Citizen Right in Russia

CitizenRight in Russia


Threequestions about the reading

  1. In his fight against oppression in Russia, what are the ideas that Radishchev inherited or borrowed from his father?

  2. In his book The Journey, what did Radishchev criticize about the Empress and the administration for the Empress to refer him as a ‘rebel worse than Pugachev’??

  3. Is it not defeat in itself for Radishchev to take his own life when threatened by Count Zavadowsky for upholding his opinion on reforms??


“Thecondemnation of the poor Radishchev hurts me deeply. What a sentenceand what a commutation for a mere blunder! What will they do for acrime or a real revolt? Ten years in Siberia is worse than death fora man who has children that he must part, or who he will deprive ofan education or a chance to enter the service if he takes them withhim. It makes me shudder”.

Thisquote was written by the Russian Ambassador to England afterRadishchev was arrested, imprisoned, condemned to death and latercommuted to Siberia for writing against the oppressive Russianregime. The Ambassador decried the intolerance and the autocracy ofthe Russian regime after the sentencing of Radishchev for advocatingfor the rights of the oppressed. Radishchev (1790, p. 266 – 267)complained about forced labor, unfair taxation among other forms ofoppression that were subjected to the peasants by their masters. Atthe time, the peasants were forced to work in their masters’ landfor the whole week, leaving them with no time to work in their ownfarms. The peasants were further made to pay taxes, the amounts ofwhich were determined by their masters. The peasants were not allowedto spend time with their families since they spent majority of theirtime working in their masters’ farms.

TheEmpress was not impressed by Radishchev’s views. She considered hisviews as an attempt to break the rule of law and to promoteinsubordination of the superiors by their subjects. Empress’ viewwas a direct contrast to the Western ideologies. Whereas Radishchevwas condemned and sentenced to death for protesting againstoppression, Voltaire gained popularity in France for his fightagainst injustice and intolerance (Raeff, 1966, p. 149). By the merefact that Radishchev wrote his book at a time when the Frenchrevolution was under way, the Empress was persuaded to think thatRadishchev was influenced by the protagonists of the FrenchRevolution who, according to the Empress, ought to have been hanged(Radishchev, 1790, p. 263.

Ata later time however, the democratic space opened up more in Russiaas it assimilated some of the Western ideologies. Raeff (1966, p.151) observes that in the eighteenth century, Russia was stronglyreminiscent of the Central and the Western Europe two or threecenturies ago. Western Europe put more emphasis on dignity and worthof an individual. An individual was supposed to define and establishhis own place in the society and the world at large. This ideologicalthinking in Western Europe was gaining popularity in Russia in theeighteen century (Raeff, 1966, p. 152). This was a hugetransformation from the past where the Russian people were supposedto observe a strict code of conduct or risk punishment from theauthorities.


Radishchev,A. N., (1790). AJourney from St. Petersburg to Moscow.Cambridge, CB: Harvard University Press.

Raeff,M., (1966). Originsof the Russians Intelligentsia: The Eighteenth-Century Nobility.New York, NY: Harvest/HBJ.

Citizen Right in Russia.

Citizen Right in Russia.

CitizenRight in Russia.


Turgenevhas managed to be a pantheon of the Russian writing internationallyin the 19thcentury. This has been reflected in his pieces of writings which heposits as a playwright, essayist, poet and great novelist. Thegreatest of his works that has often been criticized and supported bymany scholars and readers is the “Hamlet and Don Quixote” essay.In this essay, he manages to juggle in between the utilitarian viewof radicals- a view he previously negated- with liberalism. The prosebelow covers his approach, my views and major criticisms of hisessay.

Turgenevshows the contrast between the two characters. He starts by defendingDon Quixote who is seen to receive much animosity from the masses. Hesums up his character in the quote that states that “Let us notsee in Don Quixote merely the figure of the knight designated tosatirize the tale of medieval thinking” (p. 95). Several questionsarise as to what the two characters posit.

Firstand foremost, is Ivan a proposer, supporter and proponent ofQuixote’s way of life? I tend to think so in the way he stronglydefends him in the essay. Don typifies human beings who despitebelonging to a low social stratum are determined to change the worldinto embracing justice and equality. They show self sacrifice andselflessness, something that the masses – as represented by SanchoPanza – later support and conform to their way of life afterinitially according them huge animosity and maltreatment (Turgenev &ampSpiegel, p. 94- 95).

Doessocial stratification affect man’s relationships amongstthemselves? Hamlet shows the most adopted approach of interactionamongst people based on whether they belong to the samesocial-economic group (Turgenev &amp Spiegel, p.96). However, Donbeats this odds and approach by showing that the lower strata shouldbe accorded equal chances and he even at some point shows howprostitutes can be accorded their dignity and get ‘the ladiesstatus’ and the innkeepers the lords one. Nonetheless, one remainsperturbed and confused on how they should view these two characters.

Secondly,is Don’s approach stupefying or an ideal surge that the world oughtto adopt? I am probed to ask such a question due to the reflectionpainted by Sancho Panza who represents the mass ideology andthinking. Man is often driven by the mob psychology and any diversionto another way of thinking by another person is always countered withmuch criticism.

Thirdly,What of Hamlet’s – is it an approach that is quite old fashioned,dehumanizing or irritating too? These questions show how the authorand the rest of the world are torn in between on how the world oughtto be (Turgenev &amp Spiegel, p. 99).

Toconclude with, the two approaches have several pros and cons.Nevertheless, Quixote’s approach beats them all since it is a steertowards humanity and revolution of the social systems that haveconstantly promoted ill behavior towards our fellow humans. Thisessay is indeed a proposition of human rights that the essayistbelieves – and I concur with him too on the need to embrace equityfor all irrespective of their class among other factors. His is anindirect proposition of equal treatment that should be accorded toman, not only in Russia but all over the universe.


Turgenev,I., &amp Spiegel, M. (n.d.) . Retrieved March 30, 2015, fromhttp://www.jstor.

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