Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To I. I. Orlov.

YALTA, February 22, 1899.

. . . In your letter there is a text from Scripture. To your complaint in regard to the tutor and failures of all sorts I will reply by another text: “Put not thy trust in princes nor in any sons of man” . . . and I recall another expression in regard to the sons of man, those in particular who so annoy you: they are the sons of their age.

Not the tutor but the whole educated class — that is to blame, my dear sir. While the young men and women are students they are a good honest set, they are our hope, they are the future of Russia, but no sooner do those students enter upon independent life and become grown up than our hope and the future of Russia vanishes in smoke, and all that is left in the filter is doctors owning house property, hungry government clerks, and thieving engineers. Remember that Katkov, Pobyedonostsev, Vishnegradsky, were nurselings of the Universities, that they were our Professors — not military despots, but professors, luminaries. . . . I don’t believe in our educated class, which is hypocritical, false, hysterical, badly educated and indolent. I don’t believe in it even when it’s suffering and complaining, for its oppressors come from its own entrails. I believe in individual people, I see salvation in individual personalities scattered here and there all over Russia — educated people or peasants — they have strength though they are few. No prophet is honoured in his own country, but the individual personalities of whom I am speaking play an unnoticed part in society, they are not domineering, but their work can be seen; anyway, science is advancing and advancing, social self-consciousness is growing, moral questions begin to take an uneasy character, and so on, and so on-and all this is being done in spite of the prosecutors, the engineers, and the tutors, in spite of the intellectual class en masse and in spite of everything. . . .

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