- Dostoevsky Day
In 1831, Dostoevsky's father purchased in his wife Maria's name the estate of Darovoe, in the province of Tula. The estate consisted of 1700 acres ol land, which included hay meadows, arable land, forest, a grove of linden trees, a garden, and a small village made up of twenty households, eleven of which belonged to the Dostoevskys. As the writer's brother Andrei recalls: "The area of our village was very pleasant and picturesque. A small annex for our arrival, made of thatch and woven with clay in the manner of southern construction, had three small rooms and was situated in a fairly large and shady linden grove. Across a small field, this grove bordered on a birch wood, which was very dense and had a quite gloomy and wild terrain, riddled with ravines. This little wood was called Brykovo. My brother Fedya [Fyodor] came very much to love the little Brykovo woods, so that later it was called Fedya's grove in our family".
Throughout the entire estate ran a deep gully, part of which was turned into a reservoir for watering livestock, for catching fish that had been specially stocked there, and for swimming. After a fire in 1832 in which nearly the entire village burned down, the Dostoevskys built a wooden cabin for their large family to move into.
Through acquisition of the neighboring estate Cheremoshnia in 1832, the Dostoevskys became the proprietors of 3,270 acres of land and 100 peasant serfs. The Dostoevsky family would spend the summer months there. After the death of their parents, Darovoe became the property of the youngest brother, Andrei, and subsequently of his sisters and their children. Fyodor Dostoevsky declined his share of the inheritance at Darovoe in 1844, receiving as compensation five hundred silver rubles.
According to Andrei Dostoevsky's memoirs, all the children in the family loved to spend their vacation time at Darovoe and had no desire to return to Moscow in the autumn. "And I loved nothing in life like the woods with its mushrooms and wild berries, with its little insects and birds, hedgehogs and squirrels, with that raw smell of decayed leaves I loved so much " Fyodor spent a vacation at Darovoe for the last time in 1836. After moving to Petersburg and beginning his "adult life," he never managed to spend such a carefree summer again. His childhood impressions from time spent in this genuine Russian village became a source that fed his writing throughout his entire life. In Dostoevsky's prose there are few descriptions of nature. He was, unquestionably, an urban writer. However, in his rare landscape descriptions a profound, acutely experienced connection with nature can be felt. In difficult times of loneliness and despair, Dostoevsky would recall episodes from his short period of association with nature, translating them into amazingly vivid and emotional images.
Dostoevsky wrote his story The Little Hero while he was incarcerated in the Peter and Paul Fortress (in St.-Petersburg). He almost never came out of his solitary cell, but the story written during this time is literally permeated with sunlight and joy, while his descriptions of nature are striking in their freshness, color, and their impression of actual tangibility: "On the opposite bank they were haymaking. I watched the long rows of sharp scythes gleaming all together at every sweeping movement of the haymakers and then suddenly disappearing like fiery snakes, just as if they were hiding somewhere, and the grass, cut at the root, flying on one side in dense, thick piles and laid in long, straight furrows". A love of nature, the sensation of the soil, earth, and everything alive imprinted itself so strongly in Dostoevsky's soul as a child that thirteen years later, when he found himself in a prison cell, he actively resurrected images of nature in the village in summer. At that time in his childhood, the surrounding world had seemed limitless. In the Peter and Paul Fortress, even nature seemed to be in prison: "I've again been allowed to walk in the garden, in which there are almost seventeen trees. And that's a great happiness for me".
Dostoevsky was convinced of the great significance of the aesthetic influence of nature on the human soul. The famous image of the slanting rays of sun often found in his prose; the "sticky little leaves" of which the intellectual character Ivan Karamazov speaks with such agitation, and the earth which Alyosha kisses and embraces in ecstasy are all symbolic signs of the unity between man and nature first perceived by the writer in his childhood.
Darovoe and Cheremoshnia are also associated with memories of tragedy. In June of 1839 Mikhail Dostoevsky died on the estate. Circumstances of his death remained unclear, although it was suspected that his peasants killed him. According to the official version, his death was the result of an apoplectic fit. Dostoevsky was greatly struck by his father's death, and it was reflected in his writings, especially in The Brothers Karamazov. Parricide is the central theme of the novel, and it certainly contains a portion of Dostoevsky's own family tragedy.
Several times in later years Dostoevsky planned to visit the places of his childhood, to see Darovoe and its inhabitants. He managed to do so only once, in 1877. Dostoevsky's wife Anna wrote of this trip: " my husband revisited all the different places in the park and the outskirts dear to him in memory, and even walked to the grove he loved as a child, Chermashnya, more than two kilometers from the estate - a name which he later gave to the grove in The Brothers Karamazov. He also went to visit the huts of the peasants he had known as a boy, many of whom he still remembered. The old men and women and those his own age as well, remembering him from childhood, were very happy to see him, invited him into their cottages and regaled him with tea".
In the 1920s, when the Dostoevsky family no longer resided at Darovoe, the house was turned into a village library. Family items were brought to Bozhedomka Street in Moscow, where the first Dostoevsky Museum was then being created. In 1955, a Dostoevsky Room was created in Darovoe, where photographic materials from the Moscow museum were displayed. In 1974 the Darovoe estate was declared a Museum of National Significance, and in August 1990 it became affiliated with the Zaraisk Museum of Art and History.
At the present time the cabin that belonged to the Dostoevskys contains an exhibition representinf the period of their stay at Darovoe. Old buildings at Darovoe and Cheremoshnia have been preserved, along with the alley of linden trees, the fruit orchard, and the pond.