Who Holds the Axe? Violence and Peasants in Nineteenth-Century Russian Depictions of the Forest

Publication Title

Slavic Review

Document Type


Department or Program

Environmental Studies

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In this article, Jane Costlow considers the ways in which Ivan Turgenev and Vladimir Korolenko use literary conventions--from gothic setting and narrative voice to metaphors of natural community--to reflect on poaching, violence, usufruct, and rational forestry. While both authors demonstrate concern for the fate of Russia's forests, the narratives discussed here (two stories and a travel memoir) are tempered by a sense of complex moral and political context, and the realities of property law and class both before and after 1861. Costlow considers foresters' advice and assumptions about peasant violence and the need for "enlightened" surveillance but focuses on imaginative writing that refuses simple solutions to vexed questions. Turgenev's narrative emphasizes the moral entanglements of a narrator who wants to intervene and protect, whereas Korolenko's account of the trans-Volga woodlands balances critique and ecological vision in dialogic form.


Original version is available from the publisher at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20453266

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