Anatoly Lunacharsky 1926
First published: 13 April 1926 (Lecture delivered by A. V. Lunacharsky at the Sverdlov Communist University, part of his lectures on the history of Russian literature.)
Source: Lunacharsky Archive
Translated by: Anton P.
I will devote today’s lecture to Dostoevsky. It will, perhaps, be somewhat larger in volume than the others (and perhaps we will need to arrange a small break in the middle), because Dostoevsky is a very complex figure, about whom a great deal of literature has been created, both Russian and foreign, and whose understanding is of great importance both for our general judgment about Russian literature in its historical development, and for our time, because in our time we cannot bypass this huge figure in the history of universal human culture.
As usual, I will try first of all to define Dostoevsky’s social place in the cultural development of our society, taken in terms of its class composition and class change. We have already seen, comrades, how the aristocratic intelligentsia was replaced, for certain reasons, about which I told you in my time, by the intelligentsia of the raznochintsy. We observed the raznochin literature in its populist forms. In general, I would say that raznochin literature is characteristic of populism in its very depths. We noted at one time, in my respective lecture, on the one hand, the closeness of the commoner to the masses, his inclination to consider himself to some extent as a representative of the masses, on the other hand, the need for him to rely on the masses in order to feel socially powerful. Out of touch with these popular masses, he felt isolated in his struggle against the ruling classes and the autocracy. But if almost without exception all the commoners were Narodniks to one degree or another, this does not at all mean that they were all revolutionary Narodniks. There were two outcomes in this regard, and already at the dawn, one might say, of the activities of Belinsky, the first great representative of the wave of raznochintsy, both of these paths were outlined in our country. If you remember, Belinsky himself, in one incident of his life, to which Plekhanov attached such great importance and which he explained so brilliantly, suddenly became almost Black-Hundred. Belinsky at a certain period of his life wrote the famous article “Borodino”, we mentioned it, an article that was an attempt to come to terms with the autocratic reality. Natures inclined to pose the question realistically, and not to confine themselves to phrases, could in the end, in the face of Russian reality, take only two positions: the position of a decisive and radical struggle, and in this case the search for that support, that force with which this the struggle was to be made real, and the position of reconciliation with the recognition of reality, as some kind of internal focus or internal shift of judgments, and, in addition, the recognition of this reality as acceptable, ethically justified. And while Belinsky’s young friends were content with verbal criticism and verbal protest, Belinsky’s realistic nature demanded realizations. And since he saw at this time that revolutionary, radical realizations were inconceivable due to the absence of actual social forces, he made a painful attempt to come to terms with the autocracy. Much later, Gogol, for reasons that we also found out, Gogol – this beloved writer of Belinsky – made the same attempt; Belinsky had already taken a different point of view and was extremely condemned. But, looking closely at the Black-Hundred, Orthodox, extremely disgusting, internally weak, covered by such a tense, obviously hypocritical, sugar-coated phraseology of Gogol’s position, we can nevertheless consider this type, which is in some respects a transitional stage between noble and raznochin literature, and it has the features of the same populism. It is very inclined to the formula that would later turn out to be the coat of arms on the shield of many reactionary representatives, the formula “autocracy, Orthodoxy, nationality”, and the people are the main argument in defending all three elements of this formula. The real, genuine peasant people recognize Orthodoxy and autocracy. Therefore, an intellectual who breaks down over the indifference of the people when he goes to the people with an anti-Orthodox and anti-autocratic sermon, and vice versa, will find deep sympathy among the people if he goes to them as an Orthodox person, as a defender of autocracy, but, of course, as a person trying to draw the most popular and useful conclusions from Orthodoxy and autocracy. Such a democratically reactionary mood was, so to speak, fatal, one of the ways out, to which some types of populists had to aspire. Let us recall one of the points that we arrived at when analyzing the Narodniks, let us recall Uspensky, whom we will have to recall today more than once. Uspensky was completely disillusioned with the hopes of Narodism. He bitterly quoted Marx’s letter: “...yes, there were, of course, revolutionary opportunities in Russia, there were, but they drifted away, we missed them, we could not take advantage of them.” And what lies ahead? Ahead for him is individual despair. Maybe not despair about the future of Russia as a whole, but in the near future he did not see any roads. If you put in the place of Uspensky a man less devoted to the revolution, less tempered in this respect, and ask yourself, if even such a hardened and devoted revolutionary as Uspensky ended up in drunkenness and madness, then the less devoted and hardened will not look for other ways, will he look for ways on which he can live, and will the disappointment in the revolution not cause him involuntary aspirations to turn everything upside down?
It is completely wrong that Lev Tikhomirov, who turned from a Narodnaya Volya into a Black Hundred, into an ultra-monarchist, did this because he was a scoundrel. I am not an evaluator of his moral properties, I do not know what kind of person he was, but such cases are so typical for a number of great Russian people and writers that there is some kind of social law here. The very impossibility of fighting the overwhelming force of the autocracy and the old order was to push them into the arms of peasant sympathies for the tsar-father and for the Lord God, rebuild their entire instrument and translate it in the way of reactionary Slavophile democracy.
So, Dostoevsky was undoubtedly a representative of the raznochin writers. And, of course, Comrade Pereverzev is right when he interprets him from this point of view as the great herald of the Russian bourgeoisie at the moment when this bourgeoisie, on the one hand, became culturally strong enough to raise its voice and give it quite aloud, and, on the other hand, when this bourgeoisie experienced a great tragedy in the era that marked the 1860s and 70s. But at the same time, he is just such a bourgeois in whom the revolutionary instincts, and the tendencies of the then bourgeoisie, and reactionary sympathies caused by fear and despair, were unusually vague and unusually acute. Upon further analysis of the works of Dostoevsky and his ideas, we will see that from this social position of Dostoevsky arise some unsurpassed and forever included in the treasury of our culture, not only Russian, but also worldwide, values.
Comrade Pereverzev, in his remarkable sketch about Dostoevsky, remarks perfectly how this new trend of different ranks began to appear in the foreground of the Russian public, how Polevoy, Belinsky, Nadezhdin and other contemporary writers appear, corresponding notes appear in some of Gogol’s works, since he began to absorb into himself the life of the urban poor of the same Petersburg. And, finally, we see Dostoevsky’s brilliant awareness of these experiences of the new class – the philistine and the intelligentsia. But Pereverzev immediately notes that Dostoevsky was a genius writer. He emphasizes several times that the genius of Dostoevsky gave him the opportunity in approximately the same forms, based on the same material, to play a world role. And we must at the very beginning of our studies on Dostoevsky immediately distinguish between one and the other. It still means saying only half of the truth, if we include Dostoevsky in the rubric of the bourgeoisie. Of course, Dostoevsky has a resemblance to philistine writers such as Pavlov, Polevoy, etc. But those writers did not play even a thousandth part of the role that Dostoevsky played both here and abroad. And we need to look at things this way: we have before us a number of types, a number of models, for example, of common bourgeois writers. Among them there are small ones, there are medium ones, there are great ones. They can be distinguished by their caliber and weight. The point here is only that in one there is less talent for writing, in the other there is more talent for writing. Maybe the decisive moment is that giftedness, that is, the power of perception and the power of expression, that one person has more than another, and it is precisely this talent that allows him to give the same elements to the reader in such incomparably greater riches and in such an incomparably greater number of variants that it turns out not at all a qualitative similarity, but perhaps a deep qualitative difference, for a simple bourgeois and a bourgeois artist are different things ... The philistine mediocre artist and the philistine genius – these are completely different things. What unites them is important; what separates them is equally important. The genius bourgeois, of course, goes beyond the bourgeoisie. It is precisely what this departure from the bounds of philistinism consists in, in the presence, however, of roots set in the bourgeois soil, that makes Dostoevsky an unusually tragic and interesting figure.
It is correct, of course, when Comrade Pereverzev, giving a general description of Dostoevsky’s work, says: “Dostoevsky is the poet of the city, and not of the city in general, but of the city corners ... the soil leaves the ground and that city “bottom” from which there is no return opens up. They are one step away from this bottom. It is here, nearby, his voice is heard, his breath is heard. The world of serving petty, the world of losers of all kinds, who have already set foot on the bottom with one foot and cling to the bottom in despair to get out of there – this is the world of Dostoevsky.”
This is largely correct. Indeed, such is the task of Dostoevsky, such is the principle that he chose for himself.
Dostoevsky was of semi-noble origin; I believe that here some of his biographical information is extremely important, and you will see later why.
His father was a serf owner. Dostoevsky’s father, Mikhail Dostoevsky, was killed by his serf coachman, strangled, apparently because he was an unusually cruel and even vile sadistic master. Dostoevsky retained a terrible memory of his father, just as Nekrasov of his. Nekrasov had a personal hatred for his father, who left for him such a biography full of all the horrors of serfdom. The same thing happened with Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky in Fyodor Karamazov, the most monstrous figure, disgusting in its vulgarity and vileness, undoubtedly painted his father and even called those villages in which his father once appeared with the same names as they were actually called, as if for in order to emphasize this.
If Nekrasov was pushed out of the warm landlord’s estate into the street, into the position of a half-starved artisan-writer, then the same happened with Dostoevsky, but Dostoevsky’s very childhood was overshadowed by ruin and want. This is not just the offspring of the nobility, but the offspring of the nobility overtaken by ruin and begging.
Leonid Grossman describes the very birth of Dostoevsky with such sad features: “On an autumn day, in a hospital for the poor, Dostoevsky saw the light. He was baptized on a November morning in a cramped hospital chapel, where a baptismal font with a baby was unusual in the everyday setting of squalid burials. So the accidental fact of the writer’s deposit seems to herald that martyr’s sign, which marked the life fate of this epileptic, suicide bomber and convict to the end.”
