people, and that they do not all of them
take to an easier method of getting gain,--by trading, peddling,
acting as middlemen, begging, vice, rascality, and even robbery.
Why, we, the participants in that never-ceasing orgy which goes on in
town, can become so accustomed to our life, that it seems to us
perfectly natural to dwell alone in five huge apartments, heated by a
quantity of beech logs sufficient to cook the food for and to warm
twenty families; to drive half a verst with two trotters and two men-
servants; to cover the polished wood floor with rugs; and to spend, I
will not say, on a ball, five or ten thousand rubles, and twenty-five
thousand on a Christmas-tree. But a man who is in need of ten rubles
to buy bread for his family, or whose last sheep has been seized for
a tax-debt of seven rubles, and who cannot raise those rubles by hard
labor, cannot grow accustomed to this. We think that all this
appears natural to poor people there are even some ingenuous persons
who say in all seriousness, that the poor are very grateful to us for
supporting them by this luxury.] {12}

But poor people are not devoid of human understanding simply because
they are poor, and they judge precisely as we do. As the first
thought that occurs to us on hearing that such and such a man has
gambled away or squandered ten or twenty thousand rubles, is: "What
a foolish and worthless fellow he is to uselessly squander so much
money! and what a good use I could have made of that money in a
building which I have long been in need of, for the improvement of my
estate, and so forth!"--just so do the poor judge when they behold
the wealth which they need, not for caprices, but for the
satisfaction of their actual necessities, of which they are
frequently deprived, flung madly away before their eyes. We make a
very great mistake when we think that the poor can judge thus, reason
thus, and look on indifferently at the luxury which surrounds them.

They never have acknowledged, and they never will acknowledge, that
it can be just for some people to live always in idleness, and for
other people to fast and toil incessantly; but at first they are
amazed and insulted by this; then they scrutinize it more
attentively, and, seeing that these arrangements are recognized as
legitimate, they endeavor to free themselves from toil, and to take
part in the idleness. Some succeed in this, and they become just
such carousers themselves; others gradually prepare themselves for
this state; others still fail, and do not attain their goal, and,
having lost the habit of work, they fill up the disorderly houses and
the night-lodging houses.

Two years ago, we took from the country a peasant boy to wait on
table. For some reason, he did not get on well with the footman, and
he was sent away: he entered the service of a merchant, won the
favor of his master, and now he goes about with a vest and a watch-
chain, and dandified boots. In his place, we took another peasant, a
married man: he became a drunkard, and lost money. We took a third:
he took to drunk, and, having drank up every thing he had, he
suffered for a long while from poverty in the night-lodging house.
An old man, the cook, took to drink and fell sick. Last year a
footman who had formerly been a hard drinker, but who had refrained
from liquor for five years in the country, while living in Moscow
without his wife who encouraged him, took to drink again, and ruined
his whole life. A young lad from our village lives with my brother
as a table-servant. His grandfather, a blind old man, came to me
during my sojourn in the country, and asked me to remind this
grandson that he was to send ten rubies for the taxes, otherwise it
would be necessary for him to sell his cow. "He keeps saying, I must
dress decently," said the old man: "well, he has had some shoes
made, and that's all right; but what does he want to set up a watch
for?" said the grandfather, expressing in these words the most
senseless supposition that it was possible to originate. The
supposition really was senseless, if we take into consideration that
the old man throughout Lent had eaten no butter, and that he had no
split wood because he could not possibly pay one ruble and twenty
kopeks for it; but it turned out that the old man's senseless jest
was an actual fact. The young fellow came to see me in a fine black
coat, and shoes for which he had paid eight rubles. He had recently
borrowed ten rubles from my brother, and had spent them on these
shoes. And my children, who have known the lad from childhood, told
me that he really considers it indispensable to fit himself out with
a watch. He is a very good boy, but he thinks that people will laugh
at him so long as he has no watch; and a watch is necessary. During
the present year, a chambermaid, a girl of eighteen, entered into a
connection with the coachman in our house. She was discharged. An
old woman, the nurse, with whom I spoke in regard to the unfortunate
girl, reminded me of a girl whom I had forgotten. She too, ten yeans
ago, during a brief stay of ours in Moscow, had become connected with
a footman. She too had been discharged, and she had ended in a
disorderly house, and had died in the hospital before reaching the
age of twenty. It is only necessary to glance about one, to be
struck with terror at the pest which we disseminate directly by our
luxurious life among the people whom we afterwards wish to help, not
to mention the factories and establishments which serve our luxurious

[And thus, having penetrated into the peculiar character of city
poverty, which I was unable to remedy, I perceived that its prime
cause is this, that I take absolute necessaries from the dwellers in
the country, and carry them all to the city. The second cause is
this, that by making use here, in the city, of what I have collected
in the country, I tempt and lead astray, by my senseless luxury,
those country people who come hither because of me, in order in some
way to get back what they have been deprived of in the country.] {13}


I reached the same conclusion from a totally different point. On
recalling all my relations with the city poor during that time, I saw
that one of the reasons why I could not help the city poor was, that
the poor were disingenuous and untruthful with me. They all looked
upon me, not as a man, but as means. I could not get near them, and
I thought that perhaps I did not understand how to do it; but without
uprightness, no help was possible. How can one help a man who does
not disclose his whole condition? At first I blamed them for this
(it is so natural to blame some one else); but a remark from an
observing man named Siutaeff, who was visiting me at the time,
explained this matter to me, and showed me where the cause of my want
of success lay. I remember that Siutaeff's remark struck me very
forcibly at the time; but I only understood its full significance
later on. It was at the height of my self-delusion. I was sitting
with my sister, and Siutaeff was there also at her house; and my
sister was questioning me about my undertaking. I told her about it,
and, as always happens when you have no faith in your course, I
talked to her with great enthusiasm and warmth, and at great length,
of what I had done, and of what might possibly come of it. I told
her every thing,--how we were going to keep track of pauperism in
Moscow, how we were going to keep an eye on the orphans and old
people, how we were going to send away all country people who had
grown poor here, how we were going to smooth the pathway to reform
for the depraved; how, if only the matter could be managed, there
would not be a man left in Moscow, who could not obtain assistance.
My sister sympathized with me, and we discussed it. In the middle of
our conversation, I glanced at Siutaeff. As I was acquainted with
his Christian life, and with the significance which he attached to
charity, I expected his sympathy, and spoke so that he understood
this; I talked to my sister, but directed my remarks more at him. He
sat immovable in his dark tanned sheepskin jacket,--which he wore,
like all peasants, both out of doors and in the house,--and as though
he did not hear us, but were thinking of his own affairs. His small
eyes did not twinkle, and seemed to be turned inwards. Having
finished what I had to say, I turned to him with a query as to what
he thought of it.

"It's all a foolish business," said he.


"Your whole society is foolish, and nothing good can come out of it,"
he repeated with conviction.

"Why not? Why is it a stupid business to help thousands, at any rate
hundreds, of unfortunate beings? Is it a bad thing, according to the
Gospel, to clothe the naked, and feed the hungry?"

"I know, I know, but that is not what you are doing. Is it necessary
to render assistance in that way? You are walking along, and a man
asks you for twenty kopeks. You give them to him. Is that alms? Do
you give spiritual alms,--teach him. But what is it that you have
given? It was only for the sake of getting rid of him."

"No; and, besides, that is not what we are talking about. We want to
know about this need, and then to help by both money and deeds; and
to find work."

"You can do nothing with those people in that way."

"So they are to be allowed to die of hunger and cold?"

"Why should they die? Are there many of them there?"

"What, many of them?" said I, thinking that he looked at the matter
so lightly because he was not aware how vast was the number of these

"Why, do you know," said I, "I believe that there are twenty thousand
of these cold and hungry people in Moscow. And how about Petersburg
and the other cities?"

He smiled.

"Twenty thousand! And how many households are there in Russia alone,
do you think? Are there a million?"

"Well, what then?"

"What then?" and his eyes flashed, and he grew animated. "Come, let
us divide them among ourselves. I am not rich, I will take two
persons on the spot. There is the lad whom you took into your
kitchen; I invited him to come to my house, and he did not come.
Were there ten times as many, let us divide them among us. Do you
take some, and I will take some. We will work together. He will see
how I work, and he will learn. He will see how I live, and we will
sit down at the same table together, and he will hear my words and
yours. This charity society of yours is nonsense."

These simple words impressed me. I could not but admit their
justice; but it seemed to me at that time, that, in spite of their
truth, still that which I had planned might possibly prove of
service. But the further I carried this business, the more I
associated with the poor, the more frequently did this remark recur
to my mind, and the greater was the significance which it acquired
for me.

I arrive in a costly fur coat, or with my horses; or the man who
lacks shoes sees my two-thousand-ruble apartments. He sees how, a
little while ago, I gave five rubles without begrudging them, merely
because I took a whim to do so. He surely knows that if I give away
rubles in that manner, it is only because I have hoarded up so many
of them, that I have a great many superfluous ones, which I not only
have not given away, but which I have easily taken from other people.
[What else could he see in me but one of those persons who have got
possession of what belongs to him? And what other feeling can he
cherish towards me, than a desire to obtain from me as many of those
rubles, which have been stolen from him and from others, as possible?
I wish to get close to him, and I complain that he is not frank; and
here I am, afraid to sit down on his bed for fear of getting lice, or
catching something infectious; and I am afraid to admit him to my
room, and he, coming to me naked, waits, generally in the vestibule,
or, if very fortunate, in the ante-chamber. And yet I declare that
he is to blame because I cannot enter into intimate relations with
him, and because me is not frank.

