Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography

Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski was born on November 11, 1821, in a small Moscow public hospital, where his father, Dr. Mikhail Andreevich Dostoevski, worked. He was the second son to the doctor and Marya Fyodorovna (née Nechaeva). One year after his mother’s death, in 1837, Fyodor enrolled in the St. Petersburg Academy for Military Engineers. He completed his studies at the academy even after his father had died of a stroke in 1839, thanks to the inheritance of the Dostoevski estate.

Like so many writers’ attempts, Dostoevski’s first foray into the literary world was through translation—in his case, of Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet, appearing in print in 1844. His first original work was a novel in letters, Bednye lyudi (1846; Poor Folk, 1887), which met with immediate success, creating quite a literary sensation even before its publication. The great critic Vissarion Belinsky hailed it with such enthusiasm that the novice writer was propelled into early fame.

Dostoevski followed this initial success with Dvoynik (1846; The Double, 1917). It was met more coolly, was considered an artistic failure, and was generally unpopular. The failure of The Double, as seen in the twentieth century, is quite ironic, since it contains many of the thematic occupations that eventually made Dostoevski famous. His next novel, Netochka Nezvanova (1849; English translation, 1920), was fated...

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

There was little in the childhood of Fyodor Mihaylovich Dostoevski to presage his achievements as a writer of world-famous novels. Born into a middle-class family of few cultural pretensions, he received a mediocre education. His father, a physician at a Moscow hospital for the poor, ruled the family with a strict hand and enforced observance of Russian Orthodox ritual at home. When Dostoevski entered the St. Petersburg Military Engineering School in 1838, he found himself unprepared for academic life; nevertheless, he enjoyed his first exposure to literature and soon immersed himself in it. The elder Dostoevski’s murder at the hands of his serfs (he had in the meantime become a modest landowner) and the first signs of his own epilepsy upset Dostoevski’s academic routine, delaying his graduation until 1843.

Dostoevski worked only briefly as a military engineer before deciding to pursue a literary career. When the efforts of acquaintances resulted in the publication of his first fictional work, Poor Folk, his excitement knew no bounds, and he envisioned a promising writing career. His initial success led easily to publication of several additional pieces, among them the uncompleted Netochka Nezvanova and the psychologically impressive The Double. While these works are not considered primary by Dostoevski scholars, they hint at what was to become the author’s fascination with humankind’s ambiguous inner world.

The perfecting of this artistic vision was interrupted by Dostoevski’s encounter with the realities of czarist autocracy under Nicholas I. Dostoevski was active in the Petrashevsky Circle, one of many dissident groups engaged in underground dissemination of sociopolitical pamphlets. Dostoevski’s arrest and death sentence in 1849, commuted at the last moment to prison and exile, initiated a terrible period for the young author. On Christmas Eve of that year, he left St. Petersburg in chains to spend four years in the company of violent criminals in Omsk, Siberia. The inhuman conditions of his imprisonment severely taxed his mental stability, especially because he was forbidden to write or even read anything, except religious matter. He later recorded these experiences graphically in The House of the Dead (initially translated as Buried Alive: Or, Ten Years of Penal Servitude in Siberia), immediately catching public attention for his psychological insight into pathological and criminal behavior. He spent an additional five years (1854-1859) as a political exile in a Siberian army contingent.

In 1857, after recovering...

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography (Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski was born in Moscow on November 11, 1821. His father, a member of the minor nobility, was a former army surgeon at the Marinksky Hospital for the poor; thus, very early in life, Dostoevski came into contact with poverty, disease, and death—topics that were to haunt his literary works. His father was a tyrannical man, while his mother was a meek, frail woman. During his education in Moscow, Dostoevski was attracted to literary studies, but at his father’s bidding, he entered the St. Petersburg Military Academy. While at school, he avidly studied the works of William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Nikolai Gogol, and Honoré de Balzac, and especially the romantic dramas of Friedrich Schiller.

In 1839, Dostoevski’s father was murdered by his own serfs; thus, murder and its effects touched Dostoevski deeply, as borne out in his last and greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Also, during his student days in St. Petersburg, he came into close contact with poverty, alcoholism, and prostitution as he wandered through the notorious Haymarket district of the city. After completing his education, Dostoevski embarked on a literary career, writing translations, articles, and novels. Soon he came under the influence of radical underground organizations and began publishing subversive articles and working with known revolutionaries. In 1849, he was arrested, imprisoned, condemned to death, and paraded...

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201541-Dostoevski.jpgFyodor Dostoevski Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski (dahs-tuh-YEHF-skee), novelist, journalist, religious polemicist, and political reformer, was born in Moscow, Russia, on November 11, 1821, the second child of Mikhail Andreevich Dostoevski and Marya Fedorovna Nechaeva. His father, a surgeon, had served for eight years in the army and, at Fyodor’s birth, held a staff position at St. Mary’s Hospital for the destitute of Moscow. An able and intelligent man who had succeeded in pulling himself out of generations of poverty, Dostoevski’s father was nonetheless often violent, moody, and given to bouts of heavy drinking that frightened his children. His mother was an engaging and attractive woman, practical, efficient, and cheerful in running her household.

