Refusals to serve in the military and development of the Russian pacifist movement in the late 19th — early 20th century

Gordeeva I.A. Refusals to serve in the military and development of the Russian pacifist movement in the late 19th — early 20th century // The Russian Peasant Studies. 2018. V.3. №4. P. 78-104.

DOI: 10.22394/2500-1809-2018-3-4-78-104


The Russian pacifist movement originated at the turn of the 20th century mainly due to the Tolstoyans. To explain its social-political and ethical views the movement referred to the ideas of Leo Tolstoy, philosophy of non-violence and civil resistance, and Russian and foreign religious movements. The pacifist movement began with the attempts of the Tolstoyans to protect the like-minded people and other believers who refused to serve in the army on religious and ideological grounds. The leaders of the pacifist movement considered conscientious objection the most important religious and ethical protest of the Russian people. Despite the fact that many its leaders represented privileged social groups, the movement consisted of sectarian and peasant groups. They became a kind of peasant scholars and conducted a large-scale study of the people’s protest traditions to develop the mass social basis of the pacifist movement. The article also considers the Tolstoyans’ efforts to turn “weapons of the weak” — traditional methods of people’s protest (various forms of flight and refusals to cooperate with the state, autonomous communities, etc.) — into effective forms of civil disobedience. 


Russian pacifist movement, conscientious objection, Russian sectarianism, national religious movements, Tolstoyan movement, nonviolence, civil disobedience.

About the author

Gordeeva Irina A., PhD (History), Associate Professor, Saint Philaret Christian Orthodox Institute. 105062, Moscow, Pokrovka St., 29.
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


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