Reading for Wednesday 15/10/08
We meet another real historical character in this chapter – Speranski. If you had trouble keeping up with this chapter, basically, the Russian aristocracy is undergoing a bit of an upheaval. From its strongly defined class sytem, with many people serving as slaves to the aristocracy, and promotions being passed around based on class (ie money), things were moving to a more equal status.
Serfs were being freed. Promotions for certain positions were being based on examinations – on who was suitable for the job. Now, mind you, we’d think of all this as things that should be taken for granted in a democracy, but this would have been quite radical at the time. Or, more particularly, for the aristocracy in Russia, you would have found this most French.
I think it’s quite clear that Speranski, now advising the Tsar, is drawing a large amount of his ideas from the French model. Granted, they seemed to be bringing this thing in without having to resort to a French Revolution, so that’s all good.
Anyway, even if you don’t enjoy this little political sideline, and want to get back to either a) the soap or b) the war, this chapter is worth it for the description of the new fascination with Andrei when he returned to society and this quote, which is might favourite:
“As is often the case with men, particularly with those who criticise their fellows severely, Prince Andrei on meeting a new person . . . had always a hope of finding in him a full perfection of human qualities.”
Far too true . . .