Pushkin’s Legacy: The Dostoyevsky-Turgenev Debate, Dissertation Example
The present paper presents the analytical overview of the figure of Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin as seen by two fundamentally different writers and thinkers of the following epoch – Dostoevsky and Turgenev. The 19th century was characterized by the intense ideological tensions regarding the pathway that Russia should follow in its development. These tensions were manifested in the division between Slavophiles and Westernizers, each of which had a particular vision of Russia’s destiny as a state. Turgenev was a prominent representative of Westernizers who thought that the sure way of development for Russia was only in the Western flow, following the democratic example of Western states, and also becoming a modern Western state. Dostoevsky was a representative of “pochvenniki”, the subgroup of Slavophiles, who attributed the major role to the Russian exploration of authenticity, and following its own unique prophetic path in Europe, distinguishing itself from the West. Pushkin was a symbol of the Russian nation, “narod”, since he was reasonably regarded as the creator of the Russian literary language, Russian images in literature, and the literature itself. Hence, the vision of Pushkin and the role of his work for the Russian nation by both Turgenev and Dostoevsky serves as a powerful illustration of their ideologies, as well as the contribution of Pushkin. These visions are compared and analyzed on the examples of Dostoevsky’s and Turgenev’s speeches at the unveiling of the Pushkin monument in Moscow in 1880.
Key words: Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Westernism, Slavophilism, pochvenniki, prophecy, narod, ideology, Golden Age, Russian literary language
The 19th century was marked by the introduction of realism in the Russian literature; its emergence was stimulated by the socio-political liberalization introduced by Alexander II, and the urge towards unity with the Russian folk expressed by the upper-class lords. In the literary and historical understanding, realism can be defined as the literary trend dedicated to the reflection of surrounding reality in its most typical manifestations (Danilov 2011, p. 139). The founder of Russian realism is Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin; his work “Evgeny Onegin” is considered the first realist work, while some other works such as “Boris Godunov”, “Mednyi Vsadnik”, and “Kapitanskaya Dochka” are referred to the realist trend as well (Bolshaya Shkolnaya Entsiklopediya n.d., p. 457). One can firmly assume that the introduction of realism and its quick, strong, and comprehensive success were heralded by Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin’s literary works. As Persky (2010) noted, though there are many features of Romanticism in Pushkin’s “Evgeny Onegin”, there are still the evident roots of realism deeply embedded in the depiction of the Russian society of the beginning of the 19th century (p. 10). Though Pushkin was never regarded as a realist, his writings were the heralds of the new literary stream coming, which was substantiated by the full-scale transfer to realism in the second half of the 19th century.
The literary and socio-ideological change towards realism has been marked by intense interest of thinkers, writers, educators, and other people who could really change something to the destiny of the Russian nation, and the path it had to follow in order to develop and evolve. The present issue had many controversies, and marked the fundamental divide in the critical thought of the 19th century – Westernizers were the intelligent, educated thinkers of the upper-class Russian society who traveled much, watched the process of European development, and saw the Russian destiny as analogous to that of Europe, while Slavophiles and ‘pochvenniki’ were the conservative, pro-national thinkers who saw the unique role of the Russian nation in the global development as a peace-maker, enlightener, and reformer. It is obvious that Slavophiles were also educated and developed people; they traveled to Europe as well, but did not associate the Russian path of development with the European one. Hence, these debates transformed into the social, cultural, literary, and political plain, and were reflected in the writings of the most prominent figures of the period. The figure of Pushkin, as well as his contribution to the development of the Russian literature and the Russian critical thought, was also approached from various angles depending on the party involved; hence, his legacy was subject to varying interpretations, goals, and perspectives. As a result, the major controversy in the analysis of Pushkin’s role in the progress of Russian literary development has emerged.
Before analyzing the views about Pushkin as voiced by Dostoevsky and Turgenev, one has to realize the nature of the Slavophile-Westernizer debate that tore the Russian thinkers, writers, and activists in the middle of the 19th century. As Sidorova and Sidorov (2011) noted, the cause of the debate’s emergence was the published “Philosophic Letter” (“Filosoficheskoe Pismo”) of Chaadaev that presented the view of Russia as non-valuable for both Asia and Europe, being stuck in the middle between Asia and Europe, and giving nothing to any of these parts of the world (p. 187). As a result of this destructive assessment, the intelligent thought of Russia divided into Slavophiles (who emerged first) who juxtaposed Russia and the West, but did not diminish the importance of Western cultural achievements, and Westernizers, who considered Russia a part of the Western civilization, but believed it was lagging behind Western Europe in its development, and the path of catching up with Europe was through the adoption of the constitutional reign model, and reformation of its socio-political forms of power (Sidorova & Sidorov 2011, p. 188).
Slavophiles insisted on Russia’s having a unique historical path of its national development, and believed that Russia should arrive at nationally specific socio-political forms; they were against the formal limitations of monarchial reign, and believed in the old “zemsky sobor” meetings for public discussions of political and social events (p. 188). Overall, Slavophiles believed in the God-given power of monarchs, but called for granting more freedom of speech and opinion to common people. Dostoevsky is often regarded as the representative of Slavophiles; however, one should note that he was more of a “pochvennik” than a Slavophile.
The movement of “pochvennichestvo” as a socio-political thought gained force due to the publications of “Vremya” and “Epokha” conducted by Dostoevsky and his brother Mikhail; the key ideas voiced by “pochvenniki” were in the dominance of the morality problem over the political and social tensions in Russia (Sidorova & Sidorov 2011, p. 205). “Pochvenniki” criticized the Western lifestyle for cruel exploitation of workers, and for superficiality of spiritual interests; however, their opinions about the Russian path of development can be seen as more loyal towards the West than that is Slavophiles is. “Pochvenniki” believed that the Russian soul can encompass both the developments of the West (including science, technology, cultural advancement, education, etc.), and at the same time retain the authentic national identity and the best qualities of the Russian folk (i.e., sincere faith, openness and breadth of the Russian soul, unity of classes) (Sidorova & Sidorov 2011, p. 205).
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoevsky and Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev belonged to the rival trends, as one can see, and their views on the future of the Russian nation differed tremendously; hence, one can regard the nature of their debate as a fundamental socio-ideological divide between pro-Western and pro-national thinkers. They were the brightest representatives of the conflicting parties – Slavophiles (namely, “pochvenniki”) and Westernizers, so their opinions about the heritage of Pushkin can provide a deeper insight into the real nature of the critical debate of the time, and give an in-depth understanding of the comprehensive contribution that Pushkin has made to the Russian culture. Therefore, the present dissertation aims at analyzing the debate concerning the historical reception of the work of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin by Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoevsky and Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev.
The fundamental differences in the position of Dostoevsky and Turgenev on the subject of the Russian nation’s destiny have been manifested in the writers’ lifelong activity, opinions, and works. However, the Dostoevsky -Turgenev debate entails two unique appropriations of Pushkin’s enormous legacy, most acutely presented at the Pushkin celebration of 1880, where Turgenev and Dostoevsky were both keynote speakers. Unveiling of Pushkin’s monument in Moscow on June 6, 1880, was a tremendous event arranged on public funds; the monument was made by Opekushkin, a very talented sculptor of that time, who had won the right to make that monument. The unveiling of the monument took place with the presence of state authorities and a great number of intelligentsia representatives, both Westernizers and Slavophiles – Fedor Dostoevsky, Ivan Turgenev, Alexander Ostrovsky, Ivan Aksakov, Nikolai Strakhov, Mikhail Katkov, etc. (Levitt 1989, p. 1). It was at this event that Turgenev and Dostoevsky offered radically different interpretations of Pushkin’s legacy in their addresses, which presupposes the focus of the present dissertation deriving the argument from the present event.
Dostoevsky appropriates Pushkin as a “prophet”, emphasizing that Pushkin denotes a profoundly Russian character and genius, one that is consistent with the Eastern Christian Orthodox heritage of Russia. Thus, for Dostoevsky, Pushkin is both a particular and a universal historical phenomenon: Pushkin emerges in the particular context of Russia, being at the same time the representative of the Russian Orthodox tradition, and bearing a universal dimension to his work. In this context, Dostoevsky interprets Orthodoxy as the only possibility for the unity and brotherhood of all people, and sees the path of the Russian folk to ending all conflicts based upon the Christian love and pity (Persky 2010, p. 13).
Turgenev, in his turn, links Pushkin to the general flowering of national consciousness that occurred in the nineteenth century, coupled with the notion that Pushkin embodied the ideals of the Enlightenment. Consequently, Turgenev’s approach considers Pushkin as Russia’s first truly European intellectual; the works of Pushkin bring Russia closer to Europe. The present vision reflects the enlightenment work of Turgenev who initially considered himself a writer, and then – an educator. However, Turgenev attacked bondage in his works, and targeted the depiction of “new men” as soon as the revolutionary thinkers emerged at the heart of the Russian society (Persky 2010, p. 13).
The role of Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin can hardly be overestimated, since his literary and cultural heritage has stimulated the majority of groundbreaking changes and reforms in the Russian society. Pushkin was a herald of the change, and his attention to ordinary people manifested the beginning of the new era of literature being intimately connected with larger socio-cultural and political realities. While Pushkin created the fundamentals for the coming of the Russian realism into literature, Turgenev and Dostoevsky are considered some of the most outstanding representatives of this trend. Hence, their views on the legacy of Pushkin, as well as their opinions about the direction of socio-cultural development of Russia, represent the issue of utmost significance for the context of the present dissertation. Their views were explicated most sharply during the unveiling of the Pushkin monument in 1880, and speeches they delivered represent valuable material for considering their critical standpoints regarding Pushkin and his works.
Hence, there is a need to produce an in-depth analysis of Dostoevsky’s and Turgenev’s speeches at the Pushkin memorial celebration of 1880. These two texts are crucial to the context of the research problem, namely, the assessment of Pushkin’s literary heritage for the development of Russian realism. Obviously, the texts of Pushkin are also crucial, insofar as both of these commentaries can be viewed as variants of literary criticism, and the interpretations of Pushkin’s work. According to the views of Dostoevsky and Turgenev, the context of this problem falls within the general distinction between Westernism and Slavophilism within the Russian critical thought. Thus, the researched problem is not only indicative of an academic context, in which the literary merits of an author may be debated, but also evinces a greater political context, in which the respective positions established by Dostoevsky and Turgenev represent two internal ideologies within Russia.
Much of the academic literature in the English language has emphasized the political aspect of this debate, noting that the two sides represent political appropriations. For example, Marcus C. Levitt’s Russian Literary Politics and the Pushkin Celebration of 1880, as the title of the monograph makes clear, examines the Pushkin memorial in a dual literary-political context. However, much of the academic literature has not taken the content of this debate outside of its political implications – that is, a direct analysis of what Turgenev and Dostoevsky are saying is directed at understanding the legitimacy of their respective claims. The present narrow interpretation can surely be attributed to problems with the accuracy of methodology, and the necessary heterogeneity of literary criticism and interpretation – the attempt to say that Turgenev or Dostoevsky offer the image of the “correct” Pushkin would be an obvious transgression of some of the fundamental problems of any hermeneutics.
