December 22

This Day in History

Literary

Dec 22, 1849:

Dostoevsky reprieved at last minute

On this day, writer Fyodor Dostoevsky is led before a firing squad and prepared for execution. He had been convicted and sentenced to death on November 16 for allegedly taking part in antigovernment activities. However, at the last moment he was reprieved and sent into exile.

Dostoevsky's father was a doctor at Moscow's Hospital for the Poor, where he grew rich enough to by land and serfs. After his father's death, Dostoevsky, who suffered from epilepsy, studied military engineering and became a civil servant while secretly writing novels. His first, Poor People, and his second, The Double, were both published in 1846--the first was a hit, the second a failure.

On December 22, 1849, Dostoevsky was led before the firing squad but received a last-minute reprieve and was sent to a Siberian labor camp, where he worked for four years. He was released in 1854 and worked as a soldier on the Mongolian frontier. He married a widow and finally returned to Russia in 1859. The following year, he founded a magazine, and two years after that he journeyed to Europe for the first time.

In 1864 and 1865, his wife and his brother died, the magazine folded, and Dostoevsky found himself deeply in debt, which he exacerbated by gambling.

In 1866, he published Crime and Punishment, one of his most popular works. In 1867, he married a stenographer, and the couple fled to Europe to escape his creditors. His novel The Possessed (1872) was successful, and the couple returned to St. Petersburg. He published The Brothers Karamazov in 1880 to immediate success, but died a year later.

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