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Comment & Analysis
LEO TOLSTOY: THE LAST 10 DAYS
Shortly before his death, the great author fled his home at Yasnaya Polyana. A new and powerful book by Pavel Basinsky (Leo Tolstoy: Escape from Paradise – which last week won Russia’s 2010 Big Book award) describes the writer’s last days in moving and graphic terms. It reveals Tolstoy’s suspicions of his wife, his despair and his final moments. The book will soon be available in English translation. Here is Pavel Basinsky’s abridged article based on his book.
Pavel Basinsky ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA
middle of the night he left his house, accompanied by his personal doctor, Dushan Petrovich Makovitsky. It led to the death of one of Rus- sia’s greatest authors, an event that would shake the world. This essentially per- sonal drama heralded a cat- astrophic 20th century, as did the sinking of the Titanic, the start of the First World War and Russia’s October Revo-
ne hundred years ago Count LN Tol- stoy fled his estate near Tula. In the
lution. Tolstoy’s journey from Yasnaya Polyana to the now famous station of Astapovo, to his death and return in a plain oak coffin to Yasnaya Polyana took all of 10 days. Let’s consider those days and how Tolstoy “left”…
Dr Makovitsky’s journal: “This morning, at 3am (Oc- tober 28, 1910), LN in his dressing gown, in slippers and bare feet, woke me; his face was full of suffering, ag- itation and determination. ‘I have decided to leave. You shall come with me. But don’t wake Sofya Andreyevna. We won’t take much, only the es- sentials.’”
Poor Makovitsky didn’t re- alise that Tolstoy had decid- ed to leave his house for good. Thinking that they were going to Kochety, the estate of his son-in-law Sukhotin, the doctor did not take all his money with him. He also didn’t know that that night Tolstoy had only 50 roubles in the bank and some coins in a purse… “We travelled from Shchek- ino to Gorbachevo in a sec- ond-class carriage. But from Gorbachevo to Kozyolsk Tol- stoy chose to go third class, with the simple folk. When he had taken his place on a wooden bench, he said: ‘How nice and free!’”
Leo Tolstoy and his personal doctor, Dushan Petrovich Makovitsky, at Yasnaya Polyana. 1909
DRAWING BY DMITRY DIVIN
Makovitsky, however, was the first to sound the alarm. The Sukhinichi-Kozyolsk train was a freight and passenger train combined with one hor- ribly smoky third-class car- riage filled to overflowing. Tolstoy soon began gasping for breath. He put on his fur coat and fur hat, his high winter boots and stepped out onto the rear platform. But smokers were standing there too. He then went to the front platform; it was very windy, but deserted except for a woman and her child, and a peasant. Makovitsky would later call the three quarters of an hour that Tolstoy spent on that frigid platform “fate-
ful”. Enough to make him catch cold. The train moved slowly, just over 100 miles in almost six- and-a-half hours. “This slow travel over Russian railroads helped kill LN,” writes Ma- kovitsky. Late in the evening of Octo- ber 29 they arrived at the Shamardino Convent where Tolstoy’s sister, Marya Nikolaevna, had taken the veil two decades earlier. Tol- stoy went straight to her cell. He found her with her daugh- ter, Elizaveta Valerianovna Obolenskaya. The great Tol- stoy now wept on the shoul- der of one woman and then the other as he recounted his
recent life at Yasnaya Polya- na. How his wife had watched his every move, how he had hidden his secret diary in one of his boots and next morn- ing found it missing. He told his sister and niece about his secret will, about how Sofya Andreyevna would steal into his study at night and rum- mage through his papers, and if she noticed that he was still awake in the bedroom next door, she would come to him and pretend that she had only come to find out how he was feeling. Elizaveta found her uncle “pitiful and very old”. “He had his brown hood tied tight and sticking out from under it were wisps of grey beard.” Arriving in Shamorodino the next day, Tolstoy’s daughter, Sasha, also noted her father’s sorry state. “I think papa al- ready regrets leaving,” she told her cousin Liza Obolen- skaya. Like all stubborn men, Tol- stoy was extremely mercu- rial in his moods and sus- c ept ibl e t o out s ide