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Report on three international conferences in Russia celebrating the 175th anniversary of Tolstoy's birth
28 August -- 5 September 2003

in English translation
(click here for the original Russian text)

.Iskra No 1949

Full text of a report
published in the
Doukhobor journal Iskra
(Nos 1949 & 1950, November 2003)

Yasnaya Polyana
(page updated 21 November 2003)




The following report details the series of three conferences 
JW attended in Russia in August and September 2003.
The events and venues were as follows:

(1) Third International Conference on "Tolstoy and World Literature" -- Tolstoy Museum-Estate atYasnaya Polyana, 28-30 August 2003

(2) Twenty-ninth International Tolstoy Readings -- Tolstoy Pedagogical University in Tula and State L.N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, 1-4 Sept. 2003

(3) Conference at the Institute of World Literature -- Russian Academy
of Sciences, Moscow, 5 September 2003

The author wishes to thank Galina Alexeeva, Head of the
Research Division at the Tolstoy Museum, Yasnaya Polyana,
for her help in preparing this report.

Most of the links in the text below lead to photos on the photopage.
(Before reading, you may wish to open the photopage in a new window
for ease of transition between the text and photos.) 
Click here to open Photopage 1 (Yasnaya Polyana)
Click here to open Photopage 2 (Tula & Moscow)

Related to this report are three poems by JW
(in Russian with English translation)
Click here to open Poempage 1 (on the Yasnaya Polyana  dom otdykha)
Click here to opern Poempage 2 (on Turgenev's estate Spasskoe-Lutovinovo)



(click here for the original Russian text)
[For footnotes please see end of this section]
By early evening on Thursday, 28 August 2003, Tolstoyans from Russia and many countries of the world had gathered at the State L.N. Tolstoy Museum on Prechistenka Street in Moscow.  A comfortable motorcoach was waiting for them.  Painted on its side in large letters was the logo: Yasnaya Polyana / Tolstoy Museum Estate.  By 11 that night the bus had brought us to the Yasnaya Polyana Dom otdykha (hotel), where I had stayed during the first Tolstoy conference dedicated to "Tolstoy and World Literature" five years before.  Fortunately, one wing of this hotel had in the interim been completely modernised (the condition of the hotel during my earlier visit is best left undescribed!), and our assigned rooms turned out to be most comfortable with all the modern conveniences (see related poems).

At ten o'clock the next morning, after breakfast in a café known as the Preshpekt,1 recently built right across from the main entrance to Tolstoy's estate,  the delegates made their way past the Great Pond, up the birch-lined allée to the Volkonsky house for the grand opening of the Third International Conference on "Tolstoy and World Literature".  Eleven countries were represented in the salon: Britain, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, (South) Korea, Singapore, Tunisia, the USA and, of course, the Russian Federation.

An introductory welcome was given by the conference organisers: Vladimir Il'ich Tolstoy (Director of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum- -Estate and L.N. Tolstoy's great-great-grandson), Galina Vasil'evna Alexeeva (Head of the Museum's Academic Research Division, initiator of the conference2) and Donna Orwin (Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of Toronto and editor of the Tolstoy Studies Journal). Lidija Dmitrievna Gromova (a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences) then formally presented to Vladimir Tolstoy and the Yasnaya Polyana Museum staff several new books, including the two-volume work, just off the press, entitled  L.N. Tolstoj i N.N. Strakhov: Polnoe sobranie perepiski / Leo Tolstoy and Nikolaj Strakhov: Complete correspondence,3  edited by Andrew Donskov and compiled by Lidija Gromova and Tat'jana Nikiforova, and Edinenie ljudej v tvorchestve L.N. Tolstogo [The Unity of people in Leo Tolstoy's works],4  by Andrew Donskov, Galina Galagan and Lidija Gromova.

...continued below

1This, by the way, is not the "Doukhobor café", which is to be built in the near future on the outskirts of Yasnaya Polyana.

2The first two conferences were also successfully organised by Dr Alexeeva at Yasnaya Polyana in 1998 and 2000.   At the first conference in the autumn of 1998 I presented a paper (in Russian) on "Canadian research on the Doukhobors and those who accompanied them to Canada".

3A joint publication of the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and the State L.N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, 2003.

4A joint publication of the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa, the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, 2002.

Yasnaya Polyana
.(click here for the original Russian text)
On the morning of 28 August, at Session I of the conference, papers were given by the following participants:

1. Caryl Emerson from America (Princeton University): An Opera which Tolstoy would have liked ("War and peace" by S.S. Prokofiev).

