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Old December 17th, 2011, 07:08 AM   #1
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Simon Tokarzewski’s Memoirs in Siberia


A very interesting memoir about the life in a siberian labour camp by a Polish political prisoner during the mid 19'th century.

Arriving at Omsk. Vaska
On November 12, 1849, toward the evening, we saw the town of Omsk in the distance and said to each other: “Even if Omsk is hell and Vaska Kryvtsov [the commander of the labor camp] is Lucifer himself, it is better to go to hell and meet Lucifer, but get a little rest.” The Cossacks in charge of the convoy were brutal, and five weeks of travel on foot exhausted us, especially that most of the time we wore leg irons while marching.

Fyodor Dostoevky
The other man, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, was the acclaimed novelist and author of Poor Folk [1845]. But we felt that this “ornament of the northern capital”(5) did not measure up to his fame. Certainly, he was talented. But it was not his talent but his personality that we encountered. How on earth could this man have ever entered any conspiracy? How could he have participated in any democratic movement? He was the vainest of the vain, and his vanity had to do with belonging to the privileged caste. How could he possibly desire freedom for the people if he accepted only one caste-the nobility, and regarded it as the only class that could lead the nation forward?


“Nobility,” “nobleman,” “I am a nobleman,” “we noblemen” were constantly on his lips. Whenever he addressed us Poles and said “we noblemen,” I interrupted him: “Excuse me, but I think that here in prison there are no noblemen, but only people deprived of rights, prisoners in a hard labor camp.”

He foamed with anger:

“You are of course pleased that you are a prisoner in a labor camp,” he shouted with malice and irony.

“I am glad that I am who I am,” I answered trying not to show my emotions.

You can read the whole memoir here (you get a huge insight on how it was in the camps)
In Siberian Prisons 1846-1857: SR, April 2005

Translator's Note
Critics have maintained that Fyodor Dostoevsky changed radically in prison from a “revolutionary” to a “reactionary.” Tokarzewski demonstrates that this is inaccurate and that Dostoevsky went to prison through one of those systemic quirks (common in autocratic Russia) that sent people to prison for brushing shoulders with revolutionaries. Tokarzewski shows that Dostoevsky was already an ardent patriot upon his arrival in Omsk, rather than changing as a result of his imprisonment. The format and style of Tokarzewski’s Memoirs bear a striking resemblance to Dostoevsky’s House of the Dead (1862). Did Dostoevsky read Tokarzewski’s Memoirs?

Could this be the case?

Also in the memoir Tokarzewski writes that he thinks that Fyodor Dostoyevsky is hiding his Polish ancestry.

"He hated us Poles, perhaps because his features and name betrayed a Polish ancestry."
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Old December 17th, 2011, 08:49 AM   #2

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The link you provide is a very interesting one, as is the picture of Fyodor Dostoyevsky that emerges from it.

His high-strung personality as described by Tokarzewski seems to tally with the one I got from Anna Dostoyevska's memoirs.

According to the account you quote Dostoyevsky was evidently a terrible snob.
It's especially funny, if one remembers that in his "House of the Dead" he actually reverses the roles, accusing Polish fellow prisoners of stand-offisheness and aristocratic leanings (berating this attitude as "unchristian")

The following excerpt provides a brilliant insight into Russian imperialist mentality (this - it would seem - hasn't changed since the 19th century )

.................................................. .................................................. .................................................. .................................................. .

"He hated us Poles, perhaps because his features and name betrayed a Polish ancestry. He used to say that if he learned that in his veins there flowed even one drop of Polish blood, he would immediately order it to be let out.

It was painful to hear this conspirator and sufferer for liberty and progress exclaim that he would be happy only when all countries surrender to the Russian tsar.

He did not seem to understand that Ukraine, Volhynia, Podolia, Lithuania, and Poland were forcibly annexed by the Russian empire; on the contrary, he maintained that all these lands belonged to Russia from time immemorial, and God’s justice handed them to the Russian tsar because they could not possibly exist on their own, or rise from their backwardness, barbarism, and destitution without Russia’s help.

According to Dostoevsky, the Baltic countries were also Russia, and so were Siberia and the Caucasus. While listening to these ravings we concluded that Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was mentally challenged concerning Russia’s properties. But he repeated his absurdities with great pleasure."
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Old December 17th, 2011, 09:04 AM   #3

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Sounds to me like the Pole had an agenda. I'll stick with Fyodor anyday.
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Old December 17th, 2011, 09:08 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by unclefred View Post
Sounds to me like the Pole had an agenda. I'll stick with Fyodor anyday.
I'll stick with Fyodor the writer with you any day

Dostoyevski's ridiculous xenophobia is a well-attested fact. This no way detracts from his greatness as a novelist.

The man behind the artwork shouldn't be confused with the work of art itself. Eg Caravaggio was one of the greatest religious painters of all times, but it wouldn't have been prudent to accompany him down a dark alley.

Last edited by antonina; December 17th, 2011 at 09:14 AM.
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Old December 17th, 2011, 09:19 AM   #5

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Caravaggio was sublime, you have great taste Antonina!
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Old December 17th, 2011, 09:29 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by antonina View Post
He did not seem to understand that Ukraine, Volhynia, Podolia, Lithuania, and Poland were forcibly annexed by the Russian empire; on the contrary, he maintained that all these lands belonged to Russia from time immemorial, and God’s justice handed them to the Russian tsar because they could not possibly exist on their own, or rise from their backwardness, barbarism, and destitution without Russia’s help.

According to Dostoevsky, the Baltic countries were also Russia, and so were Siberia and the Caucasus. While listening to these ravings we concluded that Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was mentally challenged concerning Russia’s properties. But he repeated his absurdities with great pleasure."
This excerpt consists in plausible and feasible facts, expect there is no absurdities but there are facts, which are unpleasant to some jingoists.
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Old December 17th, 2011, 09:35 AM   #7

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his interment i hear effected his writing style, can anyone who has read more of his works explain this more as in what way did his style change.
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Old December 17th, 2011, 10:44 AM   #8

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The following excerpt provides a brilliant insight into Russian imperialist mentality, which as can be seen, hasn't changed at all since the 19th century

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This excerpt consists in plausible and feasible facts, expect there is no absurdities but there are facts, which are unpleasant to some jingoists.
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Old December 17th, 2011, 11:08 AM   #9
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The following excerpt provides a brilliant insight into Russian imperialist mentality, which as can be seen, hasn't changed at all since the 19th century
It has changed, because I was talking about XIX century. The century furnishes us with proofs of this attitude. The Russian Empire was a successive state on the edge, because she were clasping their acquisitions.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 11:06 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by antonina View Post
He did not seem to understand that Ukraine, Volhynia, Podolia, Lithuania, and Poland were forcibly annexed by the Russian empire; on the contrary, he maintained that all these lands belonged to Russia from time immemorial, and God’s justice handed them to the Russian tsar because they could not possibly exist on their own, or rise from their backwardness, barbarism, and destitution without Russia’s help.

According to Dostoevsky, the Baltic countries were also Russia, and so were Siberia and the Caucasus. While listening to these ravings we concluded that Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was mentally challenged concerning Russia’s properties. But he repeated his absurdities with great pleasure."
I guess Stalin must have been a huge fan of Dostoevsky ^^
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