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Dmitry Vladimirovich Grishin (1908–1975)

by Nina Christesen

This article was published:

Dmitry Vladimirovich Grishin (1908-1975), university teacher and author, was born on 12 September 1908 at Kamyshin, on the Volga River, Russia, eldest son of Vladimir Grishin, schoolteacher and farmer, and his wife Lubov, née Alabuseva. In 1927 Vladimir was arrested as a kulak; his wife and four younger children were sent to Siberia. Dmitry, a student at the Pedagogical Institute, Saratov, escaped their fate, but his academic career suffered a setback. Graduating in 1935, he became a schoolteacher and part-time lecturer in Russian literature at the institute.

In Moscow on 9 December 1940 Grishin married Natalia Luzgin, a science teacher. This was his second marriage; the details of his first are unknown. He taught Russian literature at the University of Moscow and was awarded the title Kandidat filologicheskikh nauk for his thesis on 'Early Dostoevsky'. When the university staffs were evacuated from Moscow, Grishin was appointed acting-head of the Russian literature department in Elista, capital of the Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. During the blitzkrieg of 1942 he and his wife were taken prisoner and assigned to work for a dentist in Berlin. They survived allied bombing and on one occasion were buried in the debris of a demolished house. In March 1945 they fled to Bad Nevenahr and thence to Emden where they obtained an entry visa to Australia.

On 23 September 1949 they arrived in Melbourne. At Bonegilla immigrant camp, Grishin organized protests about substandard living conditions. While employed as a laboratory-assistant at Monsanto Chemicals (Australia) Ltd, Footscray, he began working as a part-time tutor in the department of Russian language and literature at the University of Melbourne. In 1954 he was naturalized. He moved through the ranks of full-time tutor (1953), senior tutor (1954), lecturer (1956), senior lecturer (1962) and reader (1970). Meanwhile, he resumed his research. In 1957 he was awarded a Ph.D. for his thesis on Dostoevsky's Diary of a Writer. He published a series of books in Russian: Dostoevsky's Diary of a Writer (1966), Dostoevsky: The Man, Writer and Myths (1971) and The Young Dostoevsky (posthumously, 1977); his collection of Dostoevsky's aphorisms was published in Paris in 1975. An indefatigable participant in international congresses, he was founder and vice-president of the International Dostoevsky Society.

Remembered for the very Russian atmosphere he created around him, Grishin insisted on speaking his native tongue to those who could understand the language and teaching it to those who could not. Students and colleagues invited to his home were treated to a lavish display of flowers; fruit trees and beehives crowded his small garden, and the house was crammed with books, Russian artefacts and his wife's paintings. Musical performances (guitar, balalaika and mandolin) were provided by his sons; Dmitry and Natalia gave poetry recitations and the guests were plied with Russian food. Grishin was an energetic entertainer with his whimsicalities, puzzles and quizzes. Even those who disagreed with his views could not but respect his sincerity, his passionate devotion to his native-land and his infinite capacity for work.

Five ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, prematurely grey, and blue-eyed, Grishin was usually seen with a large briefcase overfull with papers. His constant companion was a diminutive diary in which he recorded most hours of the day in minuscule writing. In 1973 he retired from the university. He died of coronary vascular disease on 19 September 1975 at his North Coburg home and was cremated; his wife and their two sons survived him, as did the daughter of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • A. B. Gibson, The Religion of Dostoevsky (Lond, 1973)
  • IDS (Pittsburgh, US), Bulletin, 1971, 1973
  • Department of Russian, University of Melbourne, Russian Contributions, 1976
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, Mar 1974, Dec 1975
  • family papers (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Nina Christesen, 'Grishin, Dmitry Vladimirovich (1908–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 25 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 September, 1908
Kamyshin, Russia


19 September, 1975 (aged 67)
Coburg, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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