Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

The Narrative Approach: Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor as Classical Text for Civic Education

Ingo Juchler

Full Text: PDF



Although teachers typically use textbooks in civic education, the narrative approach relies on stories as primary instructional materials. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor is a classic and exemplary story for teaching civic education. The parable in The Grand Inquisitor addresses a broad range of themes, including freedom, equality and the opportunities and limits of both; human rights; the political instrumentalisation of religion; and the dignity of humanity. Dostoevsky presents a vision of how freedom can be abolished and how absolute despotism can be established, all in the name of equality. Although the story is situated in the historical context prior to Russia’s Bolshevist October Revolution and the subsequent establishment of the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat, these themes all remain highly significant issues in contemporary Western and non-Western politics. Furthermore, The Grand Inquisitor facilitates interdisciplinary approaches in upper secondary classes and university courses.

Keywords: Civic education – narrative approach – Dostoevsky – Grand Inquisitor – political instrumentalisation of religion – values – freedom – equality – human rights