A quotation from Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

One more post to commemorate 100th anniversary of the death of count Leo Tolstoy. Below is a quotation from L. Tolstoy's essay “The kingdom of god is within you”. In spite of the title, this is not a study in religion. It's a strong political statement, absolutely modern even though it was written 120 years ago (from July 1890 to May 1893).

Governments and the ruling classes no longer take their stand on right or even on the semblance of justice, but on a skillful organization carried to such a point of perfection by the aid of science that everyone is caught in the circle of violence and has no chance of escaping from it. This circle is made up now of four methods of working upon men, joined together like the limes of a chain ring.

The first and oldest method is intimidation. This consists in representing the existing state organization--whatever it may be, free republic or the most savage despotism--as something sacred and immutable, and therefore following any efforts to alter it with the cruellest punishments. This method is in use now--as it has been from olden times--wherever there is a government: in Russia against the so-called Nihilists, in America against Anarchists, in France against Imperialists, Legitimists, Communards, and Anarchists.

Railways, telegraphs, telephones, photographs, and the great perfection of the means of getting rid of men for years, without killing them, by solitary confinement, where, hidden from the world, they perish and are forgotten, and the many other modern inventions employed by government, give such power that when once authority has come into certain hands, the police, open and secret, the administration and prosecutors, jailers and executioners of all kinds, do their work so zealously that there is no chance of overturning the government, however cruel and senseless it may be.

The second method is corruption. It consists in plundering the industrious working people of their wealth by means of taxes and distributing it in satisfying the greed of officials, who are bound in return to support and keep up the oppression of the people. These bought officials, from the highest ministers to the poorest copying clerks, make up an unbroken network of men bound together by the same interest--that of living at the expense of the people. They become the richer the more submissively they carry out the will of the government; and at all times and places, sticking at nothing, in all departments support by word and deed the violence of government, on which their own prosperity also rests.

The third method is what I can only describe as hypnotizing the people. This consists in checking the moral development of men, and by various suggestions keeping them back in the ideal of life, outgrown by mankind at large, on which the power of government rests. This hypnotizing process is organized at the present in the most complex manner, and starting from their earliest childhood, continues to act on men till the day of their death. It begins in their earliest years in the compulsory schools, created for this purpose, in which the children have instilled into them the ideas of life of their ancestors, which are in direct antagonism with the conscience of the modern world. In countries where there is a state religion, they teach the children the senseless blasphemies of the Church catechisms, together with the duty of obedience to their superiors. In republican states they teach them the savage superstition of patriotism and the same pretended obedience to the governing authorities.

The process is kept up during later years by the encouragement of religious and patriotic superstitions.

The religious superstition is encouraged by establishing, with money taken from the people, temples, processions, memorials, and festivals, which, aided by painting, architecture, music, and incense, intoxicate the people, and above all by the support of the clergy, whose duty consists in brutalizing the people and keeping them in a permanent state of stupefaction by their teaching, the solemnity of their services, their sermons, and their interference in private life--at births, deaths, and marriages. The patriotic superstition is encouraged by the creation, with money taken from the people, of national fêtes, spectacles, monuments, and festivals to dispose men to attach importance to their own nation, and to the aggrandizement of the state and its rulers, and to feel antagonism and even hatred for other nations. With these objects under despotic governments there is direct prohibition against printing and disseminating books to enlighten the people, and everyone who might rouse the people from their lethargy is exiled or imprisoned. Moreover, under every government without exception everything is kept back that might emancipate and everything encouraged that tends to corrupt the people, such as literary works tending to keep them in the barbarism of religious and patriotic superstition, all kinds of sensual amusements, spectacles, circuses, theaters, and even the physical means of inducing stupefaction, as tobacco and alcohol, which form the principal source of revenue of states. Even prostitution is encouraged, and not only recognized, but even organized by the government in the majority of states. So much for the third method.

The fourth method consists in selecting from all the men who have been stupefied and enslaved by the three former methods a certain number, exposing them to special and intensified means of stupefaction and brutalization, and so making them into a passive instrument for carrying out all the cruelties and brutalities needed by the government. This result is attained by taking them at the youthful age when men have not had time to form clear and definite principles of morals, and removing them from all natural and human conditions of life, home, family and kindred, and useful labor. They are shut up together in barracks, dressed in special clothes, and worked upon by cries, drums, music, and shining objects to go through certain daily actions invented for this purpose, and by this means are brought into an hypnotic condition in which they cease to be men and become mere senseless machines, submissive to the hypnotizer. These physically vigorous young men (in these days of universal conscription, all young men), hypnotized, armed with murderous weapons, always obedient to the governing authorities and ready for any act of violence at their command, constitute the fourth and principal method of enslaving men.

