Nihilism is derived from the Latin word 'nihil', meaning 'nothing'. It is a belief that argues, the world is without essential value or objective meaning. It can also be looked at as a response to the Tsarist reform during the 1860s in Russia. Nihilism as a belief in Russia questioned authority, existing moral structures and social codes, with the goal of overthrowing the authority of the Czar. In the 19th century, Russia was a place surrounded by political and social changes. The boom in industrialization created wealth disparities and formed new classes of people - as the earlier aristocratic power transformed into a plutocratic one. The cities grew rapidly, taking over the agrarian lifestyles. Western ideas came about which instilled the desire to have a constitution defending human rights and democracy. Nihilism culminated into an enormous political movement which has been represented through the character of Bazarov in the novel "Fathers and Sons" by Ivan Turgenev. Literature played an important role in Russia as it became a source for social commentary. The style of writing was that of realism due to its portrayal of contemporary life and what the Russian society was going through during the 19th century. Nihilism got a more coherent position in banned texts which were smuggled into Russia during that period. One of the émigré' was Alexander Herzen, who started the 'Free Russian Press' in London that argued for replacing the Czar. Such kind of literature based on Nihilism, was desired by those who desired social reform.
In this essay, I intend to write on the influence that Nihilism has had on Russian literature, like "Father and Sons". The significance of Bazarov as a character - who is not only portrayed as a Nihilist in the novel, but his Nihilism is also questioned. I will prove my point by using the examples of the drift between Bazarov, the scientific minded and Pavel, the romantic; Bazarov's need to destruct all social order and beliefs and his dilemma when it comes to feeling any kind of emotion for another human being.