A Dark View Of Dostoevsky On The Moscow Subway The Dostoevskaya station, meant to honor the author of Crime and Punishment, has some Russian psychologists concerned that murals of violent scenes will play with riders' minds.

A Dark View Of Dostoevsky On The Moscow Subway

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If the smog above ground in Moscow is a little bit too much to take, residents can retreat to the city's underground subway system. Riding the Moscow subway can feel almost like roaming an art museum. The hallways and platforms are full of mosaics and statues and ornate chandeliers. The stations celebrate war heroes or depict life in Soviet times, or honor writers like Fyodor Dostoevsky, author of "Crime and Punishment." A station named after him opened this summer, but there's been criticism because psychologists fear the violent scenes from Dostoevsky's books could encourage suicide. Here's NPR's David Greene.

(Soundbite of subway)

DAVID GREENE: Stepping off the train into this new station, you immediately enter Dostoevsky's world.

Unidentified Man #1: (Russian spoken)

GREENE: The walls are gray and bare, except for several huge murals from Dostoevsky's famous novels: "Brothers Karamazov," "The Idiot" and "Crime and Punishment." That's the book where Dostoevsky digs into the mind of his lead character, Raskolnikov, exploring a young man's path to murder. Maybe you remember this passage...

Unidentified Man #2: Good God, he cried, can it be? Can it be, that I shall really take an axe, that I shall strike her on the head, split her skull open, that I shall tread in the sticky, warm blood, break the lock, steal and tremble, hide, all spattered in the blood with the axe? Good God, can it be?

GREENE: Raskolnikov killed two women. And that famous scene is depicted in a mural here on the subway platform. There's Raskolnikov holding an axe over a woman's head, while a corpse lies on the ground. The novel was stirring enough. This underground tunnel and the echo of subway trains adds to the creepiness.

Mr. IVAN NIKOLAYEV (Artist): (Russian spoken)

GREENE: This is the artist who designed the murals, 69-year-old Ivan Nikolayev.

Mr. NIKOLAYEV: (Russian spoken)

GREENE: My task, he said, was to draw out the meaning, creativity, the entire life of Dostoevsky. Nikolayev began rereading the books and making sketches two decades ago, but the station was delayed for years. It finally opened this past June, and Nikolayev has been asked, repeatedly, whether the scene with the axe was necessary.

Ms. NIKOLAYEV: (Through translator) This is not a new question you're asking. During every interview I am asked this. And so I will ask you this: If someone handed you Dostoevsky's own manuscript, would you just go cross out this scene from the novel?

GREENE: Most of the murals don't have as much violence. Still, psychologists in Russia and abroad noted that gripping images can induce violence, and they said a subway platform's the last place for that.

Mr. MIKHAIL VINOGRADOV (Director, Psychological Help Center in Moscow): (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: Mikhail Vinogradov, who heads a psychological help center in Moscow, went on Russian TV to complain that the murals will make people afraid to ride the subway. There will be suicides more often, he said, adding: I can't rule out people committing murders or attacks. But Natalia Semyonova, another clinical psychologist in Moscow, defended the artist - and the author, whose books she uses to treat patients.

Dr. NATALIA SEMYONOVA (Clinical Psychologist): We try to jump into these books and try to understand, once more, the motives of human behavior, the motives of human suffering, how to overcome, how to find a sense of life, and so on. So it's Russian mentality, I think.

GREENE: Maybe tourists in Moscow will be startled, she said.

Dr. SEMYONOVA: But for Russians, Dostoevsky's a - such a familiar to them. They know everything from this book.

GREENE: As for Russians traveling through Dostoevskaya, many said, above all, it's about time the city built the station. Forget Russian literature. This is about cutting down the commute. Rider Alexander Alexandrov, for his part, did say he was angry psychologists raised a stink.

Mr. ALEXANDER ALEXANDROV: (Russian spoken)

GREENE: They walk in here and try to find negative things, he said. Well, there are too many negative things in our lives.

Mr. ALEXANDROV: (Russian spoken)

GREENE: This is a new, good station he said. And on a mural above him, the bearded face of Dostoevsky, now part of a club of Russian writers, memorialized underground.

Unidentified Woman: (Russian spoken)

Unidentified Man #3: (Russian spoken)

Unidentified Woman: (Russian spoken)

GREENE: David Greene, NPR News, Moscow.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: And you can see the new Dostoevskaya station on our website: npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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