University of Florida
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF
The Poor in Rzhanov Fort
I'loto'gravure froma Drawin, by /. '. A'
THEN? y ON THE MOS-
COW CENSUS 2 COL-
LECTED ARTICLES 2 .
By COUNT LEV N. TOLSTOY
Translated from the Original Russian and Edited by
Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages at Harvard University
BOSTON c DANA ESTES &
COMPANY c PUBLISHERS
EDITION DE LUXE
Limited to One Thousand Copies,
of which this is
N o. ...4.11...
By DANA ESTES & COMPANY
Entered at Stationers' Hall
Colonial Press Electrotvped and Printed by
C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, Mass., U. S. A.
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN? 3
ON THE Moscow CENSUS 343
INTRODUCTION TO THE COLLECTED ARTICLES, WHAT Is
THE TRUTH IN ART? 357
To THE DEAR YOUTH 363
WIIAT A CHRISTIAN MAY DO, AND WHAT NOT 371
LETTER TO N. N. (To ENGELHARD) 377
INTRODUCTION TO T. M1. BONDARIV'S TEACHING 397
LETTER TO A FRENCHMAN 415
THE HOLIDAY OF ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE 12TI OF
How THE DEVIL REDEEMED THE CRUST OF BREAD 439
THE REPENTANT SINNER. 444
THE KERNEL OF THE SIZE OF A HEN'S EGG. 448
How M1ucI LAND A MAN NEEDS 452
THE GODSON 470
LABOURER EMELYAN AND THE EMPTY DRUM
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THE POOR IN RZnANOV FORT 1rontispiece
IN THE LODGING HOUSE 43
VISITING THEIR SON. PEASANTS COME TO TOWN 71
QUESTIONING THE UNFORTUNATE 170
AMIUSEl :NTS OF THE RICiH 196
"PHYSICAL LABOUR" 300
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do
Hle answereth and saith unto them, IIe 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).
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where
moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break
through and steal
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where
neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do
not break through nor steal.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye : if therefore thine eye
be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of
darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness,
how great is that darkness !
No man can serve two masters : for either he will hate
the one, and love the other ; or else he will hold to the one,
and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life,
what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor yet for your
body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than
meat, and the body than raiment ?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat ?
or, What shall we drink ? or, Wherewithal shall we be
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek :) for your
heavenly father knoweth that ye have need of all these
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteous-
ness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt.
vi. 10-25, 31-33).
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God
(Matt. xix. 24 ; Luke xviii. 25; Mark x. 25).
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
I HAD passed all my life in the country. When, in the
year 1881, I moved to Moscow, I was struck by the pov-
erty of the city: I knew what the poverty of the village
was, but that of the city was new and incomprehensible
to me. In Moscow it is impossible to walk through a
street without meeting mendicants, of a particular type,
such as do not resemble those one sees in the country.
These beggars are not mendicants with a wallet and with
Christ's name, such as village beggars are imagined to be,
but beggars without a wallet and without Christ's name.
The beggars of Moscow do not carry a wallet and beg no
alms. As a rule, when they meet you or allow you
to pass them, they try to catch your eyes, and they beg
or not, according to your glance.
I know one such beggar from the gentry. The old
man walks slowly, putting his weight on each foot.
When he meets you, he puts his weight on one foot and
acts as though he were bowing to you. If you stop, he
takes hold of his cockaded cap, bows to you, and begs you
for an alms; if you do not stop, he pretends just to have
such a gait, and passes on, bowing with a leaning on his
other foot. He is a real, trained Moscow beggar. At
first I did not know why the Moscow beggars did not beg
outright, but later I came to understand it, though I did
not understand their condition.
One day, as I was walking through Afanisev Lane, I
saw a policeman putting a tattered peasant, who was
pudgy with the dropsy, into a cab. I asked him why he
was doing this.
The policeman answered me: "For begging alms."
Is that forbidden ?"
I guess it is," replied the policeman.
The dropsical man was taken away in the cab. I took
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
another cab and followed them. I wanted to find out
whether it was true that it was prohibited to beg alms,
and how this prohibition was carried out. I could not
make out how one man could be kept from asking a thing
of another, and, besides, I could not make myself believe
that there could be a law against begging, since Moscow
was full of beggars. I had myself driven to the police
station whither they took the beggar. In the station a
man with a sword and a pistol was sitting at a table.
I asked him:
Why was this peasant arrested ?"
The man with the sword and the pistol looked sternly
at me, and said:
That is not your business."
However, as he felt the necessity of explaining some-
thing to me, he added:
"The authorities order such people to be arrested, and
so it is right."
I went away. The policeman who had brought the
beggar was sitting in the vestibule on a window-sill, and
looking gloomily into a memorandum-book. I asked
Is it true that beggars are not permitted to beg in
Christ's name ?"
The policeman was startled. He looked at me, then
half frowned, half fell asleep again, and, seating himself
back on the window-sill, said:
The authorities order it, and so it is right," and started
to busy himself once more with his book.
I went out on the porch to the cabman.
"Well, how is it ? Did they take him ?" asked the
The cabman was evidently interested in the same
They did," I replied.
The driver shook his head.
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
How is this ? Do they not allow people here in Mos-
cow to beg in the name of Christ ?" I asked.
"Who can make them out?" said the driver.
"But how is this ?" I said. A beggar is Christ's, and
they take him to the station."
They have stopped it all in these days, they don't
After that I saw policemen on several occasions, taking
beggars to the station and from there to Yusdpov Work-
house. One day I met a crowd of such beggars, about
thirty of them, in Myasnitskaya Street. They were
preceded and followed by policemen. I asked one of
them why they were taken away.
"For begging alms."
So it turns out that according to the law alms may not
be asked by any of those mendicants of whom one meets
several at a time in every street, and rows of whom stand
in front of the churches during divine service and espe-
cially during funerals.
But why are some caught and locked up somewhere,
while others are let alone ? That I was unable to make
out. Or are there among them lawful and unlawful beg-
gars ? Or are there so many of them that it is impossible
to apprehend all? Or do they take some away, while
others take their place ?
In Moscow there are many beggars of every kind: there
are some who make a living in this manner; others are
real beggars, who in one way or another are stranded in
Moscow, and really suffer want.
Among these beggars there are frequently simple peas-
ants, men and women, in peasant attire. I have often
come across such. Some of these fell sick and came out
of hospitals, and are unable to provide food for themselves,
or to get out of Moscow. Others again have, in addition,
been on sprees (such, no doubt, was that dropsical man);
others were not convalescents, but men who had lost their
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
property in fire, or old men, or women with children;
others again were quite well and able to work.
These well peasants, who were begging alms, interested
me more particularly. These healthy, able-bodied beg-
gars interested me also for the reason that ever since
my arrival in Moscow I had made it my habit to take my
exercise by going out to the Sparrow Hills and working
there with two peasants who were sawing wood. These
two peasants were just such beggars as those whom I met
in the streets. One of them was Peter, a Kahiga peas-
ant, the other Semdn, from the Government of Vladimir.
All they possessed was what they wore on their backs,
and their hands. And with these hands they, by work-
ing very hard, earned from forty to forty-five kopeks per
day, out of which amount they saved up money: the
Kaldga peasant, to buy himself a fur coat, and the
Vladimir peasant,- to get enough money with which
to return home. For this reason I was particularly
interested in such people, when I met them in the streets.
Why do those work, while these beg?
Whenever I met such a peasant, I generally asked him
what had brought him into such a plight. One day I met
a peasant with his beard streaked gray and with a sound
body. He was begging. I asked him who he was and
whence he came. He said that he had come from Kaliga
to try to earn something. At first he and his friend had
found some work to do, cutting up old lumber for fire-
wood. They had finished the job, and had been looking
for more work, but could find none. In the meantime
his friend had strayed from him, and here he was strug-
gling the second week, and had spent everything, and did
not have a kopek to buy a saw or an axe with. I gave
him money with which to buy a saw, and told him where
to come to work. I had already left word with Peter
and Sem6n to receive him and find a partner for him.
Be sure and come i There is lots of work there."
8 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
I will, of course I will come. What good," he said,
" is there in begging ? I can do a day's work."
The peasant swore that he would come, and I thought
that he was not deceiving me, but fully intended to
On the following day I went to my friends, the peas-
ants, to ask them whether he had come. No, he had not.
And thus a number of men deceived me. I was also
deceived by such as wanted money just for a ticket with
which to get home, but whom a week later I met in the
street again. Many of these I came to know, just as they
knew me; at times they forgot me and approached me
again with the same deception, and at other times they
went away the moment they saw me. Thus I saw that
among the number of these people there were also many
cheats; but even these cheats were very pitiful: they were
all half-naked, poverty-stricken, emaciated, sickly people;
they were of that class who really freeze to death and
hang themselves, as we know from the newspapers.
WHIENEVER I spoke of this urban wretchedness to city
people, I was always told: "Oh that is nothing! You
have not seen everything: you must go to Khitrov Market
and to the doss-houses thereabout. There you will see
the genuine crack company." One jester told me that it
was no longer a company, but a crack regiment, for there
were so many of them. The jester was right, but he
would have been still more in the right if he had said that
there was, not a company, and not a regiment, but a whole
army of them in Moscow: I think there are fifty thousand
of them. Old 'citizens, in speaking to me of the urban
wretchedness, always spoke with a certain degree of pleas-
ure, as though they were proud to know it. I remember,
when I was in London, the natives seemed to speak
boastfully of the London poverty, as much as to say:
"That's the way we do things."
I wanted to see the wretchedness of which I was told.
I started several times to go to Khitrov Market, but I felt
every time uncomfortable and ashamed.
Why should I go to see the sufferings of men whom I
am unable to help ? one voice said.
No, if you live here and see all the joys of city life,
go and see this also," another voice said.
And so, in the month of December of the third year, on
a cold and stormy day, I started for this centre of city
wretchedness, for Khitrov Market. It was a week-day,
about four o'clock in the afternoon. As I was going down
the Solyanka, I began to notice more and more people in
strange apparel, evidently not their own, and in still
10 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
stranger footgear, people with an unusually sickly com-
plexion and, above all, with a special expression of indif-
ference to the surroundings, which was common to them
all. Though wearing tthe strangest kinds of garments, of
most unseemly patterns, these people walked along freely,
evidently devoid of all thought as to how they might
strike other people. All these were walking in the same
I did not ask for the road, though I did not know it,
but followed them, and came out on Khitrov Market. In
the market-place just such women, young and old, in tat-
tered capes, cloaks, jackets, boots, and overshoes, acting
with just as little constraint, in spite of the monstrosity
of their attire, were sitting and hawking something, or
walking about and cursing. There were few people in
the market-place. Apparently it was past market-time,
and the majority of people were going up-hill, past the
market and across it, all of them in the same direction.
I followed them. The farther I went, the greater was
the throng of people walking in the same direction.
After I had passed the market I walked up the street,
falling in with two women, one of them old, the other
young. Both wore torn gray clothes. They were walking
and talking about something.
After every necessary word they uttered one or two
unnecessary, extremely improper words. They were not
drunk, but were agitated by something; the men who
were walking toward them, and preceding or following
them, did not pay the slightest attention to their strange
expressions. In these places evidently all people spoke
in the same way.
On the left were private lodging-houses, and a few
stopped here, while others walked on. After ascending
the hill, we came to a large corner house. The majority
of those who were walking with me stopped at this house.
On the whole sidewalk in front of this house just such
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
people walked about or sat down on the walk or in the
snow of the street. On the right hand of the entrance
door were women, and on the left men. I walked past
the women, and then past the men (there were several
hundreds of them), and stopped where their file came to an
end. The house, in front of which these people were
stopping, was the free Lyipinski lodging-house. The
crowd of people were waiting to be admitted for a night's
lodging. The doors are opened at five o'clock, when the
people are admitted. It was to this place that the major-
ity of people past whom I had walked were trying to
I stopped where the file of men came to an end. The
people nearest to me began to look at me and attracted
me with their glances. The remnants of the garments
that covered their bodies were quite varied; but the
expression of all the glances that these people directed at
me was absolutely the same. In all their glances one
could read the question, "h y did you, a man from
another world, stop here by .he side of us? Who are
you ? Are you a self-satisfied rich man, who is trying
to take delight out of our misery, to distract yourself in
your ennui, and to torture us ? Or are you what does
not happen and cannot be a man who pities us ?"
