March 12, 2024

Lessons Unlearned from Russian Literature


Lessons Unlearned from Russian Literature
Tolstoy judging you for not being a pacifist.  The Russian Life files. 

A literature teacher from Irkutsk Oblast was forced to resign after using texts by Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy to encourage critical thinking about war and violence. 

In March 2022, Olga Tatarnikova taught a lesson for her students in Manzurka, a town with fewer than 1000 residents, on Dostoyevsky's Crime and PunishmentTatarnikova was discussing the character of Raskolnikov and how violence cannot solve conflicts. A few days later, her class was visited by police officers, who informed her that ashe had been reported for discrediting the army. During questioning, Tatarnikova asked if she should refrain from teaching Tolstoy, who wrote that war was "the most immoral thing in life." The police responded that she should leave ideologically problematic texts off her syllabus, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy included.

Although charges were not brought against Tatarnikova, shortly after her interview she was forced to resign from her school. 

Tatarnikova, originally from Norilsk, had moved to Manzurka after attending university in Irkutsk to serve a community that was lacking both teachers and resources. Students reported to Meduza that her classes were always inspiring, encouraging them to apply lessons from classic literature to the world around them. 

This incident is one of many times classic literature has been wielded for political purposes in wartime. Russian President Vladimir Putin is known to quote Dostoyevsky in efforts to evoke a unified "Russian world."

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