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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Vasily Perov - Портрет Ф.М.Достоевского - Google Art Project.jpg
Portrait of Dostoyevsky in 1872 painted by Vasily Perov
Born Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky
(1821-11-11)11 November 1821
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died 9 February 1881(1881-02-09) (aged 59)
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Nationality Russian
Education Military Engineering-Technical University, St. Petersburg
Period 1846–1881
Genres Novel, short story, journalism
Subjects Psychology, philosophy, religion
Literary movement Realism
Notable work(s)
  • Maria Dmitriyevna Isayevna (1857–1864) [her death]
  • Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina
    (1867–1881) [his death]
Children Sonya (1868)
Lyubov (1869–1926)
Fyodor (1871–1922)
Alexey (1875–1878)


Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (Russian: Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский; IPA:  [ˈfʲodər mʲɪˈxajləvʲɪtɕ dəstɐˈjefskʲɪj]; 11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881), sometimes transliterated Dostoevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer and essayist. Dostoyevsky's literary works explore human psychology in the context of the troubled political, social and spiritual atmosphere of 19th-century Russia. Although he began writing in the mid-1840s, his most memorable works—including Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov—are from his later years. His output consists of eleven novels, three novellas, seventeen short novels and three essays. Many literary critics rate him as one of the greatest and most prominent psychologists in world literature.

Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow. He was introduced to literature at an early age through fairy tales and legends and through books by English, French, German and Russian authors. His mother died suddenly in 1837, when he was 15, and around the same time he left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute. After graduating, he worked as an engineer and briefly enjoyed a liberal lifestyle. He soon began translating books to earn extra money. In the mid-1840s he wrote his first novel, Poor Folk, gaining him entry into St. Petersburg's literary circles.

In 1849 he was arrested for his involvement with the Petrashevsky Circle, a secret society of liberal utopians that also functioned as a literary discussion group. He and other members were condemned to death, but at the last moment, a note from Tsar Nicholas I was delivered to the scene of the firing squad, commuting the sentence to four years' hard labour in Siberia. His seizures increased in frequency there, and he was diagnosed with epilepsy. On his release, he was forced to serve as a soldier, but he was discharged on grounds of ill health.

In the following years, Dostoyevsky worked as a journalist, publishing and editing several magazines of his own and, later, A Writer's Diary, a collection of his writings. He began to travel around western Europe and developed a gambling addiction, which led to financial hardship. For a time, he had to beg for money, but he eventually became one of the most widely read and highly regarded Russian writers. His books have been translated into more than 170 languages and have sold around 15 million copies. Dostoyevsky influenced a multitude of writers, from Anton Chekhov and James Joyce to Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Early life

Family background

Mariinsky Hospital in Moscow, Dostoyevsky's birthplace

Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born on 11 November [ O.S. 30 October] 1821, the second child of Mikhail Dostoyevsky and Maria Nechayeva. 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 Russian Orthodox Christians and Catholics, but Dostoyevsky's immediate ancestors on his father's side were non-monastic clergy, and on his mother's side Russian merchants.

Dostoyevsky's paternal great-grandfather and grandfather were priests in the Ukrainian town of Bratslav. Mikhail was expected to join the clergy too, but instead of entering a seminary he ran away from home and broke with his family permanently. In 1809, when he was twenty years old, Mikhail was admitted to Moscow's Imperial Medical-Surgical Academy. From there he was assigned to a Moscow hospital, where he served as military doctor, and in 1818 he was appointed senior physician. In 1819 he married Maria Isayevna. The following year, he resigned from his post to accept a new job at the Mariinsky Hospital for the poor. After the birth of his first two sons, Mikhail and Fyodor, he was promoted to collegiate assessor, a position which raised his legal status to that of the nobility and enabled him to acquire a small estate in Darovoye, a town 150 versts (about 150 km or 100 miles) from Moscow. Mikhail and Maria subsequently had six more children: Varvara (1822–92), Andrei (1825–97), Lyubov (born and died 1829), Vera (1829–96), Nikolai (1831–83) and Aleksandra (1835–89).


Dostoyevsky was raised in the family home in the grounds of the Mariinsky Hospital. The family usually spent the summers at their estate in Darovoye when he was a child. At age three, Fyodor was introduced to heroic sagas, fairy tales and legends, and under the influence of his nannies, he became intensely religious. His nanny Alina Frolovna was an influential figure in his childhood, as was Marei, a serf and farmer from Darovoye, who was a family friend and helped Dostoyevsky to deal with his hallucinations. Having discovered the hospital garden, which was separated from the family's private garden by a large fence, Dostoyevsky would often talk with the patients, although his parents forbade it. He once encountered a nine-year-old girl who had been raped, an event that traumatised him. His parents valued education, and when he was four his mother used the Bible to teach him to read and write. He eagerly anticipated his parents' nightly readings. They introduced him to a wide range of literature at an early age, including Russian writers Karamzin, Pushkin and Derzhavin; Gothic fiction such as Ann Radcliffe; romantic works by Schiller and Goethe; heroic tales by Cervantes and Walter Scott; and Homer's epics.

Although Dostoyevsky had a delicate physical constitution, standing only 2 arshins and 6 vershoks (approximately 1.6 metres or 5 feet 3 inches) shortly before his imprisonment, he had a powerful personality. His parents described him as hot-headed, stubborn and cheeky. In 1833, Dostoyevsky's father, who was strict and profoundly religious, sent him to a French boarding school and then on to the Chermak boarding school, where several people described him as a pale, introverted dreamer and an over-excitable romantic. To pay the school fees, his father borrowed money and extended his private medical practice. Dostoyevsky felt out of place among his aristocratic classmates at the Moscow school, and the experience was later reflected in his works, notably The Adolescent. A school day usually began at six o'clock in the morning and ended fifteen hours later.


Dostoyevsky as an engineer

On 27 September 1837 Dostoyevsky's mother died of tuberculosis. The previous May, his parents had sent Fyodor and his brother Mikhail to St Petersburg to attend the free Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute, forcing the brothers to abandon their academic studies for military careers. Fyodor entered the academy in January 1838, but only with the help of family members. Mikhail was refused admission on health grounds and was sent to the Academy in Reval, Estonia.

