Messianism, State and Literature. Dostoevsky, Belyi and Solzhenistyn on Russia's Identity

Project leader

Irina Karlsohn

Project period

1 Jan 2014 - 31 Dec 2017

Project description

The project aims at shedding light on the processes of Russian identity formation, still a burning issue today. The investigation focuses on the Russian messianic myth, which in its modern forms traces its origins to the slavophiles of the nineteenth century. Scholars have traditionally identified two different trends of Russian messianist thought: one emplasizing the state, and the other emphasizing the people. These trends are commonly analyzed as two parallel but more or less harmoniously interconnected and interplaying phenomena. In this investigation, the harmony of Russian messianisms is questioned and a conflict between the two mentioned forms is detected. At the heart of this conflict is the question of the nature of the state. What is the state, according to different proponents of messianism? What is state power? Russian literature has given varying answers to the question of the state in different historical situations, answers which cannot be found anywhere else. In the investigation, a limited set of literary texts are analysed. These texts can be connected to messianic thought and they treat the question of the state in different ways. They are written by three influential authors: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Andrei Bely, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The words are analysed with regard to historical and cultural contexts, and with regard to intertextual relationships.

Major funding source

The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet)