Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky

1458_image2_sFyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), one of the most prominent of Russian writers, is primarily associated with the city of Saint-Petersburg. Nevertheless, Dostoyevsky was a native Muscovite. The building where the future writer was born and spent the first 16 years of his life now houses his memorial apartment with Dostoyevsky’s authentic interiors and personal objects. Some of the writer’s characters were “born” in Moscow. The city also boasts three unique monuments to Dostoyevsky. A monument to Alexander Pushkin reminds us of the brilliant speech made by Dostoyevsky to a large audience at the unveiling of Pushkin’s monument in 1880 – this was a moment he would remember fondly forever.


1461_image5_sDostoyevsky was born on 30 October (11 November) 1821, the second son born to Mariya Fyodorovna and Mikhail Andreevich Dostoyevsky. He was born in the south wing of Mariinskaya hospitalRussian: Mariinskaya bolnitsa or Мариинская больница affiliated with the Moscow orphanageRussian: Moskovskiy vospitatelnyi dom or Московский воспитательный дом, where his father worked as a doctor (4, DostoyevskogoRussian: ulitsa Dostoevskogo or улица Достоевского str.). The boy was baptised in the hospital of St. Peter and Paul’s ChurchRussian: tserkov svv. Petra i Pavla or церковь свв. Петра и Павла. This hospital looked after the poorest people in Moscow. It was located in the district known as BozhedomkaRussian: Божедомка (derived from the phrase “ubogiye doma”, which means “mean houses”). It was located in the outskirts of Moscow in an area with a high crime rate.

Every day in Bozhedomka, the little Dostoyevsky witnessed poverty, diseases and terrifying events. Later, what he witnessed in Bozhedomka would inspire his writing. He did not like the hospital building itself either, writing that it was in “the style of Napoleon I’s time – huge, pseudo-majestic and incredibly boring”.

Gostinaya01 MuseumThe name Bozhedomka has been changed to Dostoyevskogo street; the DostoyevskayaRussian: Достоевская metro station is close by. The wing of the hospital itself houses the F. Dostoyevsky Memorial ApartmentRussian: muzey-kvartira F.M. Dostoevskogo or музей-квартира Ф.М. Достоевского. Dostoyevsky spent the first fifteen years of his life here, and his personality was shaped by this place. The hospital building is typically classicist in its architecture – I. Gilardi and A. Mikhailov designed the building in the early 19th century. The hospital wing was intended to be its employees’ official living quarters and the Dostoyevskys lived in one of them, now a museum, from 1823 to 1837. The building has never been rebuilt; the walls, stoves, and the floor structure have remained the way they used to be at the time when the writer lived there. The gate with lions on the arches in front of the entrance to the apartment is also exactly how it was during Dostoyevsky’s time.

1462_image6_sLater, the writer’s brother recalled: “Our Father… strictly speaking, at that time occupied an apartment consisting of two clean rooms, apart from the entrance hall and the kitchen. Entering the apartment from the cold senia room in a Russian traditional house, izba, that connects the outside, or porch area to the lived in part inside… you found yourself in an entrance hall with one window (overlooking the clean yard). In the rear part of this rather long entrance hall there was a half-dark space for the children, separated from the rest of the room with a partition wall made of glued board. Further on was the living room – a rather spacious place with two windows overlooking the street and three windows overlooking the clean yard. Then there was a drawing room with two windows looking onto the street with a half-lit space for the parents’ bedroom separated with a partition wall of the same kind”.

The museum holds authentic furniture pieces which once belonged to the Dostoyevsky family, including portraits of his parents and relatives as well as books. Reading, which united the whole family, usually took place in the living room. Books were taken out of the book case, the family sat at the round table, wax candles were lit. Most often they read works by Karamzin, Derzhavin, Zhukovsky, Zagoskin, and of course, the Bible. Dostoyevsky remembered the Book of Job best of all, while the New Testament coloured his views on life.

The museum displays the “Dostoyevsky’s WorldRussian: Mir Dostoevskogo or Мир Достоевского” exhibition which gives an account of the writer’s work. In particular, the writing desk from his last apartment where he wrote some chapters of “The Brothers Karamazov” and ‘The Writer’s Diary” is on display. So too is Dostoyevsky’s pen and ink set, his visiting cards; the New Testament, given to him by the DecembristsRussian revolutionaries who led an unsuccessful uprising on Dec. 14 1825’ wives; and the book “One Hundred and Four Selected Stories of the Old and New Covenant”, with which his mother taught him how to read. It is interesting that in “The Brothers Karamazov”, Zosima says that he was taught to read using this book too.

The museum is not very big; however, it is helpful in understanding the origin of Dostoyevsky’s worldview and creative work. As Alyosha Karamazov from “The Brothers Karamazov” would say later, “There is nothing higher, healthier, and more useful for life ahead than a good reminiscence, especially the one that stems from the paternal home. If a man collects many of these, he is safe for the rest of his life”.

