I Demoni di San Pietroburgo (The Demons of St. Petersburg) (2008)
Director: Giuliano Montaldio.
Starring: Predrag Manojlovic (Fyodor Dostoevsky), Carolina Crescentini (Anna), Roberto Herlitzka (Pavlovic), Anita Caprioli (Aleksandra), Filippo Timi (Gusiev), Patrizia Sacchi (Advotya), Sandra Ceccarelli (Nataliya Ivanovna), Giovanni Martorana (Trifonov), Giordano De Plano (Young Dostoevsky), Emilio De Marchi (Gazin).
Russian writer Dostoevsky just finished 10 years hard labor in Siberia; he wants to stop a plot to kill the Grand Duke; the problem is that the young terrorists were inspired mainly by his writings
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Peasants set up an assassination plan. A Prince of the royal family rides in a fancy carriage accompanied by an escort of men on horses. The assassins time it so they can crash a crude wagon into the fancy coach. When this is done someone in the crowd throws a bomb into the carriage and it explodes. The target is killed along with a little girl and an old man.
A man sits on a park bench. A little boy brings some sticks over to him and says these will help keep the man warm. So the old man pretends he is warming his hands by a camp fire. The little boy goes to get more sticks for the fire.
The boy’s mother, reading a book, stops reading and calls out for the boy Misha. She finally sees the boy with the old man. She scolds Misha for bothering the man and says she will clean his coat of the debris from the sticks. The man tells her there’s no need for that, but he wonders if they have ever met before? She says yes, she saw him at Mass in the St. Vladimir Cathedral.
The woman says she is an avid reader of the man’s books. She asks him to sign her copy of one of his books. The author, however, is Ivan Turgenev, not Dostoyevsky. Turgenev and Dostoyevsky were not on good terms with each other. He writes a little note for her in the book and signs his name. Her name is Nadjezda Petrovna.
The author walks over to a hospital where the guard says that visiting hours are over. Dostoyevsky says he must see a patient today. The guard tries to close the door but Dostoyevsky blocks it. He says he must see the physician on duty and his name is Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky. He then barges past the guard.
Dostoyevsky asks the physician about a man named Gusiev. The doctor says that the man is not his patient but he remembers that he came in a few months ago suffering from hallucinations. He is much calmer now.
Dostoyevsky waits while the doctor get Gusiev for him. Gusiev looks like a crazy man. He complains of being cold, so Dostoyevsky tells him he should dress warmer. The fellow, however, only has the clothes on his back to wear.
The author asks him if he is the Gusiev who wrote him this letter? The man does not answer the question. He goes outside and Dostoyevsky follows him. The writer says that he understands that Gusiev will soon be leaving the institution. But Gusiev says he doesn’t want to leave this place.
Gusiev says he’s afraid because the police and his comrades want to kill him. He says when he was in the university he and some others planned to wipe out the entire royal family. Dostoyevsky shouts that the man is raving mad. Gusiev says that it was Dostoyevsky’s writing that caused him to leave the secret society he was with. Dostoyevsky wrote that about the question: "Why kill? Just because it’s the easiest way? It’s monstrous madness!" That caused the man to leave the society before the attack on the Prince.
Gusiev says he couldn’t go to the police with what he knew because he’s not a snitch. So he hid himself in the asylum pretending to be crazy.
Dostoyevsky is repulsed by the man. He angrily tells him that he (Gusiev) knows nothing of what’s to be known. The author turns to leave the crazy man, who follows after Dostoyevsky. He tries to prove that he does know something. There’s a beautiful girl named Aleksandra with them. He thinks Dostoyevsky can save Aleksandra. She is the one who gave him Dostoyevsky’s books to read. He says there will be an attack on the Grand Duke at the marketplace in Moika. Aleksandra will be the one to throw the bomb and if she misses, then Trifonov will throw a second bomb. And only Dostoyevsky can stop them. He begs him to talk to Aleksandra and save her, along with the Grand Duke and Gusiev himself. He hands Aleksandra’s address to Dostoyevsky.
Flashback.A policeman busts into Dostyoevsky’s place and informs him that he is under arrest. (The year was 1849.)
Back to the present.Dostoyevsky arrives home, but has an epileptic fit on the stairs.
The landlady awakens Dostoyevsky and tells him that he has a young lady waiting to see him. She says she has an appointment with him. The writer says he has no appointments. He gets up to go see the young lady. She tells him that she is Anna Grigorjevna Snitkina, the stenographer. (The year is 1866.)
Now Dostoyevsky recalls that he does need a stenographer because he has a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. He tells the young lady that they will have to work day and night.