I will not dwell on the facts of all kinds of insults that Dostoevsky endured both from his cruel father, and from his position as a poor schoolboy, and from his comrades, who neglected him as a poor man, and from his teachers of a tyrannical and parasitic type. Suffice it to say that when he finished his studies, he literally, like Nekrasov, found himself on the street and was forced to immediately start earning his daily bread, expelling literary lines. If Dostoevsky, as we just saw with Pereverzev, began to describe the life of the urban petty, then this, of course, was explained by the fact that he himself had actually lived among it for many and many years. Comrade Gorbachev in his book Capitalism and Russian Literature rightly notes: the environment of Dostoevsky “was the world of petty, half-impoverished officials, petty pensioners, petty bourgeois artisans.” Dostoevsky, an officer who had retired from service, who lived by chance, low-income literary work, ran into them when he lodged in rented rooms and dined in small kitchens. Dostoevsky of the later period is unusually picturesque and touching (I will cite quite a lot of quotes today, so I omit this one) describes how one day, walking in St. Petersburg on a white night, he suddenly felt some kind of inner impulse and a whole series of romantic figures of the poor loomed in front of him, abandoned, offended girls, driven out minor officials, and he said to himself: why are landowners mainly described so far; why not tell the real truth about suffering, about life, about achievements, about the inner worries of these city heroes, who were not noticed by anyone? And he says that he walked the streets in a kind of feverish mood, and then, he says, I felt like a writer, that is, a mass of impressions about this life of the humiliated, torn apart by the city, extremely nervous, a broken line of characterized types, whom he met around him and one of whom he himself was, this mass of impressions overwhelmed him, it beat over the edge and at the same time began to gather in valuable crystals. Then this fullness of impressions received in the incredible sensitivity, painful sensitivity of the artist, found its natural expression. Dostoevsky began to write, and his first novel, The Poor Folk, found a tremendous response in the then reading public and highly appreciated the master of criticism who was making fame at that time, that is, Belinsky. Who was Dostoevsky, what views did he have at that time, before the catastrophe, which to a large extent served as the starting point for a significant, but still not absolute, modification of the structure of his thoughts and feelings? Firstly, he is a short-term officer, a strekulist driven out from everywhere, a writer without income, a seller of lines, first of all, he is imbued with the deepest hatred of the authorities. In the least he himself does not feel like a master. He hates serfdom with all the strength of his soul. The gloomy figure of Mikhail Dostoevsky, his father, always stands before him like some kind of oppressive and painful ghost. But if Dostoevsky all his life was a passionate hater of the reactionary regime, then he hated liberals no less passionately. True, his hatred of the liberals was crescendo, but even in the young Dostoevsky it is noticeable, and later he would become one of the most powerful embittered exposers of Russian rose-colored splendid liberalism. If we find scourging stanzas against idle-chattering liberals in Nekrasov, if Shchedrin poured a very sharp poison on them, then Dostoevsky’s hatred of them, apparently, surpasses even the hatred of these brothers of his, the same descendants of the nobility, who turned into heralds of the world of raznochintsy. But you know that one of the most beautiful figures in the eyes of liberals, that of the history professor Granovsky, the teacher of our best noble liberal generations, he portrayed in the form of the funny figure of Verkhovensky’s father, that he directly sketched Turgenev entirely, with his figure, with his voice, in the person of the writer Karmazinov and tried to make him so shamefully funny as to, so to speak, prevent him from rising in public opinion. Of course, Dostoevsky did not succeed in completely destroying Turgenev, but he did everything in his power to do so. It is very likely, more than likely, that in one of the stories, written, however, after returning from prison, in the story The Village of Stepanchikovo, the famous and painful in its vulgarity figure of Foma Fomich Opiskin was written with a secret desire to portray Gogol in this way, for, of course, there are a lot of features of Gogol, as Pereverzev quite correctly noted, in Opiskin. His flaunting exorbitant, standing on tiptoe, that Russia knows Foma Opiskin and Foma Opiskin knows Russia, and all these eloquent speeches, anointed with incense, smelling of churchliness and all ultimately reduced to a stilted exaltation of himself, this is an aspiration, empty phrases armed, to become a teacher of life, to torture and maim people around him for the sake of an imaginary, highly bookish, disgusting and reactionary-sounding virtue – and all this, of course, was largely preached by Gogol in Correspondence with Friends.
This hatred of the nobility and aristocratic writers, whom Dostoevsky always spoke of as “gentlemen,” who were supremely able to write magnificent novels when they live behind the ridge of their serfs in their beautiful estates, accompanied Dostoevsky to his grave. Along with this, Dostoevsky was imbued from an early age, as I have already said, with populism or a great love for the people. This love for the people, a little so distant, a little theoretical, was again inherent in the young Dostoevsky and accompanied him to the end of his days. First, of course, love for the people, for the masses, for the lower classes arose, comrades, from the feeling of sympathy that Dostoevsky had for the humiliated and insulted in general. But more than that, there was something akin to Herzen’s sentiments in relation to the people. Do you remember, how this great master, who had gone over to the camp of revolutionaries, was doing. He believed in the party, in Western European liberalism, even in Western European socialism, which seemed to him either hopeless, or a new kind of bourgeois-factory proseism, and grabbed onto the Russian peasant as a promising current figure on which one could still pin some hopes. Dostoevsky, of course, read Herzen and lived in these moods, therefore Dostoevsky very early was imbued with such deep sympathy for the people. In hard labor, this sympathy seemed to have intensified from contact with some folk types, and then turned into some kind of constant worship of this icon, invented by Dostoevsky himself – the Russian people, as it should have been. Dostoevsky writes about the people: “Judge our people not by what it is, but by what what it would like to become. And its ideals are strong and holy, and they have saved it in the ages of torment; they have grown together with its soul from time immemorial and rewarded it forever with innocence and honesty, sincerity and a wide open mind, and all this in the most attractive harmonious combination.”
Dostoevsky says this in his Diary, even when he was a reactionary, but young Dostoevsky, early Dostoevsky is already stirring these thoughts about the enormous merits of the people. He does not draw from this the Bakunin conclusion about the radical rebellion of the people, and, as you will see later, he, on the contrary, will draw the opposite conclusion, but he believes in the holiness of the people just as Herzen believes, just as Tolstoy believes. Just as the master Tolstoy relied on the peasant, exalted the peasant in order to have something to recoup from the terrible capitalism, so does Dostoevsky.
But why does Dostoevsky need to do this? Well, Tolstoy, the one from old Russia, he had to reject the new, capitalist Russia, of course, like a nobleman, and since Tolstoy had nothing to defend against capitalism, he is defending himself through the peasant. Why Dostoevsky? Because Dostoevsky also hates capitalism. Not only the nobleman hates capitalism, but the bourgeois also hates capitalism. And here some of our comrades from the left have some interruption. When they try to understand our commoners as some kind of representatives of the bourgeois revolution and take this bourgeois revolution as if in some aspect of preparing the ground for the flourishing of capitalism, they, of course, are deeply wrong. Narodism is in no way “bourgeois” in the sense of sympathy for the natural development of the bourgeois class. Vice versa, populism is reactionary in this respect. It does not want the development of the bourgeoisie, it opposes itself to the development of capitalism, it would like to frustrate the further development of capitalism precisely because big business follows the path of enslaving the petty bourgeoisie. And since the capitalism of primitive accumulation in Russia appeared in the form of a highly predatory principle, which caused more ruin than organization, it is natural that not only the bar, but also the bourgeoisie objected to it, and not only the tsar relied on the peasantry, but also the bourgeoisie also relied on the peasantry, not only Tolstoy, but also Uspensky, not only the Tolstoyans, but also the revolutionary Narodniks, even the Narodnaya Volya, Bakuninists, etc. And Dostoevsky came here because of, among other things, his hatred of capitalism. This hatred of capitalism as a predatory principle in Dostoevsky remained alive until the end of his days. Only Tolstoy in himself did not feel anything akin to this predatory principle. Remember, I gave you his words. When he wrote Anna Karenina, he wrote: we must live in such a way that my family and I feel good. And he honors himself for it. Here we see a tendency towards the family ideology of the nobility, so that there is a house, a full bowl, so that they can live well and develop cultural values on this basis. Dostoevsky, on the other hand, was such a multifaceted, full-bodied bourgeois, in whom lived a passion for profit, a passion for money, within which passion lived an impulse to become rich and to become imperious; the individualistic principle of competition – to be a wolf among other wolves – lived in Dostoevsky himself. It is all this in him, as in a great man, lived with remarkable poignancy. He saw this not only in others, but also observed it in himself, he hated it in others, despised it in himself, and tried to overcome it in himself, opposing all this with some kind of ideals. If we think in this way: hatred for the old regime and hatred for the capitalism that has again come to replace this regime, which was developing, with an emphasis on the peasant and his truth, then where was Dostoevsky supposed to develop in the end? Obviously, somewhere in the direction of some kind of populist socialism, some kind of populist truth-seeking. So it was in the beginning that he had this. A thirst for justice was inherent in him to a high degree. His first novel testified to this.
Belinsky asked publicly the question: does Dostoevsky himself understand how much of a fuse of the social, let’s say now: socially revolutionary, is there in that thirst for justice, which breathed in his first novels? Belinsky saw an ally in Dostoevsky and wrote: “Many, in the course of his career, there will be talents who will be opposed to him, but they will end up being forgotten exactly at the time when he reaches the apogee of his glory.”
But poor Belinsky did not know that Dostoevsky would achieve his glory not as his friend, but as a sworn enemy. As Dostoevsky developed his own way, which I will tell you about, he departed more and more from Belinsky.
“I then passionately accepted all his teaching,” says Dostoevsky himself.
All his teaching. And his teaching at the time that brought him closer to death was materialist socialism. But at the same time, Dostoevsky says: “I could never forgive him a lot, something sickened me in Belinsky.” And we know what then or later he only hated. And with the hair that moved on his head, Dostoevsky says: “He scolded Christ in my presence.” This seemed to him so disgusting and terrifying that he could not forgive Belinsky in any case. But, having made friends with Belinsky, Dostoevsky does not stop there. Belinsky probably gave him an impetus, because he became friends with the then revolutionaries. The then revolutionaries, the revolutionaries of the 1840s, at the time when Dostoevsky was working, were still talkers. These were people who got acquainted with the utopian French socialism, which Shchedrin spoke about in one of his works with such a subtle grin that society anticipated the bliss of the future, and describes how the police arrested them. Take, for example, the Petrashevists, because of whom Dostoevsky was sentenced to death. When we find out what reports, what conversations Dostoevsky had with the Petrashevsky people, these were really talks on literature, on ethics, about something. We see nothing revolutionary in them. However, there is no need to say, following the example of the liberal depicts, that Dostoevsky was on the extreme right flank of the Petrashevists. It is not true.
