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European Politicians Are Suddenly Quoting Dostoyevsky

The writer offered an expansive vision of Europe and “the Russian soul” that appeals to leaders seeking rapprochement.
Source: Alexander Aksakov / Getty

LONDON—Is Europe having a Dostoyevsky moment? Or is it a Pushkin moment? French President Emmanuel Macron cited Dostoyevsky’s speech about Pushkin—in which the writer makes a dramatic appeal for Russian universalism—in a press conference with Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg on May 24. Then, on Tuesday, the prime minister of Italy’s new populist government, Giuseppe Conte, paraphrased—or perhaps mis-paraphrased—the same Dostoyevsky speech in his first address before the Italian Senate.

Dostoyevsky delivered his rousing speech in 1880 at the dedication of a statue of Pushkin, to fit his own vision of the world, finding its heroine, Tatiana, the apotheosis of Russian womanhood and offering an ecstatic vision of the Russian soul as a truth-bearing instrument. He concluded with a similarly expansive vision of Russia’s relationship to Europe, a vision that wowed both Slavophiles and Westernizers, two Russian schools of thought that still resonate today.

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