In 2001, during my gap year, I read Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamajov before going to Uni. I was much too young and immature to understand the deeper meaning of the book, but it left quite an impression on me at a formative age. It was also my first exposure to Russian Orthodox Christianity, and I remember being quite surprised at how much emphasis its theology put on “imitating Christ”.
Recently, I came across the following passage from “Russia and the Russians” by Geoffrey Hosking (Amazon link):
Dostoevsky’s intention was that Alesha, the young hero of the novel, would go through an analogous temptation, that of atheist socialism, before eventually following the path of Zosima and helping to fulfill his prophecy that “The salvation of Rus will come from its people... The people will confront the atheist and defeat him, and a united Orthodox Russia will arise.”
Although Dostoevsky did not live to bring this conception to completion, he did in his novels accomplish what one might call a “literary construction” of Russia. He believed that the Russians were a “God-bearing people”, marked out for exceptional suffering but also, by virtue of that suffering, endowed with extraordinary sympathy for other peoples and hence entrusted with an exclusive mission to bear witness before them of the truth of [the Lord Jesus Christ].
What an exciting vision for Russia! To me, it almost sounds like a prophetic vision. I always knew Dostoevsky was a godly man (he had a dramatic conversion experience on the death row), but now that I think about it, his novels do seem to express his burning desire to see his home country being used by God in the end times like no other.