- Dostoevsky Day
Periods of F.Dostoevsky's stay in Kuznetsk:
1856: beginning of June - 2 days
1856: November 26-30
1857: February 1-14
In all Dostoevsky spent little more than twenty days in Kuznetsk, a small provincial town in the province of Tomsk, located 530 kilometers from Semipalatinsk. On February 6, 1857, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky and Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva were married in the Odigitrievsk Church. Their two-year love affair, complete with drama and suffering, culminated in marriage. Dostoevsky left Kuznetsk in a new position - in one day he had become a husband and a father. By marrying Maria, Dostoevsky had also taken on the responsibility of her six-year-old son Pavel (from her first marriage to Alexander Isaev). For the first time since he had left his parents' home, Dostoevsky had a family. It seemed to him that now he would never be lonely. Out of all the Siberian cities where Dostoevsky had spent time, Kuznetsk was the only one marked by joy and a sense of true freedom. Here Dostoevsky had decided his own fate.
Dostoevsky wrote nothing about Kuznetsk. The small, unremarkable city left no concrete imprint on his memory: it was significant and attractive for the writer only because his beloved lived there. Thus all his hopes for their future life together were connected with Kuznetsk itself.
His love for Maria, however, began when in Semipalatinsk. In February of 1854, upon leaving Omsk Prison, Dostoevsky wrote, "I'm in some sort of expectation of something: I seem to be still sick now, and it seems to me that in a very, very short time something very decisive has to happen to me, that I'm approaching the crisis of my whole life, that I seem to be ripe for something, and that there will be something, perhaps calm and clear, perhaps more threatening, but in any event something inescapable". Dostoevsky overcame these feelings in himself, although sometimes it was not easy.
In the spring he met the family of Alexander Ivanovich Isaev: "God sent me the acquaintance with a family I'll never forget. That's the Isaev family... He had a position here, not at all a bad one, but couldn't make a go of it, and because of trouble retired. When I met him he had already been in retirement for several months and he kept trying to find another position. He had lived on his salary, had no fortune, and therefore, when he lost his positions, they gradually fell into terrible poverty. When I met them they were still just managing to support themselves. He had mad a lot of debts. He lived in a rather disorderly way, and besides which, his nature was rather disorderly. Passionate, stubborn, somewhat callous... But, by the way, he was a strongly developed and very kind nature. He was educated... He was, in spite of a lot of filth, extraordinarily noble".
Dostoevsky began to visit them almost every day. However, it was not Isaev who interested the writer, but his wife, Maria Dmitrievna: "She is still a young woman, 28 years old, attractive, very well educated, very intelligent, kind, nice, graceful, with an excellent, wonderful heart. She bore that fate proudly, without a murmer". The recent prison laborer, who had become accustomed to privations and loneliness, had unexpectedly met a woman who was just as lonely as he was, who was forced to live in an unhappy marriage with her alcoholic husband. Constantly in need, she accepted random offers of assistance from people she hardly knew. Dostoevsky would make use of the tragic motifs of the Isaev family's life more than once in his work - for example, in the figures of Marmeladov and Katerina Ivanovna in Crime and Punishment or General Ivolgin and his wife Nina Alexandrovna in The Idiot.
Dostoevsky did not know how to help Maria Dmitrievna - he himself had almost nothing to live on. But at the age of 32 he had truly to come to love for the first time. His friend from Semipalatinsk, A.E.Wrangel, remebred, "Maria Dmitrievna was past thirty, a quite beautiful blonde woman of average height, very thin, with a passionate and exalted nature. Even at that time an ominous blush could be seen on her pale face, and several years later consumption took her to her grave. She was well read, fairly educated, eager to learn, kind, and extraordinarily vivacious and impressionable. She took an avid interest in Fyodor Mikhailovich and made a pet of him. I don't think that she appreciated him very deeply, but rather felt sorry for an unfortunate man who had been pounded by fate. ... Fyodor, however, mistook her sense of pity and compassion for mutuallove, and fell for her with all the ardor of youth."
A year after meeting Dostoevsky, Isaev received new orders. In May of 1855 he was sent to Kuznetsk. Dostoevsky was tragically upset over Maria Dmitrievna's departure. "Dostoevsky's despair was without limit, - A.Wrangel remembered, - It seemed to him that everything in life had gone... Dostoevsky sobbed like a child". Soon word came that Alexander Isaev had died. Maria was free. By this time Dostoevsky had recovered his noble title and all his rights; he had reached the rank of junior officer and the possibility of marriage had become a reality. In Maria's life, however, a different interest had arisen. The young schoolteacher Vergunov, who taught in the Kuznetsk school, stood in Dostoevsky's way. Dostoevsky could not imagine a final break with Maria: "I will die if I lose my angel! I'll either go out of my mind or to Irtysh!" Maria Dmitrievna and Vergunov were in Kuznetsk, while Semipalatinsk gossiped. The writer would later give an ironic account of a climate in which provincial inhabitants gladly pass along various rumors in the story Uncle's Dream. Dostoevsky did not want to await the denouement passively, and, risking his position, he rushed over to Kuznetsk for a couple of days, without his superiors' knowledge. After long discussions, tears, and declarations of love, he and Maria decided to marry. Dostoevsky's witnesses at the wedding was Nikolai Vergunov. In his works Dostoevsky used the theme of sacrificial, self-abasing love more than once, as can be seen in Ivan Petrovich (The Insulted and the Injured) and Prince Myshkin (The Idiot).
The couple did not live long together. Seven years later, in 1864, Maria died of consumption. "She loved me boundlessly, I loved her without measure too, but she and I did not live happily. She was the most hones, most noble, and most magnanimous woman I've ever known in my whole life. When she died - though I was tormented, seeing her dying, though I appreciated and was painfully aware of what I was burying with her, I could not at all imagine how painful and empty my life would become..." For Dostoevsky Kuznetsk would forever remain associated with these memories.
On May 18, 1980, the F.M.Dostoevsky Literary-Memorial Museum opened in Novokuznetsk (as Kuznetsk has come to be called). Located at 40 Dostoevsky St., the residence where from 1855-57 Maria Isaeva had rented lodgings from the tailor M.D.Dmitriev, the museum was originally an affiliate of the Museum of Regional Studies. On March 1, 1991, it received the status of an independent cultural institution, as well as an additional building across from the historical site. The Kuznetsk events of Dostoevsky's life form the basis for the literary exhibit here. Its designers devised a tri-part presentation of the writer's life, his creative process, and his philosophy. The Museum's exhibit, by breaking away from mundane notions of time, shows the writer's "Kuznetsk collision" in its timeless, eternal significance.