Museum history

Among Dostoevsky's numerous Petersburg addresses, the building on the corner of Kuznechny Lane and Dostoevsky Street (formerly Yamskaya) holds particular significance. The writer moved there with his family in the beginning of October 1878 and was to  reside there until the day of his death, January 28, 1881. It was in this house that many many of Dostoevsky's contemporaries were to visit him, and his last novel, The Brothers Karamazov, was written. This simple, completely ordinary Petersburg apartment building, devoid of distinctive architectural features, has today become one of the most popular attractions in the city precisely because it was there that Dostoevsky lived and died.

Even before the Russian Revolution, articles had appeared in the press about the need  to commemorate the house with a historical plaque and to open a museum dedicated to the life and work of the great writer on the premises. The first Dostoevsky Museum, however, opened in Moscow after the Revolution, in 1928, on the site of the former Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor (Bozhedomka Street), where the writer had spent his childhood years. Plans for Dostoevsky Museum in Petersburg (then Leningrad) remained unrealized.

The writer's widow, Anna Grigorievna Dostoevskaya, left Petersburg for her estate on the shores of the Black Sea in 1917.The following year she died there, completely alone, far from her children and grandchildren. Before leaving Petersburg, she had put all the remaining objects from Dostoevsky's house in storage, and they were subsequently lost. His valuable manuscripts, however, with few exceptions, ended up in state archives. During the next several decades, the house, given over for communal apartments in the Soviet years, underwent reconstruction that changed its appearance.

In those years the memory of Dostoevsky was not held in great favor. The writer's tragic fictional world and his social and religious convictions were incompatible with official Soviet ideology. It was hard to imagine the possibility of creating a museum in the house where he had lived. Even then, however, several writers and scholars wrote of Dostoevsky's significance in the history of Russian culture and of the need to create a museum in the city where he had spent so many years of his life.

The 150th anniversary of the great writer's birth, an event commemorated throughout the world, served as the catalyst for construction of the present museum. The F.M.Dostoevsky Literary-Memorial Museum in Leningrad was scheduled to open in 1971, in time for the occasion. The house on Kuznechny Lane was slated for major repairs, thus the opportunity arose to rebuild the writer's apartment based on archival plans of the house and memoirs of his contemporaries. His study was reconstructed according to a photograph taken by V.Taube after the writer's death. Next to the memorial apartment, a large literary exhibit dedicated to the life and work of Dostoevsky was opened.

The writer's grandson, Andrei Fyodorovich Dostoevsky (1908-1968), contributed significantly to the creation of the museum. The valuable materials he had gathered in memory of his famous grandfather were to become the basis of the museum's collection. Dostoevsky's grand-niece, Maria Savostianova (1894-1982), donated family heirlooms; the most valuable items of this collection are housed in the literary exhibit, as well as in the apartment itself. Much credit should also go to the museum's first director, Boris Fedorenko, and to Professor Nina Perlina, who now teaches in the United States, at Indiana University.

The 1971 opening of the Dostoevsky Museum was a major cultural event in Leningrad, and ever since, lovers of the writer's work from all countries of the world have continued to visit the house. Over the years the museum's colelction has increased many times over. At the present time it includes a large collection of graphic and applied art and a significant collection of photographs. The museum library holds about 24 000 volumes and a collection of theater posters and programs from various productions of Dostoevsky's works. In addition, there is also a small group of his own papers, containing in part the correspondence of his relatives and the literary manuscripts of his friends, including the poet A.Maikov. These collections are constantly growing, in large part thanks to the gifts of visitors, friends of the museum, and Dostoevsky scholars.

The Dostoevsky Museum contains a theater for viewing performances and movies based on Dostoevsky's works, and for literary gatherings. Every year in November, when the writer's birthday is observed, the museum hosts an international scholarly conference "Dostoevsky and World Culture", and a journal of the same name is published with the conference proceedings. Exhibits by modern artists are always on display in the exhibition rooms. The museum has become an inseparable part of cultural life in St.Petersburg today.