Dostoyevsky disliked the academy, primarily because of his lack of interest in science, mathematics and military engineering and his preference for drawing and architecture. As his friend Konstantin Trutovsky once said, "There was no student in the entire institution with less of a military bearing than F. M. Dostoyevsky. He moved clumsily and jerkily; his uniform hung awkwardly on him; and his knapsack, shako and rifle all looked like some sort of fetter he had been forced to wear for a time and which lay heavily on him." Dostoyevsky's character and interests made him an outsider among his 120 classmates: he showed bravery and a strong sense of justice, protected newcomers, aligned himself with teachers, criticised corruption among officers and helped poor farmers. Although he was solitary and inhabited his own literary world, he was respected by his classmates. His reclusiveness and interest in religion earned him the nickname "Monk Photius".

Dostoyevsky's first seizure may have occurred after learning of the death of his father on 16 June 1839, although reports of this originated from accounts (now considered unreliable) written by his daughter and later expanded by Sigmund Freud. The father's official cause of death was an apoplectic stroke, but a neighbour, Pavel Khotiaintsev, accused the father's serfs of murder. Had the serfs been found guilty and sent to Siberia, Khotiaintsev would have been in a position to buy the vacated land. The serfs were acquitted in a trial in Tula, but Dostoyevsky's brother Andrei perpetuated the story. After his father's death, Dostoyevsky continued his studies, passed his exams and obtained the rank of engineer cadet, entitling him to live away from the academy. After a short visit to Mikhail in Reval, Fyodor frequently attended concerts, operas, plays and ballets. During this time, two of his friends introduced him to gambling.

In August 1843 Dostoyevsky took a job as a lieutenant engineer and lived with Adolph Totleben in an apartment owned by Dr. Rizenkampf, a friend of Mikhail. Rizenkampf characterized him as "no less good-natured and no less courteous than his brother, but when not in a good mood he often looked at everything through dark glasses, became vexed, forgot good manners, and sometimes was carried away to the point of abusiveness and loss of self-awareness". Dostoyevsky's translated works were unsuccessful, and his financial difficulties led him to write a novel.


Early career

Dostoyevsky, 1847

In 1844 Dostoyevsky shared an apartment with Dmitry Grigorovich, a friend from the academy, and there he started work on his first novel, Poor Folk. In a letter to Mikhail, he wrote, "It's simply a case of my novel covering all. If I fail in this, I'll hang myself." He finished the manuscript in May 1845 and asked Grigorovich to read it aloud. Grigorovich was so impressed that he immediately took it to his friend, the poet Nikolay Nekrasov, who was also enthusiastic, calling Dostoyevsky "the new Gogol". Next day, Nekrasov showed the manuscript to Vissarion Belinsky, the most renowned and influential literary critic of the time. Skeptical at first, Belinsky was so astonished after reading it that he described it as Russia's first "social novel". Poor Folk was released on 15 January 1846 in the St Petersburg Collection almanac and became a commercial success.

Dostoyevsky felt that his military career would endanger his now flourishing literary career, so he wrote a letter on 19 October 1844, asking to resign his post. Shortly thereafter, he wrote his second novel, The Double, which appeared in the journal Notes of the Fatherland on 30 January 1846, before being published in February. Around 1846, Dostoyevsky discovered socialism through the writings of French socialists Fourier, Cabet, Proudhon and Saint-Simon. Through his relationship with Belinsky, he expanded his knowledge of the philosophy of socialism, becoming attracted to its logic, its sense of justice and its preoccupation with the destitute and the disadvantaged. His relationship with Belinsky became increasingly strained as Belinsky's atheism and dislike of religion clashed with Dostoyevsky's Russian Orthodox beliefs. Dostoyevsky eventually parted with him and his associates.

After The Double received negative reviews, Dostoyevsky's health declined and he had more frequent seizures, but he continued writing. From 1846 to 1848 he released several short stories in the magazine Annals of the Fatherland, including " Mr. Prokharchin", "The Landlady", "A Weak Heart", and " White Nights". These stories were unsuccessful, leaving Dostoyevsky once more in financial trouble, so he joined the utopian socialist Betekov circle, a tightly knit community which helped him to survive. When the circle dissolved, Dostoyevsky befriended Apollon Maykov and his brother Valerian. In 1846, on the recommendation of the poet Aleksey Pleshcheyev, he joined the socio-Christian Petrashevsky Circle, founded by Mikhail Petrashevsky, who had proposed social reforms in Russia. Mikhail Bakunin once wrote to Alexander Herzen that the group was "the most innocent and harmless company" and its members were "systematic opponents of all revolutionary goals and means". Dostoyevsky used the circle's library on Saturdays and Sundays and occasionally participated in their discussions on freedom from censorship and the abolition of serfdom.

In 1849, the first parts of Netochka Nezvanova, a novel Dostoyevsky had been planning since 1846, were published in Annals of the Fatherland, but his banishment ended the project. Dostoyevsky never attempted to complete it.

Siberian exile

Before the attempted execution, the members were split into three-man groups. Dostoyevsky was the third in the second row (not seen on the picture). Next to him stood Pleshcheyev and Durov.

The members of the Petrashevsky Circle were denounced to Liprandi, an official at the Ministry of International Affairs. Dostoyevsky was accused of reading works by Belinsky, including Correspondence with Gogol, and of circulating copies of these and other works. Antonelli, the government agent who had reported the group, wrote in his statement that at least one of the papers criticised Russian politics and religion. Dostoyevsky responded to these charges by declaring that he had read the essays only "as a literary monument, neither more nor less"; he spoke of "personality and human egoism" rather than of politics. Even so, he and his fellow "conspirators" were arrested on 22 April 1849 at 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 held in the well-defended Peter and Paul Fortress, which housed the most dangerous convicts.

