Dostoevskij, political issues, 1881

  • From the pig who saps the oak roots in Krylóv’s tale cited by Fëdor Dostoevskij to the pigs “more equal than the others” by George Orwell.

In January 1881, shortly before his death, Dostoevsky wrote in his monthly publication “Diary of a writer” about the Russian institutions and the reforms still to be pursued.

One of the first things that stands out is that Dostoevsky asks to bother less about current affairs and to focus more more on radical issues. Let’s talk about causes and not about effects! Dostoevsky shifts immediately the attention away from the squabble about business affairs to the causes of the current misfortunes. According to the author, if a little attention was paid to the roots, if one cared for the roots until they give a generous and rich fruit then, the current affairs, produced from a newer and firmer source, would change for the better.

Russian people are one of the roots and Dostoevsky recalls the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Twenty years later, there hasn’t been a positive change in the Russian state despite the “European” aspirations of the ruling class. Dostoevsky is critical about the European system, but everyone is free to fail in the learning process while ruling is home country. The writer is very negative against his own ruling class who wants to establish the European system in Russia relying just on imposition. Dostoevsky points out that other “radical” reforms must be implemented earlier. The author’s realism points out that “white waistcoats” and “intelligentija” believe they can sit one next to the other and start playing a beautiful melody in a virtuous parliament; what if they are only able to sit close and chat to each other? The white waistcoats believe they are the building under construction and consider other institutions necessary for their own completion. Dostoevskij immediately sees the corruption of the institution that is born bureaucratized, to employ those in power in Russia, not to facilitate the development of the Nation.

The mean that becomes the end or rather the mean that is born as the end. The author says that “we are like flies in molasses”, we are fine and we do not realize that the environment around us is wrong. Dostoevsky does not talk about representative democracy, what he sees is the need for more balance between the various forces of the State. Too much is asked to Russian workers without any right being recognized, without wanting to improve the people, the Russian ocean.

The Russian people need culture, the ruling class, too far from the people, doesn’t know him. Administrators who read about Russia in books staying in the office, learn something but it is not about the Country.

In all of this, the ruling class speaks French and believes that has assimilated the evolved parts of European culture and institutions; may a simple transplant of institutions make Russia evolve? Dostoyevsky already recognized that efficiency is not gained through imposition; “it is vain to look for depth on the surface.”

With an observation of the state of the economy, the author notes that those who can have already started to cut even small shrubs and twigs, after having looted the forests. The ransom paid by the serfs for their release has already been wasted by the ruling class.

In the future, the author sees a clash between the people and the intelligentija if they continue at this rate. The power that despises work and those who work. Petersburg too far away from the rest of the Country.

In the second chapter Dostoevsky also speaks of the bureaucrats, back then already there were discussions about streamlining measures; 4 bureaucrats could do 40’s job. Dostoevsky reports the comment of a bureaucrat on the matter who, at the beginning of his speech, concedes that it is possible to work faster and with less resources. The bureaucrat is against haste though, he explains that reducing the bureaucracy would be conceptually wrong, bureaucracy is the backbone of Russia and therefore why meddling to head towards uncharted waters by alternative means? The reduction of only 2 bureaucrats, going from 40 to 38, albeit possible, would mean moving away from the system that currently makes Russia work, the system of European derivation of which the French-speaking Russians are proud; the means they rely on to guide the Fatherland. Why should they mutilate themselves?

Dostoevsky does not see the future and therefore does not reply, but in his heart he does not agree with the arrogance of the bureaucrat.

The author ends his writing with the tale of the pig by Krilóv.

The pig, after eating all the acorns of the oak, falls asleep and upon awakening begins to pry the roots of the plant. A blackbird on the branches points out that if he continues the oak will dry out. The pig does not see the complication since he is clueless that the oak produces acorns.

Dostoevsky asks if we want to look like the pig.

George Orwell will talk about the malicious pigs Dostoevskij feared about in 1945 with “The Farm of the Animals” in which the pigs are “more equal than the others”. Orwell was able to observe all the events , both the remote causes, present in Dostoevsky’s times, and the proximate ones that led to the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the regime. Dostoevsky’s fears about Russian administration become reality, Orwell’s pigs started to eat Russian roots, the Russian people. It is fascinating to note how the two authors used the same animal to depict a subject with few scruples, little intelligence and even less foresight.



love reading

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store