“Any society that, for whatever reasons, fears independent thought is schizophrenic in its attitude toward the writer. On the one hand, it perceives the writer as a possible asset, someone who, through the power of the written word, can further the society’s goals in a much more profound way than politicians or a controlled media. But by the same token, the writer can just as effectively undermine the establishment view and therefore is seen as a potential threat. That schizophrenia manifests itself, I believe, in all societies to a greater or lesser degree, depending on historical tradition”. (Vladimir Pozner, “Parting with illusions”, p.132).
This quote from Vladimir Pozner’s book “Parting with illusions” might sound harsh, but, more or less, it fits for every society. People who say, write things that don’t go in hand with, for example, ruling power of the state, are hated. Those who oppose to rulling forces are called dissidents. Especially widely this term was used in a discussion about Soviet dissidents. For example, Boris Pasternak was called a dissident, though his relationship with dissidency was quite interesting and questionable. But did you know that other famous Russian writer – F. Dostoyevsky was also a dissident? Yes, the same Dostoyevsky who wrote “Crime and punishment”, “Brothers Karamazov”, and other great novels.
Dostoyevsky was born in 1821 in Moscow, Russian empire. He was the second child in his big family (there were 7 more kids in the family). His father – Mikhail Dostoyevsky was a doctor at the hospital for poor people. Fyodor’s mother – Maria Nechaeva was a daughter of a wealthy merchant.
The relationship between Fyodor and his parents was dual. Why? Well, on one hand, his father was a very strict man, extremely suspicious and impulsive. But he truly loved his kids and knew how to educate them. These features of his character and behaviour led to this duality of relationship between him and his son Fyodor. Mother, on the other hand, was a complete opposite to fyodor’s father. Maria nechaeva was a pious woman. Thanks to her, her children became familiar with the Gospel. This aspect will play a significant role in Dostoyevsky’s works.
The way Dostoyevsky’s parents raised their children also played a huge role in their further, adult life. How exactly did it affect their lives? First of all, parents paid a lot of attention to their kids education (schools, etc.). In Dostoyevsky’s family education was considered to be a very important thing. A curious fact is that all the children were taught to read by the book called “104 holly stories of Old and New Testament”. Moreover, at Dostoyevsky’s house children used to read books by such authors as N. Karamzin’s “History of the Russian State (1816–26)”, G. Derzhavin’s, V. Zhukovskiy’s, A. Pushkin’s. Literature, in general, had a very high position in this house. Maybe it was one of the aspects why Fyodor decided to relate his further life precisely with literature.
Getting back to the subject of education, it should be noted that F. Dostoyevsky got the best education, that a person of his status could possibly get. He spent one year at Drashusav’s half pensionate, 3 years spent at private Chermak’s pensionate. From 1838 he was studying at Primary engineering school, however, he never worked by the profession he gained.
Remember the book I’ve mentioned earlier? The one that Dostoyevsky kids weretaught to read by? Yes, that “104 holly storie of Old and New Testament”. Later, it was brightly reflected in Fyodor’s works. Specifically by involving religious motives directly from this book, discussed previously:
“I had a book of Scripture history then with excellent pictures, called A Hundred and Four Stories from the Old and New Testament, and I learned to read from it. I have it lying on my shelf now; I keep it as a precious relic of the past” (F. Dostoyevsky “Brothers Karamazov”, p.594).
Continuing with Dostoyevsky’s biography and life we cannot escape mentioning his personal life. He was married twice. First time in 1857, he married Maria Isaeva, but saddly, in 1864 she died. The second wife of Dostoyevsky was Ana Snitkina. Dostoyevsky had 4 children, but 2 of them died in early childhood. Snitkina was more than just a wife. Eventually, she became like an agent of his, and that played a huge role in their lives, because without herDostoyevsky would probably written his books for free.
But let’s get back to the personality of Dostoyevsky. We should have in mind that he was very intellectual persona. And he was so from his very young days. While still being at school, he was involved in a literature club, and he used to read excerpts of some his works. That really surprised and impressed other kids of his age. He used to surprise them by his erudition at such young age.
(to be continued).