Ruzanna Ilukhina (peace historian, Tolstoyan), 1992

Ruzanna Ilukhina interview, June 1992 in Moscow
Interviewer — Metta Spencer
I heard that Ilukhina moved to Germany about 15 years ago but I haven’t traced her.

Before the interview she shows me around her apartment and we talk about the history of the apartment house where she lives. It is a famous place built by Stalin for his elite, who were mostly purged. There is a book about it, “The House By the Embankment,” she calls it.

MS: You say that there was an underground pacifist movement in Russia?

Ilukhina: Yes, in history. Until perestroika.

MS: Until perestroika. When you say “underground,” that means to me that there were secret understanding among people, that they recognized each other as pacifists.

Ilukhina: I mean, at first they were special intellectuals, unique intellectuals, as for example Daniil Andreev, with his Rise of Peace, a religious writer who wrote in fifties in prison, for example. It has been published in Russian. Then there were some people who identified themselves as Tolstoyans — groups of Tolstoyans who wrote memoirs in prison. They thought of themselves as adherents of Tolstoy, as pacifists. Maybe they did not use the word pacifist because they were very simple people; they were peasants. And it was that generation which worked with Tolstoy, Chekhov and that trends.

MS: The people who thought of themselves as Tolstoyans were not sophisticated people, not intellectuals, but peasants?

Ilukhina: Yes, they were very simple because Russia has its peasant ground. The social soil of Russian pacifism always was peasant. If we see Russian history, it is a special problem. And now, they have the response of Tolstoyans as peasants. Doukhobors — you know Doukhabors? Then some protestant confessions, as Adventists. German Mennonites. Witness of Jehovah. Then Russian Orthodox Molocans. So these little religious groups were in prison underground.

MS: Even Jehovah’s Witnesses existed here during the Stalin period?

Ilukhina: Yes. They were in prison and they were accused of being fascist agents. So it is one trend. Another trend was intellectual people after the Second World War. Physics. They did not identify themselves as pacifists, but they were anti-militarists. But government accused them, as Sakharov, Kapitza, and other physicists, academicians.

MS: Besides Sakharov and Kapitza there were other physicists? Such as?

Ilukhina: No, Sakharov, Kapitza — I don’t know. It is a new problem which we must think about. Most of them put ideas forward against the atom bomb. And they were accused by the Soviet government as pacifists. But it’s another problem. It’s another. Because they were not pacifists in their style but they were anti-militarists and afterwards they came to the Pugwash movement. Intellectual movement against atom bomb. After, some of them. It was the beginning at that time, from Sakharov. And then the conception of Academician Sakharov of a non-violent alternative of Russia— antimilitaristic, and the human rights. It was nonviolent obsession was human rights, antimilitarism, and the congregation of Russia with the West. It was three ideas. I call it the nonviolent alternative for Russia, from three sources.

And then, dissident movement. From the beginning, from opposition to Prague invasion, ’68. And then there were some groups — as Helsinki Group and Group Confidence — the name of the group, Group Confidence.

MS: That I don’t know. I don’t know Group Confidence.

Ilukhina: “____[Dareria?]” in Russian. So it is underground pacifism and anti-militarism — underground because all people of this were in prison.

MS: Oh, I know: Group for Trust.

Ilukhina: Yes, Trust. So it is some trends, quite different trends from Russian underground ____. And Sakharov was the ideological leader, because this movement was anti-militarism, plus help for the human rights. Specific antimilitarism in Russia, because human rights was one of the big principles of this movement.