Let the sternest man try the experiment of eating a dinner of five
courses in the midst of people who have had very little or nothing
but black bread to eat. Not a man will have the spirit to eat, and
to watch how the hungry lick their chops around him. Hence, then, in
order to eat daintily amid the famishing, the first indispensable
requisite is to hide from them, in order that they may not see it.
This is the very thing, and the first thing, that we do.

And I took a simpler view of our life, and perceived that an approach
to the poor is not difficult to us through accidental causes, but
that we deliberately arrange our lives in such a fashion so that this
approach may be rendered difficult.

Not only this; but, on taking a survey of our life, of the life of
the wealthy, I saw that every thing which is considered desirable in
that life consists in, or is inseparably bound up with, the idea of
getting as far away from the poor as possible. In fact, all the
efforts of our well-endowed life, beginning with our food, dress,
houses, our cleanliness, and even down to our education,--every thing
has for its chief object, the separation of ourselves from the poor.
In procuring this seclusion of ourselves by impassable barriers, we
spend, to put it mildly, nine-tenths of our wealth. The first thing
that a man who was grown wealthy does is to stop eating out of one
bowl, and he sets up crockery, and fits himself out with a kitchen
and servants. And he feeds his servants high, too, so that their
mouths may not water over his dainty viands; and he eats alone; and
as eating in solitude is wearisome, he plans how he may improve his
food and deck his table; and the very manner of taking his food
(dinner) becomes a matter for pride and vain glory with him, and his
manner of taking his food becomes for him a means of sequestering
himself from other men. A rich man cannot think of such a thing as
inviting a poor man to his table. A man must know how to conduct
ladies to table, how to bow, to sit down, to eat, to rinse out the
mouth; and only rich people know all these things. The same thing
occurs in the matter of clothing. If a rich man were to wear
ordinary clothing, simply for the purpose of protecting his body from
the cold,--a short jacket, a coat, felt and leather boots, an under-
jacket, trousers, shirt,--he would require but very little, and he
would not be unable, when he had two coats, to give one of them to a
man who had none. But the rich man begins by procuring for himself
clothing which consists entirely of separate pieces, and which is fit
only for separate occasions, and which is, therefore, unsuited to the
poor man. He has frock-coats, vests, pea-jackets, lacquered boots,
cloaks, shoes with French heels, garments that are chopped up into
bits to conform with the fashion, hunting-coats, travelling-coats,
and so on, which can only be used under conditions of existence far
removed from poverty. And his clothing also furnishes him with a
means of keeping at a distance from the poor. The same is the case,
and even more clearly, with his dwelling. In order that one may live
alone in ten rooms, it is indispensable that those who live ten in
one room should not see it. The richer a man is, the more difficult
is he of access; the more porters there are between him and people
who are not rich, the more impossible is it to conduct a poor man
over rugs, and seat him in a satin chair.

The case is the same with the means of locomotion. The peasant
driving in a cart, or a sledge, must be a very ill-tempered man when
he will not give a pedestrian a lift; and there is both room for this
and a possibility of doing it. But the richer the equipage, the
farther is a man from all possibility of giving a seat to any person
whatsoever. It is even said plainly, that the most stylish equipages
are those meant to hold only one person.

It is precisely the same thing with the manner of life which is
expressed by the word cleanliness.

Cleanliness! Who is there that does not know people, especially
women, who reckon this cleanliness in themselves as a great virtue?
and who is not acquainted with the devices of this cleanliness, which
know no bounds, when it can command the labor of others? Which of
the people who have become rich has not experienced in his own case,
with what difficulty he carefully trained himself to this
cleanliness, which only confirms the proverb, "Little white hands
love other people's work"?

To-day cleanliness consists in changing your shirt once a day; to-
morrow, in changing it twice a day. To-day it means washing the
face, and neck, and hands daily; to-morrow, the feet; and day after
to-morrow, washing the whole body every day, and, in addition and in
particular, a rubbing-down. To-day the table-cloth is to serve for
two days, to-morrow there must be one each day, then two a day. To-
day the footman's hands must be clean; to-morrow he must wear gloves,
and in his clean gloves he must present a letter on a clean salver.
And there are no limits to this cleanliness, which is useless to
everybody, and objectless, except for the purpose of separating
oneself from others, and of rendering impossible all intercourse with
them, when this cleanliness is attained by the labors of others.

Moreover, when I studied the subject, I because convinced that even
that which is commonly called education is the very same thing.

The tongue does not deceive; it calls by its real name that which men
understand under this name. What the people call culture is
fashionable clothing, political conversation, clean hands,--a certain
sort of cleanliness. Of such a man, it is said, in contradistinction
to others, that he is an educated man. In a little higher circle,
what they call education means the same thing as with the people;
only to the conditions of education are added playing on the
pianoforte, a knowledge of French, the writing of Russian without
orthographical errors, and a still greater degree of external
cleanliness. In a still more elevated sphere, education means all
this with the addition of the English language, and a diploma from
the highest educational institution. But education is precisely the
same thing in the first, the second, and the third case. Education
consists of those forms and acquirements which are calculated to
separate a man from his fellows. And its object is identical with
that of cleanliness,--to seclude us from the herd of poor, in order
that they, the poor, may not see how we feast. But it is impossible
to hide ourselves, and they do see us.

And accordingly I have become convinced that the cause of the
inability of us rich people to help the poor of the city lies in the
impossibility of our establishing intercourse with them; and that
this impossibility of intercourse is caused by ourselves, by the
whole course of our lives, by all the uses which we make of our
wealth. I have become convinced that between us, the rich and the
poor, there rises a wall, reared by ourselves out of that very
cleanliness and education, and constructed of our wealth; and that in
order to be in a condition to help the poor, we must needs, first of
all, destroy this wall; and that in order to do this, confrontation
after Siutaeff's method should be rendered possible, and the poor
distributed among us. And from another starting-point also I came to
the same conclusion to which the current of my discussions as to the
causes of the poverty in towns had led me: the cause was our
wealth.] {14}


I began to examine the matter from a third and wholly personal point
of view. Among the phenomena which particularly impressed me, during
the period of my charitable activity, there was yet another, and a
very strange one, for which I could for a long time find no
explanation. It was this: every time that I chanced, either on the
street on in the house, to give some small coin to a poor man,
without saying any thing to him, I saw, or thought that I saw,
contentment and gratitude on the countenance of the poor man, and I
myself experienced in this form of benevolence an agreeable
sensation. I saw that I had done what the man wished and expected
from me. But if I stopped the poor man, and sympathetically
questioned him about his former and his present life, I felt that it
was no longer possible to give three or twenty kopeks, and I began to
fumble in my purse for money, in doubt as to how much I ought to
give, and I always gave more; and I always noticed that the poor man
left me dissatisfied. But if I entered into still closer intercourse
with the poor man, then my doubts as to how much to give increased
also; and, no matter how much I gave, the poor man grew ever more
sullen and discontented. As a general rule, it always turned out
thus, that if I gave, after conversation with a poor man, three
rubles or even more, I almost always beheld gloom, displeasure, and
even ill-will, on the countenance of the poor man; and I have even
known it to happen, that, having received ten rubles, he went off
without so much as saying "Thank you," exactly as though I had
insulted him.

And thereupon I felt awkward and ashamed, and almost guilty. But if
I followed up a poor man for weeks and months and years, and assisted
him, and explained my views to him, and associated with him, our
relations became a torment, and I perceived that the man despised me.
And I felt that he was in the right.

If I go out into the street, and he, standing in that street, begs of
me among the number of the other passers-by, people who walk and ride
past him, and I give him money, I then am to him a passer-by, and a
good, kind passer-by, who bestows on him that thread from which a
shirt is made for the naked man; he expects nothing more than the
thread, and if I give it he thanks me sincerely. But if I stop him,
and talk with him as man with man, I thereby show him that I desire
to be something more than a mere passer-by. If, as often happens, he
weeps while relating to me his woes, then he sees in me no longer a
passer-by, but that which I desire that he should see: a good man.
But if I am a good man, my goodness cannot pause at a twenty-kopek
piece, nor at ten rubles, nor at ten thousand; it is impossible to be
a little bit of a good man. Let us suppose that I have given him a
great deal, that I have fitted him out, dressed him, set him on his
feet so that the can live without outside assistance; but for some
reason or other, though misfortune or his own weakness or vices, he
is again without that coat, that linen, and that money which I have
given him; he is again cold and hungry, and he has come again to me,-
-how can I refuse him? [For if the cause of my action consisted in
the attainment of a definite, material end, on giving him so many
rubles or such and such a coat I might be at ease after having
bestowed them. But the cause of my action is not this: the cause
is, that I want to be a good man, that is to say, I want to see
myself in every other man. Every man understands goodness thus, and
in no other manner.] {15} And therefore, if he should drink away
every thing that you had given him twenty times, and if he should
again be cold and hungry, you cannot do otherwise than give him more,
if you are a good man; you can never cease giving to him, if you have
more than he has. And if you draw back, you will thereby show that
every thing that you have done, you have done not because you are a
good man, but because you wished to appear a good man in his sight,
and in the sight of men.

And thus in the case with the men from whom I chanced to recede, to
whom I ceased to give, and, by this action, denied good, I
experienced a torturing sense of shame.