This question was on all the faces. A man would
glance at me, meet my glance, and turn away again. I
felt like starting up a conversation with some one, but for
a long time I could not make up my mind to do so. But
while we were silent, our glances were bringing us closer
together. No matter how much life separated us, we felt
after the exchange of two or three glances that we were
all men, and we ceased fearing one another. Nearest to
me stood a peasant with a swollen face and a red beard,
in a torn caftan and overshoes worn down to the skin. It
was eight degrees Reaumur below zero. Our eyes met
for the third or fourth time, and I felt myself so close to
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
him that, far from feeling ashamed to speak with him, I
felt that I should be ashamed if I did not strike up a
conversation with him.
I asked him where he came from. He answered cheer-
fully, and began to talk; others came up to us. He was
from Smoldnsk, and had come to find work with which to
earn money for grain and for the taxes.
You cannot find any work," he said, for the soldiers
nowadays get all the work away from us. And so I am
wandering about. I swear by God I have not had any-
thing to eat for two days."
This he said timidly, with an attempt at a smile. A
sbiten 1 peddler, an old soldier, was standing near by. I
called him up. He filled up a glass of sbiten. The peas-
ant took the hot glass into his hands and, before drinking
it, warmed his hands over it, trying not to waste any of
the heat. While he was warming his hands he told me
his adventure. The adventures, or the stories of the
adventures, are nearly alwa\ s the same: he had a small
job, but it stopped, and his purse with his money and his
ticket were stolen in a 1 dging-house. Now he was un-
able to get away from Moscow. He told me that in the
daytime he warmed himself in taverns and fed on free
lunches (bits of bread in the taverns); at times they let
him have a piece, and at times they drove him out; he
passed his nights in the free LyApinski House. He was
waiting for the police raid which would take him to jail,
as he had no passport, and would send him by 4tappe
back to his place of residence. They say the raid will
happen on Thursday." (The jail and the 4tappe presented
themselves to him as a promised land.)
While he was telling me this, two or three men from
among the crowd confirmed his words, saying that they
were in precisely the same condition. A lean, pale, long-
1 A drink composed of water, honey, and laurel leaves, or sage,
used by the masses in the place of tea.
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
nosed young man, with nothing but a shirt over the upper
part of his body, with holes above his shoulders, and in a
visorless cap, pushed his way toward me sidewise through
the crowd. He was trembling all the time with a violent
chill, but tried to smile contemptuously at the remarks of
the peasants, hoping thus to fall in with my tone, and
kept looking at me. I offered him also a glass of sbiten.
He, too, took the glass and warmed himself over it, and
just as he began to talk he was pushed aside by a tall,
swarthy, hook-nosed man, in a chintz shirt and a vest, and
without a hat.
The hook-nosed fellow, too, asked me for some sbiten.
Then came a long-legged old man with a wedge-shaped
beard, wearing an overcoat with a rope girdle and bast
shoes, he was drunk; then a little fellow with a
swollen face and tearful eyes, who wore a brown nankeen
frock coat, and whose bare knees could be seen through
the holes of his summer pantaloons, striking one against
the other from the cold. He could not hold the glass
because of his chill, and spilled its contents over himself.
They began to scold him. He only smiled pitifully and
Then there came a crooked cripple with rags on his
body and on his bare feet, then something that resembled
an officer, and something that resembled a clergyman,
then something strange and noseless, all that cold
and hungry, imploring and humble mass crowded about
me and made for the sbiten. They all drank the sbiten.
One of them asked for some money, and I gave it to him.
A second, a third, asked for money, and I was besieged by
the crowd. The janitor of a neighboring house shouted
to the crowd to clear the sidewalk in front of his house,
and the people submissively executed his command.
Some men in the crowd took the matter in hand, and
offered me their protection they wanted to take me out
of the crush, but the crowd, which before had been
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
stretched out along the sidewalk, was now in commotion,
pressing close to me. They all looked at me, and begged
me for something; and one face was more pitiful, more
emaciated, and more humbled than another. I gave them
everything I had. I did not have much money with me,
- something like twenty roubles, and I entered the
lodging-house with the crowd.
The lodging-house is enormous. It consists of four
divisions. In the upper stories are the apartments for
men, and in the lower those for women. At first I
entered the female division: a large room is here taken
up by bunks, resembling those of third-class railway-cars.
The bunks are arranged in two tiers. Strange, ragged
women, both old and young, with nothing but the clothes
they had on, kept coming in and occupying their places,
some below, and others above. Some of them, the older
ones, made the sign of the cross and prayed for him
who had founded this asylum, while others laughed and
I went up-stairs. There the men took up their bunks;
among them I saw one of those to whom I had given
money. When I saw him, I suddenly felt dreadfully
ashamed, and I hurried to get out. I left this house with
the sensation of having committed a crime, and went
home. At home I walked over the carpet of the stair-
case into an antechamber, the floor of which was covered
with cloth, and, having taken off my fur coat, I sat down
at a five-course dinner, which was served by two lackeys
in dress coats, white ties, and white gloves.
Thirty years ago I saw in Paris a man decapitated by a
guillotine in the presence of a thousand spectators. I
knew that this man was a terrible criminal; I knew all
those reflections which men had been writing for so many
centuries, in order to justify such acts; I knew that it
was being done intentionally, conscientiously; but at the
moment when the head and the body separated and fell
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN? 15
into the box, I groaned, and I understood, not with my
mind, not with my heart, but with my whole being, that
all the reflections which I had heard about capital punish-
ment were a horrible blunder; that, no matter how many
people might come together in order to commit murder, -
the worst crime on earth, and no matter how they
might call themselves, murder was murder, and that this
sin had been committed in my sight. By my presence
and non-interference I approved of this sin, and took part
Even so now, at the sight of this starvation, cold, and
humiliation of thousands of men, I understood, not with
my reason, nor with my heart, but with my whole being,
that the existence of tens of thousands of such men in
Moscow, while I with other thousands gorge myself on
fillet and sturgeon, and cover the floors and the horses
with stuffs and carpets, no matter what all the wise
men of the world may tell me about its being necessary,
- is a crime, which is not committed once, but is being
committed all the time, and that I, with my luxury, not
only incite to it, but also take part in it. For me the
difference of these two impressions consisted in this, that
there all I could have done was to have called out to the
murderers who were standing near the guillotine and
attending to the murder, that they were doing wrong,
and to have tried in every way to interfere with them;
but in doing so, I might have known that that act of
mine would not have prevented the murder. But here I
not only was able to give the sbiten and all the miserable
little sum which I had with me, but might have given
away my overcoat and everything which I had at home.
I did not do so, and so I felt, and feel even now, and
shall never stop feeling, that I am a participant in a
crime which is taking place all the time, so long as I
have superfluous food, and another man has none, and
I have two garments, when another has not even one.
THAT very evening, upon my return from Lypinski
House, I told my impressions to a friend of mine.
My friend a denizen of Moscow began to tell me,
not without pleasure, that this is a very natural urban
phenomenon; that it was only my provincialism which
made me see something peculiar in it; that it had been
so all the time and would always be so, and that it was
an inevitable condition of civilization. In London it
was worse still, consequently there was nothing bad
in this, and there was no reason for being dissatisfied
1 began to retort to my friend, but did this with so
much excitement and vim that my wife came running in
from the other room, to ask what had happened. It was
discovered that, without knowing it myself, I had been
shouting with tears in my voice and waving my arms in
my friend's face. I yelled, "It is impossible, it is impos-
sible to live in such a way, impossible !" I was put to
shame for my excessive excitement, and I was told that
I could not speak calmly about anything and that I
became unpleasantly irritated, and, above all else, it was
proved to me that the existence of such unfortunates
could by no means be a cause for poisoning the life of
I felt that that was quite true, and I grew silent; but
in the depth of my soul I felt that I was right, and I
could not calm myself.
The city life, which had been strange and alien to me
before, now disgusted me so much that all those joys of a
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
luxurious life, which heretofore had appeared as joys to
me, now became a torment for me. No matter how
much I tried to find in my soul some kind of a justifica-
tion of our life, I could not without irritation look either
at my own drawing-room or at that of another person,
nor at a cleanly, elegantly set table, nor at a carriage, nor
at a fat coachman and his horses, nor at shops, theatres,
or assemblies. I could not help but see side by side with
them the cold, hungry, and humiliated inmates of Lyd-
pinski House. I could not rid myself of the idea that
these two things were connected and that one grew out
of the other. I remember how the feeling of guilt re-
mained in me the same it had appeared in the first
moment; but very soon another sentiment mingled with
this and overshadowed it.
When I spoke of my impression of Lydpinski House to
my near friends and acquaintances, all gave me the same
answer that was given me by my first friend, to whom I
had been yelling so, but they, in addition to that, ex-
pressed their approval of my goodness and sensitiveness,
and gave me to understand that this spectacle acted upon
me thus only because I, Lev Nikoldevich, was good and
kind. I believed them readily. Before I had a chance
to look around, the feeling of resentment and repentance,
which I had experienced at first, gave way in me to a
feeling of satisfaction with my virtue, and a desire to
express it to other people.
No doubt," I said to myself, "it is not I who am
guilty here with my luxurious life, but the necessary
conditions of life. The change of my life could certainly
not change the evil which I saw. By changing my life
I should only make myself and my family unhappy,
while those misfortunes will remain what they are.
Consequently, my task does not consist in changing
my life, as I had thought at first, but in contributing, as
much as it lies in my power, to the improvement of the
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
condition of those unfortunates who have called forth my
compassion. The whole matter is that I am a very good
and kindly man and wish to do my neighbours some
And so I began to consider a plan of philanthropic
activity in which I should have a chance to give expres-
sion to my virtue. I must, however, say that, while
reflecting on this philanthropic activity, I, in the depth
of my soul, felt that it was not the right thing, but, as
frequently happens, the activity of my mind and of my
imagination drowned in me this voice of my conscience.
Just then they were taking the census. This seemed
to me to be a chance for the exercise of that philanthropy
in which I wanted to express my virtue. I knew of
many charitable institutions and societies that existed in
Moscow, but their activity seemed to me to be falsely
directed and insignificant in comparison with what I
wanted to do. And so I hit on the following: I would
call forth in the rich a sympathy for the city's wretched-
ness; would collect money and bring together men who
would be willing to cooperate in this matter; would visit
with the census-takers all the purlieus of poverty and,
besides the work of taking the census, would enter into
communion with the unfortunates; would find out the
details of their needs and aid them with money, with
work, with sending them out of Moscow and locating the
children in schools and the old people in homes and poor-
houses. More than this: I thought that out of those
people who would busy themselves with this there would
be formed a permanent organization, which, dividing up
among themselves the wards of Moscow, would see to
it that the poverty and misery should not become infec-
tious; would always destroy the infection, at its incep-
tion; would attend not so much to the duty of curing as
to the hygiene of the urban poverty. I imagined that,
not to speak of the mendicants, there would not be any
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
merely needy people in the city ; and that it would be I
who would do all this; and that we, the rich people,
would after that sit quietly in our drawing-rooms, and
eat five-course dinners, and travel in carriages to theatres
and assemblies, no longer troubled by such sights as I
had seen near LyApinski House.
Having formed this plan, I wrote an article about it,
and, before sending it to be printed, called on acquaint-
ances whose cooperation I hoped to get. To all whom I
saw during that day (I turned mainly to the rich) I re-
peated the same words, almost what I had written in the
article: I proposed to make use of the census for the pur-
pose of discovering all about the poverty in Moscow, and
helping it with works and with money, and seeing to it
that there should be no poor in Moscow, so that we, the
rich people, might with a calm conscience enjoy the bene-
fits of life to which we were accustomed. All listened to
me attentively and seriously, but precisely the same thing
took place with every one of them. The moment my
hearers understood what it was all about, they seemed to
feel uncomfortable and a little conscience-stricken. They
felt embarrassed, mainly for my sake, because I was talk-
ing such foolish things, and yet such that it was impos-
sible to say outright that they were foolish. It was as
though some external cause compelled the hearers to nod
consent to this my foolishness.
"Oh, yes! Of course. It would be so nice," they
said to me. "It goes without saying that we must sym-
pathize with that. I thought so myself, but our people
are in general so indifferent that it is scarcely possible to
count on much success However, I on my part am,
of course, prepared to coUperate."