Dostoevsky later, in his note to the authorities, when he was arrested, with some sincerity, seems to be talking about why he did not accept the Petrashevites, how innocent he was, and how he was almost hanged for it. First, there are very remarkable passages in this note that testify that Dostoevsky went much deeper into socialism than he wants to show. We know from Bakunin’s letter how difficult it is to rely on such documents. A whole storm was caused by the fact that Bakunin’s letter to Nicholas I was written in such a sincere tone that one could not think that he really did not survive all this, and since he survived, it means that he experienced the moment of the greatest, shameful fall. But now researchers almost unanimously come to the conclusion, on the basis of documents, that Bakunin fooled Nicholas I, that he wrote this letter in order to break out of the grip of the police. Quite naturally, many of us, who had to deal with gentlemen gendarmes, had to lie. Of course, not all of us were ready to deny “everything” to them, but in general, lying in front of them was not considered shameful. Meanwhile, we know that Dostoevsky did not confine himself to his connection with Petrashevsky and his friends, he was excellent friends with the Fourierists, but the most important thing is that with Durov, who was a leftist Petrashevist, and on the other hand, Dostoevsky became especially close to Speshnev, who called himself communist. The first person who, on Russian soil, called himself a communist, was Speshnev. Sakulin writes: “We do not know exactly how Speshnev’s ideological influence on Dostoevsky was expressed. The tangible result of the “influence” remains the fact that Dostoevsky tried to help implement the idea of Filippov and Speshnev to arrange an illegal lithograph or printing house. This fact was known before, but now they want to attach special importance to it: it turns out that Dostoevsky also acted as a propagandist of this idea, persuading A. N. Maikov to participate.”
And here is Maikov’s curious recollection. “And I remember,” Maikov writes, “Dostoevsky, sitting like a dying Socrates in front of his friends, in a nightgown with an unbuttoned collar, strained all his eloquence about the sanctity of this deed, about our duty to save the fatherland, etc.…” In response to this the poet “proved the frivolity and restlessness of the case, joked, laughed.” Thus, as you can see, Dostoevsky went quite far in this sense. It is very characteristic, perhaps in part, for Professor Sakulin as well, that he says that when Maikov left Dostoevsky, Dostoevsky said: “Not a word more about this,” and adds: I think that this is not a need for conspiracy, but that after that night, Dostoevsky became disillusioned with this idea by morning and testified to his quick readiness to deny his property of this idea. No, it is quite clear that the guy is laughing, laughing, fooling around, he, of course, was afraid that he would not talk. Later Dostoevsky was sentenced to death for this very thing. Needless to say, that him saying “not a word about it” is more than natural, when he saw that he could not propagandize. In his mature age Dostoevsky writes: “I could not have been a Nechaevite (this is every revolutionary nihilist who has reached the very limit in his revolutionary amoralism), but I was able to become a Nechaevite.” But the Nechaevites are the most desperate terrorists who go for everything. And the gendarmes, when they encroached on the collar of Dostoevsky and even on his life, they were not so wrong, because who knows what would have come out of Dostoevsky if they had not broken him into pieces in time – maybe he would have come out as a great Russian revolutionary. Nobody can say that. In his note, which I have already told you about, Dostoevsky says many vulgar things, trying to prove that he had nothing to do with Petrashevism, that he was interested theoretically, etc., but at the same time in a note submitted to the government, he writes: “I admitted the historical necessity of a real coup in the West, but only in anticipation of the best. Socialism offers thousands of measures for social organization, and since all these books are written intelligently, ardently and often with genuine love for humanity, I read them with curiosity. But precisely because I do not belong to any social system, but studied socialism in general, in all its systems, it is precisely because I (although my knowledge is far from final) see the mistakes of every social system. I am sure that the use of any of them will lead to inevitable death, I am not talking about here, but even in France. This opinion has been expressed by me more than once. Finally, here is the conclusion I ended up with. Socialism is a science in fermentation, it is chaos, it is alchemy before chemistry, astrology before astronomy; although, as it seems to me, something harmonious will subsequently develop out of the present chaos.” He says quite clearly that utopian socialism does not satisfy him, “but I hope that scientific socialism will develop from it.” Dostoevsky writes about utopian socialism in the following note to the gendarme: “Fourierism is a peaceful system; it enchants the soul with its elegance, seduces the heart with that love for humanity, which inspired Fourier when he composed his system, and surprises the mind with its harmony.”
I will surprise you even more when I say that this note says this: “because I think that systems like Fourierism cannot be implemented in Russia, because we have no proletariat.” So it is said in black and white. And then the proletariat was really absent. As you can see, Dostoevsky, in his attitude to utopian socialism, not only does not show backwardness, but in many respects turns out to have outgrown the socialists of that time. By this I do not mean to say that Dostoevsky is ready to become a socialist. No. He had many Orthodox prejudices, which he had learned from his childhood and partly from the fact that he saw many contradictions in life and did not know how to get out of them. And therefore, as we will see from what follows, he became carried away by superhuman mysticism and ethics. It was all there. All his mystical inclinations, which bourgeois individualists have, they prevented him from penetrating into scientific socialism, which, one might say, did not exist yet, and the Manifesto of the Communist Party was not written, at least nothing was known in Russia when in 1849 it all ended in disaster for Dostoyevsky. He was not a ready socialist, but a huge impulse to the need to fight for socialism, reliance on the peasant, thirst for justice, love for the oppressed, the dream of a complete, real, high man, of a harmonious social system. Private interest and particular tasks are not connected because they are still too utopian, too unscientific and do not realize that in this area there is a support base for them: the proletariat. Aren’t these elements of the world outlook, from which one can come to the truth from very far, or move away from it? Did Chernyshevsky, whom Marx recognized as a great man, one of the greatest economists of his time, have many more elements? And so, comrades, Dostoevsky was arrested. Despite this note, he was sentenced to nothing else but death. The gendarmes read his testimony better than today’s liberals read and say: thank God, Dostoevsky was not a socialist, but the gendarmes put him against the wall. They appreciated the danger posed by this justice, powerfully torn from Narodism. Here is a wonderful description of this event, from which you immediately deduce what impression it should have left in the most tender soul of Dostoevsky, which looks like a multi-stringed instrument, every touch of it makes you tremble and ring. Here is how Herzen describes the event on December 22, 1849: “The horn sounded hoarse, there was a severe frost; the drum roll rolled; soldiers with rifles emerged from the ranks of each battalion, approached the convicts, and began to aim. There was a deathly silence. But why don’t the soldiers shoot for so long? Maybe in order to prolong the death toll of convicts? Petrashevsky, always true to himself, raised his cap to see what was happening around him. Finally, it becomes known that all this was a simple farce, a decoration, an extra parade arranged by His Majesty. General Rostovtsev announces to the condemned that the Tsar will grant them life. The thought suggested that of all the generals this one was chosen for the announcement of mercy because he was a stutterer.”
Dostoevsky also tells us about his experiences, firstly, in the brilliant pages, where the “idiot” Prince Myshkin describes the experiences of a man who was present at the death penalty. And Dostoevsky himself says: “We, Petrashevites, stood on the scaffold and listened to our verdict without the slightest remorse. No doubt I cannot testify for everyone; but I think that I will not be mistaken in saying that then, at that moment, if not everyone, then at least the extraordinary majority of us would consider it dishonorable to renounce our beliefs ... The thing for which we were condemned, those thoughts, those concepts that possessed our spirit, seemed to us not only not requiring repentance, but even as something that purifies us, martyrdom, for which much will be forgiven to us!”
This is what Dostoevsky writes later about what he felt when he stood under the bullets of the Nikolaev platoons. As you can see, all this characterizes him from a slightly different angle than Dostoevsky usually tries to present. After that he was sent to hard labor, which Dostoevsky himself describes as follows: “It was hell, total darkness.” In a letter to his brother, he writes: “...those four years I count as the time in which I was buried alive and locked up in a coffin. What a terrible time it was, I cannot tell you, my friend. It was an inexpressible suffering, endless, because every hour, every minute weighed down like a stone in my soul. In all four years there was no moment in which I did not feel that I was in hard labor.”
Liberal critic Batyushkov writes that “Dostoevsky made up his mind to survive and managed to survive by tempering himself.” He decided to survive, this is true, he managed to survive, this is also true, but that he tempered himself is not true. Dostoevsky allowed himself to be bent, ugly, disgusting to distort himself. He allowed himself to be distorted, he assumed, under the punishing hand of the autocracy, the appearance of some kind of curious line, full of contradictions, split, bent, absurd, to understand which, however, it is extremely interesting, because Dostoevsky was a man of great mind and therefore everything was indicated in him unusually large. This contraction was followed by a deformation, perfectly showing the inner nature of the revolutionary that resisted to the advanced bourgeoisie, Dostoevsky, and the reactionary that piled on him. Dostoevsky himself writes to Totleben: “The long experience, hard and painful, sobered me up and changed my thoughts in many ways.”
Of course, Dostoevsky never admitted to himself that this long experience, that is, hell and total darkness, forced him to change his thoughts in order to adapt to the regime of autocracy. He did not experience it like that, he experienced it like this: “Suffering purified me, suffering showed me all the meaning of humility, in my worldview, the understanding of the people with their striving for autocracy ... and Orthodoxy, it made me closer to Christianity, and from this I came out wiser in the end.”
