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Biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of the most widely read authors in the world, who also became a pioneer in the direction of personalism in Russia. Today, the writer’s works are included in the pantheon of Soviet and Russian classics, some of them having already been filmed multiple times, both in the author’s homeland and abroad.

Childhood and youth

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was born on November 11, 1821 in Moscow. His father Mikhail Andreevich was from the line of nobility Dostoevsky of the Radvan coat of arms. He acquired a medical education and served in the Borodino Infantry Regiment, the Moscow Military Hospital, and also at the Mariinsky Hospital for the needy. The mother of the future famous writer, Nechaeva Maria Fedorovna, was the daughter of a capital merchant.

Fedor’s parents were not affluent people, but they worked constantly to care for their family and offer their children an excellent education. Subsequently, Dostoevsky confessed more than once that he was very thankful to his father and mother for their good upbringing and education, which cost them tremendous effort.

The youngster was taught to read by his mother; she used the book “104 Sacred Stories of the Old and New Testaments” for this purpose. This is partially why in Dostoevsky’s renowned work “The Brothers Karamazov” the character Zosima claims in one of the discussions that in infancy he learnt to read from this book.

Young Fyodor learned his reading abilities from the biblical Book of Job, which was also reflected in his following works: the writer used his views on this book while composing the classic novel “The Teenager.” The father also helped to his son’s education, teaching him Latin.

A total of seven children were born into the Dostoevsky household. So, Fyodor had an elder brother, Mikhail, with whom he was extremely close, and an older sister, Varvara. In addition, he had younger brothers Andrei and Nikolai, as well as younger sisters Vera and Alexandra.

In their youth, Mikhail and Fedor were taught at home by Nikolai Ivanovich Drashusov, a teacher at the Alexander and Catherine schools. With his guidance, the elder sons of the Dostoevskys learned French, while the teacher’s children taught the boys mathematics and literature, respectively. In the period from 1834 to 1837, Fedor and Mikhail completed their studies in the capital’s boarding school of Leonty Chermak, which was then a very famous educational institution.

In 1837, a sad tragedy happened: Maria Fedorovna Dostoevskaya died of consumption. Fedor was just 16 years old at the time of his mother’s death. Left without a wife, Dostoevsky Sr. decided to send Fyodor and Mikhail to St. Petersburg, to the boarding home of K.F. Kostomarova. The father intended the sons to later enroll the Main Engineering School. It is remarkable that both of Dostoevsky’s eldest boys at that time were enamored of literature and wanted to devote their life to it, but their father did not take their pastime seriously.

The sons did not dare to defy their father’s will. Fyodor Mikhailovich successfully completed his studies at the boarding school, attended the school and graduated from it, although he spent all his leisure time to reading. William Shakespeare , Ernst Hoffmann , George Byron , Johann Goethe , Homer , Mikhail Lermontov , Nikolai Gogol , Alexander Pushkin – he consumed the works of all these renowned authors, instead of eagerly learning the principles of engineering science.

In 1838, Dostoevsky and his companions even created their own literary club at the Main Engineering School. Even then, the writer began to compose his first works, but still did not dare to eventually choose the road of a writer. Having finished his studies in 1843, he even earned the job of engineer-second lieutenant in the St. Petersburg engineering team, but did not remain long in the service. In 1844, he chose to focus completely on writing and resigned.

The beginning of a creative journey

Although the family did not approve of young Fedor’s actions, he carefully began to pore over the works he had created earlier and generate ideas for new ones. The year 1844 was memorable for the ambitious writer with the publishing of his debut book, “Poor People.” The popularity of the work exceeded all the author’s hopes. Critics and authors really admired Dostoevsky’s novel; the topics discussed in the book found a reaction in the hearts of many readers. Fyodor Mikhailovich was admitted into the so-called “Belinsky circle”, they began to label him “the new Gogol”.

The triumph did not last long. About a year later, Dostoevsky introduced the novel “The Double” to the public, but it turned out to be incomprehensible to most fans of the skill of the young genius. The writer’s happiness and admiration gave way to criticism, discontent, disillusionment and ridicule. Subsequently, writers praised the novelty of this work, its distinction from the novels of those years, although at the time of the book’s publishing nearly no one sensed this.