All told me very nearly the same. All consented, but
they did so, as I thought, not in consequence of my con-
viction and not in consequence of their own desire, but in
consequence of some external cause which made it impos-
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
sible for them not to agree. This I noticed from the fact
that not one of those who offered me their cooperation by
contributing money himself defined the sum which he
intended to give, so that I was compelled to determine it
by asking, So I may count on you to the extent of 300,
or 200, or 100, or 125 roubles ?" and not one of them
gave the money. I mention this, because when people
contribute money for something they sympathize with,
they are generally in a hurry to give the money. For
a box at Sarah Bernhardt's performance people pay out
the money at once, in order to secure the matter; but here,
not one of all those who agreed to contribute, and who
expressed their sympathy, offered to pay the money at
once; they only acquiesced in the sum which I de-
termined for them.
In the last house in which I happened to be on that
evening, I accidentally met a large company. The hostess
of this house had for some years been busying herself with
philanthropy. At the entrance stood several carriages,
and in the antechamber sat a number of lackeys in costly
liveries. In the large drawing-room married and unmar-
ried ladies, wearing expensive garments, were seated at
two tables with lamps, dressing small dolls, and near
them were also a few young men. The dolls which
were being fixed up by these ladies were to be raffled off
for the benefit of the poor.
The sight of this drawing-room and of the men who
were gathered in it struck me very disagreeably. Not to
mention the fact that the fortunes of the people gathered
there were equal to several millions; that the mere inter-
est of the capital which was expended here on garments,
lace, bronzes, brooches, carriages, horses, liveries, lackeys,
would be a hundred times greater than what these ladies
were manufacturing here, not to mention all that, the
expenses incurred by the ladies and gentlemen in coming
out here, their gloves, their linen, their travelling, the
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
candles, tea, sugar, and cake furnished by the hostess
amounted to a hundred times the sum they would realize
from their work. I saw all this, and so I ought to have
known that there I should not find any sympathy for the
business which brought me there; but I had come to
make my proposition, and, no matter how hard this was
for me, I told them what I wanted (I repeated almost
word for word what I had written in my article).
One of the ladies present offered me money, saying that
she did not feel strong enough on account of her nerves to
visit the poor, but that she would give money; how much
she would give, and when she would furnish it, she did
not say. Another lady and a young man offered their
services in making the round of the poor; but I did not
avail myself of their offer. The chief person to whom I
addressed myself told me that it would not be possible to
do much, because the means were insignificant. The means
were not sufficient because all the rich people of Moscow
were already booked for other charities, and everything
that possibly could be obtained from them had been
extorted from them; that all these philanthropists had
already received their ranks, medals, and other honours;
that in order to secure a financial success it would be
necessary to obtain the grant of new honours from the
authorities, and that this was the one effective means, but
that it was hard to obtain it.
When I returned home that night, I lay down to sleep,
not only with the presentiment that nothing would come
of my idea, but also with shame and with the conscious-
ness that I had done something very contemptible and
disgraceful on that whole day. But I did not throw up
the matter. In the first place, the matter had been set
a-going, and a false shame kept me from giving it up; in
the second place, not only the success of this matter, but
my every occupation with it, made it possible for me to
continue life in those conditions in which I was living,
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
while its failure subjected me to the necessity of renounc-
ing my life and of seeking new paths of life. Of this I
was unconsciously afraid. I did not believe my inner
voice, and continued what I had begun.
I sent my article 1 to the printer, and read it in proof
to the City Council As I read it, I blushed to tears and
faltered in speech, for I felt so uncomfortable. Appar-
ently all my hearers felt as uncomfortable as I. In reply
to my question, which I put at the end of my reading,
whether the managers of the census accepted my propo-
sition, which was that they should stay in their places in
order that they might be mediators between society and
the needy, there ensued an awkward silence. Then two
orators delivered speeches. These seemed to mend the
awkwardness of my proposition: they expressed sympa-
thy for me, but pointed out the inapplicability of my
idea, which was approved by all of them. They felt a
But when I later none the less tried to gain my point,
and asked the managers privately whether they consented
at the census to investigate the needs of the poor, and to
remain in their posts for the purpose of serving as media-
tors between the poor and the rich, they again felt ill at
ease. They seemed to be saying to me with their glances:
"Here we have, out of respect for you, whitewashed your
stupid break, and you annoy us once more with it." Such
was the expression of their faces, but in words they told
me that they agreed with me; two of them, each one
separately, as though having plotted together, told me in
the same words: "We consider ourselves morally obliged
to do so."
The same impression was produced by my communica-
tion on the student census-takers, when I told them that
in taking the census we should not only pursue the aims
of the census itself, but also those of philanthropy. I
1" On the Census in Moscow," given in this present volume.
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN? 23
noticed that, while I was speaking to them of it, they
looked with embarrassment into my eyes, just as one is
embarrassed to look into the eyes of a good man who
is talking some nonsense. The same effect was produced
on the editor of the newspaper, by my article, when I
handed it to him, and on my son, on my wife, and on
people of every description. All for some reason felt
ill at ease, but all of them considered it necessary to
approve of the idea itself, and immediately after such an
approval began to express their doubts as to the success,
and for some reason (all of them without exception) to
condemn the evident indifference and coldness of our
society and of all men, except of themselves.
In the depth of my heart I continued to feel that I was
not doing the right thing, and that nothing would come
of it; but the article was printed, and I began to take
part in the census: I had set the matter a-going, and it
drew me along.
AT my request they assigned to me a district of the
Khamovnfcheski Ward, near Smol6nsk Market, along Pro-
t6chny Lane, between Beregov6y Passage and Nikolski
Lane. In this district are the houses which are collect-
ively called Rzhanov House, or Rzhdnov Fort. These
houses at one time belonged to Merchant Rzhdnov, but
now belong to the Zimins. I had long ago heard of this
place as the purlieus of the most terrible misery and
debauch, and so had asked the managers of the census to
assign me to this district. My wish was fulfilled.
After receiving the instructions from the City Council,
and a few days before the taking of the census, I started
on a round of my district. From the plan which was
given to me I immediately found Rzhrnov Fort.
I entered by Nikolski Lane. Nikolski Lane ends on
the left with a gloomy house, which has no gate fac-
ing this side; I guessed from the aspect of the house
that this was Rzhbnov Fort.
As I descended Nikolski Street, I came abreast of some
boys from ten to fourteen years of age, dressed in jackets
and paltry overcoats, who were sliding down-hill or
skating on one skate along the frozen incline of the side-
walk in front of this house. The boys were all in rags,
and, like all city boys, bold and daring. I stopped to
take a look at them. A tattered old woman, with sallow,
flabby cheeks, came around the corner. She was walking
toward the city, in the direction of Smol6nsk Market, and
wheezing terribly, like an asthmatic horse, at every step
she was taking. When she came abreast with me, she
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
stopped to draw a snarling breath. In any other place
this woman would have asked me for some money, but
here she only struck up a conversation with me.
You see," she said, pointing to the skating boys, they
are wasting time! They will be just such Rzhinovians
as their fathers."
One of the boys in an overcoat and vizorless cap heard
her words and stopped.
Don't scold!" he shouted to the old woman. "You
are yourself a Rzhinov viper "
I asked the boy: Do you live here ?"
Yes, and she does, too. She has stolen a boot-leg !"
shouted the boy, and, raising his foot, he skated past
The old woman discharged a lot of curses, which were
interrupted by her cough. Just then a ragged old man
with snow-white hair came down the middle of the street,
swaying his arms (in one of them he carried a bundle
with a white loaf and some cracknels). The old man
looked as though he had just braced himself with a dram.
Evidently he had heard the old woman's curses, and he
took her part.
Just let me catch you, little devils!" he shouted to
the boys, pretending to make for them. After passing me
he stepped on the sidewalk. On the Arbit this old man
startles people by his decrepitude, old age, and wretched-
ness; here he was a merry labourer returning from his
I followed the old man. He turned a corner to the
left, into Prot6chny Lane, and, after passing the whole
house and the gate, disappeared in the door of a restau-
Two gates and several doors front on Prot6chny Lane:
they are those of a restaurant, a tavern, and a few gro-
ceries and other shops. This, indeed, is Rzhinov Fort.
Everything is here gray, dirty, and stinking, the build-
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
ings, the shops, the yards, the people. The majority of the
people whom I met here were tattered and half-dressed.
Some were passing by, while others ran from door to door.
Two of them were haggling about a piece of some rag. I
walked all around the building from the side of Prot6chny
Lane and Beregov6y Passage, and, upon returning, stopped
at the gate of one of the houses. I wanted to go in and
see what they were doing there, inside, but I felt ill at
case at what I should say if they asked me what I
wanted. Still, after some hesitation, I entered.
The moment I entered the courtyard I was struck by a
disgusting stench. The yard was terribly dirty. I
turned around a corner, and that very moment heard
to the left of me, in an upper wooden gallery, the tramp
of men running, at first along the deals of the gallery,
and then over the steps of the staircase. First there
came running out a lean woman with sleeves rolled up, in
a faded pink dress and with shoes on her bare feet.
After her came a shaggy-haired man in a red shirt and
pantaloons which were as wide as a petticoat, and in
At the foot of the stairs the man caught the woman.
"You will not get away from me," he said, laughing.
You cross-eyed devil," began the woman, apparently
flattered by this persecution; but, upon seeing me, she
shouted: Whom do you want?"
As I did not want anybody, I felt embarrassed and
went away. There was nothing remarkable about it, but
after what I had seen outside the yard, -the cursing
woman, the merry old man, and the skating boys, this
incident suddenly showed me my undertaking from an
entirely new side. I had undertaken to benefit these
people with the aid of the Moscow rich. Now I under-
stood for the first time that all these unfortunates, whom
I wanted to benefit, had not only a time when, suffering
from hunger and cold, they waited to be admitted to the
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
house, but also a time which they used to some purpose;
that they had twenty-four hours each day and a whole life,
which I had never thought before. I now understood for
the first time that all these people had not only the
desire to protect themselves against the cold and to get
something to eat, but also must live somehow those
twenty-four hours of each day, which they had to live
like any other being. I understood that these men
had also to be angry, and feel weary, and brace them-
selves, and have their brown studies, and make merry.
However strange this may sound, I now clearly under-
stood for the first time that what I had undertaken could
not consist merely in feeding and clothing a thousand
people,--like feeding and putting under a roof a thou-
sand sheep,- but that it ought to consist in doing people
good. When I understood that each of these thousand
people was just such a man as I was, with just such
a past, just such passions, temptations, and delusions, just
such thoughts, just such questions, my undertaking sud-
denly appeared so difficult to me that I felt my impo-
tence. But the thing was begun, and I continued it.
ON the first appointed day the student census-takers
started in the morning, but I, the benefactor, did not get
to them before noon. I could not have come earlier,
because I arose at ten, then drank coffee and smoked,
waiting for my digestion to take place. I arrived at noon
at the gate of Rzhinov House.
A policeman showed me a restaurant on Beregov6y
Passage, where the census-takers asked those to come who
wanted to see them. I entered the restaurant. It was
a dark, stinking, dirty place. In front was the counter,
on the left, a small room with tables that were covered
with dirty napkins; on the right, a large room with
columns, and similar tables at the windows, along the
walls. At some of the tables, drinking tea, sat tattered
and decently dressed men, such as workmen and small
traders, and a few women. The restaurant was very dirty,
but apparently it did a good business. The facial expres-
sion of the clerk behind the counter was businesslike, and
the waiters were quick and attentive: I had barely
entered, when a waiter got ready to take off my overcoat
and receive my order. Obviously they were here in the
habit of doing prompt and exact work.
I asked about the census-takers.
"Vinya!" shouted a small man, dressed in German
fashion, who was putting something into a cupboard
behind the counter; he was the proprietor of the restau-
rant, a Kaliga peasant, Ivan Fed6tych, who rented half
the apartments of the Zimin houses, in order to sublet
them to other people. A waiter, a boy of about eighteen
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ? 29
years of age, lean, hook-nosed, sallow-faced, ran up to
him. "Take the gentleman to the census-takers: they
have gone to the main wing, above the well."
The lad threw down the napkin, put on an overcoat
over his white shirt and while trousers, and a cap with
a large vizor, and, rapidly moving his white legs, led me
through a back door which shut with a block. In the
nasty, stinking kitchen in the vestibule we met an old
woman who was cautiously carrying terribly malodorous
guts that were wrapped in a rag. From the vestibule we
went down into an inclined yard, which was all filled up
with frame buildings on lower stone stories. The stench
in this yard was very great. The centre of this stench
was a privy, near which there was always a crowd, no
matter how often I passed there. The privy itself was
not a place of defecations, but it served as an indication
of the place near which it was customary to defecate. It
was impossible not to notice this place, whenever one
crossed the yard; it was oppressive to enter into the
pungent atmosphere of the stench which rose from it.
