Orlova T. The Character of Nicholas I in Artistic Interpretation of D. Merezhkovsky and R. Gulʼ
The phenomenon of Nicholas I attracted attention of D. Merezhkovsky who portrayed him in the novel «Chetyrnadtsatoye Dekabrya» («December, 14») – a part of the trilogy «Tsarstvo Zverya» («The Kingdom of the Beast»). In the opinion of Merezhkovsky Antichrist appeared in Russia during the reign of Peter the Great, and in the XIXth century Christ in Russia was defeated by forces of evil, and Russian Empire turned into the kingdom of the beast. The accession to the throne of Nicholas I symbolised this win of evil.
In the novel Nicholas I is placed in the center of the system of literary characters. But the task of the author was not only to create the literary image of Russian Emperor but to show his philosophic conception, views on nature of goodness and evil, his thoughts about moral duty of Russian Emperor and Empire.
Describing the power during the crisis and the Secret Northern Society of the Decabrists, Merezhkovsky points out not only the political distinctions but especially the moral principles of the opponents. The skillful changing of masks that was usual for Nicolas I (warm-hearted, sufferring tsar; noble Don Quichotte) shown its duplicity which was reflected in its politics. But for Merezhkovsky was unacceptable the cynical treatment of the Lord that had usual practice for some Decabrists (Pestel, Ryleyev). In Merezhkovskyʼs opinion this is the main cause of the intensifying the dramatic struggle between the forces of goodness and forces of evil. The Revolt of the Decabrists Merezhkovsky had named mutiny, the disorders – not revolt as it was named by its participants. The author expressed his atitude to this event straightly: this is a doomsday. And not Nicolas I, but Christ is the winner and saver, He will save Russia, and the Mother will.
The second part of the life of Nicolas I is described in R. Gulʼs novel. There was reproduced the period of 1830–1850th there which was personified in the two historic characters – Nicolas I and the revolutioner Mikhail Bakunin. The material was organised so to compare them to discover the evident and the secret features of these personalities, their conflicts, thoughts. Analysing the Power and the mutineers Gulʼ noted not only difference between them but similarity.
Merezhkovsky shows that Nicolas I is in crisis, Gulʼ describes the person who took place. The scope of his ambitions was widened considerably: he is sure that he can rule not only in Russia, but in many other states.
Merezhkovsky showd the moment of Nicolasʼ I coming to the throne, Gulʼ – the second part of the emperorʼs life, down to his death. Literary character of Nicolas I is going out the bounds of the history, it is subjected to artistic treatment. There is some dynamics in the character of Nicolas I: Gulʼ does not keep to the chronology of the Emperorʼs life – but shows own, very distinguished from Merezhkovskyʼs view, perception of Nicolasʼ I personality.
literary character, the system of literary characters; features of a genre, plot and composition; religious, moral, philosophical questions; historical basis; the Decembrists, Nicholas I, Bakunin, Herzen, Marx