The Spur

A new Russia in Doctor Zhivago


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It’s damn-near impossible to miss what’s been going on between Russia and the United States lately, whether related to President Donald Trump or not. A lot of people are quick to condemn the Russian government and by extension, its people. Doctor Zhivago is a reminder that the government isn’t always a clear representation of its constituents.

Written by Boris Pasternack in 1957, this novel offers an alternative perspective on Russian infrastructure and the horrors of war. Throughout, this novel offers a distinctive contrast of the ongoing disconnect between Russian citizens and the authority.

Doctor Yuri Zhivago is a physician and a poet forced to contend with the troubles of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1905 and the following unrest that leads Russia into World War II. From the jump, it’s clear that he’s a family man who is bent on their survival after the initial fighting breaks out. Trouble is, one day as he’s walking home he is unwillingly conscripted to fight for the “Whites”, a rebellion trying to win Russia back from the Communists (the “Reds”).

During his travels, Zhivago runs into an old friend and begins an affair that overlaps the time supporting his family and causes him some dissonance—proving he’s human. Although he refuses to wield a weapon, in true “healer” fashion he makes bold and sometimes truly heroic efforts to save even the lives of the so-called enemy.

The book offers a much broader perspective of Russia that uses Zhivago as a medium instead of casting him simply as the hero. Unofficially, Yuri Zhivago is also a philosopher that uses his surroundings and experiences to begin his own deep

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A new Russia in Doctor Zhivago