Ukraine as Dostoevsky Novel

Hatred for Russia is surging. A University in Italy even cancelled a course on Dostoevsky, one of Russia’s famous writers of the nineteenth century. Looked at differently however, Ukraine is actually turning turning into a Dostoevsky novel.  Here the  characters are nations, so they are already larger than life. And  they are as passionate, as uncontrollable and as doomed as the people of the Brothers Karamazov.

We have  Zelensky, personifying the Ukraine who is undone by desire. He  whines to be something he is not: European. Wanting to be  European, that is, worldly and sophisticated, is a  supposed Russian character trait  which  European nations and Russian novelists have mocked for centuries. Peter the Great made all his boyars cut off their beards to appear more  civilized.  An old expression “Scratch a Russian, you’ll find a Tatar” exposes  the racism behind it.

Zelensky wants to be European, a member of NATO, so badly, he’s willing to sacrifice his country. And he has.

Then we  have the European nations, a coterie  of  NATO members who fear, admire and follow the United States. They are sycophants. They lack moral conviction. Because they fear their leader and also, like jackals following a lion, they will get something  out of it, they will commit deeds they know to be wrong.

There is the United States, powerful and calculating, with its strategy for  world domination formulated in the 90s,  the  malevolent  and infamous PNAC, the Plan for a New American Century.  In Ukraine,  as in Afghanistan in 1978, with the Mujahedeen, the plan is to arm others to instigate  or intensify conflict, and lure and provoke Russia  into invasion and ruin. In  Ukraine, as  it had in Afghanistan, it  encouraged violence, flooded in  arms, built bases and conducted exercises, to compel a  fear-driven invasion from Russia.

Back at home, the monster war budget gets a growth spurt, hatred is fueled, and  propaganda, with great skill, tricks  the people into believing the  Orwellian  creed of War is Peace.

The US’s  and NATO’s sin, in the religious eye of  Dostoevsky the most dreadful, is  the failure to love or to have  understanding and compassion.  These values  are encompassed in what the Bible calls the greatest virtue of all: charity.

Russia  is personified by Putin, a character created by  the harsh   and chaotic conditions of  the Russian history of his life. He is  tormented, provoked and threatened, and  finally  and dramatically loses control and commits the fatal sin, the terrible act of murder, murder of those he loves.

And he commits, in the context of international law,  the mother of all  war crimes,  which only the US and NATO are allowed to commit: launching an  aggressive war.

In Dostoevsky novels there are frequently peasants, or serfs, in the background. That’s us, and the rest of the people in the world. We  get squeezed for more taxes, or sanctioned  or  bombed. We are ignorant and have no control over events. We serfs dimly recognize  that we are doomed, and we weep.

Dostoevsky novels are usually  tragedies, and this one will not end well either. The wounds are too deep  and the sins are too  mortal. To end it, we can not simply  promise to keep NATO out of Ukraine, and recommit to  the armaments treaties we broke, as we could have, two weeks ago. before the invasion. This war will burn up megatons of fossil fuel, warm and pollute the planet, ruin yet another part of earths’ surface,  turn millions more into impoverished and rootless wanderers, and  create  even more more chaos. People say Putin has gone mad, but NATO and the US went insane long ago.

Ellen Taylor can be reached at