influences. To change his view of the world was virtually impossible; it would require years of soul work. But to change his mood was no ef- fort at all. Especially at a point when he was terribly unsure of the rightness of his action and even wrote to his youngest daughter Sasha that he “feared” what he had done. Early on the morning of October 31, Tolstoy fled Shamardino. As soon as he descended from the train at Astapovo, Mak- ovitsky went to the station master. He told him that “Lev Tolstoy was aboard the train and had fallen ill, he needed rest and must be put to bed”. The station master, Ivan Ivanovich Ozolin, Latvian by birth, Lutheran Evangelist by faith, had enormous re- spect for Tolstoy and his call to “do good” in everything. He agreed to take Tolstoy in. Once in Ozolin’s little house, Tolstoy refused to go straight to bed and sat for quite some time in an armchair. The next morning, November 1, Tol- stoy felt better. He dictated a letter to Sasha: “God is the
limitless All of which man realises himself to be a lim- ited part. The truth exists only in God…” Vladimir Grigorievich Chertkov, Tolstoy’s trusted friend and publisher, was the first to come to Tolstoy. Be- fore the doctors, the priests, and even members of Tol- stoy’s family. Tolstoy was glad to see them; he smiled and said kind things. Sofya An- dreyevna and her sons were lodged in a separate carriage on another track. The three sons went into Ozolin’s little house and stood in the pas- sage opposite the room where their father lay, but did not dare go in. Sofya Andreyev- na longed for her husband,
Tolstoy was tortured by the fact that people around him could not understand something very im- portant he was try- ing to say. He never managed to say that important thing
but her children and the doc- tors had collectively decided not to let her see him and to tell him nothing of her ar- rival in Astapovo. The morning of November 6, Tolstoy sat up in bed and said: “I advise you to remem- ber only one thing: There are a great many people on this Earth besides Lev Tolstoy, but you are looking only at Lev.” When asked what he want- ed, Tolstoy replied: “I want no one to bother me.” “He’s just like a little child,” said Sasha. “I’ve never seen a patient like that,” said a doctor come from Moscow. When he raised Tolstoy up in bed to check his breathing, Tolstoy hugged and kissed him. In addition to his death throes (“How LN cried out, how he tossed, how he gasped for breath!” wrote Makovit- sky on November 6), Tolstoy was also tortured by the fact that the people around him
could not understand some- thing very important that he was trying to say. LN never did manage to say that most important thing. His last in- telligible words, articulated just hours before he died, to his eldest son were: “Sery- ozha… the truth… I love many things, I love all peo- ple…” “Throughout his last illness,” Alexandra Lvovna (Sasha) later recalled, “I was amazed that despite his fever, his very much weakened heart and terrible physical suffering, Father’s mind remained ex- traordinarily clear. He no- ticed everything that was going on around him, to the tiniest detail.” This clarity of mind com- bined with the inability to articulate what he wanted to say was enormously painful to Tolstoy, as painful as his physical suffering. In addition to camphor, the doctors injected him with morphine. How Tolstoy hated drugs, how he feared them. Anna Karenina, remember, fell under a train after tak- ing a double dose of opium. After the injection of mor- phine, which Tolstoy resist- ed, he began to breathe with even more difficulty. Feeble and half delirious, he mut- tered: “I’ll go somewhere where no one can bother me… Leave me alone… I must run away, run away somewhere…” It was only at this point that Sofya Andreyevna was al- lowed to see her husband. “First she stood there, look- ing at Father from a dis- tance,” Tolstoy’s son Sergei Lvovich later wrote. “Then she walked calmly up to him, kissed him on the forehead, got down on her knees and said: ‘Forgive me…’” About 3am on November 7 Tolstoy regained conscious- ness and opened his eyes. Someone brought a candle up to his eyes. He squinted and turned away. Makovit- sky offered him a drink of water. Tolstoy took one sip. After that there was only the sound of his breathing. At 6:05 that morning, Tolstoy died...
