Tag Archives: crimean war

LEO TOLSTOY-Among the World’s Greatest Writers … by Janina Gomes

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Leo Tolstoy

It is difficult to write about one of the greatest writers that ever existed and to trace the influence of his life experiences on his writings, but we can only try to do justice to him and his seminal novels ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ by a short biography of his life.

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was born to an aristocratic Russian family. His mother died when he was two years old and his father when he was nine years old.  He and his siblings were raised by his relatives.  His studies at Kazan University, where he was studying law and oriental languages, which he left in the middle, seemed to invite the disdain of his teachers who described him as both unable and unwilling to learn.

He returned to his family estate at Yasnaya Polyana, and spent his life visiting Moscow, Tula and St. Petersburg leading a lax and luxurious life. After incurring heavy gambling debts, he went with his older brother and joined the Russian Army in 1851. He served as a young artillery officer during the Crimean War and was in Sevastopol during the 11 month long siege of Sevastopol in 1854-55. During the war he was recognized for his courage and promoted to Lieutenant. But he was appalled by the number of deaths there were in warfare and after the Crimean War, he left the Army. His experience in the Army and two tours to Europe in 1857 and 1860-61 changed him from a dissolute and privileged society author to a non-violent and spiritual anarchist. During his 1857 visit to Paris, he witnessed a public execution, a trauma that marked him for life.

Two great French writers and intellectuals who influenced him and his work were Victor Hugo and Joseph Proudhon. With the latter his discussions also focused on education. These interactions so fired him with enthusiasm that he returned to his family estate to set up 13 schools for the children of Russian peasants who had just been emancipated from serfdom in 1861.

Tolstoy’s major novels’ War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ and his novellas such as ‘Hadji Murad’ and the ‘Death of ‘Ivan Ilyich’ all consistently attempted to convey realistically the Russian society in which he lived. ‘The Cossacks’ (1863) describes the Cossack life and people. ‘Anna Karenina’( 1877) tells parallel stories of an adulterous woman trapped in the conventions  and falsities of society and a  philosophical landowner( much like Tolstoy) who worked alongside the peasants in the fields and sought to reform their lives. Tolstoy not only drew on his life experiences but also created characters in his own image such as, Pierre Bezukhov and Prince Andrei in ‘War and Peace’ and Levin in ‘Anna Karenina’.

‘War and Peace’ is remarkable for its dramatic breadth and unity, which includes 580 characters, many of them historical figures and some fictional ones. The story encompasses a vast canvas and moves from family life to the headquarters of Napolean, and from the court of Alexander I of Russia to the battlefields of Austerlitz and Borodino. Its grandeur and scope make it one of the greatest novels ever written.

  In the 1870’s Tolstoy experienced a profound moral crisis and a profound spiritual awakening as outlined in his non-fictional work ‘The Confession’ (1882). His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus centering on his Sermon on the Mount’ caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. His ideas on non-violent resistance expressed in such works as ‘The Kingdom of God is Within You’ had a pivotal influence on two great leaders of the 20th century- Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King .Jr.

His contemporaries, among whom we can count, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustav Flaubert and Anton Chekov paid him lofty tributes. And in the words of British poet and critic, Mathew Arnold: “A novel by Tolstoy is not a work of art but a piece of life”.

Janina Gomes 

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our Publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai; Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida; India. Shoolini University, Yogananda Knowledge Center, Himachal Pradesh and Azim Premzi University, Bangalore).  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi; Available for reading in Indian National Bibliography, March 2016, in the literature section, in Central Reference Library, Ministry of Culture, India, Belvedere, Kolkata-700022)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K; Herrick District Library, Holland and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, USA).

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

MIRAGE

(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)

(ALL THE ABOVE BOOK TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

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FACTS FIGURES & QUOTES: SALE OF ALASKA: A LESSON FOR THE WORLD

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    Flora and fauna are generally visible in the treasures of mother earth whereas, mines and minerals need to be dug out, in other words they need to be discovered. To simplify, what is overt is known to all. But what is covert needs to be discovered. “No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.” said Isaac Newton. That brings me to the story of Alaska. The purchase of Alaska or the sale of Alaska was, United States’ acquisition of Alaska from the Russian Empire. Alaska was formally transferred to the United States on October 18, 1867, through a treaty ratified by the United States Senate and signed by President Andrew Johnson.

    History corroborates that Russia had established a considerable presence in North America during the first half of the seventeenth century, but few Russians ever settled in Alaska. In the aftermath of the Crimean War, Emperor Alexander II of Russia began exploring the possibility of selling Alaska, as it would have been difficult to defend it from Britain and other countries in the event of any future war. After the end of the American Civil War, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward entered into negotiations with Russian minister Eduard de Stoeckl for the purchase of Alaska. Seward and Stoeckl both agreed to a treaty on March 30, 1867. The treaty was approved by the United States Senate by a wide margin despite clashes between President Johnson and Congress over the sanity of its purchase.

    The purchase of Alaska added 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2) of new territory to the United States for the cost of $7.2 million. Say 2 cents per acre. Reactions to the purchase in the United States were mostly positive, as many believed possession of Alaska would serve as a base to expand and facilitate American trade into Asia. However, some opponents labelled the purchase as “Seward’s Folly“, or “Seward’s Icebox,” as they contended that the United States had acquired useless land mass that’ll not be of much use to the US in times to come.

    But Seward could prophesy. Or he could measure the future potential of Alaska and its future usefulness in the opportunities arising in the US. He knew Alaska’s potential and could visualise how USA will benefit with Alaska’s resources and strategic position in the globe. Over the decades, exploration led to the discovery of gold, oil and rich minerals, along with the world’s most abundant fisheries. And so decades later, Seward was posthumously vindicated.

    In the summer of 1899, gold was finally struck around Nome in west Alaska. That brings me to the point: Check what lies underground. For what lies underground could just be another gold mine just as Alaska. And on hindsight when we look back we find both, the Secretary of the State, William Seward and the United States of America, look like outright heroes, as compared to the Russian minister Eduard de Stoeckl  and Russia itself who look pale in front of them.

    In world history there have been many instances even after 1867 (when America purchased Alaska), where countries have divested their territories in settlement of disputes, and rogue countries have grabbed territories of civilised countries, names of which are pretty obvious and are available in history texts.  And why go anywhere else. Even India, was partitioned on the ground of religion, which the citizenry of India has not been able to reconcile to even after seventy years. But the case of Alaska was truly different where an Emperor on the possibility of a future war divested Alaska-then part of the North American Continent for a pittance without studying what lies underground.  

    This conveys an important lesson to our posterity and that is, underground is as important as over ground. Metaphorically also, what lies in our innate conscience is equally important to your external personality.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

MIRAGE

(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories. It is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****