The case was discussed for four months by an investigative commission headed by the Tsar, with Adjutant General Ivan Nabokov, senator Count Pavel Gagarin, Count Vasili Dolgorukov, General Yakov Rostovtsev and General Leonty Dubelt, head of the secret police. They sentenced the members of the circle to death by firing squad, and the prisoners were taken to Semyonov Place in St Petersburg on 23 December 1849. The execution was stayed when a cart delivered a letter from the Tsar commuting the sentence. Dostoyevsky served four years of exile with hard labour at a katorga prison camp in Omsk, Siberia, followed by a term of compulsory military service. After a fourteen-day sleigh ride, the prisoners reached Tobolsk, a prisoner way station. Despite the circumstances, Dostoyevsky consoled the other prisoners, such as the Petrashevist Ivan Yastrzhembsky, who was surprised by Dostoevsky's kindness and eventually abandoned his decision to commit suicide. In Tobolsk, the members received food and clothes from the Decembrist women, as well as several copies of the New Testament with a ten-ruble banknote inside each copy. Eleven days later, Sergey Durov and Dostoyevsky reached Omsk, where Dostoevsky described his barracks:

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 shackled until his release. He was permitted to read nothing but his New Testament. In addition to his seizures, he had haemorrhoids, lost weight and was "burned by some fever, trembling and feeling too hot or too cold every night". The smell of the privy pervaded the entire building, and the small bathroom had to suffice for more than 200 people. Dostoyevsky was occasionally sent to the military hospital, where he read newspapers and Dickens novels. He was generally respected by the prisoners, but despised by some because of his xenophobic statements.

Release from prison

Dostoyevsky (right) and the Kazakh scholar Shokan Walikhanuli in 1859

After his release on 14 February 1854, Dostoyevsky asked Mikhail to help him financially and to send him books by Vico, Guizot, Ranke, Hegel and Kant. He began to write The House of the Dead, based on his experience in prison; it became the first novel to be written about Russian prisons. Before moving in mid-March to Semipalatinsk, where he was forced to serve in the Siberian Army Corps of the Seventh Line Battalion, Dostoyevsky met geographer Pyotr Semyonov and ethnographer Shokan Walikhanuli. Around November 1854, he met Baron Alexander Egorovich Wrangel, an admirer of his books, who had attended the aborted execution. They both rented houses in the Cossack Garden outside Semipalatinsk. Wrangel remarked that Dostoyevsky "looked morose. His sickly, pale face was covered with freckles, and his blond hair was cut short. He was a little over average height and looked at me intensely with his sharp, grey-blue eyes. It was as if he were trying to look into my soul and discover what kind of man I was."

In Semipalatinsk, Dostoyevsky tutored several schoolchildren and came into contact with upper-class families, including that of Lieutenant-Colonel Belikhov, who used to invite him to read 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 the latter. Alexander Isaev took a new post in Kuznetsk, where he died in August 1855. Maria then moved with Dostoyevsky to Barnaul. In 1856 Dostoyevsky sent a letter through Wrangel to General Eduard Totleben, apologising for his activity in several utopian circles. As a result, he obtained the right to publish books and to marry, although he remained under police surveillance for the rest of his life. He married Maria in Semipalatinsk on 7 February 1857. In 1859 he was released from military service because of deteriorating health and was granted permission to return to Russia, first to Tver, where he met his brother for the first time in ten years, and then to St Petersburg.

Dostoyevsky in Paris (1863)

"A Little Hero" (Dostoyevsky's only work completed in prison) appeared in a journal, but "Uncle's Dream" and "The Village of Stepanchikovo" were not published until 1860. Notes from the House of the Dead was released in Russky Mir (Russian World) in September 1860. "The Insulted and the Injured" was published in the new Vremya (Time) magazine, which had been created with the help of funds from his brother's cigarette factory.

Dostoyevsky travelled to western Europe for the first time on 7 June 1862, visiting Cologne, Berlin, Dresden, Wiesbaden, Belgium and Paris. In London he met Herzen and visited the Crystal Palace. He travelled with Nikolay Strakhov through Switzerland and several North Italian cities, including Turin, Livorno and Florence. He recorded his impressions of those trips in Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, in which he criticised capitalism, social modernisation, materialism, Catholicism and Protestantism.

From August to October 1863, Dostoyevsky made another trip to western Europe. He met his second love, Polina Suslova, in Paris and lost nearly all his money gambling in Wiesbaden and Baden-Baden. In 1864 his wife Maria and brother Mikhail died, and Dostoyevsky became the lone parent of his stepson Pasha and the sole supporter of his brother's family. The failure of Epoch, the magazine he had founded with Mikhail after the suppression of Vremya, worsened his financial situation, although the continued help of his relatives and friends averted bankruptcy.

Marriage and honeymoon

Anna Snitkina

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.

Dostoyevsky returned to Saint Petersburg in mid-September and promised his editor, Fyodor Stellovsky, that he would complete The Gambler, a short novel focused on gambling addiction, by November, although he had not yet begun writing it. One of Dostoyevsky's friends, Milyukov, advised him to hire a secretary. Dostoyevsky contacted stenographer Pavel Olkhin from Saint Petersburg, who recommended his pupil Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina. Her shorthand helped Dostoyevsky to complete The Gambler on 30 October, after 26 days' work. She remarked that Dostoyevsky was of average height but always tried to carry himself erect. "He had light brown, slightly reddish hair, he used some hair conditioner, and he combed his hair in a diligent way ... his eyes, they were different: one was dark brown; in the other, the pupil was so big that you could not see its colour, [this was caused by an injury]. The strangeness of his eyes gave Dostoyevsky some mysterious appearance. His face was pale, and it looked unhealthy."

Dostoyevsky's study in Saint Petersburg

On 15 February 1867 Dostoyevsky married 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. On 14 April 1867 they began a delayed honeymoon in Germany with the money gained from the sale. They stayed in Berlin and visited the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, where he sought inspiration for his writing. They continued their trip through Germany, visiting Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Heidelberg and Karlsruhe and finally staying in Geneva.

Their first child, Sonya, was conceived in Baden-Baden, and was born there on 5 March 1868. The baby died of pneumonia three months later, and Anna recalled how Dostoyevsky "wept and sobbed like a woman in despair". In September 1868, Dostoyevsky began work on The Idiot, managing to complete 100 pages in only 23 days. The couple moved from Geneva to Vevey and then to Milan, where they endured some rainy autumn months before continuing to Florence. The Idiot was completed there in January 1869 and serialised in The Russian Messenger. Anna gave birth to their second daughter, Lyubov, on 26 September 1869 in Dresden. In April 1871, Dostoyevsky made a final visit to a gambling hall in Wiesbaden. Anna claimed that he stopped gambling after the birth of their second daughter, but this is a subject of debate.

