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and the task will prove easy and delightful. Let the mechanicians invent
a machine for lifting the weight that is crushing us - that is a good
thing; but until they shall have invented it, let us bear down upon the
people, like fools, like _muzhiki_, like peasants, like Christians, and
see whether we cannot raise them.

And now, brothers, all together, and away it goes!


And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?

He answereth and saith unto them, He 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

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? - MATT.
vi. 19-25.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall
we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly
Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all
these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take
thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof. - MATT. vi. 31-34.

For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a
rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. - MATT. xix. 24; MARK x. 25;
LUKE xviii. 25.


I had lived all my life out of town. When, in 1881, I went to live in
Moscow, the poverty of the town greatly surprised me. I am familiar with
poverty in the country; but city poverty was new and incomprehensible to
me. In Moscow it was impossible to pass along the street without
encountering beggars, and especially beggars who are unlike those in the
country. These beggars do not go about with their pouches in the name of
Christ, as country beggars are accustomed to do, but these beggars are
without the pouch and the name of Christ. The Moscow beggars carry no
pouches, and do not ask for alms. Generally, when they meet or pass you,
they merely try to catch your eye; and, according to your look, they beg
or refrain from it. I know one such beggar who belongs to the gentry.
The old man walks slowly along, bending forward every time he sets his
foot down. When he meets you, he rests on one foot and makes you a kind
of salute. If you stop, he pulls off his hat with its cockade, and bows
and begs: if you do not halt, he pretends that that is merely his way of
walking, and he passes on, bending forward in like manner on the other
foot. He is a real Moscow beggar, a cultivated man. At first I did not
know why the Moscow beggars do not ask alms directly; afterwards I came
to understand why they do not beg, but still I did not understand their

Once, as I was passing through Afanasievskaya Lane, I saw a policeman
putting a ragged peasant, all swollen with dropsy, into a cab. I
inquired: "What is that for?"

The policeman answered: "For asking alms."

"Is that forbidden?"

"Of course it is forbidden," replied the policeman.

The sufferer from dropsy was driven off. I took another cab, and
followed him. I wanted to know whether it was true that begging alms was
prohibited and how it was prohibited. I could in no wise understand how
one man could be forbidden to ask alms of any other man; and besides, I
did not believe that it was prohibited, when Moscow is full of beggars. I
went to the station-house whither the beggar had been taken. At a table
in the station-house sat a man with a sword and a pistol. I inquired:

"For what was this peasant arrested?"

The man with the sword and pistol gazed sternly at me, and said:

"What business is it of yours?"

But feeling conscious that it was necessary to offer me some explanation,
he added:

"The authorities have ordered that all such persons are to be arrested;
of course it had to be done."

I went out. The policeman who had brought the beggar was seated on the
window-sill in the ante-chamber, staring gloomily at a note-book. I
asked him:

"Is it true that the poor are forbidden to ask alms in Christ's name?"

The policeman came to himself, stared at me, then did not exactly frown,
but apparently fell into a doze again, and said, as he sat on the window-
sill: -

"The authorities have so ordered, which shows that it is necessary," and
betook himself once more to his note-book. I went out on the porch, to
the cab.

"Well, how did it turn out? Have they arrested him?" asked the cabman.
The man was evidently interested in this affair also.

"Yes," I answered. The cabman shook his head. "Why is it forbidden here
in Moscow to ask alms in Christ's name?" I inquired.

"Who knows?" said the cabman.

"How is this?" said I, "he is Christ's poor, and he is taken to the

"A stop has been put to that now, it is not allowed," said the

On several occasions afterwards, I saw policemen conducting beggars to
the station house, and then to the Yusupoff house of correction. Once I
encountered on the Myasnitzkaya a company of these beggars, about thirty
in number. In front of them and behind them marched policemen. I
inquired: "What for?" - "For asking alms."

It turned out that all these beggars, several of whom you meet with in
every street in Moscow, and who stand in files near every church during
services, and especially during funeral services, are forbidden to ask

But why are some of them caught and locked up somewhere, while others are
left alone?

This I could not understand. Either there are among them legal and
illegal beggars, or there are so many of them that it is impossible to
apprehend them all; or do others assemble afresh when some are removed?

There are many varieties of beggars in Moscow: there are some who live by
this profession; there are also genuine poor people, who have chanced
upon Moscow in some manner or other, and who are really in want.

