Crime And Punishment – Russian History Essay, Research Paper
Fyodor Dostoevsky s novel, Crime and Punishment, is a reflection of life in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the rule of Czars Nicholas I and Alexander III. Though this topic only accounts for the reigns of Tsars Nicholas I and Alexander III, the reformative Alexander II also falls within the time period, 1800 s, so he will also be covered. Tsars Nicholas I and Alexander III showed no concern and elicited little progression for the condition of the poverty stricken in St. Petersburg. There are many parallels between the religious, political, and social aspects of Russian life during this period that directly correlate the setting and events of the novel.
Tsar Nicholas I (in full Nikolay Pavlovich), Russian emperor from 1825 to 1855, was often considered the personification of classic autocracy; for his reactionary policies, he has been called the emperor who froze Russia for 30 years. Autocracy meant the affirmation and maintenance of the absolute power of the sovereign, which was considered the indispensable foundation of the Russian state. His impulse was always to strike and keep striking until the object of his wrath was destroyed. Aggressiveness, however, was not the Emperor’s only method of coping with the problems of life. He also used regimentation, orderliness, neatness, and precision, an enormous effort to have everything at all times in its proper place. His regime became preeminently one of militarism and bureaucracy Corruption and confusion, however, lay immediately behind this facade of discipline and smooth functioning.
Nicholas disliked serfdom (poverty), but there were political hazards in eliminating it. He was determined to avoid public discussion of reform, even within the upper class. The poverty stricken people of Russia, St. Petersburg in particular, did not progress during the reign of Nicholas I. It seems ironic that a character in the novel has his name, Nikolay, and be disliked, just like the Tsar was in real life. The prisoner Nikolay has been brought, some one answered. He is not wanted! Take him away! Let him wait! What’s he doing here? How irregular! Nicholas made a futile attempt to improve the conditions in St. Petersburg, but it was, after his reign, still horrible.
The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustle and the plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that special Petersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town in summer–all worked painfully upon the young man’s already overwrought nerves. The insufferable stench from the pot-houses, which are particularly numerous in that part of the town, and the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed the revolting misery of the picture. An expression of the profoundest disgust gleamed for a moment in the young man’s refined face.
There are few places where there are so many gloomy, strong and queer influences on the soul of man as in Petersburg. The mere influences of climate mean so much. And it’s the administrative centre of all Russia and its character must be reflected on the whole country.
Although it is unlikely that Nicholas committed suicide, as several historians have claimed, death did come as liberation to the weary and harassed Russian emperor. He came down with a bad case of pneumonia, and died in the bitter knowledge of general failure.
Tsar Alexander II (In full Aleksandr Nikolayevich) was the emperor of Russia from 1855 to 1881. Though he is a complete opposite of his predecessor, Nicholas I, and his successor, Alexander III, it is necessary to mention him to prove the need for change in Russian society. His liberal education and distress at the outcome of the Crimean War, which had demonstrated Russia’s backwardness, inspired him toward a great program of domestic reforms, the most important being the emancipation (1861) of the serfs. In 1861 and 1862 revolutionary leaflets were distributed in St. Petersburg, ranging from the demand for a constituent assembly to a passionate appeal for insurrection. Alexander II met these demands. A period of repression after 1866 led to a resurgence of revolutionary terrorism and to Alexander’s own assassination, at the height of the Crimean War. The war had revealed Russia’s glaring backwardness in comparison with more advanced nations like England and France. Russian defeats, which had set the seal of final discredit on the oppressive regime of Nicholas I, had provoked among Russia’s educated elite a general desire for drastic change. It was under the impact of this widespread urge that the Tsar embarked upon a series of reforms designed, through “modernization,” to bring Russia into line with the more advanced Western countries. Their aim and results were the reduction of class privilege, humanitarian progress, and economic development. Moreover, Alexander, from the moment of his accession, had instituted a political “thaw.”