These are the thoughts that Dostoevsky tried to impose on himself, but we know that this is not so, that human nature, especially the nature of a complex psyche, which is especially large and interesting, is such that it does not just speak and feel what it is saying, applying to meanness, but it justifies itself, and it is the system of justification that is the most interesting in this respect, the system of justifications that a flexible, resource-rich nature puts forward in order to be clean before itself and before others, to be right. At the same time, Dostoevsky was so terribly strong internally that by an effort of his will he said: I will be Dostoevsky, a believer that Orthodoxy, autocracy and nationality are true, and I will prove to the whole world that this is true. But then he came across the no less strong subconscious will of Dostoevsky, which said: all this is a lie, all this is imposed, all this violence – the truth lies elsewhere. And next to this, the third voice in him said: maybe there is no truth, and maybe the most vulgar thing that lives in you is the desire for money, for profit, for meanness, the sad pleasure of hurting others and rejoicing their suffering – all this satanic and predatory in man is the most real human nature. And all these three voices, these three notes of the petty bourgeois revolutionary, the petty bourgeois Orthodox reactionary and the petty bourgeois individualist-careerist sounded simultaneously in him, creating an amazing chord.
In one place Dostoevsky even describes how Lyamshin, one of the characters in his novel, begins to play a magnificent hymn, which is then reborn into the waltz “Ah, Maine Liebert Augustine” This and the other music in it sounds, and even with the addition of “God save the king” or “If he is glorious.” All this creates the kind of symphony that we listen to when we read the works of Dostoevsky.
In 1854, Dostoevsky was appointed to the Siberian disciplinary battalion, and only in 1859, after a ten-year stay in hard labor and in exile, was he allowed to return to Russia.
We cannot say, comrades, that Dostoevsky immediately returned as a renewed man, that is, in fact, such a crooked reactionary. No. He arrived with shaky, undermined health, gloomy, uncertain, hesitating between two worlds. With inner horror and at the same time with such an inner anguish, with a gravitation towards philistine careerism, he tried, even after returning from hard labor, to take a more or less noble position. Together with his brother, he begins to publish the magazine Time (Vremya). This magazine contains echoes of French utopian socialism, it contains many features of liberalism, perhaps more significant than the phrase-mongering liberalism of other magazines. But the government closes the Vremya magazine. Then Dostoevsky publishes a new magazine, Epoch, a little more “correct”. After all, you have to live with something. But at this time his wife dies. He goes broke. At the same time, a brother who was more practical, who was his breadwinner, dies. And then Dostoevsky remains literally like a finger, alone in the world. Terribly grieved and overshadowed, he sees that there are no paths. But at the same time, his great novel, Crime and Punishment, is growing. After this novel, he immediately became famous, which, however, did not make him rich. As a famous writer, Dostoevsky was in debt and need all the time.
Komarovich, who wrote interesting sketches about world harmony in Dostoevsky’s works, writes: “According to the traditional view, which is also based on Dostoevsky’s own confessions, ten years of life in Siberia (1849-1859) completely erased the ‘dreamy harm’ of social utopias; contact with the people made Dostoevsky an Orthodox and nationally thinking person.” Dostoevsky himself was so straightforward and simply inclined to explain his degeneration. “Our views, our convictions and our hearts have changed ... direct contact with the people,” he said later, “fraternal union with them in common misfortunes, the notion that he himself has become the same as they, compared with them and even equated to the lowest of their steps.”
Indeed, comrades, the politicking of Dostoevsky at this time is growing to the highest degree, and nevertheless it is undoubted that the remnants of the old Dostoevsky, the one I have described, Dostoevsky’s conviction, remain very strong. Maybe it sounds like a ghost of Dostoevsky himself, almost certainly it is when the hero of his novel The Teenager writes: “...what do I care about the future of humanity, when for this humanity I have neither gratitude, nor love, nor immortality.”
You may remember that, speaking of Herzen, I pointed out to you the same reasoning of Herzen. Herzen also said: “...I don’t want to believe in progress and don’t want to sacrifice to it, because one generation cannot be dung for the growth of another. Personality itself is valuable.” But what conclusion did Herzen draw from this? Since the personality is valuable in itself, then he is happy with life, which, although it was not formed on the basis of a stormy revolutionary protest, but he drew the following conclusions: the person must find real, genuine happiness for every moment, which does not in the least contradict wide mental and heartfelt sympathies for everything that is best in humanity. Dostoevsky, however, who lives the vague and confused life of Russia with all the monstrous contradictions of that time, draws another conclusion that the future generation is nothing for me, and in my present life there can be no happiness. So what then? Then the only way out is immortality. And hence one of Dostoevsky’s tremendous impulses to religion, he joined all these influences of the Gospel from childhood and in hard labor and to the whole structure of thought, which attracts him to nationality, Orthodoxy and autocracy, this proves the display of the uniqueness of the religious in Dostoevsky. We will return to this later. Thus, it is clear that the returning Dostoevsky, no matter what Komarovich may say, is of course a changed Dostoevsky. Other notes came to the fore, but Komarovich was right when he said that it was not done right away. It follows from the fact that the magazine Vremya is published, as well as from some of the references that can be cited here. Dostoevsky has a socialist inside, and I emphasize this because only from this point of view the entire contradiction of ideological constructions, which are the core and soul of Dostoevsky’s novels, is understandable. For example, in 1861, that is, two years after his return from hard labor, Dostoevsky writes about Victor Hugo: “His thought is the main idea of all art of the nineteenth century, and Victor Hugo, as an artist, was almost the first herald of this idea. This is a Christian and moral thought; its formula is the restoration of a deceased person, crushed unjustly by the oppression of circumstances, stagnation of centuries and social prejudices. This thought is an excuse for the pariahs of society humiliated and rejected by everyone ... Of course, it is not the invention of Victor Hugo alone; on the contrary, in our conviction, it is an integral part and, perhaps, a historical necessity of the nineteenth century.”
Is this renunciation in any way? The fact that he says that this thought is more moral than the Christian does not contradict his previous concepts. Gorbachev says in his book: “...Dostoevsky, in any case, believed in utopianism and revolutionism, but he easily and quickly recovered from them.” This is Gorbachev’s mistake, and Komarovich is much more right when he says that through the whole of Dostoevsky, somewhere inside under the squeak, there is a thought: that socialism is a blessing, and socialism must be realized, and, in essence, despite everything that may deter it, this is the only solution to world contradictions. Dostoevsky is infected with these thoughts, and from time to time they arise in him. In the famous novel, which immediately made Dostoevsky’s name so glorious after his return from hard labor, recall Raskolnikov’s conversation: “In a word, I have an equal right and long live eternal war ... until the new Jerusalem, of course.” Kirillov, the tragic character of The Demons, who, to prove his power over nature, kills himself as a revolutionary, symbolizing against his will all the pain and desperate situation of a revolutionary intellectual who cannot find any way out for himself, says: “Now the person is not the same person. There will be a new person, happy and proud. It will be a man-god.” The interlocutor corrects him: a God-man. No, not a god-man, but a man-god. This is the difference. Not a god who became a man, but a man who became a god, who united the greatest power and development. Already an old man, Dostoevsky writes such a thing in his Diary of a Writer: “When a better society comes on earth ... we won’t even want to look at this present society ... The golden age is still ahead, but maybe there is nothing to be afraid of, maybe a factory will settle down in the middle of the garden. In short, I do not know how it will all be, but it will come true. There will be a garden.”
Another passage from the diary: in a club, in St. Petersburg, at a ball, Dostoevsky watches how the couples dance, and says: “Well, what if each of them suddenly found out the whole secret? What if each of them suddenly found out how much straightforwardness, honesty, the most sincere heartfelt gaiety, purity, generous feelings ... and does the golden age exist only on porcelain cups?” This is the same Dostoevsky who pours poison on all mankind and says: all, in essence, are scoundrels, all the Fyodors Karamazovs, nothing can be done with them, and if Christ loved them, then he despised them at the same time. This same Dostoevsky says: if everyone knew the secret that, in essence, he is very good, why be bad? Yes, in essence, because he lives in the wrong air. So that everyone, even a jumping dandy or an empty fool young lady, if they did not live in this environment, but in the environment that they paint on porcelain cups, in an atmosphere of real harmony and brotherhood, how much they would discover in themselves both good nature and desire to help another, and all the high qualities that Dostoevsky feels and perceives in a person. With what passionate insistence, for example, Dostoevsky repeats that he does not want, cannot and could never think and live otherwise than with the belief that everyone will someday be humanized and happy.
This is all in the Diary of a Writer. The famous Dream of a Ridiculous Man says: “People can be beautiful and happy without losing the ability to live on earth. I do not believe that evil is the normal state of people.”
From this quote you can see that what Gorbachev says, that the socialist in Dostoevsky died, is not true. He lives, and he lives passionately. Raskolnikov said: I firmly believe in the new Jerusalem. But, of course, in Dostoevsky himself there were anti-socialist elements alongside this. They, of course, after hard labor and after all the trials, put out their horns, they leaned out from all sides to devour the social in Dostoevsky. What was it?
First of all, of course, when Gorbachev says that Dostoevsky felt deeply afraid of a rebellion, this is to a certain extent true. But if we analyze what is the fact for which Dostoevsky was afraid of the rebellion, we will see that there are two features, and it will be difficult to evaluate each of them. On the one hand, Dostoevsky instinctively, without realizing it, was afraid of rebellion for himself, that is, he was afraid to rebel. He stood there under the Nikolaev bullets, spent time in hard labor and realized that if he continued to take careless steps, he would be destroyed. One of Dostoevsky’s traits, which determined the entire power of his talent, was a passionate desire to live, an enormous vital force, without which there are no great writers at all, as I said about Tolstoy. Therefore, this thirst for life should have pushed him to seek an outcome. And that is why Dostoevsky, a tradesman, a man from the third estate, was afraid of rebellion. Observing what is happening around him, he sees what destructive forces are lurking in the middle class. What does this revolt mean? Revolt against authorities, revolt against order, revolt against duty. And then what is left? The beast remains, Smerdyakov remains. If you say: everything is permitted, it sounds very noble in the mouth of a noble person, a knight of freedom, but this can unleash the bestiality in people, and then they will devour each other. In exactly the same way as another, no less great philistine – Kant – comes to the conclusion that people are fundamentally evil, although he knew that Rousseau said that people are fundamentally beautiful and kind. And Dostoevsky, with some end of his heart, felt that people are beautiful, but that somewhere, once, when everything would have been different, if only, but as they are now, they are angry. Liberate them, and they will cut each other’s throats ... Kant says that when religion is over, we will build an autonomous duty that is independent of God. Dostoevsky says something else: power, autocracy and the church. And not only power from above, but also power from within. For Kant, a sense of duty is everything, for Dostoevsky, a sense of duty does not play any role. In our Slavic, natural-economic nature, which was not yet trained by the city and capitalism, this sense of duty played a very small role. God-fearing and humility – that’s what we call duty. And Dostoevsky is on his way to these feelings. In this sense, he is also afraid of rebellion, he is afraid that the rebellious and victorious person will become a beast. Hence: “Humble yourself, proud man!” – as Dostoevsky exclaimed in his famous speech at the opening of the monument to Pushkin.