WORLD-CLASS BID FOR 2018 WORLD CUP
Ilya Zubko SPECIAL TO RN I
n early December, the 22-nation member Fifa executive committee will vote to choose two hosts
for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals. As the bidders jos- tle for a shot at these goals, preliminary assessments of each were recently made public. And pulses are now racing in Russia after some bookmakers made it the odds-on favourite over main rival England in the 2018 contest. There’s no mystery why this is the case. According to Fifa experts, Russia’s governmen- tal guarantees of the event are rock-solid, while the only stated deficits are the trans- port and sports infrastruc- tures. Overall, it was an “ob- jective” assessment, Russia’s bidding committee respond- ed. “We have made no secret of the fact that we do not have enough stadiums that meet Fifa’s requirements,” committee head Alexei So- rokin said. “The report re- flects the state of the coun- try today. But we have never said that we would be ready to hold the World Cup tomor- row.” Russia has a clear-cut pro- gramme to develop its infra- structure, including in trans- port, and guarantees the resolution of existing prob- lems in time for the 2018 fi- nals. Mr Sorokin added that Fifa has been fully briefed on scheduled improvements that he believes make Rus- sia a winner rather than a contender. Since the vast territory and distances between Russian cities complicate plans to hold the World Cup here, al- lowances were made when putting the bid together: all of Russia’s candidate cities are located in the European part of the country, west of the Urals. There are no plans to send soccer players or their fans to Siberia. Russia’s road network does
Russia is increasingly winning the right to host serious sporting competitions that require a developed infrastructure, and it will soon boast seven new, ultra-modern football stadiums
leave much to be desired, and the government has pledged to improve it before the event, while developing other quick- er and more comfortable op- tions for conveying fans and tourists from one site to an- other. At the core of the bid will be the establishment of new express railway connec- tions between cities. This is already happening, quite in- dependently of the Cup bid, sport and transport chiefs re- mind us. Today, rail travellers can
cover the 435 miles between Moscow and St Petersburg in 3 hours and 40 minutes; you can visit the country’s third city, Nizhny Novgorod, from the capital in even less time, and work is underway to hook up Kazan and other cities to the express-service network. Meanwhile, one of Russia’s largest airlines, Avianova, has announced plans to increase the number of flights to all cities where World Cup matches could be held, while keeping fares down to the bare minimum (from $10). The carrier’s new managing director Andrew Pyne has publicly pledged to Fifa pres- ident Sepp Blatter that his company will offer unri- valled, regular and afforda- ble access to fixtures for res- idents of Russia and World Cup guests. “I’m an Englishman, but right now I’m rooting for Russia with all my heart,” Mr Pyne said of the bid.
The country’s sports infra- structure also raises ques- tions at first glance. At present, Russia has only one stadium suitable for a World Cup match, namely the Luzh- niki Stadium in Moscow, which was awarded elite sta- tus on the eve of the Cham- pions League final in 2008. However, several new mod- ern arenas are already under construction and will be opened ahead of 2018 for other scheduled sporting events. These days Russia is increasingly winning the right to host serious compe- titions that require a devel- oped infrastructure. In 2013, Kazan will host the Summer Universiade, and the city is now building doz- ens of new sites for this pur- pose. These include a 45,000- seat stadium that meets Fifa specifications, and which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described at a ground- breaking ceremony in May as “one more trump in our
bid to host the 2018 World Cup.” A similar situation exists in Sochi, which is now gearing up to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The main stadium for the first-ever Russian winter games will be hand- ed over to the national first division club Zhemchuzhina Sochi, now playing in the na- tional first division. In 2018, this stadium could be at the disposal of World Cup play- ers, while, because of the Ol- ympics, the infrastructure of the city and entire region will be in great shape. In St Petersburg, construc- tion of the new Zenit stadi- um is in full swing and is due for completion in 2012 or ear- lier. This state-of-the-art football arena would qualify to host semifinal matches for the World Cup. In Saransk, authorities have announced plans to build a large mod- ern football stadium, regard- less of the World Cup. A sim- ilar situation exists in Krasnodar, where everything is ready for the construction of a new arena for the young and ambitious first division Krasnodar club. Moscow, too, as the main city in Russia’s World Cup bid, is working to keep up. Already the capital plays host to major athletics meetings. In 2008, it was the Champions League final, before that the Uefa Cup final, while in 2013 Moscow will host the World Athletics Championships. The city’s soccer clubs are hatching collective plans to build new stadiums, led by Spartak, which is now final- ising the project for a 45,000- seat arena on Khodynsky Field. Moscow Dinamo began major reconstruction of its stadium in late 2008 and work should be finished by 2016. These sites have also been included in Russia’s World Cup bid – and will be built in any case. That’s the key phrase: will be built in any case. Wheth- er Russia wins the race to host the 2018 Fifa World Cup or not, it will soon boast at least seven new, ultra-mod- ern stadiums, new intercity express rail and air routes. And with momentum like that, there is very little hold- ing Russia back in next month’s selection.
