Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky is considered one of the greatest and most significant writers, not only of Russia, but of the world. He is best known for his novels Crime and Punishment (Преступление и наказание), The Brothers Karamazov (Братья Карамазовы), The Demons (Бесы), and The Idiot (Идиот), and his novella, Notes from the Underground (Записки из подполья), which explore deep psychological themes.
Born on November 11, 1821 in Moscow. Unlike many other 19th century Russian writers such as Tolstoy and Turgenev, Dostoyevsky was not born to a landed gentry family and spent much of his life in need of money and hurrying to publish. He came from a pious family, and religion was very important to him personally as well as in his writing. His father was a doctor and his mother was from a merchant family. Dostoyevsky studied at the Academy of Military Engineering in Saint Petersburg, according to his father's wishes, but he was drawn to literature instead.
In his 20s, he became involved with a group of intellectuals who discussed utopian socialism, called the Petrashevsky Circle. In 1849, he and several other members of the group were accused of reading and circulating anti-government essays and were arrested. After eight months in prison in the Saint Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg, he was led out to be executed in Semyonovsky Square. It turned out to be a "mock-execution" - a letter from the tsar commuting the sentence arrived just in time - but Dostoyevsky and his fellow prisons all believed they were about to die. He was instead sentenced to four years in a Siberian labor camp. His later novel The House of the Dead (Записки из Мёртвого дома), was based on this experience.
He spent most of his later years in Saint Petersburg, and also spent several years in Western Europe. He was married twice, and had several affairs. He died in 1881 of a pulmonary hemorrhage and was buried in Tikhvin Cemetery (Тихвинское кладбище) in Saint Petersburg. Tens of thousands of mourners attended his funeral.
What's on in Saint Petersburg?
In memory of Dostoyevsky's 196th birthday, on November 11th, there are the following activities in Saint Petersburg:
14.30: Laying of flowers on Dostoyevsky’s grave. Necropolis for Masters of the Arts, St Alexander Nevsky Monastery (Lavra) (Alexander Nevsky Square, 1)
15.30-16.30: Memorial service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Vladimir (Vladimirsky prospekt, 20)
If you want to see more of Dostoyevsky's life in Saint Petersburg, come to Derzhavin Institute's "Saint Petersburg of Dostoyevsky" walking tour with a professional guide https://derzhavin.com/en/pages/220/, or take a self-guided tour http://www.saint-petersburg.com/tours/walking-tours/dostoevsky-walking-tour/
Dostoyevsky fans should also be sure not to miss the Literary Memorial Museum F.M. Dostoyevsky. http://www.md.spb.ru/
Crime and Punishment might still above your Russian level, but see if you can understand something from these quotes!
1. Красота спасёт мир.
The world will be saved by beauty.
2. Страданием своим русский народ как бы наслаждается.
Russian people seem to enjoy their suffering.
3. Перестать читать книги — значит перестать мыслить.
To stop reading books means to stop thinking.
4. Очень немного требуется, чтобы уничтожить человека: стоит лишь убедить его в том, что дело, которым он занимается, никому не нужно.
Very little is required to destroy a person: one has only to convince him that the business he is engaged in is not necessary to anyone.
5. Надо любить жизнь больше, чем смысл жизни.
We must love life more than the meaning of life.
6. Нет счастья в комфорте, покупается счастье страданием.
There is no happiness in comfort; happiness comes from suffering.
7. Удивительно, что может сделать один луч солнца с душой человека!
It's amazing what one ray of the sun can do with the soul of a man!
8. Кто хочет приносить пользу, тот даже со связанными руками может сделать много добра.
Whoever wants to be useful, even with bound hands can do a lot of good.
9. Влюбиться, еще не значит любить. Влюбиться можно и ненавидя.
To fall in love does not mean to love. You can fall in love and hate.
10. Свобода не в том, чтоб не сдерживать себя, а в том, чтоб владеть собой.
Freedom is not to not restrain yourself, but to control yourself.