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Reception of Tolstoy by the Japanese Revolutionaries before and after the Russo-Japanese War

KYOUNGHWA LIM 1

1서울대학교 인문학연구원

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In this article, I will shed light on the reception of Tolstoy by Japan’s early socialists while having in my mind the chronologically overlapping criticisms against Tolstoy made by Lenin. At the early stage of the development of the socialist movement in Japan, Tolstoy’s seemingly pro-socialist stance based on absolute pacifism was instrumental in making the image of a socialist party striving to obtain the opportunities for legal activity. The socialist anti-war position was also seen as “Tolstoyist”. However, as soon as Tolstoy’s criticisms of the Russo-Japanese War became known in Japan, the local socialists could not help sensing serious limitations in the possibilities for the realization of basic societal reforms and social justice inside the Tolstoyist framework of society’s rebuilding based on the revival of personal religiosity. The same skeptical attitude can be seen in Lenin’s criticism of Tolstoy. Following the course of Russia’s 1905-07 revolution, Tolstoy’s “non-resistance” became a target of criticisms as well. Concomitantly, Kōtoku’s group evolved into anarchists following the Russian revolutionary events, and embraced anarchic communism and the method of direct actions. Lenin, at the same historical moment, found a reason for the 1905-07 Revolution’s defeat in the peasant “non-resistance” articulated by Tolstoy. However, Lenin also found that “Tolstoyism”, together with negative features typical for peasant dissenters, exhibited such a positive quality as willingness to build a socialist society free from exploitation. The latter was to be considered to be Tolstoy’s historical contribution. In Japan, however, as revolutionaries were cruelly suppressed during and after the “High Treason” trials of 1911, Tolstoy’s radicalism was now to be hidden away from the public’s eyes.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.