Among these poor people, there are many simple, common peasants, and
women in their peasant costume. I often met such people. Some of them
have fallen ill here, and on leaving the hospital they can neither
support themselves here, nor get away from Moscow. Some of them,
moreover, have indulged in dissipation (such was probably the case of the
dropsical man); some have not been ill, but are people who have been
burnt out of their houses, or old people, or women with children; some,
too, were perfectly healthy and able to work. These perfectly healthy
peasants who were engaged in begging, particularly interested me. These
healthy, peasant beggars, who were fit for work, also interested me,
because, from the date of my arrival in Moscow, I had been in the habit
of going to the Sparrow Hills with two peasants, and sawing wood there
for the sake of exercise. These two peasants were just as poor as those
whom I encountered on the streets. One was Piotr, a soldier from Kaluga;
the other Semyon, a peasant from Vladimir. They possessed nothing except
the wages of their body and hands. And with these hands they earned, by
dint of very hard labor, from forty to forty-five kopeks a day, out of
which each of them was laying by savings, the Kaluga man for a fur coat,
the Vladimir man in order to get enough to return to his village.
Therefore, on meeting precisely such men in the streets, I took an
especial interest in them.

Why did these men toil, while those others begged?

On encountering a peasant of this stamp, I usually asked him how he had
come to that situation. Once I met a peasant with some gray in his
beard, but healthy. He begs. I ask him who is he, whence comes he? He
says that he came from Kaluga to get work. At first he found employment
chopping up old wood for use in stoves. He and his comrade finished all
the chopping which one householder had; then they sought other work, but
found none; his comrade had parted from him, and for two weeks he himself
had been struggling along; he had spent all his money, he had no saw, and
no axe, and no money to buy anything. I gave him money for a saw, and
told him of a place where he could find work. I had already made
arrangements with Piotr and Semyon, that they should take an assistant,
and they looked up a mate for him.

"See that you come. There is a great deal of work there."

"I will come; why should I not come? Do you suppose I like to beg? I
can work."

The peasant declares that he will come, and it seems to me that he is not
deceiving me, and that he intents to come.

On the following day I go to my peasants, and inquire whether that man
has arrived. He has not been there; and in this way several men deceived
me. And those also deceived me who said that they only required money
for a ticket in order to return home, and who chanced upon me again in
the street a week later. Many of these I recognized, and they recognized
me, and sometimes, having forgotten me, they repeated the same trick on
me; and others, on catching sight of me, beat a retreat. Thus I
perceived, that in the ranks of this class also deceivers existed. But
these cheats were very pitiable creatures: all of them were but
half-clad, poverty-stricken, gaunt, sickly men; they were the very people
who really freeze to death, or hang themselves, as we learn from the


When I mentioned this poverty of the town to inhabitants of the town,
they always said to me: "Oh, all that you have seen is nothing. You
ought to see the Khitroff market-place, and the lodging-houses for the
night there. There you would see a regular 'golden company.'" {21a} One
jester told me that this was no longer a company, but a _golden
regiment_: so greatly had their numbers increased. The jester was right,
but he would have been still more accurate if he had said that these
people now form in Moscow neither a company nor a regiment, but an entire
army, almost fifty thousand in number, I think. [The old inhabitants,
when they spoke to me about the poverty in town, always referred to it
with a certain satisfaction, as though pluming themselves over me,
because they knew it. I remember that when I was in London, the old
inhabitants there also rather boasted when they spoke of the poverty of
London. The case is the same with us.] {21b}

And I wanted to have a sight of this poverty of which I had been told.
Several times I set out in the direction of the Khitroff market-place,
but on every occasion I began to feel uncomfortable and ashamed. "Why am
I going to gaze on the sufferings of people whom I cannot help?" said one
voice. "No, if you live here, and see all the charms of city life, go
and view this also," said another voice. In December three years ago,
therefore, on a cold and windy day, I betook myself to that centre of
poverty, the Khitroff market-place. This was at four o'clock in the
afternoon of a week-day. As I passed through the Solyanka, I already
began to see more and more people in old garments which had not
originally belonged to them, and in still stranger foot-gear, people with
a peculiar, unhealthy hue of countenance, and especially with a singular
indifference to every thing around them, which was peculiar to them all.
A man in the strangest of all possible attire, which was utterly unlike
any thing else, walked along with perfect unconcern, evidently without a
thought of the appearance which he must present to the eyes of others.
All these people were making their way towards a single point. Without
inquiring the way, with which I was not acquainted, I followed them, and
came out on the Khitroff market-place. On the market-place, women both
old and young, of the same description, in tattered cloaks and jackets of
various shapes, in ragged shoes and overshoes, and equally unconcerned,
notwithstanding the hideousness of their attire, sat, bargained for
something, strolled about, and scolded. There were not many people in
the market itself. Evidently market-hours were over, and the majority of
the people were ascending the rise beyond the market and through the
place, all still proceeding in one direction. I followed them. The
farther I advanced, the greater in numbers were the people of this sort
who flowed together on one road. Passing through the market-place and
proceeding along the street, I overtook two women; one was old, the other
young. Both wore something ragged and gray. As they walked they were
discussing some matter. After every necessary word, they uttered one or
two unnecessary ones, of the most improper character. They were not
intoxicated, but merely troubled about something; and neither the men who
met them, nor those who walked in front of them and behind them, paid any
attention to the language which was so strange to me. In these quarters,
evidently, people always talked so. Ascending the rise, we reached a
large house on a corner. The greater part of the people who were walking
along with me halted at this house. They stood all over the sidewalk of
this house, and sat on the curbstone, and even the snow in the street was
thronged with the same kind of people. On the right side of the entrance
door were the women, on the left the men. I walked past the women, past
the men (there were several hundred of them in all) and halted where the
line came to an end. The house before which these people were waiting
was the Lyapinsky free lodging-house for the night. The throng of people
consisted of night lodgers, who were waiting to be let in. At five
o'clock in the afternoon, the house is opened, and the people permitted
to enter. Hither had come nearly all the people whom I had passed on my