Object of the Study
The object of the study chosen for the present dissertation is the role and image of Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin in the Russian realism movement of the 19th century. The opinions about Pushkin’s legacy, and the fundamentals for the greater change of the Russian ideology and culture as manifested in Pushkin’s works are analyzed from the perspective of two bright representatives of realism – Dostoevsky and Turgenev. Both being realists in their literary activity, Dostoevsky and Turgenev represented two sharply conflicting groups of Russian intellectual society, the former being a “pochvennik” and a Slavophile to a certain extent, and the latter being a dedicated Westernizer. Therefore, the views of Dostoevsky and Turgenev reflect not only the multi-faceted role of Pushkin in the evolution of the Russian thought, but also the major divide in the ideological flows of the Russian thought regarding the course of Russia’s development, advancement, and progress. In addition, Pushkin’s literary style and images he used in his works have affected the creative activity of both Dostoevsky and Turgenev; hence, the nature of this impact also represents the object of the present study. By analyzing the typology of characters in the works of these three authors, the researcher will be able to identify the underlying philosophies that governed the development of Dostoevsky and Turgenev as writers and as thinkers. The present analysis will provide additional material for the identification of causes for their political and ideological preferences, and the development of their perspectives regarding the role of Pushkin’s legacy.
Goals of the Study
This paper attempts to analyze the terms of the Dostoevsky-Turgenev debate, studying the key tenets underlying both writers’ interpretations. Such interpretations will then be traced back to their possible original sources in Pushkin’s work. However, since the political context of the 19th century in Russia had a profound impact on the activity of both Dostoevsky and Turgenev, there is a need to make a critical inquiry into the general tension between the Slavophile and Western-oriented thinkers in Russia, particularly in terms of how they appropriate the work of Pushkin to make evidence for their respective claims.
Continuing the present analysis, one also has to identify the legitimacy of Pushkin’s appropriations. In other words, another goal of the present study is to inquire whether such interpretations by definition can be viewed as reducing the artist and his work to a particular ideological and historical framework. The ultimate goal of the present work is to demonstrate that these appropriations can be understood in artistic terms, and not purely in the political context of the age. Hence, Turgenev and Dostoevsky can be read as utilizing Pushkin as a certain literary or fictional character in their respective addresses. This entails that the particular interpretations of Pushkin which Dostoevsky and Turgenev advance can be viewed as continuations of the personages from their own novels.
The hypotheses to be tested involve looking at the interpretations of Dostoevsky and Turgenev, with the intent of unravelling the logic underlying their respective claims. The contribution of the dissertation can be viewed as (1) an evaluation of the particular reception of Pushkin according to both political/ideological grounds and artistic grounds – that is, considering how Pushkin may be said to be utilized to support a certain political/ideological stance, (2) the ways in which Pushkin may be understood as becoming a fictional character himself in the debate between Dostoevsky and Turgenev, a character consistent with the literary figures within both authors’ works.
In order to develop these ideas, three main methodological steps are as follows. Firstly, it is necessary to recapitulate Dostoevsky ’s and Turgenev’s respective positions. Our key texts in this step of the methodology will be the speeches of Dostoevsky and Turgenev made at the 1880 Pushkin celebration, alongside the reception of these speeches in the secondary literature, such as Levitt (1989) and Cassedy (2005). In recapitulating Dostoevsky ’s and Turgenev’s speeches, we will emphasize their own convictions in order to best develop their own unique personal and political contexts from which they approach Pushkin. In other words, Dostoevsky and Turgenev approach Pushkin as a writer approaching another writer. Hence, one could say that Pushkin represents not only a political figure, but also a literary character, a character that embodies their respective world-views, such as, for instance, Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Bazarov in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. In essence, through the close analysis of their respective speeches, there is a opportunity to read these texts as if Pushkin were a character in one of their novels.
To make an evaluation of claims’ validity of both authors concerning Pushkin requires a reading of Pushkin’s work itself. The greatest methodological problem in this regard will therefore be hermeneutic: there is a need to interpret Pushkin through the eyes of Dostoevsky and Turgenev, which already presupposes a second hermeneutic tension insofar as we are required to understand not only Pushkin, but also Dostoevsky and Turgenev. In this regard, the preferred methodology is to concentrate on some key motifs from Dostoevsky’s and Turgenev’s speeches about Pushkin, and then attempt to find these motifs in the works of Pushkin himself. Of particular importance in this regard are the precise textual references to Pushkin that Dostoevsky and Turgenev make in their respective speeches. (e.g., Dostoevsky refers to Pushkin’s works The Gypsies, Evgeny Onegin, The Bear, whereas Turgenev refers to Evgeny Onegin). The present analysis provides a clearer picture of how Turgenev and Dostoevsky approach Pushkin differently, not only in terms of the texts they both reference, but to particular texts to which they ascribe an importance. At the same time, this will allow us to delimit the texts we examine from Pushkin, by approaching only texts from Pushkin that are mentioned in Turgenev and Dostoevsky. Accordingly, this means that our methodology confers a profundity to Dostoevsky’s and Turgenev’s interpretations, using them as guiding threads in the exploration of Pushkin’s work.
By framing the problem in this manner, the present dissertation will successfully utilize the secondary literature in a rigorous manner. Namely, the focus will be made on secondary texts that directly address Dostoevsky’s and Turgenev’s thoughts on Pushkin, and discuss the Pushkin celebration in general. This methodology will allow making informed choices in literature without compromising the rigour of the scholarly investigation.
Significance of the Study
The contribution of the present dissertation to the existing literary research can be understood as adding in-depth understanding of the literature on the Turgenev-Dostoevsky debate concerning Pushkin, which is not extensively covered in Anglophone texts. Moreover, there is an evident gap in the existing academic literature regarding the approaches of Turgenev and Dostoevsky to the interpretation of Pushkin’s literary characters, and their enrichment, embodiment, and interpretations in these authors’ works. These considerations add academic significance for the present research, since there is an additional insight into the close connection that literary work, ideological propaganda, cultural and political development, and the real-time national contexts in the 19th-century Russia. Putting Pushkin as a central object of research, the present dissertation departs from his image to the interpretations thereof through the prism of cultural and socio-political change, which gives an enriched, comprehensive image of the literary activity and political context of Russia in the period of literary Realism, and the legacy of Pushkin reflected in further endeavours of Russian thinkers and writers.
Organization of the Study
The introductory chapter has introduced the audience to the nature of the phenomenon being currently under analytical investigation in the present dissertation. It has also provided the sufficient amount of data on the nature of the Dostoevsky-Turgenev debate, and the underlying political, social, cultural, and ideological currents that fuelled the debate. The object and goals of the present dissertation have been formulated, and the methods for literary analysis have been outlined. The significance of the present study has been discussed to give an additional insight into the intended outcomes of the present work.
Chapter 2 represents the detailed analysis of the historical and socio-cultural background against which the debate between Dostoevsky and Turgenev unveiled in the 19th century. The context of unveiling the Pushkin memorial, the events that preceded and followed the event, and the socio-political context in which the event took place are examined in detail. The political context of developing the Russian realism, the rule of Alexander II and Nicholas II are discussed due to its impact on the formation of chief ideological trends due to the reforms (and their curbing) by the political authorities in the Imperial Russia.
Chapter 3 is dedicated to the analysis of the vision of Pushkin as presented by Fyodor Dostoevsky; in this chapter, the close analysis of Dostoevsky’s speech at the unveiling of the Pushkin memorial in 1880 is provided, and the importance that he attributes to Pushkin in deciding the future destiny of the Russian nation is discussed. Particular attention is given to the references to Pushkin that Dostoevsky makes in his works, and the works of Pushkin that Dostoevsky mentions to link the figure of Pushkin to the Russian contemporary reality. In this section, therefore, Dostoevsky’s general interpretations and attempt to develop his position vis-à-vis Pushkin are analyzed.
Chapter 4 follows the method and approach of Chapter 3, as attention is given to Turgenev’s commentary on Pushkin, and the consideration of his own personal commitments to Pushkin, alongside with the texts of Pushkin that he references.
Chapter 5 is dedicated to returning to the texts of Pushkin that Dostoevsky mentions in an attempt to understand the way in which Dostoevsky provides his interpretation of Pushkin. The examination of relevance of Dostoevsky’s claims is conducted by using specific references from Dostoevsky’s speech, and connecting the speech to the reflections of Pushkin’s characters in the cited works. Furthermore, in order to examine the hypothesis that in their respective speeches, Dostoevsky and Turgenev utilize Pushkin as a continuation of the characters from their own works, the comparison of traits Dostoevsky confers to Pushkin to the traits of major characters from his fiction is undertaken.
Chapter 6 follows the same methodology as Chapter 5; it examines the image of Pushkin from Turgenev’s perspective. An initial study of typical characters in Turgenev’s works is followed by a comparison of the traits Turgenev confers to Pushkin with the traits of Turgenev’s major characters. The present analysis helps understand the perspective from which Turgenev approaches the image of Pushkin as a real personality and as a symbol by blending the unique features of his character with fictional and realistic issues.
Chapter 7 is the conclusion of the present work; it reconfirms the thesis statement of the work, and summarizes the findings that have been made in the course of writing. Since the goal of the present dissertation was to prove a wider role of Pushkin as not only the inspirer, but also a fictional character providing sources for Dostoevsky’s and Turgenev’s characters, the reference to discussed literary works and the arguments about their reference to Pushkin’s beginnings will strengthen the confirmation of the thesis statement. The inferences about the overall role of Pushkin and Pushkin’s works in the formation and development of the Russian realism, as well as informing the claims and arguments of both Slavophiles and Westernizers will be made.
The Dostoyevsky-Turgenev Debate
Chapter One – The 1880 Celebration of Pushkin Memorial Unveiling
In order to understand the role and place of Pushkin’s monument unveiling in 1880, one should deepen into the historical context, and the political climate of the Imperial Russia of the second half of XIX century. In addition, it is essential to pay attention to Russian intelligentsia of that period. In the second half of XIX century, Russian Empire experienced one of the most significant period of its history that influenced the Russian culture and intelligentsia greatly.
According to Borrero (2004), “the reign of Alexander II brought rapid and intensive change to Russian life” (p. 28). This Emperor maintained a liberal course in politics. Alexander II was disappointed with the exhausting Crimean War that added the feeling of humiliation to the great Empire. In 1861, he successfully carried out the essential reform that resulted in the abolishment of serfdom. The Emperor became known as Alexander the Liberator. Meanwhile, a radical movement developed from below that called for peasant revolution, and positive changes. For this reason, “populism” became an important part of the Russian political life (Borrero 2004, p. 28). At the same time, in the international affairs, the Russian Empire shifted its ground: its role was sharply diminished. Russian declining role in Europe was explained by the impressive rise of the powerful Germany. In addition, the Russian expansion in the Balkans was limited by Britain and Austria.
Emancipation of the serfs, other reforms, political situation, populism, and the liberal spirit among people could not but influence the intelligentsia. The middle of XIX century was marked by intellectual debates between the Slavophiles (represented by such figures as Homjakov, Kireevskij, Aksakov, Gilferding, etc.) and the Westernizers (for example, Chaadaev, Katkov, Goncharov, Nekrasov, etc.). Borrero (2004) said that they “sparred over the nature of Russia’s past and the proper course of its future” (p. 28). Undoubtedly, the Slavophiles’ and Westernizers’ controversy changed the mind of people from educated class. However, it was Russian intelligentsia that was especially engaged in this controversy; besides, writers divided into two camps, and became representatives of different positions to the development of Russia.
