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Dostoevsky v. The Judicial Reforms of 1864: How and Why One of Nineteenth-Century Russia’s Greatest Writers Criticized the Nation’s Most Successful Reform

https://doi.org/10.17589/2309-8678-2014-2-4-7-62

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Abstract

The legal reforms of 1864 marked a shift in Russian legal culture from an amorphous, corrupt, pre-modern system of procedure, structure, and customary law to an independent, modern, and westernized system as liberal as that of any nation. These reforms were nearly universally lauded by legal and cultural critics, both at the time they were introduced and in historical accounts. Despite the apparent necessity and success of the new courts, one of the leading figures in nineteenth-century Russian literature (and indeed the history of world literature), Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, continually criticized the new system in both his fiction and non-fiction.Through the synthesis of historical, legal, and literary analysis, this study will examine why Dostoevsky had an adverse reaction to the reforms, the literary techniques he used, and whether Dostoevsky presented a viable alternative to the reformed courts. In order to fully comprehend Dostoevsky’s reaction to the reforms, this study will contrast the pre and post-reform judicial systems in Imperial Russia. This study will explore the scope and evolution of Dostoevsky’s criticism of the law through analysis of his pre-reform fiction, including ‘House of the Dead’ and ‘Crime and Punishment,’ his post-reform fiction, including ‘The Idiot,’ ‘Demons,’ and ‘Brothers Karamazov,’ and portions of his experimental literary periodical, ‘A Writer’s Diary.’

About the Author

Brian Conlon
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
United States
Term Staff Attorney at the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (210 N. 17th str., unit 308, St. Louis, Missouri, 63103, United States)


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For citation:


Conlon B. Dostoevsky v. The Judicial Reforms of 1864: How and Why One of Nineteenth-Century Russia’s Greatest Writers Criticized the Nation’s Most Successful Reform. Russian Law Journal. 2014;2(4):7-62. https://doi.org/10.17589/2309-8678-2014-2-4-7-62

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