I halted where the line of men ended. Those nearest me began to stare at
me, and attracted my attention to them by their glances. The fragments
of garments which covered these bodies were of the most varied sorts. But
the expression of all the glances directed towards me by these people was
identical. In all eyes the question was expressed: "Why have you, a man
from another world, halted here beside us? Who are you? Are you a self-
satisfied rich man who wants to enjoy our wretchedness, to get rid of his
tedium, and to torment us still more? or are you that thing which does
not and can not exist, - a man who pities us?" This query was on every
face. You glance about, encounter some one's eye, and turn away. I
wished to talk with some one of them, but for a long time I could not
make up my mind to it. But our glances had drawn us together already
while our tongues remained silent. Greatly as our lives had separated
us, after the interchange of two or three glances we felt that we were
both men, and we ceased to fear each other. The nearest of all to me was
a peasant with a swollen face and a red beard, in a tattered caftan, and
patched overshoes on his bare feet. And the weather was eight degrees
below zero. {24a} For the third or fourth time I encountered his eyes,
and I felt so near to him that I was no longer ashamed to accost him, but
ashamed not to say something to him. I inquired where he came from? he
answered readily, and we began to talk; others approached. He was from
Smolensk, and had come to seek employment that he might earn his bread
and taxes. "There is no work," said he: "the soldiers have taken it all
away. So now I am loafing about; as true as I believe in God, I have had
nothing to eat for two days." He spoke modestly, with an effort at a
smile. A _sbiten_{24b}-seller, an old soldier, stood near by. I called
him up. He poured out his _sbiten_. The peasant took a boiling-hot
glassful in his hands, and as he tried before drinking not to let any of
the heat escape in vain, and warmed his hands over it, he related his
adventures to me. These adventures, or the histories of them, are almost
always identical: the man has been a laborer, then he has changed his
residence, then his purse containing his money and ticket has been stolen
from him in the night lodging-house; now it is impossible to get away
from Moscow. He told me that he kept himself warm by day in the dram-
shops; that he nourished himself on the bits of bread in these drinking
places, when they were given to him; and when he was driven out of them,
he came hither to the Lyapinsky house for a free lodging. He was only
waiting for the police to make their rounds, when, as he had no passport,
he would be taken to jail, and then despatched by stages to his place of
settlement. "They say that the inspection will be made on Friday," said
he, "then they will arrest me. If I can only get along until Friday."
(The jail, and the journey by stages, represent the Promised Land to

