The name F.M. Dostoevsky has inextricable ties to Saint Petersburg. It is the city where he lived the greater part of his life, where he developed as a writer, and where his fictional characters existed. Together with them he would walk down fantastically real streets, mysterious embankments, and endless squares. Petersburg became a character in his novels: no other city on the face of the earth has acquired such a Dostoevskian appearance as this «intentional» and «insane» city in the world. Here Dostoevsky created such novels as Poor Folk, The Insulted and the Injured, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Adolescent, where the city became a hero of his work.
His first encounter with Saint Petersburg occurred in May of 1837, at the very beginning of «white nights», the city’s most poetic time of year. Petersburg stood before the future writer as a beautiful, romantic city: «There is something inexpressibly touching in nature around Petersburg, when at the approach of spring, she puts forth all her might, all the powers bestowed on her by Heaven, when she breaks into leaf, decks herself out and spangles herself with flowers». However, his joyful perception of the city was darkened by the necessity of studying at the Military Engineering Academy. There his dreams and reality began to diverge. The young romantic began to study at an academy, which was located in the most mysterious building in Petersburg, the MIkhailovsky Castle. Petersburg surrounded him with its secrets. The dream city became a ghost city, where everything was unreal and artificial. To the young Dostoevsky, Petersburg seemed like a puppet theatre.
When he resigned from the service, Dostoevsky the new writer needed to make himself known, and this he did with vigor and talent; in 1846 his first novel, Poor Folk, appeared, bringing him brilliant success. All of Petersburg began to talk about Dostoevsky. He became well-known, continued to write, and published several more works: The Double, The Landlady, Netochka Nezvanova and White Nights. On the night of April 22/23, 1849, Dostoevsky was arrested for his participation in the «revolutionary» Petrashevsky Circle. After the trial he and other members of the circle were exiled to Siberia. The writer was torn away from the literary process for ten years. Upon returning to Petersburg at the end of 1859, Dostoevsky was obliged to start all over again.
Renting apartments in inexpensive parts of town, he would move frequently and never stayed at one address for more than three years. Friends who visited him in various apartments noticed the ascetism of their decor, the simplicity and restraint of the interiors. The main room in Dostoevsky’s apartment was always his study. A desk, often placed in the middle of the room always occupied the principal place there: «Fyodor Mikhailovich’s study was a large room with two windows. In the back of the room stood a soft couch covered with a brown, fairly worn material; in front of it was a round table with a red cloth napkin. On the table were a lamp and two or three albums; all around stood soft chairs and armchairs. The windows were decorated with two large Chinese vases of a beautiful shape. Along the wall stood a large couch made of green morocco leather, and near it was a little table with a decanter of water. On the opposite side, across the length of the room, a writing desk had been pulled out». Thus Anna Dostoevskaya, the writer’s second wife, described the study in the apartment where Dostoevsky created his novel Crime and Punishment.
The writer’s last study in his apartment on Kuznechny Lane, while preserving the simplicity and modesty of the previous ones, was, however, more roomy and comfortable. The Dostoevskys’ financial position had become more stable, Dostoevsky’s popularity had grown, and in the course of the day he would receive a wide variety of guests. On November 12, 1971, the F.M. Dostoevsky Literary-Memorial Museum was opened in the house at 5/2 Kuznechny Lane. Dostoevsky had rented an apartment in this building twice, once for a very short time in 1846, and then from October 1878 until his death, on January 28, 1881. The beginning and end of his writing career turned out to be joined together in one spot. Here he had worked on his early story The Double, and here he wrote his last novel, The Brothers Karamazov.
The Dostoevskys’ apartment was recreated for the most part from the memoirs of his wife Anna. The writer’s study was reconstructed from a photograph taken by the photographer V. Taube after Dostoevsky’s death. Several personal items are on display here: atop the desk are a feather pen, a medicine box, a billfold, and a holder for letters and papers; on the wall in the right-hand corner hangs a silver-framed icon entitled «Divine Mother, Joy of All the Sorrowful». From the study windows one can see the cupolas of Vladimir Church, where Dostoevsky attended services in the last years of his life. The old bookcases contain books that Dostoevsky had in his personal library. In the rear of the room is a couch, above which hangs a photograph of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, Dostoevsky’s favourite painting. On the little table next to the windows is a clock which was stopped on the day and hour of Dostoevsky’s death: January 28, 1881, 8:36 p.m. Saint Petersburg also serves as the writer’s final resting-place. He is buried in the Tikhvinskoe Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, which you will see during 3-day tour in St Petersburg.