Dictatorship of Soul: Dostoevsky's «The Demons» in the Criticism of the Silver Age

Kazakova N.Yu.


Examining the Silver Age criticism of Dostoevsky's novel «The Demons», the author argues that during Dostoevsky’s lifetime there predominated a journalistic pathos in critical articles. The Silver Age offered new interpretations and changed the perspective on «The Demons». The text analyzes a series of articles that most clearly interpreted the work’s main ideas: the mythologemes at the heart of the novel’s main characters (Stavrogin, Mariya Lebyadkina), the genre-defining tragedy, and the symbolic character of the whole novel as future apocalypse. Thus, defining the novel «The Demons» as a tragedy in the ancient sense of the term, Vyacheslav Ivanov indulges in abstract conclusions, characteristic for symbolism as a whole. Unlike Bulgakov, he does not see catastrophe in the present. Bulgakov argues that the main tragedy is the loss of true faith among the intelligentsia, which will lead to a real catastrophe: the future revolution. Dmitry Merezhkovsky also draws attention to this idea in the novel, arguing that Dostoevsky in «The Demons» reveals the religious nature of the Russian revolution. In this way, representatives of the Silver Age tried to find in Dostoevsky's novels the answers to questions that were of great concern to them.


criticism; Demons; symbolism; mysticism; Silver Age; revolution; tragedy novel; philosophical-religious thought.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2020.02.16

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