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Ne mogu molchat’: o smertnykh nakazaniiakh [I cannot be silent: about the death penalty].

Berlin: J. Ladyschnikow verlag, 1903. Octavo (20 × 13.5 cm). Original printed wrappers; 45, [4] pp. Publisher’s catalog to rear wrapper. Wrappers lightly discolored; still very good.

The first foreign edition of Tolstoy’s banned anti-death penalty essay, written in response to an announcement of the execution of twenty peasants in the newspaper “Rus” in May 1908. A passionate ethical thinker, Tolstoy (1828-1910) was always against the death penalty, first writing about it as early as 1847 in one of his student essays. In 1857 he witnessed a public execution in Paris, an event that shook him to the core. He famously described the experience in a letter to the literary critic Vasili Botkin, and subsequently referred to it in numerous literary works. Tolstoy’s last essay, “Deistvitel’noe sredstvo” (The real solution, 1910) was also devoted to the topic of the death penalty.

Following the 1905 revolution, the Russian government tended toward harsher measures against any manner of peasant insubordination, and the executions that inspired Tolstoy’s essay were part of the trend. Excerpts from this essay were first printed in July 1908 in the newspapers “Russkie Vedomosti”, “Slovo”, “Rech”, “Sovremennoe slovo” and “Russkoe slovo” among others. All the newspapers that printed the passages were fined, with one publisher arrested for pasting the editions with the essay in public places all over Sevastopol. A full version of the essay was printed by an illegal printing house in Tula in August 1908. In the same year, a Marxist Russian language publisher J. Ladyschnikow verlag, associated with the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP) published this edition in Berlin. The preface to the essay noted that although Tolstoy was “not in favor of the Russian liberation movement,” the publisher nevertheless sees the work as historically significant and thus offers it to the reader. KVK, OCLC show copies of this edition at Geneva, Copenhagen University, National Library of Israel, LSE, UCL and Queen’s University (Canada).

Book ID: P6538

Price: $350.00