Analysis Pages

Facts in Crime and Punishment

Having set the novel in St. Petersburg, Dostoevsky includes facts and information that pertain directly to that city during the early 1860s. Many of the following annotations contain facts relating to clothing, currency, language, religion, and societal norms and references from the time period.

Facts Examples in Crime and Punishment:

Part I - Chapter I

🔒 7

"ikon..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

In Russian Orthodoxy, many Christians have small religious ikons (icons) depicting Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or other saints in the Christian faith on display in their homes. Sometimes, small candles are lit around these icons to serve as prayer candles.

"Germans of sorts..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

Dostoevsky particularly names Germans here because they were historically one of the largest non-slavic ethnic groups in the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great, of German descent herself, proclaimed open immigration for Europeans during her rule, which resulted in a large German influx, and once Russia abolished serfdom in 1863, the labor shortage resulted in another influx of German workers.

"Hay Market..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

The Hay Market is a district in Saint Petersburg filled with vendors, bars, hotels, and brothels that developed during the late 18th century. This area was filled with alleys and bordered by slums, like where Raskolnikov lives). Interestingly, it was only one-half mile from the fashionable and more upscale Nevskii Prospect.

"Raskolnikov, a student..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

The young man finally introduces himself. In Russian, common ways of calling someone by name include either simply the family name, as shown here, or the first name and the patronymic (a middle name derived from the person's father's name). In the latter case, the main character would be addressed as Rodion Romanovitch.

"copecks the rouble..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

Russian currency consists of the rouble, which is a paper currency similar to the dollar or euro, and the copeck (kopeck), which is equal to one hundredth of a ruble.

"Petersburg stench..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

Despite being located fairly far north, the foundations of the port city of Saint Petersburg were built on a swamp, which explains why during summer there would be a particular smell in the area in addition to the other things Dostoevsky shortly mentions.

"S. Place..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

One convention of 19th-century literature included using an initial instead of a specific name or location. Dostoevsky used this technique as did many other authors of the time, possibly due to the aggressive censorship that governments, particularly Imperial Russia, imposed on publications.

"tallow..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

Tallow is a substance solid at room temperature and made from animal fats. It was widely used to make candles before more convenient wax varieties became more widespread--although they continued to be the cheaper alternative for some time.

"there is no real night..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

Cities, such as St. Petersburg, and other locations at high latitudes have very few hours of true darkness during the summer months due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis.

"pomatum..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

Another word for "pomade," pomatum is a scented oil or a kind of hair gel that is used to dress or fix one's hair in place.

"Egyptian bridge...."   (Part I - Chapter II)

The Egyptian bridge crosses over the Fontanka River--one of the left branches of the Neva River. It was built during the 19th century's renewed interest in Egyptian culture and it originally featured cast-iron sphinxes, hexagonal lanterns, and a pair of cast-iron gates with Egyptian-style columns.

"cleft palate..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

Similar to a cleft lip, a cleft palate is a relatively common birth defect in which a longitudinal gap forms in the middle or on either side of the roof of the mouth. While the specific reasons for why this happens are not exactly known, there is information to suggest that it is genetic--which appears to be how Dostoevsky has chosen to portray Kapernaumov's family's affliction.

"Lewes' Physiology..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

George Henry Lewes was an English philosopher who wrote Physiology of Common Life in 1859. However, he is actually best known for living with, but never marrying, Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the pen name George Eliot.

"black nails...."   (Part I - Chapter II)

While Marmeladov's nails could be black from dirt and filth, black nails are also a symptom of kidney or liver disease, which can be brought on by excessive and continued alcohol consumption. Considering what we've learned, he is most certainly an alcoholic and his bloated face, fat and red hands, and black nails are all evidence of this.

"even oaths..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

An oath typically refers to a pledge of loyalty or allegiance. However, oaths can also be profane, blasphemous curses or any strong insult or expletive--often substituting for a sacred name. The other people in the bar shouted offensive or rude words (oaths) at Marmeladov, likely to show their disapproval of his actions by insulting him with degrading language.