The lad cautiously guarded his white pantaloons, care-
fully led me past this spot over the frozen impurities, and
walked in the direction of one of the buildings. The
men who were crossing the yard and the galleries stopped
to take a look at me. Apparently a neatly dressed man
was a rarity in these places.
The lad asked a woman whether she had not seen
where the census-takers were, and three men at once
answered this question; some said that they were above
the well; others said that they had gone from there, and
were now with Nikita Ivdnovich. An old man in a shirt,
who was fixing himself near the privy, said that they
were in Number 30. The lad decided that this informa-
tion was the most reliable, and so led me to Number 30,
under the cover of a basement story, into darkness and into
a stench which was different from the one in the yard. We
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
descended lower and walked along an earth floor of a
dark corridor. As we were walking along the corridor,
a door was opened with a start, and a drunken old man
in a shirt, who was evidently not a peasant, rushed out
from the room. A washerwoman, with sleeves rolled up,
and soapy hands, was driving and pushing this man with
a piercing shriek. Vinya, my guide, pushed the drunken
man aside and rebuked him.
It will not do to make such a racket," he said, and
you are an officer, too."
Then we arrived at the door of Number 30. Vgnya
pulled the door: it smacked, having been stuck, and
opened, and we were surrounded by vapours of soap-suds
and by the pungent odour of bad victuals and of tobacco,
and entered into complete darkness. The windows were
on the opposite side, while nearer to us were board
corridors on the right and on the left, and little doors at
all kinds of angles, leading into rooms that were unevenly
partitioned off by shingles that were painted white with
a watery paint. In a dark room on the left could be
seen a woman washing something in a trough. Through
a door on the right an old woman could be seen.
Through another open door I saw a bearded, red-faced
peasant in bast shoes, who was sitting on a bed bench;
he was holding his hands on his knees, swaying his bast
shoe covered feet, and looking gloomily at them.
At the end of the corridor there was a little door which
led into the room where the census-takers were. This
was the room of the landlady of the whole of Number 30.
She rented the whole number from Iv6n Fed6tych, and
let it out to permanent renters and to night lodgers. In
this tiny room a student census-taker, with his cards, was
sitting under a foil image and, like an investigating mag-
istrate, examining a man in a shirt and vest. This was
the landlady's friend, who was answering the questions for
her. Here was also the landlady an old woman -
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
and two curious lodgers. When I arrived, the room was
crowded to its fullest capacity. I pushed my way to the
table. The student and I exchanged greetings, and he
continued his questions. I looked around and questioned
the inmates of this apartment for my own purposes.
It turned out that in this apartment I did not find one
on whom my benefaction could be bestowed. In spite of
the poverty, smallness, and dirt of these quarters, which
startled me when I compared them with the mansion in
which I lived, the landlady lived in comparative ease,
as compared with the poor inhabitants of the cities ; but
in comparison with the village poverty, with which I was
well acquainted, she lived even in luxury. She had a
feather bed, a quilted coverlet, a samovdr, a fur coat,
a cupboard with dishes. The landlady's friend had the
same well-to-do appearance : he even had a watch with a
chain. The lodgers were poor, but there was not one who
demanded immediate aid. Those who wanted help were
the woman at the wash-trough, who had been abandoned
with her children by her husband, an old widow, who,
as she said, had no means of support, and that peasant in
the bast shoes, who told me that he had not had that day
anything to eat. But upon closer inquiry it appeared
that all these persons were not in particular want, and
that, in order that I might aid them, I should have to
become better acquainted with them.
When I proposed to the woman, whom her husband
had abandoned, to put the children in a children's home,
she became confused, fell to musing, and thanked me,
but apparently it was not what she wanted: she pre-
ferred a contribution in money. Her eldest girl helped
her to wash, and her middle girl took care of her boy.
The old woman wanted very much to go to a poor-
house, but, upon examining her corner, I saw that the
woman was not in straits. She had a little trunk with
some possessions, a teapot with a tin mouth, and Mont-
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
pensier boxes with sugar and tea. She knitted stockings
and gloves, and received a monthly allowance from a
benefactress. But the peasant was evidently not so
much in need of something to eat as of something to
drink, and anything which might have been given to him
would have gone into the tavern.
Thus these quarters did not contain people with whom,
I thought, the house was filled, such as I could make
happy by giving them money. These poor, so it seemed
to me, were of a doubtful character. I made a note of
the old woman, of the woman with the children, and
of the peasant, and decided that it would be necessary to
look after them, but only after I should have busied
myself with those particularly unfortunate people whom I
expected to find in the house. I decided that the aid
would have to be furnished in a given order, at first to
those who needed it most, and then to these people. But
in the next quarters, and in the next, it was the same:
the people were all such as had to be investigated before
any aid was offered them. There were no unfortunates to
whom money was to be given, and who, having been
unhappy, would become happy. Though I ought to be
ashamed to say so, I began to be disappointed, because
I did not find in these houses anything I had expected. I
had expected to find people of a particular kind, but when
I had made the round of all the quarters, I convinced my-
self that the inhabitants of these houses were not at all a
particular kind of men, but precisely such men as I saw
myself surrounded by. Even as among us, there were
among them people who were more or less good, more or
less bad, more or less happy, more or less unhappy. The
unfortunate ones were just as unfortunate as those among
us, whose misfortune was not in external conditions but
within themselves,- a misfortune which could not be
mended by a bill.
THE inmates of these houses form the lower urban
population, of whom there must be more than one hun-
dred thousand in Moscow. Here, in this house, there are
representatives of all kinds of this population; here you
will find small masters and proprietors, bootmakers, brush-
makers, joiners, turners, shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths,
drivers, self-supporting traders and huckstresses, washer-
women, second-hand dealers, usurers, day-labourers and
people without any definite occupations, and beggars,
Here are many of the same class of people which I
saw in front of Lydpinski House, but here they are scat-
tered among working people. Besides, those others I had
seen at their very worst time, when everything was spent
in food and drink, and they, freezing and starving and
driven out of the restaurants, were waiting, as for the
heavenly manna, for admission into the free lodging-
house, and from there to the longed-for jail, in order to
be sent back to their domicile; whereas here I saw them
amidst a majority of labouring people, and at a time when
in one way or another they had gained three or five kopeks
for a night's lodging, and at times roubles for food and
And, no matter how strange this may sound, I here
experienced nothing resembling the feeling which I had
experienced in Lyapinski House; on the contrary, dur-
ing my first round, both I and the students experienced
almost a pleasant sensation, -but why do I say "almost
pleasant ? That is not true: the sensation evoked by
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
the intercourse with these people, no matter how strange
this may seem, was simply exceedingly pleasant.
The first impression was that the majority of people
who were living here were labourers and very good
The greater part of the inmates we found at work,-
the washerwomen over their troughs, the joiners at their
tables, the shoemakers on their stools. The close quar-
ters were filled with people, and they were working ener-
getically and merrily. There was an odour of workmen's
perspiration, and of hides at the shoemaker's, and of shav-
ings at the joiner's, and frequently we heard songs, and
saw the bared muscular arms which went through the
habitual motions with rapidity and with agility. We
were everywhere met with mirth and with kindness:
nearly everywhere our intrusion into the habitual life of
these people failed to rouse those ambitions, that desire to
show their importance and to snub, which the appearance
of the census-takers produced in the majority of the quar-
ters of the well-to-do people ; on the contrary, to all our
questions these people answered as was proper, without
ascribing any special significance to them. Our questions
merely served for them as a cause for amusement and
jesting as to how one was to be written down, who was
to be put down for two, and what two would stand for
one, and so forth.
Many we found at dinner or at tea, and to our greeting,
"Bread and salt," or "Tea and sugar," they invariably
replied by, Please to join us," and even moved aside to
make place for us. Instead of purlieus of a constantly
changing population, which we had expected to find here,
it turned out that in this house there were many apart-
ments where people had lived for a long time. A joiner
and his workmen, a shoemaker and his master workman
had lived for ten years in one place. At the shoemaker's
it was very dirty and crowded, but the people at work
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
were very cheerful. I tried to talk to one of the work-
men, as I wished to get from him an account of the
wretchedness of his condition and of his indebtedness to
the master, but the workman did not understand me and
spoke in the highest terms of his master and his life.
In one apartment there lived an old man and his wife.
They were selling apples. Their room was warm, clean,
and full of every good thing. The floor was carpeted with
straw matting, which they got in the apple shop. There
were trunks, a safe, a samovir, and dishes. In the cor-
ner were a number of images, and in front of them two
lamps were burning. Covered fur coats were hanging on
the wall behind a sheet. The old woman had star-shaped
wrinkles: she was kind and talkative, and apparently
took delight in her quiet, well-arranged life.
Ivan Fed6tych, the proprietor of the restaurant and the
landlord of the apartments, came from the restaurant and
walked with us. He jested cheerfully with many renters,
calling them by their names and patronymics, and gave
us short sketches of them. They were all people like
the rest of us, Mgrtin Sem6uoviches, Peter Petr6viches,
Ma rya Ivdnovnas, people who did not consider them-
selves unfortunate, and who indeed were like the rest of
We had prepared ourselves to see nothing but what
would be terrible; but, instead of anything terrible, we
saw nothing but what was good, what involuntarily evoked
our respect. And of these good people there was such a
multitude that the ragged, hopeless, idle people, who now
and then were met with among them, did not impair the
The students were not so startled by it as I was.
They were simply out doing something useful for science,
as they thought, and at the same time made their casual
observations; but I was a benefactor,--I went out to
help the unfortunate, lost, corrupt people, whom I had
36 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
expected to find in this house. Suddenly, instead of un-
fortunate, lost, and corrupt people, I saw a large number
of calm, satisfied, happy, kind, and very good working
This impressed itself upon me very vividly, whenever
I met in these quarters that very crying want which I
was prepared to assist.
Whenever I met this want, I found that it was already
attended to, and that the aid which I wanted to offer
to it had already been given. This aid had been given
before me, and by whom ? By those same unfortunate,
corrupt creatures, whom I was prepared to help, and it
was given in a way which I could not emulate.
In a basement lay a lonely old man who was sick with
the typhus. The old man did not have a friend. A
widow with a little girl, a stranger to him, but a neigh-
bour of his, took care of him, brought tea to him, and
bought medicine for him with her own money. In an-
other apartment a woman was lying sick with puerperal
fever. A woman who was making a living by debauch
rocked the baby, made a sucking-rag for it, and for two
days did not go out to her calling. A girl who was left an
orphan was taken into the family of a tailor, who him-
self had three children. Thus the only unfortunates that
were left were some idle people, officials, scribes, lackeys
out of a job, beggars, drunkards, prostitutes, children, who
could not be at once helped with money, but who had
to be carefully examined, taken care of, and given work.
I was in search of pure unfortunates, such as were unfor-
tunate through poverty, and as could be helped by giving
them of our abundance; but it seemed to me that I failed
to find such, and that all the unfortunates I came across
were such that much time and care would have to be
expended on them.
THE unfortunates whom I marked down naturally clas-
sified themselves in my imagination according to three
categories, namely, as people who had lost their former
profitable situation and were waiting to return to it (such
people belonged both to the higher and to the lower con-
ditions of life) ; then prostitutes, of whom there were very
many in these houses; and the third category, children.
The largest number marked down by me belonged to the
first category, to those who had lost their profitable sit-
uations and were wishing to return to them. Of such
people, especially of those who belonged to the burgher
and the official worlds, there were very many in these
houses. In nearly all the quarters which we entered
with the landlord, Ivan Fed6tych, we were told by him:
"Here you do not need to write the census card your-
selves; here you will find a man who can do all that, if
only he is not on a spree."
Ivan Fed6tych would call such a man by his first name
and patronymic, and it always turned out to be one of
those men who had fallen from a higher condition of life.
