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Leo Tolstoy: The Law of Love and the Law of Violence


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war


Leo Tolstoy
From The Law of Love and the Law of Violence (1910)
Translated by Mary Koutouzow Tolstoy

It would be so simple and so natural to make the agricultural laborers, who are in the majority in Russia and other countries, understand that for centuries they have been suffering by their own fault and without any advantage: that the exclusive possession of the land is assured by those who do not work it themselves, guards, police agents, soldiers; that all the taxes are imposed by them, inasmuch as they are employed by the exchequer; and, when they have at last understood, to get them to say to those they consider as chiefs:

“Leave us alone. If you, emperors, generals, judges, bishops, professors and other learned men, if you have need of armies, navies, universities, corps de ballet, ecclesiastic courts, conservatories of music, prisons, gallows, guillotines, prepare them all yourselves; tax yourselves, judge your selves, imprison and execute each other, exterminate yourselves, get yourselves killed in war; but leave us alone, for we have no need of all these things and we do not wish to participate in acts that are futile as far as we are concerned, and above all, so wicked.”

[Tolstoy provided the following quotes]

“The savage instinct of military murder has been so carefully cultivated for thousands of years, that it has become deeply rooted in the human brain. It is to be hoped, however, that a better humanity will be able to free itself from this horrible crime. But what will this better humanity think of the so-called refined civilization of which we are so proud? The same that we think of the ancient inhabitants of Mexico and of their cannibalism – people warlike, pious and bestial at the same time. ”

“War will disappear only when men shall take no part whatever in violence and shall be ready to suffer every persecution that their abstention will bring them. It is the only way to abolish war.”
(Anatole France)

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