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jailFyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky on April 23, 1849 at age 28 was arrested in St. Petersburg by a joint strike force of local police and Tsar Nicholas I’s secret police.

Dostoevsky had participated for some two years in a small group of intelligentsia, the Petrashevsky Circle, which met weekly to discuss current events including contemporary literature. In February 1848 everything changed as Europe exploded in revolution and governments fell throughout the continent. Not unexpectedly, social and political issues became more central in the Petrashevsky discussion, including talk about revolution in Russia. Not surprisingly, Nicholas I instituted extreme repressive measures covering all aspects of Russian intellectual and cultural life, including of course censorship of public expression. A secret government agent joined the Circle; Dostoevsky’s passionate opposition to serfdom slavery was no secret. Dostoevsky then joined a smaller group within the Circle seeking to set up a secret printing press.

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