Four Horsemen, One City
The end of the 19
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
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
, 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
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