At the end of the first part of my lecture, I have illuminated before you those inner psychological, everyday motives that forced Dostoevsky to abandon rebellion. As I said, maybe he would not have given up on it, if not for the ordeal of hard labor. But the ordeals of hard labor, plus disappointment from the moderate path that Dostoevsky took after hard labor, plus this fear of rebellion and fear that rebellion would lead to the degeneration of those real people – philistines whom he studied and saw in front of him – all this was sufficient strength, capable of throwing Dostoevsky far from the camp of the sixties, from the camp of the first populists, but besides, the time itself carried him. This is how the literary historian Voitolovsky characterizes this time: “The clash between the feudal and capitalist world has entered such a phase when there was no longer any room for lazy reconciliation, and even the melancholic Turgenev was forced to switch from sweet and sour smiles at Bazarov’s address to stinging slander against the commoner (Smoke and Nov). And the capitalist Satan stubbornly sowed his temptations. According to Shelgunov’s testimony, by the end of the 1860s, all-Russian grunding had blossomed into a magnificent flower. Enterprises collapsed, re-emerged and collapsed again. The industry was in a fever with crises. The newspapers were full of news about joint-stock companies and collapses, about wealthy offices, about fleeing cashiers, about strikes, murders and robberies.” That is, capitalism has paved such a road in Russia that it has already created a new type of large cities with a colossal number of creatures thirsting for profit and fighting among themselves, kicked out of their “rut”. In a strange way, both the bourgeoisie, as it came to Russia, and the petty bourgeoisie, agitated by this big capitalism, by a chaotic outburst in the thirst for profit and in the initial stage of capitalism, made, in essence, the mistake that today’s researchers make, who really think that socialism had something in common with the philistine leaven. Meanwhile, there was a certain commonality of origin, a commonality of the era, but there was also a colossal difference, for there was a demarcation line. Whatever Chernyshevsky said about the “nihilists”, they were actually heroes. And Vladimir Soloviev later says: “They are strange people. They had such a syllogism: man comes from a monkey, and therefore long live selflessness.” Chernyshevsky, who said that man is a tailed animal, at the same time said that a worthy man is one who is ready to lay down his life for the development of the Russian community. This did not contradict one another. They wanted to sabotage all these religious prejudices, and in place of these religious prejudices, this monkey-descended man was portrayed as a man of extraordinary, genuine truth. The victory of capitalism in the countryside contradicted the lordly, feudal falsehood. But Dostoevsky could not understand this. In the same way, in Europe, where Dostoevsky arrived, he felt all the shortcomings of the capitalist system with an unusually sensitive, Herzen-like feeling. But just as sure as Herzen, does not see (Herzen in Russia, at least, saw it) the outcome. “Dostoevsky did not want to accept,” says Gorbachev, “a capitalist civilization, for which there is ... one owner, a civilization: with millions of people driven from the human feast ... with freedom for people who have a million to do whatever they want with people who do not have one ... with legal equality that must be taken for personal injury against the backdrop of economic inequality. Dostoevsky did not believe in a quick victory of European socialism, growing from the depths of capitalism. Dostoevsky examined this socialism in petty-bourgeois France and found in it elements of the philistine thirst for self-enrichment.”
Dostoevsky, naturally, exclaimed about capitalism: Let this cup pass us, and therefore let the cup pass also the revolution, which brings Russia the flourishing of bourgeois rule, the establishment of European relations that have developed after 1793. Dostoevsky believed (with good reason for his time) that if the revolution destroyed the patriarchal order of Russia at that time, the same bourgeois democracy would be established in it as in the West. And about this democracy, Dostoevsky, ten years after the Winter Notes, says that this is a system in which “one tenth of people should receive higher development, and the remaining nine tenths should only serve as a material and a means for this.”
I must say, comrades, that Dostoevsky does not believe in socialism. I think that Comrade Gorbachev is over the edge. Dostoevsky writes in his diary, I don’t remember from what date, but just in the 1860s: The proletarians will undoubtedly win ... socialism has consumed Europe with blood and iron ... no Prince Bismarck will humble him. So for Europe, he had a presentiment of such an end in socialism, but he was not happy about it. He believed that this would be philistine, factory socialism, that it would be the socialism of exemplary workers in exemplary factories. Everyone will be full, period. And he tries to isolate himself from it with this vulgar notion of the barracks of the coming socialism. Dostoevsky says about the socialists: they try to convince people from their minds that it will be better for them that way. But is this the way? And the person does not want this measured happiness at all. And he can so re-distort and regenerate himself because of his inner, inherent, bestial instinct, that only chips will fly from him. Therefore, he said, it may be good for the French or the Germans, it may be that this kind of emasculated socialism will satisfy them, but this is not to our liking. Therefore, he said: may the cup of socialism pass us by, and at the same time the revolution. Dostoevsky became especially bitter after Karakozov’s shot, when Karakozov in the 1860s shot at the Tsar. Then, in general, fear attacked everyone, because both regular and supernumerary spies were scouring. The autocracy was horrified, looked for its enemies and, so to speak, tormented them to pieces. Out of fear, many began to speak the most Black-Hundred speeches, and perhaps such a mood had a strong enough effect on Dostoevsky, but perhaps also what he felt: this revolution was about to come, the same revolution that followed the triumph of the beast in man will follow. And in order to ridicule and disgrace the Russian revolution more penetratingly, he declared that you know who is actually making the Russian revolution – the bar-feuds and foreign spies with foreign money. So as you can see Dostoevsky did not disdain such slander and, perhaps, he himself partially sunk to a fairly Black-Hundred position, internally at the same time remaining latently the Dostoevsky that he was, and on the top floor spreading all this churchliness, all this rottenness of the most reactionary writers. To smooth over this contradiction, Dostoevsky all the more convulsively grasps the realm of mysticism. It seems to him that all this horror of the bourgeoisie as it is, and of the bourgeoisie as what it will be if it wins in the revolution, all the contradictions among which a person must live, all this can be reconciled only by the intervention of the otherworldly and only, perhaps, in something else in the other world, and he says with indignation and curse: “...centuries will pass, and mankind will proclaim through the lips of its wisdom and science that there is no crime, and therefore, there is no sin, and there are only the hungry. Feed, then ask them for virtue!”
Clever idea. Chernyshevsky pursued this idea. But Dostoevsky does not even believe his ears that these things are already being said now. But he says that centuries will pass, and then only humanity will say that there is no sin, but only hunger. And you see that when Dostoevsky heaps such curses on Chernyshevsky’s head, the following conversation takes place inside him: maybe this is really so? After all, at the ball, he wrote, change the circumstances and all people will turn out to be good. Only this cannot be said, because then the whole architecture, the whole world outlook, which Dostoevsky, to a large extent, for the sake of the autocracy that crushed him, developed in himself, would be overturned.
Revolutionary individualism in Dostoevsky is extremely strong, in him inside, in all this duality of him. And Dostoevsky is right when he says that perhaps no one in the world put such strong words into the mouth of a rebel as I did. Of course, it is impossible to imagine, for example, I do not know, a stronger anti-religious propaganda than the famous conversation between Ivan Karamazov and Alyosha. Here, with incredible logic and tremendous artistic pathos, Dostoevsky’s inner idea is revealed, from which he cannot refuse, that God cannot be accepted, because then he would be a great criminal. If a great god existed, then he would be the greatest criminal, for he created such a terrible world in which beings who do not deserve suffering, for example, children, suffer. This idea was expressed with great force. The revolutionary Dostoevsky is stirring here in the grave. The “official” Dostoyevsky erected a huge tombstone over it, a whole system of Orthodox-populist-autocratic thoughts, but all this tilts to the side when the revolutionary Dostoevsky straightens his mighty shoulders. And that this poor, pale Alyosha, whom he tries, like a pike perch, to pour with all sorts of sauces so that he seems tasty, what could he answer – this fish-man? He answers with absolutely fishy words. And Christ, he says, suffered, so he can forgive. Why? On what side, even in the slightest degree, is this convincing? On no side. You could also say to Alyosha: all the more this god is some completely absurd figure, if it turns out that he created such a world that not only must our children be betrayed in it to all kinds of abuse and torture, but it turned out to be necessary to crucify his own son on the cross, ostensibly in order to correct the world, but it was never corrected. So these explanations of Alyosha ruined this religion even more, which, indeed, in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky, more than anything else, slapped on the crown of the head with a murderous blow of criticism. So against whoever Dostoevsky directed his Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, whether he means Catholicism or means some deviation of aristocratic socialism – people who want to think for the people – can be interpreted in different ways, but the fact is that there is a gigantic revolutionary charge here, for an ominous image of a man is being advanced, who supposedly relies on Christ, on Christianity, etc. and on all sorts of lofty ideas, but who made them their complete opposite and who says, that from any idea it is necessary first of all to make the basis of power. People in power must take full responsibility. They suffer with thought, they look for new ways, they fight amidst all doubts, but their foreheads must be even in the face of the flock, which needs to be given the truth and which needs to be fed with a sufficiently strong iron rod, because this flock consists of people who are weak, wretched, not capable of virtue, who without power will certainly be lost and perish. Therefore, if Christ comes again, the Grand Inquisitor, in the name of philanthropy, will send him again to be crucified.
