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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 3: Dissent in Pavlovki


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Dissent in Pavlovki

The village of Pavlovki lies on the very edge of Sumy district, close to the border with Kursk province. First settled in the second half of the seventeenth century by refugees from right-bank Ukraine fleeing Polish oppression, the land was subsequently held by the Kondratiev and Seletskii families. In the first half of the nineteenth century the Kondratiev estate was taken over by the Dzhunkovskiis and was thence bequeathed to Princess Iuliia Petrovna Khilkova, mother of Dmitrii Aleksandrovich. At the time of his return in 1884 Pavlovki comprised two communities, one of former serfs of the neighbouring Stroganov estate, the other of the Dzhunkovskiis. The village extended some distance, around ten versts [about six and a half miles] and the two communities were separated by ditch.

On his return Dmitrii Aleksandrovich came to an arrangement with his mother that he would occupy himself with managing the estate, and that her income would not diminish.1 Before long, however, it became clear that this arrangement would not work, since their views differed widely. An early example of their differences concerned an orchard, which had previously provided fruit solely for home consumption. Princess Khilkova now wished to turn the orchard to profit by letting it to outside gardeners. At his mother’s insistence, but against his own wishes, Dmitrii Aleksandrovich let the orchard that winter for a rent of 600 roubles, with a deposit of 75 roubles. The spring frosts,...

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