The Slavophiles rejected western models of political, economic, social and cultural life. They were more focused on embracing “a pre-Petrine religious model for future development” (Weeks 2011, p. 242). The representatives of Slavofilism believed in Russian uniqueness and distinctiveness. According to their views, Russian development should be based upon the institutions and values derived from its early history. Slavophiles thought that the Russian culture and its traditions should be protected; in addition, the peasants required this protection as well. Some of them considered an autocratic Tsar as the symbol of Russian authenticity. They rejected individualism, industrialization, and growth of the working class. The role of the Orthodox Church was more significant for them than that of state was because Orthodoxy made the Russian people equal. The Slavophiles supported the idea of sobornost’ (in other words, conciliarism) that constitutes in the unity of brothers in faith (Weeks 2011, p. 219). For this reason, they ambitiously opposed socialism, and the Westernizers influenced by European ideals.
For the Westernizers, Russia needed to go through the same political and economic development as European countries did. Although Westernizers supported the European course for Russia, they preferred Russian mysticism to western rationalism; mysticism (represented by Soloviev, Fyodorov, Berdyaev, and others) rejected rational approaches to life reality, and was based on the individual’s development of spirituality, passionate searching for truth, the importance of Christian dogmas in human life, a tendency of a human being for self-perfection, etc. (Kungurtsev & Luchakove 1997, p. 4). The representatives of this intellectual movement welcomed Westernization as the essential practice that could help to adopt best Western economic and political models on the Russian ground. They respected Peter the Great, since he initiated gradual Westernization and brought some valuable ideas of Holland, Germany, and other European countries. In addition, Westernizers were the advocates of the European Enlightenment that would have improved the Russian way of life. Westernizers were liberal people, and rehashed Western ideas in correspondence with the Russian way of life (Berdiaev 1960, p. 19).
Taking into consideration the Slavophiles and Westernizers’ controversy, and the specific political climate in Russia of XIX century, one may see that the celebration of 1880 could lead to heated arguments. In this context, the speeches made by intelligentsia at the occasion assumed great importance. They reflected different political opinions concerning the Russian culture and ideals. It was not surprising that the disagreements of socio-political climate of that time found their expression at the celebration. The celebration in 1880 resulted from the unveiling of Opekushin’s bronze monument to Pushkin in Moscow. Although the monument unveiling was planned for May 26, but the event was postponed owing to official mourning in the Royal family; in the result, the solemn event took place on June 6 (according to the Julian calendar). That day, many common and famous people came to commemorate Pushkin. The public gathering was accompanied by speeches of the notable figures in the Russian cultural life. Turgenev and Dostoyevsky were the recognizable participants of the occasion whose speeches influenced the public mood, and proved Pushkin’s significance for the Russian creative legacy (Martin 1988, p. 505).
In the second half of XIX century, Russian high-culture activists made efforts to mark the Russian literary and cultural Golden age with a major event, the unveiling of Pushkin’s monument (Wintle 2002, p. 176). In the face of the struggle between Moscow and Petersburg regarding the location of Russian capital, the celebration of 1880 would play an essential role, strengthening the greater role of Moscow for the national development. “The Moscow-based Amateurs of Russian Literature sponsored the commemoration” (Dostoevsky’s Pushkin speech 1880, para. 1). Actually, it was the Society of Amateurs of Russian Literature (OLRS). Hence, the literary and cultural Russian activists along with OLRS were the principal organizers of memorable Pushkin’s days that gathered Russian literature lovers and prominent artists together to celebrate the national hero’s monument’s unveiling (Venok na pamyatnik Pushkiny 1800, p. 15).
The LRS welcomed notable and honorable writers to take part in this event. In Russia of that time, both Turgenev and Dostoevsky had a feasible moral and literary authority (Dostoevsky Fyodor Mihailovich 2012, para. 14). The Russian cultural activists believed that these writers were extremely influential and popular among the masses and literary circles. Turgenev and Dostoevsky could extol Pushkin’s virtues, and fill Pushkin’s days with their speeches; hence, it was reasonable to invite them to the event (Whatley n.d., p. 7). For the writers themselves, the celebration of 1800 gave an opportunity to show their positions in relation to the role of Pushkin in the Russian and universal literature (Knapp 2006, p. 31). Since Turgenev and Dostoevsky represented different cultural movements, their speeches and passionate debates made them central figures of the event.
Sandler (2004) noted that it was the occasion of the nationwide scale. The unveiling of the monument became the honorable event for the entire country. Nevertheless, “erecting a monument to a private person in 1880 was actually quite a daring thing to do” (Sandler 2004, p. 10). Actually, many monuments to the famous and prominent Russian figures had been already erected by 1880; naturally, Pushkin’s monument was not an exception. Pushkin was a favorite of the public, and the greatest influential poet of standing reputation in the Russian culture. In this context, Pushkin’s monument of 1880 was one of those momentous events in the history of the country that agreed with the conditions of the time.
In Levitt’s (1989) book, one may see how the researcher described the process of the celebration itself. The bronze monument was erected on public funds and initiatives of Pushkin’s admirers. The celebration started on 6 June, and lasted three days (till June 8). This period, called “Pushkin days” (Levitt 1989, p. 1), included church service, public banquets, musical and literary presentations, speeches, and the elaborate opening ceremony. The celebration drew a tremendous public response. Among the crowds of people, there were novelists, playwrights, poets, publishers, scholars, artists, actors, and other opinion makers. Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ivan Aksakov, Nicolai Rubinshtein and many others came to commemorate the genius of the Russian literature (Levitt 1989, p. 190).
Taking into consideration the significance of the occasion, one may see that the monument’s unveiling can be compared with Pushkin’s rebirth. This way, the 1880 celebration contributed to the new phenomenon: the creation of Pushkin’s tradition of genius’ examination and veneration. This event gathered different people that were united by their fascination with Pushkin. According to Levitt (1989), the celebration of 1880 influenced the creative intelligentsia, excited and inspired by the monument to the creator of the Russian literary language (Levitt 1989, p. 190).
The celebration lasted for three days, and was of historical significance for Russia. Opekushin managed to create a magnificent monument to the poet in the process of a creative work. Moreover, Pushkin’s bronze monument placed this prominent figure of Russian culture out of time, and immortalized the Russian poet for ever. Since June 6 Pushkin’s figure truly has become immortal; the celebration of 1880 proved this concept with the monument.
As it was mentioned, the Slavophiles and Westernizers’ controversy displayed itself on the prominent occasion of 1880 was marked by. With their speeches, Turgenev and Dostoevsky expressed the ideas of the opposed intellectual movements. The analysis of their speeches gives an opportunity to understand the role of Pushkin for not only the giants of Russian literature, but also for the Westernizers and the Slavophiles.
At the celebration, Dostoevsky and Turgenev delivered their notable speeches as a mark of their respect and profound gratitude to Pushkin (Palievsky n.d. p. 2). According to Lantz (2004), the occasion dedicated to Pushkin brought representatives of different ideological camps together. The celebration of 1880 proved that literature reflects the Russian authenticity. Besides, the celebration caused controversial disputes among the public, because the participants’ speeches expressed various political positions. For example, Turgenev was perceived as the leader of Westernizers, a philosophical grouping displaying liberal tendencies, while Dostoevsky represented “pochvennichestvo”, a trend in the Slavophilism (Lantz 2004, p. 9).
In the second half of XIX century, Ivan Turgenev was one of the most prominent writers of the Golden age in the Russian literature. However, he was “overshadowed in his lifetime by Lev Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky” (Borrero 2004, p. 349). Turgenev’s speech was partially inspired by his personal life and the realities of Russian life. Turgenev himself witnessed inequities of the Russian social system (namely, serfdom). He supported the Westernizers with their European progressive ideas, and became the advocate of broad social and political change in Russia. In addition, he “captured the feelings of an impatient younger generation ready to embrace new ideologies and tactics as nihilism and revolution” (Borrero 2004, p. 349). For this reason, Turgenev actively participated in the debates between the Slavophiles and the Westernizers. The speech made at the celebration of 1880 was influenced by not only Pushkin’s figure, but also the Westernizers’ views.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, a prolific novelist and a giant of the Russian literature, was the advocate of socialism. However, after his amnesty in 1859, he gradually abandoned his radical views. In addition, his poverty and poor health made Dostoevsky fully dedicate himself to writing. As Turgenev, he was concerned with the social life in Russia, and expressed his disappointment in his masterpieces about the lives of the fringes of society (namely, the poor and oppressed people). Between 1867 and 1881, he publicized Russian messianic, Christian, nationalist, and democratic views that also showed his appreciation for Europe (Borrero 2004, p. 159). Together with the “pochvenniki”, Dostoevsky thought that Russia needed to bring civilization to Asia. He agreed with the Slavophiles that Russia could avoid modernization. He was hostile to Western liberalism and rationalism, and believed that there was only a hope for the Russian messianism. The novelist can be considered the advocate of pro-Slavophile views. Partially, these views echoed themselves in Dostoevsky’s speech in 1880. Although Turgenev and Dostoevsky belonged to the opposing sides of the debate, their speeches made on this occasion underlined the exceptional role of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin in the literature
The speech delivered by Fyodor Dostoevsky is considered to be the apotheosis of Pushkin’s days. Many years later, it is said to influence the attitude to the poet in the Soviet times, and marked the era of the cult of Pushkin (Condee 1995, p. 177). Another notable address was delivered by IvanTurgenev. Similarly to Dostoevsky, he spoke of Pushkin as if he were an embodiment of the Russian cultural legacy; both of them continued Pushkin’s traditions in their own literature. Levitt (1989) underlined that “Turgenev’s speech was recognized as a major statement about Pushkin” (p. 114). The influence of Pushkin on both Dostoevsky’s and Turgenev’s creative work was exceptional. Proceeding from their speeches, the public felt that the writers faithfully carried an enthusiastic attitude to Pushkin through their lives. Their speeches revealed their true attitude to the Russian genius.
Turgenev gave his speech in the evening of the second day of the celebration. He was one of the organizers of Pushkin’s celebration. Russians knew that Turgenev was an active participant and propagandist of the “return to Pushkin”; although he was considered Pushkin’s “rightful heir”, the public reaction to his speech was lukewarm (Levitt 1989, p. 91). The emotional public that did not welcome his liberal position coolly received him despite his eminence. After the celebration, Tolstoy and Mikhailovsky openly criticized Turgenev for his Westernizer’s views that could provoke disagreements in the unstable Russian political climate of that time. Ivan Turgenev was both a famous Russian writer and a political observer who rejected the oppressive political climate reigning Russia of the XIX century. Nevertheless, Turgenev’s speech in honor of Pushkin was saturated with love and respect to the Russian poet (Levitt 1989, p. 93).
In his speech, Turgenev gave his explanation to the essence and significance of love to Pushkin. Through this explanation, the writer showed the immense role of Pushkin for the Russian language, literature, and culture. Turgenev believed that Pushkin was the first Russian literary artist. Turgenev considered art to be the reflection of reality, and the embodiment of high ideals that form the basis of the national life, and identify its spiritual and moral aspects. In this context, Pushkin was the exponent of the Russian national spirit.
