Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

By Joseph Frank; Mary Petrusewicz | Go to book overview
Save to active project



In the four years he spent in prison camp, Dostoevsky had not received a single word from his family, and the complete loss of contact inspired him to compose a lengthy letter to Mikhail on February 22, 1854, just a week after being released. Picking up the thread of his life at the moment of departure for Siberia, it begins by recounting the impressions gathered on the eighteen-day journey and the major incidents marking his arrival at the first way station, Tobolsk. “It was a sad moment when we crossed the Urals,” Dostoevsky recalls. “The horses and sledges had foundered in the drifts. A snowstorm was raging. We got out of the sledges— it was night—and stood waiting while they were dragged out. All around us was the snow and storm; it was the frontier of Europe; ahead was Siberia and our unknown fate, while all the past lay behind us—it was so depressing that I was moved to tears.” 1

On January 9, the party reached Tobolsk, once the capital city of Western Siberia and, at that time, the main distribution center in which prisoners arriving from European Russia were sorted out and dispatched to their final destinations. The prison was set inside a fortress complex, and as Dostoevsky's party climbed the road up to it, one of the first sights to greet their eyes was the town's most ancient and notorious exile, the famous Uglich bell, located just off the road along which they were proceeding. Its story was known to all: At the discovery of the death of Crown Prince Dimitry, suspected of having been murdered by his guardian, Boris Godunov, the bell had rung to summon the inhabitants of Uglich to avenge the boy's death. The new tsar, Boris, later ordered the offending bell to be publicly flogged and mutilated, and it was exiled to Siberia in perpetuity with the injunction that it never ring again. But the people of Tobolsk had long since housed the Uglich bell in a small belfry, and its deep-voiced sonority called them to prayer. There it stood along the roadside, a constant reminder to later exiles of the despotic, capricious, and all-encompassing authority of the Russian tsars, as well as of the ultimate futility of many of their sternest ukazy.

Dostoevsky's reception in Tobolsk illustrates some of the moral incorporated in the subversive survival of the Uglich bell. “I will only say,” Dostoevsky writes

1Pis'ima, 1: 134; February 22, 1854.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 960

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?