Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

Like many authors of his generation, Dmitry Merezhkovsky attempted in his writings to search for solutions to the problems that plagued czarist Russia in the turbulent quarter of a century preceding the Bolshevik Revolution. Merezhkovsky, one of the Russian symbolists as well as founder of the Religious and Philosophical Society of St. Petersburg, was intensely interested in identifying the philosophical underpinnings of Western civilization. He tried to do this in a fictional form in his trilogy KHRISTOS I ANTIKHRIST (CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST), comprising THE DEATH OF THE GODS, VOSKRESSHIYE BOGI: LEONARDO DA VINCI (1901; THE ROMANCE OF LEONARDO DA VINCI, 1928, 1953), and ANTIKHRIST: PYOTRI ALEKSEY (1905; PETER AND ALEXIS, 1905).

In THE DEATH OF THE GODS, Merezhkovsky sets up the thematic structure of opposing concepts upon which the entire trilogy is built. On a general level, this structure reflects the author’s perception of the dualistic nature of man, within whom the forces of flesh and spirit are constantly struggling, and his belief that all of human history has been shaped by this struggle. More specifically, he establishes two sets of values which cluster around Hellenistic and pagan beliefs, on the one hand, and Christian values, on the other, and counterposes them dramatically throughout the work. The author’s purpose in doing this is to illustrate his theory that Western...

(The entire section is 422 words.)