2. Edwina Cruise from America (Mt Holyoke): The Role of books in "Anna Karenina".

3. Barbara Lönnqvist-Aniansson from Finland (Turku): The Use of foreign words in "Anna Karenina".

4. Sarah Hudspith from Great Britain (Leeds): Crime, punishment and personal responsibility in Tolstoy's "Resurrection".

5. Rick McPeak from America (Westpoint Academy): Icon-painting by the great iconoclast: Tolstoy's "Alesha Gorshok".

During the lunch break two large tables in the foyer were spread with sandwiches, pastries and tea.  After lunch began Session II, which comprised the following papers:

6. Aleksej Alekseevich Gaponenkov from Saratov (Saratov State University): The 1910 Tolstoy issue of the journal Russkaja mysl'.

7. Donna Orwin from Canada (Toronto): Tolstoy, Stern and Plato.

8. Ksana Blank from America (Princeton): Heaven's mandate: Tolstoy and Confucius.

9. Èl'vira Filippovna Osipova from St-Petersburg: Ralph Waldo Emerson's and Leo Tolstoy's concepts of history.

Later that evening Vladimir Tolstoy and Galina Alekseeva arranged a special concert for the delegates in the large salon of the Volkonsky house.  Musical works related to Tolstoy were splendidly performed by mezzo-soprano Ol'ga Matveeva, who wasbeautifully accompanied by a pianist named Vasilisa.  The performers were rewarded with thunderous applause.

*     *     *

On the morning of 29 August conference delegates were taken on a tour of the estate as well as Leo Tolstoy's house.  Later that morning Session III began.  The following participants presented papers:

10. Alla Nikolaevna Polosina from Yasnaya Polyana: Tolstoy and Aurelius Augustine on memory, time and space.

11. Mohammed Ridha Bouguerra from Tunisia (Tunis): Tolstoy's reception in France in the early 20th century.

12. Ol'ga Vladimirovna Slivitskaja from St-Petersburg: Tolstoy and Stendahl.

13. Vladimir Goudakov from France: The Writings of Leo Tolstoy and Alexandre Dumas on the Caucasus as an ethnological resource.

14. Galina Vital'evna Ovchinnikova from Tula (Tolstoy Pedagogical University): Reflections of national character in Leo Tolstoy's tale "Master and man" and Paul La Chenais' tale "Masters and men".

After the lunch break everyone gathered for Session IV and the following papers (unfortunately, two of the scheduled participants, one from Canada and the other from St-Petersburg, were unable to attend):

15. Dale Peterson from America (Amherst College): "The Cossacks" in Spain: echoes of Tolstoy in [Hemingway's] novel "For whom the bell tolls".

16. Alexander Zweers from Canada (Waterloo): Tolstoy's play "The Power of darkness" abroad.

19. Mireille Berutti from France (Nice): Tolstoy and Shalamov.

Following the afternoon session the delegates took an excursion to the nearby "Kozlova-Zaseka" railway station, where Tolstoy himself frequently waited for the train to Moscow.  Two years ago the station was restored to its original appearance.  One of its rooms is now devoted to a small Tolstoy museum.  A park area has been restored around the station.

*     *     *

At 10 a.m. on the morning of 30 August, Session V commenced in the large salon.  It comprised four papers (a fifth presenter, from Italy, was unable to secure her visa in time):

20. Galina Vasil'evna Alekseevna from Yasnaya Polyana: The American magazine "WHIM" as a source for [Tolstoy's] "Cycle of readings" (based on materials from the writer's personal library).

21. Valerij Aleksandrovich Aleksandrov from Moscow (Institute of World Literature): Leo Tolstoy and Mark Twain.

22. John Woodsworth from Canada (Ottawa): Leo Tolstoy and Mary Baker Eddy: a comparative view.

23. Sim Son Bo from the Republic of Korea [South Korea]: Leo Tolstoy and Liu Yon Mo (on the reception of Leo Tolstoy's religious and philosophical ideas in Korea).

After the lunch break the final Session VI was held with four more presenters (a fifth, from St-Petersburg, was unable to attend):

25. France Roy from France: Freedom à la Tolstoy: classroom experience and life experience.

26. Bernard Suin de Boutemard from Germany: The German engineer Gustav Keller: from his experience in teaching at the Yasnaya Polyana School.

27. Ronald LeBlanc from America (New Hampshire): Tolstoy was not a vegetarian.

29. Daniel Rancour-Laferriere from America (California/Davis): Was Tolstoy a Christian?

On the evening of 30 August a banquet was held for the delegates at the "Preshpekt" café.  Just before the banquet began we were entertained by local performers singing and dancing in folk costumes.  Two of the women delegates celebrating their birthday today were especially fêted (Caryl Emerson and Sarah Hudspith).  The partying continued later in the salon on the 4th floor of the hotel, with Vladimir Tolstoy acting as host.

