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Chapter 29

The carrying out of Levin's plan presented many difficulties; but
he struggled on, doing his utmost, and attained a result which,
though not what he desired, was enough to enable him, without
self-deception, to believe that the attempt was worth the
trouble. One of the chief difficulties was that the process of
cultivating the land was in full swing, that it was impossible to
stop everything and begin it all again from the beginning, and
the machine had to be mended while in motion.

When on the evening that he arrived home he informed the bailiff
of his plans, the latter with visible pleasure agreed with what
he said so long as he was pointing out that all that had been
done up to that time was stupid and useless. The bailiff said
that he had said so a long while ago, but no heed had been paid
him. But as for the proposal made by Levin--to take a part as
shareholder with his laborers in each agricultural undertaking--
at this the bailiff simply expressed a profound despondency, and
offered no definite opinion, but began immediately talking of the
urgent necessity of carrying the remaining sheaves of rye the
next day, and of sending the men out for the second ploughing, so
that Levin felt that this was not the time for discussing it.

On beginning to talk to the peasants about it, and making a
proposition to cede them the land on new terms, he came into
collision with the same great difficulty that they were so much
absorbed by the current work of the day, that they had not time
to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed

The simple-hearted Ivan, the cowherd, seemed completely to grasp
Levin's proposal--that he should with his family take a share of
the profits of the cattle-yard--and he was in complete sympathy
with the plan. But when Levin hinted at the future advantages,
Ivan's face expressed alarm and regret that he could not hear all
he had to say, and he made haste to find himself some task that
would admit of no delay: he either snatched up the fork to pitch
the hay out of the pens, or ran to get water or to clear out the

Another difficulty lay in the invincible disbelief of the peasant
that a landowner's object could be anything else than a desire to
squeeze all he could out of them. They were firmly convinced
that his real aim (whatever he might say to them) would always be
in what he did not say to them. And they themselves, in giving
their opinion, said a great deal but never said what was their
real object. Moreover (Levin felt that the irascible landowner
had been right) the peasants made their first and unalterable
condition of any agreement whatever that they should not be
forced to any new methods of tillage of any kind, nor to use new
implements. They agreed that the modern plough ploughed better,
that the scarifier did the work more quickly, but they found
thousands of reasons that made it out of the question for them to
use either of them; and though he had accepted the conviction
that he would have to lower the standard of cultivation, he felt
sorry to give up improved methods, the advantages of which were
so obvious. But in spite of all these difficulties he got his
way, and by autumn the system was working, or at least so it
seemed to him.

At first Levin had thought of giving up the whole farming of the
land just as it was to the peasants, the laborers, and the
bailiff on new conditions of partnership; but he was very soon
convinced that this was impossible, and determined to divide it
up. The cattle-yard, the garden, hay fields, and arable land,
divided into several parts, had to be made into separate lots.
The simple-hearted cowherd, Ivan, who, Levin fancied, understood
the matter better than any of them, collecting together a gang of
workers to help him, principally of his own family, became a
partner in the cattle-yard. A distant part of the estate, a
tract of waste land that had lain fallow for eight years, was
with the help of the clever carpenter, Fyodor Ryezunov, taken by
six families of peasants on new conditions of partnership, and
the peasant Shuraev took the management of all the vegetable
gardens on the same terms. The remainder of the land was still
worked on the old system, but these three associated partnerships
were the first step to a new organization of the whole, and they
completely took up Levin's time.

It is true that in the cattle-yard things went no better than
before, and Ivan strenuously opposed warm housing for the cows
and butter made of fresh cream, affirming that cows require less
food if kept cold, and that butter is more profitable made from
sour cream, and he asked for wages just as under the old system,
and took not the slightest interest in the fact that the money he
received was not wages but an advance out of his future share in
the profits.

