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Fyodor Dostoevsky


Fyodor Dostoevsky. Portrait by Vasily Perov, 1872

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский), (October 30 (O.S) = November 11 (N.S), 1821, Moscow - January 28 (O.S) = February 9 (N.S), 1881, St. Petersburg) was a Russian writer, one of the major figures in Russian literature. He is sometimes said to be a founder of existentialism.

Born to parents Mikhail and Maria, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was the second of seven children. Fyodor's mother died of an illness in 1837.

Fyodor and his brother Michael were sent to the Military Engineering Academy at St. Petersburg shortly after their mother's death, though these plans had begun even before she became ill.

It was not long before his father, a retired military surgeon who served as a doctor at the Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor in Moscow, also died in 1839. While not known for certain, it is believed that Mikhail Dostoevsky was murdered by his own serfs, who reportedly became enraged during one of Mikhail's drunken fits of violence, restrained him, and poured vodka into his mouth until he drowned.

Dostoevsky was arrested and imprisoned in 1849 for engaging in revolutionary activity against Tsar Nicholas I. On November 16 that year he was sentenced to death for anti-government activities linked to a radical intellectual group. After a mock execution in which he faced a staged firing squad, Dostoevsky's sentence was commuted to a number of years of exile performing hard labor at a prison camp in Siberia. The incidents of epileptic seizures, to which he was predisposed, increase during this period. His sentence was completed in 1854, at which point he enrolled in the Siberian Regiment.

This was a turning point in the author's life. Dostoevsky abandonded his earlier radical sentiments and became deeply conservative and extremely religious. He began an affair with Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva, the wife of an acquaintance in Siberia, whom he later married.

In 1860, he returned to St. Petersburg, where he ran a series of unsuccessful literary journals with his older brother Mikhail. Dostoevsky was devastated by his wife's death in 1864, followed shortly thereafter by his brother's death. He was financially crippled by business debts and the need to provide for his brother's widow and children. Dostoevsky sunk into a deep depression, frequenting gambling parlors and blithely accumulating massive losses at the tables.

To escape creditors in St. Petersburg, Dostoevsky traveled to Europe. There, he attempted to rekindle a love affair with Apollinaria (Polina) Suslova, a young university student with whom he had had an affair several years prior, but she refused his marriage proposal. Dostoevsky was heartbroken, but soon met Anna Snitkina, a 19 year old stenographer whom he married in 1867. This period resulted in the writing of his greatest books.

Fyodor Dostoevsky died on January 28 (O.S), 1881 and was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Major works

External links and references