By this method the circle of violence is completed.

Intimidation, corruption, and hypnotizing bring people into a condition in which they are willing to be soldiers; the soldiers give the power of punishing and plundering them (and purchasing officials with the spoils), and hypnotizing them and converting them in time into these same soldiers again.

The circle is complete, and there is no chance of breaking through it by force.

Translated by Constance Garnett, 1894. The full text of the essay is available here: “The kingdom of god is within you”


Leo Tolstoy left his home 100 years ago. “War and Peace” and history

When I started reading “War and Peace” one month ago, I didn't even remember about the upcoming hundredth anniversary of Tolstoy's death. Today, I finished reading it and it happens that this is the day when one hundred years ago (28 October Old Style, 10 November New Style), Leo Tolstoy left his home together with his personal doctor Makovitsky. Tolstoy planned to escape from the annoying life in the comfortable mansion and to spend his last years in poverty and honesty. The doctor didn't quite understand Tolstoy, he thought they are going to visit some family members and didn't take enough money. Tolstoy kissed his daughter, took the suitcase and they left. They took third class railway tickets and departed to Kozelsk. A lot of people smoked in the car and Tolstoy had to go outside for fresh air. He spent about 45 minutes outside and these three quarters of an hour were crucial. Ten days later Tolstoy died of pneumonia on the railway station Astapovo. So smoking killed one of the most famous Russian writers.

Well, the story of his life and death is more or less well known and you can read his biography in almost any language. I would like to talk today about his novel “War and Peace”. Tolstoy wrote later that the novel is fiction and that it may distort history to comply with the author's intentions. Indeed, there is a large number of inconsistencies, contradictions and anachronisms in the book. Let's have a look at some of them.

Do you know how the Russian text begins? Here's the first paragraph:

— Eh bien, mon prince. Gênes et Lueques ne sont plus que des apanages, des поместья, de la famille Buonaparte. Non, je vous préviens que si vous ne me dites pas que nous avons la guerre, si vous vous permettez encore de pallier toutes les infamies, toutes les atrocités de cet Antichrist (ma parole, j'y crois) — je ne vous connais plus, vous n'êtes plus mon ami, vous n'êtes plus мой верный раб, comme vous dites

This is the original Russian text, and I mean it :) Later in the novel, Tolstoy also mentions some noble whose patriotic feelings made him learn speaking Russian. Of course, Russian aristocrats of the 19th century usually spoke very good French, but Tolstoy is wrong here. In the first decade of the century, foreign-speaking aristocrats were rare. Those who lived in Russia, had to talk to their servants (and sometimes they spoke in a folksy manner for this reason). Only those who were born in abroad, spoke some foreign language sufficiently well. And this language was hardly ever French, because after the revolution of 1789 very few Russian aristocrats visited the lawless and rebellious France, they preferred Germany. Strange enough, but French became popular in the aristocratic salons after the Napoleonic wars, when children grew up who were raised in 1790s-1800s by French tutors, who fled from the revolution to Russia.

The family of Kuragins is painted by Tolstoy in a rather strange manner. Tolstoy dislikes them and his feelings are seen even in the names of the family members. So, the name Hippolyte is outstandingly unaristocratic. This name was typical for bourgeoisie, especially Polish. The title “prince Hippolyte” must have sounded absurd in 1805. His sister's name is Helene. Her name looks French, but it wasn't used among French nobility because of its foreign, Anglo-German sound. In Russia of the early 19th century, the name associated with Russified Germans. Just as often the name may be found in the form “Länchen”, purely German (the name of the wife of Faddey Bulgarin). The brother of Hippolyte and Helene has the name Anatole. The name is neutral, but extremely rare in all countries of that time.

The novel begins in the aristocratic salon of Anna Scherer, maid of honor of the Empress. Another one of Tolstoy's errors. You see, maid of honour was not just a title. She was a maid, she could not be married. And maids absolutely could not invite guests, except for close relatives, and only during the day. So, a salon of a maid would be a flagrant violation of the public norms.

