Because Dostoevsky told Me to Do It
Some nations, or rather people who want to imagine a nation a particular way, sometimes twist and turn history, myth and memory to bring forth a vision of a nation that suits their purposes. Often, this works on the principles of refashioning the past to meet the perceived needs of the present. And the likes of poor writers of the past, oft invoked in this act, have no choice in how their name and work are being used. Witness the case of Vladimir Putin and his imagination of Russia, and all that consequent invading and annexing going on in Ukraine. Reports aver the Russian strongman’s two favourite writers are Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. The two, it seems, presented him a choice: to believe in the latter’s notion of Russia as some sort of Slavic civilisational force that must exert itself over lesser beings, and Tolstoy’s more humanistic outlook. And it seems Mr Putin has chosen the first, much to the consternation of others.
But that would make it seem, to legions of Dostoevsky worshippers, that the great writer had some sort of fatal flaw, something that could wrongly cause people to look askance at his writings. So, one must hasten to add the above adage about acts of reinterpretation, often at odds with what might have been actually said by a writer, holds true. One man’s dreams, you see, need not be another man’s fantasy.