Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881)

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881)

200 years since his birth - 11th November 2021

Fyodor Dostoevsky, born on 11 November 1821 in Moscow.  He was raised in the family home in the grounds of the Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor in Moscow.

Some of his childhood experiences found their way into his writings.  An incident involving a family servant, or serf, at the Dostoevsky family estate in Darovoye, is described in "The Peasant Marey" when the young Dostoevsky is frightened by rumours of a wolf prowling the countryside and finds refuge with one of his father's serfs.

Dostoevsky completed his first novel, Poor Folk, in May 1845. It was released on 15 January 1846 in the St Petersburg Collection almanac and became a commercial success. His second novel The Double was published a year later and received negative reviews. He then published several short stories in magazines which were unsuccessful, leaving him in financial trouble.

It was around that time that he also discovered socialism and joined the utopian socialist Betekov circle, a tightly knit community which helped him to survive. When the circle dissolved, Dostoevsky joined the Petrashevsky Circle, whose members were denounced to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Dostoevsky was accused of reading works by banned authors, among them Gogol and sentenced to death by firing squad. His execution was stayed by a letter from the Tsar commuting the sentence. Dostoevsky served four years of exile with hard labour at a prison camp in Omsk, Siberia, followed by a term of compulsory military service.

After his release Dostoevsky took a job as a teacher for upper class children and married his first wife Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva. After their separation he travelled to Europe and met his second love, Polina Suslova, in Paris. During that trip he also lost nearly all his money gambling in Wiesbaden and Baden-Baden.

The first two parts of Crime and Punishment were published in January and February 1866 in the periodical The Russian Messenger, attracting at least 500 new subscribers to the magazine. One year later Dostoevsky married the twenty-year-old stenographer Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina in Trinity Cathedral, Saint Petersburg. The 7,000 rubles he had earned from Crime and Punishment did not cover their debts, forcing Anna to sell her valuables.

At the age of 59, Fyodor Dostoevsky died on 9th February 1881 of a pulmonary haemorrhage in St Petersburg.


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