The Healed Soul

The Healed Soul

“The soul is healed by being with children.”

–Fyodor Dostoevsky

Happiness came at last for Dostoevsky in his mid-forties. Anna Snitkina and Fyodor Dostoevsky married and enjoyed sixteen wondrous years.

Anna’s writings gave us an intimate glimpse of Dostoevsky as an adoring husband. Once, he waited three hours for her on a street corner when her return was delayed. He also took great joy in giving her beautiful gifts—even when money seemed scarce.

8b0c79d0b2He had a tireless love of children and soothed the housekeeper’s children when he heard coughing or crying in the night. As a devoted father, he helped with bathing and feeding their children, unlike men of his day. Anna described him…

“Fyodor was uncommonly tender with his daughter, fussed over her, carried her about in his arms, sang her to sleep and felt so happy that he wrote (a friend), ‘Oh, why aren’t you married and why don’t you have a child? I swear to you that ¾ of life’s happiness lie in that, and ¼ at most in the rest.’”[i] Anna added, “Neither before nor since have I seen a man with such a capacity to enter the world of children.”[ii]

Dostoevsky also proved to be deeply passionate about God. He knew the depths of spiritual battles and once wrote:

“Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man.”[iii]

Another time he wrote, “God sends me sometimes instants when I am completely calm; at those instants I love and feel loved by others, and it is at those instances that I have shaped for myself a Credo where everything is clear and sacred for me. This Credo is very simple; here it is: to believe that nothing is more beautiful, profound, sympathetic, reasonable, manly and more powerful than Christ; and I tell myself with a jealous love not only that there is nothing, but that there cannot be anything higher. Even more, if someone proved to me that Christ is outside truth, and that in reality the truth were outside Christ, that I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.”[iv]

Christ in The Wilderness  By Ivan Kramskoy

Christ in The Wilderness
By Ivan Kramskoy

There was nothing passive about his Credo. Once, while visiting a museum, he stood for hours in front of a painting of Jesus Christ that depicted the agony of the cross. He was riveted. Anna could not persuade him to leave. And that would happen again and again with other paintings of Christ.

He displayed great compassion for his fellow man. Despite the slavery of serfs, he treated them with dignity. During wartimes, he would buy honey cakes and cigarettes for soldiers who were crowded in train cars, waiting to be deployed.

“I should tell you,” Anna wrote, “that my husband is a very kind person and never has the strength to refuse help to anyone—in accordance with his means, of course. There were times when (he) didn’t have any small change, and if people came asking alms near our house entrance, he would bring them into our apartment and give them money there.”[v]

One time a drunken man on the sidewalk assaulted Dostoevsky. The man hit him with such force that he fell on the pavement, which bruised and bloodied his face. At the police station, Dostoevsky asked that the offender be released because he forgave him.

Dostoevsky on his death bed

Dostoevsky on his death bed

At the end of his life, as Dostoevsky lay dying, he asked for his children. He wanted them to hear the story of the Prodigal Son. After the reading, he took their hands in his and said, “My children, never forget what you have just heard. Have absolute faith in God and never despair of His pardon. I love you dearly, but my love is nothing compared with the love of God for all those He has created. Even if you should be so unhappy as to commit a crime in the course of your life, never despair of God. You are His children: humble yourselves and He will rejoice over your repentance.”[vi] That very evening he died quietly at 8:38, holding Anna’s hand.

I noted the time of death. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Romans 8:38-39 says: 38 “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NASB)

Anna and the children

Anna and the children

His daughter Lyubov later wrote, “I have since been present at the death of several friends and relatives, but none was so radiant as that of my father. His was a truly Christian death. He did not lose consciousness till the last moment. He saw death approaching without fear. He knew that he had not buried his talent, and that all his life he had been God’s faithful servant. He was ready to appear before his Eternal Father…”[vii]

In those awful moments of his parting, Anna did not think she would survive his passing. Her heart pounded so hard she thought she’d go out of her mind.

Dostoevsky's funeral procession

Dostoevsky’s funeral procession

Three days later, Dostoevsky’s funeral procession was a “majestic spectacle: a long file of wreaths borne aloft on poles; large choirs of young people intoning funeral chants; the coffin raised high above the throng; and a vast mass of humanity, (80,000 reportedly) following the cortege,”[viii] which ended up being a three-hour processional to the monastery.

The enormous attendance was utterly spontaneous. No cell phones, no Facebook or Twitter. People from all walks of life, young and old, near and far, came to honor this extraordinary human being. Millions continue to be touched by his works well over a century after his death.

   *  *  *  *  *  *

Taste and see: Now, if you are so inclined, I challenge you to read Dostoevsky’s chapter, “The Grand Inquisitor,” from his crowning achievement, The Brothers Karamazov. You can read it online for free. The copy I have is eleven pages long.

It’s a story written by the character, Ivan (an existential intellectual). He shares the tale with his brother Alyosha, who is a Christian in the novel. I hope you will accept this assignment. It’s a very famous piece of writing. And, after all, it’s fall and time for school—don’t you feel like sharpening pencils or buying a fresh new notebook!


[i] Dostoevsky: Reminiscences by Anna Dostoevsky, page 156.

[ii] Ibid, page 238.



[v] Dostoevsky: Reminiscences by Anna Dostoevsky, page 275.

[vi] Fyodor Dostoyevsky: A Study, by Liubov Fedorovna Dostoevskaia (Dostoevsky’s daughter, page 274.

[vii] Ibid, page 275.

[viii] Dostoevsky: Reminiscences by Anna Dostoevsky, page 358.


  1. I printed out chapter 5. Taking a few days to get around to reading it. Mine printed out about 17 pages for chapter 5! I know it’ll be awesome. I read that book about 30 some years ago when I read all his books and don’t remember ANYTHING!
    Suzee B

  2. assignment fini
    can’t believe i read that in my 20s and loved it…now i can’t imagine how i got through that heady intellectual stuff.
    but it’s SO powerful, i get the drift. at least i think i do.
    is fyodor ivan or alyosha?
    it’s brilliant, i know that much.
    i think the russian orthodox church was not catholic?
    call me! when you get a chance…..

    • Suzee—yes, it makes me wonder if my brain functioned differently in my 20s! But it’s powerful! See the my cliff-note summary posted yesterday which is how I make sense of the questions asked in Ivan’s story. I think Dostoevsky related to Alyosha most, but struggling inside with all the brothers—Ivan’s existential intellectualism, Demitri’s depraved hedonism for instance. And I also thing that the Russian Orthodox was different from the Roman Catholic Church. Bravo for you–taking on the challenge! S