This is another one of Tolstoy’s chaotic crowd scenes.  All the nobility have gathered to hear what the Tsar expects them to do.  From what I gather, the Tsar vaguely requests that he expects the nobility to help them.

The rest of the chapter revolves around what that help might involve.  Does it involve just sending off the serfs to go fighting?  Does it involve conscription of the best and brightest?

What’s most amazing about this chapter is that, for once, Pierre gets his finger right on the pulse of the problem.  (Actually, that’s a bit unfair.  Pierre usually has his finger on the pulse of the problems in life.  It’s the answers he’s never been able to find.)

He simply asks the questions, “Wouldn’t it be best to find out what the actual state of the campaign in Russia is before we go throwing in money and men to the war effort?”

This question gets shouted down in a roar of chaotic patriotism that means nothing and will achieve nothing and thus ends the chapter.

All of which is building back towards Tolstoy’s theory that there were no grand planners during the war.  Things just happened the way they happened.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 9.22 – Useless Talk

  1. I think what I saw in this chapter most of all was another example of how well Tolstoy gives us a bird’s eye view of something, mainly by the little passing conversations that people have. We got such a clear sense of the social and political climate of Petersburg through the opening soiree at Anna Sherer’s place and here’s another brilliant, nutshell view of the Russian political tempremant of the time. We see here not just some heated, slightly chaotic debates about the war, but also, I think, a reflection of the underlying political tension in Russia which permeated much the nineteenth century – the monarchists on the one hand, who believed the Tsar was virtually divine and was never to be questioned; and the liberals on the other hand who believed that the people should have a say in how the country is shaped. The liberals never really got a firm hold of the reins in Russia in the way that they did in more technologically and economically advanced countries and, as we know, the Tsarist regime remained in place until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. In this chapter I think we get a bit of a sense of why the liberal democrats did not become a driving force in Russia’s history – they were, for the most part, a marginalised, disorganised, group, mainly made up of elite intelligentsia, rather than being consolidated by the economic interests of a thriving bourgeoisie, which is what happened in other countries. So, in some ways, the debates happening in this chapter could just as easily have happened a hundred years later – and probably did!

  2. That’s so funny, Matt . . .

    Pierre usually has his finger on the pulse of the problems in life. It’s the answers he’s never been able to find.

    Hee! Hee! So well said!

    Yes, I think it could have happened a hundred years later, Ian . . . and it could have happened anywhere.

    When people are this excited – not to mention, frightened (which I think even these tough old warriors are in their hearts), this kind of mania starts up.

    I have 779 today!

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