"on the Neva?..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

The Neva is a major river in St. Petersburg that flows from Lake Ladoga through the city and into the Gulf of Finland. The river is wide and has steep banks which have made it suitable for navigation and the transportation of goods. Marmeladov reasons for asking Raskolnikov this question are not clear--likely due to the state of his intoxication.

"titular counsellor..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

In the Table of Ranks, defined by Peter the Great in 1722, Titular counsellor was a government position in Imperialist Russia that was more or less equivalent to a military Captain in terms of rank and authority. The kind of services someone like Marmeladov would provide are often ambiguous in nature, with authors like Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol sometimes using the position for humor.

"Vassilyevsky Ostrov..."   (Part I - Chapter III)

The Vassilyevsky Ostrov--in Russian, an ostrov (остров) is an island--is situated between two branches of the Neva River, with the Gulf of Finland on its western side. It contains a large portion of St. Petersburg's historic city center, including a number of museums and a large cemetery.

"Senate..."   (Part I - Chapter III)

The Governing Senate was instituted by Peter the Great and served as the legislative, judicial, and executive body of the Russian Empire. In the 19th century, the Senate became the highest judicial entity in Russia and controlled all legal institutions, judges, and officials in the country.

"Our Lady..."   (Part I - Chapter III)

In Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions, the mention of "Our Lady" refers to the blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. She figures prominently in this faith and is venerated as the mother of God.

"versts..."   (Part I - Chapter III)

A verst is an older Russian unit of distance used during the imperial age that is equal to approximately two-thirds of a mile or a little over one kilometer.

"under the influence of Bacchus..."   (Part I - Chapter III)

Bacchus is the Roman name for Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. Saying that someone is under this gods influence is a rather creative way of saying that someone is intoxicated or suffers from alcoholism.

"Lett..."   (Part I - Chapter IV)

A Lett is a term for the main inhabitants of Latvia. The English form "Lett" is derived from the German Lette which ultimately came from the Latin latvis.

" the Anna in his buttonhole..."   (Part I - Chapter IV)

"Anna" here refers to St. Anna who is believed to be the mother of the Virgin Mary. Rasolnikov's statement suggests that Luzhin may have been given an award for his civil or military services that depicts St. Anna, and he prominently displays it on his clothes.

"Schilleresque..."   (Part I - Chapter IV)

Johann von Schiller was a popular German writer, historian, and poet who many consider to be the embodiment of idealism. In fact, notice how Raskolnikov uses Schilleresque as a verb to indicate this sentiment: "idealistic noble hearts." This reference comes up again later in the novel, with Raskolnikov himself accused of being a Schiller.

"Avdotya Romanovna..."   (Part I - Chapter IV)

Raskonikov's sisters full name is Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova. Russian first names tend to have multiple affectionate forms, and so Dounia is derived from Avdotya in the same way that Rodya is derived from Rodion.

"Holy Mother of Kazan..."   (Part I - Chapter IV)

Raskolnikov refers to another religious icon of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Mother of Kazan is a particular holy icon that represented the Virgin Mary as the protector and patron of the city of Kazan. Smaller versions of this icon were often kept in homes to create private places in which to pray.

"bay..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

Similar to the word "sorrel," a bay refers to a bay-colored, or reddish brown, animal--typically a horse with a reddish-brown body and a black mane and tail.

"balalaïka..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

A balalaika is a stringed instrument, similar to a guitar, with a long neck and a triangular body. It originated in Russia and is popular there and in other slavic countries.

"sorrel..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

"Sorrel" can mean a a brownish orange to light brown color. However, in the context of animals it typically refers to a light brown horse that often has a white mane and tail.

"Turgenev..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was a Russian novelist whose work is generally associated with the Realism literary movement. He is best known for his novel Fathers and Sons, which is regarded as one of the major works of the 19th century.

"Pushkin..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

Alexander Pushkin is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet, and he is credited with founding modern Russian literature. His works also greatly influenced how Russian was spoken and written in the 19th century.

