Anarchy, Nihilism and Liberalism in Dostoevksy's Demons
Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Demons" (Besy, in Russian, variously translated as "The Possessed" and "Devils") is a fundamentally political and social novel. It draws directly on the true story of a murder committed in 1869 by Russian anarchist and nihilist Sergei Nechaev (Saunders 324). The peasant reforms (Dostoevsky 370), the third department (Dostoevsky 361) and the emergence of the zemstvo (Dostoevsky 211) all enjoy passing mention. However, it is the Nechaev-like anarchists and older liberals who are the primary players in the Russia of "Demons". In addition to the facts of the murder, "Demons" depicts a much wider social and political conflict in Russia. Dostoevsky depicts a Russian society divided between ideologies: The westernizing liberals of the 1840s, Slavophiles (Russian isolationists and nationalists), and nihilists. Dostoevsky's sentiments clearly do not lie with the latter, as "Demons" offers an often satirical and always unflattering portrait of the Russian radical revolutionary movement of the 1860s and 1870s.
Dostoevsky's treatment of the ideological divide between pro-Western liberals and nihilists can be more generally characterized as a...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 615 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 3402 literature essays, 1015 sample college application essays, 70 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in