There is a saying in Russian that claims how there are three types of people – admirers of Tolstoy’s work, admirers of Dostoevsky’s work, and admirers of them both. In this article, we will continue exploring places related to some of those famous Russian writers. Now is the turn to examine Saint Petersburg in the footsteps of Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Fyodor Dostoevsky in Saint Petersburg
Fyodor Dostoevsky was born and bred in Moscow, but he spent most of his productive life in Saint Petersburg. Dostoevsky was never fond of it. But, the city became an inexhaustible source of stories and characters for his works.
If you read some of Dostoevsky’s novels, you already have the portrait of the city drawn by him in your imagination.
Fyodor Dostoevsky moved to Saint Petersburg from Moscow when he was sixteen. He came to study at the Engineering School that was located in the beautiful St. Michael’s Castle. Therefore, the other name of this castle that you may often hear among locals is Engineering Castle.
Dostoevsky came together with his beloved brother Michael, who also studied in the Engineering School. Like Fyodor, Michael devoted his life to literature and lived in Saint Petersburg for the rest of his life.
Dostoevsky’s favorite place in the castle was the corner room by the window overlooking the Panteleimon Bridge. From that moment and until the end of his life, he preferred corner apartments.
Some people believe that Dostoevsky rented almost exclusively corner apartments because they were less expensive as they required more firewood to keep them warm in the cold season.
Wolf & Beranget Patisserie
This was the best patisserie in the city of Pushkin and Dostoevsky, frequented by many writers.
Here Fyodor Dostoevsky met Mikhail Petrashevsky, who was pioneering the ideas of utopian socialism. It was this acquaintance that nearly cost Dostoevsky his life.
Dostoevsky got carried away by the ideas promoted by Petrashevsky and his secret circle. When the emperor found out about this revolutionary movement, he ordered to imprison all the participants of the ring, and subsequently to execute their leaders.
This café still exists today. It is now known as the Literary Café, but it may as well be called the Evil Café.
It was the last place that Alexander Pushkin, the everything of Russian literature, visited on the morning before his fatal duel.
Peter and Paul Fortress
Dostoevsky and other members of Petrashevsky Circle were imprisoned into single cells of the prison at Peter and Paul Fortress. There he spent half a year and wrote the short story, Small Hero. By that time, he got deeply disappointed by his previous political views. Just before the Christmas of 1849, Dostoevsky and five other members of Petrashevsky Circle, including Petrashevsky himself, were sentenced to death by firing squad.
Mock Execution at Semyonov Place
Semyonov Place was a square for public executions at the imperial time. It was renamed into Pioneer Square by the Bolsheviks because, at the far end of it, the Theatre for Young Audience was inaugurated. And it’s still functioning today.
You will see a monument to A. Griboedov, another Russian writer, at the square. He was not sentenced to death by the Russian Imperial government. However, his fate is no less tragic than that of Dostoevsky. His monument was created in the Soviet time and put there just to fill in space at the square.
Just a minute before the execution was about to happen, an urgent message from the emperor arrived. In it, Nicholas I granted mercy to all convicted and ordered to change the execution on katorga works in Siberia.
This pardon was actually agreed upon the day before, but on a condition that it should be announced at the last minute only.
During the Mock Execution, one of the convicted had lost his mind. And, of course, it left a huge impact on Dostoevsky. He later described the terrifying experience of expecting the execution in his famous novel Idiot.