It is true that Fyodor Ryezunov's company did not plough over the
ground twice before sowing, as had been agreed, justifying
themselves on the plea that the time was too short. It is true
that the peasants of the same company, though they had agreed to
work the land on new conditions, always spoke of the land, not as
held in partnership, but as rented for half the crop, and more
than once the peasants and Ryezunov himself said to Levin, "If
you would take a rent for the land, it would save you trouble,
and we should be more free." Moreover the same peasants kept
putting off, on various excuses, the building of a cattleyard and
barn on the land as agreed upon, and delayed doing it till the

It is true that Shuraev would have liked to let out the kitchen
gardens he had undertaken in small lots to the peasants. He
evidently quite misunderstood, and apparently intentionally
misunderstood, the conditions upon which the land had been given
to him.

Often, too, talking to the peasants and explaining to them all
the advantages of the plan, Levin felt that the peasants heard
nothing but the sound of his voice, and were firmly resolved,
whatever he might say, not to let themselves be taken in. He
felt this especially when he talked to the cleverest of the
peasants, Ryezunov, and detected the gleam in Ryezunov's eyes
which showed so plainly both ironical amusement at Levin, and the
firm conviction that, if any one were to be taken in, it would
not be he, Ryezunov. But in spite of all this Levin thought the
system worked, and that by keeping accounts strictly and
insisting on his own way, he would prove to them in the future
the advantages of the arrangement, and then the system would go
of itself.

These matters, together with the management of the land still
left on his hands, and the indoor work over his book, so
engrossed Levin the whole summer that he scarcely ever went out
shooting. At the end of August he heard that the Oblonskys had
gone away to Moscow, from their servant who brought back the
side-saddle. He felt that in not answering Darya Alexandrovna's
letter he had by his rudeness, of which he could not think
without a flush of shame, burned his ships, and that he would
never go and see them again. He had been just as rude with the
Sviazhskys, leaving them without saying good-bye. But he would
never go to see them again either. He did not care about that
now. The business of reorganizing the farming of his land
absorbed him as completely as though there would never be
anything else in his life. He read the books lent him by
Sviazhsky, and copying out what he had not got, he read both the
economic and socialistic books on the subject, but, as he had
anticipated, found nothing bearing on the scheme he had
undertaken. In the books on political economy--in Mill, for
instance, whom he studied first with great ardor, hoping every
minute to find an answer to the questions that were engrossing
him--he found laws deduced from the condition of land culture in
Europe; but he did not see why these laws, which did not apply in
Russia, must be general. He saw just the same thing in the
socialistic books: either they were the beautiful but
impracticable fantasies which had fascinated him when he was a
student, or they were attempts at improving, rectifying the
economic position in which Europe was placed, with which the
system of land tenure in Russia had nothing in common. Political
economy told him that the laws by which the wealth of Europe had
been developed, and was developing, were universal and unvarying.
Socialism told him that development along these lines leads to
ruin. And neither of them gave an answer, or even a hint, in
reply to the question what he, Levin, and all the Russian
peasants and landowners, were to do with their millions of hands
and millions of acres, to make them as productive as possible for
the common weal.

Having once taken the subject up, he read conscientiously
everything bearing on it, and intended in the autumn to go abroad
to study land systems on the spot, in order that he might not on
this question be confronted with what so often met him on various
subjects. Often, just as he was beginning to understand the idea
in the mind of anyone he was talking to, and was beginning to
explain his own, he would suddenly be told: "But Kauffmann, but
Jones, but Dubois, but Michelli? You haven't read them: they've
thrashed that question out thoroughly."

He saw now distinctly that Kauffmann and Michelli had nothing to
tell him. He knew what he wanted. He saw that Russia has
splendid land, splendid laborers, and that in certain cases, as
at the peasant's on the way to Sviazhsky's, the produce raised by
the laborers and the land is great--in the majority of cases
when capital is applied in the European way the produce is small,
and that this simply arises from the fact that the laborers want
to work and work well only in their own peculiar way, and that
this antagonism is not incidental but invariable, and has its
roots in the national spirit. He thought that the Russian people
whose task it was to colonize and cultivate vast tracts of
unoccupied land, consciously adhered, till all their land was
occupied, to the methods suitable to their purpose, and that
their methods were by no means so bad as was generally supposed.
And he wanted to prove this theoretically in his book and
practically on his land.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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