Serfin’ USA

Day 185 of A Year of War and Peace

In today’s chapter Russia’s nobility gathers at the Sloboda Palace. They’re all dressed up in their nice noble uniforms. The grandfathers are decorated in the style of Catherine, the fathers in the style of Paul, and the new generation, naturally, just how Alexander likes it. The purpose of their gathering, so nicely suited, is to listen to the Emperor’s manifesto and then to decide how best to raise troops to fight the Emperor’s war against Napoleon.

This is a difficult chapter for contemporaries to read because what is meant by “raise troops” is really little more than the nobility deciding how many of their serfs they will force to fight in the war. Even characters we love, like Pierre, freely offer up these serfs as if they were nothing more than horses to be traded. There is no consultation with the serfs. There is no freedom of choice.

Those nobles better be careful. They have such a nice life. It’d be a shame if a revolution were to ruin it.


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

United States Declaration of Independence

This is the one hundred and eighty-fifth installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

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