[In Our Time] Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

14/11/2019 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: https://podplayer.net/?id=86918246
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/6/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p07txhxq.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the novel written by Dostoevsky and published in 1866, in which Raskolnikov, a struggling student, justifies his murder of two women, as his future is more valuable than their lives. He thinks himself superior, above the moral laws that apply to others. The police have little evidence against him but trust him to confess, once he cannot bear the mental torture of his crime – a fate he cannot avoid, any more than he can escape from life in St Petersburg and his personal failures.

The image above is from a portrait of Dostoevsky by Vasili Perov, 1872.


Sarah Hudspith
Associate Professor in Russian at the University of Leeds

Oliver Ready
Lecturer in Russian at the University of Oxford, Research Fellow at St Antony’s College and a translator of this novel


Sarah Young
Associate Professor in Russian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Listen Date: 2020-01-30


  • The bits about sneering at St Petersburg for not being authentically Russian and instead being too Westernised reminded me of the lovely book A History of Future Cities, which talks about how St Petersburg (as well as Shanghai, then-Bombay, and Dubai) have all been consciously created as emulations of the west (as it was then seen).
  • But that was my major takeaway – that Dostoevsky is depressingly reactionary, anti-urban, wedded to religion as the source of morality and willing to throw away too many good things in his zeal to condemn the bad.


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