Dostoyevsky goes to his editor to ge his last payment. The editor gives him the money, but warns Dostoyevsky not to squander it on gambling. He says: "It’s always been your ruin." The writer replies that all the money will go to his creditors. What Dostoyevsky really wants from his editor is more time, but the editor says Dostoyevsky has five more days and not a day more.
Dostoyevsky uses the money to buy a warm coat for Gusiev. He goes to the asylum but sees that Gusiev is in the process of being arrested.
Flashback.In 1849 at home Dostoyevsky, age 27, is put under arrest. He is accused of belonging to a secret society of subversives. Dostoyevsky objects saying all that he did in the society was to listen to ideas and discuss them. The judges ask him if he is an associate of the anarchist Bakunin? No, he has never even met Bakunin. Along with other members of the secret society, Dostoyevsky is sentenced to death. The men will be executed by a firing squad.
The three men are tied to wood posts and face the firing squad. At the very last second, a fellow lets it be known that the executions have been canceled and the men will spend ten years in Siberia.
Back to the present.Dostoyevsky is at the jail watching as the police bring in various arrested men and women. A coach rides up and Dostoyevsky goes over to speak to Natalia Ivanovna. She advises Dostoyevsky to get out of here. This is not the place to be for the police have made a big bust of the criminals associated with the assassination of the Grand Duke. She then introduces the writer to her pretty niece Natasha, who studies music at the conservatory.
Regardless of the warning, Dostoyevsky tries to get permission to give Gusiev the coat he purchased for him. The guards just laugh at Dostoyevsky and tell him the fellow is now a guest of the Tsar and he won’t be needing a heavy coat.
Gusiev is taken for interrogation about the terrorist organization he belongs to. The police want him to name names and tell them too about the group’s goals and ideals. The interrogator says that the group must have some connection with Bakunin. Gusiev is not saying anything so the interrogator sends him back to his cell, saying that they will talk again. As Gusiev is walking out, the interrogator stops him to ask about what Gusiev said to Dostoyevsky when the man came to the hospital for a visit? Again, Gusiev says nothing.
The next day in the street a pretty woman smiles at Dostoyevsky. He thinks the woman must be Aleksandra, Gusiev’s friend. The woman looks worried, says her name is Sonia and then runs away from Dostoyevsky.
Dostoyevsky has the woman’s address and now he goes to that address. A man asks him if he needs help and the writer says the man is following him. The man denies it. Dostoyevsky gets back on the street. He sees policemen go to the apartment building he just came out of. The police bust into the apartment, but no one is home.
Now the author goes to the home of Natalia Ivanovna. She tells Dostoyevsky that she cannot help him for this would put her in a precarious situation.
Dostoyevsky scares his stenographer a bit, because of his intensity about being upset about what happened to Gusev. He changes his tone and speaks slowly and softly to her. He thanks her for her work for him.
Men come in to take some of Dostoyevsky’s belongings to the pawn shop. He needs a bit of cash at the moment. He tells Anna that when they finish the book, he will buy all the items back from the pawn shop.
He explains to Anna that if he doesn’t finish within the next four days, the editor will be able to take all his earnings from his writings for the next ten years. The problem is that he feels he cannot write with a knife held to his throat. He says he has ruined his career and his life. Anna urges him to get back to work and finish this book before he ruins his life.
The police interrogator opens up a photo of a woman that they retrieved from the apartment. Gusiev immediately yells: "Aleksandra!" The interrogators asks quickly if this Aleksandra is the leader of the secret society? Gusiev says he wants to see Aleksandra, but the interrogator tells him he will have to give them some information before he can see the woman. Gusiev says she has no part in this, so the interrogator has the guards take him back to his cell.
The police are watching Aleksandra’s place and that of Dostoyevsky. The interrogator really wants to know why a man like Dostoyevsky would go visit a man like Gusiev?
Anna is sleeping at her desk. Dostoyevsky awakens her and she is all ready to go again. The author feels guilty about over-working the now pale Anna. So he asks her to go for a walk with him.
On the walk Anna asks him if the woman in his book really existed? Yes, but he hasn’t seen her for two years now. She then asks why is the love story in the book such a painful one? Because when we fall in love sometimes we lose ourselves and the love turns to hate. Anna says that this is just not true.
The couple is interrupted by a student demonstration that is being pushed away by the police. Dostoyevsky puts Anna in a cab and sends her home. He then goes to watch the demonstration. He thinks he sees Aleksandra in the crowd and goes up to her, but it’s not her. Some of the students recognize Dostoyevsky and start cheering for the "martyrs of Siberia".
The students have to quickly disperse because here comes the dreaded Cossacks! They run into a basement and Dostoyevsky is swept along with them. Quite a few students are cut or knocked down by the Cossacks.
In the basement some students want Dostoyevsky to leave because he sold out to the Tsar. Dostoyevsky says the Tsar abolished serfdom. The Tsar really wants to change Russia and the use of violence will only slow the reforms.
He now asks the students what do they know of the people? He had to spend ten years in Siberia and had plenty of time to change.
Flashback. (1850). Somebody stole Dostoyevsky’s last ten rubles and his copy of the New Testament, which is the only reading material he has. Now he tells a prisoner that he will not be able to continue the reading lessons. The prisoner gets angry and starts demanding the book back. This causes quite a stir in the barracks, which is only stopped when a huge man named Gazin comes stomping into the barracks. He figures Dostoyevsky is behind all this so he makes fun of him and then knocks him to the barracks floor.
The prisoners have to go back to work. All prisoners have to work in teams but Dostoyevsky keeps being turned back by the various teams. This brings him more torment from his fellow prisoners.
A female student asks why did they treat Dostoyevsky that way? Because Dostoyevsky wasn’t "one of them". The author says to his fellow prisoners he was just as low as a foreigner. They were serfs – the people. And they didn’t like intellectuals.
Gazin drops his hatchet into the frozen lake and dives in to retrieve it. He has a rope attached to him and Dostoyevsky is one of the men helping Gazin back up out of the water. The commander comes along and demands that the prisoners holding the rope let go and let the man drown. But Dostoyevsky refuses to let go of the rope. The commander asks him if he wants to receive 200 lashes for this? Dostoyevsky doesn’t answer him so the commander orders 200 lashes for Dostoyevsky and his friend who is also helping to pull Gazin out of the water.
They finally get Gazin to safety. After the 200 lashes, Dostoyevsky is brought back into the barracks and the men try to tend to his wounds. And now the writer sees that somebody has returned his New Testament to him. He’s shocked to get it back. It appears that Gazin got the book back for him.
Back to the present. The Cossacks have left the campus and now all the students can come out of hiding. Dostoyevsky also comes out.
Dostoyevsky goes to try to see Aleksandra again. This time he sees her running away from him. He yells for her not to run away. She keeps running for awhile, until she suddenly stops, waits for Dostoyevsky to come close to her and then opens her large cape to reveal that she is totally naked except for her shoes. (some nudity)
That stops Dostoyevsky in his tracks. He slowly touches her mid-section which seems to upset Aleksandra a bit. Dostoyevsky closes her cape and then runs away. Back home he tells himself that that is enough and throws Aleksandra’s address in the fire.
Dostoyevsky starts dictating his story to his stenographer. The land lady comes into the room very upset. Dostoyevsky goes to look and finds the police on the stairs examining the dead body of Gusiev. The writer is shocked. Gusiev’s interrogator says that of course Dostoyevsky knew Gusiev and isn’t it odd that a strangled Gusiev would show up on Dostoyevsky’s stairway?
Dostoyevsky is now at the police station. The interrogator lets the writer see his police file, but he only glances at its contents. He tells the police that Gusiev was just an acquaintance. The interrogator says what he wants to know is why was Gusiev strangled by someone and then left on Dostoyevsky‘s stairs? Perhaps this was some kind of a signal or a warning.
Dostoyevsky goes looking for Gusiev’s comrades, but they find him first. The author asks why did they kill Gusiev? The men apparently did not know the man was dead. One of the three comrades says that’s good and that the Third Section did their work for them. The leader of the group gets very mad at Dostoyevsky and tells him that he will kill the writer if he ever sees his face again.
Dostoyevsky goes to see the interrogator and asks him if the police killed Gusiev? No. The interrogator says Dostoyevsky should have come to the police when he first talked with Gusiev at the hospital. He says it’s the writer himself who is to blame for the death of Gusiev.
As he returns home, Dostoyevsky imagines he sees Gusiev’s body still laying on the stairs. He walks around the imagine body. His stenographer says they are almost finished with the work. Dostoyevsky tells her that she is beautiful. When they do finish the work the young lady jumps up and, full with glee, she virtually jumps on the sitting writer and hugs him.
Dostoyevsky goes to the editorr’s house to turn the manuscript in, but the servant says that the editor won’t be back until tomorrow. And the servant was instructed not to accept any deliveries. The writer is furious at the editor’s attempt to cheat him and pounds on the door to be let in. It’s no use.
The leader of the group tells Dostoyevsky to follow him. They go up to the top floor where the belfry is. There he meets the other comrades, including Aleksandra Svonoriova. She wants to know what the writer wants of her. He says Gusiev told him everything and he has come to tell her not to kill and not to get themselves killed.
Aleksandra asks the writer if he thinks she should just wait for the rich to become ashamed of their wealth? "The poor should be docile as their children die of hunger, as their girls become prostitutes?!" Dostoyevsky says the radicals’ ways are hopelessly self-defeating. Of course, Aleksandra does not believe that. She believes that the people just have to be awakened..
