Monday, March 7, 2016

Diplomacy - Alexander III and Tolstoy - SA Connection




William Booth’s, Darkest England and the Way Out, had a place in bookcases or desks in the palaces and homes of several distinguished Russian noblemen and artists. It’s not entirely clear how they came to possess Booth’s classic work in the literature of poverty, however, Alexander III’s autographed copy was probably presented to him shortly following its publication in 1890. [2]




Foreword

The Salvation Army had no place nor any future in Russia if one believed 9, 1894, Glasgow Herald report from St Petersburg:
The Salvation Army in Russia is doomed. I hear upon best authority that the Imperial Government views with extreme favor the continued propagation of General Booth’s ideas which have of late taken deep root in various parts of Russia, principally in Finland, but also in St. Petersburg itself. It is only a few days since a painful sensation was caused in aristocratic circles here by the action of the Princess , who, it will be remembered, wished to have the religious service at the funeral of her late husband performed in accordance with Salvation Army notions and ordered the minister of the Greek Orthodox out of the house. In consequence of this, and other cases which have been brought to the notice of the authorities, they have determined to take energetic measures to check the further extension of Salvationism.

Ironically, the Army’s failure in Russia was forecasted well in advance of its arrival. The first expression of The Salvation Army’s work in Russia began a full five years subsequent to its predicted doom, in November 1889. It coincided with the implementation of a policy known as Russification, started during the 'first era of oppression' (1899-1905) and continued during the second era (1909-1917).

Improbably, the Salvation Army was able to call upon enthusiastic and apparently influential support from prominent members of Petersburg society, including members of the Imperial Family and aristocrats.[1]

Of the Russian monarchs, Tsar Alexander III, was seen by many as a great man both in size and in character. In a positive he was the stereotypical Russian tsar. Neath his massive, bearded, imposing exterior appearance was a man of simple tastes, a devoted family man.

By skillful diplomacy, Alexander III managed to raise Russia’s prestige the international arena, while maintaining law and order inside his own borders. He was deeply religious. Alexander believed that, as the nation’s first family, they should all set an example to their subjects. Count Sergei Witte, whose I came to know in Helsinki in the 1970s, described Alexander III as a model family man, and master. He recalled: “For the emperor, there was no difference between word and deed.” Witte wrote in his memoirs: “Alexander III …. was admired by the whole world and the whole of Russia.”

William Booth too enjoyed global recognition and admiration on the world’s stage and furthered the Army’s general acceptance in every respect. Notices of the Army’s development, of the General’s travels around the globe and his motorcades, have time and again been seen in the Russian press. Russians to different parts of the world have encountered those who belong to, in their eyes, this outlandish blood and fire Army. The results of their questions and impressions been shared with friends at home, yes, and has in the light of day, been seen in books and periodicals.

In William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, drew attention to the appalling conditions in which the destitute of Victorian Britain's great cities lived, and suggested ways in which their lives could be improved. Alexander III no doubt shared the very same sentiments and hopes for his own people and would find many of Booth’s social reform theories aligned with his own. In secular affairs Russia, under Alexander, witnessed a number of reforms to improve the economy and cut taxes for the peasants and enacted child labor laws, forbidding children under 12 from working and reducing the number of hours children under 15 could work. In the burgeoning factories of an official inspector of factories was set up to ensure that proper working conditions were maintained….

Following a bout with complication suffered in a railway crash he died at Livadia the Crimea, surrounded by his devoted wife and children like the beloved patriarch he was, on October 20, 1894. Alexander III died in the arms of Maria Fyodorovna, his wife.


Alexander III was buried in the St Peter and St Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg. The tsar died convinced that he had fulfilled his main duty in life – to protect Russia from upheavals. He did so by ruling with an iron fist and a steadfast mind. In 1907, when Sergei Witte was asked how to save Russia, he pointed to a portrait of Alexander III and said: “Resurrect him!”

Another Russian admired in and outside Russia was Leo Tolstoy born at Yasnaya Polyana, a family estate 200 kilometers (120 mi) south of Moscow. The Tolstoys were a well-known family of old Russian nobility.

