As a fledgling writer, Dostoevski was drawn to humanitarian idealism. Opposing the absolutist rule of Czar Nicholas I, he attended meetings of a revolutionary group called the Petrashevsky Circle, but more out of curiosity than from true revolutionary zeal. In 1849 he and others were arrested at a meeting; he was imprisoned for eight months, tried, and sent to Siberia. But before this sentence was announced, Dostoevski was among the members of the Petrashevsky who were tied to posts and told they were about to be executed until a pardon arrived from the czar at the last moment. This experience had a traumatic affect on Dostoevski, aggravating the epilepsy with which he was already afflicted.
In December, 1949, Dostoevski was sent to a prison in Siberia. After spending four years there, he spent another four years in the Russian army in the Far East. From these experiences later came one of his most impressive works, Memoirs from the House of the Dead (1861). Ironically, the experiences also brought about his conversion to conservatism and gave him respect for Russia’s authoritarian system. This change was effected by Dostoevski’s admiration for the simple Russian peasants he met in prison, their stoic suffering despite injustice, and their deep religious faith in God and the czar.
Dostoevski returned to St. Petersburg in 1859 with a new philosophical and political outlook. Two years later he began to express his conservative...
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