Aleksandra calls the writer a frightened old man. And he has betrayed the revolution. He says that even when he was young, he never thought of killing anyone. Aleksandra shows the bombs they will use today.
Dostoyevsky rushes into the police station saying that they plan to kill the Grand Duke at 6 this evening in the marketplace. The interrogator wants to know the names of the assassins. The writer says Gustiev first told him at the hospital and now his comrades will carry it out. Their names are Aleksandra Svonoriova and Trifonov.
The policeman wants to know why he waited so long to be forthcoming with the police? Strangely, Dostoyevsky says because he was their leader. "I’m the one who took Bakunin’s place, everyone knows that." The interrogator just scoffs at the very idea that the writer replaced Bakunin.
Dostoyevsky returns to the belfry, but the interrogator is already there waiting for him. He tells the author that the young people have already left. The Grand Duke’s carriage route has been changed.. He then tells Dostoyevsky that his deportation did not last just for ten years, but for his entire life. He adds that the writer feels responsible for the acts of the young radicals and that’s correct. Dostoyevsky’s writings ". . . are much more inflammatory than Bakunin’s terrorist proclamations."
The writer says that’s not true because he has always fought against the use of violence. The interrogator says his writings show the need for a revolution. He also says he believes that in the end the revolution will come, but he is paid to at least try to stop it.
Dostoyevsky starts to leave but the policeman wants to know what’s that Dostoyevsky is carrying in his hands? The writer says it’s of no concern of the police, but the interrogator tells him that it’s his latest manuscript that he should have turned in today, but that scoundrel editor chose not to be at home so he couldn’t accept the manuscript on time. The policeman tells him to give him the manuscript. Dostoyevsky complies and the interrogator writes out a receipt of the manuscript and gives it to the author.
Before he leaves, the policeman reveals the truth about Gusiev. The man hanged himself in his cell and the police put his body on the stairs.
At her aunt’s place, Aleksandra shows up again to speak with the famous writer. She tells Dostoyevsky that she knew he would go to the police, so they changed the place for the assassination. She also says she avidly read his works ever since her childhood. Then one year she went to hear him speak publicly. At the end of his presentation she says she now knew it was time for her to act.
Now the police start the assault on the house. Aleksandra and Trifonov decide to escape via the roof of the building. Dostoyevsky goes with them even though Aleksandra told him not to. He helps her up onto the roof and then she prevents him from falling off the roof. He pins her up against a chimney and asks her why is she trying to get herself killed? She replies that he cannot understand them, time has left him behind. It’s too late for Dostoyevsky. Now she tells him the attack will be at the cathedral. "I know you won’t betray me this time." She leaves.
The writer is told that the Grand Duke wants him to be at the reception in the cathedral at 5 p.m. Dostoyevsky goes to get dressed properly for the occasion. His stenographer helps him get dressed..
At the reception Dostoyevsky is introduced to Marquess Tikhonova. He walks around the room asking when will the Grand Duke arrive for he has to speak with him. After that, he goes and sits down on a bench.
A man announces to the crowd: "The Grand Duke will not honor us with his presence, he’ll go directly to the cathedral for the Memorial Mass." Dostoyevsky gets up to tell the man that the Grand Duke must not go to the cathedral or he will be killed. The man thinks that the writer must be ill.
Dostoyevsky starts walking fast to the cathedral. He sees the royal carriage ride by him. The writer reaches the cathedral but the police won’t let him get passed them. The Grand Duke enters the cathedral and goes straight up to the altar. All of a sudden, there is a large bomb blast.
At home Dostoyevsky has four epileptic fits. The stenographer Anya comes to see him in his bedroom. She has brought her two children with her. He asks her where has she been? In the country for a week. How can that be wonders Dostoyevsky since they just did finish the manuscript. Anya says that was ten years ago when they first met each other.
Dostoevsky is now married to to Anya and they have children. He walks with Anya and then sits on a bench. He thinks he hears someone calling him and gets up as if he were in a trance. He starts walking down the street.
Dostoyevsky imagines he is back in the Siberian barracks. The group had healed an eagle’s wing and are now ready to release it back to the wild. The eagle takes off and flies away. The young Dostoyevsky tells the men that the eagle smelled freedom.
