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Gogol () Nikolay Vasilievich
(18091852)

Gogol () Nikolay Vasilievich (18091852)

Nikolay Vasilevich Gogol was a Ukrainian-born Russian writer. Although many of his works were influenced by his Ukrainian heritage and upbringing, he wrote in Russian and his works belong to the tradition of Russian literature. Perhaps his best known work is Dead Souls, seen by many as the first "modern" Russian novel.

Gogol was born in Sorochintsi of Poltava Guberniya (now Ukraine) to the family of Ukrainian (or rather Ruthenian) small-time nobility. Some of his ancestors associated themselves with Polish Szlachta (probably not by ethnicity but culturally, due to the continued polonization of Ruthenian upper class) and his grand-father Afanasy Gogol wrote in census papers that "his ancestors, of the family-name Gogol, are of the Polish nation". However, his great-grandfather, Jan Gogol, after studying in Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, a deeply Ukrainian, or Ruthenian, and Orthodox Christian educational institution, moved to the Muscovy leaning Left-bank Ukraine (Malorossia) and settled in Poltava region, originating the Gogol-Janovsky family line. Gogol himself did not use the second part of his name considering it an "artificial Polish addition". Gogol's father died when the boy was 15 years old. The deep religiosity of his mother have likely influenced Gogol's world view as well as the time he spent in the mixed surrounding of local small-time nobility and everyday village life.

He moved to Saint Petersburg in 1828. In 1831, he met Aleksander Pushkin, who supported him as a writer and became his friend. He later taught history at Saint Petersburg University from 1834 to 1835. He went on to write a number of short stories set in Saint Petersburg, including "Nevsky Prospekt", the Diary of a Madman, "The Overcoat", and "The Nose" (which was later turned into an opera by Dmitri Shostakovich). However, it was his farce The Inspector General, produced in 1836, which first drew him to the public's attention as a writer. Its satirical tone, which it shares with much of his other work, caused some controversy, and Gogol fled to Rome.

Gogol spent almost 5 years living abroad in Germany and Italy. It was in this period that he wrote "Dead Souls", with the first part published in 1842. (Gogol asked Pushkin for ideas about essential Russian stories; in response, Pushkin suggested the basic idea of "Dead Souls"). In 1848 Gogol who became deeply influenced by Orthodox Christianity made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. After his return, under the influence of the priest, Father Konstantinovskii, he renounced literature in favour of religion. He burnt what he had written of the second part of "Dead Souls" ten days before he died on March 4, 1852 in Moscow. Some fragments of the work survived and have been published.

Gogol's literary life and works show convolutions of struggle between the Westernizer and Slavophile urges in Russian culture. Living in post-Napoleonic Russia, with liberal discontent against Czarist rule, reformers interpreted Gogol stories as validation. This is because some of Gogol's stories satirized situations particular to Russian society. Indeed, Gogol was motivated as a reformer in his own mind, but not necessarily as defined by the liberals of the time. Toward the end of his life, liberals saw him as a religious fanatic, strangely reactionary, and increasingly pathetic.

An urge to reform Russia impelled "Dead Souls"; but whether moral or political seems unclear at first. Part one of that book shows the errors of the protagonist, part two shows the corrections. Arguably, Gogol is more successful showing the errors than the corrections, perhaps because errors and immorality are more fun and interesting to write about, than to preach and show good by example.

Gogol's desire for the moral reformation of Russia became increasingly loud and unliberal, leading to his publication of selected fanatical letters. His former liberal admirers looked upon this publication with horror and dismay. It may be the contradictions and failures of Gogol's embodiment of both "Westernizer" and "Slavophile" urges that lead him to burn his draft of part two of Dead Souls, and for his health to fatally decline.

Gogol wrote in the literary tradition of E.T.A. Hoffmann, often involving elements of the fantastic and grotesque. In addition, Gogol's works are often outrageously funny. The mix of humor, social realism, the fantastic, and unusual prose forms are what readers love about his work.


