Home > Uncategorized > Ivan Turgenev: “Militarism, the soldiery, have got the upper hand”

Ivan Turgenev: “Militarism, the soldiery, have got the upper hand”


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

Russian writers on war


Ivan Turgenev
From Old Portraits
Unknown Translator

‘There was more freedom in those days, more decorum; on my honour, I assure you! but since the year eighteen hundred…militarism, the soldiery, have got the upper hand. Our soldier gentlemen stuck some sort of turbans of cocks’ feathers on their heads then, and turned like cocks themselves; began binding their necks up as stiff as could be…they croak, and roll their eyes – how could they help it, indeed? The other day a police corporal came to me; “I’ve come to you,” says he, “honourable sir,”…(fancy his thinking to surprise me with that!…I know I’m honourable without his telling me!) “I have business with you.” And I said to him, “My good sir, you’d better first unfasten the hooks on your collar. Or else, God have mercy on us – you’ll sneeze. Ah, what would happen to you! what would happen to you! You’d break off, like a mushroom … and I should have to answer for it!” And they do drink, these military gentlemen – oh, oh, oh! I generally order home-made champagne to be given them, because to them, good wine or poor, it’s all the same; it runs so smoothly, so quickly, down their throats – how can they distinguish it? And, another thing, they’ve started sucking at a pap-bottle, smoking a tobacco-pipe. Your military gentleman thrusts his pap-bottle under his moustaches, between his lips, and puffs the smoke out of his nose, his mouth, and even his ears – and fancies himself a hero!’

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