Dostoevsky’s deposition was written shortly after his arrest on April 23, 1849, while he was being held in solitary confinement in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. It is one of the most important documents that he ever wrote. Aside from his letters, there are very few firsthand statements by Dostoevsky about what he thought and believed. As he note’s in his deposition, he was by nature a secretive person and rarely opened himself to others; all students of his work are aware of how difficult it is to make assertions about him that do not instantly have to be qualified. The existence of a document in which he sets out to tell the truth about himself—or, at least, to convince others that he was telling the truth—is thus of unique importance.

He had been arrested in the roundup of the Petrashevsky circle, a group which had met weekly for some years at the home of...


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