Tolstoy too had Booth’s manifesto, and it still remains a part of his collection of in the Tolstoy museum library.

Ross Wilcocks, a Salvationist friend, Canadian medical doctor and active in exploring the Army’s return to Russia shared: “Tolstoy wrote a book called "What I Believe", in which he openly confessed his Christian beliefs. He affirmed his belief in Jesus Christ's teachings and was particularly influenced by the Sermon on the Mount, and the injunction to turn the other cheek, which he understood as a "commandment of non-resistance to evil by force" and a doctrine of pacifism and nonviolence. In his work The Kingdom of God Is Within You, he explains that he considered mistaken the Church's doctrine because they had made a "perversion" of Christ's teachings. Tolstoy also received letters from American Quakers who introduced him to the non-violence writings of Quaker Christians such as George Fox, William Penn and Jonathan Dymond. Tolstoy believed being a Christian required him to be a pacifist; the consequences of being a pacifist, and the apparently inevitable waging of war by government, are the reason why he is considered a philosophical anarchist. by the Sermon on the Mount, and the injunction to turn the other cheek, which he understood as a "commandment of non-resistance to evil by force" and a doctrine of pacifism and nonviolence. In his work The Kingdom of God Is Within You, he explains that he considered mistaken the Church's doctrine because they had made a "perversion" of Christ's teachings. Tolstoy also received letters from American Quakers who introduced him to the non-violence writings of Quaker Christians such as George Fox, William Penn and Jonathan Dymond. Tolstoy believed being a Christian required him to be a pacifist; the consequences of being a pacifist, and the apparently inevitable waging of war by government, are the reason why he is considered a philosophical anarchist.

Later, various versions of "Tolstoy's Bible" would be published, indicating the passages Tolstoy most relied on, specifically, the reported words of Jesus himself.[3]

At the age of he experienced a spiritual crisis, after which he wrote Confession and shortly thereafter The Gospel in Brief, and What I Believe.

In these Tolstoy renounced the dissolute, worldly life that he had previously led…. He set out on the spiritual path with characteristic dedication, even learning Greek so as to study the original New Testament and rediscover Christianity at its source.

His enthusiasm and energy, based on what he understood of the New Testament, made him the leading citizen diplomat of his time. It was said that in his day there were two Czars--the visible Czar, and Leo Tolstoy behind him, rattling his throne. Tolstoy often wrote to the Czar and to other Russian authorities about the problems and issues that concerned him. He was influenced culturally by Russian Orthodox spirituality, with its emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the Christian duty to make real Christ's prayer, " come, on earth as it is in heaven." He did what he could.

Many of his later writings addressed the moral themes of good and evil. Tolstoy was ardently dedicated to human rights long before the modern term for it was invented. When famine struck, delegations came asking for help. With his wife and family, he operated soup kitchens.

Several dissident communities of the day were concerned with the same issues that troubled him. Among them, Tolstoy had contact with the Salvation Army, then in its early phase and based mainly in England. And each week Tolstoy received its publication, the War Cry, from London. [4]

The Army’s advance, since it’s earliest days, has been built piece by piece to project it into unprecedented areas of ministry and influence believing it’s God’s mission. And it’s a mission to which the Army’s been appointed, and that through His strength, they undertake boldly, with passion, expecting advances, one built upon another.

[1] Aitken, Blood and Fire, Tsar and Commissar, p. 59


[2] Sweden - ANTKRUNDAN; SVT. Feb, 2016


[3] Orwin, Donna T. The Cambridge Companion to Tolstoy. Cambridge University Press, 2002


[4] Ross Wilcock Tolstoy and Christian pacifism, Sep-Oct 1995, p.24

Sven Ljungholm
1st public SA meeting ever conducted in Ukraine - 1993

1 comment:

FORMER SALVATION ARMY OFFICERS FELLOWSHIP said...

From Part Two
RETURN TO RUSSIA WITH FLAG UNFURLED being released in June 2016