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Russian Nihilism

In: English and Literature

Submitted By izzzzeee
Words 474
Pages 2
Isabel Wilder
October 18, 2014
IB English 11
Brammer 7 Russian Nihilism Interactive Oral Reflection

My presentation with Cotton, Adrian and Albert was centered around Russian Nihilism in relation to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Russian nihilism is the rejection of any sort of moral laws or beliefs. It is a philosophical approach that was initiated in Russia in the 1850s and 1860s. Nihilism rejects societal bonds and emotional concerns with the belief that there is no “mind” or “soul” outside of the physical world.
Utilitarianism is similar to nihilism. Utilitarianism is the belief that moral decisions should be based the most amount of happiness for the largest number of people. The protagonist in Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov, justifies his murder of the pawnbroker Alyona on a utilitarian and nihilist rationale. He claims that a “louse” has been eradicated from society. In addition, Raskolnikov portrays many nihilist behaviors. He is entirely apathetic for the majority of the novel; he doesn’t care about others’ emotions or society’s laws (such as the one against murder).
We started the oral with a journal entry about going against the “status quo,” because Nihilism is very much related to going against the “norm”. Nihilism is about rejecting all societal expectations and going against the status quo. From there, we progressed to talk about Crime and Punishment and how Dostoevsky came to create this work. Dostoevsky was largely influenced by the Russian reform that was occurring during the mid 1800s. In 1847 Dostoyevsky began to participate a group called the Petrashevsky Circle. This group consisted of intellectuals who debated utopian socialism. Dostoevsky later joined a similar, secret group whose focus was revolution and illegal propaganda. He and the other members of the circle were apprehended on April 23, 1849. Dostoyevsky spent eight months in prison until December 22 when he was exiled to Siberia. Crime and Punishment embodies Dostoevsky’s interest in crime and criminals and the social difficulties that was a result of the financial crisis and extreme poverty of Russia during the mid 1860s.
Nihilism largely came about as a reaction to the mid 1800s Russian Tsarist reform and repression. The Tsar, Alexander II, was assassinated in 1881. After that, the Nihilists were known in Europe as proponents of the use of violence to cause political change. During his reign, Alexander II did a lot to liberalize Russia, which includes the abolishment of serfdom in 1861. However, Alexander II turned repressive when his power was challenged. I really enjoyed doing this Interactive Oral. It not only gave me a chance to work with some new people, but it allowed me to really get in depth with Crime and Punishment. I am enjoying reading the novel, so it was cool to really find out some of the background to the setting and how Dostoevsky came to write this renowned work.

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