After hearing news that the socialist revolutionary group "People's Vengeance" had murdered one of its own members on 21 November 1869, Dostoyevsky began writing Demons. In 1871, Dostoyevsky and Anna travelled by train to Berlin. During the trip he burnt several manuscripts, including those of The Idiot, because he was concerned about potential problems with customs. The family arrived in Saint Petersburg on 8 July, marking the end of a honeymoon (originally planned for three months) that had lasted over four years.

Return to Russia

Back in Russia in July 1871, the family was again in financial trouble and had to sell their remaining possessions. Their son Fyodor was born on 16 July, and they moved to an apartment near the Institute of Technology soon after. They hoped to cancel their large debts by selling their rental house in Peski, but difficulties with the tenant resulted in a relatively low selling price, and disputes with their creditors continued. Anna proposed that they raise money on her husband's copyrights and negotiate with the creditors to pay off their debts in installments.

Dostoyevsky (left) in the Haymarket, 21/22 March 1874

Dostoyevsky revived his friendships with Maykov and Strakhov and made new acquaintances, including church politician Terty Filipov and the brothers Vsevolod and Vladimir Solovyov. Konstantin Pobedonostsev, future Imperial High Commissioner of the Most Holy Synod, influenced Dostoyevsky's political progression to conservatism. Around early 1872 the family spent several months in Staraya Russa, a town known for its mineral spa. Dostoyevsky's work was delayed when Anna's sister Maria Svatkovskaya died on 1 May 1872, either from typhus or malaria, and Anna developed an abscess on her throat.

The family returned to St Petersburg in September. The Possessed was finished on 26 November and released in January 1873 by the "Dostoyevsky Publishing Company", which was founded by Dostoyevsky and his wife. Although they only accepted cash payments and the bookshop was in their own apartment, the business was successful, and they sold around 3,000 copies of The Possessed. Anna managed the finances. Dostoyevsky proposed that they establish a new periodical, which would be called A Writer's Diary and would include a collection of essays, but funds were lacking, and the Diary was published in Vladimir Meshchersky's The Citizen, beginning on 1 January, in return for a salary of 3,000 rubles per year. In the summer of 1873, Anna returned to Staraya Russa with the children, while Dostoyevsky stayed in St Petersburg to continue with his Diary.

In March 1874 Dostoyevsky left The Citizen because of the stressful work and interference from the Russian bureaucracy. In his fifteen months with The Citizen, he had been taken to court twice: on 11 June 1873 for citing the words of Prince Meshchersky without permission, and again on 23 March 1874. Dostoyevsky offered to sell The Russian Messenger, a new novel he had not yet begun to write, but the magazine refused. Nikolay Nekrasov suggested that he publish A Writer's Diary in Notes of the Fatherland; he would receive 250 rubles for each printer's sheet – 100 more than The Russian Messenger would have earned. Dostoyevsky accepted. As his health began to decline, he consulted several doctors in St Petersburg and was advised to take a cure outside Russia. Around July, he reached Ems and consulted a physician, who diagnosed him with acute catarrh. During his stay he began The Adolescent. He returned to Saint Petersburg in late July.

Anna proposed that they spend the winter in Staraya Russa to allow Dostoyevsky to rest, although doctors had suggested a second visit to Ems because his health had previously improved there. On 10 August 1875 his son Alexey was born in Staraya Russa, and in mid-September the family returned to Saint Petersburg. Dostoyevsky finished The Adolescent at the end of 1875, although passages of it had been serialised in Notes of the Fatherland since January. The Adolescent chronicles the life of Arkady Dolgoruky, the illegitimate child of the landowner Versilov and a peasant mother. It deals primarily with the relationship between father and son, which became a frequent theme in Dostoyevsky's subsequent works.

Last years

In early 1876, Dostoyevsky continued work on his Diary. The book includes his classic works, composition books, sketches, drafts, letters, autographs, and committed thoughts. It encompasses social, religious, political, and ethical themes. The collection sold over twice as many copies as his previous books. Dostoyevsky received more letters from readers than ever before, and he was visited by readers of all ages and occupations. With assistance from Anna's brother, the family was finally able to buy a dacha in Staraya Russa. In the summer of 1876, Dostoyevsky began experiencing shortness of breath again. He visited Ems for a third time, and was told that he might live for another 15 years by moving to a healthier climate. When Dostoyevsky returned to Russia, Tsar Alexander II ordered him to visit his palace and present the Diary to him. He also requested that Dostoyevsky educate his sons, Sergey and Paul. This visit further increased Dosteyevsky's circle of acquaintances. He was a frequent guest in several salons in St Petersburg, and met many famous people, including Princess Sofya Tolstaya, Yakov Polonsky, Sergei Witte, Alexey Suvorin, Anton Rubinstein, and Ilya Repin.

Last photo of Dostoyevsky, shot 6 months before his death

Dostoyevsky's health declined further, and in March 1877 he had four epileptic seizures. Rather than returning to Ems, he visited Maly Prikol, a manor near Kursk. While returning to St Petersburg to finalise his Diary, Dostoyevsky visited Darovoye, where he had spent much of his childhood. In December, he attended Nekrasov's funeral and gave a speech. He was also appointed an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In February 1879, he received an honorary certificate from the Academy. He declined the invitation to an international congress about copyright in Paris after his son Alyosha had a severe epileptic seizure and died on 16 May. The family later moved to the apartment where Dostoyevsky had written his first works. Around this time, he was elected to the board of directors of the Slavic Benevolent Society in St Petersburg. That summer, he was elected to the honorary committee of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale, whose members included Hugo, Turgenev, Paul Heyse, Alfred Tennyson, Anthony Trollope, Henry Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Leo Tolstoy. Dostoyevsky made his fourth and final visit to Ems in early August 1879. He was diagnosed with early-stage pulmonary emphysema, which his doctor believed could be successfully managed, although not cured.

Dostoyevsky's funeral.

On 3 February 1880, Dostoyevsky was chosen as the vice president of the Slavic Benevolent Society, and he was invited to speak at the unveiling of the Pushkin memorial in Moscow. Dostoyevsky delivered his speech from memory two days later, giving an impressive performance that had a significant emotional impact on his audience. His speech was met with thunderous applause, and even his long-time rival Turgenev embraced him. Dostoyevsky's speech was later criticized by liberal political scientist Alexander Gradovsky, who thought that he idolised "the people", and conservative thinker Konstantin Leontiev, who, in his essay "On Universal Love", compared the speech with French utopian socialism. Konstantin Staniukovich praised the speech in his essay "The Pushkin Anniversary and Dostoevsky's Speech" from The Business, writing that "the language of Dostoevsky's [Pushkin Speech] really looks like a sermon. He speaks with the tone of a prophet. He makes a sermon like a pastor; it is very deep, sincere, and we understand that he wants to impress the emotions of his listeners." The attacks led to a further deterioration of his health.

