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Bland helgon, skurkar och vanligt folk: Heliga dårar i den ryska litteraturen


  • Simon Andersson

Summary, in English

In this thesis, I have examined the literary archetype of the yurodivy or “fool for Christ’s sake” and how it has developed within Russian literature. I find that the character may be portrayed significantly different from the real-life yurodivy depicted in the hagiographic tales. The roots for this development are mainly found in Fyodor Dostoevsky, who constructed what is called the “stylized holy fool”. This character does not correspond to the heathen elements of the real-life holy fools but is more focussed towards foolishness “for Christ’s sake”. In my analysis of the characters, I have made use of what Eva Majewska Thompson calls the “holy fool code”, consisting of five binary oppositions:

wisdom – foolishness
purity – impurity
tradition – rootlessness
meekness – aggression
veneration – derision

To deepen my analysis, I have made use of apophatic theology, which is basically the idea that it is impossible to make affirmative statements about the nature of God, and that one can really only state what God is not. I have found that apophatic theology is a useful key to understand the nature of the holy fool.

I have analysed Prince Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Stepan Kopenkin in Andrey Platonov’s Chevengur, and Arseny in Evgeny Vodolazkin’s Laurus, in order to analyse literary holy fools written under three different periods of Russian history, when the state of Russian Orthodoxy has greatly varied, due to the state atheism of the Soviet Union and the revived interest for Orthodox Christianity in post-Soviet times.

My conclusions to this analysis are that the three characters in different ways show traits of holy foolishness – Myshkin being the most prominent example – and that apophatic theology brings new understanding to the nature of the hidden God – the shadow that disappears around the corner, which can only be perceived through the negations of apophatic theology.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Ryska
  • Ryssland
  • Kristendom
  • Ortodoxi
  • Helig dårskap
  • Jurodstvo
  • Jurodivyj
  • Apofatisk teologi
  • Dostojevskij
  • Platonov
  • Vodolazkin
  • Idioten
  • Tjevengur
  • Laurus.


  • Johanna Lindbladh (FD)