Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Presented at: European Studies Conference, 36th Annual. 6-8 October 2011, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska. Online at


Copyright (c) 2011 Radha Balasubramanian and Thomas Winter.


Leo Tolstoy’s short story, "Alyosha the Pot" is considered a masterpiece in miniature, which “completely fulfills Tolstoy’s prescription of ‘universal art.”1 In order to explain this universal appeal, we looked closely at its structure and found that there was a paradox in the way it was laid out: i.e., while the story was inherently Russian, it read as inherently Roman! This fusion of two great literary traditions becomes apparent in our article by examining the story within some of its Russian literary convention and showing the existence and use of Roman patterns in the chain of events. For the most part, the Russian elements deal with character portrayal, while the Roman, with the plot construction. The result of the two is an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the miniature literary gem that is "Alyosha the Pot."