Feb 012011

I was looking up the famous suicide character Kirillov in Dostoevsky’s novel The Possessed (also translated as The Demons) and came up this gem in the UK Independent, a classic example of art not mixing very well with life apparently.

For a really good selection of photographs of the murals, including one of Kirillov shooting himself, go here. I love the quote from the artist who did the murals: “What did you want? Scenes of dancing? Dostoevsky doesn’t have them.”


The new station was decorated with black and white marble mosaics of scenes from Dostoevsky’s most famous novels, including Crime and Punishment, Demons, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. But unsurprisingly for a writer famously preoccupied with death, the scenes include images of suicide and murder.

On one wall, Rodion Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment brandishes an axe over the elderly pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna and her sister, his murder victims in the novel. Near by, a character from Demons holds a pistol to his temple.

The pictures quickly caused a sensation. Bloggers and websites called the images that appeared on the internet in April “depressing” amid speculation that the images could attract suicides.

via Dostoevsky images on metro ‘could cause suicides’ – Europe, World – The Independent.

  9 Responses to “Dostoevsky images in subway station ‘could cause suicides’”

  1. I like the comment from the artist, Ivan Nikolaev:

    “What did you want? Scenes of dancing? Dostoevsky doesn’t have them,” he told Izvestia.

  2. These murals are amazing–beautifully graphic and moody!! Makes me want to go to Moscow and take the subway.

  3. Keep in mind that the concern is not the actual READING of the novels, but the murals. If a mural can induce one to suicide, we really do live in a post-literate age. My god.

  4. Reading this caused me to become irrationally incensed. One would imagine that such concerns might arise during the concept phase. Besides, looking at these beautiful moody art pieces makes me feel pretty good … at least no one’s after me with an axe.

  5. Seems like there’s something in human nature that makes us feel good when thinking about tragedy that isn’t ours. (Southern writer Walker Percy wrote about this in Lost in the Cosmos)
    If so, maybe someone could make a case that the murals will save lives.
    They are indeed stunning.

  6. The images are beautiful (thanks for the link) and are very much in sync with the spirit of the stories.

    I’ve noticed that many think that the suicide image is Kirillov from Demons, but to me, it looks more like Svidrigailov, from Crime and Punishment, on the bridge. Kirillov’s death took place in his tiny living space, in the dark and unseen… Only a shot was heard as Pyotr Verkhovensky was fleeing the room after Kirillov bit his finger. One of the most memorable scenes in Russian literature.

  7. These are impressive, stark, moody pieces. I would love to see these during my daily commute, but then again I’m not a pawnbroker.

    It’s interesting how public art doesn’t ask for consent before impressing itself on the viewer. There’s no parental advisory, no gallery doors to willingly enter. Public art finds you and gets you, whether or not you get it.

  8. I think the use of Dostoevsky for the station is awesome. Most of the other stations still have the original Soviet-era artwork, which while beautiful and glorious tends to be a bit outdated. The one thing about the Russian metros is that the stations are never boring.

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