By Roza Riaikkenen

In his work What Should We Do? , Leo Tolstoy came to the conclusion about the abusive role of money and the meaninglessness of forced labor and work just for money and property, “for the sake of which all the horrible evil in the world is taking place: wars, executions, courts, jails, depravity, murder and doom for the people." He understood that the only real human property is that which a person “has to apply, increase and improve. For any person, such property is only he or she, himself or herself.”

Tolstoy rejected the attachment to personal property. In his consciousness, he disconnected the concepts of property and labor, which are usually connected in the minds of the people of our civilization. In Tolstoy’s mind, labor became “the essence and joy of life."

Tolstoy’s ideas haven’t been accepted and put into action by the majority, neither in his time, nor even today. Our civilization has passed further on its way of separation and intensification of labor for the purpose of collecting money and property. The increase of productivity became the target, for the sake of which society is sacrificing everything else: the environment, morals, the education of children and even their birth.

We would like to return to Tolstoy’s ideas and have a look at how he expected to turn people to voluntarily loving work for the common good and make everyone happy without consumerism. The writer described this kind of life as the following: “If peoples' lives are filled with work and they know the pleasure of rest, they don’t need more houses, furniture, clothes, etc.; they need less of expensive foodstuff, vehicles, entertainment…A person who thinks of their life as work will use their skills, dexterity and endurance to have a fulfilling life through work."

Tolstoy saw this ability in women, who are naturally constantly working with love and sacrifice for the sake of their children. When a woman is pregnant with a baby and sick for nine months; when she is giving birth, in pain and with risks for her life; when she is nursing her baby and subduing the “strongest human want for sleep” to her love for the baby; when she is later on minding and educating the child, who often torments her, and she looks neither for a result nor for a reward for her sacrificial work around the clock – this is, according to Tolstoy, the image of real work, on the brink of life and death, which is possible only because of great love.

A mother is able to teach her children to do such unselfish work and educate them in a way that they would feel a need for such work. “She will not need to ask what should she teach and to which outcomes to prepare her children: she knows what is a person's vocation, and therefore knows what to teach and for what to prepare the children.”

“Women of this kind are preparing the new generations of people and establishing social opinion; and therefore in the hands of these women lies the highest power of saving the people from the existing and threatening evils of our times.” And in conclusion Tolstoy writes: “Yes, women-mothers, in your hands, more than in anyone else’s, is the saving of the world!”

This article is condensed from a longer version by Roza Riaikkenen. To read Roza's entire article and many others on Tolstoy and other topics, go to