"Petrovsky Ostrov..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

This is one of the smaller islands to the north of Vasilyevsky Island and is located right next to the Tuchkov Bridge that would take Raskolnikov south towards Vasilyevsky Island and towards his home in the Central District.

"islands..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

North of Vasilyevsky Island, across the Tuchkov Bridge is another large island surrounded by several smaller ones. Other branches of the Neva, such as the Lesser Neva, separate each of these islands.

"Mihailovsky Palace..."   (Part I - Chapter VI)

The Mikhailovsky Palace is located immediately to the south of the field of Mars across the Moika River and is situated in a large green space known as Mikhailovsky Garden. Toward the end of the 19th century, the Russian Tsar Nicolas II bought the grounds and turned the palace into a museum.

"the field of Mars..."   (Part I - Chapter VI)

Named after the Roman God of War, the field of Mars is a large park situated in the center of St. Petersburg immediately to the west of the summer garden. Prior to the Russian revolution in 1917, this field was the site for military parades and training.

"the summer garden..."   (Part I - Chapter VI)

The summer garden is located to the northeast of the Yusupov garden on a very small island surrounded by the Fontanka River, the Moika River, and the Swan Canal. It was originally designed by Peter the Great and has remained a popular location in Petersburg.

"Yusupov garden..."   (Part I - Chapter VI)

The Yusupov garden is a large park located in the Central District between Sadovaya Street and the Fontanka River embankment. Originally the site of a private palace, in 1863 the park was opened to the public and became a favorite location for locals and tourists to visit in the city.

"Nikolaevsky Bridge..."   (Part II - Chapter II)

This bridge crosses the Bolshaya Neva, a branch of the Neva River, and connects the Central District with Vasilyevsky Island. It was named Nikolaevsky in honor of the Russian Tsar Nicolas I, but the soviets later renamed it to the Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge. It's current name is the Blagoveshchensky Bridge.

"Les Confessions..."   (Part II - Chapter II)

Les Confessions is the autobiography of Jean Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher, author, and social critic. In this book, Rousseau delved into self-observation, criticizing his own character and imperfections while also divulging his thoughts and feelings about education, literature, and politics. Around 1770, Rousseau began reading Les Confessions aloud in local salons to ensure that his ideas were spread accurately.

"Krestovsky Island..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

This is the island where Raskolnikov ended up burying the jewelry and purse that he stole from the pawnbroker's apartment. It is situated between the Srednyaya Nevka, Malaya Nevka, and the Krestovka rivers--all tributaries of the Neva.

"Five Corners..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

Razumihin is referring to a crossing in downtown St. Petersburg. These five streets are Lomonosova Street, Raz'ezzhaya Street, Rubinshteyna Street, and Zagorodniy Prospect.

"Zossimov..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

Zossimov is a young intellectual and a doctor who came to treat Raskolnikov during his illness. He is a friend of Razumihin's and presumably Raskolnikov has met Zossimov before during his time as a student.

"Pashenka..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

Praskovya (Pashenka) Pavolvna is Raskolnikov's landlady, to whom he is in debt. This is the first time her name has been mentioned, and as we shortly see, Razumihin has gotten to know her well during Raskolnikov's illness. The use of this diminutive form of her name is a kind of term of endearment.

"Palais de Crystal..."   (Part II - Chapter IV)

This place that Razumihin mentions is not actually a palace. In 1862, under that name, a hotel with a restaurant opened in St. Petersburg on the corner of Park Street and Voznesensky Prospekt.

"chandler's..."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

A chandler can mean someone who makes candles for a living. However, when it is prefaced with a type of resource, such as corn here, then the meaning changes to someone who sells that type of resource.

"a barrel organ..."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

This is a mechanical musical instrument that an operator can play predetermined music from. This is done by turning a handle to move the gears so that the instrument plays. Such instruments are often played by street musicians looking to earn a little money from passersby--for example, tourists.

"samovar..."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

A samovar is a large metal container used to heat water for tea or for everyday use around the house. It is very popular in Russia and has a long cultural history as an important fixture of hospitality and community in Russian households.

