- Dostoevsky Day
F.M.DOSTOEVSKY LITERARY-MEMORIAL MUSEUM IN SEMIPALATINSK
Address: 490050, Kazakhstan, Semipalatinsk, Dostoevsky St., 117
Phone.: (8 7222) 52-49-76
Date of opening: 1971
After exactly four years spent in the Omsk prison camp, Dostoevsky left and on March 2, 1854 was registered as a private in the First Siberian Company of the Seventh Line Battalion in Semipalatinsk. The next period of the writer's life had begun - exile and service in the army. "When I left my melancholy prison, I arrived here with happiness and hope. I resembled a sick person who is beginning to recover after a long illness, and having been at death's door, even more strongly feels the pleasure of living during the first days of his recovery. I had a lot of hope. I wanted to live." However, Dostoevsky had already experienced this feeling of "resurrection from the dead" when he stood together with his friends on Semynov Square, preparing for death by execution. In accordance with a scenario planned by Nicholas the First, their sentence was suddenly commuted to hard labor and lifelong exile. "Life is a gift, life is happiness," - the twenty-seven-year-old wrote as he set off for Siberia. The gift of life was unexpected, but for happiness he would wait another four years, ticking off the days on the sticks of the Omsk prison fence. He did not regret his lost years: "My constant focus inwards, where I ran from bitter reality, brought forth its own fruits". Dostoevsky learned to accept life calmly. Even as a child, the book of Job had impressed him - and had become the most important for him. After prison camp, Dostoevsky wrote from Semipalatinsk: "It seems to me that happiness is in a radiant view of life and in an unblemished heart, not in external things."
Dostoevsky's years in Semipalatinsk marked a return to his literary labors. Once again he could write "There is clarity in my soul. It's as though I have my whole future and everything that I'll do right before my eyes". His work, however, was difficult, and his army service took up much of his time. Dostoevsky had hated maneuvers and parades even when he was at the Military Engineering Academy. Half a year after graduation he had resigned, hoping never again to serve. In Semipalatinsk, however, he was once again obliged to put on a uniform: "I think you'll realize that soldiering is not a joke, that a soldier's life with all the obligations of a soldier, is not an entirely easy business for a person with such health and such a lack of habit, or better to say, with such complete ignorance in such matters".
When Dostoevsky got out of prison, he remained in Omsk for a month and met a Kazakh officer named Chokan Valikhanov. Valikhanov was a brilliant and courageous man, a learned ethnographer, folklorist, and traveler. Dostoevsky also met with him in Semipalatinsk. He appreciated the great talents of his new friend, and understood the significance of his activities as an enlightener. In one letter to him he wrote: "... isn't it a great goal, isn't it a sacred mission to be practically the first of one's people who would explain in Russian what the steppe is, its significance and your people in regard to Russia, and at the same time to serve your homeland by means of enlightened intercession for her among the Russians. Remember that you are the first Kirghiz educated entirely on the European model. Fate herself has in addition made you a most excellent person, having given you both a soul and a heart.
During these years Dostoevsky also became close with the famous geographer P.P.Semyonov (later Tian-Shansky). The exiled writer attached great significance to his friendship with Baron A.E.Wrangel, who came from Petersburg to Semipalatinsk in 1854 as the new district prosecutor. He knew of Dostoevsky from the novel Poor Folk. Soon they became close friends. "Alexander Yegorovich, a very young person with excellent qualities of soul, arrived in Siberia directly out of the lyceum, with the generous dream of getting to know the region, being useful and son on. He served in Semipalatinsk; we became close, and I have come to like him very much".
For two years, while Wrangel lived in Semipalatinsk, Dostoevsky spent time with him almost every day. The educated young prosecutor brought Dostoevsky, an exile deprived of his rights, into the best Semipalatinsk society, and helped and supported him in everything. Wrangel left some interesting memoirs of the Semipalatinsk period of the writer's life. In terms of Dostoevsky's biography, Semipalatinsk was a city of changes; here he awaited his amnesty and believed that he would soon return to European Russia. Small sketches of the Siberian city can be found in his texts. Notes from the House of the Dead begins with a description of Semipalatinsk: "In the remote regions of Siberia, amidst the steppes, mountains and impassable forests, one sometimes comes accross little, plainly built wooden towns of one or often two thousand inhabitants, with two churches - one in the twon itself, and the other in the cemetery outside - towns that are more like the good-sized villages of the Moscow district than they are like towns". The story Uncle's Dream, which unfolds in Semipalatinsk, provides a similar characterization: "In the streets, with their rows of little houses sunk into the earth, there was a savage barking of dogs which aboubd in provincial towns in alarming numbers".
