Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Judith Kalb

Abstract

This dissertation is devoted to the works of the legendary terrorist mastermind Boris Savinkov (1879-1925), who planned notorious political assassinations at the turn of the twentieth century even as he took part in the leading literary circles of his day. This work situates Savinkov in what Mikhail Bakhtin defines as a “chronotope,” a time-space module that I label “Revolutionary Apocalypse.” I compare the development of revolutionary myths of martyrdom in Revolutionary Russia for both Savinkov and his contemporary Maria Spiridonova to analyze the redefined notions of love, truth, and sacrifice among the Russian intelligentsia that turned these Russian revolutionary terrorists into cult heroes. This work posits Russian terrorism at the intersections of multiple discourses and examines it from the angle of conceptual self-representation, as both a social product and a performative act of violence. I argue that through his literary works, Savinkov tried to negotiate his personal paradoxical double identity of coldblooded terrorist and suffering Christian martyr. He used his artistic vision and linguistic capabilities to turn himself from a “monster” into “an aesthetic phenomenon” by creating separate literary manifestations of himself. Through literary analysis of Savinkov’s texts and examination of philosophical doctrines developed by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Zinaida Gippius, and Dmitrii Merezhkovsky, I demonstrate that the product of Savinkov’s interaction with these philosophies was his own visions of Russia that took shape in his female images, reflecting his searches for Russia’s paths to immortality and salvation. This study contributes to contemporary debates on political legitimacy and ethical issues of terrorism, while illuminating the case of Boris Savinkov as a cultural figure of Revolutionary Russia.

Share

COinS