"He looked as though he were asleep, gently smiling, as though he could see something beautiful"
– Lyubov Dostoyevskaya

On 25 January, the Tsar's secret police, while searching for members of the terror organisation Narodnaya Volya ("The People's Will"), who had assassinated Tsar Alexander II, executed a search warrant in the apartment of one of Dostoyevsky's neighbours. Anna denied that this may have been the cause for Dostoyevsky's pulmonary haemorrhage on 26 January 1881, saying that it occurred after her husband had been searching for a dropped pen holder. The haemorrhage may have also been triggered by the heated disputes with his sister Vera about his aunt Aleksandra Kumanina's estate, which was settled on 30 March and discussed in the St Petersburg City Court on 24 July 1879. His wife would later acquire a part of his estate of around 185 desiatina (around 500 acres or 202 ha) of forest and 92 desiatina of farmland. Following another haemorrhage, Anna called the doctors, who gave a grim prognosis. A third haemorrhage followed shortly afterwards.

Among Dostoyevsky's last words was his citation of Matthew 3:14: "But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" and finishing with "Hear now—permit it. Do not restrain me!". According to a Russian custom, his body was placed on a table. Dostoyevsky was interred in the Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Convent, near his favourite poets, Karamsin and Zhukovsky. It is unclear how many attended his funeral. According to one reporter, more than 100,000 mourners were present, while others describe attendance between 40,000 and 50,000. His tombstone is inscribed with lines from the New Testament:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
— Jesus, from the Gospel According to John 12:24


Dostoyevsky had his first known affair with Avdotya Yakovlevna, whom he met in the Panayev circle in the early 1840s. He described her as educated, interested in literature, and a femme fatale. However, Dostoyevsky later admitted that he was uncertain about their relationship. According to Dostoyevskaya's memoirs, Dostoyevsky once asked his sister's sister-in-law, Yelena Ivanova, whether she would marry him, in order to replace her deathly ill husband in the future, but she rejected his proposal.

Another short but intimate affair was with Polina Suslova, which peaked in the winter of 1862–3. Suslova's infidelity with a Spaniard in late spring and Dostoyevsky's gambling addiction and age ended their relationship. He later described her in a letter to Nadezhda Suslova as a "great egoist. Her egoism and her vanity are colossal. She demands everything of other people, all the perfections, and does not pardon the slightest imperfection in the light of other qualities that one may possess", and later stated "I still love her, but I do not want to love her any more. She doesn't deserve this love ..." Around this time, his first wife Maria died. Maria had previously refused his marriage proposal, stating that they were not meant for each other and that his poor financial situation precluded marriage. When Dostoyevsky later went to Kuznetsk, he discovered her affair with 24-year-old schoolmaster Nikolay Vergunov. Despite this, Maria married Dostoyevsky in Semipalatinsk on 7 February 1857. Their family life was unhappy and she found it difficult to cope with his seizures. Describing their relationship, he wrote: "Because of her strange, suspicious and fantastic character, we were definitely not happy together, but we could not stop loving each other; and the more unhappy we were, the more attached to each other we became". They mostly lived apart. In 1858, Dostoyevsky had a romance with comic actress Aleksandra Ivanovna Schubert. Although she divorced Dostoyevsky's friend Stepan Yanovsky, she would not live with him. Dostoyevsky did not love her either, but they were likely good friends. She wrote that he "became very attracted to me".

Through a worker in Epoch, Dostoyevsky learned of the Russian-born Martha Brown (née Elizaveta Andreyevna Chlebnikova), who had had affairs with several Westerners. She had remained with a Methodist pastor in the Isle of Guernsey, taking the surname "Brown", until divorcing and moving to Russia. Their relationship is known only through letters, which were written between November 1864 and January 1865. In 1865, Dostoyevsky met Anna Korvin-Krukovskaya. Their relationship is not verified; while Anna Dostoyevskaya spoke of a good affair, her sister, the mathematician Sophia, thought that Anna had rejected him. Around 1866, Dostoyevsky fell in love with his stenographer, Anna Snitkina, a "very young and rather nice looking twenty-year-old woman with a kind heart ... I noticed that my stenographer loved me sincerely, though she never told me about it. I also liked her more and more". He later "proposed to her and ... got married".



Dostoyevsky characterized the Crystal Palace a symbol of materialism and industrialization in works including Crime and Punishment and Note from the Underground.

In his youth, Dostoyevsky enjoyed reading Nikolai Karamzin's History of the Russian State, which praised conservatism and Russian independence, ideas that Dostoyevsky would embrace in his late adulthood. Before his arrest for participating in the Petrashevsky circle in 1849, Dostoyevsky remarked, "As far as I am concerned, nothing was ever more ridiculous than the idea of a republican government in Russia". In an 1881 edition of his Diaries, Dostoyevsky stated that the Tsar and the people should form a unity: "For the people, the tsar is not an external power, not the power of some conqueror ... but a power of all the people, an all-unifying power the people themselves desired".

While critical of serfdom, Dostoyevsky was sceptical about the creation of a constitution, a concept he viewed as unrelated to Russia's history. He described it as a mere "gentleman's rule", and believed that "a constitution would simply enslave the people". He advocated for social change instead, including formation of a connection between the peasantry and the affluent classes. Dostoyevsky believed in a utopian, Christianized Russia where "if everyone were actively Christian, not a single social question would come up ... If they were Christians they would settle everything". He thought democracy and oligarchy were poor systems, as exemplified by the French state of affairs: "the oligarchs are only concerned with the interest of the wealthy; the democrats, only with the interest of the poor; but the interests of society, the interest of all and the future of France as a whole—no one there bothers about these things." He maintained that political parties ultimately led to social discord. In the 1860s, he discovered Pochvennichestvo, a movement similar to Slavophilism in that it rejected Europe's culture and contemporary philosophical movements, such as nihilism and materialism. Unlike Slavophilism, however, Pochvennichestvo did not aim to establish an isolated Russia, but instead a more open Peter the Great state.