Good film. It helps to know a bit of Dostoyevsky's biography. (see below) The film goes back and forth between the present time for Dostoyevsky and several long flashbacks. It's interesting to follow the famous writer's change of philosophies from being a kind of radical to becoming a conservative. At the present time Dostoyevsky is a conservative and he wants to stop the young radicals from killing or from being killed. The writer, however, has a guilty conscience. In his concern for the poor he provided great literary works exposing the need for a revolution in Russia. So many of the present-day radicals became radicals due to the books and public lectures of Dostoyevsky. He is torn between his past radical views and his present-day conservative views. He feels guilty about his earlier works and their effects on the radicalization of young people. He wants to tell the police about the radical's activities, but feels guilty if he turns in the radicals that he helped form. This proves very torturous for Dostoyevsky. So the film is a debate within the writer's head and in his speech. It makes for a real dilemma for Dostoyevsky.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
The Dostoyevskys were a multi-ethnic and multi-denominational Lithuanian noble family from the Pinsk region with roots dating to the 16th century. Branches of the family included Orthodox and Catholic members. Dostoyevsky's immediate ancestors were of the non-monastic clergy class. On his mother's side, Dostoyevsky was descended from Russian merchants.
Dostoevsky’s father Mikhail was expected to join the clergy, like his father. But he ran away from home and broke with his family permanently.
1809 – at 20 years of age he gained admittance to Moscow's Imperial Medical-Surgical Academy. From there, he was assigned to a Moscow hospital where he served as military doctor.
1818 – he is appointed to senior physician.
1819 – Mikhail he marries Maria Isayevna.
1820 – resigns his post to accept a new job at the Mariinsky Hospital for the poor.
His two sons, Mikhail and Fyodor are born.
1821 (October 30) – Fyodor Dostoyevsky born the second child of Mikhail Dostoyevsky and Maria Nechayeva.
Father is promoted to collegiate assessor, a position that raised his legal status to nobility and enabled him to acquire a small estate in Darovoye, a town near Moscow.
Dostoyevsky was raised in the family home on the grounds of the Mariinsky Hospital. The family usually spent the summers in their estate in Darovoye when he was a child.
1824 – at the age of three, Fyodor is introduced to heroic sagas, fairy tales and legends and—influenced by his nannies—developed a deeply ingrained religious piety. His nanny, Alina Frolovna, and a family friend, the serf and farmer Marei from Darovoye, were influential figures in his childhood; Marei helped him deal with his hallucinations.
After discovering the hospital garden, which was separated by a large fence from the house private garden, Dostoyevsky would often talk with the patients, even though his parents forbade it. He once encountered a nine-year-old girl who had been raped, an event that traumatized him.
Since Dostoyevsky's parents valued education, his mother taught him to read and write, using the Bible, when he was four. He always looked forward to his parents' nightly readings. They introduced him to Russian and world literature at an early age, including national writers.
Although Dostoyevsky had a less robust physical constitution and was measured only 5'2", he had developed a powerful personality. He was described by his parents as a hot-headed youngster, stubborn and cheeky.
1825 –- Decembrist revolt of 1825. [Russian army officers led about 3,000 soldiers in a protest against Nicholas I's assumption of the throne after his elder brother Constantine removed himself from the line of succession.]
1833 – Dostoyevsky's father sends Fyodor to a boarding school which taught in French.
1834 – sent Dostoyevsky to the best private boarding school in Moscow, the "College for Noble Male Children". There several people depicted him as a pale, introverted dreamer and an over-excitable romantic. To pay off his school fees, his father had to take out loans and extend his private medical practice. Dostoyevsky felt out of place among his aristocratic classmates at the Moscow school.
1836 – his parents send Fyodor and his brother Mikhail to St Petersburg to attend the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute, forcing the brothers to abandon their academic studies at the Moscow college for a military career. On the way to St Petersburg, Dostoyevsky witnessed a violent incident in a post house.
1837 (September 27) – Dostoyevsky's mother died of tuberculosis.
1838 – he enters the academy in 1838, but only with the help of family members, who had paid the tuition fees. Mikhail was refused admission on account of his poor health and was sent to the Academy in Reval, Estonia; he was separated from his brother.
He did not enjoy the academy, primarily because of his lack of interest in science, mathematics and military engineering and his preference for drawing and architecture. Among his 120 classmates Dostoyevsky's character and interests made him an outsider: in contrast with many of his class fellows, he was brave and had a strong sense of justice, protected newcomers, aligned himself with teachers, criticized corruption among officers and helped poor farmers. Although he was a loner and lived in his own literary world, his classmates respected him.
1839 – Dostoyevsky's father dies. 1837 (September 27) – Dostoyevsky's first epileptic seizure may have occurred after learning of the death of his father.
Dostoyevsky continued his studies and obtained the rank of engineer cadet, which gave him the right to live away from the academy. Fyodor frequently went to concerts, operas, plays and ballets. It was during this time that two of his friends initiated him into gambling.
1843 (August) -- he took a job as a military draftsman (a job he found "as boring as potatoes") and lived with Adolph Totleben in an apartment owned by Dr A. Riesenkampf, a friend of his brother Mikhail.
