The Atlantic

European Politicians Are Suddenly Quoting Dostoyevsky

The writer offered an expansive vision of Europe and “the Russian soul” that appeals to leaders seeking rapprochement.
Source: Alexander Aksakov / Getty

LONDON—Is Europe having a Dostoyevsky moment? Or is it a Pushkin moment? French President Emmanuel Macron cited Dostoyevsky’s speech about Pushkin—in which the writer makes a dramatic appeal for Russian universalism—in a press conference with Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg on May 24. Then, on Tuesday, the prime minister of Italy’s new populist government, Giuseppe Conte, paraphrased—or perhaps mis-paraphrased—the same Dostoyevsky speech in his first address before the Italian Senate.

Dostoyevsky delivered his rousing speech in 1880 at the dedication of a statue of Pushkin, to fit his own vision of the world, finding its heroine, Tatiana, the apotheosis of Russian womanhood and offering an ecstatic vision of the Russian soul as a truth-bearing instrument. He concluded with a similarly expansive vision of Russia’s relationship to Europe, a vision that wowed both Slavophiles and Westernizers, two Russian schools of thought that still resonate today.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min read
The Astonishing Rise of Existential Threats
Political discourse has taken on a certain shade of Camus. The term existential threat is fertile of late, especially among Democratic presidential hopefuls. It has become a set term in reference to climate change, as used by Governor Jay Inslee and
The Atlantic7 min readPolitics
Los Angeles Is in Crisis. So Why Isn’t It Building More Housing?
A few short months ago, Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, was giving serious consideration to running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Now he finds himself in the midst of a homelessness crisis that could doom his political future.
The Atlantic4 min read
The Dark Teen Show That Pushes the Edge of Provocation
HBO’s Euphoria joins a long list of works that have appalled and thrilled in equal measure. But does it have more to say?