Soon Dostoevsky quarreled with Ivan Turgenev and was banished from the “Belinsky circle”, and also quarreled with Nikolai Nekrasov , publisher of Sovremennik. However, the journal Otechestvennye Zapiski, managed by Andrei Kraevsky, quickly consented to publish his articles.

Nevertheless, the extraordinary fame that his first publication brought to Fyodor Mikhailovich allowed him to establish a lot of intriguing and valuable connections in the literary circles of St. Petersburg. Many of his new contacts partly became prototypes for other characters in the author’s later writings.

Arrest and hard work

Fateful for the writer was his encounter with Mikhail Petrashevsky in 1846. Petrashevsky arranged so-called “Fridays,” during which the elimination of serfdom, freedom of printing, gradual improvements in the court system and other related matters were debated.

During meetings, one way or another linked with the Petrashevites, Dostoevsky also met the communist Nikolai Speshnev. In 1848, he created a secret organization of 8 persons (including himself and Fyodor Mikhailovich), which supported a coup in the country and the construction of an illegal publishing company. At meetings of the group, Dostoevsky regularly recited “Belinsky’s Letter to Gogol,” which was then illegal.

In the same year, 1848, Fyodor Mikhailovich’s work “White Nights” was released, but, unhappily, he did not able to enjoy the well-deserved popularity. Those similar links with radical youth acted against the writer, and on April 23, 1849, he was jailed, like many other Petrashevites. Dostoevsky denied his involvement, but Belinsky’s “criminal” letter was also remembered, and on November 13, 1849, the writer was sentenced to death. Before that, he suffered in captivity for eight months in the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Fortunately for Russian literature, the terrible judgment for Fyodor Mikhailovich was not carried out. On November 19, the Auditor General deemed him not to be guilty of Dostoevsky, and consequently the death punishment was changed with eight years of hard labor. And at the end of the same month, Emperor Nicholas I eased the sentence even more: the writer was deported to hard work in Siberia for four years instead of eight. At the same time, he was stripped of his aristocratic status and money, and after completing hard labor he was promoted to ordinary soldier.

Despite all the hardships and deprivations that such a sentence implies, joining the military represented the entire reinstatement of Dostoevsky’s civil rights. This was the first such instance in Russia, as generally those persons who were condemned to hard labor lost their civil rights for the rest of their lives, even if they survived several years of captivity and returned to a free life. Emperor Nicholas I had pity on the young writer and did not want to squander his gift.

The years that Fyodor Mikhailovich spent in hard labor created an unforgettable mark on him. The writer had a hard time facing infinite agony and loneliness. In addition, it took him a lot of time to develop regular conversation with other prisoners: they did not accept him for a long time because of his aristocratic status.

In 1856, the new Emperor Alexander II offered forgiveness to all the Petrashevites, and in 1857 Dostoevsky was pardoned, that is, he gained a full amnesty and was returned to the rights to publish his writings. And if in his youth Fyodor Mikhailovich was a person unsure in his future, seeking to uncover the truth and establish a system of life principles, then already by the end of the 1850s he became a mature, developed personality. The long years in hard labor made him a genuinely devout person, which he remained until his death.

Creativity blooms

In 1860, the writer published a two-volume collection of his works, which included the stories “The Village of Stepanchikovo and Its Inhabitants” and “Uncle’s Dream.” About the same story happened to them as with “The Double” – although the works were subsequently given a very high rating, contemporaries did not like them. However, the release of “Notes from the House of the Dead,” dedicated to the lives of criminals and written primarily during captivity, helped redirect readers’ attention to the matured Dostoevsky.

For many people of the nation who had not suffered this trauma on their own, the work came almost as a shock. Many people were startled by what the author was talking about, especially because the issue of hard work used to be something of a taboo for Russian writers. After this, Alexander Herzen began to call Dostoevsky “Russian Dante ”.

The year 1861 was also notable for the writer. This year, in partnership with his older brother Mikhail, he began producing his own literary and political journal named “Time”. In 1863, the journal was stopped, and instead the Dostoevsky brothers began publishing another magazine named “Epoch”.