What sort of shame was this? This shame I had experienced in the
Lyapinsky house, and both before and after that in the country, when
I happened to give money or any thing else to the poor, and in my
expeditions among the city poor.

A mortifying incident that occurred to me not long ago vividly
reminded me of that shame, and led me to an explanation of that shame
which I had felt when bestowing money on the poor.

[This happened in the country. I wanted twenty kopeks to give to a
poor pilgrim; I sent my son to borrow them from some one; he brought
the pilgrim a twenty-kopek piece, and told me that he had borrowed it
from the cook. A few days afterwards some more pilgrims arrived, and
again I was in want of a twenty-kopek piece. I had a ruble; I
recollected that I was in debt to the cook, and I went to the
kitchen, hoping to get some more small change from the cook. I said:
"I borrowed a twenty-kopek piece from you, so here is a ruble." I
had not finished speaking, when the cook called in his wife from
another room: "Take it, Parasha," said he. I, supposing that she
understood what I wanted, handed her the ruble. I must state that
the cook had only lived with me a week, and, though I had seen his
wife, I had never spoken to her. I was just on the point of saying
to her that she was to give me some small coins, when she bent
swiftly down to my hand, and tried to kiss it, evidently imaging that
I had given her the ruble. I muttered something, and quitted the
kitchen. I was ashamed, ashamed to the verge of torture, as I had
not been for a long time. I shrank together; I was conscious that I
was making grimaces, and I groaned with shame as I fled from the
kitchen. This utterly unexpected, and, as it seemed to me, utterly
undeserved shame, made a special impression on me, because it was a
long time since I had been mortified, and because I, as an old man,
had so lived, it seemed to me, that I had not merited this shame. I
was forcibly struck by this. I told the members of my household
about it, I told my acquaintances, and they all agreed that they
should have felt the same. And I began to reflect: why had this
caused me such shame? To this, something which had happened to me in
Moscow furnished me with an answer.

I meditated on that incident, and the shame which I had experienced
in the presence of the cook's wife was explained to me, and all those
sensations of mortification which I had undergone during the course
of my Moscow benevolence, and which I now feel incessantly when I
have occasion to give any one any thing except that petty alms to the
poor and to pilgrims, which I have become accustomed to bestow, and
which I consider a deed not of charity but of courtesy. If a man
asks you for a light, you must strike a match for him, if you have
one. If a man asks for three or for twenty kopeks, or even for
several rubles, you must give them if you have them. This is an act
of courtesy and not of charity.] {16}

This was the case in question: I have already mentioned the two
peasants with whom I was in the habit of sawing wood three yeans ago.
One Saturday evening at dusk, I was returning to the city in their
company. They were going to their employer to receive their wages.
As we were crossing the Dragomilovsky bridge, we met an old man. He
asked alms, and I gave him twenty kopeks. I gave, and reflected on
the good effect which my charity would have on Semyon, with whom I
had been conversing on religious topics. Semyon, the Vladimir
peasant, who had a wife and two children in Moscow, halted also,
pulled round the skirt of his kaftan, and got out his purse, and from
this slender purse he extracted, after some fumbling, three kopeks,
handed it to the old man, and asked for two kopeks in change. The
old man exhibited in his hand two three-kopek pieces and one kopek.
Semyon looked at them, was about to take the kopek, but thought
better of it, pulled off his hat, crossed himself, and walked on,
leaving the old man the three-kopek piece.

I was fully acquainted with Semyon's financial condition. He had no
property at home at all. The money which he had laid by on the day
when he gave three kopeks amounted to six rubles and fifty kopeks.
Accordingly, six rubles and twenty kopeks was the sum of his savings.
My reserve fund was in the neighborhood of six hundred thousand. I
had a wife and children, Semyon had a wife and children. He was
younger than I, and his children were fewer in number than mine; but
his children were small, and two of mine were of an age to work, so
that our position, with the exception of the savings, was on an
equality; mine was somewhat the more favorable, if any thing. He
gave three kopeks, I gave twenty. What did he really give, and what
did I really give? What ought I to have given, in order to do what
Semyon had done? he had six hundred kopeks; out of this he gave one,
and afterwards two. I had six hundred thousand rubles. In order to
give what Semyon had given, I should have been obliged to give three
thousand rubles, and ask for two thousand in change, and then leave
the two thousand with the old man, cross myself, and go my way,
calmly conversing about life in the factories, and the cost of liver
in the Smolensk market.

I thought of this at the time; but it was only long afterwards that I
was in a condition to draw from this incident that deduction which
inevitably results from it. This deduction is so uncommon and so
singular, apparently, that, in spite of its mathematical
infallibility, one requires time to grow used to it. It does seem as
though there must be some mistake, but mistake there is none. There
is merely the fearful mist of error in which we live.

[This deduction, when I arrived at it, and when I recognized its
undoubted truth, furnished me with an explanation of my shame in the
presence of the cook's wife, and of all the poor people to whom I had
given and to whom I still give money.

What, in point of fact, is that money which I give to the poor, and
which the cook's wife thought I was giving to her? In the majority
of cases, it is that portion of my substance which it is impossible
even to express in figures to Semyon and the cook's wife,--it is
generally one millionth part or about that. I give so little that
the bestowal of any money is not and cannot be a deprivation to me;
it is only a pleasure in which I amuse myself when the whim seizes
me. And it was thus that the cook's wife understood it. If I give
to a man who steps in from the street one ruble or twenty kopeks, why
should not I give her a ruble also? In the opinion of the cook's
wife, such a bestowal of money is precisely the same as the flinging
of honey-cakes to the people by gentlemen; it furnishes the people
who have a great deal of superfluous cash with amusement. I was
mortified because the mistake made by the cook's wife demonstrated to
me distinctly the view which she, and all people who are not rich,
must take of me: "He is flinging away his folly, i.e., his unearned

As a matter of fact, what is my money, and whence did it come into my
possession? A portion of it I accumulated from the land which I
received from my father. A peasant sold his last sheep or cow in
order to give the money to me. Another portion of my money is the
money which I have received for my writings, for my books. If my
books are hurtful, I only lead astray those who purchase them, and
the money which I receive for them is ill-earned money; but if my
books are useful to people, then the issue is still more disastrous.
I do not give them to people: I say, "Give me seventeen rubles, and
I will give them to you." And as the peasant sells his last sheep,
in this case the poor student or teacher, or any other poor man,
deprives himself of necessaries in order to give me this money. And
so I have accumulated a great deal of money in that way, and what do
I do with it? I take that money to the city, and bestow it on the
poor, only when they fulfil my caprices, and come hither to the city
to clean my sidewalk, lamps, and shoes; to work for me in factories.
And in return for this money, I force from them every thing that I
can; that is to say, I try to give them as little as possible, and to
receive as much as possible from them. And all at once I begin,
quite unexpectedly, to bestow this money as a simple gift, on these
same poor persons, not on all, but on those to whom I take a fancy.
Why should not every poor person expect that it is quite possible
that the luck may fall to him of being one of those with whom I shall
amuse myself by distributing my superfluous money? And so all look
upon me as the cook's wife did.

And I had gone so far astray that this taking of thousands from the
poor with one hand, and this flinging of kopeks with the other, to
those to whom the whim moved me to give, I called good. No wonder
that I felt ashamed.] {17}

Yes, before doing good it was needful for me to stand outside of
evil, in such conditions that I might cease to do evil. But my whole
life is evil. I may give away a hundred thousand rubles, and still I
shall not be in a position to do good because I shall still have five
hundred thousand left. Only when I have nothing shall I be in a
position to do the least particle of good, even as much as the
prostitute did which she nursed the sick women and her child for
three days. And that seemed so little to me! And I dared to think
of good myself! That which, on the first occasion, told me, at the
sight of the cold and hungry in the Lyapinsky house, that I was to
blame for this, and that to live as I live is impossible, and
impossible, and impossible,--that alone was true.

What, then, was I to do?


It was hard for me to come to this confession, but when I had come to
it I was shocked at the error in which I had been living. I stood up
to my ears in the mud, and yet I wanted to drag others out of this

What is it that I wish in reality? I wish to do good to others. I
wish to do it so that other people may not be cold and hungry, so
that others may live as it is natural for people to live.

[I wish this, and I see that in consequence of the violence,
extortions, and various tricks in which I take part, people who toil
are deprived of necessaries, and people who do not toil, in whose
ranks I also belong, enjoy in superabundance the toil of other

I see that this enjoyment of the labors of others is so arranged,
that the more rascally and complicated the trickery which is employed
by the man himself, or which has been employed by the person from
whom he obtained his inheritance, the more does he enjoy of the
labors of others, and the less does he contribute of his own labor.

