The Beketov and Petrashevsky Circles
The first mention of Dostoevsky's new acquaintances occurs in mid-September 1846—after the crisis induced by the failure of The Double. “I take my dinner with a group,” he writes Mikhail. “Six people … including Grigorovich and myself, have gotten together at Beketovs.” 1 These were months when Dostoevsky was “almost in a panic of fear about my health,” 2 but the psychological aid provided by his friends seems to have restored him completely. “Brother,” he writes two months later, “I am reborn, not only morally but also physically. Never have I felt in myself so much abundance and clarity, so much equanimity of character, so much physical health. I am indebted for much of this to my good friends … with whom I live; they are sensible and intelligent people, with hearts of gold, of nobility and character. They cured me by their company.” 3 The security supplied by his new milieu was of great importance in helping him to weather the perturbations brought on by Belinsky's rejection.
The center of the group was Aleksey N. Beketov, who had been one of Dostoevsky's intimates at the Academy of Military Engineers, and the group included his two brothers, then still students, Nikolay and Andrey. Grigorovich spoke of Beketov as “the embodiment of goodness and straightforwardness,” around whom people unfailingly clustered because of his outstanding moral qualities. He was the sort of person who “became indignant at every sort of injustice and was responsive to every noble and honorable endeavor,” and it was he who set the dominating tone, which was strongly social-political. “But whoever spoke, and whatever was spoken about … everywhere one could hear indignant, noble outbursts against oppression and injustice.” 4
Nothing more is known about the Beketov Circle, which came to an end when the two younger brothers left for the University of Kazan early in 1847. N. Flerovsky, a student at Kazan in 1847, remembered that “They propagated the teaching of Fourier, and here the results were the same as in Petersburg”; presumably he
1Pis'ma, 1: 95; September 17, 1846.
2 Ibid., October 7, 1846.
3 Ibid., 103; November 26, 1846.
4 D. V. Grigorovich, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 12 vols. (St. Petersburg, 1896), 12: 277.