Author: Huxley
© Huxley - an almanac about philosophy, art and science.
Liberal Arts
8 minutes for reading

“MARQUIS DE SADE OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE”: to the 200th anniversary of the birth of F. M. Dostoevsky

"MARQUIS DE SADE OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE": to the 200th anniversary of the birth of F. M. Dostoevsky
Share material


Was Dostoevsky Ukrainian? Is it true that the writer was morbidly obsessed with sex? Do the ideas about his insanity and epilepsy correspond to reality? Whose beauty was supposed to save the world? You will find answers to these and other questions in the material prepared by us for the anniversary of the writer.


There are people who have read Dostoevsky’s novels. There are those who are going to read them. And there are those who have never read them and categorically refuse to do it … For some time now, humanity has been divided into these three groups. But, no matter how anyone relates to the work and personality of Fyodor Mikhaylovich, one thing is clear: without him it is impossible to imagine the culture of the 19th, 20th, and even the 21st centuries.

Great Pentateuch of Dostoevsky, which is composed of the novels Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, The Adolescent, and Demons, influenced not only philosophy and literature, but also gave impetus to such a syncretic direction as psychoanalysis…

Everyone who follows the publications in our almanac may remember that representatives of various professions and nationalities are called their “main” writer Dostoevsky.

For example, such dissimilar people as the famous violinist Joshua Bell or the outstanding teacher Shalva Amonashvili. In this publication, timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birth of the writer, we have collected little-known facts about him.




Even his contemporaries treated the work of Dostoevsky differently… For example, Ivan Turgenev, who was perhaps the highest paid literary “star” of that time, considered Fyodor Mikhaylovich to be something like a domestic Marquis de Sade. The fact is that Turgenev himself could have been, considering his uneasy relationship with his mother and women, an excellent subject for psychoanalysis.

But only Dostoevsky succeeded in portraying all kinds of psychopathology in such details and reliably on the pages of his novels. It seemed incredible to depict human vices so believable, while not possessing them yourself. In the manuscript of Demons, Nikolai Stavrogin rapes a nine-year-old girl.

Apparently, even for the “Russian Marquis de Sade” this scene seemed “too much”, and Dostoevsky excluded it from the final version of the novel. Also, the scene of the rape of his youngest son Ivan by Fyodor Karamazov was excluded from the printed version of Demons. His brother Dmitry could not look at it indifferently, which, in fact, motivated him to kill his father.


"MARQUIS DE SADE OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE": to the 200th anniversary of the birth of F. M. Dostoevsky
Konstantin Trutovsky, Portrait of Dostoevsky at the age of 26, 1847




Legends were written about Dostoevsky’s own morbid obsession with sex and his intimate addictions in St. Petersburg. It was allegedly aided by the stories of prostitutes to their clients about the “oddities” of the writer.

There is a persistent myth that Dostoevsky was a frequenter of the capital’s brothels, and he was well aware of the lives and fates of the inhabitants there. Therefore, he probably didn’t even have to invent characters like Sonya Marmeladova.

The “Odyssey of Debauchery” ended when Fyodor Mikhaylovich married for the second time to Anna Snitkina, whom he not only loved madly, but also madly jealous, as they say, of every pillar, making endless scandals.

Anna, in turn, idolized him and patiently endured everything. A 20-year-old girl who married a 45-year-old man with “weirdness” had to close her eyes to some anomalies in her intimate life, which Dostoevsky did not get rid of even in marriage.

It is believed that female beauty and sexuality had a tremendous emotional impact on the writer. And so strong that in 1846, being introduced to a high society beauty in one of the capital’s salons, Dostoevsky fainted . Perhaps the cause of the fainting was different, but this case was immediately widely rumored.

In general, the writer regularly became the subject of rather offensive epigrams, the most famous of which belongs to the pen of Nekrasov and Turgenev.




However, in the criticism of Dostoevsky by his fellow workers there was much more envy and competition than an objective assessment. As they say, who are the judges? With regard to Dostoevsky, his “sworn friends” have made up a lot of lies. For example, the famous literary critic Nikolai Strakhov claimed that the governess for money brought Dostoevsky to the bathhouse a little girl whom he seduced.

It was later revealed that the revenge critic interpreted the above-mentioned excerpt from Demons, which was not included in the novel, as a biographical fact. The most unpleasant thing is that Strakhov was considered a friend of Dostoevsky. Just like Belinsky and Turgenev, with whom Dostoevsky was sometimes too frank. The latter even discouraged the “young talent”, over which they took a kind of patronage, from going to brothels.

