Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821 - 1881)

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky is one of the most famous and widely translated Russian writers in the world. His art is closely linked to Petersburg, so that the expression «The Petersburg of Dostoevsky» has been established in cultural-historic circulation.

The writer's outer and inner life was intensely dramatic. His triumphant entry in literature with the novel «Poor Folk» and a number of other works, arrest and investigation for participation in M.V.Petrashevsky's political circle, death sentence substituted with four years of penal servitude, then soldiering and long years of enfranchised being. In 1861 he returned to literary activities, but throughout most of his life he was plagued with poverty, homelessness, and illnesses. In the last years of his life the writer enjoyed wide readers' recognition, loving family and found at last his own home in Staraya Russa. However, constant intense labor and ruined health prematurely severed his life.

Dostoevsky's development as an artist was quite complex. First he, as a champion of utopian socialism, portrayed in his works sufferings of socially oppressed and deprived people (the novel «Poor Folk» - 1846; a book about penal servitude «Notes from the House of the Dead» - 1861; the novel «The Oppressed and Insulted» - 1861). As time passed the focus of the writer's attention moved to portrayal of the man's inner world, analysis of its complex, sometimes unsolvable contradictions. In all his works, especially in the famous novels «Crime and Punishment» (1866), «The Idiot» (1868), «Devils» (1875), «The Adolescent» (1875) and «The Karamazov Brothers» (1879), Dostoevsky presented restless characters striving for truth and sense of life against the background of complex and cruel reality of the post-reform Russian society. The writer did not deny the unjustness of social system, but put responsibility for all that happens in this world on a free human being, stating that everyone «is responsible for everything and everybody», «for everything like the ocean is flowing and contiguous, you touch it in one place - and it echoes in the opposite end of the world» («The Karamazov Brothers»).

Dostoevsky was one of the first to speak about the irrational nature of many human acts, penetrating into the realm of subconscious. He boldly violated traditional aesthetic norms, broadening the limits of what is «permissible» in art, Dostoevsky was a veritable innovator, whose role has been truly realized and valued only in the XX century.

The writer believed in Russia's special predestination and was sure that Russian people through their Russian Orthodox faith would withstand all «temptations» of socialist ideas and show the whole world the only right way - the way of uniting people on the basis of love and brotherhood.

Pushkinsky Dom keeps a major part of the writer's manuscript heritage as well as archive and museum materials associated with his life. These are separate sketches and draft copies referring to the novels «The Devils» and «The Karamazov Brothers»; manuscripts and the opening pages of the print with the author's corrections, reflecting different stages of the author's work on «The Gambler», «The Adolescent», and «The Diary of a Writer». The Manuscript Department also possesses a lot of materials of biographic nature, primarily Dostoevsky's letters to different people and numerous letters addressed to him. A big amount of materials is concentrated in the archives of his wife, A.G.Dostoevskaya, his brother, M.M.Dostoevsky, and other people.

The Literature Museum has in its possession a vast collection of iconographic and memorial materials. These are photographs taken in Dostoevsky's life-time that served as originals for the numerous later portraits of the writer; photographs of his relatives, members of his family, different places associated with the writer's life. The museum also has the writer's death mask made by L.A.Bernshtam and the bust of the writer molded after it that bears, according to the words of Dostoevsky's wife, «striking resemblance». A special group of materials is constituted with the writer's personal things: the cigarette-case, spectacles, the purse, the ink-set and others. These things as well as numerous photographs of the writer were donated to the museum directly by the Dostoevskys - by his widow and children, so their authenticity is unquestionable. There is also a great number of the works made by different artists who illustrated Dostoevsky's texts and executed the writer's portraits, numerous pictorial materials, referring to screen and stage adaptations of the writer's works.

The library concentrates all the editions of Dostoevsky's works. Especially valuable are the books published in his life-time, starting with first publications in the periodicals that were checked and prepared for print by the author himself.

Diverse materials preserved at Pushkinsky Dom are periodically shown at exhibitions that the museum organizes in cooperation with the Manuscript Department on jubilee dates and conferences. Also there have been carried several fundamental research projects devoted to the art and life of Dostoevsky. The major one is the Complete Collection of Dostoevsky's Works and Letters in 30 volumes (1971-1990). It included the entire writer's fiction and journalistic works, sketches of unrealized works, early versions of the novels and long stories, numerous entries and separate notes taken from his sketch books, all the surviving letters of the writer. Many texts were published in that edition for the first time. Also there was prepared and published «Chronicle of Life and Art of Dostoevsky» in 3 volumes (1993-1995) - the most detailed code of all events of the writer's life. Alongside with these editions researches of the Dostoevsky Studies Group constantly publish research works, issue serial collections »Dostoevsky. Materials and Researches» that bring together works of Russian and foreign Dostoevsky scholars devoted to different aspects of the writer's art and biography.

A.V.Arkh