In his incomplete article "Socialism and Christianity", Dostoyevsky claimed that civilisation ("the second stage in human history") was degraded, and was moving towards liberalism and losing its faith in God. He asserted that the traditional concept of Christianity should be recovered. He felt that contemporary western Europe "rejected the single formula for their salvation that came from God and was proclaimed through revelation, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself', and replaced it with practical conclusions such as, 'Chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous' ("Every man for himself and God for all"), or scientific slogans like ' the struggle for survival'". This crisis was the consequence of the collision between communal and individual interests, brought about by a decline in religious and moral principles.

Dostoyevsky distinguished three "enormous world ideas" prevailing in his time: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Russian Orthodoxy. He claimed that Catholicism had continued the tradition of Imperial Rome, and had thus become anti-Christian and proto-socialist inasmuch as the Church's interest in political and mundane affairs made it leave behind the idea of Christ. For Dostoyevsky, socialism was "the latest incarnation of the Catholic idea" and its "natural ally". He faulted Protestantism as self-contradictory, and claimed that it would ultimately lose power and spirituality. By contrast, he exalted the Russian or Slavic idea, grounded in Russian Orthodoxy, which he deemed the ideal Christianity.

During the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Dostoyevsky asserted that war may be necessary if salvation were granted. He wanted to eliminate the Muslim Ottoman Empire and retrieve the Christian Byzantine Empire. Furthermore, he hoped for the liberation of Balkan Slavs and their unification with the Russian Empire.


Dostoyevsky expressed antisemitic sentiments, some of which are found in his Diaries, but he also stood up for the rights of the Jewish people. In a review of Joseph Frank's book, The Mantle of the Prophet, Orlando Figes notes that A Writer's Diary is "filled with politics, literary criticism, and pan-Slav diatribes about the virtues of the Russian Empire, [and] represents a major challenge to the Dostoyevsky fan, not least on account of its frequent expressions of antisemitism." Frank, in his foreword for David I. Goldstein's book Dostoevsky and the Jews, attempted to paint Dostoyevsky as a product of his time, noting that Dostoyevsky made antisemitic remarks, but was not entirely comfortable with these views.

He supported equal rights for the Russian Jewish population, which was an unpopular position in Russia. Dostoyevsky stated that he did not hate Jewish people and was not antisemitic. He spoke of the potential negative influence of Jewish people, but advised the Tsar to allow them positions of influence in Russian society, such as access to university professorships. The label does not reflect his expressed desire to reconcile Jews and Christians peacefully in a universal brotherhood of mankind.


The New Testament given to Dostoyevsky in January 1850 shortly before his imprisonment in Siberia.

Dostoyevsky was raised in a "pious Russian family" and knew the Gospel "almost from the cradle". He was introduced to Christianity through the Russian translation of Johannes Hübner's One Hundred and Four Sacred Stories from the Old and New Testaments Selected for Children (partly a German bible for children and partly a catechism), attended Liturgy every Sunday from an early age, and took part in annual pilgrimages to the St Sergius Trinity Monastery. Dostoyevsky was also educated by a deacon who lived near the hospital. Among his most cherished childhood memories were the prayers he used to say in front of guests, as well as a reading from the Book of Job, which "made an impression on [Dostoyevsky]" when "still almost a child".

According to an officer at the military academy, Dostoyevsky was profoundly religious, followed Orthodox practice, and regularly read the Gospels and Heinrich Zschokke's Die Stunden der Andacht ("Hours of Devotion"), which "preached a sentimental version of Christianity entirely free from dogmatic content and with a strong emphasis on giving Christian love a social application". This book may have prompted his later interest in Christian socialism. Through the literature of Hoffmann, Balzac, Sue, and Goethe, Dostoyevsky created his own belief system, similar to Russian sectarianism and Old Belief. After his arrest, intended execution, and subsequent imprisonment, he focused intensely on the figure of Christ and the New Testament, the only book allowed in prison. In a January 1854 letter to the woman who had sent him the Testament, Dostoyevsky wrote that he was a "child of unbelief and doubt up to this moment, and I am certain that I shall remain so to the grave." He also wrote that "even if someone were to prove to me that the truth lay outside Christ, I should choose to remain with Christ rather than with the truth."

In Semipalatinsk, Dostoyevsky revived his trust in God by frequently looking at the stars. Wrangel said that he was "rather pious, but did not often go to church, and disliked priests, especially the Siberian ones. But he spoke about Christ ecstatically". Both planned to translate Hegel's works and Carus' Psyche. Dostoyevsky explored Islam after asking his brother to send him a copy of the Quran. Two pilgrimages and two works by Dmitri Rostovsky, the archbishop who influenced Ukrainian and Russian literature by composing groundbreaking religious plays, strengthened his beliefs. Through his visits to western Europe and discussions with Herzen, Grigoriev, and Strakhov, Dostoyevsky discovered the Pochvennichestvo movement and the theory that the Catholic Church had adopted the principles of rationalism, legalism, materialism, and individualism from ancient Rome, and passed on its philosophy to Protestantism and consequently to atheistic socialism.

Dostoyevsky's ultimate beliefs remain uncertain, since he never fully stated his faith. One exception might be his response, in April 1876, to a question about a suicide in Diary of a Writer, remarking that he was a "philosophical deist"—this was a quote from The Adolescent, though he did not say that it was. Two months later, however, Dostoyevsky wrote in his Diaries that his heroine George Sand "died a deisté, firmly believing in God and in the immortality of the soul". However, deists at that time held different beliefs about the immortality of the soul. Also, his belief in doctrines such as the Trinity—clearly discussed in The Brothers Karamazov, for example—suggests that he did not thoroughly understand the meaning of this term.

Overall, many critics have pointed out that Dostoyevsky's religion is unusual and partially at odds with the Christian dogma. Malcolm V. Jones has found elements of Islam and Buddhism in Dostoyevsky's religious convictions.

