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The Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko describes the often bloodless struggle between the Night Watch and the Day Watch. It's a sort of cold war in which each side is only permitted to attack members of the other side if they break the Treaty in some way, this rule being upheld by the Inquisition which stands above both Watches.

There's a great deal of discussion throughout the books of the nature of the Watches and the struggle between them. Anton's - and by extension, the reader's - nuanced perception changes quite a lot during the course of the series. After just having read a long conversation in Twilight Watch between Anton and Gesar about this, I was struck (not for the first time) by the thought:

can the Night and Day Watches be interpreted as some kind of political allegory?

I don't know much about the author's political views, but negativity towards America and the west comes across several times in the text, so perhaps the Watches can be seen as symbolising the two sides in the Cold War? Or perhaps they represent different political factions within Russia? (Again, I know nothing about Russian politics, so this may be a stupid suggestion.)

I'm looking for answers based on connecting clues from the text to actual facts about politics. Authorial-intent answers with quotes from Lukyanenko would also be welcome, but please don't post answers just based on your own political views unless you can back them up with something more concrete. This is a literary question, not a political soapbox.

  • I think there is no doubt that it can be taken as allegory. (You point on the cold war is incredibly insightful.) As I seem to recall, the Night Watch backed the losing side in WWII, only later realizing it was a poor choice, which I always interpreted as a comment on the unpredictability of history. – DukeZhou Mar 22 '17 at 15:03
  • @DukeZhou - "Night Watch backed the losing side in WWII"??? Eh? Could you elaborate where you got that? NW backed BOTH sides, pretty much - the last side that Day Watch backed was Renaissance. Both communism AND nazism were Night Watch thing. – DVK Mar 31 '17 at 22:50
  • It's been a while since I read the specific book it was referenced in, but it came from Gesar as I recall. – DukeZhou Mar 31 '17 at 23:21
  • @DVK According to Lukianenko Nazism in Germany was suported by the Dark Ones, according to his interview (the third answer from the top.) – Vitaly Feb 22 '18 at 22:14
  • @Vitaly - Good find! However, the interview precedes (it was before book 2) the information about Nazism being Night Watch thing in the books, so is less canon. – DVK Feb 23 '18 at 0:49
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Communities of the Light Ones and the Dark Ones can be interpreted as a political allegory. Here is a dialog from the first book "Night Watch", Story 2, Chapter 2:

Anton: «A Dark Magician can heal; a Light Magician can kill,» I said. «That's the truth. Do you know what the difference is between Light and Darkness?»

Svetlana: «No, I don't. For some reason, they don't teach us that. I expect it's hard to formulate clearly?»

Anton: «Not at all. If you always put yourself and your own interests first, then your path leads through the Darkness. If you think about others, it leads toward the Light.»

Contrast between interests of the society and one's personal interests is a typical comparison of socialism and capitalism. I don't see an analogy for the Watches in the real life though.

UPDATE

In the descriptions of major conflicts of the 20th century the Light Ones participate on the communist/socialist side:

1. Revolution

Anton: A passionate heart, clean hands, a cool head… Surely it was no accident that during the Revolution and the Civil War, almost all the Light Ones had attached themselves to the Cheka? And most of those who didn't had died, at the hands of the Dark Ones, or even more often at the hands of those they were defending. (Night Watch, Story 3, Chapter 3)


Anton: «A new revolution?»

Olga: «We didn't want the last one. It was all supposed to happen almost completely without bloodshed. You understand: We can win only through ordinary people. When they become enlightened, when their spirit is uplifted. Communism was a wonderfully well-calculated system, and it's all my fault that it wasn't realized.» (Night Watch, Story 3, Chapter 3)

2. World War 2

Olga: «Of course. You don't get sudden eruptions of hatred like that during times of peace. That son of a bitch Adolf… he had plenty of admirers, but he would have been incinerated in the very first year of the war. And the whole of Germany with him. The situation with Stalin was a different case, adoration on a monstrous scale like that is a powerful shield. Anton, I'm a simple Russian woman…«—the smile that flitted across Olga's face showed what she really felt about the word «simple»—«and I spent all the last war shielding the enemies of my own country against curses. (Night Watch, Story 1, Chapter 3)

So while Olga was protecting Hitler during WW2, she was doing it on an order against her own loyalties.

