Author: Tatyana V. Kovalevskaya
Information about the author:

Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, Docent, Full Professor, Foreign Languages Department of the School of International Relations and Regional Studies, Institute for History and Archives, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For citation:

Kovalevskaya T.V. The Devils, “Distortion of Ideas”, and Dostoevsky’s Artistic Principles. Dostoevsky and World Culture. 2019. № 1(5). Pp. 55-81.

Issue: 2019 № 1(5)
Pages: 55-81
DOI: 10.22455/2619-0311-2019-1-55-81
UDK: 821.161.1
BBK: 83.3(2)
Keywords: religious and philosophical anthropology, Rousseau, god-bearing people, freedom of choice, character and reader

Abstract: Shatov’s theory of a god-bearing people serves as an illustration of one of Dostoevsky’s key artistic principles, the “distortion of ideas,” i.e. the inclusion of his own ideas in his text, ideas that had been changed in their contents to their direct opposite while retaining outward likeness to Dostoevsky’s thought. Thus, Shatov’s theory of a god-bearing people appears, at first glance, to expound Dostoevsky’s own native-soil ideas, a first attempt to dwell on the concept of Russian people as the God-bearing people. Later, Dostoevsky would present this idea in A Writer’s diary and the starets Zosima will briefly mention it, too. In fact, Shatov’s theory takes to its logical conclusion the fragment on the evolution of the forms of governance in Jean Jacque Rousseau’s The Social Contract and of Rousseau’s ideas of war as a religious enterprise. “The distortion of ideas” is the artistic reflection of Dostoevsky’s religious and philosophical anthropology. The writer offers freedom of choice not only to his characters, but also to his readers. Dostoevsky affirms two cornerstones of his philosophical anthropology: human freedom and the recognition of the image and likeness of God reflected, in particular, in this freedom. Recurring to a sort of imitatio Dei, Dostoevsky gives freedom of thought and speech to his characters. However, via his characters and their statements, he also gives similar freedom to his readers allowing them to make a free choice. That does not cancel out Dostoevsky’s own message, just like human freedom does not cancel out the Providential plan. This freedom, however, makes humans human; therefore, the mutual recognition of universal humanity embodied in freedom that is divine in its quality is carried out in the very act of creating and reading Dostoevsky’s works.



Бердяев 1990 — Berdiaev N.A. Dukhi russkoi revoliutsii [“The Spirits of the Russian Revolution”]. Iz glubiny. Sbornik statei o russkoi revoliutsii [From the Depths. A Collection of Articles about the Russian Revolution]. Moscow-St. Petersburg, УМСА-Press Publ., 1990. Pp. 55-89. (In Russ.)

Copleston 1994 — Copleston F. A History of Philosophy. Volume V: Modern Philosophy. The British Philosophers from Hobbes to Hume. New York, Doubleday, 1994. 440 p.

Достоевский 1871 — Dostoevskii F.M. Besy [The Devils]. Russkii vestnik [Russian Messenger]. 1871 (94). Pp. 72-144. (In Russ.)

Достоевский 1972–1991 — Dostoevskii F.M. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 30-ti tt. [Complete Works in 30 vols.] Leningrad, Nauka Publ., 1972-1991. (In Russ.)

Farrer 1973 — Farrer A. Free Will in Theology. Dictionary of the History of Ideas; Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas. Philip P. Wiener et al., ed. New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973. Vol. II. Pp. 242-248.

Филон — Filon Aleksandriiskii [Philo of Alexandria]. O dobrodeteliakh (Kniga I: «O posolstve k Gaiu») [On the Virtues. (Book I. On the Embassy to Gaius)]. [Electronic resource]. — Available at: (In Russ.)

Гайденко 1997 — Gaidenko P.P. Voliuntativnaia metafizika i novoevropeiskaia kultura [Voluntative Metaphysics and New European Culture]. Tri podkhoda k izucheniiu kultury [Three Approaches to Studying Culture]. Moscow, Izd-vo MGUV Publ., 1997. Pp. 5-75. (In Russ.)

Светоний 1964 — Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. Zhizn dvenadtsati tsezarei [The Twelve Caesars] Moscow, Nauka Publ., 1964. 462 p. (In Russ.)

Гоббс 2001 — Hobbes T. Leviafan [Leviathan]. Moscow, Mysl’ Publ., 2001. 478 p. (In Russ.) Hobbes — Hobbes T. Leviathan. [Electronic resource]. — Available at: http://www.gutenberg. org/files/3207/3207-h/3207-h.htm#link2H_4_0446

Kantorowicz 1997 — Kantorowicz E. The King’s Two Bodies. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1997. 568 p.

Ковалевская 2018 — Kovalevskaia T.V. Dva naroda: Dostoevsky o torzhestve i provable russkoi revoliutsii [Two Peoples: Dostoevsky on the Triumph and Failure of the Russian Revolution]. Dostoevsky i mirovaia kultura. Filologicheski zhurnal [Dostoevsky and World Culture. A Philological Journal]. 2018 (1). Pp. 79-96. (In Russ.)

Криницын — Krinitsyn A.B. Tvorchestvo Dostoevskogo v kontekste evropeiskoi literatury [Dostoevsky’s Works in the Context of European Literature]. [Electronic resource]. — Available at:

Larousse — Larousse. [Electronic resource]. — Available at:

Лукьянец 2003 — Lukianets I.V. Mif o Zh. -Zh. Russo i “Netochka Nezvanova” F. M. Dostoevskogo [The Myth of J.-J. Rousseau and Dostoesky’s “Netochka Nezvanova”]. Vestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta kultury i iskusstv [The Bulletin of St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Arts]. 2003. Is. 1. Pp. 87-91. (In Russ.)

Платон. Аристотель 2003 — Plato. Aristotle. Politika. Nauka ob upravlenii gosudarstvom [Politics. The Science of Governing the State]. Moscow, St. Petersburg, EKSMO Publ., TERRA FANTASTICA Publ., 2003. 860 p. (In Russ.)

Plowden 1588 — Plowden E. Les Commentaries, ou Reports de Edmund Plowden. London, 1588. [Electronic resource]. — Available at: URL:

Руссо 2013 — Rousseau J.-J. Politicheskie sochineniia [Political Works]. St. Petersburg, Vostok Publ., 2013. 640 p. (In Russ.)

Степанян 1992 — Stepanian K.A. Dostoevskii i iazychestvo [Dostoevsky and Paganism]. Smolensk, VBPHL Publ., 1992. 96 p. (In Russ.)

Степанян 2009 — Stepanian K.A. Iavlenie i dialog v romanakh F.M. Dostoevskogo [The Appearance and the Dialog in F.M. Dostoevsky’s Novels]. St. Petersburg, Kriga Publ., 2009. 398 p. (In Russ.)

Толстой — Tolstoi L.N. Zakon nasiliia ili zakon liubvi [The Law of Violence or the Law of Love]. [Electronic resource]. — Available at: (In Russ.)

Rousseau — Rousseau, J.-J. Rousseau Online. [Electronic resource]. — Available at: https://

Rousseau 2017 — Rousseau J.-J. The Social Contract. Translated by Jonathan Bennett. 2017. [Electronic resource]. — Available at:

Shimizu 2006 — Shimizu T. Two Kingdoms of Darkness: Hobbes and Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky Studies. 2006. Is. 10. Pp. 115-122