1844 (October 19) – he graduates from the academy as a lieutenant. In in financial trouble, Dostoyevsky decides to write a novel. In this year, he shares an apartment with Dmitry Grigorovich, a friend from the academy.
1845 (May) – he finishes the manuscript, Poor Folk. A friend named Nekrasov showed the manuscript to Vissarion Belinsky, the most renowned and influential literary critic of the time. Belinsky described the book as Russia's first "social novel".
1846 (January 15) – Poor Folk is released and becomes an enormous commercial success.
1846 (February) – he publishes his second novel, The Double. After this he discovers socialism.
the 1840s – socialism began to be more influential in Russia, to the detriment of romanticism and idealism.
Dostoyevsky was initially influenced by the French socialists Fourier, Cabet, Proudhon and Saint Simon. Through his relationship with Belinsky, Dostoyevsky expanded his knowledge of the philosophy of socialism and was attracted to its logic, its sense of justice and its preoccupation with the destitute and disadvantaged. His relationship with Belinsky became increasingly strained as Belinsky's atheism and dislike of religion clashed with Dostoyevsky's Orthodox beliefs. Dostoyevsky eventually parted company with him and his associates. In his later books, Dostoyevsky focused on the issues of the existence of God and nihilism, as well as the nature of human coexistence, the requirements of fraternity and the coherence between freedom and fortune.
After his second novel received negative reviews, Dostoyevsky's health declined and he had more epileptic seizures.
1846 to 1848 – he publishes a number of short stories in the magazine Annals of the Fatherland, including "Mr. Prokharchin", "The Landlady", "A Weak Heart" and "White Nights".
Since these stories were unsuccessful, Dostoyevsky found himself in financial trouble yet again and decided to join the utopian socialist Betekov circle, a tight-knit community that helped him to survive. When the circle dissolved, Dostoyevsky befriended Apollon Maykov and his brother Valerian; after Valerian's death, Apollon became an important figure in Dostoyevsky's life.
1846 -- on recommendation of the poet Aleksey Pleshcheyev, he joins the socio-Christian Petrashevsky Circle, founded by Mikhail Petrashevsky, who had proposed social reforms in Russia. Dostoyevsky used the circle's library on Saturdays and Sundays, and sometimes participated in their discussions of themes like freedom from censorship and the abolition of serfdom.
1848 – Revolution of 1848. [A series of political upheavals throughout Europe in the most widespread revolutionary wave in European history. Within a year, reactionary forces had won out.]
1849 – first parts of Netochka Nezvanova, a novel Dostoyevsky had been planning since 1846, were published in Annals of the Fatherland, but his banishment brought it to an end. Dostoyevsky never tried to complete it and the novel remained unfinished..
Dostoyevsky and other members of the Petrashevsky Circle are denounced to Liprandi, an official for the Ministry of International Affairs. Dostoyevsky was accused by agent Antonelli of reading several works by Belinsky, including Correspondence with Gogol, Criminal Letters and The Soldier's Speech, and of passing copies of these and other works.
Dostoyevsky defends himself by declaring that he had read the essays only "as a literary monument, neither more nor less" and argued about "personality and human egoism" instead of politics.
1849 (April 22) – Dostoyevsky and his comrades are arrested on the request of Count A. Orlov and Emperor Nicolas I, who feared a revolution like the Decembrist revolt of 1825 in Russia and the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe. The members were brought to the well-defended Peter and Paul Fortress, where the most dangerous convicts were sent.
The prisoner are to be executed. On December 23, 1849. They are brought to Semyonov Place in St Petersburg. In the last minute, the execution was stayed when a cart came running. The Tsar had written a letter to general adjutant Sumarokov in which the people were pardoned. Dostoyevsky's sentence was commuted to four years of exile with hard labor at a katorga prison camp in Omsk, Siberia, followed by a term of compulsory military service. After a fourteen-day sleigh ride, they reached Tobolsk in Siberia, a staying place for Russian prisoners.
Despite all the burden, Dostoyevsky nevertheless stayed calm and knew how to take heart from such situations. He consoled and uplifted other prisoners, such as Ivan Yastrzhembsky, one of the members of the Petrashevsky Circle, who was surprised by his kindness and eventually decided not to commit suicide. In Tobolsk the members received food and clothes from the Decembrist women, and additionally several copies of the New Testament with a ten-ruble banknote inside each one. Eleven days later, Durov and Dostoyevsky reached Omsk, whose barracks he described as follows:
In summer, intolerable closeness; in winter, unendurable cold. All the floors were rotten. Filth on the floors an inch thick; one could slip and fall ... We were packed like herrings in a barrel ... There was no room to turn around. From dusk to dawn it was impossible not to behave like pigs ... Fleas, lice, and black beetles by the bushel ...