Besides, in July 1805 the guests of Anna Scherer would be out of the city, all of them. The royal family with all the courtiers would leave St. Petersburg to the summer residence. Army officers (including, for example, Dolokhov) would be in the summer camps.

Anatole Kuragin asks princess Mary for her hand in marriage, but he was only twenty years old. It was too early for him to marry. Later, he tries to run away with Natasha Rostova, even though he knows he cannot marry her (he had been married by that time). He should have known that Natasha was not a plebeian gal, she was a lady and ladies were not that defenceless. Firstly, Natasha's brothers would have demanded satisfaction. Secondly, Rostovs were a noble family and could have complained to the emperor himself, and his rage would have been quick and merciless. So, prince S. Trubetskoy was deprived of his title and property and sent to the army as a mere soldier when he tried to run away with a married lady.

Helene Kuragin wanted to divorce Pierre Bezukhov so much that she converted to catholicism, writes Tolstoy. Well, actually, she didn't have to. She could have divorced without much problems, because of the long time they lived separately. It was a legitimate reason for divorce. On the other hand, in 1812 the number of conversions to catholicism, always very small, dropped to zero. The problem was that the order of Jesuits was disbanded by the Pope in 1773 and restored only in 1814. In the meanwhile, the Jesuits found a shelter in Russia and their situation was so unstable that they would not risk losing the favor of the emperor by proselytizing.

Tolstoy writes about Prince Andrew: “After the Austerlitz campaign Prince Andrew had firmly resolved not to continue his military service, and when the war recommenced and everybody had to serve, he took a post under his father in the recruitment so as to avoid active service.” It was hardly probably, since nobody could make a Russian aristocrat to serve unless he wanted to. This freedom was granted by the 1762 Manifesto of Peter III.

When Natasha Rostova visited her uncle, she danced in typical Russian manner, says Tolstoy: “Where, how, and when had this young countess, educated by an emigree French governess, imbibed from the Russian air she breathed that spirit and obtained that manner which the pas de chale would, one would have supposed, long ago have effaced? But the spirit and the movements were those inimitable and unteachable Russian ones... She did the right thing with such precision, such complete precision, that Anisya Fedorovna, who had at once handed her the handkerchief she needed for the dance, had tears in her eyes, though she laughed as she watched this slim, graceful countess, reared in silks and velvets and so different from herself, who yet was able to understand all that was in Anisya and in Anisya's father and mother and aunt, and in every Russian man and woman.”

But Natasha spent a large part of her life in village and she had to have seen the village girls dancing and, of course, she knew the folk style of dancing.

Now, Pierre Bezukhov. When he first appeared in the book, “Anna Pavlovna greeted him with the nod she accorded to the lowest hierarchy in her drawing room”, because he was a bastard, but the bastards were not treated this way even in the highest society. So, another bastard, N. Novosiltsev, the base son of the sister of the Count Stroganov, was one of the “young friends” of the emperor Alexander.

In the age of ten, Pierre left Russia and spent another ten years abroad, and yet, unlike Hippolyte Kuragin, he speaks Russian very well.

Pierre's ties with the freemasons do not look very trustworthy. By that time the old-fashioned rituals of freemasons were already looked upon sarcastically, their Golden Age was in mid-18th century.

The funny thing with all these (and many other) anachronisms is that even when you are aware of them, the novel remains a masterpiece. You understand the characters better, the storyline becomes straight and clear. After all, Tolstoy is still a great writer, even though his Russian style looks so awkward that many Russian readers turn to hatred. So, one of very good science fiction writers, Svyatoslav Loginov, agnrily criticizes “War and Peace” for the last fifty pages, where Tolstoy explain his philosophy of history. I agree, these final pages are unbearable (and I never read them to the end). And yet, the book is great. The battle scenes are overwhelming, the plot is absorbing, the characters are vivid and the language is unmistakably Tolstoyesque: awkward but precise.

If you ask me, the best character in the book is Kutuzov, the master of zen war, who defeated Napoleon by escaping him. Oh, and the best reason to love “War and Peace” is not in the book. She is in the movie, and you know her name: Audrey Hepburn :).