Turgenev claimed that by nature, Pushkin resembles Peter the Great. By evoking such a comparison, Turgenev wanted to emphasize the greatness of the poet. For Turgenev, Pushkin was an extremely perceptive and independent poet. Turgenev saw this evidence in Pushkin’s literary legacy. According to Bloom (2003), the genius of Pushkin became free from imitation of European patterns, in spite of the European education he received in the lyceum (p. 215). One may agree with Turgenev that Pushkin’s literary images reflected the characters, desires, morals, and manners of common Russians. It makes Pushkin the notable figure in the authentic Russian literature. He believed that Pushkin saturated the language with immortal images and sounds that gladden people’s minds and souls.
Turgenev believed that Pushkin was the creator of the poetic and literary Russian language. According to Turgenev, Pushkin made the Russian language tenacious: Russian creativity and perception blends with each other in the single magnificent language. For Turgenev, Pushkin was a true Russian literary artist who embodied the whole Russian spirit into the language. However, Pushkin’s language in his immortal works impresses not only compatriots, but the foreigners as well. His poetic legacy sparkles with wit and magnificence. In addition, Turgenev spoke about the peculiarities of Pushkin’s works. The writer considered them a blend of passion and calmness (Bloom 2003, p.215).
To the public’s surprise, Turgenev’s speech showed that in contrast to Dostoevsky, he did not view Pushkin as a national Russian poet and a pioneering figure in the context of the international literature. This point was criticized by the participations of the celebration. Nevertheless, Turgenev analyzed Pushkin’s role in the Russian world. The speech emphasized the poet’s notable merits for Russia. Pushkin was the influential creator of the truly Russian language that contributed to Russian education, culture, and social life. The moral power of Pushkin’s language affects people’s minds. In this context, Turgenev viewed the poet as the great Russian teacher that determined the development, and the intelligentsia’s and the average Russian citizens’ way of life. Overall, Turgenev’s speech sounded controversial for the lovers of Russian literature, because the writer did not treat the poet as an internationally recognized one. At the same time, Turgenev respected and admired Pushkin’s genius that created the beautiful Russian literary language.
The third day of the celebration (June 5) was marked by Dostoevsky’s speech. The speech eclipsed all other speeches, and gained the real public triumph. The writer called Pushkin the “purely Russian heart” (Dostoevsky’s Pushkin speech 1880, para. 2). According to Dostoevsky, Pushkin was deeply rooted in the native Russian soil, which gave him an opportunity to feel the beauty of the folk expressing the true Russian spirit. With his speech, Dostoevsky saw the indisputable national power of the poet in Pushkin.
The speech underlined the prophetic significance of Pushkin for the Russian literature. Dostoevsky agreed with Gogol that Pushkin was an extraordinary and unique phenomenon of the Russian spirit. In Pushkin’s legacy, he viewed “something incontestably prophetic” (Dostoevsky 1880, para. 1). For Dostoevsky, Pushkin was the exponent of the true Russian self-consciousness. Pushkin presaged a new way for the Russian culture.
Dostoevsky’s words about Pushkin’s legacy were not critical; he spoke as Pushkin’s follower and admirer of his creative works. Analyzing the creative periods of the poet, he noted: “even the very earliest poems of Pushkin were not mere imitations, and in them the extraordinary independence of his genius was expressed” (Dostoevsky 1880, para. 2). As one may see, both Turgenev and Dostoevsky viewed the independent genius in the poet. Moreover, Pushkin’s works express his impetuosity and creative force that embody profound and purely Russian ideas in immortal literary images.
In comparison of the main characters of two different Pushkin’s poems (“Yevgeniy Onegin” and “Tsygany”), Onegin was similar to Aleko, in Dostoevsky’s opinion. Either Onegin or Aleko is “the unhappy wanderer in his native land, the Russian sufferer of history, whose appearance in our society, uprooted from among the people, was a historic necessity” (Dostoevsky 1880, para. 2). Naturally, the type of the hero results from the historical conditions of the Russian land. The writer underlined, “in the heart of his mother country, Onegin is of course an exile in a foreign land” (Dostoevsky’s Pushkin speech 1880, para. 28). Both in the immortal images of Aleko and Onegin, Pushkin expressed the fate of the Russian intelligentsia.
Pushkin displayed sympathy to the Russian people who loved their own land; at the same time, he realized that people did not know what to do with it. The intelligentsia looked at Russia with sorrowful derisionTo be a stranger in one’s own motherland is a horrible feeling. Undoubtedly, Pushkin understood it, and embodied the pointless and confused way of life of the intellectuals in Aleko and Onegin. The cultural and literary world of that time, and Dostoevsky himself were convinced that in the poet’s immortal works (for example, “Eugene Onegin”), Pushkin is revealed as a great national writer. The poet managed to foresee the bitter fate of the Russian intellectual society (Dostoevsky’s Pushkin speech 1880, para. 2). In the conclusion of his speech, Dostoevsky noted that a Russian wanderer is a representative of the intellectual in society who finds his satisfaction and peace only in happiness of all people. According to Dostoevsky, the saving road for these wanderers is built of humble communion with common people.
Dostoevsky noted Pushkin’s optimism that fills his creative works. Although Pushkin described the bitter reality of the Russian people of his time (in “Yevgeniy Onegin”, “Tsygany”, etc.), through his creative legacy “sounds a belief in the Russian character, in its spiritual might; and if there is belief, there is hope also, the great hope for the man of Russia” (Dostoevsky 1880, para. 7). Pushkin fraternally associated himself with his people. Pushkin’s artistic insight is believed to be the national treasury. In Dostoevsky’s opinion, the great Russian poet gave rise to the whole gallery of the Russian gifted writers. Pushkin inspired them with his powerful works.
In contrast to Turgenev, Dostoevsky referred to Pushkin as to the literary artist of the global scale. For Dostoevsky, Pushkin’s talent excelled that of Shakespeare, Cervantes or Shiller, because only Pushkin could embody the genius and hidden spirit of a foreign people so powerfully. The combination of national self-identification and universal sympathy was peculiar to Pushkin. Dostoevsky underlined this quality of Pushkin’s art evidence in his speech (Dostoevsky 1880, para. 9).
Of all Russian writers, Alexander Pushkin was appreciated by Dostoevsky most of all. One may agree that from childhood till the end of his life, Dostoevsky was attached to the poet’s creative writing. In his speech, he expressed all his faithful love for the Russian genius in Pushkin that could help the Russians to perform their messianic role. As the “pochvenniki” and Slavophiles, Dostoevsky supported the belief in Russian messianism seen in the autocratic and Orthodox way of life that leads Russian people to the God (Weeks 2011, p. 187). For Dostoevsky, Pushkin performed a messianic role. In his creative works, Pushkin expressed universality: the capacity to respond, and the genuine, unquestioned, profound kinship of his genius with all the geniuses of all ages and all people of the world position of Pushkin in literature was significant and decisive (Dostoevsky1880, para. 12).
The speeches of both writers produced different effects on the public. Dostoevsky’s speech was accompanied by enthusiastic applause. However, Turgenev’s speech did not produce the same effect. On the one hand, he paid tribute to Pushkin’s genius, and characterized him as a valuable and essential figure in the Russian literature. On the other hand, “he viewed him within the European tradition, and declined to give him the title of a national poet in the same sense as Goethe, Moliére, or Shakespeare” held in their respective countries (Lantz 2009, p. 341). Dostoevsky’s speech was marked with other shades. For Dostoevsky, Pushkin was the personification of the Russian messianism and universal reconciliation. He claimed that Pushkin’s creative legacy reflected the national authenticity, and the true Russian spirit. In Dostoevsky’s opinion, through his works, Pushkin became the brother of all humanity with a strong sense of self-identification.
The content of Turgenev’s and Dostoevsky’s speeches revealed Pushkin’s role in the Russian and global literature. In the context of the Russian literature, Pushkin was considered the creator of the Russian literary language and literature. The “father of Russian literature” embodied all beauty, power, and simplicity of the national spirit, and the best qualities of the Russian people in the language (Sekirin, 1997 p. 238). The greatest poet gave rise to the new era of the Russian literature; moreover, his creativity inspired the Russian intelligentsia, and changed people’s minds about the human nature. In the context of the world literature, the significance of Pushkin’s legacy can be compared with the contribution of such prominent European figures as Shakespeare and Goethe. This way, the celebration of 1880 defined the exceptional and influential role of Pushkin in literature. Moreover, Turgenev’s and Dostoevsky’s speeches assumed a high value in the socio-political climate of Russia of that time.
The celebration of 1880 was saturated with the sincere public love to Pushkin that made the monument everlasting and timeless. At the same time, with the speeches of Turgenev and Dostoevsky, the dedication ceremony turned into the battleground for the Westernizers and the Slavophiles. However, even the intense socio-political climate of Russia of XIX century could not overshadow the significance of Pushkin for Russian and global literature.
Chapter Two — Turgenev’s Pushkin: Turgenev in 1880
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev’s life was virtually synchronous with Dostoyevsky’s. Born in 1818, three years before Dostoyevsky, he died only two and a half years after Dostoyevsky, in 1883. Yet, the two writers remained far apart in their approach to their respective works. The lifeline of Turgenev as well as his relationships with other writers and thinkers of the Golden Age in the Russian literary circles was very much defined by his noble origin; Turgenev came from a wealthy landowning family, received education in the universities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, traveled and lived in Europe (Lantz 2004, 442).
During his life in Germany, Turgenev established relationships with many German intellectuals and Russians living abroad. Being in Russia, he was a member of Belinsky’s circle where he absorbed and adopted many ideas of liberalism, Westernism, and romanticism. Hence, many critics consider him a typical intelligent man of the 1840s (Lantz 2004, 442).
As Bloom (2003) noted, Turgenev’s early writing effort was conducted in the framework of literary apprenticeship from Pushkin in 1840s, but the history of Turgenev’s fascination by Pushkin began even a decade earlier (Bloom 2003, 5). It is obvious that the studies of any literary endeavor conducted within the 19th century should begin with Pushkin, as he was the “artistic example and literary determinant of utmost value” for any artist of the time (Bloom 2003, 5). However, Turgenev had a distinctive style of writing though resembling more to the one of Pushkin due to the elegance, clarity, and smoothness of expression. Possibly the best description of his style was from Henry James, a friend and novelist in his own right. Yet unlike many of his contemporaries, including Dostoevsky, Turgenev held a deep affection for the West. He traveled to Germany when he was 19, and continued his education there in the salons of the literati. Furthermore, Turgenev developed a deep appreciation for such non-Russian writers as Goethe and Shakespeare, learning many of their works by heart. Although he completed the course and exam requirements to obtain credentials that would lead to an academic career, he never wrote the dissertation because the first of his poetry was published, leading him instead to a literary career (Lantz 2004, 442).
His early prose success, Notes of a Hunter (also called From a Hunter’s Notes) was a series of short stories, published in 1852, that depicted hunting experiences with the serfs on his father’s estates. Much credit has been given to these stories in influencing Tsar Alexander II’s determination to free the serfs of Russia. Such profound effect of a literary work, as of literary criticism at that time, was presupposed by the extreme uncertainty and turbulence of the socio-cultural and political situation in Russia – members of the Narodnaya Volya movement, the most well-known terrorist organization of the late 19th century, were repeatedly attacking the civil servants, high-rank officials, and the members of the Tsar Family in the efforts to provoke the government and shock the society into action towards enlightenment, progress, and development (Cronin 2009, 123).
