Alexander Blok’s “Sun Over Russia” (1908) and the Kremlin Vampire

Dracula’s long significance in Russian literature which became the basis of a narrative parallel with the tsar and autocrat is not limited to Fyodor Kuritsyn’s Tale of Dracula the Voivode or Dmitry Merezhkovsky’s Antichrist (Peter and Aleksey) [1,2].

Inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in his 1908 article Sun Over Russia, the writer and poet Alexander Blok (1880-1921) also utilized the imagery of the vampiric ghoul to describe the bloodthirsty behavior of the tsarist empire and its church leaders.

Blok’s essay was written in celebration of the 80th birthday of Leo Tolstoy. (The ghoul was a concept introduced into Russian literature by Alexander Pushkin; and later developed by Alexey Tolstoy (a distant relative of Leo Tolstoy).) [3]

I’ve found the essay and translated it since it doesn’t seem to be common in English.

Alexander Blok

Sun Over Russia [4]

by Alexander Blok

(Eightieth birthday of Leo Tolstoy)

When in 1881 Pobedonostsev persuaded the government to hang five “regicides”, Leo Tolstoy wrote a request for pardon for them and asked Pobedonostsev to convey this request. Despite Pobedonostsev’s refusal, the letter reached the tsar (through General Cherevin). Then, at the famous meeting of the State Council on March 8, Pobedonostsev delivered his historic speech, insisted on the demand to be hanged, and, seizing the helm of the state ship, did not let go of it for a quarter of a century, having acquired for himself his terrible practical activity and the indestructible, deathly cold of his theories – the name of the old “ghoul “.

The old ghoul is now in the grave. But we know one thing: on the great anniversary of August 28, in the radiance of the quiet autumn sun, among the sleeping, tired, “sorrowful”, but still the same great Russia, to the familiar accompaniment of administrative orders and governor-departmental prohibitions to move, talk and rejoice about the birthday of Leo Tolstoy, – the same monstrous shadow passed.

The shadow of the old ghoul has imposed a ban on joy. The day of August 28 passed, as they say, “generally calmly.” This means, translated into Russian, – ominously, in gloomy silence. “Reaction”. “Fatigue”. Tolstoy is given a plow and a samovar. Telegrams are sent to Tolstoy about the victory of light over darkness. Several newspapers publish anniversary issues… This is the day of August 28th.

Everything is familiar, familiar, as in all the great days experienced in Russia. All the gloomy past of the motherland is remembered, everything, as it should be in great days. Whose dead hand controlled the pistols of Dantes and Martynov? Who came to suck the blood of the dying Gogol? In what secret and rapidly burning fire did Belinsky and Dobrolyubov burn down? Who took Dostoevsky to the Semyonovsky parade ground and to the house of the dead? And when there was no reaction in Russia for what is with her and after her, what we, who survived the clear and bloody dawns of January 9, are now condemned to experience every day? Or is it so little – “political reaction”? Behind this vulgar word is that routine and everyday life that we feel in our own skin, with genuine strength and brightness. It is not only “uncomfortable”, “boring”, “tedious”. This is scary and weird.

The greatest and only genius of modern Europe, the highest pride of Russia, a man whose only name is fragrance, a writer of great purity and holiness, lives among us. And vigilantly watching him is someone’s vigilant eye. Who is this: is it a minister who knows Russian literature, is it a simple detective or a police officer? Would it really be so strange and so scary for all of us, who love Tolstoy as a part of their soul and their land, if only they watched over our soul and land? And can they see the secret of the earth and our soul, the blessed  Yasnaya Polyana in the distance? No, they are not watching Tolstoy, their eyes are staring at the dead and vigilant eye, the underground, the grave eye of a ghoul. And now, in the light of a clear and inextinguishable sun, on the undoubted birthday of Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy, and therefore, on the day of this angel of mine and thousands of other people, it becomes terrifying for us and we, the writing brethren, we speak disturbing words, we speak to the ancient, chaotic, “double-faith” language of grave legends.

It often comes to mind: everything is nothing, everything is still simple and not terrible in comparison, while Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy is alive. After all, a genius by his very existence, as it were, indicates that there are some kind of solid, granite foundations: he holds it on his shoulders and feeds and nourishes his country and his people with his joy. Nothing that the Holy Synod forbade us to rejoice: we have long been accustomed to mourning and rejoicing without it. While Tolstoy is alive, walking along the furrow behind the plow, behind his white horse, the morning is still dewy, fresh, fearless, the ghouls are dozing, and – thank God. Tolstoy is coming, because the sun is coming. And if the sun goes down, Tolstoy dies, and the last genius leaves, what then?

God grant that Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy will live among us for a long time. Let him know that all modern Russian citizens, without distinction of ideas, trends, beliefs, personalities, professions, have absorbed at least a small part of his great vitality with their mother’s milk.

End of August or beginning of September 1908

Sadly, Tolstoy only lived until 1910; and we know the history of what darkness fell upon Russia in the following decades. While Blok initially championed the Russian Revolution (1917) and the overthrow of the tsar; he quickly became disillusioned with the new regime and died in 1921.

As Merezhkovsky wrote based on his observations of the revolution:

“When a sorcerer is killed, a ghoul comes out of his grave to suck the blood of the living. Out of the murdered autocracy of Romanovsky came a ghoul – the autocracy of Lenin.” [3]

Such bloodthirsty and vampiric imagery seems to remain apt to describe the past and present Russian autocracies in an informational sense [5] . 

The Count’s number of the day is 2! (2021 image)

Further, the symbolism which equates Putin with a vampire can be effectively used by both regime proponents and critics (and even the ex Mrs. Putin according to Russian tabloids) [6].

Russian tabloid Tainy zvёzd [Secrets of the Stars] published this cover in 2011 alleging the soon-to-be former Mrs. Putin had claimed “My husband is a vampire!” …”He never beat me, but he sucked the juices right out of me.” (see reference [6])
However, as the also-disillusioned revolutionary Merezhkovsky cautioned, we too should be cautious of what kinds of future imperialist-autocratic ghouls might emerge from the corpse of the Putin government once today’s monster is laid to rest.



[1] Maureen Perrie, “The Image of Ivan the Terrible in Russian Folklore”, Cambridge University Press, 1987

[2] Irina Erman, “Nation and Vampiric Narration in Aleksey Tolstoy’s “The Family of the Vourdalak””, The Russian Review 79 (January 2020): 7–27,

[3] Nikita Soldatov and Tatyana Shishkova, “«Сотворение вампира : Краткая история в лицах»” (“Creation of a Vampire : Brief History in Faces”), Kommersant, May 26 2017,

[4] Alexander Blok, “«Солнце над Россией: (Восьмидесятилетие Льва Николаевича Толстого) »” (“The Sun Over Russia: (The Eightieth Birthday of Leo Tolstoy)”), 1908,

[5] Victoria Dovgan, “«Путін нагадав про карикатури на себе з іклами»” (“Putin recalled caricatures of himself with fangs“), Obozrevatel, February 14 2021, 

[6] Colleen Lucey and Melissa Miller, The Hunt for an Eternal Legacy: Putin and the Vampire Legend in Modern Russia“, FOLKLORICA 2018, Vol. XXII, (link will download PDF)