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

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do all his work for him. He has devised a new source of pleasure,--
smoking. He has taken up smoking within my memory.

Here is a woman, and here is a girl, who can barely support
themselves by turning themselves into machines, and they pass their
whole lives inhaling tobacco, and thereby running their health. He
has money which he never earned, and he prefers to play at whist to
making his own cigarettes. He gives these women money on condition
that they shall continue to live in the same wretched manner in which
they are now living, that is to say, by making his cigarettes.

I love cleanliness, and I give money only on the condition that the
laundress shall wash the shirt which I change twice a day; and that
shirt has destroyed the laundress's last remaining strength, and she
has died. What is there wrong about that? People who buy and hire
will continue to force other people to make velvet and confections,
and will purchase them, without me; and no matter what I may do, they
will hire cigarettes made and shirts washed. Then why should I
deprive myself of velvet and confections and cigarettes and clean
shirts, if things are definitively settled thus? This is the
argument which I often, almost always, hear. This is the very
argument which makes the mob which is destroying something, lose its
senses. This is the very argument by which dogs are guided when one
of them has flung himself on another dog, and overthrown him, and the
rest of the pack rush up also, and tear their comrade in pieces.
Other people have begun it, and have wrought mischief; then why
should not I take advantage of it? Well, what will happen if I wear
a soiled shirt, and make my own cigarettes? Will that make it easier
for anybody else? ask people who would like to justify their course.
If it were not so far from the truth, it would be a shame to answer
such a question, but we have become so entangled that this question
seems very natural to us; and hence, although it is a shame, it is
necessary to reply to it.

What difference will it make if I wear one shirt a week, and make may
own cigarettes, or do not smoke at all? This difference, that some
laundress and some cigarette-maker will exert their strength less,
and that what I have spent for washing and for the making of
cigarettes I can give to that very laundress, or even to other
laundresses and toilers who are worn out with their labor, and who,
instead of laboring beyond their strength, will then be able to rest,
and drink tea. But to this I hear an objection. (It is so
mortifying to rich and luxurious people to understand their
position.) To this they say: "If I go about in a dirty shirt, and
give up smoking, and hand over this money to the poor, the poor will
still be deprived of every thing, and that drop in the sea of yours
will help not at all."

Such an objection it is a shame to answer. It is such a common
retort. {30}

If I had gone among savages, and they had regaled me with cutlets
which struck me as savory, and if I should learn on the following day
that these savory cutlets had been made from a prisoner whom they had
slain for the sake of the savory cutlets, if I do not admit that it
is a good thing to eat men, then, no matter how dainty the cutlets,
no matter how universal the practice of eating men may be among my
fellows, however insignificant the advantage to prisoners, prepared
for consumption, may be my refusal to eat of the cutlets, I will not
and I can not eat any more of them. I may, possibly, eat human
flesh, when hunger compels me to it; but I will not make a feast, and
I will not take part in feasts, of human flesh, and I will not seek
out such feasts, and pride myself on my share in them.


But what is to be done? Surely it is not we who have done this? And
if not we, who then?

We say: "We have not done this, this has done itself;" as the
children say, when they break any thing, that it broke itself. We
say, that, so long as there is a city already in existence, we, by
living in it, support the people, by purchasing their labor and
services. But this is not so. And this is why. We only need to
look ourselves, at the way we have in the country, and at the manner
in which we support people there.

The winter passes in town. Easter Week passes. On the boulevards,
in the gardens in the parks, on the river, there is music. There are
theatres, water-trips, walks, all sorts of illuminations and
fireworks. But in the country there is something even better,--there
are better air, trees and meadows, and the flowers are fresher. One
should go thither where all these things have unfolded and blossomed
forth. And the majority of wealthy people do go to the country to
breathe the superior air, to survey these superior forests and
meadows. And there the wealthy settle down in the country, and the
gray peasants, who nourish themselves on bread and onions, who toil
eighteen hours a day, who get no sound sleep by night, and who are
clad in blouses. Here no one has led these people astray. There
have been no factories nor industrial establishments, and there are
none of those idle hands, of which there are so many in the city.
Here the whole population never succeeds, all summer long, in
completing all their tasks in season; and not only are there no idle
hands, but a vast quantity of property is ruined for the lack of
hands, and a throng of people, children, old men, and women, will
perish through overstraining their powers in work which is beyond
their strength. How do the rich order their lives there? In this