This post is heavily based on the information borrowed from the article “Historical Context in Fiction: Aristocratic Society in the Novel ‘War and Peace’” by Ye. Tsimbayeva, published in the magazine «Вопросы литературы» 2004, №5. The full text is available here: “Исторический контекст в художественном образе (Дворянское общество в романе «Война и мир»)”


Report of Russian secret police on moral and political state in the country. 150 years ago, sorry

Since 1827, The Third Section of His Imperial Majesty's Own Chancellery produced special reports for the tsar, describing the moral and political situation in the Russian society. Four years ago, a large share of these reports was published by the Russian State Archive. Below are some short excerpts from the report summarizing the events of 1860, 150 years ago. Five years had passed since the coronation of Alexander II and only one year remained till the most important act of liberalism in Russia in 19th century (the last three words were, probably, not necessary).

Moral and political review of 1860

On revolutionary projects

For thirty years already, the aggregations of political emigrants in England, France, Belgium and Switzerland have constituted the source of all destructive projects in Europe. The revolutionary propaganda was led by Joseph Mazzini, the tireless advocate of the Italian freedom and the universal republic, in which this dreamer sees the future of the humanity...

The bombs, thrown in 1858 in Paris by Orsini, have proven the extreme danger of the ideas of the emancipation of Italy for the French throne...

Politicians see in the preparations for the popular resistance certain signs of the upcoming merge of the Italian question with the Hungarian, Polish and the Eastern questions. The future may confirm this guess, but it is already clearly seen that the tools chosen for these plans prove their revolutionary and democratic nature.

On Polish expatriates

The Polish emigrants include the expatriates of 1832 and 1848. The former, due to their number and influence, are more important than the latter, who mostly left Poland in young age, because of their inclination to life of leisure, without strict political principles...

According to the directions given in the speech [by Adam Czartoryski], instructions were sent to the Poles in the Tsardom to do nothing till the liberation of peasants [...] but that they should make the Polish peasants believe that the Polish aristocrats forced the Tsar to liberate them.

In the meanwhile, the hopes of the Polish emigrants in Paris and in London are based on the events being prepared in Hungary. They plan that either the rebellion in Hungary in which Poles would participate may become useful for their own rebellion, or that the Hungary, reformed by Austria, will provide them with the moral grounds to demand the reformation of Poland.

On Russian expatriates

In 1860, the number of Russians who left their Fatherland and explicitly joined the opposition, has grown. Some of the most important of them are: 1) Prince Peter Dolgorukov, the author of the book titled "La Verite sur la Russie". Having published the book in Paris, he departed to London, making acquaintance with Herzen and Ogarev. As far as we know, his book was recognized abroad as malicious vilification of the all Russian state and the ruling Dynasty and damaged his reputation among people of reason...

2) Prince Yuri Golitsyn, who fled from Russia due to the being justly punished for the improper correspondence withe Herzen. Because of his narrow-mindedness, he could not succeed in literature and has to earn his living by giving concerts in London and other cities...

3) Someone Kisleyev or Kisteltsev, young man in the age of 28, who calls himself doctor of medicine, while others think he is a clergyman... On 17 [29] November, on the day of anniversary of Polish revolution, Kisleyev was present on the meeting and spoke in favor of revolution.

4) Hierodeacon Agapy, who broke with the archimandrite and fled to London.

All mentioned above have joined the circle of Herzen and Ogarev, who continue their maleficent publications. According to secret information, there are other Russian citizens who did not proclaim their animosity towards the legitimate government but do participate in revolutionary projects. So, it is known that two Russians, retired officer Dietmars and retired state official Mechnikov, fought in the army of Garibaldi.


The constitutional rights of the Great Duchy of Poznan give their citizens right to advocate patriotic feelings in public, while promoting hatred to all things German... The government views it forbearingly, as if being afraid of decisive measures. While the Poznan Poles made no rebellious actions in this year, they took every opportunity to prepare the population for such rebellions. Their main weapon in this year was the accusation of police by deputy Niegolewski (probably, Władysław Niegolewski. DM), who suggested that the police was responsible for the sending of fake proclamations, putting Poles on political actions... On the other hand, the demands to allow usage of Polish language in courts never stopped. There were occasions when the prisoners refused to reply in German, pretending they do not understand.


