Who Presented the Gospel to Dostoevsky in January 1850?
Authors: Vladimir N. Zakharov
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Dostoevsky stayed in Tobolsk from January 9th till January 20th of 1850. It was here where the wives of the Decembrists gave him and other members of the Conspiracy of Petrashevsky the Gospel that became a source of his speculations and inspirations. The reminiscence of this event became a literary fact that found expression in documents, epistolary exchanges, memoirs and literary texts. Later recollections, narratives and interpretations comprise various inaccuracies, mistakes, errors and omissions which do not correspond to the facts. The article provides a critical analysis of sources, substantiates the facts and chronology of Dostoevsky’s stay in the Tobolsk prison castle. In his memoirs the writer revealed a symbolic meaning of the historic meeting between the Decembrists and the Petrashevtsy but he did not tell what it was like. The course of the event may be traced basing on N.D. Fonvizina’s letter of May 18-22, 1850 to I.A. Fonvizin. A "Secrete rendezvous" could have occurred on January 15, while the books with money in their covers could have been handed over on any of the days from January 16th till January 19th. As it appears from the letter of Natalia Dmitrievna Gendarme Captain Smolkov whom she involved in the tendance of the prisoners delivered the books and unveiled a secret of their covers to each prisoner. Nobody refused aid: Christian affection and mercy consolidated different people, were above suspicion and aroused human compassion and solidarity. It appears that there was no Gospel presenting ceremony that one can imagine when reading "A Writer’s Diary" of 1873. In this episode Dostoevsky created an image, emblem, picture that was essentially true but whose some factual aspects differed. It resulted in a symbolic scene that embodies specific traits of creative mind and poetics of Dostoevsky.