The Empire’s iron road : the October 2016 Slavonic item of the month

This post examines one of the exhibits in the online Crime and Punishment at 150′ exhibition, a 19th-century map of the railway lines in Asian Russia.  Location plays a major part in the novel and was a major focus of the exhibition in turn.  Crime and Punishment is set chiefly in St Petersburg and is full of local detail about the imperial capital.   The Siberian setting of the epilogue is anonymised, in obvious contrast.  This vast map gives a good idea both of the scale of the Asiatic part of the Russian Empire but also of the work involved in laying down in iron the Romanovs’ reach to the East.


The map was produced in 1899 by the Ministry of Railways (the formal term for railways here, and in the name of the map, is “lines of communication”).  The online image cannot quite convey the extraordinary size of the map.  As its record on iDiscover shows, it is a vast 180 cm wide and 80 cm high.  Our copy is cut into sections to allow the whole to be folded up; one of the internal seams can be seen towards the right in the close-up above.  Dostoevsky served his own sentence in Omsk (shown centre-right here), and this is the location often imagined by readers of Crime and Punishment as Raskolnikov’s place of imprisonment.

As explained in a previous blog post on the exhibition, the captions were written largely by University of British Columbia undergraduates taking a Dostoevsky course.  The caption for this item was written by Olivia Chorny.  “As a convict (for his membership in the Petrashevsky Circle) in Siberia,” she wrote, “Dostoevsky suffered myriad health problems, frostbite, abuse from other prisoners, unimaginable filth, and starvation … Yet his Siberian experience also helped Dostoevsky develop his personal philosophy and ideas about inequality, the nature of freedom, and the importance of hope.” Continue reading

‘Crime and Punishment’ at 150 : exhibition opens today

montageIn 1866, the journal ‘Russkii vestnik’ (Russian Messenger) published Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ for the first time.  The University Library is taking part in a transatlantic series of events coordinated by Dr Katherine Bowers (University of British Columbia) and Dr Kate Holland (Toronto)  to mark the anniversary of the novel’s publication.

Strictly speaking, two exhibitions open today and not one – a large virtual exhibition of 22 objects and a smaller physical exhibition in the Library’s entrance hall, with two cases displaying a total of 9 of these same pieces.  Over the course of the year, captions for the exhibitions have been written by Dr Bowers’ undergraduate students in collaboration with us both, and with input from Kristina McGuirk and Barnabas Kirk, research associates at UBC and Toronto.

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Of men and their demons : masculinity in Dostoevskii’s ‘Besy’

Title page of the 1890 edition of Dostoevskii's Besy (S756.d.89.28).

Title page of the 1890 edition of Dostoevskii’s Besy (S756.d.89.28).

The CamCREES bibliographical notes aim to link Cambridge library resources with the fortnightly seminars hosted by CamCREES (the Cambridge Committee for Russian and East European Studies) in the Michaelmas and Lent terms of each academic year.  Each set of notes starts by looking at the specifics of a seminar and then goes on to explore related research tips and library issues; this latest set, for example, ends with a look at the problems of varying Russian transliteration in the world of electronic resources.  The CamCREES bibliographical notes were introduced in February 2011 on the University Library’s Slavonic webpages, where all earlier notes can be found.

The second CamCREES seminar of Michaelmas 2013, again part of Dr Katia Bowers’ CEELBAS-funded project ‘Promoting the Study of Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature in the UK’, was given by Dr Connor Doak of the University of Bristol.  His talk, ‘Of men and their demons : masculinity in Dostoevskii’s Besy’ looked at the characters in Dostoevskii’s novel (commonly translated into English as ‘The devils’ or ‘The demons’ or ‘The possessed’) about young radicals and their parents. Through close reading of selected passages, Dr Doak demonstrated how Besy ‘critiques both the sentimental men of the 1840s generation – presented as effete performers who have voluntarily renounced their manliness – and the radical men of the 1860s – presented as hypermasculine in their taste for violence’ (quotation from the talk’s abstract).

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