If there is an old-fashioned house, built under the serf regime, that
house is repaired and embellished; if there is none, then a new one
is erected, of two or three stories. The rooms, of which there are
from twelve to twenty, and even more, are all six arshins in height.
{31} Wood floors are laid down. The windows consist of one sheet of
glass. There are rich rugs and costly furniture. The roads around
the house are macadamized, the ground is levelled, flower-beds are
laid out, croquet-grounds are prepared, swinging-rings for gymnastics
are erected, reflecting globes, often orangeries, and hotbeds, and
lofty stables always with complicated scroll-work on the gables and

And here, in the country, an honest educated official, or noble
family dwells. All the members of the family and their guests have
assembled in the middle of June, because up to June, that is to say,
up to the beginning of mowing-time, they have been studying and
undergoing examinations; and they live there until September, that is
to say, until harvest and sowing-time. The members of this family
(as is the case with nearly every one in that circle) have lived in
the country from the beginning of the press of work, the suffering
time, not until the end of the season of toil (for in September
sowing is still in progress, as well as the digging of potatoes), but
until the strain of work has relaxed a little. During the whole of
their residence in the country, all around them and beside them, that
summer toil of the peasantry has been going on, of whose fatigues, no
matter how much we may have heard, no matter how much we may have
heard about it, no matter how much we may have gazed upon it, we can
form no idea, unless we have had personal experience of it. And the
members of this family, about ten in number, live exactly as they do
in the city.

At St. Peter's Day, {32} a strict fast, when the people's food
consists of kvas, bread, and onions, the mowing begins.

The business which is effected in mowing is one of the most important
in the commune. Nearly every year, through the lack of hands and
time, the hay crop may be lost by rain; and more or less strain of
toil decides the question, as to whether twenty or more per cent of
hay is to be added to the wealth of the people, or whether it is to
rot or die where it stands. And additional hay means additional meat
for the old, and additional milk for the children. Thus, in general
and in particular, the question of bread for each one of the mowers,
and of milk for himself and his children, in the ensuing winter, is
then decided. Every one of the toilers, both male and female, knows
this; even the children know that this is an important matter, and
that it is necessary to strain every nerve to carry the jug of kvas
to their father in the meadow at his mowing, and, shifting the heavy
pitcher from hand to hand, to run barefooted as rapidly as possible,
two versts from the village, in order to get there in season for
dinner, and so that their fathers may not scold them.

Every one knows, that, from the mowing season until the hay is got
in, there will be no break in the work, and that there will be no
time to breathe. And there is not the mowing alone. Every one of
them has other affairs to attend to besides the mowing: the ground
must be turned up and harrowed; and the women have linen and bread
and washing to attend to; and the peasants have to go to the mill,
and to town, and there are communal matters to attend to, and legal
matters before the judge and the commissary of police; and the wagons
to see to, and the horses to feed at night: and all, old and young,
and sickly, labor to the last extent of their powers. The peasants
toil so, that on every occasion, the mowers, before the end of the
third stint, whether weak, young, or old, can hardly walk as they
totter past the last rows, and only with difficulty are they able to
rise after the breathing-spell; and the women, often pregnant, or
nursing infants, work in the same way. The toil is intense and
incessant. All work to the extreme bounds of their strength, and
expend in this toil, not only the entire stock of their scanty
nourishment, but all their previous stock. All of them--and they are
not fat to begin with--grow gaunt after the "suffering" season.