Bulgaria, 1947, Geno Kirov as Osip

Bulgaria, 1947, Ivan Popov as Town Head

Bulgaria, 1947, Khristo Ganchev as Podkolesin

Bulgaria, 1947, Vasil Kirkov as Khlestakov

Bulgaria, 2009, Nikolay Gogol

DDR, 1952, Nikolay Gogol

Guinea, 2009, Nikolay Gogol

Guinea, 2009, Nikolay Gogol

Guinea Bissau, 2012, Operas and Composers

Moldova, 2009, Nikolay Gogol

Poland, 1952, Nikolay Gogol

Rumania, 1952, Nikolay Gogol, Taras Bulba

Rumania, 1952, Nikolay Gogol

Russia, 2009, Illustration to Gogol's books

Russia, 2009, Nikolay Gogol

Serbia, 2007, Miodrag Petrović Ckalja as Khlestakov

Serbia, 2009, Stevan Šalajić as Hlestakov

Ukraine, 2008, Nikolay Gogol

Ukraine, 2008, Taras Bulba

Ukraine, 2009, Gogol, Night before Cristmas

USSR, 1944, Zaporozhian Cossacks

USSR, 1944, Zaporozhian Cossacks

USSR, 1944, Zaporozhian Cossacks

USSR, 1952, Nikolay Gogol and Taras Bulba

USSR, 1952, Gogol and Belinsky

USSR, 1952, Gogol and ukranian peasants

USSR, 1956, Zaporozhian Cossacks

USSR, 1959, Nikolay Gogol, Revizor

USSR, 1969, Zaporozhian Cossacks

Rumania, 1952.03.04, Bucharest. Nikolay Gogol

Ukraine, Gogolevo. Gogol's museum

Ukraine, 1995.08.1727, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 1998.08.2730, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 1999.08.1922, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 2000.08.1720, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 2001.08.1519, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 2002.08.2125, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 2003.08.2024, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 2004.08.1822, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 2005.08.1721, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 2007.08.1519, Velikie Sorochintsi. Fair

Ukraine, 2008.03.21, Kiev. Nikolay Gogol

USSR, Gogolevo, Poltava region

USSR, Gogolevo, Poltava region

USSR, Velikie Sorochinci. Fair

USSR, 1959.04.01, Sorochintsi. Nikolay Gogol

USSR, 1984.04.01, Gogolevo. 175th Birth anniv of Gogol

USSR, 1989.04.01, Shishaki. 180th birth anniv of Gogol

Russia, 2009, Gogol monument in Moskow

Russia, 2009, Nikolay Gogol

Ukraine, 2003, Fair in Velikie Sorochintsi

Ukraine, 2004, Fair in Velikie Sorochintsi

Ukraine, 2004, Fair in Velikie Sorochintsi

Ukraine, 2005, Nikolay Gogol, Univercity in Nezgin

Ukraine, 2007, Fair in Velikie Sorochintsi

USSR, 1954, Gogol monument in Moskow

USSR, 1954, Gogol monument in Moskow

USSR, 1955, Gogol monument in Moskow

USSR, 1959, Nikolay Gogol

USSR, 1969, Gogol's monument in Poltava

USSR, 1973, Gogol monument in Moskow

USSR, 1977, Velikie Sorochinci, Museum of Gogol

USSR, 1978, Gogol monument in Kharkov

USSR, 1983, Nikolay Gogol

USSR, 1984, Velikie Sorochinci, Museum of Gogol

USSR, 1989, Nikolay Gogol

Belarus, 2003, Aleksander Ilinskiy in role of Khlestakov

Russia, 2001, Birth Centenary of Actor Iliinsky

Russia, 2002, Birth Centenary of Actor Gribov

Russia, 2002, Birth Centenary of Yanshin

Russia, 2004, Belokurov as Chichikov in The Dead Souls

Russia, 2006, Uriy Tolubeev as Sancho Pansa and Gorodnichiy

Russia, 2009, Nikolay Gogol

USSR, 1929, Zaporozhian Cossacks

USSR, 1930, Zaporozhian Cossacks

USSR, 1971.09.23, Detail of monument Millenium of Russia

USSR, 1974.02.01, Gogol monument in Poltava

USSR, 1977.11.22, Gogol monument in Kharkov

USSR, 1983.02.01, Museum and monument of Gogol

USSR, 1985.07.30, Gogol monument in Kharkov

USSR, 1989.07.17, Gogol monument in Mogilyov-Podolsky

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