Topics in Russian and Soviet Culture: Tempting Fate- Duels and Deals
Everyone has heard of “Russian roulette”; Germans coined the term after observing bored Russian soldiers participating in the dangerous game. Indeed, the idea of tempting fate is quite Russian; one scholar identifies a cultural propensity that deems it “more attractive and ethical to spend, waste, and lose, rather than save, keep, and retain.” Couple this live-for-today attitude with macho pride and social rank, and you get the pervasive risk-taking behavior that permeates 19th and early 20th century Russian literature. Pushkin’s “Queen of Spades” and Dostoevsky’s The Gambler faithfully reflect the obsessions and dangers of such risk, with the latter ironically written in a hurry to cover the author’s own gambling debt. We find a pompous recklessness, but with pistols, in Lermontov’s Hero of Our Time, Chekhov’s The Duel and in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. Pushing one’s luck also leads to the devil himself in Kuprin’s Star of Solomon, and Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. Come read the masters and explore the “rolling of the dice” in Russian and Soviet culture!
Honors credit and Second Writing available.
Satisfies Group B “History and Cultural Change”