Henri Troyer, "Russia at the End of the Empire" - To understand Russian society after the death of Dostoevsky

Russia at the End of the Czarist Era Russian History and Culture and Dostoevsky

Henri Troyer's "Russia at the End of the Empire" Summary and Impressions - To understand Russian society after the death of Dostoevsky

Russia at the End of the Empire was published by Henri Troyer in 1959.

Let's take a quick look at the book.

A novel that makes you feel as if you are traveling through Russian society at the beginning of the 20th century.

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Henri Troyer is already a familiar name on this blog.

He was a Russian-French writer who wrote biographies of various figures, including Dostoevsky, Turgenev, and Peter the Great.

The book is a novelistic introduction to society at the end of the Russian Empire in 1903.

The protagonist is a young Frenchman, Jean Roussel. He is suddenly inspired to travel to Russia. We, the readers, will witness Russian society of the time through the fresh eyes of a foreigner just like him.

The translator's afterword stated

In describing Russia in 1903, under the reign of the last Tsar Nicholas II, Henri Troyer sets Jean Roussel, a young Frenchman, on a journey that makes the reader feel as if he were traveling through Russia with him. And while the presence of this curious traveler, who ends up marrying the daughter of a Moscow merchant, gives the book the effect and charm of a novel, it is further given life by the author's own recollections of stories from his childhood, which bring Russian society in the early 20th century to life for the reader.

New Readings, translated by Makoto Fukuzumi, Henri Troyer, Russia in the Late Imperial Period, p. 239.

I have told you on this blog up to this point that the Russian literary world after Dostoevsky's death was under severe repression.

The book then reveals how the others actually lived.

It is a stark demonstration of Russian society at a standstill at the end of the Czarist regime.

One of the most memorable passages is the following, which is set in a poor neighborhood called Khitrovka. It is a passage that gives a clear picture of the state of Russian society at that time. It is a bit long, but it is an important part, so I will quote it here.

A woman passed by. Her earth-colored face was deeply wrinkled, her shoulders were covered with dirty rags, and a baby trembled in her arms.

'Here we have a professional beggar woman. She must have rented the child for a day," said Pavel Egorovich.

Jean Roussel asked, "Are children rented in Hitrovka?"

Of course! They are very much sought after by the nagging mean girls who go on living off people's charity.crustscabWith this load of slobbering, these women are sure to make people dusty. During the last week of Lent, a slightly screeching infant is rented for 25 kopeka a day, and a three-year-old brat for 10 kopeka.

Children are dragged around in the cold and through the mud. If they can walk, their shoes are taken off to make them more sympathetic. If they are infants, their milk is taken away to make them sob more. Often the babies die in the beggar woman's arms, and yet she continues to hold them until nightfall so as not to miss out on alms."

It's horrifying!" Jean Rousselle interjected.

'Yes,' said Pavel Egorovich. 'I feel very sorry for the children of Hitrovka. Those who live to be alive learn to watch before they are old enough, to steal from show windows, or just to beg. They specialize. They join groups. From time to time, a raid is made on a guesthouse. A few people with bad behavior are imprisoned. After serving their sentences, they return to the same place to resume their practices.

As for the girls, they all end up as prostitutes, whether on the street or in a brothel. In Hitrovka it is rare that a fourteen-year-old lass is still a virgin. Aren't there neighborhoods of ill repute in Paris?"

Of course there is. But I have a feeling the poverty, the decadence, is not as bad as it is here!" Jean Rousselle said. And

That's right!" Pavel Egorovich agreed.

Everything is bigger in Russia. Wealth, poverty, faith...There is no middle class, so to speak, in our country. On the one hand, a high aristocracy, a wealthy class of merchants, entrepreneurs, and landowners; on the other, an uncountable number of superstitious and illiterate people who were perhaps more content with the status of serfs than with this pretense of freedom in the midst of poverty.

Between these two extremes lies a thin layer of unskilled workers, technicians, petty officials, and intellectuals who are trying to protect their aspirations for progress and independence.

They are the modern aggressive molecules of this country, but they are unable to pull the apathetic national masses behind them. Constantly they are in danger of being crushed and swallowed by the masses.

My father-in-law is an optimist and believes that things will work out in time. I fear the worst terribly. There is so much social inequality in Russia that one day the stability of the system will be in danger. When I leave the Hitrov market and look at the pretty stores on Tverskaya Street, I have a choking anxiety because I don't know how these two worlds can coexist."

New Readings, translated by Makoto Fukuzumi, Henri Troyer, Russia in the Late Imperial Period, p. 51-52.

There is no middle class in Russia. Everything is extreme.

This is a very important point.

In fact, before this passage, the book shows the luxurious lifestyle of the aristocracy and wealthy people. That would be Tverskaya Street at the end of the quote above. This extreme disparity between poverty and wealth. In this section, we can see the distortion of Russian society in all social systems.

The book also introduces various other events, such as the religious situation, especially the Russian Orthodox Church, and the workers who work in poor conditions, the inner workings of the army, and the life of the peasants.

It is a very useful book to learn what Russian society was like at that time. Moreover, it is an easy-to-read novel.

I highly recommend it to learn about Russian society after Dostoevsky's death.

The above is "Henri Troyer's Russia at the End of the Empire - To understand Russian society after the death of Dostoevsky.

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