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Pisma, I: pp. 135–7.
Classified as "one of the most dangerous convicts", Dostoyevsky had his feet and hands permanently chained until his release. He was not allowed to read anything except his New Testament.
1854 (February 1) – gets his release from prison. He is forced to serve in the Siberian Army Corps of the Seventh Line Battalion
He begins to write The House of the Dead, basing it on his experience in prison. It became the first novel about Russian prisons.
1854 (mid-March) – moves to Semipalatinsk in mid-March. He tutors several schoolchildren and comes into social contact with several upper-class families. This is how he made the acquaintance of Lieutenant-Colonel Belikhov, who used to invite him to read out passages from newspapers and magazines. During a visit to Belikhov, Dostoyevsky met the family of Alexander Ivanovich Isaev and Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva, and soon fell in love with her.
1855 (August) – Alexander Isaev dies at his new post in Kuznetsk.
Maria moves with Dostoyevsky to Barnaul. Dostoyevsky writes a letter to General Eduard Totleben, apologizing for his activity in several utopian circles.
1856 – because of his letter, he gets the right to publish books and to marry, but remained under police surveillance for the rest of his life.
1856 (February 7) – he marries Maria in Semipalatinsk.
1859 – Dostoyevsky is released from military service as his health had worsened since his marriage. He moves to Tver and then to St Petersburg.
"A Little Hero" (Dostoyevsky's only work completed while in prison) appeared in a journal.
1860 – "Uncle's Dream" and "The Village of Stepanchikovo" are published. Notes from the House of the Dead was released in Russky Mir ("Russian World") in September.
1862 (June 7) – Dostoyevsky travels on 7 June 1862 and visits the German cities of Cologne, Berlin, Dresden and Wiesbaden and to then visits Belgium and Paris. In London he visits the Crystal Palace. He then travels through Switzerland and northern Italy, Turin, Livorno and Florence among them. He wrote mainly negative comments about these countries in Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, where he criticized capitalism, social modernization, materialism, Catholicism and Protestantism.
1863 (August to October) – he makes another trip to western Europe. In Paris he met his second love, Polina Suslova. Once again, he lost all his money gambling in Wiesbaden and Baden-Baden.
1864 – after the successive deaths of his wife Maria and his brother, Dostoyevsky became the lone parent of his stepson Pasha and, almost immediately afterwards, of Mikhail's family.
1866 (January and February) – first two parts of Dostoyevsky's sixth novel, Crime and Punishment, are published in the periodical The Russian Messenger. The complete novel was also a success.
The work was a detective novel describing Rodion Raskolnikov's life, from the murder of a pawnbroker, to the spiritual regeneration under a hooker with a heart of gold, Sonya, to his sentence in Siberia.. The work receives a mixed reception from critics, with most of the negative responses coming from nihilists.
1866 – Dostoyevsky returned to St Petersburg in mid-September and promises his editor, Fyodor Stellovsky, that he would complete the novel The Gambler by November, although he had not yet written a single line.
One of Dostoyevsky's friends advises him to hire a secretary. Pavel Olkhin from St Petersburg recommends his pupil Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina.
1866 (October) – Anna is hired. She registers his dictation in shorthand and The Gambler, a short novel focused on gambling, was completed within 26 days on 30 October.
1867 (February 15) – Dostoyevsky marries Anna Snitkina in the Trinity Cathedral in St Petersburg. They honeymooned in Berlin and then stayed there.
Loses all of his wife's money gambling. They keep traveling around and in Baden-Baden, Anna becomes pregnant.
1868 (March 5) – birth of their first child, Sonya. Three months later the baby dies from pneumonia.
1868 (September) – Dostoyevsky starts work on The Idiot, managing to complete 100 pages in just 23 days.
1869 (January) – The Idiot is completed in Milan, Italy and serialized in The Russian Messenger.
1869 (September 26) – in Dresden, Germany Anna gives birth to Lyubov.
1871 (April) – Dostoyevsky makes a final visit to a gambling hall in Wiesbaden. He never actually gets there and Dostoyevsky takes that on as a sign not to gamble anymore.
1869 (around November) – Anna's younger brother, Ivan Snitkin, a pupil at the Petrovsky Agricultural Academy in Moscow, told about the unrest among the students there and mentioned a classmate of his, Ivan Ivanov, who was involved in that movement, led by Sergey Nechayev. Nechayev, influenced by Bakunin's Alliance révolutionnaire européenne, had formed this terror organization composed of several five-man groups.
1869 (November 21) – Ivanov is killed by members of the group. He had left the society and others killed him for fear he might turn into an informer.
After hearing the news of the "Nechayev Affair", as the case was known, Dostoyevsky began writing on Demons.
