By David Owens

Vsevolod V. Krestovskiy

Vsevolod Krestovsky

Vsevolod Krestovsky

November 2, 1840 to January 18. 1895 orthodox calendar
March 22, 2010 was 170 year jubilee of his birth in the modern calendar January 28, 1895

Krestovsky Vsevolod Vladimirovich – famous writer in St. Petersburg.

Krestovsky was as well read in his time as contemporaries Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Krestovsky even dedicated one of his stories to Dostoevsky, though Dostoevsky grew to criticize him as a person.

As a student of History and Philology at St. Petersburg University, Krestovsky was known as a radical and he became known for his poetry.
He contributed and was on the staff of journals such as Time and Epoch.

in the 1960s he began to take an interest in the under belly of St. Petersburg. The publication of his novel, The Slums of St. Petersburg” 1864-1867 was a departure from his poetry. Epoch published excerpts of this novel. In it Krestovsky details life at the bottom in St. Petersburg with both a sympathetic and horrific perspective.

Like the work of Charles Dickens in English, Krestovsky wrote about thieves, beggars and prostitutes in prisons, basements and taverns. And in the ever-present Sennaya Ploschad, the hay market that also was the backdrop for Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.”

Vsevolod Krestovsky

Vsevolod Krestovsky

Excerpt from “The Slums of St. Petersburg:”

“It was getting to be nine o’clock.
An armed sentry paced the guardhouse platform, wrapped up in his mantle. Across the street a motley crowd of beggars stood and soaked and shivering on the portico of Our Savior of the Haymarket. The church service was just ending. A respectable number of beggars had gathered that day: tomorrow would be the Day of the Dead, which meant that vespers this evening would attract an abundance of merchants and other worshipers who wished to dole out generous alms in memory of their parents and kin.

Here stood a group of bareheaded boys and girls, ages five to twelve, dressed in rags, with rolled-up sleeves in which they warmed their numbed hands – or rather hand, since while the left was being warmed, the right would be stretched out for alms. Drops fell along their faces, either tears from their eyes or extraneous drops from the nose. The way these people stood on the cold stone porch was inhuman, for while one foot was performing its natural function the other, racked by convulsive shivers, tried to warm itself in the loosely hanging rags. Barely would a worshiper exit the church when a throng of little beggars would mob him. The pack, ignoring the painful jabs and kicks of the adult beggars, would surround him in front and behind, tugging his clothes and stretching up their little blue hands, pleading for “a kopek for the love of Christ” in a tiresome squeaky monotone.”

Our Saviour of the Haymarket refers to the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God on Sennaya Ploschad, nicknamed “Spas na Sennoi” or “Savior of the Haymarket.” Built in 1826, the church was one of the wealthiest in St. Petersburg and being located on the Hay Market, Sennaya Ploschad, made it a prime target for begging and petty theft. The Church was demolished in 1961 by the Soviet government to make way for The Sennaya metro station. See Sennaya history.

The “Slums of St. Petersburg” was financially more successful than Krestovky’s future novels. He supplemented his income by giving tours of Sennaya Ploschad for Russians who were fascinated with this exotic underlife reported by Krestovsky.

In 1875 Dostoevsky described Krestovsky in his notebook as a “scoundrel” and in 1876 he wrote, “Krestovsky. Honor that finds virtue blindly keeping up the usual superficial appearances, but does not derive it form some inner need of the human soul.”

In 1995 a television series in Russia “Peterburgskye tayny” or “The Mysteries of St. Petersburg.” was based on the novel “Peterburgskye trushchoby, ” “The Slums of St. Peterburg.”


By David Owens,