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Fedor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
The Russian writer Dostoevski is regarded as one of the world's great
novelists. In Russia he was surpassed only by Leo Tolstoi.
Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevski was born on Nov. 11, 1821, in a Moscow
hospital where his father was a physician. At 13 Fedor was sent to a
Moscow boarding school, then to a military engineering school in St.
Petersburg. Shortly after graduating he resigned his commission in order
to devote his time to writing.
Dostoevski had published two novels and several sketches and short
stories when he was arrested along with a group of about 20 others with
whom he had been studying French socialist theories. After the 1848
revolutions in Western Europe, Russia's Czar Nicholas I decided to round
up all of that country's revolutionaries, and in April 1849 Dostoevski's
group was imprisoned. Dostoevski and several others were sentenced to be
shot, but at the last minute their sentence was changed to four years of
hard labor in a prison in Omsk, Siberia. There, Dostoevski said, they
were "packed in like herrings in a barrel" with murderers and other
criminals. He read and reread the New Testament, the only book he had,
and built a mystical creed, identifying Christ with the common people of
Russia. He had great sympathy for the criminals.
As a child Dostoevski suffered from mild epilepsy, and it grew worse
in prison. After four years in prison, he was sent as a private to a
military station in Siberia. There in 1857 he met and married a widow
named Marie Isaeva.
In 1860 Dostoevski was back in St. Petersburg. The next year he began
to publish a literary journal that was soon suppressed, though he had by
now lost interest in socialism. In 1862 he visited Western Europe and
hated the industrialism he saw there. Dostoevski had been separated from
his wife but visited her in Moscow before her death in 1864. In 1867 he
married his young stenographer, Anna Snitkina. He died on Feb. 9, 1881,
in St. Petersburg.