On the night of October 27,
The informational space of that time didn’t strongly differ from the present. News of the scandalous events momentarily spread throughout Russia and across the world. On October 29th, urgent telegrams began to come from Tula to the Petersburg Telegraph Agency, republished in newspapers the next day. “News having surprised everyone was received that L.N. Tolstoy escorted by Dr. Makovitsky unexpectedly fled Yasnaya Polyana and left. Having left, L.N. Tolstoy left a letter, in which he announces that he’s leaving Yasnaya Polyana forever”.
Tolstoy’s fellow traveler, Makovitsky, didn’t even know about this letter, written by L.N. for his wife who slept and given to her in the morning by their youngest daughter Sasha. He himself read about it in the newspapers.
More operational than any was the Moscow newspaper Russian Word. On October 30th the newspaper published a report by its own Tula correspondent with detailed information about what happened at Yasnaya Polyana.
“Tula, 29, X (urgent). Having returned from Yasnaya Polyana, I announce the departure of Lev Nikolayevich in detail.
Lev Nikolayevich left yesterday, at
Lev Nikolayevich went to the coachman's quarters and ordered the horses to be hitched.
The coachman Adrian fulfilled the order.
When the horses were ready, Lev Nikolayevich, together with Dr. Makovitsky, having taken the necessary things,
The postman Filka went in front of them, lighting the way with a torch.
At the Shchekino Station, Lev Nikolayevich got a ticket to one of the stations on the Moscow-Kursk railroad and left on the first train
When it became known at Yasnaya Polyana about the sudden departure of Lev Nikolayevich, there arose a terrible confusion. The despair of Lev Nikolayevich’s wife, Sofia Andreyevna, defies description”.
This announcement, which the whole world talked about the next day, was printed, not on the front page, but on the third. The front page, as it was acceptable at that time, was for advertisements of all possible products.
“The stomach’s best friend
“Medium sturgeon. Twenty kopeks a pound”.
Having received the nightly telegram from Tula, Russian Word immediately sent their correspondent to the Tolstoy’s Hamovniki House (today – the house-museum of L.N. Tolstoy, between the “Park of Culture” and “
On the pursuit along Tolstoy’s proposed path of flight was sent the young journalist Konstantin Orlov, the theatrical reviewer, son of Tolstoy’s follower, teacher and populist Vladimir Fyodorovich Orlov, represented in the stories “Dream” and “There Aren’t Any Guilty in the World”. He overtook the refugee already at Kozelsk and secretly escorted him to Astapovo, from where he announced to Sophia Andreyevna and Tolstoy’s children by telegram that their husband and father is seriously ill and is at the central railroad station in the home of its station master, I.I. Ozolin.
If it wasn’t for Orlov’s initiative, the relatives would have found out the whereabouts of the deathly ill L.N. no earlier than all the newspapers announced it. Is it really necessary to say how hurtful this would have been for the family? Therefore, as opposed to Makovitsky, who regarded the activity of Russian Word as “espionage”, Tolstoy’s eldest daughter, Tatiana Lvovna
“Father is dying somewhere nearby, and I don’t know where he is. And I can’t take care of him. Perhaps, I will never see him again. Will they allow me even just to glance at him on his death-bed? A sleepless night. A real torture,” Tatiana Lvovna subsequently reminisced her and her family’s mental state after Tolstoy’s “flight” (her expression). “But a man, unknown to us, who understood and took pity on the Tolstoy family, was found. He sent us a telegram: ‘Lev Nikolayevich is at Astapovo at the station
In general, one has to admit, that in relations toward his family and, first of all, toward Sofia Andreyevna, newspapers behaved more controlled and delicately, than in their relations toward the Yasnaya Polyana refugee, each step of whose was ruthlessly traced, although all the journalists knew that in his farewell note Tolstoy asked: not to search for him! “Please… don’t come after me, if you find out where I am”, he wrote his wife.
“In Belev, Lev Nikolayevich left the buffet and ate fried eggs”, the journalists savored the ferial act of the vegetarian Tolstoy. They interrogated his drivers and Filka, lackeys and peasants of Yasnaya Polyana, cashiers and waiters at the stations, the driver who took L.N. from Kozelsk to the Optina Monastery, the hotel monks and anyone who could tell something about the path of the eighty-two year old man, the only desire of whose was to run away, hide, become invisible for the world.
“Don’t look for him!” cynically exclaimed the Odessa News, addressing the family. “He’s not yours – he’s everyone’s!”
“It’s understood that his new place of residence will soon be discovered”, the Petersburg Gazette announced in cold blood.
L.N. didn’t like newspapers (although he followed them) and didn’t hide it. In other matters – S.A., the writer’s wife understood well that her husband’s reputation and her own reputation, like it or not, will develop from the newspaper publications. Therefore, she quickly addressed the journalists and gave an interview, explaining this or that strange behavior of Tolstoy’s or his statements and not forgetting during this (in this was her weakness) designate her role next to the great man.
Therefore, the journalist’s relations toward S.A. were, more often, warm. The general tone was set in the Russian Word’s feuilleton “Sofia Andreyevna” by Vlasa Doroshevich, in the issue of October 31st. “The old lion went to die in solitude,” wrote Doroshevich. “The eagle flew away from us so high, how then can we track his flight?!”
(They followed him, and how did they follow him!)
He compared S.A. with Yasodara, Budda’s young wife. This was undoubtedly a
Doroshevich in fairness pointed out that without his wife, Tolstoy wouldn’t have lived such a long life and wouldn’t have written his later works. (Although what does Yasodara have to do with that?)
Feuilleton’s conclusion was this. Tolstoy – this is a “
“Sofia Andreyevna is alone. She doesn’t have her children, her elder-child, her titan-child, whom she had to think about, care for every minute: is he warm, is
S.A. read the feuilleton. She liked it. She was thankful
Having skimmed through the newspaper's headlines, dedicated to Tolstoy's departure, we find that the word “departure” is rarely seen in them. “SUDDEN DEPARTURE...”, “DISAPPEARANCE...”, “FLIGHT...”, “TOLSTOY QUITS HOME”.
And here it isn't the desire of the newsmen to “rouse” the readers. The events in and of themselves were scandalous. The fact is that the circumstances of Tolstoy's disappearance from
Translated from the Russian by Scott D. Moss.
Courtesy of Glagoslav Publications.
All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
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