One of the principal problems that Dmitri Merezhkovski (1866-1941), a leading Russian religious writer, addresses in his novels is the questionable compatibility of absolutism with the concept of orthodox Christian religion. His second trilogy (the drama scenes 'Paul I' and the two novels 'Alexander I' and '14 December') is devoted to the theological destiny of Russia and exhibits his dilemma clearly. The primary theme of the novel 'Alexander I' is the tragic conflict - between the sovereign ruler and the Christian - which takes place in the Tsar's soul. The heart of the problem is seen to lie in the Russian nature, especially in its anarchistic tendencies that cannot be overcome by systems of legislation taken from countries with very different traditions and organization. Consequently, while the emperor may demand total obedience from his people, his power must be based on his personal integrity and sense of justice. In the novels 'Alexander I' and '14 December' Merezhkovski presents a discussion about the future development of Russia, echoing the famous dispute between the Occidentalists and Slavophils. During the 'Silver Age' this argument was not so clearly framed but the two basic tendencies are clearly discernible in the author's discussion of Russia's evolution, inevitably different from that in Western Europe because of the special, orthodox 'sobornost' mentality of the Russians - the distinctive mysticism which is difficult to define and resists rational analysis and explanation. Merezhkovski believes in the necessity of change both in the state and the church hierarchy, though he is evidently against violence. Yet, he makes it clear that the tragedy extends beyond Alexander's personal destiny to the helplessness of the Russian intelligentsia who cannot function as spiritual leaders of the nation because of the immense gap between their world outlook and that of the backward Russian people.
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