Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Great Russian writer

"To love someone means to see them as God intended them"

What is Dostoevsky’s “Diary of a Writer”?

Throughout 1873 and the beginning of 1874, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky worked as an editor of the magazine “Citizen”. In this magazine he began to publish his feuilletons under the general title “Diary of a writer”.

The idea of the “Writer’s Diary” 

Tired of the hard work of the editor, Dostoevsky decided to give up this position. In 1875, he received permission to publish his own separate monthly magazine, The Writer’s Diary. What is a “Writer’s Diary”? Many fans of Dostoevsky’s work do not quite understand what the “Diary of a writer” is. It is curious that Dostoevsky’s contemporaries did not immediately understand the essence of this publication. He himself complained about it in one of his letters. Here’s what he wrote 5 days after the first issue of the Writer’s Diary was published: “… everyone literally does not understand what a “Diary” is – a magazine or a book?…” (February 1876) In fact, the writer’s Diary was not a diary where personal, intimate experiences would be described. Nor was it a work of art. At its core, it was a monthly “journal-diary” in which Dostoevsky discussed issues from public and literary life that worried him. Here is how Fyodor Mikhailovich himself defined the essence of this phenomenon: “… about what I heard and read, – everything or something that struck me personally in a month… a perfect diary in the full sense of the word, that is, a report on what interested me most personally…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – V. S. In this magazine Dostoevsky shared with readers his thoughts and views on a variety of topics: literature, politics, events in Russia, etc. “The writer’s Diary” was published in 1873 as part of the magazine “Citizen”, and then published as a separate, independent publication from 1876 to the end of 1877.

 The Writer’s Diary is an analogue of modern blogs

If Dostoevsky lived in our time, in the XXI century, his “Diary of a writer” could be safely called a blog. In fact, it was a real writer’s blog, only in printed, “paper” form. And this blog was a success with the public.

The success of the “Writer’s Diary”

 This unusual journal-diary soon after its creation had a lot of fans. People from all over the country read this publication with interest and sent Dostoevsky their letters of gratitude. Letters came from everywhere: from Kazan, from Kharkov, etc. Some readers came personally to Dostoevsky’s home to get acquainted with him. 

Closing of the “Writer’s Diary”

The work on the “Diary of a Writer” took a lot of effort from Dostoevsky. Having devoted 2 years to his brainchild, at the end of 1877 he decided to stop producing it.

The story of the Writer’s Diary (from Dostoevsky’s letters)

December 1875

. “Maybe they saw from the newspapers that I announced the “Diary of a Writer”. I’m embarking on a new venture, and I don’t know what will come out. Everything will depend on the 1st issue, which I will issue at the end of January…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – V. S. Solovyov, December 28, 1875)

January 1876

 “Without a doubt, the Writer’s Diary will look like a feuilleton, but with the difference that a feuilleton for a month naturally cannot look like a feuilleton for a week… Here is a report about the event, not so much as about the news, but about what from it (from the event) will remain to us more permanent, more connected with the general, with the whole idea. Finally, I don’t want to bind myself by giving a report at all… I am not a chronicler; on the contrary, it is a perfect diary in the full sense of the word, that is, an account of what interested me most personally – there is even a whim. I don’t know myself… will something worthwhile come out, sometimes it seems that I took it in vain; but, however, that God will send …” (F. M. Dostoevsky – V. S. Solovyov, January 11, 1876)

February 1876

. “…I am not satisfied with my “Diary”, I would like to say 100 times more. I really wanted (and want) to write about literature and about exactly what no one has written anything about since the thirties: About PURE BEAUTY. But I would like not to sit down with these topics and drown the “Diary”.  In four days he sold 3,000 copies in St. Petersburg. As for Moscow and the cities, I do not know if at least one copy will be sold there, so it is not organized, and besides, everyone literally does not understand what a “Diary” is – a magazine or a book?…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – Ya. P. Polonsky, February 4, 1876) “Here in St. Petersburg, he had an unexpected success for me in these first 5 days after his appearance…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – N. F. Yushkov, February 5, 1876)

March 1976

 “I publish the Writer’s Diary, the subscription is not great, but they buy quite a lot separately (throughout Russia). In total I print in 6000 copies and sell everything, so it probably goes…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – A.M. Dostoevsky, March 10, 1876)

April 1976

“… I haven’t had time to figure out the form of the “Diary” yet, and I don’t know if I’ll ever fix it, so the “Diary” will continue for two years, for example, but everything will be a failed thing. For example: I have 10-15 topics when I sit down to write (no less); but the topics that I love more, I involuntarily postpone … On the other hand, I too naively thought that this would be a real diary. A real diary is almost impossible, but only ostentatious, for the public. I meet facts and make a lot of impressions, which I am very busy with – but how else can I write about? Sometimes it’s just impossible. For example: For three months now, I have been receiving a lot of letters from everywhere, signed and anonymous, all sympathetic…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – H. D. Alchevskaya, April 9, 1876)   

June 1976

 “My wife went to the post office with bales of “Diary” for sending to booksellers of eleven provinces….” (F. M. Dostoevsky – H. D. Alchevskaya, June 1, 1876) “We will print in 6000 copies as before…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – M. A. Alexandrov, June 21, 1876)

November 1876

“… starting my new work, I was still not sure myself that I would not interrupt it at the very beginning due to lack of strength and health for certain urgent work. And that is why I did not dare to present to your Imperial Highness such an undecided composition… <…> I could not help but respond with all my heart to everything that began and appeared in our land, in our just and beautiful people. …” (F. M. Dostoevsky – A. A. Romanov (future Emperor Alexander III), November 16 , 1876)

February 1877

 “… I am a sick person and I write my monthly edition extremely hard. In addition, he has to answer several dozen letters every month. Finally, I have a family and other things and responsibilities. There is no time to live positively…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – A. G. Kovner, February 14, 1877)

December 1877

 “I am just ending my publication, and the liquidation of this case required much more funds than I expected. I remain in considerable debts to the paper mill. <…> And now I am ill, holidays are approaching, money is needed, and I am forced even to be prudent in rubles…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – P. A. Isaev, December 7, 1877). “..although in these two years I was tired with the “Diary” (and therefore I want to rest for a year), but this “Diary” brought me a lot of happy moments, precisely because I learned how sympathetic the society is to my activities. I received hundreds of letters from all over Russia and learned a lot that I didn’t know before. I could never have imagined before that there are so many people in our society who sympathize completely with everything that I believe in. In all these letters, if they praised me, it was most of all for my sincerity and directness. It means that this is what is most lacking in our literature, if they immediately and suddenly understood me so fervently. Hence, sincerity and directness are most coveted and least found. But this thirst is significant and capable of generating the most gratifying impressions in the heart…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – L. A. Ozhiginoy, December 17, 1877) “You will not believe to what extent I enjoyed the sympathy of the Russian people in these two years of publication. Letters of encouragement, and even sincerely expressing love, came to me by the hundreds. Since October, when he announced the termination of the publication, they have been coming daily, from all over Russia, from all (the most diverse) classes of society, with regrets and with requests not to leave the case. Only conscientiousness prevents me from expressing the degree of sympathy that everyone expresses to me. And if you knew how much I myself learned in these two years of publishing from these hundreds of letters of Russian people. <…> In all the hundreds of letters that I have received in these two years, they praised me most of all for my sincerity and honesty of thought; it means that this is what we lack most of all, this is what they crave, this is what they do not find. We have few citizens in the representatives of the intelligentsia…” (F. M. Dostoevsky – S. D. Yanovsky, December 17, 1877)