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Fyodor Dostoevsky


Russian writer Fyodor DostoyevskyFyodor Dostoevsky is a renowned Russian novelist and short-story writer who had a profound influence in the literary world. One of the founding fathers of the philosophical movement (known as existentialism), Dostoevsky's works explored human psychology within the often turbulent political and social realities of 19th century Russia.

Dostoyevsky's best known novels include The Idiot, Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Influenced by events in his own life (see timeline below), many of these great works focus heavily on notions of suffering and despair. They explore man's sinful soul and show that suffering has a purifying effect upon the individual.

Apart from his gift for understanding human psychology, Dostoevsky was also well known for his use of symbolism. Unlike contemporaries like Tolstoy, whose characters are realistic, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's characters are generally more symbolic of the ideas they represent. For this reason, Dostoyevsky is also cited as one of the forerunners of Literary Symbolism.


Fyodor Dostoevsky Timeline

  • 1821 - Fyodor Dostoevsky was born on the 11th of November
    • born to Mikhail, a doctor at the Moscow Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor and Maria Dostoevsky, daughter of a merchant family
  • 1830 - Dostoevsky has his first epileptic seizure
  • 1837 - mother dies and he enters Military Engineering Academy in St. Petersburg
  • 1839 - father is killed, apparently murdered by his own serfs
  • 1841 - writes his first two dramas Mary Stuart and Boris Godunov (now lost)
    • in the same year Dostoevsky passes his exams and obtains a commission
  • 1842 - Dostoevsky is promoted to lieutenant
  • 1843 - first work is published: a translation of Balzac's Eugénie Grandet
  • 1844 - resigns his Commission in the army
  • 1845 - Poor Folk is published to great critical acclaim
    • starts work on The Double and Mr. Prokharchin
  • 1846 - The Double: A Petersburg Poem is published
    • today considered one of Dostoevsky's finest pieces of psychological fiction, it is initially received negatively by literary critics
  • 1847 - starts writing for the St. Petersburg Gazette
    • while working as a reporter, he also finds time to write The Jealous Husband, The Landlady, and A Christmas Tree Party and a Wedding
  • 1848 - Dostoevsky writes A Weak Heart, The Honest Thief, and White Nights
  • 1849 - Dostoevsky is arrested and imprisoned
    • a member of the Petrashevsky Circle (a socialist group of thinkers with revolutionary tendencies), he and the other members of the group are taken out to be executed by firing squad
    • at the last minute, his sentence is commuted to four years hard labour in Siberia, followed by five years military service in exile
    • writes the children's story A Little Hero while in prison in St. Petersburg
  • 1850 - arrives at the prison in Omsk, Siberia
  • 1854 - released from prison in March
    • forced to enroll as a private in the Seventh Line Battalion at Semipalatinsk (present day Kazakhstan)
    • through his friendship with Baron Vrangel, Dostoevsky meets his future wife, Maria Isaeva
  • 1857 - marries widowed Maria Isaeva
  • 1859 - after nearly ten years in exile, Dostoevsky's returns to St. Petersburg
  • 1861 - two works published: The House of the Dead and The Insulted and Injured
  • 1862 - Dostoevsky travels abroad, visiting countries like England and France
    • In London he meets the father of Russian socialism, Alexander Herzen
  • 1863 - Dostoevsky's magazine Vremya (Time) is banned by authorities
    • decides to travel abroad once again, where he meets Apollinaria Suslova, the model for the "proud women" found in his future novels
  • 1864 - Dostoevsky's faces a number of misfortunes, writes Notes from Underground
    • new business venture (journal entitled Epokha) ends in failure
    • his wife Maria Isaeva dies
    • brother Mikhail (business partner in failed magazine) dies
    • heavily in debt and in a desperate state of despair, Dostoevsky writes Notes from Underground
  • 1865 - publishes the first part of The Crocodile under the name A.Y. Poretsky
  • 1866 - Crime and Punishment is published
    • Dostoevsky also hastily writes The Gambler in order to meet debt obligations (many of which were incurred through his own gambling addiction)
  • 1867 - marries the young Anna Snitkina and moves abroad
    • he and Anna (who worked as his stenographer while writing The Gambler), move abroad to escape their creditors - they settle in Dresden
  • 1868 - birth and death of infant daughter, writes The Idiot
    • with Dostoevsky's continued gambling, poor financial state, and death five month old daughter, he and Anna move briefly to Italy where writes The Idiot
  • 1869 - daughter Lyubov is born in Dresden
  • 1870 - homesick Dostoyevsky writes The Possessed and The Eternal Husband
  • 1871 - family returns to Russia, son is born
    • Dostoevsky gives up gambling, moves back to St. Petersburg
    • In July of the same year, son Fyodor is born
  • 1873 - becomes editor of The Citizen
  • 1874 - resigns from The Citizen and writes A Raw Youth
  • 1875 - second son Aleksey is born
  • 1866 - Dostoevsky launches a monthly journal called A Writer's Diary
  • 1877 - Dostoevsky writes and publishes The Dream of a Ridiculous Man
  • 1880 - The Brothers Karamazov is published in its entirety
  • 1881 - Fyodor Dostoevsky dies on the 9th of February
    • plagued by epilepsy since a young boy, the cause of death was a burst blood vessel in his lungs, aggravated by an epileptic seizure


Fyodor Dostoevsky Facts


Russian Name: Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский

Date of Birth: November 11, 1821

Place of Birth: Moscow, Russian Empire

Date of Death: February 9, 1881

Place of Death: Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire

Famous as: Writer, Novelist


Fyodor Dostoevsky Portrait


Fyodor Dostoevsky Museum


Lecture on Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground