Letter from Leo Tolstoy to the Commander of the Ekaterinograd Penal Battalion
Sir,—Pardon me, please, for addressing you without using your Christian and parental names. I have not been able to ascertain them; but the matter of enormous importance, as well for me as for you, concerning which I have to write to you, does not bear delay.
This matter concerns the confinement in your battalion of the Caucasian Spirit-Wrestlers who have refused military service.
The military authorities, who have condemned them, and you, who are executing on them the sentence of the Court, evidently regard the conduct of these men as harmful, and believe in the efficacy of those severe measures which are directed against them. But there are people, and many (to whose number I also belong), who regard the conduct of the Spirit-Wrestlers as great heroism, most useful for humanity. In this light, such conduct was regarded by the ancient Christians, and similarly it is, and will be regarded by true Christians of the new time.
Thus the views concerning the conduct of the Spirit-Wrestlers may be entirely opposite. In one point only all are agreed, both those who regard this conduct as good and useful, and those who believe it to be harmful:—on this point, namely, that men who refuse the military sevice from religious conviction, and are ready to endure for this every kind of suffering and even death, are not vicious, but highly moral