Russia’s Day of Knowledge
Если vs Ли: Expressing the Conditional

Tolstoy’s Educational System

Besides being one of the world's greatest novelists, Leo Tolstoy was also known as a moral thinker and social reformist. It is after his return from a European trip, and his meeting with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a French anarchist in 1861, that he decided to open 13 schools for his serfs' children at Yasnaya Polyana, his family estate.

Though his educational experiments were short-lived, mainly due to harassment by the Tsarist secret police, this system can be considered as the first example of democratic education.

In 2009, a book called “Азбуква” (Alphabet) was published in Russia. The book, based on Tolstoy's method of education, includes the process of learning the alphabet, the writing and pronunciation, and the reading. You can find many short texts written or adapted by Tolstoy himself.

The following text is an short account of an old path in the Alps and the dangers of going through it in winter. With this text, Tolstoy wanted to attract the attention of his students on several prepositions:

Есть рядом две земли: Швейцария и Италия. Между этими двумя землями есть горы Альпы. Горы эти так высоки, что снег на них никогда не тает. По дороге из Швейцgt;арии в Италию надо переходить через эти горы. Дорога идёт через гору Сан-готард. На самом верху этой горы, &llt;span style="text-decoration: underline;">на дороге, построен монастырь. И в этом монастыре живут монахи. Монахи эти молятся Богу и пускают к себе дорожных людей на она ночлег. На Сан-готарде всегда бывает пасмурно. Летом туман и ничего, а зимой бывают такие метели, что на пять аршин заносит снегом. И проезжие и прохожие часто замерзают в эти метели. У монахов есть собаки. И собаки эти приучены отыскивать в снегу людей. Один раз по дороге в Швейцарию шла женщина с ребёночком. Началась метель; женщина сбилась с дороги, села в снегу и застыла. Монахи вышли с собаками и нашли женщину с ребёночком. Монахи отогрели ребёночка и выкормили. А женщину они принесли уже мёртвую и похоронили у себя в монастыре.

And now let's have a look at the underlined prepositions and see together with which cases they are used.

Между Between, among Instrumental
  • Между этими двумя землями (between these 2 mountains).
  • Между нами (between us).
  • Между Mосквой и Санк-Петербургом (between Moscow and St. Petersburg).
По On, along, by Dative
  • По дороге (on the way).
  • По почте (by post).
  • По воздуху (by air).
Из From, of, out of Genitive
  • Из Швейцарии (from Switzerland).
  • Лучший из всех (the best of all).
В, во In, into 1) Prepositional (to show the location)
  • В монастыре (in the monastery).
  • Я живу в Москве (Current Programs).
В, во To, on 2) Accusative (when there is a movement)
  • По дороге в Италию (on the way to Italy).
  • Она села в снегу (she sat down on the snow).
Через Over, across, through Accusative
  • Через эти горы (over these mountains).
  • Перейти через дорогу (to walk across the road).
На On, upon, by 1) Prepositional (to show the location)
  • На Сан-готарде всегда бывает пасмурно (It is always cloudy on St. Gothard).
  • Город на Волге (A town on the Volga).
На On, upon, by 2) Accusative (when there is a movement)
  • Повисеть что-то на стену (to hang something on the wall).
  • Ступить на платформу (step on to the platform).
К To, towards Dative
  • Они пускают к себе дорожных людей (they let travellers towards their place).
  • Идти к дому (to walk towards the house).
С With 1) Instrumental
  • Женщина с ребёночком (a woman with a little child).
  • Я пойду с вами (I'll go with you).
С From 2) Genitive
  • Женщина сбилась с дороги (the woman got of from the track).
  • Вернуться с работы (return from work).
У By, at, with, of 1) Genitive
  • У себя (at one's place).
  • Сидеть у окна (to sit by the window).
У To have 2) Genitive
  • У монахов есть собаки (the monks have dogs).
  • У меня есть (I have).
  • У нас нет (we haven't).
And now here is the translation of the text:

There are two close lands: Switzerland and Italy. Between those 2 lands stretch the Alps. These mountains are so high that the snow never melts. On the way from Switzerland to Italy, one need to cross these mountains. The path goes through the mountain of St. Gothard. On the top of this mountain, by the track, a monastery has been built. And in this monastery live monks. These monks pray God and let travellers having a rest and overnight stay at their place. It is always cloudy on St. Gothard. In summertime there is the fog and nothing else, and in winter the blizzard is so strong that it covers the mountains with 5 arshins ( about 3.50 meters) of snow. And travellers and passers-by often freeze in these storms. The monks have dogs. And these dogs are trained to look for people in the snow.

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There was once a woman and her small boy on the way to Switzerland. A snowstorm began, the woman got off the track, sat in the snow and froze. The monks came with their dogs. They found the woman and her baby. The monks warmed up and nourished the baby. And they carried the dead woman back to their monastery and buried her there.

Besides being one of the world’s greatest novelists…