First come the Shtiglitzy, Dervizy, Morozovy, the Demidoffs, the
Yusapoffs; then great bankers, merchants, officials, landed
proprietors, among whom I also belong; then the poor--very small
traders, dramshop-keepers, usurers, district judges, overseers,
teachers, sacristans, clerks; then house-porters, lackeys, coachmen,
watch-carriers, cab-drivers, peddlers; and last of all, the laboring
classes--factory-hands and peasants, whose numbers bear the relation
to the first named of ten to one. I see that the life of nine-tenths
of the working classes demands, by reason of its nature, application
and toil, as does every natural life; but that, in consequence of the
sharp practices which take from these people what is indispensable,
and place them in such oppressive conditions, this life becomes more
difficult every year, and more filled with deprivations; but our
life, the life of the non-laboring classes, thanks to the co-
operation of the arts and sciences which are directed to this object,
becomes more filled with superfluities, more attractive and careful,
with every year. I see, that, in our day, the life of the working-
man, and, in particular, the life of old men, of women, and of
children of the working population, is perishing directly from their
food, which is utterly inadequate to their fatiguing labor; and that
this life of theirs is not free from care as to its very first
requirements; and that, alongside of this, the life of the non-
laboring classes, to which I belong, is filled more and more, every
year, with superfluities and luxury, and becomes more and more free
from anxiety, and has finally reached such a point of freedom from
care, in the case of its fortunate members, of whom I am one, as was
only dreamed of in olden times in fairy-tales,--the state of the
owner of the purse with the inexhaustible ruble, that is, a condition
in which a man is not only utterly released from the law of labor,
but in which he possesses the possibility of enjoying, without toil,
all the blessings of life, and of transferring to his children, or to
any one whom he may see fit, this purse with the inexhaustible ruble.

I see that the products of the people's toil are more and more
transformed from the mass of the working classes to those who do not
work; that the pyramid of the social edifice seems to be
reconstructed in such fashion that the foundation stones are carried
to the apex, and the swiftness of this transfer is increasing in a
sort of geometrical ratio. I see that the result of this is
something like that which would take place in an ant-heap if the
community of ants were to lose their sense of the common law, if some
ants were to begin to draw the products of labor from the bottom to
the top of the heap, and should constantly contract the foundations
and broaden the apex, and should thereby also force the remaining
ants to betake themselves from the bottom to the summit.

I see that the ideal of the Fortunatus' purse has made its way among
the people, in the place of the ideal of a toilsome life. Rich
people, myself among the number, get possession of the inexhaustible
ruble by various devices, and for the purpose of enjoying it we go to
the city, to the place where nothing is produced and where every
thing is swallowed up.

The industrious poor man, who is robbed in order that the rich may
possess this inexhaustible ruble, yearns for the city in his train;
and there he also takes to sharp practices, and either acquires for
himself a position in which he can work little and receive much,
thereby rendering still more oppressive the situation of the laboring
classes, or, not having attained to such a position, he goes to ruin,
and falls into the ranks of those cold and hungry inhabitants of the
night-lodging houses, which are being swelled with such remarkable

I belong to the class of those people, who, by divers tricks, take
from the toiling masses the necessaries of life, and who have
acquired for themselves these inexhaustible rubles, and who lead
these unfortunates astray. I desire to aid people, and therefore it
is clear that, first of all, I must cease to rob them as I am doing.
But I, by the most complicated, and cunning, and evil practices,
which have been heaped up for centuries, have acquired for myself the
position of an owner of the inexhaustible ruble, that is to say, one
in which, never working myself, I can make hundreds and thousands of
people toil for me--which also I do; and I imagine that I pity
people, and I wish to assist them. I sit on a man's neck, I weigh
him down, and I demand that he shall carry me; and without descending
from his shoulders I assure myself and others that I am very sorry
for him, and that I desire to ameliorate his condition by all
possible means, only not by getting off of him.

Surely this is simple enough. If I want to help the poor, that is,
to make the poor no longer poor, I must not produce poor people. And
I give, at my own selection, to poor men who have gone astray from
the path of life, a ruble, or ten rubles, or a hundred; and I grasp
hundreds from people who have not yet left the path, and thereby I
render them poor also, and demoralize them to boot.

This is very simple; but it was horribly hard for me to understand
this fully without compromises and reservations, which might serve to
justify my position; but it sufficed for me to confess my guilt, and
every thing which had before seemed to me strange and complicated,
and lacking in cleanness, became perfectly comprehensible and simple.
But the chief point was, that my way of life, arising from this
interpretation, became simple, clear and pleasant, instead of
perplexed, inexplicable and full of torture as before.] {18}

Who am I, that I should desire to help others? I desire to help
people; and I, rising at twelve o'clock after a game of vint {19}
with four candles, weak, exhausted, demanding the aid of hundreds of
people,--I go to the aid of whom? Of people who rise at five
o'clock, who sleep on planks, who nourish themselves on bread and
cabbage, who know how to plough, to reap, to wield the axe, to chop,
to harness, to sew,--of people who in strength and endurance, and
skill and abstemiousness, are a hundred times superior to me,--and I
go to their succor! What except shame could I feel, when I entered
into communion with these people? The very weakest of them, a
drunkard, an inhabitant of the Rzhanoff house, the one whom they call
"the idler," is a hundred-fold more industrious than I; [his balance,
so to speak, that is to say, the relation of what he takes from
people and that which they give him, stands on a thousand times
better footing than my balance, if I take into consideration what I
take from people and what I give to them.] {18}

And these are the people to whose assistance I go. I go to help the
poor. But who is the poor man? There is no one poorer than myself.
I am a thoroughly enervated, good-for-nothing parasite, who can only
exist under the most special conditions, who can only exist when
thousands of people toil at the preservation of this life which is
utterly useless to every one. And I, that plant-louse, which devours
the foliage of trees, wish to help the tree in its growth and health,
and I wish to heal it.

I have passed my whole life in this manner: I eat, I talk and I
listen; I eat, I write or read, that is to say, I talk and listen
again; I eat, I play, I eat, again I talk and listen, I eat, and
again I go to bed; and so each day I can do nothing else, and I
understand how to do nothing else. And in order that I may be able
to do this, it is necessary that the porter, the peasant, the cook,
male or female, the footman, the coachman, and the laundress, should
toil from morning till night; I will not refer to the labors of the
people which are necessary in order that coachman, cooks, male and
female, footman, and the rest should have those implements and
articles with which, and over which, they toil for my sake; axes,
tubs, brushes, household utensils, furniture, wax, blacking,
kerosene, hay, wood, and beef. And all these people work hard all
day long and every day, so that I may be able to talk and eat and
sleep. And I, this cripple of a man, have imagined that I could help
others, and those the very people who support me!

It is not remarkable that I could not help any one, and that I felt
ashamed; but the remarkable point is that such an absurd idea could
have occurred to me. The woman who served the sick old man, helped
him; the mistress of the house, who cut a slice from the bread which
she had won from the soil, helped the beggar; Semyon, who gave three
kopeks which he had earned, helped the beggar, because those three
kopeks actually represented his labor: but I served no one, I toiled
for no one, and I was well aware that my money did not represent my


Into the delusion that I could help others I was led by the fact that
I fancied that my money was of the same sort as Semyon's. But this
was not the case.

A general idea prevails, that money represents wealth; but wealth is
the product of labor; and, therefore, money represents labor. But
this idea is as just as that every governmental regulation is the
result of a compact (contrat social).

Every one likes to think that money is only a medium of exchange for
labor. I have made shoes, you have raised grain, he has reared
sheep: here, in order that we may the more readily effect an
exchange, we will institute money, which represents a corresponding
quantity of labor, and, by means of it, we will barter our shoes for
a breast of lamb and ten pounds of flour. We will exchange our
products through the medium of money, and the money of each one of us
represents our labor.

This is perfectly true, but true only so long as, in the community
where this exchange is effected, the violence of one man over the
rest has not made its appearance; not only violence over the labors
of others, as happens in wars and slavery, but where he exercises no
violence for the protection of the products of their labor from
others. This will be true only in a community whose members fully
carry out the Christian law, in a community where men give to him who
asks, and where he who takes is not asked to make restitution. But
just so soon as any violence whatever is used in the community, the
significance of money for its possessor loses its significance as a
representative of labor, and acquires the significance of a right
founded, not on labor, but on violence.

As soon as there is war, and one man has taken any thing from any
other man, money can no longer be always the representative of labor;
money received by a warrior for the spoils of war, which he sells,
even if he is the commander of the warriors, is in no way a product
of labor, and possesses an entirely different meaning from money
received for work on shoes. As soon as there are slave-owners and
slaves, as there always have been throughout the whole world, it is
utterly impossible to say that money represents labor.

Women have woven linen, sold it, and received money; serfs have woven
for their master, and the master has sold them and received the
money. The money is identical in both cases; but in the one case it
is the product of labor, in the other the product of violence. In
exactly the same way, a stranger or my own father has given me money;
and my father, when he gave me that money, knew, and I know, and
everybody knows, that no one can take this money away from me; but if
it should occur to any one to take it away from me, or even not to
hand it over at the date when it was promised, the law would
intervene on my behalf, and would compel the delivery to me of the
money; and, again, it is evident that this money can in no wise be
called the equivalent of labor, on a level with the money received by
Semyon for chopping wood. So that in any community where there is
any thing that in any manner whatever controls the labor of others,
or where violence hedges in, by means of money, its possessions from
others, there money is no longer invariably the representative of
labor. In such a community, it is sometimes the representative of
labor, and sometimes of violence.

Thus it would be where only one act of violence from one man against
others, in the midst of perfectly free relations, should have made
its appearance; but now, when centuries of the most varied deeds of
violence have passed for accumulations of money, when these deeds of
violence are incessant, and merely alter their forms; when, as every
one admits, money accumulated itself represents violence; when money,
as a representative of direct labor, forms but a very small portion
of the money which is derived from every sort of violence,--to say
nowadays that money represents the labor of the person who possesses
it, is a self-evident error or a deliberate lie.

It may be said, that thus it should be; it may be said, that this is
desirable; but by no means can it be said, that thus it is.