"Rubinstein..."   (Part III - Chapter I)

Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein (1829-1894) was an accomplished Russian composer, conductor, and pianist who founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1862. The conservatory was the first music school in Russia. Rubinstein became a teacher there, instructing many young musicians, including Tchaikovsky.

"Napoleon..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

Napoleon Buonaparte (1769-1821) is renowned for his success as a military leader. He earned the title of First Consul of France and was crowned Emperor in 1804. By 1807, Napoleon's army had conquered many lands that stretched from Portugal to Italy.

"Mahomet..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

Mahomet (Muhammad) (c.572-632) is widely regarded as the founder of Islam. He claimed he was a messenger for God (Allah) and preached monotheism. Although he acquired many supporters, there were some who rejected his teachings. Mahomet was forced into exile, but when he returned, he was acknowledged as the last and Holy Prophet of Allah, obtaining a central role in the faith.

"Solon..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

Solon (c.639-559 B.C.) was an Athenian poet, statesman, and lawmaker who is credited with establishing the groundwork for Athenian democracy. He created laws for the good of the people: among many others, he introduced the trial by jury concept, and created child protection laws.

"Lycurgus..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

The Lycurgus (c. 9th century B.C.) reference most likely applies to the celebrated Sparta lawgiver responsible for transforming Spartan society. All of his reforms were made in accordance with the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, and they were aimed at the three main Spartan virtues: equality, fitness, and austerity.

"Newton..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

Nearly 60 years after Kepler's death, an English mathematician and physicist, Sir Issac Newton (1642-1727) created a theory discussing universal gravitation using Kepler's laws as a guide. Newton was a genius who also developed theories about the nature of light and invented calculus.

"Kepler..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German mathematician and astronomer, is regarded as the founder of modern astronomy. Kepler's three laws describe planetary movement as they orbit the sun.

"Ivan the Great..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

Ivan III Vasilyevich (1440-1505), known as Ivan the Great or Ivan the Terrible, was the prestigious grand duke of Moscow from 1462-1505. He is known for freeing Moscow from the rule of the Tatars in 1480. In addition to his many triumphs as duke, he also laid the foundations for the Russian state and empire.

"phalanstery..."   (Part III - Chapter V)

This word refers to buildings in a self-sustaining community. These kinds of buildings represent the ideal social organization for living put forth by a French Utopian socialist named Charles Fourier.

"Waterloo..."   (Part III - Chapter VI)

The Battle of Waterloo took place on June 18th, 1815. Napoleon Bonaparte commanded the French army and was defeated by the combined forces of an Anglo-allied army commanded by the Duke of Wellington and a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the Prince of Wahlstatt.

"Toulon..."   (Part III - Chapter VI)

A city in southern France, Toulon has a large military harbor that serves as a major French Naval base. In the 19th century, it played an important and strategic role in the Napoleonic wars and also served as a base for France's conquest of colonies in North Africa.

"Reaumur..."   (Part III - Chapter VI)

The Réamur scale (°Ré, °Re, °R) measures temperature in which the freezing point of water is 0 degrees, and the boiling point is 80 degrees. René Antoine Ferchault de Réamur is credited with creating the prototype of this scale in 1730.

"Raphael's Madonna..."   (Part IV - Chapter I)

Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) was a famous Italian Renaissance painter, best known for his many paintings of the Madonna, the Virgin Mary.

"Malaya Vishera..."   (Part IV - Chapter I)

Malaya Vishera (Ма́лая Ви́шера) is the administrative center of Malovishersky District in Novgorod Oblast, Russia. It was founded in 1843 with the construction of the Moscow-St. Petersburg Railway.

"Nezhin..."   (Part IV - Chapter I)

Nezhin (Nizhyn) is a city in northern Ukraine along the Oster River. In addition to once being a major center of Hasidic Judaism, the city also once had a thriving Greek community.

"General Mack..."   (Part IV - Chapter V)

General Mack (Karl Mack von Leiberich) was an Austrian soldier and general most known for surrendering to Napoleon's forces at the Battle of Ulm in 1805.

