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"The purpose of this blog is to generate discussions about historical issues. Students, enthusiasts, and friends are all welcome to join by reading and participating with comments. I hope to generate interest in history and offer help to the perplexed." Caleb Johnson

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Russian Literature

Dear Friends,

Allow me to recommend to you the great literary works of Russia. Deep within the forests of the Russian hinterland, or perhaps tucked away in one of the onion-shaped domes of the Kremlin, are some of the best pieces of prose this world has to offer. My favorite Russian authors are Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. They concentrate mostly on Russia's unique perspective of the human condition. Life, love, war, and death are the most common themes. These men eloquently relate the lives of Russian people during the mid-19th century. Some of the books have even been made into movies and I can recommend War and Peace (1956, starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda). If you're looking for a happy ending, choose War and Peace. However, if you're looking for a deeper, darker journey to a greater truth, I would recommend reading Letters from the Underground by Dostoyevsky. In it, Dostoyevsky shows how Jesus Christ is the great inequality, as he was the son of God sent to save the underground man.

Love them or hate them, but please read them. Don't feel intimidated by the size of the works. If necessary, find an audio copy at your local library. I promise you that you'll never view Russia the same way after reading one of these great books.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Explain further on what you mean by the unique Russian perspective of the human condition, I am quite curious.

  3. Alright, the Russian perspective is unique because of Russia's relationship with the west. What do I mean by that? Russia is Greek Orthodox and Europe is Catholic/Protestant. Russia is mainly isolated (only a few of their sea ports don't freeze over in winter) while Europe is much more advanced and dynamic. These differences are the basis for a cultural divide. Some want to be more like Europe and embrace change, while more conservative people want to keep Russia Russian even at the expense of progress. This leaves Russians with a question, do we become more European, or stay the same? Disagreement on the answer generates conflict.

    Another issue is that of the serfs. Serfs were bought and sold with the land they lived on and couldn't leave. Many wanted to abolish the serf system and restructure society. The more conservative noblemen wanted to keep the status quo.

    The three authors I mentioned expose these issues and bring them to the light for other people to read and consider. They were all devote Orthodox and most of the theology in the books is pretty much sound.

    Does this start to answer your question?

  4. So you're saying that they deal with life and death in a more gritty, old school manner, in accordance with their extreme climate and isolation. The problems they face have to do with conforming to the cultures around them, or continuing to be different.

  5. Precisely. Their perspective is different from the west due to their climate, religion, and society. Back then they had a more medieval mind set. It's been noted that the renaissance passed Russia by.