Money represents labor. Yes. Money does represent labor; but whose?
In our society only in the very rarest, rarest of instances, does
money represent the labor of its possessor, but it nearly always
represents the labor of other people, the past or future labor of
men; it is a representative of the obligation of others to labor,
which has been established by force.

Money, in its most accurate and at the same the simple application,
is the conventional stamp which confers a right, or, more correctly,
a possibility, of taking advantage of the labors of other people. In
its ideal significance, money should confer this right, or this
possibility, only when it serves as the equivalent of labor, and such
money might be in a community in which no violence existed. But just
as soon as violence, that is to say, the possibility of profiting by
the labors of others without toil of one's own, exists in a
community, then that profiting by the labors of other men is also
expressed by money, without any distinction of the persons on whom
that violence is exercised.

The landed proprietor has imposed upon his serfs natural debts, a
certain quantity of linen, grain, and cattle, or a corresponding
amount of money. One household has procured the cattle, but has paid
money in lieu of linen. The proprietor takes the money to a certain
amount only, because he knows that for that money they will make him
the same quantity of linen, (generally he takes a little more, in
order to be sure that they will make it for the same amount); and
this money, evidently, represents for the proprietor the obligation
of other people to toil.

The peasant gives the money as an obligation, to he knows not whom,
but to people, and there are many of them, who undertake for this
money to make so much linen. But the people who undertake to make
the linen, do so because they have not succeeded in raising sheep,
and in place of the sheep, they must pay money; but the peasant who
takes money for his sheep takes it because he must pay for grain
which did not bear well this year. The same thing goes on throughout
this realm, and throughout the whole world.

A man sells the product of his labor, past, present or to come,
sometimes his food, and generally not because money constitutes for
him a convenient means of exchange. He could have effected the
barter without money, but he does so because money is exacted from
him by violence as a lien on his labor.

When the sovereign of Egypt exacted labor from his slaves, the slaves
gave all their labor, but only their past and present labor, their
future labor they could not give. But with the dissemination of
money tokens, and the credit which had its rise in them, it became
possible to sell one's future toil for money. Money, with co-
existent violence in the community, only represents the possibility
of a new form of impersonal slavery, which has taken the place of
personal slavery. The slave-owner has a right to the labor of Piotr,
Ivan, and Sidor. But the owner of money, in a place where money is
demanded from all, has a right to the toil of all those nameless
people who are in need of money. Money has set aside all the
oppressive features of slavery, under which an owner knows his right
to Ivan, and with them it has set aside all humane relations between
the owner and the slave, which mitigated the burden of personal

I will not allude to the fact, that such a condition of things is,
possibly, necessary for the development of mankind, for progress, and
so forth,--that I do not contest. I have merely tried to elucidate
to myself the idea of money, and that universal error into which I
fell when I accepted money as the representative of labor. I became
convinced, after experience, that money is not the representative of
labor, but, in the majority of cases, the representative of violence,
or of especially complicated sharp practices founded on violence.

Money, in our day, has completely lost that significance which it is
very desirable that it should possess, as the representative of one's
own labor; such a significance it has only as an exception, but, as a
general rule, it has been converted into a right or a possibility of
profiting by the toil of others.

The dissemination of money, of credit, and of all sorts of money
tokens, confirms this significance of money ever more and more.
Money is a new form of slavery, which differs from the old form of
slavery only in its impersonality, its annihilation of all humane
relations with the slave.

Money--money, is a value which is always equal to itself, and is
always considered legal and righteous, and whose use is regarded as
not immoral, just as the right of slavery was regarded.

In my young days, the game of loto was introduced into the clubs.
Everybody rushed to play it, and, as it was said, many ruined
themselves, rendered their families miserable, lost other people's
money, and government funds, and committed suicide; and the game was
prohibited, and it remains prohibited to this day.

I remember to have seen old and unsentimental gamblers, who told me
that this game was particularly pleasing because you did not see from
whom you were winning, as is the case in other games; a lackey
brought, not money, but chips; each man lost a little stake, and his
disappointment was not visible . . . It is the same with roulette,
which is everywhere prohibited, and not without reason.

It is the same with money. I possess a magic, inexhaustible ruble; I
cut off my coupons, and have retired from all the business of the
world. Whom do I injure,--I, the most inoffensive and kindest of
men? But this is nothing more than playing at loto or roulette,
where I do not see the man who shoots himself, because of his losses,
after procuring for me those coupons which I cut off from the bonds
so accurately with a strictly right-angled corner.

I have done nothing, I do nothing, and I shall do nothing, except cut
off those coupons; and I firmly believe that money is the
representative of labor! Surely, this is amazing! And people talk
of madmen, after that! Why, what degree of lunacy can be more
frightful than this? A sensible, educated, in all other respects
sane man lives in a senseless manner, and soothes himself for not
uttering the word which it is indispensably necessary that he should
utter, with the idea that there is some sense in his conclusions, and
he considers himself a just man. Coupons--the representatives of
toil! Toil! Yes, but of whose toil? Evidently not of the man who
owns them, but of him who labors.

Slavery is far from being suppressed. It has been suppressed in Rome
and in America, and among us: but only certain laws have been
abrogated; only the word, not the thing, has been put down. Slavery
is the freeing of ourselves alone from the toil which is necessary
for the satisfaction of our demands, by the transfer of this toil to
others; and wherever there exists a man who does not work, not
because others work lovingly for him, but where he possesses the
power of not working, and forces others to work for him, there
slavery exists. There too, where, as in all European societies,
there are people who make use of the labor of thousands of men, and
regard this as their right,--there slavery exists in its broadest

And money is the same thing as slavery. Its object and its
consequences are the same. Its object is--that one may rid one's
self of the first born of all laws, as a profoundly thoughtful writer
from the ranks of the people has expressed it; from the natural law
of life, as we have called it; from the law of personal labor for the
satisfaction of our own wants. And the results of money are the same
as the results of slavery, for the proprietor; the creation, the
invention of new and ever new and never-ending demands, which can
never be satisfied; the enervation of poverty, vice, and for the
slaves, the persecution of man and their degradation to the level of
the beasts.

Money is a new and terrible form of slavery, and equally demoralizing
with the ancient form of slavery for both slave and slave-owner; only
much worse, because it frees the slave and the slave-owner from their
personal, humane relations.]


I am always surprised by the oft-repeated words: "Yes, this is so in
theory, but how is it in practice?" Just as though theory were fine
words, requisite for conversation, but not for the purpose of having
all practice, that is, all activity, indispensably founded on them.
There must be a fearful number of stupid theories current in the
world, that such an extraordinary idea should have become prevalent.
Theory is what a man thinks on a subject, but its practice is what he
does. How can a man think it necessary to do so and so, and then do
the contrary? If the theory of baking bread is, that it must first
be mixed, and then set to rise, no one except a lunatic, knowing this
theory, would do the reverse. But it has become the fashion with us
to say, that "this is so in theory, but how about the practice?"

In the matter which interests me now, that has been confirmed which I
have always thought,--that practice infallibly flows from theory, and
not that it justifies it, but it cannot possibly be otherwise, for if
I have understood the thing of which I have been thinking, then I
cannot carry out this thing otherwise than as I have understood it.

I wanted to help the unfortunate only because I had money, and I
shared the general belief that money was the representative of labor,
or, on the whole, something legal and good. But, having begun to
give away this money, I saw, when I gave the bills which I had
accumulated from poor people, that I was doing precisely that which
was done by some landed proprietors who made some of their serfs wait
on others. I saw that every use of money, whether for making
purchases, or for giving away without an equivalent to another, is
handing over a note for extortion from the poor, or its transfer to
another man for extortion from the poor. I saw that money in itself
was not only not good, but evidently evil, and that it deprives us of
our highest good,--labor, and thereby of the enjoyment of our labor,
and that that blessing I was not in a position to confer on any one,
because I was myself deprived of it: I do not work, and I take no
pleasure in making use of the labor of others.

It would appear that there is something peculiar in this abstract
argument as to the nature of money. But this argument which I have
made not for the sake of argument, but for the solution of the
problem of my life, of my sufferings, was for me an answer to my
question: What is to be done?

As soon as I grasped the meaning of riches, and of money, it not only
became clear and indisputable to me, what I ought to do, but also
clear and indisputable what others ought to do, because they would
infallibly do it. I had only actually come to understand what I had
known for a long time previously, the theory which was given to men
from the very earliest times, both by Buddha, and Isaiah, and Lao-
Tze, and Socrates, and in a peculiarly clear and indisputable manner
by Jesus Christ and his forerunner, John the Baptist. John the
Baptist, in answer to the question of the people,--What were they to
do? replied simply, briefly, and clearly: "He that hath two coats,
let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him
do likewise" (Luke iii. 10, 11). In a similar manner, but with even
greater clearness, and on many occasions, Christ spoke. He said:
"Blessed are the poor, and woe to the rich." He said that it is
impossible to serve God and mammon. He forbade his disciples to take
not only money, but also two garments. He said to the rich young
man, that he could not enter into the kingdom of heaven because he
was rich, and that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of
a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He said
that he who should not leave every thing, houses and children and
lands, and follow him, could not be his disciple. He told the
parable of the rich man who did nothing bad, like our own rich men,
but who only arrayed himself in costly garments, and ate and drank
daintily, and who lost his soul thereby; and of poor Lazarus, who had
done nothing good, but who was saved merely because he was poor.

