The Wikipedia article about Fyodor Dostoyevski contains a section about the author's death that begins with the following statement:

On 25 January 1881, while searching for members of the terrorist organisation Narodnaya Volya ("The People's Will") who would soon assassinate Tsar Alexander II, the Tsar's secret police executed a search warrant in the apartment of one of Dostoevsky's neighbours[citation needed]. On the following day, Dostoevsky suffered a pulmonary haemorrhage. Anna denied that the search had caused it, saying that the haemorrhage had occurred after her husband had been looking for a dropped pen holder.

Wikipedia has no source to support the claim in the first sentence quoted above. I checked the corresponding sections in the German, French and Spanish Wikipedia articles about the author, but these versions do not contain that specific claim. So what is the source of the story about the search warrant?

2 Answers 2


Dostoyevsky's neighbor was Alexander Barannikov, a revolutionary and terrorist, who participated in the murder of the Russian chief of police and Moscow bombings.

The story was first discovered by Viktor Shklovsky, our great literary scholar, who included official letter about the search in his novellette published in 1933.

Later this story was further investigated by Igor Volgin, Russian historian.

Joseph Frank's biography tells the story:

other events were taking place in the very building where the Dostoevskys occupied apartment 10. Apartment 11 was actually a small rooming house where individuals could rent single accommodations. Sometime before midnight on the twenty-fifth, the police entered that apartment and carried out a thorough search of one of the rooms in the presence of witnesses. Its inhabitant had been arrested elsewhere earlier that day, and, although he carried a false passport, there was a wellfounded suspicion that he was a member of the executive committee of the terrorist Narodnaya Volya

After the search police made an ambush and the next day, January 26th, another revolutionary was caught in this apartment, Nikolay Kolodkevich.

Dostoyevsky's wife Anna doesn't mention this in her Reminiscences, but both Shklovsky and Volgin try to cast doubt on her account of the events. Anna mentions her husband "moving a heavy bookcase” which led to him rupturing his artery. But in her original draft it is him "having lifted a heavy chair". Was she making things up?

Volgin cites police report of the search and gives the document's code number in the State Archive, so I guess it should settle the question of the possibility of the event.

After Tsar's assasination Barannikov was actively preparing himself and his family for the death penalty. However, his actual sentence was 20 years of katorga. That unexpected turn crushed him. He died in a year.


Shklovsky's novellette was published in the Soviet magazine Krasnaya Nov, 1933, December, p. 151

Volgin's book - [Volgin I. Posledniy god Dostoevskogo : istoricheskie zapiski [The Last Year of Dostoevsky: Historical Notes]. Moscow, AST Publ., Zebra Publ.] Chapter XX

Joseph Frank - "Dostoevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881" - 2002 by Princeton University Press, pp. 744, 745

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    Welcome to the site, and thank you for sleuthing out this information! To improve this answer, please could you add some quotes from the sources you're using and linking to? In case those links go dead in the future, it's good to have the actual information here on this site.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 8, 2020 at 13:32
  • Thanks for this information, but could you please add (1) precise references (book titles, year of publication, page numbers, etc.), (2) what the relevance is of Alexander Barannikov, (3) what the relevance of those links is?
    – Tsundoku
    Aug 8, 2020 at 16:47
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    Thanks for the feedback, I've tried to expand my answer now
    – b4rtr
    Aug 8, 2020 at 19:34
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    Thanks for the additions. Nice surprise seeing Shklovsky mentioned here; I only knew about him as a representative of Russian formalism in the history of literary theory.
    – Tsundoku
    Aug 8, 2020 at 19:43
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    Yeah, that's because formalism was derided in Stalin era in 1930s. Scholars had to adapt
    – b4rtr
    Aug 9, 2020 at 8:00

I seriously doubt that claim.

Russian wiki does not have it as well. According to its account, the haemorrhage was caused by an emotional conversation with his sister regarding an inheritance. The conversation happened at January 26th.

As far as I can tell (given my limited knowledge of the languages you've linked), neither article mentioned this conversation. Below is my translation:

At January 26th 1881 the writer's sister Vera Mikhailovna visited the house of Dostojevskys to beg her brother to waive his stake in the inheritance of their aunt A. F. Kumanina. (His daughter) L. F. Dostoyevsky recalled a very emotional encounter, with mutual accusations and tears, after which Dostoyevsky had a haemorrhage attack[300].

The [300] link to the memoirs of L. F. Dostoyevsky appears to be broken. It is worth noticing though that the book was published in 1922; if there was an evidence (no matter how dubious) that the secret police did play a role (no matter how small) in his death, rest assured it would be trumpeted very loudly.

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    Thanks for your contribution, but I'm for confirmation (or disproving evidence) from a source outside Wikipedia. I consulted the other Wikipedia versions only to show that the statement does not have an easy-to-find online source, but evidence should come from outside Wikipedia.
    – Tsundoku
    Aug 7, 2020 at 8:51
  • @Tsundoku If something didn't happen, there may be no supporting evidence. The memoire of L.F.Dostoyevsky is a strong evidence that the course of events was quite different. Aug 9, 2020 at 21:38

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