Lynn Patyk Publishes Article in "The Russian Review"

"On Disappointment in Terrorism, War, and Revolution: Boris Savinkov’s What Didn’t Happen and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace"
The Russian Review (vol. 77, No. 1, 2018)
Author: Lynn Patyk

As a particularly high-risk political strategy, terrorism is fraught with failure and disappointment for its adherents. Few scholars have concerned themselves with the disappointment of terrorists, for the simple reason that their failure is our success. But what do disappointed terrorists do? I approach V. Ropshin’s (Boris Savinkov’s) novel of the failure of the 1905 Revolution, What Didn’t Happen (1912), a tour de force of disappointment. After directing some of the Socialist Revolutionaries’ most sensational terrorist acts in 1904-5, Savinkov took a hiatus from terrorist activity to channel his despondency into literary work. Savinkov made recourse to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace as a model that provided abundant resources for the expression of disappointment on multiple levels: the formal, the thematic, and the historiosophical. Through a close reading of the novel with reference to the distinction between disappointment and regret, I argue that commentators have misread Savinkov’s novel as an expression of contrition and the repudiation of terrorism as an immoral means to achieve political goals. On the contrary, Savinkov’s use of the Tolstoyan strategies to evoke disappointment enable him to reaffirm the terrorist “honor code” and provide a refurbished moral basis for the violence.