Sunday, 14 August 2011

Video excerpt: 'The Trouble with Tolstoy'

The Trouble with Tolstoy; Soldier, Seducer, Saint and Sinner is a 2-part, 2-hour BBC Imagine production narrated by Alan Yentob who documents Tolstoy's life with photos, locations, and interviews. The show aired March-April 2011, on BBC1.

Three minutes present the Doukhobors. In the second hour, Yentob somewhat covers Tolstoy's aid to the Doukhobors, the novel Resurrection, and interviews Doukhobor Elaine Podovinikoff and great-great grandson Vladimir Tolstoy.

Though the entire 2-hour show is no longer online, an ~11-minute segment starting with the Doukhbors was posted on YouTube — Tolstoy Gandhi Doukhobors Guy Giard.mp4

Unfortunately, this segment and the 2-hour show omits a lot of history which misleads the viewers. Read history books. Many are online. Much new analysis about Tolstoy has been published in the past decade from his diaries and letters.

"The Trouble With Tolstoy" says little about his printing house started in 1885 in Moscow, or the Tolstoyan leaders who were exiled with Chertkov. The Doukhobors are introduced with no mention of their famous burning of arms protest in 1895. The viewer is misled to think that Resurrection was written to save the Doukhobors; actually, the book was incomplete for 10 years. Motivated by the Doukhobor problem, Tolstoy finished it in parts as a serial in Russia and sold foreign rights to raise a lot of money fast. Tolstoy had not published a novel in 25 years. He became ill from the hard work. Translators and publishers altered the text. Tolstoy and his readers felt that this third and last novel was rushed, lowering it's literary quality. Tolstoy planned to continue the story later.

Read an excellent analysis online in Introduction To Tolstoy's Writings: Chapter 11: Resurrection, by Ernest J Simmons, Professor of Russian Literature.

Tolstoy donated the royalties from this and other books to a international fund to escort Doukhobors out of Russia in 1899, and sent his son Sergey and others to assist their migration safely and report back to him. About one-third of the most dissident of all Doukhobors emigrated, about 7400 of 22,000. The majority stayed in the Caucasus. Learn much more by reading books.

Video Timeline
  • Minute 0:42 — Andrew Norman Wilson interview (Tolstoy: A Biography) about novel Resurrection, "... a novel that needs to be resurrected. It's been submerged, and merely forgotten about."
  • 1:02 — Narrator Alan Yentob: "Tolstoy wrote [finished] Resurrection in order to raise a large sum of money to save the Doukhobors."
  • 1:30 — Elaine Podovinikiff interview. Tolstoy helped Doukhobors because they (1) would not kill humans, and (2) believed God is everywhere. Doukhobors in Canada studied Tolstoy's Christian lessons as a part of their regular Sunday School lessons.
  • 2:58 — Resurrection is summarized in pictures and explained by several scholars.
  • Spiritual evolution is the central theme of Resurrection. Book critical of church, the penal system, military, and government.
  • 5:19 — Professor Elvira Osipova interview, St. Petersburg University. His words are very relevant today. "What is meaningful .. moral .. worthless? ... the contrast between the rich and the poor. ... the problems remain today."
  • 6:15 — Feb 1901, Count Tolstoy rejected by church, excommunicated. He divided the country. Some declared him the devil, most as a god.
  • 8:00 — Father Selophil interview, Optina Pustyn Monastery. Tolstoy's deeds "...not at one with the Church."
  • 8:45 — Sergey Il'ich Tolstoy interview, great-great grandson, Director Yasnaya Polyana State Museum. Tolstoy descendants failed to reverse Tolstoy's excommunication in 2001. Church silent about their mistake.
  • 9:25 Interview with Rosamund Bartlett (Tolstoy - A Russian Life) about The Kingdom of God is Within You, read by Gandhi in South Africa.


1 comment:

  1. This program offers Doukhobors an opportunity to ressurect their identity. This is great PR — 3 minutes on UK TV with no mention of Sons of Freedom, Tolstoy saves them, photos, interview. More than a million Brits watched this segment.

    Follow-up stories, articles, appearances, any publicity can enhance the UK understanding of why Tolstoy saved the Doukhobors. Don't squander this opportunity!