The patriotic sentiments were strongest among university students in Krakow, who demanded the lectures in Polish to be allowed by sending the deputy to Vienna, who beat the education inspector who tried to keep them inside the university to prevent demonstrations, who sang the songs from the 1830 rebellion during morning walks and often met in on of the city caffees. An anonymous letter was received, reporting that the students formed a secret society during these meetings. Investigations are underway. Among the people involved in the society, the most important seems to be the retired lieutenant of the Russian army Narcyz Jankowski (Link in Polish. DM) who was mentioned in the letter. In September, Jankowski was arrested on the border and delivered to Krakow.

Lieutenant Jankowski, son of a landlord from Kiev region, retired in 1857. For 3 years he lived in Warsaw, making acquaintances and hosting meetings with public book readings. During the arrest, Jankowski managed to destroy some papers. Among the papers found in his apartment were draft program of a Polish democratic committee in Paris, instruction to the secret societies to begin armed rebellion all over Poland and a note saying that 100 brochures of "Przeglad rzeczy polskich" were given to him to deliver to Warsaw


In December, a Polish review printed in Paris (Przeglad rzeczy polskich) published and article, where the author mentions the May demonstration in Krakow university and states that the Polish autonomy will be attained by the youth, and offers the younger readers to deepen their patriotic feelings, even though they have already been reproved by many older Polish authoritative thinkers.


The governor of the Polish Kingdom has reported that the Poznan police informed him of the arrival of a Polish emissary Lisecki to the Great Duchy of Poznan. He distributed inciting brochures and pretended he was sent by Miroslawski to investigate the chances of beginning a mutiny in Poznan or in Poland... From a letter sent on February 14 from Paris, it is known that the real name of Lisecki, a.k.a. Gnatowski, was Arthur Trok.

The Polish Kingdom

According to the news from the Kingdom, the Poles there sympathize the events in Sicily and Naples, the national movement in Hungary and Galicia, but remain calm, while awaiting for advantageous changes in the politics. In the meanwhile, they chose to assist the growth of the nation: enhancing the morality of the lower classes by fighting alcoholism and by attracting them to the churches; establishment of municipal banks to liberate the agriculture, especially from the destructive influence of the Jews and to enhance the arable farming. The primary instrument for this was the Farming society, established in 1859, which has grown immensely and established contacts with similar societies in Poznan and Galicia. Very soon the Farmin society started showin signs of maleficent for the monarchy political influence in the Polish Kingdom. So, it deemed necessary to close the provincial departments of the society, preserving the central department in Warsaw. This measure, though, produced dissatisfaction among Poles.

Western districts

(This chapter also described the unrest among Poles in other regions of Russia, including Vilno (modern Vilnius) and Kiev. DM).


In Finland, a secret society was formed of the people, who write for Swedish newspapers articles hostile to Russia, trying to incite Finns against her rule, especially the younger Finns, among whom destructive ideas were found in the Helsingfors University. These feelings were noted by Swedish politicians who find them useful for their goals. In the end of 1859 Dahlfeld was appointed the Swedish consul in Helsingfors. He made acquaintances among lesser writers, who are his instrument to spread ideas hostile to Russia. British and American consuls cooperated.

On state reforms

In 1860, just like in the previous three years, the most important matter of the Russian politics was the liberation of landlord-owned peasants from serfdom. It was expected that the question will be solved by the end of 1860, but in spite of the efforts of the government, it was impossible... Nobody, though, could underestimate the high moral and political goal represented by the liberation. The full freedom in the discussion, allowed by Your Majesty, helped the detailed investigation of all possibilities. Measures were taken to mitigate unrest when the decrees of Your Majesty were being published, and the measures gave positive results.

In the Baltic regions, where the aristocracy has exclusive rights to own the land they were afraid that their privileges may be violated during the liberation of peasants and that the peasants will have equal rights during the elections.

A part of peasants in the Baltic regions (mostly in Lifland and Estland) expressed their desire to move to new lands in Samara region. In spite of the resistance of some landlords, 400 peasants have moved.

In Crimea, a large number of Crimean Tatars have moved to Turkey this year. This resettlement threatens the landowners of the Crimean peninsula who might not have enough workers to continue cultivating their land. The aristocrats of Crimea gathered in Simpheropol to discuss possible replacement for the lost workforce and the introduction of new machines.

Together with the government's intentions to alleviate the life of peasants, certain private efforts took place in 1860. Mostly, by establishment of sunday schools and temperance associations.