This theory was sufficiently familiar to me, but the false teachings
of the world had so obscured it that it had become for me a theory in
the sense which people are fond of attributing to that term, that is
to say, empty words. But as soon as I had succeeded in destroying in
my consciousness the sophisms of worldly teaching, theory conformed
to practice, and the truth with regard to my life and to the life of
the people about me became its conclusion.

I understood that man, besides life for his own personal good, is
unavoidably bound to serve the good of others also; that, if we take
an illustration from the animal kingdom,--as some people are fond of
doing, defending violence and conflict by the conflict for existence
in the animal kingdom,--the illustration must be taken from
gregarious animals, like bees; that consequently man, not to mention
the love to his neighbor incumbent on him, is called upon, both by
reason and by his nature, to serve other people and the common good
of humanity. I comprehended that the natural law of man is that
according to which only he can fulfil destiny, and therefore be
happy. I understood that this law has been and is broken hereby,--
that people get rid of labor by force (like the robber bees), make
use of the toil of others, directing this toil, not to the common
weal, but to the private satisfaction of swift-growing desires; and,
precisely as in the case of the robber bees, they perish in
consequence. [I understood that the original form of this
disinclination for the law is the brutal violence against weaker
individuals, against women, wars and imprisonments, whose sequel is
slavery, and also the present reign of money. I understood that
money is the impersonal and concealed enslavement of the poor. And,
once having perceived the significance of money as slavery, I could
not but hate it, nor refrain from doing all in my power to free
myself from it.] {21}

When I was a slave-owner, and comprehended the immorality of my
position, I tried to escape from it. My escape consisted in this,
that I, regarding it as immoral, tried to exercise my rights as
slave-owner as little as possible, but to live, and to allow other
people to live, as though that right did not exist. And I cannot
refrain from doing the same thing now in reference to the present
form of slavery,--exercising my right to the labor of others as
little as possible, i.e., hiring and purchasing as little as

The root of every slavery is the use of the labor of others; and
hence, the compelling others to it is founded indifferently on my
right to the slave, or on my possession of money which is
indispensable to him. If I really do not approve, and if I regard as
an evil, the employment of the labor of others, then I shall use
neither my right nor my money for that purpose; I shall not compel
others to toil for me, but I shall endeavor to free them from the
labor which they have performed for me, as far as possible, either by
doing without this labor or by performing it for myself.

And this very simple and unavoidable deduction enters into all the
details of my life, effects a total change in it, and at one blow
releases me from those moral sufferings which I have undergone at the
sight of the sufferings and the vice of the people, and instantly
annihilates all three causes of my inability to aid the poor, which I
had encountered while seeking the cause of my lack of success.

The first cause was the herding of the people in towns, and the
absorption there of the wealth of the country. All that a man needs
is to understand how every hiring or purchase is a handle to
extortion from the poor, and that therefore he must abstain from
them, and must try to fulfil his own requirements; and not a single
man will then quit the country, where all wants can be satisfied
without money, for the city, where it is necessary to buy every
thing: and in the country he will be in a position to help the
needy, as has been my own experience and the experience of every one

The second cause is the estrangement of the rich from the poor. A
man needs but to refrain from buying, from hiring, and, disdaining no
sort of work, to satisfy his requirements himself, and the former
estrangement will immediately be annihilated, and the man, having
rejected luxury and the services of others, will amalgamate with the
mass of the working people, and, standing shoulder to shoulder with
the working people, he can help them.

The third cause was shame, founded on a consciousness of immorality
in my owning that money with which I desired to help people. All
that is required is: to understand the significance of money as
impersonal slavery, which it has acquired among us, in order to
escape for the future from falling into the error according to which
money, though evil in itself, can be an instrument of good, and in
order to refrain from acquiring money; and to rid one's self of it in
order to be in a position to do good to people, that is, to bestow on
them one's labor, and not the labor of another.


[I saw that money is the cause of suffering and vice among the
people, and that, if I desired to help people, the first thing that
was required of me was not to create those unfortunates whom I wished
to assist.

I came to the conclusion that the man who does not love vice and the
suffering of the people should not make use of money, thus presenting
an inducement to extortion from the poor, by forcing them to work for
him; and that, in order not to make use of the toil of others, he
must demand as little from others as possible, and work as much as
possible himself.] {22}

By dint of a long course of reasoning, I came to this inevitable
conclusion, which was drawn thousands of years ago by the Chinese in
the saying, "If there is one idle man, there is another dying with
hunger to offset him.

[Then what are we to do? John the Baptist gave the answer to this
very question two thousand years ago. And when the people asked him,
"What are we to do?" he said, "Let him that hath two garments impart
to him that hath none, and let him that hath meat do the same." What
is the meaning of giving away one garment out of two, and half of
one's food? It means giving to others every superfluity, and
thenceforth taking nothing superfluous from people.

This expedient, which furnishes such perfect satisfaction to the
moral feelings, kept my eyes fast bound, and binds all our eyes; and
we do not see it, but gaze aside.

This is precisely like a personage on the stage, who had entered a
long time since, and all the spectators see him, and it is obvious
that the actors cannot help seeing him, but the point on the stage
lies in the acting characters pretending not to see him, and in
suffering from his absence.] {23}

Thus we, in our efforts to recover from our social diseases, search
in all quarters, governmental and anti-governmental, and in
scientific and in philanthropic superstitions; and we do not see what
is perfectly visible to every eye.

For the man who really suffers from the sufferings of the people who
surround us, there exists the very plainest, simplest, and easiest
means; the only possible one for the cure of the evil about us, and
for the acquisition of a consciousness of the legitimacy of his life;
the one given by John the Baptist, and confirmed by Christ: not to
have more than one garment, and not to have money. And not to have
any money, means, not to employ the labor of others, and hence, first
of all, to do with our own hands every thing that we can possibly do.

This is so clear and simple! But it is clear and simple when the
requirements are simple. I live in the country. I lie on the oven,
and I order my debtor, my neighbor, to chop wood and light my fire.
It is very clear that I am lazy, and that I tear my neighbor away
from his affairs, and I shall feel mortified, and I shall find it
tiresome to lie still all the time; and I shall go and split my wood
for myself.

But the delusion of slavery of all descriptions lies so far back, so
much of artificial exaction has sprung up upon it, so many people,
accustomed in different degrees to these habits, are interwoven with
each other, enervated people, spoiled for generations, and such
complicated delusions and justifications for their luxury and
idleness have been devised by people, that it is far from being so
easy for a man who stands at the summit of the ladder of idle people
to understand his sin, as it is for the peasant who has made his
neighbor build his fire.

It is terribly difficult for people at the top of this ladder to
understand what is required of them. [Their heads are turned by the
height of this ladder of lies, upon which they find themselves when a
place on the ground is offered to them, to which they must descend in
order to begin to live, not yet well, but no longer cruelly,
inhumanly; for this reason, this clear and simple truth appears
strange to these people. For the man with ten servants, liveries,
coachmen, cooks, pictures, pianofortes, that will infallibly appear
strange, and even ridiculous, which is the simplest, the first act
of--I will not say every good man--but of every man who is not
wicked: to cut his own wood with which his food is cooked, and with
which he warms himself; to himself clean those boots with which he
has heedlessly stepped in the mire; to himself fetch that water with
which he preserves his cleanliness, and to carry out that dirty water
in which he has washed himself.] {24}

But, besides the remoteness of people from the truth, there is
another cause which prevents people from seeing the obligation for
them of the simplest and most natural personal, physical labor for
themselves: this is the complication, the inextricability of the
conditions, the advantage of all the people who are bound together
among themselves by money, in which the rich man lives: My luxurious
life feeds people. What would become of my old valet if I were to
discharge him? What! we must all do every thing necessary,--make our
clothes and hew wood? . . . And how about the division of labor?"

[This morning I stepped out into the corridor where the fires were
being built. A peasant was making a fire in the stove which warms my
son's room. I went in; the latter was asleep. It was eleven o'clock
in the morning. To-day is a holiday: there is some excuse, there
are no lessons.

The smooth-skinned, eighteen-year-old youth, with a beard, who had
eaten his fill on the preceding evening, sleeps until eleven o'clock.
But the peasant of his age had been up at dawn, and had got through a
quantity of work, and was attending to his tenth stove, while the
former slept. "The peasant shall not make the fire in his stove to
warm that smooth, lazy body of his!" I thought. But I immediately
recollected that this stove also warmed the room of the housekeeper,
a woman forty years of age, who, on the evening before, had been
making preparations up to three o'clock in the morning for the supper
which my son had eaten, and that she had cleared the table, and risen
at seven, nevertheless. The peasant was building the fire for her
also. And under her name the lazybones was warming himself.

It is true that the interests of all are interwoven; but, even
without any prolonged reckoning, the conscience of each man will say
on whose side lies labor, and on whose idleness. But although
conscience says this, the account-book, the cash-book, says it still
more clearly. The more money any one spends, the more idle he is,
that is to say, the more he makes others work for him. The less he
spends, the more he works.] {25} But trade, but public undertakings,
and, finally, the most terrible of words, culture, the development of
sciences, and the arts,--what of them?

[If I live I will make answer to those points, and in detail; and
until such answer I will narrate the following.] {25}



Last year, in March, I was returning home late at night. As I turned
from the Zubova into Khamovnitchesky Lane, I saw some black spots on
the snow of the Dyevitchy Pole (field). Something was moving about
in one place. I should not have paid any attention to this, if the
policeman who was standing at the end of the street had not shouted
in the direction of the black spots, -

"Vasily! why don't you bring her in?"