Themes and style

Manuscript of Demons

Dostoyevsky manifested religious, psychological, and philosophical thoughts in his body of work. His works explore such themes as suicide, poverty, human manipulation, and morality. Psychological themes include "dreaming", which becomes evident beginning in "White Nights", and the father-son relationship, beginning in A Raw Youth. In most of his works, Dostoyevsky demonstrated his vision of contemporary Russia, with its chaotic sociopolitical structure. His early works emphasised the realistic and naturalistic social life, including the differences between poor and rich. Influences from other writers, clearly evident particularly in his early works, led to accusations of plagiarism, but his style gradually became clearly his own. After his release from prison, Dostoyevsky incorporated religious themes, particularly Russian Orthodox, into his writing. Elements of gothic fiction, romanticism, and satire are inherent parts in some of his books.

Dostoyevsky's canon includes novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, essays, pamphlets, limericks, epigrams, and poems. He also wrote more than 400 letters, a dozen of which are lost.

The main stylistic elements in his works are polyphony and autobiographical or semi-autobiographical elements. His negative characters, such as the Underground Man in Notes from Underground, Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, Ippolit in The Idiot, Kirillov in Demons, and Ivan Karamazov and Smerdiakov in The Brothers Karamazov, are a product of their times and eventually commit either a crime or suicide.

Dostoyevsky's works were often called "philosophical" despite his lack of knowledge of philosophy; he described himself as "weak in philosophy". "Fyodor Mikhailovich loved these questions about the essence of things and the limits of knowledge", Strakhov wrote. Although theologian George Florovsky described Dostoyevsky as a "philosophical problem" because it is unknown whether Dostoyevsky believed in what he wrote, many philosophical ideas are found in books such as A Writer's Diary and The Brothers Karamazov, because he often wrote in the first person. He may have been critical of rational and logical thinking because he was "more a sage and an artist than a strictly logical, consistent thinker." He represented Kierkegaardian irrationalism in works such as House of the Dead, Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and Demons. His irrationalism is mentioned in William Barrett's Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy and in Walter Kaufmann's Existentialisms from Dostoevsky to Sartre.


Dostoyevsky monument in Dresden

Together with Leo Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky is often regarded as one of the greatest and most influential novelists of the Golden Age of Russian literature. Albert Einstein put him above the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, and called him a "great religious writer" who explores "the mystery of spiritual existence". Friedrich Nietzsche called Dostoyevsky "the only psychologist, incidentally, from whom I had something to learn; he ranks among the most beautiful strokes of fortune in my life". Hermann Hesse enjoyed Dostoyevsky's work, and also cautioned that to read him is like a "glimpse into the havoc". The Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun wrote that "no one has analysed the complicated human structure as Dostoyevsky. His psychologic sense is overwhelming and visionary".

In his posthumously published collection of sketches A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway stated that in Dostoevsky "there were things believable and not to be believed, but some so true that they changed you as you read them; frailty and madness, wickedness and saintliness, and the insanity of gambling were there to know." According to Arthur Power's Conversations with James Joyce, the Irishman praised Dostoyevsky's prose: "... he is the man more than any other who has created modern prose, and intensified it to its present-day pitch. It was his explosive power which shattered the Victorian novel with its simpering maidens and ordered commonplaces; books which were without imagination or violence." In her essay The Russian Point of View, Virginia Woolf said, "Out of Shakespeare there is no more exciting reading". Franz Kafka called Dostoyevsky his "blood-relative", and was heavily influenced by his works, particularly The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment, both of which had a profound effect on The Trial. Sigmund Freud called his final work "the most significant novel ever written". Modern cultural movements such as the surrealists, the existentialists and the Beats cite Dostoyevsky as an influence. Dostoyevsky is cited as the forerunner of Russian symbolism, existentialism, expressionism and psychoanalysis.

Soviet Union stamp, 1971

In 1956, an olive-green postage stamp dedicated to Dostoyevsky was released in the Soviet Union with a print run of 1,000 copies. A Dostoevsky Museum was opened on 12 November 1971 in the apartment where he wrote his first and final novels. A minor planet discovered in 1981 by Lyudmila Karachkina was named 3453 Dostoevsky. Viewers of the TV show Name of Russia voted him the ninth greatest Russian of all time, behind chemist Dmitry Mendeleev and ahead of ruler Ivan IV. A Moscow Metro station on the Lyublinsko-Dmitrovskaya Line opened on 19 June 2010, the 75th anniversary of the Moscow Metro, which bore Illustrations made by artist Ivan Nikolaev depicting scenes from Dostoyevsky's works, such as controversial suicides.

Dostoyevsky's work did not always meet positive receptions. Several critics, such as Nikolay Dobrolyubov, Ivan Bunin, and Vladimir Nabokov, viewed his writing as excessively psychological and philosophical rather than artistic. Others found fault in chaotic and disorganised plots, whereas others, like Turgenev, identified faults in "excessive psychologising" or an overdetailed naturalism. His style was deemed "prolix, repetitious and lacking in polish, balance, restraint and good taste". Saltykov-Shchedrin, Tolstoy, and Mikhailovsky, among others, criticised his puppet-like characters, most prominently in The Idiot, The Possessed, and The Brothers Karamazov. The unrealistic puppet-like feature was compared with that of Hoffmann's characters, an author whom Dostoyevsky admired.

Basing his estimation on a stated criteria of enduring art and individual genius, Vladimir Nabokov judged Dostoyevsky as "not a great writer, but rather a mediocre one—with flashes of excellent humour but, alas, with wastelands of literary platitudes in between." He complains that the novels are peopled by "neurotics and lunatics", and notes that Dostoyevsky's characters do not develop: "We get them all complete at the beginning of the tale and so they remain." He finds the novels full of contrived "surprises and complications of plot", which when first read are effective. On a second reading, though, and without the shock and benefit of these surprises, the books appear loaded with "glorified cliché".


Dostoyevsky's books have been translated into more than 170 languages, and have sold around 15 million copies. The German translator Wilhelm Wolfsohn published one of the first translations, parts of Poor Folk, in an 1846–1847 magazine, and a French translation followed. Generally, French, German and Italian translations came directly from the original, while English translations were second-hand and of low quality. The first English translations were provided by Marie von Thilo in 1881, but the first acclaimed translations into English were produced between 1912 and 1920 by Constance Garnett. Her flowing and easy translations helped popularize Dostoyevsky's novels in anglophone countries, and Bakthin's Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (1929) provided further understanding of his style.