What a huge number of contradictions Dostoevsky immediately raises. What a monstrously huge thought, in which different ideas about freedom and different ideas about power merge with each other in such a way that, for example, our ideas, Vladimir Ilyich’s ideas about the state, about its fate, about its gradual disappearance can find their place in them very harmoniously. ... He inserts this into the framework of the Grand Inquisitor and, moreover, in such a way that he immediately receives a complete explanation of what is vague and crumpled in Dostoevsky, and the inner pathos of the question of power and freedom, and the greatest arguments that can only be given – all this we see here in motion. There are many more examples of this. But this is not yet an organized revolution, not what we mean by revolution. This is the individual rebellion of an advanced bourgeois like Ivan Karamazov, the main bearer of Dostoevsky’s revolutionary ideas, into whose mouth Dostoevsky puts these ideas in order to later slander and denigrate them in a peculiar way. But when Dostoevsky meets the revolution as such, the organized revolution, the party, he becomes even more embittered. If he puts unusually wise and powerful things in the mouths of individualistic rebels, then he is wary of putting it in the mouths of professional revolutionaries. Here his anger reaches its extreme limits. I don’t think it would be correct to say that Dostoevsky, from our point of view of the Marxist communists, is even right, because he meant to describe Stavrogin, a gentleman who, out of nothing to do, is engaged in some kind of revolutionary mischief, and not a philistine revolutionary with his nihilistic smell. I think, that this path of justifying Dostoevsky should not be followed. We now know Nechaev and the Nechaevites better, we know better the position of the nihilists at that time, and we know that even what the cautious Turgenev and other slanderers wrote – and of them the most poisonous was Dostoevsky – is the same thing that our foreigners are now writing about us. slanderers, when they say that we are robbers, that we want to plunder the fatherland, that we have introduced the common ownership of wives, etc. These portraits are just like them, only reaching the most distant and paradoxical revolutionary positions. People like Nechaev are now pictured to us as underground heroes, people of tremendous willpower and tremendous power of thought. We have nothing to renounce them. They are revolutionaries of the period of petty-bourgeois populism, but they are revolutionaries. Dostoevsky noted in them not what was really bad about them, but that what he imposed on them. But where did it come from? Just slander? No. Imposed on them due to the fact that the revolution was a beast from the abyss. The Abyss is philistinism, to which Dostoevsky himself belongs. This is the element that arises from the revolution. The revolution is a beast from this abyss, which, as Dostoevsky says in one place, covers up its abomination in such a way that it seems holy and heroic. But he, Dostoevsky, came to show what is underneath, and to tell the bourgeois: philistine, you are rubbish, you are the greatest rubbish, and when you go the revolutionary path, you ruin yourself, you will perish in your own filth. You must write: Orthodoxy and autocracy. True, your life will be cramped and stifling, uncomfortable, but after all, this is what God wants. Perhaps he will reward you in the next world.
Here is an absurd, crippled answer, in which Dostoevsky himself does not believe, but to which he attracts the philistines whom he is trying to save. From 1864 to the end of his life, up to his Pushkin speech and The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky did not stop his passionate, at times fierce struggle against socialism. In the caricatured Lebezyatnikov (Crime and Punishment) and Burdovsky (The Idiot), in the Shigalevism and Pyotr Verkhovensky, in separate and seemingly random tirades of Prince Myshkin (on socialism and Catholicism), Versilov, finally, in the finished construction of The Legend of Ivan Karamazov and directly from himself in the articles of the Diary of a Writer, Dostoevsky tirelessly, again and again returned to this polemic, which began with the hero of Notes from the Underground. But what real phenomena, what systems and names did Dostoevsky mean in this hostile concept of socialism, he did not explain anywhere. One can only guess about it.
Interesting explanations – more liberal than our critic.
Here comes Comrade Polonsky, Professor Grossman, they begin to delve into what Speshnev or Bakunin or someone else should be understood as Stavrogin. There is nothing to dig, you will not find anything so portrait. Because Dostoevsky was simply afraid of this. He was not afraid to portray Turgenev in Karmazinov, he was afraid to portray Chernyshevsky, he had a remnant of honesty. If I put it the way they say it will be nonsense. You can’t catch them. He wants to expose them, but what does it mean to expose? It means not to write what they say, what they are in front of the public. And you can’t get their inner background. And Dostoevsky puts forward one of the outward signs of philistinism and says: you can’t deceive me, that’s what they are, that’s why they are philistine revolutionaries, and they cannot be otherwise. For Dostoevsky, they are not philistine, but human, and what an animal man is, he supposedly knew that. Dostoevsky goes on to say about socialism: “We were infected with the ideas of the then theoretical socialism. Political socialism did not exist at that time ... The essence of socialism ... so far consists only in the desire for widespread robbery ... But then the matter was understood in the rosy and heavenly moral light. Indeed, it is true that the emerging socialism was compared then ... with Christianity.”
Utopian socialism began hand in hand with Christianity. But the present nihilistic socialism of the 1860s – this one wants to plunder, it has moved away from Christianity, it scolded Christ. That it scolded Christ in the way Belinsky did is true, but that he called for robbery is, of course, incorrect. Dostoevsky always cheats in this way. Ivan Karamazov is an imposing, magnificent figure and almost a genius. He wants to kill his father for his own reasons. True, he is not entirely aware of these personal motives, but such a devil lives in him who, in fact, raves about all this. And here is Smerdyakov, his brother, who looks like him like two drops of water, only their goal was a little different. This plan represents a certain duality, which shows what will actually happen when Ivan Karamazov’s principle “everything is allowed” triumphs. According to Dostoevsky, you cannot trust Ivan Karamazov, because there is Smerdyakov, and Smerdyakov is not at all a stranger to Ivan Karamazov, he is not only his brother, but he lives in Karamazov himself, although Karamazov disowns him with horror when he appears in the form of a demon. This is a complex psychological structure. Therefore, if I asked Dostoevsky: the demons in the revolutionaries, whom everyone knew, whether they are similar to Chernyshevsky, Mikhailov and Speshnev, he would say: no, they are not similar, but I am sure that these are the demons living in these revolutionaries, only they are covered, and this is their brother, this is their double, this is their real essence. Particularly interesting is the speech that Dostoevsky writes about the hero of his upcoming Demons, about Stavrogin, when they had not yet been published. This is so important that I draw your particular attention. This is a real window to the inner essence of Dostoevsky. It gives a glimpse of how Dostoevsky armed himself to fight the revolution, which was terrifying to him not only because he saw a great power in it. Here is what he says: “The main thought with which the prince is sick (Stavrogin, apparently, should have been a prince, according to Dostoevsky’s original plan - A. L.) and with which he worries, is this: We have Orthodoxy; our people are great and beautiful because they believe and because they have Orthodoxy ... Now the question is: who can believe? Is it possible to believe? And if it is not possible, then why shout about the power of Orthodoxy of the Russian people. It is, therefore, only a matter of time.” From time to time Stavrogin makes the discovery that he agrees with Verkhovensky, that it is better to burn everything. “If Orthodoxy is impossible for an enlightened one (and in a hundred years half of Russia will be enlightened), then, therefore, all this is hocus-pocus, and all the power of Russia is temporary. For in order to be eternal, eternal faith in everything is needed. But is it possible to believe?”
There you are. This, of course, Dostoevsky puts into Stavrogin, he rushes about with this thought, but it shows that this thought gnaws at him. Orthodoxy, but an educated person cannot believe in Orthodoxy, and if not, then this and that. And, it turns out, if you can’t believe, then it’s better to burn everything already. If Orthodoxy disappeared, then the hope for the strength of the people and their happiness would disappear, the hope for an afterlife reward would disappear. What is left? Where to go? Into the revolution? Throw in a revolution – there are demons. Remain without a revolution? Combining the old order with capitalism. And no glimpse of any light. If there is no lasting Orthodoxy, a believing people, and it is fragile, its faith melts. It is in this sense that Dostoevsky wanted to take by the throat this revolutionary who dares to say: there is no eternal Orthodoxy, therefore, burn everything, and wanted to squeeze him against the wall and prove his harmfulness and wrongness, and half already agreed with Stavrogin, because he said: let’s judge in an educated way. If Orthodoxy is inconceivable for an educated person, then perhaps something else good is conceivable? No, he says, – then burn everything ... Did Chernyshevsky say burn everything? Did the revolutionaries, even Bakunin, say burn everything, destroy everything? Bakunin said that destruction is progress towards creation, while Dostoevsky says: burn everything. A complete transformation of human civilization into nothing.
Thus, he personifies his inner pain in Stavrogin and forces him to take the weakest position: a strong one, since he denies Orthodoxy, and a weak one, since he cannot replace it with anything. What does Stavrogin want? What is he striving for? He wants nothing. First of all, this is a chaotic nature, one in which almost nothing can be understood. Dostoevsky was afraid to give Stavrogin any clarity of thought. But he gives Verkhovensky clarity of thought. Our comrade Nazarenko says that in anticipation of azefovism, Verkhovensky believes, and this is above all an extremely witty takeoff, that a revolutionary is either a provocateur or a clever scoundrel. And Batyushkov, a liberal critic, says the following: “In Peter Verkhovensky, he not only masterfully, but really prophetically outlines the type of organizer of a political conspiracy, a smart, domineering, unusually restrained person, up to the ability to pretend to be a simpleton, resourceful and infinitely inventive to achieve his goals.”
That’s a wise liberal. It turns out that Verkhovensky is a real revolutionary. What is this revolutionary spirit? You see, they have a funny idea to make a revolution. If these people sat and did not rock the boat, otherwise they do what cannot be done, and since they are doing what cannot be done, they make a revolution, then, naturally, they become swindlers, become unprincipled people who, in the midst of agitation, do not what to think about what is no longer necessary, all decency, all honor to hell flies. This affects the extent to which in Dostoevsky’s portrayal of Verkhovensky one can count on a certain part of the truth. In fact, the younger Verkhovensky is a caricature that Dostoevsky created with an evil hand in order to deliver the most fatal blow to the revolution. And to characterize this, I will cite a famous conversation. “Shigalev,” he says of one of the followers of the revolutionaries, “is a genius! Do you know he this is a genius like Fourier; but bolder than Fourier ... He has invented equality! ... He’s good in his notebook ... he has espionage. Every member of the society looks at him one by one and owes a denunciation. Everyone belongs to everyone, and everything to everyone. All slaves in slavery are equal. In extreme cases, slander and murder, and most importantly equality ... The first step is to lower the level of education, sciences and talents ... available only to the highest abilities; no higher abilities are needed! Higher abilities have always seized power and have been despots. Higher abilities cannot but be despots and have always corrupted more than they were useful, they are expelled or executed. Cicero’s tongue is cut off, Copernicus’ eyes are gouged out. Shakespeare is stoned, this is Shigalevism ... I am for Shigalev! No education needed, enough science. And without science there will be enough material for a thousand years, but obedience has to be arranged. The thirst for education is already an aristocratic thirst. A little family or love, this is already the desire for property. We’ll kill desire. We will let drunkenness, gossip, denunciation; we will indulge in unheard-of debauchery, we will extinguish any genius in infancy. All to one denominator, complete equality.”