Unfortunately, Dostoevsky did not escape the costs and excesses of “star fever”. However, apparently, he heeded the advice of the “senior comrades”. In fact, Dostoevsky was not a pedophile, he did not get syphilis and, accordingly, did not infect his wife with it.

He attended brothels when he was young, and such sins of youth were then considered almost the norm. There is a caricature of the same Nekrasov, who dedicated some rather evil poems to Dostoevsky, who holds a prostitute on his knees, a glass of champagne in his hands and at the same time talks about the heavy share of the Russian peasant.


"MARQUIS DE SADE OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE": to the 200th anniversary of the birth of F. M. Dostoevsky
Vasily Perov, Portrait of F.M.Dostoevsky, oil on canvas, 99.6 x 81 cm, 1872




Dostoevsky was not a schizophrenic either, although researchers, including psychiatrists, find signs of this disease in many of the characters in his novels. Such as lack of empathy, the ability to establish normal relationships with people, to distinguish between good and evil. Dostoevsky was extremely sensitive to manifestations of various kinds of psychopathology, but he himself did not suffer from mental ailments.

Fyodor Mikhaylovich’s “trademark” epilepsy, the experience of which he transferred to many of his heroes, is also not completely clear. There are testimonies from friends of his youth, his wife and doctors that 15-minute seizures, accompanied by loss of consciousness, convulsions and foam at the mouth, did exist. But were they epilepsy?

This disease causes a disorder of brain activity, and Dostoevsky would hardly have been able to engage in literary activity with such a diagnosis. In addition, epilepsy is inherited, but there were no epileptics among the relatives and descendants of the writer. He also died, contrary to popular myth, not from an epileptic seizure, but of pulmonary hemorrhage.


By joining the Huxley friends club, you support philosophy, science and art




Turgenev did a lot for the emergence of myths about Dostoevsky, who actively spread rumors about his abnormality, perversity and even madness behind his back. “Poet, talent, aristocrat, handsome man, rich man, clever, educated…” – so, probably not without envy, Dostoevsky himself spoke of Turgenev.

They were really very different: a descendant of an old noble family, an heir to a fortune who enjoyed success with women, and a former convict, a gambler in constant need of money, a frequenter of brothels…

At the same time, Dostoevsky was fully aware of his genius, for which other writers almost hated him. Ivan Sergeevich regularly and rather angrily joked about Fyodor Mikhaylovich, in every possible way stung his already painful pride. Even in collaboration with Nikolai Nekrasov, he wrote a very offensive epigram on him, where he called him a pimple on the nose of Russian literature for what, in his opinion, was excessive self-importance.

In fairness, it must be said that, on the whole, writers were unkind people, jealous of other people’s fame and fees. It was not easy for Russian writers to share the laurels of the “first writer”, although the same economic benefit often won out over pride.

The same Turgenev was repeatedly published in Dostoevsky’s magazine, lent him money, etc. At the same time, receiving 150 rubles of royalties for the “printed sheet” against the background of 500 rubles from Turgenev, Dostoevsky considered this a terrible injustice – after all, he was not an example of a genius!


"MARQUIS DE SADE OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE": to the 200th anniversary of the birth of F. M. Dostoevsky
Ilya Glazunov, Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoevsky, oil on canvas, 75.2×56 cm, 1956




No less than Dostoevsky to Turgenev, the latter was extremely unpleasant for another genius – Lev Tolstoy. First of all, his constantly changing worldview and cowardice. “He walks back and forth past me and wags his democratic thighs,” wrote Lev Nikolayevich about the author of “Mumu”, in whose dirty linen fellow writers also liked to dig with no less eagerness.

Lev Tolstoy solved the problem of a potential conflict with Dostoevsky in a cardinal way – he made the decision never to meet with him personally. Although he read his novels and highly appreciated the talent of Fyodor Mikhaylovich. The two literary titans never saw each other personally, despite the fact that they had a lot in common: mutual friends – the critic Strakhov or, for example, Tolstoy’s own aunt, with whom both were spiritually close; general publisher – Nekrasov; common opponent and competitor – Turgenev.

The latter provided Tolstoy with one more “common place” with Dostoevsky – he started gossip that Lev Nikolaevich did not leave Yasnaya Polyana because he had lost his mind… “Completely mad”, decided not to risk it. In general, the two literary titans never shook hands with each other.

