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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Russian novelist
  • Author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) was born in Moscow on November 11, 1821. His father was a staff doctor at a charity hospital, and interaction with the patients was a formative factor during his early years. At the age of nine, Dostoyevsky developed epilepsy, and this too influenced his eventual literary career, as did the lost his mother to tuberculosis in 1837. In 1838, at the age of sixteen, he entered the Military Engineering Institute in St. Petersburg. A year later his father died, allegedly murdered by his own serfs.  Read Full Biography

In 1844, Dostoyevsky graduated as a military engineer and was awarded an army commission, but gave it up to pursue a literary career, writing essays, short stories, and novels. His first novel, Poor Folk, published in April of 1845, was an immediate success.

Several years later, Dostoyevsky became involved with a revolutionary group, the Petrashevsky Circle. When the government moved to suppress the group, Dostoyevsky was arrested and condemned to death. Government forces subjected him to a mock execution, after which he ended up being resentenced to four years of hard labor in a Siberian prison. While in Siberia, Dostoyevsky wrote Uncle’s Dream and Friend of the Family.

In 1857, Dostoyevsky was married to his first wife, Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva. He returned to St. Petersburg, where he published a monthly periodical called Time, which was later shut down by the government for covering the Polish Uprising of 1863. His wife died the next year, and throughout the next few years he struggled acutely with finances, depression, and an addiction to gambling.

In 1866, the publication of his novel, Crime and Punishment, was such a success that it placed him in the front rank of Russian writers. In 1867, he married the much younger Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina and they spent time travelling abroad. His next novel, The Idiot, published in a period of revolutionary agitation, was not considered timely, and likewise, the reception of The Adolescent (or The Raw Youth) was poor. However, his genius was immediately seen in his last novel, The Brothers Karamazov, which earned him an irrevocable place among the great Russian writers.

In Dostoyevsky’s last years, revolutionary activity in Russia increased, with attempts on the life of the czar and high state officials. He became a conservative and edited a conservative weekly until his death of a lung hemorrhage on February 9, 1891 in St. Petersburg.

Portrait by Vasily Perov, 1872

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