Along with the heritage of world-famous people and great museums, there are many attractions  Moscow, which are not so popular, but still very remarkable. Beautiful temples in the Orthodox style, the unusual architecture of the Russian Middle Ages or the recent Soviet era, ballet and drama theaters – information about it you can find on our website.


1464_image8_sIn 1833-1834, the brothers were sent to the Drashusov (Sushard) half-boarding school to be taught maths and languages. The school was close by in SeleznyovskayaRussian: Селезневская street; its building no longer stands. This school is considered to be the prototype of Tushar’s boarding school in the novel “The Raw Youth”. The disgusting character Tushar is incredibly true-to-life – he was a “short, stout”, and “profoundly uneducated person”. In 1834-1837, the Dostoyevsky brothers went on to study in L. Chermak’s boarding school at 31, Novaya BasmannayaRussian: Новая Басманная street (the building no longer stands).

In 1837, Dostoyevsky moved to Saint-Petersburg and went to study at the Main Engineering SchoolRussian: Glavnoe inzhenernoe uchilische or Главное инженерное училище. In the first half of the 1840s, Dostoyevsky started writing and became a famous writer in the capital. He did not break contact with Moscow, however. In the files of the “petrashevtsyintellectuals, which attended social meetings in the apartment of Mikhail Petrashevsky and which were arrested in 1849” case investigation it is stated that it was from Moscow, from the nobleman Pleshcheyev, that Dostoyevsky received a copy of Belinskya Russian literary critic’s letter to Gogola Russian dramatist of Ukrainian origin, which was prohibited in Russia. After eight months of imprisonment in the Petropavlovskaya fortressRussia: Petropavlovskaya krepost or Петропавловская крепость Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death, a sentence which was substituted with forced labour at the last moment.


1465_image9_sFrom Siberia, Dostoyevsky returned to Saint-Petersburg. In the years from 1866 to 1880 (the “mature period”) he created his greatest works: “Crime and Punishment”, “Idiot”, “Demons”, “The Raw Youth” and “The Brothers Karamazov”, which reflected some stories associated with Moscow. For example, in the second part of “Idiot” we find out that Prince Myshkin lived in Moscow for half a year and was in a close relationship with the “femme fatale”, Nastasiya Filippovna.

Dostoyevsky followed the Moscow news and some of the plot twists in “Idiot” were borrowed from the stories of crime he read about. Thus, in the middle of the 1860s, Dostoyevsky read about a grievous crime committed during a wedding in one of the houses in Bolshoi Zlatoustinsky side streetRussian: Bolshoi Zlatoustinskiy pereulok or Большой Златоустинский переулок (4, Bolshoi Zlatoustinsky side street). In the 1840s, the house belonged to Moscow merchants, the Mazurins. One of them committed a crime there; he murdered and burgled a jeweller he was acquainted with. In the novel “Idiot”, Nastasiya Filippovna says: “His house is gloomy, boring, and there is a secret in it. I am convinced that in some box he has a razor hidden, tied round with silk, just like the one that the Moscow murderer had. This man also lived with his mother, and had a razor hidden away, tied round with white silk, and with this razor he intended to cut a throat”[4]. The crime chronicle reports that the murderer was sentenced to 15 years in forced labour camp. The building which occupies the site of that house at present was built in 1886 as a tenement building.


1453_image10_sOne of the few buildings in Moscow connected with Dostoyevsky is the tenement building of the Moscow Supportive Society for Merchant Estate ManagersRussian: Moskovskoe vspomogatelnoe obschestvo kupecheskikh prikazchikov or Московское вспомогательное общество купеческих приказчиков (9, bld.1, Starosadsky side streetRussian: Starosadskiy pereulok or Старосадский переулок). The present building was constructed in 1901 to B. Kozhevnikov’s design on the former Kumanin city estate. The Kumanins owned the estate from 1828 to 1868. Dostoyevsky’s mother’s sister, Alexanrda Kumanina, was the God mother of each of her sister’s children. Dostoyevsky visited this house in his childhood. The Kumanins treated him like a son, as they had no children of their own. Dostoyevsky recalled, “The aunt, deceased, played a very big part in our life from early childhood until we were 16, and she put a lot of effort into our development”. Dostoyevsky’s sons owed her their good education while their sisters – a good dowry. It was with his aunt’s money that Dostoyevsky went to study at the Engineering Shool. At present, the building houses the State Public Historical LibraryRussian: Gosudarstvennaya istoricheskaya biblioteka or Государственная историческая библиотека.