1871 – Dostoyevsky and Anna traveled by train to Berlin. During this trip, he burnt numerous manuscripts, including those for The Idiot, because he was worried about problems when going through customs. The family arrived in St Petersburg on 8 July, marking the end of a honeymoon that had lasted over four years.
1871 (July) – the family is again in financial trouble and has to sell their remaining possessions. Besides, Anna was reaching the final term of her second pregnancy.
1871 (July 16) – Their son, Fyodor is born. The family then moves they moved to a different apartment near the Institute of Technology. The family hoped to cancel their large debts by selling their house in Peski, but as problems with the tenant resulted in a relatively low selling price, disputes with their creditors continued. Anna proposed that they raise money on her husband's copyrights and negotiated with the creditors to pay off their debts in installment.
Dostoyevsky finds new acquaintances, such as Konstantin Pobedonostsev, future Imperial High Commissioner of the Most Holy Synod, who influenced Dostoyevsky's political progression to conservatism.
early 1872 – Anna's sister died from typhus and Anna developed an abscess on her throat. Dostoyevsky's work on his next novel was consequently delayed.
1872 (September) – the family returns to St Petersburg.
1872 (November 26) – Demons is finished. About 3,000 copies of Demons were sold.
1873 (summer) – Anna travels with her children to Staraya Russa, while Dostoyevsky stays in St Petersburg to continue with his Diary.
Nikolay Nekrasov suggested that he publish A Writer's Diary in The National Annals; he would receive 250 rubles for each printer's sheet, 100 more than from The Russian Messenger.
Dostoyevsky's health began to decline, and he started to experience the first symptoms of a lung disease.
He goes to Ems health spa for rest and relaxation. While there he begins work on The Adolescent. In late July he returned to St Petersburg.
1875 – son Alexey is born.
End of 1875 – Dostoyevsky finishes. The Adolescent chronicles the life of a 19-year-old intellectual, Arkady Dolgoruky, the illegitimate child of a controversial and womanizing landowner. A main theme in the novel is the recurring conflict between father and son—particularly about different ideologies—representing battles between the conventional way of thinking in the 1840s and the new nihilistic view of the youth of 1860s Russia.
early 1876 – Dostoyevsky continues working on Diaries. This essay collection sold over twice as much as his previous books. Dostoyevsky received more letters from readers than ever before, and people of all ages and occupations visited him.
Summer of 1876 – thanks to Anna's brother, the family could finally buy a dacha in Staraya Russa. Dostoyevsky began experiencing breathlessness again. He visited Ems for a third time and was told that he might live for another 15 years should he move to a more healthy climate.
Tsar Alexander II employed Dostoyevsky to educate educate his sons, Sergey and Paul. This opened the door for him and he was a frequent guest in several salons in St Petersburg and met many famous people.
1877 (March) – Dostoyevsky's has four epileptic seizures.. He is appointed an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
1879 (February) – he receives an honorary certificate from the academy.
1879 (May 16) - his son Alyosha has an extreme epileptic seizure and dies.
1879 (August) – Dostoyevsky makes his fourth and final visit to Ems. He has an early-stage pulmonary emphysema.
The 800 page, The Brothers Karamazov is Dostoyevsky's largest literary work. It received both critical and popular acclaim and is often cited as his magnum opus. There are three protagonists: the novice Alyosha Karamazov, the non-believer Ivan Karamazov and the soldier Dmitry. First parts of the books introduces the Karamazovs. The main plot is the death of their father Fyodor, while other parts are philosophical and religious argumentations by Father Zosima to Alyosha. The most renowned chapter is "The Grand Inquisitor", a parable told by Ivan to Alyosha about Christ's Second Coming in Seville, Spain, where Christ was imprisoned by a Catholic Grand Inquisitor. Instead of answering him, Christ gives him a kiss and the Inquisitor subsequently releases him but tells him not to return.
In the book Dostoyevsky is particularly attacking Roman Catholicism and socialist atheism. For Dostoyevsky, the Donation of Pepin around 750 and the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century corrupted true Christianity.
1880 (February) – Dostoyevsky ias chosen as the vice president of the Slavic Benevolent Society, and was invited to speak at the unveiling of the Pushkin memorial in Moscow.
The Tsar's secret police, while searching for members of the terror organization Narodnaya Volya ("The People's Will") who had assassinated Tsar Alexander II, executed a search warrant in the apartment of one of Dostoyevsky's neighbors.
1881 (January 26) – Dostoyevksy has a pulmonary hemorrhage . This hemorrhage is followed by two others.
Dostoyevsky was interred in the Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Convent, near his favorite poets Karamsin and Zhukovsky. According to a reporter, more than 100,000 mourners were there, while others state a number between 40,000 and 50,000.
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