To Ivan Fed6tych's call an impoverished gentleman or
official would creep out from some dark corner, and he
would generally be drunk and always undressed. If he
was not drunk, he was always delighted to take hold
of the matter which was placed before him, significantly
shook his head, frowned, put in his remarks with learned
terms, and with cautious tenderness held the clean,
printed red card in his trembling, dirty hands, and with
contempt eyed his fellow lodgers, as though triumphantly
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
asserting the superiority of his education before those
who had humiliated him so often. He was obviously
glad to commune with that world where they printed
cards on red paper, and where he had once been
himself. To my inquiries about his life, such a man
nearly always replied readily and began with enthusiasm
to recite, like a prayer learned by rote, the history of those
calamities to which he had been subjected, and, above all,
of his former position, where he belonged according to his
Such men were widely scattered through Rzhinov
House. One of the apartments is solidly occupied by
such men and women. When we came up to it, Ivdn
Fed6tych said to us: "Here comes the apartment of the
gentry." The apartment was quite full: nearly all of
them, about forty, were at home. More thoroughly fallen,
unfortunate, neglected old persons, and pale, hopeless
young persons could not be found in the whole house. I
talked with some of them. It was nearly always the
same story, only in various degrees of evolution. Each of
them had been rich, or a father, a brother, uncle, had been
or still was rich, or his father, or he himself, had occupied
a fine position. Then a misfortune occurred, caused by
some envious person, or by his own goodness, or by some
special accident, and he lost everything, and now was
doomed to perish in these improper, hateful surroundings,
- covered with lice, dressed in rags, among drunkards
and harlots, feeding on liver and bread, and extending the
hand for alms.
All the thoughts, wishes, and recollections of these
people are directed only to the past. The present ap-
pears to them as something unnatural, abominable, and
unworthy of attention. Not one of them has a present.
They have only recollections of the past and expectations
in the future, which may be realized at any moment, and
for the realization of which very little is needed, but this
WHAT SIALL WE DO THEN?
very little is wanting and is not to be had, and so life is
being uselessly ruined, one having suffered for a year,
another for five, and a third for thirty years. One needs
only to dress himself in decent clothes, in order to make
his appearance before a person who is favourably inclined
to him; another needs only to put on decent clothes, pay
his bills, and reach Orl1; a third needs only to redeem his
mortgaged property and obtain some small means for
the continuation of his case at law, which must end in his
favour, and then all will be well again. They all say that
they need only something external, in order that they
may get back to the condition which alone they consider
natural and happy for them.
If I had not been befogged by my pride of virtue, I
needed only to scan a little their young and their old, for
the most part weak, sensual, but good faces, in order to
understand that their misfortune was incorrigible by
external means; that they could not be happy in any
situation, if their view of life remained the same; that
they were not a special class of people, in unusually
unfortunate circumstances, but just such people as we
were surrounded by on all sides, and as we ourselves were.
I remember that my communion with this class of unfor-
tunates was particularly hard for me. Now I understand
why it was so: I saw myself in them as in a mirror. If
I had stopped to think of my life and of the lives of the
men of our circle, I should have seen that between us
there was no essential difference.
If those who are around me now live in grand quarters
and in their own houses on the Sivtsev Vrazh6k and on
the Dmitrovka, and not in Rzhinov House, and still eat
and drink palatable things, and not liver and herring with
bread, that does not keep them from being just as un-
happy. They are just as dissatisfied with their situation,
regretting the past and wishing for something better, and
this better situation which they wish for is just such as
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
the inmates of Rzhanov House desire, that is, such as will
make it possible for them to work less and make more
extensive use of the labours of others. The difference is
only in the degree and the time.
If I had then stopped to think, I should have under-
stood it; but I did not stop to think: I questioned these
people and noted them down, hoping to aid them later,
after I should have learned of their conditions and their
needs. I did not understand then that such a man could
be helped only by changing his world conception; but, in
order to change the world conception of another person,
a man must first have his own better world conception
and live in accordance with it, whereas mine was just
such as theirs was, and I lived in accordance with the
world conception which had to be changed in order that
these people should stop being unhappy.
I did not see that these people were unhappy, not
because they, so to speak, lacked nutritive food, but
because their stomachs were ruined, and they no longer
demanded nutritive food, but such as roused their
appetite; I did not see that, to aid them, I was not to
offer them food, but should cure their ruined stomachs.
Though I am anticipating here, I will say that I actually
did not help a single one of the men whose names I had
taken down, although for some of them precisely that
was done which they had wanted, and which, it seemed,
ought to have put them on their feet. I specially re-
member three of these people. All three of them are,
after numerous upliftings and falls, in precisely the same
condition in which they were three years ago.
THE second category of unfortunates whom I had hoped
to help later was that of the prostitutes; of such women
there is a very large variety in Rzhinov House, -from
young ones, who resemble women, to old ones, terrible to
look at, who have lost every human semblance. This
hope of helping the women, which I had not had in mind
before, arose under the following circumstance.
It was in the middle of our census-taking, and we had
by that time worked out a certain mechanical method of
As we entered new quarters, we immediately asked for
the landlord of the rooms; one of us sat down, clearing a
place where he could write, and a second walked from
corner to corner, questioning each person separately, and
transmitting the information to the recorder.
Upon entering one of the apartments of the basement
story, a student went to find the landlord, while I began
to question all those who were in these quarters. The
quarters were arranged as follows: In the middle of a
room twenty feet square there was a stove; from the
stove radiated four partitions, forming four smaller com-
partments. In the first passage room there were four
cots and two persons, -an old man and a woman. After
this came a long compartment: here was the landlord,
a young, respectable-looking, extremely pale burgher,
dressed in a gray cloth coat without sleeves. On the
left of the first corner was the third compartment: there
was a man asleep, no doubt drunk, and a woman in a
pink blouse, which was open in front and gathered
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
behind; the fourth compartment was beyond a partition:
it was entered from the landlord's room.
The student went to the landlord's room, and I stopped
in the passage room to question the old man and the
woman. The man was a master printer, but now had no
means of support. The woman was the wife of a cook.
I went to the third compartment and questioned the
woman in the blouse about the sleeping man. She said
that he was a guest. I asked the woman who she was.
She said she was a Moscow burgher woman.
"What is your occupation ?"
She laughed, and gave me no answer.
How do you support yourself ?" I repeated, thinking
that she had not understood my first question.
I sit in the restaurant," she said.
I did not understand, and again asked:
What do you live by ?"
She made no reply, and only laughed. In the fourth
compartment, where we had not yet been, there were also
heard laughing female voices. The landlord came out of
his compartment, and walked over to us. He had appar-
ently heard my questions and the woman's answer. He
cast a stern glance upon the woman, and turned to me:
" A prostitute," he said, obviously satisfied, because he
knew the word which is used in official language and
pronounced it correctly. Having said this, he with a
faint and respectful smile of satisfaction, which was meant
for me, turned to the woman. The moment he turned to
her, his whole face was changed. Speaking in that pecul-
iar, contemptuous, quick tone, with which one addresses
a dog, and without looking at her, he said:
"What use is there of talking bosh, I sit in a restau-
rant'? You sit in a restaurant! Say outright, -a
prostitute," he repeated the word. "She does not know
how to call herself."
His tone offended me.
In the Lodging-house
P'hotogravure from Drawing by I. -'. Rln
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
It is not proper for us to put her to shame," I said.
"If all of us lived in godly fashion, there would be none
Well, that is so," said the landlord, with an unnatural
Then we ought not to rebuke them, but to pity them.
Is it their fault ?"
I do not remember how I expressed myself, but I
remember that I was offended by the contemptuous tone
of this youthful landlord of the quarters which were full
of women whom he called prostitutes, and I was sorry
for this woman, and so I expressed both sentiments. The
moment I had said this, the boards of the beds in the
compartment where the female voices were heard began
to creak, and above the partition, which did not reach as
high as the ceiling, there rose a curly, dishevelled female
head with small, swollen eyes and a shining red face, and
after her a second and a third head. They were evidently
standing on their beds, and all three of them stretched
their necks and with bated breath and strained attention
looked silently at us.
There ensued an embarrassing silence. The student,
who had been smiling before, became serious; the land-
lord became embarrassed, and lowered his eyes; the
women did not dare to draw breath, and looked at me,
and waited. I was embarrassed more than the rest. I
had not expected to see a casual word produce such an
effect. It was as though Ezekiel's field of death, covered
with dead bones, had quivered by the touch of the spirit,
and the dead bones had come to life. I unwittingly
uttered a word of love and of compassion, and this word
acted upon all persons as though they had all been waiting
for this word, in order to cease being corpses, and come to
life again. They kept looking at me and waiting for
what would come next. They were waiting for me to say
those words and do those acts which would make the
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
bones come together, be covered with flesh, and come to
life again. But I felt that I did not possess those words
nor those acts with which I might continue what I had
begun; I felt in the bottom of my heart that I had lied,
that I was precisely such as they were, and that I had
nothing else to say, and I began to record the names and
occupations of all the persons in these quarters.
This incident led me into a new delusion, into the
thought that it was possible to help these unfortunates
also. In my self-conceit it then appeared to me that
that was easy. I said to myself: "We will note down
these women also and later we (I did not render myself
any account as to who these we were) shall busy our-
selves with them." I imagined that we, those men who
for the period of several generations had brought these
women to such a state, would one beautiful day bethink
ourselves and mend all that at once. And yet, if I had
only recalled my conversation with that lewd woman who
was rocking the baby of the woman sick in childbirth, I
might have comprehended the whole madness of this
When we saw this woman with the child, we thought
that it was her child. In reply to the question who she
was, she answered outright, A girl." She did not say,
" A prostitute." It was only that burgher, the landlord,
who had ujed that terrible word. My supposition that
she had a baby gave me the idea of bringing her out of
her situation. I asked:
"Is this your child ?"
No, it belongs to this woman."
Why, then, do you rock it?"
She asked me to: she is dying."
Though my supposition proved incorrect, I continued to
speak to her in the same spirit. I asked her who she was,
and how she had come to her present condition. She
cheerfully and in a simple manner told me her story.
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
She was the daughter of a factory hand, a Moscow
burgher. She had been left an orphan, and her aunt took
her to her house. From her aunt's she started frequenting
the restaurants. Her aunt was dead now. When I asked
her whether she did not want to change her manner of
life, my question apparently did not even interest her.
Indeed, how could the proposition of something quite
impossible interest a person ? She smiled, and said :
But who will take me with my yellow police card ?"
"Suppose I found you a place as a cook ?" I said.
This idea occurred to me, because she was a strong,
blonde woman, with a silly-looking round face. Cooks
are generally of this description. My words evidently
A cook But I cannot bake bread," she said, laugh-
ing. She said that she could not be one, but I saw by
her face that she did not want to be a cook, because she
considered the position and calling of a cook to be
This woman, who in the simplest manner possible, like
the widow of the Gospel, sacrificed everything she had for
the sake of the sick mother, like her other companions,
regarded the condition of a working man as low and worthy
of contempt. She was brought up to live without work-
ing, and to live a life which by those who surrounded her
was considered natural for her. In this did her mis-
fortune lie. Through this misfortune she had got into
her present state and was maintaining herself in it. That
had brought her to loaf in restaurants. Which of us,
man or woman, will correct her false conception of life ?
Where, in our midst, are those people who are convinced
that any life of labour is more respectable than a life of
idleness, who are convinced of it, and live in accord-
ance with that conviction, and in accordance with that
conviction value and esteem people ? If I had stopped to
think of it, I should have comprehended that neither I
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
nor any one else of those whom I know could cure this
I should have comprehended that those startled and
meek heads that were thrust forward above the partition
were expressing nothing but amazement at the sympathy
which I had given utterance to, and by no means hope in
having their immorality mended. They do not see the
immorality of their lives. They see that they are despised
and cursed, but it is impossible for them to comprehend
why they are despised. Their lives have been passed
since childhood amidst just such women, who, they know
full well, have always existed and are necessary to society,
so necessary that there are special officers whose duty it
is to look after their regular existence. Besides, they
know that they exercise power over men and control
them, often more completely than do other women. They
see that their position in society, despite the fact that
everybody curses them, is recognized by women and by
men and by the authorities, and so they fail to under-
stand what they are to repent of or why they should
During one of the rounds a student told me that in one
of the rooms there was a woman who carried on a trade
with her thirteen-year-old daughter. As I wished to save
this girl, I went directly to that room. The mother and
the daughter were living in great poverty. The mother,
a small, swarthy prostitute of about forty years of age,
was not merely homely, but disagreeably so. The daughter
was just as repulsive. To all my roundabout questions
as to their life, the mother answered me curtly, and with
suspicion and hostility, obviously feeling me to be an
enemy with evil intentions; the daughter made no replies
and did not look at her mother, having evidently full
confidence in her mother. They did not evoke any sincere
pity in me, but rather disgust; but I decided that it was
necessary, to save the daughter, to get the ladies interested
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
who sympathized with .the miserable condition of these
women, and to send them thither.
