Articles Fyodor Dostoevsky 1


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A good trick, with his name, is to say ‘toy’ in the middle: Dos-toy-ev-ski.
He was born 1821 and grew up on the outskirts of Moscow. His family were comfortably off – his father was a successful doctor, though he happened to work at a charitable hospital that provided medical services for the very poor. The family had a house in the hospital complex, so the young Dostoevsky was from the very beginning powerfully exposed to experiences from which other children of his background were usually carefully sheltered. Like almost everyone in Tsarist Russia his parents were devout Orthodox Christians – and Dostoevsky’s own religious faith got deeper and stronger all his life.

At the age of 12 he was sent away to school first in Moscow and later in the capital, St Petersburg – he got a good education, though as a child of the tiny professional middle-class he felt out of place among his more aristocratic classmates. While he was away at school his father died – possibly murdered by his own serfs.
After graduating Dostoevsky worked as an engineer for a while. He started gambling and losing money (something that was to plague him all his life). In his late twenties he became friends with a group of radical writers and intellectuals. He wasn’t deeply involved but when the government decided to crack down on dissent, Dostoevsky was rounded up too and sentenced to be shot by a firing squad. At the last moment – when the soldiers were ready to fire – the message of a reprieve arrived. He was sent instead to Siberia for four years of forced labour in horrific conditions.