These events, as well as the deep divide in the opinions about the future of Russia, the destiny of the monarchy, and the future of serfdom, produced enormous effect on the creative activity and philosophy of Turgenev, reflected further in his ideology. The wave of revolutionary and nationalistic spirit that swept through Europe in the 1840s and after came just at the time Turgenev was establishing himself as a writer. He focused in his 1850s’ works on male protagonists whose actions do not live up to their verbalized aspirations. This persona of the “superfluous man” was common in Russian writers of the period (Bloom 2003, 7). This topic was one of the major borrowings that Turgenev undertook from Pushkin’s works, as it was the ‘superfluous man’ on the subject of which Pushkin pondered in Evgeny Onegin. Similarly with Pushkin, Turgenev explored the imitative and indigenous elements of the Russian society in his ‘superfluous man’ exploration (Bloom 2003, 7).
Unlike many of his contemporary Russian writers, Turgenev frequently traveled throughout Europe and felt a great sympathy towards the European values and lifestyle. This was also one of the fundamental differences that drew a deep gap between him and Dostoevsky; the latter also spent a major part of his life gambling in European cities, but never adopted the European life as the ideal to which Russia should move. Turgenev, on the contrary, saw the only way for Russia’s development and progress in the movement towards Westernization under the careful guidance of the Russian intelligentsia, despising the Russian authenticity and refusing to accept the thought that the Russian ‘narod’ may decide for itself. Turgenev was associated with the “liberals” in Russia or in Europe—those authors who developed their careers in the 1840s—and was often criticized and in conflict with the “radicals of the 1860s.” Much of the criticism had less to do with the literary merit of Turgenev’s work than the political ideals it presented (Lantz 2004, 443).
The heritage of Turgenev in the Russian literature should not be underestimated, and many of his works including Notes of a Hunter were praised for the careful, precise analysis of the peasant life, the realistic attention to the life of an ordinary peasant (Lowe 1989, 23). Turgenev was acclaimed for not idealizing the social and political atmosphere in Russia, and perceived the situation adequately, rendering healthy, objective critique on Russian serfdom. However, his frank liking for life outside of Russia worked against him within Russia, though enlarging his scope of attention and widening his outlook, enriching his liberal philosophy etc. Many of his novels appeared nearly simultaneously in foreign editions (in France, Germany, England), as they did in Russian editions. Thus, one can see that Turgenev was decided about his liberal Westernizing principles, and pursued the path throughout his literary career (Levitt 1989, 11).
Turgenev undertook his first literary efforts in the form of poetry, but completed Notes of a Hunter in 1852 that represented lyrical stories of rural life. Here the talent of Turgenev found a different application, and the work was highly praised for treating serfs with a great sympathy as individualized humans (Lantz 2004, 442). Turgenev dedicated the next thirty years to composing novels about the changing face of the Russian society in much detail, and at the same time, he managed to convey the deep insights into human condition. Therefore, his works became very popular among the audience and critics (Lantz 2004, 442).
However, Turgenev’s reputation in the literary world, more than many other novelists, has been marked by massive swings from positive to negative, mostly due to the political direction Turgenev often took in his plots and through his characters. Two most disputable works that appeared very audacious at the time of publishing and that resulted in the major twists of Turgenev’s popularity were Smoke and Fathers and Sons. Smoke was the reason for a bitter quarrel between Dostoevsky and Turgenev in 1867, when they met and exchanged harsh criticisms towards the creative activity of each other (Lantz 2004, 443). Fathers and Sons (1862) were negatively accepted by the radical intelligentsia as many of its representatives saw the caricature on themselves in the protagonist of the story, Bazarov (Lantz 2004, 442).
Dostoevsky was deeply in debt, and also owed money to Turgenev, as he was an agile gambler in Europe. However, the debt and embarrassment about it did not prevent Dostoevsky from expressing his rage about the criticism of Russia voiced by the protagonist of Smoke, Potugin. The most striking claims of Turgenev were that in case Russia was to disappear, there would not be any loss or any concern in the world, among the humanity (Lantz 2004, 443). In addition, Turgenev offended Dostoevsky in dismissing the movement of Slavophiles, and stated that Russians will have to subdue totally to Germans for the common goal of the humanity, i.e. movement towards the progress and achievement of a higher level of civilization (Lantz 2004, 443). Such neglect towards Russia and Russian authentic culture infuriated Dostoevsky and were intensified by the confession of Turgenev about his atheism. Therefore, after their meeting, Dostoevsky was of a low opinion about Turgenev and his Smoke, considering him a shallow person abandoning homeland for the sake of living in Europe, deflating the Russian pretension to an original culture, and imposing the superficial European values on the nation that has a unique identity of its own (Lantz 2004, 444).
Yet, in 1880, when invited to be a keynote speaker with Dostoyevsky on the occasion of the opening of the Pushkin Memorial, Turgenev was perceived as one of Russia’s greatest writers, and his works were considered classics – he was a publicly acknowledged leader of Russian liberalism, and was in quite favorable relationships with the authorities in Russia (Levitt 1989, 11). Before proceeding to the discussion of Turgenev’s speech about Pushkin, one should note that all activities of Turgenev were highly politicized at that period of time, and there was much effort he included in his works and public speeches to turn the audience’s attention to the burning issues of liberalism and Westernism in the context of deciding the future of Russia.
As Ripp (1978) noted, Turgenev looked to the government as the best agent of reform, thus denouncing the role of ‘narod’, i.e. the ordinary Russian people, in the reformation and advancement of Russia (Ripp 1978, 240). Turgenev even included politically loaded fragments into his Pushkin celebration speech, as he had much hope for the Loris-Melikov administration and its ability to establish “healthy elements of society”. Fortunately, he was then talked into not speaking about them, as it would sound too subservient to the government, and too inappropriate for the type of speech he was to deliver at the celebration of the unveiling of Pushkin memorial (Schapiro 1982, 309).
One should also note that the major rivalry of his life was to be resolved during the 1880 Celebration, though Turgenev still did not know that the victory would come to Dostoevsky. Turgenev and Dostoevsky have been in very tough relationships during their whole lives and literary careers, and Turgenev knew that Dostoevsky had also been invited to speak at the unveiling of the Pushkin memorial. Dostoevsky used to be fond of Turgenev and his writing at the early stages of his creative activity, and during the early days of their acquaintance. However, Turgenev teased him and even wrote a satirical poem The Knight of the Rueful Countenance in which he ridiculed Dostoevsky’s habits, lack of noble elegance, and even called Dostoevsky “a new pimple on the nose of literature” (Lantz 2004, 442).
Dostoevsky surely replied in a literary way as well, and his character Karmazinov in The Devils represented the caricature on Turgenev. It was a vain, pretentious Russian writer who preferred to live in Europe and despised all Russian ideals and values. Returning to Russia, he was shocked about the violence unveiled by revolutionary groups, though he had actually been their accomplice, assistant, and inspirer (Lantz 2004, 444).
Even despite such scornful attitude of Turgenev to Dostoevsky, both experienced some periods of warming in their relationships, and read each other’s works, even being able to praise them (Lantz 2004, 442). It was the ideological disparities that led them so far apart from each other. In addition, Turgenev publicly claimed his atheism, and the non-religiosity was evident through his works, while for Dostoevsky, religion was the gist of his life and the main guiding force in creation and in advancement of the Russian nation, ‘narod’ (Lantz 2004, 444). Therefore, the two writers, both being realists, both traveling to Europe and having very sympathetic views on the ordinary people, could not find the touching points and were all-time enemies and rivals in their writing, in social life, in criticism, and ideological views.
Generally, the two authors left a memorable trace and enormous heritage in the Russian literature, and in spite of personal disagreements they were in fact striving for a similar goal, and considered the same social, philosophical, and moral issues in their works. As Lantz (2004) noted, both Turgenev and Dostoevsky were interested in the attraction of beauty, harmony, and order, fate and unique characters in society that offered little scope for individual aspirations, the quest for an ideal etc. (Lantz 2004, 444). The only fundamental differences between them was that Turgenev’s characters were depicted as victims of major forces, while Dostoevsky’s characters were the creatures with will who rebelled against those forces (Lantz 2004, 444).
Therefore, the 1880 celebration was mainly marked by the expected speeches both from Dostoevsky and Turgenev in which they were to appraise the legacy of Pushkin for the Russian nation. Turgenev perceived the event as something more than the unveiling of the Pushkin memorial; he realized that it was an opportunity to express his views on Westernism and liberalism, to tie Pushkin to the values propagated by him, and to express his hopes and expectations for the near future of Russia in terms of socio-cultural, national, and ideological development. Therefore, the attitude of Turgenev to Pushkin can be seen as accumulated, processed, and reflected in the 1880 speech of Turgenev delivered on June 7(19).
Turgenev’s Interpretation of Pushkin
The first point about Turgenev’s relation to Pushkin is about the model of writing Pushkin generated and Turgenev perceived. As Bloom (2003) noted, there was a moral dilemma at the root of both Russian society and all human relationships. This relationship resulted in a formula to be followed by many outstanding authors of the 19th century including Turgenev. The relationships began with the hero finding himself in a milieu unfamiliar to him; therefore, the hero appeared in it as a relative stranger. It was that strangeness and newness that represented a source of fascination to the heroine of the story. The contrast was built on both social and psychological issues, resulting in the idealized characters of Pushkin. Turgenev’s works are known to mostly follow the pattern of Evgeny Onegin, hence the impact of Pushkin’s writing style on Turgenev’s perception of literature is evident (Bloom 2003, 8-9).
The true position of Turgenev regarding the position of Pushkin in the legacy of the Russian literature, as well as the concept of Russia on the whole was revealed in full during the 1880 Celebration to commemorate the unveiling of the Pushkin memorial in Moscow. Turgenev actively worked on turning the celebration into a unified front of Russian literati, and put a great effort into excluding his archenemy, the conservative critic Katkov, from the celebration (Levitt, 1989, 11). While getting ready for his speech, Turgenev was mainly obsessed by dual issues that produced an equally strong and misbalancing effect on the Russian intelligentsia at that time. Firstly, it was the political enfranchisement of the state; secondly, it was the right to speak in the name of the nation that the government secured for itself, and on which Turgenev and Dostoevsky had absolutely different views (Levitt 1989, 11).
For Turgenev, the Pushkin celebration marked a general “return to Pushkin” on the part of intelligentsia, and at the same time, it symbolized the refusal from the nihilist ‘aberration’ (Levitt 1989, 11). Turgenev was confident that the Russian intelligentsia was ready at that time to assume a responsible political role, and the figure of Pushkin was able to initiate the socio-cultural and political change in case his significance was revived. Therefore, Turgenev’s speech at the opening of the Pushkin Memorial contained the fulsome praise for Pushkin’s literary achievements. He pointed out that literature was a uniquely human endeavor, as no animal was capable of creation and artwork:
But only when the creative powers of a few select individuals enable a people to achieve recognizably complete, unique expression if its fine art, of its poetry, only then can that people assert its definitive right to its own place in history, only then does it enter into brotherhood with the other peoples who acknowledge it (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 839).