However, if I had stopped to think of the mother's
long past, of how she had borne, reared, and brought up
her daughter in her condition, no doubt without the
slightest aid from people and with heavy sacrifices; if I
had stopped to think of that view of life which had formed
itself in this woman, I should have understood that in
the mother's act there was. positively nothing bad or
immoral: she was doing for her daughter all she could,
that is, what she considered best for herself. It is possible
by force to take the daughter away from her mother; but
it is impossible to convince the mother that she is doing
wrong in selling her daughter. If it comes to saving, it
is the mother that ought to be saved; above all, she
ought to be saved from that view of life, approved by all
men, which makes it possible for a woman to live out of
wedlock, that is, without bearing children and without
working, serving only for the gratification of sensuality.
If I had stopped to think of it, I should have compre-
hended that the majority of those ladies whom I wanted
to send there for the purpose of saving this girl not only
lived themselves without bringing forth children and
without work, serving only the gratification of sensuality,
but also brought up their daughters for the same life: one
mother takes her daughter to the restaurant, another takes
hers to court or to balls. But the world conception is
the same with either mother, namely, that a woman must
gratify a man's lust, and that for this she has to be fed,
and dressed, and taken care of. How, then, can our ladies
improve this woman and her daughter?
MORE extravagant still was my relation to the children.
In my capacity of benefactor I turned my attention to
the children also, wishing to save the innocent creatures
that were going to perdition in this den of debauch, and
took down their names, intending to busy myself with
Among the children I was particularly struck by twelve-
year-old Serezha. This bright, wide-awake boy, who had
been living at a shoemaker's, but was now left without a
home, because his master was in jail, I pitied with my
whole soul, and I wanted to do him some good.
I will now tell how my attempt at benefiting him
ended, because the story of this boy shows better than
anything my false position in my capacity as benefactor.
I took the boy to my house, and put him in the kitchen,
- it was certainly impossible to take a lousy boy out of
the den of debauch into my children's rooms! And I
considered myself particularly good and kind, because he
did not embarrass me, but the servants in the kitchen,
and because it was not I who fed him, but our cook, and
because I gave him some old clothes to wear.
The boy stayed about a week. During this time I once
or twice, in passing him, said a few words to him, and
during my constitutional called on a shoemaker I knew,
offering him the boy as an apprentice. A peasant, who
happened to call at my house, invited him to join his
family in the village: the boy refused, and within a week
disappeared. I went to RzhAnov House to inquire about
him. He had returned there, but when I called he was
not at home. This was the second day he had been going
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN? 49
to Prydsnenski Ponds, where he hired out at thirty kopeks
a day to act as a costumed wild man leading an elephant
in a procession. They were giving some kind of a show
there. I called a second time, but he was so ungrateful
that he evidently avoided me.
If I had then stopped to think of the life of this boy
and of my own, I should have comprehended that the
boy was spoiled by this, that he had discovered the possi-
bility of a merry life without labour, that he had lost the
habit of work. And I, to benefit and improve him, took
him to my house, where he saw what? My children, -
those who were older than he, and younger, and of his
age,-who not only had never worked for themselves,
but did everything in their power to give work to others,
who soiled and ruined everything about them, and gorged
themselves on fat, savoury, and sweet food, and broke
dishes, and spilled and threw to the dogs such food as to
this boy appeared as dainties. If I took him out of the
den and brought him to a good place, he could not help but
acquire those views which exist in respect to life in that
good place; and from these views he saw that in a good
place it was necessary to live in such a way as to do no
work, and to eat and drink sweet things, and to live merrily.
It is true, he did not know that my children were
working very hard to study the declensions out of the
Latin and the Greek grammars, and he would not have been
able to comprehend the aims of these labours. But it is im-
possible to overlook the fact that, if he had comprehended
this, the effect of my children's example would have been
more powerful still. He would have comprehended that
my children were being educated in such a way that they
might have nothing to do at present and should in the
future, by making use of their diploma, be able to work
as little as possible and enjoy the benefits of life as much
as possible. lie understood this, and so did not go with
the peasant to look after his cattle and eat potatoes and
50 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
drink kvas with him, but, instead, went to the Zoological
Garden, to lead an elephant for thirty kopeks, while clad
as a wild man.
I might have comprehended how foolish it was of me,
who was educating my children in complete idleness and
luxury, to correct other people and their children, who
were perishing from idleness in Rzhinov House, which I
have called a den, but in which, however, three-fourths of
the people worked for themselves and for others. But I
did not understand anything about it.
There were very many children in RzhAnov House,
who were in a most miserable state: there were children
of prostitutes, and orphans, and children carried by beg-
gars on the streets. They were all very wretched; but
my experience with Ser6zha showed me that, living the
life I did, I was not able to help them. While Ser6zha
had been living at our house, I noticed in myself a desire
to conceal from him our life, especially the life of our
children. I felt that all my endeavours to lead him to a
good life of labour were destroyed by the examples of our
life and of that of our children. It is easy enough to
take a child away from a prostitute, or from beggars. It
is very easy, having money, to wash and clean him up,
and dress him in clean clothes, feed him, and even teach
him all kinds of sciences; but it is very difficult, and even
impossible, for us, who do not earn our bread, but do the
very opposite, to teach him to earn his own bread, because
with our examples and with the material improvements of
his life, which do not cost us anything, we teach him the
very opposite. You can take a puppy and feed him, and
teach him to carry something, and enjoy the sight of him;
but it is not enough to rear and bring up a man, and
teach him Greek: he has to be taught to live, that is, to
take less from others, and give more; and we are unable
to teach him to do the opposite, whether we take him to
our house, or send him to a special home.
I NO longer experienced that sentiment of compassion
for people and of disgust with myself which I had expe-
rienced in Lydpinski House: I was all absorbed in the
desire to fulfil the work which I had undertaken, to do
good to the people whom I should meet here. Strange to
say, one would think that doing good, giving money
to others, is a very good thing, and ought to dispose one
to the love of men, but the very opposite took place: it
provoked my ill-will and condemnation of people. In the
evening of the first day's round there happened a scene
exactly like the one in LyApinski House; but this scene
did not produce on me the same impression as in Lya-
pinski House, but evoked an entirely different feeling.
It began with this, that in one of the quarters I found
an unfortunate who demanded immediate aid: it was a
hungry woman, who had not eaten for two days.
It was like this: in one very large, almost empty lodg-
ing apartment I asked an old woman whether there were
there any very poor people, such as did not have anything
to eat. The old woman thought for awhile and men-
tioned two persons; then she seemed to recall something.
Oh, yes, there is one lying here," she said, peering
into one of the occupied bunks. This woman, I think,
has not had anything to eat."
Is it possible ? Who is she ?"
She was a lewd woman, but now nobody wants her,
so she has no money to buy anything with. The land-
lady has been pitying her, but she wants to drive her out
now. Agifya, oh, Agafya shouted the old woman.
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
We walked up to the bunk, on which something raised
itself. It was a half-gray, dishevelled woman, as lean as
a skeleton, in nothing but a dirty, torn shirt, with a pecul-
iarly beaming and arrested glance. She looked with an
arrested glance past us, with her lean hand caught her
sack in order to cover her bony breast, which could be
seen back of her dirty and torn shirt, and almost barked
out, What is it ? What is it ? "
I asked her how she was getting along. For a long
time she could not understand me; finally she said:
I do not know myself, they are driving me out."
I asked her,-I blush to write it down,--I asked her
whether it was true that she had not eaten. She answered
in the same feverish and rapid tone, without looking at
I have not had anything to eat yesterday, or to-day."
The sight of this woman touched me, but not as I had
been touched in Ly6pinski House: there my pity for the
people made me feel ashamed of myself, while here I was
glad to have at last found what I had been looking for, -
a hungry person.
I gave her a rouble, and I remember that I was very
glad that others saw it. When the old woman noticed it,
she, too, asked me for some money. It gave me such
pleasure to offer money that I gave the old woman some,
without considering whether it was right to give her any,
or not. The old woman saw me out at the door, and the
people who were standing in the corridor heard her thank-
ing me. Apparently the questions which I had put in
respect to poverty had roused some expectations, and
several persons followed us. In the corridor they began
to ask me for some money. There were among the sup-
plicants some who were evidently confirmed drunkards,
who roused a disagreeable feeling in me; but, having
given some to the old woman, I had no right to refuse
these either, and I began to distribute my money. While
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
I was giving, others came up, and in every quarter there
was excitement. People appeared on the staircases and
in the galleries, and they followed me.
As I came out into the yard, a boy, pushing his way
through the crowd, came flying down the staircase. He
did not see me, and he shouted, hurriedly, "He gave
Agiifya a rouble." Having run down-stairs, the boy
joined the crowd that was following me. I went out into
the street; all kinds of people followed me, begging for
money. I distributed all the change I had, and went into
an open shop to ask the dealer to change a ten-rouble
bill. Here the same happened as in Lydpinski House,
namely, there was a terrible crush. Old women, people
of the gentry, peasants, children, crowded at the shop,
extending their hands; I gave them money, asking a few
about their lives, and making note of them in my memo-
randum-book. The dealer turned in the fur corners of
the collar of his fur coat and sat like an idol, now and
then casting a glance at the crowd and again directing his
eyes past me. Apparently he felt, like the rest, that it
was foolish, but he could not say so.
In Lydpinski House I had been horrified by the wretch-
edness and the humiliation of the people, and I felt
myself guilty: I felt a desire and a possibility of being
better. But now, a similar scene produced an entirely
different effect upon me: in the first place, I experienced
a malevolent feeling toward many of those who were
besieging me, and, in the second, unrest at what the shop-
keepers and janitors were thinking of me.
When I returned home on that day, I did not feel at my
ease. I felt that what I had done was foolish and immoral;
but, as always happens in consequence of an inner confu-
sion, I talked a great deal about my undertaking, as
though I did not in the least doubt its success.
On the following day I went by myself to those persons
noted down by me, who seemed to me more miserable
54 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
than the rest, and whom, I thought, it was easier to help.
As I said, I did not help even one of those persons. It
turned out that it was much harder to help them than I
had thought. Either because I did not know how, or
because it was impossible to do otherwise, I only irritated
the people, without helping them. Before the end of the
census-taking I visited Rzhinov House several times, and
each time the same thing happened: 1 was surrounded
by a crowd of begging people, in the mass of whom I was
completely lost. I felt the impossibility of doing any-
thing, because there were too many of them, and so I felt
an ill-will toward them, because there were so many of
them; besides, each of them individually did not gain my
I felt that each of them was telling me an untruth or
not the whole truth, and saw in me only a purse from
which one could draw money. Very frequently it seemed
to me that the very money which one of them extorted
from me would not improve his situation, but would make
it worse. The more frequently I went to these houses,
the more I had intercourse with those people, the more
manifest did it become to me that it was impossible to do
anything; but I did not recede from my set purpose till
the last nightly round of the census.
I feel particularly ashamed to recall this last day's
round. Before that I used to go alone, while now we
went twenty of us together. At seven o'clock there
gathered at my house all those who wanted to go with
me on this last night's round. They were mostly stran-
gers, students, an officer, and two of my society acquaint-
ances, who, saying the customary C'est tries intiressant "
begged me to receive them among the number of census-
My society acquaintances dressed themselves in pe-
culiar hunting-jackets and high travelling-boots,-a cos-
tume which they put on when they went out hunting,
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
and which, in their opinion, was proper for a visit to the
lodging-houses. They took with them peculiar books and
outlandish pencils. They were in that peculiar state of
excitement in which people are who are getting ready for
the chase, for a duel, or for the war. From them could
most clearly be seen the insipidity and falseness of our
situation, but the rest of us were in the same false con-
Before our start we had a consultation, something like
a military council, as to how we should begin, how dis-
tribute ourselves, etc. The consultation was precisely
like what takes place in councils, assemblies, and com-
mittees, that is, everybody spoke, not because they had
anything to say, but because they invented something to
say, in order not to fall behind the rest. In the course
of these discussions nobody mentioned anything about
philanthropy, of which I had spoken so frequently.
Though I was ashamed to do so, I felt that it was neces-
sary to make mention of the philanthropic work, that
is, of the taking note, during our round, of all those who
were in wretched circumstances. I always felt ill at ease
whenever I spoke of this, but here, amidst our excited
preparation for the expedition, I had the greatest difficulty
in speaking about it. They listened to me, as I thought,
with melancholy, and all agreed with me verbally; but it
was evident that all knew that it was foolish, and that
nothing would come of it, and they all began at once to
speak of something else. This lasted till the time when
we had to go, and we started.
We arrived at the dark restaurant, where we roused
the waiters and began to unpack our note-books. When
we were told that the people had heard of our visit and
were leaving the quarters, we asked the landlord to shut the
gates, and we weut ourselves into the yard to talk to
the people who were trying to get away and to assure
them that no one would ask for their police cards. I
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
remember the strange and oppressive feeling produced on
me by those excited lodgers: half-undressed and ragged,
they appeared to me tall in the lamplight of the dark
yard; frightened and terrible in their fright, they stood
in a crowd about the malodorous privy, listening to our
assurances, but not believing them; they were evidently
prepared for anything, like baited beasts, if only they
could get away from us.
Gentlemen of every description as policemen and as
gendarmes, and as examining magistrates, and as judges
--had been harassing them all their lives, in the cities
and in the villages, on the roads and in the streets, in the
restaurants and in the doss-houses, and now these gen-
tlemen suddenly came and shut the gates on them, merely
to count them; that was as hard for them to believe as
it would be for hares to believe that the dogs came to
count them, and not to hunt them. But the gates were
locked and the excited lodgers went to their quarters, and
we, dividing into groups, started on our round.
I had the two society gentlemen and two students with
me. In front of us, in the darkness, walked Vinya, in an
overcoat and his white trousers, and with a lantern in his
hand, and we followed him. We went to the quarters
with which I was acquainted. The rooms were familiar
to me and so were some of the people, but the majority
of the people were new to me, and the spectacle was new
and terrible, much more terrible than what I had seen
near Lyapinski House. All the quarters were full, all the
cots were occupied, generally by two people. The specta-
cle was terrible on account of the crowded condition and
of the intermingling of men and women. All women who
were not beastly drunk were sleeping with men. Many
women with children on narrow cots were sleeping with
strange men. Terrible was the spectacle of the wretched-
ness, dirt, raggedness, and fright of these people; and,
above all, terrible on account of the enormous number of
WIAT SHALL WE DO THEN? 57
people who were in this condition. There was one apart-
ment, and another, and a third, and a tenth, and a twen-
tieth, and there was no end to them. Everywhere the
same stench, the same stifling atmosphere, the same
crowding, the same mingling of the sexes, the same deliri-
ously drunken men and women, and the same fright, hu-
mility, and guilt on all the faces, -and I again felt ill at
ease and pained, as in Lyipinski House, and I understood
that what I had undertaken was nasty, stupid, and, there-
fore, impossible. I stopped taking down notes and ques-
tioning people, for I knew that nothing would come of it.
I was dreadfully oppressed. In Lypinski House I had
been like a man who suddenly sees a sore on another man's
body. He is sorry for the man, sorry because he did not
pity him before, and he still may hope to be able to help
the ailing man. But now I was like a physician who
comes with his medicaments to the patient, lays open his
sore, probes it, and must confess to himself that he has
done all that in vain, that his medicaments are no good.
Tins visit inflicted the last blow to my self-deception.
It became patent to me that my undertaking was not
only stupid, but also abominable. But, although I knew
this, it seemed to me that I could not all at once throw
up the whole matter: it seemed to me that I had to con-
tinue this occupation, in the first place, because with my
article, my visits, and my promises I had roused the ex-
pectations of the poor, in the second place, because with
the same article and with my conversations I had roused
the sympathy of the benefactors, many of whom had
promised to me their cooperation, both by personal serv-
ice and by money contributions. I waited for both sides
to turn to me with their requests, which I should have to
answer the best way I knew how.
As to the applications of the needy, this is what took
place : I received more than one hundred letters and appli-
cations; these applications were all from the rich poor, if I
may express myself in this fashion. On some of these I
called, some I left without a reply. Nowhere did I suc-
ceed in doing anything. All the applications to me were
from persons who had once been in a privileged condition
(I call thus the condition in which people receive more
from others than they give), who had lost it, and now
wanted to go back to it. One needed two hundred roubles
in order to bolster up his declining trade and finish the
education of his children; another needed a photograph-
gallery; a third wanted to pay debts and redeem his
decent clothes; a fourth needed a piano, in order to
perfect himself in playing and support his family by
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
giving music lessons. The majority did not determine
the exact sum and simply asked' for assistance; but,
whenever I investigated their demands, it turned out that
these demands grew in proportion with the assistance, and
they were not satisfied, and could not be. I repeat, it is
very likely that all that was due to the fact that I did not
know how; in any case, I did not help any one, although
I sometimes tried to do so.
As to the cooperation on the part of the benefactors,
something very strange and unexpected took place. Of
all the persons who had promised me monetary contribu-
tions and had even determined the sums, not one handed
me as much as a rouble to distribute to the poor. To
judge by the promises which they had made me, I could
count on something like three thousand roubles, and of
all these men not one recalled the former conversations
or gave me a single kopek. The only persons who gave
me anything were the students who turned over to me
the money which they received for their work in taking
the census, which was, I believe, twelve roubles. Thus
my whole undertaking, which was to have been expressed
in tens of thousands of roubles contributed by the rich,
and in hundreds and thousands of people who were to be
saved from wretchedness and debauch, reduced itself to
this, that I distributed at haphazard a few tens of roubles
to those men who extorted it from me, and that I had on
my hands twelve roubles contributed by the students, and
twenty-five roubles sent to me by the City Council for my
work as superintendent, which sums I was at a loss to
The whole affair came to an end. And so, before my
departure to the country, I went one Sunday morning,
about Butter-week, to RzhAnov House, in order to get rid
of the thirty-seven roubles before my departure, and to
distribute them to the poor. I made the round of the
familiar quarters, and there found one sick man to whom
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
I gave five roubles, I think. There was no one else to
give any money to. But, as I had not known them in
the beginning, so I did not know them then, and so I
decided to take counsel with Ivin Feddtych, the pro-
prietor of the restaurant, to know to whom I should give
the remaining thirty-two roubles.
It was the first day of Butter-week. All were dressed
up and had plenty to eat, and many were already drunk.
In the yard, near the corner of the house, stood an old,
but still hale, ragpicker, in a torn gabardine and bast
shoes; picking over his booty in a basket, he threw out
into heaps scraps of leather and of iron and of something
else, and sang a merry song in a beautiful and powerful
voice. I got into a conversation with him. He was
seventy years old and all alone; he made a living by his
occupation as a ragpicker, and not only did not complain,
but even said that he had enough to eat and to get drunk
on. I asked him about those who were most in need.
He grew angry and said outright that there were no
needy persons, except drunkards and lazybones; but when
he heard of my purpose, he asked me for a nickel with
which to get him a drink, and ran into the restaurant. I
went myself into the restaurant to Ivin Fed6tych, in
order to give him what money I had left for distribution.
The restaurant was full; dressed up girls swarmed from
door to door; all the tables were occupied; there was
already a large number of drunken persons, and in a
small room some one was playing the accordion, and two
were dancing. Out of respect for me Ivan Feddtych
ordered the dance stopped, and sat down with me at an
unoccupied table. I told him that, since he knew his
lodgers, he might be able to point out to me those who
were most in need, as I had been ordered to distribute
a small sum of money. Good-natured Ivan Feddtych
(he died a year later), though busy attending to his trade,
stayed away from it for awhile, in order to aid me. He
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
fell to musing, and was apparently perplexed. An elderly
waiter had heard us speak, and took part in the consulta-
They began to pass in review a number of persons,
some of whom I knew myself, and we could not come to
Param6novna," the waiter proposed.
Yes, that is so. Goes often without food. Well, she
does have sprees."
What of it ? Still."
Well, Spiridcn Ivtnovich, has children. That's it."
But Ivan Fed6tych had some objection to Spirid6n
Akulina ? She receives money. Well, how about
the blind man?"
To this one I myself objected. I had just seen him.
He was an old man of eighty years of age and blind,
without kith or kin. One would imagine that there could
not be a harder lot than his; but I had seen him just
awhile ago: he was lying on a high feather bed, drunk,
and, as he did not see me, discharged the vilest of
words in a terrible bass against his comparatively young
Then they mentioned an armless boy and his mother.
I saw that Ivin Fed6tych was embarrassed, on account of
his honesty, for he knew that, no matter what should
be given, it would all come to him in his restaurant. But
I had to get rid of the thirty-two roubles, and so I in-
sisted, and, by making compromises, we managed to dis-
tribute the money. Those who received it were generally
well dressed, and it was not necessary to go far for them,
for they were all there, in the restaurant. The armless
boy came in extensible boots, a red shirt, and a vest.
Thus ended my whole philanthropic activity, and I went
back to the village, irritated at others, as is nearly always
the case when I have committed some foolish and bad
62 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
act. My philanthropy was reduced to zero and came to
a complete stop, but the train of thought and of feelings
which it had evoked in me did not come to a stop: my
inner work proceeded with redoubled force.
WHAT, then, had happened?
I had lived in the country, and there had had relations
with the village poor. Not out of humility, which is
worse than pride, but in order to tell the truth, which
is necessary for the comprehension of the whole train of
my thought and feelings, I will say that in the country
I had done very little for the poor; but the demands
made on me were so modest, that even this little was
useful to men and created around me an atmosphere of
love and union with the people, in which it was possible
for me to calm the gnawing feeling of the consciousness
of the illegality of my life. When I moved to the city I
expected to live in the same manner. But here I came
across want of an entirely different description.
The city want was less genuine, and more exacting,
and more cruel than the village want. Above all, there
was so much of it in one place that it produced a terrible
impression on me. The impression which I received in
Lyapinski House in the first moment made me feel the
monstrousness of my life. This sentiment was sincere
and very strong. But, in spite of its sincerity and
strength, I was at first so weak as to get frightened at
the transformation of my life, to which this sentiment
called me, and was so ready for compromises, I believed
that which everybody was telling me, and which every-
body has been saying since the creation of the world,
namely, that there was nothing bad in wealth and luxury;
that it was given by God; that it was possible to aid the
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
needy and yet continue to live in wealth. I believed it
and wanted to act accordingly.
I wrote an article in which I appealed to all the rich
people to offer their assistance. All the rich people
acknowledged themselves morally obliged to agree with
me, but evidently either did not wish, or were unable to
do or give anything for the poor. I began to visit the
poor, and I beheld there what I had never expected to see.
On the one hand, I saw in these dens, as I called them,
people whom it was impossible for me to assist, because
they were labouring people, who were used to work and to
privations, and so stood incomparably higher than I in life;
on the other hand, I saw unfortunates whom I could not
assist, because they were the same kind of men that I
myself am. The majority of the unfortunates whom
I saw were unfortunate only because they had lost the
ability, the desire, and the habit of earning their bread,
that is, their misfortune consisted in being precisely such
as I am.
Of unfortunates who could be aided at once,- sick,
freezing, hungry people, I did not find a single person
but starving AgAfya. I convinced myself that, with my
aloofness from the lives of the people whom I wished to
aid, it was almost impossible for me to find such unfortunate
people, because every true need was always met by those
very people among whom these unfortunates lived; and,
above all else, I was convinced that I was not able with
money to change that unfortunate life which these people
led. I was convinced of all that, but from a false shame
I did not throw up my undertaking and, deceiving my-
self with my own virtue, I continued the matter for quite
awhile, until it reduced itself to zero, until I with great
difficulty, and with the aid of Ivan Fed6tych, in the
restaurant of Rzhinov House, got rid of the thirty-seven
roubles which I did not consider my own.
Of course I might have continued this business and
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN? 65
made of it a semblance of philanthropy; I might have
pushed the people who had promised me the money to
give it to me; might have collected more; might have
distributed the money and consoled myself with my
virtue; but I saw, on the one hand, that we rich people
did not wish and were unable to apportion to the poor a
part of our abundance (we have so many needs of our
own), and that there was no one to give the money to,
if we indeed wished to do good to people, and not merely
to distribute money at haphazard, as I had done in the
RzhAnov restaurant. So I abandoned the whole business,
and with despair in my heart returned to the country.
In the country I wanted to write an article about
everything I had experienced, and to tell why my under-
taking had been a failure. I wanted also to justify
myself in regard to the rebukes which were heaped upon
me on account of my article on the census; I wanted to
arraign society for its indifference and to point out the
causes which bred this urban poverty, and the necessity
of counteracting it and the means which I saw must be
adopted to do so.
I immediately began writing my article, and it seemed
to me that I should say some important things in it.
But, no matter how much I struggled with it, no matter
how abundant the material was, the excitement, under
the influence of which I wrote, and because I had not yet
sufficiently emerged from the impression produced by it
to be able to treat it in a direct manner, and, above all,
because I did not yet simply and clearly recognize the
cause of it all, a very simple cause, which had its root
in me, I was unable to make headway with the article
and so did not finish it until the present year.