"She won't come!" answered a voice, and then the spot moved towards
the policeman.

I halted and asked the police-officer, "What is it?"

He said,--"They are taking a girl from the Rzhanoff house to the
station-house; and she is hanging back, she won't walk." A house-
porter in a sheepskin coat was leading her. She was walking forward,
and he was pushing her from behind. All of us, I and the porter and
the policeman, were dressed in winter clothes, but she had nothing on
over her dress. In the darkness I could make out only her brown
dress, and the kerchiefs on her head and neck. She was short in
stature, as is often the case with the prematurely born, with small
feet, and a comparatively broad and awkward figure.

"We're waiting for you, you carrion. Get along, what do you mean by
it? I'll give it to you!" shouted the policeman. He was evidently
tired, and he had had too much of her. She advanced a few paces, and
again halted.

The little old porter, a good-natured fellow (I know him), tugged at
her hand. "Here, I'll teach you to stop! On with you!" he repeated,
as though in anger. She staggered, and began to talk in a discordant
voice. At every sound there was a false note, both hoarse and

"Come now, you're shoving again. I'll get there some time!"

She stopped and then went on. I followed them.

"You'll freeze," said the porters

"The likes of us don't freeze: I'm hot."

She tried to jest, but her words sounded like scolding. She halted
again under the lantern which stands not far from our house, and
leaned against, almost hung over, the fence, and began to fumble for
something among her skirts, with benumbed and awkward hands. Again
they shouted at her, but she muttered something and did something.
In one hand she held a cigarette bent into a bow, in the other a
match. I paused behind her; I was ashamed to pass her, and I was
ashamed to stand and look on. But I made up my mind, and stepped
forward. Her shoulder was lying against the fence, and against the
fence it was that she vainly struck the match and flung it away. I
looked in her face. She was really a person prematurely born; but,
as it seemed to me, already an old woman. I credited her with thirty
years. A dirty hue of face; small, dull, tipsy eyes; a button-like
nose; curved moist lips with drooping corners, and a short wisp of
harsh hair escaping from beneath her kerchief; a long flat figure,
stumpy hands and feet. I paused opposite her. She stared at me, and
burst into a laugh, as though she knew all that was going on in my

I felt that it was necessary to say something to her. I wanted to
show her that I pitied her.

"Are your parents alive?" I inquired.

She laughed hoarsely, with an expression which said, "he's making up
queer things to ask."

"My mother is," said she. "But what do you want?"

"And how old are you?"

"Sixteen," said she, answering promptly to a question which was
evidently customary.

"Come, march, you'll freeze, you'll perish entirely," shouted the
policeman; and she swayed away from the fence, and, staggering along,
she went down Khamovnitchesky Lane to the police-station; and I
turned to the wicket, and entered the house, and inquired whether my
daughters had returned. I was told that they had been to an evening
party, had had a very merry time, had come home, and were in bed.

Next morning I wanted to go to the station-house to learn what had
been done with this unfortunate woman, and I was preparing to go out
very early, when there came to see me one of those unlucky noblemen,
who, through weakness, have dropped from the gentlemanly life to
which they are accustomed, and who alternately rise and fall. I had
been acquainted with this man for three years. In the course of
those three years, this man had several times made way with every
thing that he had, and even with all his clothes; the same thing had
just happened again, and he was passing the nights temporarily in the
Rzhanoff house, in the night-lodging section, and he had come to me
for the day. He met me as I was going out, at the entrance, and
without listening to me he began to tell me what had taken place in
the Rzhanoff house the night before. He began his narrative, and did
not half finish it; all at once (he is an old man who has seen men
under all sorts of aspects) he burst out sobbing, and flooded has
countenance with tears, and when he had become silent, turned has
face to the wall. This is what he told me. Every thing that he
related to me was absolutely true. I authenticated his story on the
spot, and learned fresh particulars which I will relate separately.

In that night-lodging house, on the lower floor, in No. 32, in which
my friend had spent the night, among the various, ever-changing
lodgers, men and women, who came together there for five kopeks,
there was a laundress, a woman thirty years of age, light-haired,
peaceable and pretty, but sickly. The mistress of the quarters had a
boatman lover. In the summer her lover kept a boat, and in the
winter they lived by letting accommodations to night-lodgers: three
kopeks without a pillow, five kopeks with a pillow.

The laundress had lived there for several months, and was a quiet
woman; but latterly they had not liked her, because she coughed and
prevented the women from sleeping. An old half-crazy woman eighty
years old, in particular, also a regular lodger in these quarters,
hated the laundress, and imbittered the latter's life because she
prevented her sleeping, and cleared her throat all night like a
sheep. The laundress held her peace; she was in debt for her
lodgings, and was conscious of her guilt, and therefore she was bound
to be quiet. She began to go more and more rarely to her work, as
her strength failed her, and therefore she could not pay her
landlady; and for the last week she had not been out to work at all,
and had only poisoned the existence of every one, especially of the
old woman, who also did not go out, with her cough. Four days before
this, the landlady had given the laundress notice to leave the
quarters: the latter was already sixty kopeks in debt, and she
neither paid them, nor did the landlady foresee any possibility of
getting them; and all the bunks were occupied, and the women all
complained of the laundress's cough.

When the landlady gave the laundress notice, and told her that she
must leave the lodgings if she did not pay up, the old woman rejoiced
and thrust the laundress out of doors. The laundress departed, but
returned in an hour, and the landlady had not the heart to put her
out again. And the second and the third day, she did not turn her
out. "Where am I to go?" said the laundress. But on the third day,
the landlady's lover, a Moscow man, who knew the regulations and how
to manage, sent for the police. A policeman with sword and pistol on
a red cord came to the lodgings, and with courteous words he led the
laundress into the street.

It was a clear, sunny, but freezing March day. The gutters were
flowing, the house-porters were picking at the ice. The cabman's
sleigh jolted over the icy snow, and screeched over the stones. The
laundress walked up the street on the sunny side, went to the church,
and seated herself at the entrance, still on the sunny side. But
when the sun began to sink behind the houses, the puddles began to be
skimmed over with a glass of frost, and the laundress grew cold and
wretched. She rose, and dragged herself . . . whither? Home, to the
only home where she had lived so long. While she was on her way,
resting at times, dusk descended. She approached the gates, turned
in, slipped, groaned and fell.

One man came up, and then another. "She must be drunk." Another man
came up, and stumbled over the laundress, and said to the potter:
"What drunken woman is this wallowing at your gate? I came near
breaking my head over her; take her away, won't you?"

The porter came. The laundress was dead. This is what my friend
told me. It may be thought that I have wilfully mixed up facts,--I
encounter a prostitute of fifteen, and the story of this laundress.
But let no one imagine this; it is exactly what happened in the
course of one night (only I do not remember which) in March, 1884.
And so, after hearing my friend's tale, I went to the station-house,
with the intention of proceeding thence to the Rzhanoff house to
inquire more minutely into the history of the laundress. The weather
was very beautiful and sunny; and again, through the stars of the
night-frost, water was to be seen trickling in the shade, and in the
glare of the sun on Khamovnitchesky square every thing was melting,
and the water was streaming. The river emitted a humming noise. The
trees of the Neskutchny garden looked blue across the river; the
reddish-brown sparrows, invisible in winter, attracted attention by
their sprightliness; people also seemed desirous of being merry, but
all of them had too many cares. The sound of the bells was audible,
and at the foundation of these mingling sounds, the sounds of shots
could be heard from the barracks, the whistle of rifle-balls and
their crack against the target.

I entered the station-house. In the station some armed policemen
conducted me to their chief. He was similarly armed with sword and
pistol, and he was engaged in taking some measures with regard to a
tattered, trembling old man, who was standing before him, and who
could not answer the questions put to him, on account of his
feebleness. Having finished his business with the old man, he turned
to me. I inquired about the girl of the night before. At first he
listened to me attentively, but afterwards he began to smile, at my
ignorance of the regulations, in consequence of which she had been
taken to the station-house; and particularly at my surprise at her

"Why, there are plenty of them of twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years
of age," he said cheerfully.

But in answer to my question about the girl whom I had seen on the
preceding evening, he explained to me that she must have been sent to
the committee (so it appeared). To my question where she had passed
the night, he replied in an undecided manner. He did not recall the
one to whom I referred. There were so many of them every day.

In No. 32 of the Rzhanoff house I found the sacristan already reading
prayers over the dead woman. They had taken her to the bunk which
she had formerly occupied; and the lodgers, all miserable beings, had
collected money for the masses for her soul, a coffin and a shroud,
and the old women had dressed her and laid her out. The sacristan
was reading something in the gloom; a woman in a long wadded cloak
was standing there with a wax candle; and a man (a gentleman, I must
state) in a clean coat with a lamb's-skin collar, polished overshoes,
and a starched shirt, was holding one like it. This was her brother.
They had hunted him up.

I went past the dead woman to the landlady's nook, and questioned her
about the whole business.

She was alarmed at my queries; she was evidently afraid that she
would be blamed for something; but afterwards she began to talk
freely, and told me every thing. As I passed back, I glanced at the
dead woman. All dead people are handsome, but this dead woman was
particularly beautiful and touching in her coffin; her pure, pale
face, with closed swollen eyes, sunken cheeks, and soft reddish hair
above the lofty brow,--a weary and kind and not a sad but a surprised
face. And in fact, if the living do not see, the dead are surprised.