Unnaturally fast growth of temperance associations in 1859 was explained by the rage of the lower classes against liquor stores owners. As soon as measures were taken to prevent violent actions, the growth stopped.

Sunday schools are getting extremely popular and the local education authorities are instructed to pay special attention to prevent dissemination of harmful teachings.

On administration

All credit institutions have been merged in one State Bank. It is too soon to make any conclusion on the effect of this measure, but the first impression of the merchants was that the activity of the new bank is limited by the responsibility and insufficient capital.

On the internal political state of the Empire

To conclude the report, we have to note that the spirit of the people of the Empire strives for the growth of the civil rights on modern liberal ground. These views are expressed in magazines, where, in spite of the efforts of the censorship, very often too liberal and even dangerous views are found. The liberal journalism incites the intellectual ferment and helps the illegally imported revolutionary magazines, directed against the existing state and monarchy. What is true for other countries, should be true for Russia: the unrestrained freedom of press is the greatest danger for the existing state, but the press can also be the best instrument in the hands of the government.

Besides the love towards liberal establishments, the dreams of restoration of independency of separate nations have also made their way into Russia. These dreams are insecure for the multinational Russian Empire. They can be observed not only in the Western districts, but also in Little Russia and Finland. The modern politics of the West gives more grounds to these dreams, especially to those of Poles, whose loyalty even earlier was doubtful.

Adjutant-general Dolgorukov

March 22, 1861


130th birthday of Alexander Railway Bridge

The Alexander Railway Bridge was opened on August 30, 1880. In the end of 19th centuryBy that time, it was the longest bridge in Europe, 1436 meters. It was also the last large bridge in Russia built from imported iron. Newspapers compared it to the Suez channel. The importance of the bridge was that it was the point of connection of the railroads from Moscow and Western Russia and the railroads of Urals and Siberia, including the Trans-Siberian Railway.

In 1918, two spans were exploded by retiring troops. After the revolution the bridge was renamed to Syzran Bridge, after a nearby city.

I cross Volga along this bridge every year and, I have to admit, every time I feel a bit scared: it's so long and thin and you see the running water below :)

Here you can find some old photographs of the Alexander Bridge: Gallery of Syzran. In 2004, the bridge was reconstructed and now it looks differently: Bridge reconstruction. And I like this photo.


Protests of African students in Moscow, 1963

On December 18, 2007, I wrote about the march organized by African students in Moscow in 1963 as a protest against the murder of a student from Ghana. One of our readers, Mark Thorpe, wrote to me saying that he had found an old issue of Green Bay Press-Gazette (Wednesday evening, Decenber 18, 1963, number 172, published in Green Bay, WI) with an article about these events. Mark has kindly scanned and sent this article to me, and now you can read it below.

African Students Storm Kremlin in Racial Riot

Med Student’s Knifing Death Causes Protest

by Preston Grover MOSCOW (AP) — Several hundred students from Ghana and other African nations stormed into Red Square today right under Premier Khrushchev’s office windows, fought with police and tried to break into the Kremlin. The students said they were protesting the fatal stabbing of a student from Ghana by a Russian last Friday. The Africans broke past barricades into Red Square, where Russians march on May Day and on the anniversary of the October Revolution. But the scene was more reminiscent of the wild days of the revolution in 1917.

‘Moscow Like Alabama’

The students bore a sign showing a knife plunged into the head of an African. Another sigh declared: “Friend today, the devil tomorrow.” “Moscow is a second Alabama,” shouted one student. The students fought police all the way to the Red Square from the Ghanian Embassy a mile away where they first gathered. They stormed over a barricade of Soviet trucks at the entrance to Red Square, fighting police on top of the trucks and underneath. The big gates of Spasky Tower, the main entrance from the Kremlin into Red Square, banged shut as students rolled over police opposition and tried to get into the Kremlin.

Past Khrushchev’s Office

They stormed past the office of Khrushchev. They were separated from his office by the big red brick wall of the Kremlin. Whether he was inside his office was not known. Inside the Kremlin, the Soviet Parliament was meeting, discussing the new budget. Police apparently at no time used their guns to control the students. Instead they wheeled out loudspeakers appealing for them to go home. “Red Square is closed,” one of the sound trucks blared out. But the students payed no attention. Shortly after 2 p.m., crowds of shoppers who had swarmed into the square were ordered out along with foreign correspondents.