Dostoyevsky's works were interpreted in film or stage in many different countries. Princess Varvara Dmitrevna Obolenskaya was among the first to propose staging Crime and Punishment, but Dostoyevsky denied the proposal, as he believed that "each art corresponds to a series of poetic thoughts, so that one idea cannot be expressed in another non-corresponding form." His extensive explanations objecting to transposition of his works into other media were groundbreaking in fidelity criticism. He felt that only one episode should be picked or an idea incorporated into a separate work. Among the most effective adaptions, according to critic Alexander Burry, are Sergei Prokofiev's The Gambler, Leoš Janáček's From the House of the Dead, Akira Kurosawa's The Idiot, and Andrzej Wajda's The Possessed.

After the 1917 Russian Revolution, Dostoyevsky's books were often censored or banned. His philosophy, particularly in Demons, was deemed capitalistic and anti-Communist, leading Maxim Gorky to nickname the author "our evil genius". Reading Dostoyevsky was forbidden, and those who caught reading his work were imprisoned. During the Second World War, however, his works were used as propaganda by both the Soviets and the Nazis. After the war, the prohibition in the Soviet Union was overturned. Although the 125th anniversary of his birth was celebrated throughout Russia in 1947, his works were banned again until Nikita Khrushchev's accession to power ten years later, following de-Stalinization and a softening of repressive laws.


Dostoyevsky's works of fiction include 15 novels and novellas, 17 short stories, and 5 translations. Many of his longer novels were first published in serialised form in literary magazines and journals. The years given below indicate the year in which the novel's final part or first complete book edition was published. In English many of his novels and stories are known by different titles.

Major works

Poor Folk

Poor Folk is an epistolary novel that describes the relationship between the somewhat elder, small official Makar Devushkin and the young seamstress Varvara Dobroselova, a remote relative. Both write letters to each other. The tender, sentimental adoration for his relative and her confident, warm friendship with him explained their evident preference for a simple life, although this left them in humiliating poverty.

An unscrupulous merchant finds the inexperienced girl and hires her as his housewife and guarantor. He sends her to a manor, somewhere on a steppe, while Devushkin alleviates his misery and pain with alcohol. The story focuses on poor people who fight their lack of self-esteem. Their misery leads to the loss of their inner freedom, dependence on the social authorities, and the extinction of their individuality. Dostoyevsky shows how poverty and dependence are indissolubly aligned with profound inner damage, i.e. deflection and deformation of the self-esteem, which combine for inner and outer loss.

Crime and Punishment

A detective novel, Crime and Punishment describes Rodion Raskolnikov's life, from the murder of a pawnbroker, to spiritual regeneration from a hooker with a heart of gold, Sonya, to his sentence in Siberia. Strakhov, generally satisfied with the novel, remarked that "Only Crime and Punishment was read in 1866", and Dostoyevsky had managed to portray, aptly and realistically, a Russian person. Initially, however, the novel received a mixed reception from critics, with most of the negative responses coming from nihilists. Grigory Eliseev, of the radical magazine The Contemporary, called the novel a "fantasy according to which the entire student body is accused without exception of attempting murder and robbery".

The Idiot

The novel's protagonist, the twenty-six-year-old Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, returns to Russia after several years at a Swiss sanatorium. Scorned by the society of St. Petersburg for his trusting nature and naivete, he finds himself at the centre of a struggle between a beautiful kept woman, (Nastasya), and a virtuous and pretty young girl, (Aglaja), both of whom win his affection. Unfortunately, Myshkin's very goodness precipitates disaster, leaving the impression that, in a world obsessed with money, power, and sexual conquest, a sanatorium may be the only place for a saint. Myshkin is the personification of a "relatively beautiful man", namely Christ. Coming "from above", he physically resembles common depictions of Jesus Christ: a little bit above medium-sized, with thick, blond hair, sunken cheeks, and a thin, almost entirely white goatee. Like Christ, Myshkin is a teacher, confessor, and mysterious outsider. Passions such as greed or jealousy are alien to him. In contrast to his environment, he puts no value on money and might. He feels compassion without hate, love or ferocity. His relationship with the sinful Mary is obviously inspired by Christ's relationship with Mary Magdalene. He is called "Idiot" because of such differences.


The story of Demons is largely based on the murder of Ivanov, and was influenced by the Book of Revelation. The second characters, Stepan and Pyotr Verkhovensky, are the embodiments of Nechayev and Timofey Granovsky, respectively. The novel takes place in a provincial Russian setting, primarily on the estates of Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky and Varvara Stavrogina. Stepan Trofimovich's son, Pyotr Verkhovensky, is an aspiring revolutionary conspirator who attempts to organize revolutionaries in the area. He considers Varvara Stavrogina's son, Nikolai, central to his plot, because he thinks Nikolai Stavrogin lacks sympathy for mankind. Verkhovensky gathers conspirators such as the philosophizing Shigalyov, suicidal Kirillov, and the former military man Virginsky. He schemes to solidify their loyalty to him and each other by murdering Ivan Shatov, a fellow conspirator. Verkhovensky plans to have Kirillov, who was committed to killing himself, take credit for the murder in his suicide note. Kirillov complies and Verkhovensky murders Shatov, but his scheme falls apart. He escapes, but the remainder of his aspiring revolutionary crew is arrested. In the denouement, Stavrogin kills himself, tortured by his own misdeeds.

The Brothers Karamazov

At nearly 800 pages, The Brothers Karamazov is Dostoyevsky's largest work. It received both critical and popular acclaim and is often cited as his magnum opus. Composed of 12 "books", it tells the story of three protagonists: the novice Alyosha Karamazov, the non-believer Ivan Karamazov, and the soldier Dmitry. The first books introduce the Karamazovs. The main plot is the death of their father Fyodor, while other parts are philosophical and religious arguments 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 ninety-year old Catholic Grand Inquisitor. Instead of answering him, Christ gives him a kiss, and the Inquisitor subsequently releases him, telling him not to return. The tale was misunderstood as a defence of the Inquisitor, while others, such as Romano Guardini, argued that the represented Christ was Ivan's own interpretation of Christ, "the idealistic product of the unbelief". Ivan, however, stated that he is against Christ. Most contemporary critics and scholars agree that Dostoyevsky is particularly attacking Roman Catholicism and socialist atheism that both represent the Inquisitor. He warns the readers against a terrible revelation in the future, referring to the Donation of Pepin around 750 and the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century that in his view corrupted true Christianity.

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