Here a little association is working at the mowing; three peasants,--
one an old man, the second his nephew, a young married man, and a
shoemaker, a thin, sinewy man. This hay-harvest will decide the fate
of all of them for the winter. They have been laboring incessantly
for two weeks, without rest. The rain has delayed their work. After
the rain, when the hay has dried, they have decided to stack it, and,
in order to accomplish this as speedily as possible, that two women
for each of them shall follow their scythes. On the part of the old
man go his wife, a woman of fifty, who has become unfit for work,
having borne eleven children, who is deaf, but still a tolerably
stout worker; and a thirteen-year-old daughter, who is short of
stature, but a strong and clever girl. On the part of his nephew go
his wife, a woman as strong and well-grown as a sturdy peasant, and
his daughter-in-law, a soldier's wife, who is about to become a
mother. On the part of the shoemaker go his wife, a stout laborer,
and her aged mother, who has reached her eightieth year, and who
generally goes begging. They all stand in line, and labor from
morning till night, in the full fervor of the June sun. It is
steaming hot, and rain threatens. Every hour of work is precious.
It is a pity to tear one's self from work to fetch water or kvas. A
tiny boy, the old woman's grandson, brings them water. The old
woman, evidently only anxious lest she shall be driven away from her
work, will not let the rake out of her hand, though it is evident
that she can barely move, and only with difficulty. The little boy,
all bent over, and stepping gently, with his tiny bare feet, drags
along a jug of water, shifting it from hand to hand, for it is
heavier than he. The young girl flings over her shoulder a load of
hay which is also heavier than herself, advances a few steps, halts,
and drops it, without the strength to carry it. The old woman of
fifty rakes away without stopping, and with her kerchief awry she
drags the hay, breathing heavily and tottering. The old woman of
eighty only rakes the hay, but even this is beyond her strength; she
slowly drags along her feet, shod with bast shoes, and, frowning, she
gazes gloomily before her, like a seriously ill or dying person. The
old man has intentionally sent her farther away than the rest, to
rake near the cocks of hay, so that she may not keep in line with the
others; but she does not fall in with this arrangement, and she toils
on as long as the others do, with the same death-like, gloomy
countenance. The sun is already setting behind the forest; but the
cocks are not yet all heaped together, and much still remains to do.
All feel that it is time to stop, but no one speaks, waiting until
the others shall say it. Finally the shoemaker, conscious that his
strength is exhausted, proposes to the old man, to leave the cocks
until the morrow; and the old man consents, and the women instantly
run for the garments, jugs, pitchforks; and the old woman immediately
sits down just where she has been standings and then lies back with
the same death-like look, staring straight in front of her. But the
women are going; and she rises with a groan, and drags herself after
them. And this will go on in July also, when the peasants, without
obtaining sufficient sleep, reap the oats by night, lest it should
fall, and the women rise gloomily to thresh out the straw for the
bands to tie the sheaves; when this old woman, already utterly
cramped by the labor of mowing, and the woman with child, and the
young children, injure themselves overworking and over-drinking; and
when neither hands, nor horses, nor carts will suffice to bring to
the ricks that grain with which all men are nourished, and millions
of poods {33} of which are daily required in Russia to keep people
from perishing.

And we live as though there were no connection between the dying
laundress, the prostitute of fourteen years, the toilsome manufacture
of cigarettes by women, the strained, intolerable, insufficiently fed
toil of old women and children around us; we live as though there
were no connection between this and our own lives.

It seems to us, that suffering stands apart by itself, and our life
apart by itself. We read the description of the life of the Romans,
and we marvel at the inhumanity of those soulless Luculli, who
satiated themselves on viands and wines while the populace were dying
with hunger. We shake our heads, and we marvel at the savagery of
our grandfathers, who were serf-owners, supporters of household
orchestras and theatres, and of whole villages devoted to the care of
their gardens; and we wonder, from the heights of our grandeur, at
their inhumanity. We read the words of Isa. v. 8: "Woe unto them
that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no
place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
(11.) Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may
follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame
them! (12.) And the harp and the viol, and tabret and pipe, and wine
are in their feasts; but they regard not the work of the Lord,
neither consider the operation of his hands. (18.) Woe unto them
that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a
cart-rope. (20.) Woe unto then that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter
for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (21.) Woe unto them that are wise in
their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight--(22.) Woe unto them
that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong

We read these words, and it seems to us that this has no reference to
us. We read in the Gospels (Matt. iii. 10): "And now also the axe
is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which
bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire."

And we are fully convinced that the good tree which bringeth forth
good fruit is ourselves; and that these words are not spoken to us,
but to some other and wicked people.

We read the words of Isa. vi. 10: "Make the heart of this people
fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see
with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their
heart, and convert and be healed. (11.) Then said I: Lord, how
long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without
inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly

We read, and are fully convinced that this marvellous deed is not
performed on us, but on some other people. And because we see
nothing it is, that this marvellous deed is performed, and has been
performed, on us. We hear not, we see not, and we understand not
with our heart. How has this happened?

Whether that God, or that natural law by virtue of which men exist in
the world, has acted well or ill, yet the position of men in the
world, ever since we have known it, has been such, that naked people,
without any hair on their bodies, without lairs in which they could
shelter themselves, without food which they could find in the
fields,--like Robinson {34} on his island,--have all been reduced to
the necessity of constantly and unweariedly contending with nature in
order to cover their bodies, to make themselves clothing, to
construct a roof over their heads, and to earn their bread, that two
or three times a day they may satisfy their hunger and the hunger of
their helpless children and of their old people who cannot work.