It is one thing. Then we have the official movement. It’s quite another thing, official. So we broaden our problem: underground pacifism and official fight for peace. Official fight for peace also has a very long history. It begins from Marx’s idea of peace through world revolution. It has its history and in Russia it was the Comintern—you know Comintern also has idea of peace through world revolution. Peace through aggression. Peace through violence. It is more common. So this committee, which was born in 1949, was the communist idea of peace through violence. This movement consisted through elitarian circles of intellectuals, some elitarian workers, but for the most part, agents of KGB. They put this organization for a special role, and it is a paradox that many pacifists were tortured by Peace Committee. And they are guilty, from my point of view, in two things. FirsT thing is that they shut their eyes to Soviet militarism. They told everybody in the world how to live, how to disarm, but they didn’t want to see that their own country’s military complex, which grows in these years. They only accused American imperialism, but they didn’t want to accuse, in any case, Soviet imperialism.

All these historical events must be gathered in one structure, what trends the peace situation was in Russia. So I analyzed it and came to the conclusion that now we may say that it was underground antimilitarism and pacifism, with the idea of nonviolence, and another governmental “fight for peace.” I wrote in my brochure that we may remember the words of Roman Rolland, who said about those people, “responsibilism—the peace which leads to war. Responsibilism,” he said. You see, in that time Romain Rolland named such people “responsibilism.” So I wrote it that please remember what Roman Rolland said in the thirties — “responsibilism, the peace which leads to war.”

MS: Where will your brochure be published?

Ilukhina: Now it is in the hands of my American colleague, Charles Chatfield. I gave it to him last year.

MS: I know him.

Ilukhina: You know Charles? He’s my best friend.

MS: He asked me to call you last summer at the END convention.

Ilukhina: I was also at the END convention. We had a special session: nonviolent revolution in Russia.

MS: But somehow we didn’t connect.

Ilukhina: END is also antimilitaristic organization but not pacifist organization. It is very political organization, and when Thompson was at the head, it had its conception. But now the heads of this organization are not very intellectual people and it has no special conception of doing something. So many ideas—

MS: Tell me about your own secret history. You were a Tolstoyan all along?

Ilukhina: From my point of view I was a specialist in West European peace movement — from League of Nations to peace movement in the thirties. The pacifism in the first part of the 20th century. And then when we met with American historians, we decided to produce a book — the idea of peace in history, from the Christ to the end of the second world war. It’s a documentary volume. Now it is ready in English and will be published in English and Russian at the beginning of next year. So it will be identical volumes. We have five writers from the United States in the head of Charles and Sandy Cooper, also my best friend.

MS: I was on a committee for a program, we had a conference on the history of peace in Toronto, as you may know.

Ilukhina: I am on the board of this international board of director, committee of peace research in history in America. And we understand that it is impossible to write such a book without Russian peace ideas, because Russia’s spiritual heritage is a part of Western civilization. And we found some Russian documents from the twelfth century, from medieval Russia, from eighteenth century, from 19th century, and we did some documents from Tolstoy, Kropotkin, Plekhanov. Then we agreed that we must put there also the communist idea of peace. It exists. We can’t put it out of history. It exists from French revolution. We found some documents from French Revolution by this intellectual who was the father of such ideas: peace through world republic —it’s from French Revolution. So this history existed in the world and it had very negative results, of course, but it was in history. So we put social democracy thinking of peace, communist thinking of peace, we have thinking of peace in very different directions. It will be very interesting work. A classic volume. And another result is that I now have many American friends. We are very close to each other.

MS: Chatfield, Sandy Cooper, and —-

Ilukhina: then Carol Fink, it is a specialist in international policy, Geneva conference work. And I have forgotten who else.

MS: These are historians you met in this recent work? What about your own convictions?

Ilukhina: And then, and then, and after my scientific research work, I came to conclusion that we must think about the Russian situation. From ’85 or ’86 I began to read Tolstoyan works, because in Russia we did not know Tolstoy. WE knew his novels but nobody knew Tolstoy’s social and religious work. And I understood that the more the Russians — I became very close to Quakers. We have a Quaker group in Russia now and I’m a very religious woman now — I think because I’m old. Quakerism is not very Russian. It will be very difficult to have many Quaker supporters in Russia. I understand this. But Tolstoy is very popular in Russia —not as a thinker but as a romanist [novelist], but if people will read his most religious and social works, they will be his adherents. And it was true. And when we organized the peace society in Russia we took the model from the West, because I know was thinking about how to organize peace society, pacifist society, and we take the structure and tried to put it in Russian soil without Russian ideas. It was our fault.

