September 01, 2013

Demons on the Stage

Demons on the Stage

Dostoyevsky wrote his novel Demons in the early 1870s. He poured into this work (also known in English under the titles The Possessed and The Devils) his tormented thoughts on the fate of Russia and religion's role in it.

The event that provoked him to write the novel was the trial of the charismatic revolutionary Sergei Nechayev, a man unburdened by the slightest moral compunction. Deceit, murder – Nechayev would stop at nothing to gain the blind obedience of his followers and promote the ultimate goal of revolution. Historians still debate whether the revolutionary was mainly driven by a desire to wield power or by the dream of overthrowing those exercising it.

Like many of Dostoyevsky's works, Demons represented an impassioned call for religious purification as Russia's only salvation, but it was greeted by many of his contemporaries mainly as a caricature of Russian revolutionaries. In fact, it offered a panoramic view of a Russian spiritual landscape populated by inspired seekers of the divine, cynical manipulators, intellectuals feeling disillusioned with God and life, and many other types that would have been recognizable to Dostoyevsky's readers. Not everyone agreed with the novel's ideas, but few denied its genius.

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