Far Below Moscow, the Burden of Free Will

It’s fitting that Russia’s newest railway addition, an homage to Fyodor Dostoevsky, will be built 60 meters below the city where the writer was born, making it one of the deepest in Moscow.

“[Dostoevsky] cannot restrain himself. Out it tumbles upon us, hot, scalding, mixed, marvellous, terrible, oppressive–the human soul,” wrote Virginia Woolf on the Russian romantic (The Common Reader). And what could be more alienating–not to mention thematically faithful to Dostoevskian paradigms–than a railway station deeper and darker than any other?

As were the stations devoted each to Chekhov and Pushkin, the polyphonic writer’s décor will be inspired by his works. With this in mind, an underground railway station is much more conducive to reverent admiration of Dostoevsky than of either Pushkin or Chekhov. Where these fine realists created decidedly anticlimactic theater and stories which offered subtle, often humorous insights into society, Dostoevsky plunged readers into the dark, feverish recesses of the human psyche.

So while I haven’t visited the station of either Pushkin or Chekhov, the thematic differences between these two writers and Dostoevsky suggest an uncanny dissimilarity which leaves me wondering what, exactly, Dostoevskaya station’s underground scenes will illustrate. How does one depict the scalding, oppressive human soul? Most tangibly, I imagine Fetyukovich’s defense of Dmitri Karamazov in black silhouette, a line of witnesses waiting to take the stand and the words “Above all, do not lie to yourself” scripted to the side. To go the more metaphysical route, I alternatively envision a violent, hypnotic whirlwind–the inner conflicts of Raskolnikov’s tormented guilt–swirling overhead in harsh strokes of black and white, specked with blood red: “The old woman was a mistake perhaps…it wasn’t a human being I killed, it was a principle!”

Here’s to hoping the trains aren’t delayed.