Riot Attracts Curious

People continued to pile into adjoining streets, never having seen an angry demonstration of foreigners against Russians. The students remained in the square for a time and were reinforced later by some 200 more who came, apparently carrying a message of protest. They made their way to Spasky Gate, where a Kremlin official came out and said a delegation of 10 would be received by the Ministry of Higher Education. A group of the demonstrators then headed for the ministry with their petition of complaint. By 3 p.m., Red Square had been cleared. The barricades were withdrawn and the demonstration was over. It was the first such demonstration by foreign students here directed at the Russians. Ghanian students demonstrated last February in Communist Bulgaria, claiming racial persecution.

Medical Student Killed

Thousands of African students are studying in Communist schools, many of them with all expenses paid. The dead man was identified as Asare Addo, who was studying medicine at Kalinin 100 miles northwest of Moscow. He was said to have been killed Friday. Some students said Soviet officials issued a statement blaming the death on natural causes, but the Africans disputed this. Emerging from a conference in the Kremlin, some of the students said Education Minister Vyacheslav Yelutin denied that the student, Asare Addo, was stabbed. They said Yelutin told them Addo was drunk, had fallen down in the street, and died of cold. The minister told a full investigation had been ordered. Several students who were at the conference told reporters they did not believe this report. They said they were informed that Addo wanted to marry a Russian girl and was killed by a Russian man who was opposed to the marriage. Students said they prepared for today’s demonstration by sending telegrams to Ghanian students in Odessa, Kharkov and other university towns, asking them to come to Moscow. Each was given a red head band, a sign of mourning in Ghana. At the outset, the protest was orderly. When it became apparent that the students planned to carry their protest through the streets, police reinforcements were rushed in. Some rocked a police car, threatening to overturn it. Others forced their way between and under the trucks blocking the entrance of Red Square.


What Stalin said about Hiroshima

The text below is taken from the record of the meeting of Stalin and W. Averell Harriman, the U.S. Ambassador to the USSR. Full declassified document is available here. The text was published in Russian by Sergey Oboguev in his blog. Thanks to Sergey for the interesting find.

Conversation. 8:20, Moscow, August 8, 1945.


Present: W. A. Harriman, American Ambassador

        George F. Kennan, Minister Counselor

        Generalissimus Stalin

        V. M. Molotov, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs

        Mr. Pavlov, Soviet interpreter


The Ambassador asked what he thought of the effects of the news of the atomic bomb would have on the Japanese.

The Generalissimus replied that he thought the Japanese were at present looking for a pretext to replace the present government with one which would be qualified to undertake a surrender. The atomic bomb might give them this pretext.

The Ambassador observed that it was a good thing we had invented this and not the Germans. For long, he said, no one had dared think it would be a success. It was only a few days before the President had told Stalin about it in Berlin that we had learned definitely that it would work succesfully.

The Generalissimus replied that Soviet scientists said that it was a very difficult problem to work out.

The Ambassador said that if the Allies could keep it and apply it for peaceful purposes it would be a great thing.

The Generalissimus agreed and said that would mean the end of the war and aggressors. But the secret would have to be well kept.

The Ambassador said that it could have great importance for peaceful purposes.

The Generalissimus replied, "unquestionably". He added that Soviet scientists had also tried to do it but had not succeeded. They had found one laboratory in Germany where the Germans had evidently been working on the same problem but Russians could not find that they had come to any results. If they had found it, Hitler would never have surrendered. England, too, had gotten nowhere with these researches although they had excellent physicists.

The Ambassador explained that the English had pooled their knowledge with us since 1941. But it had taken enormous installations to conduct the experiments and to achieve final results.

The Generalissimus remarked that this had been very expensive.



Photos from early Soviet years

Recently, I stumbled upon a web-site on the art of photography, some pages of which were devoted to the classic photographers. The web-site features a large collection of shots made by these photographers in 1920s, 1930s and later. Lots of magnificent pictures and scenes from daily life. Here are some of those photographers and their web-pages (the text is in Russian, but never mind, the collections are title like "1924-1929", so you won't get lost):

I found this web-site when I was looking for photos of the Russian/Soviet silent movie stars. While searching, I found another web-site called "Silent Cinema Actors". The author has also made separate web-sites for the "brightest" stars of that era, like Vera Kholodnaya.


1908 video: Winter in Moscow

I thought it might be a good New Year's gift to the readers :)