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Among Russian Sects and Revolutionists

The Extraordinary Life of Prince D. A. Khilkov

Graham Camfield

In his lifetime Prince Dmitrii Aleksandrovich Khilkov (1857–1914) became known in a number of seemingly contradictory roles and contexts: courageous officer, Tolstoyan, defender of the oppressed, leader of the Dukhobor exodus, revolutionary terrorist and returning Orthodox prodigal. Born into one of Russia’s ancient aristocratic families, with close links to the court, he chose an unexpected path that led him deep into the Russian countryside and brought him to the very edge of the Empire. Renouncing a brilliant military career, he gave up almost all his land to the peasants and settled on a small farm at Pavlovki, Khar’kov province. There, his support for peasants at variance with local landowners and the Church brought him into conflict with authority, both civil and ecclesiastical, and led to his exile, firstly among religious dissidents in Transcaucasia and later among political émigrés in Switzerland.
Using a wide range of often obscure published sources, this book explores Khilkov’s extraordinary life through his autobiographical notes and the accounts of many who knew him, among them Lev Tolstoi and his disciples, the Marxist Vladimir Bonch-Bruevich, fellow members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party and the Orthodox clergy who guided him back to the Church.


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Chapter 5: In the Shadow of Exile


chapter 5 In the Shadow of Exile The visit of Butkevich to Pavlovki followed an encounter there with another, high profile, cleric, Father Ioann (Sergiev) of Kronstadt, an immensely popular preacher with a reputation of a miracle worker.1 In August 1890 Father Ioann made a visit to the Kalugins, whose estate lay close to Pavlovki. Khilkov was curious to see him, having formed an impression that he was a sincere man, in whom the observance of ritual might possibly be com- bined with goodness, sincerity, love for people and faith in the teaching of Jesus. Princess Khilkova was also anxious for her son to meet the respected priest in the hope that he might turn from his error. The expectations of both, however, turned out otherwise, and an account of the visit formed the substance of a lengthy letter to Tolstoi, through whom detail of this encounter in the depths of the Russian countryside was brought to the notice of a wider public. That day a special service was held at the church on the Kalugin estate at Nikolaevka, where the presence of the celebrated cleric drew a huge crowd of all classes from the surrounding district. The place was so packed with visitors, that Princess Khilkova required the assistance of a local police officer to gain entry to the Church. Dmitrii, however, refused to participate, preferring to sit outside in the park. After the service he went to where Ioann was supposed to be having tea. His letter continues,...

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