"Hof-kriegsrath..."   (Part IV - Chapter V)

The Hofkriegsrat served as the court war council of the Habsburg Monarchy and controlled who served in the army, the money for warfare, and the logistics of the armed forces.

"Alma..."   (Part IV - Chapter V)

The Battle of Alma in September, 1854, is considered the first battle of the Crimean War. British and French troops conducted a siege of the port city of Sevastopol shortly after the Battle of Alma.

"Gogol..."   (Part IV - Chapter VI)

Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol (1809-1852), a playwright, novelist, and short-story writer, is referred to by some as the founder of Russian realism. Gogol frequently included humor, romance, and supernatural elements in his writings.

"Pushkin expression..."   (Part V - Chapter I)

Aleksander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837) was a Russian poet considered by some to be the founder of modern Russian literature. He published his first poem at the age of fifteen, and, as he continued his education, he became well known in the Russian literary scene. Pushkin became involved in politics, advocating social reform and, eventually, he became a spokesman for other literary radicals. The poet's political views angered the government, resulting in Pushkin's exile to southern Russia in 1820. In 1824, Pushkin was forced to move to a family estate and was under watch until 1826 when Pushkin was finally pardoned.

"the new “commune,”..."   (Part V - Chapter I)

This refers to a novel written in 1863 by one of Dostoevsky's contemporaries, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, called What Is to Be Done? In the novel, Chernyshevsky supports the idea of setting up small socialist cooperatives or group communities, similar to Fourier.

"Darwinian..."   (Part V - Chapter I)

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an English naturalist who is best known for developing the theory of biological evolution by natural selection, which he published in 1859 in his book On the Origin of Species.

"Fourier..."   (Part V - Chapter I)

Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a French sociologist who created a utopian form of socialism. His utopia was based on a “phalanx,” which is a group of 1,620 people operating together as a single economic unit. Fourier constructed this community with the hope of creating social harmony.

"nihilists..."   (Part V - Chapter I)

Nihilists reject everything including government, religion, and morals. Nihilists generally believe that life has no meaning. In Russia in the 1860s, they were very radical, risking their lives for their beliefs, and they strove to become independent through education.

"Mont Blanc..."   (Part V - Chapter IV)

Mont Blanc lies within the European mountain range known as the Alps. It is the highest mountain in that range and also the highest in Europe, excluding the Caucasus mountains. Its name means "White Mountain."

"the incense rose in clouds..."   (Part VI - Chapter I)

Incense is any substance that is burned for a particular smell or aroma, and it has been used in practically all major religions since antiquity. In Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, it serves as a symbol of prayers rising to heaven. In this way, incense aids the act of praying by providing sensory components.

"Tyrolese hat..."   (Part VI - Chapter III)

A Tyrolese, or Tyrolean, hat refers to a specific kind of headwear from a region and state in western Austria known as the Tyrol. This hat usually capers to a point in the front and is made of green felt. Other names include the Bavarian or Alpine hat.

"nosegays..."   (Part VI - Chapter VI)

These are not a particular type of flower, but rather they are small bunches of very fragrant flowers used for decoration.

"Trinity day..."   (Part VI - Chapter VI)

Holy Trinity Day (Pentecost) occurs on either the first Sunday after Pentecost for Western Christianity or on the Sunday of Pentecost for Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It is also the anniversary of the birth of the Christian church in 33 AD.

"Livingstone's Travels..."   (Part VI - Chapter VIII)

This is possibly a reference to David Livingstone (1813--1873), a missionary who sailed from Scotland to South Africa at the age of 27, where he spent the next thirty-three years exploring. He became famous for his missionary works, as well as his transcontinental explorations of Africa. While in Africa, he hoped to abolish the slave trade, create new trade routes, and spread the word of Christianity. Missionary Travels (1857) is an account of his journeys. His last journals were edited and published after his death.

"Lent..."   (Epilogue - Chapter II)

Lent is an an annual season in Christian religions when followers abstain from something (food, activities, etc.) or fast in preparation for Easter. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter; it lasts 40 weekdays.

Analysis Pages