Petersburg-Apocalypse - Ryan Devine Four Horsemen One City...

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Ryan Devine Four Horsemen, One City The end of the 19 th century was marked, around the world, by huge changes. Russia, never having experienced the democratic revolutions which rocked Western Europe much earlier, had a lot of political catching-up to do. The Czar still ruled the roost, so to speak, in the year 1900, and the would-be revolutionaries weren’t happy about it. Pessimists and doomsayers abounded, seeing in the impending end of the old order and of the old century the end of the world itself. Soon, they said, Russia would collapse, and bring down with it everything that its citizens held dear, and Andrei Bely’s novel Petersburg was created as yet another doomsday prophecy. Bely and his characters refer to the book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, several times in Petersburg , as if to hint at the real meaning of the novel. On page 169, Alexander Ivanovich, despairing of his life’s lack of direction, remarks that he “should strictly abstain… Not read Revelation…” and on page 182, he says to Nikolai Apollonovich “Oh Lord, that again! Why don’t you go and read the Apocalypse.” Nikolai responds that he will indeed “stay put at home, take a bromide, and read the Apocalypse.” Surely enough, upon examination of the book of Revelation, one sees the countless parallels between it and Bely’s novel about the capitol city of Russia. In our culture, the most often referred-to and most often misunderstood figures in Revelation are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who make their presence felt in Petersburg through Bely’s frequent references to horses and riders, most especially the recurring image of the Bronze Horseman, an equestrian statue of Czar Nicolas. At one point, in pages 209 to 214, the Bronze Horseman comes to life and gallops through the
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city to the apartment of Alexander Ivanovich, very much like the way the First Horseman of the Apocalypse who, when summoned, “went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). Several times, characters in Petersburg seem to hear the galloping of horses in the distance, but when they check, they see nothing, because the Horsemen they hear are not literal horsemen, but metaphysical heralds of the end of the world. In Revelation, the Horsemen and the mounted angels of death are depicted as coming from the east. To John (the author of Revelation), on the island of Patmos, this meant the Middle East, but to Russians, “the east” is Siberia, which is the point of origin for the Russian version of the Four Horsemen. On page 239, Bely writes “Listen, listen closely: there is a sound of
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This note was uploaded on 03/30/2008 for the course RUSSIAN 46 taught by Professor Don'tremember during the Spring '05 term at Berkeley.

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Petersburg-Apocalypse - Ryan Devine Four Horsemen One City...

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