It is the most malicious slander one can imagine, a caricature that is turned away for its absurdity. Nobody seems to believe it. And when you read this, you think: were there really such mastodons, such stupid copper-faced inhabitants? But imagine, Professor Batyushkov, who died already in 1920, writes that Dostoevsky here prophetically saw the revolutionary. This is what he says, who already knows our entire revolutionary history.
Then I want to show from a slightly different angle what we are saying now.
There are two people living in Dostoevsky – maybe more, but we will take two for the first time. Dostoevsky is a reactionary, formed in hard labor, formed under the influence of hateful polemics against the revolution, under the influence of fear of the bourgeoisie and under the influence of the desire to prove to himself the correctness of the position of servility in relation to the autocracy, and another Dostoevsky, yearning for the happiness of mankind, a higher organization, a proud rebel, demanding the truth, etc. Naturally, therefore, that Dostoevsky is constantly engaged in playing with doubles, it is so difficult for him to present these ideas of his in an integral system. They disintegrate with him every minute, so we constantly see his doubles: Ivan Karamazov and Smerdyakov, Stavrogin and Verkhovensky, etc. ad infinitum.
When we talked about Uspensky, you remember that Uspensky, who fell ill with a serious illness, said that there are two Uspenskys – one Gleb, the other Ivanovich. Gleb is a saint, idealist and revolutionary, Ivanovich is a philistine, a selfish person, a utilitarian. And in the crack that lived here and passed through his heart, Uspensky suffered and died. Dostoevsky has this too. But how was it with Dostoevsky? His Gleb is different. His Gleb is not an idealist at all, because revolutionary idealism, that is, the very thing that Uspensky adored all his life, is unacceptable for Dostoevsky. Therefore, he rejects Gleb, as an active fighter for human truth, and rushes to Ivanitch – a philistine, careerist, hater of the revolution. And Gleb remains only on the side of Alyosha’s and Myshkin’s holiness. But these holy characters in Dostoevsky are defeated. True, Alyosha is not outwardly defeated, young people come to him and surround him, but in fact, is it not clear that he is portrayed as absolutely insignificant not only next to Ivan Karamazov, the giant of thought that Dostoevsky created, but even next to his brother Dmitry, who represents chaotic, seething passion, unconscious vitality. And already Prince Myshkin cannot act on anyone, and the very name “Idiot” is highly indicative. Prince Myshkin is a saint and by virtue of his holiness does not cling to life, but perishes in the most gloomy way, perishes as a result of the final mental decay, because no one really can stretch out his hands to him, he is too out of this world. So Gleb in Dostoevsky is extremely weak. And the more Dostoevsky realizes this, the more angry he becomes, the more he tries to arm Gleb: “Hold on, then!” Gives him a spear and a shield in his relaxed hands. But he collapses, and this Saint Gleb does not stand on his feet. And then he has to deal with Ivanovich. And here is the general appeal: humble yourself, both for Ivanich the philistine, and for Ivanich, the rebellious philistine-revolutionary. The call for humility in relation to the rebel is the dominant note in the works of Dostoevsky, who, however, cannot in any way cover up the belief in this rebellious element.
It is often said that Dostoevsky was a great psychologist. He was really very interesting from this side, because those mental images, or, as we would now say, those systems of peculiar reflexes that he draws when he draws different individuals, they are so rich, multifaceted, unexpected, and under this surprise sometimes suddenly Such a hidden logic shines through that in such complexity and such subtlety of internal cohesions, no one has ever shown this reflexological, or, as they said before, psychological, human apparatus before Dostoevsky.
But at the same time, of course, it is in no way possible to think that Dostoevsky is a realist. This impetuosity is much more complicated. It is realistic because it reflects the phantasmagorically unstable life of the townspeople, and then, when the city was destroyed and capitalism had just begun, then in particular they lived some kind of disheveled life, there was no stability. And this emotional twitching was noticed by Dostoevsky realistically. But he depicts hyperbolically, that is, exaggerating, showing like a powerful microscope. The features that in normal life pass more or less unnoticed, he inflates in front of you, makes them swell to monstrosity. And in this respect, his heroes, of course, do not look like living people. They are rather similar to those who inhabit prisons, where he partly observed these people, in hard labor, therefore, they are abnormal, terrifying criminals or madmen, whose individual psychological traits are inflated to an incredible size. Does it mean that there is nothing to learn from Dostoevsky? Of course it doesn’t. Because thanks to these exaggerations, some of these springs become clear to us, such combinations that we cannot see with a simple eye. But the inner ideological struggle, which he described, usually superimposing feeling on this complexity, creates such a pattern, such a subtlety of Dostoevsky’s work that we do not find in any other writer. Tolstoy, who was a great psychologist, who observed in himself and around himself unusually subtly and portrayed terribly truthfully and vividly what was observed, he did not like Dostoevsky and did not consider him a psychologist. When he read Dostoevsky’s novels, he wrote: “...how un-artistic! Directly not artistic. The actors are not doing exactly what they should be doing. So it even becomes vulgar: you read and know in advance that they will do just not what they should, what you expect. Surprisingly inartistic! And everyone speaks the same language.”
It is not entirely true that they all spoke the same language. But, perhaps, to some extent, the language is one and the same. They are all too philosophical, too withdrawn into the inner essence, they all speak in terms of city life. But the point is not this, but that Tolstoy does not like the inconsistency of Dostoevsky’s heroes. Pereverzev is absolutely right when he says that Tolstoy describes the gentleman and the peasant as part of a stable system and loves them for their stability. And Dostoevsky is all impulse, he is the whole reflector of the most unstable that can only be in the city dweller and in his life. Dostoevsky understood this perfectly. He himself speaks of Tolstoy, as if in response to Tolstoy: Tolstoy “is almost a historiographer of our nobility, or, better to say, of our cultural stratum, which completes the educational period of our history.” Dostoevsky wants to say: nobility is not a bison, but an advanced nobility. In this historiographer of our nobility “I like most of all this is the very goodness that you and I are looking for, the heroes depicted by him. He is a psychologist of the noble soul. Something unshakable and indisputable already lies in the foundations of this upper stratum of Russian people. Here any individual can have his weaknesses and be very funny, but he is strong as a whole, acquired in two centuries, and the roots even earlier, and, despite the realism, the reality, the funny and comic, here it is possible and touching and pathetic. Be that as it may, all this is good or bad in itself, but here in this surviving and definite form, rules have accumulated here, here is a kind of honor and duty.” And so I would say that Dostoevsky shows himself in this higher than Tolstoy. Tolstoy has no sense of the class approach. It is artistic and simple. Dostoevsky understands that people are of two different classes, and then it was not at all easy to take a class point of view. Tolstoy finds inartistic and denies everything from a strange class. Dostoevsky says: I like it very much, I am impressed, I would look for such heroes, but I cannot find them. They are not actually around. It goes without saying that, evaluating himself, Dostoevsky understood very well all this struggle in himself, that no one can make final conclusions, that the conclusions he asks to draw from his writings are not convincing, but those conclusions, which suggest themselves, are repugnant to him and unacceptable to him. Therefore, he writes in one of his letters: “Do you think I am one of those people, who save hearts, deliver souls, drive away sorrow? Sometimes they write to me, but I knowprobably that is able to infuse more disappointment and disgust. I am not a master of lulling, although sometimes I did it. But many creatures only need to be lullied.” But the point is not to lull, but to teach, to give knowledge. Why is the phrase “I don’t want to lull” put this way? And to show the way, but to calm down in order for the person to go forward? No, he says, I’m not a master at this. That’s right, not only is he not a master of lulling, not a master of calming down down, not a master of tuning, but a master of upsetting and making one internally realize that he is only upset. We need a colossal power of nature, I would say, our present proletarian nature, in order to drink such a poisonous potion as Dostoevsky, and from this to become even healthier, and for people not of this type Dostoevsky is really poison. And he perfectly feels this rupture of his. And I think, to a large extent, he speaks of himself when he throws such a phrase in his novel describing hard labor, The House of the Dead: “After all, this is perhaps the most gifted, the most powerful people of all our people. But mighty forces perished for nothing, perished abnormally, illegally, irrevocably. Who is guilty? Who is to blame?” And Dostoevsky does not give an answer to this. Of course, he himself was in hard labor, and he considers himself to be one of the exceptionally strong elements of our people, and he himself felt that he died, if not physically, then under the burden of these terrible contradictions that were tearing his soul apart. “Who is guilty? Who is to blame?” Dostoevsky himself cannot give an exact answer, and we will find it difficult. We can say autocracy, but autocracy is not the cause of causes, but in the end is the effect. Consequently, the entire system, the entire deviation of the philistine at that moment, torn apart by contradiction and individualism; old prejudices, and religion, and the Black Hundreds – they all nestled in him. And Dostoevsky was so broad that he embraced everything. His whole fate: his epilepsy, his mock execution, his hard labor, his dark life, full of want, his huge internal ups, to console himself, to somehow get drunk with his images and his bubbling life that he created around him – all this brought him to the point that he was able to embrace his contradictions, but already failed to resolve them. This is a real, complete and accurate characterization of Dostoevsky. If we thought that the petty bourgeoisie, that is, the petty bourgeoisie of the 1840s, 50s, 60s, is simply an uninteresting class, then there is no need to study Dostoevsky, but it was already a class in which there were capitalists, both the reactionaries and the Chernyshevskys, in which there were the greatest contradictions, from which everything emerged: capitalism in one direction and the coming communism in the other. Everything came out of it.
