In "White Nights", one of Dostoevsky's masterpieces, the narrator meets Nastenka, the young girl with whom he falls in love, during a night walk.

My question is: from an historical point of view, is it imaginable that a young woman could walk alone during the night in Saint Petersburg in the first half of the nineteenth century (even if, given the geographical position, the night was not dark)? Were the women of that period free to walk alone during the night?

I would appreciate, in particular, any references which describe the social conditions for women in that period in Russia.

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    Women in 19th Century Russia New Eastern Europe Russian Women in the Long 19th Century (open edition)
    – MCW
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 15:23
  • Since a girl is female human younger than the age of adulthood, If the narrator is in love with Nastenka, she is probably not a young girl but a middle age girl or an old girl or even a young woman. If Nastenka is actually what would be classifed as a "young girl" instead of an older girl or a young woman, the narrator would be guilty of paedophillia.
    – MAGolding
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 19:00
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    Did you read the stories about Hamlet, Romeo, Othello. Each could be put in jail for life
    – markvs
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 19:34
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    As @markvs comments, the idea of "age of consent" seemed not to exist in those times... and not in classic Greece, either, for example. Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 21:35
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    Nastenka in the book is 17 year old. Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 5:10

1 Answer 1


In Dostoevsky's story, she was not walking alone, but with the narrator. In general Dostoevsky was very precise describing the customs, and can be considered an authority. For another example, in his "Crime and punishment", the details are so precise that there are currently guided tours "Dostoevsky's Petersburg". It is much more precise than, say, Dumas' novels (although one can study Paris using his novels, he did not describe customs of 17 century France well).

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