Anyuta’s Nihilism

  • Sofya Kovalevskaya


At the time when Anyuta was dreaming of knights and shedding bitter tears over the fate of Edith of the swan’s neck and Harold the last of the Saxon kings, most intellectual young people in other parts of Russia were caught up in quite a different current, quite different ideals. Anyuta’s enthusiasms, therefore, might seem strangely anachronistic. But that small corner where Palibino was situated was so remote from all the centers, fenced off from the outside world by such thick, high walls, that the wave of new ideas did not reach our quiet cove until long after it had swelled and risen into the open sea.


Young Lady Small Corner RUSSIAN Childhood Peasant Woman Parish Priest 
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  1. 1.
    The Znamenskaya Commune (so-called because it was located on Znamenskaya Street) did actually exist for a short time and was run by a group of young men and women who pooled their modest resources and tried to care for themselves without the help of servants. The commune was founded by the radical writer Vasily Sleptsov (1836–78), author of a number of novels and sketches. Sleptsov’s activity was at its height between 1861 and 1866, at which time he was arrested and imprisoned. He was forced to give up literary work in the 1870s because of poor health.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    These “great men” are named in the Swedish edition: Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov, Sleptsov.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The Epoch (Epokha) was founded by Fyodor Dostoevsky together with his brother Mikhail in 1863 as the successor to their ill-starred Time (Vremya), which had been closed down by imperial decree at the time of the Polish uprising because of an article in it by Nikolai Strakhov, misterpreted by the authorities as constituting a glorification of Polish culture at the expense of Russian. The Epoch was extremely short-lived. In 1864 (the year when Anyuta’s two short stories were published in it) Mikhail Dostoevsky died. The next year saw the journal’s demise. Internal evidence, therefore, suggests that Anyuta’s first serious involvement with the “Nihilist” ideas described in this chapter began in 1862 or 1863, when she was about twenty and Sofya thirteen years old.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The Contemporary (Sovremennik) was founded in 1836 by Alexander Pushkin and had an ideologically varied and relatively long history. Under the influence of Chernyshevsky (who joined the staff in 1854) and Dobrolyubov (1856) it became the rallying-ground of the extreme left. It was closed down by Tsarist decree in 1866. The Rus.sidn Word (Russkoye slovo) was the most outspokenly revolutionary of the journals mentioned here. It too was shut down in 1866 because of its “corrupting influence on youth.” The Bell (Kolokol) was published in London (1857–65) by the exiled Alexander Herzen and Nikolai Ogarev and secretly smuggled into Russia, where it exercised enormous influence and had a broad spectrum of readers up to and including the Tsar. It was moved to Geneva in 1865 as part of Herzen’s “Free Russian Press”; it lasted until 1867.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Beatrice Stillman 1978

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  • Sofya Kovalevskaya

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