Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Maria Isayeva

Painting in the museum of Dostoyevsky in Novokuznetsk. Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Maria Isayeva
Painting in the museum of Dostoyevsky in Novokuznetsk. Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Maria Isayeva

Kuznetsk, a small provincial town of Tomsk province in Siberia, was very important to Dostoevsky. A wedding ceremony of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Maria Isayeva took place in Odigitrievsky church of Kuznetsk on February 6, 1857. The two-year, full of drama and suffering, the love story of Dostoevsky and Maria, was officially registered in Kuznetsk. He was leaving Kuznetsk in an unusual state for himself: during one day he became a husband and father. Having married, Dostoevsky took responsibility for six-year-old son Pavel – Maria’s son from her first marriage with Alexander Isayev. For the first time since leaving the parental home, Dostoevsky had a family. It seemed to him that now he would never be alone again. Of all the cities in Siberia, which Dostoevsky had visited, only in Kuznetsk he was happy, filled with joy and a sense of true freedom. Here Dostoevsky himself chose his fate.

Photo of M.D. Isayeva, 1855
Photo of M.D. Isayeva, 1855

Small, nondescript town had in his memoirs specific shape, because there lived his beloved woman, and it is with Kuznetsk were tied all his hopes for their future life together. But romantic love of Dostoevsky to Mary began in Semipalatinsk.

All his life Dostoevsky believed in his apprehension. Very often they are justified. His work and life is so intertwined that it is sometimes difficult to determine what was first – a real event in his life, artistically reworked later in the novel, or – a fictional situation of his prose fiction, to realize later in real life … The story of his relationship with Maria Isayeva was one of those stories.

In February 1854, coming from the Omsk jail, Dostoevsky wrote: “This long, hard physically and morally, colorless life break me … I have moments when I hate every comer, innocent and the guilty, and look at them as thieves who stole from me my life … with impunity. ” Dostoevsky overcame these feelings. He understood that in such a state he can not live: “I’m in some kind of waiting for something; as if I am still sick now, and it seems to me that soon, very soon going to happen something very strong that I approach the crisis of my life, and that everything can be quiet and clear, it may be terrible, but in any case inevitable … ”

After a few months the “inevitable” happened. In the spring he met with the family of Alexander Ivanovich Isayev: “God gave me the acquaintance with a family, which I will never forget. This is the family of Isayev. When I met with them, he had a few months as he was retired and all fussed about some other place. He spent all salary, did not have any state .., little by little, they fell into terrible poverty. When I met them, they still somehow support themselves. He got into debt. He lived at random, and by nature he was disordered. Passionate, stubborn, somewhat callous. And by the way, it was strongly developed nature, kind … He was educated, he was, despite the many dirt, very noble … ”

Dostoevsky began almost daily to visit them. Isayev was interested in the writer, so was his wife, Maria. “This is still a young lady, 28 years old, pretty, very educated, very intelligent, kind, sweet, graceful, with a superb, generous heart. She suffered proudly, without a murmur … “A recent convict get used to hardship and loneliness, quite unexpectedly met a woman the same lonely as he is, forced to live in an unhappy marriage with her husband, an alcoholic constantly needing help … Many times people in Dostoevsky’s tragic motifs will be used for family life of Isayev – Marmeladov and Katerina Ivanovna in “Crime and Punishment”, General Ivolgin in “The Idiot”, captain Snegirev in “The Karamazov Brothers”.

Dostoevsky did not know how to help Mary, he was also almost without means. But at the age of 32, he first truly loved. His friend in Semipalatinsk A.Vrangel recalled: “Maria Dmitrievna was thirty years old; pretty beautiful blonde of medium height, very thin, a passionate and ecstatic. Even then, the ominous glow played on her pale face, and a few years later took her to the grave. She was well-read, quite educated, inquisitive, good and unusually alive and impressionable. Fyodor Mikhailovich took active part, caressed her, I do not think she deeply appreciated it, rather regretted the unfortunate, downtrodden human destiny. She knew that he had epilepsy, he needed for extreme means. Fyodor Mikhailovich had same feeling of pity and compassion taken for love … ”

A year later, after meeting with Dostoevsky Isayev received a new assignment. In May 1855 he was sent to Kuznetsk. Meeting with Maria, Dostoevsky experienced tragedy: “Despair of Dostoevsky was boundless” – describes the separation of Dostoevsky and Maria A. Vrangel. “It seemed to him that everything in his life was gone … Dostoevsky sobbed like a child.”

Soon came the news that the husband of Maria, Aleksandrov Isayev died. She became free. Dostoevsky by this time returned knighthood and all rights, he received the rank of non-commissioned officer, that is a marriage with Maria Dmitrievna became a reality. But in the life of Maria appeared another man. Dostoevsky stood on the way of a young Vergunov, a teacher in Kuznetsk school. Dostoevsky could not imagine the final break, “I’ll die if I lose my angel, or go crazy, or Irtysh! (the river)”.

About Maria and Vergunov spread gossips in Kuznetsk and Semipalatinsk – the atmosphere of the provincial inhabitants, happy to transmit various rumors, ironically written then by Dostoevsky in “Uncle’s Dream.” He did not want to wait passively away from Mary and, risking his position, without the knowledge of his superiors still escaped for a few days to Kuznetsk. After long explanations, tears and self-love, Dostoevsky and Maria D. decided to get married. Witnessed Dostoevsky’s wedding was Nikolai Vergunov …

They lived with Mary not so long. Seven years later, in 1864, she died of tuberculosis. “She loved me boundlessly, I loved her too, without measure, but we did not live with her happily ever after … She was the most honest, the most noble and generous woman of all that I have known all my life. When she died – though I suffered, seeing as she was dying, though appreciated and painfully felt like I was buried with her. I could not imagine to what extent it hurt and makes my life empty … ”

May 18, 1980 in Novokuznetsk (so Kuznetsk was called in his time) on the street of Dostoevsky in the house №40, which he visited in 1855-57, was opened a Literary Memorial Museum of Fyodor Dostoevsky. March 1, 1991 the branch was granted the status of independent cultural institution.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Maria Isayeva photo gallery

Information and bibliographic resource – album “Fyodor Dostoevsky” and Kuznetsk
Web page: Literary Memorial Museum of Fyodor Dostoyevsky in Novokuznetsk