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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 15: Prince Khilkov Goes to War

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chapter 15 Prince Khilkov Goes to War If Orthodoxy was the best form of Church then autocracy was surely the best form of government. A nation governed by a divinely appointed Sovereign, upheld by the will and faith of the people, is immensely strong. For Dmitrii Khilkov the Japanese, who had inflicted an inglorious defeat upon Russia a few years previously, were a shining example of this. Following the disastrous war there had been a growing rapprochement between Russia and Japan, amid fears of the latter’s growing power and the developing interest of America in Manchuria, which culminated in a secret treaty in July 1912. Just around this time Khilkov had received a letter from Kovalev, sharing his thoughts on the factors which influence the ‘vitality’ of peoples and nations. In his reply Khilkov gives his views on the strengths of differ- ent political systems: autocracy, democracy and socialism. In particular he reveals a great admiration for the Japanese, whose unswerving faith and self-sacrificing allegiance to their Emperor was the key to their strength and military success. In comparison, democracy had weakened the State in America and Europe by dissipating power among the people in the name of a false equality. As for socialism, it was a vehicle for glorifying the Jews and assuring their supremacy over the world. In deed, in spirit, and by nature [ Japan] is a full and unlimited autocracy, for this is desired and upheld by every Japanese. It is upheld because the Japanese loves his...

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