MS: You should have made it more Russian?

Ilukhina: Yes.

MS: Tell me how.

Ilukhina: It was the [subject?] And our second step was to go to Russian religious pacifism and to Tolstoyans. And we go to Russian Doukhabors. They came to us. Doukhabors, Molocans, and protestants. And then we try now to revive Tolstoyan movement as the basis of Russian pacifist [soul?]. It is very difficult because people don’t believe Tolstoy as a thinker because our conception of Tolstoy is a Lenin model. Lenin wrote a book in 1906 — Tolstoy is the Mirror of Russian Revolution. And the main idea is that Tolstoy is a great romanist, but very bad social thinker. Our people were educated in such a way that nobody knows Tolstoy as a thinker.

MS: But you now have a group of Tolstoyans.

Ilukhina: Yes. Many people. People must be organized. We had two years ago we had only supported, some our politicians, democracy and human rights and so on. And now we try to understand who we are. It is to identify ourselves. We must also write a volume at first. Scientists and humanists must understand who we are. So, because of this, we try to write this volume and we support this seminar about Russian pacifists, nonviolent pacifists. If we have such a volume, then we shall go to TV, then we organize a magazine, very definite conception. This conception must be Russian conception, but not Quaker conception. And it must have its Russian heroes, nonviolence heroes, and it has its tradition from before Peter the Great we had such a tradition. From Russian side people.

There are some practical situation in which we must take part. The most difficult and most painful is alternative service for people because many religious people don’t want to go to military service. And in this case, we have many contacts with Sasha Kalinin. So you know the situation. And also we have organization, Mothers of Soldiers. It is split. It is a very painful problem for these mothers because the mothers whose children are killed are considered mad. No, they are not mad, but they have so big pain in their heart that they are very cruel to another mother whose children are not killed.

MS: Yes, I can sense this from having observed them.

Ilukhina: Yes, because of this. Now there are different organizations of Soldiers Mothers.

MS: The women whose children were killed are separate.

Ilukhina: Yes, separate. They are very cruel. It was true. And they can do the most adventuristic acts to which other mothers will attend. It’s one thing. And another thing, many political persons — politicians — they use these mothers in their goals. That’s very bad.

. . . Tolstoyan groups. Three intellectual groups. It’s our historian philosopher, psychological. Then we have one nonviolence group. Then we have some groups of Soldiers Mothers. Then we have a nonviolence centre in Tula. Then we have a seminar in Tula at the nonviolence centre there.

MS: Where do you meet?

Ilukhina: Yes, we have meetings here, and we have a special centre. It is in ___ Street. But my hope now is connected with one organization. Now we have the religious centre on the Church of Leo Tolstoy. The father, Zickers, was educated in the Unity Church in the United States, and he has money now to organize a Tolstoyan movement and to help. So now we try to organize a Congress of Adherents of Tolstoy. To organize Tolstoyan agrarian communes, and to publish a magazine — World Without Violence. He is rather young — near 40 — he is full of life and willing to do so, and we must begin from a religious possibility. It is true because all history shows that pacifism begins to live from religious groups in W. Europe and in Russia also because we have another road now. Because people are not ready for that nonviolence. They don’t understand what is nonviolence. It is a joke but it happened with me. We had a little manifestation near the Lithuanian embassy when there was the massacre in Lithuania. We protested. And the slogan was “nonviolence.” One woman came to me and asked, “What is nonviolence?” It is when a woman doesn’t want that a man do something with her. It is not nonviolence; it is a very worst word. “I don’t understand,” she said, “because we have the word ‘nonviolence’; it is in our dictionary.”

But now we have antimilitaristic groups but very little part of pacifist groups.

Audio file

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The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books