However, after the death of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, according to letters addressed to Strakhov, mourned Fyodor Mikhaylovich: “He was the closest, dear, person I needed… And it never crossed my mind to compare with him – never”. True, Dostoevsky, judging by circumstantial evidence, was interested in Tolstoy’s spiritual quests, but on the whole he believed that they were “not right”.

It has long been noted that Dostoevsky is much better understood and much more loved by people with a broken fate, with problems in their personal lives, subject to passions, while people who are calmer and more prosperous prefer Tolstoy.


"MARQUIS DE SADE OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE": to the 200th anniversary of the birth of F. M. Dostoevsky
F. M. Dostoevsky. Early 1860s Photo by I.A.Gokh




Why were both writers considered “crazy” in the literary world? The fact is that in the 70s the preaching of Christ was unfashionable among the Russian intelligentsia, somewhat akin to dense obscurantism.

It seems that the theme of Jesus Christ and madness is no coincidence that the main theme in the novel The Idiot, where in the image of Prince Myshkin the writer tried to deduce “quite a wonderful person” – Christ. Myshkin is out of this world – he comes to Russia after many years in idyllic Switzerland, in a clinic for the mentally ill people.

Just like the Gospel Christ, “their own” did not recognize Prince Myshkin, and at the end of the novel he again drops out of the world and Russia, finding himself in the same clinic from which his path began. Everyone knows the phrase from the novel: “Beauty will save the world”.


By joining the Huxley friends club, you support philosophy, science and art


However, Dostoevsky understood by this not some abstract beauty or beauty of a woman, nature or a work of art. In his diaries, he explains that “the beauty of Christ will save the world”.

But in the novel, the name of Christ disappears from this formula. It was uttered twice: by Aglaya Epanchina and the terminally ill Ippolit Terentyev – both times in an ironic, almost mocking manner. The earthly beauty embodied in Nastasya Filippovna can not only spiritualize, but also destroy.

Moreover, without Christ, it is doomed to destruction. In the finale of The Idiot, Dostoevsky considered the eerie scene in the Rogozhinsky house to be a scene of “such a force that was not repeated in literature”. And time has shown that the writer was right. No wonder Sigmund Freud put Dostoevsky on a par with Shakespeare…

Surprisingly, the circumstances of the death of Nastasya Filippovna, like many other things, were taken from the description of a very specific murder published in a criminal chronicle.

In Soviet literary criticism, Dostoevsky was considered a realist writer. But reality was sometimes very specifically refracted in his novels.

So, in the novel Crime and Punishment appears the St. Petersburg courtyard, in which, walking around the capital, Fyodor Mikhaylovich regularly relieved his needs. In the novel, it was in this place, according to Dostoevsky himself, that Raskolnikov arranged a hiding place in which he hid the things of the old woman who had been killed by him.


"MARQUIS DE SADE OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE": to the 200th anniversary of the birth of F. M. Dostoevsky
Ilya Glazunov, F.M.Dostoevsky. White Night, 1983




Of course, Dostoevsky belongs not only to Russian literature, but to all of humanity. And here it should be noted that, quite possibly, Fyodor Mikhaylovich has some Ukrainian roots. Today it is difficult to prove it, as well as to refute. Nevertheless, it is known that the noble pedigree of the Dostoevsky family, like that of another great writer, Gogol, is absolutely fantastic.

Family tradition says that the ancestors of Fyodor Mikhaylovich allegedly went back to the noble Lithuanian gentry of the 16th century. Namely, to the Ukrainian landowner Danilo Ivanovich Irtishch, who was granted the village of Dostoyevo in the Kamenets-Podolsk province for his faithful service. For several centuries, the descendants of the semi-mythical Danilo Ivanovich have not left this region.

The writer’s grandfather Andrei Mikhaylovich is an Orthodox priest in the village of Voytovitsy in the same province (today it is the Khmelnytsky district of the Vinnitsa region). But the transition from noblemen to priests was an almost incredible event for those times. Therefore, if the Ukrainian roots of the Dostoevsky clan are obvious, then the hereditary nobility of Fyodor Mikhaylovich is most likely legendary.

Fake pedigrees were very popular in Ukraine at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries and were quite inexpensive. Dostoevsky’s father, just like Gogol’s father, who raised the Yanovsky family to the mythical Cossack colonel of the mid-17th century Andrei Gogol, most likely got it this way. But Fyodor Mikhaylovich could be an ethnic Ukrainian.


By joining the Huxley friends club, you support philosophy, science and art
Share material

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: