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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

  • Classification – name: Literary studies
  • Author: Olga A. Bogdanova
  • Pages: 338–364
  • Publisher: A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWL RAS Publ.)
  • Rights – description: Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 (СС BY-ND)
  • Rights – URL: Visit Website
  • Language of the publication: Russian
  • Type of document: Research Article
  • Collection: Dostoevsky’s Novel The Adolescent: Current State of Research
  • DOI:
  • EDN:

  • Year of publication: 2022
  • Place of publication: Moscow
  • PDF

  • Bogdanova, O.A. “The Problem of Beauty and Female Characters in Dostoevsky’s Novel The Adolescent.” Dostoevsky’s Novel The Adolescent: Current State of Research. Editor-in-Chief T.A. Kasatkina. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2022, pp. 338–364. (In Russ.)

Information about the author:

Olga A. Bogdanova, DSc in Philology, Leading Research Fellow, Department of Russian Literature of the Late 19th – Early 20th Centuries, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 a, 121069 Moscow, Russia.


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During his career as a writer, the problem of beauty was solved by Fyodor Dostoevsky from different points of view, quite always through female characters. In The Adolescent, Dostoevsky combines the Schillerian, Renaissancehumanistic ideal of beauty as “normality” and “health” which was close to him from his youth thanks to the Russian Orthodox tradition and comes to the conclusion that “living life”, embodied in Katerina Nikolaevna Akhmakova, has the right to imperfection and error in the fallen earthly reality. This emerging type of Russian woman, according to the writer, should abandon the established role of “slave” or “goddess” and develop a partnership between the sexes. Furthermore, Dostoevsky offers a Christian nterpretation of the female ideal presented by Nikolay Chernyshevsky in the novel What Is to Be Done?

In the novel, Sofia Dolgorukaya is regarded as the embodiment of the best national features: integrity, humility, and sacrifice. Since, according to Dostoevsky, Russian people are gradually losing these qualities, the heroine is called “the last angel”. Trying to understand the relationship between his parents, at first Arkady Dolgoruky notices the “humane and universal” nature of Versilov’s love for “mom”. Gradually, another reason for his attachment is revealed: the admiration for the wife’s firmness and inner strength due to her belonging to the people and their Orthodox “tradition”. The relationship between Sofia and Versilov reflects as in a drop of water the tragic collision of the Petersburg period of Russian history: the cultural and moral gap between the people and the educated class and at the same time their mutual attraction to each other. Versilov is a bearer of the Western European Modern culture, while Sophia holds to a patriarchal Russian tradition focused on Orthodox values. The common denominator of both worlds is the old ideal of “godliness”, that all the characters of the novel strive to reach. However, the ideal in its former form is now irretrievable, as Dostoevsky attests through the fate of Versilov, Akhmakova, and Sofia.

  • Keywords: Fyodor Dostoevsky, beauty, The Adolescent, female images, humanism, kalokagathia, sophistry, “living life”, Orthodoxy, foolishness, “godliness”.


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