Vegetarianism, environmentalism, criticism of urban civilization, a suspicious attitude toward sexuality very characteristic of the sexual counterrevolution that we are experiencing now, both on the left and on the right.
The idea of nonviolent resistance as the main form of political action (perhaps put into doubt by recent events, but which had been steadily gaining momentum in previous decades). This idea spread more in the form given to it by Gandhi and King, but both Gandhi and King were, as you know, students of Tolstoy.
Or take, for example, the widespread trend of downshifting – Lev Nikolaevich, of course, was a staunch downshifter. And so, take whatever you like: the fight against the death penalty, what is called penal abolition, the abolition of prisons, criticism of the ideology of patriotism, the idea of the universality of human nature... What seemed strange and extravagant in the late Tolstoy has now become very important.
Ti: Nowadays there is a lot of talk about “empire” [imperstvo]. Sometimes it seems like it’s just a label for everything bad. The word “imperialist” seems especially strange when applied to writers. Brodsky, Pushkin. They also sometimes say Tolstoy was an imperialist. But what does that mean? The talk about so-called “imperialness” [imperskost’], if we are talking about Russia, about the history of Russia – what is this?
AZ: Empire is a historical form that created identities based on a distinct division between metropolis and periphery, or colonies. This contrast can be looked at in different ways. Horace and Virgil, whom no one seems to be proposing to cancel yet, were proud of their empire and their emperor, while, say, Lermontov hated his empire and dreamed of hiding from its tsars “behind the wall of the Caucasus.”
Like most historical entities, empires had both attractive and ugly sides. Quite often the metropolis asserted its superiority, including in the cultural sphere, with the most ferocious violence. On the other hand, many empires prided themselves on their openness to people from the lower classes, both in social and ethnic terms. People from the periphery came and made careers in the capitals. Let us just remember Horace, how he became Augustus’s favorite poet... In both Pushkin and Brodsky we can find imperial motifs, as in many great, not very great and not at all great poets, writers, artists from different countries.
Empires arose, experienced golden ages and collapsed. In the 19th century, empires everywhere began to shake, and the 20th century brought the downfall of a series of empires around the world. Because of the communist experiment, the Russian empire in a new shell was preserved 75 years longer than other continental ones, and 30-40 years longer than the large maritime ones.