The Dostoyevsky Festival was held at the beginning of February 2009, on Friday 6th and Saturday 7h, at the Karl Anatol Center on the campus of the Cal State University, Long Beach. In broader terms, this Festival carried on a recently established tradition of Russian literature festivals every second year at the CSULB, as the first one was the Pushkin Festival organized in October 2006.
The Festival successfully addressed Dostoyevsky’s contribution to the world literature and assessed his role in Modern American Thought. Its round-table discussions on a high academic level, steered by the Dostoyevsky connoisseurs among the scholars of leading US Universities, led by Professor Gary Rosenschield (one of America's most respected Dostoevsky scholars) as a keynote speaker, and by the Professor at Moscow University, Igor Volgin, also the Director of the Dostoyevsky Foundation in Moscow. During these engaging two days of debates, it was very exiting to follow intellectual exchange between those two scholars, coming from opposite methodologies while elaborating about the intriguing biography of one of the greatest Russian writers and about his major novels: “The Devils,” “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov.”
It should not be overlooked, that yet another American scholar of Russian origin, Irina Kuznecova, added spice to polemics, thanks to her profound knowledge of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s influence on German writers and philosophers, as well as to her unexpected ability to fill the gap and become an interpret from Russian to English and vice versa.
Also, the writer’s great- great-grandson, Alexey Dmitriyevich Dostoyevsky, was invited to the Festival as the Honorary President of the Organizational Committee and as a guest-speaker (he played the principal role in a movie based on the chapter 10 from “The Brothers Karamazov” – “Boys”), which role he performed with distinguished flair and was warmly received by the audience. Although the movie was screened in original, Russian version and without subtitles, its artistic value kept all the viewers in intense alertness to the very end. Alexey’s dialog with the audience after the movie, given with a charming mix of modesty and self-assuredness, was very entertaining.
Besides the short documentary – biography of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, that was very helpful in triggering the discussion, the Festival presented two more movies to the attention of the audience. One was the Russian film adaptation of the novel “Crime and Punishment” (with English subtitles) featuring one of the best Russian actors, Smokhtunovsky, and the other was well known Hollywood version of “The Brothers Karamazov” (1958) with several movie stars, led by Yul Brynner in the role of Dmitry Karamazov.
During the Festival an art show of paintings-portraits of Fyodor Dostoyevsky by a contemporary Russian artist, Sergey Morozov, were exhibited at the Karl Anatol Center, where most of the activities took place. They were offered through auction at the closure of the Festival and four out of five were sold.
And last, but not least, this event was made possible by the support, first of all, of the Dean of the CSULB University Library, Roman Kochan, and by the Long Beach-Sochi Sister City Association (through a grant received from the Port of Long Beach), not to forget all other distinguished sponsors, no matter how modest or how special was their contribution. On the other side, regarding the “executive” duties, Professor Harold Shefski, Head of the Russian Department at CSULB and Alexander Yahontov, Co-Chair of the Long Beach-Sochi Sister City Association, were perseverant, yet unobtrusive co-chairs of the Organizational Committee for the Festival, who made it happen.