On the same day that I wrote the above, there was a great ball in

That night I left the house at nine o'clock. I live in a locality
which is surrounded by factories, and I left the house after the
factory-whistles had sounded, releasing the people for a day of
freedom after a week of unremitting toil.

Factory-hands overtook me, and I overtook others of them, directing
their steps to the drinking-shops and taverns. Many were already
intoxicated, many were women. Every morning at five o'clock we can
hear one whistle, a second, a third, a tenth, and so forth, and so
forth. That means that the toil of women, children, and of old men
has begun. At eight o'clock another whistle, which signifies a
breathing-spell of half an hour. At twelve, a third: this means an
hour for dinner. And a fourth at eight, which denotes the end of the

By an odd coincidence, all three of the factories which are situated
near me produce only articles which are in demand for balls.

In one factory, the nearest, only stockings are made; in another
opposite, silken fabrics; in the third, perfumes and pomades.

It is possible to listen to these whistles, and connect no other idea
with them than as denoting the time: "There's the whistle already,
it is time to go to walk." But one can also connect with those
whistles that which they signify in reality; that first whistle, at
five o'clock, means that people, often all without exception, both
men and women, sleeping in a damp cellar, must rise, and hasten to
that building buzzing with machines, and must take their places at
their work, whose end and use for themselves they do not see, and
thus toil, often in heat and a stifling atmosphere, in the midst of
dirt, and with the very briefest breathing-spells, an hour, two
hours, three hours, twelve, and even more hours in succession. They
fall into a doze, and again they rise. And this, for them, senseless
work, to which they are driven only by necessity, is continued over
and over again.

And thus one week succeeds another with the breaks of holidays; and I
see these work-people released on one of these holidays. They emerge
into the street. Everywhere there are drinking-shops, taverns, and
loose girls. And they, in their drunken state, drag by the hand each
other, and girls like the one whom I saw taken to the station-house;
they drag with them cabmen, and they ride and they walk from one
tavern to another; and they curse and stagger, and say they
themselves know not what. I had previously seen such unsteady gait
on the part of factory-hands, and had turned aside in disgust, and
had been on the point of rebuking them; but ever since I have been in
the habit of hearing those whistles every day, and understand their
meaning, I am only amazed that they, all the men, do not come to the
condition of the "golden squad," of which Moscow is full, {26} [and
the women to the state of the one whom I had seen near my house].

Thus I walked along, and scrutinized these factory-hands, as long as
they roamed the streets, which was until eleven o'clock. Then their
movements began to calm down. Some drunken men remained here and
there, and here and there I encountered men who were being taken to
the station-house. And then carriages began to make their appearance
on all sides, directing their course toward one point.

On the box sits a coachman, sometimes in a sheepskin coat; and a
footman, a dandy, with a cockade. Well-fed horses in saddle-cloths
fly through the frost at the rate of twenty versts an hour; in the
carriages sit ladies muffled in round cloaks, and carefully tending
their flowers and head-dresses. Every thing from the horse-
trappings, the carriages, the gutta-percha wheels, the cloth of the
coachman's coat, to the stockings, shoes, flowers, velvet, gloves,
and perfumes,--every thing is made by those people, some of whom
often roll drunk into their dens or sleeping-rooms, and some stay
with disreputable women in the night-lodging houses, while still
others are put in jail. Thus past them in all their work, and over
them all, ride the frequenters of balls; and it never enters their
heads, that there is any connection between these balls to which they
make ready to go, and these drunkards at whom their coachman shouts
so roughly.

These people enjoy themselves at the ball with the utmost composure
of spirit, and assurance that they are doing nothing wrong, but
something very good. Enjoy themselves! Enjoy themselves from eleven
o'clock until six in the morning, in the very dead of night, at the
very hour when people are tossing and turning with empty stomachs in
the night-lodging houses, and while some are dying, as did the

Their enjoyment consists in this,--that the women and young girls,
having bared their necks and arms, and applied bustles behind, place
themselves in a situation in which no uncorrupted woman or maiden
would care to display herself to a man, on any consideration in the
world; and in this half-naked condition, with their uncovered bosoms
exposed to view, with arms bare to the shoulder, with a bustle behind
and tightly swathed hips, under the most brilliant light, women and
maidens, whose chief virtue has always been modesty, exhibit
themselves in the midst of strange men, who are also clad in
improperly tight-fitting garments; and to the sound of maddening
music, they embrace and whirl. Old women, often as naked as the
young ones, sit and look on, and eat and drink savory things; old men
do the same. It is not to be wondered at that this should take place
at night, when all the common people are asleep, so that no one may
see them. But this is not done with the object of concealment: it
seems to them that there is nothing to conceal; that it is a very
good thing; that by this merry-making, in which the labor of
thousands of toiling people is destroyed, they not only do not injure
any one, but that by this very act they furnish the poor with the
means of subsistence. Possibly it is very merry at balls. But how
does this come about? When we see that there is a man in the
community, in our midst, who has had no food, or who is freezing, we
regret our mirth, and we cannot be cheerful until he is fed and
warmed, not to mention the impossibility of imagining people who can
indulge in such mirth as causes suffering to others. The mirth of
wicked little boys, who pitch a dog's tail in a split stick, and make
merry over it, is repulsive and incomprehensible to us.

In the same manner here, in these diversions of ours, blindness has
fallen upon us, and we do not see the split stick with which we have
pitched all those people who suffer for our amusement.

[We live as though there were no connection between the dying
laundress, the prostitute of fourteen, and our own life; and yet the
connection between them strikes us in the face.

We may say: "But we personally have not pinched any tail in a
stick;" but we have no right, to deny that had the tail not been
pitched, our merry-making would not have taken place. We do not see
what connection exists between the laundress and our luxury; but that
is not because no such connection does exist, but because we have
placed a screen in front of us, so that we may not see.

If there were no screen, we should see that which it is impossible
not to see.] {28}

Surely all the women who attended that ball in dresses worth a
hundred and fifty rubles each were born not in a ballroom, or at
Madame Minanguoit's; but they have lived in the country, and have
seen the peasants; they know their own nurse and maid, whose father
and brother are poor, for whom the earning of a hundred and fifty
rubles for a cottage is the object of a long, laborious life. Each
woman knows this. How could she enjoy herself, when she knew that
she wore on her bared body at that ball the cottage which is the
dream of her good maid's father and brother? But let us suppose that
she could not make this reflection; but since velvet and silk and
flowers and lace and dresses do not grow of themselves, but are made
by people, it would seem that she could not help knowing what sort of
people make all these things, and under what conditions, and why they
do it. She cannot fail to know that the seamstress, with whom she
has already quarrelled, did not make her dress in the least out of
love for her; therefore, she cannot help knowing that all these
things were made for her as a matter of necessity, that her laces,
flowers, and velvet have been made in the same way as her dress.

But possibly they are in such darkness that they do not consider
this. One thing she cannot fail to know,--that five or six elderly
and respectable, often sick, lackeys and maids have had no sleep, and
have been put to trouble on her account. She has seen their weary,
gloomy faces. She could not help knowing this also, that the cold
that night reached twenty-eight degrees below zero, {29} and that the
old coachman sat all night long in that temperature on his box. But
I know that they really do not see this. And if they, these young
women and girls, do not see this, on account of the hypnotic state
superinduced in them by balls, it is impossible to condemn them.
They, poor things, have done what is considered right by their
elders; but how are their elders to explain away this their cruelty
to the people?

The elders always offer the explanation: "I compel no one. I
purchase my things; I hire my men, my maid-servants, and my coachman.
There is nothing wrong in buying and hiring. I force no one's
inclination: I hire, and what harm is there in that?"

I recently went to see an acquaintance. As I passed through one of
the rooms, I was surprised to see two women seated at a table, as I
knew that my friend was a bachelor. A thin, yellow, old-fashioned
woman, thirty years of age, in a dress that had been carelessly
thrown on, was doing something with her hands and fingers on the
table, with great speed, trembling nervously the while, as though in
a fit. Opposite her sat a young girl, who was also engaged in
something, and who trembled in the same manner. Both women appeared
to be afflicted with St. Vitus' dance. I stepped nearer to them, and
looked to see what they were doing. They raised their eyes to me,
but went on with their work with the same intentness. In front of
them lay scattered tobacco and paper cases. They were making
cigarettes. The woman rubbed the tobacco between her hands, pushed
it into the machine, slipped on the cover, thrust the tobacco
through, then tossed it to the girl. The girl twisted the paper,
and, making it fast, threw it aside, and took up another. All thus
was done with such swiftness, with such intentness, as it is
impossible to describe to a man who has never seen it done. I
expressed my surprise at their quickness.

"I have been doing nothing else for fourteen years," said the woman.

"Is it hard?"

"Yes: it pains my chest, and makes my breathing hard."

It was not necessary for her to add this, however. A look at the
girl sufficed. She had worked at this for three years, but any one
who had not seen her at this occupation would have said that here was
a strong organism which was beginning to break down.

My friend, a kind and liberal man, hires these women to fill his
cigarettes at two rubles fifty kopeks the thousand. He has money,
and he spends it for work. What harm is there in that? My friend
rises at twelve o'clock. He passes the evening, from six until two,
at cards, or at the piano. He eats and drinks savory things; others

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