Wherever, at whatever time, in whatever numbers we may have observed
people, whether in Europe, in America, in China, or in Russia,
whether we regard all humanity, or any small portion of it, in
ancient times, in a nomad state, or in our own times, with steam-
engines and sewing-machines, perfected agriculture, and electric
lighting, we behold always one and the same thing,--that man, toiling
intensely and incessantly, is not able to earn for himself and his
little ones and his old people clothing, shelter, and food; and that
a considerable portion of mankind, as in former times, so at the
present day, perish through insufficiency of the necessaries of life,
and intolerable toil in the effort to obtain them.

Wherever we have, if we draw a circle round us of a hundred thousand,
a thousand, or ten versts, or of one verst, and examine into the
lives of the people comprehended within the limits of our circle, we
shall see within that circle prematurely-born children, old men, old
women, women in labor, sick and weak persons, who toil beyond their
strength, and who have not sufficient food and rest for life, and who
therefore die before their time. We shall see people in the flower
of their age actually slain by dangerous and injurious work.

We see that people have been struggling, ever since the world has
endured, with fearful effort, privation, and suffering, against this
universal want, and that they cannot overcome it . . . {35}


{1} The fine, tall members of a regiment, selected and placed
together to form a showy squad.

{2} [] Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition printed in
Russia, in the set of Count Tolstoi's works.

{3} Reaumur.

{4} A drink made of water, honey, and laurel or salvia leaves, which
is drunk as tea, especially by the poorer classes.

{5} [] Omitted by the censor from the authorized edition published
in Russia in the set of count Tolstoi's works. The omission is
indicated thus . . .

{6} Kalatch, a kind of roll: baranki, cracknels of fine flour.

{7} An arshin is twenty-eight inches.

{8} A myeshchanin, or citizen, who pays only poll-tax and not a
guild tax.

{9} Omitted in authorized edition.

{10} Omitted by the censor in the authorized edition.

{11} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

{12} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

{13} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

{14} Omitted by the Censor from the authorized edition.

{15} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

{16} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition

{17} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

{18} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

{19} A very complicated sort of whist.

{20} The whole of this chapter is omitted by the Censor in the
authorized edition, and is there represented by the following
sentence: "And I felt that in money, in money itself, in the
possession of it, there was something immoral; and I asked myself,
What is money?"

{21} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

{22} Omitted by the Censor in the authorized edition.

{23} The above passage is omitted in the authorized edition, and the
following is added: "I came to the simple and natural conclusion,
that, if I pity the tortured horse upon which I am riding, the first
thing for me to do is to alight, and to walk on my own feet."

{24} Omitted in the authorized edition.

{25} Omitted in the authorized edition.

{26} "Into a worse state," in the authorized edition.

{27} Omitted in the authorized edition.

{28} Omitted in the authorized edition.

{29} Reaumur.

{30} In the Moscow edition (authorized by the Censor), the
concluding paragraph is replaced by the following: --"They say: The
action of a single man is but a drop in the sea. A drop in the sea!

"There is an Indian legend relating how a man dropped a pearl into
the sea, and in order to recover it he took a bucket, and began to
bail out, and to pour the water on the shore. Thus he toiled without
intermission, and on the seventh day the spirit of the sea grew
alarmed lest the man should dip the sea dry, and so he brought him
his pearl. If our social evil of persecuting man were the sea, then
that pearl which we have lost is equivalent to devoting our lives to
bailing out the sea of that evil. The prince of this world will take
fright, he will succumb more promptly than did the spirit of the sea;
but this social evil is not the sea, but a foul cesspool, which we
assiduously fill with our own uncleanness. All that is required is
for us to come to our senses, and to comprehend what we are doing; to
fall out of love with our own uncleanness,--in order that that
imaginary sea should dry away, and that we should come into
possession of that priceless pearl,--fraternal, humane life."

{31} An arshin is twenty-eight inches.

{32} The fast extends from the 5th to the 30th of June, O.S. (June
27 to July 12, N.S.)

{33} A pood is thirty-six pounds.

{34} Robinson Crusoe.

{35} Here something has been omitted by the Censor, which I am
unable to supply.--TRANS.

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