As he told his story, three men from among the throng corroborated his
statements, and said that they were in the same predicament. A gaunt,
pale, long-nosed youth, with merely a shirt on the upper portion of his
body, and that torn on the shoulders, and a cap without a visor, forced
his way sidelong through the crowd. He shivered violently and
incessantly, but tried to smile disdainfully at the peasants' remarks,
thinking by this means to adopt the proper tone with me, and he stared at
me. I offered him some _sbiten_; he also, on taking the glass, warmed
his hands over it; but no sooner had he begun to speak, than he was
thrust aside by a big, black, hook-nosed individual, in a chintz shirt
and waistcoat, without a hat. The hook-nosed man asked for some _sbiten_
also. Then came a tall old man, with a mass of beard, clad in a great-
coat girded with a rope, and in bast shoes, who was drunk. Then a small
man with a swollen face and tearful eyes, in a brown nankeen
round-jacket, with his bare knees protruding from the holes in his summer
trousers, and knocking together with cold. He shivered so that he could
not hold his glass, and spilled it over himself. The men began to
reproach him. He only smiled in a woe-begone way, and went on shivering.
Then came a crooked monster in rags, with pattens on his bare feet; then
some sort of an officer; then something in the ecclesiastical line; then
something strange and nose-less, - all hungry and cold, beseeching and
submissive, thronged round me, and pressed close to the _sbiten_. They
drank up all the _sbiten_. One asked for money, and I gave it. Then
another asked, then a third, and the whole crowd besieged me. Confusion
and a press resulted. The porter of the adjoining house shouted to the
crowd to clear the sidewalk in front of his house, and the crowd
submissively obeyed his orders. Some managers stepped out of the throng,
and took me under their protection, and wanted to lead me forth out of
the press; but the crowd, which had at first been scattered over the
sidewalk, now became disorderly, and hustled me. All stared at me and
begged; and each face was more pitiful and suffering and humble than the
last. I distributed all that I had with me. I had not much money,
something like twenty rubles; and in company with the crowd, I entered
the Lyapinsky lodging-house. This house is huge. It consists of four
sections. In the upper stories are the men's quarters; in the lower, the
women's. I first entered the women's place; a vast room all occupied
with bunks, resembling the third-class bunks on the railway. These bunks
were arranged in two rows, one above the other. The women, strange,
tattered creatures, both old and young, wearing nothing over their
dresses, entered and took their places, some below and some above. Some
of the old ones crossed themselves, and uttered a petition for the
founder of this refuge; some laughed and scolded. I went up-stairs.
There the men had installed themselves; among them I espied one of those
to whom I had given money. [On catching sight of him, I all at once felt
terribly abashed, and I made haste to leave the room. And it was with a
sense of absolute crime that I quitted that house and returned home. At
home I entered over the carpeted stairs into the ante-room, whose floor
was covered with cloth; and having removed my fur coat, I sat down to a
dinner of five courses, waited on by two lackeys in dress-coats, white
neckties, and white gloves.

Thirty years ago I witnessed in Paris a man's head cut off by the
guillotine in the presence of thousands of spectators. I knew that the
man was a horrible criminal. I was acquainted with all the arguments
which people have been devising for so many centuries, in order to
justify this sort of deed. I knew that they had done this expressly,
deliberately. But at the moment when head and body were severed, and
fell into the trough, I groaned, and apprehended, not with my mind, but
with my heart and my whole being, that all the arguments which I had
heard anent the death-penalty were arrant nonsense; that, no matter how
many people might assemble in order to perpetrate a murder, no matter
what they might call themselves, murder is murder, the vilest sin in the
world, and that that crime had been committed before my very eyes. By my
presence and non-interference, I had lent my approval to that crime, and
had taken part in it. So now, at the sight of this hunger, cold, and
degradation of thousands of persons, I understood not with my mind, but
with my heart and my whole being, that the existence of tens of thousands
of such people in Moscow, while I and other thousands dined on fillets
and sturgeon, and covered my horses and my floors with cloth and rugs, - no
matter what the wise ones of this world might say to me about its being a
necessity, - was a crime, not perpetrated a single time, but one which was
incessantly being perpetrated over and over again, and that I, in my
luxury, was not only an accessory, but a direct accomplice in the matter.
The difference for me between these two impressions was this, that I
might have shouted to the assassins who stood around the guillotine, and
perpetrated the murder, that they were committing a crime, and have tried
with all my might to prevent the murder. But while so doing I should
have known that my action would not prevent the murder. But here I might
not only have given _sbiten_ and the money which I had with me, but the
coat from my back, and every thing that was in my house. But this I had
not done; and therefore I felt, I feel, and shall never cease to feel,
myself an accomplice in this constantly repeated crime, so long as I have
superfluous food and any one else has none at all, so long as I have two
garments while any one else has not even one.] {28}


That very evening, on my return from the Lyapinsky house, I related my
impressions to a friend. The friend, an inhabitant of the city, began to
tell me, not without satisfaction, that this was the most natural
phenomenon of town life possible, that I only saw something extraordinary
in it because of my provincialism, that it had always been so, and always
would be so, and that such must be and is the inevitable condition of
civilization. In London it is even worse. Of course there is nothing
wrong about it, and it is impossible to be displeased with it. I began
to reply to my friend, but with so much heat and ill-temper, that my wife
ran in from the adjoining room to inquire what had happened. It appears
that, without being conscious of it myself, I had been shouting, with
tears in my voice, and flourishing my hands at my friend. I shouted:
"It's impossible to live thus, impossible to live thus, impossible!" They
made me feel ashamed of my unnecessary warmth; they told me that I could

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