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The Possessed (In Russian: Бесы, tr. Besy), also translated as The Devils or Demons, is an 1872 novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. For an explanation of the marked difference in the English-language title, please see the section "Note on the title" below.
An extremely political book, The Possessed is a testimonial of life in Imperial Russia in the late 19th century.
As the revolutionary democrats begin to rise in Russia, different ideologies begin to collide. Dostoevsky casts a critical eye on both the left-wing idealists, exposing their ideas and ideological foundation as demonic, and the conservative establishment's ineptitude in dealing with those ideas and their social consequences.
This form of intellectual conservativism tied to the Slavophil movement of Dostoevsky's day, is seen to have continued on into its modern manifestation in individuals like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Dostoevsky's novels focusing on the idea that utopias and positivist ideas, in being utilitarian, were unrealistic and unobtainable.
The book has five primary ideological characters: Verkhovensky, Shatov, Stavrogin, Stepan Trofimovich, and Kirilov. Through their philosophies, Dostoevsky describes the political chaos seen in 19th-Century Russia.