The protagonist/antihero of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment is Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. As it says on Wikipedia:

The name Raskolnikov derives from the Russian raskolnik meaning "schismatic" (traditionally referring to a member of the Old Believer movement). The name "Rodion" comes from Greek and indicates an inhabitant of Rhodes.

I was going to ask just about the significance of his triple initials, but even this "explanation" of his names leaves much unanswered. So I've broadened the question to cover the significance of his name in general:

  • What is the connection between his character and schismaticism, or the Old Believer movement?
  • What is the connection between his character and the Greek island of Rhodes?
  • What is the significance of his triple initials R.R.R.?

In other words, what meaning or symbolism can be found in the choice of name for this character?

1 Answer 1


I don't know where the lined Wiki page got the Rhodes idea. The name Rodion really comes from the Greek Ῥοδίων. In the context of Crime and Punishment it bears several meanings, and likely refers to all of

  • its literal meaning (heroic, as Raskolnikov tries himself as a hero),
  • King Herod (who is a despicable villain in Russian tradition),
  • Herodion of Patras (who recover his life by turning to God, just as Raskolnikov does at the end),
  • maybe something else.

As for the last name, раскол does not necessarily mean the Old Rites schism; main meaning is violent parting of one into two. This is what happening with his soul.

Yet another meaning of раскол relates to a confession of a criminal. This is very common in modern Russian, but I have no idea if it did exist in the Dostoyevsky timeframe. Kind of far-fetched.

There are certain theories about Romanovich, also pedaling the heroic theme, posing him as a descendants of Roman heroes. I don't really buy them.

If you read Russian, try this or this. These articles also provide more trustworthy references (the references themselves are not available online, sorry).

I didn't see any explanation of the triple R though.

  • Could it be that the usage of раскол in modern Russian to mean the confession of a criminal is actually because of this classic novel?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 31, 2020 at 21:30
  • I seriously doubt so. In this meaning раскол (расколоть, расколоться) it is tied to the act of breaking the hard nut, thus exposing its innards. That said, I am not a linguist. Apr 1, 2020 at 5:20

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