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Leo Tolstoy: Men attribute the greatest merit to skill in killing one another

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

Russian writers on war

Leo Tolstoy: Selections on war

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Leo Tolstoy
From War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

I have had a letter from my brother, who announces his speedy arrival at Bald Hills with his wife. This pleasure will be but a brief one, however, for he will leave us again to take part in this unhappy war into which we have been drawn, God knows how or why. Not only where you are – at the heart of affairs and of the world – is the talk all of war, even here amid fieldwork and the calm of nature – which townsfolk consider characteristic of the country – rumors of war are heard and painfully felt. My father talks of nothing but marches and countermarches, things of which I understand nothing; and the day before yesterday during my daily walk through the village I witnessed a heartrending scene….It was a convoy of conscripts enrolled from our people and starting to join the army. You should have seen the state of the mothers, wives, and children of the men who were going and should have heard the sobs. It seems as though mankind has forgotten the laws of its divine Saviour, Who preached love and forgiveness of injuries – and that men attribute the greatest merit to skill in killing one another.”

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