№11 2021

УДК / UDK: 821.161.1

Author: Sergei A. Kibalnik
About the author:

Sergei A. Kibalnik, PhD in Philology, Leading Research Fellow, Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Makarov Embankment 4, 199034 Saint-Petersburg, Russia.


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For the Russian socialists, “America” was the promised land — a kind of metaphor of absolute freedom, making possible full self-realization of every person. In Dostoevsky's The Demons, Russian socialists Shatov and Kirillov find their way to America, subsequently break with the ideas of socialism, but nevertheless perish — either as a result of his past (Shatov), or his atheism (Kirillov). It is not without reason that even for Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment America also means the futility of the exodus for a Russian person who is not free from shame and conscience, and Svidrigailov's expression “to go to America” even turned out to be an allegory of suicide. This symbolism is to a certain extent preserved in Russian literature after Dostoevsky. The article demonstrates this by examples of Chekhov's play The Seagull and Gazdanov's story “Black Swans”. Although plots and images of the Crime and Punishment, Demons and The Brothers Karamazov differ, the similar artistic dialectics is observed in Dostoevsky's last novel, which, according to some researchers, allegedly ends with Dmitry Karamazov's flight to America. Unlike Herzen and Chernyshevsky, “America” in Dostoevsky's works appears not so much as a metaphor of freedom, but rather as an allegory of suicide.

Acknowledgements: The author would like to thank the staff of the Library of Congressfor their assistance with this project, especially Marianna Stell.

* A shorter version of this essay appears in Global Ralph Ellison (Peter Lang, 2021).The original English-language version of this essay see online at

Keywords: Dostoevsky, America, Crime and Punishment, Demons, Brothers Karamazov, Herzen, Chernyshevsky, Chekhov, Gazdanov, Russian socialists, metaphor, allegory.
For citation:

Kibalnik, Sergei. “A Metaphor of Freedom or an Allegory of Suicide? ʻAmericaʼ in Dostoevskyʼs Works.” Literature of the Americas, no. 11 (2021): 8–33. 


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