The Soutaïevtzi (founded in 1880 by a working-man of Tver, named
Soutaïeff) scoffed at the clergy, the ikons, the sacraments, and
military service, while upholding the principle of communal possession.
They very soon became notorious. Soutaïeff travelled all over the
country preaching that true Christianity consists in the love of one's
neighbour, and was welcomed with open arms by Tolstoi himself. He
here was only one religion, the religion of love and pity,
and that churches, priests, religious ceremonies, angels and devils,
were mere inventions which must be rejected if one wished to live in
conformity with the truth.
As to Paradise, when all the principles of love and compassion were
realised upon earth, earth itself would be Paradise. Private ownership
being the cause of all misery, as well as of crimes and lies, it must
be abolished, together with armies and war. Further, Soutaïeff
preached non-resistance to evil, and the avoidance of all violence.
One of his sons, when enrolled as a conscript, refused to carry a
rifle. Arguments and punishments had no effect. He proved that heaven
itself was opposed to the bearing of arms by quoting the Gospel to all
who tried to compel him; and in the end he was imprisoned.
Neither did Soutaïeff allow that a man should be judged by his
neighbour. "Judge not, that ye be not judged," was his motto, and his
life filled his followers with enthusiasm, and many besides with
astonishment. This uncultured peasant, who had the courage to throw on
the fire the money he had earned as a mason in St. Petersburg, who
carried the idea of compassion to such lengths that he followed thieves
in order to give them good flour in place of the bad that they had
stolen from him by mistake--this simple-minded being, whose only desire
was to suffer for the "truth," possessed without doubt the soul of a
saint and a visionary.