As a result, I conclude that Dostoevsky should be read and studied. And if you ask: can we in any way imitate him?
I have already said that Dostoevsky is outwardly sloppy. He, with a certain amount of malice, evaluates the works of noble writers as harmonious. He kind of envies them and says bluntly: I have no time, I must often ruin my pages. But it would be wrong if, as a result of this, we came to the conclusion that Dostoevsky was as a result of this, as it were, an unfinished artist. Yes, he cared little about his style, and if he rewrote his novels several times, maybe it would be a different matter. But he couldn’t do it. He had one novel chasing another. So even if they gave him money, he would still write hastily, and in this haste there is ebullient lava. Tolstoy spent a very long time preparing his works, and when you read them, you feel that it is amazingly free, simple and easy, but in Dostoevsky you feel the writer’s torment in his works, and as a result he infects you.
In terms of the construction of the novel, Dostoevsky is undoubtedly a very interesting artist. He himself studied a lot, he himself re-read too much, especially Western European models. And I think that from the point of view of form, general construction, Dostoevsky is very well characterized by Grossman.
He says that Dostoevsky was the first real fabulist in the Russian novel, by the fact that he builds his novel in such a way as to interest you in the course of events, he arouses your interest by what will be on the next page, he confronts people in such juicy contradictions, on such slippery slopes, when you do not know what will be, and at the same time are captured and interested, and what will be, in fact. And at the same time L. Grossman correctly says: Dostoevsky builds, not deliberately superimposing one adventure on another, but, as he says, swirls a huge number of persons and events, runs from one to another. So, if for one minute, – L. Grossman’s correct remark, – in the novel that passion, that haste, nervousness, passion of presentation, cooled down, it would disintegrate into formless episodes. Only because it all revolves, lives, – it all sticks together.
So Dostoevsky is a wonderful designer of the novel, but he is a wonderful designer of an expressionist novel, not building architecturally, but swirling all sorts of events so that all these atoms, not attached to each other, get their centrifugal center.
And if we go on to characterize each individual element, then it seems to me that this expressionism of Dostoevsky is well enough characterized in my characterization, which I made in my article on Dostoevsky. I will cite these few lines:
“Dostoevsky was a lyric artist who, in particular, writes about himself, for himself and from himself. All his stories and novels are one fiery river of his own experiences. This is a continuous confession of his innermost soul. It is a passionate desire to confess his inner truth. This is the first and main element in his work. The second is a constant desire to infect, convince, shock the reader, confessing his faith to him. These two properties of Dostoevsky’s creativity are inherent in him like no other lyrics, if by lyrics we mean the call of a shocked soul.”
From this we see that this is a wonderful constructor, but which can only be accepted together with a hot passion that embraces everything. As a stylist, we can only accept him, realizing that he is a lyricist, revealing his wounded heart.
Can we learn from such a writer? I think not. I think that our writer, although he may be highly infected with various contradictions, resolves these contradictions much more calmly. These contradictions are not so painful for him, they do not tear him apart. They represent problems that have to be solved through thoughtfulness and internal sensory experience, volitional overcoming of these contradictions. Therefore, our novel must be dynamic, it must have dialectics, there must be oppositions, but which in the end either lead to the solution of the problem, or represent a piece of the road towards its final solution. Therefore, our novel will be calmer. As for the construction of our novel, our novel can be constructed fabulously, that is, proceed from the interests of the intended plot, but in no case is it necessary for it to adhere solely to this centripetal, feverish, agitated presentation. We will not have this fever, this excited presentation. Our passion is calm because it is victorious. Therefore, we cannot construct in the way that Dostoevsky constructs. Our novel should really be thought out and built in the same way as a proletarian or an engineer, together with a proletarian, builds some kind of battleship, so that it really stands, floats, flies, etc., so that it is not only an apparent whole, but really layers lay on layers, creating a complete building. But Dostoevsky’s manner is in its way so complete that, of course, one cannot be an educated writer if they do not know Dostoevsky’s manner. Very often you can push off from the manner of Dostoevsky and withdraw yourself, and you can sometimes borrow this or that from him, for example, when portraying such facts and types of which Dostoevsky has many and which still live next to us, because the bourgeoisie is still a lot. As for its inner content, is it necessary for us, here is that huge tangle of contradictions that I characterized in my speech before you, then Gorbachev, who treats Dostoevsky and the entire past in Russian literature rather coldly, says: “The ideas of Dostoevsky in Russian socio-ideological history were used mainly by reactionaries to fight the revolutionary worldview; Dostoevsky’s work supported depressive moods; Dostoevsky himself struggled with ideas that were progressive for his era. But Dostoevsky with his life and with his creativity represents the most striking example and the most vivid proof of the hopelessness of individualism. From this side, the work of Dostoevsky can be used even now.”
I would add a little to this judgment of Gorbachev. I would say so. First, in Dostoevsky, sometimes you come across elements that are positive for us, which he himself condemns as negative, but which he portrays with gigantic force. For example, the revolt of Ivan Karamazov; such a revolutionary, as I put it, buried in Dostoevsky’s cemetery, sometimes emits such moans and screams under his tombstone, which not only still shake us vividly, but are also modern. Very often in anti-religious propaganda one has to use the colors of Dostoevsky, although he imagines that in this case he defeated the demon Ivan Karamazov.
Then, what is negative in Dostoevsky – here Gorbachev is absolutely right – is expressed with such relief that it gives us the opportunity to experience ourselves in the most magnificent way, to experience and cognize ourselves. And there are still a lot of such petty-bourgeois contradictions in our transitional system.
And, finally, Dostoevsky is extremely important to us in one more aspect. Comrades, no matter what we say, Dostoevsky is one of the favorite writers of the world reader. Never, as during Expressionism in Germany after the war, was Dostoevsky raised higher; in general, he is one of the most beloved writers in Europe. Why is he one of Europe’s favorite writers? Because Europe is experiencing this very impassability, because Europe is now in the real embrace of Dostoyevshchina. And so there you can meet people who do not know what they will be tomorrow – communists or Catholics, go to God and mysticism, or go to the satisfaction of the mouth and its demands. They rush between different poles of bourgeois life and bourgeois egoism and bestiality. They rush about and find no use for this. Therefore, of course, the whole attitude towards nature, towards women, towards life and death – all this is in chaos, and when you read Dostoevsky now, all these convulsions and all this living flesh, with which the skin is connected and which trembles with the passionate trembling of these contradictions, is extremely impressive. But if we don’t talk about our own bourgeoisie, whom we introduced into the shafts quite well, and if we talk about the world bourgeoisie, then we must learn his importance for Western European bourgeois literature. Ask any European intelligent person if he has a writer who would be more beloved and whom he would consider more dear to the heart of the intelligentsia there and the mass reader there who adjoins the intelligentsia, even sometimes a proletarian one. No, they will say that Dostoevsky is the exponent of time. You remember what Vladimir Ilyich Lenin said about Tolstoy. Tolstoy is great in that that he foresaw the meeting of the Russian landowner and the Russian countryside with capitalism. Thanks to his genius, Vladimir Ilyich says, he turned the decomposition of the inner soul of the peasant into a pole of protest, and a pole of passivity in the face of capitalism into an eternal value, important for everyone. But one can say about Dostoevsky in exactly the same way. The insoluble tragedy of the Russian bourgeoisie, which the Narodniks also did not resolve, although they strove to resolve in all its contradictions, Dostoevsky recognized it as insoluble, recognized it as chaotic, and depicted the depth of this chaos before us, so that when the world bourgeois society after the war again rose to crossroads, lost faith in itself, so to speak, going to its grave, again experiencing, as it were, the days of its youth and uncertainty, then it grabbed Dostoevsky as its best mirror. Proceeding from all this, we must say that Dostoevsky did not die for us in any way. We consider him a great witness to the storm of the philistine soul. Of course, each individual bourgeois may be just a bourgeois, and perhaps he has no storms, because in a glass of water there can be storms, while Dostoevsky has oceanic storms. But the union of these millions together constitutes a society and a generation. Together, they make up something more than even the individual Dostoevsky himself, who lived, wrote and died, but they are still alive and continue to write and prove and act. We must study them through Dostoevsky. He gives us the greatest opportunity to do this. The reader who has read Dostoevsky not only experiences the exciting features of his plot, not only tastes the sweetness of such bright, deep life enthusiasm and torment, which he always portrayed in some kind of combination with voluptuousness and with such a magical experience of life as such a complete great being; whoever has experienced all this, moreover, is ready to approach Dostoevsky and say that the undissolved world, the lack of roads, chaos and inner disorder is something like an ideal, for it shows a particularly perfect nature – it, therefore, did not outgrow Dostoevsky and, like a fly in sticky poison, it will stick there and may die from it. The writer is poisonous enough. But you and I must have socially outgrown this long ago, and we can experience pleasure reading Dostoevsky, and at the same time, our proletarian mind will investigate with the greatest curiosity those diseases, which are evidenced by the contradictions and torments of Dostoevsky, and we will constantly oppose them with that harmonious system, in the light of which we ourselves created our new harmony, and in addition to the individual positive elements that we extract from Dostoevsky, in addition to the excellent knowledge of the old philistinism and partly our current philistinism and world philistinism, we also experience a great gratitude (from that, it is understandable) how a person of such a great mind, having got to this damned place, rushed off-road in comparison with our permissions. Take Dostoevsky’s problem after another and compare it with Marxism and Leninism. We can proudly say that all the problems with which Dostoevsky was tormented, we can proudly say that our Leninist and Marxist world outlook resolves quite satisfactorily, without postponing them somewhere, without crushing them, resolving all the contradictions in which Dostoevsky floundered. This is another additional bonus. From the resolved torments of Dostoevsky, we deduce how far we have stepped, how far our class has before it, albeit a more difficult path, but how much more gunpowder there is in our powder flasks than the petty-bourgeois leaders of that period, above whom the current best people of the bourgeois world have not risen.