Wrangel's own description of the city is similar in the details and in the overall impression: "At that time Semipalatinsk was neither a city nor a village, but something in between. There were one-story, suat log cabins and endless fences, not a single lantern or watchman on the street, not one living soul, and if it were not for the despairing barking of dogs, the city would have seemed dead. It was teeming with dogs, who guarded the inhabitants and filled up the medical department..."
Dostoevsky changed addresses four times while in Semipalatinsk. He lived about a month in the soldiers' barracks, then he moved into a house on the outskirts of the city: "Dostoevsky's hut was located in the most joyless place. All around was wasteland, sifting sand, not a bush, not a tree. The cabin, made of logs, was ancient and leaned to one side. It had no foundation, and had sunk into the ground. To protect against robbers and thieves, it had no windows... Dostoevsky had one room, failry large, but extraordinarily low; semidarkness always reigned there. The log walls were smeared with clay and had been whitewashed at one time; along two of the walls ran a wide bench. Here and there on the walls hung popular prints, which were greasy and spotted with flies. To the left of the entrance door was a large Russian stove, behind which stood Fyodor Mikhailovich's bed, a little table, and in place of a dresser, a simple wooden crate. This whole sleeping area was divided off from everything else by a chintz-covered partition. On the other side of the partition, in the main room, stood a table and a small framed mirror. Pots of geraniums decorated the windows, and there were curtains, which had probably been red at some time. The entire room was sooty and so dark that in the evening I could just barely read by a tallow candle - at that time stearin candles were a great luxury, and kerosene light did not yet exist. How Fyodor Mikhailovich wrote all night long in that kind of light I don't understand at all. There was yet another pleasant feature of his dwelling: cockroaches ran in herds all over the table, walls, and bed, and particularly in summer, the fleas would not leave you alone, as happens in any sandy place".
The writer spent the spring and summer of 1855 with Wrangel at the dacha Kazakh Garden, and in 1857, after his marriage to Maria Isaeva, he rented an apartment in the house of the postmaster Liapukhin.
On May 7, 1971, the Dostoevsky Museum was opened in Postmaster Liapukhin's wooden house, where Dostoevsky rented an apartment from 1857 to 1859. In 1976 a modern annex was added to the original building. Designed by the Moscow architect V.F.Vlasov, the annex reflects the idea of a book-monument: two sides of the two-story stone structure have curved walls, as if it were composed of half-open books. The pieces "The Writer's Study" and "Dostoevsky's Petersburg" (by the artists V.Gukasov, S.Shirokov, and V.Odnokolkin) are mounted on the building's walls; at the entrance is a bronze sculpture, "F.Dostoevsky and C.Valikhanov" (by sculptor D.G.Elbakidze).
The visual materials of the literary exhibit include monumental murals by the artist G.V.Kozlitin. Entitled "Blood", "Sweat", "Tears" and "Joining", they depict the most dramatic themes in the writer's biography and those of his characters. The center of the exhibit is a composition entitled House of the Dead. Here raised portraits of prison laborers emerging from a stylized wooden grate represent the many-faced world of the prison camp, which brings together holiness and animal behavior, great spirituality and barefaced cynicism.
The interiors of the commemorative apartment were recreated, for the most part, from the memoirs of Z.Sytina, a Semipalatinsk resident:
"The little house where Dostoevsky lived in the city of Semipalatinsk is memorable to me. It consists of four rooms: the first little room was dining room; next to it was the bedroom; to the left of the first room was the sitting room - a large, angular room; and the door on the left hand side of the sitting room led to the study. The rooms were furnished simply, but very comfortably: in the sitting room the couch, armchairs, and chairs were upholstered in an expensive chintz print, with bouquets of flowers. In front of the couch stood a table, and to the left of the study door was a little couch in the shape of the French letter "S" and several little tables. At the corner window stood an armchair, where Fyodor Mikhailovich loved to sit, and near the window was a wild geranium bush in a wooden tub. Curtains hung on the windows and doors; the remaining rooms also were decorated nicely, simply, and cozily".
Dostoevsky moved into this house after returning from Kuznetsk, where he married Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva.