Sviyazhsky glanced at Levin with smiling eyes and even gave him a barely noticeable mocking sign, but Levin did not find the landowner’s words ridiculous – he understood them better than he did Sviyazhsky. And much of what the landowner went on to say, proving why Russia had been ruined by the emancipation, seemed to him very true, new and irrefutable. The landowner was obviously voicing his own thought, which happens rarely, and this thought had not been arrived at by a desire to somehow occupy an idle mind, but had grown out of the conditions of his own life, had been hatched out in his country solitude and considered on all sides.
‘The point, kindly note, is that all progress is achieved by authority alone,’ he said, apparently wishing to show that he was no stranger to education. ‘Take the reforms of Peter, Catherine, Alexander. Take European history. The more so with progress in agricultural methods. Take the potato – even it was introduced here by force. The wooden plough hasn’t always been in use either. It was probably introduced before the tsars, and also introduced by force. Now, in our time, under serfdom, we landowners carried on our farming with improvements. Drying kilns, winnowers, the carting of dung, and all the tools – we introduced everything by our authority, and the muzhiks first resisted and then imitated us. Now, sirs, with the abolition of serfdom, our authority has been taken away, and our farming, where it was brought to a high level, is bound to sink to the most savage, primitive condition. That’s how I understand it.’
—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 230