3. Cold War The watches were not involved.

The puny conflict between the USA and the Islamic world was nothing in comparison… Even the old Cold War between the USA and the USSR that was now a part of history hadn't come close to the war of the Watches. They were just childish games for foolish human beings. (Day Watch, Story 3, Chapter 1)

Accusations

On a few occasions the Light Ones are blamed for the failures of communism, and support of nazism. Such accusations are made by the Dark Ones, but are not admitted by the Light Ones. Such statements are either left without a response, or are rebuked. When the Light Ones respond they shift the blame for the tragedies onto the Dark Ones.

Zabulon: «There's no point in beating about the bush. In the last hundred years the forces of Light have launched three global experiments. The revolution in Russia. The Second World War. And now this new project. Following the same scenario.»

Anton: «I don't know what you're talking about,» I said. I suddenly had this desperate, aching feeling in my chest. (Night Watch, Story 3, Chapter 5)


Edgar: "At the time the Night Watch and the Day Watch were fighting for the right to conduct a social experiment," Edgar told me. "Communism, as you know, was invented by the Light Ones…"

Anton: "And subverted by the Dark Ones," I couldn't resist remarking. (Twilight Watch, Story 2, Chapter 4)


Semyon: «Very neat,» said Semyon. «I remember during the Civil War I was sent to capture a were-tiger. The bastard worked in the Cheka, and pretty high up too…« (Night Watch, Story 2, Chapter 1)

UPDATE 2 Arina's Story

Soviet Union is presented as a joint experiment by Night Watch, Day Watch and Inquisition. The Light Ones were hoping to build a better society. The Dark Ones were hoping that it would create hostility towards Soviets. Dark witch Arina was ordered to remoralize large number of people in USSR (e.g. make them believe in communism).

Svetlana: "What are you accused of?"

Arina: "On the instructions of an unidentified Light One I modified the recipe for a potion and so ruined a joint experiment by the Inquisition, the Night Watch, and the Day Watch."

Arina: "The experiment was supported by all the Others," Arina said. "The Dark Ones believed that the appearance of thousands of convinced communists in the leadership of the country-the bread plant's output mostly went to the Kremlin and the People's Commissariats-wouldn't improve anything. On the contrary, it would only provoke hostility to the Soviets in the rest of the world. But the Light Ones believed that after a hard, but victorious war against Germany-the likelihood of that was already clear to the clairvoyants by then-the Soviet Union could become a genuinely attractive society. There was a secret report… basically, people would have built communism by 1980…"

< snip >

Arina: "... but they were supposed to have built a city on the moon in the '70s. And fly to Mars, and something else. The whole of Europe would have been communist. And not under constraint either. And by now here on earth we'd have had a huge Soviet Union, a huge United States… I think Britain, Canada, and Australia were part of it… And there was China left on its own."

Anton: "So the Light Ones miscalculated?" I asked.

Arina: "No." Arina shook her head. "They didn't miscalculate. Of course, the blood would have flowed in rivers. But what came at the end of it all wouldn't have been too bad. Far better than all the regimes we have now… The Light Ones overlooked something else. If things had gone that way, then around about now people would have learned that the Others existed." (Twilight Watch, Story 2, Chapter 7)

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    This is a good point, but I feel like it's more complicated than that. Wasn't there some dialogue between Anton and Gesar/Olga at some point about the Others' involvement in the Cold War and other human political issues, with no simple answer like "Light Ones supported socialism, Dark Ones supported capitalism"? – Rand al'Thor Feb 22 '18 at 0:41
  • Definitely +1 after your edits. But I still feel like there's something you haven't included yet - a longer conversation between Anton and (probably Gesar, maybe Olga) about either WW2 or the Cold War. Thinking more about it, maybe in Twilight Watch? Somehow related to the witch Arina and her backstory? I'm sure that "communism was invented by the Light Ones and subverted by the Dark Ones" thing was expanded on at some point. (By the way, you attribute that quote to "Story 4" - IIRC, aren't there only 3 stories per book?) – Rand al'Thor Feb 23 '18 at 11:29
  • @Randal'Thor Story "4" was a typo, thanks for noticing. I added Arina's story. Can you find the part of the book that adds another/different/more complex aspect? – Vitaly Feb 23 '18 at 14:50
  • Arina's story is probably a big part of what I was thinking of. The "unidentified Light One" was (spoilers) Gesar, and I think Anton talked to him later about the whole Arina business and learned even more about this political backstory. I don't have my copy to hand right now, but I'll check it later/tomorrow. – Rand al'Thor Feb 23 '18 at 16:18
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    It might be worth to point, that it was Gesar who asked Arina to change the potion. He said that the price would be too high, with limited nuclear proxy wars all over the globe. – Yasskier Feb 25 '18 at 19:37

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