How should Dostoevsky and Tolstoy be read in Russia’s war with Ukraine?

As a student of Russian literature, I can’t help but fix the world through the country’s stories, legends, music and plays, even when Russian cultural works are being destroyed and around the world.

With the Russian military committing atrocities in Ukraine – including the massacre of civilians in Bucha – the discussion of what to do with Russian documents has naturally arisen.

I’m not worried that the real estate image could be destroyed. The endurance of literature is one, because they are enough to be read seriously against the current changes.

You can make this argument about any great work of Russian literature, but as an expert on Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, I will stick with the most famous Russian literature.

After World War II, the German critic Theodore Adorno described the Holocaust as a great blow to Western culture and philosophy, to the point of questioning the human capacity to ” life after Auschwitz.”

This concept, born out of the specifics of the Holocaust, should not be used only now. But because of Adorno’s leadership, I think if – after the attack on the city of Mariupol, after the horrors on the streets of Bucha, with the atrocities that took place in Kharkiv , Mykolaev, Kyiv and others are necessary to change the violence. Readers will be familiar with the great Russian writers.

Facing pain with light eyes

When he realized that the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev looked up at the last minute when he saw a man being killed, Dostoevsky explained his own situation: “(A) man has no rights. living on the surface of the earth to turn and ignore what is happening in the world, and there are high moral values ​​for this.”

Seeing the ruins of a theater in Mariupol, hearing about the citizens of Mariupol starving because of the Russian invasion, I wonder what Dostoevsky – who focused on his right eye on the question of the suffering of children in his 1880 book “The Brothers Karamazov” – says the Russian army when shooting a theater where children are sheltered. The word “child” was spelled out on the concrete platform outside the theater in large letters visible from the sky. There is no mistaking what is there.

People have no right to turn away from what is happening in the world,’ wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky. (Image Credit/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Ivan Karamazov, the main character in “The Brothers Karamazov,” focused more on questions of justice than acceptance or forgiveness and reconciliation. In conversation, Ivan always brings up examples of child abuse, asking others to identify the abuses among them. He was determined to seek revenge.

Indeed, the feelings of the children in Mariupol were something that Dostoevsky could not ignore. Could he avoid a vision of Russian society seeing innocent civilians – men, women and children – lying on the streets of Bucha?

At the same time, readers should not look away from Dostoevsky’s injustice and his sense of Russian uniqueness. These dogmatic views about the greatness of Russia and the messianic mission of Russia are related to the general ideology that motivated the colonial mission of Russia in the past, and other Russian politics in the present. Time on the sex show in Ukraine.

However, Dostoevsky was a great humanist thinker who captured this vision of Russian greatness in Russian suffering and faith. Discovering the spiritual value of human suffering may be a natural outcome for a man who was sent to a labor camp in Siberia for five years simply for joining a prestigious socialist book club. Dostoevsky grew out of his suffering, but not to the point where he could accept state-sponsored terror.

The author in his book “Crime and Punishment” in 1866 describes the extent of murder to the murderer – he explains that when someone takes a life, they kill a part of themselves – would they agree with Putin’s vision of Russia? Warts and all, will Russia’s biggest rebel in Ukraine back down or rebel?

I think he will, like many modern Russian writers. But the Kremlin’s advice is flat, and many Russians agree with them. Many Russians look up.

Tolstoy’s approach to pacifism

No writer captured the war in Russia better than Tolstoy, Russia’s most famous pacifist-turned-soldier. In his last work, “Hadji Murat,” which examines Russia’s colonial activities in the North Caucasus, Tolstoy shows how Russia tortured the Chechen village to immediately hate the Russians.

Tolstoy’s major work on the Russian war, “War and Peace,” is a novel that Russians read regularly during major wars, including World War II. In “War and Peace,” Tolstoy argues that the morale of the Russian army is the key to victory. The most successful wars are defensive ones, where the soldiers understand the reason for fighting and what they are fighting to protect: their home.

Towards the end of his life, Russian author Leo Tolstoy worked tirelessly to end poverty and oppose war. (Culture Club/Getty Images)

Even so, he can tell the terrifying experiences of young Russian soldiers walking directly with instruments of death and destruction on the battlefield. They get lost in the crowd of their army, but one single loss is disastrous for the families who await their safe return.

After publishing “War and Peace,” Tolstoy publicly denounced Russian war propaganda. The last part of his novel “Anna Karenina” was never published in 1878 because it criticized Russia’s actions in the Russo-Turkish war. Tolstoy’s alter ego in the novel, Konstantin Levin, called Russia’s entry into the war “genocide” and thought it was unfair that Russians should be dragged into it.

“People are dying and always ready to sacrifice themselves for their souls, not for murder,” he said.

In 1904, Tolstoy wrote a public letter condemning the Russo-Japanese War, which was sometimes compared to Russia’s war in the Ukraine.

“Another war,” he wrote. “Here again the pains, unbecoming of man, unbecoming; The new deception, the global stupefaction and the torture of men. One could almost hear him shouting “Think of yourself,” the title of that article, to his current residents.

In one of his most famous pacifist writings, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” in 1900, Tolstoy clearly saw the plight of Russia today.

“The evil of nations does not arise, but from the nature of society in which men are bound and find themselves in the power of a few men, or more in the power of one man. man: a man changed by his natural position as the arbiter of the fate and life of millions, he always lives in a bad situation, and he always suffers from the mania of self-aggrandizement.

The importance of work

If Dostoevsky insists that one should not look, it is fair to say that Tolstoy argues that people should do as they see.

During the Russian famine of 1891 to 1892, he started soup kitchens to help his countrymen who were starving and abandoned by the Russian government. He worked to help Russian soldiers avoid being photographed in the Russian government, visiting and supporting prisoners of war who did not want to fight. In 1899, he sold his last novel, “Resurrection,” to help a Russian Christian group, the Doukhobors, move to Canada so they wouldn’t have to fight the Russian army. .

These writers have little to do with modern warfare. They cannot stop or reduce the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine. But they are included at some level in the Russian cultural fabric, and how their books are read. Not because Russian literature can explain any of what is happening, because it can’t. But because, as the Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan wrote in March 2022, Russia’s war in Ukraine marked a victory for Russia’s great human culture.

When this culture confronts a Russian army that has attacked and killed Ukrainians, the great writers of Russia can be read seriously, with an important question in mind: how to stop the violence. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny known during his trial in March 2022, Tolstoy urged his citizens to fight against despotism and war because one can do the other.

And the Ukrainian artist Alevtina Kakhidze mentioned “War and Peace” in a February 2022 entry in her art diary.

“I read your f—ing posts,” he wrote. “But Putin is not the same, and you’ve forgotten.”

This article is reproduced from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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