Ilya Zubko is deputy sports editor, Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
TOO MUCH IN LOVE WITH BAD NEWS
Tatiana Shabaeva SPECIAL TO RN
has published an edgy arti- cle about something I have been itching to write about myself, but felt shy. Rykov wrote that Russian journal- ists eagerly pounce on bad news like hungry wolves on exhausted prey but, regret- tably, ignore good news. We are all such information mas- ochists. As a counterpoint, though, he offered the heartening news of Russia’s award of second prize for its “Better City, Better Life” theme at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai – a bit of a surprise given how much abuse our pavilion had to withstand from the Russian media. Rykov writes: “This is not simply a real victory gained in a tough and open compe- tition. This is a silver medal won at the world champion- ship of modernisation ideas and solutions involving 200 nations.” He continues: “It is simply mind-boggling how much abuse our pavilion had to withstand from, of all ene- mies, the Russian media… All I read in our media and blogs about the Russian pa- vilion at the 2010 World Expo weren’t just fibs. That would be way too mild. It is a pack of outrageous lies.” One of the reasons for such “media abuse” of the Russian pavilion was the original choice of its symbol, “Neznay- ka”, a well-known character from Russian children’s books. This mischievous and, indeed, quite ignorant – but inquisi- tive and resourceful – boy was supposed to symbolise the burgeoning zest for knowl- edge, but none of the Russian PR team bothered to investi- gate how the symbol would come across to the Chinese, who translated his name as “a small ignoramus”.
onstatin Rykov, a prominent Russian online media produc- er and public figure,
The only thing that got through to the Chinese peo- ple, for whom youth is asso- ciated primarily with being immature, was Neznayka’s ig- norance. To fix the problem, the entire concept of the pavilion had to be reimagined, while the international exhibition was in full swing. The emergency restyling cost Russia 700m roubles (£14m). But in spite of the messy start, Russia emerged with flying colours and a silver medal, apparently for getting across the spirit of the sim- ple, yet profound, idea: “Bet- ter City, Better Life”.
It’s a bit of a surprise that the Russian pavilion won second prize at the 2010 Expo in Shanghai, given the amount of abuse it had to withstand from the Russian media
Dubious but typical show- cases at the pavilion includ- ed the clean-up by the Tran- sneft pipeline operator of the disastrous 2008 oil spills from the Omsk-Irkutsk pipe- line by Novosibirsk, effected by covering them over with earth and reeds. We learnt that Tula, in cen- tral Russia, is the home re- gion of Leo Tolstoy. Full stop. According to the organisers, this is the only achievement of which the region can be proud. Elsewhere, two-thirds of the Amur region in the Russian far east is still covered with forest which is harvested for export, mostly to China and other Asian countries. In the long term, of course, Russia plans to process its timber at home. But so far, exten- sive timber harvesting has been encroaching on the hab- itat of Amur tigers. The matryoshka was hyped “as a symbol of the histori-
cal heritage of Nizhny Novgorod and quintessence of basic urban values”, and “an image of Orthodox Rus- sia”. The quotes come from the official website. But I know how little Russia cares about the matryoshka – which was originally mod- elled after a Japanese doll – and how little it means for such a major trading centre as Nizhny Novgorod. This “symbol of historical herit- age” sounds like a bad joke. Moscow’s booth showcased ostensibly unfeasible trans- portation schemes to decon- gest the crowded roads of the Russian capital, while St Pe- tersburg, as the concept de- signers suggest, maintains its glory exclusively due to the preserved integrity of its his- toric cityscape. This is the cityscape to which Gazprom seeks to add its heritage- shattering skyscraper. By the time of President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Shanghai, the Russian pavil- ion had been reinforced with displays of recent mega- projects, including the Skolk- ovo innovation centre, Sochi 2014 Olympics, Apec summit infrastructure, North Cauca- sus tourism zone, and Ro- satom nuclear technology. It seems that the exhibition, which was supposed to in- form the world about Rus- sia’s new projects, had one key visitor – the Russian presi- dent. I feel sorry having to write all of this because I fully agree with Rykov’s premise. I detest the “information masochism” of the Russian media, and would like to see a fairer share of good news. I also have nothing against political promotional cam- paigns. This time-honoured fanning of the peacock’s tail has been a proven method of telling the world about a na- tion’s successes. But it really hurts when instead of “good news”, someone tries to feed you phoniness.
Tatiana Shabaeva is a jour- nalist and translator.
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