Tolstoy’s last journey in the eyes of the press - An excerpt from Pavel Basinsky’s Book “Leo Tolstoy: Flight from Paradise”
On the night of October 27, 1910 an unbelievable event took place <…> in Yasnaya Polyana, ancestral estate of the internationally well-known writer and thinker – Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy. The eighty-two year old Count secretly fled from his home in an unknown direction with the escort of his personal physician Makovitsky that night.
The informational space of that time didn’t strongly differ from the present. News of the scandalous events momentarily spread throughout Russia and across the world. On October 29th, urgent telegrams began to come from Tula to the Petersburg Telegraph Agency, republished in newspapers the next day. “News having surprised everyone was received that L.N. Tolstoy escorted by Dr. Makovitsky unexpectedly fled Yasnaya Polyana and left. Having left, L.N. Tolstoy left a letter, in which he announces that he’s leaving Yasnaya Polyana forever”.
Tolstoy’s fellow traveler, Makovitsky, didn’t even know about this letter, written by L.N. for his wife who slept and given to her in the morning by their youngest daughter Sasha. He himself read about it in the newspapers.
More operational than any was the Moscow newspaper Russian Word. On October 30ththe newspaper published a report by its own Tula correspondent with detailed information about what happened at Yasnaya Polyana.
“Tula, 29, X (urgent). Having returned from Yasnaya Polyana, I announce the departure of Lev Nikolayevich in detail.
Lev Nikolayevich left yesterday, at 5am, when it was still dark.
Lev Nikolayevich went to the coachman's quarters and ordered the horses to be hitched.
The coachman Adrian fulfilled the order.
When the horses were ready, Lev Nikolayevich, together with Dr. Makovitsky, having taken the necessary things, lain out earlier that night, went to the Shchekino Station.
The postman Filka went in front of them, lighting the way with a torch.
At the Shchekino Station, Lev Nikolayevich got a ticket to one of the stations on the Moscow-Kursk railroad and left on the first train having passed.
When it became known at Yasnaya Polyana about the sudden departure of Lev Nikolayevich, there arose a terrible confusion. The despair of Lev Nikolayevich’s wife, Sofia Andreyevna, defies description”.
This announcement, which the whole world talked about the next day, was printed, not on the front page, but on the third. The front page, as it was acceptable at that time, was for advertisements of all possible products.
“The stomach’s best friend is San Rafael wine”.
“Medium sturgeon. Twenty kopeks a pound”.
Having received the nightly telegram from Tula, Russian Word immediately sent their correspondent to the Tolstoy’s Hamovniki House (today – the house-museum of L.N. Tolstoy, between the “Park of Culture” and “Fruzensky” subway stations). The newspaper hoped that, perhaps, the Count fled from Yasnaya Polyana to the Moscow estate. But, as the newspaper writes “the old lordly Tolstoy house was quiet and calm. Nothing hinted that Lev Nikolayevich could come to the old hearth and home. The gates were locked. Everyone home are sleeping”.
On the pursuit along Tolstoy’s proposed path of flight was sent the young journalist Konstantin Orlov, the theatrical reviewer, son of Tolstoy’s follower, teacher and populist Vladimir Fyodorovich Orlov, represented in the stories “Dream” and “There Aren’t Any Guilty in the World”. He overtook the refugee already at Kozelsk and secretly escorted him to Astapovo, from where he announced to Sophia Andreyevna and Tolstoy’s children by telegram that their husband and father is seriously ill and is at the central railroad station in the home of its station master, I.I. Ozolin.
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