ул. Знаменка, д. 9When Dostoyevsky stayed in Moscow in 1872, 1873, and 1877, he also visited E. Ivanova’s furnished rooms (9/12, bld. 2 ZnamenkaRussian: Знаменка str.). The building, which still stands, was built in 1828 to architect E. Tyurin’s design. E. Ivanova was Dostoyevsky’s sister-in-law. At the time, he was working on “Demons”, “The Raw Youth”, and keeping a journal which would then be published as “The Writer’s Diary”. Later, a fourth storey was added to the building and it became a tenement building.

Dostoyevsky knew Moscow well, and he loved the city. His wife, A. Dostoyevskaya, recalled that when they were staying in Moscow, she went sightseeing every morning together with her husband and “[Dostoyevsky], a Muscovite by birth, was an excellent cicerone and told me many interesting things about the first capital city”.

In June 1866 Dostoyevsky went to the countryside to visit his sister Vera in LyublinoRussian: Люблино, just outside Moscow. It was in Lyublino that he worked on chapter 5 of “Crime and Punishment’ and wrote an outline for “The Gambler”. His impressions of the summer spent in Lyublino were reflected in his short story ‘The Eternal Husband’.

Another Moscow address linked with Dostoyevsky is the Assembly of the NobilityRussian: Blagorodnoye Sobraniye or Благородное собрание (the Pillar Hall of the House of the UnionsRussian: Kolonnyi zal Doma Soyuzov or Колонный зал Дома Союзов, 1, B. DmitrovkaRussian: Bolshaya Dmitrovka or Большая Дмитровка str. at present). In this building on 8 June 1880, Dostoyevsky made his landmark speech during the celebrations marking the unveiling of the Alexander Pushkin monument in Moscow. It made an indelible impression on those present, and the writer received a standing ovation. His contemporaries recalled that people embraced and kissed each other, having taken to heart the writer’s words about brotherhood and unity on the worldwide and national scale. His words about Pushkin’s poetry as an expression of the specific character of Russian people which is nevertheless common to all humanity became a matter of argument. This triumphant speech was the last one he made in his native city.


1454_image11_sThere are three monuments to F. Dostoyevsky in Moscow.

The first, now located in the courtyard of the Dostoyevsky memorial apartment, was initially established in Tsvetnoy boulevardRussian: Tsvetnoy bulvar or Цветной бульвар in 1918. It is interesting that the sculptor Sergei Merkulov worked on the writer’s image since 1905, having made more than twenty preliminary versions. Alexander Vertinskya Russian and Soviet artist, poet, singer, composer, cabaret artist and actor is thought to be one of the models for the monument. This explains Dostoyevsky’s odd posture and his helplessly clasped hands, which was obviously inspired by the image of Piero created by Vertinsky. Merkulov wrote: “He was an excellent artist’s model. He grasped my idea and took the right pose. So well did he hold his sculpturesque hands!” Some believe that Merkulov embodied new principles in this sculpture which gave the monument some dynamic tension. He wrote that it is a sculpture “… of two axes and a centre while the centre is outside the figure”.

The statue did not stay long in the boulevard as it was highly criticised. The poet Ivan Pribludny wrote that “… Dostoyevsky stood still as if in stupor”. In 1936, the sculpture was moved to the courtyard of a hospital (at 2, Dostoyevskogo str.), where you can see it today.

Another monument to Dostoyevsky was established in 2007 in the courtyard of school #1148, named after Dostoyevsky in Lyublino (2, bld. 4, KrasnodonskayaRussian: Краснодонская str.). This work was created by the sculptor E. Shishkov.

1457_image14_sThe third monument is the creation of the remarkable sculptor Alexander Rukavishnikov. It was installed opposite the State Russian LibraryRussian: Rossiyskaya gosudarstvennaya biblioteka or Российская государственная библиотека (3/5, VozdvizhenkaRussian: Воздвиженка str.) in 1997. The writer is depicted in a strange and awkward posture, sitting deep in thought on a draped socle. There is grief and pain on his face. On the back of the base you can see a bas-relief with a view of the NevaRussian: Нева embankment. It is interesting that a similar monument by the same sculptor was erected in 2006 in Dresden.

The ‘Dostoyevskaya’ Metro station of the Moscow Metro was opened in 2010. L. Popov, N. Rasstegnyaeva, and I. Nikolaev were behind its design. Its rather gloomy and contrasting interior is reminiscent of the plots of the writer’s four novels: “Crime and Punishment”, “Idiot”, “Demons”, and “Brothers Karamazov”. The scenes illustrating Dostoyevsky’s works were received mixed reviews by the Muscovites. On the walls you can see the murder scenes of the old woman and Lizaveta, Svidrigailov’s suicide (“Crime and Punishment”), Nastasiya Filippovna’s murder (“Idiot”), Shatov’s murder and Stavrogin’s suicide (“Demons”).

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