A wonderful piece in Voeglin View by Richard Avramenko and Jingcai Ying:
As Nicolai Berdyaev puts it, the Westernized Russian man “has departed from the feminine principle” and “renounced his mother earth . . . .”15 He has lost his moral compass, continuously overstepping all moral boundaries (e.g., Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment) and lusts for every sensual pleasure (e.g., Stavrogin in The Possessed). In the face of the Russian man’s degeneration, the Russian woman preserves the “life-affirming and altruistic values” inherited from Mother Earth, the sacred soil that remains the regenerative source for all Russians.16
Dostoevsky is not merely hoping for such a heritage in the Russian woman, he actually finds it in her:
In the Russian woman resides our only great hope, one of the pledges of our revival. The regeneration of the Russian woman during the last twenty years has proved unmistakable.17
The heroines in Dostoevsky’s novels embody this “great hope” and exemplify the Russian woman’s striving to reunite the degenerated Russian man with Mother Earth. Therefore, it is not surprising that nearly all the heroines in Dostoevsky’s work are peasants because the Russian peasants have always been closest to the soil.
In fact, Dostoevsky is so hopeful of the peasant’s spiritual health that in Crime and Punishment he even lets Sonya, a peasant, give Raskolnikov the cypress-wood cross, a symbol of the Russian peasantry, to ensure the murderer’s salvation and reconciliation with the Russian soil.18
To Dostoevsky, the Russian peasant woman might be the only way back to Mother Earth for the fallen Russian men.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor