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Raskolnikov's Dream

Horse whipped

One of the classic images in Russian literature comes from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment: more specifically, it comes from an episode where the protagonist, Raskolnikov, has a harrowing dream, in which a mare is brutally beaten to death by a carriage driver as a seething crowd eggs him on:

'Take an axe to her ! Finish her off at one go !' cried a third. 'Oh, may you be bitten to death by mosquitoes!' shrieked Mikolka furiously, dropping the shaft and stooping down again to drag out an iron crowbar.

'Look out !' he yelled, and crashed it down with all his strength on the poor old mare. The blow was a crushing one; the mare staggered, sank down, and then made another effort to get up, but the crowbar struck another swinging blow on her back, and she fell as if her legs had been cut from under her.

'Finish her!' shouted Mikolka, and jumped down, quite beside himself, from the cart. A few of the young men, as drunk and red in the face as he, snatched up whatever came to hand-whips, sticks, the shaft-and ran to the dying mare. Mikolka stationed himself at the side and belaboured her back at random with the crowbar. The wretched animal stretched out her muzzle, drew a deep, labouring breath, and died.

The crowd was still shouting.

Disturbing as this is, you don't have to think too hard or long about Russian history to understand how it reflects the weirdly recurring nature of the Russian state's relationship to its own people. And, what's more, you don't have to grasp at historic examples, when just recently members of the Russian protest/punk group Pussy Riot were horse-whipped, no less, by security forces at the Sochi Olympics. A image that defines Putin's Russia? Possibly -- it also quite nicely illustrates what a 'Culture of Fear' might look like in a dictatorship (read our book for more). Think of it as Raskolnikov's Dream, for the Internet age. 


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