Who was Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky - the famous 19th century Russian writer whose real-life story has been adapted into the movie Alex and Emma? Most people recognize his name or may have read one of his acclaimed books:
But what was Dostoevsky like? Where did he live? Whom did he marry? What were his eccentricities?
His father, Mikhail Andreyevich, was the chief medical doctor at Moscow's Hospital for the Poor when his second son, Fyodor, was born there on October 30, 1821. Maria Fyodorovna was a gentle woman whose seven children adored her.
(A word about Russian 'middle' names may be helpful here. It is called a "patronymic." A boy's patronymic often ends in 'evich' or 'ovich' which means 'son of.' A girl's patronymic usually ends in 'evna' or 'ovna' which means 'daughter of.' Mikhail Andreyevich is thus translated 'Michael, son of Andre,' and Maria Fyodorovna means 'Maria, daughter of Fyodor.')
By 1831, an apartment at the Hospital for the Poor was no longer suitable for the growing family. In what would prove to be a disastrous purchase, Dr. Dostoevsky bought two small villages about 95 miles north of Moscow.
The family's summer home (called a dacha in Russian) at Darovoye (one of the two villages) became a place of joy for the children. Later, in his writings, Dostoevsky returned to the site of his childhood memories and recalled how much his parents loved him.
But growing boys need proper schooling and, with the untimely death of their mother (from tuberculosis), Dr. Dostoevsky (in May of 1837) traveled with his two older sons (Mikhail and Fyodor) to St. Petersburg, then Russia's capital. The brothers were enrolled in the Military Engineering College.