Publication Date

Spring 2006


School of Communication


Nineteenth-century Russia experienced a crisis of identity rooted in cultural ambivalence. Adoption of Western ideals seemed necessary to effect modernization, but westernization ran counter to the growing trend to idealize native Russian culture. Indecisive governmental policies evidenced this ambivalence, as did the developing Russian literary tradition. Relying on a traditional link between politics and religion, the literary elite created a uniquely Russian ideal identity, the authority of which was legitimized by the use of religious language. The problem Russia faced was to resolve the tension between this ideal and the reality of existing social and political forms.

Although Russia’s government failed to resolve the disparity, Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, when studied in conjunction with A Writer’s Diary, can be seen as both an explication of and a remedy for the problem. Dostoevsky achieves his goal by providing an accessible demonstration that the ideal is possible.