*     *     *

On Sunday 31 August all those who wished to participate were taken on a motorcoach excursion (organised by Dr Alexeeva) to Spasskoe-Lutovinovo, the estate of another Russian writer, Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev, about an hour and a half's drive south of Yasnaya Polyana.  We were shown the buildings where the famous writer lived and worked, and strolled through the allées of the huge park.  While sitting beside Turgenev's favourite oak-tree, I wrote a poem (in Russian), entitled "At Spasskoe-Lutovinovo".

That evening most of the Russian conference participants relocated to a hotel in Tula, while eight of us Westerners decided to stay on at the Yasnaya Polyana dom otdykha.  Minibuses run between Yasnaya Polyana and Tula three times an hour. 

Thus ended the Third International Conference on "Tolstoy and World Literature" at Yasnaya Polyana.

...continued below

(click here for the original Russian text)

On Monday 1 September, at the Tolstoy Pedagogical University (Tula State Pedagogical University named after L.N. Tolstoy) in Tula, began a symposium "L.N. Tolstoy in the movement of time", otherwise known as the "Twenty-ninth International Tolstoy Readings".  The plenary sessions were chaired by the symposium's organiser, Tula professor Vitalij Borisovich Remizov, who is also the Director of the State Tolstoy Museum in Moscow.  The delegates were warmly welcomed by various officials, including the governor of the Tula District, the Rector of the University, I.I. Tolstoy (a great-grandson of the writer who lives in France) and Donna Orwin from Canada.

The day's plenary session presenters included the following:

* Eberhard Dieckmann from Germany: Karl Marx or Leo Tolstoy? Reflections on letters to Tolstoy from Germany.

* Bazyli Bialokozowicz from Poland: "War and peace" in the perception and creative consciousness of Polish writers.

* Elena Dmitrievna Meleshko from Tula (Tolstoy Pedagogical University): The Ethno-pedagogical experience of Tolstoyanism (from the history of ethnic education in Russia).

* Boris Nikolaevich Tarasov from Moscow: Tolstoy and Pascal.

* Marzie Yakhyapur from Iran: The Image of the secular woman in Tolstoy's works.

* Anna Glebovna Gorodetskaja from St-Petersburg: Tolstoy in "Doctor Zhivago".

That evening delegates were ferried in two motorcoaches to the university's main campus for a splendid concert by philological faculty students.  Ivan Bunin's stories (especially the one about his meeting with Tolstoy) were beautifully presented by Moscow theatre actress Ol'ga Fomichova, accompanied on the guitar by Aleksandr Danilov.  An exceptionally moving performance was given by bass soloist Fedor Tarasov (a graduate student in philology).

*     *     *

On the second day of the Tolstoy Readings in Tula (2 September) the delegates were invited to attend master classes given by some of the world's leading Tolstoy scholars.  Along with several others I sat in on a master class conducted by Tolstoy Pedagogical University philosophy professor Elena Meleshko on the topic: L.N. Tolstoy and Russian philosophical thought.  We heard not only from her but also from her graduate students and teaching assistants, including Aleksandr Jur'evich Kashpirin.  Other 'masters' included:

* Stefan Kolafa from the Czech Republic: L.N. Tolstoj and the Slavic world.

* Natal'ja Vladimirovna Kudrjavaja from Russia: Questions of scientific interpretation of Tolstoy's pedagogical legacy.

* Donna Orwin from Canada: The Realisation of Tolstoy's legacy in almanacs and journal narratives.

* Eberhard Dieckmann from Germany: Tolstoy and Germany.

* Caryl Emerson from America: The Works of M.M. Bakhtin in the context of the study of contemporary literature.

Following the master classes the delegates were once more taken to the main campus to a huge formal banquet, which lasted until almost midnight.  Upon entering the hall, we found the tables covered with all sorts of delicious food, and ate our fill.  Few were prepared for the main course, which was not served until ten o'clock.  One of the American delegates (Brett Cooke), who was celebrating his birthday today, was presented with a huge bouquet of flowers!  Fortunately a chartered coach was waiting to take us back to Yasnaya there was probably no bus service that time of the night.