These periodicals, firstly, improved the brothers’ prominence in the literary society. And secondly, it was on their pages that “The Humiliated and Insulted,” “Notes from the Underground,” “Notes from the House of the Dead,” “A Bad Anecdote” and many other works of Fyodor Mikhailovich were published. Mikhail Dostoevsky died soon after: he passed away in 1864.

In the 1860s, the writer began to travel abroad, seeking inspiration for his new writings in new locations and familiar ones. Including, it was around that era that Dostoevsky developed and began to actualize the idea of ​​the work “The Gambler.”

In 1865, the publishing of the Epoch magazine, the number of subscribers of which was constantly dwindling, had to be discontinued. Moreover: even after the closing of the newspaper, the writer had an astonishing amount of debt. In order to somehow get out of a tough financial situation, he got into a highly unfavorable deal for himself to publish a compilation of his works with the publisher Fyodor Stellovsky, and soon after that he began composing his most famous novel, Crime and Punishment. The philosophical approach to social reasons earned significant attention among readers, and the novel exalted Dostoevsky throughout his lifetime.

Fyodor Mikhailovich’s next famous novel was “The Idiot,” published in 1868. The notion of ​​portraying a good person who wants to make other people happy, but cannot overcome adverse forces and, as a result, suffers himself, turned out to be straightforward to achieve in words alone. In fact, Dostoevsky deemed The Idiot one of the most hardest works to write, yet Prince Myshkin became his most beloved character.

After finishing work on this novel, the author decided to write an epic called “Atheism” or “The Life of a Great Sinner.” He failed to realize his idea, but some of the ideas collected for the epic formed the basis for Dostoevsky’s next three great books: the novel “Demons,” written in 1871-1872, the work “Teenager,” completed in 1875, and the novel “Brothers.” The Karamazovs”, work on which Dostoevsky completed in 1879-1880.

It is interesting that “Demons,” in which the writer initially intended to express his disapproval of representatives of revolutionary movements in Russia, gradually changed during the course of writing. Initially, the author did not intend to make Stavrogin, who later became one of his most famous characters, the key character of the novel. But his image turned out to be so powerful that Fyodor Mikhailovich decided to change the plan and add real drama and tragedy to the political work.

If in “The Possessed,” among other things, the problem of fathers and sons was treated very comprehensively, then in the following novel, “The Teenager,” the writer brought to the fore the difficulty of rearing a mature kid.

A unique result of Fyodor Mikhailovich’s creative path, a literary analogue of summing up the results, was The Brothers Karmazov. Many episodes, storylines, and characters of this work were partly based on the writer’s previously written novels, starting with his first published novel, “Poor People.”

Personal life

Dostoevsky’s first wife was Maria Isaeva, whom he met shortly after returning from hard labor. In total, the marriage of Fyodor and Maria lasted about seven years, but this period of personal life did not bring happiness to the author. The actual cohabitation did not last long; for the most part, the spouses were in different houses and even cities. In 1864, Maria died.

During one of his first visits abroad in the early 1860s, Dostoevsky was charmed by the liberated Apollinaria Suslova. It was from her that Polina in “The Player”, Nastastya Filippovna in “The Idiot” and a number of other female characters were created.

Although on the eve of his fortieth anniversary the writer had at least a long-term relationship with Isaeva and Suslova, at that time his women had not yet given him such happiness as children. This deficiency was made up for by the writer’s second wife, Anna Snitkina. She became not only a faithful wife, but also an excellent assistant to the writer: she took upon herself the troubles of publishing Dostoevsky’s novels, rationally resolved all financial issues, and prepared her memoirs about her brilliant husband for publication. Fyodor Mikhailovich dedicated the novel “The Brothers Karamazov” to her.


Anna Grigorievna gave birth to her wife four children: daughters Sophia and Lyubov, sons Fyodor and Alexei. Alas, Sophia, who was supposed to be the first child of the couple, died a few months after giving birth. Of all the children of Fyodor Mikhailovich, only his son Fyodor became the successor of his literary family.


Dostoevsky died on January 28, 1881, the cause of death being severe bronchitis, pulmonary TB and emphysema. Death seized the writer at the age of sixty.
Crowds of lovers of his skill came to say farewell to the writer, but Fyodor Mikhailovich, his timeless books and wise comments earned the greatest popularity after the death of the author. The classic sleeps at the Tikhvin cemetery in St. Petersburg.

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