Turgenev also stressed the innate Russianness of Pushkin’s poetry, language, and topic as he sought to become a “self-sufficient genius…freed from both the imitation of European images and the seductions of a falsely popular tone” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 841). Turgenev was assertive in the announcement of Pushkin as “the first Russian poet-artist” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 839), and the arguments he gave for the support of Pushkin’s Russianness was that he was born in a noble family, educated in reputable establishments (thus torn from the ordinary people), but when in exile in the deepest parts of Russia, he immersed in the popular culture, got closely acquainted with the ‘narod’, and became an avid learner of Russian customs, traditions, lifestyle etc. (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 840). This is where the double-sidedness of the Russian soul (its receptivity and self-expression) found their way out in Pushkin’s life – being familiar with the Russian folk, he had an artistic talent of expression, so he spoke on behalf of the ‘narod’ to bridge the gaps between what it was and what it was considered to be.
However, in Turgenev’s opinion, such works are intended and directed only at the cultured members of society. He insisted that it was not bad at all, as the ruling class and the folk were traditionally separated from each other; especially taking into account his pro-governmental views, one can suppose that Turgenev meant the folk to be only the subject of depiction, and not the active audience of great writers. Obviously, Turgenev paid tribute to the innovative nature of Pushkin’s contribution to the Russian culture; it was the creation of the literary Russian language. Allen (1994) supported that idea, claiming that Pushkin, in the opinion of Turgenev, provided models of literary characters, and images inspirational to generations of Russian writers, continuing to fascinate the reader and giving the fresh, vivid images of Russia in all instances even to the readers of modernity: “there is no doubt that he [Pushkin] formulated our poetic, literary language, and that it merely remains for us and our descendants to follow along the path forged by his genius” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 842). Thus, the tribute paid by Turgenev to Pushkin was purely of literary, artistic value, but not in terms of reforming the views on serfdom, the image of the common Russian man, etc.
Turgenev, quoting the French writer Mérimée, also acknowledged the manner in which Pushkin’s poetry revealed the common truths originally, “which is the very essence of poetry” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 843). He summed this assessment up by saying: “Pushkin was a pivotal artist, someone who was able to approach the very core of Russian life”, which could be the clear assumption of Pushkin’s being a national writer. Turgenev also claimed that “Pushkin left us a multitude of images and character types…, character types that were subsequently perfected in our literature” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 844). In his speech, Turgenev focused greatly not only on the figure of Pushkin, but on the Russian context in which Pushkin existed both during his lifetime and after his death. Known as an activist, Turgenev could not help touching upon the reasons of the decline in Pushkin’s popularity, claiming that the reasons for that negligence should be sought in the political changes, changes in opinions, outlooks, and ideologies, clearly reflecting on his own liberal and Westernism views:
Those causes lay deeper [than the “judgment of fools” or the “laughter of the cold crowd” as Pushkin himself had predicted]….They lay in the very fate of [Russian] society, in the course of its historical development, in the conditions under which it was newly born, shifting from a literary epoch to a political one. (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 845–846)
As one can see from the present fragment of Turgenev’s speech, the famous writer was highly optimistic about the coming changes in Russia, both through the newly-established government administration, and through the impact that the active participation of intelligentsia in the country’s advancement and development would bring about. Turgenev was a clear Westernizer, and the neglect towards Pushkin, despite his obvious awe and tribute to his legacy, was seen by Turgenev as a natural tendency of Russian people to distance from Russia and to get closer to Europe. The authenticity offered by Pushkin was cherished only under the nationalist, Slavophile, views, while Turgenev as a Westernizer could appreciate only the literary contribution in the form of literary forms, language, and images – purely in terms of art and not in connection with the folk.
The support of this opinion can be found in some other fragments of Turgenev’s speech, for example when he stated that “Pushkin’s worldview seemed narrow; his burning sympathy for our occasional moments of official glory seemed old-fashioned; his classical feeling for measure and harmony seemed coldly anachronistic” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 846). The progressive, sometimes even radical views on the cultural life, politics, and nation of Russia were reflected in that position – Turgenev did consider Pushkin atavistic, and he was eager to include the burning social, political, and cultural issues in the literature that was too idealized, too polished in the times of Pushkin, though only a couple of decades passed after his death. The changes were tremendous, in Turgenev’s opinion, and the Golden Age of Russian literature prospering and developing under Alexander II at that time was considered a vast field for bringing Europe to Russia, and dismissing the authentic ideals that seemed unnecessary and old. Actually, Turgenev gave an allusion to the whole Russianness, the Russian spirit being outdated and old-fashioned, openly revealing his pro-Western attitudes. In addition, one can assume the implications of the generation gap so artistically rendered by Turgenev in Fathers and Sons – the old values seemed questionable for the new, coming generation, and they were ready to despise, refuse, and scorn everything their fathers valued for the sake of creating a new Russia, new ideals, new lives, and a new culture. This was the gist of Turgenev’s Westernism philosophy, and he produced a delicate connection between the ideal of Pushkin as a classical ethnical hero with the change of times and his decline.
Yet, Turgenev acknowledged the rightness of the memorial to the man who created the literary language of Russia, served as a model for his own writing, and served as another monumental figure who could lead the nation to the unification with the West. Additionally, he emphasized the liberating aspect of poetry, the importance of it in expressing and even defining the entire Russian ethos. He insisted: “For there is a liberating, ever-lasting moral force in poetry” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 848). Hence, one can see that Turgenev also ascribed the political importance to the literature alone, and Pushkin was thus seen, in Turgenev’s speech, as the man who defined Russia, both its language and its cultural ethos. Russia would not—could not—be Russia without Pushkin’s influence and genius.
Turgenev’s Position on Pushkin Reflected in His Ideological Views
Thus, one can see that the key elements of Turgenev’s speech about Pushkin are firstly, recognition of the genius it took to create the literary language of Russian—a language he insists that is acknowledged “even by foreign philologists to be second only to Greek in its richness, power, logic, and beauty of form” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 848). Secondly, he insisted that Pushkin’s work provided models of literary characters and images that would inspire generations of Russian writers to come (Allen 1994, 66). That said, Turgenev did not describe Pushkin with the spiritual intonation that Dostoyevsky used. Instead of naming him the spiritual leader of the Russian people, and a pan-humanist who exceeded national and regional bounds, Turgenev suggested a far more ideological, politicized role for Pushkin. He claimed that Pushkin offered a model for the development of Russian character tropes, and, while recognizing the man’s genius, pointed out the unfinished mission of Pushkin that the intelligentsia of his time was entitled to pursue.
Turgenev saw Pushkin twice in his adolescence, in 1837, and being inspired by that experience, he followed the path delineated by Pushkin only in terms of artistic perfection of the literary Russian language. Therefore, one should dig much deeper into the acclaim that Turgenev assigned to Pushkin due to the latter’s profound research in the field of ordinary folk’s life, customs, traditions, beauty, and authenticity. Turgenev delivered his speech mostly on the value of art and its place in the life of all civilized human beings, and not on the Russian folk in particular. Turgenev assumed that it did not matter much whether the ‘narod’ could read Pushkin or not, as the task of literary enlightenment, progress, and advancement was the task of the upper, literate class of the Russian society.
It cannot be considered discrimination in the full sense; however, Turgenev was a very radical supporter of Westernism, which did not include the notion of the ordinary folk as an equal representative of the national will. This position differed sharply from what Slavophile supporters sought for the Russian folk, and surely it contradicted the deep fascination of Pushkin with the folk that Turgenev so sharply disregarded even in the commemorative speech.
In contrast to Dostoevsky who initiated the audience’s understanding of the need for universal freedom for the whole nation, all that Turgenev wanted from the political power in Russia was to provide the freedom of artistic creation and expression. This was the art for the art’s sake, in which Turgenev was desperately falling behind his idol, Pushkin, whose art became transcendent and ever-popular due to the attention to both upper and lower classes of the Russian nation. It is obvious that Pushkin’s characters were often idealized, and the great poet represented Russia not the way it was but the way he wanted it to be; however, all works of his were full of respect towards the most miserable representatives of Russian folk, only due to the fact that they were the part of Russia, and carried a piece of its soul. Turgenev, on the contrary, reduced the endeavor of Pushkin mostly to the literary heritage, operating with the linguistic and artistic terminology, which suggested his large skepticism about the very future of the nation about which Pushkin wrote so passionately.
It is obvious that both Turgenev and Dostoevsky allowed some exaggerations in their speeches, being filled with the ideological aspirations that they aimed to communicate to the audience in June 1880, but Turgenev’s speech was too polished and too ideologically loaded to cause the spiritual acceptance of the audience. It is true that both writers did much for the exploration of burning social, political, and cultural issues of Russian life in the second half of the 19th century; however, Russia has always been characterized by its spirituality so incomprehensible and perplexing for the West, and it was beyond the power of Turgenev, no matter how influential and eloquent a speaker he was, to reduce its importance. Therefore, the socio-political and cultural activity of Turgenev, as well as precise and elegant appreciation of Pushkin’s heritage, surely deserve a proper positive assessment, but there are obvious reasons for a much lesser success his speech had with the listeners.
As a summary, one has to note that Turgenev’s position about Pushkin was changeable during his lifetime, and the opinion that he voiced in his “Speech about Pushkin” differed greatly from his early appraisal of Pushkin’s place in the Russian literary and spiritual heritage. From the theoretical, distanced contributor who had nothing in common with the Russian spirit, Pushkin transformed into a truly “Russian poet-artist” who, in Turgenev’s opinion, could inspire the new generations alongside with Gogol and Lermontov. The position of Turgenev, as well as many other thinkers and writers of that time, was heterogeneous and at times undecided, mainly due to the fundamental socio-political changes in Russia of the late 19th century. However, Turgenev has managed to grasp the blend of Pushkin’s national authenticity and the realistic nature of his creative activity, as Kedrova (1983) noted. Therefore, Pushkin regained his deserved position in the opinion of Turgenev, and acquired importance in the spiritual, ideological, literary, cultural, and social development of the Russian intelligentsia at the end of the 19th century.
Chapter Three – Pushkin as a Fictional Character in the Works of Turgenev and Dostoevsky
Both Dostoevsky and Turgenev acknowledged the tremendous legacy of Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837). They both regarded Pushkin as their inspiration and guide due to his almost single-handed development of the Russian literary language. Not only was he credited with the high level of language found in Russian literature; like Shakespeare, he has always received credit for significantly expanding the Russian lexicon by devising his own calques whenever he identified gaps in the Russian vocabulary. The key contribution of Pushkin into the development and formation of the Russian language and literature was the consensus he found between the two conflicting trends in the Russian literary traditions; the Archaists were the followers of admiral Shishkov, and represented the proponents of the Old Church Slavonic language, while the Karamzinists, the representatives of the Arzamas group, were the followers of Nikolai Karamzin, and advocated the European influences on the Russian language (Tynianov, 1969, 29-30). Pushkin, though beginning his literary activity as the member of the Arzamas group, further unified the vernacular Russian language, the Church Slavonic lexicon, and the European influences (mainly the use of French in his works, borrowed words, the French-type word-combinations, and syntax) in the unique and vibrant form of the his literary language (Vinogradov, 1941, 7). The delicate combination of rich vocabulary and sensitive, nuanced style characterize his work. Being influenced by foreign languages (French, German), Pushkin virtually created the modern literary form of Russian that proved to be the most stable and the most distinctive one due to the uniqueness of linguistic experiences and influences of the writer.