*     *     *

The third day of the Tolstoy Readings (3 September) comprised seven parallel sessions.  It was difficult to choose from the following:

1. The World of Tolstoy's fiction / session leaders: Marina Ivanovna Schcherbakova & Galina Alekseevna Nerushenko.

2.  L.N. Tolstoy and Russian culture / Nina Il'darovna Burnasheva & Nina Alekseevna Nikitina.

3. L.N. Tolstoy and foreign literature / Bazyli Bialokozowicz & Galina Vital'evna Ovchinnikova.

4. L.N. Tolstoy as philosopher / Elena Dmitrievna Meleshko & Anatolij Alekseevich Gorelov.

5. Tolstoy's pedagogical legacy today / Natal'ja Vladimirovna Kudrjavaja & Margarita Nikolaevna Dudina.

6. Tolstoy's works as an object of linguistic study / Viktor Terent'evich Bondarenko & Viktor Georgievich Maslov.

7. Geographical and museological aspects of Tolstoy's legacy / Tamara Tikhonovna Burlakova & Tat'jana Nikolaevna Arkhangel'skaja.

That evening the eight of us staying at the Yasnaya Polyana hotel arranged our own farewell 'banquet' at the Preshpekt.  Our group included three Canadians (Donna Orwin, Sasha Zweers and myself), three Americans (Brett Cooke, Dale Peterson and Rick McPeak), an Englishwoman (Sarah Hudspith) and a Finn (Barbara Lönnqvist).  We proposed a number of toasts to the great interest in Tolstoy's life and ideas which had brought us all together.

...continued below

.(click here for the original Russian text)
Early in the morning on Thursday 4 September the eight of us (along with our many bags!) were taken on a small bus to Tula, where we joined the remaining delegates already seated in a large motorocach.  By noon we were already at the State L.N. Tolstoy Museum on Prechistenka in Moscow, where we were welcomed by museum director Vitalij Remizov at the official opening of a major museum exhibition, entitled "Leo Tolstoy's Heaven and Earth".  Today's meetings at the Moscow Tolstoy Museum were a continuation of the international symposium begun in Tula, organised by the museum's director Vladimir Tolstoy, Donna Orwin and Lidija Gromova also joined in the welcome.  After a break, the final session of the symposium began at 3 p.m., featuring presentations by Tolstoy scholars from Moscow and St-Petersburg, as well as from Germany, Japan, Poland, Georgia and Iran.

Unfortunately, I had to leave for the airport part way through the session: my return ticket had been booked before we were told of the decision to hold yet another conference the following day at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Gorky Institute of World Literature (on Povarskaja Street).  I was very sorry not to have been there and to have missed the following papers in particular:

* Galina Jakovlevna Galagan from St-Petersburg (Pushkin House, Institute of Russian Literature): Tolstoy's "Confession" his concept of the meaning of life.

* Lidija Dmitrievna Gromova (formerly Head of Classical Russian Literature at the Institute of World Literature): Russian thinkers at the end of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries on Leo Tolstoy.

* Marina Ivanovna Shcherbakova (current Head of Classical Russian Literature at the Institute of World Literature): Nikolaj Strakhov's legacy and questions in Tolstoy studies.

* Kim Reho (a Korean scholar working in Moscow): Asia in Tolstoy's world.

* Natal'ja Pavlovna Velikanova (Institute of World Literature): The French and French culture in "War and peace".

* Brett Cooke from America (Texas): Tolstoj and Darwinism: evolutionary structures in "War and peace".

* Tat'jana Leonidovna Morozova (Institute of World Literature): Tolstoy and the American transcendentalists: contrasts and parallels.

* Nina Alekseevna Nikitina (Yasnaya Polyana): Tolstoy as collector of centuries-old wisdom.

Over the course of the three rather lengthy (I shall not say 'tiring'!) conferences my mind was enriched by a host of new ideas, new insights into the world-view of one of the most outstanding world thinkers and writers in history.  It is only regrettable that so many people, even after learning of his ideas (for example, on the rejection of violent resistance to evil, or universal love for humanity without regard to racial and social divisions), are either unwilling or unable to apply these ideas in their daily lives.  I do not believe, however, that such gatherings of Tolstoy scholars are in vain: in fact, they make the world aware of the existence of such ideas, and of their significance for the 21st century.  As Lev Nikolaevich himself said in 1868 (and this quotation appeared right at the beginning of our programme for the three conferences):

"I would just like to say that any thought that leads to tremendous consequences is invariably simple. My whole concept can be summarised in a nutshell: if evil people can get together and constitute a power, then honest people have only to do the same.  It's that simple!"


Special note:  The Cyrillic fonts used to display the Russian text on these pages were designed by JW in the late 1980s, using the font editor "FonTastic" on an old 512K Macintosh computer.




"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you... 
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

-- John 14:27


E-mail : <jw[at ]kanadacha.ca>
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