Dostoevsky’s Pushkin Speech

This link will take you to the full speech. But before you go, feel free to read the following excerpt taken from Dostoevsky’s personal correspondence.

The following is from a letter written to Konstantin Pobedonostsev, dated May 19, 1880.

“I have to go to Moscow for the unveiling of the Pushkin memorial, as a delegate of the Slav Charitable Society. And it turns out, as I had foreseen, that I am going not for pleasure, but perhaps even for immediate unpleasantness. For the point at issue involves my most cherished and fundamental convictions. While still in Petersburg I heard that in Moscow there is a certain clique which is trying to proscribe opinions contrary to its own at the anniversary, and that it fears certain reactionary words which might be said by others at the meetings of the ‘Lovers of Russian Literature,’ who have taken upon themselves the whole arrangement of the anniversary. But in fact I was invited by Yuriev, the President of the Society, and the Society itself (from their official notice) is going to speak at the opening. The papers even have already published rumors about certain intrigues. I have prepared my speech on Pushkin precisely in the most extreme spirit of my convictions (ours, I venture to say). Therefore I anticipate some kind of attack. But I will not be disconcerted and am not afraid. I must serve my work and shall speak without fear. The professors are paying court to Turgenev, who is becoming definitely a personal enemy of mine. (In the Viestnik Europa he let out some petty scandal about me concerning a certain happening, which never happened, thirty-five years ago.) But praise Pushkin and glorify Verochka I cannot. There, why should I trouble you with small-talk ? But the real point is not the small-talk, but a public matter and a great one too, since Pushkin expresses precisely that idea, which we all (a tiny group as yet) serve.

And this must be pointed out and expressed: that is just what is hateful to them [the Westerners]. Well, perhaps they will simply not allow me to speak my mind. In that case I shall publish my speech.

I firmly press your hand, deeply esteemed Konstantin Petrovich. On my return I shall sit down to finish the Karamazovs. All the summer I shall be in labour. But I do not grumble, I love this labour.”

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