The Extraordinary Life of Prince D. A. Khilkov
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.
CHAPTER 7: The Khilkov Children
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The Khilkov Children
Unaware of what had happened, Tolstoi wrote to Khilkov on 30 October 1893. He had not heard from him for some months, but had gathered from B. N. Leont’ev, who had recently visited Bashkichet, that Khilkov was feeling unsettled. Weary of the isolation and inactivity of exile, he was even contemplating taking action to change his situation. In his letter Tolstoi urged his friend to do nothing to change his circumstances, but to continue in the ‘service of God’, which ‘alone gives a reasonable and joyful meaning to our life’. He felt that Khilkov had perhaps lost that sense of serving the will of God and was seeking to do something. Tolstoi recalled the principle of ‘non-action’ of which he had written in his last letter of 15 May and which formed the subject of a recently finished essay.1
Within days of this letter, on 5 November, Tolstoi was profoundly shocked to receive the awful news from Khilkov about the abduction of his children. He replied immediately, expressing his deep sympathy to the parents, urging them to stand firm in their Christian convictions. What had happened was in a sense inevitable for one who followed Christ’s teaching, for ‘as they have persecuted me, so will they persecute you’. For all the hardship involved they should try to respond with love, not giving way to anger.
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