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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 14: Return to Pavlovki

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chapter 14 Return to Pavlovki Cecilia Vladimirovna was the first to return to Pavlovki, in advance of her husband, in July 1905, with Alexander, now seven, and Elizabeth, ten. In the village the impact of the disturbances of 1901 and the continuing exile of the condemned were still felt keenly. The families were overjoyed at her return and begged her with tears to use her influence to win a reprieve for their loved ones. The last four years had been particularly hard for them. The unusual animation of spirit which had been aroused by the ‘tempter’, as they now called Moisei Todosienko, had evidently changed to a deep despondency, and the weight of police oppression still lay heavily on them. At the beginning of May the first visitor from outside, S. P. Melgunov, a Moscow journalist, successfully penetrated the strict security surrounding the village, bringing the first news of the decree of 17 April on religious liberty. For the first time Russians were permitted to leave the Orthodox Church to enter any other faith without loss of rights or other penalties. Even so, Melgunov’s attempts to meet with the Pavlovtsy were frustrated at every step by local police, who regarded them as ‘revolutionaries’ not sectarians, and therefore not covered by the terms of the decree. In mid- May Melgunov, accompanied by P. M. Lintvarev, president of the Sumy Zemstvo, was permitted to spend one day in Pavlovki, meeting a group of sectarians under the watchful eye of the police.1 Nevertheless...

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