What is the name of a group of daemons

Summary of The demons

Russian nihilism

With the accession of Tsar Alexander II In 1855 a period of social upheaval began in Russia. The peasants were freed from serfdom and state censorship was relaxed. An educational reform came into force, as a result of which women and poorer sections of the population were admitted - at least temporarily - to schools and universities. The philosophical current, which provided the theoretical background of the developments in the country, designated Ivan Turgenev in his novel Fathers and sons as nihilism. Its supporters represented liberal and radical democratic positions and rebelled against the norms of the old aristocratic society. Any form of authority - state, church or family - was rejected. A person should emerge who is emancipated from all constraints.

The founding phase of nihilism in the 1850s was characterized by a very optimistic mood. Although the special social position of the nobility was called into question by the reforms, at least the younger generation of wealthy circles was also interested in the new ideals. It was fashionable to dress in black, participate in the intellectual discussion, and advocate equality between men and women. In the second, revolutionary phase of nihilism in the 1960s, however, there was severe social unrest in the country. The students demonstrated that several fires had been started in St. Petersburg. A first assassination attempt on the tsar in April 1866 caused his sympathy for the reform movement to wane significantly. The censorship was reintroduced stricter than before and a comprehensive police system was established. In response, the nihilistic current radicalized into an actual revolutionary movement. There were numerous other attacks on political incumbents. Tsar Alexander survived two attacks in 1879 before falling victim to a bomb attack in March 1881. At this point in time, only politically disoriented murderers and criminals were referred to as nihilists.


Based on hardly any other novel by Dostoevsky The demons on historical facts. Although the author edited the actual events, the templates from Russian history are clearly visible. The Russian revolutionary served as the model for the figure of Pyotr Verkhovensky Sergei Nechayevwho took part in the student riots in St. Petersburg in the mid-1860s and later met the anarchist philosopher in exile in Switzerland Mikhail Bakunin befriended. Together with Bakunin he drafted his political program, the Revolutionary Catechism. In August 1869 Nechayev returned to Russia, spreading his catechism and founded the underground organization Narodnaya Rasprawa ("People's Criminal Court"). Like Pyotr's secret society in the Demons Nechayev's clique consisted only of a group of five - to whom he was initially able to convey the belief in an international conspiracy based on countless such groups. However, when there was a disagreement and the student Ivan Ivanov wanted to leave the Bund, the catastrophe occurred which Dostoyevsky was to deal with three years later to the dramatic climax of his novel: Ivanov was beaten and shot by Nechayev and the other group members. After the murder, Nechayev fled to Switzerland, but was extradited to Russia by the authorities there in 1872 and died ten years later in a penitentiary in St. Petersburg. Some of the other characters in the novel are also based on historical models.

Impact history

The extreme hopelessness of the novel was heavy tobacco for the contemporary reader. The chapter “At Tichon”, for example, in which Nikolay Stavrogin confesses the abuse of the twelve-year-old girl and describes her suicide, was classified as morally reprehensible and blasphemous by the authorities and censored. The chapter is still in some editions of the Demons can only be found in the appendix.

After the turn of the century, Dostoevsky's novel was often read like a philosophical text. The French existentialist Albert Camus, who arranged the work for the stage, put Dostoyevsky's importance above that of Karl Marx. For Camus, the social structures described in the novel prophetically anticipated the political catastrophe of the 20th century. In this context, the fact that the later Propaganda Minister of the National Socialists, Joseph Goebbels, a quote from the Demons put in front: "Reason and knowledge have always only played a secondary (...) role in the life of peoples."