Dostoevski had seven brothers and sisters. He was closest to his older brother, Mikhail, and the third child in the family, his sister Varvara. These three seem to have formed a closer relationship to their father than the youngest five, whose lives were centered almost entirely on their mother. Mikhail, Fyodor, and Varvara shared intellectual and literary interests, and Fyodor’s novels and stories reveal themes, types, and motifs closely linked to his lifetime experience with these two close siblings.

Dostoevski spent the first twelve years of his life at home, where he was schooled by his father and by private tutors. He finished his early education at the best boarding school in Moscow, an educational experience recorded in fictional alteration in his novel Podrostok (1875; A Raw Youth, 1916). At sixteen, he entered the St. Petersburg military engineering school, where he was an indifferent student of soldierly science, spending much of his time at musical and theatrical performances, on nights out with fellow cadets, and especially in reading. Dostoevski was a voracious reader, working his way through the classics, being particularly fond of Homer and William Shakespeare. So taken was he with the greatness of these authors that he determined to master the literary craft in a way never before done in the Russian language. This determination, coupled with his father’s murder at the hands of the peasants on a small family estate and his mother’s death from tuberculosis, led Dostoevski in 1844 to begin life anew. He resigned his engineering lieutenant’s commission and became a full-time writer.

His first two literary attempts illustrate the power that he was to manifest throughout his career. First, he translated into Russian the French novelist...

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201541-Dostoevski.jpgFyodor Dostoevski Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski (duhs-tuh-YAHF-skee), thought by many to be the greatest novelist of the nineteenth century, has had an enormous influence on modern literature not only by virtue of the style and content of his works but also in the example he set of a writer’s life. He was the son of a doctor and the second of eight children. Although he was trained as an engineer, his lifelong interest in literature was apparent before he reached the age of twenty. His mother died when he was sixteen, and Dostoevski’s loneliness and need for money at this time are evident in his letters to his father. The need for money became even more acute after he decided to become a professional writer upon his graduation in 1843.

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography (eNotes Publishing)

Fyodor Dostoevsky was born on November 11, 1821, in Moscow, Russia. His father was a doctor, and the family lived close to the hospital where the senior Dostoevsky worked. The neighborhood was one of the worst in Moscow and would mark the young boy, stimulating his compassion for the poor and oppressed of Russia. By the time Dostoevsky was seventeen, both his mother and father were dead. His mother died after suffering from consumption (a disease that is mentioned in Notes From Underground). His father—reportedly a very bitter, often harsh, and very domineering man—is rumored to have been murdered.

After his mother’s death, Dostoevsky was sent to a boarding school in St. Petersburg. He later entered...

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography (Novels for Students)

When Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment in the mid-1860s, he was already a well-known author. Nonetheless, he...

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow, the capital of Russia, on October 20, 1821. The son of a Russian family of moderate privilege and...

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Biography (Novels for Students)

Fedor Dostoevsky Published by Gale Cengage

Born in Moscow on October 30, 1821, Dostoevsky grew up in a privileged family. His father, a doctor, was a tyrannical disciplinarian; his mother was a pious woman who died before Dostoevsky was sixteen. After her death the family moved to a spacious country estate. To escape the oppressive atmosphere at home, he developed a love for reading, in particular the works of Nikolai Gogol, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Honore de Balzac.

While attending boarding school, Dostoevsky received word that his father had been murdered by his serfs. The family did not report the murder for fear of losing income; their serfs would undoubtedly have been sent to Siberia for the crime.

According to his father's wishes, Dostoevsky trained as an engineer at the School of Military Engineers in St. Petersburg. With this training, he accepted a commission in the Czar's army in 1843. After a year he resigned and began his career as an author, depending on income from the family estate. His first novel, Poor Folk (1846), was published to great critical acclaim but little commercial success.

Dostoevsky's participation in the subversive and socialist Petrashevsky Circle led to his imprisonment. In 1849 he was ordered to die by firing squad. Fortunately, an imperial rider appeared in the nick of time with the message that his sentence had been commuted to ten years of hard labor in Omsk, Siberia.

This traumatic experience prompted Dostoevsky to abandon his interest in humanism, atheism, Western ideas, and liberal thought; instead, he focused his attention on Russian Orthodox dogma and conservative politics. These new interests were fueled by studying the only book allowed prisoners in Siberia—the New Testament. Consequently, Dostoevsky's works after 1849 are wrought with Gospel images of suffering and redemption.

After four years in the penal colony at Omsk, he was released on the condition that he serve in the army at Semipalatinsk. While in the service, he met and married a widow. In 1859, with a grant of full amnesty, Dostoevsky returned with his wife to St. Petersburg. He set to work immediately and started two political journals. He wrote articles on his belief that Russia should take a religious and conservative course in its development and published them in his magazines. Tragically, he suffered several personal and professional setbacks in the next few years: his wife died in 1864; he became a gambling addict; his brother died; and the authorities shut down his political journals.

In 1867 Dostoevsky married Anna Snitkina, a young woman who had been employed as his stenographer. Soon after they married, they traveled to Europe to escape creditors. Together they raised four children: Sofia, Lyubov, Fyodor, and Aleksei. These years abroad proved very fruitful for Dostoevsky, as he completed several works before his return to Russia in 1871.

In the 1870s he reconciled himself to the liberal elements of Russian politics. He finished The Brothers Karamazov in 1880. Within a year of the book's publication, Dostoevsky suffered a hemorrhage in his throat and died on January 28, 1881.