Pushkin also wrote in nearly every literary genre. Though often referred to as a “poet,” in fact, he wrote both lyric and narrative poetry, novels, short stories, plays, critical essays, and even epistolary works. Many of his stories and poems have become the part of eternal, classical literature of the world; they have formed the basis for works by other authors. For example, Eugene Onegin [novel in verse] was later extended by Tchaikovsky [opera], and his poetic drama Mozart and Salieri was the inspiration for the Oscar-winning film, Amadeus. He also produced a number of fairy-tales such as “The Tale of Tsar Saltan”, “The Tale of the Dead Princess”, and “The Tale of the Golden Cockerel”.
Politically, Pushkin was a literary radical, which caused many problems with the state authorities. He devoted himself to social reform and, like Byron, became enamored of the cause to free Greece from Ottoman rule. Throughout his life, he was dogged by censors, and was either under government sanctions or placed in exile on family estates at various times in his brief life. To summarize Pushkin’s literary approach, it was an indigenously Russian writer who dealt with realistic national issues. Although parallels can be drawn between Pushkin’s protagonist Eugene Onegin and Byron’s two great heroes, Childe Harold and Don Juan, one can see that both writers were good at rendering the authenticity of their nation, and the works of the former are characterized by authentic Russianness, while the latter wrote about the innately English characters.
Conflict between Dostoevsky and Turgenev
The greatest conflict between Dostoevsky and Turgenev in their perception of Pushkin arises in their very different philosophical approaches. Dostoevsky, as has been shown, perceived Pushkin as a prophet, a spiritual leader of the Russian people, and, in fact, of all people, i.e. the humankind. He perceived Pushkin as being a giant far beyond the limits of the Russian culture, and instead as a genius of the human race. Pushkin, in this perspective, was a pan-humanistic representative of the Russian literature; his mission was to unite people, to show the true value of harmony, and to bridge the gaps that revealed themselves so dramatically in the 19th century in Russia.
Yet, that pan-humanism was not in any way contradictory with Dostoevsky’s strong Russian Orthodox faith. If anything, Pushkin, in this appraisal, approached Christ-like capabilities (though without the implication of divinity). Pushkin, according to Dostoevsky, was a man of all people, all nations, all cultures. He did not belong to Russia alone, but to everyone everywhere, and his literary legacy was in universal ownership.
In Turgenev’s view, however, Pushkin was very much a man of Russia and a man of his times. He embodied the spirit of Russia, and his flaws and limitations were very human. Particularly, Turgenev did not perceive Pushkin and his works as being spiritual in religious terms. Instead, he attributed Pushkin’s archetypes to a superior understanding of human nature from the socio-political viewpoint. It is thus evident that both Dostoevsky and Turgenev projected their own views on the society, state, Russia in its essence, on their interpretation of Pushkin’s works and philosophy underlying the plot and characters.
Turgenev also correlated Pushkin with the nationalistic prosperity that accompanied the spirit of revolution evident in Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century. He associated Pushkin’s accomplishments with the creation of the truly Russian literary works, just as Dostoevsky did. However, he did not regard that prosperity beyond the Russian borders. Turgenev’s limitations in Pushkin’s perception might be connected with his cosmopolitan lifestyle and more positive attitude to Europe than Russia. Dostoevsky also was a frequent visitor of Europe, mostly for gambling purposes; nonetheless, Dostoevsky was very skeptical about the European values and lifestyle, which became the key difference between the two.
Another difference between them arose from their personal philosophies and ideologies they propagated regarding the place of Russia in the world, and the place of ‘narod’ (the ordinary Russian people) in the state. Dostoevsky was regarded a precursor of existentialism which has been defined as “a post-Hegelian rejection, if not a revolt, against the reductionism of the modern world view’s reading of reality through the eyes of mathematical physics, interpreting man in terms of a mechanistic model of physical reality” (Bourgeois, 1996, 84). Dostoevsky’s agreement with existentialist thought is traceable in Crime and Punishment, in which the main protagonist, Raskolnikov
…emerges, not as a Utopian Socialist favoring peaceful propaganda, “conversion to the cause of reason and persuasion,” but rather, as a true Nihilist, with the conviction “that the superior individual has the right and the obligation to strike a decisive blow by himself” (Bourgeois 1996, 86).
For Dostoevsky, these existential beliefs (though the name is anachronous), were thoroughly tied to the Russian Orthodox Church. His characters were frequently torn between their innate feelings and conscious, rational ideas (Bourgeois 1996, 86). Most importantly, while Turgenev wanted Russia to move into the Western European mainstream, Dostoevsky was deeply opposed to that concept. These philosophical differences between Turgenev and Dostoevsky provided the key to understanding of how they individually portrayed Pushkin in their various literary works.
Pushkin as Character—Similarities and Contrasts between Dostoevsky and Turgenev
If there was one issue that both Turgenev and Dostoevsky could agree on, it must have been on the critical importance of Pushkin to the Russian literary tradition. Both authors emphasized the monumental importance of Pushkin’s development of a new literary language for Russia in their speeches at the opening of the Pushkin Memorial. That language, as Turgenev pointed out, was “second only to Greek in its richness, power, logic, and beauty of form” (Turgenev & Allen 1994, 848). He spent approximately twenty years traveling and living throughout Europe—nearly one-third of his life—yet he remained staunchly Russian in his defense of Russian nationalism and archetypes. Turgenev wanted to bring the Russian ethos in line with Europe, and to advance the nation to the level of progressive European thought. Nonetheless, he did not want Russia to lose its uniqueness and authenticity. One not-well-known indicator of his devotion to Russia was his dedication to archiving Russian documents.
Both Turgenev and Dostoevsky thus recognized Pushkin’s great achievements in the development of the Russian language, but they differed substantially in how they perceived Pushkin with respect to the Russian nation and Russian culture. Turgenev clearly perceived Pushkin as the ultimate in Russian patriot, a man who worked to bring humanistic reform to Russia. He also was peripherally supportive of the failed Decembrist Revolt in 1825. Luckily, Pushkin was in exile in Mikhailovskoe when the revolt burst out. The revolutionary mood dominated in Russia in late autumn and winter of 1825, as the Tsar Alexander died in November, and there was much incongruence and awkwardness about the heir who was to reign in Russia. Finally, Alexander’s younger brother Nicolas became the Tsar and the plotters who pushed for constitutional democracy gathered at the Senate Square. They met canister shot, leaders lost the courage and decisiveness, and the unorganized upheaval quickly collapsed. However, after the failure the Tsarist commission interviewed the participants, many of whom reported having been inspired by the ‘liberal’ verses of Pushkin, which diluted his reputation (Martin 2008, 5).
In contrast to Turgenev’s perspective, Dostoevsky perceived Pushkin as a more spiritual leader. While acknowledging Pushkin’s political interests, Dostoevsky associated Pushkin as the proponent of global humanitarian aims – the ones that placed Russia at the forefront of human development, without ever jeopardizing the innate Russian culture and ethos of her people.
The differences in how these two authors viewed Pushkin resulted in somewhat different incarnations of Pushkin within their respective works. Pushkin provided inspiration and models to follow for both writers, so Pushkin (or images of Pushkin) appears in both authors’ works. In Dostoevsky, the incarnations reveal themselves in highly spiritual characters that yet may mandate for higher human salvation, such as Underground Man in Notes from Underground, or the dichotomy of Raskolnikov and Sonya in Crimes and Punishment. Probably the clearest incarnation of Pushkin in Dostoevsky is the anti-Pushkin Ivan Karamazov contrasted with the monkish Alyosha Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov. In both novels, Pushkin has been split apart and multiple facets of his character and personality appear in multiple characters (Frank 2009, 36).
Pushkin can be seen in the “underground man” because Dostoevsky raised the discussion away from egoism and self-interest and tried to address the spiritual nature of humanity. Like Pushkin, the “underground man” is trying to raise human consciousness away from petty egoistic and materialistic concerns and into more pan-humanist issues. Yet, one real difference between the character and the poet is the essential pessimism of the “underground man” (Cornwell 2001, 118). As that character insists:
And yet I think man will never renounce real suffering, that is, destruction and chaos. Why, suffering is the sole origin of consciousness…Consciousness, for instance, is infinitely superior to twice two makes four… While if you stick to consciousness, even though the same result is attained, you can at least flog yourself at times, and that will, at any rate, liven you up. Reactionary as it is, corporal punishment is better than nothing (Dostoyevsky 1860, Book II, Chapter IX).
Pushkin also appears as a character in Crime and Punishment in two separate guises, both as the protagonist Raskolnikov, and as the humble, self-effacing Sonya. These two characters can be seen as Pushkin himself, though exaggerated in both regards. Pushkin’s early years seem modeled after Byron, whose work he admired greatly. After a near-monastic life in the Tsarskoe Selo Lyceum, an exclusive school set up by Tsar Alexander I for the best and brightest young men in Russia, after graduation Pushkin devoted himself to the traditional delights of wine, women, and song (Martin 2008, 3).
This young-rebel Pushkin, with his emphasis on witty, if near-treasonous, political epigrams, reflects the student Raskolnikov, proud, aggressively convinced of his own superiority, and equally convinced of his inability to suffer the consequences of any action he takes, moral or not. In Raskolnikov’s case, the action he chooses to take is a murder. In Pushkin’s case, no such extreme action was performed, but his debauched lifestyle certainly put him to extremes that caused disapproval from the state authorities. Yet, Raskolnikov’s redemption at the end of the novel clearly traces Pushkin’s own journey from a debaucher to a spiritual leader of the Russian people.
The second presence of Pushkin in Crime and Punishment is Sonya, the loving daughter forced into prostitution by her drunken father so she can support the family. With her mother dying, Raskolnikov taunts Sonya with her inevitable doom, yet her response is a desperate, “God would not allow anything so awful!” (Dostoevsky 1881, Part IV, Ch. 4). For Sonya, the spiritual reality is greater than the physical degradation that permeates her life. Just as Pushkin perceives the benison of pan-humanistic reality, Sonya’s reality encompasses much more than the simple day-to-day struggle to survive. Pushkin can thus be seen as an amalgam of both Raskolnikov and Sonya, a blending of the two.
In Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, Pushkin’s universal humanitarianism is placed in sharp contrast with the spiritual crisis faced by Ivan Fyodorovich, the Karamazov brother who mostly reflects the intellectual or rationalist perspective on life. Ivan himself claims, “One cannot live by rebellion, and I want to live”. However, that complaint reflected the lack of an inner spiritual relationship with God, giving a link to Pushkin. It is possible to see that Ivan is the “anti-Pushkin” because, as Kantor points out:
No matter how much one reads into Ivan’s words, and no matter how much one tries to read out of them, what is it, really, that he wishes to present to society in the sense of a higher truth? It’s not revolution, of course, with its concrete social tasks for the reconstruction of the world. Dostoevsky [sic] found the exact word, bunt, rebellion, to which Pushkin in his time attached the epithets ‘senseless’ and ‘merciless’ (Kantor 2001, 208).
Furthermore, Ivan’s true rebellion is not a rebellion against authority; it is more of a rebellion of a person “severed from his ‘native or national truth” (Kantor 2001, 210). In other words, by separating himself from his national ethos, and from his pan-humanitarian ethos, Ivan Fyodorovich is separating himself from all of humanity. Thus, Ivan serves as an opposite to Pushkin, an anti-Pushkin character, and Ivan’s self-destruction and eventual downfall reflects the inevitable fall of those who oppose Pushkin’s ideas about the universal humanitarianism.
Yet, if Ivan’s super-rationalist perspective is a depiction of an anti-Pushkin character, the more spiritual Alyosha acts in a far more Pushkin-like role, as he mediates the family disputes. His crisis of faith reflects various arguments presented by those of more nationalist and egocentric rationalism, yet in the end, Alyosha overcomes them and gets reassurance by his confidence in God. In the book’s epilogue, his message to his remaining family is not to forget the events surrounding the family crises, but instead to recognize that only love and community—Pushkin’s pan-humanitarian approach—got them through the dark days of the events illustrated in the novel (Dostoevsky 1881, Epilogue).
In the case of Turgenev’s works, Pushkin again appears across multiple characters in Fathers and Sons. Bazarov is, like Ivan Karamazov, an anti-Pushkin character, the one who represents the exact opposite of Pushkin rather than exemplifying Pushkin directly. Yet over the course of the novel, the psychological movement of Bazarov is more and more toward the direction of becoming Pushkinesque. Although much more an anti-Pushkin than a Pushkin, by the end of the book, Bazarov brings together the themes that dominated Pushkin’s life, those of unifying the Russian language, folklore, and literature into a single, unified whole – being a political activist rather than a literary person, Bazarov still touched upon the need for Russia to get determined in its future direction, though from a slightly different perspective than Pushkin did.
The intergenerational conflict of this novel well reflects Pushkin’s generational conflicts with his idolaters and his detractors. Pushkin is embodied in this novel in a combination of two characters. First of these is the character of the radical young Bazarov, a youth willing to condemn the older generation’s cherished traditions and beliefs to the fire. Bazarov actually embodies an anti-Pushkin approach because this arrogant young man absolutely rejects all aspects of Russian culture and society. He condemns the very concept of aristocracy, and insists that the only way to correct society is to reduce it to nil or nothing. Even poetry must be destroyed because, in Bazarov’s opinion, only science, materialism, and realism can provide a worthwhile perspective on life. Thus, Bazarov adopts the title of “nihilist,” a word invented by Turgenev (though the concept of nihilism was not his invention). Whereas Pushkin, in Turgenev’s view embodied the soul of Russian nationalism, Bazarov wants to wipe out those traditions and culture and start afresh with a completely new way of looking at the world.
Yet it is not true that Bazarov holds no principles, as a true nihilist would. Instead, his principles are simply different from those of the fathers’ generation. He and Pavel are at odds over their visions of society. Furthermore, these two opposing viewpoints are not nearly as different as they appear on the surface. While there are many ideological variances between the two, upon closer reading the similarities between the two approaches to life can be seen.
Furthermore, Pushkin further appears more definitively in the form of many of Turgenev’s strong Russian female figures. These women exemplify strength, purity in moral terms, and self-sacrifice (Johanson 1984; Turton 1992, 66), virtues that while not quite exact matches with Pushkin personally; they certainly reflect his understanding of the ethos of Russian women. Furthermore, in his devotion to the cause of freeing Greece and his dedication to developing and forging a new literary path in the Russian language, Pushkin himself demonstrated many of these virtues.
One of the examples to illustrate this point is the embodiment of Pushkin in the character of the young woman, Anna Odintsova, the woman Bazarov yearns for, though he decries such normal feelings as love. She provides a gentle, understanding and purely Russian character, a woman who is beautiful both inside and out, a woman who embodies the spirit of Russia, filled with liberal ideas and proud of their determination to “shake up” society. What is most interesting about this character is her ability to force even the radical nihilist of Bazarov to re-think his opinions. While he does not completely yield to the gentle Russianness of Anna, he does soften his position toward her, and toward Mother Russia as a result of his encounters with her (Turgenev & Allen 1994, xxvii).
In the traditional Russian society, as with most cultures of the time in Europe, women’s rights to marry whom they pleased, control their own destinies, and otherwise make life-changing decisions, were heavily limited by parental control. Russian law explicitly forbade marriage without parental consent. Yet, these restrictions began to break down in the middle of the century as women began to develop other mechanisms to achieve their personal goals, whether it is for a career or love, or other reason. For example, a technique of a “fictitious marriage” popular – a man married a woman with parental consent, but with the understanding that after the wedding she would be free to live where and how she liked.
Turgenev’s heroines are strong and willing to flout convention if sufficiently motivated to do so, but they do not exemplify the “modern” woman of the 1860s. Instead, they represent the best and greatest ideals of the Russian women. Though Turgenev’s heroines may not have represented the “new” Russian woman, they do represent the Russian female ideal. Hence, it is in that guise that they become representative of Pushkin himself. Pushkin can be seen to embody the ultimate best of Russia, in terms of literary and cultural genius. The strong women of Turgenev’s novels, including the rebellious daughters such as Natalia in Rudin (1857), Liza in Dvorianskoe gnezdo (A Nest of Gentry, 1859), and Elena in Nakanune (On the Eve, 1860) equally reflect that sense of being the best that Russia has to offer.
While not “feminist” in the current-day definition of the word, his heroines reflect the ideal, the perfect, as well as the strength that comes from being that ideal. This approach to character creation reflects Pushkin’s role in Russian literary history. Pushkin not only reflected the Russian tradition; he virtually created it in a very real sense. Turgenev’s heroines thus fully embody Pushkin and his role in Russian literary history as creators, pioneers, and daring experimenters.
While Dostoevsky and Turgenev clearly have somewhat different interpretations of the fundamental character of Alexander Pushkin, they each found ways to embody him in the characters of their major works. Some of the most frequently used approaches were to show the essence of their fictional characters through their attitude to Pushkin: for Dostoevsky, negative characters despised or disrespected Pushkin, while positive characters always made hints or clearly stated about their awe and love of Pushkin works. Turgenev, in his turn, challenged the role of Pushkin in the particular period of his life and work, as well as his place in the eternal cultural heritage of Russia in particular, and world in general. Therefore, the main issue that Pushkin-like characters tried to solve in Turgenev’s storylines was to create something extraordinary, to overcome the forces preventing them from achieving their goals, and to become greater people through their self-sacrifice, effort, and introspection.
Summary of Pushkin’s Legacy as Delineated in the Dostoevsky-Turgenev Debate
There is no doubt that Alexander Pushkin is a universally acknowledged genius. The contribution of Pushkin into the Russian literature and the global cultural heritage may be appraised very highly, thus putting Pushkin in line with such outstanding artists as William Shakespeare, George Gordon Byron, Dante, and Servantes. All these grand writers contributed enormously in the creation of the national language, on the revelation of their national authenticity in literature, and on reflecting the national uniqueness of their own country. Pushkin may be called a pioneer in this particular field as he was the first to discover beauty, gentility, and nobility in the ordinary human souls of Russian folk.
Turgenev’s vision of Pushkin’s legacy presented the latter as a linguistic genius who established a nuanced, flexible, strong language for literature equaling Greek in its grandeur and beauty. Turgenev also presented the famous Russian poet as a political humanist, fighting for human rights and raising the consciousness of the need for improved conditions for all Russians. Turgenev also pointed out that because Pushkin died at a tragically young age, his work was incomplete. Thus, Pushkin was the initiator of the liberal trends that Turgenev pursued, and this is the main reason for politicization of Pushkin’s image and works from the angle of Turgenev’s liberal vision. Turgenev felt his belonging to Russia, but he longed to becoming the part of Europe and disregarded many of the culturally unique traits and phenomena in Russia. Turgenev wanted to see Pushkin as the bridge between Europe and Russia, the person who made Russia more civilized to move towards the West; hence, all his interpretation and appreciation resulted from the ideological views of Westernism.
Dostoevsky, on the contrary, perceived Pushkin not only as a literary genius, but as the one who transcended national boundaries and who belonged not only to the Russian people but to the whole Europe, and to the whole humanity. Dostoevsky stressed Pushkin’s role in realizing the unifying mission by the Russian people. In this perspective, Pushkin exemplified the hopes and aspirations of the Russian folk for the better future, for recognition, and for regaining dignity and equality visible in Europe. Dostoevsky’s appeal was to remember Pushkin as a pan-humanist, not as “only” a Russian patriot and national poet. Rather than succumbing to the nationalistic and regional forces that threatened to rip apart nations and cultures, Dostoevsky felt that Pushkin could unite and unify all European countries into a cohesive whole. In particular, Dostoevsky believed Russia must not adapt to the Western literary tradition, but instead should use Pushkin’s genius as a guide to the prosperity of their authenticity and exceptionality. His arguments in this respect were heartfelt and strong.
It has been claimed that Dostoevsky, particularly in his Notes from Underground, set out to create a character that exemplified true goodness and truth. Dostoevsky strove in all his works to present characters that were both new and yet recognizably true. Thus, his borrowing of Pushkin himself provided both new—because real human beings are almost infinitely variable—and true in the fullest sense of that term. He also strove to create an Orthodox Russian Christian figure, using Pushkin as a guide. Though a flawed version of this model was exemplified in The Idiot, Dostoevsky did pursue the goal in his later works as well.
In their efforts to personify Pushkin within the characters of their various works, both Dostoevsky and Turgenev emphasized different aspects of Pushkin as a human being. In Dostoevsky’s case, the aspects of spirituality and moral leadership, along with the humanitarian thrust were stressed as he portrayed Pushkin in characters such as the Karamazov brothers Ivan and Alyosha. Here the rationalist, intellectual Ivan portrays the anti-Pushkin aspect, and his destruction comes as a direct result of that rationality.
Turgenev’s incarnation of Pushkin as the Russian patriot reflects his perception of Pushkin as having lived an incomplete life, one cut short before his promise and genius could be fully fulfilled. Dostoevsky’s incarnation of Pushkin as a different kind of Russian patriot, more of a Russian Christ, destined to lead not only Russia but all of Europe—possibly the whole world—to national pride, to development, and progress in all aspects of human life. As one can see, there are many points on which the disagreement between Turgenev and Dostoevsky about Pushkin was based; however, the main incongruence rose from the deep differences in their ideological views and the vision of Russia’s future they had.
It is very symbolic to speak of Pushkin, as the attitude to him shows the true attitude of a speaker towards Russia. Since Pushkin has managed to embody all Russia has ever cherished, one can see that Pushkin’s literary heritage is much more than the contribution to the literary and cultural development. Pushkin has done much more than inventing the literary language and shaping some popular genres widely utilized afterwards. Pushkin has become the first to show the true beauty of ordinary Russian people, and Turgenev as a member of a noble family never managed to fully come to grips with the Russian spirit. In these terms, the interpretation of Dostoevsky surely deserves a much higher assessment, and one can identify the value attributed to Pushkin by him as much higher, wider, and much more positive as compared to Turgenev. Each of the discussed authors saw Russia and the future of Russia in their own way; hence, the truth about Pushkin is one – he was a pioneer, a daring inspirer, a guiding line for many generations of Russian writers. Hence, both Turgenev and Dostoevsky were right in their comments about Pushkin, and the difference in their attitudes showed once more that a grand person cannot be perceived in an isolated way, and is always predetermined by the social, cultural, and political context in which he existed and his works continue to exist. This is usually done to fit the works of Pushkin into the changing context, and to adjust his ideas to the urgent needs of the nation, which is indicative of the different paths Dostoevsky and Turgenev pursued.
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