Political prisoners had been released and Siberian exiles allowed to return. The personally tolerant emperor had removed or mitigated the heavy disabilities weighing on religious minorities, particularly Jews and sectarians. Restrictions on foreign travel had been lifted. Barbarous medieval punishments were abolished. Yet, notwithstanding these measures, it would be wrong, as is sometimes done, to describe Alexander II as a liberal. He was in fact a firm upholder of autocratic principles, sincerely convinced both of his duty to maintain the God-given autocratic power he had inherited and of Russia’s unreadiness for constitutional or representative government. Tsar Alexander II reduced crime in the cities, especially in the poor, decrepit parts in St. Petersburg. As Raskolnikov, the main character in the novel says about the city, You can’t be in the streets alone; Petersburg is an awful place in that way. Alexander II reformed and eradicated radical political groups, such as the ones mentioned in the novel.
He, like every one, had heard that there were, especially in Petersburg, progressives of some sort, nihilists and so on, and, like many people, he exaggerated and distorted the significance of those words to an absurd degree.
He knew the condition of the poor and wanted to Let every one, let all Petersburg see the children begging in the streets, and reform it. Education and the treatment of the mentally ill was another one of his issues. He wanted to change the attitude that there are lots of people in Petersburg who talk to themselves as they walk. This is a town of crazy people. After a long, successful reign, on March 13, 1881, Alexander II was assassinated, and the following day autocratic power passed to his son.
Alexander III (In full Aleksandr Aleksandrovich) was emperor of Russia from 1881 to 1894, opponent of representative government, and supporter of Russian nationalism. He adopted programs, based on the concepts of Orthodoxy (Orthodoxy referred to the official church and its important role in Russia and also to the ultimate source of ethics and ideals that gave meaning to human life and society), autocracy, and narodnost (a belief in the Russian people, described the particular nature of the Russian people, considered as a mighty and dedicated supporter of its dynasty and government). Alexander III ended the good fortunes that his father had given the people with such reforms that included the Russification of national minorities in the Russian Empire as well as persecution of the non-Orthodox religious groups. In disposition he bore little resemblance to his softhearted, impressionable father and still less to his refined, chivalrous, yet complex granduncle, Alexander I. He gloried in the idea of being of the same rough texture as the great majority of his subjects. His straightforward manner savoured sometimes of gruffness, while his unadorned method of expressing himself harmonized well with his roughhewn, immobile features. After repealing a law set forth from his father s death bed, he developed his opinion that Russia was to be saved from anarchical disorders and revolutionary agitation not by the parliamentary institutions and so-called liberalism of western Europe but by his three principles of Orthodoxy, autocracy, and narodnost.
Alexander’s political ideal was a nation containing only one nationality, one language, one religion, and one form of administration; At the same time, he sought to strengthen and centralize the imperial administration and to bring it more under his personal control. This allowed for no diversity of political or religious beliefs, or culture or ethnic diversity. This culture could no longer allow Marmeladov to be considered a statesman and a man of modern political and enlightened ideas During a talk about political freedom with Raskalnikov, Sonia says, hysterically,
But if you don’t find it, then excuse me, my dear fellow, you’ll answer for it! I’ll go to our Sovereign, to our Sovereign, to our gracious Tsar himself, and throw myself at his feet, to-day, this minute! I am alone in the world! They would let me in! Do you think they wouldn’t? You’re wrong, I will get in! I will get in!
Just as Raskalnikov, at one point, looked upon Sonia as a religious maniac, so too would Alexander III. The two would also agree on the similarities of their lack of freethinking, godless, social propositions!” As a whole, Alexander’s reign cannot be regarded as one of the eventful periods of Russian history; but it is arguable that under his hard, unsympathetic rule the country, as a whole, made some progress but the conditions of St. Petersburg were taken aback.
The novel s events and setting coincide with the factual time period in St. Petersburg, Russia and the Tsars of the 1800 s. Oppression and bad social conditions of the poor was seen throughout the novel, just as they were quite prevalent during the reign of Tsars Nicholas I and Alexander III. There was also strong evidence that Alexander III persecuted religion and politics to match his personal views, much like Hitler of Germany.