In the moral sphere there takes place a very remark-
able, but little observed phenomenon.
If I tell a man, who does not know it, anything I know
from geology, astronomy, history, physics, mathematics,
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
he will acquire some new information and will never say,
" What is there about it that is new? Everybody knows
that, and I have known it for quite awhile;" but impart
to a man the highest moral truth, which is expressed in
the clearest, most compact manner, as it has never been
expressed before, and the average man, especially if he is
not interested in these moral questions, or, more espe-
cially, if the moral truth which you utter strokes his fur
the wrong way, will be certain to say, "Who does not
know this ? This is an old story and has been said long
ago." It actually seems to him that it was said long ago
and in precisely this form. Only those who value and
esteem the moral truths know how precious and valuable
they are and by what long labour one obtains the simpli-
fication and elucidation of a moral truth, -its transition
from a hazy, indefinitely conceived supposition and wish,
from indefinite, incoherent expressions, to a firm and defi-
nite expression, which inevitably demands corresponding
actions. We are all of us accustomed to think that moral
teaching is a very base and tiresome thing, in which there
can be nothing new or interesting, whereas the whole of
human life, with all its complex and varied activities,
which seem to be independent of morality, in the fields
of politics, science, art, has no other purpose than a
greater and ever greater elucidation, confirmation, simpli-
fication, and accessibility of moral truths.
I remember one day I walked down a street in Mos-
cow, and saw a man coming out of a shop and carefully
scanning the stones of the sidewalk; then he selected
one of them, sat down on it, and began (as I thought)
to chip it off or rub it with the greatest tension and
"What is he doing to the sidewalk?" I thought.
When I walked up close to him, I saw what the man
was doing; he was a fellow from a butcher shop; he was
whetting his knife against the stones of the sidewalk.
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN? 67
He had not been thinking of the stones at all when he
looked at them, and still less was he thinking of them
while doing his work,-he was simply whetting his
knife. He had to sharpen his knife to cut meat with it;
and there I thought that he was busy doing something to
Even so it only seems that humanity is busy with
commerce, treaties, wars, sciences, arts; but there is only
one work which is of importance to humanity, and which
it does: it is explaining to itself the moral laws by
which it lives. The moral laws have existed before, and
humanity only elucidates them to itself, and this elucida-
tion seems unimportant and insignificant to him who does
not need the moral law, who does not want to live by it.
But this elucidation of the moral law is not only the
chief, but also the only work of the whole of humanity.
This elucidation is as unnoticeable as the distinction
between a dull and a sharp knife. The knife is a knife,
and for him who does not have to cut with this knife the
distinction between a dull and a sharp knife is not notice-
able. But for him who has comprehended that his whole
life depends on a more or less dull or sharp knife, every
whetting of it is of importance, and he knows that there
is no end to this sharpening, and that a knife is a knife
only when it is sharp, when it cuts what it is necessary
This happened with me when I began to write the
article. It seemed to me that I knew everything, com-
prehended everything in respect to those questions which
the impression of Lyapinski House and of the census had
evoked in me; but when I attempted to make them clear
to -myself and to expound them, it turned out that the
knife would not cut, that it was necessary to sharpen it.
Only now, after three years, did I feel that my knife was
sufficiently sharpened to let me cut what I wanted. I
had learned little that was new. All my thoughts are
68 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
the same, but they were duller, dispersed easily, and did
not harmonize; there was no sting in them; they did not
reduce themselves to the simplest and clearest resolve, as
they do now.
I REMEMBER how during the whole time of my unsuc-
cessful experiment in aiding the unfortunate city dwellers
I felt like a man who wants to pull another out of
the mire, while he himself is standing on boggy ground.
Every effort of mine made me feel the insecurity of the
soil on which I was standing. I felt that I was myself
in the bog; but that consciousness did not cause me then
to look more closely underneath me, in order that I
might find out what I was standing on; I kept all the
time looking for an external means for succouring the
evil which was outside of me.
I then felt that my life was bad and that it was im-
possible to live so. But from the fact that my life was
bad and that it was impossible to live so, I did not de-
duce the very simple and clear conclusion that it was
necessary to improve my own life and live better, but, on
the contrary, drew the strange conclusion that it was
necessary to correct the lives of others in order that I
might be able to live better, and so I began to correct
the lives of others. I lived in the city and wanted to
improve the lives of those who lived in the city, but I
soon convinced myself that I could not do it at all, and
began to think about the peculiarities of city life and city
What is this city life and this city poverty ? Why
could I not, while living in the city, help the city poor ?"
I asked myself. And I answered myself that I was un-
able to do anything for them, in the first place, because
there were too many of them in one spot; in the second
70 WHAT SIALL WE DO THEN?
place, because all these poor were quite different from the
village poor. WYhy were there so many of them here, and
in what did they differ from the village poor? There
was one answer to both these questions. There were
many of them here, because all those who have nothing
to live on in the country gather here around the rich, and
their peculiarity consists in this, that they are all people
who have left the country in order to find a living in the
city (if there are city poor who are born here, and whose
fathers and grandfathers were born here, these fathers and
grandfathers had come to the city to make a living).
What is meant by the expression to make a living in the
city ? In the words to make a living in the city there
is something strange, something resembling a jest, when
you come to think of it. What? Away from the coun-
try, that is, away from the places where there are forests,
and fields, and grain, and cattle, where the whole
wealth of the land is, do these people go to make a liv-
ing in a place where there are no trees, nor grass, nor even
soil, but only stones and dust ? What, then, is meant by
the words to make a living in the city," which are so
constantly employed by those who make a living and
by those who feed them, as something quite clear and
I remember all the hundreds and thousands of city
people, -both those who live well and those who are in
need, with whom I spoke about their coming thither,
and all without exception told me that they came here
from the country to make a living; that Moscow neither
sows nor reaps, but has wealth in heaps; that there was
plenty of everything in Moscow and that, therefore, they
could only in Moscow gain' the money which they needed
in the country for bread, for their home, for a horse, for
objects of prime importance. But the source of all wealth
is in the country, only there is the true wealth to be
found, bread, and the forest, and horses, and everything
Visiting Their Son. Peasants Come to
'aitini by A'.
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ? 71
else. Why, then, go to the city in order to obtain what
there is in the country ? And why, above all else, carry
from the country to the city what the villagers need,-
flour, oats, horses, cattle ?
I have spoken hundreds of times about it with peasants
living in the city, and it became clear to me, from my
conversations with them and from my observations, that
the crowding of the country population in the cities was
partly necessary, because they cannot otherwise earn a
livelhood, and partly voluntary, and that the temptations
of the city attract them thither. It is true that the con-
dition of the peasant is such that, in order to satisfy the
demands which are made on him in the village, he cannot
get along in any other way than by selling the grain and
the cattle which, he knows, he will need, and so he is
compelled against his will to go to the city in order
to redeem his grain. But it is also true that the compara-
tively easier earnings and the luxury of life in the city
attract him thither, and that, under the guise of making
a living in the city, he goes there, in order to work less
laboriously and eat better, to drink tea three times a day,
to play the dandy, and even to get drunk and live a
The cause of both is one and the same : the passing of
the wealth of the producers into the hands of the non-
producers and the accumulation of the wealth in the cities.
Indeed, the autumn comes, and all the wealth is hoarded
in the village; immediately there present themselves the
demands of taxation, of military service, of rentals;
immediately there are put forth the temptations of v6dka,
weddings, holidays, petty traders, who travel from village
to village, and of many other things; and in one way or
another all this wealth in the most varied forms -sheep,
calves, cows, horses, pigs, chickens, eggs, butter, hemp,
flax, rye, oats, buckwheat, peas, hemp and flax seeds -
passes into the hands of strangers and is transferred to the
72 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ?
cities, and from the cities to the capitals. The villager
is compelled to give it all up in order to satisfy the demands
made on him and the temptations that entice him, and,
having given up all his wealth, he is left in arrears; he
is compelled to go to where his wealth has been taken,
and there he partly tries to recoup the money which he
needs for his first wants in the country, and partly, being
carried away by the temptations of the city, enjoys, with
others, the accumulated wealth.
Everywhere, in the whole of Russia, and, I think, not
only in Russia, but in the whole world as well, the same
thing takes place. The wealth of the country population
passes into the hands of traders, landowners, officials,
manufacturers, and the men who have acquired this wealth
want to enjoy it; but it is only in the cities that they can
fully enjoy it. In the country it is, in the first place,
impossible, on account of the thinness of the population,
to find a gratification for all the wants of rich people:
they miss all kinds of shops, banks, restaurants, the-
atres, and all kinds of social amusements. In the second
place, one of the chief enjoyments furnished by wealth -
vanity, the desire to startle and outdo others can again,
on account of the thinness of the population, be with
difficulty gratified in the country. In the country there
are no connoisseurs of luxury, and there is nobody to
startle. No matter what adornments of the house,
what pictures, bronzes, carriages, and toilets the country
dweller may provide himself with, there is no one to look
at them and envy him, for the peasants have no under-
standing about this whole matter. In the third place,
luxury is even disagreeable and dangerous in the country
for a man who has a conscience and fear. It is awkward
and troublesome to take milk baths in the country and to
feed puppies on milk, when the children near by have none;
it is awkward and troublesome to build pavilions and set
out gardens among people who live in cabins which are
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN ? 73
surrounded by manure, and cannot be heated for want of
wood. In the village there is no one to keep in restraint
the stupid peasants who in their ignorance may destroy
And so the rich gather in one place and settle near
other rich people with similar wants in the cities, where
the gratification of all kinds of luxurious tastes is cau-
tiously guarded by a numerous police force. The funda-
mental city dwellers are the officials of the country ; about
them are grouped all kinds of professionals and indus-
trialists, and these are joined by the rich. Here a rich
man need only have a wish, and it is immediately ful-
filled. Here it is pleasanter for a rich man to live, for
this reason also, that here he is able to satisfy his vanity,
for he can vie in his luxury with others, and can startle
and overshadow people. Above all else, a rich man feels
happier in the city for this reason also, that before he had
fears on account of his luxury in the country, but now, on
the contrary, he feels out of place if he does not live
as luxuriously as all his friends around him. What
in the country seemed terrible and awkward to him, here
seems to be in place.
The rich congregate in the city, and here, under the
protection of the authorities, use up everything which is
brought hither from the country. The villager is partly
obliged to go where the unceasing holiday of the rich
is celebrated, and where that which is taken from him is
used up, in order that he may feed on the crumbs which
fall from the tables of the rich; and partly, as he looks
at the free and easy, elegant, well-guarded life of the rich,
which is approved of by everybody, he himself wants to
arrange his life in such a way as to work least and enjoy
most the labours of others.
And so he, too, is drawn to the city, where he hangs on
to the rich, trying in every manner possible to get away
from them what he needs, and submitting to all those
74 WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN?
conditions in which the rich have placed him. He con-
tributes to the gratification of all their lusts; he or she
serves the rich man in the bath-house, and in the restau-
rant, and as a driver, and as a prostitute, and makes car-
riages for him, and toys, and fashion articles, and by
degrees learns of the rich man to live like him, not
by labour, but by all kinds of tricks, cheating others
of their hoarded wealth, and he becomes corrupted and
perishes. It is this population, which is corrupted by
the city wealth, that forms the city poverty, which I in-
tended to assist, but could not.
Indeed, it is enough for one to stop and think of the
condition of these country dwellers, who, for the purpose
of earning money for bread and for the taxes, come to the
city where they see all about them thousands slung
thoughtlessly away and hundreds earned in a very easy
manner, while they themselves earn kopeks by the hard-
est labour possible, in order that one may marvel why
there are still left working people, and why they do not
all of them take to a much easier way of making money,
by means of commerce, peddling, begging, debauch, ras-
cality, and even robbery.
We, indeed, the participants in the unceasing orgy
which takes place in the cities, we are able to get used to
our life, so that it seems quite natural for us to live alone
in five enormous rooms, which are heated with a quantity
of wood sufficient to cook the food of twenty families, and
to warm them, to travel half a verst with two trotters
and two servants, to cover the parquetry floor with rugs,
and to spend five and ten thousand for a ball, and
twenty-five for a Christmas tree, and so forth. But a
man who needs ten roubles for bread for his family,
or from whom they take the last sheep for the seven
roubles of his taxes, and who cannot earn these seven
roubles by hard labour even, cannot get used to it.
We imagine that all this appears natural to poor