Fyodor M. Dostoevsky: Letters and Reminiscences

translated from the Russian by S.S. Koteliansky and J. Middleton Murry, London, Chatto & Windus, 1923

* 1821, † 1881

Charge: Subversion
Prison: Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg (Map)

Dostoevsky was arrested and imprisoned on April 23, 1849 for being a part of the liberal intellectual group, the Petrashevsky Circle. Czar Nicholas I after seeing the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe was harsh on any sort of underground organization which he felt could put autocracy into jeopardy. On November 16 that year Dostoevsky, along with the other members of the Petrashevsky Circle, was sentenced to death. After a mock execution on December 22, in which he and other members of the group stood outside in freezing weather waiting to be shot by a firing squad, Dostoevsky's sentence was commuted to four years of exile with hard labor at a katorga prison camp in Omsk, Siberia.
He was released from prison in 1854, and was required to serve in the Siberian Regiment.

For this collection, only the letter from Dostoevsky to his brother, dated 22 December 1849, was written during his time at Peter and Paul Fortress.
The letter reads:
"... Brother, my precious friend! all is settled! I am sentenced to four years' hard labour in the fortress (I believe, of Orenburg) and after that to serve as a private. To-day, the 22nd of December, we were taken to the Semionov Drill Ground. There the sentence of death was read to all of us, we were told to kiss the Cross, our swords were broken over our heads, and our last toilet was made (white shirts). Then three were tied to the pillar for execution. I was the sixth. Three at a time were called out; consequently, I was in the second batch and no more than a minute was left me to live. I remembered you, brother, and all yours; during the last minute you, you alone, were in my mind, only then I realised how I love you, dear brother mine! I also managed to embrace Plescheyev and Durov who stood close to me and to say good-bye to them. Finally the retreat was sounded, and those tied to the pillar were led back, and it was announced to us that His Imperial Majesty granted us our lives. Then followed the present sentences..."

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